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Higher Education Quick Takes
University police at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee Monday evening removed rainbow-colored nooses a student hung from a tree. The nooses were part of an art project for an introductory course focusing on yarn in art, according to a university statement. Police removed them, per a separate statement, “out of concern of hate symbolism and its potential impact to the campus.” The student, according to the university, supports the artwork's removal in light of backlash on campus and is “apologetic for the issues it caused.”
The noose that was hung is unacceptable. Idgaf if it was a project where you express yourself. She has other options! #Apsu-- •tiara• (@TeaTeee_) April 18, 2016
Many on campus, angered by the racial overtones of a noose on campus, said the project lacked artistic merit. Others suggested that the rainbow color of the nooses clearly invoked the issue of LGBTQ suicide, not racially motivated lynching.
According to a local reporter, who attended a campus town hall Tuesday, the student will not be disciplined. An FBI investigation found no hate bias and said the student was unaware of how the project would be perceived.
Gallup, with significant funding from USA Funds, will survey Americans on their higher education experiences and perspectives, with the goal of gleaning information that can increase college success, the two organizations announced Tuesday. The effort, unveiled at the ASU GSV Summit in San Diego, will survey 500 current and former students daily about such topics as whether they would recommend their educational path to others and the extent to which they use the skills they gained during their postsecondary experiences in their lives today. (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version.)
Hampshire College called off classes Tuesday afternoon to discuss issues raised in student protests. Students have demanded that the college sell off any investments in fossil fuels or private prisons. (The college says it has only the most marginal of investments in the former and none in the latter.) Students also demanded that the college improve the way it handles issues related to sexual assaults and racism on campus, and the college has pledged to review its policies and programs to make improvements.
The University of Mississippi is investigating a fraternity chapter for making sexist comments to sorority members during the fraternity's annual Derby Days charity event on Friday. A video of the event depicts Sigma Chi members asking a contestant in its Derby Days Queen competition if her nickname is "BJ" and what her "fondest memory of the Sigma Chi basement" is.
In a Facebook post, another sorority member, Abby Bruce, said women were also asked which Sigma Chi "they would go down on" and "what type of sausage would [they] prefer: linked or Sigma Chi?"
“I think the question all Panhellenic women at Ole Miss (and women everywhere, Greek or not) should be asking here is ‘why?’” Bruce wrote. “Why do we pay money to participate in these events to be humiliated? Why have we allowed ourselves to be objectified? Women’s fraternities were started as an empowerment movement. What happened?”
In a statement Saturday, the university said it had suspended all other Derby Days activities while the investigation moved forward.
“The university takes the report alleging a hostile environment very seriously,” Rebecca Bressler, director of Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance at the university, stated. “It is important that members of our community feel safe and supported -- actions that undermine that goal will not be tolerated.”
An assistant professor of outdoor studies at the University of Alaska Southeast was mauled by a bear during a mountaineering class on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The professor, Forest Wagner, was with a group of students on Mount Emmerich when he was attacked by a sow with two cubs. A student hiked down the mountain to notify authorities, since there was no cell phone service at the site of the attack. Students were safely removed from the mountain but the professor remained in the hospital in serious condition on Tuesday.
Duke University released its second statement Monday denouncing HB2, a controversial North Carolina law that restricts transgender citizens’ bathroom access and prevents local governments from passing antidiscrimination bills that would offer protections to gay and lesbian people.
Duke was among the first of a handful of private North Carolina universities, which are exempt from the new rules, to denounce HB2 as discriminatory.
Monday’s letter, from President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth, reiterated that position and cited direct academic impact from cities that have imposed travel bans to North Carolina and prospective students, faculty and staff hesitating to visit the campus. “These developments have the potential to limit the value that Duke and other colleges and universities contribute to the state, namely producing trained graduates and expanding the frontiers of knowledge,” the statement says. “In spirit and in letter, this new law runs counter to the ideals of Duke University -- and, we believe, to those of our great state. We urge a full repeal of HB2.”
In addition to many business that have expressed concern or outright halted projects in the state, several academic associations have also moved meetings out of North Carolina. At least two conferences scheduled to be hosted at Duke are considering moving, according to a Duke spokesman, though he declined to say which ones because they had yet to make a decision. At least another three or four people were prevented from visiting the campus due to bans in New York and California on using public funds for nonessential travel to North Carolina.
“I’d say we’re certainly noticing it -- it’s not a flood, but it’s certainly noticeable,” he said. “As we have had a chance to review [the law] and to understand and see the implication and also see the impact that it’s having on our community, we wanted to both restate our commitment to diversity, inclusion and tolerance … but also provide support to members of the Duke community and others around the state who have been most directly impacted.”
Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, on Monday announced that she was accepting a number of recommendations made by a panel that reviewed the way system campuses respond to allegations of sexual harassment by faculty members and administrators. But in a letter released by the university, she said more changes were needed and asked the panel to consider procedures that would, among other steps:
- Create a system to assure "a single investigation" for sexual harassment or sexual violence cases involving faculty members, to avoid multiple investigations that some fear are ineffective and duplicative.
- Set up "clear time frames" for resolving investigations and taking actions on their findings.
- Assure that relevant faculty committees can take action throughout the year to avoid unnecessary delays.
The Tennessee House of Representatives voted Monday to cut all state funds for a diversity office at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville that has angered lawmakers by sharing information about the pronouns preferred by transgender students and the diversity of holidays observed (or not observed) by students and faculty members, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The legislation would also bar the use of state funds for the annual Sex Week at the university, which already does not use state funds. The legislation would redirect state money that supports the diversity office to scholarships for minority engineering students, and decals that say "In God We Trust" to go on law enforcement vehicles. The Senate has not passed the legislation. Students are planning to protest the bill today.