Temple Journalism Professor Accused of Making Anti-Muslim Comments Online

A professor of journalism at Temple University is accused of anonymously posting anti-Muslim and conspiracy theory-inspired comments on news websites, according to The professor, Francesca Viola, was named as the commenter behind the “truthseeker” account on the cross-website commenting platform Disqus last week, in a Twitter post by Joshua Benton, director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Viola then reportedly accused Benton of “doxxing” her, saying in a statement that she disputes “the incorrect attributions and specious allegations.” She added, “I consider this a personal defamatory attack as well as an attempt to silence academic freedom and people everywhere. Most importantly, as an investigation is now underway, I would ask the community not to assume I am the author of some or all of those comments.”

Benton rejected the allegations of “doxxing,” or releasing private or identifying information about Viola, saying in his own statement that Viola “voluntarily logged into a commenting service and left a comment on our site using her Temple email address.” He added, “All I did was click one link to see all the other comments she had posted using her Temple email address.” One of the most controversial comments Viola is accused of making is “Scum. Deport them. They hate us. Get rid of them.” It appeared on Gateway Pundit, following a 2017 story claiming that Muslims praying in front of Trump Tower were “working on their Islamic takeover.” 

David Boardman, dean of Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communication, said that Viola “has admitted to writing some but not all of these posts and specifically denies writing the post that is derogatory of Muslim protesters, a comment we find particularly abhorrent,” reported. “We are troubled by the content of some of the other cited posts but acknowledge that those in the Temple community are entitled to exercise free speech within constitutional parameters.”


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Proposed Federal Rule Making on 'Innovation' and Aid

The U.S. Department of Education plans to hold a negotiated rule-making session aimed at changing regulations for federal aid eligibility to try to "promote greater access for students to high-quality, innovative programs," according to a Wednesday posting from the Office of Management and Budget.

The posting's brief description of the proposed rule making said it would include a focus on the "credit hour, competency-based education, direct assessment programs and regular and substantive interaction between faculty and students in the delivery of distance education programs."

With such a broad mandate, experts said the session could go in several directions. And while the department can make changes in each area, other tweaks would require congressional action. In coming weeks Inside Higher Ed will attempt to report on the department's plans for those regulations.

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Laureate Describes Its Shifted Focus

Laureate Education, the large global college network that returned to publicly traded status this year, has largely concluded its shift toward emerging or large markets, Eilif-Serck Hanssen, the company's CEO, said in an interview.

In the last year, the Baltimore-based Laureate sold its colleges in China, Germany, Italy and Malaysia, among others. The company made those moves to leave "markets were we didn't have scale or potential to get to scale," Hanssen said.

With a total enrollment of more than one million students at 60 institutions in 20 countries, Laureate is focused on the U.S., Spain, Portugal and South and Central America.

Last month the company announced a $400 million deal to sell the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, a domestic institution, to the investment firm Altas Partners. Hanssen praised St. Augustine but said its U.S. focus impeded Laureate's ability to coordinate the university's offerings with the global network of institutions.

Laureate has been seeking to offload some of its long-term debt, which was down to about $2.9 billion from $3.2 billion last year. The for-profit college network also reported stronger quarterly numbers, with an 8 percent increase in new enrollments and a 3 percent -- or roughly $30 million -- increase in revenue.

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New presidents or provosts: Carlow Case Western Central Arkansas Endicott Kalamazoo Lesley NEIU Slippery Rock Suffolk UCF Williams

  • William J. Behre, provost at Georgian Court University, in New Jersey, has been selected as president of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
  • John Caron, associate dean of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, has been named provost at Endicott College, in Massachusetts.

Anxiety at Hiram over redesign, possible cuts to tenured faculty

As final plan for "new liberal arts" is prepared, many students and faculty members fear for disciplines and their own futures at the college.

Two-year institutions report significant savings on OER as initiatives mature

A high-profile affordable textbook program wraps up in Arizona having doubled its original goal, and other institutions share similar successes.

Education Department sets timeline for $5 million OER pilot

The U.S. Department of Education is moving forward this summer on a $5 million program for the creation and development of OER.

How colleges can help K-12 schools deal with violence (opinion)

Across the nation, high school students are now selecting the colleges and universities where they will spend the next formative chapter of their lives. They are making their choices against a backdrop of unprecedented public attention to gun violence, thanks to a bold and galvanizing uprising that they themselves have led. While they are high school students today, they will be college students next. Higher education has to be ready.

To understand the students soon coming to our campuses, it helps to acknowledge some essential facts that have shaped their coming of age. The 18-year-old students graduating high school this spring have known schools as sites of violence their entire lives. They were born the year after the Columbine, Colo., massacre. They were seven years old when a shooter killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Most weren’t even teenagers when a 20-year-old shooter killed 26 people at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. And while mass shootings receive wide attention, other forms of ongoing “silent violence” shape the lives of thousands of students in their schools, neighborhoods or homes.

How can higher education support students and help advance the movement they have started to prevent gun violence in schools?

First, as new students arrive on our campuses, we must recognize that many come to college without the sense of a classroom as a place of safety, something we know is essential for teachers to teach and students to learn. Some students have experienced gun trauma directly, while virtually all have been affected through news reports and social media. They seek -- and deserve -- explicit institutional commitments to their safety. Those commitments might take the form of emergency preparedness drills, active and repeated safety training for faculty and staff members, and detailed planning around emergency protocols in the classroom and residence halls. It involves counseling services and other forms of trauma-informed mental health support.

Second, we must support our faculty in making space in the classroom to acknowledge incidents of violence. Even when the topic is far outside the faculty member’s discipline or comfort zone, even if the approach may be tentative or awkward, students feel supported when professors acknowledge traumatic events. In reference to the Sept. 11 attacks, research by Therese A. Huston of Seattle University and Michele di Pietro of Carnegie Mellon University has found that students believe it is always best to do something rather than nothing, “regardless of whether the instructor’s response required relatively little effort, such as asking for one minute of silence … or a great deal of effort and preparation, such as incorporating the event into the lesson plan or topics for the course.” In my experience as a professor and a president, students are grateful when you acknowledge events that are hard for them to process.

Finally, as college and university leaders, and as campus communities, we cannot be silent about school violence. Students are leading a bold, essential movement against gun violence, and we must stand with them. We must amplify their voices and join them in demanding change. Many college and university admission deans set this tone pre-emptively in the wake of the shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this spring. They made explicit public pledges not to penalize prospective students -- even if the students’ high schools chose to -- for their activism.

Gun violence is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue. Every educator should care about the prevention of gun violence -- indeed, violence in any form -- that cuts short the futures of young people, many as their educations have barely begun.

Kathleen McCartney is the president of Smith College.

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A student protesting the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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New Policy Group Adds Advocacy Panel

Higher Learning Advocates is a bipartisan group focused on federal policy that formed last year. This week it added a "network" of higher education leaders who it says will contribute to federal policy discussions, with a focus on student success.

The network includes:

  • Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation
  • José Luis Cruz, president of Lehman College of the City University of New York
  • Barbara Damron, secretary at the New Mexico Department of Higher Education
  • Joey Hatch, member of the Tennessee Board of Regents and retired general manager of Skansa Building USA Inc.
  • Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College
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