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Spencer's talk at Florida met by protests and attempts to shout him down October 19 2017
When Richard Spencer stepped out on stage at the University of Florida Thursday, it was following weeks of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on security, and repeated condemnations by administrators and professors who said they deplored Spencer’s brand of white supremacy but were constitutionally bound to let him speak. He was instantly met with boos -- members of the crowd attempting to shout him down. Anxieties both among students and university leaders abounded for weeks. This was Spencer’s first event since he helped direct the deadly demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists marched onto the University of Virginia campus and then the city, and one drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman. But there were few reported scuffles and injuries in Gainesville. Spencer was able to address the crowd shortly after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. starting time. By a little after 4 p.m. Thursday, he had departed, though protesters still lingered. To those who worried about large-scale violence, or a legal dispute if Spencer had been unable to talk, there was relief on both counts. From the moment Spencer began speaking at the campus arts center, the audience jeered. He was greeted with expletives and cries of “go home.” A steady drumbeat of chanting continued throughout his talk, which soon morphed into a question-and-answer discussion after it was clear the crowd would not remain entirely hushed. Spencer was able to be heard and the chants were not so nonstop he couldn't make his points, though the audience overwhelmingly rejected them. Spencer seemed to relish the reaction, casting his naysayers as “childish,” calling them at one point a “mob” and “grunting morons.” “Why do you think that you need to suppress speech?” Spencer said as some members of the audience stood starkly giving him the middle finger. “The answer is because you know that what I am saying is true. You know what I am saying is powerful. You know what I am saying is going to change the world. And therefore, you all want to stop it. You’re going to fail.” “Do you not want to hear something, poor little babies, that might contradict something your professor told you? Aw. Might you have to think a little bit, child?” The university tried to maintain normalcy for the day, with classes initially proceeding as scheduled. But with protesters (most anti-Spencer) arriving, many professors called off classes. The scene outside where Spencer spoke was anything by normal. Snipers were positioned on building roofs, and more than 500 law enforcement members were spread across the campus. The list of items forbidden at the event was lengthy -- no bags or purses, bottles or laser pointers, masks or bandannas. And no weapons. A nearby hotel parking lot was flooded with police vehicles. Roads close to where Spencer was speaking were shut down. One student posted to Twitter that her bus stop had been shut down, and she arrived late to class only to find it had been canceled. The demonstrations, however, remained relatively peaceful. Thousands of protesters gathered on the campus of more than 50,000 students -- one group screamed “Nazis not welcome here” as they marched down a sidewalk, a banner unfurled before them. Two people were arrested Thursday. Sean Brijmohan, 28, brought a gun onto campus, according to the Alachua County sheriff’s office. He had been hired by a media organization as security, police said. And David Notte, 34, was arrested for resisting law enforcement. During the talk, which Spencer claimed was the biggest free speech event of the students’ lifetime, almost none of the questions he fielded were serious inquiries of his platform -- in his words, promoting “white identity” and the creation of an ethno-state in America. A couple of audience members asked why Spencer insisted on speaking to campus when its constituents clearly didn’t want him there. Another asked him how it felt to be punched in the face, a reference to the infamous incident at President Trump’s inauguration, in which Spencer was socked during a live interview. One self-identified Florida alumna referenced Charlottesville when she addressed Spencer. She had asked how Spencer would respond to people who say that he should take responsibility for violent acts committed in his name and the name of the so-called alt-right, the far-right-wing movement characterized by racist and anti-Semitic views that Spencer helped create. “Name a single incident in which some alt-rightist went out and murdered someone,” Spencer said. The alumna responded, “Charlottesville,” citing the death of Heather Heyer, who police said was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a reported white nationalist from Ohio. Her killing “remains unclear,” Spencer said. The crowd screamed back, “It’s your fault.” “All I demand is that he receive a fair investigation, and a fair trial,” Spencer said, referring to Fields. “Which I fear he may never get because he is used as a scapegoat. The fact is his vehicle was attacked. His vehicle rammed into another vehicle mysteriously, that rammed into other people, then other people were injured as he was attempting to escape. This is a very strange method of committing murder.” (Spencer's account differs considerably from those of onlookers and law enforcement.) An attendee asked Spencer why he felt multiculturalism was a determent to society. Spencer launched into a nostalgic story of “peak America” that his parents knew in the 1950s, with diners, ice-cream dates and drive-in movie theaters -- a “white America in the midcentury.” He said that his generation was born “strangers into our own land,” a country defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which ended immigration quotas. “All institutions have been a part of … what’s called ‘the great erasure,’” Spencer said. Though a line of Spencer’s fans sat in the front row, many in plain white shirts, almost none took a turn at the microphone. They left through a side door shortly before Spencer ended his talk. One of his supporters did ask him how to stop religious infighting within the alt-right, especially when some of its more devout followers couldn’t look to Spencer, a self-professed atheist, as a leader. Spencer responded, “That’s unfortunate,” and said he wouldn’t deny Christianity its place in European history. The university spent weeks arranging Spencer’s visit after first denying his request to appear in the wake of Charlottesville, citing safety considerations, but he was eventually allowed him to reschedule, amid his threats to sue if he was not permitted to speak. Auburn University earlier this year canceled a talk by Spencer for the same reasons, but a graduate student from Georgia State University filed a lawsuit on Spencer’s behalf then, and with a judge’s court order he was able to address the Alabama public institution. Shortly after Charlottesville, white nationalists publicly linked the events there to planned campus rallies, giving colleges and universities a legal route to block Spencer, lawyers have said in interviews. The university has spent upwards of $600,000 on security, bringing in the additional police presence from across the state. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency in part to help coordinate those forces. Spencer himself spent a fraction of what the university paid -- a little more than $10,000. Per a Supreme Court case decided in 1992, Forsyth County, Georgia v. The Nationalist Movement, institutions are not allowed to pass high security fees along to a speaker, as it’s a potential way of restricting free speech. Florida administrators were deliberately vocal in denouncing Spencer’s message, while simultaneously trying to explain their obligation, as a public institution, to accommodate him. Members of a faculty union at Florida and students had created petitions urging the university to stop his speech. But President Kent Fuchs tweeted before Spencer’s talk (which he told students to avoid), “I don’t stand behind racist Richard Spencer. I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer’s vile and despicable message.” Spencer thanked police and the university at the end of his talk before once again turning to the crowd, telling them he and the alt-right would continue “to fight.” “The world is going to look at this event, and the world is going to have a very different impression of University of Florida because you acted this way. And let me tell you, the world is not going to be proud.” Editorial Tags: Student lifeImage Source: Photo by Brian Blanco / Getty ImagesImage Caption: Protest outside Richard Spencer talk at University of FloridaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Educators consider Macron's vision for a new type of European university October 19 2017
Setting out his grand vision to reinvigorate the European Union at the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron made clear he had big plans for the continent's universities. By 2024, the French president said, Europe should have "at least 20" of what he called "European universities," offering students the chance to "study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages." These European universities will help to "create a sense of belonging" that will be the "strongest cement for Europe," a later press release argued. Could Macron's dream of a "European university" really work? And what would it mean in practice? The details may not be quite as grand as the rhetoric. These universities would not be new, a spokeswoman for the president clarified. They would be a "network of existing universities, but they will have to introduce important changes to work better together" and allow students a "change of country and university each year, within the network, with a common curriculum," she said. Despite Britain's vote to leave the E.U., English could still be one of the languages of teaching, she added. These proposals are "nothing new," argued Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities. "We do all of that, in the sense that we have an exchange of students, Ph.D. students, staff … we have courses in all kinds of languages." The ideas are simply being thrown around to make Macron sound "pro-European," he said. But in the Upper Rhine region, where the river flows out of Switzerland and heads north to divide France and Germany, a new institution free of any one nation-state emerged last year, and it may hold lessons for Macron's "European universities." The European Campus -- a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology -- allows for the free circulation of students between institutions and seamless joint bidding for research money. The aim is "to have an alliance that allows the universities to stay autonomous but to be more competitive on the European and international level," creating a "critical mass" of student numbers, research equipment and "ideas," explained its director, Janosch Nieden. The European Campus is something called a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a legal entity recognized by the E.U. that allows public authorities from different member states to team up and provide joint services more easily. There are about 50 across the E.U., explained Nieden, but "we are the first grouping … that has been set up solely by universities." The main focus is on research. "There's a lot of funding on the European level that can be asked for by the entity," he explained. Many projects have been funded by Interreg, an E.U. body that spends on cross-border cooperation initiatives. It has also just put in a bid to Horizon 2020 (the E.U.'s research and innovation program) for a five-million-euro ($5.9 million) grant for a quantum sciences graduate academy. Bidding together through a cross-border legal entity "is the easiest and fastest way to foster cooperation between universities," Nieden said. But joint bids to national research councils are a lot harder, he explained, and currently the campus is trying to convince German, Swiss and French agencies to accept applications. Students can also take modules at any of the other universities in the alliance, free of fees. But language barriers have stymied this. "Young Germans don't learn French that much anymore," Nieden said. German universities are hyperorganized, arranging specific lecture rooms many months in advance, whereas French universities, which cannot as easily control their student intake, create their timetables much later. This makes it hard for students of other universities to book courses in advance, according to Nieden. As such, student mobility is "not easy to see," he added. Of the 115,000 students across the five universities, just 1,000 per semester exercise their right to study at a different campus. The name is also something of a misnomer: the institution does not have its own physical site. And for now, the European Campus cannot grant degrees of its own, so students still receive qualifications from their respective national universities. Still, over the next five to 10 years, the campus may develop its own qualification, largely aimed at students from outside Europe who want to study at all of the universities, Nieden said. "We were very happy about the speech of Macron," he added. Whether the French president gets his way depends on wider discussions about the future of the E.U. -- but regardless, the continent's universities are already experimenting with multinational forms. GlobalEditorial Tags: FranceGermanyTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
MIT introduces digital diplomas October 19 2017
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma. Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chain technology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions, and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin. A news release Tuesday described how MIT has been thinking about using block-chain technology to secure digital credentials for the past two years. In 2015 Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT media lab, began issuing nonacademic digital credentials to his team, but he did not have a good way of managing these credentials digitally. In collaboration with Learning Machine, Schmidt and his team began to develop an open-source tool kit, called Blockcerts, that any college can use to issue credentials using block-chain technology. With the addition of the Blockcerts Wallet app, this information can be encrypted, and students can prove ownership of their diploma through the generation of a unique numerical identifier. The technology means that students can quickly share their virtual certificates with potential employers without involving an intermediary. Third parties can verify the legitimacy of the diploma by pasting the URL of the certificate into an MIT-hosted portal. This portal can instantly verify the legitimacy of the certificate, negating the notarization step often required in the verification of paper certificates. Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, said that many of today's students expect to be able to just send digital copies of their academic credentials to employers and institutions, but that until now there wasn’t good technology to support this. “We heard of students trying to Snapchat their grades to admissions; they didn’t understand why they couldn’t just text a picture,” said Jagers. “It should be that easy to share records, and this generation of digital natives expects that. But before this technology came along, this wasn’t possible.” Mary Callahan, university registrar and senior associate dean at MIT, said that a key motivation behind the pilot was to “empower” students to take greater ownership of their academic qualifications. She said the technology enables students to share their achievements with whomever they wish in a way that is secure, verifiable and efficient. “I think it’s got real potential,” said Callahan. “We wanted to lead the way, and we expect others to follow.” The first cohort of 111 students who were able to take part in the pilot graduated this summer, with 43 choosing to take part. Callahan said that potentially all students graduating in February 2018 would be given the digital diploma option. Asked whether she thought this could one day replace paper, Callahan did not rule it out but said that the change would take time. Aside from convenience for students, the technology also tackles another issue facing universities -- fake degrees. “There are a lot of people who pretend to graduate from MIT with fake diplomas,” said Jagers. “This provides a format that people can’t fake.” Callahan confirmed that verifying authenticity was an important aspect of the technology for the university, which she said “definitely gets its fair share” of fraudsters. While some students may struggle to understand the technology behind the app, understanding how the block chain works is not necessary to use it, said Jagers. He noted that there has been strong interest in the technology from dozens of academic institutions, as well as companies and governments. The University of Melbourne is already piloting digital diplomas with the app. Though some companies are looking to sell their block chain-based products, Jagers said that keeping the Blockcerts app and tool kit free and open source is important. “If everyone is doing this in a proprietary way, then the records won’t be universally verifiable. The whole point is to create records that don’t have any dependence on an issuer or vendor.” While MIT may be among the first institutions in the U.S. to use block-chain technology to award digital degree certificates, Thomas Black, assistant vice provost and university registrar at Johns Hopkins University, said that other institutions are experimenting. He noted that his institution was also looking to use block-chain technology to award degrees, but he would be taking a different approach than MIT. Instead of working with third parties, Johns Hopkins is building its own system and creating a private ledger -- rather than using Bitcoin's public one, like MIT. “Universities are very protective of their authority to certify learning. I don’t know that we need to have this public ledger approach,” he said. “You can use block-chain technology very nicely by establishing a private ledger.” Black noted that many institutions already use digital signing services to verify the authenticity of their PDF documents through Adobe. Companies such as Parchment and Paradigm also offer verified digital versions of diplomas, said Black. “The concept of digital signatures is nothing new,” he said. “But perhaps universities could start to replace Adobe and others in these roles.” TechnologyEditorial Tags: TechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Professors say Purdue president is trying to deflect attention from 'inaction' on white supremacy on campus October 19 2017
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is facing criticism for his response to a request that he investigate a series of white supremacist messages on campus. In particular, a group of faculty members have accused Daniels of drawing a false equivalency between neo-Nazis and antifascist activists, and of personally attacking a professor who’s been critical of him in the past. The group says Daniels’s tone recalls President Trump’s initial comment that there was violence “on many sides” of the August protests in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman protesting the assembled white supremacists dead. Purdue declined comment on the professors’ specific accusations against Daniels but pointed to his past statements condemning racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence. Daniels also has said there is no evidence that anyone affiliated with Purdue was involved in placing white supremacist fliers that have appeared on campus in the past year. In an op-ed in the local Journal & Courier this week, six professors said the campus branch of the Campus Antifascist Network -- a nascent national movement to fight white nationalist activity on college campuses -- reported to Daniels seven documented instances of Nazi propaganda at Purdue since November. In the first such instance, a person or people sympathetic to the white nationalist group American Vanguard posted fliers denouncing “white guilt” and “cultural Marxism” around campus. More recently, in September, desks in an Honors College classroom were reportedly arranged to resemble a swastika. The antifascist network also sent Daniels what it called “documented evidence of support by people at Purdue” for Identity Evropa, another anti-Semitic white supremacist group whose fliers have appeared on campus. The evidence in question is screen shots of texts from a supposed student expressing affiliation with the group. At other colleges and universities, many white supremacist poster campaigns have been the work of off-campus groups. So Daniels's assertion that no one at Purdue is involved isn't necessarily odd. But many faculty members at Purdue have previously asked Daniels to more strongly condemn any suspected white supremacist activity on campus, and his standard response has been to denounce hate and bigotry while refusing to -- in his words -- give specific hate groups the attention they are seeking. So instead of investigating any Purdue ties to Identity Evropa, the professors wrote in their op-ed, Daniels “chose to: (a) reassert the principle of ‘free speech’ for Nazis; and (b) target a faculty member with a long record of antiracist work in a polemic closely resembling that of the U.S. president when the latter blamed ‘both sides’ for the tragedy at Charlottesville.” The professors were referring to an email exchange between Daniels and a leader of the Campus Antifascist Network, Bill Mullen, a professor of American studies who has previously been critical of the nontraditional president. The exchange began with the antifascist network's request earlier this month that Purdue investigate and issue a report on white supremacy on campus. In a subsequent email to Mullen, which Purdue shared with Inside Higher Ed, Daniels cited the university’s free speech policy, approved in 2015, saying, “We may condemn but we don’t silence individuals in the university community, regardless how offensive or preposterous their remarks or writings may be.” By contrast, Daniels said, “we distinguish between words and conduct and would act swiftly to expel from Purdue’s community anyone -- faculty, staff or student -- who resorts to physical intimidation or violence.” In recent days, Daniels continued, “I have spent considerable time replying to multiple messages from citizens who find your various pronouncements abhorrent and unacceptable and demand that you be sanctioned or expelled from the university entirely. In particular, your defense of the so-called antifa organization, a group that has not only advocated but practiced violence, gave deep offense and embarrassment to many.” For reference, the Campus Antifascist Network has said it does not advocate violence but would encourage self-defense against ethnonationalists, especially for the most vulnerable people on campus. While its name is clearly inspired by the antifascist movement, the national campus group is not part of antifa, a group that in some cases espouses violence to fight facism. Daniels also said he’d previously defended Mullen’s own right to express views that were “widely interpreted as racist, in the form of that oldest of bigotries, anti-Semitism. On each occasion, I have given the simple answer I am giving to you. In an honest moment you know that Purdue is a community deeply committed to tolerance and inclusion.” Describing Daniels’s stance as “deeply frightening,” the op-ed's signatories -- including Mullen’s wife, Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor of history -- said Daniels “has deliberately chosen to champion freedom, a precious value and right, in the most narrow and circumscribed way possible -- as free speech alone … What good is the right to free speech if it is severed from the right to work and exist freely without the threat of racist violence?” They added, “We face a clear choice here at Purdue: resist the Nazis or allow their politics to flourish.” Mullen said Wednesday that Daniels’s assertion that he’d defended antifa “is an attempt to deflect the discussion away from his inaction on white supremacy at Purdue.” As for Daniels’s comment about anti-Semitism, Mullen called it an “undocumented smear.” Mullen said he is “an open advocate for Palestinian human rights” and a faculty adviser for Students for Justice in Palestine at Purdue, and that Daniels is trying to “stigmatize this work as anti-Semitic.” It's “really ironic that [Daniels] ignores a request from a group of people protesting a swastika on campus in order to make spurious allegations against the protesters,” he added. A spokesperson for Purdue highlighted an August statement from Daniels and Provost Jay Akridge saying, in part, that “racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence like that demonstrated in Charlottesville are the antithesis of [Purdue’s] values and have no place on our campus.” More recently, Daniels released a statement saying there is “zero evidence that any member of the Purdue community is involved in these leaflets, and there is nothing new to say about the situation. We reiterate our past statements and our disinclination to do exactly what these despicable people want most, which is to give them attention their minuscule numbers and their abhorrent views do not merit.” Academic FreedomThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Mitch Daniels Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: