Leave for a president raises question of whether college leaders should hug employees

A president is on leave over allegations that include unwanted hugging. Should college leaders stick to handshakes?

NRA president's donation to Grinnell prompts policy rewrite and soul-searching

Donation from NRA president helped prompt college to change gift policy, raising questions: If you take someone's money, are you endorsing them? What if he boasts of getting professors "giddy" about shooting guns?

False 'U.S. News' rankings data discovered for three more universities

University of Florida and University of South Florida lose rankings in nursing. Sam Houston loses ranking in education.

Two high school students killed in Florida had been admitted to college

Among those murdered were one student who had committed to attending the University of Indianapolis and another who was bound for Lynn University. Plus, past articles on colleges and national policies on gun violence.

IEEE in trouble once again for allegedly minimizing work of female historians


Scholarly society for engineers and technologists is on blast once again for allegedly minimizing the work of female historians who write about bias against women in technology.

Stanford Professor Gets White Powder in Mail

Michele Dauber, the Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law Stanford University and a frequent critic of institutions’ responses to sexual assault cases -- including her own -- says someone sent her an envelope containing white powder and a threatening note, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Dauber is currently leading a state effort to recall Santa Clara County judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced former Stanford undergraduate Brock Turner to just six months in prison after a jury found him guilty in a high-profile campus rape case.

Stanford Law School shut down two rooms and sent out a campus alert in response to the note, which was addressed to Dauber’s office and said, “Since you are going to disrobe Persky I’m going to treat you like Emily Doe [the pseudonym used by the victim in the Turner case]. Let’s see what kind of sentencing I get for being a rich white male.”

Investigators later found that the substance the envelope contained was not dangerous. Dauber told the Chronicle she gets angry letters “all the time,” but none that contain suspicious substances. “What’s important is that the recall campaign is continuing,” Dauber said. “The recall campaign will not be intimidated by this kind of inappropriate behavior.”

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Bill Would Require Presidents to Review Misconduct Claims

Bipartisan legislation announced Thursday in the U.S. Senate would require college leaders -- and at least one member of the institution's governing board -- to personally review all sexual misconduct claims involving university employees reported within a calendar year.

Colleges and universities would be required to submit annual certification affirming that those reviews had taken place and that top college officials hadn't improperly influenced any ongoing investigations.

The bill is backed by Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Michigan Democrats, as well as Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who is the second-highest-ranking GOP senator. Senators said the legislation, dubbed the ALERT Act, was a response to the uncovering of abuses by Larry Nassar, the former Olympics gymnastics doctor and faculty member at Michigan State University, and Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University.

“Our colleges and universities must do more to protect the safety of our children, and we must hold them accountable when they fail,” Peters said in a written statement. “Too many young people have suffered appalling harm from abusers who should have been stopped by university officials. I’m introducing this legislation to ensure that ‘I didn’t know’ will never again be an excuse for permitting monstrous abuse to continue under the watch of the officials we trust to look after our children.”​

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Reviewing past accomplishments can help administrators achieve success in the future (opinion)

Previous successes demonstrate that members of a group have achieved goals together before and can do so again, writes Judith S. White.

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The life story of Harvard's new president embodies the transformative power of higher education (opinion)

At first glance, it is easy to dismiss the selection of Lawrence S. Bacow as the 29th president of Harvard University as a safe, traditional choice. After all, he is a pedigreed academic with three degrees from Harvard itself and another from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former chancellor of MIT and former president of Tufts University.

But dig just a little deeper, and it quickly becomes apparent that Larry Bacow’s story exemplifies the unparalleled power of higher education to transform lives, institutions and communities.

He is the son of immigrants. Bacow’s father was a Jewish refugee whose family escaped the pogroms in Minsk prior to World War II. Once in America, his dad worked full-time while attending college at night in Detroit. His mother came to the United States after surviving Auschwitz.

The reality is that Bacow comes from just the type of heartland, working-class family that today is said to be increasingly estranged from the American dream and that is skeptical, if not outright cynical, about the value of a college education.

And Bacow now will lead just one of the many U.S. institutions of higher education that every year extend access to the same opportunities he had to thousands of bright and talented young people coming from low-income or middle-class backgrounds. Harvard last year spent $414 million universitywide in financial aid to students across the undergraduate and graduate populations. Twenty percent of Harvard parents have total incomes of less than $65,000 and are not expected to contribute. In other words: free.

We’ve all seen assessments like the May 2017 analysis of postelection survey data by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic, which included this finding: 54 percent of white working-class Americans over all viewed investing in a college education as a “risky gamble,” while 61 percent of white working-class men felt that way. Or the September 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation/CNN poll that found 51 percent of working-class white people said their life would be no different if they had a four-year college degree.

These types of findings will be on the table for a discussion today during an Inside Higher Ed forum, in conjunction with Gallup, titled “Higher Ed in an Era of Heightened Skepticism.” I’m on a panel that poses the question “Has Higher Ed Lost the Public?”

My answer: no, but we have work to do to improve our standing. As I approach the six-month mark at the helm of the American Council on Education, it is clear to me that confronting head-on the higher education value proposition must be a primary focus of our efforts here at ACE as we work to convene and mobilize the higher education community. The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges’ Guardians Initiative and other projects by our partner organizations are a good start, but we must do more.

Focus groups that we conducted last year at ACE confirmed heightened skepticism among many people and anxiety over the cost of college among most. But most of our focus group participants wanted their children to gain a postsecondary education and believed doing so is a prerequisite to a successful future.

And the reality is that, far from making a “risky gamble,” people with a college degree are better off that those without one by virtually every measure that demographers can devise.

College graduates get higher-paying jobs, work more and accumulate greater lifetime earnings, reports the College Board’s Education Pays 2016. For instance, the median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients with no advanced degree working full-time were 67 percent ($24,600) greater than those of high school graduates. The unemployment rate for those with just a high school diploma is double the rate for those with a bachelor’s (5.4 percent versus 2.6 percent). And by age 34, college graduates match their high school compatriots in lifetime cumulative earnings and rapidly outpace them after that.

The Education Pays study also suggests that those who have completed even some college or an associate degree are less likely to smoke or be obese and are more likely to exercise. Education Pays and other data also indicate that college graduates are more likely to volunteer in their communities and vote in elections, and they have lower incarceration rates. They are happier -- and they even live longer.

In addition to such individual outcomes, higher education cultivates a flourishing civil society and a diverse democracy.

Does all this mean that those of us in American higher education can sit back and just continue operating status quo? Absolutely not. We have plenty of work to do to increase access to a quality education and ensure that more students from diverse walks of life have an equitable opportunity to complete meaningful degrees and credentials. That includes 18-year-olds who will be the first in their families to attend a university, single parents who need to return to school to get ahead in their careers, middle-aged displaced factory workers who need new skills, veterans who want to turn their years of service into civilian careers and countless others.

But we need to be careful that the conversation about higher education value does not take us backward and do more harm than good.

Take the debate over the tax bill that the U.S. Congress passed in December. The bill that initially passed the House of Representatives repealed an array of education benefits that help millions of students pay for their degrees. Lawmakers wisely rethought that, but the final bill still contained a number of provisions that harm students and their families. A prime example is the remarkably flawed tax on college and university endowments that will simply serve as a vehicle to transfer funds that institutions use to finance student aid, research and faculty salaries to the federal Treasury in order to pay for corporate tax cuts.

And much like the original House tax bill, the Higher Education Act reauthorization bill recently passed out of a House committee along a party-line vote would cut nearly $15 billion in student aid over the next decade. This is a bad bill for students and their families that I hope will look very different as the reauthorization process continues to play out in the House and Senate in the coming months.

To return to Larry Bacow’s story, it is worth noting that it is not just about immigrants and the children of immigrants achieving the American dream. It’s about the many contributions that immigrants have made to our country, particularly by pursuing higher education -- an important reminder given the current debate about immigration and its place in American society generally and Dreamers in particular.

It’s very possible that a Dreamer, or the son or daughter of a Dreamer, could turn out to be the next Larry Bacow or Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, whose family fled Czechoslovakia -- or countless other immigrants or children of immigrants who have made enormous contributions to our country and the entire world.

So let’s not dismiss Larry Bacow’s appointment as conventional. Let’s celebrate it as embodying all that American higher education makes possible.

Ted Mitchell is the president of the American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing nearly 1,800 college and university presidents and related associations.

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Poorly defined roles of provosts and deans can lead to problems at major universities (opinion)

You know something is amiss when offices of the provost have to explain what they do at comprehensive universities. And what they do -- or, more specifically, what many have failed to do -- is one of myriad reasons why budget cuts are occurring at large, often public, universities across the country.

You’ll find such cuts at institutions in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, to name a few. Cuts are not the rule, as Inside Higher Ed reported last year, showing modest increases last year in three-quarters of the states. But tuition keeps rising, debt keeps mounting and provosts and deans are at the forefront of containing costs.

Go ahead and google “What does a provost do?” You’ll find several websites trying to explain what the job at a major university actually entails.

One of my favorites is by Kerri Schuiling, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Northern Michigan University, who posted “What Exactly Is a Provost?”

“If you don’t know what a provost is, you shouldn’t feel bad. With the exception of people who work for a university, the term provost may be a bit of a mystery. If you check the origins of the word ‘provost,’ you’ll find that the original definition was ‘keeper of a prison’ -- certainly not what a university provost is today!”

What is a provost?” asks the provost's office at the University of Michigan, which sees fit to include the dictionary meaning before describing responsibilities of the position (and yes, “keeper of a prison” is included above “high-ranking university administrative officer”):

pro-vost n [ME, fr. OE profost & OF provost, fr ML propositus, alter. of praepositus, fr L, one in charge, director, fr. pp. of praeponere to place at the head] 1: the chief dignitary of a collegiate or cathedral chapter 2: the chief magistrate of a Scottish burgh 3: the keeper of a prison 4: a high-ranking university administrative officer

Emory University has a similar website, titled “What Does the Provost Do?” Better still, its president, Claire Sterk, a former provost at that institution, has a YouTube video by the same title, explaining the position.

Let’s be clear about the aforementioned executive officers: I do not know them. They are probably excellent administrators. Neither am I denigrating the provost's duties, which multiplied considerably when a number of presidents appended the title "vice president for academic affairs."

That is when troubles began. The VP title delegated to provosts the primary duty of president -- to be a visionary. This also effectively removed provosts as the advocate for and titular head of the professoriate. (That role has fallen to chairs of faculty senates and unions.) In the past, it was not unusual for provosts to be at odds with presidents if professors failed to get adequate compensation or if operations -- from technology to curricula -- inflated the budget. When it did, provosts held deans responsible.

In one of the early warnings about the dual title, “Vice President v. Provost,” authors Ray Maghroori and Charles Powers correctly state that “the two roles entail distinctly different and, at times, even conflicting responsibilities.”

University employees usually do not know what provosts do apart from being the voice of the administration. All too often, presidents and chancellors with inflated salaries are gallivanting across the country in university jets, fund-raising, hobnobbing with alumni and business leaders, attending athletic events, participating in educational organizations, networking with regents and legislators, and relying on vice presidents of diversity as buffers when multicultural crises arise.

Robert Sternberg, former provost and senior vice president at Oklahoma State University, and now a Cornell University professor, writes in a post subtitled “Wanna be a provost,” “The role of a provost actually is somewhat ill-defined. At some level, it is whatever the president or the chancellor wants it to be. Presidents often will delegate to provosts tasks that they do not want to do or that they see as outside their skill set. So provosts need to be ready to be something of a jack-of-all-trades.”

Central administration should focus on one paramount requirement: keeping tuition reasonable. In this, too, many have failed. Their core strategy is begging. Beg the Legislature for funding. Beg benefactors, too. Raise tuition. Tinker with the preposterous budget model used by a growing number of institutions called responsibility-centered management, which often rewards student credit hours rather than major enrollment, thereby inflating pedagogy.

Explaining the Budget Model

Here’s how the model typically works. The office of provost no longer is chiefly responsible for budget (centralized system); instead, college deans are responsible (decentralized system). Budgets are not pegged primarily to departmental enrollment as in the past but increasingly to tuition, with revenue generated by student credit hours. That puts departments in competition with one another, duplicating efforts and courses, as explained in the article “Your Tub or Mine,” leading to what one critic calls “perverse incentives, like engineering schools that want to teach English.”

As a result, duplication abounds, with course catalogs expanding each year. A traditional provost would monitor that in a centralized system. However, since many provosts are expected to be visionaries instead of accountants, with systems now decentralized, the new class of deans typically hasn’t a clue about accounting -- apart from relying on tuition and formulas for student credit-hour generation and, failing that, increasing fees for just about everything.

With responsibility-centered management, you can balance budgets as long as tuition and fees keep rising, because costs are passed on to students registering for classes. The longer you keep students in the institution, the better for the budget, explaining in part why only 41 percent of students graduate in four years, with a quarter of them dropping out because of cost, according to The New York Times.

I have been writing about this for more than a decade, advising provosts about what they can do apart from begging the Legislature or benefactors for more funds. You’ll find numerous articles in Inside Higher Ed alone, not to mention other media outlets. Here’s a quick sampling.

The more we keep raising tuition, the more universities will operate on the status quo, allowing costs to rise without provosts and deans being held accountable. As a result, we will continue to confront these distressing problems:

  • Rampant curricular growth because typically no one is monitoring that apart from student credit-hour production as a means to raise revenue;
  • Fewer tenured professors and armies of underpaid adjuncts hired not because of expertise but to deliver the inflationary curricula;
  • Longer graduation timelines and lower retention rates because convoluted curricular growth complicates the path to commencement; and
  • Debt-ridden graduates (or worse, college dropouts because of cost), who will continue to pay student loans into middle age.

Defining the Dean

If you were unsure about what a provost does, you’ll be perplexed at what many deans do anymore. The reason for that is simple: when a growing number of provosts stopped advocating for faculty and balancing budgets in centralized systems, they typically lost focus and/or interest in the requisite duties of deans, especially since deans in decentralized systems often are responsible for revenue generation.

I coded the first 10 advertisements for college deans at comprehensive universities on the Inside Higher Ed job site, knowing in advance what I would probably would find. Academic gobbledygook often associated with "vision," upon which job candidates may expound with little knowledge about institutional history, budget and strategic plans. Those parameters are set. Advertisements mostly overlooked requisite skills needed to run a complex organization, emphasizing curricular-based experience associated with enrollment management, assessment, certification, curricular streamlining, nonduplication of pedagogy and transparency -- hard metrics to measure student success, including average student debt and rates of retention, graduation and job placement.

Of the more than 50 general and specific qualifications and duties in all these ads, these were most cited: advocate for the college, communicate well, collaborate, have vision, know budgeting, raise funds, promote diversity, share governance, support research, and meet promotion and tenure requirements for full professor. Other requirements less mentioned included the ability to promote student success, engage stakeholders, support professional development, oversee promotion and tenure cases, operate a complex organization, and possess good character.

Here is a hypothetical job description for today’s dean, based on advertisements for the position in colleges of arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, and social sciences:

“The successful candidate should have experience in leading a complex organization, including knowledge of budgets and fund-raising, and possess a scholarly record for appointment at the rank of tenured professor. As chief advocate for the college, the dean supports research and grantsmanship, oversees promotion and tenure, collaborates with deans across campus and shares governance, promoting diversity and communicating effectively with internal and external constituents. Above all, the dean should possess a clear vision to take the college to the next level of excellence, ensuring student success.”

Only one of the position statements I reviewed at the time included specific reference to curricular expertise: Texas State University, in its search for an education college dean, required “experience in innovative curriculum development and delivery; academic program accreditation; and credentialing.”

At Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication we go even further, posting our metrics on a public accountability website. You’ll find student retention rates, compared to rates of the college and university; graduation rates; placement rates; scholarship amounts; paid and unpaid internship percentages; enrollments by degree major; student course evaluation data; and median starting salaries in our disciplines.

Moreover, we have a public, online assessment plan, stand-alone diversity plan and, most important, a strategic plan for the school.

Every department in every college should have these metrics, and deans should be evaluated by them before any reappointment. Once upon a provost, that was precisely what they did.

Thus, a hypothetical job description for an effective dean might read:

“The successful candidate should have knowledge of enrollment management, accreditation and certification requirements, and outcomes assessment for continuous improvement in evaluating quality of teaching. The dean also should be aware of curriculum’s impact on budget and take steps to help chairs streamline pedagogy, improving graduation rates. A scholarly record for appointment at the rank of tenured professor is required, as well as understanding of promotion and tenure processes associated with support of faculty research and advancement.

“A dean should have exceptional interpersonal and communication skills, explaining ways to maximize resources so faculty take the initiative to increase enrollment, reduce student debt and prioritize job placement within six months of commencement. In this sense, vision is important, as is fund-raising, especially in providing professional development opportunities for faculty and scholarships for students. The dean should ensure that every department posts a stand-alone diversity, assessment and strategic plan aligned with institutional priorities and publishes metrics about enrollment, retention, placement, scholarships and other data showcasing the unit and collaborative efforts to achieve student success.”

The problem with such an advertisement is that fewer and fewer dean applicants can meet those requirements or discuss them intelligently in finalist interviews. In my travels across the country, in the role of invited consultant, it also has been my subjective experience that provosts no longer realize the cause-and-effect impact on institutional priorities of budget models based on student credit-hour generation rather than major enrollment.

Such oversights help explain why so many low-paid adjuncts have been hired to deliver the burgeoning curricula, at the expense of fewer full-time, continuing faculty members. Moreover, adjuncts teach more classes than graduate students who require tuition waivers, and that affects graduate school enrollment and faculty research. And with fewer continuing professors, and less time for research, remaining tenured faculty members have growing service obligations. That one factor alone may explain the growing, unhappy ranks of associate professors who cannot meet promotion and tenure requirements.

In sum, higher education cannot continue with these failing practices, particularly with poorly defined roles for provosts and deans. So-called administrative bloat, hiring more assistant and associate provosts and deans to do basic tasks, only adds to budgetary woes. If the current situation continues, unmonitored curricular expansion due to ineffective budget models will result in skyrocketing costs, and the domino effect will worsen student debt and undermine enrollment, retention, compensation, health insurance, retirement benefits and, most important, recruitment of continuing, full-time professors whose research and teaching are paramount for institutional reputation and student success.

What do provosts and deans actually do? The answer seems to be, in too many cases, not enough where it matters.

Michael Bugeja, former director of Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, teaches media ethics. He is an elected member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. In 2015, he won the Scripps Howard Administrator of the Year Award. These views are his own and not associated with ISU.

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