Q&A with author of book on universities’ intellectual property practices

Look no further than apples for a study of intellectual property.

When the University of Minnesota several years ago was preparing to introduce a new variety of apple into the market, it decided against an open release that would have allowed the fruit to be widely grown — which it had done with a previous blockbuster it developed, the Honeycrisp. Instead, the land-grant university opted to create a managed variety, choosing an exclusive licensee requiring anyone who wanted to sell the new apple on a large commercial scale to join a cooperative. Growers would have to pay royalties on the sale of the fruit. The university also owns a trademark for the new apple, called SweeTango. The tight control over the new apple’s growth and distribution upset some small growers who felt the university was suddenly not filling its traditional role of widely distributing the products of its research. Many regarded the setup as a way for the university to maximize its own revenue.

The university, meanwhile, says introducing the apple as a managed variety helps with quality standards for the fruit consumers eat. Doing so also increased the chances of early and consistent royalty payments by giving a private entity — in this case, the co-op — an interest in marketing the new apple, bringing it to market quickly and making sure growers pay. A university spokesman also points out that it made allowances for in-state growers that want to grow and sell the apple independent of the national licensee. And he said the royalty payments the university collects provide more sustainable funding for its breeding programs.

The way the university handled the apple is one of many intellectual property cases studied by Jacob H. Rooksby in his new book, The Branding of the American Mind (Johns Hopkins University Press). Rooksby, associate dean of administration and an assistant law professor at Duquesne University, details the ways in which universities have used patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets to become more protective of their intellectual property.

“Instead of embodying an open-knowledge commons, higher education risks becoming a propertied space where institutions predominantly view their identities through a commercial lens,” Rooksby writes.

Rooksby argues that institutions do not have to take such a hard stance on locking down intellectual property but that they have been seduced by market forces, the potential for revenue and the very fact that legal protections are available. He fears the ramifications of overreach, writing that the public at large suffers when institutions spend time and money locking down too many private rights.

The book is a first step in exposing the choices colleges and universities make about their intellectual property, according to Rooksby. He proposes legal and policy reforms designed to help colleges and universities change their ways.

Rooksby answered questions about his book by email. The following exchange has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: A major argument you make is that higher education institutions harm public interests with far-reaching intellectual property claims and aggressive enforcement practices. Is anyone doing intellectual property the right way right now, in your opinion?

A: Certainly some institutions have their priorities straight in this arena. For example, Carnegie Mellon University does an admirable job, I think, of balancing a commitment to commercialization with concern for the public good. The bigger problem I see is with institutions more modest in size and scope of research that attempt to emulate the tactics and approaches championed by some of the worst offenders, which I discuss in the book.

Higher education is very status driven, and we see it in the intellectual property realm as well. For some, there seems to be a belief that they must be zealous in their embrace of intellectual property, because their competitors are. That sense of competition hurts the public when the competitor they hold in esteem doesn’t engage in practices that further the public’s interest in higher education.

Q: One of the most memorable phrases in this book is about the “noxious enforcement temptations” that come from the increasingly common belief that everything protectable by trademark must be claimed. Do you think it’s possible for institutions to continue claiming trademarks — or other types of intellectual property, like copyrights or patents — but enforce them in a way that is less problematic?

A: I do. The problem isn’t necessarily the rights themselves. There are certainly trademarks, copyrights and patents that institutions should be owning, and I describe these areas of activity in the book. But there are many more instances when the decision whether to act to protect a piece of intellectual property is much more discretionary, and in some instances, even inadvisable. Enforcement in those zones is particularly problematic, and my book provides a litany of examples.

But if an institution has a legitimate interest in, say, a trademark, enforcement itself is not problematic. For example, I thought the recent trademark enforcement activity by University of Houston Law Center against South Texas College of Law — which had changed its name to Houston College of Law and adopted a color scheme for its marketing very similar to the one used by its crosstown rival — was entirely appropriate. The way that the University of Houston publicly defended its actions in that lawsuit — creating a webpage devoted to the filings in the case and explaining its action — was also admirable.

Q: Princeton University recently settled a lawsuit in which residents claimed that the university should not be exempted from local property taxes in part because it earned millions from patent royalties. Do you see the potential for spreading property tax lawsuits or any other direct negative consequence to universities that don’t reform intellectual property practices?

A: I do think there is a real risk here for institutions. The more “commercial” they become in the eyes of the public, the more we are likely to see challenges like the one Princeton faced. There is no getting around the fact that intellectual property protection and enforcement are prime examples of the commercialization of higher education. While these activities are at times consistent with public mandates and the public’s interest in higher education, the point of my book is to illustrate through vivid examples the potential for overreach and abuse that exists in this arena. If institutions aren’t viewing their intellectual property activity as bearing on the public good, they risk prompting public outcry that their activities look more corporate than nonprofit, and that their tax treatment ought to be adjusted accordingly.

Q: Colleges and universities already face criticism for high tuition, and many are scrambling to find sources of revenue. Do you have any concern that intellectual property reforms could harm their streams of funding?

A: Some institutions and commentators have raised this issue — that is, that revenue pressures justify their activities. Some members of institutional governing boards even approach all issues of intellectual property through this lens. The reality is that intellectual property presents an unreliable vehicle for revenue generation in higher education. Institutions will always be concerned about how they fund the pursuit of their missions, but intellectual property protection and enforcement takes a lot of money in its own right, and the payoffs are not always there.

For example, study upon study has shown that investment in patents does not correlate with commercialization success. And yet many believe that, “at least at this institution,” it will. Similarly, not every trademark registration that an institution amasses will present a licensing opportunity. Certainly there is a market for athletics-related names and insignia, but brand protection and expansion typically costs an institution more than those efforts will ever generate in licensing revenue.

Q: Several proposals you make would have the effect of shifting control over licensing research and copyright of scholarly works away from institutions and to faculty members. But can we be assured that faculty members would be any more responsible than you see institutions as being?

A: In a word, no. As faculty become more entrepreneurial, their goals for how intellectual property gets used may closely align with the goals or practices of their institutions. But faculty as a body are certainly more flexible in their interest and ability to relinquish rights or refashion them when they no longer serve a purpose or are no longer needed to achieve the purpose that led to obtaining them. Institutions, on the other hand, act through offices and departments and bureaucracies, where things like patents and trademarks and copyrights are counted, and kept, and “protected.”

No one wants to be the administrator who lets the next Gatorade walk out the door because they don’t recognize the value of what they have. [Researchers at the University of Florida developed Gatorade, and as of last year the university had received $281 million in royalties on the sports drink since 1974.] So, institutional inertia and risk aversion mean that intellectual property rights have a way of accreting and then lingering in higher education well past their sell-by dates. These rights can last so long that they serve as logjams to others who may be able to put them to better uses. At the very least, I’d like to see institutions more frequently relinquishing rights back into the public domain, or not claiming them in the first instance, should they find that they have no need for them. To be fair, those actions happen at some institutions, but the practice is not nearly widespread enough. Faculty would be more likely to take such actions, particularly if they’re having to shoulder the protection and enforcement costs themselves.

Q: You also call for the creation of a new position in provost offices to handle intellectual property issues. But you point out that current technology transfer offices fall victim to having large staffs that justify their existence by bearing down on intellectual property — collecting, for instance, a high number of trademarks. Why wouldn’t the same problems arise in the new positions you propose?

A: What I’m calling for is a reorchestration of our understanding of intellectual property rights in higher education. We need to move from viewing intellectual property as purely a legal or business matter, outside the realm of interest or aptitude for most faculty, to instead an area of activity that has real ramifications on the academic enterprise. Provost offices are ground zero for the policy issues that most directly touch on why the public subsidizes higher education and why parents and students go into debt to further their child’s or their own career. Intellectual property bears directly on teaching and research, and yet academic decision makers are often left out of the conversation about how and when to protect intellectual property and then what to do with it.

Provost offices are the natural location to “bring IP in” to the academic conversation on campuses, as opposed to allowing intellectual property to be the sole province of legal and business decision making. People inhabiting the role or assuming the duties I propose in the book are more likely to be intellectual property neutrals than they are to be unflinching intellectual property advocates. That’s because I think that most academics — certainly ones who hold faculty status before pursuing administrative positions — are more accustomed to playing a mediating role vis-à-vis the public good and their own institution than are nonacademic administrators whose career stability and advancement are inherently tied to business and the outcome of business decisions they make.

The point is, the reach of intellectual property goes behind just business, touching on matters of institutional policy and academic direction, so the decision making that drives intellectual property activity at colleges and universities ought to be adjusted accordingly. We need people who understand the policy ramifications of intellectual property and whose job it is to ask the question “How does this proposed intellectual property activity further the public’s interest in higher education?” If there is no good answer, that should be answer enough for how the institution should act.

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A new book argues universities flirt with dangerous intellectual property practices.
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Look no further than apples for a study of intellectual property.

When the University of Minnesota several years ago was preparing to introduce a new variety of apple into the market, it decided against an open release that would have allowed the fruit to be widely grown -- which it had done with a previous blockbuster it developed, the Honeycrisp. Instead, the land-grant university opted to create a managed variety, choosing an exclusive licensee requiring anyone who wanted to sell the new apple on a large commercial scale to join a cooperative. Growers would have to pay royalties on the sale of the fruit. The university also owns a trademark for the new apple, called SweeTango. The tight control over the new apple's growth and distribution upset some small growers who felt the university was suddenly not filling its traditional role of widely distributing the products of its research. Many regarded the setup as a way for the university to maximize its own revenue.

The university, meanwhile, says introducing the apple as a managed variety helps with quality standards for the fruit consumers eat. Doing so also increased the chances of early and consistent royalty payments by giving a private entity -- in this case, the co-op -- an interest in marketing the new apple, bringing it to market quickly and making sure growers pay. A university spokesman also points out that it made allowances for in-state growers that want to grow and sell the apple independent of the national licensee. And he said the royalty payments the university collects provide more sustainable funding for its breeding programs.

The way the university handled the apple is one of many intellectual property cases studied by Jacob H. Rooksby in his new book, The Branding of the American Mind (Johns Hopkins University Press). Rooksby, associate dean of administration and an assistant law professor at Duquesne University, details the ways in which universities have used patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets to become more protective of their intellectual property.

“Instead of embodying an open-knowledge commons, higher education risks becoming a propertied space where institutions predominantly view their identities through a commercial lens,” Rooksby writes.

Rooksby argues that institutions do not have to take such a hard stance on locking down intellectual property but that they have been seduced by market forces, the potential for revenue and the very fact that legal protections are available. He fears the ramifications of overreach, writing that the public at large suffers when institutions spend time and money locking down too many private rights.

The book is a first step in exposing the choices colleges and universities make about their intellectual property, according to Rooksby. He proposes legal and policy reforms designed to help colleges and universities change their ways.

Rooksby answered questions about his book by email. The following exchange has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: A major argument you make is that higher education institutions harm public interests with far-reaching intellectual property claims and aggressive enforcement practices. Is anyone doing intellectual property the right way right now, in your opinion?

A: Certainly some institutions have their priorities straight in this arena. For example, Carnegie Mellon University does an admirable job, I think, of balancing a commitment to commercialization with concern for the public good. The bigger problem I see is with institutions more modest in size and scope of research that attempt to emulate the tactics and approaches championed by some of the worst offenders, which I discuss in the book.

Higher education is very status driven, and we see it in the intellectual property realm as well. For some, there seems to be a belief that they must be zealous in their embrace of intellectual property, because their competitors are. That sense of competition hurts the public when the competitor they hold in esteem doesn’t engage in practices that further the public’s interest in higher education.

Q: One of the most memorable phrases in this book is about the “noxious enforcement temptations” that come from the increasingly common belief that everything protectable by trademark must be claimed. Do you think it’s possible for institutions to continue claiming trademarks -- or other types of intellectual property, like copyrights or patents -- but enforce them in a way that is less problematic?

A: I do. The problem isn’t necessarily the rights themselves. There are certainly trademarks, copyrights and patents that institutions should be owning, and I describe these areas of activity in the book. But there are many more instances when the decision whether to act to protect a piece of intellectual property is much more discretionary, and in some instances, even inadvisable. Enforcement in those zones is particularly problematic, and my book provides a litany of examples.

But if an institution has a legitimate interest in, say, a trademark, enforcement itself is not problematic. For example, I thought the recent trademark enforcement activity by University of Houston Law Center against South Texas College of Law -- which had changed its name to Houston College of Law and adopted a color scheme for its marketing very similar to the one used by its crosstown rival -- was entirely appropriate. The way that the University of Houston publicly defended its actions in that lawsuit -- creating a webpage devoted to the filings in the case and explaining its action -- was also admirable.

Q: Princeton University recently settled a lawsuit in which residents claimed that the university should not be exempted from local property taxes in part because it earned millions from patent royalties. Do you see the potential for spreading property tax lawsuits or any other direct negative consequence to universities that don’t reform intellectual property practices?

A: I do think there is a real risk here for institutions. The more “commercial” they become in the eyes of the public, the more we are likely to see challenges like the one Princeton faced. There is no getting around the fact that intellectual property protection and enforcement are prime examples of the commercialization of higher education. While these activities are at times consistent with public mandates and the public’s interest in higher education, the point of my book is to illustrate through vivid examples the potential for overreach and abuse that exists in this arena. If institutions aren’t viewing their intellectual property activity as bearing on the public good, they risk prompting public outcry that their activities look more corporate than nonprofit, and that their tax treatment ought to be adjusted accordingly.

Q: Colleges and universities already face criticism for high tuition, and many are scrambling to find sources of revenue. Do you have any concern that intellectual property reforms could harm their streams of funding?

A: Some institutions and commentators have raised this issue -- that is, that revenue pressures justify their activities. Some members of institutional governing boards even approach all issues of intellectual property through this lens. The reality is that intellectual property presents an unreliable vehicle for revenue generation in higher education. Institutions will always be concerned about how they fund the pursuit of their missions, but intellectual property protection and enforcement takes a lot of money in its own right, and the payoffs are not always there.

For example, study upon study has shown that investment in patents does not correlate with commercialization success. And yet many believe that, “at least at this institution,” it will. Similarly, not every trademark registration that an institution amasses will present a licensing opportunity. Certainly there is a market for athletics-related names and insignia, but brand protection and expansion typically costs an institution more than those efforts will ever generate in licensing revenue.

Q: Several proposals you make would have the effect of shifting control over licensing research and copyright of scholarly works away from institutions and to faculty members. But can we be assured that faculty members would be any more responsible than you see institutions as being?

A: In a word, no. As faculty become more entrepreneurial, their goals for how intellectual property gets used may closely align with the goals or practices of their institutions. But faculty as a body are certainly more flexible in their interest and ability to relinquish rights or refashion them when they no longer serve a purpose or are no longer needed to achieve the purpose that led to obtaining them. Institutions, on the other hand, act through offices and departments and bureaucracies, where things like patents and trademarks and copyrights are counted, and kept, and “protected.”

No one wants to be the administrator who lets the next Gatorade walk out the door because they don’t recognize the value of what they have. [Researchers at the University of Florida developed Gatorade, and as of last year the university had received $281 million in royalties on the sports drink since 1974.] So, institutional inertia and risk aversion mean that intellectual property rights have a way of accreting and then lingering in higher education well past their sell-by dates. These rights can last so long that they serve as logjams to others who may be able to put them to better uses. At the very least, I’d like to see institutions more frequently relinquishing rights back into the public domain, or not claiming them in the first instance, should they find that they have no need for them. To be fair, those actions happen at some institutions, but the practice is not nearly widespread enough. Faculty would be more likely to take such actions, particularly if they’re having to shoulder the protection and enforcement costs themselves.

Q: You also call for the creation of a new position in provost offices to handle intellectual property issues. But you point out that current technology transfer offices fall victim to having large staffs that justify their existence by bearing down on intellectual property -- collecting, for instance, a high number of trademarks. Why wouldn’t the same problems arise in the new positions you propose?

A: What I’m calling for is a reorchestration of our understanding of intellectual property rights in higher education. We need to move from viewing intellectual property as purely a legal or business matter, outside the realm of interest or aptitude for most faculty, to instead an area of activity that has real ramifications on the academic enterprise. Provost offices are ground zero for the policy issues that most directly touch on why the public subsidizes higher education and why parents and students go into debt to further their child’s or their own career. Intellectual property bears directly on teaching and research, and yet academic decision makers are often left out of the conversation about how and when to protect intellectual property and then what to do with it.

Provost offices are the natural location to “bring IP in” to the academic conversation on campuses, as opposed to allowing intellectual property to be the sole province of legal and business decision making. People inhabiting the role or assuming the duties I propose in the book are more likely to be intellectual property neutrals than they are to be unflinching intellectual property advocates. That’s because I think that most academics -- certainly ones who hold faculty status before pursuing administrative positions -- are more accustomed to playing a mediating role vis-à-vis the public good and their own institution than are nonacademic administrators whose career stability and advancement are inherently tied to business and the outcome of business decisions they make.

The point is, the reach of intellectual property goes behind just business, touching on matters of institutional policy and academic direction, so the decision making that drives intellectual property activity at colleges and universities ought to be adjusted accordingly. We need people who understand the policy ramifications of intellectual property and whose job it is to ask the question “How does this proposed intellectual property activity further the public’s interest in higher education?” If there is no good answer, that should be answer enough for how the institution should act.

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A new book argues universities flirt with dangerous intellectual property practices.
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St. Norbert College’s ‘computerless’ computer lab shows impact of BYOD in higher ed

Colleges were once the place where many students encountered their first computer — and back then, the computer took up an entire room. Now, with computing power in every student’s book bag and pocket, some colleges are finding the standard computer lab is no longer needed.

St. Norbert College is one such example. The private Roman Catholic liberal arts college, located in De Pere, Wis., last year finished a complete renovation of its Gehl-Mulva Science Center. The last phase of the project included plans for a computer lab, but with the college about to phase in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy — requiring that all students bring their own laptops to campus — filling that lab with desktop computers didn’t seem to make sense, said Krissy Lukens, the college’s director of academic technology.

“We had been noticing that students were beginning to use their own computers more,” Lukens said in an interview. “Even in their computer science classes, about half of the students would bring in their own computers.”

As it turned out, the number of students bringing their own devices to campus was higher than that anecdote would suggest, Lukens said. In fact, a full 98 percent of students were using their own laptops, the college found. Making laptop ownership a requirement meant students could use their financial aid funds to pay for computers (though the college also started a laptop scholarship program to cover the last few laptopless students).

The growing use of personal computers and, more recently, smart devices is changing how colleges offer IT services. Without having to acquire and maintain desktop computers, college IT offices are free to move those resources around and change their priorities.

That can come as a much-needed windfall. According to the Campus Computing Survey, which tracks IT trends in higher education, nearly two-thirds of the chief information officers and senior IT leaders surveyed this fall said their offices’ budgets have yet to recover from the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. About one-third said they began the academic year with less funding than last year.

Not all colleges are able to require students to bring their own devices to campus, however. At colleges that serve mostly low-income students, for example, a laptop requirement adds an additional financial burden. It also poses challenges for colleges themselves, as their networking infrastructure has to handle the crush of extra traffic.

In St. Norbert’s case, the college was able to turn one of its many lecture halls into both offices and the new computer lab. As the before-and-after pictures show, the renovation left the new space virtually unrecognizable. The drab concrete cavern, complete with a leaky roof (“It was awful,” said David C. Pankratz, associate professor of computer science), was replaced by a more communal space, with tables for small groups of students to work together, plug in their devices and display their work on large monitors, as well as movable lounge chairs, personal dry-erase boards and — crucially — a healthy supply of candy.

Faculty members in the computer science department said they were able to influence the renovation process, including sharing thoughts on the general layout of the room and more specific wishes, such as the size of the monitors. Since the idea behind the lab was for students to bring and use their own laptops, the faculty members said they focused specifically on creating a room that would give students space to work with one another and for instructors to view that work without invading students’ personal space.

Bonita M. McVey, associate professor of computer science, said in an interview that there are some drawbacks to students bringing their own laptops to the computer lab — lack of common configuration being one of them (though the college offers a virtual desktop environment that anyone can log in to for a more standardized experience). And while many students carry multiple devices with them — laptops, tablets and smartphones — she said computer science needs to be done on larger surfaces than can fit in a student’s pocket.

“Students can work from anywhere now,” McVey said. “What’s cool is that students choose to come to the lab.”

Since this is only the second year the computer science faculty members are using the lab, they could not say whether it has had an impact on the way they teach. Unlike the room it replaced, the lab isn’t being used for lecturing, though Pankratz said he will occasionally schedule classes to meet in the lab rather than the lecture hall if he feels that students need hands-on time with the subject matter.

Similarly, McVey said she likes using the lab as a space where students can show off their work. In that setting, students use the tables and their monitors to host poster sessions.

But both McVey and Pankratz said the main benefit of the new computer lab isn’t the technology it contains, but rather what it means for computer science majors at the college.

“We’re really happy that our students have a place to call home,” McVey said. “It has mattered greatly to us — people feeling comfortable and feeling like they belong in the major.”

Teaching With Technology
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Image Source: 
St. Norbert College
Image Caption: 
Students work in St. Norbert College’s “computerless” computer lab.
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Colleges were once the place where many students encountered their first computer -- and back then, the computer took up an entire room. Now, with computing power in every student's book bag and pocket, some colleges are finding the standard computer lab is no longer needed.

St. Norbert College is one such example. The private Roman Catholic liberal arts college, located in De Pere, Wis., last year finished a complete renovation of its Gehl-Mulva Science Center. The last phase of the project included plans for a computer lab, but with the college about to phase in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy -- requiring that all students bring their own laptops to campus -- filling that lab with desktop computers didn’t seem to make sense, said Krissy Lukens, the college’s director of academic technology.

“We had been noticing that students were beginning to use their own computers more,” Lukens said in an interview. “Even in their computer science classes, about half of the students would bring in their own computers.”

As it turned out, the number of students bringing their own devices to campus was higher than that anecdote would suggest, Lukens said. In fact, a full 98 percent of students were using their own laptops, the college found. Making laptop ownership a requirement meant students could use their financial aid funds to pay for computers (though the college also started a laptop scholarship program to cover the last few laptopless students).

The growing use of personal computers and, more recently, smart devices is changing how colleges offer IT services. Without having to acquire and maintain desktop computers, college IT offices are free to move those resources around and change their priorities.

That can come as a much-needed windfall. According to the Campus Computing Survey, which tracks IT trends in higher education, nearly two-thirds of the chief information officers and senior IT leaders surveyed this fall said their offices’ budgets have yet to recover from the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. About one-third said they began the academic year with less funding than last year.

Not all colleges are able to require students to bring their own devices to campus, however. At colleges that serve mostly low-income students, for example, a laptop requirement adds an additional financial burden. It also poses challenges for colleges themselves, as their networking infrastructure has to handle the crush of extra traffic.

In St. Norbert’s case, the college was able to turn one of its many lecture halls into both offices and the new computer lab. As the before-and-after pictures show, the renovation left the new space virtually unrecognizable. The drab concrete cavern, complete with a leaky roof (“It was awful,” said David C. Pankratz, associate professor of computer science), was replaced by a more communal space, with tables for small groups of students to work together, plug in their devices and display their work on large monitors, as well as movable lounge chairs, personal dry-erase boards and -- crucially -- a healthy supply of candy.

Faculty members in the computer science department said they were able to influence the renovation process, including sharing thoughts on the general layout of the room and more specific wishes, such as the size of the monitors. Since the idea behind the lab was for students to bring and use their own laptops, the faculty members said they focused specifically on creating a room that would give students space to work with one another and for instructors to view that work without invading students’ personal space.

Bonita M. McVey, associate professor of computer science, said in an interview that there are some drawbacks to students bringing their own laptops to the computer lab -- lack of common configuration being one of them (though the college offers a virtual desktop environment that anyone can log in to for a more standardized experience). And while many students carry multiple devices with them -- laptops, tablets and smartphones -- she said computer science needs to be done on larger surfaces than can fit in a student’s pocket.

“Students can work from anywhere now,” McVey said. “What’s cool is that students choose to come to the lab.”

Since this is only the second year the computer science faculty members are using the lab, they could not say whether it has had an impact on the way they teach. Unlike the room it replaced, the lab isn’t being used for lecturing, though Pankratz said he will occasionally schedule classes to meet in the lab rather than the lecture hall if he feels that students need hands-on time with the subject matter.

Similarly, McVey said she likes using the lab as a space where students can show off their work. In that setting, students use the tables and their monitors to host poster sessions.

But both McVey and Pankratz said the main benefit of the new computer lab isn’t the technology it contains, but rather what it means for computer science majors at the college.

“We’re really happy that our students have a place to call home,” McVey said. “It has mattered greatly to us -- people feeling comfortable and feeling like they belong in the major.”

Teaching With Technology
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Image Source: 
St. Norbert College
Image Caption: 
Students work in St. Norbert College’s “computerless” computer lab.
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Is ‘identity liberalism,’ widespread on college campuses, to blame for Donald Trump’s rise?

Point and counterpoint is the rhythm of academic life, but some ideas elicit more of a response than others. Case in point: scholars and other intellectuals have spent the past couple of weeks debating “The End of Identity Liberalism,” an opinion piece by Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, in The New York Times.

Attempting to explain — as so many have — Donald Trump’s success in the recent election, Lilla blamed the political left’s affinity for what he called “identity liberalism.” He described college and university campuses as ground zero for a brand of liberalism that focuses on individual identity and diversity to the exclusion of other perennial but urgent questions about “class, war, the economy and the common good.” And while Lilla said he considers the U.S. “an extraordinary success story” in terms of diversity, he argued that that brand of liberalism cost the left the election and resulted in its “repugnant” outcome.

Lilla presumably opposes Trump but said his supporters are logically reacting “against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by ‘political correctness.’” Essentially, Lilla argued, “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.”

Arguing for a ‘Postidentity Liberalism’

“Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the ‘campus craziness’ that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to,” Lilla wrote. “Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in ‘His Majesty’?

Lilla — echoing common arguments against contemporary approaches to the humanities — advocated instead for a “postidentity liberalism,” which “should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism.” High school history curricula, for example, “anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.” While the achievements of, say, women’s rights movements, “were real and important,” he wrote, “you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.”

Such a liberalism would, over all, “concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them,” Lilla said. “It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.” And as for “narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)”

Lilla’s piece struck chords — consonant and dissonant — with scholars and other thinkers across disciplines and political persuasions. Some responded directly or with their own think pieces on the perceived ills or value of identity liberalism or its much-critiqued cousin, identity politics.

‘The Trouble With Diversity’

First the praise. Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at New York University who has previously criticized the direction of campus diversity efforts, tweeted that “The End of Identity Liberalism” was the best thing he’d read all week.

Mark Lilla essay is best thing I’ve read all week: “the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.” https://t.co/S1481OWeqv

— Jonathan Haidt (@JonHaidt) November 18, 2016

The Chicago Reader, somewhat coincidentally, ran an interview with Walter Benn Michaels, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, upon the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of his 2006 book, The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. Calling the book “prescient” in arguing that liberals are satisfied by diverse inequality (think racially diverse student bodies at the Ivy Leagues, or gender diversity among chief executives) and so risk alienating the working class, the newspaper said that this election cycle may have transformed Michaels from a “pariah to prophet of doom.”

The piece cited Lilla and quoted Michaels saying this about campus conversations about diversity: “To me, the whole discourse of microaggression and safe spaces is what comes after farce. It’s a pantomime performed of theorizing inequality among people who are the beneficiaries of the fundamental inequality and structures of our society. And it’s probably more useful to the right than the left.”

Michaels added, “People often say that having faculty and students of people of color is really important because they represent their people. But I don’t think there’s any poor white person or lower-middle-class person who sees the rich kids at Harvard [University] and think they’re there because they represent me. No, they think, ‘These rich kids get to go to Harvard, and people like me don’t.’ When you see that kind of pantomime on campus, what you see is a fuck-you to everyone else that is suffering.”

Conor Freidersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic who’s been critical of “victimhood culture” on college campuses, wrote that liberals — or at least opponents of Donald Trump — need to get better at persuading those outside their circles, “rather than leaning so heavily on stigmatizing those who disagree with them.” The reason? Politically weaponizing stigma — in this case, that one is guilty of various “-isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) — doesn’t work.

For example, he said, Sanders was recently criticized for telling a supporter who said she wanted to be the second Latina senator that it wasn’t “good enough” to stand on that platform alone. (“This is where there is going to be division within the Democratic party,” Sanders said, for reference. “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”) Freidersdorf argued that it is actually insulting to assume that Sanders had assumed the woman had no identity beyond her ethnicity and — sounding something like Lilla — wrote, “The Vermont senator clearly presumed that a Latina candidate would [emphasis his] have an agenda beyond being Latina, and argued that she must articulate it, in addition to her identity, if she hoped to win enough voters to gain election.”

In the same vein, Freidersdorf offered a discussion of why it’s wrong to overuse the term “white supremacist” (John McWhorter, associate professor of English at Columbia, recently argued in Time that it seems “any white person who disagrees with a non-white one’s opinion about race issues is given the label”) and said, “The insularity and biases at work here are a significant reason that the academy, and growing parts of the press who mistake its subculture for conventional wisdom, are increasingly unable to reach anyone that doesn’t share an educational background many intellectuals now think of as normal but that is, in fact, unusual even among college students in the U.S., never mind the rest of the world. Why does this insular subculture think stigmatization of this sort will succeed beyond it?”

In all, those receptive to Lilla’s argument tend to see academe as setting the cultural and political tone for all liberals — particularly with regard to diversity — when campus life is in fact detached from the class, economic and other forces shaping the lives of average voters. It’s another take on what some have long said about academe, and what many said the day after Trump’s election: that academe is “out of touch” with America.

White Supremacy in Code?

Yet Lilla’s piece met with at least as much criticism as it did praise — so much so that the Times’s David Leonhardt devoted to it a column summing up various critiques as follows: “The core criticism was that Lilla was wrong to suggest the political left deserves blame for initiating the focus on racial (and other) groups.”

In other words, if identity politics are so bad, why did Trump prevail when he was practicing his own not-so-subtle brand? And to assert that white identity politics ever went away only to come back with a vengeance this election cycle is to engage in a chicken-or-egg argument: Is the so-called “whitelash” a reaction to the left’s identity politics, or has it been there all along, necessitating identity liberalism? Interestingly, Lilla himself wrote that “Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists.”

The label of “identity politics” is mostly ridiculous whenever used, because American politics historically was based on white male identity

— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) November 20, 2016

Leonhardt also said that while Lilla’s view “fits with the postelection conventional wisdom: that Democrats must do better appealing to the white working class to regain power,” Democrats “need to be careful about alienating their current constituencies — particularly since many of those constituencies are growing.”

Other critics said Lilla had whitewashed history or, worse, offered a coded defense of white nationalism or supremacy.

Writing for The Hunto, a group blog on early American history, Jonathan Wilson, an instructor at Marywood University and the University of Scranton, called Lilla’s piece a response to a real problem: that in contemporary America, “demands for inclusion, equality and dignity often seem [emphasis his] to be made in the name of particular groups rather than in the name of the common good.” He reserved judgment on the “complicated” question of whether the perception is accurate, but took issue with Lilla’s invocation and rosy interpretation of U.S. history.

Lilla “seems to assume that a natural relationship links U.S. constitutional architecture and democratic politics,” yet any “practical harmony that exists between these things is actually the legacy of highly divisive political warfare at many different points in the past,” Wilson said. “Across the 19th century, the most important bases of women’s activism — including international republicanism and socialism, antislavery activism, and Christian moralism — were vulnerable to a critique much like the one Lilla [offers]. At key points, women’s rights activism was an indictment of the American state far more than an appeal to common ground. Moreover, the most momentous assertions of human rights in early America — those of antislavery activists — ran a gamut that included denouncing the entire American constitutional settlement.”

Moreover, Wilson said, in arguing that liberals must appeal “to Americans as Americans,” Lilla “overlooks the fact that Americanness itself is a particular constructed identity — and therefore, that any politics of the national common good is an identity politics.”

Scott Lemieux, assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, wrote in a post to the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money that Lilla’s piece was fundamentally “self-refuting” and otherwise problematic. He accused Lilla of trivializing issues such as affirmative action, Black Lives Matter and gay rights while attempting to praise them, and of offering thin to no evidence to back up his claims. For example, Lemieux said, Sanders — who emphasized class and downplayed identity arguably more than any other presidential candidate — attracted major attention from college students, or those whom Lilla claimed assume “diversity discourse exhausts political discourse.” And President Reagan, whom Lilla praised, practiced his own identity politics, Lemieux said.

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor at Columbia Law School, offered what she called an even more “harsh indictment” of her campus colleague, comparing him to David Duke, former leader of the KKK. On the Los Angeles Review of Books blog, Franke wrote of Lilla’s proposal, “Let me be blunt: this kind of liberalism is a liberalism of white supremacy. It is a liberalism that regards the efforts of people of color and women to call out forms of power that sustain white supremacy and patriarchy as a distraction. It is a liberalism that figures the lives and interests of white men as the neutral, unmarked terrain around which a politics of ‘common interest’ can and should be built. And it is a liberalism that regards the protests of people of color and women as a complaint or a feeling, ignoring the facts upon which those protests are based — facts about real dead, tortured, raped and starved bodies.”

The liberalism Lilla espouses “reduces these facts of human suffering and the systems of power that produce that suffering as beside the point,” she said [emphasis hers]. “What matters are liberal values and the idea of America as a ‘shining city on a hill’ that deserves our allegiance, not our protest.”

An election that defies expert expectations deserves to be explored. But it’s unclear if Lilla’s piece will do more than just validate those already critical of the left’s focus on diversity and anger those who see identity as being as perennial and urgent a question as that of class, war, the economy or the common good. Like any worthy academic endeavor, untangling the many threads of the 2016 election — and academe’s role in it — will take time.

‘On Target’ or Another ‘Dog Whistle’? More Reactions

In the interim, a few additional scholars shared their thoughts with Inside Higher Ed.

April Kelly-Woessner, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College — and like Haidt, a member of the executive committee at Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars who want a more politically diverse academy — said social identity isn’t a problem on its own. But higher education’s approach to it is a “recipe for group conflict.” Campus conversations about social identity follow a false narrative fueled by “campus orthodoxy,” she said, and those who challenge it risk (quoting Hillary Clinton) being thrown into a basket with other “deplorables.”

“If the goal of higher education is to shift the balance of power between groups by declaring war on those who have benefited from historical privilege, we should keep doing what we are doing,” Kelly-Woessner said via email. “This will intensify group conflict, create more hate incidents on campus and fuel the rise of the alt-right.” But if the goal is to “educate so that people no longer find others strange and threatening, and thus are willing to share power, we need to change our tactic.” First, “we have to create an environment that fosters political tolerance and allows for people to engage in discourse without fear of being punished or vilified. Second, we need to make a real effort to incorporate a range of viewpoints and perspectives into the conversation.”

That doesn’t mean inviting the KKK to campus, she added. “But we do need to make sure the academy is not a giant echo chamber for liberal views, disconnected from the rest of society.”

For the “purpose of education, we need to have some conversations about difference. But we need to have many more conversations about our common values and shared humanity.”

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University who wrote in his own recent essay for Inside Higher Ed that today’s students are too “diversity sensitive” and that educators should help them “understand diversity as a social theory, not a sacred goal,” said Friday that he found Lilla “largely on target.”

Lilla “pinpoints what is the great weakness of diversity thinking,” Bauerlein said of the perceived insularity of young voters. “It doesn’t give us a rich, multicultural plurality in the public square that maintains differences but makes them a source of joy and pride. Instead, it produces group niches in the public square, with lots of parochialism and posturing, and measures of cynicism and suspicion.”

Regarding Lilla’s treatment of the “whitelash” argument — that eventually everyone will join in identity politics, including the groups against which such politics originally worked — Bauerlein said he “nicely marks the irony of other groups criticizing rural whites for their self-dramatizing victimhood.”

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom who wrote a highly critical book about Trump, took a different view, saying that if liberals “stop talking about race and identity and discrimination, it won’t stop the alt-right from talking about race in ways that still promote the delusion that white people are an oppressed group. We need a deeper understanding of oppression that includes class, but not one that pretends racism no longer exists.”

While too many campus diversity efforts are “superficial and stupid, aimed at avoiding controversy rather than confronting and encouraging it,” ending identity politics will only make “diversity more of an empty slogan,” Wilson added. The solution? Or, rather, what it’s not? Silencing talk about identity “because it upsets too many conservative white people” — what Wilson called the “political correctness of the right.”

“The problem we face is not a fixation on diversity, but a fixation on avoiding diversity,” he said. “There is no conflict between the liberal fight for racial justice, women’s rights, gay rights and the liberal fight for economic equality. Not only can we fight for justice on all fronts, but we must do so because they are often interconnected.”

Kenneth Monteiro, dean of country’s only freestanding College of Ethnic Studies, at San Francisco State University, said Lilla’s piece was largely unoriginal and white supremacist in its framing, a kind of coded catnip for those already predisposed to his line of thinking. For example, Monteiro said, Lilla’s exploration of how diversity should shape “our” politics “only parses from a white perspective.” Monteiro also challenged the assertion that schools are “fixated” on diversity, when, he said, the vast majority (using Lilla’s example) of high school history curricula are still devoted to white people. Over all, Lilla seemed to treat “diversity as a euphemism for people of color” rather than a truly inclusive concept.

Monteiro argued that identity liberalism doesn’t really exist, but is another neat, marketable euphemism for someone or something that doesn’t conform to an “acceptable role as defined by white nationalism.” Such language is like “intellectual crack cocaine to a culture addicted to it for generations,” he said.

Not all of Lilla’s critics found his arguments worthy of response, however. Asked to share his reading of “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he “couldn’t find enough in the writing” to warrant one.

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Point and counterpoint is the rhythm of academic life, but some ideas elicit more of a response than others. Case in point: scholars and other intellectuals have spent the past couple of weeks debating “The End of Identity Liberalism,” an opinion piece by Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, in The New York Times.

Attempting to explain -- as so many have -- Donald Trump’s success in the recent election, Lilla blamed the political left’s affinity for what he called “identity liberalism.” He described college and university campuses as ground zero for a brand of liberalism that focuses on individual identity and diversity to the exclusion of other perennial but urgent questions about “class, war, the economy and the common good.” And while Lilla said he considers the U.S. “an extraordinary success story” in terms of diversity, he argued that that brand of liberalism cost the left the election and resulted in its “repugnant” outcome.

Lilla presumably opposes Trump but said his supporters are logically reacting “against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by ‘political correctness.’” Essentially, Lilla argued, “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.”

Arguing for a ‘Postidentity Liberalism’

“Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the ‘campus craziness’ that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to,” Lilla wrote. “Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in ‘His Majesty’?

Lilla -- echoing common arguments against contemporary approaches to the humanities -- advocated instead for a “postidentity liberalism,” which “should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism.” High school history curricula, for example, “anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.” While the achievements of, say, women’s rights movements, “were real and important,” he wrote, “you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.”

Such a liberalism would, over all, “concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them,” Lilla said. “It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.” And as for “narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)”

Lilla’s piece struck chords -- consonant and dissonant -- with scholars and other thinkers across disciplines and political persuasions. Some responded directly or with their own think pieces on the perceived ills or value of identity liberalism or its much-critiqued cousin, identity politics.

‘The Trouble With Diversity’

First the praise. Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at New York University who has previously criticized the direction of campus diversity efforts, tweeted that “The End of Identity Liberalism” was the best thing he’d read all week.

The Chicago Reader, somewhat coincidentally, ran an interview with Walter Benn Michaels, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, upon the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of his 2006 book, The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. Calling the book “prescient” in arguing that liberals are satisfied by diverse inequality (think racially diverse student bodies at the Ivy Leagues, or gender diversity among chief executives) and so risk alienating the working class, the newspaper said that this election cycle may have transformed Michaels from a “pariah to prophet of doom.”

The piece cited Lilla and quoted Michaels saying this about campus conversations about diversity: “To me, the whole discourse of microaggression and safe spaces is what comes after farce. It's a pantomime performed of theorizing inequality among people who are the beneficiaries of the fundamental inequality and structures of our society. And it's probably more useful to the right than the left.”

Michaels added, “People often say that having faculty and students of people of color is really important because they represent their people. But I don't think there's any poor white person or lower-middle-class person who sees the rich kids at Harvard [University] and think they're there because they represent me. No, they think, 'These rich kids get to go to Harvard, and people like me don't.' When you see that kind of pantomime on campus, what you see is a fuck-you to everyone else that is suffering.”

Conor Freidersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic who’s been critical of “victimhood culture” on college campuses, wrote that liberals -- or at least opponents of Donald Trump -- need to get better at persuading those outside their circles, “rather than leaning so heavily on stigmatizing those who disagree with them.” The reason? Politically weaponizing stigma -- in this case, that one is guilty of various “-isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) -- doesn’t work.

For example, he said, Sanders was recently criticized for telling a supporter who said she wanted to be the second Latina senator that it wasn’t “good enough” to stand on that platform alone. (“This is where there is going to be division within the Democratic party,” Sanders said, for reference. “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”) Freidersdorf argued that it is actually insulting to assume that Sanders had assumed the woman had no identity beyond her ethnicity and -- sounding something like Lilla -- wrote, “The Vermont senator clearly presumed that a Latina candidate would [emphasis his] have an agenda beyond being Latina, and argued that she must articulate it, in addition to her identity, if she hoped to win enough voters to gain election.”

In the same vein, Freidersdorf offered a discussion of why it’s wrong to overuse the term “white supremacist” (John McWhorter, associate professor of English at Columbia, recently argued in Time that it seems "any white person who disagrees with a non-white one’s opinion about race issues is given the label") and said, “The insularity and biases at work here are a significant reason that the academy, and growing parts of the press who mistake its subculture for conventional wisdom, are increasingly unable to reach anyone that doesn’t share an educational background many intellectuals now think of as normal but that is, in fact, unusual even among college students in the U.S., never mind the rest of the world. Why does this insular subculture think stigmatization of this sort will succeed beyond it?”

In all, those receptive to Lilla’s argument tend to see academe as setting the cultural and political tone for all liberals -- particularly with regard to diversity -- when campus life is in fact detached from the class, economic and other forces shaping the lives of average voters. It’s another take on what some have long said about academe, and what many said the day after Trump’s election: that academe is “out of touch” with America.

White Supremacy in Code?

Yet Lilla’s piece met with at least as much criticism as it did praise -- so much so that the Times’s David Leonhardt devoted to it a column summing up various critiques as follows: “The core criticism was that Lilla was wrong to suggest the political left deserves blame for initiating the focus on racial (and other) groups.”

In other words, if identity politics are so bad, why did Trump prevail when he was practicing his own not-so-subtle brand? And to assert that white identity politics ever went away only to come back with a vengeance this election cycle is to engage in a chicken-or-egg argument: Is the so-called “whitelash” a reaction to the left’s identity politics, or has it been there all along, necessitating identity liberalism? Interestingly, Lilla himself wrote that “Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists.”

Leonhardt also said that while Lilla’s view “fits with the postelection conventional wisdom: that Democrats must do better appealing to the white working class to regain power,” Democrats “need to be careful about alienating their current constituencies -- particularly since many of those constituencies are growing.”

Other critics said Lilla had whitewashed history or, worse, offered a coded defense of white nationalism or supremacy.

Writing for The Hunto, a group blog on early American history, Jonathan Wilson, an instructor at Marywood University and the University of Scranton, called Lilla's piece a response to a real problem: that in contemporary America, “demands for inclusion, equality and dignity often seem [emphasis his] to be made in the name of particular groups rather than in the name of the common good.” He reserved judgment on the “complicated” question of whether the perception is accurate, but took issue with Lilla’s invocation and rosy interpretation of U.S. history.

Lilla “seems to assume that a natural relationship links U.S. constitutional architecture and democratic politics,” yet any “practical harmony that exists between these things is actually the legacy of highly divisive political warfare at many different points in the past,” Wilson said. “Across the 19th century, the most important bases of women’s activism -- including international republicanism and socialism, antislavery activism, and Christian moralism -- were vulnerable to a critique much like the one Lilla [offers]. At key points, women’s rights activism was an indictment of the American state far more than an appeal to common ground. Moreover, the most momentous assertions of human rights in early America -- those of antislavery activists -- ran a gamut that included denouncing the entire American constitutional settlement.”

Moreover, Wilson said, in arguing that liberals must appeal “to Americans as Americans,” Lilla “overlooks the fact that Americanness itself is a particular constructed identity -- and therefore, that any politics of the national common good is an identity politics.”

Scott Lemieux, assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, wrote in a post to the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money that Lilla’s piece was fundamentally “self-refuting” and otherwise problematic. He accused Lilla of trivializing issues such as affirmative action, Black Lives Matter and gay rights while attempting to praise them, and of offering thin to no evidence to back up his claims. For example, Lemieux said, Sanders -- who emphasized class and downplayed identity arguably more than any other presidential candidate -- attracted major attention from college students, or those whom Lilla claimed assume “diversity discourse exhausts political discourse.” And President Reagan, whom Lilla praised, practiced his own identity politics, Lemieux said.

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor at Columbia Law School, offered what she called an even more “harsh indictment” of her campus colleague, comparing him to David Duke, former leader of the KKK. On the Los Angeles Review of Books blog, Franke wrote of Lilla’s proposal, “Let me be blunt: this kind of liberalism is a liberalism of white supremacy. It is a liberalism that regards the efforts of people of color and women to call out forms of power that sustain white supremacy and patriarchy as a distraction. It is a liberalism that figures the lives and interests of white men as the neutral, unmarked terrain around which a politics of ‘common interest’ can and should be built. And it is a liberalism that regards the protests of people of color and women as a complaint or a feeling, ignoring the facts upon which those protests are based -- facts about real dead, tortured, raped and starved bodies.”

The liberalism Lilla espouses “reduces these facts of human suffering and the systems of power that produce that suffering as beside the point,” she said [emphasis hers]. “What matters are liberal values and the idea of America as a ‘shining city on a hill’ that deserves our allegiance, not our protest.”

An election that defies expert expectations deserves to be explored. But it’s unclear if Lilla’s piece will do more than just validate those already critical of the left’s focus on diversity and anger those who see identity as being as perennial and urgent a question as that of class, war, the economy or the common good. Like any worthy academic endeavor, untangling the many threads of the 2016 election -- and academe's role in it -- will take time.

‘On Target’ or Another ‘Dog Whistle’? More Reactions

In the interim, a few additional scholars shared their thoughts with Inside Higher Ed.

April Kelly-Woessner, professor of political science at Elizabethtown College -- and like Haidt, a member of the executive committee at Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars who want a more politically diverse academy -- said social identity isn’t a problem on its own. But higher education’s approach to it is a “recipe for group conflict.” Campus conversations about social identity follow a false narrative fueled by “campus orthodoxy,” she said, and those who challenge it risk (quoting Hillary Clinton) being thrown into a basket with other “deplorables.”

“If the goal of higher education is to shift the balance of power between groups by declaring war on those who have benefited from historical privilege, we should keep doing what we are doing,” Kelly-Woessner said via email. “This will intensify group conflict, create more hate incidents on campus and fuel the rise of the alt-right.” But if the goal is to “educate so that people no longer find others strange and threatening, and thus are willing to share power, we need to change our tactic.” First, “we have to create an environment that fosters political tolerance and allows for people to engage in discourse without fear of being punished or vilified. Second, we need to make a real effort to incorporate a range of viewpoints and perspectives into the conversation.”

That doesn’t mean inviting the KKK to campus, she added. “But we do need to make sure the academy is not a giant echo chamber for liberal views, disconnected from the rest of society.”

For the “purpose of education, we need to have some conversations about difference. But we need to have many more conversations about our common values and shared humanity.”

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University who wrote in his own recent essay for Inside Higher Ed that today’s students are too “diversity sensitive” and that educators should help them “understand diversity as a social theory, not a sacred goal,” said Friday that he found Lilla “largely on target.”

Lilla “pinpoints what is the great weakness of diversity thinking,” Bauerlein said of the perceived insularity of young voters. “It doesn't give us a rich, multicultural plurality in the public square that maintains differences but makes them a source of joy and pride. Instead, it produces group niches in the public square, with lots of parochialism and posturing, and measures of cynicism and suspicion.”

Regarding Lilla’s treatment of the “whitelash” argument -- that eventually everyone will join in identity politics, including the groups against which such politics originally worked -- Bauerlein said he “nicely marks the irony of other groups criticizing rural whites for their self-dramatizing victimhood.”

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom who wrote a highly critical book about Trump, took a different view, saying that if liberals “stop talking about race and identity and discrimination, it won’t stop the alt-right from talking about race in ways that still promote the delusion that white people are an oppressed group. We need a deeper understanding of oppression that includes class, but not one that pretends racism no longer exists.”

While too many campus diversity efforts are “superficial and stupid, aimed at avoiding controversy rather than confronting and encouraging it,” ending identity politics will only make “diversity more of an empty slogan,” Wilson added. The solution? Or, rather, what it’s not? Silencing talk about identity “because it upsets too many conservative white people” -- what Wilson called the “political correctness of the right.”

“The problem we face is not a fixation on diversity, but a fixation on avoiding diversity,” he said. “There is no conflict between the liberal fight for racial justice, women’s rights, gay rights and the liberal fight for economic equality. Not only can we fight for justice on all fronts, but we must do so because they are often interconnected.”

Kenneth Monteiro, dean of country’s only freestanding College of Ethnic Studies, at San Francisco State University, said Lilla’s piece was largely unoriginal and white supremacist in its framing, a kind of coded catnip for those already predisposed to his line of thinking. For example, Monteiro said, Lilla’s exploration of how diversity should shape “our” politics “only parses from a white perspective.” Monteiro also challenged the assertion that schools are “fixated” on diversity, when, he said, the vast majority (using Lilla’s example) of high school history curricula are still devoted to white people. Over all, Lilla seemed to treat “diversity as a euphemism for people of color” rather than a truly inclusive concept.

Monteiro argued that identity liberalism doesn’t really exist, but is another neat, marketable euphemism for someone or something that doesn’t conform to an “acceptable role as defined by white nationalism.” Such language is like “intellectual crack cocaine to a culture addicted to it for generations,” he said.

Not all of Lilla’s critics found his arguments worthy of response, however. Asked to share his reading of “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he “couldn't find enough in the writing” to warrant one.

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West Virginia University lets controversial speaker appear and answers his attack on professor

Milo Yiannopoulos has for months now been a source of controversy on campuses. The Breitbart editor goes beyond criticizing his targets — liberals, feminists, minority and gay student groups (although he is gay). He mocks them with language that leads many to feel personally attacked and demeaned.

A number of colleges and universities have called off his appearances, citing a range of issues, from the content of his talks to the need for extra security. Some have said that he could appear only if higher than normal fees are charged for security. These responses have drawn criticism not only from Yiannopoulos but from advocates for free expression who don’t necessarily agree with Yiannopoulos. Many have argued that public universities covered by the First Amendment and private institutions committed to its principles have no choice but to permit him to speak.

West Virginia University didn’t bar him. When the university’s Republican student group invited Yiannopoulos to speak, which he did on Thursday, the university did not equivocate on his right to speak. But when Yiannopoulos singled out a professor with personal, mocking criticism, students — with the support of President E. Gordon Gee — took to social media to defend the professor.

Gee sent a message to the campus Friday in which he said that he understood the anger of many that Yiannopoulos had been invited and permitted to speak on campus. But Gee said that there was no responsible choice but to let the lecture take place.

“I will always support the decision to bring a speaker to campus and our community — no matter how controversial. We never want to censor a person’s right to free speech. It is through listening to people who think differently from others that we learn about the world and discover who we really are. And I believe that is one of the most valuable experiences one can have on a college campus,” Gee wrote.

But he went on to say that free speech works both ways. Support for free speech, Gee wrote, “does not mean I, as president, lose my First Amendment right to speak up and condemn what is presented. I will never support the tactics of any speaker who brings unsubstantiated and false attacks against a member of our Mountaineer family. It is one thing to share differing opinions that others may find offensive. It is another to be defamatory and target individuals. I personally condemn the tactic this speaker chose to vindictively attack one of our faculty members, Daniel Brewster.”

During his talk, Yiannopoulos posted a photo of Brewster on a screen with the label “Fat Faggot.” (It should be noted that Yiannopoulos refers to his campus speaking tour as the “dangerous faggot tour,” and he may view “fat” as a greater insult than what is normally a slur for gay people, but he throws around the antigay slur with a different tone than when he is talking about his tour.)

In his talk, Yiannopoulos started by denigrating Brewster’s discipline, using rhetoric many conservatives use about some areas of study. “Professor Brewster teaches sociology, which comes in just above gender studies in my rankings of ‘burger-flipping majors’ — but not very far above,” he said. “I hear he’s fond of bullying conservative students, who often find themselves compelled to leave his class midlecture. I hear he’s hosting a, and I quote, ‘multicultural LGBTQ event’ at this very second.”

Yiannopoulos went on to say that he had heard that Brewster discourages conservative students from expressing their views or punishes them with poor grades. Brewster opted not to answer Yiannopoulos, but his students have said that there are differences of opinion aired in class all the time. What particularly upset many at West Virginia was the way Yiannopoulos kept repeating personal insults while discussing things such as Brewster’s Twitter biography and photograph (seen above).

For instance, Yiannopoulos said, “Professor Fat Ass’s Twitter profile contains this quote: ‘I welcome the fact that students feel safer knowing that I will be an advocate for them and that I am willing to fight for their rights and their inclusion.’ Well that’s not true, is it, Professor Stuff Your Face With Froot Loops?”

Responding to Yiannopoulos’s comments about Brewster, Gee said that “while the university will always be committed to creating an open forum that supports free speech, we are also strongly committed to keeping our campus and local communities inclusive and safe.” Gee added that “for far too long, we have been yelling at each other instead of listening to each other. We use the First Amendment to speak language that hurts rather than heals. We use social media and anonymous emails to tear each other down instead of lifting each other up.”

Gee also praised — and participated in — a social media campaign to defend Brewster. Using the hashtag #BecauseofBrewster, students and others wrote about the difference he had made at WVU (and elsewhere — he is a popular speaker with college groups promoting inclusiveness). Gee noted that in the 12 hours after Yiannopoulos’s talk, more than 185,000 people saw a social media post praising the professor who had been attacked.

The actions of one individual do not represent our WVU, and we do not stand for intolerance. #BecauseofBrewster we are better.

— E. Gordon Gee (@gordongee) December 2, 2016

#BecauseOfBrewster I recognized the opportunity to have a positive impact on this campus through @wvusga and I can’t thank him enough for it

— Aaron Whitlock (@aaronw8228) December 2, 2016

#BecauseOfBrewster I am more educated on the world around me and even more confident in my own skin. My WVU experience would not be the same

— lizzie b (@asap_liz) December 2, 2016

#BecauseOfBrewster I have been inspired to be courageous and to stand up for what is RIGHT! #ForGood

— Jihad D. Dixon (@JDixonWVU) December 2, 2016

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Milo Yiannopoulos has for months now been a source of controversy on campuses. The Breitbart editor goes beyond criticizing his targets -- liberals, feminists, minority and gay student groups (although he is gay). He mocks them with language that leads many to feel personally attacked and demeaned.

A number of colleges and universities have called off his appearances, citing a range of issues, from the content of his talks to the need for extra security. Some have said that he could appear only if higher than normal fees are charged for security. These responses have drawn criticism not only from Yiannopoulos but from advocates for free expression who don't necessarily agree with Yiannopoulos. Many have argued that public universities covered by the First Amendment and private institutions committed to its principles have no choice but to permit him to speak.

West Virginia University didn't bar him. When the university's Republican student group invited Yiannopoulos to speak, which he did on Thursday, the university did not equivocate on his right to speak. But when Yiannopoulos singled out a professor with personal, mocking criticism, students -- with the support of President E. Gordon Gee -- took to social media to defend the professor.

Gee sent a message to the campus Friday in which he said that he understood the anger of many that Yiannopoulos had been invited and permitted to speak on campus. But Gee said that there was no responsible choice but to let the lecture take place.

"I will always support the decision to bring a speaker to campus and our community -- no matter how controversial. We never want to censor a person’s right to free speech. It is through listening to people who think differently from others that we learn about the world and discover who we really are. And I believe that is one of the most valuable experiences one can have on a college campus," Gee wrote.

But he went on to say that free speech works both ways. Support for free speech, Gee wrote, "does not mean I, as president, lose my First Amendment right to speak up and condemn what is presented. I will never support the tactics of any speaker who brings unsubstantiated and false attacks against a member of our Mountaineer family. It is one thing to share differing opinions that others may find offensive. It is another to be defamatory and target individuals. I personally condemn the tactic this speaker chose to vindictively attack one of our faculty members, Daniel Brewster."

During his talk, Yiannopoulos posted a photo of Brewster on a screen with the label "Fat Faggot." (It should be noted that Yiannopoulos refers to his campus speaking tour as the "dangerous faggot tour," and he may view "fat" as a greater insult than what is normally a slur for gay people, but he throws around the antigay slur with a different tone than when he is talking about his tour.)

In his talk, Yiannopoulos started by denigrating Brewster's discipline, using rhetoric many conservatives use about some areas of study. "Professor Brewster teaches sociology, which comes in just above gender studies in my rankings of 'burger-flipping majors' -- but not very far above," he said. "I hear he’s fond of bullying conservative students, who often find themselves compelled to leave his class midlecture. I hear he’s hosting a, and I quote, 'multicultural LGBTQ event' at this very second."

Yiannopoulos went on to say that he had heard that Brewster discourages conservative students from expressing their views or punishes them with poor grades. Brewster opted not to answer Yiannopoulos, but his students have said that there are differences of opinion aired in class all the time. What particularly upset many at West Virginia was the way Yiannopoulos kept repeating personal insults while discussing things such as Brewster's Twitter biography and photograph (seen above).

For instance, Yiannopoulos said, "Professor Fat Ass’s Twitter profile contains this quote: 'I welcome the fact that students feel safer knowing that I will be an advocate for them and that I am willing to fight for their rights and their inclusion.' Well that’s not true, is it, Professor Stuff Your Face With Froot Loops?"

Responding to Yiannopoulos's comments about Brewster, Gee said that "while the university will always be committed to creating an open forum that supports free speech, we are also strongly committed to keeping our campus and local communities inclusive and safe." Gee added that "for far too long, we have been yelling at each other instead of listening to each other. We use the First Amendment to speak language that hurts rather than heals. We use social media and anonymous emails to tear each other down instead of lifting each other up."

Gee also praised -- and participated in -- a social media campaign to defend Brewster. Using the hashtag #BecauseofBrewster, students and others wrote about the difference he had made at WVU (and elsewhere -- he is a popular speaker with college groups promoting inclusiveness). Gee noted that in the 12 hours after Yiannopoulos's talk, more than 185,000 people saw a social media post praising the professor who had been attacked.

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Southern California professor stabbed to death by student

Bosco Tjan, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, was stabbed to death by a student Friday afternoon.

C. L. Max Nikias, president of the university, sent a message to the campus late Friday in which he said that campus police officers “apprehended the suspect on the scene” and that the suspect was a student. The murder took place in the campus building where Tjan worked.

Meghan Aguilar of the Los Angeles Police Department told the Los Angeles Times that the suspect was a man in his 20s and that the Tjan was the intended victim. “We want to make clear this was not a random act,” Aguilar said. “This victim was targeted by the suspect.”

UPDATE: The suspect, who has been arrested, is David Jonathan Brown, a Ph.D. student in the lab Tjan led.

Tjan was co-director of the Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center. His research was in perception, vision and vision cognition. His laboratory has received support from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health and from the National Science Foundation.

On social media, some who knew him mourned his loss.

The death of Bosco Tjan is an enormous loss for USC. Such a rare combination of intelligence and humor. Will miss him greatly.

— Jonas Kaplan (@Jonas_Kaplan) December 3, 2016

Lost my long time mentor and friend today. Words cannot express how much of an impact Bosco Tjan made on my life. Huge loss.

— Chris Purington (@chrispycrittr) December 3, 2016

In a profile of Tjan in the Los Angeles Times, his colleagues described him as caring and constantly going the extra mile to help others with their research. Mara Mather, a professor of gerontology and psychology at Southern California, said, “One of my students, who is now a faculty member, was describing how [Tjan] would take the time to really explain things to her …. He was someone who made it all work and really helped out so many people.” An Associated Press article quoted graduate students who worked with Tjan saying they shared the faculty members’ admiration, and they did not know of any conflicts between Tjan and Brown.

Murders of faculty members by students or former students are rare but not unheard-of. In June, a former graduate student shot and killed William S. Klug, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. The former student then killed himself.

Last year, a student was charged with threatening to kill a professor at Embry-Riddle University, allegedly over a failing grade. A student at El Camino College was arrested this year after authorities said he sent messages threatening to kill a professor, also over a grade.

Sometimes attacks by a student on a professor have nothing to do with grades or the professor personally.

A Salem State University student was charged in March for stabbing a professor more than 20 times. Officials said there was no connection between the student and the professor, who survived.

Going back over the last 20 years, professors have been killed by students or former students at the Appalachian School of Law, California State University at Los Angeles, San Diego State University and the Universities of Arizona and Arkansas at Fayetteville. The victims of the 2007 mass killings at Virginia Tech — perpetrated by a student — included students and faculty members. A professor was among those killed last year in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed after a prior murder of a faculty member, Ann Franke, president of Wise Results, a consulting firm that advises colleges on legal issues and risk management, outlined patterns in such violence. She said that the norm in such cases is for the attacker to be male, for the attacks to happen on campus and for the source of the attacker’s anger to go well beyond a grade (although that may be a spark).

“These are people who perceive themselves to have serious problems in multiple sectors of their lives,” Franke said.

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Bosco Tjan, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, was stabbed to death by a student Friday afternoon.

C. L. Max Nikias, president of the university, sent a message to the campus late Friday in which he said that campus police officers "apprehended the suspect on the scene" and that the suspect was a student. The murder took place in the campus building where Tjan worked.

Meghan Aguilar of the Los Angeles Police Department told the Los Angeles Times that the suspect was a man in his 20s and that the Tjan was the intended victim. “We want to make clear this was not a random act,” Aguilar said. “This victim was targeted by the suspect.”

UPDATE: The suspect, who has been arrested, is David Jonathan Brown, a Ph.D. student in the lab Tjan led.

Tjan was co-director of the Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center. His research was in perception, vision and vision cognition. His laboratory has received support from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health and from the National Science Foundation.

On social media, some who knew him mourned his loss.

In a profile of Tjan in the Los Angeles Times, his colleagues described him as caring and constantly going the extra mile to help others with their research. Mara Mather, a professor of gerontology and psychology at Southern California, said, “One of my students, who is now a faculty member, was describing how [Tjan] would take the time to really explain things to her …. He was someone who made it all work and really helped out so many people.” An Associated Press article quoted graduate students who worked with Tjan saying they shared the faculty members' admiration, and they did not know of any conflicts between Tjan and Brown.

Murders of faculty members by students or former students are rare but not unheard-of. In June, a former graduate student shot and killed William S. Klug, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. The former student then killed himself.

Last year, a student was charged with threatening to kill a professor at Embry-Riddle University, allegedly over a failing grade. A student at El Camino College was arrested this year after authorities said he sent messages threatening to kill a professor, also over a grade.

Sometimes attacks by a student on a professor have nothing to do with grades or the professor personally.

A Salem State University student was charged in March for stabbing a professor more than 20 times. Officials said there was no connection between the student and the professor, who survived.

Going back over the last 20 years, professors have been killed by students or former students at the Appalachian School of Law, California State University at Los Angeles, San Diego State University and the Universities of Arizona and Arkansas at Fayetteville. The victims of the 2007 mass killings at Virginia Tech -- perpetrated by a student -- included students and faculty members. A professor was among those killed last year in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed after a prior murder of a faculty member, Ann Franke, president of Wise Results, a consulting firm that advises colleges on legal issues and risk management, outlined patterns in such violence. She said that the norm in such cases is for the attacker to be male, for the attacks to happen on campus and for the source of the attacker's anger to go well beyond a grade (although that may be a spark).

"These are people who perceive themselves to have serious problems in multiple sectors of their lives," Franke said.

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Ohio State administrator faces calls for her dismissal after she calls for compassion for student who stabbed others

An Ohio State University administrator has set off a controversy — and is facing calls for her dismissal — after calling for compassion for Abdul Razak Ali Artan. On Monday, Artan drove into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building, got out of his car and stabbed several people with a butcher knife before he was shot and killed. Officials have said he may have been inspired by terrorist groups.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson, assistant director of residence life, posted a message to Facebook (restricted to those to whom she was connected and asking that it not be shared) reacting to the way some have been posting images of Artan’s dead body and celebrating his death.

Her post was shared, and quickly spread to people who were offended by it, many of whom have shared it widely, calling for her to be fired. She has deleted the post, gone silent on social media and not responded to press requests for interviews.

More than 1,100 people have signed an online petition demanding Thompson’s dismissal.

“Stephanie Clemons Thompson used Facebook as a public platform to shame those who were grateful and relieved the terrorist was taken out so quickly, preventing even more unthinkable terror and destruction in his wake,” the petition says. “Because this man was taken out so quickly his goal of murder was foiled and his victims will live on. Stephanie Clemons Thompson, however, condemns this sentiment of relief by prioritizing the feelings of the terrorist over his innocent victims, their families, and the Buckeye community as a whole.”

Many comments on social media have focused on Thompson’s inclusion of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and have noted Thompson’s work on diversity issues at Ohio State. The petition mentions the hashtag as well.

“Furthermore, bringing the group #BlackLivesMatter into her post as a defense to these heinous acts only further promotes the violent and racially divided rhetoric being flooded by our media,” the petition says “That racial divide goes against the morals and principals OSU stands for. Her actions, as an employee, reflect on the university.”

The university has disputed the idea that she was representing Ohio State.

A spokesman told The Washington Post that Thompson’s Facebook post  “clearly is not an official statement of the university and represents her own personal viewpoint.”

Many of the posts on social media state as fact that Artan was a terrorist (federal officials have said that he may have been and they are studying the possibility) and accused Thompson of supporting a terrorist. Many of the posts use words like “moron” or “dumb” (or worse) to describe her.

One comment on the website of The Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State, said: “By using hashtags like blacklivesmatter and sayhisname, she is conflating someone who actively tried to MURDER his fellow students with black citizens who were killed unnecessarily by police officers. She is implying, if not outright saying, that the death of someone committing an act of terror aimed at students under her watch was wrong. She has no place at a University where she is an a position of trust and responsibility. IF a student came to her and said, ‘I’m thinking of hurting other people,’ would you trust her to communicate this to proper authorities and prevent potential bloodshed? I sure don’t! She would probably sit on the information in the name of inclusion.”

Others are defending Thompson. Many who have worked with her have praised Thompson for her commitment to students.

And others are saying that her words have been distorted, that she didn’t endorse terrorism, but called for basic human decency.

 

Last time I checked, asking people to refrain from celebrating a death wasn’t something you could be fired for #Buckeyes4Stephanie

— WOMEN’S CENTER!!!!!! (@Capittalism) December 1, 2016

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University, posted a series of tweets defending Thompson. Among them: “Don’t be silent student affairs pros. Don’t be intimidated. She’s not the threat. This person & attitude like theirs are. Block & report.” and “Fired for what exactly? Being compassionate? Reminding the community that we shouldn’t gloat over someone’s death? Nope” and “This is the kind of professional *I* want working with students on my campus who uses whatever means at her disposal to support all students.”

 

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An Ohio State University administrator has set off a controversy -- and is facing calls for her dismissal -- after calling for compassion for Abdul Razak Ali Artan. On Monday, Artan drove into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building, got out of his car and stabbed several people with a butcher knife before he was shot and killed. Officials have said he may have been inspired by terrorist groups.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson, assistant director of residence life, posted a message to Facebook (restricted to those to whom she was connected and asking that it not be shared) reacting to the way some have been posting images of Artan's dead body and celebrating his death.

Her post was shared, and quickly spread to people who were offended by it, many of whom have shared it widely, calling for her to be fired. She has deleted the post, gone silent on social media and not responded to press requests for interviews.

More than 1,100 people have signed an online petition demanding Thompson's dismissal.

"Stephanie Clemons Thompson used Facebook as a public platform to shame those who were grateful and relieved the terrorist was taken out so quickly, preventing even more unthinkable terror and destruction in his wake," the petition says. "Because this man was taken out so quickly his goal of murder was foiled and his victims will live on. Stephanie Clemons Thompson, however, condemns this sentiment of relief by prioritizing the feelings of the terrorist over his innocent victims, their families, and the Buckeye community as a whole."

Many comments on social media have focused on Thompson's inclusion of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and have noted Thompson's work on diversity issues at Ohio State. The petition mentions the hashtag as well.

"Furthermore, bringing the group #BlackLivesMatter into her post as a defense to these heinous acts only further promotes the violent and racially divided rhetoric being flooded by our media," the petition says "That racial divide goes against the morals and principals OSU stands for. Her actions, as an employee, reflect on the university."

The university has disputed the idea that she was representing Ohio State.

A spokesman told The Washington Post that Thompson's Facebook post  “clearly is not an official statement of the university and represents her own personal viewpoint.”

Many of the posts on social media state as fact that Artan was a terrorist (federal officials have said that he may have been and they are studying the possibility) and accused Thompson of supporting a terrorist. Many of the posts use words like "moron" or "dumb" (or worse) to describe her.

One comment on the website of The Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State, said: "By using hashtags like blacklivesmatter and sayhisname, she is conflating someone who actively tried to MURDER his fellow students with black citizens who were killed unnecessarily by police officers. She is implying, if not outright saying, that the death of someone committing an act of terror aimed at students under her watch was wrong. She has no place at a University where she is an a position of trust and responsibility. IF a student came to her and said, 'I’m thinking of hurting other people,' would you trust her to communicate this to proper authorities and prevent potential bloodshed? I sure don’t! She would probably sit on the information in the name of inclusion."

Others are defending Thompson. Many who have worked with her have praised Thompson for her commitment to students.

And others are saying that her words have been distorted, that she didn't endorse terrorism, but called for basic human decency.

 

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University, posted a series of tweets defending Thompson. Among them: "Don't be silent student affairs pros. Don't be intimidated. She's not the threat. This person & attitude like theirs are. Block & report." and "Fired for what exactly? Being compassionate? Reminding the community that we shouldn't gloat over someone's death? Nope" and "This is the kind of professional *I* want working with students on my campus who uses whatever means at her disposal to support all students."


 

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Pulse podcast features interview about Sway, Microsoft’s new presentation software

This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features a discussion with Jill Sitnick, a technology strategist at Microsoft, about Sway, the company’s new mobile graphic presentation tool.

In the conversation with Rodney B. Murray, the host of “The Pulse,” Sitnick talks about how Sway complements and differs from PowerPoint, Microsoft’s established program for creating presentations for the workplace and the classroom. Among other topics: Sway’s use in the classroom and its collaboration tools.

You can watch a screencast of the interview here.

“The Pulse” is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, and Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.

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This month's edition of the “Pulse” podcast features a discussion with Jill Sitnick, a technology strategist at Microsoft, about Sway, the company’s new mobile graphic presentation tool.

In the conversation with Rodney B. Murray, the host of “The Pulse,” Sitnick talks about how Sway complements and differs from PowerPoint, Microsoft's established program for creating presentations for the workplace and the classroom. Among other topics: Sway's use in the classroom and its collaboration tools.

You can watch a screencast of the interview here.

“The Pulse” is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, and Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.

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Scholar complains of how long it can take to publish interdisciplinary science

An academic who battled for almost five years to get his research into a journal has spoken out about the problems with publishing interdisciplinary science.

Enrique Martin-Blanco, a principal investigator at the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelo…

An academic who battled for almost five years to get his research into a journal has spoken out about the problems with publishing interdisciplinary science.

Enrique Martin-Blanco, a principal investigator at the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona, said that anonymous peer reviews from “extremely opinionated physicists” tried to censor his paper.

He added that the research provided an alternative to an established methodological analysis that has been used for years by some physicists, who did not like the idea.

The research, which took three years to complete and then a further four years and seven months to get published, features in the Nov. 15 edition of The Embo Journal.

Martin-Blanco, who has previously published in high-impact journals such as Science, told Times Higher Education, “I do not know how many hundreds of versions of this paper I have.” He sent the paper to 11 different journals to be assessed 16 times by 22 reviewers before it was published and wrote thousands of emails about it.

He said he continually got feedback from physicist reviewers that the analysis could not be done, despite having data to back up his theory.

“We were getting comments like ‘We don’t believe it’ [and] ‘It is not possible on theoretical point of view’ because it was a challenging way of doing new physics,” he said. “They didn’t like it.”

Although he has no proof, Martin-Blanco, a molecular biologist, said he thought some physicists did not want the paper to be published. “I have found physicists extremely opinionated and bound to concepts that they do not [want] to change,” he said.

“Interdisciplinary papers are difficult to evaluate and analyze,” he said, adding that communication between biologists and physicists is “not yet fluid.”

“[That] it took that long was unfortunate, but it shows how badly the reviewing and publishing system works in some scientific fields.”

“Reviewers potentially behave very badly and react against things that go against their own interest. Of course this is [an] anonymous reviewing system, so you cannot fight back,” he said.

“The editors are influenced by the reviewers and in many cases do not have the scientific background to make decisions based on scientific terms,” he added.

In fact, the paper took so long to be published that one of the first co-authors, who had the original idea for the research, died before it saw the light of day.

Martin-Blanco said the delays had caused a “nightmare” for his laboratory as staff became “frustrated” that their careers were on hold. “The environment in the laboratory occasionally became very tense, because with every rejection people stop trusting you,” he said.

He said that delays in getting out the paper, which used hydrodynamic equations to analyze an elastic cortex in zebra fish, also affected his ability to secure new research grants and attract new staff to his team.

He added that he can now submit for publication two or three further papers on this area of research that have been languishing because they needed to reference the methods used in the original paper.

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In outlining commitments to undocumented immigrant students, some presidents avoid term ‘sanctuary’

Since the election, leaders of dozens of colleges and universities across the country have faced protests and petition drives calling on them to declare their institutions “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented immigrant students.

The calls…

Since the election, leaders of dozens of colleges and universities across the country have faced protests and petition drives calling on them to declare their institutions “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented immigrant students.

The calls have come from students, alumni, faculty and staff who are concerned about the prospect of stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws under a Donald J. Trump presidency and the possible elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, under which more than 700,000 young people have gained temporary protection from the possibility of deportation.

As formal responses to the various sanctuary campus petitions from college leaders have begun to roll in, some presidents have walked a fine line, outlining specific ways in which their institutions will not as a matter of policy voluntarily cooperate with federal officials in immigration law enforcement while avoiding adoption of the politically charged -- from some perspectives toxic -- term “sanctuary.”

In one such letter, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said the university would protect its undocumented immigrant students “to the maximum extent that the law allows …. For example, we do not disclose private information about our students, faculty or staff to law enforcement officers unless we are presented with a subpoena or comparably binding requirement.”

At the same time, Eisgruber rejected the “sanctuary” label as counterproductive and potentially dangerous, writing that immigration lawyers consulted by Princeton “have told us that this concept has no basis in law, and that colleges and universities have no authority to exempt any part of their campuses from the nation’s immigration laws.”

“As a constitutional scholar myself, I agree with that judgment and believe that it connects to one of the country’s most basic principles: its commitment to the rule of law,” Eisgruber wrote. “That principle deserves special attention in this uncertain and contentious time. In a country that respects the rule of law, every person and every official, no matter what office he or she may hold, is subject to the law and must respect the rights of others. Princeton University will invoke that principle in courts and elsewhere to protect the rights of its community and the individuals within it. But we jeopardize our ability to make those arguments effectively, and may even put our DACA students at greater risk, if we suggest that our campus is beyond the law’s reach.”

To proponents of the movement, the adoption of the term “sanctuary campus” represents a powerful statement of a university’s commitment to protect some of its most vulnerable students, those who lack legal immigration status. And some college presidents -- including those at Portland State University, Reed College and Wesleyan University, have embraced the term, in each instance defining “sanctuary campus” in terms of limiting the university’s voluntary assistance with immigration enforcement actions while leaving open the possibility that they could be legally compelled to cooperate. For example, Reed President John R. Kroger wrote, “Reed will not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the investigation of the immigration status of our students, staff or faculty absent a direct court order,” while Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth wrote that the institution “will not voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal government to deport our students, faculty or staff solely because of their citizenship status.”

Similarly, Portland State University President Wim Wiewel wrote that the university “will not facilitate or consent to immigration enforcement activities on our campus unless legally compelled to do so or in the event of clear exigent circumstances such as an imminent risk to the health or safety of others” and that it “will not share confidential student information, such as immigration status, with the federal government unless required by court order.”

“We as a community share a commitment to the protection and support of all of our students, regardless of immigration status, national origin, religion or any similar characteristics,” Wiewel wrote. “Therefore, we declare that Portland State University is a sanctuary campus dedicated to the principles of equity, diversity and safety.”

But even advocates for undocumented immigrant students have questioned the usefulness of the “sanctuary” term. Writing an opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed, Michael A. Olivas, an expert on immigration and higher education law and the acting president of the University of Houston Downtown, described the term “sanctuary” as lacking in legal meaning and “too fraught with restrictionist meanings or misunderstandings about the difference between ‘defying the law’ or choosing not to implement discretionary practices.”

“To many folks, the term depicts a defiance of law and serves as a trope for unauthorized immigration and liberal pieties,” Olivas wrote. “That it has become tinged with racist and anti-Mexican sentiment renders the term even more poisonous. One person’s safe harbor is another person’s harboring, in the dueling metaphors, if not the actual immigration law.”

The term “sanctuary campus” is a twist on the idea of “sanctuary cities,” which as a matter of policy limit their cooperation with federal requests to hold immigrants in detention. President-elect Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, and there’s reason to think “sanctuary campuses” could face similar threats.

In Georgia, the chair of the higher education appropriations subcommittee in the state House of Representatives, Earl Ehrhart, decided to put forward legislation barring institutions that violate federal or state laws from receiving state funds after Emory University issued a letter suggesting it was considering sanctuary campus status. Emory President Claire E. Sterk’s letter to students, staff and faculty did not make any commitments to the sanctuary campus idea either way, but said only that “a letter requesting the need for a sanctuary campus and ways to protect all members of the Emory community is being reviewed by the university leadership.”

“If they’re going of follow the law, they can’t be a sanctuary campus,” said Representative Ehrhart, a Republican from the greater Atlanta area. “They’re mutually exclusive. Consequently, I’m going to attempt to pass legislation that makes it clear up front that state funding will be lost if you don’t follow the law. It’ll be a real clear consequence. If they go ahead and declare themselves a sanctuary, they’ll lose their state funding.”

Emory, in a statement, said the university “follows all federal laws and policies and will continue to do so … Emory University’s administration received a petition from a group of students, faculty and staff. The petition outlines concerns arising from the possible elimination of DACA. Emory administrators are evaluating the petition in an inclusive process to determine how best to serve those in our community whose immigration status may put them at risk.”

At Vanderbilt University, the student government on Wednesday voted 26 to one, with one abstention, in favor of a resolution calling on the university to become a sanctuary campus. The day before, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos had issued a letter addressing the sanctuary campus call.

“We do not have the option of refusing to follow the law, but I want to emphasize that we are not a law enforcement agency. We are a university,” Zeppos wrote. “We are served by Vanderbilt University Police Department, and no VUPD officer is permitted to undertake an inquiry into the citizenship or immigration status of our students or others on our campus. We do not routinely release to the public or to public officials any citizenship or immigration information that may be in our possession, unless compelled to do so by law.”

Zeppos declined an interview request. Tariq Thachil, an associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt involved with a petition drive for a sanctuary campus, said that organizers “appreciate the fact that he’s coming out and clarifying some of the positions. I think we still would want to seek a little bit further clarification, because there’s some ambiguity in the language” -- specifically, Thachil said, in relation to the use of the words “undertake” and “routinely.”

Lisa Guenther, an associate professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt, described Zeppos’s letter as “encouraging but vague.”

“One thing that disturbed me about the letter was that the chancellor framed the sanctuary campus movement as a commitment to lawlessness, as if the students were asking Vanderbilt to directly defy the law,” Guenther said. “He says in his letter we can’t break the law, but the sanctuary campus movement is not a call for lawlessness. Every campus that has declared itself a sanctuary has made it clear that they cannot provide sanctuary in defiance of, for example, a warrant for the arrest of someone.”

Guenther acknowledged, however, that a petition to Zeppos she helped organize calling on Vanderbilt to publicly declare itself a sanctuary campus is not nuanced in regard to that distinction. Rather, the petition, which Guenther said uses language put forward by student activists, proposes “cutting ties with all law enforcement agencies that collaborate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP),” “refusing law enforcement agencies who collaborate with ICE access to any Vanderbilt properties or information,” and “instituting a policy prohibiting campus police from inquiring about immigration status, enforcing immigration laws or participating with ICE/CBP in actions.” The petition also calls for Vanderbilt to refuse “to cooperate with any ‘registration’ system that seeks to target or surveil Muslims.”

“I see that as a kind of opening gambit,” Guenther said of the proposals put forward in the petition. “Now I think we’re trying to move into the phase of trying to formulate some commitments that we all can live with and that are actually legally possible to implement.”

Two other letters and statements sent by university leaders this week identify specific commitments to supporting students who lack legal status to live in the U.S. while avoiding use of the word “sanctuary” altogether. The president’s office at the University of California announced on Wednesday that it would “vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of the undocumented members of the UC community and will direct its police departments not to undertake joint efforts with any government agencies to enforce federal immigration law.” UC articulated the following specific commitments for all of its campuses and medical facilities:

  • “The university will continue to admit students consistent with its nondiscrimination policies so that undocumented students will be considered for admission under the same criteria as U.S. citizens or permanent residents.”
  • “No confidential student records will be released without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order, unless authorized by the student or required by law.”
  • “No UC campus police department will undertake joint efforts with local, state or federal law enforcement agencies to investigate, detain or arrest individuals for violation of federal immigration law.”
  • “Campus police officers will not contact, detain, question or arrest any individual solely on the basis of (suspected) undocumented immigration status.”
  • “The university will not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry of individuals based on any protected characteristics such as religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation.”
  • “UC medical centers will treat all patients without regard to race, religion, national origin, citizenship or other protected characteristics and will vigorously enforce nondiscrimination and privacy laws and policies.”

Meanwhile, a letter sent by Harvard University President Drew Faust on Monday reiterated the policy of the university police department to not inquire about the immigration status of students, faculty or staff and said that the department is not involved in enforcing federal immigration laws. Further, Faust wrote that the university “will not voluntarily share information on the immigration status of undocumented members of our community” and that “law enforcement officials seeking to enter campus are expected to check in first with the [Harvard University Police Department] and, in cases involving the enforcement of the immigration laws, will be required to obtain a warrant.”

Faust’s letter includes no mention of the word “sanctuary,” a fact that a university spokesman declined to comment on -- and a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by activists involved in the PUSH, or Protect Undocumented Students at Harvard, movement, who wrote an op-ed to The Harvard Crimson calling Faust out on the omission.

“Declaring Harvard University as a sanctuary campus is more than a symbolic gesture, as it is a necessary step in reaffirming the university’s commitment to undocumented students and students from mixed-status families,” they wrote.

“Declaring Harvard as a sanctuary campus would also stand as a denouncement of a heightened culture of xenophobia and bias that renders certain communities vulnerable, particularly undocumented students, students of color, LGBTQ students and Muslim students. In addition to reaffirming the university’s commitment against voluntary cooperation with federal immigration authorities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol, Harvard’s status as a sanctuary campus would also involve the university’s refusal to cooperate with any registration system that seeks to surveil and identify Muslim community members. We reject the notion that the desired label carries no substantive value and uphold our belief in the power of words to influence our community’s culture and collective identity.”

“Many of the students recognize that the administration is making an effort to meet some of the students’ demands without embracing the label, and we question the reasons behind that reluctance,” said Miguel Garcia, a senior at Harvard and one of the authors of the Crimson letter. He added, “We understand that the reasons are financial and political.”

“I believe their approach is to say, ‘Let’s provide these protections, let’s not make a big ruckus,’” Garcia continued, “when the reality is that many students are afraid, and we don’t have room or time for the richest university in the world to be afraid.”

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Sanctuary campus protest at Rutgers University
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College police say recent incidents serve as reminder of dangers of the job

Hundreds of police officers and police dogs lined the street outside Detroit’s Ford Field on Wednesday to honor the Wayne State University police officer who was shot and killed last week. Inside the stadium, the officer’s body laid in a casket as one of his own police dogs stood nearby. The officer, Collin Rose, was shot and killed Nov. 22 while conducting a traffic stop in a neighborhood near campus.

“As police officers, we’re trained to prepare for any incident, except one: losing a fellow officer in the line of duty,” Anthony Holt, Wayne State’s chief of police, said Thursday during Rose’s funeral.

At the funeral and other memorial services this week, Rose was praised for his work with local elementary school children, his “trademark smile” and his willingness to travel on his own dime to police officers’ funerals. He named one of his dogs, Wolverine, after the nickname of an officer whose funeral he attended. Rose (at right), who was 29, was also described as a longtime friend of the local animal shelter where his fiancée worked. When he died, the officer was just one credit short of earning a master’s degree in criminal justice — a degree that Wayne State will now award him posthumously, along with a promotion to sergeant.

Rose is the first Wayne State police officer to die while on duty, but his death is one of many recent incidents that college police say serve as reminder of how dangerous the job can be.

“The perceptions that many people have long held is that college campuses are especially safe places,” said Randy Burba, chief of police at Chapman University and president of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators. “Not unlike our colleagues who are policing professionals in municipal and county departments, we work very hard to preserve many aspects of our college and university campuses across the country that make those perceptions largely accurate even today. But it is important to recognize that the violence that has imbued our cities and communities has sadly encroached upon and remained a visible element of the national landscape of higher education.”

On Monday, a Ohio State University student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove a speeding car into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building before jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing several people with a butcher knife. Eleven people, mostly students, were injured in the attack. All are expected to survive. An Ohio State police officer, Alan Horujko, was near the scene at the time, investigating reports of a gas leak. Within two minutes of the student’s car jumping the curb, Horujko shot and killed him.

“He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” Craig Stone, Ohio State’s police chief, said Monday.

University and U.S. officials have not yet confirmed Artan’s motive, but Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the student “may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.” The Islamic State also claimed Tuesday that the student was inspired by the terror organization. Calling the student “a soldier” of ISIS, the group said that he “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries.” The organization, which released the statement through its news service, did not claim to have advance knowledge of Artan’s actions, though it has repeatedly called on its followers to conduct independent “lone wolf” attacks.

A similar attack took place last year at the University of California, Merced. Over the course of 15 minutes, Faisal Mohammad, a first-year student, stabbed two other students, a university staff member and a construction worker. Campus police chased Mohammad to the university’s Scholar’s Lane bridge, where they shot and killed him. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the student was acting alone but had been inspired by ISIS.

“The job has always been dangerous, and perhaps even more so than policing in a city because there is a perception that campuses are safer,” William Taylor, chief of police at Collin College in Texas and former president of IACLEA, said. “And generally they are. However, anything that can happen off campus can happen on campus.”

In July, two officers at El Centro College were shot and injured during a deadly sniper attack on Dallas police. The El Centro officers were guarding the entrance to the college when the sniper shot out the glass doors. One officer — with bullet fragments still lodged in his stomach — helped chase after the sniper.

In 2014, a former Florida State University student opened fire outside the university’s Strozier Library, injuring three people. Hundreds of students were inside the library when the man, Myron May, began shooting outside the building with a semiautomatic handgun. May then entered the library, shot a student library employee and reloaded his gun before returning outside to face police. Police and the gunman fired more than 30 rounds at one another before May was shot and killed.

A year earlier, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sean Collier (left), was shot and killed in his patrol car by the two men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred earlier that week. Collier had been responding to reports of a disturbance on campus, which turned out to be the Tsarnaev brothers. Thousands from MIT — and police officers from throughout the Boston region — attended a memorial service (at right) for Collier, who was 27 when he died.

“No area is immune from this type of violence, including college campuses,” David Perry, chief of police at Florida State, said. “It’s happening everywhere, and incidents like what happened at Ohio State are a reminder that everyone has to be prepared, from the police officers to the students and employees on campus. I would say in the last five to seven years, campus police have significantly improved their procedures in preparing for these events. We’ve began to talk about it more because of the frequency of events around the country.”

In the past decade, campus police officers have gained new legal authority and have become increasingly armed. According to a report released in January by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 70 percent of colleges and universities in 2012 operated full law enforcement agencies with sworn police officers. About 94 percent of those officers were authorized to use a firearm. In total, 75 percent of campuses said they used armed officers in 2012, compared to the 68 percent of colleges when the survey was last conducted in 2005.

At the same time, college campuses are among the safest locations in the country, and were so even prior to the increase in armed officers. The same Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that campus agencies recorded 45 violent crimes per 100,000 students in 2012. A separate report found that, between 1995 and 2002, adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who were not enrolled in college experienced 24 percent more violence than college students.

But Burba, president of IACLEA, said that the attacks at UC Merced, Florida State and Ohio State demonstrate why college police can’t let that perception of safety lead to complacency. Increasingly, through memorandums of understanding signed with local law enforcement, college police are also called on to patrol and protect areas surrounding campus. That’s what Rose, the Wayne State officer, was doing when he was shot last week.

This blurring of jurisdictional lines has led not only to campus police helping protect people during national tragedies, but also placed them at the center of national debates. Last year, a University of Cincinnati police officer followed a car off campus before pulling it over for not having front license plates. Within minutes, the driver of the car — an unarmed black man — was dead. The officer, who was white, had killed the driver. The killing sparked protests on campus and across the city.

The officer was charged with murder, but a jury was unable to reach a verdict in November, and the judge declared a mistrial. A date for a retrial has not been set.

Last July, the university agreed to undergo an intuitional review of its police force and to enter what is called the Collaborative Agreement, a document created in 2002 by the Cincinnati police force, the city government, the Cincinnati Black United Front and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The document details ways police officers and members of communities can work together to improve relationships between citizens and law enforcement; educate the public on police procedures; and improve hiring, education and accountability.

“I feel strongly that the culture of violence that continues to more rapidly and fully intrude upon campuses of higher education must bring solutions that resolve the inconsistencies in how we staff, train, empower and resource campus law enforcement professionals,” Burba said, “so that college and university campuses do not become the assumed ‘weakest link’ in any community in terms of safety and security.”

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Police officers and their dogs line the streets to honor a Wayne State officer who was killed last week.
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Hundreds of police officers and police dogs lined the street outside Detroit’s Ford Field on Wednesday to honor the Wayne State University police officer who was shot and killed last week. Inside the stadium, the officer’s body laid in a casket as one of his own police dogs stood nearby. The officer, Collin Rose, was shot and killed Nov. 22 while conducting a traffic stop in a neighborhood near campus.

“As police officers, we’re trained to prepare for any incident, except one: losing a fellow officer in the line of duty,” Anthony Holt, Wayne State’s chief of police, said Thursday during Rose’s funeral.

At the funeral and other memorial services this week, Rose was praised for his work with local elementary school children, his "trademark smile" and his willingness to travel on his own dime to police officers' funerals. He named one of his dogs, Wolverine, after the nickname of an officer whose funeral he attended. Rose (at right), who was 29, was also described as a longtime friend of the local animal shelter where his fiancée worked. When he died, the officer was just one credit short of earning a master's degree in criminal justice -- a degree that Wayne State will now award him posthumously, along with a promotion to sergeant.

Rose is the first Wayne State police officer to die while on duty, but his death is one of many recent incidents that college police say serve as reminder of how dangerous the job can be.

“The perceptions that many people have long held is that college campuses are especially safe places,” said Randy Burba, chief of police at Chapman University and president of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators. “Not unlike our colleagues who are policing professionals in municipal and county departments, we work very hard to preserve many aspects of our college and university campuses across the country that make those perceptions largely accurate even today. But it is important to recognize that the violence that has imbued our cities and communities has sadly encroached upon and remained a visible element of the national landscape of higher education.”

On Monday, a Ohio State University student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove a speeding car into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building before jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing several people with a butcher knife. Eleven people, mostly students, were injured in the attack. All are expected to survive. An Ohio State police officer, Alan Horujko, was near the scene at the time, investigating reports of a gas leak. Within two minutes of the student's car jumping the curb, Horujko shot and killed him.

“He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” Craig Stone, Ohio State’s police chief, said Monday.

University and U.S. officials have not yet confirmed Artan’s motive, but Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the student “may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.” The Islamic State also claimed Tuesday that the student was inspired by the terror organization. Calling the student “a soldier” of ISIS, the group said that he “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries.” The organization, which released the statement through its news service, did not claim to have advance knowledge of Artan's actions, though it has repeatedly called on its followers to conduct independent “lone wolf” attacks.

A similar attack took place last year at the University of California, Merced. Over the course of 15 minutes, Faisal Mohammad, a first-year student, stabbed two other students, a university staff member and a construction worker. Campus police chased Mohammad to the university’s Scholar’s Lane bridge, where they shot and killed him. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the student was acting alone but had been inspired by ISIS.

“The job has always been dangerous, and perhaps even more so than policing in a city because there is a perception that campuses are safer,” William Taylor, chief of police at Collin College in Texas and former president of IACLEA, said. “And generally they are. However, anything that can happen off campus can happen on campus.”

In July, two officers at El Centro College were shot and injured during a deadly sniper attack on Dallas police. The El Centro officers were guarding the entrance to the college when the sniper shot out the glass doors. One officer -- with bullet fragments still lodged in his stomach -- helped chase after the sniper.

In 2014, a former Florida State University student opened fire outside the university’s Strozier Library, injuring three people. Hundreds of students were inside the library when the man, Myron May, began shooting outside the building with a semiautomatic handgun. May then entered the library, shot a student library employee and reloaded his gun before returning outside to face police. Police and the gunman fired more than 30 rounds at one another before May was shot and killed.

A year earlier, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sean Collier (left), was shot and killed in his patrol car by the two men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred earlier that week. Collier had been responding to reports of a disturbance on campus, which turned out to be the Tsarnaev brothers. Thousands from MIT -- and police officers from throughout the Boston region -- attended a memorial service (at right) for Collier, who was 27 when he died.

“No area is immune from this type of violence, including college campuses,” David Perry, chief of police at Florida State, said. “It’s happening everywhere, and incidents like what happened at Ohio State are a reminder that everyone has to be prepared, from the police officers to the students and employees on campus. I would say in the last five to seven years, campus police have significantly improved their procedures in preparing for these events. We’ve began to talk about it more because of the frequency of events around the country.”

In the past decade, campus police officers have gained new legal authority and have become increasingly armed. According to a report released in January by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 70 percent of colleges and universities in 2012 operated full law enforcement agencies with sworn police officers. About 94 percent of those officers were authorized to use a firearm. In total, 75 percent of campuses said they used armed officers in 2012, compared to the 68 percent of colleges when the survey was last conducted in 2005.

At the same time, college campuses are among the safest locations in the country, and were so even prior to the increase in armed officers. The same Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that campus agencies recorded 45 violent crimes per 100,000 students in 2012. A separate report found that, between 1995 and 2002, adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who were not enrolled in college experienced 24 percent more violence than college students.

But Burba, president of IACLEA, said that the attacks at UC Merced, Florida State and Ohio State demonstrate why college police can’t let that perception of safety lead to complacency. Increasingly, through memorandums of understanding signed with local law enforcement, college police are also called on to patrol and protect areas surrounding campus. That’s what Rose, the Wayne State officer, was doing when he was shot last week.

This blurring of jurisdictional lines has led not only to campus police helping protect people during national tragedies, but also placed them at the center of national debates. Last year, a University of Cincinnati police officer followed a car off campus before pulling it over for not having front license plates. Within minutes, the driver of the car -- an unarmed black man -- was dead. The officer, who was white, had killed the driver. The killing sparked protests on campus and across the city.

The officer was charged with murder, but a jury was unable to reach a verdict in November, and the judge declared a mistrial. A date for a retrial has not been set.

Last July, the university agreed to undergo an intuitional review of its police force and to enter what is called the Collaborative Agreement, a document created in 2002 by the Cincinnati police force, the city government, the Cincinnati Black United Front and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The document details ways police officers and members of communities can work together to improve relationships between citizens and law enforcement; educate the public on police procedures; and improve hiring, education and accountability.

"I feel strongly that the culture of violence that continues to more rapidly and fully intrude upon campuses of higher education must bring solutions that resolve the inconsistencies in how we staff, train, empower and resource campus law enforcement professionals," Burba said, "so that college and university campuses do not become the assumed ‘weakest link’ in any community in terms of safety and security."

Students and Violence
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Wayne State University
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Police officers and their dogs line the streets to honor a Wayne State officer who was killed last week.
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