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THE NEWS QUARTERLY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION TRUSTEES
VOL. 3, NO. 3-4 Summer/Fall 2018
T O P S T O R I E S
Conservative Voices Fading Fast From College Campuses Ratio of liberal to conservative professors is up 350 percent MORE
Uproars at Brown and Uva At the former, accusations of ideological bias and at the latter, the taint of Trump in a fellowship award MORE
EXTERNAL ORDERS| No More Rankings—Please, More Rankings! Rate of social mobility of low-income and minority students now counts MORE
Americans Still Believe in Higher Ed’s Public Good Despite declining enrollments, mounting deficits, and more closures, a new survey says most Americans support public education MORE
Why Are So Many People Afraid of Jordan Peterson—or Should Be? One commentator blames an ignorant culture for the Canadian professor’s popularity MORE
A Philosopher and a Political Scientist Take on Identity Politics In two new books Kwame Appiah and Francis Fukuyama cast the long view at the most popular academic ideology of the last 50 years MORE
Betsy DeVos Misses a Crucial Deadline Somehow the conservative education secretary failed to rescind the “gainful employment” accountability rule MORE
The High Economic Costs of Student Loan Debt Some 100 people owe a million dollars or more—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg MORE
Live Long and Prosper—Just Not on Capitol Hill The proposed reauthorizing of the Higher Education Act (Proposal for Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity) is unofficially dead in its tracks MORE
College-For-Everyone Movement Begins to Slow More choices about college increase doubts about same MORE
A Name by Any Other Name “Silent Sam” is one of many Confederate idols to bite the dust and lead to Margaret Spellings' resignation MORE
Are Colleges Responsible for Student Suicide? A court absolves MIT, “but the message to colleges is, you can’t simply look away.” MORE
Chicago Drops SAT and ACT Will other elite schools follow suit? MORE
Will Restorative Justice Work for Sex Assault Cases? Yes, cost effective, but do victims really want to chat with their assailants? MORE
Unconventional Reality: Men as Minority. With men just 42 percent of college enrollment, anti-discriminatory cases (brought by men) have already surfaced at Yale and USC MORE
A New Push for College Completion Paying back student loans depends on graduating ― and other such incentives to finish college MORE
The Big Hack With a third of all foreign students coming from China, government officials are worried about espionage MORE
Students Support Due Process A conservative group says that 98 percent of college students support due process; not so much when it comes to sexual assault MORE
P U B L I C T R U S T | Harvard’s Asian-Americans Now at the Center of Affirmative-Action Debate The premier Ivy League college finds itself in the crosshairs of a probable Supreme Court fight MORE
It’s Overtime for the NCAA More sex abuse and more convictions MORE
Betsy DeVos Proposes an Overhaul of Sex Assault Rules The controversial ed secretary is bolstering the rights of the accused MORE
P U R P O S E | Liberal Arts Take Another Bad Turn An “alarmingly steep” decline in humanities majors MORE
Multiculturalism’s Effect on the Hard Sciences One commentator predicts a “disastrous” impact on “scientific innovation” MORE
Beta Theta Pshaw! College fraternities continue to get high marks for bad behavior MORE
Is It Sanctioned Speech or Just Proper Etiquette? And where does the Bias Response Team fit in? MORE
Free Speech Pushback and Accomodation From lawsuits to Civil Discourse projects, the beat goes on MORE
Vindication for Professor in Free Speech Episode For holding up a sign reading “Just say NO! to Neo-Fascism” a sixth-year doctoral student had been suspended MORE
Sexual Assault in the #MeToo Era Colleges have paid more than $10.5 million in sex harassment settlements in the last two years MORE
G O V E R N A N C E | Sex Assault: Administrative Fallout Max Nikias leaves USC and John Engler struggles at Michigan State MORE
Time to Tax Endowments (Again)? With public universities jumping on the fundraising bandwagon legislators are seeing dollar signs MORE
What Happens When the Accused Is a Woman? Sex harassment charges against a female professor at NYU divides women MORE
The College Presidency Evolves—Slowly Most higher-ed chiefs are still middle-aged, white married men, but the average tenure has dropped from 8.5 to 6.5 years. MORE
1 Liberal Arts Take Another Bad Turn The Association of American Colleges & Universities and the American Association of University Professors recently released a joint statement defending the liberal arts. While concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree have been around for decades, the percentage of students getting bachelor’s degrees in the humanities remained pretty stable for 35 years: 17.1 percent in 1970–71 vs. 17.6 percent in 2005–06, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A low point came in the mid-1980s when the number fell to 13.5 percent. The liberal arts managed to recover back then, but the question is: Can they bounce back this time? In the last 10 years, many schools have seen “alarmingly steep” declines in the number of humanities majors—e.g., falling by 40 percent across all disciplines between 2010 and 2015 at Pennsylvania State University.
A myriad of reasons have been cited: the economic crisis of 2007–08, the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors, and the rise of social media. Others point to identity politics. How many 20-year-olds really want to study with English professors who list their subspecialties as racial/sexual identities and injustices? Most liberal arts colleges and departments simply have not made a good case for themselves with students, parents, or policymakers. Recent studies have found that 40 percent of liberal arts grads say they would pick a different major if they had to do it over again; over a third see no relationship between their jobs and what they learned in college; and many high-achieving low-income students don’t even know what “liberal arts” means. Schools are finally fighting back. Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts at Purdue University is a 15-credit-hour certificate program designed for all Purdue undergraduates, but especially STEM majors. Rather than viewing the humanities “as a box to check on the way to courses that really matter,” students take thematically linked liberal arts courses connected to their professional aspirations. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advocates integrating the study of STEMM (the second M is for medicine) with the arts and humanities. At Harvard Medical School, med students can elect to engage in observation activities at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to improve their diagnostic skills. TO THE TOP
2 Multiculturalism’s Effect on the Hard Sciences Identity politics has greatly affected many departments on campuses all over the country, but only recently has STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—felt the IP sting from diversity mandates. “Identity politics is now altering the standards for scientific competence and the way future scientists are trained,” writes the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald in City Journal. This, she predicts, “will be disastrous for scientific innovation and for American competitiveness.” First-Year Experience (FYE) programs were intended to help students navigate the transition from high school to college (seldom easy for even the best of students) and have now spread to 90 percent of American college campuses. “Today’s FYE programs, however—largely designed by left-wing college administrators, not professors—sermonize about subjects like social justice, environmental sustainability, gender pronouns, and microaggressions,” writes City Journal contributing editor John Tierney. “Multiculturalism” is a buzzword for common-read programs, “but their version of it doesn’t include past cultures or foreign authors. Virtually all colleges choose books by current American writers, mostly from the past decade,” he continues. The programs are not “introducing students to great literature, but then, that’s not the point.” TO THE TOP
3 Beta Theta Pshaw! College administrations are beginning to crack down on misconduct, which has become all too prevalent among fraternities. Many members have been accused of sexual assault, hazing, and excessive alcohol consumption. For example, at Penn State, 18 members of a fraternity were charged with the alcohol-related death of a pledge. Five fraternities were banned from West Virginia University for drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault. And a group of schools have initiated a scorecard methodology to track violations of fraternity rules and record suspensions in order to monitor whether rules and regulations were being observed. TO THE TOP
4 Is It Sanctioned Speech or Just Proper Etiquette? The question of when speech can be curtailed—or sanctioned—has expanded considerably since the days of not being able to yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. On college campuses any number of topics can be considered incendiary and the goal of creating a safe environment where students feel free of intimidating language or conduct has spawned such speech hydra as the University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team, which reports incidents of “negative” or “demeaning” language. Meanwhile, the University of California has developed a program that provides students with specific verbal guidelines for what constitutes insensitive speech. “I believe everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough,” for example, is considered a “microaggression” and subject to discipline. TO THE TOP
5 Free Speech Pushback and Accommodation The result of sometimes effusive guardrails, controls, and sanctions on campus speech have certainly dampened free speech. Groups like Students for Life of America complain of having difficulty receiving permission to protest publicly on behalf of their anti-abortion position. When professors “decided to host a protest teach-in,” what would you do? a group of educators were asked during a recent panel discussion at the annual conference of the National Association of College and University Attorneys. As the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Sarah Brown reported in a follow-up story, at Governors State University in Illinois the school’s administration answered that question by changing its hiring process to ensure that only those who agreed with its mission were retained
Many have perceived a leftward tilt emerging in the current speech-dampening era, leaving some professors worrying about their academic freedom, while the Trump administration is stepping into the debate, offering “statements of interest” in court filings that challenge speech bias rules. The nonprofit Speech First sued University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team, claiming an infringement on First Amendment rights, a claim denied by a federal judge, who stated that the BRT was only a support system for victims of verbal bias and abuse. In the end, perhaps the Project on Civil Discourse at American University’s School of Public Affairs will win the day with old-fashioned moderated debate and discussion. TO THE TOP
6 Vindication for Professor in Free Speech Episode The University of Nebraska at Lincoln isn’t exactly Berkeley, but it became the center of a free speech debate in the summer of 2017 when a 46-year-old graduate student lecturer confronted a 19-year-old student recruiting for the conservative group Turning Point USA. The lecturer, sixth-year doctoral student Courtney Lawton, says she was aware of the group because of Professor Watchlist, which names professors who have said things that are offensive to its values—e.g., sniping at Republicans or teaching about white privilege. A cellphone video, which circulated on social media, showed Lawton making obscene gestures at the sophomore and holding a sign that read, “Just say NO! to Neo-Fascism.” The incident lasted about 20 minutes and barely caused a stir on campus—at least initially. But thanks to the “cellphone video, a web-savvy political organization and a group of suggestible lawmakers, it soon sent shock waves” across mostly red rural Nebraska. Within weeks, the university had suspended Lawton and later barred her from teaching there. The American Association of University Professors issued a report criticizing the university for bowing to political pressure and not providing due process to Lawton. TO THE TOP
7 Sexual Assault In the #MeToo Era For years, colleges and universities chose to handle sexual harassment and assault complaints outside the court system. Tenured faculty members were advised: “Keep your office door open. Don’t mentor any women. No coffees or dinners with students.” Other incidents were swept under the rug through “hush payments.” The Wall Street Journal reveals that over the last two years, schools from within the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC athletic conferences paid out more than $10.5 million in sexual harassment settlements. These include settlements for allegations by or against students, faculty, and staff. But now with the #MeToo movement, schools are revamping their policies. The University of Wisconsin system is moving forward with a plan to disclose misconduct findings against employees to their potential future employers. Personnel information will automatically be shared with other system campuses and other state agencies, perhaps starting as soon as January 2019.
According to a new 311-page report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, about half of women in science experience some form of harassment, ironically, at a time when “so much energy and money is being invested in efforts to attract and retain women in science, engineering, and medical fields.” The report criticizes institutions for being too focused on “symbolic compliance with current law and avoiding liability and not on preventing sexual harassment.” It offers 15 detailed recommendations, some that go against long-entrenched academic practices—like overhauling academic advising systems “so students and junior researchers are not dependent on one senior researcher for advancement and access to grants.” TO THE TOP
8 Sex Assault: Administrative Fallout By all appearances, Max Nikias, the head of the University of Southern California, had an “extraordinarily successful presidency.” Since 2010, he had raised over $6 billion in a capital campaign, housing for students had doubled, classroom space had increased by a third, and the student body had become a model for diversity. But Nikias’s eight-year tenure was tainted by a series of scandals that had gone under the radar until brought to light by The Los Angeles Times this summer: a gynecologist who remained on staff despite decades of complaints about inappropriate behavior was now accused of consorting with prostitutes and abusing drugs. It was the straw that broke the Nikias camel’s back, and suddenly he was out. One can only guess that either “a huge decline in reputation (already achieved) or a drop in fundraising (on the way)” caused the board to act so quickly.
Meanwhile, in East Lansing, Michigan State University Interim President John Engler, a former governor of the state, agreed to pay more than $500 million to 300-plus girls and young women who were abused by former university sports doctor Larry Nassar. The settlement, one of the largest ever for victims of abuse, will be funded with a bond offering. But the future path of the university remains unclear; its board has decided to retain Engler despite calls for his resignation. Some say that with his aggressive style and lack of empathy toward the victims, Engler may already have squandered the chance for healing. TO THE TOP
9 Time to Tax Endowments (Again)? Flagship state colleges and universities are ramping up their fundraising efforts as students in a majority of states are now paying more in tuition than the government contributes. The University of Michigan just became the first public university to raise $5 billion—the most successful fundraising campaign for a public university ever. And other schools are not far behind. The University of Washington is in the midst of its own $5 billion campaign; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is trying to raise $4.25 billion; the University of Florida, $3 billion; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, $2.25 billion.
Fundraising is also on the rise at elite private universities. Harvard just brought in $9.6 billion—more than $3 billion over its goal—making the richest university in America even richer. Jay Gonzalez, a long-shot Democratic candidate for Massachusetts governor, wants to tax some of that money and has unveiled a plan to levy a 1.6 percent annual tax on private, nonprofit colleges and universities with endowment funds exceeding $1 billion, estimating that the plan would raise $1 billion a year in new revenue for the state—with more than half ($563 million) coming from Harvard alone. “Maybe it made sense hundreds of years ago to exempt these institutions from paying taxes but no one envisioned endowments in the billions of dollars,” said Marc McGovern, the Democratic mayor of Cambridge. But critics argue that taxing endowments would undermine the brain power that is fueling the state’s high-tech boom. TO THE TOP
10 What Happens When the Accused Is a Woman? When a woman is accused of sexual harassment, is it a blow to the credibility of the #MeToo movement? In September 2017, New York University launched a Title IX investigation into Avital Ronell, a 66-year-old professor of German and comparative literature—by all accounts, a brilliant scholar. Her accuser, Nimrod Reitman, 32 years her junior, alleges that she sexually harassed, assaulted, and stalked him over a period of years while she was his academic adviser. Their relationship was documented in numerous emails. Following an 11-month investigation, NYU found the claims against Ronell credible but cleared her of more serious charges. She was suspended without pay for a year. The case is especially problematic because “it contends with the power dynamics between graduate student and faculty adviser.” News of the sexual harassment complaint against Ronell surfaced earlier this summer after a group of prominent academics—including noted feminist scholars—sent a letter of support to NYU officials, rallying to Ronell’s defense. The letter was never meant to be public. Critics say the letter is hypocritical and a betrayal of graduate students. Ronell called the university’s action a sign of “sexual paranoia.” TO THE TOP
11 The College Presidency Evolves—Slowly Despite all the talk about the growing diversity on college campuses, the typical president of a small to midsize private college is a white married male, age 61, the Council of Independent Colleges says. About half intend to leave their current position within the next five years. It’s a good bet that many are planning to retire, but the increasing pressures of the job have caused the average tenure on the job to fall from 8.5 years in 2006 to 6.5 years today, the American Council on Education reports. Presidents say they are concerned about the growing racial divide on campus and the erosion of trust in higher education. More and more, boards are seeking nontraditional candidates from the outside to lead their academic institutions. Daniel Greenstein, a former executive at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the philanthropic organization that has heavily influenced public education) is the new chancellor of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities. The troubled university system is looking to redesign itself amid falling enrollment and tight finances.
On the other hand, Lawrence S. Bacow, who’s just been installed as president of Harvard University, is a lifelong educator and a former president of Tufts University. Bacow is known as a “pragmatic visionary” and his selection reflects Harvard’s need for a steady hand. In his installation address on October 5, he recognized that these are trying times for institutions of higher learning: “Higher education has not only supported our democracy, but in some sense it has created it —and we are nowhere near done…. There are both reassuring truths and unsettling truths, and great universities must embrace them both.” TO THE TOP
12 A Name by Any Other Name Confederate statues, markers, and building names on university campuses, primarily in the South, are being removed or changed because of the histories of racism they represent. Protests have broken out contesting Confederate statues like the University of North Carolina’s “Silent Sam”—a monument to Civil War alumni who died—which was toppled by students this year. And the University of Florida at Tallahassee removed the statue of pro-slavery founder Francis Eppes VII. Washington and Lee University, whose student body is only 2 percent black, has renamed two buildings. But those on the political right oppose the removal of monuments because they believe they tell the history of the university and community. The issue is not confined to southern institutions, however. Even Ivy League schools, like Brown, have had to confront their connections to slavery and segregation. The Universities Studying Slavery consortium has been formed to examine the history of these ties, and dozens of schools have joined the organization in support of the initiative. TO THE TOP
13 Are Colleges Responsible for Student Suicide? In 2009, 25-year-old Han Nguyen killed himself by jumping off an MIT campus building, just moments after being harshly criticized by a professor. Nguyen’s father sued the university, as well as two professors and an administrator, asserting that they knew about his son’s fragile mental state. Although the court exculpated MIT in this specific case, colleges and universities aren’t entirely off the hook. The court also noted that because of the special relationship they have with students, schools can be held responsible in certain cases—e.g., if they know of a student’s stated plan to end his or her own life. While the unanimous decision does not apply outside the state, the case has been closely watched across the country. “MIT won the case, but the message to colleges is, you can’t simply look away,” said Peter F. Lake, a professor of higher-education law at Stetson University. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people, and an estimated 1,100 college students a year commit suicide. Most alarming, one in 20 college students created a suicide plan in the past year. TO THE TOP
14 Chicago Drops the SAT and ACT The University of Chicago has become the most selective university to drop both the ACT and SAT, the prestigious high-stakes college entry exams and used by, up to now, the nation’s top schools. Chicago said it was part of its new Empower Initiative to assist low-income and first-generation students attending college. The school joins hundreds of others in a growing test-optional movement in an attempt to make a college degree more accessible as college becomes imperative for joining the work force. Since standardized testing does not always best reveal college readiness, administrators are beginning to try other means to determine eligibility. (See Story 20). Princeton and Stanford have already eliminated the essay requirement but have been criticized for this because the essay is the only way to assess writing ability. Also, some are skeptical of the motivation for the shift in test requirements, arguing that it is merely a way to promote a school’s profile and raise the number of applications. And according to Andrew Flagel, senior vice president of students and enrollment at Brandeis University, students who do not submit scores are still at a disadvantage in the admissions process. TO THE TOP
15 Will Restorative Justice Work for Sexual Assault Cases? A small but growing number of colleges and universities are exploring alternatives such as restorative justice to address cases of sexual misconduct. Restorative justice is a form of victim-offender mediation in which the offender is required to take responsibility for his or her actions. Proponents say that alternative resolution agreements reduce costs and are fairer to the accused. But critics say that asking a victim to “sit down with an assailant and work out an agreement is not only unrealistic … but possibly retraumatizing.” The Association of Governing Board recommends that boards “review their institution’s sexual assault policies and consider how new Education Department regulations might affect those strategies.” To assist them, the AGB has released its Advisory Statement on Sexual Misconduct. TO THE TOP
16 Unconventional Reality: Men as Minority The US Department of Education is looking into Yale University and the University of Southern California for alleged anti-male discrimination. Both investigations were prompted by complaints filed by a USC male doctoral student, who argued that on-campus women’s groups and scholarships for women “feel unfair” since women are the majority on college campuses. Men currently make up 42 percent of college students and have been the minority on campus since 1980. The complaints tap into a concern by some white men, according to The Wall Street Journal, that they are “being left behind by affirmative action and other programs aimed at helping minorities and women.” Don’t tell that to the “toxic masculinity” crowd at U of Texas. TO THE TOP
17 A New Push for College Completion Many institutions of higher learning are being called on to reevaluate their course structure and how they track student success to ensure a higher level of retention. Among 600 four-year colleges, for example, less than a third of students graduated within six years. Yet there is no uniform method of monitoring students’ academic progress so that college counselors know when to intervene. To achieve the economic benefits of a college degree, which include the ability to pay back loans, schools must find methods of attaining a higher graduation rate. Georgia State University has successfully implemented data-driven systems, but other schools, like Lycoming College, still rely on faculty members, who have to signal the alarm about a student’s progress. Some have called for a federal system requiring schools to provide data on students’ success, and legislation has been proposed which would require colleges to collect student data for such a system. Though supporters of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act argue that it is a crucial method of finding out how many students drop out and why, it has been opposed by many college groups, including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. TO THE TOP
18 The Big Hack While universities are facing the routine challenge of integrating Chinese students on their campuses, it turns out there’s another concern: possible spying by the Chinese government, which has been accused of intellectual-property theft at American institutions. Moreover, US authorities found that China was responsible for hacking the CIA and Department of Defense computer systems. Universities say academic freedom is being jeopardized because of China’s interference activities. The Trump administration recently suggested banning Chinese nationals from studying at US colleges. But the move would negatively impact enrollment at universities, especially small and medium-sized institutions, since one-third of all foreign students are from China. The Trump administration has decided not to crack down on Chinese visas, but had the US continued the initiative, some argue that the global outreach of higher education would have been hindered. TO THE TOP
19 Students Support Due Process According to a major study conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), 98 percent of college students say it is “very important or important” for students to have due process rights in campus disciplinary hearings. The vast majority (85 percent) also support the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” This falls to 80 percent in cases involving sexual misconduct. Nine University of Minnesota football players involved in a 2016 sexual misconduct investigation are suing the university for racial and gender discrimination. The lawsuit claims that the school “willfully and maliciously” turned the players into scapegoats and conducted a biased investigation that deprived them of due process and equal protection rights. All players involved are African-American. In a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, a federal appeals court has ruled that universities must allow cross-examination in sexual assault cases. This is a major victory for those who believe that institutions of higher learning have trampled the rights of students accused of sexual assault.
The Trump administration is wrapping up Title IX gender-discrimination complaints against colleges and universities, which generally involve alleged sexual assaults, much faster than Obama officials, federal data show. Between 2010 and 2016, the average length of an open case was 150 days. In 2017, when President Trump took office, cases remained open an average of 88 days. Cases opened in the first four months of this year were resolved within an average of 39 days. TO THE TOP
20 Harvard’s Asian-Americans Now at the Center of Affirmative Action Debate Just before the Fourth of July holiday, the Trump administration announced that it was rescinding Obama-era guidance on affirmative action policies in college admissions, instead directing schools to adopt race-neutral admissions standards. At least a dozen top U.S. colleges and universities said they would continue to consider race as an admissions factor—including Harvard University, which is now in the middle of a closely watched affirmative action lawsuit. Havard’s brouhaha, which is unveiling a lot about the Ivy League college’s heretofore closely guarded admissions practices, won’t be over soon. The plaintiffs, a group called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. Both sides sharply disagree about whether there is any intentional and illegal bias, but SFFA contends that Harvard holds Asian-American applicants to higher standards because, despite having the higher academic and extracurricular scores, they are given the lowest “personal” ratings—on subjective character traits such as likability, helpfulness, courage, and kindness.
The Justice Department, which is siding with the Asian-American students, says the “vague and elusory” personal ratings play into racial stereotyping. Harvard has repeatedly denied SFFA’s charges, asserting that the plaintiffs are oversimplifying a complex process. In a statement, Harvard said it “will continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years.” The case went to trial in October in Boston and most observers believe that, no matter the outcome, it is bound for the US Supreme Court. TO THE TOP
21 It’s Overtime for the NCAA College athletics these days seems to be stuck at 4th and 10. In August, more victims opened up in the ongoing investigation of sexual abuse by a sports doctor at Ohio State University—in which nearly 150 students reported they were abused by Richard Strauss. (And this isn’t even counting Larry Nassar at Michigan State. See Story 8). The NCAA appointed the independent Commission on College Basketball last year, led by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, which recommended severe penalties for breaking the rules. In some cases, however, unknowing student athletes have borne the brunt of the unethical conduct of others, as was the case with Brian Bowen II, whose father was accused of accepting money from Adidas. Building credibility for schools with abuse accusations will be just as difficult, says Kathy Redmond, a former abuse victim and founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes; she has called for strict enforcement of proper protocol regarding abuse and harassment. But with a federal jury in Manhattan in late October finding an Adidas executive and two others guilty of fraud charges because of illegal payments to high-school players, it doesn’t appear that the game will end anytime soon. TO THE TOP
22 Betsy DeVos Proposes an Overhaul of Sex Assault Rules US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is developing new sexual misconduct policies for college campuses, rolling back the policies that President Obama had put in place. The proposed rules would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, lessen liability for colleges, and provide more support for survivors. They would also narrow the definition of sexual harassment. Colleges would be held accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and allegations that occurred on their campuses. They would also be able to choose which legal standard to use—“preponderance of the evidence” or the more rigorous “clear and convincing evidence.” Victims’ rights advocates promptly condemned the proposed rules, saying they are “an effort to scale back newfound protections for women and other victims of sexual assault.” But others say that the changes are long overdue and would rein in excesses that occurred during the Obama years. “You have absurd claims being investigated that common sense would have rejected,” a former Education Department civil-rights attorney told The Atlantic. Another plus for colleges, according to DeVos, is that these rules would save them money. TO THE TOP
23 Conservative Voices Fading Fast From College Campuses As student bodies grow more diverse, offices to care for the new campus demographic are proliferating. The University of Michigan, for instance, employs nearly 100 highly paid full-time “diversicrats” (diversity administrators, officers, directors, analysts, coordinators, etc.) Diversity costs at the university total $8.4 million a year (topping $11 million if you add in the generous fringe benefits package). But as the diversity movement has swelled, faculty members’ political orientations have grown less and less diverse. Over the past 35 years, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors has increased sharply, up 350 percent. The highest imbalances are found in the humanities and the social sciences. According to a study out of Brooklyn College, Democrats outnumber Republicans 70 to 1 in religious studies and 33 to 1 in music.
Some schools, particularly elite liberal-arts colleges, have essentially become one-party campuses. The faculties of Williams and Swarthmore, for instance, are overwhelmingly Democratic, with ratios at or above 120 to 1. With worries that political homogeneity is undermining the free exchange of ideas, there’s a small movement afoot to increase viewpoint diversity in higher education. Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, last year announced an “affirmative action” program to bring conservative faculty and ideas to campus. And Jonathan Haidt of Heterodox Academy, an organization founded to promote viewpoint diversity on campus, is calling on faculty and administrators to embrace a “common-humanity,” as opposed to a “common-enemy,” identity politics. TO THE TOP
24 Uproars at Brown and UVa Brown University has come under fire for censoring its own study on transgender youth. The study, by a Brown professor, suggested that some cases of gender dysphoria could be due to peer pressure or social media influences. Within days, the university had removed any mention of the study from its Website, asserting that it did so because of concerns over the study’s research methodology—and not due to political pressure. An online petition was launched to encourage Brown to resist “ideologically-based attempts to squelch controversial research evidence.” At the University of Virginia, the school is standing by its decision to hire a former aide to President Donald Trump, Marc Short, for a one-year fellowship at the Miller Center, an affiliate that specializes in studies of the presidency and public policy. The timing was awkward to say the least, coming at the one-year anniversary of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Two UVa history professors immediately resigned and over 2,000 academics signed a petition of protest. TO THE TOP
25 No More Rankings—Please, More Rankings The formula used in college ranking systems has been changing to include the rate of social mobility of low-income and minority students, after years of criticism that rankings concentrated too much on selectivity, endowments, and graduates’ salaries, a system which favors elite, prestigious colleges. In 2014, Georgia State University’s ranking actually improved when it implemented a program to admit students with lower SAT scores and help them graduate. The initiative ultimately eliminated income and racial gaps in graduation rates, which was overall an advantage to the university, and the economy. U.S. News and World Report claimed its new 2018 rankings reflect social mobility, which has resulted in the rise in the rankings of some schools, such as University of California, Los Angeles and University of California at Santa Barbara, because of the new methodology. But the system continues to disadvantage public institutions, because the formula has long favored colleges with wealth, so rankings for public universities have steadily declined since the 1980s. TO THE TOP
26 Americans Still Believe in Higher Ed’s Public Good Declining enrollments, mounting deficits, increased competition for students and more closures on the horizon. These are just some of the grim predictions for the future of higher education in America. Hardest hit will be small mid-tier private colleges with modest endowments. But before we can begin tackling the unique set of challenges facing private colleges, we must decide: Do we want a higher education system that is “composed mainly of elite schools for top students and public universities for everyone else? Or a system that offers a variety of choices, in both the public and private spheres, for all kinds of students?” says Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Of all the forces disrupting higher education, none may be more important than the issue of overeducation. About a third of young people today have at least a bachelor’s degree, but will they all be able to cash in on it? Probably not. A degree that doesn’t grant access to good jobs plus student loan debt is “a recipe for big problems.” Warren Treadgold, author of The University We Need, is calling for a new kind of private university that reflects the intellectual views of educated Americans outside academe who are turned off by identity politics and the hostility to free speech, capitalism, religion, and traditional education on today’s campuses. On the bright side, a new survey reports that a majority of Americans of all political persuasions support government funding of higher education. And it’s not just about getting a degree. They also recognize the many other ways that postsecondary institutions contribute to society—including scientific advances and national prosperity. TO THE TOP
27 Why Are So Many People Afraid of Jordan Peterson? His rise to fame started over his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns. Today, the controversial University of Toronto psychology professor has more than a million YouTube subscribers and a bestselling book; he also speaks to sold-out audiences across North America. So why should we be afraid of him? “The problem lies not so much with Peterson as with the culture into which he speaks,” says Jane Scharl of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. “American society has largely lost the ability to think about race, sex, gender, privilege, etc., with any kind of nuance.” Thus Peterson, concludes Scharl, is “as dangerous as the culture that has not taught the intellectual virtues of prudence and humility, and has prepared an entire generation to eschew moderation and nuance in favor of toxic ideologies.” TO THE TOP
28 A Philosopher and a Political Scientist Take on Identity Politics New York University philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah and Stanford University political scientist Francis Fukuyama have both written new books examining identity politics: Rethinking Identity: Creed, Country, Color, Class, Culture (Liveright Publishing) and The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), respectively. Appiah advocates using a “lighter hand” when it comes to identity categories. “Accepting that other people have different ways of life might also mean allowing that some of those people do not accept yours,” he told the Financial Times. Fukuyama believes that a desire for recognition by various groups is behind the rise of the global identity-politics movement. “What happens in universities sets the tone for a lot of other elite institutions … and ultimately does filter down to the rest of society,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. TO THE TOP
29 Betsy DeVos Misses Crucial Deadline The US Department of Education has announced that it won’t meet the November deadline in its bid to water down two Obama-era student loan regulations aimed at for-profit schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been seeking to issue a more restrictive version of a loan-forgiveness rule known as “borrower defense” and to entirely rescind the “gainful employment” accountability rule for career education programs. The missed deadline means the earliest date for either outcome is now the 2020 school year. Critics have long said that DeVos’s plans would hurt students while giving predatory for-profit institutions a pass. But according to the National Review, it’s not just ravenous for-profits who are not providing gainful employment. Undergrads at the University of Maryland University College, the open-enrollment branch of the state’s university system, are also less likely to pay down their outstanding student-loan balances than students at major for-profit schools. TO THE TOP
30 The High Economic Costs of Student Loan Debt The number of borrowers who owe at least $100,000 in federal student-loan debt is nearing 2.5 million. And some 100 people owe a million dollars or more. Mike Meru, an orthodontist in Utah who was profiled in The Wall Street Journal, racked up $1 million in student loan debt attending dental school—a balance he will never fully repay. At the same time, the share of new delinquencies on student loans has fallen to the lowest level in more than decade—and it’s not just because of the healthy economy. More borrowers are taking advantage of forbearance; others are opting for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans to reduce their monthly payments. The plans, which became available to new borrowers starting in 2014–15, limit monthly payments to 10 percent of one’s discretionary income. There are currently 7 million borrowers owing $389 billion in IDRs. Balances may continue to grow because the payments aren’t big enough to cover the accruing interest. What’s more, under federal tax rules, any remaining balance that is forgiven will be taxed as income. Economists are warning that many borrowers will not be able to pay these hefty one-time tax bills. In Dr. Meru’s case, his monthly payment is capped at $1,589.97 (even though he earns more than $255,000 a year, owns a $400,000 house, and drives a Tesla). By the time his loan is forgiven, his remaining balance is projected to exceed $2 million. TO THE TOP
31 Live Long and Prosper—Just Not on Capitol Hill As Congress addresses the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the Prosper Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform) has emerged—a Republican proposal which would condense student loan programs, reallocate funds toward job training, require schools to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of speech, and eliminate the student loan forgiveness program. Many say that Congress has encouraged millions of students to take out loans which are difficult to repay. The bill has passed the House Education and Workforce Committee but has yet to get through Congress. The opposition sees flaws and missed opportunities, making the act difficult to get through Congress. Senator Lamar Alexander blames the Democrats, saying that they refuse to cooperate and that both parties should write the legislation together. There is no evidence Congress will act to pass the Prosper Act anytime soon. TO THE TOP
32 College-For-Everyone Movement Begins to Slow Some, even on the left, are starting to question the sacred dogma that everyone should go to college. For children of middle-class families, a college degree tends to be a wise investment. But in a “cruel irony,” college grads raised in poverty earn only slightly more than middle-class workers without a college degree. And by middle age, male college graduates raised in poverty earn less than their middle-class peers with just a high school diploma, according to economists Tim Bartik and Brad Hershbein. Rather than going the traditional route of earning a traditional degree from a traditional college or university, more Americans are navigating a “shadow learning economy” from new providers offering classes in short spurts, either online or face-to-face (akin to the success of Uber and Airbnb as alternatives to legacy businesses). In California, Governor Jerry Brown is moving ahead with plans for the first fully online community college in the nation. The college is intended to serve nontraditional students—“under- or unemployed adults who need new skills to land a job, secure a raise, nab a promotion, just to maintain a toehold in a swiftly changing workplace.” TO THE TOP
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