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Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences will celebrate its centennial anniversary this year. Almost two years ago, Ukraine introduced a new law for science to regulate relations between the state and the National Academy of Sciences. This legislative move did not help, however. The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is a direct descendant of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, with all of the Soviet Union’s chronic illnesses. The reproduction of the Soviet model at the scale of a post-Soviet republic preserved all its features untouched. With increasing levels of corruption in academia, the incline of the hierarchical pyramid has become steeper and steeper. And with pyramids, there are often pharaohs.
The hierarchical pyramidal structure of the National Academy of Sciences has its “slaves” at the very bottom and its “pharaoh” at the top. The President of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, Borys Paton, will turn one hundred this year. Perhaps the oldest chief of a national academy in the world, Paton has ruled the Academy for well over half-a-century—fifty-six years, to be precise. He was appointed to this high post back in 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Nikita Khrushchev was in power in the USSR. No doubt, he is one of the oldest men in Ukraine, a low-income country where the average life expectancy for males barely reaches sixty. Paton was re-appointed for another term in office in 2015 by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, at the age of ninety-six.
Then Minister of Education and Science, Serhiy Kvit, remarked, “It is incredible that the current president was born in 1918 on the same day that the Academy’s board met for the first time.” President Poroshenko clearly does not like to bring new faces into the old political establishment, although some fresh blood might be needed to reinvigorate the nation’s leadership, not only in politics, but in science as well.
The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is also an excellent example of nepotism. Prior to this post, Paton served as the Director of the Research Institute of Electric Welding, founded, directed, and later named after his father, Evgeny Paton. Born in France and educated in Germany, Evgeny Paton pioneered research on welding and served as a vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine during Joseph Stalin’s regime. Apparently, he served the tyrant well, as he was allowed to pass his position on to his son. Unlike his father, Borys Paton was educated in Kiev. Given the paramount priority of physics in the USSR during the 1950s and 1960s, this was the de facto inheritance of the country’s highest research office.
Borys Paton holds numerous awards, including Ukraine’s top state decorations, the Hero of Ukraine and the Order of Liberty. Paton received the Order of Liberty from Ukraine’s dictator, Victor Yanukovych, ousted from power by the Euromaidan people’s uprising. Others who have received the Order from Yanukovych are the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. The former has ruled Kazakhstan since the Soviet era while the latter inherited the presidency from his father, a member of the communist political bureau. This might not be the best company for a top researcher of any nation, but in a country where status is valued over merit, the company one keeps is not of much concern.
The Academy owns vast properties including the facilities of the Research Institute of Electric Welding, and the disappearance of this organization would mean the loss of control over its property. Preservation of property and supporting its numerous employees are two major concerns for the Academy’s leadership. Preoccupation with the loss of property is warranted. In summer of 2017, police and state security services raided Electric Welding under a court order and seized two hundred computers and a lot of financial (and other) documents. The equipment was located in the abandoned swimming pool and used to illegally mine bitcoins. The use of abandoned recreational facilities at the Institute for illegal purposes with the goal of earning extra income can hardly be ignored.
As directors of research institutes acknowledge, many researchers are forced to go on leaves without pay, or have four-day and even three-day restricted work weeks. Others are part-timers, working only half-time or less. Many researchers show up to their work only once a week. Given the undeniable fact that researchers in developed nations tend to consider themselves full-time, these Ukrainian part-timers are barely researchers at all. But this is beyond the point, since the most capable and promising researchers left the country a long time ago, moving to universities, labs, and research centers in the US, EU, Canada and Israel. The brain drain of the 1990s is over now, for there are not many brains left in Ukraine’s research institutes. Many remaining employees barely make ends meet, while others move to Poland, Italy and other EU nations to offer slave labor for menial jobs in construction, agriculture, and housekeeping. The pharaoh is still sitting on his throne, at the top of the pyramid. But who knows, maybe this is the last pharaoh of Ukraine’s scientific establishment.
Join Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, George Miller, Senior Education Advisor at Cengage, and Jenny Billings, a professor and Chair of the English department at Rowan Cabarrus Community College on March 7 at 2:00pm EST for a rich discussion on how to enable access to education for more students, providing every aspiring learner with opportunity.
Brown University on Thursday announced a $50 million gift to its medical school. The funds will support endowed chairs and efforts focused on using biomedical research to develop cures and treatments for diseases.
The local public library is a treasured (if sometimes forgotten) American institution, free and open to all. Recognizing this, Bard College has opened a satellite college in the main branch of the public library in Brooklyn, N.Y., offering disadvantaged students a free pathway to higher education.
The so-called microcollege, run by the private liberal arts college and Brooklyn Public Library, welcomed its inaugural class in January. Seventeen students, all of whom have each confronted hurdles to higher education -- including poverty, homelessness and incarceration -- were accepted to the two-year associate degree program.
The microcollege offers only one associate degree, in the arts. Students in the initial cohort will take the same three classes this semester, however, courses will multiply as the college grows, Madhu Kaza, the microcollege program director, said. The microcollege is taught entirely in person at the public library. Kaza was a writing professor at Bard’s prison initiative, a higher education program run by the college for inmates in six New York correctional facilities. The microcollege is modeled on this prison initiative, which began in 2001.
Delia Mellis, the prison initiative writing program’s director, is overseeing an intensive writing course, Susanna Kohn is teaching grammar, while Lara Pellegrinelli will lead an ethnomusicology class. The courses are similar in structure and level to those offered at Bard’s main campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Kaza said.
In keeping with the college’s unconventional nature, the application process was conducted in an alternative way, too, devoid of standardized test scores and requests for extracurricular activities. Applicants were required to interview in person and write an essay on a text given to them at the library.
Of 1,000 applications, 17 students were selected, based on need, ambition and intellectual curiosity. Most of the students have a connection to Brooklyn, Kaza said, although some live as far away as the Bronx. The student body is diverse, ranging in age, nationality, race, gender and sexuality, Kaza said. In this semester’s class, nine students are women while eight are men.
The program pays for several costs associated with studying in addition to tuition, including transportation, textbooks and a Google Chromebook.
The majority of costs will be paid for using a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as through Pell Grants. Brooklyn Public Library is in the process of fund-raising to supplement other costs.
Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard prison initiative, said the university “shopped around” for microcollege locations, weighing museums and social services in Manhattan, but landed on the Brooklyn library for its cultural significance and its aesthetic appeal.
“Brooklyn Public Library was trusted by the kinds of people that we teach,” Kenner said. “We think we have something to offer the Brooklyn community, and we know they have something to offer us.”
At the beginning of last year, Kenner and Linda Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library’s president and CEO, met to discuss opening a microcollege together. Johnson was thrilled by the idea and the two immediately got to work, turning the concept into a reality in almost exactly one year.
“We have the collections, we have all the materials that students need to study, we have a space that is not dissimilar from a campus,” Johnson said
Next semester, administrators aim to increase the intake at Bard’s Brooklyn microcollege by three times.
Brooklyn’s microcollege is Bard’s second: the first opened in August 2016 in Holyoke, Mass.
At Holyoke, classes are held at the Care Center, a nonprofit that offers services to young mothers completing their high school diplomas. While the Care Center sees positive results, as three-quarters of the program's high school graduates go on to college, only 15 percent of these students complete their tertiary degrees. By opening a microcollege at the Care Center, students are able to continue studying without struggling with the burdens of money or parenthood.
The microcollege concept was modeled on Bard’s prison initiative, conceived in 1999 by then-Bard sophomore Kenner. About 300 inmates are currently candidates for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree across New York. The initiative is grounded in data: prisoners who receive a higher education while incarcerated are more likely to find a job when they’re released and are less likely to return to prison, according to a RAND Corporation study published in 2013. Among Bard graduates, 97.5 percent who were released from prison haven't come back.
Tucked into last week's U.S. Senate budget deal was $4 billion for student-centered programs that aid "college completion and affordability."
Congressional leaders who struck the deal kept that language vague to avoid another prolonged government shutdown. As result, it's up to House and Senate appropriators to determine the specific uses for that money.
A summary document describing the funding -- it mentions steering the money toward programs "that help police officers, teachers and firefighters" -- hints that one specific intended purpose could be a fix for eligibility issues encountered by borrowers expecting to get Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
But the amount needed to make that fix is unclear, and various higher education groups are offering their own ideas for how the funds should be spent.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has made oversight of student loan servicers a top priority. Along with Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, she's pushed for federal money to be spent on addressing eligibility issues for borrowers who expected to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program but did not, she said, because of poor servicing and other bureaucratic obstacles.
“Congress promised nurses, teachers, police officers and other public servants a future without crushing student loans. Bad loan servicing, program technicalities and bureaucratic nonsense are no excuse for going back on our commitment,” Warren said in a written statement. “I’m going to keep working to make sure funding I fought for in the budget is used to honor that promise.”
The U.S. Department of Education said this week that, as of last month, it had received about 7,500 applications from borrowers for the forgiveness program. But fewer than 1,000 borrowers are expected to be eligible for loan discharge this fiscal year, in part because of the limited number of income-based repayment programs available in the early years of the program -- a requirement to make qualifying payments -- and the lengthy 10-year timeline to become eligible for loan forgiveness.
Well before the first students formally sought the relief on their loan debt, higher ed groups expressed concern about the number of borrowers who would actually qualify this year. Others have said subpar guidance from servicers and capriciousness by the department have created doubt among borrowers who for years expected to qualify.
The American Bar Association filed a lawsuit against the department in 2016 over the denial of PSLF to several attorneys. ABA argued that the borrowers relied on information from their loan servicer and "had the rug pulled out from under them" when the department said their employers did not qualify for the program.
It's those kinds of eligibility issues that Warren has made a priority of addressing, although she's talked about public-sector workers like teachers and police officers more often than the lawyers represented by ABA.
Other Options for the Money
Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who serves as ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee for education spending, said in a written statement that she is pleased GOP members have agreed to new federal investments "to get students and borrowers much-needed relief."
"Students should be able to earn a college degree -- especially low-income students and those who have dedicated their careers to public service, including teachers and first responders -- without crushing financial burden," she said. "This budget deal is a step in the right direction to addressing our country’s massive student debt crisis, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure we’re spending this money in the smartest way possible to truly help struggling students."
Appropriators will have a number of other higher ed priorities to juggle as they decide where to spend the funds before a March 23 deadline and how much money, if any, goes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Several advocacy groups said new funding for higher education should go to traditional priorities like a more generous Pell Grant, which for the 2017-18 academic year topped out with a maximum award amount of $5,920. Jessica Thompson, policy and research director at the Institute for College Access and Success, said the group is focused on ensuring that Congress revisits prior proposals in the House and Senate to cut money from the Pell Grant reserve fund. The group is also pushing for an increase of $100 for the maximum Pell Grant, a measure Senate appropriators agreed to last fall.
"A modest yet meaningful one-time increase will help offset -- for at least one year -- the loss of the grant’s annual inflation adjustment after this year," she said. "While we are still thinking through the many productive ways Congress could invest that money, we commend leaders in both the House and Senate for recognizing the urgent need for new funding to help struggling students better afford college or more effectively manage their debt."
Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, also backs a Pell increase. But she said the funding is an opportunity to help students in new ways.
"Instead of using new funds only to reverse a prior rescission to Pell Grant program funds," she said, "lawmakers should keep Pell money for Pell and increase the buying power of this cornerstone of federal student aid."
Others have floated ideas about how Congress could amplify new funding by using it as an incentive for additional state support of public colleges.
"You could use it to increase the Pell Grant, or to index the Pell Grant to inflation for a couple of years. Or you could use it some other way, for some version of need-based or campus-based aid," said Clare McCann, deputy director of higher education policy at New America. "Or you could also invest in a state-federal partnership, to get some ripple effects from the additional funding."
David Deming, a professor of education and economics at Harvard University, suggested in a blog post this week that Congress make grants directly to institutions and require matching state funding. Such a measure, he wrote, would help push back on a trend over the last decade in which state investment in higher education has declined even as federal support has grown in the form of direct financial aid to students.
Deming said using the $4 billion to fund a matching grant program could provide a template for a successful national program.
"Ideally a smaller matching grant program could act as a pilot -- perhaps to collect evidence on how the matching funds get spent and what (if any) implementation problems arise," he said in an email.
Educause said Thursday that it is buying the assets of the New Media Consortium, a now defunct organization best known for its Horizon reports on the future of education technology.
The consortium declared bankruptcy in December, and its assets were offered for sale. Multiple offers were made, but the court presiding over the bankruptcy accepted the Educause bid.
John O’Brien, president and CEO of Educause, said his organization purchased the NMC assets out of respect for the consortium and a shared interest in its work. He said Educause would connect and consult with community leaders regarding next steps.
When Harvard University announced Lawrence S. Bacow as its president-in-waiting on Sunday, the institution focused heavily on his illustrious academic history, past presidential experience at Tufts University and family story as the son of immigrants.
Less discussed was Bacow’s age. He’s 66, about four years older than the average college president. If he stays at Harvard for 10 years -- the tenure he has previously said is about right for a president -- he will be stepping down in his mid-70s.
And Bacow is just one of several presidents in their mid- to late 60s or 70s to take prominent leadership positions at major universities in recent years. Last year, the University of California, Berkeley, named Carol Christ its next chancellor; she was 72. When E. Gordon Gee returned to West Virginia University’s presidency in 2014 first as an interim and then on a permanent basis, he was entering his seventh decade. Ronald Crutcher was 68 when he was chosen to lead the University of Richmond in 2015.
These prominent older hires come as the university presidency has been graying for years, a fact often attributed to colleges and universities valuing past presidential experience over youthful ideas during trying times. It seems search teams often adhere to the adage that with age comes wisdom.
Critics might see generational attitudes at play. Remember, baby boomers have often been pigeonholed as an attention-seeking generation putting off retirement planning until absolutely necessary. So why should they be expected to eschew pinnacle career positions, even as many enter their 70s?
But other forces are likely at work. Simply put, life expectancy has risen, and many people are healthy later in life. A considerable pool of older, experienced presidents exists, and a sizable number of ex-presidents are willing to think about one more stint in a job they love: leading a college or university.
Nonetheless, advanced age can also bring a host of other considerations, even for presidents. Those issues echo past debates about mandatory retirement age for faculty members. They can be surprisingly hard for colleges and universities to address head-on.
From the presidents’ perspective, age-related health issues really do exist. Presidential jobs are known to be packed with travel, stress and unforeseen challenges that take a toll on even the most resilient of leaders. From a broader point of view, older cohorts of leaders tend to be less diverse than students who are currently enrolled in college, and there are concerns that those now rising through the pipeline have had their presidential options limited by older, entrenched leaders on their second or third go-rounds.
Who Wants to Take a Presidency at 70?
In light of those concerns, it’s worth asking why someone who is past the traditional retirement age would even want to go back for another stay in the fishbowl of the presidency. Those who returned for presidencies while in their 60s or 70s say they did so because they are passionate about higher education -- not because they needed a job.
“Probably for each of the individuals in the jobs, there is a different backstory,” said Crutcher. “But I would say to all of us, it’s how we are as individuals. I’d parse it as the passion for the mission.”
Crutcher did not have to take another presidency after spending 10 years leading Wheaton College in Massachusetts. He interviewed for the presidency of a symphony before realizing he didn’t feel as strongly about leading such an organization as he did about the classical music it produces. Still, he did not immediately seek another university leadership position. When a search firm called about the Richmond presidency, he initially responded with a no.
In the end, he was attracted by the chance to lead a university striving for a diverse community. Richmond’s student body has grown remarkably more diverse in the last decade. Its freshman class jumped from 11 percent students of color a decade ago to 38 percent this year, said Crutcher, who is the institution’s first black leader.
“I saw that as a real opportunity to continue to do something I’m passionate about,” he said.
Even experienced leaders can feel more comfortable in their second presidencies. Crutcher shared some insight he learned from Bacow: if, as a president, you want to be liked, buy a dog.
The lesson -- that presidents are often unpopular -- can be hard to learn in a first presidency. Experienced presidents report that it can be different the next time around.
Or, in the case of Gee, it can be different the next times around. Gee had completed six other presidencies when he was named West Virginia University’s permanent leader in 2014. He’s done multiple stints at the university.
He thinks serving as a president at the age of 74 allows him to try some ideas with urgency. He’s cognizant of the fact that his time is limited.
“I can try it without a lot of fear about what’s going to happen next,” Gee said. “Obviously, I will not be going on to any kind of a next job.”
Gee’s return to West Virginia was about feeling a sense of purpose and possibility. Some people want to move to Florida when they hit 65 years old. Others see 70 as the new 50 and want to work as long as they feel they can do a job the way they believe it needs to be done.
“I have a particular way, in terms of energy and commitment, I want to be part of the university,” Gee said. “I don’t want to have to reinvent the way that I do it. I enjoy doing it the way I want to do it.”
The Presidential Pipeline and Diversity
Research has already noted a growing preference for older, experienced presidents. It was one of the key findings from the latest version of the American College President Study from the American Council on Education, which covered years up to 2016.
The average president was 62 years old when the study came out in June. That was 10 years older than the average president’s age when the study was published for the first time 30 years ago.
A quarter of all presidents had experience in the role, ACE found. At doctorate-granting universities, like Harvard, 27 percent of presidents held a presidential or chief executive position in their most recent job -- up from 21 percent in 2011 and rebounding to about the same level seen in 2006. And 29 percent of presidents at doctorate-granting universities had held two or more presidencies during their careers, suggesting elite institutions place a premium on past presidential experience.
A preference for experienced presidents has real ramifications on diversity at the position. Older generations tended to offer fewer women and minority candidates opportunities to rise through leadership positions. As a result, colleges and universities drawn to older presidents today are hewing more closely to the model of hiring aging white men than they might otherwise.
“By prioritizing experienced presidents, colleges and universities further skew the pool of candidates toward white men, which works against efforts at diversifying the presidency,” the ACE survey found.
Such a dynamic may have been on display at Harvard, at least according to conversations playing out in public this week after Bacow was announced as the university’s next president. The news set off biting criticism -- not necessarily aimed at Bacow -- that Harvard had replaced its first woman president with its third president named Larry.
The ACE study contained another interesting wrinkle related to rising presidential age: college presidents are getting older largely because of growth in the numbers of the oldest presidents, those over 70. The share of presidents over age 60 held steady between 2011 and 2016 at 58 percent, while the share over age 70 more than doubled, from 5 percent to 11 percent.
In other words, the real graying hasn’t been driven by presidents of Bacow’s current age. It’s because of presidents who are Gee’s and Christ’s age.
Gee thinks it is important for older presidents to mentor future leaders. But he also pointed out that the presidency isn’t for everyone.
“I think we’re all discovering there are not a lot of people who want to have these jobs,” Gee said. “They are the best jobs in the country, but they are also very challenging. I think because of that a lot of people believe there’s an easier way to make a living.”
How Important Is Experience?
Regardless of whether the candidate pool has evolved, many say the characteristics sought by search committees and trustees have changed.
At a time when higher ed is challenged by shifting student demographics, financial pressures, regulation and some political hostility, colleges and universities want to hire presidents who have experience. That often means interviewing and hiring candidates who are in their 60s, said Jessica Kozloff, president and senior consultant at Academic Search.
“That old rubric of, ‘You’d better get that presidency before you hit the big six-oh,’ that’s just gone out the window, as long as everybody’s convinced this is somebody who is really coming to do the job,” she said.
Sometimes, those on search committees fear older candidates are looking for a soft landing before retirement. But it’s a sensitive subject, because search committees and boards of trustees try to stay as far away as possible from the possibility of being charged with age discrimination.
Concerns about a candidate’s age can often be assuaged through conversations about their depth of experience, energy level or planned length of stay in a position.
Questions about health are also off-limits. Health can be addressed in contracts calling for presidents to have a physical, but a candidate can’t be asked up front about their condition, said Rod McDavis, managing principal of AGB Search.
Ultimately, each board extending a hiring offer decides whether the benefits of an older, experienced president outweigh any possible drawbacks -- even if that decision isn’t openly discussed or made consciously.
“I think it’s good for higher education,” McDavis said. “I think it’s good for people who feel like they can still make contributions. Other countries across the world see the value of people who are in their 60s or 70s, and I think in America we’re just beginning to see the value.”
It should be noted that this type of conversation has played out before in higher education. When the mandatory retirement age for tenured faculty was eliminated in 1994, younger professors worried their career pathways were being blocked.
Some, however, took a longer view that may be connected to the phenomenon of older presidents today.
“It takes so long to get a Ph.D. these days -- 10 years at Columbia or Berkeley -- that people in the humanities tend to start their careers later,” Daniel Gordon, who was then a 33-year-old assistant professor of history at Harvard, told The New York Times in 1994, after federal law changed to stop mandating faculty retirement at 70 years old.
“For that reason, I'm glad about the change in the law, because I myself may not wish to retire when I'm 70,” Gordon said.
Negotiators failed to reach consensus Thursday on new language for borrower-defense regulations, clearing the way for the U.S. Department of Education to craft its own version of regulations designed to protect defrauded student borrowers.
The Obama administration crafted the borrower-defense rule to establish a national standard for student fraud claims after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech led to a flood of loan-relief claims. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blocked the rule from going into effect last year and said she would rewrite the regulations to better balance the concerns of students, taxpayers and institutions.
The department was required by law to go through the negotiated rule-making process, in which a panel representing various higher-ed interest groups attempts to seek consensus on the details of a new rule. Without negotiators reaching consensus, the department will aim to issue its own proposed rule by Nov. 1. Members of the public will have another opportunity to comment on the proposed regulation at that point.
WASHINGTON -- The splay of fault lines running through nearly every facet of higher education widens in sometimes unexpected places.
Yes, there are the stalwart tensions: liberal arts versus job training, free speech versus inclusive campuses, public institutions versus privates, colleges versus regulation. Then there are the less obvious, yet still very real divides: educating adult students versus traditional 18- to 22-year-olds, giving colleges more public funding versus demanding they control costs.
Underneath it all are the esoteric issues, like the gulf between the high-quality education colleges and universities believe they are imparting to students and what many companies' chief executive officers think are poorly prepared graduates entering the work force.
Issues like the hazy gulf between higher education's perception of itself and reality.
Numerous fault lines came into focus Thursday during a series of sessions at “Higher Ed in an Era of Heightened Skepticism,” the first installment in Inside Higher Ed's 2018 leadership series. In both on- and off-the-record discussions, speakers covered public confidence in higher education, leadership, branding, strategy and possible paths forward.
Some of the tensions discussed have been exposed by shifting demographics, as populations in many parts of the country grow more diverse. Others have been exposed by economics, as income inequality grows and state budgets continue to tighten.
Politics hung heavy over most conversations. And rising tension between conservatives and higher education proved to be of great concern.
Also evident was the aftermath of the populist wave that lifted Donald Trump to the presidency. It left some speakers obviously leery of the new-look Republican party and others chiding blue lines of academics on the nation's coasts who dismiss the great red swaths in its middle. Still others railed against the excesses of Ivy League spending.
Dean Zerbe was senior counsel to the U.S. Senate's finance committee when Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, scrutinized wealthy university endowments a decade ago. He characterized a new tax law that targets large university endowments as a case of colleges and universities resisting reasonable attempts to change their behavior for so long that Congress ultimately acted in spite of their protests.
Zerbe also took aim at what he sees as a broader culture of not controlling costs.
“You all can say, ‘We’re trying,’” he said. “Stop. Stop. You've been trying for years. You've got to make improvements. You've got to make them now, today.”
He was far from the only one criticizing costs -- and the prices students pay for postsecondary education.
Zakiya Smith, strategy director for finance and federal policy at the Lumina Foundation and a former Obama administration official, pointed to problems with the way Americans view higher ed.
“They think they need it,” she said. “They aspire to it, and they are frustrated by how expensive it is and how unattainable it can seem.”
With the perception of higher ed such a focus, it might have been tempting to call for a branding campaign to wash away criticism. But the idea that such an effort is possible without changes in behavior was ultimately rejected.
“To think that we can have a better brand if we don't change is ridiculous,” said Elizabeth Johnson, a partner at SimpsonScarborough, a higher education marketing firm. “It's one of the real problems. Higher education has been so slow, so slow like a snail, to adopt even the basic principles of marketing and branding.”
In spite of the challenges, some tried to strike more optimistic chords. Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, called for meeting students' needs, building a curriculum based on outcomes and delivering when and where education is needed. To paraphrase, higher ed should be much, much more flexible.
“That's a new world for us, but the world needs us,” he said.
If a single theme can be drawn from the many tensions discussed Thursday, it is that in a rapidly evolving world, nearly everything in higher education is unsettled. If one question can capture them all, it is whether higher ed, long organized to be insulated from the whims of the outside world, can adapt fast enough to its remarkable new demands.
The longer the question goes unanswered, the more the fault lines seem to spread.
For the third time this month, scholars are questioning the integrity of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest professional organization for the advancement of technology.
Last week, scholars criticized Alexander Magoun, an outreach historian at the IEEE, for about the work of a female junior scholar that he later admitted he hadn’t read. Some called the comments he made about Google search returns for “white girls” and “black girls” dismissive, inappropriate or racist.
Magoun eventually apologized, saying he was criticizing the marketing of Safiya Umoja Noble's book on how search engines reinforce racial biases, not the book itself. But then all his original tweets related to the incident -- including his apology -- disappeared from the @IEEEhistory account.
In response to academics’ questions about why IEEE’s history arm would delete the historical record of a major public relations incident, IEEE posted a tweet reiterating an earlier statement that Magoun's social media posts had been “unauthorized.” (That idea struck some as odd, since Magoun is an outreach historian at the institute.)
IEEE is aware of the series of unauthorized tweets posted by @ieeehistory that were not appropriate. Because these tweets were unauthorized, they were removed. Unfortunately, the apology that was included in the series of unauthorized tweets was removed as well. 1/2
The newest controversy involves allegations of plagiarism. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, IEEE’s news service, The Institute, published an article titled “Did You Know? Computer Matchmaking Started in the 1960s,” about Joan Ball, a little-known English shopkeeper who founded a matchmaking service in England and eventually the first computerized matchmaking system.
The original IEEE post referenced an article in Logic magazine, without naming its author, Marie Hicks, an assistant professor of the history of technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, who uncovered Ball’s story and wrote about in a recent book called Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press).
Beyond criticizing the article for failing to name Hicks and note her original work on Ball, readers of the IEEE piece familiar with Hicks’s research also said the writing itself sounded familiar.
For example, here’s what Hicks wrote in Logic: “A ‘people person’ and quick study when it came to character, [Ball] found that when trying to make matches you didn't ask people what they wanted in another person -- you asked them what they didn't want [emphasis hers]. The rest was negotiable. Within a few years, Joan decided to start her own marriage bureau.”
And here’s what the IEEE piece said: “Ball began asking clients what they didn’t [emphasis IEEE's] want in a partner -- assuming the rest was negotiable -- and had them write down their responses in a standardized way that could be compared and quantified. In 1964 she helped design the first computerized matchmaking system.”
Hicks said Thursday that she was alerted to the IEEE piece by someone who follows her work. “It looked like plagiarism of my ideas and possibly text,” she said. “The original version of the article never referred to me by name, never quoted me even though it used words from my article in almost the same exact phrasing, and never credited me with uncovering this story through my 2016 research written up for the open access media studies journal Ada.”
Why does it matter? Before that article, Hicks said, “very few people, other than Ball herself, knew about her trailblazing role in computer dating, and it was not widely acknowledged -- in fact it was not it acknowledged anywhere that I could find, other than in her own memoir -- that she was the first person to create a successful computer dating business in either the U.S. or [Great Britain].”
People tend to think it was the Operation Match men from Harvard University or others who were the first in the business, Hicks said. Moreover, Ball didn’t “help” set up her own computer service, as is stated in IEEE -- she founded it outright.
“So it's the worst of both worlds,” Hicks said. “My research gets lifted but also gets made inaccurate in the process.”
Ben Tarnoff, an editor at Logic, agreed.
This article is lifted entirely from a @logic_magazine piece by @histoftech and never once mentions Mar's name. That piece draws on years of original scholarly work by Mar. I know it's hard out there for content creators, but this is very uncool. https://t.co/EiDb7WCpTC
The author of the IEEE article, Amanda Davis, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Monika Stickel, an IEEE spokesperson, defended Davis's work, saying that IEEE has a “strict editorial policy and we take any violation seriously.” In this case, she said, IEEE’s editorial policies were followed and the article is “in compliance.”
One of the sources cited in the article -- presumably Hicks -- “reached out and requested a more significant attribution, which IEEE gladly provided,” Stickel added via email.
The IEEE article now states Hicks’s name but doesn’t note the significance of her research.
Sarah T. Roberts, an assistant professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was following the debate online, said she remained concerned about the article because it “follows a disturbing trend of the work of women historians being inappropriately rewritten without attribution due.”
Computing history goes well beyond the actual writeup of the findings and involves primary research in the field, archives, sites or interviews, she said. “The true test is to the ask the reappropriating author, ‘Where did you find your evidence?’ and ‘How did you come to your conclusions?’”
It’s doubtful that IEEE would be able to answer those questions, Roberts said.
Other scholars used the incident as a teaching moment on the value of citations.
Read thread! For those in #evm441 writing blog posts, take special note of this when you write your own posts & how you may or may not be properly attributing someone’s work!! VERY IMPORTANT! (For anyone, really) #plagiarism#writinghttps://t.co/mw4ehZRXz7
More generally, Roberts said that women and other historically marginalized groups whose “pathbreaking scholarship and very identities challenge the status quo find themselves frequently in the multiple binds of having their contributions minimized -- unless and until that work attains a certain popular acceptance.”
And even then, she said, it runs the risk of having its origins erased “while being revived into popular consciousness as if it had always been known and therefore is up for grabs for anyone to appropriate.”
Saying she was “frustrated and distraught,” Roberts said it “hasn’t been a good few weeks for women scholars and the IEEE. I’m trying to figure out what my takeaway from all of this should be.”