Strayer Education and Capella Education Announce Merger!

Dear Commons Community,

It was announced yesterday that two for-profit universities, Strayer Education Inc. and the Capella Education Company, would merge with Strayer becoming the corporate umbrella both universities will operate under. Each entity will retain its own governing board, president, and other administrative officers, as well as faculty and staff.  An article in Business Wire reports on the details of the merger.  

“This combination will allow us to accelerate investment in the educational experience we deliver to students at both universities,” said Karl McDonnell, chief executive of Strayer, “while achieving back-office efficiencies captured through the merger of our corporate functions.”

As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

“The move is the latest in a string of changes that have fundamentally altered the terrain of for-profit higher education over the last several years.

In April, Purdue University announced that it had acquired the for-profit online-education behemoth Kaplan University. The purchase surprised many faculty members and students at the public university in Indiana.

The Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, was sold to a consortium of investors in 2016, making it a privately held company.

There was also the dramatic demise of ITT Educational Services Inc., which closed all of its campuses last year, after a series of investigations led the Department of Education to suspend its access to federal student-loan dollars.

In 2015, Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced it would cease operations at its remaining locations, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And the Career Education Corporation, which enrolled more than 100,000 students in 2011, is now a shell of its former self and has sold several of its entities.

But the sequence of misfortune for the sector does not mean that it should be counted out. Several observers have noticed a friendlier climate for for-profit colleges under the Trump administration. In June, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the department would re-regulate the borrower defense-to-repayment and gainful-employment regulations, two Obama-era rules aimed primarily at policing the sector.”

These are interesting time for the for-profit higher education sector.


Special Counsel Mueller’s Indictment of George Papadopoulos May Be More Significant than Manafort and Gates!

Dear Commons Community,

In addition to the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates yesterday, a grand jury also handed down an indictment of George Papadopoulos, an advisor to President Donald Trump and his presidential campaign.  While Manafort and Gates received most of the headlines, the Papadopoulos indictment may be far more significant.  Here is an analysis provided by Business Insider.

“The special counsel’s office unsealed court filings on Monday that demonstrated extensive contact between an early adviser on President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia-linked foreign nationals during the election, raising the stakes for the White House amid Trump’s former campaign chairman’s indictment for financial crimes.

Legal experts say the decision to unseal the court filings related to the Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, hours after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates turned themselves in to the FBI may have been strategic.

“It was revealed at this time, I think, to blunt criticism of the Manafort/Gates indictment for being only tangentially related to Russia (i.e., the money came from the Russian puppet Ukrainians),” said Patrick Cotter, a former assistant US attorney who has worked closely with Mueller in the past and now practices at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.

The Manafort and Gates indictment, unsealed Monday morning, contained 12 counts related mostly to financial crimes like money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent. The filing did not mention Trump or the campaign, which allowed Trump to distance himself from Manafort in a tweet on Monday morning.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

The fact that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal agents about his contact with Russia-linked foreign nationals, however, “is equally, if not more, important” than the Manafort and Gates indictments, Cotter said.

“With Papadopoulos, the prosecutors are saying: ‘Yes, we are making progress on the Russia connection to the Trump campaign and this witness will lead us to other evidence and witnesses. More to come on Russia,'” Cotter said. “It also serves as a warning to people who dealt with Papadopoulos that if they lie about those contacts, the government is in a position to indict them for false statement, obstruction or perjury.”

As The New Yorker‘s Ben Wallace-Wells pointed out, “at every point, crucially, Papadopoulos loops in his superiors—immediate ones, distant ones, and at one point even the candidate himself.”

The fact that Papadopoulos was apprising his superiors of all of his Russia-related correspondences will make it extremely difficult for the Trump campaign to distance itself from his efforts to set up a meeting with high-level Russian officials.”

This is only the beginning!


Senator John McCain Blasts Donald Trump’s Policies and Supporters!

Dear Commons Community,

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted President Donald Trump’s policies and his supporters, attacking everything from “crackpot conspiracy theories” to the proposed border wall with Mexico.  As reported by the Capital Gazette:

It’s time to wake up,” McCain told midshipmen at the Naval Academy on Monday night, per the Capital Gazette. “I believe in America. We’re capable of better. I’ve seen it. We’re hopeful, compassionate people.”

McCain then lamented the loss of “compromise and principled cooperation.”  

“We are asleep to the necessity of our leadership, and to the opportunities and real dangers of this world,” he said, according to The Hill. “We are asleep in our echo chambers, where our views are always affirmed and information that contradicts them is always fake.” 

The six-term senator didn’t mention the president by name, but he addressed both Trump’s policies and rhetoric:

“We have to fight against propaganda and crackpot conspiracy theories. We have to fight isolationism, protectionism and nativism. We have to defeat those who would worsen our divisions. We have to remind our sons and daughters that we became the most powerful nation on earth by tearing down walls, not building them.”

McCain, who graduated from the academy in 1958, became emotional during the speech, thanking the midshipmen for the sacrifices they will be asked to make for those “who won’t be asked to make sacrifices for you,” The Associated Press reported. 

He also participated in an extended Q&A session “since we’re not doing anything in the Senate.”




Paul Manafort and Rick Gates Told to Surrender to Authorities as a Result of Mueller’s Investigation!

Dear Commons Community,

Various media are reporting that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, along with one of Manafort’s former business associates were told to surrender themselves to federal authorities this morning.  

The  New York Times is reporting that Manafort and Rick Gates mark the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.  As of this writing, it’s not clear what charges both men will face.

According to NBC News, Manafort left his home in Virginia at 7:45 a.m. in a black SUV.

Manafort has been under investigation for money laundering and failing to disclose he lobbied on behalf of a foreign government.

Mueller has been conducting the investigation since May, casting a shadow over Trump’s first year in office.

Mueller has interviewed key Trump campaign and White House aides to determine whether there was collusion and, if so, whether there was an attempt to cover it up.

Trump lashed out on Twitter after news that indictments were coming broke, trying to deflect eyes to Hillary Clinton.

There will be a media frenzy today and for the next couple of days as details emerge on these developments.


David Leonhardt on the Republican/Trump Tax Plan:  It Puts a Yacht in Every Dock for the Wealthy!

Dear Commons Community,

We have been hearing a great deal about the tax plan being proposed by the Republicans and Donald Trump.  New York Times columnist, David Leonhardt provides an analysis that puts most of the benefits on the side of the wealthy.  Leonhardt gets into the weeds a bit and unless you are a CPA or a very careful follower of the language of tax codes and deductions, it gets complicated.  The graphic above developed by the Tax Policy Center is fairly clear on what this tax plan will mean for Americans at different income levels. Leonhardt summarizes this analysis as:

“To understand the Trump tax increases, you should first acknowledge the most admirable feature of his plan. It doesn’t aspire to be merely a tax cut. It aspires to be tax reform — both cuts and increases. Some deductions shrink, while rates fall, in the name of simplifying the tax code.

But after this promising start, the plan commits its cardinal sin. It places the highest priority on huge tax cuts for the very wealthy. They get lower rates and get to keep cherished tax breaks, like the “carried interest” loophole. Herbert Hoover’s Republican Party wanted to put a chicken in every pot. Donald Trump’s wants to put a yacht at every private dock.”

On the issue of the trickle-down benefits of tax breaks for the wealthy, Leonhardt comments:

“Trump and his allies are feverishly trying to claim their plan really would benefit the middle class. Their latest talking point is the notion that corporate tax cuts will create an indirect windfall for workers. Funny, though, how the wealthy get most of the direct benefits, while everyone else has to hope for indirect ones somehow to materialize.”

The column is worth a read.


Joe Bruni:  Colleges Flunk Trump 101!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Joe Bruni, has a piece today commenting on whether colleges need to come to grips with the way thinking among many Americans has shifted to the right especially as evidenced by Donald Trump’s election.  In “Too Many Colleges Flunk Trump 101”, he suggests that there is a slow movement in the academy recognizing that it wasn’t  the case that “…the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth.”  Here is an excerpt.

“Even before Trump’s election, there was swelling discussion about the ideological uniformity of many colleges, where the left holds bold and sometimes imperious sway.

In 2013 the University of Colorado, Boulder, welcomed its first “visiting scholar in conservative thought,” a teaching position created to bring someone from the right to the school each year. In 2015 Jonathan Haidt, a justly celebrated social psychologist at New York University, helped to found the Heterodox Academy, an organization that promotes intellectual diversity in higher education.

And a growing number of educators have been wondering aloud if there should be “affirmative action” for conservative professors, given the hugely disproportionate percentage of liberal faculty in the humanities and social sciences. They often conclude that outright preferences are a bad idea but that creating an extra position in, say, military history rather than gender studies would probably up the odds of adding a Republican to the lineup.

Trump’s election at once imperiled and emboldened this movement. To some college administrators and instructors, it was proof that the barbarians were at the gate and that students needed safe spaces more than ever. Understanding what happened on Nov. 8 was less important than fighting furiously against it.

“The idea that the only people who voted for Trump have missing front teeth is really so extraordinary, and yet I think that’s largely what people in the academy think,” said Jean Yarbrough, a conservative professor of political science at Bowdoin College who voted for him herself. These faculty members, she added, consider 2016 “an illegitimate election, so they’re not worried about their being out of touch with America.”

Bruni goes on to mention some academicians are taking steps to recognize that diversity of sociopolitical views may be beneficial for their campuses.  He concludes:

“I’m not suggesting that colleges normalize Trump, validate everyone who backed him or make room for the viciously bigoted sentiments he often stoked. But there’s inquisitive, constructive territory short of that.

And colleges should be places where we learn to persuade people not to take paths that we consider dangerous instead of simply gaping and yelling at them. That requires putting them and their ideas into the mix. Too many schools are flunking that assignment.”

Bruni has a point that more of us in the academia need to consider.


CNN Reporting that a Federal Grand Jury Has Approved the First Charges in the Investigation Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller!

Robert Mueller

Dear Commons Community,

CNN reported last night that a federal grand jury in Washington approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.  The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.  A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.  As reported by CNN:

“Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

Shortly after President Donald Trump abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. Mueller took the reins of a federal investigation that Comey first opened in July 2016 in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Mueller is authorized to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” according to Rosenstein’s order.

The special counsel’s investigation has focused on potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as obstruction of justice by the President, who might have tried to impede the investigation. CNN reported that investigators are scrutinizing Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia.

Mueller’s team has also examined foreign lobbying conducted by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others. His team has issued subpoenas for documents and testimony to a handful of figures, including some people close to Manafort, and others involved in the Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials.

Last year, the Comey-led investigation secured approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the communications of Manafort, as well as former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling.

In addition to Mueller’s probe, three committees on Capitol Hill are conducting their own investigations.”

When the details of the grand jury actions become public, there will be a media frenzy.  No wonder Donald Trump is leaving for a two-week visit to Asia next week.


David Brooks: America is in a Pivotal Place in its History or “The Week Trump Won”!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks in his New York Times column today , entitled “The Week Trump Won”, likens the United States to Russia one hundred years ago at the time of the Russian Revolution.  He sees our country as in a pivotal place when it must decide where it is going.  Basic beliefs of who we are as a nation are being compromised. Here is an excerpt:

“…In less dramatic form, we’re going through that now. Communism never really took off in America because we already had a secular religion, or rather religious truths rendered in secular form.

Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, described that creed well in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute. He pointed out that the phrase, “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” would have been unintelligible to Plato or Aristotle or anybody raised in a hierarchical society.

The profound equality of every individual was an idea that flowed directly from the Hebrew Bible. The story Americans told about themselves was a biblical story — an exodus story of various diverse peoples leaving oppression, crossing a wilderness and joining together to help create a promised land.

The American social structure, as Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

As other relationships wither, many Americans are making partisanship the basis of their identity — their main political, ethnic and moral attachment. And the polls show that if you want to win a Republican primary these days, you have to embrace the Trump narrative, and not the old biblical one.

The Republican senators went to the White House and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they know which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.

Even Alexander Kerensky didn’t abase himself so humiliatingly.

The people who oppose Trump make a big error: “Let’s Get Togetherism.” This is the belief that if we can only have a civil conversation between red and blue, then everything will be better. But you can’t destroy a moral vision with a process. You need a counter-moral vision.

The people who reluctantly collaborate with Trump make a different error: economism. This is the belief that Trump’s behavior is tolerable because at least Republicans can pass a tax cut. People who believe that value money more than morals. Trumpism is not just economic, and it can’t be thwarted by passing a bit of economic policy.

This is like 1917, a clash of political, moral, economic and social ideologies all rolled into one.

Frankly, I think America’s traditional biblical ethic is still lurking somewhere in the national DNA. But there has to be a leader who can restore it to life.”

It is a sad maybe desperate situation that we find ourselves crying out to poltical leaders and especially the Republican Party to put the country’s interests and values ahead of immediate political gains.


Timothy Brennan:  The Digital Humanities Are a Bust!

Dear Commons Community,

Timothy Brennan, a professor of cultural studies, comparative literature, and English at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, has an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, commenting that the digital humanities (DH), a popular concept among many college faculty, has not accomplished very much and may in fact, be a bust.  DH has a number of proponents including many colleagues here at the CUNY Graduate Center.  Brennan makes some important observations that provide food for thought. Here are two excerpts:

“The dream that algorithmic computation might reveal the secrets of complex social and cultural processes has suffered a very public and embarrassing results crisis. These setbacks have also led to some soul-searching in the university, prompting a closer look at the digital humanities. Roughly a decade’s worth of resources have now been thrown in their direction, including the founding of an Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities, unheard-of amounts of funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a parade of celebratory anthologies backed by crossover articles in high-profile magazines, and academic job openings in an era of tenure-track scarcity. So, with all their promise, and all this help, what exactly have the digital humanities accomplished?”

Rather than a revolution, the digital humanities is a wedge separating the humanities from its reason to exist — namely, to think against prevailing norms. DH instead brings the humanities over to the outlooks of those administrators and legislators with programs that, on the one hand, put a scientistic gloss on method and, on the other, create a framework for lucrative tech deals in classrooms with the promise of the vast automation of teaching. The “results” of DH, then, are not entirely illusory. They have turned many humanists into establishment curators and made critical thought a form of planned obsolescence.”

The essay is an interesting read.  I would also suggest looking at the comments from readers, many of whom disagree with Brennan.



Senator Chris Coons:  Jeff Flake’s Exit Should Scare Democrats!

Dear Commons Community,

Senator Chris Coons, (Democrat, Delaware), has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, cautioning Democrats that they should be concerned (scared) of Jeff Flake’s decision not to seek re-election as the Republican senator from Arizona.  Here is Coons’ analysis.

“Senator Jeff Flake is a conservative Republican from Arizona. I’m a Democrat from Delaware. We have opposed each other on nearly every vote for as long as we’ve served in the Senate. So his announcement on Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election in 2018 should be great news for me.

That’s one way to look at it — the senator is nothing more than my political opponent, someone whose loss is my gain.

But that’s not at all how I see things. I may disagree with Mr. Flake on policy, but I consider him an honorable man, a loyal friend and a valued colleague. His retirement is deeply troubling to me because he represents a principled and patriotic Republican Party, one that has long championed strong American leadership around the world, and one I now fear is falling apart.

That should scare all Americans. It sure scares me.

How did Mr. Flake, who served in Congress since 2003 and has been in the Senate since 2013, become such an outsider in his own party that he wouldn’t seek re-election after only one term? Over the past year, right-wing populists have mocked his principled independence, donors have funded his primary opponent and President Trump, hardly a conservative and only recently a Republican, has openly wished for his defeat.

This has been Mr. Flake’s punishment for charting his own course on issues such as immigration reform and for having the courage to stand up to Mr. Trump, first as a candidate and now as president. His loyalty to the Republican Party, to his conservative principles and to his deep sense of right and wrong never wavered — which is why he refused to be silent when he believed the president was wrong.

This situation didn’t come out of nowhere. Over the past few decades, our political culture has corroded. Traditions of compromise and civility have given way to a zero-sum, winner-take-all approach that is now out of control. As Mr. Flake said on the Senate floor Tuesday, “Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”

Unfortunately, Jeff Flake is only the latest example of a Republican whose willingness to speak out against his party’s current standard-bearer has cost him politically.

As for Democrats, there should be no sense of satisfaction in what is happening to the Republican Party. The balance of two functioning political parties has been essential to our country’s success. In fact, we should take this moment to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: How much do our own party’s internal battles resemble the fight happening within the Republican Party? As Democrats call for independence and pragmatism from Republicans, we should be asking ourselves how tolerant we are of dissent within our own party and how much we are really willing to reach across the aisle.

Senator Flake finished his remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday by quoting Abraham Lincoln, who reminded Americans on the eve of the Civil War that “we are not enemies, but friends” and “though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” Mr. Flake wisely warned Republicans and Democrats that our bonds are dangerously strained. Now is the time to ensure they don’t break.

In a closely divided Senate, three of my Republican colleagues have made risky, unpopular decisions to speak out about the precarious state of their party and the country. We should heed their warnings, challenge them to turn their words into action and ask how we can do the same.”

These are wise words for both Democrats and Republicans.”