Faculty members of the main undergraduate college at Yeshiva University have voted no confidence in President Richard Joel, The Jewish Week reported. Yeshiva University has been facing severe financial problems. Faculty leaders say that cuts are being imposed that have a direct impact on the curriculum, and that a lack of information about which positions will be eliminated makes it difficult to plan. The university's board issued a statement affirming support of Joel and noting that "the Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for ensuring the university is able to move forward with excellence."
Students at Merced College in California are protesting the decision of the board not to renew the appointment of Everett Lovelace as dean of student services, The Merced Sun-Star reported. College leaders will not comment on why Lovelace was not renewed, but students say they saw him as their advocate, and some students have questioned whether he is being treated unfairly because he is black.
A group of more than 20 faculty members from around the country have formed a new coalition to help college athletes become recognized as employees. According to its Web site, the College Athletes Rights & Empowerment Faculty Coalition will partner with players' unions and other associations fighting for stronger protections for college athletes, educate legislators about the issue, and oppose efforts "which seek to allow college sport entities to be 'reformed' in ways that do not result in justice and fairness for athletes whose labor generates revenue for their institutions." Their work will focus on athletes involved in men's basketball and football.
The coalition includes sports management, economics and law professors from more than a dozen colleges; two faculty members from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is facing lawsuits from athletes who say being steered toward fraudulent "paper classes" there robbed them of an education; and three faculty members from institutions in Michigan, which recently passed a law barring college athletes from unionizing.
This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.
Instead of practicing on Thursday, University of Oklahoma football players held a silent demonstration protesting the behavior of an Oklahoma fraternity that was caught on video using racist slurs while singing about not allowing black members to join the fraternity. In a statement, the football players said the video is a symptom of "a larger disease," and called on the university to investigate and "severely discipline" responsible members of the chapter's executive board. Two students who were seen leading the chant have already been expelled.
"The chant was not invented by the two that led it, but taught to underclassmen by people of higher authority," the players stated. "As a team, we have come to a consensus that, in any organization, the leadership is responsible for the culture created, and in this case, encouraged.”
In an apology released by his father earlier this week, one of the expelled SAE members stated that the racist song "was taught to us."
The football players' statement, released on Twitter by the team's quarterback, is one of several public responses athletes have made to the video this week. A football recruit who had committed to play at Oklahoma on Monday tweeted that he was withdrawing his commitment, and a current linebacker for Oklahoma, Eric Striker, sent a video through Snapchat furiously calling out members of SAE and other fraternities who cheer on black players when they’re on the field, only to sing racist songs behind their backs. “Same motherfuckers that talk about racism doesn’t exist are the same motherfuckers shaking our hands, giving us hugs, telling us how you really love us,” Striker said. “Fuck you phony-ass, fraud-ass bitches.”
In their statement Thursday, the players thanked the team's coaching staff for "supporting each and every action we have taken, even when these actions may have seemed extreme."
Faculty members at Northwestern Michigan College voted 65 to 16 to form a union affiliated with the National Education Association, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. The new bargaining unit includes 90 full-time and part-time faculty members who are not supervisors. The college said in a statement that it “will begin negotiations with the [union] for an agreement that will cover wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.”
Title IX and gender-based compliance. Alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Mental health. Student privacy. First Amendment expression. Threats to campus safety.
These tricky higher education hot topics are a starter list of the issues that are perplexing campuses across the country and are slated to be discussed at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting. A common denominator among these issues and plenty of others is that they fall to student affairs professionals to address.
But my colleagues and I in NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education are more than just fixers during a crisis. Higher education must broaden the discussion of student affairs to include strengths and not just potential vulnerabilities.
NASPA released a survey last year of more than 860 chief student affairs officers and found that 12 percent of their time is spent addressing crises, which means 88 percent of their time is spent on noncrisis work. Unfortunately, most boards, members of the campus community and even the media only ask questions of and hear from student affairs leaders when the institution faces a crisis or they feel the institution is vulnerable.
With a portfolio that includes student learning and success; campus culture; health, wellness and safety; compliance and regulatory responsibilities; and leadership development, the chief student affairs officer and the student affairs team must be a vital resource for all members of the institution as they plan and formalize the vision, goals and strategic direction of the institution.
Student affairs responsibilities exist across campus and the greatest benefit of our efforts can occur if we are allowed to break through self-imposed silos and partner creatively.
Here are a few examples of this type of creativity.
The University of South Florida launched a program to increase the overall student retention rate by 15 percent. Critical to the program are strategies such as expanded orientation, required housing for freshmen and intentional advising, tutoring and mentoring to support those students who are at risk for attrition. Students deemed most at risk are offered mentoring. The Office of New Student Connections was created to coordinate mentoring, coaching, online networking and programs to involve freshmen and transfers in campus life.
Elon University has built on the strengths shared by many campus leadership programs, which are often housed in student affairs, to increase leadership skills and grow core interpersonal competencies among students. Elon’s Center for Leadership oversees the LEAD program, which bridges the important topics of leadership and civic engagement. Elon is joined by many institutions, including University of Miami and Florida State University, in partnering student affairs professionals with faculty to create meaningful civic engagement experiences for students in the community, region and abroad. These experiences provide students with tools for self-examination and growth, and culminate in an opportunity for students to apply learned leadership skills in the community.
Employers have clearly articulated that they want their employees to have specific, real-world skills, and institutions like the University of South Carolina are providing leadership and organizational behavior training for students who qualify for work-study employment. Students earn money to help pay the bills, get job experience and are introduced to information and opportunities that increase their work-ready competencies. These experiences will help them land jobs and succeed in their chosen careers.
The City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) takes a holistic look at the needs of its students by providing academic, student affairs and financial support to encourage full-time enrollment for all students, and specifically for those who are Pell Grant eligible. ASAP’s efforts include special seminars and block-scheduled classes, new approaches to developmental education, enhanced advising and career services, MetroCards for use on public transportation, and use of textbooks. To date, the program has increased semester-to-semester retention, average number of credits earned over two years and proportion of students who earned an associate’s degree in two years.
Student affairs work is growing in complexity and we are implementing best practices for delivering practical, real-life experiences to students that will help them grow and refine their leadership skills. Our staff members are partnering with faculty colleagues to position our students to graduate with interpersonal and intercultural skills. And we provide opportunities for engagement where student learning occurs best -- across campus in an environment that connects classroom and cocurricular learning. We’ve heard complaints about the skills gaps of our graduates and are focused on preparing our current students to be successful in their first and their most impactful jobs.
We want to present our work and be held accountable for what we do. Student affairs officers should be encouraged to share their metrics and examples of student engagement and success. Our student affairs colleagues are utilizing increasingly sophisticated tools to collect and share data and can offer concrete examples of how they contribute to the strategic initiatives of the institution.
We understand the pressure our leaders face to offer up compelling student outcomes, job placement rates and other indicators of degree value, and we welcome the opportunity to provide the qualitative and quantitative measures of our success that bolster these metrics.
Student affairs team members are more than just party planners and shoulders for students to cry on -- ask to hear how they are meeting the complex social, emotional and -- in conjunction with the faculty -- academic needs of today’s students.
The lines between student and academic affairs are blurring, and we welcome our role in supporting and enhancing the work being done in the classroom. Chief student affairs officers oversee the learning opportunities that complement, support and enhance the classroom environment. They play a vital role in retaining students and giving them the opportunities and skills that ultimately make them employable.
And, of course, we cover those topics that induce heartburn in campus leaders. Work is being done on difficult and serious topics by student affairs teams in conjunction with presidents, legal counsel, government affairs, academic affairs, budget and finance and other offices on campus to prepare for potential challenges to our institutions. As we all know, it is rare that an institution faces a unique challenge; we are learning from the experiences of others and applying the guidance of experts to refine our approaches.
It is the responsibility of the chief student affairs officer and the student affairs team to provide students with healthy and productive experiences on campus to prepare them to contribute to society and the workplace. Ask us about our entire portfolio of work, not just the work most similar to the headlines of greatest concern.
Kevin Kruger is president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
A combination of a state ethics charge and a faculty vote of no confidence appear to have driven West Liberty University's president out of office, The Charleston Daily Mailreported. Robin Capehart, president of the West Virginia university since 2008, resigned Wednesday. He faces state ethics complaints that he misused his office to promote a movie made by his film company -- charges Capehart has denied. The public institution's Faculty Senate voted no confidence in the president last week.
As media response and alumnae outrage grew after last week’s announcement that Sweet Briar College will soon close its doors, the focus of the debate centered around whether the college leadership was courageous in seeing a dismal future and responding promptly, or precipitous in abandoning hope before it was truly necessary. No matter the answer, it seems obvious to an outside observer that Sweet Briar could have taken greater advantage of fundamental marketing principles and more effective student recruitment strategies as administrators considered this decision.
Only independent research, both quantitative and qualitative, can provide a true road map for success. It’s hard to know what kind of research the college had about students, parents and alumnae -- and how to attract their engagement and support. I do know that as recently as 2010, Forbes put the college near the top of a list of higher ed institutions facing financial problems, based primarily on successive years of operating loss. (The college’s PR man at the time dismissed the analysis as “selective and unscientific.") The numbers weren’t lying, and a five-year window is sufficient to explore a lot of alternatives.
Sweet Briar, and colleges like it, must accept what research is telling them. And then use every tool in the toolbox to improve appeal, value, reach and yield.
A number of colleges have been and are being successful in the market conditions Sweet Briar leadership articulated as those that required its closing. The Seven Sisters colleges remain highly selective, boast exceptional alumnae support and continue to invent their way into a vital future while maintaining, for the most part, their single-sex character. Many liberal arts colleges -- Grinnell and Kenyon spring immediately to mind, as do Bowdoin, Beloit and College of the Ozarks -- don’t let their rural locations inhibit their success.
But Sweet Briar came to the conclusion that the writing on the wall said, “Enough!” What data drove this decision? What futures were imagined -- and researched -- that led to an inescapable conclusion that closing was the only option? With the level of alumnae outrage -- signaled by more than $2 million in pledges as of this writing -- greater transparency around the data that drove the decision would benefit both the college and its stakeholders.
What research indicated that going coed was unfeasible?
Given the choice, would alumnae prefer that the college go coed or go out of business?
Were new majors and/or focus areas considered that would have built on Sweet Briar’s existing engineering program in order to increase its appeal to young women who wanted more “direct to market” degrees? What was the cost of developing those programs?
Could the college have sold part of its 3,250-acre campus in order to invest the proceeds of that sale in program development, scholarship support for female valedictorians and other high-potential students, or other repositioning programs?
Would a name change -- perhaps coupled with the development of coed options or new programs -- have triggered the kind of awareness and visibility that would give the college a near-term boost and strengthen its position in the marketplace?
A name change is no panacea, but it can bring attention to the authentic character of an institution whose name is problematic. A decade ago, our agency helped Western Maryland College (quick quiz: public or private? What part of the state?) change its name to McDaniel College. While there was some consternation at the time, the college’s board was able to document the need for the change based on 20 years of market research that showed clearly that the name was creating confusion in the marketplace, and make the courageous decision to rename the college. Renaming brought it new attention and gave the new McDaniel a platform to reassert its role as a quality private liberal arts college on the outskirts of Baltimore -- an extremely helpful outcome.
In another instance, Lipman Hearne was brought in to assess the name of an institution in the American Southwest and was able to document that its name was creating problems. In this case, the board had to balance the concerns of alumni -- who were resistant to the change -- and of prospective students, who expressed real confusion about the nature and character of the institution based on its “misdirection” name. The board chose not to change, and the institution must explain itself anew to a new crop of prospects to this day. While this may have been the right decision, it’s a costly one, in that recruitment and enrollment efforts have to start by saying, “No, we’re not that” before they can commence saying what they truly are.
Would a name change, by itself, have solved Sweet Briar’s problems? Probably not. But a name change coupled with a revisioning process, the development of new programs and/or institutional profile, a rebranding of the institution, and a commitment to transparency by volunteer and administrative leadership could have provided sufficient leeway for the college to redefine itself -- profitably -- into the future. Because whether they are for-profit or not, higher ed institutions must respond to market and business realities, and adapt accordingly.
Whatever Sweet Briar does going forward, it faces one transcendent imperative: do right by your students. They are experiencing a traumatic change at a time when they thought they'd be focused on their own futures and opportunities. If there’s room in the unrestricted endowment, or in scholarship endowment, use those funds to underwrite tuition and other costs through to graduation at the schools these young women choose to attend. In that way, the authentic brand identity of Sweet Briar -- a college that cares for the women it takes into its family -- will be sustained after the college’s passing.
Robert M. Moore is president and chief executive officer of Lipman Hearne.