‘Pulse’ podcast features interview with leaders of Labster

This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Mikkel Marfelt and Aaron Knox of Labster, which develops interactive laboratory simulations.

In the interview with “The Pulse” host Rodney B. Murray, …

This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Mikkel Marfelt and Aaron Knox of Labster, which develops interactive laboratory simulations.

In the interview with “The Pulse” host Rodney B. Murray, Marfelt and Knox discuss how lab simulations can be used in STEM courses and online programs alike.

“The Pulse” is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, produced by Murray, executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.

Teaching With Technology
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Study suggests that gossip fails to punish senior scholars

Almost anyone who works in academe has to navigate a complex world of gossip and reputation, which in theory keeps certain types of bad behavior — such as mistreating students or stealing ideas from colleagues — in check.

It operates when a formal p…

Almost anyone who works in academe has to navigate a complex world of gossip and reputation, which in theory keeps certain types of bad behavior -- such as mistreating students or stealing ideas from colleagues -- in check.

It operates when a formal punishment might be too heavy-handed, or concrete evidence of wrongdoing too difficult to gather.

But a new study based on about 250 anonymous interviews with scientists in the United States, Britain and India about their gossiping habits suggests that this informal system often fails to hold back wrongdoers in positions of power, who continue to enjoy stellar careers despite it being common knowledge that their research is “sloppy” or their labs miserable places to work.

Even though these scientists believed that gossip was an effective way to police behavior, “when targets are of higher status, gossip doesn’t seem to do much more than vent frustrations,” said Brandon Vaidyanathan, the study’s co-author and a researcher at the University of Notre Dame.

In one example, a biology professor at an Indian university was well known for abusing research students -- including throwing sandals at them -- but still received a steady stream of students willing to work with him, despite his former victims putting up posters on campus warning that life in his lab was “hell.”

“These warnings weren’t taken seriously,” explained Vaidyanathan. “In fact, some thought it was a ploy by previous students to keep the competition away.”

Gossip often fails to dent the careers of senior researchers with shoddy research, the study also concluded. One U.K.-based lecturer in theoretical physics said that “some well-known people have a reputation for sloppy work.” Even though their work has “limited weight” among their peers owing to back channels of gossip, they were still published in high-profile journals, he said.

The academic gossip network can also backfire and be used maliciously to discredit rivals, the study, “Gossip as social control? Informal sanctions on ethical violations in scientific workplaces,” published in Social Problems, warns.

One U.K.-based faculty member in physics recounted how a senior colleague started spreading negative rumors about him, leading to others withdrawing from collaborations.

Although the study did uncover examples of gossip having a positive effect -- for example, where supervisors warned other institutions off employing their postdoctoral students owing to their “dodgy” research -- scientists need to understand that it does not always work, Vaidyanathan argued.

“Many scientists we talked to expressed considerable confidence in the self-policing power of gossip, and our article wants to call this confidence into question,” he said.

The study found that gossip was used to police what it calls “normal misbehavior” -- ethical failures that undermine the scientific enterprise but are not seen as being as serious as outright data fabrication, falsification or plagiarism -- which scientists were “often reticent or unable to take formal action against.”

This “normal misbehavior” includes the misuse of research funds, taking undue authorship of papers and publishing “sloppy” research to beat more meticulous rivals to publication.

But, Vaidyanathan suggested, it is unclear what would replace gossip as a means of ensuring good behavior. “Like the scientists we spoke to, we’re not sure that formal mechanisms can be easily instituted to address concerns that become the topic of gossip,” he said.

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Novelists love to write about professors. Will they start to write more about those off the tenure track?

Few professions seem more ripe for fictionalization than that of the academic. Maybe that’s because writers have some things in common with professors: a typically long and trying initiation period, dedication to a life of the mind, and healthy portions of criticism. Many writers also teach.

So far, though, most mainstream fictional portrayals of academic life show professors on the tenure track, living relatively comfortable lives — if only materially — and enjoying some degree of job security. Or if they have less job security, it’s because they didn’t earn tenure. That’s to say writers haven’t yet caught up to the new reality of academe: that landing a tenure-track job these days can be as hard as landing a book deal.

Not so, though, for Nathan Hill, author of The Nix. The book, recently released by Alfred A. Knopf to much acclaim, casts as its central character not a tenure-track professor, but rather an adjunct professor teaching at a Chicago-area college.

The book refers to Samuel Anderson as an assistant professor, but various interviews with Hill have described his main character, a frustrated writer who teaches one introductory literature class and who struggles with mounting credit card debt, as an adjunct. Hill told Inside Higher Ed that he imagined Anderson as not on the tenure track, and “definitely outside the department looking in.”

Hill is a tenured associate professor of English at the University of St. Thomas. But before landing that job, he spent time teaching writing off the tenure track at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Nix reads as several books in one, and the protagonist’s path to eventually writing a book about his estranged mother’s past as a political radical takes him well beyond the classroom; it’s not just a book about being an adjunct. But Hill’s descriptions of the adjunct life — primarily Anderson’s financial struggles — will resonate with some.

Anderson also falls into a manipulative student’s plan to smear his reputation after he accuses her (rightly) of blatant plagiarism; after a long, often comic conversation in which she accuses him of various offenses — such as trying to coerce her into sex — he tells her she simply isn’t “very smart,” and “not a very good person, either.”

The professor eventually loses his job after the student tells a dean his classroom isn’t a “safe space” (although the student isn’t quite sure what that means), and after she creates a student group dedicated solely to revealing Anderson’s use of college computers to play World of Elfcraft — an obvious play on the game World of Warcraft — many hours a day.

While many adjuncts might relate to feelings of precarity when it comes to defending themselves against student complaints, having time at work to play World of Elfcraft — or any game at all — will probably sound foreign. That’s because many adjuncts commute between campuses to try to string together the equivalent of a full-time job in order to make ends meet.

Still, The Nix does a better job than most novels of portraying the challenges of what is now the majority of the professoriate. (As a side note, many professors will probably appreciate Hill’s references to students hiding their phones in their laps and asking if work “counts” before completing it, whether or not they’re on the tenure track — if not Anderson’s apparent antipathy toward teaching over all.)

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, for example, portrays Chip Lambert, its academic character, as down-and-out only after he loses his tenure-track job — in part because he embarks on an affair with a student. Coleman Silk in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain is a dean and professor of classics whose life falls apart only after he’s forced out of his college following allegations of racism by two students. Ted Swenson in Francine Prose’s Blue Angel long enjoyed a steady job as a college writing instructor before considering an affair. And Richard Russo’s William Henry Devereaux Jr. experiences something of a midlife crisis while serving as tenured chair of an unwieldy English department in Straight Man. (Somewhat interestingly, Russo does feature an adjunct as a secondary character — the daughter of a colleague who tries to seduce Devereaux with peaches. “Will I be teaching in the fall?” Meg asks Devereaux. “You should let us adjuncts into your union.”)

In an example from theater, one-half of the miserable married couple at the heart of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George, is an associate professor of history. He has plenty of unhappiness but isn’t worried about where he will teach the next semester. (His wife, Martha, is his college president’s daughter.)

So will fiction featuring adjuncts become more common going forward? Hill said he didn’t know, but that he wouldn’t be surprised, “given that fiction is often about people in trouble, and adjuncts are in trouble. They are often overworked, underpaid, lacking basic economic protections like health insurance and retirement plans and job security.”

And given that many writers are themselves adjuncts, he added, recalling his own experience off the tenure track, “I would expect to see more of their stories in literature. I certainly hope so, anyway.”

While The Nix is one of the first novels featuring a character who happens to be an adjunct (The New York Times called it “the love child of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace”), it is not the first novel about adjuncts. Alex Kudera, who has spent many years as a non-tenure-track professor of English, made waves in 2010 with his book about Cyrus “Duffy” Duffleman, a Philadelphia-area adjunct who travels around the city to five different jobs. Fight for Your Long Day traces Duffleman’s steps and the various indignities he experiences inside the classroom and out. He’s always running late, for example, and is wrongly accused of sleeping with a student by a college counselor, but still shows dedication to his work.

Kudera published Auggie’s Revenge, which touches on similar themes and features as adjunct as its central character, earlier this year. Hinting that some audiences aren’t quite ready for a full-on fictionalized takedown of adjunct issues, he said via email that his work might be “a more brutal version of socioeconomic America than relatively affluent urban readers like to see in their novels.”

Gordon Haber, a former adjunct instructor of writing and author of the short novel Adjunctivitis, said that American literary fiction has been “lagging behind the larger concerns of the culture.” And because fiction “is basically a middle-class pursuit,” he added, “it’s taken writers a long time to wake up to the fact that the middle class is getting screwed, too. It’s only been relatively recently that people are realizing that contingent labor is a white-collar issue as well — it’s not just Walmart greeters struggling to get full employment.”

So it’s only now that “we’re starting to see adjuncts in American fiction about the academy, as opposed to the usual tenured-white-middle-aged-male-professor-in-crisis academic satire,” Haber said.

Despite being troubling, Haber suggested, adjunct-centered novels have the potential to be even more entertaining than their tenure-centric predecessors.

“When I was a freeway flier in Los Angeles, I saw there was a story in it — my problems as a teacher, the exhaustion, anxiety, poverty, overwork — echoed the problems that many of my students faced, especially my community college students,” he said. “Combine that with the indifference of the administration, the contempt from academics with more secure jobs — it sounds quite grim, and it is, but whenever life is shitty you also have a rich possibility for comedy.”

To Haber’s point — and to the larger question about whether adjuncts will play a bigger role in the U.S. cultural consciousness — Saturday Night Live just last month featured a sketch about a new “comedy” series about a family of adjunct professors “who are all diagnosed with depression on the same day.”

Adjuncts
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Few professions seem more ripe for fictionalization than that of the academic. Maybe that's because writers have some things in common with professors: a typically long and trying initiation period, dedication to a life of the mind, and healthy portions of criticism. Many writers also teach.

So far, though, most mainstream fictional portrayals of academic life show professors on the tenure track, living relatively comfortable lives -- if only materially -- and enjoying some degree of job security. Or if they have less job security, it's because they didn't earn tenure. That’s to say writers haven’t yet caught up to the new reality of academe: that landing a tenure-track job these days can be as hard as landing a book deal.

Not so, though, for Nathan Hill, author of The Nix. The book, recently released by Alfred A. Knopf to much acclaim, casts as its central character not a tenure-track professor, but rather an adjunct professor teaching at a Chicago-area college.

The book refers to Samuel Anderson as an assistant professor, but various interviews with Hill have described his main character, a frustrated writer who teaches one introductory literature class and who struggles with mounting credit card debt, as an adjunct. Hill told Inside Higher Ed that he imagined Anderson as not on the tenure track, and “definitely outside the department looking in.”

Hill is a tenured associate professor of English at the University of St. Thomas. But before landing that job, he spent time teaching writing off the tenure track at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Nix reads as several books in one, and the protagonist’s path to eventually writing a book about his estranged mother’s past as a political radical takes him well beyond the classroom; it's not just a book about being an adjunct. But Hill’s descriptions of the adjunct life -- primarily Anderson’s financial struggles -- will resonate with some.

Anderson also falls into a manipulative student’s plan to smear his reputation after he accuses her (rightly) of blatant plagiarism; after a long, often comic conversation in which she accuses him of various offenses -- such as trying to coerce her into sex -- he tells her she simply isn’t "very smart," and "not a very good person, either."

The professor eventually loses his job after the student tells a dean his classroom isn't a "safe space" (although the student isn’t quite sure what that means), and after she creates a student group dedicated solely to revealing Anderson’s use of college computers to play World of Elfcraft -- an obvious play on the game World of Warcraft -- many hours a day.

While many adjuncts might relate to feelings of precarity when it comes to defending themselves against student complaints, having time at work to play World of Elfcraft -- or any game at all -- will probably sound foreign. That’s because many adjuncts commute between campuses to try to string together the equivalent of a full-time job in order to make ends meet.

Still, The Nix does a better job than most novels of portraying the challenges of what is now the majority of the professoriate. (As a side note, many professors will probably appreciate Hill’s references to students hiding their phones in their laps and asking if work “counts” before completing it, whether or not they’re on the tenure track -- if not Anderson’s apparent antipathy toward teaching over all.)

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, for example, portrays Chip Lambert, its academic character, as down-and-out only after he loses his tenure-track job -- in part because he embarks on an affair with a student. Coleman Silk in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain is a dean and professor of classics whose life falls apart only after he’s forced out of his college following allegations of racism by two students. Ted Swenson in Francine Prose’s Blue Angel long enjoyed a steady job as a college writing instructor before considering an affair. And Richard Russo’s William Henry Devereaux Jr. experiences something of a midlife crisis while serving as tenured chair of an unwieldy English department in Straight Man. (Somewhat interestingly, Russo does feature an adjunct as a secondary character -- the daughter of a colleague who tries to seduce Devereaux with peaches. “Will I be teaching in the fall?” Meg asks Devereaux. “You should let us adjuncts into your union.”)

In an example from theater, one-half of the miserable married couple at the heart of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, George, is an associate professor of history. He has plenty of unhappiness but isn't worried about where he will teach the next semester. (His wife, Martha, is his college president’s daughter.)

So will fiction featuring adjuncts become more common going forward? Hill said he didn’t know, but that he wouldn’t be surprised, “given that fiction is often about people in trouble, and adjuncts are in trouble. They are often overworked, underpaid, lacking basic economic protections like health insurance and retirement plans and job security.”

And given that many writers are themselves adjuncts, he added, recalling his own experience off the tenure track, “I would expect to see more of their stories in literature. I certainly hope so, anyway.”

While The Nix is one of the first novels featuring a character who happens to be an adjunct (The New York Times called it "the love child of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace"), it is not the first novel about adjuncts. Alex Kudera, who has spent many years as a non-tenure-track professor of English, made waves in 2010 with his book about Cyrus “Duffy” Duffleman, a Philadelphia-area adjunct who travels around the city to five different jobs. Fight for Your Long Day traces Duffleman’s steps and the various indignities he experiences inside the classroom and out. He’s always running late, for example, and is wrongly accused of sleeping with a student by a college counselor, but still shows dedication to his work.

Kudera published Auggie’s Revenge, which touches on similar themes and features as adjunct as its central character, earlier this year. Hinting that some audiences aren’t quite ready for a full-on fictionalized takedown of adjunct issues, he said via email that his work might be “a more brutal version of socioeconomic America than relatively affluent urban readers like to see in their novels.”

Gordon Haber, a former adjunct instructor of writing and author of the short novel Adjunctivitis, said that American literary fiction has been “lagging behind the larger concerns of the culture.” And because fiction “is basically a middle-class pursuit,” he added, “it’s taken writers a long time to wake up to the fact that the middle class is getting screwed, too. It's only been relatively recently that people are realizing that contingent labor is a white-collar issue as well -- it's not just Walmart greeters struggling to get full employment.”

So it's only now that “we're starting to see adjuncts in American fiction about the academy, as opposed to the usual tenured-white-middle-aged-male-professor-in-crisis academic satire,” Haber said.

Despite being troubling, Haber suggested, adjunct-centered novels have the potential to be even more entertaining than their tenure-centric predecessors.

“When I was a freeway flier in Los Angeles, I saw there was a story in it -- my problems as a teacher, the exhaustion, anxiety, poverty, overwork -- echoed the problems that many of my students faced, especially my community college students,” he said. “Combine that with the indifference of the administration, the contempt from academics with more secure jobs -- it sounds quite grim, and it is, but whenever life is shitty you also have a rich possibility for comedy.”

To Haber’s point -- and to the larger question about whether adjuncts will play a bigger role in the U.S. cultural consciousness -- Saturday Night Live just last month featured a sketch about a new “comedy” series about a family of adjunct professors “who are all diagnosed with depression on the same day.”

Adjuncts
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Dillard University stands by decision to host debate, even when David Duke is candidate

Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough walked a fine line under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks — and more scrutiny is likely coming.

The private 1,200-student university in New Orleans, a historically black institution, agreed weeks ago to host a debate Wednesday night between candidates for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat. When it agreed to host the debate, the university did not know which candidates would be participating. But the debate vaulted to prominence when white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke narrowly polled above a cutoff to take part.

Duke’s presence generated outrage among students and others who charged that a racist should not be welcome on a campus with a mission of educating African-Americans. Protesters attempted to gain entry to the auditorium where the debate was hosted, even though debate producer Raycom Media decided not to allow an audience in the building. Reports said police deployed pepper spray and protesters attempted to block Duke from leaving campus.

Inside during the debate, which was televised nationally, candidates attacked Duke, and he became embroiled in arguments with his opponents and the evening’s moderator. At one point he denied being a supremacist, saying he believes in equal rights for all and that the media spreads “hate propaganda” against white people.

In an email after the debate, Kimbrough called the night disappointing but informative. There are lessons to be learned by all, he wrote.

“Racial tension is really high, and even the presence of someone who is not a serious candidate caused emotions to run high,” the Dillard president wrote. “While most of the protesters were not students, our [Student Government Association] held a watch party that actually had more students than the protest.”

The scenes on Dillard’s campus played out after Kimbrough and Dillard’s administration took steps in recent weeks to downplay Duke’s visit to campus. The university issued two statements over four days that only referred to Duke by name once. The first, which named Duke, pointed out that the university did not set the rules for the debate and that it does not endorse any candidates appearing. The second did not name Duke but said that Dillard stood by its contractual obligation to host the debate. It continued by saying the university believes in educating its student body and stands in opposition to anyone who would deny opportunity to any citizens.

Days later, before the debate, Kimbrough said that Duke is not important. His participation in the debate would allow Dillard an opportunity to share its own values and tradition of hosting many types of people on its campus, the president said.

Kimbrough explained his reasoning for continuing to host the debate during an interview Wednesday morning, hours before candidates took the stage. The university intended to honor its contract with the media company producing the debate, television station owner Raycom, he said. But beyond that, he said he values different opinions being expressed on college and university campuses.

“If we’re trying to get out of it because one person is coming to campus, that’s a problem for me in terms of what I value,” Kimbrough said. “That’s one of the criticisms of higher ed: we don’t accept diverse opinions.”

Still, many were unhappy with the university’s decision in the days leading up to the debate. The New Orleans Advocate quoted alumnus E’Jaaz Ammaad Mason, who said he planned to go to campus Wednesday because of Duke’s participation in the debate.

“This person has fought for the disenfranchisement of black people in America,” Mason told The Advocate. “We can’t allow him to just show up without our voices being heard.”

One Facebook commenter commended Dillard for taking the high road before saying that many people were still angry about Duke’s inclusion.

Meanwhile, a public letter from a group called Socially Engaged Dillard University Students blasted Duke’s presence on campus, saying it subjected students to safety risks and social ridicule. The letter dismissed the idea that Dillard had to follow its contract to host the debate.

“Dr. Kimbrough, respectfully, this response is specious,” the letter said. “You are the president of a historically black college whose mere presence is anathema to everything David Duke promotes. Instead of denying the presence of this terrorist onto our campus, you have assured his safety by Dillard University armed police, against us, your Dillard University student body. We write to you today not only to express our hurt and shame but also to fight for our ancestors and their struggles. How dare this administration stand for Duke’s ‘safety’ and not fight for our security and right to learn in a healthy space.”

Although Duke is no longer a Klan leader, he has made racial stances a key part of his campaign. His campaign website charges that affirmative action is “institutionalized racial discrimination” against whites and likens illegal immigration to an ethnic cleansing against whites. Duke’s official website is filled with anti-Jewish writing.

In Wednesday’s interview, Kimbrough said it is the role of other candidates to confront Duke. He wondered why parties were calling on the university to give up the debate instead of asking other candidates not to share the stage with Duke. It was fine that some students would protest, Kimbrough said, but he did not want the controversy to be a platform for Duke, a candidate who is polling far behind in the race, to gain publicity.

“You’re doing this to make yourselves feel good, maybe,” Kimbrough said. “But he doesn’t have a chance. He’s not going to hear you protest, and he doesn’t care. Let’s move on.”

Duke qualified for the debate by polling at 5.1 percent among a poll of likely voters conducted between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19. He was just above the cutoff to appear on the debate stage, which was 5 percent. He was also far behind the other candidates — Duke was closest to Republican Representative John Fleming, who garnered 10.2 percent in the poll. Republican Representative Charles Boustany came in at 11.4 percent, Democrat Caroline Fayard polled at 12 percent, Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell came in at 18.9 percent and Republican John Kennedy, who is the state’s treasurer, notched 24.2 percent.

The two candidates receiving the most votes next week will participate in a runoff in December that decides who wins the Senate seat.

Kimbrough had questioned the polling used to determine Duke’s eligibility. Other polls showed him at 2 percent, not 5.1 percent, the president said. He took to Twitter, saying the polling was rigged for ratings.

#myDU pretty clear polling rigged as Trump would say for ratings. Any protests become part of reality show masquerading as news. #WakeUp

— Walter M. Kimbrough (@HipHopPrez) November 2, 2016

Duke could gain notoriety for participating in the debate on Dillard’s campus, Kimbrough said in his Wednesday interview. But Dillard faced real consequences if it backed out of its hosting plans. The university has become known for hosting political debates, and backing out could jeopardize its standing.

“The long-term damage could be Dillard never does any more debates,” Kimbrough said. “We do a lot of them. We’re going to do the runoff debate that another network is doing.”

Kimbrough added that he did not want to give Duke additional press coverage by confronting Duke or refusing to allow him on campus. Instead, he wanted to use the situation to challenge students to look beyond the headlines. Other candidates with a viable chance of winning the election participated in the debate, Kimbrough said. Louisiana senators have been critical in helping the university recover from Hurricane Katrina. And ballot initiatives could affect higher education in Louisiana — a measure on the ballot would allow boards of public higher education systems to set tuition and fees without permission from legislators.

“I just keep trying to put it in perspective,” Kimbrough said. “I’m just trying to find ways for us to have conversations about what are our core values and beliefs. There are lots of learning opportunities. What kind of conversations can we have about the purpose of media and news?”

Kimbrough was confident in his course of action because he had the backing of his Board of Trustees. He contacted trustees immediately upon learning that Duke would be in the debate, he said. Kimbrough wanted to talk to his board to make sure he wasn’t the only one who felt hosting was the best option.

The responses he received were unanimous: host the debate.

Kimbrough’s overall strategy has been to try to minimize Duke’s participation while trying instead to shift attention to Dillard’s work. During Wednesday’s interview, he discussed Dillard University Theater opening its season with performances dealing with issues raised by the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, as well as on-campus efforts to register students to vote.

“People will say having this kind of person on an historically black campus is an offense to the nature of the institution,” Kimbrough said. “I understand that. I just believe that our brand and what we do on a day-to-day basis is bigger than that.”

Kimbrough also said that Duke spoke at Dillard four decades ago. Duke recently told TV station WWL that he spoke to 1,500 black students, saying many gave him “a very polite reception.”

Compared to that appearance, Duke’s sharing the stage with five other candidates would be relatively minor, Kimbrough argued.

“This is back when he was in the Klan, he spoke at Dillard,” Kimbrough said. “This was ’74, ’75. This was card-carrying Klansman David Duke speaking at Dillard.”

Kimbrough also pointed out that Dillard is an institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.

“As people of faith, to me our faith is stronger than one person who says things that might be hateful,” he said. “To me, that’s a Christian thing to do, to say he’s welcome to come on our campus and participate in this debate because he has qualified to run for Senate.”

Wednesday night, however, observers on social media questioned Duke’s appearance.

I’m all for this.

I love Dillard. Spoke there this year.

HELL NO, though. You don’t allow David Duke EVER speak on a black college campus https://t.co/XdHedwAMU4

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) November 3, 2016

2016 Election
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David Duke
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Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough walked a fine line under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks -- and more scrutiny is likely coming.

The private 1,200-student university in New Orleans, a historically black institution, agreed weeks ago to host a debate Wednesday night between candidates for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat. When it agreed to host the debate, the university did not know which candidates would be participating. But the debate vaulted to prominence when white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke narrowly polled above a cutoff to take part.

Duke’s presence generated outrage among students and others who charged that a racist should not be welcome on a campus with a mission of educating African-Americans. Protesters attempted to gain entry to the auditorium where the debate was hosted, even though debate producer Raycom Media decided not to allow an audience in the building. Reports said police deployed pepper spray and protesters attempted to block Duke from leaving campus.

Inside during the debate, which was televised nationally, candidates attacked Duke, and he became embroiled in arguments with his opponents and the evening's moderator. At one point he denied being a supremacist, saying he believes in equal rights for all and that the media spreads "hate propaganda" against white people.

In an email after the debate, Kimbrough called the night disappointing but informative. There are lessons to be learned by all, he wrote.

"Racial tension is really high, and even the presence of someone who is not a serious candidate caused emotions to run high," the Dillard president wrote. "While most of the protesters were not students, our [Student Government Association] held a watch party that actually had more students than the protest."

The scenes on Dillard's campus played out after Kimbrough and Dillard’s administration took steps in recent weeks to downplay Duke’s visit to campus. The university issued two statements over four days that only referred to Duke by name once. The first, which named Duke, pointed out that the university did not set the rules for the debate and that it does not endorse any candidates appearing. The second did not name Duke but said that Dillard stood by its contractual obligation to host the debate. It continued by saying the university believes in educating its student body and stands in opposition to anyone who would deny opportunity to any citizens.

Days later, before the debate, Kimbrough said that Duke is not important. His participation in the debate would allow Dillard an opportunity to share its own values and tradition of hosting many types of people on its campus, the president said.

Kimbrough explained his reasoning for continuing to host the debate during an interview Wednesday morning, hours before candidates took the stage. The university intended to honor its contract with the media company producing the debate, television station owner Raycom, he said. But beyond that, he said he values different opinions being expressed on college and university campuses.

“If we’re trying to get out of it because one person is coming to campus, that’s a problem for me in terms of what I value,” Kimbrough said. “That’s one of the criticisms of higher ed: we don’t accept diverse opinions.”

Still, many were unhappy with the university’s decision in the days leading up to the debate. The New Orleans Advocate quoted alumnus E’Jaaz Ammaad Mason, who said he planned to go to campus Wednesday because of Duke’s participation in the debate.

“This person has fought for the disenfranchisement of black people in America,” Mason told The Advocate. “We can’t allow him to just show up without our voices being heard.”

One Facebook commenter commended Dillard for taking the high road before saying that many people were still angry about Duke’s inclusion.

Meanwhile, a public letter from a group called Socially Engaged Dillard University Students blasted Duke’s presence on campus, saying it subjected students to safety risks and social ridicule. The letter dismissed the idea that Dillard had to follow its contract to host the debate.

“Dr. Kimbrough, respectfully, this response is specious,” the letter said. “You are the president of a historically black college whose mere presence is anathema to everything David Duke promotes. Instead of denying the presence of this terrorist onto our campus, you have assured his safety by Dillard University armed police, against us, your Dillard University student body. We write to you today not only to express our hurt and shame but also to fight for our ancestors and their struggles. How dare this administration stand for Duke’s ‘safety’ and not fight for our security and right to learn in a healthy space.”

Although Duke is no longer a Klan leader, he has made racial stances a key part of his campaign. His campaign website charges that affirmative action is "institutionalized racial discrimination" against whites and likens illegal immigration to an ethnic cleansing against whites. Duke's official website is filled with anti-Jewish writing.

In Wednesday's interview, Kimbrough said it is the role of other candidates to confront Duke. He wondered why parties were calling on the university to give up the debate instead of asking other candidates not to share the stage with Duke. It was fine that some students would protest, Kimbrough said, but he did not want the controversy to be a platform for Duke, a candidate who is polling far behind in the race, to gain publicity.

“You’re doing this to make yourselves feel good, maybe,” Kimbrough said. “But he doesn’t have a chance. He’s not going to hear you protest, and he doesn’t care. Let’s move on.”

Duke qualified for the debate by polling at 5.1 percent among a poll of likely voters conducted between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19. He was just above the cutoff to appear on the debate stage, which was 5 percent. He was also far behind the other candidates -- Duke was closest to Republican Representative John Fleming, who garnered 10.2 percent in the poll. Republican Representative Charles Boustany came in at 11.4 percent, Democrat Caroline Fayard polled at 12 percent, Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell came in at 18.9 percent and Republican John Kennedy, who is the state's treasurer, notched 24.2 percent.

The two candidates receiving the most votes next week will participate in a runoff in December that decides who wins the Senate seat.

Kimbrough had questioned the polling used to determine Duke's eligibility. Other polls showed him at 2 percent, not 5.1 percent, the president said. He took to Twitter, saying the polling was rigged for ratings.

Duke could gain notoriety for participating in the debate on Dillard’s campus, Kimbrough said in his Wednesday interview. But Dillard faced real consequences if it backed out of its hosting plans. The university has become known for hosting political debates, and backing out could jeopardize its standing.

“The long-term damage could be Dillard never does any more debates,” Kimbrough said. “We do a lot of them. We’re going to do the runoff debate that another network is doing.”

Kimbrough added that he did not want to give Duke additional press coverage by confronting Duke or refusing to allow him on campus. Instead, he wanted to use the situation to challenge students to look beyond the headlines. Other candidates with a viable chance of winning the election participated in the debate, Kimbrough said. Louisiana senators have been critical in helping the university recover from Hurricane Katrina. And ballot initiatives could affect higher education in Louisiana -- a measure on the ballot would allow boards of public higher education systems to set tuition and fees without permission from legislators.

“I just keep trying to put it in perspective,” Kimbrough said. “I’m just trying to find ways for us to have conversations about what are our core values and beliefs. There are lots of learning opportunities. What kind of conversations can we have about the purpose of media and news?”

Kimbrough was confident in his course of action because he had the backing of his Board of Trustees. He contacted trustees immediately upon learning that Duke would be in the debate, he said. Kimbrough wanted to talk to his board to make sure he wasn’t the only one who felt hosting was the best option.

The responses he received were unanimous: host the debate.

