Submitted by Jake New on November 22, 2016 - 3:00am
College sports leaders in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's most competitive level continue to be overwhelmingly white and male, according to a new study released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. As of this fall, 75.8 percent of presidents at the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision colleges were white men, as were 78.9 percent of athletics directors. About 7 percent of athletic directors were women, and all of them were white. Nearly 90 percent of faculty athletics representatives were white, as were 87.5 percent of head football coaches and 100 percent of conference commissioners.
“This year’s report results do not reflect the much more diverse composition of students and student-athletes at colleges and universities across the country,” Richard Lapchick, the institute's director, said in a statement. “I challenge all colleges and universities to mirror the diversity of their students and student-athletes in their campus leadership positions. College sport remains behind professional sports regarding opportunities for women and people of color for the top jobs.”
In September, the NCAA urged college presidents and conference commissioners to sign a new pledge promising to “specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity, and inclusion with a focus on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics.” Lapchick said the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport will closely examine any impact the pledge has in next year's report, but he criticized the effort for its lack of sanctions for those who do not honor it.
“It’s an idealistic pledge, and it’s definitely good that it’s there,” Lapchick said at the time. “But it doesn’t have any teeth.”
Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, on Monday released a letter to the campus on the institution's priorities going forward -- and pledged a big push in science. In explaining the push, Salovey wrote, "Science can change -- and improve -- the world. The discoveries and new knowledge that emerge from our faculty members’ research will help solve some of the most pressing issues of our time. The physical sciences can help us learn to live sustainably. Advances in life science save lives. And technology allows us to pursue solutions we never would have dreamed possible even a decade ago." (Salovey pledged that the push in science would not come at the expense of other fields, and noted the importance of continued investments in the humanities, arts and social sciences.)
One unusual part of Salovey's letter was that he noted a concern about some rankings of the university. While many college and university leaders regularly talk about their rankings and their goals for rankings, such talk is rare among those who lead institutions -- such as Yale -- that have the type of rankings many other institutions can only dream about. Here's what Salovey wrote: " I want to touch very briefly on rankings, although I share your nervousness about being overly reliant on what are far-from-perfect indicators. With our unabashed emphasis on undergraduate education, strong teaching in Yale College and unsurpassed residential experience, Yale has long boasted one of the very highest-ranked colleges, perennially among the top three. In the ratings of world research universities, however, we tend to be somewhere between 10th and 15th. This discrepancy points to an opportunity, and that opportunity is science, as it is the sciences that most differentiate Yale from those above us on such lists." (In the recently released Times Higher Educationworld rankings of universities, Yale was No. 12, and seven American universities ranked higher.)
Salovey elaborated that "science is the key variable in bringing Yale to the level where it belongs: in order to remain a great research university on the world stage, we need to invest further in Yale science. This ambition is not a matter of bragging rights; it is fundamental to our mission of educating leaders and improving the world."
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."
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."
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 dollarsare 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.