NCAA alleges Louisville violated rules in prostitution scandal, charges head coach with failure to monitor

The University of Louisville committed four major National Collegiate Athletic Association violations when a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players, the NCAA stated in a notice of allegations sent to the university Thursday. The Level I violations charge the program’s head coach, Rick Pitino, with “failure to monitor” his employee, a serious allegation that could result in a suspension for the coach.

When the scandal first became public last year — after the head of the escort service published a tell-all book — the assistant at the center of the allegations, Andre McGee, said the claims were untrue. The university avoided confirming or denying the charges at first and backed Pitino when he said he was unaware of the misconduct. An internal university investigation and, now, an NCAA investigation have confirmed that the parties with the escorts did in fact happen, but Louisville officials maintain that Pitino, and the university at large, should not be punished any further.

“The NCAA does not allege a ‘lack of institutional control’ at Louisville, a very severe allegation,” the university said in a statement. “The NCAA does not allege that Coach Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance,’ a serious allegation. The [notice of allegations] does contain a narrower allegation — which we will dispute — that Coach Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored Mr. McGee. We believe that Mr. McGee acted furtively and note that the NOA does not indicate that any other university employee besides Mr. McGee had knowledge of these activities. We are confident in Coach Pitino and we know he is and always has been committed to NCAA compliance.”

That the university continues to defend Pitino has angered critics of the athletics department, including some faculty members at Louisville. And experts on NCAA rules say that, while Louisville plans on fighting the charge against Pitino, the university already dodged several bullets. Other institutions that have run afoul of NCAA rules have also argued that knowledge of misconduct was limited to one or two staff members. Unlike Louisville, those programs were still hit with lack of institutional control and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Mark Nagel, associate director of the University of South Carolina’s College Sport Research Institute, said the bizarreness of this case may have shielded the university from further violations.

“It is possible that the NCAA is saying that this type of action was unlikely to be predicted by the various compliance officials on campus,” Nagel said. “It may be that few, if anyone, on a typical campus would expect this type of behavior and so there should not have been an expectation of this happening and therefore a need to have a structure, beyond the coaches, in place to prevent it. Obviously, the standard for future cases may now be different because other schools should see what happened at Louisville and should better understand this is an area that needs tighter controls.”

While it’s true that paying for escorts is not a typical NCAA rules violation, it is also not unprecedented. The NCAA does not comment on ongoing infractions cases. The university now has 90 days to respond to the notice of allegations.

Whether Pitino or any other officials knew of the parties is irrelevant as far as the NCAA’s failure-to-monitor rules are concerned. In 2014, the association revised its rules to hold coaches more accountable for all violations within their programs even if they were unaware of the misconduct. “An institution’s head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach,” the revised rule states.

Pitino’s contract — which runs through 2026 — contains similar language. The coach is required to “diligently supervise compliance of assistant coaches and any other employees for which [he] is administratively responsible.” The dormitory in which the parties took place is also under Pitino’s purview. The building is designated for athletes and was built at his request.

The residence hall is named after the coach’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In widely criticized remarks made during a news conference Thursday, Pitino invoked Sept. 11 while denying his involvement in the prostitution scandal. “Fifteen-plus years ago, a plane went through the World Trade Center, and it altered the life of my family completely,” Pitino said, adding that he was not guilty of failing to monitor his employees, but was “guilty of trusting someone.”

The former escort, Katina Powell, said she was paid by McGee, the team’s former graduate assistant and director of basketball operations, to provide recruits with strip shows and sex during overnight visits in the dormitory. Powell said she was given about $10,000 by McGee for supplying dancers — including her own teenage daughters — for more than two dozen parties during a four-year period. In one instance, McGee allegedly offered the escort basketball tickets and a bottle of whiskey signed by Pitino.

The NCAA’s report largely matches Powell’s account. McGee, the association alleges, spent at least $5,400 on “impermissible inducements, offers and/or extra benefits in the form of adult entertainment” for at least 17 basketball recruits and players, as well as two coaches and a prospective athlete’s friend. The notice of allegations refers to these benefits as striptease shows and sex acts.

McGee resigned a year ago from his position as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where he moved before the scandal broke, but maintained his innocence. “The university deserves a full-time assistant coach and I am not able to provide that to the basketball team while the false allegations against me are being investigated,” McGee stated. McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation.

Throughout the process, the university has defended the coach, and Pitino has denied any knowledge of the parties. “I will not resign and let you down,” Pitino wrote in a blog post last year. “Someday I will walk away in celebration of many memorable years, but that time is not now. I do not fight these accusations by others, but rather turn the other cheek. Couldn’t do it at 33, but at 63 it’s the wise thing to do. Let’s let the investigators do their job and we will play basketball.”

In the post, he also referenced Pope Francis’s recent visit to the United States, saying the pope would frequently answer controversial questions with the phrase “we will let God judge.” It is advice Pitino said Louisville students and fans should remember as the investigation continues. “Let’s not try to justify,” he wrote, “but let the Lord judge.”

Earlier this year, the University of Louisville self-imposed a series of sanctions, including a postseason ban, on the basketball program. In its statement Thursday, the university reiterated that it had already taken the “appropriate punitive and corrective actions.”

Nancy Theriot, a professor and chair of women’s and gender studies at Louisville, said the university’s continued defense of the coach and the program suggests that officials are not taking the underlying issues of the charges seriously enough. Theriot said the use of dancers and escorts is an extreme example of a larger and troubling tradition in which colleges woo recruits with attractive young women.

In 2013, Sports Illustrated reported that Oklahoma State University’s football program used a group of women to entice recruits. Officially the group, called Orange Pride, was meant to show visiting high school athletes around campus. Unofficially, according to Sports Illustrated, some of the women were having sex with the players. “There’s no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides sex,” one former OSU football player said. “The idea was to get [recruits] to think that if they came to Oklahoma State, it was gonna be like that all the time.”

The NCAA ruled that the allegations were “unfounded” but found the university in violation of “engaging in impermissible hosting activities” for using Orange Pride in recruiting events. Such recruitment groups, or hostess programs, are not uncommon, despite the NCAA having banned “gender-based student hosting groups.” Louisville has used such programs in the past, too.

In 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder reached a settlement with two women who said they were gang-raped at a party for recruits. The alleged assaults stemmed from a larger recruiting scandal that included strippers hired to entertain recruits and allegations that hostesses were being paid to sleep with the athletes. Scandals involving hostess programs have also occurred at Arizona State University, the University of Oregon, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.

“I think the university’s challenge is an attempt to protect a coach that should have been monitoring his team and employees,” Theriot said. “The coach should be held accountable for monitoring his team and employees. Isn’t this part of why he gets such an outrageous salary? And Louisville challenging this sends a message that the university does not take this seriously. The student athletes are fair game for sanctions, but not the coach? Please!”

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The University of Louisville committed four major National Collegiate Athletic Association violations when a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players, the NCAA stated in a notice of allegations sent to the university Thursday. The Level I violations charge the program’s head coach, Rick Pitino, with “failure to monitor” his employee, a serious allegation that could result in a suspension for the coach.

When the scandal first became public last year -- after the head of the escort service published a tell-all book -- the assistant at the center of the allegations, Andre McGee, said the claims were untrue. The university avoided confirming or denying the charges at first and backed Pitino when he said he was unaware of the misconduct. An internal university investigation and, now, an NCAA investigation have confirmed that the parties with the escorts did in fact happen, but Louisville officials maintain that Pitino, and the university at large, should not be punished any further.

“The NCAA does not allege a ‘lack of institutional control’ at Louisville, a very severe allegation,” the university said in a statement. “The NCAA does not allege that Coach Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance,’ a serious allegation. The [notice of allegations] does contain a narrower allegation -- which we will dispute -- that Coach Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored Mr. McGee. We believe that Mr. McGee acted furtively and note that the NOA does not indicate that any other university employee besides Mr. McGee had knowledge of these activities. We are confident in Coach Pitino and we know he is and always has been committed to NCAA compliance.”

That the university continues to defend Pitino has angered critics of the athletics department, including some faculty members at Louisville. And experts on NCAA rules say that, while Louisville plans on fighting the charge against Pitino, the university already dodged several bullets. Other institutions that have run afoul of NCAA rules have also argued that knowledge of misconduct was limited to one or two staff members. Unlike Louisville, those programs were still hit with lack of institutional control and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Mark Nagel, associate director of the University of South Carolina’s College Sport Research Institute, said the bizarreness of this case may have shielded the university from further violations.

“It is possible that the NCAA is saying that this type of action was unlikely to be predicted by the various compliance officials on campus,” Nagel said. “It may be that few, if anyone, on a typical campus would expect this type of behavior and so there should not have been an expectation of this happening and therefore a need to have a structure, beyond the coaches, in place to prevent it. Obviously, the standard for future cases may now be different because other schools should see what happened at Louisville and should better understand this is an area that needs tighter controls.”

While it's true that paying for escorts is not a typical NCAA rules violation, it is also not unprecedented. The NCAA does not comment on ongoing infractions cases. The university now has 90 days to respond to the notice of allegations.

Whether Pitino or any other officials knew of the parties is irrelevant as far as the NCAA’s failure-to-monitor rules are concerned. In 2014, the association revised its rules to hold coaches more accountable for all violations within their programs even if they were unaware of the misconduct. “An institution's head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach,” the revised rule states.

Pitino’s contract -- which runs through 2026 -- contains similar language. The coach is required to “diligently supervise compliance of assistant coaches and any other employees for which [he] is administratively responsible.” The dormitory in which the parties took place is also under Pitino’s purview. The building is designated for athletes and was built at his request.

The residence hall is named after the coach’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In widely criticized remarks made during a news conference Thursday, Pitino invoked Sept. 11 while denying his involvement in the prostitution scandal. “Fifteen-plus years ago, a plane went through the World Trade Center, and it altered the life of my family completely,” Pitino said, adding that he was not guilty of failing to monitor his employees, but was “guilty of trusting someone.”

The former escort, Katina Powell, said she was paid by McGee, the team's former graduate assistant and director of basketball operations, to provide recruits with strip shows and sex during overnight visits in the dormitory. Powell said she was given about $10,000 by McGee for supplying dancers -- including her own teenage daughters -- for more than two dozen parties during a four-year period. In one instance, McGee allegedly offered the escort basketball tickets and a bottle of whiskey signed by Pitino.

The NCAA’s report largely matches Powell’s account. McGee, the association alleges, spent at least $5,400 on “impermissible inducements, offers and/or extra benefits in the form of adult entertainment” for at least 17 basketball recruits and players, as well as two coaches and a prospective athlete’s friend. The notice of allegations refers to these benefits as striptease shows and sex acts.