Kimbrough’s overall strategy has been to try to minimize Duke’s participation while trying instead to shift attention to Dillard’s work. During Wednesday's interview, he discussed Dillard University Theater opening its season with performances dealing with issues raised by the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, as well as on-campus efforts to register students to vote.

“People will say having this kind of person on an historically black campus is an offense to the nature of the institution,” Kimbrough said. “I understand that. I just believe that our brand and what we do on a day-to-day basis is bigger than that.”

Kimbrough also said that Duke spoke at Dillard four decades ago. Duke recently told TV station WWL that he spoke to 1,500 black students, saying many gave him “a very polite reception.”

Compared to that appearance, Duke’s sharing the stage with five other candidates would be relatively minor, Kimbrough argued.

“This is back when he was in the Klan, he spoke at Dillard,” Kimbrough said. “This was ’74, ’75. This was card-carrying Klansman David Duke speaking at Dillard.”

Kimbrough also pointed out that Dillard is an institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.

“As people of faith, to me our faith is stronger than one person who says things that might be hateful,” he said. “To me, that’s a Christian thing to do, to say he’s welcome to come on our campus and participate in this debate because he has qualified to run for Senate.”

Wednesday night, however, observers on social media questioned Duke's appearance.

2016 Election
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CDC finds sharp growth in STDs in college-age population

It’s no surprise that young people have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. But last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported new findings that alarmed many campus health professionals.

The CDC found that the combined total cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the United States reached an unprecedented high in 2015 — and people age 15 to 24 accounted for a large number of these new cases.

There were over 1.5 million new cases of chlamydia, about 395,000 new cases of gonorrhea and nearly 24,000 cases of syphilis. The 15-24 age group accounted for 53 percent of gonorrhea cases and 65 percent of chlamydia cases. Syphilis was most commonly found among men who had sex with other men.

The relatively large proportion of young people among those contracting STDs is nothing new — young adults have always been the hardest hit with sexually transmitted diseases, said Lesley Eicher, health education coordinator and adjunct instructor at James Madison University Health Center.

Traditionally, college students fall into this age range. But when it comes to educating students on sexual health and offering testing and treatment for STDs, colleges and universities are scattershot. Some college health centers are investing multiple resources into sexual health education; others are not.

The University of Oregon is one institution that has added initiatives.

The university opened an STD screening clinic in September, where students can pay $15 to speak to a trained nurse. If needed, they can be tested, for an extra fee (except for HIV tests, which are free). The clinic is a success, now booked two weeks in advance, said Elisabeth Maxwell, health promotion specialist at the University of Oregon health center.

Oregon has also added two locations where students can pick up condoms. In addition to the health center, which has provided them for some time, students can now get safe sex supplies at the wellness center in the student union and at the recreation center, too. That’s not all — students are taking advantage, too. According to Maxwell, the university goes through 600 condoms per week.

Not every university provides these resources, and many report cuts in state support for prevention efforts.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison, for instance, used to offer screenings free of charge to students and nonstudents in the local area. But although it still serves students, the university stopped community screenings after state funding was cut.

Still, though, the free screenings for students are a vital resource. In addition, after the CDC data were released, administrators at University Health Services have been discussing how to reach out to high-risk patients and close the gap in the university’s educational outreach and screenings, according to William Kinsey, director of medical services at Madison.

Explaining the Increases

Although the data indicate that cases of these STDs are on the rise for the second year in a row, especially among young people, it doesn’t tell us why they are increasing, according to Donnica Smalls of the CDC. But experts certainly have theories.

The college age group is “a tough population for everything,” said Maxwell. “It’s a tough population for drugs and alcohol, a tough population for sexual health, a tough population for consent.”

In other words, it may be difficult for adolescents and young adults to approach decisions and conversations regarding these topics. Those concerns are bound up in other barriers, too, such as embarrassment in discussing risky behaviors or concerns about confidentiality, said Smalls.

It’s not enough for higher education institutions to assume that students have been educated on sexual health before they reach college, said Diane Straub, chief of the adolescent medicine division and professor of pediatric health at the University of South Florida.

Instead, colleges must be proactive in education and prevention.

For one example: at the University of Oregon, six peer educators work through the wellness center to help educate students living in residence halls, fraternities and sororities on the topic of sexual health.

Universities should also make sexual health a priority during orientation, when students should be informed on their legal rights, said Straub. Often students avoid consulting a doctor or getting tested for STDs because they are afraid the bill will be sent to their parents. But many of those students are unaware of the privacy laws regarding STDs and are subsequently unaware that those medical records can remain confidential, even from their parents.

In addition, sexual health must be addressed in a comprehensive way, Straub said. That means educators must acknowledge that STDs are connected to conversations about contraceptives, and those conversations are related to discussions about consent. It’s important to tie these topics together, she said.

Colleges should also follow the example of Oregon and Wisconsin and provide contraceptives, screening and testing to their students, Straub said. “If we don’t address this now, it’s going to spiral out of control.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Promotional materials for condoms at U of Oregon
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It's no surprise that young people have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. But last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported new findings that alarmed many campus health professionals.

The CDC found that the combined total cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the United States reached an unprecedented high in 2015 -- and people age 15 to 24 accounted for a large number of these new cases.

There were over 1.5 million new cases of chlamydia, about 395,000 new cases of gonorrhea and nearly 24,000 cases of syphilis. The 15-24 age group accounted for 53 percent of gonorrhea cases and 65 percent of chlamydia cases. Syphilis was most commonly found among men who had sex with other men.

The relatively large proportion of young people among those contracting STDs is nothing new -- young adults have always been the hardest hit with sexually transmitted diseases, said Lesley Eicher, health education coordinator and adjunct instructor at James Madison University Health Center.

Traditionally, college students fall into this age range. But when it comes to educating students on sexual health and offering testing and treatment for STDs, colleges and universities are scattershot. Some college health centers are investing multiple resources into sexual health education; others are not.

The University of Oregon is one institution that has added initiatives.

The university opened an STD screening clinic in September, where students can pay $15 to speak to a trained nurse. If needed, they can be tested, for an extra fee (except for HIV tests, which are free). The clinic is a success, now booked two weeks in advance, said Elisabeth Maxwell, health promotion specialist at the University of Oregon health center.

Oregon has also added two locations where students can pick up condoms. In addition to the health center, which has provided them for some time, students can now get safe sex supplies at the wellness center in the student union and at the recreation center, too. That's not all -- students are taking advantage, too. According to Maxwell, the university goes through 600 condoms per week.

Not every university provides these resources, and many report cuts in state support for prevention efforts.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison, for instance, used to offer screenings free of charge to students and nonstudents in the local area. But although it still serves students, the university stopped community screenings after state funding was cut.

Still, though, the free screenings for students are a vital resource. In addition, after the CDC data were released, administrators at University Health Services have been discussing how to reach out to high-risk patients and close the gap in the university’s educational outreach and screenings, according to William Kinsey, director of medical services at Madison.

Explaining the Increases

Although the data indicate that cases of these STDs are on the rise for the second year in a row, especially among young people, it doesn’t tell us why they are increasing, according to Donnica Smalls of the CDC. But experts certainly have theories.

The college age group is “a tough population for everything,” said Maxwell. “It’s a tough population for drugs and alcohol, a tough population for sexual health, a tough population for consent.”

In other words, it may be difficult for adolescents and young adults to approach decisions and conversations regarding these topics. Those concerns are bound up in other barriers, too, such as embarrassment in discussing risky behaviors or concerns about confidentiality, said Smalls.

It’s not enough for higher education institutions to assume that students have been educated on sexual health before they reach college, said Diane Straub, chief of the adolescent medicine division and professor of pediatric health at the University of South Florida.

Instead, colleges must be proactive in education and prevention.

For one example: at the University of Oregon, six peer educators work through the wellness center to help educate students living in residence halls, fraternities and sororities on the topic of sexual health.

Universities should also make sexual health a priority during orientation, when students should be informed on their legal rights, said Straub. Often students avoid consulting a doctor or getting tested for STDs because they are afraid the bill will be sent to their parents. But many of those students are unaware of the privacy laws regarding STDs and are subsequently unaware that those medical records can remain confidential, even from their parents.

In addition, sexual health must be addressed in a comprehensive way, Straub said. That means educators must acknowledge that STDs are connected to conversations about contraceptives, and those conversations are related to discussions about consent. It's important to tie these topics together, she said.

Colleges should also follow the example of Oregon and Wisconsin and provide contraceptives, screening and testing to their students, Straub said. “If we don’t address this now, it’s going to spiral out of control.”

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Promotional materials for condoms at U of Oregon
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2016 ballot measures that have an impact on higher education

Overshadowed by a contentious presidential race and numerous statewide races are ballot items that could have a meaningful impact on higher education in numerous states. Here are summaries:

Alabama

  • Amendment 1: In an attempt to increase diversity on Auburn University’s Board of Trustees, this amendment would add two additional members. Currently, there are 14 members, 12 of whom are men;  and 13 of whom are white. There are no race or gender requirements on the proposed new seats. The amendment would also ensure that no more than three members of the board have terms that expire in the same year.

Alaska

  • Ballot Measure No. 2: This measure would let Alaska issue bonds for postsecondary student loans (currently, the law only allows state debt for capital projects, housing loans for veterans and military defense). This would be an amendment to the state constitution.

Arkansas

  • Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6: This measure would legalize medical marijuana. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be allocated to technical institutes, vocational schools and workforce training.

California

  • Proposition 51: This measure would create a School Facilities Fund — funded by the sale of bonds — that would give $2 billion to California Community Colleges to construct and renovate facilities (along with another $7 billion for K-12 schools).
  • Proposition 55: This measure would extend personal income taxes for community colleges (and health care and public K-12) after funding was lost in the recession. The tax would apply to single tax filers who make at least $263,000 in taxable income and joint filers who make at least $526,000 in taxable income. It’s predicted that the tax would generate between $4 billion and $9 billion in revenue each year. 
  • Proposition 56: This measure would increase tobacco taxes an additional $2 per pack; $40 million from the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 Fund would go to the University of California to fund medical education. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of primary care and emergency physicians trained in California. 
  • Proposition 64: This measure would legalize marijuana. The state will use part of the money it earns from marijuana taxes ($10 million per year) to fund to research about the “implementation and effect of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

Colorado

  • Amendment 72: This measure would increase the tobacco tax from 84 cents to $1.75 per pack. Of the funds generated in its first year, $17 million would go to a fund for student loan debt repayment and professional training tracks targeted at medical professionals. 

