California community colleges navigate path to replacing or overhauling accreditor

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There are no easy answers for California's two-year college system as it faces an unprecedented decision to move to a new accreditor, while also debating how to change the current one.

Harvard Law Seeks to Change Seal

Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard University law school, has endorsed the recommendations of a panel she appointed to change the law school's seal, a major demand of minority students and others. The seal (visible at right in a logo used by the student group) shows three bundles of wheat. Students say the seal is inappropriate because it was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century.

In announcing her recommendation to end use of the seal, Minow wrote that the debate raised many issues. "Whatever was known in the past, powerful and challenging questions now arise about the Harvard Law School shield," she wrote. "Designed in 1936 as part of the university’s tercentenary, it contains a design based on a bookplate used by Isaac Royall Sr., who passed his wealth -- including enslaved persons -- to his son, the initial donor to the school. What role should history play in defining who we are? What was the genesis of the shield and how does that history influence our path forward? Do we better remember our connection with the Royall family and with slavery by preserving the shield or by retiring it? What role do symbols play in the school’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging inside our community and in the world at large? Does consideration of the shield’s future put into question the names of buildings, endowed chairs, the nation’s capital and other embodiments of the past?"

Minow also gave her rationale for asking Harvard's governing board to vote to change the seal. "There are complex issues involved in preserving the histories of places and institutions with ties to past injustices, but several elements make retiring the shield less controverted than some other issues about names, symbols and the past," she wrote. "First, the shield is a symbol whose primary purpose is to identify and express who we mean to be. Second, it is not an anchoring part of our history: it was created in 1936 for a university celebration, used occasionally for decades and used more commonly only recently, and does not extend back to the origin of the school or even much beyond recent memory. Third, there is no donor whose intent would be undermined; the shield itself involves no resources entrusted in our care."

Stanford to Set Principles for Renaming Buildings

Stanford University on Friday announced that it will create a panel to draft guidelines for how to consider renaming buildings and other spaces that honor those with imperfect (and worse) histories. The university created the panel amid a push from many students to rename several structures named for Junipero Serra (right), an 18th-century Roman Catholic priest who created missions throughout California. While Serra is considered a hero by many and was declared a saint by Pope Francis last year, many Native Americans contend that Serra worked to destroy the cultures and beliefs of those who were in California before the missionaries.

Stanford officials said that they wanted to consider the requests related to Serra, but to do so under principles that might be applied to other situations as well. A statement from Provost John Etchemendy noted that Stanford's founders named many structures after people involved in early California history. "Not all of those names are names of people that have unblemished histories," Etchemendy said. "So we want to be able to apply the principles, not just to the Serra name but to other names to determine whether or not they should be changed."

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Oberlin releases statements that seemingly contradict earlier statements supporting a controversial professor

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Oberlin releases statements that seem to contradict its earlier position defending the right of a controversial professor, Joy Karega, to say what she wants on social media.

California community colleges find new way to measure success of noncompleters

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Students who leave California's community colleges with just a few credits in career or technical education but no credential still see substantial wage gains or promotions at work, according to new data from the state.

U of Michigan's spring break plans for football players prompt criticism

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University of Michigan's head coach scheduled a series of practices during a spring break trip to Florida, prompting outcry from those urging colleges to ease the time demands on athletes. Some say the controversy is overblown.

Grants for Advocacy on Financial Aid Policy

HCM Strategists, a public policy and advocacy firm, this week announced it will award $1 million in short-term grants aimed at helping nonprofit organizations and higher education systems develop advocacy strategies for changes in federal financial aid policy. The grant program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on FAFSA, loan repayment, institutional and student accountability, tax-benefit simplification, and state and federal partnerships. The group said it hopes to encourage new voices and partnerships on aid policy, including civil rights organizations, businesses and unions.

Most college students probably aren't using the dating app Tinder just to find friends

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Recent study attracting press attention says students use the app to make friends. Some experts doubt it.

Pomona President Will Step Down Next Year

David W. Oxtoby announced this week that he will step down as president of Pomona College next year. Oxtoby has been president since 2003. In his announcement to the campus, Oxtoby stressed that he would push ahead on key projects in the next year.

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Agreement on Climate Change Ends Long Sit-In at MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a student protest group have reached an agreement that will end a sit-in that has been going on in the administration building since October. The students want MIT's endowment to sell off holdings in fossil fuel companies, and the university still declines to do so. But MIT committed to take additional steps toward carbon neutrality on campus, and to work on benchmarks and guidelines for MIT's engagement with climate change off campus, including its ties to government and businesses.

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