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Johns Hopkins University terminated a nontenured associate research professor of speech and language processing who broke into a student sit-in earlier this year with bolt cutters. He says his counterprotest was supposed to be nonviolent and that he wanted to access servers in the occupied building. But protesters accused him of attacking them, and the university says that whatever happened, he put students in danger.
The professor, Daniel Povey, shared his notice letter on his website last week -- along with the news that he’s leaving Baltimore for a job in industry and is definitely not sorry.
“I am aware that some people are trying to ‘cancel’ me and get me fired from my next job. See if I care!” he said in a lengthy post. “I’ll tell you this, though: whatever happens, I will never apologize and I will never back down.”
The “normal script is that I am supposed to get down on my knees and say ‘Please accept me back into your midst, liberal America! I accept that I was wrong,’” he said, adding, “No way. Fuck you.”
Povey further accused student and local protesters of lying about what actually happened inside Garland Hall at Hopkins on day 35 of the overall protest, about a week after they forced a shutdown of Hopkins's main administrative building and chained themselves to walls, railings and staircases. In reality, Povey wrote, he was attacked -- not the other way around.
In response to Povey’s statement, the JHU Sit-In group posted video of the incident. (Povey has since said it is misleadingly captioned. The video itself is grainy and a collection of short clips, so it's difficult to discern what actually happened. It shows Povey using bolt cutters to break through to protesters and, later, someone getting punched.) An accompanying statement from the group says, “We are pleased Professor Povey is no longer welcome on campus, as he has negatively affected students and the community.” However, it says, “we are disappointed that Povey continues to defend his actions, shows no remorse, and disparages students based on his perceptions of their identities.”
The group noted that Povey did not say “anything racially motivated during the actual attack.” It also alleges that the university was manipulating the cooling and heating systems inside the occupied administrative building, and that they may have damaged a server Povey was using.
JHU Sit-In is dedicated to resisting what it calls campus militarization, including a proposal for an armed, private police force; ending the university’s dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and justice for Tyrone West, a black Baltimore resident who was killed by city police during a traffic stop in 2013.
According to Povey’s termination letter, he was suspended and banned from campus in May over allegations that he “engaged in violent and aggressive behavior when attempting forcibly to enter Garland Hall,” and his conduct “was motivated by racially discriminatory animus and created a hostile environment.”
Povey has admitted leading a group of people to the campus building around midnight on May 8, carrying bolt cutters. “You believed the group of nonaffiliates you brought with you could become violent,” the termination letter also says. As a faculty member, “you created a dangerous situation that could have ended in serious harm to our students, yourself and others in the community.”
Povey was repeatedly told not enter Garland Hall prior to the exchange, despite his requests to enter the building to access computer servers there, according to the letter.
“These actions by a member of our faculty are entirely unacceptable. The safety, security and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the university,” wrote Andrew S. Douglas, vice dean for faculty. While the university will continue its investigation until it reaches its conclusion, “your own account of events based on your oral and written statements provides more than sufficient grounds for immediate termination, and we are hereby terminating your appointment with the university.”
Povey’s termination is effective Aug. 31, so that he may help his graduate student advisees transition in the coming weeks.
In the post to his personal website, Povey said he was leaving to take a job in industry in Seattle, starting next week. He’ll still be working with students and collaborators remotely, he said.
Regarding the incident, Povey said that he was “frustrated [by] the prospect of a long siege at Garland where our computer servers live,” and “organized a group of what I called ‘counterprotesters’ to try to regain control of the building from the students.”
A “scuffle” ensued, he said, “and I was carried out of the building by the protesters.” The university “seems not to have been able to substantiate the allegations that I attacked the protesters,” he said, but Johns Hopkins “leadership still decided that I still needed to be fired.”
While the termination letter says he put students in danger, Povey wrote, he actually told the university that his associates were under “strict instructions to not retaliate if attacked.” He did shrug when he was later asked whether he was confident that they would have been able to follow those instructions no matter what happened, though, he said.
“So essentially I am being fired for what might have happened, while the students are getting off scot free for things that actually did happen. They actually made false allegations against me, both in public (on Twitter) and to the university authorities. They actually attacked me and hurt me; many of you saw the big scratches on my back. They also threw a lot of punches at the people with me, who showed admirable restraint, although I understand one punch was thrown by a person in my group. They actually shut down Garland and inconvenienced thousands of people, requiring the fire department to cut open the doors to get them out. But they suffer no consequences. Am I sensing just a liiiitle bit of a double standard?”
What accounts for that, beyond Povey’s faculty status, he asked? “My feeling is that this mostly has to do with underrepresented minorities, specifically black people (and trans people). There seems to be nothing that Americans, or American institutions, fear more than being accused of racism (or similar isms), which leads to ridiculous spectacles like what we're seeing here, where such a huge organization can be paralyzed by a handful of deluded kids.”
If Povey had known in advance “that everyone inside the building was black (that was what I saw; although from media coverage it seems that there may have been a white trans person in the core group) -- I wouldn't have gone ahead with the counterprotest,” he said. “I’m not an idiot; I know that as a person who demographically ticks all the 'oppressor boxes,' I would have to be severely punished for opposing such a group.”
White men in “this environment seem to be expected to constantly atone for their existence by telegraphing their exclusive concern for every demographic group but their own, like a neutered puppy dog or some Justin Trudeau man child,” he said. “It's pathetic, in my opinion, and I don't accept it at all. I am not prepared to apologize for being who I am. I don't think that empathy should preclude critical thinking or basic self-respect.”
Povey goes on to criticize critiques of “toxic masculinity,” compare current discourses on gender and race to Animal Farm and Nazism, discusses animus toward market-dominant minorities, and ends with some Bob Dylan: “I ain't sorry for nothing I've done/I'm glad I fought, I only wish we'd won.” He at one point uses the word -- widely considered a slur -- "retarded."
In its response, JHU Sit-In wrote that Povey’s words are “alarmingly reminiscent of those written to justify abhorrent acts of violence, including the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso.” The university “must take a definitive stance against discrimination and violence” and JHU Sit-In looks “forward to seeing the additional measures JHU takes to address the campus culture that fostered these actions.”
Johns Hopkins has said that it can’t comment on private personnel matters, but that the "safety, security and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the university." A "troubling incident in early May prompted an investigation," it said, and, based on the "undisputed facts of the case, the university took interim and now permanent action to ensure the safety and well-being of the community."DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: GenderFacultyDiversityGraduate studentsStudent lifeImage Source: TwitterImage Caption: Daniel PoveyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Johns Hopkins UniversityDisplay Promo Box:
With college students reporting problems with anxiety and depression more than ever before, and suicides now a big problem on campuses, university presidents are responding accordingly.
More than 80 percent of top university executives say that mental health is more of a priority on campus than it was three years ago, according to a new report released today by the American Council on Education.
"Student mental health concerns have escalated over the last 10 years," the report states. "We wanted to know how presidents were responding to this increase. To assess short-term changes, we asked presidents to reflect on the last three years on their campus and whether they have observed an increase, decrease, or no change in how they prioritize mental health."
ACE, which represents more than 1,700 college and university presidents, surveyed more than 400 college and university leaders from two- and four-year public and private institutions. About 78 percent of those surveyed were at four-year universities, and the remainder led two-year institutions.
The association found 29 percent of all the presidents surveyed received reports of students with mental health issues once a week or more. About 42 percent of the presidents reported hearing about these problems at least a few times every month. As a result, presidents have allocated more funding to addressing student mental health problems -- 72 percent of the presidents indicated they had spent more money on mental health initiatives than they did three years ago. One unnamed president even reported spending $15 million on a new “comprehensive student well-being building.”
Hollie Chessman, a research fellow with ACE who helped draft the report, said the association wanted to assess how presidents were navigating the student mental health “crisis” and the types sorts of resources they were devoting to mitigate it. A recent study by the American Psychiatric Association found that in 2017 about 34 percent of students were being treated for some sort of mental health issue, compared to 19 percent of students in 2007.
Presidents surveyed by ACE said they heard about students’ problems with anxiety and depression the most. About 75 percent of presidents reported hearing about anxiety and depression the most frequently among mental health issues, with 23 percent of presidents saying suicide was one of the top problems on the campus. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“We know that poor mental health hinders student academic success,” Chessman said. “I think it’s important that mental health and well-being be a campuswide priority, and it is for a lot of college presidents.”
The presidents also said they relied mostly on their top student affairs professional -- the vice president of student affairs or a person in an equivalent position -- to handle student mental health matters.
Roughly 92 percent of presidents said they depended the most on their vice president for student affairs and about 85 percent of presidents said they relied on student affairs executives.
“This wasn’t a surprise,” Chessman said. “It definitely speaks to the pressure that student affairs professionals are under.”
Some of the presidents’ choices as the go-to person on campus for mental health matters were surprising -- about 32 percent indicated that they relied on their campus police chief, and 27 percent said they relied on legal counsel.
Professors also spent more time dealing with mental health problems among students than they had three years ago, according to the presidents. About 82 percent of presidents said they agreed or strongly agreed that faculty devoted more time to student mental health than in previous years.
“The issues facing students have become more complex and time-consuming for faculty and staff to address,” one president said in the report. “It also involves multiple staff (student services, counseling, security, external resources, safety, legal) to develop a comprehensive plan to address.”
About 58 percent of presidents said they would add more staff to address mental health concerns, particularly in the campus counseling centers, if they had unlimited financial resources.
Across the country, these centers often report being overburdened as more students feel comfortable taking advantage of the mental health services provided, Chessman said. She noted that the increased use of these centers is a sign that perhaps the stigma about seeking help for mental health problems is lessening.
Chessman said she would like to see follow-up research on mental health programs and “best practices around these issues” in higher ed. For example, while writing the survey report, she found one institution that required all students, professors and staff at the university to receive “mental health first aid” training on how to handle mental health problems and crises on campus.
“It’s really important to know what all institutions are doing to address these issues,” she said.Editorial Tags: Student lifeMental healthIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
The headline is the sort that could send a chill down the spine of college and university administrators. "Half of Young Americans Say College Is No Longer Necessary," blared The New York Post, slightly shortening the title of a Marketwatch article that was also picked up by numerous newspapers and radio stations around the country.
The article summarized a Harris survey of more than 3,000 Americans about college-going, supported by TD Ameritrade, the brokerage firm.
Trouble is, that's not at all what the survey found.
Don't get us wrong: the survey's true results suggest some real doubts on the part of former, current and prospective students (and parents) about the value of higher education, reflecting other signs of public doubts.
Most of the concerns are financial.
- "Young" millennials (which Harris pegged at those aged 22 to 28) say they are paying two-thirds of the costs of their college education.
- Forty-six percent said they are paying for their educations with student loans, up seven percentage points from 2017.
- About a third of millennials say they expect to still be paying off their student debt into their 40s (and 15 percent expect to be doing so after hitting the half-century mark).
- Roughly three-quarters of millennials say they either chose (or would choose) a less expensive college to avoid debt.
- Between one and two in five millennials say they have delayed a significant milestone of growing up -- moving out of their parents' home (31 percent), buying a home (47 percent), having children (21 percent), saving for retirement (40 percent) -- because of student debt.
A full quarter of millennials, 26 percent, said they had considered "delaying college due to the expense of paying for it," and nearly a third said they had considered attending a community college instead of pursuing a four-year degree (31 percent) or getting an associate degree instead of a bachelor's degree (30 percent).
And in the closest parallel to the articles' headline, 15 percent of young millennials said they did not expect to attend college or trade school (another 4 percent said they weren't sure, while the rest, 81 percent, said they expected to go).
It was another finding that appears to have inspired the article's headline writer, though. Just under half of millennials, 49 percent, said their degree was "very or somewhat unimportant" in getting them their current job. Fifty-one percent said the degree was very or somewhat important.
"'No longer necessary' refers to the fact that half of young Americans say their degree is not relevant to their job," James Wellemeyer, who wrote the Marketwatch article, said in a direct message on Twitter.
But asked what advice they might give to their "18-year-old self" regarding college, 19 percent recommended working to earn money while in college, and 8 percent said to "take the bare minimum of student loans."
The percentage who said their advice would be "don't go to college"? Five percent.
(Note: Marketwatch updated the headline on its article after Inside Higher Ed inquired about it. The New York Post headline stands.)Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidTuitionIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
The California Faculty Association, a massive union representing professors on and off the tenure track, librarians, counselors, and coaches across the California State University system, has quietly disaffiliated from the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.
CFA had been affiliated with California’s K-12 faculty union for decades.
It’s unclear exactly what prompted the break. Aimee Schreck, a spokesperson for CFA, said via email that the union is going through “some transitions,” and that it disaffiliated with CTA and NEA after “lengthy consideration and upon a vote by CFA’s Board of Directors.”
CFA “continues to support public K-12 teachers in California and nationwide,” Schreck said, “and will fight alongside them for educational justice. We remain deeply committed to working families and strongly affiliated with organizations that protect and defend all public education; our advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and our communities continues.”
William Herbert, executive director of the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at the City University of New York’s Hunter College, said that whatever happened in California, it’s not part of a national trend of faculty unions parting ways with K-12 teacher unions.
“In fact, we are seeing unions working together more,” Herbert said, citing organizing by the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors at the University of New Mexico as one example.
CTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some commentators have attributed the rift, in part, to a contentious leadership election earlier this year. As CTA vice president, Theresa Montaño, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at CSU's Northridge campus, was expected to be elected its new president. But CTA’s then president, Eric Heins, endorsed her opponent, Toby Boyd. Both men have K-12 teaching backgrounds.
Montaño, who worked as a middle and high school teacher prior to becoming a professor, did not respond to a request for comment.
Writing for the LA School Report, columnist Mike Antonucci wrote that “Certainly CTA will lament the loss of membership, but it may gain some benefit from not having to deal with issues unique to the California State University system anymore. CFA members might not notice any difference at all, which isn’t a good thing for CTA.”
The break was first reported by EdSource. The California-based news site said that CTA has added new members this year, despite 2018’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against mandatory agency fees for public sector unions in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. So CTA says that its 22,000 new members will offset the approximately 19,000 CSU-based members who belonged to both the teachers' and faculty associations, according to EdSource. CTA says its overall membership remains at around 325,000.
California’s Community College Association remains affiliated with the CTA.UnionsFacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyUnions/unionizationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: