How a student’s tweet led to a faculty labor dispute


In September, a student at Monroe Community College posted a racist tweet. It’s November, and the faculty union and the administration are still in conflict over the institution’s response.

Editors discuss new book on diversity in Christian higher education

Editors discuss new book about a push by many Christian colleges to diversify their institutions.

Debate on Climate for Conservatives at Nebraska

Three Republican state lawmakers who say the University of Nebraska at Lincoln is hostile to political conservatives will share their expectations for improvement with the campus this week, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “We’re going to give them some time to implement what we are requesting they do,” one of the senators, Steve Halloran, told the newspaper. “Actions speak louder than words.” The expectations, not yet public, won’t be Legislative mandates but will include some level of “accountability” and “transparency,” he said. 

The political climate at Lincoln become a point of concern in August, after an incident involving two students who set up a table on campus to recruit for Turning Point USA, the conservative student organization behind Professor Watchlist. In a video of the incident that has since been circulated online, Courtney Lawton, a lecturer in English, flips off one of the students and calls her a “neo-fascist Becky” who “wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids.” Lawton has since been removed from the classroom over safety concerns for both her and students, due to online threats against her. The Republican lawmakers said they were disappointed with Lincoln’s response, since it’s wasn’t a disciplinary action against Lawton. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, reportedly said university leaders would be right to "step up their efforts to make sure conservatives feel welcome on campus.”

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Author discusses her new book on transitions for first-generation students at elite college

Author discusses her new book on transitions in admissions -- and beyond.

Grad Student Suing U of Southern California Over Harassment Case

A graduate student at the University of Southern California is suing the institution for failing to sufficiently address her allegations of harassment against a professor, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Karissa Fenwick, who has been public about her case, says that Erick Guerrero, an associate professor of social work, asked her to come to his hotel room during an academic conference in New Orleans and tried to kiss her on his bed. After Fenwick refused and ran out of the room, she says, Guerrero threatened her to keep quiet. He “told me that if I ever told anybody about what happened that it would ruin both of our careers and he would take down anybody that I told, and that the dean would never take my side or let anything happen to him,” Fenwick told reporters last week. She nevertheless filed a complaint but is dismayed that Guerrero was not terminated after the university determined that misconduct had occurred.

The university says that Guerrero was disciplined and warned that any recurrence could lead to dismissal. He was also blocked from holding leadership positions and teaching or supervising students this year. The institution “took the complaint of sexual harassment very seriously,” it said in a statement. “The university is reviewing the recent legal filing to determine if additional action is warranted.”

Mark Hathaway, Guerrero's attorney, told Inside Higher Ed that his client denies all of Fenwick's allegations and is grieving the university's investigation into his conduct. Hathaway said that Fenwick came to Guerrero's room voluntarily after a night of socializing with colleagues to order a ride back to her hotel via Uber, and that she departed shortly thereafter.

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Grad Union Vote at Washington University St. Louis Inconclusive

Graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis voted against forming a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, according to a preliminary, inconclusive tally. Some 494 graduate assistants were eligible to vote; 216 voted down the union bid and 174 voted for it. About 174 ballots remain challenged; master’s degree students and students in the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering were allowed to vote in the election, but their eligibility to join a union has not yet been resolved.

SEIU did not immediately provide comment. Washington University said in statement that it’s pleased with the election turnout and that it will be some time before the final results are known. While the university challenged one ballot, it said, the union or the National Labor Relations Board challenged 173. Washington University said that SEIU, not it, waited until after the election to challenge those ballots, prolonging the process.

“The university continues to be committed to a transparent and fair election process,” it said. It also “continues to believe strongly that our graduate student experience is best supported when we work together -- not through a union. We also continue to disagree with the underlying determination that graduate students are employees.” Washington University said the NLRB has several cases pending that could reverse a 2016 decision saying that graduate student teaching and research assistants are in fact employees and therefore entitled to collective bargaining rights, “and we have argued that it is best to resolve this nationally, given the significance for all of higher ed.”

California, meanwhile, broadened its definition of graduate student employees. Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law an amendment to the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act defining “employee” as all student employees in the University of California system. Previously, graduate research assistants -- unlike their teaching assistant counterparts -- were not considered employees entitled to collective bargaining. The change means that graduate research assistants may now organize to hold a union election. Teaching assistants across the university system already are represented by a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers. The change parallels the NLRB’s 2016 decision about graduate students on private campuses, which said that not only teaching assistants but also research assistants are entitled to collective bargaining.

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Survey draws attention to white perceptions of affirmative action

New results -- showing majority of white people believe they face discrimination -- surprise many. But attitudes, especially about college admission, don't always reflect the bias and disadvantages experienced by nonwhites or actual enrollment trends.

Black Clemson student government vice president alleges racism is behind impeachment trial


Clemson student government vice president, who is black, says he faces impeachment trial because he wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

University investigating professor's anti-Semitic Facebook posts

Recalling a case at Oberlin College, Rutgers investigates a professor for anti-Semitic Facebook comments he says he can't be sure he made.

White House Picks Former Bush Official for OCR

The White House announced Thursday that President Trump would nominate Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, as the next head of civil rights at the Department of Education.

Marcus, should he be confirmed, will assume the duties of Candice Jackson, who has served as acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the department since April. Marcus was previously the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for four years during the George W. Bush administration and prior to that served as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.

While at the Department of Education, Marcus wrote the policy used by the Office for Civil Rights to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism on campuses. And at the Brandeis Center, he's been outspoken about what he's called increasingly pervasive anti-Semitism on campuses. Marcus has accused extremist voices on the so-called alt-right as well as the far left of spreading hate.

“University administrators know they need to respond to extremist right-wing neo-Nazi propaganda,” he told Politico earlier this year. “It’s harder to deal with anti-Semitism that disguises itself as anti-Israel in some respect.”

Marcus has argued that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement -- a nonviolent boycott movement that aims to pressure Israel to end occupation of Palestinian lands and grant full rights to Palestinian citizens -- is anti-Semitic. In 2016, the Brandeis Center filed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association, arguing its support for the academic boycott of Israel fell outside the scope of the group's mission.

Jackson was a controversial figure from the very beginning of her tenure at OCR thanks to comments she made during the 2016 presidential campaign denigrating women who had accused Trump of sexual assault. Later comments about campus sexual assault drew criticism from survivors' advocates, women's groups, and Democratic lawmakers.

Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, repeatedly called for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to remove Jackson. In a statement Thursday, Murray indicated she was glad to see the department move on from Jackson but stopped short of endorsing Marcus.

“I am very glad that Secretary DeVos listened to the parents and students across the country who rejected Candice Jackson’s callousness toward survivors of sexual assault and deeply misguided approach to protecting the civil rights and safety of students in our nation’s schools,” Murray said. “I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Marcus and determining whether he will commit to protecting the civil rights and safety of all students and maintaining the mission of the Office for Civil Rights to ‘ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.’”

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