administrators

Morehouse Criticized for Housing Requirement

Morehouse College is facing criticism over its recent decision to require students to live on campus for at least three years. The change would require sophomores and juniors to pay the historically black college an additional $13,000 in mandatory room and board fees, in addition to the $26,700 the students already pay per year in tuition. An online petition is calling for the college's president, John Wilson, to be fired. A spokeswoman for the college told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the change was not related to finances but was an attempt to encourage more student interaction, which she said is critical to the "Morehouse mystique."

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Bizarre Flash Mob Attack on Temple U Students

Many Temple University students were unnerved and some were attacked Friday when a flash mob-style group of youths gathered near the campus, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. More than 150 people gathered, and some of them, for no known reason, attacked Temple students. Four of the participants -- aged 14 to 17 -- were arrested. At one point about 20 youths attacked three people, two of them Temple students, who were kicked and punched repeatedly.

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Concern on Writing Instructor Jobs at Ohio State U

Faculty members in English at Ohio State University say 18 non-tenure-track lecturer jobs have been saved, at least for this year. The university maintains that their jobs were never at risk. Faculty members said earlier this week that Ohio State had been struggling to come up with approximately $500,000 to fulfill the 18 contracts for first-year writing instructors, which extend through summer. They organized against midyear cuts on social media and in a stock letter to Bruce McPheron, provost. Some traced the funding issue to the university’s conversion from quarters to semesters, but were unsure why it became an urgent problem now, several years after the change and well into the academic year.

Faculty members said they were told Monday that their contracts would be honored, but the university said it was always its intention to fulfill them and attributed concerns to miscommunication. Benjamin Johnson, university spokesman, said via email that Ohio State "values the role that our lecturers and other associated faculty play in supporting and furthering our overall educational mission" and that the College of Arts and Sciences "will be working with the Department of English to address these budget challenges. We acknowledge the concerns expressed regarding the associated [faculty] and regret any confusion."

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New America Paper on Predictive Analytics

New America today released a paper that analyzes the use of data to predict student success, so-called predictive analytics. The practice, which is spreading rapidly, allows colleges to better intervene when students struggle, helping them chart a more direct line to graduation and better enabling the use of customized digital learning tools.

However, the use of predictive analytics also comes with risks, the think tank warned, including privacy concerns and a heightened possibility of discrimination, such as by profiling and discouraging capable students.

“There are a number of examples of colleges using predictive data to make inroads in student success or operational functions. But that doesn’t mean we can or should turn a blind eye to the possibility that using this technology can go badly,” Manuela Ekowo, policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program and the report's co-author, said in a written statement.

Layoffs at Wright State, U Minnesota at Duluth

Wright State University has announced the elimination of 23 positions, including those of six faculty members, The Dayton Daily News reported. The faculty members are instructors on one-year contracts. The university has been making budget cuts to deal with sharp declines in its reserve fund, which dropped from $100 million in 2012 to $13 million as of June 30, and is expected to be depleted by the end of the year.

Also last week, the University of Minnesota at Duluth announced 40 layoffs -- all of non-tenure-track faculty members, The Duluth News-Tribune reported. Declining enrollment has led to budget shortfalls necessitating the layoffs, officials said.

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University of Maine sets off firestorm with graduate center and mergers

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Many professors say programs are being combined without enough attention to academic issues and the faculty role.

Professors Criticize Gen Ed Changes at Concord U

Faculty members at Concord University, in West Virginia, voted no confidence in Vice President Peter Viscusi Thursday, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Professors are angry about the way general-education requirements were substantially reduced. They say that the administration tried to make the changes without any faculty review, and that when the faculty were permitted to review proposed changes, professors' views were ignored. The university's board chair said the board backs the administration.

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3 Lindenwood Athletes Charged in Rape

Three Lindenwood University men's basketball players have been charged in a rape and suspended from the team, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Authorities say that one of the basketball players was having consensual sex with a woman when, without her consent, he invited two others to start having sex with her.

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Several universities cancel appearances for conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos

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Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos is touring college campuses across America, and some universities have shut him out because of his rhetoric against groups too numerous to list.

The need to be culturally aware when advising students (essay)

As an adviser to college-age students, it could be easy for me to say “major in what you love” and be done. Research shows that employers often recruit for transferrable skills, and there is no direct correlation between one’s major and career. In fact, Forbes magazine has presented research findings indicating that only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major.

The story I most like to tell is of a former student who studied religion and went on to immediately work for a National Basketball Association team in marketing and sales. However, I then recall one of my most challenging advising situations with an Asian-American student whose passion was English, but her parents held to the idea of a “practical” major that would assure her employability. In that situation, an English major alone would not be the option for her -- she could never satisfy cultural values surrounding interdependence and filial piety and be content with following her passion. This situation resolved itself with a compromise: she double majored in English and finance.

Google the phrase “Does your major matter?” and you will find that most articles out there succinctly state, “Nope, doesn’t matter.” Yet, sometimes, it does. To be better advisers, we need to consider the cultural baggage a student brings to a conversation when discussing their major.

We should not presume that factual arguments surrounding employability, regardless of major, will suffice in discussions with parents and other family members. That can appear ethnocentric, as it fails to consider cultural values and norms that are outside American ideologies of independence. If we continually advise without understanding diverse students’ practical concerns, while appreciating their distinct cultural value systems, we inadvertently project the idea that independence is the norm and interdependence is an erroneous way of thinking. In short, we add to the already pre-existing dissonance that a student is bringing to the academic discussion.

For example, one student whom I queried recalls focusing on biology and medicine because she wanted to make her parents happy. While a discussion with an adviser about alternate options would have been fruitful, advisers who merely espouse majoring in one’s own personal interest could have devalued the real, interdependent factors at play in her decision-making process. Although some experts such as Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci may argue that decisions made based on one’s own interests may be less depleting than those based on external factors like family wishes, a confounding variable must be considered: If the intrinsic beliefs of interdependence are held strongly, how does a college-age student balance that conflict?

When I asked a Korean international student about her major, she said that had her parents not been happy with her major, she would not have been happy herself. A Nigerian-American student said to me, “The family that helped you get to a point where you could make a choice between what you love and what pays better: When it comes time to choose, how could you not choose them? [It] is no longer a choice between two careers but a choice between loves -- the love for your family and for your career. It also becomes a choice between two futures -- one where you are happy and your family miserable, or vice versa. That is when you look at how they helped you get to where you have this choice, and you realize that there is really no choice.”

Happiness in pursuit of one’s own interest may then sacrifice happiness in areas of interdependence. The question for advisers is how our own cultural values influence our advising and potentially devalue the cultural history a student brings into our office.

As culturally competent advisers, we need to allow students the space to share their employability concerns, ask the questions of where their concerns come from and engage in conversation about how feasible it is for them to minimize family conflict (if it is incongruent to their well-being) while pursuing a passion. It is our responsibility to ferret out reasons why a student may not readily adopt the idea that majoring in a passion is a path to consider -- and that it may not necessarily be the “right” and “only” path a student can and should take.

As we advise, it is also important to consider acculturation in discussions with students from diverse backgrounds. For Asian-Americans, studies have shown that differences in acculturation levels between parents and young adults can lead to an increased likelihood of family conflict. But they have also highlighted the importance of family social support in mitigating psychological and bicultural stress.

In addition, many studies continue to indicate differences between white American college students and those from ethnic minority groups. Thus, when we as advisers only advocate following one’s passion, we should ask of ourselves if we are microaggressors, telling students that is the only right way to engage in education. This generation of college students will probably be the first that does not outstrip their parents in earnings. Therefore, a practical major and earnings potential are a real and true concern for our student population.

That is not to say, however, that we, as seasoned advisers, should not continue to encourage students to major in their areas of interest. Indeed, our goals are to help students discover what they enjoy and want to engage with more deeply, and to encourage them to consider education as part of their engagement in developing their identities. Surely, we can all easily identify a vast number of students who have majored in what one may consider an “impractical” major and gone on to make more money than we, with our doctorates, may ever see.

But given the vastly different backgrounds of the students whom we advise, to be an effective adviser, to connect and encourage, we must also be cognizant that our roles will also entail tactful discussions that go beyond merely saying, “Do what you love, and it will all work out.”

June Y. Chu is dean of Pierson College at Yale University.

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