A Harvard University student group dropped its plans to re-enact a Satanic "black mass" Monday evening. But a New York City Satanic group announced plans to hold the event off campus Monday night after the student group ended plans to co-sponsor the event on campus. Whether the event took place was unclear. Employees of the lounge where the event was said to be taking place told The Boston Globe that some people were drinking at a bar and no rituals were being performed. But other reports in The Harvard Crimson and on social media said that later Monday night, some form of a black mass did take place at the lounge. The Harvard student group originally involved did not respond to an email seeking clarification.
Earlier Monday, Harvard President Drew Faust issued a statement condemning the planned event, but refusing to ban it. "[E]ven as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree," Faust said. "The 'black mass' had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory."
She added that she would not bar the event. "Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs. At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own."
Many faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign believe that James Kilgore, an adjunct who has been told he will not have his contract renewed, is being treated unfairly. Kilgore had strong reviews, and indications that he would be renewed, but that changed when a local newspaper published an article identifying him as a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, who has served jail time before coming to the university (and informing superiors of his past). Amid the complaints, the university has vowed to review what happened to Kilgore.
But now faculty leaders question whether that review will be conducted fairly. That's because Christopher Kennedy, the Illinois board chair, gave an interview to The News-Gazette in which he said that the board, while respecting the review process, has strong feelings about what should happen. "The board's position is we don't want to prejudge the process," Kennedy said. "But our general position is clear. We want to be respectful of the fact that we operate on taxpayer's money and tuition ... and people paying tuition who have will have concerns about underwriting this lifestyle." Kennedy also said that because Kilgore is an adjunct, there are not academic freedom issues at stake. "We're not reacting to public pressure. If this was an issue of academic freedom, we would stand up for it. This is an hourly employee who doesn't have tenure. It's completely different," he said. And Kennedy said he has been "very clear" in sharing his views about the issue with university administrators.
Cary Nelson, a professor of English at Illinois, past president of the American Association of University professors, and one of those pushing for Kilgore to be rehired, said via email that Kennedy's statements have made it impossible for Kilgore to be reviewed fairly for renewal. Having "confessed" to sharing his views, Kennedy "is being distinctly disingenuous in declaring that the board doesn't 'want to prejudge the process,'" Nelson said. "Indeed his remark that the board may have a role at the end of the university¹s review process telegraphs a warning that the board may well choose to deny Kilgore a job even if the campus decides otherwise. That may take the campus administration off the hook from the faculty perspective, but it leaves us with academic freedom and shared governance in tatters."
Ball State University has promoted a professor accused last year of proselytizing during a course called "Boundaries of Science," The Star Press of Muncie, Ind., reported. Last year, the university investigated and said it would be working with Eric Hedin, now an associate professor of physics and astronomy, to make sure that his courses were science-based. The news came after First Amendment watchdog groups informed the university that students had reported Hedin was using "Boundaries," an honors science class, to teach Christan values.
The story, along with the university's recent hiring of another science professor known for his support of intelligent design, prompted a statement from President Jo Ann Gora affirming the university's commitment to "academic integrity" in relation to science. She said intelligent design had no place in a science course.
TheStar Press noted that Hedin's promotion followed a letter to the university from conservative state legislators, expressing concern over the “establishment of a speech code restricting faculty speech on intelligent design[.]" Legislators in the letter said Gora's statement and the university's actions toward Hedin raised "troubling" questions, such as whether a professor would be able to answer a question from a student about intelligent design. Ball State administrators met with lawmakers last month. State Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Education Committee, told the newspaper that “Ball State officials were very attentive to our requests and concerns during the April 4 meeting. A majority of issues have been resolved, and I look forward to working more on these matters concerning academic freedom with the university.”
Joan Todd, a university spokeswoman, said: “It was productive meeting, a great opportunity to discuss important issues and at this time we have nothing more to add." Via email, Todd said that Ball State does not automatically award tenure to associate professors, unlike most institutions, and that Hedin, who is four years into his probationary period, is not yet tenured. Hedin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some students at Haverford College are objecting to the selection of Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, as commencement speaker, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The students object to the role of campus police in dealing with some student protests during Birgeneau's tenure. They have demanded that, as a condition of supporting his appearance at Haverford, Birgeneau apologize for police conduct at Berkeley, and offer reparations to "victims," among other items on a list of demands.
Birgeneau has refused. In a letter, he said: "First, I have never and will never respond to lists of demands. Second, as a longtime civil rights activist and firm supporter of nonviolence, I do not respond to untruthful, violent verbal attacks."
Longwood University put on a graduation ceremony for one senior this week, ahead of this month's commencement, so her dying father could see his daughter graduate, WRIC News reported. President W. Taylor Reveley IV and other university officials put on their academic robes and regalia. Brittany Inge, a senior majoring in elementary and middle school education, put on her cap and gown for the ceremony. Her father has stage four lung cancer and has been told he has very limited time. “I could not ask for anything more," Inge said. "I’m forever grateful to all the Longwood staff who made today so special.”
Davidson College announced Wednesday that it is ending free laundry service -- in which students could drop off dirty laundry and have it returned, clean and folded. The college has offered the service for decades but officials said that it makes more sense to spend the college's resources on academics. The Charlotte Observer reported that Davidson will save about $400,000 annually.
Last week, the Obama administration released an important report, “Not Alone,” addressing the daunting problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
The report was accompanied by an extensive set of helpful questions and answers to guide colleges and universities in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law that provides the legal framework for oversight of how colleges and universities assure that all students are free from sexual harassment and assault. It was also accompanied by an advance summary of a systematic review of the literature on primary prevention strategies for reducing sexual violence conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a public health physician, I was surprised and disappointed that the word “alcohol” literally does not appear anywhere in the chapter on prevention. And in fact the word occurs only once in the text, in a section referring to future online technical assistance from the Justice Department.
To the administration’s credit, links to reports and guidance related to college drinking were included in the excellent, comprehensive “Not Alone” webpage and within the preliminary CDC report.
Studies suggest that at least half of all sexual assaults on college campuses involve the use of alcohol. I wonder if the administration chose to ignore in its report this important and common link in the chain of causal and correlated factors that often leads to sexual assault because officials were concerned that merely noting the association might lead to unfair blaming of the survivors of sexual assault when they have consumed alcohol or other drugs.
While I applaud the sensitivity to the tendency by some to wrongly blame survivors of sexual assaults when they have been drinking, omitting any discussion of the admittedly complicated issue was a serious mistake if we hope that the report prompts colleges and universities to use every possible avenue of intervention to prevent sexual assault on our campuses.
When the college that I lead began to address this issue, specialists in the prevention of sexual assault on college campuses were very blunt in their direction to us: They told us that we would never address the problem unless we also addressed the issue of excessive drinking. Our student leaders echoed that conclusion as they took a leading role in developing new initiatives to reduce sexual violence among our students. For example, our students suggested that we create an alcohol-free space where students can linger for food and conversation after parties end. This provides students with an opportunity to “disengage” from the party, as well as time that is helpful in making good decisions.
The omission in the report is especially surprising because the federal government’s own National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which I had the privilege of directing when I worked at the National Institutes of Health, has devoted significant resources to build the evidence base to help colleges reduce the human costs of excessive drinking on campuses. Many of these resources are readily available at www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.
The inclusion of the word “first” in the title of the week’s report suggests that there will be other reports. I am optimistic that future reports that address sexual assault will take on the important and complicated issue of excessive drinking and drug use as one part of this deeply troubling issue.
Raynard S. Kington is president of Grinnell College. Before coming to Grinnell in 2010, he served in a range of positions at the National Institutes of Health, including principal deputy director and acting director, NIH associate director for behavioral and social sciences research, and acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The board of Morgan State University appears to be fully backing David Wilson, the university's president. In late 2012, the board voted not to renew Wilson's contract. Then -- facing student and faculty protests -- the board voted to extend his contract by one year. On Tuesday night, the board announced an indefinite extension of Wilson's contract. A statement released by the board chair, Kweisi Mfume, said: “Over the last several years, higher education in this country has undergone a stressful and uncertain period. The challenges have been particularly problematic for our HBCUs; however, Dr. Wilson has emerged as a leading national voice and is guiding Morgan admirably through these times. The board values his leadership very highly and looks forward to his long and successful tenure.”