Democrat Patty Schachtner Wins Special Election in Wisconsin!

Dear Commons Community,

Democrat Patty Schachtner won a special election for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin yesterday scoring a huge upset victory for her party in a district that President Donald Trump handily captured just over a year ago. As reported in The Huffington Post:

“It was the latest in a string of election victories for Democrats since Trump took office, and a sign of hope for the party that the energy from the base and frustration with the president could lead to more wins in November.

With every precinct counted, The Washington Post reported that Schachtner, the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, won by 9 percentage points.

Republican Sheila Harsdorf had held the seat since 2001, but she left in November to become Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary. In 2016, Harsdorf won re-election by 26 percentage points, and Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 17 points. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the district in 2012. 

“This campaign was about investing in people and revitalizing our area, whether that is making sure that every Wisconsinite has access to affordable health care, funding our public schools, technical colleges and UW campuses, or investing in good-paying jobs right here in Western Wisconsin,” Schachtner said in a statement. “Tonight, voters showed that they share those priorities, and I am deeply grateful for their support.”

Attorney Adam Jarchow, Schachtner’s GOP opponent, conceded the race Tuesday night. 

Republicans clearly sensed that this district was vulnerable. The conservative Americans for Prosperity spent at least $50,000 on ads, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce threw in another $80,000. 

On the Democratic side, Greater Wisconsin spent $30,000, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee spent $10,000. 

Republicans will still control the state Legislature, with an 18-14 majority and one vacancy in the Senate. 

Democrats have fared well in other special elections since Trump became president, scoring big wins in VirginiaAlabama, Oklahoma and other places around the country. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to state office, said that, with the win in Wisconsin, there are 34 districts that have flipped from red to blue since Trump’s inauguration.”

This bodes well for Democrats running in congressional, state, and local elections in 2018.


Bill Miller, Investment Fund Manager, Makes $75 Million Gift to the Philosophy Department at Johns Hopkins University!

Dear Commons Community,

Bill Miller, an American investor, fund manager, and philanthropist and former chairman and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management, has donated $75 million to the philosophy department of his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.  It is believed to be the largest gift ever to a philosophy department.  Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article on this story:

“The quants and their algorithms may have taken over Wall Street. But one investment legend is making a big bet on a more old-fashioned mode of analysis: philosophy.

Bill Miller, the value investor who famously beat the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index for 15 consecutive years has donated $75 million to the philosophy department of Johns Hopkins University.

The gift, formally announced on Tuesday, appears to the largest by far to a philosophy department anywhere in the world, the university said. It will allow the department, which will be renamed for Mr. Miller, to nearly double in size, to 22 full-time faculty members, while also supporting graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and new courses aimed at attracting undergraduates.

While a number of billionaires and business titans have created splashy million-dollar philosophy prizes, Mr. Miller — a former Ph.D. student in philosophy at Johns Hopkins — said he was pleased to be making an investment in the infrastructure of the profession.

“I wanted the gift to go to something where it would have a significant impact, and change the trajectory,” Mr. Miller, whose firm, Miller Value Partners, is based in Baltimore, said in a telephone interview.

Philosophy, he added, “has made a huge difference both to my life outside business, in terms of adding a great degree of richness and knowledge, and to the actual decisions I’ve made in investing.”

Mr. Miller gift may seem modest compared with the $1.5 billion that Michael Bloomberg has given to Johns Hopkins over his lifetime, including a $300 million gift to its School of Public Health in 2016.

But Ronald Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins, said Mr. Miller’s gift would give a much-needed boost to the beleaguered humanities, at a moment when many universities, and the governments that support them, are heavily focused on the so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

“This gift is so wonderfully contrarian,” Mr. Daniels said. “To have someone of Bill’s stature who is willing to lend an imprimatur to philosophy, this most ancient of disciplines, and to the idea of its continuing relevance as an end in itself, is simply spectacular.”

Mr. Miller, 67, is not the only old-guard Wall Street figure with a background in philosophy. George Soros was heavily influenced by the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper. Carl Icahn was a philosophy major at Princeton, where he wrote a senior thesis titled “The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning.” On the watchdog side of the street, Sheila Bair, the former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, was also a philosophy major.”

Kudos to Mr. Miller for his faith in and generosity to the study of philosophy!




Search for New York School Chancellor Heating Up!

Dear Commons Community,

The search to replace New York School Chancellor Carmen Fariñ heating up.  Ms. Fariña announced her retirement last month.  Yesterday, both the New York Times and the New York Post compiled lists of possible replacements.   The Times’ list was compiled by its editorial board while our own CUNY colleague David Bloomfield wrote the Post’s piece. Here is the list of possibilities.

New York Times/Editorial Board:

Shael Polakow-Suransky, president of Bank Street College of Education. Early in his career, he worked as a teacher and then as a principal in New York City. He served in several positions at the city’s Department of Education, including as senior deputy chancellor, overseeing teaching and learning across the school system during a time of real transformation.

Jaime Aquino, who once worked as a local superintendent in the city and went on to do distinguished work in the Denver school system. He is now chief program officer for New Leaders for New Schools, a nonprofit focused on developing principals.

Paymon Rouhanifard, the superintendent of the Camden City School District in New Jersey since 2013, was also trained in New York City. In Camden, which was seen as one of the most troubled school systems in the country, Mr. Rouhanifard has improved graduation rates and lowered suspension rates. He has shown a tireless enthusiasm for the job and appears to be having a dramatic impact on public attitudes in Camden toward education.

John White, who has served as the Louisiana state superintendent of education since 2012, is another highly competent manager who formerly worked for the New York City Department of Education. In Louisiana, he has vigorously pushed reforms on curriculum and teacher preparation. In 2015, the state’s fourth graders showed the most growth in the country in the reading test of the federally backed National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the second-most in the math test. Graduation rates have risen under his stewardship, and many more students have completed high school with early college credits.

Among the candidates without roots in New York that Mr. de Blasio should consider is Kaya Henderson, who garnered a national reputation for leadership in the once beleaguered district of Washington, D.C., before stepping down in 2016. Over her six years at the helm, she strengthened academic offerings, created more confidence in the city schools, and engineered a personnel evaluation system that rewards highly competent teachers and steers the lowest performers out the door. An independent 2016 study found that this system had a significant impact on student learning.  While Ms. Henderson was reprimanded by a city ethics board after leaving office for giving preferential treatment to powerful people who wanted to place children in preferred schools and was censured for seeking donations for a nonprofit that supports public education, she did an outstanding job in the district.

John B. King Jr., a career educator who served as education secretary in the Obama administration and who is now president of the nonprofit advocacy group the Education Trust, would also be a good fit for New York. Mr. King became a lightning rod — particularly for the teachers union — while serving as New York State’s education commissioner, but he has never wavered in his commitment to higher standards for all children.

New York Post/David Bloomfield

First Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson seems to be a natural successor. The only problem is that, like other central Department of Education officials, she doesn’t seem to have the support of the mayor or chancellor. On the other hand, Brooklyn North Field Support Center Executive Director Bernadette Fitzgerald is a Fariña favorite, a successful former principal who would bring continuity and extensive system experience to the job.

Josh Starr, the ex-superintendent of Montgomery County, Md., and Stamford, Conn., schools was a runner-up to Fariña last time and is still a national leader in progressive education administration circles. He possesses New York roots and played a brief role as school-accountability czar during the Bloomberg administration.

Current Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho are able, long-serving leaders but identified with charter-school supporters, including de Blasio arch-enemy and progressive pariah Eva Moskowitz. Andrès Alonso served a successful six-year stint as Baltimore superintendent where he eventually won teacher-union support after a rocky start. He was a deputy chancellor under Joel Klein and is also supported by Moskowitz, perhaps two strikes against him despite his strong national reputation.

Presidents Felix Matos (Queens College) and ex-Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew (Medgar Evers) bring management strengths, public visibility and academic gravitas to the field.

Crew is known for his “Chancellor’s District” approach to low-performing schools — grouping several low-performing schools together for special intervention and oversight from the chancellor — a system that would likely benefit de Blasio but which the mayor does not seem open to implementing.

Matos’ appointment would be a win for Queens’ large population, often overshadowed by de Blasio’s Brooklyn base.

State Education Department:
Current Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa has a long record as a New York City special-education teacher and administrator and was a district superintendent in The Bronx. Regent Kathy Cashin was a respected principal before appointment to successful Brooklyn district and regional superintendencies.

A long shot but with enough juice to make the list is current State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, a soft-spoken, knowledgeable leader who gets on well with Carmen Fariña and could help the DOE meet crucial state and federal metrics, important for a lame-duck mayor with his sights on higher office.

Finally, ex-US Secretary of Education and State Commissioner John King has worked hard to pivot from his past charter-school and test-based-accountability advocacy to focusing on student civil rights and diversity. His ties to the former movements are a hindrance but it’s hard to dismiss King’s Obama affiliation and extraordinary resume.

My Summary:

Comparing the two lists, John King is the only one who appears on both.  I don’t think he will be appointed mainly because he has the baggage of the Common Core curriculum, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation that he promoted while New York State Education Commissioner.  These were not popular in the state especially with the teachers unions.  I think it will be someone who is currently in some education capacity in New York and is familiar with the City’s needs.  Remember that Mayor de Blasio went inside the New York City system to appoint Carmen Fariña.  This would tilt the possibilities to Betty Rosa, Rudy Crew, Kathy Cashin, Dorita Gibson and Bernadette Fitzgerald.


Parents Sue Illinois School District for Prohibiting the Use of Medical Marijuana by a 5th Grader!

Dear Commons Community,

A suburban school district in Illinois banned a 5th grader from taking medical marijuana at her elementary school.  Her parents say it treats the epilepsy she developed after undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia.  The family is suing the school district and the state of Illinois.  The 5th grader at Hanover Highlands Elementary in Hanover Park is not named in the suit.  As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

“In a case that could have far-reaching implications, parents of an elementary school student who has leukemia are suing a Schaumburg-based school district and the state of Illinois for the right for her to take medical marijuana at school.

Plaintiffs identified only as J.S. and M.S., parents of A.S., filed suit Wednesday claiming that the state’s ban on taking the drug at school is unconstitutional because it denies the right to due process and violates the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The student, who is 11 years old, was treated for her leukemia with chemotherapy, which resulted in the child now suffering from seizure disorders and epilepsy, according to the suit.

The girl received treatments and a “substantial” amount of traditional medications to treat her seizures, but they were not successful, and the child’s treating physicians have certified her as being qualified to receive medical marijuana to treat her epilepsy, the suit stated.

The family asked officials in School District 54 to allow the girl to store and use cannabis on school grounds but were denied because of prohibitions in state law, according to the suit.

School officials, the attorney filing the lawsuit and national marijuana activists pro and con interviewed for this story did not know of any previous similar court case, meaning this lawsuit could set legal precedent.

The state medical cannabis law prohibits possessing or using marijuana on school grounds or buses, though a school may not prohibit a student from using medical marijuana at home.

District 54 Superintendent Andy DuRoss said officials there regularly work with parents to devise care plans to accommodate the needs of students with medical conditions but are prohibited by state law from allowing pot on school grounds.

“We cannot legally grant the request,” he said. “We’re going to abide by the law and do our best to support our students within the confines of the law.”

He added that the district will comply with whatever is ordered by the courts.

The girl has been attending school off and on depending on her condition but likely won’t be able to continue without her medication, which would be in conflict with a state law requiring children to go to school, her attorney, Steve Glink, said.

Under her doctors’ recommendations, the girl wears a medical cannabis patch on her foot, which contains small amounts of THC, the component of marijuana that can make users high.

Occasionally, when the patch is insufficient to control the girl’s seizures, she uses cannabis oil drops with small amounts of THC on her tongue or wrists to regulate her epilepsy, the suit stated.

The student has an individualized education plan (IEP) for intellectual impairments, and attends “mainstream” classes with a teacher’s aide, according to the suit.

The state’s medical cannabis program provides for qualified patients to take medical marijuana with immunity from state prosecution, despite a federal ban on the drug. However, the state law prohibits use at schools and dictates that school personnel are not required to be caregivers to administer cannabis, and are not immune from prosecution for possession or distribution of the drug.

The suit, filed in federal court in Chicago, asks for a preliminary injunction to allow a school employee to help the student store and consume medical cannabis on school property, on school buses and at school-related events in compliance with her doctor’s orders. Since taking medical marijuana, the girl is calmer and more alert and better able to focus and learn, has fewer seizures and can take less of her traditional, debilitating medicine, a “night and day” difference from before, Glink said.

At least one other state has addressed the issue legislatively. In Colorado, where voters authorized medical marijuana in 2000, lawmakers let schools allow the drug for medical use, but no schools did so initially.

In 2016, in a bipartisan vote, lawmakers mandated that schools allow parents or caregivers to give qualified students medical marijuana. The measure was called Jack’s Law, for Jack Splitt, a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy who died that year, after the law was passed.

Officials of nursing organizations generally did not want nurses to administer the drug at schools, as they do with other medications, because they were worried about the federal law prohibiting marijuana possession, said the sponsor of the law, Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Springer, a Democrat. The law prohibits smoking the drug in school, but allows patches or tinctures, as long as it’s not disruptive to classrooms.

“We fundamentally believe your right to medication should never have to conflict with your right to an education,” Springer said.

He said two doctors must approve medical marijuana for kids under 18, so that medical professionals ultimately decide who qualifies, not lawmakers. Seizures and traditional medications can be so debilitating to children that marijuana’s side effects are far less dangerous, he said.

“There’s a reason parents are doing this,” he said, “It’s not to get their kids high. It’s to keep them alive and healthy.”

This is an interesting issue that needs to be resolved by the State of Illinois since it appears that it is state law that prohibits the use of medical marijuana on school grounds.



New York Times Editorial: Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation!

Dear Commons Community,

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s latest racist comments about Haiti and African countries as “s***holes”, the New York Times has an editorial today condemning his remarks.  The editorial makes clear that this is not the first time that Trump has exhibited his racism and that he has a receptive audience of bigots and others who make up his political base.  To quote:

“…Trump ran a campaign explicitly rooted in bigotry, exclusion and white resentment. To his die-hard but ever-shrinking base, comments like those he made Thursday only reaffirm his solidarity with the cause. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, certainly saw it this way. “This is encouraging and refreshing, as it indicates Trump is more or less on the same page as us with regards to race and immigration,” the site wrote in a post. 

The editorial also makes clear that the leaders of the Republican Party have been silent or at most tepid in responding to Trump’s comments.

Below is the entire editorial. 



Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation


JAN. 12, 2018

For a fleeting moment Tuesday, President Trump seemed to signal he would do the right thing on immigration. At a 90-minute meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats, much of it televised, he said he’d be willing to “take the heat” for a broad immigration deal of the sort urgently needed by the country and despised by his hard-core base.

Alas, it was all a charade. The real Donald Trump was back two days later with his now notorious “shithole” remark, asking why the United States should accept people from places like Haiti or Africa instead of nice Nordic countries like Norway, and then tweeting his tiresome demands for a “Great Wall” along the Mexican border.

Never mind that Norwegians are not clamoring to leave what is rated as the happiest nation on earth, and setting aside renewed questions about Mr. Trump’s fitness, the flip-flop left the issue of immigration more confused than before.

Where to begin? How about with a simple observation: The president of the United States is a racist. And another: The United States has a long and ugly history of excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Mr. Trump seems determined to undo efforts taken by presidents of both parties in recent decades to overcome that history.

Of course he did. Remember, Mr. Trump is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.

Even the president’s most sycophantic defenders didn’t bother denying the reports. Instead they justified them. Places like Haiti really are terrible, they reminded us. Never mind that many native-born Americans are descended from immigrants who fled countries (including Norway in the second half of the 19th century) that were considered hellholes at the time.

No one is denying that Haiti and some of these other countries have profound problems today. Of course, those problems are often a direct result of policies and actions of the United States and European nations: to name just a few, kidnapping and enslaving their citizens; plundering their natural resources; propping up their dictators and corrupt regimes; and holding them financially hostage for generations.

The United States has long held itself out as a light among nations based on the American ideal of equality. But the deeper history tells a different story.

The sociologists David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martin have shown that the United States pioneered racially based exclusionary immigration policies in the Americas in the late 18th and 19th centuries. (Not long before he was elected president, for example, Theodore Roosevelt asserted the bigoted but then-common view that the Chinese should be kept out of America because they were “racially inferior.”)

It should sober Americans to know that authoritarian governments in Chile, Cuba and Uruguay ended racist immigration policies decades before the United States.

The current turmoil over immigration conflates several separate issues. One is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. These are the so-called Dreamers, who number about 800,000.

Another issue is the Temporary Protected Status program under which undocumented foreigners who were in the United States when disaster or conflict struck their homeland are allowed to remain in the United States. In November, the Trump administration ended the protection for about 60,000 Haitians, and on Monday the administration lifted it for almost 200,000 Salvadorans, most of whom have been in the United States for two decades.

A third issue is the future of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who have come to the United States over decades and have effectively integrated into American life. The Trump administration has ordered a broad immigration crackdown against them.

And finally there’s President Trump’s imagined wall.

What is concerning is not the wall, or the word “shithole” or the vacillation on the Dreamers or the Salvadorans. It’s what ties all of these things together: the bigoted worldview of the man behind them.

Anyone who has followed Mr. Trump over the years knows this. We knew it in the 1970s, when he and his father were twice sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black people. We knew it in 1989, when he took out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the execution of five black and Latino teenagers charged with the brutal rape of a white woman in Central Park. (The men were convicted but later exonerated by DNA and other evidence, but Mr. Trump never apologized, and he continued to argue as late as 2016 that the men were guilty.) We knew it when he built a presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans and Muslims while promoting the lie that America’s first black president wasn’t born here. Or when, last summer, he defended marchers in a neo-Nazi parade as “very fine people.”

Just last month, The Times reported on an Oval Office meeting on immigration during which Mr. Trump said that the 15,000 Haitians now living in the United States “all have AIDS,” and that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” in Africa once they had seen the United States. See a pattern yet?

Donald Trump is by no means America’s first racist president. But he ran a campaign explicitly rooted in bigotry, exclusion and white resentment. To his die-hard but ever-shrinking base, comments like those he made Thursday only reaffirm his solidarity with the cause. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, certainly saw it this way. “This is encouraging and refreshing, as it indicates Trump is more or less on the same page as us with regards to race and immigration,” the site wrote in a post.

The meeting at which Mr. Trump spewed his vulgarity was meant to be a discussion of bipartisan immigration proposals by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Mr. Durbin. Two other Republicans, John Kasich and Jeb Bush Jr., are the authors of an Op-Ed article in Thursday’s Times arguing against the forced expulsion of undocumented immigrants who have made a home in the United States. This shouldn’t be a hard call, especially with the economy growing modestly but steadily and unemployment hovering around 4 percent.

Instead, Republicans in Congress are spending most of their time finding ways to avoid talking about their openly bigoted chief executive. Some claimed not to have heard what Mr. Trump said. Others offered tepid defenses of his “salty” talk. House Speaker Paul Ryan called Mr. Trump’s comments “unhelpful,” clearly wishing he could return to his daily schedule of enriching the wealthiest Americans.

Mr. Trump has made clear that he has no useful answers on immigration. It’s up to Congress to fashion long-term, humane solutions. A comprehensive immigration bill that resolves all these issues would be best. But if that is not possible, given the resistance of hard-core anti-immigration activists in Congress, legislators should at least join forces to protect the Dreamers, Salvadorans, Haitians and others threatened by the administration’s cruel and chaotic actions.


President Trump Uses Vulgarity to Refer to Haiti and African Countries!

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump yesterday questioned why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to them as “s***hole countries.” As reported by Reuters:

“Trump’s comments, made in the White House, came as Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham briefed the president on a newly drafted immigration bill being touted by a bipartisan group of senators, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

Other government officials were present during the conversation, the sources said.  The lawmakers were describing how certain immigration programs operate, including one to give safe haven in the United States to people from countries suffering from natural disasters or civil strife.


One of the sources who was briefed on the conversation said that Trump said, “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries … We should have more people from Norway.”


The second source familiar with the conversation, said Trump also questioned the need for Haitians in the United States.


Many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers slammed Trump for his remarks.


Republican U.S. Representative Mia Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values” and called on Trump to apologize to the American people and to the countries he denigrated.


Another Republican Representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba and whose south Florida district includes many Haitian immigrants, said: “Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”


Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a frequent Trump critic, said the president’s comment “smacks of blatant racism, the most odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy.”


Trump’s comments probably played well with his base of supporters.




New Study of Distance Education by Seaman, Allen, and Seaman!

 Dear Commons Community,

Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman along with Julia Seaman of the Babson Survery Research Group have published their latest report on the state of distance education in American higher education entitled,  Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States.  Those of us who have followed the work of Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman know that they have consistently produced the best survey reports on the extent of online learning in American colleges and universities. 

There are several changes in this latest report, the most important being the use of the broader term “distance education” rather than “online learning.”   

Findings indicate that enrollments in distance education courses has increased by 5.6% from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016 to reach 6,359,121 students who are taking at least one distance course.  The executive summary appears below.  

A free download of the report is available at the Online Learning Consortium website.




Distance education enrollments increased for the fourteenth straight year, growing faster than they have for the past several years. From 2002 to 2012 both distance and overall enrollments grew annually, but since 2012 distance growth has continued its steady increase in an environment that saw overall enrollments decline for four straight years and the largest for-profit distance education institutions continue to face serious issues and lose their enrollments.

The number of distance education students grew by 5.6% from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016 to reach 6,359,121 who are taking at least one distance course, representing 31.6% of all students. Total distance enrollments are composed of 14.9% of students (3,003,080) taking exclusively distance courses, and 16.7% (3,356,041) who are taking a combination of distance and non-distance courses.

Year-to-year changes in distance enrollments continue to be very uneven with different higher education sectors, with continued steady growth for public institutions, similar levels of growth (albeit on a much smaller base) for the private non-profit sector, and the continuation of the decline in total enrollments for the private for-profit sector for the fourth year in a row.

Distance education enrollments are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of institutions. Almost half of distance education students are concentrated in just five percent of institutions, while the top 47 institutions (just 1.0% of the total) enroll 22.4% (1,421,703) of all distance students. This level of concentration is most extreme among the for-profit sector, where 85.6% of the distance students are enrolled at the top 5% of institutions. Concentration rates for private not-for-profit institutions are lower, while public institutions show very low levels of concentration.

Distance enrollments remain local: 52.8% of all students who took at least one distance course also took an on-campus course, and of those who took only distance courses 56.1% reside in the same state as the institution at which they are enrolled. Virtually no distance enrollments are international: only 0.7% of all distance students are located outside of the United States.

The total number of students studying on campus (those not taking any distance course or taking a combination of distance and non-distance courses) dropped by over a million (1,173,805, or 6.4%) between 2012 and 2016. The largest declines came at for-profit institutions, which saw a 44.1% drop, while both private not-forprofit institutions (-4.5%) and public institutions (-4.2%) saw far smaller decreases.

The number of students who are not taking any distance courses declined even more from 2012 to 2016, down by 11.2% (1,737,955 students) by the end of the period.The private for-profit sector fared worse (down 50.5%) as compared to both private not-for-profit institutions (-9.5%) and public institutions (-7.7%).

Governor Jerry Brown Proposes New Online, Competency-Based Community College!

Dear Commons Community,

In presenting his higher education budget yesterday, California’s Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new competency-based, online community college to serve the entire state.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a cautious budget proposal for California on Wednesday, proposing modest increases in state dollars and tuition freezes for the state’s two university systems, even as they struggle to meet the demand from applicants.

But one thing the governor, a Democrat, is willing to spend more money on is a fully online community college. The proposal is meant to provide flexibility for an estimated 2.5 million adults who want to improve their job skills by earning certificates or other nondegree credentials. The online courses will use a competency-based approach that advances students based on their knowledge, not on time spent in the classroom.

“California community colleges are serving 2.1 million students each year, but we are still not meeting the needs of 2.5 million others who for a variety of reasons cannot attend classes on our campuses,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the state’s community-college system, which already has 114 campuses.

In fact, Governor Brown asked the community-college system in May to “take whatever steps are necessary” to develop an online college that would serve the whole state. The new entity will be administered through the system’s central office.

The idea is similar to at least two other systems: the University of Wisconsin system offers a limited number of degree and certificate programs through its UW Flexible Option, which also caters to adults and uses a competency-based approach. The State University of New York offers online degree programs through its Open SUNY platform,  allowing a student to take any online course offered by the system’s 64 campuses.

Governor Brown has been a frequent critic of the state’s university systems for not pursuing new, and potentially less expensive, online courses to hold the line on their costs and the price of tuition. Leaders of those systems have, on occasion, dismissed the idea that expanding online education could be a remedy for what ails their institutions.

And on Wednesday, the leaders of those systems expressed some disappointment in the governor’s budget, which still must be hashed out by the state legislature. Janet Napolitano, chancellor of the University of California system, said in a written statement that she was pleased with an increase. But she noted that the proposed 3-percent hike fell short of an agreement she had negotiated with the governor in 2015.

Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system, was more direct, calling the governor’s budget proposal “both concerning and surprising.”

“This budget proposal could reverse any progress made in the last decade – diminishing student access, success, limiting degree attainment and depriving California’s industries of skilled professionals,” Mr. White said in his written statement.”

The shape of things to come!


German State Legislator Proposes Requiring Visits to Concentration Camps to Stem Anti-Semitism!

Sculpture Near Main Gate to Dachau

Dear Commons Community,

Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin state legislator of Palestinian heritage, has proposed that all German residents including immigrants be required to visit a Nazi concentration camp memorial.  Her proposal comes as a result of recent displays of anti-Semitism among new immigrants to Germany.  As reported by the New York Times:

“Her idea received a significant boost yesterday when the leaders of Germany’s Central Council of Jews and the far larger World Jewish Congress agreed with her. 

“People who have fled to us who have themselves had to escape or been expelled can develop empathy in such memorials,” the council’s president, Josef Schuster, told Deutschlandfunk radio.

The World Jewish Congress, a leading advocacy organization that represents Jewish communities in 100 countries, also welcomed the idea.

“This proposal is an encouraging and effective method of educating people of all backgrounds about the Nazi attempt to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Europe and the dangers such hatred can yield,” Ronald S. Lauder, the organization’s president, said in an emailed response to a request for comment.

“More than any other country, Germany has faced up to the crimes of its past in an honest and straightforward way, and has made it clear at the highest levels of government that the memory of the Holocaust must never be forgotten or diminished,” Mr. Lauder said.

Ms. Chebli, who suggested the required visits in an interview published Sunday in the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, was not immediately available for comment. Nor was it clear whether the German government would move to make such visits mandatory for immigrants, who are currently offered courses on German language, culture and history.

But the suggestion reflected a growing concern that Germany’s absorption in recent years of more than a million immigrants, many fleeing war and mayhem in the Middle East and Africa, had inadvertently created potential incubators of anti-Semitism in the country most saddled with the legacy of Nazis and the Holocaust, which killed about six million Jews.

Sensitivities about the Nazi past are extremely strong in Germany, one of Israel’s strongest supporters. German law includes strict prohibitions on Nazi propaganda and Holocaust denial.

Government authorities have sought to make Germany a safe place for Jews, who number about 200,000 in the country. Despite the recent rise of the nativist far-right Alternative for Germany party and the neo-Nazi tone conveyed by some of its leaders, Germany is still regarded as one of Europe’s more tolerant societies.

Student trips to former Nazi concentration camps, where Jews were enslaved and mass-murdered before and during World War II, are regular elements of German school curriculums.

Ms. Chebli raised the idea of helping sensitize new immigrants to the history of Nazi crimes — through concentration camp visits — as part of assimilating them into a German society that values tolerance and opposes discrimination.

“I think it would make sense if everyone living in this country would be obliged to visit a concentration camp memorial site at least once in their lifetime,” including new arrivals, she was quoted by Bild am Sonntag as saying. “Concentration camp visits should become part of integration courses.”

I visited the Dachau concentration camp memorial outside of Munich in the late 1990s and I must say I have never forgotten the experience.  The extent of the brutality of the place, the images, and the three memorials built by Jews, Catholics and Protestants on the grounds are among the most moving displays I have ever seen in my life.  The photographs on this post are from my visit.  



 Entrance to the Jewish Memorial


Interior of the Jewish Memorial