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Leda Fisher didn't waste any time getting to the point in her recent essay in The Dickinsonian. The title was "Should White Boys Still Be Allowed to Talk?"
"When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase 'do you agree?'" asked Fisher, a senior at Dickinson College, at the start of her piece in the student paper. "If so, your name is something like Jake, or Chad, or Alex, and you were taught that your voice is the most important in every room. Somewhere along your academic journey, you decided your search for intellectual validation was more important than the actual exchange of information. Now how do you expect to actually learn anything?"
Fisher added, "From classes and lectures, to the news and politics, there is an endless line of white boys waiting to share their opinions on the state of feminism in America, whether the LGBTQ+ population finally has enough rights, the merits of capitalism, etc. The list of what white boys think they are qualified to talk about is endless … White boys spout the narrative of dominant ideologies and pretend they’re hot takes instead of the same misleading garbage shoved down our throats by American institutions from birth."
The willingness of white male students to dominate discussions extends to those in which they may not have personal knowledge, Fisher wrote. "I cannot describe to you how frustrating it is to be forced to listen to a white boy explain his take on the black experience in the Obama era. Hey, Brian, I’m an actual black woman alive right now with a brain. In what world would your understanding of my life carry more weight than my understanding?"
She closed her piece by saying, "So, should white boys still be allowed to share their 'opinions'? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no. Go find someone whose perspective has been buried or ignored and listen to them, raise up their voice. To all the Chrises, Ryans, Olivers and Seans out there, I encourage you to critically examine where your viewpoints come from, read a text that challenges you without looking for reasons to dismiss it and maybe try listening from now on."
The debate Fisher was seeking did take off -- and not just at Dickinson.
Breitbart and others denounced her. Fox News featured the column in a segment titled: "Have American universities become breeding grounds for anti-white hate?" Hundreds (most of them with no apparent connection to Dickinson) signed a petition calling for the college to expel her, and accusing her of having "spewed censorship, bigotry, racism and hatred." Others criticized the college for not doing so or for not preventing the newspaper from publishing the piece.
Hundreds of comments came in to The Dickinsonian. Some engaged in Fisher's arguments. Many said that she was trying to silence white men from speaking in class, and that view was racist. Some said her use of stereotypical white names was demeaning. Some parents of (white) Dickinson students wrote in to say that they feared for their children's ability to be treated equally. Others expressed their disagreement in ways such as this: "You people are freakin nuts … deranged … and VILE [sic]."
Fisher did not respond to an email request for a comment. She told The Carlisle Sentinel that she stood behind her piece. “I don’t regret how I wrote the article or the tone I took,” she said. “If anything, backlash to how angry or dismissive I seem just reveals how limited the range of acceptable emotion for a black woman is.”
Some minority students at Dickinson have been on edge after the posting of Ku Klux Klan leaflets in Carlisle, Pa., where the college is located. And the Fisher essay has added to a focus on racial issues at the college.
Fisher's mother, in a post among the hundreds of comments on her daughter's essay on the student newspaper's website, commented on the general environment for a black student who speaks out: "My daughter’s critics operate in the context of the national response to her op-ed in venues like Breitbart and internet forums such as 4chan. All of the responses prove the point of her piece.
"Sorry, not sorry that you cannot understand that my daughter is a little bit angry because she lives in a world where she is now being called a ‘fat kike mulatto pig’ ‘who will be hunted down and killed in the coming purge.’ Sorry, not sorry to the Dickinson mother who notes she fears for her white son in both the Dickinsonian and the Breitbart comment sections. My black child attends school on a campus in a town in which the KKK is handing out fliers. Where’s your outrage there? You think 4chan is a marginal group to which my daughter has no exposure? Individual female Dickinson students are known and discussed there. My daughter’s photograph is amplified there. The KKK is active there in cyberspace and there, up close and personal, in Carlisle."
The college has held several public forums for students on the issues raised by the piece (and of racial issues generally, in the wake of the Klan leaflets in town). Margee M. Ensign, the president, has defended the right of Fisher to have her views and of the student newspaper to publish them.
"I have heard from many of you about an opinion piece in The Dickinsonian. First, let me remind you that The Dickinsonian is a student-run newspaper that has editorial control over its content. It expresses the opinions of its writers -- it does not speak for the college," Ensign wrote. "Let me be clear. Dickinson believes in free speech. We also condemn stereotyping and prejudice. Dickinson values inclusivity. We expect our community members to engage in thoughtful dialogue and believe that no group or individual should be silenced. It is a fundamental policy of the college to respect pluralism and to promote civility and mutual understanding." Ensign did not express an opinion one way or the other on Fisher's views -- and has been criticized by Fisher's supporters and critics for not doing so (in ways they would approve of).
In response to inquiries, the college send out this statement widely: "Dickinson is a microcosm of the nation. Our campus community is composed of individuals who hold varied beliefs, opinions and life experiences. We engage in the hard work every day that is necessary to become a more inclusive community. This work is ongoing."
Some Dickinson students have followed Fisher's piece with essays of their own, defending her and saying that she was never truly trying to prevent white male students from talking in class, only to use satire and rhetoric to get them to think.
"Even if the article truly wished for all white men to be silent forever (which seems to be the goal only if you naïvely take its satirical tone literally), the author does not have the power to enforce this," wrote one student in an essay. "There is no actual threat on this campus to the domination of white, male voices. It is not that white men should never speak, or shouldn’t speak on issues of race and gender. It is that they are already speaking, and speaking so much that other voices -- often more relevant voices -- do not have the chance to be heard."
Julie J. Park, associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of Race on Campus: Debunking Myths With Data (Harvard Education Press), said that she was not surprised that the essay has set off a debate. But she also said that the feelings Fisher expressed are far from unique.
"The piece probably reflects frustration about the racial climate at her campus," Park said. "This type of frustration is not uncommon among students of color at predominantly white institutions."
And indeed the issue of male or white domination of classroom conversations has been raised by others, as has the issue of favoritism toward white males in class. A 2018 study by Stanford University researchers found that instructors online, to the extent they are aware of the race and gender of students, are more likely to respond to the comments of white male students than of others.
In Inside Higher Ed's annual survey of provosts, one question is about the relative comfort levels of different groups of students in the classroom. In this year's survey, 93 percent of provosts said that white students "generally feel welcome in classrooms on my campus." The figure fell to 62 percent when asked about minority students. (Similarly, provosts felt more confident of liberal students' comfort in their classrooms than about conservative students.)
A 2014 research study in the journal Life Sciences Education explored women's class participation in introductory biology classes for students in the biology major. The prompt for the study was that biology, though previously a field in which a majority of students were male, now has a female majority of students. In the study of 23 courses, the analysis found that women made up 60 percent of the students, but 40 percent of those heard responding to questions posed by instructors in class.
Some faculty members, cognizant of patterns in which white male students dominate classroom discussions, advocate "progressive stacking," in which instructors call on students who want to talk in the reverse order that one might predictably do so, based on social biases.
A 2015 column in the student newspaper at North Carolina State University (which did not go viral as Fisher's piece did) was titled "Men, Stop Dominating Classroom Discussion."
Feeling ‘Invisible and Marginalized’
Raechele L. Pope, an expert on campus climate issues and efforts to promote inclusion in higher education, is associate professor of educational leadership and policy at the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York. She said via email that numerous studies have found that male students tend to dominate classroom discussions. Pope said that there have not been many studies on the role of race in classroom discussions but that "there is some preliminary evidence that white students participate at a higher rate than students of color."
She said that Fisher's essay was similar to "sentiments or something similar from students of color throughout my almost 40 years working on college campuses and consulting on campuses across the nation." Many are frustrated, she said, when "white male students speak about the experiences of students of color even though that is not their life experience." That doesn't mean, Pope said, that anyone should be left out of the discussion. "Let me be clear, everyone can and should participate in discussions on race and gender. However, for those conversations to be successful and lead to greater understanding, it is important for people to speak about their own experiences and not speak for other people or make assumptions about the experiences of others."
Reading the essay by Fisher, Pope said, "I sense the frustration that many students of color attending historically white institutions feel about their experiences on campus and in the classroom. They feel invisible and marginalized. They are either not seen or asked to speak for their entire racial group. When they do speak up and share their own experiences, they believe their comments are often denied and or negated by many white students and faculty and told how people of color really feel. This can be maddening and disempowering. The negative -- even vitriolic at times -- and viral reaction to an op-ed by an individual college student in a small college newspaper is astounding. The way her voice is being drowned out by the loud and angry voices of others, some even calling for her expulsion, may, in fact, prove her point that there is no room for her voice and her perspective."DiversityEditorial Tags: Racial groupsImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, February 19, 2019Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: ‘Should White Boys Still Be Allowed to Talk?’Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Who Gets to Talk?Trending order: 1College: Dickinson College
Study links faculty attitudes on intelligence to student success in STEM, with large impact on minority student success
A new study suggests that faculty members' attitudes about intelligence can have a major impact on the success of students in science, mathematics and technology courses. Students see more achievement when their instructors believe in a "growth mind-set" about intelligence than they do learning from those who believe intelligence is fixed. The impact was found across all student groups but was most pronounced among minority students.
The study -- by brain science scholars at Indiana University at Bloomington -- was published in the journal Science Advances and presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The researchers collected data on 150 faculty members in a range of STEM disciplines and 15,000 students over two years at a large public research university that is not identified. Faculty members were asked to respond to a general statement about intelligence along the lines of "To be honest, students have a certain amount of intelligence, and they really can’t do much to change it."
The study then looked at student performance in courses taught by those who agreed with that perspective and those who did not.
Students from all groups earned higher grades with faculty members who thought it was possible for people to experience intelligence growth. But the impact was particularly notable for black, Latino and Native American students (see bar chart at right).
The article argues that the faculty attitudes about intelligence carry over into the messages faculty members send to students, with those who believe in fixed intelligence suggesting to students that only the "innately gifted" are likely to succeed. Those who believe in intelligence growth are more likely, the article says, to share techniques with students on how they can become better learners.
Students with the latter group of faculty members are more likely to report that they are motivated to do their best work, and to recommend the course to others.
The researchers wanted to find out for the study whether some types of professors were more likely than others to hold fixed views of intelligence. But here the study didn't find patterns, even after looking for them within STEM disciplines and comparing professors by gender, race, generation or years of teaching experience.
Some studies have found that underrepresented minority students do better in courses taught by "same-race role models." But this study did not find that impact, even though it found a substantial impact on minority student performance based on attitudes about intelligence.
The paper acknowledges that there could be another factor at play. "It is possible that faculty who endorse fixed mind-set beliefs create more demanding courses -- requiring students to spend more time studying and preparing for their course," the paper says. "If this is true, then differences in students’ performance and psychological experiences might be explained by the demands of these courses (instead of professors’ mind-set beliefs)."
But the paper said that the researchers could not measure this. But they could identify the use -- by faculty members not holding to the view of fixed intelligence -- of a range of pedagogical techniques linked to improved learning by students in all groups.
Why would this divide based on views of intelligence have more of an impact on underrepresented minority students?
"Faculty beliefs about which students 'have' ability in STEM might constitute a greater barrier for [underrepresented minority] students because fixed mind-set beliefs may make group ability stereotypes salient, creating a context of stereotype threat," the paper says. "Recent research suggests that when stigmatized students expect to be stereotyped by fixed mind-set institutions, they experience less belonging, less trust and more anxiety and become less interested (27, 28), suggesting that fixed mind-set faculty might also engender these adverse outcomes among students."
Taken as a whole, the paper argues that its findings may suggest a different approach to those seeking to promote more success of all students, and especially of minority students, in STEM.
"Millions of dollars in federal funding have been earmarked for student-centered initiatives and interventions that combat inequality in higher education and expand the STEM pipeline. Rather than putting the burden on students and rigid structural factors, our work shines a spotlight on faculty and how their beliefs relate to the underperformance of stigmatized students in their STEM classes," the paper says. "Faculty-centered interventions may have the unprecedented potential to change STEM culture from a fixed mind-set culture of genius to a growth mind-set culture of development while narrowing STEM racial achievement gaps at scale."
The principle investigator on the project is Mary Murphy, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana. The other authors are Elizabeth Canning, a postdoctoral researcher in Murphy's lab; Dorainne Green, a postdoctoral researcher at IU; and Katherine Muenks, who was a postdoctoral researcher at IU at the time of the study.DiversityTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Indiana University-Bloomington
Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy, whose state faces a $1.6 billion deficit, is proposing to cut $310 million from the state’s education system -- including a jaw-dropping 41 percent cut to the University of Alaska System.
The planned reduction represents the largest of any state agency.
Dunleavy’s plan comes alongside a proposed $20 million funding increase for the state’s 13 public community colleges, known in Alaska as “community campuses.”
The new budget, announced Wednesday in Juneau, is part of Dunleavy’s plan to trim the deficit by $1.3 billion. The plan includes cutting nearly one-fifth of the budget of the state Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, which includes the university system.
University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen told the Anchorage Daily News that the proposed cut is the largest in the university system’s 100-year history and could force its campuses to fire about 1,300 faculty and staff members. Johnsen said several research efforts would also be in jeopardy.
In a statement, Johnsen said Dunleavy’s budget, if approved, would devastate the university system, forcing him to propose “deep cuts for every UA campus.” He said the system had already been operating under leaner budgets in four of the last five years.
“Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated,” he said. “If this budget passes the Legislature, it will devastate university programs and services, and the negative effects will be felt in communities across the entire state.”
The lower spending, Johnsen said, “will hurt Alaska’s economic competitiveness now and long into the future.”
A budget summary posted on Dunleavy’s official site said the reduced spending would allow the system to “focus on core programs and educational services” while encouraging it to focus on instruction in community campuses operated by the state's three system branches.
The proposal would also hit public K-12 education, slashing about one-fifth of operating expenses at the Anchorage School District, for example. Starr Marsett, president of the Anchorage School Board, called it “the dismantling of public education as we know it.”
Dunleavy also wants to zero out $3.1 million in state funding for a multistate medical education program run out of the University of Washington School of Medicine that trains physicians to serve in Alaska and elsewhere in the West. Alaska is one of several states without a medical school.
Over all, he wants to withdraw a $154 million state subsidy from the university system while carving out $20 million more for community campuses, which he said operate more efficiently, costing the state just $8,210 per student, compared to $25,336 per student at the state’s four-year campuses.
Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, the largest institution in the system, didn’t sugarcoat the proposed cut.
“It is very large,” she said.
Sandeen noted that legislators will almost certainly push back on Dunleavy’s budget proposal. But in the end, she said, she and other university leaders are preparing for leaner times -- they plan to meet today to discuss staffing and program reductions.
“A cut of this magnitude will undoubtedly result in work-force reductions and major restructuring of programs,” she said. “There are some things that this will force us to look at that will make us better, but we will definitely be smaller and we’ll definitely be doing things differently when we come out the end of this.”
Sandeen, who came to Alaska from the University of Wisconsin System, said she’s no stranger to statewide cuts to higher education -- while in Wisconsin, she recalled, her campus labored under both a tuition freeze and a 27 percent state funding cut. “I come into this with experience,” she said.
Alaska’s community campuses merged with the four-year system in the 1980s, Sandeen said, and the arrangement has worked well. “We like having a full arc of educational pathways available to our students.” But carving the community campuses out as a separate system “could certainly work” as well, she said, if the new system can do a better job offering shorter-term credentials that support work-force training. “If one believes in focus and specialization being a good thing, this new structure would enable that, perhaps, a little better.”
Sandeen noted that she’s a product of California’s once well-funded public university system and later worked in Silicon Valley. “I see the economic power of quality universities,” she said, “both in generating new knowledge, new industries and providing the workforce that employers need.”
‘A Big Step Backwards’
Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, warned against balancing state budgets “on the backs of students.”
“People need to remember that cutting higher education funding is a policy choice,” he said. “This is not inevitable.”
Harnisch predicted that the steep cuts will make it difficult over the next few years ”to lure the best and the brightest” to work in Alaska’s public universities. “Education is a community, and people certainly talk to each other.”
He recalled that in 2011, in the height of the recession, New Hampshire moved to make similar cuts to its higher ed system, slashing funding by nearly 50 percent in one year. “It took them some time to recover from that,” he said.
Dunleavy, a Republican elected last November, previously served as a state senator since 2012. He has described the new budget as “an open and straightforward approach to budgeting that works to tackle Alaska’s overwhelming fiscal challenges.” In online postings, he has called the proposal “An Honest Budget” that preserves state reserves and doesn’t repeat past years’ deficit spending.
But Harnisch said cutting higher ed so deeply will hurt the state’s efforts to diversify its economy, which relies heavily on oil revenues.
“Texas learned its lesson in the 1980s,” he said. “They made a conscious effort to go from a one-dimensional economy” to a diverse one that bolstered state spending on education. “If Alaska is going to grow and diversify its economy, it needs to invest in its public colleges and universities -- and this cut is a big step backwards.”
The medical training program, known as WWAMI, draws its name from the five states served: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
It trains 80 Alaska students at a time at the University of Alaska Anchorage, via digital instruction from he University of Washington School of Medicine. Students are dually enrolled at the University of Alaska and University of Washington. They complete foundational course work both on campus and in communities. Graduates who practice medicine in Alaska qualify for loan forgiveness if they work in rural areas of the state for three years or elsewhere in Alaska for five years.
Dunleavy has said that only about 55 percent of WWAMI borrowers are licensed physicians practicing medicine in Alaska, and that the program “has not proven effective at meeting the demand for new physicians, despite a significant state investment over the years.” He said the percentage of program graduates practicing in Alaska “continues to decrease.”
In a detailed budget analysis the governor posted online, he said that from 2014 to 2018, the percent of graduates practicing in Alaska dropped from 84 percent to 61 percent.
But the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Suzanne Allen said those figures are misleading, since many students who train with WWAMI elsewhere in the five-state region end up practicing in Alaska. The percentage of total WWAMI students who end up practicing in Alaska, she said, is closer to 80 percent, not 61 percent.
“We certainly feel like we make a significant contribution to the physician work force in that state,” she said. “Our focus is really on creating a rural primary-care work force to meet the needs of patients in Alaska.”
The program actually originated in Alaska in 1971, with 10 medical students. Since then, it has produced about 350 Alaska graduates, she said. “We feel like the training opportunities we provide for medical students contribute in a positive way to them coming back and actually practicing in the state.”
Johnsen, the system president, said today's emergency meeting with the chancellors will help them propose reductions to the Board of Regents, which meets Feb. 28.
“We are heading into uncharted territory with lots of uncertainty ahead,” Johnsen said.Editorial Tags: Tax policy/IRSFund-Raising/DevelopmentState policyStatesImage Caption: University of Alaska at FairbanksIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Alaska Anchorage
Iowa State University did not violate the federal law protecting students against gender discrimination when it declined to move a rapist from a dormitory near his victim, an appeals court ruled Friday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit backed the decision of a federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit by a former student, Melissa Maher, who sued in 2016.
Maher reported her rape in March 2014 to the institution, which began investigating that May. The university barred the student she accused, Patrick Whetstone, from interacting with her.
When Maher came back to the university for the next academic year, she discovered that Whetstone was assigned to a residence hall close to hers. At this point, the university was still investigating Maher’s report and had not held a formal hearing to judge the allegations. Court documents state that Maher would see him an average of twice a week.
When Maher and her parents met with Iowa State officials to request that Whetstone be moved, they were told that he could not be until the investigation ended. Administrators offered to instead put Maher in a single-person room meant for emergencies, or she and her roommate could move to a converted den space with other women or a nearby hotel.
Maher declined these options, adamant that Whetstone be moved.
About a month after Maher and her parents met with administrators, Whetstone was found responsible for the rape and was eventually expelled.
Despite this, Maher suffered from anxiety from the assault and withdrew from the university shortly after. In 2015, police charged Whetstone with third-degree sexual abuse in the case, and in 2016, he pled guilty, being sentenced to two years of probation.
Maher, in her lawsuit from 2016, accused Iowa State of infringing on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for not moving Whetstone or providing her with acceptable alternatives.
A U.S. District Court judge eventually dismissed the case, finding that Iowa State hadn’t violated the legal standard of “deliberate indifference.” Maher took her lawsuit to the appeals court, which agreed with the lower court.
“While Maher’s preference was that ISU move Whetstone, it was not deliberately indifferent for ISU to wait to take such action until the hearing process concluded because ISU was respecting Whetstone’s procedural due process rights,” Judge Raymond Gruender wrote for the court.
Iowa State did not respond to request for comment but in a statement told the Gazette newspaper in Iowa it was pleased that the district court initially dismissed the case. Officials said their thoughts were primarily with Maher and other sexual assault survivors.
“We are deeply saddened that Ms. Maher experienced this traumatic sexual assault and the devastating impact caused by the criminal conduct of a fellow student,” the statement reads.
S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges and universities on Title IX and security issues, said the ruling matches decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I recommend that institutions have means in place to minimize the impact on students reporting sexual assault by not requiring them to relocate, noting that any due process that may be required for an interim action or protective measure is going to be less than what may be required for final action,” Carter wrote in an email.
Taylor S. Parker, the compliance coordinator and deputy Title IX coordinator at the Ringling College of Art and Design, said that Iowa State in this case had “failed” both students.
She said that while the court bought in to Iowa State’s argument, Parker disagreed that moving Whetstone would be considered some sort of disciplinary measure. She said that while the university failed in meeting the “deliberate indifference” standard, in practicality, Maher saw her attacker regularly and the university didn’t step in to remedy that.
Iowa State could have avoided the entire lawsuit by being more proactive and making sure that the two were not placed near each in the first place, Parker said.
When a no-contact order has been issued, institutions should work with all offices -- housing, the registrar, even students’ professors -- to make sure that students don’t interact, Parker said.
Privacy advocates might question giving all those employees access to student information, but Parker said it’s a necessary step.
“Universities need to uphold their end of the agreement,” Parker said, referring to no-contact orders. “If they are making it challenging and difficult for a student to comply with those, then they have to start looking into the contact orders and not jut pay lip service.”Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultTitle IXIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Iowa State University