Adjunct professors at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland voted 181 to 113 to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced this weekend. Adjuncts at Mills College and San Francisco Art Institute also have formed unions as part of SEIU's Adjunct Action campaign in recent months. SEIU says it now represents 21,000 adjuncts nationwide. “Now we look ahead to addressing faculty working conditions and student learning conditions — the basis of our institution,” Carol Manahan, a senior adjunct professor of critical studies, said in a news release. Melanie Corn, provost, said in an email to faculty staff that the administration remains "committed to collaborating with the entire [college] community to ensure that the educational experience for our students is our highest priority."
Bullying and intimidation on anonymous social media platforms have been a pervasive problem on college campuses for some time. Each academic school year seems to bring a new app or website to prominence as the mechanism of choice for posting hostile messages.
Discussion of Online Bullying
Kenyon's Sean Decatur and Inside Higher Ed blogger Eric Stoller will discuss how colleges should respond to Yik Yak on "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's free weekly news podcast, on Friday. To be notified of new editions of "This Week," sign up here.
This year, Yik Yak is the app du jour; racist, sexist, and homophobic comments posted on Yik Yak have led to student protests on some campuses, and attempts by administrators to block access to the site on others. But Yik Yak is not the problem; in fact, I am confident that the hype over this particular app will soon die down, and it will be replaced by some new, more exciting tool. The problem lies in a culture that accepts – indeed embraces – the act of broadcasting, behind a protective mask of anonymity, statements that most would find offensive.
Kenyon College, where I serve as president, has not been immune to this. Anonymous postings to social media have spurred vigorous debate on campus in prior years. This year, however, the posting of statements that attempted to find humor in sexual assault as the campus prepared for Take Back the Night Week provoked a particularly strong response. Part of the conversation on campus has focused on the specific content: the fact that rape and sexual violence are never laughing matters and the reality that these types of anonymous postings have a threatening and chilling impact on the campus community.
More broadly, this discussion has stirred renewed dialogue on the very nature of anonymous postings and disrespectful, uncivil dialogue on campus. Academic institutions must create spaces for dialogue and conflicting views – this is the very heart of the concept of academic freedom. At Kenyon we value (and indeed celebrate) both the right to express dissenting views and the responsibility to respectfully listen to those opinions. We may disagree and challenge with rigor, but always with respect.
But our embrace of academic freedom as a principle means that we must reject bullying and intimidation that squelch debate and dissent and inhibit learning. Personal attacks and provocative statements made behind the shield of anonymity are not protected by academic freedom; rather, these actions restrict and stifle it. Difference, dissent, and debate must occur in an open, respectful environment, and the type of targeting and bullying of individuals or groups that occurs in anonymous social media harms this environment.
In an effort to promote an open, respectful environment that enables difference, dissent, and debate, a group of students have started a project on Facebook (#Respectful Difference). The project uses social media to positively assert the values of civility and respect and the importance of dialogue to bridge different views. The concept is simple: Members of the Kenyon community (as individuals or groups) are photographed with simple statements about why they value respectful difference, post them to social media, and challenge peers and friends to do the same. By reclaiming social media as a space for civil discussion, and by rejecting anonymity, this project has been a way for Kenyon students, faculty, staff, and alumni to assert the central values of academic freedom.
Will this simple project change the culture that fuels anonymous online bullying? We’d be naïve to believe that this is sufficient to solve the problem. Hateful speech arises from systemic inequality, which must be addressed in order to achieve cultural change. The campaign has drawn some fair criticism on campus that a call for open dialogue is not enough, that root causes must be challenged as well. But this student-inspired campaign starts the process for an open dialogue that is a prerequisite for change and it sends a powerful message about the values of our community.
Mansfield University, in Pennsylvania, on Thursday announced that three academic programs would be placed in "moratorium," and that the suspension of these programs would lead to faculty layoffs. The programs are business, education and special education (except for music education) and the school library and information technologies online master’s program. Officials said that while financial cuts were part of the reason for the changes, so was a desire to invest in other fields. Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that these cuts would hurt the university and students. "A university does not get better by hurting its current and future students; doing so only creates a downward spiral,' he said.
The State University of New York will soon adopt a uniform set of sexual assault response and prevention policies for the system, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. The policies, passed by the SUNY Board of Trustees, will apply to all of the system's 64 campuses.
The new policies include creating a uniform amnesty policy that grants immunity for drug, alcohol, and other violations of the student code for students reporting sexual violence; conducting statewide training for campus police and college administrators; assessing campus climate with uniform surveys; undertaking a statewide public awareness campaign; publicizing a Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights; implementing a uniform confidentiality and reporting protocol; and adopting a uniform definition of consent. That definition reads: "Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity. Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity. Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts."
Cuomo said he plans on proposing the same policies legislatively for all of New York's private colleges, as well.
Anti-sexism group UltraViolet is targeting students who attend the 79 institutions listed by the U.S. Department of Education as under investigation for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 with two online video ads, including one that mimics retro pornography.
In the purposefully grainy clip, a college-aged pizza delivery boy brings an unwanted pizza to a young woman's apartment. When the man apologizes for his mistake and refuses to force the pizza on her, she finds his seeking of consent sexy and one consensual act leads to another. The latter half of the video features a similar scenario between two college-aged men at a laundromat. The video features "two couples exploring ‘yes means yes’ sex and consent," the group stated. "The ads come right after California became the first state in the nation to adopt the 'yes mean yes' standard of consent -- and the classic porn ad perfectly illustrates how that works." The second video of the campaign features a male student calling his parents from jail after he's been arrested for rape. Both videos are included on a new website, EndCampusRape.com.
“As we all now know, universities across the country have failed students on campus rape,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a release. "Together these ads highlight that consent isn’t just sexy -- it’s mandatory."
Sanford Lovingood, comptroller of the boosters group for Florida State University, is in jail facing grand theft charges, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. Authorities said that he admitted to stealing "a large amount" from the group, but said that he did not know how much.
Eight faculty members at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church went on strike last week, citing concerns about the seminary’s dean and president of one year, the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle.
“These are times of great reform in centers of theological education,” reads a letter sent to students from the eight professors, who make up the majority of the seminary’s full-time faculty. “In such times, it is all the more important that we treat one another with civility and respect, and that we work flexibly and collaboratively. … It is our view that that the president has repeatedly shown that he is unable to articulate sensitively and theologically the issues that are essential to the thriving of the Body of Christ in its great diversity. Moreover his failure to collaborate, or to respond to our concerns when articulated, has resulted in a climate that many of us find to be fraught with conflict, fear, and anxiety. Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable members of our community who most keenly suffer the distress caused by this environment.”
Dunkle did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Several striking faculty members also did not respond to requests for more information about the strike, or their employment status; on Tuesday, David J. Dunn, an Eastern Orthodox theologian who is not affiliated with the seminary but who says he has contacts there published an op-ed in The Huffington Post criticizing the college for allegedly firing the striking professors. That could not immediately be independently confirmed.