diversity

Debate at Middlebury Over Co-Author of ‘Bell Curve’

Many at Middlebury College are objecting to the political science department co-sponsoring an appearance this week by Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, a book that linked intelligence and race and that has been widely condemned by many social scientists (even as Murray has been supported by others). Vermont Public Radio reported that Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was invited by a student group, but much of the criticism is over the political science department's decision to co-sponsor the event. The political science department says it co-sponsors any event related to political science that some on campus want, and the co-sponsorship is not an endorsement of Murray's ideas. Middlebury, which has a policy of not blocking controversial speakers, is not preventing the event from happening.

Mike Sheridan, chair of sociology and anthropology at Middlebury, told Vermont Public Radio that Murray should not be viewed as just another speaker. "I think he's more of a scientific racist, pseudo-scientist rather than a straight-up political scientist," he said.

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College Board pilots new way to measure adversity when considering applications, but some fear impact of leaving out race

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College Board pilots system to help colleges make admissions decisions about who is disadvantaged -- and evidence from one college suggests 20 percent of decisions might be different. But lack of emphasis on race concerns some advocates.

Higher education should acknowledge that many Americans believe colleges indoctrinate students in liberalism (essay)

At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was sharply critical of the higher education community: “The fight against the education establishment extends to you, too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say and, more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

The secretary’s comments, of course, are offensive to most of us in higher education who labor to ensure that our students learn to question assumptions, think critically and creatively, and, above all, think for themselves. But higher education leaders need to do more than dismiss DeVos’s comments. We should acknowledge that many Americans believe the same thing: that higher education is indoctrination in the dogmas of liberalism. I know that my own students question whether it is appropriate for faculty members to advocate for positions they perceive to be political.

It’s time to reframe the discussion. We should ask why this perception exists, whether we have unwittingly contributed to the perception and what we can do to change it.

It is time to clearly articulate the centrality of faculty in challenging our students to think for themselves. When students are tempted to surround themselves with friends and media sources that only support their presuppositions, faculty members need to push them to dig more deeply into issues.

Often it is difficult for students to examine their assumptions. Remember how hard it is when others challenge us to think more critically. We, along with our students, need to understand that critical thinking is not being critical. It entails gathering evidence, questioning assumptions, respecting solid facts, thinking logically, looking at problems from many angles and then building creative solutions. Critical thinking requires us to consider and value the ideas of others, even when we disagree.

And let us savor that moment when our students’ grasp of critical thinking empowers them to disagree with us. We must respect the views of all of our students, whether politically liberal, moderate or conservative. And just as we track and seek to improve the belonging and engagement of students based on race, ability or disability, gender and sexuality, we should pay attention to political and religious conservatives who may feel marginalized.

At the same time, we in the higher education community must resist attempts at intimidation. Now more than ever, it’s time to cherish higher education’s shared values. In these times of division, when there is so much empty and spiteful rhetoric, higher education should unite in rising above adversaries’ words by advocating for inclusion, justice and critical thinking.

I invite DeVos to visit my campus and learn with our students in their classes. She would discover that Augustana, like many campuses, works hard to ensure the voices of all students are heard and valued on campus. She also would see that college students aren’t pliable souls awaiting indoctrination. They tend to be confident -- sometimes too confident.

Our job is to ensure that our students’ gut feelings become informed opinions that they can defend from within a framework of considered values and a system of careful, critical thought. Graduates who are critical thinkers are indispensable to the great institutions of our country, and indeed to democracy itself.

Steven C. Bahls is president of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.

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Trump Vows to Support Historically Black Colleges

In his Saturday address, President Trump focused on black history and issues facing black people. He offered praise to historically black colleges and said they "do a fantastic job." He said black colleges "are not given the credit that they deserve and they are going to start getting that credit." The discussion of black colleges starts around 2:50 of the video below. Both the White House and congressional Republicans have been reaching out to black college leaders of late.

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Use of Photo of Women in Hijabs Criticized

An Arizona State University student says the institution racially profiled her when it used a photo of her and two friends to accompany an article about the need for more international students.

The student, Nshwah Ahmad, is a U.S. citizen -- she was born in Michigan -- as are the other two women in the photo, but Ahmad believes the university saw their head scarves in the photo and assumed they were from another country. "I feel like they were just looking for something," Ahmad told Arizona’s 12 News. "People now have a standard of what they feel America should look like."

Ahmad, a master’s student at Arizona State, posted about the incident on her Facebook account. She took a screenshot of the article, written by Michael Crow.

“Someone please tell me why on God's green earth ASU [and] Michael Crow [are] making an advertisement for ‘international students’ with a pic of me and two other Arabs,” Ahmad wrote on Facebook. "I’m laughing so hard but I’m also low-key offended … sorry, ladies, we are apparently not American.”

The article, published in The Christian Science Monitor, argues that international students enrich the experience of the entire student body.

“The more we engage globally and encourage the fullest possible intersection of people and ideas, the better equipped we will be to address the challenges that beset us,” Crow wrote.

The university has apologized to the women and replaced the photo in the article. Arizona State also released a statement about the incident, calling it a “mistake.”

“In our search for a compelling image on a tight deadline to go along with Dr. Crow’s op-ed, we passed along a picture to the publisher without doing enough due diligence on the people featured in it,” the statement said. “There is no excuse for the error, and apologies have been issued to the alumnae in the picture.”

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Student Affairs Groups Criticize Lifting of Protections for Transgender Students

Two national student affairs groups on Thursday issued statements criticizing the Trump administration for rescinding guidance from the Obama administration that said federal anti-bias laws cover gender identity. While individual colleges may continue to bar discrimination against transgender students, and may continue to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, the official view of the administration is that they don't have to do so.

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, issued a statement that said the Trump administration's policy "moves our campuses in the wrong direction with respect to the goals of inclusivity and civility, potentially placing trans students in greater danger by forcing them to use facilities that do not match their gender identity."

Leaders of ACPA: College Student Educators International issued a statement that the association views the administration's action as having "a potentially harmful and regressive impact on the ability of trans peoples' ability to live fully, public lives and reaffirms its commitment to acting in solidarity with trans communities toward justice, equity and inclusion."

Both groups pledged to help their members help transgender students and colleagues.

 

 

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Juggling both a baby and grad school as a minority student (essay)

Dealing with both pregnancy and a Ph.D. were challenge enough, writes Whitney N. Laster Pirtle, without the unexpected additional burdens that she faced.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Democrats Ask GAO to Assess Hunger on Campuses

A group of Democratic Senators is seeking a review by the Government Accountability Office of hunger on college campuses. 

In a letter to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, the four senators -- Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Patty Murray of Washington -- highlighted recent surveys finding struggles with food insecurity on college campuses. They also pointed to the growth of food banks on campuses as well as off-campus programs serving hungry students. 

"Sacrificing food for education can undermine a student's educational goals and create barriers on their path to obtaining a certificate, degree, or credential," the senators wrote.

They are asking for a GAO assessment of the extent of food insecurity on colleges and universities; barriers to addressing the problem; existing local, state, and federal programs; and examples of best practices already in place. 

Read the letter here. 

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Lessons learned as a black Ph.D. student (essay)

Eric Anthony Grollman shares advice and insights for new and prospective students.

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Racial incidents upset students at several campuses

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Racist video at Old Dominion, blackface controversy at Spring Arbor and anti-immigrant posters at the University of Texas.

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