Submitted by Jake New on February 12, 2016 - 3:00am
Texas A&M University is investigating reports that students yelled racial slurs at a group of high school students during a campus tour this week.
About 60 juniors from a Dallas-area high school were visiting the university on Tuesday, when a white woman allegedly approached two black students and asked their opinions on her earrings, which were miniature replicas of the Confederate flag. Later, a group of students allegedly began shouting racist slurs at the students, TheDallas Morning News reported, and told the high school students to "Go back where you came from."
A campus tour guide and an official from the high school who were accompanying the students also witnessed and reported the incident.
"I am outraged and tremendously disappointed in the behavior displayed by a group of students on our College Station campus," Michael Young, the university's president, said in a statement. "I deeply regret the pain and hurt feelings this incident caused these young students. Be assured that we take such allegations very seriously."
Submitted by Jake New on February 12, 2016 - 3:00am
At least five other chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon also knew of the racist chant heard at the University of Oklahoma last year, an investigation by the national office found. The fraternity, however, said it could not confirm that SAE originated the chant, which featured lyrics promising that SAE would never accept black members.
"Sigma Alpha Epsilon polled every collegiate member over the course of several months," the fraternity said in a statement Thursday. "We learned there were five chapters that acknowledged hearing the chant in the past five years. However, none of those members who responded said they heard it more recently than 2012, except for the incident at the University of Oklahoma. We provided additional education to those particular chapters on diversity and inclusion to make sure their culture has not deviated from our values and mission."
The fraternity has a long history of its members exhibiting racist and discriminatory behavior. In July, SAE hired a director of diversity and inclusion to oversee new diversity initiatives following the controversy at the University of Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Members of the Oklahoma chapter were caught on video singing the chant -- a song that set racist slurs, lynching imagery and promises of discrimination to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" -- last March, prompting investigations by both the university and the fraternity. Those earlier inquiries determined that the Oklahoma chapter first learned the chant while on a leadership cruise organized by SAE.
“That is where it was learned, and they brought it back from that cruise,” David Boren, Oklahoma’s president, said at the time. “Does it mean that they were taught by some official of the national chapter? No, I don’t think so. But it does mean that it’s known by a lot of people from a lot of places.”
Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, filed lawsuits in state court Wednesday against Penn State (for breach of contract) and Louis Freeh (for defamation), PennLive.com reported. The suits come out of Freeh's investigation on the university's behalf of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The suits claim Freeh misrepresented Spanier's actions as failing to take the child abuse seriously, when Spanier maintains he did not know at the time how Sandusky was abusing children. The suit against Penn State alleges that the university violated pledges in his departure agreement not to criticize him. Penn State and Freeh were not immediately reachable for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a complaint against Adams State University administrators on behalf of Danny Ledonne, a former adjunct professor of mass communications and video production employee who was banned from campus after he repeatedly criticized the university on a personal website called WatchingAdams.org. Ledonne wrote about pay differences between faculty members and administrators and questioned the university's hiring practices, among other topics (he was turned down several times for a tenure-track job, according to the complaint). Adams State issued Ledonne a no-trespass order this fall. The complaint, filed in a federal court in Colorado, alleges violations of Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights, as well as false and defamatory claims by the university that his behavior was threatening.
Adams State said in a statement that the complaint is “based on a wholly false premise that we have been eager to completely refute, but have lacked the legal ability to do, until now.” Officials said that they look forward to “making the case that the university’s actions were based solely on evidence and the belief that Mr. Ledonne’s longstanding pattern of inappropriate actions and threatening statements required us to act in an abundance of caution to protect our students, faculty and staff. We will aggressively contest any accusation that our safety-based decisions were in any way related to constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
Suffolk University has ended a controversial, long-term marketing contract with Regan Communications, whose chairman has ties to many trustees, The Boston Globe reported. Many on campus have viewed the contract as a conflict of interest because of reported trustee pressure to keep the contract and not consider other alternatives, as President Margaret McKenna has sought. The head of the company was involved with efforts to remove McKenna, who held on to her job last week, but who will leave prior to the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
George Regan, who runs Regan Communications, blasted McKenna in comments to the Globe. “President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” he said. But many on campus are praising her for ending the relationship with the company.
The University of California at Berkeley Wednesday morning announced a major initiative aimed at maintaining educational quality while addressing serious budgetary concerns. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a campus message that the university faces “a substantial and growing structural deficit, one that we cannot long sustain,” and introduced what he called a comprehensive strategic planning process to establish a “new normal.”
“We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance,” he said. “This is a moment not just to stabilize our finances, but also to consider our future as a leading institution of higher education. The guide for this effort has to be our core mission: to enhance the educational experience we provide to students while maintaining our commitment to access, to increase the support we provide for groundbreaking research and scholarship, and to align our public outreach with 21st-century societal needs.”
Dirks said the Academic Senate, deans and administrators have been analyzing their budgets and programs for months and must now transition to comprehensive planning in the same collaborative spirit -- even though some of the process is sure to be “painful.” Every aspect of Berkeley’s operations and organizational structure will be under consideration, according to the memo, including:
Controlling staffing levels and adopting staff hiring “discipline” that mirrors that for faculty positions.
Improving support for teaching and research while redesigning work processes to achieve greater “efficiency,” such as the previously adopted end-to-end review of research grant proposals.
Making investments to improve fund-raising capacity.
Achieving additional revenues through the Berkeley “brand,” land and other assets, such as through licensing.
Working with senate leaders and deans on the redesign of some academic structures, including strengthening some areas, narrowing the focus of others and combining units.
Expanding online offerings and enrollments in University Extension, as well as professional and other master’s programs that earn revenue.
“We realize that many of you will want to know more, and have many good ideas to offer for our consideration,” Dirks said. “In the months ahead, we will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in order to share more detailed information, answer questions and solicit suggestions. You will also hear more from the leadership of your school, college or administrative unit as work on the initiatives broadens and deepens across the campus.”
Changes will start to take effect this summer, though significant academic and administrative realignments will take longer. Updates will be posted on Berkeley’s website.
“This endeavor must not be interpreted as an abandonment of our commitment to a public mission nor [of] our efforts to advocate for increased public funding for higher education,” Dirks said. “We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate ‘public’ with mediocrity, against those who have lost faith in the need for higher education to serve as an engine of social mobility and against those who no longer believe that university-based inquiry and research have the power to shape our society and economy for the better.”
He added, “What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.”
Due to declining state funding and other factors, Berkeley expects an operating budget deficit of 6 percent this year, or about $150 million. Officials say that while that is manageable in the short term, trend lines call for proactive sustainability measures.
Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.
The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.
One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”
In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.