Submitted by Jake New on December 30, 2014 - 5:03pm
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Tuesday a bill that bans college athletes at public universities from joining unions. The legislation, which passed the Michigan Senate earlier this month, requires all college athletes to be classified as "students," preventing them from being classified as employees.
There's been no indication that such an attempt to unionize was taking place at Michigan's public universities, and the legislation was apparently in response to the ongoing unionization efforts of athletes at Northwestern University, a private university in Illinois. (The National Labor Relations Board oversees unionization issues at private institutions, but states govern unionization rules for state employees.) “The Republican Legislature has done so much union busting over the years that now they've resorted to busting unions that don’t even exist," a spokesman for Progress Michigan, a progressive marketing group, told Michigan Live.
Georgia legislators have been boasting about a new ethics law that imposes strict reporting requirements on lobbyists and bars lawmakers from accepting anything worth more than $75. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the new law exempts interactions with the public higher education system. As a result, public universities have been able to continue to lobby (without reporting on their activities) and to provide valuable gifts in the form of tickets to athletic events and expensive meals. During the fall, universities spent more than $20,000 on football tickets and meals and other events on game days.
Speaker of the House David Ralston, a Republican, defended the exemption for higher education. "These state employees serve as an informational resource to legislators on matters pertaining to state government operations which occasionally may include meetings or site visits to public institution,” he said.
The Texas A&M University Board of Regents called off a planned meeting Thursday at which members had been expected to rename Academic Building on the College Station campus for Rick Perry, an Aggie alumnus who is ending his tenure as governor of Texas. Academic Building has had that name and a prominent spot on campus and in student and alumni hearts since it was completed in 1914. While Perry had earlier in the week talked about being pleased with the honor, he issued a statement Thursday saying that some parts of the university are too central to be named for anyone, so he did not want this honor.
Many students and alumni -- even those who back Governor Perry politically -- were taken aback by the plan to rename Academic Building. Social media is full of illustrations (such as the one above) that were part of the campaign against the name change. The Battalion, the student newspaper, published an editorial saying in part: "The absurdity of the idea goes well beyond the irony of putting Perry (and his well-documented sub-2.5 G.P.A.) on A&M’s academic hub, which in 2014 celebrates its 100th birthday. The regents shouldn’t name the Academic Building after the governor. Not because he’s not qualified, but because no one is." The editorial noted that it was quite legitimate for Texas A&M to honor a long-serving governor and alumnus such as Perry, but that there had to be a better way to do so.
Harvard University's top officials are disavowing a decision by its dining operations to stop using the products of SodaStream, an Israeli company that sells machines to produce sparkling water. SodaStream has a factory in the West Bank, and while the company says that the factory provides for the livelihoods on equal terms of Palestinians and Israel Arabs (as well as Israeli Jews), SodaStream has become a target of those seeking to boycott Israel. Harvard officials say that they were unaware that their dining operations, responding to the concerns of students opposed to SodaStream, had dropped the company's products. They learned of this development from an article in The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.
Alan M. Garber, Harvard's provost, released this statement: "As President [Drew] Faust has indicated to members of the Harvard community who have made inquiries, she and I both learned of this issue from today's Crimson. She has asked staff to get to the bottom of how these conversations started and to learn more about where matters currently stand. Regardless, Harvard University's procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals' views of highly contested matters of political controversy. If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now."
Harvard Dining Services has since issued a statement that it will not let politics enter into decisions about which products to use. "We value and regularly seek input on a wide range of issues from members of the community who use HUDS facilities," the statement said. "In this instance, we mistakenly factored political concerns raised by students on a particularly sensitive issue into a decision on soda machines. As the president and provost have made clear, our procurement decisions should not be driven by community members’ views on matters of political controversy."
Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, is seeking “restorative justice” against a group of male dentistry students involved in a Facebook group that allegedly made sexually violent remarks about their female cohorts and other women, CBC News reported. Some of the posts attributed to the students reference using chloroform on women. The Facebook page and other allegations of sexual harassment within the dentistry program – including that a professor showed a video featuring bikini models during an 8 a.m. class to “wake up” students – came to light after an unnamed female dentistry student shared her concerns with CBC News.
Richard Florizone, Dalhousie’s president said this week that 13 male students involved in the Facebook page will not face suspension or expulsion, but will attend face-to-face mediation with the parties involved, at the request of women who allegedly were harassed. University officials did not immediately return requests for comment about what, if any, disciplinary action will be pursued against the professor involved in the complaint.
The University of Michigan affirmed its commitment to faculty free speech as well as what it called a “respectful environment,” following calls from conservatives that it condemn the professor who wrote an essay called “It’s OK to Hate Republicans,” The Detroit News reported. The essay, by Susan J. Douglas, the chair and Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies, was published online this week by In These Times. “I hate Republicans,” Douglas wrote. “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching [Republican legislators] Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’”
Following the essay’s publication, Andrea Fischer Newman, a member of the university’s Board of Regents, wrote on her Facebook page that the essay was “extremely troubling and offensive,” and “ill-serves the most basic values of a university community.” Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said in a statement that the essay was “ugly and full of hatred” and intimidating to students. He said the university and state Democrats should “join in condemning this disgraceful dialogue by calling for Professor Susan J. Douglas’ resignation.”
In a statement, Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesman said the views expressed in the essay were “those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.” At the same time, he added, “the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.”
Douglas could not immediately be reached for comment. In These Times has since changed the name of the essay on the magazine’s website to “We Can’t All Just Get Along,” the same title under which it appears in the magazine’s print version. An editor’s note says that the title was changed to the include the word “hate” without Douglas’s knowledge, and that she rejected the former title as not representative of the piece or its main points. The note also says “all threats to the author's life and personal safety” have been removed from the online comment thread.