Academics alarmed by ouster of university president in China

Scholars have warned that the state of academic freedom in China is “going from bad to worse” after the president of one of the country’s leading universities was ousted and replaced by a Communist Party chief.

Last month, Lin Jianhu…

Scholars have warned that the state of academic freedom in China is “going from bad to worse” after the president of one of the country’s leading universities was ousted and replaced by a Communist Party chief.

Last month, Lin Jianhua was suddenly removed from his position as president of Peking University, with state officials claiming that he was “past retirement age.” He was replaced by Hao Ping, a professor and former Communist Party secretary of the institution who had previously served as a vice minister of education in the country.

The university has received criticism in recent months over its handling of a decades-old allegation, which came to light as a result of the Me Too movement, that a former lecturer raped a student who later died by suicide. Alumni had called for Lin to resign, but it is unclear whether this was a factor in his removal.

Christopher Balding, an American academic and critic of the Chinese government who lost his post as an associate professor at Peking University HSBC Business School earlier this year -- and subsequently left the country, citing fears for his safety -- said that there has been “increasing party control over universities for some time."

“Academic freedom in China is clearly on the retreat,” he said. “I have been told of other universities where the party has taken significantly more control and taken action against foreign or Chinese academics. The idea that the party is not pre-eminent in the management of a university is just false.”

Kevin Carrico, lecturer in Chinese studies at Australia’s Macquarie University, said that “academic freedom was already in quite dire straits in China” but “the recent personnel changes at Peking … suggest that the situation is going from bad to worse -- even worse than pessimists like myself would have expected.”

“The fact that someone with such close links with the party-state apparatus -- the same apparatus imprisoning millions in Xinjiang and eliminating civil society throughout China -- should become the head of Peking University, one of the best universities in China and ostensibly a top global university, highlights just how serious the already quite distressing political environment in China has become, and makes a mockery of hardworking academics there who simply want to think and speak freely like their colleagues elsewhere,” he said.

Hans van de Ven, professor of modern Chinese history at the University of Cambridge, said that universities in China are “being purged and have to toe the party line,” adding that “it is tragic that Peking University, the most important university that has done most to make the case for academic autonomy, is now suffering the consequences of these developments.”

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, said that the “coupling of party and university administration” has previously “been avoided” and Hao is “well qualified for the job politically and as an education professional.”

However, he added that the presidential reshuffle, “if it were designed to signify closer party control in higher education, would be compatible with the broader atmosphere of increasing circumscriptions in the sector.”

“Given that this is Peking, not only the top university but the most politically symbolic, it could be interpreted as giving the green light to other institutions to follow suit, but that is speculation on my part,” he said.

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Paper finds female chairs benefit departments’ gender diversity and equity

It’s common advice: to increase faculty gender diversity, increase the gender diversity of institutional leaders. But what about department chairs, a kind of middle-management position — do they make a difference? And beyond gender diversity, does having a female chair help improve the success of female academics?

The answer to much of the above is yes, according to a new working paper finding that in departments with female chairs, gender gaps in publication and tenure rates are smaller among assistant professors. The pay gap also shrinks. After departments replace a male chair with a female chair, they see an increase of about 10 percent in the number of incoming female graduate students, with no change in students’ ability levels.

Yet the takeaway is not that it’s “always necessarily better for a woman to work in a female-chaired department, or that chairs show favoritism towards individuals of their own gender,” the paper cautions. Rather, it says, the results reinforce other findings suggesting that “managers from different backgrounds often take different approaches, highlighting the value of diversity among decision-makers.”

Further work is needed to understand the management practices that may “help all individuals and academic departments achieve their full potential, regardless of gender or other characteristics.”

The paper, “Female Managers and Gender Disparities: The Case of Academic Department Chairs,” was written by Andrew Langan, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Princeton University who has previously found that graduate economics programs with better outcomes for women tend to hire more female professors, enable adviser-student contact, offer “collegial” research seminars and employ senior faculty members who are aware of gender issues.

Langan said this week that he wanted to study female department chairs in particular because academe is, “in many ways, an ideal setting to look at the impacts women have in management and how they differ from men.” That’s a major of area of research with many unanswered questions, he added, and academe is an “especially nice place to look for answers.” Why? Academe has long-run data on individuals’ background and outcomes, to often include public salary data.

From a policy perspective, there’s big “interest at universities in reducing gender and other disparities in things like pay and promotion,” he said. And government, business and academe alike seek to increase gender balance in certain fields.

What A Chair Does

Langan said his results indicate that “something about how the department is managed actually matters,” whoever the chair happens to be. Again, these results don’t seem to merely come from having a female chair, but rather what that chair does, he said.

“I think departments who are interested in changing their outcomes would do well to take that into account, and to look at their practices.”

For his study, Langan collected a database of department chairs in economics, accounting and political science across nearly 200 institutions, spanning 35 years. (He estimates that his paper represents the largest compilation of faculty rosters to date.) He then examined cross-department variation in the timing of transitions between department chairs, along with variation within a department of the chair’s gender over time.

Among assistant professors, working more years under female department chairs is associated with smaller gender gaps in publication and tenure rates. The wage gap across a department also shrinks in the years after a woman replaces a man as chair. And female chairs raise the number of women in incoming graduate student cohorts without affecting the number of men, or proxies for ability.

Figure 1: Event Study -- Women’s Earnings Around a Chair Transition. Coefficients and 95% confidence intervals are plotted with from an event study OLS regression on observations at the person-year level. The outcome variable is natural log of earnings for female tenure-track faculty, regressed on event-time indicators plus person fixed effects, year fixed effects, an indicator for currently or ever previously worked as a department chair, and a subject-specific quadratic in years since obtaining a PhD. Standard errors clustered at the person level. For ”treatment” events (i.e. male-to-female or female-to-male chair transitions), the coefficients plotted represent the additional effect of a treatment transition over and above the baseline trend in levels for a gender-static transition. Levels and margins are normalized to their value in the last year of the outgoing chair’s term (event time -1). Sample includes individual pay records from doctoral departments in economics, sociology, and political science, plus large accounting departments included in the faculty roster sample, at 39 public R1 and R2 universities. Individuals’ first and last year of work at the university are excluded.

Source: Langan

Interestingly, Langan found no increase in women’s representation on the department faculty under female chairs. There was also no effect, either way, of a female chair on the number of top papers published per person at the department level.

As to why female chairs appear to have some positive effects, Langan in his paper guesses that chairs act as mentors or role models “and steer the culture and tone of the department.” Having a female role model as chair might “increase women’s demand for spots on the faculty or in the student body,” he adds. That assertion is supported by many other studies on role models. But Langan said more is at work than seeing oneself in a mentor, namely the chairs’ wheelhouses: dividing and negotiating for departmental resources, staffing admissions committees, and dealing with professors who have received outside offers.

Figure 4: Women in Incoming Graduate Cohorts Around a Chair Transition. Event study coefficients and 95% confidence intervals are plotted from Poisson regressions on observations at the department-by-year level, whose outcome is the total number of female first-year graduate students entering doctoral departments in political science, sociology, and economics in 1986 through 2016. In addition to event-time indicators, each model controls for department and subject-specific year fixed effects. Poisson coefficients are interpreted in percentage change terms, thus a 0.1 coefficient indicates that a one-unit change in the explanatory variable raises the outcome variable by 10 percent. Standard errors are clustered at the department level. Source: NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Langan’s paper includes an advanced analysis to estimate the change in gender representation that would result from a policy that replaced some male chairs in economics with women. Even a major effort to replace male chairs at 25 percent of departments would result in “fairly small impacts on the number of female faculty 20 years in the future, relying on mechanical effects alone,” he says.

“So while female chairs meaningfully increase gender equity in outcomes, this exercise suggests some other important factors lay behind long-run demographic shifts observed in some fields.”

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It’s common advice: to increase faculty gender diversity, increase the gender diversity of institutional leaders. But what about department chairs, a kind of middle-management position -- do they make a difference? And beyond gender diversity, does having a female chair help improve the success of female academics?

The answer to much of the above is yes, according to a new working paper finding that in departments with female chairs, gender gaps in publication and tenure rates are smaller among assistant professors. The pay gap also shrinks. After departments replace a male chair with a female chair, they see an increase of about 10 percent in the number of incoming female graduate students, with no change in students’ ability levels.

Yet the takeaway is not that it’s “always necessarily better for a woman to work in a female-chaired department, or that chairs show favoritism towards individuals of their own gender,” the paper cautions. Rather, it says, the results reinforce other findings suggesting that “managers from different backgrounds often take different approaches, highlighting the value of diversity among decision-makers.”

Further work is needed to understand the management practices that may “help all individuals and academic departments achieve their full potential, regardless of gender or other characteristics.”

The paper, “Female Managers and Gender Disparities: The Case of Academic Department Chairs,” was written by Andrew Langan, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Princeton University who has previously found that graduate economics programs with better outcomes for women tend to hire more female professors, enable adviser-student contact, offer “collegial” research seminars and employ senior faculty members who are aware of gender issues.

Langan said this week that he wanted to study female department chairs in particular because academe is, “in many ways, an ideal setting to look at the impacts women have in management and how they differ from men.” That’s a major of area of research with many unanswered questions, he added, and academe is an “especially nice place to look for answers.” Why? Academe has long-run data on individuals' background and outcomes, to often include public salary data.

From a policy perspective, there’s big “interest at universities in reducing gender and other disparities in things like pay and promotion,” he said. And government, business and academe alike seek to increase gender balance in certain fields.

What A Chair Does

Langan said his results indicate that “something about how the department is managed actually matters,” whoever the chair happens to be. Again, these results don’t seem to merely come from having a female chair, but rather what that chair does, he said.

“I think departments who are interested in changing their outcomes would do well to take that into account, and to look at their practices.”

For his study, Langan collected a database of department chairs in economics, accounting and political science across nearly 200 institutions, spanning 35 years. (He estimates that his paper represents the largest compilation of faculty rosters to date.) He then examined cross-department variation in the timing of transitions between department chairs, along with variation within a department of the chair's gender over time.

Among assistant professors, working more years under female department chairs is associated with smaller gender gaps in publication and tenure rates. The wage gap across a department also shrinks in the years after a woman replaces a man as chair. And female chairs raise the number of women in incoming graduate student cohorts without affecting the number of men, or proxies for ability.

Figure 1: Event Study -- Women’s Earnings Around a Chair Transition. Coefficients and 95% confidence intervals are plotted with from an event study OLS regression on observations at the person-year level. The outcome variable is natural log of earnings for female tenure-track faculty, regressed on event-time indicators plus person fixed effects, year fixed effects, an indicator for currently or ever previously worked as a department chair, and a subject-specific quadratic in years since obtaining a PhD. Standard errors clustered at the person level. For ”treatment” events (i.e. male-to-female or female-to-male chair transitions), the coefficients plotted represent the additional effect of a treatment transition over and above the baseline trend in levels for a gender-static transition. Levels and margins are normalized to their value in the last year of the outgoing chair’s term (event time -1). Sample includes individual pay records from doctoral departments in economics, sociology, and political science, plus large accounting departments included in the faculty roster sample, at 39 public R1 and R2 universities. Individuals’ first and last year of work at the university are excluded.

Source: Langan

Interestingly, Langan found no increase in women’s representation on the department faculty under female chairs. There was also no effect, either way, of a female chair on the number of top papers published per person at the department level.

As to why female chairs appear to have some positive effects, Langan in his paper guesses that chairs act as mentors or role models “and steer the culture and tone of the department.” Having a female role model as chair might “increase women’s demand for spots on the faculty or in the student body,” he adds. That assertion is supported by many other studies on role models. But Langan said more is at work than seeing oneself in a mentor, namely the chairs’ wheelhouses: dividing and negotiating for departmental resources, staffing admissions committees, and dealing with professors who have received outside offers.

Figure 4: Women in Incoming Graduate Cohorts Around a Chair Transition. Event study coefficients and 95% confidence intervals are plotted from Poisson regressions on observations at the department-by-year level, whose outcome is the total number of female first-year graduate students entering doctoral departments in political science, sociology, and economics in 1986 through 2016. In addition to event-time indicators, each model controls for department and subject-specific year fixed effects. Poisson coefficients are interpreted in percentage change terms, thus a 0.1 coefficient indicates that a one-unit change in the explanatory variable raises the outcome variable by 10 percent. Standard errors are clustered at the department level. Source: NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Langan's paper includes an advanced analysis to estimate the change in gender representation that would result from a policy that replaced some male chairs in economics with women. Even a major effort to replace male chairs at 25 percent of departments would result in “fairly small impacts on the number of female faculty 20 years in the future, relying on mechanical effects alone,” he says.

“So while female chairs meaningfully increase gender equity in outcomes, this exercise suggests some other important factors lay behind long-run demographic shifts observed in some fields.”

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Colleges rush to prepare for Amazon expansion

After weeks of speculation, tech giant Amazon confirmed yesterday that it would be building not one but two new headquarters in the U.S. — one in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., and the other in Arlington, Va.

College presidents and business leaders in both locales expressed relief and excitement at the news. But the pressure is now on to quickly establish a talent pipeline for the more than 50,000 new jobs expected to arrive with the new headquarters. In a press release, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company plans to establish 25,000 jobs in each location, with an average salary of $150,000. Hiring will begin next year.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University yesterday announced ambitious plans to support this expansion by building a $1 billion Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Va. — less than two miles away from Amazon’s chosen 105-acre site near Reagan National Airport. University administrators said in a press release that the planned project was part of a “comprehensive higher education package that was cited as a key reason Amazon selected Virginia for a new headquarters site.”

Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech, said his institution began planning the one-million-square-foot Innovation Campus four years ago, but “considerably accelerated” its plans to support Virginia’s Amazon HQ2 bid — which beat out competition from more than 200 localities across the country.  

Ambitious Plans In Virginia

The new campus will be built with $500 million in seed funding — half of which will come from the state and half from the institution, said Sands. The other $500 million is yet to be secured but will come from a mixture of philanthropic grants and industry partnerships over the next decade. “We’re thinking big because the challenge and the opportunity is huge,” said Sands

A conceptual rendering of the planned Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

The Innovation Campus will focus on computer science and software engineering majors, and 500 master’s degree students are expected to be studying there within five years. The campus will eventually be home to 750 master’s degree students as well as hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Virginia Tech is not the only research institution in the state gearing up to support Amazon’s work-force needs. George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., plans to triple its computer science graduates — by growing undergraduate and graduate enrollment to 10,000 and 5,000 students respectively over the next five years — said Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason. George Mason also plans to create a new School of Computing and build a 400,000-square-foot Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) on its existing Arlington campus.

Like Virginia Tech, George Mason’s expansion will be supported with state funding. Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced yesterday that Virginia Tech and George Mason will share a pool of performance-based state funding worth up to $375 million over the next 20 years, subject to one-to-one matching by the institutions. In addition, Northam plans to invest $50 million in tech internships for K-12 students. Additional funding to develop bachelor’s degree programs in computer science and related fields will be available to other public universities and community colleges in the state subject to negotiation.

“Already, Northern Virginia is a data science hub in terms of entrepreneurship and density of talent,” said Cabrera. But the Amazon HQ will have a “multiplying effect” — attracting new companies, investment and talent to the area, and making institutions like George Mason more attractive to potential students. “It will be game-changing,” he said.

A Big Role for Community Colleges

Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College, anticipates that his institution’s already strong relationship with Amazon could be “deepened and broadened” by the new HQ.

The college has been partnering with Amazon for some time, and last year announced an apprenticeship program with Amazon Web Services, or AWS — the first of its kind on the East Coast. The first group of students in the program, all of them U.S. military veterans, are scheduled to complete their training Thursday and to be hired by Amazon as full-time cloud consultants.

The college was already planning to scale up enrollment in its cloud computing degree program, designed collaboratively with AWS, as well as its cybersecurity degree program, but is now poised to do more, said Ralls.

“AWS has said we are a college that is bold in terms of moving quickly and scaling to meet their demands.”

New York universities and colleges stand ready to partner with Amazon, too. In prime position is LaGuardia Community College, located just minutes away from Amazon’s proposed HQ in Long Island City.

Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, said she was “delighted” by Amazon’s choice.

“One of the biggest challenges that the tech sector faces is a lack of diversity,” she said. As one of the most diverse colleges in the U.S., with students from more than 150 countries, “LaGuardia would be able to provide that diverse employee pipeline,” said Mellow.

Mellow hopes LaGuardia can work closely with Amazon to “build the ladders” that will allow graduates to “move into increasing levels of responsibility” at the company.

“It would be great if we could arrange an internship strategy,” she said.

Mellow also wants to work with Amazon to create technical education programs for incumbent workers who may need training to update their skills and knowledge. “Technical education changes so fast,” she said.

Mellow looks forward to building a relationship with Amazon. “Geography matters even to tech companies,” she said.

Sean Gallagher, founder and executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, said Amazon’s picks for HQ locations were not surprising. Amazon made clear that it was looking for “proximity to talent and a strong supply of people with college degrees.”

“From the beginning, D.C. and New York were being speculated as potential winners,” he said.

Josh Hartmann, chief practice officer at Cornell University’s Cornell Tech campus, which offers graduate engineering courses, said he was excited to see Amazon recognize the potential of New York City’s rapidly expanding tech industry and “solidify New York’s ranking as the nation’s most diverse tech hub.”

“This is good news for New York City,” he said.

A Growing Backlash

Although colleges close to the new headquarters locations welcomed Amazon’s announcement, there is mounting criticism of the chosen locations. Residents of Queens and Arlington voiced concern about expected rent increases and construction disruption. And some politicians slammed plans to offer Amazon large taxpayer subsidies.

We’ve been getting calls and outreach from Queens residents all day about this.

The community’s response? Outrage. https://t.co/Jl4OIfa4gC

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 13, 2018

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was recently elected to Congress and will represent a congressional district that includes the Bronx and Queens.

Ron Kim, a Democratic New York assemblyman, vowed to introduce legislation that would block the city from offering taxpayer money to Amazon and instead use the money to reduce student debt for New Yorkers. He said the return on investment would be “tangibly greater.”

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After weeks of speculation, tech giant Amazon confirmed yesterday that it would be building not one but two new headquarters in the U.S. -- one in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., and the other in Arlington, Va.

College presidents and business leaders in both locales expressed relief and excitement at the news. But the pressure is now on to quickly establish a talent pipeline for the more than 50,000 new jobs expected to arrive with the new headquarters. In a press release, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company plans to establish 25,000 jobs in each location, with an average salary of $150,000. Hiring will begin next year.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University yesterday announced ambitious plans to support this expansion by building a $1 billion Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Va. -- less than two miles away from Amazon’s chosen 105-acre site near Reagan National Airport. University administrators said in a press release that the planned project was part of a "comprehensive higher education package that was cited as a key reason Amazon selected Virginia for a new headquarters site."

Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech, said his institution began planning the one-million-square-foot Innovation Campus four years ago, but “considerably accelerated” its plans to support Virginia’s Amazon HQ2 bid -- which beat out competition from more than 200 localities across the country.  

Ambitious Plans In Virginia

The new campus will be built with $500 million in seed funding -- half of which will come from the state and half from the institution, said Sands. The other $500 million is yet to be secured but will come from a mixture of philanthropic grants and industry partnerships over the next decade. "We're thinking big because the challenge and the opportunity is huge," said Sands

A conceptual rendering of the planned Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

The Innovation Campus will focus on computer science and software engineering majors, and 500 master’s degree students are expected to be studying there within five years. The campus will eventually be home to 750 master’s degree students as well as hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Virginia Tech is not the only research institution in the state gearing up to support Amazon’s work-force needs. George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., plans to triple its computer science graduates -- by growing undergraduate and graduate enrollment to 10,000 and 5,000 students respectively over the next five years -- said Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason. George Mason also plans to create a new School of Computing and build a 400,000-square-foot Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) on its existing Arlington campus.

Like Virginia Tech, George Mason's expansion will be supported with state funding. Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced yesterday that Virginia Tech and George Mason will share a pool of performance-based state funding worth up to $375 million over the next 20 years, subject to one-to-one matching by the institutions. In addition, Northam plans to invest $50 million in tech internships for K-12 students. Additional funding to develop bachelor’s degree programs in computer science and related fields will be available to other public universities and community colleges in the state subject to negotiation.

“Already, Northern Virginia is a data science hub in terms of entrepreneurship and density of talent,” said Cabrera. But the Amazon HQ will have a “multiplying effect” -- attracting new companies, investment and talent to the area, and making institutions like George Mason more attractive to potential students. “It will be game-changing,” he said.

A Big Role for Community Colleges

Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College, anticipates that his institution’s already strong relationship with Amazon could be “deepened and broadened” by the new HQ.

The college has been partnering with Amazon for some time, and last year announced an apprenticeship program with Amazon Web Services, or AWS -- the first of its kind on the East Coast. The first group of students in the program, all of them U.S. military veterans, are scheduled to complete their training Thursday and to be hired by Amazon as full-time cloud consultants.

The college was already planning to scale up enrollment in its cloud computing degree program, designed collaboratively with AWS, as well as its cybersecurity degree program, but is now poised to do more, said Ralls.

“AWS has said we are a college that is bold in terms of moving quickly and scaling to meet their demands.”

New York universities and colleges stand ready to partner with Amazon, too. In prime position is LaGuardia Community College, located just minutes away from Amazon’s proposed HQ in Long Island City.

Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, said she was “delighted” by Amazon’s choice.

“One of the biggest challenges that the tech sector faces is a lack of diversity,” she said. As one of the most diverse colleges in the U.S., with students from more than 150 countries, “LaGuardia would be able to provide that diverse employee pipeline,” said Mellow.

Mellow hopes LaGuardia can work closely with Amazon to “build the ladders” that will allow graduates to “move into increasing levels of responsibility” at the company.

“It would be great if we could arrange an internship strategy,” she said.

Mellow also wants to work with Amazon to create technical education programs for incumbent workers who may need training to update their skills and knowledge. “Technical education changes so fast,” she said.

Mellow looks forward to building a relationship with Amazon. “Geography matters even to tech companies,” she said.

Sean Gallagher, founder and executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, said Amazon’s picks for HQ locations were not surprising. Amazon made clear that it was looking for “proximity to talent and a strong supply of people with college degrees.”

“From the beginning, D.C. and New York were being speculated as potential winners,” he said.

Josh Hartmann, chief practice officer at Cornell University's Cornell Tech campus, which offers graduate engineering courses, said he was excited to see Amazon recognize the potential of New York City’s rapidly expanding tech industry and “solidify New York’s ranking as the nation’s most diverse tech hub.”

“This is good news for New York City,” he said.

A Growing Backlash

Although colleges close to the new headquarters locations welcomed Amazon’s announcement, there is mounting criticism of the chosen locations. Residents of Queens and Arlington voiced concern about expected rent increases and construction disruption. And some politicians slammed plans to offer Amazon large taxpayer subsidies.

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was recently elected to Congress and will represent a congressional district that includes the Bronx and Queens.

Ron Kim, a Democratic New York assemblyman, vowed to introduce legislation that would block the city from offering taxpayer money to Amazon and instead use the money to reduce student debt for New Yorkers. He said the return on investment would be “tangibly greater.”

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More Pell recipients attended community college last summer after return of year-round Pell

An overwhelming majority of community colleges saw increased enrollments of Pell Grant recipients last summer, suggesting that the federal government’s reinstatement of year-round Pell eligibility last year may be helping to stem overall enrollment declines in the two-year sector.

Just three years after its creation, the Obama administration, with the backing of the U.S. Congress, in 2012 eliminated summer Pell eligibility, meaning the ability for students to access two grants in a year to help pay for courses during the summer. Bipartisan concern about rising costs of year-round Pell — $2 billion at the peak — led to its demise.

But Congress and the Trump administration reinstated the program last year, after a strong push by community college leaders. The first year of that eligibility concluded at the end of June.

The American Association of Community Colleges conducted a national survey of its members to gauge the impact of year-round Pell’s return. The survey yielded responses from 109 community colleges and statewide responses representing another 77 colleges, for a total of responding institutions that enroll 1.9 million students, or 34 percent of the sector’s total enrollment.

The survey’s results show year-round Pell has had a major impact. Almost 83 percent of responding colleges reported increases in Pell Grant recipient enrollments this past summer compared to the previous one. And half saw increases of 15 percent or more.

“We are pleased that the survey documents what we have heard from campuses across the country, that the reinstated year-round Pell Grant has had a truly dramatic impact,” David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at AACC, said in a written statement. “In particular it appears to have helped students stay continuously enrolled, and accelerating time to degree has always been a prime reason to provide aid 12 months of the year.”

Community colleges have been hit hard by enrollment declines in recent years, following the catastrophic enrollment collapse of the for-profit college sector.

Such declines are common in a strong economy, particularly at open-access and career-oriented colleges, as people return to the work force. But the substantial dips at community colleges during the last four years have worried many in the sector.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, for example, found a 2 percent decline at public community colleges this spring compared to the previous spring, and a 3.3 percent drop in 2016.

While AACC cautioned against drawing a causal link between summer Pell’s return and enrollment trends, the association said the survey’s results show that community college enrollments last summer “improved in a robust way that might not have been anticipated absent the new year-round Pell Grant.”

For example, the survey found that 62 percent of responding colleges saw an enrollment bump last summer compared to the previous one. While most reporting increases saw upturns of 5 percent or less, more than 17 percent of responding colleges saw an enrollment increase of at least 10 percent.

Community colleges are using summer Pell eligibility to try to attract students, according to the survey, with 70 percent of responding colleges reporting that they explicitly marketed about the new funding eligibility or otherwise highlighted it.

“AACC continues to advocate aggressively for increased support for the Pell Grant program in addition to year-round eligibility, including increasing the maximum grant, adding eligibility for short-term workforce development programs, providing support for some incarcerated students and in other areas.”

Previous research found that for each $1,000 of additional year-round Pell funding, summer enrollment increased by 27 percentage points and associate degree completion grew by 2.2 percentage points.

The study’s author, Vivian Lu, a postdoctoral research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said she was surprised that the AACC survey didn’t find larger enrollment growth. And Lu said the fact that 20 percent of colleges saw a decrease or no enrollment change suggests that students are unaware of summer Pell.

“I would say it is a step toward the right direction but the battle is not over,” Lu said in an email. “It’s essentially free money. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of it? And how can we get more enrollment in the summer?”

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An overwhelming majority of community colleges saw increased enrollments of Pell Grant recipients last summer, suggesting that the federal government's reinstatement of year-round Pell eligibility last year may be helping to stem overall enrollment declines in the two-year sector.

Just three years after its creation, the Obama administration, with the backing of the U.S. Congress, in 2012 eliminated summer Pell eligibility, meaning the ability for students to access two grants in a year to help pay for courses during the summer. Bipartisan concern about rising costs of year-round Pell -- $2 billion at the peak -- led to its demise.

But Congress and the Trump administration reinstated the program last year, after a strong push by community college leaders. The first year of that eligibility concluded at the end of June.

The American Association of Community Colleges conducted a national survey of its members to gauge the impact of year-round Pell's return. The survey yielded responses from 109 community colleges and statewide responses representing another 77 colleges, for a total of responding institutions that enroll 1.9 million students, or 34 percent of the sector’s total enrollment.

The survey’s results show year-round Pell has had a major impact. Almost 83 percent of responding colleges reported increases in Pell Grant recipient enrollments this past summer compared to the previous one. And half saw increases of 15 percent or more.

“We are pleased that the survey documents what we have heard from campuses across the country, that the reinstated year-round Pell Grant has had a truly dramatic impact,” David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at AACC, said in a written statement. “In particular it appears to have helped students stay continuously enrolled, and accelerating time to degree has always been a prime reason to provide aid 12 months of the year.”

Community colleges have been hit hard by enrollment declines in recent years, following the catastrophic enrollment collapse of the for-profit college sector.

Such declines are common in a strong economy, particularly at open-access and career-oriented colleges, as people return to the work force. But the substantial dips at community colleges during the last four years have worried many in the sector.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, for example, found a 2 percent decline at public community colleges this spring compared to the previous spring, and a 3.3 percent drop in 2016.

While AACC cautioned against drawing a causal link between summer Pell’s return and enrollment trends, the association said the survey’s results show that community college enrollments last summer “improved in a robust way that might not have been anticipated absent the new year-round Pell Grant.”

For example, the survey found that 62 percent of responding colleges saw an enrollment bump last summer compared to the previous one. While most reporting increases saw upturns of 5 percent or less, more than 17 percent of responding colleges saw an enrollment increase of at least 10 percent.

Community colleges are using summer Pell eligibility to try to attract students, according to the survey, with 70 percent of responding colleges reporting that they explicitly marketed about the new funding eligibility or otherwise highlighted it.

“AACC continues to advocate aggressively for increased support for the Pell Grant program in addition to year-round eligibility, including increasing the maximum grant, adding eligibility for short-term workforce development programs, providing support for some incarcerated students and in other areas.”

Previous research found that for each $1,000 of additional year-round Pell funding, summer enrollment increased by 27 percentage points and associate degree completion grew by 2.2 percentage points.

The study's author, Vivian Lu, a postdoctoral research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, said she was surprised that the AACC survey didn't find larger enrollment growth. And Lu said the fact that 20 percent of colleges saw a decrease or no enrollment change suggests that students are unaware of summer Pell.

"I would say it is a step toward the right direction but the battle is not over," Lu said in an email. "It's essentially free money. Why aren't more people taking advantage of it? And how can we get more enrollment in the summer?"

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UT San Antonio investigates whether student escorted out of class for having feet propped up was discriminated against

A black student at the University of Texas at San Antonio was escorted out of her biology class by police for purportedly putting her feet up, the latest incident to go viral in the phenomenon of African American men and women having law enforcement called on them for everyday activities.

The episode is being investigated as potential discrimination, according to the university.

Apurva Rawal, who said on Twitter he was a student at UT San Antonio, posted a one-minute video to the website of police taking his classmate out. Rawal wrote that the student had put her feet up on the seat in front of her. Students say that the faculty member, identified as Anita Bonds, senior lecturer in the department of biology, stopped the lecture to “go on a tirade” about how the class was uncivil and not paying attention.

Bonds, who did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment, apparently then called the police on the student.

The video as of Tuesday evening been retweeted more than 15,600 times. It had been viewed more than two million times.

“I chose to attend this university because of its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, and today’s events genuinely make me concerned for not only my fellow students, but any future Roadrunners that may choose to attend this institution in the future,” Rawal wrote on Twitter.

The student in the video also posted to Twitter but did not identify herself by name. She wrote that she was told she would need to leave or she would be escorted out by police.

“I never disobeyed the student code of conduct,” the student wrote. “Not once,” adding that a police report over the incident had been filed.

UT San Antonio officials responded quickly to the video, writing on Twitter that they were “aware” of the situation and were investigating. Officials posted to Twitter on Tuesday to say they had met with both the professor and the student. The university said on Tuesday that the professor’s classes will be taught by another faculty member for the remainder of the semester. The student has been “welcomed back” to class and offered support services. 

President Taylor Eighmy released a statement to campus acknowledging that a professor had called the police on a student. Eighmy said that “while the facts aren’t fully known,” the Office of Equal Opportunity Services was investigating the incident as possibly discriminatory.

Howard Grimes, the interim dean of the College of Sciences, also will be inquiring about the classroom’s “academic management,” Eighmy said in his statement. He also noted that a new vice president for inclusive excellence, Myron Anderson, would be arriving on campus soon.

“Beyond this particular incident, I am very much aware that the circumstance represents another example of the work we need to do as an institution around issues of inclusivity and supporting our students of color,” Eighmy said. “This concerns me greatly, and it’s incumbent upon us as an institution to face this head-on. It’s something that we need to address immediately as a university community.”

Eighmy said in a separate statement that the instituion needed more faculty, staff and administrators of color on campus and have “accelerated” the search to diversify the university’s employees.

Provost Kimberly Andrews also posted on Twitter that she was “concerned” and that “creating a classroom environment that is conducive to learning is our priority.”

Despite administrators’ assurances that the video would be investigated, the institution garnered widespread anger on social media.

Prominent academic Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote on Twitter to her nearly 70,000 followers that she was so angry she was “about to black out.”

Another Twitter user, who said she was a university instructor, responded to Rawal to say she doesn’t care if students sit or stand.

“I don’t get too excited about petty seating, but worry more if my students are not successful,” the professor wrote. “Empowerment has no correct seating position to capture it.”

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A black student at the University of Texas at San Antonio was escorted out of her biology class by police for purportedly putting her feet up, the latest incident to go viral in the phenomenon of African American men and women having law enforcement called on them for everyday activities.

The episode is being investigated as potential discrimination, according to the university.

Apurva Rawal, who said on Twitter he was a student at UT San Antonio, posted a one-minute video to the website of police taking his classmate out. Rawal wrote that the student had put her feet up on the seat in front of her. Students say that the faculty member, identified as Anita Bonds, senior lecturer in the department of biology, stopped the lecture to “go on a tirade” about how the class was uncivil and not paying attention.

Bonds, who did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment, apparently then called the police on the student.

The video as of Tuesday evening been retweeted more than 15,600 times. It had been viewed more than two million times.

“I chose to attend this university because of its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, and today's events genuinely make me concerned for not only my fellow students, but any future Roadrunners that may choose to attend this institution in the future,” Rawal wrote on Twitter.

The student in the video also posted to Twitter but did not identify herself by name. She wrote that she was told she would need to leave or she would be escorted out by police.

“I never disobeyed the student code of conduct,” the student wrote. “Not once,” adding that a police report over the incident had been filed.

UT San Antonio officials responded quickly to the video, writing on Twitter that they were “aware” of the situation and were investigating. Officials posted to Twitter on Tuesday to say they had met with both the professor and the student. The university said on Tuesday that the professor's classes will be taught by another faculty member for the remainder of the semester. The student has been "welcomed back" to class and offered support services. 

President Taylor Eighmy released a statement to campus acknowledging that a professor had called the police on a student. Eighmy said that “while the facts aren’t fully known,” the Office of Equal Opportunity Services was investigating the incident as possibly discriminatory.

Howard Grimes, the interim dean of the College of Sciences, also will be inquiring about the classroom’s “academic management,” Eighmy said in his statement. He also noted that a new vice president for inclusive excellence, Myron Anderson, would be arriving on campus soon.

“Beyond this particular incident, I am very much aware that the circumstance represents another example of the work we need to do as an institution around issues of inclusivity and supporting our students of color,” Eighmy said. “This concerns me greatly, and it’s incumbent upon us as an institution to face this head-on. It’s something that we need to address immediately as a university community.”

Eighmy said in a separate statement that the instituion needed more faculty, staff and administrators of color on campus and have "accelerated" the search to diversify the university's employees.

Provost Kimberly Andrews also posted on Twitter that she was “concerned” and that “creating a classroom environment that is conducive to learning is our priority.”

Despite administrators’ assurances that the video would be investigated, the institution garnered widespread anger on social media.

Prominent academic Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote on Twitter to her nearly 70,000 followers that she was so angry she was “about to black out.”

Another Twitter user, who said she was a university instructor, responded to Rawal to say she doesn’t care if students sit or stand.

“I don't get too excited about petty seating, but worry more if my students are not successful,” the professor wrote. “Empowerment has no correct seating position to capture it.”

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Northeastern plans to acquire humanities college in London

Northeastern University in Boston plans to acquire the New College of the Humanities, a London-based institution with 210 students founded by the philosopher A. C. Grayling in 2012.

NCH prides itself on offering an education that melds aspects of the Oxford tutorial system and the American liberal arts college and boasts a roster of superstar visiting professors like Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker who give guest lectures. From its start the private institution has been a controversial player in the United Kingdom’s heavily public higher education system, in large part because it is controlled by a for-profit company, Tertiary Education Services Limited.

Pending regulatory approvals, NCH will soon be known as NCH at Northeastern. Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun declined to share the details of the financial terms of the transaction but said the current shareholders will transfer their shares to Northeastern, a large not-for-profit research university with more than 20,000 students.

Northeastern is most well-known for its signature co-op program in which students alternate between full-time work placements and classroom study. NCH at Northeastern would become the sixth campus for Northeastern, which in addition to its main campus in Boston has campuses in Charlotte, N.C.; Seattle; Silicon Valley and Toronto and is in the process of opening one in Vancouver.

“We are building a global university system,” said Aoun. “The whole idea is that this global system will allow the learners to access our education wherever they are and wherever they need it and also allows mobility so the students can start in Boston, move to Silicon Valley, go to Vancouver and London, and in each place they will have a different curriculum and a different experience.”

Aoun said that Northeastern has 600 students in London each year. In an email to Northeastern faculty, administrators and staff, he wrote that the proposed acquisition will “pave the way for Northeastern to become the first U.S. university with a college in its global network that can confer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the U.K.”

However, NCH currently lacks the authority to grant its own degrees, and teaches degrees that are validated by a public university in Southampton, Solent University. Aoun said NCH is in the process for applying for a license to grant its own degrees. “Because they will be part of Northeastern, we will have the authority through them, through NCH, to offer degrees in the U.K.”

“Their application [for degree-granting powers] is very much strengthened, they believe, by this new partnership,” added Michael Armini, Northeastern’s senior vice president for external affairs.

NCH’s executive dean, Martin Smith, declined to comment on the licensing issue, but said the tie-up with Northeastern “fast-forwards us considerably in terms of what we can do. One of the driving factors is the student experience. The ability to be able to travel and to take their degree elsewhere is hugely appealing to our students.”

An announcement from the master of the college, Grayling, says that in addition to the ability to study at multiple Northeastern campuses, NCH also expects its students to have access to Northeastern’s career development department, “including internship and career development opportunities with a global network of more than 3,000 graduate employers.”

Nick Hillman, the director of the London-based Higher Education Policy Institute, said that the deal is somewhat puzzling from another perspective. “Some people are asking what is in it for Northeastern given the small size of NCH and the fact that it doesn’t have its own degree-awarding powers,” he said.

“It has been struggling as an institution — and I don’t say that with any relish, because I’m very pleased it exists. I think diversity of institutions is a good thing and we don’t have small specialist liberal arts colleges the way that you do in the U.S., so I’m glad it exists. I don’t want to see it fail, but we’re a bit confused.”

The most recent statement of accounts from the company that controls NCH, Tertiary Education Services, suggests that the college has struggled to meet its recruitment and financial targets, pushing the projected date on which it would become financially self-supporting further into the future. “Whilst student numbers are growing and the college is achieving excellent exam results, the present student numbers are not sufficient to meet all the costs of the college,” the corporate filing says.

The college dropped its U.K. and E.U. student tuition rate in September 2017 to bring it into line with tuition rates for other British universities; at 9,325 pounds (a little more than $12,100), annual tuition is now about half what it was when the college opened in 2012 (its original annual price tag of £18,000, or about $23,400 at today’s currency conversion rate, was eye-popping in the British higher education context, attracting many critics who dismissed it as an intellectual playground for the rich).The TES filing says that the company received additional funding in the form of a loan from the college’s largest shareholder and that the shareholder “has confirmed their willingness to provide further funds if necessary to take the College through to break-even which is forecast to be in the financial year 2023/24.”

The filing also notes that the directors “have been discussing a transaction with an overseas institution” — presumably Northeastern — “that would provide further assurances in terms of ongoing financial support.”

“With any start-up organization there’s always going to be challenges, and one of the challenges has been around recruitment,” said Martin. “Saying that, though, we’ve doubled the number of our first-year students from where we were in 2015.”

Aoun said that NCH was an attractive partner for Northeastern because of the compelling vision of its founder, Grayling.

“He believes that the one-on-one attention to the students and the personalized education is key, hence the one-on-one tutorial; he also believed that it is possible and imperative to build a liberal arts college that has [a focus on] entrepreneurship and is experiential, and this is where we saw a fit with what we’re doing. We saw that this marriage between the two institutions will allow us to put together the best of U.K. education with the best of U.S. education,” Aoun said.

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Northeastern University in Boston plans to acquire the New College of the Humanities, a London-based institution with 210 students founded by the philosopher A. C. Grayling in 2012.

NCH prides itself on offering an education that melds aspects of the Oxford tutorial system and the American liberal arts college and boasts a roster of superstar visiting professors like Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker who give guest lectures. From its start the private institution has been a controversial player in the United Kingdom’s heavily public higher education system, in large part because it is controlled by a for-profit company, Tertiary Education Services Limited.

Pending regulatory approvals, NCH will soon be known as NCH at Northeastern. Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun declined to share the details of the financial terms of the transaction but said the current shareholders will transfer their shares to Northeastern, a large not-for-profit research university with more than 20,000 students.

Northeastern is most well-known for its signature co-op program in which students alternate between full-time work placements and classroom study. NCH at Northeastern would become the sixth campus for Northeastern, which in addition to its main campus in Boston has campuses in Charlotte, N.C.; Seattle; Silicon Valley and Toronto and is in the process of opening one in Vancouver.

“We are building a global university system,” said Aoun. “The whole idea is that this global system will allow the learners to access our education wherever they are and wherever they need it and also allows mobility so the students can start in Boston, move to Silicon Valley, go to Vancouver and London, and in each place they will have a different curriculum and a different experience.”

Aoun said that Northeastern has 600 students in London each year. In an email to Northeastern faculty, administrators and staff, he wrote that the proposed acquisition will “pave the way for Northeastern to become the first U.S. university with a college in its global network that can confer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the U.K.”

However, NCH currently lacks the authority to grant its own degrees, and teaches degrees that are validated by a public university in Southampton, Solent University. Aoun said NCH is in the process for applying for a license to grant its own degrees. “Because they will be part of Northeastern, we will have the authority through them, through NCH, to offer degrees in the U.K.”

“Their application [for degree-granting powers] is very much strengthened, they believe, by this new partnership,” added Michael Armini, Northeastern’s senior vice president for external affairs.

NCH’s executive dean, Martin Smith, declined to comment on the licensing issue, but said the tie-up with Northeastern “fast-forwards us considerably in terms of what we can do. One of the driving factors is the student experience. The ability to be able to travel and to take their degree elsewhere is hugely appealing to our students.”

An announcement from the master of the college, Grayling, says that in addition to the ability to study at multiple Northeastern campuses, NCH also expects its students to have access to Northeastern's career development department, "including internship and career development opportunities with a global network of more than 3,000 graduate employers."

Nick Hillman, the director of the London-based Higher Education Policy Institute, said that the deal is somewhat puzzling from another perspective. “Some people are asking what is in it for Northeastern given the small size of NCH and the fact that it doesn’t have its own degree-awarding powers,” he said.

“It has been struggling as an institution -- and I don’t say that with any relish, because I’m very pleased it exists. I think diversity of institutions is a good thing and we don’t have small specialist liberal arts colleges the way that you do in the U.S., so I’m glad it exists. I don’t want to see it fail, but we’re a bit confused.”

The most recent statement of accounts from the company that controls NCH, Tertiary Education Services, suggests that the college has struggled to meet its recruitment and financial targets, pushing the projected date on which it would become financially self-supporting further into the future. "Whilst student numbers are growing and the college is achieving excellent exam results, the present student numbers are not sufficient to meet all the costs of the college,” the corporate filing says.

The college dropped its U.K. and E.U. student tuition rate in September 2017 to bring it into line with tuition rates for other British universities; at 9,325 pounds (a little more than $12,100), annual tuition is now about half what it was when the college opened in 2012 (its original annual price tag of £18,000, or about $23,400 at today's currency conversion rate, was eye-popping in the British higher education context, attracting many critics who dismissed it as an intellectual playground for the rich).The TES filing says that the company received additional funding in the form of a loan from the college’s largest shareholder and that the shareholder “has confirmed their willingness to provide further funds if necessary to take the College through to break-even which is forecast to be in the financial year 2023/24."

The filing also notes that the directors "have been discussing a transaction with an overseas institution" -- presumably Northeastern -- "that would provide further assurances in terms of ongoing financial support."

"With any start-up organization there’s always going to be challenges, and one of the challenges has been around recruitment," said Martin. "Saying that, though, we’ve doubled the number of our first-year students from where we were in 2015."

Aoun said that NCH was an attractive partner for Northeastern because of the compelling vision of its founder, Grayling.

“He believes that the one-on-one attention to the students and the personalized education is key, hence the one-on-one tutorial; he also believed that it is possible and imperative to build a liberal arts college that has [a focus on] entrepreneurship and is experiential, and this is where we saw a fit with what we’re doing. We saw that this marriage between the two institutions will allow us to put together the best of U.K. education with the best of U.S. education," Aoun said.

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Michelle Obama talks about her experience at Princeton for the first time in new book

During her husband’s campaigns and eight-year tenure in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama remained fairly silent about her experience at Princeton University.

In her autobiography Becoming (Penguin Random House), released Tuesday, Obama disclosed for the first time details about her experience at the Ivy League university, one marked by feelings of otherness and a strong determination to disprove the negative racial stereotypes held by some of her professors and classmates. She graduated in 1985.

“If in high school I’d felt as if I were representing my neighborhood, now at Princeton I was representing my race. Anytime I found my voice in class or nailed an exam, I quietly hoped it helped make a larger point,” she wrote.

While she was a student, Princeton was “​extremely white and very male.”

Because of this, Obama quickly made friends with other students of color and discovered that the harmonious diversity portrayed in college brochures didn’t translate to her own college experience.

“I imagine that the administrators at Princeton didn’t love the fact that students of color largely stuck together. The hope was that all of us would mingle in heterogeneous harmony, deepening the quality of student life across the board. It’s a worthy goal. I understand that when it comes to campus diversity, the ideal would be to achieve something resembling what’s often shown on college brochures — smiling students working and socializing in neat, ethnically blended groups,” Obama wrote. “But even today, with white students continuing to outnumber students of color on college campuses, the burden of assimilation is put largely on the shoulders of minority students. In my experience, it’s a lot to ask.”

Obama graduated in the top 10 percent of her high school class and participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including serving as class treasurer, that made her a good candidate for top universities. But, early in the book, she recounted a meeting with a high school college counselor that she had, for the most part, “blotted out” of her memory.

“It’s possible, in fact, that during our short meeting the college counselor said things to me that might have been positive and helpful, but I recall none of it,” she wrote. “Because rightly or wrongly, I got stuck on one single sentence the woman uttered. ‘I’m not sure,’ she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, ‘that you’re Princeton material.’”

Even after Obama was admitted, some questioned her belonging at the university.

“It was impossible to be a black kid at a mostly white school and not feel the shadow of affirmative action. You could almost read the scrutiny in the gaze of certain students and even some professors, as if they wanted to say, ‘I know why you’re here.’ These moments could be demoralizing, even if I’m sure I was just imagining some of it,” she wrote. “It planted a seed of doubt. Was I here merely as part of a social experiment?”

During her freshman year, Obama lived in a triple in Pyne Hall with two white students, whom she remembered as nice for the most part, although she didn’t spend much time hanging out in their room. Midway through the year, one of her roommates, Cathy, moved into a single, and Obama discovered many years later that “her mother, a schoolteacher from New Orleans, had been so appalled that her daughter had been assigned a black roommate that she’d badgered the university to separate us.”

Other parts of her life at Princeton came out during the campaigns, including her senior thesis, a survey of African American alumni about their perceptions of race and identity after having attended Princeton. Obama wrote that right-wing media used the thesis to paint a picture of her as a radical determined to “overthrow the white majority” and to further alienate her and her husband in the eyes of American electorate. “For reasons I’ll never understand, the conservative media was treating my paper as if it were some secret black-power manifesto, a threat that had to be unburied. It was as if at the age of twenty-one, instead of trying to get an A in sociology and a spot at Harvard Law School, I’d been hatching a Nat Turner plan to overthrow the white majority and was now finally, through my husband, getting a chance to put it in motion,” she wrote.

Obama included little about affording college, but did mention that her parents “never once spoke of the stress of having to pay for college, but I knew enough to appreciate that it was there.” At Princeton she received a financial aid package that required she have a work-study job, and throughout her four years she served as an assistant for the Third World Center, a support center for students of color that Obama described as “poorly named but well-intentioned.” The center was renamed 20 years later as the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, which it is still called today.

As a first-generation college student, Obama remembers the steep learning curve required to pick up college lingo.

“What was a precept? What was a reading period? Nobody had explained to me the meaning of ‘extra-long’ bedsheets on the school packing list, which mean that I bought myself too-short bedsheets and would thus spend my freshman year sleeping with my feet resting on the exposed plastic of the dorm mattress,” she wrote.

Obama also noted how different life on campus was to her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, which she proudly announced whenever anyone asked where she was from.

“At Princeton, it seemed the only thing I needed to be vigilant about was my studies. Everything otherwise was designed to accommodate our well-being as students,” she wrote. “The dining halls served five different kinds of breakfast. There were enormous spreading oak trees to sit under and open lawns where we could throw Frisbees to relieve our stress. The main library was like an old-world cathedral, with high ceilings and glossy hardwood tables where we could lay out our textbooks and study in silence. We were protected, cocooned, catered to. A lot of kids, I was coming to realize, had never in their lifetimes known anything different.”

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During her husband's campaigns and eight-year tenure in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama remained fairly silent about her experience at Princeton University.

In her autobiography Becoming (Penguin Random House), released Tuesday, Obama disclosed for the first time details about her experience at the Ivy League university, one marked by feelings of otherness and a strong determination to disprove the negative racial stereotypes held by some of her professors and classmates. She graduated in 1985.

“If in high school I’d felt as if I were representing my neighborhood, now at Princeton I was representing my race. Anytime I found my voice in class or nailed an exam, I quietly hoped it helped make a larger point,” she wrote.

While she was a student, Princeton was "​extremely white and very male."

Because of this, Obama quickly made friends with other students of color and discovered that the harmonious diversity portrayed in college brochures didn't translate to her own college experience.

“I imagine that the administrators at Princeton didn’t love the fact that students of color largely stuck together. The hope was that all of us would mingle in heterogeneous harmony, deepening the quality of student life across the board. It’s a worthy goal. I understand that when it comes to campus diversity, the ideal would be to achieve something resembling what’s often shown on college brochures -- smiling students working and socializing in neat, ethnically blended groups," Obama wrote. "But even today, with white students continuing to outnumber students of color on college campuses, the burden of assimilation is put largely on the shoulders of minority students. In my experience, it’s a lot to ask.”

Obama graduated in the top 10 percent of her high school class and participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including serving as class treasurer, that made her a good candidate for top universities. But, early in the book, she recounted a meeting with a high school college counselor that she had, for the most part, “blotted out" of her memory.

“It’s possible, in fact, that during our short meeting the college counselor said things to me that might have been positive and helpful, but I recall none of it,” she wrote. “Because rightly or wrongly, I got stuck on one single sentence the woman uttered. ‘I’m not sure,’ she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, ‘that you’re Princeton material.’”

Even after Obama was admitted, some questioned her belonging at the university.

"It was impossible to be a black kid at a mostly white school and not feel the shadow of affirmative action. You could almost read the scrutiny in the gaze of certain students and even some professors, as if they wanted to say, 'I know why you’re here.' These moments could be demoralizing, even if I’m sure I was just imagining some of it," she wrote. "It planted a seed of doubt. Was I here merely as part of a social experiment?"

During her freshman year, Obama lived in a triple in Pyne Hall with two white students, whom she remembered as nice for the most part, although she didn't spend much time hanging out in their room. Midway through the year, one of her roommates, Cathy, moved into a single, and Obama discovered many years later that "her mother, a schoolteacher from New Orleans, had been so appalled that her daughter had been assigned a black roommate that she'd badgered the university to separate us."

Other parts of her life at Princeton came out during the campaigns, including her senior thesis, a survey of African American alumni about their perceptions of race and identity after having attended Princeton. Obama wrote that right-wing media used the thesis to paint a picture of her as a radical determined to "overthrow the white majority" and to further alienate her and her husband in the eyes of American electorate. "For reasons I’ll never understand, the conservative media was treating my paper as if it were some secret black-power manifesto, a threat that had to be unburied. It was as if at the age of twenty-one, instead of trying to get an A in sociology and a spot at Harvard Law School, I’d been hatching a Nat Turner plan to overthrow the white majority and was now finally, through my husband, getting a chance to put it in motion," she wrote.

Obama included little about affording college, but did mention that her parents “never once spoke of the stress of having to pay for college, but I knew enough to appreciate that it was there.” At Princeton she received a financial aid package that required she have a work-study job, and throughout her four years she served as an assistant for the Third World Center, a support center for students of color that Obama described as “poorly named but well-intentioned.” The center was renamed 20 years later as the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, which it is still called today.

As a first-generation college student, Obama remembers the steep learning curve required to pick up college lingo.

“What was a precept? What was a reading period? Nobody had explained to me the meaning of 'extra-long' bedsheets on the school packing list, which mean that I bought myself too-short bedsheets and would thus spend my freshman year sleeping with my feet resting on the exposed plastic of the dorm mattress,” she wrote.

Obama also noted how different life on campus was to her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, which she proudly announced whenever anyone asked where she was from.

“At Princeton, it seemed the only thing I needed to be vigilant about was my studies. Everything otherwise was designed to accommodate our well-being as students,” she wrote. “The dining halls served five different kinds of breakfast. There were enormous spreading oak trees to sit under and open lawns where we could throw Frisbees to relieve our stress. The main library was like an old-world cathedral, with high ceilings and glossy hardwood tables where we could lay out our textbooks and study in silence. We were protected, cocooned, catered to. A lot of kids, I was coming to realize, had never in their lifetimes known anything different.”

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New international student enrollments continue to decline at U.S. universities

New enrollments of international students fell by 6.6 percent at American universities in academic year 2017-18 compared to the year before, marking the second straight year in declines in new enrollments, according to new data from the annual Open Doors survey.

New enrollments fell 6.3 percent at the undergraduate level, 5.5 percent at the graduate level and 9.7 percent at the nondegree level from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

A separate survey of institutions found that the decline in new international enrollments is continuing this fall, though the drop was less severe than that reported last year.

Institutions that responded to this fall’s enrollment survey reported on average a 1.5 percent continuing drop in new international enrollments, a drop that comes on top of last year’s declines. However, while about half (49 percent) of respondents reported declines in new international enrollments this fall, another 44 percent reported increases, and 7 percent said their numbers were stable.

“This is very much a mixed picture,” said Rajika Bhandari, a senior adviser for research and strategy and director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research & Impact at the Institute of International Education, which conducts the survey with funding from the Department of State. “We’re seeing those new enrollment numbers really vary based on institutional characteristics.”

Unlike in past years, IIE did not release the full findings of the current fall enrollment survey along with the Open Doors data — a spokesman said the results would be available on the IIE website today — but Bhandari and Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor to the president at IIE, shared several top-line findings in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. Among the findings, institutions in the center of the country — specifically the South Central region, which includes Texas, and the West North Central region — are seeing sharper declines than are institutions on the coasts. Less selective institutions are also seeing steeper declines.

“The large research institutions, many of them are seeing growth,” Blumenthal said. The less well-known abroad schools and the schools giving associate degrees are seeing much sharper declines.”

Over all (as opposed to new) international enrollments did increase by 1.5 percent in 2017-18, according to the Open Doors survey, which collected data from 2,075 institutions. But that growth is being driven by a boom in the number of students participating in the optional practical training program, OPT, which enables graduates of U.S. colleges to stay in the country and work for up to three years after graduating while remaining on their student visas. A change in 2016 to the duration of OPT for students studying STEM fields means that students are staying in the OPT pipeline for longer after they graduate from their program.

The increases in OPT participation by recent international graduates can mask declines in the number of international students who are currently enrolled in degree programs — the number that really matters to colleges when it comes both to their financial bottom lines and their goals of building diverse campuses. The total number of students participating in OPT grew by 15.8 percent from 2016-17 to 2017-18, while the total number of enrolled international students increased by 0.8 percent at the undergraduate level and decreased by 2.1 percent at the graduate level. The number of nondegree students — a category that includes students in intensive English programs — fell for the third year in a row, by 10.1 percent.

Notable Shifts

Among the big changes in the Open Doors data for academic year 2017-18 was an 8.8 percent drop from the prior year in the number of graduate and professional students from India, the second-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S. after China.

Another notable shift was a 6.4 percent drop in the number of international graduate students studying engineering, the most popular field of study for international students in the U.S.

Universities also saw a 15.5 percent overall decline in the number of students from the No. 4 sending country, Saudi Arabia. The number of Saudi students declined at all academic levels, a change that’s largely attributable to the Saudi government scaling back a foreign scholarship program that has sent thousands of Saudi students to study at U.S. universities.

At the undergraduate level, higher education institutions reported double-digit year-over-year increases in students from the No. 6 sending country, Vietnam, No. 10 Brazil and No. 11 Nepal.

The number of students from the No. 1 sending country, China, continued to increase at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, by 4 and 2 percent respectively, but declined at the nondegree level. Chinese students account for 33.2 percent of international students in the U.S.; together with India, students from the two countries account for more than half (51.1 percent) of all international students.

Among other notable shifts involving top sending countries, the numbers of students from the No. 3 sending country, South Korea, fell for the seventh straight year, by 7 percent, a trend that Blumenthal attributes to the changing demographics of South Korea and to the improving quality of the Korean higher education system.

There were also declines in the overall number of students coming from America’s neighbors, Canada and Mexico, two countries where President Trump is deeply unpopular. While there were drops at all academic levels for Canadian and Mexican students — except for the OPT level — the steepest decline was in the number of Mexican students coming for nondegree study, including intensive English, which fell by 39.1 percent.

This year’s Open Doors data also provide a first glimpse of the impact on international enrollments of President Trump’s various travel bans barring entry to the U.S. for citizens of a group of mostly Muslim-majority countries.

Iran, the No. 12 sending country, is the only country affected by Trump’s travel ban that sends substantial numbers of students to the U.S. Although an Inside Higher Ed analysis of State Department data showed a sharp drop in the number of student visas awarded to Iranians in the year after the first iteration of the ban went into place in January 2017, the Open Doors data do not suggest there was a big effect on Iranian student enrollments that fall. On the contrary, the Open Doors data show a 1.2 percent increase in the number of Iranian students at the graduate level — significant, since about three-quarters of all Iranian students in the U.S. study at the graduate level. The number of Iranian students did decline at the undergraduate (-16.8 percent) and nondegree levels (-35.7 percent), but from a much smaller base.

Among other countries covered by the first and second versions of Trump’s travel ban — which were in effect for parts of the application cycle of the 2017-18 year — there were drops in the total numbers of students from Iraq (-15.3 percent), Libya (-18.8 percent), Syria (-12.2 percent) and Yemen (-21.4 percent), and increases in the number of students from Somalia (+34 percent) and Sudan (+2.2 percent).

A third and current version of the ban bars all students from North Korea and Syria from applying for student visas unless they obtain a waiver. Nationals of the other affected countries are eligible to apply for student visas, though in practice they may have difficulty obtaining them.

Political and Social Factors?

International educators have been deeply concerned that international students could be deterred by more restrictive policies on visas coupled with the Trump administration’s rhetoric on immigration. The president reportedly described most Chinese students in the U.S. as spies and entertained a proposal from a senior adviser to stop awarding student visas to Chinese nationals. The Trump administration has introduced new, enhanced visa questionnaires for certain applicants and has introduced a controversial new policy making it easier for international students to accrue what’s known as “unlawful presence” in the U.S., a determination that can subject them to future three- or 10-year bars on re-entry.

There is also continuing uncertainty about what future changes may be in the offing to visa programs that let students stay in the U.S. and work, including the OPT program and the H-1B visa program.

“Institutions are reporting that the social and political environment continues to be a challenge for international recruitment,” Bhandari said in relation to the survey of institutions conducted this fall. “Institutions are also reporting that they’re concerned about recruitment from Asia.”

She added, “We have about 43 percent of institutions saying that cost continues to be a challenge and that they are trying to ameliorate the situation through approaches like providing more tuition waivers and scholarships and waiving the application fee.”

In a press call with reporters, officials at IIE and the State Department seemed to want to downplay the degree to which political and social factors — including a rise in mass shootings — might be deterring international students. In the call IIE officials emphasized a number of other factors for the drop in new students, including the rising cost of U.S. higher education, increased competition for students from other countries and changes to foreign government scholarship programs, including Saudi Arabia’s.

“It’ll always be a very, very mixed picture, and the international education consumer is always concerned about access, diversity, quality, cost, safety, but in the past couple of years for me the biggest new development is that there are real competitor countries out there that we’ve never had before,” said Allan E. Goodman, IIE’s president.

“This flattening started in 2015-2016, when applications were being filled out in 2014, so it’s quite frankly unwarranted to say that it is completely the result of a political environment,” Caroline Casagrande, the deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said during the press call. The Open Doors data show that new international enrollments at U.S. colleges increased in 2015-16, but by a slower rate (2.4 percent) compared to the prior year (8.8 percent). The first recorded drop in new enrollments came in academic year 2016-17.

Rahul Choudaha, the executive vice president of global engagement and research at StudyPortals, a company that offers an online international student recruitment platform, said it’s difficult to gauge just how much of an effect political factors have had, but he believes the political climate has dampened growth potential from certain source countries. “It’s a scenario of lost opportunity, because from the institution’s side there is clearly an interest to internationalize and attract more international students for a variety of reasons,” Choudaha said.

Choudaha added that another phenomenon to note is “the big getting bigger.”

“There are institutions in the Midwest that are facing a much sharper decline — and a bigger effect of this Trump effect, you might say — but then on the other side there are institutions in California, New York and Massachusetts, and if they are higher in the Carnegie classification, which means they are highly ranked, they are not seeing any effect.”

Among the top 10 states hosting international students, there were increases in the total number of international students (including OPT participants) in No. 1 destination California (+3.2 percent), No. 2 New York (+2.4 percent), No. 4 Massachusetts (+8.4 percent), No. 5 Illinois (+2.2 percent), No. 6 Pennsylvania (+1.3 percent) and No. 7 Florida (+1.7 percent), and declines in No. 3 Texas (-0.9 percent), No. 8 Ohio (-2.8 percent), No. 9 Michigan (-0.7 percent) and No. 10 Indiana (-2 percent). 

Detailed tables from Open Doors showing changes in international enrollment by country of origin and field of study from 2016-17 to 2017-18 are below. Another table shows percent changes in total international enrollment in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and notes which candidate the state went for in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton or Trump. 

Percent Change in Total International Enrollments from 2016-17 to 2017-18

From Top 15 Countries of Origin by Academic Level

  Undergraduate Graduate Nondegree OPT Overall
World Total +0.8% -2.1% -10.1% +15.8% +1.5%
1. China +4% +2% -7.7% +9.8% +3.6%
2. India +6.2% -8.8% -16.6% +32% +5.4%
3. South Korea -8.1% -5.5% -16.1% -0.9% -7%
4. Saudi Arabia -15% -10.2% -34% -2.4% -15.5%
5. Canada -4.6% -5.9% -5.8% +2.7% -4.3%
6. Vietnam +10.9% +5.7% -3% +3.4% +8.4%
7. Taiwan +7% +3.2% -4.4% +6.5% +4.4%
8. Japan +1% -1.7% -2.4% +3.7% -0.1%
9. Mexico -6.3% -6.5% -39.1% +15.3% -8.1%
10. Brazil +16.6% +5.8% +17.1% +3.6% +11.7%
11. Nepal +17.9% +13.7% -50% +7.6% +14.3%
12. Iran -16.8% +1.2% -35.7% +14.3% +1.1%
13. Nigeria +1.5% +12.3% -23.5% +29.8% +8.4%
14. United Kingdom -1.5% -4.1% +1.9% +12.3% -0.3%
15. Turkey -1.3% -0.3% -33.1% +18.3% -0.6%

Enrolled International Students by Field of Study and Academic Level

  2016-17 Undergraduates 2017-18 Undergraduates Percent Change 2016-17 Graduates 2017-18 Graduates Percent Change
Agriculture 4,026 4,151 +3.1% 6,281 5,852 -6.8%
Business and Management 106,669 101,755 -4.6% 57,167 57,506 +0.6%
Communications and Journalism 12,395 12,460 +0.5% 5,759 5,691 -1.2%
Education 4,503 4,166 -7.5% 10,867 10,735 -1.2%
Engineering 71,622 71,151 -0.7% 105,060 98,307 -6.4%
Fine and Applied Arts 29,955 31,999 +6.8% 20,196 19,894 -1.5%
Health Professions 12,331 12,410 +0.6% 16,454 16,475 +0.1%
Humanities 5,037 5,077 +0.8% 9,877 9,555 -3.3%
Legal Studies and Law Enforcement 2,321 2,226 -4.1% 9,053 10,092 +11.5%
Math and Computer Science 43,847 49,566 +13% 76,113 76,352 +0.3%
Physical and Life Sciences 26,965 27,902 +3.5% 37,056 37,098 +0.1%
Social Sciences 42,761 43,579 +1.9% 28,188 27,734 -1.6%

Change in International Enrollments by State, Ranked by International Enrollments

  Candidate Supported in 2016 Presidential Election Percent Change in International Enrollments from 2016-17 to 2017-18

1. California 

Clinton

+3.2%

2. New York

Clinton

+2.4%

3. Texas

Trump

-0.9%

4. Massachusetts

Clinton

+8.4%

5. Illinois

Clinton

+2.2%

6. Pennsylvania

Trump

+1.3%

7. Florida

Trump

+1.7%

8. Ohio

Trump

-2.8%

9. Michigan

Trump

-0.7%

10. Indiana

Trump

-2.0%

11. Washington

Clinton

+2.4%

12. Arizona

Trump

+2.4%

13. Missouri

Trump

-1.1%

14. New Jersey

Clinton

+1%

15. Georgia

Trump

+5.9%

16. North Carolina

Trump

+4.9%

17. Virginia

Clinton

-0.8%

18. Maryland

Clinton

+0.9%

19. Minnesota

Clinton

+2%

20. Connecticut

Clinton

+3.9%

21. Iowa

Trump

 +7.0%

22. Wisconsin

Trump

-2%

23. Oregon

Clinton

-4.8%

24. District of Columbia

Clinton

+0.2%

25. Colorado

Clinton

+1%

26. Kentucky

Trump

+26.9%

27. Kansas

Trump

-6.5%

28. Alabama

Trump

-2.6%

29. Oklahoma

Trump

-8.6%

30.Tennessee

Trump

-10.9%

31.Utah

Trump

-3.1%

32. Louisiana

Trump

+0.7%

33. Delaware

Clinton

+33.2%

34. South Carolina

Trump

-6.5%

35. Nebraska

Trump

0%

36. Rhode Island

Clinton

+1.9%

37. Arkansas

Trump

-16.7%

38. West Virginia

Trump

+5.6%

39. New Hampshire

Clinton

-6.0%

40. Hawaii

Clinton

+3.1%

41. Idaho

Trump

-4.3%

42. Mississippi

Trump

-8.4%

43. New Mexico

Clinton

-4.7%

44. Nevada

Clinton

+1.9%

45. North Dakota

Trump

-8.9%

46. South Dakota

Trump

-0.6%

47. Vermont

Clinton

+5.8%

48. Montana

Trump

-13.7

49. Maine

Clinton

+0.1%

50. Wyoming

Trump

-4.3%

51. Alaska

Trump

-1.2%

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New enrollments of international students fell by 6.6 percent at American universities in academic year 2017-18 compared to the year before, marking the second straight year in declines in new enrollments, according to new data from the annual Open Doors survey.

New enrollments fell 6.3 percent at the undergraduate level, 5.5 percent at the graduate level and 9.7 percent at the nondegree level from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

A separate survey of institutions found that the decline in new international enrollments is continuing this fall, though the drop was less severe than that reported last year.

Institutions that responded to this fall's enrollment survey reported on average a 1.5 percent continuing drop in new international enrollments, a drop that comes on top of last year's declines. However, while about half (49 percent) of respondents reported declines in new international enrollments this fall, another 44 percent reported increases, and 7 percent said their numbers were stable.

“This is very much a mixed picture,” said Rajika Bhandari, a senior adviser for research and strategy and director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research & Impact at the Institute of International Education, which conducts the survey with funding from the Department of State. “We’re seeing those new enrollment numbers really vary based on institutional characteristics.”

Unlike in past years, IIE did not release the full findings of the current fall enrollment survey along with the Open Doors data -- a spokesman said the results would be available on the IIE website today -- but Bhandari and Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor to the president at IIE, shared several top-line findings in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. Among the findings, institutions in the center of the country -- specifically the South Central region, which includes Texas, and the West North Central region -- are seeing sharper declines than are institutions on the coasts. Less selective institutions are also seeing steeper declines.

"The large research institutions, many of them are seeing growth," Blumenthal said. The less well-known abroad schools and the schools giving associate degrees are seeing much sharper declines."

Over all (as opposed to new) international enrollments did increase by 1.5 percent in 2017-18, according to the Open Doors survey, which collected data from 2,075 institutions. But that growth is being driven by a boom in the number of students participating in the optional practical training program, OPT, which enables graduates of U.S. colleges to stay in the country and work for up to three years after graduating while remaining on their student visas. A change in 2016 to the duration of OPT for students studying STEM fields means that students are staying in the OPT pipeline for longer after they graduate from their program.

The increases in OPT participation by recent international graduates can mask declines in the number of international students who are currently enrolled in degree programs -- the number that really matters to colleges when it comes both to their financial bottom lines and their goals of building diverse campuses. The total number of students participating in OPT grew by 15.8 percent from 2016-17 to 2017-18, while the total number of enrolled international students increased by 0.8 percent at the undergraduate level and decreased by 2.1 percent at the graduate level. The number of nondegree students -- a category that includes students in intensive English programs -- fell for the third year in a row, by 10.1 percent.

Notable Shifts

Among the big changes in the Open Doors data for academic year 2017-18 was an 8.8 percent drop from the prior year in the number of graduate and professional students from India, the second-largest country of origin for international students in the U.S. after China.

Another notable shift was a 6.4 percent drop in the number of international graduate students studying engineering, the most popular field of study for international students in the U.S.

Universities also saw a 15.5 percent overall decline in the number of students from the No. 4 sending country, Saudi Arabia. The number of Saudi students declined at all academic levels, a change that's largely attributable to the Saudi government scaling back a foreign scholarship program that has sent thousands of Saudi students to study at U.S. universities.

At the undergraduate level, higher education institutions reported double-digit year-over-year increases in students from the No. 6 sending country, Vietnam, No. 10 Brazil and No. 11 Nepal.

The number of students from the No. 1 sending country, China, continued to increase at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, by 4 and 2 percent respectively, but declined at the nondegree level. Chinese students account for 33.2 percent of international students in the U.S.; together with India, students from the two countries account for more than half (51.1 percent) of all international students.

Among other notable shifts involving top sending countries, the numbers of students from the No. 3 sending country, South Korea, fell for the seventh straight year, by 7 percent, a trend that Blumenthal attributes to the changing demographics of South Korea and to the improving quality of the Korean higher education system.

There were also declines in the overall number of students coming from America's neighbors, Canada and Mexico, two countries where President Trump is deeply unpopular. While there were drops at all academic levels for Canadian and Mexican students -- except for the OPT level -- the steepest decline was in the number of Mexican students coming for nondegree study, including intensive English, which fell by 39.1 percent.

This year's Open Doors data also provide a first glimpse of the impact on international enrollments of President Trump's various travel bans barring entry to the U.S. for citizens of a group of mostly Muslim-majority countries.

Iran, the No. 12 sending country, is the only country affected by Trump’s travel ban that sends substantial numbers of students to the U.S. Although an Inside Higher Ed analysis of State Department data showed a sharp drop in the number of student visas awarded to Iranians in the year after the first iteration of the ban went into place in January 2017, the Open Doors data do not suggest there was a big effect on Iranian student enrollments that fall. On the contrary, the Open Doors data show a 1.2 percent increase in the number of Iranian students at the graduate level -- significant, since about three-quarters of all Iranian students in the U.S. study at the graduate level. The number of Iranian students did decline at the undergraduate (-16.8 percent) and nondegree levels (-35.7 percent), but from a much smaller base.

Among other countries covered by the first and second versions of Trump's travel ban -- which were in effect for parts of the application cycle of the 2017-18 year -- there were drops in the total numbers of students from Iraq (-15.3 percent), Libya (-18.8 percent), Syria (-12.2 percent) and Yemen (-21.4 percent), and increases in the number of students from Somalia (+34 percent) and Sudan (+2.2 percent).

A third and current version of the ban bars all students from North Korea and Syria from applying for student visas unless they obtain a waiver. Nationals of the other affected countries are eligible to apply for student visas, though in practice they may have difficulty obtaining them.

Political and Social Factors?

International educators have been deeply concerned that international students could be deterred by more restrictive policies on visas coupled with the Trump administration's rhetoric on immigration. The president reportedly described most Chinese students in the U.S. as spies and entertained a proposal from a senior adviser to stop awarding student visas to Chinese nationals. The Trump administration has introduced new, enhanced visa questionnaires for certain applicants and has introduced a controversial new policy making it easier for international students to accrue what's known as "unlawful presence" in the U.S., a determination that can subject them to future three- or 10-year bars on re-entry.

There is also continuing uncertainty about what future changes may be in the offing to visa programs that let students stay in the U.S. and work, including the OPT program and the H-1B visa program.

"Institutions are reporting that the social and political environment continues to be a challenge for international recruitment," Bhandari said in relation to the survey of institutions conducted this fall. "Institutions are also reporting that they're concerned about recruitment from Asia."

She added, "We have about 43 percent of institutions saying that cost continues to be a challenge and that they are trying to ameliorate the situation through approaches like providing more tuition waivers and scholarships and waiving the application fee.”

In a press call with reporters, officials at IIE and the State Department seemed to want to downplay the degree to which political and social factors -- including a rise in mass shootings -- might be deterring international students. In the call IIE officials emphasized a number of other factors for the drop in new students, including the rising cost of U.S. higher education, increased competition for students from other countries and changes to foreign government scholarship programs, including Saudi Arabia's.

"It’ll always be a very, very mixed picture, and the international education consumer is always concerned about access, diversity, quality, cost, safety, but in the past couple of years for me the biggest new development is that there are real competitor countries out there that we've never had before," said Allan E. Goodman, IIE's president.

“This flattening started in 2015-2016, when applications were being filled out in 2014, so it’s quite frankly unwarranted to say that it is completely the result of a political environment," Caroline Casagrande, the deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said during the press call. The Open Doors data show that new international enrollments at U.S. colleges increased in 2015-16, but by a slower rate (2.4 percent) compared to the prior year (8.8 percent). The first recorded drop in new enrollments came in academic year 2016-17.

Rahul Choudaha, the executive vice president of global engagement and research at StudyPortals, a company that offers an online international student recruitment platform, said it's difficult to gauge just how much of an effect political factors have had, but he believes the political climate has dampened growth potential from certain source countries. "It's a scenario of lost opportunity, because from the institution’s side there is clearly an interest to internationalize and attract more international students for a variety of reasons," Choudaha said.

Choudaha added that another phenomenon to note is "the big getting bigger."

"There are institutions in the Midwest that are facing a much sharper decline -- and a bigger effect of this Trump effect, you might say -- but then on the other side there are institutions in California, New York and Massachusetts, and if they are higher in the Carnegie classification, which means they are highly ranked, they are not seeing any effect."

Among the top 10 states hosting international students, there were increases in the total number of international students (including OPT participants) in No. 1 destination California (+3.2 percent), No. 2 New York (+2.4 percent), No. 4 Massachusetts (+8.4 percent), No. 5 Illinois (+2.2 percent), No. 6 Pennsylvania (+1.3 percent) and No. 7 Florida (+1.7 percent), and declines in No. 3 Texas (-0.9 percent), No. 8 Ohio (-2.8 percent), No. 9 Michigan (-0.7 percent) and No. 10 Indiana (-2 percent). 

Detailed tables from Open Doors showing changes in international enrollment by country of origin and field of study from 2016-17 to 2017-18 are below. Another table shows percent changes in total international enrollment in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and notes which candidate the state went for in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton or Trump. 

Percent Change in Total International Enrollments from 2016-17 to 2017-18

From Top 15 Countries of Origin by Academic Level

  Undergraduate Graduate Nondegree OPT Overall
World Total +0.8% -2.1% -10.1% +15.8% +1.5%
1. China +4% +2% -7.7% +9.8% +3.6%
2. India +6.2% -8.8% -16.6% +32% +5.4%
3. South Korea -8.1% -5.5% -16.1% -0.9% -7%
4. Saudi Arabia -15% -10.2% -34% -2.4% -15.5%
5. Canada -4.6% -5.9% -5.8% +2.7% -4.3%
6. Vietnam +10.9% +5.7% -3% +3.4% +8.4%
7. Taiwan +7% +3.2% -4.4% +6.5% +4.4%
8. Japan +1% -1.7% -2.4% +3.7% -0.1%
9. Mexico -6.3% -6.5% -39.1% +15.3% -8.1%
10. Brazil +16.6% +5.8% +17.1% +3.6% +11.7%
11. Nepal +17.9% +13.7% -50% +7.6% +14.3%
12. Iran -16.8% +1.2% -35.7% +14.3% +1.1%
13. Nigeria +1.5% +12.3% -23.5% +29.8% +8.4%
14. United Kingdom -1.5% -4.1% +1.9% +12.3% -0.3%
15. Turkey -1.3% -0.3% -33.1% +18.3% -0.6%

Enrolled International Students by Field of Study and Academic Level

  2016-17 Undergraduates 2017-18 Undergraduates Percent Change 2016-17 Graduates 2017-18 Graduates Percent Change
Agriculture 4,026 4,151 +3.1% 6,281 5,852 -6.8%
Business and Management 106,669 101,755 -4.6% 57,167 57,506 +0.6%
Communications and Journalism 12,395 12,460 +0.5% 5,759 5,691 -1.2%
Education 4,503 4,166 -7.5% 10,867 10,735 -1.2%
Engineering 71,622 71,151 -0.7% 105,060 98,307 -6.4%
Fine and Applied Arts 29,955 31,999 +6.8% 20,196 19,894 -1.5%
Health Professions 12,331 12,410 +0.6% 16,454 16,475 +0.1%
Humanities 5,037 5,077 +0.8% 9,877 9,555 -3.3%
Legal Studies and Law Enforcement 2,321 2,226 -4.1% 9,053 10,092 +11.5%
Math and Computer Science 43,847 49,566 +13% 76,113 76,352 +0.3%
Physical and Life Sciences 26,965 27,902 +3.5% 37,056 37,098 +0.1%
Social Sciences 42,761 43,579 +1.9% 28,188 27,734 -1.6%

Change in International Enrollments by State, Ranked by International Enrollments

  Candidate Supported in 2016 Presidential Election Percent Change in International Enrollments from 2016-17 to 2017-18

1. California 

Clinton

+3.2%

2. New York

Clinton

+2.4%

3. Texas

Trump

-0.9%

4. Massachusetts

Clinton

+8.4%

5. Illinois

Clinton

+2.2%

6. Pennsylvania

Trump

+1.3%

7. Florida

Trump

+1.7%

8. Ohio

Trump

-2.8%

9. Michigan

Trump

-0.7%

10. Indiana

Trump

-2.0%

11. Washington

Clinton

+2.4%

12. Arizona

Trump

+2.4%

13. Missouri

Trump

-1.1%

14. New Jersey

Clinton

+1%

15. Georgia

Trump

+5.9%

16. North Carolina

Trump

+4.9%

17. Virginia

Clinton

-0.8%

18. Maryland

Clinton

+0.9%

19. Minnesota

Clinton

+2%

20. Connecticut

Clinton

+3.9%

21. Iowa

Trump

 +7.0%

22. Wisconsin

Trump

-2%

23. Oregon

Clinton

-4.8%

24. District of Columbia

Clinton

+0.2%

25. Colorado

Clinton

+1%

26. Kentucky

Trump

+26.9%

27. Kansas

Trump

-6.5%

28. Alabama

Trump

-2.6%

29. Oklahoma

Trump

-8.6%

30.Tennessee

Trump

-10.9%

31.Utah

Trump

-3.1%

32. Louisiana

Trump

+0.7%

33. Delaware

Clinton

+33.2%

34. South Carolina

Trump

-6.5%

35. Nebraska

Trump

0%

36. Rhode Island

Clinton

+1.9%

37. Arkansas

Trump

-16.7%

38. West Virginia

Trump

+5.6%

39. New Hampshire

Clinton

-6.0%

40. Hawaii

Clinton

+3.1%

41. Idaho

Trump

-4.3%

42. Mississippi

Trump

-8.4%

43. New Mexico

Clinton

-4.7%

44. Nevada

Clinton

+1.9%

45. North Dakota

Trump

-8.9%

46. South Dakota

Trump

-0.6%

47. Vermont

Clinton

+5.8%

48. Montana

Trump

-13.7

49. Maine

Clinton

+0.1%

50. Wyoming

Trump

-4.3%

51. Alaska

Trump

-1.2%

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Study abroad numbers continue to grow, driven by continued growth in short-term programs

The number of American students studying abroad continues to steadily increase, growing by 2.3 percent in academic year 2016-17 compared to the previous year, according to new data from the annual Open Doors report released today by the Institute of International Education.

A total of 332,727 students studied abroad for credit in 2016-17. IIE estimates that about 10.9 percent of all undergraduate students — and 16 percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees — study abroad at some point in their undergraduate careers.

The profile of study abroad students continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, though is still a long way from reflecting the diversity of enrollment in U.S. higher education, which is about 42 percent nonwhite. About 29.2 percent of students who studied abroad in 2016-17 were nonwhite, compared to 18.1 percent a decade earlier.

Study Abroad Participation by Race/Ethnicity

  2006-07 2016-17
White 81.9% 70.8%
Hispanic or Latino 6% 10.2%
Asian or Pacific Islander 6.7% 8.2%
Black or African American 3.8% 6.1%
Multiracial 1.2% 4.3%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.5% 0.4%
Total Number of Students Studying Abroad 241,791 332,727

Women have historically studied abroad at higher rates than men, and the gap has only widened over the last decade. Women made up more than two-thirds (67.3 percent) of students studying abroad in 2016-17, compared to 65.1 percent a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, efforts to make study abroad appealing to a broader array of students outside those studying foreign languages or international studies have borne fruit. Slightly more than a quarter (25.8 percent) of study abroad students in 2016-17 were studying STEM fields, up from 17.5 percent in 2006-07.

Students studying STEM fields make up the largest group of students studying abroad by field. Rounding out the top five fields of study, about a fifth (20.7 percent) of students studying abroad are studying business, 17.2 percent are studying social science fields, 7.3 percent are studying foreign languages and international studies, and 6.3 percent are studying fine and applied arts.

The proportion of students studying on short-term programs continues to grow: 64.6 percent of all students who studied abroad in 2016-17 did so on summer programs or those that were eight weeks or fewer in length. “As you try to expand the diversity of study abroad, more community college students, more students of color, more students from different fields, you’re going to get students who can only go for a shorter period of time,” said Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor to the president at IIE.

Indeed, the growth in study abroad participation is being fueled by the growth in short-term programming. The absolute number of students studying on short-term programs has risen rapidly — more than 40,000 more students studied on short-term programs in 2016-17 compared to five years before that — while the number studying on medium-term programs lasting a quarter or semester in length rose much more slowly. And the absolute number of students studying abroad for a whole academic or calendar year has actually declined (see chart below).

Total Numbers of Students Studying Abroad by Duration of Study

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Short-term (summer or eight weeks or fewer) 174,513 189,074 197,883 204,972 214,798
Midlength (one semester or one or two quarters) 105,634 106,259 107,559 112,126 110,269
Long-term (academic or calendar year) 9,261 9,134 7,973 8,241 7,660
Total  289,408 304,467 313,415 325,339 332,727

Europe remains the top destination for American students, accounting for more than half (54.4 percent) of all students studying abroad, the same proportion as last year.

Though the bases are much smaller for the other world regions, there was year-over-year growth from 2015-16 to 2016-17 in the number of students going to Asia (up 6.7 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (up 14.2 percent), Oceania (up 6 percent), and sub-Saharan Africa (up 5.5 percent). There was a decline in the number going to Latin America and the Caribbean (down 3 percent) and elsewhere in North America (down by 4.5 percent).

The five most popular countries students chose for study abroad were all in Europe: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

Notable shifts in country-specific destinations include a 4.4 percent decline in the number of students going to the No. 4 destination, France, following a 5.4 percent decline the year before that. Rajika Bhandari, a senior adviser for research and strategy and director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research & Impact at IIE, said the decline in the number of students going to France is likely attributable to concerns about student safety following terror attacks.

Also of note, the number of students going to No. 6 destination China increased by 1.9 percent after declining for four straight years.

The number of students going to No. 12 destination Mexico increased by 10.8 percent, the fourth straight year of growth following steep declines due to concerns about student safety.

The number of students going to No. 14 destination India increased by 12.5 percent.

Finally, the number of students going to No. 15 destination Cuba also increased following the opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2015 and a loosening of restrictions on American travel to the island nation. The period the report covers — academic year 2016-17, including the summer of 2017 — would have largely been before the Trump administration moved to tighten up travel restrictions again.

Top Destinations for Americans Studying Abroad

  Total Students Studying Abroad in 2016-17 Percent of Total Percent Change from 2015/16
1. United Kingdom 39,851 12% +1.8%
2. Italy 35,366 10.6% +1.4%
3. Spain 31,230 9.4% +4.2%
4. France 16,462 4.9% -4.4%
5. Germany 12,585 3.8% +5.8%
6. China 11,910 3.6% +1.9%
7. Ireland 11,492 3.5% +3.8%
8. Australia 10,400 3.1% +9.1%
9. Costa Rica 8,322 2.5% -9.9%
10. Japan 7,531 2.3% +5.4%
11.South Africa 6,042 1.8% +4.5%
12. Mexico 5,736 1.7% +10.8%
13. Czech Republic 4,777 1.4% +3.6%
14. India 4,704 1.4% +12.5%
15. Cuba 4,607 1.4% +21.8%
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The number of American students studying abroad continues to steadily increase, growing by 2.3 percent in academic year 2016-17 compared to the previous year, according to new data from the annual Open Doors report released today by the Institute of International Education.

A total of 332,727 students studied abroad for credit in 2016-17. IIE estimates that about 10.9 percent of all undergraduate students -- and 16 percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees -- study abroad at some point in their undergraduate careers.

The profile of study abroad students continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, though is still a long way from reflecting the diversity of enrollment in U.S. higher education, which is about 42 percent nonwhite. About 29.2 percent of students who studied abroad in 2016-17 were nonwhite, compared to 18.1 percent a decade earlier.

Study Abroad Participation by Race/Ethnicity

  2006-07 2016-17
White 81.9% 70.8%
Hispanic or Latino 6% 10.2%
Asian or Pacific Islander 6.7% 8.2%
Black or African American 3.8% 6.1%
Multiracial 1.2% 4.3%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.5% 0.4%
Total Number of Students Studying Abroad 241,791 332,727

Women have historically studied abroad at higher rates than men, and the gap has only widened over the last decade. Women made up more than two-thirds (67.3 percent) of students studying abroad in 2016-17, compared to 65.1 percent a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, efforts to make study abroad appealing to a broader array of students outside those studying foreign languages or international studies have borne fruit. Slightly more than a quarter (25.8 percent) of study abroad students in 2016-17 were studying STEM fields, up from 17.5 percent in 2006-07.

Students studying STEM fields make up the largest group of students studying abroad by field. Rounding out the top five fields of study, about a fifth (20.7 percent) of students studying abroad are studying business, 17.2 percent are studying social science fields, 7.3 percent are studying foreign languages and international studies, and 6.3 percent are studying fine and applied arts.

The proportion of students studying on short-term programs continues to grow: 64.6 percent of all students who studied abroad in 2016-17 did so on summer programs or those that were eight weeks or fewer in length. "As you try to expand the diversity of study abroad, more community college students, more students of color, more students from different fields, you're going to get students who can only go for a shorter period of time," said Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor to the president at IIE.

Indeed, the growth in study abroad participation is being fueled by the growth in short-term programming. The absolute number of students studying on short-term programs has risen rapidly -- more than 40,000 more students studied on short-term programs in 2016-17 compared to five years before that -- while the number studying on medium-term programs lasting a quarter or semester in length rose much more slowly. And the absolute number of students studying abroad for a whole academic or calendar year has actually declined (see chart below).

Total Numbers of Students Studying Abroad by Duration of Study

  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Short-term (summer or eight weeks or fewer) 174,513 189,074 197,883 204,972 214,798
Midlength (one semester or one or two quarters) 105,634 106,259 107,559 112,126 110,269
Long-term (academic or calendar year) 9,261 9,134 7,973 8,241 7,660
Total  289,408 304,467 313,415 325,339 332,727

Europe remains the top destination for American students, accounting for more than half (54.4 percent) of all students studying abroad, the same proportion as last year.

Though the bases are much smaller for the other world regions, there was year-over-year growth from 2015-16 to 2016-17 in the number of students going to Asia (up 6.7 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (up 14.2 percent), Oceania (up 6 percent), and sub-Saharan Africa (up 5.5 percent). There was a decline in the number going to Latin America and the Caribbean (down 3 percent) and elsewhere in North America (down by 4.5 percent).

The five most popular countries students chose for study abroad were all in Europe: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

Notable shifts in country-specific destinations include a 4.4 percent decline in the number of students going to the No. 4 destination, France, following a 5.4 percent decline the year before that. Rajika Bhandari, a senior adviser for research and strategy and director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research & Impact at IIE, said the decline in the number of students going to France is likely attributable to concerns about student safety following terror attacks.

Also of note, the number of students going to No. 6 destination China increased by 1.9 percent after declining for four straight years.

The number of students going to No. 12 destination Mexico increased by 10.8 percent, the fourth straight year of growth following steep declines due to concerns about student safety.

The number of students going to No. 14 destination India increased by 12.5 percent.

Finally, the number of students going to No. 15 destination Cuba also increased following the opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2015 and a loosening of restrictions on American travel to the island nation. The period the report covers -- academic year 2016-17, including the summer of 2017 -- would have largely been before the Trump administration moved to tighten up travel restrictions again.

Top Destinations for Americans Studying Abroad

  Total Students Studying Abroad in 2016-17 Percent of Total Percent Change from 2015/16
1. United Kingdom 39,851 12% +1.8%
2. Italy 35,366 10.6% +1.4%
3. Spain 31,230 9.4% +4.2%
4. France 16,462 4.9% -4.4%
5. Germany 12,585 3.8% +5.8%
6. China 11,910 3.6% +1.9%
7. Ireland 11,492 3.5% +3.8%
8. Australia 10,400 3.1% +9.1%
9. Costa Rica 8,322 2.5% -9.9%
10. Japan 7,531 2.3% +5.4%
11.South Africa 6,042 1.8% +4.5%
12. Mexico 5,736 1.7% +10.8%
13. Czech Republic 4,777 1.4% +3.6%
14. India 4,704 1.4% +12.5%
15. Cuba 4,607 1.4% +21.8%
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Philosophers will launch interdisciplinary journal that allows authors to publish under pseudonyms, citing recent threats against polarizing academics

Academic freedom is meant to protect scholars with controversial ideas. But a group of philosophers says academic freedom isn’t protection enough in an era of campus speech debates, internet trolls and threats against professors — and that academics now need a place to publish their most sensitive ideas pseudonymously.

That venue, The Journal of Controversial Ideas, will launch next year. Co-founder Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and no stranger to controversial ideas, mentioned the idea for such a journal in a 2017 interview. But plans for it took shape in a BBC Radio 4 documentary on viewpoint diversity, which airs for the first time this week.

Jeff McMahan, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at University of Oxford, told the BBC that the need for more open discussion is “really very acute.” There’s “greater inhibition on university campuses about taking certain positions for fear of what will happen,” he said, with the political right and left alike stoking that “fear.” Threats to academic freedom and free speech from within the university tend to come the left, he added, while outside threats tend to come from the right.

McMahan told Inside Higher Ed Monday that the journal doesn’t have a confirmed publisher, but that it will be open access, from a “reliable and well-established” source. It will be peer reviewed, with an editorial board that is diverse, ideologically and otherwise. There will be no restrictions on academic disciplines, though organizers expect most submissions will be from researchers in the humanities and social sciences, perhaps tilted toward philosophy. Natural sciences submissions also are welcome, and McMahan said he’s received offers to help review from scientists in those fields. Possible ideas include moral issues in research on weapons technologies and animal experimentation, for example, he said.

Will anything be off the table? Say, eugenics, which many say doesn’t merit a place in academic discourse? McMahan said he guessed that even a pro-eugenics article, were it well reasoned, might find a home in The Journal of Controversial Ideas.

McMahan, Singer and their third collaborator, Francesca Minerva, a moral philosopher at Ghent University in Belgium, sit on the political left. But they envision their journal as a home for all well-reasoned, if dangerous, ideas.

“We want both left-wingers and right-wingers on the editorial board,” McMahan said. “Here’s the way I think about it: for any article we publish, we want some member of the editorial board who is from a background or tradition whose members would object to that article.”

That’s proving somewhat challenging: McMahan said that while some potential board members have welcomed the opportunity to participate, others have questioned the premise of author pseudonyms.

Asked if he was conceding something to those who would threaten or seek to silence professors with unpopular arguments, McMahan said yes. But his concerns are outweighed by what he described as an urgent need.

“There is a part of me that says we should fight all this out in the open — that we shouldn’t be afraid of these people who want to silence us. On the other hand, there are too many instances of people who nowadays receive real threats to their families and careers, particularly young, vulnerable untenured academics,” he said. “They sometimes face a choice, or perceive a choice, between not publishing something and risking all these terrible consequences. We want to provide a way to avoid that dilemma.”

McMahan said he doubted that he or Singer, as senior scholars, would publish pseudonymously, but stressed that other academics need options.

The journal will help verify authorship to institutions in a secure way, so that contributors may receive credit for their work for promotion and tenure purposes, he said. And authors may shed their pseudonyms at any time.

Minerva did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the journal. But McMahan said she faced serious threats after she co-authored a 2012 article discussing whether the same arguments that apply to abortion can applied to “after-birth abortion.” (The article did not argue that the latter was a good alternative to the former.) McMahan mentioned the backlash against Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College who published a 2017 article comparing being transracial to being transgender in the journal Hypatia, as another example of why the new journal is needed.

Commenting on the general climate for academics, McMahan said that students at the American University of Beirut attempted to disinvite and then shout him down during a recent speech there, over a what he described as his vague affiliation with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, even though he has otherwise been a vocal critic of Israel’s policies on Palestinians.

Other instances of threats against academics, some explicit, and attempts to censor their speech, abound.

In short, it’s hard out here for an academic. But is assuming a fake name a valid response?

Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and editor of the philosophy blog Daily Nous, wrote in a post there that it’s thus far unclear whether the “creation of such a journal will foster more of ‘a culture of fear and self-censorship’ compared to other options,” or if it “plays into and reinforces expertise-undermining misconceptions about academia bandied about in popular media that may have negative effects.”

Yet, given that the founding team “is comprised of people noted for views that emphasize empirical facts and consequences,” he wrote, “one might reasonably hope for a public discussion of such evidence and arguments.”

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said he didn’t know if the AAUP had ever before weighed in on the idea of pseudonymous publications. Yet the organization’s Statement on Professional Ethics clearly states that professors should “practice intellectual honesty,” he noted.

“That could be extended to mean a prohibition on pseudonyms, but not necessarily,” Reichman said. “And there is surely precedent.” Pen names are common in literature and have occasionally been used in scholarship, he said, citing George Kennan’s “X Article,” which turned out to be the seminal statement on containment. Kennan at the time did not have an academic position, however, he noted.

Reichman further mused as to whether there was a meaningful difference between assuming anonymity versus pseudonyms. Anonymity at least “makes clear that identity is being hidden,” he said. Of course, pseudonyms are the very public premise of the new journal.

Speaking for himself and not the AAUP, Reichman said he understood the motivation behind the journal, since “faculty members have been under vicious assault for their research.” But he said he doubted whether pseudonyms were an effective solution, since harassment of faculty members “rarely, I think, stems from what they’ve published in professional journals, but more from statements made to the media,” such as op-eds, letters to the editor and TV interviews, or on social media or in the classroom. That’s indeed the case in many recent examples of threats against professors.

He also cited a risk of people trying to uncover authors’ real identities, which he guessed might not be difficult in some instances.

Aside from ethics, Reichman said there is “potential for abuse” of such a journal, in that “academic research is generally assessed by peers in open discussion and debate.” And what if any author publishes one view under one name and a slightly different one under a real one? Or self-plagiarizes? Still, Reichman said, “it seems an interesting if potentially dangerous endeavor.”

Heterodox Academy, a group of several thousand scholars working to promote viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding and constructive disagreement, has criticized some of the same academic and cultural dynamics that have birthed The Journal of Controversial Ideas. Debra Mashek, the group’s executive director and a professor of psychology at Harvey Mudd College, said in a statement that she applauded the journal organizers’ efforts to “advance scholarship that raises difficult questions and confronts readers with challenging findings.” It’s “unfortunate — for scholars, as well as for the production and use of knowledge — that the current climate in many disciplines doesn’t unabashedly encourage, celebrate or enable such exploration,” she said.

And while a peer-reviewed journal with rigorous evaluation criteria “could provide anonymous scholars with a short-term mechanism for advancing open inquiry,” Mashek said, “the health of the academy ultimately depends on people engaging colleagues constructively and respectfully across lines of difference. Anonymity should not be an essential ingredient.”

Musa al-Gharbi, a senior fellow for Heterodox Academy and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Columbia University, also praised the mission of helping “get otherwise taboo ideas in the open.” That’s provided that the journal is open access with a rigorous peer-review process undertaken by experts in relevant subfields, he said — something that could prove difficult with submissions coming from a range of disciplines.

Absent that kind of effective peer review, he said, such a project could end up “as a repository for inflammatory, half-cooked work that would not have made it through review in disciplinary journals for legitimate reasons,” not just problems related to bias.

As for pseudonyms, al-Gharbi said that taking a public position “is important because it helps create permission and a model for others to stand up, as well.”

Via email, he added that “Successfully changing the dynamics will require people not only to trade provocative ideas behind a veil of anonymity, but also to stand up and refuse to go along with the prevailing orthodoxies — to leverage, and indeed stake, their social capital on holding the line, and even pushing back against censorious trends.”

Heterodox Academy, for instance, doesn’t allow for anonymous membership, since “membership is a meaningful commitment precisely because it is public.”

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Academic freedom is meant to protect scholars with controversial ideas. But a group of philosophers says academic freedom isn’t protection enough in an era of campus speech debates, internet trolls and threats against professors -- and that academics now need a place to publish their most sensitive ideas pseudonymously.

That venue, The Journal of Controversial Ideas, will launch next year. Co-founder Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and no stranger to controversial ideas, mentioned the idea for such a journal in a 2017 interview. But plans for it took shape in a BBC Radio 4 documentary on viewpoint diversity, which airs for the first time this week.

Jeff McMahan, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at University of Oxford, told the BBC that the need for more open discussion is “really very acute.” There's “greater inhibition on university campuses about taking certain positions for fear of what will happen,” he said, with the political right and left alike stoking that "fear." Threats to academic freedom and free speech from within the university tend to come the left, he added, while outside threats tend to come from the right.

McMahan told Inside Higher Ed Monday that the journal doesn’t have a confirmed publisher, but that it will be open access, from a “reliable and well-established” source. It will be peer reviewed, with an editorial board that is diverse, ideologically and otherwise. There will be no restrictions on academic disciplines, though organizers expect most submissions will be from researchers in the humanities and social sciences, perhaps tilted toward philosophy. Natural sciences submissions also are welcome, and McMahan said he’s received offers to help review from scientists in those fields. Possible ideas include moral issues in research on weapons technologies and animal experimentation, for example, he said.

Will anything be off the table? Say, eugenics, which many say doesn’t merit a place in academic discourse? McMahan said he guessed that even a pro-eugenics article, were it well reasoned, might find a home in The Journal of Controversial Ideas.

McMahan, Singer and their third collaborator, Francesca Minerva, a moral philosopher at Ghent University in Belgium, sit on the political left. But they envision their journal as a home for all well-reasoned, if dangerous, ideas.

“We want both left-wingers and right-wingers on the editorial board,” McMahan said. “Here’s the way I think about it: for any article we publish, we want some member of the editorial board who is from a background or tradition whose members would object to that article.”

That’s proving somewhat challenging: McMahan said that while some potential board members have welcomed the opportunity to participate, others have questioned the premise of author pseudonyms.

Asked if he was conceding something to those who would threaten or seek to silence professors with unpopular arguments, McMahan said yes. But his concerns are outweighed by what he described as an urgent need.

“There is a part of me that says we should fight all this out in the open -- that we shouldn’t be afraid of these people who want to silence us. On the other hand, there are too many instances of people who nowadays receive real threats to their families and careers, particularly young, vulnerable untenured academics,” he said. “They sometimes face a choice, or perceive a choice, between not publishing something and risking all these terrible consequences. We want to provide a way to avoid that dilemma.”

McMahan said he doubted that he or Singer, as senior scholars, would publish pseudonymously, but stressed that other academics need options.

The journal will help verify authorship to institutions in a secure way, so that contributors may receive credit for their work for promotion and tenure purposes, he said. And authors may shed their pseudonyms at any time.

Minerva did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the journal. But McMahan said she faced serious threats after she co-authored a 2012 article discussing whether the same arguments that apply to abortion can applied to “after-birth abortion.” (The article did not argue that the latter was a good alternative to the former.) McMahan mentioned the backlash against Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College who published a 2017 article comparing being transracial to being transgender in the journal Hypatia, as another example of why the new journal is needed.

Commenting on the general climate for academics, McMahan said that students at the American University of Beirut attempted to disinvite and then shout him down during a recent speech there, over a what he described as his vague affiliation with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, even though he has otherwise been a vocal critic of Israel's policies on Palestinians.

Other instances of threats against academics, some explicit, and attempts to censor their speech, abound.

In short, it’s hard out here for an academic. But is assuming a fake name a valid response?

Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and editor of the philosophy blog Daily Nous, wrote in a post there that it’s thus far unclear whether the “creation of such a journal will foster more of ‘a culture of fear and self-censorship’ compared to other options,” or if it “plays into and reinforces expertise-undermining misconceptions about academia bandied about in popular media that may have negative effects.”

Yet, given that the founding team “is comprised of people noted for views that emphasize empirical facts and consequences,” he wrote, “one might reasonably hope for a public discussion of such evidence and arguments.”

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said he didn’t know if the AAUP had ever before weighed in on the idea of pseudonymous publications. Yet the organization’s Statement on Professional Ethics clearly states that professors should “practice intellectual honesty,” he noted.

“That could be extended to mean a prohibition on pseudonyms, but not necessarily,” Reichman said. “And there is surely precedent.” Pen names are common in literature and have occasionally been used in scholarship, he said, citing George Kennan’s “X Article,” which turned out to be the seminal statement on containment. Kennan at the time did not have an academic position, however, he noted.

Reichman further mused as to whether there was a meaningful difference between assuming anonymity versus pseudonyms. Anonymity at least “makes clear that identity is being hidden,” he said. Of course, pseudonyms are the very public premise of the new journal.

Speaking for himself and not the AAUP, Reichman said he understood the motivation behind the journal, since “faculty members have been under vicious assault for their research.” But he said he doubted whether pseudonyms were an effective solution, since harassment of faculty members “rarely, I think, stems from what they've published in professional journals, but more from statements made to the media,” such as op-eds, letters to the editor and TV interviews, or on social media or in the classroom. That's indeed the case in many recent examples of threats against professors.

He also cited a risk of people trying to uncover authors’ real identities, which he guessed might not be difficult in some instances.

Aside from ethics, Reichman said there is “potential for abuse” of such a journal, in that “academic research is generally assessed by peers in open discussion and debate.” And what if any author publishes one view under one name and a slightly different one under a real one? Or self-plagiarizes? Still, Reichman said, “it seems an interesting if potentially dangerous endeavor.”

Heterodox Academy, a group of several thousand scholars working to promote viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding and constructive disagreement, has criticized some of the same academic and cultural dynamics that have birthed The Journal of Controversial Ideas. Debra Mashek, the group’s executive director and a professor of psychology at Harvey Mudd College, said in a statement that she applauded the journal organizers’ efforts to “advance scholarship that raises difficult questions and confronts readers with challenging findings.” It’s “unfortunate -- for scholars, as well as for the production and use of knowledge -- that the current climate in many disciplines doesn't unabashedly encourage, celebrate or enable such exploration,” she said.

And while a peer-reviewed journal with rigorous evaluation criteria “could provide anonymous scholars with a short-term mechanism for advancing open inquiry,” Mashek said, “the health of the academy ultimately depends on people engaging colleagues constructively and respectfully across lines of difference. Anonymity should not be an essential ingredient.”

Musa al-Gharbi, a senior fellow for Heterodox Academy and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Columbia University, also praised the mission of helping “get otherwise taboo ideas in the open.” That’s provided that the journal is open access with a rigorous peer-review process undertaken by experts in relevant subfields, he said -- something that could prove difficult with submissions coming from a range of disciplines.

Absent that kind of effective peer review, he said, such a project could end up “as a repository for inflammatory, half-cooked work that would not have made it through review in disciplinary journals for legitimate reasons,” not just problems related to bias.

As for pseudonyms, al-Gharbi said that taking a public position “is important because it helps create permission and a model for others to stand up, as well.”

Via email, he added that “Successfully changing the dynamics will require people not only to trade provocative ideas behind a veil of anonymity, but also to stand up and refuse to go along with the prevailing orthodoxies -- to leverage, and indeed stake, their social capital on holding the line, and even pushing back against censorious trends.”

Heterodox Academy, for instance, doesn’t allow for anonymous membership, since “membership is a meaningful commitment precisely because it is public.”

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