M. Christopher Brown II resigned Thursday, effective immediately, as president of Alcorn State University. The Associated Press reported that the resignation came amid an investigation into the university's purchasing practices, and that the investigation has already led to the resignations of two other senior officials. Brown has been president of the historically black institution in Mississippi since 2010 and he earned a reputation as having an ambitious agenda to increase enrollment and to elevate the prominence of the university in the state. He did not respond to an email seeking his comment on his resignation.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic legislative leaders have reached an agreement that should pave the way for the state's public colleges and universities to charge in-state tuition to students who lack the legal documentation to reside in the United States, The New York Times reported. Christie appeared last year -- when running for re-election -- to back the idea, but he has been ambivalent of late, leaving many to wonder if he could support the bill. Under the compromise, the governor has said he will sign the bill as long as it is amended to deny state financial aid to the undocumented students.
Maranatha Baptist University has started the process of changing its mascot and team name away from "Crusaders," The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Matt Davis, the university's executive vice president, said that there have not been controversies over the name, but that the university wants to avoid one. "In light of our global outreach and a more-advanced understanding of how things could be perceived, we want to avoid that," he said.
An assistant professor of English at Indiana University Northwest has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights accusing the institution of denying her tenure because she is a woman and because she is a lesbian. Anne Balay, who learned she was denied tenure in April, filed her complaint this week, the Windy City Times reported, alleging that students criticized her in evaluations not because she was a poor teacher but because she was openly gay. Those ratings contributed to her losing her bid for tenure, she says. "If you've never had an out professor before, and a professor says that they're a lesbian, you hear nothing else all semester," she told the Times, noting that some students had accused her of talking about sexuality too frequently -- something she denies. "Those are the only words that you retain."
Balay's fellow professors recommended her for tenure, but were overruled by the department chair, she says. At the next level of evaluation, she says a committee of College of Arts and Sciences professors recommended her for tenure but the dean vetoed that recommendation. Balay's faculty appeals board hearing was held Wednesday. In an email, she said the results were still unknown. A university spokeswoman declined to comment on Balay's case for the Times. Balay also has filed a similar complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Recently, I had lunch with a group of women who had moved to the upper levels of leadership in higher education. As is usual when such a group gathers, we talked about some of our more “challenging” moments as the first women provosts, deans or presidents. But this time, the stories were about team-building experiences that didn’t quite work when a woman was added to the mix.
One dean recounted the weekend retreat she was required to attend at the president’s cottage, where after a day of activities, everyone was expected to join the others... in the hot tub, which makes for an awkward splash if you’re the only one wearing a two-piece. Another woman described the “bonding” day her executive vice president led that involved a race with her colleagues in the equivalent of bumper cars. And still another described a hunting and fishing expedition more akin to a men’s sweat lodge.
Each story left me wondering: with the increasing mix of men and women in prominent leadership roles, is something lost if institutions of learning have to adjust their informal interactions? Do the guys no longer feel free to be, well, guys, if a woman is suddenly in a cabinet meeting? And is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
When I first went to graduate school, a wise senior professor commented one day on how glad he was that more women were in his classes. “It had started to feel too much like a men’s club,” he announced. Similarly, another colleague once told me that a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet had remarked how relieved he was not to be in a “men’s club” any longer, now that Thatcher was around. In other words, the presence of women — or I should say the presence of women and men together — moves things up a notch. It makes men grow up.
Or put in a more ladylike way, groups of mixed gender encourage more professional interactions to the benefit of all. Such professionalism allows everyone to develop more balanced lives where colleagues are expected to be just good colleagues, and faculty then see mutual respect modeled. Sure, some may become friends, but that’s not the point. And maybe it frees the men from having to join in the hot tub as well!
In fact, the potent combination of women and men in campus leadership together challenges old school thinking. It counteracts men’s tendencies to invest everything in their work because when women lean in to opportunities of institutional advancement, men are also required to become partners at home.
And when both contribute in leading both a university and a home, each benefits. Men gain the freedom to develop a rich set of relationships in and outside academe while developing a fuller range of human and emotional experiences, made more possible with the presence of women. And for women, the university begins to recognize — and affirm — the existence of a life beyond the classrooms.
With women now leading more at higher levels of academic institutions, both the workplace and personal lives can shift, allowing us to form real partnerships in the process of negotiating our ever-changing realities. Rather than creating unhealthy dependencies or enabling behavior that responds only to rigid cultural expectations — like the “guys' clubs” can do — both discover a new freedom to grow as human beings. As one author put it, “The difference between the equal sharers (co-parenting and dual career) and other couples was not that mothers cared less, but that fathers cared more.”
So when women “lean in” at the academic leadership table, that is, when they advance in their scholarship and campus leadership roles, men begin to care more about their children and others, not less. But when we don’t collaborate, women and men alike tend to work under the assumption of stereotypes perpetuated by the popular media and the unfortunate data of lopsided gender roles in higher education, rather than enjoy the range of gifts that each individual can contribute, man or woman.
In short, we rise together. At another “bonding” retreat for leaders, I once played the game where two individuals sit back-to-back on the floor. We had to lean into each other, exerting equal pressure, in order to stand. It’s a good metaphor for what can happen when men and women also rise to yet greater heights and health. A woman doesn’t hesitate to lean in and a man meets the challenge because they need each other to get off the ground. We rise together when each exerts the same amount of pressure, benefiting students and faculty alike. And when that happens, I suspect the stories will be much different at the next lunch gatherings.
Janel Curry became the first woman provost at Gordon College in 2012. As a cultural geographer, she has served as a professor, chair and dean in higher education for over 30 years.
Many at San Jose State University are reacting with shock and outrage to the alleged racial harassment -- for a period of months -- of a black student by the white students with whom he shared a suite. But just two years ago, the administration commissioned a report on diversity on campus, and that study found black students reported a hostile atmosphere that needed changes to be more inclusive, The San Jose Mercury News reported. A sociology professor who wrote the report, Susan Bell Murray, said that after she submitted the report, the administration essentially thanked her but did nothing to publicize or act on the findings. A spokeswoman for the university said that the issues outlined in the report were in fact important to the administration, which was always committed to working on them.
Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie flip-flopping on a bill that would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition? The New York Times reported that Governor Christie pledged support for the idea during his recent, successful re-election campaign in which he portrayed himself as a Republican who could do well with groups (such as Latino voters) that have not been supporting the GOP lately. But with a bill to offer these students in-state rates about to reach him, Governor Christie has talked about it being "unsignable" because it would cover immigrant students at New Jersey boarding schools. It is not clear that there are many such students, but some advocates for immigrant students are accusing the governor of quickly abandoning the stance he took when running for re-election.