Education Dept. Approves Two More Direct-Assessment Programs

The U.S. Department of Education has granted federal aid eligibility to two new academic programs that do not rely on the credit hour -- a form of competency-based education called direct assessment. So far six institutions have earned approval from the department and regional accreditors for direct-assessment programs.

Walden University, a for-profit institution that Laureate Education owns, announced on Tuesday that the department approved its new competency-based master's degree in early childhood studies. The university offers the degree through its Tempo Learning program, in which it said "students can progress at their own pace by applying their existing knowledge and prior experience while focusing on mastering the skills they need to meet the demands of the workforce."

The Texas State College System last October got a green light from the department for its competency-based certificate in industrial systems technology, according to a spokeswoman for the system. The 27-credit program features training in electrical and computer systems. Students work at their own pace and can earn a certificate in two semesters or less. The credential appears to be the first department-approved direct-assessment program to feature face-to-face instruction.

Colleges Net $500 Million From Bowl Games

The 35 postseason games of the Football Bowl Subdivision paid out more than $500 million to college football conferences this season, the Associated Press reported. The payout is an increase of $200 million from last season, the final year of the Bowl Championship Series. The increase is primarily the result of media deals to broadcast the seven games that make up the new college football playoff. ESPN pays the conferences about $470 million per year to broadcast the games.

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Compilation of Articles on Extending the Credential

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today "Extending the Credential," our latest print-on-demand compilation of articles. Pieces in the collection explore such topics as competency-based education, internships, the role of cocurricular activities, and the evolving roles of the transcript and of the degree. The booklet is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Wednesday, May 20, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

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Resigning UVa Board Member Criticizes Tuition Hikes

A member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors is resigning his post on the university's 17-member board, and he's not going quietly. As news of his impending exit has spread, Edward D. Miller, a former dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School and leader of Johns Hopkins Medicine, has criticized UVa's recent 11 percent in-state tuition hike for the 2015-16 year and a decline in research funding at the institution. Miller submitted his resignation, effective June 30, to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in March. His exit comes a year before his four-year term expires.

Miller told the Virginia newspaper The Daily Progress that he disagreed with a March decision to increase in-state tuition rates as a way to subsidize financial aid. “It’s hard for me to understand how you can continue to increase the rate of tuition [faster than] the rate of inflation year after year,” Miller told the newspaper. “What business can survive that except colleges?”

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Harvard Dean Will Become Next President of U. of Miami

The University of Miami announced Monday that its next president will be Julio Frenk, the dean of Harvard University's public health school and the former minister of health in Mexico. He will succeed Donna Shalala, who has been president since 2001. In an interview Sunday, Frenk said he plans to push for increased ties between the university and its counterparts in the Caribbean and Latin America. "Latin America and the Caribbean have been relatively neglected in the global dialogue" in higher education, he said. Miami, already with strong ties in the region, is in a position to do much more, he said.

Miami has had both considerable success and scandal in big-time athletics over the years. Asked about his approach to athletics, Frenk said he was "committed to the idea that athletics is an integral part of the higher education experience," but he declined to elaborate, saying that he first needed to "immerse" himself in the issues.


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Survey finds marketing officials pleased with outcomes of branding projects

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A survey of chief marketing officers reveals that branding projects are common on college campuses. Despite significant time and money, respondents say the work pays off. 

New presidents or provosts: Barton Cal State Cobleskill Drake Herkimer Ithaca Moorpark Ulster Windsor

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  • Loren J. Blanchard, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana, has been appointed executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the California State University System.

Essay criticizes colleges for expelling students for racist comments

Last week, the University of South Carolina suspended a student for writing the n-word on a whiteboard in a campus study room. The university president explained that the student had violated the Carolinian Creed, which bars “racist and uncivil rhetoric.”

But in the United States, there’s another creed that’s supposed to take precedence over all the others: the Constitution. And the university -- not the offending student -- violated it.

So did the University of Oklahoma, when it expelled two students last month for leading a racist chant on a fraternity bus trip. The chant referred to the lynching of African-Americans, one of the ugliest chapters in our nation's history, and the students deserved all of the condemnation they received.

But our university leaders deserve censure, too, for their craven disregard of the First Amendment. Everyone has the right to speak their mind, no matter how much it offends yours. When Americans work themselves into a fine moral lather, however, freedom of speech is always the first thing to go.

Campus speech codes date to the mid-1980s, in the aftermath of several well-publicized racist episodes. Following the last game of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, drunken brawls erupted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst between white Red Sox fans and black Mets supporters. At one point, a mob of 3,000 whites chased and beat black students.

After that, media outlets ran a spate of stories about racist incidents on campus, including a mock slave auction at a fraternity. It was never clear whether racial prejudice and harassment had actually increased during these years. But it made for good copy, with headlines like “Bigots in the Ivory Tower” and “Reagan’s Children: Racial Hatred on Campus.”

As the last item suggests, liberals were quick to blame the alleged rise in racism on Ronald Reagan and the so-called New Right. As conservative politicians stoked the fires of prejudice, the argument went, our campuses should remain bastions of racial equality and justice.

Enter speech codes. By 1992, fully one-third of colleges and universities had enacted some kind of speech regulation. The most famous one -- which became a model for many other measures -- was adopted by the University of Michigan, which barred “verbal or physical behavior… that stigmatizes or victimizes an individual on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, handicap or Vietnam-era veteran status.”

But as a U.S. district judge ruled in 1989, when he struck down the Michigan speech code, the words “stigmatizes” and “victimizes” were notoriously slippery. “What one individual might find victimizing or stigmatizing, another individual might not,” the judge wrote.

A few years later, the University of Pennsylvania charged a student with violating its speech code after he pleaded with some partying African-American sorority members to keep down the noise. “Shut up, you water buffalo,” the student shouted. “If you want a party, there’s a zoo a mile from here.” In his native Israel, the student later explained, the term "water buffalo" referred to a rowdy person; but the black students interpreted it -- and his zoo remark -- as racial insults.

Penn eventually dropped the charges against the student and -- two years later -- it eliminated its speech code. But it was one of the exceptions. Most college retained their speech codes or added new ones, even in the face of judicial decisions barring such measures. Between 1989 and 1995, six courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- examined university or municipal speech codes, and in every case the codes were deemed unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s 1992 decision struck down a St. Paul ordinance prohibiting hate speech. Inevitably, the court ruled, city officials would be called upon to decide what was truly hateful and what wasn’t. And that’s not a call that any of us should want our government making for us.

But that’s precisely what our campus speech codes require universities to do. In a recent survey of over 1,000 Jewish students on 55 American campuses, more than half reported experiencing or witnessing an anti-Semitic act or comment within the prior six months. Earlier this year, a Jewish student applying for a campus judicial board position at the University of California at Los Angeles was asked how -- as a Jew -- she could maintain an “unbiased view.” And at another U.C. campus, in Davis, Jewish students opposing an anti-Israel boycott measure were heckled with cries of “Allahu Akbar.”

Both episodes made national news, but they didn’t lead to any official punishment for the students who made the offending comments. Why should racist comments elicit penalties while anti-Semitic ones don't? And why should we allow our universities to discriminate between them when the courts have ruled that both types of speech are protected? We need to educate our students against bigotry without turning our backs on the Constitution. But first, we'll need university leaders with the courage to do it.

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, which was published last month by Princeton University Press.

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The Bill of Rights

'This Week': Free Community College / Accreditation Reform

On the new edition of "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast, Harper College's Ken Ender and Patricia Melton of New Haven Promise join Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik and moderator Casey Green to discuss the nuances of the movement to provide free community college. In our other segment, Judith Eaton of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and General Assembly's Jake Schwartz explore the prospect of extending accreditation (and potentially federal aid) to noninstitutional providers of education and training. An archive of past podcasts is available here.


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Doctors Start Rolling Strike at U. of California

The doctors who work in clinics for students at the University of California System started a rolling strike Thursday, The Los Angeles Times reported. The doctors plan to strike for four days at the campuses in Northern and Central California, and then for four days at the campuses in Southern California. The university said that management doctors would fill in as much as possible, but that some nonessential appointments for students were being moved. The doctors' union says that the university has engaged in unfair labor practices in contract negotiations -- a charge the university denies.


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