Students at Howard University took to Twitter Wednesday in a campaign to draw attention to complaints about student services and facilities at the institution. Under the hashtag #TakeBackHU, students wrote about long lines and poor service in the financial aid office, a lack of air conditioning in many buildings, poor wireless service, and much more. Among the comments: “How do the professors expect us to come up with [$]300-400 for textbooks in 2 days and we can't even get financial aid …” and “Too many times will one office send you to a completely different department just to be sent back to the original one.” Many comments mix the students' frustrations with expressions of pride in the university and its role as a historically black university. Many alumni wrote that they made similar complaints years ago.
Wayne A. I. Frederick, the president, himself wrote on Twitter Wednesday evening: “My team & I are working diligently towards a comprehensive communication & resolve for your concerns. Your voices are heard and appreciated.”
Submitted by Paul Fain on September 3, 2015 - 3:00am
Sally Stroup will step down as executive vice president for government relations and legal counsel for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), which is the for-profit industry's primary trade group. A spokesman for APSCU confirmed the group was "working on an appropriate transition" for the position.
Stroup is a veteran of higher education policy, having served in the U.S. Department of Education during the George W. Bush administration. She also spent 14 years on Capitol Hill, including an influential stint for the U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Workforce Committee in the 1990s. Between those chapters in her career, she worked for the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix.
APSCU is facing many of the same challenges as the sector it represents. Most of the publicly held chains have left the association during the last year. The group last month announced a restructuring, including a name change and return to focusing on its career-school roots.
University of Iowa faculty members appear to be quite skeptical of Bruce Harreld, a businessman who made it to the finalist round of the school's presidential search. An American Association of University Professors survey released Wednesday found that just 3 percent of surveyed faculty found him qualified to be Iowa's next president.
At least 90 percent of surveyed faculty members believe the other finalists -- including Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College; Michael Bernstein, provost of Tulane University; and Joseph Steinmetz, provost at Ohio State University -- are equipped to be Iowa's president.
Harreld, a former IBM executive, visited campus on Tuesday. Iowa's Board of Regents is expected to make a final decision in the search on Thursday.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University has become the second Christian college to quit the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities because two of that group's members have changed their policies to allow for the hiring of gay faculty members who are married or who are celibate. A statement from Oklahoma Wesleyan's president, Everett Piper, said: “Oklahoma Wesleyan has determined it is not in the university’s best interest to continue to affiliate with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU’s ambivalence in deciding the status of two member institutions that have advised CCCU they will permit same-sex couples to be employed as faculty members indicates to us that it is time for our university to move in a different direction. We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance to Christian colleges. The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.”
Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College in July announced policies that would permit the hiring of some gay faculty members, and that decision has upset many other members of the CCCU. Union University, in Tennessee, last month announced it was leaving the CCCU as a result of its failure to kick out Eastern Mennonite and Goshen.
More than 200 university presidents and chancellors on Monday urged the Obama administration to incorporate voluntary, institution-submitted data on student completion rates into its forthcoming consumer information tool.
The university leaders said in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan that federal graduation rates -- which currently capture only first-time, full-time students -- are far too incomplete and misrepresent how well colleges perform. More than half of bachelor’s degree recipients attend more than one institution before graduating, and therefore aren’t counted in the federal data.
The letter asks the administration to include more complete graduation rates using the Student Achievement Measure, which is run by a coalition of college groups and tracks a far greater swath of students, including transfer and part-time students.
The Education Department is currently developing a new consumer information tool it plans to release in the coming weeks in lieu of the controversial college ratings system it had originally proposed.
Nearly a year after announcing controversial changes to faculty and staff health care benefits, including the introduction of coinsurance and an out-of-pocket deductible, Harvard University backtracked somewhat. Provost Alan M. Garber said in an email to faculty and staff that a new plan without deductibles and coinsurance is now available to nonunionized professors and staff members. The new, alternative point-of-service plan will have a higher premium but no deductible or coinsurance for in-network care -- hopefully appealing to those seeking predictable insurance costs, Garber wrote.
Harvard also removed deductibles and coinsurance for diagnostics labs and X-rays, which some faculty members objected to last year as barriers to seeking preventive care. Addressing concerns that the health care changes would disproportionately affect those at the lower end of the employee pay scale, the university is also shifting salary tiers upward -- meaning that employees who make less than $75,000 will be part of the lowest tier, up from $70,000, and eligible for lower premiums.
“The announcement of changes to be introduced with Harvard’s 2015 health plans stimulated considerable discussion and concern within the university community,” Garber said. “We have heard the views of many members of our community in open forums, online, and in a number of other informal meetings with individuals and groups. We deeply value the thoughtful comments and suggestions that we received.” Still, Garber said that health insurance premium rates for everyone will increase year over year, due to the rising cost of care.
A recent scandal about the renovation of a presidential residence fits into a long-standing pattern. Looking back just a decade or so suggests that a lot of presidents seem unable to avoid the renovation blues. In the hope of breaking the chain, here are some rules to consider.
Rule #1: Don’t call the place where you live a mansion. Call it a house. Or maybe a residence (but don’t call it a “pad” or the kids will rate you even more of a fossil than they do now).
Rule #2: If you think renovations or redecorating are needed, don’t make the decision yourself. Formally ask someone (in an email on your university account) to assess the status of the residence for entertaining. Then have them deliver their report to the Board of Trustees. Take it to the trustees even if renovations are to be paid from donor accounts that would normally only need to be approved by a foundation board or similar.
Read this sentence slowly: you need to avoid even the appearance of appearing to avoid having the issue appear in public.
And remember, the source of funds doesn’t matter when the issue is principle. From the perspective of propriety, monies from private donors are no different from those from public sources or from tuition (look up the word “fungible” in the dictionary).
Rule #3: Have the report handed out during the board session so you get it the same time as others. You won’t have to pretend to look surprised if you really are.
Rule #4: If the decision is made to go ahead and develop a renovation plan, publicly state that you want the design and furnishings to be merely pleasant and functional; you wish to avoid elegant. For example, say that you want the aesthetics to slot in between a Holiday Inn and a Something by Hilton (but not an actual Hilton).
Rule #5: Do not allow any renovations of the private area except for basic maintenance (plumbing, electrical). An exception might be made if you plan to entertain in your bedroom, but I wouldn’t recommend that for other reasons. If you want the area repainted, pay for it yourself.
Rule #6: Specify that the project’s interior designer should report through a CPA -- preferably one who still wears a green eyeshade and thinks cell phones are frivolous.
Rule #7: Use scenarios as a consciousness-raising tool. Imagine you’re sitting at dinner with the parents of one of your students. The husband explains that he’s been laid off as a machinist and she’s working overtime as a nurse. Tuition has driven them to the verge of bankruptcy and they’re terrified about what student loans will mean to their daughter’s life. After hearing this, you explain why you need a free in-law suite in your presidential mansion house.
Also, get someone to make a screen saver for your computer that shows average student debt as a percentage of income in the first 10 years after graduation. Memorize it.
Rule #8: Don’t hire your spouse to do anything. Maybe she’s a great event planner or he’s a wonderful chef. Too bad. Just say no. This doesn’t apply to your spouse getting a faculty position, but it probably should.
Rule #9: Living in university housing is a perk, not a license to have someone else pick up all of your daily expenses. Keep separate accounts for your own food and pay for your own carryout. If you think this latter couldn’t possibly be an issue, ask Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu.
Rule #10: When thinking of objets that might be placed here and there to soothe the instincts of designer types, make sure they’re sturdy. Look at each one and ask yourself, would this survive the English Department coming over for a full two-hour cocktail party? And remember, no olive jars unless they’re from Costco.
Rule #11: Some board members and/or their spouses will probably pressure you to do what’s right for the world of aesthetics -- “It’s public space! It’s art!” To steel yourself against these arguments, get a framed print of Grant Wood’s American Gothic and put it in your office (pay for it yourself). Whenever you’re tempted to splurge, go over to the painting, look those people in the eye and ask yourself: What would they do?
If you really want art, buy it yourself. You can afford it.
Rule #12: Always repeat the mantra of the three Rs to yourself: Rationalization is the Road to Ruin. Yeah, you work hard from dawn to dusk. But so do a lot of other people for far less money. Spend a day shadowing an adjunct, or a university cop, or a student counselor, or an untenured faculty member, then think how much more important your contribution really is.
Also in the rationalization category is the idea that you need to look rich to get the rich to give you money. This warped logic is how people justify the $1,000 suit or the inlaid ivory furniture. The “you have to impress the donors with your elegance” concept isn’t fact, it’s just an extreme form of self-serving rationalization.
Rule #13: Remember that you're not as important as you think you are. If you disappear tomorrow, the place will maybe stumble for a few weeks, but it'll be fine. There’s no example of a university falling apart just because a president left.
And don’t make your lifestyle standard the same as a corporate CEO's, even if you’ve got a bunch of those on your board.
If a line of CEOs started jumping off a cliff, would you do it, too?
Rule #14: Remember that hubris and an edifice complex go together more often than not.
A recent case worthy of attention is that of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who started in politics preaching equality and humility but who recently built himself a $650 million or so palace on the simple theory that “I’m worth it.” People in Turkey now refer to him as “the palace.” For someone who looked like he was going to be a major figure in history, Erdogan has made a quick trip from respect to ridicule.
Rule #15: Stop to reflect about your own role in history.
Yes, it’s true that the total compensation of large company CEOs is on the order of about 30 to 200 times what the average worker in their business makes. And it’s also true that your job is likely even more demanding -- not only because the size and complexity is comparable but also because CEOs don’t have to entertain at their home every night. Finally, the public nature of your position and the fact that you don’t really control your most important employees (darn faculty!) means your continued employment is at much higher risk.
But universities aren’t about making money, they’re about enlightening individual lives, creating better people whose work and lives will in turn benefit all of society.
Your role isn’t to follow others. On the contrary, you should consistently strive to set a standard.
When you look at it from this perspective, three or four times the total compensation (vs. average faculty) is quite enough and living in merely pleasant surroundings should bring satisfaction.
Garrison Walters is a retired higher education bureaucrat. His most recent publication is a novel, Killing Justice.