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The Department Chair
Written for academic administrators, this award-winning periodical features in-depth articles that deliver sound insight and proven strategies essential for successfully leading an academic department. Read More
Campus Legal Advisor
As a higher education administrator, your every decision has legal ramifications. From complying with the ADA and keeping residence halls safe, to protecting the privacy of student information, Campus Legal Advisor delivers proven strategies to address the tough legal issues you face every day. Plus, summaries of recent court cases and OCR and FPCO rulings help you create legally defensible student programs and employment practices. Read More
Civic Engagement
11/4/2016 12:00 AM
College student political engagement levels indicate how well higher education is achieving its civic mission of developing active citizens concerned with public affairs and with addressing social problems. Voting rates are a direct measure of political engagement, and free, confidential reports of student voting rates are available to institutions from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement.

College student political engagement levels indicate how well higher education is achieving its civic mission of developing active citizens concerned with public affairs and with addressing social problems. Voting rates are a direct measure of political engagement, and free, confidential reports of student voting rates are available to institutions from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. NSLVE has developed a database of 2012 and 2014 voting and college student enrollment data from over 8 million students across 900 colleges and universities in the U.S. In addition to being used to research political engagement in higher education, NSLVE is used to inform campuses about their students' voting rates through customized reports showing voting rates by age, class level, field of study, and, when available, gender and race/ethnicity. Soon NSLVE will include data from the 2016 presidential election, and comparisons across presidential elections will provide insights into changes over time in voting patterns.

Data from the 2012 election align with recent national voting trends among eligible voters: women students voted more often than men (48 percent versus 40 percent, respectively), black students voted at a higher rate than other racial groups (55 percent), and older students were more likely to vote than younger ones. After statistically controlling for these, however, we are learning about more factors related to student turnout.

For instance, religiously affiliated institutions had statistically significantly higher voting rates in 2012 than nonreligious institutions, and campuses with ROTC programs had higher turnout rates than other campuses, although the reasons for this are not yet clear. Our qualitative research suggests that campus climate influences political engagement, and it may be that ROTC presence and religious affiliation shape campus climate and culture in ways that impact engagement. In short, institutional environments matter for political engagement, and we are beginning to see how campus leaders may be able to shape environments and practices to support political engagement.

Three ways to use student voting rate information

1. Inform campus leaders. Administrators and faculty will likely want to know political engagement levels of students on campus and how these compare to levels at peer institutions. Demographic traits, family income, and average SAT scores are examples of information that can help faculty and staff understand student backgrounds, and voting behavior is another way to inform them about the students they teach and interact with every day. For example, community engagement and service learning directors, faculty across disciplines, student affairs staff, institutional research directors, and others often appreciate knowing the composition of the student body.

2. Use it as a teaching tool. One purpose of higher education is for students to become knowledgeable citizens and understand how individuals can affect the public good. This requires students to reflect on their own role within a democracy. Students' own voting rates broken down by subgroups can be a rich tool for facilitating reflection on whose voices shape collective decision-making and how their actions can influence leadership, policy, and community values. Campus administrators could encourage faculty and teaching center staff to incorporate their campus voting rates into classroom conversations and curricula in order to situate students' learning in their own experiences.

3. Convene a dialogue. What are the reasons for low turnout? What are the implications of a group having less representation in politics? What can campuses do to encourage voting? These questions could be posed to the campus-at-large and discussed — ideally with a trained facilitator — to reflect on political power and how to support civic engagement of all students. Following the discussion, a task force could be charged with enacting change so concrete steps are taken based on the discussion.

In a particularly volatile presidential election season, students need skills and knowledge to think and talk about politics in ways that do not alienate others but also do not ignore the importance of current issues. Reports of students' own voting behavior offer an entry point into conversations about democracy and the electoral process using close-to-home, nonpartisan information. Campus-specific reports of student voting behavior are a powerful tool for informing campus leaders, spurring dialogue, and boosting student learning.

If you do not have a report of your student voting rates and would like one, join NSLVE by visiting Joining is free and simply requires a signed authorization form allowing NSLVE access to select data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Community Colleges
2/24/2016 12:00 AM

Whether students start at two- or four-year institutions, most of them share the same goal: graduation. Students who start at community colleges plan to earn bachelor’s degrees.

Whether students start at two- or four-year institutions, most of them share the same goal: graduation. Students who start at community colleges plan to earn bachelor’s degrees. To help students complete the degrees they ultimately seek, officials at many two-year colleges strive to develop clear pathways for their students to earn bachelor’s degrees without losing credits. And officials at many four-year institutions work to eliminate barriers that prevent transfer students from completing degrees in a timely way.

A long-standing partnership between Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University eliminates many of the problems that arise from transfer. In fact, it eliminates transfer altogether, said Bruce Clemetsen, Ph.D., vice president of student affairs at LBCC. The Degree Partnership Program enables students to be admitted to both institutions at the same time. They can take classes at either institution throughout their college career. And students taking all their classes at LBCC are still considered OSU students. They are eligible to take advantage of all of OSU’s support services for students offered at OSU, including health services, cultural centers and even campus housing. Plus, they can file for financial aid as OSU students as long as they are enrolled in at least one course there. That typically results in a bigger award because the financial aid office processes aid by the number of total hours the student is taking and not by where the student is taking them.

The DPP has been around for 16 years, Officials at the two colleges saw that students were finding their way to the bachelor’s with credits from both institutions, so they created the program to normalize paths students were already taking, Clemetsen said.

Students can apply for the DPP before they start college or at any point in their enrollment at LBCC or OSU. Having two schedules to choose from makes it easier for them to stay on track to degree completion, Clemetsen said. And officials at both institutions have access to the student information system at the other institution, so students don’t have to arrange for transfer credit.

Participation in the program has risen steadily over the years and is up to about 5,000 students each academic year.

Program leads to student success

Student results from the PDD have been positive. Lynne L. Hindman, Ph.D., research coordinator for the Center for Teaching and Learning at OSU, studied student completion rates for her doctoral dissertation. She analyzed data about the 2005 freshman cohort over 8.25 years. She compared the bachelor’s completion rates for OSU students who were part of the PDD and those who were not. At the six-year mark, the completion rate was 61 percent for those who participated and 60 percent for those who did not. By the eight-year mark, the graduation rate for PDD students rose to 68 percent, but the rate for native OSU students rose to only 64 percent.

The results were particularly positive for nontraditional students. Students who are 25 or older are 2.13 times more likely to graduate if they are part of the PDD than if they are not, Hindman said.

Dual program helps with recruitment

Offering a clear path to a bachelor’s degree at a reduced cost helps LBCC and OSU recruit students. Some specific populations that admissions officials successfully target with the program are:

  • Native American students from Oregon. Tribal officials are sometimes reluctant to support students who enroll at a community college with tribal dollars. They have concerns that the students will be tracked into career or technical programs or will get stuck in developmental education, Clemetsen said. Also, they have the idea that students with talent should go straight to the university. But the officials approve tribal funds for students in the partnership because they see the sound academic connection between the two institutions and the clear path to a bachelor’s. Plus, the students can use OSU’s cultural center for Native American students throughout their program. And they pay a lot less for the bachelor’s since they can take many classes at LBCC.
  • Rural students. The PDD enables these students to be OSU students in an affordable way. They don’t have to worry about when they are going to transfer. And they get smaller communities in the residence halls and in their community college classes, so entering through this route is not as intimidating.
  • International students. These students find the program attractive because it is more affordable than just attending OSU.
  • Nontraditional students. One student Hindman spoke with, a mother of four, needed one class to graduate and couldn’t get it at OSU. She applied for the PDD and took the class at LBCC. She told Hindman she would not have been able to graduate otherwise. She could have taken the course at LBCC and transferred it without joining the PDD, but her OSU financial aid would not have counted toward it, and she would have had to order a transcript after completing the course to get transfer credit at OSU.
  • Hawaiian students. OSU enrolls many students from Hawaii. But LBCC has a much lower threshold for establishing residency than does OSU, Clemetsen said. All the students have to do is live in the state for 90 days and get a driver’s license with their address to qualify for in-state tuition through LBCC. They can earn residency while going to school full-time and living in the OSU residence hall.

Cooperation on curriculum meets institutions’, students’ needs

Faculty members at the two institutions communicate to ensure that courses align so that students learn what they need to know to move forward.

The program’s largest draw is for engineering, Clemetsen said. Advisors who work with OSU engineering freshmen have them sign up for the PDD. The smaller math classes at LBCC are one advantage for those students.

And the partnership has enabled faculty to work together to offer needed sections of classes. For example, OSU wasn’t offering certain business classes in the evening, and working students needed to take them then. LBCC offered sections to meet the need. And LBCC offered foreign language classes during the day, when OSU departments were not able to offer enough sections to meet student demand.

The partnership also allows the institutions to innovate on curriculum. For example, students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and foodservice systems must enroll in the PDD. The program includes a year of culinary courses at LBCC, Clemetsen said. Not many bachelor’s programs accept, let alone require, a year of credits from a career/technical program, he added.

Cultural centers provide academic support

The PDD started off as an equity-driven program, Clemetsen said. It helps low-income students earn bachelor’s degrees for far less money than they would pay if they enrolled only at OSU. And students can take advantage of OSU’s resources while paying the lower tuition and enjoying the smaller class sizes at LBCC.

Students of color can take advantage of OSU’s four cultural centers. The university offers the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center, the Centro Cultural César Chávez, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, and the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws.

Besides offering social activities and events, the centers offer academic support. Last year, officials added peer tutors for 18 to 22 hours a week at each center, said Kim McAloney, academic engagement coordinator for the Educational Opportunities Program. Besides helping students with specific subjects, the tutors help them with study skills, test-taking strategies, campus resources and wellness. Staff members will even walk students to where they need to go on campus if that helps the students. For example, if students need help finding health or psychological services, or even need help finding a place to eat, the staff can assist.

The relationships students form at the centers are valuable in helping them feel at home and support them in getting help when they need it, McAloney said.

Courses in a first-year transition program are also offered through and at the centers. Choices this academic year and last have included “Untold Stories: History of People of Color in Oregon” and “What Am I Doing Here?! Being First in the Family at College.” These culturally themed courses are among the many options students can choose in the transition program.

Email Bruce Clemetsen at, Lynne L. Hindman at, and Kim McAloney at

The Reflective Leader
1/26/2016 12:00 AM

Academic leaders make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions every semester, some more important than others. Good decision-making is a skill that can be developed.

Dawn Z. HodgesAcademic leaders make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions every semester, some more important than others. Good decision-making is a skill that can be developed.

Here are my tips for good academic decision-making. They might be a helpful place to start if you are a new administrator in your institution, or you might want to share them with new administrators.

  1. There’s a reason you’re asked to read the course catalog and student handbook on your first day of work at any new job. As an academic leader, you should know the policies and procedures of your institution like the back of your hand. They should always be the first point of contact in making a decision. As I said in the title, good decision-making starts with policy, but it doesn’t end there.
  2. Be firm on policy, but be flexible too. Does that make sense? This concept is the most difficult part of decision-making to teach. Some personality types get it easier than others. Policies are very important to the college but they aren’t legal code. Well, some of them actually are! And those you can’t change. And you have to know them well enough to know the difference. But there are some things you can be flexible on. A course substitution is a perfect example. No one ever died because he took a sociology course as his social science rather than a psychology course, even if it’s not an approved option at your college.
  3. Check with others throughout the college if you think the decision is going to affect a policy outside of academics such as financial aid, the bursar’s office, the registrar’s office, etc.
  4. Bounce your decisions off other department chairs or deans. You don’t want to just go willy-nilly down the hall asking people what they think, because there are privacy issues to consider, but your colleagues can be a rich source of experience.
  5. One of the most important questions you will need to ask before you make a decision is “does this hurt the student’s education or does it help it?” Any decision that hinders a student’s education is a bad one. Now I’m not talking about not suspending a student for cheating. In the short term, that might appear to hurt the student’s education, but in the long term it may be the best thing that ever happened to the student. I’m talking more about those decisions that we might make out of pride, or anger, or because we want to win. If you ever feel yourself making a decision from that place, you aren’t ready to make the decision.
  6. If you are tasked with making a certain kind of academic decision, it’s very important to be consistent with yourself. For example, I make the decisions on all the “hardship withdrawals.” A hardship withdrawal is one that happens after the deadline for withdrawals in a semester. I found that among our deans, some were very soft-hearted and everything was approved. Some followed policy to the letter, and there was no such thing as a hardship withdrawal. And so now I make all the final decisions. I know that I am consistent with myself on what I will and won’t approve. If your college is too big for one person to approve all of one particular thing, then the dean, provost or chief academic officer might need to spend some time talking about this with the decision-makers so that everyone can be consistent. Otherwise, it’s not fair to the students and could potentially create some liability for the college.
  7. Have a way to document your decisions for the records. For historical purposes, and if you were to be audited, the student records need to show why a certain decision was made, especially if it varies from policy.

Ultimately, the integrity of the college is at stake. Accreditation is very important, but there is something even higher than that. And that is doing what is right. We’ve all read about the administrators who got caught up in “this or that” and ended up in prison for selling degrees. The degree has to mean something or it isn’t worth anything. When you make academic decisions, you are the “keeper of the flame.” I take that responsibility very seriously.

Sound decision-making is probably the most important skill any academic administrator can possess. It can take years of hard knocks to learn it, but I think we can reduce the time it takes to learn the skill if we share best practices.

Lawsuits and Rulings
8/13/2013 12:00 AM

30+ years of law practice are no substitute for scholarship

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

What it means: When a plaintiff claims he was not interviewed for a college or university position because of his age, it’s not sufficient to show that the individuals interviewed and hired were younger than he was. He must also show that he had all the qualifications necessary to obtain a tenure-track position.

Summary: Nicholas Spaeth — born in 1950 — attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1977 after serving as a law review editor.

Following law school, he served as North Dakota state attorney general for seven years, as general counsel to several Fortune 500 companies, and as a lawyer in private practice. He also taught constitutional law as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1980 through 1983.

In 2009, he decided to pursue an academic career. Ultimately, he obtained a non-tenure-track position as a visiting professor of law at the University of Missouri at Columbia for the 2010-2011 school year.

In 2010, Spaeth submitted a resume to an online resume system in which 172 law schools participated because his visiting professor position was only a one-year appointment.

He also wrote to several law schools directly to indicate his interest in being considered for a position.

He did not write directly to Georgetown University because he didn’t think that he wanted to live in Washington, D.C.

Spaeth was invited to preliminary interviews by only two schools and received no job offers.

He then filed a suit against Georgetown, claiming that its failure to interview and hire him violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act because it ultimately hired three less-qualified candidates who were approximately 25 years younger.

Georgetown filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Spaeth’s online résumé did not reveal any interest or experience in producing the kind of original legal research and scholarship that Georgetown and other top-tier law schools required.

Spaeth countered that Georgetown had no written requirement that scholarship weighed heavily — or outweighed — teaching and service.

However, District Judge Ellen Huvelle said that the lack of a written requirement was irrelevant. She said there was no need to put in writing what everyone knew: that scholarship was — for better or worse — one of the overriding concerns among elite law schools in making hiring decisions.

She recognized that Spaeth strongly felt that law students should be taught by practitioners instead of academics. However, she said that he could not dispute that scholarship was indeed a primary focus of law schools when hiring faculty members, and she refused to interfere with the university’s priorities.

Judge Huvelle found that Spaeth did not demonstrate the necessary qualifications for an entry-level tenure-track position at Georgetown because he had no record of scholarly work and had not shown a potential for producing such work in the future.

She granted summary judgment in favor of the university.

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    Joan Hope became editor of Dean & Provost in 2007. She brings years of experience in higher education and journalism to her work. She has taught writing and literature courses for eight years at colleges and universities including Indiana University at Bloomington, Clark University, and Houston Community College
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