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Student expelled for being gay and charged $6,000 in back tuition protests with online petition

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A student expelled for having a lesbian relationship and ordered to repay $6,000 in scholarship money is fighting back.

Essay defends Education Department's approach to sexual harassment

"Holding Colleges Responsible” is the latest example in a slew of articles – many of them quoting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – that are meant to alarm anyone with a voice, and the author’s use of selective quotes out of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights's response to FIRE only fans the flame.

At issue is whether the Education Department’s enforcement of a law and guidance that are designed to promote compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prevent sexual harassment put free speech at risk. In particular, the recent cause for concern is language in the agreement between OCR, the Department of Justice, and the University of Montana, which the government called a "blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country."

Readers should know that preserving free speech and academic freedom and ensuring an environment free from sexual harassment are not mutually exclusive goals, and OCR has never published guidance or decisions that aim to limit even the most explicitly sexual academic material.

The issue seems to be the department’s acknowledgment that conduct that is not yet severe or pervasive may still constitute sexual harassment. OCR clarified in a letter to FIRE that only severe or pervasive sexual harassment actually violates Title IX. The department’s view requires defining sexual harassment broadly and understanding the difference between an institution’s obligation to educate and proactively problem-solve and the obligation to "bang the gavel."

The Office for Civil Rights's "Dear Colleague" letter from April 4, 2011 is less concerned with gavel-banging and more concerned with how the complainant is treated during the reporting and grievance process. The outcome sought is the elimination of the hostile environment, if one exists, and maintaining a campus climate free from sexual harassment and violence -- not the termination, suspension, or expulsion of each accused individual.

It is not new for an institution to encourage reporting so that it may determine whether the report warrants action. "See something, say something." Surely not every forgotten bag contains explosives, but because citizen bystanders are not experts with bomb-sniffing German Shepherds, we are encouraged to report what we see.

Despite OCR’s recommendation for broad-based training and notification of sex discrimination definitions and procedures, students and employees are not experts in this area, and they are not expected to be equipped to make a final decision about whether actionable sex discrimination exists. That responsibility falls specifically to the Title IX coordinator or designee under the grievance procedures. By encouraging reporting of unwelcome conduct, the coordinator or designee also has the opportunity to spot patterns, which is a requirement of that job.

Imagine that 10 students report similar instances of sexual harassment (unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature) by another student or an employee that, individually, would not rise to the level of a hostile environment. Together, this conduct is a pattern of sexual harassment behavior that may create a hostile environment in a particular classroom, department or residence hall. Certainly, at the least, it warrants a conversation with and training for the accused individual.

The Education Department and higher education administrators are well aware of the First Amendment and academic freedom. Encouraging the campus community to report instances of sexual harassment and leaving the evaluation of such reports to designated experts is appropriate and lawful.

Andrea Stagg is an associate counsel in the State University of New York’s Office of General Counsel. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the State University of New York.

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Poll: Most Americans Oppose Use of Race in Admissions

A large majority of Americans -- 76 percent -- oppose the consideration of race in college admissions decisions, according to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, issued with the Supreme Court about to rule on the issue. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to favor the consideration of race, 28 percent to 12 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups, the highest level of support for consideration of race was by Hispanics (29 percent). By educational attainment, those with some postgraduate education were more likely than those with other levels to favor the consideration of race (28 percent).

 

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Obama picks Lhamon to lead Education Department's civil rights office

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Beginning to fill a long list of Education Department vacancies, Catherine Lhamon, a California lawyer, is picked as assistant secretary for civil rights.

U. of Washington Will Require Diversity Course

The University of Washington -- following years of debate -- has decided to require all undergraduates to complete a course that touches on diversity in some form, The Seattle Times reported. Students could pick among hundreds of courses already offered that deal with a range of different types of diversity, including sexual orientation, disability, class, race, age, gender and religion.

 

Former American U. professor charges institution with age discrimination and lack of commitment to professional track

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American U. says it has track for those with non-academic careers who want to join the faculty. A suit charges that the university only values traditional academic credentials.

Responding to Sexist Letter From Harvard Prof in 1961

Phyllis Richman has had a successful career in journalism, and she recently came across a letter she received from a Harvard University professor in 1961, when she was applying to a graduate program there. "[O]ur experience, even with brilliant students, has been that married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers ...  and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education," said the letter. It went on to ask Richman to explain how she could balance career and family goals. She didn't answer at the time. But in The Washington Post, she now has done so -- and women of her generation and many of younger generations are praising the response.

 

 

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Study: Facebook Has Positive Influence on First Generation College Students

A new study finds that use of Facebook may be helping first generation college students apply to college and gain confidence that they will succeed there. The study -- published in the journal Computers and Education -- is by researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. They surveyed students in a low-income area of Michigan. They found that first generation students who used Facebook to find information about the college application process felt more confident as they were going through it. Further, while many first generation students are less confident than other students entering college, those who had a friend on Facebook with whom to discuss college matters did not suffer that same lack of confidence.

 

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Study Sees Impact of Coach-Style College Counseling

Using a coaching-style of college counseling -- in which the advisors work intensely with high school students to help them navigate the application process -- can result in more students opting for four-year colleges rather than two-year colleges, a new study in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis has found. The study was based on students in the Chicago Public Schools. While these students generally enrolled at non-competitive four-year institutions, they were institutions where the students had greater odds than at community colleges of finishing a four-year degree. Further, the study found that the impact of this style of counseling was greatest on students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

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Editors of new volume discuss book about academic mothers

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Editors discuss themes of new collection of essays on challenges faced by academic women with children.

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