McGee resigned a year ago from his position as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where he moved before the scandal broke, but maintained his innocence. “The university deserves a full-time assistant coach and I am not able to provide that to the basketball team while the false allegations against me are being investigated,” McGee stated. McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation.

Throughout the process, the university has defended the coach, and Pitino has denied any knowledge of the parties. “I will not resign and let you down,” Pitino wrote in a blog post last year. “Someday I will walk away in celebration of many memorable years, but that time is not now. I do not fight these accusations by others, but rather turn the other cheek. Couldn’t do it at 33, but at 63 it’s the wise thing to do. Let’s let the investigators do their job and we will play basketball.”

In the post, he also referenced Pope Francis’s recent visit to the United States, saying the pope would frequently answer controversial questions with the phrase “we will let God judge.” It is advice Pitino said Louisville students and fans should remember as the investigation continues. “Let’s not try to justify,” he wrote, “but let the Lord judge.”

Earlier this year, the University of Louisville self-imposed a series of sanctions, including a postseason ban, on the basketball program. In its statement Thursday, the university reiterated that it had already taken the “appropriate punitive and corrective actions.”

Nancy Theriot, a professor and chair of women’s and gender studies at Louisville, said the university’s continued defense of the coach and the program suggests that officials are not taking the underlying issues of the charges seriously enough. Theriot said the use of dancers and escorts is an extreme example of a larger and troubling tradition in which colleges woo recruits with attractive young women.

In 2013, Sports Illustrated reported that Oklahoma State University’s football program used a group of women to entice recruits. Officially the group, called Orange Pride, was meant to show visiting high school athletes around campus. Unofficially, according to Sports Illustrated, some of the women were having sex with the players. “There's no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides sex,” one former OSU football player said. “The idea was to get [recruits] to think that if they came to Oklahoma State, it was gonna be like that all the time.”

The NCAA ruled that the allegations were "unfounded" but found the university in violation of "engaging in impermissible hosting activities" for using Orange Pride in recruiting events. Such recruitment groups, or hostess programs, are not uncommon, despite the NCAA having banned “gender-based student hosting groups.” Louisville has used such programs in the past, too.

In 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder reached a settlement with two women who said they were gang-raped at a party for recruits. The alleged assaults stemmed from a larger recruiting scandal that included strippers hired to entertain recruits and allegations that hostesses were being paid to sleep with the athletes. Scandals involving hostess programs have also occurred at Arizona State University, the University of Oregon, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.

“I think the university's challenge is an attempt to protect a coach that should have been monitoring his team and employees,” Theriot said. “The coach should be held accountable for monitoring his team and employees. Isn’t this part of why he gets such an outrageous salary? And Louisville challenging this sends a message that the university does not take this seriously. The student athletes are fair game for sanctions, but not the coach? Please!”

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Princeton settlement leaves door open for future tax exemption challenges

When Princeton University announced it had settled litigation with area homeowners who had argued it is a profit-making institution in order to challenge its exemption from property taxes, it appeared to be paying millions of dollars to clear long-lingering uncertainty.

But the agreement, announced Oct. 14, leaves key legal issues unresolved in New Jersey. Although the university did not admit its currently exempt property should be taxed, a court did not affirm its tax exemptions, either.

That could foreshadow additional challenges to research universities in the state — challenges many think could be copied elsewhere in the country as taxpayers or revenue-strapped municipalities search for sources of cash. And the lawyer who filed the Princeton case says the homeowners he represented could bring another lawsuit in six years.

Within New Jersey, a key development in the case took leverage from Princeton University. A judge ruled that the burden of proof for tax-exempt status was on Princeton University, meaning it would have been required to prove itself qualified for property tax exemptions it was already receiving. That’s a major difference from the homeowners bringing the suit having to prove that Princeton did not deserve tax breaks. It’s also a potentially slow and expensive process for the university.

On a larger scale, it’s not yet clear whether challenges to college and university tax exemptions will become common outside of New Jersey, although politicians have eyed the possibility in several states. But the Princeton settlement plainly fits into an era in which college and university finances, tax exemptions and operations are challenged from all sides.

The settlement comes more than five years after several residents sued Princeton over its tax-exempt status. Like other nonprofit institutions, Princeton is exempt from paying property taxes on much of its property. It does, however, pay taxes on some commercial properties that don’t qualify for exemption — like a movie theater it owns — and on others it voluntarily keeps on the tax rolls, like graduate student housing. It also makes voluntary contributions to local municipal government.

Princeton University says it is the largest property taxpayer in the Borough of Princeton municipality, with an $11.1 million property tax bill. Residents, however, argued that they have had to pay more in taxes to compensate for money the university should be paying on exempt property. The lawyer representing them has said that Princeton’s tax bill would be in the $30-40 million range if it paid taxes on all of its property.

In 2011, residents first filed their litigation to challenge Princeton’s status as a nonprofit operation. Additional residents later joined the action, which claimed Princeton University earns millions of dollars in patent royalty income that is then distributed to faculty. The action also argued the university partakes in other commercial operations.

“It shares profit with faculty; engages in profit-seeking conduct through its patent, copyright and trademark licensing businesses; sells the use of its scientific and engineering facilities to outside commercial entities; maintains an industrial associates program and other programs in which it makes available its facilities to commercial use; operates venture capital businesses; operates retail businesses; operates a commercial real estate business and a residential real estate rental business; operates a profit-seeking hedge fund operation and other profit-based investment operations; operates a[n] office and hotel development business, private mortgage banking, commercial television, among other activities,” one complaint from 2015 said.

“Since at least 2005 Princeton University has distributed approximately $150 million in profits to faculty above and beyond their normal compensation and continues to do so,” it continued.

Princeton’s Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property reported patent license income rising from $95.9 million in 2010 to $115.2 million in the 2011 fiscal year, the last year in which it broke out the line in its annual research report. Most of the increase was credited to growth in sales of the anticancer drug Alimta, which is licensed to Eli Lilly and Co. Distributions to inventors rose from $28.9 million to $34.8 million.

Many colleges periodically tussle with localities over whether a given building should be tax-exempt, based on operations there. But the breadth of the challenge to Princeton’s status was unusual — and therefore of concern to research universities nationwide.

Princeton maintained that it complies with federal law when faculty member research leads to patents that are then transferred to companies. It argued the cost of supporting research was beyond any revenue generated and pointed out that it pays substantial property taxes.

The university also argued that it provides services that would otherwise be picked up by municipal authorities, like collecting trash, employing police officers and keeping up private roads that are open to the public.

Still, Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco refused to dismiss the litigation, which ultimately pitted Princeton University and the Borough of Princeton, which granted the university tax-exempt status, against nearly 30 residents. Then in November of last year the judge said the university held the burden of proof. That raised major concerns at the university and for others in the New Jersey nonprofit space.

The Center for Non-Profits, a New Jersey state association of nonprofits that filed an amicus brief supporting the university, said it worried about opening the door to future challenges to nonprofits’ tax exemptions.

“The center is deeply concerned that this standard, which appears to have little substantiation in existing case law, would make all nonprofit property owners highly vulnerable to challenges from disgruntled residents that would be extremely costly and time-consuming to defend, siphoning scarce resources,” it wrote on the development.

Princeton University, meanwhile, anticipated going building by building to defend its property tax exemptions. It projected that process to take weeks, potentially pushing the trial’s completion date into 2017.

Instead it opted to settle the case. The deal it reached, which was announced just three days before the suit was set to go to trial, will have the university paying $2 million in 2017 and $1.6 million per year for five subsequent years to fund payments to Princeton homeowners who receive benefits under New Jersey’s Homestead program for low- and moderate-income homeowners. The benefit will pay approximately $2,200 per homeowner. Some of the money will also go to a nonprofit organization providing need-based scholarships for graduates of Princeton High School who attend postsecondary institutions other than Princeton.

In addition, the university is set to contribute $416,700 per year from 2017 to 2019 to the Witherspoon Jackson Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that will direct the funds to housing and related needs for economically disadvantaged residents in Princeton. Plus, the university will make $3.48 million in annual voluntary payments to its local municipality in 2021 and 2022. That’s the same amount it’s set to contribute in 2020 under an existing seven-year agreement that had been set to end that year.

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the university felt the settlement payments were a better use of funding than continuing litigation. The university declined to discuss in depth the process behind its decision to settle the case. But a spokesman, John Cramer, said it would have expected to have its property tax exemption eligibility confirmed had the case gone to trial.

“New Jersey’s Constitution and decades of state policy establish that nonprofit educational institutions serve public purposes and are entitled to property tax exemption so they can devote their resources to their educational and research missions,” Cramer said in an email. “This is exactly what Princeton does.”

The lawyer representing the homeowners disagreed, though. Bruce Afran believes he would have won the case but took the settlement because it helped homeowners.

“The reason for starting this lawsuit, originally, was to stabilize the tax base, to protect the economically disadvantaged homeowners that live here,” Afran said. “That’s why we took this.”

Afran will not rule out bringing similar lawsuits in the future, in New Jersey or elsewhere. The Princeton settlement covers a six-year time frame, but homeowners could return to court at the end of that period, he said. They might do so unless the university puts more money on the table.

“I don’t know what will happen in six years,” Afran said. “If Princeton’s business commercialization continues to grow and there’s no permanent solution, I am confident the litigation will begin again — if not with me, then with someone else.”

Afran insists he has no ill will toward the academic world or intent to challenge its existence. Princeton negotiated fairly, he said, adding that now Princeton is doing more to support its local tax base than most other comparable universities.

Afran rejected several arguments for the university keeping its tax-exempt status, including the argument that it pays property tax on some of its buildings that are deemed commercial.

“That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is they’re running those out of their exempt buildings. The management comes through the university’s executive staff. There’s no way to segregate that, because the president himself is responsible for that management. So is the Board of Trustees.”

Major research institutions are vulnerable to similar challenges across the country, Afran believes. Smaller institutions that aren’t trying to commercialize research have become different from large research institutions pursuing widespread commercialization, he said.

“This is going on in major research universities all over the country,” Afran said. “There’s virtually no way to segregate the academic science and the commercial science. They’re all merged.”

Universities inside and outside of New Jersey have followed the case with concern, according to John B. Wilson, president and CEO of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey. Yet it remains to be seen whether others pick up on the settlement.

In large part, that’s because the key question in the case has not been settled — whether Princeton researchers receiving royalties from their research were equivalent to stockholders receiving dividends, Wilson said.

“What precedent it sets remains to be seen,” he said.

In New Jersey, the settlement comes at a time of intense pressure from high property tax rates, tight municipal budgets and a trend toward tax-exemption litigation. The topic of tax exemption has grown in prominence since a 2015 case finding Morristown Medical Center was not entitled to a tax exemption on most of its property.

In that case, Bianco — the same judge overseeing the Princeton case — found the hospital did not meet the legal test for operating as a charitable nonprofit organization. The judge cited several reasons in his finding, including compensation levels similar to the for-profit sector, that private physicians earned income on hospital property and that the hospital was similar in function to for-profit hospitals. He also said the hospital did not show separation between for-profit and nonprofit activity. The hospital later reached a settlement to pay property taxes on about a quarter of its property plus penalties over a decade. “New Jersey has kind of led the way in tax-exemption litigation,” said Michael Paff, a New Jersey-based lawyer who specializes in real estate matters including property tax exemptions. “The decision of Morristown hospital, that’s now snowballed into an issue where upwards of 35 other townships in New Jersey have filed litigation against their local hospitals. That’s very concerning.”

Different pieces of legislation have been drafted to address the state’s trend of property tax legislation. They have yet to result in changes to the law.

New Jersey legislators passed a law this year that would have protected the state property tax exemption for nonprofit hospitals that have profit-making activities while requiring them follow a formula for making mandatory fees to local municipalities. Governor Chris Christie pocket vetoed the measure in January. Other legislation has been drafted to limit the ability of third parties like homeowners to challenge nonprofits’ property tax exemptions, as happened in the Princeton case.

Without legislative changes, many worry about future suits against universities. In theory, those suits would not have to be won to have an impact. Legal action can provide leverage for parties trying to extract payment in lieu of tax, or PILOT agreements, from institutions to municipalities.

“I think in many ways, all these cases are tried in public opinion,” said Daphne A. Kenyon, an economist and resident fellow in tax policy at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., who has studied PILOT agreements and is a former member of the New Hampshire Board of Education. “I think if I was the president of the university, I would make sure I was prepared for some cases like this and made sure I had my arguments stacked up and also made sure to keep town-gown relations cordial.”

Keeping tax disputes amicable is a key recommendation, Kenyon said. She believes it is beneficial if institutions can come to agreements for the long term, which can reduce the relative cost of negotiations.

The situation in New Jersey might not set off a wave of litigation against colleges and universities around the country, Kenyon said. Legal differences could stand in the way.

“The property tax exemption for nonprofits goes back to the earliest history of our country, and it existed before we even had an income tax,” Kenyon said. “When you look at it, the detail and the difference from state to state are mind-numbing.”

Homeowners in many locations won’t have the resources to bring a suit, either. The Princeton suit was only able to proceed because Eleanor Lewis, a public interest lawyer and former assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Insurance, left money in her estate for the cause, Afran said.

Still, some worry that the debate has highlighted the notion that universities and nonprofits should pay their fair share of taxes toward municipal services. That idea could put financial stress on small institutions while overlooking the contributions they make, said Linda Czipo, president and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits in New Jersey.

“Our concern is it completely disregards what nonprofits of all sizes and types do contribute to the well-being of localities and regions, whether it’s economically or programmatically or socially,” she said. “It’s not a one-sided equation.”

Administration and Finance
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When Princeton University announced it had settled litigation with area homeowners who had argued it is a profit-making institution in order to challenge its exemption from property taxes, it appeared to be paying millions of dollars to clear long-lingering uncertainty.

But the agreement, announced Oct. 14, leaves key legal issues unresolved in New Jersey. Although the university did not admit its currently exempt property should be taxed, a court did not affirm its tax exemptions, either.

That could foreshadow additional challenges to research universities in the state -- challenges many think could be copied elsewhere in the country as taxpayers or revenue-strapped municipalities search for sources of cash. And the lawyer who filed the Princeton case says the homeowners he represented could bring another lawsuit in six years.

Within New Jersey, a key development in the case took leverage from Princeton University. A judge ruled that the burden of proof for tax-exempt status was on Princeton University, meaning it would have been required to prove itself qualified for property tax exemptions it was already receiving. That’s a major difference from the homeowners bringing the suit having to prove that Princeton did not deserve tax breaks. It’s also a potentially slow and expensive process for the university.

On a larger scale, it’s not yet clear whether challenges to college and university tax exemptions will become common outside of New Jersey, although politicians have eyed the possibility in several states. But the Princeton settlement plainly fits into an era in which college and university finances, tax exemptions and operations are challenged from all sides.

The settlement comes more than five years after several residents sued Princeton over its tax-exempt status. Like other nonprofit institutions, Princeton is exempt from paying property taxes on much of its property. It does, however, pay taxes on some commercial properties that don’t qualify for exemption -- like a movie theater it owns -- and on others it voluntarily keeps on the tax rolls, like graduate student housing. It also makes voluntary contributions to local municipal government.

Princeton University says it is the largest property taxpayer in the Borough of Princeton municipality, with an $11.1 million property tax bill. Residents, however, argued that they have had to pay more in taxes to compensate for money the university should be paying on exempt property. The lawyer representing them has said that Princeton’s tax bill would be in the $30-40 million range if it paid taxes on all of its property.

In 2011, residents first filed their litigation to challenge Princeton’s status as a nonprofit operation. Additional residents later joined the action, which claimed Princeton University earns millions of dollars in patent royalty income that is then distributed to faculty. The action also argued the university partakes in other commercial operations.

“It shares profit with faculty; engages in profit-seeking conduct through its patent, copyright and trademark licensing businesses; sells the use of its scientific and engineering facilities to outside commercial entities; maintains an industrial associates program and other programs in which it makes available its facilities to commercial use; operates venture capital businesses; operates retail businesses; operates a commercial real estate business and a residential real estate rental business; operates a profit-seeking hedge fund operation and other profit-based investment operations; operates a[n] office and hotel development business, private mortgage banking, commercial television, among other activities,” one complaint from 2015 said.

“Since at least 2005 Princeton University has distributed approximately $150 million in profits to faculty above and beyond their normal compensation and continues to do so,” it continued.

Princeton’s Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property reported patent license income rising from $95.9 million in 2010 to $115.2 million in the 2011 fiscal year, the last year in which it broke out the line in its annual research report. Most of the increase was credited to growth in sales of the anticancer drug Alimta, which is licensed to Eli Lilly and Co. Distributions to inventors rose from $28.9 million to $34.8 million.

Many colleges periodically tussle with localities over whether a given building should be tax-exempt, based on operations there. But the breadth of the challenge to Princeton's status was unusual -- and therefore of concern to research universities nationwide.

Princeton maintained that it complies with federal law when faculty member research leads to patents that are then transferred to companies. It argued the cost of supporting research was beyond any revenue generated and pointed out that it pays substantial property taxes.

The university also argued that it provides services that would otherwise be picked up by municipal authorities, like collecting trash, employing police officers and keeping up private roads that are open to the public.

Still, Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco refused to dismiss the litigation, which ultimately pitted Princeton University and the Borough of Princeton, which granted the university tax-exempt status, against nearly 30 residents. Then in November of last year the judge said the university held the burden of proof. That raised major concerns at the university and for others in the New Jersey nonprofit space.

The Center for Non-Profits, a New Jersey state association of nonprofits that filed an amicus brief supporting the university, said it worried about opening the door to future challenges to nonprofits’ tax exemptions.

“The center is deeply concerned that this standard, which appears to have little substantiation in existing case law, would make all nonprofit property owners highly vulnerable to challenges from disgruntled residents that would be extremely costly and time-consuming to defend, siphoning scarce resources,” it wrote on the development.

Princeton University, meanwhile, anticipated going building by building to defend its property tax exemptions. It projected that process to take weeks, potentially pushing the trial’s completion date into 2017.

Instead it opted to settle the case. The deal it reached, which was announced just three days before the suit was set to go to trial, will have the university paying $2 million in 2017 and $1.6 million per year for five subsequent years to fund payments to Princeton homeowners who receive benefits under New Jersey’s Homestead program for low- and moderate-income homeowners. The benefit will pay approximately $2,200 per homeowner. Some of the money will also go to a nonprofit organization providing need-based scholarships for graduates of Princeton High School who attend postsecondary institutions other than Princeton.

In addition, the university is set to contribute $416,700 per year from 2017 to 2019 to the Witherspoon Jackson Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that will direct the funds to housing and related needs for economically disadvantaged residents in Princeton. Plus, the university will make $3.48 million in annual voluntary payments to its local municipality in 2021 and 2022. That’s the same amount it’s set to contribute in 2020 under an existing seven-year agreement that had been set to end that year.

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the university felt the settlement payments were a better use of funding than continuing litigation. The university declined to discuss in depth the process behind its decision to settle the case. But a spokesman, John Cramer, said it would have expected to have its property tax exemption eligibility confirmed had the case gone to trial.

"New Jersey’s Constitution and decades of state policy establish that nonprofit educational institutions serve public purposes and are entitled to property tax exemption so they can devote their resources to their educational and research missions,” Cramer said in an email. “This is exactly what Princeton does.”

The lawyer representing the homeowners disagreed, though. Bruce Afran believes he would have won the case but took the settlement because it helped homeowners.

“The reason for starting this lawsuit, originally, was to stabilize the tax base, to protect the economically disadvantaged homeowners that live here,” Afran said. “That’s why we took this.”

Afran will not rule out bringing similar lawsuits in the future, in New Jersey or elsewhere. The Princeton settlement covers a six-year time frame, but homeowners could return to court at the end of that period, he said. They might do so unless the university puts more money on the table.

“I don’t know what will happen in six years,” Afran said. “If Princeton’s business commercialization continues to grow and there’s no permanent solution, I am confident the litigation will begin again -- if not with me, then with someone else.”

Afran insists he has no ill will toward the academic world or intent to challenge its existence. Princeton negotiated fairly, he said, adding that now Princeton is doing more to support its local tax base than most other comparable universities.

Afran rejected several arguments for the university keeping its tax-exempt status, including the argument that it pays property tax on some of its buildings that are deemed commercial.

“That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is they’re running those out of their exempt buildings. The management comes through the university’s executive staff. There’s no way to segregate that, because the president himself is responsible for that management. So is the Board of Trustees.”

Major research institutions are vulnerable to similar challenges across the country, Afran believes. Smaller institutions that aren’t trying to commercialize research have become different from large research institutions pursuing widespread commercialization, he said.

“This is going on in major research universities all over the country,” Afran said. “There’s virtually no way to segregate the academic science and the commercial science. They’re all merged.”

Universities inside and outside of New Jersey have followed the case with concern, according to John B. Wilson, president and CEO of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey. Yet it remains to be seen whether others pick up on the settlement.

In large part, that’s because the key question in the case has not been settled -- whether Princeton researchers receiving royalties from their research were equivalent to stockholders receiving dividends, Wilson said.

“What precedent it sets remains to be seen,” he said.

In New Jersey, the settlement comes at a time of intense pressure from high property tax rates, tight municipal budgets and a trend toward tax-exemption litigation. The topic of tax exemption has grown in prominence since a 2015 case finding Morristown Medical Center was not entitled to a tax exemption on most of its property.

In that case, Bianco -- the same judge overseeing the Princeton case -- found the hospital did not meet the legal test for operating as a charitable nonprofit organization. The judge cited several reasons in his finding, including compensation levels similar to the for-profit sector, that private physicians earned income on hospital property and that the hospital was similar in function to for-profit hospitals. He also said the hospital did not show separation between for-profit and nonprofit activity. The hospital later reached a settlement to pay property taxes on about a quarter of its property plus penalties over a decade. “New Jersey has kind of led the way in tax-exemption litigation,” said Michael Paff, a New Jersey-based lawyer who specializes in real estate matters including property tax exemptions. “The decision of Morristown hospital, that’s now snowballed into an issue where upwards of 35 other townships in New Jersey have filed litigation against their local hospitals. That’s very concerning.”

Different pieces of legislation have been drafted to address the state’s trend of property tax legislation. They have yet to result in changes to the law.

New Jersey legislators passed a law this year that would have protected the state property tax exemption for nonprofit hospitals that have profit-making activities while requiring them follow a formula for making mandatory fees to local municipalities. Governor Chris Christie pocket vetoed the measure in January. Other legislation has been drafted to limit the ability of third parties like homeowners to challenge nonprofits’ property tax exemptions, as happened in the Princeton case.

Without legislative changes, many worry about future suits against universities. In theory, those suits would not have to be won to have an impact. Legal action can provide leverage for parties trying to extract payment in lieu of tax, or PILOT agreements, from institutions to municipalities.

“I think in many ways, all these cases are tried in public opinion,” said Daphne A. Kenyon, an economist and resident fellow in tax policy at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., who has studied PILOT agreements and is a former member of the New Hampshire Board of Education. “I think if I was the president of the university, I would make sure I was prepared for some cases like this and made sure I had my arguments stacked up and also made sure to keep town-gown relations cordial.”

Keeping tax disputes amicable is a key recommendation, Kenyon said. She believes it is beneficial if institutions can come to agreements for the long term, which can reduce the relative cost of negotiations.

The situation in New Jersey might not set off a wave of litigation against colleges and universities around the country, Kenyon said. Legal differences could stand in the way.

“The property tax exemption for nonprofits goes back to the earliest history of our country, and it existed before we even had an income tax,” Kenyon said. “When you look at it, the detail and the difference from state to state are mind-numbing.”

Homeowners in many locations won’t have the resources to bring a suit, either. The Princeton suit was only able to proceed because Eleanor Lewis, a public interest lawyer and former assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Insurance, left money in her estate for the cause, Afran said.

Still, some worry that the debate has highlighted the notion that universities and nonprofits should pay their fair share of taxes toward municipal services. That idea could put financial stress on small institutions while overlooking the contributions they make, said Linda Czipo, president and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits in New Jersey.

“Our concern is it completely disregards what nonprofits of all sizes and types do contribute to the well-being of localities and regions, whether it’s economically or programmatically or socially,” she said. “It’s not a one-sided equation.”

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Brookings study finds growing disparities in student loan debt between black and white graduates

A new study released by the Brookings Institution finds disparities in student debt levels for black and white borrowers grow after graduation, a trend partly attributable to higher enrollment rates for black students in graduate programs, especially a…

A new study released by the Brookings Institution finds disparities in student debt levels for black and white borrowers grow after graduation, a trend partly attributable to higher enrollment rates for black students in graduate programs, especially at for-profit institutions. That jump in enrollment is linked to higher federal borrowing rates introduced in 2006 and the weak job market -- especially for black college grads -- after the 2008 recession.

Graduate enrollment is a worthwhile investment, the study finds, but comes with more financial risk for African-American students both because of their concentration in the for-profit sector and because of lower rates of graduation.

The study, written by Judith Scott-Clayton, a Columbia University associate professor of economics and education, and research associate Jing Li, is based on data from two nationally representative surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of college graduates from 1993 and 2008. It calls for comprehensive data tracking student financial aid and debt by race and argues that focusing policy on undergraduate borrowing alone will address only part of the racial disparity in student debt. A number of scholars and advocacy groups are pressuring the federal government to begin tracking borrowers by race to aid research into the causes or size of racial disparities.

The Brookings report acknowledges that lack of adequate data could lead to understatements of actual racial disparities in student loan debt. Information on amounts borrowed, future earnings and loan defaults cannot be broken down by race, the study says, and information on race is not collected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the National Student Loan Data System, meaning researchers and policy makers don’t have information on racial disparities for those who take out debt and leave college without a degree -- a group especially likely to default on student loans.

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Almost half of black graduates owe more on their federal undergraduate loans four years after leaving college than they did immediately after graduating, more than double the rate of white graduates.
  • Black borrowers have a default rate of 7.6 percent within four years -- three times the rate of white graduates.
  • Black graduates with debt are more likely than white graduates to have interest accumulate faster than they pay off the balance of a loan.
  • Borrowing for graduate school accounts for 45 percent of the black-white student debt disparity.

The study also argues that income-driven repayment plans treat the symptom of the racial debt disparity without addressing the underlying causes.

“What was shocking was the magnitude of the debt four years after graduation. It’s huge,” said Scott-Clayton.

Debt shouldn’t be seen as a bad word, she said, but the study indicates that the system isn’t working the same way for everyone.

The study suggests that black graduates from the class of 2008 may have enrolled in graduate school at substantially higher rates than other groups did because of weak job markets. And more than a quarter of those graduate students enrolled in for-profit institutions, compared to 9 percent for white college graduates.

“That just begs the question what is going on in that sector,” Scott-Clayton said.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of education at Seton Hall University who focuses on higher education finance and student aid, said the study is revealing of the large role graduate student loan debt plays in racial disparities.

He said he had mixed feelings about collecting data on student borrowers’ race because asking about race on a form like the FAFSA could cause some students to think they would be eligible or ineligible for aid because of their race. The department would need to explain to borrowers that that information would not affect whether they received aid, Kelchen said.

But he said the only source of such data now is through national surveys with limited scope.

“It highlights the need for more data on student lending in general,” Kelchen said.

Pauline Abernathy, executive vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said the study underscores the need for the Department of Education to collect institution and student level data on student borrowers. TICAS was among 40 consumer advocacy and civil rights groups that sent a letter to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. in August asking that the department start collecting the data.

“It stands to reason that the disparities for more recent students could be even greater than what is in this report,” Abernathy said.

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AAUP Supports APSCUF in Struggle for Quality Education, Fair Contract

Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, and Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress issued a solidarity statement supporting colleagues in Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and …

Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, and Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress issued a solidarity statement supporting colleagues in Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties (APSCUF) in their struggle for a fair contract and ensuring quality education in Pennsylvania.

AAUP Supports APSCUF in Struggle for Quality Education, Fair Contract

The following statement was issued by Rudy Fichtenbaum, President of the American Association of University Professors, and Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress:

The following statement was issued by Rudy Fichtenbaum, President of the American Association of University Professors, and Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress:

Study looks at impact of study abroad on Chinese academics who return home

Academics who return to China after studying abroad are more likely to be promoted to full professor than those who stay at home for their Ph.D., a study suggests.

But overseas returnees are less likely to secure senior positions above the rank of pro…

Academics who return to China after studying abroad are more likely to be promoted to full professor than those who stay at home for their Ph.D., a study suggests.

But overseas returnees are less likely to secure senior positions above the rank of professor than China-educated Ph.D.s, who are more trusted and have more time to work their way into social and professional networks that can lead to high-level promotions, the new analysis suggests.

Described as the first study of the impact of guanxi networks of Chinese social ties on academic promotion, the paper, published in Science Direct, analyzed the career trajectory of 116 overseas-trained Ph.D.s who started their first academic jobs in China between 2000 and 2010.

In looking at the CVs of these staff, all based in the mathematics and sociology departments of the top 100 universities selected for extra funding as part of a multibillion-dollar Chinese excellence initiative, researchers found a “positive significant effect for overseas returnees in advanced academic promotion to full professor.”

Foreign-educated Ph.D.s were also more likely than domestic Ph.D. graduates to get a job in the first place, as they could fill “structural holes” in a university’s workforce and tended to get promoted quicker to assistant professor.

However, that advantage ran out when it came to being promoted to top administrative posts, found the study, “Is It Better to ‘Stand on Two Boats’ or ‘Sit on the Chinese Lap’? Examining the Cultural Contingency of Network Structures in the Contemporary Chinese Academic Labor Market.”

There are “significant career advantages for overseas returnees for academic promotion to full professor in both regular and tenure tracks,” state the authors, Xiao Lu, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institutes of Science and Development, and Paul-Brian McInerney, a sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But “overseas returnees lose this advantage when it comes to promotion to administrative positions,” the authors state.

“In other words, while ‘standing on two boats’ helps a returnee secure their first position, ‘sitting on the Chinese lap’ provides greater advantages for career advancement,” it concludes.

That finding appears to corroborate evidence of widespread “academic inbreeding” historically found in China, Japan and countries in Southeast Asia, it says. For instance, a 2008 study found that 48 percent of faculty hires in Beijing were internal -- something the study attributes to China’s highly developed guanxi networks.

Locally based scholars benefited from access to these closed-off networks, as well as from “deeply rooted trust and embeddedness within the institution [which] leads to faster promotion to administrative positions.”

It adds that although “domestically trained scientists and those aiming for more advanced promotions benefit more from network closure,” this may change as the growing number of expatriate scholars returning to China makes such preferment practices less acceptable.

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Surveys of graduate students reveal campus climate issues at Yale, Michigan

Two institutions with major diversity initiatives have their work cut out for them in terms of improving campus climate for minority graduate students. Studies released by a student group at Yale University and by a graduate school at the University of Michigan suggest ongoing concerns that could have implications for retention as they work toward diversifying the Ph.D. pool. And since many minority undergraduates are pushing colleges and universities to find and hire more minority Ph.D.s as faculty members, these findings could have an impact at all the places that might do so.

“The biggest takeaway is that there continue to be disparities in students’ experiences and treatment on campus on the basis of race and ethnicity,” said Sameer Jaywant, a law student at Yale and chair of its Graduate and Professional Student Senate’s diversity and inclusion committee, which recently released a report on race, diversity and inclusion. “The data and personal anecdotes both seem to confirm that even facially neutral institutional policies and structures can have negative impacts on students, and that personal bias and prejudice continue to exist in settings of higher education like Yale.”

Yale University

Wanting to gauge the experiences of Yale’s graduate students in light of national campus diversity discussions last year, the Student Senate sent out a survey to about 7,000 graduate students. Some 17 percent responded, and their answers and comments are the basis of the new report. Regarding availability of resources, some 56 percent of respondents of all races said they wouldn’t know where to go to report an instance of race-based discrimination. Some 22 percent of students said they’d reported an instance of race-based discrimination to a staff or faculty member; of those, 63 percent said they felt their concern was taken seriously, while 18 percent said it wasn’t.

Latino students were the least aware of available resources, but black students were the least likely to feel comfortable accessing discrimination resources of which they were aware.

One-third of respondents said they’d experienced bias, discrimination or harassment, which the report calls an “unacceptably high rate.” Some 72 percent of black students said they’d been subjected to overt or implicit bias, discrimination, or harassment due to their race, compared to 50 percent of Asian students, 44 percent of Latinos and 26 percent of whites.

About half of black students said they’d experienced bias within their home departments. Some 58 percent of black students said they’d experienced it in a social setting while at Yale.

Research on minority graduate student retention — a key part of many faculty diversity plans — points to the importance of mentors and networks. So the Yale report says it’s “concerning” that 40 percent of respondents said they didn’t have a faculty mentor. Black and Asian students were less likely than their Hispanic and white peers to have faculty mentors, and Hispanic and Asian students were less likely than their white and black peers to know of faculty members who share their ethnic backgrounds.

Concerning community, the report says it’s notable that white students reported having the most people in their academic cohorts with whom they identify, whereas Latino and black students identify less with their social and academic peer groups. Some 30 percent of black students disagreed to some extent with the statement “I belong at Yale,” compared to 11 percent of white students. Latino students were most likely to say they were “strongly dissatisfied” with Yale, at 11 percent of respondents in that ethnic group. About 18 percent of respondents over all and 25 percent of nonwhite respondents said they felt their contributions were valued less than those of their peers.

“Nonwhite students tended to think that Yale doesn’t try hard enough to make an inclusive environment for them compared to white students,” the report says.

Yale launched a five-year, $50 million faculty diversity initiative last year. Part of the plan is to support emerging faculty by continuing to sponsor “pipeline programs” aimed at increasing the number of minority students who pursue Ph.D.s. And while additional services are planned, the graduate senate report emphasizes that success is “not simply a question of increasing the numbers of historically underrepresented minorities who attend Yale,” but supporting them once they’re there. Put another way, it’s about retention, not just recruitment.

To that end, the graduate senate report makes a number of recommendations, including transparency about university diversity initiative developments and data it collects on the student experience. The report says the Student Senate should hold diversity-related events throughout the year, and that faculty, staff and students should participate in diversity training programs and workshops “designed to provide education regarding cultural awareness, unconscious biases, discrimination and privilege,” among other things.

The report further calls for the creation of a public, universitywide discrimination policy that, like Yale’s sexual misconduct policy, lays out definitions, standards and procedures related to discrimination and harassment. A formal, standard reporting system is also needed, it says, as is more mentoring support for students of color.

The Student Senate recently sent the report to university administrators; public affairs officers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jaywant said the senate’s recommendations matter because they would “create or reform mechanisms of transparency and accountability in the administration’s decision-making processes, while also calling on decision makers to implement common-sense policies that would promote diversity — for example, streamlining the public availability of resources, consolidating dispute resolution mechanisms and supporting students who have specific initiatives that aim to achieve a climate of genuine inclusiveness.”

University of Michigan

Michigan also recently launched a major diversity initiative. Some 49 individual school and program diversity plans informed a five-year, $85 million campuswide project organized around three major themes: creating an inclusive and equitable campus; recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse university community; and supporting innovation and inclusive scholarship and teaching.

One of the 49 individual plans came from the Rackham Graduate School, with input from graduate students through forums and several rounds of surveys. Responses to the Michigan surveys from hundreds of students in the sciences are similar to those in the Yale graduate senate survey. Regarding access to mentoring, for example, underrepresented minority students were more likely to report having to seek a faculty mentor outside of their department or program than were their peers who are not members of underrepresented minority groups. The majority of surveyed students did not have a mentor of their racial or ethnic background, even outside their departments — something that was especially true for those in the sciences, math and engineering.

Underrepresented minority students reported at greater rates than their peers instances of microaggressions, such as being ignored, dismissed and treated rudely or as if they were unintelligent. They were also more likely to report experiences of discrimination due to their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background, and have perceptions of a less equitable racial climate.

The implications for these students’ academic engagement and career interests were apparent: experiences with racial climate issues related to less trust in faculty members, lower senses of belonging within a department, lower identification with a discipline over all and lower satisfaction with the graduate student experience.

Here are some examples of open-ended comments from student respondents:

“Definitions of diversity (when even discussed) mostly focus on black/white issues but rarely address Asian students, international students, class issues, disability, etc.”

“As a white student, I don’t feel like all people feel it is appropriate for me to engage in conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion in my department. For this reason, I have taken a backseat in these discussions, choosing only to listen.”

“Some issues regarding diversity and inclusion that affect me … the inability to see myself represented more. From the doctoral students coming for interviews to the visiting faculty from outside universities, I do not feel as though my race and ethnic background are highly represented or the efforts to recruit more individuals like me are a high priority.”

“Burden of being a student of color and overly involved in organizations advocating for this body of students. It is hard because it feels like you are not getting your work done and I often have to deal with the guilty feelings of not being able to get everything I want done. Additionally, as I am doing this advocacy work, my white colleagues are just focused on the research tasks, networking and making career moves that will help them to advance faster than I will. At least that is what I think. I don’t always see the direct benefit of the work that I do as a scholar activist because I know that it goes to benefit those who will come after me. But sometimes I struggle to know what is going to sustain me now, when I often feel bitter and tired about the work that I am doing despite knowing that it is really important.”

“I relied entirely on my program’s faculty when I came in, and had they not been able to provide all the support that they did, I think that the general campus climate would have been enough to push me out. I often hear derogatory comments made about students of my racial background, and have previously experienced some. Moreover, I don’t think that the university is nearly as inclusive as it claims to be, and I take issue with the way race relations are handled.”

“I feel that professors will often give preferential, unconscious treatment to white students. This is particularly noticeable when I [a black male] am the only person of color … and four different professors never make eye contact with me and teach to the side of the room where I am not located.”

‘What does support mean?’

Rackham’s report takes an inventory of current programs promoting and supporting student diversity, but it also presents ideas for addressing change. They include learning more about “strategies for engaging faculty colleagues around mentoring, especially for those that do not already see the value in investing in their mentoring relationships and skills development” and the “need for more faculty supports for addressing diversity and inclusion in the classroom.”

Kimberly Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park who has studied early-career choices by academics of color, said underrepresented minority students need support, “but the question is how and what does support mean?” 

Griffin’s own research, along with that of others, suggests that students of color often feel “like their colleagues view them as less well prepared and able to do good work.” Such perceptions “result in exclusion from opportunities to connect academically and socially with peers and faculty,” she said, “and these biases can appear when faculty are choosing which students to mentor and provide with additional opportunities, in how students choose study groups, and in who gets invited to continue the conversation about class or research at the bar or over pizza.” 

As just one example of ways to support graduate students of color, Griffin cited a study suggesting that non-academic “coaches” for biomedical Ph.D. students promote persistence toward academic careers. Over all, she said, “It’s important to really think about how we perceive students of color, and to be as intentional about fostering inclusion as we are about avoiding exclusion.”

 
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Two institutions with major diversity initiatives have their work cut out for them in terms of improving campus climate for minority graduate students. Studies released by a student group at Yale University and by a graduate school at the University of Michigan suggest ongoing concerns that could have implications for retention as they work toward diversifying the Ph.D. pool. And since many minority undergraduates are pushing colleges and universities to find and hire more minority Ph.D.s as faculty members, these findings could have an impact at all the places that might do so.

“The biggest takeaway is that there continue to be disparities in students’ experiences and treatment on campus on the basis of race and ethnicity,” said Sameer Jaywant, a law student at Yale and chair of its Graduate and Professional Student Senate’s diversity and inclusion committee, which recently released a report on race, diversity and inclusion. “The data and personal anecdotes both seem to confirm that even facially neutral institutional policies and structures can have negative impacts on students, and that personal bias and prejudice continue to exist in settings of higher education like Yale.”

Yale University

Wanting to gauge the experiences of Yale’s graduate students in light of national campus diversity discussions last year, the Student Senate sent out a survey to about 7,000 graduate students. Some 17 percent responded, and their answers and comments are the basis of the new report. Regarding availability of resources, some 56 percent of respondents of all races said they wouldn’t know where to go to report an instance of race-based discrimination. Some 22 percent of students said they’d reported an instance of race-based discrimination to a staff or faculty member; of those, 63 percent said they felt their concern was taken seriously, while 18 percent said it wasn’t.

Latino students were the least aware of available resources, but black students were the least likely to feel comfortable accessing discrimination resources of which they were aware.

One-third of respondents said they’d experienced bias, discrimination or harassment, which the report calls an “unacceptably high rate.” Some 72 percent of black students said they’d been subjected to overt or implicit bias, discrimination, or harassment due to their race, compared to 50 percent of Asian students, 44 percent of Latinos and 26 percent of whites.

About half of black students said they’d experienced bias within their home departments. Some 58 percent of black students said they’d experienced it in a social setting while at Yale.

Research on minority graduate student retention -- a key part of many faculty diversity plans -- points to the importance of mentors and networks. So the Yale report says it’s “concerning” that 40 percent of respondents said they didn’t have a faculty mentor. Black and Asian students were less likely than their Hispanic and white peers to have faculty mentors, and Hispanic and Asian students were less likely than their white and black peers to know of faculty members who share their ethnic backgrounds.

Concerning community, the report says it’s notable that white students reported having the most people in their academic cohorts with whom they identify, whereas Latino and black students identify less with their social and academic peer groups. Some 30 percent of black students disagreed to some extent with the statement “I belong at Yale,” compared to 11 percent of white students. Latino students were most likely to say they were “strongly dissatisfied” with Yale, at 11 percent of respondents in that ethnic group. About 18 percent of respondents over all and 25 percent of nonwhite respondents said they felt their contributions were valued less than those of their peers.

“Nonwhite students tended to think that Yale doesn’t try hard enough to make an inclusive environment for them compared to white students,” the report says.

Yale launched a five-year, $50 million faculty diversity initiative last year. Part of the plan is to support emerging faculty by continuing to sponsor “pipeline programs” aimed at increasing the number of minority students who pursue Ph.D.s. And while additional services are planned, the graduate senate report emphasizes that success is “not simply a question of increasing the numbers of historically underrepresented minorities who attend Yale,” but supporting them once they’re there. Put another way, it’s about retention, not just recruitment.

To that end, the graduate senate report makes a number of recommendations, including transparency about university diversity initiative developments and data it collects on the student experience. The report says the Student Senate should hold diversity-related events throughout the year, and that faculty, staff and students should participate in diversity training programs and workshops “designed to provide education regarding cultural awareness, unconscious biases, discrimination and privilege,” among other things.

The report further calls for the creation of a public, universitywide discrimination policy that, like Yale’s sexual misconduct policy, lays out definitions, standards and procedures related to discrimination and harassment. A formal, standard reporting system is also needed, it says, as is more mentoring support for students of color.

The Student Senate recently sent the report to university administrators; public affairs officers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jaywant said the senate’s recommendations matter because they would “create or reform mechanisms of transparency and accountability in the administration’s decision-making processes, while also calling on decision makers to implement common-sense policies that would promote diversity -- for example, streamlining the public availability of resources, consolidating dispute resolution mechanisms and supporting students who have specific initiatives that aim to achieve a climate of genuine inclusiveness.”

University of Michigan

Michigan also recently launched a major diversity initiative. Some 49 individual school and program diversity plans informed a five-year, $85 million campuswide project organized around three major themes: creating an inclusive and equitable campus; recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse university community; and supporting innovation and inclusive scholarship and teaching.

One of the 49 individual plans came from the Rackham Graduate School, with input from graduate students through forums and several rounds of surveys. Responses to the Michigan surveys from hundreds of students in the sciences are similar to those in the Yale graduate senate survey. Regarding access to mentoring, for example, underrepresented minority students were more likely to report having to seek a faculty mentor outside of their department or program than were their peers who are not members of underrepresented minority groups. The majority of surveyed students did not have a mentor of their racial or ethnic background, even outside their departments -- something that was especially true for those in the sciences, math and engineering.

Underrepresented minority students reported at greater rates than their peers instances of microaggressions, such as being ignored, dismissed and treated rudely or as if they were unintelligent. They were also more likely to report experiences of discrimination due to their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background, and have perceptions of a less equitable racial climate.

The implications for these students’ academic engagement and career interests were apparent: experiences with racial climate issues related to less trust in faculty members, lower senses of belonging within a department, lower identification with a discipline over all and lower satisfaction with the graduate student experience.

Here are some examples of open-ended comments from student respondents:

“Definitions of diversity (when even discussed) mostly focus on black/white issues but rarely address Asian students, international students, class issues, disability, etc.”

“As a white student, I don’t feel like all people feel it is appropriate for me to engage in conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion in my department. For this reason, I have taken a backseat in these discussions, choosing only to listen.”

“Some issues regarding diversity and inclusion that affect me … the inability to see myself represented more. From the doctoral students coming for interviews to the visiting faculty from outside universities, I do not feel as though my race and ethnic background are highly represented or the efforts to recruit more individuals like me are a high priority.”

“Burden of being a student of color and overly involved in organizations advocating for this body of students. It is hard because it feels like you are not getting your work done and I often have to deal with the guilty feelings of not being able to get everything I want done. Additionally, as I am doing this advocacy work, my white colleagues are just focused on the research tasks, networking and making career moves that will help them to advance faster than I will. At least that is what I think. I don’t always see the direct benefit of the work that I do as a scholar activist because I know that it goes to benefit those who will come after me. But sometimes I struggle to know what is going to sustain me now, when I often feel bitter and tired about the work that I am doing despite knowing that it is really important.”

“I relied entirely on my program’s faculty when I came in, and had they not been able to provide all the support that they did, I think that the general campus climate would have been enough to push me out. I often hear derogatory comments made about students of my racial background, and have previously experienced some. Moreover, I don’t think that the university is nearly as inclusive as it claims to be, and I take issue with the way race relations are handled.”

“I feel that professors will often give preferential, unconscious treatment to white students. This is particularly noticeable when I [a black male] am the only person of color … and four different professors never make eye contact with me and teach to the side of the room where I am not located.”

'What does support mean?'

Rackham’s report takes an inventory of current programs promoting and supporting student diversity, but it also presents ideas for addressing change. They include learning more about “strategies for engaging faculty colleagues around mentoring, especially for those that do not already see the value in investing in their mentoring relationships and skills development” and the “need for more faculty supports for addressing diversity and inclusion in the classroom.”

Kimberly Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park who has studied early-career choices by academics of color, said underrepresented minority students need support, “but the question is how and what does support mean?” 

Griffin’s own research, along with that of others, suggests that students of color often feel “like their colleagues view them as less well prepared and able to do good work.” Such perceptions “result in exclusion from opportunities to connect academically and socially with peers and faculty,” she said, “and these biases can appear when faculty are choosing which students to mentor and provide with additional opportunities, in how students choose study groups, and in who gets invited to continue the conversation about class or research at the bar or over pizza.” 

As just one example of ways to support graduate students of color, Griffin cited a study suggesting that non-academic “coaches” for biomedical Ph.D. students promote persistence toward academic careers. Over all, she said, “It’s important to really think about how we perceive students of color, and to be as intentional about fostering inclusion as we are about avoiding exclusion.”

 
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Higher ed would be central in a Clinton administration, but who would carry agenda in Congress?

At a campaign rally last month at the University of New Hampshire, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont appeared with Hillary Clinton and promised to make sure the Democratic presidential nominee’s debt-free college plan is enacted as quickly as possible (assuming she’s elected, of course).

While Sanders sits on the Senate committee where any major higher education bills would originate, the role he might play in advancing any legislation on free college remains a question mark at this stage.

Fellow Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, currently the most senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will have the chance to move up to a senior leadership position in the Democratic caucus or run for chair or ranking member of the hugely important Senate Appropriations Committee. Sanders has expressed interest in running for leadership of the HELP panel, should the position open up, since the summer. He could also become chairman of the budget committee, where he is currently ranking member — a possibility GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan warned of last week.

On the health and education committee, Sanders could lead the charge for a free college plan that he campaigned on aggressively during the Democratic primary. Clinton reshaped her own college affordability plan before receiving his endorsement, putting forward a proposal to provide free tuition at four-year public universities to students with family incomes up to $125,000. But that possibility has inspired some skepticism or even nervousness among Capitol Hill insiders on both sides of the aisle who question whether the self-described socialist will be able to work effectively with conservative Republicans like Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Virginia Foxx, the likely next chairwoman of the House education committee.

Whichever party takes control of the upper chamber is likely to have a slim majority, meaning little will be accomplished without bipartisan cooperation.

“The key is the relationship between the committee chair and the ranking member,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. “If they can get to an agreement, great things are possible. Without it, things get really hard really fast.”

Hartle said that Sanders does not have a long list of legislative accomplishments to his name and that the proposal he and Clinton support goes much farther than the free community college plan endorsed by President Obama, which was quickly dismissed by congressional Republicans.

While Sanders’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination helped put issues like college affordability and student loan debt on the national agenda, Murray is known as an effective legislator behind the scenes who can reach agreements with her own party and GOP members. She worked with Alexander last year to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, an update to the No Child Left Behind law, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.

Remaining as the senior Democrat on the HELP committee would allow Murray to follow up that public education achievement by tackling reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But, Hartle said, becoming chair of the powerful appropriations committee would be “pretty irresistible for any U.S. senator.”

Murray has spent several years as the ranking member on the HELP committee, allowing her to establish a solid working relationship with Alexander that would provide a foundation for any work on higher education in the next Congress.

“Assuming Senator Alexander stays, the committee under Senator Sanders would have to figure out what that working relationship looks like,” said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.

Sanders has in many ways become the public face of the free college proposal. But the HELP leadership would also have to chart a course on how to pursue a broader reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the primary federal law that governs many college-related programs. Asked about the potential leadership positions in the next Congress, a Sanders spokesman, Josh Miller-Lewis, said the senator was focused on electing Hillary Clinton and taking back the Senate.

Whatever legislation the Democratic leadership on the HELP committee prioritizes won’t just have to make it out of the Senate — a tall order with a slim majority — but a House that is likely to remain in Republican control. Foxx, a conservative North Carolina Republican, is widely expected to replace Minnesota Republican John Kline as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee after serving as chairwoman of the subcommittee on higher education and workforce training. A former community college president, she would come to the chairmanship with considerable experience working on issues affecting colleges and universities — and her own positions on higher ed policy.

Both committees will also see a handful of new faces in the next Congress regardless of the outcome of next month’s elections. In the House, Minnesota Republican John Kline, the current chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, is retiring, as is Texas Democrat Rubén Hinojosa. Nevada Republican Joe Heck — who has supported a repeal of a student unit record ban — is running for Harry Reid’s Senate seat. And Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott, the ranking member on the House committee, is being talked about as a potential pick to fill Tim Kaine’s Senate seat should the Democrats take the White House and the Virginia senator become vice president.

On the Senate side, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who is second in seniority behind Murray and the current ranking member on appropriations, is retiring in January. Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk trails Democrat Tammy Duckworth in his Senate re-election race and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr’s matchup with Democrat Deborah Ross is being rated a toss-up.

But observers say any progress on higher education issues in the next Congress will depend to a large extent on the leadership of the committees and especially on the relationship of the chairman and ranking member of the HELP committee. Clinton’s campaign team has released a detailed proposal for her free college plan and made it a key part of her pitch to young voters especially. It’s expected that she will make a college affordability plan a priority, but there is real skepticism from Capitol Hill observers about the likelihood of a free college plan — which has been estimated to cost as much as $500 billion over 10 years — going anywhere without significant Democratic majorities in both chambers.

“Proposing it and fighting for it are two different things,” said Vic Klatt, a principal at the Penn Hill Group and a former GOP education policy staffer in the House. “Setting aside all politics, that is a ton of money.”

Klatt said the jury will be out on the new Democratic leadership on both education committees. The one constant on higher ed policy will be Alexander, he said. The current HELP chairman has a long track record on those issues and will need to be brought on board for Democrats to get anything done.

“He’s the key — unless the Democrats get 60 votes in the Senate,” Klatt said.

2016 Election
Student Aid and Loans
Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Senator Bernie Sanders
Is this breaking news?: 

At a campaign rally last month at the University of New Hampshire, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont appeared with Hillary Clinton and promised to make sure the Democratic presidential nominee’s debt-free college plan is enacted as quickly as possible (assuming she's elected, of course).

While Sanders sits on the Senate committee where any major higher education bills would originate, the role he might play in advancing any legislation on free college remains a question mark at this stage.

Fellow Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, currently the most senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will have the chance to move up to a senior leadership position in the Democratic caucus or run for chair or ranking member of the hugely important Senate Appropriations Committee. Sanders has expressed interest in running for leadership of the HELP panel, should the position open up, since the summer. He could also become chairman of the budget committee, where he is currently ranking member -- a possibility GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan warned of last week.

On the health and education committee, Sanders could lead the charge for a free college plan that he campaigned on aggressively during the Democratic primary. Clinton reshaped her own college affordability plan before receiving his endorsement, putting forward a proposal to provide free tuition at four-year public universities to students with family incomes up to $125,000. But that possibility has inspired some skepticism or even nervousness among Capitol Hill insiders on both sides of the aisle who question whether the self-described socialist will be able to work effectively with conservative Republicans like Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Virginia Foxx, the likely next chairwoman of the House education committee.

Whichever party takes control of the upper chamber is likely to have a slim majority, meaning little will be accomplished without bipartisan cooperation.

“The key is the relationship between the committee chair and the ranking member,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. “If they can get to an agreement, great things are possible. Without it, things get really hard really fast.”

Hartle said that Sanders does not have a long list of legislative accomplishments to his name and that the proposal he and Clinton support goes much farther than the free community college plan endorsed by President Obama, which was quickly dismissed by congressional Republicans.

While Sanders's run for the Democratic presidential nomination helped put issues like college affordability and student loan debt on the national agenda, Murray is known as an effective legislator behind the scenes who can reach agreements with her own party and GOP members. She worked with Alexander last year to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, an update to the No Child Left Behind law, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.

Remaining as the senior Democrat on the HELP committee would allow Murray to follow up that public education achievement by tackling reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But, Hartle said, becoming chair of the powerful appropriations committee would be “pretty irresistible for any U.S. senator.”

Murray has spent several years as the ranking member on the HELP committee, allowing her to establish a solid working relationship with Alexander that would provide a foundation for any work on higher education in the next Congress.

“Assuming Senator Alexander stays, the committee under Senator Sanders would have to figure out what that working relationship looks like,” said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.

Sanders has in many ways become the public face of the free college proposal. But the HELP leadership would also have to chart a course on how to pursue a broader reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the primary federal law that governs many college-related programs. Asked about the potential leadership positions in the next Congress, a Sanders spokesman, Josh Miller-Lewis, said the senator was focused on electing Hillary Clinton and taking back the Senate.

Whatever legislation the Democratic leadership on the HELP committee prioritizes won’t just have to make it out of the Senate -- a tall order with a slim majority -- but a House that is likely to remain in Republican control. Foxx, a conservative North Carolina Republican, is widely expected to replace Minnesota Republican John Kline as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee after serving as chairwoman of the subcommittee on higher education and workforce training. A former community college president, she would come to the chairmanship with considerable experience working on issues affecting colleges and universities -- and her own positions on higher ed policy.

Both committees will also see a handful of new faces in the next Congress regardless of the outcome of next month's elections. In the House, Minnesota Republican John Kline, the current chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, is retiring, as is Texas Democrat Rubén Hinojosa. Nevada Republican Joe Heck -- who has supported a repeal of a student unit record ban -- is running for Harry Reid’s Senate seat. And Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott, the ranking member on the House committee, is being talked about as a potential pick to fill Tim Kaine’s Senate seat should the Democrats take the White House and the Virginia senator become vice president.

On the Senate side, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, who is second in seniority behind Murray and the current ranking member on appropriations, is retiring in January. Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk trails Democrat Tammy Duckworth in his Senate re-election race and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr’s matchup with Democrat Deborah Ross is being rated a toss-up.

But observers say any progress on higher education issues in the next Congress will depend to a large extent on the leadership of the committees and especially on the relationship of the chairman and ranking member of the HELP committee. Clinton’s campaign team has released a detailed proposal for her free college plan and made it a key part of her pitch to young voters especially. It’s expected that she will make a college affordability plan a priority, but there is real skepticism from Capitol Hill observers about the likelihood of a free college plan -- which has been estimated to cost as much as $500 billion over 10 years -- going anywhere without significant Democratic majorities in both chambers.

“Proposing it and fighting for it are two different things,” said Vic Klatt, a principal at the Penn Hill Group and a former GOP education policy staffer in the House. “Setting aside all politics, that is a ton of money.”

Klatt said the jury will be out on the new Democratic leadership on both education committees. The one constant on higher ed policy will be Alexander, he said. The current HELP chairman has a long track record on those issues and will need to be brought on board for Democrats to get anything done.

“He’s the key -- unless the Democrats get 60 votes in the Senate,” Klatt said.

2016 Election
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Senator Bernie Sanders
Is this breaking news?: 

Disagreements over wages and health care cause Pennsylvania faculty members to strike

Faculty members from 14 public campuses in Pennsylvania went on strike Wednesday after contract negotiations came to a halt, leaving more than 100,000 students without classes.

The faculty union at the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education had been working without a contract since June 2015 — 477 days — and contentious negotiations that lasted for longer than a year ended without success Tuesday night. The system administration offered the union what it called a “last best offer” of a contract, and union officials were not satisfied.

“[System administrators] put the last offer on the table and then walked away,” said Andy Famiglietti, an associate professor of English at West Chester University, part of the system.

But the negotiating team didn’t go home, said Kenn Marshall, media relations manager for the system. Instead, state system negotiators walked back to their room, where they stayed until 5 a.m. Union negotiators did the same, but they attempted to continue to bargain through back channels because it seemed clear that the negotiators in the other room were finished with the discussion, according to Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State and College and University Faculties.

The result: before dawn on Wednesday, professors were preparing to picket.

The center of the controversy surrounded pay for faculty members — both tenured and adjunct — and health benefits, said Mash.

The state system backed off on some measures, such as increasing the number of classes adjunct faculty members would teach and increasing the cap on the number of adjunct faculty from 25 percent to 30 percent, which Mash said would’ve cut adjunct pay by keeping their pay the same as they taught more courses. Union members criticized the university for not bending far enough on other issues, such as increasing faculty pay and offering better health coverage.

“We made some real progress until early Saturday and then we hit a dead end when we hit issues of wages and benefits,” Mash said.

As a part of the most recent contract offer, system negotiators offered a health care plan identical to the plans other system employees participate in and pay raises that ranged from 7.25 to 17.25 percent over the next three years for full-time faculty and 1 percent per year for adjunct faculty.

The health insurance plan, which would require faculty to pay new deductibles, higher premiums and higher drug co-payments, would save the system $22 million over the next three years, Marshall said. System officials have said that they have no choice but to limit spending in light of tight state budgets.

It’s not clear how many faculty members are participating in the strike, but many students reported on social media that their classes were not being taught. The union represents about 5,500 faculty members and coaches in the Pennsylvania higher education system who are under the contract negotiated by the union. This is the union’s first strike, but it’s historically had a rocky relationship with the state system.

The state system has no intent to replace faculty with administrators or temporary teachers, Marshall said, but the administration plans on ensuring that students will make up the classwork that they missed due to the strike.

Although students were instructed by administrators to attend class Wednesday despite the circumstances, striking professors told their students otherwise.

Some students expressed support for the faculty union, including students at West Chester University, the largest campus in the system. They cheered for faculty and chanted “Students for faculty!” and “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Chancellor Brogan’s got to go!” — a reference to Chancellor Frank Brogan.

Rebecca McCabe, a junior at West Chester, had time to livestream the walkout after her Business and Organizational Theory class was canceled. She didn’t head to class at all, despite an email from West Chester’s interim president telling the student body to show up.

“I’m for the union,” McCabe said. “The professors need what they deserve — fair pay and fair benefits.”

Other students are concerned about wasting their tuition dollars and graduating on time.

If I don’t graduate on time because of this strike I will literally sue Pennsylvania

— jame (@jamelynnm) October 19, 2016

Union members contend that these drawn-out contract negotiations are ultimately about providing better education for their students.

“This is really about academic quality issues,” Mash said. “We don’t want to devalue faculty teaching.” He cites disputes (some of which have been resolved in the negotiations) over professional development, faculty research, less reliance on long-term faculty and shifts to more online education.

Governor Tom Wolf weighed in, too, criticizing both the union and the administration in a statement.

“I am extremely disappointed in the failure of [the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education] and [the Association of Pennsylvania State and College and University Faculties] to reach an agreement on a contract. The resulting strike is detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come,” the statement said.

Both sides agree on one point: public universities in Pennsylvania do not get enough funding from the state.

Although the governor noted that funding for education has increased 7.5 percent under his watch, states have generally slashed the amount of money they give to public universities, and Pennsylvania is no different. Pennsylvania actually decreased funding for higher education in the last academic year, and it was ranked 49th in higher education support per capita in 2014.

It’s also unclear to all parties how long this strike will last. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Mash said that he hadn’t heard from administrators about continuing negotiations since the strike began.

“There’s no specific time or date set, but we are interested in continuing negotiations for the benefit of our students,” Marshall said. “I think that will occur very soon.”

When asked how the strike would affect students’ education, Mash said without hesitation, “If we don’t get this done in the next couple of days, shame on us.”

Image Source: 
Christopher Thornton
Image Caption: 
Picket line at West Chester University
Is this breaking news?: 

Faculty members from 14 public campuses in Pennsylvania went on strike Wednesday after contract negotiations came to a halt, leaving more than 100,000 students without classes.

The faculty union at the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education had been working without a contract since June 2015 -- 477 days -- and contentious negotiations that lasted for longer than a year ended without success Tuesday night. The system administration offered the union what it called a “last best offer” of a contract, and union officials were not satisfied.

“[System administrators] put the last offer on the table and then walked away,” said Andy Famiglietti, an associate professor of English at West Chester University, part of the system.

But the negotiating team didn't go home, said Kenn Marshall, media relations manager for the system. Instead, state system negotiators walked back to their room, where they stayed until 5 a.m. Union negotiators did the same, but they attempted to continue to bargain through back channels because it seemed clear that the negotiators in the other room were finished with the discussion, according to Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State and College and University Faculties.

The result: before dawn on Wednesday, professors were preparing to picket.

The center of the controversy surrounded pay for faculty members -- both tenured and adjunct -- and health benefits, said Mash.

The state system backed off on some measures, such as increasing the number of classes adjunct faculty members would teach and increasing the cap on the number of adjunct faculty from 25 percent to 30 percent, which Mash said would’ve cut adjunct pay by keeping their pay the same as they taught more courses. Union members criticized the university for not bending far enough on other issues, such as increasing faculty pay and offering better health coverage.

"We made some real progress until early Saturday and then we hit a dead end when we hit issues of wages and benefits,” Mash said.

As a part of the most recent contract offer, system negotiators offered a health care plan identical to the plans other system employees participate in and pay raises that ranged from 7.25 to 17.25 percent over the next three years for full-time faculty and 1 percent per year for adjunct faculty.

The health insurance plan, which would require faculty to pay new deductibles, higher premiums and higher drug co-payments, would save the system $22 million over the next three years, Marshall said. System officials have said that they have no choice but to limit spending in light of tight state budgets.

It’s not clear how many faculty members are participating in the strike, but many students reported on social media that their classes were not being taught. The union represents about 5,500 faculty members and coaches in the Pennsylvania higher education system who are under the contract negotiated by the union. This is the union's first strike, but it’s historically had a rocky relationship with the state system.

The state system has no intent to replace faculty with administrators or temporary teachers, Marshall said, but the administration plans on ensuring that students will make up the classwork that they missed due to the strike.

Although students were instructed by administrators to attend class Wednesday despite the circumstances, striking professors told their students otherwise.

Some students expressed support for the faculty union, including students at West Chester University, the largest campus in the system. They cheered for faculty and chanted “Students for faculty!” and “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Chancellor Brogan’s got to go!” -- a reference to Chancellor Frank Brogan.

Rebecca McCabe, a junior at West Chester, had time to livestream the walkout after her Business and Organizational Theory class was canceled. She didn’t head to class at all, despite an email from West Chester’s interim president telling the student body to show up.

“I’m for the union,” McCabe said. “The professors need what they deserve -- fair pay and fair benefits.”

Other students are concerned about wasting their tuition dollars and graduating on time.

Union members contend that these drawn-out contract negotiations are ultimately about providing better education for their students.

“This is really about academic quality issues,” Mash said. “We don’t want to devalue faculty teaching.” He cites disputes (some of which have been resolved in the negotiations) over professional development, faculty research, less reliance on long-term faculty and shifts to more online education.

Governor Tom Wolf weighed in, too, criticizing both the union and the administration in a statement.

“I am extremely disappointed in the failure of [the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education] and [the Association of Pennsylvania State and College and University Faculties] to reach an agreement on a contract. The resulting strike is detrimental to the system and will have far-reaching effects for years to come,” the statement said.

Both sides agree on one point: public universities in Pennsylvania do not get enough funding from the state.

Although the governor noted that funding for education has increased 7.5 percent under his watch, states have generally slashed the amount of money they give to public universities, and Pennsylvania is no different. Pennsylvania actually decreased funding for higher education in the last academic year, and it was ranked 49th in higher education support per capita in 2014.

It’s also unclear to all parties how long this strike will last. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Mash said that he hadn’t heard from administrators about continuing negotiations since the strike began.

“There's no specific time or date set, but we are interested in continuing negotiations for the benefit of our students,” Marshall said. “I think that will occur very soon.”

When asked how the strike would affect students’ education, Mash said without hesitation, “If we don’t get this done in the next couple of days, shame on us.”

Image Source: 
Christopher Thornton
Image Caption: 
Picket line at West Chester University
Is this breaking news?: 

University presidents join in statement calling for next U.S. president to embrace diversity and diplomacy

Eight university presidents — some of them prominent — have joined with leaders in national security and foreign policy to issue a joint call for the next U.S. president to embrace diversity, diplomacy and globalism.

“The undersigned individuals … believe the United States is stronger and safer when we recognize that we are a part of an interconnected, interdependent global community. Collectively, we urge the next president to pursue policies and practices that embrace the diversity within and outside our borders and that build on our ability to communicate with allies and foes alike,” says the statement, which was organized by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (The list of presidents is below.)

“We believe that protecting our health and prosperity will depend upon the next president’s commitment to fostering mutual understanding and global cooperation. Epidemics don’t recognize national borders, our climate is shared by all, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials threatens our security, and a healthy global economy lifts up our own. Isolation diminishes us, and we seek a president who leads with an appreciation that we increase our own power when we find common cause and common ground with others,” the statement says.

It also stressed issues that are, for American higher education leaders, closer to home. “Our next president must value diversity in our nation and in our world, honor our tradition as a nation of immigrants, and be willing to deliberate and collaborate.”

Those who read the entire statement will not find the names Clinton or Trump or a reference to a political party. But the statement strongly suggests which candidate will receive the votes of those who signed — and which candidate scares them.

Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA’s executive director and CEO, said via email that the omissions of candidates’ names and parties were intentional.

“The rhetoric of this campaign season has resulted in many discussions about whether our place in the world is one of interconnectedness or isolation. This statement reflects our belief in the former and encourages whoever is elected to address ways to create a more globally engaged United States,” said Johnson. “The letter is designed to be nonpartisan and reflects the values of those who signed it rather than any particular political position.”

The issue of how overt presidents can be about their views on the 2016 election has been the topic of much discussion in academe. Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, wrote in an April essay in Inside Higher Ed that this election is different enough from others to have him moving beyond a position of neutrality. “While speaking out about a presidential election can be difficult, for me remaining silent in the face of so much behavior and proposed policy that is antithetical to the mission of higher education is infinitely more difficult and ultimately more dangerous,” he wrote. “A higher education president who opposes some of the offensive behavior that Trump engages in or the policies he promotes might run the risk of being too outspoken. But passively observing Trump creates a risk that is in my view much greater: that of failing to speak when the values most important to the institution within one’s care are imperiled.”

The most prominent president backing Trump — Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr. — is facing considerable criticism from students on his campus for doing so.

Privately, many college presidents have told this reporter and colleagues that they are aghast by Donald Trump but are constrained by trustees, donors or traditions of their institution from saying that in public. The letter released Wednesday was signed by presidents of public and private institutions — including public presidents in states that have Republican governors.

Those presidents who signed are:

  • Roslyn Clark Artis of Florida Memorial University
  • Richard H. Brodhead of Duke University
  • Michael Crow of Arizona State University
  • Michael V. Drake of Ohio State University
  • James T. Harris III of the University of San Diego
  • Cornelius M. Kerwin of American University
  • D. Mark McCoy of DePauw University
  • Leslie E. Wong of San Francisco State University

They were joined by others from a variety of fields, including two heads of international education organizations, Johnson of NAFSA and Kristin M. Lord of IREX. The full list may be found here.

The list includes the presidents of a historically black college (Florida Memorial), an institution that enrolls more than 27,000 minority undergraduates (Arizona State) and an institution with campuses in China and Singapore and programs all over the world (Duke).

2016 Election
Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 

Eight university presidents -- some of them prominent -- have joined with leaders in national security and foreign policy to issue a joint call for the next U.S. president to embrace diversity, diplomacy and globalism.

"The undersigned individuals … believe the United States is stronger and safer when we recognize that we are a part of an interconnected, interdependent global community. Collectively, we urge the next president to pursue policies and practices that embrace the diversity within and outside our borders and that build on our ability to communicate with allies and foes alike," says the statement, which was organized by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (The list of presidents is below.)

"We believe that protecting our health and prosperity will depend upon the next president’s commitment to fostering mutual understanding and global cooperation. Epidemics don’t recognize national borders, our climate is shared by all, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials threatens our security, and a healthy global economy lifts up our own. Isolation diminishes us, and we seek a president who leads with an appreciation that we increase our own power when we find common cause and common ground with others," the statement says.

It also stressed issues that are, for American higher education leaders, closer to home. "Our next president must value diversity in our nation and in our world, honor our tradition as a nation of immigrants, and be willing to deliberate and collaborate."

Those who read the entire statement will not find the names Clinton or Trump or a reference to a political party. But the statement strongly suggests which candidate will receive the votes of those who signed -- and which candidate scares them.

Marlene M. Johnson, NAFSA's executive director and CEO, said via email that the omissions of candidates' names and parties were intentional.

"The rhetoric of this campaign season has resulted in many discussions about whether our place in the world is one of interconnectedness or isolation. This statement reflects our belief in the former and encourages whoever is elected to address ways to create a more globally engaged United States," said Johnson. "The letter is designed to be nonpartisan and reflects the values of those who signed it rather than any particular political position."

The issue of how overt presidents can be about their views on the 2016 election has been the topic of much discussion in academe. Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, wrote in an April essay in Inside Higher Ed that this election is different enough from others to have him moving beyond a position of neutrality. "While speaking out about a presidential election can be difficult, for me remaining silent in the face of so much behavior and proposed policy that is antithetical to the mission of higher education is infinitely more difficult and ultimately more dangerous," he wrote. "A higher education president who opposes some of the offensive behavior that Trump engages in or the policies he promotes might run the risk of being too outspoken. But passively observing Trump creates a risk that is in my view much greater: that of failing to speak when the values most important to the institution within one’s care are imperiled."

The most prominent president backing Trump -- Liberty University's Jerry Falwell Jr. -- is facing considerable criticism from students on his campus for doing so.

Privately, many college presidents have told this reporter and colleagues that they are aghast by Donald Trump but are constrained by trustees, donors or traditions of their institution from saying that in public. The letter released Wednesday was signed by presidents of public and private institutions -- including public presidents in states that have Republican governors.

Those presidents who signed are:

  • Roslyn Clark Artis of Florida Memorial University
  • Richard H. Brodhead of Duke University
  • Michael Crow of Arizona State University
  • Michael V. Drake of Ohio State University
  • James T. Harris III of the University of San Diego
  • Cornelius M. Kerwin of American University
  • D. Mark McCoy of DePauw University
  • Leslie E. Wong of San Francisco State University

They were joined by others from a variety of fields, including two heads of international education organizations, Johnson of NAFSA and Kristin M. Lord of IREX. The full list may be found here.

The list includes the presidents of a historically black college (Florida Memorial), an institution that enrolls more than 27,000 minority undergraduates (Arizona State) and an institution with campuses in China and Singapore and programs all over the world (Duke).

2016 Election
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