Trinity University in Texas on Thursday announced that it would opt out of the state's new campus carry law, becoming the 20th private college there to do so, according to The Texas Tribune. The law, which will take effect this year, allows guns into public college classrooms and dormitories, to the consternation of many academics in Texas and elsewhere. While the law obligates public institutions, it allows private nonprofit colleges to opt out, and many of them are choosing to do so.
"The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is our highest priority," Danny Anderson, Trinity's president, said in the university's statement. "A weapons-free environment is the best learning environment for a residential campus like Trinity."
The Texas Tribune is keeping a running list of colleges opting out of the law.
Submitted by Paul Fain on January 14, 2016 - 3:00am
State funding for public higher education has increased in the five years since the recession. However, those increases are not keeping pace with inflation. Just two states -- Utah and Massachusetts -- have had operating-fund support for public higher education that matched or surpassed the rate of inflation in each of those five years, according to a new report from the University of Alabama's Education Policy Center. Five states failed to hit the inflation rate a single time.
Tuition hikes have continued due to state disinvestment, found the report, which was based on a survey of state-level leaders of community colleges in 49 states. Tuition rates are expected to top this year's 2.1 percent inflation rate (from the Higher Education Price Index) for community college students in 25 states, regional university students in 28 states and flagship university students in 26 states, according to the report. State-based student aid also is not keeping up with inflation.
The report's coauthors are Stephen Katsinas, the center's director, Mark D'Amico, associate professor of education leadership at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Janice Friedel, associate professor of education at Iowa State University, and three researchers at the University of Alabama.
It is high time these colleges and universities did so. If ever an easy case for degree revocation existed, this is it. Indeed, within the last few days, George Washington University rescinded the degree it awarded Cosby, reversing an earlier stand on this issue. That said, the fundamental issues go beyond Cosby and beg for us to answer a much broader question: Under what specific circumstances should an honorary degree be revoked?
I appreciate the difficulty some individuals -- as distinguished from institutions -- may be having with dropping the proverbial hammer on Cosby. He was, for many, an icon -- a mentor and role model to celebrities and noncelebs alike. He broke new ground in terms of race relations, and he had remarkable talent as a comedian. Indeed, I suspect that many people believed he was the character he played on television in the '80s and '90s: the high-minded father Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
Yet however hard it is for us as individuals, institutions of higher learning have deeper and wider obligations to their students, faculty members, administrators and alumni. Institutional leaders need to speak up and out -- as the victims of Cosby have -- about his serial sexual assaults. And revocation of an honorary degree does just that: it signals that the awarding institution will not sanction this egregious behavior. As we enter 2016, now would be a good time to clean up old messes and send forth a message on and off campuses that serial sexual predators are not deserving of our highest institutional accolade.
Most institutions do not have established clear rules or guidelines about honorary degree rescission. The Cosby case creates an opportunity to provide institutional guidance for possible future and less clear-cut -- and thus thornier -- situations.
This subject is especially complex in today’s campus climate. Hot topics continue to proliferate on campuses, including concerns over campus sexual assaults and campus culture, the increase in student protests over racial and ethnic discrimination, claims of First Amendment violations when speakers who disagree with prevailing student norms are disinvited from or silenced on campus, and critiques of political correctness as a way of masking students who are privileged and coddled.
Given the problems with the Cosby situation, it seems wise indeed to craft a written solution for when an honorary degree can and should be revoked and the process that is required to make that happen wisely. That would fill an existing void and facilitate action in the rare case in which it is needed. Developing such a document or documents, however, is easier said than done. We must be cautious about setting criteria that are so broad that almost any honorary degree can be withdrawn in a changed or changing political environment. Yet, if we are too specific and target the criteria to fit Bill Cosby or a Cosby-like situation, we are not providing solutions for situations down the road. In some ways, the dilemmas here resemble the question of whether named buildings, murals and statutes of individuals who were honored in their time but were slave owners or robber barons or misogynists (among other things) should be eradicated.
The criteria also raise the issue of governance. Who should decide whether an honorary degree should be withdrawn and by what voting margin (simple majority or supermajority)? What role, if any, should the president or chancellor play in recommending or championing a degree rescission? What role can and should faculty members and current or graduated students play? Trustees or members of a governing board?
Then there are issues surrounding the timing of the deeds leading to a rescission decision. Are the causes related to events before or after the actual honorary degree was awarded? Does an honorary degree confer ongoing obligations for the recipient, or it is an award for past deeds and actions?
And what about the larger looming question: how to ensure that the criteria do not limit the selection of honorary degree recipients to only those with whose ideology or actions we agree -- philosophically, politically or morally.
Here are my recommendations, appreciating that a one-size-fits-all solution will not work and that campuses need to craft language that is consistent with their own institutional culture and governance protocols.
Within the honorary degree, as it is written and as it is ultimately read when conferred, the recipient should be awarded the degree with “all the appertaining rights, privileges of and obligations to” the awarding institution. By adding the word “obligations” to the award itself, colleges and universities are each signaling that with the degree come not only benefits but also ongoing duties. And those duties would include the recipient having acted and continuing to act in ways that are legally and morally consistent with the societal and campus norms. In many cases now, the word “obligations” is absent.
Consider this language: “The Board of Trustees, upon motion of a trustee, the faculty and/or staff senate or student body president [wording would be adjusted to reflect actual governance structure in place at a given institution and how the awarding process functions], shall revoke an honorary degree by a two-thirds vote of trustees if it is determined that the action(s) or inaction(s) of the honorary degree recipient are or were so egregious that they violate existing state and federal law and/or the rules and guidelines governing the behavior of students, faculty and staff at [the institution] as reflected in the campus handbook [or other applicable document] as now exists or may hereinafter exist.
It is my hope that these suggestions will spur campuses to add this or similar language to whatever documents govern their procedures for awarding and rescinding degrees. Perhaps what is needed is an entirely new section in any applicable institutional documents related to honorary degrees that reference both the language to be used within the degree itself and the criteria upon which a degree can be rescinded.
It is the expectation that recession of an honorary degree will be a rare and will occur only in circumstances that truly reflect that the recipient’s actions or inactions are so contrary to established legal and social norms that the degree is no longer merited and does a disservice to the integrity of this institution and its stakeholders. Honorary degree recipients will be notified in writing of the institution’s decision to revoke their previously awarded degree.
The best way to test out the language that I’ve suggested is to plug in the names of people to whom this might apply -- now or down the road. What about degrees awarded or to be awarded to former President Bill Clinton or former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton? Eliot Spitzer or Richard Nixon? Tom Brady or Pete Rose? David Irving or Arthur Butz? Cardinal Law, Bishop Eddie Long or Rabbi Barry Freundel?
We in higher education can and should ask which of these people merited or might merit in the future an honorary degree. To be sure, that is another topic, but it is a worthy line of inquiry. And we can rightfully ask whether such individuals violated the law and/or have been prosecuted civilly or criminally or reached an out-of-court settlement. We can consider whether we object to their beliefs or to their conduct in the past or on a go-forward basis (for those still living).
I get that we are on a slippery slope. I get that we may differ as to whether a particular individual’s conduct warrants the granting or revocation of an honorary degree. But each institution needs to set boundaries and know where it stands because the issue of degree rescission will not disappear over time. While the Bill Cosby case may be clear to many of us, the next one may be far less so. We should prepare now to deal as effectively as we can with what the future has in store.
Karen Gross is a former president of Southern Vermont College and former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Missouri at Columbia said it would bar its men's basketball team from postseason play this season and impose other penalties for violations uncovered by a joint investigation with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Missouri said in its statement that NCAA investigators had been tipped off to potential problems more than two years ago. The joint inquiry revealed that one booster had given basketball players pay for work not performed and other benefits through a summer internship program at his company, and another booster had given players other benefits. The investigation found that Missouri officials had not adequately monitored the internship program.
In addition to barring the team from its conference tournament this spring, Missouri will vacate its wins from the 2013-14 season and limit scholarships and recruiting in subsequent seasons.
Submitted by Jake New on January 14, 2016 - 3:00am
African-American students feel less mentally prepared for college than white students do but are also less likely to discuss those concerns or seek help for mental health issues, a new study has found.
The study, based on a survey of 1,500 freshmen by Harris Poll, was released Wednesday by the Jed Foundation, an organization that works with colleges to prevent campus suicides, and the Steve Fund, a new group dedicated to studying and improving the mental health of students of color.
The online poll found that black students were nearly twice as likely as white students to say they considered transferring during their first semester of college. Fewer than half of black students rated their experience at college as "good" or "excellent," compared to about two-thirds of white students. Yet white students were about twice as likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Three-quarters of black students said they tend to keep their feelings about the difficulty of college to themselves.
Can you imagine a world in which half of all college and university presidents are women?
The American Council on Education can, and it is hoping higher education can reach this goal by 2030. Despite their prevalence in higher education, women are very much in the minority among chief executives. In 2011, according to ACE, 26 percent of college and university presidencies were held by women, up three percentage points since 2006.
On Tuesday ACE launched the Moving the Needle initiative, a national campaign that asks presidents of colleges, universities and related associations to commit to helping achieve its goal, in part by helping advance the careers of female administrators. So far 109 presidents and chancellors have signed on.
Submitted by Paul Fain on January 12, 2016 - 3:00am
Hobsons, a student-success-oriented company, will buy the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework, a nonprofit learning-analytics project that last year was spun off from the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education. The commission began the project in 2011 as a collaboration between six online institutions, which shared data about student learning. Since then it broadened to include on-ground and competency-based institutions. The PAR currently has more than two dozen member institutions, according to Hobsons. The company also recently bought Starfish Retention Services, which uses software to try to boost student retention.