administrators

Cornell Names New President

Cornell University named Martha E. Pollack its next president Monday, tapping the University of Michigan provost to take over in April, about a year after former president Elizabeth Garrett died of cancer.

In addition to being Michigan’s provost, Pollack holds the title of executive vice president for academic affairs. She has been in her current position at Michigan since 2013 after previously holding titles including vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, dean of the School of Information, and associate chair for computer science and engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Pollack was selected for the presidency after Garrett died of colon cancer in March. Garrett, a former provost at the University of Southern California, began serving as president in September 2015.

Hunter R. Rawlings III has been Cornell’s interim president. He will continue to hold the position through April.

Cornell’s Board of Trustees elected Pollack as the next president Monday after a presidential search committee was started in April.

“I am delighted to welcome Martha Pollack as Cornell’s next president,” Board of Trustees Chairman Robert S. Harrison said in a statement. “She is the perfect person to take the helm of Cornell at this important moment in our history. She has successfully managed a comparably complex institution and is a bold thinker who will inspire our faculty and students in Ithaca and across all of our campuses; her academic background in computer science will serve us extremely well as we open the Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island campus next year; and her familiarity with the issues facing academic medicine will be invaluable as we continue to grow Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.”

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NYU Promotes 'Deplorable' Professor

An assistant clinical professor of liberal studies at New York University who he said he was strongly encouraged by administrators to take leave after it was revealed he tweeting anonymously as “Deplorable NYU Prof” has been promoted. Michael Rectenwald, the professor, previously stated that he feared his tweets critical of the university and what he sees as overzealous campus inclusion efforts would negatively affect his bid for promotion. The university has repeatedly said that Rectenwald requested leave, and that social media activity in no way affected its actions.

Rectenwald is still on leave. A university spokesperson said Monday via email that he “received an expected promotion to the rank of clinical professor in accordance with our regular procedures; he and approximately 18 others were put up for this promotion at the same time and all were informed at the same time. … It is customary for such promotions to go forward even when a faculty member requests and chooses to take leave, as is the case here.” There are no tenured positions in liberal studies, according to the university, but the promotion comes with a raise.

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Alamo Colleges hope free summer courses will encourage momentum to graduation

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A Texas community college system is hoping the appeal of free summer courses will drive students to move from part-time to full-time status, giving completion rates a boost.

The results of the election call for colleges to seek more inclusivity within a context of fairness (essay)

Like many university people, I kept underestimating the phenomenon of Donald Trump. Months ago, I called attention to “The Trumpian Calamity,” hoping that more college presidents and other education leaders would condemn his campaign of hate-filled demagoguery. Now, like so many around the country, I find myself wondering whether I should have done more.

Would demonstrating an even greater sense of urgency have made a difference? Would we be in a better position today if we in higher education had worked harder to mobilize a coalition to get out the vote? At the same time, it’s clear that universities should not be turned into anyone’s political tool -- least of all a president’s. Universities are first and foremost places for thinking and for learning in ways that contribute to independence of mind, and political action on the parts of those who study and work at our institutions should grow naturally from these activities -- not from the designs of administrators.

After the election, some students here at Wesleyan University asked us to cancel classes for protests and for grieving. We did not cancel classes. Had students earlier this fall asked us to help them find alternative ways of getting work done so that they could travel to swing states to organize voters, I would have worked with faculty members to make that possible. Today I wonder if I should have taken the initiative and proposed that idea to students of various political stripes. Or would that have been the kind of politics by administrative design that should be avoided? I remain unsure.

Early on Nov. 9 when it became clear that Donald Trump would become our president-elect, my thoughts shifted back and forth between the good of the country and the health of my university. An international student whom my wife and I know well texted her to ask if Wesleyan would “be all right.” Yes, I think we will.

To be sure, this election has heightened feelings of alienation and vulnerability because it has been filled with racism and xenophobia. The pain of targeted groups is real because the threats are real, and we must acknowledge those threats and work to mitigate their effects. We must fight to protect Latinos and Muslim Americans from violence driven by socially sanctioned scapegoating and bullying. We must ensure that our friends in LGBTQ communities are not marginalized by newly empowered narrow-mindedness taking control of our legal system. But campuses across the country will be all right if we will continue to strive to build inclusive communities that reject white supremacy, bigotry and fear; we will be all right if we express our care for one another in a context of fairness.

That context of fairness must include ensuring that there is a place for conservative points of view at colleges and universities. We must be much more open to ideas that challenge what many take for granted as a progressive higher education consensus. This presumed consensus of the educated often amounts to little more than shared condescension. One thing progressives should have learned recently is that we don’t have some special purchase on understanding the direction of history.

That does not mean that we should find reservoirs of patience for bigotry, but it does mean that we should listen carefully to how what some consider progress has disenfranchised many others. It does mean that we listen carefully to alternative conceptions of freedom and community that conservative and religious traditions have to offer.

This semester I am teaching an interdisciplinary humanities course on Virtue and Vice. It just so happens that during election week we were focusing on how many artists and intellectuals in Europe retreated from the public realm after the crushing failures of the revolutions of 1848. Around that time, Karl Marx wrote, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves.” Many great poets, novelists and painters grew bitterly ironic about politics and the possibilities of progress. “What a sad opinion one forms of men,” wrote Gustave Flaubert, “what bitterness grips one’s heart when one sees such delirious asininity on display.” Recognizing that there are no guarantees about who was going to end up on the “right side of history,” far too many writers became cynical about change, detaching themselves from any possibility for meaningful work in the public sphere. They often rejected the writings of women authors like George Sand as being too romantic and idealistic. The poet Charles Baudelaire expressed the hollow superiority of the disengaged when he wrote that 1848 “was charming only in the excess of its ridiculousness.”

In the wake of crushing disappointment in this electoral season, we must resist the temptation to abandon the public sphere to those who would return to a past in which people of color, women and queer folk were even more systematically excluded from access to basic rights. As engaged participants in the polity, we have to remain vigilant to protect the people and values we care about. And as educators, we must help students better understand how they can be effective in the public sphere beyond the seductive stage offered by campus politics. There is work to be done in neighborhoods, towns, cities, state capitals and in Washington. Perhaps we can take heart in the fact that both major political parties will have seriously to rethink their approaches to the crucial issues facing the country -- they need the engagement of our students and alumni to do so.

Although in the current cultural context “healing” often means hunkering down with those whose opinions one shares, this is not the time to close one's eyes or to stop listening. We need more conversation across political and cultural differences -- and we need new modes of engagement that take us beyond our echo chambers of ideas and curated news feeds. As faculty, staff and students expand their circles of engagement beyond those groups with whom we share the most obvious affiliations, we must continue to work to defend those who are disenfranchised and oppressed.

Cynicism and irony are too easy a response to disappointment. Regardless of political affiliation, we can work together -- beyond the university -- to solve specific problems and create real opportunities for more individuals and groups. And here on our campuses, we will continue to create communities that offer all our students, staff and faculty the potential to thrive, to be challenged, to be at home.

Michael Roth is president of Wesleyan University. His most recent books are Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters and Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living With the Past. Follow him on Twitter @mroth78.

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The Uprising: Honoré Daumier painting of the revolution of 1848
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At meeting of state university leaders, varying opinions on free speech in contentious times

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Leaders of state universities hear differing views on how to uphold academic values at a time when many students feel under siege and misunderstood.

Occidental Finds Students Who Destroyed Memorial

Occidental College has announced that it has identified and taken action against students who vandalized a Sept. 11 memorial set up by the campus Republican club. The students planted 2,997 small American flags to honor those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks -- and others removed the flags and trashed many of them (right).

"Students believed to have been involved in the incident were identified, and the college has taken appropriate action in accordance with the college’s Code of Student Conduct. Federal and state privacy laws prevent the college from disclosing details about the investigation, the findings or the sanctions," said a statement from the college. "The destruction of a memorial is not a form of protected speech. Debate and disagreement at Occidental should be inclusive, not polarizing."

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U of Illinois Backs Budget Deal With Benchmarks

The University of Illinois System is backing a deal proposed by some legislators that could lead to appropriations for system campuses on a regular basis, The Chicago Tribune reported. The deal would require that the university's three campuses meet targets for admitting in-state undergraduates, increasing the availability of student aid and limiting tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

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Students at many colleges reporting ethnic or racial harassment since Election Day

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Many campuses have seen graffiti, taunts and more -- with immigrant, Muslim and minority students as targets -- in last 48 hours. Some see a Trump effect.

U of Alaska Reverses Plan to Cut Skiing, Track

In a reversal, the University of Alaska's president, Jim Johnsen, said Thursday that he will recommend the university's Board of Regents not cut men's and women's skiing and indoor track at two Alaska campuses.

Johnsen had originally proposed eliminating the sports at the university's Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses in an attempt to save money. Johnsen's plan was to create a consortium of the two Division II colleges, essentially creating one athletic program across two campuses. In doing so, Johnsen proposed cutting men's and women's indoor track and men's and women's skiing at the University of Anchorage, as well as skiing at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, meaning Anchorage would be below the 10 teams required to remain in Division II. Johnsen requested a waiver from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, but the NCAA said it would not consider such a request until the teams were actually eliminated.

"We know that such a step would risk a wide variety of financial and programmatic NCAA sanctions," Johnsen said in a statement Thursday. "As a result of this nonresponse from the NCAA, I will recommend to the Board of Regents that we not reduce teams at this time."

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North Dakota Eliminates State Authorization Office

The North Dakota University System has eliminated the office that authorizes colleges to issue degrees in the state, either on-site or via distance education. A spokeswoman for the system confirmed the move via email, saying there had been a reduction in force due to budgetary constraints. She said the duties would be reassigned.

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