Advocates hold vigil at Education Department for survivors of campus assaults

WASHINGTON — Survivor advocates who have repeatedly claimed they were shut out of a process to shift existing federal policy on campus sexual assault gathered outside the Department of Education’s headquarters Thursday to raise their voices on the issue.

Nearly a month after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded 2011 Obama administration guidelines on handling charges of campus assaults, advocates held a vigil to protest the rollback of those federal policies and to show continued support for survivors of assault. A crowd of between 100 and 150 gathered to hear statements from fellow survivors and declare their resolve in pushing back against the new direction under DeVos.

Survivor advocates say the 2011 guidance pushed colleges and universities to take sexual assault seriously for the first time by making clear their responsibilities to investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct. Jess Davidson, the managing director of End Rape on Campus and an organizer of the vigil, said in an interview that the Thursday event was a demonstration to survivors that advocates would not let the issue fall to the wayside.

“We were really seeing that survivors across the country were just feeling devastated. We were getting calls from clients who didn’t know if they should stay in school or what this meant for their cases,” Davidson said of reactions to the rescinding of the Obama-era guidelines. “We wanted to take a minute to honor and recognize what survivors are feeling right now.”

Davidson said activists have seen success pushing campus leaders to maintain existing policies since DeVos rescinded the Obama guidance and issued new interim guidance to colleges and universities. Davidson said the secretary has yet to seriously incorporate the needs of survivors in her decision making.

“There is a really consistent pattern here where DeVos is locking survivors and survivor advocates out of the room and so they take to the streets,” she said.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, said DeVos has been focused on bringing all voices to the table in discussing campus assault policies. “To say that anyone has been kept out of the conversation is just false,” she said. “The secretary and the Office for Civil Rights has met with numerous survivors and their advocates.”

Hill said DeVos has said repeatedly that campus assault must be confronted head-on but that accused students must also know guilt is not predetermined. “Unfortunately, under the previous administration’s directives, too many students were being failed by the system that was in place to adjudicate these horrific cases,” she said.

Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, one of the group’s involved in organizing the vigil, told attendees Thursday night that serious work is ahead for advocates of survivors. But she said they are organized in a way they were not before the Obama administration issued its guidelines.

“I remember distinctly how alone I felt as a survivor on campus,” she said. “Look around you — none of us are alone right now.”

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WASHINGTON -- Survivor advocates who have repeatedly claimed they were shut out of a process to shift existing federal policy on campus sexual assault gathered outside the Department of Education's headquarters Thursday to raise their voices on the issue.

Nearly a month after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded 2011 Obama administration guidelines on handling charges of campus assaults, advocates held a vigil to protest the rollback of those federal policies and to show continued support for survivors of assault. A crowd of between 100 and 150 gathered to hear statements from fellow survivors and declare their resolve in pushing back against the new direction under DeVos.

Survivor advocates say the 2011 guidance pushed colleges and universities to take sexual assault seriously for the first time by making clear their responsibilities to investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct. Jess Davidson, the managing director of End Rape on Campus and an organizer of the vigil, said in an interview that the Thursday event was a demonstration to survivors that advocates would not let the issue fall to the wayside.

"We were really seeing that survivors across the country were just feeling devastated. We were getting calls from clients who didn't know if they should stay in school or what this meant for their cases," Davidson said of reactions to the rescinding of the Obama-era guidelines. "We wanted to take a minute to honor and recognize what survivors are feeling right now."

Davidson said activists have seen success pushing campus leaders to maintain existing policies since DeVos rescinded the Obama guidance and issued new interim guidance to colleges and universities. Davidson said the secretary has yet to seriously incorporate the needs of survivors in her decision making.

"There is a really consistent pattern here where DeVos is locking survivors and survivor advocates out of the room and so they take to the streets," she said.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, said DeVos has been focused on bringing all voices to the table in discussing campus assault policies. "To say that anyone has been kept out of the conversation is just false," she said. "The secretary and the Office for Civil Rights has met with numerous survivors and their advocates."

Hill said DeVos has said repeatedly that campus assault must be confronted head-on but that accused students must also know guilt is not predetermined. "Unfortunately, under the previous administration’s directives, too many students were being failed by the system that was in place to adjudicate these horrific cases," she said.

Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, one of the group's involved in organizing the vigil, told attendees Thursday night that serious work is ahead for advocates of survivors. But she said they are organized in a way they were not before the Obama administration issued its guidelines.

"I remember distinctly how alone I felt as a survivor on campus," she said. "Look around you -- none of us are alone right now."

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Author makes case for ‘surprising power’ of liberal arts education

Robots are taking over the world (and the job market). Majoring in anything but a science or engineering discipline is foolhardy. A humanities or social science degree will get you a great job — as a barista.

Right?

Read enough internet headlines and all of those might seem not only feasible but inevitable. But like many sweeping, future-looking statements, those and other proclamations about the decline and fall of the liberal arts should be taken with a truckload of salt.

George Anders’s You Can Do Anything (Little, Brown and Company) is the latest book (others here and here) to make the case that students (and colleges and universities) should not shun the liberal arts. While designed mostly to help students arm themselves for the world of work — Anders, a contributing writer at Forbes, brings a consumer focus to You Can Do Anything — the book’s use of job-market data and plentiful anecdotes about students, institutions and programs will probably prove compelling to career services administrators, faculty members and anyone else hoping to encourage a liberal arts major they know.

Via email, Anders answered questions about the book, which follow.

Q: You Can Do Anything is among a set of new books that challenge the prevailing narrative that technology and artificial intelligence threaten to make the liberal arts and they skills they build irrelevant. Yours doesn’t run from job or salary data to make that case, but cites them directly to make the case that the “new pessimism” about those fields is “out of step with what broad economic data tell us.” How so?

A: A close look at the data shows good news on two fronts. First, the U.S. economy has created at least 626,000 jobs — and perhaps as many as 2.3 million — since 2012 in what I’m broadly calling “the rapport sector” or the “empathy economy.” These arise in areas such as project management, digital marketing, graphic design and genetic counseling. Such work not only pays quite decently; it also requires an ability to solve problems by understanding different points of view. This work is tailor-made for liberal arts graduates.

Second, broad-based earnings data from PayScale, a Seattle labor-research firm, shows that many liberal arts majors achieve strong midcareer incomes even if they start slowly at first. It’s a mistake to focus only on starting salaries, which highlight the short-term value of preprofessional degrees in fields such as nursing or accounting. Take the longer view, and you’ll find that philosophy or political science majors pull ahead after a decade or so. Their midcareer earnings average about $80,000 a year, noticeably ahead of RNs or CPAs.

Q: You compare analysis of the job market in today’s environment to studying the topography of Hawaii’s Big Island, where volcanic eruptions constantly alter the coastline, with new fields cropping up that “prize the strengths that emerge from a robust liberal arts curriculum: curiosity, discernment, adaptability and a prepared-for-everything gusto that can turn chaos into triumph.” You make the case that while technological change may be driving the emergence of these new fields, many of the needed positions are what you call “bridge-building jobs” that marry C. P. Snow’s “two cultures.” Can you explain this phenomenon?

A: The eye-opener for me involved a series of visits to OpenTable, the online restaurant-reservation company. It makes much of its money selling customer-behavior data to restaurants. OpenTable needs only 14 data experts to crunch the numbers nationwide, but getting restaurateurs to accept and embrace these findings is much more challenging.

So OpenTable employs more than 100 restaurant relations managers to fan out across the U.S. with iPads, meeting the proud, prickly people who run high-end restaurants and suggesting ways of putting this data to use. Many of these specialists happen to have majored in English, psychology or similar nontechnical fields in college. Small wonder; the key skill in such jobs involves a knack for lucid communication and an ability to win the restaurateur’s trust. Such jobs are quite new; they didn’t exist a decade ago. And they bear out the notion that rapid advances in software are creating huge demand for people who can humanize tech in ways that make it usable (and even appealing) for the rest of us.

Q: We are in an era in which “success” (for students, academic programs, colleges and universities) is increasingly being judged by short-term job outcomes and incomes. Parents of current and prospective students, especially, seem to be focused on that, to the point that counselors for low-income high school students tell me they often hear parents pushing their children into business and vocational fields over the humanities and social sciences. Yet you advise readers of your book that “the greatest payoff for your college education is likely to be years away, perhaps in your fourth job, perhaps in your seventh.” Will students and parents be that patient? Will the politicians and policy makers who are devising accountability systems (which often focus on short-term outcomes)?

A: This quandary worries me. Other countries admire America’s creativity, which comes largely from giving people room to roam around a lot in their educations and in their careers. Yet we seem to have lost confidence in one of our greatest strengths. We’re wanting higher education to be a source of career stability — when it’s actually much more valuable as a source of career mobility.

It’s important to acknowledge how much the student-debt explosion has shortened people’s time horizons. A lot of the exciting, meandering career paths that I describe are a lot more feasible if you’re not one missed paycheck away from financial ruin. I’m glad to see that some (well-off) colleges are making it easier for students with limited means to graduate with little debt. A bigger rethink of higher education finances is needed, so that the freedom to explore doesn’t seem like an unaffordable luxury.

Q: Why do defenders of the liberal arts and nonvocational higher education struggle so much to explain the value of terms like “critical thinking”? Can you describe the analysis you undertook to try to improve on those arguments? And in a (partially) related question, do you believe there are labeling problems with terms like that and “liberal arts”?

A: Within academia, critical thinking is celebrated as a process. That resonates poorly with employers — whose world is defined by results, results, results — even though they want what critical thinking can accomplish. We’ve got a translation problem on our hands. To illuminate this, and to offer a way out, I rounded up thousands of job ads from big employers (Apple to Allstate) that asked for “critical thinking” and paid at least $100,000. Poring through them, I found five ways that the abstractions of critical thinking get translated into the realities of employers’ needs. The key elements: a willingness to work in uncharted areas, the analytic skills needed to generate strong insights, expert decision making, a knack for reading the room and persuasive communication.

The more that liberal arts graduates can demonstrate that their time with diphthongs or Descartes has imbued them with these five skills, the easier it will be to impress potential employers.

I started this book with the belief that the “liberal arts” name encapsulated so many valuable strengths that recent labeling anxieties could be overcome. I haven’t abandoned that view, but I’m open to alternatives.

Q: Are colleges and universities as a collective group doing enough to prepare their graduates for a life of work? Are they (and should they be) focusing more on long-term rather than short-term skills and competencies? To what extent are the campus career services improvements that you highlight at places like Wake Forest, Brigham Young, Indiana and Rutgers Newark representative of broader trends or outliers? And to what extent is workplace readiness a domain of the faculty (and appropriately embedded in the curriculum) as opposed to a co-curricular matter best left to career services?

A: Each academic department is its own story, but the message from student enrollment trends is stark. Academic disciplines that are seen as career useful will attract more students. Ones that are seen as career useless will atrophy. Fortunately, it’s possible to celebrate learning for its own sake and weave in a sufficient amount of career readiness, too. BYU’s initiatives with Humanities Plus are exemplary. Career services departments alone can’t carry the whole load, but I’m impressed with the way that a single career class — or more active bridges to recent grads in the work force — can help current students in any discipline graduate with a good shot at a collegeworthy job.

Solutions are embryonic but developing rapidly. In the book, I chose to highlight schools making rapid progress, with the hope that good habits will spread. We still have a lot of faculty that are puzzled, brittle and defensive about what it takes to get a job in the real world — and we can’t turn all of them into part-time career counselors. But I came away convinced that young-alumni networks are a vital, untapped resource. Recent grads know how to get that first job, and they’re eager to share. I’d like to see alumni-relations offices spend less time hunting for giant donations and more time fostering life-changing connections that span the graduation-day divide. This can be hugely helpful for first-generation students, who might arrive on campus with less social capital than their peers — but who shouldn’t leave that way.

Q: Is the current disdain/lack of respect for the liberal arts a momentary or a permanent condition — and if the latter, is it serious enough to degrade them such that we see them vanish for all but the privileged?

A: Ah, the ultimate dystopian scenario! I’ll take the challenge. Even in the bleakest future, people’s desire to learn can’t ever be crushed. I’m imagining a noisy cybercafé, full of degenerates playing first-person shooter games, in which a few patrons slip into a back room, bolt the door and draw the curtains. They are janitors, hospital orderlies and nannies by day. But at night, it’s a different story. One of them pulls out a tattered copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract. And the spirit of intellectual discourse takes hold again.

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Robots are taking over the world (and the job market). Majoring in anything but a science or engineering discipline is foolhardy. A humanities or social science degree will get you a great job -- as a barista.

Right?

Read enough internet headlines and all of those might seem not only feasible but inevitable. But like many sweeping, future-looking statements, those and other proclamations about the decline and fall of the liberal arts should be taken with a truckload of salt.

George Anders's You Can Do Anything (Little, Brown and Company) is the latest book (others here and here) to make the case that students (and colleges and universities) should not shun the liberal arts. While designed mostly to help students arm themselves for the world of work -- Anders, a contributing writer at Forbes, brings a consumer focus to You Can Do Anything -- the book's use of job-market data and plentiful anecdotes about students, institutions and programs will probably prove compelling to career services administrators, faculty members and anyone else hoping to encourage a liberal arts major they know.

Via email, Anders answered questions about the book, which follow.

Q: You Can Do Anything is among a set of new books that challenge the prevailing narrative that technology and artificial intelligence threaten to make the liberal arts and they skills they build irrelevant. Yours doesn’t run from job or salary data to make that case, but cites them directly to make the case that the “new pessimism” about those fields is “out of step with what broad economic data tell us.” How so?

A: A close look at the data shows good news on two fronts. First, the U.S. economy has created at least 626,000 jobs -- and perhaps as many as 2.3 million -- since 2012 in what I’m broadly calling “the rapport sector” or the “empathy economy.” These arise in areas such as project management, digital marketing, graphic design and genetic counseling. Such work not only pays quite decently; it also requires an ability to solve problems by understanding different points of view. This work is tailor-made for liberal arts graduates.

Second, broad-based earnings data from PayScale, a Seattle labor-research firm, shows that many liberal arts majors achieve strong midcareer incomes even if they start slowly at first. It’s a mistake to focus only on starting salaries, which highlight the short-term value of preprofessional degrees in fields such as nursing or accounting. Take the longer view, and you’ll find that philosophy or political science majors pull ahead after a decade or so. Their midcareer earnings average about $80,000 a year, noticeably ahead of RNs or CPAs.

Q: You compare analysis of the job market in today’s environment to studying the topography of Hawaii’s Big Island, where volcanic eruptions constantly alter the coastline, with new fields cropping up that “prize the strengths that emerge from a robust liberal arts curriculum: curiosity, discernment, adaptability and a prepared-for-everything gusto that can turn chaos into triumph.” You make the case that while technological change may be driving the emergence of these new fields, many of the needed positions are what you call “bridge-building jobs” that marry C. P. Snow’s “two cultures.” Can you explain this phenomenon?

A: The eye-opener for me involved a series of visits to OpenTable, the online restaurant-reservation company. It makes much of its money selling customer-behavior data to restaurants. OpenTable needs only 14 data experts to crunch the numbers nationwide, but getting restaurateurs to accept and embrace these findings is much more challenging.

So OpenTable employs more than 100 restaurant relations managers to fan out across the U.S. with iPads, meeting the proud, prickly people who run high-end restaurants and suggesting ways of putting this data to use. Many of these specialists happen to have majored in English, psychology or similar nontechnical fields in college. Small wonder; the key skill in such jobs involves a knack for lucid communication and an ability to win the restaurateur’s trust. Such jobs are quite new; they didn’t exist a decade ago. And they bear out the notion that rapid advances in software are creating huge demand for people who can humanize tech in ways that make it usable (and even appealing) for the rest of us.

Q: We are in an era in which “success” (for students, academic programs, colleges and universities) is increasingly being judged by short-term job outcomes and incomes. Parents of current and prospective students, especially, seem to be focused on that, to the point that counselors for low-income high school students tell me they often hear parents pushing their children into business and vocational fields over the humanities and social sciences. Yet you advise readers of your book that “the greatest payoff for your college education is likely to be years away, perhaps in your fourth job, perhaps in your seventh.” Will students and parents be that patient? Will the politicians and policy makers who are devising accountability systems (which often focus on short-term outcomes)?

A: This quandary worries me. Other countries admire America’s creativity, which comes largely from giving people room to roam around a lot in their educations and in their careers. Yet we seem to have lost confidence in one of our greatest strengths. We’re wanting higher education to be a source of career stability -- when it’s actually much more valuable as a source of career mobility.

It’s important to acknowledge how much the student-debt explosion has shortened people’s time horizons. A lot of the exciting, meandering career paths that I describe are a lot more feasible if you’re not one missed paycheck away from financial ruin. I’m glad to see that some (well-off) colleges are making it easier for students with limited means to graduate with little debt. A bigger rethink of higher education finances is needed, so that the freedom to explore doesn’t seem like an unaffordable luxury.

Q: Why do defenders of the liberal arts and nonvocational higher education struggle so much to explain the value of terms like “critical thinking”? Can you describe the analysis you undertook to try to improve on those arguments? And in a (partially) related question, do you believe there are labeling problems with terms like that and “liberal arts”?

A: Within academia, critical thinking is celebrated as a process. That resonates poorly with employers -- whose world is defined by results, results, results -- even though they want what critical thinking can accomplish. We’ve got a translation problem on our hands. To illuminate this, and to offer a way out, I rounded up thousands of job ads from big employers (Apple to Allstate) that asked for “critical thinking” and paid at least $100,000. Poring through them, I found five ways that the abstractions of critical thinking get translated into the realities of employers’ needs. The key elements: a willingness to work in uncharted areas, the analytic skills needed to generate strong insights, expert decision making, a knack for reading the room and persuasive communication.

The more that liberal arts graduates can demonstrate that their time with diphthongs or Descartes has imbued them with these five skills, the easier it will be to impress potential employers.

I started this book with the belief that the “liberal arts” name encapsulated so many valuable strengths that recent labeling anxieties could be overcome. I haven’t abandoned that view, but I’m open to alternatives.

Q: Are colleges and universities as a collective group doing enough to prepare their graduates for a life of work? Are they (and should they be) focusing more on long-term rather than short-term skills and competencies? To what extent are the campus career services improvements that you highlight at places like Wake Forest, Brigham Young, Indiana and Rutgers Newark representative of broader trends or outliers? And to what extent is workplace readiness a domain of the faculty (and appropriately embedded in the curriculum) as opposed to a co-curricular matter best left to career services?

A: Each academic department is its own story, but the message from student enrollment trends is stark. Academic disciplines that are seen as career useful will attract more students. Ones that are seen as career useless will atrophy. Fortunately, it’s possible to celebrate learning for its own sake and weave in a sufficient amount of career readiness, too. BYU’s initiatives with Humanities Plus are exemplary. Career services departments alone can’t carry the whole load, but I’m impressed with the way that a single career class -- or more active bridges to recent grads in the work force -- can help current students in any discipline graduate with a good shot at a collegeworthy job.

Solutions are embryonic but developing rapidly. In the book, I chose to highlight schools making rapid progress, with the hope that good habits will spread. We still have a lot of faculty that are puzzled, brittle and defensive about what it takes to get a job in the real world -- and we can’t turn all of them into part-time career counselors. But I came away convinced that young-alumni networks are a vital, untapped resource. Recent grads know how to get that first job, and they’re eager to share. I’d like to see alumni-relations offices spend less time hunting for giant donations and more time fostering life-changing connections that span the graduation-day divide. This can be hugely helpful for first-generation students, who might arrive on campus with less social capital than their peers -- but who shouldn’t leave that way.

Q: Is the current disdain/lack of respect for the liberal arts a momentary or a permanent condition -- and if the latter, is it serious enough to degrade them such that we see them vanish for all but the privileged?

A: Ah, the ultimate dystopian scenario! I’ll take the challenge. Even in the bleakest future, people’s desire to learn can’t ever be crushed. I’m imagining a noisy cybercafé, full of degenerates playing first-person shooter games, in which a few patrons slip into a back room, bolt the door and draw the curtains. They are janitors, hospital orderlies and nannies by day. But at night, it’s a different story. One of them pulls out a tattered copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract. And the spirit of intellectual discourse takes hold again.

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Penn grad student says she’s under attack for teaching technique to encourage all to talk in class

Anyone who’s ever taught a class knows some students say more than others. And most professors eventually develop some way of encouraging quieter students to contribute. In one more formal discussion-management technique, called progressive stacking, professors call on students who may be — for a variety of reasons — less likely to have their say. While every student is different, the reasons typically reflect the implicit biases observed outside the classroom, such as those related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability status. So, according to progressive stacking, a professor would call on a black or Latina woman before a white man, for example.

There’s the rub, at least in one class at the University of Pennsylvania. Stephanie McKellop, a graduate teaching assistant in history there, says she is under attack by fringe-right groups for using progressive stacking in her classes and then tweeting about it. Worse, she says, the university is cowing to such groups instead of supporting her. She’s claimed on social media that her classes were canceled this week and she may be asked to leave her program.

Here’s some of what McKellop tweeted earlier this week. Her social media accounts are private, but the posts have since been shared by her supporters, some of whom have contacted Penn on her behalf. The trouble apparently began with a post in which she wrote, “I will always call on my black women students first. Other [people of color] get second-tier priority. [White women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.” In a later post, she wrote, “Penn thinks I’m racist and discriminatory towards my students for using a very well worn pedagogical tactic which includes calling on [people of color].”

Tweets from Stephanie McKellop: I tweeted about evening the disparities in the classroom with a pedagogical technique called progressive stacking (link to Wikipedia page on progressive stacking). Because this involves calling on black students more readily than white men, the white nationalists and Nazis were very upset. [They] engaged in doxing and I have screen shots of every stage of their mission that they tweeted publicly, to dogpile [on] the [university] saying I’m racist.Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, refuted some of those claims in a statement Thursday, saying that McKellop has not been removed from her program and that Penn has “and will continue to respect and protect the graduate student’s right to due process.”

Penn knows and values the “importance of ensuring that students in groups that were historically marginalized have full opportunity to participate in classroom discussions,” Fluharty added. “Penn is strongly committed to providing respectful work and learning environments for all members of our community.”

Yet Fluharty seemed to validate McKellop’s claim that Penn has taken issue with her teaching style, saying that Penn is “looking into the current matter involving a graduate student teaching assistant to ensure that our students were not subjected to discriminatory practices in the classroom and to ensure that all of our students feel heard and equally engaged.”

McKellop did not immediately respond to an interview request Thursday. A spokeswoman for Penn said that McKellop has not been barred from teaching, but she provided no further details. McKellop’s adviser did not respond to a request for comment.

A number of academics expressed support for McKellop on social media and for progressive stacking. In general, it doesn’t mean excluding men or white students from conversations, or forcing underrepresented students to talk. Instead, it means calling on students who want to talk in the reverse order that one might predictably do so, based on social biases.

Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said progressive stacking has been around at least since she was in graduate school in the 1990s. She still uses it informally, to right her own tendency to call on men more frequently than women.

“If I have a class of 40 students, since Hunter is predominantly young women, I may have four or five young men in class,” Daniels said. “There’s still implicit bias, where we value men’s voices more than women’s voices, or men’s voices are deeper and carry more in a class. So I’m always trying to overcome my own bias to pick on men in class more than the women.”

As to whether purposely asking a woman to answer a question over a man was a kind of discrimination, Daniels said, “That gets it the wrong way around. This is a way of dealing with discrimination that we as professors can introduce into the classroom. It’s a good strategy, if you can do it.”

Daniels said she thought that the online backlash against McKellop seemed ripped from the “playbook” of the far right, which has attacked numerous professors involved in issues of race in recent months. Worse still, she said, McKellop, as a graduate student, is a particularly vulnerable target.

Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative at CUNY’s Graduate Center, has long advocated for inclusive teaching methods, including via the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, which she co-founded. Davidson said Thursday that she didn’t particularly like progressive stacking, and that other methods seem “far better to me than making judgments on others’ privilege.”

Davidson instead recommended “inventory” methods that require participation by all students in the classroom, such as thoughtful “exit tickets” from a session, think-pair-share exercises or asking everyone to write down and then share a memorable sentence from a given reading.

Daniels said she didn’t know how pervasive progressive stacking is, but underscored that it’s nothing new. As for the situation at Penn specifically, Daniels said it would be unfortunate for the university to punish someone trying to “uphold its values. It would be a very misguided step on the part of Penn.”

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Anyone who’s ever taught a class knows some students say more than others. And most professors eventually develop some way of encouraging quieter students to contribute. In one more formal discussion-management technique, called progressive stacking, professors call on students who may be -- for a variety of reasons -- less likely to have their say. While every student is different, the reasons typically reflect the implicit biases observed outside the classroom, such as those related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability status. So, according to progressive stacking, a professor would call on a black or Latina woman before a white man, for example.

There’s the rub, at least in one class at the University of Pennsylvania. Stephanie McKellop, a graduate teaching assistant in history there, says she is under attack by fringe-right groups for using progressive stacking in her classes and then tweeting about it. Worse, she says, the university is cowing to such groups instead of supporting her. She’s claimed on social media that her classes were canceled this week and she may be asked to leave her program.

Here's some of what McKellop tweeted earlier this week. Her social media accounts are private, but the posts have since been shared by her supporters, some of whom have contacted Penn on her behalf. The trouble apparently began with a post in which she wrote, "I will always call on my black women students first. Other [people of color] get second-tier priority. [White women] come next. And, if I have to, white men." In a later post, she wrote, "Penn thinks I'm racist and discriminatory towards my students for using a very well worn pedagogical tactic which includes calling on [people of color]."

Tweets from Stephanie McKellop: I tweeted about evening the disparities in the classroom with a pedagogical technique called progressive stacking (link to Wikipedia page on progressive stacking). Because this involves calling on black students more readily than white men, the white nationalists and Nazis were very upset. [They] engaged in doxing and I have screen shots of every stage of their mission that they tweeted publicly, to dogpile [on] the [university] saying I’m racist.Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, refuted some of those claims in a statement Thursday, saying that McKellop has not been removed from her program and that Penn has “and will continue to respect and protect the graduate student’s right to due process.”

Penn knows and values the “importance of ensuring that students in groups that were historically marginalized have full opportunity to participate in classroom discussions,” Fluharty added. “Penn is strongly committed to providing respectful work and learning environments for all members of our community.”

Yet Fluharty seemed to validate McKellop’s claim that Penn has taken issue with her teaching style, saying that Penn is “looking into the current matter involving a graduate student teaching assistant to ensure that our students were not subjected to discriminatory practices in the classroom and to ensure that all of our students feel heard and equally engaged.”

McKellop did not immediately respond to an interview request Thursday. A spokeswoman for Penn said that McKellop has not been barred from teaching, but she provided no further details. McKellop’s adviser did not respond to a request for comment.

A number of academics expressed support for McKellop on social media and for progressive stacking. In general, it doesn't mean excluding men or white students from conversations, or forcing underrepresented students to talk. Instead, it means calling on students who want to talk in the reverse order that one might predictably do so, based on social biases.

Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said progressive stacking has been around at least since she was in graduate school in the 1990s. She still uses it informally, to right her own tendency to call on men more frequently than women.

“If I have a class of 40 students, since Hunter is predominantly young women, I may have four or five young men in class,” Daniels said. “There’s still implicit bias, where we value men’s voices more than women’s voices, or men’s voices are deeper and carry more in a class. So I’m always trying to overcome my own bias to pick on men in class more than the women.”

As to whether purposely asking a woman to answer a question over a man was a kind of discrimination, Daniels said, “That gets it the wrong way around. This is a way of dealing with discrimination that we as professors can introduce into the classroom. It’s a good strategy, if you can do it.”

Daniels said she thought that the online backlash against McKellop seemed ripped from the “playbook” of the far right, which has attacked numerous professors involved in issues of race in recent months. Worse still, she said, McKellop, as a graduate student, is a particularly vulnerable target.

Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative at CUNY’s Graduate Center, has long advocated for inclusive teaching methods, including via the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, which she co-founded. Davidson said Thursday that she didn’t particularly like progressive stacking, and that other methods seem “far better to me than making judgments on others’ privilege.”

Davidson instead recommended "inventory" methods that require participation by all students in the classroom, such as thoughtful "exit tickets" from a session, think-pair-share exercises or asking everyone to write down and then share a memorable sentence from a given reading.

Daniels said she didn’t know how pervasive progressive stacking is, but underscored that it’s nothing new. As for the situation at Penn specifically, Daniels said it would be unfortunate for the university to punish someone trying to “uphold its values. It would be a very misguided step on the part of Penn.”

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FTC settlement says rankings of ‘military-friendly’ colleges were deceptive promotions

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced a proposed settlement with a website whose “military-friendly” rankings of colleges and universities allegedly promoted institutions that paid to be included.

Victory Media runs a number of magazines and websites targeting service members and their families and operates a tool and rankings to help prospective students find the right postsecondary program. But the FTC found that those publications basically functioned as paid advertisements for institutions.

Under the terms of the settlement, Victory is required to prominently disclose to readers that its rankings are paid endorsements. No financial penalty was included in the order, but each violation could result in a fine of up to $40,654.

“Service members and their families put themselves on the line every day to protect our nation,” the acting FTC chairwoman, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, said in a statement. “We owe it to them to make sure that when they look to further their education, they get straight talk instead of advertising in disguise.”

The proposed settlement is open to public comment for 30 days. The commission will decide whether to finalize it after Nov. 20.

Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said the group plans to monitor Victory Media websites and publications closely to make sure they comply with the terms of the settlement. VES documented the alleged deceptive promotions in a 2016 report. That report found that for-profit colleges, in particular, paid for exposure to service members through Victory’s “military-friendly” designation.

Wofford said further steps should be taken by military installations, including the removal of Victory’s “military-friendly schools” list and its GI Jobs magazine — which includes education, transition, and job assistance for veterans — from bases and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

“It’s terrible for VA and DOD to be taken in by what FTC has now exposed as a fraudulent pay-to-play scheme,” she said.

Wofford also said Congress should take action to reinstate GI Bill benefits for defrauded veterans.

Suzanne Treviño, a Victory Media spokeswoman, said the company had fully assisted the FTC and addressed every concern by the commission.

GI Jobs readers benefit by learning more about different higher-level educational institutions that can help them transition from military to civilian life,” she said. “Victory Media, a service-disabled veteran-owned business, looks forward to continuing to advocate for military-friendly schools and employers because we want to make life better for veterans.”

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The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced a proposed settlement with a website whose "military-friendly" rankings of colleges and universities allegedly promoted institutions that paid to be included.

Victory Media runs a number of magazines and websites targeting service members and their families and operates a tool and rankings to help prospective students find the right postsecondary program. But the FTC found that those publications basically functioned as paid advertisements for institutions.

Under the terms of the settlement, Victory is required to prominently disclose to readers that its rankings are paid endorsements. No financial penalty was included in the order, but each violation could result in a fine of up to $40,654.

“Service members and their families put themselves on the line every day to protect our nation,” the acting FTC chairwoman, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, said in a statement. “We owe it to them to make sure that when they look to further their education, they get straight talk instead of advertising in disguise.”

The proposed settlement is open to public comment for 30 days. The commission will decide whether to finalize it after Nov. 20.

Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said the group plans to monitor Victory Media websites and publications closely to make sure they comply with the terms of the settlement. VES documented the alleged deceptive promotions in a 2016 report. That report found that for-profit colleges, in particular, paid for exposure to service members through Victory's "military-friendly" designation.

Wofford said further steps should be taken by military installations, including the removal of Victory's "military-friendly schools" list and its GI Jobs magazine -- which includes education, transition, and job assistance for veterans -- from bases and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

"It’s terrible for VA and DOD to be taken in by what FTC has now exposed as a fraudulent pay-to-play scheme," she said.

Wofford also said Congress should take action to reinstate GI Bill benefits for defrauded veterans.

Suzanne Treviño, a Victory Media spokeswoman, said the company had fully assisted the FTC and addressed every concern by the commission.

"GI Jobs readers benefit by learning more about different higher-level educational institutions that can help them transition from military to civilian life," she said. "Victory Media, a service-disabled veteran-owned business, looks forward to continuing to advocate for military-friendly schools and employers because we want to make life better for veterans."

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Spencer’s talk at Florida met by protests and attempts to shout him down

When Richard Spencer stepped out on stage at the University of Florida Thursday, it was following weeks of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on security, and repeated condemnations by administrators and professors who said they deplored Spencer’s brand of white supremacy but were constitutionally bound to let him speak.

He was instantly met with boos — members of the crowd attempting to shout him down.

Anxieties both among students and university leaders abounded for weeks. This was Spencer’s first event since he helped direct the deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists marched onto the University of Virginia campus and then the city, and one drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman.

But there were few reported scuffles and injuries in Gainesville. Spencer was able to address the crowd shortly after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. starting time. By a little after 4 p.m. Thursday, he had departed, though protesters still lingered. To those who worried about large-scale violence, or a legal dispute if Spencer had been unable to talk, there was relief on both counts.

From the moment Spencer began speaking at the campus arts center, the audience jeered. He was greeted with expletives and cries of “go home.” A steady drumbeat of chanting continued throughout his talk, which soon morphed into a question-and-answer discussion after it was clear the crowd would not remain entirely hushed. Spencer was able to be heard and the chants were not so nonstop he couldn’t make his points, though the audience overwhelmingly rejected them.

Spencer seemed to relish the reaction, casting his naysayers as “childish,” calling them at one point a “mob” and “grunting morons.”

“Why do you think that you need to suppress speech?” Spencer said as some members of the audience stood starkly giving him the middle finger. “The answer is because you know that what I am saying is true. You know what I am saying is powerful. You know what I am saying is going to change the world. And therefore, you all want to stop it. You’re going to fail.”

“Do you not want to hear something, poor little babies, that might contradict something your professor told you? Aw. Might you have to think a little bit, child?”

The university tried to maintain normalcy for the day, with classes initially proceeding as scheduled. But with protesters (most anti-Spencer) arriving, many professors called off classes. The scene outside where Spencer spoke was anything by normal. Snipers were positioned on building roofs, and more than 500 law enforcement members were spread across the campus.

The list of items forbidden at the event was lengthy — no bags or purses, bottles or laser pointers, masks or bandannas. And no weapons.

A nearby hotel parking lot was flooded with police vehicles. Roads close to where Spencer was speaking were shut down. One student posted to Twitter that her bus stop had been shut down, and she arrived late to class only to find it had been canceled.

The demonstrations, however, remained relatively peaceful. Thousands of protesters gathered on the campus of more than 50,000 students — one group screamed “Nazis not welcome here” as they marched down a sidewalk, a banner unfurled before them.

Two people were arrested Thursday. Sean Brijmohan, 28, brought a gun onto campus, according to the Alachua County sheriff’s office. He had been hired by a media organization as security, police said. And David Notte, 34, was arrested for resisting law enforcement.

During the talk, which Spencer claimed was the biggest free speech event of the students’ lifetime, almost none of the questions he fielded were serious inquiries of his platform — in his words, promoting “white identity” and the creation of an ethno-state in America.

A couple of audience members asked why Spencer insisted on speaking to campus when its constituents clearly didn’t want him there. Another asked him how it felt to be punched in the face, a reference to the infamous incident at President Trump’s inauguration, in which Spencer was socked during a live interview.

One self-identified Florida alumna referenced Charlottesville when she addressed Spencer. She had asked how Spencer would respond to people who say that he should take responsibility for violent acts committed in his name and the name of the so-called alt-right, the far-right-wing movement characterized by racist and anti-Semitic views that Spencer helped create.

“Name a single incident in which some alt-rightist went out and murdered someone,” Spencer said.

The alumna responded, “Charlottesville,” citing the death of Heather Heyer, who police said was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a reported white nationalist from Ohio.

Her killing “remains unclear,” Spencer said.

The crowd screamed back, “It’s your fault.”

“All I demand is that he receive a fair investigation, and a fair trial,” Spencer said, referring to Fields. “Which I fear he may never get because he is used as a scapegoat. The fact is his vehicle was attacked. His vehicle rammed into another vehicle mysteriously, that rammed into other people, then other people were injured as he was attempting to escape. This is a very strange method of committing murder.” (Spencer’s account differs considerably from those of onlookers and law enforcement.)

An attendee asked Spencer why he felt multiculturalism was a determent to society.

Spencer launched into a nostalgic story of “peak America” that his parents knew in the 1950s, with diners, ice-cream dates and drive-in movie theaters — a “white America in the midcentury.”

He said that his generation was born “strangers into our own land,” a country defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which ended immigration quotas.

“All institutions have been a part of … what’s called ‘the great erasure,’” Spencer said.

Though a line of Spencer’s fans sat in the front row, many in plain white shirts, almost none took a turn at the microphone. They left through a side door shortly before Spencer ended his talk. One of his supporters did ask him how to stop religious infighting within the alt-right, especially when some of its more devout followers couldn’t look to Spencer, a self-professed atheist, as a leader.

Spencer responded, “That’s unfortunate,” and said he wouldn’t deny Christianity its place in European history.

The university spent weeks arranging Spencer’s visit after first denying his request to appear in the wake of Charlottesville, citing safety considerations, but he was eventually allowed him to reschedule, amid his threats to sue if he was not permitted to speak.

Auburn University earlier this year canceled a talk by Spencer for the same reasons, but a graduate student from Georgia State University filed a lawsuit on Spencer’s behalf then, and with a judge’s court order he was able to address the Alabama public institution.

Shortly after Charlottesville, white nationalists publicly linked the events there to planned campus rallies, giving colleges and universities a legal route to block Spencer, lawyers have said in interviews.

The university has spent upwards of $600,000 on security, bringing in the additional police presence from across the state. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency in part to help coordinate those forces.

Spencer himself spent a fraction of what the university paid — a little more than $10,000. Per a Supreme Court case decided in 1992, Forsyth County, Georgia v. The Nationalist Movement, institutions are not allowed to pass high security fees along to a speaker, as it’s a potential way of restricting free speech.

Florida administrators were deliberately vocal in denouncing Spencer’s message, while simultaneously trying to explain their obligation, as a public institution, to accommodate him. Members of a faculty union at Florida and students had created petitions urging the university to stop his speech.

But President Kent Fuchs tweeted before Spencer’s talk (which he told students to avoid), “I don’t stand behind racist Richard Spencer. I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer’s vile and despicable message.”

Spencer thanked police and the university at the end of his talk before once again turning to the crowd, telling them he and the alt-right would continue “to fight.”

“The world is going to look at this event, and the world is going to have a very different impression of University of Florida because you acted this way. And let me tell you, the world is not going to be proud.”

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Protest outside Richard Spencer talk at University of Florida
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When Richard Spencer stepped out on stage at the University of Florida Thursday, it was following weeks of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on security, and repeated condemnations by administrators and professors who said they deplored Spencer’s brand of white supremacy but were constitutionally bound to let him speak.

He was instantly met with boos -- members of the crowd attempting to shout him down.

Anxieties both among students and university leaders abounded for weeks. This was Spencer’s first event since he helped direct the deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists marched onto the University of Virginia campus and then the city, and one drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman.

But there were few reported scuffles and injuries in Gainesville. Spencer was able to address the crowd shortly after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. starting time. By a little after 4 p.m. Thursday, he had departed, though protesters still lingered. To those who worried about large-scale violence, or a legal dispute if Spencer had been unable to talk, there was relief on both counts.

From the moment Spencer began speaking at the campus arts center, the audience jeered. He was greeted with expletives and cries of “go home.” A steady drumbeat of chanting continued throughout his talk, which soon morphed into a question-and-answer discussion after it was clear the crowd would not remain entirely hushed. Spencer was able to be heard and the chants were not so nonstop he couldn't make his points, though the audience overwhelmingly rejected them.

Spencer seemed to relish the reaction, casting his naysayers as “childish,” calling them at one point a “mob” and “grunting morons.”

“Why do you think that you need to suppress speech?” Spencer said as some members of the audience stood starkly giving him the middle finger. “The answer is because you know that what I am saying is true. You know what I am saying is powerful. You know what I am saying is going to change the world. And therefore, you all want to stop it. You’re going to fail.”

“Do you not want to hear something, poor little babies, that might contradict something your professor told you? Aw. Might you have to think a little bit, child?”

The university tried to maintain normalcy for the day, with classes initially proceeding as scheduled. But with protesters (most anti-Spencer) arriving, many professors called off classes. The scene outside where Spencer spoke was anything by normal. Snipers were positioned on building roofs, and more than 500 law enforcement members were spread across the campus.

The list of items forbidden at the event was lengthy -- no bags or purses, bottles or laser pointers, masks or bandannas. And no weapons.

A nearby hotel parking lot was flooded with police vehicles. Roads close to where Spencer was speaking were shut down. One student posted to Twitter that her bus stop had been shut down, and she arrived late to class only to find it had been canceled.

The demonstrations, however, remained relatively peaceful. Thousands of protesters gathered on the campus of more than 50,000 students -- one group screamed “Nazis not welcome here” as they marched down a sidewalk, a banner unfurled before them.

Two people were arrested Thursday. Sean Brijmohan, 28, brought a gun onto campus, according to the Alachua County sheriff’s office. He had been hired by a media organization as security, police said. And David Notte, 34, was arrested for resisting law enforcement.

During the talk, which Spencer claimed was the biggest free speech event of the students’ lifetime, almost none of the questions he fielded were serious inquiries of his platform -- in his words, promoting “white identity” and the creation of an ethno-state in America.

A couple of audience members asked why Spencer insisted on speaking to campus when its constituents clearly didn’t want him there. Another asked him how it felt to be punched in the face, a reference to the infamous incident at President Trump’s inauguration, in which Spencer was socked during a live interview.

One self-identified Florida alumna referenced Charlottesville when she addressed Spencer. She had asked how Spencer would respond to people who say that he should take responsibility for violent acts committed in his name and the name of the so-called alt-right, the far-right-wing movement characterized by racist and anti-Semitic views that Spencer helped create.

“Name a single incident in which some alt-rightist went out and murdered someone,” Spencer said.

The alumna responded, “Charlottesville,” citing the death of Heather Heyer, who police said was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a reported white nationalist from Ohio.

Her killing “remains unclear,” Spencer said.

The crowd screamed back, “It’s your fault.”

“All I demand is that he receive a fair investigation, and a fair trial,” Spencer said, referring to Fields. “Which I fear he may never get because he is used as a scapegoat. The fact is his vehicle was attacked. His vehicle rammed into another vehicle mysteriously, that rammed into other people, then other people were injured as he was attempting to escape. This is a very strange method of committing murder.” (Spencer's account differs considerably from those of onlookers and law enforcement.)

An attendee asked Spencer why he felt multiculturalism was a determent to society.

Spencer launched into a nostalgic story of “peak America” that his parents knew in the 1950s, with diners, ice-cream dates and drive-in movie theaters -- a “white America in the midcentury.”

He said that his generation was born “strangers into our own land,” a country defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which ended immigration quotas.

“All institutions have been a part of … what’s called ‘the great erasure,’” Spencer said.

Though a line of Spencer’s fans sat in the front row, many in plain white shirts, almost none took a turn at the microphone. They left through a side door shortly before Spencer ended his talk. One of his supporters did ask him how to stop religious infighting within the alt-right, especially when some of its more devout followers couldn’t look to Spencer, a self-professed atheist, as a leader.

Spencer responded, “That’s unfortunate,” and said he wouldn’t deny Christianity its place in European history.

The university spent weeks arranging Spencer’s visit after first denying his request to appear in the wake of Charlottesville, citing safety considerations, but he was eventually allowed him to reschedule, amid his threats to sue if he was not permitted to speak.

Auburn University earlier this year canceled a talk by Spencer for the same reasons, but a graduate student from Georgia State University filed a lawsuit on Spencer’s behalf then, and with a judge’s court order he was able to address the Alabama public institution.

Shortly after Charlottesville, white nationalists publicly linked the events there to planned campus rallies, giving colleges and universities a legal route to block Spencer, lawyers have said in interviews.

The university has spent upwards of $600,000 on security, bringing in the additional police presence from across the state. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency in part to help coordinate those forces.

Spencer himself spent a fraction of what the university paid -- a little more than $10,000. Per a Supreme Court case decided in 1992, Forsyth County, Georgia v. The Nationalist Movement, institutions are not allowed to pass high security fees along to a speaker, as it’s a potential way of restricting free speech.

Florida administrators were deliberately vocal in denouncing Spencer’s message, while simultaneously trying to explain their obligation, as a public institution, to accommodate him. Members of a faculty union at Florida and students had created petitions urging the university to stop his speech.

But President Kent Fuchs tweeted before Spencer’s talk (which he told students to avoid), “I don’t stand behind racist Richard Spencer. I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer’s vile and despicable message.”

Spencer thanked police and the university at the end of his talk before once again turning to the crowd, telling them he and the alt-right would continue “to fight.”

“The world is going to look at this event, and the world is going to have a very different impression of University of Florida because you acted this way. And let me tell you, the world is not going to be proud.”

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Photo by Brian Blanco / Getty Images
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Protest outside Richard Spencer talk at University of Florida
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Educators consider Macron’s vision for a new type of European university

Setting out his grand vision to reinvigorate the European Union at the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron made clear he had big plans for the continent’s universities.

By 2024, the French president said, Europe should have “at least 20” of what he called “European universities,” offering students the chance to “study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages.” These European universities will help to “create a sense of belonging” that will be the “strongest cement for Europe,” a later press release argued.

Could Macron’s dream of a “European university” really work? And what would it mean in practice?

The details may not be quite as grand as the rhetoric. These universities would not be new, a spokeswoman for the president clarified. They would be a “network of existing universities, but they will have to introduce important changes to work better together” and allow students a “change of country and university each year, within the network, with a common curriculum,” she said. Despite Britain’s vote to leave the E.U., English could still be one of the languages of teaching, she added.

These proposals are “nothing new,” argued Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities. “We do all of that, in the sense that we have an exchange of students, Ph.D. students, staff … we have courses in all kinds of languages.” The ideas are simply being thrown around to make Macron sound “pro-European,” he said.

But in the Upper Rhine region, where the river flows out of Switzerland and heads north to divide France and Germany, a new institution free of any one nation-state emerged last year, and it may hold lessons for Macron’s “European universities.”

The European Campus — a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology — allows for the free circulation of students between institutions and seamless joint bidding for research money.

The aim is “to have an alliance that allows the universities to stay autonomous but to be more competitive on the European and international level,” creating a “critical mass” of student numbers, research equipment and “ideas,” explained its director, Janosch Nieden.

The European Campus is something called a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a legal entity recognized by the E.U. that allows public authorities from different member states to team up and provide joint services more easily. There are about 50 across the E.U., explained Nieden, but “we are the first grouping … that has been set up solely by universities.”

The main focus is on research. “There’s a lot of funding on the European level that can be asked for by the entity,” he explained. Many projects have been funded by Interreg, an E.U. body that spends on cross-border cooperation initiatives. It has also just put in a bid to Horizon 2020 (the E.U.’s research and innovation program) for a five-million-euro ($5.9 million) grant for a quantum sciences graduate academy. Bidding together through a cross-border legal entity “is the easiest and fastest way to foster cooperation between universities,” Nieden said.

But joint bids to national research councils are a lot harder, he explained, and currently the campus is trying to convince German, Swiss and French agencies to accept applications.

Students can also take modules at any of the other universities in the alliance, free of fees. But language barriers have stymied this. “Young Germans don’t learn French that much anymore,” Nieden said.

German universities are hyperorganized, arranging specific lecture rooms many months in advance, whereas French universities, which cannot as easily control their student intake, create their timetables much later. This makes it hard for students of other universities to book courses in advance, according to Nieden.

As such, student mobility is “not easy to see,” he added. Of the 115,000 students across the five universities, just 1,000 per semester exercise their right to study at a different campus.

The name is also something of a misnomer: the institution does not have its own physical site. And for now, the European Campus cannot grant degrees of its own, so students still receive qualifications from their respective national universities. Still, over the next five to 10 years, the campus may develop its own qualification, largely aimed at students from outside Europe who want to study at all of the universities, Nieden said.

“We were very happy about the speech of Macron,” he added. Whether the French president gets his way depends on wider discussions about the future of the E.U. — but regardless, the continent’s universities are already experimenting with multinational forms.

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Setting out his grand vision to reinvigorate the European Union at the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron made clear he had big plans for the continent's universities.

By 2024, the French president said, Europe should have "at least 20" of what he called "European universities," offering students the chance to "study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages." These European universities will help to "create a sense of belonging" that will be the "strongest cement for Europe," a later press release argued.

Could Macron's dream of a "European university" really work? And what would it mean in practice?

The details may not be quite as grand as the rhetoric. These universities would not be new, a spokeswoman for the president clarified. They would be a "network of existing universities, but they will have to introduce important changes to work better together" and allow students a "change of country and university each year, within the network, with a common curriculum," she said. Despite Britain's vote to leave the E.U., English could still be one of the languages of teaching, she added.

These proposals are "nothing new," argued Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities. "We do all of that, in the sense that we have an exchange of students, Ph.D. students, staff … we have courses in all kinds of languages." The ideas are simply being thrown around to make Macron sound "pro-European," he said.

But in the Upper Rhine region, where the river flows out of Switzerland and heads north to divide France and Germany, a new institution free of any one nation-state emerged last year, and it may hold lessons for Macron's "European universities."

The European Campus -- a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology -- allows for the free circulation of students between institutions and seamless joint bidding for research money.

The aim is "to have an alliance that allows the universities to stay autonomous but to be more competitive on the European and international level," creating a "critical mass" of student numbers, research equipment and "ideas," explained its director, Janosch Nieden.

The European Campus is something called a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a legal entity recognized by the E.U. that allows public authorities from different member states to team up and provide joint services more easily. There are about 50 across the E.U., explained Nieden, but "we are the first grouping … that has been set up solely by universities."

The main focus is on research. "There's a lot of funding on the European level that can be asked for by the entity," he explained. Many projects have been funded by Interreg, an E.U. body that spends on cross-border cooperation initiatives. It has also just put in a bid to Horizon 2020 (the E.U.'s research and innovation program) for a five-million-euro ($5.9 million) grant for a quantum sciences graduate academy. Bidding together through a cross-border legal entity "is the easiest and fastest way to foster cooperation between universities," Nieden said.

But joint bids to national research councils are a lot harder, he explained, and currently the campus is trying to convince German, Swiss and French agencies to accept applications.

Students can also take modules at any of the other universities in the alliance, free of fees. But language barriers have stymied this. "Young Germans don't learn French that much anymore," Nieden said.

German universities are hyperorganized, arranging specific lecture rooms many months in advance, whereas French universities, which cannot as easily control their student intake, create their timetables much later. This makes it hard for students of other universities to book courses in advance, according to Nieden.

As such, student mobility is "not easy to see," he added. Of the 115,000 students across the five universities, just 1,000 per semester exercise their right to study at a different campus.

The name is also something of a misnomer: the institution does not have its own physical site. And for now, the European Campus cannot grant degrees of its own, so students still receive qualifications from their respective national universities. Still, over the next five to 10 years, the campus may develop its own qualification, largely aimed at students from outside Europe who want to study at all of the universities, Nieden said.

"We were very happy about the speech of Macron," he added. Whether the French president gets his way depends on wider discussions about the future of the E.U. -- but regardless, the continent's universities are already experimenting with multinational forms.

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MIT introduces digital diplomas

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.

Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chain technology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions, and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin.

A news release Tuesday described how MIT has been thinking about using block-chain technology to secure digital credentials for the past two years. In 2015 Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT media lab, began issuing nonacademic digital credentials to his team, but he did not have a good way of managing these credentials digitally.

In collaboration with Learning Machine, Schmidt and his team began to develop an open-source tool kit, called Blockcerts, that any college can use to issue credentials using block-chain technology. With the addition of the Blockcerts Wallet app, this information can be encrypted, and students can prove ownership of their diploma through the generation of a unique numerical identifier.

The technology means that students can quickly share their virtual certificates with potential employers without involving an intermediary. Third parties can verify the legitimacy of the diploma by pasting the URL of the certificate into an MIT-hosted portal. This portal can instantly verify the legitimacy of the certificate, negating the notarization step often required in the verification of paper certificates.

Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, said that many of today’s students expect to be able to just send digital copies of their academic credentials to employers and institutions, but that until now there wasn’t good technology to support this. “We heard of students trying to Snapchat their grades to admissions; they didn’t understand why they couldn’t just text a picture,” said Jagers. “It should be that easy to share records, and this generation of digital natives expects that. But before this technology came along, this wasn’t possible.”

Mary Callahan, university registrar and senior associate dean at MIT, said that a key motivation behind the pilot was to “empower” students to take greater ownership of their academic qualifications. She said the technology enables students to share their achievements with whomever they wish in a way that is secure, verifiable and efficient. “I think it’s got real potential,” said Callahan. “We wanted to lead the way, and we expect others to follow.”

The first cohort of 111 students who were able to take part in the pilot graduated this summer, with 43 choosing to take part. Callahan said that potentially all students graduating in February 2018 would be given the digital diploma option. Asked whether she thought this could one day replace paper, Callahan did not rule it out but said that the change would take time.

Aside from convenience for students, the technology also tackles another issue facing universities — fake degrees. “There are a lot of people who pretend to graduate from MIT with fake diplomas,” said Jagers. “This provides a format that people can’t fake.”

Callahan confirmed that verifying authenticity was an important aspect of the technology for the university, which she said “definitely gets its fair share” of fraudsters.

While some students may struggle to understand the technology behind the app, understanding how the block chain works is not necessary to use it, said Jagers. He noted that there has been strong interest in the technology from dozens of academic institutions, as well as companies and governments. The University of Melbourne is already piloting digital diplomas with the app.

Though some companies are looking to sell their block chain-based products, Jagers said that keeping the Blockcerts app and tool kit free and open source is important. “If everyone is doing this in a proprietary way, then the records won’t be universally verifiable. The whole point is to create records that don’t have any dependence on an issuer or vendor.”

While MIT may be among the first institutions in the U.S. to use block-chain technology to award digital degree certificates, Thomas Black, assistant vice provost and university registrar at Johns Hopkins University, said that other institutions are experimenting. He noted that his institution was also looking to use block-chain technology to award degrees, but he would be taking a different approach than MIT.

Instead of working with third parties, Johns Hopkins is building its own system and creating a private ledger — rather than using Bitcoin’s public one, like MIT. “Universities are very protective of their authority to certify learning. I don’t know that we need to have this public ledger approach,” he said. “You can use block-chain technology very nicely by establishing a private ledger.”

Black noted that many institutions already use digital signing services to verify the authenticity of their PDF documents through Adobe. Companies such as Parchment and Paradigm also offer verified digital versions of diplomas, said Black. “The concept of digital signatures is nothing new,” he said. “But perhaps universities could start to replace Adobe and others in these roles.”

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.

Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chain technology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions, and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin.

A news release Tuesday described how MIT has been thinking about using block-chain technology to secure digital credentials for the past two years. In 2015 Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT media lab, began issuing nonacademic digital credentials to his team, but he did not have a good way of managing these credentials digitally.

In collaboration with Learning Machine, Schmidt and his team began to develop an open-source tool kit, called Blockcerts, that any college can use to issue credentials using block-chain technology. With the addition of the Blockcerts Wallet app, this information can be encrypted, and students can prove ownership of their diploma through the generation of a unique numerical identifier.

The technology means that students can quickly share their virtual certificates with potential employers without involving an intermediary. Third parties can verify the legitimacy of the diploma by pasting the URL of the certificate into an MIT-hosted portal. This portal can instantly verify the legitimacy of the certificate, negating the notarization step often required in the verification of paper certificates.

Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, said that many of today's students expect to be able to just send digital copies of their academic credentials to employers and institutions, but that until now there wasn’t good technology to support this. “We heard of students trying to Snapchat their grades to admissions; they didn’t understand why they couldn’t just text a picture,” said Jagers. “It should be that easy to share records, and this generation of digital natives expects that. But before this technology came along, this wasn’t possible.”

Mary Callahan, university registrar and senior associate dean at MIT, said that a key motivation behind the pilot was to “empower” students to take greater ownership of their academic qualifications. She said the technology enables students to share their achievements with whomever they wish in a way that is secure, verifiable and efficient. “I think it’s got real potential,” said Callahan. “We wanted to lead the way, and we expect others to follow.”

The first cohort of 111 students who were able to take part in the pilot graduated this summer, with 43 choosing to take part. Callahan said that potentially all students graduating in February 2018 would be given the digital diploma option. Asked whether she thought this could one day replace paper, Callahan did not rule it out but said that the change would take time.

Aside from convenience for students, the technology also tackles another issue facing universities -- fake degrees. “There are a lot of people who pretend to graduate from MIT with fake diplomas,” said Jagers. “This provides a format that people can’t fake.”

Callahan confirmed that verifying authenticity was an important aspect of the technology for the university, which she said “definitely gets its fair share” of fraudsters.

While some students may struggle to understand the technology behind the app, understanding how the block chain works is not necessary to use it, said Jagers. He noted that there has been strong interest in the technology from dozens of academic institutions, as well as companies and governments. The University of Melbourne is already piloting digital diplomas with the app.

Though some companies are looking to sell their block chain-based products, Jagers said that keeping the Blockcerts app and tool kit free and open source is important. “If everyone is doing this in a proprietary way, then the records won’t be universally verifiable. The whole point is to create records that don’t have any dependence on an issuer or vendor.”

While MIT may be among the first institutions in the U.S. to use block-chain technology to award digital degree certificates, Thomas Black, assistant vice provost and university registrar at Johns Hopkins University, said that other institutions are experimenting. He noted that his institution was also looking to use block-chain technology to award degrees, but he would be taking a different approach than MIT.

Instead of working with third parties, Johns Hopkins is building its own system and creating a private ledger -- rather than using Bitcoin's public one, like MIT. “Universities are very protective of their authority to certify learning. I don’t know that we need to have this public ledger approach,” he said. “You can use block-chain technology very nicely by establishing a private ledger.”

Black noted that many institutions already use digital signing services to verify the authenticity of their PDF documents through Adobe. Companies such as Parchment and Paradigm also offer verified digital versions of diplomas, said Black. “The concept of digital signatures is nothing new,” he said. “But perhaps universities could start to replace Adobe and others in these roles.”

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Texts cast doubt on Kennesaw State president’s statements

Newly unearthed text messages show the Cobb County, Ga., sheriff and another local Republican official bragging that they influenced the decision that led to Kennesaw State University’s cheerleaders being removed from the field during the national anthem.

On Sept. 30, five cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem before a Kennesaw State football game. The university’s original explanation was that — despite public complaints about the cheerleaders from Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart, both Republicans — the decision to keep cheerleaders off the field for subsequent games until after the anthem finished playing, which went into effect the week after the protest, was completely coincidental, not related to the protest and made by the institution’s athletic department.

But the text messages show the politicians boasting about how they maneuvered the change with the president.

“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the U.S.A.,” Warren texted Ehrhart.

Kennesaw State President Sam Olens “had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” Ehrhart wrote back.

The texts were reported Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained them via a public records request. On Wednesday, the University System of Georgia issued a statement saying it would conduct a “special review” of the allegations that the decision to remove the cheerleaders was a political one.

In a statement Wednesday, Olens — a former attorney general — said that the timeline of the events was being misconstrued. He said the decision to change the pregame activities had been made by the athletic department — and he had been informed of that decision — before he spoke to Warren.

“In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better,” he said. “I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud.”

Olens previously told the Journal-Constitution that no outside pressure at influenced the decision to remove the cheerleaders from the field during the national anthem, and he stood by that narrative in his statement Wednesday.

“Decisions about game-day programming is [sic] the responsibility of KSU’s Department of Athletics and they have been clear about their reasons for making the adjustment,” he told the Journal-Constitution last week.

Kennesaw spokeswoman Tammy DeMel laid out a similar story to Inside Higher Ed last week, saying a number of changes have been made to the pregame ceremonies “to refine and enhance the game-day atmosphere for our fans.”

Olens’s appointment as president of Kennesaw State last year was controversial, scrutinized in part because of his lack of academic background and anti-gay stances he took during his political career. Olens was appointed without the formation of a formal search committee, prompting fears that his appointment was a political one.

In another text, Warren bragged that removing the cheerleaders from the field was his and Ehrhart’s idea.

“Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!” he said.

The cheerleaders, as well as local activists, doubted Kennesaw State’s story before the text messages emerged, and Tuesday’s revelations only added to that doubt.

“We are deeply disheartened by the revelations revealed in these messages. We were exercising our First Amendment rights in the most American way possible,” the cheerleaders, under the moniker The Kennesaw 5, said in a statement. “We took a knee for a purpose and we continue to kneel for this cause. These text messages only leave us with more questions on how the university handled this situation. We would hope the university would defend its students from political leaders. To this day, President Olens has not met or requested a meeting with us. We are owed a meeting and to have this matter addressed publicly.”

Davante Lewis, the brother of one of the cheerleaders, said the University System of Georgia was obligated to investigate the decision behind removing the cheerleaders.

“The board has to answer to their decision” to pick Olens in the way that they did, Lewis told Inside Higher Ed. “They didn’t conduct a full national search, they did not present multiple candidates to the faculty, students and community, and they kind of bowed to what seems to be political pressure.”

Lewis said the narrative laid out in the text messages did not surprise him.

“It is what I expected to find,” he said. “This now deepens the power that faculty and students have been talking about for months since his appointment — that he is not comfortable being an academic, but is comfortable being a politician — and is answering and making decisions based on the politics of those choices.”

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Newly unearthed text messages show the Cobb County, Ga., sheriff and another local Republican official bragging that they influenced the decision that led to Kennesaw State University’s cheerleaders being removed from the field during the national anthem.

On Sept. 30, five cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem before a Kennesaw State football game. The university's original explanation was that -- despite public complaints about the cheerleaders from Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart, both Republicans -- the decision to keep cheerleaders off the field for subsequent games until after the anthem finished playing, which went into effect the week after the protest, was completely coincidental, not related to the protest and made by the institution’s athletic department.

But the text messages show the politicians boasting about how they maneuvered the change with the president.

“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the U.S.A.,” Warren texted Ehrhart.

Kennesaw State President Sam Olens “had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” Ehrhart wrote back.

The texts were reported Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained them via a public records request. On Wednesday, the University System of Georgia issued a statement saying it would conduct a "special review" of the allegations that the decision to remove the cheerleaders was a political one.

In a statement Wednesday, Olens -- a former attorney general -- said that the timeline of the events was being misconstrued. He said the decision to change the pregame activities had been made by the athletic department -- and he had been informed of that decision -- before he spoke to Warren.

"In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better," he said. "I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud."

Olens previously told the Journal-Constitution that no outside pressure at influenced the decision to remove the cheerleaders from the field during the national anthem, and he stood by that narrative in his statement Wednesday.

“Decisions about game-day programming is [sic] the responsibility of KSU's Department of Athletics and they have been clear about their reasons for making the adjustment,” he told the Journal-Constitution last week.

Kennesaw spokeswoman Tammy DeMel laid out a similar story to Inside Higher Ed last week, saying a number of changes have been made to the pregame ceremonies "to refine and enhance the game-day atmosphere for our fans."

Olens’s appointment as president of Kennesaw State last year was controversial, scrutinized in part because of his lack of academic background and anti-gay stances he took during his political career. Olens was appointed without the formation of a formal search committee, prompting fears that his appointment was a political one.

In another text, Warren bragged that removing the cheerleaders from the field was his and Ehrhart’s idea.

“Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!” he said.

The cheerleaders, as well as local activists, doubted Kennesaw State’s story before the text messages emerged, and Tuesday’s revelations only added to that doubt.

"We are deeply disheartened by the revelations revealed in these messages. We were exercising our First Amendment rights in the most American way possible," the cheerleaders, under the moniker The Kennesaw 5, said in a statement. "We took a knee for a purpose and we continue to kneel for this cause. These text messages only leave us with more questions on how the university handled this situation. We would hope the university would defend its students from political leaders. To this day, President Olens has not met or requested a meeting with us. We are owed a meeting and to have this matter addressed publicly."

Davante Lewis, the brother of one of the cheerleaders, said the University System of Georgia was obligated to investigate the decision behind removing the cheerleaders.

“The board has to answer to their decision” to pick Olens in the way that they did, Lewis told Inside Higher Ed. “They didn’t conduct a full national search, they did not present multiple candidates to the faculty, students and community, and they kind of bowed to what seems to be political pressure.”

Lewis said the narrative laid out in the text messages did not surprise him.

“It is what I expected to find,” he said. “This now deepens the power that faculty and students have been talking about for months since his appointment -- that he is not comfortable being an academic, but is comfortable being a politician -- and is answering and making decisions based on the politics of those choices.”

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Cleveland State University president criticized for lukewarm response to homophobic poster

When a poster urging gay, bisexual and transgender students to kill themselves appeared on the Cleveland State University campus, the president didn’t condemn or criticize the fliers, as has become usual for college administrators faced with blatantly hateful expression on their campuses.

Instead, he defended free speech.

“CSU remains fully committed to a campus community that respects all individuals, regardless of age, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and other historical bases for discrimination,” President Ronald M. Berkman said in a statement Monday. “CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided. We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result.”

Now, activists, alumni and students are infuriated. In interviews they expressed puzzlement and anger over Berkman’s reply, an unusual deviation from the typical response. University leaders are generally quick to take down and denounce hateful fliers. And many presidents of public institutions manage to do so even while noting the First Amendment issues that may prevent punishing the expression. As anger over his initial statement grew, Berkman backtracked and said he found the message of the fliers “reprehensible,” adding a caveat that the “legal framework” made blocking such posters difficult.

The flier, posted last week (the same day the institution opened a new center for LGBTQ students) shows someone hanging by a noose, and statistics on queer people who consider suicide.

The top of the poster reads “follow your fellow faggots.”

A spokesman indicated the poster would have been allowed to remain if the university’s procedures had been followed, igniting further backlash and leaving advocates to question the institution’s policies.

But Berkman was correct in that the poster was protected by the First Amendment, said Ari Cohn, a lawyer and director of the individual rights defense program with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a free speech watch group.

“While the posters seemed to encourage individuals who identify as part of the LGBT community to commit suicide, that can’t be proscribed any more than saying something like ‘go kill yourself’ in the context of a Twitter argument (which happens, often),” Cohn wrote in an email. “Regardless of how hateful and ugly the speech may be, it does not fall into an unprotected category of speech, and CSU is legally required to adhere to the First Amendment.”

Hateful fliers have appeared on a number of campuses in recent months, but almost all of them are racially prejudicial, not attacking the LGBTQ community.

Dear CSU community, please join me for an open meeting tomorrow to discuss a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster on campus. pic.twitter.com/ae1u7wBty3

— Ronald M. Berkman (@PresBerkman) October 17, 2017

The president issued another statement Tuesday after vehement public criticisms.

“I wanted to acknowledge that yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving [an] anti-LGBTQ+ poster that was recently posted on campus,” Berkman said. “While I find the message of this poster reprehensible, the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated.”

He also announced he would lead a forum yesterday to discuss the campus’s concerns. Spokesman William Dube, who did not respond to a request for an interview, instead emailed a statement confirming the poster’s existence. Another statement regarding Wednesday’s meeting is expected today.

President Ronald Berkman's forum to discuss anti-LGBTQ posters on Cleveland State's campus.

Still, this did little to satisfy some students. One junior, Molly Stachnik, helped plan an event today in the campus courtyard in which students who are members of minority groups could share how the president’s response hurt them, she said in an interview.

Stachnik, who identifies as queer, said the campus and its administrators and professors are largely supportive and she has not dealt with homophobia there before. But she said in the current political climate that actions as simple as posting a hateful flier can snowball into much more serious events — shootings fueled by discrimination, for instance.

“We want to make our voices heard,” Stachnik said. “We want to send a clear message to Berkman that we’re not going to stand for this, that this is not OK, we’re not going let this get swept under the rug.”

Both state and national organizations also said they were disappointed by Berkman’s response.

Representatives from Equality Ohio, a policy-centric LGBTQ group, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks prejudice across the country, used the same word to describe the posters: “appalling.”

Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, questioned why the posters did not violate the university’s antidiscrimination policy, which in part states that discrimination is “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical, electronic or other conduct that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or employment environment.”

She said a forceful condemnation of the posters is required, as the fliers advocate for bloodshed against LGBTQ people — she noted that the figure in the poster appears to have their hands bound.

“It is violence, it’s targeting a specific population, and generally threats are not protected speech,” Jochum said.

Equality Ohio reached out to the president’s office directly offer assistance in helping repair the administration’s relationship with the campus, Jochum said. If the university’s policies allow for such a poster to be displayed, they should be re-evaluated, she said.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said this was not “a free speech issue.” She called the president’s response “wholly unacceptable” and advised LGBTQ allies to draw attention to this on campus.

“The response of taking a poster down because it doesn’t follow policy, or you have got to protect free speech before a condemnation of homophobia and the disgusting nature of the flier, is just missing the whole point,” she said.

Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said in a statement she appreciated Berkman’s “clarification” to his initial message, but said that leaders should “boldly” use their power to condemn hate speech.

“The focus of this conversation should remain on the physical and psychological safety of Cleveland State’s LGBTQ community and not on the rights of those who wish them harm,” Harris said.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ lobbying group, also released a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “It’s disappointing that CSU President Ronald Berkman failed to initially grasp the seriousness of the despicable anti-LGBTQ fliers that appeared on his campus,” HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said. “It is particularly heartbreaking that these fliers, which used anti-LGBTQ slurs and cruelly talked about LGBTQ people and suicide, surfaced on the day CSU opened its new LGBTQ center. Universities have an obligation to ensure that students aren’t being harassed and discriminated against. And while we appreciate that President Berkman followed up with a stronger message of personal outrage over the incident, it has never been more important for our leaders — on campus and off — to immediately recognize, condemn and take action when LGBTQ people and others in marginalized communities are viciously targeted.”

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When a poster urging gay, bisexual and transgender students to kill themselves appeared on the Cleveland State University campus, the president didn’t condemn or criticize the fliers, as has become usual for college administrators faced with blatantly hateful expression on their campuses.

Instead, he defended free speech.

“CSU remains fully committed to a campus community that respects all individuals, regardless of age, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and other historical bases for discrimination,” President Ronald M. Berkman said in a statement Monday. “CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided. We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result.”

Now, activists, alumni and students are infuriated. In interviews they expressed puzzlement and anger over Berkman’s reply, an unusual deviation from the typical response. University leaders are generally quick to take down and denounce hateful fliers. And many presidents of public institutions manage to do so even while noting the First Amendment issues that may prevent punishing the expression. As anger over his initial statement grew, Berkman backtracked and said he found the message of the fliers “reprehensible,” adding a caveat that the “legal framework” made blocking such posters difficult.

The flier, posted last week (the same day the institution opened a new center for LGBTQ students) shows someone hanging by a noose, and statistics on queer people who consider suicide.

The top of the poster reads “follow your fellow faggots.”

A spokesman indicated the poster would have been allowed to remain if the university’s procedures had been followed, igniting further backlash and leaving advocates to question the institution’s policies.

But Berkman was correct in that the poster was protected by the First Amendment, said Ari Cohn, a lawyer and director of the individual rights defense program with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a free speech watch group.

“While the posters seemed to encourage individuals who identify as part of the LGBT community to commit suicide, that can't be proscribed any more than saying something like ‘go kill yourself’ in the context of a Twitter argument (which happens, often),” Cohn wrote in an email. “Regardless of how hateful and ugly the speech may be, it does not fall into an unprotected category of speech, and CSU is legally required to adhere to the First Amendment.”

Hateful fliers have appeared on a number of campuses in recent months, but almost all of them are racially prejudicial, not attacking the LGBTQ community.

The president issued another statement Tuesday after vehement public criticisms.

“I wanted to acknowledge that yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving [an] anti-LGBTQ+ poster that was recently posted on campus,” Berkman said. “While I find the message of this poster reprehensible, the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated.”

He also announced he would lead a forum yesterday to discuss the campus’s concerns. Spokesman William Dube, who did not respond to a request for an interview, instead emailed a statement confirming the poster’s existence. Another statement regarding Wednesday’s meeting is expected today.

President Ronald Berkman's forum to discuss anti-LGBTQ posters on Cleveland State's campus.

Still, this did little to satisfy some students. One junior, Molly Stachnik, helped plan an event today in the campus courtyard in which students who are members of minority groups could share how the president’s response hurt them, she said in an interview.

Stachnik, who identifies as queer, said the campus and its administrators and professors are largely supportive and she has not dealt with homophobia there before. But she said in the current political climate that actions as simple as posting a hateful flier can snowball into much more serious events -- shootings fueled by discrimination, for instance.

“We want to make our voices heard,” Stachnik said. “We want to send a clear message to Berkman that we’re not going to stand for this, that this is not OK, we’re not going let this get swept under the rug.”

Both state and national organizations also said they were disappointed by Berkman's response.

Representatives from Equality Ohio, a policy-centric LGBTQ group, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks prejudice across the country, used the same word to describe the posters: “appalling.”

Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, questioned why the posters did not violate the university’s antidiscrimination policy, which in part states that discrimination is “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical, electronic or other conduct that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or employment environment.”

She said a forceful condemnation of the posters is required, as the fliers advocate for bloodshed against LGBTQ people -- she noted that the figure in the poster appears to have their hands bound.

“It is violence, it’s targeting a specific population, and generally threats are not protected speech,” Jochum said.

Equality Ohio reached out to the president’s office directly offer assistance in helping repair the administration’s relationship with the campus, Jochum said. If the university’s policies allow for such a poster to be displayed, they should be re-evaluated, she said.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said this was not “a free speech issue.” She called the president’s response “wholly unacceptable” and advised LGBTQ allies to draw attention to this on campus.

“The response of taking a poster down because it doesn’t follow policy, or you have got to protect free speech before a condemnation of homophobia and the disgusting nature of the flier, is just missing the whole point,” she said.

Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said in a statement she appreciated Berkman's "clarification" to his initial message, but said that leaders should "boldly" use their power to condemn hate speech.

"The focus of this conversation should remain on the physical and psychological safety of Cleveland State’s LGBTQ community and not on the rights of those who wish them harm," Harris said.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ lobbying group, also released a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “It’s disappointing that CSU President Ronald Berkman failed to initially grasp the seriousness of the despicable anti-LGBTQ fliers that appeared on his campus,” HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said. “It is particularly heartbreaking that these fliers, which used anti-LGBTQ slurs and cruelly talked about LGBTQ people and suicide, surfaced on the day CSU opened its new LGBTQ center. Universities have an obligation to ensure that students aren’t being harassed and discriminated against. And while we appreciate that President Berkman followed up with a stronger message of personal outrage over the incident, it has never been more important for our leaders -- on campus and off -- to immediately recognize, condemn and take action when LGBTQ people and others in marginalized communities are viciously targeted.”

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