Faculty members at Brock University, in Canada, are angry that the winners of a student costume contest for Halloween were four students who put on blackface as part of their portrayal of the Jamaican bobsled team, CBC News reported. The university has said that it will consider ways to screen offensive costumes, but some faculty members consider that response to be insufficient.
Brock's student body president said that the contest was judged by audience applause, and that participants were not seeking to offend. But critics said that it should be well-known by now that blackface is not acceptable humor.
The British Columbia Law Society, reversing an earlier decision, has revoked recognition of the new law school at Trinity Western University, The Globe and Mail reported. At issue is Trinity Western's ban on students and faculty members having sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage. Critics say that the policy violates principles of equal rights for gay people. Earlier this year, in a non-binding referendum, members of the law society recommended that its governing council withdraw recognition, and it has now done so. A legal fight could follow. Trinity Western has argued that it should be allowed to have rules consistent with its Christian beliefs. A statement from the university said that it was reviewing its options.
Faculty members in the main undergraduate college at the University of California at Los Angeles voted narrowly on Friday -- 332 to 303 -- to require all undergraduates in the college to take a course on diversity. In 2012 and 2004, the faculty rejected diversity requirements. Additional reviews are necessary before Friday's vote becomes final, but this takes the idea further than has been the case previously. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block has endorsed the idea and issued this statement: “A diversity-related course requirement for UCLA College undergraduates is an important component of our commitment to expose students to beliefs and backgrounds other than their own. It would help prepare our students for work in a multicultural world, in part by engaging them in difficult but crucial conversations for our campus and society as a whole.”
Alumni and other supporters of Cheyney University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania, filed a federal suit charging decades of discrimination in funding, programs and facilities, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Decades of litigation over state treatment of historically black colleges largely ended in the 1990s, but Cheyney's suit is similar to one brought by supporters of historically black colleges in Maryland, a suit in which they won on some issues, setting up negotiations over a settlement. A statement released by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, of which Cheyney is a part, said that it was system policy not to comment on litigation, but that the system has been focused on helping Cheyney improve.
In an interview in The New Yorker, President Obama expressed support for affirmative action in higher education, and questioned how precisely a Supreme Court deadline for phasing out the consideration of race should be viewed. The article looks broadly at President Obama's influence on the federal court system, and touches on affirmative action toward the end of the piece. In a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the right of public colleges to, under certain circumstances, consider race in admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that they should no longer be needed in 25 years. Justice O'Connor, since retired from the court, wrote the decision in 2003. Asked about that deadline, Obama told the magazine that Justice O’Connor would “be the first one to acknowledge that 25 years was sort of a ballpark figure in her mind.”
Generally, Obama signaled continued support for affirmative action. “If the University of Michigan or California decides that there is a value in making sure that folks with different experiences in a classroom will enhance the educational experience of the students, and they do it in a careful way,” the universities should be allowed to consider race and ethnicity, he said.
At the same time, however, he said that the best long-term solution to unequal opportunities in American society is improvement of the K-12 education system. “I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education. And, if they’re coming out of high school well prepared, then they’ll be able to compete for university slots and jobs. And that has more to do with budgets and early-childhood education and stuff that needs to be legislated," Obama said.
More than 1,000 people have signed a letter opposing the appearance today of George Will, the nationally syndicated columnist, at Miami University in Ohio. The university is standing by the appearance, citing free speech grounds, but critics cite a controversial column Will wrote casting doubt on the movement to prevent sexual assaults on campus. The column was widely condemned by advocates for women who have been sexually assaulted for the way it criticized campus efforts to prevent and punish assaults, and for how it characterized those who have reported assaults. A line that caused particular anger said that such efforts "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
In another phrase that outraged many, he referred to the "supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. 'sexual assault.'" A statement on the Miami women's and gender studies program page on Facebook says: "The Miami I believe in is committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment for all of our students. I am disappointed that a speaker who clearly does not respect women, or take the issue of sexual assault seriously is being given a platform to speak, particularly because such inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to revictimize and retraumatize our students. This is not acceptable."