Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 6, 2017

An Indiana University of Pennsylvania student died over the weekend after his fraternity brother was seen on the ground choking him, The Indiana Gazette reported.

The two had been fighting on a campus sidewalk late Friday night, a witness told police, when Brady DiStefano, 19, got on top of Caleb Zweig, 20, and began strangling him.

Zweig was unresponsive when paramedics arrived. He died soon after arriving at a local hospital. DiStefano has been charged with aggravated assault, and based on what the autopsy finds, authorities said he could face additional, more severe charges.

Both students were members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a university spokesperson told the Gazette.

The spokesperson, Michelle Fryling, said she didn’t know if the pair had come from a fraternity-sponsored event, but the local police chief told WTAE he assumed the men had been drinking “because of the function they were at.”

“Our hearts are broken when something like this happens,” Fryling said. “It is just tragic and horrible for all involved. And we are continuing to provide support to the family and to all the Greek community that was involved and the entire university community.”

February 6, 2017

College administrators in the field of student success who feel as though their jobs are getting more hectic each day aren't imagining things, according to the EAB.

Researchers at the EAB marked the Washington, D.C., based research and consulting firm’s 10th anniversary this year by reviewing the student success practices it has compiled in its online research library. They found that the concept of student success has since the 1970s steadily expanded to include new responsibilities for colleges.

“Unlike in real life, nothing seems to go extinct in this space,” said Ed Venit, senior director at the EAB. “We are adding things on.”

In an interview, Venit traced the history of student success back to the ’70s and research that explored student retention rates. The ’80s then brought increased attention to supporting students from different backgrounds, followed by investments in the first-year experience in the ’90s and technology-driven advances such as early warning systems in the early 2000s.

Higher education has seen an “exponential upswing” in the field of student success in the years following the financial crisis, as colleges have added financial wellness, career development and degree progress programs to better serve at-risk students, Venit said.

“This is no longer an issue that one person in student affairs cares about,” Venit said. “It’s something that the entire administration at schools spend time thinking about.”

February 6, 2017

Today’s higher education leaders must be adept at navigating not only problems with clear, “conventional solutions,” but also “adaptive challenges” related to the “demographic, economic and cultural transitions taking place,” according to a new report from the American Council on Education. The paper, called “Looking Back and Looking Forward,” is a review of the ACE Fellows Program, which prepares faculty and staff members and administrators for senior leadership positions in a cohort-based mentorship model.

The report argues that professional development must prepare senior leaders not only to work effectively within their individual positions, but also through a “collective approach that benefits the individual, institutions and the enterprise.” Findings are based on a survey of those who have been involved in the program and interviews, with 98 percent of responding fellows saying they agree that the program prepared them from a senior leadership position. “One-on-one conversations with mentors” emerged as the most significant aspect of the placement experience that prepared fellows for senior leadership positions.

The report identifies one “central dilemma” as how leadership is defined and who leads. “Scholarship and conventional wisdom tell us that professionals up and down the line must have the leadership skills and expert knowledge necessary to flex to any challenge,” the report says. “Nevertheless, leadership development programs tend to be designed around the very real hierarchies that exist on college and university campuses.”

February 6, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Indranil Goswami, assistant professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo's School of Management, explains why upping the default option could lead to higher donations for charities and nonprofits. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 4, 2017

The U.S. Department of State has restored the validity of visas from individuals from seven countries whose nationals were barred from entering the United States under a Jan. 27 executive order signed by President Trump. The State Department's move follows a federal judge's decision Friday night to temporarily block the enforcement of that order nationwide.

The New York Times reported that Judge James Robart, of the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, temporarily barred the enforcement of the 90-day entry ban on nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. On Saturday morning the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was suspending all actions to implement the immigration order, several news outlets reported.

In accordance with the order, the State Department has restored the validity of visas from the seven countries, which it had provisionally revoked in response to Trump’s executive order.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under Executive Order 13769,” a State Department official told Inside Higher Ed. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

Trump’s executive order has been widely condemned by civil rights groups as a pretext for banning the entry of Muslims, and by education groups and university leaders who see it as undermining key higher education values of inclusion, mobility and internationalism, and as preventing the travel by talented students and scholars to their campuses. Numerous students and scholars from the affected countries who happened to be abroad at the time the order was signed have been unable to re-enter the U.S. Under the terms of the order, those already in the U.S. did not have to leave, but they would be unable to re-enter the country if they left, in effect preventing them from engaging in any personal or professional international travel.

The White House has pledged to contest Robart’s ruling. “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the president, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” the White House said in a statement Friday.

An updated statement from the White House deleted the word “outrageous,” but Trump did not hold back his outrage on Twitter, saying, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump has justified the executive order as intended to keep terrorists out of the United States.

February 3, 2017

A group of presidents and chancellors from 48 leading universities, including all eight Ivy League institutions, the University of Michigan, and seven University of California campuses, signed a letter to President Trump on Thursday calling him to “rectify or rescind” an executive order barring entry into the U.S. for 90 days or more for nationals of seven Muslim countries.

"If left in place," the letter states, "the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country."

The letter notes that the order “specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses” and states that the action “unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions.”

“Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world,” the letter states. “It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation.”

Dozens of college presidents and higher education associations have issued statements expressing concerns about or criticizing Trump's executive order -- some in forceful terms -- since he signed it late last week. Trump has justified the order as intended to keep terrorists out of the country.

February 3, 2017

President Trump on Thursday repeated a campaign pledge by promising to "destroy" the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 federal provision that bans political activity by nonprofit organizations, including colleges and churches.

Under the amendment, nonprofit colleges cannot directly or indirectly endorse specific candidates or otherwise engage in politicking without risking their nonprofit tax status. Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University's president and an early Trump supporter, has called for the amendment's repeal, arguing that it has been used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to target conservative and religious groups. “In recent years it’s been used as a club,” Falwell told Inside Higher Ed in July. “It would be best for all nonprofit organizations if it were repealed.”

The amendment has rarely if ever been enforced in higher education. Yet David Herzig, a professor at Valparaiso University's law school who specializes in tax law, said it poses a theoretical concern for colleges in a heated political environment. "The penalty is you lose your exemption," he said. "It's a stiff penalty."

Herzig said a university-hosted rally, for example, where faculty members and lawmakers endorsed a political position, could be viewed as a violation of the amendment. Trump could call on the IRS to investigate such an event, Herzig said. That possibility seems less far-fetched this week, as the president on Twitter threatened to yank federal funding for the University of California, Berkeley, after violent protests led to the university canceling an appearance by a Breitbart writer and provocateur. "I do see the concern for higher ed," said Herzig.

Ending the Johnson Amendment, however, probably would not lead to much political advocacy by public colleges, said Jim Newberry, a lawyer who heads the higher education practice at Steptoe & Johnson. That's because public institution leaders tend to avoid confrontations with lawmakers who have a say in their funding. "You live by that sword, you die by that sword," he said.

Yet some religiously affiliated colleges might want to get more politically involved if the amendment was dropped, Newberry said. One reason, according to an article The Atlantic published this week, is that some religious colleges increasingly see a marketing value in appealing to political conservatives. Even so, Newberry doubted many colleges would operate all that differently if the ban on politicking were eliminated. "I just don't think it's really in the heart and soul of what they do," he said.

February 3, 2017

Republicans in Congress began the process Thursday to block the implementation of teacher-prep rules that would impose new accountability on education colleges.

The Obama administration finalized those rules in October after a years-long process that included negotiated rule making and input from teachers' unions, college deans and other education groups.

But Representative Brett Guthrie, a Kentucky Republican, introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to stop the new rules from going into effect. The Congressional Review Act is a little-used legislative tool that allows lawmakers to eliminate a number of so-called midnight regulations issued in the final months of a presidency.

“Unfortunately, as it did so often, the Obama administration acted unilaterally, overreached and took a one-size-fits-all approach to how teachers are prepared for the classroom,” said Guthrie, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, in a statement. “As a result, the rules finalized by the Department of Education ignore the principles guiding recent bipartisan education reforms and would actually make it more difficult for state and local leaders to help ensure teachers are ready to succeed.”

Education groups who have backed more accountability and transparency for the programs that train public-school teachers have welcomed the efforts by the Obama administration to craft the rules. Benjamin Riley, executive director of Deans for Impact, said states across the country are already taking steps to ensure colleges are no longer sending unprepared teachers into classrooms.

"Apparently some elected officials, in their zeal for deregulation, are willing to join hands with those in higher education who will resist any and all attempts to use policy to improve outcomes," he said.

February 3, 2017

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is proposing, pending state funding approval, that transfer students from the state's community college system who meet various academic criteria receive one year of free tuition if they are from the first generation in their families to go to college. Those who are Pell Grant eligible would receive two years of free tuition.

February 3, 2017

Former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will be the next leader of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for minority and low-income students.

Ed Trust named King its president and CEO weeks after he left the Department of Education, which he led since March 2016. Previously, King served as acting deputy secretary of education and New York commissioner of education.

He will succeed Ed Trust CEO Kati Haycock, who has led the organization since she founded it in the early 1990s.

“Over its 25-year history, the Education Trust has been a leader in the work to bring attention and action to closing longstanding opportunity and achievement gaps that separate too many low-income students and students of color from their peers, pre-kindergarten through college,” said Education Trust board Chairman David V. Britt. “This history provides a strong foundation on which to build new partnerships, new work and new learning -- indeed, a new movement -- and we think John is exactly the right leader for this next stage of the organization’s work.”

In state-level offices, the organization has worked with civil rights groups on equity issues in K-12 schools. Ed Trust has also created data tools on the higher education level and added support for colleges serving large concentrations of low-income and minority students.

The organization has spoken out in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s nomination as education secretary. And its Midwest arm has criticized the Michigan charter school law that DeVos donated millions to back politically.

King in an interview with Politico Thursday took the unusual step for a former secretary of expressing serious concerns about President Trump’s nominee. DeVos’s background in education has been as a school choice activist and donor to political campaigns to expand charter schools and vouchers.

King, who led a charter school chain in New York himself, questioned whether DeVos will be committed to protecting civil rights as education secretary.

“People who care about public education, who care about equity, who care about civil rights should speak out loudly,” he told Politico. “When there seems to be a lack of clear commitment to protecting student civil rights, we’re going to speak up loudly.”

He said in comments to Ed Trust staff that he lost both parents at a young age but was supported and challenged by his teachers in public school. In leading the organization, he said he wants to help provide that same support to students from similar backgrounds.

“Amazing teachers at PS 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island gave me a sense of hope and possibility. If I had not had those teachers, I wouldn’t be alive today. They literally saved my life,” King said. “At the Education Trust, I want to help more kids like me -- kids for whom schools make all the difference -- get the education they need and deserve.”


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