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Johns Hopkins finally getting universitywide tenure committee

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 01:00

Unlike most of its peer institutions, Johns Hopkins University doesn’t have a universitywide promotion and tenure committee to review dossiers. Instead, faculty members at the famously decentralized institution deliberate cases at the school or multischool level and then pass their recommendations on to the president.

That’s about to change: starting in the fall, a group of senior professors from across Johns Hopkins’s campuses also will weigh in on tenure cases adjudicated by those other faculty committees. This new layer of oversight, called the Tenure Advisory Committee, or TAC, was designed to help the president better understand each dossier and to align Johns Hopkins policy with that of other “Ivy plus” institutions.

Unifying the institution -- to familiarize professors at the massive medical school with, say, the goings-on at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences -- was another goal. Indeed, longtime President Ronald J. Daniels has made becoming “One University” a cornerstone of his “Ten by Twenty” presidential vision, a list of goals to work toward by 2020.

But instead of unifying the university, the new process has proved divisive thus far. Many faculty members say that the change will weaken shared governance, not strengthen it.

“I don’t see how this does anything except disrupt the models of shared governance that are already in place,” said Derek Schilling, a professor of French and member of the executive committee of the Johns Hopkins chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “I think something like this committee can make sense if its primary function is procedural oversight -- that’s a meaningful function. But the way that the FACT committee report defines the TAC in fact opens up avenues for reviewing the facts of each file.”

By FACT committee report, Schilling meant the final report from Daniels’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure. Issued in December and approved by the university’s governing board in January, the report recommends the establishment of a committee “chaired by the provost and composed of senior faculty from across the university.”

Such a committee would advise the president “on all recommendations to grant tenure or its equivalent” emanating from school-level tenure-review bodies. “The president would then take into account TAC’s assessment in deciding whether or not to forward tenure recommendations to the Board of Trustees or to seek additional evidence or assessments bearing on that recommendation.”

Seven appointed deans and professors, including one from Krieger, drafted the report, following an April charge from Daniels. Al Sommer, dean emeritus and professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and professor of ophthalmology in the School of Medicine, led the process. With a universitywide tenure committee, he said recently, “people get a better understanding of how things work in disciplines outside their own divisions and schools. And the president would have advice provided from people across the university about how they feel as to the appropriateness of each recommendation.”

The report refers to this as a “virtuous circle whereby lessons learned at each stage of tenure review organically inform best practices for tenure across the institution.”

Sommer said his group spoke with faculty members and administrators at about 15 outside institutions and found that Johns Hopkins was the “outlier” in not having a university tenure committee. In general, he said, the outside sources said that such committees on their campuses were “useful” in getting varied perspectives on tenure cases and in exposing professors to the work being done in other units.

“We unanimously elected to recommend such a committee,” Sommer said, and to reserve slots at that table for professors who have previously served on lower-level tenure committees.

François Furstenberg, a professor of history, sits on the Homewood Academic Council, which reviews tenure cases in the arts and sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering. Furstenberg said it was unfortunate that Sommer’s committee looked to outside institutions for guidance but not to the council itself to gain members’ perspectives about how current processes are working.

Furstenberg explained that the university president has always had a seat on the council and that previous presidents did sit in on tenure deliberations. If Daniels, who does not sit in on this process, feels that he is making tenure decisions in the dark, then he is welcome to rejoin the council, Furstenberg said.

“Paradoxically and, I have to say, disingenuously,” Daniels will hold more power in tenure cases than he does now, as the new council is merely advisory to him. Moreover, Furstenberg said, Daniels will have more power than the presidents of most peer institutions, as their processes tend to empower the provost, if any administrator, and not the president.

Indeed, it is highly unusual presidents to get involved in tenure cases. Furstenberg said that Daniels has overturned one tenure case, "just before launching this process."

"I think this committee doesn’t just make it easier for him to weigh in," Furstenberg added. "It empowers him with the ability to overturn any case he wishes based on his own reading of the file and absent any deliberation with faculty."

Sarah Woodson, the T. C. Jenkins Professor of Biophysics in Krieger and a former member of the Homewood council, said her main concern is that the new committee shifts “responsibility for the quality of the scholarship farther away from the faculty who are carrying out the scholarship.”

While serving on a universitywide tenure committee might open one’s eyes to the work being done elsewhere at Johns Hopkins, it also makes that work harder to judge. There is a big difference between the inquiry-driven scholarship at Krieger, for instance, and much of the mission-driven work being done at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Woodson, Schilling and others have expressed concerns internally that this distance will cause the universitywide committee to privilege easy-to-digest metrics on citations and so-called impact over innovation and research potential.

Other professors, and junior scholars in particular, have shared additional concerns, such as how this new process will impact Johns Hopkins’s simultaneous push for a more diverse faculty.

The university referred comments about the process to Sommer.

Underscoring the recommendation in his committee’s report, Sommer said that the process will be essentially piloted for three years and then rigorously evaluated.

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Students studying to be health-care professionals on front lines of coronavirus outbreak

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 01:00

A group of students studying and training in health-care disciplines at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, a public institution in Kirkland, Wash., which has been hard hit by the coronavirus, has been self-quarantined at home for 14 days after possible exposure to the virus in health-care settings. Four students at Los Rios Community College District, in California, were directed by public health authorities to self-quarantine after being exposed to the virus in the course of their professional medical duties.

As the virus continues to spread to other parts of the country, public health officials and college administrators in allied health departments are urging special precautions for students studying for careers in the health professions and working along with or training under those on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.

After widespread news reports that 17 nursing students, one student studying to be a physical therapy assistant and four professors at the Lake Washington Institute might have been exposed to the virus -- the college said a group had visited a long-term nursing facility where seven residents have died of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus) -- leaders in nursing education said it’s now more important than ever to emphasize preventative precautions and infection-control protocols in the classroom and in clinical settings.

“From the very first course our nursing students take, which is usually health assessment, we reinforce preventive precautions so that they protect themselves from exposure,” said Ann H. Cary, chair of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and dean of the Marieb College of Health and Human Services at Florida Gulf Coast University. “We are emphasizing that now more than ever that you can’t have a lapse in the way that you approach patients. The hand-washing techniques are critically important not only in classes but especially when they go into the clinical areas. We’re working with clinical partners in each of our areas to determine what are additional protocols that will be in place at those institutions and ensuring that our students are oriented toward the additional protocols.”

Tener Goodwin Veenema, a professor of nursing and public health at Johns Hopkins University whose research focuses on disaster medicine and emergency preparedness, said one of the big challenges for nursing schools nationwide is that the trend toward accelerated, shorter-duration programs limits what gets taught in the curriculum.

“There are a limited number of hours and topics that can be covered,” she said. “We have nursing students who are probably getting probably less than one hour, maybe an hour and a half in their entire curriculum on how you go about responding to a public health emergency. What we as nurse educators need to do is ensure that all nursing students have the knowledge, the skills and the abilities that they will need either on a clinical rotation or when they enter the workforce to keep themselves safe and to keep patient safe.”

Goodwin Veenema said nurses need knowledge and skills in infection-containment strategies, surveillance and detection of illness, protocols for quarantining and isolating patients, and how to select appropriate levels of protective gear and take it on and off without contamination.

“We’ve seen it with Ebola, and we’ve seen it with SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], where health-care professionals are disproportionately impacted by this virus because they are exposed to it more frequently and in all probability end up having a higher biological load,” she said. “There really is a lot for nurses to know because the nursing profession will be the front-line responders and will be receiving patients in the emergency department and screening patients and their families in private offices and community health centers.”

Donna Meyer, chief executive officer for the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, said via email that “nursing students learn proper handwashing techniques, and other elements such as isolation techniques, the use of masks, gowns, gloves, and ventilation that prevent or slow the spread of infectious diseases from the moment they enter a nursing program of study. This is reinforced throughout a nursing program and techniques are applied in all clinical settings, such as hospitals, long-term care, and community settings.”

Meyer added that nursing programs build their curricula around topics covered on the licensing exam.

“Safety and infection control is a part of the licensing exam focusing on how the nurse protects clients and health care personnel from health and environmental hazards,” she said. “Nursing curriculums adapt and present any current issues as needed (such as Covid-19),” following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. “Additionally, Nursing Deans/Directors collaborate with their local clinical partners to assess the current status of public health issues in the communities. Nursing students follow the best practices of the clinical setting they are in and are expected to learn and follow the protocol of the setting [where] they are practicing.”

In addition to preparing students for the new challenges they may face in clinical settings, nursing program administrators are also thinking about what might happen if their students’ clinical education gets disrupted by the coronavirus -- if students are asked not to report to hospitals or other health-care settings as an infection-control measure. Cary, of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said programs are exploring the idea of having students practice their skills in simulation labs.

“If that’s not going to be enough, we have to think about how to focus concentrated learning experiences for students at another time,” she said.

Cary also stressed that these concerns are similar to those of other medical and health-care programs. For example, she said, if a college has a clinical lab program, “they have to take extraordinary precautions as well, as those students are actually conducting testing on clinical lab samples. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, even our health-care administrator students as they walk into clinical facilities -- everybody is responsible for implementing the protocols.”

As for medical schools, John Prescott, the chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said the association "is working closely with our member medical schools and teaching hospitals who are actively preparing for and responding to the coronavirus and is gathering information on how they are involving learners in patient care."

"We know that medical schools have appropriate plans and policies already in place to safeguard the well-being of their students and communities, to ensure the continuity of their education and research missions, and are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Prescott said.

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Pentagon's social science research program is on the chopping block

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 01:00

The Trump administration has proposed cutting a Department of Defense program that funds unclassified, university-based social science research relating to topics of national security.

Supporters of the Minerva Research Initiative say the program plays a critical role not only in funding important, policy-relevant research but also in building connections between social scientists and the military. Critics of the program raise concerns about the role Pentagon funding has played in shaping U.S. social science work in certain areas.

President Trump’s budget, released last month, proposes that the Pentagon’s Basic Research Office, which manages the Minerva program, discontinue funding for it and notify grant recipients involved with 23 ongoing projects that their awards will be terminated early. The funding from the Basic Research Offic​e amounted to about $11.4 million in 2020 and has historically been the main source of financial support for the program, which also receives funding directly from the Air Force and Navy.

The Trump budget said that new awards for the Minerva program will not be made, except with funds earmarked by Congress or directly from the military service branches.

Pentagon officials “conducted a rigorous prioritization review of its research, development, test and evaluation activities and identified where funds could be reinvested in lethality and readiness,” a DoD spokesman said. “The question was not ‘Is this a good effort?’ but, rather, ‘Is a dollar spent on this effort more important to our military capability’” than dollars spent in other priority areas, he said. “We are making these tough choices in order to properly support and resource the war fighter.”

The Consortium of Social Science Organizations noted that Minerva is far easier for the Trump administration to cut than most other programs.

“Because the Minerva Initiative does not receive a direct Congressional appropriation, the Department has the authority to terminate it unless Congress affirmatively acts to prevent it (unlike the majority of the changes proposed in the President’s budget request),” the group said in a Feb. 18 article in its newsletter. “Should Congressional appropriators wish to maintain the MRI, they would need to include specific language in their FY 2021 appropriations bill stipulating that funding for the program continue.”

The proposed cuts to the Minerva program, which was launched in 2008 by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, threatens a sizable source of money for political scientists and international relations scholars in particular. The program -- which, according to a National Academies report issued last year, has typically received $20 to $22 million in annual funding from the Pentagon and the various service branches combined -- awarded grants in recent years averaging $1.5 million over three or four years. Funded projects have addressed issues related to climate change, cyberconflict, political violence, power alliances and terrorist organizations; recent awards have gone to projects focused on Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns, analyses of burden sharing in international alliances and defense cooperation agreements, and the implications of Africa’s youth bulge for national security, to name a few topics.

About half of Minerva recipients are political scientists, and scholars from economics, mathematics and computer science, and psychology are also well represented among grantees. The National Academies report found that Minerva-supported research "has been published in top journals and tends to have strong citation records. The research has also resulted in books and produced policy-relevant statistical models, databases, and mapping tools, reflecting the value placed by the program on innovative outputs beyond publications and conference presentations."

"The Minerva Initiative has provided funding for valuable political science research and supported interdisciplinary collaborations within and beyond the social sciences since its launch in 2008," said Steven Rathgeb Smith, the executive director of the American Political Science Association. "Now more than ever, the federal government should increase its investment in scientific research that provides deeper insight into the way political processes, movements, conflicts and institutions shape our lives and impact our national security. As technology and the rate of change increases, the data and research political scientists are producing is critical to help determine how we approach challenges we face as a society."

Brandon Valeriano, the Bren Chair of Military Innovation at the Marine Corps University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has some problems with the way Minerva has been structured and the processes for evaluating and awarding grant proposals (a detailed discussion of the grant selection and awarding processes is included in the National Academies report). But he thinks the program should be improved, not cut.

“It’s critical to have social science and humanities involved in national security,” he said. “There’s a lot of research being done in the United States by strong scholars who can contribute to the national defense. To mobilize these scholars for the benefit of the nation is an important process.”

“It has really expanded the amount of money that’s available for social scientists who are doing security-related research,” said Sara Mitchell, the F. Wendell Miller Professor at the University of Iowa. Mitchell, a political scientist, received a Minerva grant to support her work on political conflicts between countries that have shared ethnic groups.

“My work is more on the human side of political violence, and how governments design political, social and economic interventions, so I think that would be a real loss if DoD decided only to fund the more science-technology side,” Mitchell said. “They’re going to lose what social science brings to the table, which is an understanding of the political and policy environment within which these technologies are used.”

“I think the most important thing the program has done is it has helped support the creation of a research community that is addressing social science questions that are of greater interest to the defense community than to other aspects of the academy,” said Jacob N. Shapiro, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University who has been a principal investigator or co-PI on three Minerva grants. “It’s pushed research in slightly different directions than it would have otherwise gone, and I think for the most part increased the total volume of work. There’s more social science research being done now on conflict and violence and ways to address those phenomena than there would have been absent the program.”

But Zackariah Mampilly, the Marxe Chair of International Affairs at the City University of New York, raised concerns about the degree to which Pentagon priorities have shaped what social science research gets done.

"Way too many US political scientists are reliant on Defense funding in ways that directly compromise the integrity & objectivity of their research," he said on Twitter. "I think if the general public were aware of how much Defense & Intelligence funding shaped US social science work on social movements, political violence & even topics like climate change, they would be shocked. As a research community, we should have canceled Minerva ourselves."

Mampilly said in an interview that he understands why "many academics have turned to the relatively easy funding offered by Minerva. But my fear, particularly with relation to the subject of political violence, where much of the money has flowed, is it has systematically shaped the topics and approaches, which I view as a bad thing … Even if the topic itself is worthy of research funding, for example, climate change -- of course I believe we should have more government research for funding research on climate change -- but I'm not sure that money should be coming from the U.S. military, because that has the effect of reducing climate change to its significance for U.S. military interests."

The American Anthropological Association noted concerns from its members when Minerva was launched that only research that suited the Pentagon's agenda would be funded. It also called for the program to be administered through research agencies such as the National Science Foundation. The initial round of Minerva grants was funded in collaboration with the NSF, but the National Academies report notes that the collaboration ended after the first year "because the two agencies’ differing approaches to awarding and managing grants proved too challenging to combine into one program."

Hugh Gusterson, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, said the Pentagon funding skews the pool of grant applicants, both by limiting it to scholars who have no objection to taking money from the military, and by limiting the kinds of methodologies that can be used. He argued that for anthropologists, who have to build trust with their sources in the field, taking U.S. military funding is vexed in a way it wouldn't be for a scholar who was doing a project based on government data sets.

He suggested the program might look very different if the Pentagon had taken the pot of money for Minerva and given it to the Social Science Research Council with the same broad mandate.

“I think they would have gotten a broader disciplinary mix of applicants, and they might have gotten different results,” he said. “If your question is why are people becoming insurgents, you can imagine a range of answers to that, and some of them would be things that the Pentagon might not want to hear, but they should hear. And people who might produce well-documented arguments that might have to do with bad things the Pentagon is doing with the Middle East are not going to apply to the Pentagon to do that work, but they might apply to the Social Science Research Council.

“It’s the same as you don’t want tobacco companies funding research on the health effects of tobacco; you don’t want the sugar industry funding research on Coca-Cola,” Gusterson added. “It’s the same basic principle: you want neutral funding agencies who don’t have a stake in what you fund.”

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Survey looks at disruptions to China-related recruitment and academic travel

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 01:00

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of U.S. colleges said that outreach and recruitment of students from China has been affected by the new coronavirus, according to a survey from the Institute of International Education.

A total of 234 colleges and universities responded to the survey, which focused on student mobility to and from China, where the new coronavirus originated. The survey found that a substantial number of colleges have not made alternative recruitment plans in response to restrictions on travel to and from China. This is significant, as China is the biggest source of international students for U.S. colleges and many colleges depend on Chinese student enrollments to help balance their budgets.

“While some institutions have very robust efforts in place to conduct electronic communications with students as well as virtual webinars and yield events, or to work with local partners and agents, about 20 percent of respondents indicated they do not have current plans in place for alternative recruitment,” Mirka Martel, IIE’s head of research, evaluation and learning, said in a call with members of the media.

Martel said that most institutions are hoping to travel to China after the restrictions are lifted, “although they are aware it will affect enrollment for the 2020-21 academic year.”

Most colleges have seen limited effects on their current Chinese student enrollments. Martel said 87 colleges responding to the survey collectively reported a total of 831 Chinese students enrolled at their institutions this spring who had been affected by travel restrictions related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. This number represents less than 0.4 percent of the total population of Chinese students at responding institutions.

“According to the institutions, the vast majority of enrolled students from China were already on their campuses. Either they had not left for the winter holidays or they had already returned to campus when the travel restrictions went into effect,” Martel said. (One university that had a late start to its spring semester, the University of Delaware, told Inside Higher Ed in February that it had 226 students from China who were unable to return in time for the spring semester.)

For those colleges that did have students from China affected by travel restrictions, the survey found that 46 percent offered options for remote or independent study, 41 percent offered leaves of absence or deferment of enrollment, 38 percent offered online or distance education classes, 9 percent issued refunds, and 8 percent offered the option to study elsewhere.

Most colleges also said they had been offering support for Chinese students on campus, including by providing counseling services and targeted communications, supporting Chinese student groups, and offering a hotline where Chinese students can report any acts of discrimination.

“We maintain close communication daily with our on‐campus Chinese cohort, all of whom returned to our campus prior to the virus outbreak and subsequent restrictions,” one respondent said. “Our goal is to be supportive, concerned and engaged partners during this rough spot for all of us.”

The survey, which was administered Feb. 13 to Feb. 26, also asked about study abroad travel to China. Fifty responding institutions reported they had a total of 405 students studying abroad in China at the time the outbreak started, and 70 percent said they were evacuating students. However, the report on the survey results notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded its advisory on travel to China to its highest level on Feb. 22, four days before the survey closed, so the proportion of colleges that evacuated students from China may be higher. The vast majority of responding institutions -- 94 percent -- said their spring study abroad programs to China have been canceled or postponed.

The situation regarding academic travel has evolved rapidly over the last week as the virus has spread in new areas. Last week, colleges began closing study abroad programs in Italy -- the second-most-popular destination for Americans studying abroad -- and evacuating their students. Italy’s government announced Wednesday that it is closing the nation’s schools and universities through March 15, according to CNBC.

On Monday the CDC issued new guidance telling colleges to "consider" canceling upcoming exchange programs and to "consider" asking current program participants to return to their home countries. A number of colleges have cited the CDC guidance in canceling all study abroad scheduled for spring break and, in some cases, for summer. Colleges that have announced broad cancellations of study abroad programs scheduled for spring break include:

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First NCAA games canceled due to coronavirus

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 01:00

College athletics officials are considering the impact of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, on upcoming intercollegiate conference and tournament play, with some colleges even canceling scheduled basketball games on the West Coast.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced it had convened a panel of health experts on March 3 to advise the association’s decision making during a week when the virus led to the cancellation of large national meetings and events. Conference tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball teams loom in the next two weeks. And the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament, which will involve competition between 68 Division I men’s basketball teams from across the country at arenas in 12 different states, begins March 17. The women's tournament begins March 20 and will involve 64 Division I teams competing first at various campuses, then at arenas in five states.

The tournament will be the largest scheduled U.S. sporting event since federal officials declared the coronavirus a public health emergency at the end of January, ESPN reported. The NCAA is considering “all circumstances” in its contingency planning for the virus, including the possibility of holding the March tournament without spectators, said Donald Remy, chief operating officer of the NCAA, in an interview with Bloomberg. The association will “first and foremost” prioritize the health and safety of athletes, fans and administrators, Remy said in a statement.

“The NCAA is committed to conducting its championships and events in a safe and responsible manner,” Remy said. “Today we are planning to conduct our championships as planned, however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.”

The March tournament brings in more than 80 percent of the NCAA’s annual revenue, which totaled more than $1 billion in 2018. But Remy said a business interruption insurance policy would partially cover potential losses if changes had to be made, Bloomberg reported. The National College Players Association, which represents the interests of athletes, said in a statement that the NCAA and colleges should take precautions to reduce the risk of athletes contracting the virus.

“In regard to the NCAA's March Madness Tournament and other athletic events, there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present,” the statement said. “The NCAA and its colleges must act now, there is no time to waste.”

Chicago State University on March 3 announced it was canceling scheduled basketball games over coronavirus concerns, in what ESPN reported was the first cancellation of a major U.S. sporting event due to the virus. Both Chicago State and the University of Missouri at Kansas City dropped men’s basketball games at Seattle University that had been scheduled for this week, Seattle said in a statement.

“We respect Chicago State and Kansas City's decisions and understand their concerns,” the statement said. “Seattle University is actively monitoring and responding to this rapidly evolving situation and continuing to follow the guidance of public health agencies and make decisions based on the most up-to-date information available. There has been no recommendation to suspend campus operations, including athletic contests, or restrict travel in the United States at this time.”

Chicago State also canceled a men’s basketball trip to Utah Valley University and the university women’s team’s home games against Utah Valley and Seattle, Sabrina Land, a university spokeswoman, said in a statement. None of the canceled games will be rescheduled.

The NCAA advises its member colleges to discuss travel and sports participation with their local health officials, said Christopher Radford, associate director of communications for the association.

“After reviewing publicly available information, the university has made the decision to restrict all travel for university-approved student and faculty study abroad, as well as scheduled games for university sporting events on the West Coast, including Washington State and Utah,” Land said.

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FIT fashion show raises questions of diversity, creativity

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 01:00

A controversial and roundly criticized fashion show at the Fashion Institute of Technology is raising larger questions about how much oversight faculty members in fashion design programs should have over students’ work and whether or how students should be directed to consider racial and societal factors in their creative expressions.

The show, which was held on Feb. 7, featured the work of recent graduates of FIT's master's program in fashion design. One of the graduates, Junkai Huang, dressed models in oversize plastic ears and lips and bushy glue-on eyebrows, which many people thought resembled racist caricatures of black people. Amy Lefevre, a black model who was in the show, was the first to call attention to the “clearly racist” accessories she said the director of the show attempted to push her to wear despite her refusal to do so after telling him the accessories made her uncomfortable, according to The New York Times.

Richard Thornn, a London-based creative director hired by FIT to produce the show, told her she would “only be uncomfortable for 45 seconds,” the Times reported.

Lefevre's comments and the pictures of other models wearing the controversial accessories promptly made the rounds on social media, attracting significant media coverage and causing an internal rift at the college.

Much of the criticism for the show was initially directed at Huang, but Joyce Brown, president of FIT, ​placed the blame squarely on two administrators who, she said in a statement, “failed to recognize or anticipate the racist references and cultural insensitivities that were obvious to almost everybody else.”​

Jonathan Kyle Farmer, the chair of the master’s program for fashion design​, and Mary Davis, dean of graduate studies, were placed on administrative leave as a result. Brown described their leadership as "inexcusable and irresponsible" and apologized "to those who participated in the show, to students, and to anybody who has been offended by what they saw. Let me be clear: no person should be made to feel uncomfortable -- particularly about race -- in service of their work, job, livelihood, or course of study."

Huang did not select the accessories himself, Brown said in her statement. The Times reported they were recommended by Farmer, who did not respond to requests for comment.

While the imagery implicit in the accessories may have been obvious to many people, So Young Song, a professor of fashion design and merchandising at Illinois State University, wondered if the uproar it caused might stifle student creativity and independence going forward.

“That incident really made me think in terms of students’ activity, like fashion shows, and how we can present this issue but still encourage creative fashion design and fashion show activity from students,” Song said.

Lefevre did not respond to requests for comment. The Black Student Union at FIT issued a statement on Twitter supporting Lefevre and calling the incident “offensive and racist.”

“We request that those who align with our vision, intention and mission -- to explore and celebrate black pride while promoting intellectual, political, social and cultural awareness -- to use their voices to continually support and advocate for justice,” the statement said.

While other models in the show, including another black model, wore the accessories, Lefevre walked the runway without them.

Bethann Hardison, a pioneer and advocate for women of color in the fashion industry, said Lefevre had every right to refuse to wear the offensive accessories. Hardison, who is the founder of the Diversity Coalition, which promotes racial diversity in the fashion industry, saw the accessories as just plain “ugly” rather than a malicious act of racism, but she questioned the motives of those who selected the accessories.

“I don’t blame FIT -- who I blame is any production company and stylist on the job,” she said. “I looked at it like, what are they thinking -- it’s just bad taste. I don’t know what the need was, how the accessory enhanced the garment … What does the designer gain, the controversy? It doesn’t seem to be coming off to his advantage.”

Huang, the designer, claimed ignorance of the insulting symbolism associated with the accessories. He moved from eastern China to New York City in 2017 and is still developing an understanding of American racial and cultural references and intended for the accessories to be “reflections of my own body features and perceptions of their enlarged proportions, which should be celebrated and embraced,” according to the Times.

He also expressed surprise at the allegations of racism in his work. He told CNN he was "sad and shocked" by the allegations. "The saddest part is I am not a racist, and as an Asian person I had bad experiences here, too," he said.

The accessories certainly had the “shock value” that some designers seek, but in all the wrong ways, said Lisa Hayes, director of the fashion design program at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. She found it hard to believe that supervisors, faculty members or peers did not sound an alarm to the show’s directors and the designer.

“It’s unfortunate because it’s a graduate of the program representing the program,” Hayes said. “We would absolutely not allow anything that we had any question about.”

Hayes said first-year students in Drexel's undergraduate fashion design program are required to take "foundation of fashion" courses, which cover issues such as "inclusive design,” history of “Western dress” and adaptation of clothing for people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community.

“It is an issue that students from other countries are not aware of various terminology that might be offensive,” Hayes said. “That’s absolutely true, and that can be an issue that we deal with … The more diverse the student body is, the better. When you have diverse students and faculty and you become this tight-knit group of close friends, it’s easier to talk about these things.”

Hardison said Huang's acknowledged lack of cultural competency reflects a still-persistent problem of the fashion industry.

“Designers in the international industry find themselves looking down a line of all-white models,” Hardison said. “Their ignorance is bliss … I’m not giving him an out, but I do think it’s possible.”

Hardison related the incident to ongoing discussions of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry and how designers now have to “double think” about whether their work could be offensive.

“It’s gotten kind of rough out there for creative people,” she said.

Farmer, the chairman of the master's fashion design program, has since posted a statement on the Instagram account of the graduate fashion design program, saying he now understands why the accessories were interpreted as racist.

"It was never our intent for the show's styling to be interpreted as racist or to make people feel uncomfortable but I now fully understand why this has happened," Farmer said in the statement. "I take full responsibility and am committed to learning from this situation and taking steps to do better."

Davis, the dean who was also put on leave, said in a written statement issued by her attorney that she did not bear responsibility for the content of the fashion show.

“My responsibilities at FIT do not include providing direct oversight or approval of students’ creative work,” Davis's statement said. “Not only would this be very difficult as a practical matter … it would breach FIT’s policies designed to protect the creative freedom of faculty and students from interference by administrators.”​ The decision to place her on leave was “premature and unnecessarily damaging” to her "stellar reputation," her lawyer, Marjorie Berman, said in a separate statement.

Davis said she received complaints about the accessories four days after the show from two graduate students in the fashion design program. Davis then met with Farmer and several students and sent a memo to institute officials detailing these meetings, which she used to gather more information about the incident and "express support" for fashion design students, her statement said.

"Racism in any form is antithetical to the mission of FIT and to my personal values," Davis said. "Providing an inclusive, supportive environment in which all students can learn, be creative and thrive is essential to all education. I have always taken full responsibility for those matters that are my responsibility, however, I should not be held accountable or blamed for not stopping activity that I did not know existed."

FIT declined to comment on Davis’s claims or say whether or when she and Farmer might return. The two officials' employment status is pending based on the results of an ongoing investigation into the incident, Brown said in her statement.

In the interim, FIT will likely continue trying to find the right balance between encouraging creativity and fostering sensitivity in students' work.

“It is my position that all students must be afforded the safe space and freedom to learn and develop their voice, even if the voice is provocative to some,” Brown said. “At the same time, I am deeply committed to creating a teaching and learning environment in which people are not offended or intimidated. There is a balance that must be struck between these two imperatives, one that is not always easy to find, but it is the college’s responsibility to find it.”

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After Texas Southern's president was terminated, Dillard University's Kimbrough urges potential replacements not to apply

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 01:00

Last week the Texas Southern University Board of Regents reached a separation agreement with former president Austin Lane, following a lengthy mediation meeting. The decision to terminate Lane was made in early February, after the president was abruptly suspended a month prior.

The board’s decision to terminate Lane -- and a vague explanation as to why -- has sparked outrage among TSU students, alumni and staff. It also drew criticism from a fellow president of a historically black university: Walter Kimbrough.

Kimbrough, who has helmed Dillard University since 2012, slammed the board’s decision in an op-ed published in Diverse Education.

“The entire board must be replaced. Immediately. All Texas Southern supporters should pressure [Texas governor Greg Abbott] to make this happen,” Kimbrough wrote.

He recalled reports of an October board meeting, during which one regent, Ron Price, reportedly complained of being dropped off a block away from the university during homecoming. He also recounted reports of complaints that some board members sat in the back row at TSU’s Democratic presidential debate in September. Another regent, Wesley G. Terrell, said the regents “can terminate everybody, even down to the janitor, if it’s the will of the board.” Shortly after, the board approved new bylaws giving them the power to do just that.

Little information is public about Lane’s termination. Last week, the Texas attorney general ruled that TSU should release documents related to the admissions probe and Lane’s ouster, which were sought by the Houston Chronicle under the Texas Public Information Act. While the battle between the campus community and TSU’s board continues, Kimbrough has a message for aspiring TSU presidents looking to apply: don’t.

“Let me issue this public warning to anyone who would consider being president at Texas Southern. Stay away until they clean the board,” he wrote. “Don’t get caught up in the idea of wanting to be a president, because any president working under this board is asking for a tenure filled with micromanaged misery.”

Kimbrough's fiery op-ed, which has been widely circulated and praised on Twitter, was significant, according to Susan Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound and a consultant for colleges and presidents​. She could only recall one other president, current or former, "speaking out in this way": former Cornell University president Hunter R. Rawlings III, in response to Teresa Sullivan's departure at the University of Virginia. ​

For his part, Kimbrough thinks presidents should be willing to make bold statements​.

"I think presidents are too timid -- we don’t comment on anything," Kimbrough said.

He described two motivations for writing his op-ed. First, he wanted to serve as a defense for a president who otherwise had none. Faculty, he argued, can turn to the American Association of University Professors when they believe they’re being treated unfairly. There is no similar organization to support college presidents.

“Someone has to speak up for the presidents when these kinds of things happen,” he said. “This was just another situation where all of the reports that came out, all the news reports suggested that this wasn’t fair. Someone needed to step up and say, ‘This was wrong.’”

Pierce agrees the board is acting out of step with best practices.

“Based on the media reports about this, the board is behaving in an unusual -- if not inappropriate -- way that is not consistent with best practices,” she said. “They did not discuss with the president what their concerns were, and if they’re doing an investigation, the president needs to know that that’s happening.”

Among the board’s errors, Pierce highlighted the fact it failed to collaborate with the president on a statement about his termination and did not keep personnel matters confidential in the statement it did release.

Texas Southern did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In its public statement on Lane's termination, the board wrote that Lane's "actions relate in part to failure to report to the board information relating to improper payments for admissions to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and for the improper awarding of scholarships to students, which led in part to the initiation of a comprehensive investigation." Lane has denied these allegations.

Kimbrough also wanted to put pressure on the state to reexamine TSU’s board before a new president is selected, and he believes a dismal applicant pool would do the trick.

“They should be left with a pool that’s so bad, they realize they have to change,” Kimbrough said.

Whether his message will actually deter applicants is up for debate. Jim Lyons is a senior consultant at the Association of Governing Boards and member of Dillard University's Board of Trustees who has also served as interim president at Dillard and at the University of the District of Columbia. Lyons said that aspiring presidents will often prioritize opportunities over a good fit and blow past potential red flags from the board with which they’ll have to work closely.

“We see a lot of people that are so eager to be a president that they don't stop to look at whether it’s a good match,” Lyons said. “Sometimes during the search process, the candidate is so eager to become a president and the board is so eager to complete the search that some things may go unsaid.”

Lyons interpreted Kimbrough’s message as exactly that.

“One of the things in President Kimbrough’s comments is he’s saying to other presidents, ‘Don’t be so eager to be a president that you fail to look at how the president is onboarded, whether the school is a good match for you,’ etc., etc.,” Lyons said.

But Pierce noted that Kimbrough is a well-respected president. She believes that his op-ed could have “major impact on the applicant pool.” She went on to say that while some applicants will seek and accept any presidency, many candidates are highly selective in where they choose to apply -- and only apply to places they perceive to be a good fit.

“The board is every president's most important constituency, and without board support, presidents will not be able to be successful,” she said.​

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Separate but equal at the MLA?

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 01:00

The Modern Language Association clarified Tuesday that a pair of 2021 meeting panels “designated” for people of color and white people, respectively, are open to everyone.

“We shouldn't have used the word ‘designated’ and we'll revise the wording” of the calls for papers, said Paula Krebs, the MLA’s executive director. “All sessions at the convention are open to all members, of course.”

The roundtables in question, planned for next January, are both on decentering whiteness in academe. Whiteness studies examines topics such as structural racism and the white supremacist underpinnings of society.

“This session will acknowledge the role of and consider strategies and tactics to decenter whiteness and white supremacy in the university,” reads one of the MLA’s calls for papers. “This space is designated for scholars of color to speak with each other.”

The second session’s call says essentially the same but notes, “This space is designated for white scholars to do the work of decentering whiteness.”

The new session descriptions will say they aim "to bring together scholars of color to acknowledge the role of and consider strategies and tactics to decenter whiteness and white supremacy in the university," and "to bring together white scholars" to do the same.

Krebs said she hadn’t heard direct criticism of the panels. But they did attract the attention of some association members.

Peter Herman, professor of literature at San Diego State University, called the sessions as first proposed “racial segregation. It’s restricting the panel to one ethnic group. I thought we were all against that.”

Herman said he’d been a member for MLA for 30 years and had “never seen anything like this before.”

Krebs explained that the association was trying to accommodate members who have expressed “how important it is for them to be able to gather together to address issues they might be confronting as scholars of color specifically, and how important it is when associations like the MLA make that type of gathering possible.”

Herman said he understood that motivation but the MLA should have told members that it can't “bar people on the basis of race from attending or speaking at any session. That’s what they could have done.”

Designating space for someone or some group doesn’t mean that others will be blocked from it. But Herman said the call for papers read as a restriction on certain groups all the same.

Roopika Risam, an associate professor of education and English at Salem State University, is helping the MLA gather papers for the scholars of color panel. She said white scholars frequently “center themselves in conversations about white supremacy.” And so the roundtable is intended to “center the voices and lived experiences of scholars of color.”

What Risam described might be called "whitesplaining," similar to "mansplaining." Even well-intentioned allies are capable of it. And the work of decentering whiteness is arguably different based on who you are. The slight wording differences in the two calls for papers hint at this: scholars of color are invited to speak with each other, and white scholars are invited to "do" this work.

Some student activists have held similarly exclusive gatherings during their protests, to privilege nonwhite voices in campus cultures that historically privilege white ones. The tactic is sometimes criticized.

Other academics, including some who study whiteness, argue that what’s been called “reverse racism” isn’t a real thing, because white people still enjoy race-based privileges even if they stand individually against racism.

There is some precedent for identity-based gatherings at disciplinary meetings (including the act of meeting as a discipline). Krebs noted that the MLA dedicates certain events to department chairs, for example, but that these sessions are still open to anyone.

Groups such as the American Historical Association also offer meeting receptions for scholars who identify as LGBTQ or as minorities, among other groups. These are understood to be social events, however, and all are welcome to attend.

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Universities' role in race to develop vaccine for the coronavirus

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 01:00

Universities across the country are part of the urgent effort to research the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, together colloquially called the coronavirus. Globally, the virus has infected over 90,000 people and resulted in over 3,000 deaths, including nine in the United States.

After receiving approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have received vials of the virus for study. The Center for Vaccine Research at the university, where Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine, will be working on a potential vaccine candidate.

Paul Duprex, director for Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research, told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the research may require hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.

“Making vaccines [is] not cheap,” he said.

A team at the University of Texas at Austin also is working on new coronavirus research. Last month those researchers created the first molecular map of the virus’s spike protein, the part that attaches to and infects human cells. This map will be essential in creating vaccines and drugs for the disease, the university has said. The research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and supervised by staff members from the institute’s Vaccine Research Center. The associated paper was published in the journal Science.

News outlets have reported that researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis, Colorado State University and Baylor College of Medicine also are working on vaccine development, often building off research that already has been conducted at those institutions.

Vaccine candidates must go through rigorous testing before they can be deployed to the general population. Any vaccine that is developed likely will be manufactured by large pharmaceutical firms. Those companies are similarly racing to develop a candidate. If a university patents a viable vaccine, it potentially could yield substantial revenue.

The drug company Moderna delivered the first batch of its vaccine candidate to government researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases late last month, The Wall Street Journal reported. The institute expects a small-scale clinical trial on healthy adults to start before the end of April. Even if the study yields promising results, NIAID officials have said the vaccine would not be available until next year because further studies and regulatory hoops will need to be cleared.

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CDC tells colleges to 'consider' canceling foreign exchange programs because of coronavirus

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 01:00

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that colleges should “consider” canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs and asking current program participants to return to their home countries in light of the global outbreak of a new coronavirus.

The CDC guidance for student travel at institutions of higher education was issued Sunday. Colleges have already canceled many overseas programs in countries with high rates of local transmission of the virus formally called COVID-19, most notably China and Italy. But the CDC guidance is seemingly global in scope, referring to foreign travel by students in general.

Although it is somewhat ambiguous in its wording, the CDC guidance could also be read as referring to both foreign exchange students hosted by U.S. institutions and to Americans studying abroad. The first paragraph says that institutes of higher education, or IHEs, “should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs” and “consider asking current program participants to return to their home country.” It notes, "Those overseeing student foreign exchange programs should be aware that students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad."

The second paragraph says that colleges “should consider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States.” It advises colleges to "work with state and local public health officials to determine the best approach for when and how (e.g., chartered transportation for countries or areas assessed as high-risk for exposure) their study abroad students might return."

The CDC did not respond to requests for comment about the guidance.

“It’s a major change in policy, and it will be taken very seriously by our members,” Brad Farnsworth, vice president for global engagement at the American Council on Education, said of the CDC guidance.

“They will also take to heart that it’s only a consideration, and I think there will be institutions that decide to leave their programs in place. I think they will look at that very carefully. There is not just a safety issue but also a legal issue: the last thing a university wants is to appear to have been irresponsible by ignoring a statement from the CDC. But I think we will see some exceptions where universities say they’re looking at the situation very closely and they decided that leaving students in place is the best course of action. Institutions already have protocols in place for assessing risk," Farnsworth said.

David DiMaria, the associate vice provost for international education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the CDC guidance took the field of international education by surprise.

"I’ve gotten text messages and emails from colleagues across the nation trying to make sense of this," DiMaria said. "While it’s certainly helpful to have guidance, there are a lot of questions that remain pertaining to the guidance. For instance, when it says postponing or canceling upcoming foreign student exchange programs, 'upcoming' -- is that spring break, is that summer, is it fall?" DiMaria also noted a lack of clarity around some of the terminology -- for example, what the CDC means by "exchange program."

“Certainly any time the CDC issues guidance, I think all of higher education is going to look to that as an official source, but if we had, I think, a little more specificity, it would certainly help international educators as they make some of these major decisions that have broad implications," DiMaria said.

The Forum on Education Abroad and Pulse, an organization of professionals focused on health and safety in academic travel, issued a joint statement in which they noted that never before has the CDC issued guidance like this in relation to student travel. "Both The Forum and Pulse strongly urge colleagues to read this statement as it is written -- as guidance to consider. It is not a directive that is being handed down," their statement says.

"Students are not typically members of the population who may succumb to a virus like COVID-19. Those populations have often included the elderly and those with compromised immune systems," the groups said. "Unlike typical travelers, students are supported on the ground at their various study sites by professional staff, faculty, and others who work to assure that students are provided information, assistance, guidance, and help when necessary."

"We also want to acknowledge that different institutions will have different capacities to manage a complex issue such as COVID-19. Not every organization can be expected to react in the same way as those with professional staff devoted to addressing international health and safety considerations. We urge those institutions to reach out to your colleagues through professional networks. Look to what they are saying and recommending and then scale it so that it fits your context."

To date, colleges have adjusted their international programming country by country in response to the virus’s spread. But the CDC advisory stresses the dynamic and global nature of the situation.

“Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission, IHEs should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures,” the guidance states.

On Monday the Texas A&M University system issued new, broader restrictions on foreign student travel. The university said it would "strongly discourage all foreign travel by Texas A&M System students, faculty and staff while the outbreak of COVID-19 remains a dynamically changing and uncertain situation." It said it would "prohibit payment for System-sponsored travel to all countries identified as Level 1 or greater risk by the CDC Health Notice Warning system," and it "encourage[s] all students, faculty and staff to return from all Level 1 or higher risk countries as soon as can be practically arranged."

Sara Schwartz, founder and president of the Massachusetts-based law firm Schwartz Hannum, said the main thing the CDC advisory changes is the institutional risk management calculus.

“My takeaway from the CDC guidance is that every educational institution, whether it is an independent school or a higher ed entity, needs to take seriously the mandate to ‘consider,’” said Schwartz, whose firm represents more than 250 educational institutions. “I think prior to this guidance, we had a lot of flexibility from a risk-management perspective, but the guidance increases the institutional risk of proceeding with these programs. The CDC is saying you better think twice.”

"I’m telling all my schools that this is day to day," said Schwartz. "If they want to keep going on their trips, they can. There's an increased risk from a liability perspective, but they can keep going. They have a green light as long as it’s a level 1 country. But it's riskier. But it’s day to day."

Christine Helwick, a lawyer with the California-based firm Hirschfeld Kraemer and a former general counsel for the California State University system, said she thinks the word “consider” in the CDC message is really important.

“I read the tenor of the message to be, ‘go slow and be thoughtful,’” she said. “That seems to be entirely appropriate because there are so many unknowns about the virus.”

“There are just so many variables that I appreciated the fact that the CDC was not issuing draconian orders,” Helwick added. “It was more, just, you need to think about what your circumstances are, what your risks are. It does seem to me they are encouraging not sending any new students abroad, and that makes sense, but in terms of bringing home students, I read that word 'consider' to give institutions a lot of flexibility but really remind them that they need to be thoughtful. That seems to me about all we can expect of the CDC at this point, and all any of us can do.”

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UT Austin will fire professors guilty of sexual misconduct

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 01:00

Student activists pushing for the University of Texas at Austin to fire professors found to have committed sexual misconduct and publicly disclose their disciplinary records celebrated a victory Monday when university President Greg Fenves agreed to make termination a default punishment for such behavior.

Faculty and staff members found guilty of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or interpersonal violence after a “thorough investigation” will be presumptively separated from the university, Fenves said in a letter to the campus. The goal is to have the new policy in effect by the end of the semester, said Scott Schneider, a partner at Husch Blackwell, the law firm that was hired by the university to advise administrators and which recommended the policy changes.

Schneider said there will be some exceptions to the policy. A faculty or staff member who engaged in sexual misconduct would be allowed to remain employed if the victim of their actions expressed that they do not want to “ruin this person’s life,” Schneider said.

Husch Blackwell recommended that any staff or faculty member retained by the university should be listed in a report that includes their name, misconduct committed and the “mitigating factors” preventing their termination, according to the firm’s report. The regularity of the report has not yet been determined, said Gary Susswein, chief communications officer.

Although Fenves said in his letter that the reporting process would preserve "the privacy of the survivors," Schneider said doing so might be difficult while providing such a list. He's also concerned it could reduce misconduct reporting, because unique public records laws in Texas allow for disclosure of university personnel records.

“I worry from the meetings we’ve had with claimants, survivors … people in the community are going to be able to find out who these people are,” Schneider said. “There’s been some retraumatization associated with that. I’m not a huge fan of providing this information. I want to be using it on a limited basis.”

The recommendations met the “big” demands of the Coalition Against Sexual Misconduct, or CASM, a student-led group that advocated for policy changes and led several demonstrations on campus, said Tasnim Islam, a spokesperson for CASM and a member of the university’s Misconduct Working Group. UT Austin will be the first university in the U.S. to publish the names of faculty and staff members disciplined for sexual misconduct, CASM wrote in a Facebook post.

“It’s a lot of complicated emotions, but when I first saw that, I almost had tears of joy,” Islam said. “It felt so good to know all of our hard work was worth it. A lot of the recommendations were very similar and reflected the same values that the student list of demands mentioned.”

Islam was frustrated that Fenves did not explicitly mention the work of CASM or other student activists who have been pushing for policy changes for several years. "It’s incredible and all because of student activists," she said.

Islam said Fenves did not address some specific changes that CASM wanted. The changes include speeding up the process for reports made to UT Austin’s Title IX office, which handles complaints of sexual misconduct.

Husch Blackwell’s recommendations, which Fenves agreed to in full, did identify “anecdotal information from various stakeholders that the resolution of sex discrimination claims took an unreasonably long period of time” and recommended the university adopt “a reasonable and presumptively appropriate timeline” to resolve claims.

Some victims had shared similar anecdotes during an emotional listening forum organized by CASM on Jan. 27, where students accused Fenves, Provost Laurie McInnis and Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, of not caring about their safety in the classroom. After the forum, Fenves requested the original timeline set by the working group and Husch Blackwell to deliver recommendations be accelerated by two weeks, Susswein said. The firm held meetings with 150 stakeholders -- students, survivors, accused and disciplined faculty members, and administrators -- over the course of the last month, he said.

Hush Blackwell also recommended the university mandate sexual misconduct awareness and prevention training for all faculty and staff, according to the report. It also suggested a formalized alternative resolution process for employees guilty of lower-level sex discrimination offenses, which would allow for victims and respondents to participate in restorative justice if they both agree, and reintegrate employees into campus after being disciplined.

Fenves was unequivocal about the new standard being embraced by the university. The university will now start a formal institutional review process for implementing the policies. It's unclear how long it will take until the changes go into effect, Schneider said.

“Sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and interpersonal violence will not be accepted at the University of Texas at Austin,” Fenves’s statement said. “If a faculty or staff member commits these acts, the consequences will be clear.”

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Some students do feel political pressure from their professors, but few change their views

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 01:00

Pundits and lawmakers sometimes accuse professors of being liberals who indoctrinate their students. The research says they are right on one of those points, not both. Faculty members’ political beliefs do run left, according to numerous studies. But, counter to what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and others have alleged, even conservative students don’t generally feel pressured to think a certain way.

Preliminary data from a new study suggest that this dynamic might be changing, however -- yet not for the reasons one might assume. Ten percent of students in this study, especially conservative ones, did report feeling pressured to align their thinking with their professors' politics. Yet the authors say that this might be because the overall political environment is now so charged, not because professors are telling students what to think.

“There are so many different ways now that students are being cued to think politically, whereas maybe they weren’t before,” said co-author Matthew Mayhew, the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Educational Administration at Ohio State University. “If I’m a professor and I’m talking about health care, students in the room might be cued to think politically about it, but 20 years ago that wouldn’t necessarily have been the case.”

What does this mean for teaching? Mayhew said that professors don’t need to change the way they teach, but that they might tell students that “discomfort” with new ideas is part of learning. And that shouldn’t be confused with pressure, anxiety or trauma, he said. This, of course, echoes much of the advice academics have shared with students in campus speech debates.

Mayhew further guessed that higher education -- generally, and not just whether it should be free -- might become one of these automatically “political” topics within the next five years. That’s a “scary” prospect, Mayhew said, as higher education is not exclusively part of any one political party's "agenda."

For this part of their study, Mayhew and his colleagues asked 3,486 college seniors from institutions across the U.S. about their observations of faculty members’ politics. Forty-nine percent of the sample said that their professors expressed politically liberal views “frequently” or “all the time.” Just 9 percent said the same about conservative professors.

As to the indoctrination question, 10 percent of students said they sensed pressure of any kind from professors when it comes to politics. Conservative students were more likely to feel pressure than those who identified as liberal.

Some 47 percent of students reported that they had changed their political leanings during college. Of those, 30 percent said they became more liberal, and 17 percent said they became more conservative. The share of “liberal” students increased 5 percentage points and the share “very liberal” grew by 4 percentage points.

What about students who felt pressure from professors about politics? Of the 10 percent who reported feeling this pressure “frequently” or “all the time,” half changed their political leanings by the end of their senior year. And that’s just slightly higher than the share of students who changed their political leanings without feeling any, or just occasional, pressure from professors.

Interestingly, the data suggest that students who felt pressure from conservative faculty members “frequently” or “all the time” felt more pressure than did students with liberal professors.

About 30 percent of students say they became more liberal in college, whether or not they felt any pressure from faculty members.

Co-author Alyssa Rockenbach, Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of Education at North Carolina State University, said her team’s findings “add nuance to and in some ways challenge the narrative that colleges are exclusively liberalizing environments.” That is, the data hint at potential shifts in the student experience but also underscore what we already know: that colleges and universities are not indoctrination factories.

While students on the whole tend to perceive liberal perspectives from faculty members more often than conservative perspectives, Rockenbach said, only a “small proportion” -- that 10 percent -- feel pressured on that front.

Although conservative students feel somewhat more pressure than liberal students, she added, “we don’t see evidence that feeling pressured actually results in substantial changes to these students’ political inclinations.” And when pressure from faculty members does "appear to have an impact, it actually encourages slight conservative shifts among students."

A key piece of the study is that perceived pressure from faculty members depends on academic major. To Mayhew’s point on health care -- where topics such as universal coverage and abortion might come up -- conservative students in nursing, medicine, pharmacy and therapy were more likely to say they felt pressured. That was also true for those in the arts, humanities and religion and for double majors.

Meanwhile, liberal students majoring in the social sciences, education or business were more likely to report feeling pressured. Business, in particular, is known to have more conservative professors than academe over all.

As for the current political climate, Rockenbach said that it “probably” plays a role in students’ perceptions of pressure because political conversations in class "may be more salient right now.”

So maybe classrooms feel like many other public or semipublic spaces in our political moment. If that’s the case, Rockenbach and Mayhew’s data offer some hope. Asked if they’d had significant disagreements over political issues with friends during college, 65 percent said no. Twenty-nine percent said they had, but that they remained friends anyway. Just 6 percent said they’d had significant political disagreements and did not remain friends. The study had three check-in points, from 2015 to 2019, when the students were seniors. So these peer-to-peer arguments happened before and after the contentious 2016 election.

Back in the classroom, Rockenbach said that more frequent discussions open up opportunities for students to feel pressure from certain professors, "particularly if the students’ own views are on the other end of the political spectrum." So are such conversations a no-go? Rockenbach’s answer: “I don’t think so. These exchanges have strong potential to enhance student learning, help them refine their own beliefs and values, and empower their political engagement.”

At the same time, Rockenbach cautioned that it's “critical for faculty to create classroom spaces that encourage authenticity and respectful dialogue.” When and if professors decide to share their own perspectives, she added, it’s “important that they simultaneously encourage students’ freedom to disagree and offer different viewpoints.”

The group’s findings were published for the first time as an op-ed in The Washington Post. Rockenbach and Mayhew led the study with the Interfaith Youth Core group. The data, drawn from their Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey, also contain insights about students’ perceptions on LGBT issues, spirituality and religion, but those figures aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Amy Binder, professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, co-wrote a book on college students’ political experiences in 2012 and is working on another one. Of the new study, Binder said the “devil is in the details,” in that she’d like to know more about what kind of pressure students sense. “Do they feel pressure to write their exams in a particular way to get a good grade? To speak up in class parroting a professor’s perceived ideology?” she asked. “To become liberal or conservative because they are majoring in a particular discipline? To attend, or not attend, rallies or protests?”

Binder further noted that “influencing” an opinion is different than pressuring someone to change theirs. She guessed that numbers might be at play, at least in the finding that conservative professors influence their students more. Maybe if there are more liberal students taking business courses than there are conservative students taking humanities courses in the sample, she wondered, “you can see a pattern where conservative faculty are more persuasive in sheer numbers.”

Mayhew said that more students identifed as liberal than conservative, and students appreciated politically liberal ideologies to a greater degree than conservative ones across three time points. But he said that the finding about conservative professors might be more about students' expectations. College is seen as "liberalizing," he said, so students "might be surprised and possibly intimidated by the mere expression of their professors’ conservative ideologies." Reiterating his point about discomfort, he said that feeling often arises "when expectations misalign with experience."

 

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Amid severe cost of living crunch, San José State builds housing for employees

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 01:00

Homelessness in San José, Calif., the 10th-largest city in America, has increased 42 percent in the last two years. And that figure only looks at the number of people sleeping outside, not those sleeping in hotels or on friends' couches.

It’s not hard to see why things are changing. The tech sector in San José, which is nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, is unsurprisingly booming. The area is less than a half hour drive from both Apple’s headquarters and the “Googleplex,” the search engine giant’s 20-building campus.

Charlie Faas, the chief financial officer at San José State University, said that while the area is adding jobs at an impressive rate, housing production hasn't been able to keep up. As a result, housing prices have become astronomical.

The yawning gap between haves and have-nots is increasingly visible in many American cities, but nowhere is it quite as stark as in California's Bay Area.

Much attention has been paid to public university and community college students who, faced with no other options, are falling into that gap.

In the 2016-17 academic year, about 11 percent of students at the California State University system (which includes San José State) were homeless. Early last year a student group asked the San José State administration, among other requests, to set aside 10 parking spots for students who sleep in their cars.

But faculty and staff members at California universities also have felt the burden of rising rents. Many live far away and commute for hours each day. Others live with roommates or in small apartments with family.

A 2019 study by Apartment Guide found that the average studio apartment in San José rented for $2,484 per month.

Arthur Cordova, a groundskeeper at San José State, commutes every day from Manteca by commuter train. It takes him about four hours round trip.

“That was the only way I could purchase my own home,” he said. “I did it for my family.”

He’s worked for the university for 19 years.

Cookie Galvan, an office clerk for the university for over two decades, has lived in an apartment with her daughter and her daughter’s family for nearly five years. In the last two years, her monthly rent has increased by $450. Now her family is moving to another state.

“I am 58 years old, and I have to find a roommate,” she said. “Will this person steal from me? Rob me? Not pay the rent?”

Galvan injured her knee in late 2018 and as a result hasn’t been able to work her other two part-time jobs as a security officer and an usher. She’s looked at other housing in the area but doesn’t qualify to rent or wouldn’t be able to front a security deposit along with the first month's rent.

“I can’t afford to leave, and I can’t afford to stay,” she said. “If I don’t find somebody by March, by April I’ll have to give a notice and I’ll be living in my car. Or maybe I’ll be sleeping in my office.

“I’m just petrified.”

Neither Galvan nor Cordova believes their situations are unique.

Preston Rudy, a sociology professor at San José State and president of the faculty union there, said housing is a huge problem for instructors as well.

“We pretty regularly hire people, then they last a little while and then they feel they can’t make it, in part because of the housing crisis,” he said. “And they leave.”

This problem is not unique to the university, he said, but one that unfortunately affects many other people in the region.

“Working people in the Bay Area are having to move further and further away and make longer and longer commutes. It’s a pervasive problem,” Rudy said. “The Bay Area hasn’t done enough to address these problems.”

Though not every day, Rudy himself commutes from Sacramento.

Creative Solutions

The university has acknowledged the housing crisis and to some extent made addressing it a priority.

Faas explains that San José State, despite the higher cost of living in the area, isn’t able to offer faculty members more money than can its peers in the CSU system. Union-negotiated salary scales for both faculty and staff apply to all 23 universities, regardless of geographic location.

“[Faculty recruits] quickly realize they’re not going to live anywhere near the campus,” he said. “They’re going to live an hour, two hours, an hour and a half away from the campus, having to commute in here on that type of salary.”

“What they quickly do is they fall in love with California and they end up going up to [CSU campuses at] Stanislaus or Sonoma or Humboldt or one of these lower cost of living areas,” he said.

So the university is now investing heavily in building subsidized housing for faculty and staff.

“Four years ago we looked at this situation we found ourselves in and said if we don’t look at faculty and staff housing and giving people options, we’re going to, sometime in the near future, be faced with a massive, massive problem,” Faas said. “You have to find ways than are different than we’ve ever tried to do here.”

The university already provides about 50 housing units for faculty and staff, but it is pushing for more placements and more subsidies.

The hallmark of San José State's campaign is the Alquist Building, about one block from the university, which once housed state government offices. Early this year California, after prodding from state lawmakers, transferred the building and land to the university. San José State plans to build 800 to 1,200 apartments on the land for faculty, staff, graduate students and students with families. (The university is also planning on substantial investment elsewhere in student housing and housing grants.)

Through eliminating land costs and any expectation of profit, Faas said the university can easily get units to 80 percent of market value, although they’re looking to go lower.

“This is one of those 'wow' moments, that this could really happen and this could make a difference for our faculty and staff,” he said.

President Mary Papazian said early in her tenure she realized the university needed to have affordable housing options to continue recruiting accomplished and diverse talent.

“When the development of the Alquist Building is completed as planned, it may very well be one of the most important projects ever completed at San José State. It will definitely be a unique model in converting a state-owned building into affordable housing for our campus community,” she said via email. “Long-term, sustainable solutions take some time, of course, but we are happy to be addressing it now and putting real resources behind it.”

Faculty and staff seem hopeful about the potential of the Alquist Building. But they acknowledge it will be more helpful for future staff members.

“It’s positive that the university is thinking about trying to develop solutions to address the difficulty of getting housing for faculty,” Rudy said.

Other universities, especially those in urban areas, have not been immune to the housing crisis.

San Francisco State University only has enough housing for 4,000 of its 30,000 students, and some have become homeless. In 2018, a City University of New York survey found that 55 percent of students who responded to a survey were housing insecure in the past year. It seems likely that faculty and staff at CUNY and San Francisco State may be struggling as well.

Stanford University, just 25 minutes away and also in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, has for its part developed hundreds of faculty and staff units, some below market rate for those who are eligible.

Stanford, though, has an endowment of over $27 billion. San José State’s endowment is $153 million, 180 times smaller than Stanford’s. San José State also serves twice the students that Stanford does.

Galvan said she hopes San José State prioritizes the neediest at the Alquist Building, with a sliding scale or income ceiling. She’s worried people like her may still be left behind.

The university says it’s too soon to say who will get priority.

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New presidents or provosts: Concordia (N.Y.) Doña Ana Loyola Radford Rosemont Rutgers Transylvania WashU

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 01:00
  • Charles Abasa-Nyarko, vice president for the National Curriculum Assessment Program, in Ghana, has been selected as vice president for academic affairs at Doña Ana Community College, in New Mexico.
  • Jason Boyers, president of Cleary University, in Michigan, has been chosen as president of Rosemont College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Rachel Eells, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Concordia University Chicago, has been named vice president for academic affairs at Concordia College New York.
  • Jonathan Holloway, provost of Northwestern University, in Illinois, has been appointed president of Rutgers University, in New Jersey.
  • Carolyn Ringer Lepre, dean of the school of communication at Marist College, in New York, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Radford University, in Virginia.
  • Brien Lewis, president of Catawba College, in North Carolina, has been chosen as president of Transylvania University, in Kentucky.
  • Tanuja Singh, dean of the Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University, in Texas, has been named provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Loyola University New Orleans, in Louisiana.
  • Beverly Wendland, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, has been appointed provost of Washington University in St. Louis, in Missouri.
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Berkeley launches ambitious $6 billion fundraising campaign

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 01:00

Fresh from receiving a $252 million donation, the single largest gift in its history, the University of California, Berkeley, announced the start of an ambitious $6 billion fundraising campaign, the largest goal yet by any public higher ed institution without a medical school or health science center.

The campaign, which was formally announced Saturday, reflects a trend of universities and colleges increasingly seeking and receiving enormous amounts of donor money as state funding for higher education fails to keep up with the growing costs of running colleges.

The University of California, Los Angeles, announced the next day that it raised nearly $5.5 billion during its most recent campaign, which launched in May 2014 and ended in December 2019.

Among leading private institutions, Harvard University's last campaign, which ended in 2018, raised $9.6 billion. The University of Chicago announced last Tuesday that it raised $5.4 billion from a recently ended campaign that launched in October 2014.

The University of Washington, a public research institution that has schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health, appears to be the only public institution to have raised over $6 billion. It launched a $5.9 billion campaign in October 2016 that is scheduled to end in June and has raised $6.06 billion so far.

Berkeley administrators said they hoped to reach the $6 billion goal by 2023, a seemingly high bar for a three-year campaign -- the university’s last campaign ran from 2005 to 2013 and raised $3.13 billion -- but officials are undaunted, perhaps swayed by the reality that even as individual giving has declined nationally, overall giving has risen and the amounts donated have increased. Berkeley has already raised $3.44 billion so far, a university spokesman said.

“We actually have not found that giving has been declining,” Carol Christ, Berkeley’s chancellor, said during a media briefing last week. She noted that the university enjoyed record philanthropy in the last two years and that 2020 giving has already surpassed last year.

“People understand the need for philanthropy to Berkeley and are happy to join us as partners in reaching our goal,” she said.

The $252 million gift to the university is from an anonymous, living donor and will help fund construction of a new “data hub” for the university’s Division of Computing, Data Science and Society. The hub will serve as a central location for “the diverse array of students and faculty engaged in computing and data science research and teaching and will provide a new anchor for Berkeley’s fastest-growing new areas of study,” according to a press release announcing the gift.

The university also announced a $50 million donation to its College of Natural Resources from Gordon Rausser, former dean of the college and the Robert Gordon Sproul Distinguished Professor Emeritus of agricultural and resource economics. The gift to the College of Natural Resources “will support the school’s land-grant mission to take on key economic, social, environmental and health challenges facing the state and the nation,” according to another press release by the university.

Christ said such generosity is needed more than ever, given dwindling state funding for higher ed, a reality that colleges and universities across the country are facing. She said the decline in state support was a reason for setting the fundraising goal high.

State funding currently accounts for 14 percent of Berkeley’s budget, a significant drop from the period of the last fundraising campaign, when state support was 25.8 percent of the university’s budget.

Christ said the state remains an “extraordinary partner” of the university, but “we have to be much more entrepreneurial in our diversification.”

She said administrators spent over a year developing a strategic plan for the university and made the decision "to raise money for the very core of the institution" and to ensure that the funds raised would be used to meet the various needs across the campus and "didn’t select some departments and leave out others."

The new data hub building "was part of our capital planning process," she said.

The high fundraising bar is an indication of worrisome fiscal and economic trends in higher ed as demographic shifts in the U.S. and the shrinking population of college-age students has cut into the revenues of two- and four-year institutions and forced them to ramp up their fundraising efforts. In many cases, those efforts were already highly competitive, and aggressive, at the nation's most elite institutions. Christ did not mince words about the current state of affairs; she said the money raised would not be funding "nice to haves" but would instead pay for the “must-haves,” or the university’s core needs and priorities.

Those needs include:

  • 100 new tenure-track faculty positions. (Undergraduate enrollment grew 14 percent in the past five years, but there has been no increase in the number of faculty members during that same period.)
  • 300 new graduate student fellowships to compete for the brightest minds.
  • Affordable campus housing for all freshman, sophomore and first-year transfer students. (This will accommodate the growth in the number of students.)
  • Undergraduate scholarships and opportunities for all undergrads to do research.
  • Support for research for the public good in targeted academic areas: data science and artificial intelligence, health, the environment, democracy and equality, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Christ said the university will work to engage students, alumni, longtime supporters and even those unaffiliated with the university in the fundraising campaign.

“We will be seeking to tell the story of this campaign in multiple ways to multiple audiences,” she said.

Christ said Berkeley had received donations from 168,672 unique donors as of Feb. 28.

One of the largest gifts so far came from philanthropists Sanford and Joan Weill, who donated $106 million jointly to Berkeley; the University of California, San Francisco; and the University of Washington last November to create a “neurohub” to “accelerate the development of new treatments for diseases and disorders of the brain.”

"He's not an alum, and some of our largest gifts came from people who are not alums," she said.

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Lamar Alexander wants Higher Education Act deal within a month

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 01:00

Senator Lamar Alexander is seeing time ticking down on passing a rewrite of the nation’s main higher education law this year, and during his career.

Though he didn’t say it is a drop-dead deadline, the Tennessee Republican and chair of the Senate's education committee said in little-noticed remarks two weeks ago before a group of community college trustees that he wants to have a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act passed by his committee by the end of March -- or only about a month from now.

The goal was in recognition of the fact that even after it passes the committee, the first revamp of the law since 2008 would have a long path to reach President Trump’s desk by the end of the year.

“I think we can make some progress if we get out of our committee by the end of March,” he said of working with Washington senator Patty Murray on the bill, according to a transcript made available by his staff of his Feb. 11 remarks at the Association of Community College Trustees’ annual legislative summit.

In a statement, a committee spokesman reiterated that the clock is ticking. “The committee should consider and approve legislation early this spring to give the Senate enough time to pass a bill that can be signed into law by the end of the year,” the spokesman said.

Whether he and the committee's top Democrat, Murray, can reach a deal in the next month, or at all, is anybody’s guess, several higher education lobbyists said. Republican and Democratic committee staff have been closemouthed about their negotiations, which are said to have continued through the holidays and during the Senate’s impeachment trial.

The possible bill still faces the major stumbling block of finding a bipartisan response to the controversial Title IX rule Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to issue soon. The rule, which will set new requirements on how institutions deal with sexual assault and harassment allegations, would among other provisions include a mandate that the accused be able to cross-examine their accusers -- something Murray strongly opposes and insists be dealt with in a higher education bill, along with increasing student aid.

Although lobbyists note that Alexander has set and missed timelines for reaching a goal before, time is an obstacle to reauthorizing the law this year, said Craig Lindwarm, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ vice president of government affairs.

In a year when many senators will be home campaigning for re-election and attending national party conventions, the Senate will be in recess for nearly all of August and October. In the remaining time, Alexander and Murray will have to rally the full Senate to approve the bill, then work out a compromise with the Democratic House, whose Higher Education Act proposal would spend an additional $332 billion over 10 years, which is far more than what is expected from the Senate. A Senate bill also would have to vie with other major bills for time on the floor for debate.

"There are factors outside their control, like the congressional schedule," Lindwarm said. "There’s only so much time left before the end of this Congress."

The Next Republican Chair?

But despite the obstacles, and skepticism that it will happen, both Alexander and Murray have a number of incentives to get a deal done -- including the fact that it’s their last chance before Alexander retires at the end of the year.

Those hopeful for a deal point to the fact that the two senators have a history of being able to find compromise on complex legislation, including the Every Student Succeeds Act they negotiated in 2015.

Back home in Washington State two weeks ago, Murray brought up their relationship when asked by a local public radio station if it’s still possible to work out bipartisan deals in Washington, D.C.

“That is what I do every day. I’ve done it with Paul Ryan in putting together a budget deal no one thought that we could do. [Or] in working with Lamar Alexander in rewriting No Child Left Behind,” Murray told KNKX. “I’m working with Lamar now to rewrite the Higher Education Act to address the cost of college and safety on campus.”

Alexander also spoke about his relationship with Murray in his presentation to the community college trustees. He also cited his work with Murray on No Child Left Behind.

“You think higher education is hard? That was hard,” he said. “And I’d like to do the same thing for higher education.”

Once Alexander is gone, Murray will be dealing with somebody else. For her, one motivation to get a deal done this year that it’s hard to know who that will be.

The Senate generally goes by seniority in deciding who chairs committees. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is the committee’s next senior Republican. But he also is chairman of the intelligence committee.

Burr will hit the Senate’s time limit for chairing that committee, but he could seek a waiver. It’s unclear if he will.

“We’ll decline to speculate about chairmanships in the next Congress at this time,” said a spokeswoman for Burr.

If Burr passes on the chairmanship, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would be next on the list. Many are skeptical Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will allow Paul to chair the committee, because he’s not known for toeing the line. And it’s unclear if Paul would be interested in the chairmanship. His spokesman declined comment.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard him talk about education at all. I don’t think it’s a primary issue for him,” said Neal McCluskey, director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. He added that Paul could still be interested in chairing the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee because it is also the main committee handling health-care policy.

And Paul could be sympathetic to the belief among many libertarians and conservatives that federal student aid leads to higher tuition, the so-called Bennett hypothesis. He could push to eliminate or cut federal aid, he said, although he might settle for cutting back programs like Parent PLUS that are not focused on low-income students, McCluskey said.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is next on the list. But Collins faces a tough re-election fight and may not be in the Senate next year. If she is, Collins could be in position to chair the powerful appropriations committee.

Next up after her is Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana gastroenterologist who might be interested in working on health-care policy.

"Chairmanship succession can be unpredictable, depending on the complicated Rubik's cube of committees and seniority and requests that Senator McConnell may face," said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success and former Democratic senior counsel of the HELP Committee.

Another lobbyist said, "Both Sens. Murray and Alexander have a strong incentive to reach a deal now, because Alexander very much wants the higher ed feather in his cap before he retires."

The lobbyist added in an email that "Senator Murray is looking at a future chairman (or ranking member) with whom she may not have such a strong partnership."

During the meeting with two-year college trustees, Alexander said now is not the time to hold out for a better deal.

“If you don’t get it done this year, it’ll probably be another 10 years before you get the job done properly,” he said.

Factoring in a New White House

Murray may be less concerned about who her Republican counterpart is if Democrats gain the four Senate seats they need in November to ensure having the majority. But that’s considered very iffy.

A Democratic president who would push to make college more affordable could help Murray secure more financial aid funding in the Senate. But the election of a candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who are calling for major changes like free college and forgiving student debt, could also make that harder.

“They could wind up moving the goalposts pretty considerably for what constitutes a ‘good deal’ and could make it even harder for Senator Murray to live up to expectations and hold the Dem caucus together,” a higher education lobbyist said in an email.

According to Alexander, though, there are a number of elements for an HEA bill on which he and Murray have been able to find agreement, including allowing use of Pell Grants for short-term programs. He mentioned the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, introduced last year by Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat. The bill would allow Pell money to be spent on programs as short as eight weeks that are designed to help students quickly find employment.

“We believe the Rob Portman and Tim Kaine’s legislation would be a good idea, so we’re committed to that,” Alexander said of Murray and himself at the community college event.

Alexander also said he and Murray agree on further simplifying the federal financial aid application. Twenty-two questions were cut under a law Congress passed last year. ”We have bipartisan support to further reduce the FAFSA from 108 to 18 to 32 questions,” Alexander said

Lindwarm said he thinks a reauthorized HEA is a possibility in 2020.

"Alexander and Murray have cut deals before," he said. "No one should think that they can’t do it again."

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University of California, Santa Cruz, fires striking TAs

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 01:00

The University of California, Santa Cruz, made good on a threat to fire striking graduate student employees late last week: 54 graduate assistants received notifications that they’ll lose their spring teaching appointments for failing to turn in undergraduates’ fall quarter grades.

It’s all part of December grade strike over a requested cost of living adjustment, which has since escalated to a full labor strike. The strike, in turn, spread to California’s Davis and Santa Barbara campuses last week. But Santa Cruz is the only site where graduate students have been fired.

“Your abandonment and sustained willful dereliction of your job responsibilities as a teaching fellow constitutes serious misconduct,” read intent-to-dismiss letters sent to the graduate instructors Friday. “Your conduct has harmed graduate students and disrupted university operations.”

The letters warn students that they’re also at risk of losing financial aid, eligibility for academic honors and even adequate advising.

Some 200 Santa Cruz graduate workers initially withheld fall grades. Their union, which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers, says that 82 students are still holding back marks and that those who didn’t receive one of the 54 dismissal letters instead received notes that they are out of consideration for spring appointments.

The university said two weeks ago that it would fire those who refused to turn in grades, as the action unfairly impacted undergraduates. In the interim, 500 graduate students pledged not to pick up any assistantships from fired workers. So Friday’s development raises new questions about how the strike will impact campus operations.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to find an amenable resolution, 54 teaching assistants have continued to withhold fall grade information,” Lori Kletzer, interim provost, announced. “As a result, we have been left with no choice but to take an action that we had truly and deeply hoped to avoid.”

The firings increase the financial hardship of graduates students who say they already face severe rent burden, which they cite in seeking more money. They also put the legal status of international students at risk.

“It’s like a chain of events that starts with termination of employment, leads to removal of tuition remission and goes all the way to losing your visa and having to leave the country,” stated Stefan Yong, a Ph.D. candidate from Singapore who is studying in Santa Cruz’s history of consciousness program. Yong estimates he pays 45 percent of his salary for rent, and said over the weekend that he's "one of the lucky ones in that regard." Like many of his colleagues, he received a notice that he's blocked from spring appointments over the grade strike.

The federal government defines rent "burden" as paying more than 30 percent of household pay for rent and severe rent burden as spending more than 50 percent of pay on rent.

California is generally an expensive place to live, but graduate employees at Santa Cruz say that their city is so lacking in affordable housing that many of them pay 60 percent of what they make for rent. Based on their calculations, their requested COLA of $1,412 per month would enable many of them to spend a more manageable 30 percent of pay on rent.

Protesters at Santa Barbara are seeking about $1,800 extra per month for the same reason. Colleagues at Davis say they need about $1,550 extra to make ends meet.

Across the University of California system, graduate student instructors, readers and graders make $2,400, pre-tax, per month for nine months out of the year for half-time appointments.

Because the statewide UAW contract is current, Santa Cruz has said it can’t renegotiate graduate workers’ pay. But Santa Cruz strikers say that the contract never suited their needs and that 83 percent of voters on their campus opposed it, even as it passed statewide last summer.

Graduate workers insist that Santa Cruz’s administration could amend the contract if it wanted to. Instead, Santa Cruz offered $2,500 annual housing supplements -- first on an as-needed basis, and then, after pushback, to everyone -- until the university builds more student housing. The university also promised full funding packages for doctoral students in the first five years of their programs and for master of fine arts students in their first two years, among other changes.

That’s still not enough for graduate students who say they can’t afford to live where they’ve been recruited to work and study.

The statewide UAW union has not approved any of the “wildcat” campus strikes, and the contract includes a no-strike clause. But the union has encouraged university administrations to bargain with workers. On Thursday, it also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state alleging that the university has failed to meet and confer to negotiate a COLA. The claim says that the university has tried to avoid bargaining with the union by engaging individual graduate students and university-funded student graduate student assemblies.

Both Santa Cruz and the greater UC system say they’ve worked in good faith to resolve the conflict. Janet Napolitano, system president, previously announced that she plans to meet with the UC Graduate and Professional Council, but that group said in a statement that it agreed to do so to “discuss joint advocacy opportunities with the state legislature, not to negotiate a cost of living adjustment or union contracts.”

The American Association of University Professors' governing council last week endorsed the Santa Cruz grads, saying that graduate student workers “do important work to fulfill the university’s academic mission and their compensation should reflect that simple fact.” The UAW represents 19,000 graduate employees across the California system.

Santa Cruz and other system campuses are located in areas with "extraordinarily high housing costs that put a great burden on graduate students and other low wage workers," according to the AAUP. One-bedroom apartments in the Santa Cruz area rent for an average of $2,600 a month, the group said, “but graduate students only earn about $2,400. The university needs to recognize that this is an unsustainable situation.”

As for the university’s argument that it can’t bargain with one campus during a statewide contract, the AAUP Council wrote that universities are “creative places and we expect better from UCSC administration. Options include increases in wages, fellowships, stipends, and scholarships.”

The council further condemned "the use of riot police against the graduate student picketers and condemn President Napolitano’s threat to fire striking graduate student workers. No university should be taking that approach toward its own employees."

Regarding police activity, 17 students were arrested last month during campus protests.

In addition to the support from the AAUP, about 3,000 academics, mostly faculty members, have pledged not to hold or attend events at Santa Cruz or any other California campus where there is a strike.

A Santa Cruz administrator who did not want to be identified by name, citing the ongoing situation, said that the “disaster” unfolding at Santa Cruz “speaks to the dismal financial plight of public higher education in this country, a situation that has been deteriorating for many years,” and especially since 2008.

If the world’s “premier public higher education system” can’t afford to pay graduate students “enough to house and feed themselves,” the administrator said, “perhaps that’s because state funding for colleges and universities has plummeted to an all-time low." California dedicates 2.5 percent of its budget to the UC system.

Before “imagining that we are frivolously squandering taxpayer dollars or voluntarily starving our students,” the administrator said, anyone wondering how this situation came about should study that budget.

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Colleges report student exposures to coronavirus, American Physical Society cancels annual meeting

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 01:00

Colleges continue to grapple with how to respond to the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as public health officials report community spread of the virus in California, Oregon and Washington State. There are more than 87,000 confirmed cases globally and, as of Sunday afternoon, 73 in the U.S. Over the weekend health authorities announced the first two deaths in the U.S. from the virus, both in the Seattle area.

Several colleges on the West Coast reported that students had potentially been exposed to the virus. Academic events have been canceled, most notably the American Physical Society annual meeting, which, with 10,000 expected attendees, is the largest annual convening of physicists worldwide. 

Lake Washington Institute of Technology said officials learned on Saturday that a nursing professor and 16 of its students were at a nursing and rehabilitation facility late last week where two confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported.

The college's president, Amy Morrison, said in a statement that the college would be closed Monday and Tuesday to continue disinfecting and cleaning the campus, and that all large community and college events for the week are canceled.

The Los Rios Community College District, in California, said that four students at its member colleges have been exposed to individuals with confirmed coronavirus. In all cases the exposure happened when the affected students were performing their professional medical duties. All have been ordered by health authorities to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Los Rios said that three of the four students returned after the exposure to their respective campuses, American River College, Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College. Despite this, the community college district said it had been directed by Sacramento County public health experts "to take no immediate action and proceed with regular class and work schedules at this time."

The University of California, Davis, reported Sunday that a student who had been quarantined for a possible case of COVID-19 tested negative for the virus. Two other students who were asymptomatic but who lived in the same residence hall were released from isolation.

Many colleges have continued recalling students and faculty from travel to countries with high levels of community transmission -- most notably China, where the virus originated, as well as South Korea, Italy and Japan -- and are in some cases urging individuals to self-quarantine or refrain from coming to campus upon their return to the U.S.

The University of Pittsburgh said in a press release it is “encouraging all Pitt-affiliated people across its five campuses to practice social distancing upon return from areas with sustained community transmission of COVID-19.” The release asks individuals who have returned from China since Jan. 21 and from Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea since Feb. 13 to refrain from coming to campus for 14 days.

Rice University said on Saturday that its Crisis Management Advisory Committee “has asked a small group of Rice employees and students to self-quarantine because of a Rice employee's possible exposure to the coronavirus while on overseas travel.” Rice did not specify where the individuals had traveled but said it was to a country that is not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s restricted travel list.

The CDC recommends against nonessential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, and recommends enhanced precautions for travelers heading to Japan.

The CDC upgraded the travel warning for Italy to its highest level on Friday. Colleges typically abide by the travel warnings issued by the CDC and the Department of State. Accordingly, an increasing number of colleges have announced plans to close study abroad sites and recall students from Italy, which is the second-most popular destination for Americans studying abroad after the United Kingdom. Almost 37,000 American students studied in Italy for credit in 2017-18, according to the Institute of International Education's Open Doors survey. Among the institutions that have suspended their Italy programs or recalled students are:

NBC News reported Friday that the 550 students on a Semester at Sea voyage that was supposed to take them to 11 countries have been trapped at sea for about two weeks. Semester at Sea reported on its website that it made the decision to divert from planned stops in Malaysia and India due to the coronavirus, and that it was denied permission to dock in Seychelles by public health and port authorities there. On Saturday, Semester at Sea said in a statement it had confirmed plans to dock in Mauritius on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the National College Players Association on Saturday called for “a serious discussion” of whether to hold the March Madness basketball tournament and other athletic events without an audience present. A National Collegiate Athletic Association spokeswoman said the NCAA's Sports Science Institute sent memos to NCAA members directing colleges and conference offices to CDC resources on the issue. "Otherwise, NCAA staff continues to prepare for all NCAA winter and spring championships, but we are keenly aware of coronavirus and will continue to monitor in coordination with state/local health authorities and the CDC," the spokeswoman said.

The​ ​coronavirus is also causing conference cancellations in North America, including the cancellation of the American Physical Society meeting. APS announced on Saturday that it was canceling the meeting, which was scheduled to start today in Denver. Many attendees criticized the timing of the decision on Twitter, saying it came too late and that they had already traveled long distances to get to the meeting location.

"The decision to cancel was based on the latest scientific data being reported, and the fact that a large number of attendees at this meeting are coming from outside the US, including countries where the CDC upgraded its warning to level 3 as recently as Saturday, February 29," APS said in a statement on its website. "Please wait for APS staff to be in touch with you in order to arrange for a full refund of your registration fees. The situation with hotels is more complicated, and we ask your forbearance as APS looks into what is possible regarding hotel cancellation fees."

Educause, an association focused on technology in higher education, similarly canceled a meeting on Sunday that was scheduled to start today in Bellevue, Wash., outside Seattle.

And Sarah Todd, the president of the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education, announced on Twitter that the group would postpone its meeting scheduled for later this month in Vancouver until March 2021.

Although some school districts in Oregon and Washington State have closed, the Universities of Oregon and Washington both said their campuses are operating normally. Colleges are urging students to wash hands thoroughly and practice other good hygiene practices and to stay home and contact student health services when sick. Some colleges are also stepping up their cleaning and sanitation protocols.

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Students protest at free speech conference

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 01:00

A University of California conference on free speech turned into a microcosm of the free speech battles regularly taking place on American college campuses after student activists showed up at the event in Washington Thursday and interrupted speakers to advocate for raises for the system’s graduate teaching assistants.

The handful of undergraduates representing COLA for All, a group pressing for a $1,412 monthly cost of living adjustment, or COLA, for teaching assistants at all UC campuses, at times stood in front of and interrupted speakers and panelists at #SpeechMatters2020, which was hosted by the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. The protesters, who are studying at the university system’s Washington center, said it was ironic that the conference was addressing how institutions should allow campus activists to respectfully express themselves while, at the same time, conference organizers were moving the protesters to the side of the stage to keep their posters from blocking audience members' views of the speakers on the stage.

The protesters held signs outlining information about striking teaching assistants back in California and calling on UC president Janet Napolitano, who sat in the front row, to resign.

Michelle Deutchman, executive director of the center, told the students they could remain but could not disrupt speakers. She used the recommended language UC Irvine includes in its policy for “preventing and responding to disruptions in real time.”

It was “fitting” to witness a live demonstration at a conference centered around campus protests and how they are handled, said Akshita Gandra, a UC Davis student who attended the conference and is a recipient of a Valuing Open and Inclusive Conversation and Engagement grant from the UC National Center. Gandra said she understands the protesters' frustration about graduate student salaries, which has been an ongoing issue since she came to the Davis campus four years ago.

“It may have been good to let them have five minutes with the mike to talk about the cause,” Gandra said of the protesters.

Protestors Missy Hart and Jazleez Jacobo accused leaders of the conference of silencing them.

“Why are you censoring me?” Jacobo said of being ushered to the side of the conference stage. “It goes along with the tactics that the university uses to silence us. Yeah, everyone has access to free speech, we're allowed to demonstrate, but did we make it in the frame?”

The protesters compared their treatment at the conference to clashes between police and protesters at UC Santa Cruz, such as earlier this month when 17 protesters on the campus were arrested for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. The graduate teaching assistants have been protesting and striking since December and demanding an increase in pay to help them meet the high costs of living in California.

Graduate students at UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara on Thursday joined in on the strike -- labeled a “wildcat” strike because it was not endorsed by the United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing 19,000 student workers in the UC system. UC Santa Cruz graduate students participating in the strike refused to submit grades for the fall 2019 term, and UC Davis graduate students will follow suit for the winter term, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Jacobo said the strike, now spreading to other UC campuses, will have a ripple effect on undergraduate students, some of whom have not received their fall grades and risk having classes canceled.

“As undergraduate students, we’re not protected by anything,” Jacobo said. “So when I can't get my classes, or anybody else cannot continue their education … they’re not going to account for that.”

Hart and Jacobo said they and others were frustrated by Napolitano’s refusal to engage with them at the conference, which Jacobo called a “show.”

Administrators who confront protests on their campuses are “navigating treacherous waters,” Deutchman said during an interview before the start of the conference. She said she's sympathetic to institutional leaders who struggle with balancing students’ rights to express themselves and protecting the rights of students who feel harmed by certain types of speech.

“I have a lot of admiration for them, not just because they're the ones that are sometimes being criticized, but sometimes they're in the position of having to defend the right of somebody to come to campus,” Deutchman said.

Napolitano did not address or acknowledge the protesters who stood silently and held up signs during her opening remarks at the start of the conference. But in an interview the day before the conference, she discussed some of the challenges university administrators face when planned events and speakers spark controversy.

“Sometimes the protest activity takes the form of actually shutting down the speech,” Napolitano said. “It's a difficult problem for university administrators -- do you bring all the students up on student conduct charges? Do you try to do arrests? Do you just apologize and move on? That's a decision-making framework that university presidents have to go through.”

When it was time for the conference’s final panel, in which Napolitano and others were scheduled to discuss “executive perspectives on campus free speech,” Deutchman announced that the conference had gone over its allotted time and the panel was canceled. The protesters said they had planned to use the panel as an opportunity to confront Napolitano about the raises for the teaching assistants.

"Protest and participation aren't always easy, and they can often reshape our agendas, as they did today," Deutchman said after the conference concluded. "But they remain critically important to the smooth functioning of our democracy, and today we had an opportunity to see it live in action."

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Oklahoma students want change -- in the form of a new provost

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 01:00

It happened again -- this time at the University of Oklahoma. Two more professors used the N-word during class, angering students who say it was pedagogically unnecessary and hurtful.

But what started as a protest over those incidents has escalated into a student sit-in Oklahoma’s central administration building and calls for Provost Kyle Harper to resign. The university says it won't happen.

“Our demands still have not been met, so we will continue to do a sit in, we will continue to do a hunger strike,” organizers of the campus group Black Emergency Response Team, or BERT, said in a statement Thursday from their position in Evans Hall. That was after the university’s interim president, Joseph Harroz, met with protesters late Wednesday and after Oklahoma released a statement saying that both parties “identified areas of agreement that will move our university forward.”

The administration’s letter was signed by two vice presidents and by Harroz, who released a similar statement on his own earlier in the week promising mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training for all faculty and staff members and a new incident response protocol. Students had been seeking that first change, among others, including the creation of a new multicultural center on campus.

Harper, the locus of students’ disaffection, didn't sign either letter. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Harroz said in another statement late Thursday that he "cannot engage the demand for the immediate resignation of the provost." While he listened to BERT’s "concerns and will always listen to concerns from our students," he said, "I am confident in Provost Harper’s abilities and willingness to work constructively to advance the university." What many do not know, Harroz continued, is that nearly a year ago, "Harper requested to return to the faculty," to his professorship in classics and letters.  

"I personally asked him to continue to serve through an important period of transition and to help us complete and launch the strategic plan," Harroz said of Harper, who is a graduate of Oklahoma. "He put his personal pursuits on hold to serve his alma mater. There is no doubt that he loves our university and serves it tirelessly."

BERT organizers said they'd met with administrators again and planned to issue new demands for "checks and balances" within the offices of the president and provost.

A separate memo Harroz’s office released late Thursday promised to present the following to Oklahoma’s Board of Regents for consideration next month: the mandatory equity training for all faculty and staff members, to start in the fall; a semester-length equity and inclusion general education course to "promote respect for all" students; expanded student mental health resources; and an exploratory committee for the requested multicultural center.

Questions About ‘Commitment’ to Equity

Students fault Harper for what they call his long record of “silence” on matters of diversity and inclusion.

Campaigning for Harper’s resignation on social media under the hashtag #HarperHasToGo, campus groups -- including BERT, the Black Student Association and OU UnHeard -- say that Harper was silent in 2015 when students told Oklahoma to do more to hire and retain black professors and staff members. They say Harper was silent when students made similar demands following a 2019 incident in which a student wore blackface and used a racial slur. And he has been silent over the past two weeks with respect to two professors using racial slurs in the classroom, they say.

In each of these instances, the university addressed students’ concerns with various comments and actions. But the protesters describe Harper’s individual, at least publicly muted, reaction to these matters as disqualifying for a chief academic officer.

That Harper has been “silent” on the recent N-word controversies isn’t quite accurate -- at least not as of this week. In a statement first reported by the OU Daily student newspaper, Harper said that his office would work with others on campus to “ensure that our students feel safe and respected in the classroom, and that our actions honor the fundamental boundaries of the First Amendment and academic freedom.”

Right now, Harper said, “we are listening to students directly impacted and actively working on the action items around training and incident response described by President Harroz.”

As for what Harper has said, student protesters and others also criticize a 1999 article he wrote for a student publication called The Fountainhead when he was studying at Oklahoma. It describes the women's studies program as "the hiding place place of the likes of Patricia Ireland, Barney Frank and Ellen Degeneres who tear at the time-honored values of Western civilization."

Adding fuel to the fire, a partially redacted 2015 document written by the provost’s search committee to then president David Boren surfaced on social media Thursday. The document describes then interim provost Harper as “enthusiastic, energetic, innovative and ambitious.” But it also describes him as "relatively inexperienced in higher education administration" and at times "evasive." Most relevant to the current protest, the document from the search committee notes lingering “concerns by a few about Dr. Harper’s commitment to issues of equity.”

The document does not provide any detail about those concerns, and the search committee co-chairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saying the N-word in class, even when it appears in a historical text, has gotten a number of professors into trouble -- either with students, their administrations or both -- in recent years. Experts have differing opinions as to whether the word is ever appropriate, and institutions have been called out for both allowing professors to say it under the auspices of academic freedom and for sanctioning professors who do.

Many scholars say using the N-word does more harm than it can possibly do pedagogical good in any learning environment -- especially if you’re a white professor, and because it’s easy to say “N-word” instead. Some believe that avoiding any word that appears in historical and literary texts is censorship.

At Oklahoma of late, one professor of journalism saw his duties reassigned away from teaching after he compared the snarky phrase “OK, Boomer,” as in baby boomer, to the N-word. Most recently, this week, a professor of history read from a historical document that contained the word. She gave a “trigger warning” in advance, according to Harroz’s Monday memo, but her “recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word.”

For students in the class, Harroz said, “as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience.” He called it “common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.”

Harroz’s memo did not contain the professor’s name. Through a university spokesperson, the professor, Kathleen Brosnan, Paul and Doris Eaton Travis Chair of Modern History, shared the apology she sent to her class. 

"My goal was to convey the depth of racism that existed in the U.S. in 1920 when the U.S. Senate debated the League of Nations," Brosnan wrote. "By directly quoting a U.S. senator, James Reed, I wanted all the students in class to recognize an ugliness in U.S. history that is unfortunately still part of some students’ lived experience."

The explanation doesn't diminish "the pain any students felt," she said, and "I also recognize that apologizing in advance for the offensive language and placing it in this historical context did not alleviate the injury. And for that I am deeply sorry."

Sentiments surrounding race at Oklahoma may be especially raw due to past events. In 2015, for instance, video footage of students singing a violent, racist song prompted the closure of a fraternity chapter.

Eleven of 13 members of the university's Faculty Senate Executive Committee released a statement in support of this group of student protesters.

Beyond Oklahoma

Students at the University of Richmond are also protesting several racist incidents on that campus, including slurs found on or around the doors of a black student and a student from Pakistan. President Ronald Crutcher has called such actions "disgusting," and the university is investigating. Some are calling for the creation of a department of Africana studies, in part to bring greater awareness of difference to campus. (Oklahoma has a department of African and African American studies.)

Cynthia Price, a spokesperson for Richmond, said Thursday that "interest has been expressed for this program, and conversations have begun on campus.”

Atiya Husein, assistant professor of sociology, and Armond Towns, assistant professor of rhetoric and communication studies, endorsed the proposal in a recent op-ed for Richmond’s student newspaper, The Collegian.

Africana studies, they wrote, “is an area of study that exceeds the naming of violence and blame. It considers what this otherwise familiar story has done to all of us: It has categorized some as more human (as buyers and sellers) than others (particularly as living, breathing commodities).” This has implications “for what it even means to be human -- one of the most enduring philosophical questions of Africana Studies.”

European colonialism and “chattel slavery” are major part of Virginia’s own history, Husein and Towns added. Even so, they say, an Africana studies department “does not necessitate that we focus on one group’s struggles over another.” Possible frameworks include critical race theory and race or ethnicity, and “We support all these efforts and do not view them as being in conflict or competition.”

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