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IT productivity paradox in higher education ‘overstated,’ study suggests August 21 2017
In 1987 the Nobel prize-winning American economist Robert Solow famously observed, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Solow was referring to the slow productivity growth of the American economy following the technology boom of the 1970s and ’80s, but some scholars argue that this so-called IT productivity paradox also exists in higher education today. Despite increasing investments in technology in higher education (from spending $765 per student in 2002 to $925 per student in 2013), there is still heated debate over whether these investments are justified. Now, a recent study in The Journal of Higher Education has found that investments in technology do indeed appear to lead to increases in productivity for institutions -- but not for all institutions in the same way. “The general logic we see in the scholarship is that investments in technology aren’t going to result in productivity gains,” said the lead author of the study, Justin Ortagus, an assistant professor of higher education administration and policy at the University of Florida. “We think that claims for this productivity paradox may be a little overstated.” A need for more empirical data to assess the efficacy of technology investments in higher education was a key motivation for the study, said Ortagus. He explained that measuring productivity at colleges and universities is difficult because the outputs of these institutions, much like the institutions themselves, are "multifaceted" and can't easily be boiled down into one metric. “Colleges and universities often attempt to measure productivity by examining the number of enrolled students, the number of degrees conferred or the number of credit hours awarded,” said the study. “Yet these productivity metrics only measure the teaching component of the institutional mission and fail to consider research and service outputs alongside the teaching mission.” Taking this into account, Ortagus and his colleagues decided to consider productivity outputs in three areas they considered central to higher education: teaching, research and public service. The researchers looked at teaching productivity by considering the number of students who successfully graduated with bachelor's degrees. The research output was measured by looking at total research funds per student, and public service by the proportion of minority students enrolled. The authors said this metric measures "at least in part" an institution's service to the public good, because higher education should be "the catalyst for upward mobility and social justice." An important aspect of the methodology, said Ortagus, was that the researchers included two years of "lag time" to allow for the time it takes staff, faculty members and students to adjust to new technologies. "Not allowing for this time may explain why previous research has found new technologies don't improve productivity," said Ortagus. "It's an interesting study," said Martin Kurzweil, director of the Educational Transformation Program at Ithaka S+R. “It’s valuable because it points to an impact, and a way of measuring that impact. Now, it’s important to understand why there is an impact. When we find out what is driving that impact, that is the information that will enable institutions to take action and hopefully improve outcomes,” he said. While a lot of institutions make smart technology investments and have seen solid productivity gains, others have made poor investments and “wasted a lot of money,” said Kurzweil. Phil Ventimiglia, chief innovation officer at Georgia State University, agreed with Ortagus that the idea of an IT productivity paradox in higher education has been overstated. He said he believes the impact of IT spending on productivity has been “muted” because so many institutions are still “very fragmented” in their approach to IT spending. He argued that a decentralized approach could lead to inefficiencies, such as multiple departments buying duplicate software licenses. “I’d like to see a comparison of the productivity data of institutions with centralized IT organizations versus a decentralized approach,” he said. Generally, Kurzweil said he thought the study’s approach and methodology were sound, but that there were areas where the study could have been expanded. For example, due to data constraints, the study assessed only four-year colleges and universities -- institutions whose outcomes may differ from other types of institutions, said Kurzweil. The choice of outputs to reflect teaching and accessibility outcomes also could have been expanded, said Kurzweil; for example, student income could have been looked at in addition to minority representation. The paper is frank about its limitations, which it describes as “numerous.” But Ortagus said he hoped nonetheless that the study would “add more nuance” to the conversation about the benefits of technology, which, he said, “universities can’t really afford not to invest in.” Teaching With TechnologyTechnologyEditorial Tags: Information TechnologyTechnologyImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
The internet can be a brutal place for women in economics, paper finds August 21 2017
Several recent studies suggest women have a harder time than men making career inroads in economics: female economists take longer to have their papers accepted by journals, for example, and they get relatively fewer tenure-track jobs. A new working paper is notable, then, in that it appears to shed light on some of the attitudes and stereotyping working against them. The paper, by Alice H. Wu, a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who is currently a research specialist at Princeton University and in 2018 will begin doctoral studies at Harvard University, investigates gendered language used on the popular Economics Job Market Rumors forum. Using methods from text mining, machine learning and econometrics, Wu analyzed more than a million posts on the website over two years. Over all, she found that conversations between anonymous parties on the forum become significantly less academic and professionally oriented -- namely, more personal and skewed toward physical appearance -- when women are mentioned. Using her own classification system, Wu counted the number of academic or professional words and personal or physical words in each post. On average, posts specifically about women contained 43 percent fewer academic or professional terms and 192 percent more terms about personal information or physical attributes. Source: Alice Wu On gender-related posts, words most strongly associated with women are mostly inappropriate, Wu says. “The occurrence of these words in a forum that was meant to be academic and professional exposes the issues of explicit biases in social media.” Top examples of such words are "hotter," "hot," “attractive,” “pregnant,” “gorgeous,” “beautiful,” “tits,” “lesbian,” “bang” and “horny.” By contrast, the list of top words associated with men includes references to sexual orientation but also "philosopher," "keen," "motivated," "slides," "Nordic" and "textbook." It's well-known that such terms are frequently used to describe women online, but the site Wu studied is mostly used by economics graduate students and Ph.D.s, not a general audience. Analyzing comment threads, not just individual posts, Wu also found that conversations focusing on women show similar patterns. Posts also tend to deviate more drastically from being academic or professional if the prior post is related to women. Confining her analysis to discussions of high-profile economists (based on the Research Papers in Economics index), Wu also found some evidence that women receive more attention than their male counterparts. Wu says in her paper that gender stereotyping can be subtle, making it difficult to measure. Moreover, she says, people tend to hold back on their beliefs due to a desire to appear politically correct. So the anonymity of the Rumors site “provides a natural setting to study the existence and extent of gender stereotyping in this academic community online.” Results suggest the need “for changes to maintain an inclusive online environment for everyone in the academic community,” Wu wrote. “The casual setting of this online forum cannot be an excuse for gender stereotyping conversations, and the freedom to express one’s opinions anonymously should not be abused to create a sense of isolation, which can be discouraging and harmful to the academic and professional development of all genders.” Wu said Saturday that she first heard about the forum from friends who were curious about comments about prominent economists, and that she was “shocked” when she saw some of the remarks about women. So she became interested in trying to quantify what was happening. Asked about how her findings might translate to campus, Wu said she was optimistic that commenters on the forum aren't representative of the field, and that “things will get better as we discuss the issues openly.” David Card, Class of 1950 Professor of Economics at Berkeley and Wu’s thesis adviser, said he also hoped commenters don't reflect the views of the profession as a whole. But it doesn’t take “a large fraction of hostile colleagues to affect the environment,” he said. Card noted, for example, how the recent remarks of a now former Google employee alleging that women are inherently less suited for work in tech roiled the industry. “All it takes is one person making disparaging comments to set a negative tone that may cause some young women to opt out of the field,” he said. “In my experience people who assert statements like that are often immune to evidence or rational argument, and envision themselves as superior beings who are more enlightened than the rest of us.” Erin Hengel, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Liverpool, published the paper on delayed publication timelines for women earlier this year. Specifically, she found that women spend two years getting their papers past peer review and into journals, compared to about 18 months for men. That’s despite her additional finding that women’s papers were more readable both before and after peer review. Hengel said this week that if Wu’s paper “reflects the opinion of even a minority in the field, it suggests female economists still struggle professionally with being taken seriously.” Coupled with her own findings, Hengel said Wu’s research also suggests women lose valuable work time responding to extra scrutiny. When female economists are called out by colleagues, either in peer review or an anonymous online forum, she said, “they’ll spend more time perfecting their papers and less time writing new papers. This certainly impacts the quantity of their output.” And unless that conscientiousness is appropriately rewarded, via higher acceptance rates (which they’re not), “women are at a disadvantage in the academic job market.” While economics remains a field with relatively few women, there’s nothing in Wu’s research to suggest that the field is worse (or better) than others in terms of stereotyping of women. Indeed, the internet in general is a harsh place for women, and women professors. An analysis of Rate My Professors, for example, found that words such as "smart" and "intellect" are more likely to be used in ratings of men than women, and "genius" is more likely to be used to describe male than female professors in all 25 disciplines for which data were available. Words more likely to be found in reviews of women, meanwhile, included “bossy,” “nurturing” and “strict.” The same was true of fashion-related words, such as “frumpy” and “stylish.” Still, some have criticized the economics forum in the past for allowing targeted discussions of women. One such critic is Melissa S. Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland at College Park, who thanked Wu on Twitter this week for her work. Here's the thing: we women will keep researching, writing, advising, teaching, & reviewing. Bc we ❤️ econ & that's what we do. @AEACSWEP — Melissa S. Kearney (@kearney_melissa) August 19, 2017 Economics Job Market Rumors reposted moderation guidelines after numerous on-site references to Wu's article -- some of them critical, and some of them laudatory.  Via email, an unnamed administrator for the forum said Wu’s paper “shows that we can do a better job in the economics profession, and [the forum] will definitely do its part to assist with this.” The site has a “very strong policy against sexism, racism and homophobia,” which is enforced by a team of male and female moderators and a trained bot, the administrator said. "We have improved things dramatically over recent years, with moderation becoming stronger and user attitudes starting to move in the right direction.” At the same time, users of the forum “recognize the enormous value that the site provides to people in the economics profession,” the administrator said. In addition to offering information on the job market and current research, the administrator added, the site has helped to strengthen scientific rigor in economics by identifying errors and highlighting conflicts of interests in major papers.  Hengel said “is not without merit,” in that, if “you’re willing to wade through a lot of junk, you will find many thoughtful posts — some of which were really helpful to me when I was on the job market." Unfortunately, she said, it “likely comes at a cost, by placing a disproportionate burden on women and other minorities that I’m glad is finally being talked about.” Jeffrey R. Brown, the Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and dean of the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wrote on his blog that it would be easy to dismiss Wu's findings "on 'intellectual' grounds," since there is little doubt that there is "sample selection bias in favor of trolls and malcontents."  That's beside the point, however, he said, adding, "This should not be happening at all, and senior, tenured, visible economists – especially we men who numerically dominate the profession – have a shared responsibility to change it." GenderFacultyEditorial Tags: EconomicsGraduate studentsImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Charlottesville fallout: Student says he was kicked out of a college for participating August 21 2017
As college students were identified as participants in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month, there seemed to be little that their institutions could do about it. Although they received calls from other students and communities to discipline or expel students involved, Washington State University and the University of Nevada, Reno, were bound to protect their students' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Not so at private colleges, however, where at least one student has been kicked out, and another has voluntarily left after he says he received death threats. Pensacola Christian College kicked out student Allen Armentrout after he was identified as a protester at the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where white nationalists and white supremacists shouted racist and anti-Semitic chants and violence broke out, culminating in the death of a woman when a protester drove his car through a crowd of counterprotesters. "I have been released from my school and will be unable to return to college to finish my senior year," Armentrout told local media. "I'm processing this and making adjustments to my life to compensate for this scrutiny." Armentrout was photographed wearing a Confederate uniform and carrying a Confederate flag, saluting a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. He said he went to the rally despite the neo-Nazi presence, not because of it, saying that neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan were distorting the history of the American South, and that Lee was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. "I believe a Christian institution should support patriotic individuals who want to stand for American tradition and beliefs. It really hurts me a lot when you try to do what's right and you get attacked," said Armentrout. Pensacola Christian College, it turns out, wasn’t satisfied with that answer, although it hasn’t been releasing information on the matter, citing privacy policies in place to protect students. Pensacola did not return a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed. Nicholas Fuentes, an 18-year-old at Boston University, is leaving after having started a degree in political science -- of his own volition, The Boston Globe reported. Fuentes, who denied being a white nationalist and said he rejects Nazism, said the rally was about protesting “immigration, multiculturalism and postmodernism.” He said he has received threats that make it impossible to stay at the university. “The rally was about not replacing white people,” he said. On Friday, Aug. 11, protesters chanted, “You will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us.” “You can call us racists, white supremacists, Nazis and bigots. You can disavow us on social media from your cushy Campus Reform job,” he said in a Facebook post. “But you will not replace us. The rootless transnational elite knows that a tidal wave of white identity is coming. And they know that once the word gets out, they will not be able to stop us. The fire rises!” Neither Fuentes nor Boston University responded to requests for comment. But calls from community members that students be kicked out aren’t the only demands universities are facing. In addition to renewed calls for Confederate statues and monuments to be removed, the University of Virginia -- where protesters in Charlottesville marched, torches in hand -- is facing calls to revoke the degrees of notable alumni behind the rally. Richard Spencer, an outspoken white supremacist who attended the Unite the Right rally, and Jason Kessler, who organized it, both hold degrees from UVA. A petition has circulated in recent days, with more than 9,000 signatures, calling on the institution to revoke their degrees. The university did not return a request for comment. “I graduated from UVA in 2005, and it makes me feel ill that I have to share my alumni status with the men responsible for terrorizing the city of Charlottesville and bringing torch-bearing nazis and klansmen [sic] to the Lawn,” the petition reads. “I do not care that they earned the class credits needed to get a diploma from UVA. I do not care that they were never caught for honor code violations while they were students. They have violated our university and all if [sic] its students past and present in a way that goes far beyond cheating on a test. They do not deserve to be a part of the UVA community.” Whether UVA responds to the petition remains to be seen, although most colleges revoke degrees only for academic violations such as cheating, not for political stances taken by graduates after they've left. DiversityEditorial Tags: Student lifeImage Caption: Pensacola Christian College terminated the enrollment of Allen Armentrout (center).Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
University of Texas and Duke remove Lee statues and Bowdoin removes Confederate plaque August 21 2017
Duke University on Saturday announced that it had removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from the entrance to the university chapel. On Sunday night, the University of Texas at Austin announced it would remove statues of Lee and three other Confederate leaders from a prominent campus location. And Bowdoin College on Saturday said that it would take down a plaque honoring Jefferson Davis and college alumni who fought for the Confederacy. The moves over the weekend reflect increased scrutiny of honors for Lee and other Confederates, in the wake of the Charlottesville violence last weekend, where white surpremacists said they were rallying to defend a statue of Lee. Texas Texas has for years been debating what to do about a group of statues honoring people with ties to the Confederacy. The statues have been widely criticized by minority students and faculty members, and others. In 2015, the university moved a statue of Jefferson Davis from the group to a museum. Greg Fenves, president at UT, released a statement Sunday night, in which he announced the plans to remove the remaining four statues, including one of Lee. He said that events in Charlottesville prompted him to reconsider the statue issue, and that he has been talking with faculty and student leaders about it in the last week, before making his decision. "The University of Texas at Austin is a public educational and research institution, first and foremost," he said. "The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus -- and the connections that individuals have with them -- are severely compromised by what they symbolize. Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry." Fenves also rejected the argument of some supporters of the statues that moving them compromises efforts to understand history. "The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres." The Texas Tribune reported that the process of removing the statues started late Sunday night. Duke "I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university," said a statement issued Saturday morning by Vincent E. Price, Duke's president. "The removal also presents an opportunity for us to learn and heal. The statue will be preserved so that students can study Duke’s complex past and take part in a more inclusive future." The statue of the Confederate general has been discussed for many years but has received new attention in the wake of a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., the weekend of Aug. 11. And some time Wednesday night, the Lee statue -- one of 10 at the entrance to the chapel -- was vandalized. "Wednesday night’s act of vandalism made clear that the turmoil and turbulence of recent months do not stop at Duke’s gates. We have a responsibility to come together as a community to determine how we can respond to this unrest in a way that demonstrates our firm commitment to justice, not discrimination; to civil protest, not violence; to authentic dialogue, not rhetoric; and to empathy, not hatred," Price's statement said. He also announced that he was "creating a commission, to include faculty, students, staff, alumni, trustees and members of the Durham community, to advise on next steps and to assist us in navigating the role of memory and history at Duke. The commission will look at how we memorialize individuals on the Duke campus in buildings and sculpture and recommend principles drawn from Duke’s core values to guide us when questions arise. I will ask this commission to work expeditiously." Hundreds of Duke alumni signed an open letter to Price this week calling for the Lee statue to be removed. "As the statue remains in place, it continues to send the message to us that Duke is complacent with the presence of hateful, violent and racist iconography on its campus grounds," the open letter says. David Wohlever Sanchez, a Duke junior, published a letter in The Duke Chronicle, the student newspaper, urging the removal of the statue. “Lee is clearly a rallying figure for neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups and domestic terrorists, yet Confederate statues are often defended on the false pretense of ‘remembering history,’” Sanchez wrote. “Yes, history is nuanced. But being an influential historical figure does not automatically grant you a position of honor. There’s plenty of room for ‘remembering’ in museums and textbooks that offer context, not glorification.” On Duke's Facebook page, reaction is mixed (and many of those commenting don't appear to have Duke connections). Some are praising Price, and others are threatening to stop donating and accusing Price of giving in to political correctness. Bowdoin Also on Saturday, Bowdoin College announced that it was taking down a plaque honoring Jefferson Davis and 19 Bowdoin alumni who fought for the Confederacy. The plaque will be preserved in the college's archives. Davis was included because he received an honorary degree before the Civil War. The plaque was put up -- in a building that honors the Union alumni of the college -- in 1965, the centennial of the Confederate surrender. A statement from Clayton Rose, Bowdoin's president, said, “For the last 52 years, this plaque has hung, incongruously, in a space completed in 1882 that honors the service of alumni who fought to preserve the Union and to end slavery. What occurred in Charlottesville and the subsequent national conversation have led us to conclude that historical artifacts like this that are directly tied to the leadership of a horrible ideology are not meant for a place designed to honor courage, principle and freedom. Rather, this part of our history belongs in a setting appropriate for study and reflection. Special collections is where we preserve historical objects and records and where we invite members of our community and the public to research, study and understand Bowdoin history and the lives of those connected to the college. Critically, this move explicitly preserves and acknowledges our history, our unusual relationship with Davis and the fact that there were those at the college who did not support the preservation of the Union or the causes of freedom and human dignity.” In 2015 Bowdoin stopped awarding a prize in the name of Jefferson Davis for students excelling in constitutional law. The cash award was endowed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In a statement announcing the end of the prize, Rose said, “It is inappropriate for Bowdoin College to bestow an annual award that continues to honor a man whose mission was to preserve and institutionalize slavery.” The college returned the endowment fund to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. DiversityEditorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Robert E. Lee (center) in Duke Chapel, prior to removalIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: