The president of Trinity College of Connecticut, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, announced in a campuswide email Friday that the institution was ending a controversial plan to force Greek organizations to become coeducational. The plan, adopted prior to Berger-Sweeney's appointment, has been opposed by many on campus, especially those affiliated with the fraternity system. In her note to the campus, Berger-Sweeney said that half of the campus fraternities would lose their charters because their national organizations do not permit coeducational chapters. Further, she said that she was not convinced the plan was achieving its goals.
"I have concluded that the coed mandate is unlikely to achieve its intended goal of gender equity," she wrote. "Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness. In fact, communitywide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive."
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with the University of Nebraska at Kearney that will assure the right of students with psychological difficulties to have support dogs in campus housing. The department sued the university over the issue in 2011. The settlement requires the university to change some policies and to pay $140,000 to two students whose requests for support dogs were denied. “This is an important settlement for students with disabilities not only at UNK but throughout the country,” said a statement from the principal deputy assistant attorney general, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Assistance animals such as emotional support dogs can provide critical support and therapeutic benefits for persons with psychological disabilities."
The university has denied any legal wrongdoing in the case, and has maintained that it was only this suit (and a judge's earlier ruling on it) that clearly said that the Fair Housing Act applies to housing run by colleges and universities. The university also said that the settlement preserves the right of a college to inquire about the need for having a support animal.
Harvard University has started letting students select the pronouns by which they wish to be referred, The Boston Globe reported. Many transgender students reject the traditional he/she binary and prefer terms such as "ze," "hir" and "hirs." Others prefer plural pronouns such as "they." Harvard is letting students indicate their preference at registration so that faculty members can be aware of such preferences. While such policies aren't universal, Harvard is hardly the first to adopt this approach. Typically, however, advocates for change in higher ed say that telling others that "Harvard did it" has an impact on the actions of some other institutions.
Whitworth University is condemning an incident in which some athletes at the institution dressed in blackface and wigs to portray themselves as the Jackson 5 for a social event. Photos were posted to social media, angering many on the campus. Larry Burnley, the university's chief diversity officer, posted a statement on Facebook that said in part: "Whitworth University is imbued by its Christ-centered mission that informs our value for diversity and our demonstrated commitment to providing students, faculty, staff and guests with an environment that is safe, welcoming and respectful of all cultures and identities …. It has been brought to the university’s attention that several students from our women’s soccer team dressed in blackface and with afro wigs in an attempt to depict the musical group the Jackson 5 at an informal event held at a local bowling alley …. The student who posted the photo has since removed it and expressed remorse for the insensitivity of the decision to dress in this manner. The administration is taking further steps to examine the developments around the students’ decision to engage in this insensitive act. It is critical that the student body and Whitworth community learn from this behavior and consider not only the real or perceived intent of such actions, but also the detrimental impact they have on members of our community, regardless of intent."
New research from the University of Chicago has found that many black and Latino college freshmen feel significant financial strain. Black and Latino freshmen at five universities in Illinois were surveyed three times during the year. At each point, about 35 percent reported having difficulty paying their bills, being upset that they did not have enough money and worrying that they would not be able to afford to complete their degree. The sample was of students who were well prepared for college. The results are the first part of a major effort to track these students and to look for approaches to improving minority student retention. More information on the research may be found here.
Some six months after one racist incident on campus, Bucknell University is dealing with another -- this time directed at a faculty member. President John Bravman said in a statement to faculty, students and staff this week that a “message containing racist, hateful language was found written on a whiteboard hanging on a faculty colleague’s office door,” and that the university is “doing all that we can to try to identify the individual(s) responsible for this disgusting display of intolerance.” Details, including the name of the targeted professor, have not been released.
This week’s incident comes a semester after three students were expelled for using racial slurs and making threats during a student radio station broadcast. Bravman said in his note that the “events of last semester made us acutely aware of the discrimination that exists on campus and in society more broadly,” and that everyone at Bucknell “must continue to work in earnest toward confronting those inequities.”
He added, “We cannot allow acts such as this to derail our efforts toward genuine and needed change. To accept anything less than a safe, inclusive community for all is to fail. I urge you to continue this fight for yourselves, for our colleagues and for our students.”