American University student government launches campaign for mandatory trigger warnings

The University of Chicago has received considerable attention for Dean John Ellison’s letter to incoming students about free speech. He warned freshmen not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings, setting off a national debate about their value and prevalence. A different kind of debate is going on at American University, where students are demanding mandatory trigger warnings — despite the Faculty Senate’s 2015 resolution against them.

“There’s a difference between our students and our faculty about the necessity of trigger warnings on syllabi and the importance of centering student trauma in academic spaces,” Devontae Torriente, president of American’s student government, says in new YouTube video introducing the group’s #LetUsLearn campaign in favor of such warnings. “The fact of the matter is, trigger warnings are necessary in order to make our academic spaces accessible to all students, especially those who have experienced trauma.”

Torriente adds, “In doing so, we uphold [American’s] commitment to academic freedom and allow all students to participate in the exchange of ideas and discussion.”

The assertion is something of an inversion of the logic the Faculty Senate used last year in its resolution against mandatory trigger warnings, which it shared again this fall via email with students, faculty and staff. The debate is also exemplary of the larger national discussion about trigger warnings, in which proponents — including survivor advocates and many students — say they increase participation and therefore contribute to academic freedom, and critics — including the American Association of University Professors — say they may limit free speech and inquiry.

Yet in much of the national debate about trigger warnings, opponents have implied that colleges were making them mandatory. In fact, they haven’t — although some professors have opted to use them in a range of ways. So American’s students, who advocate that all professors who teach sensitive content use trigger warnings, are pushing very much against the grain of the way they have been used.

“American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas — without censorship — and to study material as it is written, produced or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings,” reads the senate email, quoting its resolution. “This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.”

The faculty statement, which also won the endorsement of the university’s administration, continues, “As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that [American] will not compromise.”

The resolution doesn’t rule out trigger warnings, and says that professors “may advise” students before exposing them to controversial materials. But it says the senate “does not endorse offering ‘trigger warnings’ or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to ‘opt out’ of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.”

Addressing concerns about student trauma, the senate resolution says that professors should direct students “who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues” to student services. “In issuing this statement, the [senate] affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens,” it concludes. “Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.”

Todd Eisenstadt, professor of government and Faculty Senate chair, signed the email, saying that it is “relevant to help establish the kind of environment we think is critical for the joint pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment which we are all embarking on together.”

The faculty statement met with some student criticism last year, but the reminder has roiled students anew and led to the launch of the #LetUsLearn campaign.

In a recent op-ed in American’s student newspaper, Grace Arnpriester, executive director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, wrote that professors and even other students opposed to mandatory trigger warnings misunderstand the concept. In particular, Arnpriester takes issue with the faculty resolution’s notion that students might use trigger warnings to “opt out” of engaging critical issues. Rather than some kind of intellectual laziness or vague “discomfort,” Arnpriester wrote, survivors of trauma deal with “hypervigilance” that can lead to panic, anxiety, flashbacks or more — all of which can be triggered by sensitive content.

Arnpriester refers readers to the student government’s guide to trigger warnings. It defines a warning as a “heads-up” to sensitive content, which could include combat violence, self-harm or sexual or relationship violence. It suggests various ways of offering trigger warnings, including passing out note cards on the first day of the semester on which students may disclose triggers. Others ideas are verbal or syllabus warnings.

Eisenstadt said via email that he was aware of the student dissent and expected some concerned students would attend a senate meeting today. As for why the faculty reminder email was necessary, he said, “Given the controversies in some quarters over academic freedom … it was worth sending again. As the academic year commenced, it was an important moment to take stock, make people aware of the importance of academic freedom and how we cherish it and should not take it for granted.”

Andrea Pearson, vice chair of the senate and associate professor of art history, declined comment on the student protest but reiterated that “faculty may advise students about controversial course material if they wish, but at the same time the senate does not endorse the use of trigger warnings.”

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From American U student government’s #LetUsLearn campaign in support of mandatory trigger warnings
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The University of Chicago has received considerable attention for Dean John Ellison’s letter to incoming students about free speech. He warned freshmen not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings, setting off a national debate about their value and prevalence. A different kind of debate is going on at American University, where students are demanding mandatory trigger warnings -- despite the Faculty Senate’s 2015 resolution against them.

“There’s a difference between our students and our faculty about the necessity of trigger warnings on syllabi and the importance of centering student trauma in academic spaces,” Devontae Torriente, president of American’s student government, says in new YouTube video introducing the group’s #LetUsLearn campaign in favor of such warnings. “The fact of the matter is, trigger warnings are necessary in order to make our academic spaces accessible to all students, especially those who have experienced trauma.”

Torriente adds, “In doing so, we uphold [American’s] commitment to academic freedom and allow all students to participate in the exchange of ideas and discussion.”

The assertion is something of an inversion of the logic the Faculty Senate used last year in its resolution against mandatory trigger warnings, which it shared again this fall via email with students, faculty and staff. The debate is also exemplary of the larger national discussion about trigger warnings, in which proponents -- including survivor advocates and many students -- say they increase participation and therefore contribute to academic freedom, and critics -- including the American Association of University Professors -- say they may limit free speech and inquiry.

Yet in much of the national debate about trigger warnings, opponents have implied that colleges were making them mandatory. In fact, they haven't -- although some professors have opted to use them in a range of ways. So American's students, who advocate that all professors who teach sensitive content use trigger warnings, are pushing very much against the grain of the way they have been used.

“American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas -- without censorship -- and to study material as it is written, produced or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings,” reads the senate email, quoting its resolution. “This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.”

The faculty statement, which also won the endorsement of the university’s administration, continues, “As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that [American] will not compromise.”

The resolution doesn’t rule out trigger warnings, and says that professors “may advise” students before exposing them to controversial materials. But it says the senate “does not endorse offering ‘trigger warnings’ or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to ‘opt out’ of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.”

Addressing concerns about student trauma, the senate resolution says that professors should direct students “who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues” to student services. “In issuing this statement, the [senate] affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens,” it concludes. “Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.”

Todd Eisenstadt, professor of government and Faculty Senate chair, signed the email, saying that it is “relevant to help establish the kind of environment we think is critical for the joint pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment which we are all embarking on together.”

The faculty statement met with some student criticism last year, but the reminder has roiled students anew and led to the launch of the #LetUsLearn campaign.

In a recent op-ed in American’s student newspaper, Grace Arnpriester, executive director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, wrote that professors and even other students opposed to mandatory trigger warnings misunderstand the concept. In particular, Arnpriester takes issue with the faculty resolution’s notion that students might use trigger warnings to “opt out” of engaging critical issues. Rather than some kind of intellectual laziness or vague “discomfort,” Arnpriester wrote, survivors of trauma deal with “hypervigilance” that can lead to panic, anxiety, flashbacks or more -- all of which can be triggered by sensitive content.

Arnpriester refers readers to the student government’s guide to trigger warnings. It defines a warning as a “heads-up” to sensitive content, which could include combat violence, self-harm or sexual or relationship violence. It suggests various ways of offering trigger warnings, including passing out note cards on the first day of the semester on which students may disclose triggers. Others ideas are verbal or syllabus warnings.

Eisenstadt said via email that he was aware of the student dissent and expected some concerned students would attend a senate meeting today. As for why the faculty reminder email was necessary, he said, “Given the controversies in some quarters over academic freedom … it was worth sending again. As the academic year commenced, it was an important moment to take stock, make people aware of the importance of academic freedom and how we cherish it and should not take it for granted.”

Andrea Pearson, vice chair of the senate and associate professor of art history, declined comment on the student protest but reiterated that “faculty may advise students about controversial course material if they wish, but at the same time the senate does not endorse the use of trigger warnings.”

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From American U student government's #LetUsLearn campaign in support of mandatory trigger warnings
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Academics declare support for Donald Trump

Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, spent two and a half years working in the George W. Bush administration and, later, voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Now Bauerlein, one of the country’s most vocal conservative academics, is one of the few in the profession openly supporting Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a point where we need a jolt. We need someone who can take on the taboos and do so in a canny and effective way,” Bauerlein said.

He’s one of 150 academics and other writers have put their names on a letter of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, although the Scholars and Writers for America list includes many signatures of those from outside the traditional academy.

Frank Buckley, a Foundation Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, said he and other conservative scholars helped organize the letter — a brief, one-sentence statement backing the candidate — to establish that there are some ideas behind Trump’s candidacy.

The letter reads, “Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald J. Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do.”

“There should be a campaign of ideas and not simply of personalities,” Buckley said of the current presidential race. “Right now, the campaign is mostly a bunch of ad hominem attacks.”

Buckley said Trump was attractive as a candidate because of his promised action on immigration and tax reform as well as a more prudent foreign policy.

He said the organizers of the letter had reached out to a few friends, who circulated the letter themselves. But Buckley said he excluded anyone from the list who was supporting Trump for reasons he didn’t like.

Bauerlein said his reasons for supporting Trump were more cultural and social than political. The list of signatures includes academics like him and Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, and familiar higher education critics such as David Horowitz and Roger Kimball.

It also features former politicians with scholarly credentials such as Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett, and others such as Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member who bankrolled former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, and Charles C. Johnson, a right-wing blogger known for aggressive trolling on Twitter before he was banned from the website.

Joshua Dunn, chair of the department of political science at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said the list of names is probably so broad because of the difficulty of finding university-based scholars to back a candidate who has become toxic even to many in his own party. Dunn, who co-wrote a book about conservatives in academe, said conservative faculty members are typically pro-free trade, pro-free market and skeptical of populist movements, whereas Trump has run a populist campaign espousing protectionist principles.

“You’re going to have trouble rounding up many conservative faculty members,” he said.

Dunn said even many who have signed the letter may not be terribly enthusiastic about Trump.

“Instead they’re afraid of a Clinton presidency, so they kind of regard him as the least worst option for this election,” he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has peeled off support from a handful of current and former Republican officials. And the newspaper endorsements that would go to a GOP nominee in a typical presidential election cycle haven’t been forthcoming for Trump, who has repeatedly made racist and misogynist remarks throughout his campaign. Dunn said support for Trump would be controversial on most college campuses to an extent that a professor endorsing Mitt Romney would not have been.

Buckley said there are few registered Republicans in the academy to begin with and that, within that group, many vigorously oppose Trump.

“We’re a minority within a minority,” he said.

Bauerlein said both the left and the right have pushed the idea in this election that educated, intelligent people don’t support the GOP nominee. He said the list of signatures serves as a counterpoint to that idea.

“The immediate message is that there is an intelligent case to make for Trump,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s right. But it is rational.”

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Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, spent two and a half years working in the George W. Bush administration and, later, voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Now Bauerlein, one of the country's most vocal conservative academics, is one of the few in the profession openly supporting Donald Trump.

"We've reached a point where we need a jolt. We need someone who can take on the taboos and do so in a canny and effective way," Bauerlein said.

He's one of 150 academics and other writers have put their names on a letter of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, although the Scholars and Writers for America list includes many signatures of those from outside the traditional academy.

Frank Buckley, a Foundation Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, said he and other conservative scholars helped organize the letter -- a brief, one-sentence statement backing the candidate -- to establish that there are some ideas behind Trump's candidacy.

The letter reads, "Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald J. Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do."

"There should be a campaign of ideas and not simply of personalities," Buckley said of the current presidential race. "Right now, the campaign is mostly a bunch of ad hominem attacks."

Buckley said Trump was attractive as a candidate because of his promised action on immigration and tax reform as well as a more prudent foreign policy.

He said the organizers of the letter had reached out to a few friends, who circulated the letter themselves. But Buckley said he excluded anyone from the list who was supporting Trump for reasons he didn't like.

Bauerlein said his reasons for supporting Trump were more cultural and social than political. The list of signatures includes academics like him and Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, and familiar higher education critics such as David Horowitz and Roger Kimball.

It also features former politicians with scholarly credentials such as Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett, and others such as Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member who bankrolled former wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, and Charles C. Johnson, a right-wing blogger known for aggressive trolling on Twitter before he was banned from the website.

Joshua Dunn, chair of the department of political science at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said the list of names is probably so broad because of the difficulty of finding university-based scholars to back a candidate who has become toxic even to many in his own party. Dunn, who co-wrote a book about conservatives in academe, said conservative faculty members are typically pro-free trade, pro-free market and skeptical of populist movements, whereas Trump has run a populist campaign espousing protectionist principles.

"You're going to have trouble rounding up many conservative faculty members," he said.

Dunn said even many who have signed the letter may not be terribly enthusiastic about Trump.

"Instead they're afraid of a Clinton presidency, so they kind of regard him as the least worst option for this election," he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has peeled off support from a handful of current and former Republican officials. And the newspaper endorsements that would go to a GOP nominee in a typical presidential election cycle haven't been forthcoming for Trump, who has repeatedly made racist and misogynist remarks throughout his campaign. Dunn said support for Trump would be controversial on most college campuses to an extent that a professor endorsing Mitt Romney would not have been.

Buckley said there are few registered Republicans in the academy to begin with and that, within that group, many vigorously oppose Trump.

"We're a minority within a minority," he said.

Bauerlein said both the left and the right have pushed the idea in this election that educated, intelligent people don't support the GOP nominee. He said the list of signatures serves as a counterpoint to that idea.

"The immediate message is that there is an intelligent case to make for Trump," he said. "That doesn't mean it's right. But it is rational."

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Students and faculty members rally against appointing politician with anti-gay record as president of Kennesaw State

Students at Kennesaw State University are planning a rally today to oppose the appointment of Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general, as the university’s next president. A petition is also gathering support.

Olens hasn’t even been officially nominated for the job, let alone approved by the state’s Board of Regents. But reports have been circulating for months — causing alarm among both students and faculty members at Kennesaw State, an institution of 33,000 located outside Atlanta and the third largest university in Georgia. In the last 10 days, the reports have shifted from Olens being seriously under consideration to that he has become the sole candidate in contention.

Not only hasn’t Olens been appointed, but faculty leaders note that the state Board of Regents has not even appointed a search committee (one that would presumably consider other candidates and might consult with professors). So critics say that a politician without experience in higher education could be about to lead a fast-growing university without the benefit of a search.

Adding to the concerns of many is that Olens has taken stands against gay rights at several points in his career. And those stands include positions similar to those taken by North Carolina lawmakers that have resulted in litigation against the University of North Carolina over a state law (which the university is not enforcing) that would bar the system’s campuses from permitting transgender students to use bathrooms that reflect their gender identity.

The issue of whether politicians should become university presidents is much debated. While many advocates for nontraditional presidents would point to the successes of Thomas Kean at Drew University and Terry Sanford at Duke University as evidence that politicians can earn praise for leading universities, others note that not every politician has those former governors’ records of interest in education and understanding of academe. Many times, faculty members complain that searches are effectively rigged for politicians, but sometimes publicity about concerns can result in the rejection of a political or politically connected candidate — as happened last month at the University of West Florida.

At Kennesaw State, faculty leaders have been raising concerns for months about the lack of a formal search committee — even as rumors grew that the board was preparing to offer Olens the job. (Olens has declined comment, as have leaders of the Board of Regents.)

In May, when many started to be alarmed by the lack of a search committee, the presidents of Kennesaw State’s Faculty Senate and campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote jointly to the Board of Regents asking for a search committee to be appointed. Their letter did not mention Olens, but did mention controversies over nontraditional choices for presidents who took office at the University of Iowa and Mount St. Mary’s University. The Iowa president remains in office despite widespread faculty opposition. and the Mount St. Mary’s president quit in February amid continued debate over his remark that struggling students should be thought of bunnies to be drowned or killed with a Glock.

The Faculty Senate president followed in September with another letter requesting a national search.

Faculty leaders originally held back from criticizing Olens and focused largely on the lack of a search. But many have noted that he has not worked in higher education. Before becoming attorney general of Georgia in 2011, he was chair of Cobb County Board of Commissioners. (The university is located in the county.)

As attorney general, Olens defended Georgia’s ban on same-sex marriage. And his office, on behalf of the state, joined in a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Education Department from applying Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to transgender students and ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with those students’ gender identities.

Leonard Witt, professor of communication at Kennesaw State, wrote an essay in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlining his concerns. He wrote that Kennesaw State could expect boycotts such as those that have hit North Carolina if Olens adopted policies he favored at the university. “Just see what is happening in North Carolina, where the state Legislature and governor passed laws opposing gender-neutral bathrooms. In North Carolina, sanctions are piecemeal around the whole state. Not so here. Kennesaw State University will be ground zero and there will be plenty of collateral damage,” Witt wrote.

He added that, in a regular search, Olens could be welcome to apply — but he would be vetted through the process.

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Students at Kennesaw State University are planning a rally today to oppose the appointment of Sam Olens, Georgia's attorney general, as the university's next president. A petition is also gathering support.

Olens hasn't even been officially nominated for the job, let alone approved by the state's Board of Regents. But reports have been circulating for months -- causing alarm among both students and faculty members at Kennesaw State, an institution of 33,000 located outside Atlanta and the third largest university in Georgia. In the last 10 days, the reports have shifted from Olens being seriously under consideration to that he has become the sole candidate in contention.

Not only hasn't Olens been appointed, but faculty leaders note that the state Board of Regents has not even appointed a search committee (one that would presumably consider other candidates and might consult with professors). So critics say that a politician without experience in higher education could be about to lead a fast-growing university without the benefit of a search.

Adding to the concerns of many is that Olens has taken stands against gay rights at several points in his career. And those stands include positions similar to those taken by North Carolina lawmakers that have resulted in litigation against the University of North Carolina over a state law (which the university is not enforcing) that would bar the system's campuses from permitting transgender students to use bathrooms that reflect their gender identity.

The issue of whether politicians should become university presidents is much debated. While many advocates for nontraditional presidents would point to the successes of Thomas Kean at Drew University and Terry Sanford at Duke University as evidence that politicians can earn praise for leading universities, others note that not every politician has those former governors' records of interest in education and understanding of academe. Many times, faculty members complain that searches are effectively rigged for politicians, but sometimes publicity about concerns can result in the rejection of a political or politically connected candidate -- as happened last month at the University of West Florida.

At Kennesaw State, faculty leaders have been raising concerns for months about the lack of a formal search committee -- even as rumors grew that the board was preparing to offer Olens the job. (Olens has declined comment, as have leaders of the Board of Regents.)

In May, when many started to be alarmed by the lack of a search committee, the presidents of Kennesaw State's Faculty Senate and campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote jointly to the Board of Regents asking for a search committee to be appointed. Their letter did not mention Olens, but did mention controversies over nontraditional choices for presidents who took office at the University of Iowa and Mount St. Mary's University. The Iowa president remains in office despite widespread faculty opposition. and the Mount St. Mary's president quit in February amid continued debate over his remark that struggling students should be thought of bunnies to be drowned or killed with a Glock.

The Faculty Senate president followed in September with another letter requesting a national search.

Faculty leaders originally held back from criticizing Olens and focused largely on the lack of a search. But many have noted that he has not worked in higher education. Before becoming attorney general of Georgia in 2011, he was chair of Cobb County Board of Commissioners. (The university is located in the county.)

As attorney general, Olens defended Georgia's ban on same-sex marriage. And his office, on behalf of the state, joined in a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Education Department from applying Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to transgender students and ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with those students' gender identities.

Leonard Witt, professor of communication at Kennesaw State, wrote an essay in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlining his concerns. He wrote that Kennesaw State could expect boycotts such as those that have hit North Carolina if Olens adopted policies he favored at the university. "Just see what is happening in North Carolina, where the state Legislature and governor passed laws opposing gender-neutral bathrooms. In North Carolina, sanctions are piecemeal around the whole state. Not so here. Kennesaw State University will be ground zero and there will be plenty of collateral damage," Witt wrote.

He added that, in a regular search, Olens could be welcome to apply -- but he would be vetted through the process.

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State-funded student aid rises

State-funded student financial aid increased by about 6 percent across the country in the 2014-15 academic year as states put more money into grant and nongrant programs alike, according to the latest round of an annual survey released Monday.

St…

State-funded student financial aid increased by about 6 percent across the country in the 2014-15 academic year as states put more money into grant and nongrant programs alike, according to the latest round of an annual survey released Monday.

States funded and awarded about $12.4 billion in total student financial aid, according to the 46th annual survey from the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. That’s up 6 percent nominally and 5.8 percent adjusting for inflation. It’s also higher than the rate of growth reported in NASSGAP’s survey for the previous academic year, which found that total aid grew by an adjusted 1.6 percent, to $11.7 billion.

Both grant and nongrant student aid grew in 2014-15, the new survey found. Nongrant student aid, which includes loans, loan assumptions, conditional grants, work-study and tuition waivers, rose by more than 7 percent to $1.9 billion. But grants continued to account for the vast majority of student aid -- almost 85 percent.

Grants grew to about $10.5 billion, up 5.7 percent. States made nearly 4.5 million grant awards.

Just over three-quarters of grant aid, 76 percent, was need based, leaving 24 percent non-need based. The breakdown between need-based and non-need-based grants is roughly the same as the previous year, when need-based aid grew notably faster than other types of aid.

“I think there’s been a shift back a bit more to need-based aid from non-need-based aid,” said Frank Ballmann, director of NASSGAP’s Washington office.

Need-based aid can be used to attempt to encourage students who may not attend college to enroll. Non-need-based, or merit aid, is often seen as appealing to many students from wealthier families who will attend college with or without aid. It can be used to try to lure top students or keep them in state.

“Over all, the needle is still at 76 percent,” Ballmann said. “But ultimately, I think the states are more aware of the idea that getting the people who wouldn’t otherwise go to college to go to college benefits their state’s economy and the tax base.”

For undergraduates, need-based grant aid funding increased to more than $7.8 billion, up 6 percent when adjusting for inflation. Non-need-based grants rose by close to $2.5 billion, up an adjusted 2.2 percent. Overall undergraduate aid rose to $10.3 billion, up an adjusted 5.1 percent.

Most states reported operating state-funded undergraduate programs containing need components. But just eight heavily populated states collectively awarded 70 percent of all undergraduate need-based grant aid -- California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Two states, Georgia and New Hampshire, reported having no need-based aid programs.

Meanwhile, 25 states said they had undergraduate programs that made awards based only on merit -- although most simultaneously had programs awarding only need-based aid. Programs awarding only merit-based aid accounted for 18 percent of all aid to undergraduates. Programs that awarded only need-based aid made up 47.5 percent of all aid to undergraduates. Other programs and programs mixing need and merit components made up the remaining 34.5 percent of aid to undergraduates.

On a per-capita basis -- based on estimated overall population -- Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia provided the most grant aid. Comparing undergraduate grant dollars to undergraduate full-time equivalent enrollment showed Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee leading other states with high grant dollars. Comparing state-funded grant expenditures to total state support for higher education showed Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington leading with the highest proportion of grant expenditures.

Because state data lag, the new survey does not cover the most recent academic year, 2015-16, which could reflect high-profile budget issues affecting student aid in states including Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Those issues might or might not show up in national data in future surveys, Ballmann said.

“At some point in the next year or two, we might see some individual states begin to show some budget strains in our report,” he said. “On the other hand, there might be some states that are investing more heavily. When California and New York go big, that can drown out a lot.”

Several changes to the financial aid process could show up in future surveys as well. An earlier submission timeline taking effect for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the ability for families to use prior-prior year tax data on the FAFSA could both affect student aid.

“It will be interesting to see how much that facilitates more people filling out the FAFSA and potentially increasing the demands for state aid,” Ballmann said. “It’s something each state will be looking at, to see how early FAFSA and the ease of IRS retrieval will increase demand for aid -- and potentially how legislators and governors respond.”

But those changes won’t be seen in the survey data for several more years. Here’s how total aid awarded changed by state and type in 2014-15.

Student Aid and Loans
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Voter registration data show Democrats outnumber Republicans among social scientists, 11.5 to 1

In any election cycle, there are bound to be references — some of them disdainful — to “liberal academe.” A new study is sure to elicit a least a few more such references, finding that social scientists who are registered to vote skew ove…

In any election cycle, there are bound to be references -- some of them disdainful -- to “liberal academe.” A new study is sure to elicit a least a few more such references, finding that social scientists who are registered to vote skew overwhelmingly Democratic -- 11.5 for every one Republican at top universities, to be exact.

The study, published online by Econ Journal Watch, considered voter registration data for faculty members at 40 leading U.S. institutions in economics, history, communications, law and psychology. Of 7,243 professors total, about half are registered. Some 3,623 are Democrats while just 314 are Republicans.

Economists are the most mixed group, with a ratio of 4.5 Democrats for every Republican. Historians as a group are the most lopsided, at 33.5 to one; the paper attributes this to the rise of specializations such as gender, culture, race and the environment. (Some classify history as one of the humanities disciplines.) Lawyers are 8.6 to one and psychologists are 17.4 to one, while communications scholars, including journalism professors, are 20 to one.

The ratios have become more extreme since 2004, according to the study, and age profiles suggest that trend will continue. That’s despite researchers’ concerns that current data may be “somewhat abberational,” given the polarizing candidacy of Republican Donald Trump for president.

Ratios are higher at more prestigious universities and lower among older professors and among those with higher ranks, according to the paper. There are also regional effects, with ratios highest in New England. (This finding replicates one recently made by a Sarah Lawrence College professor.) Women are much more likely to be registered Democrats, at 24.8 to one. Among men, the ratio is nine to one.

“People interested in ideological diversity or concerned about the errors of leftist outlooks -- including students, parents, donors and taxpayers -- might find our results deeply troubling,” the authors say.

Data were only readily available to the researchers for 30 states, based on voter privacy policies and the database used, Aristotle. So their study included information on professors at 40 of the 60 top U.S. universities, as determined by U.S. News & World Report.

Comparisons are somewhat imperfect, as some institutions don’t have all departments studied. Some departments don’t have any Republicans, but also have relatively few professors over all. Nevertheless, Brown University has the highest ratio for all five disciplines combined, at 60 to one, Democrat to Republican. It’s followed by Boston University (40 to one), Johns Hopkins University and the University of Rochester (both 35 to one), and Northeastern University (33 to one).

The lowest ratio -- that is, the most even mix of registered Democrats and Republicans -- is at Pepperdine University, at 1.2 registered Democrats for every Republican. Case Western Reserve University is next, at 3.1 to one. It’s followed by Ohio State University (3.2 to one) and Pennsylvania State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (both six to one).

The authors acknowledge that being registered to vote by party isn’t the same as voting that way in every election. But they estimate, based on a number of assumptions, that active humanities and social sciences faculty will vote at a ratio of about 10 to one, Democrat to Republican. That’s up from a 2004 estimate of about eight to one.

“The reality is that in most humanities/social science fields a Republican is a rare bird,” the paper says. It notes that registrants to either the Green Party or Working Families Party equaled or exceeded Republican registrants in 72 of the 170 departments studied, including economics departments. So in 42 percent of departments, “Republican registrants were as scarce as or scarcer than left minor-party registrants,” it emphasizes.

Republicans exceeded Democrats in only four departments of 170 total: economics, history and law at Pepperdine and economics at Ohio State.

“Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law and Psychology” was written by Mitchell Langbert, associate professor of business at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York; Anthony J. Quain, a health economics solutions developer; and Daniel Klein, professor of economics at George Mason University and editor of Econ Journal Watch. They describe themselves in the paper as a dying academic class of “classical liberals,” generally opposed to “governmentalization.”

They refer to both the Democratic and Republican parties as “horrible,” but say that, when pushed, they usually favor a Republican political candidate over a Democrat.

“Democrats are, often without being very self-aware about it, more deeply enmeshed in bents and mentalities that spell statism than are Republicans,” the paper says, “who show more diversity -- think of all the species tagged ‘right’ -- and allow greater place for the classical liberal tendency.”

So What?

All that leads to an essential question: Beyond being interesting, do these findings matter? Do professors’ political views infiltrate their teaching and, even if they do, are students affected? Several other studies suggest that classroom attempts at indoctrination don’t work. Additional data suggest that students are increasingly liberal before they even arrive on campus. And some might note that, in recent years, Republican politicians at both the state and federal level have repeatedly questioned the value of the social sciences.

Langbert said via email that the data do matter, because organizational cultures “reflect the value assumptions of the members and leaders.” When a trait becomes uniform within an organization, he said, “it generally reflects uniformity of thought. … The absence of views alternative to the social democratic culture in universities implies uniformity of opinion. It is difficult to conceive how with such uniformity there can be a fair accounting of alternative views.”

Walter E. Block, Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at Loyola University in New Orleans, applauded the study for, in his words, documenting “the bias of the professoriate toward socialism, communism, interventionism, liberalism, progressivism, political correctness, cultural Marxism, etc., and away from classical liberalism, conservatism, free enterprise and libertarianism.”

Block added that he thought professors have “an impact on the thinking of the next generation,” as evidenced by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s popularity on college campuses.

Neil Gross, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Colby College, has written about why professors tend to be social Democrats (and Langbert has challenged some of his assertions). He said he couldn’t comment on the new study because he hadn’t read it in detail, but also that no one “should find it surprising that there aren’t many registered Republicans in academia at this point.” The party “has long been losing support among the highly educated,” Gross added. “My impression is that the candidacy of [Trump] has greatly exacerbated those losses.”

Editorial Tags: 
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Econ Journal Watch
Image Caption: 
Registered voter ratios, Democrat to Republican, among social scientists at 40 top U.S. universities
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Universities launch Zika prevention efforts in Florida and across the U.S.

The return to campus this academic year was accompanied by a new challenge: Zika.

Zika has been detected 3,358 times in the United States since the first reported case of sexual transmission in February, according to most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms and impact are generally mild, unless the person infected is a pregnant woman or a woman who becomes pregnant subsequently. Fetuses whose mothers have been diagnosed with Zika — even well after exposure — are at risk of being born with abnormally small heads and brain defects.

The majority of Zika diagnoses in the U.S. have been travel related — people who entered the U.S. after visiting Central or South America, bringing Zika along with them. But some were transmitted through sexual activity, and others through local mosquito bites.

About 700 people have been diagnosed with Zika in Florida, and all 43 cases where someone contracted Zika by mosquito bite in the United States occurred in Florida. And the epicenter of those Zika-infected mosquitoes has been Miami, home to multiple universities and nearly 350,000 people aged 15 to 24, according to a 2014 survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

College and universities such as the University of Miami and Florida International University have been beefing up efforts to educate students about the Zika virus and establish prevention efforts on campuses.

“Immediately after it was discovered that we had several cases of Zika in our county, we convened a committee at the charge of the president,” said Eneida Roldan, chief executive officer of FIU Student Health.

The committee was created in July, and after a quick turnaround, it launched an “aggressive and comprehensive marketing campaign,” Dr. Roldan said, to teach students how to protect themselves from Zika. The university added facts and tips to its website; put up informational signs all over campus; identified, eliminated or treated standing water where mosquitoes are most likely to breed and where their eggs can last days; and provided condoms to students to protect against sexual transmission, among other precautions.

The University of Miami is taking a similar approach. At the beginning of the school year, administrators provided 6,000 bottles of mosquito repellent to students. The university also dealt with the issue raised by standing water — draining water where it could and treating the rest — but unlike FIU, the university also sprayed targeted areas on campus with insecticide.

In addition, earlier this month, the university hosted a panel discussion for students, faculty and staff members, as well as public officials and Miami residents.

“We’re not only educating students, but we’re also working to educate the Miami community,” said Jacqueline Menendez, the university’s vice president for communications.

When it comes to Zika prevention, education is vital, according to Tim Moody of the American College Health Association.

The sentiment of college students — how apathetic or concerned they are in response to Zika — is difficult to measure. Julie Harans, editor of The Miami Hurricane, the University of Miami’s student newspaper, hasn’t detected panic at her school. As far as she knows, nobody’s hiding from the outdoors or wearing long sleeves in the hot Florida sun.

“There was more hype around it over the summer. Students from the Northeast were especially concerned about coming back over the fall semester,” Harans said. But since students have returned, “the consensus has been, ‘I’m not planning on getting pregnant, so it doesn’t matter to me.’”

Since many students may not be paying attention to Zika, Moody said, it’s important for colleges and universities to take a proactive approach: teach students about the virus and have a Zika response plan in place. Moody suggests using the CDC’s Zika Interim Response Plan as a guideline.

Beyond Miami

Miami may be ground zero for U.S. Zika transmissions, but that doesn’t mean cases of Zika have been isolated there. Two college students diagnosed with the virus attend the University of Florida, more than 300 miles north of Miami.

One student was living on campus and the other off campus, said Bill Properzio, director of environmental health and safety at Florida. Both received instruction from the Student Health Center on how to avoid spreading Zika, such as wearing long sleeves and covering themselves in repellent to keep mosquitoes from biting them and then infecting others.

Although the university is far from Miami, it too is getting rid of standing water and adding larvicide to water that can’t be drained. The university also has a website that lists student resources and Zika prevention tips.

But it’s not enough for universities in Florida to establish Zika prevention efforts, Moody said. Colleges all over the U.S. should invest in educating their students, too.

Along the Gulf Coast, officials at Tulane University in New Orleans are aware that their climate makes their location a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In fact, Scott Tims, assistant vice president for Campus Health at Tulane, began receiving phone calls from concerned parents in early spring. The prevention efforts kicked into full gear over the summer: facilities management identified and either drained or treated standing water, and the campus was sprayed a few times over the summer.

Even at the University of Maryland at College Park, far from the Gulf Coast, the University Health Center sent an email to students in early September offering facts about the virus and prevention tips.

Because nearly all Zika diagnoses in the United States were contracted through travel, a crucial step in Zika prevention must be consulting students who visit or study abroad in South and Central America, Moody said.

That’s a large piece of Zika prevention efforts at the University of Texas at Austin, where students traveling to high-risk areas are advised both before and after their trips.

“Say students went to the Olympics this summer and were infected with the virus. We give them a consultation when they return,” said Susan Hochman, assistant director of the University Health Services at UT. “We want to make sure students know how to protect themselves from mosquito bites, as well as how to protect their sexual partners.”

Finally, researchers are constantly learning more about Zika, which means that information about how best to prevent its spread is changing often, Moody said. The best way for universities to keep informed: check the CDC website on Zika regularly.

Editorial Tags: 
Image Source: 
Wikimedia Commons
Is this breaking news?: 

The return to campus this academic year was accompanied by a new challenge: Zika.

Zika has been detected 3,358 times in the United States since the first reported case of sexual transmission in February, according to most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms and impact are generally mild, unless the person infected is a pregnant woman or a woman who becomes pregnant subsequently. Fetuses whose mothers have been diagnosed with Zika -- even well after exposure -- are at risk of being born with abnormally small heads and brain defects.

The majority of Zika diagnoses in the U.S. have been travel related -- people who entered the U.S. after visiting Central or South America, bringing Zika along with them. But some were transmitted through sexual activity, and others through local mosquito bites.

About 700 people have been diagnosed with Zika in Florida, and all 43 cases where someone contracted Zika by mosquito bite in the United States occurred in Florida. And the epicenter of those Zika-infected mosquitoes has been Miami, home to multiple universities and nearly 350,000 people aged 15 to 24, according to a 2014 survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

College and universities such as the University of Miami and Florida International University have been beefing up efforts to educate students about the Zika virus and establish prevention efforts on campuses.

“Immediately after it was discovered that we had several cases of Zika in our county, we convened a committee at the charge of the president,” said Eneida Roldan, chief executive officer of FIU Student Health.

The committee was created in July, and after a quick turnaround, it launched an “aggressive and comprehensive marketing campaign,” Dr. Roldan said, to teach students how to protect themselves from Zika. The university added facts and tips to its website; put up informational signs all over campus; identified, eliminated or treated standing water where mosquitoes are most likely to breed and where their eggs can last days; and provided condoms to students to protect against sexual transmission, among other precautions.

The University of Miami is taking a similar approach. At the beginning of the school year, administrators provided 6,000 bottles of mosquito repellent to students. The university also dealt with the issue raised by standing water -- draining water where it could and treating the rest -- but unlike FIU, the university also sprayed targeted areas on campus with insecticide.

In addition, earlier this month, the university hosted a panel discussion for students, faculty and staff members, as well as public officials and Miami residents.

“We’re not only educating students, but we’re also working to educate the Miami community,” said Jacqueline Menendez, the university's vice president for communications.

When it comes to Zika prevention, education is vital, according to Tim Moody of the American College Health Association.

The sentiment of college students -- how apathetic or concerned they are in response to Zika -- is difficult to measure. Julie Harans, editor of The Miami Hurricane, the University of Miami’s student newspaper, hasn’t detected panic at her school. As far as she knows, nobody's hiding from the outdoors or wearing long sleeves in the hot Florida sun.

“There was more hype around it over the summer. Students from the Northeast were especially concerned about coming back over the fall semester,” Harans said. But since students have returned, “the consensus has been, ‘I’m not planning on getting pregnant, so it doesn’t matter to me.’”

Since many students may not be paying attention to Zika, Moody said, it’s important for colleges and universities to take a proactive approach: teach students about the virus and have a Zika response plan in place. Moody suggests using the CDC’s Zika Interim Response Plan as a guideline.

Beyond Miami

Miami may be ground zero for U.S. Zika transmissions, but that doesn’t mean cases of Zika have been isolated there. Two college students diagnosed with the virus attend the University of Florida, more than 300 miles north of Miami.

One student was living on campus and the other off campus, said Bill Properzio, director of environmental health and safety at Florida. Both received instruction from the Student Health Center on how to avoid spreading Zika, such as wearing long sleeves and covering themselves in repellent to keep mosquitoes from biting them and then infecting others.

Although the university is far from Miami, it too is getting rid of standing water and adding larvicide to water that can’t be drained. The university also has a website that lists student resources and Zika prevention tips.

But it’s not enough for universities in Florida to establish Zika prevention efforts, Moody said. Colleges all over the U.S. should invest in educating their students, too.

Along the Gulf Coast, officials at Tulane University in New Orleans are aware that their climate makes their location a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In fact, Scott Tims, assistant vice president for Campus Health at Tulane, began receiving phone calls from concerned parents in early spring. The prevention efforts kicked into full gear over the summer: facilities management identified and either drained or treated standing water, and the campus was sprayed a few times over the summer.

Even at the University of Maryland at College Park, far from the Gulf Coast, the University Health Center sent an email to students in early September offering facts about the virus and prevention tips.

Because nearly all Zika diagnoses in the United States were contracted through travel, a crucial step in Zika prevention must be consulting students who visit or study abroad in South and Central America, Moody said.

That’s a large piece of Zika prevention efforts at the University of Texas at Austin, where students traveling to high-risk areas are advised both before and after their trips.

“Say students went to the Olympics this summer and were infected with the virus. We give them a consultation when they return,” said Susan Hochman, assistant director of the University Health Services at UT. “We want to make sure students know how to protect themselves from mosquito bites, as well as how to protect their sexual partners.”

Finally, researchers are constantly learning more about Zika, which means that information about how best to prevent its spread is changing often, Moody said. The best way for universities to keep informed: check the CDC website on Zika regularly.

Editorial Tags: 
Image Source: 
Wikimedia Commons
Is this breaking news?: 

U of Texas System, Salesforce team up to build out learning platform

The growing learning relationship management market got a major new player this week as the University of Texas System announced it will further develop TEx, its homegrown learning platform, in partnership with business software provider Salesforce.

TEx, short for Total Education Experience, last year launched as a pilot in a competency-based degree program at the system’s Rio Grande Valley campus. When TEx 2.0 begins in fall 2017, it will have evolved to a personalized learning platform, a marketplace of courses and programs, and an academic record built on block-chain technology.

The system’s Institute for Transformational Learning, known as UTx, is leading the development effort. The system opened the institute in 2012 to serve as its innovation arm, exploring new ways to offer education and support to its increasingly diverse student body.

“These kinds of transformational moments are not going to come from the [billions] of ed-tech funding that’s coming from venture capital,” said Phil Komarny, chief digital officer at UTx. “These transformations have to happen from the inside.”

The system has previously described TEx as a “stack” of technologies and services. For the 2.0 version, the system plans to make that concept a reality.

TEx is first and foremost a learning platform, Komarny said. It gives faculty members across the system a platform where they can experiment with new models of education, as opposed to having to use systems that may not have been created with competency-based education or other alternative models in mind, he said.

For students, the key word is personalization. In a promotional video, the system pitches TEx as technology that lets students progress through programs at their own pace and along pathways they build with input from coaches and faculty members. During the pilot, for example, the platform powered a biomedical sciences program that let students access course materials and assessments on a tablet.

Personalization could also apply to administrative features such as course registration. The system has for more than a decade run the UT Online Consortium, a clearinghouse of the online courses and programs offered by its campuses. The system could use TEx to turn the clearinghouse into an online marketplace, Komarny said. Instead of students having to go to the website to look for online programs they find interesting, the platform could learn about students’ search habits — like Amazon or Netflix — and suggest courses that match their interests.

In addition to the biomedical sciences program at the Rio Grande Valley campus, the system is preparing a cybersecurity program from the San Antonio campus to launch on TEx next fall. Other programs are scheduled for 2018, but Komarny declined to list them as details have yet to be worked out.

Since the long-term plan for TEx is to feature courses and programs from across the system, developers plan to let students track academic progress using block-chain technology, which stores transactions — in this case, achievements such as credits and credentials — in a digital ledger.

The system sees uses for the platform outside higher education as well, but will initially focus its attention on the university and the state, Komarny said.

Salesforce is working with the university system through Salesforce.org, its philanthropic arm. The nonprofit organization invests 1 percent of the company’s own equity, technology and workforce into education and workforce initiatives.

While Salesforce.org has worked with a number of universities to build its Higher Education Data Architecture and markets its traditional customer relationship management products to colleges, Allyson Fryhoff, senior vice president of sales, described its work with the Texas system — building a learning relationship management system — as the “next generation of partnerships.”

TEx 2.0 will be built on Salesforce’s platform, and the company’s own software engineers will help build the platform, Fryhoff said.

College leaders in general aren’t sure if Salesforce and other customer relationship management platforms designed for the private sector are the right fit for higher education and managing learning relationships, however. In a recent Eduventures study of more than 200 college leaders, two-thirds of respondents said they may require different technology than what traditional CRM systems provide.

“We would agree that the vanilla CRM doesn’t meet all the needs [of higher education],” Fryhoff said in an interview. “When we think about CRM, normally that stands for customer relationship management. At Salesforce.org, we think of it as constituent relationship management.”

Gunnar Counselman, whose company, Fidelis, provides learning relationship management software and consulting, said Salesforce’s presence in the market will change it, though not necessarily for the better.

“The reason that we chose not to build our LRM on Salesforce was that Salesforce makes it too easy to build a ‘salesy’ experience, and our perspective was that if the relationships feel like sales, they won’t be developmental,” Counselman said in an email.

In an LRM, by comparison, the student is brought into the system, where they are able to collaborate with faculty members and advisers toward meeting their own goals, Counselman said. That requires more than technology, including mentoring and other support programs, which can be more challenging to build than software, he added.

Motivis Learning, an LRM provider whose software is built on Salesforce’s platform, did not respond to a request for comment. The company spun off from Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America two years ago.

Counselman said he is still excited to see if the Texas system can deliver on its promises. “This kind of effort is focused on exactly the right things, which is building coherent student experiences that involve relationships, goals, content, credentials and connectivity to the employment market,” he said.

Is this breaking news?: 

The growing learning relationship management market got a major new player this week as the University of Texas System announced it will further develop TEx, its homegrown learning platform, in partnership with business software provider Salesforce.

TEx, short for Total Education Experience, last year launched as a pilot in a competency-based degree program at the system’s Rio Grande Valley campus. When TEx 2.0 begins in fall 2017, it will have evolved to a personalized learning platform, a marketplace of courses and programs, and an academic record built on block-chain technology.

The system’s Institute for Transformational Learning, known as UTx, is leading the development effort. The system opened the institute in 2012 to serve as its innovation arm, exploring new ways to offer education and support to its increasingly diverse student body.

“These kinds of transformational moments are not going to come from the [billions] of ed-tech funding that’s coming from venture capital,” said Phil Komarny, chief digital officer at UTx. “These transformations have to happen from the inside.”

The system has previously described TEx as a “stack” of technologies and services. For the 2.0 version, the system plans to make that concept a reality.

TEx is first and foremost a learning platform, Komarny said. It gives faculty members across the system a platform where they can experiment with new models of education, as opposed to having to use systems that may not have been created with competency-based education or other alternative models in mind, he said.

For students, the key word is personalization. In a promotional video, the system pitches TEx as technology that lets students progress through programs at their own pace and along pathways they build with input from coaches and faculty members. During the pilot, for example, the platform powered a biomedical sciences program that let students access course materials and assessments on a tablet.

Personalization could also apply to administrative features such as course registration. The system has for more than a decade run the UT Online Consortium, a clearinghouse of the online courses and programs offered by its campuses. The system could use TEx to turn the clearinghouse into an online marketplace, Komarny said. Instead of students having to go to the website to look for online programs they find interesting, the platform could learn about students’ search habits -- like Amazon or Netflix -- and suggest courses that match their interests.

In addition to the biomedical sciences program at the Rio Grande Valley campus, the system is preparing a cybersecurity program from the San Antonio campus to launch on TEx next fall. Other programs are scheduled for 2018, but Komarny declined to list them as details have yet to be worked out.

Since the long-term plan for TEx is to feature courses and programs from across the system, developers plan to let students track academic progress using block-chain technology, which stores transactions -- in this case, achievements such as credits and credentials -- in a digital ledger.

The system sees uses for the platform outside higher education as well, but will initially focus its attention on the university and the state, Komarny said.

Salesforce is working with the university system through Salesforce.org, its philanthropic arm. The nonprofit organization invests 1 percent of the company’s own equity, technology and workforce into education and workforce initiatives.

While Salesforce.org has worked with a number of universities to build its Higher Education Data Architecture and markets its traditional customer relationship management products to colleges, Allyson Fryhoff, senior vice president of sales, described its work with the Texas system -- building a learning relationship management system -- as the “next generation of partnerships.”

TEx 2.0 will be built on Salesforce’s platform, and the company’s own software engineers will help build the platform, Fryhoff said.

College leaders in general aren’t sure if Salesforce and other customer relationship management platforms designed for the private sector are the right fit for higher education and managing learning relationships, however. In a recent Eduventures study of more than 200 college leaders, two-thirds of respondents said they may require different technology than what traditional CRM systems provide.

“We would agree that the vanilla CRM doesn’t meet all the needs [of higher education],” Fryhoff said in an interview. “When we think about CRM, normally that stands for customer relationship management. At Salesforce.org, we think of it as constituent relationship management.”

Gunnar Counselman, whose company, Fidelis, provides learning relationship management software and consulting, said Salesforce's presence in the market will change it, though not necessarily for the better.

“The reason that we chose not to build our LRM on Salesforce was that Salesforce makes it too easy to build a ‘salesy’ experience, and our perspective was that if the relationships feel like sales, they won't be developmental,” Counselman said in an email.

In an LRM, by comparison, the student is brought into the system, where they are able to collaborate with faculty members and advisers toward meeting their own goals, Counselman said. That requires more than technology, including mentoring and other support programs, which can be more challenging to build than software, he added.

Motivis Learning, an LRM provider whose software is built on Salesforce's platform, did not respond to a request for comment. The company spun off from Southern New Hampshire University's College for America two years ago.

