diversity

Border Patrol Arrests Professor on Harboring Charge

Scott Daniel Warren, an environmental studies instructor at Arizona State University, was arrested in southern Arizona last week on a federal harboring charge. The arrest came just hours after No More Deaths, an aid group for which Warren volunteers, released footage of Border Patrol agents kicking over water bottles left for migrants, the Associated Press reported. A university spokesperson said that Warren was not acting in his capacity as an instructor at the time of the arrest and that it believes he’ll be able to keep teaching his online course, as planned. Border Patrol agents arrested Warren after watching a building where two immigrants were given food, water, beds and clothes.

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University Pastor Who Officiated Gay Wedding Suspended Indefinitely

The Reverend Judy Peterson, the North Park University pastor who was put on leave after she officiated a same-sex wedding, has had her credential indefinitely suspended by the Evangelical Covenant Church.

This leaves her employment with the university uncertain.

Inside Higher Ed first reported this month that Peterson had been temporarily suspended by the church and put on paid leave by North Park. Peterson, in a letter circulated online, said she was waiting for a meeting with church leaders to find out whether she would be able to practice her ministry.

Peterson and North Park will "discern constructive paths forward" regarding her position at the university, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Church officials invited Peterson back to continue the conversation in June, according to the Tribune.

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Leaks in the Biomedical Research Faculty Pipeline

A new study by Vanderbilt University researchers published in PLOS ONE finds two points of significant loss for underrepresented minorities in the basic biomedical research faculty pipeline: during undergraduate studies and in transition from postdoctoral fellowships to tenure-track faculty positions at medical schools.

The paper, based on data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctoral Recipients, among other sources, attributes the first leak to relatively high rates of attrition among underrepresented minorities during their undergraduate training. Reasons for the second leak are less clear, according to the study, but could include climate concerns among underrepresented minorities considering faculty careers. Still, the paper suggests that institutions committed to increasing diversity at the faculty level will “need to focus their attention on the contributing factors to stages where major losses occur.”

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House Committee Requests GAO Report on Sexual Harassment by Federally Funded Researchers

Leaders of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee from both parties on Thursday asked the Government Accountability Office to report on sexual harassment by federally funded researchers -- including how many harassment cases are pending before federal agencies and how many have been investigated and resolved since 2013. The request notes that grant-awarding agencies may opt to terminate funding to an institution that fails to comply with federal laws against harassment in education. It also asks whether current systems and protections to address harassment are effective and accessible.

In addition to numbers of cases, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, a Democrat and the ranking committee member, told the office they wanted information on federal grant-making agencies’ harassment policies and procedures on harassment and compliance programs for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education.

The lawmakers requested a focus on the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, given their high levels of research funding. The request is part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in science, which was prompted in part by a high-profile harassment case involving a longtime Boston University geologist.

“Sexual harassment has a significant negative impact on the ability of female students and early career researchers to engage in research at the same level as their male peers,” reads Smith and Johnson’s letter to the GAO. “Equitable access to education and research experiences cannot be ensured for women in the sciences until gender discrimination, implicit bias, and sexual harassment are no longer potential barriers to their success.”

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Department of Education Publishes List of Active Civil Rights Investigations

The Department of Education on Wednesday published a searchable database of all active civil rights investigations that will be updated monthly by the department.

The list includes the institution under investigation, its state, the institution type, the type of discrimination complaint and the date the investigation was opened.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Education published a list of higher education institutions with open Title IX sexual violence investigations. That list was heavily criticized by colleges themselves, who did not like having open investigations highlighted by the department and said it suggested something was amiss even when the feds found no evidence of discrimination.

Last year at a gathering of college attorneys, Candice Jackson, then the acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the department, called it the "list of shame" and indicated that addressing the colleges' concerns was high on the department's list of priorities. The department has continued to release the list of active sexual violence investigations at higher ed institutions upon request but not post updates online.

The database published Wednesday includes active sexual violence cases at both colleges and K-12 institutions, among 12 different types of Title IX discrimination investigations.

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Civil rights

Racist Videos at University of Alabama

The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa is investigating racist videos posted by a sorority member from New Jersey on social medial, AL.com reported. One of the videos was posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The videos use slurs for black people and numerous expletives. The national sorority said that the student, as a result of the videos, is no longer a member of its Alabama chapter.

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Professors at Lehigh, Florida Gulf Coast Resign Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

Professors at two more institutions have resigned amid sexual harassment allegations against them. Lehigh University said Tuesday that James Braxton Peterson, former director of Africana studies and associate professor of English, resigned during a campus investigation that eventually found “sufficient cause” of sexual misconduct on his part, The Morning Call reported. Lehigh officials said in a campuswide email that they were notified in November of allegations against Peterson, who was then placed on leave and not permitted on campus during an investigation. Peterson resigned before the inquiry was complete, but officials said their findings would have otherwise triggered termination proceedings. A regular media commentator on race, Peterson hosted a podcast on Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate, which will no longer be distributed in light of the allegations, a station spokesperson said.

Florida Gulf Coast University also believes that a former professor of music there sexually harassed multiple students, according to local ABC affiliate WZVN. Five women told university investigators that Rod Chestnutt harassed them, in some cases hinting that he wanted to have sex and or asking them back to his home or a hotel after a musical performance. Chestnutt, who resigned this fall, is also alleged to have commented on female students’ appearances or touched them. A university report on the matter says that Chestnutt’s behavior was “unwelcome, severe, persistent, pervasive” and damaging to the complainants' educations, according to WZVN. University spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Chestnutt.

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King Day Satire by Rice Students Angers Many

A satire in the Rice University student newspaper has angered many, including university leaders. The back page of The Rice Thresher, the paper, typically contains humor of some type. Last week's issue featured fake coupons, including one offering a "Guilt-Free MLK Day Pass." The text of the coupon said, "Hey there, white people! We know. You have a day off to celebrate someone who managed to beat your system. Don't despair -- for the low price of eternal shame you can spend these 24 hours doing something productive like beating off in a sock and wondering whatever happened to your 8th grade girlfriend. You're disgusting."

On Twitter, the university noted its disappointment in the satire, but also said that it respected the free speech rights of its students.

The newspaper published an editorial largely defending the satire and criticizing the university's response.

"The purpose of our content is not to cause any harm or offense to our readers," the editorial said. "This is often a difficult line to tread with satire, which is not meant to be comfortable for everyone. Discussion and reflection, on the contrary, are often spurred by that which may make us uncomfortable. We take our responsibility in production of satire on our last page equally to that of producing news in our first 11. We are disappointed in Rice University’s response stating that this Backpage is contrary to the values of the university and offensive. We do not ask the university to stand with our editorial content on every occasion, but we are disheartened that Rice’s administration finds a part of a Backpage intended to target issues of institutional racism and general apathy to be “contrary to the values of the university.”

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Diversity Newsletter publication date: 
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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King Day Satire by Rice Students Angers Many

Analysis challenges idea that black medical school applicants are 'stealing' spots from white applicants

Rejected white applicants to medical school aren’t losing out because of affirmative action, new analysis contends.

Maine Professors Oppose Policy on Political Activity

University System of Maine professors are concerned about a Board of Trustees proposal to prohibit most employees from speaking about controversial political issues, according to the Bangor Daily News. The proposed “Institutional Authority on Political Matters” policy says that all legislative advocacy must be coordinated through the chancellor’s office, and only by certain high-level employees. Employees below the level of the president may express their personal views on legislative or political matters under the policy, but must indicate that they do not speak for their institutions. Employees may not engage in political activity during work time, “in or on” system property.

The university has argued that such a policy could help protect its nonprofit status, while faculty members say it could be used to limit their speech. Jim Thelen, the university system’s lead attorney, said he isn’t aware of any public university losing its nonprofit status because of political action by its employees, the newspaper reported. But Thelen said that federal tax guidance is clear that engagement in partisan politics risks the loss of federal funding or tax-exempt status.

Jim McClymer, president of the university faculty union, said members are worried less about expressing their views in classrooms than about whether the new restrictions could stop them from speaking out on policy issues impacting their students and the state. Some have asked whether the policy would apply to participating in on-campus political rallies, as well. “Seems to prohibit the legitimate use of our expertise,” McClymer wrote in a letter to the board. “A physicist or engineer could not comment on fears of [radiofrequency] radiation, or a wildlife expert on bear trapping or hunting, or a political scientist commenting on anything. Pretty much anything of import ends up being political in a democracy.” A vote on the matter is now expected in March.

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