Two-thirds of college and university risk managers responding to a recent survey said they consider the risks associated with fraternities to be among the most significant risks facing higher education. When asked to describe how significant a liability risk fraternities are to an institution, half of the respondents said "medium risk" -- defined in the survey as posing "significant liability risk" -- and 14.3 percent said "high risk." About 7 percent of the managers said fraternities present "no unusual risk."
The survey, conducted by the University Risk Management and Insurance Association, also found that most risk managers are not convinced that their institution's current strategies for addressing fraternity risks are sufficient. Forty percent of the respondents said they are uncertain whether their strategies are effective, and a quarter said they feel that their strategies are not effective.
There was a sharp divide between risk managers at public and private institutions in how they view the advantages that fraternities provide to their campuses. More than one-third of respondents at private colleges said "there are no advantages" to having fraternities at their institutions. Only 10 percent of public institutions reported no advantages, with 70 percent of them saying that fraternities are important to alumni relations and philanthropic activities. The University Risk Management and Insurance Association said it conducted the survey to see if a recent "rash of negative news stories about alleged misconduct in certain fraternities" has affected how colleges view the risks associated with them.
Marquette University has removed a mural of Assata Shakur, who was convicted in the murder of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 and later escaped prison and fled to Cuba, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The mural was painted in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center on campus in March but drew attention from bloggers over the weekend. The university issued a statement that the mural did not reflect the "guiding values" of the university.
Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, a major Oklahoma oil company, urged the University of Oklahoma to fire earth science researchers whose findings displeased him, Bloomberg reported. Their research focused on increases in earthquakes in the state. Bloomberg obtained email records in which a dean recounted the demands and Hamm's request to serve on a search committee to pick a new head for geology research at the university. The faculty members in question were not fired and Hamm did not get appointed to the search committee.
America and much of the world have been transfixed by recent events in Baltimore. What’s most important, however, comes after the cameras leave.
More than 50 years ago, Americans also were riveted as dogs and fire hoses were unleashed on the marching children of Birmingham, Ala. Participating in that march was the most terrifying experience of my life. Even so, it was not the hardest.
The toughest experiences came in the next 50 years, working to change the educational and socioeconomic systems that still exclude far too many Americans from real opportunity. At my university, students and staff work every day with hundreds of inner-city teenagers who are first-time offenders, providing them with guidance around the clock. These children and so many more need our support now more than ever.
As one of my students said to me recently, the Baltimore story -- which is the American story -- should remind us that issues related to poverty and inequality, crime and opportunity are not about “those people.” They are about us -- all of us.
How we react to events like those in Baltimore speaks volumes about our values. We know we must do much better, especially for people who have not had a chance to thrive in our society. Americans -- not just in Baltimore but across the country -- have an opportunity now to ask difficult questions and take long-term action.
Universities have an especially critical role to play as community anchors, educators and researchers. A quote from a 1923 edition of The Daily Princetonian sums up our responsibility as aptly today as it did the day it was penned: "We are almost the only section of the population which has the leisure and opportunity to study the controversial questions of the day without bias, and to act accordingly. The power of today is in our hands.”
The future will depend heavily on universities -- not only the policies we shape but the leaders we produce. Historically, one of America’s greatest strengths has been our ability to look squarely at our problems and to make hard changes. To do so often requires struggle, and we have a responsibility to embrace that struggle. To do so is a fundamental part of the learning and growing process -- and it is fundamental to changing issues of systemic injustice and inequality that are neither new nor isolated.
We have made tremendous progress since the 1960s; the fact that I can write this as the African-American president of a predominantly white university is testament to that. But recent events have reminded us just how uneven opportunity, power and justice in this country remain.
At a recent campus forum, one professor contrasted the quick disaster of a riot to the slow disaster of Freddie Gray’s neighborhood -- a site impacted by failed public and private policies since the 1930s. That slow, devastating deterioration, combined with the heightened effects of discrimination during the War on Drugs, boiled over into the West Baltimore riots on April 25.
Our responsibility as educators is to help our students -- young citizens and voters, future leaders and parents -- understand the context of recent events. The liberal arts, especially the humanities and social sciences, are powerful tools for shedding light on the challenges we face in this country. Universities must serve as models -- and actual spaces -- for talking about sticky issues of race, inequality, authority and fairness. How do we eliminate inequity if we don’t even know how to talk about it?
We recently started a program on campus to coach first-year students in intercultural communication. While the INTERACT program is completely voluntary, it reaches students who would not naturally gravitate toward such programming, often because they grew up in communities dominated by a single race or class and are uncomfortable interacting with peers different from themselves. Upperclassmen serve as peer recruiters and promote the program on their residence hall floors and in casual encounters, rather than just at multicultural events or among groups focused on diversity.
Many of my students first confront issues of race or class when they work at one of our partner schools in Baltimore. Whatever their race or background, our students often see themselves in their younger counterparts, but they also recognize that they have advantages these children have never had. Too few Americans understand what children in such circumstances experience long before they reach their teenage years.
Universities need to create more opportunities for students to connect with people in circumstances vastly different from their own and to relate what they’re learning in classes about justice, politics, economics and history to real work in the community. Our BreakingGround initiative, which works closely with the national American Democracy Project, does just that. Through the initiative, engineering students have built models of water infrastructure for the city of Baltimore, English students have performed research and service to advance childhood literacy, and American studies students have documented the proud history and decline of the industrial neighborhood of Sparrows Point.
Other students, recent alums and staff members work with hundreds of first-time offenders through our Choice program, a community-based initiative that supports and empowers youth through a host of services. Recently the program has been bringing together youths and police officers for structured conversations and the joint creation of a tile mosaic for a public space. Such initiatives build trust between communities and police and can, ultimately, save lives.
But even with abundant opportunities for engagement, students often have to be pushed to get beyond their comfort zones. Even at UMBC, where students from all walks of life and more than 100 countries study alongside one another, we have to work to get people to talk openly about race and socioeconomic differences. I often wonder if universities are doing enough. We are having renewed conversations on our campus about how we can deepen our ties to the community and keep issues of inequality and inequity at the forefront of our teaching and service.
I know we must remain vigilant. The limelight will predictably fade, but the challenges will not. The power of today is in our hands.
Kennesaw State University said Thursday it is "reviewing the concerns" of a student who posted a video online showing an academic adviser threatening to call security on the student as he allegedly waited for assistance. The student also said via Twitter that the adviser canceled previous attempts to meet and was unhelpful when he tried asking her questions over email. The student, who is black, uploaded the video Wednesday night. By Thursday evening, the original tweet -- which was captioned "rude advisors at Kennesaw. [Shaking my head]" -- had been retweeted more than 6,000 times.
A Twitter hashtag, #ItsBiggerThanKSU, has prompted online discussions about racism on college campuses, but it has also lead to a deluge of more general complaints about poor academic advising. Several other Kennesaw State students have now come forward with similar complaints about the adviser shown in the video, posting images of email exchanges with her that they believe illustrate the adviser's contempt for the students she's meant to help.
"Kennesaw State officials take seriously all student concerns and are dedicated to promoting a positive academic advising experience," the university said in a statement. "Kennesaw State University officials are working with a student to review his concerns regarding the behavior of an academic adviser."