Higher Education Quick Takes
Stanford University has revoked the M.B.A. of Mathew Martoma, who was recently convicted of insider trading, but that's not why he lost the degree, The Wall Street Journal reported. During his trial, it was revealed that Martoma was kicked out of law school at Harvard University for falsifying transcript grades, and Martoma didn't report this to Stanford when he was applying there. Stanford applicants sign a statement saying that offers of admission can be revoked for certain actions, such as "a serious lack of judgment or integrity” prior to enrolling. As a result, Stanford has now revoked his offer of admission, which has the impact of making his degree invalid.
Noted scholars Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi jointly wrote a statement, signed by about 150 other academics and artists, condemning the intimidation and censorship of individuals who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
In the wake of the American Studies Association’s December vote to boycott Israeli institutions, lawmakers have introduced legislation in three states (Illinois, Maryland, and New York) and the U.S. Congress that would restrict funding for universities or associations that support the boycott.
“Whether one is for or against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means to change the current situation in Palestine-Israel, it is important to recognize that boycotts are internationally affirmed and constitutionally protected forms of political expression,” the Butler-Khalidi statement reads. “As non-violent instruments to effect political change, boycotts cannot be outlawed without trampling on a constitutionally protected right to political speech. Those who support boycotts ought not to become subject to retaliation, surveillance, or censorship when they choose to express their political viewpoint, no matter how offensive that may be to those who disagree.”
The statement continues: “We are now witnessing accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS. We ask cultural and educational institutions to have the courage and the principle to stand for, and safeguard, the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible. This means refusing to accede to bullying, intimidation, and threats aimed at silencing speakers because of their actual or perceived political views. It also means refusing to impose a political litmus test on speakers and artists when they are invited to speak or show their work. We ask that educational and cultural institutions recommit themselves to upholding principles of open debate, and to remain venues for staging expressions of an array of views, including controversial ones. Only by refusing to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and rejecting blacklisting, intimidation, and discrimination against certain viewpoints, can these institutions live up to their purpose as centers of learning and culture.”
In February, Butler, who is the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, withdrew from a planned talk at the Jewish Museum in New York City amid criticism of her pro-BDS views (the talk was to have been on the subject of Franz Kafka).
Earlier this year, critics of the academic boycott against Israel, including the former president of the American Association of University Professors, Cary Nelson, issued a petition expressing concerns about the various ways in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being used to undermine academic freedom: "Partisans on all sides of this conflict seem increasingly willing to sacrifice the principles of academic freedom and, more generally, of the free expression and exchange of ideas,” that petition states.
A group of seven faculty members from the six public institutions governed by the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday released its draft of a new social media policy for the system, which if enacted would give employees of the institutions broad freedom to communicate online.
"In keeping with the Kansas Board of Regents’ commitment to the principles of academic freedom, the Board supports the responsible use of existing and emerging communications technologies, including social media, to serve the teaching, research, and public service missions of Kansas universities," the draft reads. "These guidelines shall recognize the rights and responsibilities of all employees, including faculty and staff, to speak on matters of public concern as private citizens, if they choose to do so."
The debate about social media and academic freedom has raged in the state in the last six months. Last September, the University of Kansas suspended journalism professor David W. Guth after he accused the National Rifle Association of causing the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard massacre. The board quickly adopted rules that made "improper use of social media" a fireable offense, then later said it would review those rules.
The policy closely adheres to the American Association of University Professors' 1940 Statement of Principles, which states faculty members "should be free from institutional censorship or discipline" but also mindful that they speak as individuals, not representatives of their institutions. Specifically, proposed definitions of improper social media include speech not protected by the First Amendment and speech that violates polices on professional misconduct and privacy law. Speech related to research and teaching should not be classified as improper use of social media, the draft states.
Commenters have until March 28 to submit their input, after which the working group will revise the draft.
The Santa Fe University of Art and Design has been debating how to respond to graffiti in response to an art project, The Santa Fe Reporter reported. The art exhibit was about female sexuality, and was called "Cliteracy: 100 Natural Laws," by the artist Sophia Wallace. After the exhibit was on campus, one or more people started leaving graffiti on hallways and doors on campus with depictions of certain female body parts and the words "solid gold clit" or the abbreviation SGC. Administrators, unable to find those responsible, said that they would fine every student who lives on campus $250. This angered many, and officials backed down, but they are still left with the costs of removing the graffiti.
Kennesaw State University, under fire for removing an art installation because it would not have been "celebratory" at the opening of a new museum, on Wednesday issued a new statement about its views on the issue. The art that was removed dealt with a woman whose land the university obtained and whose writing have led many to call her an apologist for lynching. The art installation did not focus solely on this issue, but included it among many parts of the woman's story.
The new university statement said: "The exhibit does not exist in a vacuum; it is connected to a sensitive controversy in Kennesaw State’s recent past, which remains extremely raw for many university constituents.Given that the opening of the Zuckerman Museum of Art was intended to be a celebration of new space dedicated to the arts, withdrawing the exhibition was a difficult decision that we knew would not be well received – and one which was unfortunate due to the administration’s late knowledge of the subject matter. This was the result of communications breakdowns in our internal processes, which are being addressed." The statement added that the university is "holding conversations with the artist to explore re-instating" the artwork, "accompanied by related programming."
The artist is Ruth Stanford, associate professor of sculpture at Georgia State University. She said Wednesday that the university called her to talk about restoring the installation "with context," but has yet to provide details on what that means.
The 32 colleges and universities of the edX consortium were joined by six non-university members on Thursday, as the massive open online course provider announced a new membership structure. New members include international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Mexican public broadcaster Televisión Educativa, as well as the Learning by Giving Foundation, the Linux Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said the expansion comes in response to student demand for a wider variety of courses. "We felt it was the right time to expand our membership structure, and to enable a more diverse group of members to come on board," he said.
The consortium also announced five new university partners -- Colgate University, Hamilton College, Osaka University, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid -- and the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which potentially adds hundreds more to the mix.
In a statement, Patrick D. Reynolds, Hamilton College's vice president for academic affairs, said the institution is joining edX to collaborate with other universities. "As we disseminate our experiences with the edX platform back to our respective faculties on campus, we can draw upon each other, building on current academic collaborations between the institutions," he said.
The National Coalition Against Censorship -- which includes numerous academic groups -- has written to Kennesaw State University to demand the restoration of an installation that administrators ordered removed from an exhibit last week. The installation was about land once owned by Corra Harris (1869-1935), who was a prominent author and whose homestead the university accepted as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members. Part of the installation dealt with a racist letter Harris wrote -- a letter that launched her careers and that has had her identified ever since as an apologist for lynching. The university said that the installation was ordered removed from an exhibit in the new art museum at Kennesaw State because the work was "not aligned with the celebratory atmosphere of the museum’s opening."
The letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship says in part: "The removal of Ruth Stanford's [the artist's] work is not only a missed educational opportunity, it also raises serious constitutional concerns. As a public educational institution, Kennesaw State has an obligation under the First Amendment not to discriminate against particular ideas, no matter how controversial they might be."
A spokeswoman for the university said that she did not know of a response from the institution.
Lawrence Mitchell, who is facing complaints of harassment, has resigned as law dean at Case Western Reserve University, The Plain Dealer reported. Mitchell and the university were sued by a professor who said that he faced retaliation when reporting complaints that Mitchell has harassed women at the law school. Mitchell has denied the allegations, but said that "I have concluded that I cannot return to my job as dean with the same energy and enthusiasm that characterized my earlier service." He will continue on the law faculty.