Noticias relacionadas con la Innovación Educativa
As conflicts over campus speech have accelerated in recent months, most of the incidents have occurred outside the classroom. But a recent incident at Columbia University breached that wall.
Last week, a group of student protesters stormed a small class on sexuality and gender law to protest its instructor, Suzanne Goldberg. The Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia and an expert on sexuality and gender, Goldberg is also executive vice president of the Office of University Life. The office oversees aspects of the university’s sexual violence response and compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination and harassment in education.
“We are here today because despite the repeated efforts of student organizers, survivors at Columbia and Barnard [College] are still endangered by administrators like Suzanne Goldberg," says an undergraduate protester, Amelia Roskin-Frazee, in a video of the incident that has since been shared online. She further accused Goldberg of “proudly referring” to her experience as an LGBTQ rights lawyer “while continuing to create a dangerous environment for students, including queer students, on this campus.”
The video shows Goldberg repeatedly asking the students to leave, citing a university policy against disrupting core university functions. After about two minutes, the students depart, protest signs in tow.
Goldberg said through a spokesperson Tuesday that there are “many times in the day when I am glad to meet with students or hear students' views on university life issues, but interrupting a class is never acceptable.”
Disrupting a campus “function” even briefly is against university regulations. But Columbia officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday about whether the students involved in the protest would face disciplinary action.
Roskin-Frazee declined to comment other than to say she was one of a group of protesters. She sued Columbia earlier this year over its handling of her complaints about being raped twice in her dorm, in 2015, according to BuzzFeed. Among other concerns, Roskin-Frazee says she was not advised about her full rights under Title IX, that she was told she'd have to pay $500 to move out of her dorm and tell her parents why after the first attack, and that she was initially advised that Columbia could not investigate her report unless she could identify the alleged rapist (she could not).
Sharyn O’Halloran, George Blumenthal Professor of Political Economics and professor of international and public affairs at Columbia, and chair of the University Senate, said the senate does not respond to individual incidents. But she said that the body’s Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee this fall reaffirmed Columbia's commitment to freedom of expression in the classroom. That commitment includes professors' right to choose what they teach, and how -- presumably including the right not to be interrupted.
While a number of invited speakers have been shouted down on campuses recently -- perhaps most notably Charles Murray at Middlebury College, where a faculty organizer was injured in the fray -- classrooms have remained something of a sacred space. There are some exceptions, including a 2013 teach-in by graduate students over a professor’s alleged racial microaggressions at the University of California, Los Angeles. But they remain exceptions.
Will Creeley, senior vice president of legal and public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that could change, however, especially if students who interrupt classes in clear violation of campus policies are not held to account.
“Already this academic year, we’ve seen harassing tweets and emails sent to professors whose scholarship is controversial, and it’s all too easy to imagine classroom disruptions by students, alumni and members of the public becoming more common,” he said. “We really have to make sure that professors are not impeded in teaching their classes as they see fit.”
Creeley was reluctant to outline any kind of hierarchy of campus speech disruptions, but he said that classroom interruptions are perhaps more serious than those staged elsewhere, since they “in some ways strike more directly at the core function of the university.” While there’s nothing wrong with teach-ins to which professors have consented in advance, he said, it’s unacceptable to co-opt a class without permission.
Beyond threatening education, Creeley said that classroom interruptions threaten academic freedom, in that it’s a form of “vigilante decision making about who gets to learn and who gets to teach.”Academic FreedomThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyTitle IXImage Source: VimeoImage Caption: Suzanne Goldberg engages protesters who interrupted her law class at Columbia.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Since Christmas Eve, the tweets of George Ciccariello-Maher, associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University, have been subjected to scrutiny and criticism.
On Dec. 24, his tweet saying "All I want for Christmas is white genocide" went viral, with many of those forwarding it saying that Drexel should fire him. Drexel condemned the tweet but didn't fire Ciccariello-Maher. Now, however, after the professor's tweets and comments about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the university has placed him on administrative leave. The university says the issue is safety, but not everyone is buying that explanation.
Drexel's statement is as follows: "The safety of Drexel’s students, faculty, professional staff and police officers are of paramount concern to Drexel. Due to a growing number of threats directed at Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, and increased concerns about both his safety and the safety of Drexel’s community, after careful consideration the university has decided to place Professor Ciccariello-Maher on administrative leave. We believe this is a necessary step to ensure the safety of our campus."
Ciccariello-Maher posted a series of tweets after last week's Las Vegas mass shooting in which he noted that the shooter was a wealthy white man and said that he didn't think gun control, as advocated by liberals, would prevent such shootings. "To believe that someone who would shoot down 50 people wouldn't circumvent any gun law you pass is the height of delusion," he wrote.
But the attacks on the professor have focused on what he said was the cause of the tragedy in Las Vegas. Ciccariello-Maher made a series of tweets in which he blamed "Trumpism" and the entitlement of white men. "White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don't get what they want." he wrote. And "the narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years."
As has happened periodically in the last year, the tweets were mocked and attacked on conservative websites, and then the professor and the university started to receive email messages (many vulgar and some threatening), along with calls for his dismissal.
Ciccariello-Maher has said that his ideas are regularly distorted by his critics -- and that the Las Vegas killings show that the real killers in the United States are not those imagined by President Trump and others. In fact, he has said repeatedly that the reference to "white genocide" in his pre-Christmas tweet was understood by his academic colleagues as a joke, because he has said repeatedly that white genocide does not exist. In this column in The Washington Post, he elaborated on his tweets about Las Vegas and also noted that he is one of many scholars on the left who write about race whose dismissals are demanded by many on the right. His headline on the piece: "Conservatives Are the Real Campus Thought Police Squashing Academic Freedom."
In April, Ciccariello-Maher was again in the news when he tweeted about his reaction when he saw a passenger in first class give up his seat on a flight. "Some guy in first class gave up his seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I'm trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul." The reference to Mosul was to a March air strike by U.S. forces that The Washington Post reported "could potentially rank [as] one of the most devastating attacks on civilians by American forces in more than two decades."
In subsequent comments, Ciccariello-Maher said he wasn't trying to attack that particular solider, but to question the way many Americans make symbolic gestures of support for the military without examining military actions or demanding that the United States provide sufficient health care and support for other needs of veterans and active-duty military.
Throughout the various controversies, Drexel has criticized his statements and also said that the university was losing some prospective students and donors because of the furor over the tweets.
Over the months, many advocates for academic freedom have, while stressing that they didn't necessarily share Ciccariello-Maher's views or his use of rhetoric, said that the university should be standing up for his academic freedom with strong statements of support for his right of free expression.
Dakota Peterson, one of Ciccariello-Maher's students, said in an interview that he did not believe Drexel was being truthful about the safety issue. If that was the concern, Peterson said, why hasn't the university reached out to him and other students to check on their safety?
"We have a right to our professor in our class," he said. Peterson is currently taking a course on race and politics from Ciccariello-Maher.
As for Ciccariello-Maher, he is also questioning Drexel's action, even if there are real threats.
"Drexel has put me on administrative leave, citing threats of violence, but I am optimistic that this decision -- harmful to myself and to my students -- will be reversed," he said via email. "Obviously, allowing the mere existence of threats [to] dictate the limits of academic freedom is not acceptable."Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: George Ciccariello-MaherIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
A Texas Tech University police officer was fatally shot Monday night, and a student has been arrested for the killing. The student, Hollis A. Daniels, is 19 years old and did not have his firearm registered with Texas Tech, which the university requires under the state’s campus carry law. Daniels was also likely running afoul of the law since he isn’t 21 years old, another requirement, although there are exceptions for veterans and members of the military.
Still, the slaying has renewed the debate about the controversial 2015 law that allows concealed carry permit holders to bring guns on campus, and loose gun laws in the state as a whole. Texas's campus carry law was adopted against the wishes of higher education leaders in the state, who argued that colleges are safer when police officers are the only ones armed.
On Monday afternoon, Daniels was brought into the Texas Tech police station after officers found evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia in his dorm during a “welfare check.” During a news conference that was live-streamed by the local NBC affiliate, Texas Tech Police Chief Kyle Bonath said that officers were called to Daniels’s dorm after receiving reports of a student acting erratically and “reported to be in possession of a weapon.”
While in the police station, Daniels pulled out a gun and fatally shot an officer, Bonath said. At the brief news conference, during which Bonath and university President Lawrence Schovanec did not take questions, it was not addressed how Daniels was able to bring a gun inside the police station, or why he wasn’t handcuffed -- questions being raised by many in Texas. After the shooting, Daniels fled the scene and the university went on lockdown for about an hour and 15 minutes until he was apprehended. While the university was on lockdown, the Texas Tech Student Counseling Center alerted authorities that Daniels’s family had called to report the student might be in possession of a weapon and having suicidal thoughts.
Daniels has been in the custody of the Lubbock, Tex., police department since Monday night on a murder charge, and classes continued as usual Tuesday. Campus vigils for the officer, identified Tuesday as Floyd East Jr., were scheduled to be held Tuesday night.
Police said Daniels confessed to shooting the officer when he was apprehended.
“I want to convey to the wife of Officer East, their two daughters and their extended family our heartfelt condolences, and to assure them that they are in our prayers,” Schovanec said during the news conference.
Campus Carry in Texas
Daniels was not legally permitted to have a gun in his dorm due to his age and lack of a concealed carry permit. Texas’s concealed carry law, which went into effect in August 2016, allows for the concealed carry of firearms on campuses and in most buildings for those who have a permit. The minimum age for a permit is 21, with exceptions for current members and veterans of the military.
Universities can put some regulations in place regarding campus carry, including ones regarding dorms. Texas Tech spokesman Chris Cook said that Talkington Hall, where Daniels lived, was one of the four dorms where campus carry is permitted, although gun owners are required to register their firearms with the university, which Daniels didn’t do.
The laws do, however, open up campuses to more firearms being carried legally, leading some gun-control advocates to cite the shooting as a reason to speak out against campus carry and more permissive gun laws at large.
"The truth is, like millions of Americans, we’re frustrated,” the Texas Democratic Party said in a statement. “We’re tired of hearing ‘thoughts and prayers’ from politicians who avoid conversations about real solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”
The party originally made a post on Twitter condemning campus carry laws in the wake of the incident, but later deleted the tweet and apologized when it became clear that Daniels's possession of his firearm on campus was likely illegal. However, the Democratic Party also said that gun-control advocacy is still a critical issue. The party’s statement said that only law enforcement officials should be able to have firearms on campus, and “sensible gun laws can do something about America’s shameful gun violence.”
“We’re tired of politicians shrugging tragedy off,” the statement read. “We’re tired of seeing Americans die.”
Quinn Cox, a junior at the University of Texas, Austin, and the Southwest region director for Students for Concealed Carry, said that conversations about campus carry were irrelevant to Monday’s shooting, since Daniels was afoul of the law, having a firearm in his dorm under the circumstances he did.
“Before Aug. 1, 2016, this would be a felony,” he said. “After Aug. 1, it is still a felonious act to have an unlicensed weapon on campus, to carry a weapon on campus that’s unlicensed.”
Although the law has faced resistance -- including a lawsuit from professors at the University of Texas, Austin, which has since been dismissed by the judge -- a Houston Chronicle analysis found mixed evidence on how much campus carry has or hasn’t changed campus life.
Cox said he hasn’t noticed a change in campus climate since the law was enacted -- not even, he pointed out, during “one of the most contentious presidential races in recent memory” -- which critics feared might stifle peaceful debate among students and faculty if some of them were armed. On the other hand, The Houston Chronicle reported an instance of a professor at a public university in Texas moving office hours to a public space out of concerns of being alone with a student who might be carrying.
In the first year since the law went into effect, at least 20 Texas universities had no gun-discharge incidents or reports of intimidation with a firearm, the Chronicle’s review found. More than a dozen had at least one gun-related report, including aggravated robbery and an accidental discharge in a dorm.
Lone Star College Police Chief Paul Willingham, speaking to the Houston Chronicle, called those incidents “rare.”
Mia Carter, an associate professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin, and one of the plaintiffs in a now-dismissed lawsuit aimed to stop the campus carry law from going into effect, said that campus carry and the U.S. gun laws as a whole are intertwined.
"These kinds of preventable deaths are part of the litany of tragedies that are smaller scale than mass shootings, but part of the everyday fabric of this country’s abundant gun culture," she said in an email. "Our students and young people need support, they need readily available mental health services; they deserve safe spaces on campus and in the classroom in which they can bloom and grow, can fearlessly develop their own values and scholarly and intellectual passions."
Sue Riesling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said that the association did not see a link between campus carry and Monday's shooting.
"Regardless of whether the state or this institution had a policy one way or another, if the individual possessed a firearm, he would have been possessing it illegally," she said.
East was the 45th campus public safety officer to die on the job since 1923, according to the association's records. He was the second officer to die on the job this year, Riesling said, and there were two officers killed in 2016 as well. While cases of campus officers being killed on the job -- much less students killing campus officers -- are relatively rare, “it’s a reminder that it’s a constant possibility,” Gwen Fitzgerald, an association spokeswoman, said in an email.Editorial Tags: CrimeImage Caption: Hollis A. DanielsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
College students might appreciate free speech in the abstract, but question them on more granular issues, and their support softens, according to a new survey.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a prominent civil rights watchdog group, released the results of its new survey on student free speech Wednesday, a summary of the opinions of 1,250 students at two- and four-year institutions across the country.
While most students supported the principles of campus free expression, some of their answers seemed to contradict this in some way. For instance, while 93 percent of the students indicated that colleges should invite a variety of guest speakers to campus, 78 percent of those students who identified on the political spectrum as “very liberal” believe that invitations should be rescinded in some cases -- 38 percent of “very conservative” students also backed an invitation being withdrawn in certain circumstances.
About 69 percent of students over all thought that a speaker should be disinvited if they have made racist comments.
Most students indicated they wouldn’t try to block an event in any way -- about 5 percent said they would take down fliers advertising a speaker, 4 percent said they might try to stop other students from attending a talk, 2 percent would try to disrupt an event with noise and only 1 percent said they might resort to violence.
“We’ve seen more students prone to using disruptive actions, and we did not find that” in the survey, Nico Perrino, FIRE’s communications director, said of recent incidents on college campuses. “It may have been that we’re seeing a vocal minority. That statistic to me is heartening.”
Shouting down controversial speakers has of late become much more common on campuses. At Texas Southern University Monday, a conservative Texas state lawmaker, Representative Briscoe Cain, was unable to address students after a protest drowned him out. The president of the University of Oregon, Michael Schill, couldn’t give his State of the University address last week after student protests interrupted him, and late last month, at the College of William & Mary, students associated with Black Lives Matter blocked an American Civil Liberties Union official from speaking.
About 28 percent of students who consider themselves Democrats believe they shouldn’t have to encounter a protest on campus, compared to about 60 percent of self-described Republicans, the survey found.
Students were also split on hate speech, which hasn't been legally defined by the Supreme Court; attempts to censor hate speech via the judicial system have generally failed.
Though nearly half of the students indicated they understood that hate speech was protected under the First Amendment, about 31 percent felt that it shouldn’t be. Right-leaning students favored hate speech being protected, while liberal students did not.
FIRE has always been concerned about this type of censorship, said Perrino, though the results of its survey were unsurprising to him.
“It just means that FIRE and other organizations that support these principles need to do a better job educating and talking to students and explaining why this is important, and also what they mean for students,” he said.
The survey relied on similar methodology as another study on free expression conducted by the Brookings Institution that was published last month. Brookings’s work was criticized for using an “opt-in” model that some pollsters said did not properly capture a representative sample of college students. The Brookings survey was also attacked for its timing -- students were asked about their thoughts on free speech around the time when white supremacists held a deadly demonstration at the University of Virginia campus and in the city of Charlottesville, Va., prompting national discussion of these issues.
Perrino said FIRE was pleased its survey seemed to match the results of other studies, such as one from Gallup and the Knight Foundation issued last year.
“I would say we should always look at these surveys with a critical eye,” he said. “But the way FIRE conducted our survey has matched the way other organizations have done these surveys. We did our best to be as representative as possible. We can never be perfectly representative, but don’t see our survey as having glaring deficiencies that should result in people outright dismissing it.”
This survey was paid for with part of a $2.5 million grant to FIRE from the John Templeton Foundation, a religiously affiliated group traditionally dedicated to exploring scientific and theological research. FIRE intends to conduct two more surveys, one about students’ opinions on due process, and a second one on free speech. FIRE has already published a ranking of top institutions' due process protections.
Some of the other survey findings:
- About 92 percent of students believe that it is important to be a part of a campus where they’re exposed to ideas other than their own.
- When students hear an opinion they disagree with in class, about 60 percent said they would attempt to understand their classmates’ views -- 28 percent said they might avoid future interactions with the person with a dissenting opinion, but only 5 percent thought the person shouldn’t have expressed it.
- Almost half of students said they would avoid a person whose opinion they found offensive, and exactly half said they would avoid someone who had been racist.
- About 64 percent of students said they had changed their attitude or thoughts about a topic after hearing a guest speaker.
- Nearly half of Democratic students said they would want their institutions to reject racist, homophobic or sexist speakers. About 43 percent of those liberal students said they would want their university to take away an invitation to President Trump to speak.
- With qualitative answers, FIRE determined that about 13 percent of students associate hate speech with violence.
ResearchGate, a popular tool used by scholars to share their work, is taking down many researchers' work, apparently in response to demands from publishers.
Last week a group of scholarly publishers signaled that they had had enough of ResearchGate.
The networking site, which enables researchers to easily upload and share their (sometimes publisher copyrighted) research papers, has been the target of publishers' ire for some time, but now it seems the situation has escalated, with some publishers threatening legal action.
In a statement on Oct. 5, the Coalition for Responsible Sharing said that the publishers had been “left with no other choice but to take formal steps to remedy the illicit hosting of millions of subscription articles on the ResearchGate site” after their attempts to find a compromise with ResearchGate failed.
The Scholarly Kitchen, which interviewed James Milne, senior vice president of the American Chemical Society and chair of the coalition, about these “formal steps” reported that more than 100,000 take-down notices would be issued to ResearchGate by the group in an “initial batch.” The coalition noted however, that sending millions of take-down notices was “not a viable solution,” adding that “sending large numbers of take-down notices on an ongoing basis will prove highly disruptive to the research community.”
In addition to the take-down notices, two members of the coalition are exploring their legal options. Science reported that ACS and Elsevier had sued ResearchGate in a regional court in Germany, where ResearchGate is based.
By Tuesday, it seems that ResearchGate had responded. The coalition published a statement saying that it had noticed a “significant number” of copyrighted articles had been removed from public view on the site. “ResearchGate has not shared any information with the coalition about this change,” said a statement. “Nonetheless, we welcome this if it is a first step towards operating ResearchGate’s service in copyright compliance.”
Asked how many papers had been taken down, a representative of the coalition said that its members didn’t know specific numbers, and repeated that ResearchGate had not provided the coalition with any details. ResearchGate declined to comment for this article.
Lisa Hinchliffe, librarian and professor at the University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has been blogging about the publishers’ battle with ResearchGate, said it was not surprising that the site responded quickly to the take-down notices. “I imagine this is a relatively regular event for ResearchGate, as it seems to be for any content platform -- whether it hosts popular content (e.g., YouTube) or scholarly (e.g., the Social Science Research Network).”
Hinchliffe said that she had not yet heard from any researchers who had their work taken down but said she expected those who discovered their work missing to speak out. “Given how vocal scholars have been whenever take-down notices resulted in removal of content from other platforms like SSRN or Academia.edu, I would expect to see reports from scholars if their content was being affected.” On Twitter late yesterday evening, some scholars started to report that their work had been set from public to “private share mode” rather than being removed completely. One researcher asked if it was time to panic.
Kevin Smith, dean of libraries at the University of Kansas, said that he would expect researchers to receive a formal notice from ResearchGate before any articles were removed from the site. He added that many researchers may have uploaded the final copyrighted version of their research without realizing they were in violation of their publishing agreement. “Many researchers just think of their research as theirs,” he said. Often publishers only allow researchers to share original versions of their manuscripts after an embargo period; the sharing of final published versions of articles is typically restricted.
Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication at the J. Willard Marriott Library of the University of Utah, said that the question of whether ResearchGate is in the wrong for allowing researchers to share their work “is complicated.” While few could object to the idea of creating a platform for sharing research, Anderson noted that often authors do not have the legal right to decide to make their work freely available on sites like ResearchGate, as in many cases they have assigned their copyright to the publisher.
Daniel Himmelstein, a biodata scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who is an advocate for open access, said that he hoped that ResearchGate removing researchers’ papers from view might force academics to “understand the consequences of signing away their rights” to publishers. While Himmelstein said he didn’t want individual researchers to face legal consequences for sharing copyrighted material (as has happened to Colombian researcher Diego Gómez) he said he had encountered “many researchers who are apathetic regarding open access.” He also noted that researchers should not become too reliant on one system of sharing research, as “access can be cut off overnight” when publishers start enforcing their intellectual property rights. “It’s important that researchers don’t have a false sense of ease regarding the work they abdicate rights for.”
Looking forward, Anderson said that a simple solution to the problem would be “for everyone involved to respect each other’s copyrights … There’s no reason why ResearchGate can’t operate lawfully and be used lawfully by authors. Unfortunately, using it lawfully takes effort, whereas using it unlawfully is super easy.” While it's unlikely that researchers would be held personally liable for breaching copyright by sharing research articles on ResearchGate, Anderson warned that researchers “should be careful not to make work publicly available without permission.”Editorial Tags: LibrariesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Political scientists see the discipline's historical division across four subareas as hindering their ability to understand Trump's America
President Trump’s rise to power prompted numerous think pieces from political scientists about the virtues (or lack thereof) of political neutrality in the classroom. But beyond questions about teaching and personal opinion, political scientists are also asking how they should study political science today. Namely, they’re asking whether the discipline’s traditional structure -- semi-siloed subfields including American politics, comparative politics (everyone else), political theory and international relations -- works in the age of Trump.
“For those of us who have been studying this country, it’s been remarkably stable over time,” said Suzanne Mettler, the Clinton Rossiter Professor of Political Institutions at Cornell University and co-author of a new paper on Trumpism and democracy; the article is an outgrowth of a workshop Mettler, an Americanist, and colleagues held at Cornell in June to promote dialogue across political science subfields -- a central message of the new paper.
While democracy “is always a work in progress and it always has its fits and starts, across our lifetime it has seemed to be on an upward trajectory, or improving. And now I think many people have concerns about that trend going forward,” Mettler said. “Some of us have realized we can’t understand the U.S. if we only the study the U.S. We need to put it in a comparative context … Americanists and comparativists can really learn from each other.”
Talking with colleagues who study Latin America, for example, she said, gives insight into the rise and decline of democracies, and which features of a political system promote or stave off what Mettler called “democratic backsliding.” Presidential systems paired with intense partisan divides such as we have now historically drive democratic instability, she said.
“Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the U.S.,” Mettler’s new paper, was uploaded a little over a month ago to Social Science Research Network, and its abstract already has been viewed close to 4,000 times. That’s no small feat for an academic article, suggesting Mettler and her co-authors -- a group of four political scientists representing different subfields -- have tapped into some undercurrent among political scientists.
The essay attempts to define Trumpism through a historical and comparative lens. Talking heads aside, it essentially concludes that political polarization within a two-party presidential system, status and class concerns with regard to political enfranchisement, and the erosion of democratic norms at the top of the political food chain and among the masses do in fact pose an existential threat to American democratic order.
Not in Kansas Anymore
“By treating the U.S. as a self-enclosed and fundamentally unique instance of democracy, we neglect the knowledge we have gained about regime change, stability and transition from other countries where these challenges have arisen more frequently,” the paper reads. “Pairing the comparative perspective with our historical and development perspective strengthens what we can learn from each. Although we gain contextual perspective by exploiting variation within the U.S., geographical blinders impose limits on inference and explanation.”
If political scientists cannot articulate “what is both common and distinctive about a political phenomenon, how it is similar to and how it differs from varieties of the same phenomenon elsewhere,” the paper continues, “what hope do we have of observing it clearly, measuring it precisely or explaining it convincingly? In the extreme, the presumption that a country’s politics is unique and thus not susceptible to comparison -- as in the presumption of ‘American exceptionalism’ -- becomes a self-fulfilling axiom.”
In an interview, Mettler didn’t propose the dissolution of subfields but urged more collaboration across them. That’s because the political threads of Trump’s election both predate his candidacy and will outlast his presidency, she said. Put another way, American politics aren’t likely to get any less paradigm challenging any time soon.
Mettler’s collaborators and co-authors are Tom Pepinsky and Ken Roberts, professors of comparative political science at Cornell, and two professors of American political development: Robert Lieberman, of Johns Hopkins University, and Richard Valelly, of Swarthmore College. Over all, their project aims to wed comparative analytical approaches with historical and developmental approaches to studying American politics, Mettler said, “enabling us to assess recent developments against earlier instances of democratic stress and to identify how processes of change have given rise to the present moment.”
A Growing Movement?
A number of other scholars elsewhere are also working in clusters toward more collaboration across subdisciplines, to better understand the political moment. Anna Grzymala-Busse, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, is currently organizing a conference on the rise of global populisms, for example. The institute’s Global Populisms project centers on the rise of global populist movements and the threats they pose to liberal democracies, from those in Latin America in the 1990s to postcommunist democracies in the 2000s and beyond.
Grzymala-Busse, a comparativist, said she knows of many political scientists “who are concerned both as citizens and as scholars with the threats to democracy and the rise of antidemocratic movements, parties and politicians.” But rather than any movement to abolish existing subfields, she said, there’s more of a “new recognition that Americanists and comparativists, especially, really need to talk more.”
Sharing a bit of what she called “comparativist Schadenfreude,” Grzymala-Busse said Americanists have “long thought” their subject of was unique and therefore demanding of a distinct set of analyses. Yet to many comparativists, she said, “what is currently happening in the U.S. is depressingly familiar.” Moreover, she said, “assumptions about the stability and unique dynamics and institutions of the U.S. have blinded scholars to the ways in which the U.S. is not immune, and subject to the same forces.”
Grzymala-Busse said that even before Trump, political scientists had been more willing to work across subfields, especially with respect to co-authorship and methodological approaches. Still, she said, while comparativists in particular know “quite a bit about authoritarian systems, why and how they are durable, and the ways in which they function,” they need to know “why a popular commitment to liberal democracy is not universally shared.”
American Democracy in Comparative Perspective
Also at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, Didi Kuo manages the program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective. The program focuses on problems with American government, such as declining trust and political inequality, as part of a broader look at the challenges facing Western democracies, she said; suggested reforms for the U.S. are inspired in part by reforms that have proven successful elsewhere.
The program not only encourages dialogue across subdisciplines but also dialogue across professions through its conferences. Topics covered include electoral systems, lobbying and campaign finance, budgeting, and bureaucracy. The program also has partnered with Central European University in Hungary, a current target of that country’s illiberal democratic regime.
“All of us involved with the Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective think the demarcation between American and comparative politics is fuzzy,” Kuo said -- hence the program's name. Even the center’s Americanist faculty members do comparative work, she added, and the “rest of us are comparativists who have long believed that the U.S. should be considered a case in comparative analysis.”
Kuo said American politics as a subfield has long been “dominated by formal and quantitative methods and a singular focus on one country.” Calling her group’s program an “early adopter, if not perhaps a pioneer” of the idea that an Americanist approach to contemporary problems can only go so far, she said that political scientists today “need explicitly comparative analysis.”
Scholars of American political development -- a branch of American politics to which Mettler subscribes -- actually have more in common with comparativists than Americanists, Kuo ventured. Why? Both scholars of American political development and comparativists try to answer “big questions about historical processes,” Kuo said, “and look at the complex interplay of structural and institutional factors that influence contemporary outcomes.”
Addressing the “big questions” posed by Trumpism in particular -- such as the durability of American democratic institutions, the question at the heart of Mettler’s and her colleagues’ paper -- Kuo said American political development scholars can help contextualize the current period of populism, nativism and inequality (none of which, she said, are new). Comparativists, meanwhile, can help “us understand democratic rollback and institutional brittleness, among other things.”
Going forward, Kuo said she hoped more political scientists would realize the usefulness of working across subfields, not only to understand what’s happening now but to lay out a research agenda that can “adequately address” the challenges that even advanced democracies now face.
To that point, Mettler’s paper on Trumpism says that looking ahead, “politics will matter, spanning all three of our dimensions, in ways that are hard to predict. The defense of norms and institutions of inclusive citizenship will be exceptionally important as we go forward, for example, as will debates about how to address the corrosive effects of rising inequality. Indeed, all of the norms and institutions [will] require defense and renewal. The very scope of the challenge underscores the gravity of the current moment -- and the need to be open to lessons from other national and political histories that once seemed of little relevance to the American experience.”
Other initiatives include the Bright Line Watch, which was established earlier this year by four political scientists to highlight the risks to the American system of government. Kurt Weyland, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, and Raúl Madrid, another professor in the department, earlier this year hosted a conference on their campus called "President Trump's Populism: Lessons from Europe and Latin America."
Benjamin Knoll, John Marshall Harlan Associate Professor of Politics at Centre College, who has written about the challenges of teaching in the Trump era, said he doesn't expect a major paradigm shift or the doing away with subfields altogether. But he agreed that “more cross-field work is needed between Americanists and comparativists in order to better understand Trumpism and its effects.”
That assessment is based on his experiences at Centre, where Knoll focuses on American politics.
“This last year has forced me to branch out to the comparative politics subfield to try to make sense of the Trump presidency,” he said, noting that he’s teaching himself about comparativist concepts such as democratic consolidation and democratic backsliding, along with democratic transitions in other countries.
“Now in my American politics courses,” he said, “I can no longer take it as a given that the American government or its citizens widely agree on the basic premises of liberal democratic principles and norms.”2016 ElectionResearchFacultyEditorial Tags: Political sciencePolitics (national)Image Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
David Greenberg often receives more emails than he knows what to do with. And as a history and journalism professor specializing in American politics, he often gets emails from high school and middle school students, who are sometimes required to contact historians for projects.
Yet a recent email, received at the end of last week, seemed too peculiar to let go without a response.
“It was odd,” said Greenberg, who teaches at Rutgers University.
The email in question, sent from a Gmail account, was from someone who said she was a high school student considering pursuing an undergraduate degree in history. She told Greenberg how she had been reading the German historian Leopold von Ranke and wondered what Greenberg thought about the objectivity of history -- an area von Ranke wrote on in the 19th century -- and whether history could be “a scientific and objective discipline,” according to a copy of the email.
Greenberg thought it was unlikely that a high schooler was reading original work from von Ranke, and the question struck him as odd in general. In an effort to be “polite, but brief,” he directed her to other reading on the matter, much like he would assign reading to a student.
“This is a question I have thought a lot about, but to give you an answer that fully reflects my thinking would take more time than I have right now,” he wrote. “Suffice it to say that it is an important and complex question, and I urge you to read the many great historians who have weighed in on this question over the centuries.”
It turns out, however, Greenberg wasn't the only one to receive the email. Professors and graduate students at at least six institutions received correspondence from the same email address. Some professors and historians even think the student might be a fictitious character made up as part of a right-wing trolling scheme, or part of an effort to catch “liberal professors” in an embarrassing trap. Even if the student in question -- who did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the Gmail address used to contact the professors -- is just an kid doing research, in an age of "fake news" and partisan tension, historians are treading carefully.
James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said that his organization had become aware of the emails over the holiday weekend, and was planning a review of the situation -- and what to do when members are approached by unverified students and members of the public -- when staff returned Tuesday.
"This is one more reminder of the caution with which everyone should approach email and social media," he said in an email. "When I receive a query from someone claiming to be a student but without an institutional address, I ask the name of their school and teacher. If I do not receive a satisfactory response I end the conversation."
It was on Facebook that Greenberg noticed his peers had received similar emails. In one instance, the student had even sent graduate students at Harvard a link (which, as of Monday evening, was available here) to a survey asking for more detailed responses.
“At first one of my [Facebook] friends who is also [University of Texas, Dallas] faculty and I were wondering if this email might have originally come from someone at UTD, since we both got the email, but then when I learned of all the other schools getting it, it seemed to me that someone elsewhere must be casting a wider net,” Lora Burnett, a teaching fellow in history, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed.
What’s even more curious, Burnett pointed out on her blog, where she wrote about the incident, is that the University of Texas, Dallas, doesn’t have a formal history major, instead offering “historical studies.” So why would Burnett be of interest to a prospective history major, which the student claimed to be, Burnett thought. Unless, of course, the email is “fishing/trolling by a [right-wing] outlet looking to create a fake-scandal headline: ‘Liberal Professors Don't Believe in Objective Truth About Past’ or some such nonsense.”
“I wasn't altogether sure how to read this email,” Burnett wrote. “It's an unusual inquiry for a prospective student, and it seems odd that it's coming to me in particular. Even though my last name starts with a B, I'm not the first faculty member on the departmental directory listed as a history prof. Did the person send a customized email to every single historian? And if so, why?”
Despite her reservations, Burnett answered in earnest, thinking about her duties as a professor and her wish to help anyone who comes knocking.
“In the strict sense, science requires empirical observation/reporting of an experimental result that can be replicated or duplicated in identical conditions by another set of observers,” she wrote in an email to the student. “Since historical events cannot be recreated in the identical conditions [in] which they first occurred, it would be a mistake to consider history a nomothetic science. However, history is still deeply concerned with veracity, fidelity to facts and so forth.”
It was after Burnett posted about the episode on Facebook and on her blog, however, that she started to think that student wasn’t who she said she was.
“This was most definitely an insincere inquiry from someone who is emailing history profs and history grad students across the United States to get their views on objectivity,” Burnett wrote in an update to the original post. “Also, who reads von Ranke for fun?”
Other historians commented on her Facebook post as well, expressing their suspicion about the email.
“I got an email from [the student], as did the other graduate students in my program I mentioned it to,” John Gee, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, told Inside Higher Ed via email. “It's different from the other email, though, in that it doesn't mention Ranke and includes a link to a survey with questions about objectivity in the study of history. I think the basic idea is the same, though.”
Gee said he couldn’t be 100 percent sure if the email was malicious; he recalled a time when he and several graduate students had received a similar, though not suspicious, email out of the blue. At the same time, however, it wouldn’t be the first time graduate students got emails from less than well-meaning people, either.
“I don’t know if the email is a scam or not,” he said. “It certainly could be, but Harvard grad students might have received an email either way.”
Of course, some noted, it could just be an eccentric student doing research for a project. The only one who could perhaps answer the questions raised by the emails -- which were sent to institutions such as the New School, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Indiana University at Bloomington -- would be the student herself.
“I have no problem with a high school student or conservative group wanting to engage with scholars on their conceptions of objectivity, and if they believe we are wrong … so be it,” Greenberg said. “That’s a legitimate debate to have.”
“If there’s a false pretense, if someone is pretending to be someone they're not, that’s dishonest.”Editorial Tags: HistoryHumanitiesImage Source: WikipediaImage Caption: Leopold von RankeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
For years, big-time publishers have been skeptical of open educational resources, questioning their quality and durability. But one of those publishers, Cengage, is today announcing a new product line built around OER.
Cengage predicts that the use of OER -- free, adaptable educational course materials -- could triple over the next five years. In a report published last year, Cengage said that education and technology companies were ready to “embrace the movement” -- adding their own services and technology to create “value-added digital solutions that help institutions use OER to its best advantage.”
With OpenNow, Cengage is sending its clearest signal yet that it is serious about OER. Taking OER materials freely available online from sites such as OpenStax, Cengage has added its own assessments, content and technology to the materials, which will be delivered through an “intuitive, outcomes-based” platform that can be integrated into students’ learning management systems. Focusing on general education, OpenNow has launched with courses in psychology, American government and sociology, and more courses in science, economics and the humanities will be available this fall.
The "open" in OER is commonly understood to mean that content should be openly licensed. Accordingly, Cengage says that all written content in the OpenNow platform, including assessments and some materials that were previously under a Cengage copyright, will be registered under an open CC-BY license so that institutions can adapt and customize the content to meet their own needs.
Though the course content is ready to use “out of the box,” Cengage said that it can offer instructional design team services if desired. The OpenNow platform, and all its content, complies with Americans With Disabilities Act regulations.
Cheryl Costantini, vice president of content strategy for Cengage, said that the content in the OpenNow platform would be “available for anyone to use for free outside of our solution.” But for those who want to use the OpenNow platform, fees start at $25 per student per course. “The $25 is for the delivery of content that’s aligned to assessment and learning objectives, the additional assessments and videos we either curated or created, and the outcomes-based platform with personalization and analytics,” said Costantini.
The $25 price point is in line with prices charged by Lumen Learning, which has also developed proprietary OER courseware, and which could be a potential competitor for Cengage. Though obviously more expensive than finding OER content and providing it to students for free, Cengage said that the $25 price point was still affordable and would ensure access to high-quality materials. The average price point for Cengage’s other digital course-materials products is $80. Many general education courses have historically required the purchase of books that can easily top $100.
Asked why Cengage was choosing to move into the OER space now, Michael Hansen, Cengage CEO, said that the company is evolving to meet the needs of a changing market. “We respect that some of our customers want to use OER, and it has the potential to change the learning experience,” said Hansen. “OER offers pedagogical flexibility -- instructors can change it, remix it, improve it -- and students can actively contribute to it. This can make learning more engaging and effective. Giving our customers this flexibility, while providing students value, is a positive thing for everyone,” he said.
“Instructors aren’t just looking for affordable content; they want the ownership that comes with OER. But it takes time to find and vet OER content that is current and accurate,” added Costantini. She said that a pilot launched last year by Cengage, which blended OER and proprietary content, had taught the team a lot about working with OER. “We learned how to maintain and sustain this content. And we learned how to improve it and then give it back to the community,” she said.
Richard Baraniuk, the founder of OpenStax -- a nonprofit provider of free, peer-reviewed OER textbooks, which is based at Rice University -- said he supported publishers and companies taking OpenStax content and adapting it. “We actually feel great about it; OpenStax is 100 percent oriented toward helping students, so we’re in favor of any product or service that improves student learning and saves students money,” said Baraniuk.
Asked if he minded companies making money from OpenStax content, Baraniuk said he didn’t have a problem with companies charging for content they had added value to. He noted that while OpenStax does have several relationships with companies and publishers that provide OpenStax with a revenue stream, there are no legal restrictions on companies wishing to take OER content and build on it.
Phil Hill, the co-publisher of the blog e-Literate and a partner at MindWires Consulting, said he was not surprised by Cengage’s OER announcement. “If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Cengage has been saying for at least a year that they wanted to get into this space,” he said. Hill says he was surprised, however, at how aggressively Cengage seemed to be promoting OER with this announcement. “We’ve seen other publishers dipping their toes in, but this seems as if it is central to Cengage’s strategy.” He noted that the announcement could cause other publishers to accelerate their OER strategies. “The movement is not going away,” he said.
While previously OER might have been viewed as a threat to publishers who set high textbook prices, Hill said he thought there had been a shift in publishers’ opinion of OER “from threat to opportunity.” He noted that many problems faced by traditional publishers -- how to reduce prices, how to enable customers to customize content, how to ensure students have their materials on the first day of class -- were problems that OER can solve. “So why not use OER to solve them?” he asked.
And indeed other major publishers -- such as Macmillan Learning, Pearson and McGraw Hill -- have been talking about the benefits of using OER, offering help in doing so or adding business lines focused on OER.
Hill noted that the timing of the Cengage announcement -- just before the annual Open Education Conference in Anaheim, Calif. -- was interesting. “I think this is going to cause a lot of heads to spin in the OER community,” said Hill. “There are some who are antipublisher through and through, and others who don’t mind who provides OER, as long as they are following open principles and providing cheaper curriculum to students. It’s going to be really interesting to see what the receptivity to this news is at the conference.”
Nicole Allen, director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which supports the adoption of OER on campus, agreed that Cengage’s announcement signaled a shift in thinking of big publishers towards OER. “The traditional publishing industry has done a complete 180 on OER,” said Allen. While she said it was great that publishers were “getting with the program,” she said it was important for consumers to keep asking questions.
“It’s one thing to brand something as open, and another thing for it to actually be open,” Allen said. “As OER has gained momentum, more and more companies want to attach themselves to the idea of being open. But for each product that’s launched, we need to keep asking questions. Is it really open, or is it just being branded as open? Open is not just a set of attributes, it’s a set of values and practices that make education better.”Editorial Tags: TextbooksIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
A student’s art exhibit at University of Pennsylvania has stirred the campus after some accused her of exploiting suicide for the project.
Complicating matters is Penn’s history with student suicide -- the university has dealt with a series of high-profile cases in the last couple of years, and one suicide was Aug. 31, leaving some students raw and sensitive to the subject.
In a hallway of the university’s Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall hang posters with barely discernible names etched onto the sheets of Mylar. Only when they’re raised, lifted by hand or with the breeze of passersby do the sheets cast a shadow of the name on the wall underneath -- 14 Penn students who ended their lives over the last five or so years.
Senior Kate Jeon wrote in a statement accompanying her work for an advanced typography class that the art serves as a metaphor for the invisible battle of depression. Jeon couldn’t be reached for further comment, but wrote, “With each passing, are we taking time to consider how to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again? Every day, we ask each other, ‘How are you?’ and are content with the mindless answer, ‘I’m good.’ Are we asking that question out of habit or from a genuine curiosity to see how the other person is doing?”
Jeon wanted to set up her project outdoors but was denied permission to do so by university officials, said her instructor, David Comberg, a senior lecturer. He said the rejection by the institution to install it outside becomes part of the backstory of the project -- he lets students negotiate such details. He said the officials were “professional” to deal with, though they made it clear they wouldn’t support Jeon’s initial plans.
Administrators did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Comberg said the nature of Jeon’s work concerned and offended some on campus.
Comberg said that although some criticized it for manipulating the campus’s grief, he still supports Jeon’s work.
“That somehow she was careless in using in the names the way she did, well, I still stand by her project, despite that it is offensive to some people. And we’re mindful of the fact it might trigger somebody, but this is important, this is an art project, a design project,” he said. “We felt that it was an expression, quite touching and sensitive, not unlike the names listed at memorial sites, like at the Sept. 11 museum.”
Comberg has assigned this project for four years. Students pick some sort of issue -- the perpetual speediness at which society moves, rape, sexuality in media -- and illustrate it. This is the first time a piece has received such great criticism.
At one point, someone printed out responses to the exhibit on sheets of paper and placed them right under the posters -- in big, bold capitals, one read, “DO NOT APPROPRIATE COLLECTIVE GRIEF FOR YOUR ART CLASS.”
Jeon wrote in a comment on the student-run news website, The Daily Pennsylvanian, “So cool to see people engaging with it.”
As demonstrated in the exhibit, Penn has seen a number of students die by suicide in recent years.
Nicholas Moya, a former president of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, took his life on Aug. 31. His fraternity wrote on Facebook that he “embodied the main [tenets] of our brotherhood.” The Moya family requested donations to the Kyle Ambrogi Foundation, a group focused on promoting awareness of depression and suicide prevention and that provides scholarships to young athletes.
Another student, Madison Holleran, died in 2014 -- the track athlete was the subject of a book, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, by an ESPN columnist that explored the pressures of attending an elite institution such as Penn.
Such displays can walk a line between honoring suicide victims and glorifying the practice, said Lisa Adams Somerlot, the director of counseling at the University of West Georgia and the president of the American College Counseling Association.
Adams Somerlot said she personally found little issue with the project as it was described to her -- she likened it to the campaign in which empty backpacks are placed in well-trafficked area of campus to represent student lives lost to suicide, an exhibition endorsed by many suicide-awareness groups, she said.
Penn could have embraced Jeon’s display and used it to open up a conversation and programming around suicide -- a committee of student affairs representatives, administrators and her professor could have benefited the artist. She did note there are potential privacy issues with an institution publicly discussing late students who may have had mental-health problems.
She acknowledged that a fear is the contagion phenomenon -- studies have shown publicizing details of suicide can increase their number -- but that clamming up about the problem also can’t be a solution.
“I don’t know what’s worse -- is contagion worse, or is it worse to not talk about it?” Adams Somerlot said. “This project may be a way to get at that. Shoving the project away in a back hallway is maybe not the way to do it.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, confidential 24-7 service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).Editorial Tags: ArtsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.
On York College of Pennsylvania's website, information about the college's art galleries describes programming at the college as "free and open to the public."
For an exhibit wrapping up, however, the public is not invited. In an unusual move for a college museum (or museums generally) York has restricted attendance to those who are students, faculty and staff members of the college, and selected invited guests. The public hasn't been invited.
Pamela Gunter-Smith, the president of York, said in an interview Monday that she learned about the race-focused exhibit only a week before it was to open -- shortly after the violence that accompanied the August march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. She said that the decision to go ahead with the exhibit, but close it to the general public, was for her “as a woman of color, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t” decision.
The exhibit, “Rewind,” is by Paul Rucker, a Baltimore artist whose work focuses on the racism he sees as a black man in society and history. The exhibit features a mix of artistic creations, such as a series based on Ku Klux Klan robes, but in colors and patterns that will surprise those expecting white only. There are also images of lynchings and artifacts, such as a branding iron used on runaway slaves who were captured. Some of the artifacts include the use of racist language, such as a cartoon from 1860 called "The Nigger and the Tiger."
Anyone reading the background material would know that the exhibit is intended to remind people about racism, and to condemn racism. And the college has organized a series of lectures and events to provide what Gunter-Smith calls "the context" for the art.
She added that the exhibit "is very provocative, and elicits very strong emotions." She said she was confident that the college could provide the necessary guidance and information to its students. But she wasn't sure that would be the case with members of the public.
Had Charlottesville not happened, Gunter-Smith said, she might not have had the same concerns she did when "Rewind" was about to open. "When the exhibit came to us, it was not a usual time."
And Gunter-Smith added that, in weighing options, "my No. 1 concern and obligation is to the students and this campus and the learning environment."
Hunter O'Hanian, executive director of the College Art Association, said via email that York's handling of the situation left him with questions.
"It’s curious why an educational institution would mount an exhibition that can only be seen by those with valid IDs and their guests," he said. "It seems they do not believe that the general public is capable of seeing the work and understanding the context in which it is presented. I’m not sure what information they have that leads them to believe their student body has more ability in handling the work than the general public. One also wonders what steps they have taken to provide the proper context for the work, if needed. It just doesn’t seem to make sense."
Rucker, the artist, said via email that he was pleased with the student response to the art and disappointed that the college had limited access to his work.
"The students at York have been amazing and supportive. They've come to the show and special events in large numbers," he said. "The frustration I have with the institution is deeply rooted in the missed opportunity, and the 'concern for safety' rooted in fear."
He said his art isn't designed to make people comfortable. "I do this work for the sake of dialogue and discussion. I'm not a commercial artist," he said.DiversityEditorial Tags: ArtsImage Source: Photo by Ryan StevensonImage Caption: Earlier installation of exhibit now at York CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 3Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Art About Racism: Closed to the Public
The University of Oregon is the latest higher education institution to have a major speech interrupted by protesters, with students -- including one with a megaphone and others with banners -- shutting down the State of the University speech Friday.
More than 1,600 miles away, officials at the University of Wisconsin are preparing to shift the balance of power if their university is faced with similar circumstances.
“Nothing about us, without us,” video shows the students chanting. Signs read “Take back our campus” and “CEO Schill,” a reference to university President Michael Schill.
The scene was similar to Virginia Tech’s State of the University speech earlier this month, where the president was interrupted by students protesting against the university’s employment of a graduate student accused of being a white supremacist. At the end of September, College of William & Mary students shouted down a speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The students at Oregon did not have a cohesive message, The Oregonian reported, but rather expressed a wide array of grievances, including issues with tuition.
“We are no official, established group here at the University of Oregon, we are simply the students,” Charlie Landeros, a student and organizer of the protest, told reporters Friday. “We’re here because we believe that the university inherently belongs to the students, and over the years, the university has been taken away from us. We say no more.”
The university said the protests crossed a line.
“The students are here exercising their right to free speech,” university spokesman Tobin Klinger told The Oregonian. “It’s unfortunate that the demonstration got to the point where it actually violated university policy in terms of demonstrations that hinder the university’s ability to do its work and function -- and this was a formal function.”
Protesters at Virginia Tech were escorted out by university security, which allowed the speech to go on. At Oregon, Schill -- who was to announce a $50 million anonymous gift -- had to take his speech to an online video after protesters effectively shut the event down.
The same day, however, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents passed a Republican-backed policy aimed at punishing students who disrupt campus speakers. Although the policy at the University of Wisconsin is aimed more at shielding outside speakers invited to campus, rather than university addresses, it’s an escalation in the students-versus-administration battles of free speech that have dominated media coverage of higher education for the last year.
The policy at Wisconsin leaves no doubt that the board there wants to see significant punishments for students who disrupt speeches: students found to be "disrupting the expressive rights of others" twice are to be suspended, and those who are found to have disrupted a speech a third time are to be expelled.
Offending students are those who engage in "violent or other disorderly misconduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others."
Politically conservative students have complained in recent years about their speakers being heckled and interrupted during campus speeches. In some cases, speeches have been shut down before they even happen, with universities citing safety concerns.
Protesters, however, have argued that they also have free speech rights, including the right to protest. On top of that, some of the speakers invited -- such as Milo Yiannopoulos or Ben Shapiro -- have expressed blatantly bigoted, and some say dangerous, views, which fall far outside the mainstream. Protesters have said that those views do not deserve to be heard.
“Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,” Wisconsin System President Ray Cross told the regents, according to the Associated Press. “If we don’t show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.”
Some, however, argued that the policy further suppresses free speech by punishing protests, and have accused the board of trying to win the favor of Republican lawmakers. The policy mirrors a GOP-backed bill in the statehouse.
Tony Evers, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican governor, Scott Walker, cast the only no vote against the policy, saying that it could put restrictions on protests that he said could be protected under the First Amendment. Walker, the AP noted, appointed all but two of the board’s 18 members.
“This policy will chill and suppress free speech on this campus and all campuses,” Evers said. Other Democratic leaders opposed the measure on the grounds that it was too broad and not defined narrowly enough.
It’s not clear if protesters at William & Mary, Virginia Tech and Oregon have been, or will be, punished by their respective universities. Klinger, of Oregon, told Inside Higher Ed that it was too early to tell what, if any, punishment might be handed out, and the university was still reviewing the incident. William & Mary students were found to be in violation of the student code of conduct, though officials last week declined to specify what, if any, punishment there would be. A Virginia Tech spokesman said students were not punished since they left the speech when asked to do so. But Wisconsin’s policy could pave the way for other boards to adopt similar policies.
“Who’s going to show up to a protest if they think they could be potentially expelled?” Democratic State Representative Chris Taylor, whose district includes the University of Wisconsin, told reporters at a Thursday news conference on the policy.Editorial Tags: CensorshipCollege administrationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Bruce Gilley’s eyebrow-raising essay in favor of colonialism has been scrubbed from the scholarly record, but not for any of the reasons cited by its critics. (Among them: that it was historically inaccurate, that it ignored the vast literature on colonialism and colonial-era atrocities, that it was rejected by three peer reviewers, and that Gilley himself requested it be pulled.)
Rather, the article has been withdrawn because the editor of Third World Quarterly, the journal in which it appeared, has received credible threats of violence. That’s according to a note posted online by journal's publisher, Taylor & Francis.
“Following a number of complaints, Taylor & Francis conducted a thorough investigation into the peer-review process on this article,” the note reads. “Whilst this clearly demonstrated the essay had undergone double-blind peer review, in line with the journal's editorial policy, the journal editor has subsequently received serious and credible threats of personal violence.”
The threats are linked with the publication of Gilley's piece, the statement says, and as the publisher, “we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.”
Third World Quarterly published Gilley’s essay, “The Case for Colonialism,” last month, prompting near-immediate criticism. Detractors charged that Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University, had selectively -- or at least insufficiently -- engaged the literature on colonialism to support his claims that those societies that have embraced their colonial legacies have fared better than those that haven’t. Critics also rejected Gilley’s argument for a limited return to colonialism in some instances.
“Aside from being wrong on the facts, articles like these merely perpetuate dubious justifications for U.S. military interventionism and long-term nation-building projects in distant lands with populations that resent foreign occupation,” wrote Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the libertarian Cato Institute’s defense and foreign policy department, for example. “We should expect more from scholarly journals.”
Some 15 members of Third World Quarterly’s editorial board -- nearly half the body -- resigned amid the controversy, saying that in addition to the article’s content, they objected to the publication process. Three separate peer reviewers had rejected the article, they said, so it remained unclear to them why the piece had eventually been published as an opinion-style essay anyway.
The journal’s London-based editor, Shahid Qadir, said that the essay, like all articles, did in fact go through double-blind peer review. Yet soon even Gilley asked for the article to be withdrawn, saying in a statement, “I regret the pain and anger that it has caused for many people.”
Taylor & Francis later said it was reviewing the matter in a “rigorous, methodical and measured way,” according to guidelines established by the international Committee on Publication Ethics. Those guidelines don’t prescribe one particular editorial process but do emphasize transparency in procedures. Through weeks of controversy, the publisher had not removed the article. Now that's changed.
Taylor & Francis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday, but its most recent statement about the essay’s withdrawal suggests that review process is complete. Yet the rationale for pulling the article has some concerned, since it seemingly legitimizes threats as a way of getting controversial journal articles withdrawn.
John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, told Inside Higher Ed that academic misconduct within an article itself is the only reason to remove it from the scholarly record.
“There's a real danger when we give into death threats, whether it's canceling speakers or censoring publications,” he said. “The obvious danger is to free expression. But it also creates a greater incentive to threaten, if people know that they can accomplish their goals by making a threat.” People are actually less safe as a result of giving in to threats, he added.
Qadir, who, like Gilley, did not respond to requests for comment, is far from the only academic to face death threats for their speech or actions in recent months. Of that trend, Wilson said that colleges, universities and police departments “need to make a much more concerted effort to identify people who make actual death threats and prosecute them.”
Death threats cause "serious trauma to the people who are the victims of them, and they have a severe chilling effect on free expression,” Wilson added, “and colleges ought to devote serious resources to punishing them rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on security every time a controversial figure comes on campus.”
Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, wrote in a post for Minding the Campus that more people have read Gilley’s article as a result of the controversy than ever would have without it. Nevertheless, he said, the problem “lies in the successful deployment of professional opprobrium and actual threats of murder to kill the article. That success was ultimately aimed at ensuring that other scholars who dissent from the contemporary orthodoxy of anti-colonialism will keep their mouths shut.”
He added, “It is further aimed at ensuring that generations of students will see no whisper of dissent from this orthodoxy in the published literature, and hear no hint of it from their instructors.”
Calling many presidents who have responded to similar controversies concerning scholars on their campuses “feckless,” Wood wrote that presidents tend to “offer a false equivalence between the right of a faculty member to say something ‘controversial’ and the spurious ‘right’ of other faculty members to threaten and intimidate that person. There is no such right.”
In the context of academe, he added, “disagreement must be grounded in arguments and evidence, not in menace.”
Calling on Portland State to implore Taylor & Francis to restore the article, Wood also suggested that deans and provosts match the names of potential faculty hires against the list of thousands of signatories to petitions against Gilley’s essay.
“Signing such petitions, after all, is a public declaration of hostility to the very principles that the university say are ‘bedrock,’” he wrote. “A candidate’s name on such a petition at least raises a question of whether such a person is to be relied on to uphold the standards of a free intellectual community.”
Responding to Wood in a blog post for “Academe,” Wilson called his latter suggestion an “extraordinarily alarming and disturbing call for a blacklist … Professors should be judged on their academic credentials, not their political views (including whether or not they support someone’s view of academic freedom).”
Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University who helped organize one of the petitions for retraction, said via email she, too, has faced “considerable attacks and abuse for my involvement in this debate, so I empathize with the concerns regarding safety, and I fully condemn all threats of violence, targeted harassment and online bullying.”
She added, “To reiterate, [the] aim of the petition was about upholding rigorous academic scholarly standards, integrity and ethics by the journal; it had nothing to do with curtailing the author’s right to free speech. It should also not be associated with any threats to the journal’s editor in chief or anyone else.”Books and PublishingThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomPolitical scienceIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she had withdrawn the Obama administration’s rules on investigating campus rape, her message rang clear: due process and fairness were paramount.
“The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the victim only creates more victims,” DeVos said last month in announcing the Education Department’s intent to revise the federal regulation on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law prohibiting gender discrimination.
The Obama guidance on Title IX, issued in 2011 in the form of a Dear Colleague letter, has been attacked for creating hostile environments at colleges where overzealous administrators disregarded the rights of those accused of sexual assault. At the same time, many victims' advocates credit that letter with creating protections for survivors, saying that investigators had previously failed to properly find out what happened.
But some institutions don’t leave Title IX investigations or adjudication of sexual assault to college leaders or panels. Particularly since the 2011 letter, some have hired outside parties to do the work for them -- lawyers or other trained professionals to conduct the investigation, retired judges for disciplinary hearings.
It’s a move generally intended to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest and ensure professionals conduct the type of work that some institutions have sometime struggled to understand.
“Like many schools, we involve an outside investigator -- in our case, they are always paired with an internal investigator. This doesn’t appear to be a new or trending practice -- there are many models,” said Julie Jette, a spokeswoman for Brandeis University, a private institution in Massachusetts.
Djuna Perkins is a lawyer and former prosecutor based in Deadham, Mass., who has done this type of work for not only Brandeis, but Amherst College, Harvard University, Eastern Nazarene College, Mount Holyoke College and Wheelock College, among others.
Her practice, which specializes in these investigations, was established in 2012, shortly after the Dear Colleague letter -- and she’s been busy since.
Perkins said she’s found that most Massachusetts colleges successfully follow their own policies, which she sometimes reviews to make sure they match federal guidelines. The 2011 letter didn’t institute any unreasonable demands, she said, but sometimes colleges have found following them difficult.
Another lawyer, and a former member of Obama administration who requested anonymity to discuss these investigations (the lawyer is in the midst of one now) and Title IX candidly, said institutions have improved since 2011, but many still don’t meet the federal government’s requirements.
The lawyer said some colleges have simply borrowed their sexual harassment policies from their employee guide, but that those guidelines often mention nothing about the learning environment.
“Sometimes they’re just not catered to the educational setting,” the lawyer said.
Perkins said she offers institutions various training sessions -- one of her most popular being the standard of evidence by which to judge these cases and, essentially, when to stop collecting evidence. The evidentiary standard has served as a major political sticking point, with some activists believing it should be boosted from the “preponderance of evidence” standard that the Obama administration required colleges to use to “clear and convincing.”
The preponderance of evidence standard, which is also used for civil cases, means there’s a 50.1 percent chance that the accused is responsible; with clear and convincing, the threshold is closer to a 75 percent chance. New information from the Education Department now allows institutions to use either one.
With all the legal jargon, sometimes the public can confuse campus hearings with a courtroom, Perkins said. Survivor advocates and college administrators have often tried to make clear these types of proceedings aren’t criminal ones, and so in some ways, involving lawyers and judges could become problematic because their specialty lies in the judiciary system.
Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, a victim advocacy group, said she's had concerns about this approach. One institution, for instance, hired an ex-prosecutor who inquired into sexual history, which the Obama-era rules prohibits.
College leaders interviewed said they ask the professionals to whom they outsource the work to undergo training on trauma and the correct approach to working with victims and the accused.
Perkins said her background matches well -- at one point in her career she served as a civil litigator, and the way she opened up subjects was making them more comfortable, just as she does with the students she interviews during investigations.
“In the moment, when I’m in the room, it’s a conversation,” Perkins said. “I want to know what was going through your mind, your version of what happened, so I can best put it all together. If they’re not comfortable, they don’t give you enough information.”
Bentley University, also in Massachusetts, hires investigators and has been doing so since the 2014-15 academic year, said Andrew Shepardson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
At the private institution of a little more than 5,000 students, it’s advantageous to use someone without any connections to students, Shepardson said. Student panels that play a role in adjudicating cases at many colleges have been criticized for their potential conflicts of interest, with both the accusers and accused. The investigator gathers all the facts, looks at relevant documents and conducts interviews, and then submits to a hearing panel a conclusion of whether the investigator thinks sexual misconduct occurred. That panel makes the final decision.
Shepardson said that to avoid conflating the campus process with a trial, the university remains “student focused” at all times -- the leaders there care about their well-being, and the process involves conversations, not cross-examinations.
Shepardson said he would also recommend Bentley’s practices to other institutions.
“Our model, which is focused on fairness for all parties, uses external, unbiased experts to investigate very complicated situations,” Shepardson wrote in an email. “However, the final authority for determining if the investigation is complete, if rules were violated and what sanctions are appropriate rest with our own staff -- all of whom are specially trained on Title IX issues at Bentley.”
At Vassar College, where administrators call on hired retired judges to help run their Title IX hearings, they want to avoid any “smell of a courtroom,” said Rachel Pereira, the director of equal opportunity and affirmative action, and Vassar’s Title IX coordinator.
The college hires the judges from JAMS, known formally as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services. It interviews potential candidates then calls on them as needed if they fit what the university is looking for, Pereira said -- that they’re familiar with trauma and issues impacting adolescents.
Vassar’s proceedings are laid out much differently than a judge might be accustomed to -- students pick the location where they’re held, and time is allowed for breaks, Pereira said. Snacks are provided, too -- lemonade and cookies. The judge goes by their first name, not a formal title.
The college needs people versed in due process, and no one better than a judge understands those protections, Pereira said. After the judge -- Vassar pulls from a pool of three of them -- hears the case, they will make a recommendation that is either adopted or rejected by the dean of students.
“There’s a chance of perceived bias and just the general sense the discomfort of thereafter seeing that professor on campus,” Pereira said, in explaining why the college doesn’t use a panel of faculty and staff to adjudicate cases. “There’s greater confidentiality, and presumably an outside party will not have to interact with these students again.”
Pereira said she’s found this type of outsourcing to be successful -- it brings a sense of equity to both parties.
“Having adjudicators who understand their role here, engaging in our educational process, has definitely been a good experience,” she said. “We do not expect everyone to understand the process, and we do not call everyone who we’ve interviewed. There are some people who just don’t get it.”Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: