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MeTooSTEM has accomplished much since it was founded in 2018 to fight sexual harassment in academic science. Since November alone, according to the group’s accounting, it has engaged with more than 750 individuals requesting assistance, filed hundreds of open-records requests about harassment cases and made dozens of complaints to funding agencies regarding researchers' conduct.
The group has visited some 20 campuses to discuss federal laws governing gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct in education, put on webinars and awarded $12,000 to advocates for women in science. Its founder BethAnn McLaughlin, also received the Disobedience Award from Massachusetts Institute of Techonolgy's Media Lab last year, alongside Me Too movement found Tarana Burke and consultant and activist Sherry Marts.
But in recent days MeTooSTEM has been called out for how it responded to a request for help. And former members of the group have since renewed their criticism of MeTooSTEM’s priorities and of McLaughlin, a neuroscientist who was until July an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University. Others have predicted the group will fold. What’s up?
“Generally, we had serious concerns about communication and leadership styles, a lack of transparency and victim advocacy training, and the priorities of the leadership,” four former members of MeTooSTEM -- biomedical professional Vidhya Sivakumaran, Cornell University postdoctoral researcher in molecular medicine Tisha Bohr, Indiana University postdoctoral researcher in physics Erica Smith and University of Illinois at Chicago developmental biology Ph.D. candidate Deanna Arsala -- said in a joint email. “Since our departures, we have been in contact with many victims who feel they have been mistreated and bullied by Dr. McLaughlin. We are deeply concerned and feel that this pattern of behavior is continuing to hurt others.”
Most recently, the women said, McLaughlin on Twitter “disparaged and lied about” Smith, who has been open about being a survivor of sexual misconduct.
McLaughlin declined to comment in detail about the former members' general allegations. She has previously responded to them in depth, here. But she said that MeTooSTEM continues to grow and that there is room for many more advocacy voices in science’s antiharassment movement. She urged against “punching down” on anyone fighting for positive climates across the sciences -- including her critics.
“I don’t want to be part of any organization that tells any woman how to speak her truth,” McLaughlin said. She added, “But if you want to know why I’m doing something, think about safety.”
The safety comment was a reference to what happened last week: McLaughlin, who receives regular requests to meet with survivors, became increasingly alarmed by someone asking, via Twitter, first privately and then publicly, to meet her in person and warning that she was under surveillance. McLaughlin consulted with a small group of core MeTooSTEM volunteers. Eventually Josh Fessel, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, told the person asking for help to contact the police for immediate assistance. The anonymous person objected, saying such a directive went against MeTooSTEM's values and purpose. Some of McLaughlin’s critics saw the public part of the discussion and called it inappropriate, even "gaslighty," since MeTooSTEM was founded in large part to give those facing harassment alternative reporting options and support.
A conversation followed, with McLaughlin at one point tagging her attorneys and accusing Smith of "talking shit." Smith is "so done," McLaughlin also said. McLaughlin was subsequently accused of gatekeeping the movement.
A prominent anti-harassment advocate is telling falsities about a junior scientist, survivor & advocate over a misinterpreted tweet and says "your done." This is not a tone problem, this feels like bullying, retaliation, gatekeeping. #MeTooPhD #ScienceToo #AcademiaToo #MeTooSTEM https://t.co/WpChkO8Kkn— Tisha Bohr (@TishaBohr) August 14, 2019
Asked about critiques of her management and advocacy styles, McLaughlin said, “I kind of coined the ‘harasshole’ phrase. So knowing that, if you expect me to be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s not going to happen.”
McLaughlin has faced prior negative feedback about her tone. But Bohr emphasized that the issue is not primarily a stylistic one. Referencing her own earlier resignation letter, which was co-written with Julie Libarkin, a professor of geocognition at Michigan State University who manages a master academic harasser list, Bohr said that one of her biggest concerns “was the lack of organization and transparency, which made it difficult to get anything done or know what was going [on] or know what was expected of me or how to navigate the organizational structure.”
Bohr thought that she was joining MeTooSTEM with Libarkin as a co-founder, she said, “so that was an ongoing struggle that Julie and I were having -- not having any power to invoke the growth or change we thought was necessary because all our requests for access were basically ignored by BethAnn.” (Note: This sentence has been updated from an earlier version to reflect that Bohr thought Libarkin, not Bohr, would be a co-founder.)
She added, “I felt the movement needed to be more inclusive. Another big concern.”
Libarkin did not respond to a request for comment.
In their own separate resignation letter sent in April, Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith cited a “lack of transparency, policies and communication within the organization leadership team.” That includes learning about MeTooSTEM initiatives on Twitter at the same time as the public, the women wrote, “without any prior discussion with the leadership team.” A Board of Directors also was created without the women’s knowledge, even though they believed they would be included on that board, they said.
Arsala, Sivakumaran and Smith also said that MeTooSTEM receives little input from racial and ethnic minorities, and that “many outside the organization have noticed it has prioritized the voices of cisgendered white women.” Additionally, the women said, some of their questions about the organization’s nonprofit status were met with “anger and retaliation,” unlike other white women's questions. MeTooSTEM is now a registered nonprofit organization.
Teresa Swanson, a recent MeTooSTEM award recipient and current core volunteer, and a community engagement specialist for the University of Washington's molecular and cellular biology graduate program, said the movement provides “a much needed space for previously ignored conversations about how harassment harms STEM, how to handle harassment and what needs to happen to change STEM cultures.”
MeTooSTEM as an organization provides “support to victims of gender and sexual harassment in order to help retain their health and careers,” she said. That includes providing them security cameras, covering other related expenses, hosting online support chats called MeTooSTEM Talks and advocating for small- and large-scale policy changes to protect scientists and hold harassers accountable.
Of McLaughlin, Swanson said she is a "tireless advocate for victims and is committed to learning, growth and change. In the time I've known her, she has constantly worked towards improving herself and the community she loves."
MeTooSTEM currently has a small board and group of regular volunteers. McLaughlin said that the organization’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the process of reporting harassment is no longer potentially more damaging to survivors' mental health and careers than the actual misconduct they've endured.
“Too often what is happening on campuses is that the Title IX process is driven by fear and university lawyers trying to protect reputations over individuals,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”FacultyEditorial Tags: College administrationSciences/Tech/Engineering/MathFacultyMisconductImage Source: Charles CotugnoImage Caption: BethAnn McLaughlin, far left, at a recent MeTooSTEM workshop at the University of Washington. Also pictured, from left: Angela Rasmussen, Teresa Swanson and Sharona Gordon.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Washington-Tacoma CampusVanderbilt UniversityDisplay Promo Box:
Virginia’s largest community college and a prominent public research university have co-partnered with an educational management and student support service provider to improve academic outcomes for transfer students.
The partnership between Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason University and InsideTrack, a company that helps higher ed institutions increase student enrollment and graduation rates, is part of a larger strategy to improve and streamline the process for students who want to transfer from NOVA, as the community college is often called, to George Mason.
The two institutions are already part of a collaborative program begun last year, called ADVANCE, which guides NOVA students through the transfer process and helps them integrate at George Mason. Administrators from both institutions say the affiliation with InsideTrack will help them scale up the program as the number of participating students grows. The total number of students in the program will have doubled to nearly 700 when the new academic year begins next Monday. Administrators expect that pace to continue during each academic year.
George Mason's total undergraduate enrollment for the 2018-2019 academic year was 25,508, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning. The total included 6,717 new undergraduates and nearly half of them, 3,006, were transfer students, although not all of them were from the ADVANCE program.
The partnership with InsideTrack will help enhance and expand the program to provide students with “consistent, personalized support throughout their time at both institutions,” according to an announcement by the three parties.
InsideTrack will provide training on academic coaching, tailored for specific student demographics, to staff at both institutions and will also coach a subset of students to tailor the methodology and model best practices. The company also will be working with institutional leaders to develop the infrastructure to build a sustainable professional coaching system.
“Improving collaboration between two- and four-year institutions is one of the most powerful levers available to improve college completion and enhance social and economic mobility,” Rose Pascarell, vice president for university life at George Mason, said in the announcement. “It is also why we are working with InsideTrack, to ensure that students who begin their journey at NOVA and complete it at Mason enjoy consistent, holistic support that adapts to their evolving needs.”
The partnership with InsideTrack is a three-year agreement. Pascarell said the costs would not be passed on to students and that student services would instead be shifted internally at both institutions. (She said in an interview Monday that she would provide numbers about the actual costs but did not produce any figures.)
"This is not just an add-on but a shift in the way we provide services to students to be more responsive to their needs," she said.
The move comes at a time when the demographics are changing on American college campuses, particularly at community colleges, and more first-generation students are enrolling along with more students from low-income households and immigrant families.
These students tend to struggle more in college and face barriers that keep them from completing their studies and graduating or from going on to earn a degree at a four-year college. College administrators are increasingly looking for ways to help these students succeed, including by making the often bureaucratic, complicated and time-consuming transfer process easier to manage and accomplish.
“Having that partnership with InsideTrack gives us more flexibility and helps us be able to serve more students more quickly,” Keri Bowman, director of academic planning and advising at NOVA, said in an interview.
“I think in general our students, and particularly at NOVA, tend to be less experienced with college, may be first-generation students and have some access issues,” she said. “We want them to learn the business of college, how to do NOVA and do college in general, and also have them transfer more smoothly.”
Pascarell said InsideTrack was chosen because it was among the first of such companies “to apply a coaching methodology” to the services it provides.
“They’re helping us define the methodology and helping us build it out … so that we’re able to respond to a student population that will grow in the thousands in the next couple of years,” she said.
Pascarell noted that course selection advising, academic coaching, resource referral and support services for transfer students are separate functions on most college campuses and are provided in different departments. And those services are usually incomplete, she added.
“We’re trying to create what I believe is a new, comprehensive coaching and advising model where students are really connected with the same folks throughout their transfer process … and students are advised and coached by the same people,” she said.
“It’s really clear to me that students don’t separate their needs by function. That’s not how they see us or seek out the supports they need,” she said. “We noticed that students would find their homes within a certain department or with a certain adviser,” and they would try to get all their needs met through that department or person. “This is our attempt to be more responsive to students, to create a set of supports from the point of when they transfer from the community college to transition and integration here.”
Dave Jarrat, InsideTrack’s senior vice president for engagement and growth, said the new partnership reflects a larger trend.
“There are a lot of institutions moving from a more transactional approach toward a more development-coaching approach to student support,” he said. “I do think we’ll be seeing more of this for reasons of demographics and for reasons of costs.”
Jarrat said his company would help NOVA and George Mason break down silos between admissions, student affairs and faculty advising departments.
“There are different organizational cultures and history being brought to this,” he said. “We have a lot of experience helping organizations change and persist in that change” and helping them “develop a sustainable approach to provide what students need, particularly the first-generation or low-income student.”
Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, and an expert on transfers, is generally supportive of efforts to help students. He counts NOVA and George Mason's transfer collaboration as among a handful nationwide that appear to be doing a good job. (He said, though, that the partnership with InsideTrack "looks like an interesting, boutiquey type of effort.")
"I think what you're seeing at George Mason and NOVA, in general, is what is happening across the country," he said. "They're creating this guided pathway for transfer students and monitoring their progress. The trend is a good thing."
But it's not occurring on a large enough scale, he added.
"There’s no question that even with the efforts they have made, that advising at community colleges is grossly inadequate for transfer students and very complicated," he said, speaking generally about transfer programs. "But in fairness to both four-year and two-year colleges, the resources for advising are very thin, especially at community colleges."
Jenkins's research has found that, in general, only 15 percent of transfer students end up earning a bachelor's degree, and among low-income students, it’s just 10 percent. What's more, many transfer students end up earning excess credits that are not transferable to four-year colleges but that cost them precious time and money, delaying them from completing their studies and earning associate degrees and preventing them from transferring to four-year colleges.
"People are not going to pay for this inefficiency, and that's why community colleges are hurting and enrollment is declining," he said.
"The vast majority of transfer students think they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree" but don't, he said. "When I talk to transfer students, I just want to cry -- the barriers that they face on both sides are so bad."
Jenkins said part of the problem is that four-year colleges, especially regional colleges, are heavily oriented toward providing support services to freshmen.
"They have weeklong orientation programs for their freshmen, and they tell transfer students, 'OK, you can register online,'" he said. "They’re going to lose these students if they don’t create these strong pathways."
He said colleges should align their programs to help students get good jobs or transfer to four-year colleges with declared and defined majors. He said colleges should also reorganize their academic programs around schools and meta-majors.
Still, he acknowledges, "It’s enormously complicated."Community CollegesEditorial Tags: TransferImage Source: George Mason UniversityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Improving TransferTrending order: 2College: George Mason UniversityNorthern Virginia Community CollegeDisplay Promo Box:
Nationalized “nudge” campaigns that shower students with emails and text messages to encourage them to apply for federal financial aid do not budge enrollment rates, as education researchers may have hoped based on the past success of smaller-scale outreach.
A study by economists at five universities, released this month by the National Bureau for Economic Research, suggests that consistently nudging incoming and current college students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid had no effect on college enrollment or financial aid recipient rates. Researchers tested a campaign on two distinct groups of students -- high school seniors who applied to college using the Common Application and college students of all levels (incoming, applied but did not enroll, currently enrolled and dropouts) who applied within an undisclosed large state system, said Kelly Rosinger, an assistant professor of education at Pennsylvania State University and one of the six researchers who authored “Nudging at Scale: Experimental Evidence From FAFSA Completion Campaigns.” Her colleagues were from Brandeis and Brigham Young Universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Previous research has shown the success of nudging on a smaller scale from sources familiar to students, like advisers or local community organizations, Rosinger said. But for this study, the researchers tested whether nudging would be effective through state- and national-level organizations with broader reaches, like the Common Application, which is one possible reason the outreach didn’t garner results, Rosinger said.
“When we think about scaling up, working with national and state-level organizations, the messaging has to be more generic than the previous messaging had been,” Rosinger said. “Common Application covers the nation, and students are somewhat familiar with it when applying to college … The students have a weaker connection to Common App.”
The Common Application and the state system sent “experimental” text messages to about 700,000 students over all, about 340,682 high school seniors who had registered with Common Application, a majority of them lower-income and first-generation students, and 350,407 incoming, current or former students who had applied within the state’s higher education system.
All 800,000 students in the study received some type of standard text message with federal financial aid information, but the experimental groups had further communication, like emails, infographics, mailers and varied text message content tailored to students’ identities. For example, if a student was identified as low-income, texts included the benefits of receiving financial aid.
“It didn’t seem to matter how we framed the message or how we sent the message; we weren’t finding differences between them,” Rosinger said.
The experiments produced no substantial results, and Rosinger and her colleagues will likely continue to pursue the possible explanations for students’ unresponsiveness to large-scale nudging, she said. They hypothesize that more widespread nudging does not take into account individual students’ needs and that the messaging is too general to connect with students.
“If they don’t know the messenger, and they’re coming out of the blue, it’s also a matter of trust and skepticism,” said Philip Oreopoulos, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, who has also done extensive research on nudging strategies. “More and more, as texting and email have been used as efforts to try to market or pitch ideas or thoughts to younger generations, I think they’re becoming more skeptical and disinterested in the messages. It becomes more automatic to tune them out.”
“In contrast, if the effort of this type of information, a reminder campaign, were coming from a friend, the school, a teacher, where you felt like paying more attention to the message, at least at the beginning, the message becomes more salient,” Oreopoulos said.
Another possible explanation for the null results, the study argues, is that information about FAFSA submission is distributed more widely by other sources than in the past, and students don’t need the additional information or assistance these nudges attempted to provide.
The researchers do acknowledge that “complexities associated with [FAFSA] can deter college-ready students from enrolling or succeeding in higher education,” specifically low-income or first-generation college students, whose families are less likely to have experience applying for federal financial aid, but the results show that these students in the Common Application system were generally uninterested in receiving assistance with the process.
Nudging efforts are particularly aimed to provide support that’s absent when disadvantaged students’ parents or high schools are not as involved in the college application process, Oreopoulos said, but text message reminders are much less effective than sitting down with an adult to complete the FAFSA.
“Parents from more advantaged backgrounds are already on top of application deadlines and making sure their child is aware,” Oreopoulos said. “In many ways, this is trying to level the playing field. [But] there are some better ways to level the playing field than others -- having schools work through applications with students is much more like having a parent there to help.”
The “Nudging at Scale” researchers acknowledged this by sending 2,000 of the Common Application sample students text messages offering one-on-one advising through College Possible, a nonprofit organization that provides college admissions coaching for low-income high school students.
Only 11.6 percent of these students even responded to those messages, according to the study, and again, there was no significant difference in FAFSA application or college enrollment results when the researchers compared the one-on-one advising students to those who received more standard text messages about federal financial aid, Rosinger said.
There’s still hope for nudging techniques -- it’s promising that a large organization like the Common Application agreed to assist with the nudging experiment, Oreopoulos said, and the “Nudging at Scale” team remains excited about the effectiveness of the strategies over all, according to Rosinger. Through his own research, Oreopoulos has found that it’s extremely difficult to nudge students to change study habits or other behavioral tendencies, even on a smaller scale, but behavioral economics remains one of the cheapest ways to prompt students into enrolling and completing college, he said.
“I haven’t lost hope,” Oreopoulos said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s still things we can do, but [for] the deeper problems of lack of access and lack of completion, I don’t think we’re going to be able to address those in a meaningful sense just by nudges alone … Maybe more meaningful impact depends on more heavy lifting.”Editorial Tags: EnrollmentFinancial aidImage Source: Istockphoto.com/alexslAd Keyword: DM_20190820Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 2Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, August 20, 2019Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Nudging Doesn't Scale NationallyMagazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Gender-nonconforming and transgender students are four times more likely to report mental health issues compared to the rest of their peers, according to a new study that is the largest so far to focus on this population of college students.
Researchers relied on data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual online report on student mental health from college campuses across the country. The new study examined responses of more than 65,200 students from 71 American institutions who were enrolled in college between 2015 and 2017.
Roughly 1,200 respondents said they had an alternate gender identity, meaning they do not identify with the gender that matches their birth sex. The researchers grouped these students -- about 2 percent of the study's sample, which included transgender students, gender-queer students and gender-nonconforming students and others -- into a category called “gender-minority students.”
Almost 80 percent of these gender-minority students reported having at least one mental health issue compared to 45 percent of their cisgender peers -- students whose gender aligns with their assigned birth sex.
The study was published Friday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Its lead author, Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, said while mental health professionals and LGBTQ advocates are aware that gender-minority students are much more likely to grapple with mental health issues, the general public is not.
Lipson said that she hopes the scale of the study causes college administrators to pay attention to these vast mental health disparities.
“The direction of the findings is not surprising,” said Lipson, “but the fact that there are these disparities, and magnitude of that disparity, as a researcher, it makes you take a step back and run the numbers over and over.”
More than half of gender-minority students -- 58 percent -- screened positive for depression, according to the study. And 53 percent of them reported having intentionally injured themselves in a way that was not suicidal.
Less than 30 percent of cisgender students screened positive for depression, and 20 percent reported a nonsuicidal self-injury.
Three percent of gender-minority students had attempted suicide compared to less than 1 percent of cisgender students, the study found. More than one-third of gender-minority students said they had seriously considered suicide.
College officials need to require training for professors and staff members around gender minorities, similar to how many institutions teach their faculty members about sexual harassment, said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coordinator of the LGBTQ advocacy group Campus Pride's Trans Policy Clearinghouse.
Beemyn called for more funding for mental health initiatives that would help trans students.
"Every college needs to have trans-experienced therapists, if not at least one trans-identified therapist, and should have at least one support group specifically for trans students," Beemyn said.
Lipson said administrators need to enact campus policies that would benefit gender-minority students and improve their mental state. For a particularly beneficial example, she pointed to shifts in name-change rules, in which students are allowed to alter their name in college records without doing so legally.
When professors call gender-minority students by their preferred name, it can help them feel like they belong, Beemyn said. Allowing those students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity also makes them feel safe and comfortable. Research published last year shows that gender-neutral bathrooms are among the accommodations gender-nonconforming students want most at their institutions. And a 2016 survey found that being denied gender-appropriate bathrooms and housing could lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts among gender-minority students.
"Is it any wonder that trans students have mental health issues when they are typically denied the ability to be seen as how they see themselves on a daily basis?" Beemyn said. "This means making sure that students are able to use the name they go by and are treated as their gender throughout the institution. Students need to be able to indicate their gender and have this gender be used for housing assignments and sports teams. They need to be able to indicate their pronouns in administrative systems and have these pronouns respected."
Lipson called for further research on “campus and social environments that are supporting gender-minority students and allowing them to thrive.”
“There’s many stakeholders who will look at these data and be filled with a sense of urgency,” Lipson said. “But we know how change in higher education works oftentimes -- it’s following and constantly looking around at what others are doing. And we need campuses that will champion this work and be proactively inclusive.”Editorial Tags: Student lifeMental healthIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Boston UniversityDisplay Promo Box:
Priyamvada Natarajan: “Lo bueno de estudiar el cosmos es que las discusiones entre países resultan ridículas”
The New York Fed this week presented an unsettling picture of how student loans stack up to other household debt.
Defaulted student loans have surpassed all other types of household debt classified as "severely derogatory," including mortgage and credit card debt, according to a report from New York Fed researchers.
Fed researchers defined severely derogatory debt as any kind of delinquent loan combined with a repossession, foreclosure, or charge off. The proportion of debt falling into that category in U.S. households has stayed fairly consistent for the past four years. But defaulted student loans now make up 35 percent of that debt.
Auto loans are the only type of severely delinquent debt to see the same growth in recent years, but they trail student loans in the severely delinquent category.
That trend though is not entirely shocking, said Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.
"Student debt is fundamentally different from other types of debt," she said.
Because other types of household debt are underwritten -- meaning they assess the creditworthiness of borrowers before making a loan -- those markets have tightened since the Great Recession. But the federal government has continued to lend to student borrowers at roughly similar rates because student loans work like an entitlement benefit.
Other key differences separate student debt from other kinds of household debt. Homes and cars can be repossessed by lenders and the debt charged off. When a student loan borrower becomes delinquent, interest on their loan continues to accrue and their balances grow.
The surge in college enrollment during the Recession, when many people out of work sought new skills to boost their chances of employment, has also likely contributed to the growth in delinquent and defaulted loans in recent years, Campbell said.
"We're getting to a point now, several years out from the recession, where we're going to see peak defaulting by borrowers from that period," she said.
Other consumer advocates say student debt delinquencies have been exacerbated by the failures of actors like student loan servicers.
"My main reaction to this data is that it confirms what advocates in the student borrower advocacy community have been saying for a long time: that student debt has hit crisis levels in the U.S.," said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform.
Unlike mortgage lending, she said, there is no industry-wide framework at the federal level to regulate student loans. Goldstein said the findings of the New York Fed report underscored the need for state lawmakers to pass student borrower bill of rights legislation.
A growing number of states this year have passed legislation adding new oversight of student loan companies, although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said only the federal government has the authority to regulate the student loan program and the industry says such measures don't address the fundamental challenges with student debt.
Sandy Baum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said it's likely that many student borrowers hold other types of loans and that they would prioritize that debt.
"Until you really analyze who are those people who hold other debts, what they owe, what did they spend their money on, I don't think it makes a ton of sense to say 'oh my god, it's student debt that's the problem,'" she said.Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidAd Keyword: Student loans Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
There is little dispute that Sci-Hub, the website that provides free access to millions of proprietary academic papers, is illegal. Yet, despite being successfully sued twice by major American academic publishers for massive copyright infringement, the site continues to operate.
Some academics talk openly about their use of the repository -- a small number even publicly thank Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for her contribution to their research. Most academics who use the site, however, choose to do so discreetly, seemingly aware that drawing attention to their activities might be unwise.
Just how careful academics should be about using Sci-Hub has become a topic of concern in recent weeks, with many questioning whether sharing links to Sci-Hub could in itself be considered illegal.
1/12 So something not-fantastic happened yesterday.
I received an email from a lawyer at @twobirds, @moniquewadsted, on behalf of @ElsevierConnect regarding my blog post about where to download research papers and scientific articles for free. https://t.co/Bf3H19RZ14
The discussion started when the team behind Citationsy, a bibliography management tool based in Europe, tweeted that lawyers for Elsevier, a major publisher of academic journals, had threatened to pursue legal action if Citationsy did not remove a link to Sci-Hub from Citationsy's website. The link formed part of a blog post titled "Hacking Education: Download Research Papers and Scientific Articles for Free."
Citationsy's team removed the offending link. But they questioned whether the link was really illegal. They noted that there are plenty of links to Sci-Hub online, including on websites such as Wikipedia.
But does sharing information via links, as academics routinely do, really constitute complicity in Sci-Hub's flagrant disregard for the law?
Whether linking to materials that violate copyright law "is or is not a copyright violation" doesn't have a straightforward answer, said Martin Paul Eve, professor of literature, technology and publishing at Birkbeck, University of London.
"There are divergent legal views in different jurisdictions as to what constitutes infringement," he said.
Writing about the Citationsy news on his blog, Eve shared links to Sci-Hub he had found published within Elsevier's own journals.
"I would suggest that before throwing stones, Elsevier may wish to get its own glasshouse in order," he wrote.
Tom Reller, Elsevier's spokesman, said the links in question were in a very small number of articles.
"We've known about this for several months and had already started alerting authors to our efforts to change the links back to the version of record," he said. "We have implemented checks in our production process and are adding a few more to better prevent this."
Linking to infringing materials in the U.S. "is a bit of a gray area as far as specific case law is concerned," said Trotter Hardy, professor of law, emeritus, at the William and Mary School of Law in Virginia.
"It's pretty clear that linking to lawful, copyrighted material is not in itself an infringement," he said. "But it's less clear that linking to infringing material might itself be infringement."
It is usually considered unlawful for one person to support another's wrongdoing. In criminal law, this is known as "aiding and abetting," but these terms are not used in copyright law, said Hardy.
"We use 'contributory' and 'vicarious' infringement to mean more or less the same thing," he said.
Contributory infringement is found when a defendant "knows of the ultimate infringement (or should know) and does something that induces or materially contributes to that infringement," said Hardy. Vicarious infringement is found when a defendant "had the right and ability to supervise the ultimate infringer and stood to gain financially from the infringement."
In instances of academics linking to Sci-Hub, it is more likely to be a question of contributory infringement than vicarious infringement, said Hardy. So could linking to Sci-Hub be considered contributory infringement? Hardy thinks yes.
If a defendant knows that Sci-Hub, or material on it, is illegal, then they have the requisite knowledge. The question then becomes whether they "induced" or "materially contributed" to someone's infringement, said Hardy.
It's possible to argue that users would have found the infringing materials on their own. But linking to them does make it easier and quicker to find them -- something that Hardy would consider a "material" contribution to the infringement.
"Courts might differ regarding any of the above, of course, but that's my thinking."
Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sees the matter slightly differently. Laws in Europe, where Citationsy is based, are stricter than in the U.S. But here, it is "largely settled that linking to something is not copyright infringement," he said.
Links are the language of the internet, the way information is shared, and people shouldn't be punished for doing this, said Stoltz.
"If you're saying, 'Here's a site that lets you get a bunch of illegal, infringing materials for free, I really recommend you go here.' That's when you're encouraging people to infringe copyright," said Stoltz. "Providing the link in a way that doesn't show a preference is ok. And that's really important. The papers on Sci-Hub are not contraband. It's not like child pornography that is illegal to possess."
Kyle Courtney, copyright advisor at Harvard University, said he has received around 20 inquiries from colleagues about this issue in recent weeks. He said it had "not previously occurred" to him that linking to Sci-Hub might be considered illegal.
Courtney advises caution when dealing with the site in any capacity.
"Cracking down on links could be another way for publishers to try and trim the influence of Sci-Hub, which courts have generally agreed is illicit," he said.
Tomas Lipinski, dean of the school of information studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, said that academics sharing links to Sci-Hub, should "be aware that much of the material on the site is suspect."
But he noted that not all content on the site is infringing. "It all depends on the contract between the author and the publisher," he said.
"Don't be afraid to link to things," said Lipinski. "But if you have a reasonable suspicion that the material you are linking to is infringing copyright, look for an alternative resource. Do the gut test -- If something doesn't seem right, don't use it."
Lipinski said it's generally wise to heed a notice to take down a link. But he also believes there is a risk that academics, who "generally want to do the right thing and are risk-averse," might "err too much on the side of caution," by unnecessarily removing content.
He and the other experts agree it's unlikely that publishers would pursue individuals for linking to Sci-Hub.
"Which publisher wants to be the one to sue a researcher for infringing?" asked Eve. "The optics of a multi-billion dollar company suing a researcher who gives them research material for free are terrible."Books and PublishingEditorial Tags: PublishingResearchIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Rep. Donna Shalala, a Florida Democrat and former university president, has spent much of her first year in Congress seeking tougher federal standards on for-profit colleges, an issue that has divided members of Congress along partisan lines.
Thursday, though, she released a bill along with one of President Trump's favorite lawmakers, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
The bipartisan bill would push more regular disclosures to student borrowers during the lifetime of their loan, including when they are still in college. The legislation is the latest evidence that while Democrats and Republicans are split on many major higher ed issues, transparency still has broad bipartisan support.
The Shalala bill would require that students receive monthly notifications about projected payments after graduation as well as descriptions of costs like origination fees. It would also require that borrowers have the option to make payments toward their loans while in college.
"The goal is to give student borrowers the necessary tools and information they need to manage financial aid and personal finances while in school," Shalala, a former president of the University of Miami and of Hunter College and a former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement.
Gaetz said more transparency on borrowers' loan debt "will improve financial literacy and will also help borrowers understand the financial commitments they are making."
The bill's co-sponsors include Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican; Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat; Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat; and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican.
The Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid has undertaken its own student disclosure initiatives during the Trump administration. The FSA last year rolled out a student aid mobile app that would allow students to track their loan debt and see estimates of potential monthly payments after graduation. Students would also be able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid on the app and compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges.
A. Wayne Johnson, FSA's chief strategy and transformation officer, has said the app would make financial aid tools more accessible to borrowers beginning when their award is disbursed.
Democratic and GOP lawmakers have also pushed legislation for more transparency on college outcomes. The College Transparency Act, which would create a federal student data system tracking measures like graduation rates and loan repayment at the college and program level, is likely to figure into an overhaul of the Higher Education Act.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said in a letter to lawmakers that passage of the Shalala bill would be "an important step forward in addressing the student debt crisis" by helping borrowers understand the financial commitment of student loan debt.
Advocates for college students, though, said more disclosures alone won't move the needle for struggling borrowers seriously.
"It's obvious to pretty much everyone that borrowers are confused by their loans -- but unfortunately, monthly disclosures just aren't a cure for the larger disease here, which is a complex, unnavigable, Byzantine repayment system," said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America's higher education initiative and a former Education Department official.
Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said it's critical for borrowers to have clear information about their debt, but disclosure won't solve the problems with the federal student loan system.
"We need fundamental changes to the structure of these programs," she said.Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Rep. Donna ShalalaAd Keyword: Student loans Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Young, university-educated people are at the center of the unfolding struggle in Hong Kong, where protesters temporarily shut the airport earlier this week in the latest development in a summer of protests set off by widespread opposition to a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.
A survey of participants at 12 different protest actions that garnered a total of 6,688 responses found that the majority of protesters are between the ages of 20 and 29 and have completed a higher education. Across the different protests, the proportion of university-educated participants ranged from 68.2 percent to more than 80 percent.
The survey, conducted by a group of academics based at four different Hong Kong universities, found that the two most important motivations of the protesters were "calling for the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill" (it was suspended, but not withdrawn, in June) and "expressing dissatisfaction with the police's handling of the protest."
Striving for democracy for Hong Kong -- a semiautonomous region of China with its own legal system under the "one country, two systems" principle -- emerged as a key motivation for protesters in July.
Most of the protests have been on the streets and -- save for two separate protest actions at the University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University -- campuses have been "rather quiet," said Samson Yuen, an assistant professor of political science at Lingnan and one of the academics who surveyed protest participants.
Yet Yuen said "student unions and societies have been deeply involved."
"Student activism before this protest was actually on the decline, after the 'dissolution' of the Hong Kong Federation of Students in 2016, when students from four universities respectively voted to quit the alliance. The anti-ELAB protests thus also saw a revival in student activism --- but in a more decentralized manner."
The character of student involvement contrasts somewhat with the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, when professors and students were among the most visible leaders of what became known as the Umbrella Movement. This summer's protests have been largely leaderless.
"During the Umbrella Movement in 2014, student organizations -- particularly the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism -- were truly at the forefront," said Denise Y. Ho, an assistant professor of history at Yale University and an expert on modern China. "Since then, student organizations have faced numerous challenges. The Hong Kong Federation of Students has been reduced after a number of universities chose to disaffiliate. Some of the professors and student leaders faced imprisonment, and others have moved on to other pursuits. On individual campuses, some university-level organizations have seen an increasing localist tendency, fracturing campus politics. It's important to understand this wider context when we consider this summer."
She continued: "Certainly, in the present moment students and young people are still at the forefront, but the center of gravity has changed. It is no longer the campus or traditional forms of association, like a student union. Instead, the movement has gone digital in ways that the aftermath of 2014 conditioned. That is, in order to protect participants and be more flexible, protesters are innovating new strategies and tactics. Thus we have something very new: on the one hand, protesters are more atomized and anonymous, but on the other hand, they are more committed and more united than ever before."
"There's been a self-conscious effort to make this less of a leader-focused movement, and one of the reasons for that is that after the Umbrella Movement the police went after the leading spokespeople for the movement," said Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the Chancellor's Professor and a historian at the University of California, Irvine, who studies protests in contemporary China.
Prominent student leaders of the Umbrella Movement, most notably Joshua Wong, served jail time. Two professors who played key organizing roles, Chan Kin-man, a retired associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Benny Tai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, were convicted in April on public nuisance charges related to the 2014 protests and sentenced to 16 months in jail.
Tai was released on bail on Thursday pending his appeal. Close to 500 scholars worldwide have signed an open letter to the University of Hong Kong calling on the university to protect Tai against "politically motivated dismissal or other disciplinary measures."
"As one of Hong Kong's most important centers of free thought and inquiry, HKU has long supported the values civil disobedience seeks to defend and promote," the open letter states. "Any move to dismiss an academic as a result of a conviction arising from peaceful advocacy could cause irreparable harm to the stature of the University as a champion of independent thought."
"There's a fear that I have that the university might reflect in microcosm what Hong Kong as a whole seems to be experiencing in macrocosm," said Terence C. Halliday, an organizer of the open letter and a legal scholar and research professor at the American Bar Foundation who also has affiliations with Australian National University and Northwestern University. "It seems over the last several years there has been a slow, bit-by-bit erosion of some of the fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong's society. Is the Hong Kong administration or indeed Beijing seeking to do with the university what it seems to be doing with Hong Kong as a whole?"
An HKU spokesperson said in a statement that the university "would like to thank all those who have signed the open letter for their concerns and interest in the University of Hong Kong. The University fully recognizes that teachers have good cause protection regarding their appointments, and we have every intention to uphold obligations and duties in such matters. In light of the Court's verdict and sentence in Mr. Benny Tai's case, the University is following up in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the University of Hong Kong Ordinance and Rules and Regulations.
"The University handles staff matters in a stringent and impartial manner in accordance with its due procedures. In view of the confidentiality of personal information involved and the need to ensure the integrity of the process, the University will not make further comments concerning the case."
Meanwhile, the tensions over the future of Hong Kong have spilled onto campuses in Australia and New Zealand, where students supporting the Chinese Communist Party have clashed -- sometimes violently -- with supporters of the Hong Kong protesters. According to The New York Times, about 300 Chinese nationalists interrupted pro-Hong Kong democracy rallies at the University of Queensland, and a video from the incident shows a student from Hong Kong being grabbed by the throat. Another video of a confrontation at the University of Auckland shows three Chinese men shouting down students from Hong Kong at a rally and pushing a young woman to the ground.
"Lennon Walls" containing messages of support for the Hong Kong protesters have been reported vandalized on a number of campuses. It remains to be seen how these tensions over the future of Hong Kong may play out on American campuses -- where Chinese students make up the single largest group of international students -- when the academic year starts.
Wasserstrom, the UC Irvine historian, said a notable feature of this summer's protests has been the organization of rallies for specific occupational and social groups -- protests for lawyers, for example, and for mothers. Still, he said, "the driving force of it is young people, many of them are students, who are particularly passionate about the future of the city they love. They're the people who are going to live longest in the city after 2047 when it's supposed to be fully integrated into the P.R.C.," under the terms of the 1997 handover agreement transferring control of Hong Kong, a former British colony, to the People's Republic of China.
"They have the most stake in this."GlobalEditorial Tags: Hong KongInternational higher educationActivismIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
A former Hofstra University tennis coach who was fired after being accused of sexually harassing a team athlete will be allowed to sue the university, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.
The coach had alleged, in a lawsuit dismissed by a lower court, that he was fired in September 2016 because Hofstra was under public pressure to respond to sexual misconduct on campus, particularly by men. He sued the university in 2017. The ruling now allows the lawsuit to go forward.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the firing of coach Jeffrey Menaker could constitute sex discrimination and violate the federal employment law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, U.S. Circuit Court, Judge José A. Cabranes wrote in the ruling. The judge drew comparisons between Menaker's case and how universities were pressured to reduce campus sexual assaults after the Obama administration released new guidance in 2011 on how colleges should adjudicate assault cases under the federal law barring sex discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. At that time, the administration was intent on cracking down on sexual assaults, many of which were carried out by men. Universities that flouted the law or ignored the guidance by not investigating cases and sanctioning those determined to be involved in sexual misconduct, could lose their federal funding.
Judge Cabranes noted that the guidance "ushered in a more rigorous approach to campus sexual misconduct allegations."
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the guidance nearly two years ago.
Hofstra, a private institution in New York, was already under investigation by the Obama administration's Education Department, prior to Menaker's firing, for potentially mishandling sexual misconduct claims and not responding forcefully to sexual violence on the campus. This may have given Hofstra the rationale to fire Menaker without following the university's formal processes for terminating employees, Cabranes indicated in the opinion.
The opinion means that the lawsuit will be heard by the lower district court.]
Michal Kaplan, a former player on the women's team, had told Menaker in April 2016 that his predecessor had promised Kaplan, then a first-year student, a full scholarship in her sophomore year. Only about half of her tuition was covered under her scholarship at the time.
Menaker said in the complaint that he could not find any record of this agreement, but told Kaplan she would be given a full scholarship in her junior and senior years. Menaker contends that he received a phone call the following month from Kaplan's irate father, who threatened that trouble would "come back to" Menaker if Kaplan didn't receive a full scholarship.
Kaplan's lawyers later sent a letter to the university accusing Menaker of "unwanted and unwarranted sexual harassment" and alleging that Menaker threatened to revoke Kaplan's scholarship and position on the team after she rejected his advances. The letter also accused Menaker of being obsessed with Kaplan's menstrual cycle and of instructing the tennis players to "dress nice" and "shave their legs."
Menaker denied all the allegations. He met with Hofstra administrators, who said they would investigate the letter's claims. Menaker gave university officials records of all his communication with Kaplan and recommended the names of other athletes he thought officials should interview. According to Menaker's complaint, one administrator allegedly told him that he believed the complaint against him was a ploy by Kaplan's parents.
The university did not follow up with the athletes Menaker suggested investigators interview, or follow its own policies for firing an employee, the lawsuit states.
The university successfully got the suit dismissed from district court, but Cabranes wrote that the lower court had misinterpreted a Title IX case on which Menaker based the arguments in his lawsuit. In that case, Doe v. Columbia University, a male student at Columbia accused of sexual assault alleged that his suspension was motivated by an "atmosphere of public pressure demanding that the university react more swiftly and severely to female complaints of sexual assault against males."
Cabranes wrote that the district court was too limiting in the application of that case. Just because Menaker is not a student, and the alleged misbehavior was sexual harassment and not sexual assault, doesn't mean the same principles in the case don't apply. Criticism of the university's response to sexual assault also doesn't have to reach a "crescendo" for officials to feel public pressure, Cabranes noted.
"We decline to adopt each of the District Court's proposed limitations on Doe v. Columbia," Cabranes wrote. "The logic of that precedent applies to both students and employees, to accusations of sexual harassment as well as sexual assault, and it does not rely on a particular quantum of criticism at a specific university."
Menaker also noted in his initial lawsuit that the university had failed to interview potential witnesses and that an official knew at least one allegation against him was false. He also never received a report that he said he was promised detailing the investigation.
Jill Rosenberg, Hofstra's legal counsel, provided a written statement on the university's behalf:
"The Second Circuit has ruled that the complaint should not be dismissed at this early stage of the case, but we are confident that Hofstra's actions and decisions will be upheld once the merits of this matter are considered in the lower court. We look forward to demonstrating there was no discrimination in the university's actions."Editorial Tags: Legal issuesTitle IXIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Hofstra UniversityDisplay Promo Box: