Furman U guarantees internships, research opportunities and mentors for each student

Last month, faculty members at Furman University voted unanimously to scrap their university’s mission and install a new one.

Today the liberal arts university, which is located in South Carolina, announced the Furman Advantage, which will guarantee students access to “real-world experiences” alongside their academics. Those experiences could include internships, externships, community service, research opportunities or study abroad.

“We’re being purposeful about every student who walks through the door,” said Ken Peterson, dean of faculty at the university and co-chair of a committee to oversee the initiative. “From the time they arrive to the time they leave, we’re trying to leverage our programs to produce an excellent experience for every student.”

The university wants to send a strong message to students and their parents: Furman is working hard to prepare students for jobs and postgraduate lives.

The promise of a four-year pathway from college to career will be funded by a $47 million gift from the Duke endowment. It will be bolstered by mentors who not only guide students, but also encourage them to critically engage in and reflect on their experiences. That information will be gathered and analyzed by Furman in a Gallup-style data system.

“What is the right combination of experiences that help put our students on the path for their success in life, success in careers and deep commitment to improving the quality of life in the communities where they live and work?” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis.

Those are not only questions that Furman will try to answer through the data, but also challenges the university is trying to tackle through Furman Advantage — challenges affecting both students and the institution.

Origin of the Furman Advantage

The university’s real-world experience guarantee germinated from a report Furman commissioned from the research firm Art & Science Group. The charge: to dig into data and look at its enrollment numbers. There wasn’t an enormous problem, said Ben Edwards, the researcher who put together the report; both Furman’s yield and conversion rates were “OK but not great,” he said.

Freshman enrollment numbers have fluctuated over the past few years. In 2011, Furman had 794 incoming freshmen, but that dropped by nearly 100 students in 2012, when the university enrolled 697 incoming students. After modifying its admissions strategy — targeting out-of-state students who had less need for financial aid — the number of matriculating freshmen rose to 759 students in 2013. Those numbers are still low and reflect a competitive environment, said Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.

In addition, students Furman accepted but who decided not to attend opted to enroll at universities that weren’t comparable, such as large public institutions. This is pretty common among liberal arts admissions, Edwards said. Students across the nation increasingly are choosing larger, metropolitan-based institutions.

Furman was left with a question: How could the university set itself apart and attract more students?

“The key factor at play here is one of perceived value,” Edwards said. “You have an institution that’s charging more than competitors, which have honors programs to try and attract top students. You can’t offer SEC football, and you’re a smaller city. You have to prove your value in a way that the market could understand.”

At Furman, that meant using its assets — balancing preprofessional experiences with academics and engaging students in the community — to create a structured campuswide system that would set itself apart.

Outlook for the Liberal Arts

In several respects, the Furman Advantage is unique. And it represents the direction in which many liberal arts institutions may be headed.

“Years ago at conferences, you used to see a discussion about liberal arts or careerism,” said Brandon Busteed of Gallup. “Now I’m no longer seeing ‘or.’ It’s ‘and’ — how to better integrate meaningful work experiences with liberal arts colleges.”

A handful of colleges have established similar systems, such as Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s successful co-op program was established over 100 years ago. The system’s goal is to intertwine academics with real-world experience.

The University of Cincinnati uses a similar approach. And several other institutions have created smaller programs or additions to the curriculum, though these are rarely at the institutionwide scale of Furman’s experiment.

When it comes to liberal arts institutions, a larger leap is better than smaller steps, according to Edwards.

“It takes something concerted and comprehensive to give people a reason to enroll,” Edwards said. “The nature of what we found — study after study — was that schools can’t simply be a little bit more global, or offer a little more career counseling. They have to stand out.”

The first part of Furman’s gift from the Duke endowment, which is worth $22 million, was awarded last fall for scholarships. The remaining $25 million is meant to jump-start the Furman Advantage. It has several specific purposes:

  • Student funding for unpaid internships or research projects;
  • An entirely new IT infrastructure in order to track student data and link mentors to students;
  • Professional development for faculty and staff, who will be trained in mentoring; and
  • Unallocated funds, for expenses that have not yet been identified.

“If we’re going to make this promise for every student, we’re going to need more dollars. We need to be able to increase the stipends and give students more access to that money,” Davis said, adding that the initial gift isn’t “enough to execute the whole thing, but it will get us started.”

Formalizing the Mentor Role

Furman already has a rich culture of faculty members offering guidance to students, Peterson said. But one essential piece of the new vision is institutionalizing a system of mentoring.

“We need to figure out how to build the mentor teams — I’m mindful that simply having an algorithm to match Mentor A with Person B is probably not the way to go,” Peterson said. “So what we really need to do is foster a culture of relationships.”

Faculty members will not be the only ones to serve as mentors. Students will have mentor teams during their time at Furman, and those teams may consist of staff members, administrators, internship advisers and alumni — people outside academia — along with faculty.

One danger of this requirement is the possibility that mentoring will take away from employees’ other requirements, such as research and teaching, said Lynn Pasquerella, the new president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the primary liberal education membership group in higher education.

That’s why Furman is investing money in professional development: faculty and staff will be trained on a new approach to mentorship.

“One thing we don’t want to do is burden the faculty with more tasks,” Davis said. “We want to change the conversation … so that students are really guided along individual pathways much more robustly than they are right now.”

Building the Plane While Flying

Exactly how the mentoring system will work has yet to be determined. Although the faculty voted to endorse the Furman Advantage last month, many particulars of the program still are not set in stone.

When Davis announced her vision to the faculty in December, ambiguity around specifics caused some skepticism.

“Faculty members are not used to endorsing a vision without all the details of the plan,” Peterson said. “It took them a while to get used to that idea that the initiatives are going to come from the faculty and staff, but that they will be coming from the boundaries of the vision.”

Over the course of the next semester, Davis and a council that is overseeing the work — which has representatives from every department and staff members from student life — hosted forums where professors could voice concerns and questions. Faculty members also were welcome to contribute feedback through an online portal.

By Sept. 20, the day of the vote, faculty members were assured that the vision had two main components: every student would be guaranteed a real-world experience that related to their academic work, and every student would have a team of mentors that would encourage self-reflection.

Going forward, some aspects of the Furman Advantage may take three years to fully integrate into the university, such as building a new IT system.

Other aspects, such as how students will complete their real-world experience, will vary from program to program. Some departments may research programs for certain majors; others may require students to reach out to alumni to talk about careers. Those details will be decided within the next year.

“The vision is not going to change, but how we choose to execute the vision based on the data will allow us to adapt our programs,” Davis said.

But, ultimately, administrators at Furman hope all students will graduate with a comprehensive college experience that connects their studies with their careers.

The main goal, said Peterson, is that “whether you’re an English major, a psychology major or a chemistry major, you can articulate the skills that you’ve developed in your course work or in the experiences that you’ve had in ways that the external world can understand its value.”

Colleges’ Approaches
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Furman University library
Is this breaking news?: 

Last month, faculty members at Furman University voted unanimously to scrap their university’s mission and install a new one.

Today the liberal arts university, which is located in South Carolina, announced the Furman Advantage, which will guarantee students access to “real-world experiences” alongside their academics. Those experiences could include internships, externships, community service, research opportunities or study abroad.

“We’re being purposeful about every student who walks through the door,” said Ken Peterson, dean of faculty at the university and co-chair of a committee to oversee the initiative. “From the time they arrive to the time they leave, we’re trying to leverage our programs to produce an excellent experience for every student.”

The university wants to send a strong message to students and their parents: Furman is working hard to prepare students for jobs and postgraduate lives.

The promise of a four-year pathway from college to career will be funded by a $47 million gift from the Duke endowment. It will be bolstered by mentors who not only guide students, but also encourage them to critically engage in and reflect on their experiences. That information will be gathered and analyzed by Furman in a Gallup-style data system.

“What is the right combination of experiences that help put our students on the path for their success in life, success in careers and deep commitment to improving the quality of life in the communities where they live and work?” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis.

Those are not only questions that Furman will try to answer through the data, but also challenges the university is trying to tackle through Furman Advantage -- challenges affecting both students and the institution.

Origin of the Furman Advantage

The university’s real-world experience guarantee germinated from a report Furman commissioned from the research firm Art & Science Group. The charge: to dig into data and look at its enrollment numbers. There wasn’t an enormous problem, said Ben Edwards, the researcher who put together the report; both Furman’s yield and conversion rates were “OK but not great,” he said.

Freshman enrollment numbers have fluctuated over the past few years. In 2011, Furman had 794 incoming freshmen, but that dropped by nearly 100 students in 2012, when the university enrolled 697 incoming students. After modifying its admissions strategy -- targeting out-of-state students who had less need for financial aid -- the number of matriculating freshmen rose to 759 students in 2013. Those numbers are still low and reflect a competitive environment, said Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.

In addition, students Furman accepted but who decided not to attend opted to enroll at universities that weren’t comparable, such as large public institutions. This is pretty common among liberal arts admissions, Edwards said. Students across the nation increasingly are choosing larger, metropolitan-based institutions.

Furman was left with a question: How could the university set itself apart and attract more students?

“The key factor at play here is one of perceived value,” Edwards said. “You have an institution that’s charging more than competitors, which have honors programs to try and attract top students. You can’t offer SEC football, and you’re a smaller city. You have to prove your value in a way that the market could understand.”

At Furman, that meant using its assets -- balancing preprofessional experiences with academics and engaging students in the community -- to create a structured campuswide system that would set itself apart.

Outlook for the Liberal Arts

In several respects, the Furman Advantage is unique. And it represents the direction in which many liberal arts institutions may be headed.

“Years ago at conferences, you used to see a discussion about liberal arts or careerism,” said Brandon Busteed of Gallup. “Now I’m no longer seeing ‘or.’ It’s ‘and’ -- how to better integrate meaningful work experiences with liberal arts colleges.”

A handful of colleges have established similar systems, such as Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s successful co-op program was established over 100 years ago. The system’s goal is to intertwine academics with real-world experience.

The University of Cincinnati uses a similar approach. And several other institutions have created smaller programs or additions to the curriculum, though these are rarely at the institutionwide scale of Furman’s experiment.

When it comes to liberal arts institutions, a larger leap is better than smaller steps, according to Edwards.

“It takes something concerted and comprehensive to give people a reason to enroll,” Edwards said. “The nature of what we found -- study after study -- was that schools can’t simply be a little bit more global, or offer a little more career counseling. They have to stand out.”

The first part of Furman’s gift from the Duke endowment, which is worth $22 million, was awarded last fall for scholarships. The remaining $25 million is meant to jump-start the Furman Advantage. It has several specific purposes:

  • Student funding for unpaid internships or research projects;
  • An entirely new IT infrastructure in order to track student data and link mentors to students;
  • Professional development for faculty and staff, who will be trained in mentoring; and
  • Unallocated funds, for expenses that have not yet been identified.

“If we’re going to make this promise for every student, we’re going to need more dollars. We need to be able to increase the stipends and give students more access to that money,” Davis said, adding that the initial gift isn’t “enough to execute the whole thing, but it will get us started.”

Formalizing the Mentor Role

Furman already has a rich culture of faculty members offering guidance to students, Peterson said. But one essential piece of the new vision is institutionalizing a system of mentoring.

“We need to figure out how to build the mentor teams -- I’m mindful that simply having an algorithm to match Mentor A with Person B is probably not the way to go,” Peterson said. “So what we really need to do is foster a culture of relationships.”

Faculty members will not be the only ones to serve as mentors. Students will have mentor teams during their time at Furman, and those teams may consist of staff members, administrators, internship advisers and alumni -- people outside academia -- along with faculty.

One danger of this requirement is the possibility that mentoring will take away from employees’ other requirements, such as research and teaching, said Lynn Pasquerella, the new president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the primary liberal education membership group in higher education.

That’s why Furman is investing money in professional development: faculty and staff will be trained on a new approach to mentorship.

“One thing we don’t want to do is burden the faculty with more tasks,” Davis said. “We want to change the conversation … so that students are really guided along individual pathways much more robustly than they are right now.”

Building the Plane While Flying

Exactly how the mentoring system will work has yet to be determined. Although the faculty voted to endorse the Furman Advantage last month, many particulars of the program still are not set in stone.

When Davis announced her vision to the faculty in December, ambiguity around specifics caused some skepticism.

“Faculty members are not used to endorsing a vision without all the details of the plan,” Peterson said. “It took them a while to get used to that idea that the initiatives are going to come from the faculty and staff, but that they will be coming from the boundaries of the vision.”

Over the course of the next semester, Davis and a council that is overseeing the work -- which has representatives from every department and staff members from student life -- hosted forums where professors could voice concerns and questions. Faculty members also were welcome to contribute feedback through an online portal.

By Sept. 20, the day of the vote, faculty members were assured that the vision had two main components: every student would be guaranteed a real-world experience that related to their academic work, and every student would have a team of mentors that would encourage self-reflection.

Going forward, some aspects of the Furman Advantage may take three years to fully integrate into the university, such as building a new IT system.

Other aspects, such as how students will complete their real-world experience, will vary from program to program. Some departments may research programs for certain majors; others may require students to reach out to alumni to talk about careers. Those details will be decided within the next year.

“The vision is not going to change, but how we choose to execute the vision based on the data will allow us to adapt our programs,” Davis said.

But, ultimately, administrators at Furman hope all students will graduate with a comprehensive college experience that connects their studies with their careers.

The main goal, said Peterson, is that “whether you’re an English major, a psychology major or a chemistry major, you can articulate the skills that you’ve developed in your course work or in the experiences that you’ve had in ways that the external world can understand its value.”

Colleges' Approaches
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Furman University library
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Jewish professors at Wheelock College say they were subject to campaign of harassment

Two professors are suing Wheelock College, charging it with illegal discrimination against them as Jews, and a campaign of retaliation, allegedly to punish them for suggesting campus discussions about diversity be more inclusive of Jewish students. The college says it’s dedicated to inclusion and regrets the two plaintiffs declined to resolve their concerns outside court — an assertion they challenge. A third plaintiff, a former administrator, is also suing, alleging race-based discrimination and retaliation.

While details of the complaints are specific to Wheelock, and allegations center on its former president, the situation recalls others elsewhere in which who or what deserves consideration in the wave of new student protests has been questioned. The suits come at a time when some Jewish students and their advocates in higher education generally charge that they face an increasingly hostile campus environment.

“We don’t think this is an either-or — we are very supportive of Black Lives Matter and issues facing African-American students,” said Gail Dines, a professor and chair of American studies who is suing Wheelock, where she’s worked for 30 years. “We were absolutely fighting to talk more about diversity and inclusion, and we thought this would be an opportunity to open those talks up. … We wanted Jewish students to be included, as well.”

Dines filed her lawsuit against Wheelock last month; she was joined — via separate but related complaints — by Eric Silverman, a professor of American studies and chair of psychology and human development, and Joan Gallos, professor of leadership and former vice president for academic affairs.

Many of Dines’s and Silverman’s allegations stem from the fallout of a 2014 letter they wrote, along with several other professors, suggesting that Jewish students merited more consideration in campus inclusion efforts. The catalysts for the letter were the college’s renewed emphasis on diversity and a planned external group’s performance of The Black Jew Dialogues. (Information about the show is available here.) Silverman didn’t object to the production, according to his suit, but thought that he should have been consulted, given his published work in Jewish studies.

Former President Jackie Jenkins-Scott allegedly retaliated against Dines and Silverman, who are Jewish, by accusing them of racism in class and threatening to put them on paid leave, according to their complaints. Another administrator allegedly said in a public meeting that their letter was inappropriate and had hurt students on the Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Council who had seen it, yet those students were never named.

The professors say retaliation against them escalated when the college hired an external diversity consultant to conduct a campus climate survey. They allegedly become the de facto targets of the study and other interventions, and Dines was eventually confronted by administrators with a complaint from an unidentified student suggesting she was racist and sexist.

The consultancy, Kingston Bay Group, is named as a defendant in their suits and was not immediately available for comment.

Silverman alleges that he was blocked from promotions, including to dean of arts and sciences. When asked why he wasn’t being considered, he allegedly was told by a senior administrator that he didn’t have assistant deanship experience. Yet that wasn’t included in the job description, and the person who got the job was less qualified than Silverman, according to the suit.

Both Silverman and Dines allege that they were accused of creating a hostile teaching environment and using the N-word in class. They call the claim baseless, pointing to their records teaching social justice issues. Dines is a well-known feminist critic of the pornography industry. Silverman says he has used the term “N-word,” not the slur itself, to discuss how language can be used to demean groups. He’s been an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement on campus and off, arguing, for example, in a local 2014 op-ed that Jews should harness their position both inside and outside the mainstream — as those benefiting from “white privilege” but also historically marginalized — to support protesters. He alleges that the college’s marketing department, under Jenkins-Scott’s influence, refused to publish a copy of the op-ed, saying it would be too controversial. 

“Not long ago, we cried ‘Jewish lives matter,'” Silverman wrote. “Some of us still do. And for this reason, we must commit to making black lives matter.”

Both professors say that they have strong student evaluations of teaching, in which concerns about racism have never been raised.

Jenkins-Scott repeatedly pushed for an external investigator to look into the racism claims against the professors, according to the suit, but eventually conceded that Gallos, as vice president of academic affairs, should look into it. Saying she could find and was given no evidence, even redacted evidence, of such claims, Gallos asked to be relieved of the task. Jenkins-Scott allegedly pressed still for an outside investigation, before the Faculty Senate refused to endorse the plan, saying that it was “concerned with issues of due process and transparency on this issue.” 

In 2015, at an all-campus conference announcing the results of the consultant’s diversity report, Joe-Joe McManus, a representative of the Kingston Bay Group, allegedly said that “Jewish faculty have a problem with people of color on campus,” and that “many faculty use the N-word here at Wheelock.”

Gallos is suing for breach of contract, in addition to race-based discrimination and retaliation. Gallos, who is white, served as a vice president from 2012-15 and says she was forced to accept a lower-paid tenured teaching job after being driven out of the administration. She says Jenkins-Scott, who is black, turned on her for her legitimate efforts to improve the college though more regular communication with faculty and staff members and a “deep dive” into data on personnel and academic programs.

She says Jenkins-Scott shut her out of international education program plans, and eventually accused her of favoring white faculty and staff members — such as by saying she’d purposely not served snacks at a black professor’s presentation. At the same time, Gallos says Jenkins-Scott told her not to hire white faculty members or administrators, and expressed unusual interest in the careers of employees of color, protecting even those who were underperforming. She says Jenkins-Scott belittled her in public and said in front of a group of colleagues that she was “evil.”

Jenkins-Scott, a former health care executive who had led the college since 2004, resigned, effective in June. David Chard, the new president, said in a statement that he was confident the college could address allegations against it. Wheelock had been “fully prepared” to participate in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission inquiries into complaints previously filed by Dines and Silverman, he said, but they “unfortunately” decided to pursue their personal claims in court. He noted that Silverman and Dines were offered and accepted paid leaves of absence this year, during which they’re expected to continue scholarly work but not teaching or service. Gallos is currently teaching.

Wheelock is “committed to creating, cultivating and preserving a culture of inclusion, equity and diversity for all staff, faculty and students,” Chard said. “These lawsuits will not impact those values, the quality of our teaching and learning, or the experiences we share as a community. Our college provides a supportive learning environment, student support and rigorous academic challenges. It is our utmost commitment to guide and shape the futures of our nation’s next generation of leaders who, themselves, will improve the lives of children and families.”

Chard added that his first-year goal as president is to continue fulfilling Wheelock’s mission, which specifically includes advancing diversity. The private liberal arts college has a strong social justice orientation and specializes in education, social work and early childhood development.

Regarding the professors’ concerns about Jewish students’ marginalization and lack of resources, a college spokesperson said there is a Hillel chapter, along with several conveniently located houses of worship. (Wheelock’s Hillel was founded in 2015, after the letter, with help from Dines and Silverman.) Wheelock also has a spiritual life coordinator who works with students of all or no affiliation, she said, and students are able to share any dietary needs with food service managers.

Ann Olivarius, a lawyer representing the professors, said in a statement that her clients “have had their reputations and careers nearly ruined by this discrimination and anti-Semitism.” In their own “fight against racism and pursuit of diversity,” she added, “they became victims of discrimination themselves, which is a disturbing outcome.”

Questions about the scope of higher education’s diversity movement aren’t unique to Wheelock. In a forum at the University of Kansas last year, for example, students of various backgrounds pressed for more inclusion in such discussions. At Oberlin College, where a number of Jewish students have complained of escalating anti-Jewish rhetoric, some professors refused to sign a letter in April condemning a black colleague who’d shared anti-Jewish sentiments on social media. They argued that she was possibly being scapegoated for bigger concerns about anti-Semitism, as students continued to express concern about antiblack racism.

At Brown University, in a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Provost Richard Locke last year asked to join student protesters in a conversation. Several said “no,” and one said, “Heterosexual white males have always dominated the space.” Locke corrected him, telling him he was not heterosexual, and the student responded, “Well, homosexual, it [doesn’t] matter. White males are at the top of the hierarchy. Cisgender white males are at the top of the hierarchy.”

Asked if the Wheelock administration’s alleged actions against her were a genuine attempt to protect the integrity of any student movement, Dines said no — that it was overt anti-Semitism. But if Wheelock wanted to protect student concerns, she said, there were other, more constructive ways to do it.

Dines said she’s fought for marginalized students throughout her career, but was generally concerned at the time she signed the letter that some Jewish students felt there wasn’t appropriate food in the dining halls on Jewish holidays, for example, and that she always seemed to be inviting students to her home for such events because they lacked other places to go.

Beyond concerns about on-campus resources, Jewish students elsewhere say they have felt purposely excluded. At Brown, earlier this year, for example, a lecture was canceled after some objected to co-sponsorship by Hillel.

Silverman challenged Chard’s notion that he and Dines hadn’t attempted to resolve their issues outside of court, saying multiple attempts at mediation had been rebuffed.

Most importantly, he said, “When members of a college community — in our case, two long-term, well-respected, well-published faculty whose careers are unquestionably devoted to diversity and social justice — ask for a religious or any minority group to be included into the communal conversation about multiculturalism, the administration should welcome that call, not turn against those members with vicious, immoral and illegal slander and falsehoods.”

Diversity
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Gail Dines
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Two professors are suing Wheelock College, charging it with illegal discrimination against them as Jews, and a campaign of retaliation, allegedly to punish them for suggesting campus discussions about diversity be more inclusive of Jewish students. The college says it’s dedicated to inclusion and regrets the two plaintiffs declined to resolve their concerns outside court -- an assertion they challenge. A third plaintiff, a former administrator, is also suing, alleging race-based discrimination and retaliation.

While details of the complaints are specific to Wheelock, and allegations center on its former president, the situation recalls others elsewhere in which who or what deserves consideration in the wave of new student protests has been questioned. The suits come at a time when some Jewish students and their advocates in higher education generally charge that they face an increasingly hostile campus environment.

"We don’t think this is an either-or -- we are very supportive of Black Lives Matter and issues facing African-American students,” said Gail Dines, a professor and chair of American studies who is suing Wheelock, where she’s worked for 30 years. “We were absolutely fighting to talk more about diversity and inclusion, and we thought this would be an opportunity to open those talks up. … We wanted Jewish students to be included, as well.”

Dines filed her lawsuit against Wheelock last month; she was joined -- via separate but related complaints -- by Eric Silverman, a professor of American studies and chair of psychology and human development, and Joan Gallos, professor of leadership and former vice president for academic affairs.

Many of Dines’s and Silverman’s allegations stem from the fallout of a 2014 letter they wrote, along with several other professors, suggesting that Jewish students merited more consideration in campus inclusion efforts. The catalysts for the letter were the college’s renewed emphasis on diversity and a planned external group’s performance of The Black Jew Dialogues. (Information about the show is available here.) Silverman didn’t object to the production, according to his suit, but thought that he should have been consulted, given his published work in Jewish studies.

Former President Jackie Jenkins-Scott allegedly retaliated against Dines and Silverman, who are Jewish, by accusing them of racism in class and threatening to put them on paid leave, according to their complaints. Another administrator allegedly said in a public meeting that their letter was inappropriate and had hurt students on the Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Council who had seen it, yet those students were never named.

The professors say retaliation against them escalated when the college hired an external diversity consultant to conduct a campus climate survey. They allegedly become the de facto targets of the study and other interventions, and Dines was eventually confronted by administrators with a complaint from an unidentified student suggesting she was racist and sexist.

The consultancy, Kingston Bay Group, is named as a defendant in their suits and was not immediately available for comment.

Silverman alleges that he was blocked from promotions, including to dean of arts and sciences. When asked why he wasn’t being considered, he allegedly was told by a senior administrator that he didn’t have assistant deanship experience. Yet that wasn’t included in the job description, and the person who got the job was less qualified than Silverman, according to the suit.

Both Silverman and Dines allege that they were accused of creating a hostile teaching environment and using the N-word in class. They call the claim baseless, pointing to their records teaching social justice issues. Dines is a well-known feminist critic of the pornography industry. Silverman says he has used the term “N-word,” not the slur itself, to discuss how language can be used to demean groups. He's been an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement on campus and off, arguing, for example, in a local 2014 op-ed that Jews should harness their position both inside and outside the mainstream -- as those benefiting from "white privilege" but also historically marginalized -- to support protesters. He alleges that the college's marketing department, under Jenkins-Scott's influence, refused to publish a copy of the op-ed, saying it would be too controversial. 

"Not long ago, we cried 'Jewish lives matter,'" Silverman wrote. "Some of us still do. And for this reason, we must commit to making black lives matter."

Both professors say that they have strong student evaluations of teaching, in which concerns about racism have never been raised.

Jenkins-Scott repeatedly pushed for an external investigator to look into the racism claims against the professors, according to the suit, but eventually conceded that Gallos, as vice president of academic affairs, should look into it. Saying she could find and was given no evidence, even redacted evidence, of such claims, Gallos asked to be relieved of the task. Jenkins-Scott allegedly pressed still for an outside investigation, before the Faculty Senate refused to endorse the plan, saying that it was "concerned with issues of due process and transparency on this issue.” 

In 2015, at an all-campus conference announcing the results of the consultant's diversity report, Joe-Joe McManus, a representative of the Kingston Bay Group, allegedly said that "Jewish faculty have a problem with people of color on campus,” and that "many faculty use the N-word here at Wheelock.”

Gallos is suing for breach of contract, in addition to race-based discrimination and retaliation. Gallos, who is white, served as a vice president from 2012-15 and says she was forced to accept a lower-paid tenured teaching job after being driven out of the administration. She says Jenkins-Scott, who is black, turned on her for her legitimate efforts to improve the college though more regular communication with faculty and staff members and a “deep dive” into data on personnel and academic programs.

She says Jenkins-Scott shut her out of international education program plans, and eventually accused her of favoring white faculty and staff members -- such as by saying she’d purposely not served snacks at a black professor’s presentation. At the same time, Gallos says Jenkins-Scott told her not to hire white faculty members or administrators, and expressed unusual interest in the careers of employees of color, protecting even those who were underperforming. She says Jenkins-Scott belittled her in public and said in front of a group of colleagues that she was “evil.”

Jenkins-Scott, a former health care executive who had led the college since 2004, resigned, effective in June. David Chard, the new president, said in a statement that he was confident the college could address allegations against it. Wheelock had been “fully prepared” to participate in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission inquiries into complaints previously filed by Dines and Silverman, he said, but they “unfortunately” decided to pursue their personal claims in court. He noted that Silverman and Dines were offered and accepted paid leaves of absence this year, during which they’re expected to continue scholarly work but not teaching or service. Gallos is currently teaching.

Wheelock is “committed to creating, cultivating and preserving a culture of inclusion, equity and diversity for all staff, faculty and students,” Chard said. “These lawsuits will not impact those values, the quality of our teaching and learning, or the experiences we share as a community. Our college provides a supportive learning environment, student support and rigorous academic challenges. It is our utmost commitment to guide and shape the futures of our nation’s next generation of leaders who, themselves, will improve the lives of children and families.”

Chard added that his first-year goal as president is to continue fulfilling Wheelock’s mission, which specifically includes advancing diversity. The private liberal arts college has a strong social justice orientation and specializes in education, social work and early childhood development.

Regarding the professors’ concerns about Jewish students’ marginalization and lack of resources, a college spokesperson said there is a Hillel chapter, along with several conveniently located houses of worship. (Wheelock's Hillel was founded in 2015, after the letter, with help from Dines and Silverman.) Wheelock also has a spiritual life coordinator who works with students of all or no affiliation, she said, and students are able to share any dietary needs with food service managers.

Ann Olivarius, a lawyer representing the professors, said in a statement that her clients “have had their reputations and careers nearly ruined by this discrimination and anti-Semitism.” In their own “fight against racism and pursuit of diversity,” she added, “they became victims of discrimination themselves, which is a disturbing outcome.”

Questions about the scope of higher education’s diversity movement aren’t unique to Wheelock. In a forum at the University of Kansas last year, for example, students of various backgrounds pressed for more inclusion in such discussions. At Oberlin College, where a number of Jewish students have complained of escalating anti-Jewish rhetoric, some professors refused to sign a letter in April condemning a black colleague who’d shared anti-Jewish sentiments on social media. They argued that she was possibly being scapegoated for bigger concerns about anti-Semitism, as students continued to express concern about antiblack racism.

At Brown University, in a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Provost Richard Locke last year asked to join student protesters in a conversation. Several said “no,” and one said, “Heterosexual white males have always dominated the space.” Locke corrected him, telling him he was not heterosexual, and the student responded, “Well, homosexual, it [doesn’t] matter. White males are at the top of the hierarchy. Cisgender white males are at the top of the hierarchy.”

Asked if the Wheelock administration’s alleged actions against her were a genuine attempt to protect the integrity of any student movement, Dines said no -- that it was overt anti-Semitism. But if Wheelock wanted to protect student concerns, she said, there were other, more constructive ways to do it.

Dines said she's fought for marginalized students throughout her career, but was generally concerned at the time she signed the letter that some Jewish students felt there wasn't appropriate food in the dining halls on Jewish holidays, for example, and that she always seemed to be inviting students to her home for such events because they lacked other places to go.

Beyond concerns about on-campus resources, Jewish students elsewhere say they have felt purposely excluded. At Brown, earlier this year, for example, a lecture was canceled after some objected to co-sponsorship by Hillel.

Silverman challenged Chard’s notion that he and Dines hadn’t attempted to resolve their issues outside of court, saying multiple attempts at mediation had been rebuffed.

Most importantly, he said, “When members of a college community -- in our case, two long-term, well-respected, well-published faculty whose careers are unquestionably devoted to diversity and social justice -- ask for a religious or any minority group to be included into the communal conversation about multiculturalism, the administration should welcome that call, not turn against those members with vicious, immoral and illegal slander and falsehoods.”

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Gail Dines
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East Carolina U says band will not permit taking a knee during national anthem

Since athletes and others have been taking a knee during the national anthem, the leaders of public colleges and universities have offered a variety of views on whether the protests are wise. Even so, they have defended the protests as a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and traditions of free expression in higher education.

But East Carolina University is taking a different approach. In the wake of a controversy over a move by some band members to take a knee while playing the national anthem at a football game, the university has said that such demonstrations will no longer be tolerated.

“College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward,” said a letter released by the university. It was signed by William Staub, director of athletic bands; Christopher Ulffers, director of the School of Music; and Christopher Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

The letter also said that the officials “regret” the actions of the band members, which they said “felt hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country.”

The letter appears to differ from the message of Chancellor Cecil Staton immediately after the game. In a statement he issued then, Staton said that the university “respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views.” (University officials did not respond to email messages asking about the apparent shift in message.)

The language the chancellor used is typical of what other university leaders have argued amid public (and political) criticism of athletes and others who have taken a knee to protest police violence against black people.

For example, many Nebraska politicians criticized football players at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for taking a knee. Hank Bounds, president of the university, responded by saying that the players had the right to express themselves and wouldn’t be punished. “I have served in the military. I understand love of country and love of the flag and I know that freedom is not free. I recognize that some are upset by what they saw on Saturday night. But let me be clear. The University of Nebraska will not restrict the First Amendment rights of any student or employee,” Bounds said.

The latest letter from East Carolina seeks to frame the issue in a different way. “We have met with the band and the members have collectively reaffirmed their commitment to the unique privilege and responsibility that comes with wearing the uniform of the Marching Pirates,” the letter says.

Robert L. Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which opposes limits on the speech of students and faculty members, said via email that East Carolina may have found a way to bar anthem protests without violating the First Amendment.

“The band director at either a public or a private university has the right to tell band members what they may or may not do during performances and to enforce this through internal discipline or by separating a member from the band,” Shibley said. “However, as a state university, ECU cannot use the student disciplinary process to punish band members for protected expression.”

The same principles would apply to athletes, he said. “Yes, a public university can likely tell football players that they are not allowed to take a knee during the anthem, as the athletes (and band) do, to some extent, represent the university,” he said. “Though again, the discipline would be limited to internal team discipline — not the student conduct code. Of course, none of this means it’s a good idea to do so.”

Asked if it was a good idea to limit these protests, Shibley suggested that officials consider a 1943 Supreme Court ruling, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which found that states could not require schoolchildren to salute the U.S. flag and pledge allegiance to it. The decision said, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

Anger in East Carolina

Many of the instances in which athletes and others have taken a knee have resulted in criticism in the days that followed — especially on social media. But the East Carolina protest was noticed immediately. When the band returned to the field at halftime, it was met with boos.

And a radio station announced Tuesday that it would not broadcast this weekend’s East Carolina football game because of the band’s “shameful” disrespect of the national anthem.

Band members have defended their protest and said that they are joining a movement to create discussion about race in the United States, not showing disrespect.

I’m glad I’m a part of ECU Band and I’m glad I was able to make some people uncomfortable. That’s where the change starts.

— Leah ♓️ (@TrebledGirl97) October 1, 2016

Diversity
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Is this breaking news?: 

Since athletes and others have been taking a knee during the national anthem, the leaders of public colleges and universities have offered a variety of views on whether the protests are wise. Even so, they have defended the protests as a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and traditions of free expression in higher education.

But East Carolina University is taking a different approach. In the wake of a controversy over a move by some band members to take a knee while playing the national anthem at a football game, the university has said that such demonstrations will no longer be tolerated.

"College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward," said a letter released by the university. It was signed by William Staub, director of athletic bands; Christopher Ulffers, director of the School of Music; and Christopher Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication.

The letter also said that the officials "regret" the actions of the band members, which they said "felt hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country."

The letter appears to differ from the message of Chancellor Cecil Staton immediately after the game. In a statement he issued then, Staton said that the university "respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views." (University officials did not respond to email messages asking about the apparent shift in message.)

The language the chancellor used is typical of what other university leaders have argued amid public (and political) criticism of athletes and others who have taken a knee to protest police violence against black people.

For example, many Nebraska politicians criticized football players at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for taking a knee. Hank Bounds, president of the university, responded by saying that the players had the right to express themselves and wouldn't be punished. "I have served in the military. I understand love of country and love of the flag and I know that freedom is not free. I recognize that some are upset by what they saw on Saturday night. But let me be clear. The University of Nebraska will not restrict the First Amendment rights of any student or employee," Bounds said.

The latest letter from East Carolina seeks to frame the issue in a different way. "We have met with the band and the members have collectively reaffirmed their commitment to the unique privilege and responsibility that comes with wearing the uniform of the Marching Pirates," the letter says.

Robert L. Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which opposes limits on the speech of students and faculty members, said via email that East Carolina may have found a way to bar anthem protests without violating the First Amendment.

"The band director at either a public or a private university has the right to tell band members what they may or may not do during performances and to enforce this through internal discipline or by separating a member from the band," Shibley said. "However, as a state university, ECU cannot use the student disciplinary process to punish band members for protected expression."

The same principles would apply to athletes, he said. "Yes, a public university can likely tell football players that they are not allowed to take a knee during the anthem, as the athletes (and band) do, to some extent, represent the university," he said. "Though again, the discipline would be limited to internal team discipline -- not the student conduct code. Of course, none of this means it's a good idea to do so."

Asked if it was a good idea to limit these protests, Shibley suggested that officials consider a 1943 Supreme Court ruling, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which found that states could not require schoolchildren to salute the U.S. flag and pledge allegiance to it. The decision said, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."

Anger in East Carolina

Many of the instances in which athletes and others have taken a knee have resulted in criticism in the days that followed -- especially on social media. But the East Carolina protest was noticed immediately. When the band returned to the field at halftime, it was met with boos.

And a radio station announced Tuesday that it would not broadcast this weekend's East Carolina football game because of the band's "shameful" disrespect of the national anthem.

Band members have defended their protest and said that they are joining a movement to create discussion about race in the United States, not showing disrespect.

Diversity
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Is this breaking news?: 

Chicago State struggles under questions of enrollment, finance, leadership

A belligerent crowd greeted Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees last month as it prepared to part ways with President Thomas Calhoun Jr. after just nine months.

Audience members at a Sept. 16 board meeting jeered and hissed as the terms of a separation agreement were read aloud. They chanted “shame” as the board voted to name Vice President of Administration and Finance Cecil Lucy interim president.

The hostility of that meeting was palpable, even in audio recordings. But the crowd also reacted when the board heard a report stating that student head count this fall totaled 3,567.

That’s down 25 percent from 2015, when Chicago State enrolled 4,767 students. It’s almost 52 percent below the 2010 level, when the university enrolled 7,362 students.

More detailed reports emerged the next week, revealing the enrollment numbers had ticked up by nine to 3,578 students. That change was incidental, especially compared to another revelation: the university only enrolled 86 freshmen, including both full-time and part-time students.

In 2014 Chicago state enrolled 253 full-time, first-time freshmen. In 2010 it enrolled 523.

Any university would be challenged by such collapsing enrollment coupled with rapid leadership turnover. For Chicago State, however, the developments raise the question of how long a university beset by turmoil in recent years can continue to operate.

Chicago State declared financial exigency in February amid an ongoing Illinois budget stalemate that choked off funding to state colleges and universities. The loss of state money was felt at public institutions throughout Illinois, but it was particularly important at Chicago State. The university draws about $36 million annually in state appropriations, roughly 30 percent of its operating budget. It also receives $5 million in state Monetary Award Program grant funds and $1.6 million in state-funded merit scholarships.

Located on the south side of Chicago, the university serves mostly minority and nontraditional students. Its student body is 75 percent black, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. A quarter of its students are graduate students. About 70 percent are women. Many attend part time.

In the past, some have wondered whether Chicago State’s identity as a minority-serving institution in the city of Chicago caused political leaders to avoid dedicating the time and resources necessary to truly fix its problems. Those race and class issues could very well have contributed to the path the university took to its current financial situation. But there is widespread agreement that the cause of the immediate crisis is the state budget situation.

Soon after Chicago State declared exigency, worries rose that it would be unable to meet payroll in the coming months. Chicago State wrote in documents for the state Legislature that the budget impasse caused “an unprecedented financial crisis” and that the university’s “cash flow is nearly depleted and at risk of closing the school.”

The university carried out cost-cutting measures including canceling spring break and ending the semester early. It moved to lay off a third of its 900 employees at the end of April, cuts estimated to save 40 percent of its payroll costs, or $2 million per month. The cuts contributed to the university’s accrediting agency placing it on notice over its financial resources and planning.

Illinois did pass emergency appropriations that sent state money to universities. One round in April allotted $20.1 million to Chicago State. A six-month stopgap budget at the end of June included $12.6 million for the university. Together, the appropriations totaled $32.7 million, but they’re slated to cover an 18-month span dating to last year — so the funding level is significantly below the $36 million Chicago State typically receives for a full year.

Facing that kind of crunch, universities can typically make their budgets work by cutting expenses, building enrollment, raising tuition or drawing on reserves. But the prospects for any of those strategies are questionable for Chicago State after it has talked so recently about closing its doors. The university may very well have lost the public and student support necessary for it to be salvaged.

“It’s sort of like we’ve been shot and we’re lying on the sidewalk and nobody’s calling an ambulance,” said Robert Bionaz, an associate professor of history and president of the Chicago State chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100. “It’s sort of astounding to me that this is OK. What’s the rationale here? There’s nothing rational about this.”

There is major concern on campus about the institution’s future, said Bionaz, who frequently writes for a blog highly critical of Chicago State’s administration that was the subject of a lawsuit after it drew the university’s attention. Enrollment has consistently been declining for years, Bionaz said. Traditionally it would drop in the spring and bounce back up in the fall — but that has stopped happening.

Chicago State faced headwinds even before the Illinois budget situation came to a head. A series of scandals eroded faith in the institution, Bionaz said.

He pointed to controversial hires under the university’s former president, Wayne Watson. Chicago State also lost a lawsuit in 2014 brought by James Crowley, its general counsel, who turned into a whistle-blower. A jury awarded Crowley $2.5 million after he alleged Watson threatened him over the disclosure of public records. Additionally, a state ethics investigation found early this year that Watson violated university policy by making false allegations against two board members who were trying to push him out of office in 2013.

“I don’t see a lot of prospects for the enrollment to increase,” Bionaz said. “The whole enrollment-management section is in shambles, and we’re already the smallest state institution. I just wonder how long we can go.”

Purchasing, library and advising operations have been decimated by the cuts imposed under financial exigency, Bionaz said. The cafeteria was closed. A dormitory didn’t have hot water for weeks. Students were showering at the gym.

Student trustee Paris Griffin brought up the state of campus at the Sept. 16 meeting where Calhoun was released.

“We are disheartened by the state of our campus,” she said. “The cafeteria has been closed for more than two weeks.”

In addition, the library was operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for a time, Bionaz said. The hours were troubling for a campus that has a high number of students who work.

“The place is literally falling apart,” Bionaz said. “This is going to require immediate intervention, or it’s going to be beyond your capacity to fix. Because at what point do we become nonviable? Is it when we get to 2,000 [students]? When we get to 2,500? That’s a year away. Maybe a year and a half.”

Bionaz isn’t as pessimistic on short-term survival, though. He pointed out that the institution found money to pay employees laid off this spring — $2.2 million. It paid Calhoun $600,000 when it parted ways with him as president. Even though Chicago State said it was close to missing payroll earlier this year, Bionaz said he’s inclined to question the numbers.

It’s difficult to evaluate the current fiscal situation because the university has not produced an up-to-date budget book since 2015. But that budget showed money in reserves, Bionaz said.

Bionaz does not want the current Board of Trustees to conduct a search for a new president. There is much anger on campus about how the last president was ousted, and four trustees have terms that end in January, he said.

Frustration regarding Calhoun’s departure extends beyond campus. The change prompted Chicago’s two major newspapers to pen editorials calling for shake-ups to Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. The Sun-Times wrote that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner should fire any board members who do not cooperate in providing an explanation for Calhoun’s ouster. The Tribune said it is time to clean house among trustees. The Tribune specifically called out the size of Calhoun’s buyout in light of the tight financial situation at Chicago State.

“That $600,000 is money that won’t be used to improve classroom instruction at Chicago State, already in deep academic trouble,” the editorial said. “It won’t be used to shore up the school’s wobbly finances after spending an unfortunate $2.2 million, most of it in severance for nearly 400 employees laid off since the beginning of the year. This is a school hemorrhaging cash, failing its students and now drained of its last ounce of credibility.”

The governor’s office wants to do a thorough search for new board members, Rauner said during a Sept. 29 press conference. He said he wants to turn around the institution.

But he also said it’s difficult to get a handle on the situation.

“We’re still trying to get our hands around what is happening at Chicago State, because there is a lot of movement and a lot of things being done without informing our administration or outside folks,” Rauner said. “It’s very troubling. The level of transparency at Chicago State is atrocious.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Young declined comment when reached by phone. Chicago State’s communications department did not return several requests for interviews and information. Lucy, Chicago State’s interim president, did not return an email seeking comment. The Illinois Board of Higher Education referred requests for comment to the governor’s office, which pointed to Rauner’s Sept. 29 press conference.

The lawyer representing Calhoun, Raymond Cotton, declined to discuss the terms of his departure other than to say Chicago State honored its contract.

“The board honored its commitment that it made in writing to the president,” Cotton said. “When they asked him to depart and he agreed to do it, they honored the contract, the binding contract that they had with him.”

The information void has been filled by speculation.

Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed quoted an unnamed source asserting that Calhoun painted over a mural on the ceiling of the master bedroom of the university’s president’s home. The unnamed source also said Calhoun had assembled an expensive inaugural budget.

Several sources dismissed that account in interviews with Inside Higher Ed. Instead, they pointed to a four-person management action committee neutralizing the president’s power.

Some observers simply said the relationship between Calhoun and the university appeared to not be functioning. Donne Trotter is a Democratic state senator whose district includes Chicago State.

“How long do you have to stay in a bad relationship before you say it’s not working?” Trotter said. “I’ve used the analogy before that they didn’t see him as the right general in this war for survival.”

On the broader question of Chicago State’s future as a going concern, Trotter said the state budget situation is putting all Illinois universities at risk.

Some of the state’s other universities have felt enrollment declines. Eastern Illinois University reported total head count enrollment of 7,415 this fall, down almost 13 percent from 8,520 a year ago.

Chicago State is in a more vulnerable situation than others, according to Trotter. It did not have as much tuition funding to fall back upon or as large a reserve of funds, he said.

“They’re hanging on edge,” Trotter said. “They’re next to fall off that cliff.”

Still, Trotter didn’t talk about a state budget fix being possible until January. He acknowledged that the much-publicized talk about financial troubles is likely dissuading students from attending Chicago State.

“They knew it would have a large impact on getting people to come there,” Trotter said.

Other state political observers think it could be longer before the budget situation changes significantly. Even after the fall election, the state will have a Republican governor with two years left in his term and who has shown no interest in changing his budget positions. It will still have Democratic legislative leaders opposing him.

It’s not even clear at this point that the political will exists to save a university beset by trouble.

“I don’t think people care,” said Edward Maloney, a Democratic former member of the State Senate who chaired its Higher Education Committee and now lobbies on higher education issues. “I think the people who are immediately impacted by it care, but beyond the immediate area, you talk to any other member of the General Assembly, they don’t care if it closes. They really don’t.”

Chicago State hasn’t shown the ability to recruit students who can graduate successfully. Its six-year undergraduate graduation rate recently fell to 11 percent.

“This could be the nail in the coffin,” said Maloney, who earned his master’s degree at Chicago State. “The only thing that may save them is being a traditionally black institution. The black caucus is pretty powerful in the Illinois General Assembly.”

Many continue to hold Chicago State up as a four-year university serving a local population that can’t travel to attend another institution. Its closure would take away jobs and the realistic chance to attend a university from a large chunk of Chicago’s population.

Some have suggested Chicago State could be merged with another Chicago-area university, like Northeastern Illinois University on the city’s northwest side or the City Colleges of Chicago. Those are just whispers, though. The prospects and pitfalls of such a move remain unclear.

Chicago State Trustee Spencer Leak did not want to comment on the possibility of the university closing. He said it would be appalling.

Leak also declined to comment on the presidential change. But he did say the lower enrollment numbers hurt the university.

“The enrollment problem exacerbates the budgetary problems,” he said. “You can’t justify the need for finances for the university without students.”

Leak closed a telephone interview by making a point of saying that he is praying for Chicago State. He seeks a higher authority when faced with challenges, and the university is faced with challenges now, he said.

“I’m praying for our university,” Leak said. “That may not mean a lot to a lot of people. It may be simplistic. But I’m certainly praying for the university and the faculty and the students.”

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Chicago State University
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Low enrollment totals have led to questions about Chicago State University’s future.
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A belligerent crowd greeted Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees last month as it prepared to part ways with President Thomas Calhoun Jr. after just nine months.

Audience members at a Sept. 16 board meeting jeered and hissed as the terms of a separation agreement were read aloud. They chanted “shame” as the board voted to name Vice President of Administration and Finance Cecil Lucy interim president.

The hostility of that meeting was palpable, even in audio recordings. But the crowd also reacted when the board heard a report stating that student head count this fall totaled 3,567.

That’s down 25 percent from 2015, when Chicago State enrolled 4,767 students. It’s almost 52 percent below the 2010 level, when the university enrolled 7,362 students.

More detailed reports emerged the next week, revealing the enrollment numbers had ticked up by nine to 3,578 students. That change was incidental, especially compared to another revelation: the university only enrolled 86 freshmen, including both full-time and part-time students.

In 2014 Chicago state enrolled 253 full-time, first-time freshmen. In 2010 it enrolled 523.

Any university would be challenged by such collapsing enrollment coupled with rapid leadership turnover. For Chicago State, however, the developments raise the question of how long a university beset by turmoil in recent years can continue to operate.

Chicago State declared financial exigency in February amid an ongoing Illinois budget stalemate that choked off funding to state colleges and universities. The loss of state money was felt at public institutions throughout Illinois, but it was particularly important at Chicago State. The university draws about $36 million annually in state appropriations, roughly 30 percent of its operating budget. It also receives $5 million in state Monetary Award Program grant funds and $1.6 million in state-funded merit scholarships.

Located on the south side of Chicago, the university serves mostly minority and nontraditional students. Its student body is 75 percent black, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. A quarter of its students are graduate students. About 70 percent are women. Many attend part time.

In the past, some have wondered whether Chicago State's identity as a minority-serving institution in the city of Chicago caused political leaders to avoid dedicating the time and resources necessary to truly fix its problems. Those race and class issues could very well have contributed to the path the university took to its current financial situation. But there is widespread agreement that the cause of the immediate crisis is the state budget situation.

Soon after Chicago State declared exigency, worries rose that it would be unable to meet payroll in the coming months. Chicago State wrote in documents for the state Legislature that the budget impasse caused “an unprecedented financial crisis” and that the university’s “cash flow is nearly depleted and at risk of closing the school.”

The university carried out cost-cutting measures including canceling spring break and ending the semester early. It moved to lay off a third of its 900 employees at the end of April, cuts estimated to save 40 percent of its payroll costs, or $2 million per month. The cuts contributed to the university's accrediting agency placing it on notice over its financial resources and planning.

Illinois did pass emergency appropriations that sent state money to universities. One round in April allotted $20.1 million to Chicago State. A six-month stopgap budget at the end of June included $12.6 million for the university. Together, the appropriations totaled $32.7 million, but they’re slated to cover an 18-month span dating to last year -- so the funding level is significantly below the $36 million Chicago State typically receives for a full year.

Facing that kind of crunch, universities can typically make their budgets work by cutting expenses, building enrollment, raising tuition or drawing on reserves. But the prospects for any of those strategies are questionable for Chicago State after it has talked so recently about closing its doors. The university may very well have lost the public and student support necessary for it to be salvaged.

“It’s sort of like we’ve been shot and we’re lying on the sidewalk and nobody’s calling an ambulance,” said Robert Bionaz, an associate professor of history and president of the Chicago State chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100. “It’s sort of astounding to me that this is OK. What’s the rationale here? There’s nothing rational about this.”

There is major concern on campus about the institution’s future, said Bionaz, who frequently writes for a blog highly critical of Chicago State’s administration that was the subject of a lawsuit after it drew the university’s attention. Enrollment has consistently been declining for years, Bionaz said. Traditionally it would drop in the spring and bounce back up in the fall -- but that has stopped happening.

Chicago State faced headwinds even before the Illinois budget situation came to a head. A series of scandals eroded faith in the institution, Bionaz said.

He pointed to controversial hires under the university’s former president, Wayne Watson. Chicago State also lost a lawsuit in 2014 brought by James Crowley, its general counsel, who turned into a whistle-blower. A jury awarded Crowley $2.5 million after he alleged Watson threatened him over the disclosure of public records. Additionally, a state ethics investigation found early this year that Watson violated university policy by making false allegations against two board members who were trying to push him out of office in 2013.

“I don’t see a lot of prospects for the enrollment to increase,” Bionaz said. “The whole enrollment-management section is in shambles, and we’re already the smallest state institution. I just wonder how long we can go.”

Purchasing, library and advising operations have been decimated by the cuts imposed under financial exigency, Bionaz said. The cafeteria was closed. A dormitory didn’t have hot water for weeks. Students were showering at the gym.

Student trustee Paris Griffin brought up the state of campus at the Sept. 16 meeting where Calhoun was released.

“We are disheartened by the state of our campus,” she said. “The cafeteria has been closed for more than two weeks.”

In addition, the library was operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for a time, Bionaz said. The hours were troubling for a campus that has a high number of students who work.

“The place is literally falling apart,” Bionaz said. “This is going to require immediate intervention, or it’s going to be beyond your capacity to fix. Because at what point do we become nonviable? Is it when we get to 2,000 [students]? When we get to 2,500? That’s a year away. Maybe a year and a half.”

Bionaz isn’t as pessimistic on short-term survival, though. He pointed out that the institution found money to pay employees laid off this spring -- $2.2 million. It paid Calhoun $600,000 when it parted ways with him as president. Even though Chicago State said it was close to missing payroll earlier this year, Bionaz said he’s inclined to question the numbers.

It’s difficult to evaluate the current fiscal situation because the university has not produced an up-to-date budget book since 2015. But that budget showed money in reserves, Bionaz said.

Bionaz does not want the current Board of Trustees to conduct a search for a new president. There is much anger on campus about how the last president was ousted, and four trustees have terms that end in January, he said.

Frustration regarding Calhoun’s departure extends beyond campus. The change prompted Chicago’s two major newspapers to pen editorials calling for shake-ups to Chicago State’s Board of Trustees. The Sun-Times wrote that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner should fire any board members who do not cooperate in providing an explanation for Calhoun’s ouster. The Tribune said it is time to clean house among trustees. The Tribune specifically called out the size of Calhoun's buyout in light of the tight financial situation at Chicago State.

“That $600,000 is money that won't be used to improve classroom instruction at Chicago State, already in deep academic trouble,” the editorial said. “It won't be used to shore up the school's wobbly finances after spending an unfortunate $2.2 million, most of it in severance for nearly 400 employees laid off since the beginning of the year. This is a school hemorrhaging cash, failing its students and now drained of its last ounce of credibility.”

The governor’s office wants to do a thorough search for new board members, Rauner said during a Sept. 29 press conference. He said he wants to turn around the institution.

But he also said it’s difficult to get a handle on the situation.

“We’re still trying to get our hands around what is happening at Chicago State, because there is a lot of movement and a lot of things being done without informing our administration or outside folks,” Rauner said. “It’s very troubling. The level of transparency at Chicago State is atrocious.”

Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Young declined comment when reached by phone. Chicago State’s communications department did not return several requests for interviews and information. Lucy, Chicago State’s interim president, did not return an email seeking comment. The Illinois Board of Higher Education referred requests for comment to the governor’s office, which pointed to Rauner’s Sept. 29 press conference.

The lawyer representing Calhoun, Raymond Cotton, declined to discuss the terms of his departure other than to say Chicago State honored its contract.

“The board honored its commitment that it made in writing to the president,” Cotton said. “When they asked him to depart and he agreed to do it, they honored the contract, the binding contract that they had with him.”

The information void has been filled by speculation.

Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed quoted an unnamed source asserting that Calhoun painted over a mural on the ceiling of the master bedroom of the university’s president’s home. The unnamed source also said Calhoun had assembled an expensive inaugural budget.

Several sources dismissed that account in interviews with Inside Higher Ed. Instead, they pointed to a four-person management action committee neutralizing the president’s power.

Some observers simply said the relationship between Calhoun and the university appeared to not be functioning. Donne Trotter is a Democratic state senator whose district includes Chicago State.

“How long do you have to stay in a bad relationship before you say it’s not working?” Trotter said. “I’ve used the analogy before that they didn’t see him as the right general in this war for survival.”

On the broader question of Chicago State’s future as a going concern, Trotter said the state budget situation is putting all Illinois universities at risk.

Some of the state’s other universities have felt enrollment declines. Eastern Illinois University reported total head count enrollment of 7,415 this fall, down almost 13 percent from 8,520 a year ago.

Chicago State is in a more vulnerable situation than others, according to Trotter. It did not have as much tuition funding to fall back upon or as large a reserve of funds, he said.

“They’re hanging on edge,” Trotter said. “They’re next to fall off that cliff.”

Still, Trotter didn’t talk about a state budget fix being possible until January. He acknowledged that the much-publicized talk about financial troubles is likely dissuading students from attending Chicago State.

“They knew it would have a large impact on getting people to come there,” Trotter said.

Other state political observers think it could be longer before the budget situation changes significantly. Even after the fall election, the state will have a Republican governor with two years left in his term and who has shown no interest in changing his budget positions. It will still have Democratic legislative leaders opposing him.

It’s not even clear at this point that the political will exists to save a university beset by trouble.

“I don’t think people care,” said Edward Maloney, a Democratic former member of the State Senate who chaired its Higher Education Committee and now lobbies on higher education issues. “I think the people who are immediately impacted by it care, but beyond the immediate area, you talk to any other member of the General Assembly, they don’t care if it closes. They really don’t.”

Chicago State hasn’t shown the ability to recruit students who can graduate successfully. Its six-year undergraduate graduation rate recently fell to 11 percent.

“This could be the nail in the coffin,” said Maloney, who earned his master’s degree at Chicago State. “The only thing that may save them is being a traditionally black institution. The black caucus is pretty powerful in the Illinois General Assembly.”

Many continue to hold Chicago State up as a four-year university serving a local population that can’t travel to attend another institution. Its closure would take away jobs and the realistic chance to attend a university from a large chunk of Chicago’s population.

Some have suggested Chicago State could be merged with another Chicago-area university, like Northeastern Illinois University on the city’s northwest side or the City Colleges of Chicago. Those are just whispers, though. The prospects and pitfalls of such a move remain unclear.

Chicago State Trustee Spencer Leak did not want to comment on the possibility of the university closing. He said it would be appalling.

Leak also declined to comment on the presidential change. But he did say the lower enrollment numbers hurt the university.

“The enrollment problem exacerbates the budgetary problems,” he said. “You can’t justify the need for finances for the university without students.”

Leak closed a telephone interview by making a point of saying that he is praying for Chicago State. He seeks a higher authority when faced with challenges, and the university is faced with challenges now, he said.

“I’m praying for our university,” Leak said. “That may not mean a lot to a lot of people. It may be simplistic. But I’m certainly praying for the university and the faculty and the students.”

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Low enrollment totals have led to questions about Chicago State University's future.
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Colleges respond to social media panic over alleged clown sightings

A rash of purported clown sightings on campuses Monday left college officials in the unenviable position of ensuring the safety of their students while not overreacting to a bizarre social media prank.

The reports were the most recent in a string of c…

A rash of purported clown sightings on campuses Monday left college officials in the unenviable position of ensuring the safety of their students while not overreacting to a bizarre social media prank.

The reports were the most recent in a string of clown sightings that began in August, when six people in Greenville, S.C., told police that clowns were trying to lure children into a nearby woods. Since then, similar reports have surfaced across the country, though few of the incidents have resulted in arrests or evidence that the clowns actually exist.

Police believe that most of the sightings are likely hoaxes, with the reports either being outright false or stemming from pranksters dressed in clown costumes.

Reports of people dressed in creepy-looking clown costumes stalking college campuses have now occurred at dozens of institutions. Students have reported seeing clowns at the Universities of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Miami, Missouri at Columbia and Texas at Austin. Students have claimed to also see clowns at Bloomsburg, Butler, Sacred Heart, Texas A&M and Syracuse Universities, as well as at Mississippi and York Colleges.

Some institutions have chosen to not address the reports publicly, other than to send police to investigate the claims. Other institutions -- including several that experienced alleged clown sightings on Monday -- have responded to the reports more directly.

At Western Carolina University on Monday, a rumor began spreading through social media that a student had been stabbed by a clown. The university released a statement saying that campus police were “attempting to run down a huge number of social media rumors regarding a clown on campus,” and that no students had been injured.

In that statement and a subsequent Facebook post, Western Carolina urged students to stop sharing social media posts about the sightings. “Snapchat, tweets and Facebook postings by others typically do not have firsthand accurate information regarding emergencies or threats,” the university said.

Also on Monday, the University of New Hampshire informed students that police were unable to substantiate any clown sightings on campus and that the university was not on lockdown, despite rumors to the contrary. That same evening, reports of clowns at Auburn University prompted officials to send a campuswide email instructing students to resist the urge to track down clowns on their own and to avoid wearing clown attire.

“We had a report of students walking around looking for people dressed as clowns,” the university’s Department of Public Safety said in the email. “For your safety, we strongly encourage you to leave this job to Auburn Police. Please use good judgment and avoid wearing clown masks, as it could be perceived as a hazard or threat to others.”

At Pennsylvania State University on Monday, rumors of a clown sighting appeared on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak. By 11 p.m., hundreds of students had gathered outside residence halls in response to the alleged sighting. Penn State police estimated that between 500 and 1,000 students were involved in the incident, but no injuries or property damage was reported.

The mob, screaming and running through the streets, moved across campus in response to other social media posts, with students saying they were trying to hunt the clown down. At one point, a large image of a clown was projected onto the side of a building. “Some people run away from clowns,” one student tweeted. “Penn State runs towards them.”

Police -- and the hundreds of students -- did not locate anyone dressed as a clown. Armed with golf clubs, students at Belmont University also searched for a clown Monday, after a student posted an image on social media that depicted a clown hiding near a building on campus. The student later admitted to creating the image with Photoshop.

William Taylor, former president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and chief of police at Collin College in Texas, said no matter how absurd a safety concern may seem, college officials must avoid quickly dismissing it as a hoax, even if that has been the case at other campuses.

“Each incident must be judged on its own circumstances,” Taylor said. “Just because it is one thing in one location does not mean another location will have the same thing.”

A series of clown reports on Monday at Merrimack College in Massachusetts ended with police declaring that the sightings were a hoax, but not before the campus was placed on lockdown for an hour and a residence hall evacuated. Posts on social media claimed that students had seen clowns in a nearby woods and, alarmingly, on the third floor of a dorm.

The clown was allegedly armed with a pitchfork and a rifle.

Christopher Hopey, Merrimack’s president, released a statement on Tuesday praising the police department and saying that the college must take seriously every threat to campus safety, even those seemingly stolen from a Stephen King novel.

“We now know this was a hoax perpetrated through social media, not just on our campus but on several others throughout New England last night, a hoax fed by hysteria that has, by media accounts, now affected communities in 26 states,” Hopey stated. “This is the world in which we live, with very real threats intermingled with false alarms.”

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A photo, later revealed to be a fake image, of an alleged clown sighting at Belmont University.
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Community college expands helicopter program across four states

In Dodge City, Kans., one community college is redefining just where the borders of its community lie.

The college hosts a helicopter pilot training program not only in Kansas, but at two locations in Arizona and one in Utah, and it is expanding to include a fifth in California.

“We’re the only school in the state of Kansas that has other locations outside of the state, as far as I know, and we’re probably one of the few schools in the country that have them outside of their area,” said Harold Nolte, president of Dodge City Community College. “Our job as a community college is to recruit, retain, educate and graduate, but we also need to think outside of the box.”

Officials at Dodge City were thinking outside of the box in 2007, when they decided to partner with Universal Helicopter. The company offers flight instruction and pilot training in Arizona, Kansas, Texas and Utah. As a result of the partnership, students enrolled in the aviation training program can earn an associate of applied science degree through Dodge City and then seek certification with the Federal Aviation Administration. In 2011 the partnership spread to the Prescott, Ariz., location, arriving in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2012 and Provo, Utah, in 2013.

By the beginning of next year, a new location in Camarillo, Calif., will open as well. (Universal Helicopters also has a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for students who want to pursue a degree.)

Taking a two-year public college’s program across state lines hasn’t been easy, said Anthony Lyons, vice president of aerospace programs, community and industry relations at Dodge City. Most of the challenge has been bureaucratic, Lyons said, and related to complying with regulations from the college’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, the Kansas Board of Regents, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Education Department.

“Each course is designed the same, so the general education courses are all online and we do some face-to-face general education courses in Scottsdale,” Lyons said. “There’s no out-of-state tuition. They all pay the same and they’re counted as our students.”

While the current out-of-state locations are called Dodge City Community College, the location in California will be slightly different. Because the state doesn’t want Californians to confuse the soon-to-open Dodge City location with a member of California community college system, the location will be named Dodge City College in California, Lyons said.

The field, while lucrative, can be expensive for students. One certification in helicopter flight training can cost more than $20,000. There are five certifications pilots are expected to achieve, which can bring the total training price to about $150,000.

Roughly 80 percent of students in the helicopter program are veterans, who can use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for the training. Dodge City has about 1,800 total students, of which about 150 are flight students.

“Regardless of whether they graduate either Embry-Riddle or Dodge City, we hire all the graduates who desire employment with us as a certified flight instructor,” Lyons said. Without 1,000 hours in an aircraft, a helicopter pilot can’t get a job, he said. And even once they complete the five certifications, they still have about 300 hours of training left to complete.

The graduates then work as instructors and earn anywhere from $20 to $30 an hour until they complete their 1,000 hours.

“We encourage them to stay with us and make a career out of flight instruction or we place them in the industry,” Lyons said. “Universal Helicopter and Dodge City have such a great reputation, employers come to us when they’re looking for pilots. We have the best safety record and no unemployed graduates. For the last eight years, we have a 100 percent [job] placement rate.”

Most students find careers at Petroleum Helicopters International, a company that provides service for the oil and gas industry, as well as medical evacuation operations across the country. Tour companies in Alaska, Arizona, California and Nevada regularly tap the college for graduates.

“We’ve got a young man flying this summer in Nepal, and he’s providing medevac operation supporting mountain climbing expeditions and he’s just a farm boy from WaKeeney, Kans.,” Lyons said.

A pilot working with Petroleum Helicopters can expect to earn about $61,000 a year flying two weeks a month, which is the maximum amount of time they’re allowed to pilot for the company. But if they choose to get a second pilot job, they can double their income for the other two weeks, he said.

However, there’s a pilot shortage in the country, which is part of the reason Dodge City is expanding to include a commercial airplane pilot program in January. A study by the University of North Dakota’s aviation department found that the deficit in pilots will grow to 15,000 by 2026.

“There’s a critical shortage in airplane pilots,” Lyons said. “When you experience delays and cancellations at the airport, it’s often due to the lack of available crews to fly the airplanes.”

Besides expanding to a commercial airplane pilot program, Lyons said, the college has plans to develop an airplane mechanics program to address a critical need in that area as well.

“There’s a shortage in helicopter as well as fixed-wing pilots, and these are programs that will help us grow and help us get students jobs as well,” Nolte said. “We have 100 percent rate as far as getting students jobs after they graduate, and it’s something just a little different than what everybody else is doing.”

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Dodge City Community College’s helicopter program
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In Dodge City, Kans., one community college is redefining just where the borders of its community lie.

The college hosts a helicopter pilot training program not only in Kansas, but at two locations in Arizona and one in Utah, and it is expanding to include a fifth in California.

“We’re the only school in the state of Kansas that has other locations outside of the state, as far as I know, and we’re probably one of the few schools in the country that have them outside of their area,” said Harold Nolte, president of Dodge City Community College. “Our job as a community college is to recruit, retain, educate and graduate, but we also need to think outside of the box.”

Officials at Dodge City were thinking outside of the box in 2007, when they decided to partner with Universal Helicopter. The company offers flight instruction and pilot training in Arizona, Kansas, Texas and Utah. As a result of the partnership, students enrolled in the aviation training program can earn an associate of applied science degree through Dodge City and then seek certification with the Federal Aviation Administration. In 2011 the partnership spread to the Prescott, Ariz., location, arriving in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2012 and Provo, Utah, in 2013.

By the beginning of next year, a new location in Camarillo, Calif., will open as well. (Universal Helicopters also has a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for students who want to pursue a degree.)

Taking a two-year public college’s program across state lines hasn’t been easy, said Anthony Lyons, vice president of aerospace programs, community and industry relations at Dodge City. Most of the challenge has been bureaucratic, Lyons said, and related to complying with regulations from the college’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, the Kansas Board of Regents, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Education Department.

“Each course is designed the same, so the general education courses are all online and we do some face-to-face general education courses in Scottsdale,” Lyons said. “There’s no out-of-state tuition. They all pay the same and they’re counted as our students.”

While the current out-of-state locations are called Dodge City Community College, the location in California will be slightly different. Because the state doesn’t want Californians to confuse the soon-to-open Dodge City location with a member of California community college system, the location will be named Dodge City College in California, Lyons said.

The field, while lucrative, can be expensive for students. One certification in helicopter flight training can cost more than $20,000. There are five certifications pilots are expected to achieve, which can bring the total training price to about $150,000.

Roughly 80 percent of students in the helicopter program are veterans, who can use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for the training. Dodge City has about 1,800 total students, of which about 150 are flight students.

“Regardless of whether they graduate either Embry-Riddle or Dodge City, we hire all the graduates who desire employment with us as a certified flight instructor,” Lyons said. Without 1,000 hours in an aircraft, a helicopter pilot can’t get a job, he said. And even once they complete the five certifications, they still have about 300 hours of training left to complete.

The graduates then work as instructors and earn anywhere from $20 to $30 an hour until they complete their 1,000 hours.

“We encourage them to stay with us and make a career out of flight instruction or we place them in the industry,” Lyons said. “Universal Helicopter and Dodge City have such a great reputation, employers come to us when they’re looking for pilots. We have the best safety record and no unemployed graduates. For the last eight years, we have a 100 percent [job] placement rate.”

Most students find careers at Petroleum Helicopters International, a company that provides service for the oil and gas industry, as well as medical evacuation operations across the country. Tour companies in Alaska, Arizona, California and Nevada regularly tap the college for graduates.

“We’ve got a young man flying this summer in Nepal, and he’s providing medevac operation supporting mountain climbing expeditions and he’s just a farm boy from WaKeeney, Kans.,” Lyons said.

A pilot working with Petroleum Helicopters can expect to earn about $61,000 a year flying two weeks a month, which is the maximum amount of time they’re allowed to pilot for the company. But if they choose to get a second pilot job, they can double their income for the other two weeks, he said.

However, there’s a pilot shortage in the country, which is part of the reason Dodge City is expanding to include a commercial airplane pilot program in January. A study by the University of North Dakota’s aviation department found that the deficit in pilots will grow to 15,000 by 2026.

“There’s a critical shortage in airplane pilots,” Lyons said. “When you experience delays and cancellations at the airport, it’s often due to the lack of available crews to fly the airplanes.”

Besides expanding to a commercial airplane pilot program, Lyons said, the college has plans to develop an airplane mechanics program to address a critical need in that area as well.

“There’s a shortage in helicopter as well as fixed-wing pilots, and these are programs that will help us grow and help us get students jobs as well,” Nolte said. “We have 100 percent rate as far as getting students jobs after they graduate, and it’s something just a little different than what everybody else is doing.”

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Dodge City Community College’s helicopter program
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In new book, scholars make the case for value of diversity in higher education and society generally

This summer, advocates for diversity in American higher education won a major victory when the Supreme Court upheld the right of colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions. This fall, American colleges have experienced numerous racist incide…

This summer, advocates for diversity in American higher education won a major victory when the Supreme Court upheld the right of colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions. This fall, American colleges have experienced numerous racist incidents, leaving many minority students angry and feeling unwelcome.

In this environment, leading scholars on race and the economy have contributed essays to a new collection, Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (Princeton University Press). Contributors include Marta Tienda of Princeton University, Kwame Anthony Appiah of New York University and Anthony P. Carnevale of Georgetown University.

The editors of the volume (who are also contributors) are Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University at Newark. The collaborated on answers to questions about the collection and its themes.

Q: What is your aim with this collection of essays?

A: This is the inaugural volume of a multiyear book series mounted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore the value of our growing diversity for the American democratic project -- the enactment of individual and civil rights, the social and civic connections that unite a diverse polity into one (e pluribus unum), and the realization of full participation in the economy, in educational systems, in voting and the law and politics more generally, that undergirds prosperity and the legitimacy of our institutions. While there is little doubt that diversity is here and growing (America will, for example, be a majority nonwhite nation by midcentury) and that many dimensions of difference (racial, ethnic, cultural heritage, class, regional, language, indigeneity, sexuality) characterize this diversity, there is reason to question at this ostensibly highly polarized time whether America can rise to the task of leveraging this diversity to meet our compelling interests to spur creativity, productivity and prosperity, as Kwame Anthony Appiah notes in his commentary. Numbers alone will not suffice to turn the tide; it will take concerted dialogue, thoughtful analysis from many directions, honest questions and questioning, to move us as a nation toward envisioning our diversity as an opportunity, rather than as a threat to be managed. In this inaugural volume, the essays set the table, so to speak, for this much-needed dialogue, placing both our diversity and our compelling interests in context -- demographic, historical, social and economic. As important, the volume queries our readiness to empathize as a nation with the value and dimensions of that diversity, as well as asks, are we prepared to commit the “social” work to be done and the human capital investment required? Through such questions the inaugural volume paves the way for future volumes on religion, the arts, educational access and testing, organizational productivity, and much more.

Q: Leaders of American higher education (and much of American society) say they embrace diversity. Yet campuses are full of racial incidents and our political discourse is full of stereotype and denigration of minority groups. How do you explain this?

A: What we see on college campuses is precisely the paradoxical landscape that makes this dialogue so pressing for America (and the world). On one hand, our “exploding diversity,” as one essay calls it, reflects a complex, nuanced, intersectional identity map, and yet we live with the accumulated impact on our psyches, our daily life practices, our policies and our laws, of decades, if not centuries, of the rigid and yet pervasive architecture of segregation, and the “hibernating bigotry,” as Rupert Nacoste poetically labels it, that results when we don’t live together, go to school together, find jobs together, share our faiths, our dreams and our aspirations. It should not surprise us, even as it calls us to reflection and to action, that that hibernating bigotry is awakening even on college campuses in the face of what we see happening on every street corner, in every community -- urban and rural alike -- on every news channel, in tortured relations between police and community, in the dashed dreams of so many youth disconnected from educational attainment and so many adults coming head-on against economic dead ends. Now, if ever there was a time, is the time for universities to build bridging ties that erode boundaries -- first by honest conversation, then by the good hard work of inclusion, seeing talent expansively, empathizing with each other rather than turning our backs, and making the investments that our students and communities alike are asking us to undertake.

Q: Many critics of traditional definitions of diversity (race and gender) say that the real measure should be economics -- an emphasis on inclusion of those from low-income backgrounds. How do you respond?

A: As the essays in this inaugural volume clearly trace, the divide-and-conquer approach to race (or gender) versus class will never suffice to either describe the patterning of what Charles Tilly called “durable inequalities” -- consider, as Tom Sugrue does in his essay, the nuances of residential and educational segregation and economic status for blacks and Hispanics over the last many decades -- or to chart the way for the kinds of bridging ties that Danielle Allen urges us to learn to create as we aspire to a more socially connected society, not to mention more inclusive college and university environments. Reductionism when it comes to diversity doesn’t bode well for social change, for pragmatic policies and practices to move the needle on opportunity, whether one focuses on race or class, and it can distract us from the real work ahead.

Q: The essays place the emphasis on the benefits of diversity for all (not just those who are from various groups that might make an institution more diverse). How do you define that benefit?

A: The benefits are both individual and collective. Working across difference can make each of us better at what we do, better able to see things from different perspectives, better able to empathize with our fellow citizens and participate in public problem solving, as our series contributor Patricia Gurin has demonstrated in extensive longitudinal data on intergroup dialogue courses at nine colleges and universities. Moreover, as our colleague Scott Page has demonstrated so vividly, and will write about in the next volume in this Our Compelling Interests series, working across difference also benefits us collectively because we are more likely to arrive at better solutions to complex problems when we harness a diversity of talents in assembling teams.

Q: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the way Americans consider the issue of diversity?

A: As we noted in our introductory essay in this volume, we draw our optimism from the voices, dreams and commitments of this next broadly diverse and talented generation of students in our very midst. Hailing, as they do, from so many cultures, faiths, backgrounds, neighborhoods, their sense of self is highly nuanced, as are their identities and aspirations to change the course of opportunity for so many others they have known and will meet. Will this be hard work, for them and for us, no question it will be. Yet optimism comes because they have already achieved so much and done so much hard work to scale the walls of inequality, indifference and divisiveness that our authors document in this volume, and that they know so well on the ground. This next generation of change makers will tell us if our faith has proven rightfully placed, and we bet on it being so, because we bet on them to make the corrections in real time that may be required.

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As Supreme Court declines to hear O’Bannon case, focus turns to other antitrust lawsuits against NCAA

Leaving the issue of paying college athletes in a state of limbo, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which it offered without explanation or comment, means the NCAA’s amateurism model survives, but in letting a lower court’s ruling stand, the court also left that model open to further scrutiny, setting the stage for two other antitrust lawsuits that both seek to allow compensation for athletes beyond athletic scholarships.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court opinion that NCAA rules limiting what college athletes can be paid violate antitrust laws. By declining to hear the O’Bannon case, the Supreme Court has ensured an opening for other antitrust lawsuits to argue that it is illegal for the NCAA to limit athletes’ compensation, provided they can persuade the courts that striking down amateurism would not fundamentally alter the demand for college sports.

“Future plaintiffs now have a road map to bring antitrust cases against the NCAA,” Marc Edelman, a law professor at the City University of New York’s Baruch College and expert on sports and antitrust law, said in an interview. “Future cases will be decided on the facts of the case and on whether the payment of athletes would or would not harm consumer demand. The legal burden has already been met.”

In August 2014, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in a lawsuit brought by the former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon that the NCAA had violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likenesses. The ruling would have allowed, but not required, colleges to pay players about $5,000 each year beginning that fall. The payments would have been capped at that amount and held in a trust fund until the students completed their athletic eligibility.

The decision was seen at the time as a major blow to the NCAA, and the association appealed the ruling. The appellate court last year said that it agreed with the original ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust laws, but it backed the association’s opinion that college athletics should not be thought of as minor league sports. Thus, the judges wrote, compensation for athletes should be limited to funds related to their education.

The panel stated that the “difference between offering athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor,” calling the difference a quantum leap.

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman [Antitrust] Act’s rules,” the panel wrote. “In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college-sports market. The rule of reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

The NCAA praised the latter part of the decision, and, at the association’s annual meeting in January 2015, the NCAA’s five wealthiest conferences voted to allow programs to offer full cost of attendance to athletes. But the NCAA decided to challenge the ruling that it had violated antitrust laws. O’Bannon and his lawyers also petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing again that players should be allowed more than just full cost of attendance.

“The NCAA was found guilty of illegal price-fixing in two courts and the Supreme Court is allowing those rulings to stand,” said Ramogi Huma, a former college football player and executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group for college athletes. “This makes clear that the NCAA is not above the law and that college athletes deserve equal protection under the law.”

Where the O’Bannon case failed, said Edelman of Baruch College, was in not fully challenging the assumption that payment of college athletes would harm consumer demand for college sports. Part of the problem, Edelman said, was that the case began as a lawsuit focused on the right of publicity. O’Bannon’s lawsuit originally argued that current and former players should be compensated when their name, image or likeness is used in video games, and it only later grew into an antitrust case.

“The Supreme Court leaves open the possibility of later hearing the very real substantive antitrust issues in a more straightforward case,” Edelman said. “The O’Bannon case was flawed in that it started as a case related to name-and-likeness rights for former college athletes and concluded as an antitrust case related to current college athletes. But there are now cleaner cases coming up right behind O’Bannon.”

Two cases being heard in lower courts both more directly challenge the NCAA’s right to cap compensation for college athletes.

In March 2014, lawyers representing a former West Virginia football player named Shawne Alston filed a class action against the NCAA alleging that the association had violated antitrust law by limiting compensation to athletic scholarships. That same year, Jeffrey Kessler, a leading antitrust lawyer who has previously won major victories for National Football League and National Basketball Association players, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a former Clemson University football player named Martin Jenkins.

The suit — which would be decided by the same judge who ruled in the O’Bannon case in 2014 — focuses not just on issues of name and likeness, full cost of attendance, or capped athletic scholarships, but on unlimited compensation. As the O’Bannon case made its way through the courts, the Jenkins case has loomed in the background as potentially the largest threat yet to the NCAA’s theoretical amateurism model. At a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate athletics last year, Lorry Spitzer, a tax lawyer and professor at Boston College Law School, said the Jenkins lawsuit “really would end the world as we know it” for college sports.

A Jenkins win is far from a guarantee, however.

“If Jenkins prevails, it would upend the NCAA’s system of amateurism,” Michael McCann, the director of the University of New Hampshire’s Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, wrote for Sports Illustrated. “O’Bannon’s victory at the Ninth Circuit, while more muted in effect than he sought, can be used as precedent for Jenkins. At the same time, the NCAA might use the O’Bannon decision to highlight the judicial reluctance to imposing sweeping changes to amateurism. The NCAA would insist that the changes sought by Jenkins would interfere with the NCAA’s stated goals of promoting education and the college experience.”

During the O’Bannon case, the NCAA presented a study that suggested fans of college sports would stop supporting their teams if athletes were paid more than just being provided with athletic scholarships. The study, which was based on a survey of 2,445 college sports fans, found that 69 percent of fans said they would stop attending games if players were paid.

Mark Nagel, a professor of sports and entertainment management at of the University of South Carolina, questioned the accuracy of the study’s conclusion. After Wilken’s decision in 2014 and the vote at the January 2015 NCAA meeting, Nagel noted, the association began allowing institutions to pay players’ full cost of attendance, not just the amount of a scholarship. Starting last year, many colleges provided the additional aid in the form of a stipend that covered the difference between a scholarship and the various other expenses that accompany being a college student, such as paying for food, laundry and travel.

At some institutions, the stipends were around $2,000 per year, while players at other programs received more than $5,000 — an amount even larger than the suggested payments proposed by Wilken. Fans of big-time college sports did not walk away.

“I don’t think the marketplace really cares,” Nagel said. “They care about seeing a matchup like Clemson against Louisville, not about compensation. A vast majority of fans are not going to change their behavior just because those great quarterbacks they’re watching are now getting paid. They might want to say they would, but actions speak louder than words.”

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Leaving the issue of paying college athletes in a state of limbo, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which it offered without explanation or comment, means the NCAA’s amateurism model survives, but in letting a lower court's ruling stand, the court also left that model open to further scrutiny, setting the stage for two other antitrust lawsuits that both seek to allow compensation for athletes beyond athletic scholarships.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court opinion that NCAA rules limiting what college athletes can be paid violate antitrust laws. By declining to hear the O’Bannon case, the Supreme Court has ensured an opening for other antitrust lawsuits to argue that it is illegal for the NCAA to limit athletes’ compensation, provided they can persuade the courts that striking down amateurism would not fundamentally alter the demand for college sports.

"Future plaintiffs now have a road map to bring antitrust cases against the NCAA," Marc Edelman, a law professor at the City University of New York’s Baruch College and expert on sports and antitrust law, said in an interview. "Future cases will be decided on the facts of the case and on whether the payment of athletes would or would not harm consumer demand. The legal burden has already been met."

In August 2014, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in a lawsuit brought by the former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon that the NCAA had violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likenesses. The ruling would have allowed, but not required, colleges to pay players about $5,000 each year beginning that fall. The payments would have been capped at that amount and held in a trust fund until the students completed their athletic eligibility.

The decision was seen at the time as a major blow to the NCAA, and the association appealed the ruling. The appellate court last year said that it agreed with the original ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust laws, but it backed the association’s opinion that college athletics should not be thought of as minor league sports. Thus, the judges wrote, compensation for athletes should be limited to funds related to their education.

The panel stated that the “difference between offering athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor,” calling the difference a quantum leap.

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman [Antitrust] Act's rules,” the panel wrote. “In this case, the NCAA's rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college-sports market. The rule of reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

The NCAA praised the latter part of the decision, and, at the association’s annual meeting in January 2015, the NCAA’s five wealthiest conferences voted to allow programs to offer full cost of attendance to athletes. But the NCAA decided to challenge the ruling that it had violated antitrust laws. O’Bannon and his lawyers also petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing again that players should be allowed more than just full cost of attendance.

“The NCAA was found guilty of illegal price-fixing in two courts and the Supreme Court is allowing those rulings to stand,” said Ramogi Huma, a former college football player and executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group for college athletes. “This makes clear that the NCAA is not above the law and that college athletes deserve equal protection under the law.”

Where the O’Bannon case failed, said Edelman of Baruch College, was in not fully challenging the assumption that payment of college athletes would harm consumer demand for college sports. Part of the problem, Edelman said, was that the case began as a lawsuit focused on the right of publicity. O’Bannon's lawsuit originally argued that current and former players should be compensated when their name, image or likeness is used in video games, and it only later grew into an antitrust case.

“The Supreme Court leaves open the possibility of later hearing the very real substantive antitrust issues in a more straightforward case,” Edelman said. “The O’Bannon case was flawed in that it started as a case related to name-and-likeness rights for former college athletes and concluded as an antitrust case related to current college athletes. But there are now cleaner cases coming up right behind O’Bannon.”

Two cases being heard in lower courts both more directly challenge the NCAA’s right to cap compensation for college athletes.

In March 2014, lawyers representing a former West Virginia football player named Shawne Alston filed a class action against the NCAA alleging that the association had violated antitrust law by limiting compensation to athletic scholarships. That same year, Jeffrey Kessler, a leading antitrust lawyer who has previously won major victories for National Football League and National Basketball Association players, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a former Clemson University football player named Martin Jenkins.

The suit -- which would be decided by the same judge who ruled in the O’Bannon case in 2014 -- focuses not just on issues of name and likeness, full cost of attendance, or capped athletic scholarships, but on unlimited compensation. As the O’Bannon case made its way through the courts, the Jenkins case has loomed in the background as potentially the largest threat yet to the NCAA’s theoretical amateurism model. At a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate athletics last year, Lorry Spitzer, a tax lawyer and professor at Boston College Law School, said the Jenkins lawsuit “really would end the world as we know it” for college sports.

A Jenkins win is far from a guarantee, however.

“If Jenkins prevails, it would upend the NCAA’s system of amateurism,” Michael McCann, the director of the University of New Hampshire’s Sports and Entertainment Law Institute, wrote for Sports Illustrated. “O’Bannon’s victory at the Ninth Circuit, while more muted in effect than he sought, can be used as precedent for Jenkins. At the same time, the NCAA might use the O’Bannon decision to highlight the judicial reluctance to imposing sweeping changes to amateurism. The NCAA would insist that the changes sought by Jenkins would interfere with the NCAA’s stated goals of promoting education and the college experience.”

During the O’Bannon case, the NCAA presented a study that suggested fans of college sports would stop supporting their teams if athletes were paid more than just being provided with athletic scholarships. The study, which was based on a survey of 2,445 college sports fans, found that 69 percent of fans said they would stop attending games if players were paid.

Mark Nagel, a professor of sports and entertainment management at of the University of South Carolina, questioned the accuracy of the study’s conclusion. After Wilken’s decision in 2014 and the vote at the January 2015 NCAA meeting, Nagel noted, the association began allowing institutions to pay players' full cost of attendance, not just the amount of a scholarship. Starting last year, many colleges provided the additional aid in the form of a stipend that covered the difference between a scholarship and the various other expenses that accompany being a college student, such as paying for food, laundry and travel.

At some institutions, the stipends were around $2,000 per year, while players at other programs received more than $5,000 -- an amount even larger than the suggested payments proposed by Wilken. Fans of big-time college sports did not walk away.

“I don’t think the marketplace really cares,” Nagel said. “They care about seeing a matchup like Clemson against Louisville, not about compensation. A vast majority of fans are not going to change their behavior just because those great quarterbacks they’re watching are now getting paid. They might want to say they would, but actions speak louder than words.”

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American University student government launches campaign for mandatory trigger warnings

The University of Chicago has received considerable attention for Dean John Ellison’s letter to incoming students about free speech. He warned freshmen not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings, setting off a national debate about their value and prevalence. A different kind of debate is going on at American University, where students are demanding mandatory trigger warnings — despite the Faculty Senate’s 2015 resolution against them.

“There’s a difference between our students and our faculty about the necessity of trigger warnings on syllabi and the importance of centering student trauma in academic spaces,” Devontae Torriente, president of American’s student government, says in new YouTube video introducing the group’s #LetUsLearn campaign in favor of such warnings. “The fact of the matter is, trigger warnings are necessary in order to make our academic spaces accessible to all students, especially those who have experienced trauma.”

Torriente adds, “In doing so, we uphold [American’s] commitment to academic freedom and allow all students to participate in the exchange of ideas and discussion.”

The assertion is something of an inversion of the logic the Faculty Senate used last year in its resolution against mandatory trigger warnings, which it shared again this fall via email with students, faculty and staff. The debate is also exemplary of the larger national discussion about trigger warnings, in which proponents — including survivor advocates and many students — say they increase participation and therefore contribute to academic freedom, and critics — including the American Association of University Professors — say they may limit free speech and inquiry.

Yet in much of the national debate about trigger warnings, opponents have implied that colleges were making them mandatory. In fact, they haven’t — although some professors have opted to use them in a range of ways. So American’s students, who advocate that all professors who teach sensitive content use trigger warnings, are pushing very much against the grain of the way they have been used.

“American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas — without censorship — and to study material as it is written, produced or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings,” reads the senate email, quoting its resolution. “This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.”

The faculty statement, which also won the endorsement of the university’s administration, continues, “As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that [American] will not compromise.”

The resolution doesn’t rule out trigger warnings, and says that professors “may advise” students before exposing them to controversial materials. But it says the senate “does not endorse offering ‘trigger warnings’ or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to ‘opt out’ of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.”

Addressing concerns about student trauma, the senate resolution says that professors should direct students “who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues” to student services. “In issuing this statement, the [senate] affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens,” it concludes. “Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.”

Todd Eisenstadt, professor of government and Faculty Senate chair, signed the email, saying that it is “relevant to help establish the kind of environment we think is critical for the joint pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment which we are all embarking on together.”

The faculty statement met with some student criticism last year, but the reminder has roiled students anew and led to the launch of the #LetUsLearn campaign.

In a recent op-ed in American’s student newspaper, Grace Arnpriester, executive director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, wrote that professors and even other students opposed to mandatory trigger warnings misunderstand the concept. In particular, Arnpriester takes issue with the faculty resolution’s notion that students might use trigger warnings to “opt out” of engaging critical issues. Rather than some kind of intellectual laziness or vague “discomfort,” Arnpriester wrote, survivors of trauma deal with “hypervigilance” that can lead to panic, anxiety, flashbacks or more — all of which can be triggered by sensitive content.

Arnpriester refers readers to the student government’s guide to trigger warnings. It defines a warning as a “heads-up” to sensitive content, which could include combat violence, self-harm or sexual or relationship violence. It suggests various ways of offering trigger warnings, including passing out note cards on the first day of the semester on which students may disclose triggers. Others ideas are verbal or syllabus warnings.

Eisenstadt said via email that he was aware of the student dissent and expected some concerned students would attend a senate meeting on Wednesday. As for why the faculty reminder email was necessary, he said, “Given the controversies in some quarters over academic freedom … it was worth sending again. As the academic year commenced, it was an important moment to take stock, make people aware of the importance of academic freedom and how we cherish it and should not take it for granted.”

Andrea Pearson, vice chair of the senate and associate professor of art history, declined comment on the student protest but reiterated that “faculty may advise students about controversial course material if they wish, but at the same time the senate does not endorse the use of trigger warnings.”

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From American U student government’s #LetUsLearn campaign in support of mandatory trigger warnings
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The University of Chicago has received considerable attention for Dean John Ellison’s letter to incoming students about free speech. He warned freshmen not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings, setting off a national debate about their value and prevalence. A different kind of debate is going on at American University, where students are demanding mandatory trigger warnings -- despite the Faculty Senate’s 2015 resolution against them.

“There’s a difference between our students and our faculty about the necessity of trigger warnings on syllabi and the importance of centering student trauma in academic spaces,” Devontae Torriente, president of American’s student government, says in new YouTube video introducing the group’s #LetUsLearn campaign in favor of such warnings. “The fact of the matter is, trigger warnings are necessary in order to make our academic spaces accessible to all students, especially those who have experienced trauma.”

Torriente adds, “In doing so, we uphold [American’s] commitment to academic freedom and allow all students to participate in the exchange of ideas and discussion.”

The assertion is something of an inversion of the logic the Faculty Senate used last year in its resolution against mandatory trigger warnings, which it shared again this fall via email with students, faculty and staff. The debate is also exemplary of the larger national discussion about trigger warnings, in which proponents -- including survivor advocates and many students -- say they increase participation and therefore contribute to academic freedom, and critics -- including the American Association of University Professors -- say they may limit free speech and inquiry.

Yet in much of the national debate about trigger warnings, opponents have implied that colleges were making them mandatory. In fact, they haven't -- although some professors have opted to use them in a range of ways. So American's students, who advocate that all professors who teach sensitive content use trigger warnings, are pushing very much against the grain of the way they have been used.

“American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas -- without censorship -- and to study material as it is written, produced or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings,” reads the senate email, quoting its resolution. “This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.”

The faculty statement, which also won the endorsement of the university’s administration, continues, “As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that [American] will not compromise.”

The resolution doesn’t rule out trigger warnings, and says that professors “may advise” students before exposing them to controversial materials. But it says the senate “does not endorse offering ‘trigger warnings’ or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to ‘opt out’ of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.”

Addressing concerns about student trauma, the senate resolution says that professors should direct students “who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues” to student services. “In issuing this statement, the [senate] affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens,” it concludes. “Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.”

Todd Eisenstadt, professor of government and Faculty Senate chair, signed the email, saying that it is “relevant to help establish the kind of environment we think is critical for the joint pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment which we are all embarking on together.”

The faculty statement met with some student criticism last year, but the reminder has roiled students anew and led to the launch of the #LetUsLearn campaign.

In a recent op-ed in American’s student newspaper, Grace Arnpriester, executive director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, wrote that professors and even other students opposed to mandatory trigger warnings misunderstand the concept. In particular, Arnpriester takes issue with the faculty resolution’s notion that students might use trigger warnings to “opt out” of engaging critical issues. Rather than some kind of intellectual laziness or vague “discomfort,” Arnpriester wrote, survivors of trauma deal with “hypervigilance” that can lead to panic, anxiety, flashbacks or more -- all of which can be triggered by sensitive content.

Arnpriester refers readers to the student government’s guide to trigger warnings. It defines a warning as a “heads-up” to sensitive content, which could include combat violence, self-harm or sexual or relationship violence. It suggests various ways of offering trigger warnings, including passing out note cards on the first day of the semester on which students may disclose triggers. Others ideas are verbal or syllabus warnings.

Eisenstadt said via email that he was aware of the student dissent and expected some concerned students would attend a senate meeting on Wednesday. As for why the faculty reminder email was necessary, he said, “Given the controversies in some quarters over academic freedom … it was worth sending again. As the academic year commenced, it was an important moment to take stock, make people aware of the importance of academic freedom and how we cherish it and should not take it for granted.”

Andrea Pearson, vice chair of the senate and associate professor of art history, declined comment on the student protest but reiterated that “faculty may advise students about controversial course material if they wish, but at the same time the senate does not endorse the use of trigger warnings.”

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From American U student government's #LetUsLearn campaign in support of mandatory trigger warnings
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Academics declare support for Donald Trump

Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, spent two and a half years working in the George W. Bush administration and, later, voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Now Bauerlein, one of the country’s most vocal conservative academics, is one of the few in the profession openly supporting Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a point where we need a jolt. We need someone who can take on the taboos and do so in a canny and effective way,” Bauerlein said.

He’s one of 150 academics and other writers who have put their names on a letter of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, although the Scholars and Writers for America list includes many signatures of those from outside the traditional academy.

Frank Buckley, a Foundation Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, said he and other conservative scholars helped organize the letter — a brief, one-sentence statement backing the candidate — to establish that there are some ideas behind Trump’s candidacy.

The letter reads, “Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald J. Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do.”

“There should be a campaign of ideas and not simply of personalities,” Buckley said of the current presidential race. “Right now, the campaign is mostly a bunch of ad hominem attacks.”

Buckley said Trump was attractive as a candidate because of his promised action on immigration and tax reform as well as a more prudent foreign policy.

He said the organizers of the letter had reached out to a few friends, who circulated the letter themselves. But Buckley said he excluded anyone from the list who was supporting Trump for reasons he didn’t like.

Bauerlein said his reasons for supporting Trump were more cultural and social than political. The list of signatures includes academics like him and Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, and familiar higher education critics such as David Horowitz and Roger Kimball.

It also features former politicians with scholarly credentials such as Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett, and others such as Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member who bankrolled former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, and Charles C. Johnson, a right-wing blogger known for aggressive trolling on Twitter before he was banned from the website.

Joshua Dunn, chair of the department of political science at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said the list of names is probably so broad because of the difficulty of finding university-based scholars to back a candidate who has become toxic even to many in his own party. Dunn, who co-wrote a book about conservatives in academe, said conservative faculty members are typically pro-free trade, pro-free market and skeptical of populist movements, whereas Trump has run a populist campaign espousing protectionist principles.

“You’re going to have trouble rounding up many conservative faculty members,” he said.

Dunn said even many who have signed the letter may not be terribly enthusiastic about Trump.

“Instead they’re afraid of a Clinton presidency, so they kind of regard him as the least worst option for this election,” he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has peeled off support from a handful of current and former Republican officials. And the newspaper endorsements that would go to a GOP nominee in a typical presidential election cycle haven’t been forthcoming for Trump, who has repeatedly made racist and misogynist remarks throughout his campaign. Dunn said support for Trump would be controversial on most college campuses to an extent that a professor endorsing Mitt Romney would not have been.

Buckley said there are few registered Republicans in the academy to begin with and that, within that group, many vigorously oppose Trump.

“We’re a minority within a minority,” he said.

Bauerlein said both the left and the right have pushed the idea in this election that educated, intelligent people don’t support the GOP nominee. He said the list of signatures serves as a counterpoint to that idea.

“The immediate message is that there is an intelligent case to make for Trump,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s right. But it is rational.”

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Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, spent two and a half years working in the George W. Bush administration and, later, voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Now Bauerlein, one of the country's most vocal conservative academics, is one of the few in the profession openly supporting Donald Trump.

"We've reached a point where we need a jolt. We need someone who can take on the taboos and do so in a canny and effective way," Bauerlein said.

He's one of 150 academics and other writers who have put their names on a letter of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, although the Scholars and Writers for America list includes many signatures of those from outside the traditional academy.

Frank Buckley, a Foundation Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, said he and other conservative scholars helped organize the letter -- a brief, one-sentence statement backing the candidate -- to establish that there are some ideas behind Trump's candidacy.

The letter reads, "Given our choices in the presidential election, we believe that Donald J. Trump is the candidate most likely to restore the promise of America, and we urge you to support him as we do."

"There should be a campaign of ideas and not simply of personalities," Buckley said of the current presidential race. "Right now, the campaign is mostly a bunch of ad hominem attacks."

Buckley said Trump was attractive as a candidate because of his promised action on immigration and tax reform as well as a more prudent foreign policy.

He said the organizers of the letter had reached out to a few friends, who circulated the letter themselves. But Buckley said he excluded anyone from the list who was supporting Trump for reasons he didn't like.

Bauerlein said his reasons for supporting Trump were more cultural and social than political. The list of signatures includes academics like him and Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University, and familiar higher education critics such as David Horowitz and Roger Kimball.

It also features former politicians with scholarly credentials such as Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett, and others such as Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member who bankrolled former wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, and Charles C. Johnson, a right-wing blogger known for aggressive trolling on Twitter before he was banned from the website.

Joshua Dunn, chair of the department of political science at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said the list of names is probably so broad because of the difficulty of finding university-based scholars to back a candidate who has become toxic even to many in his own party. Dunn, who co-wrote a book about conservatives in academe, said conservative faculty members are typically pro-free trade, pro-free market and skeptical of populist movements, whereas Trump has run a populist campaign espousing protectionist principles.

"You're going to have trouble rounding up many conservative faculty members," he said.

Dunn said even many who have signed the letter may not be terribly enthusiastic about Trump.

"Instead they're afraid of a Clinton presidency, so they kind of regard him as the least worst option for this election," he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has peeled off support from a handful of current and former Republican officials. And the newspaper endorsements that would go to a GOP nominee in a typical presidential election cycle haven't been forthcoming for Trump, who has repeatedly made racist and misogynist remarks throughout his campaign. Dunn said support for Trump would be controversial on most college campuses to an extent that a professor endorsing Mitt Romney would not have been.

Buckley said there are few registered Republicans in the academy to begin with and that, within that group, many vigorously oppose Trump.

"We're a minority within a minority," he said.

Bauerlein said both the left and the right have pushed the idea in this election that educated, intelligent people don't support the GOP nominee. He said the list of signatures serves as a counterpoint to that idea.

"The immediate message is that there is an intelligent case to make for Trump," he said. "That doesn't mean it's right. But it is rational."

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