administrators

How senior administrators can effectively create and manage change (essay)

Tom Rocklin identifies three conditions for successfully leading change on your campus.

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International students need different education programs on sexual assault and other issues (essay)

Sexual assault on college campuses continues to be a major focus of news media and to demand serious attention from campus administrators. In spite of, or perhaps due to, recent efforts by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to cut back on the government’s Title IX oversight and enforcement, many campuses are recommitting themselves to following the best practices for protecting against and dealing with sexual assaults.

Regardless of any changes in oversight, we all know sexual assault is a pervasive problem on college campuses. We’ve read the stories, we’ve seen the statistics. Campus administrators generally agree that a college or university should continue to serve a distinct role as both an active educator and as a reactive support system on issues ranging from sexual health and behavior to assault and misconduct.

While institutions offer a variety of resources and support, one-size-fits all, blanket approaches intended to reach all students may very well miss a vulnerable population on the campus: international students. They come to our campuses from all around the globe looking to seize the rich and rewarding opportunities that our higher education system provides. In turn, they bring with them a cultural diversity that can be seen and felt across the institution. And when it comes to sexual education, international students have distinct needs that programs designed for their domestic peers don’t typically address.

Colleges and universities must take appropriate steps to educate, support and protect those students, taking into account varying levels of sexual education as well as cultural and social norms that may differ greatly in students’ home countries. A lack of understanding of what domestic students consider to be social norms and sexual cues -- like “no means no” -- can lead to confusing or awkward situations. Or worse, those misunderstandings can make international students vulnerable to victimization.

As colleges develop sexual health resources and support programs, they must consider who on campus is best equipped to lead those efforts for international students. Even though many campuses have established specific positions and sometimes entire departments to prevent and respond to sexual violence, those officials aren’t necessarily trained in the nuances of international student experiences and may overlook crucial elements in discussing sexual education with this distinct population. We would argue that a better and more comprehensive approach brings together a variety of campus departments -- including the international students office, the violence prevention office, campus police and the mental health and counseling center -- to develop and deliver programming that doesn’t make assumptions of prior knowledge and establishes a strong foundation of understanding.

It’s not enough to simply hand international students a pamphlet or give them a 15-minute safe sex lecture. In talking about sex with international students, not only will institutional administrators be talking about topics the student has potentially never discussed, but there are also language and cultural barriers to overcome. A student might not know the proper English term for a vagina or penis, or that slang like “Netflix and chill” is a euphemism for sex. Programs must address topics that may be considered common knowledge among domestic students, such as the definition of sexual assault and what a culture of disclosure means.

Further, international students may not have a strong understanding of the laws and rights that protect them or those that make them potentially vulnerable. For example, a finding of misconduct can result in their being dismissed from the campus or removed from certain classes, which can threaten their visa status. Those are pieces of assumed knowledge among domestic students, but if not explained to international students, it can lead to potentially dangerous situations and result in an increased risk of mental health issues. It can also significantly hinder student retention and persistence.

A required program at Fraser International College at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, incorporates sexual education into the transition curriculum for all new international students. The material is embedded in a course that lasts a semester and covers everything students need to know to get used to their new lives. The sexual education portion covers consent and healthy communication, sexual health and gender orientation, and the cultural and societal norms around sex.

With each topic, the program starts with ensuring that all students have a common understanding and realize the importance of communication around such issues. The key is making students feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Students are able to submit questions anonymously and discuss the answers together, which helps to build a safe community through peer support. It’s important to open up a dialogue and demonstrate there is a wide range of views, from conservative to more liberal, about sex and to ultimately help students navigate those views so they can make safe and healthy decisions.

In addition, the university takes great care to let students know that they can ask questions throughout their academic program. It actively recruits instructors who teach other subjects, like accounting or media studies, to facilitate sexual education workshops and classes. Having a familiar face opening the conversation up about sex, relationships and identity builds a rapport between instructors and students and reinforces a culture of disclosure. Each interaction helps open the door a little wider so students know they do not have to approach uncomfortable, serious or dangerous situations alone.

Creating a safe campus experience for all students is a major priority for colleges and universities. Campuses that start to recognize and embrace the power of creating dialogues through sexual education will be helping protect vulnerable populations like international students while simultaneously making their campus a safer and more positive environment for all students.

Sharla Reid is the academic director at Fraser International College, a partnership between Simon Fraser University and Navitas, a global provider of university pathway programs for international students. Jill Dunlap is the director for equity, inclusion and violence prevention at NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Prior to joining NASPA, Jill was director of the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus advocacy, resources and education program.

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Administrators and sports experts weigh in on how many online courses college athletes should take

Iowa imposed limit on distance education by its athletes, only to back away. Does online ed help athletes learn, or just make it easier for them to miss classes?

Universities mull creation of an IT accessibility group to review vendor products

As lawsuits mount over access to learning technologies for people with disabilities, universities consider banding together to share accessibility reviews of vendor products.

New Blackboard tool helps grades participation in online discussions

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, Blackboard plans to introduce a new feature in its learning management system later this year to help instructors grade students’ participation in online class discussions. The feature, called the “discussion forum recommended grade,” will use computer algorithms to analyze students’ posts in class discussion forums.

California Community Colleges to create statewide​, online-only college

According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, 2.5 million Californians have attended college but don’t have a degree -- a problem the state’s two-year system is trying to help solve with a new statewide, online-only college.

Embracing unconstrained time in online courses

Christopher Haynes argues that instructors teaching online courses should embrace unanticipated and unconstrained time -- something he’s learned a lot about from his toddler.

Berklee Pledges to Change Culture on Harassment

Berklee College of Music has terminated 11 faculty members in the past 13 years for sexual misconduct, President Roger Brown said Monday at a packed forum, The Boston Globe reported. Brown’s disclosure followed a prior Globe report describing a culture of harassment on campus, and a campus march against harassment earlier in the day. Brown had planned to deliver an annual address but scrapped those plans to address concerns about sexual misconduct in a speech at Berklee’s main concert hall. He apologized for past wrongs and pledged more transparency surrounding campus dealings with harassment and assault claims, according to the Globe. “It’s unacceptable,” Brown said of reports of students being groped or harassed by professors who were able to leave quietly and teach elsewhere. “It breaks my heart. It goes against everything that makes me want to be here in the first place.” Promising to “root out” abusive behavior, Brown pledged zero tolerance and announced the creation of a working group on the issue and the expansion of diversity office hours to enable reports of harassment.

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College administrators: no easy answers for controversial speakers

Administrators offer advice on dealing with controversial speakers -- white nationalist Richard Spencer, conservative rabble-rousers like Milo Yiannopoulos and others.

New presidents or provosts: Chattanooga Lincoln Mary Baldwin Pacific Union Portland SUNY ESF UBC Yosemite

  • Brenda A. Allen, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Winston-Salem State University, in North Carolina, has been appointed president of Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania.

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