diversity

Librarians Urged to Update Brand, Diversify Ranks

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has highlighted the pressing need for greater diversity among library and information science graduates.

In a recently published report, "Positioning Library and Information Science Graduate Programs for 21st Century Practice," IMLS said the LIS student body is failing to reflect the increasing diversity of the American public.

Better branding of librarianship will be essential to “recruit new voices” to the field, the authors of the report concluded. They noted that antiquated images of librarians “shushing patrons” or “working alone all day in a corner cubicle” have “remained static in popular culture.”

The report called for ideas for how the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which has supported diversification of the field through scholarships, fellowships and grants, could have a greater impact.

“What’s the next phase that pulls the profession forward?” the report asked.

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Purdue Will Not Punish Professor Who Shared Blackface Throwback Photo

Purdue University will not punish a faculty member who posted a photo of herself on Facebook in blackface, NewsOne reported. The university told the website that it received an anonymous complaint in November about a professor who in 2016 posted a childhood Halloween picture of herself in 1974, and that “her personal social media post of an old photo was not harassment under Purdue policy.” In “any event, what we can say firmly is that, at Purdue, we do not punish speech, particularly when off-campus speech is expressed by an employee speaking as a private citizen,” the university said in its statement. The photo shows two girls wearing black paint, black clothing and bones in their hair.

The professor, Lisa Stillman, an instructional coordinator in the department of biological sciences, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the photo. Several hundred people have signed an online petition criticizing Purdue for its response to the complaint and demanding that Stillman resign. “Rather than letting Lisa Stillman go, Purdue still provides taxpayer dollars to a staff member that is not equipped to work with students of all backgrounds,” the document reads. “Sign this petition to stand up to racial injustice and to create a safe space at universities where all students can be treated with the respect they deserve.”

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Professor shares voice mail she received from someone concerned about her Chinese name

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Professor with Asian name shares voice mail she received -- full of inaccuracies and bigotry -- as one story of the impact of anti-Chinese and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

UC Irvine says it will remove former professor's name from institutions he helped build after finding he harassed women

University of California, Irvine, says it will remove former professor's name from the science institutions he helped build after finding he harassed women.

Class Size Matters

Do smaller classes help reduce performance gaps in science fields? Yes, according to a new study in BioScience. Researchers looked at the impact of class size on undergraduates in 17 introductory biology courses at four different institutions: California State University Chico, Cornell University, the University of Puget Sound and the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Analyzing exam scores, nonexam assessments and final course grades from 1,836 students, the researchers found that smaller class sizes effectively closed the performance gap for women. More specifically, they found that while women underperformed on high-stakes exams compared with their male counterparts as class size increased, women received higher scores than men on other kinds of assessments.

Underrepresented minority students underperformed compared with other students regardless of class size, suggesting that other factors in the educational environment are at play. "Even when large classes are a 'necessary evil,' there are many simple ways to make even big classrooms feel small for students," lead author Cissy Ballen, a postdoctoral associate in biology teaching and learning at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, said in a statement. "That includes group work, giving students more opportunities to interact with lecture material and instructors using inclusive teaching practices."

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What new data say about improving attitudes toward Jewish students (opinion)

As white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, they shouted, “Blood and soil!” (a Nazi slogan) and “Jews will not replace us!” Some carried Nazi flags and wore T-shirts with Adolf Hitler quotes. Such expressions and sentiments, wrote staff writer Emma Green in The Atlantic, are physical reflections of a white supremacist ideology, one in which Jews “hover malevolently in the background, pulling strings, controlling events, acting as an all-powerful force backing and enabling the other targets of their hate.”

Although the anti-Semitism in Charlottesville was shocking to many Americans, it was anything but for American Jews. A 2013 Pew Research study found that 43 percent of Jewish Americans agreed that Jews face a lot of discrimination, while 15 percent reported being called offensive names and facing social rejection for being Jewish in the year prior. The Anti-Defamation League reported that, in 2017, 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents took place across the United States -- a 57 percent increase from 2016. And after the events in Charlottesville, anti-Semitic acts spiked by 182 percent across the country, according to a November 2017 report.

American colleges and universities in particular saw an 89 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts last year, according to the ADL. People drew swastikas at numerous campuses, while Jewish students reported incidents of harassment, bullying and assault. The issue became so prevalent that the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss it. They recommended the U.S. Department of Education adopt a clearer definition of what constitutes harassment toward Jewish students, to ensure that future investigations into anti-Semitic acts are easier to conduct.

Given such increasing reports of anti-Semitism on campuses, it is time to better understand the attitudes that non-Jewish students have toward their Jewish peers, and how such attitudes might be improved.

Enter the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Study, or IDEALS, a national investigation of how experiences with worldview diversity (i.e., interactions with other religious, spiritual or nonreligious beliefs) are shaping students’ attitudes about their campus climate, their own spirituality and other worldview groups. Research teams led by Matthew Mayhew at Ohio State University and Alyssa Rockenbach at North Carolina State University are conducting this multiyear study in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core. Through IDEALS, we have surveyed the same cohort of students across 122 colleges and universities at the beginning of their first year (fall 2015) and the end of their first year (spring 2016), and we will sample those students again at the end of their senior year (spring 2019).

Findings from students’ first-year experiences revealed that those who described themselves as being “highly appreciative” of Jews rose 11 percentage points from the start of college (53 percent) to the end of their first year (64 percent). A highly appreciative attitude, according to the study, suggests an understanding of the positive contributions that the group in view (in this case, Jews) makes to society. That understanding, in turn, strengthens students’ goodwill and respect toward that group and improves the likelihood that students will continue learning more about it.

The study also raises the question of what college experiences contribute to appreciative attitudes. Previous research revealed that having educational experiences that provoke self-reflection on one’s assumptions, interfaith engagement with students of other beliefs and informal experiences interacting with diverse peers all contribute to students’ appreciation of Jews. Additionally, the presence of a Jewish student organization (e.g., Chabad, Hillel) also positively influenced appreciative attitudes toward Jewish students. The research further found that campus climates perceived as divisive and insensitive toward religious differences can lead to less appreciative attitudes toward Jews, suggesting the power of campus climate to promote or hinder perceptions of worldview others.

These findings dovetail with a promising report from Pew Research in February 2017, in which participants were asked to rate religious and nonreligious groups on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from zero to 100. Warmness toward Jews rose four points, from 63 to 67, from 2014, making them one of the most highly rated groups in America. For those who said they had personal connections with Jews, their rating was even higher at 72, compared to 58 for those who did not. Those findings strike general agreement with the 78 percent of students in the IDEALS sample who perceived their campus as welcoming toward Jews.

How, then, do we reconcile startling neo-Nazi hatred with findings reflecting increasingly positive and welcoming attitudes toward Jews? It depends, perhaps, on how one interprets these data. Some people may frame the findings as more positive, choosing to interpret increasing anti-Semitic behavior as a series of isolated incidents. Others, however, see these trends and wonder: What social conditions would need to change for Jews to be rated higher on the feeling thermometer? What about the one in five students who didn’t see their campus as welcoming toward Jews? Carefully considering such conflicting narratives, we hope, can illuminate pathways toward productive action -- especially among those charged with leading productive exchanges concerning religious and worldview diversity. As IDEALS research continues, we hope to uncover the practices and mechanisms responsible for helping students move from curiosity to interest, from tolerance to appreciation, and ultimately from thought exercise to responsible action.

Such action is not trivial. Given their small numbers in the United States and historical persecution on a global scale, Jews are highly vulnerable to the attitudes and behaviors of others. Encouragingly, our research presents an overall picture of colleges and universities as educational spaces where students from all worldview backgrounds can explore the beliefs of others, including Jews. Though religion and worldview are often forgotten about in diversity initiatives, IDEALS is finding that consciously and intentionally addressing worldview diversity in productive ways can have a significant impact on how different groups in American society feel about one another. We hope programmatic and policy responses to such findings contribute to a future in which anti-Semitism is no longer tolerated on campuses or, indeed, in American society.

Matthew J. Mayhew is the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Educational Administration at the Ohio State University. Benjamin S. Selznick is assistant professor at James Madison University, School of Strategic Leadership Studies. Kevin Singer is a Ph.D. student in higher education at North Carolina State University. Alyssa N. Rockenbach is professor of higher education at North Carolina State University.

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Lecturer's explanation for gender gap in computer science is that it reflect women's choices

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Lecturer at University of Washington says he's standing up to political correctness. Many challenge his facts.

Missouri Chair Defends Direction, Freedom of Speech

The chair of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators defended the system’s direction and its dedication to freedom of speech last week, publicly pushing back against a scathing Wall Street Journal editorial.

David Steelman sent a statement defending the system to faculty, staff and the press during a press conference Friday, and sent a letter to The Wall Street Journal. He is often asked how Missouri is doing since events roiled campus in 2015, he said, referencing student protests about the racial climate and tensions over free speech that erupted that fall.

“I’m direct in saying that mistakes were made at MU,” Steelman said in his statement sent to the press. “But, those individuals responsible for the mistakes are no longer leading the university. And obviously, the institution has paid a price for the mistakes of those individuals. Now we have a new leadership team in place, to support the important work of our students, faculty and staff to achieve excellence. We have also affirmed our commitment to free speech.”

Turmoil erupted at the system’s Columbia campus in 2015 when students protested what they saw as a culture of racism on campus, setting off a series of events leading to the resignation of top administrators. Protesters also blocked access to a site where they were camping, and a Missouri faculty member called for “muscle” to remove a student journalist, drawing outrage. The system later fired that faculty member, Melissa Click.

The Wall Street Journal referenced those incidents in a June 15 editorial beginning with the words “indulging protesters can be expensive” and drawing a line to position cuts at the university.

“Apparently fewer parents want to send their kids to a school where activism eclipses academics,” the editorial said, citing statistics showing freshman enrollment falling by 35 percent between the fall of 2015 and 2017. It went on to call free speech policies at Missouri “ambiguous.”

Steelman’s letter in response argued the editorial perpetuated a narrative eroding higher education. This fall’s freshman class is expected to be 14 percent larger than last year’s, signaling a rebound, he wrote. He continued by referencing controversial speakers the university has hosted and arguing they were listened to and not shouted down.

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How environmentalism in academe today excludes people of color (opinion)

In environmental scholarship, multiple forms of exclusion -- of people of color generally and women of color specifically -- require multifaceted and often simultaneous strategies, argues Danielle M. Purifoy.

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Think Tank Proposal Would Aim for No Student Borrowing

An ambitious college affordability plan released by the Center for American Progress Wednesday would aim to guarantee that no student has to borrow to pay for their education.

Unlike other notable free college or debt-free college proposals, the plan, dubbed "Beyond Tuition," would impose quality standards on institutions to ensure they address disparate outcomes for students of color, low-income students and other nontraditional groups.

And the CAP plan would provide up to $10,000 a year for costs not related to tuition and fees such as housing, food and transportation.

It proposes that families earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, about $38,000 for a family of four, would have tuition and fees covered at a public university. Above that threshold, families would make contributions as a share of their income. The plan would be funded through a federal-state matching grant; although the state match would vary, the federal government would cover on average 70 percent of the costs in a given state.

In contrast to other college affordability plans, the CAP proposal would include students attending nonprofit private colleges, although students attending those institutions would be expected to make a higher family contribution, as would students attending public institutions out of state. For-profit colleges would be excluded from Beyond Tuition, although they would maintain existing access to federal aid under the proposal.

“It is well past time for a bold, targeted investment in our higher education system,” said Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at CAP. “For too long, a college degree has been out of reach, particularly for underrepresented students. This plan seeks to close persistent race and income gaps in college access and completion; address historic and systematic inequity in our higher education system; and ensure that access to higher education in America is not a privilege, but a fundamental civil right.”

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