administrators

What Charlottesville says about white supremacy at universities (essay)

I went to Charlottesville, Va., with one aim: to be helpful. Despite my critique of President Teresa Sullivan’s raceless four-sentence response, University of Virginia administrators afforded me an important opportunity to address all faculty and staff members seven days after white nationalists devastated the campus with racist and anti-Semitic chants. This speech felt especially consequential; finding the appropriate balance of sympathy, support, challenge and inspiration was an enormous task.

I began by asking everyone in the auditorium to join me in a moment of silence for persons who lost their lives in the racial crisis. I prayed silently at the podium. Then I invited audience members to raise their hands if the white supremacy that was on display at the university the previous Friday horrified and disgusted them. Most, perhaps all, hands went up. “Well, do something about it,” I instructed the mostly white crowd.

I frequently use a video clip from a CNN study to help educators understand how young children are socialized in problematic ways to view people from other racial groups. The reason for showing it at UVA was to help faculty and staff members see how early the seeds of white supremacy are sown. I made the point that little (if anything) typically happens in K-12 classrooms to undo the racism that students have learned from their families and assorted forms of media when they were four and five years old, the age of children in the CNN clip. Most come from racially homogeneous residential contexts where they attended segregated high schools, I noted. Too many white students then matriculate to institutions of higher education thinking they are intellectually superior to people of color. Some enter college with disgustingly racist views like those white nationalists expressed in the 22-minute Vice News documentary filmed in Charlottesville. “White supremacists are not just the people unaffiliated with UVA who showed up with tiki torches a week ago,” I argued. “Many more work and attend school here.”

On several televised news programs last week, I heard whites characterize Charlottesville and its beloved university as inclusive. Blacks on those same shows had vastly different appraisals. This dissent along racial lines also played out via #ThisIsntUs on Twitter. I had dinner Thursday night at a Charlottesville restaurant that had a sign taped on its door that read, “We value diversity, equality and love in this establishment and in our community.” It seemed to me that people of color had a different view and set of experiences in the predominantly white college town.

Because it was my first visit there, I could not speak with certainty about this. I therefore shared a handful of findings from my racial climate studies conducted on campuses demographically similar to UVA. I asked audience members to juxtapose the manifestations of white supremacy described in my data with racial trends at their institution. I did not detect disagreement. In fact, there were several affirmative head nods. “So then, do only certain displays of white supremacy horrify you?” I asked.

Too little is taught and learned about race on college campuses. It is entirely possible for students to come to UVA with racist views that are never engaged, contested or revised. They then go on to assume positions of significant authority after college. Given that whites are the single largest racial group that UVA graduates each year, sending them into the world without a proper course of study on race makes the university complicit in the maintenance of white supremacy in our society.

I made this argument and again asked audience members if only particular brands of white supremacy appalled them or whether they cared about it in all its forms. I asked if they were bothered by the white supremacy evidenced in the university’s employment trends: people of color are mostly in custodial, grounds keeping and food service roles there, while the overwhelming majority of deans, faculty members and senior-level administrators are white. That is white supremacy, too, I tried to make them understand.

My hour on stage concluded with a plea for outraged UVA employees to make four commitments: (1) this university will confront its historical and present-day racism, (2) this university will not graduate racists, (3) alumni of this university will not be sustainers of racial inequity in our society, and (4) white faculty members and administrators will play a major role in fighting white supremacy. To begin the process of enacting these commitments, I suggested the university must design a high-accountability process of racializing its curriculum, develop a cohesive series of race-focused out-of-class learning experiences for students and engage in departmental and campuswide conversations about race. Given the racial composition of the UVA faculty and staff, I emphasized this work cannot be left to the handful of people of color -- whites must be meaningfully engaged.

The audience offered a thunderous, embarrassingly lengthy standing ovation at the end. Hopefully that means I helped inspire them to correct all manifestations of white supremacy on campus and to use curriculum as a strategic resource to more responsibly prepare anti-racist UVA graduates.

Shaun R. Harper is the Clifford and Betty Allen Professor at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. He also is executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center and president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

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The University of Virginia
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017
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Stop Sustaining White Supremacy

Charlottesville fallout: Student says he was kicked out of a college for participating

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One says he was kicked out of Pensacola Christian after showing up to the Robert E. Lee statue after the protest with a Confederate flag. Another says he is leaving Boston U over threats for having attended.

Accused Harasser Resigns From Ohio University

An English professor found to have harassed students at Ohio University resigned, effective Nov. 1, President M. Duane Nellis announced Friday. The university already intended to terminate Andrew Escobedo, based on the findings of an internal investigation, and the professor waived his right to a hearing before the Faculty Senate.

“Brave women and other people in our community stepped forward to bring intolerable behavior to light,” Nellis said. “The healing process I envision is not one that will dim this light but rather intensify our efforts to ensure our community is a safe place to learn and work.” The university plans additional conversations on preventing sexual misconduct, starting the first week of the new academic year.

Escobedo, who has previously denied the claims against him, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has been on paid leave since March 2016. Two graduate students at Ohio sued the institution earlier this year for allegedly allowing Escobedo to serially harass female graduate students for over a decade. The plaintiffs alleged that they were harassed and groped at a class party in 2015, but a related university investigation found that Escobedo had harassed students going back to 2003.

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The value of self-care programs on campuses (essay)

Self-care -- maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle through individually determined activities -- has been found to improve productivity and a sense of well-being as well as physical and emotional health in a variety of work settings. Although it is still considered a somewhat controversial concept, many colleges and universities are now regarding self-care as essential for the optimal well-being of everyone in their community: faculty, staff, administrators, students, support personnel and others. The benefits of promoting self-care in the workplace are well documented.

Yet even in the face of high and increasing stress levels in all educational fields, self-care remains a low priority for many people in academic settings. In part, that is due to the traditional, culturally entrenched belief that faculty and staff members are expected to be concerned about the well-being of others -- often at the exclusion of their own well-being. Indeed, we contend that self-care has not been promoted as a universal component of educational programs because it is perceived by many people to be time off task -- and therefore detrimental to fulfilling “real” academic work commitments.

But if more colleges and universities implement self-care programs, the result will be more engaged campuses that are capable of promoting greater student success, producing higher levels of research and serving as exemplary educational models.

As an example, we recently implemented a self-care program for faculty and staff members in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at California State University, Northridge. Our survey, observation and interview data indicate that the program is effectively making significant inroads toward a cultural shift in the perception of self-care.

Our first step in this process was to conduct an informal needs assessment about how faculty and staff members in our college were doing in the area of self-care. Independent conversations with different individuals suggested that, although most of them enjoyed their work, they often experienced stress and burnout on the job as a result of a heavy workload.

Our second step was to research successful self-care programs at colleges and universities throughout the United States. We discovered that engagement in self-care was highest when faculty and staff members themselves chose the activities and those programs were offered at convenient times and locations. Based on those findings and organizational change theory, we crafted the following operational definition for self-care: “taking responsibility for oneself to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle at work and in one’s personal world through individually determined, proactive activities.”

Using that definition, we then surveyed faculty and staff members about their self-care preferences and willingness to participate in any self-care programs. We analyzed the data to determine their preferences when it came to the number and type of activities, as well as the locations and times such activities were offered. Preferred activities included mindfulness meditation, nutrition and health, light exercise and walking, and beginning yoga.

Based on those preferences, we launched a self-care pilot program in spring 2015, offering activities around noon or in the early afternoon in the education building. Volunteer faculty and staff members served as activity guides. We shared information about those various activities via email blasts and on our website. The program was informally named Self-Care for U at Northridge, or the SUN Program.

Program evaluation results showed that 44 percent of full-time faculty and staff members initially participated. More important, we saw significant positive changes in participants’ engagement in self-care activities and in their sense of calm and well-being. Faculty and staff members said they valued the opportunity to gain helpful information about various types of self-care and to engage in these activities together within a supportive community. They liked the short time frame of the self-care sessions, the freedom to choose which sessions to attend and the ease in learning from the well-prepared guides. They also indicated that they wanted the self-care activities to continue in future semesters.

Their responses suggested a real shift in the culture and values around the importance of taking care of oneself. The self-care program appeared to be a pipeline for faculty and staff members to engage in other self-care activities on the campus and in the community. More than half of the participants indicated that they were motivated to exercise more, eat better, get a regular health checkup and participate in other mindfulness and yoga activities. In addition, they reported a number of unexpected positive developments, including the formation of a universitywide mindfulness affinity group. Several guides also enrolled in additional self-care training, and other campus colleges started using our self-care program as a model for developing their own programs.

Based on feedback from surveys and focus-group interviews, we adjusted the times and types of activities and added new ones, including talks on sustainability, gardening, holistic health, and self-care and the arts. We continue to collaborate with various groups on our campus and to have discussions with representatives from other colleges about self-care programming.

In fact, as the program has evolved, we have become increasingly aware that a shared effort among faculty members and human resources and other administrators has been vital to its success. We have also recognized that the greatest challenge to our work has been promoting a cultural change within the college organizational framework and among the people who work there.

Now, in our third year, we are pleased to report that more than 60 percent of full-time faculty and staff members in the college are attending at least one self-care session. Through recent surveys and focus-group interviews, faculty and staff members have also told us that they engage in talk about self-care with colleagues and students more often after attending SUN Program activities and are now even integrating self-care information and activities into their classes and lessons. This highlights the expanding effect of a new self-care perspective and how it can create the cultural change within the entire college community that has been our ultimate goal.

If you are considering whether or not to implement a similar program at your institution, we recommend that the program design adhere to the following foundational guidelines:

  • positive communication in a safe work environment;
  • equal input among all stakeholders;
  • voluntary faculty and staff participation;
  • leadership by a committed facilitator-coordinator with gradual transfer to others; and
  • ongoing evaluation, reflection and revision.

We also realized that commitment and support from top administrators was imperative for achieving significant, positive changes in participants’ engagement in self-care activities and in their sense of calm and well-being, as well as bringing about many unanticipated, positive campuswide changes and beyond. Administrative buy-in should be demonstrated in a number of ways. As gatekeepers of university resources, administrators must provide support, such as facility availability and activity times during the workday for self-care involvement, with the knowledge that the return on the investment is well worth it. Administrators must also actively publicize their encouragement of self-care activities as a way of promoting involvement. Finally, administrators should engage in university self-care activities themselves to set an example that taking care of oneself in the work setting is a priority.

Once you start your program, you should encourage continuing input from participants and others about what works and what should change to meet their interests and needs. And, finally, the program must be institutionalized to ensure its sustainability. You can achieve such durability by making it part of an existing center or institute.

By investing in faculty and staff members’ self-care, your institution will ultimately reap the benefits of highly engaged employees. Based on well-being research and our program findings, we posit that establishing faculty and staff self-care programs will promote high morale, facilitate student success, inspire innovative research and offer valuable role models for others in higher education settings.

Shari Tarver Behring is former chair of the department of educational psychology and counseling and currently interim dean at the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at California State University, Northridge. Carolyn Jeffries is a professor and coordinator of the educational psychology M.A. program at the college. Michael Spagna is a former dean of the college and currently provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

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Michigan State, LSU Reject Supremacist Speaker

Michigan State and Louisiana State Universities have rejected requests by Richard Spencer, the white supremacist speaker, to appear on their campuses. In both cases, the university cited the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that accompanied a white supremacist gathering there. Historically, public colleges are required under the First Amendment to be open to speakers with all views. But the incidents in Charlottesville have already led Texas A&M University and the University of Florida to block Spencer appearances, citing the threat of violence, not his views.

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San Jose State criticized for return to campus of professor found to have harassed a student

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Professor found guilty of sexual harassment will return to San Jose State this month to teach trauma counseling. Students plan to protest.

Charlottesville tragedy and Trump remarks revive focus on statues of Confederates and other racists

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At some colleges, a debate is revived. In some states, laws will make change difficult.

College leaders should rename buildings named after those with racist histories (essay)

I’m proud to call Charlottesville, Va., home. Our community antagonized white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members by undertaking a democratic process to remove hurtful monuments.

Before moving to Charlottesville, I lived in Clemson, S.C. Like Charlottesville, Clemson has a beautiful and top-notch university located in a welcoming and caring community of people who could not be more different from the white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville last weekend.

My time at Clemson can provide a lesson for higher education leaders who wish to stand with Charlottesville. Like Charlottesville, and like many other higher education institutions, Clemson and the university have hurtful memorials left over from a racist past. Not only is Clemson’s Honors College still named for pro-slavery Senator John C. Calhoun, but the most iconic building on campus, Old Main, was renamed for “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who boasted on the floor of the U.S. Senate of killing black people. At Clemson, calls by students and faculty members for renaming have been stopped at the Board of Trustees as well as state law.

I believe the delays in renaming memorials at Clemson are wrong. I also believe the delays are for the most part well intentioned. As is now happening at institutions everywhere in the wake of last weekend’s violence in Virginia, I suspect Clemson’s Board of Trustees debated such renaming by weighing considerations like student safety and the university’s reputation. Perhaps someone even brought up the possibility that renaming buildings might attract white supremacists to campus.

Of course, no one wants neo-Nazis and the KKK to invade their campus. But higher education leaders must consider not only the white supremacists who could show up but also the students and faculty members who do not show up, or who leave, because of the unwelcoming environment that we tolerate. And higher education leaders must consider both physical and emotional safety. It’s one thing for unwelcome racists to invade our campuses, quite another to have dead racists honored on them.

So, higher education leaders, if you really want to stand with Charlottesville, rename those hurtful memorials. Do so because student leaders want us to do more. Do so because it will upset neo-Nazis and the KKK, which is always a good sign. Do so because there aren’t enough of those hateful people to go around; if we all act, they can’t focus on Charlottesville alone. And, finally, do so because it’s our role. For no one is born hateful -- it depends on their education.

Leidy Klotz is an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering and in architecture at the University of Virginia.

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Statue of Robert E. Lee the day after protests in Charlottesville, Va.
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Campus group proposing broad countermovement against white nationalism and racism

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Campuses are targets of the alt-right. A new group is proposing a broad, campus-based countermovement.

Improv 'Pimp' Exercise Results in Lawsuit

A student is suing Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, saying that his free speech rights were violated after he followed a theater professor’s instructions to act like a pimp trying to collect money from a sex worker. Joshua Zale, the student, in his lawsuit says that he was clearly asked to pretend he was a pimp during an improv exercise, but was later banned from registering for new classes for using an “unacceptable” word and causing a “disruption” during a related meeting with college administrators, according to the Chicago Tribune. Zale in his complaint says he refused to write an essay for punishment and is seeking monetary damages and the ability to once again register for classes. A college spokesperson declined comment on the pending litigation. The lawsuit does not specify which word the college allegedly found offensive, and Zale did not return a request for comment.

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Improv 'Pimp' Exercise Results in Lawsuit

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