diversity

Heterodox Academy, PEN America Condemn Professor Watchlist

The executive committee of Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to viewpoint diversity, is taking a stand against Professor Watchlist. The watch list, which seeks to “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” could chill free speech, the committee said in a statement. The list poses problems similar to those posed by campus bias response teams, which investigate various report of bias, and which have been heavily criticized by those on the political right and free speech purists.

“Whether the reporting is done to a campus authority, setting in motion weeks of time-draining bureaucratic procedure that is often far removed from common sense, or whether the reporting is done to the internet at large, triggering public shaming campaigns and a cascade of threatening tweets and emails, such reporting systems encourage everyone to walk on eggshells,” the committee said. “This kind of fearful climate deprives everyone of the vigorous debate and disagreement that is essential for learning and scholarship.”

Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, it said, “we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices -- heterodox voices -- so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides.” This is the committee’s first public statement. Heterodox Academy is a group of scholars who advocate for a more intellectually diverse professoriate and who reject various orthodoxies that “forestall scholarly inquiry.”

PEN America, which works to advance literature and free expression, on Monday also criticized Professor Watchlist.

"While no credible university administrator will take seriously a website so clearly intended to bait and sow divisions on college campuses," Suzanne Nossel, the group's executive director, said in a statement, "PEN America condemns the so-called Professor Watchlist. While claiming to stand up against bias, this list is a noxious purveyor of precisely what it claims to deride: the intimidation and ostracization of those who express controversial views on campus."

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Two Jewish professors on different campuses are harassed with anti-Semitic threats

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Two Jewish professors on different campuses are harassed with anti-Semitic threats -- at a time when swastikas have appeared at a number of institutions.

Teaching diversity-sensitive students after the election of Trump (essay)

A student said she is “terrified” by what might happen once Donald Trump becomes president. That was a few days ago in a class discussion of how the Trump administration will affect higher education.

It wasn’t my class. I was a guest lecturer and didn’t know the student. But the sentiment wasn’t unusual. Lots of people on our campus feel this way. So I asked her, “Terrified is a pretty strong word -- what exactly are you terrified of?” Silence. I continued, calmly, “What do you think is going to happen?”

More silence, until someone else said, “Because of Trump’s comments about other people.” That seemed sufficient explanation for everyone, and I felt no need to challenge it. Many people look at our president-elect and expect the next four years to be a nightmare, but they aren’t prepared to enumerate its predations. They are genuinely alarmed, but it’s hard to pin them down.

One professor in a recent article spoke of “the recent election and its hideous aftermath of swastika flaunting,” while one of my colleagues at Emory University insisted we must develop an “impactful left willing to call out white supremacy, whiteness and misogyny.” Statements such as these signaling so much worry aren't easy to address. I've chosen not to argue over them but only to reply, “Well, we’ll see.” If you read conservative publications, you can find similar quotations highlighted all the time with terms such as “loopy left” attached. But it's best to let them stand by themselves and pass or fail the test of time.

When students express such fears, however, we have a situation that calls for action. It isn’t hard for a tenured professor to let his peers believe what they believe and go his own way. In the humanities, you teach classes and conduct research by yourself, and when you mingle with colleagues at meetings and on committees, you hold up your end, help the team and smile -- even though you may fall on the other side of things.

You can't do that and be a teacher, though. What the students believe and assume affects what happens in their course work. If the outcome of a presidential election has jarred them to the point of horror, they have a mind-set that is bound to show up in their work, especially if it’s in an American subject. It will influence how they read and write about Huck Finn and O Pioneers! So we have to ask where it comes from.

The first job I had was as a dishwasher in a country club restaurant. It was 1974, and my brother and I were 15. The pay was $1.90 an hour, which sounded good to us. We cleaned the storage room, scrubbed pots and pans, and ran tray after tray through the assembly-line dishwashing machine as soon as the busboys started clearing tables once the dinner rush began. By the night’s end, we stank like sewage and sweat, but we didn’t care. One of the cooks, a middle-aged guy who was a star lineman in high school, would sock me on the shoulder every now and then just for fun. My brother and I looked enough alike to make it hard for him to tell us apart, so he called us both “Shithead,” sometimes adding “No. 1” and “No. 2” to his commands. None of that made us want to quit, however, and I never thought of griping to anyone.

At the same time, I grew up with parents who instilled a universalist vision of humanity in their kids. They revered Martin Luther King Jr. and taught us that people are “all the same underneath.” When we started elementary school, we lived in a mixed neighborhood in Southwest D.C. and were best friends with a black kid and his mother and father. It was my parents’ deliberate reversal of white flight to the suburbs.

