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We Have Moved…


Dear readers,

We are excited to announce that the new NASPA site has now been launched. This totally redesigned site is more user friendly and will help us engage with our members in a more meaningful and directed way. We hope that you check it out as soon as possible and let us know how you would like to see it grow and develop.

One big change is that our blog will now be hosted on the NASPA website under the Region II constituent group link found here: . We will no longer be using WordPress to host our blog. Thank you for reading and we look forward to engaging with you in our new website community!



William Petrick

Region II Communications Chair


The Survival of Spirituality and Religion In Higher Education


Bob Smith
Director, Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
Region II, Spirituality and Religion in Higher Education Rep.

There are several challenges facing spirituality and religion in higher education that need to be addressed if this area of interest is to survive and, hopefully, grow. Some of the hurdles are already in place when students arrive and others are put in place by colleges and universities as well as campus ministries.

Students are telling us that they are more spiritual than religious. The number of young people attending church or participating in organized religion has been in decline for years and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of changing. The result is that a greater percentage of students are arriving on campus with little or no interest in spiritual or religious life.

Students who are interested in spiritual and religious development may have the opportunity to explore their options if the college or university they attend permits this to occur on campus. Most public institutions do not support spiritual and religious activities and private schools vary in their support, leaving students on their own to seek out opportunities when they are trying to manage their time and meet the demands of rigorous classes and other responsibilities. Plus, students often opt for organizations that are related to their major and will look good on their resume to a prospective employer.

Colleges and universities, both public and private, need to work closely with students, places of worship in the community, and campus ministers, rabbi’s, imams, and other religious leaders to provide a healthy spiritual and religious environment where students can explore and thrive.

Institutions of higher learning, especially public, need to accept that spirituality and religion can and should be part of campus life. There is no legal reason for this opportunity to be denied. Penn State is a great example of a public university supporting spiritual and religious development for their students. Penn State is home to the largest interfaith center on any campus in the country and serves as proof that this can happen. Students need to form spiritual and religious student organizations and colleges and universities simply need to treat them as they would any other student organization, welcome campus ministers and other religious and spiritual leaders, and not show favor to any particular organization.

The other piece of the pie comes from the students and religious leaders. They should be willing to work together towards a common goal of growing the spiritual and religious opportunities for students and in turn their individual groups will prosper too. Permit students to explore their options and allow them to interact with other faiths and practices. This can be difficult for some to accept because there is often a friendly competition for members. Still, the largest hurdle can be that spiritual and religious leaders need to understand that these student organizations are functioning on a campus and colleges and universities need to function in ways that may be unfamiliar to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship. The key to all of this is communication.

All involved should consider the benefits to the students when they are given the opportunity to explore and develop their spiritual and religious needs.




Neal McKinney
Graduate Student, Student Affairs (2nd year Masters)
University of Maryland, College Park
NASPA Region II, Disability Knowledge Community Representative


As you browsed around the Internet today, did you happen to experience any of the following issues:

  • Inability to read the text due to the small size
  • Click on the wrong link because the color of the text did not distinguish itself
  • Unable to find closed captioning for a video
  • Difficulty finding speech recognition software

If any of these seem familiar, that’s likely because you have first-hand experience of when website content is not optimized to provide assistive support tools or what is termed, web accessibility. Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of building websites that are designed for use by all. Typically members of our community who have a disability (visual, auditory, motor/mobility, or intellectual) are most affected by web inaccessibility; however, they also impact anyone who are non-English speakers or possess low literacy levels. Therefore, as a community, we are all responsible to ensure that web content is created and designed in universally accessible ways.

As NASPA prepares to launch its new website, this topic is particularly salient in hopes that many of the suggestions and considerations submitted by members will be implemented into the new design to ensure complete web accessibility. Kaela Parks, the current National Chair for the Disability KC has been integral in helping the NASPA National office with the new website’s development, so there is optimism that upon its launch, there will be minimal issues to accessibility for our fellow colleagues.

For those who may be unfamiliar, here are a few quick tips (provided from the Disability KC resource page) that make websites more accessible:

  • Images & animations: Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each picture or other visual element.
  • Multimedia. Provide captioning or transcripts of audio and rich descriptions with of video.
  • Hypertext links. Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”
  • Page organization. Use headings, lists, and consistent structure.
  • Graphs & charts. Summarize information in the narrative body of the webpage.
  • Tables. Make line-by-line reading sensible. Summarize.
  • Speech-To-Text (voice recognition)
    Use a microphone to open and close documents, surf the web, or compose documents.
  • Handwriting Analysis
    Mark up documents with handwritten notes and even convert handwriting into text.
  • Text-to-Speech (reading out loud)
    Microsoft Word can read out loud. So can Excel and the free Adobe Reader. Some programs even make sound files (MP3) of text being read out loud.

(For Complete Guidelines & Checklist: )

I end this blog with the charge that we all try harder to be mindful as to how website may be inaccessible for our fellow NASPA community members. Also, we should remember that accessibility advocacy should extend beyond the NASPA website. We must also look at the many other sites we visit every day, and if we find them inaccessible, contact the web designer, and pass on the feedback to improve it. Here’s a wonderful clip made by the Australian Government that provides a great summary on the topic of web accessibility.

Study Abroad and Sexual Assault Education


Christine Gettings
Assistant Director
Kay Spiritual Life Center, American University
NASPA Region II, International Education Knowledge Community Representative

Daniel Rappaport
Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator
Wellness Center,  American University

Whenever students ask us about our favorite college experiences, without hesitation we both say, “the time that I studied abroad.” Living in a new city, making new friends, trying different foods , practicing a foreign language, and immersing oneself in another culture is on the most meaningful and exciting experiences a person could have and is a treasured memory for many college students.  Check out any Facebook photo album of a friend or the #studyabroad next time you are on Instagram and we guarantee you’ll see how spending time outside of the United States has impacted someone you love.

While we love to reflect on and share the great experiences we had with host families and that funny story about a particular hostel stay, one of the issues we rarely talk about in the context of study abroad is sexual assault. We are all (or should be) familiar with the alarming statistics that one of four college-aged women will be sexually assaulted by the time she graduates (Bonnie S. Fisher 2000), but there seems to be very little awareness about sexual assault occurring during study abroad experiences.  A study at Middlebury College in Vermont found that a college woman’s chances of being sexually assaulted increase greatly if she studies abroad—she is four times more likely to have had unwanted sexual contact, three times as likely to have experience an attempted sexual assault, and five times as likely to have been raped. (Kimble, Flack Jr. and Burbridge 2012)   Researchers in this study cited cultural differences, weak social networks, and easier access to alcohol as contributing factors.  Our students are often vulnerable when they are in a new setting and may be seen as an easy target by perpetrators.  Additionally, students may be unfamiliar with counseling and health services in another country and may not seek the resources they need after an assault.

As outraging as these statistics are, they should not stop or discourage students from studying abroad.  Instead, they should be a call to action for all of us.  As educators, we should work tirelessly to educate our students about consent from the very first moment they step foot on our campus. Our students need to know what consent looks and sounds like so that they are able to give their consent to others. This knowledge would also help our students identify any sexual situations where they did not give consent, but another individual(s) did something of sexual nature to them despite their lack of consent. Without the knowledge of what consent looks like, then students may experience sexual violence but not be able to identify what happened to them. We need to be ingraining into our students that only yes means yes, and that all everyone needs to be seeking out the consent of the other person involved if they want to be sexual with someone else. Our students are also sometimes the perpetrators and need to understand clearly that sexual contact of all kinds must be consensual. Consent does not end at the US border.

So, what can we actively do to help our students stay safe while abroad? We can better prepare our students in pre-departure meetings and trainings about healthy decision making and cultural mores. Does your University have an expert on sexual violence on campus? Could they, or an expert from the community, speak to your students regarding sexual violence? If you work in an office that coordinates travel abroad or plan Alternative Breaks, do your trainings include discussions and information on local resources available to students?  Have you discussed safety strategies with your students and cultural practices and beliefs concerning sex? All handouts and materials should clearly state your program’s policies and procedures as well as information on cultural practices and values.  Safety reminders should continue throughout the semester and it is a good idea to keep open the lines of communication with the students through frequent contact. It’s equally important that, while we teach safety strategies to our students, we make it very clear to each student that the only thing that causes rape is rapists. No matter what a student chooses to do regarding alcohol, clothing, flirting, etc. – rape and sexual assault is never  the fault of anyone but the perpetrator.

We can also familiarize ourselves and our students with our university’s protocol for responding to assaults while overseas.  The on-the-ground response may look different in each country depending on culture, but how we care for and help survivors is something that all of us can take part in doing. Are you and your students aware of how to report an incident? Are counseling and emotional support services available from your university to students studying abroad through electronic means? You could be the person that a student reaches out to after an incident because you are a person they trust. It’s a good idea to be prepared.

Even if we are not the administrator running the study abroad program, traveling with students on a short-term Alternative Break program, or have little experience with or responsibility in international education, many of us have contact with students who do spend a part of their college experience  abroad. Sexual violence abroad an unfortunate but very significant reality that all of our student’s studying abroad face.  Take the time to educate yourself on the issues around sexual violence, both on campus and abroad. Find a way to work these thoughts into the next pre-departure program or a conversation you are having with a student preparing to go abroad. With numbers like 1 in 4,  it could make a huge difference in the lives of our students.   Here’s a fantastic guide from NAFSA that can be a great resource to help guide you in that conversation.






The intent of this blog is to provide NASPA Region-II readers with updates associated with current and emerging issues of public policy that are of interest to institutions of higher education, especially in regard to the NASPA Public Policy Agenda priorities.

Student success and college completion
Issues related to undocumented students
Cost of and funding for higher education, including related accountability efforts
Campus Safety and Security

 Links are provided to related websites and on-line articles (when available) but the reader should not assume these to be the only such resources.    If you have any ideas for topics, please contact Region II Public Policy Rep Thomas Grace at


The American Council on Education, along with 48 higher education associations, is urging the Supreme Court to consider a case that challenges Michigan’s 2006 constitutional amendment placing restrictions on the consideration of race in college admissions decisions.   A group called the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (commonly known by the acronym BAMN)  has brought a suit challenging the constitutionality of the Michigan amendment on the grounds that states that bar public colleges and universities from considering race in admissions are unconstitutionally squelching the political rights of minority citizens.   ACE and the other college associations are essentially endorsing the “spirit” of the challenge brought by BAMN while trying not to suggest that the voters in a respective state can’t decide certain issues….

From Inside Higher Ed:




With the law set to expire at the end of 2013, congress has begun the long process of renewing the Higher Education Act (HEA), the sweeping law governing federal financial aid programs as well as many other aspects of higher education.   The American Council on Education and a group of 38 other higher education associations have submitted suggestions for rewriting the HEOA, urging legislators to consider the following set of issues:

  • College access, persistence and completion;
  • Better information for consumers;
  • Student loan programs;
  • Accreditation and appropriate oversight;
  • College affordability and cost reduction;
  • Innovation to benefit students;
  • Federal regulatory burden; and
  • Special focus programs.

From The American Council on Education:



According to a statement released by the White House, colleges need to demonstrate the value of their product with hard numbers or lawmakers will try to do it for them.    That possibility is coming closer as President Obama has joined the call for policymakers to implement performance-based funding for higher education.   The sweeping, ambitious proposal by President Obama seeks to tie all federal financial aid programs to a rating system of colleges on affordability, student completion rates and the earnings of graduates. The U.S. Department of Education will hold public hearings to develop the ratings before fall 2015.  President Obama said he wants the new strings attached to federal money by 2018. “We are going to deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up,” Obama told students at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future”…


From the White House:  




During a question-and-answer session at a SUNY Binghamton stop on his higher education policy bus tour, Obama expressed his support for cutting back on the number of years it takes to acquire a law degree as one way to reduce student debt.   “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it,” Obama said …“I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years because [….] in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.”  In the third year, he said, “they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.”  The remarks apparently were made off-the-cuff, and no further details were available from the White House. But experts said the notion – although not new itself, as American law schools were two-year endeavors through the 19th century – is gaining traction….

From Inside Higher Ed:



Congress continues to debate immigration reform.   August 15th marks the one-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  While not granting a formal path to legalization and/or citizenship, DACA provides an opportunity for a segment of the undocumented immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation, to apply for work permits, and increases options for economic and social incorporation into the American society.   A recent study of

DACA recipients by Roberto G. Gonzales, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Veronica Terriquez, University of Southern California, found that DACA does not address the constant threat of deportation still facing the families of that segment which does benefit from DACA….

From the Immigration Policy Center:




Former Georgia Southern University student Caleb Jamaal Clemmons was arrested in February after telling his followers on Tumblr that “i plan on shooting up georgia southern. pass this around to see the affect it has. to see if i get arrested.”  Although the police found no evidence that Clemmons intended to act on the threat, he was arrested only a few hours after the post, held in jail for six months and banned by the courts from using any form of social media for the five years.  Clemmons’ experience is not unique.  A number of students have faced criminal charges resulting from their online posts:  A Texas teenager served five months in prison for joking on Facebook that he planned to “shoot up a kindergarten,” a British man was sentenced to four years for inciting a riot that never erupted, and a Massachusetts high school student was arrested after uploading song lyrics that referenced the Boston Marathon bombing.

“The travesty of all of this is that people — especially young people — don’t understand their digital interactions create tremendous legal consequences,” said Bradley Shear, a Bethesda, Md.-based lawyer who specializes in social media and Internet law. Should colleges be doing more to educate students on the potential consequences of on-line behavior…

From Inside Higher Ed:


A white paper, “Making Sense of the System: Financial Aid for the 21st-Century Student”, outlines 13 federal policy recommendations for improving the financial aid system so that more students can attend and succeed in college, and ultimately earn valuable postsecondary degrees and credentials.  The paper is part of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project—an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—that seeks to shift the national conversation on federal financial aid toward ideas that will make college more affordable, while giving students the support and encouragement they need to earn their degree or credential; and seed the field with innovative policies that can make that happen.  The report can be accessed at:

From the Institute for Higher Education Policy Study:


According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, many colleges expect their expenses to rise after new federal requirements for employers under President Obama’s signature health-care law take effect, and some institutions are preparing for the new policy by changing their benefit plans to shift more costs to employees.   Among the 430 colleges and 23 higher-education systems that completed an online survey conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, 27 percent said they had increased the share of premium costs that employees must pay in 2013, in preparation for the law, and 17 percent said they had increased the share of costs that employees must pay for coverage of their dependents…

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:


To many students and their families, attending college is an investment in their career and economic future.  But some graduates are learning that certain majors result in far greater career and financial opportunities than others.  A research study conducted in five states (Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) found that several factors influence earnings…

From American Institutes for Research: