Native American alumni of Indiana University at Bloomington are criticizing the hiring of someone who is not Native American for the position of director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center (logo at right), the Associated Press reported. Nicholas Belle, the new director, did volunteer at the center when he was a student and has also spent time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. But some students and alumni said they need someone who understands firsthand the kind of discrimination faced by Native American students. Belle did not respond to a request for comment, and the university released a statement noting that it does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, among other factors, in hiring.
Earlier this year, we published a study that found that although the majority of students who enter higher education through a community college intend to earn a bachelor’s degree, nationally only 14 percent do so within six years of starting college. In comparison, about 60 percent of students who start college at a four-year institution earn a bachelor’s degree in six years.
Research we and others have done on transfer, together with years of visiting colleges and talking to students, has given us some insight into why transfer outcomes are so poor. But our colleagues Di Xu, Shanna Jaggars and Jeffrey Fletcher at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center recently released a working paper that illuminates some of the less understood barriers community college students face as they seek a bachelor’s degree. In the study, Xu and her colleagues examined outcomes over 10 years for students who started at a community college in Virginia and who intended to earn a bachelor’s degree. The researchers matched those students with those who started at a four-year institution based on their personal characteristics and their first-term grade point averages and course-taking patterns.
The study identifies five barriers that community college students face in trying to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree. Two of these have been fairly well researched in the literature: the difficulty students have transferring credits, and posttransfer “academic shock.” The other three have received less attention from either researchers or practitioners. Yet they may pose even bigger barriers to transfer student success than the first two. Understanding them is critical for colleges that want to tackle this problem. Here is what Xu and her colleagues found.
Understudied Transfer Barrier 1: Lack of Early Momentum
One obstacle to transfer student success that has not been adequately studied is that, compared to students who enter college through a four-year institution, community college entrants earn college-level credits at a slower pace. Part of this is due to the fact that community college students are more likely to enroll part time or to take remedial credits, which do not count toward a degree. Xu and her colleagues try to account for these differences by comparing groups of two- and four-year entrants who were matched on numerous student characteristics, including whether or not they started college as a full-time student and if they had ever taken a remedial course. Even when using this matched sample, as is shown in Figure 1, four-year entrants on average take a higher course load each semester than do similar community college students. This, combined with the fact that community colleges students take more remedial courses, means that community college students fall farther and farther behind their four-year peers in earning credits over time (see Figure 2).
Understudied Transfer Barrier 2: Unclear Transfer Pathways
Many community colleges and universities have put a great deal of energy into developing articulation agreements intended to clarify the path for community college students seeking to transfer. Many states also have developed such agreements for their public higher education systems. Most of them are based on a 2+2 model, in which students take two years of lower-division, general education coursework followed by two years of courses in their major at the university. The study shows that few students follow this path. Over 40 percent of bachelor’s-seeking community college students in their sample transferred to a university with fewer than 60 college credits (the number typically required for an associate degree). While little more than a quarter (27 percent) of such students transferred to a four-year institution in the third year after entering a community college, some students transferred sooner (16 percent) and most (57 percent) transferred three years or more after starting at the community college.
As Xu and her colleagues say, there is no “well-trodden pathway” to a bachelor’s degree for community college students. This suggests that most students do not follow the articulation agreements developed by colleges, universities and state systems. Why this is so is unclear. However, hints about the answer come from research showing that students have a hard time understanding transfer agreements and our observation that most community colleges do not keep close track of students’ progress toward transfer goals.
Understudied Transfer Barrier 3: Students Make Progress, but Don’t Transfer
Perhaps the most surprising finding from the study is that many community college students who indicate a desire to earn a bachelor’s degree make substantial progress in their community college course work but do not end up transferring. About half of bachelor’s degree-seeking students in the sample earned at least 60 college-level credits at a community college but did not transfer. And almost a third of such students who earned an associate degree from a community college did not transfer. Thus, many students are leaving cards on the table. More research is needed into why this is the case.
The study of transfer student outcomes in Virginia by our CCRC colleagues suggests that, if transfer outcomes are to improve, community colleges and universities should work together to address these three less understood obstacles. How?
First, community colleges need to pay much more attention to early student momentum and work to encourage and support students to take higher credit loads (while also adopting acceleration strategies that minimize the time students spend in remediation). Second, two- and four-year institutions should more clearly map out the pathways to successful transfer and also help students choose a transfer path, monitor their progress and provide advising and support when their progress stalls or students go off track. Finally, practitioners and researchers need to examine why so many community college students who seek a bachelor’s degree make good progress at their two-year institution but fail to transfer to a four-year institution.
In partnership with the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence program, we recently published The Transfer Playbook, which describes how two- and four-year college partnerships can pursue these and other strategies to help students overcome the barriers they face to transfer. Continued work on all three of these fronts holds great potential to fix one of the leakiest parts of our higher education pipeline: students who start at a community college and never fulfill their dream of earning a bachelor’s degree.
Davis Jenkins is a senior research associate with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. John Fink is a research associate with CCRC.
I have been researching and writing about both the history and current trends of historically black colleges and universities since 1994. When I first started, very few black women were leading these important institutions. Now, in 2016, roughly 30 percent of HBCU presidents are black women.
At the end of August, the board of trustees of Florida A&M University told one of those women -- Elmira Mangum -- that her contract would not be renewed. Mangum came to the university after a distinguished career at several majority-white institutions. She had served as vice president for planning and budgeting at Cornell University as well as in leadership positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Buffalo. By all accounts, Mangum had a very successful and uneventful career in higher education until becoming president of FAMU.
I have been watching the controversies surrounding Mangum’s presidency since she was hired and have noticed two things: sexism and board interference.
First, let’s deal with the sexism. Mangum is a strong and talented black woman and that fact seems to be threatening to many members of her board, some former leaders of the institution and some alumni. She has faced scrutiny and micromanagement by her board that most presidents would never have to endure. For example, her day-to-day actions are micromanaged. Research on women and leadership demonstrates that women leaders are much more likely to be micromanaged by their boards and supervisors.
When I have brought this sexism to the surface over the past year, I am often greeted with, “There can’t be sexism; FAMU hired a woman.” Wrong. In fact, more sexism is likely to surface because she is a woman. If you don’t believe me, think about the election of President Obama. One could say, “There can’t be racism because we elected a black president.” Wrong again. We know that racism has increased in the public eye as a result of people being angry because we elected a black president -- twice.
Second, from the beginning of Mangum’s tenure, the FAMU board has been interfering with her leadership and drumming up anything and everything to discredit her. In reality, she has had many successes as president. She has garnered much respect and attention for the institution, been masterful at fund-raising, inspired campus spirit among students and young alumni, and worked to give FAMU more of a global presence. Unfortunately, those efforts and nearly anything she has done have been criticized by the board, former leaders and a subset of alumni.
Most recently, she was critiqued by the board and local media for spending too much money on travel. Anyone who knows anything about higher education is aware that a university president has to travel in order to raise money and visibility for the college or university. Presidents in the 21st century often spend the majority of their time talking to people outside their institution, while provosts are more focused on the day-to-day academics of the campus. If an institution’s president isn’t traveling, it’s a problem. Moreover, compared to most presidents, Mangum’s travel expenses have been relatively low.
I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Mangum. However, I am even more worried about the sexism felt by black women in the role of the presidency at HBCUs (and elsewhere) and the meddling of board members in the day-to-day activities of the institutions. Having served on many boards of trustees, including two HBCU boards, I know that my role is to examine big-picture policy, to raise money, to support the president (regardless of gender) and hold that person accountable for negotiated goals, and to promote the institution. My role is not to meddle, nitpick or interfere with the president’s ability to do the job.
In recent years, HBCUs have experienced rapid turnover and controversy in the presidency; they have struggled in many cases to find leaders. These facts beg the question: How will HBCUs attract highly qualified aspiring leaders to head their institutions when those leaders are likely to encounter meddling boards and a lack of support from various constituencies? The FAMU board’s relationship with Elmira Mangum is not an aberration and, in fact, is becoming all too common on HBCU campuses. How will HBCUs, where the majority of students enrolled are women, attract black women to lead these institutions when such sexism exists? How can HBCUs recruit innovative leaders when board members and some HBCU community members fear innovation and change?
Rather than beating down such new, energetic, highly talented presidents committed to leading HBCUs, boards and disgruntled alumni should donate more funds, promote their institutions, spend some time reading about higher education and the specific roles of the president and the board, and focus on the needs of students over their own egos. FAMU has all the makings of a leading university, but it will not reach its potential until it embraces and empowers its leaders.
Marybeth Gasman is professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.
Long Island University at Brooklyn may be locking out all faculty members as of midnight tonight, in an escalation of tensions over negotiations over a new contract. The faculty union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, said that the administration is trying to avoid a vote of no confidence and to undercut faculty rights. The university says it will proceed with this plan unless the faculty union immediately ratifies a contract and that it has lined up new faculty members to teach. The university says its action will assure stability for students.
Submitted by Jake New on September 2, 2016 - 3:00am
Four months after pro-Palestine protestors derailed a campus event at San Francisco State University by shouting down the mayor of Jerusalem, the university has released a report about how the incident was mishandled.
"The report makes exceptionally clear that the responsibility for the inadequate response prior to, during and following the event falls squarely on the shoulders of San Francisco State University administrators," Les Wong, the university's president, said in a campuswide email Thursday. "On April 6, we failed our students -- both the event attendees and the protesters -- through multiple inactions."
According to the report, which was compiled by an outside law firm hired by the university, those inactions included not providing enough lead time to properly plan the event, not clarifying whether the event should be open or closed and not adequately intervening once the protestors began chanting.
While San Francisco State's chief of police attempted to quiet the demonstrators, he was dressed in plain clothes and students said they did not realize he was acting on behalf of police or the university. The report also faulted the university's student affairs officials for not stepping in during the event and for not adequately handling student conduct decisions following the protest. "It seemed I did not get much support from student affairs," the chief of police told the law firm. "We are usually a team and one united voice. Where here, I was the only one saying stop."
The university on Thursday announced a series of changes to how it will handle demonstrations in the future, including providing training to police officers and student affairs employees and adopting a clearer policy for when students who disrupt an event should be punished by the university or arrested by police.
"Ensuring our campus is a safe environment for all students is my top priority for the coming year," Wong said. "We will continue to monitor the campus climate, and we will make every effort to respond to student concerns in a timely fashion. We will work to build trust with our students and the broader community so that we can fully embody our institutional mission and our values."
Submitted by Jake New on September 2, 2016 - 3:00am
The number of college students who are also parents is increasing, but the percentage of four-year public institutions that have child-care centers on campus has dropped to less than half, according to a new report released this month by the Institute of Women's Policy Research.
In 2003, 55 percent of four-year public colleges provided campus child care, compared to 49 percent in 2015. The decrease at community colleges was even sharper: 53 percent offered campus child care in 2003, and only 44 percent offered it in 2015. Since 1995, the number of parents in college has jumped from 3.2 million to 4.8 million.
Submitted by Jake New on September 2, 2016 - 3:00am
Georgetown University will award preferential treatment in the admissions process to the descendants of the 272 slaves whose sale the university profited from nearly 200 years ago. The university announced the decision on Thursday, following the completion of a report by a working group that the university created to assess how best to atone for its involvement in slavery. The university will also establish a new Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies at Georgetown, rename two campus buildings, and create a public memorial to enslaved people. The university said it will seek out the descendants of other slaves whose labor the university benefited from, as well, and also offer them preferential treatment in admissions.
“As we join the Georgetown community, we must understand that part of our history is this history of slaveholding and the slave trade,” David Collins, the working group's chair, said in a statement. “And that opens our eyes to broader social issues that are still unhealed in our nation. History matters up to the present and into the future.”
Submitted by Jake New on September 1, 2016 - 3:00am
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came under fire last week for hiring a volunteer assistant who had been accused of abusing players at the University of Illinois. The NCAA has no rules against coaches mistreating their players.
The brief summer respite from controversies surrounding free speech on campus ended last week when the University of Chicago sent a letter to incoming students affirming its bedrock commitment to academic freedom, while decrying trigger warnings, “safe spaces” and censorship. The letter went viral, prompting impassioned responses ranging from full-throated endorsements to charges that it reeked of “arrogance, of a sense of entitlement [and] of an exclusionary mindset.”
Get ready for another contentious academic year on the free speech front. A recent Gallup poll concluded that college students support First Amendment rights “in the abstract” but “many are also comfortable shuttering free speech and impeding a free press” in order to restrict “offensive or biased speech.” Taking the measure of campus debates about free expression from this past academic year, the survey results provide additional evidence that real issues are at stake beyond the scorching, end-is-nigh headlines such as “The Death of Free Speech on College Campuses.”
Increasing skepticism about the importance of free expression is turning a significant -- and vocal -- contingent of students into cynics who regard free speech as nothing more than a weapon of the rich, the powerful and the privileged. That trend poses a threat to the development of robust critical thinking skills as well as to the health and vitality of participatory democracy.
For those students who imagine that First Amendment rights are monopolized by the “entitled,” free speech is seen as little more than a license to offend and oppress historically marginalized groups, especially people of color. If this sounds fanciful, you haven’t spent enough time reading through the editorial pages of college newspapers from the past few years. Here is a representative excerpt from a March 2016 op-ed from the Bates College newspaper: "Advocating for unlimited free speech privileges a certain group of people who already have the opportunity for their voices to be heard. It advocates for unlimited acts of violence and aggression towards marginalized people with little to no consequence. For this reason, it is hard for me not to argue for the censorship of what we say, to ensure that marginalized people have a verbal space to inhabit safely in public, as it is obvious that they do not always have safe physical spaces to inhabit in this country."
On the issue of censorship, the author has lots of company. The “Free Expression” Gallup poll reported that more than two out of three students say colleges should be allowed to “establish policies that restrict slurs and other language that is intentionally offensive to certain groups.” Setting aside epithets, more than one in four say colleges should be able to restrict speech “expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups.”
Those numbers signal that many students are suspicious of -- or even downright reject -- the premise that the best antidote to offensive speech is always more speech, an idea that has long been a basic tenet of free expression. Among these students, the survey revealed, are men and women, whites and blacks as well as Democrats, Republicans and Independents; so let’s put to rest the charge leveled by some on the right that it’s just those “pesky” women, minorities and bleeding hearts who are calling into question First Amendment rights.
The Gallup survey also investigated the extent to which students feel comfortable articulating their opinions. Fifty-four percent of the students say the “climate on my campus prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive.” Senior administrators and faculty members bear some responsibility for this troubling state of affairs. According to a report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), more than half of colleges and universities have restrictive speech codes -- that is, “policies prohibiting student and faculty speech that would, outside the bounds of campus, be protected by the First Amendment.”
In addition, more than 100 colleges and universities (and counting) have Bias Response Teams, which are tasked with investigating and responding to complaints about so-called “bias incidents.” At Syracuse University, “name calling,” “avoiding or excluding others” and “making comments on social media about someone’s political affiliations/beliefs” are all potential instances of bias. In principle and practice, Bias Response Teams communicate to students that “no incident is too small to report.”
Regarding faculty members, under the powerful influence of the “linguistic turn,” we scholars in the humanities -- and occasionally those in the social sciences -- have been banging on for decades about the awesome power of language (or discourse, in its formal dress), outlining in exquisite detail the ways in which it may serve to coerce, subjugate and oppress. In this kind of environment where speech is oftentimes regulated and the capacity of words to inflict damage is frequently underscored, it’s no wonder that some students of all backgrounds are in favor of eliminating speech that might insult or offend.
Unless I’m gravely mistaken, the overwhelming majority of students who are afraid to share their ideas, opinions and beliefs are not closeted bigots. Even so, they are understandably reluctant to have frank conversations -- in classrooms and in proverbial late-night bull sessions -- about questions that might veer into controversial territory. Questions like: Is sexual orientation hard-wired or a personal choice? How do you tell the difference between cultural mixture and cultural appropriation? And is the Black Lives Matter movement achieving its objectives?
It was, in fact, an earnest attempt to reckon with the last question that sent Wesleyan University into a tailspin last September when a student named Bryan Stascavage wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper challenging some of the rhetoric and tactics associated with Black Lives Matter. Judge for yourself, but the Washington Post seemed to get it right when the paper said his analysis was “no more radical than the conservative commentary you might see on mainstream op-ed pages” in national papers. Many Wesleyan students, however, were deeply offended by the piece -- in the midst of a campus uproar about the “frustration, anger, pain and fear that members of the student body felt in response to the op-ed,” stacks of the paper were stuffed into recycling bins, the student government slashed the newspaper budget in half and Stascavage was tarred a “racist.”
The calamity at Wesleyan set the tone for an academic year filled with troubling incidents of campus censorship and threats to free speech, including growing concerns about the “tension between academic freedom and Title IX enforcement,” an activist push to restrict or ban news-media coverage of student protests at several colleges and universities, and numerous attempts -- some successful, some not -- to disinvite “objectionable” speakers from coming to campus. Calls for trigger warnings about “disturbing” classroom content continued to proliferate, to the point where some students are now requesting trigger warnings -- or even alternative assignments -- for readings about the Holocaust.
The academic year came to a fitting end with the ACLU filing a lawsuit against the University of California at San Diego in May to “enforce core First Amendment rules against targeting the press.” Earlier in the year, the student government, aided and abetted by administrators, cut funding for all student media in an attempt to shut down the Koala, a raunchy and irreverent satirical paper in the tradition of the Harvard Lampoon and the Onion. The precipitating event was a column called “UCSD Unveils New Dangerous Space on Campus,” which ridiculed trigger warnings and safe spaces. In numerous complaints submitted to the UCSD Bias Response Team about the paper’s “sexist and racist comments masked under cruel humor,” students called for “an end” to the Koala or, at the very least, a system for “administrative approval of the content.”
Beyond the campus green, you cannot just shut down the presses when confronted by speech that offends you. “In a democracy,” the late philosopher Ronald Dworkin wrote in the wake of the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy, “no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended.” It’s not unreasonable to expect that a reluctance to engage with “distasteful” or "scary" ideas will render students defenseless when they step into the sometimes rough-and-tumble civic arena after they graduate. On too many campuses, widely held political positions that aren’t “progressive” -- such as being pro-life or against gun control-- are summarily dismissed as intolerable.
“Part of being an American is the obligation to listen to language that makes you uncomfortable,” criminal lawyer and staunch First Amendment champion David Baugh said in a recent interview. “If you’re going to be a citizen, if you’re going to speak freely, you have to be able to tolerate bad ideas.” For Baugh -- who is African American, the son of a Tuskegee fighter pilot -- his declarations on tolerance are not sanctimonious abstractions. Working with the ACLU in the late 1990s, Baugh volunteered to help defend Barry Elton Black, an imperial wizard in the Ku Klux Klan who had been arrested for cross burning, an outcome that Baugh considered a violation of Black’s First Amendment rights. (The Supreme Court, in its 2003 Virginia v. Black decision, agreed.)
Elaborating on how to address “bad ideas” such as racial supremacy, Baugh explained, “In a true free society, every idea has to be discussed if for no other reason than saying that’s a stupid, damn idea, we ought to throw it away.” This is a more colloquial version of the phrase from Yale University’s 1975 Woodward Report that intellectual growth and discovery require the freedom to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” In an educational setting, playing devil’s advocate to consider unpopular or minority positions is an indispensable teaching tool. Beyond the classroom, tolerance for ideas we find misguided or repellent does not mean, as many students appear to believe, that we condone them. It’s possible to condemn ideas, broadcasting our misgivings to the high heavens, without censoring them.
Critical Thinking and Citizenship Rights
If colleges and universities shrink from engaging with materials students find too sensitive, controversial or offensive, the growth of their critical thinking skills will be severely stunted. We already have a tendency to misrepresent ideas that we disagree with. And that’s when we actually expose ourselves to them. Only 16 percent of college students say Americans do a good job at “seeking out and listening to differing viewpoints from their own.” A “just say no” approach to “objectionable” materials will turn us into intellectual sloths. Without the stimulation to interrogate our basic assumptions or to consider alternatives to our preferred explanations, our own ideas will devolve into pathetic caricatures. If you are in favor of affirmative action, for instance, how sophisticated can your position really be if you refuse to engage with the claims and evidence advanced by its critics?
Scholars on the left rightfully challenge our most cherished national ideals such as “freedom,” “equality” and “opportunity,” showing how they have not applied to far too many groups of people based on their race, national origin or gender. (Women, for example, have been eligible to cast votes in less than half of our presidential contests.) Since the election of Barack Obama, the idea that we live in a post-racial society has been subjected to withering criticism from left-leaning academics. Supported by a raft of empirical data, professors like legal scholar Michelle Alexander of The New Jim Crow fame cogently argue that the notion of a post-racial United States is an illusion, a self-congratulatory lie we tell ourselves in order to justify gross social and economic inequalities. As Princeton University professor of religion and African American Studies Eddie Glaude Jr. acidly observes, “We have a black man in the White House and nearly one million black men and women in the Big House.”
The left’s attention to power dynamics and structural inequalities sometimes becomes a fixation. Consider the response of the University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students to a draft faculty statement on free speech released this past March. “People found [the text] offensive,” a spokesperson for the Council of Graduate Students reported. In a letter objecting to the “Four Core Principles” document, the executive committee of the Council called some of the language used “tone-deaf” and “ill-advised,” dismissing as “deplorably patronizing” the proposition that “the most effective response to offensive ideas is to rebut them with better ideas.” It also roundly rejected the principle that “free speech cannot be regulated on the ground that some speakers are thought to have more power or more access to the mediums of speech than others.” Instead, the graduate student group argued, the university should give “special consideration to otherwise marginalized speakers,” a kind of affirmative action for speech that would provide distinct forums for “those who are not well-spoken or who use English as a second language.” (Whatever you think of this idea, it would be a logistical nightmare to implement.)
It would be unpardonably naïve for free speech proponents to ignore the fact that some voices -- the rich, the powerful, the white, the male -- have been amplified, while others have been tuned out or muted. Even in the age of social media where the public square is a click away, we need to be mindful that the speech of some individuals, rightly or wrongly, has more currency in the marketplace of ideas. Nonetheless, this marketplace is teeming and vibrant, energized by a multitude of different points-of-view. As I write, the book that has been on The New York Times hardcover non-fiction list the longest is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a text that argues, “‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control [black] bodies.”
It would also be disingenuous for strong advocates of free expression to dismiss the charge that ringing the free speech alarm bell sometimes serve as an excuse to malign student protesters and deflect attention from pressing conversations about racism or other social problems. This “diversion” thesis is not without merit -- just take a few minutes to skim through the contemptuous stories about campus activism on websites such as The College Fix, the Daily Caller or Heat Street.
But free speech, we are obliged to acknowledge, has been at the heart of every single successful movement devoted to expanding citizenship rights and enlarging the charmed circle of “we the people,” from abolitionism and woman’s suffrage to marriage equality. So it’s especially ironic that, while some students compare unfettered free speech to lynching, today’s most energetic social movement is devoted to ending violence against black people. Emerging from a hashtag, Black Lives Matter would not be a household name or a substantial political force without First Amendment rights, including the freedom of speech, the press and assembly.
Rue the day that “free speech” starts to appear more regularly in scare quotes. If we encourage the same kind of sneering disdain for free speech that some reserve for ideas like colorblindness, meritocracy and the “American dream,” we will be in deep trouble. Our democracy will be impoverished and so too will our minds. Taking any kind of stand that undercuts free speech is like launching a vendetta on the air we breathe. If it’s successful, we will all suffocate.
Jeffrey Aaron Snyder is an assistant professor in the department of educational studies at Carleton College.