diversity

How academic funding is racialized (essay)

The well-substantiated racial differences in research support are yet another hurdle that scholars of color face -- one that sets many of us behind, argues Victor Ray.

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Racist, Anti-Semitic Emails Anger Many at Michigan

Racist and anti-Semitic email messages were sent to some email groups at the University of Michigan on Tuesday, in a "spoofing" attack. In such attacks someone essentially forges the header of an email so that the messages appear to come from people -- in this case a professor and one of his graduate students -- who didn't in fact send them. The university is investigating, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Jury Awards $2.5M to Former Counsel at Riverside

The University of California must pay the former chief counsel at its Riverside campus $2.5 million for allegedly retaliating against her for reporting what she called “rampant” gender discrimination at the campus, a jury decided this week.

Jurors found that the plaintiff in the case, Michele Coyle, reported allegations of gender discrimination by the campus’s former provost, and that those reports were a “substantial motivating reason” for her subsequent termination, according to a verdict form.

The executive vice chancellor and provost in question, Dallas Rabenstein, is now retired, but Riverside’s former chancellor, Timothy P. White, who is alleged to have failed to protect Coyle from retaliation, is now chancellor of the California State University System.

The University of California said in a statement that it was “disappointed” in the verdict and that it “vehemently denies the allegations of retaliation made in the lawsuit, and is considering all legal options, including an appeal.”

Coyle, who worked at Riverside for six years before being let go in 2012, was awarded some $783,000 in past lost earnings, $1.6 million in future lost earnings and about $72,500 in other damages.

She claimed in a lawsuit that she’d originally been hired to address issues including harassment at Riverside, and grew concerned about Rabenstein’s behavior. She alleged that he called certain female employees “biddies,” told one woman that mothers of young children shouldn’t work outside the home and joked about having rarely advanced women in his home department.

Coyle said her complaints about Rabenstein were not taken seriously, however, and that instead of investigating, White and others “circled the wagon” around their male colleague.

Things soon went from bad to worse, when the Labor Department planned to conduct an audit of the university’s compliance with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws, according to Coyle’s complaint. Rabenstein allegedly refused to fund a faculty compensation data analysis ahead of the audit -- one that Coyle claimed would have revealed pay equity issues -- and “deliberately mischaracterized” data from previous years.

Coyle requested funding from White but was fired less than a week before the audit was to take place. Administrators allegedly said she had focused too much on policy issues at the expense of giving legal advice, but Coyle claimed they were really trying to silence her. As further proof of that motive, she said she was replaced with a younger, male lawyer with no experience in employment law, and that her previous performance reviews gave no indication of a problem.

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Q&A with author of book about black male students

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Through the voices of 40 individuals, new book examines what it’s like to be a black man on a college campus today.

Madison Student Drops Plan for Pro-White Group

A student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has abandoned plans to create a pro-white student group, the Associated Press reported. The shift in the student's plans followed widespread criticism of his idea to create the group, as well as reports about his past -- the student spent time in federal prison for his role in setting fires at two predominantly black churches.

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White Supremacist Fliers, Email on Campuses

This week is seeing a return of white supremacist fliers and email messages on campuses.

Many campuses experienced such incidents in the fall, and individual incidents are of course nothing new. But incidents reported Monday appear to involve multiple campuses and are linked to known white supremacist groups.

At the University of Hartford, many received emails from "The White Students Union," reportedly as an arm of the group American Vanguard (logo at right). That group has repeatedly praised efforts to communicate with students and others about a message of white power.

Walter Harrison, president of the university, sent a message the campus saying that the university was investigating the unauthorized email messages and that "whoever sent the email is a hateful coward."

At Indiana University at Bloomington, officials are denouncing fliers from a group called Identity Europa, which advocates for a Eurocentric culture. The fliers featured photos of classical statues with the taglines "Let's Become Great Again," "Serve Your People" and "Protect Your Heritage," among other messages. The group's Twitter account featured photographs of the posters left on many campuses, but the accuracy of the photos could not be confirmed.

