Quick Takes: Violence Threat Shuts Exhibit, Walkout at Hampshire, Double Standard Alleged, Grand Jury Probes Noose Incident, Furor Over Ashcroft Visit to Skidmore, Ohio Higher Ed Reforms, UMass Online in China, Apologies at Lehigh, British Prodigies

April 1, 2008
  • The San Francisco Art Institute has shut down an exhibit and called off a planned discussion about it because of threats of violence from animal rights groups. The exhibit, "Don't Trust Me," features video clips by the artist Adel Abdessemed in which animals are shown being bludgeoned to death. The art institute announced that criticism of the exhibit has escalated to threats of violence. Chris Bratton, president of the institute, issued a statement that said that while institute officials "repudiate these threats," his "first concern" was with the safety of students, professors and others at the institute so he had to shut down the show. "Though we’ve decided to take this action, SFAI stands behind the exhibition as an instance of a long-standing and serious commitment, on SFAI’s part, to reflection on, and free and open discussion of, contemporary global art and culture. As an institution, we take seriously our responsibility to encourage and promote such dialogue.” In Defense of Animals is among the groups that have questioned the institute for acting as host for the exhibit. Here is that group's critique.
  • Hundreds of students at Hampshire College walked out of classes Monday to protest what they termed inadequate support for diversity at the institution. A list of 17 demands posted on Facebook includes: the creation of four new faculty positions in ethnic or gay studies, "transparency" in the process of converting adjunct slots to permanent positions, mandatory "anti-oppression training" for employees, the creation of dormitories for minority students and "queer-identified" students, and the replacement of classes on Martin Luther King Day and Columbus Day with special programs about racism and imperialism. College officials have indicated a willingness to negotiate with the students.
  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is criticizing Colorado College for punishing students who distributed a flyer that mocked a flyer distributed by feminist students on the campus. The feminist students' flyer is called "The Monthly Rag" and the leaflet mocking it is called "The Monthly Bag." When the latter appeared, with its authors identified only as "the coalition of some dudes," college officials asked those responsible to come forward. When they did, FIRE asserted, they were ordered to hold a campus forum after being found guilty of violating the student code against violence. FIRE called this inconsistent and unfair. Greg Lukianoff said in a statement: "One flyer that mentions ‘male castration' is not violence, but a flyer that makes fun of it by mentioning ‘chainsaws' is prohibited? Both should be protected, but the double standard and lack of respect for freedom of speech in this case is simply staggering." Richard F. Celeste, Colorado College's president, said via e-mail: "Colorado College values and fosters freedom of expression, and in discussions with students regarding "The Monthly Bag," has encouraged further dialogue about freedom of speech issues on campus. The students involved in creating this publication were found to have violated the college community's standards, but they were not sanctioned or punished. Instead, they were urged to engage the college community in more inclusive dialogue, debate and discussion on freedom of speech, and through a letter to the editor of the student newspaper and other actions, they are doing so."
  • An outside spokeswoman for Teachers College of Columbia University on Monday confirmed that a Manhattan grand jury has issued a subpoena for records related in part to Madonna Constantine, a professor there. Teachers College in February found Constantine had repeatedly used the work of others without attribution -- a conclusion she disputes and calls a "witch hunt" against her. In October, while the plagiarism investigation was going on, a noose was found outside Constantine's office. The New York Post first reported on the grand jury activity.
  • Skidmore College is in an uproar over a lecture to be given Wednesday by John Ashcroft, the former attorney general. The Albany Times Union reported that a swastika was drawn on a large poster promoting the event. Skidmore's Republican student group, which organized the Ashcroft visit, says that the defacing of the poster suggests liberal intolerance of conservative ideas. Others on the campus say that Ashcroft's record does not merit the honor associated with college speaking engagements.
  • Ohio's chancellor for higher education, Eric Fingerhut, has released a 10-year strategic plan for higher education in the state. Among the goals: ending competition among public colleges, a "seniors to sophomores" program that would allow some high school seniors to spend their final year of high school on a college campus earning credit, more flexibility for institutions to set their own tuition rates provided that certain goals for need-based financial aid are met, and new efforts to assure easy transfers from community colleges to universities if students meet certain academic requirements.
  • The distance education arm of the University of Massachusetts, UMass Online, announced an agreement Monday under which it will offer online courses and degree programs in China. The pact is believed to be the first of its kind.
  • A cartoonist for Lehigh University's student newspaper, The Brown & White, and the paper itself have apologized for a St. Patrick's Day themed cartoon that was full of Irish stereotypes and threw in a Jewish stereotype for good measure. The newspaper's apology called the cartoon (which is still online, below the apology) "just offensive." The cartoonist's apology said that her "thoughtless actions" had hurt many, but that the "cartoon was a tragic example of satire gone wrong, not a manifestation of my beliefs." Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh, issued a letter calling the apologies "sincere" and praising students for discussing the issues raised by the cartoon.
  • A 2006 change in British anti-bias laws forced universities to consider applicants regardless of their age, and the number of students under the age of 18 surged to 8,000 from 5,000 since then, The Guardian reported. While most of these students are 17, British universities are being forced to consider additional safety steps as more than 100 under the age of 16 have enrolled.
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