Counselman said he is still excited to see if the Texas system can deliver on its promises. “This kind of effort is focused on exactly the right things, which is building coherent student experiences that involve relationships, goals, content, credentials and connectivity to the employment market,” he said.

Is this breaking news?: 

Students and faculty members rally against appointing politician with anti-gay record as president of Kennesaw State

Students at Kennesaw State University are planning a rally today to oppose the appointment of Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general, as the university’s next president. A petition is also gathering support.

Olens hasn’t even been officially nominated for the job, let alone approved by the state’s Board of Regents. But reports have been circulating for months — causing alarm among both students and faculty members at Kennesaw State, an institution of 33,000 located outside Atlanta and the third largest university in Georgia. In the last 10 days, the reports have shifted from Olens being seriously under consideration to that he has become the sole candidate in contention.

Not only hasn’t Olens been appointed, but faculty leaders note that the state Board of Regents has not even appointed a search committee (one that would presumably consider other candidates and might consult with professors). So critics say that a politician without experience in higher education could be about to lead a fast-growing university without the benefit of a search.

Adding to the concerns of many is that Olens has taken stands against gay rights at several points in his career. And those stands include positions similar to those taken by North Carolina lawmakers that have resulted in litigation against the University of North Carolina over a state law (which the university is not enforcing) that would bar the system’s campuses from permitting transgender students to use bathrooms that reflect their gender identity.

The issue of whether politicians should become university presidents is much debated. While many advocates for nontraditional presidents would point to the successes of Thomas Kean at Drew University and Terry Sanford at Duke University as evidence that politicians can earn praise for leading universities, others note that not every politician has those former governors’ records of interest in education and understanding of academe. Many times, faculty members complain that searches are effectively rigged for politicians, but sometimes publicity about concerns can result in the rejection of a political or politically connected candidate — as happened last month at the University of West Florida.

At Kennesaw State, faculty leaders have been raising concerns for months about the lack of a formal search committee — even as rumors grew that the board was preparing to offer Olens the job. (Olens has declined comment, as have leaders of the Board of Regents.)

In May, when many started to be alarmed by the lack of a search committee, the presidents of Kennesaw State’s Faculty Senate and campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote jointly to the Board of Regents asking for a search committee to be appointed. Their letter did not mention Olens, but did mention controversies over nontraditional choices for presidents who took office at the University of Iowa and Mount St. Mary’s University. The Iowa president remains in office despite widespread faculty opposition. and the Mount St. Mary’s president quit in February amid continued debate over his remark that struggling students should be thought of bunnies to be drowned or killed with a Glock.

The Faculty Senate president followed in September with another letter requesting a national search.

Faculty leaders originally held back from criticizing Olens and focused largely on the lack of a search. But many have noted that he has not worked in higher education. Before becoming attorney general of Georgia in 2011, he was chair of Cobb County Board of Commissioners. (The university is located in the county.)

As attorney general, Olens defended Georgia’s ban on same-sex marriage. And his office, on behalf of the state, joined in a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Education Department from applying Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to transgender students and ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with those students’ gender identities.

Leonard Witt, professor of communication at Kennesaw State, wrote an essay in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlining his concerns. He wrote that Kennesaw State could expect boycotts such as those that have hit North Carolina if Olens adopted policies he favored at the university. “Just see what is happening in North Carolina, where the state Legislature and governor passed laws opposing gender-neutral bathrooms. In North Carolina, sanctions are piecemeal around the whole state. Not so here. Kennesaw State University will be ground zero and there will be plenty of collateral damage,” Witt wrote.

He added that, in a regular search, Olens could be welcome to apply — but he would be vetted through the process.

Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 

Students at Kennesaw State University are planning a rally today to oppose the appointment of Sam Olens, Georgia's attorney general, as the university's next president. A petition is also gathering support.

Olens hasn't even been officially nominated for the job, let alone approved by the state's Board of Regents. But reports have been circulating for months -- causing alarm among both students and faculty members at Kennesaw State, an institution of 33,000 located outside Atlanta and the third largest university in Georgia. In the last 10 days, the reports have shifted from Olens being seriously under consideration to that he has become the sole candidate in contention.

Not only hasn't Olens been appointed, but faculty leaders note that the state Board of Regents has not even appointed a search committee (one that would presumably consider other candidates and might consult with professors). So critics say that a politician without experience in higher education could be about to lead a fast-growing university without the benefit of a search.

Adding to the concerns of many is that Olens has taken stands against gay rights at several points in his career. And those stands include positions similar to those taken by North Carolina lawmakers that have resulted in litigation against the University of North Carolina over a state law (which the university is not enforcing) that would bar the system's campuses from permitting transgender students to use bathrooms that reflect their gender identity.

The issue of whether politicians should become university presidents is much debated. While many advocates for nontraditional presidents would point to the successes of Thomas Kean at Drew University and Terry Sanford at Duke University as evidence that politicians can earn praise for leading universities, others note that not every politician has those former governors' records of interest in education and understanding of academe. Many times, faculty members complain that searches are effectively rigged for politicians, but sometimes publicity about concerns can result in the rejection of a political or politically connected candidate -- as happened last month at the University of West Florida.

At Kennesaw State, faculty leaders have been raising concerns for months about the lack of a formal search committee -- even as rumors grew that the board was preparing to offer Olens the job. (Olens has declined comment, as have leaders of the Board of Regents.)

In May, when many started to be alarmed by the lack of a search committee, the presidents of Kennesaw State's Faculty Senate and campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote jointly to the Board of Regents asking for a search committee to be appointed. Their letter did not mention Olens, but did mention controversies over nontraditional choices for presidents who took office at the University of Iowa and Mount St. Mary's University. The Iowa president remains in office despite widespread faculty opposition. and the Mount St. Mary's president quit in February amid continued debate over his remark that struggling students should be thought of bunnies to be drowned or killed with a Glock.

The Faculty Senate president followed in September with another letter requesting a national search.

Faculty leaders originally held back from criticizing Olens and focused largely on the lack of a search. But many have noted that he has not worked in higher education. Before becoming attorney general of Georgia in 2011, he was chair of Cobb County Board of Commissioners. (The university is located in the county.)

As attorney general, Olens defended Georgia's ban on same-sex marriage. And his office, on behalf of the state, joined in a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Education Department from applying Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to transgender students and ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with those students' gender identities.

Leonard Witt, professor of communication at Kennesaw State, wrote an essay in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlining his concerns. He wrote that Kennesaw State could expect boycotts such as those that have hit North Carolina if Olens adopted policies he favored at the university. "Just see what is happening in North Carolina, where the state Legislature and governor passed laws opposing gender-neutral bathrooms. In North Carolina, sanctions are piecemeal around the whole state. Not so here. Kennesaw State University will be ground zero and there will be plenty of collateral damage," Witt wrote.

He added that, in a regular search, Olens could be welcome to apply -- but he would be vetted through the process.

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Is this breaking news?: