Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Renewed U.S. commitment to international education!

It couldn't have come at a better time. After four years of disastrous targeting by the Trump administration, international education may be poised for a come back. The U.S. Department of Education and Department of State issued a joint statement that may usher in a period of federal coordination of international initiatives, potentially returning U.S. higher education to magnet status for talented young people from all over the world.

The joint statement is also supported by the Department of Commerce and Homeland Security, a signal that there will be a purposeful and coordinated approach rather than hit and miss efforts coming only from the higher education sector. Secretary of State Blinkin said that the statement, "underscores our commitment to working across our government and with partners in higher education, the private sector, civil society and other sectors to keep promoting international education in the United States,..." potentially resulting in international student numbers exceeding pre-pandemic levels in American institutions.

Equity and inclusion has been a barrier for many in the past but the statement includes a commitment to "encourage U.S. students, researchers, scholars and educators who reflect the diversity of the U.S. population to pursue overseas study, internships, research and other international experiences."

Monday, July 26, 2021

New read - American Higher Education in the 21st Century

I haven't read it yet but Joshua Kim of Inside Higher Education offers considerable praise for American Higher Education in the 21st Century, by editors Bastedo, Altbach, and Gumport. Kim expressed struggling with the depth reflected in the 17 chapters but found the audio book more manageable. A core assumption of the book is that higher education in the U.S.A. is an "ecosystem in transition," one that is moving very quickly and, yet, not fast enough. The authors of the various chapters were characterized as progressive in their views, maintaining the belief in the transformational contribution of education, and from diverse backgrounds that moved beyond known names.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Pandemic-influenced Higher Education trends

My posts have shifted from individual, short, items to integrative posts on themes related to higher education. I've done this to assist readers as they attempt to integrate various reports they read.

This post is another attempt to draw issues together in ways that are digestible and usable. The following are themes drawn from my previous posts over the last year. They are at the highest level of generalization but may be useful for readers attempting to make sense of all the things that have impacted higher education over the last pandemic-influenced year.

Higher education in transition – COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace and nature of transformation but the need for change has been present for some time. Changes that are underway:

  •       Enrollment decline and shifts to elite and high visibility institutions
  •       Budget reductions and refocus
  •       Number of full-time faculty declining with fewer granted tenure
  •       Increasing role for on-line and hybrid learning
  •       Reprioritization of universities to address historic unequal access and the need to prepare for the workplace
  •       Increasing view of college/university degrees as a commodity to acquire
  •       The value of higher education is increasingly questioned by students and those who are politically conservative 

Commitments that will help higher education in its transition:

  •       Nurture a “Generation Resilient” view that faces the reality of today’s world while restoring hope for what lies ahead
  •       Support on-time graduation and/or continuing enrollment goals for students
  •       Anticipate new and more intense student needs
  •       Focus on wholistic wellbeing that helps students thrive now and in preparing for the future
  •       Students from diverse backgrounds (including first-generation) warrant greater attention
  •       Enliven students’ openness to diversity, equity, and inclusion and move further toward radical empathy
  •       Acknowledge the shortcomings of higher education in conveying the full history of the U.S. and other countries around the world, including the origins and perpetuation of wealth inequality
  •       Endorse broad international frameworks (e.g. UN Sustainable Development goals) that reinforce education’s role
  •       Enhance the commitment to open exchange of ideas and foster respectful dialogue across political factions
  •       Validate experiences of varying types (e.g. on and off campus, work, research) as part of learning
  •       Resist the silos that have become so endemic and resistant to shared vision and work 

Challenges that student affairs educators face:

  •       Students are increasingly experiencing financial, mental health, and courseload pressures
  •       Many students are unaware of, or do not utilize, student affairs offices and services, turning to peers and faculty as an alternative
  •       Marginalized students have less trust for colleges/universities, their purposes/programs, and faculty/staff
  •       The “hidden curriculum” (i.e. extracurriculum/cocurriculum) is poorly understood, especially among first-generation and other marginalized students
  •       Embracing a post-pandemic world requires reexamining assumptions, greater flexibility, and constant adaptability
  •       Restoring critical thinking and reasoning as a central construct of academic life, positioning students for more effective career and civic engagement

Monday, July 12, 2021

Labor(ing) in higher education

The largest portion of all college and university budgets is personnel. Increasing college access in the U.S.A., accompanied by expansion of faculty and staff numbers, came with the entry of "baby-boomers" into higher education in the 1960s. This expanding enrollment generated enough revenue to cover the increased costs but when enrollment flattened and public support for funding declined, the costs began to outpace the ability of institutions to cover these costs.

The increased complexity and commodification of higher education requires a response - one that involves all those who work in higher education, students, families, employers, and communities. The first "Higher Ed Labor Summit" brought labor representatives together representing 75 labor organizations representing approximately 300,000 members to draft a platform that envisions "institutions of higher education that prioritize people and the common good over profit and prestige." The focus of the platform advocates a federal effort to address accessibility, permit more union participation, and guarantee shared governance. The AAUP issued a report that reinforced the threat to faculty related to participation in governance.

Turning the problem of accessibility and sustainable financing over to those representing the largest portion of the budget seems naive, although the principle of collective thinking and organization participation is commonly seen as the pathway to improvement. The question is how do you broadly inform all those who work in higher education about the intricacies and challenges of funding and then engage them in true creative thinking about alternatives?

There are many floating pieces to the puzzle of higher education planning and finance. Some of them are:

Each of these involves challenging the dysfunction of structures and roles of higher education personnel, including challenging the merit of academic disciplinary focus as well as job-specific vested interests. As the world reemerges from the pandemic of 2020-21, most sectors are being forced to rethink work, workers, and delivery of the products of their industry. In the higher education example, how labor and laboring in higher education is viewed and reconfigured has to be undertaken in at least as innovative a way as those in health, government, services, and other sectors.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Predatory publishing

As a lifetime academic who was a first-generation student in the late 1960s era in U.S.A. higher education, I didn't have a clue about how faculty researched, wrote, and got published. In retrospect, even as I drove more deeply into an academic career, obtaining masters and Ph.D. degrees, I had no one to help me understand how to develop a research agenda, build support through dutiful graduate students who would advance my work, and publish in ways that brought citations and therefore reputational advantage to my ideas. Nevertheless, over 40+ years, I made a modest contribution to the literature of student affairs, leadership studies, and higher education internationalization but could I have had more impact?

My own background reflects naiveté that may be similar, but different in other ways, to graduate students who strive to get published today. Australia has now recognized the predatory practices of publishers who solicit unknowing young scholars to publish in their journals, some for a fee. Australia's strategy is to limit recognition of published works based on quality thresholds that are determined by discipline.

To be sure, a solution to the profusion of publication opportunities that result in research and ideas being lost in obscurity is required. I'm less sure if narrowing the window of opportunity is the best solution, especially if young academics are left to fend for themselves in a competitive environment that has often been characterized as "publish or parish." Higher education needs new and different models in order not to perpetuate the cognitive privilege of seasoned and coached academics whose pathway to publishing is both more clear and "greased" with networks and intellectual nepotism.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

COVID vaccination for international students

Coming from potentially all over the world, international students who will study in the U.S. this year face  a variety of expectations about COVID-19 vaccination. Some institutions are attempting to simplify the question of which vaccine and where it is administered by simply requiring international students to verify a vaccination, regardless of which one it is. At least this simplified approach will help international students who are trying to find affordable flights as well as adhere to quarantine requirements as they arrive in the U.S. It's not going to be easy but smart institutions will err on the side of flexibility.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Rewarding work

Few would disagree with an assertion that higher education is one of the more important dimensions of a free and prosperous society. For even those who resist the idea of a college education as a pathway to work preparation, one has to recognize that those with college educations have higher lifetime earnings and contribute more to the common welfare because of their productivity and ingenuity.

Yet, what evidence do we have that rewarding work is part of the way higher education functions or what it teaches. Two glaring contradictory examples hit the media in the form of the U.S. Supreme Courts unanimous action on college athletes and the other is Amazon's employment model.

At issue in the Supreme Court ruling is defining the parameters of educational aid offered to athletes while they contribute their athletic prowess to the universities for free. Justice Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion on the case "Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate." The NCAA asserts the importance of amateurism in athletes as the justification for denying more substantive compensation for athletes. But how can an institution defend "amateurism" in the face of the incredibly uneven field of play (pardon the pun) between big-time athletic programs that generate millions and those institutions that scrape by trying to adhere to the amateur assumption. If the actors (athletes) in an economic model bring disproportionate benefit to the institutions they serve, especially when other actors (coaches, athletic directors) are directly compensated based on how often they win, how can a reasonable argument be made that those on the field deserve no compensation at all? The Supreme Court decision is not definitive on broader compensation but leans toward a model I've long advocated - define big-time sports programs at select universities as semi-professional farm teams and allow appropriate compensation for all who help generate revenue. Then the rest of U.S. higher education can return to a truly amateur model, competing among themselves in balanced ways that offers athletes the opportunity to develop skill, agility, strength and health as educational outcomes.

Poll findings indicate mixed support for paying college athletes. One of the key issues is whether compensation would come from university funds, with most respondents opposing it. The NCAA took steps to revise the amateurism rules by allowing athletes to promote and benefit from commercializing their names, representing the first opportunity for greater personal gain.

Communications staff on college campuses need to start conversations with athletic departments to revise strategies for communicating the purpose of athletics. The messages will require realignment with the reality of what sports are really about on campuses.

Jeff Bezos is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and Princeton, his undergraduate alma mater, is presumably where he learned things that would lead to his success in creating Amazon as a pervasive and highly lucrative industry. The only problem with claiming the victory with Bezos is that his financial model relies on highly pressurized employee performance, minimally acceptable compensation, and advocacy for high turnover that preserves low production costs and undermines joint labor action that could demand a more humane model of worker welfare.

Both of these cases beg the question of what higher education is teaching about rewarding work. If creativity, innovation, individual and community uplift are the goal, then diametrically opposed examples such as uncompensated semi-professional athletes and employers who implement victimizing employment practices require further examination.

Monday, June 21, 2021

After the pandemic - What did and didn't work and what to expect now?

Most educators have already concluded that, with limited options, higher education pivoted fairly effectively in the face of the pandemic. Most would also say that students suffered regardless of how hard campuses tried to do their best.

The "Student Voice" survey identified a number of areas where students believe that they were impaired in achieving the level of success they had hoped over the last year. The specific areas that presented challenges were:

  • On-line courses take more time
  • It's hard to stay focused during remote lectures
  • Most professors want help
  • Academic dishonesty is trackable
  • Feshmen need special attention
The second set of recommendations for how to improve student success included:
  • Support on-time graduation goals
  • Anticipate new and more intense student needs
  • Prepare for a support-packed new year
The research of both Student Voice and Blackboard found that the widest gaps in expectation were among at-risk students. With hopes of a return to normal in-person courses, some of the challenges of the last year may be self-correcting. However, there are lessons to be learned for both in-person and virtual learning. Three areas that impact all students, and possibility at-risk students to an even greater degree, are; continuity (flow) of learning, preferred areas of study, and changing views of the ultimate purpose of higher education. All three of these tie back to a common factor - human contact and the realization of its importance in learning and in choice of lifestyle and work.

Campuses need to prepare to address the fundamental difference in what what students will encounter when they return to partial or full in-person learning. Some suggest that there may be even a reverse culture shock as students return to learning environments that they left behind over a year ago. To be sure, students look forward to returning to in-person learning but actually being back there will require an adjustment for all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Student Affairs scholarship

Most of the literature in student affairs, development, and services is written by faculty in graduate preparation programs. Analysis of articles in journals confirm that as graduate faculty have been increasingly rewarded for research and publication, the literature shifted to accommodate their contributions. The days of significant numbers of scholar-practitioners, staff who researched and wrote as a function of reflective practice, authoring published works has declined over the last 50 years.

Chelsea Gilbert wrote that "Colleges should recognize that research grounded in the daily experiences of those most knowledgeable about students' lives is crucial for meeting students' needs." While I heartily agree that student affairs staff should write more, it's an error to claim superiority in being the "most knowledgeable about students' lives," primarily because it has the potential of alienating many faculty who are also deeply informed about students and may resent the assertion that they are not.

I don't know of research that will confirm my assertions but my belief is that many student affairs staff don't write because they have not benefitted from the cultivation that many faculty receive. Student affairs has been an oasis for diversity in many institutions, first welcoming women, then colleagues from diverse cultures, and then opening the door for LGBTQ+ colleagues. In addition, many may have been first-generation students whose families were not able to mentor them into the culture of writing and research. All this adds up to a population group that has much to offer but is silenced in a system that rewards certain kinds of academics, with specified elite credentials, and sponsored by senior colleagues who encourage them.

Chelsea proposes three corrective measures: provide time, provide funding, and provide a spotlight. Addressing these three issues would help but the reason student affairs staff are constricted in their scholarship goes much deeper to issues of background, identity, and reward.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Purdue struggles with autocratically imposed civics literacy

As a testament to the importance of institutions being careful to act in ways that are consistent with their rhetoric, faculty are pushing back at Purdue University's civics requirement. Alice Pawley, associate professor of engineering said, "It's like democracy and civic literacy are so important, we're willing to be dictators about it." Other faculty said that their own colleagues did not engage the planning and decision making process so the fault is not that of the Purdue President or Board but of the faculty.

Leadership in higher education is not easy and it requires everyone to embrace the idea of fluid leadership that moves across different individuals and groups. Those in positional roles have a responsibility to exercise inclusive leadership and those without specific roles must authentically participate through active followership. It's too easy for either group to point fingers but shared leadership should be easier in higher education than it usually is in actuality.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

First-generation students and scholars struggle

There has been increasing recognition of the struggles that first-generation students face in going to college. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation initiated the "First-Gen Forward" project to increase the focus on success within this group and to recognize institutions committed to this goal.

In addition to undergraduate students, first-generation graduate students and scholars face barriers as well. Kelly Craig, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah, expressed that the resilience that first-generation graduate students bring to their studies and work is typically unrecognized. Matthew Jerome Schneider, an assistant professor at UNC-Pembroke, described the awkwardness of being asked to comment on his research agenda in a new graduate student welcome session, a task that his fellow graduate students seemed to understand all to well and were enthusiastic to answer.

For students and for aspiring and advancing scholars, first-generation naiveté is often an unrecognized barrier. Those who have not come from first-generation experiences do not understand the privilege that they bring to academic circles where there are many unwritten rules, customs, and expectations. These privileges do not all of a sudden disappear once the doctoral degree is granted or an academic assignment is secured. Seasoned academics know about the importance of networks, riding the coattails of significant leaders in the field, and publishing in the journals that result in the greatest number of citations of one's work.

The disadvantages of first-generation naiveté impact all those who seek to advance in the academic world. For those whose cross-sectional identities include other barriers such as sex, race, language, or other difference, striving to enter and excel in academic circles is even harder. If higher education seeks to be more representative of the population at large, these disadvantages have to be highlighted and addressed.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Study abroad grapples with its future

As U.S.A. and other countries/areas of the world see improving conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, study abroad programs struggle with what to do. Core to the struggle about if and where to resume study abroad is balancing advice from the U.S.A. government against the resources available at various institutions. Those institutions with greater resources are able to make independent and nuanced decisions where lower-resourced institutions restrict themselves to State Department and CDC directives in order to be secure in their decisions.

The differential impact of COVID-19 on areas of the world "has also forced a shift away from Global South countries." The shift benefits Western Europe and parts of Asia, which have "advanced health-care systems and higher vaccination raters. Even before the pandemic, more than half of all students who studied abroad -- 55.7 percent in 2018-19 -- studied in Western Europe." International educators have increasingly encouraged students to go beyond the more comfortable and touristy locations of Europe with the intent of deeper dives into more diverse contexts; research confirms enhanced educational outcomes where greater cultural dissonance is encountered.

The flip side of the study abroad issue is the decline of international students coming to the U.S.A. Education leaders have begged Biden and his administration to intervene to help bring this critical group of learners and scholars back. Study visas are difficult to obtain for many international students as a result of the pandemic and resulting closures of consulates throughout the world. Early reports from campuses indicate that there is hope that international enrollment will increase in 2021.

UNC Chapel Hill first denies, then offers, tenure to "1619" journalist

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize journalist and a creator of the NYT 1619 project, was denied tenure by the Board of Trustees of UNC Chapel Hill. Proposed and approved by faculty vote, the Board chose to offer her only a term contract with the opportunity to apply for tenure in 5 years. As a result of fallout from the decision, the Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting for June 30, 2021, to vote again and approved tenure for Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones first postponed her move to UNC and then finally rejected it, instead taking a position at Howard University. UNC missed both quality and reputational opportunity and Howard University is the better for it, having now combined Hannah-Jones appoint with that of fellow journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The history behind Hannah-Jones offer, equivocation, and rejection is interesting to following. Students and professors from the beginning demanded justification for the Board's decision, but rationale and response to public demand were anything but clear. The UNC case demonstrates the problem of conservative control of UNC by the Board and university Boards in general. Faculty assert that the UNC case reflects the political orientation of Board members and inappropriate intrusion in decisions related to academic merit, which was confirmed by correspondence of Board member, Walter Hussman, Jr. Inside Higher Education wrote, "The New York Times Magazine's '1619 Project,' which re-examines the role of race in the nation's founding, and which has been criticized by detractors including former president Trump as being unpatriotic. Hannah-Jones is Black, and some also believe that she's being held to a different standard than her white would-be peers."

UNC faculty urged the Board to act immediately to reconsider their denial. Expediting consideration is particularly important in the face of losing other scholars who are sympathetic with, or concerned about, Hannah Jones' cause. Hannah Jones said in a Twitter post, "I have been overwhelmed by all the support you all have shown me. It has truly fortified my spirit and my resolve. You all know that I will be OK. But this fight is bigger than me, and I will try my best not to let you down." At a time when deeper analyses of previous narratives of U.S.A. history are underway, the UNC case is likely only the beginning.

Subsequent denial by the Board of Trustees of Eric Muller, another prominent journalist, to its UNC Press Board threw the university more deeply into controversy. Muller had previously criticized the Board of Trustees over considerations related to removal of "Silent Sam," a sculpture celebrating the Confederacy era.

Educators beyond UNC have raised concern about Hannah-Jones' tenure denial, including a letter from prominent Yale faculty and the AAUP. The letter warns of spreading conservative reaction by saying, "We call on all people of conscience to decry this growing wave of repression and to encourage a recommitment to the free exchange of ideas in our schools, workplaces, legislatures and communities."

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Investing in the future through education - Gates Foundation

A commitment to the welfare of broad numbers of Americans is an idea imbedded in democracy and romanticized in the "American Dream." Yet, obsession with protecting a competitive capitalist meritocracy is embraced by many Americans, both rich and poor. This obsession across class was graphically reinforced in the electoral base that supported Donald Trump's election and bid for election in 2020. While political conservatism celebrates capitalism and the competitive spirit that supposedly supports it, the fact is, most economists conclude that broad investment in talent development, specifically through education enhancement, is the best policy for a country's long-term economic prospects.

The report of the Gates Foundation's Post-Secondary Value Commission defines higher education, and K-12 preparation, as essential to America's future. The Commission report was "designed to catalyze an equitable value movement, which will help reshape the higher education system in the United States by combating access and completion barriers, sparking economic mobility, dismantling racist practices and structural inequalities, and building a more vibrant and just society." The Commission report raises question of individual, institutional, as well as governmental responsibility for correcting inequities that exist.

The Gates Foundation report is hailed as lifting up the long-held assertion of educators that access, equity, and completion of educational goals has to be a central goal of a democratic society. Why? Because informed and talented citizens pay off in numerous ways - responsible participation, innovation, service, and economic vitality. The cost of inequity is too significant to ignore and the solution isn't only gaining access to higher education but the role it plays in equalizing opportunity. It has long been clear that privileged Americans are taking care of themselves by preserving access and networks through elite higher education. The Gates Foundation seeks to highlight how investment to benefit those without this privilege can be achieved - by "providing stronger academic and wraparound supports - including better academic and career counseling and mental health services; more comprehensive assistance with personal and financial needs, including tuition, childcare, food and housing; and stronger transfer pathways - to ensure that these students can reach their educational goals." Gates Commission members Anthony Carnevale and Kathryn Peltier offer the sobering conclusion that "The chances of earning a college degree and finding a good job in young adulthood are often determined more by a student's family socioeconomic status than by early achievement - for American children, it's better to be rich than smart."

It's abundantly clear that the United States has not created the equitable democracy that offers opportunity to all regardless of background. Abandoning the unsubstantiated assumption of competitive capitalism, without educational opportunity and talent development, appears to be a way forward for all Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status. Advocating for change could, or should, be part of the economic recovery planning that the Biden administration has launched. John Macintosh asserted that the U.S. higher education system, with 125 years of decentralization, allows only incremental change, when "steps to better serve students by exploring things like shared services and infrastructure, joint academic offerings, even mergers or preplanned, well-funded teach-outs" are actually required.

Harper, Culver, & Keazar propose that the process of change and creating more equitable and justice-focused processes of design must be cultivated if higher education institutions are to make progress. The idea is to apply design thinking to problems that colleges and universities face, striving to identify power differentials and inequities that impair the process of decision making that are used while the policies and systems are being critically examined.

Friday, May 7, 2021

European science cooperation

Aside from the education of undergraduate and graduate students, research productivity and advancing the boundaries of science is one of the most important outcomes of colleges and universities. Pursuit of research is achieved through support of individual faculty but it often involves cooperative ventures across institutions and even further cooperation across state jurisdictional and national boundaries.

Over 20 years ago, European educational leadership "envisaged an E.U. where 'people and knowledge can circulate more freely,' the integration of scientists in eastern and western Europe, and for countries to 'coordinate' what type of research they funded to avoid policy 'overlap.'" Reflections on this purpose now conclude that shared research across the E.U. is an unfinished project. The causes are many but some of it relates to the source of funding - 90% coming from nation-states and only 10% from the E.U. The newly created "European Universities" struggle to implement joint research due to differences in labor, tax, and social services across countries and many nation-state institutions hunker down to protect their own interests.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Students' views on racial justice

The Student Voice survey (conducted by Inside Higher Education) provides important guidance to educators about students' views of campus climate and action regarding racial justice. With 65% of all students either agreeing or strongly agreeing that higher education has a role to play in addressing racial justice and equality, educators have a clear mandate. This mandate is complicated by the fact that when the data is segregated by political inclination, 63% of students who lean Democratic and only 6% of those who lean Republican strongly agree with the mandate.

The survey (including 1,100 white and 800 students of color) found that most students either don't have a clear perception about what their institutions did to address racial issues or were somewhat disappointed. In particularly, students found the responses to police killing George Floyd "underwhelming." A common perspective was that there are lots of statements of sympathy and understanding but far fewer real actions to bring about change. Student activists can make a real difference in advocating racial justice and some institutions stand out in their effectiveness, demonstrating  that change is essentially a matter of institutional will.

Increased Fall 2021 enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) perhaps reflected Black students' view of campus climate. The increases could be the result of a variety of factors but one likely cause is that Black students see HBCUs as more responsive to their needs and more likely to address racial justice questions than predominantly White colleges and universities.

More Asian American students are now joining fellow Black students in recognizing and voicing concerns about the discrimination and aggressions they face. Interestingly enough, Asian American students were also the most likely to have participated in institutionally-sponsored racial justice initiatives. Sometimes sponsored by institutions and at other times just part of campus life, students indicate that race comes up more often as a topic of discussion. Nathan Reddy, a 2019 Cornell graduate, reinforced the importance of discussions about race, noting that they have raised consciousness, causing people to be "wary of committing microagressions, afraid of insulting someone because of their race." These discussions have created a safer space for exploration of race but one sometimes encumbered by the "need to express all the 'right' thoughts." Reddy called for "more openness to make mistakes and make candid statements."

Jeffrey Herbst, President of American Jewish University in Los Angeles, warned of the threat of rising anti-semitism on campuses in the wake of the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. He reports that anti-semitism doubled since May and that higher education institutions need to get out in front of what could be rising activism and another polarizing issue on campus.

Student views, are generally support social justice work, need to be understood and factored into clarifying the role for higher education in addressing racial justice as more campuses reopen in fall of 2021 with more in-person encounters. Clarity about the purpose and actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion will be central to moving forward deliberately and effectively. Of immediate note is the there is a Black faculty have had a lukewarm response to campus Juneteenth programs and observances, skeptical that window-dressing rather than substance may be the focus.

Some educators assert that nothing short of decolonizing the academy must be undertaken, a process that would include 1) revamping the curriculum, 2) reimagining our syllabi, 3) reimagining classroom dynamics, 4) rethinking our pedagogies, and 5) bringing all students to mastery.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Biden proposal for higher education

The long-awaited Biden plan for higher education funding was announced during his Presidential Address on April 28, 2021. The plan included free community college and targeted funding to support marginalized groups attend and succeed in higher education. However, Biden resisted calls to forgive college loan debt, which some believe is essential if wealth inequality is to be addressed. The focus on increasing success rates is a particularly important aspect of the funding plan, although some students may benefit from extended time and may not even complete their degrees. To accompany this long-term strategy, the Education Department issued a "Reopening Resource Site" to help institutions mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and get back to full operation.

The House Appropriations Committee moved ahead with a funding proposal that builds on Biden's original ideas and adds more funding. Seven appropriations bills totaling $272 million provided earmark funding that will benefit 228 institutions. The proposal will inevitably be modified as it moves forward but higher education officials are hopeful that increased funding will be the result.

The move to support community colleges, many expanding from 2-year to 4-year degrees, and expand opportunity for marginalized populations makes sense in the context of declining enrollments in community colleges across the U.S.A. Community college leadership welcomed the Biden focus on community colleges in the American Families Plan. Martha Parham, Senior Vice President of Public Relations for the American Association of Community Colleges, said that Biden's American Families Plan is "removing barriers to completion, and access and completion is what drives enrollment. So eliminating and eradicating those barriers to attendance and completion, I think, are going to be vital supports for regaining enrollment."

With Biden pushing for broad higher education funding, and the Department of Education having determined how $36 billion of pandemic support will be spent, congressional leaders pushed for greater transparency about the costs of attendance. Access and retention are both impacted by the perception of cost so transparency is an important part of the puzzle of expanding higher education opportunity.

U.S.A. federal agencies also began to craft policies to encourage international students to return for study. Measures include relaxed travel restrictions as well as expedited visa approval processing. The Trump era proposal to limit the duration of international student visas was also withdrawn by the Biden administration, confirming the broad condemnation of the Trump proposal.

The U.S.A. higher education system has to function at all levels in order to meet basic workforce demands as well as feed the research and innovation that has helped it prosper. And the higher education system has to be financially and logistically available to all citizens, regardless of age, socio-economic status, culture, or other distinction.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

COVID - higher education and faith communities

Sorting through the impact of COVID and devising a forward strategy for higher education has largely taken place within individual campuses or state systems, with some professional organizations offering recommendations. Faith communities have also suffered greatly and are looking for ways to pull out of the current tailspin they are experiencing. Two sources of information may help both higher education and faith community leaders - Brookings Institution and the Interfaith Youth Cord.

The Brookings Institution, which conducts research and publishes paper on a variety of topics, has recently focused on the implications of COVID in three brief, and important, articles:

These articles offer compelling complications and opportunities for higher education in particular. The fact that the rule of law and democracy in general has weakened is a matter of grave concern for all. Without multi-lateral initiative and willingness of governments to do what is in the best interest of all nations, the big challenges of climate change, wealth inequality, and the rise of authoritarian governments cannot be addressed. At the local U.S.A. level (and perhaps elsewhere), the different priorities of liberal-leaning urban areas and sprawling conservative rural areas is standing in the way of determining mutually beneficial solutions. These challenges require sophisticated and updated models to use in public policy negotiation and they require new approaches to political engagement among citizens that empowers citizens to act in mutual rather than competitive interest.

That the employment market has been disrupted is quite the understatement. As mature career workers saw their jobs disappear and new graduates could find no work over the last year, the disruption has become deeply painful. The opportunity for higher education is to see the trends, recenter programs and curricula to respond, and move quickly to serving as an engine of talent and economic prosperity for U.S.A. citizens and the immigrants surging at its borders.

In addition to the Brookings Institution, the Inter-Faith Youth Core has fostered many discussions about how faith groups can help their communities. They recently released research in partnership with PRRI on the faith-based implications of COVID vaccination. The video-conference discussion of the findings explores the implications of the research, concluding that herd immunity in the U.S.A. will be close to impossible to achieve unless faith communities get involved. The problem is most pronounced among protestant evangelic, minoritized Catholic, and other groups that have been influenced by conspiracy theories. These groups have historical and cultural reasons for their hesitation about vaccines that have to be taken seriously. Science-based responses will then have to be offered by the leaders and clergy of faith-based groups in order to persuade members of the positive personal as well as community benefits of full vaccination.

Higher education can play a role by accurately assessing where we are in addressing COVID and in devising ways to move ahead with the likelihood of it being with us for quite some time. Faith groups can build bridges, forge common ground, and advance ideas that embrace both science and faith. Organizations such as Brookings and the Interfaith Youth Core are important sources of external information to guide leaders in their deliberations and action.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Taiwan universities shifting to more English

After increasingly stretching its authority in Hong Kong, China has begun to target Taiwan. That places Taiwan in a position of needing to cultivate allies as well as needing to find a different major source of students for its universities.

Taiwan has depended on large numbers of Chinese students enrolling in its universities but now, with a decline in its own Taiwanese student demographics and tensions growing between China and Taiwan, Taiwan expects to see continued decline in prospects. Taiwan education leaders are now shifting more of the curriculum to English in order to be more attractive to international students. Instruction in English isn't only attractive to first language English speakers, but also a draw for students who speak other first languages but want to master English and see it as a ticket to opportunity and prosperity. The goal of a $35.5 million investment is for 50% of students to be bilingual within 10 years.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Political maneuvering

How politicians and policy makers choose to express liberal and conservative ideologies often confuses me. I am most often befuddled by conservative or libertarian views that assert states' rights and anti-big government perspectives yet devise governmental control mechanisms to support their political agenda. Such is the case with state initiatives seeking to influence public universities - two in Florida, one allowing students to video professors' lectures and discussions and another controlling international initiatives, and the other is Idaho where "social justice" initiatives are being targeted.

The Florida case has met with less acrimony thus far but could result in a chilling effect in classrooms as professors monitor their comments to keep from being recorded and then reported out of context for their liberal positions. Not only would professors be impacted but other students in classrooms would feel less free to ask questions or make comments if they knew they could be recorded by classmates.

In the other example, the University of Idaho's President spoke out publicly against state funding being held up because Republican lawmakers' objected to Boise State's "social justice" agenda. The targeting of Boise State resulted from the claim of a white male student that he was "degraded" for being white.

These two cases are clearly micromanaging higher education's purpose and programs in ways that look a lot like ideological control by a state entity.

While these interventions are underway, private institutions in South Carolina are suing the state for having denied funding to them. South Carolina has previously sought to protect religious freedom by disallowing state funding of religious colleges and universities, a provision that "protects religious freedom and protects taxpayers from being forced to fund instruction in religious beliefs to which they do not subscribe." The law suit seeks to reverse the prohibition on state funding to private institutions but what will these same institutions do if accepting state funding also resulted in strings attached to that funding? Strings attached such as allowing students to video classroom lectures/discussions or prohibitions of certain topics or views?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and radical empathy

The myriad dynamics of campus inclusion have been a common theme in my posts for months. One post that has pulled numerous articles together charts the ramifications of the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on higher education. Another post summarizes the emerging saga of the University of Richmond, beginning with commentary on its President's (Dr. Ron Crutcher) views on how to engage in discourse across difference. The story of the University remains deeply contentious for students and faculty.

At the core of Black Lives Matter and the University of Richmond controversy is the question of purpose. What is higher education attempting to achieve? A growing number of programs are titled and publications use the language of "diversity, equity, and inclusion," abbreviating this to DEI. The author of "Antinomies in the concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion" differentiate the terms in ways to allow educators to be more clear about their goal. Agreeing to definitions isn't easy and the author goes on to say that, "we need to go beyond slogans and head nodding that suggests agreement when people are actually holding very different, and sometimes conflicting, ideas in their heads. Opening up those conversations, as many places have started to do, will surface some of these conflicting values. The resulting conversations will be difficult but necessary." The most critical part of moving ahead with DEI is purposeful action rather than rhetoric, which involves "disrupting and dismantling inequities."

In addition to more clearly defining the purpose of DEI programs, some assert needing to distinguish the difference between training and education. The authors write, "Given the urgency and the newfound will to reckon with past and present racial discrimination, it is unfortunate that colleges and universities have resorted to trainings. Often proven to be superficial and ineffective, diversity training should not be the default response for institutions. Instead, colleges and universities should invest in the most powerful tool of all to combat racial injustice: education," by taking  approaches such as "implicit bias" training to deeper levels by examining systemic issues and even broader diverse perspectives. Some scholars are driving deeper into the rhetoric of racism, focusing on the power of southern universities, and others advocate going to alumni to foster an understanding of racism and how to eliminate it in higher education settings. Pointers on teaching reimagined history provide guidance to correct the narrative of history that ignored or minimized injustice.

Diversity training gone wrong resulted in an EEOC complaint at Stanford by mental health professionals who were Jewish. The complainants assert that their identity was ignored in diversity training, placing them in a "white majority" category that denied their unique experience.

"Critical Race Theory" had become a central point of contention between those advocating DEI and those who oppose it. The Hannah-Jones 1619 Project and counter by the Trump administration in the 1776 Commission sets up the question - will history be taught recognizing the centrality of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S.A. or will the reified notion of the U.S.A. being a noble state and defender of all citizens be the story that is perpetuated in classrooms at all levels of education? Legislation opposing the use of critical race theory has been proposed in 16 states, with Florida implementing not only a ban on DEI content but also allowing students to record and report professors. Debra Humphreys of the Lumina Foundation urged academics to stay the course. In the face of a resolution to be considered by the Board of Trustees of the University of Nebraska, the President issued a statement defending academic freedom.

Advancing whatever perspective one might have of DEI may require at least an element of what Terri Givens refers to as radical empathy, a commitment to "not only walking in someone else's shoes but also taking actions that will, in fact, help that person and improve society." Givens says that radical empathy includes; being willing to be vulnerable, becoming grounded in who you are, opening yourself to the experiences of others, practicing empathy, taking action, and creating change and building trust. I'm convinced that knowing oneself, being open to others, and being an agent for change are primary ways forward if we are to have inclusive communities in higher education and elsewhere. And I'm also convinced that embracing radical empathy has repercussions, especially related to disrupting the present by creating change; this should be understood from the beginning.

The espoused support for DEI has justifiably been increasing. Part of the DEI commitment is diversifying the demographics, expanding access and increasing retention, of faculty, staff, and students. Carson Byrd, author of Behind the Diversity Numbers, encourages carefully looking at how institutions interpret the data available to them. Cases such as IUPUI, which recognizes DEI contributions in promotion and tenure summaries, are rare in the face of many faculty from marginalized groups resigning after facing resistance or worse on their campuses. Budget constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have also resulted in some colleges and universities are making cuts to staffing that is likely to undermine the progress that is being made. The cuts are sometimes of faculty/staff from diverse backgrounds and sometimes directly in the organization units charged with advancing DEI outcomes.