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Chris Dodds, who has worked as a garage assistant supervisor with Columbus City Schools since 2004, reportedly posted the hateful message on a Facebook page for the 2017 Columbus Pride parade and festival last week. In the since-deleted post, Dodds said he hoped Friday’s festival, which has drawn more than 500,000 people in the past, “turns out like the Boston Marathon,” a pointed reference to the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured several hundred others.
Take a look at a screenshot of the alleged post, courtesy of Change.org, below.
The post quickly prompted an online petition calling for Dodds’ dismissal. “This is completely unacceptable,” organizer Tom Neffs wrote, “and we need to take a stand and demand that this man not be allowed to spread this hate to the children in affiliation to our school system.” The petition has since drawn over 46,000 supporters as of Monday afternoon.
School officials addressed the news in a Facebook post Thursday.
Scott Varner, who is a spokesman for Columbus City Schools, told The Columbus Dispatch on Friday that the district “values and celebrates its diversity” and was “working with authorities to address this matter and [Dodds’] actions.”
“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Varner said. “We are currently working toward Mr. Dodds’ termination.”
In an email to HuffPost, Columbus City Schools Communications Manager Jacqueline D. Bryant confirmed that the school district was planning to terminate Dodds, and noted that more than 500 teachers, staff, students and family members joined the city’s Pride Parade on Saturday in the end.
On Saturday, school officials shared some jubilant images of those teachers and students marching in the parade on Facebook, and their praise seemed even more profound in the wake of the controversy.
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“Hi Mrs. Radigan. Is Lizzy toilet trained? Do you need a cup for her to leave a sample for her physical this morning?”
My expression reflexively said, “Of course she’s toilet trained, she’s 15 and not only is this the same practice that’s been taking care of her since she was born, you personally have known her this whole time.” But I remained silent despite my anger, smiled, and said, “Yes, she has been since she was three. Thankfully.”
“Oh, of course she is. Sorry. You are really a saint. ”
Flashing my best saintly smile, I grabbed the cup and led my daughter, who’s now 5 inches taller than me, to the bathroom so she could prove her ability to pee in the cup. We finished in the bathroom and left the cup on the shelf for the lab.
We were seated in the waiting room for only about a minute when a face that we have never seen before appeared, called her name, and led us to the exam room.
The physician’s assistant was a very attractive young woman. In a professional voice, she asked me if I could get my daughter in position to do the eye exam.
Doing my best impersonation of the “Cool Special Needs Mom” I try to show to the outside world, I said, “OK. Come on Lizzy, let’s do the eye chart.”
“She needs to cover her left eye.”
“OK. Lizzy, let’s cover your left eye. That’s it. Good.”
“Have her start reading the first line on the chart, where my finger is.”
“OK. You can talk to Lizzy, it’s fine. She doesn’t bite. Do you bite Lizzy?” All three of us laughed a bit. I turned to Lizzy, “Honey, can you tell me the letter she is pointing to.”
The three of us continued this way, the assistant asking me questions to ask Lizzy and me repeating the questions for my daughter, all the way through the eye and hearing exams.
I searched my well worn bag of tricks, the ones I use when I’m trying to educate people about my daughter. I asked the woman her name.
“Lizzy, say hi to Maria.”
Lizzy looked up, smiled and said, “Hi Maria.”
With that Maria smiled and said hi back to Lizzy. I was thinking that maybe I was getting through to the young assistant, when she guided us to the examination room and handed me a gown for Lizzy to wear and left saying she would be back in a moment .
When Maria came back she continued to ask me questions about Lizzy, and I continued to try to get Lizzy into the conversation. I was having very little success with both members of my audience, and I think we were all glad when Maria completed her tasks and told us to wait for the doctor.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this woman was trying to be hurtful. She was just doing her job. And for all I know, she handles all patients this way. Plus, I admit, Lizzy is not always an easy customer. But I’m reaching my breaking point, and watching my daughter being treated like someone less than human didn’t help me that day.
It’s been a tough year for Lizzy. Despite the developmental delays that cause her to behave more like a young child of 3 or 4 than the five-foot-eight teenager that she is, my daughter also suffers from Bipolar disorder.
Whether this is the result of her other problems, we will probably never know. But it’s this illness that causes the most havoc on our sweet girl.
This year Lizzy has been having more and more manic episodes. She’s been shredding her dresses, taking apart her shoes, having nightmares about monsters, and remaining so frightened of the monsters that she can’t sleep at night. She also has been emptying out bottles of shampoo faster than we can buy them. I won’t mention what she does to our deodorants but suffice it say we have the nicest smelling bathroom grout in the neighborhood.
When we ask her why she is doing this, she tells us she doesn’t know.
We have gone through seven dresses, five pairs of leggings, three pairs of shoes, countless bottles of shampoo, and innumerable sticks of deodorant. She has gone days at a time with little or no sleep, and we have had to change and adjust her meds several times.
I’m tired and stressed. And I want someone to help my daughter.
If I can’t have that right now, I at least want the professionals who come in contact with Lizzy to treat her like a person.
When I encounter someone, like the physician’s assistant at my daughter’s physical, who can’t recognize the beautiful girl hiding behind all the disabilities, it’s a knife through my heart. It also drives home that sinking feeling that I’m the only one who can protect her in a world that will never quite understand her, give her the respect, and treat her with the dignity all of us have a right to expect.
I also have to remember that at the end of the day, Lizzy is just a young girl who’s trying to find her place in a confusing world. Her disabilities make her personal struggle harder than what most of us will ever encounter. At the end of the day, all I can do is be her guide and hope I’m doing it right and hope that she meets more people along the way who respect her than people who overlook her.
This piece has been previously published on Kathy’s site, My Dishwasher’s Possessed!
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Scholars vary in how and to what extent they engage with the public. Sarah Bond, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Iowa, works at the high end of the engagement spectrum, via a blog, other use of social media, a column in Forbes and more. She’s described her efforts as a way of making antiquities accessible to all, but recent threats she’s received demonstrate the potential perils of that outreach.
Earlier this month, Bond published an article in the online arts publication Hyperallergic saying that research shows ancient Western artifacts were painted in different colors but have, over time, faded to their base light marble color -- giving the false impression that white skin was the classical ideal.
“Modern technology has revealed an irrefutable, if unpopular, truth: many of the statues, reliefs and sarcophagi created in the ancient Western world were in fact painted,” she wrote. “Marble was a precious material for Greco-Roman artisans, but it was considered a canvas, not the finished product for sculpture. It was carefully selected and then often painted in gold, red, green, black, white and brown, among other colors.”
While today’s scholars have accepted this as fact, she said, the general public is another story. Part of the problem is that most museums and art history textbooks continue to contain “a predominantly neon white display of skin tone when it comes to classical statues and sarcophagi.”
The “assemblage of neon whiteness serves to create a false idea of homogeneity -- everyone was very white! -- across the Mediterranean region,” she continued. “The Romans, in fact, did not define people as ‘white’; where, then, did this notion of race come from? … The equation of white marble with beauty is not an inherent truth of the universe.”
Bond suggests this misunderstanding has perpetuated or been used to support racism over time, saying that “how it continues to influence white supremacist ideas today [is] often ignored.” Groups such as Identity Europa, for example, use classical statuary “as a symbol of white male superiority,” she added. “It may have taken just one classical statue to influence the false construction of race, but it will take many of us to tear it down.”
It’s hardly a shocking idea, and it’s one other scholars have raised before. But some conservative and farther-right websites picked up the Hyperallergic piece, drawing to it negative attention. Campus Reform, for example reported that the Iowa professor recently said “appreciation of ‘white marble’ used in classical artwork contributes to ‘white supremacist ideas today.’”
Scoffing at Bond’s suggestion that better museum signage, 3-D reconstructions alongside originals and computerized light projections can help contextualize antiquities, National Review said, “That should, presumably, work to diminish all of that racism.”
Campus Reform included some lengthy quotes from Bond’s piece and contacted her for comment. She complied, saying that "Greeks and Romans actually added color to their art and thus white marble was often the canvas rather than the finished product." The "exalting of white (and unpainted) marble was then an 18th century construct of beauty rather than representative of the classical view," she added in an email to the website. But the coverage there and elsewhere, plus an additional mention by conservative talk radio host Joe Pags, was enough to prompt online threats of violence and calls for her termination, she says. There was additional heckling and harassment, including anti-Semitic references (Bond is of Jewish descent).
“What they want to believe is that there is a liberal professor that is so sensitive to race issues that she will make race issues out of anything,” Bond told ArtForum. “They want to make me an example of the hyperliberalization of the academy.”
Bond also wrote a blog post in April saying she'd faced harassment for a column in Forbes similar to her Hyperallergic essay.
"I knew when I started taking notes on the subject of polychromy many months ago that this column would likely cause a stir within the field, among colleagues and online," she said. "I had thought that I was prepared for the internet trolls. After all, I have crossed many proverbial bridges on Twitter –– where they usually lurk. However, the hatred and invective I received from this post was more than anything I have ever received to date."
Through a university spokesperson, Bond declined additional interview requests but said Iowa “has stood by me and supported me through all of the online harassment.”John F. Finamore, The Erling B. "Jack" Holtsmark Professor in Classics at Iowa and Bond's department chair, said via email that he and other professors were aware of Bond's article "and the vicious, negative responses it has engendered." He's been working with the dean's office and has contacted the university's threat assessment team, he said, and all have been supportive. Calling the attacks on Bond "shocking" and "an unjustified assault against freedom of expression," Finamore said that "internet trolls, who did not understand her argument, viciously attacked [Bond] for equating white statues with racism. The classics department fully supports [Bond] and her research. The department also condemns what amounts to cyber-bullying by her right-wing opponents. Free exchange and criticism of ideas is central to academic research, and attempts to shut down anyone by threats and bullying are detrimental to free speech. We in classics support [Bond] and the need for a humane atmosphere of productive exchange of ideas." Not the Only One Bond is not the first scholar to face threats of violence for their public comments recently. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, canceled public talks due to menacing comments she received after she criticized President Trump in a commencement speech at Hampshire College. Tommy Curry, an associate professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, faced racially tinged threats after National Review ran a piece on years-old comments he made about violence against whites during an interview regarding the violent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. His comments were historical and contextualized, but some reports said Curry was advocating racial violence today. And Bret Weinstein, a professor of biology at Evergreen State College, was warned to stay off campus by security officials after he questioned the logic of a student request that all white students and faculty members should stay off campus during a day of protest. (The college later temporarily shut down after further threats.)
The American Association of University Professors has expressed concern about increasing reports of online harassment and intimidation of scholars, and encouraged institutions to do more to support targeted faculty members. Specifically, AAUP “urges administrations, governing boards and faculties, individually and collectively, to speak out clearly and forcefully to defend academic freedom and to condemn targeted harassment and intimidation of faculty members.” It also recommends that “administrations and elected faculty bodies work jointly to establish institutional regulations that prohibit the surreptitious recording of classroom discourse or of private meetings between students and faculty members.”
Tressie McMillan Cottom, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University who, like Bond, sees public engagement as central to her work, wrote in a 2015 blog post that if institutions want their scholars to perform such outreach, they have to be ready to accept the “burden” it brings in a hyperactive media landscape. Her words may be even more relevant today.
“In this moment we should call for institutions to state explicitly what they owe those who venture into public waters,” McMillan Cottom wrote. “Because public scholarship means pissing people off. You think it does not or that it can be done without doing that. You are wrong. As audiences collapse, everything is a point of controversy. And as pre-existing powerful actors and institutions band together to force context collapse, everything can be dressed in the uniform of outrage: petitions, emails, phone calls, rhetorical gut punches, think pieces, etc.”
It doesn’t take much to make a controversy, she said, suggesting that institutions have a “first line of defense” against email and phone onslaughts, a protocol for dealing with threats against scholars, and a strong, joint faculty-administrative awareness of what social media means to public scholarship, among other recommendations.
Denise McCoskey, a professor of classics and black world studies at Miami University who has been cited by Bond for her work on race in the ancient Western world, said she thought Bond's essay essentially asks why, “when we know better, do we want to continue diminishing our understanding of the ancient world by covering over all its differences? Why do we want the ancient world to reflect ‘us’ -- a particular group of ‘us’ for sure -- back so perfectly rather than use it to interrogate more fundamentally who we are, what we think and why?”
McCoskey said she’s never been targeted for her own work touching on similar issues, but said her students do react “quite dramatically” to the notion that the ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t see the race in black and white. That reaction is one of “excitement,” she said, and an opportunity to see something perceived as fundamental in a new way, but “that very proposition is much more threatening and distressing to other audiences in today's climate.”
Perhaps most distressing about Bond’s case, she said, is that “it seems quite clear that the people who have had the most violent reaction to her essay are the ones who have not actually read it,” relying instead on “distorted and misleading summaries.”Threats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomDigital HumanitiesDiversity MattersImage Source: Wiki MediaImage Caption: ‘Belvedere Apollo’Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, June 20, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Threats for What She Didn’t Say
AAUP debate centers on whether U Illinois has done enough to atone for the Steven Salaita case and prevent another
WASHINGTON -- After delaying the measure last year over lingering concerns about academic freedom at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the American Association of University Professors voted here Saturday to remove the campus from its list of censured institutions. The campus chapter of the AAUP urged the national body to lift censure, as recommended by AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, but others challenged the idea, saying UIUC hadn’t done enough to move past the Steven Salaita debacle.
Members also voted to impose censure on the administrations of the Community College of Aurora in Colorado and Spalding University in Kentucky. Spalding is accused of terminating a longtime professor who questioned why faculty members of color in her department weren’t notified of a report of an armed, potentially dangerous student. Aurora, meanwhile, allegedly retaliated against an adjunct faculty member who said he wouldn’t lower academic requirements in his course just because the college had adopted weaker academic standards as part of a plan to promote degree completion.
Fight to Remove Censure
The AAUP censured Illinois two years ago for alleged violations of academic freedom and tenure after Salaita was infamously “unhired” for a tenured faculty position in the American Indian studies program days before the start of classes, in 2014.
The university backed Salaita’s right to free speech and academic freedom when first faced with complaints about the tone of his anti-Israel tweets, but later revoked his contract, saying he wasn’t yet a faculty member.
That was technically true, but many professors -- even those opposed to Salaita’s views -- accused the university of caving to external pressure to dump Salaita and using an absurdly delayed faculty approval process to do so; the university system’s Board of Trustees ultimately rejected his hiring weeks into the academic year -- well after most professors would assume they already had a job. He had been listed to teach courses before the university told him not to come.
Institutions are sometimes blasé about censure, since the designation is essentially symbolic. There are no fines and it’s not a legal action, for example. Other administrations are quick to work with the AAUP to lift the label, seeing it as a reputational blemish affecting their ability to recruit or retain talented professors whose work requires a commitment to free inquiry and job security.
Harry Hilton, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at Illinois and head of its AAUP chapter, joked that he was in the “very uncomfortable position” of defending his administration, but “strongly encouraged” those present to remove censure. A new campus chancellor and other leaders, he said, seemed sincere in their desire to improve the conditions that contributed to the Salaita decision, and the university has met the three obligations AAUP assigned to it upon censure: ensuring board approval for faculty appointments prior to their effective date; requiring the board to send back any faculty appointment trustees question to the department or program, to allow it the opportunity to respond to concerns; and getting the board to satisfactorily reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom. The university also reached a financial settlement with Salaita.
Peter Neil Kirstein, professor of history at Saint Xavier University and chair of the state-level AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in Illinois, voiced reservations about letting the institution off the hook so soon, however.
Reading a statement from members of his committee, whom he said hadn’t been consulted on the recommendation to lift censure, Kirstein called for UIUC to make a “public apology” for its treatment of Salaita, who still hasn't been able to secure a tenured job. He was most recently a visiting professor at the American University in Beirut, but was blocked from a permanent position there over procedural concerns about his appointment process. Kirstein also said it isn’t enough that Illinois's board now approves faculty hires prior to a semester’s start. Salaita gave up a tenured position at Virginia Tech to move there, and a much faster board approval process is needed, he said -- two or three weeks from hire at most.
Moreover, Kirstein said, Illinois’s American Indian studies program, once growing, has been decimated since the Salaita controversy. The program had seven core faculty members and was about to add two more, including Salaita, when controversy broke out. All core professors have since left the university or moved to other departments on campus.
“Illinois Committee A demands the full restoration of the American Indian studies program now,” he said. “The AAUP must not remain silent. A university must not, with impunity, destroy an academic program because of a controversial, idealistic professor. There are no core faculty, only affiliate faculty. The interim director is not a Native American area specialist but a Latino, African-American and baseball scholar. The website tersely states a director’s statement is coming soon.”
John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of AAUP’s “Academe” blog, also opposed lifting censure due to the state of the American Indian studies program. He read a statement on behalf of Robert Warrior, the former chair of American Indian studies at Illinois who is now at the University of Kansas, saying, “my move involved nothing but push from Illinois insofar as there was nothing there for me to do other than lay low and hide out. Putting aside the affront of what happened with the Salaita appointment, the institution demonstrated zero capacity to take [American Indian studies] seriously as an academic enterprise.”
Illinois has previously said it's attempting to revitalize the American Indian studies program, and that it did what it could to try to retain scholars who were aggressively recruited by other institutions in the wake of the Salaita case. It has noted that recruiting new professors takes time, even under ordinary circumstances.
Wilson expressed additional concern that while administrators in some cases appear to regret the Salaita decision, the board as a whole does not. Members who voted to block Salaita's hiring are still sitting, he said, and there have been no real assurances they would act differently if faced with a similar situation today. Wilson also noted that AAUP’s campus visit demonstrating restored faculty faith in academic freedom on campus has been described as thorough,but few have read the resultant report. The visit and report, which hadn’t been completed by last year’s AAUP meeting and thus delayed the vote on lifting censure at that time, was deemed confidential to encourage frankness among on-campus interviewees.
During some debate on the matter, a number of AAUP members said they, too, remained concerned for Salaita’s career and the fate of American Indian studies at Illinois. But most said that to raise those issues now, after the university had worked to meet stated conditions on lifting censure, would be -- as one commenter put it -- to “move the goalposts.” Others said the state AAUP chapter should defer to the will of the campus-based chapter, which has the best vantage point on improvement.
Donna Young, a professor of law at the Albany Law School and a member of AAUP’s national Committee A, said she was pained by challenges to smaller, critical theory-based programs -- such as American Indian studies -- across the country, since some of her best students graduate from them. But that is a “separate issue” from the Salaita case, she said, and to conflate them would compromise the integrity of the censure process. Beyond that, she said, some institutions -- including the entire State University of New York System -- remain on the censure list with no apparent motivation to get off it. With Illinois so willing to work with AAUP to lift censure, she said, “we have to grab this. This is a win for us. We need to keep this.”
AAUP briefly considered a proposal from the floor for a secret-ballot vote, based on concerns that a significant minority against lifting censure would feel more comfortable that way. That was ultimately deemed incompatible with parliamentary procedure, however, and a voice vote showed significant majority support for lifting censure.
Salaita did not respond to a request for comment. Robert J. Jones, Illinois’s new chancellor, said in a statement that he was “pleased to learn that AAUP recognizes our efforts and is taking this positive action.”
He added, “Ideas can be dangerous … and even threatening. They have the potential to rewrite history and disrupt governments. Sometimes they just lead us down dead ends and even are deemed failures. Still, we must be a place where our students and scholars alike have the freedom to pursue them all. Academic freedom is a bedrock principle at Illinois. But these ideas also lead us to knowledge, practices and discoveries that improve the lives of billions across decades.”
One far less controversial, unanimous vote to remove censure concerned Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, which was censured in 1978 over the summary dismissal of a faculty member with 10 years of full-time service. While Phillips resolved the matter with the former professor decades ago, it was slow to adopt policies that in AAUP’s view remedied the situation over all -- namely awarding indefinite tenure to long-serving faculty members. In 2015, however, a member of the University of Arkansas System began working with AAUP to lift censure. The college has since adopted a policy of presumed indefinite retention for faculty members after six years of full-time service. Termination after that point must be for cause, demonstrated in a hearing.
A member of AAUP visited the campus this year and called its climate for academic freedom “healthy.” A college spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
New Additions to Censure List
The association’s list didn’t get any shorter over all, however, as AAUP also added two new institutions to its censure list. Both motions were passed unanimously with little to no discussion, though members heard letters from the professors central to each case thanking AAUP for its assistance and encouraging censure.
In the Spalding case, AAUP found that the university last year terminated Erlene Grise-Owens, a longtime professor of social work, for repeatedly questioning administrators as to why professors of color in her department were the only ones who were not warned about a potentially dangerous student. The student, who allegedly had a history of making inflammatory comments about race in class, reportedly showed another student a gun in her car and made a vague threat of violence. AAUP has said the case matters because Grise-Owens felt she was obligated to speak for her untenured colleagues of color because she had tenure. Yet in the end, it wasn’t enough protection.
The university responded to AAUP’s initial report about the situation by saying that Grise-Owens is someone with an “agenda” and a long history of antagonism toward colleagues. It also said the student in question was examined by health professionals and found not to be a threat to herself or others. Spaulding offered no additional comment on the censure vote Saturday.
In a significant case for non-tenure-track faculty members, AAUP found that the Community College of Aurora likely retaliated against philosophy adjunct Nathanial Bork, firing him just days after he said he planned to alert a state education body of administrative requests that he “dumb down” his course last year. The college was trying to boost passage rates to demonstrate increased student success, but Bork said he’d been asked to cut 20 percent of his introductory philosophy course content; require fewer writing assignments, with a new maximum of eight pages per semester; offer small-group activities every other class session; and make works by women and minority thinkers about 30 percent of the course.
Aurora, which has denied claims of retaliation against Bork and instead blamed his termination on concerns about his teaching, in a statement called the censure vote “unfortunate and unwarranted.” The college “will continue to address the needs of our adjunct instructors with a focus on communication, professional development, recognition and remuneration,” it said. “We value our faculty and our instructors, and we are committed to working together to create the educational conditions that will help our students succeed.”
AAUP at its meeting also voted to amend its constitution to allow payments equal to one course per semester to adjunct faculty members who become association officers. Current association regulations prevent paying faculty leaders directly for participation, but AAUP has a longstanding practice of sometimes paying their institutions to buy out officers' courses to give them time to attend meetings and perform other association duties. Because non-tenure-track faculty members typically can’t buy out of courses, AAUP payments may now go directly to them to compensate for lost working time.
The association also approved a resolution calling upon Illinois lawmakers to end the "political stalemate" over its state budget and immediately restore "full higher education funding." Educational appropriations per full-time equivalent student in the state declined by 80 percent in 2016 from a year earlier, from $10,986 to $2,196, as enrollment at public institutions dropped 11 percent.
AAUP members also backed a last-minute motion to oppose dramatic cuts to higher education in Puerto Rico.AdjunctsAcademic FreedomActivismEditorial Tags: Academic freedomAdjunctsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
In 2013, the University of Dayton started a new fixed net-price tuition plan, promising most students that their financial aid packages would rise in lockstep with any increases in tuition sticker prices over four years -- keeping steady the effective price students pay.
This spring, when the first class to enroll under the tuition plan was preparing to walk across the stage, the private Roman Catholic university was happy to broadcast the results of the program.
The four-year graduation rate for the class of 2017 jumped eight percentage points, hitting a record 67 percent. Student borrowing plunged, dropping by more than 22 percent overall. The average four-year graduate borrowed less than $18,000 in student loans -- $5,000 less than previous graduates who hadn't been part of the fixed net-price plan.
Those numbers were unveiled at a time when college costs, student borrowing and retention rates are under intense scrutiny. They ask the question of why more colleges and universities are not crafting their own fixed-tuition plans.
Of course it’s not so simple. A deeper look shows fixed-tuition plans require a delicate balance between up-front costs to freshmen, future costs to upperclassmen and the amount of uncertainty a college or university is willing to shoulder. Several other institutions have tried fixed-tuition plans over the years, crafting programs with varying details and equally varying results. And while the University of Dayton has made real gains in both word of mouth and metrics under its program, its gains have come with equally real financial trade-offs.
The bottom line is that fixed-tuition plans tend to shift some financial risk from students to a college or university. As a result, they’re easier to put in place -- and keep in place -- at wealthy private institutions. Smaller colleges with lower endowments and public universities with more reliance on unpredictable state funding can find it harder to create programs or make them effective.
Dayton falls somewhere in the middle. It's not among the wealthiest universities with billion-dollar endowments, but it is not on the poor end of the spectrum, either.
“It has worked well for some,” said Jim Hundrieser, associate managing principal for AGB Institutional Strategies. “The privates are having an easier time to be able to do some five-year projected budgets and understand what are some of the implications of doing this.”
Those implications start with marketing and continue into financial projections, Hundrieser said. Universities need to be able to effectively communicate about the fixed-tuition plans and their nuances to students.
The Dayton plan uses the mechanism of financial aid to keep students from seeing increases in the price they pay for their education. The university promises full-time students that their financial aid will grow dollar for dollar with tuition for four years -- although it is technically guaranteed for eight semesters in order to cover students who take semesters off or take part in co-ops. The idea is that their net price will be the same when they are freshmen as it will be when they are seniors.
When Dayton started the program, it also eliminated all fees. Accepted students receive financial aid letters mapping out the full cost of tuition and their projected costs for expenses like housing and meals over four years. The idea is that students won’t face any surprise bills and can plan out their spending over the course of their studies.
The mechanisms are very different than some other fixed-tuition plans. In contrast to buying down tuition increases, some institutions have put in place plans that charge students different tuition amounts based on the year they enroll. Other programs come with even greater differences -- public institutions in Texas offer first-time undergraduates fixed tuition over four years, but students opting into plans often must start by paying more in their first year than those paying variable tuition.
Dayton’s model of buying down tuition to a steady level through financial aid has significant financial implications. Typically, a college or university will post a high freshman tuition discount rate -- the rate at which the tuition sticker price is discounted by institutional financial aid. The rate normally drops as students progress, because scholarships and other institutional aid don’t rise in lockstep with tuition.
Under Dayton’s model, the opposite is true. The discount rate will be lowest during a student’s first year. The discount rate will rise over time as the sticker price of tuition rises but aid keeps pace to maintain a flat net price.
Figures from the university's Common Data Set make that clear. Dayton is gapping full-time freshmen -- not meeting their fully assessed financial need -- at a higher rate under the fixed net-price plan than it was before the program was put in place. In 2012-13, the year before the plan started, 34 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen who were judged to have financial need had that need fully met. The percentage dropped to 31 percent in 2013-14, and fell farther to just under 20 percent in 2016-17. The overall amount of freshman need met has varied but still shows a downward trend, falling from 80.2 percent the year before the program was put in place to 78 percent in 2016-17.
At the same time, the percentage of all full-time undergraduate students to have their judged financial need fully met has risen, from 34 percent the year before the plan was put in place to 38 percent in 2016-17. The percentage of overall student need met for all students has gone up, from 77.6 percent the year before the plan was implemented to 83.2 percent in 2016-17.
It is also worth noting that some students at the university do not receive financial aid and would not receive the benefits of the university’s fixed net-price plan. About 3 or 4 percent of students fall within that range.
The fixed-tuition strategy means institutions have to think differently about rising costs. Any cost spikes would have to be absorbed by incoming freshmen before their tuition is locked in -- or by college and university resources.
It's easier to deal with in an environment of low inflation than in one of high inflation.
“One of my general assumptions would be in this type of strategy, you are not having a 7, 8, 9 percent tuition increase,” Hundrieser said.
Another piece of the puzzle is infrastructure. The University of Dayton plan is likely easier to administer and more flexible than other types of plans because it relies on financial aid to keep net price flat instead of locking in differential tuition for students who enrolled in different years, said Bill Hall, the founder and president of Applied Policy Research Inc., an enrollment and pricing advising firm.
“With many of the tuition guarantees, you end up with this very complex cost-accounting mechanism,” Hall said. “You end up with different cohorts with different tuition rates.”
That back-end complexity was one problem faced by Northwestern College in Iowa after it put a guaranteed payment program in place before the 2007-08 academic year. But by the 2009-10 academic year, the 1,225-student college had decided not to fix tuition for four years after freshman enrollment dropped.
“We pretty much took our average price increase for the previous 10 years, built that into our model and said to families, ‘Hey, here’s what it’s going to be for four years,’” said Mark Bloemendaal, Northwestern College’s dean of enrollment and marketing. “What it did was put us in a less competitive situation with our primary competition.”
If many of the college’s students came from families with salaried positions, the plan might have been easier to sell, Bloemendaal said. But the college is in a rural area and draws from many families with agricultural backgrounds, where income varies year to year.
The college could make the case that families should be willing to pay a higher price versus its competitors during students’ first years in exchange for what would likely be a lower price in the future. But families were not making their calculations beyond the first or second year of college, Bloemendaal said. Many asked what would happen if their sons or daughters did not return after their first year. Then they would have paid a tuition premium without the payback from fixed tuition over time.
Another issue was that the college is a small institution with a small endowment -- $47 million in 2015. It was trying a fixed-tuition plan at a time when higher education inflation was high.
“I think if we had done it for five healthy years and established it, I think the word would have spread,” Bloemendaal said. “But then this recession started to hit, and people got really anxious about everything.”
Some small institutions believe they can compete with fixed tuition. Kettering University in Michigan started to guarantee fixed undergraduate tuition in 2012-13. It also eliminated academically related fees.
Kettering is not your standard university. The institution is a co-op university focused on science, engineering and business. Its typical student will earn $60,000 to $70,000 over the course of co-op work.
The university’s endowment, at about $80 million, is not large, said its president, Robert McMahan. But Kettering is financially healthy. So the question was how the university structured itself to improve access.
“Affordability is not just price,” McMahan said. “It’s consistency. It’s a reasonable exercise for the institution, I think, to bear that risk.”
McMahan said retention has improved since Kettering started fixing tuition, particularly among upperclassmen. He felt it was too early to talk about trends in detail but said there are no plans to end fixed tuition.
There is no doubt that fixing tuition shifts risk from student to university, said Jason Reinoehl, vice president for strategic enrollment management at the University of Dayton. He also acknowledged that it shifts risk from upperclassmen to freshmen.
For students that risk can be minimized by staying enrolled. For the institution, it can be minimized by retention, low inflation of costs and, to a degree, large scale.
The University of Dayton has several features that give it some protection from temporary fluctuations in tuition revenue. At $473 million as of the end of the 2016 fiscal year, its endowment is considerable. It has a well-known research institute that generates revenue. And it has a high tuition sticker price of $41,750 for the upcoming year.
“I do think there is only a certain segment of institutions who, realistically, from a financial perspective, could take this risk,” Reinoehl said. “If we were smaller, I think we’d be more risk averse.”
While the fixed net-price plan has shifted the distribution of financial aid, it hasn’t prevented the university from spending more on aid. Its aggregate institutional aid directed to undergraduates went from $107 million in 2012-13, the year before the plan was put in place, to $142 million in 2015-16. Full-time undergraduate enrollment rose by more than 800 during that time, to 8,226, but that wasn’t enough to account for all of the increased aid. The first-year tuition discount rate also increased, from 43.8 percent in the year before the plan was put in place to 46.2 percent in 2014-15.
Reinoehl went on to argue that the university packages the fixed net-price tuition plan with some important other aid and innovations that make it attractive to students. The university has some other scholarships designed to cover costs. One provides up to $4,000 over four years for textbooks. Another provides $3,000 to cover flights and travel expenses for students studying abroad.
Most notable is the fact that the university eliminated fees when it started the fixed net-price plan, he said. That caused tuition to spike in 2013 in order to cover revenue that previously would have been raised by fees. But officials argue it made the university’s price much easier for students to understand.
“In many cases, the flagship publics have frozen tuition because states are mandating it,” Reinoehl said. “They’re doing all kinds of things with fees. It’s really not transparent at all.”
Some experts advised caution against drawing a direct line from the university's fixed net-price tuition plan to its positive outcomes in retention and student debt levels. The university made several changes at once, making it hard to prove causation against the backdrop of a changing higher education market, said Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. She also noted that annual student borrowing has been dropping across the country recently. That could have contributed to University of Dayton students graduating with less debt this year than they had in previous years.
There are also worries that fixed-tuition plans appeal to upper-income students more than lower-income students. Families with more resources can afford to pay higher up-front costs in exchange for a return in the long run. Poor families often cannot.
“It’s good that people are trying things,” Baum said. “But I worry about things being gimmicky, as opposed to really making a difference for the right people.”
Initial results indicate the University of Dayton may have been able to slightly increase enrollment of low-income students under the new tuition plan's early years. The year before the plan was put in place, 12 percent of the university's full-time first-time undergraduates received federal Pell Grants, which are considered a proxy for low-income student enrollment. In 2014-15, the most recent year for which federal data is available, enrollment of full-time first-time Pell recipients was 14 percent.
The fact remains, however, that a stable tuition price is an extremely attractive feature for many students. And many colleges and universities are considering it.
“There is not a single client institution, particularly at the board level, that is not asking questions about these kinds of experimental programs,” said Kathy Dawley, principal at Hardwick Day, the financial aid consulting division of EAB. “Certainly the college-going population, their families and communities, from public policy, politics and all the way down, the cost of college and accessibility to college is an increasingly bigger concern.”
EAB late last year published research showing that students are more likely to drop out of college if they lose even small amounts of financial aid. Students who see their financial aid increase were more likely to complete their degrees, though.
Additionally, private colleges are under pressure to find new ways to compete as tuition-free public college spreads. Fixed-tuition plans are a logical strategy to explore.
“This is not going to go away,” Dawley said.
Dayton's fixed net-price tuition plan was in place before its current president, Eric F. Spina, took over in July 2016. But he has voiced support for it.
“Investing in a college education is a substantial commitment for families and for students, often with long-term financial implications,” he said in a statement in April. “Higher education has a responsibility to be up front and transparent about what those costs will be.”Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: College costs/pricesImage Source: University of DaytonIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Turnitin has received its share of complaints regarding its accuracy, although it still remains the standard bearer for plagiarism detection for high schools and colleges. Likewise, some writing professors have long said that they fear reliance on the service has led colleges to abandon efforts to teach students about academic integrity.
However, a nearly 4,000-word essay published last week -- which has attracted considerable attention since going online -- has reopened debate surrounding Turnitin. While tapping into growing concerns in society about the control and use of people’s data by corporations, the authors question Turnitin’s entire business model, as well as the effects on academia brought on by its widespread popularity.
In the essay, published by Hybrid Pedagogy, an online journal affiliated with Digital Pedagogy Lab, authors Sean Michael Morris, of Middlebury College, and Jesse Stommel, of the University of Mary Washington, decry Turnitin’s model of profiting off students’ work and intellectual property, especially in the age of big data.
“Every day, we participate in a digital culture owned and operated by others -- designers, engineers, technologists, CEOs -- who have come to understand how easily they can harvest our intellectual property, data and the minute details of our lives. To resist this (or even to more consciously participate in it), we need skills that allow us to ‘read’ our world (in the Freirean sense) and to act with agency,” the authors write.
Regarding Turnitin specifically, they offer a grim view. The company operates by checking papers submitted by students against its ever-growing database of previously submitted papers, offering plagiarism reports after the papers have been checked. The service is free for students to use, with high schools and colleges paying a fee to have access to the website for the institution.
“A funny thing happened on the way to academic integrity. Plagiarism detection software, like Turnitin, has seized control of student intellectual property. While students who use Turnitin are discouraged from copying other work, the company itself can strip-mine and sell student work for profit,” they wrote.
Turnitin itself offers a different perspective on its operations.
“When students engage in writing and submitting assignments via Turnitin’s solutions, students retain the copyright of the submitted papers,” Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing, said in an emailed statement. “We never redistribute student papers, or reveal student information via the service. Because a majority of plagiarism results from student-to-student sharing of work, we do produce matches between submissions in our database and new student papers. Without the ability to compare [a] submission against existing student work, plagiarism detection systems would be ineffective.”
Turnitin’s practices have been ruled as fair use in federal court.
But to Morris and Stommel, the ceding of control of students' work -- and their ownership over that work -- to a corporation is a moral issue, even if it's legally sound. Time spent on checking plagiarism reports is time that would be better spent teaching students how to become better writers in the first place, they argue.
“This is ethical, activist work. While not exactly the Luddism of the 19th century, we must ask ourselves, when we’re choosing ed-tech tools, who profits and from what?” they wrote in the essay. “The gist: when you upload work to Turnitin, your property is, in no reasonable sense, your property. Every essay students submit -- representing hours, days or even years of work -- becomes part of the Turnitin database, which is then sold to universities.”
But Turnitin is widely used across the education world, and provides convenient plagiarism detection for instructors at 15,000 institutions, according to its website. Even if those institutional barriers could be overcome, would educators be interested in taking a moral stand against something as seemingly -- and debatably -- innocuous as a plagiarism detector? On top of it all, the question comes as data are constantly being shaped and sold by a variety of everyday vendors -- Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter -- that many in society often take for granted or turn a blind eye toward.
Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Morris and Stommel said they didn’t write the post with the hopes of shutting down Turnitin, but rather rethinking on a pedagogical level how students are taught about plagiarism, and what should be emphasized when teaching students how to write.
“[Turnitin] can be used proactively,” Stommel said. “But I also wonder, why not just start those conversations in the classroom. Why do we need to farm these papers out to an algorithm that spits these scores back us, before we just have the human conversation -- between student and teacher, between student and student, or between teacher and teacher -- about what it means to own our work, what it means to send out work out in the world?”
Beyond questioning Turnitin’s business model, they argue for re-examining what professors’ priorities should be when it comes to plagiarism.
“I don’t think the job of teachers or the job of schools is to detect students’ plagiarism,” Stommel said. “Our role should be to meet students on the playground and have conversations about their work … Certainly if there’s an obvious case of plagiarism -- and I notice it, and usually I don’t need Turnitin to help me notice it -- having a conversation with students about where they’re at [is] very important.”
Morris agreed, saying that rather than prioritizing the time spent searching for plagiarism after the fact, professors should build relationships with students in way that promotes ownership of their work in the first place.
“I think plagiarism is a red herring for what we should actually be concerned about when teaching,” Morris said. “The problem that needs to be addressed is the relationship between teachers and students, communication between teachers and students. And again, that sense of students' ownership of their own learning and their own education -- that they understand that this is theirs, and not something that belongs to a teacher who’s going to grade it.”
Turnitin, Morris said, is a retroactive policing practice, and -- while sympathetic to professors with oversaturated class sizes and workloads -- asking how to detect plagiarism is asking the wrong question.
“The basis of [handing over students’ essays to Turnitin] is devaluing students’ work,” he said.
Stommel said he was aware of the uphill battle that he faces in the age of big data.
“It’s not about not ceding any territory -- we would be nothing on the web if we didn’t give our data out,” he said. “Ultimately it’s about thinking what does it mean that who we are on the web is commodified? The answer isn’t necessarily to cede the turf, but to draw lines. I will give this, but I won’t give that. I will shop at Amazon, but I’ve made a decision never to submit my work to Turnitin. That decision for me is about agency and empowerment.”Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: PlagiarismTeachingWritingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
A memo from the Department of Education on handling of transgender civil rights complaints instructs officials to continue investigating those complaints as they would have before 2016 guidance issued by the Obama administration.
The Obama administration's guidance said that anti-transgender bias was covered by laws against gender bias, and thus opened the way for investigations into such discrimination. Prior to that guidance, some cases involving transgender students were investigated as gender discrimination, but advocates for transgender students said some of their cases needed to be defined as anti-transgender bias.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in one of her earliest actions at the department, withdrew that 2016 guidance, creating fears among some that the department would not strongly enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. In a June 6 letter to regional civil rights officials obtained by The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson said the withdrawal of that guidance and recent court developments do not leave students without protections.
"Rather, OCR should rely on Title IX and its implementing regulations, as interpreted in decisions of federal courts and OCR guidance documents that remain in effect, in evaluating complaints of sex discrimination against individuals, whether or not the individual is transgender," Jackson wrote.
But advocates said the significance of the document was unclear and they feared that it could create even more confusion for civil rights enforcement. Sejal Singh, campaigns and communications manager at the Center for American Progress's LGBT Research and Communications Project, said the whole point of guidance from the Office for Civil Rights is to clarify unclear law. The document notably does not mention access to bathrooms matching a student's gender identity as among the types of complaints officials should investigate, she said. That issue has been a key one at some colleges and in state legislation.
"It is definitely creating ambiguity that leaves actors space to create discriminatory actions," Singh said.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the department is hinting that they will not enforce the law.
Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said after DeVos rescinded the 2016 guidance on transgender discrimination complaints in February, some cases filed by or on behalf of transgender students have been limbo. The letter from Jackson was issued to make sure investigators don't make the mistake of assuming that because the guidance had been rescinded all complaints by transgender students are going to be dismissed, she said.
"We wanted to very carefully explain in written format to our field that every investigator assigned to one of these cases should individually examine every complaint and actively search for ways that OCR can retain jurisdiction over the complaint and solve the problems and challenges that these kids are facing in their schools by applying guidance and law that still exists in OCR," Hill said.
The instructions to regional officials were reported the same day the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to undertake a two-year review of the Trump administration's handling of civil rights issues. The commission is chaired by Catherine Lhamon, who served as assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education under President Obama. Commissioners approved by a 6-to-2 vote a statement expressing "grave concerns" about signals from the Trump administration's approach to civil rights, calling out the Department of Education and DeVos in particular.
The statement cited cuts to civil rights staffing in the department's proposed 2018 budget as well as what it called the secretary's repeated refusal "in congressional testimony and other public statements to commit that the department would enforce federal civil rights laws."DiversityEditorial Tags: Gay rights/issuesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
It was every supply-side economist’s dream: the promise of achieving economic nirvana by slashing taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and shrinking government. Except it became a nightmare for the people of Kansas, and now the Kansas Legislature has taken a big step toward waking up from it.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback turned his state into a laboratory for the most extreme form of trickle-down economics, promising that it would usher in an economic boom. It didn’t. It never has. Brownback’s five-year experiment caused state revenue to plummet, the deficit to explode, and painful spending cuts to be made—including cuts decimating public schools. Last week, a once-unlikely alliance stopped Brownback’s attempt to double down on his plan: Democratic and Republican lawmakers, urged on by parents, business people, civic activists and unions of working people.
You would think that this revolt by Kansas’ citizens and legislators of both parties would send chills up supply-siders’ spines nationwide. But the essential tenets of Brownback’s plan remain at the center of the tax proposals championed by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Granted, these free-market tenets are well-established conservative orthodoxy. But, as the Kansas experiment demonstrates, they offer a false promise and lead not to prosperity but to deep austerity.
The Kansas economic plan was intended to serve as a model for other anti-government forces. Instead, it presents lots of inconvenient facts. State revenues plunged $700 million in the first year alone, resulting in deep cuts to everything from road repair to state psychiatric hospitals. The state budget deficit climbed to nearly $900 million. And, while economic growth nationally has remained steady at just above 2 percent annually, Kansas’ growth has been anemic, at 0.2 percent.
The impact on public education in Kansas has been catastrophic. In just two years, Brownback cut $63 million from public colleges and universities. State funding for public universities is 17 percent less than it was in 2008. Since Brownback took office in 2011, state per-pupil spending has dropped from $4,400 to $3,800. A survey of school districts by the Kansas Center for Economic Growth found that 96 percent of districts say their base state aid per pupil is insufficient. Public schools in Kansas have 19,000 more students than they had in 2009, but 655 fewer teachers. Classrooms are crowded, and many school facilities are in disrepair.
With a governor who refused to listen, parents and educators turned to the courts for relief. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously this spring that state funding for public education is not only inadequate, it is unconstitutional. The court found that black, Hispanic and poor students were especially harmed by the inadequate funding. Last week, the Legislature passed a more robust funding formula, which Brownback was forced to sign.
Another Midwest state has taken a different approach, one that invested in its future. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton raised taxes on upper-income individuals and businesses several years ago. Was the move kryptonite to the state’s economy, as Brownback and his fellow tax-cutters would have you believe? To the contrary. Minnesota has the fastest-growing economy in the Midwest, and the state is projecting a $1.65 billion surplus for the next two years. California and New York have chosen similar paths and are growing at twice the rate of Kansas.
You know the oft-quoted definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Cliché aside, it makes no sense that both Trump’s and Ryan’s tax plans are modeled on the failed Kansas experiment—or does it? Political ideology often trumps evidence, and playing to the political base can pay off. Legions of observers have noted that Trump, his family and many of his associates would benefit from virtually every element of his tax plan.
In the midst of the Brownback economic nightmare, on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I visited Topeka, Kansas, the home of the plaintiffs in the Brown case, to help fight the draconian cuts to public education. Topeka is hallowed ground in the effort to ensure every child receives an equal and adequate education. Six decades after that landmark decision, the state bleakly illustrated how radical economic policies could join racial discrimination in depriving children of the public education they need and deserve.
Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, recently wrote that Brownback hoped his experiment slashing taxes and spending would serve as a “model for the utter trivialization of government, its services and those who count on them.” Brownback could not have been more wrong. Trivializing government and eliminating services have real-life consequences, and the people of Kansas have said “enough.” That is the true model for our country.
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The U.S. Department Of Education Must Not Be Allowed To Roll-Back Progress On Tackling Campus Sexual Violence Under Title IX
Sexual violence in our nation’s college and university campus communities is a significant challenge. This is no myth or hoax. Numerous scientific studies going back at least thirty years have documented that between one-in-five and one-in-four women will be victimized over their time in college. There has long been a framework under federal law, Title IX which prohibits gender discrimination in access to educational opportunities, to address sexual harassment and violence, but it is, and has been broken. We owe our students better, we owe them a safe learning environment, and we owe it to taxpayers who support education to ensure that investment isn’t diminished by the negative impact of sexual violence.
The Obama administration inherited this broken system, due in large part simply to systemic neglect by administrations and Congresses of both Republicans and Democrats. Under the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden, the Obama Administration in 2011 made addressing Title IX’s sexual violence requirements a priority tackling extensive problems both in higher education and federal enforcement that had been identified in an investigative series by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR in 2009 and 2010.
They began making significant progress including instituting “universal guidance” in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, and addressing not just cases presented by individual sexual assault survivors but investigating how these institutions handled every case. This was important because as the investigative reporting had revealed colleges and universities often had problems with their entire process affecting far more than just one case. Unfortunately, by 2014 this had led to a whole new problem. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the unit tasked with Title IX enforcement, was overwhelmed with far more case work than they could possibly resolve in any reasonable period of time given the personnel they had. There was never any real plan to correct this as cases continued to mount-up.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX Tracker, since enforcement was stepped-up in 2011 “the government has conducted 399 investigations of colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence.” Of those “62 cases have been resolved and 337 remain open.” The average case duration is 1.7 years, not the 180 days recommended by OCR, and many cases are open over 3 years with some up to 6 years. Often the students who initiated or were involved in any investigation have left campus by then receiving no justice.
The Trump Administration then inherited this problem. “In OCR, processing times have skyrocketed in recent years and the case backlog has exploded,” the U.S. Department of Education (ED) said in a statement. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long.” This is a sentiment echoed by many Title IX complainants, but how this is corrected is at least as important as recognizing the problem. The Obama Administration failed to do either effectively acting like the driver of a car obliviously about to drive off a cliff hoping for a hand to pluck them out of the sky before they crashed into the ground below, and it does not seem like the Trump Administration will be aspiring to get to the root of the problem either.
As recently reported by ProPublica and The New York Times, OCR, under the leadership of Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the office, is planning to address this backlog by scaling back the scope of their reviews. “There is no longer an artificial requirement to collect several years of data when many complaints can be adequately addressed much more efficiently and quickly,” they said in the official statement. In simpler terms this means OCR won’t be looking at broken systems and how to fix them, only the injustices reported by a single complainant. While this may expedite justice for individual complainants, it will fall back to a system that continued to allow systemic flaws to deny justice. We have come too far to allow this to happen, and meeting both needs must not be considered mutually exclusive.
Ironically Catherine Lhamon, who headed OCR in the final years of the Obama Administration in which the back-log was allowed to accumulate under her watch, now heads the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and has announced they will launch “a two-year investigation of federal civil rights enforcement” including a focus on ED. We don’t have two-years to wait for an investigation, especially one headed by the official who was on watch while much of the underlying problem was created. We need solutions, and we need them now not in two-years.
A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators, headed by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) stepped forward with part of the solution last year bolstering a request from the Obama Administration. They sought to appropriate “at least $137.7 million” for OCR in Fiscal Year 2017 “to be used in part for the investigation and enforcement of Title IX.” This did not happen and OCR funding was kept level at $107 million. The Trump Administration’s proposed budget, however, would slightly reduce overall funding to under this amount, and would cut the personnel budget by $4 million from $68 million to $56 million.
More money alone is not the solution, but it is an important part of it. If our country is going to take this obligation seriously we need make the commitment to actually do so. More strategic enforcement by OCR should also be an essential part of the solution. The bi-partisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which is pending in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence in the House are both critical pieces of the solution as well. Combatting sexual violence has never been, and is not a partisan issue. The unity of the legislators working on these issues proves that, and I am hopeful they will work to bring about the needed solutions sooner rather than later.