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What lessons can be learned from the Wright State faculty strike?

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 13 Feb 2019 - 02:00

After striking for 20 days, Wright State University’s faculty union won some modest gains in a tentative agreement reached Sunday.

Professors were back to work Monday, trying to put things back in order.

Was sacrificing three weeks’ pay, braving picket lines in the polar vortex and now dealing with classroom chaos worth it?

Yes, striking professors and their supporters say. To many, it comes down to a few key issues -- namely retaining the right to bargain over health care in the future, even if this deal moves professors onto a single, universitywide employee benefits plan that they initially resisted. At first, the university wanted to remove the right to future bargaining.

Other key wins: keeping workload agreements, reasonable timelines for continuing contracts for professors off the tenure track, clear merit raise standards and summer teaching rights -- all of which the university sought to scrap. There are additional limits on retrenchment and furloughs in the deal.

The set of two, two-year agreements also includes 2.5 percent raises for the last two years.

Summer course pay was cut 15 to 20 percent, however. The battle over faculty contracts at Wright State, after all, took place at an institution that all sides agreed had not been adequately funded by the state.

Perhaps more than anything, the strike was about respect, including in future negotiations.

“Our faculty have taken an immediate and longer-term financial hit on this new five-year contract,” said Martin Kich, president of Wright State’s American Association of University Professors-affiliated faculty union and professor of English. “But we have reasserted our right to bargain, and we have preserved important safeguards on the conditions under which we are doing our work.”

It would be “naïve to think that such a strike will not have some very negative repercussions, especially in the shorter term,” Kich said. But the strike could be a deterrent against another “disastrous situation,” or insurance that subsequent contract negotiations are “more genuinely aimed at meaningful compromise.”

Imposed Contract

Wright State’s faculty union went on strike last month after the university’s Board of Trustees imposed a contract following protracted negotiations. Not only did the union not agree to the terms, but Wright State’s “last best offer” included major red flags for professors: no pay raises and a continuing-appointment timeline for non-tenure-line professors that the union argued would have almost doubled the current eligibility period, to 12 years.

And there was no ability to bargain for health care -- an important form of compensation for professors who haven’t received a raise in five of the last eight years. Professors also argued that that right was theirs under the Ohio Revised Code. This issue alone accounted for the last week of the strike.

Crystal B. Lake, associate professor of English, said imposed contract terms such as the health-care clause “seemed like they were less about saving money and more about achieving something political.”

That struck a nerve because she and most of her colleagues work at Wright State, a regional public, because they’re “passionate about making sure that a wide range of students can benefit from the advantages conferred by an affordable and high-quality college degree,” she said. The board's contract “threatened to undermine the value and quality of the education we could offer” students.

Professors also took umbrage at the university's insistence that it could not solve its financial issues without targeting the faculty contract. While Wright State is not a wealthy institution, the union pointed out that faculty compensation is just 17 percent of its budget, and that noninstructional expenditures and poor administrative decision making -- such as an unsuccessful bid for a presidential debate and million-dollar settlements in federal cases alleging that Wright State secured student visas for nonstudent area employees and paid loans to nonconfirmed students -- drained $130 million in university reserves in five years.

Drawing parallels to arguments behind recent K-12 teacher strikes in other states, Kich said faculty salaries and benefits are a relatively small share of the budget, “yet we produce the bulk of the university's revenue, and just about all of its net revenue.”

Wright State declined immediate comment on lessons learned. It's said repeatedly that it's happy to have the faculty back, and to return to serving students.

Not Bluffing (?)

Many times faculty strikes are threatened but don’t actually happen because a deal is reached at the last minute.

That wasn't the case in Ohio: the university did not withdraw its imposed contract on the eve of the strike, publicly insisted that things were under control during the strike, challenged the legality of the strike in a state process (and lost), and posted jobs ads for replacement adjuncts in dozens of fields -- even offering them housing.

Silvia Newell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, said the job ad came as a surprise, but that the faculty “largely interpreted it as a scare tactic to get faculty to cross the picket line.” The ads weren’t posted until only the ability to bargain for health-care terms remained unresolved, she said.

Despite Wright State's actions and rhetoric, Kich said, its lawyer admitted during the hearing about the strike’s legality that “they could not operate the university without us. That admission alone is a significant thing.”

“While [the board] did not rule this strike unauthorized as we had asked, the union’s actions to prevent the university from operating are having a significant toll,” President Cheryl B. Schrader said at the time.

Kich said that "some more evident sense of mutual respect has to be the result of all of this contention.”

Certainly the strike was unpleasant for all involved. While many students supported the professors with sit-ins and on picket lines, they and others had to deal with tentatively canceled courses and missed class time. Professors on the picket lines were visited by other local unions, hosted a “beard challenge” and welcomed animals to keep up morale. Lake said the solidarity she experienced was a kind of “kismet, but in all honesty, the strike was also hard and long, and I would say that I felt more urgency and seriousness than I did chemistry.”

As the strike wore on, she said, the “university used a variety of tactics that appeared like they were designed to do anything to avoid having to negotiate a fair contract.” And she and others “became increasingly convinced that the strike was necessary to restore a balance of power in our institutional culture -- to make sure that someone was holding our administrators accountable and that they adhered to best practices, as well as rules and regulations that define public higher education.”

Lake added, “I think the last three weeks at Wright State were just the beginning, in both good and bad ways.”

Resentment Remains

Newell said there remains “a lot of resentment on the part of the faculty and the students on the [board] and the upper administration for forcing this to drag out in an effort to break the union.”

William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said that move to hire replacement instructors might have been prompted by a “quirk” in Ohio law that prohibits part-time faculty members from collective bargaining -- and therefore makes them "most vulnerable.”

Over all, Herbert said, the strike at Wright State is “another sign that strikes are growing in higher education," as well as in primary and secondary schools.

There were a total of 11 strikes in higher education in 2018, compared to five in 2017 and seven in 2016, according to center data. Fifteen of the strikes in 2016-2018 involved faculty or graduate assistants.

Timothy R. Cain, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia who followed the strike from afar, via news reports, said he wasn’t surprised that health care was such a central concern, considering “the broader societal issues about and problems with how we fund health care.”

It has become “such a large portion of compensation for both individuals and employers that it necessarily is a key negotiating issue,” he said.

Health care was at play in another recent faculty dispute and threatened strike at City Colleges of Chicago. The faculty union there said the administration tried eliminate a health insurance benefit for new hires that allowed for 10 years of coverage upon retirement, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Howard Bunsis, a national AAUP Council member and professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, said the significance of the Wright State strike “is that a group of faculty stood up for what was right -- maintaining quality public higher education for their students.”

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Yale University sued over fraternity culture, and plaintiffs demand coeducation

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 13 Feb 2019 - 02:00

A trio of Yale University students is suing the institution and nine of its fraternities, demanding that its Greek system be reformed and women be integrated into the all-male groups to fix a “sexually hostile” environment.

Legal experts said that the case has little chance of a ruling that all single-sex fraternities and sororities must become coeducational. This is largely because of an exemption for social Greek organizations carved out in the federal law that protects students against gender discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Where the case could be more significant is its claim that Yale's fraternities violate Title IX not just by being fraternities but by how they treat women.

The class-action lawsuit raises questions about fraternities’ role in sexual misconduct on the campus and beyond, especially in light of other litigation targeting Harvard University, which has attempted to stamp out single-sex organizations and dissuade students from joining them.

Three female undergraduates -- Anna McNeil, Ry Walker and Eliana Singer -- filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court Tuesday. The women all allege that they were groped at fraternity parties during their respective first semesters at Yale. Because the university lacked many other “social spaces,” fraternities and their members essentially controlled the social scene, including admission to parties and when and how much alcohol was served, creating conditions ripe for sexual misbehavior, the complaint states.

Yale, meanwhile, largely ignored the misconduct, according to the complaint, despite multiple public incidents. The women accuse the university of having a “symbiotic relationship,” in which fraternities provide social activities and Yale officials turn a blind eye to poor behavior. In 2008, pledges of one fraternity, Zeta Psi, posed outside the campus Women’s Center with a sign that read “We Love Yale Sluts.” Recruits for Delta Kappa Epsilon in 2010 paraded around the grounds cheering, “No means yes, yes means anal.”

The women alleged that the network of fraternities at Yale is also influential both socially and economically, with their members finding more career opportunities than do members of the campus sororities, which haven’t been around as long.

The three women, creating a student group called Engender, tried to join fraternities in both 2017 and 2018 but were rejected. One fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, did allow them to apply, but their national office told the local chapter it did not allow women. They met with Yale officials many times about the problems with the fraternities, but, the complaint states, their concerns were disregarded.

Their lawsuit names Yale, the campus fraternity chapters and their national offices, as well as the housing corporations of the university’s fraternities.

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy declined to comment on the lawsuit, instead sending a message about Delta Kappa Epsilon that was forwarded around campus last month from Marvin M. Chun, dean of the university.

About a year ago, administrators ordered a review of Yale’s broad “campus culture” and a potentially “sexually hostile climate” with Delta Kappa Epsilon. Students reported unregulated access to alcohol and behavior such as DKE brothers “ogling” others on the dance floor, according to the report.

“I condemn the culture described in these accounts,” Chun wrote. “It runs counter to our community's values of making everyone feel welcome, respected, and safe. I also offer some plain advice about events like these: don't go to them.”

DKE will not be punished, despite the findings. It had been banned from being associated with the university for five years in 2011, following the chanting episode from the previous year. But the punishment was ineffective, critics said, because the fraternities are already technically not affiliated with the institution and are quartered off campus.

The lawsuit notes that it may be difficult for Yale to regulate the fraternities, but the women and the law firm representing them, Sanford Heisler Sharp, pointed out in the lawsuit that Yale does allow them to use Yale’s name, email addresses and facilities for events and recruitment.

A lawyer representing the fraternities, Joan Gilbride, said in a statement that the accusations are “baseless and unfounded.”

Todd Shelton, a spokesman for the North American Interfraternity Conference, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed, “Single-sex student organizations should be an option -- a choice -- for students. And so should co-ed student organizations. Students should have the choice to join the groups that best fit their developmental needs.”

Plaintiffs have argued in lawsuits before that entire campus fraternity systems are fundamentally flawed, despite that only certain chapters have reported sexual violence, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges on security matters and Title IX.

Utah State University, for instance, settled with a sexual assault survivor last year by reforming Greek life as a whole, requiring fraternity and sorority chapters to apply for recognition with the university and monitoring their social events. This broad settlement was backed even though the lawsuit was about one student who was raped by a single fraternity member.

What is new with the Yale case -- and could be groundbreaking -- is the request for fraternity life to go coed, Carter said.

“Their proposed remedy is unusual,” Carter said. “When I’ve worked on cases like this, developing a better structure for the university to have oversight of fraternities was the remedy pursued. That is typically the type of remedy pursued in these types of matters.”

In addition to the integration, the women want Yale to create a Greek Council that would monitor the fraternities, which they demanded should register with the institution as official student groups. They also have asked that “sober monitors” be appointed for every fraternity party off campus to monitor alcohol consumption, and bouncers be hired to ensure crowd control and “nondiscriminatory event admission.”

This is the second occasion in recent months involving Ivy League institutions, their Greek systems and a legal battle.

National fraternities and sororities sued Harvard in December over a rule introduced in 2016 meant to disincentivize joining single-sex clubs.

The groups aren’t banned per se, but students who are members can’t lead any other camps groups or captain sports teams. Administrators created the policy in order to restrict “final clubs,” historically all-male organizations that have been linked to sexual assaults and discriminatory practices in recent years.

The rule also affected all other campus groups -- among them fraternities and sororities. Harvard on Friday asked state and federal judges to dismiss these complaints.

But the arguments in neither the Yale nor the Harvard cases undercut the clear exception for social fraternities that was built into Title IX, said Timothy Burke, a lawyer and founding partner of Fraternal Law Partners. His firm helps fraternities in untangling complex tax law, zoning and land use, and other matters, but he is uninvolved in the Yale case.

Two years after Title IX was signed in 1972, the then Department of Health, Education and Welfare tried to apply the law to campus fraternities and sororities.

Realizing that certain Greek life organizations had not been exempted from the law, one of the original architects of Title IX, Democratic senator Birch Bayh, proposed an amendment, eventually enacted into law, that allowed colleges and universities to still recognize fraternities and sororities, despite their single-sex membership.

Business-related or other fraternity organizations are not exempted in the same way.

“If their members are engaging in misconduct, that needs to be dealt with, both by the groups themselves and the universities,” Burke said. “But that doesn’t become justification for attempting to eliminate Greek groups at Yale or at Harvard.”

The lawsuit links Harvard to Yale, saying that Yale “has fallen behind” its peer institution and rival by allowing discrimination to continue.

“I think the arguments related to Harvard are ethically persuasive, but not legally,” Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, wrote in an email. “Of course, courts may show unexpected sympathies for such claims, but I don’t see viable federal claims under existing law and precedents. A suit like this, with such a wide list of defendants and an attempt to certify a class action, is largely intended to garner publicity and shame the defendants with public pressure.”

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Creighton expands medical school presence in Arizona

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 13 Feb 2019 - 02:00

It is based in Nebraska and its mascot is a blue jay -- and it's expanding to a high-rise in Phoenix.

But please, don’t call it Snowbird Medical School.

Creighton University, the Jesuit institution that dates back to 1878, is building a new, $99 million, 200,000-square-foot medical training facility a long way from its Omaha home. Its chosen location: an up-and-coming retail and office park in the Arizona capital, nearly 1,300 miles away. Creighton also plans to expand its nursing program there, among others, to keep up with booming demand in a region that experts say is badly in need of medical care. Though a partnership with three Phoenix medical providers will operate the medical school, Creighton is funding the construction itself via cash reserves, debt and fund-raising in the Phoenix area.

The move stands in stark contrast to Creighton’s 2016 sale of its Omaha hospital, a decision made because the university “really didn’t have the income and the clientele base” to support it, said the Reverend Daniel S. Hendrickson, Creighton’s president.

The former Creighton University Medical Center is now being developed into a $110 million complex of upscale apartments at the western edge of campus, Father Hendrickson said. The university is maintaining its Omaha medical school.

The new Phoenix facility is expected to open in the fall of 2021 in the city’s Midtown area with nearly 900 students by 2024. The property is at the edge of a large mixed-use office and retail complex called Park Central, which began life more than 50 years ago as Park Central Shopping City, one of the country’s first malls. Before developers purchased the 46-acre property and built a mall, which opened in 1957, it was a dairy.

In its most recent state-by-state analysis, the Association of American Medical Colleges ranked Arizona 42nd nationwide in the number of active primary-care physicians per 100,000 people, ahead of just eight states: Wyoming, Alabama, Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Nevada, Utah and Mississippi.

Negotiations for the project date back to 2016, when Creighton and several partners formed the Creighton University-Arizona Health Education Alliance. But Creighton has had a presence in Phoenix since 2005, when St. Joseph’s Hospital asked if Creighton's medical students would consider a monthlong summer residency there.

In 2012, Creighton began training third- and fourth-year medical students in Phoenix, and three years later it added pharmacy students. By 2018, it was educating a series of 48-student nursing student cohorts in an accelerated, 12-month program.

“In some ways Phoenix has been telling us two things: ‘Hurry up’ and ‘Do more,’” said Father Hendrickson.

Creighton eventually settled on three partners for the new medical school: St. Joseph’s; District Medical Group, a large nonprofit; and Maricopa Integrated Health System, the county’s longtime public hospital system.

Father Hendrickson said Maricopa Integrated’s commitment to caring for the poor in the Phoenix area made it an appealing partner. “We’re Jesuit and Catholic -- Maricopa is public,” he said. “And yet there’s this great sense of mission and outreach with the underserved.”

Maricopa Integrated already runs 10 residency programs with more than 350 residents -- it has trained doctors since 1952. Its CEO, Steve Purves, said it runs the oldest public teaching hospital in the state. But the hospital-based program was looking for a partnership with a university-sponsored one. At the same time, he said, Creighton “needed to provide a way to expand -- and a key part of that is access to clinical training sites, which hospitals provide.”

Purves called the partnership “a great strategic coming together -- the stars lined up.”

A Nationwide Doctor Shortage

While Arizona is particularly in need of doctors, AAMC data show that, over all, the U.S. faces a severe physician shortage. The most recent analysis by the medical education group shows a possible shortage of as many as 121,300 physicians by 2030. That’s considerably higher than last year’s projected shortfall of up to 104,900 -- the new estimates reflect “model updates,” as well as recently revised federal designations for primary care and mental health.

The group now predicts shortages in four broad categories: primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties and other specialties. By 2030, it finds, we could see shortfalls of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians alone. It sees a “largely stagnant” pool of surgical specialists.

Much of the overall projected shortage comes courtesy of a growing population that is also aging, with “increasingly complex care” needs. By 2030, the U.S. population is expected to grow by nearly 11 percent, while the age-65-and-over population is expected to grow by 50 percent. Meanwhile, the under-18 population is projected to grow by just 3 percent.

But the group predicts that within the next decade, one in three active doctors will reach or exceed retirement age.

In Phoenix, Creighton already had access to St. Joseph’s, its longtime hospital partner. But by building its own school, it saw a chance to expand its available clinical sites beyond a single hospital. The state’s two large public medical schools -- both based at the University of Arizona -- are affiliated with Banner Health, a Maricopa Integrated competitor.

“There’s lots of open space for both health-care education and health-care practitioners for the Phoenix area at large,” Father Hendrickson said. He noted that Arizona State University gave its blessing to the Phoenix expansion -- actually, Creighton is also negotiating an agreement with ASU to train its occupational and physical therapists and pharmacists.

The university has also established a kind of informal undergraduate pipeline with Brophy College Preparatory, a private Jesuit high school in Phoenix, that it hopes will eventually provide students to the medical school.

“We have a golden opportunity to share the Creighton mission in a new part of the United States,” Father Hendrickson said.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Education - Mié, 13 Feb 2019 - 02:00
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El fundador de la escuela del Atlético admite haber abusado de un niño

El País - Educación - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 17:20
Una víctima acusa al marianista Manuel Briñas de haberle agredido sexualmente en un colegio de Madrid durante tres años

Expertos de la Universidad de Barcelona rechazan los vientres de alquiler por la “explotación de la mujer”

El País - Educación - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 08:38
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El País - Educación - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:10
Forzar a los menores a tener contacto físico al saludar provoca situaciones de ansiedad en los más pequeños

American Historical Association says letters of recommendation can wait until candidates pass a first look

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:00

The American Historical Association’s governing council recently approved changing the organization’s Guidelines for the Hiring Process to encourage hiring institutions to request reference letters only from candidates who have passed the initial screening, upon requesting additional materials or before video or conference interviews.

