A college president shares career lessons she has learned (essay)

Carmen Twillie Ambar shares five pieces of advice for senior women administrators in the academy.

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Report on Faculty Role in Student Success Efforts

Faculty members are critical agents in student success but are surprisingly underemployed in that effort, according to a new paper from the Education Advisory Board, a best practices firm advising college and university administrators. “The Evolving Role of Faculty in Student Success” is based on interviews with 120 higher education leaders. (An infographic is available here.) It says that without engagement among faculty, “most top-down student success initiatives are doomed to fail, either through outright opposition or because of a limited reach.” Sometimes administrators don’t communicate their expectations about supporting students to faculty members, according to the report, and best practices -- where they are being employed -- often remain within pockets of an institution.

“Critical reforms that pertain to curricular requirements, academic policies, advising practices and transfer articulation all rely on the willingness of faculty to redesign the institutional approach and carry out a new set of procedures, but many academic administrators have neglected to involve faculty from the outset,” the paper says.

The most important responsibility of individual faculty members is to enhance the student learning experience, according to EAB. Pedagogical innovations may be plentiful on campuses, but training and support in those practices may be lacking, the paper says. So faculty leaders should be empowered to expand the use of known, effective techniques across departments.

Early-warning systems to identify at-risk students have been purchased or developed by three-quarters of colleges and universities, according to EAB, but they’re not all being used. Faculty members should be able to customize the threshold for academic risk and intervention protocols in these systems to maximize participation. And the provost and academic deans “must reinforce the importance of early alerts among faculty, and demonstrate their impact on getting help to students in a timely matter,” the report says.

Student support efforts tend to target the most and least at-risk students, the report says, while “faculty-student mentoring should address those in between.” Failing to establish a meaningful connection to campus in the first year means student is more likely to struggle as he or she progresses. But targeting mentoring practices to students who are on track but not engaged in a learning community or student organization can help ensure their success, according to EAB.

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Kennesaw State Fires Coach Over Sexual Harassment

Kennesaw State University fired its softball coach on Wednesday after an investigation found that he had violated the university's sexual harassment policy. The investigation began earlier this year when anonymous letters were sent to Kennesaw State's athletic department alleging that the coach, Torrence Acheson, had touched players in an "inappropriate manner," made sexual comments toward the players and insinuated that the players were "servicing'" baseball players.

“We are extremely disappointed in Coach Acheson’s behavior and apologize to our student-athletes and their parents,” Houston D. Davis, the university's interim president, said in a statement. “This type of conduct simply will not be tolerated at Kennesaw State.”

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UC Davis Chancellor's Travel Under Scrutiny

Suspended University of California, Davis, Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi finds her travel habits are generating new public scrutiny amid reports she paid for tours of foreign destinations, booked expensive travel options including first-class seats and traveled with her husband at the university's expense.

Katehi took 26 international trips from December 2010 to February 2016, according to a report in The Sacramento Bee. Her destinations included Chile, Dubai, China, Mexico and Greece as she attended conferences and met with donors. The international trips cost more than $174,000, and Katehi often traveled with her husband and other staff members, who filed their own expense reports. The report also detailed numerous expensive travel decisions like moving up to first-class seats on flights, renting a room to hold her luggage while she met with possible donors and booking guided tours in Greece and France.

The chancellor explained spending in Switzerland by saying a donor's travel agent booked hotels. Many university presidents make trips to woo donors, but a UC Davis spokeswoman said the university has no way to track donations generated by Katehi's trips. University policy allows for flying first class for a compelling reason. It also allows reimbursement of a spouse's travel expense if he or she is on university business.

Katehi was placed on paid administrative leave in April amid allegations of nepotism and that she misused student funds. Critics objected when reports surfaced that she had accepted a board seat with for-profit college operator DeVry University, and her service on the board of a textbook publisher has also come under the microscope. Reports that Katehi spent a minimum of $175,000 in university money to wash the internet of references to campus police pepper-spraying protestors in 2011 have also generated controversy. She has denied wrongdoing, but an investigation is underway.

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New presidents or provosts: Caldwell Clatsop Duluth Edinboro North Idaho Pacific Queensland RIT Kosovo UALR

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  • Chris Breitmeyer, vice president for academic and student affairs at St. Charles Community College, in Missouri, has been named president of Clatsop Community College, in Oregon.

College Sought Fingerprints on Critical, Anonymous Letter

Merced College officials are defending their hiring of a private investigator to look for fingerprints on an anonymous letter the college's board received, The Merced Sun-Star reported. The February letter was signed "Concerned Students" and demanded the return of President Ron Taylor, who had been placed on leave without explanation. College officials appear to have suspected that the letter was sent by faculty members, and faculty leaders have denounced the college for seeking fingerprints from the letter. The college says it was obligated to investigate because the letter also included a photograph of a male student who was not wearing pants, and this raised privacy and other issues, the Sun-Star reported.

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UNC Questions NCAA's Authority in Academic Fraud Case

In a statement sent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Monday, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill argued the NCAA is overstepping its authority in attempting to punish the university for years of academic fraud involving athletes.

For 18 years, some employees at UNC Chapel Hill knowingly steered about 3,000 students -- 1,500 of them athletes -- toward no-show “paper courses” that never met, were not taught by any faculty members and in which the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content. In April, the NCAA sent UNC a notice of allegations that stemmed from the association's second investigation into the fraud.

The new notice charges the university with five violations, including a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor the departments that offered the fraudulent courses. The notice largely focuses on the women's basketball team, though football players accounted for 51 percent of the athletes taking the phony courses, and 12 percent were men's basketball players. Six percent of athletes taking the courses were women's basketball players.

It its response to the notice of allegations, UNC said that NCAA "has no authority over the operations of an academic department, much less the quality of the courses it offers to students in general." About half of the students who enrolled in the sham courses were not athletes.

"The university does not minimize the extent of the academic irregularities it experienced, even as it emphasizes that those matters are beyond the NCAA’s purview," UNC stated. "These matters concern fundamental institutional, not athletic, integrity, and they are not the proper subject of an NCAA enforcement action."

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University of Louisville vice presidents have unusual contract guarantees

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Vice presidents' contract guarantees kicked in at Louisville after the president stepped down, placing any new campus leader in a difficult position.

Elected Officials Weigh In on Borrower Defense

U.S. senators and state attorneys general were among the more than 10,000 individuals and groups to submit comments on the U.S. Department of Education's 530-page proposed rule for federal loan forgiveness for students whom colleges defrauded or misled. Most lined up along partisan lines, with Democrats supporting the rule or calling for it to be strengthened, while Republicans said the rule was overly broad and unfair.

A group of 19 Senate Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, called on the department to "close unintended loopholes, increase accountability to students and reduce the complexity of the regulation." Senator Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), signed the letter.

On the Republican side, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the HELP Committee, submitted a comment warning of "unintended consequences" of the proposed rule, saying it is vague and ambiguous, unfairly targets for-profits, and will be expensive to taxpayers.

Likewise, attorneys general representing Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas wrote to raise concerns about the financial responsibility portion of the regulations, which includes the filing of certain types of lawsuits against colleges as "triggers" requiring actions that could get expensive. The automatic triggers would "violate due process and fundamental fairness" while failing to further the goal of ensuring institutions' financial and administrative responsibility, they said.

A group of attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia wrote in "strong support" of much of the rule. The group, which was led by Maura Healey, a Massachusetts Democrat, also called on the department to strengthen language around group discharges and arbitration agreements.

In addition, Tom Miller, a Democrat and Iowa's attorney general, submitted a comment that, while applauding the rule over all, raised a concern about a "potential chilling effect these rules could have on settlements with educational institutions." The problem, Miller said, is that AG investigations are an automatic triggering event under the rule, so colleges being investigated will have a "strong incentive" to resist settling to avoid the expensive outcome of a financial trigger.

Albany State, Darton State Eliminate Positions

Albany State University and Darton State University, two public institutions that Georgia officials are moving to merge, jointly announced plans Monday to eliminate faculty and staff positions and to eliminate "low-producing academic programs." The programs were not identified. The universities cited enrollment declines as the reason. The breakdown between faculty and staff positions was not released.

Albany State, a historically black college, which saw enrollment drop 25 percent from 2011 to 2015, is eliminating 80 positions, of which 48 are currently filled. Darton State, which saw a 10 percent decline during that period, is cutting 30 positions, none of which are filled.


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