Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 16, 2017

Image of Aug. 13 protest shows a sign with the words "Black Lives Matter," as well as Confederate and Mississippi flags.The day after a woman was killed by a far-right protester who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., the Confederacy’s role in public life drew protesters and counterprotesters at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and on the University of Virginia’s campus was organized to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue, and its crowd included white supremacists and neo-Nazis. In Hattiesburg, Miss., a local group of protesters have been gathering in front of the college, rallying against the removal of the Mississippi flag at USM.

The state flag incorporates the Confederate flag in its design, and it was removed from USM’s campuses after the racially motivated 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

On Sunday, however, with the Charlottesville rally fresh in their minds, a counterprotest was staged by students and locals, Deep South Daily reported.

“The Hattiesburg community has been troubled yet silent for too long in response to the USM Delta Flaggers’ weekly showcase of white supremacy on our campus,” Anna Beth Rowe, an organizer with the South Mississippi Democratic Socialists of America, told the news outlet. Heather Heyer was marching near the DSA group in Charlottesville when she was killed, according to ABC, and the organization has promoted a GoFundMe page for her family that was set up following Heyer's death.

The pro-flag protesters have reportedly been showing up to USM for 96 weeks, but Sunday proved to be a watershed moment for counterprotesters, although the Hattiesburg American reports that the protest draws people on both sides when it is held every Sunday.

“The act of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville yesterday and the loss of our sister’s life led Democratic Socialists of America to hold solidarity vigils across the country Saturday evening,” Rowe said. “We held ours at the Confederate monument downtown and were led to organize the counterprotest today after moments of silent meditation on white supremacy nationally as well as its specific embodiment in the current state flag.”

August 16, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Jessica Oster, assistant professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, looks underground for evidence of an abrupt change to the world’s weather. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 15, 2017

Poster of classical statue with text "Our future belongs to us, Identity Evropa."Many of the posters turning up anonymously on campuses, put there by groups promoting "European" ideals in ways that are widely seen as racist, use images of ancient Greek or Roman sculptures (see poster at right for example).

The Society for Classical Studies has issued a statement condemning the use of images in this way. The statement notes that the ancient world was not monolithic and in fact was influenced by people of different regions and cultures. "Greek and Roman culture was shared and shaped for their own purposes by people living from India to Britain and from Germany to Ethiopia. Its medieval and modern influence is wider still. Classical studies today belongs to all of humanity," the statement says. It goes on to say that the society "vigorously and unequivocally opposes any attempt to distort the diverse realities of the Greek and Roman world by enlisting the classics in the service of ideologies of exclusion, whether based on race, color, national origin, gender or any other criterion. As scholars and teachers, we condemn the use of the texts, ideals and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely imagined and narrowly conceived Western civilization."

August 15, 2017

Cover of "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure," Vol. 1, London, Printed for G. Fenton in the Strand.A 270-year-old erotic novel has been dropped from an 18th-century literature course syllabus for fear of offending students, The Times of London reported. Judith Hawley, a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, said the book, Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, was dropped after consultation with students. Fanny Hill, which was written by John Cleland and published in 1748, is considered to be the first erotic novel written in English.

“In the 1980s I both protested against the opening of a sex shop in Cambridge and taught Fanny Hill,” Hawley said during an interview with the BBC's Radio 4. “Nowadays I’d be afraid of causing offense to my students, both that I can understand why a senior academic imposing a pornographic text on the students would come across as being objectionable but also that the students would kind of slap me with a trigger warning in a way that I now kind of self-censor myself.”

According to The Times, the reading list for the course now comes with a trigger warning stating that Restoration and 18th-century texts “sometimes reflect the unpleasant prejudices of their time, just as they sometimes work to complicate or challenge those attitudes. Racism, sexual violence and self-harm were part of society then, as in different ways they are now.”

“It is important not to exaggerate claims that students are stifling free speech on campus,” said Hawley, who also reported hearing concerns from students about depictions of violence in other texts, including Shakespeare's King Lear. “We hope we have struck a balance between encouraging discussion of difficult issues without making life difficult for students who might feel coerced by academics.”

August 15, 2017

A recently released survey from the University of Phoenix finds the majority of working adults view college as a way to improve their careers.

The online survey of more than 1,000 adults who are employed at least 20 hours a week found that 38 percent are very satisfied with their current employed position. Forty-three percent said they were very satisfied with how their skills and abilities were being utilized by their employers, and 46 percent said they were fairly compensated.

The survey also found that two in five adults are very satisfied with their current level of education and 65 percent of Americans anticipate their current salary would increase if they were to achieve a higher level of education.

"As economic conditions continue to improve and job opportunities multiply, it's no surprise that Americans are taking notice and thinking more about how they can make headway in their careers," said Peter Cohen, president of the University of Phoenix, in a news release. "The road to recovery from a rougher job market has been long and challenging, but workers are now in a position to seek out advancement or even new careers altogether by strengthening and adding to their skills through education."

August 15, 2017

Adam Levine, of the band Maroon 5, may not have ever stepped foot on the campus of Clarion University in Pennsylvania. But The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the university is enjoying attention he brought it by wearing a Clarion T-shirt while accepting an award Sunday night on the nationally televised Teen Choice Awards. The shirt surprised many and was cheered by students and alumni, who asked about any connection between the singer and the university. The student activities board apparently sent Levine the T-shirt a while ago, inviting him to perform on campus. He hasn't done that, but he kept the shirt.

August 15, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Brock Bastian, associate professor in the school of psychological sciences at the University of Melbourne, explores whether seeking something could be pushing it farther away. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 14, 2017

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August 14, 2017

Southern Methodist University has announced that it is largely backing down on a new policy on displays that would have prevented Young Americans for Freedom from setting up an annual memorial on Sept. 11, featuring American flags representing those killed, on a prominent campus lawn. (Photo at right shows the display in a previous year.) The university had said that it was barring such displays from the lawn and was instead providing an alternative, less prominent place. But the university reconsidered -- and announced its decision -- after widespread criticism. Student groups from across the political spectrum joined Young Americans for Freedom in criticizing the policy that would have barred the display.

August 14, 2017

The University of Arizona Museum of Art is celebrating the recovery of Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,” which was stolen from the museum in 1985. The painting was recently purchased at an estate sale by David Van Auker, owner of Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques in Silver City, N.M. He was unaware that the painting was famous, let alone that it had been stolen. But when people visiting his store asked if it was a de Kooning, he did some research, discovered what he had purchased and called the art museum, which retrieved the work and had it authenticated. A similar de Kooning work, part of the same series, sold in 2006 for $137.5 million. Above right, museum staff members with the painting.

Details on the recovery of the painting are available on the museum's website.

In 2015, 30 years after the theft, NPR ran a report on the mystery surrounding the painting's whereabouts.

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