Louisiana

  • Proposed Amendment 2: This measure would allow boards of the public higher education systems to determine tuition and fees without permission from the state legislature.

New Mexico 

  • Bond Question C: This concerns the 2016 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act, which would issue $142,356,000 to spend on higher education, special schools and tribal schools.

Oklahoma

  • State question 779: Also known as the One Percent Sales Tax, this would create a limited purpose fund for public education by increasing the state sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. It’s estimated that this tax would generate $615 million per year in revenue. Concerning higher education, 19.25 percent would go to the institutions under the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education; 3.25 percent would go to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and 8 percent would go to the State Department of Education.

Oregon

  • Measure 95 would allow investments in equities by public universities, which is currently prohibited.

  • Measure 96 would dedicate 1.5 percent, or a predicted $9.3 million annually, of the state’s lottery earnings to veteran support services — part of that fund would support veterans’ education.

  • Measure 99 would use state lottery money to create the “School Outdoor Education Fund.” Much of the money will go to fifth and sixth grades, but some will go to Oregon State University “to administer and fund outdoor school programs statewide consistent with current law’s grant program criteria.”

Rhode Island 

  • Question 4: This measure would issue $45.5 million in general obligation bonds for the University of Rhode Island. When broken down, $25.5 million would go to building renovations and $20 million would go to funding business collaborations between an innovation campus and the university. 

South Dakota

  • Amendment R: Currently, all postsecondary schools funded by the state are governed by the Board of Regents. Under this measure, postsecondary technical institutions would no longer be governed by the board, but would be governed in a manner to be determined by the Legislature. The institutions to be are affected Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute, Southeast Technical Institute, and Western Dakota Technical Institute.

Local Measures

When it comes to county races, bond measures dominate higher education. Here are a few of them. 

In California, voters in Butte County will decide whether to issue $190 million in bonds for facilities maintenance at Butte-Glenn Community College. In addition, voters in Butte and Yuba Counties will determine whether to issue $33,565,000 in bonds for facilities maintenance at Yuba Community College.

Voters in San Diego County will vote on Measure X, whether to issue $348 million in bonds for repairs to classrooms and facilities, constructing a Workforce Training Center, and providing educational support to veterans. They will also vote on Measure MM, regarding $455 million in bonds for upgrading facilities and providing joint training support to veterans at MiraCosta Community College. Finally, Measure Z would issue $400 million in bonds for upgrading community college campuses and providing job support for students and veterans.

San Francisco County voters will also vote on Proposition B, which would renew a parcel tax of $99 per year for 15 years; revenue would benefit City College of San Francisco.

In Maryland, Baltimore County residents will vote on an ordinance that would allow the county to borrow $15 million in community college projects, which would include construction and renovation of campus buildings.

2016 Election
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Overshadowed by a contentious presidential race and numerous statewide races are ballot items that could have a meaningful impact on higher education in numerous states. Here are summaries:

Alabama

  • Amendment 1: In an attempt to increase diversity on Auburn University’s Board of Trustees, this amendment would add two additional members. Currently, there are 14 members, 12 of whom are men;  and 13 of whom are white. There are no race or gender requirements on the proposed new seats. The amendment would also ensure that no more than three members of the board have terms that expire in the same year.

Alaska

  • Ballot Measure No. 2: This measure would let Alaska issue bonds for postsecondary student loans (currently, the law only allows state debt for capital projects, housing loans for veterans and military defense). This would be an amendment to the state constitution.

Arkansas

  • Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6: This measure would legalize medical marijuana. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be allocated to technical institutes, vocational schools and workforce training.

California

  • Proposition 51: This measure would create a School Facilities Fund -- funded by the sale of bonds -- that would give $2 billion to California Community Colleges to construct and renovate facilities (along with another $7 billion for K-12 schools).
  • Proposition 55: This measure would extend personal income taxes for community colleges (and health care and public K-12) after funding was lost in the recession. The tax would apply to single tax filers who make at least $263,000 in taxable income and joint filers who make at least $526,000 in taxable income. It's predicted that the tax would generate between $4 billion and $9 billion in revenue each year. 
  • Proposition 56: This measure would increase tobacco taxes an additional $2 per pack; $40 million from the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 Fund would go to the University of California to fund medical education. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of primary care and emergency physicians trained in California. 
  • Proposition 64: This measure would legalize marijuana. The state will use part of the money it earns from marijuana taxes ($10 million per year) to fund to research about the “implementation and effect of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

Colorado

  • Amendment 72: This measure would increase the tobacco tax from 84 cents to $1.75 per pack. Of the funds generated in its first year, $17 million would go to a fund for student loan debt repayment and professional training tracks targeted at medical professionals. 

Louisiana

  • Proposed Amendment 2: This measure would allow boards of the public higher education systems to determine tuition and fees without permission from the state legislature.

New Mexico 

  • Bond Question C: This concerns the 2016 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act, which would issue $142,356,000 to spend on higher education, special schools and tribal schools.

Oklahoma

  • State question 779: Also known as the One Percent Sales Tax, this would create a limited purpose fund for public education by increasing the state sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. It's estimated that this tax would generate $615 million per year in revenue. Concerning higher education, 19.25 percent would go to the institutions under the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education; 3.25 percent would go to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and 8 percent would go to the State Department of Education.

Oregon

  • Measure 95 would allow investments in equities by public universities, which is currently prohibited.

  • Measure 96 would dedicate 1.5 percent, or a predicted $9.3 million annually, of the state's lottery earnings to veteran support services -- part of that fund would support veterans' education.

  • Measure 99 would use state lottery money to create the "School Outdoor Education Fund." Much of the money will go to fifth and sixth grades, but some will go to Oregon State University "to administer and fund outdoor school programs statewide consistent with current law’s grant program criteria."

Rhode Island 

  • Question 4: This measure would issue $45.5 million in general obligation bonds for the University of Rhode Island. When broken down, $25.5 million would go to building renovations and $20 million would go to funding business collaborations between an innovation campus and the university. 

South Dakota

  • Amendment R: Currently, all postsecondary schools funded by the state are governed by the Board of Regents. Under this measure, postsecondary technical institutions would no longer be governed by the board, but would be governed in a manner to be determined by the Legislature. The institutions to be are affected Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute, Southeast Technical Institute, and Western Dakota Technical Institute.

Local Measures

When it comes to county races, bond measures dominate higher education. Here are a few of them. 

In California, voters in Butte County will decide whether to issue $190 million in bonds for facilities maintenance at Butte-Glenn Community College. In addition, voters in Butte and Yuba Counties will determine whether to issue $33,565,000 in bonds for facilities maintenance at Yuba Community College.

Voters in San Diego County will vote on Measure X, whether to issue $348 million in bonds for repairs to classrooms and facilities, constructing a Workforce Training Center, and providing educational support to veterans. They will also vote on Measure MM, regarding $455 million in bonds for upgrading facilities and providing joint training support to veterans at MiraCosta Community College. Finally, Measure Z would issue $400 million in bonds for upgrading community college campuses and providing job support for students and veterans.

San Francisco County voters will also vote on Proposition B, which would renew a parcel tax of $99 per year for 15 years; revenue would benefit City College of San Francisco.

In Maryland, Baltimore County residents will vote on an ordinance that would allow the county to borrow $15 million in community college projects, which would include construction and renovation of campus buildings.

2016 Election
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Suffolk, responding to controversy over treatment of Latina student, to require microaggression training for all professors

Suffolk University’s acting president, Marisa J. Kelly, announced late Tuesday that all faculty members would be required to go through training about microaggressions, the stereotype-based comments and actions that many minority students and faculty members say regularly make them feel unwelcome in higher education and elsewhere.

Kelly’s announcement came as educators continued to discuss a blog post by Tiffany Martínez, a Latina Suffolk student, in which she recounted how a professor doubted that her paper could be original because she used words such as “hence.” Many Latino students, as well as others from minority or immigrant groups, responded to the post by saying that they too had experienced such treatment at colleges and universities all over the country. And they described how being doubted for no reason other than their ethnicity was painful and discouraging.

As word of Martínez’s blog post spread on Friday, Kelly issued a statement in which she pledged to investigate, and to make sure that all students at the university feel valued and respected.

In Tuesday’s statement, Kelly went further. She noted a series of recent hires and enhancements to various programs — announced prior to the current controversy — designed to support inclusiveness. But then she added that the issues raised by Martínez required more.

“Last week’s incident has made clear that these steps are not enough. There is more we can do,” Kelly wrote. “The most immediate action we are working to organize is a microaggression training session for each academic department in the university. I have asked the Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence to work with the deans of each of our three schools to set up these sessions department by department. The training sessions will be required for all faculty at the institution over the course of this academic year, with planning and scheduling to begin immediately. Staff members will also be trained in the near future. While these sessions will not make us perfect, it is my hope that through training and open dialogue we will further foster a climate that is safe, supportive and welcoming to all.”

Kelly said that the entire university should be concerned about how Martínez felt. Kelly did not name Martínez in the statement nor indicate the result of any investigation that has taken place so far.

“We must redouble efforts to create a more inclusive environment, while at the same time recognizing that everyone involved in any specific incident deserves a fair hearing,” Kelly wrote.

Diversity
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Marisa J. Kelly
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Suffolk University's acting president, Marisa J. Kelly, announced late Tuesday that all faculty members would be required to go through training about microaggressions, the stereotype-based comments and actions that many minority students and faculty members say regularly make them feel unwelcome in higher education and elsewhere.

Kelly's announcement came as educators continued to discuss a blog post by Tiffany Martínez, a Latina Suffolk student, in which she recounted how a professor doubted that her paper could be original because she used words such as "hence." Many Latino students, as well as others from minority or immigrant groups, responded to the post by saying that they too had experienced such treatment at colleges and universities all over the country. And they described how being doubted for no reason other than their ethnicity was painful and discouraging.

As word of Martínez's blog post spread on Friday, Kelly issued a statement in which she pledged to investigate, and to make sure that all students at the university feel valued and respected.

In Tuesday's statement, Kelly went further. She noted a series of recent hires and enhancements to various programs -- announced prior to the current controversy -- designed to support inclusiveness. But then she added that the issues raised by Martínez required more.

"Last week’s incident has made clear that these steps are not enough. There is more we can do," Kelly wrote. "The most immediate action we are working to organize is a microaggression training session for each academic department in the university. I have asked the Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence to work with the deans of each of our three schools to set up these sessions department by department. The training sessions will be required for all faculty at the institution over the course of this academic year, with planning and scheduling to begin immediately. Staff members will also be trained in the near future. While these sessions will not make us perfect, it is my hope that through training and open dialogue we will further foster a climate that is safe, supportive and welcoming to all."

Kelly said that the entire university should be concerned about how Martínez felt. Kelly did not name Martínez in the statement nor indicate the result of any investigation that has taken place so far.

"We must redouble efforts to create a more inclusive environment, while at the same time recognizing that everyone involved in any specific incident deserves a fair hearing," Kelly wrote.

Diversity
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Marisa J. Kelly
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Princeton proposal would require all students — even those already proficient — to study a language other than English

Many colleges and universities no longer require foreign language study as part of a general education. And those institutions that do require it tend to allow students with proficiency in a language other than English to test out of course work, an option that is used by many. So a new proposal from Princeton University that all undergraduates study a foreign language, regardless of existing proficiency, stands out.

“Our current requirements treat foreign language as something of a skill, which sets it apart from the other requirements that emphasize the importance of different, largely disciplinary, ways of knowing,” reads a new report from Princeton’s Task Force on General Education. “Although learning another language does involve skill and proficiency, we also see language as a critical point of entry into cross-cultural understanding.” The task force is currently seeking feedback on this proposal and others related to general education. The proposals must be approved by administrators, faculty committees and, eventually, the full faculty to become policy. 

The report continues, “Enhanced language instruction would prepare students for deeper and sustained immersion in international contexts and give students the tools needed to more fully appreciate a different cultural worldview.”

Currently, Princeton undergraduates must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language prior to graduation, typically through success in about three or four semesters’ worth of work in a given language. But many fulfill the requirement outside of classes, such as through getting a top score of five on an Advanced Placement exam or a high SAT II subject test score.

Under the proposal, all undergraduates — including those with high AP scores and even native fluency in another language — would have to study foreign language for at least one semester. That’s either a 200-level course or above in a language in which they’re already proficient, or an introductory, two-course sequence in a new language.

Such a change “further underlines our commitment to internationalism in the curriculum and helps to level the playing field between students who have benefited from strong foreign language instruction in high school and those who must invest three or four semesters on campus to achieve proficiency,” the task force report says. It also notes that no other distribution requirements may be satisfied with AP scores.

Princeton isn’t the first institution to consider mandatory foreign language study. Yale University, for example, requires all students to take some foreign language courses, saying that “knowledge of more than one language and familiarity with more than one culture is becoming increasingly important.” Even students whose secondary school experience was in a foreign language must either take an introductory sequence in a new language or, in some cases, courses in English.

But the majority of highly selective institutions, including Harvard and Columbia Universities and the University of Pennsylvania, allow students with existing proficiency to waive general-education requirements in foreign language.

Many other institutions — including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and a large number of public universities — have no general-education requirement in foreign languages. Stanford University has a requirement but — unlike for its other general-education components — allows students to fulfill it with the campus’s version of pass/fail.

Oberlin College has no formal requirement, but students may take a foreign language course to satisfy a general-education component in cultural diversity. Williams College has a similar policy related to the study of arts and languages (it also has a diversity requirement).

The earliest the proposed Princeton policy could be adopted is spring.

According to information from the Modern Language Association, the percentage of four-year colleges and universities that require students to take courses in languages other than English dropped 17 percentage points between 1995 and 2010, to about half of all institutions. MLA attributes the trend largely to a shift away from course requirements and toward choices within distribution requirements.

At the same time, more institutions seem to be requiring foreign language study for acceptance. Twenty-one percent of colleges and universities required high school study in 1995, compared to 25 percent in 2010.

“The general trend that we have noted is institutions moving toward major-specific requirements and away from general language requirements,” said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA. “Entrance requirements are increasing, whereas exit requirements, including ‘seat time,’ have also been on the decline. That’s not to say it’s a good trend– far from it.” Students aren’t getting as much language practice as they used to when they study internationally, since time abroad has been decreasing, she said, and English-speaking international programs attract many students these days.

So Feal praised Princeton’s proposal as “forward looking,” and in line with a major report from her association recommending, among other things, more language options for heritage learners — those with a cultural or family connection to a language. Princeton can offer heritage speakers the advanced linguistic fluency and cultural literacy to allow them “to grow intellectually,” she said, while English-speaking students who come to Princeton with years of second or even third language study would strengthen their abilities by engaging in advanced study. That includes reading challenging texts in the original language and learning the histories of the people who speak it.

Feal also cited a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Language Learning, on which she sits, noting a major gap between the progress made in early learning, such as immersion programs, and advanced study at college or university. “If we ever hope to build broad and deep language capacity in the U.S.,” Feal said, “we need to provide opportunities for immersion in the primary grades, continuing study in the secondary years and advanced study — including cultural, historical, economic, literary and so forth — at the university level.”

The economic advantages of foreign language study “are obvious and have been well documented,” Feal added, “but it’s the cultural and intellectual formation of global citizens that is really at stake here.”

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Many colleges and universities no longer require foreign language study as part of a general education. And those institutions that do require it tend to allow students with proficiency in a language other than English to test out of course work, an option that is used by many. So a new proposal from Princeton University that all undergraduates study a foreign language, regardless of existing proficiency, stands out.

“Our current requirements treat foreign language as something of a skill, which sets it apart from the other requirements that emphasize the importance of different, largely disciplinary, ways of knowing,” reads a new report from Princeton’s Task Force on General Education. “Although learning another language does involve skill and proficiency, we also see language as a critical point of entry into cross-cultural understanding.” The task force is currently seeking feedback on this proposal and others related to general education. The proposals must be approved by administrators, faculty committees and, eventually, the full faculty to become policy. 

The report continues, “Enhanced language instruction would prepare students for deeper and sustained immersion in international contexts and give students the tools needed to more fully appreciate a different cultural worldview.”

Currently, Princeton undergraduates must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language prior to graduation, typically through success in about three or four semesters’ worth of work in a given language. But many fulfill the requirement outside of classes, such as through getting a top score of five on an Advanced Placement exam or a high SAT II subject test score.

Under the proposal, all undergraduates -- including those with high AP scores and even native fluency in another language -- would have to study foreign language for at least one semester. That’s either a 200-level course or above in a language in which they’re already proficient, or an introductory, two-course sequence in a new language.

Such a change “further underlines our commitment to internationalism in the curriculum and helps to level the playing field between students who have benefited from strong foreign language instruction in high school and those who must invest three or four semesters on campus to achieve proficiency,” the task force report says. It also notes that no other distribution requirements may be satisfied with AP scores.

Princeton isn’t the first institution to consider mandatory foreign language study. Yale University, for example, requires all students to take some foreign language courses, saying that "knowledge of more than one language and familiarity with more than one culture is becoming increasingly important." Even students whose secondary school experience was in a foreign language must either take an introductory sequence in a new language or, in some cases, courses in English.

But the majority of highly selective institutions, including Harvard and Columbia Universities and the University of Pennsylvania, allow students with existing proficiency to waive general-education requirements in foreign language.

Many other institutions -- including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and a large number of public universities -- have no general-education requirement in foreign languages. Stanford University has a requirement but -- unlike for its other general-education components -- allows students to fulfill it with the campus's version of pass/fail.

Oberlin College has no formal requirement, but students may take a foreign language course to satisfy a general-education component in cultural diversity. Williams College has a similar policy related to the study of arts and languages (it also has a diversity requirement).

The earliest the proposed Princeton policy could be adopted is spring.

According to information from the Modern Language Association, the percentage of four-year colleges and universities that require students to take courses in languages other than English dropped 17 percentage points between 1995 and 2010, to about half of all institutions. MLA attributes the trend largely to a shift away from course requirements and toward choices within distribution requirements.

At the same time, more institutions seem to be requiring foreign language study for acceptance. Twenty-one percent of colleges and universities required high school study in 1995, compared to 25 percent in 2010.

“The general trend that we have noted is institutions moving toward major-specific requirements and away from general language requirements,” said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA. “Entrance requirements are increasing, whereas exit requirements, including ‘seat time,’ have also been on the decline. That’s not to say it’s a good trend-- far from it.” Students aren’t getting as much language practice as they used to when they study internationally, since time abroad has been decreasing, she said, and English-speaking international programs attract many students these days.

So Feal praised Princeton’s proposal as "forward looking," and in line with a major report from her association recommending, among other things, more language options for heritage learners -- those with a cultural or family connection to a language. Princeton can offer heritage speakers the advanced linguistic fluency and cultural literacy to allow them "to grow intellectually," she said, while English-speaking students who come to Princeton with years of second or even third language study would strengthen their abilities by engaging in advanced study. That includes reading challenging texts in the original language and learning the histories of the people who speak it.

Feal also cited a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Language Learning, on which she sits, noting a major gap between the progress made in early learning, such as immersion programs, and advanced study at college or university. "If we ever hope to build broad and deep language capacity in the U.S.," Feal said, "we need to provide opportunities for immersion in the primary grades, continuing study in the secondary years and advanced study -- including cultural, historical, economic, literary and so forth -- at the university level."

The economic advantages of foreign language study "are obvious and have been well documented," Feal added, "but it's the cultural and intellectual formation of global citizens that is really at stake here."

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Georgia Institute of Technology to award credit through massive open online course in computer science

The Georgia Institute of Technology is expanding its model of low-cost online computer science education to undergraduates.

The institute on Tuesday said it has partnered with massive open online course provider edX and McGraw-Hill Education to offer a fully online introductory coding course. Initially, the course will be available to anyone as a MOOC with an optional $99 identity-verified certificate. After piloting the course next spring among its own students, Georgia Tech intends to offer another incentive for completion: college credit.

Georgia Tech has since 2014 offered a low-cost online master’s degree program in computer science, in which course content is delivered through MOOCs. That program now has nearly 4,000 students, and the institute is looking for opportunities to test the model elsewhere, said Zvi Galil, the John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing. Early reviews of the program have given it high marks for rigor, and experts on online education has been watching it closely.

Unlike at the master’s degree level, Georgia Tech is not considering creating a fully online undergraduate degree in computer science, Galil said. Instead, the institute plans to use the pilot as the first careful move toward a future where students spend less time on campus — perhaps two to three years — completing introductory and senior-level courses while in high school or pursuing a career, respectively.

“I still think that the on-campus program and living, learning, maturing socially and otherwise getting out of home — all these aspects — make college very important,” Galil said. “I’m not a big proponent of replacing the college. I’m a proponent of substituting some pieces that will be maybe 20-25 percent of the college degree. That is a dream, and it may take time. We are now doing the first step.”

That first step involves offering an online section of the course (as well as several face-to-face ones) to its residential students in the spring, Galil said. Enrollment in the online section will be voluntary — students can even change their minds and move to a different section during the first week — and Georgia Tech expects to accept about 50 students. At the end of the semester, researchers will look at student outcomes in all sections and determine if — like in the online and residential master’s degree programs — the results are comparable.

If the answer to that question is yes, only then will Georgia Tech decide how to proceed with fully online education for undergraduates, Galil said. The pilot could, for example, reveal that the course is best suited as a complement to Advanced Placement credit, or perhaps as a continuing education credential for computer science professionals to demonstrate their mastery of basic skills.

Galil informed the faculty about the pilot during an Oct. 12 meeting, a faculty member in the College of Computing said in an email. Faculty members did not hold a vote on whether to approve the pilot, as they were told it was “[Galil’s] decision and his implementation,” according to the faculty member. Any larger expansion plans would have to be approved by the faculty, however. 

Georgia Tech is not the first institution to consider a future where students spend less time on campus. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which co-founded edX, is also exploring if freshman and senior years could be delivered through online education.

While Tuesday’s announcement stated that credit will only be available to students who are admitted to Georgia Tech, the institute has plans to award credit generally to students who finish the course, Galil said.

While Georgia Tech has partnered with Udacity, another online education provider, for the master’s degree program, it chose to distribute the undergraduate course through edX. Galil pointed out that the institute prefers to collaborate with a broad set of partners, and that it also offers online courses on Coursera.

The partnership is also an opportunity for McGraw-Hill Education to further rebrand itself away from simply being a textbook publisher. In this case, the company, which promotes itself as being in the business of “learning science,” isn’t supplying any course material, but rather the learning platform. The company also provided some instructional design help to Georgia Tech to build a SmartBook, an enhanced, digital textbook that will be used in the course.

“As a business, we’re trying to emerge as something very different, and we think we can play a very relevant part supporting the new architecture of higher education,” David Levin, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, said in an interview.

The company already has software licensing deals in place with Arizona State University and, as of last week, the Cleveland Clinic medical center (though in those examples, the clients use some of the company’s content as well). Levin said those deals represent an “emerging new business model” for the company.

Levin declined to share details about the licensing deal, but said students who use the company’s digital course materials on average pay half the cost of a physical textbook. The SmartBook will be free of charge to students in the spring pilot, Galil said.

“The models have to change for the provision of instructional materials,” Levin said. “It has to move beyond selling pure content to being part of the course and course development.”

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The Georgia Institute of Technology is expanding its model of low-cost online computer science education to undergraduates.

The institute on Tuesday said it has partnered with massive open online course provider edX and McGraw-Hill Education to offer a fully online introductory coding course. Initially, the course will be available to anyone as a MOOC with an optional $99 identity-verified certificate. After piloting the course next spring among its own students, Georgia Tech intends to offer another incentive for completion: college credit.

Georgia Tech has since 2014 offered a low-cost online master’s degree program in computer science, in which course content is delivered through MOOCs. That program now has nearly 4,000 students, and the institute is looking for opportunities to test the model elsewhere, said Zvi Galil, the John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing. Early reviews of the program have given it high marks for rigor, and experts on online education has been watching it closely.

Unlike at the master’s degree level, Georgia Tech is not considering creating a fully online undergraduate degree in computer science, Galil said. Instead, the institute plans to use the pilot as the first careful move toward a future where students spend less time on campus -- perhaps two to three years -- completing introductory and senior-level courses while in high school or pursuing a career, respectively.

“I still think that the on-campus program and living, learning, maturing socially and otherwise getting out of home -- all these aspects -- make college very important,” Galil said. “I’m not a big proponent of replacing the college. I’m a proponent of substituting some pieces that will be maybe 20-25 percent of the college degree. That is a dream, and it may take time. We are now doing the first step.”

That first step involves offering an online section of the course (as well as several face-to-face ones) to its residential students in the spring, Galil said. Enrollment in the online section will be voluntary -- students can even change their minds and move to a different section during the first week -- and Georgia Tech expects to accept about 50 students. At the end of the semester, researchers will look at student outcomes in all sections and determine if -- like in the online and residential master’s degree programs -- the results are comparable.

If the answer to that question is yes, only then will Georgia Tech decide how to proceed with fully online education for undergraduates, Galil said. The pilot could, for example, reveal that the course is best suited as a complement to Advanced Placement credit, or perhaps as a continuing education credential for computer science professionals to demonstrate their mastery of basic skills.

Galil informed the faculty about the pilot during an Oct. 12 meeting, a faculty member in the College of Computing said in an email. Faculty members did not hold a vote on whether to approve the pilot, as they were told it was "[Galil's] decision and his implementation," according to the faculty member. Any larger expansion plans would have to be approved by the faculty, however. 

Georgia Tech is not the first institution to consider a future where students spend less time on campus. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which co-founded edX, is also exploring if freshman and senior years could be delivered through online education.

While Tuesday’s announcement stated that credit will only be available to students who are admitted to Georgia Tech, the institute has plans to award credit generally to students who finish the course, Galil said.

While Georgia Tech has partnered with Udacity, another online education provider, for the master’s degree program, it chose to distribute the undergraduate course through edX. Galil pointed out that the institute prefers to collaborate with a broad set of partners, and that it also offers online courses on Coursera.

The partnership is also an opportunity for McGraw-Hill Education to further rebrand itself away from simply being a textbook publisher. In this case, the company, which promotes itself as being in the business of “learning science,” isn’t supplying any course material, but rather the learning platform. The company also provided some instructional design help to Georgia Tech to build a SmartBook, an enhanced, digital textbook that will be used in the course.

“As a business, we’re trying to emerge as something very different, and we think we can play a very relevant part supporting the new architecture of higher education,” David Levin, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, said in an interview.

The company already has software licensing deals in place with Arizona State University and, as of last week, the Cleveland Clinic medical center (though in those examples, the clients use some of the company’s content as well). Levin said those deals represent an “emerging new business model” for the company.

Levin declined to share details about the licensing deal, but said students who use the company’s digital course materials on average pay half the cost of a physical textbook. The SmartBook will be free of charge to students in the spring pilot, Galil said.

“The models have to change for the provision of instructional materials,” Levin said. “It has to move beyond selling pure content to being part of the course and course development.”

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Q&A with authors of book on austerity in public higher education

It is taken as an axiom in many administrative circles that public colleges and universities cannot rely on government funding sources to fuel their budgets in the future.

A new book from a pair of City University of New York Graduate Center professor…

It is taken as an axiom in many administrative circles that public colleges and universities cannot rely on government funding sources to fuel their budgets in the future.

A new book from a pair of City University of New York Graduate Center professors examines how that conclusion came to be and describes in blistering terms what it has meant for public higher education. In their book Austerity Blues (Johns Hopkins University Press), Professor of Social Work Michael Fabricant, who is vice president of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress, and Professor of Urban Education Stephen Brier, who is coordinator of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Program, argue state disinvestment has had a deeply harmful impact on public universities’ ability to educate students as colleges and universities turn to the promises of privatization and technology. The effect, they write, is an era of austerity undercutting public institutions’ ability to serve the poor and working-class students who need them the most -- an effect that has broad ramifications for society as economic and social classes diverge.

Fabricant and Brier trace the history of U.S. public higher education before the start of this era of austerity, describing its rapid expansion in the post-World War II years and continuing through the developments that laid the groundwork for what they identify as austerity policies in the 1970s, 1980s and today. Along the way they closely study growth and policy changes in public systems in California and New York City and how they have been reflected nationally.

“The choice to provide broad access while resisting investment of public funds necessary to assure a quality education continues to define New York City and national higher education policy making to this day,” they write.

Fabricant and Brier close by arguing for a new paradigm for public higher education that includes greater funding.

The authors responded to questions about their book by email. The following exchange has been edited lightly for clarity.

Q: A core idea of your book is that funding for government services, including education, has been hollowed out, the services have been privatized, and then they’ve been sold back to the public by companies seeking a profit. Governments have turned to the private sector for a variety of services, so why make the case for reversing the trend starting in higher education instead of somewhere else, like K-12?

Fabricant: We don’t believe we are making the case that public higher education is the only site where trends of privatization or disinvestment need to be reversed. To the contrary, the impact of these policies is being felt in similar ways by K-12 students and faculty. More to the point, profit making that trumps quality of education, increased reliance on the cheapest form of online learning to offset budget cuts, the mechanization of curriculum and use of metrics to measure “progress” while simultaneously missing critical aspects of academic development are shared experiences of K-12 and public higher education in an era of austerity.

That said, higher education is increasingly a primary target of privatization. Critically, higher education is displacing K-12 as the site of greatest interest to the market. The reasons are varied. To begin with, the market for higher education “products” online is international in scope. Additionally, university administrations hard-pressed to locate revenue sources rely to an ever-greater extent on tuition. Tuition is not a revenue source for K-12. Producing new tuition sites in other parts of the world is an especially appealing proposition for corporate decision makers. At the 2014 Davos conference, an international gathering of market and government decision makers assessing investment trends identified higher education as No. 3 in their list of investments with the potentially greatest short and long yield. No other part of the public sector even made the list.

Q: Skeptics could say you want more public money to flow into higher education simply to raise faculty salaries. Where, specifically, do you want to see additional public investment in higher education go?

Fabricant: We understand that is what skeptics could and likely would say. But that argument is specious. Would we argue that hiring more full-time faculty makes a difference in the quality of education for students, especially academically challenged students? Yes, and that point is supported empirically. Would we also argue that the salaries of faculty and staff of public universities have declined in real dollar value over the last two decades? Yes, and those trends are also supported by data. Finally, are universities, particularly public universities, becoming less and less salary competitive in their recruitment of junior faculty needed to educate students, particularly in urban areas? Again the answer is yes and can be traced directly to years of disinvestment in the students and faculty of those public universities. And so we would certainly support paying fair wages to faculty and staff laboring in public universities.

But investment in faculty salary is not the thrust of the book. Rather, we have indicated throughout that investment needs to be made in enhancing both the quality of a public higher education and its affordability. The emphasis on both affordability and quality is of great significance to students. They are being cheated every day as their tuition increases and the quality of their education is threatened by diminished public funding. Investments need to be made in technology, capital projects to upgrade declining facilities and to build out campuses to accommodate the needs of growing numbers of students, support services to enable students to meet a range of academic and social issues, understaffed libraries unable to purchase needed material, and finally the hiring of more full-time faculty. The latter point is especially important. Over the past 25 years we have witnessed the rapid explosion of wage-exploited and job-insecure part-time faculty. In turn the proportion of full-time faculty in public universities has declined. In many public universities the majority of classes are taught by part-time faculty.

Brier: Increased full-time faculty salaries are a critical part of any effort to inject new public funding into public higher education institutions and systems. But that is by no means the only thing that needs additional funding. Contingent faculty salaries, which are currently pitifully inadequate, need to be raised as well. As much as we believe that it is crucial that the number of full-time faculty positions be significantly expanded and that those positions be better funded, we are aware that it is going to take some time before we can significantly cut back on public universities’ heavy reliance on contingent and nontenured faculty.

As such, we applaud our full-time faculty colleagues at the University Illinois Chicago, who undertook a successful two-day strike, with strong student support, in spring 2014, successfully demanding that the university raise the minimum salary of the university’s nontenured faculty by 50 percent, to $7,500 per course (three times what adjuncts usually receive). In addition to increased salaries for full- and part-time faculty, there is a vital need for increased funding for infrastructure repairs and investments as well as new building programs at many public universities, where critical maintenance has been delayed or eliminated for years if not decades, and existing physical structures are inadequate. It is also important that public funds be allocated to allow full- and part-time faculty members access to professional development opportunities to improve and update the quality of their classroom instruction, including the proper use of new digital affordances to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Q: You’re critical of the growing reliance on adjuncts at colleges and universities, arguing adjuncts who are paid low amounts per class take on multiple classes, ending up with too much work and too little time for students. Is there a place for adjuncts in a well-funded public college or university?

Fabricant: Yes, of course there are many places for part-time faculty in the public university. To begin with, 25 years ago part-time faculty filled niche roles within departments. Areas of expertise not available through the cohort of full-time faculty were filled through part-time faculty. In addition to these specialized skills, certain kinds of advisement and mentoring roles, especially in professional schools, were provided by adjuncts. In the latter role, part-time faculty drawn from specific sectors of the labor market helped students make the transition from school to employment. Those roles and many others would continue to be met by part-time faculty.

At the same time, as full-time faculty have been replaced by part-time instructors to reduce classroom costs and promote greater flexibility of employment, both part-time and full-time faculty have been hurt. The depressed wages of full-time faculty and intensifying efforts to break tenure through the use of “clinical” lines can be directly traced to the greater use of ever-cheaper and job-insecure part-time faculty. Doctoral students and others assuming very heavy course loads at very low wages simply to survive are part of the increasingly disposable workforce of the university. Consequently, the effort to increase the number of full-time lines is an issue for these two cohorts of workers. We would add that a substantial part of the new lines must be dedicated to part-time faculty. This practice would represent but a modest reparation for the many years of exploited labor part-time faculty have had to endure.

Q: Is there a place for an emphasis on efficiency -- either in the classroom or across university systems?

Fabricant: Yes, of course. We believe that the greatest efficiencies given the mission of a public university are to be made in the areas of instruction. Greater investment made by programs such as Accelerated Study in Associate Programs at CUNY, a program providing support services and targeting community college students, has resulted in a three times greater graduation rate for students enrolled in the program as contrasted with similar students who are not. Such programs require greater investment while simultaneously yielding efficiencies. Equally important, classrooms with lower student-to-faculty ratios have yielded efficiencies in terms of academic development and graduation rates.

Alternatively, the recent hiring spree of administrators has to be reversed. This trend represents an especially unfortunate development at a moment when full-time instructors and support services for students are in decline. We need to reassess the priorities of public higher education. More of the public dollars invested in higher education must be directly tracked back and invested in the classroom or students. The salary gaps between many administrators and full-time workers must also be narrowed. Consolidation of some aspects of the public university bureaucracy are also likely to yield efficiencies.

Q: You’re also very critical of private companies selling technology to institutions for operations like online classes -- but you’re more optimistic about technology developed by faculty members. Can technology developed by a faculty member in one institution spread reliably enough to others and other institutions without a company pushing it?

Brier: Technological innovations in classrooms and research that are developed on one public campus or system can and should spread to other campuses and public systems. One way to assure that such ideas and innovations spread is for faculty to have the option and technical support to employ open-source software solutions to educational problems that they can develop on their own initiative or adapt from other outside programs and projects. Most public institutions are saddled, instead, with expensive, locked-down proprietary software platforms, like course management systems, typically favored by university administrators. These systems leave little room for faculty or student innovation and are designed to meet the administrative needs and demands of college leadership.

A good illustration of the progressive use and spread of digital technology in a public system is the CUNY Academic Commons, which was developed in 2009 by a consortium of CUNY faculty, staff and students, and which now serves as a teaching, learning and research platform and social network for nearly 10,000 CUNY users. With additional grant support provided by the Sloan Foundation, the CUNY Academic Commons system has been made available for free open-source download as the Commons in a Box initiative across the country and even internationally. To date thousands of users and institutions have used Commons in a Box to set up and run an Academic Commons system in their own institutions.

Q: The book notes that for-profit colleges poured resources into recruiting minority students and those from low-income backgrounds -- but that they also posted low levels of degree attainment. Do you see any practices revealed from the for-profit sector -- or any other parts of the austerity movement -- that could be useful for public institutions in a nonausterity environment?

Brier: The aims and purposes of public higher education can’t be squared with the unrelenting demands for profit that for-profit colleges must, of necessity, always be responsive to. As we argue in the book, just like their correspondence course predecessors in the early 20th century, private, for-profit colleges are compelled to constantly expand their student enrollment by deceptive and false advertising about the outsize occupational successes of their graduates and through high-pressure recruiting practices that especially target minority and working-class students. In both cases, the institutions spend far more money on advertising and recruitment than on student instruction. The one key difference between past and present is that there is now an enormous amount of federally backed student loan money that for-profit recruiters openly encourage, often deceptively, their student recruits to borrow. It is not surprising, given this situation, that fully 40 percent of all federal student loan money is borrowed by students enrolled in private, for-profit institutions and that the highest student loan default rates are in private, for-profit institutions. This is not a record that can or should be mimicked in any way, shape or form by public institutions.

Q: Early in the book, you trace some of austerity’s roots back to reaction against student activism at the time when Ronald Reagan was governor of California in the late 1960s. You end the book with a call for building a political movement inside and outside the academy that backs increased investment in public education. Why would activism have a different result today than it did 50 years ago?

Brier: This is an important question. To be sure, many of the same deep issues and conflicts that motivated ’60s student activism and the negative right-wing response to it are still very much in play. Endemic problems of racial discrimination, police brutality and foreign war remain the same. What has decidedly changed in the intervening half century is that the post-World War II strength of the U.S. economy, which allowed the nation to undertake both foreign adventures like Vietnam as well as launch broad social programs like the War on Poverty, has ebbed, in large measure because of political gridlock and the dramatic growth of levels of social and economic inequality in the decades after the ’60s. The radical right was able then to turn the (white) “silent majority” against radical students and militant activists in the black, Latino and Native American movements and, at the same time, launch a strong antitaxation/antigovernment agenda. The rise of neoliberal attacks on public institutions, largely unchecked for 30-plus years, are now being questioned if not actually openly attacked. While many of those social and political forces are still in motion today, the citizenry’s increasing discontent with the outsize political and economic power of the 1 percent opens up possibilities for political movement on critical social and economic issues, including the need to respond to the crisis of public higher education and student indebtedness.

Q: What you’re proposing would be a major change in the way this country talks and thinks about public spending. Does this election cycle, with Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton backing free public college, give you new hope that austerity is closer to ending for public higher education?

Brier: This effort on the part of both Sanders and Clinton does give us hope that the issue of austerity and its profound impact on ordinary citizens is back on the table. But we don’t believe that free tuition, even if it could be implemented in a Clinton presidency, augurs the end of all of the problems facing public higher education. Free public university tuition for working- and middle-class students, along with debt relief, are important prerequisites (and ones that we both enjoyed as 18-year-old sons of working-class families in the 1960s) to democratizing access of higher education. But it is only a first step.

Also needed is a concerted effort to assure improved quality of the public higher education that students deserve. That will require significant public investment, just as the nation embraced in the immediate aftermath of World War II, to expand the numbers and quality of full-time faculty as well as significantly increased spending to repair and build anew university facilities to handle the growing numbers of undergraduates who have poured into public colleges and universities (which currently educate fully 80 percent of the 20 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges this year, a 25 percent increase since 2000 alone). Free tuition, if it should be implemented, would only expand the already-huge demand for access to public higher education.

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A new book tackles austerity in higher education, its effects and potential changes to a decades-long era.
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