Welcome to Paideia Times. Our goal is to be the information gateway to the essential questions facing higher education trustees. Please examine the new issue and tell me what you think. Peter Meyer, Managing Editor

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TOP STORIES  Breaches of Fiduciary Duties... Debt relief hot potato is scorching.... Abortion restrictions and free speech collide.... Affirmative action in front of SCOTUS again.... “Structurally racist” search lists.... Enrollment freefall decelerates....  Columbia plummets to #18....   and more.

The Debate over the Purpose of Higher Education Continues 
Sophisticated job training, pursuit of truth, or seeking the meaning of life.  Which is “right” answer to “What is College?” MORE

Sagging Profits Not the Only Headwind for Online Education Firms Layoffs and more regulation signal a coming culling MORE

Is the DEI Pendulum Due to Swing Back? Litigation, ineffective training, and interference in merit-based hiring are cited MORE

Harvard Tells Students that Wrong Pronouns Constitute Abuse Though training materials are vague on non-compliance repercussions MORE

Player Transfers Causing “Upheaval” in College Football
The cash-in on NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) begins, aided by a new transfer portal MORE

New U.S. News Rankings Unveiled, Remaining Preeminent Under Fire Called exclusionary, shallow and “a joke”…yet they continue MORE 

Columbia Plummets to #18 in  
U.S. News Rankings After Whistleblower Professor Exposes False Data The “jig is up” and the rank is down MORE 

Notre Dame of Maryland University Is Going Coed, Angering Students and Alumnae
Abandoning the mission or being more inclusive? MORE

Michigan State President Quits, Saying He “Lost Confidence” in Board of Trustees Standoff with board ended with YouTube sendoff MORE 

Four Presidents in Four Years: the Revolving Door Presidency at Michigan State A review of what led to the recent departures MORE 

Oberlin Defamation Suit Leads to Snipping of Faculty Control The adults in the room take over? MORE 

Republican Senator Is the Only Finalist for U of Florida Presidency, Sparking Protests
Search process deemed opaque by some MORE 

State Senator Ray Rodrigues Takes the Helm of Florida’s State University System
Florida chancellor appointment that some view as tinged with political favoritism MORE

Comings & Goings at the Top Leadership changes at Princeton, ACE, Smith and others MORE 

$100 Million to “Transform College” Gates Foundation chooses “transformation intermediaries” to foster success MORE 

Breaches of Fiduciary Duties Professor resigns due to his Duty to Truth, and SPU policy causes fiscal implosion MORE

College Enrollment Continues to Fall, but at a Slower Rate
Community College free-fall stopped, but hole is still big MORE

Transfer Enrollment Hammered Hard by the Pandemic, but HBCUs Rebound
Transfer students also struggle to stay enrolled MORE 

Student Search Lists Are “Structurally Racist,” Researchers Say “Use the ZIP code” they said… “It’ll be fine,” they said MORE

SCOTUS: Ready to Make a Sea Change on Affirmative Action  Expectations are “yes,” but some campus and public support for status quo MORE

Free Speech and Academic Freedom Under Threat
Judicial and legislative actions reverberate on campus, but MIT sounds off MORE

Abortion Crackdown Collides with Free Speech Some campuses counsel gag orders on reproduction education, including birth control MORE

Florida A&M Students Sue State, Claiming Decades of Funding Discrimination Shortfall of nearly $2 billion. Did they think nobody would  notice? MORE

China on the Offensive   Not Made in China—IP theft and espionage is rampant on college campuses and might get worse in the ongoing Xi Jinping era MORE

Hundreds of Thousands Weigh In on New Title IX Rules Lots of comments about sex harassment and discrimination… Stay tuned MORE

Is There a Place for Conservatives on College Campuses? Some Gators say they feel unsafe with Sasse leading MORE

The Real Reasons Many Young People Are Saying No to Colleges Money, stress, career direction, all factor in.  Besides, YouTube is easier MORE

The End of the “Men’s Club” Era in Academia and the Rise of the “Metaversity” The future may be more feminine due to demographics and more pixilated due to technology MORE

The Expansion of Higher Ed in Britain: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S. Institutions are drowning across the pond… Will the U.S. get deluged as well? MORE

Leaders Feel Positive About Academic Quality, but Less Optimistic About Tenure and the Liberal Arts  Most believe they are providing a quality product despite lack of resources MORE

Biden’s Hot Potato Debt Relief Plan Gets Hotter—
Wall Street Journal Calls It a “Whopper”  Pushback mounts and debates about what $400 billion means grow MORE



1     The Debate Over the Purpose of Higher Education Continues   What is the purpose of higher education? And how should leaders of those institutions act in light of that purpose? These are questions that serve as a source of perennial conflict for all those who care about the state of higher education in the modern world. Patricia McGuire, president of Washington Trinity University, makes the case that university presidents should not shy away from social and political activism and “not concede the public forum to the voices that disparage and denounce our very existence.” She bemoans the “dumbing down of the purpose of higher education,” which reduces it to little more than sophisticated job training, and denounces legislatures that have passed laws that exercise more direct control over what public universities teach. But not everyone is convinced that activism is the proper role for higher education and its leaders. Social psychologist Johnathan Haidt takes issue with the idea that universities can or should have a goal other than the disinterested pursuit of truth, believing that doing so compromises the purpose of the university, which then undermines its ability to serve its function and, in turn, decreases trust in the institutions. Similarly, Anthony T. Kronman argues that declines in genuine philosophical inquiry in favor of what he calls the “research ideal” and the “culture of political correctness” has “undermined the legitimacy of the question itself and the authority of humanities teachers to ask it.” He contends that the big questions about meaning and purpose remain relevant to higher education and should not be subjected to either the imperative to contribute original research or to “politically correct” activism.  to the top

2     Sagging Profits Not the Only Headwind for Online Education Firms   Even before the Covid pandemic, the Online Program Management (OPM) business was booming, and now has a market value estimated at more than $4 billion. The private companies are used by colleges to develop and manage their online programs, and for students they offer increased flexibility and reduced cost for earning credits that can be applied toward a degree. But multiple signals indicate they could be heading for a shakeup. There are money problems—one example being “2U,” a prominent OPM that announced layoffs in July to reduce employee expenses by 20 percent. Several other OPMs have lost big clients and seen revenues sag in recent months. There have been widespread accusations that the firms use “overly aggressive student-recruitment practices.” A report issued in May by the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended greater oversight and indicated the Department of Education was planning to revise federal guidance for the industry. The timeline for these potential changes is unclear but there are plenty of areas for regulators to consider, such as limits on what and how much can be outsourced to OPMs; stricter revenue-sharing agreements between OPMs and schools; and rules on colleges converting from for-profit institutions to nonprofits. Paxton Riter, who heads the OPM iDesign, says that regardless of what happens with regulations, “There may be a little bit of a culling of the herd…. If you’re not thinking about alternative models that are non–revenue sharing, you’re probably making a mistake.”   to the top


3     Is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pendulum Due to Swing Back?   Recent evidence of pushback to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts on American campuses includes a lawsuit citing Title VI and Title IX violations in hiring, studies that reveal minority students (as well as all others) feel less welcome on campuses with a large DEI staff, and a top theoretical physicist calling the efforts anti-science. In Lowery v. Texas A&M, the college is being sued for hiring only members of underrepresented groups and confirming in writing that a position was “reserved” for non-white, non-Asian candidates. Richard Lowery, a highly qualified finance professor at the University of Texas was “able and ready” to apply, yet ineligible due to his race. This lawsuit seeks certification as a class action, for the benefit of all white and Asian candidates who may have been discriminated against by A&M’s racial balancing initiatives. A recent review of 65 universities in the Power Five discovered that there are four times more staff dedicated to diversity initiatives than supporting special-needs students. However, there is no evidence that having this much programming and training capacity has achieved the goal of building more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive universities. In fact, one case study found “evidence that its DEI push has instead created a more culturally rigid campus, the kind of place where woke students and staff are forever on the lookout for offenses against the politically correct orthodoxy.” Lawrence Krauss, author of the best-seller “A Universe from Nothing,” has also written about “the absolutely ludicrous ways in which DEI is…enforcing ridiculous notions about both keeping people out of physics who should be in, and trying to interfere with meritocracy and interfere [with] and take over the appointment process so that merit isn’t the crucial factor.” He decries those that “jump on this bandwagon and claim their fields are racist or sexist….There’s no evidence, and as scientists, you should be looking for evidence.” (See also The End of the “Men’s Club” Era)   to the top

4     Harvard Tells Students Using the Wrong Pronouns Constitutes Abuse   Undergraduate students at Harvard University were told in a mandatory Title IX training session that using wrong pronouns may constitute abuse, according to materials reviewed by The Washington Free Beacon. The online training session, which students must complete before they can register for classes, includes a “Power and Control Wheel” to help identify “harmful” conduct. Outside the wheel are beliefs and attitudes that “contribute to an environment that perpetuates violence,” including “sizeism and fatphobia,” “cisheterosexism,” “racism,” “transphobia,” “ageism,” and “ableism.” Harvard first launched the training in 2016 and made it mandatory two years later. The university is vague about what happens to someone who fails to abide by the policy, but violations “may” result in “termination, dismissal, expulsion,” or “revocation of tenure.”   to the top 

5      Player Transfers Causing “Upheaval” in College Football  In early September the Stanford football team lost to its Pac-12 rival USC. More noteworthy than the final score (41–28) are the teams’ rosters: USC had 26 transfer players, while Stanford had one. Right now, the system is stacked against schools like Stanford as many players flock to programs that could bring them more visibility and bigger paydays under new Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules. NIL isn’t the only force driving the transfer frenzy. Record-setting TV contracts are cruising into the billions of dollars, and a “portal” system started in 2018 made it easier for student athletes to change schools. Coaches are on the move too. As of early October, five coaches from top conferences had been fired to the tune of about $55 million in buyout money. This practice is considered a sound investment for schools desperate for wins and awash in sports-related revenue. If schools like Stanford—with an emphasis on academic integrity—can’t attract more talent, should they stop competing for the BCS National Championship? It’s a question many universities could face as incentives tilt further toward athletic success. to the top



6   New U.S. News Rankings Unveiled, Remaining Preeminent Under Fire The latest version of “the most influential of the rankings” arrived to a chorus of criticism and intense competition from other publications. The 2023 U.S. News “Best Colleges” list was topped by Princeton and MIT at numbers 1 and 2, with Harvard, Stanford, and Yale tied at number 3. Columbia, in the wake of providing inaccurate data for last year’s rankings, tumbled from its previous spot at number 2 to number 18. Another notable feature of the new list is less emphasis on SAT and ACT test scores. (See Columbia Drops to 18.)  While some think that U.S. News ought to stop using scores in calculating its rankings altogether, the change reflects the trend of schools dropping standardized tests from the admissions process. U.S. News is no stranger to pushback for its rankings and processes, and this year is providing plenty. To wit: Accusations that they are rooted in exclusion, offer only a narrow prism, and use methodology shown to advantage the wealthiest institutions. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona even weighed in recently, calling college rankings (although not U.S. News specifically) “a joke.” Speaking about the list that has shaped perceptions about higher education for decades, U.S. News executive chairman Eric Gertler said, “We’re very focused on making sure that universities are doing what they say they would do. Our mission is to make sure that students make the best decision for themselves…. Reputation is important.”  to the top

7  Columbia Plummets to Number 18 in U.S. News Rankings After Whistleblower Professor Exposes False Data U.S. News & World Report has released its “Best Colleges” rankings for 2022–23. In a shocking move, Columbia University has been downgraded to number 18 on the list, from number 2 last year, after one of Columbia’s own math professors accused the university of submitting “inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading” statistics. In a statement, the university admitted to relying on “outdated and/or incorrect methodologies” in regard to class size and faculty with terminal degrees, and announced that it was pulling out of this year’s rankings. But U.S. News made its own calculations, based in part on federal data, and moved the university down “a humiliating 16 places.” Although other institutions have admitted to submitting incorrect data in the past, including Emory University and Claremont McKenna College (both in 2012) and Tulane University (in 2013), the incident raises questions about the reliability of the data and how easily the rankings can be gamed. Also, U.S. News has removed the SAT/ACT score metric for schools where fewer than half of new entrants submitted standard test scores. With more than 1,700 colleges no longer requiring standardized admission tests, their days as a ranking factor may soon be numbered anyway.  to the top

8   Notre Dame of Maryland University Is Going Coed, Angering Students and Alumnae  One hundred and twenty-five years after its founding, Notre Dame of Maryland University is going coed. The only remaining women’s college in Maryland and the first Catholic university in the U.S. to grant four-year degrees to women, NDMU has announced it will start accepting undergraduate men come fall 2023. The decision came a year after the board formed a task force to review falling enrollment rates at women’s colleges across the country. NDMU’s own undergraduate enrollment has plummeted from 1,169 in fall 2014 to 807 in fall 2021. Many current students and alumnae argue that the university is abandoning its mission as an empowering place for young women. They also say they were blindsided by the decision, which was made behind closed doors with no input from students, staff, faculty or alumnae. Data show that fewer than 2 percent of female students enroll in private, nonprofit women’s colleges. Once NDMU goes fully coed, there will be only 29 women’s colleges remaining in the U.S. and only one in Canada.  to the top

9 Michigan State President Quits, Saying He “Lost Confidence” in Board of Trustees   Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley sent shockwaves across the MSU community when he took to YouTube to announce his resignation. In a blistering five-minute attack, Stanley criticized trustees, saying they overstepped their authority. “Like the Michigan State University Faculty Senate and Associated Students of Michigan State University, I have lost confidence in the current actions of the Board of Trustees,” he said. Stanley had been in a standoff with the board of trustees over his handling of the departure of MSU’s former business school dean, who resigned in August after failing to report allegations of sexual harassment by a subordinate. Several board members expressed concern with how Stanley handled the Title IX reports and whether he complied with state law on certifying them. A university audit, which was requested by the board, found shortcomings in the process for certifying the reports. Stanley, however, argued that the board was responsible for the missteps. Even though he had the backing of many prominent faculty members, students, and the president of the Association of American Universities—who said she was “appalled at reports of interference in MSU’s day-to-day operations by the university’s trustees”—Stanley abruptly decided to call it quits. His contract had been scheduled to run through 2024.  to the top

10    Four Presidents in Four Years: The Revolving Door Presidency at Michigan State  The resignation of President Samuel Stanley marks the latest upheaval at Michigan State University. He is the fourth president to lead the university since the Lawrence Nassar sexual assault scandal in 2018. Nassar, the doctor for both MSU and USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to what amounts to life in prison for sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. (See Paideia Times, Winter 2019.) The day of Nassar’s sentencing, MSU’s president, Lou Anna K. Simon, resigned in disgrace for her handling of the case and narrowly avoided criminal charges herself. Simon was replaced by interim president John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, who quickly had a scandal of his own. He resigned the following year after making comments about Nassar’s victims enjoying “the spotlight.” Acting President Satish Udpa took over until Stanley took the helm in August 2019. It’s unclear at what point the rift between Stanley and the board first emerged, but experts say there are typically three factors that lead to university presidents being pushed out: an expectations gap between members of the board and the president, performance issues, and the “new politics of trusteeship”—in other words, the political polarization that is increasingly common in many governing bodies.  to the top

11  UF Incoming President Ben Sasse Gets a Huge Pay Raise. But No Tenure The Florida Board of Governors confirmed Senator Ben Sasse as the University of Florida’s 13th president, approving an annual base salary of $1 million—a nice pay bump from the $174,000 a year he was earning in Washington, D.C. According to two professors at George Mason University, Sasse’s presidential contract is the “richest” they have ever seen—with a potential value of nearly $10 million across his five-year term. Assuming he receives the maximum annual raise for which he is eligible (4 percent per year), Sasse’s total base salary will be more than $5.4 million over five years. On top of this, Sasse is eligible for a deferred compensation retention bonus of $1 million if he completes his term. Other benefits include performance bonuses that could total $812,000, additional retirement account contributions of about $800,000, standard fringe benefits of at least $1.7 million, free presidential housing with housekeeping services, a cell phone and a monthly service allowance, and tuition waivers for his spouse, children, parents, and grandchildren. Interestingly, Sasse’s contract is silent on the question of tenure. It states that he will be appointed as a full-time faculty member “upon the end of his service as president,” but there’s no mention of whether the position will be tenured. (See other PT coverage of Sasse’s appointment here.)  to the top

12  UF Trustees Unanimously Approve Sen. Ben Sasse as President, Despite Protests

The University of Florida’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, as the next president of UF. The process by which Sasse was selected was shrouded in secrecy in compliance with a state law, but members of the search committee purportedly reached out to more than 700 leaders nationwide. Sasse faced campus protests and a vote of no confidence in the search process, which left him as the sole finalist. According to a resolution posted on the university’s website, the faculty senate said the selection process had undermined their “trust and confidence.” During Sasse’s first visit to the Gainesville campus, hundreds of student protesters flooded the building where he was speaking, prompting outgoing president Kent Fuchs to ban protests inside campus buildings during the confirmation vote. In the end, though, even faculty and student representatives on the board threw their support behind him, despite questions on a litany of issues, including Sasse’s views on abortion rights; his lack of support for LGBTQ+ students and opposition to same-sex marriage; as well as his stint as president of Midland University, where he reportedly required faculty to sign loyalty oaths that they would not speak ill of him or the institution. No starting date has been announced yet, nor has Sasse said when he will officially resign from the U.S. Senate.  to the top

13   State Senator Ray Rodrigues Takes the Helm of Florida’s State University System Republican State Senator Ray Rodrigues is the new chancellor of Florida’s state university system. He was unanimously approved to succeed outgoing Chancellor Marshall Criser, who is retiring. Rodrigues is a close ally of Governor Ron DeSantis, another Republican, who has been a harsh critic of higher education in the state. Rodrigues has sponsored several controversial pieces of education legislation, including a law, enacted in March, that makes presidential searches at the state’s public colleges secret until their final stages. Although the Florida Board of Governors insists it conducted a thorough search, only eight candidates applied for the job. Some were international applicants who had spent most or all of their careers working outside the U.S. None had any experience as a college president. Ultimately, only two applicants were interviewed. News of Rodrigues’s hiring has drawn both kudos and condemnations. Political colleagues note that Rodrigues is a first-generation college graduate and praise his work ethic. But others suggest the fix was in from the start, “with Rodrigues elevated to the top of the résumé pile solely on the power of his political credentials.”  to the top

14    Comings & Goings at the Top Dr. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, provost and dean of the faculty at Swarthmore College, has been named the new president of Smith College. A sociologist whose research focuses on social inequality, race, and ethnicity, Willie-LeBreton will take office at Smith on July 1, 2023. Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at the American Council on Education, will retire at the end of the year. Hartle has been with ACE for nearly three decades. After a successor is named, he will serve as an ACE senior fellow. Deborah Prentice, provost of Princeton University, has been named vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge. She is the first American to lead the British university. And Radenka Maric, who has served as interim president of the University of Connecticut since February, has been named to the post permanently.  to the top

15  $100 Million to “Transform College” Harvard tried something like it a few months ago: $100 million for slavery reparations (see Paideia Times, Spring 2022.). And now the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says it’s going to use the same amount to try to transform college. The foundation announced in September that it would give $100 million over the next five years to six nonprofit organizations, what it called “transformation intermediaries,” tasked with helping at least 250 higher ed institutions boost student success and close equity gaps. The organizations selected were the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Complete College America, Excelencia in Education, Growing Inland Achievement, and the United Negro College Fund. Meanwhile, Rice University quietly received $50 million from the Kinder Foundation to support work on “inclusive prosperity” in Houston, to help ensure that everyone can contribute to Houston’s success and share in its opportunities. But wait! A sole businessman and philanthropist, one T. Denny Sanford, has just given $150 million to the University of California, at San Diego, building on a $100 million donation to Stanford that Sanford made in 2013, to fund a new stem cell research institute.  to the top

16    Breaches of Fiduciary Duties The Latin root of fiduciary is fidere, which means “to trust.” The concept of fiduciary duty means that people or institutions with this duty must never profit at the beneficiary’s expense—they owe the beneficiary absolute loyalty. Two recent breaches are said to have happened in academic settings. Jonathan Haidt, professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, wrote, “As teachers I believe we have a fiduciary duty to our students’ education. As scholars I believe we have a fiduciary duty to the truth.” Haidt is resigning from his main professional association, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, as he believes the organization’s mandatory diversity statements “force many academics to betray their quasi-fiduciary duty to the truth.” Fiscal health is another duty: A lawsuit against six current and former trustees of Seattle Pacific University accuses them of “breach of fiduciary duty, among other allegations.” The suit against SPU, which is facing a $10 million deficit, alleges that a policy against hiring people in same-sex relationships is “causing the institution to implode.” The complaint, brought by 16 students, faculty, and staff, names trustees it alleges were members of a board-within-a- board responsible for “a discriminatory hiring policy that undermined, and has torn apart, the heart and soul of SPU.” With 24 percent of faculty, students, and staff identifying as LGBTQ+, there has been strong, repeated resistance to the policy, including a two-month sit-in at the president’s office. SPU claims that the threat of disaffiliation from the Free Methodist Church prevents it from changing its hiring policy, which is now in compliance with the church’s teachings on sexual conduct.   to the top


17   College Enrollment Continues to Fall, but at a Slower Rate Colleges and universities nationwide continue to lose students, although at a much less drastic rate than during the pandemic. According to preliminary data, undergraduate enrollment fell 1.1 percent between the fall of 2021 and that of 2022. The declines were seen pretty much across the board—at private nonprofits, four-year public schools, and for-profit colleges. Community colleges saw the smallest declines, with enrollment dropping only 0.4 percent. This is good news, as community colleges have suffered staggering losses during the last two years. Still, the trends are worrisome. “We’re seeing smaller declines. But when you’re in a deep hole, the fact that you’re only digging a tiny bit further is not really good news,” said Doug Shapiro of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Graduate enrollment is also down. It fell by 1 percent this fall, reversing the gains made last year. Defying these trends, undergraduate enrollment is on the upswing at historically Black colleges and universities, while tens of thousands of 18- to 24-year-olds are choosing national online universities over traditional campuses. According to a recent survey, the number of high school juniors and seniors who say they plan to attend fully online colleges has more than doubled since before the pandemic. .  to the top

18   Transfer Enrollment Hammered Hard by the Pandemic, But HBCUs Rebound Transfer enrollment, already down in 2021, continued to plummet through the second year of the pandemic, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Overall, transfer enrollment has declined 13.5 percent since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. “Upward transfer enrollment,” the most common type—when students transfer from two-year to four-year institutions—has fallen 9.7 percent. Other pathways experienced even worse declines: “reverse transfers” (from four-year to two-year institutions) fell 18 percent, while “lateral transfers” (between two-year institutions) dropped 21 percent. Altogether, this represents a loss of nearly 300,000 students in just two years. And students aren’t just transferring less. They’re struggling to stay enrolled. Only about 80 percent of students who transfer to a different college return the following semester. But there’s one notable bright spot: After declining in 2021, transfer rates at historically Black colleges and universities jumped 8 percent this year.  to the top


19    Student Search Lists Are “Structurally Racist,” Researchers Say  A series of new reports from the Institute for College Access and Success claims that the lists that colleges and universities purchase to identify and recruit prospective students “are structurally racist and classist.” The group partnered with a team of researchers to analyze the student lists purchased by dozens of universities from 2016 to 2020 that were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. High school students who take the SAT, ACT, or Advanced Placement tests can opt in to share their contact information, which the College Board, ACT, and other vendors use to curate lists that colleges purchase. Students who live or attend schools in wealthy communities may receive one set of materials, while those in low-resource areas may receive another. Common filters used by universities include GPAs, SAT scores, states of residence, ZIP codes, and student race or ethnicity. The researchers contend that filters can exclude low-income communities and students of color. However, a spokesperson for College Board disputed the report’s findings, saying that the lists help students from underrepresented groups, who are more likely to apply to college when contacted by a college or university. to the top



20    SCOTUS: Ready to Make a Sea Change on Affirmative Action Affirmative action is again in front of the Supreme Court with cases originating at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Court-watchers expect the Court to disallow using race as a factor in admissions. The rulings could affect not just admissions but scholarships and programs targeted at historically underrepresented groups. However the Court rules, some will be dismayed while others vindicated: supporters of affirmative action contend affirmative action is necessary to recruit a diverse student body, while opponents argue that race-conscious admissions are unconstitutional and discriminate against students of Asian descent. Some propose an alternative affirmative action policy, arguing that, yes, colleges should put their thumb on the scale for applicants—but based not on race but on economic status or a machine-learning model of academic promise. How much support does affirmative action have? Among the public, more than 60% oppose the practice. Even on campus, opinions are mixed: one survey of admissions directors found that slightly less than half of admissions directors reported support for affirmative action at Harvard and UNC and a similar number said they weren’t sure; only one in a diverse focus group of a dozen students supported affirmative action.  to the top

21  Free Speech and Academic Freedom Under Threat—And MIT Steps Up At public universities, faculty and staff were put on notice that new state legislation may limit freedoms inside and outside the classroom: the University of Idaho’s general counsel cautioned that new legislation on abortion could limit discussion of abortion in many campus settings (see Abortion Crackdown Collides with Free Speech Story), and the state of Florida asserted that it could exclude so-called “divisive topics” from public university curricula. Meanwhile, students used the heckler’s veto to shut down Q&A sessions of campus visitors and Penn State canceled a speaker’s appearance for fear of violence. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the wake of the disinvitation of a scientist because of his views on diversity initiatives, MIT President Rafael Reif asked his campus to adopt a free expression statement and policies recommended by the MIT Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression.   to the top

22   Abortion Crackdown Collides With Free Speech It didn’t take long for the implications of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last summer to begin arriving on college campuses as state legislatures began cracking down on the practice. And the University of Idaho was among the first to wade into the controversy as a free speech issue, advising its faculty that they could be prosecuted for promoting abortion or referring someone for abortions or even contraception. “Proceed cautiously at any time that a discussion moves in the direction of reproductive health, including abortion,” wrote the university’s general counsel in an email to staff in September. The reaction to Idaho’s guidance was swift, with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) calling on the university to “rescind guidance on speech about abortion” and President Biden telling a meeting with a Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, “Folks, what century are we in? What are we doing? I respect everyone’s view on this—personal decision they make. But, my Lord, we’re talking about contraception here. It shouldn’t be that controversial.” Said The Wall Street Journal, “Vague law leads to conservative guidance.” to the top

23   Florida A&M Students Sue State, Claiming Decades of Funding Discrimination A group of students at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee has filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, alleging decades of underfunding at the historically Black college. The lawsuit claims that more money is given to traditionally white universities such as Florida State University, also in Tallahassee, resulting in a shortfall of roughly $1.3 billion from 1987 to 2020. (Forbes magazine put the figure at $1.9 billion, adjusted for inflation.) The complaint also says the state allowed Florida State University to duplicate course offerings at Florida A&M, which has contributed to a “racially segregated system of higher education.” Attorneys for the students say the disparity is striking because the two schools share the distinction of being Florida’s only public land-grant universities. States are mandated to match federal dollars for all land-grant universities, but historically black campuses are frequently shortchanged. The students are calling on the state to appoint a mediator and rectify the disparity within five years. to the top

24   China on the Offensive For a brief Beijing moment in late September the wheels appeared to come off one of the most closely choreographed events in China when one of the country’s top leaders, Hu Jintao, was suddenly and rather forcibly removed from his seat, next to China’s maximum leader since 2012, Xi Jinping, and escorted out of the closing ceremony of the Chinese Community Party’s twice-a-decade congress—in front of the world. It was a show of raw authoritarianism that  David Acevedo of the National Association of Scholars wasted no time using to tell members of the American higher education community what  Xi Jinping’s lock on power in China means for American higher education: “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has engaged in research theft and academic espionage in American higher education for some time. Whether it be on the institutional level through Confucius Institutes or on the individual level through the Thousand Talents Plan and other “talent programs,” the last five years have made abundantly clear that China intends to steal as much intellectual property as possible, and that the U.S. intends to do little, if anything, about it.”  But the  problem, says Acevedo, seems to be much worse than we thought. A new “bombshell report” by Strider Technologies, titled The Los Alamos Club: How the People’s Republic of China Recruited Leading Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Advance Its Military Programs, provides crucial insight into the extent to which China has infiltrated American research—in this case, sensitive government research. The findings of this study should deeply concern all who care about research integrity and U.S. national security. to the top

25   Hundreds of Thousands Weigh In on New Title IX Rules The Education Department received more than 240,000 comments on its proposed regulatory changes to Title IX, the federal law that governs how colleges respond to complaints about sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination. Lately, Title IX has become a “rallying cry” for people to express their opinions about transgender inclusion, free speech and gender theory. The 60-day comment period closed with almost twice as many comments as the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX regulations drew in 2018. The Biden Administration’s proposed regulation would end the requirement, put in place under President Trump, for live hearings and direct questioning, and would explicitly greenlight the single-investigator model, which allows the same person to gather evidence and determine what happened. It would also broaden the definition of sexual harassment and expand protections for LGBTQ students. The department must parse through the thousands of comments before the final regulation is released. It’s unknown when that will happen, but a year and a half passed between DeVos publishing the draft rule and a final regulation coming into effect.  to the top


26   Is There a Place For Conservatives on College Campuses? By most measures, Ben Sasse, the sitting Republican senator from Nebraska, seems qualified to lead the University of Florida. He holds five academic degrees, including a Ph.D. from Yale University. He was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin and served as president of Midland University, a small Lutheran university in Nebraska, for five years before joining the U.S. Senate. He was also one of seven Republican senators who voted in February 2021 to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection. But many UF students say they feel “less safe and less secure” by the prospect of Sasse leading their school. The UF College Democrats have been outspoken in their criticisms: “Senator Sasse is an outspoken anti-gun control, anti-choice, anti-academic freedom, and anti-LGBTQ+ politician. This selection does not reflect the diversity of our Gainesville and University of Florida community and blatantly harms the communities UF claims to value,” the group said. On a recent campus visit, Sasse had to be escorted to his car by police. Leaders of the protest said they wanted to “make his life miserable,” and a labor union representing grad students tweeted, “This is your life every day if you accept a position here.” So what’s the real reason for the backlash? Perhaps the “diversity” extolled by UF’s College Democrats simply doesn’t apply to conservatives.  to the top

27   The Real Reasons Many Young People Are Saying No to College Why are so many young people opting out of college? According to a new study of 18- to 30-year-olds that was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, money is the main obstacle to attaining a college degree. However, psychological factors like stress and uncertainty are also important. More than one-third of respondents, 38 percent, said they didn’t want to take on debt or that college was too expensive, while 26 percent said it was more important to work and earn money. Meanwhile, 27 percent said college was “too stressful” or “too much pressure,” and 25 percent said they were unsure about their majors or future careers. Although college affordability matters, young people would also welcome support in other areas—e.g., free personal finance classes, more flexible programs, financial aid advising and job counseling. Alternative modes of education are increasingly valued. Almost half of respondents—47 percent—have taken a class on YouTube.  to the top

 external ORDERs

Tertiary Education

28   The End of the “Men’s Club” Era in Academia and the Rise of the “Metaversity” For centuries academia has been a male-led institution, but in the past few decades, women have outpaced men at all levels: new bachelor’s degrees, new graduate degrees, new faculty members. If current trends persist, “a new and more female-oriented era is here for the foreseeable future,” say two social psychologists. Various studies have shown that women have a psychological preference for equity, social justice, and emotional well-being inclusion. The increase in the number of women on college campuses has coincided with the introduction of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committees and offices and DEI programming and degrees, as well as a 34 percent increase in spending on DEI budgets from 2014–15 to 2018–19. In an effort to improve remote-student engagement and provide more experiential learning opportunities, 10 universities—including Morehouse College and New Mexico State University—are partnering with VictoryXR and Meta to launch their own “metaversities.” These meta-campuses are “digital twin” replicas of the associated physical campus. Students will use VR headsets to “attend” class on a virtual “campus” and interact with students and professors who appear as animated avatars. But whether a virtual campus populated by avatars can ever be a true substitute for in-person learning and interaction remains to be seen.  to the top

29   The Expansion of Higher Ed in Britain: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S. Despite the growing divide between higher education’s haves and have-nots, applications to selective institutions are way up and endowments are soaring. Since 2000, Harvard’s endowment has grown from $19.2 billion to $53.2 billion. ​Princeton has endowment assets of roughly $4.6 million per student—enough that it could operate in perpetuity for free, with no outside financial support whatsoever. Yet, as a look across the pond reveals, bigger is not always better. Since the era of Margaret Thatcher, access to higher education in the U.K. has expanded significantly. In 1980 only 15 percent of young Brits went on to college or university. Today half do, including 60 percent of young women. However, this expansion comes at a price. U.K. universities have become big businesses that borrow to grow. Says Douglas Carswell, the President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy and is a former Member of the British Parliament, it’s “a house of cards built on IOUs”—one so precarious that, according to a recent report, a dozen or more British universities might soon go insolvent. On this side of the Atlantic, more young people overall are opting out of higher education. Only 42 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 are currently enrolled in college or graduate school, a significant drop from 2010, when the percentage peaked.  to the top

30   Survey: Leaders Feel Positive About Academic Quality, but Less Optimistic About Tenure and the Liberal Arts Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research published their 2022 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers to uncover what today’s academic leaders think about faculty affairs. The majority of the178 respondents rank their institution’s academic quality as good or excellent and say that changes made during the pandemic did negatively impact academic quality. While nearly all—98 percent—believe their institution provides a quality undergraduate education, only 22 percent say their institution effectively recruits and retains talented faculty, and just 31 percent agree that their institution effectively controls rising prices. More than half of respondents (59 percent) report that faculty currently feel very engaged with their work. On the other hand, most (83 percent) believe faculty at their institution would say that they do not have the right resources and tools to help them feel supported, engaged and connected.  Less than two-thirds of provosts say that tenure remains important and viable at their institution. About 60 percent would favor a system of long-term contracts over the existing tenure system; 40 percent would oppose. The vast majority (89 percent) agree that liberal arts education is central to undergraduate and professional education. However, 69 percent say that politicians and board members are prioritizing STEM and professional programs, and 71 percent believe the number of liberal arts colleges will decline significantly over the next five years. to the top


31   Biden’s Hot Potato Debt Relief Plan Gets Hotter—Wall Street Journal Calls It a “Whopper” High inflation, a foul war in Ukraine, China on the rise, contentious midterm elections, and lingering 2020 election “deniers” have made the battle over student-debt relief seem like a reversion to the good ol’ days of comfortable ideological arm wrestling. In the recurring bicoastal exchange for The New York Times between Gail Collins, the liberal, and Bret Stephens, the conservative, Stephens, last October, worked a mini-rant about the resignation of Britain’s latest short-lived prime minister, Liz Truss, into a debt-relief-at-home rant, saying he was “totally against loan forgiveness. We’ve increased the national debt from $20 trillion to $31 trillion in barely five years, and now higher interest rates are going to make it more expensive to service that debt. And we are supposed to write off $400 billion in college loans—including to couples making up to $250,000—without even giving Congress an opportunity to weigh in? It’s bad policy and worse politics.” His digression led to:

“Gail: Let me quickly point out that many of the folks who are spending their lives paying off big student loans signed up for the deal when they were little more than kids, some not ready for the programs they were recruited into and some who were assured that their major in medieval history would lead to high-income jobs that would make it easy to pay off the debt. The system did not work.

“Bret: I probably shouldn’t say this, but anyone who thought, at any age, that a degree in medieval history would lead to a life of riches needs stupidity forgiveness, not loan forgiveness.”

This was, essentially, what had rolled out in front of Biden’s debt-relief proposal last June: controversy—and also lawsuits. The Wall Street Journal continued to predict in September: GOP lawmakers and conservative groups are laying the groundwork for court battles to block Biden’s executive action. And the legal actions came. The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit in late September alleging that the plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for eligible Americans violates federal law as well as the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers provisions. And the  Biden administration responded by narrowing eligibility for student-debt cancellation, advising borrowers with Federal Family Education Loans or Perkins Loans that they could consolidate their debt into the federal Direct Loan program to qualify for student-loan forgiveness. But this was what left the nation staring at an economic dilemma: paying off $400 billion in debts or paying $400 billion in debts.  to the top

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