Exploring faculty experiences with incivility to help deal with it (essay)

To deal with incivility in higher education, faculty members must move beyond seeking solutions to every case they encounter and consider the larger forces driving it, writes Courtney N. Wright.

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Rift in women's studies over Listserv comments on transgender issues

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Popular online discussion group sees resignations and call for boycott over comments some see as bigotry toward trans scholars.

Four areas campuses should focus on to encourage diversity and inclusion over the next four years (essay)

The campaign and transition period following the election of Donald Trump have affected our campuses in a variety of ways that challenge our basic values of diversity and inclusion and that demand our response as academic leaders. Incidents involving our new U.S. president -- such as making fun of a reporter with a physical disability, supporting the “locking up” of a presidential candidate with no recognition of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in the political environment, and others too numerous too name -- have apparently made some people on college campuses think it’s OK to express the same disregard for our fundamental rights and lack of respect for our fellow Americans.

Already a range of academics and institutions, including the American Anthropological Association, of which I am a past president, have spoken out against the increasing number of racist and misogynistic incidents and hate speech directed at others on our campuses.

But volatility and uncertainty on these issues seem likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Consider, for example, that Richard Spencer, leader of the so-called alt-right and spokesman for white nationalism, has announced plans to target campuses with a tour conveying the message, among other things, that “we are awesome … We should be trying to expand white privilege, not feel guilty about it.”

So what can institutions and individuals committed to social justice do to keep diversity and inclusion values and programs on the table for the next four years? I believe there are two overarching answers to this question. First, we must equip our students to understand the historical context of today’s social environment, how our democracy got to the point that we are so openly politically divided and focused on blaming our social ills on “others” who do not look like us or have the same religious or political beliefs. Second, we must reinforce the principle that embracing diversity and inclusion is the strength of our democracy, not its weakness, and that respecting difference is a first step.

While the challenges reverberate throughout our campuses, I am seeing at least four areas in which the Trump effect has exacerbated divisions among students, administrators and faculty members on our campuses and has created new, more intense imperatives for those committed to diversity. They are:

Support undocumented students. President Trump has previously said he will terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action signed into law by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2012 that exempts some undocumented immigrants from deportation and provides a two-year renewable work permit. The policy guidelines state that applicants must have been in the United States since June 15, 2007, and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. In California, we have thousands of DACA students in our classes, and we are seeing their anxiety and panic as they try to figure out what is happening to them. The psychological effects are undermining their ability to concentrate on their studies.

At the University of California, Riverside, Chancellor Kim Wilcox has sent a letter to our entire campus confirming that we are not turning away from our commitment to DACA students. The heads of the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems together wrote to Trump “imploring” him to continue the DACA program so that affected students can “pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn.” And on our campus, we are also offering special counseling and flexible test-taking schedules for students who are traumatized by the environment of uncertainty. Such actions go a long way toward reassuring our undocumented students that we are doing all we can to help them finish their education.

Protect protesters on both sides of contentious issues. In light of the increasing manifestation on our campuses of views that are racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, Islamophobic and misogynistic, we must strive to maintain an environment in which views on all points of the spectrum can be heard. At the same time, as faculty members, we must model for our students how it is possible to hold a set of values and beliefs, and how to listen to and acknowledge other points of view, even while not agreeing with them.

It is unfortunate that the words of our new president have sent a signal to some people that seems to validate this type of discriminatory and disrespectful behavior. But it is not acceptable, and we must continue to enforce our long-held policies and practices to counter this ugly and hateful turn of events. Our goal is to make the campus a safe space for all our students, not just for some. Some of the specific ways we can do that are to encourage activities such as teach-ins, campus-community forums, information workshops, vigils and peaceful demonstrations as alternatives to potentially violent public confrontations.

Prevent and enforce policies against sexual assault. Under the leadership of the Obama administration, especially with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, colleges and universities across the country have been strengthening their policies and practices to encourage students to report sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents. We are trying to deal with deeply misogynistic values and rape culture that discourage victims from reporting incidents and often results in failure to prosecute cases.

The campaign atmosphere suggesting that “stars” can get away with any sexual behavior they want sent a very negative message to our students, both to those who may commit assaults and to victims who are afraid to report them. We need to double down on our efforts to show all students, whether they are athletes, or members of fraternities, clubs or other organizations, that there is no place for sexual harassment or assault on our campuses. We need to provide opportunities, such as forums and other activities mentioned above, where students can ask the questions that are on their minds and express their anger, frustration and concerns.

Reinforce global learning and teaching. We have been preparing our students to live and work in the global community for at least two decades through our liberal arts curriculum. There is no going back! Our students are steeped in both local and global acts every day. Through their courses and other campus experiences, our job is to continue to help them see and understand those connections, as well as to understand and interact with people of other cultures, religions and worldviews.

One thing we have learned from the election is that families from the Rust Belt, the Deep South and the heartland believe that they have been denied participation in a positive vision for the future of this country. I am involved with two very promising international programs, the Global Citizenship Alliance and the Mellon Global Citizenship Program, that aim to educate working-class and first-generation students from those regions (both historically black colleges and universities and Appalachian colleges and universities working together) about how directly they are tied from their local communities to the wider world. The types of on-the-ground experiences that these programs offer are producing different thinking about empowerment and the ability to chart one’s future.

At the same time, we need to continue to encourage international student exchanges. This works in two directions. First, we need to take steps to ensure that students from other countries (for example, those from the Middle East who may be concerned about Islamophobia) will feel comfortable here. Second, we need to prepare the students we send abroad to stay safe and respond if they are challenged about our country’s and Trump’s policies. In other words, in an atmosphere where “globalization” is too often narrowly interpreted as an economic policy to destroy American jobs, our goal should continue to be to make teaching and learning about globalization beneficial for all.

Why We Must Act Now

It is important for us to act now because, foremost, the mission of our colleges and universities is quite different from the narrower two- or four-year agendas of a particular political administration. We are entrusted to create new knowledge and to educate the next generation of Americans to be the citizens who will lead this great experiment in inclusive democracy to the next level.

We need both collective and individual action. In California we have the commitment from leaders of our institutions. This provides us with the environment that we need as individual faculty members to support students who are caught up in the uncertainties of what the new administration will mean to them. But for all of us, throughout the landscape of higher education, we have to keep our focus on these goals of the value of diversity, inclusion and social justice and be the change we want to see -- regardless of who is at the helm of our country. The longer we wait, the more difficult the task will become.

Yolanda T. Moses is professor of anthropology and recent associate vice chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity at the University of California, Riverside. She is a past president of the American Anthropology Association.

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Anger Over Man Wearing Swastika at U of Florida

A man wearing a swastika armband appeared at the University of Florida on Tuesday and Thursday, with his second visit setting off a sustained protest by students and faculty members who chanted their anger at him, The Gainesville Sun reported. The man stood silently as students said, "No more Nazis" (see video below). The Sun reported that the man, whom it did not name, was ruled incompetent to stand trial in 2013 on the grounds that he was mentally ill. After several hours, the man asked the university police department to escort him off campus. After he left the campus, two men in a pickup truck approached him and snatched his jacket with the swastika armband. Authorities are looking for the men.

Kent Fuchs, president of the university, issued a statement condemning the wearing of the swastika on campus. But he also said that the man's conduct was protected by the First Amendment. "Many people have contacted the university to ask that the individual be removed from campus," Fuchs said. "While I decry and denounce all symbols of hate, the individual, who is not a faculty, staff member or student, was expressing his First Amendment rights, and we could not legally remove him from public areas of campus."

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Study Highlights Gender Gap in Peer Reviewers

An analysis published in Nature shows the gender gap in peer reviewers in journals published by the American Geophysical Union. The study found that, from 2012 to 2015, women accounted for 20 percent of all peer reviewers for the association's journals. This was lower than the percentage of women who were accepted as first authors on journal papers -- 27 percent -- and lower than the percentage of AGU members who are women (28 percent). Jory Lerback, the lead author, is a graduate student at the University of Utah.

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Oregon to Retain Building's Name Despite Slavery Ties

The University of Oregon will not remove the name of its founder from the oldest building on the campus despite his historical ties to slavery, officials announced Wednesday. Black students at the university had included among a list of demands in fall 2015 the renaming of Deady Hall, which honors Matthew Deady, who helped found the university and held pro-slavery views. (The university last fall dropped the name of Frederic Dunn, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, from a dormitory.)

In a statement Wednesday, President Michael Schill sought to distinguish Deady's history from that of Dunn. He called Deady's historical accomplishments "exceptional" and noted that, while Deady supported slavery when it was legal (holding views that Schill called "abhorrent and contrary to the principles of our university"), he underwent a "metamorphosis" and "embraced the new constitutional order" when laws changed.

In the same statement, Schill announced that Oregon was committed to establishing a new cultural center for black students, another of the 2015 protesters' demands. "I have been convinced that, particularly in light of their small numbers, African-American students need a place that will provide them with an opportunity to gather, reinforce their academic pursuits, enhance connective bonds that support recruitment and retention, and discuss their shared experiences and needs," he said.

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Why University of Kentucky has significantly shifted its ratio of merit to need-based financial aid (essay)

One of the strengths -- and there are many -- of the American higher education system is its traditional commitment to access.

Higher education leaders at all levels have been united in their desire to create and maintain affordable pathways to attendance at postsecondary institutions. We all are aware of the well-documented potential for progress that higher education offers generations of students and families.

But without question, during the last 30 years, the affordability of a college degree has eroded noticeably and significantly. A number of factors have contributed to that trend, but it’s clear that, as low-tuition, low-aid models have evolved into high-tuition, high-aid models, more and more middle-class students have been denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. That is why we at the University for Kentucky have evaluated how we structure our scholarships and have decided to chart a dramatically different path -- one much more aggressive in facilitating the success of students and families of limited financial means. It is right for our students, and it is right for the Commonwealth.

We’ve seen that, over time, colleges and universities have begun to use institutional aid to “sculpt” their entering classes. We have deployed aid to meet institutional priorities -- to support worthy goals of academic achievement and diversity, and to achieve important strategic objectives such as higher graduation rates.

But at what cost?

The connection between socioeconomic status and academic ability is well established. On average, students from families with higher incomes score better on national tests (ACT and SAT), are academically prepared, and engage in college-preparatory tutorials, among other advantages. It is no wonder, then, that those students also are rewarded more generously with institutional aid that is targeted toward merit.

At the University of Kentucky, we understand the results of these socioeconomic advantages and merit-based aid strategies. Students at the top end of both academic preparation and income receive the bulk of our merit-based aid -- which means the students who have the most options for postsecondary attainment are also receiving the most resources.

The fact is, however, that promising students who come from lesser means have not had such additional advantages and, in too many cases, have suffered as a result. As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we have a moral responsibility to change that situation.

To be sure, we have institutional aid dedicated to those with the most need, and we take advantage of the longstanding state and federal funds available. But, as has also been the case in the overall American economy since the Great Recession of 2008, we are observing the worrisome trend of a hollowing out of the middle. It is those students in the middle -- both in terms of socioeconomic background and academic preparation -- who are facing increasing obstacles to postsecondary attainment.

There is no question that these students can succeed. The question is can they afford the opportunity? At UK, our goal through our strategic plan is to place the student at the center of all of our decisions. Against that backdrop, we recently announced a new initiative that will radically change how we allocate our institutional aid.

Through UK LEADS (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), we are intentionally moving away from the institutional merit-based-aid arms race and instead committing ourselves to serving our students and our state. We want unmet financial need to be off the table as a concern for students and families.

A review of internal data has indicated that students with $5,000 or more unmet need -- defined as the amount remaining after the expected family contribution and all other aid (institutional, state and federal aid) -- had a significantly higher risk of attrition than students with less than $5,000 unmet need. And attrition increased significantly with each additional $5,000 in unmet need.

UK LEADS will dramatically shift the ratio of merit to need-based financial aid over the next five years. Currently, 90 percent of our aid is targeted to merit. By 2021, we hope 65 percent will be directed to financial need.

We plan to continue offering merit-aid based on a set of selection criteria. But if we do not make a radical change, it will become more difficult for our middle-class students to attend and graduate from our institution.

As public institutions have entered the institutional-aid arms race, institutional goals have taken precedence over the needs of their states and students. At UK, we believe that if we focus instead on student success and what is best for our state, institutional success will follow. But the reverse may not be true.

In the wake of the recent presidential election, there is also a strong push nationally to reinvest in the middle class, to address economic dislocations wrought by globalization and technology. Access to higher education must be a vital component of that effort.

In changing the way we think about aid -- by focusing less on sculpting a class of students and being more concerned about who can be positively impacted by a renewed commitment to affordable access -- we in higher education can once again honor our legacy as the nation’s brightest hope for economic and social progress.

Eli Capilouto is the president and Tim Tracy is the provost of the University of Kentucky.

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Author discusses new book about transgender college students

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Author discusses new book about a part of the student population pushing for more support -- and facing a backlash in some states.

Protest of Blackface Incidents at Oklahoma State

Students at Oklahoma State University protested on campus Monday in response to two student-involved blackface incidents in the last week, The Tulsa World reported.

The protestors met outside Oklahoma President Burns Hargis’s office and marched peacefully before he came out to thank them for their response to the “racially insensitive posts.”

Both incidents were posted to and spread through social media.

Over the weekend, a female student posted a photo of herself in blackface (below) on Snapchat with the caption “When he says he only likes black girls.”

She apologized in several posts on her Facebook page early Monday morning. “I am deeply sorry for those that I have offended,” the student wrote. “My intentions were not at all to be racist. For anyone who knows me, you know I am not racist. I had no idea about the incident with the other two girls and their face masks. That is just unfortunate timing.”

The other incident occurred on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, less than a week earlier. In an Instagram post (at right) showing four female students standing in front of the OSU flag, two of the students were in blackface. The caption read, “Celebrating our first MLK Day off of school!!!!”

The students apologized last week in a joint statement. “Our actions were thoughtless and harmful,” they said. “We also now see how easily social media can cause heartache and pain. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to our entire OSU family and beyond as well as genuinely ask for your forgiveness.”

The students will not be disciplined by the university, but Hargis said he has been speaking with the students about what had happened.

“We are working with the students involved in these incidents to help them understand the consequences of their inappropriate actions,” Hargis said. “We all must learn from these incidents and bring positive change to our campus. We had meaningful dialogue today, and we will continue to improve OSU’s efforts to be a more inclusive university.”

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Shooting at U of Washington as tensions grow over Milo Yiannopoulos speeches

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Violence at University of Washington appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos followed protests that prevented a speech at UC Davis -- as tensions grow over Breitbart writer known for insults against feminists, minority groups and others.


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