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With faculty anger surrounding several presidential searches, some point to search firms as the cause

Vie, 23 Ago 2019 - 02:00

In recent years one of the greatest points of contention between faculty members and their institutions’ governing boards has been over the board’s arguably most important function: the search for and the selection of a president to lead the institution.

Throughout higher education, campus stakeholders are increasingly disapproving of and speaking publicly about searches conducted by their institution. One of the more frequent complaints is the growing tendency of governing boards to conduct a “secret search.” In these cases, those involved in the process keep the names of any potential candidates under wraps until an appointee is announced, or in other, similar cases, boards announce a sole finalist who will meet with campus leaders and get to know the institution before being officially appointed.

However, as these instances and the faculty outrage that often comes with them become more frequent, some more recent searches where multiple candidates have been announced before the board votes have not been without significant controversy.

Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, has conducted research on executive searches at universities. She points to the increasing inclination of governing boards to hire an executive search firm as the cause for the uptick in secret searches. Research conducted by Wilde found that in 51 percent of the instances studied, confidentiality was the search firm's policy.

“We think these have appeared within the last 10 years, and most especially in the past five years. Much of the cause is the search firms themselves,” Wilde said. “They tell universities that the only way to get ‘the best’ president is to have a confidential or secret search. Along with this, those who serve on boards have little experience in conducting searches. So, having a search firm step in to tell them exactly how this should be done, and that they'll lead the efforts, is very appealing.”

Oftentimes, representatives of executive search firms argue that the only way to recruit talented candidates for the presidency is by holding a secret search, due to the fact that many candidates wouldn’t allow themselves to face public scrutiny before a selection. Wilde said there has been no research supporting that claim.

“The secret search is a recent phenomenon, really seen only in the past five to 10 years -- at most -- so we weren't looking for them,” Wilde said. “I will say that what little we've seen, we see no reason to believe that this leads to better presidents. Think of this -- until just recently, all presidential searches were open. To state that secret searches yield better presidents is to imply that all previous presidents were not good. That just doesn't make sense.”

Jan Greenwood is a veteran search consultant and partner and president of Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc. She said the practice of keeping private the names of finalists in presidential searches began in the early '90s, when a president of a research university lost his job after he advised his alma mater about an open presidency.

"He was fired for looking at the other position, which technically he wasn't pursuing," Greenwood said. "He was doing his alma mater a favor."

Other similar outings and firings have occurred, she said, including to provosts and deans. In addition to making job candidates nervous, she said publicizing the names of finalists can jeopardize gifts to colleges, as donors have pulled back on a pledge when they hear the president is looking for another job. Likewise, if a public university president is up for another job, it can be harder for the institution to secure state funding.

"That hurts the university. And presidents don't want to hurt the university," said Greenwood.

Campuses Left With Questions

Frank LoMonte, the director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said that in many cases where states have legal requirements to reveal finalists before selecting a president, the selection of a sole finalist meets the letter of the law but not the spirit.

“Unfortunately it seems that the prevailing structure these days is that the law specifies up to three or up to four finalists,” LoMonte said. “The growing practice has been to default to one finalist. Even though you would certainly read the intent of legislation like that to suggest that the public should see multiple finalists, that's not the way trustees and search firms are applying it. They’re gaming those laws to achieve the maximum secrecy.”

In Colorado, conservative former congressman Mark Kennedy was chosen as the sole finalist in the state system’s presidential search. Kennedy’s voting record on issues such as gay marriage became a contentious issue with many students and faculty, who called upon the Board of Regents to consider another candidate. The regents ended up selecting Kennedy, who had formerly served as president at the University of North Dakota, despite the outrage.

LoMonte said instances like this in which boards leave only one option often make stakeholders feel as though they were left out of the process, and they can sow distrust.

“If the community believes that your presidency was foisted on them by a bunch of remote business executives and headhunters, they are going to start off with skepticism and distrust,” LoMonte said. “Surely it’s better to find out early that the person you’ve identified was a mismatch with the campus culture.”

Other searches have ended with secrecy recently -- at Georgia Tech, the former president of George Mason University was announced as the sole finalist. At the University of Texas El Paso, the sole finalist to replace the esteemed president drew sharp criticisms from stakeholders.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said secrecy often benefits the potential candidates for the search and the search firm but is not beneficial to the institution itself.

“A process like this is very often going to be toxic for campus morale,” Poliakoff said. “It can also be rather toxic for board morale. Boards are too often distancing themselves from the engagement and the accountability for the choice. I think the utilization of search firms -- practices that come out of the corporate world -- has influenced the way boards think. They have tended to defer to the professionals rather than being integrally involved in every step of the search process. I think there has been a cultural shift that is not serving higher education well.”

Greenwood, however, said search firms themselves benefit from a search being open. A known candidate is vetted in a more public manner, by the news media and people on campus. And that scrutiny can help protect a search firm by preventing a bad hire or from not getting necessary background information on a job candidate to the hiring committee.

Open Search, Same Outrage

So far in 2019, there have been some high-profile examples of searches in which multiple finalists were revealed to the public that have ended in similarly divisive situations.

Most notably at the University of South Carolina, a candidate was chosen out of a group of four despite the fact there was highly public condemnation of the candidate from the students and the faculty. However, LoMonte said that the protests and outrage are exactly what an open search gives community members an opportunity to do.

“I mean, that’s democracy -- that’s exactly what democracy is supposed to look like,” LoMonte said. “You pick somebody unacceptable and the community loudly tells you to go pick somebody else. That’s exactly how the process ought to be working.”

However, South Carolina statistics professor Bethany Bell -- a critic of the South Carolina search process -- said even their open search left much to be desired. Each candidate was on campus for only one day, and the times of the Q&A sessions with candidates were announced very late and during a time frame when many students would be preparing for finals.

“Yes, there was an open forum for each candidate,” Bell said. “But was it as open as it could have been? Absolutely not.”

Bell also said it was rumored there was an unnamed female semifinalist for the position who had said she would withdraw if her name was made public. The final four candidates were all male.

Another open search, at Miami Dade College, led to faculty feeling like they had the rug pulled out from under them, as the college’s Board of Trustees opted to open a new search after already publicly announcing four candidates.

Wilde pointed to both the searches at Colorado and at South Carolina as examples of why it’s vital that faculty feel bought in to the process -- or else the process can quickly unravel.

“Probably the most important is lack of trust/support on the part of faculty, staff, students and the larger community,” Wilde said. “[Secret] searches also go against the most basic tenet of the university: shared governance.”

-- Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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Kansas professor indicted for allegedly failing to disclose appointment at Chinese university

Vie, 23 Ago 2019 - 02:00

A professor at the University of Kansas was indicted Wednesday on federal fraud charges for allegedly failing to disclose a full-time employment contract he held with a Chinese university while conducting research at Kansas funded by federal research contracts.

Feng (Franklin) Tao, a chemist and associate professor at Kansas's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 on the wire fraud count, and up to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 on each of the counts of program fraud.

The indictment against Tao comes amid increasing concerns among federal research agencies and national security officials about alleged efforts by China to steal the fruits of U.S. taxpayer-funded scientific research. Federal scientific agencies have also raised concerns about undisclosed conflicts of commitment in which researchers hold a position with an overseas institution while they are receiving federal grants.

“Tao is alleged to have defrauded the U.S. government by unlawfully receiving federal grant money at the same time that he was employed and paid by a Chinese research university -- a fact that he hid from his university and federal agencies,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a news release announcing the charges. “Any potential conflicts of commitment by a researcher must be disclosed as required by law and university policies.”

The indictment alleges that Tao failed to disclose that he signed a five-year contract in 2018 with China's Fuzhou University to be a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor, a position that the contract describes as full-time. The Changjiang Scholar program is sponsored by the Chinese government to attract and recruit scientific talent.

The indictment alleges that Tao, who studies a surface chemical analysis technique known as ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, failed to disclose the Changjiang contract to Kansas and that he falsely certified to the university that he did not have any conflicts of interest.

"By not disclosing his position at Fuzhou, and certifying an absence of conflict, Tao was able to continue his employment with KU. His employment with KU allowed Tao to have continued access to U.S. government grant or contract funds, which included funds not only for research but also for Tao's salary," the indictment states.

Tao's research at KU was funded through two Department of Energy contracts and four National Science Foundation contracts. Tao is accused of fraudulently receiving more than $37,000 in salary paid for by DOE and NSF.

Court papers did not list a lawyer for Tao, and his published KU office number was not working Thursday. Messages sent Thursday to his KU email account, a LinkedIn account in his name and a phone number located via a public records search were not returned.

The University's Response

Douglas A. Girod, the university's chancellor, said in a statement about the fraud charges that Kansas "learned of this potential criminal activity this spring" and reported it to authorities. Tao has been placed on paid administrative leave.

In his statement, Girod cited a recent op-ed published in Inside Higher Ed by the presidents of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities affirming the vital role Chinese and other international scholars play in America's research enterprise.

"At the same time, we also have been reminded of the importance of collaborating with federal law enforcement agencies," Girod said. "We remain vigilant in our own internal efforts to maintain the integrity and security of our research, including the research we undertake on behalf of federal research-granting agencies and, ultimately, U.S. taxpayers," Girod said. "Our Office of Global Operations and Security serves as an important resource for faculty and staff to help them conduct international work in a safe and secure way. The office works to manage and mitigate risk and protect intellectual property while synchronizing efforts related to international work, export compliance and security operations."

"After the formation of that office in summer 2018, we looked at our policies and procedures that regulate how we conduct research and exchange information in an increasingly interconnected world and considered ways they could be improved," Girod added.

Many if not most major research universities have recently begun revisiting their policies and protocols governing federal research grants and protection of intellectual property in response to the increased attention from federal law enforcement officials to academic espionage-related issues and the threat posed by China in particular.

The increased scrutiny has raised concerns in academe about whether ethnically Chinese scholars are being racially profiled and targeted for additional scrutiny. In a June statement, Massachusetts Institute of Technology president L. Rafael Reif reported that "faculty members, postdocs, research staff and students tell me that, in their dealings with government agencies, they now feel unfairly scrutinized, stigmatized and on edge -- because of their Chinese ethnicity alone."

As U.S.-China relations worsen, some have also raised concerns about whether scholars stand to be penalized for forms of scientific collaboration with China -- such as participation in the Chinese government's talent programs -- that were previously considered by many to be within the bounds of normal academic collaboration.

The former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, told a congressional panel last December that the talent programs "encourage theft of intellectual property from U.S. institutions."

Such programs, Priestap said, "offer competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities and honorific titles, luring both Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts alike to bring their knowledge and experience to China, even if that means stealing proprietary information or violating export controls to do so."

"I have no firsthand knowledge of the case and no opinion about Franklin Tao’s innocence or guilt," said Robert Daly, an analyst who has been tracking these issues and is the director of the Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. "I do know that Washington’s concern with China’s talent re-recruitment programs emerged only recently and that the new security issues involved are not fully understood by many American universities. One result of this disconnect is that American faculty of Chinese origin who 'didn’t get the memo' and continue to behave as they did before the issue appeared -- especially by taking undisclosed dual appointments at Chinese institutions -- may now be cast as criminals when they are merely guilty of moonlighting and careless paperwork."

"To protect faculty from unfounded accusations, it is essential that American universities orient their scholars about the FBI’s concerns and the need for full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest," Daly said. "To date, public reports don’t make clear that KU gave this vital information to Professor Tao. If he was not informed of these issues by his employer, 50 years in prison and a million-dollar fine seem like heavy penalties for a case in which no espionage or intellectual property theft is alleged."

KU's policies governing conflicts of interest can be found here, and the policy relating to conflict of time commitment appears to have last been updated in 2017.

"All KU employees are informed of their disclosure obligations during onboarding, and they are reminded each year during the annual reporting period," a university spokesman said. "Additionally, researchers are required to certify that their compliance reporting is up to date before submitting every proposal. Research integrity staff who facilitate conflict of interest reporting deliver in-person training to departments and centers upon request and through the annual research administration training program."

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New research alliance cements split on AI ethics

Vie, 23 Ago 2019 - 02:00

Germany, France and Japan have joined forces to fund research into “human-centered” artificial intelligence that aims to respect privacy and transparency, in the latest sign of a global split with the U.S. and China over the ethics of AI.

The three countries’ funding agencies have put out a joint call for research proposals, backed by an initial 7.4 million euros ($8.2 million). They stressed that they “share the same values” and warned that the technology has the potential to “violate individual privacy and right to informational self-determination.”

Observers see the move as part of a wider divergence in AI research priorities, with Europe, plus Japan and potentially Canada, taking the lead on its ethical development.

“We share the same beliefs and the same standards,” said Susanne Sangenstedt, a program officer at the German Research Foundation who is helping to oversee the collaboration.

The joint call has been under development since last year, she explained. Last November, the German Centers for Research and Innovation, a global network of universities and companies, organized an AI symposium in Japan involving ethicists and social scientists as well as more technically minded academics.

Results should, if possible, be released on an open-access basis, said Sangenstedt. The funding call asks academics to pitch projects on the “democratization” of AI, the “integrity of data for fairness” and “AI ethics to avoid gender/age segmentation,” as well as in areas such as machine learning, computer vision and data mining.

Germany, France and Japan are more concerned than some of their rivals that “if you let this [AI] go wild, it can cause profound damage to society,” said Holger Hoos, professor of machine learning at Leiden University. He said that he expected Canada to join the trio soon.

“AI is a game of critical mass. Japan can’t compete with China on AI, so they need allies. And the same goes for Canada,” he said.

China’s approach to AI was to put its development under the control of the “government-state,” he said. Meanwhile, the U.S. -- which has less of a developed national AI strategy than most other major economies -- has allowed AI development to be dominated by private technology companies, argued Hoos, one of the founders of the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe, which is pushing for the continent to remain competitive in AI research while leading on ethical, legal and social issues.

The “European way” was an attempt to find a “balance” between “government, industry and individual,” he said, an approach Japan supported, too.

Countries from Finland to India, plus the European Union, have devised AI strategies in the past few years, responding to predictions that the technology will upend the economy and society, for example displacing jobs, allowing algorithm-based sentencing for criminals and even unleashing “killer robots.”

This new alliance between Germany, France and Japan was “quite a logical and natural expansion of the E.U.’s position on AI,” explained Sophie-Charlotte Fischer, a researcher on AI and international relations at ETH Zurich.

By establishing itself as a world leader in “ethical” AI, the E.U. hoped to set standards for the rest of the world. “They have selected this as their niche,” she explained.

France’s AI strategy has called for the creation of interdisciplinary institutes involving social scientists and philosophers. The German strategy, released last year, established a plethora of observatories, dialogues and councils to make sure AI “serves the good of society.”

Japan has also used its presidency of the G20 group of nations to push for a common, global body to oversee the development of AI, Fischer added.

It was “unfair,” however, to say that China -- which in 2017 launched its own strategy, aiming to lead the world by 2030 -- was not thinking about ethics, she argued. In May, universities and companies signed up to the Beijing AI principles, which commit to “privacy, dignity, freedom, independence and rights.”

Whether China’s authoritarian government would heed these principles was “hard to tell,” she acknowledged, but “as a signal it’s quite noteworthy” and may indicate that Beijing was “open to dialogue about how AI is used.”

Still, “one advantage the E.U. has is that it’s a credible actor. It’s harder to believe when China puts these principles forward,” Fischer added.

For now, the joint funding from Germany, France and Japan is a pilot, explained Sangenstedt, “but possibly it will be the starting point for a discussion about regular calls.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Vie, 23 Ago 2019 - 02:00
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Virginia Tech outpaces George Mason in plans for Amazon's HQ2

Jue, 22 Ago 2019 - 02:00

Virginia Tech and George Mason University both pledged to significantly expand their computer science programs following Amazon’s announcement last year that it would build a second headquarters in Arlington, Va.

The institutions planned not only to produce thousands more computer science graduates to fill Amazon’s need for highly skilled employees, but also to build state-of-the-art facilities close to Amazon’s chosen 105-acre site near Reagan National Airport. The plans hinged on hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from the state, philanthropic grants and industry partnerships.

But the two universities do not appear to have made equal progress with their plans. While Virginia Tech has already secured a substantial amount of funding from the state, George Mason is still far from meeting its fundraising goals, making the institution's original five-year timeline seem increasingly infeasible. 

The state this year appropriated $275 million for Virginia Tech to build a new Innovation Campus, whereas just $7.5 million has been allocated so far to George Mason -- far short of the $125 million the university is seeking from the state. The $7.5 million will be used to knock down an old building on George Mason's existing Arlington Campus and make room for new construction. 

Ralph Northam, Virginia's Democratic governor, said last November that the state would make performance-based investments of up to $375 million available to the two institutions to build new facilities and dramatically increase the number of computer science graduates they produce. The funds would be made available over the next twenty years, subject to a one-to-one match from the universities. Virginia Tech initially requested $250 million and George Mason $125 million. Northam said additional funding will be available to boost undergraduate enrollment in technology degrees at all Virginia public universities and community colleges. 

Anne Holton, George Mason's interim president, said she's confident the state will honor its $125 million commitment. She said the university has so far identified around $20 million from philanthropic sources and is working to secure more.

"I'm on a rigorous schedule of meetings with current donors and potential new donors," she said. "All the major tech businesses in Northern Virginia are eager to see us succeed and several of them have already stepped up to host events to help us raise those dollars. I am confident we will meet our match. It may be a couple of years, but that's ok. We don't have to have it all right away." 

Holton said the university is "still on track for ambitious growth." She noted that unlike Virginia Tech, George Mason already owns the land that it is planning to build on. "We will move forward expeditiously," she said. 

Big Plans, Big Price Tags

Tim Sands, Virginia Tech's president, last year shared plans to build a $1 billion Tech Innovation Campus near Amazon’s new headquarters that would accommodate 750 new computer science master’s students and hundreds more doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Sands proposed that the campus would be built with $250 million from the state, $250 million from the institution and a further $500 million from a mix of philanthropic grants and industry partnerships.

George Mason’s former president, Ángel Cabrera, who will start his new role as president of the Georgia Institute of Technology in September, announced last year that George Mason would invest $250 million to build a 400,000-square-foot Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) on its Arlington campus and prepare to significantly expand its computer science enrollment. The planned $250 million investment would include $125 million from philanthropic giving and $125 million in matched funding from the state. He planned to more than double enrollment in undergraduate and graduate computer science programs to 15,000 students by 2024. The current level is around 6,500 students.  

Quickly raising $125 million to support the expansion of its computing programs and fund the new institute could prove challenging. The George Mason University Foundation reported that it received around $68 million in total contributions in 2018, up from $62.5 million in 2017. The largest ever single donation to the university was a $50 million gift for the law school in April this year. The university has also been the subject of criticism in recent years over a perceived lack of donor transparency, particularly regarding financial ties to the conservative Charles Koch Foundation.

Enrollment at George Mason has grown by 17.5 percent over the past decade, from 32,067 students in 2009 to 37,677 in 2018. But increasing tech enrollment by around 8500 students in five years would be a significant feat. The Volgenau School of Engineering, which teaches computer science among other tech subjects, gained 462 students between Fall 2018 and Fall 2019. 

Michael Sandler, a spokesman for George Mason, said Mason is already playing an important role with Amazon and other tech companies because it produces the state's largest number of graduates in highly sought tech majors. “The number of tech talent graduates is a primary reason cited by Amazon in its decision to build here in Northern Virginia, and we plan to triple the number of graduates in tech talent fields over the next decade to meet Amazon’s demand.”

Sandler said Mason has a strong track record of providing access to education for students from a broad range of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds -- answering “an important demand from Amazon and other employers across the region and state.”

For example, the university recently announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services and Northern Virginia Community College that “offers students a seamless transfer pathway and provides a clear path to high-demand careers in cloud computing.”

Unequal State Support?

Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in July, Cabrera hinted at his frustration with Virginia lawmakers in a “presidential farewell,” which celebrated the university’s achievements in spite of limited state support compared with neighboring institutions.

“The university today is a powerful engine of innovation, social mobility and economic growth for Northern Virginia and, by extension, for the entire commonwealth,” wrote Cabrera. “Quite notably, the university achieves all this while charging about 28 percent lower in-state tuition than the other three R-1s in Virginia (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University), with a fraction of their endowment, and, sadly, with about one-quarter less state support per student. While private philanthropy has more than doubled in recent years, it alone cannot compensate for the weakness in public support.”

For the university to continue to grow, Cabrera wrote it is “essential that Virginia lawmakers reassess current funding levels as well as the university’s treatment from an overall policy standpoint.”

After talking about the university’s planned computer science program expansion and its commitment to diversity, Cabrera said he was concerned that the path ahead “is precarious and likely unsustainable without funding structures that invest in this growth on par with peer institutions.”

University insiders hope Holton, who is a former Virginia education secretary and current member of the state Board of Education, will be able to foster a better relationship with state lawmakers. Holton’s connections in Richmond and Washington, D.C., are significant. Her husband is Tim Kaine, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, and her father is A. Linwood Holton Jr., Republican former governor of Virginia.

Holton said state support for Mason's ambitions is strong, citing many positive interactions with lawmakers in the first few weeks in her new job.

Although George Mason has yet to secure all of the funding it set out to, Holton said she does not view this as an issue. The university doesn't need to secure all $250 million in one hit, instead requesting funding from the state "as and when it is needed" over the next few years.

Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the economic development agency that led the state’s Amazon bid, refuted the suggestion that the state may be favoring Virginia Tech over George Mason.

The Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP), which is the mechanism through which the state will award funding to grow both undergraduate and graduate tech programs, has not yet finalized any funding decisions or institutional memorandums of understanding -- this work is expected to be completed by the end of October, he said.

“The $375 million total amount in the HQ2 press release for graduate-level computer science education was the combined total of what Virginia Tech and George Mason respectively proposed for state support in exchange for a one-to-one philanthropic match from each institution,'' said Moret. “Accordingly, it would be misleading to suggest that Virginia Tech secured the lion’s share of master’s-level funding ‘over’ George Mason, when the reality is that those tentative amounts actually are what the institutions themselves proposed to the state.”

Moret said "it definitely is possible" that George Mason will receive the amount it requested, contingent on the final funding allocation decisions of the designated reviewer group for TTIP, and subject to George Mason securing one-to-one matching philanthropic commitments.

"This is a 20-year initiative, so only some of the new state commitments show up in the [fiscal year] 2020 budget," said Moret. "Most of the state funding will be provided in future budget years as all the participating schools ramp up their programs. Some of the capital projects for Virginia Tech were included in the FY20 budget because they have been underway for quite some time."

Bethany Letiecq, an associate professor in human development and family at George Mason and president of the local advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the university's faculty members have received little communication about the expansion plans.

“We just don’t know very much. There are a lot of questions,” said Letiecq. “As the university chases the promise of Amazon, we’re left wondering what will happen to the university’s resources. Will there be funding to uplift other components of the university system? Which programs or departments might get hit? How does this growth fundamentally change the institution?”

There have already been “really troubling” suggestions that George Mason’s humanities departments may be downsized to focus on computer science and “push toward where the jobs are,” said Letiecq. “I’m not sure that faculty have been given much voice in this matter.”

She's also concerned about a lack of guarantees that Amazon will hire the thousands of computer scientists George Mason plans to graduate. The state’s promise to grow computer science programs across institutions in Virginia by 25,000 to 35,000 students over the next 20 years has been reported as a significant factor in Amazon’s decision to pick the region. But it's unclear whether the tech giant will actually hire a significant proportion of these students, when it could have its pick of national and international candidates. And Amazon recently announced plans to invest $700 million in postsecondary job training for 100,000 of its largely entry-level workers -- most of which will be offered outside of traditional colleges and universities.

Letiecq said she hopes Holton might actually slow down the expansion at George Mason, rather than speed it up. “Faculty are very concerned about the pace of growth. There is a lack of infrastructure available to accommodate the number of students that the institution is pushing toward.”

Holton said she understood that some faculty members may feel anxious about the planned computer science expansion, but stressed the university's "very strong commitment to the humanities and social sciences."

"I am confident that it's going to be a win for everybody," she said. 

Full Steam Ahead for Virginia Tech

Stephen Fuller, professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason, has researched Amazon’s potential economic impact on Northern Virginia. He believes Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus will have a “major beneficial impact” on the region. Comparatively, George Mason's plans are not so ambitious or advanced, he said. 

“Mason is still in spring training. They don’t have much support from Richmond, and they should have been in the forefront,” said Fuller. “George Mason didn’t talk to the right people early on. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech had a plan in the drawer, ready to go.”

Brandy Salmon, associate vice president for innovation and partnerships at Virginia Tech, said plans for the $1 billion Innovation Campus were catalyzed by the prospect of Amazon’s expansion in the region but not driven by it. The campus had been in development for a number of years, she said.

Virginia Tech will partner with Lionstone Investments to build the campus on a mixed-use development close to a planned Metro station less than two miles from Amazon’s HQ.

The campus will include academic classrooms, incubator space for start-up companies and research and development, offices, and an events space, said Salmon. The first master’s degree students will enroll in fall 2020 and will study in an existing building that is currently being used for retail. The design of the campus is yet to be finalized but is expected to be fully completed in about 10 years’ time.

Cal Ribbens, professor and head of the department of computer science at Virginia Tech, said development of a new master’s of engineering in computer applications is already well underway. The degree is planned to begin in the spring of 2020, pending approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The degree program will be hands-on and will feature courses in software development, communication skills, ethical issues and applied research and development, said Ribbens. It is designed to turn out graduates faster than a traditional research-based program. For example, full-time students will be able complete the program in about a year.

The road map for expansion of the program, which will be the first degree offered from the Innovation Campus, is “pretty aggressive,” said Ribbens. And working from a new location may throw up some logistical challenges, particularly for faculty who will need to commute to Northern Virginia. But Ribbens points out that Virginia Tech already offers programs outside its main campus in Blacksburg.

Informal conversations with Amazon and other tech employers have informed the curriculum of the new degree program, but there is no formal partnership with the company, said Ribbens. It is possible, however, that the program may use “a small number of adjunct faculty from Amazon or other companies.”

Leaders at both George Mason and Virginia Tech said their plans are not contingent on Amazon's needs.

"We're not just growing tech talent for Amazon, but for Northern Virginia," said Holton. 

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Students with some college and no credential still benefit in the labor market

Jue, 22 Ago 2019 - 02:00

Much of the attention around rising college costs and loan debt has focused on students who never earn a credential, with conventional wisdom holding that they wasted time and money in the process.

But a new study found that attending college typically isn’t a waste of time, even for students who fail to graduate.

The research found “very substantial increases in employability and income” for this group of former students, who attended community college or a four-year institution, said Paul Attewell, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, who co-wrote the paper with Matt Giani, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Strategy and Policy, and David Walling, a software developer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT.

These benefits extend across various student groups. But the paper said low-income students, women and students of color generally experienced the biggest labor-market bump from college attendance.

Previous studies have been mixed on the payoff for students who hold some college credits but no credential.

Several reached conclusions like this one from a prominent 2017 paper: “Many students leave school without any certificate of degree. They have lost valuable time and frequently have student debt to repay, but they have not managed to measurably improve their prospects.”

The most likely explanation for the ambiguity in previous research, according to the new paper, is the broad range of samples, data sets and methods those studies used.

The new research, however, was based on a statewide cohort of 207,332 students who graduated high school in Texas in 2000. The data allowed researchers to compare college completers and noncompleters, to control for selection bias, and to use unemployment insurance information to examine labor market outcomes for the group 15 years after they completed high school. The Journal of Higher Education published the study.

“The Texas data set is huge. It’s like using a different microscope,” Attewell said, adding that the growing numbers of solid data sets featuring labor-market returns from Texas and other states “are really revolutionizing our understanding of the place of college in the long-term economic prospects of students.”

‘A Stepping-Stone and a Signal’

The study found that students who attended college but did not earn a degree -- including those who earned certificates -- were much more likely to be employed than were members of the cohort who did not go to college. And if they were employed, they tended to have higher earnings (see graphic).

For students who attended college but did not earn a credential, the likelihood of employment increases with greater numbers of college credits earned. (However, students who earned 12 or fewer credits had slightly higher wages than those who earned more credits.)

“Students who do not go beyond high school are considerably less likely to be employed 15 years later than their ‘some college’ counterparts, even after controlling for their academic preparation and socio-demographic characteristics,” the study found.

The one-to-12-credits-earned group, for example, had mean annual earnings of $43,732 compared to $37,675 for people with no college credits. Just over half were employed in this group, while 35 percent of those without college credits were employed.

Not surprisingly, college graduates did even better. For example, people who held a bachelor's degree (arts or science) had a median wage of $64,727, according to the study, with 65 percent being employed.

“What’s most desirable is that people who go to college earn a credential,” Attewell said.

But even a small number of credits appears to have a positive impact on employability and wages, according to the study. “It’s a stepping-stone and a signal,” he said.

Attewell speculated that employers are considering both job applicants who didn’t go beyond high school and those with some college credits, and they seem to prefer the some-college group.

A growing number of colleges and reformers in higher education are calling for the addition of credentials that can serve as “momentum points” for students on their way to earning a degree. This could be a short-term certificate or an associate degree that students earn halfway to a bachelor’s.

Such an approach can have psychological benefits for students, Attewell said, encouraging them to continue in their academic programs.

Likewise, students who work while they attend college tend to do better in the labor market, he said. That’s the majority of students, with roughly 60 percent holding a job while they’re enrolled.

“They’re not doing this in order,” said Attewell, meaning go to college then find a job. “They’re doing this simultaneously.”

The study was not able to estimate whether the benefits of college attendance were driven by the knowledge and skills students acquired when enrolled or by the signaling effect of having some college on their résumé. But the economic benefits were clear, either way.

“Our results imply that excluding students from higher education might do greater harm than benefit to both students and society, even if admitted students are not very likely to graduate,” the study concluded. “Similarly, our results oppose the notion that college noncompleters have simply wasted their time and resources, as well as the resources of the public sector.”

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Two MIT researchers resign from the Media Lab over its ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Jue, 22 Ago 2019 - 02:00

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died in federal custody this month, allegedly took a predatory interest in teenage girls. But his involvement with thought leaders -- and academics, in particular -- was apparently more symbiotic: Epstein got to feed his ego and maybe even launder his character by chatting up great minds. And those great minds, or at least their institutions, got his money. Harvard University, in particular, got millions.

Some of those who associated with Epstein have publicly expressed regret about it since Epstein's case came under new renewed scrutiny this year. Science writer Carl Zimmer, for example, said recently that he asked the Epstein-funded thought salon Edge to remove him from its website (Edge also scrubbed the site of references to Epstein). Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker -- who also is affiliated with Edge -- explained why he interpreted the wording of a law for Epstein’s defense team in 2007, when he was first charged with sex crimes. And Harvard geneticist George Church, who continued to meet with Epstein even after his 2008 conviction, attributed the mistake to “nerd tunnel vision.”

But beyond words, there’s been little action regarding Epstein’s entanglement with academe -- until this week. That’s when two faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s esteemed Media Lab said they would step down from their positions over the lab’s ties to Epstein.

In a public post on Medium, Ethan Zuckerman, an associate professor of the practice, said he'd recently learned that the lab’s director, Joi Ito, had had a business relationship with Epstein and that Epstein invested in companies Ito personally supported. There were also "gifts and visits by Epstein to the Media Lab and by Joi to Epstein’s properties," Zuckerman said. And so, as "the scale of Joi’s involvement with Epstein became clear to me, I began to understand that I had to end my relationship with the MIT Media Lab." 

His logic, he said, "was simple: the work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view." And it's "hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship."

Zuckerman plans to leave the lab -- or maybe even MIT altogether -- by the end of the coming academic year. 

Zuckerman declined an interview request Wednesday, saying that he did not intend to go public with his resignation. He'd only done so when The Globe obtained a letter he wrote to past recipients of the lab’s Disobedience Award for rabble-rousers. Last year, those recipients were Me Too leaders.

“I am ashamed of my institution today and starting the hard work of figuring out how to leave the lab while taking care of my students and staff,” he said in the letter, according to the Globe. 

Ito did not respond to a request for comment. He apologized in an open letter last week on the Media Lab website, promising to raise as much money as Epstein gave to the lab and donate it to victims of sex trafficking.

In "all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about, and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of," Ito wrote. "That said, I take full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network."

Matias said in his own Medium post that he’d heard last week for the first time about Joi's business relationship with Epstein and the ties between Epstein and the MIT Media Lab. He also said he'd learned about a deposition that names Media Lab co-founder Marvin Minsky in relation to further crimes. Specifically, one of Epstein's accusers said in 2016 that Epstein forced her to have sex with Minsky, who died later that year. 

Describing his work as "protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment," Matias said he can't do that with integrity from a "place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein. It’s that simple.”

MIT has not disclosed how much Epstein donated. It told The Globe that an orb-shaped trophy the Media Lab gave to Epstein and other donors in 2017 was not a Disobedience Award, even though it looked similar to the orbs the Me Too activists received last year.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor in Media Studies at the University of Virginia, said via email that colleges and universities -- especially private ones -- have “become too reliant on the whims of millionaires and billionaires. Too often they set our agendas. Too often we pander to their interests and idiosyncrasies. And too often millionaires and billionaires are terrible people.”

Vaidhyanathan said that Zuckerman is a “moral person,” but that shouldn’t “make him special." Sadly, he said, "it does.”

In a “fairer world,” Zuckerman would lead labs like the one he’s leaving, Vaidhyanathan continued. And if he did, the Media Lab “would never have suffered this embarrassment.” So moral standing in leadership appointments matters, he said, as does appointing women to “high-profile units” such as the Media Lab.

More generally, Vaidhyanathan said that every college and university should audit its donors -- and include “morals clauses” in gift agreements. Donors, should, for example, agree to give up building and program naming rights if they’re credibly accused, charged or convicted of “some moral malfeasance,” like sexual harassment or racism.

Jessica Cantlon, Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, was involved in the sexual misconduct case against her former colleague at the University of Rochester T. Florian Jaeger. Jaeger was found by an independent investigation not to have harassed students and co-workers but rather exercised poor judgment in a number of instances. Many on campus disagreed with that conclusion.

At Rochester, Cantlon said, she observed the “difference between men of conscience and others who would toe the company line at a moral cost.” Several of her male former colleagues stood up for women to support their sexual harassment complaints, faced retaliation and ultimately resigned their jobs, she said. In other words, they “took risks and suffered costs to help make things right for women students and faculty.”

Similarly, at MIT and Harvard, Cantlon said, some “men like Zuckerman refused to meet with Epstein even in 2014 because Epstein is a sex offender who preys on girls and women.” And Harvard and MIT, like all universities, are “supposed to be nourishing to young people,” she said. 

Other male academics, meanwhile, have accepted rides on Epstein's private plane, performed science for him, attended his events, helped with his legal defense and more.

Why the divide? Cantlon said that some academic "men get confused about whether their job is to enrich and educate people,” or whether it’s to “amass money, power and create an empire out of their expertise.”

Men who “bowed to Epstein's power and money" despite knowing who he was pay a price, she said. But that price is really a “debt they pass on to young people who will be hurt by the misogynistic culture they enabled.”

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Author talks free speech on college campuses in new book

Jue, 22 Ago 2019 - 02:00

College campuses have grappled with extraordinary free speech challenges in the last several years. Students have shouted down speakers whose views they disagree with or find offensive, and outsiders have demanded the students be punished. White supremacists have increased their presence on campuses both to speak and to spread their literature. P. E. Moskowitz, formerly a staff writer with Al Jazeera America, has documented many of those cases in their new book, The Case Against Free Speech: The First Amendment, Fascism and the Future of Dissent (Hachette Book Group). Moskowitz discusses how they believe conservatives have abused the concept of free speech and walks through the forces behind the 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere.

Moskowitz answered some questions about their book via email.

Q: What do you anticipate the biggest battles related to free speech will be on college campuses?

A: I think, thankfully, we've kind of seen beyond the ruse of free speech fights on college campuses and begun to recognize there are deeper issues at play. For years, there were dozens of op-eds, think pieces and some reported pieces framing college students as rabble-rousers who just wanted to shut people down. Now we're starting to see that these students aren't after a purified and politically correct campus, but one that is more challenging -- one that includes different points of view and is more welcoming to people of color and trans students. Does that mean the fights on campus are over? Absolutely not. If anything, we'll see more of these fights on college campuses as students take professors and administrators to task for teaching staid curricula that don't relate to their lived experiences. But I think that's a positive sign: Isn't it great that students are passionate about what they're learning, passionate enough to demand that it be changed to more accurately reflect the world we live in today? They're asking for more, not less.

But what I do [think] is mostly over is the era of conservative provocateurs claiming that their free speech has been violated because students simply don't want to hear them speak. Colleges, after all, are some of the most highly curated environments out there, and faculty, administrators and many others are realizing there's nothing wrong with limiting some speech. After all, that's their literal jobs -- to create syllabi, classroom discussions, etc. that teach students some things, but not everything. Is not including a book on a syllabus a violation of free speech? Of course not. Why is the logic of not inviting racist speakers to campus different?

Unfortunately I do think there will be more legal battles over this. You're seeing conservative legislators trying to block students from protesting on campus in several states, something that's sure to only anger students further.

Q: When it comes to incidents related to free speech, i.e. controversial speakers, shout-downs, protests and more, what do you think administrators get wrong in their response?

A: I think administrators have kind of had the wool pulled over their eyes when it comes to free speech and inviting controversial speakers. They think they have some duty to present conflictual viewpoints even if those viewpoints are racist, anti-intellectual and simply not factual. As one Middlebury student pointed out to me, the administrators don't invite people who [don't] want to present evolution or global warming as a truth, because that would conflict with the college's academic values. Why is inviting someone who believes in an outdated concept such as race science, like Charles Murray, held to a less stringent standard?

The job of colleges and universities has always been to limit some forms of information while promoting others. A conservative Christian university would likely not invite someone to talk about the benefits of communism and atheism, and we do not expect them to. You don't go to history class to learn to bake a cake. Classrooms are generally led by professors, and students are not allowed to speak out of turn. In other words, colleges have always been some of the most limited speaking environments in the world, so why is inviting or not inviting a conservative provocateur different? I think administrators are simply scared of angering some very powerful forces. That's especially true of public universities, where their budgets might be cut if they piss off the wrong legislators.

Q: You argue in the book that you believe conservatives have hijacked the concept of free speech for their own purposes. Do you think conservatives truly believe in the notion of free speech at all, and if not, why?

A: I think many conservatives believe in free speech but don't really question what it means. We've been taught a very specific definition of free speech that promotes certain speech while quashing other speech. If I voice my opinion in my house, that's free speech; if I voice it, uninvited, at my neighbor's house, that's a home invasion and I could be legally shot in many states! If you enter a Walmart, you're not allowed to photograph anything. If you yell in a government building about a grievance, you can be arrested for protesting.

This is where we get into the conservatives that I believe see free speech as nothing more than a tool to push their agenda. In the 1980s, the Koch brothers and their policy advisers got together and put together a plan to infiltrate college campuses with free-market ideology. They knew that people wouldn't simply accept lower tax rates and deregulation of the economy, so they purposefully invested in what they called "raw materials" -- professorships, literature and student groups -- that would push for conservative beliefs under the guise of free speech.

Q: White nationalist speakers such as Richard Spencer and others have largely ceased college tours. Do you anticipate a time where they, or others like them, will resume this speaking circuit?

A: Not really. Maybe in 10 or 20 years, once we've all forgotten how much of a failure these conservative speakers were. They essentially got laughed out of public discourse. College students and other activists have been remarkably successful at getting their point across and de-emphasizing the importance of these provocateurs. Evergreen College, for example, is seen as a controversial example of protest, and in many cases even a failure, because of the protests there in recent years over an overly white faculty and curriculum that didn't center anyone but white people. But in my mind, it's actually a success story: students got much of what they wanted, and the school is now more committed to diversity in hiring and teaching. Because of those successes, right-wingers have had to take a step back and restrategize. That doesn't mean they're not still active on college campuses. But I suspect they'll develop a different tactic soon, since the provocateur model has kind of failed.

Q: Some students want "hate speech" to be punishable on public college campuses. Do you believe there is the will among administrators to do this, or to change over all what is acceptable at these institutions, despite First Amendment concerns?

A: Again, this goes back to colleges being some of the most highly curated environments out there. Is denying someone admission to a college a threat to that person's free speech? Is failing someone in a class a threat to their free speech? Is a student not being able to disrupt a class whenever they want a threat to free speech? We take these limits as a given, and even a positive in colleges, yet when it comes to students requesting or demanding that colleges not allow professors or students to say racist, transphobic and other offensive language without punishment, that becomes a step too far for administrators. So I would question whether they're really afraid of limiting speech (which, as I said, they do all the time), or whether they're afraid of confronting just how common and ingrained transphobia, racism and other forms of oppression are on their campuses.

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Trump administration to grant disabled veterans automatic loan forgiveness

Jue, 22 Ago 2019 - 02:00

President Trump said in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday that he would wipe out “every penny” of student loan debt held by disabled veterans.

At an event organized by the veterans group AMVETS, Trump signed a memorandum directing the Education Department to automatically discharge federal student loans held by veterans who qualify as permanently disabled.

Democratic lawmakers and state officials had urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for months to take that step.

DeVos and Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie announced last year that their agencies would begin identifying and reaching out to veterans who may qualify for the benefit. Since then, more than 22,000 borrowers have received a total of $650 million in loan forgiveness.

But in a letter to DeVos in May, attorneys general for 51 states and territories wrote to say that the process remained inadequate and said requiring veterans to affirmatively seek loan discharge would create insurmountable obstacles for many.

Under the process outlined in the White House memorandum Wednesday, veterans will receive loan forgiveness automatically unless they decide to opt out -- a decision some might make because of issues like state tax liability. Congress last year eliminated federal tax liability for veteran loan forgiveness.

“Supporting and caring for those who have sacrificed much in service to our country is a priority for President Trump and the entire administration,” DeVos said in a statement.

Education Department data provided last year to two groups, Veterans Education Success and Vietnam Veterans of America, showed that more than 42,000 borrowers were eligible for the loan forgiveness benefit, known as Total and Permanent Disability discharge. Of those eligible veterans, more than 25,000 had defaulted on roughly $168 million in student loans -- a sign of both how much veterans were struggling with loan payments and how underutilized the loan forgiveness program had been.

Borrowers enter default when they go more than 270 days without making a payment on their student loans, which has negative repercussions for their credit and blocks their ability to take out other federal student aid.

In response to those Education Department figures, several veterans' groups called on DeVos to make the loan forgiveness process automatic.

“It is not fair to ask severely disabled veterans to have to complete paperwork, especially given that some catastrophic disabilities will interfere with their ability to complete the paperwork,” those groups wrote in a November letter. “Further, the fact that more than half of veterans eligible for student loan forgiveness are currently in default is absolutely egregious -- the government needs to do more to help those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

Washington senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, also encouraged DeVos in November to provide automatic loan forgiveness to qualifying veterans in a letter that outlined a process like the one announced by the Trump administration Wednesday.

The Education Department said that it would notify 25,000 eligible veterans about the automatic loan discharge. It will continue notifying qualifying veterans on a quarterly basis.

The announcement was applauded by veterans' groups and advocates for student borrowers. Some, however, said it showed the federal government could be doing more to automate loan forgiveness for other borrowers. Georgetown University law professor John Brooks noted on Twitter that any totally disabled person is eligible to have their student loans discharged.

Disabled vets should be just the start for @usedgov. ALL disabled borrowers should have their loans discharged, as is their long-standing right under the law.

— John Brooks (@jakebrooksGULC) August 21, 2019

Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, called the announcement a welcome development.

"We look forward to working with the Education Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to educate eligible veterans and to ensure a successful rollout of this program and to determine how it will make whole the 25,023 totally and permanently disabled veterans who were wrongly put into default, harming their credit scores, offsetting their tax returns and withholding their VA disability living allowance," she said.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said the group would push the Trump administration to streamline other loan forgiveness programs as well.

"While we commend the administration, we will continue to call on it to take action to address the similarly egregious loan cancellation problems in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and TEACH Grant programs," he said.

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Columbia, Stanford and Chicago law schools now cost more than $100,000 to attend

Mié, 21 Ago 2019 - 02:00

The price to attend the law schools at Columbia and Stanford Universities and the University of Chicago will pass $100,000 this academic year, making them the first of the nation’s law schools to blow past that mark. Several of their law school peers are poised just below it and will surpass six figures soon.

Columbia’s cost of attendance went from $97,850 in 2018-19 to $101,345 this upcoming year, according to its costs and budgeting information published online, which includes both tuition and fees and law students’ nine-month cost of living expenses. Stanford Law will charge $101,016 this upcoming year, as reported in its 2019-20 Financial Aid Handbook. That's a 4.5 percent increase from its 2018-19 total cost of $96,429. Chicago edged over the $100,000 mark by $80 for first-year students, but is at a mere $98,505 for second- and third-year students.

A six-figure cost of attendance can be shocking to prospective law students at first glance, said Kyle McEntee, director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that aims to increase the accountability and affordability of the nation’s law schools.

But many elite schools like Harvard Law, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Law and Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law have been creeping toward $100,000 over the past three years, with 2019-20 costs at $99,200, $98,484 and $94,410, respectively.

In a statement, Stanford Law said its tuition pricing is set by the university and noted that cost of attendance accounts for both university-provided health insurance and the high cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was more than one-third of Stanford’s total COA and $10,000 more than Columbia Law’s cost of living in 2018-19, according to the American Bar Association’s most recent required disclosures.

“Tuition covers roughly one-third of the actual cost of educating law students,” the statement read. “Stanford Law School currently has the lowest tuition rates among our peers.”

The cost of attending elite law schools is rising over all, so Stanford Law and Columbia Law surpassing $100,000 is unsurprising and won’t affect application rates for these schools, said Chris Chapman, president and CEO of AccessLex, a nonprofit that works to improve legal education.

For law students considering the two schools, which are ranked second (Stanford) and fifth (Columbia) in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Law Schools, they acknowledge the high costs as an investment in a prestigious legal education, Chapman said.

“They could increase demand and that wouldn’t impact the number of people who apply or qualify [to attend],” Chapman said. “These schools, they’re perceived as a premium item, a luxury good. You almost have a reverse psychology that if it’s not that expensive, it’s not that good. No one wants to be seen as the cheap version of these schools.”

Top law schools generally aren’t worried about expenses diminishing their attractiveness, McEntee said, and the law students attending won’t be dramatically swayed by an additional $1,000 to $3,000, said Chapman, who compared the decision to investment in other big-ticket purchases.

“Most people don’t walk away from a house that they really enjoy being in for a couple thousand dollars in savings,” Chapman said.

But it is possible that some schools with costs of attendance upward of $90,000 are strategically limiting increases in tuition to avoid reaching $100,000, McEntee said. Harvard Law showed evidence of slowing its tuition and fee increases -- if it had increased by the same amount this year as in 2018-19, the school would also be hitting $100,000 for 2019-20, but tuition and fees increased by only 3.2 percent this year, which is a lower rate than each of its yearly increases over the last five years, McEntee said.

Harvard Law’s Office of Communications did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

While the $100,000 marker may not impact students who know they can afford a Stanford or Columbia legal education or who plan on making loan repayments with a substantial salary, low-income prospective students and those hoping to enter the public sphere are much more likely to notice this cost, McEntee said.

Students who attend these law schools could accumulate as much as $300,000 or more in loans by the time they pass the bar, which could take 25 years to pay off at roughly $2,500 a month.

“Those increases hurt. They make it more difficult for students who attend Columbia to consider noncorporate careers,” McEntee said. “On top of that, the national data show that people of color are more likely to pay full price than their white counterparts.”

To help students afford its legal education, Stanford Law said in a statement it provides “very generous loan forgiveness and financial aid programs.”

“Columbia Law School is committed to making a first-rate legal education accessible to students regardless of their financial circumstances,” wrote Columbia Law in a statement. “We devote substantial resources to financial aid and have increased this support in recent years.”

Grants and scholarships from the schools haven’t made a meaningful dent in a majority of students’ cost of attendance, either, with 47 percent of Stanford students and half of students at Columbia receiving financial aid from the school in 2017-18, according to 509 disclosures. Law School Transparency's financial aid analyses show that 49.8 percent of Columbia Law students paid full price in 2018-19, McEntee said.

Tuition increases over the past decade -- private law schools were collectively 1.2 times as expensive in 2018 as in 2008 (when adjusted for inflation), LST reported -- are leading many students to pursue corporate law, where returns are likely to be higher than in other fields, McEntee said.

“You can spend any time with any group of law students with any type of debt, and they’ll tell you, they don’t get to go into the career they want because of this,” McEntee said. “These law students could be the leaders of our future. That makes this really important.”

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Author discusses his new book on college teaching

Mié, 21 Ago 2019 - 02:00

The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching (Harvard University Press) is about what many professors don't know because they haven't been taught. David Gooblar, who has taught writing and rhetoric at the University of Iowa, and is now associate director of Temple University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching, offers tips and ideas in a conversational tone. He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: In your book, you talk a lot about getting students to talk. What are some good ways to do this, and why is it so important?

A: Learning does not happen if students aren’t engaged. Talking is simply one of the most common ways that students engage with our courses and their classmates. Does that mean that any time a student talks she’s actively revising her prior knowledge and learning something new? No, of course not. But it does mean that she’s present, that she’s engaged and that you can work with her. For almost every kind of college course, students feeling comfortable enough to talk in class is a necessary precondition to their learning. A course that values student voices is one that honors students’ autonomy; signals to students that their lives, experiences and wisdom all matter; and creates a space they can make meaningful for themselves.

The best way to get students to talk is to plan on it. If your conception of teaching is to talk at students for a half an hour and then ask, “Any questions?” students will understand that their talking -- or not talking -- matters little to the class. If, however, you structure your class in a way that depends on what students say, you’ll have much better luck at getting them to talk. Design activities in which students need to talk to each other and to you. Begin discussion of a topic by asking students what they already know about it. Encourage students to illustrate important concepts with examples from their own lives. We don’t teach English or physics or anthropology; we teach students. Center students and what they know -- and don’t know! -- in your pedagogy, and you’ll find that they’ll do lots of talking.

Q: What about science courses? Does this approach work there?

A: Definitely, although I know it can be a hard sell to some instructors. The lecture is so embedded in college science instruction -- especially when we think about large introductory lecture classes -- that it may seem impossible to adopt an approach that centers students. But there has been a small but dedicated cadre of scholars who have been promoting new approaches to science education, particularly since the 1990s, after a number of studies showed a marked decline in science majors. I’m thinking of Kimberly Tanner, Eric Mazur and Carl Wieman, but there are many others.

Mazur’s peer instruction approach (which began in his physics classroom at Harvard) has been very influential, as has, to some extent, the 5E instructional model. I’m a big fan of what’s known as inductive (as opposed to deductive) teaching. Instead of teaching theories or general principles and then introducing applications of those big concepts, inductive teaching begins by giving students problems to solve, through which they make hypotheses and begin to construct general theories. That’s when teaching the underlying principle can really be effective, after students have figured out for themselves why it needs to exist.

Q: When a professor has to teach certain material in a class, how does he/she let students “own the course”?

A: We know that if students feel that the course is their own, they are much more likely to be motivated to learn. One way to encourage that sense of ownership is to cede control over elements of the course, wherever possible, to students. Let them decide. We need to look for ways to give students control of their learning.

This process begins by thinking carefully about your goals for the course and for your students. By first establishing a handful of significant learning goals for your students, you’ll be able to figure out the elements of your course you absolutely have to control. What you don’t need to control, you can put students in charge of. You may need to cover certain material, but do you need to assess students’ knowledge in a specified way? Maybe you can give students some choice about their assignments. Or about what kinds of secondary sources they consult. Or even about the structure of individual class periods. Student buy-in is just about the most important factor I can think of for a successful course. If you want to encourage student buy-in, give students choices.

Q: What is a two-stage exam, and how can it improve teaching?

A: The two-stage exam is a technique I learned about from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Essentially, students take the same exam twice: first individually and then immediately afterwards in small groups. In their groups, they can compare where their answers differed from each other, discuss how they arrived at those answers and come to a consensus on which answers are ultimately best. Most instructors weigh the individual exam far more than the group attempt -- so students still have to study hard. Students receive immediate feedback on their answers while at the same time gaining exposure to alternative approaches to difficult problems. It’s a great technique.

But more important than the technique -- or any technique, for that matter -- is the change of mind-set the technique suggests. What I try to do in the book is move away from seeing good teaching as the accumulation of a series of discrete teaching tips in favor of encouraging instructors to adopt a mind-set that prioritizes what we know about how students learn best.

So while I love the idea of two-stage exams, even better is the shift they seem to reflect, from seeing exams as merely a method of assessing student performance to seeing them as a further opportunity to promote learning. We should be looking for those opportunities everywhere.

Q: What about student evaluations of professors? How can they be improved?

A: There is ample evidence that student evaluations reflect pernicious biases, and we should be suspicious of how well they can measure learning or teaching effectiveness. I personally think that departments and institutions should move away from using evaluations to assess faculty performance for employment decisions. But for the college instructors who I hope will read my book -- whether they are graduate students teaching for the first time or tenured professors looking to reinvigorate their practice -- the more salient question is whether or not evaluations can be useful in helping us to improve our teaching.

The book’s final chapter offers a whole host of ways to revise your teaching, including ways to use evaluations constructively. One way is to give students opportunities to evaluate the course informally well before the end of the semester. This signals to them that you care about their experience of the course, that you want to know what they think in time to do something about it. I think such a practice encourages students to take evaluations seriously, which can pay off when they fill out the more formal surveys at the end of the semester. Student self-assessments, as well, can help students consider their role in creating the course -- a valuable counterweight to the usual model of them evaluating you. Finally, the book provides advice on how to draw clearer conclusions by reading student evaluations calmly, which is a tall order for academics who care about their teaching.

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Handshake, popular career-services platform, now open to all students

Mié, 21 Ago 2019 - 02:00

Since its launch in 2014, career-services platform Handshake has dominated the higher ed market. Despite revelations that fraudsters have been able to create faux internships on Handshake, and students raising privacy concerns, the online service has spread to more than 800 institutions, where college career centers mainly use it to connect students to potential employers -- including every Fortune 500 company.

Handshake has been moving for years toward a business model more akin to networking websites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. The platform’s most recent shift, announced Tuesday, seems to continue this trend, though Handshake’s co-founder, Garrett Lord, said it is not a media company.

Now any student with an email address ending in .edu can sign up on Handshake for free without being required to be enrolled at one of the colleges or universities with which the company has partnered.

Handshake’s representatives are touting the change as a way to continue “democratizing” job opportunities and helping students find employment or an internship with one of Handshake's more than 400,000 employers, regardless of where the students live or attend college. Colleges and universities use Handshake to store student information such as résumés, cover letters and university transcripts. Students build online profiles using their own information and list their academic interests. Employers can review these profile and post jobs or internships, also for free.

The move by Handshake is an indication of how students are now far less reliant on actually visiting college career services centers for help finding internships and jobs. This trend has forced administrators in these offices to redefine their roles in assisting students get a start on their career paths.

“Opening up Handshake and launching peer-learning features will make it easier for students and recent grads to share advice and learn from one another -- in addition to their amazing career center advisers -- so they can more easily find a job that’s right for them,” Lord wrote in an email. “Most college students starting their careers don’t have established professional networks to leverage, and these enhancements to Handshake have been made to meet students’ unique job and internship search needs.”

Though other companies offer platforms similar to Handshake, many institutions’ career services offices prefer Handshake because it’s easy for students and administrators to use. This is the case at Loyola Marymount University, a private Jesuit college in Los Angeles that has used Handshake for three years.

Branden F. Grimmett, associate provost for career and professional development, said he appreciates that Handshake was made available to all students because it's helpful for them to know how to navigate the platform, even if they attended an institution that doesn’t use Handshake. He said now if students transfer to Loyola Marymount from a institution that doesn't use the platform, they might have some familiarity with it.

He also likes that universities that do use Handshake retain some unique features that aren't available to students who signed up for Handshake outside a university. For example, Handshake rolled out student reviews of employers in recent years. The reviews document their experiences at certain companies or in particular jobs.

“It’s good that they recognize the value in what universities are paying for,” Grimmett said.

Lord wrote in his email that “Handshake is even better for students at our 800-plus partner schools.” He believes students benefit from working with professors and career services staff who rely on Handshake to help advise and mentor students. Colleges also receive data about the number of students that use the platform and are placed in positions.

In a separate, written statement, Handshake executives seemed to want to assure paying clients that making the service available to more students would not diminish the relationships with the colleges that pay for it.

“Universities have been at the center of Handshake since the company was founded, and that’s not changing,” Christine Cruzveraga, vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake, said in the statement. “Opening up access is a critical next step in contributing to educational equity and realizing our mission of democratizing opportunity for every student -- including those that may attend an institution without the resources to offer career services. We’re all part of this larger ecosystem.”

Three college representatives interviewed for this article either declined to say or did not know how much their institutions paid for their contracts with Handshake.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, the group representing career services professionals, declined to comment on Handshake or similar services.

Lord helped create Handshake after dropping out of Michigan Technological University. He has said that his computer science-oriented friends who attended the university couldn’t find internships nearby because it was located in Michigan’s secluded Upper Peninsula.

Handshake will most likely benefit students who attend smaller institutions that may not host robust career fairs, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

First-generation or impoverished students particularly have trouble finding positions, and programs such as Handshake can help them market themselves and track down these jobs, Kruger said.

Student career services on college campuses have been transformed because of the ubiquity of Handshake and other similar platforms. Administrators often can’t get students to visit career center offices anymore, and the job counselors have become more like guides that help students apply for online postings rather than find them actual opportunities, Kruger said.

He noted how students are developing virtual career profiles -- “passports,” Kruger calls them -- and taking them from institution to institution, especially as more students are transferring nowadays.

“Over all, when I talk to folks around campus, I think this move is a pretty positive one,” Kruger said.

Joseph A. Testani, assistant dean and executive director of the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections at the University of Rochester, said his staff is trying to help students make sense of all the job opportunities and information at their fingertips.

“More information isn’t always better,” he said.

Testani likened some of the services Handshake offers to Yelp or Glassdoor. Students tend to trust the opinions of other students over other adults, even alumni who have been in these positions before, he said.

Rochester sends students email blasts about career services events through Handshake, as well as job postings that are curated to match the academic interests they indicate in their profiles, Testani said.

“We’re trying to navigate more critically to figure out where students are at,” he said.

Handshake has come under fire for potentially infringing on student privacy. Inside Higher Ed reported in 2017 that students were unaware their personal information -- such as grade point averages -- had been posted for the view of employers. Some privacy experts suggested at the time that the students had not closely read Handshake’s terms of service, because universities said the students had given permission for all of their information to be made somewhat public.

A student at the University of Delaware last year was able to construct a fake employer, register it on Handshake and view her peers’ personal information.

Privacy settings are now much clearer for students when they log on to Handshake, Lord said

All students have the option to remain completely anonymous on the Handshake network and only use it to view or apply to jobs or interact with their career centers. They can also choose whether they want to appear in searches employers conduct.

Students with public profiles can separately decide whether they want to share their GPA, Lord said. He said before Handshake started its employer-review system, it tested it with students “to ensure they understood their community privacy options clearly.”

Handshake also recently formed a Trust and Safety Council, comprising privacy experts, lawyers and administrators, which meets weekly to discuss various issues and features of the platform.

“We’re happy to report that Handshake’s rate of fraudulent job postings or moderation flags is far below any other site students are using to find jobs or get career advice,” Lord wrote in his email.

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New presidents or provosts: Belmont Empire Everett Hastings Ottawa Tallahassee UNC Asheville UWGB Washington State Winthrop

Mié, 21 Ago 2019 - 02:00
  • Michael Alexander, director of the School of Music at the University of Northern Colorado, has been selected as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.
  • Garikai Campbell, provost and dean at Knox College, in Illinois, has been appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
  • Jim Malatras, president of Rockefeller Institute of Government, part of the State University of New York System, has been chosen as president of Empire State College, also part of SUNY.
  • Adrienne McCormick, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winthrop University, in South Carolina, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Mitzi Montoya, Sara Hart Kimball Dean of the College of Business at Oregon State University, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at Washington State University.
  • Madeline Pumariega, former chancellor of the Florida College System, has been chosen as executive vice president and provost at Tallahassee Community College, also in Florida.
  • Barbara Sunderman, interim vice president for academic affairs at Hastings College, in Nebraska, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Dennis Tyner, senior vice president and provost at Ottawa University's campus in Arizona, has been appointed as president there.
  • Jeremy Vittek, dean of instruction at Belmont College, in Ohio, has been promoted to vice president of academic and student affairs there.
  • Daria J. Willis, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Onondaga Community College, in New York, has been selected as president of Everett Community College, in Washington.
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The Marist list reveals what the freshmen know

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 12:03

It seems like it's always been here, but this is only the 22nd edition. The Marist Mindset List (formerly the Beloit list) after the college that founded it, is the list that tells you what freshmen know -- and what they don't (traditional age freshman). Marist College took over the list this year.

Here's the list for this year:

1. Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.

2. Thumb, jump, and USB flash drives have always pushed floppy disks further into history.

3. The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.

4. The nation’s mantra has always been: “If you see something, say something.”

5. The Tech Big Four -- Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google -- are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.

6. Their smart pens may write and record faster than they can think.

7. Nearly half of their generation is composed of people of color.

8. When they pulled themselves up off the floor for the first time, they may have been hanging onto the folks’ brand-new Xbox.

9. There have always been indecisive quadrennial debates regarding the future of the Electoral College.

10, Oklahoma City has always had a national memorial at its center.

11. Self-contained, battery-powered artificial hearts have always been ticking away.

12. Because of Richard Reid’s explosive footwear at 30,000 feet, passengers have always had to take off their shoes to slide through security on the ground.

13. They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.

14. They have outlived iTunes.

15. Heinous, sexually-based offenses have always been investigated by the Special Victims Unit on Law and Order.

16. The Mars Odyssey has always been checking out the water supply for their future visits to Mars.

17. Snapchat has become their social media app of choice, thus relieving them of the dilemma of whether or not to friend Mom.   

18. In an unprecedented move, European nations via NATO have always helped to defend the U.S. militarily.

19. They may well not have a younger sibling, as the birth rate in the U.S. has been dropping since they were in grammar school.

20. PayPal has always been an online option for purchasers.

21. They have witnessed two African-American secretaries of state, the election of a black president, Disney’s first black princess, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

22. As they crawled on the floor, TV headlines began crawling at the bottom of the TV screen.

23. “Pink slime” has always been a food additive.

24. With flyovers, honor guards, and “God Bless America,” sporting events have always been marked by emphatic patriotism. 

25. Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.

26. Segways have always been trying to revolutionize the way people move. 

27. YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.

28. There has always been an International Criminal Court, and the U.S. has never been a signatory.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

29. Newfoundland and Labrador has always been, officially, Newfoundland-and-Labrador.

30. There has always been an American Taliban.

31. By their sophomore year, their generation will constitute one-quarter of the U.S. population.

32. Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.

33. They have always been able to fly Jet Blue, but never Ted and Song.

34. Quarterback Troy Aikman has always called the plays live from the press booth.

35. It has always been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in New York State.

36. Except for when he celebrated Jeopardy’s 35th anniversary, Alex Trebek has never had a moustache.

37. Face recognition technology has always been used at public events

38. Skilled DJs have transitioned into turntablists.

39. The Apple Power Mac Cube has always been in a museum.

40. The year they were born, the top NBA draft pick came directly out of high school for the first time.

41. They have always been concerned about catching the West Nile virus.

42. There has always been a DisneySea in Tokyo.

43, They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.

44. Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks. 

45. They have probably all been “gaslighted” or “ghosted.”

46. There have always been “smartwatches.”

47. Their grandparents’ classic comics have evolved into graphic novels.

48. They have grown up with a Patriot Act that has dramatically increased state surveillance to prevent terrorism.

49. Defibrillators have always been so simple to use that they can be installed at home.

50. Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates have never played at Three Rivers Stadium.

51. Congress has always banned human cloning completely and threatened arrest for offenders.

52. At least one of the murderers of the four school girls in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 has always been in prison.

53. Monica and Chandler have always been married on Friends.

54. Blackboards have never been dumb.

55. A Roman Catholic Pope has always visited a mosque.

56. Cal Ripken, Jr., has always been retired.

57. The U.S. has always been withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

58. Euthanasia has always been legal in the Netherlands.

59. Teams have always been engaged in an Amazing Race around the world.  

60. Coke and Pepsi have always been competing in the sports hydration science marketplace.


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Majority of Republicans have negative view of higher ed, Pew finds

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 02:00

President Trump has questioned the value of community colleges and suggested universities “restrict free thought.”

Survey results in 2017 suggested that typical conservatives had increasingly begun to share the president's dim view of higher ed. In a Pew survey, only 36 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning respondents said higher education had a positive effect on the direction of the country -- a steep drop-off from responses only two years before, although the slide had begun in 2016, before the election. (NOTE: This article has been updated from an earlier version to clarify when the poll numbers began dropping.)

Results from another recent Pew survey indicate that those views have persisted. In July, only 33 percent of Republican survey respondents said higher ed had a positive effect. And 59 percent believed higher ed had a negative effect on the country’s direction, the highest number in the survey’s findings so far.

Rather than a temporary blip, the Pew findings suggest a continuing challenge for college leaders hoping to maintain or repair a bipartisan consensus in support of postsecondary education.

That Pew survey found 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents had positive views of higher ed, a slight drop-off from two years prior. Over all, 50 percent of U.S. adults said they had positive views of postsecondary education.

“It is certainly something we're aware of, and we do find it troubling,” said Dan Madzelan, associate vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education. “Higher education historically has not been caught up in any kind of partisan divide.”

The factors behind the lower approval rates (higher ed had positives of 63 percent for all Americans in 2015) likely go beyond partisan attacks or controversies driven by cable news. Americans of all political persuasions have cited the rising cost of college in previous survey responses. And the elite college admissions scandal that unfolded earlier this year damaged the higher ed brand even though it involved only a handful of highly selective institutions.

The overall picture of the public’s view of higher ed is probably more complicated as well. Surveys released by D.C.-based think tanks in 2018 and this year found broad support for the value proposition of higher ed even among conservatives.

And Pew findings suggest colleges aren’t unique in their lower standing with the general public.

Views of U.S. Institutions Are Down Across the Board

The latest numbers on the partisan divide over higher ed came from a July survey of opinions on major U.S. institutions. No more than 50 percent of respondents had positive views of the impact made by entities like large financial institutions, tech firms, churches, labor unions, large corporations and the national news media.

Only unions and banks had seen significant improvement in public perception since 2010, according to the Pew results. And tech firms had seen the most precipitous drop-off in positive public opinion. Whereas 50 percent said they had a positive view of tech companies’ impact in July, 68 percent had positive perceptions of the sector in 2010. The gap in views between Republicans and Democrats on the industry was also fairly small compared to other institutions.

It’s not clear why positive views of higher ed among Democrats may have dropped off since 2015. The July survey, which polled roughly 1,500 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent for questions on partisan views, didn’t ask detailed questions about common concerns with colleges -- such as cost, degree value or free speech on campus.

Pew conducted the survey about four months after federal prosecutors filed indictments against dozens of individuals involved in buying their children admission into elite, highly selective colleges. The scandal stemming from that operation, dubbed Varsity Blues, fueled public cynicism of the idea that higher ed is a meritocratic system.

David Schleifer, vice president for opinion research at Public Agenda, cautioned against attaching too much significance to the apparent drop in positive views among Democrats.

“It’s not a major drop like you see when you look at the Republican side,” he said. “Let’s see where that goes over the next year.”

More Nuanced Findings on Public Perceptions

After Pew and Gallup shed light on Republicans’ increasingly negative view of higher ed, subsequent surveys have presented a more nuanced picture of public opinion. A New America report in 2018 found Republicans and Democrats agreed on the value of a degree. The sharpest divide was over who should pay for college -- the government or students themselves.

A Third Way survey released this summer found roughly 50 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of higher education, while 44 percent had negative views. The survey also found overwhelming GOP support for vocational schools and public community colleges. And both Republicans and Democrats surveyed supported accountability for low-performing institutions by large margins.

Schleifer said the kinds of questions surveys pose could affect how respondents report their views on higher ed. Individuals could have very different reasons for concluding colleges are having a positive or negative impact on the country.

“It’s important to keep in mind that that's a really different question from whether a degree is important for economic success or important for success in the workplace,” he said.

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MeTooSTEM group and its leader face criticism from former members

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 02:00

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

— 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.”

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George Mason and NOVA team up with InsideTrack to improve transfer process

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 02:00

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."

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National 'nudging' campaign produced no increase in FAFSA applications, college enrollment

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 02:00

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.”

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Survey finds mental health issues are common among trans college students

Mar, 20 Ago 2019 - 02:00

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.”

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Report finds student loans make up growing share of severely delinquent debt

Vie, 16 Ago 2019 - 02:00

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.

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