President Resigns After Discrimination Complaint

The president of Rowan College at Burlington County has resigned. Paul Drayton was placed on leave last year when the college launched an investigation into a discrimination-based complaint, the Burlington County Times reported.

In a special meeting Friday, trustees voted unanimously to accept Drayton’s resignation, effective Sept. 1.

“We accepted Mr. Drayton’s resignation for health reasons. We wish him the best, and that’s basically all I can comment on,” George Nyikita, board chairman told the Burlington County Times Friday.

Drayton will continue to receive his annual salary of $203,206 until his leave is up on Aug. 31.

In August, Drayton was placed on administrative leave when the college started an internal investigation into a complaint submitted by an employee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which handles cases of workplace discrimination and harassment.

Drayton defended his presidency in an interview with Saturday. "I've lived my life on opening doors. The last thing I would do is discriminate against anyone," Drayton said.

Michael Cioce, vice president of enrollment management and student success, was named acting president in Drayton’s absence. Rowan has yet to appoint a permanent replacement.

Drayton, who became Rowan's president in March 2015, oversaw the multimillion-dollar renovation of the college's Mount Laurel campus and a partnership with Rowan University in Glassboro.

Drayton's career has previously been clouded by some controversy. In 2010, when he was named Burlington County’s administrator, Drayton's failure to pay $3,000 in child support surfaced, the Courier Post reported. Drayton also resigned from his role as executive director of the Delaware River Port Authority in 2003 after commissioners attempted to oust him, according to

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A president who prefers meetings around campus rather than in her office

As president, Lori Varlotta takes most of her meetings out and about on the campus of Hiram College.

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Without explanation, a university replaces its president and obliterates most mentions of him

Marymount California suddenly replaces its leader -- and cleanses mentions of him from its website -- in his second year. Reasons why are murky.

Why more presidents need to speak out about current issues (essay)

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, while 55 percent of Americans think higher education has a positive impact on the direction of the country, only 36 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents do. This is despite the fact that the economic returns of a college degree have never been greater.

In addition, much of the media coverage about higher education, especially from the hyperactive right-wing media, is negative. Colleges and universities are seen to be inadequately defending free speech on campus, caving in to demands for “trigger warnings” and in general infantilizing students. Stories about massive student debt abound, despite the fact that a significant portion of that debt has been taken out by students attending for-profit institutions. The news about higher education is largely negative -- although the sector is actually doing a reasonably good job of educating ever increasing numbers of students and generally preparing them for the labor force in the face of shrinking budgets.

Unfortunately, America’s college and university presidents have been noticeably absent from the debates about academic freedom, the benefits of a college degree, the financial woes of their institutions, the broader purposes of education, the challenges of the Trump era and essentially all the key issues. Occasionally, when a crisis occurs, such as the shouting down of a speaker and resulting tumult at Middlebury College, the president does speak out, but usually such responses are as anodyne as possible.

It was not always this way. In the past, some college and university presidents were active speakers on the higher education issues of the day, and a few had major influence on policy. Clark Kerr, president of the University of California, and Ernest Boyer, who served as U.S. commissioner of education as well as chancellor of the State University of New York, are two prominent examples. They were not only commentators but also had an impact on higher education policy.

More recently, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, and William G. Bowen, who headed Princeton University, have written influential books and contributed to current debates. Other leaders who have spoken out on controversial issues of the day have included Stephen J. Trachtenberg, retired president of George Washington University; Johnnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College and Bennett College; John Silber, formerly of Boston University; and Charles Vest and Jerome Wiesner, both former presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had a major impact on American science policy.

Why the Silence?

Without doubt, being a college or university president in the 21st century is not an easy job. Incumbents worry about alienating trustees, faculty members and students. Those internal constituencies are less willing to accept presidential opinions that may disagree with their own.

And academic communities, no doubt reflecting the rest of society, are divided on many issues. They expect their leaders to reflect an often nonexistent consensus. Trustees increasingly see the president as a CEO and expect him or her to avoid controversy rather than be an educational leader. Further, presidents are expected to spend more time and energy fund-raising and may not wish to alienate potential donors by speaking out on contentious issues.

Current issues are complicated, and developing a well-articulated position is not always easy. And any position is almost guaranteed to arouse animosity. When, in 2014, John Ellison, the dean of students at the University of Chicago, issued a strong statement of commitment to free expression on campus, it was immediately attacked from the left and right. Who, one might ask, would oppose a defense of free expression on the campus? In today’s society, many.

Leadership Needed

As never before, higher education needs strong and articulate leaders to speak out on the academic issues of the day. College and university presidents are at the nexus of the 21st-century communication hub. They are the people who have expertise, institutional knowledge and the credibility to speak on higher education and other major societal issues -- the bully pulpit, electronic and otherwise. And they have the responsibility to do so.

Presidents operate at several different levels. Leaders of nationally known academic institutions can speak to a national audience -- perhaps in collaboration with colleagues -- on national issues. But campus leaders must also play a key role in the local context: meeting with community groups and speaking on national and local issues. Many do so, but the point is to ensure that people everywhere are aware that higher education institutions play a key role in their communities -- and that education is a central value, both for the knowledge that it imparts and for the skills that benefit graduates and the economy. That requires constant engagement. And only presidents can reflect on the key issues facing their own institution; it is very difficult to speak broadly since the higher education sector in America is so variegated and complex. Of course, such communication is especially important when there is a campus crisis, or when national issues, such as debt burdens, the attacks on the liberal arts or a strong defense of academic freedom, require a local voice.

Communication is complex in the digital age, and academic leaders must intelligently use all means available -- from Twitter, Facebook and podcasts to traditional meetings with community groups and editorials in the local newspaper. If higher education is to regain the esteem that it once had, it will take a major commitment from college and university leaders. And it is not just the medium but also the message that higher education is more important than ever in a technologically oriented economy and a politically and socially divided society.

Philip G. Altbach is research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.

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Research universities partner to increase low-income student graduation

An alliance of 11 public research universities shows that sharing data, ideas and practices can help more low-income students graduate.

A president regularly meets with students to candidly discuss controversial issues (essay)

The most meaningful conversations often begin when I say to a student, “Why don’t you tell us more about that?”

I serve as a mentor to a group of young men of all backgrounds and experiences at the University of Richmond. My wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, similarly mentors a group of young women. We each meet monthly. We also convene several times per semester as a united team. Betty has a doctoral degree in cross-cultural mentoring; I try to keep up by leveraging my experience as a university president.

I have long believed in the potential of mentoring. Mentoring connects us as educators to our students in a manner that is spontaneous, timely and genuine. As higher education is increasingly scrutinized for its value and relevance, mentoring provides us the opportunity to share wisdom across generations; foster candor, respect, collaboration, resourcefulness and understanding; and help our students in the transition to future lives of meaning and purpose.

At first glance, it’s easy to clump mentees into stereotypical groups by gender, race or nationality. A student’s religion or political affiliation may emerge within candid discussions; class is often harder to discern. In my groups, students choose the topics they wish to discuss, and nothing is off-limits. Since my arrival in 2015, we have grappled with race and class in our community, the affordability of education, and our collective response to sexual assault, among other important campus issues.

When students volunteer to tell us more, their stories transcend all lines of commonality and difference. For example, an international student didn’t understand the barriers faced by a first-generation American college student until the latter poignantly shared her shame in not having parents or siblings to guide her transition, as so many of her classmates did.

Several students of color debated the ease and challenges of acclimating to the university’s social culture, as two majority-race classmates -- one from a populous East Coast city and the other a small, rural town in the Southwest -- articulated nearly identical enthusiasms and concerns. Two young scholars, vocally committed to different political ideologies, united to promote a shared cause for environmental stewardship.

In their emerging intellectual lives, students sometimes cling to familiar social structures -- engaging only with individuals who look or talk like them, consuming media that reinforces their own beliefs, or avoiding conversations that cause discomfort. Homogeneous thought, lingering indifference and even fear of failure have a dynamic pull.

But the college campus pulls in another direction, offering an ideal environment for abandoning existing biases and seeking out people of different backgrounds and perspectives.

Students learn best when they’re challenged to tackle hard questions and have tough conversations, and when they have these conversations in thoughtful ways. Academic institutions are unusually positioned, and have a distinct responsibility, to model substantive and civil disagreement. But civility must not be code for quieting others’ opinions. Rather, it must be a call for an energetic exchange of ideas within our richly diverse academic communities. What we have found in our mentoring groups is that, given the opportunity, and supported by faculty, staff and peers who care about them, students are often eager to share and willing to change their minds. The experiences we provide our students in laboratories of all sorts offer a rich environment for constructive disagreement that yields new insights that can benefit our nation and world.

In a recent survey of prospective students, which we commissioned, engaging in active discussion with people who represent a variety of experiences and perspectives emerged as a particularly desirable characteristic for any college or university. That affirmation from our students is significant and, considered most optimistically, may indicate that the time is right for a more courageous approach to difficult conversations on all of our campuses.

I believe strongly in education that exposes our students to new experiences as a means of better understanding themselves, their fellow citizens and the knotty and complicated facets of our democracy. As educators and institutional leaders, it’s important to model the behaviors we wish to inculcate in our students. I don’t think there is a simple answer to address the complexities we encounter -- on our campuses and in our world -- but mentoring groups such as ours are easily replicable and represent a clear path forward that is rife with possibility.

Today, at Richmond and across the nation, students are ready to have candid and civil conversations across lines of difference. In our mentoring groups, and on our campuses, they are acquiring the knowledge, skills and dispositions to lead us effectively in the future. At a time when stridency threatens to replace civility as normative in our public discourse and our debates, no lesson may be more timely or important than this one.

Ronald A. Crutcher is president of the University of Richmond.

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President Crutcher with students at the University of Richmond
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The President as Mentor for Tackling Hard Questions

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