Three cabinet secretaries urge colleges to support more veterans (essay)

Jeff Bell enrolled in college right out of high school but soon dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He quickly earned commendations and promotions for his work in the highly sensitive job of keeping U.S. nuclear assets secure. But then he was diagnosed with a medical condition that made him ineligible for his position. He soon left the military and eventually found work as a dealer and then a pit boss at a casino in Arizona. The money was good, but something was missing. He felt adrift.

Nearly two decades later, he learned he was still eligible for military educational benefits and was advised to check out the programs and support for veterans at Arizona State University. There, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center provided him with just what he needed: tutoring, coaching on his writing, help with his benefits and just a place to stop by and get a cup of coffee as he adjusted to studying side by side with students who were more than 20 years younger. He graduated in May at the age of 44, with a biology degree and, thanks to help from center staff, started working the next month in the Santa Fe National Forest as a recreation specialist for the U.S. Forest Service.

America began providing veterans with tuition assistance via the G.I. Bill after World War II. That commitment to help veterans gain the skills and credentials employers want was renewed in 2008 with the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act. To date, that legislation has provided 1.6 million people with a total of $68 billion in education benefits. But over time, we’ve learned that veterans -- who tend to be older, have families, may have a disability or may simply need to brush up on skills they learned in high school -- need more than financial assistance. And some educational institutions are better equipped to meet those needs than others.

That is why, on Nov. 11, in recognition of Veterans Day, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum that directs our agencies to work together to do more to help veterans identify institutions best able to help them, and also to hold colleges accountable for treating veterans, their spouses and eligible family members fairly.

Fulfilling the nation’s promises to its veterans has been a priority for President Obama ever since he took office. At his direction, the Department of Veterans Affairs created the GI Bill Comparison Tool so that veterans could compare the cost and outcomes of different schools. In addition, the Department of Defense began offering workshops to help veterans and their families transition to civilian life and access higher education. And several thousand institutions subscribed to the administration’s principles of excellence, agreeing to avoid misleading recruiting practices and deliver high-quality academic and student support services.

The new memorandum requires us to begin providing college-by-college data on veterans’ student debt and repayment rates. We will seek to expand an apprentice program that allows active-duty service members to obtain credentials and certificates. We also will launch a new pilot program to test the effectiveness of personalized tools and counseling. And, across the administration, we will do more to detect and hold colleges accountable for misleading recruitment practices.

Colleges and universities such as Arizona State University are leading the way. Syracuse University, for example, established the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to focus on social, economic, education and policy issues affecting veterans and their families. San Diego State University’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center provides military-affiliated veterans with one-stop shopping. The Troops to Engineers and SERVICE (Success in Engineering for Recent Veterans through Internship and Career Experience) programs at various higher education institutions help veterans earn engineering degrees and secure internships at major companies. Columbia University has a Military in Business Association and offers academic programs designed for veterans.

The administration’s Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success spells out other ways colleges and universities can voluntarily support veterans. Las Positas College in California is one of over 2,100 institutions to endorse the keys. The college maintains a comprehensive Veterans Resource Center that addresses veterans’ academic, career, financial and health-related challenges. (To learn more about the Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success, click on link or e-mail

On this Veterans Day, we must remember that post-9/11 veterans took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States out of a sense of duty and love for country. But they also realized that their service could lead to greater opportunities, including a college degree. One way to thank them for their service is to support them as they pursue their education.

Ashton B. Carter is U.S. secretary of defense. John B. King Jr. is U.S. secretary of education. Robert A. McDonald is U.S. secretary of veterans affairs.

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Bennington College's experiment with short-term, pop-up courses

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Bennington College’s pop-up courses allow professors and students to tackle world events as they happen.

Wisconsin Bans Nooses From Stadium

The University of Wisconsin at Madison on Wednesday announced that it was banning fans from bringing nooses and ropes to its football stadium. The university promised rule changes following an incident in which two fans brought a noose and a mask of President Obama to pretend to lynch him. Many students and faculty members said that there should have been rules in place to prevent the incident.

The university also announced these rules: "Any person who engages in violent, threatening, abusive or otherwise disorderly conduct which tends to provoke a disturbance or incite violence will be ejected from our events. Threats include statements, actions and behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen as having a purpose to inflict physical harm, even if the person making the threat doesn't have the ability to carry out the threat. Disorderly conduct does not require that a disruption actually occur. Any spectator carrying a prohibited item may be refused admittance or may be ejected from the venue."

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University of California Affirms Support for Diversity

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, along with system chancellors, issued a statement on the election results Wednesday that did not mention Donald Trump by name but affirmed support for diversity.

"In light of yesterday's election results, we know there is understandable consternation and uncertainty among members of the University of California community," the statement said. "The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Diversity is central to our mission. We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance."

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Marshall President Condemns Trump-Inspired Tweet

A student's Donald Trump-inspired Tweet has led to anger and condemnation at Marshall University, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The election night tweet referenced the way Trump spoke on video about how he treats women. “As soon as Trump hits 270 electoral votes I am grabbing the first girl I see by the p----. #MAGA,” said the tweet. The hashtag is used by Trump supporters as the acronym of "Make America Great Again," his slogan. The tweet has since been deleted.

Jerome Gilbert, the president at Marshall, issued a statement that said, “By suggesting an action that is inconsistent with our university’s core values -- in direct opposition to the Marshall University creed and everything the Marshall family stands for -- it does not represent behavior we expect from our students …. Language like this can only be viewed as threatening and offensive not only to women but to all members of our community.”

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Numerous campuses see protests as students react with shock to Trump victory

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At campuses nationwide, those opposed to the president-elect hold rallies and sit-ins.

Outcomes of ballot measures affecting higher education

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Voters in many states weren't exactly thrilled with the notion of raising taxes to fund higher education.

The aftermath of the 2016 national election on student affairs (essay)

The past 18 months leading to the election of Donald Trump last night have been incredibly challenging for us as a nation and certainly for all of us who work in higher education.

The angry and hostile dialogue has left many in our communities feeling unsafe, devalued and marginalized. For many of our students and staff members, the results of the election will magnify those feelings of outrage, despair, hopelessness and genuine fear for their future. It is important to note that after the rhetoric expressed during the election, our Muslim, Jewish, African-American, Latinx, undocumented and LGBTQ students and staff, as well as students and staff members who are sexual assault survivors, will likely have strong emotional reactions to this election outcome.

How do we move forward? First, we need to acknowledge what just happened. About 47 to 48 percent of voters, more than 59 million Americans, sent a clear message that they wanted something different and wanted someone who spoke to their concerns. We live in a fractured and divided country with two very different visions about our future path.

This division and the politics of hate that have surrounded this election make the work we do in student affairs even more important today than it was before the election.

This will not be easy, and it never is. Those of us who work in student affairs will need to take some time to absorb the results of this election, tend to the self-care necessary, support those who are hurting or angry and afraid, and then quickly get back to the work we do: providing support to our students who themselves will be struggling with a range of emotions following the election.

This election does not stop the work we must do to address racial injustice on our campuses and in our communities. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the crucial work we are doing to increase degree progress and completion for first-generation students, low-income students and students of color. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the need to support the hundreds of thousands of undocumented students who are on our campuses. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the work we are doing to engage students in difficult conversations around race, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation. It makes it more important.

This election, and its results, creates an urgency for a new generation of leaders -- leaders who are on our campuses. The work we do to encourage active discourse, protest and activism is core to our democracy and to our need to engage a new generation committed to ideals of inclusion and social justice. This is more important than ever.

The next few months will be critical for our country and our colleges and universities. It is unknown how President-elect Trump will view the higher education sector. NASPA will continue to monitor, teach and provide opportunities for dialogue about these issues within the next few months.

I remain optimistic about the work we are doing in higher education and the role each student affairs professional plays in the lives of our students. Our work has never been more important.

Kevin Kruger is president of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

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Providence College professor says diversity efforts are stifling the college's religious mission

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Providence College professor says diversity efforts are stifling the college's religious mission, but students, professors and the campus president say he's wrong and his criticisms hurt.

Backlash Against Athlete Protests at Arkansas

A state senator has placed a hold on the University of Arkansas's budget request after six members of the women's basketball team knelt during the national anthem last week to protest police shootings of African-Americans. The Republican senator, Alan Clark, said he will also introduce an amendment that would cut university funding by an amount equal to the women's basketball budget, even though the university's athletics department is self-sufficient and does not use state funds. The university's budget would normally be considered by the state Legislature in February.

Clark, a member of the state's Joint Budget Committee, said the hold was a way to get "answers" from Jimmy Dykes, the team's head coach, and Jeff Long, the university's athletic director. Dykes and Long last week both said they supported the players' right to free speech but did not publicly support or condone the protest itself. Clark has suggested that university officials helped coordinate the protests, though there is no evidence to support that conclusion.

“I’m not using coercion to try to keep them from kneeling,” Clark said. “I am using the budget process to get the attention of Jeff Long and the chancellor and Dykes, to get their attention and whoever else is involved, that if they had anything to do with this, and I believe they did.”

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