Academic Minute: Journalistic Perspectives on Michael Brown

In today's Academic Minute, Charlton McIlwain, associate professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, explores news coverage specifically about Michael Brown and the ways it did and did not focus on issues of race and ethnicity. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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Canadian University Punishes Students Over 'Misogynistic' Facebook Group

Dalhousie University revealed Monday that it had suspended from clinical activities 13 male dentistry students involved in a Facebook group that joked about chloroforming female students to have sex with them, among other comments, The Globe and Mail reported. The students' behavior first drew attention last month, but at the time the Canadian university's president said the students would not be suspended but would be required to attend face-to-face mediation with the women they were accused of harassing.

Pressure has grown on university administrators to take tougher action against the male dentistry students. On Monday, President Richard Florizone said the university had suspended the men from clinical activities (but not from classes) in late December but delayed announcing the punishment because of "credible" risk that some of them might do themselves harm. The men are now on campus and have access to counseling, administrators said. The temporary clinical suspension will stay in place while an academic panel considers other penalties, The Globe and Mail reported. Four faculty members at Dalhousie initiated a complaint against the male students under the student code of conduct, demanding tougher punishment.

Washington and Lee Will End Classes on King Day

Washington and Lee University will no longer hold classes on Martin Luther King Day, starting in 2016, The Washington Post reported. The undergraduate faculty voted in November to make the change and officials said that they would not be able to alter the academic calendar until 2016. Washington and Lee has faced criticism from some black students and others for holding classes on the federal holiday, but the university has also faced criticism for some traditionalists for efforts it has made to either limit or place in historical context Confederate symbols that have been revered by some alumni and students.

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Appeals Court Revives Bias Suit Against DC Law School

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has revived a lawsuit, dismissed by a lower court, charging the law school of the University of the District of Columbia with race and gender discrimination against Stephanie Brown, a black woman who was denied tenure. The ruling did not cover the merits of the case, in which the university denies wrongdoing. The ruling noted that Brown had published one journal article and had another accepted at the point at which she was denied tenure. And while this output falls short of the law school's three-publication requirement for tenure, she said that a white male candidate hadn't published anything, but was awarded tenure based on other contributions to the law school. The court ruled that this was enough evidence to merit full consideration of her claims by the lower court.



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Augustana Restricts Access to Yik Yak

Yik Yak SymbolAugustana College this week barred access to the social media app Yik Yak through the colleges wifi network, The Quad City Times reported. College officials put the app behind a firewall amid campus debate and a protest over posts on Yik Yak that many considered racist and offensive. Yik Yak has been criticized for the ease with which students can make anonymous racist posts, and has been the subject of protests on numerous campuses. Many colleges, however, have resisted efforts to ban the app, citing First Amendment concerns at public institutions (Augustana is private), and practical concerns, given that students have many ways to access the app without using campus networks. At Colgate University this month, faculty members bombarded the app with positive comments about students in attempt to reclaim the app from those using it in ways that hurt other students.


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Debate Over Michigan Professor Who 'Hates' Republicans

The University of Michigan affirmed its commitment to faculty free speech as well as what it called a “respectful environment,” following calls from conservatives that it condemn the professor who wrote an essay called “It’s OK to Hate Republicans,” The Detroit News reported. The essay, by Susan J. Douglas, the chair and Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies, was published online this week by In These Times. “I hate Republicans,” Douglas wrote. “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching [Republican legislators] Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’”

Following the essay’s publication, Andrea Fischer Newman, a member of the university’s Board of Regents, wrote on her Facebook page that the essay was “extremely troubling and offensive,” and “ill-serves the most basic values of a university community.” Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said in a statement that the essay was “ugly and full of hatred” and intimidating to students. He said the university and state Democrats should “join in condemning this disgraceful dialogue by calling for Professor Susan J. Douglas’ resignation.”

In a statement, Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesman said the views expressed in the essay were “those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.” At the same time, he added, “the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.”

Douglas could not immediately be reached for comment. In These Times has since changed the name of the essay on the magazine’s website to “We Can’t All Just Get Along,” the same title under which it appears in the magazine’s print version. An editor’s note says that the title was changed to the include the word “hate” without Douglas’s knowledge, and that she rejected the former title as not representative of the piece or its main points. The note also says “all threats to the author's life and personal safety” have been removed from the online comment thread.

Essay on conflict between activism and career advancement, after Ferguson


Post-Ferguson, how can young scholars balance their desire to join in activism with the demands of winning tenure? Kerry Ann Rockquemore considers the issues.

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Professors turn Yik Yak into happy space

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Colgate U. professors turn social media app with reputation for negative comments into a one-day love-fest.

Youngstown State Agrees to Make Websites Accessible

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday announced an agreement under which Youngstown State University will make its websites accessible to people with disabilities, as is required by federal law. The announcement said that the university had not done so in all instances in the past, but praised the university for agreeing to the changes.


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Bowdoin Punishes Athletes for Native American Costumes

Bowdoin College is punishing 14 members of its lacrosse team for dressing as Native Americans for a "Cracksgiving" party held at a house -- known as "Crack House" -- in which many of the athletes live, The Bangor Daily News reported. The college has had several recent programs about the insensitivity of costumes based on race or ethnicity.



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