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It’s no secret that private, nonprofit art colleges have been showing cracks in recent years.
In just the last several months, the Oregon College of Art and Craft explored mergers with two different institutions, only to have talks fall apart. The University of New Haven decided in August to end degree-granting programs at Lyme Academy, whose academic programs it took over under an agreement five years ago. Last week the Cornish College of the Arts announced it is cutting tuition by 20 percent in the 2019-20 academic year, adopting a tuition-reset strategy that’s frequently been deployed by institutions seeking a shot of attention to help boost enrollment. And the New Hampshire Institute of Art is in the midst of merging into New England College.
A bit further in the past, the Memphis College of Art announced in October 2017 that it would be closing and has laid out plans to shut down after graduating the last of its students in May 2020. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reached an agreement to have its educational operations acquired by Tufts University in 2016. The Art Institute of Boston, which merged with Lesley University in 1998, moved from Boston to Cambridge to join its sister colleges in 2015, taking on the new name of the Lesley University College of Art + Design along the way.
Also in 2015, the Montserrat College of Art explored merging into Salem State University, but the two sides ultimately ruled out the move. That decision came the year after George Washington University decided to acquire the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington.
Those cases alone mean that about a fifth of the 43 institutions that were members of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design as of the start of 2014 have attempted to merge, closed, relocated or drastically changed their tuition structure in the last five years.
They’ve done so while facing some pressures unique to art schools, according to leaders in the sector. Curricular changes make it more difficult for some students to take classes before they graduate from high school, meaning art schools must work harder to reach prospective students at an early age. Meanwhile, art schools remain capital-intensive operations to run, as supplies, equipment, small class sizes and generous faculty-to-student ratios keep expenses high.
But art schools have also been under pressures that cut across the higher education landscape and are bearing down on many liberal arts colleges. Population and demographic shifts are changing where high schoolers are graduating in the greatest numbers, who those students are, what they can pay and what they value in a college education. And as the cost of providing students with a good education rises annually, many small institutions struggle to keep costs in line without the benefits of efficiencies of scale.
“I often say we are a microcosm of the higher ed environment,” said Deborah Obalil, president and executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. “There are challenges in particular to the very small, under-500-student institutions. I think that is applicable across all of higher ed, because the challenges they face are not special to them because they are art and design institutions. It is really about their scale.”
The art school market is bifurcating based on institution size. Although enrollment remains strong across a core group of institutions, those with more than 500 students are much more likely to see their fortunes rise than are those with smaller enrollments, observers say. Some of the best known larger institutions, like the Rhode Island School of Design and California Institute of the Arts, are considered to be doing quite well, even though they are not huge, with reported enrollments of about 2,500 and 1,500, respectively.
The pressures playing out at colleges of art may resonate particularly strongly at this moment in time because some struggling private liberal arts colleges have been taking steps that could make them resemble art schools. Strategists sometimes counsel endangered liberal arts colleges to find an area of focus or a special niche to fill -- paralleling art schools, which arguably embody the ideal of specialization.
Now, that ideal has been called into question after Green Mountain College, which had carved out a niche in environmental liberal arts, decided last month to close in the face of financial challenges.
Backers of art schools say the personalized education they provide and creative thinking they inspire are more important than ever in a world where students from all disciplines will need to be able to adapt their skills to a fast-changing workplace. But as pressures play out in the market, it’s become increasingly clear that some institutions have been able to continue to attract students and pay their bills, while others have fallen behind.
It’s also growing more and more clear that small institutions with negligible endowments and other disadvantages can’t always count on clever strategy alone to save them -- whether that strategy is merger, debt reorganization or specialization. Art school presidents think sound decisions can still strengthen most institutions, but they need to be deployed with increasing levels of sophistication.
Specialty institutions can remain viable if they examine their business models and revenue streams, said Kurt T. Steinberg, president of the Montserrat College of Art and a former executive vice president at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design who spent a year as acting president there. Only they must be making the right choices quickly “and defining who they are and why they have a competitive advantage.”
How Strong Is Enrollment?
By some measures, art schools are enrolling more students than they did a decade ago.
As a group, the institutions in the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design enrolled 34,466 undergraduates in 2018. That’s an increase of 2.4 percent from 2008, which would be roughly in line with projections showing very little growth in the number of high school graduates over the same period.
But the data only include 32 institutions that are based in the United States, fully independent and still enrolling new students. They don’t include small institutions that merged with larger institutions in recent years, nor do they include closing institutions, like the Memphis College of Art.
Enrollment data measured at the institution level can’t include closures and mergers, according to the association’s assistant director in charge of research services, Joanne Kersh. Students in a merging or closing institution don’t disappear, but the association can’t account for them, so it provided data only on those institutions that remain open and independent.
“Our institutions that have closed were very small, and had seen declining enrollments for years, and generally they do teach-outs as they prepare to close their doors,” Kersh wrote in an email. “Students enrolled at the merger schools, well, I think they mostly stay where they are, or the enrollment change is gradual. I've even seen enrollments rise after a merger, as the previously small independent school now has more resources available. But, as we can't account for the movement of students between schools, I think a cleaner look at stable institutions over time offers the most accurate perspective.”
While that may be the case, it also arguably means the statistics screen out institutions that have been forced to go through major changes -- and they are likely to be the weakest, experiencing the greatest enrollment declines.
With a few exceptions, most of the association’s member institutions that enroll more than 500 students have seen enrollment rebound in the last few years, while those with fewer than 500 have seen it fall, Obalil said. It’s not clear whether 500 is a firm dividing line or just happens to be the current level at which institutional fortunes are diverging.
“In terms of the schools that have actually closed or merged, each picture is unique, to some degree,” Obalil said. “What commonalities I’ve seen often line up, again, with size and the inability to scale.”
Such institutions have failed to differentiate themselves from the rest of the marketplace, or they have not reconsidered their curricula in five, 10 or even 20 years, she added. Some can’t add another program because they are too small to afford it, and others are faced with a high level of debt.
Art schools don’t tend to have large endowments, so a combination of high debt and a failure to attract enough students can be a fatal combination.
Closing or Clawing Back
Such a combination helped to bring down the Memphis College of Art. The college saw its undergraduate enrollment fall from 362 in 2009 to 338 in 2016, according to statistics in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. By 2017, enrollment had fallen to 278.
The college struggled to attract students in the postrecession era, said its president, Laura Hine. Students and families were questioning the value of a four-year art degree and emphasizing job skills even as the college grappled with its identity.
“There was a sense that we’re a fine arts school, and we can’t abandon our history and our roots,” Hine said.
Looking back, Hine thinks the college could have built sustainable programs while balancing the need to stay true to the fine arts with new investments. It could have used its animation program, which is the only one of its kind in the region and was in demand, as a foundation.
As it faced new challenges related to enrollment and programming, the college’s past decisions caught up to it. The college was struggling with debt from real estate purchases made in the past, Hine said. Although leaders attempted to reduce debt levels and secure lower interest rates, they couldn’t do enough.
In October 2017, the college announced that its board decided to stop recruiting new students, dissolve the institution’s assets and teach-out existing students. At the time, it cited “declining enrollment, overwhelming real estate debt, and no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability.”
Without a large endowment to draw upon, the college had been relying on revenue from enrollment and the philanthropic community, which had been exceptionally generous, Hine said. Major donors were tapping out, though.
Soon after announcing its plans to close, the college staged a transfer fair, encouraging new freshmen to enroll in another institution, Hine said. It moved to teach-out remaining students, which has been a challenge because tuition revenue shrinks as students leave and new classes aren’t recruited. The college expects to graduate its last students in May 2020.
Larger colleges with more diversified funding from states or other sources might be better positioned to survive or thrive in the face of pressures, Hine said. Some college presidents worry that too many art schools being affiliated with states could diminish students’ freedoms, however. State funding brings in political considerations that budding artists don’t always appreciate.
Hine also worries about the students who are “born artists” and would have enrolled at the Memphis College of Art, were it not closing.
“We were attracting and have attracted kids -- a lot of kids -- that were coming out of poverty,” Hine said. “Some of our kids live with their family members. They can’t up and move to Sarasota, Fla. They don’t have the capacity to do that and the support to do that.”
The experience leaves Hine, who has worked in work-force development, worried about the future of art schools and education more generally.
“The disparity between people’s ability to pay for college now and what it used to be, I think, is growing increasingly greater,” she said. “And in a situation where colleges and universities today have a lot of costs -- technology, security, Title IX compliance, accreditation burdens that have become more and more onerous on the cost side -- and you don’t have it being offset by this burgeoning middle class or upper middle class that can send their kids to school, I think it’s a crisis brewing.”
Other colleges are still fighting to grow and improve their fortunes. At the end of January, the Cornish College of the Arts announced that it will reset its tuition from $40,442 this year to $32,160 for all new and returning students in the 2019-20 academic year. In doing so, it believes it is the first fine arts school in the country to put a tuition reset in place.
The move comes after Cornish, a college located in Seattle that typically enrolls about 700 students and offers a bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of music and postbaccalaureate artist diploma in early music, compared itself to competitors. It found that it was attracting low-income students who receive Pell Grants or state grants, as well as students who could afford to pay $40,000 in annual tuition. But it was struggling to enroll those from middle-income families, according to Raymond Tymas-Jones, the college’s president.
Cornish does not have any graduate programs and enrolls few international students, Tymas-Jones said. About half of its students come from the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, a price point that middle-income families can afford is critical, and will hopefully improve the college’s enrollment prospects.
“We really believe that with the reset, we will be competitive,” Tymas-Jones said.
Cornish’s tuition discount rate was 39 percent, Tymas-Jones said. It’s expected to drop to 23 percent with the reset, a change that is in line with many other colleges making such moves, although both rates are relatively low by private college standards.
Recruiting more students in today’s market requires sophistication, presidents said. Students who might consider an art school go to their art teachers for advice first, not their guidance counselors, said Steinberg, president of the Montserrat College of Art.
Reaching students also means telling them as early as middle school that art school is a viable option, Steinberg said. With more and more being packed into high school curricula, many students are being forced to choose between taking classes in the visual arts and other subjects, like music, as freshmen.
Steinberg has seen remarkable changes in enrollment during his career as students’ interests evolve. When he left the Massachusetts College of Art and Design last year, 70 percent of students were enrolled in design programs and 30 percent were in fine arts, he said. A dozen years earlier, when he arrived at the institution, the split was 50-50.
“The fine arts-only institutions, those institutions that didn’t add design to their offerings, are the ones that are suffering early,” Steinberg said.
Unfortunately, more programs means spending more money, particularly in the world of art schools. Computers have to be replaced frequently, and software is constantly updated. Meanwhile, institutions must maintain what amounts to industrial facilities while keeping class sizes small.
“The amount of airflow that a print-making shop has to have is huge and is equivalent to exhaust systems that might be on large pieces of equipment in a factory,” Steinberg said. “In a hot shop for glass, you can only have that class be a certain size. Otherwise, someone is going to get hurt.”
Is massive growth or merger the only way a small struggling art college can stay on top of it all? Not if they’re making the right moves and the hard choices, presidents say. When Montserrat failed to merge with Salem State, it forced a period of soul-searching and decision making that has allowed the institution to strengthen itself after an initial hit, even as it enrolls only 370 or so students, said those who watched the situation.
Steinberg, who joined the college after the merger discussions were long since over, said he hopes to grow Montserrat to have 400 or 500 students. That will allow it to have enough scale to stay strong while also keeping its founding vision of being a small institution.
“I don’t want to lose the idea that the differentiation in the kind of education we have is important,” Steinberg said. “Only having 10,000-student institutions is not, necessarily, I think, a good idea.”
Back on the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest College of Art (at right), in Portland, Ore., wants to grow to 1,000 students over the next several years. It has about 600 today, said its president, Don Tuski.
Last fall, the college had been in merger talks with the 140-student Oregon College of Art and Craft, which is also in Portland. The two sides called off the deal, and Oregon College of Art and Craft went on to discuss merging into Portland State University. Those talks died at the end of the month, with The Oregonian reporting that the Oregon College of Art and Craft would continue examining opportunities for partnerships and revenue streams in the face of financial struggles.
Tuski didn’t go into detail on the merger discussions, other than to say that it didn’t make sense from a curricular standpoint. The Oregon College of Art and Craft did not return requests for interview by the deadline for this story.
The Pacific Northwest College of Art is trying to recruit students by articulating a strong value proposition, Tuski said. Going from studio to gallery is still a pathway, but it wants its students to be able to make a living in multiple ways, including through entrepreneurship.
Faculty members in client-based fields, like illustration and graphic design, already think that way, he said. Others have been receptive, especially when the discussion is raised in a broader conversation about student debt and the fact that not all students can go on to get M.F.A.s and become art professors.
“We still want students to do great, experimental, edgy artwork,” Tuski said. “But if they learn to apply that creativity in multiple ways, that’s what society wants and needs, and that’s why I think art schools, if they get their business models together, can be leaders in society.”
It’s a compelling pitch, although other art schools have made it. A generic liberal arts college has also likely made that argument to students.
Yet to be seen is whether it will work for the Pacific Northwest College of Art -- or any other art school seeking to hit enrollment targets in a competitive market.
If he is worried that other specialized institutions have tried similar strategies and failed, Tuski isn’t showing it.
“Part of being distinctive is also doing something better than other people -- doing something different but also doing something everybody else is doing, but doing it better,” he said.Editorial Tags: ArtsEnrollmentImage Source: Memphis College of ArtImage Caption: The Memphis College of Art is winding down operations and plans to close after May 2020.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Tenure is again at risk in Iowa, which saw a major threat to academic freedom over margarine during World War II
It's winter, which means that tenure is under attack in Iowa, where academic freedom and tenure were once central to a fight over controversial research on margarine. (Yes, really. More on that later.)
The Republican state senator behind the consistent -- and thus far unsuccessful -- attempts to end tenure in Iowa is Brad Zaun.
Zaun didn’t respond to a request for comment about the new iteration of his proposal. But, similar to bills introduced in legislative sessions past, Zaun’s 2019 antitenure bill seeks to prohibit any tenure system for any public college or university employee. Acceptable grounds for termination would include, but not be limited to, just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency. And each institution governed by the Board of Regents of the State of Iowa “shall adopt a written statement enumerating employment agreements, annual performance evaluations of all faculty members, minimum standards of good practice,” faculty discipline and more.
Unlike in past years, Zaun's proposal passed the State Senate's education committee in a 2-to-1 vote.
College deans, under the authority of the state board and their presidents, would “employ faculty as necessary to carry out the academic duties and responsibilities of the college,” the bill says.
Zaun has spoken previously about why he wants to end tenure, saying that he supports institutional flexibility, not a “guaranteed” job for life for professors. He’s also expressed concern about undergraduates being taught by teaching assistants.
Faculty advocates in Iowa are quick to point out that tenure doesn’t mean a job for life, and that having teaching assistants has little to nothing to do with tenure.
Katherine Tachau, professor of history at the University of Iowa and president of its campus advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said that Zaun “might find it reassuring” to hear that “tenure is not a gift, but a contractual relationship that requires many years -- usually six to 10 years -- for faculty to earn.” And those who are willing and able to run the tenure gauntlet “tend to be strongly motivated internally to continue doing the high-quality work through which they earned tenure,” she said.
Even so, tenured faculty members at each of the state’s three public institutions overseen by the board are reviewed annually already, and more extensively every five years, Tachau said. Faculty members can lose tenure or be fired for failing to do their jobs, with due notice and a fair process.
Most significant to the debate, though, is that the majority of Iowa’s faculty members have contingent positions and aren’t eligible for tenure anyway, she added.
As for teaching assistants, Tachau said that they have no relation to tenure, except that they represent -- necessarily -- the faculty of the future.
“We tenured faculty teach students at every level, freshmen through Ph.D. students, and do so willingly,” Tachau said. But in addition to their professors, undergraduates benefit from TAs who have relevant teaching or research experiences before enrolling in their graduate degree programs, she added in an email.
Tachau’s colleague at Iowa, Loren Glass, professor of English, said he thought the bill wouldn’t go anywhere. That’s probably likely, given that previous bills failed, even in a newly Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature last year. Still, Republicans maintained majorities in both chambers in 2018, and tenure is undoubtedly part of the resurgent culture wars.
Like Tachau, Glass said he thinks the antitenure bill based on a “misunderstanding of what tenure is and does.” He cited the AAUP’s official definition, which says, in part, that a tenured appointment “is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.” AAUP says that tenure exists primarily to “safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education.”
When professors can lose their positions “because of their speech or publications research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and transmit knowledge,” AAUP says.
Some tenure skeptics believe that academic freedom is more about protecting professors' political rants or underperformance than protecting research to advance the public good. But examples of how academic freedom has affected the latter abound -- including a slippery World War II-era case in … Iowa.
The Margarine-Butter Wars
By 1943, Iowa State College-- now Iowa State University -- had attracted a bevy of economists dedicated to researching hard subjects and then translating what they'd learned into policy suggestions. O. H. Brownlee, a graduate student at the college suggested in one of his pamphlets that Americans should eat more margarine as part of the war effort, in light of a dairy shortage among service personnel. In a pre-I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter moment, he also asserted that margarine was comparable to butter in taste and nutrition.
Iowa’s dairy industrial complex, which lobbied against margarine right down to its color, challenged the recommendation and urged Iowa State to get rid of the some the people involved. The butter lobby also waged its war against margarine, Iowa State, and Brownlee through the press, calling the graduate student “unstable” first for being an economist.
Iowa State’s president convened committees to review Brownlee’s work. Bowing to public pressure, the president eventually asked Brownlee to rewrite his report and even sought to reorganize . The department chair, Theodore Schultz, left Iowa for the University of Chicago in protest, but wrote a very public, very scathing resignation letter on his way out. Some 16 of 26 economists left Iowa by 1945. Schultz, along with another former Iowa economist, George Stigler, was later awarded a Nobel Prize (not for margarine).
David Seim, an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Stout, wrote about the margarine-butter wars for the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Annals of Iowa in 2008. He said this week that during the Great Depression, Iowa State invested in attracting agricultural economists who “were at the cusp of lifting Iowa State’s reputation to the very top.”
They “encouraged courageous objectivity, that they need not fear whatever research conclusions they might find,” Seim said, calling that kind of fearlessness “rare.” Moreover, he said, those economists saw tenure as an “efficiency mechanism” that would promote more ideas from which to choose -- not a reason to slack off.
Seim said that so many years later, “We ought to do better work reminding as many people as we can of some lessons from this episode.” Despite assertions otherwise, the institution of tenure “actually enables certain efficiencies that are less likely to happen without tenure,” he said -- namely “reasonable and wise risk-taking” and the “leadership and service that society needs.”
It seems Iowa’s board agrees. It opposed Zaun’s 2017 bill and opposes this one, too, said spokesperson Josh Lehman.
“Tenure allows our institutions to recruit and retain the best faculty to teach, do research and provide service to advance the institutional missions of our public universities,” he wrote in an email.
Barbara A. Cutter, associate professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa and the campus’s faculty chair, said she hoped Zaun’s bill would fail, but that threats to tenure should be taken “very seriously.”
Without the academic freedom that tenure ensures, “professors can’t do their jobs properly,” she said. “Professors have an obligation to teach and conduct research honestly, competently and ethically. They aren’t supposed to be swayed by public opinion -- just the evidence they study.”
But the topics they study, such as race relations and climate change, can be controversial, Cutter said. And as scholars talk and write about those things within the boundaries of their fields, “tenure protects them for being fired for saying or writing things others disagree with.”Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomIowaTenure listImage Caption: At left, Iowa's Capitol. At right, Theodore Schultz. In center, margarine.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
While staying the course in Saudi Arabia, MIT says it will strengthen processes for reviewing projects in "problematic countries"
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will not terminate existing projects with Saudi Arabia, but its leaders say they will seek to strengthen their internal processes for approving or renewing projects with countries where governments are engaged in serious human rights violations.
MIT president L. Rafael Reif commissioned a report on the university’s Saudi connections last fall after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist, was killed in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in a crime that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded was ordered by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince was received by Reif when he visited the MIT campus last March.
Reif addressed the decision to host the crown prince in a letter that accompanied the report, which was released Wednesday. In the letter, Reif wrote that he agreed with the report’s recommendations, including the recommendation that faculty should be free to continue existing engagements with Saudi Arabian entities. Reif also condemned the killing of Khashoggi.
“When I agreed to host the Saudi state delegation at MIT last spring, I shared the hope of many in the U.S. and around the world that the visit and official engagement were an important part of an ongoing process of reform and modernization. I know some of you were and remain disappointed with that decision, and I understand that disappointment,” Reif wrote.
“As many of you have made plain, in the present situation, if MIT simply continues to work with Saudi state entities without comment, we risk having our silence taken as an endorsement of the regime’s behavior -- an unacceptable result.
“For the record then, let me be clear: MIT utterly condemns such brutal human rights violations, discrimination and suppression of dissent, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
The report on MIT’s Saudi activities was written by Richard K. Lester, MIT’s associate provost for international activities. The final report issued Wednesday followed a preliminary report released for comment in December.
Lester wrote that he had received 111 separate comments since December from faculty, students, postdocs, administrative staff and alumni. Many of these commenters, Lester wrote, “are appalled by the conduct of the Saudi government and are deeply troubled that MIT’s relationships with this government might in any way be enabling such behavior. They find it very difficult to reconcile MIT’s mission to work effectively for the benefit of humankind with what is occurring on the ground in Saudi Arabia and in neighboring Yemen.
"The words some respondents used to describe their views -- ‘sickened’, ‘outraged’, ‘embarrassed’, ‘ashamed’ -- make clear the depth of feelings elicited by the situation," Lester wrote. "These reactions are linked partly to the Khashoggi assassination and attempted coverup but also to the atrocities perpetrated against civilians in Yemen, and the repression of human rights, the absence of basic rights of self-determination for women, the persecution of Saudi LGBTQ citizens, and the attacks on free speech in the Kingdom."
Beyond the comments, the student newspaper, The Tech, also published an editorial in response to the Lester report calling on the university to cut ties with the Saudi government and government-linked entities.
The Lester report does not concur with that recommendation, recommending instead that the decision to continue projects sponsored by Saudi state entities should be left to the individual faculty members who are leading such projects. According to the report, MIT received in the most recent fiscal year a total of about $7.2 million in sponsored research support from five Saudi sources, including two state-owned companies, the Saudi national science agency and laboratory, and two Saudi universities.
“The principle that our faculty should be permitted to pursue their intellectual interests and objectives without interference is among the most fundamental operating principles of our Institute,” Lester wrote. “Of course, this is not an unalloyed right. Sometimes the administration does say no to faculty research proposals. But for ongoing research projects that are initiated and led by faculty, as is the case here, I expect our faculty would broadly agree that the bar for administrative intervention to terminate such projects should be set very high.”
Going forward, Lester wrote that new relationships in Saudi Arabia, and renewals of existing relationships, will be considered by MIT's International Advisory Committee, which recently was reconstituted as a faculty-led standing committee, as well as by a group of senior administrators tasked with reviewing "all major international engagements that may pose significant institutional risks to MIT."
In his report, Lester suggested that future proposed Saudi collaborations may be subject to a higher bar than in the past. He reflected on the view of one commenter who recommended that "engagements that do not allow MIT community members to participate fully and equally in all activities and opportunities should receive the highest level of scrutiny."
"I agree with this recommendation," Lester wrote, "especially as it applies to projects that require travel to the kingdom by MIT investigators. In at least one previous case involving such travel, full participation in the project required some participants to hide certain aspects of their identity; opportunities to participate in social events linked to the project were restricted by gender; and in a variety of settings female MIT faculty researchers were not accorded the same civil rights as their male MIT faculty colleagues.
"When a proposed project only involves a single investigator, that individual can decide for him or herself whether such restrictions are acceptable. But if a project involves the expectation of travel by multiple MIT investigators, the principal investigator should be required to present for consideration by the reviewing committees a written explanation of why such restrictions should be tolerated, and a plan for managing them. In general, such cases will not pass muster."
Of course, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only place where MIT has collaborations where there are concerns about the actions of the government and potential reputational risk to the university.
Last month Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Liberty reported that MIT had to remove a Russian billionaire, Viktor Vekselberg, from its board after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him as part of a move to punish a group of Russian oligarchs who were deemed to have benefited from the government of President Vladimir Putin or to have played "a key role in advancing Russia's malign activities." Vekselberg is president of a foundation that contracted with MIT for a large-scale project to help develop a science and tech-focused university near Moscow, the Skolkovo Institute of Technology, known as Skoltech.
The second phase of MIT’s collaboration with Skoltech -- which Lester said is focused on faculty research collaboration -- is coming to an end soon. “If there is a proposal to renew that, [it] is a serious one and we’re not at that point yet -- we haven’t got to that point yet -- but if there is it will be subject to the same set of reviews that we would expect any renewal of the Saudi projects would also be exposed to,” Lester said in an interview.
Reif said in his letter that MIT is also constituting an ad hoc committee of faculty and staff members and students to further consider how the university might engage in "problematic countries," including questions about how to better tap in to faculty expertise and whether there is a general standard that can apply. The ad hoc committee will report to the MIT administration by September with proposed guidelines.
“This exercise, which was triggered by the situation in the Kingdom, is extremely helpful for us,” Reif said in an interview. “I anticipate we will be facing these kinds of issues over and over again, and we need to better anticipate when to engage, why to engage and where.
“It is really a painfully complex issue,” Reif said. “Universities want to have a global footprint because we have people from all over the world at MIT, and these people want to interact and find collaborators in different countries. Once you start doing that … these kinds of risks occur, and managing this or preventing this is a serious issue.
“There are many progressive people that we want to engage with because it’s helping the country, and how do we distinguish helping the people who want to help the country versus helping the regime? How do you sort all those things out? It’s not trivial. It’s complex. We are setting a path to figure it out for themselves, and maybe for others, too.”GlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: Academic freedomInternational higher educationImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud at MITIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Many British academics are ardently opposed to Brexit. Others are passionate in their commitment to the idea that women can do what they like with their own bodies. But Victoria Bateman -- fellow in economics at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge -- must be highly unusual in bringing the two causes together, most recently in a performance titled Brexit: The Naked Truth, where audience members got a chance to create a living anti-Brexit petition by signing her bare body.
So how does she link the two issues?
“Freedom is at the root of both my opposition to Brexit and my feminist activism,” she said. Bateman has spent much of her career “trying to work out the recipe for economic prosperity” and has come to see the key as “a free, tolerant and open society.” With Brexit, “the type of society many people have voted for -- one that is, for example, unwelcoming to immigrants -- is one that will likely feed back to cause real harm to the economy.” Yet it was “also a feminist issue,” most obviously because an economic downturn might well lead to “cutbacks to childcare services and social care.”
During her teenage years in Oldham, when she and her peers had been “dismissed as ‘trashy girls’ because of the way [they] dressed,” Bateman had initially responded by covering up. Now, however, she is determined to “challenge the underlying assumption … It’s when a woman’s value is thought to hang precariously on bodily modesty that we end up putting in place all kinds of practices and regulations in an effort to ‘protect’ women from harming their modesty, but which actually greatly restrict them, resulting in persistent gender inequalities.”
Along with amusement and mockery, Bateman acknowledged that she has “encountered lots of genuine anger and hostility online, but also in person from one or two senior female economists -- including when I protested naked against sexism in economics at an economics conference last year. Some women believe that by using your body as a form of protest, you are doing a disservice to other women.
“I very much disagree. Women’s bodies are one of the big battlegrounds we face today, whether in terms of women’s access to birth control, sex workers’ rights or clothing, including burka bans … By covering up the body, these problems don’t go away. Instead, we fail to address them because we think of the body as something that’s embarrassing and not to be talked about in polite -- or academic -- company.”
It was also crucial, in Bateman’s view, to put “the concept ‘my body, my choice’ … at the heart of feminism. That requires women being tolerant of other women making choices about their bodies that differ from their own. When I protest naked, it seems to bring to the surface a lot of intolerance and hypocrisy in regard to ‘my body, my choice’ -- and it’s that same intolerance to women who make choices about their bodies that are different from our own that is driving, for example, some feminist groups to recommend polic[ies] that [harm] the livelihoods of voluntary sex workers.”
Cambridge economists have often had an impact on government policy, either in formal consultative roles or through suggestions whispered over the port in gentlemen’s clubs. Bateman has also “written thousands of words on why Brexit is bad for the British economy,” but was there any reason to think that taking off her clothes was remotely likely to be an effective way of influencing policy makers?
As she saw it, however, “the relevant question is not ‘Why use your naked body?’ but ‘Why not use your naked body?’ Reversing the question in this way helps to reveal people’s inner thoughts or presumptions about women’s bodies: that when a woman shows her body it devalues her worth or decreases the respect people have for her.” She also believes “in the power of art to go beyond what academic writing alone can offer … I’ve condensed all my words into one simple message: that Britain has been sold the emperor’s new clothes.”GlobalEditorial Tags: EconomicsBritainImage Caption: An appearance by Victoria BatemanIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
A faculty exodus from Hope College’s music department has rocked the small Christian campus on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. The college’s administration says that things are under control. But some students and faculty members want further action regarding the events that precipitated the departure or reassignment of 17 instructors within a year.
Specifically, students in the music department are seeking the resignation of Hope’s provost. Another professor who recently took early retirement following misconduct allegations, which he disputes, has requested an independent investigation into the college’s management.
“If the leadership of Hope College wishes to regain the support and trust of its broad constituencies, it should institute as soon as possible a thorough, impartial and independent investigation of its recent actions against long-serving, dedicated, and respected music faculty,” Brad Richmond, the recent retiree and former director of Hope’s choral activities, wrote in a recent open letter to the college, published in the Holland Sentinel.
Richmond denied an interview request, referring questions to his letter. It says that he cherished his 20 years at Hope -- until he was suddenly suspended and banned from campus in June.
The letter does not say what Richmond was accused of, exactly. But people who have seen the charges “call them petty and contrived; one described them as ‘a combination of 1984 and Catch-22,” he wrote. He also says he endured an uncomfortable faculty and staff meeting about the music department’s situation on Jan. 9, during which someone in the audience asked what he’d done.
“It was inferred, without any specifics, that I was a threat because of a history of ‘manipulating students,’” Richmond wrote. “Really? Then why did the college allow me to travel to South Africa with 35 Chapel Choir members just two weeks before my suspension? Ask my students whether I discussed department matters with them. Ask former administrators whether other faculty members have done this.”
Hinting that a major cultural rift among music professors is at play, Richmond wrote that the department has “long suffered from philosophical divisions.” While he and others envisioned a program that “moves past the traditional European model to include multicultural experiences preparing students for 21st-century careers,” he explained, efforts in that direction, such as folk music, Brazilian drumming and recording arts, “all came under attack last year.”
Those professors who “fought this dismantlement were rebuffed and labeled ‘insubordinate,’ with the result that many people who served Hope College with distinction are now gone,” he wrote.
Some 17 current and former professors have been affected, Richmond says: four quit, two were dismissed, eight lost adjunct status or received significant assignment changes, while one was investigated and sanctioned. Two who were suspended -- including Richmond -- are also gone.
In certain ways, Richmond's account transcends his department and could apply to many programs at many Christian institutions struggling to balance progress and tradition.
Hope is a Calvinist college that has received much funding from the DeVos family. Its last major controversy was in 2016, when its governing board privately considered ousting former president John Knapp. The board backed off after its plan was leaked, and after campus protests. Knapp, who left of his own accord in 2017, was popular with students and faculty members, many of whom approved of his public statements and actions in support of diversity and inclusion. Some said Knapp's approach was critical to the college's survival, especially as Michigan's college-age population shrinks.
A number of professors did not respond to request for comment. An investigation by the Sentinel, which included numerous anonymous sources, said professors trace the faculty departures back to 2017, and a fight over how the department would proceed after a former chair left for another institution out of state.
“In my mind, it was a tale of two cities,” Edye Evans Hyde, a former adjunct who taught jazz vocals, told the Sentinel. “There was a group that wanted to expand the department, offer new options and get more students. The other faction was the conservative Christian Reformed classical style. It was very much: ‘How do we expand what we’re doing’ versus, ‘This is who we are.’”
At the same time, some faculty members told the Sentinel that the progressive camp exaggerated the divide, to the detriment of the department and students.
“Contrary to what some people think, the music department is doing well, given the circumstances, while classes, lessons, as well as rehearsals and concerts are being performed without interruption, making sure that our students receive what they are here for: a high quality music education,” Mihai Craioveanu, professor of violin, reportedly said via email.
Richmond wrote that he and colleagues met with Hope’s new provost, Cady Short-Thompson, to assure her that the department could solve its own challenges. But things devolved, and the succeeding chair stepped down.
The administration decided to appoint a chair from outside the department. Hope picked Jonathan Hagood, a historian and associate dean for teaching and learning.
Around the same time, in early 2018, four music professors learned that they were the subject of a sexual harassment complaint. Details were never made public, and the complaint was dismissed within a few months, sources reportedly said. But Short-Thompson initiated an extensive cultural investigation of the department that proved even more divisive, faculty members told the Sentinel.
As that investigation proceeded, Richmond and one other professor were suspended. Another professor was placed under review, two instructors were asked not to return and others saw their duties reassigned.
Alumni asked questions about the departures over the summer, as did students when they arrived back to campus in the fall. Certain classes or programs they said influenced their decisions to attend or stay at Hope, including a women’s chamber choir class, were suddenly gone. And many of those asking questions said they missed and valued the professors being forced out.
In September, the music department’s outside chair, Hagood -- a well-liked and respected professor -- died by suicide.
In November, students demonstrated outside the college’s Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts to demand transparency about what was happening to Hope music.
As an MSU alumnus, I know what it’s like to have no confidence in your administration, to search for answers and justice but receive only deceit. I stand with Hope Music students. #bringbackourprofs #bringbackthemusic pic.twitter.com/KvCBYbaI9W— madeline (@strugglingsloth) November 8, 2018
It’s been a hard year to be a music student at Hope College. We are missing 3 profs who have influenced me greatly as a student, but also as a person. These people pour their lives into their students and their jobs. I love and miss them. #bringbackourprofs pic.twitter.com/H3SlrjCVbF— Mackenzie (@kenziethepug) November 5, 2018
every student has the right to an education by the educators that they chose to come to a a school for. I am proud to be a Hope music student #bringbackourprofs #hopecollegemusic @HopeCollege pic.twitter.com/H286XHPWUg— riley (@rileywlsn) November 5, 2018
In December, the college announced that a new president, Matthew A. Scogin, a finance executive and 2002 Hope alumnus who is a member of its governing board, would begin this summer.
But concerns about how Hope has handled the music department center on the provost, Short-Thompson.
In addition to faculty concerns about her leadership, a group of current music students and alumni wrote in an open letter in the Sentinel last month that their “many conversations with Provost Short-Thompson have shown us that [she] is not being open or transparent regarding our concerns.”
Hope’s actions “have caused irreparable damage to the affect[ed] faculty members and their family and friends,” the students wrote, requesting a public explanation and Short-Thompson’s resignation. “The administration is not demonstrating its values as a college rooted in the historic Christian faith.”
The college publicly said last month that it had concluded its investigation of the music department, with “evidentiary substantiation of violations including documented financial malfeasance, insubordination and, as to one professor, academic irresponsibility.”
Hope also addressed its findings with faculty members in the meeting Richmond wrote about. For 45 minutes, he says, the college’s human resources director made "derogatory comments about me, the department and others, and invoked the faculty handbook to support claims of due process. A screen over the stage displayed categories of fireable offenses while she tossed off nasty characterizations and alleged acts like beads at a Mardi Gras parade."
While students in the music department continue to express frustration over how the college has managed the music department, other student leaders say they’re satisfied with Hope’s actions.
In another recent letter in the Sentinel, the members of the Student Congress Executive Board wrote that they’d met with administrators and believed that “correct steps of the faculty handbook were followed with efforts made to protect the students, faculty, music department and college.”
They added, “We would like to state our trust in the process and affirm our support for the administration of Hope.”
Jennifer Fellinger, Hope spokesperson, said late Tuesday that in response to concerns, the college’s Board of Trustees has ordered an outside review of the matter. As for reports that employees and students haven't been heard throughout this process, Fellinger said that the college worked to balance transparency and confidentiality concerns.
“There have been various reports about the number of music faculty that have been impacted,” Fellinger added via email. “In the fall, some part-time music faculty were not renewed, which is common in music departments because student demand and faculty performance vary from semester to semester and year to year. Other faculty contracts were adjusted in light of accreditation requirements and enrollment needs.”
Hope remains committed to the music department and, “contrary to what is being reported, there is optimism at the college” about its future, she said.FacultyTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: FacultyImage Source: TwitterImage Caption: A student poster about music faculty departures at Hope CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Hope College
Professors express concern about comments on blackface incidents in book by leader of a Canadian university
Blackface controversies have set off debates at American universities, whether about recent incidents at the University of Oklahoma or the medical school yearbook of Virginia's governor. Now a book written to shed light on how universities handle disputes over free speech has set off a debate about blackface … in Canadian academe.
The book is University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate & Dissent on Campus (University of Toronto Press). The book explores a number of incidents in which students and professors at Canadian universities have had their speech rights threatened, in some cases related to controversial things they have said. The author is Peter MacKinnon, interim president of Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, and formerly president of the University of Saskatchewan.
In one section of the book, he describes incidents at the University of Toronto and Brock University in which students dressed for Halloween as members of Jamaica's bobsled team, with blackface part of their costumes. He also describes an incident at Queen's University, where costumes depicted people from a variety of national backgrounds. The incidents are from 2009 on.
MacKinnon does not defend the various ways students portrayed themselves and people from other races and cultures. But he questions how these incidents were condemned and became the subject of widespread debate, with some comparing the students to those who would wear Nazi uniforms.
"If there was insensitivity to issues of race in the selection of costumes by party-goers at the three universities, there was also a lack of proportion in the responses to them," he wrote. "These were Halloween parties, not cultural misappropriations, Nazi mimicry, or manifestations of disapproval of other peoples. So describing them [as such] risks diminishing real problems of intolerance, discrimination and racism. It also risks backlash from a bewildered public observing these episodes."
In Canada, as in the United States, many students and professors view blackface as hateful, not a costume faux pas.
Students have called MacKinnon a "blackface apologist" and demanded his removal. He released a statement that he does not "condone blackface."
This week professors have demanded that the university release a statement on its policies on blackface, and to state that wearing blackface is a form of harassment of other students and demeans them in violation of the university's codes.
"These statements [in the book] have caused us concern about how Dalhousie’s policies could be applied to similar facts, should they arise here. Imagine that a student or employee attends a Halloween party on campus wearing blackface in October 2019. Would our policies result in any sanction for their behavior, or the response that it was 'just a party'?" said the letter, signed by 28 faculty members.
They added, "It is our view that reasonable people know or ought to know that wearing blackface would make other people feel demeaned, intimidated or harassed. The meaning or significance of this practice cannot be separated from its painful history, and this history is indelibly marked by racism. Blackface cannot be understood in isolation from historical and ongoing practices of invoking the imagery of African enslavement for the purposes of amusement for non-black people. We are concerned that this history and the harms of blackface are at risk of being minimized at Dalhousie, as is the inclusion of the black and racialized communities in our understanding of who counts when identifying the 'reasonable person' and what all of us should be expected to know."
The university released a statement to Inside Higher Ed stating that it does condemn blackface and views it as a serious problem.
"There has been a lot of recent conversation in our local, national and international communities about blackface," said the statement. "Dalhousie would like to make a very clear statement. Blackface is absolutely unacceptable and wrong. All forms of racism, including blackface, are an affront to our values as a university and will not be tolerated at Dalhousie University. Having a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all members of our community is our highest priority. The University’s Statement on Prohibited Discrimination clearly outlines our commitment to safeguarding students and employees against all forms of prohibited discrimination in their work or study or their participation in the university more generally. When an incident comes to the university’s attention, a number of policies -- including the Student Code of Conduct and Statement on Prohibited Discrimination -- could apply depending on the circumstances … Building a community where we all feel like we truly belong is a priority at Dalhousie University."DiversityGlobalEditorial Tags: CanadaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Florida Coastal School of Law, a Jacksonville-based for-profit institution, says it will seek to reclassify as a nonprofit entity, joining a number of other for-profit institutions that have recently announced plans to change tax status as a solution to legal, regulatory or marketing hurdles.
The law school has faced growing scrutiny in recent years from legal education observers and its accreditor over its admissions standards and bar-passage rates. The American Bar Association found Florida Coastal out of compliance with accreditation standards last year. Other law schools operated by its parent company, InfiLaw, meanwhile, have closed or faced sanctions in recent years.
But Florida Coastal leaders say they’ve overhauled their academic curriculum and have made significant strides in student outcomes, boosting bar passage rates by 15 percentage points last year to over 62 percent.
“We’ve improved our entry credentials. We’ve improved our bar-passage results,” said Scott DeVito, Florida Coastal’s dean. “So that’s part of why this is now the time to do it.”
Law school officials say the change would allow professors to apply for federal research grants and would facilitate the expansion of an endowment. Converting to nonprofit status would also have the added benefit of reducing federal regulatory requirements and removing a for-profit label that has become toxic for many students.
Florida Coastal officials said that at the end of the process, the law school would be an independent entity. But they didn’t rule out some kind of role for InfiLaw, its parent company.
“We’re not exactly certain what InfiLaw’s final role, if any, will be. But they will not be the owner,” said Jennifer Reiber, Florida Coastal’s dean of academic affairs.
Other institutions, like Grand Canyon University, that have converted to nonprofit status have signed management agreements with their former parent companies after splitting off. Kyle McEntee, the executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency, said he questioned what kind of arrangement the new nonprofit entity would have with InfiLaw.
“Will InfiLaw be managing or does it hope to manage the law school?” he said.
Florida Coastal officials also plan to form a partnership with a nonprofit university if the conversion goes through. They said talks are ongoing with one potential partner but declined to offer further details.
To make the switch, the law school will need approval from multiple regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Florida Commission for Independent Education and its accreditor, the ABA.
The next step is for ABA to send a fact finder to Florida Coastal to review the application and file a report.
Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA's section of legal education and admissions to the bar, said a change in tax status is rare but not unheard-of for law schools. Western State University College of Law last year and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2001 both converted from for-profit to nonprofit status. The review process typically takes six to 12 months before a decision is reached, Currier said.
“Florida Coastal School of Law is on the list of ABA-approved law schools, and it remains subject to published notices that it is operating out of compliance on specific standards,” he said. “The school has been directed to take specific remedial action to demonstrate that it has come back into compliance with those standards. The school’s accreditation remains in place while the review processes are continuing.”
The law school will have to show it is in compliance with its accreditor’s standards before its application to change tax status is approved. But its leaders are confident it will do so after a major rebound in recent bar exam results.
Less than a decade ago, Florida Coastal regularly posted pass rates of 75 percent on the bar exam, which is the biggest obstacle for graduates to go on to practice law. But over the past five years, the law school’s bar-passage rates cratered. After lowering entrance standards in 2016, it fell below 50 percent for summer bar exams the next year. Bar-passage rates had declined overall in Florida at the time, but Florida Coastal was also one of only two law schools to fail the Education Department’s 2017 gainful-employment ratings.
Last year, however, Florida Coastal cleared a 62.5 percent bar passage rate -- a result, law school officials said, of an overhauled curriculum that gave students more early preparation for the range of subjects they faced on the state’s bar exam.
“We believe we’re seeing a lot of success as a result of those curriculum and program changes,” Reiber said.For-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: For-profit collegesImage Caption: Florida Coastal School of LawAd Keyword: For-profit Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
A federal judge ordered the dismissal of a case against the American Studies Association filed by a group of current and former members who argued that in endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities, the ASA breached its contract with members and misappropriated association funds.
In dismissing without prejudice the case against ASA and several of its current and former leaders, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek damages for what they alleged were injuries to the association.
Further, Judge Contreras found that while the plaintiffs “may have meritorious claims arising from their individual injuries as ASA members,” the value of such potential claims did not exceed $75,000 and therefore fell beneath the threshold under which the federal court could act. Judge Contreras concluded that the plaintiffs "have raised allegations and presented evidence indicating that they may have meritorious claims, but they must assert these claims before the proper tribunal."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they were undeterred and would continue to press ahead either in federal or state court with the lawsuit.
The suit concerns a December 2013 vote in which ASA members voted by a nearly two-to-one margin in support of a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities The text of the resolution describes Israeli higher education institutions as "a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students."
At issue in this case was the plaintiffs’ claim, as Judge Contreras put it, that the “defendants coopted an apolitical educational organization and, against its members' wishes, turned that organization into a mouthpiece of the Israel boycott movement.”
The plaintiffs claimed that the December 2013 membership vote in which ASA members voted by a large margin in favor of the resolution endorsing the Israel boycott was conducted unlawfully. They alleged that ASA leaders misrepresented their intentions to the membership and manipulated the association's voting procedures for their own interest, including by freezing membership rolls prior to the vote in an alleged attempt to prevent boycott opponents from rejoining and voting.
They alleged that after the resolution passed, ASA leaders improperly spent association resources to defend and promote it, including by accessing the ASA’s trust fund to pay for resolution-related insurance, public relations and legal fees. The plaintiffs also claimed that ASA raised membership dues from $120 to $275 to offset expenses related to the resolution.
Judge Contreras ruled in dismissing the case that even “if Defendants misappropriated every dollar that Plaintiffs contributed to ASA in annual dues, it would take each Plaintiff 625 years to reach $75,000 in damages,” the threshold necessary for the federal court to have jurisdiction.
In a statement, three lawyers for the members who sued the ASA said they "fully intend to go forward with this lawsuit, whether in federal court, should we choose to appeal the amount in controversy dismissal, or in state court, where there is no amount in controversy requirement."
"Our clients are four esteemed professors of American Studies," said the statement from the three lawyers for the plaintiffs, which was released by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, an advocacy organization focused on anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on university campuses. "They brought this case because they believe that the ASA’s academic boycott of Israel violates cherished principles of academic freedom. They opposed the academic boycott on the same grounds as the American Association of University Professors, the presidents of dozens of universities, numerous former presidents of the ASA, and many, many others. They also believe that the individual defendants violated democratic principles and the ASA Constitution and Bylaws in the adoption of the academic boycott."
Liz Jackson, a senior staff attorney for the legal advocacy organization Palestine Legal, which provided advice to ASA in the lead-up to and aftermath of the resolution vote, said the decision was "a significant victory for academic associations, for professors who want to stand up for Palestinian rights. There has been so much fear and intimidation kind of kicked up around this case, and the Brandeis Center was very clear about their intent to deter other groups of professors from taking a stand in support of boycotts for Palestinian rights. Professors should take heart that they have a right to boycott and they have a protected right to stand up for Palestinian human rights. There will be more intimidation, there will be more lawsuits and professors should take heart that they will fail."
John F. Stephens, the executive director of the ASA, said, "We had a great day in court and we look forward to continuing with our mission of interdisciplinary and critical studies of the U.S."
Other U.S.-based scholarly associations that have formally supported the academic boycott of Israel include the African Literature Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the National Women's Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
Some larger associations have rejected the boycott. The American Anthropological Association narrowly voted down a pro-boycott resolution in 2016, and the Modern Language Association's Delegate Assembly in January of 2017 rejected a pro-boycott measure in favor of another measure, subsequently ratified by the membership, calling on the association to refrain from a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities on the grounds that such an endorsement "contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature."
The lawsuit against the ASA was originally filed in spring of 2016. One of the original lawyers for the plaintiffs was Kenneth L. Marcus, the former head of the Brandeis Center who has since been appointed as assistant secretary of civil rights for the U.S. Department of Education. Opponents of Marcus's nomination argued that his appointment as the department's chief civil rights enforcer could have a chilling effect on speech and activism critical of Israel on college campuses.Editorial Tags: Academic freedomIsraelScholarly associationsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: