Dixie State Reinstates Professor Accused of Gossiping

Ken Peterson, a professor of music at Dixie State University who was terminated earlier this year for alleged violations of university confidentiality policies, will be reinstated, following a Utah System of Higher Education decision in his favor, the St. George News reported. “The matter has been resolved and I will be returning to my teaching position,” Peterson said in a statement. “I don’t have the words to adequately express my gratitude for the outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends, students, fellow faculty, and the community.”

A university spokesperson said that Dixie State “wholeheartedly supports this decision, and we look forward to working with Peterson again.” University policies and procedures “exist to provide a structured process and ensure fairness to and protection of faculty members throughout appeals,” she added.

Peterson and another professor of music, Glenn Webb, were terminated last semester for allegedly discussing the tenure bid of a colleague in their department. The university accused the two professors of serious violations of university ethics rules. But the professors’ many supporters said termination should be reserved for the most serious of offenses, not gossip. A faculty review board also has recommended that Webb be reinstated, but the state university system has not yet weighed in on his appeal.

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Universities Share Tech-Enhanced Advising Strategies

Three institutions -- the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, California State University Fresno and Montgomery County Community College -- are working to update their advising practices with technology, and sharing their progress.

The Community College Research Center recently published a report outlining how each of the institutions is proactively reaching out to students that might need help, as well as working to more effectively use data in students’ one-on-one sessions with advisers.

Early results indicate that all three institutions have had to restructure their advising to enable students to have longer sessions with advisers. The institutions have also grappled with how to use data such as early-alert flags and midterm grades to encourage, rather than discourage, students.

Future reports will discuss the short- and long-term impact of these advising strategies on student outcomes.

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In new game show, graduates compete to pay down college loans

TruTV's new game show Paid Off gives players a chance to pay off student loans, calls on Congress to find "a better solution than this game show."

The importance of collaboration between faculty and administrators and the roadblocks to it (opinion)

For our institutions to be innovative, faculty and administrators must work together, writes Terri E. Givens, but they often confront outside obstacles.

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Journalism students create virtual reality stories

Journalism students use virtual reality equipment to tell immersive stories in an emerging medium.

Northwestern Says Professor Accused of Harassment Is Still on Leave

Northwestern University on Tuesday addressed a series of harassment allegations against Alec Klein, a professor of journalism who has been on leave since February. Northwestern “takes seriously all complaints that are brought to its attention and investigated those allegations promptly and thoroughly, following established university procedures,” Alan K. Cubbage, campus spokesperson, said in a statement. “Complaints to Northwestern’s Office of Equity are confidential in nature in order to protect the individuals involved” and Northwestern “cannot confirm the details that have been made public regarding the investigation” into Klein’s behavior.

In any case, Northwestern “apologizes to our current and former students and former employees for the experiences that they went through,” Cubbage said. “Their decisions to come forward with their complaints undoubtedly were not easy ones, and we commend them for having the courage to do so. Northwestern is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of our community are safe, secure and free from sexual misconduct of any form.”

Klein remains on leave from all his positions and is not on campus, Cubbage said.

Earlier this year, group of 10 former students and employees of the Justice Project at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism published an open letter accusing Klein of sexual harassment, abusive behavior and bullying. A month later, the group published another open letter saying 19 additional women had come forward to complain about Klein’s alleged sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching and verbal abuse. Klein has denied the claims, saying in a statement that many came from a “disgruntled former employee.” Northwestern has said that some allegations dating back several years were previously found by the university to be unsubstantiated, but that new allegations would be investigated.

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Eight deans at Michigan State University outline three imperatives for cultural change in academe (opinion)

Even as Michigan State University struggles to respond to the worst crisis in our institutional history, there are signs that the powerful voices of more than 300 sexual abuse survivors, victims of former MSU physician Larry Nassar, are shifting the culture of higher education. Amplified by the global impact of the Me Too movement, their courage and testimony compel us in higher education to confront the power dynamics that can make academe a haven for predatory behavior and abuse.

At MSU, we are beginning to make overdue changes in how we respond to allegations of sexual misconduct and the systems by which we provide health care. Over the last few months, we have expanded our commitment to safety beyond the health-care realm by developing an academic organizational structure that ensures transparency and responsiveness, and by engaging and empowering the voices of patients, families, staff members, providers and students. Yet so much remains to be done.

Our university will need to respond to the findings from state, federal and National Collegiate Athletic Association investigations with transparency and a clear commitment to making comprehensive changes to transform our culture. As the institution works its way through legal, legislative, personnel and other processes, we believe that three imperatives of culture change will become a catalyst for transformation across higher education.

First, even as we at MSU implement policy, procedural and structural changes to better detect a predator, we must avoid the temptation to put the Nassar crisis behind us. Rather, we need to keep what happened and the lessons we are learning from it in front of us. The injury inflicted on the vulnerable is a symptom of a deeper cultural problem within society related to power, voice and silence.

Keeping the crisis in front of us requires us to acknowledge that the very institutions created to transform individuals and communities through education can easily be derailed by self-interest, insecurity and competition. Academe is called to cultivate institutional habits of truth telling and truth hearing, critical self-reflection, and accountability. We must consciously and intentionally empower those habits on our campuses to meet that calling.

Second, if we are honest with ourselves in the trauma of the moment, many other unjust and inequitable campus structures and processes must be interrogated and redressed. This involves reconsidering our systems of evaluation and reward -- including institutional rankings, tenure and promotion processes, and metrics of scholarship. They all must be realigned with the core values of the academic mission.

Access, equity and discovery are often identified as core values in higher education. Yet the metrics by which academic institutions are often judged -- including raising funds and elevating rankings -- too easily foster a tolerance for behavior that falls short of what we know to be just. It is time to revisit our lodestone. Institutions of higher education should be judged by their capacity to educate conscientious human beings capable of putting their values into practice in meaningful ways. That requires the creation of learning communities that advance true inclusiveness and are equitable, trusting, transparent and safe. Such communities are inherently difficult to nurture, but they nonetheless must be created.

It is time to acknowledge that we have fallen short of our values, reaffirm them in light of our current situation and align our reward system accordingly. Only then can we fulfill the transformative role that higher education was established to create for the communities we serve. Change must begin with us.

Finally, in an academic culture that draws individuals committed to be catalysts of societal change, there is perhaps all too often a paradoxical acceptance of them as primarily free agents within the university -- neither crucial to the success of the broader institutional mission nor empowered to impact its fate. The culture we need requires each of us who has some power to effect change to put our effort, influence and weight on the side of creating more trust and equity. Such a transformation of the academy is only possible if we commit ourselves to holding one another accountable in our daily interactions to the values that shape our shared educational mission. Leadership in this sense must permeate the entire institution -- from the staff to the governing board, from students to the faculty, and across all levels of administration.

These three imperatives -- to keep the lessons of our current crisis in front of us, to interrogate and redress all unjust structures, and to create a culture of shared, empathetic leadership -- point to a paradigm shift in higher education. Only by creating communities in which everyone has the opportunity to be heard, to feel valued and ultimately to succeed, will we create a new culture of inclusion and empowerment.

Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., dean, College of Human Medicine

Rachel Croson, dean, College of Social Science

Prabu David, dean, College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Ronald Hendrick, dean, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Thomas D. Jeitschko, dean, The Graduate School

Mark Largent, associate dean for undergraduate education

Christopher P. Long, dean, College of Arts & Letters

Cheryl Sisk, interim dean, College of Natural Science

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New book brings instructional design to online teaching

A new book connects instructional design with teaching and learning to offer a road map for online instruction.

National University System Buys UniversityNow's Platform

The National University System has purchased technology from UniversityNow, a venture that had worked to create online, competency-based programs and that operates Patten University. The California-based system, a nonprofit that enrolls roughly 35,000 students, will use UniversityNow's platform to create self-paced (but not strictly competency-based) online degree programs with annual tuition rates of $8,500. The system did not disclose the purchase price of the deal with UNow.

Dubbed FlexCourse, the system's new platform will offer several degrees -- an M.B.A., bachelor's degrees, an associate of arts in general studies -- through its John F. Kennedy University.

Michael Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System, said in an interview that JFK University plans eventually to use FlexCourse in all of its offerings. And he anticipates that it will be able to bring tuition in those programs down farther, perhaps to $5,000 per year, in part because the platform is designed to recruit and assess students at relatively low cost.

National is conducting a $20 million project to design general education courses for adult students that combine adaptive courseware, predictive analytics and competency-based learning. Through its Precision Institute, the university is sharing what it learns and develops in the experiment.

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Mount Ida President Defends Himself

Mount Ida College’s former president defended his record leading up to the institution’s controversial closure, but some of his statements were contradicted by his Board of Trustees and questioned by another college leader Mount Ida left at the merger altar.

In his first public interview on Mount Ida’s shutdown, former president Barry Brown told The Boston Globe that Mount Ida did everything possible to remain open before making the best decision available. Mount Ida leaders have been under intense scrutiny since they walked away from talks to merge with nearby Lasell College as a financial crisis bore down upon them. They instead opted to close Mount Ida and sell its campus to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a series of decisions that has been harshly criticized in the Boston area and across Massachusetts.

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Brown said Lasell changed the terms of a proposed merger after learning that Lasell's lenders would not approve the deal. Mount Ida trustees felt the newly proposed terms would have ceded too much control to Lasell, and there “was not the sense of a culture of equals” that had been discussed, Brown told the Globe.

The deal was also different from previous discussions financially and in protection that would have been afforded for Mount Ida students and staff members, according to Brown’s account. It left questions about whether Lasell would have enough resources to run Mount Ida. Brown declined to go into specifics, citing a confidentiality agreement.

But Mount Ida’s trustees sent a statement denying that the deal fell apart because of control, the Globe reported. The statement said trustees rejected Lasell’s last offer because they feared the college was an unreliable partner that could abandon the talks.

The trustees’ statement comes after Mount Ida’s board chair, Carmin Reiss, testified before a state Senate committee in May that the Mount Ida Board of Trustees would have been disbanded under Lasell’s revamped proposal. Mount Ida would have had to take on more debt, and its board did not believe Lasell would be able to fund Mount Ida’s losses, she said at the time.

Lasell’s president, Michael Alexander, confirmed to the Globe that his college’s lenders wouldn’t approve the merger because of Mount Ida’s debt. So Lasell restructured the deal in a way that bondholders would not have had to approve it, he said. The restructured deal could have been approved quickly before Mount Ida ran out of money but would have given Lasell more control over Mount Ida.

Alexander disagreed that Lasell was the unreliable party in the talks, pointing out that it was Mount Ida that cut off merger discussions.

Brown also answered questions on his relationship with a wealthy Mount Ida donor he has advised on real estate and finances for decades. The family of Rosalie Stahl loaned $23 million to Mount Ida in its last years -- and decided to forgive almost half of what it was owed when the college closed. The family also donated $8 million to the college in recent years.

The relationship between Brown and the donor raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest.

Brown told the Globe he had been a good trustee of Stahl’s money by making loans to Mount Ida. The transaction took place properly, “with outside representation,” he said.

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