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Welcome to Thursday, February 23. Today the Trump administration rescinds federal guidance on transgender students, vulgar email chains highlight broader problems at elite colleges, and you share a few accounts of embarrassing moments with official guests.
Trump and transgender students.
The Trump administration on Wednesday night rescinded guidance on the rights of transgender students that was issued by the Obama administration over the past two years. In a "Dear Colleague" letter, the Justice and Education Departments said they were withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance reflected in letters sent by Obama administration officials "in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved."
Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, was against issuing the letter, The New York Times reports, but agreed to go along when President Trump sided with the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. On Wednesday night, she tweeted: "I consider protecting all students, including #LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America." Here's what we know so far about the new letter and its implications.
Tribalism at elite colleges.
The men’s cross-country team at Amherst College was exposed in December for maintaining a vulgar email chain replete with racist and misogynistic messages. The episode was particularly jarring at Amherst, which has for years worked to transform itself from an exclusive college that catered to wealthy, white students, into an ever-more cosmopolitan institution. But progress at Amherst, as with a number of elite liberal arts institutions seeking to diversify, has been uneven. Behind Amherst’s ugly instance of locker-room talk lies a larger story of a college’s grand progressive vision persistently hamstrung by pernicious divisions of class and race. Read our Jack Stripling’s analysis here.
- The College Board will change some of its SAT security plans to prevent leaks and dissuade cheaters.
- Arkansas State University suspended social events for fraternity and sorority members until April 1 after a student was accused of raping a woman a university fraternity party.
- Larry Nassar, a former doctor for Michigan State University's gymnastics team, was charged with sexual assault. He was fired from Michigan State last year for violating restrictions put on his treatments, the university said.
- Students at four-year institutions who completed 90 credit hours demonstrate higher achievement levels than students at two-year institutions who completed 45 credit hours, showing the value of upper-level courses, according to a new report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
How the tax code helps higher ed.
The federal government and the states each spent more than $70 billion on higher-education programs in the 2014 academic year, but that doesn’t factor in the billions of dollars more in revenue they gave up through tax benefits meant to help students and their families. On the federal side, they cost the government $35 billion in 2014 — which is, by comparison, 14 percent more than the cost of Pell Grants, the largest federal higher-education spending program, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Growing competition abroad.
Research vice presidents representing the nation's public universities are in Washington for an annual lobbying visit, and like others they're looking for some basic answers about what's happening on Capitol Hill and at the White House. The visiting research VPs have the usual concerns about nfederal funding levels and regulatory relief. And as they made clear in a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, they're especially worried about the anti-immigrant atmosphere they're seeing right now.
Kalliat Valsaraj, who is vice president for research and economic development at Louisiana State University, said the political climate is exacerbating a problem that American institutions already faced from growing competition abroad. Mr. Valsaraj said he had just returned from India, where he saw Australian universities advertising for students. U.S. institutions typically hadn't bothered, feeling their reputations provided enough of a draw. "That really doesn't sustain our arguments any more," he said. —Paul Basken
New interviews on the site today.
- Z Nicolazzo, an assistant professor of higher education and student affairs at Northern Illinois State University, talks about the complex communities of transgender students on college campuses.
- The University of Michigan professor who looked into “voting anomalies” after the presidential election says he's received backlash for his work.
- Libertarian students discuss watching political divides on campus as the third party.
How much is too much?
Do colleges place too many restrictions free speech? According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 92 percent of American colleges maintain speech codes that restrict, or could be used to restrict, free speech on their campuses. The group released its annual roundup of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.” You can check out the full list here.
Across, down, and back again.
For some weeks at the beginning of the year, the Chronicle Crossword didn’t show up in its accustomed place in The Chronicle Review. Its absence was a matter of space — not enough of it — in the printed edition. The editors figured that keeping the puzzle on the website, where it’s long had a second home, would be sufficient satisfaction for cruciverbalists.
Well, the editors were wrong. Reader outcry has prompted The Chronicle to restore the ink-on-paper version in available acreage in the News section. The weekly crossword now graces the Gazette pages, among the listings of appointments, retirements, and such. In the issue you received this week, it’s on Page A29.
(We note with mild self-interest, by the way, that Crosswords Cum Laude, a bound collection of Chronicle puzzles from years past, is still available from Amazon.) –Mitch Gerber
Comings and goings.
- Duane Nellis, a former president of Texas Tech University, was named president of Ohio University.
- Melur Ramasubramanian, director of the Engineering Research Centers program at the National Science Foundation and a professor and chair of the mechanical-engineering department at Clemson University, was appointed vice president for research at the University of Virginia.
- Michael Faulkender, an associate professor of finance in the University of Maryland at College Park’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, will be the school’s associate dean of master's programs.
- Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was appointed dean of the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music.
- Shane Giese, chief executive of the University of Montana Foundation, plans to retire.
- Shirley M. Collado, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University at Newark, was selected as Ithaca College's new president.
Just for you.
It's Mardi Gras season. In fact, the big day, Fat Tuesday, is next week. For those of you who won't be in New Orleans cheering, "Throw me something, mister (or sister)," you're in luck. We've created a new focus collection about helping first-generation students succeed at your college. Brush up on how to help those students adjust and excel. And of course, here's my Mardi Gras playlist to listen to while you read.
In yesterday's Quick Hit section we told you about a new paper from Third Way, but we provided a broken link to the paper. The correct link is here. Sorry about that.
True to form, you all did not disappoint with your responses to our managing editor’s call, in yesterday's Footnote, for your “worst dinner experience with an official guest.” From a special ingredient in the queso to bedbugs at a job candidate’s hotel, here are three highlights:
“[I was] taking a donor to lunch, only to realize I did not have my wallet. Imagine the embarrassment of having to ask the donor to pay for lunch! Needless to say, I reimbursed him despite his objection.”
“I was entertaining a distinguished guest speaker at my previous institution (located in a city not known for its great cuisine) with a group at a 'good' locally owned Mexican restaurant. In the midst of the chips-and-queso course, as our guest was heartily helping himself to the fare, I noticed a large hair in the queso. I quickly grabbed the offending pot of queso and said to the waitress (in what I hoped was a humorous, airy fashion): 'Oops, there seems to be a cootie in the queso.' She replaced it with what I have hoped, to this day, was a hair-free new round of queso.”
“Long ago, when I was recruiting faculty to my university, and before it developed a posh, new hotel, we put visitors up at an adjacent branded-chain hotel. In the middle of the night, a prospective faculty member and his wife awoke to find that they were being bitten by insects. The wife captured one in a small bottle, and they slept on the floor. In the morning I promptly took the specimen to our biology department, and an entomologist identified it as a bedbug. We alerted the hotel, and proceeded with the visit. We eventually made an offer to the candidate, but he did not accept.”
–Fernanda and Adam