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Market for rights to college athletes' name, image, likeness is emerging

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 01/14/2020 - 01:00

Companies are moving quickly to capitalize on a market that does not yet exist based on the prospect of college athletes being able to earn compensation for the use of their name, likeness and image.

Officials in the National Collegiate Athletic Association are still in the early stages of discussion about permitting athletes to profit from their personal celebrity, sponsorship deals and other benefits of using their name, image and likeness, or NIL. The association’s division leaders and a working group exploring new guidance and policies will not report updates to the NCAA Board of Governors until April. The NCAA has also said that any updated guidance should be “consistent with the collegiate model,” which doesn’t suggest much significant change to the current structure, said Audrey Anderson, litigation counsel for the law firm Bass, Berry & Sims, who specializes in athletics department issues.

But two companies noted in Sports Illustrated’s “Sports Business Predictions for 2020” have already developed business models based on potential NIL benefits.

Without knowing what future NIL guidance -- or state and federal laws -- will look like, the companies are nonetheless betting on the potential for future profits, Anderson said.

“Everybody’s breathless” waiting to see what NCAA leaders will propose, she said. ​“The entrepreneurs are obviously going to be entrepreneurial, but it’s still risky to try and figure out how the rules are going to settle.”

One company,, is a new crowdfunding platform similar to that will allow anyone -- college sports fans, alumni and large companies -- to donate funds to a specific collegiate athletic program or player position. The company’s founder, Zachary Segal, said will “democratize” the college sports economy and compared the process to making political campaign contributions. All donations, listed by institution and sports team, will be made public on the website, he said.

He said a $10,000 donation has already been made by, an auto repair insurance company, to 10 Division I football teams for each of their starting quarterback positions, including Louisiana State University, Clemson University and the University of Oklahoma.

One athletics department -- Minnesota State University at Mankato -- last month requested its institution be taken off the website due to concerns about how prospective donations could impact the eligibility of players under current NCAA rules for NIL benefits, according to a letter to Segal. Segal said it may have been a misunderstanding on Minnesota State’s part, and he assured the university's athletics department that the funds would be held in, an online payment processing system, until there were rules or laws that permit college athletes to be paid.

“While the NCAA name/image/likeness concept is under review at both the association level in addition to various state laws that have been passed, the fact remains that current NCAA legislation has not been altered to the point that this would be a permissible activity for student-athletes to benefit from,” said a Dec. 13 letter from Shane Drahota, associate athletic director of compliance and student services at Minnesota State. “Therefore, it has the potential to cause eligibility issues for our student athletes.”

Drahota and other officials from the university's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics declined to comment further.

Oklahoma’s athletics department will monitor the site to be sure that players are not receiving the funds and violating current NCAA bylaws or state law, said Jason Leonard, executive director of compliance. But Leonard said he saw no reason to send a cease-and-desist letter to the site because it does not use athletes’ names or Oklahoma trademarks.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Leonard said. “They aren’t using any of our students’ name, image and likeness at this time, and why someone would contribute to this is beyond me.”

The site had raised a total $103,333 as of Jan. 13. College teams and athletes won’t be obligated to accept money offered to them once NIL rules permit it, but if they do, players will make a video or social media post in exchange for endorsing an advertiser, company or itself, Segal said. He noted some uncertainty about how each contribution will work and said the endorsements will vary on a case-by-case basis.

“Athletes will be required to promote and a few other advertisers as well,” Segal said. “Those other advertisers will vary by team, sport, school state, a number of criteria … This is a centralized place to make it easy for the athlete to understand what funding opportunities will be presented at different universities.”

Larger institutions with larger fan bases may have an advantage, but allegiance to an athletic program can also motivate contributions, Segal said. He’s excited to see what opportunities could bring to smaller or lesser-known college sports programs. Segal said will make most of its profit from advertising dollars made on the site, and “when someone contributes to the athlete, the money will be going to the athlete, not us.”

If and when NCAA rules allow athletes to accept sponsorship deals, Segal said he worries agents hired by athletes “can strike all kinds of deals and they could be highly unfavorable for the student athlete, given the intense time commitment of being a student athlete, and that’s before even considering being a student.”

“We’re really hoping that this does make it so that the student athletes don’t feel compelled to spend their time off the field running around and getting endorsements that take away from the college experience,” Segal said.

Another company,, that would provide legal representation to athletes, was recently started by Dustin McGuire, a family practice lawyer in Illinois and former Division I men’s basketball player for Saint Louis University. His company could help athletes navigate sponsorship deals and provide other opportunities to profit from their NIL, such as fan autograph exchanges and social media advertising. McGuire does not believe the NCAA’s October 2019 decision to allow players to benefit from NIL will change much about how the collegiate model operates. He says state or federal law will more likely prevail.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed the Fair Pay for Play Act into law in October. The legislation supersedes NCAA guidelines and allows college athletes in the state to profit from their NIL beginning in January 2023. Several other states and a handful of federal lawmakers drafted or proposed similar legislation in 2019.

“The NCAA is not going to give rights -- those rights are going to have to be fought for,” McGuire said. “They’ve already indicated that those laws would be challenged on a constitutional basis … I decided to go ahead and introduce the website because California did pass its law.”

The NCAA declined to comment.

The motivation of firms and agents who want to represent college athletes in sponsorship deals has been a concern of NCAA leaders and legislators drafting bills to push the association to allow NIL rights.

Ensuring students are represented “fairly and honestly” will be one of the main questions asked by former and current NCAA stakeholders who want a say in how the new guidelines are written, said Walter Harrison, a former president of the University of Hartford who chaired the NCAA’s Board of Governors for three years. Harrison is co-chairing the Student Athlete Issues and Education Committee for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which plans to deliver recommendations to the NCAA in early April, he said. The commission met on Jan. 13 to discuss what it plans to report to the NCAA, Harrison said.

“I don’t want to be overly paternalistic, but I would hope that student athletes would not be exploited and would actually be able to benefit from their name, image, likeness -- that’s something we’re all thinking about with this,” Harrison said. “I’m one of those people who believes that if you open a market, there are going to be all kinds of people who want to come into the market … If they’re not represented by somebody, are they even more likely to be taken advantage of by companies?”

McGuire rejected the suggestion that he, as a representative of college athletes, would try to take advantage of them, but he said that in any industry there will be bad actors.

“That’s all the more reason that agents are needed -- there are professionals like myself out there to help,” McGuire said.

Some university and NCAA officials assume that when agents want to help represent athletes, they are acting nefariously, "and it doesn’t have to be that way," McGuire said.

“It is a very large opportunity -- athletes need to realize that they’re a business,” McGuire said.

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New presidents or provosts: Centenary Concordia Jacksonville LSU-Alexandria Methodist SBCC Stetson Wichita Wilson Wright

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 01/14/2020 - 01:00
  • Paul Coreil, interim chancellor at Louisiana State University at Alexandria, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Susan Edwards, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of Wright State University, in Ohio, has been promoted to president there.
  • Wesley R. Fugate, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Randolph College, in Virginia, has been appointed president of Wilson College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research at East Carolina University, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of Wichita State University, in Kansas.
  • Utpal K. Goswami, president of the Longview district of Metropolitan Community College, in Missouri, has been appointed superintendent/president of Santa Barbara City College, in California.
  • Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost and English professor at Columbia College Chicago, in Illinois, has been selected as provost at Methodist University, in North Carolina.
  • Bruce Murphy, consultant with the Registry for College and University Presidents and former president of Nicholls State University, in Louisiana, has been selected as president of Centenary University, in New Jersey.
  • Christopher F. Roellke, dean of the college emeritus and professor of education at Vassar College, in New York, has been named president of Stetson University, in Florida.
  • Christine Sapienza, interim provost at Jacksonville University, in Florida, has been chosen as senior vice president of academic affairs and provost there on a permanent basis.
  • Michael A. Thomas, executive director of the Lutheran Institute for Theology and Culture and a professor of religion at Concordia University Portland, in Oregon, has been appointed president of Concordia University Irvine, in California.
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Chronicle of Higher Education: When It Comes to Future Earnings, Liberal-Arts Grads Might Get the Last Laugh

The return on investment of a liberal-arts education builds slowly but surpasses the median of all colleges over time, a new report concludes.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Johns Hopkins Has Quietly Stopped Giving Children of Alumni Preference in Admissions. Here’s Why.

In the last decade, the university has lowered the proportion of legacy students in its freshman class from 12.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Racist Incidents, Budget Cuts, and Faculty Warnings: Inside the Run-Up to a Campus Book-Burning

A book-burning last year at Georgia Southern University made international headlines. But there’s more to the story.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Chief Executive of California’s Virtual Community College Suddenly Resigns

Heather Hiles came to the job less than a year ago and helped lead efforts to design a virtual program aimed at educating adult students statewide.

LILA* Liverpool partners with football legend

The PIE News - lun, 01/13/2020 - 08:56

Private independent college LILA* Liverpool has announced a new A-level football and sports pathway to university, partnering with Liverpool Football College in association with football legend Steven Gerrard.

Graduates from the program will be in a prime position to go onto degrees and careers in the football and sports industries.

“I’m delighted to lend my support to a top football and education program that has set high standards”

Led by UEFA A-licensed coaches with Premier League academy experience, Liverpool Football College boasts a rich history of alumni who have played professionally and semi-professionally.

Other students have gone on to accept scholarships in the US, study at universities and find alternative careers in football, including coaching.

Gerrard, who made 710 appearances for Liverpool and won seven major honours including the Champions League in 2005, has been a long-term supporter of the college.

“Having personally seen the hard work that has gone into establishing the college, I’m delighted to lend my support to a top football and education program that has set high standards and has a pedigree of developing players and young people since 2011,” Gerrard said.

Leanne Linacre, Director at LILA* Liverpool added: “Sports tourism is now believed to be the fastest-growing segment within the travel industry and is showing no sign of slowing down.”

“LILA* Liverpool with Liverpool Football College in association with Steven Gerrard is aiming to make sure our students are perfectly prepared to take full advantage of these diverse global opportunities,” she added.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: Endgame: Can Literary Studies Survive?

The field is no longer on the verge of collapse. It’s in the midst of it. Hiring is at an all-time low. Hiring has essentially ceased in entire subfields.

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India: majority of foreign-trained doctors fail exams

The PIE News - lun, 01/13/2020 - 08:07

The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has revealed that more than four out of five doctors who return from completing a medical degree abroad fail the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam required to allow them to practise in India.

The examination is required for all doctors who undertake their MBBS abroad in countries other than Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and the US. However, the ministry revealed that just 14.2% out of 61,708 test-takers between 2015-18 made the grade.

“The move to alternative destinations for Indian students is likely to be one of the big stories in mobility in the 2020s”

“Alternative destinations” in Eastern Europe and Asia have become more popular over the last decade due to their lower fees and entrance requirements, as well as an increase in the English-taught courses they offer.

However, the robustness of their courses has been called into question after students’ pass rates on the FMGE following studying in destinations such as China, Russia and Ukraine were just 11.67%, 12.91% and 14.87% respectively.

Edwise’s director Sushil Sukhwani told The PIE that students taking the exams are aware of the tough requirements, often signing up for coaching in advance. Some still fail after even the second or third attempt, leaving them with the choice between practising illegally in India or trying their luck abroad.

“[Some] Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian institutes do not go as deep academically… and [some] institutes in China and Russia are more commercial,” he noted.

“Also, [they may] not have proper facilities like operation theatres and equipment or links with hospitals for practical exposure.”

According to Amanda Gregory, lead consultant at EMS Global and COO of UNIVER, two million students competed in the NEET exam for 61,000 places at Indian medical colleges in 2018.

While the Indian government announced the establishment of 24 new 
medical colleges by 2020-2021 in February 2018, for many attempting to pursue a career in medicine, heading abroad is the only option – and traditionally popular destinations are not a financially viable option for many.

“The prediction is that the move to alternative destinations for Indian students is likely to be one of the big stories in international student mobility in the 2020s, and one that could have profound effects on the foreign enrolments of both established and emerging study destinations,” Gregory told The PIE.

India’s medical system is one of the largest in the world but it also has a severe shortage of medical professionals.

A report last year suggested the country needs at least an additional 600,000 doctors and two million nurses, with it currently only having one government doctor for every 10,189 citizens – the WHO recommendation is 1:1,000.

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US: Thousands of int’l students may have overstayed their visas

The PIE News - lun, 01/13/2020 - 07:21

Thousands of international students may have overstayed their US visas by misusing the country’s Optional Practical Training program, according to an investigation

An extension of an international student’s visa, OPT allows graduates to work in an area related to their study for a total of 12 months, or longer if they have a STEM degree.

“The existing national security infrastructure is designed to catch bad actors”

However, the month-long investigation found that a handful of suspicious companies with unclear business dealings and virtually no online footprints were employing students through OPT. 

The 14 companies in question employed more than 5,500 students through the program in 2017, according to ICE records. 

“Higher education institutions take extensive measures to comply with federal requirements”

“There are always people who want to exploit legal immigration,” Rachel Canty, Student and Exchange Visitor Program director, said.

Canty, told NBC Bay Area that “there’s always a risk” when people tell authorities they are doing something other than what they have said they are.

“That is why we look at the companies very carefully. That’s why we do data analytics and that’s why we do investigations,” Canty added.

NBC Bay Area began its investigation following the arrest of Chinese national Weiyun “Kelly” Huang,  the CEO of a company called Findream.

An indictment filed in federal court told how Huang allegedly used two companies, Findream and Sinocontech, to provide fake employment documents for more than 2,500 students with F-1 visas.

Huang is accused of using this scheme to make more than US$2 million from students paying for falsified employment records.

Following the indictment, NBC Bay Area used OPT data and corporate records to identify 12 more suspected shell companies.

It found the companies shared a common set of traits including unreachable corporate officers, an OPT workforce comprised of 99% Chinese nationals and corporate headquarters based at either single-family homes, luxury residential high-rises or shared workspaces.

However, the report notes that while there is evidence of possible abuse, the cases represent less than 3% of the students who participated in OPT in 2017.

“The existing national security infrastructure is designed to catch bad actors, and higher education institutions take extensive measures to comply with federal requirements,” Jill Allen Murray, deputy executive director, public policy at NAFSA told The PIE News. 

The importance of the OPT program to the US was highlighted by American Council on Education vice president, global engagement, Brad Farnsworth.

“We really are experiencing a rapidly globalised market of international students, where the UK, Canada, the US and Australia are all competing for students,” he told The PIE.

“We are all trying to make ourselves as attractive as possible. I think that is a good thing for international students- the more choice the better.

“But we do know that international students very much value professional and practical experience in the country where they are studying either during or following graduation and that is specifically why OPT was designed in the US.

“The total number of students in the US still looks pretty good but that is largely owing to more students participating in OPT”

“I do know anecdotally that this makes a tremendous difference when students are selecting a country and an institution for study,” he added.

Farnsworth said that if there was a significant curtailing of OPT it would “dramatically” affect the numbers of international students who come to the US.

“If you look at the Open Doors report that came out in the late fall… what we are seeing is a real softening of students entering the pipeline in the US,” he said.

Farnsworth said that the numbers of international students have been dropping for several years which he put down to global competition.

“What we’re seeing if you look at the overall number of students in the US, that number is holding quite firm at over one million.

“That is because the students stay in the US longer. If you imagine a pipeline, entering at one end are new students, [and] those numbers are declining, but at the same time, we have students staying in the US longer to do OPT.

“So the total number of students in the US still looks pretty good but that is largely owing to more students participating in OPT.”

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US: Chinese student to face trial

The PIE News - lun, 01/13/2020 - 03:34

A Chinese international student who allegedly tried to smuggle cancer research from a hospital in Boston is facing trial in the US, according to local news reports.

Zaosong Zheng, 29, was a graduate student at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and had entered the US on a visa sponsored by Harvard. 

“Zheng’s appointment to [Beth Israel] was not an accident”

Authorities in the US allege that he stole biological specimens from Beth Israel’s lab and, according to an FBI agent, may have been collecting intellectual property on behalf of the Chinese government. 

Court documents say that Zheng was arrested by customs officials in December 2019 after he attempted to fly from Boston to Beijing carrying the specimens his luggage.

He initially denied that vials he was carrying were biological specimens but later admitted he had stolen them from Beth Israel according to the documents. He was arrested on a charge of making false statements. 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital. The institution fired Zheng after his arrest and his educational exchange visa has been revoked.

“We are deeply proud of the breadth and depth of our research programs,” Jennifer Kritz, a spokesperson for the hospital, told The Boston Globe.

“Any efforts to compromise research undermine the hard work of our faculty and staff to advance patient care,” she said. 

According to the report, Zheng had a laptop that belonged to another researcher at the lab who had already travelled to China. 

The FBI have alleged that Zheng and the other Chinese researcher may have worked together to smuggle research out of the lab and the country.

“Zheng’s appointment to [Beth Israel] was not an accident; he was knowingly gathering and collecting intellectual property from [Beth Israel] possibly on behalf of the Chinese government,” said Kara Spice, an FBI agent, in a court affidavit.

“This type of behaviour is expected of Chinese nationals when they travel to the United States and rewarded upon their return to China.”

Now Zheng is being held without bail after a judge ruled he was a flight risk.

US District Court Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy said Zheng’s connections to the Chinese government, which gave him a scholarship, would make it easier for him to leave the country. Hennessy granted the federal prosecutors’ request to detain Zheng until his trial.

The court case comes at a time of increased concerns over US-based scientists working to benefit foreign governments.

An investigation by the US Department of Education into foreign funding at six US universities found that one had received research funding from a Chinese multinational conglomerate to develop new algorithms and advance biometric security techniques for crowd surveillance capabilities.

The FBI and the National Institutes of Health, the US government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research, are investigating the theft of US biomedical research by scientists with links to China.

So far, the NIH has opened more than 180 investigations into potential violations involving foreign influence in US research.

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Israeli HEIs to launch English language reform

The PIE News - lun, 01/13/2020 - 02:30

Israeli universities and colleges are set to launch English language reforms to ensure students are equipped with the necessary English skills to integrate into the local and international jobs market.

The Council for Higher Education has approved the new reform based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and over the next five years, academic institutions will adopt a study method to ensure students gain English skills in reading, writing, comprehension and speech.

All students starting undergraduate studies as of the 2021/22 school year will take at least two courses in the English language, determined according to their level of English at the time of acceptance.

“[The studies are important] as part of… their optimal integration into the local and international employment market”

As a result of this new reform, dozens of new English taught courses will be developed in Israeli universities and colleges.

In addition to increasing the English level of Israeli students, the initiative hopes to open the gates of Israeli higher education to more international students.

This push complements the CHE’s Study in Israel program and will enable academic institutions to open English taught programs which integrate students from around the world.

The initiative was coordinated with the Ministry of Education in order to ensure that Israeli students entering universities and colleges are prepared for the new format.

Ido Perlman, deputy chair of the CHE, said the council views English-language studies as being “very important” for academic and international purposes.

“[The studies are important] as part of the provision of sufficient tools and knowledge to students during the course of their academic degree studies as well as their optimal integration into the local and international employment market after completing their studies.”

The CHE and its Planning and Budgeting Committee will assist academic institutions in preparing for this initiative and recommends establishing systems to train English lecturers to teach the four required skills according to the CEFR, train teachers to teach course content in English and to translate courses into English.

In order to ensure that all students are successful in this new program, the CHE also recommended that higher education institutions establish institutional systems to identify and assist students having trouble with English-language studies.

It also recommends establishing an institutional infrastructure to identify and assist students having difficulties in English-language studies.

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MLA discusses professors' ethical responsibilities for training graduate students

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

SEATTLE -- The humanities’ dismal tenure-track job market has laid bare some of the profession’s other ugly truths -- namely that power imbalances are too often used against graduate students. The Me Too movement has, of course, revealed abuses of a sexual nature in academe. Yet graduate students also increasingly refuse to accept other forms of mistreatment and malpractice as they face poor faculty job prospects. 

Put another way, if the status quo isn’t a means to an end, then graduate students want graduate school to be more of an end in itself -- and an equitable one.

The Modern Language Association is listening. A fair number of the 700-plus sessions offered at its annual convention over the weekend centered on improving graduate education, not just structurally but culturally. And a large share of the association’s Delegate Assembly meeting focused on a new report from the MLA’s Task Force in Ethical Conduct on Graduate Education.

‘Faculty Hold Considerable Power’

As a number of adviser-advisee abuse cases came to light around 2018, the MLA’s Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee surveyed members about what’s wrong with graduate education -- especially where it concerned power differentials between faculty members and students.

Survey results were never made public. Generally, they involved student concerns not only about the job market and sexual harassment but also mental health, program transparency, favoritism and bias, and exploitation of labor and emotions. They prompted a major discussion at last year’s MLA convention.

Troubled, the MLA’s Executive Council charged a task force with considering the student comments and recommending related guidelines. The charge here was different than that to the task force behind the MLA’s 2014 report on doctoral study in modern language: whereas that report focused on program design and timelines, this one was about preventing abuses of power.

The new task force, led by Simon Gikandi, MLA president and Robert Schirmer Professor and chair of English at Princeton University, wrote in its eventual report that “the relationship between faculty and graduate students is a special one” that’s ideally “intellectually stimulating, long-lasting, and reciprocally rewarding.” Within that relationship, however, the report reads, “faculty hold considerable power over the graduate students they teach and advise."

Faculty members “give or withhold not only professional licensure in the forms of grades and approvals, but also their time,” the report says. They also grant or withhold “various forms of patronage, including collaboration and recommendations for coveted fellowships or teaching opportunities.” They fail, for example, “to return dissertation chapters for many months, to answer crucial emails, or to submit letters of recommendation in a timely fashion,” and they ask students to proofread their papers without compensation, collect their laundry or house sit their pets.

There are also “subtler forms of neglect, bias, or abuse,” and “pressure on students to choose them as their dissertation advisers or discriminat[ion] against students on the basis of race, ability status, age or gender,” the report continues. All of these behaviors -- on top of inadequate funding packages, lack of childcare or mental health benefits, or appropriate job counseling or training -- increase the “precarity felt by graduate students and impede their timely progress toward the degree.”


Ultimately, the task force made nine recommendations, including adopting collaborative or “networked” advising instead of the single-adviser model. Such an approach will “increase the range of professional possibilities for graduate students, reduce stress caused by reliance on single mentors and provide a check on faculty abuses of power,” the report says.

Networked or collaborative advising was discussed at several other panels at the convention. Jenna Lay, associate professor of English at the Lehigh University, offered some practical strategies during a separate panel on graduate student mentoring: encouraging students to serve on campus committees, do informational interviews with staff members and alumni in other kinds of jobs, and pursue graduate assistantships outside of one’s immediate campus home, along with other kinds of professional networking.

Lay’s co-panelist and former graduate student Emily Shreve, now associate director of academic transitions in the Academic Success Center at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, also served on the mentoring panel. At Lehigh, she worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of the First-Year Experience, participated in a committee linking different humanities programs, managed the summer reading program and developed a weekly newsletter for first-year students. That experience interacting with peers and faculty and staff members across the university, outside the classroom, helped lead her to her current position. Even so, Lay noted that this kind of experience is beneficial to all students, as those who pursue faculty jobs still need to understand service roles and the inner workings of the university.

Other task force recommendations include rejecting “all forms of sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior,” such as through the establishment of department guidelines “for treating all students fairly.” When sexual harassment claims are lodged, for example, “faculty must refrain from public comment on such matters while they are adjudicated by university bodies charged with this task.” Departments and programs also should train professors on “bystander responsibility” and the need to guard not only against impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety.

“Promote transparency to reduce bias and favoritism” was another recommendation. Faculty members should publicly set, revise and apply, in a fair and professional way, clear criteria and procedures for all matters that affect graduate students and their progress through a program. Wherever possible, graduate students should be included in department meetings and decisions that affect them.

The task force also advised “clear rules for faculty accessibility and responsiveness,” with regard to responding to papers, dissertation chapters and drafts, and requests for letters of reference in a timely fashion -- including when professors are on leave.

Other recommendations: offer students training without “exploiting” them, such as by giving them workloads that prioritize timely program progress; meet the distinct needs of master’s students, who are not “Ph.D. students lite”; provide mental health-care coverage and services and supports for work-life balance; and fund students sufficiently and pay them on time, so that they don’t need to take on second jobs.

Realities of the Job Market

Offering professionalization opportunities in line with the “new realities” of the job market was the task force’s other recommendation. Delegates selected it as the most pressing issue facing their profession during the assembly meeting.

“Graduate schools and departments -- in collaboration with offices of career services, development and alumni relations, and other institutional offices -- should offer workshops and training for diverse humanities careers as well as for the varied possibilities within the academic job market,” the report says. “Students must be supported, and not stigmatized, when they explore diverse career paths.”

In another session on graduate student admissions -- what moderator Leonard Cassuto, professor of English at Fordham University, guessed was the MLA’s first such panel -- speakers said that career diversity should start with who gets into graduate school. Citing Julie Posselt’s study of graduate school admissions, Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity and Faculty Gatekeeping, Cassuto said that too often “we default into what [Posselt] calls ‘homophily,’ which is the love of same. In other ways we seek to replicate ourselves.” Applying to graduate school and reviewing applicants is a “ritual dance” with prescribed steps, Cassuto continued. Regardless of what they actually hope to do with their degrees, “candidates need to present themselves as prospective researchers.” Faculty readers, meanwhile, “especially want for candidates to demonstrate what kind of scholars they’re going to be.”

This has consequences for diversity of all kinds, including intellectual, Cassuto said. And if “we’re going to reconceive the guiding assumption that Ph.D.s are going to become professors and nothing else, then we have to do that from the bottom up.”

Cassuto’s co-panelist John Guillory, Silver Professor of English at New York University, as a thought experiment suggested that the MLA might also help oversee a staggered moratorium on admissions to humanities programs, in which one-third to one-fourth of departments don’t admit graduate students every year. More realistically, perhaps, Sara B. Blair, Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said that programs must first and foremost study and make public data on outcomes for past graduate students (Michigan has been leader on this front). 

Seemingly agreeing with Cassuto on the value of admitting students with diverse goals, Blair said that there is “no shortage of talent, serious expansive talent, among real-time and often nontraditional potential aspirants for doctoral programs.”

This “doesn’t mean that the Ph.D. in English or the humanities more broadly isn’t still -- but in familiar and new ways -- a highly valuable project,” she added. The world needs “well-trained, critically adept humanists to not only to teach college students of all sorts,” but also to “make richer sense of the world we inhabit.”

During yet another panel on what professors owe their students, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, director of digital humanities and professor of English at Michigan State University, said that a more “generous” academic culture starts with how faculty members interact with other scholars and their work. “I’m not asking us not to disagree, not to push new ideas forward, not to think critically," she said, recalling that a group of graduate students early in her teaching career had come to class prepared with brutal critiques of a reading but shallow understandings of what it was actually about. "But I am hoping that we might find ways to remember that critical thinking requires deep understanding and even generosity as prerequisite.”

Fitzpatrick asked “what we and our students might gain by slowing the whole process down, from emphasizing the believing game before leaping to the doubting came,” when engaging with others’ ideas. “Generous argument” might make us better listeners and help "spring ways of thinking that focus on higher education as a means of fostering community rather than providing individual benefit," she said.

All of this entails moving away from a “hyperindividualistic, competitive mode of achievement in which all outcomes are understood to be individual and therefore assessed at that level,” however, she added -- a tall order. At the same session, Lay of Lehigh and Shreve of Nevada promoted the idea of "professionalism" over professionalization, with Lay defining the former as oriented on the "pedagogical missions and ethical responsibilities that we see as essential to a thriving academic community."

Paula Krebs, executive director of the MLA, said during the delegate meeting that these recommendations, along with MLA member input, will now go back to the governing council for further consideration. It’s possible that the recommendations will inform guidelines for departments on the ethical treatment of graduate students, she said. And while some of the MLA’s existing guidelines for departments in other areas aren’t widely followed, she said, some have real "teeth."

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MIT puts professor on leave over new revelations about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Friday that Seth Lloyd, Nam Pyo Suh Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics, is on paid leave for deliberately failing to report donations from the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Lloyd also was found to have received $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged he deposited into a personal bank account without notifying MIT.

The revelations come from a new fact-finding report commissioned by MIT to better understand Epstein’s interactions with MIT before and after his conviction in 2008. (Epstein faced additional sex-trafficking charges prior to his death in federal custody last summer.) MIT committed to the external review following the resignation of Joi Ito as director of the Media Lab in September over reports that he’d deliberately concealed donations from Epstein.

Epstein gave Lloyd two $50,000 donations in 2012 and $125,000 in 2017, according to the new report. Allegedly knowing that these gifts would raise red flags, Lloyd let midlevel administrators process them without discussing the move with senior administrators first.

Goodwin Procter, the law firm behind the investigation, also found that Epstein had visited MIT’s campus nine times since 2013.

Alan G. Spoon, a member of the MIT Corporation, the university’s governing board, said during a news conference that he found the campus visit information to be “very disturbing.”

Fellow board member Denis A. Bovin said that MIT allows its professors to invite whomever they wish to campus, but that that may change. The question, he said, is “where do you draw the line?” Noting that the courts deemed Epstein a Level-3, or highest-level sex offender, Bovin suggested that that was a good place to start.

MIT, working with faculty members, also plans to review its various donor policies. The new report says that the Epstein donations violated no university policy on controversial donors because no such policy exists. But the report accuses those involved in hiding the donations of exercising poor judgment. It recommends a review of conflict of interest and other gift guidelines.

President Rafael Reif has faced internal and external scrutiny over the Epstein case -- including questions about how much he knew, when. The report found that while some of Reif’s vice presidents knew about the donations and tried to cover them up, he did not. Two of those colleagues left MIT several years ago, and the third, Israel Ruiz, previously announced that he is stepping down as executive vice president and treasurer.

Reif had already admitted that he signed a standard gift acknowledgment letter involving Epstein in 2012. The report determined that he did not know who Epstein was at the time. 

Spoon said the board retains “full confidence” in Reif’s leadership.

Reif said in an all-campus memo Friday that “if we can face the institute’s flaws with honesty and build on its great strengths, we can not only make our community stronger, more equitable, more inclusive and more effective, we can offer a model for deliberate self-assessment, growth and change.”

Underscoring recommendations from the MIT Corporation’s executive committee, Reif pledged action on creating guidelines on controversial donors and encouraging whistle-blowers to come forward. He also promised to keep the campus safe from visitors who may pose a threat, to support the Media Lab that accepted Epstein funds via Ito in its path forward, and to work on broader campus climate issues.

Via email, Lloyd said he couldn't comment at the moment but planned to later this week. Spoon and Bovin said he is facing the standard faculty disciplinary process. 

Under mounting pressure, MIT said last year that Epstein had made donations totaling $800,000 and that it would donate the same amount to sexual abuse survivors. It also pledged to provide more details after a full review. 

Goodwin Procter’s investigators found that Epstein’s donations in fact totaled $850,000, starting with a $100,000 gift in 2002 to Marvin Minsky, a professor who died in 2016. Nine other donations were made after 2008, according to the report, amounting to $525,000 to the Media Lab and $225,000 to Lloyd.

The Media Lab reportedly rejected a $25,000 gift from Epstein last year, as he attracted more media attention.

Epstein reportedly said in 2014 that he’d arranged major donations to MIT from Bill Gates and Leon Black of Apollo Global Management. But the report found no evidence to support that. The Gates Foundation also denied the claim.

Those MIT administrators involved in concealing Epstein’s donations reportedly developed an acceptance “framework” that involved smaller, unpublicized donations. But Epstein repeatedly ignored that requirement, the report found, and even claimed credit in 2014 for gifts he did not make to MIT.

Investigators also determined that Ito in 2016 tried to get Robert Millard, chair of the MIT Corporation, to woo him as a donor. Epstein invited Millard to dinner, but he declined.

MIT is working with faculty members to determine where it will donate the new figure of $850,000 to abuse survivors. 

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Florida lawmakers launch investigation into 'foreign meddling' at state research universities

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 01/13/2020 - 01:00

Florida lawmakers are launching an investigation into the "extent of foreign meddling in taxpayer-funded research" at the state's research institutions, in what seems to be the first inquiry of this sort at a state level. The state-level probe is happening in parallel with similar inquiries by Congress and national research agencies into the threat of intellectual property theft by foreign actors.

Florida’s House Speaker, José R. Oliva, a Republican, announced a new committee that would lead the investigation in December. He cited in his announcement “recent revelations” regarding the freestanding Moffitt Cancer Center.

Moffitt’s CEO and the center director resigned in December for what the cancer center described as “violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China.” Moffitt said that its compliance review “also prompted separation of four additional researchers.”

Moffitt said it launched its review into researchers' ties with China after the National Institutes of Health warned of efforts by foreign actors to influence or compromise U.S. researchers. The cancer center's review focused on individuals’ participation in the Thousand Talents program, a Chinese government-sponsored recruitment program for scientific talent.

"We don’t want to be in a position where the Florida taxpayer is inadvertently subsidizing research and development for a foreign country," said Chris Sprowls, the Speaker-designate and the chair of the bipartisan committee, which holds its first hearing later this month.

Most taxpayer-funded research dollars flowing into universities come from the federal government, but Sprowls argued that states have an important oversight role.

“These institutions have been created and funded by the state of Florida, so we have an oversight role in making sure that the funds we are investing in these institutions are going to research, are things that are there to benefit Floridians, benefit Americans, and not to subsidize intellectual property development for foreign governments," Sprowls said.

He added, “I think it’s a unique opportunity for the state and federal government to work together, to figure out what is the state in a best position to do that maybe the federal government is not, and try to fill those gaps and come up with a plan that makes sure these institutions have the level of vigilance we want them to have.”

Congressional bodies, federal research agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have all been looking into these issues as well.

In November, a U.S. Senate subcommittee released a report about the Thousand Talents Plan, which it described as one of about 200 talent programs run by the Chinese government that "incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain here to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives."

The subcommittee found that some participants in the program "willfully failed to disclose their affiliation with China’s talent recruitment plans to U.S. institutions and U.S. grant-making agencies. In some cases, TTP members received both U.S. grants and Chinese grants for similar research, established 'shadow labs' in China to conduct parallel research, and stole intellectual capital and property. U.S. government agencies also discovered that some TTP members used their access to research information to provide their Chinese employer with important information on early stage research."

The NIH has also been cracking down on researchers for failing to disclose foreign ties. As of October, the agency reported that it had investigated at least 180 scientists at more than 65 institutions for violating policies requiring disclosure of foreign ties. The NIH's investigation also focused on the Thousand Talents Plan.

University officials say they have taken proactive steps in response to concerns voiced by the NIH and other federal agencies. Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the University of Florida, said that the university "maintains a robust and vigilant program to safeguard our technology and intellectual property from undue foreign influence." He said that while "longstanding programs and processes have been in place to manage these challenges," the university has recently taken a number of additional steps in response to concerns from the NIH, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and members of Congress.

Orlando said these steps include outreach and communication efforts focused on disclosure obligations. Florida also developed a new international risk-assessment process that Orlando said "provides for screening of activities with foreign institutions, as well as an assessment of conflicts of interest or commitment, and provides approval or denial for the activity."

"Since implementing this process, with few exceptions, the university does not approve participation in foreign talent programs as an outside activity," Orlando said.

"Universities really want to do the right thing," said Gary K. Ostrander, the vice president for research at Florida State University. "We want to protect the intellectual property. Faculty develop inventions, they disclose the inventions, the universities get patents. Universities certainly lose if their patents and their technology are disclosed to foreign governments inappropriately, and then there’s no market from any company for their technology. There’s no resistance that I’m aware of on the part of research universities to working with the federal government, with state governments, with anyone that's concerned about this, in a positive and productive way."

"The concern," Ostrander added, "would be that state agencies might be very well intentioned and put in place additional layers of bureaucracy that would perhaps be redundant with what the federal agencies are already doing, and it could make it very hard to do the work, to do the research."

Indeed, as Florida launches its probe, national association leaders warned of potentially duplicative oversight at the state and federal levels.

"As state governments consider their role in supporting public universities in this endeavor, we encourage state legislatures and agencies to carefully consider the guidance and directives that have already been provided by federal agencies, Congress, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy," said Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "We respectfully caution against new state oversight that could be duplicative and conflicting with federal processes."

Tobin Smith, the vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities, said it’s the prerogative of Florida state lawmakers to look into this issue. He added, however, "It would be my hope that they try to understand what is already being done at the federal level, what the universities are doing in this space, and the work that’s happening with key agencies such as NIH and NSF and other funding agencies."

"And the other important point about Moffitt is the system was working effectively," Smith said. "The awareness has been heightened … Going forward I think you will see that researchers will think twice about whether certain relationships are ones they want to enter into."

At the same time, Smith emphasized the value of reciprocal collaborations and the importance of U.S. science continuing to benefit from foreign talent. "I just hope -- like we are encouraging with at the federal level with members of Congress -- that as they look closely at this, they do no harm," he said.

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