Submitted by Jake New on September 15, 2016 - 3:00am
Following the National Collegiate Athletic Association's lead, the Atlantic Coast Conference -- one of the major Power Five college sports leagues -- will move its athletic championships from North Carolina, due to state laws there that many say discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people.
"The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount," John Swofford, the conference's commissioner, said in a statement. "Today's decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships."
"We appreciate that the ACC shares our commitment to creating an inclusive atmosphere for all, but we regret that today’s decision will penalize affected host communities and fans throughout the state," Spellings said. "Intercollegiate sports and the ACC are integral parts of North Carolina’s economy and way of life. As we have said many times, UNC institutions do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we are fully committed to being open and welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds. We remain caught in the middle of this issue and welcome a speedy resolution by the court."
Chicago State University trustees are preparing to remove President Thomas Calhoun Jr. just nine months into his tenure at the struggling institution.
An agenda for a Friday meeting shows that trustees expect to vote on a separation agreement for Calhoun and name a new interim president. The move is planned despite the fact that Calhoun only started in his position in January and is supported by the university’s faculty union, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago State declared financial exigency in February and continued to struggle as an Illinois budget impasse dragged on and lawmakers only provided partial funding to universities. The university, which is located on the city’s South Side and has a mostly African-American student body, laid off about 400 employees, or 40 percent of its workforce, this year. Its six-year graduation rate fell this year to 11 percent, after fluctuating between 13 and 21 percent in recent years.
The university’s faculty union president, Robert Bionaz, sent trustees a letter voicing support for Calhoun Wednesday morning. He said trustees were ousting a popular president while keeping other senior administrators that faculty and staff oppose, and he called for the governor of Illinois to replace the board.
"The board has chosen a path guaranteed to create continued conflict, contention and uproar on this campus," Bionaz said, according to the Tribune.
Around this time 20 years ago, I met an elderly gentleman who’d had what sounded like an exceptionally interesting and unusual dissertation-writing experience. A couple of recent coincidences bring the encounter to mind and so inspired this little causerie.
His name was Harmon Bro, and he was in his late 70s when we met. He’d spent the better part of 50 years as an ordained minister and Jungian psychotherapist. If anyone ever looked the part of a Jungian archetype, it was Harmon, who personified the Wise Old Man. In 1955, the University of Chicago Divinity School awarded him a Ph.D. after accepting a doctoral thesis called “The Charisma of the Seer: A Study in the Phenomenology of Religious Leadership.”
It was based in part on work Harmon did in his early 20s as an assistant to Edgar Cayce, “the sleeping prophet.” Despite minimal education, Cayce, it is said, could give long, extemporaneous discourses in response to questions posed to him while he was in a trance state. Among these “readings” were medically sophisticated diagnoses of people miles or continents away, as well as detailed accounts of ancient history and predictions of the future.
Cayce died in 1945, but he left a vast mass of transcripts of his “readings.” By the 1960s, publishers were mining them to produce a seemingly endless series of paperback books extolling Cayce’s powers. Insofar as the New Age can be said to have founding figures, he was one of them.
Harmon was clearly a believer in Cayce’s miraculous powers. I was not (and am not) but have always enjoyed the legends by and about him. As a schoolboy, for example, he would put a textbook under his pillow and absorb its contents while asleep. He graduated (so to speak) to the Akashic Records -- an ethereal library documenting life on Atlantis and in ancient Egypt, and much else besides. He could also see into the future, but the track record is not impressive: China did not convert to Christianity in 1968, nor did Armageddon arrive in 1999. Cayce also predicted that an earthquake in the 1960s would cause California to sink into the Pacific Ocean. It remains attached to the continental United States as of this writing.
Harmon didn’t take skepticism as a threat or an insult, and anyway I preferred listening to arguing. He stressed how very improbable Cayce had been as a subject for serious scholarly attention in the 1950s -- at the University of Chicago, no less. It took three or four tries to get his topic approved; by the time the dissertation was finished and accepted, it felt like every faculty member concerned with the history and psychology of religion had weighed in on it. He happily lent me a copy (when anyone expresses interest in a decades-old dissertation, its author will usually have one of two responses: pleasure or horror), and from reading it, I could see that the scrutiny had been all for the best. It obliged him to practice a kind of methodological agnosticism about Cayce’s powers, and he demonstrated a solid grounding in the social-scientific literature on religion -- in particular, Max Weber’s work on prophetic charisma.
But by 1996, Harmon Bro was not at all happy with the institutions routinizing that charisma. The man he’d known and studied had an ethical message -- “love thy neighbor as thyself,” more or less. The New Age ethos amounted to “love thyself and improve thy karma.” You didn’t have to share his worldview to see his point.
The timing was fortunate: we grew acquainted during what proved to be the final year of Harmon Bro’s life. His obituary in the Chicago Tribune in 1997 made no reference to Cayce, but looking it up just now leaves me with a definite feeling of synchronicity: Harmon died on Sept. 13, which is also the date I’m finishing this piece. A message from Harmon, via the cosmic unconscious?
