Higher Education News

Anti-Asian messages spread at Washington University in St. Louis

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm

When Han Ju Seo, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, first saw messages calling Asian students invaders of campus study spaces, she felt “immediate anger.”

“I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had a very visceral emotional reaction,” she said.

Seo is Korean American, and she said she wasn’t upset about what the messages said but about the racist connotations they carried. Anti-Asian racism is something that she and other Asian American students felt everyday.

The characterization of Asian students as "taking over" is common, and not just specific to Washington University, said Julie Park, an associate professor at the University of Maryland at College Park. In 2011, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, posted a YouTube video that criticized Asian students for talking loudly in the library and having family members visit them.

"One manifestation of anti-Asian racism tends to be this theme that they're 'taking over' somehow, which is similar to what happened at Wash U," Park wrote in an email. "Another theme is the perpetual foreigner stereotype, where Asian Americans are perceived to be un-American or foreign, even when they're U.S.-born or don't have connections to Asia."

The messages were sent on Oct. 3 in a group chat among the residents of the first floor of a freshman dorm at Washington University. One of Seo’s friends sent her a screenshot.

“Why are Asians invading our study room,” the first messaged read. Several others chimed in: “It’s so annoying, they’re having movie night in our study room,” “Did you try asking them to leave,” “Fuck, there’s one in my room too.”

Seo posted the screenshot to Facebook.

“Thanks for the reminder that no matter my citizenship, the years I’ve spent in America, and my proficiency in English, I’m always going to [be] a foreigner,” she wrote alongside the screenshot. “No matter how much we excel in our careers, achieve incredible things, and work to the point of utter exhaustion we’re still unwanted. Go ahead and love my culture, love my food, and love my music; call me when I’m welcome. I’m tired.”

Several students filed bias incident reports with the university, although Seo didn’t know exactly how many. Both Lori White, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Emelyn dela Peña, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of the center for diversity and inclusion, sent emails to students saying they’d been alerted to the messages.

“We recognize the messages can easily be interpreted as portraying Asians and Asian Americans as invaders and are a characterization of Asian people as forever foreign and generally not welcome in our community,” dela Peña wrote. “These messages are inconsistent with the university’s goal of creating an inclusive and diverse environment and are just one example of the broader bias and oppression that Asian and Asian American students experience.”

Dela Peña also provided details for two campus events, one to support students who had been affected by the messages and a workshop about the “racialization of Asians and Asian Americans.”

Seo was glad the university addressed the issue but was concerned that the response came across “a little bit more like damage control.”

She doesn’t know what she’d like to see the university do differently, and that, to her, is part of the problem.

“In terms of practical steps or actionable steps, it’s hard for me to formulate [what those would be], because Asian American issues aren’t something that’s really talked about,” she said.

To address underlying issues of racism and prejudice against Asian students, Park encourages universities to provide support for Asian American studies, promote ethnic student organizations and hire upper-level administrators who are comfortable talking about race.

In 2017, Asian students made up 17 percent of the student body at Washington University in St. Louis, which is double the percentage of other racial minorities on campus, yet Seo noticed that racism and microaggressions against Asian students seem to be discussed less often than those against other racial minorities.

"I'd actually say that it is talked about, but maybe less so in mainstream outlets," Park said. "Asian Americans are stereotyped as being more passive, which leads to the assumption that people can make these types of comments without Asian Americans pushing back, unfortunately." She added that she was proud of the students at Washington University for calling out the problematic comments.

Since Seo made her original Facebook post, one of the students involved in the message thread reached out to her to apologize.

“He was very, very intentional about the whole thing,” she said. “He was not making excuses.”

That student, who spoke to Inside Higher Ed but asked not to be identified, said that his message was an ill-advised joke and that he regretted his comment.

“I’m not trying to make an excuse,” he said. “I understand that I messed up and I’m very sorry that I did.”

Another student involved, who also asked not to be identified, said that “it was a very poor choice of words that was not meant in any way to be racially insensitive or derogatory, and right afterwards I realized that it did come across as racist.”

Washington University issued the following statement to Inside Higher Ed about the incident.

“We were disappointed to learn about the insensitive comments that were made in the group chat, which are not at all in line with our community values of diversity and inclusion. We have worked with all students involved to facilitate opportunities for constructive dialogue so we can hold one another accountable and work to prevent something like this from happening again,” the statement read. “This was an unfortunate incident, but one that we hope will give us an opportunity to listen, learn and become stronger as a community.”

Seo hopes that the post will spark a broader discussion about Asian American experiences and racism at Washington University and in America.

“We could sit there and talk about the post for ages, about what they said and what this means, but what I really want is consideration for the larger implications,” she said. “Yeah, this one post sucked, but there is such a bigger story behind it. My anger is not just directed towards those boys; it’s directed to the problem in general -- that we are not wanted in America.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: RaceIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Anti-Asian BigotryTrending order: 1College: Washington University in St. Louis
Categories: Higher Education News

University of Delaware will vet employers harder on Handshake after student fools system

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm

It took Jennifer West less than two hours to create a fake company on Handshake, the fast-growing career-services platform, and then advertise a bogus social media internship at the University of Delaware, which she attends.

West, a senior at Delaware, wanted to test the system after earlier this fall she said she was duped into a sham internship that was posted on Handshake, which has spread to at least 700 campuses.

The incident illustrates that despite the convenience of Handshake, institutions, particularly large ones such as Delaware, have trouble tracking what opportunities are real. West’s experiment has prompted the institution to make stricter the vetting process for employers.

West was browsing Handshake over the summer when she stumbled on iConcept Media, which purported to be offering an unpaid internship in fashion journalism where she would work remotely.

She searched the company online and found a few lukewarm reviews on Glassdoor but decided to apply regardless. West went through a Skype interview (the interviewer told her that his camera was broken, but she was able to hear his voice) and later she was “hired.” As West understood the position, she would be writing about fashion brands, pieces that iConcept representatives implied would ultimately appear in high-profile publications with which they claimed to have relationships, West said.

In August, after submitting a few trial clips, West was granted access to a Google Doc, which she said looked sloppy and unprofessional, laden with typos. In that Google Doc were links where the pieces were published -- but they were a far cry from Vogue. The URLs looked similar to major fashion outlets, but were a “bit off.” For instance, instead of fashionme.com (a popular website), the iConcept Media version was “fashionmr.”

When West scrolled through the webpages, hardly any of the write-ups had bylines attached. She said that iConcept told her that if she did not fulfill a quota of stories and post daily to social media that her name would also be removed. West said she figured out the scammers were trying to generate clickbait, nothing more. She was also later told that iConcept Media had been flagged by the university as a fraudulent company.

West remained curious about how thoroughly the institution was evaluating the companies that used Handshake, which allows employers both big and small to advertise at colleges and universities across the country. Last year she set up a parody music review website called PorkSpork, where she and her friends would write for a laugh (one article is titled “John McCain dies before mixtape drop”).

When West interviewed Delaware’s Career Services Center for an article for the student newspaper about her fake internship experience, she was told that staffers there check for a legitimate email and phone number and a career-services page on a company website.

West already had an email and phone number associated with the PorkSpork website, and she was able to quickly add a webpage on the site advertising for interns, she said. She signed up with Handshake, seemingly without the company checking that PorkSpork was real, and then asked to advertise with Delaware.

The institution approved her and a “social media internship” ad with a vague description within two hours, West said. She discovered she could request students’ résumés, cover letters and university transcripts, which would reveal to her students’ personal information, including grades. Shocked at the level of information she could access, West nixed the post. (Handshake has come under fire for privacy issues before, with some students unaware they had even shared their information, such as a grade point average.)

“I think there needs to be any sort of service by the university to check if anything is legitimate. I didn’t get a call or an email -- I didn’t even get a phone call to check if it was a real phone number,” West said.

The university will now check the businesses licenses for every employer that wants to use Handshake, said Nathan Elton, the Career Services Center director. This may slow down the process of approving them, but Elton said the trust of students is “ultimately No. 1.”

The university has used Handshake for about three years, and since then, the number of employers and postings on the platform has skyrocketed, Elton said. About 16,500 employers have signed up to use Delaware’s Handshake service and posted a little fewer than 40,000 positions within the last year. Two academic years ago, the university handled only about 18,500 postings, Elton said.

Only one staff member on the center’s employment relations and engagement team is charged with reviewing Handshake posts, with others assigned as necessary during the periods where more postings roll in -- such as during the late summer or early fall, Elton said. Delaware enrolls more than 24,000 students.

In the case of West’s false company, Elton said that the university fields many requests from small start-ups, and a social media intern is a common position. With the completeness of having a webpage, email and more, PorkSpork slipped through the university’s screening. Per Handshake’s policies, it also would not have flagged West’s company because she had created a unique email, website and branding to go with it -- instead, it would be up to individual institutions to remove it.

Despite the new requirement of checking business licenses, Elton said that the center will maintain its disclaimer on fraudulent jobs and internships.

Posted to the Career Services Center website, it reads:

The university does not endorse or recommend employers, and a posting does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation. The university explicitly makes no representations or guarantees about job listings or the accuracy of the information provided by the employer. The university is not responsible for safety, wages, working conditions, or any other aspect of off-campus employment without limitation. It is the responsibility of students to perform due diligence in researching employers when applying for or accepting private, off-campus employment and to thoroughly research the facts and reputation of each organization to which they are applying. Students should be prudent and use common sense and caution when applying for or accepting any position.

West said she was unaware of the disclaimer until this week, though university officials said it is prominently promoted.

Many institutions publish this type of warning about fake positions, including Boston University; the University of California, Berkeley; Rutgers University and Rider University. George Mason University in May published a statement about a job scam on its career platform, HireMason.

Handshake has developed its own metric for judging the legitimacy of employers, called a “trust score,” which is visible on the platform. It takes into account whether employers have been deemed fraudulent by another institution, how long they’ve been using Handshake, their level of activity on Handshake and whether they have a valid web address and matching email, among other factors.

Last year, about 200,000 employers advertised with institutions on Handshake, and about 0.4 percent of them were flagged as fraudulent.

Handshake provided a statement to Inside Higher Ed:

“More than 300,000 employers are engaging with the Handshake community each year, from the Fortune 500 to local small businesses and nonprofits. Our fraud rates are far below industry norms, because we have built a strong set of security protections and work closely with our university partners. But we are always working to make the network more secure, and we continue to take steps with our university partners to ensure every student can find a job or internship that will help them launch a meaningful career.”

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Senator Brian Schatz wants college access for students with criminal histories

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm

A college education typically is out of reach for people who are in prison, and even formerly incarcerated students often face questions about their past in the admissions process.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, wants to remove those restrictions for students who have been involved with the criminal justice system. He is spearheading bills that would restore Pell Grants for incarcerated students and encourage colleges to drop admissions questions about applicants’ criminal histories.

“If we’re really committed to allowing people after they pay their debt to society to become productive members of their communities, we have to allow them to pursue their education,” he said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

For the last quarter century, federal law has barred incarcerated students from receiving Pell Grants. And many colleges and universities ask about students’ criminal convictions or disciplinary records -- policies that critics have said can perpetuate discrimination against students from minority groups, and which are being targeted for removal by a national “ban the box” movement.

Schatz made a foray into the college affordability debate this year with legislation that would make higher education debt-free, a more ambitious plan than even the free college proposal offered by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent. He said the criminal justice legislation is a related push.

“The overall goal is to increase access to higher education,” he said. “And that’s got to include people who are currently and formerly incarcerated.”

Public policy has made it difficult or impossible, Schatz said, for those students to earn a postsecondary degree either behind bars or after being released -- a relic of the tough-on-crime era of the 1990s that produced numerous laws restricting government benefits to individuals with criminal convictions.

In February, Schatz introduced the REAL Act to restore Pell eligibility for students who are behind bars. And he followed that up last month with the Beyond the Box for Higher Education Act. Both bills count among their Democratic co-sponsors potential 2020 presidential contenders like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders. (House lawmakers have introduced corresponding legislation for both bills.)

Noticeably absent from the bills' co-sponsors are any Republican lawmakers. But Schatz sees signs of bipartisan momentum behind policies to make college more accessible for students who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

The U.S. Department of Education says it’s committed to continuing the Second Chance Pell experiment, which launched in 2016 and allows students at a limited number of correctional institutions to receive the grants. Major conservative donors like the Koch family also have thrown their support behind efforts to reform the broader criminal justice system -- a rare policy goal shared by some right-wing activists and progressive organizers.

Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, said the new federal proposals follow the efforts of activists who have been working for years to tackle the consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration.

“We talk about this as something that is a natural evolution of the momentum we’ve seen to address mass incarceration and the challenges it’s created for society as a whole,” she said.

Higher education is a natural part of that organizing because postsecondary credentials increasingly have become required for decent-paying jobs.

“That’s why you see so many states adopting attainment goals,” Jones said. “That’s why you see us talking nationally about the need to address degree completion.”

Going Beyond the Box

Schatz is making the case to colleagues in Congress that higher education programs for incarcerated students benefit society and taxpayers by lowering the chances an individual ends up back behind bars.

"One of the best ways to reduce recidivism is to allow people to get educated," he said. "It’s as simple as that."

The national recidivism rate is 43.3 percent within three years of release. But Schatz’s office cites a study from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which found that the recidivism rate falls to 13.7 percent for formerly incarcerated students who earned an associate’s degree, 5.6 percent for those who earned a four-year degree and less than 1 percent for those who complete a master’s degree.

The benefits of a college education have helped the REAL Act get endorsements from groups like correctional officers' unions. While that bill would simply overturn the 1994 ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students, Schatz’s ban-the-box proposal would give discretion to colleges to determine how they ask about criminal histories, if at all.

For example, it would recommend that they re-examine those policies and assess whether they are necessary for admission decisions. And it calls on the Education Department to issue guidance to colleges on how they can alter their admissions practices.

Syrita Steib-Martin, the founder and executive director of Operation Restoration, said the group had hoped the legislation would direct institutions to no longer ask questions about students' criminal backgrounds.

“It’s not relevant,” she said. “We don’t ask people their sexual orientation, what trauma they’ve been through. We don’t ask those questions ahead of time.”

And data indicate that information is not a good predictor of future crime on campus, she said.

Operation Restoration worked with lawmakers in Louisiana and Maryland to pass state-level ban-the-box legislation. While she said the Schatz bill should go further, Steib-Martin said federal legislation could encourage even more states to pass similar laws.

Jones said her group understands the urge to allow some discretion on the question -- she said some campus presidents have said they want to offer targeted servicers to formerly incarcerated students but sometimes don’t know who they are.

“It’s complicated,” she said. “We have to be paying attention to outcomes intended and unintended.”

She said the group’s biggest goal is to reduce the chance that students are discriminated against based on criminal histories.

Even before introducing the beyond-the-box legislation, Schatz was pushing higher ed to take on the issue. In February he sent a letter signed by 17 other Democratic senators to higher ed associations that asked them to ban the box.

“Passing a bill takes a long time. Even really good bipartisan ideas can take a couple of years at a minimum,” Schatz said. “I try to use whatever influence my office has to advance this cause.”

That pressure has shown some results. The Association of American Colleges and Universities wrote to its 1,400 member colleges in May urging them to drop questions about criminal justice histories from their applications for admission. And the Common App said in August it would drop a question about criminal histories, although individual colleges who use the app may still ask themselves, and a question about disciplinary records remains.

Schatz is under no illusion that his debt-free college plan will garner Republican support -- he talks about that proposal as an attempt to move the Democratic Party on college affordability as much as anything else.

But to the extent possible, he wants to keep the push for college opportunity for students with criminal histories from becoming a partisan fight. That approach recognizes the role both Republicans and Democrats played in enacting “tough on crime” policies and the real chances he sees for winning broader support for removing those barriers.

“Whether you’re the Koch brothers or the ACLU, you realize the architecture of our criminal justice system -- which includes how we treat people who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated and includes our attitude toward their educational attainment -- is preposterous, and inhumane, and terribly expensive,” Schatz said.

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Authors discuss book about how they see colleges as media organizations as much as educational institutions

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm

Most people think of colleges and universities as primarily educational institutions. But a new book says that, for a long time, they have been "media institutions," focused on appealing to different audiences. The book extends this view far beyond traditional public relations operations or even new media strategies, but says that the idea of colleges as media institutions is much more ingrained than people typically see. The book is Media U: How the Need to Win Audiences Has Shaped Higher Education (Columbia University Press). The authors are Mark Garrett Cooper, professor of film and media studies at the University of South Carolina, and John Marx, professor of English at the University of California, Davis. They responded via email to questions about their book.

Q: What first gave you the idea of looking at colleges and universities as media institutions? What is a media institution?

A: The idea came out of our frustration with repeated declarations of a crisis in the humanities. Crisis talk so often assumes that a declining audience rightfully belongs to “us” while also revealing a stubborn narrowness when it comes to defining who “us” is, exactly. With sad predictability, essays defending “the humanities” turn out to be all about the aggrieved writer’s home discipline. Nostalgia plus navel-gazing equals paralysis. We wanted another option. We craved a more capacious account of the university, one that would allow us to understand how it has grown, and how it has attracted audiences of all sorts. We quickly noticed that higher ed was competing and collaborating with other audience-seeking enterprises.

To pick just one example: in the early years of PBS precursor National Educational Television, Boston universities worked with their local station to put professors on the air. In 1957, WGBH thought Harvard’s I. A. Richards might compete for viewers with NBC’s hit Dragnet, with which the English professor shared a Thursday evening time slot. Nothing we had learned about the rise and fall of “the humanities” would help us understand such phenomena. But the idea that the university was a media institution did. A media institution succeeds by producing and consuming media (books, movies, radio, television, databases, what have you). Universities make and use all those formats, and many studies describe how. But no one has explained how central producing media is to the university’s core mission of connecting on-campus constituents (administrators, faculty, students) and off-campus ones (football fans, taxpayers, government and corporate scientists).

Q: Have colleges and universities been successful as media institutions (at least until recently)?

A: They’ve only succeeded to the extent that they do behave as media institutions. Undergraduate degrees and peer-reviewed publications have worth because people agree that they have worth. Degrees are more like the medium of paper money than they are a commodity like rice or steel. People value credentials to the extent that institutions of higher education (among other media institutions) have been effective in associating them with careers, self-fulfillment, public service and the pleasures of campus life. There’s a reason that universities in the U.S. started to think about public relations even before that term had become common parlance. In 1894, the University of Wisconsin’s legendary defense of academic freedom, its “Magna Carta,” also cannily advertised the university. “Incidentally if not inadvertently the report contains a résumé of the good work done at the university ever since the civil war,” observed the State Journal. “This handsome advertisement has been telegraphed all over the country.”

Much later, efforts like Clark Kerr’s successful 1960s rebranding of the contemporary university as a multifaceted enterprise made the need to address diverse external audiences explicit. As described in his 1963 book, The Uses of the University, Kerr’s “multiversity” had “fuzzy” edges and a tendency to reach “out to alumni, legislators, farmers, businessmen, who are all related to one or more … internal communities.” This was such an effective way of simultaneously conceptualizing the university and promoting its services that today schools like Arizona State explicitly claim its mantle.

Of course, Berkeley in the ’60s was the site of another equally important, student-led feat of redefinition, which made the campus an emblem of activism. The university's FSM 50 (Free Speech Movement at 50) website indicates the extent to which generations of protesters filling Sproul Plaza have helped Berkeley remain Berkeley. In the last two years, in fact, Chancellor Carol Christ has made Berkeley’s free speech legacy central to her efforts to get ahead of right-wing campaigns that frame higher ed as intolerant of dissent. She’s right to argue that without such an intervention and the media to disseminate it, neither Berkeley nor any other institution of higher learning is likely to get the students and support it wants and needs.

Q: While many Americans continue to revere their own alma maters or state flagships (even if sometimes for football more than intellectual contributions), the image of higher ed has taken a beating of late. Why do you think that is?

A: It’s true that Yalies talk less about football today than they did a century ago, when their team was top of the heap, but they remain fixated on wider public perception. The fallout from the Kavanaugh hearings has led to headlines featuring Yale students, faculty and grads concerned about the school’s elite reputation, which quickly bleeds over into questioning the status of meritocracy more generally. Ross Douthat had a provocative column in The New York Times about this in which he observed that many of the pundits weighing in on embattled nominee had the same kind of education that Kavanaugh had. This recognition, he argues, puts pressure on the whole “meritocratic game, which depends on a reproduction of privilege that pretends to be something else, something fair and open and all about hard work and just deserts.” Douthat’s argument strikes us as very much of the moment. Many are finding it harder to separate the merit that universities certify from inherited privilege.

This is a profound problem, because Americans have historically expected their universities to underwrite social leveling by lending opportunity to individual merit, regardless of station. Our universities have been propelled by this contradictory directive to flatten social hierarchy and reproduce it at the same time. Lately the system can seem to be failing on both counts: it struggles to make college accessible and cannot convincingly distinguish merit from preferential treatment. When we look to a near-future college-age population that will be notably smaller, poorer and less white than prior generations, the need to renew the compact seems crystal clear. There’s no single point of failure.

Taxpayer commitments, state and federal policies, disparities in K-12 preparation, and political polarization are among many factors affecting how universities conduct themselves as well as how they are perceived. Accordingly, to improve faith in the university will not be a matter of messaging merely, although that will be critical. Rather, a wide array of actors will need to recommit to the proposition that higher ed can and must identify, nurture and certify talent possessed by people not already presumed to have it.

Q: How have the culture wars changed the media landscape for higher education?

A: We call our chapter about this “Bad English.” It seemed bizarre to us that 1980s partisans on all sides agreed to cast the English department as the villain. National Endowment for the Humanities head William Bennett and his ilk chastised literature scholars for failing to teach Western classics. Leftist English profs lambasted their departments for clinging to the canon. Cranky scientists attacked the discipline for spreading the relativist theory menace. Meanwhile, largely out of public view, English became objectively less prominent as a component of the undergraduate experience. It was not alone. A steady proliferation of new majors in new fields meant a declining share of students for each one.

On the pages of national newspapers, the struggle to shape student minds through English ranked with other wedge issues, like the controversy over so-called welfare queens. On campuses, the idea that massive numbers of students could be swayed by means of the English curriculum looked increasingly preposterous. At many colleges, students would find it possible to avoid the discipline altogether. This dynamic of polarization on the one hand and fragmentation on the other continues to characterize new battles in the seemingly endless culture war. Even as certain issues create high energy us-them distinctions, a more fundamental fragmentation into niche audiences is altering social life. It’s not just that left and right have always already agreed to disagree ferociously about “culture.” It’s that physicists, historians and sociologists who happen to share concerns will find it a challenge to find a common audience that might act on those concerns.

Q: How has the era of new media changed the landscape for higher education?

A: Not nearly as much as most people think. Endless repetition of the tall tale in which today’s “new media” promise (or threaten) to disrupt staid lecture halls only encourages misrecognition of our past and present. For at least a century, universities in the U.S. have leaped to exploit new media to engage audiences at a distance and innovate in the classroom. Universities were early adopters of radio, film and television. And let’s not forget the affordances of the U.S. Postal Service, which helped make correspondence courses big business for land-grant universities and private for-profits alike in the late 19th century. Concern with how best to use new media is a perennial theme in the history of higher ed, as is the hyperbole that accompanies appraisals of its hazards and potentialities.

Which is to say that the internet changes some things, but hardly everything. Most interestingly, digital-media audiences provide a limitless array of data points and can be disaggregated and reaggregated in infinite combinations, while the masses addressed by movies, radio and television “talked back” mainly in information-poor forms like ticket sales and Nielsen surveys. Accordingly, digital crowds and digital classrooms seem collectively “smarter.” They also revise expectations about responsiveness, trustworthiness and privacy. But there’s no assessing these kinds of differences without a more attentive media history than the one in which the internet ends the long 19th century of print and marks the start of a new epoch.

It is important to note another constant: the university’s adoption of new media formats inevitably expands its division of labor and often requires extramural partnerships, as new types of experts are almost always necessary to make new media effective. Much of the apprehension (and enthusiasm) around “new media” comes from a perception that established patterns of work and authority may change. We do better to confront that issue head-on, to talk about the kinds of work involved and who orchestrates it, than we do to imagine that new media present an inherent threat to the status quo.

Q: If you could advise colleges' presidents or marketing strategists on how to improve their images and that of higher ed, what are two or three things you would suggest?

A: Well, obviously, they should buy the book! It will confirm that presidents are right to foreground collaboration when it comes to marketing their schools and promoting higher education in general. We offer a slew of historical examples: the Tuskegee Institute’s often overlooked international programs; the University of Chicago’s partnership with Encyclopedia Britannica Films; the hydra-headed midcentury study of mass communications in which diverse scholarly, governmental and political interests converged; the implementation of “STEM” as a category linking K-12 math and science to a broad array of university disciplines; and many others.

The book also underscores the importance of attending to the medium as much as the message. In our last chapter, we observe with some concern the extent to which Twitter now dominates approaches to crisis management. The platform did dramatically change the scale and speed of messaging. But obviously there are messages that cannot be sent or received in this form, and tweeting is hardly only way to create or manage a crisis. We compare Missouri’s #ConcernedStudent1950 Twitter campaign with a 14-page letter signed by some 700 Oberlin College students, which ramified through the national press in 2016. The Twitter campaign had greater reach than the Oberlin story and certainly had more dramatic consequences for its institution’s president. But the letter -- with the slower, more deliberative institutional response it provoked -- arguably had more durable consequences for diversity and inclusion at Oberlin.

Finally, your question touches on a new idea we’ve been playing around with: universities may have underappreciated the Netflix business model. That model, for those not paying attention, goes well beyond the video on demand approach that we see adapted in MOOCs, with their broadcast-era emphasis on “massive” scale. As Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos explains to the academic editors of Distribution Revolution, his aim is not to put butts in seats but to ensure that people “love” everything they watch. “We are trying to match tastes,” he says, “and tastes are really specific -- even in your own household. So imagine trying to do it across the whole country. We have to have a lot of titles to produce the content our customers want.”

Netflix invested in taste-based algorithms to predict what viewers will like but might not think to pick themselves. At the same time, it vastly expanded the scope and variety of program content available. Greater specificity about what viewers might love required a larger array of options from which to choose, with correspondingly smaller audiences for many individual programs. Obviously, marketing programs of study is not the same thing as marketing television programs. Still, there are lessons to be had in the shift away from emphasis on the audience size for any specific program. By charting the long-term tendency of higher education to offer ever-wider options for students, our book explains why the Netflix approach would be more applicable than, for instance, Governor Jerry Brown’s promotion of a fast-casual “limited menu” model.

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Academics in Brazil worry about rise of right

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm

It was destined to be a presidential election campaign of dramatic outcomes. Celebrating 30 years of democracy, Brazilians took to the polls this week in their millions. But set against a background of economic crisis, mass unemployment and political scandal -- not to mention anger, which culminated in the front-runner being stabbed -- the results of the first round of voting left the Brazilian population more divided than ever.

Right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro -- who continued the last month of his campaign from his hospital bed after being attacked while campaigning Sept. 6 -- took 46 percent of the vote in the first round on Oct. 7 and is the favorite to take the presidency ahead of left-winger Fernando Haddad in the second round on Oct. 28.

A former paratrooper and a self-professed admirer of Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has gained followers for his strong stance on tackling crime and corruption, which he says have “swamped” Brazil. But his failure to give much attention to science or universities in his campaign has left academics reeling -- and preparing for the worst.

Adriana Marotti de Mello, professor of business at the University of São Paulo, said that the current funding situation for Brazilian research was critical. “This year’s budget for National Research Council [Brazil’s major public funding body, known as CNPq] was the lowest in 13 years,” she explained. “Science, technology and education are historically neglected in Brazil, but since 2016 the situation has become dangerous.”

The reason so many in the sector are particularly fearful of a Bolsonaro presidency, Marotti de Mello continued, comes from an agreement made by his party’s finance spokesman to continue to freeze spending -- intensifying the real-terms cuts that are already causing research institutions to close.

According to Fabio Zicker, a specialist in science, technology and innovation in global health at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a biological sciences research institute in Rio de Janeiro, the outlook for science and higher education could be bleak regardless of who wins. There is “not much detail from either of the two leading candidates,” he explained.

While Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party has made reference to stimulating entrepreneurship and privatizing public-sector organizations, including universities, his competitor has made equally vague promises to “recover the level of funding to education and other sectors … by being more efficient,” he said.

But for many, the problems run deeper than financial hardship; Bolsonaro’s lack of commitment to science and research may be concerning, but it is the other policies he has thrown weight behind that raise more questions.

The Schools Without Political Party initiative -- known as the “gag law” by its opponents -- was drafted as legislation in 2016 in response to fear that teachers were abusing their teaching freedoms by spreading political views. The Institute for Development and Human Rights -- a nongovernmental organization with United Nations consultative status -- said at the time that the initiative “attacks basic human rights,” namely the “right to freedom of expression and thought.”

According to Marotti de Mello, Aléssio Ribeiro Souto, the Social Liberal Party’s education adviser and another former military man, last year said that he would censor books that did not tell the “truth” about Brazil’s former military regime. The drafted law is currently being considered in the federal government’s Legislative Assembly and, according to one academic who asked not to be named on account of “what might happen in the next few years,” there is strong consensus that the initiative could be expanded to university-level teaching.

“This is a conservative project with a goal to remove any kind of teaching they consider left leaning, whether it truly is or not,” he said.

Those who remember the country under military dictatorship might be forgiven for feeling paranoid about a return to dictatorship values. But younger generations appear equally worried. Frederico Dourado Morais, professor of pedagogy at the State University of Goiás, said a right-wing presidency would signal not only a “step backwards” in terms of progress, but present barriers to those wishing to access higher education in a country where the social mobility gap is particularly high.

“Higher education in Brazil is still an exclusive and elitist space … Bolsonaro’s government plan, his proposals and his speeches in public spaces show total ignorance of this reality. He represents a backwards step, both in terms of access, retention and graduation [of students] as well as the quality of scientific production in the country,” Dourado said.

For some, the academic career prospects in the country have simply become too bleak. “It is very sad, but I do not see any positive future for Brazil,” said Marotti de Mello. “I have a tenured position, but many students, especially postgraduates, are facing unemployment or looking for jobs below their qualification.”

She added, “I am talking to lots of friends in academic areas who have plans to leave Brazil if Bolsonaro wins and successfully implements his plan. I am myself looking for research projects in Europe.”

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New presidents or provosts: Asheville CQUniversity DuPage Highlands KSU Louisville Pacific Northwest Shenandoah USF

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 11, 2018 - 6:00pm
  • Adrienne G. Bloss, vice president for academic affairs at Shenandoah University, in Virginia, has been named provost as well.
  • Beth Boehm, dean of the school of interdisciplinary and graduate studies at the University of Louisville, has been promoted to executive vice president and university provost there.
  • Nancy J. Cable, president of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, in Florida, has been named chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
  • Mark Curtis-Chávez, special assistant to the president of Lone Star College-CyFair, in Texas, has been selected as provost of the College of DuPage, in Illinois.
  • Nick Klomp, deputy vice chancellor academic at the University of Canberra, in Australia, has been appointed vice chancellor and president of CQUniversity, in Australia.
  • Michael J. Lawler, dean and professor of the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Dakota, has been chosen as president of Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, in Washington.
  • Dana Nichols, vice president for academic affairs at Chattanooga State Community College, in Tennessee, has been named vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Highlands College.
  • Charles Taber, vice provost for graduate and professional education and dean of the Graduate School at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, has been selected as provost and executive vice president of Kansas State University.
  • Martin Tadlock, interim chancellor of the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
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Paper proposes new, multipronged approach to thinking about gender diversity in the sciences

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2018 - 6:00pm

Gender diversity in the sciences is often discussed in terms of numbers: build research teams with more women on them and innovation will come. That may be true; research suggests it probably is. But a new paper seeks to push science’s gender diversity conversation beyond just composition of teams, to research methods and research questions -- along with how to manage each in different disciplinary and organizational settings. It also suggests that in paying more attention to research methods and questions, research teams might diversify as a result.

“To realize its full potential, gender diversity needs to be supported by careful stewardship and management techniques across four interdependent domains -- from research teams to the broader disciplines in which they are embedded to research organizations and ultimately to the larger societies that shape them through specific gender norms and policies,” reads the study, published in Nature: Human Behavior. “Understanding how these domains interact -- i.e., how policies and practices in one domain shape developments in the other domains -- is crucial to maximizing the benefits of diversity for science.”

Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University, and the paper’s senior author, said this week that “we in North America and Western Europe have not been entirely successful increasing the numbers of women in science, despite our many efforts.” And one reason for that is the limited focus on issues of participation, she said, at the expense of considering “how science is done.”

Speaking for herself and her colleagues, Schiebinger said it’s “our hypothesis that attending to diversity in research methods and diversity in questions asked may also lead to greater diversity in research teams.”

She noted that in a separate analysis of 1.5 million medical papers, she and colleagues saw a link between diversity in participation and methods, specifically between author gender and attention to gender- and sex-specific analysis of phenomena. Causality could not be established, Schiebinger said, but her team is now launching a large empirical study to understand relationships between diversity and creativity and innovation.

Numbers Still Count

The new paper does not suggest ignoring team composition, which it says has important implications for scientific diversity by virtue of cognitive diversity -- which research, in turn, suggests can heighten creativity and the search for new solutions. Indeed, more science-specific research on this topic is needed, the paper argues, and those few studies focusing on science tend to count citation rates, publication productivity and patents, as opposed to other measures of impact. Namely, the paper suggests societal relevance, which the National Science Foundation already considers in funding proposals.

Another reason that this kind of gender diversity shouldn’t be ignored, the paper says, is that gender-diverse teams may encounter higher levels of conflict than more homogenous teams, and that should be carefully managed.


Still, approaching gender diversity through diversifying research methods, including through research and analysis that considers effects by specific genders or sex, referred to as "GSA," merits more attention, the researcher argue. Schiebinger’s Gendered Innovations project, which includes such case studies as breaking the female postmenopausal paradigm, is one example.

“Integrating GSA into research design can lead to new insights that enhance the external validity and precision of scientific research with human outcomes,” the paper argues. Beyond osteoporosis, which also affects many men, well-known examples of GSA include heart disease in women, pregnant crash-test dummies, machine translation, genetics of sex determination and water infrastructure for sustainable development.

As to evaluating how gendered methodological approaches might influence research outcomes, the paper argues that granting agencies’ polices can be examined to see whether GSA is a funding criterion. Peer-reviewed publications can be analyzed for GSA, as well, the paper suggests, noting that the European Commission has evaluated publications for GSA by scientific field and country. Between 2010 and 2013, the highest proportion was found in the social sciences (7 percent of publications), health sciences (4 percent) and humanities (3 percent) with the natural sciences and engineering showing 0 percent. The Nordic countries, which are recognized as global leaders with respect to societal gender equality, were top performers.

Future research might also develop methods to evaluate the value of GSA to society, in terms of human well-being and economic impact, the paper says, since “Doing research wrong costs lives and money.” The researchers note that between 1997 and 2000, 10 drugs were withdrawn from the U.S. market because of life-threatening health effects, eight of which posed greater health risks for women than for men.

Research Questions

A third approach to gender diversity concerns diversity in research questions, the paper says, evaluated by how the “entrance of new actors into scientific disciplines -- whether women into traditionally male disciplines, such as biomedicine, or men into traditionally female disciplines, such as nursing -- influences research priorities and agendas,” or vice versa.

“This approach measures links between changing gender demographics and changes in research questions and priorities,” the researcher add. “It rests on the assumption that social norms and expectations cultivate variations in the interests and perspectives of women, men, and gender-diverse individuals, and that increased variation in interests and perspectives can broaden agendas and discoveries.”

No prior research has considered such a link, the paper says. And, to be sure, any such research would require “careful attention to confounding factors, such as changing societal gender ideologies, changing funding priorities, the role played by social movements in altering scholarly agendas, and differences in the social and intellectual organization of disciplines.”

Yet historical examples do suggest that women’s headway into traditionally male-dominated disciplines has coincided with expanding research agendas, the paper says. As surge in women entered medical schools in the 1980s and 1990s, attention to traditionally underresearched areas of women’s health, such as heart disease, breast cancer, urology and autoimmune disease, increased. More women entering primatology in the 1970s and 1980s also coincided with breakthroughs debunking traditional "sex-based stereotypes about primate behavior," according to the paper. Social science and history have their own examples.

Which came first, the openness of disciplines to new questions or the increase of women in these fields, the paper asks, recalling Schiebinger’s hypothesis that questions and methods might influence team composition. The answer: influence presumably flows in both directions. But “we need carefully designed longitudinal studies, comparing stepwise developments over time, to resolve these questions empirically,” the paper says. “Recent advances in computational text analysis show great promise in quantifying the effects of gender diversity on research questions.”

Context Matters

Beyond those three questions, context also matters, according to the paper, which looks at management of each within four distinct but interdependent realms: research teams, disciplines, research organizations and societies at large.

Regarding teams and reducing potential conflict, the article says research suggests that members’ beliefs about the potential benefits of gender diversity are “crucial for positive performance outcomes.” One experimental study found, for example, that gender-diverse teams persuaded to believe in the benefits of group diversity were better at solving complex problems based on heterogeneous information than gender-diverse teams persuaded to believe in the benefits of group homogeneity. Beyond openness to diversity as a condition for success, the paper says that teams also should be encouraged to collaborate based on members’ expertise, and to follow processes that turn “individuals into team players.”

Four processes in particular have been shown to mitigate potential conflicts in gender-diverse groups, the paper says: team identification, or members’ compliance with team norms and conventions; transparent team processes, or teamwork characterized by clear coordination and communication; team efficacy, or team members’ belief in their combined collaborative ability to solve a given problem; and openness to experience.


Research teams function within “larger disciplines, each with unique norms and cultures,” the paper says. And encouraging gender integration in male-dominated disciplines “may reduce tokenism and negative stereotypes that lead to in-group and out-group biases,” so increasing the likelihood of seeing positive effects of team diversity. To that point, the paper cites a study of 52 scientific research collaborations at a U.S. university, which found that women researchers were more productive and likely to contribute toward team goals in disciplines where women were better represented. Similarly, “ghettoization,” where women are grouped into lower-ranked jobs or less prestigious subfields, must be avoided. In medicine, for example, it says, “men dominate general surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedics, while women dominate gynecology, pediatrics and family medicine. This underlines how horizontal stratification can hinder realizing the benefits of gender diversity for research outcomes.”

Ensuring good career and funding opportunities in both male- and female-dominated subareas and recognizing the “value of non-mainstream perspectives may help to reduce such ghettoization effects.”

Research Organizations and Scholarly Societies

Organizations may support gender diversity by cultivating inclusive research climates, such as by promoting equality with respect to salaries, promotion and workloads. Diversity flourishes in work settings where employees “feel free to openly express aspects of their social identities, whether this be sexual orientation or diverse gender identities,” the paper says, and diversity can be supported “through democratic approaches to decision-making that encourage wide-ranging insights and viewpoints.” Organizational leaders also need to devise practical strategies to introduce researchers to relevant GSA, the paper underscores. It should be part of the core scientific curriculum. And evaluation practices that consider metrics beyond citation counts and other bibliometrics can help.

Societies also can help promote a more nuanced sense of gender diversity by developing gender norms that promote equality and by developing policies linking team diversity, GSA and diversity in research questions to funding success.

Observational studies focusing on the Scandinavian countries, for instance, found that policies favoring large research grants, such as “centers of excellence,” reinforce gender inequalities by reallocating resources to “prestigious mega-projects with few women,” the paper says, addressing that last criterion. Instead, to fully harness the potential benefits of diversity, funding agencies should share resources across numerous projects and focus areas rather than concentrating them on a few large-scale grants, the paper argues.

‘About Excellence in Science’

Some critics of team composition-based gender diversity initiatives argue that science should be an absolute meritocracy, and that such initiatives are therefore meaningless and may even hurt science. The new multipronged approach makes that position harder to defend, since it makes an extremely explicit argument as to how gender diversity -- beyond numbers or, more pejoratively, quotas -- benefits science.

“Integrating sex and gender into research design is about excellence in science,” as has been demonstrated in areas including biomedicine, Schiebinger reiterated. The National Institutes of Health require that all publicly funded research consider sex as a biological variable, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have similar policies, and the European Commission encourages sex and gender analysis across all fields of research, where relevant, she said.

So these issues go well beyond diversity, in that “using excellent research methodologies -- which include attending to sex and gender analysis, where relevant -- is about creating the best possible science.”

Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, in her own research has found that gender diversity in terms of composition of teams increases group problem-solving ability. She said she “absolutely” agreed with the new paper’s conclusions, since research on problem solving, “in science and otherwise, underscores the importance of diversity for innovation.”

In business settings, she said, “we always advise that the diversity of [a] team engaging in innovation needs to mirror the diversity of the population they seek to serve.” And because science is “supposed to be trying to solve the problems faced by society, when scientific teams lack the diversity present in society, their perspective on which problems to solve or how to solve them is going to be narrower than it should be.”

Woolley said that goes for gender, as well as other types of diversity.

Diversity in composition doesn’t guarantee diversity in questions or methods, she added, but it does raise probability of success in achieving other forms of scientific diversity, “since diverse team members are much more likely to bring the different perspectives that open the team up to different approaches.”

Musa Al-Gharbi, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Columbia University and a core member of Heterodox Academy, which seeks to increase viewpoint diversity in academe, said Schiebinger’s and her colleagues’ paper highlights one of the “key ideas undergirding” his group -- namely that “one's identity commitments inform research at a fundamental level, influencing what lines of research people are drawn to, how social problems are defined, the methods used to understand a given phenomenon, the ways data are interpreted and how any conclusions are ultimately communicated.”

There is no single objectively "right" way to make any of those determinations, he said, “but rather, an undefined range of legitimate approaches. A researcher's positionality inevitably mediates this decision-making process.”

When everyone in a field shares the same background, values or commitments, he said, that field will suffer from “significant biases, blind spots and distortions.” And that’s just as true in fields such as physics or biology as it is in sociology or political science, he said.

It’s “just a feature of social cognition.”

The American Geophysical Union is among the disciplinary organizations that have addressed gender diversity in the sciences, including by updating its ethics policy to include harassment as a kind of research misconduct. Eric Davidson, president, declined to comment on any specific research study but said that the union “firmly and enthusiastically believes that science improves, and science’s ability to serve society improves, when it is supported by a diverse and inclusive work force.”

He added, “The questions we ask and the ways we attempt to answer them are enriched by a diverse community of researchers. The challenges our global society faces in the future cannot be solved if we don’t have a diverse and inclusive community of researchers ready to lead the way.”

For Mathias Wullum Nielsen, assistant professor of political science at Aarhus University in Denmark and the paper’s lead author, “gender diversity is already an important characteristic of science” in that “women, men and gender-diverse people already share labs, work spaces and equipment in most disciplines.” So his paper is more about “understanding how to best support the possible benefits of gender diversity for science,” he said. And the three-pronged approach he and his team propose has the “potential to drive scientific discovery and innovation,” with each piece likely reinforcing the others.

Nielsen said he hoped that the context-based framework also will assist research leaders, universities, funding agencies, industries and governments “in realizing the possible benefits associated with diversity.”

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E-scooters are causing safety and accessibility headaches on campuses

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2018 - 6:00pm

Dockless electric scooters are filling a transportation gap for students, who have quickly taken to using the app-based, pay-as-you-ride scooters to get around many campuses. A happy medium between bicycle and car, the new technology has brought convenience to students as well as confusion for college officials, who are figuring out how best to accommodate the scooters while addressing potential safety and accessibility issues.

“The interesting thing about electric scooters is that they’re similar to other types of transportation in many ways,” said Melanie Bennett, risk management counsel at United Educators, “but unlike bicycles and skateboards, because the scooters are propelled, they can reach speeds up to 20 miles an hour. However, unlike other forms of motorized transportation, they don’t surpass those speeds.”

So, where is it appropriate to ride them? And because they are dockless, where should they be parked?

Miami University in Ohio is working to answer these questions after hundreds of scooters from Bird and Lime, two popular e-scooter companies, debuted in Oxford, Ohio, this fall. In July, the university banned the scooters from campus, and David Creamer, senior vice president for finance and business services at Miami, wrote a letter to the City of Oxford and to Bird Rides Inc. to stress that the university would not be liable for any scooter misuse on campus.

“The university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility or liability for any damage to e-scooters that may be present on university property. Similarly, the university will not assume and expressly denies any responsibility for any property damage, injuries or deaths caused by e-scooters,” Creamer wrote. “Since it appears the city is encouraging the use of e-scooters by Miami University students and employees, we expect the city and Bird Rides Inc. are fully prepared to accept all legal and financial responsibility for the use or misuse of e-scooters.”

Samantha Brunn, a student at Miami University who has written about the e-scooter debate for the Miami Student, said that students were upset about the ban.

“When the initial policy was passed in July, most well-connected student on campus, like those on the student newspaper or student government, were really upset … because students weren’t on campus to have a say in that decision,” she said.

Soon after Bird debuted its 100-scooter fleet in Oxford, the university amended its Use of Bicycles and Transportation Devices policy to allow e-scooters on campus under a series of conditions, including that riders must walk the scooters on sidewalks, ride them in campus bike lanes and park them at bike racks.

“The City of Oxford contracted with two electric scooter vendors, so they’re here,” said Claire Wagner, director of university news and communication. “But we, out of concern for safety, put out rules about where they could or could not be used on campus.”

Indiana University at Bloomington also requires e-scooters to be parked in bike racks. Michigan State University prohibits it and requires that students park their e-scooter in a metered parking space or obtain a moped parking permit.

But students don’t always follow those rules, which results in many scooters spending days (or weeks) in the slammer. Miami University has impounded more than 25 scooters from Bird’s relatively small fleet. Indiana University has impounded more than 150 scooters in the past 20 days, and Michigan State University impounded 176 scooters. Of those impounded at Michigan State, only nine have been released. The University of Texas and the University of Georgia are also impounding scooters.

The scooter company can retrieve the scooters for a fee, which varies from campus to campus and based on where the scooter was parked. At Indiana University, a scooter found left in landscaping could cost $40-$50 to retrieve, while a scooter parked in a pathway or ramp mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act could cost upwards of $100 to get back. To collect hundreds of impounded scooters could cost a company thousands.

Bird and Lime, as well as the universities, offer safety guidelines for riders, but students are not so good at following them.

“People were concerned that students wouldn’t be wearing helmets or wearing heavy backpacks,” Brunn said. “I haven’t seen a single person wear a helmet while riding it. I have seen multiple kids wearing backpacks, but that’s to be expected on a university campus where students are riding them to class.”

She also expressed some concern that students would ride the scooters drunk, which could land them with an OVI -- “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” charge -- but the scooters shut off at 9 p.m. each night to be collected and charged, well before most students typically head to the bars.

Bennett, of United Educators, recommends that universities have some kind of transportation policy.

“If you don’t have a policy in place and you’re starting to see the traffic on campus, it’s a good time to put a policy in place just to create parameters around e-scooter use,” she said. That policy should detail where the scooters can and can't be used, where they should be parked, and if there are any speed limits or safety requirements.

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Second professor at University of Michigan declines to write recommendation letter for student to study in Israel

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2018 - 6:00pm

In the second such case this academic year, an instructor at the University of Michigan declined to write a recommendation letter for a student to study in Israel due to the instructor's support for the boycott of Israeli universities. And an associate professor who similarly refused to write a letter has been disciplined. 

The news of  the refusal and the sanction comes as Israel is facing scrutiny for detaining an American student and ordering her deportation for her alleged support of the boycott movement. An amendment to an Israeli law passed in 2017 bars foreign supporters of boycotts of Israel from entering the country. While Israel has previously applied the law to bar the entry of at least one American academic, this is the first publicized case of it blocking a student.

The two cases highlight how study abroad has become an expanded front in the academic boycott battles surrounding Israel. Some criticize the instructors for letting personal politics affect the decision of whether to write a letter in support of a student and suggest there could be something anti-Semitic in what they see as a singular focus on Israel as deserving of an academic boycott. Others argue that professors are right not to lend their support to study abroad in Israel, which they argue is not open to all U.S. students by virtue either of their ethnic background or their involvement in boycott-related activism.

Case No. 1: A Second Instructor Refuses to Write a Recommendation

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a graduate teaching assistant, Lucy Peterson, declined to write a letter for Jake Seckler, a junior whom she’d taught in an introductory political theory course, after initially indicating she would be “delighted” to write a recommendation for him to study abroad.

The Post reported that after learning that Seckler planned to study at Tel Aviv University, Peterson replied, “I’m so sorry that I didn’t ask before agreeing to write your recommendation letter, but I regrettably will not be able to write on your behalf. Along with numerous other academics in the U.S. and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine.”

“Please know that this decision is not about you as a student or a person, and I would be happy to write a recommendation for you if you end up applying to other programs,” Peterson wrote to Seckler. Seckler's father is Israeli, and Seckler has been to Israel five times.

Neither Seckler nor Peterson responded to requests for comment from Inside Higher Ed. The Post reported that after Peterson's refusal, Seckler met with an associate dean for the social sciences in Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts to discuss the matter. The associate dean reportedly offered to write him a recommendation herself.

This is the second such case reported case at Michigan this fall. In September, an associate professor in Michigan's American Culture department, John Cheney-Lippold, declined to write a letter for a student to study abroad in Israel because of his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Michigan’s public affairs office declined to comment on the newest case Tuesday. "Based on the story in The Washington Post, this second instance involved a graduate student instructor and an undergraduate student. Since both a[re] students, the university is precluded from sharing information without written consent from the students," said a spokesman, Rick Fitzgerald.

As for the first case, Fitzgerald said the university was taking "appropriate steps" but that it does not "publicly discuss personnel matters." But The Detroit News reported late Tuesday night that Cheney-Lippold had been disciplined. Specifically, he will not get a merit raise during the 2018-19 academic year and will not be able to go on an upcoming sabbatical in January or on another sabbatical for two years.

In a statement published in Michigan's University Record email this morning, Mark S. Schlissel, Michigan's president, and Martin A. Philbert, the provost, had strong words.

"Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university’s expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission," they wrote. 

The head of the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called on Michigan to “take immediate steps to ensure that students are not denied an opportunity to participate in an accredited overseas program because of their professors’ political views.”

“Boycotts such as these, refusing to recommend a worthy student solely because she intended to study in Israel, have a chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus, who may feel isolated and vulnerable when authority figures or campus groups express hostility or shun them based on their views and associations,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, said in a statement.

“We are strong supporters of academic freedom. Certainly everyone, including professors, has a right to openly express their views of the policies of the elected Israeli government. But this should not be at the expense of students seeking to broaden their academic experiences.”

“These professors indicated they had no problem writing recommendations for students who might study in any other country in the world. Singling out Israel alone among all the nations of the world as worthy of boycott, according to the State Department working definition, potentially crosses the line from criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said.

In an interview last month with Inside Higher Ed, Cheney-Lippold defended the appropriateness of professors allowing their own ethical and political stances to inform their choices of whether and when to write letters on their students’ behalf. He said that he refused to write a letter for one of his students to study in Israel because he stands against inequality, oppression and occupation, and apartheid.

“A professor should have a decision on how their words will be taken and where their words will go,” Cheney-Lippold said. He added, “I have extraordinary political and ethical conflict lending my name to helping that student go to that place.”

Cheney-Lippold did not respond to an email request for comment late Tuesday afternoon. He was criticized by many -- including implicitly by his university president -- for letting his personal politics affect his decision of whether to write a letter in support of a student’s academic goals. But his supporters defended his decision on the grounds that study abroad to Israel is discriminatory and not open to all students.

A statement of support for Cheney-Lippold from the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which advocates for boycotting study abroad in Israel, said, “Prof. Cheney-Lippold’s decision is grounded in significant evidence that Israel study abroad programs are not equally accessible to all students attending U.S. universities. Some students, specifically students of Palestinian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim background, who attempt to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories may be denied visas to Israel or would be denied entry into the country by Israeli customs and immigrations officials as stated in the U.S. State Department travel advisory.

“In addition, the Israeli government has declared its intent to deny entry to members of pro-BDS organizations, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. Many students on U.S. campuses are members of these organizations and would be barred from entering Israel. Consequently, study abroad programs in Israel exclude certain students on the grounds of national, ethnic or religious identity and political viewpoint, and are contrary to the basic principle of equality of educational opportunity.”

Case No. 2: An American Student Is Detained in Israel

Last week, Israel ordered the deportation of Lara Alqasem, an American student who received a student visa at the Israeli consulate in Miami to pursue a master’s degree at Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- but who was refused entry to Israel upon arrival at the airport in Tel Aviv nevertheless. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents, remained in detention as she appealed the order to deport her for her alleged support for the boycott movement. Israeli officials cited her role as the former chapter president of the University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine group and said that during her tenure as president, the group advocated for a boycott of an Israeli brand of hummus, Sabra.

“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S.,” Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, said, according to the Associated Press. Erdan suggested that he might reconsider the order to deport Alqasem if she apologized and renounced her support for BDS.

Malini Johar Schueller, a professor of English and the faculty adviser for the Students for Justice in Palestine group at Florida, said via email that she is “extremely bothered by the way SJP is being portrayed as a hate group. This is a legitimate student organization with chapters in many campuses across the country. Their website states that 'Students for Justice in Palestine is founded at the University of Florida to promote public awareness and activism for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.' Since when have historical awareness and activism become reprehensible?”

Schueller shared a statement signed by 27 faculty, including herself, calling for Alqasem to be immediately released and describing her detention as "a violation of her human rights, her academic freedom and freedom of movement. The detention clearly shows that Israel discriminates against Arab American students, who because of their cultural and familial connections to Palestine … are regularly turned back when they seek to enter Israel."

Hebrew University has joined Alqasem's appeal of her deportation, according to the Israeli publication Haaretz. The University Senate there on Monday passed a resolution describing the university as "a place that does not shy from disagreements and is pleased to hear multiple voices. The minister’s decision not to permit the student’s entry solely because of her views constitutes a threat to what the institution of the university represents." The resolution also said that Alqasem's decision to study in Israel "attests foremost to her reservations about the boycott. As does the testimony of researchers who know her. The minister’s move -- which raises questions about the independence that Israeli academia is given by government policy -- actually has the effect of bolstering any such boycott."

Haaretz also reported that the Association of University Heads of Israel sent a letter to the strategic affairs minister, Erdan, warning of the damage to Israeli academia of barring students like Alqasem and calling on the ministry to consult with host universities before issuing deportation orders.

"The damage caused to Israel and Israeli academia as a whole, to the Israeli universities and particularly to Israeli scientists and researchers abroad by decisions of this kind could well exceed the potential damage, if any, of permitting her to enter Israel," the association's head, Tel Aviv University president Joseph Klafter​, wrote in the letter.

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Categories: Higher Education News

California students take on publishers legislatively to reduce textbook costs

Inside Higher Ed - News - October 10, 2018 - 6:00pm

Students in a political science class at California Polytechnic State University embarked on an unusual challenge last year. They drafted legislation to see if they could get it passed by the state Legislature.

The bill became law this past summer. In the process, the students learned how lawmaking works and got invaluable experience on using the political process to push for change -- even if it's only incremental change -- on a higher ed issue close to their hearts.

The students in the California Bill Project class set out to write a bill that would benefit fellow California students but not cost the state any money.

The undergraduate course was introduced at the San Luis Obispo campus in fall 2017 at the suggestion of former State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who was also a volunteer instructor and adviser to the class.

The students’ first idea was to write a bill compelling university administrators to disclose exactly how student fees are spent. But the class quickly established this idea wouldn’t work, said Chris Den Hartog, the professor who teaches the class.

“Staffers in the Assembly told me the Legislature is very wary of getting involved in the inner workings of universities,” he said.

Plan B was to tackle another issue -- the exorbitant cost of textbooks.

Although many universities have initiatives to reduce textbook costs -- either through inclusive-access programs, textbook rental programs or the development and adoption of open educational resources -- Cal Poly students still had some professors who assigned the latest edition of expensive textbooks for their classes.

Students can save money by buying older editions of textbooks. But Den Hartog said many of his students consider buying old editions risky.

“I had one student tell me they had almost failed a math class because they picked up an older version of a textbook. It was the same except that the problems at the end of the chapters had been reordered,” he said. “They did the wrong problems for an assignment.”

Initially, the students wanted to write legislation that would prevent publishers from publishing new editions of textbooks unless they genuinely contained new material. But their proposal would have been “controversial” and “difficult to pass,” said Den Hartog. Publishers would have used their considerable lobbying clout and fiercely opposed it, he said.

The class decided instead to draft a bill requiring publishers to specify the differences between textbook editions and to do so prominently on their websites. Their proposal would be an update to an existing bill that urges publishers to take steps to reduce costs for students.

After getting pushback from publishers and lawmakers, the class agreed to change the language of the bill so that it only urged, but did not compel, publishers to provide this information.

Jordan Cunningham, a Republican state assemblyman representing the 35th District -- covering San Luis Obispo County and portions of Santa Barbara County -- sponsored the measure and described it in a Facebook post as "an important bill to help make higher education more affordable."

Assembly Bill 2385 was unanimously approved by the State Legislature in early August and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 27.

Den Hartog acknowledges the bill is weak because compliance is voluntary, but he said the process was “not all compromise.”

“The publishers were asking for amendments that would have watered the bill down even more,” he said.

His students pushed back. “They felt the amendments went too far; they would have made it completely meaningless.”

The goal of the class was not to pass a bill at any cost, but to give students hands-on experience in writing legislation. He's proud that his students were able to get state lawmakers to pass a bill.

“It’s hard to pass a bill -- there are so many ways for a bill to die. It’s never a sure thing that it’s going to get through,” he said. “There was a lot of pessimism from my contacts that we would be able to do it.”

Den Hartog thinks the impact of the bill will likely be small because there are no legal consequences for publishers if they don’t comply.

​“But it does lay out some best practices for publishers,” he noted. “There are many instances where they could do more.”

While some publishers already publicly share information about the differences between textbook editions, Den Hertog said the sectorwide picture “is a complete patchwork.”

He hopes the bill will at least nudge publishers toward greater transparency.

“There are millions of students in California, even if this only helps a tiny proportion of those students -- it’s still a large number of students,” he said.

Victoria Tonikian, a student who took the California Bill Project class in 2017 and graduated last December, said despite numerous revisions to the bill, she was happy with the final language.

"I think it was very representative of our original goal," she said.

James Curry, assistant professor of political science at the University of Utah, said more students need get hands-on legislative experiences like the California Bill Project. At Utah, Curry runs a course called the Capital Encounter Program, where students develop policy proposals and then go to Washington to advocate for them.

“This is the kind of class that teaches students how to be politically engaged and active citizens,” said Curry. “Given how low voter turnout is among young people, we should be doing more to help students learn how to become involved in political processes.”

Tonikian said prior to taking the class she had "a very vague understanding of what the California state legislative process looked like or how it worked." Now she understands "what our elected officials do on a daily basis."

"As a recent college graduate, having an experience such as this one on my résumé has been a great asset and conversation starter," she said. "I don't think many individuals, whether in college or beyond, can say that they've assisted in writing and passing a law."

It's still an open question whether publishers will start volunteering more information about textbook editions when the bill goes into effect in January 2019.

“We have not seen any indication from the publishers one way or another, though we hope they comply,” said Nick Mirman, chief of staff for Assemblyman Cunningham.

Scott Overland, director of media relations for Pearson, said the company's policy on highlighting changes between textbook editions meets the requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which requires publishers to disclose the difference between textbook editions when marketing them to professors.

“As a matter of policy, we also outline updated content in the preface of new editions,” said Overland. He said Pearson would be reviewing the California bill.

Publishers Cengage and Wiley also issued statements saying that they are reviewing the bill and looking for ways to ensure students have easy access to information about textbook editions.

“We understand the students’ desire for this information and applaud them for championing this bill,” said Lauren Andrich, senior manager of global communications and media for Wiley.

Kaitlyn Vitez, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Campaign to Save Student Aid, praised the Cal Poly students for their work but said she would rather see more effort "put into developing more open and accessible course materials."

Mike Hale, vice president of education for North America at digital content provider VitalSource, said publishers did “compress” edition cycles in the past in order to boost print textbook sales.

But many publishers are shifting from print to digital business models and focusing more on digital subscription models and inclusive-access offers.

“The publishers don’t want to be wedded to an edition-based world. They want to keep pushing their digital business,” said Hale.

Still, he doesn't believe publishers will volunteer information that could potentially limit the sale of new textbook editions.

“I don’t think they’ll do it, unless there’s a downside to not doing it,” he said.

Editorial Tags: TextbooksImage Source: Justin Wellner, courtesy of Chris Den HartogImage Caption: Students pose in the State Capitol after taking part in a committee hearing. Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham can be seen in the center. On the far right is former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, and next to him, Professor Chris Den Hartog.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
Categories: Higher Education News

In the AI era, universities must make us 'robot proof'

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