Grand Canyon University, a Christian for-profit institution, announced Friday that it will extend spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees. A statement announcing the shift stressed that the university continues to believe "that the Bible is clear about marriage being a sacred union between a man and a woman." But the university said that "in this specific instance, GCU is making a conscious choice to maintain its religious beliefs, while respecting and honoring its neighbors, as well as the system of government and laws that exist today, by extending employee benefits to spouses of lawfully married same-sex couples." The statement stressed that Grand Canyon was making the decision itself, and not being forced to change policies. But the American Civil Liberties Union recently threatened to sue Grand Canyon if it did not treat employees in same-sex marriages the same as employees in opposite-sex marriages.
Thursday was also the day for the Million Student March, which led to rallies at many campuses to call for free public higher education, the cancellation of current student debt and a $15 minimum wage.
James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, has been much criticized (and through a spokeswoman apologized two weeks ago) for posing with his staff wearing stereotypical Mexican clothing and sombreros for a party last month (right). But on Thursday, in a time of heightened scrutiny of college leaders on inclusiveness, he issued a new, personal apology to students and faculty members. He pledged -- by raising new money, not by reallocating -- to provide more funds for financial aid for Latino students and to recruit more Latino faculty members.
He pledged to use his mistake to change the university to be more committed to diversity. "I deeply regret the Halloween costumes worn by my staff and me. We made a mistake wearing a costume that misrepresents the culture of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and does not foster the inclusion and diversity efforts that we have worked hard to build over the past 13 years on our campus," he wrote. "I, and I alone, take full responsibility for this incident. I have prayed for God’s forgiveness, and I ask for your forgiveness as well. We now have an opportunity to use this incident to bring about meaningful changes that will strengthen us as a campus."
Clarion University was forced to call off a student production of the play Jesus in India because of the student actors' racial backgrounds, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Three of the five characters in the play are Indian, but they were to be portrayed in Clarion's production by two white students and a mixed-race student. When Lloyd Suh, the playwright, found out about the casting, he asked the university to assure him that the parts of Indians would be performed only by those of Asian descent. When Clarion said it couldn't make such a commitment, Suh revoked the university's right to perform his work.
Watch the video of former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe sitting in the red convertible, stopped by Concerned Student 1950 protesters a month ago in a homecoming parade. Wolfe and his wife appear to deliberately not make eye contact with protesters who were his students, his constituents. The students also say his driver tapped them with the bumper of his car. Wolfe’s bungled definition of “systematic oppression” a week ago finally spoke what his silence had already communicated. He didn’t get it.
Media-created timelines allow us to grasp how several months of problems on the Missouri campus led up to this historic moment of administrative resignations and sparked so many other campus protests. But these timelines could stretch back for years, as the Concerned Students’ invocation of the year 1950 suggests. The students could have dated their struggles back to 1839, the year of the university’s founding (the campus built, as protesting students’ T-shirts put it, on their b[l]acks), or to the 1860s, when Missouri as a state found itself on both sides of the Civil War. Instead, the group chose to honor 1950, the first year African-American students were admitted to Mizzou after a court ruling desegregated the university.
One of them was Gus T. Ridgel, who became the first black student to graduate with a master’s degree, in economics, in 1951. I met Ridgel one night in 2012. He was in his 86th year, and I had the privilege to serve as his driver. I was then an English professor at Mizzou, married to a university administrator. My husband hosted Ridgel’s visit, accompanying him to the football stadium and eventually to the field, where Ridgel would serve as honorary coach. My less glamorous job was to drop them off as close to the stadium as possible.
This may sound easier than it was. An endless series of roadblocks and checkpoints exists near the stadium. I had to persuade officer after officer to allow me beyond the supposed last point possible for cars to travel, explaining to each that the elderly black man in the front seat was a VIP of the university, wanted on the 50-yard line.
Most of these officers were white, and I am white. I was keenly aware how much my race and his age worked in our favor, as I successfully persuaded each man to let me pass and get Ridgel to the stadium. It’s not hard to imagine situations in which we could have been stopped or turned back rather than waved through. I cried as I told my young sons about it later -- the privilege I had of driving this important, brave man, as well as the privilege I enjoyed that allowed me to breeze though security checkpoints.
Ridgel has spoken publicly about how, when he moved to Columbia in 1950, he was denied service at local restaurants and coffee shops, as well as how the university first wanted to charge him double for his room when no one would agree to be his roommate. (The student body president who initially volunteered to do so backed out after fellow students threatened to ruin his father’s business, according to Ridgel.)
Ridgel’s return to Mizzou’s campus in 2012, the night I met him, was not only to serve as honorary coach but also to speak to the dozens of minority graduate students who today hold scholarships awarded in his name, the Gus T. Ridgel Fellowships. Mizzou has succeeded in getting some things right since 1950.
Yet the people whom Ridgel faced down in 1950 are the ones most often memorialized on the Mizzou campus. They include Frederick Middlebush (1890-1971), who enjoyed Mizzou’s longest-running presidency, of nearly 20 years. A prominent campus building is named after him. The university grew eight times its size under his leadership, combined with the good fortune of the GI Bill. Public relations materials claim that Middlebush “wanted to expand the university and create more opportunities for all students.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much digging in Middlebush’s voluminous papers in the university archives to see that that statement is partial at best.
Middlebush was a powerful man not only on Mizzou’s campus but also on the national scene. A member of President Truman’s anti-Soviet-expansion Committee on the Present Danger in the 1950s, Middlebush served alongside Edward R. Murrow, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Arthur Goldberg and Samuel Goldwyn. He flew first-class and was photographed with his arm around fur coat-wearing Hollywood starlets. He died a hero to the university.
He no longer deserves to be seen solely in those terms. Middlebush played a key role in continuing segregation on the University of Missouri campus prior to 1950. It has long been known that he was instrumental in working to try to deny African-American applicant Lloyd Gaines admission to Mizzou’s law school in the mid-1930s. There are documents showing that Middlebush and administrator Thomas Brady even worked to prevent black students from other schools from coming to Mizzou to participate in a United Nations conference held on the campus in 1947.
Let me repeat that: black students from other campuses were denied admission to a United Nations conference at Mizzou. Brady apparently believed that in doing so he and Middlebush were upholding state law. Then there is a “confidential” letter from Brady to Middlebush, listing the names, hometowns and majors of those who encouraged students or “pressed the issue of negro participation” in the UN conference. The handwritten memo lists four students, three faculty members and two ministers. It’s hard to imagine that Brady and Middlebush drew up this confidential list of people who “pressed” the issue in order to write them thank-you notes.
Once Ridgel and other black students matriculated to Mizzou, Middlebush, to his credit, made changes, at least nominally. Brady wrote to Middlebush that he expected they’d treat “negro students” in all respects as they did other students. Mizzou, like many college campuses and our nation as a whole, is still working to transform such tepid statements from 1950 into unflinching pledges in 2015.
Frederick Middlebush certainly spent time with African-Americans in Columbia, Mo. He must have spent a significant amount in the company of at least one black man: his driver. Columbia’s African-American community has recognized as one of its elders and heroes the late Anderson Logan (1911-2008). One of the many university and community contributions on Logan’s résumé is having served as Middlebush’s driver during the years his boss was working to prevent Gaines’s admission to Mizzou Law.
Learning this makes me feel honored to have once been able to serve as Ridgel’s driver. There is much to be undone, as well as to be done, at our nation’s universities where race relations are concerned. The symbolic issues go far beyond Confederate flags. The names of men like Middlebush remain on many of our campus buildings, although Mizzou’s are by no means all named after white male university administrators who now seem on the wrong side of history. (One building, Arvarh E. Strickland Hall, is named after its first black faculty member.)
It’s true that few people are aware of Middlebush’s antiblack activities -- or have seen fit to investigate and publicize such things. It’s questionable how much of this history former president Wolfe knew, for instance. But the newly named interim president, Michael Middleton, certainly knows it well. He was a campus activist at Mizzou during his student years in the 1960s, having founded the university’s Legion of Black Collegians. He went on to have a distinguished career in law and an enormous impact at Mizzou thereafter. His lists of firsts and organizations founded will no doubt be widely reported in the news media in the coming days and deserve to be.
The resignation of Tim Wolfe this week, and the naming of Middleton as his interim successor, may not bring change as soon as many would like. But it at least seems to close off the likelihood of a future filled with more Middlebush Halls and Wolfe Halls and to open up the possibility for a greater number of Strickland Halls and, one could hope, Ridgel and Middleton Halls. We rightly ought to reserve such honors for those we can embrace wholeheartedly as honorable.
Devoney Looser is a professor of English at Arizona State University.
Last week, students and administrators at Yale University fought over a series of racial incidents. A fraternity at the university was accused of excluding nonwhite women from a party. Students and administrators also argued over whether it was appropriate to curtail potentially offensive Halloween costumes. That conflict escalated when students confronted a residential administrator and accused him of not being sufficiently interested in creating a safe environment for students.
Events at the University of Missouri reflect similar tensions -- there were multiple allegations that the system president and campus chancellor did not properly respond to bigoted incidents, which led to protest and the two men's resignations.
Observers and critics have been quick to label these incidents as more tales of overly sensitive students rubbing up against the demands of free speech. But that analysis misses the larger issue: colleges have two very different standards for student-administrator relations that are often in conflict.
The first standard might be called the procedural protection model. Emerging from the late 1960s, the idea is that students are responsible for their own actions and deserve due process in cases of misbehavior. This approach to students replaced an earlier legal doctrine called in loco parentis, whereby colleges and universities treated students as children. Professors and deans could punish students in nearly any fashion. Institutions could expel students at will. That system is now seen as harsh, but it was defended by many people at the time as an appropriate tool for quickly responding to complaints about student disruption and violence.
In loco parentis was overturned after federal courts argued that college attendance was more akin to membership in a union or other organization that had procedural protections. No longer could students be expelled on a whim. Since then, we’ve seen colleges and universities develop handbooks, speech codes and internal judicial processes for judging misconduct.
At the same time, colleges created an entirely different model for student-administrator relations that might be called the “cultivated community.” In this model, students expect a college to go beyond its basic mission of providing advanced instruction in various academic disciplines. Administrators should provide comfort and security for students. We can see this in the wide range of services that colleges provide, including health care, counseling and entertainment.
Furthermore, many colleges promote the idea that the campus is a place for collaborative learning -- that even though we may have heated debates, those disagreements serve to make students part of a larger intellectual community, not exclude them. Thus, the administrator interacts with students via his or her role as the manager of a community designed to improve student satisfaction and well-being.
Colleges reinforce this view when they recruit students. Brochures depict students happily talking with professors or smiling in a laboratory. They often show students in a well-furnished dormitory or relaxing on a lawn with friends. Rarely do they show students in anger with a professor or administrator who states a political view they disagree with. Nor do they show students learning the difficult lesson that freedom of speech protects virtuous speech and vitriolic speech.
Often, these two approaches to student life peacefully coexist. But at other times, they come into direct conflict, especially when the demands for procedural protection make it hard for a college to maintain the support that students expect as a normal part of their college education.
For example, the regime of procedural protection suggests that administrators should be wary of regulating student Halloween costumes. It is not the job of administrators to legislate dress. If it were, deans would need to develop a costume code and judge violations of that code. Not surprisingly, few, if any colleges, have such a code.
Yet what may seem intuitive from a procedural standpoint can seem inhumane from the perspective of the cultivated community. The lack of a widely accepted rule about offensive costume means that there is a real possibility that every Halloween a boorish student will dress as a Klansman, a Nazi or some other horrific figure. It is not hard to see how many students would not feel properly supported if they routinely see Klansmen and Nazis on the quad.
At the University of Missouri, someone painted a swastika -- apparently with feces -- in a restroom. Understandably, students would want swift action from the highest level of the administration stating that this was not tolerated. Rules designed to protect procedural rights could lead to a delay in the investigation and response, suggesting that administrators did not prioritize an atmosphere of safety.
It might be tempting to dismiss these concerns as matters of free speech. This misses the basic point, however, that colleges, like businesses or churches, are allowed to ask their members to adhere to certain codes. Given that is the case, colleges have to recognize that they have standards for student-administrator relations that are occasionally in conflict. The administrator who tolerates a wide range of behavior and investigates violations with all due process is not the administrator who can promise that students will always feel comfortable on the campus.
Until we in higher education acknowledge that basic truth, we will continue to have disputes between administrators who want to let students say what they please and students who demand that college provide a wholly supportive and nurturing experience.
Fabio Rojas is associate professor of sociology at Indiana University at Bloomington.
A student group is demanding that Harvard University's law school change its seal, which they say honors a family that participated in the slave trade, The Boston Globe reported. The seal (visible at right in a logo used by the student group) shows three bundles of wheat. Students say the seal is inappropriate because it was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century. Harvard Law has not commented on the dispute.
From the top, the 2015 undergraduate veteran count U.S. News’s top ranked most highly selective colleges: Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; Williams, one.
So what? Every day this slap in the face to the potential of men and women who have served the nation in war rolls right down to my door at Bunker Hill Community College (which has about 500 veterans). These are men and women who too often believe the message sent by the top four -- that veterans can’t do the work at selective colleges. I do not tell these men and women they should go to these colleges. I do suggest they take a look. That suggestion is a hard sell. Isn’t a point of education, most highly selective colleges, everyone, to show students how to test their limits?
The big picture here: more than one million veterans have used or are using the 2008 Post-9/11 GI Bill.
More than the most selective salute and follow the big four listed above. The American Association of Community Colleges has no recent or planned programs I could find. AACC President Walter Bumphus did not reply to queries for clarification. The American Council on Education, however, front and center on its web page, has an invitation to a free webinar at 2 p.m. EST tomorrow, “Preparing Military Veterans for Leadership and Success in Higher Education.” The talk is by the leaders of the Warrior-Scholar Project, an astonishing free academic boot camp for veterans that blows the roof off the generally low expectations we, the people, have for low-income students generally.
John Around Him, a Lakota Sioux in my very first section of College Writing I, a U.S. Army veteran who drove a tank in the invasion of Baghdad, handed in a paper I couldn’t improve. I suggested he check out Dartmouth. He has graduated from Dartmouth. He is teaching at-risk high school students, which he once was, just what he wanted to do when he first arrived at Bunker Hill. When he has visited other veterans at Bunker Hill to encourage them, I often ask if he remembers when I first suggested he check out Dartmouth. John smiles and turns to the other veterans. “I do remember,” he says. “I thought Professor Sloane was out of his (expletive deleted) mind.”
The sachems and panjandrums and powers at Yale, Harvard, Princeton and certainly Williams, where I went, seem to agree that I am out of my (expletive deleted) mind. That’s because I keep objecting to their baseless, lazy and continued public slap in the face of all the student veterans I know. And because I object to institutions with tax-free endowments collecting dividends and gains to spend on luxurious buildings while off-loading the harder work, with prejudice, to underfunded public community colleges.
Columbia University’s School of General Studies continues on the good side as the leader in reaching out to veterans. This fall, 408. Read for yourself this essay by one of their student veterans. Georgetown enrolls 58. At Wesleyan University, the number of undergraduate veterans has risen from two to 11 to 22. Wesleyan joined the Posse Foundation Veterans Program, which helps Wesleyan find, prepare and enroll 10 veteran freshmen each fall.
Vassar College, new to the list, was the first selective college to join Posse and now has 30 undergraduate veterans. And Dartmouth, with 17 veterans and always a leader in encouraging undergraduate veterans, will enroll its first Posse in September 2016. The Posse colleges, then, enrolling 10 new veterans each year, will have 40 undergraduate veterans. Keep in mind this year: Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; and Williams, one.
I can’t say exactly how this year’s total, 643, compares with previous years because this year the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Rochester, Cornell, Harvard, Swarthmore and Oberlin had no answers or declined to reply to many requests. The saddest mystery is that every year so many of the self-described most highly selective colleges have no interest in the number of undergraduate veterans enrolled. Until I ask, almost none have made a count of their own. Penn hasn’t counted and reported that no one would be counting for another week or two.
So what? This lack of interest means at least that most presidents at these most highly selective colleges have no plans to welcome veterans with dinner or a cookout. Most troubling is the possibility that these colleges, then, have no idea if individual veterans need help on the torrent of paperwork to access GI Bill benefits or the obstacles within the VA health system.
Penn and the rest might take a professional-development trip to Rhode Island to visit Brown. The most enthusiastic, forward-thinking statements this year are from Karen McNeil, of Brown's Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs.
“We have 10 undergraduate veteran students, which makes them 0.25% of the student body,” McNeil said in an email. “But, on the bright side, five of those students are new this year, so there is progress being made, and I'm hopeful these numbers will be improving fast and far.” She added a simple IT step that the other colleges surveyed should check out. This year, again, several colleges sent last-minute revisions to their veteran counts. “Our veterans are specially coded in our registrar's computer systems, so we know exactly who they are and can track retention and graduation rates.”
Also new on the landscape this year is the growing numbers of groups working to give veterans the confidence to apply to selective colleges.
Beth Morgan, director of Service to School (S2S), reports that 167 veterans planning to transfer to four-year colleges in 2016 and 2017 have accepted the free admission and application advising S2S offers. S2S advisers in past years have helped 127 veterans win admission to top business schools and eight to top law schools.
“S2S really jumped into the undergraduate space this past admissions cycle because this was an area of great need,” Morgan said in an email. “Helping active-duty service members get into the best school possible to maximize their GI Bill benefits is our mission.” Twenty veterans helped by S2S are undergraduates this fall at colleges including Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, USC and Columbia, according to Morgan.
Other news this year is the number of veterans who are succeeding in rigorous academic programs. This is evidence to begin a rebuttal of the belief expressed once to me by an Ivy League president: “Veterans can’t do the work.”
At the urging of William Treseder, a Stanford Marine veteran, Stanford added a free, six-credit program -- called Stanford 2 to 4 -- for veterans at community colleges to its summer school. The program immerses veterans in the academic skills required for success in college. Ten veterans, including two from Bunker Hill, attended last summer. This summer, 2016, will be the third summer for the Stanford program. Stanford staff report that veterans are succeeding.
More than 20 undergraduate veterans, too, have succeeded in the nine-week summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Kit Parker, a Harvard professor, U.S. Army major and two-time Afghanistan veteran, runs the labs that host the program. Veterans, many from Bunker Hill, have spent the summer working alongside … students from most highly selective colleges. Harvard has invited all the BHCC veterans to return in the fall to continue working in the labs. With a Harvard postdoc, one co-wrote a paper that they presented at an academic conference. That veteran is studying engineering at Northeastern.
The Posse Foundation Veterans Program, with 50 undergraduate veterans enrolled so far, is succeeding. Catharine Hill, president of Vassar, and Debbie Biall, founder of the Posse Foundation, wondered if the Posse model -- cohorts or posses of about 10 prepared low-income, urban high school students attending a selective college together -- would work for veterans. Vassar this year has three veteran posses -- freshman, sophomore and junior -- and Wesleyan two. (Disclaimer: Hill is a friend, and we have worked together on veterans’ issues.)
“Volunteering to serve in our country's military services shouldn't preclude attending some of our most selective colleges and universities,” said Hill in an email. “These schools offer a superb education, with high graduation rates, for which our veterans should be eligible. We are in our third year of the Posse program, and these students have been a great addition to our student body.”
One hundred veterans over the past three summers have completed the two-week academic boot camp that the Warrior-Scholar Project offers on the campuses of selective colleges. Faculty from the hosting colleges teach the seminars. “We track our graduates,” said the program’s founder, Jesse Reising. “One hundred percent who have completed WSP and started school have stayed in school.” I’ve watched veterans debate Thucydides and de Tocqueville.
I asked the colleges in the survey this year, too, about recognizing Veterans Day. These universities -- Yale, Princeton, Washington University, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Stanford, Chicago -- have substantial ceremonies for Veterans Day. The Princeton ceremony will close with a benediction from the university’s Muslim chaplain. Columbia veterans also have a float in the New York City Veterans Day Parade. The universities do have veterans, often hundreds, as graduate students. (A bachelor’s degree and a good academic record are required for these graduate schools. My interest is in the veterans who have not been to college.)
Trinity College will have “Veterans Day: A Sacred Conversation,” a discussion between the college chaplain and Trinity students who have served in the armed forces. Carleton reported that the chaplain sends an all-campus email inviting students, faculty and staff to light a candle for veterans in the chapel. Williams said it might run a story on the single veteran there on the college web page.
And this year I asked a veteran at one of the most highly selective colleges what he makes of the potential for veterans at these colleges. “I would challenge all of my fellow veterans at every level of education to strive to do one better than where they are at present,” said Chad Rairie, a Marine veteran with two Afghanistan deployments who is vice president of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Veterans Association.
“If veterans are at a junior college, apply to a four-year. If they are at a four-year, apply to transfer to a better one. If you don’t think you will get in, fill out the application anyway. The worst that can happen is someone tells you no,” Rairie said. “But if the rare opportunity should arise where you are accepted to a school like Dartmouth, seize the opportunity and don’t look back! Remember, you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. So take a shot.”
For next year, I’ll bet then on the applications of 167 veterans in the S2S pipeline, on the 100 alumni from Warrior-Scholar, and on all from Stanford 2 to 4 and the Harvard REU to flood these laggard most highly selective colleges with applications. I’ll hope these applications, packed with evidence that veterans can do the work, may open some doors.