Resignations at 'Boston Review' Over Junot Diaz

Three poetry editors at the Boston Review resigned in protest of the publication’s decision to continue its relationship with author Junot Diaz, in light of the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, the Associated Press reported. The editors, Timothy Donnelly, Barbara Fischer and Stefania Heim, announced their resignation, effective July 1, on Twitter. Donnelly said via email that it was it was “painful to leave but we couldn’t possibly stay.” He referenced the recent announcement in support of Diaz by Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen, editors-in-chief, saying it “was deeply at odds” with the poetry editors’ positions and their work. Chasman and Cohen in the announcement said that the accusations against Diaz, which include unwanted kissing and bullying behavior towards female authors, are not of the “severity that animated the Me Too movement,” either individually or in the aggregate.

“We had to make a practical decision about a relationship with an editor,” Chasman and Cohen told the Associated Press in an email. “We think we made the right decision and stand fully by the reasons we presented in support of it.” VIDA: Women in Literary Arts last week condemned the Boston Review for its stance on Diaz. Feminist academics remain divided in their support.

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A criticism of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (opinion)

The Alliance for Academic Freedom is an organization of liberal and progressive academics that combats infringements on academic freedom relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on college campuses, including academic boycotts of Israel.

We oppose the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act now before the U.S. Congress because we believe it endangers academic freedom, too. We believe its language could encourage punishments of legitimate expressions of political opinion. We don’t believe that Congress should be in the business of setting forth official definitions of ant-Semitism. And we do not think any definition of anti-Semitism, including one originally drafted with the needs of European data collectors utmost in mind and then adopted (with minor changes) by the U.S. Department of State for diplomatic purposes, has any legitimate application by Congress to contentious political speech on campus.

Some of us are scholars of anti-Semitism. We are aware that anti-Semitism’s manifestations change over time. There is a robust debate, both inside the Jewish community and among experts on the issue, over the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Sometimes anti-Zionism constitutes anti-Semitism; sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, Congress has no business deciding when it does or doesn’t, nor should it be in effect stating that political expressions it deems anti-Semitic are essentially presumed relevant to a Title VI case.

Such complex concepts should be discussed in classrooms, not legislated by Congress. The State Department definition contains examples of anti-Semitism that are related to criticism of Israel, including applying double standards by demanding it behave in ways not expected of other democratic countries or denying Jews the right of self-determination by claiming that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavor. There is a difference between the Department of State using the definition in its bilateral and multilateral relations (calling out the leadership of Iran that has wanted to wipe Israel off the map, for instance) and using the definition to punish an American campus community, populated with young adults who should be challenged to engage with difficult and contentious ideas.

We also worry about a chilling effect. Since a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 might have significant financial implications for a university, administrators would have a motivation to crack down on campus speech that outside groups might claim violates the definition. Faculty members would have reason to shy away from teaching controversial perspectives about contemporary Israel and the Middle East. Students may find legitimate political debate stifled.

Proponents of the act say the definition set forth is necessary to determine whether a Jewish student has been harassed. That is simply not true. Jewish students are protected under the law as it now stands. In 2010, the U.S. Education Department clarified that Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in federally funded programs, also protects Jewish students. As a result, Title VI cases have in the past succeeded when Jewish students have faced significant harassment or discrimination. Just as there has been no difficulty finding Title VI violations based on racism without an official definition of racism, so anti-Semitic harassment can be punished without this definition.

Rather than establish an official definition of anti-Semitism, we believe Congress should consider legislation that would focus investigative departments on harassment of students. In particular, we urge Congress to codify the Department of Education’s 2010 Dear Colleague letter, which allowed Jews, Muslims and Sikhs Title VI protection as ethnicities (since Title VI itself did not address discrimination based on religion). We also urge Congress to endorse the Davis v. Monroe standard, which requires universities to act when they are aware of discriminatory conduct “that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victim’s educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”

Those two legislative changes will help our government protect Jewish and other students from harassment, while upholding academic freedom. In contrast, adopting an official definition of anti-Semitism might exacerbate student conflict, damage academic freedom, chill speech and harm the academy more broadly. Adoption of the definition by Congress could also put students with a variety of critical views about Israel in jeopardy.

Cary Nelson is chair of the Alliance for Academic Freedom. Kenneth Stern and David Greenberg, the main drafters of this article, are representatives of the executive committee of the alliance. Susana Cavallo, Jeffry Mallow, Rebecca Lesses and Sharon Musher are members of the alliance.

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Justice Department opposes University of Michigan bullying policy


Justice Department backs suit against University of Michigan rules -- on same day the university says it has "clarified" those rules.

California Higher Ed Leaders Oppose PROSPER Act

The leaders of the three California public higher education systems on Monday issued a statement opposing the PROSPER Act, House Republicans' proposal to overhaul the Higher Education Act.

"Our public institutions of higher education are committed to providing affordable, accessible, and equitable pathways to success for our students and increasing the well-being of all Californians. HEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to develop federal education policies that promote these goals. Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families," wrote University of California president Janet Napolitano, California State University chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

The three cited elimination of federal student aid programs, termination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, reduced consumer protections and lower funding for minority-serving institutions among their objections.

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Syracuse suspends fraternity students after racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic videos surface


Conduct infuriated many, but some say it was free expression that should not be punished.

Dude, Women Also Know History

Making excuses for all-male conference panels (or citations or syllabi) just got harder. Inspired by the work of Women Also Know Stuff, an awareness campaign about the work of female political scientists, female historians recently launched Woman Also Know History. “By promoting and supporting the work of women historians, we offer a concrete way to address explicit and implicit gender bias in public and professional perceptions of historical expertise,” the group says on its searchable website, womenalsoknowhistory.com. A related social media campaign, #womenalsoknowhistory, “raises awareness of female historians, their contributions to historical knowledge, and their roles as public intellectuals.”

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Senate Confirms Trump Pick for Civil Rights Job

The Senate voted 50 to 46 along party lines Thursday to confirm Kenneth Marcus as the next head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

The vote drew praise from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as well as criticism from groups who said Marcus hadn't demonstrated a commitment to defend civil rights and marginalized communities during the confirmation process.

Marcus is the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a civil rights group founded to fight anti-Semitism. Previously, he served as acting assistant secretary for civil rights under the George W. Bush administration.

“We are excited and grateful to finally have Ken on our team," DeVos said in a written statement. "His vast civil rights experience will be a great asset as we fulfill our mission to serve America’s students. In his many years of public service, Ken has shown himself to be a strong advocate for victims of intolerance and discrimination, and he will not back down when it comes to protecting the civil rights of all students.” ​

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Marcus had shown a willingness to support policies of DeVos and President Trump that contradicted civil rights law.

"The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has a mandate to enforce core nondiscrimination laws in schools and protect children from discrimination," she said in a statement. "Those responsibilities are not optional. Now it is incumbent upon Marcus to take the mandate of the office seriously, correct the mistakes of the past, and fulfill his duties. Our children deserve no less."

As the leader of the Brandeis Center, Marcus frequently weighed in on campus debates involving speech attacking the state of Israel. His track record is less extensive on other controversial issues handled by the Office for Civil Rights, including campus sexual assault complaints.

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New York City mayor sets off new debate on testing, admissions and diversity

New front opens in battle over diversity and testing as mayor of New York City seeks to abolish use of test to admit students to some of the country's top high schools.

As U.S. political leaders disavow globalism, universities expand global ties


At forum on international education, university officials say they're not backing down from efforts to expand education offerings abroad.

Why academe should honor prickly women (opinion)

You may see them in the women who won’t back down. You may see them in the colleagues who ask “pointed” questions. You may see them as the loud voices taking up all the space in the room.

They are known throughout history as the “killjoys,” the “ice queens,” the “hysterics,” the “ball-busters.” They are the “Prickly Women” -- the women who don’t let things go, who stand up for themselves and others, and who question the status-quo of structural inequities and outdated institutional practices. They stick out decidedly among the “bro-hood” of academic administration.

Despite the negative connotations and perceptions they incite, Prickly Women have exactly the kind of insight and persistence needed as the crises in higher education continue to mount. We argue that among the deluge of advice being tossed around to address those crises, one of the most radically simple solutions would be to identify your Prickly Women and listen to them.

They are not the newly minted Ph.D.s, nor are they the “up-and-comers” who bring much needed enthusiasm into the conversation about higher education. Prickly Women have been through the wars. They have seen colleagues fall or be pushed out. They have seen the fast fixes thrown like darts at a wall to see what sticks. They have most likely been among those darts -- among those members of underrepresented groups invited to join the hallowed halls of academe only to be left to their own devices

There are many of them, and they are not all the same. They each have their own challenges and battles. They are black, they are white, they are Latinx, they are Queer. They are moms, they are single, they are able-bodied or not.

Their identities intersect in a myriad of ways. They are not always allies nor are they always friends. But if you look around your institution for mid-career professionals, you will find Prickly Women with tales to tell and scars to show. And, you will see they have been systematically silenced -- and relegated to do the hard, thankless service work that keeps institutions running.

It is almost redundant at this point to talk about the stereotypical, angry female colleague or leader. The literature is full of evidence to show us that our image of Prickly Women is an entirely constructed one. They are the product of stereotypes that suggest women hold the floor longer than their male colleagues; that they are prone to irrational, emotional outbursts; that they are angry when providing constructive feedback. They are “bossy” leaders, those who incite mistrust should they take on the mannerisms of their male colleagues.

In fact, you may begin to see them as men should their anger be expressed across their faces. They are in a catch-22: if Prickly Women take on the feminine role of care-giver, they are seen as weak and less serious; if they adopt the confidence and “agentic behavior” lauded in their male colleagues, they become bitches. In other words, traditional gender roles deny them access to academe, while betraying those roles relegates them to the sidelines as people worthy of admonition and punishment. In fact, even the crisis in higher education today has been blamed on Prickly Women. A recent article suggests that one reason trust in higher education may be eroding is the number of women who have joined its ranks and obtained success.

But instead of dismissing Prickly Women, we must embrace them. The metaphor itself shows the value of Prickly Women -- they are sharp, they cut through the academic bullshit and prevarication that keep higher education spinning its wheels instead of moving forward.

What Prickly Women have to offer is the ability to let go of what is not working, the willingness to try new things, the ability to listen to others without feeling threatened, and the courage to be leaders when needed and followers when inspired. They are keenly aware of their own limitations while still capable of valuing the strength in others. At this point in their careers, they convey and respect vulnerability, the kind that draws unlikely partners together to combat common foes.

Prickly Women on campuses have deep institutional memory and history. They have knowledge of what has and hasn’t worked in the past. They see why shiny, new programs aren’t the answer to your problems; they see what the “boring” time-tested programs have to offer. Prickly Women know who the players are, they know what the games are, they know what the rules are and when and how to break them.

Prickly Women very likely have strong, robust networks of prickly pissed-off colleagues and they know how to engage those networks to get the real work done. They want others to succeed and are good mentors who have “seen it all.” Prickly Women are perceptive; they have vision. Their ideas are informed by the people working anonymously on college campuses. Prickly Women have a strong desire to simplify institutional bloat and to find synergies with what is already working on campus. This desire to synthesize comes from Prickly Women’s voracious reading; they are always on the lookout for scholarship that makes them better mentors, instructors and colleagues.

Prickly Women are not interested in reinventing the wheel, and they are not after your power.

Prickly Women work hard. They are scrappy; they will sacrifice even when given little praise. They still have a lot of time left in the academic gig, and despite it all, they still want your institution to thrive and have contributions to make.

Contrary to popular opinion, they do not have thick skin. They can be hurt. If you mistreat Prickly Women, they may curl up in defensive hedgehog positions and you will lose some of your best unknown, uncelebrated, and un-championed resources. Above all, Prickly Women are full of empathy, passion, and concern for others. They are guided by an ethical compass that we desperately need in the landscape of higher education today.

Don’t grind them down. Don’t ignore them. Make them your allies. Use their sharpness, pointedness, prickliness to your advantage. Don’t fear Prickly Women. Find and engage them.

And, if you are a Prickly Woman, find your prickly comrades. Take comfort among their ranks. Build an altar to the feats of Prickly Women everywhere. Persevere.

M. Soledad Caballero is associate professor of English, and Aimee Knupsky is associate professor of psychology, at Allegheny College.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2018
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In Praise of Prickly Women


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