In a letter sent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Wednesday, more than 80 lesbian, gay and transgender organizations urged the NCAA to "divest from all religious-based institutions" that discriminate against transgender students. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education extended Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination on campuses, to include transgender students. According to the group Campus Pride, more than 50 religious colleges have since requested or received waivers to this part of Title IX so that they can expel or not admit transgender students.
"As people of faith or spirit we call upon the NCAA to act on its stated values as an LGBTQ-inclusive organization and divest from these schools who are willfully and intentionally creating unsafe environments for LGBTQ students," Jordyn Sun, national campus organizer for Soulforce, a gay rights group focused on religious colleges, said in a statement.
UPDATE: The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents voted today to approve the policies referenced below. Inside Higher Ed will have a full report tomorrow. Protests by audience members interrupted the meeting.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents votes today on new tenure, posttenure review and faculty layoff policies to close gaps in tenure protections created by a new state law. But some members of the systemwide task force that drafted the policies being considered say they had little input, reported The Cap Times. Bradley Seebach, an associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse, told the paper despite assumptions that the draft policies represent the consensus of the 20-person task force, “no [one] can say whether the draft policies represent the common viewpoint of the task force members. This is because the members of the task force were never asked to endorse the policy statements, either as a whole or in individual parts. Like many other task force members, I went into the process assuming that we would be asked to endorse final policy statements.”
Another task force member who did not identify him or herself in responding to an informal poll by the Times said, “Since our input was ultimately ignored, I begrudge every minute wasted” on the task force. The same respondent said the new posttenure review policy “gives too much power to administrators and not enough time to turn around a subpar research program. These points were made very clear by the committee, and they were ignored.” One respondent, meanwhile, supported all three policies, saying they will keep the system competitive with other institutions.
The American Association of University Professors remains opposed to some aspects of the proposed policies. David Vanness, an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and head of its AAUP chapter, said in statement on Facebook Wednesday that the proposed policy on layoffs of tenured faculty members allows the administration “to discontinue programs (and lay off faculty) because other programs may be considered higher priority” because it wrongly conflates educational considerations and financial concerns.
The draft policy says, in part, that "educational considerations are related in part to regular program review, and reflect a long-range judgment that the educational mission of the institution as a whole will be enhanced by program discontinuance. This includes the reallocation of resources to other programs with higher priority based on educational considerations. Such long-range judgments generally will involve the analysis of financial resources and the needs of the program and any related college or school."
Vanness wrote that while the first sentence is fine, the last two “are disasters waiting to happen. If the administration decides, for example, that climate science is a lower priority than petroleum engineering, well -- it could be good-bye, climate science! It need not be so obviously political -- but do we want to work in a climate where we are competing against each other for our own jobs? We're talking Academic Hunger Games here, folks.”
Another “land mine” lurks in the inclusion of "current and predicted comparative cost analysis/effectiveness of the program" in the list of "educational considerations," Vanness said. If program A graduates more majors per dollar spent than program B, then program B could be discontinued, Vanness argues. “What metric will be used to choose? The policy doesn't specify -- and doesn't give faculty the responsibility to decide (assuming that using comparative cost-effectiveness is even an appropriate reason to lay off faculty). … The only acceptable conditions for faculty layoff are either a true institutionwide financial emergency or that a program should be discontinued for bona fide educational considerations, as determined by the faculty (who, after all are supposed to have primary responsibility for curriculum and research)."
The university system has maintained that its proposed standards are on par with peer institutions.
Meanwhile, Madison last semester gave out $726,436 in raises and $8 million in research support to maintain 40 top faculty members being courted by other institutions, the Journal-Sentinel reported, based on information it obtained via an open records request. The number of professors taking outside offers to the central administration has reportedly increased this year, as many expected, since the Wisconsin Legislature changed the state’s tenure law and cut $250 million from the university system’s budget last summer. Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at a recent Board of Regents meeting, according to the Journal-Sentinel, that in retaining the 40 professors, the university kept $18 million in federal research grants on campus. A half dozen faculty members who received retention offers decided to leave Madison anyway, and several professors who decided to stay reportedly remain worried about a long-term decline in faculty morale and working conditions.
A majority of college students are handling their finances responsibly, according to the results of a survey conducted last December by Sallie Mae, the student loan company, and Ipsos, a market research firm. Among the 800 traditional-aged college students (between 18 and 24) who responded, 77 percent reported paying their bills on time. More than half (55 percent) set aside savings every month. And 60 percent said they never spend more money than they have, while 65 percent said they have a paying job.
The newly released report also looked at how students make payments. Debit cards were the top choice. But 56 percent of respondents have credit cards.
"Today’s college students demonstrate a careful approach to managing money," the report said. "Students have a cautious attitude toward debt, with the majority saying they never spend more than they have, and the majority agreeing that credit cards can contribute to impulse buying and debt accumulation."
A survey of college presidents by the American Council on Education has found that many report having taken actions to deal with diversity concerns on campus. Among the findings:
Nearly half of four-year presidents and 13 percent of two-year presidents say students have organized around concerns about racial diversity.
Eighty-six percent of four-year presidents and 71 percent of two-year presidents have met with student organizers more than once.
More than half of presidents say the racial climate on their campuses has become more of a priority compared to three years ago.
The most common action over the last five years, for both two-year and four-year institutions as well as public and private institutions, has been initiatives aimed at increasing diversity among students, faculty and/or staff members.
An Inside Higher Ed survey of presidents released this week found that many college presidents see problems with race relations in higher ed nationally, but most think their own campuses are doing well.
The resignation of Simon Newman from the presidency of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland ends a short but sad chapter in the history of that venerable school. I was interested in Newman's presidency before his controversial retention plan hit the national news because I had been offered the presidency of the university a year earlier, in February 2014. When I declined the offer, the sitting president, Thomas H. Powell, remained in office while the board conducted another search, which led to the hiring of Newman. When he was hired, I read his profile and was surprised.
Presidential searches are rigorous. A candidate spends several days interacting with various campus constituencies. In the end, the board decides whom they will hire, but they observe those interactions closely to see how the candidates handle diverse groups and challenges. At the same time, the candidates have the opportunity to learn about the campus and the board members to whom they will report.
While these events are exhausting, they are illuminating. I enjoyed my time interacting with the Mount St. Mary’s community. They asked good questions and demanded substantive answers. What came through clearly in our conversations was that they knew who they were. They knew their purpose and identity as a Catholic liberal arts school. The entire community embraced the vernacular of their tradition and spoke fluidly about education as an opportunity for transformation and the cultivation of a life of virtue. They understood the importance of personal development characterized by humility, compassion and the respect for others that is endemic to the best of both liberal education and the Catholic tradition. I was eager to see them do well, and from what I had learned about them, I expected they would.
It wasn’t just the faculty members and students who had embraced this mission; the board members with whom I interacted did as well. When they hired a president with no background in higher education or the liberal arts, I was curious but trusted that they found what they were looking for in Newman.
As it turns out, the worst of what can happen with such a hire has come to pass. Newman’s reference to students as little bunnies that needed to be drowned or have a Glock put to their heads drew national attention. His language was exacerbated by his decision to fire dissenting members of the faculty and administration. But there is a deeper, underlying problem in the hiring of people like Newman to run institutions of higher education and liberal learning.
Mr. Newman’s off-color remarks were in reference to student retention numbers. He wanted to improve the university’s metrics by convincing students who were unlikely to persist there to leave before they would count in the institution’s retention report. If a college or university’s retention statistics improve, the thinking goes, its rankings might also improve. A better ranking might attract more students.
Newman’s approach to managing an institution whose purpose is to transform lives by building confidence, expanding imaginations and developing character is indicative of a disturbing trend in higher education. The attempt to transfer yardsticks devised in the business community to educational institutions is doomed to fail. Newman’s colorful language may have accelerated his demise, but his attempt to boost retention numbers by prioritizing rankings over the substantive mission of the institution was bad business. By reducing students to statistics, the purpose of the institution’s existence was lost.
I know of no leader in higher education who does not understand and appreciate the need for accountability. We all recognize the economic challenges of higher education. And we are searching for ways to reduce costs and maximize revenues. But those goals are the by-products of the overarching goods to which we aspire. We exist to educate human beings. This process, and the outcomes we produce, cannot be reduced to metrics relating to student wages two years after graduation. It is not that metrics are irrelevant, but we must find the right ones and use them in their proper place. They cannot supplant the reason we exist.
Business models that make achieving certain numbers the top priority fail to understand that students are complex beings who develop at different times along different trajectories. They respond to different teachers for different reasons and sometimes suddenly discover a new interest, a new passion and new abilities that transform their lives.
Many successful people would never have made it to their college graduation if they were subject to a policy that cast off the 25 students most likely not to persist after a couple of weeks of school. One first-year student I know quite well felt so out of place he dropped a handwritten note in his dean’s office on a Friday afternoon after the second week of classes saying that he was withdrawing from the institution. He enjoyed the comfort of his family living room that evening. The next morning, his father roused him and told him to make sure he had a job by Monday morning. The young man called a friend to ask for a job, and his friend told him to get back to college.
Early Monday morning, the student walked sheepishly through the door of the dean’s office. The office assistant to whom he had handed the note smiled and handed it back to him. “This has happened before,” she said. “Dean Johnson would like to speak with you.” The student nervously entered the dean’s office. Having read up on the student, the dean surprised him by asking about the sport of Irish football, which the student played throughout high school. After hearing the student describe the sport, the dean said that he would love to see a team on campus.
If Dean Johnson had wanted to improve his retention numbers, I -- the student in this story -- would have left school after my second week. Instead, he welcomed me and my Bronx-raised, Irish Catholic world into the world of an exemplary liberal arts college where I was inspired to study, learn and explore. He exposed me to faculty members who were so bright and exuded such integrity that I’ve spent my life trying to live up to their example. Because I was his student and not his customer -- or client, bottom line or whatever hard-nosed word we are supposed to use to define students -- he opened a door and pulled me through to a life that I could never have imagined or accomplished without his help and encouragement.
And that is what all of us who lead colleges and universities need to do. We need unshutter windows and open doors, not close them. We need to help people walk through those doorways, not stand in their way. We need to tear down walls, not build them. We need to let in air and light and hope.
Seamus Carey is president of Transylvania University.
In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge by for-profit colleges of the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment rule.
The court upheld the administration’s rewritten regulations that are aimed at holding for-profit colleges more accountable for the earnings and loan debt of their graduates.
A three-judge appeals panel sided with a lower court’s ruling that rejected claims by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities that the rule’s debt-to-earnings metrics were arbitrary and lacked congressional authority.
The appeals court again affirmed that the Education Department had the authority to craft the regulations defining gainful employment with a measure of students’ postgraduate earnings and debt. The court wrote that “it would be strange for Congress to loan out money to train students for jobs that were insufficiently remunerative to permit the students to repay their loans.”
A previous lawsuit by the for-profit college association in 2012 led a federal court to strike down key parts of the Obama administration’s original regulations. That sent the administration back to the drawing board to craft new regulations, which went into effect last July.
“When the first gainful employment regulation was struck down by the courts, we expressed hope that the era of overregulation and litigation would give way to a public-private partnership focused on giving Americans the occupational skills they need to succeed in the workforce," Steve Gunderson, APSCU's president and CEO said in a written statement. "We again call on the department to engage with us in finding ways to enhance both quality and opportunity for all students -- especially those seeking employment skills."
The controversial president of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., is stepping down, effective April 15. In an email to faculty, students and staff Tuesday, Anne Carson Daly said “serious family issues have developed” that will require frequent, extended absences from campus. “It has been a privilege to serve as the president of [Mount Saint Mary] and a great pleasure to work with you to advance the college,” she said. “Together we have been able to add programs, increase enrollment, improve retention, surpass advancement goals and launch our five-year strategic plan. The Mount’s future is bright with wonderful students, dedicated faculty, and devoted staff and administrators.” Daly’s email made no reference to faculty concerns about her leadership style and vision for the college, which some said ignored its traditions of shared governance and diversity. Similar concerns led the faculty to vote no confidence in the chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, Albert Gruner, last month. Gruner said in a statement that the college had lost a "transformational leader. ...Unfortunately, her vision for the future greatness of the Mount will not be realized under her guidance."
The U.S. Department of Education has revoked the eligibility of Michigan Jewish Institute to participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs after finding that it obtained Pell Grants on behalf of students who were enrolled in foreign institutions and had no intention of earning an MJI degree.
The Department allows Pell Grants to be used by students who study abroad during the course of their degree programs. However, in its evaluation the department found that MJI “turned the notion of a study abroad program on its head” in awarding Pell Grants to students who were not seeking a MJI credential.
“The evidence shows that almost 2,000 U.S. citizens, who were full-time Israeli residents, received Pell Grants for ostensibly 'studying abroad' in Israel at Israeli institutions between 2006 and 2012,” states the Department of Education's Feb. 25 letter to the university, uploaded to the Detroit Jewish News website. “Not a single one of them ever physically attended classes at MJI and none of them graduated from MJI. More than a quarter of these individuals were enrolled at universities or colleges in Israel offering degree programs or were enrolled in teachers' colleges in Israel offering teacher certificates. This evidence demonstrates that these students did not study briefly at an Israeli institution to enhance their educational experience after enrolling in MJI for purposes of obtaining a degree from MJI. Rather, these full-time Israeli residents were 'enrolled' in MJI so MJI could obtain and use Pell Grants, partly to subsidize the education of full-time Israeli residents enrolled at Israeli educational institutions, and partly to fund its own activities.”
The department’s letter also alleges that the institute provided false information to its accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
In a statement issued by a public relations firm, MJI said it “disputes the department’s contentions and will contest the action to the fullest extent possible.”
“MJI does not provide a study abroad program as described by the department; rather, its students are almost all either enrolled entirely online with MJI or enrolled in a hybrid version in which the student is taking courses from MJI and courses for credit toward an MJI certificate/degree from a foreign institution that has signed a partnership agreement,” the institute said in its written statement. “This arrangement complies with departmental regulations governing written arrangements between eligible institutions, such as MJI, and other institutions including ones located outside the U.S.”