Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 18, 2017

A police officer at Georgia Institute of Technology fatally shot a student Saturday night, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The student was reportedly interacting oddly with police officers, and carrying a knife that video suggests he declined to drop, despite being urged to do so by police officers. The shooting is under investigation.

Scout Schultz, the student, was president of Georgia Tech's Pride Alliance, which issued this statement: "As you might have heard, last night we lost our president, Scout Schultz. We are all deeply saddened by what has occurred.... Scout always reminded us to think critically about the intersection of identities and how a multitude of factors play into one's experience on Tech's campus and beyond. We love you Scout and we will continue to push for change."


September 18, 2017

Four Boston College students were attacked with acid at a train station in southern France Sunday, The Boston Globe reported. The four women, all juniors, were treated for burns at a Marseille hospital and released, according to Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the college. Dunn said one of the students plans to visit an eye doctor Monday. He said that while the students were injured, they appear to have avoided what could have been more serious injuries.

The students were identified as Charlotte Kaufman, Michelle Krug and Courtney Siverling, all of whom are enrolled in Boston College’s study abroad program in Paris, and Kelsey Kosten, who is studying at Copenhagen Business School. A 41-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with the attack, which occurred at Marseille’s Saint Charles train station.

September 18, 2017

After some additional review, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology will publish a controversial study about training a computer to predict someone’s sexual orientation based on a photo. An editor for the American Psychological Association-owned journal last week informed co-author Michal Kosinski, an assistant professor of business at Stanford University, that it would proceed with publishing the already accepted paper. That seemed somewhat up in the air earlier in the week, when the journal said it needed to address the “ethical status” of the project -- namely issues related to copyright of publicly available photos and how Stanford’s Institutional Review Board had assessed the project.

Some viewed the journal’s additional review as a threat to academic freedom because it followed intense backlash against the paper, including by gay rights groups GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. Kosinski said via email that he and his co-author, Yilun Wang, a computer scientist who studied at Stanford, "are glad that APA reconfirmed that the study was conducted with due ethical cautions set in place. We hope that that scientists, policy makers and LGBTQ advocacy groups can now focus on working together toward the urgent, common goal of protecting the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people." The paper is expected to be in print by sometime early next year.

September 18, 2017

Randy Lowry, president of Lipscomb University, was attempting to reach out to African-American students at his university. Instead, he ended up sending a campus-wide apology by email.

“Last night we invited Lipscomb African American students to our home for dinner to discuss their experiences at Lipscomb. Several students shared with me their concern about the material used for centerpieces which contained stalks of cotton,” read the email, the content of which was posted by the university’s Facebook page.

“The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity. I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness.”

The Tennessean reported that social media posts of students who said they attended the dinner said that the cotton-stalk centerpieces were not at a previous dinner held for Latino students.

Lowry ended the email by saying he wants to engage in more conversations with students at the group and individual level.


September 18, 2017

Evergreen State College has settled a lawsuit brought against it by the professor who was at the center of protests that rocked the campus in May.

As part of the settlement, Bret Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, resigned from their faculty positions effective Friday, The Seattle Times reported.

Students were protesting racism on campus, although Brett Weinstein, the professor who they called to be fired, filed his $3.85 million suit on the grounds of "hostility based on race," alleging that the college "permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment.... Through a series of decisions made at the highest levels, including to officially support a day of racial segregation, the college has refused to protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence."

Weinstein drew ire from students when he pushed back against a call to change the tradition of minority students and faculty holding their annual Day of Absence. Based on ideas in the 1965 play of the same name by Douglas Turner Ward, those participating meet off campus to discuss campus issues and how to make the college more supportive of all students -- and at the same time, they hope their lack of presence is felt. Similar ideas were the inspiration behind events like “day without immigrants” protests, where immigrants closed shop to protest anti-immigrant political rhetoric, while at the same time highlighting how much everyday society depends on them and their labor.

The wrinkle to last year’s Day of Absence, however, was that white people were called to (voluntarily) stay off campus. Weinstein, who is white, objected.

"There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women's Day walkout), and a group encouraging another group to go away," Weinstein wrote on a campus email list. "The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself."

Weinstein also drew criticism for coming out against a recommendation on faculty hiring by the college's Equity and Inclusion Council that would require an "equity justification/explanation" for all faculty hires.

As part of the settlement, Evergreen did not admit wrongdoing, The Times reported, citing an email officials sent to faculty and staff members on the matter.

“In making this agreement, the college admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim. The educational activities of Day of Absence/Day of Presence were not discriminatory. The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters during spring quarter, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe,” the email read.

September 18, 2017

The Trump administration is expected to name Johnathan Holifield, an author and consultant, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

After saying earlier this month that it would delay its annual HBCU Week Conference, the administration plans to hold meetings with key leaders and students from historically black colleges this week. 

Although the White House would not confirm the appointment ahead of an official announcement, the United Negro College Fund released a statement Sunday saying it had learned Holifield would be named executive director. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF's president and CEO, said the group looked forward to hearing how Holifield would advance the interests of historically black institutions and ensure more African Americans get the opportunity to attend and graduate college. 

“As we have done since the start of the new administration, UNCF will seek every opportunity to present Mr. Holifield with our federal policy proposals and enlist his essential support of investments in HBCUs and, most importantly, our students," Lomax said in a statement. 

Organizations including UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, as well key members of Congress, had earlier called for the White House to delay the annual HBCU Week Conference scheduled for September 17-19. They cited the long delay in naming a new executive director, as well as other slow progress advancing priorities of historically black colleges since the signing of a presidential executive order in February. Some of those calls also followed intense controversy over President Donald Trump's reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. After a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing woman and injuring several others, Trump made comments suggesting "both sides" were to blame. 

Holifield frequently serves as a speaker on issues of innovation, especially how it can be more inclusive. He co-founded Scale Up Partners, a consulting firm that has worked with businesses as well as colleges and universities. Holifield has a history of involvement with the HBCU Innovation Summit. He Forbes in 2013, that HBCUs were disconnected "from the nation’s innovation ecosystems."

He holds a master of education and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. Holifield also played Division I football for West Virginia University and later the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. 

September 18, 2017

Brent Ahlers, a security guard at St. Catherine University, shot himself in the arm last week. However, since he feared the university would fire him for bringing a gun to campus, he made up a add "story about a"? -sjshooter for the police to look for: a black man with a short afro.

More than 50 police officers swarmed the campus as part of a manhunt for the suspect, which included a four-hour lockdown of campus. Since admitting he fabricated the story, media across Minnesota -- and across the country, including The Washington Post -- have covered the story of the white security guard blaming a fictitious black man for a shooting.

Additionally, community leaders maybe: "Black leaders have..." -sjhave spoken out, saying that actual black men were put at risk by Ahler’s cover-up.

Community activist Robert McClain told local news site InfoForum that he has received three calls from black men who were stopped by police during the search for Ahler’s shooter.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don't look in a nice way," McClain said. "They don't stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven't done a thing."

The university has since terminated Ahlers, and Becky Roloff, the university president, said in a statement that the St. Catherine’s "strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind.”

“The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values."

September 18, 2017

A new poll from the Campaign for Free College Tuition shows support continues to increase for free college tuition programs that benefit academically qualified students.

Support for tuition-free state programs increased to 47 percent -- up 12 percent since CFCT started national polling in 2016. The poll also revealed that 78 percent of the public approve of the idea of free college tuition.

"CFCT's latest poll demonstrates the popularity of both federal and state programs that make college tuition-free," said Morley Winograd, president of CFCT, in a news release. "Both enjoy majority support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, which contradicts recent commentary that the idea of free college is not popular among certain groups of voters."

Winograd said the poll highlights why tuition-free programs have taken off in red states like Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, and in blue states like New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.

September 18, 2017

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors today approved a new partnership with nonprofit Western Governors University that allows graduates from the 114 two-year institutions in the state to transfer and pursue discounted bachelor's degrees at the online institution.

"WGU's distance-learning format, competency-based learning model and discounted tuition will enable students graduating from a California community college the flexibility to earn a bachelor's degree without leaving home at an affordable price," said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the community college system, in a news release.

Under the partnership, students transferring from the community colleges would be offered a 5 percent tuition discount for up to four academic terms. WGU students are charged a flat rate per six-month term, with tuition and fees totaling about $6,000 a year. In addition to the discount, the transfer students are also eligible for the $2,000 Community College Partnership Scholarship.

WGU's partnership with the California Community College system "will make it possible for more busy adults in California to complete their degrees affordably and without disrupting their lives," said Scott Pulsipher, WGU's president, in a news release.

September 18, 2017

Leaders of 10 Hong Kong universities issued a statement condemning “recent abuses” of free expression and opposing Hong Kong independence following the display of pro-independence banners and posters on various campuses, the Hong Kong Free Press and South China Morning Post reported. 

“We treasure freedom of expression, but we condemn its recent abuses,” says the statement from the 10 university leaders. "All universities undersigned agree that we do not support Hong Kong independence, which contravenes the Basic Law.”

Twelve student unions jointly issued a statement rebutting that of the university heads, and saying that the Basic Law governing Hong Kong’s relationship with China guarantees them the freedom of speech to discuss the issue of Hong Kong independence. Article 1 of the Basic Law describes China as "an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China," but Article 27 states that "Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike."

Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong are camping out to protect pro-independence signs after the university president told the student union to take them down or risk having them removed by senior administrators, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has said it will remove pro-independence signs on campus in order "to protect students, in order to prevent them from possibly violating the law." The university said it "has a responsibility to tell students that there are limits to freedom of speech, including content that is offensive, insulting, or encourages others to break the law," according to a report from the Hong Kong Free Press.



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