Notes & Coffee: October 9 - 15

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.

Speakers stress university pocketbooks – Representatives from public institutions said they are meeting their constitutional obligation to provide a space for these speakers, but they remain relatively lost for a long-term strategy for paying for security. Colleges and universities can adjust after these appearances and consider trimming costs, but none interviewed have settled on any financially viable plan. And, likely, the tours of these political lightning rods will not slow. “We need to examine this,” said Dan Mogulof, a Berkeley spokesman. “There’s a delicate balance that has to be maintained. There are commitments -- legal ones, constitutional, ethical, moral, programmatic and operational -- all of those are factors, all of those elements have definitely [been] impacted by recent events.” 

Lukewarm embrace of free speech – College students might appreciate free speech in the abstract, but question them on more granular issues, and their support softens, according to a new survey. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a prominent civil rights watchdog group, released the results of its new survey on student free speech Wednesday, a summary of the opinions of 1,250 students at two- and four-year institutions across the country. While most students supported the principles of campus free expression, some of their answers seemed to contradict this in some way.

The new, improved IPEDS – There has hardly been an easier target for disdain in higher education circles than the federal graduation rate produced through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The federal government's primary data collection vehicle for higher education is both essential and subpar, particularly when it comes to measuring how students move into and through the postsecondary ecosystem. The graduation rate, whose importance as an accountability measure for institutions has spiked along with the U.S. government's spending on student financial aid, has been rightly derided as flawed because it has included only those students who enroll full-time and are entering college for the first time (leaving out the ever-increasing numbers of part-time students and those who switch colleges or return as adults). At many community colleges and other institutions that serve large numbers of older students, particularly, the graduation rate has ranged from misleading to virtually useless. ("Flawed" is one of the kinder things you'll hear it called.) 

Free impact on N.Y. community colleges – Tens of thousands of people have applied for or expressed interest in New York's free public college tuition program since it was announced earlier this year. And now that the academic year has started and those who qualified for the Excelsior Scholarship have begun classes, some colleges and universities are beginning to see the early effects of the program. But those impacts may depend on how much one requirement of the program -- attending full-time -- plays out at different institutions. Even though part-time enrollments predominate at many two-year institutions across the country, the opposite is true in New York State. In the City University of New York system, more than 58,000 students attended full-time last year compared to more than 26,000 part-time degree-seeking students. At the State University of New York’s 64 campuses, 54 percent of students attended full-time last year compared to 46 percent of students who attended part-time. 

Sociology’s “Mic Drop” Moment – When you come for the social sciences, you’d better come correct. That’s what the president of the American Sociological Association telegraphed to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts this week, in response to Roberts’s recent reference to social science data as “sociological gobbledygook.” In an era when “facts are often dismissed as ‘fake news,’ we are particularly concerned about a person of your stature suggesting to the public that scientific measurement is not valid or reliable and that expertise should not be trusted,” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, president of the association and a professor of sociology at Duke University, wrote to Roberts in an open letter. “What you call ‘gobbledygook’ is rigorous and empirical.”

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