City University of New York

Is there anything sweeter than progressive priorities in a cage match?

The City University of New York’s Graduate Center has told staffers and faculty not to use “gendered salutations” in correspondence with students, and just use their full names instead, The Wall Street Journal reports:

The memo, signed by interim Provost Louise Lennihan, calls the policy part of the Graduate Center’s “ongoing effort to ensure a respectful, welcoming and gender-inclusive learning environment…and to accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students.”

The school insinuates this has something to do with complying with Title IX. Nope:

Saundra Schuster, an attorney and Title IX consultant for universities, said the statute is intended to protect individuals from gender discrimination—no matter how they identify their gender, including transgender individuals. But, she added, “to say they must [bar gendered salutations] because of the law is ridiculous.”

“I love the concept,” she said, “but they are not mandated to do this.”

One progressive:

Gendered salutations represent “an outdated and unnecessary formality [that] serves no purpose other than to label and risk misrepresentation,” said Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, an advocacy group for gay and transgender people.

Smacked down by another, linguistics professor Juliette Blevins, who says the salutation ban can “create other problems”:

In some parts of the world, using someone’s first name is insulting and not acceptable: “Therefore, the policy, as it now stands—which encourages use of first and last name, without title—enforces one particular view of what is or is not ‘gender-inclusive’ without considering the negative effects it could have cross-culturally,” she said.

A professor at nearby CUNY-Staten Island who’s also a Republican assemblyman has this bon mot:

“If a student asked me to call him ‘Godzilla,’ I would happily call him ‘Godzilla’ or whatever anyone asked to be called,” [Joseph] Borelli said. “But we do not need another ultra PC policy change.”

Read the full article.

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IMAGE: Harvard University

For-profit colleges aren’t ‘voluntarily’ sharing their average debt levels

College students are racking up more debt for school in the Northeast and Midwest than the South and the West, according to a study by the Institute for College Access & Success.

Nearly seven in 10 graduating seniors from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 had some degree of student debt, said the press release by the nonprofit group, which promotes more available and affordable higher education.

The average debt for students amounted to $28,400, a 2 percent increase from graduates in 2012. Average debt loads for students at one in five schools jumped 10 percent or more in a single year, and fell at least 10 percent at just 7 percent of schools, the study found.

Reported debt levels may actually skew low because of the limited data set the study used. Only 57 percent of public and nonprofit bachelor’s degree-granting colleges provided data, representing 83 percent of 2013 graduates in those sectors. Too few for-profit colleges “voluntarily” provide their graduates’ debt levels for that category to be included at all.

Though there’s “great variation from college to college, with average debt figures from $2,250 to $71,350” among the 1,000-plus schools the study analyzed, some regions produce graduates with higher debt, it said.

New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Minnesota and Connecticut topped $30,000 for average student debt in 2013. New Mexico was the only state below $20,000. Average debt tops more than $35,000 at 129 colleges, the study found.

Colleges in Pennsylvania dominate the list of high-debt public schools ($33,950 and up), including four University of Pittsburgh campuses and “multiple” Pennsylvania State University campuses. High-debt private schools are more spread out, with high-profile names including Abilene Christian in Texas and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.


Low-debt schools ($2,250-11,200) are split almost equally between private nonprofit and public, with three California State University campuses and four City University of New York campuses making the list. Princeton is on the list, as are two Appalachian schools specifically targeted at low-income students – zero-tuition Berea College and the College of the Ozarks, where students work in lieu of paying tuition.

“Graduates from New Hampshire colleges are almost twice as likely as Nevada graduates to leave school with student loan debt, and they owe almost twice as much as graduates from New Mexico colleges,” Debbie Cochrane, institute research director and co-author of the report, said in the release. “The importance of state policy and investment cannot be overstated when it comes to student debt levels.”

The study notes that around a fifth of the 2013 graduates’ debt is comprised of private loans from banks and lenders. It describes these as one of the “riskiest” ways to pay for college and “no more a form of financial aid than a credit card.”

“Private loans lack the basic consumer protections and flexible repayment options of federal student loans, such as unemployment deferment, income-driven repayment, and loan forgiveness programs,” the study reads.

To remedy the lack of data transparency for the short-term, the authors call for the Department of Education to track both federal and private loans through its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The report highlight one school’s wild debt swings year to year to illustrate the data’s weaknesses.

The nonprofit University of the Sciences in Philadelphia reported $71,370 debt for the average borrower in 2013, while the year prior the graduates averaged only $10,620 in debt. “Such a large change in a single year raises questions about both figures,” the study reads.

“This is too important an issue for students, schools, and policymakers to rely on voluntary, self-reported data,” said Matthew Reed, institute program director and co-author of the report. “Federal collection of both federal and private loan debt at graduation is both necessary and long overdue.”

For the long-term, the department should collect data through the National Student Loan Data System – which currently reports every federal loan – directly from private lenders, the authors said. Such a system would “provide accurate and comprehensive data on private loan borrowing while minimizing the reporting burden for colleges,” the study says.

Other policy recommendations include reducing the need to borrow by increasing the federal Pell Grant program, keeping loan payments manageable by raising awareness for repayment options and allowing students to apply for financial aid earlier to determine how much they are eligible for before they apply to school.

College Fix reporter Michael Cipriano is a student at American University.

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Following an outcry that it was scheduling a vote on Israeli divestment when Jewish students wouldn’t be present, the City University of New York’s Doctoral Students’ Council agreed to change the meeting time at which the resolution would be considered.

The vote on the resolution, which also included a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions, had originally been scheduled for the council’s 6 p.m. meeting on Sept. 12, a Friday, when Jews would be observing the Sabbath.

Dominique Nisperos, communications co-chair for the council, told The College Fix in a phone interview that the council agreed to table the resolution with an amendment to change the day and time when the council would vote on it, so that it didn’t conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. The council normally meets at 6 p.m. Fridays.

Though Nisperos said a copy of the resolution was available on the council’s website, no such resolution appears on its “resolutions and reports” page, and the only other mention appears to be the council’s Sept. 8 announcement that a boycott-and-divestment resolution had been added to that week’s “plenary agenda.” Requests for a copy were not returned.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained what it said was a copy of the resolution, whose provisions appear to be standard fare for divestment resolutions.

It calls for divestment from companies doing business in Israel for its violation of “international law and Palestinian rights.” Particular to the academic boycott, it calls for the university’s Baruch College to sever ties with the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, a university in Israel. Baruch College did not return requests for comment.

The resolution opposes “draconian attempts to curtail free speech” by state legislatures to cut funds from “academics and institutions that associate with professional institutions that or that themselves endorse the boycott.”

Other notable resolutions from the council including prohibiting blood drives on campus because of federal rules that refuse to accept blood donations from gay men and calling for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

Not everyone is on board with the resolution.

“The resolution seeks to make it impossible for academics from Israel to have any relationship with us in CUNY,” Samuel Heilman, a professor of Jewish studies and sociology for the university’s Queens College, told The College Fix by email. “I see that as a grievous infringement of academic freedom.”

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement “seeks to boycott Israel from ‘the river to the sea,’ as many of its champions say,” Heilman added. “That means it seeks the destruction of Israel.”

Not only are divestment proponents silent on the human rights records of countries such as Iran, Iraq and China, but they practice hypocrisy by using “Israeli software, technology” and other Israeli products and services, Heilman said.

The Israel on Campus Coalition also got involved in the fight over the council’s divestment resolution.

Executive Director Jacob Baime told The College Fix the resolution was “divisive and designed to tear apart the CUNY community” by singling out Israel. “This resolution sought to undercut Israelis and Palestinians who are working for a two state solution and for peace and dignity for the Palestinians.”

College Fix reporter Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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As higher education faces a crisis of epic proportions, a group of respected campus leaders from across the nation have called on their peers to proactively address the many issues plaguing universities today, saying in a detailed report that “the failure of higher education governance” has helped create the current debacle.

Problems cited in the report include: a lack of a return-on-investment with college degrees; a tenure system that “adds to cost and compromises quality”; political correctness run amok, “undermining the free exchange of ideas”; never-ending collegiate athletic scandals and binge drinking woes; studies that find grads do not leave college prepared for the real world; curriculum requirements that leave students with a “lack a fundamental understanding of their history and heritage”; tuitions that continue to soar far above inflation; and student debt that today tops $1 trillion.

Ultimately, its authors argue, the buck stops with college trustees, who need to take seriously their oversight roles.

“Too many have seen their role narrowly defined as boosters, cheerleaders, and donors,” states the report, titled Governance for a New Era: A Blueprint for Higher Education Trustees. “They should ask the questions that need to be asked and exercise due diligence.”governance

The report, released Tuesday, was the result of a project led by Benno Schmidt, chairman of the City University of New York Board of Trustees and former president of Yale University. He and 21 others – accomplished and respected college trustees, presidents, chancellors and business leaders – signed on.

One area of concern is academic freedom. The report notes that while teachers have academic freedoms, they often lack accountability, and students’ rights suffer as a result.

“Governing boards should monitor academic freedom and intellectual diversity through campus self-studies, as the University of Colorado has recently done,” the blueprint states. “They should put in place, as has the City University of New York, student grievance policies which allow for students to speak out without fear of reprisal when they believe that the institution is failing to protect the students’ freedom to learn.”

The report’s authors also called on trustees to stop kowtowing to complaints over controversial commencement speakers, and to acknowledge and address the lack of intellectual diversity on campus.

“The public is increasingly concerned that students are failing to receive exposure to a range of disciplines and a range of viewpoints,” the report states, adding trustees should annually ask for a report outlining academic diversity.

“This report can include a list of new hires and tenure and promotion decisions in each department (and their disciplines and fields),” the blueprint suggests. “Does the history department, for example, have  expertise and offer coursework on the Founders, the American Revolution, and the Constitution?”

If a lack of intellectual and academic diversity is identified, trustees must have the courage to demand change, the report advises. Moreover, trustees must demand a strong general education framework, or a core curriculum, and stop allowing students to meet requirements with esoteric and bizarre classes.

“Sometimes these courses will be exotic and narrowly focused, including topics such as zombie movies or similar elements of popular entertainment,” the blueprint states. “Governance for a new era demands that trustees, working with their president and provost, reexamine their general education programs with an eye to ensuring that general education promotes preparation for a major and skills and knowledge for life after graduation.”

Additional suggestions for improvement outlined in the blueprint include: improving the presidential selection process; insisting on evidence of student learning; making decisions based on data; demand transparency in performance and results; and creating strategic plans.

“Both trustees—and those who appoint them—must reject the belief that university trusteeships are sinecures or seats of honor,” the report states, adding that the public must join the cause as well.

“Just as trustees must insist on real and concrete institutional accountability,” the blueprint states, “the public must demand the same of governing boards.”

The report was released in conjunction with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Additional signers include: Hank Brown, President emeritus, University of Colorado and former U.S. Senator; José Cabranes, former trustee of Yale, Columbia and Colgate universities; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Peter Hans, immediate past chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors; Stephen Smith, trustee emeritus, Dartmouth College; and sociologist Jonathan Cole, the John Mitchell Mason professor Columbia University.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( Follow Jenn on Twitter: @JenniferKabbany )

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Former general and CIA director David Petraeus is set to become a Harvard Man.

Petraeus has been tapped as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, and will help lead a new project called “The Coming North America Decades,” with a special focus on energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences revolutions, according to Harvard officials in a statement released Friday. They added the project also will look at potential policy choices that could help or hinder American interests.

Petraeus, who resigned from the CIA in the wake of a humiliating personal scandal, also holds academic positions at the City University of New York as well as at the University of Southern California, but not without controversy.

There has been some backlash at USC over his arrival. Additional controversy erupted after CUNY gave Petraeus a job with an annual salary of $200,000–all for teaching just one course. Later, Petraeus agreed to teach the course for the dramatically reduced salary of just $1. Accordingly, Petraeus’s teaching gig came to be seen as an effort to rehabilitate his public image. Upon his arrival at CUNY, students ambushed him with in-your-face protests.

The Harvard press release does not specify when Petraeus’s fellowship begins, The Harvard Crimson reports.

As an aside, Harvard is the same university that reportedly booted Petraeus’ mistress because her coursework did not meet the university’s standards.

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Via NPR:

Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus has decided to take a huge pay cut. The former commander of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan will now make $1 to teach a course at City University of New York’s honors college.

As you might expect, the concession comes after a bit of controversy stirred by Gawker earlier this month. The gossip site filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found out the general was offered $200,000 a year “to work three hours a week.” … professors and politicians expressed outrage and then Petraeus and the university relented …

Petraeus will teach a class called “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade.”

Read more.

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