Black law students at Washington and Lee University, under a new group called "The Committee," have asked Washington and Lee University to take a series of steps to address "the racist and dishonorable conduct of Robert E. Lee." Lee served as president of the university after the Civil War, and has historically been revered at the institution. The Committee is calling on the university to observe the Martin Luther King Day as a formal day off, to stop allowing "neo-confederates to march on campus with Confederate flags on Lee-Jackson day," and to formally apologize "for the university's participation in chattel slavery" and "Robert E. Lee's participation in slavery."
A statement from the university noted that it does hold events to mark Martin Luther King Day every year, and that a decision to call off classes would have to be made by the faculty. The statement does not go into a detailed response on the other demands, but says that the university welcomes discussion on these issues and that "in terms of the other issues that the students have raised, we will give them all careful consideration."
In 2012, during an earlier debate about the Lee legacy at the university, the institution's president, Kenneth P. Ruscio, wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed in which he argued for a balanced view of the general. "Lee was a dignified, humble man. His sense of duty and honor would cause him to cringe if he ever became the subject of idolatry or the embodiment of myth," Ruscio wrote. "Blindly, superficially and reflexively rushing to his defense is no less an affront to history than blindly, superficially and reflexively attacking him. What he needs, what he deserves, and what his record can withstand is the honest appraisal of those who have not made up their minds, who can appreciate the man with all his complexities and contradictions. History is indeed not kind enough to present us with simple morality tales."
The National Federation of the Blind announced Tuesday that it plans protests for the campus of Atlantic Cape Community College. The group says that the New Jersey college not only fails to provide basic technology services needed by blind students, but that it has required a blind student to be accompanied by a sighted person when using certain facilities. A spokesman for the college denied that there is such a requirement, and said that aides are provided upon request. The spokesman added that "the college has made outreach to the National Federation of the Blind to discuss college policy, procedure and practice. We respect the public’s right to free speech, and remain open to a continued dialogue about our programs and services."
College sports had another first Wednesday, with Derrick Gordon of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst becoming the first openly gay man on a Division I men's basketball team. Gordon, a sophomore, told his story to ESPN and Outsports.
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."