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Ursinus College hasn’t yet named its 2017 commencement speaker, but one thing is clear: it won’t be Juan Williams. The journalist and longtime Fox News contributor and co-host was approached by the college’s president to possibly address graduates and receive an honorary degree but was eliminated as a candidate after faculty members objected.
“Once it became clear that faculty had reservations -- I spoke to people from different parts of the college and different parts of the political spectrum and encountered not one who thought inviting Williams would be a good move -- our choice of commencement speaker had to be reconsidered,” Jonathan Marks, a professor of politics at Ursinus, said via email.
Tom Yencho, a college spokesman, confirmed that Williams was approached but will not be speaking. A committee was formed last month to review speaker nominations and the overall selection process, he said. Ursinus is “continuing to work toward developing a more streamlined and collaborative selection process, which we anticipate to have in place by the end of this semester.”
Planned commencement speakers have been disinvited from or backed out of various talks in recent years amid pressure from campus groups -- usually students. Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, canceled his speech at Haverford College in 2014, for example, after some 40 students and instructors asked him to apologize for a 2011 incident in which police injured protesters on his campus.
Williams, however, apparently faced fierce opposition from faculty members, who were also asserting a right to weigh in on honorary degrees before they are offered. Their concerns stem from a well-documented sexual harassment case against him dating back to his time at The Washington Post and charges of plagiarizing parts of a column written for The Hill in 2013. Faculty members say that Williams’s public responses to those allegations fell short of contrition. In the first case, Williams initially claimed that he made "attempts at being friendly" but later apologized publicly for verbal conduct he knew was "wrong." The Hill eventually updated Williams's 2013 article to include a "previously omitted attribution," but he did not cop to plagiarism.
Via email, Williams said Monday, “Nearly 25 years ago I apologized for any misunderstanding that took place at the Post. Ursinus is a fine school and I wish their graduates nothing but success.”
Marks said that Williams “not only has some serious blots on his record but has refused to take responsibility for them. … We expect our students to act better than Williams did in those two cases, and to accept responsibility for their actions when they have not acted well. I thought that granting Williams an honorary degree, although he has done some genuinely praiseworthy things, would send the wrong message.”
No stranger to controversy, Williams also was fired from National Public Radio in 2010 for saying on Fox that he worried about flying on planes with those in "Muslim garb." He's won praise, though, over his long career, including for his book Eyes on Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.
Despite some familiar themes, Marks said it was ethics, not politics, that motivated the faculty to act against Williams. “I am a political conservative, and although I am aware that controversies over speaker choices often play out as liberal faculty versus conservative outsider,” he said, “that is emphatically not the case here.”
It’s unclear how close Williams thought he was to the gig, which he was told would likely come with an honorary degree. Yencho said that Williams was originally approached by Brock Blomberg, Ursinus’s president since 2015, “to gauge his interest and his availability, but was not formally selected by the committee, nor was his name officially brought forth for faculty and trustee approval …. We anticipate a much more robust and collaborative process moving forward.”
This is the second controversy the Pennsylvania college has faced this academic year. In September, Michael C. Marcon, facing criticism over his comments on Twitter, resigned as chair of the college's governing board. Another board member had previously resigned over Marcon's tweets, which opined on who should and shouldn't wear yoga pants, Caitlyn Jenner's speaking fees in relation to the gender wage gap, and bumper sticker politics.Editorial Tags: Academic freedomPlagiarismImage Caption: Juan WilliamsIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Iowa State University cannot bar a student group from using the university’s logo and mascot on T-shirts advocating the legalization of marijuana, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The lawsuit, sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education as part of its Stand Up for Free Speech Litigation Project, was filed by two former Iowa State students in 2014. At the time, the students were officers with the university's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. They had repeatedly sought permission to use the Iowa State logo alongside a cannabis leaf on their shirts, but their requests were denied, with the university saying it did not want to appear to be endorsing the group’s agenda.
But the court's opinion noted that the university allows 800 other student groups to use the logo, including organizations with differing political viewpoints, such as the Iowa State Democrats and the ISU College Republicans. “NORML ISU's use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU's trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,” the panel wrote.
The university had originally allowed the group to use its logo and mascot on the shirts, until the chapter’s president was quoted in a local newspaper suggesting that the university supported NORML's mission. According to emails shared among university officials and included in the lawsuit, local politicians pressured the university to revoke its approval of the T-shirts. One such email came from the governor's office.
“Any time someone from the governor's staff calls complaining, yeah, I'm going to pay attention,” Steven Leath, Iowa State’s president, said during his deposition.
When NORML requested permission to use the trademarked logo in a new order of the shirts, the request was put on hold while the university changed its trademark guidelines. The new rules suddenly prohibited “designs that suggest promotion of dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors,” or “drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”
After the rules were updated, university officials university told NORML they would have to approve any future shirt designs before they were submitted to the university’s trademark office. No other student groups were subject to such a review.
Two of the group’s officers sought FIRE's help in suing the university. The lawsuit alleged that Iowa State had “manipulated its trademark policy” specifically to prevent NORML from using the Iowa State cardinal mascot and logo. Erin Furleigh, one of the student plaintiffs, said she was hesitant to resort to legal action but had no other option after attempts to handle the conflict internally, including submitting several other designs, failed.
“We’re little students and they’re big university officials, and it can be intimidating,” Furleigh said. “We approached FIRE just to ask, ‘Are we really wrong here? Because I feel bad, and I don’t think that I should feel bad.’”
Last year, a federal court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Iowa State from using its trademark policy to prevent NORML from printing new T-shirts featuring university trademarks and cannabis leaves. Because the university had rejected the group’s designs over the “messages they expressed” and in an attempt to “maintain favor with Iowa political figures,” the court ruled that Iowa State had discriminated against the group and violated the First Amendment.
Iowa State chose to appeal, but Monday’s ruling by the higher court reaffirms the initial decision. John McCarroll, a university spokesman, said Iowa State is reviewing the appellate court’s decision and has not decided yet whether to appeal again.
Monday’s ruling is another win for FIRE’s Stand Up for Free Speech project, in which the organization supports students looking to sue colleges over First Amendment issues.
Four of the project’s initial six lawsuits have ended in settlements. Last February, Ohio University agreed to revise several of its policies after it was sued for ordering a student group to stop wearing T-shirts featuring the slogan “We get you off for free.” The group, which provides free legal assistance to students accused of disciplinary infractions, had used the slogan for three decades before being told to stop.
In recent months, FIRE has also spoken out about another T-shirt case involving a NORML chapter at the University of Missouri. The group had asked to use the university’s name on a T-shirt depicting a cannabis leaf. The university rejected the request because of “drug-related imagery.”
“I think Monday’s ruling sends the message to universities that they can’t use their trademark policies to discriminate against students who want to advocate for marijuana legalization,” Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, said. “I think the court made it clear that you can’t offer a benefit to student groups, then deny that to a particular campus organization whose message you don’t like.”Editorial Tags: CensorshipImage Source: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Image Caption: Paul Gerlich and Erin Furleigh, two former Iowa State students and NORML officers who sued to use the university's logoIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The British massive open online courses are coming.
FutureLearn, the education platform owned by the Open University in the U.K., said this morning that it is expanding into the U.S. with five initial university partners: American University, Colorado State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. The universities will all offer noncredit courses on the platform this year, and more U.S.-based institutions are expected to join them.
The company was founded in late 2012 -- the MOOC heyday -- with the idea of making sure British universities wouldn't face American domination in the world of MOOCs. FutureLearn is arriving in the U.S. with hundreds of courses, more than 100 university and education provider partners, and a moderated message about the role MOOC providers should play in the higher education landscape.
Gone are the promises about revolutionizing higher education or driving most colleges and universities out of business. In their place is a pledge to work with colleges on how to offer education online and internationally.
“We’re beyond that initial overhype of MOOCs,” Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, said in an interview. “We’re now evolving into an exciting partnership to help universities with their digital transition and the core business of teaching students and reaching out to learners all over the world.”
Nelson said that strategy is informed by 15 years at the British Broadcasting Corporation working on TV and radio development. The debate about MOOCs, he said, resembled the debate about on-demand programming such as Netflix and podcasts; some viewed it as an existential threat, while others dismissed it as a fad. He said he takes a middle-of-the-road approach, recognizing that MOOCs have been “overhyped” but acknowledging the opportunities that they present.
“What’s actually happened is they’ve been a fantastic catalyst for universities and other players to rethink or start to think about what they’re doing to digitally transform their institutions,” Nelson said. FutureLearn’s partnerships with colleges, he added, are “about us identifying areas of mutual strategic benefit and working hard as partners, not as suppliers and customers.”
The U.S. is already FutureLearn’s second-largest market, based on the number of learners who have signed up for courses. “We want to understand the fabric of U.S. education and learning system and then become a core part of it,” Nelson said.
Most of FutureLearn’s U.S. partner universities already offer MOOCs, and some of their first courses on FutureLearn will be ones that previously appeared on platforms such as Coursera and edX. “Double-dipping” by working with multiple MOOC providers is not uncommon -- especially at larger universities that have a large portfolio of online education offerings.
In interviews with Inside Higher Ed, administrators at those universities said they viewed the partnership as another way to stay up-to-date in the MOOC market.
“When you look at this space, it’s rapidly evolving, and each of the platforms have strengths in different areas,” said Thomas J. Steenburgh, the Paul M. Hammaker Professor of Business Administration at UVA. “It worries the hell out of me to think about whether we’re moving fast enough in this space.”
UVA offers dozens of MOOCs on Coursera. Steenburgh said the business school will bring a handful of them -- including courses on design thinking and marketing analytics -- to FutureLearn.
Steenburgh and administrators at other universities also said that by partnering with FutureLearn, which is based in London, they get access to learners around the world who are not taking courses on the platforms where their institutions are already represented.
“We’re always looking for new ways to internationalize our curriculum,” said Karen Pollack, assistant vice provost for online and blended programs at Penn State.
Steenburgh said the user bases of Coursera and FutureLearn don’t completely overlap. More than half -- about 60 percent -- of FutureLearn’s users are female, for example. In a 2014 survey, 40 percent of Coursera users were women. Nelson said FutureLearn’s relative lack of computer science courses (in which men are often overrepresented) and abundance of teacher training courses may be some reasons why women are drawn to the platform.
FutureLearn last year added MOOCs that award credit and, in December, announced it would offer full certificate and graduate degree programs from Deakin University in Australia. None of the MOOCs created by U.S. universities will have a for-credit option, though Nelson said he would be “surprised if it’s not a direction of travel in the near future.”
Some of the universities also said they are open to the idea of offering credit through MOOCs in the near future.
“If you want to have a diverse student audience and diverse engagement of academic partners and professionals, this is an excellent way to do it,” Pollack said.Online LearningEditorial Tags: MOOCsIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Leaders of historically black colleges have been surprised (and pleased) by recent public overtures from the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress. But protests at Howard University Monday reveal that many students at those institutions aren't eager to see their campus leaders engaging with representatives of a president they find toxic.
Howard student activists held a rally Monday on the university's main quadrangle days after the university president, Wayne A. I. Frederick, hosted Betsy DeVos, newly confirmed as education secretary. The students said they want advance notice from the university leadership of other visits by Trump administration officials and they want the president himself barred from the campus. Interacting with administration officials would diminish the values of the university while bringing no real value to Howard students, said Juan Demetrixx, a senior and representative of Concerned Students, 1867, the group that organized the rally.
“It’s so they can get a photo op, so they can say, ‘We have some black friends’ or ‘we have some black people who are aligned with us,’” he said.
Activists also linked the rally to ongoing black protest movements in the U.S. The name of the organization is a reference to Concerned Student 1950, the University of Missouri activist group that led protests in 2015 until Tim Wolfe, president of the Missouri system, resigned.
Howard students issued a set of their own demands to university leadership ahead of the rally, combining several longstanding requests to the university administration with new calls to distance itself from the Trump White House.
They renewed demands that the university declare itself a sanctuary campus, increase resources for underrepresented groups and establish a community center to engage with surrounding neighborhoods. And they added calls for the university to ban the president from all campus buildings and to “refuse to abandon its values in exchange for financial security.”
"It is up to us to make sure that our black institutions work for us," Durmerrick Ross, a Howard freshman and one of the rally organizers, told listeners Monday. While the crowd at the rally wasn't large, the event received online support from other black student groups at colleges across the country.
In a statement issued through the university’s office of communications, Frederick said he received the list of demands Sunday night and was in the process of reviewing them with members of his leadership team.
“We take the concerns outlined very seriously and support activism on this campus,” Frederick said in the statement. “As a first step, I will meet later this week with those concerned students to discuss their demands in greater detail.”
A crowd of about 25 students showed up at Monday's protest to hear organizers speak about their demands on the Howard leadership and plans to hold Frederick and other leaders accountable. Students hoisted a makeshift banner reading "Resist" in red lettering onto the university flagpole before heading to the administration building. The university later had the banner removed. If Frederick doesn't meet their demands by Wednesday, organizers said, they plan to pursue more direct actions, including class walkouts.
Shortly after wrapping up the rally, a group of students attempted to deliver a set of demands to Frederick's office, calling on him to distance the university from the White House. But after entering the Mordecai Johnson Administration building, students said, to their frustration, they were met by campus security.
"We did not feel like they were a presence that needed to be there, nor did we feel that it helped at that point," said Demetrixx. "That kind of puts a damper on our optimism about what might happen with Wayne Frederick later this week."
Lezli Baskerville, the president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, an umbrella organization for HBCU institutions, said she supported students organizing and making their voices heard on campus. But she also said they should be open to an exchange of ideas with people they disagree with.
"We encourage and support robust exchanges of dialogue," she said. "We encourage and support free expression of your opinion as long as it doesn't trample on the rights of another."
Baskerville said engaging with federal leaders is made more important by Howard's status, along with Gallaudet University, as a federally chartered institution that receives significant funding from the federal government.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have a history of supporting HBCUs, said University of Pennsylvania professor Marybeth Gasman, the director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Meeting with those elected officials makes sense for HBCU leaders advocating on behalf of their institutions, she said. But Gasman said meeting with Trump was a different matter.
“We’re dealing with someone who has purposely and strategically surrounded himself with white supremacists,” she said. “I hope to see some HBCU president say, ‘No, I’m not going to meet with Trump. I'm going to find other ways.’”DiversityEditorial Tags: Diversity MattersHistorically black collegesImage Caption: Howard students try to present their demands in person to the university's president.Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
- Assumption College is starting an undergraduate major in health sciences.
- Bay Path University is starting a master of science in genetic counseling.
- Cornell College is starting a concentration in behavioral neuroscience.
- Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York is starting an M.F.A. in fashion design.
- Lewis & Clark College is starting an undergraduate minor in Middle East/North Africa studies.
- Southern Methodist University is starting a master’s degree in engineering entrepreneurship.
- University of Akron is starting a bachelor’s degree in risk management and insurance.
- University of Dallas is starting a master of leadership program.
- University of Washington is starting a master's program in applied child and adolescent psychology.
The desire to explore other cultures is the main driver for high-school aged students to consider studying abroad, according to new research from AFS Intercultural Programs.
In a report, Mapping Generation Z: Attitudes toward International Education Programs, AFS also found that anglophone destinations are the most popular among this generation.
The research surveyed 5,255 high school students aged between 13 and 18 from 27 countries between March and December 2016.
“Gen Z students don’t just want to simply travel to other countries”
Around two thirds (67%) of respondents placed a higher value on cultural experiences when studying overseas than scholastics and education, it found.
Daniel Obst, president and CEO of AFS, said it is clear that Generation Z is more keen to add ‘global’ to their identity than previous generations.
“Gen Z students don’t just want to simply travel to other countries; they are looking for authentic experiences through the eyes of local people,” he told The PIE News.
Students with a primary focus on cultural experiences, but with low financial resources, dubbed ‘cultural hitchhikers’ by the report, made up 36% of respondents.
‘Cultural floaters’, or the students with high financial resources and who aim to experience other cultures, accounted for 31% of respondents.
Breaking down survey responses by nationality, three quarters of European students valued cultural exploration more than academics, along with 57% of students from Latin America, 58% from Southeast Asia and 72% from North America.
Meanwhile, 21% of respondents were considered ‘academic achievers’, students who place a high primary focus on scholastics, but have low financial resources, while ‘resumé packers’, those with high financial resources and a high interest in educational achievement, accounted for the lowest proportion, 12%.
“I expect we will see more resumé packers in the future as students at a younger age become more aware – from their schools, parents and future employers – of the value of international experiences and global competence to achieve future success,” said Obst.
Top destinations reflected leaders in HE study abroad; anglophone countries were considered the most attractive to 77% of Generation Z, with the US, UK and Australia most preferred.
Western European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, were favourable to 65%, with Brazil and China faring the least favourably, pointed to by only 38% of respondents.
“These findings paint a picture of large growth potential for the traditionally popular English destinations and set the tone for increasing competitive pressures among them,” notes the report.
“These findings paint a picture of large growth potential for the traditionally popular English destinations”
Security issues topped the list of personal concerns for study abroad. During the survey’s first months before May 2016, security concerns were only an anxiety for 36% of students. But that proportion increased in the period after.
“During the months after repeated terrorist attacks became highly publicised worldwide, we noted a concern rate of 52% for the same issue,” the report states.
Making no friends was a concern for half of the respondents, followed by homesickness, and school re-entry requirements upon returning home, each shared by 48% of students.
While none of the respondents had been on an international exchange previously, 60% said they had already considered the possibility.
In order to harness that interest into more students studying overseas, word of mouth will be essential, according to Hristo Banov, manager of the management information unit at AFS, and the study’s lead researcher.
“While nowadays students get personal testimonials not just from their immediate friends and family circles, but also from their extended social media footprint, the relevance of ‘genuine, personal referral’ remains unchanged,” he said.
The post For Generation Z, study abroad culture tops academics appeared first on The PIE News.
First-time international enrolment growth at US universities held steady in 2016, up 5% for the second year in a row. However, the growth rate of international graduate applications is slowing as interest from key source markets drops, spurring the Council of Graduate Schools to warn universities to not take continuing growth for granted in the current policy environment.
The figures in CGS’s International Graduate Applications and Enrollment: Fall 2016 report are a marked change from two admissions cycles ago, when international graduate enrolment drove much of the growth in first-time enrolment at US universities.
“We may see fewer surges of international graduate enrolment and observe more modest changes over time”
“International students are and will continue to be a significant part of US graduate enrolment,” the report says, but adds: “We may be reaching a point where we will see fewer surges of overall international graduate enrolment and observe more modest changes over time.”
Of the 92,500 international graduate students who enrolled in US universities for the first time in fall 2016, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest share (36%), followed by Indian students (27%). Overall, 77% of first-time international enrolments were from Asia.
Contributing to the growth, 2016 saw a turnaround in first-year enrolments from European graduate students, which rose 8% after several years of declining enrolment growth rates.
Australasian enrolments also saw healthy growth of 7%. However, first-time graduate enrolment of nationals from the Middle East & North Africa dropped by 11%, including a 13% fall from Saudi Arabia.
“The continued increase in enrolments is good news for US universities, but we can’t take that position for granted,” commented CGS president Suzanne Ortega.
“Universities in the US and around the world are waiting to see the potential impact of the uncertain policy environment on the mobility patterns of international graduate students.”
The CGS figures also revealed that growth in international graduate applications is slowing, adding to the uncertainty. The figure grew by just 1% in 2016 to 838,627, down from 3% in 2015.
Decreases in applications from key source markets – most notably Brazil, down 11%, and Saudi Arabia, down 20% – counterbalanced a 4% rise from China.
Other important markets that saw applications fall included India (-1%), the Middle East and North Africa (-5%) and South Korea (-5%).
In light of the findings, the report counsels that public policy must continue to be conducive to attracting graduate students and enable them to stay and work post-study.
“As a matter of public policy, we cannot afford to lose our standing and competitiveness to attract global talent to our graduate institutions,” the study warns.
In terms of subject distribution, engineering was the most popular field of study, accounting for 30% of applications and 26% of first-time enrolments. Mathematics and computer science followed, attracting 21% and 20% of applications and first-time enrolments respectively, followed by business, with 17% and 20%.
Master’s and certificate programmes were the biggest draw for international students, attracting just over two-thirds of total applications (68%) and nearly four-fifths (78%) of first-time enrolments.
A crowd of about 1,500 people -- many of whom were college students -- gathered on the University of California’s Berkeley campus this month to peacefully protest the appearance of conservative writer and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
They had come to march, to carry signs and to raise their voices in dissent of the Breitbart figure’s controversial points of view, as is within their First Amendment rights. They did not come to start fires or break windows.
But their message was overshadowed by another, smaller mass of about 150 protesters who did come to start fires, break windows and hurl rocks at police officers -- and who accomplished all of those things. They wore black and concealed their faces with masks. They brought -- and used -- bats, metal rods, fireworks and Molotov cocktails to get their message across, in the process undermining “the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence,” a spokesperson for Berkeley said in a statement.
The group, which many have characterized as one made up of anarchists, was practicing black bloc tactics.
Black bloc is a strategy intended to unify protesters through their black clothing, masks and paramilitary tactics. The protesters become indistinguishable from one another, creating confusion for law enforcement officials and chaos among innocent bystanders.
Black bloc is more of a shifting movement and shared strategy than a formal organization. It can be traced back to the 1970s in Germany, The Washington Post reported. The tactics have been used at protests across the globe, but in the last few months -- particularly since Nov. 8, when Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election -- black bloc protesters have made more appearances than usual.
They interrupted peaceful anti-Trump protests in Portland, Ore., the week of the election. They descended on Washington for President Trump’s inauguration last month, smashing the windows of a Starbucks and damaging a bank and a limousine, among other property. Later that same night, across the country, they caused mayhem on the University of Washington campus.
The Berkeley incident has demonstrated to many campus officials the danger posed by black bloc protests to colleges. Nonviolent student protests can get mischaracterized. So, too, can the actions of a university, as when critics (including President Trump) suggest that institutions aren't committed to free speech that black bloc protests prevent. Damage can be significant -- at Berkeley, the black bloc protesters destroyed about $100,000 worth of campus property.
Officials at Berkeley are still investigating the events that unfolded there Feb. 1. Meanwhile, security officers at other campuses have begun to discuss preparedness and best practices around these issues.
David Mitchell, chief of police at the University of Maryland College Park, called the recent resurgence of black bloc an “infiltration.”
“These are folks, in my view, who are not interested in freedom of speech. They’re interested in taking advantage of an opportunity to commit crimes and wreak havoc,” said Mitchell, who has been in law enforcement for over 40 years and has witnessed black bloc tactics on several occasions. “They are here to destroy property and … cause disorder. It’s very unfortunate, and it’s very unlawful.”
The University of Maryland has almost 40,000 students, and over the years, Mitchell said, he’s seen those students protest just about every issue out there.
“I can differentiate between black bloc and my student body,” Mitchell said. “My student body is interested in freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble.”
“I know many of our protesters here on campus -- these are good people who want to air their concerns and want their voices to be heard,” he added. “When you have that and it’s a peaceful protest, then suddenly there’s an infiltration with fires starting, it reinforces the bias against college kids and college students protesting. Certainly we don’t want that here. I don’t think my students want that here.”
It’s true that, amid the chaos that erupted on Berkeley’s campus, many people associated the violence with Berkeley students. However, the university believes the anarchists “invaded” the campus and were not affiliated with its students.
“At Berkeley, it’s clear there was a very serious difference between the majority of protesters and the minority who were engaged in black bloc tactics,” said Angus Johnston, a historian of American student activism and online blogger for the website Student Activism. “The vast majority of students protesting were not engaged in those tactics.”
Despite crowd control and safety measures in place to handle those who were peacefully protesting Yiannopoulos’s appearance, Berkeley officials did not anticipate black bloc.
The protests there, which also left five people with minor injuries, have reignited a conversation at other colleges about what to do if a similar incident occurred on their campuses.
Other colleges and universities should look at what happened at Berkeley and learn from it -- including what worked and what could have been improved, said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
When something like this happens, campus law enforcement officials have to consider dozens of variables, she said, including where the protest is happening, how quickly it could escalate, whether the violent and nonviolent protesters are intermixed or separated, how many security and police officers are available to help, and crowd size, she said.
“What we have found is being prepared ahead of time is really key,” Riseling said. “It may not be a speaker that trips it. It may be another action of the president that trips it. It may be a community member. You don’t know what’s going to trip it.”
The violent protests seen at Berkeley and on Inauguration Day interfere with all Americans’ right to participate in democracy, Riseling said.
“Their voices are silenced by this black bloc activity,” she said. “It’s very important that people who are invited to speak get to speak … no matter how repugnant some people may feel their views are. They are protected under the Constitution, and that’s really important. It’s also important for people who disagree with the speaker to have their voices heard.”
Both Riseling and Mitchell commended Berkeley’s handling of the situation because it did not result in severe injuries or death.
“It always could be worse,” Mitchell said. “The property damage was disappointing and absolutely unlawful, but that certainly could’ve been worse as well. I applaud the way they handled the incident.”
Kim Richmond, director of the National Center for Campus Public Safety, said she has been trying to remind universities about the resources available to plan and prepare for these events.
“Each community should be having conversations ahead of time with administration, students, potential activists,” Richmond said. “I think the campuses who are doing a good job of preparation are looking at every time there’s a situation, or even if there’s not, simulating a situation and asking, ‘What is our local response going to look like? What is our campus’s stance on this?’”
Colleges have to be prepared to adapt, Richmond said. For example, at Berkeley, the police officers felt that trying to get in the middle of the crowd would’ve sparked more violence and resulted in more severe injuries. They chose not to try to arrest the black bloc protesters, because they felt it would have compromised the safety of their students.
These are scenarios that no college wants to find itself in, but Mitchell said it’s important to have a plan in place because, given the current political climate, it’s likely to keep happening.
“The mood of the country is such today, with such division, that I don’t think this is going away any time soon,” Mitchell said.Editorial Tags: SafetyImage Caption: Protest at BerkeleyIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Brown U's series on campus speech faces its first test, with a scholar using racial slurs during a talk
Campus speech debates have become heated, and even violent, in recent years. What happened at Brown University recently isn’t one of those incidents. Instead of protests, a visiting speaker -- and his controversial comments, including the N-word -- prompted discussion.
Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, was at Brown this month as part of the campus’s “Reaffirming University Values: Campus Dialogue and Discourse” program. Richard M. Locke, Brown’s provost, introduced the series of lectures and workshops last semester as a way to “consider how to cultivate an environment in which we, as a community, can discuss conflicting values and controversial issues in constructive and engaging ways.”
The role of “dialogue on campuses and in public life more broadly has become of increasing concern in recent years,” Locke said in a letter to the campus. “The ways in which we talk across difference have become as important as the substance of the issues we discuss, especially the divisive ones.”
Like a number of other institutions, Brown has seen student unrest over on-campus race relations since students at the University of Missouri at Columbia staged protests on their campus in 2015. While it wasn’t seen as a national hotbed of such protests, as a famously liberal university, Brown still was taking something of a risk in attempting to tackle today's campus speech issues head-on.
Locke described the worthiness of the cause like this: “At the core of these efforts is a robust recognition of our fundamental commitment, as an institution of higher education, to learning -- on the part of students, faculty and staff. Our success in these endeavors rests on the commitment of members of our community to this approach.”
Conversations about serious issues are “too often characterized as polarizing, and occur in a highly charged, rancorous atmosphere where speakers often anticipate being criticized, ridiculed or ‘called out.’ Those who are uncertain or uncomfortable often remain silent or are reluctant to engage,” he added. “We must work to empower all individuals to share their viewpoints, even if it makes some of us, at times, feel uncomfortable. Creating an environment in which productive dialogue occurs is essential for our university."
Stone, a First Amendment scholar and former provost at Chicago who chaired its Committee on Freedom of Expression, delivered a speech at Brown called “Free Speech on Campus: A Challenge of Our Times.” He began with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissent to a 1919 decision, Abrams v. U.S., in which the court upheld a ruling against a group of young Communists who opposed American involvement in World War I.
Holmes, Stone said, “warned, ‘We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression’ even of ‘opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten’ compelling government interests that an immediate check is necessary to save the nation.”
Stone said the passage had animated his career, and said that it’s “important to understand that, like the freedom of speech, academic freedom is not a law of nature. It does not exist of its own force. It is always vulnerable, and should never be taken for granted.”
Indeed, he said, academic freedom didn’t really exist for much of the 19th century, and that any “student or faculty member who dared argue, for example, that women were equal to men, that blacks were equal to whites, or that homosexuality was not immoral would surely [have been] expelled or fired without hesitation.”
Similar issues arose again during the more recent McCarthy era, he added, proving that “academic freedom is, in fact, a hard-bought acquisition in an endless struggle to preserve the right of each individual, student and faculty alike, to seek wisdom, knowledge and truth, free of the censor’s sword.”
What does that have to do with today’s students? Stone said that anyone who benefits from academic freedom has an obligation to it, namely by defending it “when it comes under attack” and by struggling “to define the meaning of academic freedom in our time.” As seen in the Abrams case, he added, “the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech is not self-defining. Neither is academic freedom. Each generation must give life to this concept in the face of the distinctive conflicts that arise over time.”
Stone listed recent free speech flare-ups at colleges and universities, some of which involved student demands for censorship. Those include revocations of invitations to speakers on a number of campuses, calls for Vanderbilt University to fire a tenured professor for writing publicly about her highly critical views on Islam, and requests that Amherst College remove posters saying “All Lives Matter.”
Cautioning against censorship, Stone encouraged students to “always be open to challenge and question." He warned them that censorship was a two-way street that could eventually be used against them and said suppression of speech chills speech.
While colleges and universities should promote civility and mutual respect, and support students who feel vulnerable, he continued, “The neutral principle of no suppression of ideas protects us all. This is especially important in the current situation, for in the long run it is likely to be minorities, whether religious minorities, racial minorities or political minorities, who are most likely to be silenced once censorship is deemed acceptable.”
While Stone could be described as a free speech “purist,” his views are very much in line with those of other First Amendment scholars, and his prepared remarks proved uncontroversial, even at Brown. During a lengthy question and answer period, however, he was asked by Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at Chicago, who was also at Brown, about a professor's role in cultivating a civil classroom space.
Stone responded that the "real issue with civility is, What are the bounds of civility?" For both students and faculty members, he said, classrooms are "narrowly defined professional settings" that don't warrant expectations of full free expression. The use of epithets, for example, he said, "is perfectly appropriate if relevant to the material, but inappropriate if a faculty member calls a student a kike, or if a student calls another student a nigger. I would say that's crossing a boundary."
Stone said he'd only ever encountered slurs in the classroom once, 35 years ago, when he was teaching the "fighting words" doctrine, or the notion that some speech is not protected when it could provoke violence. A black student in his class commented that such restrictions are outdated and unnecessary, Stone said, and another student responded, “You nigger, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” The first student promptly reached over to the second to grab him by the neck -- suggesting that the doctrine may not be so old-fashioned after all.
Several questions later, a black undergraduate student told Stone, “I wanted to thank you for your charge to boldness, and, in that spirit, would also like to respectfully request that you refrain from openly using racial epithets in public spaces. I understand you’re not representing an administration right now, but certainly that has a chilling effect on speech for people in the room.” She argued that slurs can be easily alluded to without being said outright.
In response, Stone said, “I teach, among other things, the First Amendment. There are cases that involve these words. You can’t talk about the words in the class when you’re discussing whether the word should be legal or not? Doesn’t make any sense. Or you read it in a novel that uses the words and you can’t use the words? Sorry. But I do hear you.”
The student then asked whether civil discourse was about tone or substance, saying she found Stone's slurs "deeply uncivil."
Stone responded, “Someone who goes around yelling and screaming epithets, even outside the classroom, in a public setting, I would say is being a jackass -- can I say that? Is that OK? Just want to make sure.” He again asked if it was OK to curse when talking about the 1971 Supreme Court case Cohen v. California, about a Vietnam War protester's right to wear a jacket saying "Fuck the Draft."
The student could not immediately be reached for comment, but the student newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, reported that “many attendees” said they were “uncomfortable with Stone’s response" to her question, in that it was "rude" or compared profanity to slurs. Yet the lecture was otherwise uneventful.
Stone said in a phone interview that his intention was never to “mock” the student, but rather to drive home the underlying point of his speech: “When you legitimate censorship, you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position. … Do you really want people deciding which words you can and can’t use?”
Still, Stone underscored the importance of civility and respect, and advised against the “unnecessarily gratuitous and inflammatory” use of racial epithets. “There are educational and cultural values that people should respect,” he said, adding that it would be wholly inappropriate for him to call a student a slur, for example.
A talk on free speech and academic freedom doesn’t meet that bar, though, he said. Despite what's been happening elsewhere, to other scholars, the incident at Brown was in fact the first time a student expressed offense at Stone's use of language, he added. "I've actually been kind of disappointed that students in the audience haven't been more challenging."
On the other hand, as recently as five years ago, Stone's remarks -- prepared and off-the-cuff -- would have been unremarkable in an academic setting, he said. "What makes this moment unusual is that it's students who are demanding censorship, when historically they've opposed censorship."
Christina Paxson, Brown’s president, introduced Stone prior to his talk. In emailed statement, she said, “The student asking her questions reflected exactly the type of open expression we are cultivating at Brown.”
John Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, disagreed with Stone, saying, “It's possible to talk about slurs without using slurs,” and that he usually chooses not to use them. Stone could have said the N-word, with everyone understanding his meaning, for example.
But the “point of a free society is that it's a choice,” Wilson added. “People are free to ask that people not use slurs, and people are free to disagree and use them. I don't see a request as a form of censorship. There's a vast difference between a discussion about what's appropriate and a demand for censorship.”
And clearly, he said, “this is a context -- talking about offensive language -- where the use of slurs is often appropriate.”Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Source: Brown UniversityImage Caption: Geoffrey StoneIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Yale University announced Saturday that it will remove the name of John C. Calhoun from one of its residential colleges.
"The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly, but John C. Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a 'positive good' fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values," said a letter released by Peter Salovey, the president. Calhoun is notorious in American history for his effectiveness in protecting slavery and promoting bigoted ideas about black people in the era prior to the Civil War.
Saturday's announcement marks the end of decades of debate at Yale over Calhoun, an alumnus. Last year, Yale announced that it would keep the Calhoun name on the residential college, and that doing so was part of the commitment of the college to acknowledging and teaching the history of the institution's connections with slavery. The decision led to protests and considerable condemnation.
A few months later, Yale announced it would reconsider its decision, and that it would first create a system for evaluating requests for such name changes. That panel was then convened, as was another to consider whether the Calhoun name should be removed. On Saturday, Yale's board made a final decision on the matter.
Salovey's letter noted that Calhoun was different from others in history who may be honored at Yale or elsewhere. "This principal legacy of Calhoun -- and the indelible imprint he has left on American history -- conflicts fundamentally with the values Yale has long championed. Unlike other namesakes on our campus, he distinguished himself not in spite of these views but because of them. Although it is not clear exactly how Calhoun’s pro-slavery and racist views figured in the 1931 naming decision, depictions in the college celebrating plantation life and the 'Old South' suggest that Calhoun was honored not simply as a statesman and political theorist but in full contemplation of his unique place in the history of slavery," Salovey's letter said.
He added, "In making this change, we must be vigilant not to erase the past. To that end, we will not remove symbols of Calhoun from elsewhere on our campus, and we will develop a plan to memorialize the fact that Calhoun was a residential college name for 86 years. Furthermore, alumni of the college may continue to associate themselves with the name Calhoun College."
Or those alumni may adopt the new name for the residential college, which will honor Grace Murray Hopper (right), a pioneer in computing who earned a master's degree and doctorate from Yale in the 1930s. She had a long career in the U.S. Navy, retiring with the rank of rear admiral.
Yale is not alone in changing names or symbols that honor people whose bigotry was once tolerated but is no longer. Harvard University's law school dropped a seal that was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century. Centre College recently changed the name of McReynolds Hall to the building's street address, following a request by students who did research on James Clark McReynolds, a Supreme Court justice from 1914 to 1941 who is considered among the more bigoted justices of his era. McReynolds frequently left the bench if a female or black lawyer argued before the Supreme Court. He was also known as an anti-Semite, refusing to talk to Louis Brandeis for three years following Brandeis's appointment to the high court because Brandeis was Jewish.
Other colleges, however, have maintained names -- including that of John C. Calhoun -- despite strong opposition in some cases from students, faculty members and others.
Here are some of the cases where institutions have either rejected the idea of changing a name, including some cases where the institutions have suggested reconsideration may be possible down the road, and one where the name has not been a source of public controversy.
Buildings, Statues and Programs That Honor Calhoun and OthersInstitution Figure Honored Status Calhoun Community College, in Alabama
There are no known plans to change name.
John C. Calhoun
Honors college is known as the Calhoun Honors College. Calhoun and his family members had many ties to Clemson.
John C. Calhoun
Benjamin TillmanA major campus building honors Tillman, a notoriously racist politician in South Carolina who was known for promoting and joining in violence against black people. The Clemson board rejected the idea of a name change in 2015, releasing a statement that said in part, "Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen. Stone by stone they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so." Princeton University
Students and others urged the university to drop the name from the institution's public affairs school, and one of its residential colleges, due to Wilson's racist attitudes and actions as president.
The university in 2016 rejected the idea, but vowed to be “honest and forthcoming about its history” and transparent “in recognizing Wilson’s failings and shortcomings as well as the visions and achievements that led to the naming of the school and the college in the first place.”Stanford University
Many students want the university to rename several structures that honor Serra, an 18th-century Roman Catholic priest who created missions throughout California. While Serra was declared a saint by Pope Francis last year, many Native Americans contend that Serra worked to destroy the cultures and beliefs of those who were in California before the missionaries.
Stanford last year created a panel to draft guidelines for how to consider renaming buildings and other spaces that honor those with imperfect (and worse) histories.University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Silent Sam"Students periodically protest and demand the removal of "Silent Sam," a statue that honors Confederate war dead. University of Virginia
Some students and faculty members have asked Teresa Sullivan, president of the university, to stop quoting Jefferson, who founded the university, given that he owned slaves. "Though we realize that some members of our university community may be inspired by quotes from Jefferson, we also realize that many of us are deeply offended by attempts on behalf of our administration to guide our moral behavior through their use," said a letter sent to Sullivan.
She responded by writing, "Quoting Jefferson [or any historical figure] does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university."Winthrop University
Tillman Hall at this university has also been controversial, with many saying the name should change. In 2015, someone wrote "violent racist" on a portrait of Tillman in the hall. In November, black stockings stuffed to reflect the black lives Tillman took were hung in an art protest outside the hall.
The university has condemned the vandalism and pledged to consider how to deal with the Tillman name as part of larger discussions about race at the institution.DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationDiversity MattersImage Caption: John C. CalhounIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump frequently asked African-American voters, "What do you have to lose by trying something new?"
Less than a month into his presidency, leaders of historically black colleges and universities are exploring what they may have to gain from a new relationship with the Trump White House and congressional Republicans.
Some HBCU leaders found themselves disappointed with the first African-American presidency within the first few years of the Obama administration. Now some see a chance to address many of the shortcomings of the previous administration with a White House led by a president overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of black voters -- partly because of his history of inflammatory statements about minority groups.
Trump and advisers including Omarosa Manigault, the former Apprentice star who now serves as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, have already met with a handful of HBCU leaders, and the White House is crafting an executive order dealing with those institutions, said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, have organized a meeting in D.C. later this month of elected officials and representatives from more than 100 historically black colleges.
Taylor said that in discussions going back to early January, the Trump team has simply listened to what he and other representatives of minority-serving institutions have had to say. But the meeting later this month with lawmakers is expected to be more of a two-way conversation. And HBCUs have not been shy about making requests of the Trump administration in the talks they've had so far, he said.
"We asked them to look very critically at how to make it a far more successful and far more impactful order by bringing the [HBCU] initiative into the White House and including a specific commitment from federal agencies to spend a fair share of their funding with HBCUs," Taylor said.
He said he also said he spoke in support of charter schools and other school choice options on HBCU campuses and the need to support infrastructure programs at those institutions.
"They're listening. And that so differentiates them, frankly, from our more recent past experience," Taylor said.
The Obama administration faced an uproar from the HBCU sector in 2011 over the rollout of new Department of Education rules limiting access for many families to PLUS loans to pay for a child's education. The change affected colleges and universities across the board, but the effects were particularly pronounced at historically black colleges, which enroll a much higher proportion of low-income students than the national average.
Other criticisms of Obama from leaders like Taylor had as much to do with issues of tone and focus as actual policy differences. But nonetheless, he said, he is optimistic that the sector is "being brought into the conversation prior to decisions being made."
On Feb. 28, congressional Republicans will host college leaders in a meeting at the Library of Congress. The offices of Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American senator from South Carolina, and Representative Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican whose wife earned two degrees at Winston-Salem State University, have taken the lead in organizing the event.
Jack T. Minor, a spokesman for Walker, said all historically black colleges were invited to the event.
"The new administration expressed a desire to work better with HBCUs and bring opportunity to schools. We want to listen to how the federal government can help," he said.
Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, is among the HBCU leaders who have already said they will attend those meetings. A supporter of President Obama, Kimbrough said he would push lawmakers to expand support for Pell Grants, whose recipients attend HBCUs at a disproportionate rate.
While HBCU leaders have been vocal about grievances with the Obama administration, connections by those institutions with Trump have been subject to sharp criticism up to this point. Talladega College, a historically black institution, came under fire from critics for sending its marching band to participate in Trump's inaugural parade last month -- even though campus leaders said they would have participated no matter who won the election.
And it may be difficult to build a consensus about policy issues. Much of the agenda espoused by President Trump and Republican congressional leaders -- keeping taxes down while spending more on the military, borders and some infrastructure projects -- could make for tight budgets in the student aid programs on which HBCUs depend.
Kimbrough said that his role is to advocate for his university, no matter who happens to be in charge in Washington.
"My responsibility, no matter who is in office, no matter their political affiliation, is for them to support my institution," Kimbrough said. "I'll meet with anyone."
While he understands the frustration with the previous administration from others in the sector, Kimbrough said the sector is still benefiting from stimulus funds approved during the first year of the Obama presidency.
HBCU leaders like Kimbrough should have no problem making a compelling case for supporting their institutions, said James T. Minor, the senior strategist for academic success and inclusive excellence at the California State University System. A former deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education under Obama, Minor is an expert on addressing student achievement gaps.
"The question is how well the case maps what becomes of the Trump administration’s agenda for higher education and whether or not that includes HBCUs as a central component of whatever the strategy is," Minor said.
Minor said the contents of the executive order issued by the White House as well as the education budget it submits to Congress could confirm the fears of many skeptics in minority communities.
"Or there’s an opportunity to really create a bridge and to demonstrate postelection the aptitude, the ability and the willingness to build bridges with programs that bring us together versus those that could be understood as divisive or polarizing," he said.Editorial Tags: Diversity MattersTrump administrationHistorically black collegesImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Omarosa Manigault and President TrumpIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
As Oregon faces budget shortfalls and an education sector eager to hold onto the money it has, a dispute has emerged about the future of the state’s free community college program.
The state’s public universities, which saw a slight decrease in freshman enrollment last fall, are pointing out issues with the Oregon Promise that could influence legislators to cut funding for the program. For example, while a recent report found that more of the state's high school graduates are now applying for federal financial aid and attending college, students from higher-income families are disproportionately benefiting from the program.
“We were very transparent from the start that in implementing a last-dollar program, more state dollars would go to higher-income kids and families than lower income, because lower-income families will get Pell Grants,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. “The real question should be what impact the program has had on college-going rates for recent high school graduates of all income levels. We believe Promise shows increases for all students and for lower-income students; that’s more Pell dollars coming into the states.”
The report on the Promise program’s first semester revealed that it reached more students than projected, with 6,745 receiving the scholarship compared to 5,700 high school graduates who enrolled in a two-year college for at least six credits in 2014. More than 19,000 Oregonians applied for the grant and nearly 10,500 of them met the Promise’s 2.5 high school GPA, residency and financial aid application requirements.
Of the eligible Promise applicants, about 1,100 chose to attend a four-year institution in Oregon and didn’t receive the grant.
However, enrollment of Oregon’s high school graduates in the state’s public universities declined slightly in 2016 compared to recent years -- 17.6 percent of Oregon high school students who graduated last year enrolled in one of the universities this past fall, compared to 18.3 percent in 2015 and 18 percent in 2014.
Some Promise advocates point to the enrollment declines as the main reason why public university leaders in Oregon are pressuring the Legislature to instead move funding from the Promise program to the state’s need-based grant, which is awarded to low-income students who attend Oregon’s public universities.
“The presidents and provosts of Oregon’s seven four-year public universities have communicated publicly to state leaders that any additional state financial aid funding should first go to fully fund the need-based Oregon Opportunity Grant program, before appropriating additional funds to the Oregon Promise program, which is not need based,” Steve Clark, a spokesman for Oregon State University, said in an email.
Clark said the university does not have statistics for the number of students who choose to use the Promise at a community college instead of attending the university.
Portland State University officials can’t directly attribute all of their decrease in new freshman resident applications to the Promise, but they’re certain the program played some role in the drop.
The university saw a 9 percent decrease in first-year, in-state resident students from this year compared to last year and a 14-percent decrease in new freshman residents who were admitted to the institution.
“In the application pool we saw a decrease in resident applicants this past fall, and we think it's attributable to Oregon Promise,” said Shannon Carr, executive director of undergraduate admissions at Portland State University. “The information about Oregon Promise was sent out, and it wasn’t really clear in terms of how many students were receiving it … how far that money would go …. Counselors were really advising students to start at a community college instead of a four-year institution. We saw that conversation happening from the guidance counseling community, and that had an impact on overall applications.”
Carr said she doesn’t want to fault the counselors for helping their students make informed and smart financial decisions about college. But she said some students “put all their eggs in one basket and were not necessarily getting Oregon Promise.”
Carr said the university is optimistic about the number of students interested in enrolling this coming fall and that partially has to do with the “uncertainty and not a lot of conversation about Promise.”
This year the university unveiled its own initiative to provide free tuition to Oregon residents who have a 3.4 high school GPA and are Pell eligible. The program guarantees four tuition-free years.
“We did this for a wide range of reasons, so it’s not solely a response to Oregon Promise,” Carr said. “We’re primarily a school of access …. We thought some of the neediest students didn’t even apply to four-year schools because of Oregon Promise and they knew their tuition would be covered. They failed to realize that with federal financial aid they may even come out better, especially those with strong academics … starting at a four-year school.”
Morley Winograd, president and chief executive officer of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, said he’s not surprised there was a “counterattack” to the first year of success in Oregon’s program. There was similar pushback from four-year institutions in Tennessee, he said.
“The Promise program in Oregon is accomplishing its purpose in increasing enrollment in higher education,” Winograd said. “It isn’t criticism, but a grab for the money. That’s the fight there, and we’ll see it in every state as four-year colleges and universities will say, ‘Send the money to us.’”
Carr said Portland State hasn’t taken an official stance on the Promise program, but that any program supporting students going to college is positive. However, she said, more thought should have been put into increasing participation of minority and low-income students.
The state made changes to its need-based grant program prior to the Promise scholarship's creation, Cannon said, in an effort to prioritize more low-income students.
The grant now has a much lower income threshold, he said, which means many middle-income families are no longer able to receive the grant. Those dollars are going to more lower-income students.
“That’s the important context for the Promise,” Cannon said. “Obviously it’s not need based. The state dollars flow inverse to need, but we’re also putting much more in the way of financial aid to the lowest-income students than ever before by shifting dollars.”
Short on Funding
Oregon Promise recipients from higher-income backgrounds drive up the cost of the program because they don't receive federal Pell Grants. The state's Legislature agreed in 2015 to fund the program’s first year for $10 million. But officials are estimating the cost to rise to $13.5 million. Cannon said that number would approximately double as a new group of students are brought in for the second year.
“There will be very rigorous conversations this legislative session about whether to continue the Promise and, if so, at what funding level,” Cannon said. “That’s partly because of the budget shortfall our state faces. All programs are likely to undergo a greater level of scrutiny than they would at other times, and because this is a new program, it will get even greater levels of attention.”
Oregon is facing a $1.8 billion budget gap, which means everything is on the table, said Andrea Henderson, executive director of the Oregon Community Colleges Association, adding that there is an $80 million budget gap for the community colleges and a $100 million shortfall for the public universities.
“Yes, there is a percentage of students who have fairly high [expected family contribution], but on the other hand many students indicated they wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for the Oregon Promise,” Henderson said. “We know we’re getting additional federal financial aid dollars, and last year we led the nation in FAFSA filings for students.”
But warnings came from the community colleges a year ago about the program, along with concerns over funding. Those colleges wanted to see the program lower its GPA requirement and expand beyond recent high school graduates.
“We had reservations about this program before it passed,” Cannon said. “But when the Legislature decides to use the word ‘promise,’ it should mean something.”
The discussions in Oregon may seem like a blow to a free college movement that has been picking up steam from San Francisco to New York and Rhode Island.
Oregon was just the second state in the country to implement a widespread free community college initiative, following Tennessee.
“They were an early adopter,” said Martha Kanter, a former undersecretary of education under President Obama, who leads the College Promise Campaign, which advocates for free community college. “But they didn’t have the sustainable components Tennessee had or the history on how to build and move it further year after year.”
“It’s all about design,” she said. “In Oregon, they wanted to serve everyone, and that did affect Portland State.”
The program just needs time to adjust, said Oregon State Senator Mark Haas, who helped create the program and sits on the College Promise Campaign board.
“Just by anybody’s metrics, this is doing really well … this is changing the culture in our state,” he said. “The fact that the universities have this in their crosshairs begs the question of what should the universities be doing. Maybe the universities should take a page from the community college handbook and be more responsive to customers.”
Conversations in the state about funding the Promise or even making changes to it are still early, although there have been suggestions like placing an income or expected family contribution cap on the program so students above a certain income level wouldn’t qualify. Such a move could reduce the cost of the program or allow the state to spend more dollars on lower-income students.
“We’re supporting continuation of the program as it currently stands,” Cannon saidCommunity CollegesEditorial Tags: Community collegesOregonIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0