diversity

Minority Students at Greater Risk of Sexual Assault

Not only are racial, sexual and gender minority groups more likely to be victims of sexual assault, students who consider their colleges inclusive and tolerant are less likely to be victims, two new complementary studies found.

Published recently in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Prevention Science, the studies reveal how populations with intersecting minority identities may be at greater risk of sexual assault, emphasizing the need for more sexual assault research and prevention and treatment programs that address specific marginalized groups.

One study, led by a team from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, was based on surveys from over 70,000 undergraduate students attending 120 higher education institutions between 2011 and 2013.

The team found that women were 150 percent more likely than men to be sexually assaulted, but that transgender people were at much greater risk -- 300 percent more likely than cisgender men to be sexually assaulted.

Gay, bisexual and black men all had higher odds of being sexually assaulted than heterosexual and white men. Black women were more likely than white women to be sexually assaulted, but Asian and Latina women were less likely.

Black transgender people were more likely than white transgender people to be assaulted as well.

The lead author of both studies said this is the first research of its kind to identify ways that intersecting marginalized populations are at greater risk of being sexually assaulted.

In the second study, the team analyzed surveys from 2,000 undergraduate students across all 50 states who identify as part of a sexual or gender minority population. The students who felt that their campus was inclusive and welcoming were found to be 27 percent less likely to be sexually assaulted.

Based on these results, the researchers suggested that such inclusive campus environments might encourage students to speak up and stop a sexual assault if they see one happening or to be more cautious in certain high-risk environments, like events that include drugs and alcohol.

"If sexual assault prevention efforts solely focus on heterosexual violence, they may invalidate sexual- and gender-minority people's assault experiences and be ineffective for them," said Robert Coulter, lead author of the two studies and a doctoral candidate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. "To overcome this, existing programs could be augmented to explicitly address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and racism. And new interventions could be created specifically for sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minorities."

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Princeton Sues Over FOIA of Admissions Documents

Princeton University filed a lawsuit against the Education Department on Friday in an effort to stop the release of hundreds of pages of documents that would reveal some of the university’s private admissions procedures, Politico reported.

The documents were obtained by the Education Department as part of a seven-year civil rights investigation into whether Princeton was discriminating against Asian and Asian-American applicants.

The investigation was closed in 2015 after the department found insufficient evidence to support the claims of racial discrimination, but a group called the Students for Fair Admissions has been trying to access the Princeton documents under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Princeton’s lawsuit seeks to halt the release of those documents on the grounds that they contain sensitive and confidential demographic data, university policies and admissions practices that “would cause substantial competitive harm to the university if disclosed.”

The university has already attempted to stop the FOIA request from being granted once before. Earlier this month, the Education Department rejected Princeton’s request for FOIA exemption, explaining that such an exemption is not appropriate given the nature of the materials the university handed over during the department’s investigation.

In the rejection letter to Princeton, officials from the Education Department wrote that, should the documents be released, they would redact any identifiable information about individual applicants.

The department released 868 documents related to Students for Fair Admissions’ FOIA request earlier this year. The remaining set includes 861 documents.

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Howard Investigates Alleged Mock Slave Auction

Howard University is investigating an alleged incident in which a white professor asked his class to engage in a mock slave auction. News of the exercise was first reported by the Caged Bird blog, which did not name the professor or his department. The instructor reportedly was teaching Frederick Douglass’s slave narrative earlier this month and asked one of two black men in the class to stand up and be examined because he looked “healthy,” according to the blog.

“He asked me to show my butt to the class so that he could get a better sense of my worth and had the audacity to say that it was uncomfortable for him, too, because he’s a white man,” the unnamed student reportedly told Caged Bird. “He started propping my body up as if we were on a slave auction block.” The student said the professor told him he could stop participating when he felt uncomfortable but that he stood up “because I didn’t expect him to do or say the things he said and did. I didn’t sit down sooner because I was so shocked.”

Other students allegedly asked the professor to stop, and the entire class objected to the buttocks remark, according to Caged Bird. The blog did not name the professor because it does not want him to be fired, but does want him to stop teaching that particular lesson, according to an editor’s note.

A spokesperson for Howard said the university is aware of the report and is currently investigating.

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A professor and two former students say why they think students are protesting at Middlebury College (essay)

During the coverage of the protests against Charles Murray’s recent visit to Middlebury College, something got lost in the scuffle: the actual students.

Commenters lumped all college students into a homogeneous group as an object to condemn. But not all college students, even at an elite place like Middlebury College, are monolithic. Before criticizing them on the grounds of privilege, perhaps we should do what no one has done and try to understand why those who protested were so angry.

It was about Murray, true, but what other factors were involved? Allison Stanger, the Middlebury professor who moderated his remarks and was injured in the ensuing fracas, suggests protesters are reacting to their anxieties of life under Trump. However, it goes even deeper, to the contradictions of being a student of color at a predominantly white college and being asked to respond civilly while having one's humanity attacked.

This situation is more complex than just being an issue of free speech or diversity of ideas. Any effective response requires taking the students seriously -- which is, after all, the primary job of educators.

Many people deride students as coddled snowflakes who use safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect themselves against the big, bad outside world teeming with microaggressions. This image, always a caricature, could not be farther from the truth at Middlebury. The protesters, primarily students of color and working-class students, are hardly coddled. Life on the campus for them is and has historically been anything but easy. Students and former students frequently confront blatant and subtle forms of racism and classism. Students of color are often assumed to be on financial aid or are told they are only here because of affirmative action. Some professors make assumptions about their intellectual abilities or single them out in class to play the spokesperson on race issues. The overwhelming culture of whiteness and wealth leaves many working-class students or students of color feeling depressed and alienated.

To suggest that they needed a visit from Murray to expose them to “controversial” ideas is laughable and offensive. They confront racism and classism every day on campus. Moreover, they talk about race and class all the time, whether they want to or not -- in personal conversations, in the many courses exploring these subjects, at town hall forums recently held on the campus to address incidents of racial insensitivity, as well as at the numerous meetings organized in the days leading up to Murray’s visit. Those discussions all took place with the high level of civility many commenters assume cannot happen.

Civil discourse on hard issues does happen here, primarily through the labor of students of color and working-class students. It is an insult to call these students sheltered. They aspire to turn the campus not into a safe space, but simply a safer one. In this context, Murray’s divisive ideas offered a sharp rebuke to all their hard-won achievements to create a campus where they, too, feel they belong.

We must not confuse divisiveness for diversity. Conservatives seek to push debates on settled topics, using free speech as a club to reopen discussions long ago resolved. The primarily white faculty members and students at Middlebury feel comfortable welcoming “all debates” because they never worry about their own humanity being called into question.

If free speech can justify a platform for Murray, it also justifies students talking back. We don’t have to agree with the protesting students’ tactics to still recognize that the nonviolent demonstrators were defending speech just as much as the people now rushing to condemn them.

Actions have consequences. People use this claim to demand punishment, but it provides an even more compelling reason for considering the type of community we want. Middlebury will not punish abstract “college students,” but actual people, many of them students of color and/or from working-class backgrounds. Currently, many find themselves the targets of widespread harassment, bullying and attacks on social media and in the national press. Punishing them for making the moral choice to protest a racist provocateur would add another injury to the initial insult.

This current fight focuses on speech, but the true war is over diversity at colleges and universities. Controversial speakers are not the key to expanding the marketplace of ideas, contrary to what many have argued. In fact, the single most robust source of a broad and varied range of ideas on a campus is a student body and faculty composed of people from many diverse backgrounds. They will do the most to upend orthodoxy and challenge comfort levels. Treating divisiveness as a proxy for diversity is, at best, naïve. At worst, it is an active step to roll back progress.

Institutions like Middlebury need to change, but not in the way many people currently demand. Such colleges and universities cannot accept students, take their tuition and use them to market their diverse campus, and then refuse to recognize their individual needs. Doing so gives the impression that institutions do not want actual diversity to enhance learning but rather just want to look good publicly and improve their bottom line.

Colleges and universities have always needed to balance the goals of speech and inclusion. In the “good old days,” when faculty members looked like the students, who all looked like one another, this largely went unnoticed. Today, however, using old standards for a more diverse community does not work. The biggest danger now is a response from Middlebury that leads to a less diverse student body, one that is whiter and richer. Let’s not let that happen.

Linus Owens is an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College. Rebecca Flores Harper is a 2011 graduate of the college and served as chair of diversity for the student government there from 2008-11. Maya Goldberg-Safir is a 2012 graduate.

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Wisconsin Halts Gender Reassignment Coverage

The State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance is no longer covering procedures, services or supplies related to gender reassignment as part of its uniform benefits. The University of Wisconsin System shared news of the change, which was effective last month, with employees this week via email. Steph Tai, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said the Committee for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer People in the University is planning a formal response to the change. A university system spokesperson referred requests for comment to state officials.

Wisconsin halted gender reassignment coverage for transgender state workers after a brief period of availability in January. The Group Insurance Board, which oversees benefits, decided in July to add coverage for transgender services this calendar year, according to guidance that the Affordable Care Act required such coverage, the Wisconsin State-Journal reported. But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, asked the board to reconsider, via the state Department of Justice. It said that providing transgender services was based on “unlawful” rules that “improperly interpret” Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit gender discrimination in education. A state consultant reportedly estimated that two to five people would have used the transgender services per year, at a cost of up to $250,000 annually in a $1.5 billion program that covers 250,000 employees and dependents.

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ACE panel discusses diversity and safe spaces on campus

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At American Council on Education annual meeting, three university leaders discuss freedom of expression and student demands for inclusive environments.

Presidents don't see racial tensions on their own campuses

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In Inside Higher Ed survey, most think campus race relations are good or excellent.

Reflections on Inside Higher Ed's 2017 Survey of College and University Presidents (essay)

The most recent Inside Higher Ed survey of college and university presidents illustrates a disconnect between what presidents believe is occurring at their institutions and what is actually happening just below the surface among our student populations. Despite presidents’ impressions of the day-to-day experiences, all is not rosy, and student affairs administrators can provide presidents with a reality check when it comes to the good and the not-so-good circumstances and events that are transpiring.

Some of the issues that concern presidents most -- and those that we who work in student affairs believe should, in fact, concern presidents the most -- are often related to student behaviors and experiences outside of the classroom. Those are the areas of knowledge and responsibility housed in student affairs offices, and we can assist with the topics most associated with our field -- including equity and diversity initiatives, promoting anti-bias on campus, student engagement, and issues tied to student success, recruitment and retention.

The key to mining our expertise, however, is to have a realistic understanding of our areas of responsibility, and a plan for best accessing our expertise and our close connections throughout the institution. This allows presidents to make the strongest and best-informed decisions possible for their campus communities.

For example, the Inside Higher Ed survey found that “the vast majority of presidents describe the state of race relations at their college as either excellent (20 percent) or good (63 percent). More than three-fifths of presidents describe race relations at American colleges in general as fair.”

I’ve used the analogous data points from last year’s presidential survey when speaking to members of NASPA, the leading association for student affairs professionals, over the past year -- data that, the survey notes, are relatively unchanged from last year to this year. Not surprisingly, I’ve received a mix of gasps and chuckles, with many student affairs professionals hoping their presidents can realistically assess the status of race relations on their own campuses. NASPA’s survey of senior student affairs officers has consistently shown that diversity and race relations are among the top issues and concerns. It would be fascinating to see how students -- especially students from diverse backgrounds -- would rate their institutions, but I can safely bet that the “vast majority” would not rate them as “excellent” or “good.”

It is important to note that a lack of protest on a campus does not mean students and other community members are satisfied about race relations there. We shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security that we are meeting students’ needs solely because we haven’t faced protests. The absence of activism may simply mean those students aren’t activated yet. Student affairs administrators can help their presidents proactively engage with all students so that they have an accurate picture of the true state of the student body and its general satisfaction with the current campus climate.

The ways in which student affairs professionals can contribute counsel to a president are not limited to race relations or underlying diversity unrest. The survey shows that presidents are also worried about attracting and retaining all students, including underrepresented ones, and making dollars from tuition and state appropriations stretch farther than ever before. With only 52 percent of presidents “confident about their institution’s financial health over the next 10 years,” higher education will likely face additional cuts in the future.

If presidents are considering reducing support for student affairs functions, they do so at the potential peril of their retention efforts and to the detriment of their student satisfaction and graduation rates. When cutting costs, presidents should prioritize efficiencies and preserve the core opportunities and experiences associated with a college degree. They should turn to data to determine which experiences are contributing to students’ success and refrain from wholesale elimination of the programs and services that keep students moving toward graduation. Presidents should make changes to increase impact and maintain personal contact and engagement, which are key parts of the institutional experience.

A Gallup survey found that students were 1.6 times more likely to strongly agree their education was worth the cost if they were “extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations,” 1.9 times more likely if they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their “goals and dreams” and 1.4 times more likely if they had a “leadership position in a club or organization such as student government, a fraternity or sorority, or an athletic team.” Student affairs professionals can make a difference in keeping our students on the path toward graduation and satisfied with their investment.

This weekend, the American Council on Education and NASPA kick off their respective annual meetings. With a preponderance of attendees of the ACE meeting holding the title of president or chancellor, I encourage them to think through how they can better tap the expertise housed in student affairs and make use of the experiences of their senior student affairs officer. The survey results from Inside Higher Ed aren’t surprising, but they tell me that student affairs officers need a seat at the table to provide perspective and advice as presidents tackle myriad difficult topics on behalf of today’s students.

Kevin Kruger is president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

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Protests (clockwise from top left) at U of Missouri, Claremont McKenna College, U of Iowa, Amherst College and Ithaca College
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Report documents white supremacist activity on campuses

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Report documents 107 incidents at colleges and universities in the current academic year.

Princeton Students and Faculty Members Participate in Day of Action

Hundreds of students and faculty members participated in teach-ins and attended talks at Princeton University Monday as part of a day of action to address political challenges currently facing the U.S. and the world. A number of panels were critical of policies of the Trump administration, but organizers said the event was open to those of all political persuasions and ideologies. They encouraged other campuses to follow their lead in taking time to engage in action-oriented discussions about the current political climate.

“The goal of the day is to reaffirm the responsibilities of a community devoted to scholarship, the use of knowledge for the common good, and the ideals of diversity, democracy and justice,” said Sébastien Philippe, a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.

Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, who delivered a talk on U.S. immigration policy and the proposed border wall, said that he wanted to participate because “illegal migration has been net zero or negative for nine years now. Border apprehensions are at their lowest point since 1971. Building a wall at this point makes no sense at all. It is simply a symbolic affront to our southern neighbors and a bone to the Republican base.”

John Cramer, university spokesperson, said via email that Princeton didn’t sponsor the day of action but “applauds the effort by students and faculty to study, discuss and learn about important national public policy issues and what those issues mean for the Princeton community and the principles of equality, diversity, freedom and justice.”

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