Studies explore how black students 'respond to and resist' stereotypes

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A new study examines how black male students turn to campus leadership roles to combat stereotypes. A recent paper warns of a looming mental health crisis for resilient black students.

Survey on Competency-Based Education

Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization, recently surveyed faculty, staff and administrators at colleges that offer competency-based credentials. The group found wide agreement on what makes a strong competency-based program. Key elements include clear program competencies, meaningful assessments and learner-centered programs that prepare graduates to enter the workforce.

For example, the survey found that 94 percent of respondents said assessments must give "substantive, meaningful feedback." Respondents also said competency-based programs should be accessible to students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Turning those goals into reality isn't easy, however. The survey found, for example, that only 69 percent of respondents had fully adopted meaningful assessments.

Grand Jury: Penn State Fraternity Hazing Can't Be Linked to Suicide

A grand jury in Pennsylvania said Tuesday that no criminal charges should be brought against members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity in the suicide of a former member.

According to a lawsuit filed last month by the student's family against the university and the fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, the student was forced to consume "gross amounts" of alcohol and mouthwash, as well as made to swallow live goldfish, fight other pledges and stay awake for 89 hours. The student, Marquise Braham, committed suicide during spring break in 2014, a day before he was meant to return to the fraternity at Penn State's Altoona campus. The chapter was suspended for six years by the university following Braham's death.

The grand jury stated in its report that it found evidence that such hazing did occur -- including locking pledges in closets, excessive drinking, sleep deprivation and forced fighting -- but it was unable to link the behavior to the student's suicide. The jury referred to a suicide note in which the student stated he saw his suicide "coming since [he] was a child." The grand jury also noted that fraternity members refused to name specific members who were responsible for the hazing, making it difficult to sustain any criminal prosecutions. "While there is no question that hazing occurred during the pledging for the fraternity during both the fall 2013 semester and continued for a new pledge class up until Braham's death in March 2014, that hazing was a fraternitywide problem and not limited to just a few individuals," the report reads.

A spokesman for the student's family criticized the grand jury's decision Tuesday, saying in a statement that the members of the jury were "not given access to mental health experts and friends and family of Marquise, who know the truth about the cause of his psychological crises and its direct link to the brutal hazing."

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VP Quits After Missouri State Finds No Bias Against Him

A black vice president has resigned his position at Missouri State University less than a week after a university investigation found no validity to charges made by his supporters that he was being mistreated. Supporters of Kenneth D. Coopwood Sr., vice president of diversity and inclusion, have argued in a petition and elsewhere that he and his office receive inadequate support, especially compared to divisions led by white people. On Thursday, the university announced that an investigation found no evidence to back these charges.

On Monday, Coopwood announced he was leaving. The university released this statement from him: "I agreed to the investigation and actively participated in it. I think that the investigative team took the matter seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. While I accept the investigation and its findings, I have decided it would be best for me to pursue other professional opportunities."

MLA plans literary protest against new campus carry law in Texas

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Literature and language professors will use the tools of their trade to protest a new Texas law.

For-Profit Group's Entreaty to John King

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities on Monday wrote to John King, the acting U.S. secretary of education, to request a "constructive collaboration" between the for-profit sector and the department during the Obama administration's final year. Steve Gunderson, the group's president and CEO, asked King to work with for-profits in the run-up to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is the law that governs federal financial aid.

"A new year, and new leadership at the department, brings opportunities for new beginnings. My hope is that together we can begin an era of constructive collaboration that never forgets our common mission in serving the students enrolled in our sector's schools. Unfortunately, the past six years have been marked by an era of ideological confrontation where nobody wins -- especially the students," Gunderson wrote.

In the letter Gunderson pointed to steep enrollment declines many for-profits have experienced in recent years, noting that the sector enrolled 562,000 fewer students in 2014 than it did four years earlier. However, he also said for-profits issued more credentials in 2014 than they did during the height of the recession. And Gunderson criticized the department for its aggressive scrutiny of for-profits.

"As much as I am a fan of all sectors of higher education, I believe that no sector could survive the level of investigations and attacks that have been directed to our schools in recent years," he wrote.

Student Veterans Group Names New Leader

Student Veterans of America on Monday announced that Jared Lyon is the nonprofit group's new president and CEO. Lyon had been SVA's acting CEO since October. He replaced D. Wayne Robinson, who stepped down last year.

Lyon is a former U.S. Navy submariner and diver. He also is a former student veteran, having earned degrees from Syracuse University and Florida State University. Prior to arriving at SVA, Lyon worked at Syracuse's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

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Mount Holyoke President Chosen to Lead AAC&U

Lynn Pasquerella (right), a philosopher who started her academic career at a community college and had prominent leadership roles at public and private colleges alike, has been named president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Pasquerella, who will replace Carol Geary Schneider at AAC&U on July 1, is president of Mount Holyoke College, in Massachusetts. She previously was provost of the University of Hartford and graduate dean and a longtime professor of philosophy at the University of Rhode Island. She is also host of the Academic Minute, a podcast series featured on Inside Higher Ed.

The association advocates for undergraduate liberal education at its 1,350 member institutions and across higher education.

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Campuses should provide mental health orientation sessions (essay)

Student Mental Health

Mental illness exists on any type of campus -- urban or rural, public or independent, prestigious or relatively unknown. Students of all class years, ethnicities, majors and socioeconomic backgrounds are susceptible. Thus, it is now time for every one of our colleges and universities to implement orientation seminars dedicated to educating new students about the campus resources and support systems available with regard to mental health. This effort can be particularly important in preventing campus suicides, now the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recently, the state of Texas has made strides in this area. As a result of a bill passed this past June, Texas now by law “requires universities to show students a live presentation or video with information about mental health and suicide as part of their orientation.” But the concept of dealing with mental health within the collegiate setting is nothing new -- so why haven’t such orientation seminars been required all along?

Historically, mental health resources were not always well received. As one historian notes, “The stigma associated with admitting mental health problems, together with tight budgets and the wish to focus only on academics, has often constrained … the development of services.” Still, the historian explains, by the mid-20th century, half of colleges and universities had mental health-related programs on campus. Why, more than 60 years later, are we not giving these resources the full credit they deserve by emphasizing their benefits during the orientation period?

It should be noted that campus health programs came about even earlier than the 1950s. Princeton University is credited with having established the first on-campus resource in 1910 -- the service was formed to tackle the issue of strong students withdrawing from the university “because of emotional and personality issues.” Harvard University and Yale University both hired campus psychiatrists in 1925, and other institutions had done so even earlier. The mental hygiene movement, which one scholar referred to as “a movement whose aim is the promotion and preservation of mental health,” was one factor connected to the establishment of such resources at the time.

Unfortunately, today’s students are still abandoning higher education for reasons similar to those who left Princeton over a century ago. In 2012, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released results from a survey of 765 college students experiencing a mental health condition, noting that 64 percent of respondents left college as a result of their condition. The survey findings indicate that half of the students who left an institution “did not access mental health services and support,” later noting that 24 percent of respondents cited a lack of information as one reason that they did not take advantage of such resources. In general, those students who left college cited “connecting with mental health providers earlier” as one factor that may have prevented them from withdrawing.

What’s more, over the years, students’ needs for mental health care have become more pressing. For instance, a 1998 paper found that the concerns of contemporary college students “include both the normal college student problems … as well as the more severe problems, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, sexual assault and personality disorders.”

All of the above findings underscore the need for exposure to mental health-related services upon students’ arrival to campus. NAMI, too, advocates for orientation and campus tours to include information about mental health resources.

First-year orientation programming often includes sessions on alcohol use and abuse, sexual violence, and other topics pertaining to student health and lifestyles. In examining future programming, college administrators should make every effort to include a seminar detailing the resources that are available to those battling depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. It is still important to consider the issue of stigma; as the NAMI report notes, “Stigma remains the No. 1 barrier to students seeking help.” Thus, a key benefit of making such seminars required for all first-years is that it eliminates any implication that any one student is personally facing a specific issue.

At such orientations, students can have the opportunity to practice asking each other difficult questions, such as, “Do you have thoughts of harming yourself?” They will learn how to delicately decipher why a friend seems upset and engage in sample conversations with peers. They can watch simulations that demonstrate how to respond to a friend who appears to be in distress.

These are all the same tactics that the University of Pennsylvania’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors incorporate into their own training sessions. CAPS offers free workshops throughout each semester, during which students, faculty members and staff members have the opportunity to gain awareness of the university’s many resources designed to support individuals. Likewise, this type of workshop demonstrates how to be an ally for a peer suffering from mental illness. Ensuring students’ mandatory attendance to such a workshop during orientation will pave the way for a more supportive campus community as a whole.

By addressing mental health during the orientation period, students will begin their college careers with knowledge of the various challenges they or their peers may face at the present moment or at some point throughout their college career. With anxiety, depression, relationship problems and thoughts of suicide among the most common mental health concerns plaguing college students, it is imperative that our nation’s colleges and universities address this serious issue.

Sarah Lyon is a master’s candidate in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2013 graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Me.

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Spending by CC of San Francisco Officials Questioned

Administrators at City College of San Francisco, where cuts to academic programs remain controversial, have been spending significant sums on travel and other expenses without documentation about the purpose of such spending, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. For example, records obtained by the newspaper show that the college paid for travel by President Virginia Parras to China, Taiwan and Vietnam without required records about the purpose of the trip. College officials said the trip was to recruit foreign students but couldn't say whether any enrolled as a result. College officials also couldn't provide information on why they paid for spending by Parras at Best Buy ($1,759 and $1,377) and at Amazon Marketplace ($735).

Rafael Mandelman, president of the City College Board of Trustees, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the district started an investigation after the newspaper started looking into the issue. The expenses may "be perfectly explainable," he said, but the lack of appropriate documentation pointed to continuing problems that need fixing with regard to "internal fiscal controls."


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