diversity

Randa Jarrar case at Fresno State has attracted national attention, much of it arguably undue

Randa Jarrar's case at Cal State Fresno has attracted national attention, much of it arguably undue. Will she be punished? It's hard to say, given academe's unpredictable track record on discipline for faculty social media snafus.

Colleges report some success in going after rural applicants

Warren Wilson sees success in part of strategy to make campus more welcoming to conservative students. Swarthmore expands recruiting.

When college goes under, everyone suffers, but Mount Ida's faculty feels a particular sense of betrayal

When a college goes under, everyone suffers. But faculty at Mount Ida feel a particular sense of betrayal following its abrupt closure announcement.

Concerns raised about environment for Jewish students and professors at Knox

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College considers how its Jewish students and faculty members are treated.

Harvard Graduate Assistants Vote for Union

Graduate students at Harvard University voted 1,931 to 1,523 to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, they announced Friday. The election, held earlier this month, was the second on the union issue, as a 2016 vote proved inconclusive. "Harvard appreciates student engagement on this important issue," the university said in a statement. "Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students."

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Closing Academic Publishing's Gender Gap

Academic publishing’s gender gap is likely to continue for generations, especially in certain fields, according to a new analysis of 10 million science, technology, engineering and math-related papers published in nearly 6,000 journals worldwide over the last 15 years. Researchers from the University of Melbourne estimated the genders of the papers’ 36 million authors, finding that the gender-based publishing gap was especially persistent in surgery, computer science, physics and math. Eighty-seven of the of the 115 disciplines examined had significantly less than 45 percent female authors, while five had significantly more than 55 percent female authors (the rest were close to gender parity).

The gap is especially large in authorship positions associated with seniority, and prestigious journals have fewer women authors than others, according to the study, published Thursday in PLOS Biology. “The Gender Gap in Science: How Long Until Women Are Equally Represented?” also estimates that journals invite men to submit papers twice as often as they ask women. Wealthy countries, namely Japan, Germany and Switzerland, also tend to have fewer women authors than poorer ones, it says. The paper’s authors recommend education efforts and other reforms to help close the gender gap faster.

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Video of Fraternity Initiation Shows Use of Slurs

Minority students and others at Syracuse University held a protest Wednesday over racist incidents on campus, highlighted by the publication in the student newspaper of a video of a fraternity initiation that includes slurs about black, Latino and Jewish people, as well as skits that mock the idea of gay sex, Syracuse.com reported. The university suspended the fraternity, but many students said that the problems go far beyond the one video. The video, first published by The Daily Orange, is now circulating widely online, and many say it illustrates a concerning attitude that the students involved would engage in bigotry.

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The gap between rhetoric and action when it comes to support of diversity in higher ed (opinion)

In 1978, when the Supreme Court heard the landmark Bakke case that permitted race to be considered as one of several factors in higher education admissions, several colleges and universities filed amicus briefs in support of the University of California’s race-conscious policies. The central argument of those briefs was that such policies were needed to correct, in part, the cumulative impact of past discrimination against minority applicants.

Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. offered a different perspective. Race-conscious admission policies (though not quotas), he wrote, were a defensible and useful way to achieve racial and cultural diversity on university campuses. All students, not just minority students, stood to benefit from living and learning within diverse communities.

Forty years after Bakke, the consensus around the educational value of diversity is very strong. Colleges and universities, whether large or small, private or public, promote campus diversity as an important part of their mission. Quite a few institutions, especially elite liberal arts colleges in rural areas, try hard to create educationally diverse environments for their students.

Words and images on the websites of hundreds of institutions and of higher education associations attest to the strength of the consensus. The shared message? Students who are educated on diverse campuses, taught by diverse faculties and introduced to culturally diverse curricula will be well prepared to thrive in our multiethnic country and to understand what goes on in the rest of the world.

The message is convincing. In a society segregated de facto by income, race and ethnicity, higher education indeed should provide opportunities for students to trespass the psychological and physical boundaries of their communities and high schools. And it is surely a fine idea to introduce our young people to the history, values and aspirations of the 95 percent of human beings who do not live in the United States. Remarkably, however, the consensus around the educational value of diversity has had little impact on the influential rankings of colleges and universities and on the flow of resources to higher education. There is a wide gap between our proclamations about the educational value of diversity and what we actually do when we counsel college applicants, appropriate public funds for higher education or make private donations.

If our individual and collective actions matched our rhetoric, those institutions that are organically and authentically diverse would move up significantly on our list of preferred destinations for talented students and for public and private funds. Think of public institutions like the City University of New York, both California university systems, the University of Houston and Arizona State University. Think of private universities like Northeastern University in Boston or St. John’s University in New York.

The gap between rhetoric and action remains wide for many reasons. One reason is that we higher education leaders and our supporters subscribe to a scarcity model of higher education. For decades, authors of college rankings, and the high school counselors who follow their lead, have convinced prospective students and their families that there is only so much room at the top of the academic pecking order, the key to social and economic advancement.

Rankings are based on several indicators of institutional vitality and success. Campus diversity usually does make the list of indicators. Yet it trails behind conventional academic indicators, such as enrolled students’ high school grade point averages and SAT or ACT scores, and well behind indicators of institutional wealth, such as endowment dollars per student, faculty salaries and state-of the-art facilities.

At this point in our history, we should celebrate the unprecedented abundance of choices in American higher education, including opportunities to be educated at diverse campuses surrounded by diverse communities. Instead, our attention and resources remain focused on institutions whose high rankings depend in good measure on how many applicants they can afford to reject.

Those selective colleges and universities that benefit from the scarcity model have little incentive to change perceptions and priorities about what matters most in higher education. But leaders of institutions that offer diverse learning environments and are embedded in large and diverse communities should ask three questions.

What happened to the broad consensus reached decades ago about the educational value of diversity? Why, in most rankings, does campus diversity fall well below other indicators? And why the reluctance of legislators and private philanthropists to invest more generously in this country’s most organically and authentic diverse institutions?

Clara M. Lovett is president emerita of Northern Arizona University.

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Diversity Newsletter publication date: 
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Our Questionable Support of Diversity in Higher Ed

University of Maryland removes guide for teaching assistants amid uproar over sexist advice

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University of Maryland at College Park removes guide for teaching assistants amid uproar over its advice.

Political Science Group Apologizes for Holding Conference at Brigham Young

The Society for Political Methodology’s annual meeting will be held at Brigham Young University, the group announced Monday, despite ongoing concerns about the campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scholars. The society’s leaders said they’d given “insufficient forethought to matters of diversity” in allowing Brigham Young to host the meeting, chilling the participation of LGBTQ scholars and alarming the American Political Science Association’s Status Committee for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender Individuals in the Profession (a group not affiliated with the society).

Yet recent weeks have seen a series of “constructive, good-faith conversations” among the political science association’s LGBT Status Committee, Brigham Young and the society, the political methodology group said, yielding “what all parties believe is a positive outcome for 2018 and beyond.” The university has reaffirmed its commitment to welcoming visiting scholars in a spirit of inclusion and moved all events to an off-site location, for example, while the society is adopting a new diversity statement and formal code of conduct endorsed by the political science association's status committee. Host institutions of future conferences will be required to affirm these statements and conference participants will be required to sign the code of conduct. A plenary roundtable at the upcoming meeting also will discuss how to make the society more diverse and inclusive.

The society “apologizes for the way its host selection negatively affected professional opportunities for LGBTQ scholars,” its leaders said in a statement. “This was never intended and [the society] promises to be more attuned to diversity and inclusion in the future.”

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