diversity

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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College Board pilots new way to measure adversity when considering applications, but some fear impact of leaving out race

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College Board pilots system to help colleges make admissions decisions about who is disadvantaged -- and evidence from one college suggests 20 percent of decisions might be different. But lack of emphasis on race concerns some advocates.

Higher education should acknowledge that many Americans believe colleges indoctrinate students in liberalism (essay)

At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was sharply critical of the higher education community: “The fight against the education establishment extends to you, too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say and, more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

The secretary’s comments, of course, are offensive to most of us in higher education who labor to ensure that our students learn to question assumptions, think critically and creatively, and, above all, think for themselves. But higher education leaders need to do more than dismiss DeVos’s comments. We should acknowledge that many Americans believe the same thing: that higher education is indoctrination in the dogmas of liberalism. I know that my own students question whether it is appropriate for faculty members to advocate for positions they perceive to be political.

It’s time to reframe the discussion. We should ask why this perception exists, whether we have unwittingly contributed to the perception and what we can do to change it.

It is time to clearly articulate the centrality of faculty in challenging our students to think for themselves. When students are tempted to surround themselves with friends and media sources that only support their presuppositions, faculty members need to push them to dig more deeply into issues.

Often it is difficult for students to examine their assumptions. Remember how hard it is when others challenge us to think more critically. We, along with our students, need to understand that critical thinking is not being critical. It entails gathering evidence, questioning assumptions, respecting solid facts, thinking logically, looking at problems from many angles and then building creative solutions. Critical thinking requires us to consider and value the ideas of others, even when we disagree.

And let us savor that moment when our students’ grasp of critical thinking empowers them to disagree with us. We must respect the views of all of our students, whether politically liberal, moderate or conservative. And just as we track and seek to improve the belonging and engagement of students based on race, ability or disability, gender and sexuality, we should pay attention to political and religious conservatives who may feel marginalized.

At the same time, we in the higher education community must resist attempts at intimidation. Now more than ever, it’s time to cherish higher education’s shared values. In these times of division, when there is so much empty and spiteful rhetoric, higher education should unite in rising above adversaries’ words by advocating for inclusion, justice and critical thinking.

I invite DeVos to visit my campus and learn with our students in their classes. She would discover that Augustana, like many campuses, works hard to ensure the voices of all students are heard and valued on campus. She also would see that college students aren’t pliable souls awaiting indoctrination. They tend to be confident -- sometimes too confident.

Our job is to ensure that our students’ gut feelings become informed opinions that they can defend from within a framework of considered values and a system of careful, critical thought. Graduates who are critical thinkers are indispensable to the great institutions of our country, and indeed to democracy itself.

Steven C. Bahls is president of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.

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Trump Vows to Support Historically Black Colleges

In his Saturday address, President Trump focused on black history and issues facing black people. He offered praise to historically black colleges and said they "do a fantastic job." He said black colleges "are not given the credit that they deserve and they are going to start getting that credit." The discussion of black colleges starts around 2:50 of the video below. Both the White House and congressional Republicans have been reaching out to black college leaders of late.

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Use of Photo of Women in Hijabs Criticized

An Arizona State University student says the institution racially profiled her when it used a photo of her and two friends to accompany an article about the need for more international students.

The student, Nshwah Ahmad, is a U.S. citizen -- she was born in Michigan -- as are the other two women in the photo, but Ahmad believes the university saw their head scarves in the photo and assumed they were from another country. "I feel like they were just looking for something," Ahmad told Arizona’s 12 News. "People now have a standard of what they feel America should look like."

Ahmad, a master’s student at Arizona State, posted about the incident on her Facebook account. She took a screenshot of the article, written by Michael Crow.

“Someone please tell me why on God's green earth ASU [and] Michael Crow [are] making an advertisement for ‘international students’ with a pic of me and two other Arabs,” Ahmad wrote on Facebook. "I’m laughing so hard but I’m also low-key offended … sorry, ladies, we are apparently not American.”

The article, published in The Christian Science Monitor, argues that international students enrich the experience of the entire student body.

“The more we engage globally and encourage the fullest possible intersection of people and ideas, the better equipped we will be to address the challenges that beset us,” Crow wrote.

The university has apologized to the women and replaced the photo in the article. Arizona State also released a statement about the incident, calling it a “mistake.”

“In our search for a compelling image on a tight deadline to go along with Dr. Crow’s op-ed, we passed along a picture to the publisher without doing enough due diligence on the people featured in it,” the statement said. “There is no excuse for the error, and apologies have been issued to the alumnae in the picture.”

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