Philosopher proposes code of conduct for academics as MIT professors affirm commitment to shared values

Academics (and journalists) have been accused in the aftermath of the presidential election of being “out of touch” with the American electorate. At the same time, academics have played important leadership roles in eras and places in which free expression has come under threat — as some believe it is now in the U.S.

What is the role of the academic in such an era, or, at the very least, what are the academic’s obligations to his or her profession, campus and government? Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto (and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen), this week proposed what she’s calling the Anti-Authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct.

Here’s the 10-point code in full:

  • I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
  • I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
  • I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
  • I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
  • As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
  • I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
  • As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
  • I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
  • I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.

The proposed code is similar to some of the points made by other academic groups since the election, including a petition advancing the notion of “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students, and the American Association of University Professors’ condemnation of hate crimes.

Barney’s post-Trump proposal is the first to appear as a code to be adopted, voluntarily, by individual professors across disciplines. Asked whether she thought academics would actually need it, Barney said, “I don’t think we know how authoritarian the Trump administration might turn out to be, but his personnel appointments and recent pronouncements suggest ‘very,’ as well as generally irresponsible and not constrained by law.”

Troubling examples include Stephen Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, as chief strategist, and Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was once denied a federal judgeship due to charges of racism, as attorney general, Barney said. Trump also has denied that climate change is real. “So if there’s going to be a war on civil liberties, cultural liberalism and scientific fact, it’s really hard to see how higher ed can fail to be a major battlefield,” she added.

Also this week, 400 faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a statement affirming their shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and objective inquiry and the scientific method.

“The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change,” reads the MIT statement. “Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

Of science, in particular, the statement says it “is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.”

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” pledged such notable signatories as Susan Solomon, Tim Berners-Lee, Noam Chomsky, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Gruber. “We pledge to work with all members of the community — students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and administrators — to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, added in a separate statement that academic institutions “have historically been havens to protect diversity of opinions and the freedom to express those opinions when the political climate has impinged on this freedom. It appears that we are entering a period where the political climate requires us to assert our leadership to protect and foster diversity and scientific inquiry itself.”

The MIT faculty statement was issued ahead of Bannon’s planned visit to nearby Harvard University Wednesday. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Bannon is scheduled to attend a conference on presidential campaign politics.

Barney said she was inspired by reading about authoritarianism via Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University, and Masha Gessen, a well-known Russian-born journalist.

In a recent Slate piece about Adolf Hitler’s election, for example, Snyder — a historian of the Holocaust — pointedly drew many parallels to Trump’s rise. “The left received one million more votes than his party,” Snyder wrote. “But due to the vagaries of the electoral system, he was called upon to form a government. His followers exulted, but the various right-wing elites preserved their calm. Although they had failed to keep him from power, they were sure that they could control him. He was good at convincing his followers that he was a revolutionary and convincing others that he was harmless.”

Gessen wrote her own set of rules for living under an autocracy recently in The New York Review of Books. “Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat — and won,” she wrote. “I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect.” Rule No. 1? “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

Barney, who was also practically inspired by Atul Gawande’s exaltation of the checklist in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, said she wasn’t trying to “urge heroism or tell anybody what to go do.” Whether the code gains traction “will depend entirely on whether people working in the U.S. find it personally useful, and that’s as it should be,” she added. But Snyder, Gessen and others who know authoritarian societies “make it clear that forewarned is forearmed.”

Whether the code gains traction remains to be seen, and some will certainly disagree with both its premise and its suggestions (indeed, some already have).

But it’s attracting interest on the popular philosophy blog Daily Nous. Editor Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, wrote that there’s no way to know for sure how authoritarian the U.S. government will become under a Trump administration. So under “conditions of uncertainty, how do we identify the line between panicked overreaction and responsible preparation?” he asked. “At the very least, we could look for and assess minimally costly means of preparation. One option along these lines is to try to mentally prepare ourselves to refuse to cooperate with illiberal or immoral government initiatives.”

Daily Nous invites comments and amendments to the code. (One philosopher called at least one aspect “pretty radical.”) But, Weinberg said, “If you agree with enough of this, please share it with others at your school and in your social networks. Consider printing it out and hanging it in your office or on your office door.”

He added, “And keep these 10 items in mind, so if the time comes, you are a little more prepared than you otherwise might be.”

Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who co-organized the new statement of shared values, said recent events “have prompted many academics to take a public stance defending precious aspects of our society that suddenly need a lot more defending than they did just a few months ago.”

In times of political uncertainty, she said, academics have a “special role to play, especially tenured faculty who have the great privilege of being able to call a spade a spade without fear of losing their jobs.”

At MIT, Kanwisher added, “we also have a duty to remind people that science is not a special interest,” but rather “the best procedure human beings have for discovering nonpartisan truths about our world — truths that have been harnessed to improve the lives of everyone in our country, and truths that will be essential for society to plan for the future.”

If those views are out of step with much of the country, she added — noting that Trump received less than half of the popular vote — then it’s not “scientists who need to rethink science, but the electorate who needs to be reminded that their quality of life and their health and their futures depend upon science.”

Image Source: 
Getty Images
Image Caption: 
Stephen Bannon, a key Trump aide whose views concern many academics
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Academics (and journalists) have been accused in the aftermath of the presidential election of being “out of touch” with the American electorate. At the same time, academics have played important leadership roles in eras and places in which free expression has come under threat -- as some believe it is now in the U.S.

What is the role of the academic in such an era, or, at the very least, what are the academic’s obligations to his or her profession, campus and government? Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto (and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen), this week proposed what she’s calling the Anti-Authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct.

Here's the 10-point code in full:

  • I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
  • I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
  • I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
  • I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
  • As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
  • I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
  • As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
  • I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
  • I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.

The proposed code is similar to some of the points made by other academic groups since the election, including a petition advancing the notion of “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students, and the American Association of University Professors’ condemnation of hate crimes.

Barney’s post-Trump proposal is the first to appear as a code to be adopted, voluntarily, by individual professors across disciplines. Asked whether she thought academics would actually need it, Barney said, “I don’t think we know how authoritarian the Trump administration might turn out to be, but his personnel appointments and recent pronouncements suggest ‘very,’ as well as generally irresponsible and not constrained by law.”

Troubling examples include Stephen Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, as chief strategist, and Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was once denied a federal judgeship due to charges of racism, as attorney general, Barney said. Trump also has denied that climate change is real. “So if there’s going to be a war on civil liberties, cultural liberalism and scientific fact, it’s really hard to see how higher ed can fail to be a major battlefield,” she added.

Also this week, 400 faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a statement affirming their shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and objective inquiry and the scientific method.

“The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change,” reads the MIT statement. “Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

Of science, in particular, the statement says it “is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.”

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” pledged such notable signatories as Susan Solomon, Tim Berners-Lee, Noam Chomsky, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Gruber. “We pledge to work with all members of the community -- students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and administrators -- to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, added in a separate statement that academic institutions “have historically been havens to protect diversity of opinions and the freedom to express those opinions when the political climate has impinged on this freedom. It appears that we are entering a period where the political climate requires us to assert our leadership to protect and foster diversity and scientific inquiry itself.”

The MIT faculty statement was issued ahead of Bannon's planned visit to nearby Harvard University Wednesday. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Bannon is scheduled to attend a conference on presidential campaign politics.

Barney said she was inspired by reading about authoritarianism via Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University, and Masha Gessen, a well-known Russian-born journalist.

In a recent Slate piece about Adolf Hitler’s election, for example, Snyder -- a historian of the Holocaust -- pointedly drew many parallels to Trump’s rise. “The left received one million more votes than his party,” Snyder wrote. “But due to the vagaries of the electoral system, he was called upon to form a government. His followers exulted, but the various right-wing elites preserved their calm. Although they had failed to keep him from power, they were sure that they could control him. He was good at convincing his followers that he was a revolutionary and convincing others that he was harmless.”

Gessen wrote her own set of rules for living under an autocracy recently in The New York Review of Books. “Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat -- and won,” she wrote. “I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect.” Rule No. 1? “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

Barney, who was also practically inspired by Atul Gawande’s exaltation of the checklist in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, said she wasn’t trying to “urge heroism or tell anybody what to go do.” Whether the code gains traction “will depend entirely on whether people working in the U.S. find it personally useful, and that's as it should be,” she added. But Snyder, Gessen and others who know authoritarian societies “make it clear that forewarned is forearmed.”

Whether the code gains traction remains to be seen, and some will certainly disagree with both its premise and its suggestions (indeed, some already have).

But it’s attracting interest on the popular philosophy blog Daily Nous. Editor Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, wrote that there’s no way to know for sure how authoritarian the U.S. government will become under a Trump administration. So under “conditions of uncertainty, how do we identify the line between panicked overreaction and responsible preparation?” he asked. “At the very least, we could look for and assess minimally costly means of preparation. One option along these lines is to try to mentally prepare ourselves to refuse to cooperate with illiberal or immoral government initiatives.”

Daily Nous invites comments and amendments to the code. (One philosopher called at least one aspect “pretty radical.”) But, Weinberg said, “If you agree with enough of this, please share it with others at your school and in your social networks. Consider printing it out and hanging it in your office or on your office door.”

He added, “And keep these 10 items in mind, so if the time comes, you are a little more prepared than you otherwise might be.”

Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who co-organized the new statement of shared values, said recent events “have prompted many academics to take a public stance defending precious aspects of our society that suddenly need a lot more defending than they did just a few months ago.”

In times of political uncertainty, she said, academics have a “special role to play, especially tenured faculty who have the great privilege of being able to call a spade a spade without fear of losing their jobs.”

At MIT, Kanwisher added, “we also have a duty to remind people that science is not a special interest,” but rather “the best procedure human beings have for discovering nonpartisan truths about our world -- truths that have been harnessed to improve the lives of everyone in our country, and truths that will be essential for society to plan for the future.”

If those views are out of step with much of the country, she added -- noting that Trump received less than half of the popular vote -- then it's not “scientists who need to rethink science, but the electorate who needs to be reminded that their quality of life and their health and their futures depend upon science.”

Image Source: 
Getty Images
Image Caption: 
Stephen Bannon, a key Trump aide whose views concern many academics
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Presidents draw fire for postelection comments

As student concerns and campus protests play out in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, college and university presidents grapple with the question of whether they should weigh in — and what they should say.

Some presidents chose to speak quickly and forcefully, attacking perceived falsehoods from the campaign and assuring students feeling anxiety in the wake of an election that many see as laying bare bigotry, white supremacy and xenophobia in the United States. Take, for example, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who issued a statement the morning after the election calling for freedom of thought, tolerance and reason before later publicly denouncing Trump at an awards dinner.

In language unusually pointed for a sitting college president, Bollinger said of Trump, “The denial of climate change, the rejection of the fact of evolution, the attack on free speech, the dissemination of falsehoods deliberately and intentionally that would make George Orwell seem naïve and unimaginative, the attack on groups that we celebrate at Columbia and embrace as part of our greatness — these are not political issues. This is where we stand. This is a challenge to what we stand for.”

Principles at Notre Dame

Others waited to speak or tried to address broad principles. The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, addressed the election at an interfaith prayer service Nov. 14, laying out his university’s guiding principles, calling for constructive dialogue and trying to assure undocumented students at Notre Dame.

Presidents who issued statements or publicly commented after the election said they felt it was important to proclaim their institution’s values in a world of unsettled political discourse. They also said they felt compelled to update students and faculty members who were looking for leadership in an uncertain time — or alumni who wanted an update from campuses about which they care. But some remarks that were well received on campuses have been attacked and mocked in publications sympathetic to the president-elect.

Communications experts, meanwhile, cautioned college and university presidents to speak with care, especially in the current highly charged political climate. Speaking quickly or frequently is no substitute for leading by action and example, they said. Leaders who react too quickly risk trapping their campuses in a media maelstrom, disaffecting key constituencies or eroding the power of their own words.

Such concerns played heavily in the mind of Notre Dame’s president, Father Jenkins, as he prepared his remarks for the Nov. 14 prayer service. University presidents must be careful not to take political stances, Father Jenkins said in an interview this week. At the same time, the president must fulfill a role of articulating the values of the larger institution.

When he wrote his remarks, Father Jenkins tried to consider students and faculty members who might have voted for different sides, he said. Would they take his words as not respecting their views?

“You have an obligation not to say things that are going to more deeply divide people and to understand that you’re part of a community where people have different views,” Father Jenkins said.

In his prayer service remarks, which were picked up by outlets including the New York Daily News, Father Jenkins called for a “respectful, constructive dialogue that is so critical for a democracy.” He called for listening “most attentively to those who do not share our views.” Then he directly addressed undocumented students at Notre Dame, calling them part of the university’s family and pledging to “spare no effort” to support them.

Father Jenkins could have stuck solely to the institutional values his speech emphasized — human dignity, the common good and solidarity among people. Asked why he decided to address undocumented students directly, the president replied that they feel particularly vulnerable at this moment in time.

Rev. John I. Jenkins“We’re going to support them, and they’re extraordinarily valuable for this country,” he said. “I have spoken on that before, and I think that is appropriate. And, frankly, I don’t think my articulation of that is particularly partisan. It just seems like part of the values of this institution and part of the values of our country.”

Earlier this year, Father Jenkins denounced venom directed by Americans toward Mexicans, calling it “churlish, insulting political theater.” Father Jenkins delivered those remarks while speaking in Mexico City, where Notre Dame was opening an office. He did not name a political candidate.

Notre Dame has traditionally invited new U.S. presidents to speak at its spring commencement ceremony. Father Jenkins was not prepared to say whether he would extend such an invitation to Trump.

When President Obama spoke at the university’s commencement in 2009, the appearance was controversial, marked by outcry and protests from anti-abortion groups. It became a political circus, Father Jenkins said. While he wants to recognize the country’s elected leadership, he also wants to be mindful of families’ and graduates’ experiences.

“What is the most constructive thing to do?” he said. “It’s just something I’m reflecting on now.”

Father Jenkins reported receiving positive feedback to his remarks on the election. Not every president can say the same, however.

Scrutiny of a Letter From Vassar

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College, was one of more than 100 college and university presidents who signed a letter calling on Trump to condemn hate speech and acts of violence across the country. Chenette also signed a statement that called on Trump’s incoming officials to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And he signed a letter from presidents at the historically women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters addressed to Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and pick for senior counselor and chief White House strategist, that objected to comments Bannon made maligning alumnae of the Seven Sisters, among others.

Chenette addressed the issues in letter distributed before Thanksgiving break.

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College“Now, as the next chapter in our country’s history takes shape, many of our students, faculty and staff have concerns and questions about the course the nation will be taking,” he wrote. “And they worry about actions threatened, particularly against people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ communities and others. In this context, academic work and extracurricular projects have been infused with new meaning and energy, as you who know the college well would expect. But there is also confusion and anxiety, mirroring moods pervasive throughout our country.”

Chenette went on to write that he believes people from all backgrounds and circumstances belong at Vassar, pledging to support students at a time when some in the country “seem to be calling into question the rights of some groups to full dignity and respect.”

The pre-Thanksgiving letter, which did not mention Trump or Bannon by name, drew quick outrage from conservative blogs. Legal Insurrection quoted an unhappy Vassar alumna and Trump voter who questioned what actions have been threatened against LGBTQ communities and people of color and who said the Chenette’s message inspired fearmongering. The Daily Caller falsely claimed that Chenette closed his letter by indicating he was thankful for anti-Trump protests on campus — even though that line does not appear in the letter.

Chenette and the Vassar administration had sent emails to campus on the day after the election. Chenette had even talked to the parent of a student who supported Trump and felt that his communications hadn’t made room for those happy about the election results. But the Vassar president felt it was important to send the pre-Thanksgiving letter to communicate with different constituencies after he’d signed on to the letters on hate speech, DACA and Bannon. He wanted to describe campus life in the wake of the election, he said.

“The Thanksgiving letter, the one that went out widely, was intended to convey the texture of campus life in the week after the election,” Chenette said. “I think it does it pretty honestly. There were no obvious Trump supporter parties on campus, or I would have reported that. There may have been some private ones — I assume there were. But I tried to give the most honest impression I could.”

Chenette wanted to look forward and help those who were having trouble moving past the election, he said. He also wanted to talk about Vassar’s values when he saw ideas counter to those values being discussed.

Although Chenette considered not sending the Thanksgiving statement, Vassar graduates were asking about what was happening on campus after the election, he said. He does not regret the message.

“I know it’s not going to please everybody,” he said. “There was blowback. I don’t enjoy some of the emails I got, but I learned from that.”

Chenette has tried to talk to his thoughtful critics, he said. He added that he wants to find ways to make marginalized voices in the community more visible and able to contribute to debate respectfully.

One frequent criticism levied at college and university presidents assuring students in the wake of the election is that they would not have issued similar statements had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election. Chenette said he would not have put out as many statements in that case.

“It was not the outcome that many members of our community expected,” he said. “It is the outcome that some members of our extended community wanted, but [that] the majority of our community felt, I believe, was not in line with the values that we hold dear. And it was a big enough shock that it threatened to potentially disrupt the educational process, which is the core of what we’re about. So our goal is to turn it back into an educational opportunity and say, ‘Look, this is democracy in action, and there are ways to respond that will be good for you, good for the world.’”

The Flag and Its Meanings

Vassar was far from the only institution to find itself in the spotlight for postelection actions. Hampshire College, a private liberal arts institution in Amherst, Mass., found itself in the spotlight after veterans’ groups protested a recent decision it made not to fly the U.S. flag on its main flagpole. The flag has been a point of debate at postelection protests across the country and at Hampshire, where students lowered the U.S. flag the day after the election.

The next day, Nov. 10, Hampshire decided to keep the flag at half-staff, a move it said was intended start a campus dialogue and honor students’ reaction to the election’s negative tone and reports of violence and harassment across the country. Hampshire further explained the move by saying its Board of Trustees had adopted a policy over the last year of flying the flag at half-staff from time to time in order to “mourn deaths from violence in the U.S. and around the world.”

But overnight between Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — someone burned the flag. Hampshire does not know who burned the flag. The college flew a new flag at full staff on Veterans Day, then trustees voted Nov. 12 to fly the flag at half-staff to prompt dialogue. Six days later, President Jonathan Lash emailed an apology for flying the flag at half-staff and causing distress for veterans.

“Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election,” Lash wrote. “This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”

The president went on to announce that the college would not fly the flag on its campus flagpole so it could focus on “addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.” The college said no campuswide ban was in place and that individuals on campus and campus offices were free to display their own flags.

Lash was not available for comment, according to a campus spokesman who said the president is meeting with students and employees as part of the announced talks on the flag. Lash met with those who organized the veterans who protested, said the spokesman, John Courtmanche.

“President Lash acknowledged their right to demonstrate and expressed his regret that a still-unknown person or persons had burned the college’s flag overnight before Veterans Day,” Courtmanche said in a statement. “President Lash listened respectfully to the views of the veterans and explained that the Hampshire College community includes a wide range of views including employees and students who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. President Lash emphasized that by not flying a flag on our college’s flagpole for the time being, the college is seeking to enable a discussion of values among all members of our campus, not make a political statement.”

The debate at Hampshire has inspired calls for federal funding to be cut from the college and for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association to revoke its membership.

Hampshire declined additional comment after Trump weighed in on the issue of flag burning on Twitter Tuesday, setting off another debate.

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016

National conservative media has been closely following the Hampshire developments. But local columnists have been critical as well. Ron Chimelis, columnist for The Republican newspaper, wrote that Hampshire’s administration was out of touch with reality if it thought taking the flag down would end the uproar.

“When people nationwide fumble for a singular example of how disrespect for the values of others is masqueraded as sensitivity, they won’t have to go through a checklist to find exhibit A,” he wrote. “When they need one institution to represent a college culture of administrative spinelessness and where crying rooms, coddling rooms and cuddling rooms are taking the place of classrooms, they’ll have one.”

‘Words Are More Valuable When They’re Scarce’

Presidents often feel pressure to speak too quickly or too often, said Simon Barker, managing partner of Blue Moon Consulting Group, a reputational risk management and crisis consulting firm with a focus area in higher education.

“Actions speak louder than words, and words are more valuable when they’re scarce,” he said. “When we think about the role of the president, is it really your role to be providing this kind of translating, so to speak, for your campus?”

Presidents need to think about why they are issuing a statement and what they hope to achieve, Barker said. They also must consider the unintended consequences of speaking out on an issue.

Barker likens unnecessary presidential statements — about all topics, not just the election — to an epidemic. Many of them would be better coming from a more specialized administrator, like a vice chancellor for student affairs, he said. Failing to think the situation through before speaking can lead to a slippery slope where presidents are suddenly expected to weigh in on every topic, from offensive but obscure social media posts to Halloween costumes. That can lead to their words unintentionally highlighting obscure issues or losing their value over time as people tune out frequent statements.

Presidents clearly continue to feel that they need to talk about an institution’s values in times of uncertainty, though. Another postelection example is University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. He was named in a student petition claiming the university’s response to the election created a “hateful climate that makes students feel ashamed for voting for Donald Trump.”

Schlissel received particular criticism for comments he made at a postelection vigil, where he said, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday.”

The University of Michigan has disputed characterizations of the vigil as an anti-Trump rally. Schlissel was not available for comment on this story, but he discussed the controversy and state of public discourse recently on NPR. He said he did not intend to suggest everyone who voted for Trump is of a hateful or racist mind-set. The event he attended was to support many students who felt threatened, Schlissel said.

“I think they were scared and threatened by a discourse through the election season that involved racism and misogyny and xenophobia, Islamophobia,” he said. “So I really felt my role as the leader of the community was to stand up for our community’s values, and I think those values are actually shared by Democrats and Republicans and by people who voted for all different folks in the election.”

An underlying cause of many controversies is that presidents are often making comments and writing statements geared toward the campus constituencies they see, said Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of national higher ed public relations agency TVP Communications. But in today’s world, their words quickly travel off campus and become national statements on behalf of the intuition. In the process, they can be stripped of context.

As a result, it’s more important for presidents to remember the existence of different groups when they speak. Trustees may view a situation differently than faculty members, who may view it differently than students. Students themselves may be divided. Sometimes there may be no single message that can property address all those people with their different experiences and backgrounds.

“One of the recommendations we’ve been giving to presidents is, when we write these statements, make sure they’re writing to all students,” Valerio Parrot said. “Make sure they’re not disregarding the opposing view or those who may not feel like the majority of their student body.”

A first question to ask is whether something really needs to be said, Valerio Parrot said. Does someone on campus need to hear something, or is a president just sharing his or her personal beliefs?

Still, many think presidents can effectively speak to important issues, if they pick their moments and choose their words carefully.

“One of the key tenets of higher education is based on asking the important questions, and that means we have to be willing to work through the tough discussions to find common ground,” Valerio Parrot said. “I do think this is a place where faculty and administrators can set the stage and bring together the various options across campus and show through their leadership how you agree to disagree and still work together.”

2016 Election
Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

As student concerns and campus protests play out in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, college and university presidents grapple with the question of whether they should weigh in -- and what they should say.

Some presidents chose to speak quickly and forcefully, attacking perceived falsehoods from the campaign and assuring students feeling anxiety in the wake of an election that many see as laying bare bigotry, white supremacy and xenophobia in the United States. Take, for example, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who issued a statement the morning after the election calling for freedom of thought, tolerance and reason before later publicly denouncing Trump at an awards dinner.

In language unusually pointed for a sitting college president, Bollinger said of Trump, “The denial of climate change, the rejection of the fact of evolution, the attack on free speech, the dissemination of falsehoods deliberately and intentionally that would make George Orwell seem naïve and unimaginative, the attack on groups that we celebrate at Columbia and embrace as part of our greatness -- these are not political issues. This is where we stand. This is a challenge to what we stand for.”

Principles at Notre Dame

Others waited to speak or tried to address broad principles. The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, addressed the election at an interfaith prayer service Nov. 14, laying out his university’s guiding principles, calling for constructive dialogue and trying to assure undocumented students at Notre Dame.

Presidents who issued statements or publicly commented after the election said they felt it was important to proclaim their institution’s values in a world of unsettled political discourse. They also said they felt compelled to update students and faculty members who were looking for leadership in an uncertain time -- or alumni who wanted an update from campuses about which they care. But some remarks that were well received on campuses have been attacked and mocked in publications sympathetic to the president-elect.

Communications experts, meanwhile, cautioned college and university presidents to speak with care, especially in the current highly charged political climate. Speaking quickly or frequently is no substitute for leading by action and example, they said. Leaders who react too quickly risk trapping their campuses in a media maelstrom, disaffecting key constituencies or eroding the power of their own words.

Such concerns played heavily in the mind of Notre Dame's president, Father Jenkins, as he prepared his remarks for the Nov. 14 prayer service. University presidents must be careful not to take political stances, Father Jenkins said in an interview this week. At the same time, the president must fulfill a role of articulating the values of the larger institution.

When he wrote his remarks, Father Jenkins tried to consider students and faculty members who might have voted for different sides, he said. Would they take his words as not respecting their views?

“You have an obligation not to say things that are going to more deeply divide people and to understand that you’re part of a community where people have different views,” Father Jenkins said.

In his prayer service remarks, which were picked up by outlets including the New York Daily News, Father Jenkins called for a “respectful, constructive dialogue that is so critical for a democracy.” He called for listening “most attentively to those who do not share our views.” Then he directly addressed undocumented students at Notre Dame, calling them part of the university’s family and pledging to “spare no effort” to support them.

Father Jenkins could have stuck solely to the institutional values his speech emphasized -- human dignity, the common good and solidarity among people. Asked why he decided to address undocumented students directly, the president replied that they feel particularly vulnerable at this moment in time.

Rev. John I. Jenkins“We’re going to support them, and they’re extraordinarily valuable for this country,” he said. “I have spoken on that before, and I think that is appropriate. And, frankly, I don’t think my articulation of that is particularly partisan. It just seems like part of the values of this institution and part of the values of our country.”

Earlier this year, Father Jenkins denounced venom directed by Americans toward Mexicans, calling it “churlish, insulting political theater.” Father Jenkins delivered those remarks while speaking in Mexico City, where Notre Dame was opening an office. He did not name a political candidate.

Notre Dame has traditionally invited new U.S. presidents to speak at its spring commencement ceremony. Father Jenkins was not prepared to say whether he would extend such an invitation to Trump.

When President Obama spoke at the university’s commencement in 2009, the appearance was controversial, marked by outcry and protests from anti-abortion groups. It became a political circus, Father Jenkins said. While he wants to recognize the country’s elected leadership, he also wants to be mindful of families’ and graduates’ experiences.

“What is the most constructive thing to do?” he said. “It’s just something I’m reflecting on now.”

Father Jenkins reported receiving positive feedback to his remarks on the election. Not every president can say the same, however.

Scrutiny of a Letter From Vassar

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College, was one of more than 100 college and university presidents who signed a letter calling on Trump to condemn hate speech and acts of violence across the country. Chenette also signed a statement that called on Trump’s incoming officials to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And he signed a letter from presidents at the historically women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters addressed to Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and pick for senior counselor and chief White House strategist, that objected to comments Bannon made maligning alumnae of the Seven Sisters, among others.

Chenette addressed the issues in letter distributed before Thanksgiving break.

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College“Now, as the next chapter in our country’s history takes shape, many of our students, faculty and staff have concerns and questions about the course the nation will be taking,” he wrote. “And they worry about actions threatened, particularly against people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ communities and others. In this context, academic work and extracurricular projects have been infused with new meaning and energy, as you who know the college well would expect. But there is also confusion and anxiety, mirroring moods pervasive throughout our country.”

Chenette went on to write that he believes people from all backgrounds and circumstances belong at Vassar, pledging to support students at a time when some in the country “seem to be calling into question the rights of some groups to full dignity and respect.”

The pre-Thanksgiving letter, which did not mention Trump or Bannon by name, drew quick outrage from conservative blogs. Legal Insurrection quoted an unhappy Vassar alumna and Trump voter who questioned what actions have been threatened against LGBTQ communities and people of color and who said the Chenette’s message inspired fearmongering. The Daily Caller falsely claimed that Chenette closed his letter by indicating he was thankful for anti-Trump protests on campus -- even though that line does not appear in the letter.

Chenette and the Vassar administration had sent emails to campus on the day after the election. Chenette had even talked to the parent of a student who supported Trump and felt that his communications hadn’t made room for those happy about the election results. But the Vassar president felt it was important to send the pre-Thanksgiving letter to communicate with different constituencies after he’d signed on to the letters on hate speech, DACA and Bannon. He wanted to describe campus life in the wake of the election, he said.

“The Thanksgiving letter, the one that went out widely, was intended to convey the texture of campus life in the week after the election,” Chenette said. “I think it does it pretty honestly. There were no obvious Trump supporter parties on campus, or I would have reported that. There may have been some private ones -- I assume there were. But I tried to give the most honest impression I could.”

Chenette wanted to look forward and help those who were having trouble moving past the election, he said. He also wanted to talk about Vassar’s values when he saw ideas counter to those values being discussed.

Although Chenette considered not sending the Thanksgiving statement, Vassar graduates were asking about what was happening on campus after the election, he said. He does not regret the message.

“I know it’s not going to please everybody,” he said. “There was blowback. I don’t enjoy some of the emails I got, but I learned from that.”

Chenette has tried to talk to his thoughtful critics, he said. He added that he wants to find ways to make marginalized voices in the community more visible and able to contribute to debate respectfully.

One frequent criticism levied at college and university presidents assuring students in the wake of the election is that they would not have issued similar statements had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election. Chenette said he would not have put out as many statements in that case.

“It was not the outcome that many members of our community expected,” he said. “It is the outcome that some members of our extended community wanted, but [that] the majority of our community felt, I believe, was not in line with the values that we hold dear. And it was a big enough shock that it threatened to potentially disrupt the educational process, which is the core of what we’re about. So our goal is to turn it back into an educational opportunity and say, ‘Look, this is democracy in action, and there are ways to respond that will be good for you, good for the world.’”

The Flag and Its Meanings

Vassar was far from the only institution to find itself in the spotlight for postelection actions. Hampshire College, a private liberal arts institution in Amherst, Mass., found itself in the spotlight after veterans' groups protested a recent decision it made not to fly the U.S. flag on its main flagpole. The flag has been a point of debate at postelection protests across the country and at Hampshire, where students lowered the U.S. flag the day after the election.

The next day, Nov. 10, Hampshire decided to keep the flag at half-staff, a move it said was intended start a campus dialogue and honor students’ reaction to the election’s negative tone and reports of violence and harassment across the country. Hampshire further explained the move by saying its Board of Trustees had adopted a policy over the last year of flying the flag at half-staff from time to time in order to “mourn deaths from violence in the U.S. and around the world.”

But overnight between Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- someone burned the flag. Hampshire does not know who burned the flag. The college flew a new flag at full staff on Veterans Day, then trustees voted Nov. 12 to fly the flag at half-staff to prompt dialogue. Six days later, President Jonathan Lash emailed an apology for flying the flag at half-staff and causing distress for veterans.

“Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election,” Lash wrote. “This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”

The president went on to announce that the college would not fly the flag on its campus flagpole so it could focus on “addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.” The college said no campuswide ban was in place and that individuals on campus and campus offices were free to display their own flags.

Lash was not available for comment, according to a campus spokesman who said the president is meeting with students and employees as part of the announced talks on the flag. Lash met with those who organized the veterans who protested, said the spokesman, John Courtmanche.

“President Lash acknowledged their right to demonstrate and expressed his regret that a still-unknown person or persons had burned the college's flag overnight before Veterans Day,” Courtmanche said in a statement. “President Lash listened respectfully to the views of the veterans and explained that the Hampshire College community includes a wide range of views including employees and students who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. President Lash emphasized that by not flying a flag on our college's flagpole for the time being, the college is seeking to enable a discussion of values among all members of our campus, not make a political statement.”

The debate at Hampshire has inspired calls for federal funding to be cut from the college and for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association to revoke its membership.

Hampshire declined additional comment after Trump weighed in on the issue of flag burning on Twitter Tuesday, setting off another debate.

National conservative media has been closely following the Hampshire developments. But local columnists have been critical as well. Ron Chimelis, columnist for The Republican newspaper, wrote that Hampshire’s administration was out of touch with reality if it thought taking the flag down would end the uproar.

“When people nationwide fumble for a singular example of how disrespect for the values of others is masqueraded as sensitivity, they won't have to go through a checklist to find exhibit A,” he wrote. “When they need one institution to represent a college culture of administrative spinelessness and where crying rooms, coddling rooms and cuddling rooms are taking the place of classrooms, they'll have one.”

‘Words Are More Valuable When They’re Scarce’

Presidents often feel pressure to speak too quickly or too often, said Simon Barker, managing partner of Blue Moon Consulting Group, a reputational risk management and crisis consulting firm with a focus area in higher education.

“Actions speak louder than words, and words are more valuable when they’re scarce,” he said. “When we think about the role of the president, is it really your role to be providing this kind of translating, so to speak, for your campus?”

Presidents need to think about why they are issuing a statement and what they hope to achieve, Barker said. They also must consider the unintended consequences of speaking out on an issue.

Barker likens unnecessary presidential statements -- about all topics, not just the election -- to an epidemic. Many of them would be better coming from a more specialized administrator, like a vice chancellor for student affairs, he said. Failing to think the situation through before speaking can lead to a slippery slope where presidents are suddenly expected to weigh in on every topic, from offensive but obscure social media posts to Halloween costumes. That can lead to their words unintentionally highlighting obscure issues or losing their value over time as people tune out frequent statements.

Presidents clearly continue to feel that they need to talk about an institution’s values in times of uncertainty, though. Another postelection example is University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. He was named in a student petition claiming the university’s response to the election created a “hateful climate that makes students feel ashamed for voting for Donald Trump.”

Schlissel received particular criticism for comments he made at a postelection vigil, where he said, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday.”

The University of Michigan has disputed characterizations of the vigil as an anti-Trump rally. Schlissel was not available for comment on this story, but he discussed the controversy and state of public discourse recently on NPR. He said he did not intend to suggest everyone who voted for Trump is of a hateful or racist mind-set. The event he attended was to support many students who felt threatened, Schlissel said.

“I think they were scared and threatened by a discourse through the election season that involved racism and misogyny and xenophobia, Islamophobia,” he said. “So I really felt my role as the leader of the community was to stand up for our community's values, and I think those values are actually shared by Democrats and Republicans and by people who voted for all different folks in the election.”

An underlying cause of many controversies is that presidents are often making comments and writing statements geared toward the campus constituencies they see, said Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of national higher ed public relations agency TVP Communications. But in today’s world, their words quickly travel off campus and become national statements on behalf of the intuition. In the process, they can be stripped of context.

As a result, it’s more important for presidents to remember the existence of different groups when they speak. Trustees may view a situation differently than faculty members, who may view it differently than students. Students themselves may be divided. Sometimes there may be no single message that can property address all those people with their different experiences and backgrounds.

“One of the recommendations we’ve been giving to presidents is, when we write these statements, make sure they’re writing to all students,” Valerio Parrot said. “Make sure they’re not disregarding the opposing view or those who may not feel like the majority of their student body.”

A first question to ask is whether something really needs to be said, Valerio Parrot said. Does someone on campus need to hear something, or is a president just sharing his or her personal beliefs?

Still, many think presidents can effectively speak to important issues, if they pick their moments and choose their words carefully.

“One of the key tenets of higher education is based on asking the important questions, and that means we have to be willing to work through the tough discussions to find common ground,” Valerio Parrot said. “I do think this is a place where faculty and administrators can set the stage and bring together the various options across campus and show through their leadership how you agree to disagree and still work together.”

2016 Election
Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

HHS nominee Tom Price opposes embryonic stem cell research

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, is his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The selection was widely interpreted as a signal of Trump’s intentions to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But academics may be more likely to focus on Price’s past opposition to embryonic stem cell research and his skepticism about the scientific consensus around climate change.

Most of the discussion of Price’s selection noted his strident criticism of the Obama administration’s health care reform law and his plans to replace it with a Republican alternative as well as overhaul Medicare.

HHS’s primary significance for higher education relates to its direct oversight of the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest provider of funding for biomedical research.

Price, who has sponsored a bill to define human life as beginning at conception, has been a longtime opponent of embryonic stem cell research. The issue became a political flash point during the George W. Bush administration but became less prominent even as the current administration reversed limits on federal support for stem cell research.

Price is also a global warming skeptic who has voted against restricting carbon emissions, which puts him at odds with the scientific mainstream.

“I think people will have a pretty good idea of where he stands,” said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “He’s certainly not middle of the road on anything as far as I know.”

Holt, who served in Congress with Price, said Trump’s HHS pick has significant knowledge of the sector. “He’s certainly thought about the issues intensely,” Holt said. “He may well be a person who will try to shake things up.”

Higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price Tuesday, citing his familiarity with the health care industry and medical education. Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, said that Price understands the value of medical research, which she said bodes well for funding of the National Institutes of Health.

“I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” she said. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”

Price’s home district in Georgia includes several medical centers. Boroughs said his familiarity with the hospitals as an orthopedic surgeon and with medical education should make him a secretary higher ed can work with.

“He’s somebody that higher ed and academic medicine feel they definitely can work with, feel like they have a good relationship [with] going into the cabinet appointment, and we’re looking forward to working with him,” she said.

Medical lobby groups praised the Price nomination, as did the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools throughout the country. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch said Price understands firsthand the challenges facing medical schools and teaching hospitals.

“We are confident that Representative Price will bring a thoughtful, measured approach to tackling the wide range of issues affecting the nation’s health — from funding for biomedical research to training the next generation of physicians to transforming the nation’s health care system in order to provide all Americans with the care they need when they need it,” Kirch said in a statement.

The association backed the Obama administration’s lifting in 2009 of restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Asked about Price’s criticism of that decision, AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said AAMC continues to strongly support the research to find new treatments for conditions such as cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and diabetes.

“The AAMC looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure that those same standards will continue, and to preserve the ability of researchers to continue pursuing the most promising science in support of treatments and cures for patients,” McKinney said.

Hudson Freeze, president of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology​ (FASEB), said Price has voted many times to limit federal spending, which he acknowledged was a cause for concern. But he said Price has given the impression he understands the value of NIH. Freeze said funding for NIH and medical research may be low on Price’s list of immediate priorities should he be confirmed for the cabinet position.

“My gut feeling right now is that he will have much bigger issues to look at, which includes the Affordable Care Act. That’s going to be the principal focus for a good long time,” he said. “FASEB is going to be watching all of these things really closely.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Representative Tom Price, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, is his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The selection was widely interpreted as a signal of Trump’s intentions to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But academics may be more likely to focus on Price's past opposition to embryonic stem cell research and his skepticism about the scientific consensus around climate change.

Most of the discussion of Price's selection noted his strident criticism of the Obama administration's health care reform law and his plans to replace it with a Republican alternative as well as overhaul Medicare.

HHS's primary significance for higher education relates to its direct oversight of the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest provider of funding for biomedical research.

Price, who has sponsored a bill to define human life as beginning at conception, has been a longtime opponent of embryonic stem cell research. The issue became a political flash point during the George W. Bush administration but became less prominent even as the current administration reversed limits on federal support for stem cell research.

Price is also a global warming skeptic who has voted against restricting carbon emissions, which puts him at odds with the scientific mainstream.

“I think people will have a pretty good idea of where he stands,” said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “He’s certainly not middle of the road on anything as far as I know.”

Holt, who served in Congress with Price, said Trump's HHS pick has significant knowledge of the sector. "He’s certainly thought about the issues intensely," Holt said. "He may well be a person who will try to shake things up."

Higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price Tuesday, citing his familiarity with the health care industry and medical education. Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, said that Price understands the value of medical research, which she said bodes well for funding of the National Institutes of Health.

“I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” she said. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”

Price’s home district in Georgia includes several medical centers. Boroughs said his familiarity with the hospitals as an orthopedic surgeon and with medical education should make him a secretary higher ed can work with.

"He’s somebody that higher ed and academic medicine feel they definitely can work with, feel like they have a good relationship [with] going into the cabinet appointment, and we're looking forward to working with him," she said.

Medical lobby groups praised the Price nomination, as did the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools throughout the country. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch said Price understands firsthand the challenges facing medical schools and teaching hospitals.

"We are confident that Representative Price will bring a thoughtful, measured approach to tackling the wide range of issues affecting the nation’s health -- from funding for biomedical research to training the next generation of physicians to transforming the nation’s health care system in order to provide all Americans with the care they need when they need it," Kirch said in a statement.

The association backed the Obama administration's lifting in 2009 of restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Asked about Price's criticism of that decision, AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said AAMC continues to strongly support the research to find new treatments for conditions such as cancer, autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and diabetes.

"The AAMC looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure that those same standards will continue, and to preserve the ability of researchers to continue pursuing the most promising science in support of treatments and cures for patients," McKinney said.

Hudson Freeze, president of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology​ (FASEB), said Price has voted many times to limit federal spending, which he acknowledged was a cause for concern. But he said Price has given the impression he understands the value of NIH. Freeze said funding for NIH and medical research may be low on Price’s list of immediate priorities should he be confirmed for the cabinet position.

“My gut feeling right now is that he will have much bigger issues to look at, which includes the Affordable Care Act. That’s going to be the principal focus for a good long time,” he said. “FASEB is going to be watching all of these things really closely.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Representative Tom Price, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of health and human services
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Mary Baldwin alumnae rebel against idea of undergraduate men living on campus

Two years ago, the leaders of Mary Baldwin College decided that the best way to preserve the residential women’s liberal arts college was to start programs that were coeducational and career focused. To skeptical students and alumnae of the college, leaders said this growth was essential to keep the institution financially viable with a women’s college at its core. And in an era when many women’s colleges go completely coeducational — and in which nearby Sweet Briar College nearly closed — the argument made sense to some.

Today, Mary Baldwin University, as the institution is called, still has the women’s college. But that college is part of an institution that also has many coeducational units — a business school, a health sciences college and a new University College focused on helping men and women earn bachelor’s degrees in three years. The growth in programs is roughly what officials talked about two years ago.

But this week, the other shoe dropped. Mary Baldwin told its students, alumnae and faculty members that University College students — men and women — would be living on campus. What was once a residential college for women is now a residential college for women — plus some men. Officials acknowledge that they didn’t discuss the plan for men on campus when they briefed students, professors and alumnae about the direction planned a few years ago.

And many students and alumnae say they were misled about how far from a women’s college the university was moving. Many women’s colleges have graduate programs that are coeducational but have preserved undergraduate residential life for women. And to critics of the college’s plan, that was what Mary Baldwin should have done.

The alumnae are organizing. A Facebook group is called Not for Time but for Eternity and describes its mission this way: “If we can’t stop it, let’s make it painful, and loud. Above all, let’s go down fighting for what we have loved.”

Hashtags being used on Twitter include #NotMyMaryBaldwin, #MBCforWomen and #KeepYourNutsAwayFromUs. (The sports teams at Mary Baldwin are known as the Fighting Squirrels.)

President Pamela Fox is receiving much criticism.

Pamela Fox is turning her back on our 175 year legacy with her new coeducational program. @MaryBaldwinU #notmymarybaldwin

— Jasmine Rochelle (@JRochelleRal) November 29, 2016

Many of the comments suggest that residential coeducation turns a women’s college into something else.

Mary Baldwin has made several arguments in response, although those arguments are also drawing criticism. The university distributed an FAQ with one question asking, “How long has Mary Baldwin University (MBU) been coed?” And it answers the question by saying since 1977, the year Mary Baldwin started admitting men to its adult degree programs. At the same time, officials say that by renaming the residential liberal arts college Mary Baldwin College for Women, its mission has been preserved.

Various facts offered by the university support the idea that Mary Baldwin either is or isn’t coeducational. The FAQ notes that two-thirds of students are enrolled in coeducational programs. Of course the college is also a member of the Women’s College Coalition. And when it looked like Sweet Briar was going to close, Mary Baldwin reached out to its students to offer the chance to enroll in “a women’s college environment.”

As for student activities, the college’s FAQ says that a student government for the women’s college will be preserved but that other activities will be combined.

“The existing SGA is the governing body for the Mary Baldwin College for Women and will remain so. University College will establish and evolve its own student governance structures. The MBCW SGA is an important component in the leadership development experience that is so valuable in the women’s college setting,” the FAQ says. “However, it will be appropriate for many existing student organizations to engage residential undergraduates from both MBCW and University College, and we expect positive, productive cross-fertilization. MBU is working with SGA leaders to determine the details of how this should work, especially important given that SGA has oversight over the funding from student activities fees that provides financial oversight for many organizations.”

In an interview, Fox said that Mary Baldwin would be “purposeful” in preserving the women’s college while integrating male students (and female students who aren’t part of the women’s college) into campus life.

“For the institution, we’ve been in a period of rapid evolution,” she said. “But at the core is a strong and abiding commitment to maintain a women-centered institution.”

Mary Baldwin officials have been making their case on the university’s Facebook page, saying that they are preserving the women’s college, with the one additional detail that some men will live on the campus. Jane Miller, the board chair, wrote that it was “an extremely narrow view” to say that the women’s college would no longer be a women’s college because men would be living at Mary Baldwin. Miller also noted the financial challenges of preserving small private colleges. “I am not spinning anything. I agree with what many of you say about the value of the single-sex experience. However, we have no choice but to plan for the evolution of the women’s college,” she wrote.

Many alumnae aren’t buying the argument.

Wrote one: “With all due respect, it may be a ‘narrow view,’ but it is nonetheless true. If you add residential men to a women’s campus, it becomes coed. There is no getting around that fact. Wordsmithing cannot change those facts. Call it whatever you want, but it is no longer a single-sex residential college. I understand the financial pressures (my eldest was attending Sweet Briar when the bottom fell out there), and going coed may, in fact, be a solution. However, to deny that this move is not changing the residential environment is patronizing and disingenuous.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Illustration being used by critics of Mary Baldwin’s plans
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Two years ago, the leaders of Mary Baldwin College decided that the best way to preserve the residential women's liberal arts college was to start programs that were coeducational and career focused. To skeptical students and alumnae of the college, leaders said this growth was essential to keep the institution financially viable with a women's college at its core. And in an era when many women's colleges go completely coeducational -- and in which nearby Sweet Briar College nearly closed -- the argument made sense to some.

Today, Mary Baldwin University, as the institution is called, still has the women's college. But that college is part of an institution that also has many coeducational units -- a business school, a health sciences college and a new University College focused on helping men and women earn bachelor's degrees in three years. The growth in programs is roughly what officials talked about two years ago.

But this week, the other shoe dropped. Mary Baldwin told its students, alumnae and faculty members that University College students -- men and women -- would be living on campus. What was once a residential college for women is now a residential college for women -- plus some men. Officials acknowledge that they didn't discuss the plan for men on campus when they briefed students, professors and alumnae about the direction planned a few years ago.

And many students and alumnae say they were misled about how far from a women's college the university was moving. Many women's colleges have graduate programs that are coeducational but have preserved undergraduate residential life for women. And to critics of the college's plan, that was what Mary Baldwin should have done.

The alumnae are organizing. A Facebook group is called Not for Time but for Eternity and describes its mission this way: "If we can't stop it, let's make it painful, and loud. Above all, let's go down fighting for what we have loved."

Hashtags being used on Twitter include #NotMyMaryBaldwin, #MBCforWomen and #KeepYourNutsAwayFromUs. (The sports teams at Mary Baldwin are known as the Fighting Squirrels.)

President Pamela Fox is receiving much criticism.

Many of the comments suggest that residential coeducation turns a women's college into something else.

Mary Baldwin has made several arguments in response, although those arguments are also drawing criticism. The university distributed an FAQ with one question asking, "How long has Mary Baldwin University (MBU) been coed?" And it answers the question by saying since 1977, the year Mary Baldwin started admitting men to its adult degree programs. At the same time, officials say that by renaming the residential liberal arts college Mary Baldwin College for Women, its mission has been preserved.

Various facts offered by the university support the idea that Mary Baldwin either is or isn't coeducational. The FAQ notes that two-thirds of students are enrolled in coeducational programs. Of course the college is also a member of the Women's College Coalition. And when it looked like Sweet Briar was going to close, Mary Baldwin reached out to its students to offer the chance to enroll in “a women’s college environment.”

As for student activities, the college's FAQ says that a student government for the women's college will be preserved but that other activities will be combined.

"The existing SGA is the governing body for the Mary Baldwin College for Women and will remain so. University College will establish and evolve its own student governance structures. The MBCW SGA is an important component in the leadership development experience that is so valuable in the women’s college setting," the FAQ says. "However, it will be appropriate for many existing student organizations to engage residential undergraduates from both MBCW and University College, and we expect positive, productive cross-fertilization. MBU is working with SGA leaders to determine the details of how this should work, especially important given that SGA has oversight over the funding from student activities fees that provides financial oversight for many organizations."

In an interview, Fox said that Mary Baldwin would be "purposeful" in preserving the women's college while integrating male students (and female students who aren't part of the women's college) into campus life.

"For the institution, we've been in a period of rapid evolution," she said. "But at the core is a strong and abiding commitment to maintain a women-centered institution."

Mary Baldwin officials have been making their case on the university's Facebook page, saying that they are preserving the women's college, with the one additional detail that some men will live on the campus. Jane Miller, the board chair, wrote that it was "an extremely narrow view" to say that the women's college would no longer be a women's college because men would be living at Mary Baldwin. Miller also noted the financial challenges of preserving small private colleges. "I am not spinning anything. I agree with what many of you say about the value of the single-sex experience. However, we have no choice but to plan for the evolution of the women's college," she wrote.

Many alumnae aren't buying the argument.

Wrote one: "With all due respect, it may be a 'narrow view,' but it is nonetheless true. If you add residential men to a women's campus, it becomes coed. There is no getting around that fact. Wordsmithing cannot change those facts. Call it whatever you want, but it is no longer a single-sex residential college. I understand the financial pressures (my eldest was attending Sweet Briar when the bottom fell out there), and going coed may, in fact, be a solution. However, to deny that this move is not changing the residential environment is patronizing and disingenuous."

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Illustration being used by critics of Mary Baldwin's plans
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Amid Trump’s comments, Castro’s death, uncertain climate for U.S.-Cuba exchanges

President-elect Donald J. Trump this week reiterated a campaign promise to revisit and potentially reverse the Obama administration’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba, saying via Twitter on Monday, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

What that “better deal” will entail was not elaborated in the 140-character format, but the day before on Fox News Sunday the incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, affirmed Trump’s commitment to a “better deal,” telling host Chris Wallace, “We’re not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the United States without some changes in their government. Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners — these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships.”

Trump’s tweet and Priebus’s remarks came after the death of former president and Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at age 90 on Friday. It is unclear what exactly Trump will do or undo once in office, but among the many varied things that could be impacted by a reversal of the Obama administration’s policies toward Cuba could be educational exchanges, which have increased in number and intensity under a more relaxed regulatory regime over the last five years.

Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said that while there’s a lot of uncertainty and nothing will really be known until Trump takes office, he is concerned that the president-elect could move to make travel to Cuba more difficult and that things could revert “back to the George W. Bush era in which these kinds of exchanges were limited.”

“Then there’s this issue of visas, whether the U.S. government will continue to issue visas” to Cuban citizens coming to the U.S., Duany said. He said FIU had trouble last summer in getting visas for participants in a noncredit program for Cuban entrepreneurs. “Out of the 24 people that we invited to participate in the program, nine of them were denied visas, and that was under the Obama administration,” he said. “You can imagine what might happen under a Trump administration who might not be as inclined toward this people-to-people contact.”

“I don’t think the U.S. government can prohibit these kinds of contacts,” Duany said. “But it can make it much more difficult.”

It had only recently begun to get easier. Cuban-U.S. academic ties began expanding after the Obama administration issued new rules in January 2011 relaxing George W. Bush-era restrictions on academic travel to Cuba that had all but ended study abroad to the country. The 2011 rule change allowed universities to sponsor credit-bearing programs there without needing to apply for a specific license from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which enforces the decades-old — and still standing — U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

The White House’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and a broadening of the types of travel permissible without a specific license at the end of 2014 opened things further. U.S. citizens can now travel to Cuba on what’s called a general license — meaning they don’t have to apply for special permission from the Treasury Department — for a broad number of reasons. Many of those reasons — including professional research or meetings; educational activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic competitions or exhibitions; humanitarian projects; and activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes — have relevance for higher education.

From a logistical perspective, a loosening of restrictions on U.S. citizens banking in Cuba and the resumption — just on Monday — of commercial air travel from the U.S. have eased travel to the island country. The U.S. removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in May 2015 and opened its embassy in Havana the following July.

The number of American college students studying for credit in Cuba has shot up while these changes have occurred. Having fallen from 2,148 to 169 in a single year after the Bush-era restrictions were put in place in 2004, the number of study abroad students in Cuba has, since 2011, recovered. In 2014-15 — the most recent year for which data are available — the number of Americans studying in Cuba was 2,384, according to data from the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey. The number of Cubans studying in the U.S. has also climbed but remains quite small, at just 153 in the 2015-16 academic year.

Trump’s comments have prompted concern that the rule changes that have paved the way for increased academic exchange to Cuba could be reversed. Jorge Domínguez is a professor of government and formerly the vice provost of international affairs at Harvard University, which was one of a small number of institutions that kept its study abroad program at the University of Havana going during the Bush years. At that point, “we had to ask for what was called a specific license to do pretty much anything,” Domínguez recalled. “One specific license to send the undergraduates, a separate specific license to be able to buy coffee for a workshop. It really was a pain in the neck, and the Obama administration said, ‘Academic exchanges, activities of this sort, have a general license. Just do it.’ So we no longer have to do this paperwork each and every year.”

Asked if the coffee example was hyperbolic, Domí​nguez said no. “Admittedly, it was not just coffee; it was coffee and cookies,” he said.

“You’re talking about tiny sums of money and ridiculous kinds of things, and I suppose all of this could come back,” said Domí​nguez, who added that another important change since the Bush administration has to do with the relative ease in getting visas for Cuban scholars to come to the U.S. The process isn’t perfect, he said, but it’s a lot better than it was then, when the “Bush-era regulations made it pretty close to impossible for Cuban scholars to visit the United State. We had some, but very, very few.”

John McAuliff, the executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a nonprofit that promotes people-to-people connections between Americans and Cubans, said that there’s a high level of distrust toward Trump in Cuba. “The language of ‘I want to make a better deal’ — the Cubans don’t regard the changes that they’re making inside the country as part of a deal,” he said. “They regard them as their own process of modification and modernization and reform, and they’re doing it for their own reasons. If the U.S. wants to end its hostility, that’s helpful and positive and they’re in favor of that, but they react very strongly to the sense that he can come in and renegotiate something because he wants to.”

McAuliff said Fidel Castro’s death made Cuba policy a “front and center” issue for Trump when it hadn’t previously made his priority list for his first 100 days in office. It is a complicated time, politically. McAuliff said Fidel’s death removes a “constraining influence” on his brother Raúl, who has embarked on a series of modest economic reforms since assuming the presidency in 2006. At the same time, McAuliff said, “Fidel personally was such a major psychological obstacle for lots of American governing-class people … it may actually wind up that Trump has more space now with Fidel no longer in the picture.”

Amid the uncertainty over the future of official U.S.-Cuba relations that Castro’s death and Trump’s statements have wrought, universities that have moved aggressively to build up their activities in Cuba are marching on.

“While there is uncertainty about the changes that may come with the new U.S. administration, we are clearly focused on completing the fall term and welcoming 27 new students for the spring semester,” said Kendall Brostuen, the director of international programs and an associate dean at Brown University, which is part of a consortium of universities offering a semester-long study abroad program in Havana. “Our view is that thoughtfully organized, rigorous academic exchanges clearly advance mutual understanding between the people of Cuba and the U.S., and that education should transcend politics. These exchanges with Cuba should continue and, where possible, be strengthened.”

Northeastern University is also moving ahead with its plans in Cuba. It is sending its first two students to do their required “co-op” — a work-related experience — with an environmentally focused nongovernmental organization in Cuba this spring and is in the process of developing a yearlong program that will include a six-month co-op component and a six-month study abroad component. Northeastern faculty are also collaborating with Cuban counterparts in the areas of marine science and coastal sustainability. A university delegation led by Northeastern’s president is scheduled to visit Cuba in February.

“All our efforts on the ground are going to be accelerating regardless of what happens with U.S. relations on an official level,” said José Buscaglia, a Northeastern professor and chair of the Cultures, Societies and Global Studies Department.

“I have 20 years of experience dealing with the Cuban authorities, and eight of those years were during the difficult years of the George Bush administration in the early part of the 21st century,” said Buscaglia, who in his previous position at the State University of New York at Buffalo directed a joint graduate program with the University of Havana from 2002 to 2014. “Even at that moment, the possibility of taking students to study in Havana was not fully curtailed.”

Lehman College, which is part of the City University of New York, is one of a dozen institutions that participated in an Institute of International Education program focused on helping U.S. colleges develop partnerships in Cuba in 2015. A second IIE-sponsored delegation including representatives from eight U.S. colleges and universities is currently in Cuba, visiting institutions in the cities of Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguín and Santa Clara.

Teresita Levy, Lehman’s director of international programs and global partnerships and an associate professor in the Department of Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies, said the university is pursuing partnerships involving joint research and teaching, respectively, with two institutions in Cuba, the Universities of Camagüey and Sancti Spiritus.

“This week I’ve been in a lot of contact with my colleagues in both of these universities,” Levy said. “They’re so sad about Fidel, of course, but they’re really just worried about Trump. Someone said to me that the relationship with Cuba has always been at the mercy of whoever is in charge here.”

“We have to keep going,” Levy said. “We have to keep pushing. Nothing has changed yet, and in the meantime we’re just going to continue working as though things are going to stay as they are until we know otherwise, and if that happens we will adjust and fight and lobby.”

“If we were to shut off conversations with Cuba or the relationship with Cuba, we will again be the only country in the world that does not engage with the island nation,” said Jill Welch, the deputy executive director of public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which promotes partnerships between U.S. and Cuban universities and lobbies for legislation to dismantle the travel and trade restrictions still in place under the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. “That would mean that we would stop our students from learning about the Cuban people and we would restrict our own citizens from being able to engage with others. I think that would very well be a step in the wrong direction.”

“The U.S. and Cuba have a long history of mutual distrust,” Welch continued. “What we’ve found is successful efforts to improve relationships between the two countries and the two governments are closely tied to efforts to build relationships between nonofficial and nongovernmental sectors, like academic exchange. Working to build student exchanges, study abroad programs and the like is absolutely critical to building knowledge and competence on both sides that can help rebuild the relationship and overcome the legacy of mistrust.”

Global
Image Source: 
Wikipedia
Image Caption: 
University of Havana
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

President-elect Donald J. Trump this week reiterated a campaign promise to revisit and potentially reverse the Obama administration’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba, saying via Twitter on Monday, “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

What that “better deal” will entail was not elaborated in the 140-character format, but the day before on Fox News Sunday the incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, affirmed Trump’s commitment to a “better deal,” telling host Chris Wallace, “We’re not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the United States without some changes in their government. Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners -- these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships.”

Trump’s tweet and Priebus’s remarks came after the death of former president and Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at age 90 on Friday. It is unclear what exactly Trump will do or undo once in office, but among the many varied things that could be impacted by a reversal of the Obama administration’s policies toward Cuba could be educational exchanges, which have increased in number and intensity under a more relaxed regulatory regime over the last five years.

Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said that while there’s a lot of uncertainty and nothing will really be known until Trump takes office, he is concerned that the president-elect could move to make travel to Cuba more difficult and that things could revert “back to the George W. Bush era in which these kinds of exchanges were limited.”

“Then there’s this issue of visas, whether the U.S. government will continue to issue visas” to Cuban citizens coming to the U.S., Duany said. He said FIU had trouble last summer in getting visas for participants in a noncredit program for Cuban entrepreneurs. “Out of the 24 people that we invited to participate in the program, nine of them were denied visas, and that was under the Obama administration,” he said. “You can imagine what might happen under a Trump administration who might not be as inclined toward this people-to-people contact.”

“I don’t think the U.S. government can prohibit these kinds of contacts,” Duany said. “But it can make it much more difficult.”

It had only recently begun to get easier. Cuban-U.S. academic ties began expanding after the Obama administration issued new rules in January 2011 relaxing George W. Bush-era restrictions on academic travel to Cuba that had all but ended study abroad to the country. The 2011 rule change allowed universities to sponsor credit-bearing programs there without needing to apply for a specific license from the U.S. Department of Treasury, which enforces the decades-old -- and still standing -- U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

The White House’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and a broadening of the types of travel permissible without a specific license at the end of 2014 opened things further. U.S. citizens can now travel to Cuba on what’s called a general license -- meaning they don’t have to apply for special permission from the Treasury Department -- for a broad number of reasons. Many of those reasons -- including professional research or meetings; educational activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic competitions or exhibitions; humanitarian projects; and activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes -- have relevance for higher education.

From a logistical perspective, a loosening of restrictions on U.S. citizens banking in Cuba and the resumption -- just on Monday -- of commercial air travel from the U.S. have eased travel to the island country. The U.S. removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in May 2015 and opened its embassy in Havana the following July.

The number of American college students studying for credit in Cuba has shot up while these changes have occurred. Having fallen from 2,148 to 169 in a single year after the Bush-era restrictions were put in place in 2004, the number of study abroad students in Cuba has, since 2011, recovered. In 2014-15 -- the most recent year for which data are available -- the number of Americans studying in Cuba was 2,384, according to data from the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey. The number of Cubans studying in the U.S. has also climbed but remains quite small, at just 153 in the 2015-16 academic year.

Trump’s comments have prompted concern that the rule changes that have paved the way for increased academic exchange to Cuba could be reversed. Jorge Domínguez is a professor of government and formerly the vice provost of international affairs at Harvard University, which was one of a small number of institutions that kept its study abroad program at the University of Havana going during the Bush years. At that point, “we had to ask for what was called a specific license to do pretty much anything,” Domínguez recalled. “One specific license to send the undergraduates, a separate specific license to be able to buy coffee for a workshop. It really was a pain in the neck, and the Obama administration said, ‘Academic exchanges, activities of this sort, have a general license. Just do it.’ So we no longer have to do this paperwork each and every year.”

Asked if the coffee example was hyperbolic, Domí​nguez said no. “Admittedly, it was not just coffee; it was coffee and cookies,” he said.

“You’re talking about tiny sums of money and ridiculous kinds of things, and I suppose all of this could come back,” said Domí​nguez, who added that another important change since the Bush administration has to do with the relative ease in getting visas for Cuban scholars to come to the U.S. The process isn’t perfect, he said, but it’s a lot better than it was then, when the “Bush-era regulations made it pretty close to impossible for Cuban scholars to visit the United State. We had some, but very, very few.”

John McAuliff, the executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a nonprofit that promotes people-to-people connections between Americans and Cubans, said that there’s a high level of distrust toward Trump in Cuba. “The language of ‘I want to make a better deal’ -- the Cubans don’t regard the changes that they’re making inside the country as part of a deal,” he said. “They regard them as their own process of modification and modernization and reform, and they’re doing it for their own reasons. If the U.S. wants to end its hostility, that’s helpful and positive and they’re in favor of that, but they react very strongly to the sense that he can come in and renegotiate something because he wants to.”

McAuliff said Fidel Castro’s death made Cuba policy a “front and center” issue for Trump when it hadn’t previously made his priority list for his first 100 days in office. It is a complicated time, politically. McAuliff said Fidel’s death removes a “constraining influence” on his brother Raúl, who has embarked on a series of modest economic reforms since assuming the presidency in 2006. At the same time, McAuliff said, “Fidel personally was such a major psychological obstacle for lots of American governing-class people … it may actually wind up that Trump has more space now with Fidel no longer in the picture.”

Amid the uncertainty over the future of official U.S.-Cuba relations that Castro’s death and Trump’s statements have wrought, universities that have moved aggressively to build up their activities in Cuba are marching on.

“While there is uncertainty about the changes that may come with the new U.S. administration, we are clearly focused on completing the fall term and welcoming 27 new students for the spring semester,” said Kendall Brostuen, the director of international programs and an associate dean at Brown University, which is part of a consortium of universities offering a semester-long study abroad program in Havana. “Our view is that thoughtfully organized, rigorous academic exchanges clearly advance mutual understanding between the people of Cuba and the U.S., and that education should transcend politics. These exchanges with Cuba should continue and, where possible, be strengthened.”

Northeastern University is also moving ahead with its plans in Cuba. It is sending its first two students to do their required “co-op” -- a work-related experience -- with an environmentally focused nongovernmental organization in Cuba this spring and is in the process of developing a yearlong program that will include a six-month co-op component and a six-month study abroad component. Northeastern faculty are also collaborating with Cuban counterparts in the areas of marine science and coastal sustainability. A university delegation led by Northeastern’s president is scheduled to visit Cuba in February.

“All our efforts on the ground are going to be accelerating regardless of what happens with U.S. relations on an official level,” said José Buscaglia, a Northeastern professor and chair of the Cultures, Societies and Global Studies Department.

“I have 20 years of experience dealing with the Cuban authorities, and eight of those years were during the difficult years of the George Bush administration in the early part of the 21st century,” said Buscaglia, who in his previous position at the State University of New York at Buffalo directed a joint graduate program with the University of Havana from 2002 to 2014. “Even at that moment, the possibility of taking students to study in Havana was not fully curtailed.”

Lehman College, which is part of the City University of New York, is one of a dozen institutions that participated in an Institute of International Education program focused on helping U.S. colleges develop partnerships in Cuba in 2015. A second IIE-sponsored delegation including representatives from eight U.S. colleges and universities is currently in Cuba, visiting institutions in the cities of Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguín and Santa Clara.

Teresita Levy, Lehman’s director of international programs and global partnerships and an associate professor in the Department of Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies, said the university is pursuing partnerships involving joint research and teaching, respectively, with two institutions in Cuba, the Universities of Camagüey and Sancti Spiritus.

“This week I’ve been in a lot of contact with my colleagues in both of these universities,” Levy said. “They’re so sad about Fidel, of course, but they’re really just worried about Trump. Someone said to me that the relationship with Cuba has always been at the mercy of whoever is in charge here.”

“We have to keep going,” Levy said. “We have to keep pushing. Nothing has changed yet, and in the meantime we’re just going to continue working as though things are going to stay as they are until we know otherwise, and if that happens we will adjust and fight and lobby.”

“If we were to shut off conversations with Cuba or the relationship with Cuba, we will again be the only country in the world that does not engage with the island nation,” said Jill Welch, the deputy executive director of public policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which promotes partnerships between U.S. and Cuban universities and lobbies for legislation to dismantle the travel and trade restrictions still in place under the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. “That would mean that we would stop our students from learning about the Cuban people and we would restrict our own citizens from being able to engage with others. I think that would very well be a step in the wrong direction.”

“The U.S. and Cuba have a long history of mutual distrust,” Welch continued. “What we’ve found is successful efforts to improve relationships between the two countries and the two governments are closely tied to efforts to build relationships between nonofficial and nongovernmental sectors, like academic exchange. Working to build student exchanges, study abroad programs and the like is absolutely critical to building knowledge and competence on both sides that can help rebuild the relationship and overcome the legacy of mistrust.”

Global
Image Source: 
Wikipedia
Image Caption: 
University of Havana
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Philosopher proposes code of conduct for academics as MIT professors affirm commitment to shared values

Academics (and journalists) have been accused in the aftermath of the presidential election of being “out of touch” with the American electorate. At the same time, academics have played important leadership roles in eras and places in which free expression has come under threat — as some believe it is now in the U.S.

What is the role of the academic in such an era, or, at the very least, what are the academic’s obligations to his or her profession, campus and government? Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto (and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen), this week proposed what she’s calling the Anti-Authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct.

Here’s the 10-point code in full:

  • I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
  • I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
  • I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
  • I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
  • As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
  • I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
  • As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
  • I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
  • I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.

The proposed code is similar to some of the points made by other academic groups since the election, including a petition advancing the notion of “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students, and the American Association of University Professors’ condemnation of hate crimes.

Barney’s post-Trump proposal is the first to appear as a code to be adopted, voluntarily, by individual professors across disciplines. Asked whether she thought academics would actually need it, Barney said, “I don’t think we know how authoritarian the Trump administration might turn out to be, but his personnel appointments and recent pronouncements suggest ‘very,’ as well as generally irresponsible and not constrained by law.”

Troubling examples include Stephen Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, as chief strategist, and Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was once denied a federal judgeship due to charges of racism, as attorney general, Barney said. Trump also has denied that climate change is real. “So if there’s going to be a war on civil liberties, cultural liberalism and scientific fact, it’s really hard to see how higher ed can fail to be a major battlefield,” she added.

Also this week, 400 faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a statement affirming their shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and objective inquiry and the scientific method.

“The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change,” reads the MIT statement. “Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

Of science, in particular, the statement says it “is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.”

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” pledged such notable signatories as Susan Solomon, Tim Berners-Lee, Noam Chomsky, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Gruber. “We pledge to work with all members of the community — students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and administrators — to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, added in a separate statement that academic institutions “have historically been havens to protect diversity of opinions and the freedom to express those opinions when the political climate has impinged on this freedom. It appears that we are entering a period where the political climate requires us to assert our leadership to protect and foster diversity and scientific inquiry itself.”

The MIT faculty statement was issued ahead of Bannon’s planned visit to nearby Harvard University Wednesday. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Bannon is scheduled to attend a conference on presidential campaign politics.

Barney said she was inspired by reading about authoritarianism via Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University, and Masha Gessen, a well-known Russian-born journalist.

In a recent Slate piece about Adolf Hitler’s election, for example, Snyder — a historian of the Holocaust — pointedly drew many parallels to Trump’s rise. “The left received one million more votes than his party,” Snyder wrote. “But due to the vagaries of the electoral system, he was called upon to form a government. His followers exulted, but the various right-wing elites preserved their calm. Although they had failed to keep him from power, they were sure that they could control him. He was good at convincing his followers that he was a revolutionary and convincing others that he was harmless.”

Gessen wrote her own set of rules for living under an autocracy recently in The New York Review of Books. “Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat — and won,” she wrote. “I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect.” Rule No. 1? “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

Barney, who was also practically inspired by Atul Gawande’s exaltation of the checklist in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, said she wasn’t trying to “urge heroism or tell anybody what to go do.” Whether the code gains traction “will depend entirely on whether people working in the U.S. find it personally useful, and that’s as it should be,” she added. But Snyder, Gessen and others who know authoritarian societies “make it clear that forewarned is forearmed.”

Whether the code gains traction remains to be seen, and some will certainly disagree with both its premise and its suggestions (indeed, some already have).

But it’s attracting interest on the popular philosophy blog Daily Nous. Editor Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, wrote that there’s no way to know for sure how authoritarian the U.S. government will become under a Trump administration. So under “conditions of uncertainty, how do we identify the line between panicked overreaction and responsible preparation?” he asked. “At the very least, we could look for and assess minimally costly means of preparation. One option along these lines is to try to mentally prepare ourselves to refuse to cooperate with illiberal or immoral government initiatives.”

Daily Nous invites comments and amendments to the code. (One philosopher called at least one aspect “pretty radical.”) But, Weinberg said, “If you agree with enough of this, please share it with others at your school and in your social networks. Consider printing it out and hanging it in your office or on your office door.”

He added, “And keep these 10 items in mind, so if the time comes, you are a little more prepared than you otherwise might be.”

Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who co-organized the new statement of shared values, said recent events “have prompted many academics to take a public stance defending precious aspects of our society that suddenly need a lot more defending than they did just a few months ago.”

In times of political uncertainty, she said, academics have a “special role to play, especially tenured faculty who have the great privilege of being able to call a spade a spade without fear of losing their jobs.”

At MIT, Kanwisher added, “we also have a duty to remind people that science is not a special interest,” but rather “the best procedure human beings have for discovering nonpartisan truths about our world — truths that have been harnessed to improve the lives of everyone in our country, and truths that will be essential for society to plan for the future.”

If those views are out of step with much of the country, she added — noting that Trump received less than half of the popular vote — then it’s not “scientists who need to rethink science, but the electorate who needs to be reminded that their quality of life and their health and their futures depend upon science.”

Image Source: 
Getty Images
Image Caption: 
Stephen Bannon, a key Trump aide whose views concern many academics
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Academics (and journalists) have been accused in the aftermath of the presidential election of being “out of touch” with the American electorate. At the same time, academics have played important leadership roles in eras and places in which free expression has come under threat -- as some believe it is now in the U.S.

What is the role of the academic in such an era, or, at the very least, what are the academic’s obligations to his or her profession, campus and government? Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto (and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen), this week proposed what she’s calling the Anti-Authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct.

Here's the 10-point code in full:

  • I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
  • I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
  • I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
  • I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
  • As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
  • I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
  • As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
  • I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
  • I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.

The proposed code is similar to some of the points made by other academic groups since the election, including a petition advancing the notion of “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students, and the American Association of University Professors’ condemnation of hate crimes.

Barney’s post-Trump proposal is the first to appear as a code to be adopted, voluntarily, by individual professors across disciplines. Asked whether she thought academics would actually need it, Barney said, “I don’t think we know how authoritarian the Trump administration might turn out to be, but his personnel appointments and recent pronouncements suggest ‘very,’ as well as generally irresponsible and not constrained by law.”

Troubling examples include Stephen Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, as chief strategist, and Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who was once denied a federal judgeship due to charges of racism, as attorney general, Barney said. Trump also has denied that climate change is real. “So if there’s going to be a war on civil liberties, cultural liberalism and scientific fact, it’s really hard to see how higher ed can fail to be a major battlefield,” she added.

Also this week, 400 faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a statement affirming their shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and objective inquiry and the scientific method.

“The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change,” reads the MIT statement. “Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

Of science, in particular, the statement says it “is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.”

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” pledged such notable signatories as Susan Solomon, Tim Berners-Lee, Noam Chomsky, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Gruber. “We pledge to work with all members of the community -- students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and administrators -- to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, added in a separate statement that academic institutions “have historically been havens to protect diversity of opinions and the freedom to express those opinions when the political climate has impinged on this freedom. It appears that we are entering a period where the political climate requires us to assert our leadership to protect and foster diversity and scientific inquiry itself.”

The MIT faculty statement was issued ahead of Bannon's planned visit to nearby Harvard University Wednesday. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Bannon is scheduled to attend a conference on presidential campaign politics.

Barney said she was inspired by reading about authoritarianism via Timothy Snyder, the Housum Professor of History at Yale University, and Masha Gessen, a well-known Russian-born journalist.

In a recent Slate piece about Adolf Hitler’s election, for example, Snyder -- a historian of the Holocaust -- pointedly drew many parallels to Trump’s rise. “The left received one million more votes than his party,” Snyder wrote. “But due to the vagaries of the electoral system, he was called upon to form a government. His followers exulted, but the various right-wing elites preserved their calm. Although they had failed to keep him from power, they were sure that they could control him. He was good at convincing his followers that he was a revolutionary and convincing others that he was harmless.”

Gessen wrote her own set of rules for living under an autocracy recently in The New York Review of Books. “Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat -- and won,” she wrote. “I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect.” Rule No. 1? “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

Barney, who was also practically inspired by Atul Gawande’s exaltation of the checklist in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, said she wasn’t trying to “urge heroism or tell anybody what to go do.” Whether the code gains traction “will depend entirely on whether people working in the U.S. find it personally useful, and that's as it should be,” she added. But Snyder, Gessen and others who know authoritarian societies “make it clear that forewarned is forearmed.”

Whether the code gains traction remains to be seen, and some will certainly disagree with both its premise and its suggestions (indeed, some already have).

But it’s attracting interest on the popular philosophy blog Daily Nous. Editor Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, wrote that there’s no way to know for sure how authoritarian the U.S. government will become under a Trump administration. So under “conditions of uncertainty, how do we identify the line between panicked overreaction and responsible preparation?” he asked. “At the very least, we could look for and assess minimally costly means of preparation. One option along these lines is to try to mentally prepare ourselves to refuse to cooperate with illiberal or immoral government initiatives.”

Daily Nous invites comments and amendments to the code. (One philosopher called at least one aspect “pretty radical.”) But, Weinberg said, “If you agree with enough of this, please share it with others at your school and in your social networks. Consider printing it out and hanging it in your office or on your office door.”

He added, “And keep these 10 items in mind, so if the time comes, you are a little more prepared than you otherwise might be.”

Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who co-organized the new statement of shared values, said recent events “have prompted many academics to take a public stance defending precious aspects of our society that suddenly need a lot more defending than they did just a few months ago.”

In times of political uncertainty, she said, academics have a “special role to play, especially tenured faculty who have the great privilege of being able to call a spade a spade without fear of losing their jobs.”

At MIT, Kanwisher added, “we also have a duty to remind people that science is not a special interest,” but rather “the best procedure human beings have for discovering nonpartisan truths about our world -- truths that have been harnessed to improve the lives of everyone in our country, and truths that will be essential for society to plan for the future.”

If those views are out of step with much of the country, she added -- noting that Trump received less than half of the popular vote -- then it's not “scientists who need to rethink science, but the electorate who needs to be reminded that their quality of life and their health and their futures depend upon science.”

Image Source: 
Getty Images
Image Caption: 
Stephen Bannon, a key Trump aide whose views concern many academics
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Presidents draw fire for postelection comments

As student concerns and campus protests play out in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, college and university presidents grapple with the question of whether they should weigh in — and what they should say.

Some presidents chose to speak quickly and forcefully, attacking perceived falsehoods from the campaign and assuring students feeling anxiety in the wake of an election that many see as laying bare bigotry, white supremacy and xenophobia in the United States. Take, for example, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who issued a statement the morning after the election calling for freedom of thought, tolerance and reason before later publicly denouncing Trump at an awards dinner.

In language unusually pointed for a sitting college president, Bollinger said of Trump, “The denial of climate change, the rejection of the fact of evolution, the attack on free speech, the dissemination of falsehoods deliberately and intentionally that would make George Orwell seem naïve and unimaginative, the attack on groups that we celebrate at Columbia and embrace as part of our greatness — these are not political issues. This is where we stand. This is a challenge to what we stand for.”

Principles at Notre Dame

Others waited to speak or tried to address broad principles. The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, addressed the election at an interfaith prayer service Nov. 14, laying out his university’s guiding principles, calling for constructive dialogue and trying to assure undocumented students at Notre Dame.

Presidents who issued statements or publicly commented after the election said they felt it was important to proclaim their institution’s values in a world of unsettled political discourse. They also said they felt compelled to update students and faculty members who were looking for leadership in an uncertain time — or alumni who wanted an update from campuses about which they care. But some remarks that were well received on campuses have been attacked and mocked in publications sympathetic to the president-elect.

Communications experts, meanwhile, cautioned college and university presidents to speak with care, especially in the current highly charged political climate. Speaking quickly or frequently is no substitute for leading by action and example, they said. Leaders who react too quickly risk trapping their campuses in a media maelstrom, disaffecting key constituencies or eroding the power of their own words.

Such concerns played heavily in the mind of Notre Dame’s president, Father Jenkins, as he prepared his remarks for the Nov. 14 prayer service. University presidents must be careful not to take political stances, Father Jenkins said in an interview this week. At the same time, the president must fulfill a role of articulating the values of the larger institution.

When he wrote his remarks, Father Jenkins tried to consider students and faculty members who might have voted for different sides, he said. Would they take his words as not respecting their views?

“You have an obligation not to say things that are going to more deeply divide people and to understand that you’re part of a community where people have different views,” Father Jenkins said.

In his prayer service remarks, which were picked up by outlets including the New York Daily News, Father Jenkins called for a “respectful, constructive dialogue that is so critical for a democracy.” He called for listening “most attentively to those who do not share our views.” Then he directly addressed undocumented students at Notre Dame, calling them part of the university’s family and pledging to “spare no effort” to support them.

Father Jenkins could have stuck solely to the institutional values his speech emphasized — human dignity, the common good and solidarity among people. Asked why he decided to address undocumented students directly, the president replied that they feel particularly vulnerable at this moment in time.

Rev. John I. Jenkins“We’re going to support them, and they’re extraordinarily valuable for this country,” he said. “I have spoken on that before, and I think that is appropriate. And, frankly, I don’t think my articulation of that is particularly partisan. It just seems like part of the values of this institution and part of the values of our country.”

Earlier this year, Father Jenkins denounced venom directed by Americans toward Mexicans, calling it “churlish, insulting political theater.” Father Jenkins delivered those remarks while speaking in Mexico City, where Notre Dame was opening an office. He did not name a political candidate.

Notre Dame has traditionally invited new U.S. presidents to speak at its spring commencement ceremony. Father Jenkins was not prepared to say whether he would extend such an invitation to Trump.

When President Obama spoke at the university’s commencement in 2009, the appearance was controversial, marked by outcry and protests from anti-abortion groups. It became a political circus, Father Jenkins said. While he wants to recognize the country’s elected leadership, he also wants to be mindful of families’ and graduates’ experiences.

“What is the most constructive thing to do?” he said. “It’s just something I’m reflecting on now.”

Father Jenkins reported receiving positive feedback to his remarks on the election. Not every president can say the same, however.

Scrutiny of a Letter From Vassar

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College, was one of more than 100 college and university presidents who signed a letter calling on Trump to condemn hate speech and acts of violence across the country. Chenette also signed a statement that called on Trump’s incoming officials to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And he signed a letter from presidents at the historically women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters addressed to Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and pick for senior counselor and chief White House strategist, that objected to comments Bannon made maligning alumnae of the Seven Sisters, among others.

Chenette addressed the issues in letter distributed before Thanksgiving break.

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College“Now, as the next chapter in our country’s history takes shape, many of our students, faculty and staff have concerns and questions about the course the nation will be taking,” he wrote. “And they worry about actions threatened, particularly against people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ communities and others. In this context, academic work and extracurricular projects have been infused with new meaning and energy, as you who know the college well would expect. But there is also confusion and anxiety, mirroring moods pervasive throughout our country.”

Chenette went on to write that he believes people from all backgrounds and circumstances belong at Vassar, pledging to support students at a time when some in the country “seem to be calling into question the rights of some groups to full dignity and respect.”

The pre-Thanksgiving letter, which did not mention Trump or Bannon by name, drew quick outrage from conservative blogs. Legal Insurrection quoted an unhappy Vassar alumna and Trump voter who questioned what actions have been threatened against LGBTQ communities and people of color and who said the Chenette’s message inspired fearmongering. The Daily Caller falsely claimed that Chenette closed his letter by indicating he was thankful for anti-Trump protests on campus — even though that line does not appear in the letter.

Chenette and the Vassar administration had sent emails to campus on the day after the election. Chenette had even talked to the parent of a student who supported Trump and felt that his communications hadn’t made room for those happy about the election results. But the Vassar president felt it was important to send the pre-Thanksgiving letter to communicate with different constituencies after he’d signed on to the letters on hate speech, DACA and Bannon. He wanted to describe campus life in the wake of the election, he said.

“The Thanksgiving letter, the one that went out widely, was intended to convey the texture of campus life in the week after the election,” Chenette said. “I think it does it pretty honestly. There were no obvious Trump supporter parties on campus, or I would have reported that. There may have been some private ones — I assume there were. But I tried to give the most honest impression I could.”

Chenette wanted to look forward and help those who were having trouble moving past the election, he said. He also wanted to talk about Vassar’s values when he saw ideas counter to those values being discussed.

Although Chenette considered not sending the Thanksgiving statement, Vassar graduates were asking about what was happening on campus after the election, he said. He does not regret the message.

“I know it’s not going to please everybody,” he said. “There was blowback. I don’t enjoy some of the emails I got, but I learned from that.”

Chenette has tried to talk to his thoughtful critics, he said. He added that he wants to find ways to make marginalized voices in the community more visible and able to contribute to debate respectfully.

One frequent criticism levied at college and university presidents assuring students in the wake of the election is that they would not have issued similar statements had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election. Chenette said he would not have put out as many statements in that case.

“It was not the outcome that many members of our community expected,” he said. “It is the outcome that some members of our extended community wanted, but [that] the majority of our community felt, I believe, was not in line with the values that we hold dear. And it was a big enough shock that it threatened to potentially disrupt the educational process, which is the core of what we’re about. So our goal is to turn it back into an educational opportunity and say, ‘Look, this is democracy in action, and there are ways to respond that will be good for you, good for the world.’”

The Flag and Its Meanings

Vassar was far from the only institution to find itself in the spotlight for postelection actions. Hampshire College, a private liberal arts institution in Amherst, Mass., found itself in the spotlight after veterans’ groups protested a recent decision it made not to fly the U.S. flag on its main flagpole. The flag has been a point of debate at postelection protests across the country and at Hampshire, where students lowered the U.S. flag the day after the election.

The next day, Nov. 10, Hampshire decided to keep the flag at half-staff, a move it said was intended start a campus dialogue and honor students’ reaction to the election’s negative tone and reports of violence and harassment across the country. Hampshire further explained the move by saying its Board of Trustees had adopted a policy over the last year of flying the flag at half-staff from time to time in order to “mourn deaths from violence in the U.S. and around the world.”

But overnight between Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — someone burned the flag. Hampshire does not know who burned the flag. The college flew a new flag at full staff on Veterans Day, then trustees voted Nov. 12 to fly the flag at half-staff to prompt dialogue. Six days later, President Jonathan Lash emailed an apology for flying the flag at half-staff and causing distress for veterans.

“Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election,” Lash wrote. “This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”

The president went on to announce that the college would not fly the flag on its campus flagpole so it could focus on “addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.” The college said no campuswide ban was in place and that individuals on campus and campus offices were free to display their own flags.

Lash was not available for comment, according to a campus spokesman who said the president is meeting with students and employees as part of the announced talks on the flag. Lash met with those who organized the veterans who protested, said the spokesman, John Courtmanche.

“President Lash acknowledged their right to demonstrate and expressed his regret that a still-unknown person or persons had burned the college’s flag overnight before Veterans Day,” Courtmanche said in a statement. “President Lash listened respectfully to the views of the veterans and explained that the Hampshire College community includes a wide range of views including employees and students who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. President Lash emphasized that by not flying a flag on our college’s flagpole for the time being, the college is seeking to enable a discussion of values among all members of our campus, not make a political statement.”

The debate at Hampshire has inspired calls for federal funding to be cut from the college and for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association to revoke its membership.

Hampshire declined additional comment after Trump weighed in on the issue of flag burning on Twitter Tuesday, setting off another debate.

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016

National conservative media has been closely following the Hampshire developments. But local columnists have been critical as well. Ron Chimelis, columnist for The Republican newspaper, wrote that Hampshire’s administration was out of touch with reality if it thought taking the flag down would end the uproar.

“When people nationwide fumble for a singular example of how disrespect for the values of others is masqueraded as sensitivity, they won’t have to go through a checklist to find exhibit A,” he wrote. “When they need one institution to represent a college culture of administrative spinelessness and where crying rooms, coddling rooms and cuddling rooms are taking the place of classrooms, they’ll have one.”

‘Words Are More Valuable When They’re Scarce’

Presidents often feel pressure to speak too quickly or too often, said Simon Barker, managing partner of Blue Moon Consulting Group, a reputational risk management and crisis consulting firm with a focus area in higher education.

“Actions speak louder than words, and words are more valuable when they’re scarce,” he said. “When we think about the role of the president, is it really your role to be providing this kind of translating, so to speak, for your campus?”

Presidents need to think about why they are issuing a statement and what they hope to achieve, Barker said. They also must consider the unintended consequences of speaking out on an issue.

Barker likens unnecessary presidential statements — about all topics, not just the election — to an epidemic. Many of them would be better coming from a more specialized administrator, like a vice chancellor for student affairs, he said. Failing to think the situation through before speaking can lead to a slippery slope where presidents are suddenly expected to weigh in on every topic, from offensive but obscure social media posts to Halloween costumes. That can lead to their words unintentionally highlighting obscure issues or losing their value over time as people tune out frequent statements.

Presidents clearly continue to feel that they need to talk about an institution’s values in times of uncertainty, though. Another postelection example is University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. He was named in a student petition claiming the university’s response to the election created a “hateful climate that makes students feel ashamed for voting for Donald Trump.”

Schlissel received particular criticism for comments he made at a postelection vigil, where he said, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday.”

The University of Michigan has disputed characterizations of the vigil as an anti-Trump rally. Schlissel was not available for comment on this story, but he discussed the controversy and state of public discourse recently on NPR. He said he did not intend to suggest everyone who voted for Trump is of a hateful or racist mind-set. The event he attended was to support many students who felt threatened, Schlissel said.

“I think they were scared and threatened by a discourse through the election season that involved racism and misogyny and xenophobia, Islamophobia,” he said. “So I really felt my role as the leader of the community was to stand up for our community’s values, and I think those values are actually shared by Democrats and Republicans and by people who voted for all different folks in the election.”

An underlying cause of many controversies is that presidents are often making comments and writing statements geared toward the campus constituencies they see, said Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of national higher ed public relations agency TVP Communications. But in today’s world, their words quickly travel off campus and become national statements on behalf of the intuition. In the process, they can be stripped of context.

As a result, it’s more important for presidents to remember the existence of different groups when they speak. Trustees may view a situation differently than faculty members, who may view it differently than students. Students themselves may be divided. Sometimes there may be no single message that can property address all those people with their different experiences and backgrounds.

“One of the recommendations we’ve been giving to presidents is, when we write these statements, make sure they’re writing to all students,” Valerio Parrot said. “Make sure they’re not disregarding the opposing view or those who may not feel like the majority of their student body.”

A first question to ask is whether something really needs to be said, Valerio Parrot said. Does someone on campus need to hear something, or is a president just sharing his or her personal beliefs?

Still, many think presidents can effectively speak to important issues, if they pick their moments and choose their words carefully.

“One of the key tenets of higher education is based on asking the important questions, and that means we have to be willing to work through the tough discussions to find common ground,” Valerio Parrot said. “I do think this is a place where faculty and administrators can set the stage and bring together the various options across campus and show through their leadership how you agree to disagree and still work together.”

2016 Election
Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

As student concerns and campus protests play out in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, college and university presidents grapple with the question of whether they should weigh in -- and what they should say.

Some presidents chose to speak quickly and forcefully, attacking perceived falsehoods from the campaign and assuring students feeling anxiety in the wake of an election that many see as laying bare bigotry, white supremacy and xenophobia in the United States. Take, for example, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who issued a statement the morning after the election calling for freedom of thought, tolerance and reason before later publicly denouncing Trump at an awards dinner.

In language unusually pointed for a sitting college president, Bollinger said of Trump, “The denial of climate change, the rejection of the fact of evolution, the attack on free speech, the dissemination of falsehoods deliberately and intentionally that would make George Orwell seem naïve and unimaginative, the attack on groups that we celebrate at Columbia and embrace as part of our greatness -- these are not political issues. This is where we stand. This is a challenge to what we stand for.”

Principles at Notre Dame

Others waited to speak or tried to address broad principles. The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, addressed the election at an interfaith prayer service Nov. 14, laying out his university’s guiding principles, calling for constructive dialogue and trying to assure undocumented students at Notre Dame.

Presidents who issued statements or publicly commented after the election said they felt it was important to proclaim their institution’s values in a world of unsettled political discourse. They also said they felt compelled to update students and faculty members who were looking for leadership in an uncertain time -- or alumni who wanted an update from campuses about which they care. But some remarks that were well received on campuses have been attacked and mocked in publications sympathetic to the president-elect.

Communications experts, meanwhile, cautioned college and university presidents to speak with care, especially in the current highly charged political climate. Speaking quickly or frequently is no substitute for leading by action and example, they said. Leaders who react too quickly risk trapping their campuses in a media maelstrom, disaffecting key constituencies or eroding the power of their own words.

Such concerns played heavily in the mind of Notre Dame's president, Father Jenkins, as he prepared his remarks for the Nov. 14 prayer service. University presidents must be careful not to take political stances, Father Jenkins said in an interview this week. At the same time, the president must fulfill a role of articulating the values of the larger institution.

When he wrote his remarks, Father Jenkins tried to consider students and faculty members who might have voted for different sides, he said. Would they take his words as not respecting their views?

“You have an obligation not to say things that are going to more deeply divide people and to understand that you’re part of a community where people have different views,” Father Jenkins said.

In his prayer service remarks, which were picked up by outlets including the New York Daily News, Father Jenkins called for a “respectful, constructive dialogue that is so critical for a democracy.” He called for listening “most attentively to those who do not share our views.” Then he directly addressed undocumented students at Notre Dame, calling them part of the university’s family and pledging to “spare no effort” to support them.

Father Jenkins could have stuck solely to the institutional values his speech emphasized -- human dignity, the common good and solidarity among people. Asked why he decided to address undocumented students directly, the president replied that they feel particularly vulnerable at this moment in time.

Rev. John I. Jenkins“We’re going to support them, and they’re extraordinarily valuable for this country,” he said. “I have spoken on that before, and I think that is appropriate. And, frankly, I don’t think my articulation of that is particularly partisan. It just seems like part of the values of this institution and part of the values of our country.”

Earlier this year, Father Jenkins denounced venom directed by Americans toward Mexicans, calling it “churlish, insulting political theater.” Father Jenkins delivered those remarks while speaking in Mexico City, where Notre Dame was opening an office. He did not name a political candidate.

Notre Dame has traditionally invited new U.S. presidents to speak at its spring commencement ceremony. Father Jenkins was not prepared to say whether he would extend such an invitation to Trump.

When President Obama spoke at the university’s commencement in 2009, the appearance was controversial, marked by outcry and protests from anti-abortion groups. It became a political circus, Father Jenkins said. While he wants to recognize the country’s elected leadership, he also wants to be mindful of families’ and graduates’ experiences.

“What is the most constructive thing to do?” he said. “It’s just something I’m reflecting on now.”

Father Jenkins reported receiving positive feedback to his remarks on the election. Not every president can say the same, however.

Scrutiny of a Letter From Vassar

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College, was one of more than 100 college and university presidents who signed a letter calling on Trump to condemn hate speech and acts of violence across the country. Chenette also signed a statement that called on Trump’s incoming officials to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And he signed a letter from presidents at the historically women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters addressed to Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and pick for senior counselor and chief White House strategist, that objected to comments Bannon made maligning alumnae of the Seven Sisters, among others.

Chenette addressed the issues in letter distributed before Thanksgiving break.

Jonathan L. Chenette, interim president at Vassar College“Now, as the next chapter in our country’s history takes shape, many of our students, faculty and staff have concerns and questions about the course the nation will be taking,” he wrote. “And they worry about actions threatened, particularly against people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ communities and others. In this context, academic work and extracurricular projects have been infused with new meaning and energy, as you who know the college well would expect. But there is also confusion and anxiety, mirroring moods pervasive throughout our country.”

Chenette went on to write that he believes people from all backgrounds and circumstances belong at Vassar, pledging to support students at a time when some in the country “seem to be calling into question the rights of some groups to full dignity and respect.”

The pre-Thanksgiving letter, which did not mention Trump or Bannon by name, drew quick outrage from conservative blogs. Legal Insurrection quoted an unhappy Vassar alumna and Trump voter who questioned what actions have been threatened against LGBTQ communities and people of color and who said the Chenette’s message inspired fearmongering. The Daily Caller falsely claimed that Chenette closed his letter by indicating he was thankful for anti-Trump protests on campus -- even though that line does not appear in the letter.

Chenette and the Vassar administration had sent emails to campus on the day after the election. Chenette had even talked to the parent of a student who supported Trump and felt that his communications hadn’t made room for those happy about the election results. But the Vassar president felt it was important to send the pre-Thanksgiving letter to communicate with different constituencies after he’d signed on to the letters on hate speech, DACA and Bannon. He wanted to describe campus life in the wake of the election, he said.

“The Thanksgiving letter, the one that went out widely, was intended to convey the texture of campus life in the week after the election,” Chenette said. “I think it does it pretty honestly. There were no obvious Trump supporter parties on campus, or I would have reported that. There may have been some private ones -- I assume there were. But I tried to give the most honest impression I could.”

Chenette wanted to look forward and help those who were having trouble moving past the election, he said. He also wanted to talk about Vassar’s values when he saw ideas counter to those values being discussed.

Although Chenette considered not sending the Thanksgiving statement, Vassar graduates were asking about what was happening on campus after the election, he said. He does not regret the message.

“I know it’s not going to please everybody,” he said. “There was blowback. I don’t enjoy some of the emails I got, but I learned from that.”

Chenette has tried to talk to his thoughtful critics, he said. He added that he wants to find ways to make marginalized voices in the community more visible and able to contribute to debate respectfully.

One frequent criticism levied at college and university presidents assuring students in the wake of the election is that they would not have issued similar statements had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election. Chenette said he would not have put out as many statements in that case.

“It was not the outcome that many members of our community expected,” he said. “It is the outcome that some members of our extended community wanted, but [that] the majority of our community felt, I believe, was not in line with the values that we hold dear. And it was a big enough shock that it threatened to potentially disrupt the educational process, which is the core of what we’re about. So our goal is to turn it back into an educational opportunity and say, ‘Look, this is democracy in action, and there are ways to respond that will be good for you, good for the world.’”

The Flag and Its Meanings

Vassar was far from the only institution to find itself in the spotlight for postelection actions. Hampshire College, a private liberal arts institution in Amherst, Mass., found itself in the spotlight after veterans' groups protested a recent decision it made not to fly the U.S. flag on its main flagpole. The flag has been a point of debate at postelection protests across the country and at Hampshire, where students lowered the U.S. flag the day after the election.

The next day, Nov. 10, Hampshire decided to keep the flag at half-staff, a move it said was intended start a campus dialogue and honor students’ reaction to the election’s negative tone and reports of violence and harassment across the country. Hampshire further explained the move by saying its Board of Trustees had adopted a policy over the last year of flying the flag at half-staff from time to time in order to “mourn deaths from violence in the U.S. and around the world.”

But overnight between Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- someone burned the flag. Hampshire does not know who burned the flag. The college flew a new flag at full staff on Veterans Day, then trustees voted Nov. 12 to fly the flag at half-staff to prompt dialogue. Six days later, President Jonathan Lash emailed an apology for flying the flag at half-staff and causing distress for veterans.

“Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election,” Lash wrote. “This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”

The president went on to announce that the college would not fly the flag on its campus flagpole so it could focus on “addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.” The college said no campuswide ban was in place and that individuals on campus and campus offices were free to display their own flags.

Lash was not available for comment, according to a campus spokesman who said the president is meeting with students and employees as part of the announced talks on the flag. Lash met with those who organized the veterans who protested, said the spokesman, John Courtmanche.

“President Lash acknowledged their right to demonstrate and expressed his regret that a still-unknown person or persons had burned the college's flag overnight before Veterans Day,” Courtmanche said in a statement. “President Lash listened respectfully to the views of the veterans and explained that the Hampshire College community includes a wide range of views including employees and students who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. President Lash emphasized that by not flying a flag on our college's flagpole for the time being, the college is seeking to enable a discussion of values among all members of our campus, not make a political statement.”

The debate at Hampshire has inspired calls for federal funding to be cut from the college and for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association to revoke its membership.

Hampshire declined additional comment after Trump weighed in on the issue of flag burning on Twitter Tuesday, setting off another debate.

National conservative media has been closely following the Hampshire developments. But local columnists have been critical as well. Ron Chimelis, columnist for The Republican newspaper, wrote that Hampshire’s administration was out of touch with reality if it thought taking the flag down would end the uproar.

“When people nationwide fumble for a singular example of how disrespect for the values of others is masqueraded as sensitivity, they won't have to go through a checklist to find exhibit A,” he wrote. “When they need one institution to represent a college culture of administrative spinelessness and where crying rooms, coddling rooms and cuddling rooms are taking the place of classrooms, they'll have one.”

‘Words Are More Valuable When They’re Scarce’

Presidents often feel pressure to speak too quickly or too often, said Simon Barker, managing partner of Blue Moon Consulting Group, a reputational risk management and crisis consulting firm with a focus area in higher education.

“Actions speak louder than words, and words are more valuable when they’re scarce,” he said. “When we think about the role of the president, is it really your role to be providing this kind of translating, so to speak, for your campus?”

Presidents need to think about why they are issuing a statement and what they hope to achieve, Barker said. They also must consider the unintended consequences of speaking out on an issue.

Barker likens unnecessary presidential statements -- about all topics, not just the election -- to an epidemic. Many of them would be better coming from a more specialized administrator, like a vice chancellor for student affairs, he said. Failing to think the situation through before speaking can lead to a slippery slope where presidents are suddenly expected to weigh in on every topic, from offensive but obscure social media posts to Halloween costumes. That can lead to their words unintentionally highlighting obscure issues or losing their value over time as people tune out frequent statements.

Presidents clearly continue to feel that they need to talk about an institution’s values in times of uncertainty, though. Another postelection example is University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. He was named in a student petition claiming the university’s response to the election created a “hateful climate that makes students feel ashamed for voting for Donald Trump.”

Schlissel received particular criticism for comments he made at a postelection vigil, where he said, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday.”

The University of Michigan has disputed characterizations of the vigil as an anti-Trump rally. Schlissel was not available for comment on this story, but he discussed the controversy and state of public discourse recently on NPR. He said he did not intend to suggest everyone who voted for Trump is of a hateful or racist mind-set. The event he attended was to support many students who felt threatened, Schlissel said.

“I think they were scared and threatened by a discourse through the election season that involved racism and misogyny and xenophobia, Islamophobia,” he said. “So I really felt my role as the leader of the community was to stand up for our community's values, and I think those values are actually shared by Democrats and Republicans and by people who voted for all different folks in the election.”

An underlying cause of many controversies is that presidents are often making comments and writing statements geared toward the campus constituencies they see, said Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of national higher ed public relations agency TVP Communications. But in today’s world, their words quickly travel off campus and become national statements on behalf of the intuition. In the process, they can be stripped of context.

As a result, it’s more important for presidents to remember the existence of different groups when they speak. Trustees may view a situation differently than faculty members, who may view it differently than students. Students themselves may be divided. Sometimes there may be no single message that can property address all those people with their different experiences and backgrounds.

“One of the recommendations we’ve been giving to presidents is, when we write these statements, make sure they’re writing to all students,” Valerio Parrot said. “Make sure they’re not disregarding the opposing view or those who may not feel like the majority of their student body.”

A first question to ask is whether something really needs to be said, Valerio Parrot said. Does someone on campus need to hear something, or is a president just sharing his or her personal beliefs?

Still, many think presidents can effectively speak to important issues, if they pick their moments and choose their words carefully.

“One of the key tenets of higher education is based on asking the important questions, and that means we have to be willing to work through the tough discussions to find common ground,” Valerio Parrot said. “I do think this is a place where faculty and administrators can set the stage and bring together the various options across campus and show through their leadership how you agree to disagree and still work together.”

2016 Election
Editorial Tags: 
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

HHS nominee Tom Price opposes embryonic stem cell research

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, is his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The selection was widely interpreted as a signal of Trump’s intentions to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But academics may be more likely to focus on Price’s past opposition to embryonic stem cell research and his skepticism about the scientific consensus around climate change.

Most of the discussion of Price’s selection noted his strident criticism of the Obama administration’s health care reform law and his plans to replace it with a Republican alternative as well as overhaul Medicare.

HHS’s primary significance for higher education relates to its direct oversight of the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest provider of funding for biomedical research.

Price, who has sponsored a bill to define human life as beginning at conception, has been a longtime opponent of embryonic stem cell research. The issue became a political flash point during the George W. Bush administration but became less prominent even as the current administration reversed limits on federal support for stem cell research.

Price is also a global warming skeptic who has voted against restricting carbon emissions, which puts him at odds with the scientific mainstream.

“I think people will have a pretty good idea of where he stands,” said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “He’s certainly not middle of the road on anything as far as I know.”

Holt, who served in Congress with Price, said Trump’s HHS pick has significant knowledge of the sector. “He’s certainly thought about the issues intensely,” Holt said. “He may well be a person who will try to shake things up.”

Higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price Tuesday, citing his familiarity with the health care industry and medical education. Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, said that Price understands the value of medical research, which she said bodes well for funding of the National Institutes of Health.

“I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” she said. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”

Price’s home district in Georgia includes several medical centers. Boroughs said his familiarity with the hospitals as an orthopedic surgeon and with medical education should make him a secretary higher ed can work with.

“He’s somebody that higher ed and academic medicine feel they definitely can work with, feel like they have a good relationship [with] going into the cabinet appointment, and we’re looking forward to working with him,” she said.

Medical lobby groups praised the Price nomination, as did the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools throughout the country. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch said Price understands firsthand the challenges facing medical schools and teaching hospitals.

“We are confident that Representative Price will bring a thoughtful, measured approach to tackling the wide range of issues affecting the nation’s health — from funding for biomedical research to training the next generation of physicians to transforming the nation’s health care system in order to provide all Americans with the care they need when they need it,” Kirch said in a statement.

The association backed the Obama administration’s lifting in 2009 of restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Asked about Price’s criticism of that decision, AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said AAMC continues to strongly support the research to find new treatments for conditions such as cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and diabetes.

“The AAMC looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure that those same standards will continue, and to preserve the ability of researchers to continue pursuing the most promising science in support of treatments and cures for patients,” McKinney said.

Hudson Freeze, president of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology​ (FASEB), said Price has voted many times to limit federal spending, which he acknowledged was a cause for concern. But he said Price has given the impression he understands the value of NIH. Freeze said funding for NIH and medical research may be low on Price’s list of immediate priorities should he be confirmed for the cabinet position.

“My gut feeling right now is that he will have much bigger issues to look at, which includes the Affordable Care Act. That’s going to be the principal focus for a good long time,” he said. “FASEB is going to be watching all of these things really closely.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Representative Tom Price, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, is his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The selection was widely interpreted as a signal of Trump’s intentions to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But academics may be more likely to focus on Price's past opposition to embryonic stem cell research and his skepticism about the scientific consensus around climate change.

Most of the discussion of Price's selection noted his strident criticism of the Obama administration's health care reform law and his plans to replace it with a Republican alternative as well as overhaul Medicare.

HHS's primary significance for higher education relates to its direct oversight of the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest provider of funding for biomedical research.

Price, who has sponsored a bill to define human life as beginning at conception, has been a longtime opponent of embryonic stem cell research. The issue became a political flash point during the George W. Bush administration but became less prominent even as the current administration reversed limits on federal support for stem cell research.

Price is also a global warming skeptic who has voted against restricting carbon emissions, which puts him at odds with the scientific mainstream.

“I think people will have a pretty good idea of where he stands,” said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “He’s certainly not middle of the road on anything as far as I know.”

Holt, who served in Congress with Price, said Trump's HHS pick has significant knowledge of the sector. "He’s certainly thought about the issues intensely," Holt said. "He may well be a person who will try to shake things up."

Higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price Tuesday, citing his familiarity with the health care industry and medical education. Lizbet Boroughs, associate vice president for federal relations at the Association of American Universities, said that Price understands the value of medical research, which she said bodes well for funding of the National Institutes of Health.

“I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” she said. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”

Price’s home district in Georgia includes several medical centers. Boroughs said his familiarity with the hospitals as an orthopedic surgeon and with medical education should make him a secretary higher ed can work with.

"He’s somebody that higher ed and academic medicine feel they definitely can work with, feel like they have a good relationship [with] going into the cabinet appointment, and we're looking forward to working with him," she said.

Medical lobby groups praised the Price nomination, as did the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents medical schools throughout the country. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch said Price understands firsthand the challenges facing medical schools and teaching hospitals.

"We are confident that Representative Price will bring a thoughtful, measured approach to tackling the wide range of issues affecting the nation’s health -- from funding for biomedical research to training the next generation of physicians to transforming the nation’s health care system in order to provide all Americans with the care they need when they need it," Kirch said in a statement.

The association backed the Obama administration's lifting in 2009 of restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Asked about Price's criticism of that decision, AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said AAMC continues to strongly support the research to find new treatments for conditions such as cancer, autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and diabetes.

"The AAMC looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to ensure that those same standards will continue, and to preserve the ability of researchers to continue pursuing the most promising science in support of treatments and cures for patients," McKinney said.

Hudson Freeze, president of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology​ (FASEB), said Price has voted many times to limit federal spending, which he acknowledged was a cause for concern. But he said Price has given the impression he understands the value of NIH. Freeze said funding for NIH and medical research may be low on Price’s list of immediate priorities should he be confirmed for the cabinet position.

“My gut feeling right now is that he will have much bigger issues to look at, which includes the Affordable Care Act. That’s going to be the principal focus for a good long time,” he said. “FASEB is going to be watching all of these things really closely.”

Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
Representative Tom Price, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of health and human services
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Udacity and boot camps offer money-back guarantees for job placement

Earlier this year Udacity, a Silicon Valley-based online course provider, announced a new perk for those considering its nanodegrees, which are short-term bundles of courses in technology-related fields such as data science, basic programming and app development.

“Earn a nanodegree credential and we will guarantee you a job within six months of graduation or give you 100 percent of your tuition back,” Sebastian Thrun, Udacity’s co-founder, wrote in January. (Thrun left his CEO perch with the company in April.)

Udacity isn’t the only nontraditional higher education provider to offer some form of money-back guarantee. Several coding boot camps, including Bloc, the Flatiron School, App Academy and others, have in place similar tuition refunds that are tied to employment.

The idea, say those companies, is to stand behind their product, putting money toward the promise that students can earn a valuable credential in exchange for their tuition dollars, time and effort. And the money-back guarantees come as public doubt is growing about the value of postsecondary credentials.

State and federal agencies, however, tend to take a dim view of money-back guarantees in higher education. After cracking down in past decades on colleges that made fraudulent promises of high-paying jobs for graduates, regulators generally prohibit colleges and even nonaccredited providers from offering such guarantees.

For example, laws governing for-profit postsecondary institutions in New York State prevent “assuring or seeming to assure employment in any business, establishment or occupation.” The state also requires education providers to say in enrollment agreements that “while placement service may be provided, it is understood that the school cannot promise or guarantee employment to any student or graduate.”

California has similar rules in place, requiring that institutions not “promise or guarantee employment, or otherwise overstate the availability of jobs upon graduation.”

Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission has investigated degree-issuing colleges over job-placement claims, sometimes collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies in those probes.

Yet the rules on money-back guarantees are hardly clear, varying across states and applying differently to noninstitutional online providers. As a result, Udacity and boot camps have largely avoided running afoul of the rules, typically through being exempt from state licensing or with money-back guarantees that sound more like tuition-refund policies than riskier employment guarantees.

And some higher education observers think the time has come to revisit the concept, saying a money-back guarantee can be a valuable form of accountability that in some ways resembles the thinking behind risk sharing in higher education.

Risk sharing, an increasingly popular concept with bipartisan support in Washington, refers to policies that would put colleges at least partially on the financial hook for their graduates’ ability to repay loans or their performance on other debt- and employment-related metrics.

Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in August wrote that higher education offers the sort of expensive, complicated product that is well suited to a money-back guarantee.

In the essay, Akers cited several traditional institutions that have edged closer to this approach, such as the State University of New York at Buffalo, which allows students to finish their degrees free if they fail to graduate after four years despite participating in advising programs, declaring a major early and taking full course loads.

Likewise, Adrian College, a private institution in Michigan, reimburses students for all or part of their student loan payments if they earn less than $37,000 in annual pay after graduation.

Udacity and the boot camps have taken this promise farther, Akers said in an interview.

“This is institutions getting ahead of risk sharing,” she said. “They’re the innovators in the space.”

Money-back guarantees could be worth a look if they go beyond marketing gimmicks, said Rick O’Donnell. The founder and CEO of Skills Fund, a company that is both a private lender and a kind of alternative accreditor for boot camps, O’Donnell is a former Colorado regulator who currently serves on the federal panel that oversees accreditors.

“If done well, [guarantees] can be an indication about how the school is standing by the education they provide and their students,” he said.

However, O’Donnell said, colleges and even noninstitutional providers should tread carefully. Boot camps and Udacity are subject to the FTC’s rules on truth in advertising, he said. And at the state level, job guarantees could spark an investigation by an attorney general’s office.

The best way to avoid such scrutiny, said O’Donnell, is to not include too many qualifications with a guarantee and to stick with a “forthright statement of integrity and quality.”

Some boot camps have been frustrated by the murkiness around money-back guarantees and resulting regulatory risk, he said, and have avoided making such offers.

“Why don’t we have a regulatory scheme that would allow that?” O’Donnell said. “It’s a conversation that higher education should be having.”

When Regulations Apply

Back in 2014, California’s for-profit regulator made waves by somewhat belatedly warning several boot camps that they were operating in violation of state law and would face fines and possible closure if they did not apply for state recognition.

Several companies successfully did so, including General Assembly, the largest of the boot camps. But App Academy, Udacity and Bloc currently are not approved by California’s regulator, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, said Joanne Wenzel, the bureau’s chief.

Bloc has filed an application. So has App Academy, but the company was fined $50,000 last year for operating in California without a license. 

Udacity received an exemption, said Wenzel, because it charges less in tuition than the minimum state threshold for being licensed, which is $2,500 per year.

A spokeswoman for Udacity declined to comment beyond confirming that the company received an exemption and charges less than the threshold.

It’s also not clear if the three companies’ guarantees would violate California law. App Academy, for example, does not charge tuition up front, but instead takes an 18-percent cut of graduates’ first year of salary. But its boot-camp preparation course comes with a money-back guarantee that graduates will be accepted into the most selective boot camps. (Note: This paragraph has been updated from an earlier version to clarify how App Academy’s tuition model works.)

Wenzel said the three boot camps’ language is “more along the lines of a refund policy,” but she adds that “every case needs to be reviewed in depth and probably passed through our legal office before a decision is made.”

In New York, App Academy has received “candidate school” status, meaning they are in the process of applying to be licensed. Flatiron, Udacity and Bloc currently are not licensed to operate there. It’s not entirely clear that they need to be, particularly for online programs. Even higher education lawyers are unsure about this question but said a money-back guarantee could provoke unwelcome attention.

An official with the New York Education Department’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision said the state’s rules on money-back guarantees are “relevant” in these examples. But the official would not comment on the “propriety of the schools’ advertisements.”

Job Placement Is Job One

Bloc and the Flatiron School began their money-back guarantees before Udacity. Both apply to online programs (Bloc is online only), where such guarantees are less of a regulatory challenge than they are with in-person programs.

“We wanted to put our money where our mouth is,” said Clint Schmidt, Bloc’s CEO, adding that the company’s tuition-reimbursement guarantee helps students be more at ease about the money and time they will spend completing Bloc’s online programs in software development or design, which can take nine months to complete and cost $19,500 or $9,800, respectively.

Flatiron spent months designing and preparing its money-back guarantee, which the company began last year.

The philosophy behind it, said Adam Enbar, the boot camp’s cofounder and CEO, is that Flatiron knows exactly what it takes for students to get a job in the field. “If that doesn’t work for you, you should get your money back,” he said.

The promise goes both ways, said Enbar, and helps encourage students to do what their instructors recommend. The company promises that students who complete the work and meet Flatiron’s requirements, such as answering emails and showing up to interviews, are guaranteed a job within 180 days.

So far, the company has yet to issue a refund. Its jobs report, which was audited by an independent accounting firm, claims a 99 percent job-placement rate for 2015 graduates who were seeking employment.

“We’re keeping ourselves on the hook for outcomes,” said Enbar.

Even so, he’s not sure money-back guarantees are feasible for traditional higher education, where financial aid and federal loans would complicate the offers. They work for boot camps like Flatiron, Enbar said, because the sole goal of the enterprise is to help people get jobs as programmers.

“We are not intending to be a replacement for college,” he said. “Colleges are selling much more than that.”

Hot Ideas
Image Source: 
Udacity
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Earlier this year Udacity, a Silicon Valley-based online course provider, announced a new perk for those considering its nanodegrees, which are short-term bundles of courses in technology-related fields such as data science, basic programming and app development.

“Earn a nanodegree credential and we will guarantee you a job within six months of graduation or give you 100 percent of your tuition back,” Sebastian Thrun, Udacity’s co-founder, wrote in January. (Thrun left his CEO perch with the company in April.)

Udacity isn’t the only nontraditional higher education provider to offer some form of money-back guarantee. Several coding boot camps, including Bloc, the Flatiron School, App Academy and others, have in place similar tuition refunds that are tied to employment.

The idea, say those companies, is to stand behind their product, putting money toward the promise that students can earn a valuable credential in exchange for their tuition dollars, time and effort. And the money-back guarantees come as public doubt is growing about the value of postsecondary credentials.

State and federal agencies, however, tend to take a dim view of money-back guarantees in higher education. After cracking down in past decades on colleges that made fraudulent promises of high-paying jobs for graduates, regulators generally prohibit colleges and even nonaccredited providers from offering such guarantees.

For example, laws governing for-profit postsecondary institutions in New York State prevent “assuring or seeming to assure employment in any business, establishment or occupation.” The state also requires education providers to say in enrollment agreements that “while placement service may be provided, it is understood that the school cannot promise or guarantee employment to any student or graduate.”

California has similar rules in place, requiring that institutions not “promise or guarantee employment, or otherwise overstate the availability of jobs upon graduation.”

Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission has investigated degree-issuing colleges over job-placement claims, sometimes collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies in those probes.

Yet the rules on money-back guarantees are hardly clear, varying across states and applying differently to noninstitutional online providers. As a result, Udacity and boot camps have largely avoided running afoul of the rules, typically through being exempt from state licensing or with money-back guarantees that sound more like tuition-refund policies than riskier employment guarantees.

And some higher education observers think the time has come to revisit the concept, saying a money-back guarantee can be a valuable form of accountability that in some ways resembles the thinking behind risk sharing in higher education.

Risk sharing, an increasingly popular concept with bipartisan support in Washington, refers to policies that would put colleges at least partially on the financial hook for their graduates’ ability to repay loans or their performance on other debt- and employment-related metrics.

Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in August wrote that higher education offers the sort of expensive, complicated product that is well suited to a money-back guarantee.

In the essay, Akers cited several traditional institutions that have edged closer to this approach, such as the State University of New York at Buffalo, which allows students to finish their degrees free if they fail to graduate after four years despite participating in advising programs, declaring a major early and taking full course loads.

Likewise, Adrian College, a private institution in Michigan, reimburses students for all or part of their student loan payments if they earn less than $37,000 in annual pay after graduation.

Udacity and the boot camps have taken this promise farther, Akers said in an interview.

“This is institutions getting ahead of risk sharing,” she said. “They’re the innovators in the space.”

Money-back guarantees could be worth a look if they go beyond marketing gimmicks, said Rick O’Donnell. The founder and CEO of Skills Fund, a company that is both a private lender and a kind of alternative accreditor for boot camps, O’Donnell is a former Colorado regulator who currently serves on the federal panel that oversees accreditors.

“If done well, [guarantees] can be an indication about how the school is standing by the education they provide and their students,” he said.

However, O’Donnell said, colleges and even noninstitutional providers should tread carefully. Boot camps and Udacity are subject to the FTC’s rules on truth in advertising, he said. And at the state level, job guarantees could spark an investigation by an attorney general’s office.

The best way to avoid such scrutiny, said O’Donnell, is to not include too many qualifications with a guarantee and to stick with a “forthright statement of integrity and quality.”

Some boot camps have been frustrated by the murkiness around money-back guarantees and resulting regulatory risk, he said, and have avoided making such offers.

“Why don’t we have a regulatory scheme that would allow that?” O’Donnell said. “It’s a conversation that higher education should be having.”

When Regulations Apply

Back in 2014, California’s for-profit regulator made waves by somewhat belatedly warning several boot camps that they were operating in violation of state law and would face fines and possible closure if they did not apply for state recognition.

Several companies successfully did so, including General Assembly, the largest of the boot camps. But App Academy, Udacity and Bloc currently are not approved by California’s regulator, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, said Joanne Wenzel, the bureau’s chief.

Bloc has filed an application. So has App Academy, but the company was fined $50,000 last year for operating in California without a license. 

Udacity received an exemption, said Wenzel, because it charges less in tuition than the minimum state threshold for being licensed, which is $2,500 per year.

A spokeswoman for Udacity declined to comment beyond confirming that the company received an exemption and charges less than the threshold.

It’s also not clear if the three companies’ guarantees would violate California law. App Academy, for example, does not charge tuition up front, but instead takes an 18-percent cut of graduates' first year of salary. But its boot-camp preparation course comes with a money-back guarantee that graduates will be accepted into the most selective boot camps. (Note: This paragraph has been updated from an earlier version to clarify how App Academy's tuition model works.)

Wenzel said the three boot camps' language is “more along the lines of a refund policy,” but she adds that “every case needs to be reviewed in depth and probably passed through our legal office before a decision is made.”

In New York, App Academy has received “candidate school” status, meaning they are in the process of applying to be licensed. Flatiron, Udacity and Bloc currently are not licensed to operate there. It’s not entirely clear that they need to be, particularly for online programs. Even higher education lawyers are unsure about this question but said a money-back guarantee could provoke unwelcome attention.

An official with the New York Education Department’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision said the state’s rules on money-back guarantees are “relevant” in these examples. But the official would not comment on the “propriety of the schools’ advertisements.”

Job Placement Is Job One

Bloc and the Flatiron School began their money-back guarantees before Udacity. Both apply to online programs (Bloc is online only), where such guarantees are less of a regulatory challenge than they are with in-person programs.

“We wanted to put our money where our mouth is,” said Clint Schmidt, Bloc’s CEO, adding that the company’s tuition-reimbursement guarantee helps students be more at ease about the money and time they will spend completing Bloc’s online programs in software development or design, which can take nine months to complete and cost $19,500 or $9,800, respectively.

Flatiron spent months designing and preparing its money-back guarantee, which the company began last year.

The philosophy behind it, said Adam Enbar, the boot camp’s cofounder and CEO, is that Flatiron knows exactly what it takes for students to get a job in the field. “If that doesn’t work for you, you should get your money back,” he said.

The promise goes both ways, said Enbar, and helps encourage students to do what their instructors recommend. The company promises that students who complete the work and meet Flatiron’s requirements, such as answering emails and showing up to interviews, are guaranteed a job within 180 days.

So far, the company has yet to issue a refund. Its jobs report, which was audited by an independent accounting firm, claims a 99 percent job-placement rate for 2015 graduates who were seeking employment.

“We’re keeping ourselves on the hook for outcomes,” said Enbar.

Even so, he’s not sure money-back guarantees are feasible for traditional higher education, where financial aid and federal loans would complicate the offers. They work for boot camps like Flatiron, Enbar said, because the sole goal of the enterprise is to help people get jobs as programmers.

“We are not intending to be a replacement for college,” he said. “Colleges are selling much more than that.”

Hot Ideas
Image Source: 
Udacity
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Student injures 11 people in knife, car attack at Ohio State

Eleven people were injured at Ohio State University Monday after a student drove into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building, got out of his car and stabbed several people with a butcher knife. Police said an Ohio State officer shot and killed the student within two minutes of the car driving into the crowd.

None of the victims’ injuries, which include stab wounds and injuries from being struck by the vehicle, are believed to not be life threatening at this time, university officials said. The victims include several undergraduate and graduate students and at least one university staff member.

“We all do what we can to be as safe as we possibly can,” Michael Drake, Ohio State’s president, said during a news conference Monday. “We all live with the fear that things like this can happen to us. But by being diligent, we believe we can be as safe as possible. With our safety personnel and police officers here to respond and to help protect us, we were pleased this wasn’t as serious as it could have been.”

The attack occurred shortly before 10 a.m. when the student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove his speeding car into a crowd of people outside Watts Hall, a science and engineering building on campus. After getting out of the vehicle, police said, Artan slashed at several other students with a large butcher knife. Artan was a third-year logistics management student who had recently transferred to Ohio State from Columbus State Community College.

Watts Hall was being evacuated at the time after a fire alarm had been pulled due to a report of a gas leak. The fire alarm was unrelated to the stabbing, campus officials said, but the timing of the two incidents meant that an Ohio State police officer was already in front of the building when Artan jumped out of the vehicle. The officer, Alan Horujko, fatally shot Artan.

“He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” Craig Stone, Ohio State’s police chief, said. Police and campus officials have not said what motivated the attack.

Details of the stabbing emerged Monday afternoon after initial reports erroneously said a shooting had occurred at Ohio State’s flagship campus in Columbus. Officials originally announced through the university’s Twitter and emergency management system that there was active shooter on campus and that students should shelter in place.

The messages stated that students should “Run Hide Fight,” meaning they should evacuate, if possible; hide; or, if all else failed, fight. “The first order of business was to make the campus safe and secure,” Drake said, explaining the earlier confusion. “And then we investigate.”

The phrase “Run Hide Fight” has become a standard mantra among campus security officials in recent years. While the third word of the phrase has proven to be controversial among some safety experts, police say it is included only to help illustrate that fighting a shooter should be a would-be victim’s last resort. The phrase dates back to 2012, when officials in Houston, coined the term while designing a new protocol in response to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“‘Run, Hide, Fight’ is one of the programs used to train individuals about what to do if they are confronted with a life-threatening situation,” William Taylor, former president of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators, said. “Although originally developed as an active-shooter program, it is a viable system for all kinds of life-threatening scenarios in any location.”

The attack is one of several stabbings that have taken place on or near college campuses in recent months. In August, two Ithaca College students were stabbed during a fight at Cornell University. One of the students died from his injuries. Seven people were stabbed near Emerson College in September. That same month, a student at Peru State College, in Nebraska, was charged with stabbing three other students. Earlier this month, a former Rutgers University student stabbed a current student and a professor.

Last year, a University of California, Merced, student injured four people in a campus stabbing spree. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the student, who was shot and killed by police, was acting alone but had been inspired by the Islamic State terror organization. Referencing reports that the suspect in the Ohio State stabbing was a U.S. resident who was born in Somalia, Drake, Ohio State’s president, urged students and faculty to avoid “jumping to conclusions” about what drove Monday’s attack.

“What we want to do is unify together, support each other, do our best to support those who were injured in their recovery,” Drake said.

In August, Artan was interviewed as part of a recurring feature in Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern​. He told the newspaper that, as a Muslim student, it was difficult finding a place to pray on campus.

“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media,” Artan said. “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads, so they’re just going to have it and it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.”

Students and Violence
Editorial Tags: 
Image Source: 
Twitter
Image Caption: 
Ohio State students stack chairs in front of a door during Monday’s attack.
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Eleven people were injured at Ohio State University Monday after a student drove into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building, got out of his car and stabbed several people with a butcher knife. Police said an Ohio State officer shot and killed the student within two minutes of the car driving into the crowd.

None of the victims' injuries, which include stab wounds and injuries from being struck by the vehicle, are believed to not be life threatening at this time, university officials said. The victims include several undergraduate and graduate students and at least one university staff member.

“We all do what we can to be as safe as we possibly can,” Michael Drake, Ohio State’s president, said during a news conference Monday. “We all live with the fear that things like this can happen to us. But by being diligent, we believe we can be as safe as possible. With our safety personnel and police officers here to respond and to help protect us, we were pleased this wasn’t as serious as it could have been.”

The attack occurred shortly before 10 a.m. when the student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove his speeding car into a crowd of people outside Watts Hall, a science and engineering building on campus. After getting out of the vehicle, police said, Artan slashed at several other students with a large butcher knife. Artan was a third-year logistics management student who had recently transferred to Ohio State from Columbus State Community College.

Watts Hall was being evacuated at the time after a fire alarm had been pulled due to a report of a gas leak. The fire alarm was unrelated to the stabbing, campus officials said, but the timing of the two incidents meant that an Ohio State police officer was already in front of the building when Artan jumped out of the vehicle. The officer, Alan Horujko, fatally shot Artan.

“He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” Craig Stone, Ohio State’s police chief, said. Police and campus officials have not said what motivated the attack.

Details of the stabbing emerged Monday afternoon after initial reports erroneously said a shooting had occurred at Ohio State’s flagship campus in Columbus. Officials originally announced through the university's Twitter and emergency management system that there was active shooter on campus and that students should shelter in place.

The messages stated that students should "Run Hide Fight," meaning they should evacuate, if possible; hide; or, if all else failed, fight. "The first order of business was to make the campus safe and secure," Drake said, explaining the earlier confusion. "And then we investigate."

The phrase “Run Hide Fight” has become a standard mantra among campus security officials in recent years. While the third word of the phrase has proven to be controversial among some safety experts, police say it is included only to help illustrate that fighting a shooter should be a would-be victim’s last resort. The phrase dates back to 2012, when officials in Houston, coined the term while designing a new protocol in response to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“‘Run, Hide, Fight’ is one of the programs used to train individuals about what to do if they are confronted with a life-threatening situation,” William Taylor, former president of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators, said. “Although originally developed as an active-shooter program, it is a viable system for all kinds of life-threatening scenarios in any location.”

The attack is one of several stabbings that have taken place on or near college campuses in recent months. In August, two Ithaca College students were stabbed during a fight at Cornell University. One of the students died from his injuries. Seven people were stabbed near Emerson College in September. That same month, a student at Peru State College, in Nebraska, was charged with stabbing three other students. Earlier this month, a former Rutgers University student stabbed a current student and a professor.

Last year, a University of California, Merced, student injured four people in a campus stabbing spree. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that the student, who was shot and killed by police, was acting alone but had been inspired by the Islamic State terror organization. Referencing reports that the suspect in the Ohio State stabbing was a U.S. resident who was born in Somalia, Drake, Ohio State’s president, urged students and faculty to avoid “jumping to conclusions” about what drove Monday’s attack.

"What we want to do is unify together, support each other, do our best to support those who were injured in their recovery," Drake said.

In August, Artan was interviewed as part of a recurring feature in Ohio State's student newspaper, The Lantern​. He told the newspaper that, as a Muslim student, it was difficult finding a place to pray on campus.

“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media,” Artan said. “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads, so they’re just going to have it and it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.”

Students and Violence
Editorial Tags: 
Image Source: 
Twitter
Image Caption: 
Ohio State students stack chairs in front of a door during Monday's attack.
Is this breaking news?: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: