Oregon State President Discusses 1998 Investigation

Oregon State University President Ed Ray on Wednesday met with Brenda Tracy, a woman who has recently publicly told her story of being raped by four men, two of them football players at the university in 1998. Ray had pledged earlier that the university would investigate what happened. An investigation at the time yielded relatively light sanctions against the athletes. After his meeting Wednesday, Ray wrote to the campus about what the investigation found, and The Oregonian published that letter.

"What we can share is that the student conduct environment in 1998 that dealt with off-campus matters involving a non-student was very different nationally – and at OSU. If this case was reported to us today, we would pursue significant student conduct actions – even if this violence took place off-campus and involved a survivor who was not a student," Ray wrote. "I assure you that today we would respect the survivor's wishes and their confidentiality. We would work with the survivor to fully pursue conduct sanctions including the suspension or expulsion of those OSU students who committed such an offense. And we would work to stop the sexual misconduct, prevent a recurrence and assist the survivor."

He added that he had "asked Oregon State officials to evaluate possible retroactive student conduct actions in this case, but they determined that law will not allow the university to take such action. Changing how the criminal process was managed in 1998 in this case is beyond OSU's control."


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Lawmakers Ask About NCAA Role After UNC Scandal

Two congressmen sent a letter to Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Wednesday, requesting information about the association's oversight of the academic services its member colleges provide to athletes. The request was inspired by a report released in October that detailed how 3,100 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- many of them athletes -- enrolled and passed classes they never attended and which were not taught by a single faculty member.

A separate, earlier NCAA investigation into the so-called "paper classes" ended in no penalty for the university, as the courses were available to all students, not just athletes. The new report, however, found that nearly half of the students taking the courses were athletes, even though athletes made up just 4 percent of the student population.

"The NCAA’s response suggests that participation by non-student athletes in ‘no-show’ classes somehow inoculates NCAA member institutions from sanctions by their governing body," Rep. Tony Cárdenas and Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote. "Although the NCAA routinely legislates matters as mundane as meal quotas for student-athletes, its failure to sanction the use of ‘no-show’ classes calls into question the NCAA’s commitment to its educational mission.” In the letter, the lawmakers requested information about what actions the NCAA has taken in response to the report and what the association is doing to prevent similar scandals from happening at other colleges. The NCAA continues to investigate the report's claims.

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New presidents or provosts: Amarillo Bahamas Baltimore El Centro Middlesex North Lake St. Thomas UT

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  • Jose Adames, vice president and dean of academic affairs at Dutchess Community College, part of the State University of New York System, has been selected as president of El Centro College, part of the Dallas County Community College District, in Texas.

Smith President Sorry for 'All Lives Matter' Email Heading

On Friday, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney sent an all-campus email about various campus efforts to promote inclusion and to support those angered by the recent decisions of grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men. The email's substance was well-received on campus, but McCartney's subject line -- "All Lives Matter" -- was not. Many of those protesting the grand jury decisions have taken to using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, while some of those criticizing the protest movement have been using #AllLivesMatter instead. Students told McCartney that her heading was being used elsewhere in this way. That prompted another email from the president. "I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag “all lives matter” has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people," she wrote, thanking students for sharing the information. The original email and the follow-up email may both be found here.



U.Va. Defends Suspension of Fraternity Events

National fraternity organizations are criticizing the University of Virginia for continuing a suspension on fraternity events on campus until January 9, even though many questions have been raised about a Rolling Stone article that led to the suspensions in the first place.

The university on Monday released a statement in which it noted past statements by President Teresa A. Sullivan that the institution was not judging all fraternity men by the alleged actions of some. “In any crisis it can be far too easy to paint with a broad brush, and blindly attack entire groups of individuals. This is not a responsible reaction,” she said on December 1, before the Rolling Stone article was discredited.

But in Monday's statement, the university stood behind the suspensions. "The purpose of the suspension of fraternity and sorority social activities was to give the university and Greek leadership a pause to identify solutions that would best ensure the well-being and safety of students. This important collaborative work continues, and the reinstatement of Greek activities on Jan. 9 will be in conjunction with a new Fraternal Organization Agreement that will enhance the safety of members and their guests," the statement said.


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Clemson U. Fraternity Suspended After 'Cripmas' Party

The Clemson University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has suspended all fraternity activity and several of its officers have resigned following a "Cripmas" party where students dressed up as gang members. The party was condemned by the university and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national office, the Greenville News reported, and black students took to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to voice their anger. Students who attended the party also used social media to share photographs from the event. 

In a statement Sunday, Jim Clements, Clemson's president, said the party "raised more concerns" about an already troublesome climate on campus. "At a time of year when our thoughts are turning to family, holidays and the start of a new year — all the things that unite us and bring us joy — it is discouraging that so many events and issues are causing division and hurt, and making many students feel unwanted at this great university," he said.

Last week, Clemson replaced its vice president of student affairs amid rising tensions between fraternities and the administration.


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Essay reflecting on memorial services at colleges and universities

I will never forget the advice that the late and great Rev. Peter Gomes of Harvard University gave to me after my appointment as university chaplain. I expressed my concerns about being only 29 years old in this position and my fears about not being respected by older administrators. He told me that he too had been appointed to his position at a very young age. He then encouraged me to never forget that “Any time an older president, provost, dean, or professor gives you a hard time, remember that you will eulogize them all!”

He was, of course, with his trademark irreverent-yet-holy brilliance, reminding me that the academic and ministerial vocational journey is more marathon than it is sprint, and that all challenges eventually pass. I missed, somehow, the literal truth to what he was saying. A large and important part of the work of college and university chaplaincy is the planning of and the presiding over memorial services for faculty, staff and administrators. And I have found that these memorials are about more than remembering and honoring departed colleagues. They are also an opportunity for us to pause and consider what our own legacies will be.  

Even at smaller colleges and universities, it is difficult to imagine knowing the entire faculty or all the members of the staff and administration. In my case there are some members of our community whom I have known since my undergraduate days here. Others I know only by reputation. Some I only meet via the memories and stories that I hear at their memorial services.    

These services are as profound as they are simple. As healing as they are grief-filled. 

Serving as a chaplain at a nonsectarian university, I help to craft a service that is accessible for all who will attend while simultaneously being true to the individual we are remembering. Sometimes an individual was a person of faith and sometimes not. 

This points to what I think is the first difference between a funeral and a memorial service. Funerals tend to be driven more by the family of the deceased and by any last wishes left behind. A funeral service is more likely to be a religious service reflecting one’s faith or the faith of the family. A memorial service at a college usually reflects the institution where one taught. That does not mean a service is devoid of faith or religion, but rather it is not the driving theme of the service. Likewise funerals, particularly religious ones, incorporate an element of ritual or certain rites. Memorials tend to emphasize remembrances rather than rites.

Most of the memorial services that I have seen on college campuses seem to follow a similar format. There is an opening of some sort and this is traditionally done by a chaplain or department chair. After that, an administrator will offer remarks. Following the president or dean, several colleagues from the department and sometimes from other institutions will speak.  And, when appropriate, current or former students share their experiences working or studying with an individual. We’ve found that it’s important to offer some type of musical interlude at events like this, and often that music is the accompaniment to a slide show compiled with the assistance of the family. 

After the music and slideshow we open the program up to anyone else who was not on the program and would like to offer remarks. Some share hilarious stories. Others shed tears and can barely get a word out. But it’s important for people to have an opportunity to share.

And that’s really what these events are for. The director of our university counseling center likes to remind us how important memorial services are for a campus community. Ceremonies like funerals and memorials are an important part of the grief process for many people. They allow a community to formally say goodbye. They provide us with an opportunity to be together, support one another. Hug each other while we cry. They're also an opportunity to celebrate a life well-lived and the great blessing it is to journey through life with each other.         

I have noticed something at these services. When the speakers come to the front, they identify themselves not simply as department colleagues or fellow researchers in a lab, but as friends. And their remarks may offer a sentence or two about one’s “influence on the field,” “contributions as a scholar” or “excellence in the classroom” but almost to a person, the words offered at memorial services are stories about and testimonies to the character of the individual being memorialized that day. While intellect and professional accomplishments are respected and certainly acknowledged, this is not what those who rise to speak hold on to. If one’s C.V. is the predominant subject matter at one’s memorial service, then something went terribly wrong along the way.

It seems that the legacies that we leave as scholars and as higher education professionals are threefold. We of course will leave behind professional and scholarly contributions in the form of texts and articles written, courses taught, research opportunities, or programs that left deep impressions on our students, as well as faithful work in the service of the institutions that we serve. 

Along with our professional and scholarly one, it turns out that we also leave a legacy established by our character. The way we treat our colleagues and coworkers seems to be just as if not more important than the academic and professional work that we offer. Junior colleagues often recall in memoriam how they were recruited to a place, or mentored during their first semesters. They remember how they were treated during their tenure review or in other potentially stressful moments in their career. The department staff will often speak to the simple courtesies and daily decency of an individual. This is what is most talked about at memorials.

Sometimes, before I return to the podium to close the service a member of the family rises and asks to say a few brief words. With tear-soaked faces that express gratitude for the kind stories – many of which they had never heard – about their husband, wife, partner, or parent. They then share a facet of the individual that most of us knew little of. They talk about the fun-loving parent who read stories to them as a child and coached their little league team. Or the gentle grandparent who spoiled their little grandkids. We hear about the quirky hobbies that occupied their time away from the lab or office. We hear about someone who was never called “Doctor” or “Professor” at home, but instead “Honey,” “Mommy,” or “Pop-Pop."

After the service ends some of us dare to imagine what our own memorial service will someday be like.

It is a grim thought that probably shouldn’t be dwelled on too long, but these moments of reflection challenge us to consider just how we will be remembered. What will our colleagues say about us? Will they say that we were kind and supportive? Will they be proud to have worked with us? Will our former students point to us and say that we recognized gifts in them and affirmed them in a meaningful way?

And will our kids and partners stand at our services and smile at our colleagues? Or will they remain seated with resentment toward a job that made their parents miss so much of their lives?

Our legacy should never be the motivation for our work. Worrying about our image can lead to poor decision-making, a preoccupation with oneself, and a lack of courage. Yet it is healthy, I think, from time to time to consider how we are treating those around us. The ripples of our love and kindness will carry on long after our books are out of print and long after our seasons in higher education have passed.

Rev. Charles L. Howard is university chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Students, faculty don't always react quickly to emergency alerts

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Safety experts have praised the student response to the shooting at Florida State, but students don't always take campus emergencies as seriously.

Questions surround sudden departure of Clemson vice president of student affairs

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Clemson University has replaced its vice president of student affairs. Why are some Greek leaders celebrating?

Reed College considers whether its harassment rules are insufficient

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Controversy leads Reed College to ask: Should colleges bar even consensual relationships between supervisors and their subordinates? Are student employees entitled to know about harassment findings in departments in which they work?


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