latest version  09/6/2017


VOL. 2,  NO. 3            summer 2017


T O P  S T O R I E S ...

Charlottesville murder... Double, double toil and trouble...  Title IX takedown...  No more volleyball... Google and “academic victimology”... Harvard and affirmative inaction... Why Republicans hate college..... Tim Cook (Apple) tells MIT grads that technology “doesn’t want to do great things”... and more...

P U R P O S E  | Liberal Arts: New Life in the Computer Age  The good news is that Shakespeare may also be good for plumbers and bankers 1


The Year of Free Speech—Or Not! Mostly not, as “speech police” and “ideological bubbles” continue to fester  2


Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy It’s a bigger job than ever, as everything from murder and rape to black mold, opioid addiction, and loneliness threaten today’s college


Growing Pains for K-12 Partnerships For better and worse, more colleges are partnering with local K-12 school systems 4


Harvard’s Affirmative Inaction Problem  The elite college is being sued by Asian-Americans  5


Think Before You Post A number of Harvard applicants wish they had—the college rescinded their admission offers because of offensive speech  6




G O V E R N A N C E | Charlottesville Murder  Shakes the Nation  A deadly


confrontation at the feet of Robert E. Lee 7


Lessons Learned  Are violent protests the new reality? 8


Mitch Daniels Takes Purdue Off Campus In buying a for profit online college Purdue goes where few big state universities have gone before  9


More Misery for Mizzou 
A new chancellor faces an enrollment meltdown  10


Advice from the Private Sector: Avoid “Lone-Insider” Boards   So-called “Independent” boards don’t work  11


The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall Shirley Jackson at RPI and Carmen Puliafito at USC lose their luster. What’s a Board to do?  12


No More Volleyball  Colleges all over the country are tightening their belts  13


The Student Debt Wall  With $1.3 trillion outstanding and defaults rising, it may be time to use the word “crisis”  14


Like Death and Taxes: Tuition Survives The good news is that tuition increases are slowing  15


P U B L I C  T R U S T  |  Why Republicans Hate College A Pew report shows that 58% of the party of Lincoln thinks college is bad for the country  16


Title IX Takedown  A closed-door FedEd “summit” reveals a new sympathy toward the “falsely accused and disciplined”   17



E M E R G E N T   O R D E R S | Small Colleges: No Room for Error Tiny Mills College cuts staff rather than open its doors to men—and other such tales of woe  18


A Still-Rocky Road for HBCUs  Historic black colleges are struggling to survive  19


Double, Double Toil and Trouble; Wires Burn, and Identity Politics Bubble  A respected liberal professor shakes up the left-leaning  professoriate  20


Google and “Imported Academic Victimology” 
An earnest memo questioning women’s STEM capacities  creates a furor and gets its author fired  21


Coursera Charts a New Course  A new boss comes from the financial technology world  22


DeVos Rolls Back Civil Rights Inquiries And other Obama-era regs are biting the dust  23








Liberal Arts: New Life in the Computer Age  While Yale undergrads can choose from a myriad of courses to satisfy their distributional requirements, their counterparts at Yale-NUS, Yale’s joint venture with the National University of Singapore, are required to complete an intensive core curriculum during their freshman and sophomore years. The curriculum is modeled after Yale’s Directed Studies, an interdisciplinary program in Western civilization that admits a select group of freshman each year. Introduced in 1946, according to Justin Zaremby in the New Criterion, the program is still flourishing today, “despite intermittent (or continuing) culture wars.” Thus the liberal arts, as well as the debate about their usefulness, continue. And according to three new books, graduates can actually do things with a liberal arts degree. For starters, the authors say, instead of focusing on vocations, we should be encouraging students to widen, not narrow, their interests. Even the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, knows that “Technology is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things,” as he told this year’s MIT graduating class. “That part takes all of us. It takes our values, and our commitment to our families, and our neighbors, and our communities.” And those are the values fostered by the liberal arts. The field is rich—and paying real dividends. See the Further Reading suggestions below.


The Year of Free Speech—or Not! Recent free speech incidents across the country—from the violence in Charlottesville to the shutting down of conservative speakers by student “speech police” to a Duke divinity professor’s resigning after being disciplined for calling diversity training “a waste”—continue to prompt deep soul-searching about the role of robust debate on campus. Laurie L. Patton, president of Middlebury College, says it’s time to move past “the false dichotomy between free speech and inclusiveness” and accept freedom of expression for all. To help students “break out of their ideological bubbles,” Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, is calling for affirmative action for conservative and other underrepresented viewpoints. Northwestern president Morton Schapiro defends safe spaces, arguing that only when students feel protected can they “voluntarily engage in uncomfortable learning,” while Carol Christ,  UC Berkeley’s 11th chancellor  and the first woman to lead the nation’s top public research university, unveiled plans for a “Free Speech Year.” Meanwhile, Nicholas B. Dirks, former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley,  fears that the recent round of attacks, from both the alt-right and -left, is part of a “more general and sinister assault” on the idea of the university itself, directed especially at public universities that are already facing steep declines in state funding. 




Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and rise of the left-wing antifa movement, colleges and universities are now struggling to find the right balance, not just between free speech and discomfiting speech, but between free speech and dangerous speech. Schools are adjusting to new concerns for keeping their students healthy and safe. Texas A&M canceled a “White Lives Matter” rally, set to feature white supremacist Richard Spencer, over public safety concerns. In late August, Texas colleges had to contend with the ravages of Hurricane Harvey as well. And there are plenty of more mundane safety concerns to contend with. As more schools like the University of Richmond, Northwestern University, East Carolina University, and Beloit College are finding, aging buildings are ripe for fungal problems. And the fix is not cheap. After students complained of coughing fits and fatigue, Indiana University spent $568,220 to clean the air vents in two dorms. And, as the demand for mental health services skyrockets, the Iowa Board of Regents last fall approved a $10.50-a-semester student fee to help fund new counselors, while other schools like Virginia Tech are opening satellite counseling clinics. And did we mention sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll? “Now, you couldn’t possibly talk about drugs and alcohol without talking about opioids,” John Downey, dean of students at Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Wall Street Journal.


Growing Pains for K-12 Partnerships  While town-and-gown partnerships have always been a part of university life, more colleges and universities across the country are investing millions of dollars in, and lending their names to, innovative K-12 education reforms, especially in urban, depressed areas. Purdue University, for instance, invested $1.1 million in a STEM-focused charter school opening this fall in Indianapolis, 70 miles away from its main campus. In an effort to revitalize small college towns, schools like the University of the Ozarks and Colby College have set up homebuyer incentives to encourage faculty and staff members to live closer to campus and get more involved in university life. But it doesn’t always work. The University of Southern California’s partnership with Crenshaw High School dissolved after five years, bedeviled by disagreements over district oversight, disrespectful student behavior, and stakeholder goals.


Harvard’s Affirmative Inaction Problem  In a move that could alter the future of affirmative action, the Trump Justice Department is planning to staff up an investigation into whether Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Already the subject of a federal lawsuit, which dates back to 2014, plaintiffs claim that the Ivy League school holds Asian-American applicants to higher academic standards as a way to limit their admission. According to 2009  research, in order to gain admission to elite schools, Asian students must score 140 to 450 points higher on the SAT than other groups. For the past 25 years, the percentage of Asian-Americans at Harvard has hovered around 20 percent, even while the percentage of Asians in the general population has grown rapidly. Ironically, perhaps, for the first time in the school’s history, a majority of the incoming freshmen at Harvard (50.8 percent) are nonwhite.


Think Before You Post Harvard has withdrawn at least 10 admission offers after discovering the incoming freshmen had posted sexually explicit and other offensive messages in a private Facebook chat. The postings—mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children—were sent in the form of memes. The students used the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group to connect with one another after someone suggested starting a chat for students who like memes. In other social media news, a Yale dean who championed diversity was put on leave because of a string of racially insensitive postings she made on the online review website Yelp—e.g., calling one Asian restaurant “perfect for white trash.” She has since left the school.









 7   Charlottesville Murder Shakes the Nation The sight of a car smashing into a crowd of  counter-protesters, killing a young woman and injuring a dozen others in the historic college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, shattered the nation’s mid-summer peace last August and brought an unwanted new anxiety to American colleges and universities. Almost immediately, critics wondered how police and University of Virginia officials could have been caught so off-guard.  According to some professors at the esteemed but shaken school, located just blocks from the Robert E. Lee statue of contention, there were plenty of signs beforehand that the night could turn violent, including social media postings, eyewitness accounts, and “basic common sense,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which reported that instead university officials gave students “the same advice that they might give before a snowstorm: Hunker down and it will pass.” And almost lost to the public in the carnage of the ISIS-like vehicle murder and mayhem were video pictures of armed white nationalist militia marchers, including one who shot at a black counter-protester, without intervention by police.


Lessons Learned  Post-Charlottesville, university presidents and trustees across the country immediately began questioning how best to handle the new wave of increasingly violent student activism on and near campuses (see “Keeping Kids Safe and Healthy” above) while also protecting free speech and providing a safe, inclusive environment for all. And as Charlottesville tried to heal from the bloody events at a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists, violence broke out on the campus where the free speech movement was born, Berkeley, this time provoked by members of a left-wing group known as “antifa” (for “anti- fascist”). As the fall semester gets under way, here are takeaways in the aftermath of Charlottesville. #1: In denying a public platform to white supremacist Richard Spencer, the University of Florida showed that, on its campus, the risk of violence transcends the principles of free speech. #2: With politics drifting away from traditional norms, violent street protests are becoming the new reality. #3: Instructors are already making changes to their syllabi to use Charlottesville to explore social issues such as racism, poverty, racial segregation, and economic disparity head-on. #4: As support grows for removing Confederate monuments, universities have to weigh the balance between free expression and the threats these symbols impose. #5: In the increasing wake of professors becoming targets—including harassment and death threats—universities must do a better job of defending academic freedom.


Mitch Daniels Takes Purdue Off Campus Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University, the for-profit online college, for a dollar last spring sent shock waves through academia and raised the ire of some faculty members. A degree from “NewU” (the school’s temporary name) will cost an estimated $39,600, versus $80,088 (including room and board) for a degree from the main campus. Over the summer, Purdue won state approval of the deal; the Federal Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting agency, are also reviewing the arrangement. While it remains to be seen whether the unconventional deal will be successful, Purdue president Mitch Daniel is making a strategic investment in nontraditional students, who up until now have been pretty much ignored.


10  More Misery for Mizzou In a blistering new report published by the National Association of Scholars, J. Martin Rochester, Curators’ Teaching Professor of political science at University of Missouri-St. Louis, provides what NAS says is a “a case study of the 2015 crisis at the University of Missouri, using it as a window into the declining commitment to diversity, free speech, and academic rigor nationwide.” In fact, the report, subtitled “A Case Study of Non-Diversity, Non-Freedom, and Non-Academics in Higher Education,” is just one of many headaches greeting newly named University of Missouri chancellor Alexander Cartwright, who has been tapped to lead the school’s troubled Columbia campus. Following the string of highly publicized protests in 2015 and “ongoing public perception concerns,” freshmen enrollment at the largest college in the Show-Me state  has dropped 35 percent in just two years—from 6,000 in 2015 to 4,000 this fall. In response, the school says it has  been forced to raise tuition and cut 400 jobs.


11  Advice From the Private Sector: Avoid “Lone-Insider” Boards  In the business world, new research by five business management academics suggests that governing  boards with only one company insider on the board can lead to excessive CEO pay, fraud, and insufficient knowledge of an institution’s operations—a report that higher education trustees would do well to pay attention to. In what the Wall Street Journal calls “an ironic twist,” it turns out that U.S. companies have been willfully walking into the lone-insider briar patch for some time, “trying too hard to be independent,” and now nearly three-quarters of S&P 500 companies “boast boards where the chief executive serves as the lone inside member, up from 41% in 2000.”  While lone-insider data about college boards is hard to come by, there are plenty of other suggestions for improving trustee management: here, here, and here. (See also “No More Volleyball” below.)




12  The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall  Not long after Shirley Ann Jackson assumed the presidency of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2001, she secured a $360 million unrestricted gift from an anonymous donor—the largest single donation ever given to a university at the time. Jackson, an African-American physicist, has an armful of honors, awards and appointments, including Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1995 (President Bill Clinton) and the National Medal of Science in 2016 (President Barack Obama). But a daring in-depth investigative report by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jack Stripling suggests that Jackson’s fund-raising glory days may be behind her. Since that early record-setter donation, RPI’s alumni giving has fallen by half, and the advancement office has become a revolving door, with whisperings of low morale, internal tensions, and fears of retaliation. Over at the University of Southern California, the fall of Carmen Puliafito, who abruptly resigned his prestigious post as dean of the Keck School of Medicine in 2016, was much farther and harder. This July The Los Angeles Times revealed what happened. According to its investigative report, Puliafito was not only a “renowned eye surgeon whose skill in the operating room was matched by a gift for attracting money and talent to the university,” he also “kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them.”  And now  shocked parents, students, and administrators are asking why Puliafito was allowed to remain on staff long after reports of his illegal off-campus behavior were discovered. (See “Advice from the Private Sector”  and “No More Volleyball” for trustee  oversight tips.)  


13  No More Volleyball   With administrative costs always a top priority for trustees, the July report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a useful one. How Much Is Too Much? Controlling Administrative Costs Through Effective Oversight tracks national cost trends, offers ratios of administrative to instructional costs and suggests action items, such as “creating and using financial dashboards with at-a-glance metrics to monitor spending.” It also suggested that small liberal arts colleges had the highest ratios and research universities the lowest, a finding that didn’t sit well with Pete Boyle, vice president for communications at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, who told The Chronicle of Higher Education that ACTA took too “narrow” a view of what instructional costs comprised. Jeffrey Selingo, former editor at the Chronicle and a trustee of Ithaca College, offered blunt advice in an editorial in The Washington Post, telling colleges to lose the “marketing gimmicks” and cut costs by “[declaring] a truce in the amenities arms race,” among other suggestions. Or they could follow the lead of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, which met its budgetary challenges by suspending all sports—including men and women’s basketball, men’s golf, and women’s volleyball—except soccer.


14  The Student Debt Wall With $1.3 trillion in federal student-loan debt outstanding, rising loan defaults, and mounting consumer complaints of poor loan servicing, there’s no shortage of proposals to fix the student loan debt crisis. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has reintroduced legislation to allow people with high-interest student loans to refinance at current interest rates (presently at near historic lows). But critics say the average borrower would save only about $8 a month. Three states—Indiana, Nebraska, and, most recently, Florida—now require colleges and universities to provide students with detailed reports spelling out how much they’ve borrowed and their projected monthly payments. The information is similar to the disclosures consumers receive when taking out a mortgage or car loan. The number of students applying for federal aid rose 6 percent in the last cycle after a four-year downswing, and now some schools, most notably Purdue University, are starting to experiment with income share agreements, or ISAs. Under such agreements, an investor, like a private investment firm or a college endowment, pays for a student’s tuition in exchange for a percentage of that individual’s future income for a set number of years, but unlike a loan, students who earn more, pay more. Many potential funders in the private sector, however, are wary due to legal uncertainties. to the top


Sources & Further Reading


15  Like Death and Taxes: Tuition Survives  Do cuts in state funding cause tuition increases? According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, the answer is no. Schools absorb subsidy cuts by reducing spending in areas like research and administration. But the “disinvestment theory” still seems to hold sway over the policy arena and new research in the Economics of Education Review finds that state funding cuts do matter: For every $1,000 cut in funding, a student will pay $257 more per year in tuition and fees. In either case, after growing some 400 percent over the past 30 years, tuition increases are finally being reined in. Labor Department figures show that tuition at U.S. colleges and graduate schools rose 1.9 percent through June, roughly in line with inflation. As many have long predicted, the higher education bubble may be coming to a head. Rather than bursting, however, the bubble is slowly “leaking,” while “free tuition” continues to advance, with Rhode Island now the fourth state—along with Oregon, Tennessee, and New York—to offer free community college for state residents. And this despite the fact that critics argue that free tuition programs have huge price tags attached to them and can’t be justified as a “public good.










16   Why Republicans Hate College There is no evidence linking the two events, but at about the same time that Mark Lilla was burning bridges in the liberal academy (see “Double, Double Toil and Trouble” below), Pew Research released its annual survey on Americans’ views of national institutions and, not surprisingly, results were sharply divided along party lines. Most noteworthy, perhaps, was the gap in opinions about higher education: nearly three-quarters of Democrats have a positive view of college and only 36 percent of Republicans do. The real news, however, is how dramatically Republican views of higher education have fallen in recent years. More than half of Republicans (58 percent) now say that colleges and universities have a negative impact on the country—up from 37 percent just two years ago. What accounts for this deep distrust of higher education among conservatives? A backlash against identity politics, the rise of safe spaces, and the increasing number of free speech clashes and violent protests on campus—including ones caused by fake news—have all been blamed. The media focus on college grads living in their parents’ basements and drowning in debt is also cited as a factor, as well as the perceived liberal bias on college campuses and the view that too many elite schools have discarded their core principles for “ideological crusades.” Whatever the reasons, experts warn that the eventual ramifications for the future of higher ed could be quite serious.




17  Title IX Takedown In a clear message to educators that this was a new administration,  Federal Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos held a “closed door summit” in early July to discuss college sexual assault and included, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “meeting with colleges and universities as well as sexual assault survivors and students who the department says have been falsely accused and disciplined under the Title IX federal civil rights law.” In meeting with that last group DeVos clearly signaled her concern that the Obama administration crackdown on campus sexual assault had resulted in violations of men’s civil rights—the phrase ‘kangaroo court’ had been used. At the same time, while trying to reassure women’s groups that her Fed Ed would enforce Title IX, DeVos suddenly had to defend herself from one of her assistant secretaries, Candice Jackson, who boldly claimed in an interview with The New York Times that “the [sexual assault] accusations—90 percent of them—fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’” Even for the audacious Trump administration, that was an “oops” moment.










18   Small Colleges: No Room for Error  The idea, perhaps, has origins in the Bible (Matthew 25:14–30); and so it’s not surprising to see The Washington Post report that rich colleges keep getting richer and poorer (smaller) colleges keep struggling. This may be caused as much by bad actions as by government  subsidy cuts, but either way it’s clear that small colleges don’t have much wiggle room. Mills College, for instance, with just 821 undergraduate women, faces a $9.1 million deficit and hopes forging ties with local public institutions will give it a boost. Perhaps not following the advice of others (see “Advice from the Private Sector” and “No More Volleyball” above), the school laid off more than 30 employees rather than open its doors to men. (It does admit “gender non-binary students.”) Several HBCUs are unable to make loan payments to the federal government, with one, Barber-Scotia College, up for sale after losing its accreditation. (See “A Still-Rocky Road for HBCUs” below.) However, some schools—like Ohio Wesleyan—are getting creative. That school gives discounts but also spends time studying data: thus, men’s college enrollment is dropping, so the school is offering more sports; students want more internships and international study, so the school is expanding those programs; and faculty is working with financial aid on developing new, hopefully popular courses to draw in more students. And one new study, from the Council for Independent Colleges and the TIAA Institute, has evidence undermining the Matthew Effect: “many of the economic indicators for small, private institutions continue to improve in the aftermath of the Great Recession.” 


19  A Still-Rocky Road for HBCUs  Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play a vital role in minority education, enrolling some 300,000 students each year and producing 20 percent of black undergraduate degrees (also: two in five African-American members of Congress attended an HBCU). Yet many of these small colleges are struggling to survive. President Donald Trump pledged in February to make HBCUs an “absolute priority,” but the White House has yet to name a director to oversee its initiative on HBCUs. The 2017 National HBCU Week Conference will proceed as scheduled (September 17-19 in Arlington, Virginia), despite calls from black leaders to postpone the event amid fallout over the president’s remarks about the Charlottesville protests.  




20   Double, Double Toil and Trouble; Wires Burn, and Identity Politics Bubble In June The Chronicle of Higher Education profiled NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt under a provocative headline, “Can Jonathan Haidt Calm the Culture Wars?” A well-known scholar, Haidt had become something of an academic celebrity and “gadfly of the campus culture wars,” wrote Evan Goldstein in the Chronicle, when he co-authored an Atlantic Monthly cover story called “The Coddling of the American Mind,” which, according to Goldstein, “took the rise of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces as evidence that colleges are nurturing a hypersensitive mind-set among students that ‘will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.’” The answer to the Chronicle’s question would seem to be no. But adding insult to leftist injury, Mark Lilla, professor of the humanities at Columbia University and something of an academic darling of the left, has released a new book, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, which contends that liberals are now born on college and university campuses rather than arising from working-class and farm communities. Like Haidt, Lilla had jumped into the fray earlier, with  an essay in The New York Times arguing that “one of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.” Instantly the left’s leading heretic, Lilla in fact may be the one to calm the culture wars—by defecting. As he told The American Conservative in August, identity politics has created people “obsessed with trivial issues that have made them a national laughing stock.”  (See “Why Republicans Hate College” above.)  


21  Google and “Imported Academic Victimology” According to Manhattan Institute fellow Heather McDonald, Google fired James Damore, author of a controversial memo saying there could be a biological reason women can’t perform as well as men in engineering, because “the ‘real world’ is being remade in the image of college campuses.” That is the world of “imported academic victimology,” says McDonald. In Damore’s memo, which the National Review denies is an “anti-diversity screed,” Damore cites research showing, among other things, that men are more aggressive and women more anxious. But two researchers of gender and STEM say the study Damore used was an outlier, the findings of which no one, not even the study’s author, could replicate. According to NPR, Harvey Mudd College, catering to students in STEM, has 48.8 percent women graduates. Carnegie Mellon is seeing similar results. However, if biology might be destiny, Scott Yenor, writing in Public Discourse, has a point: the feminists of yore who rejected strict gender roles are responsible for today’s transgender people. “Subverting norms unites queer theory to transgender rights,” he states. Still, squabbling Texas Republicans, even before Hurricane Harvey, were unable to pass a “bathroom bill” that would have mandated that people use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth. Exxon, among other Texas companies, weighed in against it. 




22   Coursera Charts a New Course  Rick Levin, a one-time president of Yale University, has stepped down as head of Coursera, the online education company, after three years. Coursera, which was established to bring inexpensive education to the masses, looks very different today. Under Levin’s leadership, it launched new offerings targeted to business, government, and nonprofit groups. The new CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda, comes from the world of financial technology rather than academia.




23  DeVos Rolls Back Obama Civil Rights Inquiries  The new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is certainly no stranger to controversy (see “Betsy Wins by a Pence”) And while fending off criticism over her sympathies for college men accused of sexual assault (see “Title IX Takedown” above), she is also rolling back investigations into civil rights violations at public colleges and universities,  as well as rewriting two key Obama-era regulations aimed at protecting federal-student-loan borrowers from predatory for-profit schools: “gainful employment” and “borrower defense to repaying.” A group of 19 Democratic state attorneys general is suing DeVos for ending the rules, but she has defended her decision, saying the previous administration really overstepped its bounds. Meanwhile, a chronological roundup of ever major higher-ed statement by President Donald Trump, who has been relatively quiet about higher education policy, can be read here.  


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