diversity

White nationalist group prompts backlash at Auburn University

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A new group at Auburn University has dubbed itself the Auburn White Student Union, though it's not affiliated with the institution.

Salem Students Hold Sit-In Over Diversity Issues

About 100 students held a sit-in at Salem College for much of Monday, seeking to draw attention to a 10-page list of demands related to diversity and inclusion, The Winston-Salem Journal reported. College officials said they were willing to meet with the students to discuss their concerns. The students demanded that:

  • All board members, administrators and faculty members be required to undergo at least 16 hours of diversity training a year.
  • The board reflect the racial composition of the student body.
  • A new system of faculty evaluations be set up to hold faculty members "accountable" for their actions in classes.
  • New health and counseling staff members be hired, reflecting the racial composition of the student body.
  • Transgender students who identify as women be considered for admission. (Salem is a women's college.)
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Study Examines Loan Aversion by Population

A new study out of Vanderbilt University seeks to quantify loan aversion among different populations.

The study, “Understanding Loan Aversion in Education: Evidence From High School Seniors, Community College Students and Adults,” is based on survey data from 6,000 people.

Among high school seniors, students at community college and adults without a college degree, the majority of each group believe it’s a good idea to save up enough money before making a purchase (as opposed to borrowing money to buy). More specifically, 21 percent of high school students and 20 percent of non-college-educated adults did not think it was acceptable to borrow money for education, while only 9 percent of community college students felt that way. Over half of the community college students surveyed had borrowed money to attend their current school.

The authors -- Angela Boatman, Brent J. Evans and Adela Saliz, all three of whom are assistant professors of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt -- also found that women are less loan averse than men and that Hispanic students tend to be more loan averse than white students.

 

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Transgender Employees Sue Wisconsin System

The University of Wisconsin System is being sued by two of its transgender employees because the system and the state insurance board will no longer cover gender reassignment surgeries, The Associated Press reported.

Both employees identify as female and work at the Madison campus, one as an anthropology graduate student and the other as a cancer researcher. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week on their behalf.

Because both employees are on the university’s health insurance plan and that plan no longer covers medical procedures surrounding gender dysphoria -- the condition in which someone feels they were born into the body of the wrong sex -- they are accusing the university and insurance board of discrimination by sex and gender.

“Too many transgender people continue to face discrimination in all facets of life, including health care access, and so I felt compelled to stand up and try to do something about it,” one of the plaintiffs, Alina Boyden, said in a news release.

Last summer, the state’s insurance board added benefits for gender dysphoria that could account for up to $150,000, but in December, before the benefits went into effect, the board voted to exclude the benefits.

Both plaintiffs have been advised by their primary care physicians to seek gender reassignment surgery. Without coverage under their university insurance plans, they would either have to opt out of the procedures or pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

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Rice Will End Use of Term 'College Masters'

Rice University will change the term used for its residential faculty members from “college masters” to “college magisters” at the start of the next academic year, in an effort to distance itself from the “negative historical connotation” of the word “master,” The Houston Chronicle reported.

Last week, the dean of undergraduates emailed students to inform them of the change, saying that the decision had been in consideration for more than a year.

At Rice, all undergraduate students are part of one of 11 residential colleges, each of which is overseen by a college master or masters. Masters are faculty members who live next to the college and who “have the overall responsibility for all aspects of student life in the college, including encouragement of broad cultural and intellectual interests, caring for the well-being of the self and others, and effective self-government within the college,” according to Rice’s website.

The dean of undergraduates explained to students that the title “college masters” was sometimes difficult to explain to current and prospective students, faculty and staff. He wrote that the name change, which will occur when the 2017-18 academic year begins, came out of “collaboration and constructive dialogue, and not from confrontation or controversy.”

A similar change occurred at Princeton University in November 2015, when the "masters" of the residential colleges there retired the term and began using 'head of the college" instead. 

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Study shows impostor syndrome's effect on minority students' mental health

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New study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the impostor phenomenon can affect various groups of minority students in different ways.

Groups Urge Congress to Protect Student Aid

Congress should maintain the federal student loan program and strengthen Pell Grants, a coalition of 576 universities, education groups and other advocacy organizations told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday.

"Recent troubling proposals to significantly cut or eliminate funding for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), TRIO, GEAR UP and other programs threaten the stability of our nation’s higher education and work force systems," the letter said. "Federal student aid serves a critical role in preserving access to higher education and enabling student success at a time when postsecondary education has never been more necessary to support the American economy."

The White House "skinny budget" document released last month proposed eliminating SEOG as well as significant cuts to Work-Study, TRIO and GEAR UP. The budget blueprint also proposed taking $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant surplus without language expanding the grant.

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Appeals court says lesbian former adjunct can sue Ivy Tech for bias based on sexual orientation

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U.S. appeals court says a lesbian former adjunct has the right to sue Ivy Tech under Title VII, a federal anti-bias law, for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

An Orthodox Jew describes his positive experience at a Christian university (essay)

Michael A. Helfand, an Orthodox Jew, describes how his experience at a Christian university has given him a window into how faith-based institutions successfully promote religious diversity.

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Stauffer Chapel at Pepperdine University
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AAC&U Seeks Middle Ground on Campus Speech

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, weighed in on the ongoing debate over campus free speech Tuesday in a statement called “Free Expression, Liberal Education and Inclusive Excellence.” While other statements on the issue have admonished student protesters who would limit free -- if controversial -- speech in the interest of diversity and inclusion, Pasquerella was more considerate of such students’ concerns.

“Like those who blocked recruiters from campuses during the Vietnam War, these protesters regard their actions as justified on the grounds of necessity and attempts to stop them as further silencing those representing the most vulnerable members of society,” she said. Noting that AAC&U has long supported academic freedom but also has expanded its mission to “recognize the inextricable link between equity and quality in liberal education,” Pasquerella asserted that “a commitment to inclusivity, as well as respect for others and free inquiry, must be paramount in maintaining an environment in which the free exchange of ideas can thrive and in guiding the determination of whether speech is protected under academic freedom.”

Institutions of higher learning have different missions but are all united by “the shared goals of educating students and advancing knowledge,” and there are “circumstances under which the achievement of both objectives entails restrictions on free expression,” the statements says. Too often, it continues, free speech and academic freedom are conflated in debates surrounding campus speech. “While all views have equal standing in the public square under the First Amendment, this is not the case in the classroom,” and professors at public and private college and universities “can mandate respectful dialogue by proscribing certain types of language and other forms of expression and can stipulate rules for being recognized in a discussion.”

Pasquerella said liberal education “is designed to develop students’ capacities to think critically and to make themselves vulnerable to criticism by welcoming dissenting voices.” And in preparing students for the future, she added, “faculty members should offer curricula that include a diversity of intellectual perspectives appropriate to their disciplines, and they must also be aware of the extent to which their positionality, framing of issues and syllabi, together with written policies, campus cultures and comments by other members of the community, can serve as inhibitors of speech.”

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