Essay on the need to focus on administrators below presidents to change community colleges

A new book, Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Harvard University Press) is an important step forward for community colleges. The work bridges the all-too-familiar divide between research and practice, outlining actionable, transformative recommendations to improve student attainment that have emerged out of the extensive portfolio of research conducted over the past 20 years by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. And while many aspects of the book deserve discussion, how change can be effectively instigated at community colleges is a pivotal issue on which any reform efforts will hinge.

Obviously, the call for organizational and structural change is nothing new. Early on the book notes that “recent reforms did not question the fundamental design of community college programs and services.” Redesigning America's Community Colleges boldly asserts that “to improve their outcomes on a substantial scale in an environment very different than the past, colleges must undertake a more fundamental rethinking of their organization and culture.”

The book’s authors, Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins, argue that necessary institutional change will result from conscious redesign of many community college processes along the lines of behavioral economic principles. This implicitly challenges conventional wisdom that attributes successful change to college leadership -- typically the president. For years, community colleges have been bombarded with the belief that getting the right person into the presidency is the critical factor governing institutional success. Indeed, there is an entire cottage industry of community college leadership programs, consulting firms and organizations that promote the grooming and selection process of the community college president.

Redesigning takes on the “great leader” theory of change by providing specific and clear suggestions about how college intake processes, curriculum plans and organizational framework can be altered to directly impact student success. Of course, the authors recognize the importance of presidential leadership and commitment to the process, but they bet the farm on fundamental organizational change versus intervention by great men and women.

The authors present a useful strategic framework built upon CCRC’s research. But accompanying this wisdom is a significant challenge. Even if presidential leadership is decisive, how is the design and implementation of these changes driven throughout the institution? The closest the book comes to addressing this issue is noting the necessity of faculty involvement, overlooking the imperative to focus on administrative managers, who are in charge of the organizational structures that Redesigning targets for change.

Any leader of a large community college knows that their middle-level management is critical to institutional change. These are the directors of key units, the associate deans who work directly with the faculty, and the business, information technology, financial aid and student services staff. Many of these individuals are tethered to their colleges, infrequently interacting with other institutions, and have significantly longer tenure than most presidents and senior leadership. In most cases, they are the staff members who possess institutional memory and critical operational knowledge. They maintain most of the day-to-day contact and communications with faculty, students and community.

Winning their commitment to change is crucial to redesign efforts, because it is their jobs and their processes that will be the most challenged. Therefore, an important step to driving the organizational reforms proposed by the book will need to be supported by efforts focused on developing midlevel managers in community colleges. Too many currently available programs concentrate solely on senior talent management.

Paradoxically, a renewed emphasis on middle-level management could also help the oft-cited dilemma of the lack of a sufficient pool of those qualified and interested becoming community college presidents. It has almost become a ritual among the leadership programs to decry the lack of interest by high-level administrators willing to step up into presidential roles.

Who wants to work 12-hour days, attend frequent political events -- often involving early morning and evening commitments -- and chase after alternative funding sources, all the while serving as the pivotal internal change agent? A more empowered and determined staff could make the job of community college president more focused and manageable, while integrally contributing to change designed to drive higher levels of student success.

James Jacobs is president of Macomb Community College.

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UNC-Pharmaceutical Collaboration to Cure HIV

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the pharmaceutical company GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) are today announcing an unusually close collaboration in an effort to find a cure for HIV. The company will provide $4 million a year for five years to support a new research center focused on developing a cure for HIV. In addition, the company will locate some researchers at Chapel Hill for the project. UNC and the company will also create a new company, Qura Therapeutics, that will manage intellectual property and commercialization of any discoveries from the collaboration.


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Essay urges college presidents to personally become involved in fight against poverty

The fate of the middle class in the United States is a topic frequently discussed by our political leaders, including President Obama. Given the growing wealth inequality, there is good reason for this emphasis. However, this should not distract us from also paying attention to the fate of people who are living in extreme poverty. Most of these individuals live in far-off countries. Others are our fellow citizens.

A number of corporate leaders, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have highlighted this global phenomenon of dire poverty and its deleterious effects. They have urged their colleagues to join them in giving generously to help relieve it. Although few college and university presidents can give on the scale of corporate magnates, we can do our part. An organization called The Presidents' Pledge Against Global Poverty works to bring us together to accomplish this goal.

The Presidents' Pledge was launched in 2011, and now has more than 30 members from colleges and universities around the country. Both active and emeriti leaders are part of this initiative. Ann Svennungsen, former president of Texas Lutheran University and now bishop of the Lutheran St. Paul Area Synod in Minnesota, was the founder of the organization. Her colleague in this initiative was Peter Singer, professor of ethics at Princeton University. Through his lectures, courses and books, Singer has inspired many people to give more generously to relieve global poverty.

Our motivation for joining the pledge is to do our part to help relieve a grievous situation. More than 1.2 billion people are living under the World Bank global poverty line of $1.25 a day. These individuals are likely to be hungry for at least part of each year and even if they have food, they will probably be malnourished. They must scrape together some kind of shelter and have little or no money left to send their children to school, find transportation to jobs or access even minimal health services.

Pondering the lives of these individuals and families moves many of us to want to help. However, a number of diverting thoughts often intervene. Sometimes we just want to close our eyes and forget such misery, concentrating on the ups and downs of the lives we and those around us live. We may think that the problem is so huge that it must be insoluble, and in any case, my own small gift won’t make a dent in it. Or we believe that any money we may give will be wasted because of corrupt government intermediaries or the difficulty of reaching those who are truly in need.

One of the goals of the Presidents' Pledge is to provide informed responses to each of these concerns, so that more of us follow our initial instinct of compassion. We hope to make relieving global poverty a moral priority for each of us, regardless of what else we may do with our money and what other philanthropic causes we may support.

For those who believe the problem is intractable, we point to the data reported succinctly by The Life You Can Save, an organization with a name taken from one of Peter Singer’s best-known books. If you look on the website of this organization, you will learn that the percentage of people around the world living under $1.25 a day fell by half between 1990 and 2010. Seven hundred million fewer people lived in extreme poverty at the end of these two decades, and the number of deaths of children under 5 years of age fell from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

These gains depended in part on gifts from people like us, gifts that strengthen relief organizations and supplement the aid provided by governments. For those who believe that it is impossible to channel aid where it is most needed, this same website lists organizations with a well-documented record of improving the lives of the poorest people around the world. Participants in the Presidents' Pledge would add other names to this list, which would include Oxfam and Partners in Health, among many others. The argument that giving will not make a difference simply cannot stand up to the evidence.

The mission of the Presidents' Pledge Against Global Poverty is “to make the greatest possible impact toward ending global poverty through the public leadership and financial commitment of university and college presidents.” We are convinced that our personal commitment will make a difference, along with the research, teaching and service provided by faculty, staff members and students on our campuses.

Many of us feel a special sense of obligation to the areas closest to our campuses -- whether Durham, East Palo Alto, West Philadelphia, Hartford, Buffalo or other neighborhoods. For this reason, we decided that up to half of the gift each of us makes can be designated for causes in the U.S.; the other half is to be contributed to international projects. Each donor can choose the causes he or she regards as most worthy of support, and the specific dollar amount of our giving remains private.

We had originally emphasized the importance of the public impact of our leadership, the example that joining the pledge would provide for our colleagues, both on and off campus. We still believe that this impact can be significant. However, to accommodate those who prefer not to be publicly identified, commitment to the pledge can be anonymous if a donor wishes.

Our initial goal was to ask each member to pledge 5 percent or more of their personal income for gifts to organizations of their choice that address global poverty. This is still our ideal, but we also welcome those who do not feel comfortable making this percentage pledge. We ask those who join us to commit to making the relief of global poverty a priority in their own portfolio of charitable giving.

College and university presidents should, we are convinced, be in the forefront of those who are tackling this crucial problem.

Nannerl O. Keohane is Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She previously served as president of Wellesley College and Duke University.

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Charleston School of Law May Close

The co-owners of the Charleston School of Law said last week that they might not enroll a new class of students in the fall, according to The Post and Courier and other news outlets. The for-profit law school in South Carolina last year was in discussions with InfiLaw System, a for-profit chain, about a possible sale. But state regulators voted down that plan. Last week the school's owners said it was losing money and would struggle to keep its license.

College athletes say they devote too much time to sports year-round

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Most college athletes say they spend as much or more time on sports during the off-season as they do during the season, leaving them little time for common college student activities like studying, internships and part-time jobs.

Essay on how the federal service academics prevent and punish sexual assault

Sexual assault on college campuses is a national problem. No campus is immune. It is a challenge at public and private institutions, it plagues small colleges as well as universities with tens of thousands of students, it happens at highly selective colleges and institutions that cater to a local demographic. It also happens at our federal service academies (FSAs).

FSAs, supported nearly entirely by federal funding, are rightfully held to a higher standard due to both the level of federal support and the jobs FSA graduates fill in service to our nation. As superintendents (i.e., presidents) of the five academies -- the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) -- we embrace this higher standard and work at every level of our institutions to create a culture where sexual assault is eliminated and never tolerated.

We work tirelessly to design training and education programs to prevent sexual assault, to create an environment that encourages reporting, to care for the victims following an assault, to hold perpetrators accountable while protecting their constitutional rights and to track and report our progress so we can continuously improve. Our institutions have been the subject of intense scrutiny on these issues over the last decade, preceding the current national focus on sexual assault in higher education. We are taking this opportunity to share how we are addressing the issue of sexual assault on our campuses to promote transparency, and encourage continued dialogue among university leaders on this challenging problem.

Federal Oversight of Sexual Assault Prevention at FSAs

While the FSAs are not all covered by the Clery Act, which requires annual reporting on campus crime, all the FSAs must report sexual assault data annually through various other laws that cover the institutions. The most recent Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at Military Service Academies: Academic Program Year 2013-2014 was released in February 2015. The analogous USMMA report has also been released, and the USCGA report is scheduled for release this spring. These reports are designed to provide assault details, including the gender and military status of the accused and victim, time of day, location, etc., as well as the investigative and adjudication processes and outcomes. They also include all formal complaints of sexual harassment, and starting with academic year 2013-14, all informal complaints of sexual harassment. These reports contain similarities to those required of colleges and universities under the Clery Act and are written to provide insight into the prevention, victim advocacy/response, investigation/adjudication and assessment/reporting programs implemented at the FSAs. The following sections describe these efforts in more detail.

Prevention -- Education and Training

If we are to be successful at changing a culture, then we have to change behavior. When our candidates arrive at our academies, they arrive with a set of values that may or may not be congruent with the core values of the individual services and academies. Our education and training programs are therefore key to transitioning values and attitudes at matriculation to the values of our institutions (e.g., duty, honor, service, excellence, courage).

Education and training programs are the primary mechanism used to prevent sexual assaults at the FSAs. Although each of the academies is different, students typically receive roughly 30 hours of training and education on sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) during their four-year academy experience. This training begins within the first two weeks of a new student’s arrival on campus and is augmented throughout the first-year summer program to include gender socialization, alcohol use, definitions of sexual assault, introductions to the reporting mechanisms and bystander intervention. This training is supported by external groups that specialize in defining sexual boundaries, discussing ways we communicate about sex and promoting healthy relationships. This initial training forms the foundation for training and education experiences that occur throughout the next four years.

Key to cultural and behavioral change is enabling open and honest dialogue where reflection and introspection can occur, and we have found that the best way to enable this dialogue is through peer-led small group forums, which all of the FSA programs now include. The students leading these forums receive extensive training that enables them to act as a counselor and approachable responder, ultimately serving as a low-threat conduit for students to seek help from the various supporting agencies (e.g., sexual assault response coordinator [SARC], counseling center, mental health, chaplains, etc.).

These students are also often the ones who organize and support relevant programs for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in April, participation in local events, national conferences and the White House's ongoing “It’s on Us campaign. For example, as part of the most recent Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Air Force Academy held a Take Back the Night event organized by students, which included multiple interactive displays and a guest lecture by Katie Koestner, founder and director of Take Back the Night.

In addition to the smaller peer-led groups, larger audiences with guest speakers nationally renowned for their research or advocacy on sexual assault prevention and response provide additional context. The point is that any successful program requires strong leadership starting from the top, and the buy-in and ownership of the students themselves. Grassroots student ownership is a critical component.

Officers and enlisted military members working directly with the students as mentors in their military organizations also receive special training and educational experiences to better prepare them for the challenges of the 18- to 22-year-old demographic. They guide discussion of actual case studies, they describe the elements of sexual assault and sexual harassment, they promote the responsible use of alcohol and examine trends in alcohol consumption by their peers, and they define the expectations of leadership that are required of these students now and when they graduate to lead in their respective service.

These training experiences are complemented by a focus in the general education curriculum on character and ethics. The FSAs typically require students to take general education courses that focus on educational outcomes like respect for human dignity, morals and ethics, and ethical reasoning and action. Academic courses promoting these outcomes provide a reinforcing mechanism for the assault prevention training and an opportunity for students to think critically about the elements that can lead to sexual violence, harassment and oppression.

Furthermore, at the FSAs, these classroom principles are highlighted and reinforced via centers dedicated to character, ethics and leadership, which organize full-day forums on ethics, professional conduct and risk. These forums provide a venue for students to engage in small group discussions with experienced moderators to reflect on challenges they face now as students, as well as difficulties they may encounter as future leaders. Finally, interdisciplinary faculty reading groups are used at some FSAs as a forum for faculty members to discuss gender relations and sexual violence in literature and popular culture, which provides a venue for faculty to share ideas and discuss topics before introducing them into the classroom.

In these ways, sexual assault prevention is designed as an integrated aspect of the academy culture and is a critical component in the character and leadership education of every student. Clearly, it is our responsibility to develop leaders who will set the conditions within their units where everyone is respected and feels valued, included and secure regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other characteristic -- a particularly important aspect given the removal of the combat exclusion law, which will allow women in formerly restricted units.

Victim Advocacy/Response

Victim care is among the highest priorities of every academy superintendent and our SAPR offices. Each SAPR office is staffed by dedicated, highly trained professionals, who provide immediate response and support to all victims of sexual assault. SAPR professionals have the ability to receive sexual assault reports in confidence, which provides victims the ability to make restricted or unrestricted reports.

Restricted reports are designed to give the victim access to counseling, medical care, legal services (e.g., a special victims counsel [SVC] or victim legal counsel [VLC] at all but USMMA), and in some cases special consideration in academy programs (e.g., coordinated flexibility in course work) without requiring the victim to pursue an investigation.

Unrestricted reports trigger an investigation by appropriate criminal investigative authorities in addition to allowing the victim access to the above services. Unrestricted cases of sexual assault are tracked via a monthly case management group meeting that enables all interested parties (e.g., law enforcement, SARC, counselors, medical professionals, administrators) to remain involved in the process and ensure victims are receiving the care and services they need, and ensures that any special circumstances are addressed at the appropriate level with an integrated response. These case management group meetings track a case until its final disposition.

Over time, the SARC has been augmented by professional victim advocates who provide one-on-one support to each victim throughout the process, as well as specially trained student advocates who support a victim in a low-threat student setting at some FSAs. More recently victim care at all FSAs except USMMA has expanded to include trained lawyers who enter into an attorney-client relationship and advise victims on their legal rights throughout the process, to include the victims’ right to privacy, and empower the victim to make informed decisions. Included in this advice, these lawyers help victims make an informed decision on whether to convert a restricted report to an unrestricted report. Because these lawyers have an attorney-client relationship with the victims, all conversations are confidential. If the victim converts a report of sexual assault from restricted to unrestricted, the lawyer safeguards the victim’s rights in the ensuing investigation and criminal justice proceedings. In this way, the FSAs ensure victims receive the focused care they need in either a restricted or unrestricted setting.


Every unrestricted report of a sexual assault at a FSA is referred to a criminal investigative organization -- such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) -- a force that includes investigators specially trained to address sexual assault. The investigative organizations can interview witnesses, gather evidence, reconstruct the circumstances of a crime and provide a report of investigation to guide leadership on the appropriate disposition of the case. The crimes investigated involve a broad range of sexual offenses from sexually harassing statements to an unwanted touch or kiss to forcible rape. Note that the spectrum does not imply that one type of behavior will lead to the other. It simply illustrates the range of sexual harassment to sexual assault behavior we work to eliminate.

The severity of the allegation and availability of reliable evidence will inform how the misconduct is addressed. Options available to the FSAs range from administrative remedies such as disenrollment (i.e., expulsion with recoupment), to discipline through the student conduct system, to criminal proceedings. For criminal misconduct, each of us as superintendent and general court-martial convening authority, in consultation with our lawyers, may refer students to a court-martial. This requires a preliminary hearing, overseen by a military judge or senior attorney, to examine the evidence and provide advice as to whether probable cause exists. We receive an independent legal review and advice from our staff judge advocates (SJAs), who are senior lawyers with specialized training in sexual assault. Throughout this process we also consider the input of the victim’s lawyer and the accused’s defense counsel. Any decision not to prosecute a case undergoes multiple layers of review by attorneys and senior leaders.

One challenge the FSAs share with other small residential colleges is how to best separate a victim and accused on the relatively small academy campuses. For example, all Air Force Academy cadets live in one of two dorms roughly a quarter-mile apart, take all of their courses in the only academic facility on campus, and have relatively frequent gatherings requiring the attendance of all students. Hence, there is a high probability that the victim and accused will have continued incidental interaction. Thus, following an alleged sexual assault, the accused is given a military protective order, (i.e., no contact order) which requires him or her to avoid any physical, verbal or electronic contact with the victim and to report any incidental contact to the administration. Moreover, typically one of the cadets (i.e., accused or victim) is relocated so that they’re not living in the same dorm. Victims at several of the FSAs are also offered, upon the recommendation of the SARC and approval of the chain of command, the opportunity to take a semester or year off with no penalty in their progression to provide the time necessary to heal.


The FSAs use a variety of internally and externally administered anonymous climate surveys, focus groups and real-time reports from the SAPR office to guide programs and determine areas for improvement. These surveys examine the overall climate, provide feedback on the outcomes of the education and training efforts, and help leadership judge the perspective of the students toward sexual assault and sexual harassment, and they are used to judge prevalence -- i.e., the “true” amount of unwanted sexual contact. Comparing the prevalence with the number of restricted and unrestricted sexual assault reports in a given year provides an indication of the level of reporting. For example, the Academic Year 13-14 MSA report indicated the strength of reporting at the MSAs was roughly 16 percent, consistent with national levels of rape reporting, and three times the level of reporting indicated in a 2000 study of female college and university students funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which used a similar definition for sexual assault.

Although the difference in prevalence and reporting may be due in part to students addressing the unwanted sexual contact themselves, it still suggests there are likely many incidents of unwanted sexual contact going unreported at MSAs.

To assimilate the survey data and derive programs that prevent assaults and encourage reporting, several of the FSAs (e.g., USAFA) have created a new office that reports directly to the superintendent. This office is better able to integrate sensors from across the campus to identify trends, target corrective action and interface with academy senior leadership to ensure unity of effort across the multiple helping agencies on campus. They are a one-stop shop for campus cultural issues and provide a higher headquarters ability to respond to and triage problems. They also are responsible for ensuring all reporting is integrated, accurate and informative. This office removes the burden and confusion that comes from having multiple offices respond to an assault, and provides centralized control of the response within the office of the superintendent.


As this nation’s federal service academies, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard, and we must be held accountable. We work daily to live up to this standard. We have made great strides over the past decade to improve the care of victims, the education of our students and the prevention of sexual assaults. However, we clearly have room to improve. We must continue to foster an environment that does not tolerate sexual assault, that supports victims and that develops leaders dedicated to maintaining an environment of dignity and mutual respect. We welcome continued dialogue with higher education leadership as we explore lessons learned and best practices. Together we can strive to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses.

The authors of this piece are:

  • Lieutenant General Michelle D. Johnson, superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy.
  • Vice Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy.
  • Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, superintendent, U.S. Military Academy.
  • Rear Admiral James A. Helis, superintendent, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
  • Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, superintendent, U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
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New presidents or provosts: CMU Colby Johnson Madonna Marquette Peking Reinhardt San Diego Wells

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  • Seth Carter, associate director for career and technical education for the Kansas Board of Regents, has been named president of Colby Community College, in Kansas.
  • Elaine Collins, dean and chief operating officer of the College of Education at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan, has been chosen as president of Johnson State College, in Vermont.

Ohio State Spent $4.4 Million on Football Playoff Trips

Ohio State University spent more than $4 million to travel to two college football playoff games last season, according to financial numbers reported to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and obtained by CBS News. The University of Oregon, which lost to Ohio State in the final playoff game, spent $3.8 million. The University of Alabama spent $2.6 million on its semifinal loss to Ohio State, spending $580,000 more on that one trip than Ohio State despite traveling from a closer distance. Florida State University spent $2.3 million on its loss to Oregon.

The amounts, however, don't factor in the record payouts the colleges will receive from the playoff's media contracts. ESPN pays the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences about $470 million per year to broadcast the games.

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U of Akron Won't Change Its Name

Scott L. Scarborough, president of the University of Akron, issued a statement Monday that the institution will not be changing its name. Scarborough has been encouraging a process by which the university considers how to refine its mission and identity, and part of that process has included discussion of becoming identified as a polytechnic institute. That has led to reports that the university would name itself the Ohio Polytechnic Institute -- an idea that students and alumni have been campaigning against. Scarborough's statement said: “We are not proposing a name change. But we are seriously discussing how to reposition the University of Akron for greater distinction.”

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For-profit Kaplan University expands its competency-based offerings with new transcript

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Kaplan University creates new "competency reports" for all 45,000 students, a move that adds momentum, and risks, for competency-based education's spread. 


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