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Chronicle of Higher Education: Happy New Year, Higher Ed: YouÔÇÖve Missed Your Completion Goal

The United States hasn’t come close to achieving President Obama’s target of leading the world in college attainment by 2020.

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Alumni are ÔÇ£most reliableÔÇØ source of info for students looking to UK, Europe

The PIE News - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 11:13

Alumni are the most reliable source of accurate information for international students looking to study in the UK (74%) and elsewhere in Europe (79%) according to the results of a new survey. However, relatively few respondents cited alumni as their primary source of information about international study.

Published by Cturtle, the┬áISEOS 2020┬áreport┬áexamines how international student experience, study destination, study mode and graduate employment outcomes affect international alumni’s likelihood to recommend their university and country of education to future students.

“From our experience universities have preferred the ‘poster child’ approach with alumni”

Between June and September 2019, 16,830 responses to online surveys were collected ÔÇô of which 4,673 participants were educated in the UK, and an additional 479 were educated in other European countries.

Of the combined participants educated in the UK and Europe, the majority (36%) were from Malaysia, 21% were from India, 11% from Vietnam, and 10% from Singapore.

A total of 95% of the survey participants had already completed their studies.

According to the survey report, an almost equal number who studied in the UK (83%) and Europe (82%) said they chose to study abroad to improve their career opportunities.

It showed that ‘university ranking’ was the top reason for choosing the UK (57%) and Europe (52%), followed by ‘location’ (51% and 50% respectively), ‘price’ (41% and 38%) and ‘job opportunities’ (18% and 28%).

By comparison, ‘alumni engagement’ was a factor for just 10% of UK and 12% of Europe educated respondents.

Despite some similarities in figures, there were some clear differences when it came to the primary source of study abroad information for both cohorts.

According to the report, education counsellors and agents were the primary sources of information for 35% of UK educated participants, compared to 44% of those who studied in Europe.

Meanwhile, websites or contacts at the school were important sources for 29% of those educated in the UK compared to just 12% of those who noted Europe as their country of study.

“I believe there needs to be better access to reliable information for future international students whether that is from universities, agents or third parties like Cturtle and UniAdvisor,” Cturtle founder and CEO, Shane Dillon, told The PIE News.

“In general, universities need to modernise their approach, leverage technology and alumni to better engage future students and improve the reliability of that information.”

And despite alumni being noted among the most reliable sources of accurate information with regards to ‘life in the UK and Europe’ (74% and 79% respectively), as well as ‘migration opportunities’, ‘job opportunities’ and ‘work rights’, just 6% of UK educated and 7% of Europe educated respondents cited alumni as their primary source of information.

Credit: Cturtle

“From our experience universities have preferred the ‘poster child’ approach with alumni, heavily focusing on the promotion of the rare graduate who immigrates to the UK and is successful in their chosen field,” Dillon said.

“This can be misleading to the experience of the majority of international students with 97% end up working outside the UK.

“I believe better access to reliable information for future international students from the most trusted and reliable source ÔÇ£international alumniÔÇØ solves this pre-departure knowledge gap,” he added.

The report also examined overall student satisfaction, with 83% of UK educated and 87% of Europe educated students noting a “positive international experience”.

Some 65% of UK educated and 74% of Europe educated respondents also noted that they were “satisfied with the return on investment”.

A total of 74% in the UK and 78% in Europe said they had a “sense of being welcomed in the country of education”, with 87% and 92% of respondents respectively noting that they felt “safe on campus”.

With regards to employment, around half of students (45% in the UK and 52% in Europe) said that they worked part-time while studying.

However, just 28% in the UK and 31% in Europe said their university supported them in finding a part-time job.

By comparison with the more extensive Cturtle survey, 50% of participants educated in the US, 45% in Canada and 44% in New Zealand said their universities supported them.

However, participants educated in Europe had the highest proportion (61%) of part-time jobs related to their areas of study, across the entire survey.

“Universities need to… leverage technology and alumni to better engage future students”

“I think it is important to support international students who want part-time work, this is critical to their financial security while students and their overall experience in the country of education,” Dillon told The PIE.

“The European part-time work related to the field of study was also a welcome surprise for us,” he added.

Post-graduation, 87% of UK educated respondents said they are currently working in their home countries, compared to just 3% in the UK.

For those educated in Europe, almost three quarters (74%) said they are currently working in their home counties, compared to 11% working in their country of study.

“We believe it will be universities who can prove ÔÇô with data ÔÇô the employment outcomes of their international graduates who will win the competition for future student enrolments,” concluded Dillon.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: A Computer-Science Program Takes a Dramatic Approach to Getting Students to Open Up

Traditional classes on giving presentations weren't cutting it at Northeastern, so the dean of computer science turned to the theatre department.

Fake uni sting: ICE releases video evidence

The PIE News - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 07:22

A video showing international students knowingly broke the law has been released by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in response to criticism over the University of Farmington sting. 

The sting was carried out in 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security, who used the bogus university to catch international students who were trying to falsely maintain their student visa status.

So far, around 250 have been arrested.  

ÔÇ£These individuals were not new to the US student visa systemÔÇØ

As a result of the sting, ICE faced wide-spread criticism, with the Times of India reporting there was no way for international students to check the universityÔÇÖs authenticity.

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even called for ICE to be abolished in response to Farmington, while defence attorneys for the students said they┬ábelieve they were entrapped┬áand didnÔÇÖt realise the university was fake as the university was listed on the ICE website as an approved school.

Following the outcry, acting deputy director of ICE, Derek Benner, released a video along with a statement that hit back against reports that ÔÇ£mischaracterised the purpose and rationale for the investigationÔÇØ.┬á

ÔÇ£These individuals were not new to the US student visa system; they were familiar with its requirements and their obligations,”┬áBenner said.┬á

“They secured visas to enrol in another US school and were already in the United States when they transferred to Farmington.”

In addition, Benner continued, prior to enrolling at Farmington each prospective enrolee was informed that there were no classes, curriculum or teachers at Farmington.

“Despite this, individuals enrolled because they saw an opportunity to avoid any academic requirements and, instead, work full-time, which was a violation of their nonimmigrant status,” he added.

Benner said that evidence, including video footage, audio recordings, and correspondence collected during the investigation supports that each prospective enrolee knowingly and wilfully violated their non-immigrant status.

These recordings appear to back up ICE’s claims that at least some of the 250 students who were arrested knowingly broke the law.

The video shows an undercover member of DHS tell a Farmington candidate,ÔÇ£we would send you documents on the class and schedule that says youÔÇÖve gone classes, and everything like thatÔÇØ, to which the candidate responds, ÔÇ£that’s fineÔÇØ.┬á

The DHS operative then goes on to say┬áÔÇ£Okay, you know this is not legal, right? So it has to kind of stay between us, right?ÔÇØ to which the student says┬áÔÇ£I know, I knowÔÇØ.

Benner claimed that Farmington is a ÔÇ£clear example of a pay-to-stay scheme,ÔÇØ and said that such schemes result in a dangerous lack of accountability and diminish the quality and integrity of the US student visa system.

ÔÇ£The investigation provided [Homeland Security Investigations] with a better understanding of how recruiters and others abuse the nonimmigrant student visa system,ÔÇØ he said.

ÔÇ£This, in turn, informs and improves DHSÔÇÖ efforts to uncover fraud at schools, provides insight into networks within the United States that facilitate such abuse, and serves as a deterrent to potential violators both in the short- and long-term.”

“Individuals enrolled because they saw an opportunity to avoid any academic requirements”

ICE has been met with further criticism from the sector in recent times, after civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit against Boston Public Schools claiming that they were giving ICE access to student information.

The lawsuit centres around Boston Public Schools sharing student incident reports ÔÇô something that they deny doing ÔÇô but the attorneys behind the lawsuit say the school district is putting students in jeopardy, and┬áare calling on the district to shut down the communication.

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Aus: transaction fees worry intÔÇÖl students

The PIE News - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 02:38

Education providers must do more to alleviate the stress of transaction fees and increase their provision of payment plans for international students, new research by Australian-based edtech company Cohort Go has revealed.

The Aussie Study Experience report, which surveyed almost 700 international students in Australia, found 49% of respondents believed education providers should provide new payment options to reduce transaction fees.

ÔÇ£Providers who differentiate themselves will be more likely to attract… studentsÔÇØ

ÔÇ£AustraliaÔÇÖs prosperity is directly linked to international education, which is why itÔÇÖs vital the international education sector continues to innovate and look to improve the student experience of students studying here, said Cohort Go chief executive and co-founder Mark Fletcher.

ÔÇ£Transaction fees imposed on money transfers have been a frustrating bidder cost of paying for international education. Students are calling for education providers to adopt alternative payment options which impose little or no fees on their students, such as fee-free global payment gateways.ÔÇØ

Speaking with The PIE News, Fletcher added many banks typically charged between 3-6% in foreign exchange margins and fees, which saw some students paying up to an additional $30,000 for their education.

ÔÇ£Anything the international education sector can do in order to reduce the costs of fees would be well received by students and their parents,ÔÇØ Fletcher added.

According to the survey, 42% of students also wanted more flexible payment plans for their tuition fees.

ÔÇ£While managing payment plans is very complex, there are solutions in the market that can significantly simplify the receipting and reconciliation of these payments,ÔÇØ Fletcher said.

ÔÇ£In an increasingly competitive industry, education providers who differentiate themselves and enhance the student experience will be more likely to attract a growing cohort of students.ÔÇØ

In terms of who bore the costs of education, Cohort GoÔÇÖs survey found 37% of courses were paid for by parents, while 25% were paid through internet banking and 15% on credit card.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Education, AustraliaÔÇÖs year to October 2019 figures continued surpassing whole of 2018 numbers, with over 738,000 international students.

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AU administrators and students disagree on extent of racial problems on campus

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 01:00

Zach Mills was preparing to head out to a meeting with fellow doctoral students at American University when two officers from the Washington, D.C., police department showed up at his front door.

The officers told Mills they had been contacted by the university's police department and asked to check in on him. He invited them into his apartment, which is located about a mile and a half away from the campus.

Officer Adam Sotelo entered the apartment while the other officer waited in the hall, as is customary practice for such "wellness check" visits. Mills and Sotelo sat in Mills’s living room and talked. Things were going fine -- both Mills and Sotelo said they had a normal, friendly conversation -- until two officers from AU's police department arrived and entered Mills's unlocked apartment. According to Mills, the AUPD officers were "aggressive" and "threatening." They barged in without his consent, yelled at him and repeatedly demanded to see his university-issued identification card. He said he felt confused and fearful but sat calmly with his hands in his lap and asked the AU officers to leave his apartment several times.

Mills said the AU officers ignored his requests until Officer Sotelo, a certified crisis intervention officer, explained that things were under control and that they could go. The university officers complied, but Mills was left deeply unsettled. To him, the encounter was a continuation of a pattern of discriminatory acts he’d experienced as an African American doctoral student at AU’s School of International Service. The Aug. 28 incident also reinforced his belief that he was being targeted by faculty members and university administrators for lodging various complaints about discrimination in his department at the school, commonly referred to as SIS.

Mills's interaction with campus police was far different from a highly publicized wellness check on another black AU student that resulted in her being forcibly removed from her university-managed apartment. That incident occurred in late September, just a month after the episode with Mills, and was captured in a disturbing video that showed Gianna Wheeler being carried out of the apartment and surrounded by multiple university officials and D.C. fire department personnel. Wheeler had been suspended from American after being accused of assaulting another student, a charge for which she was found not guilty after a disciplinary hearing by the university. The video, which went viral on social media, prompted outrage on and off the campus and led to student protests and allegations that university administrators had shown racial bias in their handling of the wellness check.

Mills, a doctoral candidate in his fourth year in the SIS program, said he saw similarities between how he and Wheeler were treated and felt both cases were rooted in racial bias.

American administrators have forcefully defended the university against these allegations of racism and pushed back on the criticisms leveled after the video of Wheeler's removal surfaced. They said the outrage was misplaced and the circumstances misunderstood. But coming after several years of repeated racial controversies on campus, AU students of various racial backgrounds believe their university has a serious race problem. ÔÇï

As other colleges and universities around the country grapple with racial tensions on their campuses and growing public perceptions that higher ed institutions are cauldrons of racial strife, AU administrators are clearly aware that perceptions can sometimes become reality. They appear to be redoubling their efforts to address the problems and protect the university's reputation. ÔÇïBut like other higher ed institutions, AU is operating in a racial climate on campus and in the larger society in which an accumulation of racial controversies leads to more and more events being viewed through the prism of race. Whether or not each incident is actually about race is a matter of perspective and lived experience.

“I did actually develop medically diagnosed PTSD after this and was having blackouts over the last eight weeks,” Mills said of the wellness check. “I’ve been having a really horrible time since all that happened. I just remember people yelling at me and standing over me, and being very fearful.”

Mills believes the wellness check was the result of an orchestrated campaign to discredit his complaints about racial discrimination in the program and undermine his academic standing.

American University representatives said they could not comment on any specific wellness checks because of privacy laws. They said wellness checks, in general, are guided by university policy and are prompted "when the Office of the Dean of Students receives information or reports of concern about the general well-being of a student, from a fellow student, faculty or staff," according to a written statement. The checks are part of AU's Care Reporting system, the statement said, and the first step is to try and contact the student directly.

"Should there be an immediate threat to the individual’s safety, or if the student does not respond to attempted communications, AUPD is then asked to do a wellness check at the student’s residence," the statement said. "AUPD only has authority to conduct welfare checks on American University housing owned or leased. If a student lives off-campus in private housing, AUPD will contact the DC Metropolitan Police Department for assistance and will accompany them on the check if that department requests it."

From Mills's perspective, the arrival and confrontational style of campus police, after AUPD had already asked D.C. police to conduct the check, was no coincidence.

"It was extremely traumatic," he said. "After the police left, I was furious."

University administrators say wellness checks involve complex and sensitive issues guided by policies meant to protect the privacy of students who may be experiencing personal problems or mental health crises. The administrators note that every wellness check involves unique circumstances and that generalizations made by outsiders not privy to all the particulars are often inaccurate. They say this was precisely the case with the video of Wheeler being forcibly removed from her apartment.

After several days of sustained criticism for its handling of the incident, two university vice presidents emailed a long statement to the campus defending the university's action.

"We take the concerns about these complicated situations seriously, especially given our national climate and the lived experiences of communities of color and other marginalized communities across this country," the statement said in part.

In written responses to questions about Mills's allegations, the AU representatives said the university "is committed to fostering an inclusive community based on mutual respect where our educational pursuits can thrive. We do not tolerate or condone discrimination in any form. If a student feels he or she has been discriminated against, they are encouraged to file a formal complaint."

That's exactly what Mills did.

Things Come to a Head

After several years of what Mills described as repeated microaggressions and discrimination in the SIS program, he'd had enough. He filed a formal complaint about a professor in the program and later decided to enlist classmates to hold a vote of no confidence in the program director. Mills acknowledged it would be a purely symbolic move; university officials said there is no policy or procedure for students to take such an action. In any case, Mills made no secret of his plan to call for the vote.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and Mills was getting ready to meet with students to discuss the vote. That's when Officer Sotelo and his colleague came calling.

In Sotelo’s account of the events that day, nothing about the wellness check stood out to him. He said once he determined Mills was not in crisis, he felt there was no need for the AU officers to go through the process with Mills again. He said Mills was calm when they first spoke but seemed "aghast" that the AU police showed up at his apartment. Sotelo also said that while he did not observe the AUPD officers closely, he didn't feel they were overly aggressive. He said there seemed to be points of contention between the university and Mills.ÔÇï

AUPD did not respond to a request for comment.

It's not clear that the campus officers were legally allowed to visit Mills's apartment, which is neither owned nor managed by the university.

D.C. law stipulates that "no person appointed as a campus or university special police officer … shall display a badge, weapon, or other evidence of authority in any place other than the property owned by, or under the control of the academic institution of higher education upon whose account he or she was appointed and by whom he or she is paid."

A university spokesperson said in a written response to questions about the incident that Mills invited the AU officers into his apartment. Mills categorically denies this, and Officer Sotelo's account also does not support this.

A Show of Concern or a Show of Force

On Aug. 27, three professors in the doctoral program in which Mills is studying all separately filed what the university calls care reports about him. Mills said this was after he'd made known his plan for the no confidence vote.

One of the care reports was submitted by Boaz Atzili, the program director Mills was planning to name in the vote. Another report was submitted by Susanna Campbell, an assistant professor at the school. Both reports said Mills had told the professors of feelings of depression he'd had in the past. Mills said that these dark feelings stemmed from the end of a long-term relationship and that he later regretted telling the professors about his feelings because he was being "dramatic." The relationship ended in May 2019, and Mills said the emotional fallout made it difficult for him to update professors over the summer about the project on which he was working. He said he also told three other AU professors, two of whom were not white, about these feelings, and none of them submitted care reports.

The third care report outlined an email Mills had sent to Sharon Weiner, an associate professor, which she described in the report as “uncharacteristic of past communications” and filled with “rage” and “anger.”

Mills said he'd made Weiner aware of some of the discrimination he experienced at AU and she "waved them off."

Weiner wrote, “I am worried about him and that he might harm himself or create disturbances on campus. He accuses a couple of people of being white supremacists and states that he will publicly accuse them because everyone needs to know ‘the truth.’”

The three professors who filed care reports were all contacted for comment but did not respond. Representatives from AU's office of communications instead answered all questions about Mills's case.

Mills considers the incident a "politically motivated wellness check” and akin to being swatted, or having police called on you under false pretenses. He said after the wellness check took place, he told a dean he wanted to file formal complaints against the professors who'd filed the care reports, the AUPD and two students who confronted him about his views. He wanted it all investigated.

However, he was warned against taking such action because of the possibility of retaliatory accusations or claims of slander by the professors.

A friend who saw and spoke to Mills in the days following the wellness check described him as “in shock.”

A note dated Sept. 18 from a doctor at AU's student health center stated that Mills “is currently being treated for symptoms of acute stress, related to a recent traumatic experience.” The note referenced the wellness check. The doctor also noted that the symptoms “appear to be significantly interfering with his academic functioning.”

Recent studies have shown that various types of discrimination experienced by college students exact an emotional and physical toll and lead to heightened feelings of anxiety, loneliness and discrimination. A report published last year by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity showed that hate incidents against minority students have increased in recent years.

Officer Sotelo said he cautioned Mills against using such strong language and hyperbole to express his feelings to administrators, because once someone speaks of being suicidal, “hands are tied.”

The university said in a statement that there were 289 wellness checks in 2019 as of December. That number is comparable to recent years; there were 260 checks in 2018 and 277 in 2017.

Mills said his problematic interactions with faculty and department heads go far beyond the wellness check.

He said one of his earliest racial encounters occurred on the first day of a course he took during his second year in the program. The course was Politics and Policy-Making in International Relations, and Mills said the professor, Daniel Esser, used Mills, the only black student in the class, as an example when Esser referred to the potential consequences for students doing poorly and not submitting assignments. Then, during a class break, Esser approached Mills and commented on his not thinking all black people were lazy, Mills said. The professor also said in class that he had an antiblack bias, Mills and other students who took the class said.

A classmate who did not want to be identified said Esser was problematic. The student, who is white, said Mills was treated differently than other students and held to a “double standard.” While the student was “absolutely appalled,” she said she wasn’t surprised because there's no accountability by the administration for such overt displays of racism beyond empty references to the university’s official diversity statement. She said there also is no mechanism for students to report racism without retaliation.

Calling Out Racism by Name

Mills said he resisted complaining about Esser at first.

“I didn’t want to make waves,” Mills said. “If you develop a reputation in the department, you could have issues down the line -- people don’t want to work with you, or people don’t like you. I didn’t really push anything. I knew it was definitely wrong but I was trying to ignore it back then.”

Mills said he didn't file an official complaint immediately because he was worried about retaliation, but he eventually filed a complaint about Esser.

Lisa Leff, acting dean of academic affairs and senior vice provost at AU, summarized the investigation of Mills's complaint about Esser in a letter about the conclusion and findings of the investigation. The letter was dated Sept. 4, 2018, a year after the alleged incidents took place. The findings were sent to Esser and Mills, who separately shared copies of their letters with Inside Higher Ed.

"Based on my review and analysis of the information gathered in this process, I have determined that your actions do not constitute racial discrimination, nor do they constitute discriminatory harassment as defined in American University’s Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy," Leff wrote in a section directed at Esser.

"On the first day of class, you singled Zach out and used him as a hypothetical example of a student not completing his work, and then later in class, acknowledged that you did that because of 'biases' that you 'tr[y] to keep in check.' On another class day, October 19, you again spoke of having 'biases.' These events did occur, and I have no doubt they caused serious discomfort to Zach."

"In the first allegation above, you expressed unconscious bias, and then once you realized what you had done, you took steps to remediate its effects by taking responsibility for it and apologizing for it. In other words, once you became conscious of your unconscious bias, you worked actively to counter its effects. While such conduct does not erase harm done -- and in these instances, may have in fact exacerbated the pain or discomfort caused by calling attention to it -- it does not in itself rise to the level required by the Policy for a determination that discrimination occurred."

Mills had alleged in his complaint that Esser had tried to “sabotage” him academically by, among other things, altering assignment guidelines applied only to Mills. Leff's investigation found that the mistakes made by Esser were the “kind of mistakes faculty make routinely in the course of their work.”

Mills said he'd noted in his original complaint the difference between how Esser treated him in person and how the professor communicated with him by email, which has a “paper trail.” But Leff only reviewed emails between Esser and Mills as part of the investigation. Mills said Leff’s investigation waved off too many of Esser’s “mistakes,” calling it “statistically improbable” that a professor could make this many mistakes regarding one student.

Esser said he was "incredulous" when he learned that Mills filed the complaint against him.

"At no time have I ever intentionally discriminated against Mr. Mills or any student based on race or any other factor," he wrote in an email response to questions about Mills's allegations and the university's investigation. "Racism is one of the central challenges facing humanity and I was stunned that I was being accused of racism. I also note that Mr. Mills had not approached me in this matter prior to requesting a formal investigation."

Esser said he felt "exonerated" by the investigation. As for the determination that he had exhibited microaggressions and unconscious bias toward Mills, he cited research by Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian American neuroscientist, which "shows that almost every person holds unconscious biases."

"Countering such biases requires responsive and responsible action," Esser wrote, noting that he took responsibility for his actions and apologized.

He said he has taken antibias and inclusive excellence training and noted that he and the three professors who submitted care reports about Mills had all signed an open letter to students following the 2016 U.S. presidential election expressing support for minority students and diversity at AU. The original writers of the letter were all professors from the SIS department.

Mills said faculty members' concerns about his implied emotional fragility and supposed preoccupation with racial issues are examples of how racial hostility that students of color regularly encounter on predominantly white college campuses is invalidated and minimized.

Mills described conversations with Atzili, the program director, regarding the investigation of Esser. Atzili told Mills that Esser could retaliate and laughed about the prospect of that happening. Mills said Atzili also blamed Mills’s problems on the absence of his "black father" and denied that racism existed at American. Mills believes Atzili should have done more.

“He’s been well aware of lots of stuff that’s happened, and he doesn’t interpret any of it as racism, so he would never go report it in the first place,” Mills said. “I don’t even know if he understands what he’s doing when he tries to insinuate that me growing up without a black father has something to do with any of this stuff … I think it’s so deep in the culture of SIS that some people don’t even know they’re fully participating in discrimination.”

Atzili, like the other professors who filed care reports about Mills, did not respond to a request for comment.

A week after the investigation's findings were released to Mills, he got an email from AU president Sylvia Burwell in which she apologized for the “frustration and anxiety” he experienced while the complaint was being investigated.

Burwell wrote that she confirmed that AU followed “its normal process in investigating and resolving” the complaint and that it was “fully investigated.” Mills disputes these points, noting that the witnesses he provided as having knowledge of the racist events were not contacted by the university.

President Burwell also said in the email that her chief of staff and the vice president for campus life would meet with Mills about his concerns. Mills said he skipped the meeting because there were preset conditions for discussion points.

"They refused to discuss anything about me and just wanted to talk with me about racism in general and how diversity can be improved generally on campus," he said in an email. "I have no interest in helping the school fix its toxic racial climate while it is ignoring what happened to me."

There are 41 students in the SIS Ph.D. program, but far fewer in Mills’s program, in which only two are black, including Mills. Every student in the program interviewed noted how few black students had been in the program over the years.

Some of those students questioned whether a wellness check on a young African American man was the best course of action, given that police wellness checks on black Americans elsewhere have resulted in trauma and even death. The shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson during a police wellness check several months ago is a recent example.

“In general I think sending the police is never an appropriate response,” said ÔÇïCherie Saulter, a classmate of Mills. She said in her six years in the program, she can only remember six black students, three of whom have left.ÔÇï

Saulter, who is white, described Mills’s treatment as disappointing. She said AU's response to racist incidents on campus is insufficient and often involves little more than issuing statements or creating committees to promote inclusiveness.

Multiple students also noted the lack of diversity in the SIS program as one of the potential contributing factors to the success or struggles of African American students and the incidents of discrimination. They also noted the lack of black faculty and limited access to mentorship for black students.

"The SIS Ph.D. program is small, and admits only about six to 10 students a year," university representatives said in written responses. "Over the past 10 years, of the 93 students enrolled in the program, 7 percent have been Asian, 5 percent Black or African-American, 3 percent Hispanic, 33 percent International, 3 percent Multiracial, 7 percent unknown and 37 percent White. Diversity in Ph.D. programs is a challenge nationwide. Faculty in the Ph.D. program rotate annually, so the makeup is ever-changing. SIS is committed to diversifying its faculty … This is a concern and an issue nationwide."

Some of the students who corroborated Mills’s statements asked not to be identified and cited concerns about upcoming dissertation defenses and about losing funding.ÔÇï

A white student in the program, who requested anonymity because of fear of retaliation, said the lack of black or Latinx professors at SIS makes it difficult for minority students to find mentors or allies who can help them succeed. The student also said professors seem out of touch on diversity issues and that the program has not done the necessary work of building inclusive classes or championing minority voices.

“There is a general climate of racial hostility at American University,” the student said, adding that administrators seem apathetic, incompetent or only interested in preserving their own jobs.

“We know that any institution faces challenges and we always recognize there is room for improvement in any program,” AU representatives said in their written response. They said that the SIS's Ph.D. committee has met with students and faculty over the past year to develop opportunities for improving diversity and inclusion in the program. “Those include proactive recruitment of minority students, revamping first-year qualifying exams to reduce stress, establishing a mentoring system, and requiring faculty discussions on diversity and inclusion in the classroom at the start of each semester,” they wrote.

“These are fantastic efforts, but what it shows is these are not enough,” said Adrienne Pine, an associate professor of anthropology, who also cited the university's new Antiracist Research and Policy Center. Pine said that past incidents exposed a long-standing problem of structural racism at AU.

AU representatives also point to the university's inclusive excellence program that launched in 2018 as another important effort. The program is focused on increasing and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. More than 500 faculty and staff have participated in optional inclusive excellence training over the past two years. AU is also trying to recruit and hire more diverse employees and is reworking the curriculum to ensure inclusiveness. The university also created a Bias Response Working Group last semester to update and improve its bias reporting system. What's more, freshmen are now required to take a class on power, privilege and inequality.

Alexis Arnold, a senior and co-editor of the online campus publication The Blackprint, believes efforts to improve the campus climate are better under President Burwell.

"However, I think that the gravity of the incidents encouraged the university [to] understand that it has to do more with inclusivity beyond a mandatory class … But there is still a lot of work to do to make sure black students always feel safe in a predominantly white space," she said in an email. "Black students need to remain vocal to get the full changes they hope to see."

In the interim, ÔÇïMills said he now only comes to campus to teach his classes -- he conducts office hours over Skype. He worries about being shadowed by AU police officers, which he alleges happened in the days following the wellness check.

Mills is one class away from completing the coursework required before he can defend his dissertation prospectus. His funding runs out at the end of the year, and he has also reached his lifetime cap on student loans. He says he may not be able to complete his degree.

“I feel like I’ve been given a bunch of really horrible options while the university refuses to acknowledge what happened,” he said.

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Historians approve anti-ICE resolution but vote down anti-Israel proposals at their annual meeting

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 01:00

NEW YORK -- Members of the American Historical Association approved a resolution condemning college and university contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 70 to 60, at their annual meeting over the weekend. They approved an additional statement in support of professors teaching off the tenure track, but voted down two resolutions expressing concern about academic freedom in Israel.

The successful resolution on ICE now goes to the AHA’s governing council for further consideration. Per association policies and procedures, the council may accept it, refuse to concur or exercise a veto.

Since its formation in 2003, ICE has inked handsome contracts with various institutions to offer cultural competency, medical and other training to federal workers, and to partner in research. Just a handful of universities currently have such contracts, and few to none of the projects relate to ICE’s most controversial functions regarding immigration. But these agreements have attracted increased scrutiny in recent years, as public disapproval of ICE’s methods -- including family separation -- grows.

Johns Hopkins University, for example, recently said that its School of Medicine Center for Law Enforcement Medicine will not renew its long-standing contract with ICE to provide emergency medical response training. Students and some faculty members previously urged the university to cut ties with ICE. Those tensions factored into a major campus protest last year.

The AHA resolution on ICE cites “serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by both ICE and the U.S. Border Patrol in recent years” and “their presence on U.S. university campuses for recruitment and research purposes.” It urges “university faculty, staff and administrators to sever existing ties and forgo future contracts with ICE and USBP” and to support “sanctuary movements on campuses that seek to protect immigrant students and workers.”

Alexander Avina, associate professor at Arizona State University, was the first to speak in favor of the resolution, saying that his own parents were undocumented migrants and that he now teaches such immigrants in the borderlands. He urged the AHA to take “a stand against ongoing state terrorism” and the idea that universities should make millions of dollars by working with agencies that perpetrate it.

Ashley Black, a visiting assistant professor of history at California State University at Stanislaus, said she teaches students who were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who now live in a “state of fear and insecurity.” She asked the AHA to endorse campuses as sanctuaries in the interest of student safety and learning.

ICE had no vocal fans in the room, but a number of historians spoke out against the resolution on the grounds that it strays from AHA’s mission and established rules and practices. Mary Beth Norton, former AHA president and Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita at Cornell University, said she might support a resolution that adhered to the AHA’s Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance, highlighting threats to historical sources, academic freedom and historians’ movement. Yet she did not support the resolution as written.

Norton said later that the document said "nothing about historical scholarship or historians. Accordingly, it is outside the purview if the AHA as an organization, even though expressing outrage about ICE is entirely appropriate for individual historians in their capacity as citizens."  

Avina said that he and his colleagues behind the resolution hope that the council will "accept and publicly support" it.

Prior to the business meeting, the AHA Council approved a resolution on what departments can do to support historians working off the tenure track. Unsurprisingly, members also approved the document with no objections. The resolution says that many department chairs “can influence change in such important areas as the integration of [non-tenure-track faculty] members into departmental life and cultures.”

Chairs should make clear that non-tenure-track professors’ participation in service and governance are seen as “opportunities for professional development rather than as new expectations,” for example, and also ensure adjuncts’ access to resources, constructive teaching feedback and input on their syllabi. Chairs can also promote the interests of non-tenure-track colleagues with administrators, in an effort to enhance job stability and economic security via multiyear contacts and other means, according to the AHA.

Voting Down Anti-Israel Resolution

The AHA also rejected anti-Israel resolutions at the meeting, as it has several times during the ongoing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The two resolutions up for a vote this year condemned Israel for restricting the academic freedom and travel of Palestinian scholars and the foreign nationals -- including U.S. citizens -- who wish to teach, confer or do research with them.

Recalling other disciplinary society debates over BDS proposal, several speakers at the AHA meeting described the resolutions as unfairly singling out Israel among many other nations with questionable records on academic freedom and human rights. Proponents of the resolutions, in turn, asserted that the AHA has, over time, singled out other countries for violations of academic freedom. Some also pointed to U.S. federal aid to Israel, saying that the special relationship between the two nations should translate to special concern.

Sharon Musher, associate professor at Stockton University and a member of the Alliance for Academic Freedom, said that the resolution on protecting the right to education "singles out Israel, neglecting academic freedom violations by worse offenders, including China, Singapore and the Gulf Emirate with whom American universities ally."    While Israel merits criticism for some of its actions, the resolution would harm the AHA, she also warned. "Endorsing this politicized resolution today will tarnish the professionalism of the association. It will also create needless division within the AHA. The association should remain a welcome home to all historians, whatever their politics."   The academic freedom resolution was amended during the meeting to be sent out to all members of the AHA, had it passed. But it died before it could even be forwarded to the governing council, with 41 members in favor and 80 opposed. The second proposal, on the rights of U.S. academics visiting Israel and Palestinian areas, failed with 36 members in favor and 61 opposed.

Proponents of the Israel-related resolutions made clear during the meeting that they would not be deterred by failures.

The AHA has no bylaws against repeat proposals. Jim Grossman, executive director of the association, said after the meeting that the issues raised in the petitions will be the subject of annual meeting sessions in coming years.

“Since everything has a history,” he added, “all issues in historical context are appropriate for proposals to our program committee.”

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Conference speakers stress value of liberal arts skills to small college presidents

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 01:00

MARCO ISLAND, Fla. -- Whenever presidents of private liberal arts colleges gather, the topic of their graduates' career readiness is near the top of their minds.

This year's Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute is no different. Since the program officially began Saturday, presidents in various settings have touted their institutions' track records preparing students for careers and what they believe to be strong long-term prospects for students who earn degrees in the liberal arts.

But among this group, worries run high that the liberal arts are being marginalized in America and the workplace. Some presidents are concerned that parents, students and employers are overlooking their institutions and instead turning toward campuses that tilt more heavily toward science and technology majors.

So it was notable Monday when a managing director at one of the world's largest investment firms told presidents that the leaders who are its best employees are the ones who have the ability to operate outside of silos and to speak to many different types of people.

“That sounds roughly like a liberal arts education,” said the speaker, Jonathan McBride, managing director and global head of inclusion at the investment management company BlackRock.

If the companies BlackRock invests in seek the same characteristics, it suggests liberal arts colleges are right to tell students about the long-term benefits of their education. The characteristics in demand add up to the ability to avoid sameness or not to favor the familiar. And it might be easier to teach those instincts when a student is on campus, surrounded by ideas, instead of at the workplace for only a part of the day.

The discussion also suggests some changes liberal arts colleges could make to keep employers happy. At some point, institutions could start certifying skills that contribute to what McBride calls inclusive leadership, just like some institutions provide certificates for coding skills.

McBride urged college leaders to fight the urge to promote too much specialization. The next big skill will be learning itself, he said.

Nonetheless, some liberal arts college presidents feel they struggle to communicate their value to students and families.

“No matter what research we put out there on outcomes, nobody seems to be hearing it,” said Ann McElaney-Johnson, president of Mount St. Mary's University in Los Angeles, which draws many of its students from its local area and has a large percentage of Pell-eligible students.

McElaney-Johnson spoke at an afternoon session about promoting the labor market outcomes of the liberal arts. Like many small private institutions, Mount St. Mary's isn't entirely disregarding technical skills as it teaches human skills or soft skills. It's trying to embed technical skills into students' educational experience.

But institutions have to help students understand and tell others why their mix of skills is valuable, McElaney-Johnson said.

Communicating the value of a liberal arts degree is made more difficult by the fact that liberal arts graduates have nonlinear career paths.

About 70 percent of liberal arts graduates do something completely different when they go from their first stable job to their second, said Rob Sentz, chief innovation officer at the labor market analytics firm Emsi. But even technology majors change paths between first and second jobs more than half the time.

“It almost doesn't matter what kind of degree you have,” Sentz said. “You're moving in the market.”

The labor market is demanding skills such as project management, strategic planning, marketing, writing and sales, Sentz said. Why? When a company hires someone to build a new machine, it also has to hire someone to talk about that machine and someone to sell it. It has to hire a manager to oversee teams involved in production.

How can colleges bridge the gaps between employers and campuses -- and between what students think they want and what the labor force is demanding?

The experience of Brandman University in California might offer some insight. Brandman is part of the Chapman University system, with 25,000 degree and certificate students, classes offered online, and campuses in California and Washington. It is also heavily involved in employer-funded degree programs and competency-based education.

Brandman's chancellor and chief executive officer, Gary Brahm, described what he called "backwards program design." It involves designing degree programs by looking at the knowledge, skills and capabilities that will help employment outcomes.

Competencies from professional certifications can also be important, whether they are drawn from the Institute of Supply Management or Microsoft. Competencies can be acknowledged through credentials other than a degree, such as badges students can earn.

Degree programs can be validated by employers and outside sources of workplace data, such as Burning Glass, to ensure the skills really match employer needs and wants.

Brahm also stressed a need to make sure students are picking up the competencies.

“Because we will embed these competencies across the curriculum, we need to have institutionally developed standardized testing to measure how well you're doing,” he said.

Much of that is a way for colleges to learn from employers and about the job market. It may be necessary work and work that some institutions are already doing -- and it may be largely new for some institutions.

Many of the college presidents in attendance Monday were happy to hear an employer, BlackRock, valuing what they already do.

“In a world where in fact the most important expertise is learning, how much do we have to learn from you all?” McBride said. “Everything.”

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Maine College Republican group moves to the right, alienating some members

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 01:00

When the University of Maine College Republicans asked Amy Fried to be their faculty adviser, the group knew Fried was a Democrat who writes a progressive column in the Bangor Daily News.

Fried, the university's political science department chair, became the adviser for the UMaine College Democrats and the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty chapter at the university in October 2019. UMaine's College Republicans asked for her oversight shortly thereafter, when their previous adviser moved to another state. She agreed, but didn't last long. Fried resigned after a month, saying she wanting to disassociate with UMaine College Republicans’ hardline anti-immigration stance and use of social media to "get a rise out of people."

The group invited Michelle Malkin, a conservative columnist who was cut off from speaking at future Young Americans for Liberty, or YAL, events in November 2019, after she praised Nick Fuentes, a broadcaster who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks, Holocaust denial and interrupting speakers, The Hill reported. Fried takes issue with the way Fuentes and Malkin speak about immigration policy, and drew the line when student members of UMaine College Republicans appeared to show support for them, she said.

“There’s a difference between disagreeing on immigration policy and talking about immigration in these ways that are very negative, denigrating, demeaning and inaccurate,” Fried said. “At the same time [UMaine College Republicans] have every right to have their views and express their views … They have every right to exist and the best answer is for people to engage with them and express their own views, but I also have my own freedom of association.”

It was an “overwhelming support for free speech and free expression” that led Fried to agree to be listed as the group’s adviser, she said. Fried had overseen the same chapter from 2015 to 2018. But UMaine College Republicans have adopted a different set of politics since then. Fried described the group as "very Trumpy to alt-right."

Jeremiah Childs, the group's vice president, said they identify with President Donald Trump’s “America First” movement and are more socially conservative than the previous iteration of UMaine College Republicans.

“It’s really fallacious linking us to Holocaust denial,” Childs said. “The whole thing is very hyperbolic. We believe the Holocaust happened … I would not say that [Fuentes] represents us whatsoever. Our goal is to promote conservatism, the agenda, this is what we do. He is one person and is not representative of us. They’re doing this to delegitimize us because we’re popular.”

Some former members left the group to join other conservative organizations on campus, such as YAL. Some are considering forming a new College Republicans chapter, Fried said. About six members left last year. Childs said some joined Maine's chapter of Turning Point USA, another conservative campus group.

UMaine College Republicans take conservative stances on immigration, homosexuality and gender relations, and climate change. The group’s Facebook page had about 400,000 views in December, Childs said. In October, UMaine College Republicans published to Facebook a controversial post calling indigenous South American people “brutal societies … corrupted by rampant ritual sacrifice and cannibalism” in protest to the state’s renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

The post drew a response from administrators, who in a universitywide message said that the post uses 15th-century Spanish propaganda and dehumanizes indigenous people, some of whom who have close ties with Maine, said John Bear Mitchell, coordinator of the university’s Native American waiver and educational program. Mitchell is a citizen of the Penobscot Nation, which is located nearly six miles from Maine’s Orono campus in Indian Island, Me.

“We fully understand that this sort of material is upsetting to many members of our community, and it does not align with our values or the stated values of the university,” the university’s message said. “UMaine is a community brought together in our differences, and some of our most highly held values are civility, inclusion, compassion, understanding and respect. When those values are called into question by the words or actions of others, the reverberations are real and widely felt.”

Mitchell questioned Maine’s decision to note UMaine College Republicans’ right to free speech in the university’s initial statement on the offensive Facebook post, which suggested “the best remedy for speech we do not like or disagree with is more speech.” But in addressing the post head-on and engaging in discussion with concerned students and the Native American community, Mitchell said the university helped make their voices heard.

“Racism and racial awareness is really out there, it’s really visible now,” Mitchell said. “Because it’s so visible and we see it happening, people feel visible.”

Fraught Relations With College Democrats

An indigenous student organized a protest of about 100 people on campus in response to the Facebook post. Members of UMaine College Republicans attended to disrupt it, Mitchell said. Later, members harassed and physically threatened the student organizer, and out of fear she did not attend classes for a week, Mitchell said. Margaret Nagle, senior director of public relations, said Maine does not comment on matters of student conduct when asked about the accusation of harassment. The group denied those allegations.

“This is not true at all, we’ve never harassed anybody,” Childs said. “Nobody in our group has ever been found guilty of anything … My members always treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

Fried, who has taught at the university since 1997, said the discourse between college Democratic and Republican groups has gone downhill since her oversight of the group from 2015 to 2018, when leaders were friendly with each other and participated in constructive debate.

The Democratic group’s debates and conversations with UMaine College Republicans have been fraught, said Liam Kent, president of UMaine College Democrats.

“We have conversations but they’re not productive … they’re faux conversations to pass the time,” Kent said. “We try to be nice to them, we try to be cooperative with them and we try to keep it amicable between the groups, but they have stepped way over the line many times.”

Kent, who is gay, said his members do not feel safe in the same room as members of UMaine College Republicans and “fear that they will face repercussions for being who they are” when engaging with the group’s members. The only forum UMaine College Democrats will engage in is a formal debate, because those events are a “somewhat safe zone” with university security personnel, he said.

Because Fried resigned, the chapter of UMaine College Republicans is considered inactive by the university’s student government. It will need to reapply for recognition and be approved by a committee of student organizations and the Student Senate, Nagle said. Childs said the group has multiple candidates interested in becoming its faculty adviser.

UMaine College Republicans remains recognized by the College Republican National Committee, or CRNC, under the Maine Federation of College Republicans, said Childs, who is the federation's vice chairman. The CRNC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Nagle said Maine had not spoken to the CRNC about the chapter’s behavior.

While the group is no longer recognized by the university, they can easily reorganize once they meet the student government requirements, Mitchell said.

“Any group that partakes in any racism or hate or direct threats to any students should be easily removed. But they’re not -- they’re protected,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that we should eliminate any Republican club. But anybody who engages in hate and racism should be removed, without question.”

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New presidents or provosts: New School Northeast CC NMC Paine Rockford Southwestern Michigan Tidewater Weber

Inside Higher Ed - Mar, 01/07/2020 - 01:00
  • Leah Barrett, vice president for student affairs at Northern Wyoming Community College District, has been selected as president of Northeast Community College, in Nebraska.
  • Marcia Conston, vice president for enrollment and student success services at Central Piedmont Community College, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of Tidewater Community College, in Virginia.
  • Cheryl Evans Jones, interim president of Paine College, in Georgia, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Ravi Krovi, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Akron, in Ohio, has been selected as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Weber State University, in Utah.
  • Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory University, in Georgia, has been named president of the New School, in New York.
  • Nick Nissley, executive director of the School for Creative & Performing Arts, in Ohio, has been selected as president of Northwestern Michigan College.
  • Joseph L. Odenwald, vice president of student services at Southwestern Michigan College, has been chosen as president there.
  • Michael A. Perry, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Rockford University, in Illinois, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
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