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CAO Briefing: January-February 2017

January 11, 2017

CAO Briefing


Good morning and welcome to CAO Briefing, the American Council on Education's (ACE) bi-monthly news roundup for chief academic officers. As you all get settled in for the spring semester, we would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and express our deep appreciation for making our CAO Briefing newsletter a success in 2016. Also a quick reminder that ACE2017, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting, is quickly approaching. We hope you will consider joining your colleagues March 11-14 in Washington, DC, for the many robust sessions and other events planned for CAOs.

Continue sending your news tips and feedback to Jim Sirianni, director, ACE Leadership. Jim oversees a portfolio of work that serves senior administrators. Please forward this link to your colleagues and friends so they can sign up for CAO Briefing.

For those of you on Twitter, follow ACE at @ACEducation and ACE Leadership at @LeadershipACE.


Internal Hires Need Orientation Too (Harvard Business Review): What is the difference between new employee orientation for new hires and those transitioning into a new group and position within the organization? Ideally, according to the Harvard Business Review, not much. Yet many organizations tend to neglect existing employees, and too often leave them to sink or swim.

When College Was a Public Good (The Chronicle of Higher Education): Even in the dawn of the Trump era—after xenophobic and racist rhetoric energized the campaign of the populist billionaire—few policy makers would bluntly say they don’t want to pay for some students’ education because of the color of their skin, writes The Chronicle of Higher Education. Yet such attitudes have been documented, the article notes.

How to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Presentation (Harvard Business Review): It’s not easy getting ready for a big presentation. The stakes can feel high, and in the desire for things to go well, anticipation builds. Fear, anxiety, or even paralysis can kick in. What can you do to calm your nerves when this happens?

How to Deal with a Boss Who Behaves Unpredictably (Harvard Business Review): How do you handle a manager who acts like Jekyll and Hyde? Should you address the situation with them, especially if you think it will bring out the bully? Do you enlist others to figure out what’s going on? Read a list of do’s and don’ts along with two case studies.

Academic Affairs

Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom (The New York Times): A new website accuses over 200 college professors of advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom” and discriminating against conservative students. Professor Watchlist, which says it names those instructors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls,” is a project of Turning Point USA, a nonprofit organization that says its mission is to educate students about “true free market values.”

Female Professors ‘Pay Price for Academic Citizenship’ (Times Higher Ed): Women professors earn less on average than their male counterparts because they focus on underappreciated “academic citizen” roles, such as mentoring duties and serving on university committees, that do not lead to promotion or pay rises, a new study suggests.

Touted as the Next Big Solution, Competency Ed Programs that Stress Skills Aren’t Always a ‘Quick and Easy moneymaker,’ Study Finds (The Hechinger Report): Concerns about the quality and price of traditional academic programs in higher education have generated interest in competency-based programs that allow students to learn at their own pace, with up to 600 institutions now interested in developing, building or offering these new programs. Little research has been undertaken, though, on the financial underpinning of these new programs, which puts them at risk for institutional underinvestment as well as unrealistic expectations.

Free Speech on Campus, and Its Limits (The Chronicle of Higher Education): Professors, particularly those with tenure, as well as students, might assume they can express themselves without being censored. But unguarded speech on social media and on campus can lead to problems. The articles in this 44-page collection look at professors who have become symbols for free expression, and at colleges seeking the right balance between allowing people to speak their minds and maintaining civility.


What Can Higher Education Expect From the Trump Administration? (Higher Education Today): The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States on Nov. 8 reverberated across campuses and here in Washington. In any transition to a new presidential administration, there is uncertainty about what comes next. This uncertainty is magnified when—as was the case with the Trump campaign—there were few detailed policy proposals offered. So it’s reasonable to wonder, regardless of your political viewpoint, what the Trump administration will look like for higher education.

The Push for Sanctuary Campuses Prompts More Questions Than Answers (The Atlantic): Students at colleges around the country are asking their school leaders to establish so-called “sanctuary campuses” following Donald Trump’s election. The idea behind these demands is to protect young people who feel threatened by his victory. But it’s not clear exactly what the term “sanctuary campuses” means or how far universities will go to comply with the request.

ACE Releases Issue Brief on DACA Program: Amid uncertainty about the future of the nation’s immigration laws under the Trump administration, colleges and universities around the country are thinking about what might be in store for their undocumented students. Primary among these questions is the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established in 2012 under President Obama, which permits approved young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay for two years at a time without fear of deportation. A new ACE issue brief can help frame the discussion about these questions and concerns, as well as questions about the issue of sanctuary campuses.

What Is the Future of the Office for Civil Rights? (The Atlantic): In the days after the presidential election, news outlets and educators reported increases in harassment, bullying, and intimidation of students based on race, ethnicity, religion, and gender identity. Some have speculated on how the Trump administration and Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos might change the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, which is responsible for dealing with such incidents on the federal level. The Atlantic invited higher education representatives to offer their outlook and prognosis on the Education Department’s civil rights arm.

ACE Events

Advancing to the Presidency—April 24-26, Washington, DC: Designed for CAOs and other administrators at the dean’s level and above who are planning to seek a college or university presidency in the next several years, this program provides leaders with the tools and skills necessary to obtain a college or university CEO position. Apply now to join your colleagues for this two-day exploration of leading an institution, including mock video-taped interviews and CV/resume critiques, candid conversations with search firm executives and the ins and outs of contract negotiation.

ACE Institute for New Chief Academic Officers: Join us for this nine-month program consisting of three meetings that aims to identify topics and issues of immediate concern to new academic vice presidents and provide the means to address them. Each convening is highly participatory, incorporating interactive panels with experienced CAOs, mini-case studies presented by program participants, conversations with peers from a range of institutions and briefings by national experts. The first session for the 2017-18 Institute will take place July 25-27 in Washington, DC. Other meeting dates are Nov. 28-30 in Albuquerque, NM, and March 9-10, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Questions about any of these programs? Contact us at or 202-939-9728.

New Books

Engaging the ''Race Question'': Accountability and Equity in U.S. Higher Education (By Alicia C. Dowd and Estela Mara Bensimon). This book is for anyone who is challenged or troubled by the substantial disparities in college participation, persistence, and completion among racial and ethnic groups in the United States. As co-directors of the Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California, coauthors Alicia Dowd and Estela Bensimon draw on their experience conducting CUE’s Equity Scorecard, a comprehensive action research process that has been implemented at over 40 colleges and universities in the United States. They demonstrate what educators need to know and do to take an active role in racial equity work on their own campuses.


Report: America as 100 College Students – State-by-State Infographics

From: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Summary: Among college students nationwide, 63 percent are enrolled full-time, 40 percent attend a two-year institution, and about a quarter take online-only or blended courses. This type of information is critical to understanding today’s college students and providing conditions and supports that will help more students achieve certificates and degrees. Learn more about college students in each of the foundation’s postsecondary priority states in this series of infographics.

Report: The Promise and Peril of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: A Landscape Analysis

From: New America

Summary: Predictive analytics—using massive amounts of historical data to predict future events—is a practice that’s making it easier and faster for colleges to decide which students to enroll and how to get them to graduation. In this new paper, authors Manuela Ekowo and Iris Palmer describe how predictive analytics are used in higher education to identify students who need extra support, steer students in courses they will do well in, and provide digital tools that can customize the learning process for individual students. The paper also outlines the ethical concerns involved in using data to make predictions and its impact on underrepresented students.

Other ACE News


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