Probably not, although it was another and even more far-flung coincidence that reminded me of him in the first place. On Friday, the journal Nature Communication published a paper called “Terahertz time-gated spectral imaging for content extraction through layered structures,” which the science-news website EurekAlert kindly translates into laymanese as “Researchers prototype system for reading closed books.” Not by putting them under a pillow and sleeping on them, alas, but it’s impressive even so.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Tech Institute of Technology collaborated in developing a system that uses bursts of terahertz radiation (“the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light,” says EurekAlert) to create images of the surfaces of individual pieces of paper in a stack. Ink in a printed letter absorbs the radiation differently from the blank page around it; the contrast between the signals reflecting back are fed into an algorithm that identifies the letter on the page. The prototype can “read” the surfaces of up to nine pages in a pile; with more work, reading at greater depths seems possible. The story quotes one of the researchers as saying, “The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch.” The signal-sorting algorithm may yet enable spambots to defeat captchas. (Which arguably represents grounds for halting research right away, though that is unlikely.)
The train of association between breaking technological news from last week and the memory of one of the more generous and unusual people to cross my path is admittedly twisty and random. On the other hand, reading by terahertz radiation seems like another example of Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Submitted by Jake New on September 14, 2016 - 3:00am
The mother of a former William Paterson University student who committed suicide last year is suing the university, alleging that the death was the result of the institution's failure to fully investigate her daughter's claims that she was raped at fraternity house.
In October 2015, Cherelle Locklear told the university's victims services coordinator that she was raped the previous month. The coordinator, according to the lawsuit, did not report the crime to police until November. The university and police "utterly failed to perform an appropriate and thorough investigation," the lawsuit states, and the suspect was neither "confronted or charged." Locklear hanged herself with a necktie Nov. 22, 2015.
The university did not respond to a request for comment.
Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Seeking a Competitive Advantage." The articles explore the many ways colleges seek to position themselves in a competitive, changing environment. You may download the booklet, free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet, on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Submitted by Jake New on September 14, 2016 - 3:00am
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Tuesday, Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, urged OCR to work with the Office of Federal Student Aid to help victims of campus sexual assault with their student loans.
"Over and over, I have heard from survivors who were forced to withdraw from courses or, in the worst cases, drop out of school completely due to an appalling lack of academic support or accommodation," Speier wrote. "Many students who qualify for refunds in these cases struggle to receive reimbursement. Some have been forced to take out additional loans for mental health services and tutoring, which are supposed to be provided by schools free of charge."
Speier proposed that the department allow victims to temporarily postpone student loan payments under the "poor health and other acceptable reasons" justifications; clarify that colleges must offer student loan counseling to victims; support access to reimbursement through OCR's resolution agreements with institutions; and update OCR's case processing manual to improve survivors' access to information about student loan assistance.
Long Island University’s American Federation of Teachers-affiliated faculty union filed an unfair labor charge against the university with the National Labor Relations Board over the ongoing faculty lockout there. Regular instructors have been blocked from campus over protracted contract negotiations since classes started last week, even as students complain on social media and elsewhere. Unfair labor practice charges include repudiation of contract, refusal to bargain/bad faith bargaining, changes in terms and conditions of employment, and lockout. The university could not immediately be reached for comment, but it has blamed the union for making contract demands that LIU says it cannot afford and said that the lockout is intended to promote stability for students.
Submitted by Jake New on September 13, 2016 - 3:00am
The University of Richmond chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity was suspended by both the university and its national headquarters Monday after two members sent an email that Richmond officials said contained "grossly offensive language."
The email was an event reminder about the fraternity's first party of the year. The message, which was sent at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, urged other students, including freshmen, to start drinking alcohol in preparation for the event. "Tonight's the type of night that makes fathers afraid to send their daughters away to school," the email concluded. "Let's get it."
In a statement Monday, the university said it had suspended all chapter activities "pending a thorough investigation" into the email, which officials said contained "suggestions of behavior inconsistent with our polices concerning Greek life and with the caring nature of our campus community." The email comes at a time when the University of Richmond is under fire for how it responded to a student's claim that it mishandled her sexual assault allegations.
"We know that it is our job and responsibility to help students, to care for them and to contribute to the well-being of each individual and our community as a whole," Ronald A. Crutcher, the university's president, said in an email to the campus on Friday.
Submitted by Paul Fain on September 13, 2016 - 3:00am
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sanctioned Bridgepoint Education, owner of Ashford University, for "deceiving students into taking out private student loans that cost more than advertised," the federal watchdog agency said Monday.
The CFPB ordered Bridgepoint to discharge all outstanding institutional loans made to its students and to refund loan payments made by borrowers -- a total of $23.5 million in payments to 1,277 affected students. The company also must pay an $8 million civil fine. The penalties are among the largest the young agency, which the Obama administration created, has levied in higher education so far.
Beginning in 2009, Bridgepoint offered private loans to its students. The bureau said the publicly traded for-profit deceived students about the total cost of loans by telling them the wrong monthly repayment amount. The CFPB's sanctions include a requirement that Bridgepoint use a newly created financial aid disclosure tool with its students, which includes personalized financial aid information as well student outcomes data such as graduation and loan default rates, potential salaries for graduates and postgraduation budgeting.
In a written statement, Bridgepoint said the CFPB identified only one problem area with the loan program -- that employees of the company may have verbally told students that loans could be paid in installments as low as $25 per month, when the actual payments may have been higher.
"While Bridgepoint maintains that its institutions acted in good faith and provided all appropriate tools and disclosures for the loan programs," the company said, "Bridgepoint chose to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution in order to move forward and allow its institutions to focus on students."