"Given the current academic job market, having applicants provide letters of recommendation only after the initial screening stage can reduce stress and unnecessary paperwork for candidates, letter-writers and hiring committees," the updated policy reads.

James Grossman, executive director of the AHA, said that students often have to pay their dossier system to have letters sent out, meaning they’re “shelling out money when the odds of being hired are long.” Graduate advisers and other references also write “a lot of letters for candidates who are eliminated quickly from a search,” and so are “better off spending more time on letters at a later stage, when the odds are higher,” he added.

Suzanne Marchand, Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University and a councilor for the AHA’s Professional Division, wrote about the problem in a column called “Letters of Rec: An Ancient Genre in Need of a Modern Update” for the association’s Perspectives on History in September. “Letters have grown so bathetic that in the last job searches I chaired, I confess, I hardly looked at the letters for the general pool of candidates (over 150 in each search, many of them, apparently, ‘our best student ever’),” she said.

Failing to read everything “was wrong of me,” Marchand wrote, “but I am quite certain that this is a general, if not universal, practice these days, especially with so many applicants who are fully worthy of obtaining a place in our ‘households.’ It is at least a trifle more democratic than one of the other regularly practiced alternatives: examining only the author’s letterhead.”

Marchand also lamented the complexity of submitting and accessing letters electronically, saying that if “the scale of searches, the length of letters, and the fear of damning with faint praise is making letters of rec less meaningful or valuable,” aren’t enough, committees also much “be experts not in history, but in data management and computing skills. Every letter seems to need to be submitted through some unique system, often with login and password protections; one has to convert, scan, download, upload.”

No one would want to return to typing letters one by one, she said, but the "very presumption that electronic systems make all of this simpler has perhaps actually enabled the world we have now, where everyone asks for and expects long letters, tailored to each occasion, sent yesterday.”

The Modern Language Association’s 2014 statement on letters of recommendation also cites concerns about costs to students and advises committees to consider whether they need “to see all letters for all applicants at the first stage of selection.” Some faculty readers of dossiers “don’t read letters of recommendation carefully, or at all, until the applicant is at the semifinalist or finalist stage,” it says. “Other faculty readers rely on recommendations in making initial decisions about candidates.”

The expected size of the applicant pool “could be one factor in your department’s decision about whether to request letters up front,” MLA’s statement continues, noting that reference letters are normally required only for the top four finalists in junior job searches in Britain and that that practice has been adopted by some U.S. institutions. Some American institutions no longer require letters of recommendation at all and instead call finalists’ references, it says.

Paula Krebs, executive director of the MLA, said, “My guess is that we’ll follow AHA’s lead on this.” Such a change would be “consistent with our recent recommendations to make the job search easier on the candidate, such as eliminating convention interviews, which are so costly for the candidates,” she added.

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Lindenwood president fired and reasons remain unclear

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:00

Michael D. Shonrock, president of Lindenwood University, a private, religiously affiliated institution west of St. Louis, lost his job last week for reasons that, four days later, remain a mystery.

Lindenwood’s Board of Trustees hand-delivered a letter to Shonrock on Feb. 5, telling him he was being placed on paid administrative leave. It was signed by Board of Trustees chairman J. Michael Conoyer, a retired St. Louis physician. Shonrock told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, “He’s given me no reason why.” The letter, he said, “doesn’t describe any rationale at all.”

The board fired Shonrock Friday. A university spokesman referred a reporter to a statement issued by Conoyer that offered no explanation, but court filings by Lindenwood and Conoyer associated with Shonrock's firing allege that in the weeks leading up to Jan. 23, 2019, he “exhibited and/or engaged in certain conduct believed to warrant [Shonrock's] separation from employment,” St. Louis Business Journal reported.

Another filing in the case noted that the board’s executive committee, meeting on Jan. 23, voted unanimously to recommend to the full board that Shonrock be terminated.

Shonrock came to Lindenwood from Emporia State University in Kansas, where he’d been president for three years. He’d earlier spent 20 years at Texas Tech University.

His departure is only the most recent over the past few months. In November, Brett Barger, president of Lindenwood University-Belleville, was placed on administrative leave and later left the university, which offers classes at six other Missouri locations, two campuses in Illinois and via an online program.

During Shonrock’s short tenure, Lindenwood, based in St. Charles, Mo., expanded its presence in downtown St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch reported. But it also laid off 17 employees, or 1.5 percent of its work force, in May. The cuts were part of a strategic plan to “reallocate resources.”

Lindenwood calls itself “an independent institution firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values” that include “belief in an ordered, purposeful universe, the dignity of work, the worth and integrity of the individual, the obligations and privileges of citizenship, and the primacy of truth.” It is historically associated with the Presbyterian Church.

Shonrock’s contract extended until June 2020. He told the Post-Dispatch, “I’m very proud of what we accomplished here. This is our family. We love these kids. We were very committed to being here.” He said he had done well enough since his arrival in June 2015 to be offered raises each year.

Neither Shonrock nor his lawyer, Jerome Dobson, responded to requests for comment, but Dobson last week told the Post-Dispatch that he didn’t know why Shonrock had been placed on leave. He said Lindenwood could be in legal jeopardy for firing a president without a stated reason. The chair of Lindenwood's faculty council also declined to comment.

Dobson said Conoyer, the board chairman, and Art Johnson, the vice chairman, were apparently trying to oust Shonrock without the full notice of the 22-member board, denying Shonrock the opportunity “to tell his side of the story.”

A university spokeswoman responded to a request for comment by offering a written message Conoyer sent to faculty, staff and students. It merely said Shonrock “is leaving his position” and that the board had appointed Johnson, the board vice chairman, as interim president.

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A new frontier in college athletics -- video games

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:00

Pacing the stage recently at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual convention, President Mark Emmert ended his address to thousands of delegates with a surprising topic du jour: video games.

Emmert asked rhetorically -- as many athletics pundits have -- should the NCAA should control collegiate esports? It was apparently a phenomenon dominating conference discussions, as esports have blossomed from brand-new to burgeoning on campuses in fewer than five years, when the first college program was created.

Lingering criticism that esports, often viewed as a sedentary activity, can’t be regarded as an athletic endeavor hasn’t halted its proliferation into athletics departments and student affairs offices in an astonishingly short period.

Esports (not just within colleges) are expected to be valued at $1.4 billion by next year. At least two colleges are planning degrees in esports. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the group that has seemingly emerged as the premiere governing body for “varsity”-level esports, has swelled to 128 members. It began in 2016 with six colleges and universities. The current slew of member colleges gave out just under $15 million in scholarships this academic year for students to strap on a headset, grab a mouse and keyboard, and enter the digital fray.

The esports allure for university executives is multifold but summed up succinctly for many institutions: enrollment boosts (although larger colleges and universities that are certainly not wanting for students also sponsor programs).

Granting scholarships to play video games, once perhaps just a Red Bull-fueled fantasy, attracts students -- especially men, who are in the minority in many undergraduate student bodies. And so officials have invested in pricey “arenas” for esports, spaces decked out with gigantic flat screens, slick computers and the best gaming accessories. One small private institution, New England College, with an enrollment of around 1,800 undergraduate students, and a prospective esports team of between 20 and 40 students, poured about $60,000 into its arena.

But esports’ newness on the college scene comes with a sense of unpredictability.

As one esports practitioner phrased it: “It’s a Wild West right now.”

How They Developed

The first known program to coax these games from the fringes of dormitory life and into the “varsity” mainstream was in 2014 with Robert Morris University-Illinois, an effort led at the time by Kurt Melcher, then the university’s associate athletics director. He unknowingly created the setup that many esports teams emulate today. Melcher still works part-time at Robert Morris but has since become the executive director of esports at Intersport, a sports consulting firm that the NCAA hired to research esports.

Robert Morris treated esports then just as it did traditional athletics, with a tough and often time-consuming practice schedule, uniforms and postgame meals -- all the hallmarks of a typical team. Universities with esports programs often hire coaches and other staffers, build their arenas, and develop aggressive recruitment strategies. Though universities’ picks of games vary, there are a couple cornerstones: Overwatch, a first-person shooter, and League of Legends, an arena-style game where you work with a team to try to destroy the opposition’s “base.”

The university offered scholarships for League of Legends, too, perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser among esports skeptics. But Melcher said in an interview he was adamant it should be elevated to the athletics department -- it was the difference in playing intramural basketball and an official university basketball team, giving esports more validity, he said.

In the summer of 2016 came NACE, promising “structure and legitimacy” for the esports universe, then just for its handful of members. NACE leaders designed a relatively minimalist constitution with basic academic standards and guidelines that students in the NACE membership needed to complete a degree within a five-year period.

Since that time, NACE has added more than 120 members. In interviews, esports enthusiasts attributed the growth to greater acceptance among administrators who grasped both the economic and entertainment benefits. Their popularity has spread outside higher education, too, with National Basketball Association franchises such as the Milwaukee Bucks fielding an esports team. About two years ago, the New York Yankees, the most lucrative team in professional baseball, invested in Vision Esports, the largest shareholder of three esports-related companies.

“This is dispelling the narrative of what a gamer is,” Melcher said.

An Unstructured Culture

Esports don’t have one accepted home on campuses.

Some institutions have established them in their student activities wing, similar to club sports, as 47 percent of the NACE members do, or through their athletics departments (40 percent of NACE universities). The remainder put their programs elsewhere, such as in academic departments.

While institutions can still compete with one another regardless of how their esports are structured, placing them within athletic departments has spurred concerns about the federal law that protects against gender discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. About 90 percent of students on NACE teams are men.

Title IX does apply to student clubs, too, but athletic teams have particular requirements related to designating some teams as being for men and others for women. One way to be Title IX compliant is for an institution to match its proportion of male and female athletes to the ratio of its overall undergraduate enrollment -- and an esports team in an athletics department would be included in this calculation. Universities can also show a history of continuing program expansion, or that they have fully met the interests and abilities of both genders to meet Title IX.

Because of these complications, esports should be clearly defined as either sports or entertainment, said Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University and a Title IX expert.

The law could also be triggered by some of the games’ content, Staurowsky theorized. As Emmert mentioned in his speech, video games carry a reputation of being violent or misogynistic in material (women in scantily clad armor, a trait not shared by men’s garb) -- but so can the players. Either the gaming content or players' behavior could create a hostile educational environment, Staurowsky said.

The esports group at Stephens College, a women’s college in Columbia, Mo., doesn’t publicize the full names of its players to shield them from harassment in a gaming community of mostly men, said Michael Brooks, the executive director of NACE.

Brooks doesn’t think the esports world is rife with this behavior. Coaches and officials can monitor discussions both among the players and between teams. Communication is generally restricted to minimalist lingo, acronyms among gamers: “GL” as in “good luck” and “GG” -- “good game,” he said.

Still, Brooks acknowledged the need to appeal and recruit women and students of color.

Victoria Jackson, a sports historian and lecturer at Arizona State University, drafted a white paper summarizing the barriers for those populations in esports. In an interview, she suggested that the institutional teams contact other campus groups that represent minorities, such as the National Society of Black Engineers, to gauge their interest.

“Honestly, I think presenting this as an opportunity for women and other students, and assuring female students that this is a safe space to play, can work,” Jackson said. “Oftentimes these leaders will be pretty passive, and even if you have women show up, sometimes they’ll drop out. The return rate isn’t there. Having a leader with a specific role of embracing them, and assuring them that this is their home, [that] they belong, is important.”

Who Should Make the Rules?

While industry representatives agree that a regulatory body will inevitably materialize, no one is clear how it will actually come about. NACE seems to dominate the market among colleges, with 94 percent of programs in the country signing on.

But Ohio State University, a major player in NCAA athletics, announced in October it would compete in a league commissioned by the Electronic Gaming Federation, which is separate from NACE. Ohio State also introduced undergraduate and graduate degrees in esports. Its team is not housed under athletics.

And so despite NACE, a subsidiary of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, no universally recognized entity exists to enforce rules or make sure programs are consistent across the country. For all the criticism heaped on the NCAA, it tries to ensure fairness in the collegiate athletics system with certain policies -- limits on numbers of practices, for example. There is no equivalent watchdog for esports.

Whether the NCAA will step in to remedy these inconsistencies remains unknown. Contorting the NCAA model and its stringent amateurism rules to fit esports makes it an unlikely, if not unachievable possibility. For instance: the NCAA maintains a hard line that athletes can’t be paid for their sports skills, but college esports players often participate in tournaments where they can rake in thousands of dollars in prize money. They are often paid for broadcasts on Twitch, an Amazon-owned service for live-streaming.

Also complicating matters: the games are owned by publishers -- Riot Games for League of Legends and Activision Blizzard for Overwatch -- that exercise a great deal of control over their products. The NCAA would likely need to negotiate with these companies for any sort of league event such as March Madness, from which the association earns a bulk of its revenue. In the 2016-17 academic year, the NCAA topped $1 billion in revenue, and $761 million of that came from the 2017 basketball tournament.

Staurowsky urged universities not to box esports into the NCAA’s ideals, but to be entrepreneurial. Universities are engrossed in esports so feverishly in part because of the marketing angle for them, she said. Officials can advertise their esports players in a way that the NCAA does not allow, she said. If those students were instead considered university employees, then the Title IX athletics requirements wouldn’t even apply.

The NCAA hasn’t stayed entirely hands-off, but its efforts have been slow -- and have collapsed. The Pacific 12 conference tried to create an esports league in 2016, with officials even drafting agreements with Riot and another corporation, Electronic Arts. Commissioner Larry Scott heralded it as a “natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country.” But university presidents’ concerns about amateurism and Title IX killed the project in 2017.

Emmert didn’t hint in his speech about the NCAA’s direction. Melcher said that his research with the NCAA and Intersport is ongoing.

An NCAA spokeswoman provided a statement to Inside Higher Ed: “Given the rapid and global growth of esports, the NCAA Board of Governors continues to examine the collegiate esports landscape. The board is exploring the proper role, if any, of the NCAA’s involvement in esports.”

Recently, NACE has started to shift to a more severe set of rules that appear more in line with the prescriptions of the NCAA.

NACE member officials will vote on a policy around transferring, for instance. If a NACE university is wooing a current player, then his or her institution would be notified about it. Brooks called this a “transparency issue” for institutions -- if a student would transfer out just a week before classes start, “it’s logistically terrifying,” he said.

Today's Programs

It is generally the curiosity of one professor, or the president or chancellor, which leads to the leap into esports.

Such as was the case with Marquette University, which is touting its esports team as the first to be built into a major NCAA Division I athletics department. The interest of President Michael Lovell was piqued, and the university spent nearly two years investigating the possibility of a team until announcing it in January. The athletics director, Bill Scholl, said that the university hasn’t yet started the process of hiring a coach or building its “state-of-the-art” esports facility, which will be paid for by corporate partners and donors. Scholl said that while the university hasn’t made much progress yet, he hopes the NCAA would regulate esports in the future -- it seems to be equipped to do so.

Ohio State, another Division I institution, will offer esports degrees. So too will Shenandoah University, a smaller institution, based off an idea from Joey Gawrysiak, formerly only a professor and now the university’s esports director.

About four years ago, Gawrysiak taught a class in video games that eventually morphed into to a group of students advocating for an esports team, which launched last year.

Around when this happened, Gawrysiak was brainstorming with members of the Faculty Senate on ideas for new academic programs and he (half joking) floated an esports degree.

“Why not?” was the answer he got back. So he chatted with Blizzard and Riot representatives about their ideas on how to get students “practical experience” and started the process of writing a curriculum and approving the degree, which will start in fall 2019 with an estimated 35 students.

The credential doesn’t mean a student will play professionally. Much like Ohio University did when it sponsored the first-ever program in sports administration decades ago, Shenandoah will focus on how to run and plan esports events, Gawrysiak said, adding that while he thinks it will be an enrollment driver, that wasn’t his intention.

“It’s a project of passion,” he said. “I used to play Halo -- the original Halo game -- and I knew the community that is esports. It’s such a strong community.”

The president of Shenandoah, Tracy Fitzsimmons, was one top executive who required some convincing. She said she is the mother of twin boys, age 12, who constantly have to be shepherded off their video game systems. But the faculty convinced her that the degree would essentially be a sibling to sports management and marketing programs, which the university already offered.

“They mapped out how the academic program could be rigorous and there would be jobs available for students upon graduation,” Fitzsimmons wrote in an email. “We have also found that adding esports has created a welcome opportunity for new partnerships with technology companies and sports management venues. This program straddles Shenandoah’s strengths in business, performing arts and athletics.”

New England College, the small New Hampshire institution that just opened its arena, seems to be using esports as a way to pick up new students. The program is being led by Tyrelle Appleton, a new hire who recently graduated with his master’s degree from the College of St. Joseph in Vermont. Appleton, a former soccer and basketball star at St. Joseph’s, also played esports as an undergraduate there -- and built up their team. He missed his first basketball game for an esports tournament.

Appleton, as a gamer, can navigate that landscape and capitalize on that for recruitment. He has dived into Discord, a text and voice communication platform specifically for gamers, and used it to seek out members for the new team. Through his efforts, he has pulled in fledging players from Texas and Canada and gotten them to commit to New England -- 12 total students have put down deposits for the college because of their interest in esports. And the institution is proffering esports scholarships -- which can be around $20,000 per academic year. The sticker price at New England is about $36,750 per year, not counting other fees or room and board.

Tryouts happened just recently (the college anticipates 100 hopefuls, with 20 to 40 making the team), and Appleton, who is black, said he is eager to find diverse students for his team.

He said that he’s weaving in a fitness component to his regiment.

His players will need to not only practice their clicking on a mouse and keyboard, but yoga and cardio.

“Forget the stereotype of being lazy or sitting on the couch,” Appleton said. “We’re going to rewrite that.”

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AAUP report says that Nunez CC fired a longtime professor of English when he asked too many questions about how it would meet reaccreditation requirements on assessment

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:00

Nunez Community College in Louisiana terminated a longtime professor over the phone with no due process, in apparent retaliation for speaking out on accreditation issues, says an investigative report by the American Association of University Professors.

The report sets the stage for the association to vote to censure Nunez for violations of academic freedom at its annual meeting later this year.

AAUP’s report concerns Richard Schmitt, a former associate professor of English at Nunez who taught there for 22 years. Schmitt didn’t have tenure because Nunez hasn’t offered it since 1999. But widely followed AAUP standards stipulate that full-time professors who have served their institutions well for seven years, or the typical tenure probationary period, should be afforded the due process protections that come with tenure -- even if the professor isn’t tenured.

Nunez did not respond to AAUP’s draft report when it received it, according to the association. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System, of which Nunez is part, declined comment on the circumstances surrounding Schmitt’s termination this week.

More generally, Quentin Taylor, system spokesperson, said, "We support anybody’s right to academic freedom and to express themselves however they see fit."

Taylor added, "We are moving forward with a new chancellor, and she decided to take the college in a different direction."

Schmitt’s troubles with his administration began last year when he served as program manager for general studies, around the same time that Tina Tinney became Nunez’s chancellor. In his new role, Schmitt was responsible for preparing reports on student learning outcomes for the college’s regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This was especially significant because the commission determined that Nunez had failed to properly document student success rates and initiatives during reaccreditation the year prior, and imposed additional reporting measures on the college.

In January of last year, Schmitt reportedly received a newly designed form from the college on which to report “program student learning outcomes.” He says that he argued with another administrator involved in reaccreditation when she offered “suggestions” on how to alter a previous form, and that he told her he wouldn’t “fabricate” information.

The next month, Schmitt says, he sent an email to Tinney and other administrators complaining that documents he’d prepared for the commission’s monitoring report had been excluded from the package.

“I am left to conclude that either my work was so unsatisfactory that it did not merit a review or that there’s more going on behind these curtains than I am given access to, such that what I am producing with honesty and integrity does not suit our aims,” he wrote. “Can we garner a consistent view about what we want the [general studies] forms to read like? Does anything regarding what we want smack of unethical production? Am I the best person to perform this task, or am I a name to put on the forms?”

Tinney reportedly responded by saying she’d never asked anyone to fabricate data or otherwise endorsed dishonesty.

“I find this question offensive,” she reportedly wrote. “I have asked for commitment and dedication to the task but at no point suggested ‘unethical production,’ nor would [I] condone that approach.”

She concluded by accepting Schmitt’s earlier offer to resign as program manager, citing his “level of frustration with the process” and his “repeated erroneous interpretation” of the administration’s actions, according to the report.

Three weeks later, Schmitt says, he discovered that his name was still included in the report to the accreditation commission, with information he didn’t agree to include. He asked for his name to be removed, writing in an email to administrators that sought “neither credit nor accountability for reports that bear only [a] vague resemblance to the documents” he drafted.

Schmitt’s request was denied, he says. Then, in May, Tinney reportedly informed him in a conference call that his faculty appointment would not be renewed for the fall, citing a poor “fit.”

Tinney’s later letter confirming the decision reads, “As an ‘at-will’ employee who is an unclassified nontenured faculty employee, your contract is subject to renewal on an annual basis.” The letter does not include a reason for the decision.

Schmitt appealed, saying that the non-reappointment was about accreditation issues.

Tinney responded that Schmitt was an at-will employee who was not guaranteed reappointment.

“Serving as chancellor of Nunez makes it my responsibility to access [sic] all needs of the college when making decisions,” she reportedly wrote in her email to Schmitt. “That evaluative process resulted in my discretionary, unpleasant decision not to renew your contract for the 2018-2019 year. Non-reappointment is not a reflection of your work record or behavior. Nor does it diminish the past contributions you have made to the college. Your time and service to the college is appreciated.”

Schmitt filed a complaint with the accreditation commission about the material Nunez submitted, as well. But it responded that he’d provided “insufficient actionable evidence.”

The AAUP wrote to Tinney on behalf of Schmitt, who is now teaching at Prairie View A&M University. She responded that Schmitt always was an “at-will employee” and that there was “never any type of tenure, actual or implied, associated with his employment. As an at-will employee, he was totally free, as was the college as his employer, to end the employer-employee relationship at any time with or without cause.”

The AAUP responded, in turn, that “although the administration’s action may have accorded with the employee handbook, it did not accord with normative academic standards.”

It investigated the case in the New Orleans area in October, after the college said it was not under any obligation to participate in the association’s review. Just one additional, unidentified colleague agreed to meet with the AAUP committee.

Still, the investigating committee, chaired by Nicholas A. Fleischer, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, determined that it had enough evidence to finish its report -- and find that Nunez had “very plausibly” violated Schmitt’s academic freedom.

Tenure -- at least de facto tenure -- is also at issue in the case, according to the report, which says that the administration’s “abrupt termination of Schmitt’s appointment, without stated cause, after more than 20 years of service, was effected with gross disregard for the protections of academic due process to which he was entitled based on the length of his service.”

As for Nunez’s insistence that Schmitt was always an at-will employee, the AAUP’s report notes that the college’s own policies state that a “determination to reappoint, or not to reappoint, should be based upon a review by the dean of the division, and/or the vice chancellor for academic affairs, and/or the chancellor of the college of the specific conditions relating to the position.” Faculty members also should be given notice of “in advance of the expiration of the appointment.”

While it’s possible that Nunez did review Schmitt in this manner, he had no knowledge of it, the report notes.

Taylor, the college system’s spokesperson, said the accreditation commission’s own finding on Schmitt’s complaint “speaks for itself.” The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this case.

What does Schmitt allege, exactly? The report says that he was responsible for providing student learning outcome data from certain years and that, “in many cases, the relevant outcomes apparently had not been tracked, with the result that the requisite data were missing.” And at “the heart of Schmitt’s dispute with the administration was his refusal to reconstruct those data from student academic performance in a manner that he perceived as tantamount to fabrication.”

Circumstantial evidence that the administration may have tried to “reconstruct the relevant data” comes from Schmitt, who says he saw a dean removing boxes of files from his office without his permission. That was after Schmitt fell out with the reaccreditation committee. But Schmitt said it “felt like breaking and entering.”

Whatever really happened with the data, AAUP’s report says, “In exercising his right to speak out critically on institutional matters with which he was directly involved, Schmitt appears to have incurred the displeasure of his administrative superiors.”

Fleischer, the investigating committee chair, said Monday that the U.S. professoriate is “increasingly contingent and off the tenure track, and this case shows one of the many problems that can arise as a result.”

Due process exists “not only to guarantee academic freedom and protect faculty from reprisal, but to protect institutions from the unwise decisions that administrators can make in its absence,” he added.

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Survey asks community college students to detail their challenges

Inside Higher Education - Mar, 12 Feb 2019 - 02:00

Most community colleges are aware of the challenges students face if they are working, raising children or struggling to afford textbooks. But a newly released survey digs into the nuances of those challenges so colleges can pinpoint ways to lift barriers to college completion and prevent students from dropping out.

Researchers at North Carolina State University designed and encouraged students to participate in the Revealing Institutional Strengths and Challenges survey. The survey found that working and paying for expenses were the top two challenges community college students said impeded their academic success. The researchers surveyed nearly 6,000 two-year college students from 10 community colleges in California, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming in fall 2017 and 2018.

About 2,100 students said work was the largest challenge they faced, with 61 percent saying the number of hours they worked didn’t leave them enough time to study. About 50 percent of students reported their wages didn’t cover their expenses. Students also reported difficulty paying for living expenses, textbooks, tuition and childcare. Thirty percent of students reported difficulty balancing familial responsibilities with college, dealing with family members' and friends' health problems, and finding childcare. Among those who cited these personal problems, 11 percent said their family did not support them going to college.

“We’ve moved beyond the notion of satisfaction and engagement, which most student surveys tap into,” said Paul Umbach, a higher education professor at NC State and a co-author of the report. “We wanted to help campuses identify areas where they can move the needle on student success.”

Umbach and Steve Porter, also a professor of higher education at the university, said they noticed a dearth of surveys that asked students about the barriers they face to completing college and wanted to provide a tool that colleges could use to eliminate those barriers and boost graduation rates. The national survey is based on smaller surveys the community colleges used to glean information specific to students on their individual campuses. Each college receives the same survey but has the option to add 10 of its own questions for an additional fee. Umbach and Porter are hopeful more colleges will be interested in purchasing individualized surveys.

"We saw a gap among the surveys out there," Umbach said. "None are asking students directly about the challenges they face and the different strengths their colleges have related to student success."

The most well-known student survey is produced annually by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. CCCSE's survey addresses student engagement, which can be an indication of whether students are learning.

But the CCCSE survey is much more than a student engagement tool; it has detailed information about the many barriers to college completion that students face. Those barriers include financial problems, being required to take costly and time-consuming non-credit-bearing remedial education courses, or only being able to attend part-time. These obstacles can discourage students from finishing college and prompt them to drop out, CCCSE executive director Evelyn Waiwaiole said.

The RISC survey isn't the first to ask such detailed questions of students. The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University has been encouraging students to identify their housing, food, transportation and financial insecurities, she said.

"I welcome any survey that is providing data to help colleges get better," Waiwaiole said. "We are about institutional improvement."

Kay McClenney, a senior adviser to the American Association of Community Colleges and former director of CCCSE, said the RISC survey identifies issues on a national scale that colleges have attempted to find on their own locally.

She said the work and financial challenges cited by students could be useful for colleges considering initiatives -- such as a plan to encourage more part-time students to attend full-time -- to help students succeed. A growing number of states have been experimenting with different types of financial incentives to encourage students to take more credits, which increases their likelihood of graduating.

“The practice of sharing with every student a full-time financial aid package and allowing them to make a more informed decision between whether to attend full-time or work at McDonald’s may make a difference,” she said.

Of the students surveyed, about 60 percent attend college full-time and 40 percent part-time. Nationally about 64 percent of community college students attend part-time.

Colleges and states should view the results as evidence that financial aid and social service policies don't necessarily help community college students succeed, said Katharine Broton, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa and a faculty affiliate with the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple.

“It’s clear that paying for college, juggling work and family responsibilities are academic issues critical to student success,” she said.

There are teaching and learning areas that could be improved, too, but equally important is ensuring students’ basic needs are met, Broton said

Porter and Umbach expected students to cite work responsibilities and finances as major barriers, but they were surprised by other challenges students identified.

“The biggest surprise we had was parking,” Porter said. “This is a big issue for them because of personal schedules or work schedules.”

He said many students don't have the luxury of being able to arrive on campus an hour early to look for available parking spaces, only to end up late for class or for exams.

Nearly 1,300 students identified parking as a challenge, with 86 percent reporting they have a difficult time finding parking near or on their college campuses. Only 10 percent said parking near their campus is too expensive.

Another surprise was the 1,300 students who identified online classes as a challenge. Fifty-three percent of them reported difficulties with learning online, and 44 percent said the lack of interaction with faculty is a problem. Nearly 40 percent of students said they had problems keeping up because their online courses didn’t have regular class times.

“Throwing courses online with no real interaction is a recipe for disaster,” Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and co-founder of Mindwires Consulting, said in an email. “Not providing online community college students with proactive advising and support services is also a big problem.”

Hill said the California Community College System's Online Education Initiative, which he worked on as a consultant, is a good example of a well-designed online learning system. It helped close the gap between the rate of students successfully completing traditional courses and online classes from 17 percent in 2006 to 4 percent in 2016.

“Online education can work for community college students and is an important part of student access, but there are no silver bullets,” Hill said.

Despite the challenges cited by the students surveyed, they had positive opinions about their colleges that indicated that two-year institutions are doing well over all. Ninety-five percent of students reported they would recommend their college to a friend. About 50 percent of students said their college is worth more than what they're paying, and 48 percent reported their institution had a fair value.

“They do see a better life for themselves, and they have an overriding optimism about the potential of college,” said Lauren Walizer, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy, adding that the survey confirmed much of the work CLASP has done in identifying challenges two-year college students face. She noted, however, that optimism is not always enough to carry students to the finish line.

State funding of community colleges is another contributing factor to students' academic outcomes. State governments often underfund community colleges, which limits the resources and support services they can offer students, Umbach said.

A report released last year by the Century Foundation found that states spend less on community colleges, which enroll high numbers of disadvantaged students, than on public four-year institutions. Educational spending per public four-year college student increased by 16 percent between 2003 and 2013, while per-student community college funding increased by just 4 percent, according to the report.

“Community colleges are already underfunded, and they are limited in many ways and don’t have the resources to do more,” Walizer said. “Inadequate funding at public institutions is generally a big problem. But with more funding, they could offer more classes at more times and have the resources to pay professors.”

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