administrators

In new report, Education Department urges colleges to ensure campuses are safe, inclusive

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As the Obama administration winds down, Department of Education and college leaders call on institutions to better acknowledge history of racism and to offer more support to minority students.

Congressional Research Service memo outlines Obama administration rules eligible for Congressional Review Act

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A Congressional Research Service memo indicates regulations finalized after May 30 will be subject to expedited review by Congress.

Hampshire College Decides Not to Fly Any Flags

Hampshire College announced Friday that it will, for some period of time, not fly the U.S. flag or any flag from a flagpole at the center of campus. Hampshire is among the colleges that have seen flag burnings since the election. It has been flying the U.S. flag at half-staff (at right), at the request of students.

But Jonathan Lash, president of the college, sent a campuswide email Friday explaining why the flag would come down.

"Some months ago, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees adopted a policy of periodically flying the flag at half-staff to mourn deaths from violence around the world," Lash wrote. "Earlier this week, in the current environment of escalating hate-based violence, we made the decision to fly Hampshire's U.S. flag at half-staff for a time while the community delved deeper into the meaning of the flag and its presence on our campus. This was meant as an expression of grief over the violent deaths being suffered in this country and globally, including the many U.S. service members who have lost their lives. Our intention was to create the space for meaningful and respectful dialogue across the multiplicity of perspectives represented in our community."

Lash continued, "Unfortunately, our efforts to inclusively convey respect and sorrow have had the opposite effect. We have heard from many on our campus as well as from neighbors in the region that, by flying the flag at half-staff, we are actually causing hurt, distress and insult. Our decision has been seen as disrespectful of the traditional expression of national mourning and has been especially painful to our Hampshire colleagues who are veterans or families of veterans. Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election -- this, unequivocally, was not our intent. After some preliminary consultation with campus constituents (we understand much more is needed), we have decided that we will not fly the U.S. flag or any other flags at Hampshire for the time being. We hope this will enable us to instead focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors."

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Call for Due Process for Accused Berkeley Professor

A group of University of California, Berkeley, current and former students is asking administrators, including Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, and members of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Privilege and Tenure to “withhold judgment” regarding a professor accused of sexual harassment. Some members of the group are now faculty members elsewhere, and their request comes after an on-campus protest by graduate students who criticized the campus's response to the allegations against Nezar AlSayyad, who teaches architecture, planning and urban design. A five-month investigation by Berkeley found that he spent months becoming close to, or "grooming," a graduate student before placing his hand on her upper thigh and proposing that they travel together to Las Vegas. The disciplinary process is ongoing, but some students said they wish they’d known earlier the results of the investigation and, in some cases, the nature of the allegations. AlSayyad denies wrongdoing. The case against him was first made public by the San Francisco Chronicle.

A university spokesperson confirmed that the new letter sent to administrators includes 23 names and nine unnamed signers. But all signatories wish to remain anonymous to the broader public due to what they described as “potential risks of retaliation from activists.” Describing themselves as those who have worked or studied closely with AlSayyad, they wrote that “we have never experienced any forms of harassment or inappropriate actions in our interactions with him throughout the years. On the contrary, he as always been a genuine mentor who cares deeply for his students’ well-being, has supported their careers and encouraged them to become professionals that interact with colleagues in a mutually respectful way.” They questioned circulating accounts of AlSayyad’s behavior towards students and colleagues, for example, saying that meeting with them outside of campus or socially is not unusual in the collaborative studio culture of design.

“We understand the very legitimate concerns of students and will strive with the campus community to fight any misconduct or unacceptable behavior,” the letter says. “We are simply making a request that one should wait until the investigation is over before making a judgment on the case.”

Members of the group added via email, "Given the times provoking increased conflicts and racist sentiments, it is particularly easy to jump into quick judgment, especially when the subject is being identified in the news as Middle East scholar."

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Study suggests Ph.D. supply isn't the problem when it comes to diversifying the professoriate

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Study suggests Ph.D. supply isn't the problem when it comes to diversifying the professoriate.

A board decides to give its president special security (essay)

When our Board of Trustees first heard about our president being sent some threatening communications, we weren’t too worried. The president is well liked, affable and easily recognized in the community. With 60,000 students enrolled, three campuses and a $300 million operating budget, she’s an astute, popular figure whose energy and goodwill are legendary. She has led efforts that have raised $23 million in scholarships for needy students during her tenure.

Her nonstop schedule, however, frequently takes her out late at night, often alone, sometimes a couple hours’ drive from our campus. It is no exaggeration to say that she will travel anywhere to promote our college: she delivered a GED graduation speech at a correctional facility and mentors college students who are also teen parents in the community. She has a reputation for searching out students who are isolated or discouraged, giving them her personal phone number and texting them several times a week to check in on class attendance. Having grown up herself on the south side of Chicago, she has earned what she calls a well-rooted sense of invincibility.

Our president is also African-American and openly gay, and she talks very publicly about closing the achievement gap for students of color. She writes often about making our institution more LGBTQ friendly and nurtures what she calls “radical inclusion.” She led the charge to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students -- undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children but are now college age -- to attend our institution at in-state tuition rates.

Any one of those elements could attract hostility from the unbalanced or the narrow-minded, but in a tight economy, and in the wake of a vitriolic presidential election, more folks have seemed to be looking for someone to blame. Some of the rhetoric of the campaigns encouraged those tendencies, making people the targets rather than ideas.

On top of those complexities, our president has made some gutsy -- and unpopular -- business decisions in her quest to expand opportunity to more students. When she determined that several auxiliary programs were running deficits for many years in a row, she took action -- including outsourcing the bookstores on our campuses. Some people lost their jobs, despite the college’s painstaking efforts to move them to new positions. She also closed three child care centers that were losing over a $400,000 a year -- a very unpopular decision. It was unequivocally the right decision for the college, though, given that fewer than 20 of our 60,000 students were using the facilities. We redirected the resources to address student needs, including ones in the Achieving the Promise Academy and our Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success program, both focused on increasing retention, persistence and graduation rates for at-risk students.

At about that time, we hired a new director of safety and security, a retired police officer with three decades of law-enforcement experience. In the wake of the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, we wanted to heighten security for our students and employees, so we sought her out for her expertise. She immediately made changes: stepping up patrols in some high-trafficked areas, implementing active-shooter trainings, putting our security staff in uniforms, taking our local law enforcement teams on walk-throughs of the campuses and installing communications screens in classrooms.

What we didn’t expect, however, was that she would present our president’s safety in a new light: “How would you feel if something happened to your president?” The threats, the controversial business decisions, the late-night travel -- our safety and security director’s decades of experience told her that those were red flags. She demanded to know why we hadn’t acted sooner.

Suddenly we were asking ourselves important questions. Perhaps we needed to change our perspective. With her characteristic nonchalance, the president had brushed off some very explicit threats. She had dismissed our board’s concerns that she might be too unguarded in her interactions with responses like “If my conversations with a student can keep them enrolled or focused or inspired, it’s worth it. If my meeting with a community member can soothe their angst about the child care centers, it’s worth it.”

But the new director was someone who knew about the realities of violence. She had seen stalking and mental illness escalate into violence countless times in her career. Some of the messages to our president had been ugly, racist and homophobic. A man unknown to the college tried to deliver a suspicious package to her office that he claimed had to be given directly to her. A person commenting on social media said she should be “taken out” in reaction to a commencement speech she delivered. It’s not a matter of when someone targets the president, our new director said -- she already is a target.

On the director’s urgent recommendation, we quickly contracted a security firm to provide an officer to accompany the president for a six-month pilot. We did so with the knowledge that we would probably receive pushback, that our judgment would be questioned and that those who were looking to criticize us would do so with impunity. Taxpayer dollars are going to protection for a college president? That’s the headline we will likely face, and we’ve already heard low-level grumblings about it. But to a person, our entire board was willing to take the heat about the decision to protect our president, because she had been willing -- even eager -- to risk much more for our students.

Maybe that’s the story, and the fundamental question, at the end of the day: How far should a president be expected to go for students? Our internal answer has been: a president with the passion and dedication that ours has shown over six years of leadership deserves our wholehearted support. And under these circumstances, that means security.

Marsha Suggs Smith is the chair of the Board of Trustees of Montgomery College.

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Cal State Says It Will Not Help Deport Students

Timothy P. White, chancellor of the California State University System, said Wednesday that the university will not help federal immigration authorities under the Trump administration take steps that could lead to the deportation of undocumented students, The Los Angeles Times reported. "Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests," White said. "Our university police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being … a person that lacks documentation." The university does not track the number of undocumented students enrolled, but estimates that it has about 10,000 across its campuses.

White's statement reflects a growing movement by students and others to have colleges become "sanctuary campuses" where officials will not help federal authorities track or deport undocumented students. Many students rallied for this cause on Wednesday.

UPDATE: Chancellor White's office issued a statement indicating that he was not making Cal State part of the sanctuary movement.

"The chancellor’s public statement made at today’s Board of Trustees meeting reaffirms the university’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming learning community. The CSU will continue to comply with all federal immigration laws, but the enforcement of those laws is the responsibility of the federal government, not the CSU, and absent a legal requirement the CSU will not enter into agreements with federal authorities for its University to enforce federal immigration and hold requests.  The chancellor’s statements reaffirm the university’s existing approach dealing with immigration agencies and enforcement. Furthermore, the word 'sanctuary' is a confusing term that lacks a universal legal or educational definition and, as such, if used could lead to misunderstanding and misplaced reliance. As such, the university remains committed to embracing the diversity of our students, faculty and staff with a focus on inclusivity and excellence and a safe and welcoming environment. 

 

 

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President, Husband Give $4M to Gustavus Adolphus

Many presidents try to build support for new strategic plans. But Rebecca Bergman, president of Gustavus Adolphus, has gone farther than most -- Bergman and her husband have pledged $4 million to the college to help carry out various parts of the plan. Details of the gift may be found here.

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NCAA Sanctions Southern for Lack of Institutional Control

Southern University "lacked institutional control when it failed to monitor its eligibility certification process, did not properly apply financial aid rules and did not comply with academic performance penalties," the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday.

The association said that several errors occurred when the university attempted to transfer its academic records from an "outdated system to a new system," and that the athletic department did a poor job of record keeping. The mistakes led to 218 athletes across all of the university's sport programs being improperly certified. The university had also previously been placed on probation for not meeting the NCAA's academic performance benchmarks, a sanction that required the university to reduce its amount of in-season playing and practice times. "Because of turnover at the university, especially in the compliance office, the university did not communicate the restrictions to the coaches, and the penalties were not completed," the NCAA stated.

Southern University also exceeded scholarship limits in five sports when it failed to properly apply financial aid rules to tuition waivers provided by the state of Louisiana to college athletes.

The NCAA placed the university on probation for five years and will vacate records of games in which athletes participated while ineligible. The NCAA also accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties of a $5,000 fine and scholarship reductions across several programs, including women's soccer, softball, baseball, men's and women's basketball, and football.

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Gingrich Backs For-Profit Group's Campaign

Newt Gingrich and U.S. Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, are slated to join Career Education Colleges and Universities at an event Friday. The group, which is the primary trade organization for the for-profit sector, is announcing a new campaign to close the skills gap with five million trained professionals. Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a prominent adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, in August appeared in a web video with Steve Gunderson, the for-profit group's president and CEO.

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