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Colleges announce commencement speakers March 22 2018
Agnes Scott College: Jennifer Nettles, the singer-songwriter. Alma College: Michael Selmon, who is retiring as provost of the college. Antioch College: Gabrielle Civil, former associate professor of performance at the college. Becker University: Karyn Polito, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Clark University: Hauwa Ibrahim, the human rights lawyer. College of the Holy Cross: Michele Norris, the journalist. Heidelberg University: Mary Welsh Schlueter, founder and CEO of Partnership for Innovation in Education. Lyon College: Katia Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox. Notre Dame de Namur University: Carlos Robson, the poet and playwright. Sarah Lawrence College: Kyes Stevens, founder and director of the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project, at Auburn University. School of Visual Arts: Maya Lin, the artist and designer. University of Mississippi: Walter Isaacson, the biographer. Editorial Tags: Commencement speakersIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
New policies create risks for humanities at Danish universities March 22 2018
Major reforms of higher education in Denmark could further cut the number of students pursuing humanities subjects, observers warn. One of the key recommendations of a report drawn up by rectors, government officials, academics and business representatives is that the number of study places available in each discipline should be linked to labor market need, which critics say is the latest sign of utilitarian drift in Danish higher education. Explaining the reforms, Søren Pind, minister for education and research, reportedly said that “we will see a scaling down of the humanities” as a result. Toke Dahler, general secretary of the Danish National Union of Students, said that the proposed reforms were of “very great concern” and that there was “no question” that they would cut humanities student numbers further. The report suggests that humanities degrees are “not worthwhile,” he argued. The report recommends that universities expand degree courses where labor market demand is strong -- particularly from the private sector -- and cut them where they lead to relatively high unemployment. This marks a policy trajectory already well under way in Denmark. Birgit Bangskjær, chief executive of the Akademikerne, which represents groups of Denmark’s graduates, explained that since 2015, Danish universities had been docking places on courses where the unemployment rate was systematically higher than average over a 10-year period. “That means that especially programs within the humanities have been lowered,” she said. The new report says that, by 2016, courses that had funding cut in this way had lost about 2,000 places, with humanities hardest hit. So, although the recommendations build on existing policy, they “send a signal to the university management that this is important,” Bangskjær added. Another controversial proposal -- opposed by the Akademikerne and universities -- is to reduce the power of academics and students over curriculum design. At the moment, “study groups” of students and staff nominate course managers, Bangskjær explained. But government and some industry representatives who devised the recommendations want to give university leaders the exclusive power to appoint course managers and to reduce study groups to an advisory role, she added. “There’s a risk that the university staff are not involved themselves,” Bangskjær said. “We feel that would damage the legitimacy of the program leaders.” Another major change would give bachelor’s graduates more of an incentive to work for a few years before doing a master’s degree. Currently Danish graduates have the automatic right to continue on to a master’s in the same subject only if they start one immediately, explained Bangskjær, meaning that about 85 percent choose to do so. Allowing graduates to return for a master’s later on gives them more flexibility, she said, although she added that the Ministry of Finance would also like to fund fewer master’s students, an attitude that the Akademikerne disagrees with. In addition, “we believe that these students who have been working between bachelor’s and master’s are more qualified to do their master’s,” Bangskjær said. Jesper Langergaard, director of Universities Denmark, said that it was still “too early to say” how the recommendations would feed into concrete changes. GlobalEditorial Tags: HumanitiesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
Unusual debate about politics at University of Texas at Austin March 22 2018
Thirsty for some political inclusivity? Try COCACOLA. No, not the soft drink. It’s an acronym created by Jordan Cope, a senior and student government representative at the University of Texas at Austin. It stands for the “College of Conservative Arts and the College of Liberal Arts,” a name that Cope had hoped would gain traction among his colleagues. It did not -- the representatives this week rejected a piece of legislation that supported such a name change to the university’s College of Liberal Arts. The students lack the power, of course, to change the name of the college, but the debate reflects campus tensions over politics and over the way many people perceive the phrase “liberal arts” as a political term. Cope said in a phone interview he’s aware that “liberal arts” has nothing to do with politics. But he said that left-wing views tend to dominate campus, and he wanted to highlight the other side of the political spectrum in a meaningful (satirical) way -- the right isn’t tolerated at the university, Cope said. He grew up an outspoken conservative in a Texas high school. When he told his friends he’d be attending the university’s College of Liberal Arts in a city that’s an enclave for liberal politics, they asked him, “How will you survive?” Cope joked that by the time he was done, it would be renamed “the College of Conservative Arts.” His junior year, Cope tried to convince a student government representative to sponsor the COCACOLA measure, but she later told him she feared campus backlash -- which in part prompted his run for representative. “We’re very much a political minority,” Cope said. “And it’s OK to be a political minority. What’s not OK is the political status quo targeting other political beliefs. This doesn’t solely affect conservatives -- it affects many political orientations, communists, etc. Ultimately I disagree with those political narratives, but as an advocate of free speech and a proponent of intellectual, civil dialogue, I wanted to foster an environment more tolerant toward all views.” He stressed that the legislation was meant to be funny, but also to drive home a serious point. And even if it didn’t reach the administration, Cope considered the attention to the measure a victory. It lost in a 14-to-11 vote, but still generated much public debate. But Cope’s attempt at humor didn’t leave everyone feeling bubbly -- namely, the student council (another branch of the student government) that represents the College of Liberal Arts. Asked if Cope knew the definition of “liberal arts,” the president of the council, Jordee Rodriguez Canales, sighed and said she wasn’t sure. Rodriguez Canales was angry because there appeared to be no tangible goal with Cope’s legislation, and she already felt that university administrators didn’t take the student government seriously. “I just think it would reinforce the view of student government and would give administrators grounds to ignore it,” she said. “It’s just something that wasn’t going to happen, and just making it a joke, I didn’t appreciate it.” She derided the idea that campus conservatives are at all marginalized, though she did acknowledge they were the minority. The university ensures that right-leaning voices are represented by admitting those students in the first place, and never do they face the same type of bigotry as racial or other minorities, Rodriguez Canales said. She pointed out that conservative groups have held affirmative-action bake sales, charging different races different prices, which she said she found offensive. Once, the Young Conservatives of Texas organization tried to sponsor a “scavenger hunt” for undocumented students, she said. Members of the group would walk around campus with a label that read “illegal immigrant” and students who brought those roaming members back to the group table would receive a $25 gift card. “I think that conservatives here can express their opinions well,” Rodriguez Canales said. “But I don’t think they can be outwardly racist, as I think shouldn’t be the case in any other part of this country. The College of Liberal Arts is ensuring all types of diversity -- political, racial, ethnic or sexual identity, gender identity. I don’t think other political minorities -- like the Communist Party on campus -- feels marginalized. And no one is renaming a college in their favor -- same with the Tea Party, or anarchists on campus. I just think that it’s stupid.” Saurabh Sharma, a junior and chairman-elect of the Young Conservatives of Texas, said his organization remained agnostic on the bill, in part because it was futile. The College of Liberal Arts is due to be renamed after a wealthy donor, Sharma said. And the student government is a “ridiculous” entity, he said -- generally its members are overinflated and misjudge what they can accomplish. Previously, the student government has tried to ban the Young Conservatives, Sharma said. He also objected to how Cope painted conservatives as victims, when Sharma said they consider themselves “happy warriors.” “We aren’t looking to become a protected class, we’re not trying to become a victim class,” Sharma said. “Yes, it is true there are certain roadblocks on campus, but we don’t use that as currency to score social points. We don’t like to parade around like we’re so oppressed.” Acceptance of conservatives does not come from a student government bill or top college administrators, but a cultural shift, Sharma said. The group has tried to approach other contingents of campus with the idea they want the same for the country, “we just come at it from a different direction,” he said -- and it’s not from a place of prejudice or hate. Some politicians in particular have perpetuated the narrative that GOP values have been squelched on campuses. Research has revealed conservatives have little faith in the value of higher education, with 67 percent of Republicans in a Gallup survey stating they had “some or little confidence” in higher ed. Of those who indicated they weren’t confident in higher education, most of them said the reason why was because campuses were too liberal or politicized. Brandon H. Busteed, executive director of Gallup's higher education division, penned an essay when the study was released last year, arguing that higher education had a branding problem around the term “liberal arts.” “Although there is certainly a difference between the meaning of a liberal arts education and being ‘liberal’ politically, it helps no one to fight to the death defending the term ‘liberal arts’ in the context of today's climate,” Busteed wrote. “Let's face it: Other than people in higher education or liberal arts graduates themselves, who understands what the liberal arts are anyhow?” A 2015 study by Caroline Hoxby and Sarah Turner, professors of economics at Stanford University and the University of Virginia, respectively, found that low-income, academically talented students weren’t applying to liberal arts institutions because they didn’t know what they were, or identified themselves as “not liberal.” Editorial Tags: Student lifeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
Sewanee, in reversal, revokes Charlie Rose's honorary degree March 22 2018
In February, the board of the University of the South rejected a request by students to revoke an honorary degree awarded to Charlie Rose in 2016, before reports became public that he sexually harassed many women over a period of years. Other colleges and universities have revoked honors for Rose, just as many revoked honors for Bill Cosby and others found to have committed sexual harassment or assault. But not Sewanee, as the university is known. The board and administration upset many students not only by declining to revoke the honor but by the language of a statement explaining the decision. That letter said, in part, "We want to be clear that we have stood, and always will stand, against sexual harassment of women or men. At the same time, we do not believe it is our place to condemn the individual. In fact, we think there is grave danger were we to go down that path. We impose a penalty where appropriate, but we also offer forgiveness. That said, it would be easy to condemn Mr. Rose and rescind the honorary degree. It is harder not to do so. The opportunity to forgive should always be taken. Condemnation has no place here … Clarification comes in the question 'Is there a hierarchy of sin?' Quickly followed by 'Are we all not sinners?' Therein lies the ecumenical rub. If we condemn a person then who among us sinners should not also be condemned?" Further, Sewanee officials said they had no process to revoke a degree, having never before done so. The response led to unusually personal protests and detailed theological debates. (Sewanee is owned by 28 dioceses of the Episcopal Church and takes theology and civility seriously.) This week, the board of Sewanee announced that it had revoked Rose's degree. The board acted after creating a process for such revocations, and after numerous people connected to Sewanee and the Episcopal Church questioned the original response to the call for revoking Rose's degree. First, the board created a four-step process to revoke degrees: a written request for the revocation of an honorary degree must be submitted to the vice chancellor (the equivalent of president). Then the request must be approved by two-thirds margins by the Joint Regent-Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees, the University Senate and the Board of Regents, in that order. That has now happened. The votes followed public statements by Episcopal scholars and leaders suggesting that the university's original statements might not have reflected church thinking. First, eight members of the theology school faculty issued a public letter saying, in fact, there is a hierarchy of sin, and removing an honorary degree would not violate any teachings on forgiveness. "In church tradition, forgiveness is offered after repentance and contrition," the letter said. "Typically, that means making appropriate restitution to those whom the individual has wronged, and the grace of forgiveness is singularly theirs to offer. What steps Mr. Rose may or may not have taken in this regard are not known to us. But we note that forgiveness does not cancel the serious consequences of sin, nor does it require restoring an individual to the same places of honor that he had held before." The letter went on to say, "In the School of Theology, we traffic in symbols: we teach the rituals of the church to our students; we teach them to convey the symbolum of faith, the Creed; we form them as priests so that they will know the power of symbols, symbolic action, and symbolic language to those whom they will serve. Withdrawing an honorary degree from a serial sexual offender … would surely never be sufficient. We are grateful for all of the steps to address the malformed sexual culture of this institution that are outlined in your letter. We believe there are more steps to be taken, not least a critical examination of Greek culture on campus. But symbols do matter, and the retention of its honors by one who has behaved in such a scandalous way dishonors this university. Symbols speak: while symbols without matching substance are hollow, symbols convey the deep values of a culture, a people, a university. Allowing Mr. Rose’s degree to stand is its own symbolic declaration of the university’s values." Then a group of Episcopal bishops wrote an open letter in The Sewanee Purple, the student newspaper, that also disputed the university's original response. "Mr. Rose steadily ascended the career ladder. However, in his climb to the top of his profession he repeatedly failed to respect the dignity of his female colleagues. By rescinding the degree, Sewanee acknowledges a reality to which we had previously been blind. This would not represent a departure from the Christian practice of forgiveness. Instead, it is a refusal to live in denial," said the bishops' letter. "What our regents decide in the case of Mr. Rose will have ramifications beyond the boundaries of the Domain [the university's land]. Our nation is newly awakened to the pervasiveness of the harassment of and the violence toward women in the workplace, on campuses, on our streets, and in our homes. By failing to act in this case, the university remains silent in the face of a broader injustice. And to paraphrase Eli Wiesel, silence always benefits the oppressor." Religious CollegesEditorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Charlie Rose at Sewanee in 2016Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: