Donald Trump, as the likely nominee of a major political party for the presidency of the United States, raises questions heretofore unimagined. Among them is the question of how and to what degree a college or university president should react to his candidacy.
If any doubt exists about the fact that the Trump situation is unusual, consider that some students viewed the recent chalkings of “Trump 2016” on the Emory University campus -- absent any other language -- as an act of intimidation. And the university’s president, James W. Wagner, observed that “the students with whom I spoke heard a message, not about political process or candidate choice, but instead about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own.” That is, some people considered Trump’s mere name as equivalent to an offensive epithet.
While such sensitivity might in part be a sign of the times in which we live, it is nonetheless true that Trump is more or less a walking violation of the mission statements and codes of conduct at most American colleges. Were he a student at Emory who engaged in some of his characteristic behaviors in a classroom or residence hall, he would likely face severe criticism and even disciplinary action. Few college presidents would hesitate to condemn a member of their community who, for example, clearly appeared to mock a person with a physical disability, insulted more than one religious and ethnic group en masse, and habitually belittled women.
The question, then, is whether Trump’s status as a leading presidential candidate inoculates him against such condemnation. How does an academic leader balance the responsibility to remain “neutral” against the duty to speak in defense of the values that are most central to a place of learning?
Nonprofit colleges and universities are prohibited by law from officially endorsing or opposing particular political candidates; they are compelled by mission to be places where a wide range of views, even those that are unpopular and provocative, can be expressed. For those reasons, college presidents typically, and wisely, steer clear of politics. Although they are, of course, free to speak and act as individual citizens, their leadership roles can blur the line between personal and institutional agency.
The exception, however, is when political matters bear directly upon the work of higher education. Thus, presidents will not hesitate to speak out on such issues as the funding of Pell Grants or the importance of affirmative action, despite the fact that such issues have clear political dimensions. Typically college presidents will be careful to support or oppose a policy and not a person, though it would be disingenuous to insist that their positions have no implications for the candidates and political parties they do or do not endorse.
Trump presents a special challenge because the policies and the personality seem so deeply interwoven and because both the policies and the manner in which they are expressed represent such a clear challenge to the work of higher education. Banning the entry of all Muslims into the United States, for instance, would have a direct impact on many international students and faculty members on campuses across the country. Forced deportation of undocumented residents would remove many students from those same campuses. I might go further and argue that the incitement to violence and the encouragement of fear and anger also undermine the academy’s commitment to civility and rational discourse. Trump is far from the first politician to engage in such tactics, but he is the first, I would argue, to stand so close to the highest office in the republic.
So what, if anything, is a college leader to say about a candidate like Trump? While speaking out about a presidential election can be difficult, for me remaining silent in the face of so much behavior and proposed policy that is antithetical to the mission of higher education is infinitely more difficult and ultimately more dangerous. A higher education president who opposes some of the offensive behavior that Trump engages in or the policies he promotes might run the risk of being too outspoken. But passively observing Trump creates a risk that is in my view much greater: that of failing to speak when the values most important to the institution within one’s care are imperiled.
Brian Rosenberg is president of Macalester College.
A new notice of allegations sent to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday from the National Collegiate Athletic Association focused on women's basketball and made no mention of the men's basketball or football teams. Together, the two teams accounted for more than half of all athletes who enrolled in the fraudulent courses at the center of the NCAA's investigation.
For 20 years, some employees at the university knowingly steered about 1,500 athletes toward no-show courses that never met and were not taught by any faculty members, and in which the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content. Following the university's own investigation into the courses, the NCAA sent a notice of allegations to UNC last year.
The notice alleged that the university "provided impermissible benefits to student-athletes that were not generally available to the student body." While the notice did not name any UNC employees connected to the men's basketball or football programs as subjects of its investigation, it did broadly refer to those athletes as participating in the fake courses and receiving impermissible benefits.
In August, the university notified the NCAA that it had found additional information about improper academic assistance being provided to the women's basketball team by an academic counselor, prompting the association to further investigate and then issue the new notice. Though the charges against UNC remain significant, the references to the men's basketball and football teams, as well as the broad language about impermissible benefits for athletes, are all missing from the updated notice of allegations.
Mary Willingham, a former academic counselor who helped bring the scam to light, said Monday that the women's basketball team was complicit in the scam, but that to focus so much on the women's team and not mention men's basketball or football is unfair.
According to the university's report, football players accounted for 51 percent of the athletes taking the phony courses, and twelve percent were men's basketball players. Six percent of athletes taking the courses were women's basketball players.
"The NCAA keeps showing us the truth about them and about their member institutions," Willingham said. "They're going to protect their money. Why would they try to hurt their profits, when they can just hurt the women?"
The new notice charges the university with five violations, including a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor the departments that offered the fraudulent courses. The notice largely focuses on women's basketball and a former academic counselor for the team named Jan Boxill. In a statement, Boxill's lawyer said "there is no legitimate reason for the women's basketball team to be singled out for special scrutiny or punishment."
The amended notice of allegations -- which supersedes and replaces last year's notice -- also narrows the time frame in which the fraudulent courses took place. The university's own report found that the courses began in 1993 and ended in 2011. The original notice of allegations focused on courses beginning in 2002. The new notice describes the classes as starting in 2005, which means its men's basketball team that won a national championship in 2005 -- and accounted for several enrollments in the courses -- is now likely in the clear.
Bubba Cunningham, UNC's athletic director, declined to speculate why the notice no longer mentioned men's basketball and football or why the allegations of impermissible benefits focused only on women's basketball, saying the NCAA determined what charges to bring against UNC by comparing the facts of the case with the association's bylaws. The university has 90 days to respond to the notice.
"Lack of institutional control, failure to monitor, those are significant charges," Cunningham said. "I just want to focus on what we have in front of us."
The faculty union and student government at Eastern Michigan University on Friday urged the university to drop Division I football. In a report presented to the university's Board of Regents, the students and faculty suggested that the team should compete in Division II or Division III instead. They called the move a "moral imperative" that would save students money.
"Culturally and geographically, EMU football will simply never succeed from an attendance and financial standpoint," Howard Bunsis, a faculty member who helped prepare the report, said during the presentation, the Detroit Free Press reported. "It is a losing proposition. Always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane."
Capella Education Co. last week announced the purchase of Hackbright Academy, a nondegree coding boot camp for women, for $18 million. Capella, a publicly traded for-profit chain, said in a written statement that the San Francisco-based Hackbright’s "mission to increase female representation in the tech workforce through education, mentorship and community is a strategic fit with Capella’s focus on providing the most direct path between learning and employment, and Capella’s historic base of largely female students."
The purchase is the fourth major investment by a for-profit in a boot camp, which tend to offer postcollege training in immersive, 12-week sessions that cost around $12,000. Kaplan Inc. two years ago bought Dev Bootcamp. Apollo Education Group made a "significant" investment in the Iron Yard last year. And Strayer Education Inc. bought the New York Code and Design Academy this year.
BMO Capital Markets, which analyzes the for-profit sector, said boot camps could help for-profit chains lessen their reliance on federal financial aid while also reaccelerating the companies' growth.
Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm, on Monday announced that it would distribute $1 million in competitive grants for nine community colleges around the country. Those grants, which are aimed at community college endowments and will support need-based financial aid, follow $2 million in gifts for LaGuardia Community College, which is located in New York City. The new grants from the firm's Goldman Sachs Gives fund also will be matched with $1 million from donors to the colleges.
U of Chicago coach tells judge that former speaker, about to be sentenced for hiding hush money to cover up charges he molested boys, is "outstanding human being" for taking on U.S. Education Department.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Faculty Senate will vote on a resolution expressing no confidence in UW System President Ray Cross and the system’s Board of Regents on May 2. Among numerous alleged missteps by Cross and the board, the resolution criticizes them for supporting a new systemwide layoff policy for tenured professors that many faculty members said fell short of providing real tenure protections in the event of program closures for budgetary and academic concerns. The board also approved changes to a Madison-specific policy that many professors said watered down tenure protections. The new policies stem from the Wisconsin Legislature’s elimination of tenure from state statute last year.
The no-confidence resolution, which is still being finalized, was written by Chad Alan Goldberg, a professor of sociology, faculty senator and president of American Federation of Teachers-affiliated United Faculty and Academic Staff. A current draft says, in part, that system leaders’ actions “have damaged the reputation of [Madison] as a great state university that encourages continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found” and that the “the erosion of academic due process and the circumventing of shared governance jeopardize the quality of students’ education.”
The document already has been endorsed by the president of the Madison advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, David Vanness, associate professor of population health sciences. Vanness said in an email to colleagues on Sunday that the case against Cross “is clear and convincing. … His actions at the Board of Regents meeting in March conclusively demonstrated that he has played a direct role in bringing about the weakening of tenure and shared governance as a means of giving the administration ‘flexibility’ and ‘tools’ to set aside tenure and trammel shared governance in order to deal with continuing budget cuts.”
Alex Hummel, university system spokespeson, said via email that the vote "is a faculty matter, and President Cross remains focused on helping the [system's] institutions maintain a world-class education."