Edward Hammond, the former president of Fort Hays State University, who is still doing work for the institution, issued a statement Sunday in which he said he never gave permission for his image and for a quote to be used in a mailing by the campaign of Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican facing a tight re-election battle, the Associated Press reported.
The statement from Hammond said that he was "shocked and disappointed," and that he didn't endorse candidates in his university role nor would he do anything that appeared to be an endorsement. The Brownback campaign referred questions to the state Republican Party, which paid for the ad, where an official said that the party was "happy to highlight" a quote from Hammond saying that he was satisfied with the budget plan for the university.
Much of the attention in higher education circles focuses on getting more vulnerable students to and through college. We have finally acknowledged that access to and entry into post-high school education not enough; we need to focus on graduation – whether from a certificate program, a community college or a four-year college or university. We have targeted improving graduation rates as a goal that symbolizes success, enabling some to claim victory when those rates rise.
But we are mistaken. We are claiming success too early. This point – which had been gnawing at some of us for months as we have watched and listened to our current seniors – was brought to the fore in Jeff Hobbs' new book, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. The story of Robert Peace is poignant, examining how a kid from Newark graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biology and ended up murdered in a drug-related crime. The lost potential is agonizing; the pain of Peace’s mother is staggering.
Robert’s story is not unique. Of course, the individual stories are not identical nor necessarily as tragic. But consider the plight of many first-generation, low-income students who leave their homes and land on college campuses (whether elite or not) where some excel academically and then graduate. Normally, we stop the story there and celebrate success. Since graduation rates are so low for vulnerable students, we assume that the awarding of a degree is the crowning achievement.
In this book and through our lived experiences, certain questions recur: What more could have been done to save Robert? Could he have been saved if colleges saw their responsibility as extending beyond the moment a degree is awarded? Think about how many high schools consider their jobs done when students get accepted to college and complete high school. Check the box. Move on. But do these high-schoolers actually get to college and graduate? High schools are cutting short the scope of their work.
We think that colleges like the one where we work now have a greater obligation than we realize. We offer our first-generation students a career-launching liberal arts education but we do not address with enough deliberateness how our students will transition from our institution into employment or graduate school. Where will they live? Should they return home? How can they navigate their friendships from before and after college? What about their families back home?
Yes, we have career services offices. Yes, we match academic programs with careers. Yes, we have graduate fairs and job fairs. Yes, we have résumé-writing workshops. Yes, we do mock interviews. We do GRE prep. But what we are missing is what would have helped Robert Peace: an effort to focus on the transition from college to graduate school or the workplace in terms of its psychological dimensions. In the toolbox of skills we provide our first generation, low-income students who are graduating, we have failed to give them the skills to “crosswalk” effectively and smoothly between their past and their present and their future.
We should know better. We have experience with our younger veterans now returning stateside. Many of these veterans understandably struggle to navigate effectively from military life to civilian life. Settling into and then succeeding in college are mighty challenges. This reinforces the need to pay attention to our college seniors – preparing them not just for graduation and a career. We need to help them transition from college back to the “outside” world. Robert Peace was left to figure that pathway out on his own and he failed. Interventions from friends and family did not help.
We recognize that there is no magic pill here. But, here are two strategies that can help.
First, if student success has been accomplished on campus by helping students believe in themselves and believe they belong in college, then the mentors who have enabled this to occur need to keep in touch with these students post-graduation – in person, online, via Skype. This is part and parcel of the workload of these mentors. These new graduates need to know that their supporters’ belief in them was not time-delimited and did not end with graduation. Distance does not change, then, the commitment mentors have to their mentees even when those mentors themselves move on to different positions. An online set of modules could be created to achieve this end – engaging graduates and their mentor on a go-forward basis.
Second, it is worth adding the following quasi-mandate for vulnerable students who graduate, outlined to them at the get-go: a commitment that they return to campus and develop a mentor/mentee with a new student who was similar to them? This accomplishes several goals. It gets graduates back to campus, back to a place where they experienced success. It creates an expectation at the beginning that with success comes a commitment to pay it forward. But here is the key: in paying it forward, graduates can appreciate how far they have come, and that in and of itself can shed light on their comfort with their own pathway into the future. Both the graduates and their mentees benefit.
Perhaps there was nothing that would have saved Robert Peace. But whether or not that is true, there is now one college president, one program director and one campus reflecting on how future Robert Peaces could be helped and what is it we can do on our campuses to improve the odds that that difficult post-college transition can be navigated more effectively.
Getting a degree is a major accomplishment; using that degree and finding a place outside the protections of academia where one can flourish and contribute meaningfully to society and handle the complexities of the different worlds in which we all move would be a success. Sadly, this is a victory denied Robert Peace.
Karen Gross is president of Southern Vermont College. Ivan Figueroa is director of diversity and the Mountaineer Scholar Program at the college.
Faculty member at Yale University are angry over the university's handling of a harassment case in which the cardiology chief is accused of punishing a young Italian researcher at the medical school and her boyfriend when she rebuffed the advances of Michael Simons, the cardiology chief, The New York Times reported. A Yale committee that investigated what happened recommended that Simmons lose his position as cardiology chief and be barred from senior roles for five years, but Yale largely ignored the recommendations, letting Simons stay in office and hold other senior positions. Faculty familiar with the case say that Yale effectively let serious misconduct go unpunished. Simmons, in a statement to the Times, admitted pursuing the woman, but denied misconduct in the use of his position. Of seeking the relationship, he said, “for this error in judgment I have apologized, and I genuinely regret my action."
Keith Miller, president of Virginia State University since 2010, announced his resignation Friday, amid growing criticism from student groups and others, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The university has suffered from enrollment drops, lost revenue from those declines and cuts in state support. Many students question how the historically black institution has responded to these challenges. A statement from the university said that its board and Miller agreed that Virginia State should "move in another direction strategically." Students said that they were pleased the president was leaving, but disappointed that other senior administrators were not leaving as well.
Submitted by Jake New on November 3, 2014 - 3:00am
David Brandon has resigned as athletic director of the University of Michigan, President Mark Schlissel announced Friday. The exact reason of Brandon's resignation was not provided, but The Detroit Free Press reports that he had lost the support of students, alumni, and Michigan's Board of Regents. Michigan's football team has lost five of its eight games this season and three of the last four games it has played against rival Michigan State University. Earlier this month, student protesters demanded lower ticket prices to football games and that Brandon be fired. Students also demanded Brandon's resignation in September after a quarterback who many say was obviously concussed was allowed back on the field within minutes of sustaining his injury.
Brandon, who was athletic director for about four years, had previously served on Michigan's Board of Regents and is the former chief executive officer of Domino's Pizza. James Hackett, a former executive at the furniture company Steelcase, will act as interim athletic director.
California University of Pennsylvania has taken the unusual step of calling off a home football game scheduled for Saturday after five members of its football team were arrested in what officials called a "violent" incident, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The university has suspended the players. The university did not provide details, but public records indicated that five people who were on the team were arrested for aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, harassment and conspiracy.