Brandeis University announced Tuesday that it will not award an honorary doctorate it had planned to issue to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has been hailed by some for defending women's rights in Muslim societies but who has been criticized by many for statements that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Muslim students at Brandeis have objected to the planned honor, and thousands have signed an online petition objecting to the degree.
The university issued this statement on Tuesday: "Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year's commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values. For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier. Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community's focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues."
Ali has not responded publicly to the decision by Brandeis.
The Project on Fair Representation, the legal team that has brought many legal challenges to the consideration of race, is looking for new plaintiffs. On Monday, the project announced that it has created three websites to invite people to indicate that they feel they have been the victims of discrimination in admissions. The sites seek plaintiffs against Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Officials with the project have in the past said that affirmative action hurts Asian applicants, an argument that appears related to the photos on the home page of each website.
A day after the American Association of Community Colleges said it would not have anything to say about hiring a Bill Clinton impersonator to appear at the annual meeting, the association is apologizing and blaming the comedian.
The performance stunned and angered many attendees, many of whom walked out of the event. Many considered the jokes sexist, vulgar and inappropriate for a gathering of community college leaders.
Late Monday, the AACC sent this message to attendeeds: "Politicos Brigade comedian Tim Watters, a well-known Bill Clinton impersonator, performed in the final minutes of the opening session of the 94th Annual Convention. Mr. Watters has been on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher,' and Comedy Central’s 'Win Ben Stein’s Money,' among other shows. The addition of a comedian was intended to entertain our attendees. Unfortunately, the comedian’s humor was not appropriate and it was not successful. AACC vetted the content planned for the performance, but unfortunately the comedian changed this original content without AACC's knowledge. AACC would never purposely offend any member of our association and the comedian in no way reflects the sentiment of the association's leadership."
Dustin Gold, who runs Politicos Brigade, disputed the AACC statement. He said that 10 jokes were provided to the AACC in advance, and that the AACC vetoed only two jokes and that those jokes were not used. He also said that AACC had the right to ask for the entire script in advance and didn't do so. In an email, Gold said: "Tim has been doing this for over 20 years, and has performed for countless Fortune 500s at thousands of events, and has run into several situations where the wrong type of entertainment was chosen for the attending crowd. As we all know, politics is a touchy subject and some audiences are just not the right fit for this type of entertainment. We apologize if anyone was offended, but I am confident that Tim provided the services he was hired to provide."
AACC did not respond to a request for comment on Gold's email.
George Fox University, a Christian institution, is being criticized for denying a transgender student's request to live in male student housing, which he says is consistent with his gender identity. A petition attracting support online was written by the student's mother. (The student goes by the name Jayce.) "As Jayce’s mother, I am deeply concerned by George Fox University’s decision. The university has also indicated that it is considering a policy for students, which will require that all housing be based on 'biological birth sex.' In this case, there would be no housing accommodations, at all, that would be allowed for transgender students like my son, to live with their male friends," the petition says.
The university has issued a statement that says that the petition "does not give a complete picture of a complex situation." The statement says that "George Fox strives to be a Christ-centered community and our residential facilities are single gender because of our theological commitments. The student’s request to switch from female-only on-campus housing to male-only on-campus housing is one that many institutions would struggle with. While the university did not grant his request to live on campus with males, the student was not denied on-campus housing. He was offered the option of an on-campus single apartment with a commitment from student life to ensuring he stayed socially connected to the community."
Colleges and universities can't leave it to chance -- they must deliberately change a culture that often encourages female researchers to become isolated in their jobs, write Santa Ono and Valerie Gray Hardcastle.
Some students who attended the office hours of Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon on Tuesday refused to leave and staged a sit-in that was still going on as of 9:30 p.m. The students are demanding that Hanlon endorse the "Freedom Budget" that they have created. That document includes numerous demands, including increased enrollment (to 10 percent each) of black, Latino and Native American students; the enhancement of many ethnic studies programs; a pledge to make 47 percent of postocs be people of color; and a requirement departments "that do not have womyn or people of color will be considered in crisis and must take urgent and immediate action to right the injustice." Hanlon expressed his commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. A statement from Dartmouth Tuesday night said that students who remain in the president's office "understand, based on discussions with campus safety and security that they are in violation of college policy."
On February 24, 2014, The New York Times ran a story titled “Colorblind Notion Aside: Colleges Grapple with Racial Tension,” detailing myriad racial incidents on college campuses. However, according to a new survey by Inside Higher Ed, most college and university presidents don’t think this kind of racial tension is happening on their campuses. According to the IHE survey: “Most presidents (90 percent) say that, generally speaking, the state of race relations on their campus is good.” I was shocked to hear presidents answer in this way. How could this happen?
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Consider these incidents that have taken place on college campuses in the past year:
A student at San Jose State University was tormented and ridiculed with racial slurs and the posting of the Confederate Flag by three students for months.
Black students at Harvard University launched a Tumblr campaign called “I, Too, Am Harvard” to elevate the voices of Black students on campus because they are “unheard.”
Black males at UCLA created a YouTube video titled The Black Bruins detailing the dismal statistics surrounding Black men on the Southern California campus. Likewise, law school students at UCLA have been bringing attention to the discrimination that they face on a daily basis through a social media campaign.
The chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an Asian American woman, experienced racist slurs when she didn’t cancel classes during inclement weather.
Black students at the University of Michigan are protesting the racial climate on campus through both traditional means and social media.
A fraternity at Arizona State University held a party at which white students dressed in "gangsta wear" and drank from hollowed-out watermelons. (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to delete an erroneous reference to McDaniel College.)
Given these blatant incidents taking place regularly throughout the nation, let’s run through some possible reasons that college presidents remain positive about the situation on their own campuses:
First, the presidents answering the survey, although responding anonymously, could have been worried about bringing negative attention to their campus if they answered anything less than good. Typically, when racial tensions are high on college campuses, presidents are in damage control mode, tempering how the story is played out in media outlets. Moreover, presidents claim that it is harder to recruit students of color after negative media stories surface.
Second, some of the presidents might actually believe the myth that since the election of Barack Obama (twice) to the presidency of the United States, we live in a postracial world in which people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds get along famously and have set aside their differences and misunderstandings.
Third, some presidents are not fully aware of what is happening on their campuses – in classrooms, students organizations, fraternity and sorority houses, and in the residence halls. Midlevel staff members don’t always report the day-to-day interactions among students, and deans don’t want to bring bad news related to faculty members to presidents. For instance, at San Jose State University, mentioned above, it took the midlevel management considerable time to report the horrific incidents to the president. Perhaps presidents are kept in the dark as to the minor racial incidents and race relations on their campuses; only those that draw media investigation get their attention.
Fourth, many campuses have all of the “signs” of healthy race relations – diversity offices, diversity-related administrators, cultural centers, and diversity programs infused in orientation and student affairs activities – giving the impression that race relations on campus are "good" even when they are not.
Fifth, presidents might assume that demographic diversity on campus, which is on the increase, is equal to positive interactions among students, faculty, and staff. Research shows us that oftentimes demographic diversity doesn’t lead to interaction and in fact, campuses need to be purposeful about engendering positive race relations.
Sixth, and I think the most likely reason for the presidents’ understanding of campus race relations; the majority of college and university presidents are white. Oftentimes, even well-meaning whites are oblivious to the daily microaggressions felt by people of color because they do not experience environments in the same way. More importantly, oftentimes whites create and sustain systems within academe that reinforce racism. These systems are most common in the areas of admission, faculty hiring and senior administration. For example, admission policies often privilege legacy status over the contents of the student application. Faculty member hiring systems sometimes hire candidates based on the recommendation of prominent white male professors rather than looking at the candidates that are actually in hiring pools. And upper administration, which is mainly white on most campuses, fail to notice their whiteness (intentionally or unintentionally) and the effect it has on the operations and race relations on campus.
From my own experience in academe at several colleges and universities, I have found that race relations are sometimes good depending on the circles in which I travel and they are sometimes strained. Students come to campus with varying degrees of exposure to difference; faculty members are sometimes uncomfortable "talking about diversity" and oftentimes will go to great lengths to protect white privilege and the systems that are in place that uphold this privilege; and administrative ranks at most colleges and universities are overwhelmingly white, making it more difficult to have an accurate understanding of race relations on college campuses.
I do believe that our college campuses have people who care deeply about being inclusive, promoting true diversity, and engendering honest racial dialogue. However, there are still many individuals who do not feel this way; these people occupy the faculty ranks, the study body, the administration and staff, and even the presidency. Unless these individuals push themselves (or are pushed) to see the world through another set of eyes and place themselves in situations that are different from their everyday norm, they will not be able to catch a glimpse into what people of color experience on campus. An acknowledgement of the challenges that we still have in the area of race relations on campus is the pathway to bettering these relations; top down leadership is essential.
Susan Patton set off an uproar and became known as "Princeton Mom" when she last year urged women at Princeton University to focus on landing a husband, lest they be left out by graduating without one. She earned a book deal and is now promoting that book with appearances in which she discusses her controversial views. The Daily Princetonian recently ran a question-and-answer interview with Patton that featured this exchange:
Daily Princetonian: You wrote: "Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage," saying that a provocatively dressed drunk woman "must bear accountability for what may happen." Why does the woman hold the responsibility in the case of rape or sexual assault?
Patton: The reason is, she is the one most likely to be harmed, so she is the one that needs to take control of the situation. She is that one that needs to take responsibility for herself and for her own safety, and simply not allow herself to come to a point where she is no longer capable of protecting her physical self. The analogy that I would give you is: If you cross the street without looking both ways and a car jumps the light or isn’t paying attention, and you get hit by a car — as a woman or as anybody — and you say, "Well I had a green light," well yes you did have a green light but that wasn’t enough. So in the same way, a woman who is going to say, "Well the man should have recognized that I was drunk and not pushed me beyond the level at which I was happy to engage with him," well, you didn’t look both ways. I mean yes, you’re right, a man should act better, men should be more respectful of women, but in the absence of that, and regardless of whether they are or are not, women must take care of themselves.
The comments so angered Princeton faculty members that scores of them signed a joint letter denouncing Patton's views. "In light of statements made in a news article in this paper, we wish to inform the students on this campus that we do not believe that their manner of dress or drinking behavior makes them responsible for unwanted sexual contact," the letter said. "It is extremely important that individuals of all genders on a college campus feel comfortable reaching out for help. We, the undersigned faculty, stand behind victims of sexual assault and want them to know that our campus is a place where they have a voice, where they will not be made to feel responsible and where they can find support and justice."