Laurel Robel, provost at Indiana, issued a statement in which she said that the fliers were "posted under cover of darkness, targeting the office doors of faculty members of color or scholars of race and ethnicity" and that "these fliers were clearly meant to intimidate, threaten, scare and provoke anger among faculty, staff, students and visitors." She added, "We stand together as a community in the face of this abhorrent action. We will not be divided by cowards. This is a university. We discuss ideas in the full light of day."

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11 Arrested at NYU During Protest Over Speaker

Eleven people were arrested last Thursday after one part of a demonstration at New York University turned violent.

They were protesting the on-campus appearance of Gavin McInnes, a conservative commentator, comedian, actor and co-founder of Vice Media (at right). McInnes describes himself as pro-Trump, pro-West, anti-feminist and anti-Islam. Last December, he started an “anti-racial guilt,” anti-feminist group called Proud Boys that advocates for the return of "Western chauvinism." Of the 11 arrested Thursday night, several were these so-called Proud Boys, according to tweets McInnes posted in the days following the event.

The NYU College Republicans had invited McInnes to speak Thursday night, but dozens of dissenters -- including some students, led by a group called NYU Anti-Fascists, and many nonstudents -- greeted his arrival with chants, fighting and pepper spray.

The New York Police Department had sent officers to the scene, where McInnes was pepper sprayed on his way into the building. He later tweeted about the incident. “Thanks for asking if I'm OK guys,” he wrote on Twitter. “I was sprayed with pepper spray but being called a Nazi burned way more.”

None of those arrested were NYU students, an official with the university said. Most protesters affiliated with NYU were inside the student center where McInnes was speaking and where they held signs and yelled in nonviolent protest. Those who remained outside, where the protests became violent, are believed to be "largely composed of non-NYU protesters," John Beckman, vice president for public affairs at NYU, said in a statement.

On the Facebook event for the demonstration, the NYU Anti-Fascists’ organizers wrote that McInnes “has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy.”

McInnes did end up speaking to students in the student center, according to a video posted to Periscope by a student publication, but he was interrupted repeatedly by a group of student protesters shouting, “Whose campus? Our campus!” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” McInnes would sometimes ignore them and continue speaking, but occasionally he would turn to them and react: “Why are you repeating the same nonsense over and over?”

After about 20 minutes of this, McInnes took the microphone from an NYU spokesperson who had been trying to calm the crowd and called the spokesperson a “dumb liberal asshole” for thinking the protesters are "rational beings." McInnes then abruptly left the podium. He did not come back.

“To be clear: Mr. McInnes's talk at NYU’s student center on Thursday night went forward. … The decision to end the event when he did was his own,” Beckman said.

The NYU College Republicans responded to the evening's events in a statement, saying they were "disappointed that many students on this campus are so disrespectful when it comes to hearing opposing speakers … We understand that his presence was controversial but we didn't expect these outburst [sic] from this institution."

The NYU incident occurred just a day after violent protests broke out at the University of California, Berkeley, which was hosting Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos but had to cancel amid violent protests led by people unaffiliated with Berkeley.

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Dealing with discrimination as a black faculty member (essay)

KC Williams speaks to any black faculty member who has ever felt imposed upon or discriminated against for reasons having nothing to do with their abilities.

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The graduate student as admissions recruiter (essay)

Lauren Michele Jackson explores what role graduate students -- especially minority women students -- play in their program’s recruitment efforts.

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A liberal education includes learning from people with whom one disagrees (essay)

I was horrified reading the latest diktat on immigration from an administration blown into power by the winds of intolerance and resentment. President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States is an exercise in cynical obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.

The obfuscation begins early on with the linking of this crackdown to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when, as has been pointed out by many commentators, those responsible for those attacks had no connections to the countries targeted by this order. The bigotry of the decree closing our borders to refugees from these seven countries is most evident in the exception it makes for religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.

The hard-heartedness of the executive order is unmistakable. Desperate families who have been thoroughly vetted for months have had their dreams of a safe haven in America shattered. Students, scientists, artists and businesspeople who have played by the immigration rules to ensure that they have secure passage to and from the United States now find themselves in limbo. Colleges and universities that attract and depend on international talent will be weakened. So much for the so-called respect for law of an administration that has made a point of promising to crack down on undocumented children brought over the Mexican border by their parents.

Eighteen months ago I solicited ideas from Wesleyan alumni, faculty members, students and staff members as to what a small liberal arts institution like ours could do in the face of the momentous human tragedy unfolding around the world. We discussed the many ideas we received on our campus and with leaders of other institutions. The steps we took were small ones, appropriate to the scale of our institution. Working with the Scholars at Risk program, we welcomed a refugee scholar from Syria to participate in one of our interdisciplinary centers. We created internships for students who wanted to work at refugee sites in the Middle East or assist local effort at resettlement. We began working with the Institute of International Education to bring a Syrian student to Wesleyan. And, perhaps most important, we redoubled our efforts to educate the campus about the genesis and development of the crisis.

In the last few months, I have traveled to China and India to talk about the benefits of pragmatic liberal education, and in both countries I saw extraordinary enthusiasm for coming to America to pursue a broad, contextual education that will develop the student’s capacity to learn from diverse sets of sources. Since returning, I’ve already received questions from anxious international students and their parents about whether we will continue to welcome people from abroad who seek a first-rate education. Students outside the United States are often fleeing educational systems with constraints on inquiry and communication; they are rejecting censorship and premature specialization, and they are looking to us. Will they continue to do so?

Here at home we must resist orchestrated parochialism of all kinds. A liberal education includes deepening one’s ability to learn from people with whom one doesn’t agree, but the politics of resentment sweeping across our country is substituting demonization for curiosity. Without tolerance and open-mindedness, inquiry is just a path to self-congratulation at best, violent scapegoating at worst.

With this latest executive order, the White House has provided colleges and universities the occasion to teach our students more thoroughly about the vagaries of refugee aid from wealthy, developed countries that are themselves in political turmoil. The new administration has also unwittingly provided lessons in the tactics of scapegoating and distraction traditionally used by strongmen eager to cement their own power. There are plenty of historical examples of how in times of crisis leaders make sweeping edicts without regard to human rights or even their own legal traditions.

Our current security crisis has been manufactured by a leadership team eager to increase a state of fear and discrimination in order to bolster its own legitimacy. The fantasy of the need for “extreme vetting” is a noxious mystification created by a weak administration seeking to distract citizens from attending to important economic, political and social issues. Such issues require close examination with a patient independence of mind and a respect for inquiry that demands rejection of falsification and obfuscation.

As the press is attacked with increasing vehemence for confronting the administration with facts, universities have a vital role to play in helping students understand the importance of actual knowledge about the world -- including the operations of politics. To play that role well, universities must be open to concerns and points of view from across the ideological spectrum -- not just from those who share conventional professorial political perspectives. At Wesleyan, we have raised funds to bring more conservative faculty to campus so that our students benefit from a greater diversity of perspectives on matters such as international relations, economic development, the public sphere and personal freedom. Refusing bigotry should be the opposite of creating a bubble of ideological homogeneity.

As I write this op-ed, demonstrators across the country are standing up for the rights of immigrants and refugees. They recognize that being horrified is not enough, and they are standing up for the rule of law and for traditions of decency and hospitality that can be perfectly compatible with national security.

America’s new administration is clearly eager to set a new direction. As teachers and students, we must reject intimidation and cynicism and learn from these early proclamations and the frightening direction in which they point. Let us take what we learn and use it to resist becoming another historical example of a republic undermined by the corrosive forces of obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.

Michael S. Roth is president of Wesleyan University and author, most recently, of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.

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University protest against immigration order
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