The president of American Atheists has demanded that the chancellor of a public university apologize for sending an email to all students and employees with a video that argues that democracy requires religion, AL.com reported. Chancellor Jack Hawkins of Troy University, in Alabama, sent out a video (below) featuring Clay Christensen in which he argues that democracy requires a religious society. Christensen is a prominent business professor at Harvard University, and the video is below.
The letter from American Atheists said that it was being sent on behalf of a student at Troy who was concerned after receiving the email from the chancellor. "On behalf of the student who contacted us, the Alabama members of American Atheists, the thousands of atheists at Troy University, and the hundreds of millions of atheists worldwide who live productive, law-abiding lives without religion, we demand an apology from you for using the public university email system and your publicly funded position to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States," the letter said.
UPDATE: Troy sent Inside Higher Ed this statement on Friday: "The purpose of this email was to spur introspection and encourage thoughtful discussion as we transition from the challenges of 2014 to the opportunities ahead in 2015. Troy University is an international university that contributes regularly to the global marketplace of ideas. This message and video were shared to provide the university community with information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy, the role it plays in the world and the challenges America faces going forward."
Oregon State University this year apologized for not taking seriously allegations of a gang rape made by a woman about four men, two of them Oregon State football players, in 1998. The Oregonian revived interest in the case with an interview this year with the woman who brought the charges. And that led the university to apologize, and to note how difficult it would be today to revive the case in any legal sense. A new article in the newspaper details just how much information Oregon State had at the time the charges were first made (it turns out a very detailed account), and why no prosecutions took place. A summary from the article puts it this way:
"The school never responded after she reported the assault. Pervasive conflicts of interest clouded judgment. The betrayal included hasty and questionable decisions made by local police and the district attorney's office. Evidence was destroyed years before the statute of limitations expired -- despite the strong urging by a deputy district attorney to preserve it. OSU insiders acknowledged problems in the way sex assaults were reported and handled back then, but no one seemed to care deeply enough about Tracy [the woman who made the charges, and who spoke to the newspaper with her name] to do anything about it. Officials involved portrayed a campus administration consumed with fundraising and with protecting its own image as it tiptoed around the controversy."
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed Wednesday that it is seeking to fire Jeanette Boxill, former chair of the Faculty Council, for her role in a scandal in which athletes and some other students were steered to phony courses in which they were assured of good grades. The depth of the scandal stunned UNC, and Boxill's involvement has been particularly upsetting to many there. A report released in October found that, as an adviser for women's basketball players, Boxill steered students to fake courses with suggestions about what grades they needed.
UNC officials have resisted until now revealing the disciplinary actions they were taking until all appeals had been exhausted. But facing lawsuits from media organizations, the university agreed to reveal those who have been fired or who the university is seeking to fire, including Boxill. The university statement said that Boxill still has an appeal pending. But the statement said that revealing the punishment being sought was appropriate. "In light of the extraordinary circumstances underlying the longstanding and intolerable academic irregularities ..., as well as her role as chair of the faculty council during a period of time [in which the fake courses were offered], the chancellor has determined that in order to preserve the university’s integrity, it is necessary to disclose that, on October 22, 2014, the University informed faculty member Jeanette Boxill, Ph.D., of an intent to terminate her employment based on evidence accompanying the report. Dr. Boxill responded by requesting a hearing before a committee of the faculty — a decision we fully respect. While that process is pending, and after extensive reflection and deliberation, the chancellor determined that disclosing this information relating to Dr. Boxill is necessary to maintaining the level and quality of services Carolina provides as well as our integrity as we continue to move forward."
Boxill did not respond to an email from Inside Higher Ed.
Submitted by Jake New on December 30, 2014 - 5:03pm
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Tuesday a bill that bans college athletes at public universities from joining unions. The legislation, which passed the Michigan Senate earlier this month, requires all college athletes to be classified as "students," preventing them from being classified as employees.
There's been no indication that such an attempt to unionize was taking place at Michigan's public universities, and the legislation was apparently in response to the ongoing unionization efforts of athletes at Northwestern University, a private university in Illinois. (The National Labor Relations Board oversees unionization issues at private institutions, but states govern unionization rules for state employees.) “The Republican Legislature has done so much union busting over the years that now they've resorted to busting unions that don’t even exist," a spokesman for Progress Michigan, a progressive marketing group, told Michigan Live.
Georgia legislators have been boasting about a new ethics law that imposes strict reporting requirements on lobbyists and bars lawmakers from accepting anything worth more than $75. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the new law exempts interactions with the public higher education system. As a result, public universities have been able to continue to lobby (without reporting on their activities) and to provide valuable gifts in the form of tickets to athletic events and expensive meals. During the fall, universities spent more than $20,000 on football tickets and meals and other events on game days.
Speaker of the House David Ralston, a Republican, defended the exemption for higher education. "These state employees serve as an informational resource to legislators on matters pertaining to state government operations which occasionally may include meetings or site visits to public institution,” he said.
The Texas A&M University Board of Regents called off a planned meeting Thursday at which members had been expected to rename Academic Building on the College Station campus for Rick Perry, an Aggie alumnus who is ending his tenure as governor of Texas. Academic Building has had that name and a prominent spot on campus and in student and alumni hearts since it was completed in 1914. While Perry had earlier in the week talked about being pleased with the honor, he issued a statement Thursday saying that some parts of the university are too central to be named for anyone, so he did not want this honor.
Many students and alumni -- even those who back Governor Perry politically -- were taken aback by the plan to rename Academic Building. Social media is full of illustrations (such as the one above) that were part of the campaign against the name change. The Battalion, the student newspaper, published an editorial saying in part: "The absurdity of the idea goes well beyond the irony of putting Perry (and his well-documented sub-2.5 G.P.A.) on A&M’s academic hub, which in 2014 celebrates its 100th birthday. The regents shouldn’t name the Academic Building after the governor. Not because he’s not qualified, but because no one is." The editorial noted that it was quite legitimate for Texas A&M to honor a long-serving governor and alumnus such as Perry, but that there had to be a better way to do so.