Tag Archives: Campus Life

East Tennessee State shaken when Black Lives Matter event is disrupted

Via Inside Higher Ed: http://ift.tt/2drvp9T


East Tennessee State University was shaken Wednesday when a white student wearing a gorilla mask interrupted a Black Lives Matter rally and thrust a banana hanging on a string in the faces of black students who were participating in the rally.

Images of the white student — who carried a sack with a Confederate emblem — taunting the black students spread on social media and outraged many on the campus. The black students did not respond directly to the taunts — and have received praise for their calm. A university statement said, "Our campus community was outraged by the behavior of one student who confronted the participants. The actions of this one individual go against the values of our university, where people come first and all are treated with dignity and respect."

The student has been identified by campus police as Tristan Rettke. He was arrested by campus police for civil rights intimidation, based in part on his having told the campus police officers that his costume was an attempt "to provoke" the black students. Civil rights intimidation is a felony in Tennessee. Rettke posted bail and has been released from jail, but the university has placed him on interim suspension, meaning that he cannot be on campus, pending an investigation that may result in a permanent suspension or other sanction.

The fall semester has already seen numerous incidents of racism nationwide, including many personal and online attacks that mock the Black Lives Matter movement. The idea of denigrating black people as gorillas is an old racist trope. Also this year, at American University, hundreds of black students held a protest last week after two black women reported incidents involving bananas — one thrown at a woman and one left outside the door of a woman’s room. Students carried signs saying "Racism at AU Is Bananas."

At East Tennessee, the university organized an open forum Wednesday night to discuss what had happened.

Brian Noland, the president of the university, started the event by talking about how proud he was of the way the black students handled themselves when they were taunted. Noland said he was particularly upset because the event took place at a fountain that was dedicated to honor the five black students who integrated the university in the 1950s. He listed their names: Eugene Caruthers, Elizabeth Watkins Crawford, Clarence McKinney, George L. Nichol and Mary Luellen Owens Wagner. He talked about how their values were those of the university and its students.

After he spoke, many students and faculty members did as well. Many black students spoke about everyday racism they face on social media and said that even that experience did not prepare them for the shock and pain they felt on Wednesday. Faculty members spoke of being stunned by what had happened as well.

One professor said that Wednesday’s incident was "one of the ugliest things I have seen on a college campus." He asked if administrators present would talk about how they view the balance between hateful statements or acts and the First Amendment.

Joe H. Sherlin Jr., vice president for student affairs, answered by saying that the First Amendment grants "broad latitude for speech" and that "the best antidote for speech that is offensive is more speech."

But he added that when speech "becomes intimidating" or "threatening" or "inhibits someone else’s right to express their own civil rights," that may not be protected. And he said campus police officers believed that was the case at the rally.

Several people at the forum noted that another Black Lives Matter rally would take place Thursday. Only about 15 to 20 people were present on Wednesday when the student in the mask disrupted the event. On Thursday, officials estimated the crowd at 350 to 400 — and there were no disruptions.

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Student who interrupted a rally at East Tennessee State
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University mental health services face strain as demand rises 50%

Via Higher Education Network | The Guardian: http://ift.tt/2cW0LIC


Figures show significant rise over five years, with more first-year and international students seeking counselling

The number of students seeking counselling at university has rocketed by 50% in the last five years, according to figures obtained by the Guardian.

As tens of thousands of teenagers leave their family homes this week and begin to arrive on campuses for freshers’ week, research shows that university counselling services are under increasing pressure as demand grows.

Continue reading…

UChicago’s anti-safe spaces letter isn’t about academic freedom. It’s about power.

Via Vox – All: http://ift.tt/2bSV6Az


A letter from the University of Chicago’s dean of students to the incoming students of the class of 2020 has been making the rounds on social media the past few days. Its purpose, I guess, was to let those students know they were in for a real education. More of a full-on broadside than a welcome letter, the dean let the incoming students know that the university is totally committed to academic freedom and "freedom of expression" from its faculty and students.

What this means in practice, the letter continues, is that "we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own." And, if you’ve watched students at other campuses, the dean warns, don’t get any crazy ideas about protesting invited speakers: "we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial." And, for the love of Milton Friedman, "Our commitment to academic freedom means we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings.’" WE ARE A MIGHTY RACE OF INTELLECTUAL WARRIORS.

I’ve been teaching on the college level for 18 years, and I also direct my university’s Teaching and Learning Center, so I’ve been following the debate over "trigger warnings," "safe spaces," and the purported scourge of "political correctness" for quite a while. Despite the apocalyptic tone that often accompanies screeds against supposedly coddled students and their trigger-free safe spaces, the issues involved strike me as far more complicated than the overheated rhetoric suggests.

As with any conversation about teaching and learning, context and nuance matter greatly — but they’re not present in most of the critics’ attempted takedowns of trigger warnings (better called "content advisories," in my estimation) or safe spaces.

Students deserve much more credit than they get in the UChicago letter

I’m dismayed by how diatribes like the Chicago letter approach students in adversarial terms, implying that they don’t know how to make choices or approach material when it comes to their learning. Our students deserve more credit than they get in these types of polemics; as I’ve argued elsewhere, they are far from the coddled, entitled softies that they’re often painted as. Rather than obsessing about a cartoonish version of what some hypothetical Oberlin graduate might say, we ought to engage with our students as the real and complex people that they actually are.

As you might imagine, though, there’s been a wave of support from the usual quarters for the Chicago letter and its sentiments; I assume that’s what such a blatant attempt at elitist posturing was aiming for in the first place. On the surface, the points seem hard to argue with.

Academic freedom is the sine qua non of higher education. Students ought to be challenged, even made uncomfortable, in order to learn in deep and meaningful ways. And, of course, collegiate education is where students must encounter perspectives different from their own. No one who genuinely believes in higher education is going to dispute any of that. And that’s what this dean and the anti-trigger-warnings, no-safe-spaces crowd are counting on — that the surface veneer of reasonableness in these admonitions to the class of 2020 will obscure the rotten pedagogy and logical fallacies that infest this entire screed.

The screed is a manifesto looking for an audience

Even the timing of this missive raises questions. Why go full blast against this purported scourge of wimpy, touchy-feely educational malpractice right up front? Is there a safe-spaces petition percolating in the ranks of the first-years? Are the dean and the university worried that people will lose respect for the almighty maroon if they didn’t stake out the tough-guy intellectual turf from the beginning? Did they sit around and ask themselves what Milton Friedman would have done?

From the outside, it looks like a lot of smoke without much heat. I suspect that this letter is not intended as an orientation statement, but rather a public rebuke to what its authors see as a threat to their vision of what higher education ought to be. It’s not a welcome letter, it’s a manifesto looking for an audience.

And as a statement of principle, the letter — as does much of the general argument against trigger warnings and safe spaces — relies on caricature and bogeymen rather than reason and nuance. The document comes from a place, I imagine, where the true defenders of Academic Rigor™ man the parapets against the encroaching legions of namby-pamby liberals who want to coddle students instead of teach them.

Ohhh, you want a safe space so the mean nasty Truths of the world won’t hurt your wittle feewings. You want to be "warned" before we discuss "sensitive" subjects. WELL HEY JUNIOR, "WAR AND PEACE" HAS WAR IN IT. If you don’t like it, go sit on the quad and sing "Kumbayah" with the other flower children.

That’s the specter that arguments like this conjure up: The greatest threat to genuine academic freedom comes from within. Coddled students who are used to getting trophies for everything don’t want to engage with stuff they don’t like, so they wrap themselves in entitlement and demand trigger warnings to protect their feelz. Or they want safe spaces to hide from the big, bad world. Or they want the university to cancel a lecture because the speaker is from the wrong demographic. And if universities don’t make a stand against this foolishness, Western Civilization itself will collapse.

That’s a comforting narrative to the academic elite who feel like they’re faced with an existential crisis. Rather than seeing themselves as clinging to the last vestiges of the 1950s, they get to paint themselves as staunch advocates of all that is good and worthy. And there’s an audience for this fiction — people still read Allan Bloom. But as critiques of inequality have shown time and again, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the backlash against so-called "political correctness" in higher education has intensified in direct variation with the diversification of the academy, areas of scholarship, and — most significantly — the student population.

What’s really behind the hand-wringing: the gatekeepers want to remain in place

Underlying much of the hand-wringing about the state of the academy is a simple desire to have the gatekeepers remain in place. The perception of the threat is entirely out of alignment with the reality on the ground. For every ginned-up hypothetical scenario of spoiled brats having a sit-in to protest too many white guys in the lit course, there are very real cases where trigger warnings or safe spaces aren’t absurdities, but pedagogical imperatives.

If I’m teaching historical material that describes war crimes like mass rape, shouldn’t I disclose to my students what awaits them in these texts? If I have a student suffering from trauma due to a prior sexual assault, isn’t a timely caution the empathetic and humane thing for me to do? And what does it cost? A student may choose an alternate text I provide, but this material isn’t savagely ripped out of my course to satiate the PC police.

To move from the hypothetical to the real, the Virginia Tech students who protested their university’s invitation to Charles Murray to deliver a lecture weren’t some sort of intellectual gestapo, they were members of a community calling out other members’ violation of the community’s ethos.

Murray is a racist charlatan who’s made a career out of pseudoscientific social Darwinist assertions that certain "races" are inherently inferior to others. To bring him to campus is to tell segments of your student community that, according to the ideas the university is endorsing by inviting Murray, they don’t belong there. This isn’t a violation of academic freedom. It’s an upholding of scientific standards and the norms of educated discourse — you know, the type of stuff that colleges and universities are supposed to stand for, right?

These two examples — one centered in an individual classroom and the other involving institutional decisions — speak to the diversity and complexity of the issues involved. It’s easy to inveigh against silly scenarios. It’s much harder to address real things that really happen. Do I tell my student that, even though she was the victim of a brutal assault in her past, she must read testimony of gang-rape survivors in my course in order to uphold the sacred values of free intellectual inquiry?

Sure, Charles Murray has a right to his views. But is it okay for us to use student fees paid in part by African-American students to bring him to campus, fête him, and give him a rostrum to tell those students they’re doomed by genetics to be inferior to whites? Well, he makes a strong argument and isn’t bound by conventional "niceties." Yes, that’s true. But that’s also the reason people claim to like Donald Trump, and I don’t see universities lining up to bring him in as a guest lecturer.

Ignoring the complexity of real-life situations is a common accusation hurled at academics and the academy in general. Why on earth would we be so eager, in this case, to prove those accusations true? To prevent imaginary sit-down strikes against Victorian literature, we’re willing to force students into a predetermined path where to deviate is to compromise academic integrity? Are we so scared of losing the intellectual heft of our curricula that we want to muzzle our students and deprive them of agency?

Or are we just afraid of our students challenging us and holding us accountable to the very values we profess?

Our first reaction to expressions of student agency should not be to shut them down

As a faculty member, I would be enormously dismayed if my dean sent this letter to my incoming students. Because now they’ll come into my class already having received a clear message about what my institution seems to value — and it isn’t them.

The Chicago letter reeks of arrogance, of a sense of entitlement, of an exclusionary mindset — in other words, the very things it seeks to inveigh against. It’s not about academic freedom; it’s about power. Know your place, and acknowledge ours, it tells the students. We’ll be the judge of what you need to know and how you need to know it. And professors and students are thus handcuffed to a high-stakes ideological creed. Do it this way, in the name of all that is holy and true in the academy. There is no room here for empathy, for student agency, or for faculty discretion.

Displaying empathy for the different experiences our students bring to the classroom is not a threat to our academic freedom. Allowing for a diversity of perspectives to flourish, even when that diversity might challenge the very structure of our course and its material, is not a threat, but an opportunity. Our first reaction to expressions of student agency, even when they seem misguided or perhaps frivolous, should not be to shut it down. If we really value academic freedom, then we need to model that with and for our students.

Ableism, misogyny, racism, elitism, and intellectual sloppiness deserve to be called out. That’s not a threat, that’s our students doing what they’re supposed to as engaged citizens of an academic community. This year, we should challenge ourselves to quit fixating on caricatures and hypotheticals and instead acknowledge the actual landscape of teaching and learning in all its messiness and complexity. When we act out of fear, we do harm. When we assume the worst from our students, that’s what we often end up getting — from them and from ourselves. We can do better than this.

Kevin Gannon, PhD, is professor of history and director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. In addition to his own blog at thetattooedprof.com, he writes on pedagogy and academia at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae and the Teaching US History blog. Find him on Twitter @TheTattooedProf.

This article was adapted from a post that originally ran on The Tattooed Professor.

First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us atfirstperson@vox.com.

Banning Hard Alcohol at Stanford

Via The Atlantic: http://ift.tt/2bftZ0m


NEWS BRIEF You won’t find hard alcohol at Stanford University parties anymore. At least, that’s what school officials are hoping.

In an effort to reduce “the high risk of the rapid consumption of hard alcohol,” the university is banning liquors that are 20 percent alcohol by volume (40 proof) from undergraduate campus parties, while also prohibiting undergraduate students from having hard-alcohol containers that are 750 milliliters or larger in student residences. Student who are of legal age can still drink beer and wine.

The new policy is a “harm reduction strategy,” explained Ralph Castro, director of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, in a press release. He adds:

Our intention is not a total prohibition of a substance, but rather a targeted approach that limits high-risk behavior and has the backing of empirical studies on restricting the availability of and access to alcohol. It also allows us the ability to provide uniformity in a policy that will impact all undergraduate students without banning a substance that is legal for a segment of the student population to use responsibly.

By limiting the size of containers to anything less than the size of a wine bottle (capable of pouring out around 17 shots), the university is hoping to reduce alcohol consumption through availability and cost: There are fewer stores that sell hard alcohol in smaller containers, and if students find smaller containers of hard alcohol it costs more to buy those in high quantities.

The move comes two months after former Stanford student Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in prison for sexually assaulting an unconscious female student behind a garbage dumpster. Turner blamed alcohol for the incident, as both he and the victim were intoxicated when the assault occurred on January 18, 2015.

Following significant national attention to the assault, university leaders said they wanted to start a conversation around “the campus culture around alcohol.” Critics accused the university of overshadowing Turner’s personal role in the assault, partially blaming the victim’s alcohol consumption.

Michele Dauber, a Stanford University Law professor who has become a national voice on the Turner incident, criticized the university’s new policy, tweeting:

There are exceptions to the new rules. Mixed drinks using hard alcohol will be allowed, though, for parties hosted by graduate student organizations. Shots are still prohibited. Students who violate the new policy may be removed from university housing.

When Student Activists Refuse to Talk to Campus Newspapers

This February, at a conference attended by the editors of 10 college newspapers along the East Coast—myself among them—student journalists recognized a common obstacle plaguing their publications: Student activists would no longer talk with them.

As student activists call for the institutions around them to confront issues of diversity and inclusion, campus newspapers have been critiqued as well. But activists are not just calling for reform—editors of campus papers are struggling to improve their papers alongside student bodies that, in some cases, would like to see student newspapers as an institution disappear.

Students boycotted the Brown Daily Herald (BDH), where I am a news editor, after it published two racist opinion pieces for which it later apologized. Since then, students have used the publication’s controversial past as reason to refuse comment and even to remove reporters from campus-wide events. These kinds of conflicts have erupted on campuses across the country. Melissa Click, a former assistant professor at the University of Missouri who was eventually fired, tried to stop a student reporter from covering a campus protest. Student activists at Smith College told student journalists they would be barred from a black-solidarity rally unless they vowed to “participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color.” Even a headline can ignite backlash: Yale Daily News (YDN) journalists have struggled to interact with social-justice advocates on campus since the paper ran an article about accusations that a fraternity discriminated against people of color with the headline “SAE denies charges of racism.”

Sometimes the confrontations have resulted in long-term consequences. At Wesleyan University, student activists critiqued the student newspaper, the Argus, when they failed to cover a Black Lives Matter protest in the fall, although the paper had not yet begun its print cycle for the year. Later that year, the Argus published a controversial opinion piece that prompted the student government to cut its funding in half.  As the paper attempted to ramp up its coverage of events centering on students of color in response to student demands from early that fall, it was further stonewalled, according to Rebecca Brill, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief. “We were trying to fix this thing that was a valid critique of us,” she said, “but the people who were critiquing us weren’t letting us talk to them.”

Across the country, students have called for meaningful changes within campus publications to support marginalized communities, or even the disbanding of their student newspapers, from colleges like the University of Arizona to Dartmouth. Several editors from publications attending the conference declined to comment for this article, fearing they would jeopardize progress made in working with communities of student activists.

And while certain activists acknowledge their student newspaper’s attempts to correct any lapses in coverage, many have still put pressure on student reporters to adapt to their demands. “Until we see a willingness to engage journalism in a much more … social justice-oriented way, it’s hard to trust [student newspapers] to protect or be mindful of the issues that we face,” said Justice Gaines, a trans student activist at Brown whose activism focuses on issues of race, gender, and sexuality.

But that philosophy creates a catch-22 for editors. “I don’t know if it’s fair to demand representation … but then deny the paper that permission by refusing to speak to them,” Brill said. “We can’t have better representation unless there’s cooperation.” This cooperation requires the trust of these student sources. Still, for some marginalized students, and particularly students of color, campus newspapers are emblematic of institutional media as a whole—an industry that in their experience has tended to delegitimize their narratives.

Language that student activists say misconstrues their narratives regularly appears in the coverage of campus activism, by both mass media and college newspapers. And according to a 1999 study by the University of Minnesota, such language can delegitimize the arguments of protesters challenging the status quo. Reporters often use terms like “coddled” and “complaining” when describing modern-day student activists who are pushing their universities to address issues of diversity and inclusion. Journalists may not see “that we actually have valid points and things we want to change,” said Ivetty Estepan, a student activist at Yale who focuses on issues of racism and marginalization.

Some student activists also view their campus newspaper as symbolic of the university as an institution—whether their paper receives funding from the administration or student government, or is independent, like the BDH and the YDN. “There’s this idea that the YDN has been a part of Yale as an institution for … hundreds of years, so how much does that influence it?” Estepan said.

And just like the college administrations that have been critiqued in recent years by student activists, student newspapers lack diversity in their newsrooms. This dearth of diversity is maintained by a vicious cycle; newsrooms bereft of underrepresented minorities may, through their coverage or image, engender backlash from racial-justice activists that in turn can discourage underrepresented students from joining the papers’ ranks. A 2007 study of journalists from communities of color working at four large-circulation newspapers showed that a lack of newsroom diversity undermines reporters’ ability to represent their communities in their journalism.

This tension is evident in a recent survey from Gallup and two journalism advocacy organizations—the Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute—of student opinions on First Amendment rights and offensive speech. The study found that people from marginalized groups were more likely to favor limiting free speech on campus, and 44 percent of students believe it is acceptable to restrict the media’s access to campus events because the activists want to tell the story themselves on social media. “You lose agency when you tell the media what is going on,” Estepan said.

The media’s unwillingness to take a stance when reporting on issues of oppression represents a kind of “institutional bias,” said Warren Harding, a graduate student at Brown involved in the activism that led to the school’s adoption of a $165 million diversity-and-inclusion plan. “Especially when it comes to anti-racism work or anti-oppression work, when a newspaper says they are trying to be objective, that means they are upholding standards that were set against people who have been oppressed,” Gaines, the Brown student activist, echoed. Stories that describe the experiences of injustice and violence merit a journalist who will ethically stand in solidarity, Harding argued.

But that, too, raises questions: Which stories would a journalist then choose to slant, and which would they not? At that point, what separates that source from an opinion blog, or social media? Journalists do not claim to be unbiased. We believe that the process of seeking out a variety of perspectives and approaching an article without explicitly including biases leads to a more productive and balanced discussion of the news. “Coming close to objectivity can be enough,” Brill, the former Argus editor, said.

Still, about half of the students in the Gallup survey also said that they would be comfortable limiting press access to an event if the reporter was “biased.” That worries people like Gene Policinski, the chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute.“Simply saying we won’t talk to someone because we don’t like their viewpoint ultimately constrains your voice,” he said.

And that mindset fails to acknowledge that by working with a student journalist, activists’ voices can reach much further than through social media alone—campus publications not only serve the student body, but also a wide network of administrators, faculty, and alumni, in addition to the surrounding community. What starts out as a story at a student newspaper is often picked up by national news sources who can feed momentum into activist efforts.

Furthermore, student activists who block journalists find themselves on shaky ground with the First Amendment. Technically, a journalist operating within a newspaper independent from a school has no right of access at a private institution, said Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center. But when that journalist is also a student, she has the right to access the same spaces as other students (such as classrooms used for community-wide events). Only the university itself would have the authority to bar a student journalist from an event. But most private universities promise protections in line with those of the First Amendment when it comes to speech in public, said Robert Shibley, the executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, which defends free speech and academic freedom on campus. “If a student who’s not part of the media could attend … I’d say the argument for keeping the media out is nonexistent,” he said.

And whether it’s by barring journalists from events or defunding their newspapers, activists are ultimately putting themselves at a disadvantage by attempting to dissolve their student newspapers. Learning how to reform the student press alongside the students working there proves a goal ultimately more beneficial to both parties. Campus newspapers, according to several student journalists, are in a prime position to respond to the demands of their college communities and experiment with the rules of traditional journalism. Operating without the extra weight of bureaucracy felt by larger publications, student newspapers have the opportunity—and even the responsibility—to respond to the concerns of their audiences, Gaines argued.

Often, changes come as a direct response to the actions of student activists, who use their position of power to negotiate terms with student newspapers that they expressly disagree with. In the fall of 2015, the BDH changed its style to accommodate gender-neutral pronouns like xe, xem, and xyr. The change came after Gaines, an oft-quoted source for the BDH, refused to comment again unless the newspaper agreed to change its style. “There’s a tension between utilizing the BDH and challenging the BDH,” Gaines said. “There’s room to use the BDH as a mechanism to change the BDH.”

In her time at the Argus, Brill attempted to incorporate input from Wesleyan’s community and balance student demands for increased representation of marginalized perspectives with a commitment to ensuring all voices have a platform. This year, the paper created a column called “Voices” reserved for the opinion pieces of marginalized students. Still, though, the defunding of the Argus poses a significant threat to the paper. “They had an opportunity at Wesleyan to … try to make the newspaper better, and instead they tried to destroy it,” the SPLC’s LoMonte said. “Our belief is that while newspapers are always imperfect, and can always do a better job of serving minority communities, those communities are much better off with a well-funded newspaper than without.”

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