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Arkansas Tech University in December announced that it had received a little more than $190,000 from the estate of a late professor to create a scholarship fund. The fund -- the Michael Arthur Link and May Reid Kewen History Scholarship -- would honor the professor and his late mother. Link had taught history for 51 years before he died in 2016.
The university issued a photo (above right) of a ceremonial presentation of the funds from those administering Link's estate. It all seemed like a nice story and a nice sum of money for a university that needs scholarship support.
But Jewish organizations are objecting to an honor for Link, who they say was a Holocaust denier and promoted anti-Semitic views. Higher education has periodically debated whether a professor being a Holocaust denier is grounds for dismissal. The most famous case involves Arthur Butz, an engineering professor at Northwestern University. The university has repeatedly condemned Butz's views but has not fired him, citing principles of academic freedom and the fact that Butz's Holocaust denial activities are unrelated to his work at the university. In the Arkansas Tech case, the question is an honor for a late professor, and for one who taught history and is alleged to have promoted his views in class and publishing.
The university says that it does not believe the allegations about Link, and that there is no conclusive evidence to back up the claims. The university has also said that it has spoken to those who knew Link, and they say he was not bigoted against Jews.
One person who studied under Link has come forward to support the university for honoring the professor. He is Billy Roper, who runs the Shield Wall Network, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as "a small white supremacist group based in Mountain View, Arkansas, that promotes racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric."
Roper, on his website, wrote, "The Jewish ADL, long under investigation for committing acts of espionage against the United States on behalf of Israel, along with typically shrill Jewess professor Sarah Stein, have failed in their Jewy attempts to intimidate Shield Wall Network Coordinator Billy Roper’s alma mater into removing a beloved history professor’s name from a scholarship he endowed. The greasy hook-nosed kikes even demanded that the university remove a non-offensive comment Mr. Roper placed on a page in memory of his former professor and confidant. To their credit, the university where Roper earned his master’s degree after taking multiple classes under Link has stood firm and so far refused the Jews’ demands. The full name of the ADL indicates that they are the 'brotherhood of the circumcised.'"
The ADL together with the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and more than 30 scholars of history from around the United States wrote to the university to protest the decision to honor Link.
"The evidence against Dr. Link includes anti-Semitic passages in his written work, testimony from former students and colleagues, and a well-documented 2005 incident in which Dr. Link presented anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi published texts in a graduate seminar as though they were legitimate historical works. This evidence has been reviewed by the Anti-Defamation League, leaders of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and international and national scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. All have found it credible and convincing, and all agree that Dr. Link presented hate-filled, nonfactual, anti-Semitic misinformation to his students as though it offered a historically valid point of view," the letter says.
"Over the course of Dr. Link’s tenure, the university allowed him to expose thousands of students to these odious, dangerous mistruths under the guise of three deeply disturbing and absolutely intolerable tactics. First, Dr. Link presented misinformation as history. Second, he presented the anti-Semitic nature of this misinformation as though it were truthful, correct and acceptable. Third, he presented the question of whether the Holocaust occurred -- an irrefutable historical fact -- as though it were an appropriate, valid point of debate. The administration of Arkansas Tech has had months to remedy its honoring of Dr. Link at the request of ADL and concerned faculty members, but it has done nothing. The position of the administration clearly breaches the university mission and belies the standing of the university as a public institution devoted to higher education."
ADL closed its letter by saying, "By simultaneously honoring and seeking to conceal the anti-Semitism of Dr. Link, the university has become complicit in his hate."
Arkansas Tech says that it has no definitive evidence of any of this.
But Inside Higher Ed has reviewed a letter sent to the then president of Arkansas Tech in 2005 in which a historian describes complaints he received from his former students while enrolled in a graduate course taught by Link in which he encouraged students to read a range of books on the Holocaust. Some of the books were scholarly texts, but the books also included Debunking the Genocide Myth, published by an organization that denies that the Holocaust was real. The students in the course complained to the professor that they felt something was wrong and that they wanted to drop the course but had missed the deadline to do so. The students told the professor that Link presented the various books as necessary to evaluate the Holocaust.
The professor compared Link to a "geologist who asserts that the Earth is flat" or even that the shape of the Earth is a subject of debate. "Holocaust deniers play off our innate sense of fairness," the professor wrote. "Why shouldn't 'both sides' be argued? They play off a basic flaw in reasoning, i.e., that the assertions of the Holocaust as an event in world history have equal weight to assertions that the event never occurred. But given the patina of academia by professors with agendas, this false equivalency of validity will find acceptance among students who will see it in terms of just another debate among historians when in fact there is no debate."
Shortly after this letter was sent, Link was removed from teaching duties. The university would not say why but said he was subsequently cleared to return to teaching.
Inside Higher Ed has also reviewed a self-published book by Link on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. In the beginning of the book, referencing the situation in Germany during Hitler's rise to power, Link offered reasons other than anti-Semitism to explain Hitler's hatred for Jewish people -- and Link's explanations aren't that different from those offered at the time by Nazis. "Jews were prominent in banking, the press, the Socialist party and the Communist party," Link wrote. He later references the "many Jewish bankers" in Germany at the time.
Niebuhr was strongly anti-Nazi and never showed sympathy for Hitler's views. But the book says (in ways other Niebuhr scholars would likely contest) that Niebuhr viewed the "real reason" for Nazi violence against Jews was "the strong influence of the Jews in the liberal and radical parties of Germany."
‘We Don’t Know’
Arkansas Tech has said that the fellowship will help students and promote diversity by allowing more people to enroll.
Robin E. Bowen, president of Arkansas Tech, said via email that the university took the allegations against Link seriously and in no way would endorse Holocaust denial. "The question at hand relates to intent," she said.
Defenders of Link have said that he was trying to show his students the range of ideas about the Holocaust that are "out there" and that he was not trying to endorse the books that argued that the Holocaust did not take place.
"Therein lies the problem," Bowen wrote. "We don’t know. We don’t know if he intended to use the books as part of a conversation regarding how to evaluate the legitimacy of materials or whether his intent was not as noble. We simply don’t know."
Bowen added, "One of our many challenges as educators is balancing what we believe to be true with the rights of others to express their truth. As academics, we should strive to provide students with opportunities to consider varied perspectives as they learn to grow as critical thinkers."
As to the biography Link wrote of Niebuhr, Bowen said that the university has asked the ADL for evidence that the passages in question are anti-Semitic, and has not received an explanation. Those in Jewish organizations who have reached out to Arkansas Tech say that they have explained the tropes in the language used by Link in the book.
Bowen said, "Arkansas Tech University categorically denies the unfounded accusation by ADL South Central that ATU is 'complicit in hate' against people of the Jewish faith. Teaching Holocaust denial and promoting anti-Semitism are not behaviors condoned by Arkansas Tech University."
‘Aiding and Abetting Holocaust Denial’
One of the people consulted by Arkansas Tech faculty members about the situation was Deborah E. Lipstadt, one of the world's leading experts on Holocaust deniers. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University. She is the author of a book -- History on Trial -- about how she stood up to a lawsuit by a Holocaust denier who challenged her work.
Asked by Inside Higher Ed about her take on the evidence, Lipstadt said via email that she reviewed the various materials that had been presented to Arkansas Tech.
"If the descriptions of his courses are correct and if he indeed did assign the materials he is said to have assigned, then there is no question that he is aiding [and] abetting Holocaust denial," Lipstadt wrote. "In fact, I would call him a Holocaust denier if he said he wanted students to study both sides of the issue. There are many 'sides' to debate on Holocaust-related matters … But to debate whether this genocide happened or not is more than ludicrous. It is a form of denial. If the materials with which you have been provided are accurate -- and there are too many different reports together with Link’s own writings to simply discount them -- then to name a fellowship after this man is highly inappropriate."
Lipstadt also said that it was stunning that one could review Link's writings, such as his Niebuhr work, and not see the bigotry in some of the language. Those who would read such work and say that they needed more information should "take some courses in history of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism." Added Lipstadt, "Those who are defending the fellowship have cited the fact that it will enhance diversity. This seems to me to be a pretty poor excuse for honoring a man who facilitated historical lies and the prejudice that flows from them."
Stein, the professor noted in the post by the white nationalist at the beginning of the article, is an assistant professor of English at Arkansas Tech.
Of the honor for Link, she said, "I feel that it is a total disservice to our students and it's an embarrassment to the university."
"As a Jewish professor it hurts to go to work at a university that would honor a Holocaust denier."DiversityEditorial Tags: HistoryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Candid photos are the lifeblood of documentary photography. But a critically acclaimed photo book on fraternity life by Andrew Moisey, assistant professor of visual studies at Cornell University, has attracted ire from students on multiple campuses over issues of consent and women's autonomy.
Specifically, critics say, The American Fraternity (Daylight) documents women in compromising positions. In one photo, for example, a woman in party clothes lies passed out on a dirty fraternity house bed with her legs splayed open toward the camera. In another photo, a woman lifts up her shirt to expose her bare breast. Most of the women’s faces are obscured. But some have said they are nevertheless recognizable. And Moisey has admitted he did not obtain consent from several women he featured -- despite having obtained consent forms from the fraternity men.
“Moisey lacked the practical wisdom to see that publishing these photographs presented the greatest risk to women, already a primary target of fraternity violence. Moisey himself had little to lose,” Augie Faller, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Cornell, wrote in a recent column in The Cornell Daily Sun. “Consent is for Cornell faculty, too.”
A woman who did not want to be identified by name or position, for fear of retribution, attended a talk Moisey gave about the book at Cornell.
The photos "don’t speak clearly, at least not as a criticism. It’s hard to not see these photos as anything other than violence pornography and fetishism," she said.
Moisey "hides behind the excuse of documentary photography and activism to absolve himself of the blatant disrespect of women that he demonstrates in publishing the photos without their consent," she added.
According to an audio recording of the talk, Moisey said he hadn't gotten consent from some of the women he photographed. Asked about the potential for the women's employers or families to recognize them, he said, "Those consequences haven’t happened. They could. They very well could. But I felt if I didn’t put those pictures in there then the book wouldn’t be able to make a critique at all."
Moisey has received more negative coverage from student newspapers at the University of California, Berkeley, his alma mater -- and where he shot the photos -- and at Kenyon College, where he recently gave a talk.
The American Fraternity came out just this fall, but Moisey collected photographs for it from 2000 to 2008 at Berkeley. He’s said he waited years to publish to protect the identities of the students he photographed, under the agreement that he would only refer to their fraternity under a pseudonym. (He’s also said he previously tried to show the photos in galleries.)
In an article in Bustle, a Berkeley alumna who attended frat parties while Moisey was on campus also says that the women in the photographs are still recognizable to her.
“Moisey may not have set out to say anything about consent with his book, but, as far as women pictured in the book are concerned, he says a lot about what their consent means to him,” wrote the alumna, Alexis Schrader. “I spoke to four women about Moisey’s book; one, whose image I recognized in several online articles about the book, didn't sign release forms or consent for Moisey to publish her image. When she contacted Moisey to protest, he sent her release forms signed by her friends.”
Schrader said those women don’t remember signing the forms, and they “visited the fraternity exclusively to socialize while drinking.” Street photographers legally don't need permission to photograph subjects in public spaces, she said, correctly. But “given that these parties were pre-social media and they viewed the fraternity as a private residence, the women feel they should have been fully informed of how Moisey intended to use their images.”
No Endorsement of Greek Life
The American Fraternity is no endorsement of campus Greek life. Moisey’s photos are by turns lewd and disturbing. Male genitalia and alcohol feature prominently. A man crawls naked, wearing only a denim undergarment and a ski boot, for instance. The brothers at one point appear to be tormenting a dog. And their pointed secret ceremony caps evoke the worst parts of U.S. history.
In various interviews, Moisey has described the book as a unique, real-life look into fraternity culture -- even calling it an imagining of U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s college days.
“Fraternities are the places where problematic and toxic masculinity is incubated,” Moisey is quoted as saying in a favorable article in Time, which named his photo book one of the best of 2018, for example. “We literally send our kids to be educated in places where they learn to be the opposite of gentlemen. It’s mind-boggling.”
Even so, Moisey’s critics accuse him of undermining women in the same way fraternity men sometimes do.
Beyond issues of consent, Moisey’s critics say the book and his public comments send a mixed message about women and their role in campus party culture.
At Kenyon, for example, Moisey was “asked to share his thoughts on why fraternities get away with such typically abhorrent behavior,” undergraduate Lucy White wrote in a campus newspaper op-ed. “He responded by saying that fraternities only exist because women still attend their parties. He then went on to suggest that, if women were to stop attending frat parties, then fraternity party culture would fall apart.
Asked at the Cornell talk whether some women might actually enjoy attending frat parties, Moisey said, "I'm not critiquing that they're having fun, but they're fulfilling the fantasy that often ends up so badly."
Both Schrader, author of the Bustle piece, and the woman at the Cornell talk took issue with one of two essays in the book -- that written by Cynthia Robinson, a professor in Moisey’s department at Cornell. It at once blames women for enabling frat culture and erases their autonomy, they say.
“She is at a frat party,” Robinson wrote of a woman in one of the photos. “She has heard, or seen, somehow learned, that this is what girls should expect at frat parties. This is what girls do at frat parties. What they let be done to them. If they want to be invited to more frat parties. At least she’s still standing.”
Robinson describes other women as being “infantilized” by sitting on men’s laps. And of that photo of the woman splayed out on the bed, Robinson wrote that Moisey stood “where the frat boys stood, the ones who posed her. Before? After? Or maybe not this time, she dodged a bullet, they passed her over.”
Despite Moisey's intentions and Robinson’s description, Schrader wrote, “the images of the women in The American Fraternity are where the tension between desire and social expectations is revealed -- women want to shotgun beers, fuck strangers, and get messy, the way the boys can. Yet we hesitate to do so, knowing eyes, and perhaps even cameras, are always, acutely, on us.”
Moisey declined an immediate interview request. He said via email that the “student authors of these pieces did not read the book, nor did they report accurately on what I said, nor did they speak to me." (Schrader, no longer a student, did speak to Moisey.)
The question of consent “is a very important one and [I] actually took it much more seriously than the authors of these articles have,” he said. “They just equivocated the word ‘consent’ in order to create a charged story, making it seem like I went looking for passed-out women to photograph and then uploaded them to the internet. I didn’t do anything like this. In fact it is so far from what I did that I have not considered it safe even to respond to them.”
Robinson also declined an immediate interview reques and said via email that “the topic of the book is immensely relevant to our current cultural discourse.” She added, “I recognized the frat culture in those images as one also prevalent on college campuses during my own (long-ago) undergrad days, and found it both striking and perturbing that so little appeared changed.”
Robinson said she attended a separate talk with Moisey about the book in a local bookstore, and that the “conversation, while intense -- there were various viewpoints represented -- was civil and intelligent and very well received.”
Berkeley said in a statement that it is aware of The American Fraternity and that is “dedicated to fostering a culture of safety, respect and an environment of safe, legal and responsible alcohol use. The campus and our CalGreeks community work together as partners to make our campus environment safe and supportive.”FacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyImage Caption: Andrew MoiseyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Cornell UniversityUniversity of California, BerkeleyDisplay Promo Box:
A former professor's public accusation against Arizona State University's “highly unethical” grading practices has devolved into a case of dueling recriminations. And despite being widely discussed on social media, it's still unclear where the truth lies between the disparate perspectives of the professor and the institution.
Brian Goegan, who was a clinical assistant professor of economics at ASU, says he was fired for failing to adhere to grading quotas.
ASU officials flatly deny this. They said there were no such quotas and implied that Goegan was fired for his "multiple shortcomings" as a professor.
The kerfuffle was prompted by an email Goegan sent to his students on April 18, which was then shared on Reddit, saying he was forced out for pushing back on a requirement to fail 30 percent of his class. He said the alleged mandate was issued in order to falsely inflate the positive impact of a new digital courseware product on students’ grades.
The courseware is a homework and assessment platform called MindTap, which uses adaptive learning to test students' knowledge of material covered in an associated digital textbook. Goegan was required to start using the platform in 2018 and says he was fired after he continued to voice concern about the department's policies regarding the courseware to his supervisors.
Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost at ASU, responded in a written statement Friday, saying the university had investigated Goegan’s claims and “found no factual evidence to support them.”
“The accusation that the university would establish quotas in any course requiring to fail a certain percentage of students is unequivocally false. That is not who we are,” Searle said.
Goegan posted a rebuttal to Searle's statement the same day. Goegan said he was troubled by how his department selected the new courseware. He claimed that ASU had received a “large monetary” grant from Cengage, an educational technology company and publisher, which owns the MindTap platform.
He said the grant was put toward an institutionwide adaptive learning initiative called the Principles Project. And in exchange for this funding, his department started to require the use of the MindTap platform in introductory-level economics classes.
Searle denied that there was any such deal.
“Cengage has not given ASU any grants,” he said. Cengage published a corroborating statement saying the company has never paid any grants to ASU.
Searle also refuted Goegan’s suggestion that he was fired after speaking out. “There are many reasons that a faculty member’s contract might not be renewed, including when a faculty member resists course correction of multiple shortcomings despite supervisory intervention.”
Though Searle denied that students are required to pay to turn in their homework, he acknowledged there is a course fee to access the MindTap platform.
“There is a fee to use MindTap, but it also pays for the class [digital] textbook,” he said. “The economics courses using MindTap are optional at this time; students may choose to take the same courses taught by other professors using traditional university grading/textbook platforms.”
Addison Wright, a junior at ASU, doesn't buy that explanation.
“They are blatantly lying about not requiring students to pay to turn in homework,” she said. “I have had to pay for homework for classes multiple times."
“This year I took a statistics class that required me to pay over $100 just to complete the homework,” said Wright. “I couldn’t afford the fee and ended up having to do the entire semester’s worth of homework in the two-week trial period.”
Wright, a graphic information technology major, took a class with Goegan in spring 2016. She, like many other students on social media, praised Goegan’s teaching skills and thanked him for publicly raising his concerns.
“He was incredibly passionate about economics and made it fun for the class to learn,” she said. “To this day he is the best teacher I’ve had at ASU.”
In a discussion thread on Reddit, some observers suggested students liked Goegan so much because his class was an easy A.
Wright disagreed. “I didn’t struggle passing it, but I know a lot of students were struggling.”
Goegan said that on average, around 30 percent of students got an A in his class, which was not easy. He attributed the proportion of A grades to a large number of honors students who chose his class. He said very few students withdrew from the class and he worked hard to help students succeed.
"I made sure that every assignment and test was comprehensive and difficult, but I was always willing to do whatever it took to help students figure it out," he said.
Goegan described a departmental meeting in July 2018 in which instructors for certain introductory economics classes were told to grade their students according to set percentages: 10 percent D’s, 10 percent E’s and 10 percent W’s (withdrawals). Goegan said this would set a new baseline against which the impact of the new courseware could be measured. When Goegan subsequently failed fewer than 30 percent of his students, he said he was formally reprimanded.
Goegan doesn’t have any written proof of the alleged mandate to fail 30 percent of his students. He does share an excerpt of an email showing a grade distribution for an introductory economics course, ECN 221, which he was told to follow. The distribution does not match the 30 percent failure rate Goegan said he was verbally told to adhere to. The grade distribution guideline called for 22% A’s, 36% B’s, 28% C’s, 5% D’s, 3% E’s and 5% W’s.
Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of education leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University, said that it if Goegan was indeed asked to fail more students to set a new baseline, “the evaluation of the new materials would not be reflecting a real outcome.”
Asking professors to strictly follow a grade distribution is highly unusual, said Steven Greenlaw, professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington. If a professor is giving out too many A's, that might necessitate a conversation, but not a mandate to fail a specific proportion of the class, he said.
Greenlaw uses open educational resources in his classes with courseware from Lumen Learning which costs $25 per student. The MindTap platform and associated digital textbook -- a well-known title by economist Gregory Mankiw -- costs $99 per student.
Many students object to the concept of paying to do their homework, but Greenlaw said this is simply a new paradigm in higher ed.
"We're in transition from a period where the textbook was the product and the ancillary materials, be they study guides or homework problems, were thrown in for free," he said. "Now we're in a situation where the textbook is the commodity and the value added is in the ancillary materials."
Goegan said before the courseware shift at ASU, he would put assessments in the university’s learning management system at no cost to students. When he first started using MindTap, he made sure the homework assessments in the platform did not reflect a significant portion of students’ grades so that they could pass the course without paying the $99 fee. He was later told that MindTap assessments had to account for at least 20 percent of students’ grades.
Goegan believes the platform and textbook are overpriced.
"I know that relatively speaking it seems low for a textbook, but for that price you can buy just about any book in the world," he said. "I would joke with my students that they could buy all the Harry Potter books for that price and learn more from those than from the textbook."
Of course, Goegan's dispute with ASU is about more than money. It's also about upholding the principle of academic integrity.
“I had hoped they would conduct a more serious investigation,” he said. “It really appears to me that they are not at all concerned with actually addressing these issues -- they are only concerned with saving face.”
Goegan is now looking for a new job. He recognizes that speaking out may cost him professionally, but said he felt duty bound to tell his students what had occurred after his attempts to voice concern through official channels were unsuccessful. He encouraged his students to email the dean of the ASU business school and ASU president Michael Crow to complain. Goegan said he has been copied on over 600 emails from students so far.
“If they keep resisting students’ calls for changes to these politics, I think they need to take a hard look at whether or not they're truly keeping students' best interests at heart," he said. “I hope when people look at this situation, they consider that I wouldn't take this risk and jeopardize my future if it wasn't true."
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Congress passed sentencing reform legislation in December that was widely regarded as the first major step in recent years to address mass incarceration. Now many involved in that fight are turning their focus to higher education.
A coalition of groups with a broad range of ideological positions is pushing to make repeal of the federal ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students a top priority as talks heat up over reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the law that oversees federal financial aid.
Those organizations, including civil rights groups, religious colleges and conservative organizations, argue that college access for students behind bars is an issue of equity for postsecondary education and also the logical extension of efforts to end mass incarceration.
“For two years, all anyone has been talking about is 94 percent of people in prison are going to come home someday. This was a natural next step,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “This is just saying, let’s allow people to use their time to improve themselves and to prepare themselves for returning home.”
Federal law has prohibited incarcerated students from receiving Pell Grants -- the primary form of need-based student aid -- for more than a quarter century. That’s limited the growth of college programs for people behind bars, while some sort of postsecondary credential has become ever more important to get a well-paying job.
But many conservatives in recent years, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have expressed interest in supporting prison education. And the Trump administration has named financial aid for incarcerated students as a top priority for a new higher ed law.
Advocates for removing the ban saw one sign of progress this month, when Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, reintroduced legislation to repeal the ban, with bipartisan support from Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican. Supporters are looking to win over lawmakers to support a repeal of the ban and to have Pell Grants for incarcerated students mentioned in the same breath as bail and sentencing reform.
“We’re in a moment where criminal justice reform has a lot of bipartisan support and momentum,” said Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at the Education Trust. “We want to build on that momentum at the federal level.”
Advocates also said the Second Chance Pell experiment, which was launched under the Obama administration and will soon enter its third year, could be an asset in winning more support for prison education. The experiment allowed a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants while enrolled at participating colleges. So far, the program has awarded more than $35 million in aid to about 8,800 students, according to the Government Accountability Office.
In a listening session on the experiment this month, DeVos said the nation “benefits when former inmates are able to re-enter their communities and contribute in positive and meaningful ways.”
But significant hurdles remain to move the needle politically, including widespread misconceptions about how the Pell program works and about how lifting the ban would affect current students.
“We have to explain to folks that the Pell Grant is an entitlement program,” said Jones.
That means anyone who qualifies receives the grant, which provided a maximum award of about $6,000 this academic year. There isn’t a limited amount of Pell grants, so expanding eligibility would not prevent other students from receiving grants.
A Vera Institute report released in January found that most people in prison would qualify for postsecondary education but don’t receive the necessary financial support. Less than 10 percent of incarcerated individuals completed any postsecondary program in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.
The report also found that prison education increases the employment and earnings of formerly incarcerated people. And it argued that expanding postsecondary education would save $365 million per year in state spending on incarceration. The Vera report projected that if every eligible person in state prisons received a Pell Grant -- an unlikely possibility -- the total costs of the program would rise by only 10 percent. But the savings on other government spending would be much greater, it said.
Advocates who support repealing the ban have sought to knock down misconceptions in meetings with lawmakers and in events organized on Capitol Hill that target their staffers. Earlier this month, Ed Trust and the Institute for Higher Education Policy organized an event for mostly congressional staff members that was designed to simulate the re-entry challenges faced by formerly incarcerated people.
A debate also is likely to unfold over who qualifies for the grant -- would all incarcerated students be eligible? Or only nonviolent offenders and those without long-term sentences?
The Second Chance Pell experiment directed institutions to prioritize individuals who are set to be released within five years, although it did not bar financial aid for other incarcerated students. And the White House has backed "targeted" financial aid for incarcerated students who are eligible for release. A Democratic House proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act last year included a repeal of the ban without restrictions. Groups like Ed Trust and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities are pushing for a similar “clean repeal” of the Pell ban.
“We think that all people are created with dignity and all people were created for a purpose,” said Shapri LoMaglio, vice president for government relations at the council. “We think that education gives people an opportunity to fulfill their purpose vocationally. That applies whether you’re a prisoner or not.”
Efforts to build support for repealing the Pell ban have brought together education policy advocates and criminal justice reformers who wouldn’t typically cross paths, as well as organizations with decidedly different politics.
“It’s amazing to go to these meetings and you see your archenemies in other areas,” said Arthur Rizer, director of criminal justice and civil liberties at R Street, a free-market think tank. “I’m not going to say we’re holding hands and singing, ‘Kumbaya.’”
In meetings with lawmakers, he argues lifting the Pell ban is an issue of supporting incarcerated individuals’ re-entry after prison. Blocking access to an education undermines the future chances of those individuals, Rizer said.
“This is taking FIRST STEP and making it real,” he said, referring to the new sentencing-reform law.
The Pell ban was installed as part of a 1994 crime bill that was passed at the height of the tough-on-crime era and is now widely viewed as draconian. Critics of mass incarceration say that punitive approach hasn't made communities safer and has exacerbated racial and economic inequality. Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, who served 15 months in federal prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, called the inclusion of the ban on Pell Grants "a nasty bit of spite." He and other advocates said the government instead should invest in individuals behind bars.
The FIRST STEP Act was seen as the first serious legislative effort to deliver on that critique of mass incarceration. The bill encountered vocal opposition from conservative lawmakers like Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and former attorney general Jeff Sessions. But figures like Kim Kardashian lobbied President Trump to support FIRST STEP.
Virginia Foxx, the ranking GOP member on the House education and labor committee, believes no person's potential should be ignored, a spokeswoman said. But Foxx doesn't support a repeal of the ban.
"We believe it's work-force development programs, not Pell, that can do the most good for incarcerated Americans, and that's where we should be looking," said Marty Boughton, a Foxx spokeswoman.
So far, most critics haven’t spoken out publicly against Pell Grants for incarcerated students. Instead, advocates have encountered mostly quiet opposition from some lawmakers who remain skeptical about lifting the ban. Meanwhile, others have indicated interest in continued prison education but have been hesitant to sign on to a bill.
Rizer said many conservatives still see support for education as a state issue, and some critics see the idea of incarcerated students receiving special benefits if the ban was dropped as a powerful argument.
But removing the Pell ban, he said, is “about making the program that already exists available to people who need it the most.”
Arguments for expanding access to Pell Grants have found a receptive audience with the officials who run many state correctional institutions. In a March Capitol Hill event, for example, Heidi Washington, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, said the state will soon have 1,000 incarcerated students participating in the Second Chance Pell experiment.
That will save the state money, Washington said, by reducing the number of reoffenders. But it also has a profound impact on the environment of correctional institutions.
“The greatest impact is students discovering what they’re able to achieve when they’re given the opportunity to pursue an indication,” she said. “We look forward to ultimately lifting the ban so we can grow our numbers even more.”
An even more important key to winning over Republicans in Congress could be support from the White House. In a celebration of the FIRST STEP Act earlier this month, President Trump talked about his administration’s support for re-entry programs and for the Second Chance experiment.
“I think maybe more than anything else, we’re now proving that we are a nation that believes in redemption,” he said.Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Federal policyHigher Ed Act ReauthorizationFinancial aidImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: President Trump at sentencing-reform event this monthAd Keyword: Prison educationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
- Fisher College: Francisco A. Ureña, Massachusetts secretary of veterans’ services.
- Fresno Pacific University: Johann Matthies, director of mission development in Europe and west and central Asia for Multiply, an international mission organization.
- Knox College: Bridget Coughlin, president and CEO of the Shedd Aquarium.
- Lesley University: Anita Hill, a university professor of law, public policy and women’s studies at Brandeis University; and Beth Harry, a professor of special education at the University of Miami.
- Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania: U.S. representative John R. Lewis.
- Midwestern State University, in Texas: Tarkan Maker, executive chairman and CEO at Nexenta, a software storage company.
- Morehouse College: Robert F. Smith, founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.
- Pace University: Richard Plepler, former chairman and CEO of HBO.
- Salt Lake Community College: Luke Williams, a consultant and expert on innovation.
- Simmons University: Tiffany Dufu, founder and CEO of the Cru, a peer coaching platform for women; and others.
- Soka University: Leymah Gbowee, the Nobel laureate and Liberian peace activist.
- University of Hartford: Orin Wolf, lead producer of the Broadway musical The Band's Visit; and Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
- University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker.
- University of Montevallo: Richard D. Cummings, the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
- Westmont College: Walter Hansen, professor emeritus of New Testament at Fuller Seminary.
- Yeshiva University: David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Middlebury faces questions about speaker whose appearance it called off, in an unusual month for the college
When it comes to colleges that receive extra scrutiny for the way they handle controversial speakers, Middlebury College is high on the list. Two years ago, Middlebury students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. Conservative critics have called Middlebury students "snowflakes" for being allegedly unwilling to listen to ideas with which they disagree.
That's why this week's decision by Middlebury to call off a scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko, a Polish scholar and politician, is attracting so much attention. Middlebury is being criticized for again failing to make it possible for a conservative figure to appear. (Legutko's views on many issues are controversial. He is known to criticize Western democracies in general and gay rights in particular.)
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group on free speech issues in academe, blasted Middlebury for blocking the talk and a planned protest against the talk. Middlebury "deprived everyone of their rights," said FIRE in a blog post. "It deprived a willing audience from hearing Legutko’s arguments. It deprived student critics of Legutko from challenging those arguments, either through peaceful protest or pointed questions. And it deprived faculty members from exercising their academic freedom right to invite speakers to campus in service of educating their students."
So how did Middlebury find itself in this situation?
Middlebury is facing the debate over the Legutko talk as it is also dealing with fallout from a bizarre incident involving a question on a chemistry exam that asked students how to create the gas that Nazis used in concentration camp gas chambers (more on that later).
The Legutko talk was called off Wednesday with Middlebury officials citing safety and security issues. When Murray was shouted down two years ago, the college not only faced the shouting and chanting at his talk, but physical attacks on a professor and on the car carrying Murray by protesters -- widely believed to be anarchists who were not necessarily affiliated with the college.
It's impossible to know what would have happened had Wednesday's talk gone on as scheduled. But the students who were organizing a protest issued a statement in advance of the event saying that they believed Legutko never should have been invited, but also that they had no plan to disrupt his appearance.
Their statement (the bold emphasis is from the protesters) appeared in the blog Beyond the Green: "We have no intention to prevent Legutko from speaking or to prevent our peers from attending. Rather, we want to provide information to contextualize his talk and to create a place of healing and inclusivity in the face of prejudice. During this protest, we will be distributing flyers which detail Legutko’s history of hateful speech against LGBTQ+, Muslim and Jewish folks, as well as women and POCs. We will distribute these flyers to anyone walking into the lecture who wants one, in order to highlight (and implicitly problematize) their potential willingness to indulge his violent rhetoric."
A Middlebury spokeswoman said via email that the students organizing the protest against the speech have been "very clear" that they were not planning to disrupt the talk, adding that "we believe they were sincere. Our concern was not with the well-intentioned organizers."
She added that "there has been no history of violence, threats or disruptive protests with this speaker and no reason to anticipate such actions during his appearance at Middlebury. Concerns about the speaker did not surface until Sunday, April 14." At that point, when the college considered locations and the two events (the speech and the protest), "it became clear with the increased number of participants, and heightened tensions on campus, that we didn’t have the capacity and resources to adequately ensure everyone’s safety."
The spokeswoman added: "The concern, quite frankly, is that when you bring hundreds of people together, even the most well-meaning, who have strong views, and place them in close proximity, there is always a risk. Any institution -- college, university, or city -- would, correctly, respond to a situation that has even a possibility of volatility with a security presence. It is a reality for us that we are not located in an urban area like New York or Washington where there would be capacity to draw on local law enforcement, so managing multiple events like these necessitates careful design, structure, and planning. As you know, a provisional invitation for the fall has been extended, which will allow us that additional time and space to execute the event(s) safely."
Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, said that he had no direct knowledge of the discussions at Middlebury. But he said Middlebury appeared to be "trying to make it happen," referring to the speech. He said that colleges such as Middlebury, located in rural areas, have challenges with security that are more difficult than those colleges that are in urban areas, where there may be a range of state and local police forces with which to work.
McDonough said that colleges are committed to free speech, but that college leaders must always think about student safety. When talking about free speech issues on campus these days, he said, the issue is always linked by college leaders to issues of student safety.
Linus Owens, an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury who opposed the decision to invite Legutko to campus and who has supported the student protesters, said via email that he was bothered by the way Middlebury handled the event. By talking about safety issues as the college did, he said, Middlebury was effectively blaming student protesters -- even though they had pledged not to disrupt the event.
The statements made it "pretty easy for people to interpret the 'safety risk' as the result of student protesters and the threat of disruption," Owens said. "This feeds into the existing narrative of Middlebury students (unfair to begin with, in my opinion, but this is even less grounded in actual events), and puts students at risk. Already, I have heard (unconfirmed, for now) multiple stories of student organizers and activists being targeted for 'shutting down' the event -- coming from off campus, mostly, but also on campus."
Added Owens: "It was irresponsible for the college administration to not think about how such a statement would make their students vulnerable to such attacks. And they continue to be irresponsible in not clarifying this … Several students I’ve spoken with, who now are being targeted online and are feeling like they are being left out to dry by the college, which is not in an hurry to clarify that they are not the cause of the cancellation, that they were not planning any disruption."
And on social media, there are many references to Middlebury students as the reason the lecture could not go on.
The backdrop at Middlebury for the discussion of the lecture was a dispute over a chemistry exam last month.
A question on the exam asked students to calculate a lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide gas. As the question noted, that gas was used by Nazis in concentration camp gas chambers. As word of the test question spread, many on campus were appalled and could see no possible reason for a chemistry exam to focus on this issue.
Middlebury's president, Laurie L. Patton, issued a statement that said, "This inexplicable failure of judgment trivializes one of the most horrific events in world history, violates core institutional values and simply has no place on our campus. We expect our faculty to teach and lead with thoughtfulness, good judgment and maturity. To say we have fallen short in this instance is an understatement."
As a result of the question on deadly gas, Middlebury conducted a review of past test questions by the professor involved, Jeff Byers. The college said that the review found a question from last year with "a reference to the Ku Klux Klan in a way that appeared to be humorous in intent, but which was gratuitous and offensive."
Byers has gone on leave and issued an apology that said in part, "I apologize and take full responsibility for my actions in administering two examinations in the last year containing questions that were clearly offensive, hurtful and injurious to our students. I can offer no explanation for my actions other than carelessness and hubris. My students came to my class trusting that I would provide them with a supportive learning environment for a challenging curriculum. I failed them, and, in doing so, compromised their ability to focus on learning the subject matter I have devoted my career to teaching. I apologize without equivocation to the students, faculty and staff of Middlebury College and to the parents and alumni who, rightly, have denounced my actions."
Patton also said that Middlebury is "actively exploring practices to reduce the risk that incidents like this might occur in the future."
In an email message to the campus released Thursday, Patton said that the college valued the free exchange of ideas. "Middlebury is committed to the values of academic freedom, academic integrity, inclusivity and respectful behavior, which are intertwined at the core of our educational mission. Over the past two years, we have constructively engaged many controversial speakers, demonstrated peacefully and persuasively, and stayed in conversation with each other over very difficult issues," she said.
And Patton linked the response to the lecture to the debate over the chemistry test questions (although she alluded to that situation, and did not explicitly name it).
"It is equally important to note that this event did not occur in a vacuum. In recent weeks we have experienced several incidents of bias that are causing pain and anger in our community. It is clear that we need a deeper campuswide engagement about classroom climate and inclusive pedagogy," Patton wrote. "Members of the STEM faculty have expressed interest in a facilitated dialogue about course content, its potential impact and how to develop and maintain more inclusive classroom environments. We will meet with those faculty members early next week. That conversation with them can become a model for engaging all faculty in every department in these dialogues throughout the rest of this semester and continuing in the fall."
Middlebury is not the only college to have experienced issues with disruptions.
Last month, Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.
A spokeswoman for the college, asked about any steps that have been taken since the incident, sent this email: "Beloit College cannot legally discuss disciplinary matters. As an institution of higher learning, open dialogue on all topics is one of their core principles. They review policies every year in collaboration with students, faculty and staff, and expect policies to be revisited."
At Harvard University, students who want the university to sell investments in companies involved in fossil fuels or private prisons interrupted a speech by President Lawrence Bacow, forcing him to relocate.
Bacow responded with an open letter in The Harvard Crimson, strongly criticizing the protest -- not for the views students expressed, but for the tactic of preventing a speech from being heard.
"What I saw last week was not a group of students looking to engage in conversation about things that matter to them. It was, instead, an effort to obstruct the rights of others to speak and to listen," Bacow wrote. "The heckler’s veto has no place at Harvard. When we shut down conversation, when we shut down debate, we shut down the opportunity to learn through reasoned discourse. It would be a shame if the state of our national public discourse, which has become so coarse, becomes the state of our campus discourse as well. We should strive to model the behavior we would hope to see in the rest of the world. Now is the time to ask ourselves: What kind of community do we want to be?"Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Middlebury CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Middlebury CollegeDisplay Promo Box:
Concordia U's Liberal Arts College wanted conservative scholar Harvey Mansfield to speak at an alumni gala -- until it didn't
Concordia University’s Liberal Arts College asked the conservative political philosopher Harvey Mansfield to speak at its 40th anniversary gala, planned for next month. Citing alumni backlash over Mansfield’s past controversial statements on gender and gay marriage, the Canadian college then uninvited him and postponed the event.
Mansfield, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, recently went public with the incident, via a ticked-off op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. And faculty members within the intimate college remain divided over the decision to rescind Mansfield’s invite.
Frederick Krantz, professor of history and founding principal, or chair, of the college, described it as “a proven, full-time Western civilization degree program based on a multidisciplinary Great Books curriculum,” unique in Canada.
He’s always referred to the program as “a community of scholars, dedicated to objective analysis and free and open discussion and debate.” And for that reason, he’d also always thought that it was “immune to the wave of politically correct ideology sweeping many North American campuses.”
“Sadly, I was wrong,” Krantz said. Alumni and current students still “deserve better,” however, he added, expressing hope that the disinvitation may again be reversed.
Comparing the current climate for conservative professors to McCarthyism, Mansfield wrote in his op-ed, “I little thought that I would now in my old age be qualified for exclusion from Concordia University in our free neighbor to the north, not as the member of a conspiratorial organization serving an enemy power, but simply for holding opinions shared by half the American -- and perhaps the Canadian -- population.”
He added, “My speech was to be on the study of great books to which that college is devoted. The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor. Though I teach at Harvard and lecture elsewhere fairly often, I don’t get invitations for occasions when universities put their principles on display. My last commencement address was for a private high school in rural California.”
An Invitation Revoked
Mark Russell, the college’s current principal, said in a statement that the faculty “acted in good faith when we originally invited Professor Mansfield.” But through “further discussions,” the college later recognized that choosing Mansfield as a speaker “was not the right match for the particular objective of this celebratory public event.”
Russell said that he personally invited Mansfield to give a keynote address on the relevance of great books in higher education, after the college’s entire faculty voted to endorse the idea put forth by a smaller search committee.
Mansfield is a well-known expert on Edmund Burke, Machiavelli and Tocqueville, and he’s put forth theories on executive power. But it’s his nonacademic work that has proved polarizing. He wrote a 2006 book, Manliness, and defended Lawrence Summers’s widely criticized 2005 comments about women's aptitude for quantitative fields.
Mansfield also has criticized affirmative action, linking it to grade inflation, and testified against gay marriage. Being gay doesn’t make for a life of “individual happiness,” for example, he said of anti-gay marriage legislation in Colorado in 1993.
Once the Liberal Arts College at Concordia announced its choice of speaker for the reunion, “a large number” of alumni reached out to faculty members to voice their concerns, Russell said. Many alumni stated that they would not attend the gala “because they objected to the views [Mansfield] has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals,” he added.
Professors within the college discussed the alumni concerns, and a majority ultimately decided that it was “best not to have Prof. Mansfield give the keynote address at the college’s reunion since it is intended to be a time of celebration and unity,” Russell said. Russell notified Mansfield of the change, tell him the initial invite was real but "precipitous."
This keynote was “not intended to be narrowly focused on Prof. Mansfield’s academic expertise on the works of Machiavelli and other political philosophers,” Russell said in his statement. “We would welcome him back for a scholarly discussion on the subjects of his research at any time.”
Russell emphasized that the gala is not canceled, as is rumored. Instead, it’s been postponed until the fall, he said.
Krantz -- one of two faculty members to vote against revoking the invite, of eight total -- said that “postponed” is merely “doublespeak,” and that the event has in fact been canceled.
In a separate statement to college alumni, Krantz -- along with Eric Buzzetti, another former college principal, and the president of program’s student alumni organization -- formally dissociated themselves from the disinvitation and reaffirmed their “commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of thought” at the college.
Saying that they neither endorse nor condemn Mansfield’s “views on aspects of feminism,” Krantz and his co-writers said, “It is wrong to silence a scholar because we happen to dislike, or to disagree with, what he has to say.”
A university “loses its purpose when freedom of speech becomes a dispensable luxury,” they wrote. “With this unfortunate decision, the [college] took a step down a path that has become all too well trodden, and in the process ignored its high heritage.”
Krantz’s statement cites a letter from 12 recent alumni opposing Mansfield. He said Thursday that he’s received feedback from numerous alumni and students, with “10 to one” against disinvitation.
‘Guilty’ of Being Conservative
Mansfield on Thursday “passed” on describing his current views on gender and gay marriage other than to say he’s “guilty” of holding conservative positions.
He discusses gender at some length in his op-ed, however, saying that “When I die I wish it said that I gave my best to my female students.” But the “new doctrine of feminism in which women are essentially the same as men, except that women have all virtues but no characteristic defects and men have no virtues and terrible defects, has little appeal to me either as fact or right.”
Feminism “is not so much an attack on ‘toxic masculinity’ as on feminine modesty, the ‘feminine mystique’ of Betty Friedan’s devising,” he wrote. “To feminists, modesty diminishes women’s power and keeps them dependent on men. Yet it is to be replaced by the notion of a ‘safe space’ that will protect women and liberate them from the need to defend themselves in the hostile environment presupposed by the so-called virtue of modesty.”
A moment’s reflection “suggests a certain resemblance between the old-time feminine modesty and the newfangled safe space,” he added. “In both, women are dependent on men to defend them -- whether they are old-school gentlemen or sensitive men like Mr. Russell.”
Scholars including Martha Nussbaum have previously accused Mansfield of misunderstanding feminism, and his most recent comments probably won’t vindicate him to his critics. But most of all, Mansfield contends the disinvitation is about free speech. The principle is “diminished by the view that seizes on the power of speech to manipulate and denies its power to enlighten,” he wrote.
Mansfield told Inside Higher Ed that the incident “shows a great deal wrong with campus speech, especially with the attitude of the faculty.” Professors are the “keepers as well as the beneficiaries of the freedom of universities, and for the faculty to surrender to the pressure of aggressively intolerant alumni is a disgrace.”
“It’s just as bad, perhaps worse, if the faculty share their intolerance,” he added.
Asked about students at Harvard, Mansfield said some “of course take issue with my conservative views, but so far they haven’t attempted to silence me.”
One student leader in the Occupy Harvard movement once declared that Mansfield should be fired on the grounds that academic freedom is subordinate to social justice, Mansfield said. But “mostly students lack a sense of adventure and just stay away from my courses.”
Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, said that she wouldn’t have personally invited Mansfield to talk, because he is “more like a provocateur than like a serious thinker.” But others “could reasonably disagree, and I can imagine a vigorous debate that could ensue if he did speak.”
As to disinviting him, Nussbaum said didn’t know enough about the initial terms of his visit to comment. On the broader campus speech debate, however, she said that when a person with “objectionable views speaks, unless advocating violence, the person should be heard and not shouted down.” Silent, peaceful protest, such as standing with signs, is always fine, she added, as is “civil counterargument.”
Concordia referred questions to Russell.
Edward King, an associate professor of political science at the university who is not part of the Liberal Arts College, said that disinviting speakers to an institution whose “raison d'être is to offer its students challenging, provocative and disturbing material for consideration in the marketplace of ideas is a chilling and counterproductive action.”
When an institution “like ours allows the student tail to wag the academic dog simply in order not to have their settled presumptions to be challenged,” King added, “our role as a free and open forum for political expression is over and we should turn out the lights and shut the doors.”
Travis Smith, another associate professor of political science at Concordia, said it seemed that liberal arts professors “apparently forgot, temporarily, I’m sure, what it means to be a professor of the liberal arts.” That’s “disappointing and embarrassing,” he said, “but at least this wasn’t one of those cases where an administrator intervened in an illiberal fashion.”Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: CurriculumFacultyAcademicsImage Caption: Harvey MansfieldIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: