Submitted by Jake New on September 25, 2014 - 3:00am
The day after a sophomore fraternity member fell from a bridge to his death, officials at Clemson University suspended all social and new-member initiation activities at its 24 fraternities. The university did not specifically cite the student's death as the cause of the suspension, but said that the decision was made "in the wake of several recent reports of violations of the law or student conduct code." In a statement Tuesday, the university said that "matters of a criminal nature" had been turned over to law enforcement agencies and that Clemson's Office of Community and Ethical Standards was also investigating some violations.
“It is especially prudent to suspend fraternity activities given the tragic death of Tucker Hipps," Gail DiSabatino, vice president of student affairs at Clemson, said. "There has been a high number of reports of serious incidents involving fraternity activities, ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct. These behaviors are unacceptable and mandate swift and effective action to protect students. There is no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our students.”
Adjuncts at Front Range Community College in Colorado are cooking up some activism – recipes and all – with their new project, “The Adjunct Cookbook.” The book contains “food bank-friendly concoctions” intended to shine a light on adjuncts’ working conditions and pay at the college’s four campuses and elsewhere. There’s a section on “'Nobucks’ Coffee Drinks,” for example, and other meal recipes calling for very low-cost ingredients, such as beef scraps and bruised tomatoes. Interspersed are facts about adjunct labor, how colleges spend their money, and names of places and programs where adjuncts can find food and other assistance locally.
“We hope that the book helps [adjuncts] realize they have not failed, but that the system has failed them,” said Caprice Lawless, president of the college’s American Association of University Professors chapter and an adjunct instructor of English who contributed to the book project, in news release. Authors are asking a $7.50 donation for the book, available here. They haven’t copyrighted, they say, because they want their counterparts on other campuses to be able to borrow the model. Andrew Dorsey, president of Front Range, said he hadn't seen the cookbook and therefore couldn't comment. But he said Front Range adjuncts earn from $735 to $1,119 per credit hour, based on experience and other factors, and deliver about 60 percent of instruction.
A few months after Gallup released findings from the largest representative study of U.S. college graduates, there is much to ponder. The Gallup-Purdue Index surveyed more than 30,000 graduates to find out whether they are engaged in their work and thriving in their overall well-being. In simple terms, did they end up with great jobs and great lives?
We learned some stunning things. But one of the most important is that where you went to college matters less to your work life and well-being after graduation than how you went to college. Feeling supported and having deep learning experiences during college means everything when it comes to long-term outcomes after college. Unfortunately, not many graduates receive a key element of that support while in college: having a mentor. And this is perhaps the biggest blown opportunity in the history of higher ed.
Six critical elements during college jumped off the pages of our research as being strongly linked to long-term success in work and life after graduation. Three of these elements relate to experiential and deep learning: having an internship or job where students were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, being actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations, and working on projects that took a semester or more to complete.
But the three most potent elements linked to long-term success for college grads relate to emotional support: feeling that they had a professor who made them excited about learning, that the professors at their alma mater cared about them as a person, and that they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. If graduates strongly agree with these three things, it doubles the odds they are engaged in their work and thriving in their overall well-being.
When we looked at these three elements individually, we found that about 6 in 10 college graduates strongly agree they had a professor who made them excited about learning (63 percent). Fewer than 3 in 10 strongly agree the professors at their alma mater cared about them as a person (27 percent). And only about 2 in 10 strongly agree they had a mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams (22 percent) — which means that about 8 in 10 college graduates lacked a mentor in college.
Given how profound the impact of emotional support can be, it’s thoroughly depressing to learn how few college graduates receive it. A mere 14 percent of all college grads strongly agree that they experienced all three elements of emotional support.
Gallup has talked with many higher ed leaders about these findings, and it has been heartening to learn how many leaders are energized by having fresh insights about the importance and value of mentoring relationships in college. But it has also been frustrating to hear how many believe it’s too costly or unreasonable to ensure that every college student receives mentoring.
How is it possible that some leaders feel this kind of experience is more expensive or less practical than building and maintaining multimillion-dollar athletic facilities or high-end residential complexes? Or that it’s more difficult to provide mentors for students than to commit significant amounts of human and financial resources to eke out a few extra students in their admissions yield or create a massive machine to fund-raise from alumni?
If your college or university wants to get serious about finding mentors for its students, it could start by looking at is own alumni base. Assuming your institution has been around for 10 years or more, your alumni are one of the greatest human capital assets it has — not just as donors, but also as potential mentors.
Let’s use my alma mater, as an example. We have about 6,500 undergraduate students. There are more than 140,000 members of the alumni association. If just 10 percent of alumni agreed to serve as mentors, we would have a pool of 14,000 alumni for the 6,500 undergrads. That’s more than a two-to-one mentor-to-student ratio.
Imagine what would happen if your college applied just a portion of the staffing and budget for its development office toward recruiting alumni to mentor a current undergraduate. This relationship doesn’t have to be complicated — all that’s required is two to three calls, Skype meetings, or Google Hangouts between an alumnus and an undergrad each year for one-to-one coaching, plus some basic framework for how they engage one another. How many of your alumni might take you up on this offer if you made a concerted effort to recruit them? As an alumnus, would you be willing to mentor a current undergrad a few hours a year?
Within just one year, it’s completely conceivable that a college or university could achieve a 100 percent mentoring experience rate for its undergraduates. It’s simply a matter of valuing it and making it happen. For example, in a recent study Gallup conducted of Western Governors University alumni, fully 68 percent strongly agreed they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. That’s three times higher than the national average of college graduates across all institutions – and accomplished at a fully online, adult-learner institution nonetheless.
At WGU, rather than conducting class, faculty members serve as mentors, working with students one-to-one. Upon enrollment, each WGU student is assigned a mentor who stays with them until graduation, meeting regularly by phone and in touch via email and text constantly. WGU mentors provide a wide range of support, from help with time management and finding learning resources to tutoring students on the course materials. It’s possible for all institutions to do this kind of mentoring in many different ways, and it doesn’t have to be costly. And as a side benefit: Imagine how much donations might rise among alumni who have a one-to-one relationship with a current undergrad.
Higher education has never tapped one its greatest human capital assets — its alumni — to provide a service its students might value most. According to Gallup research, it could be one of the most important changes a college or university could make toward supporting the success of its future graduates — or the biggest blown opportunity in its history.
Brandon Busteed is executive director of Gallup Education.
Harvard University's endowment -- the nation's largest -- was up 15.4 percent in fiscal 2014. Those gains raised the value of the endowment to $36.4 billion. The endowment has distributed $11.6 billion to the university in the last five years.
Stanford University is disputing a report in Pro Publica that it agreed that it would not use such Google funds for privacy research at its Center for Internet and Society. The report was based on a court filing in which Stanford said it was not using funds for that purpose. Ethics standards for donations to colleges and universities generally reject the idea that a university should pledge not to research certain topics. But Stanford officials said that they were simply stating the purpose of Google grants (and clarifying what they were not seeking to support with the company's funds). Stanford has clarified that it never imposed limits on what subjects its researchers could study and would not accept a grant under such terms.
The search committee for the next president of Florida State University on Monday rejected the advice of faculty and student leaders and included a state senator without experience leading a college or university among four finalists, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. The other three finalists all have held senior positions in higher education. Many faculty leaders fear that the state senator is effectively assured the job, although trustees denied this was the case. The board is expected to pick the next president today.
Steve Cicala, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago, says he has canceled the lecture he was scheduled to deliver to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Business next month. In a letter to Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, Cicala calls Wise's stated reasons for pulling controversial scholar Steven Salaita's tenured job offer in the American Indian studies program weeks before the start of school -- namely that Salaita's anti-Israel remarks on Twitter were "uncivil" -- a "fig leaf" for other concerns. Cicala says he can't support the fact that Wise's decision may have been influenced by donors who emailed her about their concerns about Salaita before she made her decision to revoke his offer.
"I understand that you are in a difficult position," Cicala wrote. "It's quite easy for people like me to take potshots from the moral high ground without having to ensure sufficient funds to keep the lights on. I urge you to consider the long-term damage wrought by gutting the guarantee of inquiry free from outside interference. It far exceeds any short-term gain in donations from donors who don't understand the difference between a university and a political action committee."
Cicala sent his letter late last week, but has not heard back from Wise, he said. A spokeswoman for Illinois did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cicala said he hopes more economists will join the Illinois boycott movement stemming from the Salaita decision.
