diversity

How dwindling support for the humanities and higher ed's lack of diversity are related (essay)

Diversity in the Humanities

One morning not too long ago, I opened Inside Higher Ed and read a story about the dwindling support for humanities. Citing low enrollments, Western Illinois University had just cut four degree programs, including philosophy and religious studies. Faculty members were worried. Metrics were being questioned.

In other news outlets, another dire situation played out: more student protests over a lack of diversity -- this time at Seattle University. The tone was urgent. The institution placed the dean on administrative leave, and the students demonstrated for 22 days, demanding more attention to diversity in the curriculum.

Were these two separate stories? Or were they, in fact, closely intertwined?

Campus politics over the past decade have centered on diversity issues -- on addressing racial, ethnic, sexual and gender bias in the student body, faculty and administration. “Inclusivity” is the watchword on campuses today. Consequently, over the past few years, new diversity officers have been hired, budgets for diversity efforts have been skyrocketing -- in 2015, for instance, Yale University committed $50 million toward faculty diversity initiatives -- and intellectual approaches to the understanding of diversity are being integrated into curricula at places like Hamilton College.

While the emphasis on diversity is gaining momentum, force and funding, the perceived crisis in the humanities appears to be fading into the background, left to defend itself ad nauseam. In fact, it seems that these two movements may even be functioning against one another. The result of more affordable access to college for lower-income students, for example, may very well be leading to cuts in programs with low enrollments or lower salary yields (i.e., the humanities), as Gordon Hutner and Feisal G. Mohamed of the University of Illinois readily underscore in “The Real Humanities Crisis Is Happening at Public Universities.”

But can our institutions of higher education afford not to support and invest heavily in the humanities? Can we welcome a growing number of diverse students without increased attention to the study of languages, art, music and cultural contributions of people from diverse communities around the world? Can our country claim to educate democratic citizens without teaching our children to analyze the messages that inform their personal and political lives -- skills learned in literature classes? Can our country grapple with radical Islamic groups while defunding religious studies programs and courses in Arabic language and culture, art, and history?

I find it troubling that explicit and comprehensive support for the humanities as central to any institution’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive curriculum and campus culture has largely been absent from national conversations.

The humanities inform the kinds of values implicit in diversity and inclusion initiatives because our disciplines consistently demand that we become more attuned to the nuances of each other’s lives. The knowledge students gain in the most diverse learning hubs on our campuses -- as most of our modern languages and literatures departments are -- allow them to more truly value each other’s differences inside and outside the classroom, in local or global communities. In those spaces, they learn to confront their own biases and blind spots by engaging with distinct social and cultural backgrounds and the ways in which language, literature, theater, film, art and media shape and inform diverse and ever-changing worldviews and identities every single day.

The humanities give us the knowledge and the skills to share and express who we are and how we see our place in the world. In the process, we all gain the critical and creative thinking, communication, and comprehension skills needed to build the bridges that our diversity and inclusivity efforts are working toward.

The goal of diversity measures is to broaden the voices and perspectives on a campus. So why are we cutting out the vital stream of voices embodied in the arts and humanities? In an era of tight budgets, these may be seen as competing priorities, as distinct issues, but that’s a mistake. Greater diversity can broaden our conceptions of art, history, music, language studies and other arts and humanities. And the arts and humanities can support and enrich a culture of inclusivity across many communities, fields and professions.

Christine Henseler is a professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies at Union College.

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Serving as the sole conservative on a post-election panel (essay)

I’m a mathematician. I’m teaching Calculus II and mathematical structures for computer science this term. I write blog posts on topics like the best way to determine whether two lines intersect in three-dimensional space. Yet at 3:30 p.m. on the day after Trump’s election I found myself on a hastily convened panel with five of my faculty colleagues, facing an emotionally charged crowd of about 400 students, faculty and staff.

Our mission -- it felt like we were a team in that moment -- was to help our campus make sense of the results of an election that many found shocking and even frightening. The rest of the panel consisted of professors of politics and government, religion, gender and queer studies, and African-American studies. Why was a mathematician on the panel? I was the person the university found to give the conservative perspective.

After explaining my function on the panel, I said the following:

"It’s kind of odd that I’m here to be the conservative on this panel; I’m not that conservative. I’m probably more of a right-leaning moderate. I also didn’t vote for Trump, as I have concerns about his judgment and temperament. Instead, I voted for Gary Johnson. But this is Puget Sound, and so here I am representing the conservative perspective.

"Right now I feel a lot of things. I feel fear and worry. As I said, I’m concerned about Trump’s judgment. I’m also concerned because of the anger and division that I see, as well as the bad behavior by some of Trump’s supporters.

"As I watched the election returns roll in last night, though, I was surprised to discover that I also felt kind of excited, maybe even elated. And so why is that?

"I grew up in a small town in north Louisiana in the 1980s: a world that is Southern, rural, conservative and Christian. I’m second-generation college: my grandparents worked at jobs like coal miner, gas station attendant, department-store clerk, farmer, beautician. For most of my adult life I’ve been an academic, though, and for the past 11 years, I’ve worked at a very progressive liberal arts college in one of the most progressive parts of the country. That has given me a sort of double vision or cultural whiplash at times.

"Hillary Clinton called my people 'deplorable.' She said we were 'irredeemable.' Our current president, who I think sees the world similarly, said that my people are bitter clingers who hold on to guns and religion because we don’t have anything else worthwhile in our lives. Why would I want to support someone like that? Someone who talks that way about my people is not going to do a good job representing me. I’m glad she lost. I’ve got some concerns about Trump, but I’m glad Hillary Clinton lost.

"To understand this election, you have to understand that to be white working class means that you have almost no power. Not economic. Not cultural. Neither do you have the power that comes from moral authority, unlike most other victimized groups.

"To a large degree, Trump represents the revolt of the white working class. The revolt is partly economic. The cultural aspect is that they’re tired of being, in their minds, looked down on and condescended to by the people who run the country.

"I’ll hypothesize that, in some respects, the more Trump is mocked for his hair, his language, his racism, his sexism, his bigotry, the more the white working class says, 'That’s how I’ve been treated, too. Trump is like me. Trump is one of us.'"

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my campus after saying this, in an emotionally charged room with hundreds of people. But it represented the culmination of something that had been building in me for years.

Shut Out of Group Norms

I became an academic because I wanted to teach, help my students work through the big questions of life and discuss those big questions inside a larger community. I wanted a career at a liberal arts college. On the political axis, I thought of myself as a moderate. I knew academe leaned to the left, but I had always thought of the left (and academics in particular) as being fairly open-minded.

Not too long after I took my first tenure-track position in the fall of 2004, I was invited to a party by one of my colleagues. I had assumed it was just a friendly get-together. Most of the evening, however, was spent bashing President Bush. The critiques were more visceral than intellectual, and I saw none of the nuance that I expected from academics. In hindsight, I realize that much of what the guests were doing was signaling to each other their membership in a community, as well as venting frustrations, and they had assumed the party was a space where they could do that.

For unrelated reasons, I took a position at my current university -- a very different institution, in a very different part of the country -- the following year. Here, I have repeatedly found myself in situations where someone makes assumptions about everyone in the room, assumptions that I don’t share. The culprit has always been my Southernness, or my small-town background, or my Christian faith, or my lack of progressivism.

I remember the awkward silence that briefly followed when one of my students asked me outside of class whether I am religious, and I told him I am a Christian. I remember the snide comment about Texas at a faculty workshop. I remember a colleague’s casual dismissal of Fox News and the people who watch it. My mother watches Fox News. She’s one of most giving and selfless people I know -- someone who dropped everything to do disaster relief work in south Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

I remember others’ stories, too. I remember the two conservative students who vented in my office for half an hour, thankful that somebody was willing to listen to them. I remember the conservative colleague who told me that he’s tired of being a target and so he just keeps his head down now. I remember the alumnus who told me that he would never have dared to be out as a Christian on our campus because then he wouldn’t have had any friends.

Every institution has a culture and a set of shared norms, and an academic institution is no different. Those sacred values don’t come from the institution’s mission statement but arise from the shared set of beliefs held by the people who are part of it. A newcomer to a college may not ever be able to articulate that college’s norms, but he internalizes them every time an idea is praised with no countervailing opinion expressed. She internalizes them every time a group is criticized, and no one comes to that group’s defense. Over time the in ideas and out groups become part of the assumptions that people make. You don’t even think about them anymore. They’re like the oxygen in the air.

Where does that place you when you don’t share many of those norms? Sometimes you find yourself bewildered. On the literal level, the discussion is about Donald Trump or Barack Obama or George W. Bush or racism or transgender rights or environmental policy. But really the conversation is often about sacred values. When you don’t share the group norms, you feel shut out of the conversation because its very framing assumes the group norms. People don’t listen to the stories you use to explain your views because your stories are tied up with your norms -- not theirs -- and they don’t have a good mental place to connect them to. As a result, your stories get explained away.

You can always try to go deeper, of course. However, trying to get the group to look hard at its assumptions and then trying to explain why you don’t share them is difficult and exhausting. And even when you do have the energy, it’s easy to transgress some norm that you didn’t see and then face an unexpected blast directed at you. That makes you want to engage even less.

Besides, there are much easier options. You can become cynical. You can become angry. You can start hating the group. You can nurture your pain and envision yourself as a beleaguered minority. You can start throwing rhetorical explosives, which sure feels good -- at first. You can find another group. I’ve been tempted by most of these possible actions and have committed several of them.

The story that I’m telling here is about me at a progressive liberal arts college and slowly identifying more over time as conservative. It could also be the story of the white working class at the national level. And that brings me back to Trump and the post election panel.

Hopeful Signs

After I finished my remarks, I was worn out. I had just made myself far more emotionally vulnerable than I am used to, and I had done it in front of an angry and fearful crowd. I don’t remember much of the question-and-answer session, but I don’t think I had the wherewithal to attempt to answer anyone’s questions.

After it was over, one of my faculty colleagues made her way up to the table. “Thank you,” she said, “Your remarks made this all worthwhile.” The next person in line was a student. “My father is really conservative. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, and I’m scared about Thanksgiving. Do you have any advice for me?” She started tearing up. I hope what I said was helpful. Another student: “I’m a moderate. Thank you for giving another perspective.” “Just … thank you,” from a student in one of my classes this term. Then more expressions of thanks from faculty colleagues: “We should talk more,” “That’s exactly what we needed” and even “Nice pedagogy.”

Then, that night, I started getting emails. They continued to trickle in over the next several days. They said things like “That gave me a sense of courage,” “I realized I haven’t been listening well or asking the right questions,” “While you and I don’t agree, it was important for me to hear that” and “Thank you for pointing out that we are not all evil.” All in all, somewhere around 25 or 30 people have made a point of expressing gratitude for my remarks. The feedback hasn’t been uniformly positive -- I’ve also received some pushback -- but even that has been collegial.

I’ve responded in multiple ways. Scenes from Jerry Maguire keep running through my head: the ones where Jerry criticizes his company, everyone applauds and then Jerry gets fired. At least I have tenure, while Jerry did not. Another is a feeling of regret -- regret that I’ve underestimated my own campus.

Mostly, though, I’m more hopeful now than I have been in quite some time about my university. I hope we can dial back the inflammatory rhetoric -- especially the “-ists” and the “phobics” that we slap as labels on people. I hope we can do a better job of listening to people who have different values -- especially to a large group of people in this country who are not well understood by academics but whose support just elected Donald Trump president.

To understand the disparate people in our country, however, we need a greater variety of perspectives than we have now on campuses. Our sacred values shouldn’t effectively exclude large swaths of the country. We shouldn’t have to tap a moderately conservative mathematician who didn’t vote for Trump to give the conservative view on Trump voters.

Academe shouldn’t even be an institution that needs hastily convened panels like the one I was on: we should know how large groups of people in this country think and feel. We should be teaching their experiences and listening to them. We should have more people with their belief systems on our campuses, teaching and learning, so we can learn from them.

And so I find myself, ironically, arguing in favor of one of academe’s most sacred values: diversity. I’m not arguing for diversity the way academe functionally defines it, though. Instead, I’m arguing for intellectual diversity. Trump’s election -- and academe’s response -- only confirm that, for an institution of higher learning, it's the most important kind of diversity to have.

Mike Spivey is professor of mathematics at the University of Puget Sound.

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Students Object to Building Name at College of NJ

Students in a history research class at the College of New Jersey used archives in the Trenton Free Public Library to study the city's history -- and they made a startling discovery. As Phillly.com reported, they found that Paul Loser, former superintendent of the city’s public schools from 1932 to 1955, had fought to segregate middle school students by race. Today, Loser's name is on a prominent campus building that houses the admissions office. The students who did the research are now campaigning to change the name of the building. Administrators have said they will meet with the students to discuss their concerns.

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Colleges must move from simply asking people's opinions to making them count (essay)

Higher education was already reeling from a tumultuous 2015-16 academic year. Serious campus climate issues about race and class surfaced across the country in the form of student, and even employee, protests. Those protests came as a surprise to many in higher education who have worked hard to build inclusive communities on campuses. But they nonetheless clearly demonstrated that colleges and universities still have a long way to go.

Then last month’s presidential election sent another shock wave across higher education. It was a reminder that many experts, the news media, some elected officials and, to a certain extent, the highly educated elite are still “missing something.”

That something is a better understanding of what’s truly going on in our country, on our campuses and in citizens,’ students’ and employees’ lives.

If we in higher education want to have a deeper and clearer understanding of why there is considerable unrest on our campuses and across our nation, we must grasp a fundamental attribute of democracy that we seem to have lost track of: opinions being heard and counting.

Certainly, tens of millions of opinions were just heard in the form of votes cast for president of the United States. But being heard is about more than being counted once every four years. It’s about people being given a chance to exercise their opinions, on a regular basis, about many aspects of their lives. It’s about exercising their opinions at work, too -- where most of us spend many of our waking hours. It’s also -- most especially -- about people feeling that their opinions matter, that they counted and weren’t simply asked for. Those are very different things.

If, for example, you conduct a survey and ask someone’s opinion about something, that’s a decent first step. Certainly better than not asking them at all. But if you never do anything about that survey -- never provide any of the results or insights to those who responded to it and never take any action based on it -- you might actually be making things worse.

Higher education isn’t alone in this challenge; organizations of all kinds struggle with the process of collecting, disseminating and acting upon data. What’s clear, however, is we must both ask and respond. We also need to ask different and better questions.

Behavioral economics tells us that about 30 percent of the decisions we make as human beings are based on rational information, while 70 percent are based on emotion. Emotions are therefore the biggest driver of our decisions and behaviors, and they are as real as any concrete data might be -- in fact, they might be more so. Gallup research has demonstrated that, in the United States and across the globe, measures of people’s well-being (how they feel about and evaluate their lives) are often a stronger predictor of unrest than classic measures such as gross domestic product.

Behavioral economic measures of emotions will forever revolutionize how we come to understand how people are doing -- and how we can accomplish goals like building more inclusive communities. The only way to do so is to ask people directly and to ask questions about how they feel. This is not data we can gather about them; it has to be from them.

Gallup’s extensive research in higher education sheds light on the problems and opportunities for institutions of higher education when it comes to how they can build more inclusive communities. In the past year, Gallup has conducted several campus climate and employee/faculty engagement surveys for colleges and universities. What we’ve learned is that whether someone feels they are part of an inclusive campus community boils down to two absolutely crucial questions. These questions account for more than half of the variance in whether someone feels their campus is inclusive.

The first and most important question is whether they strongly agree that their opinions at work count. And the second is whether they strongly agree that someone cares about them as a person. Unfortunately, higher education institutions do not score well at all on these measures. Nor do K-12 schools. Teachers, for example -- of professions in America -- rank dead last in feeling that their opinions at work count.

Implicit and explicit in this is that institutions need to do more than just ask students, employees and alumni for their opinions; they must do something as a result -- whether that is communicating the findings and insights back to the constituents surveyed or taking action steps toward changes as a result of what was learned.

Emotions must be measured as well. As an example, think of how we typically measure something like student engagement. It’s usually about measuring activity levels -- such as how many times a student volunteered or visited the library or met with an academic adviser. Rarely -- if ever -- do we measure how they felt regarding those activities and interactions. Did they feel their adviser cared about them as a person? Were they excited about what they learned in the library? Did they feel they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom to their volunteer experience?

Higher education has worked hard toward creating more diverse campus communities. Indeed, as we look at the demographics of colleges and universities today, it’s clear we have accomplished a lot in this regard. While we certainly still have a lot of work to do, we’ve made much more progress on diversity than we have on inclusivity.

That’s a crucial distinction. Diversity is what we see. Inclusivity is how we act and what we feel. The two are interrelated, of course. Diversity serves as a foundation upon which inclusivity is built. But achieving inclusivity requires something quite different from what most of us have probably thought.

Before I started leading Gallup’s higher education work, I would have never guessed that inclusivity was fundamentally about opinions counting. But if someone doesn’t feel their opinions count, they are essentially and fundamentally disconnected from their community. What we have learned from the recent examples of student protests about campus climate and race -- and from many Americans in the aftermath of this election -- is that they are examples of people who felt their opinions have not counted for some time.

In higher education, we must embrace a new era in which we seek to carefully understand how students, employees, faculty members and alumni feel about their studies, work and lives. We have to move from simply asking about their opinions to ensuring those opinions matter and count. And we need to understand that people’s feelings are facts. We can’t dismiss feelings; we need to treat them with great care. If we do, we will make a lot of progress toward creating the inclusive communities we have long sought to build.

Brandon Busteed is executive director of education and work force development at Gallup.

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The need to move beyond a multicultural perspective on campuses (essay)

Some college students who are Donald Trump supporters have offered a disclaimer and defense: “I’m not a racist, but Trump tells it like it is” or “I agree with some of Trump’s ideologies but not all.”

It seems many college students who support the controversial president-elect reject racism at the individual level -- the explicit and recognizable form -- but may lack a deep understanding of the construction and formation of race in America. And this lack of understanding certainly is not confined only to Trump supporters.

For higher education, this flash point serves as an important reminder that we must further examine how race operates in America and reimagine our framework for education on race.

On Nov. 9, college campuses across the country grappled with the state of the American polity and the future of race relations in our country following the election of Donald Trump.

Trump’s campaign and election have signaled to many that racism and other “-isms” are part of the DNA of American society, demonstrated clearly, viciously and deplorably by the euphemistic “alt-right” movement that has entered the academy.

Individual and Systemic Racism

A better understanding of both individual racism and systemic racism may help us undertake the looming challenge of uniting/reuniting our campuses and our nation through open and respectful dialogue across difference. A framework for education on race must include a vocabulary that enables us to critically discuss what transpired regarding race in the 2016 election season nationwide and especially on our college campuses.

Individual-level racism includes interpersonal bigotry, racial slurs, hate crimes and violence. Systemic-level racism, in contrast, involves discriminatory policies and practices that afford privilege to white people and simultaneously disadvantage people of color. Systemic racism manifests in our society’s pervasive and well-documented inequities and injustices across health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, employment and so many other areas.

Most Americans, including many supporters of President-elect Trump and millions of others, are complicit in systemic-level racism, which is subtle and often far less obvious to those who do not personally experience it. In addition to Trump’s individual-level racist rhetoric, the policies and ideas he has espoused promote systemic racism, which insidiously and brutally impacts generation after generation of Americans in communities of color. This fact is clear to the overtly racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan or the “alt-right” movement that support Trump, whether or not he wants their support.

White Fragility, Cultural Humility and Polyculturalism

During the election, Trump cleverly played to “white fragility” -- a defensive response by white people to racial stress -- by striking fear that their power and privilege would be lost unless we committed to “make America great again.” White fragility is manifested, for example, when white Americans perceive instances of “reverse racism” directed at them. They often perceive these situations as discrimination because these are among the few occasions when whites experience the salience of their racial identity.

Ironically, the reaction of white Americans to such perceived racism is not unlike the anger that historically marginalized Americans feel when confronted throughout their lives with systemic as well as individual-level racism.

White communities and others ordained by them as "model minorities” too often fail to engage in soul-centric reflection and critique -- exercises in developing a sense of cultural humility on issues of race that can unearth their responsibilities related to racism.

One reason for this lack of understanding on our campuses is that many students have little or no exposure to the lived realities of marginalized communities. Even on the most diverse campuses, our students are not practicing community together because our institutions have not enacted the shared values that would elevate the general level of awareness and compassion required to ask crucial questions and drive the necessary conversations associated with them.

A paradigm shift is required for us to move forward from our current nationwide and campus divide. Our present multicultural model fails to draw attention to the systemic racism that permeates our community, and it ignores that we are all a composite of multiple identities based on gender, ethnicity, education, abilities and disabilities, socioeconomic background, religious faith or the absence of it, and so much more that makes us unique individuals.

In higher education, racial categories are emphasized through this multicultural paradigm. It is important to note that race is socially constructed, not biologically determined. Very little biological variation exists among different racial categories. Nonetheless, dominant racial groups reify these categories to maintain power and privilege, while marginalized racial groups do so in the attempt to withstand the wrath of racism. The “oppression Olympics” that follows pits people of color against each other, while whiteness remains at the top of the ladder that other groups must attempt to climb.

Shifting to a polycultural framework that recognizes each of us embodies an array of identities -- of which race is merely one -- can help prevent white fragility in discussions on race. Cultivating cultural humility will facilitate the process. If we can broaden our education about whiteness as a salient racial identity, white Americans will also have the opportunity to unpack the intersections, differences, hierarchies, privileges and responsibilities to help us work together to advance race relations in America. It will also eliminate the disproportionate burden that often falls to students of color to educate their white peers. As a compelled network of identities interacting and exchanging, each of us brings value to this polycultural world.

Nurturing Dialogue on Our Campuses

President Obama recently said, “I don’t believe in apocalyptic -- until the apocalypse comes.” As we prepare for potentially far-reaching changes in policy and law that the next administration seems committed to bring, it is vitally important for higher education to do what it is designed to do: discover new ways of knowing and understanding in an effort to seek positive transformation in our community and the world.

Our dialogue and action on our respective campuses and as a higher education collective will be critical as we examine challenges involving undocumented students’ futures, affirmative action, international student enrollment, hate speech and crimes, gun control, the Affordable Care Act, access to higher education, and many other issues that are in the balance following the election. Higher education institutions now have a distinct opportunity to facilitate dialogue and deliberation. Many students, faculty members and staff members -- who may have been previously disconnected from social movements like Black Lives Matter and Freedom University and who are now disaffected by the recent election -- are hungry for dialogue.

Emory University, where I work, encourages dialogue and open expression in many ways. Two of our recent approaches emerged from the 13 demands that the black students of Emory presented last fall to advance racial justice on our campus. We immediately engaged in dialogue with our students, which led to a partnership between the administration and the student body. The partnership produced the racial justice retreat, working groups, a dedicated website and eventually the Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice.

The commission -- which includes a diverse group of students, faculty members and administrators -- has generated action plans and concrete outcomes to address the student demands. The process reflects Emory’s efforts to truly listen to students from a range of backgrounds, respect their lived experiences and move together from demands to dialogue to action.

Of course, institutions need not wait for student demands. We should engage with our students in dialogue in advance to explore questions of racial and social justice. We should also engage with them for the long term -- recognizing that issues of racial and social justice are historical, entrenched and pervasive -- and manage expectations accordingly. However, we must move both deliberately and expeditiously from demands to dialogue to action that furthers the journey from diversity to inclusion.

In today’s polarized political and social environment, institutions of higher education have an opportunity to affirm identity, build community and develop leadership skills -- fostering their capacity to facilitate dialogue across difference, call out individual and systemic racism, and build coalitions to dismantle historical injustices on our campuses and in the larger society.

It is time for higher education to lead on issues of race in America -- now more than ever before.

Ajay Nair is senior vice president and dean of campus life at Emory University.

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UNLV Instructor Under Fire for Comments

Some students are calling on the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to fire George Buch, a part-time math instructor, who said in Facebook post that he would report to immigration officials any students in his classes who lack the legal right to be in the country, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He has since apologized and said he was only joking. The university did not respond to a request for comment.

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How Sessions Tried to Block Gay University Event

CNN on Friday reported that Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican whom President-elect Donald J. Trump has said he will nominate for attorney general, tried in 1996 to prevent a gay organization from holding a meeting at the University of Alabama. Sessions, who at the time was the state's attorney general, urged the university to block the conference of the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference by saying that hosting the meeting would violate an Alabama law that barred public universities from using state support to promote "actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws." The university said that the First Amendment gave the conference organizers the right to meet on campus. Sessions threatened to go to court to block the conference but had to change plans when a federal judge threw out the Alabama law.

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Anti-Semitism Awareness Bill Passes Senate

The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which seeks to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism so that the Education Department may consider it in investigating reports of religiously motivated campus crimes. The State Department defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The bill was proposed by Senators Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, to “ensure the Education Department has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents,” according to a news release. The senators say the act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment, but rather to address a recent uptick in hate crimes against Jewish students. The bill is supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Casey listed the following examples of anti-Semitism in his explanation of the bill:

  • Calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all interreligious or political tensions
  • Judge Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation

The bill has attracted criticism from groups including Palestine Legal and Jewish Voice for Peace, who say the proposed definition of anti-Semitism wrongly conflates any criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish sentiments. The definition was rejected by the University of California earlier this year after similar complaints from free speech advocates, faculty and students. Kenneth Stern, who helped write the European Monitoring Center’s “working definition on anti-Semitism” on which the State Department definition is based, at that time argued that it would do “more harm than good” on college campuses.

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Q&A with authors of new book on balancing home and work life as an academic scientist

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New book about balancing work and home life as an academic scientist warns that failure to address the challenge will cost institutions and science as a whole.

Law School Gender Gaps

A new report documents unequal patterns involving gender in law school enrollments -- patterns that relate to employment prospects after law school. Among the findings:

  • While women earn more than 57 percent of undergraduate degrees, they make up only 51 percent of law school applicants.
  • About 3.4 percent of male college graduates apply to law school, while only 2.6 percent of women do so.
  • Male applicants to law school are more likely to be admitted than are female applicants, with admit rates of 79.5 percent for men and 75.8 percent for women. (While men, on average, have higher scores on the Law School Admission Test, women have better college grades.)
  • Law schools with the highest job placement rates tend to enroll smaller percentages of women than do law schools with poor job placement rates.

The report was prepared by Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor of law at Ohio State University, and Kyle McEntee, executive director of the group Law School Transparency, which has pushed law schools to reveal more information about job placement to prospective applicants. The full report may be found here.

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