And so when my brother and I went to the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1977 and lived in the dorms for two years with, successively, Chinese, Mexican, Guatemalan and Iranian roommates, we thought nothing of it. There was the occasional racist remark -- sometimes by an outsider, once in a while by one of the guys -- but we shrugged it off. Too many other things were more important. And it was easy not to take it personally because we were so clear about its stupidity. We knew racial animosity existed just as other animosities did, such as the guys you didn’t like because of the elbows they threw on the basketball court. “He’s a racist” didn’t stand above “He’s a waste case,” “He’s a sleaze,” “He cheats” and a dozen other bad judgments.

I was lucky. The combination of we’re-all-the-same-race at home, getting pushed around a bit at work and enough diversity among friends to realize that diversity works best when we stop thinking so much about it saved me from overreacting to human vices of the social kind. That included attitudes and language that count today as politically incorrect and offensive.

Students in selective colleges who fret over the implications of Trump’s victory had no such formation -- at least, not as far as I can tell. Instead of embracing the universalist thrust of the civil rights movement -- which spoke of “integration” and not “diversity” -- students today are taught to uphold identity differences (e.g., the iniquity of declaring “All lives matter”). We no longer tolerate bullying and harassment in the workplace -- a positive good, of course, but one that frees youths from learning to cope with a jerk in other ways than complaint. And not only the K-16 curriculum but also the entire cultural sphere and reigning political idiom has taught them to remain ever mindful of racial and sexual identity, no matter how liberal and unbiased they are.

They feel the scrutiny all the time. Having seen others punished by the authorities for saying or writing the wrong thing, and watching their peers turn on a dissenter and hammer him on social media, they know the wages of forgetting diversity etiquette. Teenagers can be savage, and when you add political sin to cliquishness, you have a ravenous hegemony. Youths who are ambitious, the high achievers, observe the taboos as though their wariness were a key to success.

And so when Trump says the things he says, millennials are darn certain that something awful is going to happen. A sexist remark that gets out in public means catastrophe. Vengeance must follow; the violator must be punished. But Trump hasn’t been punished. He’s committed a hate crime … and he's become the most powerful man in the world.

The distress that students now feel runs deeper than fear of what the Trump administration plans to do. His triumph signifies the fall of the diversity-sensitive propriety that has guided their academic careers and, among the successful students, their social lives. One of their gods has failed, and even if they didn’t choose and worship that god themselves, the loss of him means that the universe has trembled. It’s disturbing.

The way to help students through this revolution of the heavenly orbs is to provide them with a story: the story of diversity. They have grown up in the diversity era and experienced it as bare, self-evident truth. It is up to us as teachers to explode this ahistorical condition. We must lead students through the genesis of diversity from the melting-pot civics of the early 20th century to the 1978 Bakke decision to today’s diversity bureaucracy and regulations in public and private institutions. We should include in that history criticisms of diversity in its definition and its implementation, along with empirical challenges to the actual benefits of diversity programs in higher and lower education.

Once students understand diversity as a social theory, not a sacred goal, once they see sensitivity not always as a necessary and proper condition, they will alter their expectations. Instead of regarding Trump and the 60 million people who voted for him as a new reign of terror, they will accept them as part of the inevitable swings of political fortune. There are other outlooks available besides diversity sensitivity, and they aren’t apocalyptic.

Mark Bauerlein is professor of English at Emory University.

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AAUP Condemns Hate Crimes, Endorses Campus Sanctuary Movement

The American Association of University Professors is the latest academic group to speak out against hate crimes and support the campus sanctuary movement for undocumented students. Its national council recently approved a resolution saying that since Donald Trump’s election as president, the U.S. has experienced “an unprecedented spike in hate crimes, both physical and verbal, many of them on college and university campuses. These have been directed against African-Americans, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, women and people with disabilities. In some instances the perpetrators have invoked the president-elect in support of their heinous actions. The AAUP national council unequivocally condemns these attacks and calls on college and university administrators, faculty, staff and students to unite against them. Violence, threats of violence and harassment have no place on campus.”

The resolution urges colleges and universities to ensure that all members of their campuses “may seek knowledge freely,” reiterating AAUP’s 1994 Statement on Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes. That statement says that on a free and open campus, “no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful or disturbing that it may not be expressed.”

At the same time, the new resolution says, “threats and harassment differ from expressions of ideas that some or even most may find repulsive. They intimidate and silence. The free exchange of ideas is incompatible with an atmosphere of fear. Colleges and universities must be places where all ideas and even prejudices may be freely and openly debated and discussed, but such discussion cannot happen when some members of the community are threatened or excluded. Our goal must be to provide safety for both ideas and for all those who wish to engage with them.”

AAUP calls on administrators “to take swift and firm action, consistent with due process rights, against those who have perpetrated violence and those whose menacing behavior threatens both the safety of members of our community and their sense of inclusion,” and “to make clear to all on the campus that such assaults will not be tolerated and to encourage frank and respectful discussion instead.” The association encourages AAUP chapters and all faculty members “to speak out against these assaults and to support all efforts to ensure that campus communities are welcoming and inclusive of all groups and ideas. During this difficult time the faculty voice needs more than ever to be heard loud and clear.”

AAUP says undocumented students, “many of whom have been in this country since early childhood,” are particularly vulnerable. “Concern for the welfare of these students has already prompted a rash of petitions calling on colleges and universities to become ‘sanctuary campuses,’” the resolution says, endorsing the notion. “While colleges and universities must obey the law, administrations must make all efforts to guarantee the privacy of immigrant students and pledge not to grant access to information that might reveal their immigration status unless so ordered by a court of law. Nor should colleges and universities gather information about the citizenship or immigration status of people who have interactions with the administration, including with campus police. College and university police should not themselves participate in any efforts to enforce immigration laws, which are under federal jurisdiction. Faculty members should join efforts to resist all attempts to intimidate or inappropriately investigate undocumented students or to deny them their full rights to due process and a fair hearing.”

The resolution also calls on Trump to reconsider his appointment of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and “to more vehemently denounce the hate crimes being committed in the president-elect’s name and act to ensure the safety of members of threatened communities and the freedom of all to teach, study and learn.”

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Kansas Cheerleaders Suspended for KKK Photo

Four University of Kansas cheerleaders have been suspended from the team after a photo circulated on social media showing three of them posing with their Kansas "K" shirts to spell out "KKK." The photo, at right, also includes the caption "Kkk go trump."

A university statement said that the individuals (one woman and three men) involved have been suspended from participation while the university completes its investigation.

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Report: Sports Leadership 'Dominated' by White Men

College sports leaders in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's most competitive level continue to be overwhelmingly white and male, according to a new study released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. As of this fall, 75.8 percent of presidents at the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision colleges were white men, as were 78.9 percent of athletics directors. About 7 percent of athletic directors were women, and all of them were white. Nearly 90 percent of faculty athletics representatives were white, as were 87.5 percent of head football coaches and 100 percent of conference commissioners.

“This year’s report results do not reflect the much more diverse composition of students and student-athletes at colleges and universities across the country,” Richard Lapchick, the institute's director, said in a statement. “I challenge all colleges and universities to mirror the diversity of their students and student-athletes in their campus leadership positions. College sport remains behind professional sports regarding opportunities for women and people of color for the top jobs.”

In September, the NCAA urged college presidents and conference commissioners to sign a new pledge promising to “specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity, and inclusion with a focus on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics.” Lapchick said the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport will closely examine any impact the pledge has in next year's report, but he criticized the effort for its lack of sanctions for those who do not honor it.

“It’s an idealistic pledge, and it’s definitely good that it’s there,” Lapchick said at the time. “But it doesn’t have any teeth.”

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How colleges can increase diversity in the STEM fields (essay)

The STEM Fields

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case Fisher vs. the University of Texas in July, university admissions officers cheered the affirmation of including race and ethnicity as admissions criteria when narrowly tailored to the institution’s mission. Despite the positive decision for affirmative action, however, university leaders are facing another challenge: making sure they have the right diversity practices in place to support the students they admit. Colleges and universities still have plenty of work to do to encourage students to pursue high-needs fields, like STEM and the biomedical sciences, where diversity is urgently needed.

In addition, universities continue to struggle with faculty diversity, which studies have shown is important not just for excellence in teaching and research but also for the overall campus climate. All the more reason, then, for us to redouble our efforts in researching and sharing effective practices for improving campus diversity -- and identifying ineffective practices that we should stop.

We’ve got a great base to start from. Take the many initiatives designed to ensure the success of underrepresented students -- programs designed precisely to ensure that we don’t lose them on their way to graduate school and the biomedical research work force. These efforts develop student talent along the educational and career continuum in biomedical and STEM fields, and ensure student persistence and success. Most important, some of these programs have developed successful models and gathered evaluative research to understand their success.

For example, the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has been widely recognized for its successful development of many underrepresented students in the sciences. An evaluation of the program found that the key levers of success were financial support, identity formation as a member of the community of Meyerhoff Scholars, summer research activities and professional network development.

Another example is the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program, which aims to address the barriers facing underrepresented students in matriculating to doctoral programs. The program has produced a number of high-profile graduates, including Fabienne Bastien, the first African-American woman to be published in Nature and the first African-American recipient of the NASA Hubble Fellowship. Half of the program’s Ph.D. graduates are female, and 83 percent are minority-community individuals.

What would yet more research on these and other programs tell us about how to support the success of all students? We need more empirical evidence to close gaps in the existing research. We also need to bring exemplary practices to scale more quickly at many more institutions. For example, based on gaps in existing research we need to:

  • Identify effective interventions that universities can implement to reduce stereotype threat, a phenomenon that occurs when members of a disadvantaged group perform poorly when made aware of negative stereotypes about their group;
  • Learn more about how underrepresented students in STEM are accessing high-impact practices, such as internships and undergraduate research, and develop strategies for increasing participation; and
  • Identify effective teaching and learning methods that will boost underrepresented undergraduate student performance in required gateway courses.

These three areas, ripe for action, also demonstrate the gaps in the evidence. For example, high-impact practices are supported by a robust body of research, but less is known about how well underrepresented students are accessing these experiences. This is because most high-impact practices occur beyond the classroom, and it is difficult to track students’ participation and tie their experiences to academic outcomes.

In other cases, different interventions have been tested at the institutional level but have not been evaluated across institutions or in different contexts, such as adapting undergraduate interventions for graduate students. It’s a complex problem, and the research needs to get at that complexity.

Working together, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, its Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities, and the Association of American Medical Colleges have gathered the existing evidence in a recent report that also identifies what’s missing and where we need to go next.

To address these gaps in research, we will need more partners in government, industry, philanthropy and academe to take action -- testing the available models, researching new options, reporting on their results and revising approaches based on the evidence in hand.

Improving evidence for pilot interventions will help leaders build a case for adoption of those shown to be effective at many institutions. Learning more about potential barriers to access will help university leaders improve pathways into these experiences and track student outcomes more effectively.

And at a more basic level, probing more deeply into what works and what doesn’t in our efforts to support diversity will help us with a much more fundamental problem: we’ll get a clearer picture of the “systemic unfairness” that our blind spots prevent us from seeing, as Lisa Burrell pointed out in her Harvard Business Review article “We Just Can’t Handle Diversity.” More precise research will help us avoid such phenomena as hindsight bias, which, as Burrell describes, “causes us to believe that random events are predictable and to manufacture explanations for the inevitability of our achievements.”

In its decision in the Fisher case, the Supreme Court justices called on universities to “engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection” about how diversity is achieved. We go one step farther: higher education institutions and their partners need to research as well as reflect, demonstrate as well as deliberate and put a fine point on existing findings to close the gaps in the research. Only then can we counter the challenges to our efforts to diversify the biomedical research work force and ensure that we’re doing everything we can to support the success of all students.

Jennifer C. Danek is the senior director for Urban Universities for HEALTH, a collaborative effort of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities/Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges. Marc Nivet is the former chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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Columbia Finishes Inquiry Into Wrestling Team

Columbia University has finished its investigation into its wrestling team, some members of which have for years maintained a texting group in which racist, sexist and homophobic comments were regularly shared. The university said that the team couldn't compete while the inquiry was going on. Now that the inquiry is complete, the university has said that some team members -- those most involved -- will be suspended from the team for the rest of the 2016-17 academic year. Some other wrestlers will be suspended only until the start of the spring semester. Others, who were not involved, have been cleared to compete now.

A statement explained, "We recognize that free speech is a core value both of the university community and of our nation. Our students and faculty have the right to express themselves and their views, whether through their public or private communications. However, the group text messages that have been brought to light do not meet the standard of behavior we expect from our student-athletes at Columbia. Prior to the start of each competition season, Columbia Athletics shares with its teams a code of conduct, outlining our expectations for individual and team behavior. The messages are appalling and violate team guidelines."

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Sociologists Object to Cleveland's Chief Wahoo

The American Sociological Association has written to Robert D. Manfred Jr., the commissioner of Major League Baseball, to urge him to work to have the Cleveland Indians baseball team abandon its use of their controversial "Chief Wahoo" logo. Many scholars (and others) have long objected to the use of Native American names and mascots, but the recent success of the Cleveland team has renewed attention on the logo. Manfred recently said he would discuss these concerns with the owner of the Cleveland team.

The letter from the sociology group notes that many of its members have studied the use of Native American logos in athletics, and that the studies have found that their use promotes stereotypes and causes harm to Native Americans.

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Study suggests Ph.D. supply isn't the problem when it comes to diversifying the professoriate

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Study suggests Ph.D. supply isn't the problem when it comes to diversifying the professoriate.

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