Adjuncts at the College of Saint Rose, in Albany, N.Y., have voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The union has organized some 21,000 adjuncts across the U.S. as part of its Adjunct Action campaign. At Saint Rose, the vote was 175 to 61. Bradley Russell, an adjunct instructor of anthropology and member of the organizing committee, called the vote "historic," saying that Saint Rose had taken "a step to live up to its well-known commitment to social justice."
In a statement, Saint Rose officials said: "The issues surrounding the role of adjunct faculty in our nation’s colleges and universities is one that deserves national discussion and dialogue, and we thank our faculty for taking a role in propelling the conversation. Currently, approximately 70 percent of the undergraduate and graduate credits at Saint Rose are taught by full-time faculty and 30 percent are taught by adjunct faculty who bring a wealth of professional experience into the classroom. As the collective bargaining process gets underway, we will continue to work together to move Saint Rose forward and to provide excellence in teaching and mentoring to our students in and outside the classroom."
Recently there has been much debate about the proposed TEACH Act. As the landscape in higher education has evolved, and most educational opportunities now require use of electronic and information technology, institutions have been left without an effective structure for taking access for all into account. Currently, institutions have only lawsuits and enforcement actions to guide them; the point of the TEACH Act is to pave the way for consistent national guidance. The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) supports the proposed legislation and seeks to clarify a few points.
It is important to remember that the TEACH Act comes directly from a recommendation made in the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Commission Report, and that the AIM Commission was authorized within the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 and had representation of AHEAD as well as additional representation from both two-year and four-year colleges, advocacy groups, service providers, and publishers.
In addition, it is helpful to take a close look at the TEACH Act language itself, and compare it to the arguments being raised in op-eds such as the recent “Good Intentions, Bad Legislation,” published by Inside Higher Ed. While there are several arguments that were raised within the opinion piece that warrant a closer look, one particular statement claimed: “Rather than simply providing helpful, voluntary guidelines, the TEACH Act would effectively require colleges to only use technologies that meet guidelines created by a federal agency, or risk being sued.”
In reality, voluntary guidelines are precisely what the legislation would authorize the Access Board (the federal agency referenced in the op-ed) to establish. While it is conceivable that a federal agency could choose to adopt those guidelines at some point in the future, this legislation itself is simply outlining a means for guidelines to be established. Guidelines would not require institutions to adopt or not adopt any given technology; they would, however, serve as navigational structures that institutions could use to chart their course.
The bigger point, though, is that colleges and universities are already required to honor the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended in 2008 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as well as any relevant state or local statutes. This responsibility is already established, but as court case after compliance review after investigation has proved, institutions are struggling to meet the existing obligations. This legislation does not add new responsibilities or any additional burden, undue or otherwise, to educational institutions, but could, by establishing a common baseline for due diligence, help alleviate some of the existing burden.
In addition, having recognized guidelines allows the commercial publishers, software developers, and others who produce for the educational market to create products that will assist their customers in meeting their current obligations under the law. The TEACH Act would not change the existing requirements surrounding the adoption of technology, but it would provide guidance for both the producers and consumers of educational products.
Under both the ADA and Section 504, colleges and universities are required to provide equally effective access to students with disabilities. Currently, campuses struggle to meet this obligation when it comes to technology. We know that the individual accommodation process is not an effective way to ensure equal access in regard to information- and communication technology-related barriers. This legislation expressly allows the individual accommodation process to be utilized where appropriate, and would offer institutions a more effective framework within which to operate to better ensure efficient, proactive accessibility rather than second-class service to some of their students.
Currently, most institutions can only “accommodate” inaccessible technology with patches, workarounds, and other local ad hoc approaches that not only result in unequal and less effective access, but also are unsustainable.
The point of the TEACH Act, we believe, is to end after-the-fact decision-making processes in how to accommodate technology. The point is not to force certain choices upon the institutions but to ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are seriously considered and taken into account at the right point in the acquisition process.
The American people long ago concluded that “separate but equal” was inappropriate treatment of a portion of the population in our country; why do we think it is acceptable now? We support consistency in practices with technology across all college and university campuses to ensure all students with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities as other students. Continuing to operate without national guidelines would not ensure equal access.
Bea Awoniyi is president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability and assistant vice president for student affairs at Santa Fe College. Stephan J. Smith is executive director of AHEAD.