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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Citizen Denied Aid for Having Non-Citizen Parent

A federal program that allows residents of the District of Columbia to receive grants to enroll at public colleges elsewhere denies funds to students -- even if they are citizens -- if their parents are not citizens, The Washington Post reported. The Post profiled one student, a citizen whose mother is not, who is being denied funds. The mother resides legally in the United State. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal lawsuit  last week to challenge the system, arguing that all citizens should be eligible. Several states have similar rules for their aid programs.



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Reflections on Teresa Sullivan and Hillary Clinton's shared leadership style

The same day Donald Trump assumed his office, another public official, in a college town two and a half hours southwest of Washington, D.C., confirmed plans to leave hers. University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan announced Jan. 20 that she will step down when her contract ends in summer 2018.

Sullivan’s tumultuous tenure as UVa’s first female president is worth reflecting on now, in the aftermath of nationwide women’s protests and the failed bid of our country’s first female presidential nominee from one of the two major parties. The difficulties Sullivan weathered during her presidency reveal much about prevalent attitudes toward female leadership -- and about how we pigeonhole and punish women with power.

Sullivan made national headlines in the summer of 2012 when she survived an attempt by university’s governing board to oust her. On June 10, 2012, Helen Dragas, then rector of the Board of Visitors, sent an email to the UVa community announcing Sullivan’s resignation. Dragas provided no stated rationale for the ouster, nor did she name a replacement. Two weeks of protest from faculty members, students and alumni followed. In the end, the board reinstated Sullivan as president, with Dragas joining the vote with an “unequivocal yes.”

Sullivan had arrived at UVa less than two years before the board tried to sack her. She was an outsider to the institution. Cerebral and reserved, not a Virginia native or an alumna of the university, she was the first woman to hold the presidency -- in all, a marked contrast to her predecessor, the charismatic John T. Casteen III, a Virginia native who held three degrees from UVa and served as president for 20 years.

UVa students and faculty sometimes mention Sullivan in the same breath as Elizabeth Warren. The two women, who differ greatly in public presentation and rhetorical style, were colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin and co-wrote two books on middle-class debt.

The more fitting analogy, however, may be between Sullivan and Hillary Clinton. The backlash against Clinton’s candidacy followed some of the patterns I observed in 2012 as an editor at UVa’s Cavalier Daily covering the attempted removal of Sullivan. In Sullivan’s case, the same traits that allowed the sociologist to rise to power as an administrator -- her caution, her technocratic approach to leadership -- were qualities her adversaries on UVa’s governing board abruptly held up as weaknesses. The recoil against Clinton was more complex, but certain affinities between the two cases are worth examining.

Both Sullivan and Clinton are wonkish and guarded. They espouse a leadership style grounded in collaboration and analytical rigor rather than force of personality, as Sullivan confided about herself to Fortune magazine. Both faced claims that they lacked charisma, especially in comparison to their (male) predecessors. They are nearly the same age: Sullivan is 67; Clinton is 69. Their voices carry Arkansas inflections: Sullivan grew up in Little Rock, and Clinton lived in the state for nearly 20 years. They even favor a similar fashion aesthetic: the blue pantsuit.

A more telling resemblance, however, consists in how the governing board treated Sullivan during UVa’s leadership upheaval and how voters -- both Republicans and voters in the Democratic Party’s left wing -- regarded Clinton during her campaign. Both women were described, and dismissed, as incrementalists, even when such a characterization failed to align with the facts. The details of each backlash differ greatly, but a recognizable pattern of thought -- the drive to repudiate the incrementalist figure -- marks both cases. (That incrementalism is among the tamest of the charges that Republicans leveled against Clinton need not distract us from this observation.)

During the recent presidential campaign, pundits repeatedly cast Clinton as an incremental leader, juxtaposing her pragmatic approach against Bernie Sanders’s more idealistic vision and Trump’s bold, anarchic style. That framing made it easy to forget that Clinton was running on arguably the most progressive platform in American history, an agenda that included provisions for public child-care programs and tuition-free education at public colleges and universities for households earning up to $125,000.

Similarly, Sullivan was tagged as an incrementalist during the campus coup. Dragas, her most forceful opponent on UVa’s governing board, faulted the administrator for a culture of “incremental, marginal change.” This passivity was most evident, Dragas claimed, in Sullivan’s alleged failure to seize opportunities in online learning. The charge of incrementalism was captured in a piece of jargon that, for many observers, verified the view that the university’s leadership crisis was a clash between old-school academe and corporate-style governance: Sullivan, one of her critics suggested, lacked “strategic dynamism.”

Sullivan, in a move both diffident and perplexing, accepted this incrementalist label. “I have been described as an incrementalist,” she said in a speech on June 18, 2012, at the height of the governance crisis. “It is true … [but] being an incrementalist does not mean I lack vision.”

But how incrementalist is she? Sullivan’s stewardship has not radically transformed UVa. Yet it is not clear that she is any more incrementalist than leaders of UVa’s peer institutions or less “strategically dynamic” than UVa’s previous presidents whose tenures were of comparable length (such as Robert M. O’Neill, who served as president from 1985 to 1990). During her presidency, she worked to redesign the university’s internal budgeting scheme, opened a UVa office in Shanghai and added new majors and interdisciplinary research centers. By the time the board tried to unseat her, in part because of fears that UVa was moving too slowly on online education, the university had already begun talks with the online-education company Coursera.

Sullivan’s tenure has been marred by crises of unusual magnitude -- among them the murder of a student, the bloody arrest of a black student by white alcohol-enforcement agents, and a now-discredited Rolling Stone article alleging that a gang rape took place at a UVa fraternity. It is difficult to evaluate the full potential of a presidency so often mired in damage control.

I do not intend to act as Sullivan’s PR agent. But I do wish to question the assumption that her leadership has been atypically or problematically incrementalist. This same assumption, in a different but recognizable form, helped to dampen enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy. I leave aside the question of whether it’s bad to be an incremental leader -- although this matter, too, seems far from straightforward, when we weigh the relative harms of stewardship that is responsible but somewhat subservient to the status quo against disruption that might be either visionary or reckless.

Where does the “incrementalist” label come from, given the reach of each woman’s agenda? The accusation of incrementalism seems to respond, at least in part, to a certain tilt of personality, a certain way of proceeding in public life, rather than a set of administrative goals.

Sullivan and Clinton make evident some of the challenges that high-achieving women born in the middle of the 20th century continue to face. These are oft-embattled women who have smoothed their edges and lowered the pitch of their voices to make it in a man’s world, only to be rejected later for their alleged lack of effusive charm or progressivism. The caution and the box-checking diligence Sullivan and Clinton acquired in order to ascend the rungs of two competitive environments -- academic administration and politics -- emerge, in this entrepreneurial moment, as handicaps.

The backlash against Sullivan failed, and she regained her office. Clinton was not so fortunate.

This election has prompted us to reflect on what we can and should demand from women in positions of leadership. As Clinton moves on from her presidential bid and Sullivan prepares to leave her post, we need to think about what “incrementalism” might be code for.

Charlie Tyson is a doctoral student at Harvard University. He served as executive editor of the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Study on First-Year Orientation and Retention

Incoming first-year students at Michigan State University who felt a connection with the university during orientation were more likely to fit in and want to stay enrolled at the university, particularly students from ethnic minority groups.

Those are the findings of a study published by the Journal of Vocational Behavior, which was based on surveys of 1,935 Michigan State students.

“We found that students can develop a sense of fitting in before they even walk into class, and that feeling is important down the line. It leads to the students feeling like their skills meet academic demands and also leads to them wanting to stick around,” Joshua Prasad, the study's lead author and a master’s student in the university's psychology department, said in a written statement. “For universities that are looking to foster a diverse student body, this is an avenue they can actually act on. They can use that summer before students first come to campus to help develop that sense of fitting in.”

Ethnic minority students were less likely to report feeling a connection to the university. But those who did had a "stronger link to feelings of fitting in and wanting to remain at the university after one semester," the study found.

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Alvernia Drops 'Crusaders' Name

Alvernia University announced Thursday that it will drop the "Crusaders" name for athletic teams and will select another name. An FAQ offered this rationale: "Our patron, St. Francis, changed his life course and spiritual journey when he turned away from the Crusades and pursued a path of peacemaking -- including his famous trip to meet the sultan Malik al Kamil. This name change is in fidelity to our Franciscan mission and is congruent with the spirit of peace, harmony and inclusiveness that we, as Franciscans, strive for and that Pope Francis upholds."

On the university's Facebook page, many alumni praised the decision, while others accused the university of embracing political correctness and moving toward "a lame, pansy mascot."

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Campus Protests on Union Concerns, Trump Agenda

Students and faculty members in a number of cities participated in #CampusResistance protests organized by Service Employees International Union Wednesday. Participants voiced concerns about non-tenure-track faculty and graduate employee pay and working conditions, student debt and discrimination, linking them to larger criticisms of the Trump administration. Some held signs saying “Reclaim higher ed for the public good,” among other slogans.

Malini Cadambi-Daniel, director of higher education for SEIU, attended a gathering at Boston University, where salaried, non-tenure-track faculty members are currently negotiating their first union contract, and where some have asked the administration to formally declare it a sanctuary campus for undocumented students. She said that Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “represent the low-road education agenda,” in that they’re “anti-educator, anti-worker, pro-corporate.”

Protest at the University of Chicago/Twitter

Several Chicago campuses saw protests, including the University of Chicago, where non-tenure-track faculty members are also negotiating their first union contract. Jeremy Manier, a university spokesperson, said administrators and union members have been meeting regularly, “and we are committed to continuing to bargain in good faith.”

In Washington, adjuncts at Saint Martin’s University -- which has challenged their vote to form a union, citing its Roman Catholic identity -- planned a morning walkout and afternoon labor march, using the slogan “Give up union busting for Lent.” Graduate employees at Duke University, who are awaiting a challenged vote count on their recent union election, gathered on campus, as did students and faculty members at the University of Southern California and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, among other institutions.

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2 Mizzou Students Arrested for Anti-Semitic Harassment

Two students at the University of Missouri at Columbia were arrested Monday and charged with sending anti-Semitic, harassing messages to another student, The Columbia Missourian reported. The university said that the students also face disciplinary action, possibly including expulsion.

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Report: Job Market Is Strong for Bilingual Workers

On the heels of a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences urging a national strategy to boost language learning capacity, the New American Economy today released a paper emphasizing the critical need for language skills in the workplace. The bipartisan group of some 500 pro-immigration reform mayors and business leaders’ new report, “Not Lost in Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market,” says that the number of jobs aimed at bilingual workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2015, to 630,000. Employers added jobs for bilingual workers over that period at a significantly higher rate than they did for the general worker population, according to the report, and speakers of Chinese, Spanish and Arabic are increasingly in demand. Bilingual workers are desired in both low- and high-skill jobs, and sectors such as banking and healthcare are particularly in need of employees who speak a language other than English. Relatedly, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages is leading a new campaign, Lead with Languages, to reverse the U.S. language skills gap and promote language learning.  

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Women's studies meets math in a new book arguing for a more inclusive cultural approach to numeracy

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Women's studies meets mathematics in a new book arguing for a more inclusive cultural notion of numeracy.

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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