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Many British academics are ardently opposed to Brexit. Others are passionate in their commitment to the idea that women can do what they like with their own bodies. But Victoria Bateman -- fellow in economics at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge -- must be highly unusual in bringing the two causes together, most recently in a performance titled Brexit: The Naked Truth, where audience members got a chance to create a living anti-Brexit petition by signing her bare body.
So how does she link the two issues?
“Freedom is at the root of both my opposition to Brexit and my feminist activism,” she said. Bateman has spent much of her career “trying to work out the recipe for economic prosperity” and has come to see the key as “a free, tolerant and open society.” With Brexit, “the type of society many people have voted for -- one that is, for example, unwelcoming to immigrants -- is one that will likely feed back to cause real harm to the economy.” Yet it was “also a feminist issue,” most obviously because an economic downturn might well lead to “cutbacks to childcare services and social care.”
During her teenage years in Oldham, when she and her peers had been “dismissed as ‘trashy girls’ because of the way [they] dressed,” Bateman had initially responded by covering up. Now, however, she is determined to “challenge the underlying assumption … It’s when a woman’s value is thought to hang precariously on bodily modesty that we end up putting in place all kinds of practices and regulations in an effort to ‘protect’ women from harming their modesty, but which actually greatly restrict them, resulting in persistent gender inequalities.”
Along with amusement and mockery, Bateman acknowledged that she has “encountered lots of genuine anger and hostility online, but also in person from one or two senior female economists -- including when I protested naked against sexism in economics at an economics conference last year. Some women believe that by using your body as a form of protest, you are doing a disservice to other women.
“I very much disagree. Women’s bodies are one of the big battlegrounds we face today, whether in terms of women’s access to birth control, sex workers’ rights or clothing, including burka bans … By covering up the body, these problems don’t go away. Instead, we fail to address them because we think of the body as something that’s embarrassing and not to be talked about in polite -- or academic -- company.”
It was also crucial, in Bateman’s view, to put “the concept ‘my body, my choice’ … at the heart of feminism. That requires women being tolerant of other women making choices about their bodies that differ from their own. When I protest naked, it seems to bring to the surface a lot of intolerance and hypocrisy in regard to ‘my body, my choice’ -- and it’s that same intolerance to women who make choices about their bodies that are different from our own that is driving, for example, some feminist groups to recommend polic[ies] that [harm] the livelihoods of voluntary sex workers.”
Cambridge economists have often had an impact on government policy, either in formal consultative roles or through suggestions whispered over the port in gentlemen’s clubs. Bateman has also “written thousands of words on why Brexit is bad for the British economy,” but was there any reason to think that taking off her clothes was remotely likely to be an effective way of influencing policy makers?
As she saw it, however, “the relevant question is not ‘Why use your naked body?’ but ‘Why not use your naked body?’ Reversing the question in this way helps to reveal people’s inner thoughts or presumptions about women’s bodies: that when a woman shows her body it devalues her worth or decreases the respect people have for her.” She also believes “in the power of art to go beyond what academic writing alone can offer … I’ve condensed all my words into one simple message: that Britain has been sold the emperor’s new clothes.”GlobalEditorial Tags: EconomicsBritainImage Caption: An appearance by Victoria BatemanIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
A faculty exodus from Hope College’s music department has rocked the small Christian campus on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. The college’s administration says that things are under control. But some students and faculty members want further action regarding the events that precipitated the departure or reassignment of 17 instructors within a year.
Specifically, students in the music department are seeking the resignation of Hope’s provost. Another professor who recently took early retirement following misconduct allegations, which he disputes, has requested an independent investigation into the college’s management.
“If the leadership of Hope College wishes to regain the support and trust of its broad constituencies, it should institute as soon as possible a thorough, impartial and independent investigation of its recent actions against long-serving, dedicated, and respected music faculty,” Brad Richmond, the recent retiree and former director of Hope’s choral activities, wrote in a recent open letter to the college, published in the Holland Sentinel.
Richmond denied an interview request, referring questions to his letter. It says that he cherished his 20 years at Hope -- until he was suddenly suspended and banned from campus in June.
The letter does not say what Richmond was accused of, exactly. But people who have seen the charges “call them petty and contrived; one described them as ‘a combination of 1984 and Catch-22,” he wrote. He also says he endured an uncomfortable faculty and staff meeting about the music department’s situation on Jan. 9, during which someone in the audience asked what he’d done.
“It was inferred, without any specifics, that I was a threat because of a history of ‘manipulating students,’” Richmond wrote. “Really? Then why did the college allow me to travel to South Africa with 35 Chapel Choir members just two weeks before my suspension? Ask my students whether I discussed department matters with them. Ask former administrators whether other faculty members have done this.”
Hinting that a major cultural rift among music professors is at play, Richmond wrote that the department has “long suffered from philosophical divisions.” While he and others envisioned a program that “moves past the traditional European model to include multicultural experiences preparing students for 21st-century careers,” he explained, efforts in that direction, such as folk music, Brazilian drumming and recording arts, “all came under attack last year.”
Those professors who “fought this dismantlement were rebuffed and labeled ‘insubordinate,’ with the result that many people who served Hope College with distinction are now gone,” he wrote.
Some 17 current and former professors have been affected, Richmond says: four quit, two were dismissed, eight lost adjunct status or received significant assignment changes, while one was investigated and sanctioned. Two who were suspended -- including Richmond -- are also gone.
In certain ways, Richmond's account transcends his department and could apply to many programs at many Christian institutions struggling to balance progress and tradition.
Hope is a Calvinist college that has received much funding from the DeVos family. Its last major controversy was in 2016, when its governing board privately considered ousting former president John Knapp. The board backed off after its plan was leaked, and after campus protests. Knapp, who left of his own accord in 2017, was popular with students and faculty members, many of whom approved of his public statements and actions in support of diversity and inclusion. Some said Knapp's approach was critical to the college's survival, especially as Michigan's college-age population shrinks.
A number of professors did not respond to request for comment. An investigation by the Sentinel, which included numerous anonymous sources, said professors trace the faculty departures back to 2017, and a fight over how the department would proceed after a former chair left for another institution out of state.
“In my mind, it was a tale of two cities,” Edye Evans Hyde, a former adjunct who taught jazz vocals, told the Sentinel. “There was a group that wanted to expand the department, offer new options and get more students. The other faction was the conservative Christian Reformed classical style. It was very much: ‘How do we expand what we’re doing’ versus, ‘This is who we are.’”
At the same time, some faculty members told the Sentinel that the progressive camp exaggerated the divide, to the detriment of the department and students.
“Contrary to what some people think, the music department is doing well, given the circumstances, while classes, lessons, as well as rehearsals and concerts are being performed without interruption, making sure that our students receive what they are here for: a high quality music education,” Mihai Craioveanu, professor of violin, reportedly said via email.
Richmond wrote that he and colleagues met with Hope’s new provost, Cady Short-Thompson, to assure her that the department could solve its own challenges. But things devolved, and the succeeding chair stepped down.
The administration decided to appoint a chair from outside the department. Hope picked Jonathan Hagood, a historian and associate dean for teaching and learning.
Around the same time, in early 2018, four music professors learned that they were the subject of a sexual harassment complaint. Details were never made public, and the complaint was dismissed within a few months, sources reportedly said. But Short-Thompson initiated an extensive cultural investigation of the department that proved even more divisive, faculty members told the Sentinel.
As that investigation proceeded, Richmond and one other professor were suspended. Another professor was placed under review, two instructors were asked not to return and others saw their duties reassigned.
Alumni asked questions about the departures over the summer, as did students when they arrived back to campus in the fall. Certain classes or programs they said influenced their decisions to attend or stay at Hope, including a women’s chamber choir class, were suddenly gone. And many of those asking questions said they missed and valued the professors being forced out.
In September, the music department’s outside chair, Hagood -- a well-liked and respected professor -- died by suicide.
In November, students demonstrated outside the college’s Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts to demand transparency about what was happening to Hope music.
As an MSU alumnus, I know what it’s like to have no confidence in your administration, to search for answers and justice but receive only deceit. I stand with Hope Music students. #bringbackourprofs #bringbackthemusic pic.twitter.com/KvCBYbaI9W— madeline (@strugglingsloth) November 8, 2018
It’s been a hard year to be a music student at Hope College. We are missing 3 profs who have influenced me greatly as a student, but also as a person. These people pour their lives into their students and their jobs. I love and miss them. #bringbackourprofs pic.twitter.com/H3SlrjCVbF— Mackenzie (@kenziethepug) November 5, 2018
every student has the right to an education by the educators that they chose to come to a a school for. I am proud to be a Hope music student #bringbackourprofs #hopecollegemusic @HopeCollege pic.twitter.com/H286XHPWUg— riley (@rileywlsn) November 5, 2018
In December, the college announced that a new president, Matthew A. Scogin, a finance executive and 2002 Hope alumnus who is a member of its governing board, would begin this summer.
But concerns about how Hope has handled the music department center on the provost, Short-Thompson.
In addition to faculty concerns about her leadership, a group of current music students and alumni wrote in an open letter in the Sentinel last month that their “many conversations with Provost Short-Thompson have shown us that [she] is not being open or transparent regarding our concerns.”
Hope’s actions “have caused irreparable damage to the affect[ed] faculty members and their family and friends,” the students wrote, requesting a public explanation and Short-Thompson’s resignation. “The administration is not demonstrating its values as a college rooted in the historic Christian faith.”
The college publicly said last month that it had concluded its investigation of the music department, with “evidentiary substantiation of violations including documented financial malfeasance, insubordination and, as to one professor, academic irresponsibility.”
Hope also addressed its findings with faculty members in the meeting Richmond wrote about. For 45 minutes, he says, the college’s human resources director made "derogatory comments about me, the department and others, and invoked the faculty handbook to support claims of due process. A screen over the stage displayed categories of fireable offenses while she tossed off nasty characterizations and alleged acts like beads at a Mardi Gras parade."
While students in the music department continue to express frustration over how the college has managed the music department, other student leaders say they’re satisfied with Hope’s actions.
In another recent letter in the Sentinel, the members of the Student Congress Executive Board wrote that they’d met with administrators and believed that “correct steps of the faculty handbook were followed with efforts made to protect the students, faculty, music department and college.”
They added, “We would like to state our trust in the process and affirm our support for the administration of Hope.”
Jennifer Fellinger, Hope spokesperson, said late Tuesday that in response to concerns, the college’s Board of Trustees has ordered an outside review of the matter. As for reports that employees and students haven't been heard throughout this process, Fellinger said that the college worked to balance transparency and confidentiality concerns.
“There have been various reports about the number of music faculty that have been impacted,” Fellinger added via email. “In the fall, some part-time music faculty were not renewed, which is common in music departments because student demand and faculty performance vary from semester to semester and year to year. Other faculty contracts were adjusted in light of accreditation requirements and enrollment needs.”
Hope remains committed to the music department and, “contrary to what is being reported, there is optimism at the college” about its future, she said.FacultyTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: FacultyImage Source: TwitterImage Caption: A student poster about music faculty departures at Hope CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Hope College
Professors express concern about comments on blackface incidents in book by leader of a Canadian university
Blackface controversies have set off debates at American universities, whether about recent incidents at the University of Oklahoma or the medical school yearbook of Virginia's governor. Now a book written to shed light on how universities handle disputes over free speech has set off a debate about blackface … in Canadian academe.
The book is University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate & Dissent on Campus (University of Toronto Press). The book explores a number of incidents in which students and professors at Canadian universities have had their speech rights threatened, in some cases related to controversial things they have said. The author is Peter MacKinnon, interim president of Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, and formerly president of the University of Saskatchewan.
In one section of the book, he describes incidents at the University of Toronto and Brock University in which students dressed for Halloween as members of Jamaica's bobsled team, with blackface part of their costumes. He also describes an incident at Queen's University, where costumes depicted people from a variety of national backgrounds. The incidents are from 2009 on.
MacKinnon does not defend the various ways students portrayed themselves and people from other races and cultures. But he questions how these incidents were condemned and became the subject of widespread debate, with some comparing the students to those who would wear Nazi uniforms.
"If there was insensitivity to issues of race in the selection of costumes by party-goers at the three universities, there was also a lack of proportion in the responses to them," he wrote. "These were Halloween parties, not cultural misappropriations, Nazi mimicry, or manifestations of disapproval of other peoples. So describing them [as such] risks diminishing real problems of intolerance, discrimination and racism. It also risks backlash from a bewildered public observing these episodes."
In Canada, as in the United States, many students and professors view blackface as hateful, not a costume faux pas.
Students have called MacKinnon a "blackface apologist" and demanded his removal. He released a statement that he does not "condone blackface."
This week professors have demanded that the university release a statement on its policies on blackface, and to state that wearing blackface is a form of harassment of other students and demeans them in violation of the university's codes.
"These statements [in the book] have caused us concern about how Dalhousie’s policies could be applied to similar facts, should they arise here. Imagine that a student or employee attends a Halloween party on campus wearing blackface in October 2019. Would our policies result in any sanction for their behavior, or the response that it was 'just a party'?" said the letter, signed by 28 faculty members.
They added, "It is our view that reasonable people know or ought to know that wearing blackface would make other people feel demeaned, intimidated or harassed. The meaning or significance of this practice cannot be separated from its painful history, and this history is indelibly marked by racism. Blackface cannot be understood in isolation from historical and ongoing practices of invoking the imagery of African enslavement for the purposes of amusement for non-black people. We are concerned that this history and the harms of blackface are at risk of being minimized at Dalhousie, as is the inclusion of the black and racialized communities in our understanding of who counts when identifying the 'reasonable person' and what all of us should be expected to know."
The university released a statement to Inside Higher Ed stating that it does condemn blackface and views it as a serious problem.
"There has been a lot of recent conversation in our local, national and international communities about blackface," said the statement. "Dalhousie would like to make a very clear statement. Blackface is absolutely unacceptable and wrong. All forms of racism, including blackface, are an affront to our values as a university and will not be tolerated at Dalhousie University. Having a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all members of our community is our highest priority. The University’s Statement on Prohibited Discrimination clearly outlines our commitment to safeguarding students and employees against all forms of prohibited discrimination in their work or study or their participation in the university more generally. When an incident comes to the university’s attention, a number of policies -- including the Student Code of Conduct and Statement on Prohibited Discrimination -- could apply depending on the circumstances … Building a community where we all feel like we truly belong is a priority at Dalhousie University."DiversityGlobalEditorial Tags: CanadaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Florida Coastal School of Law, a Jacksonville-based for-profit institution, says it will seek to reclassify as a nonprofit entity, joining a number of other for-profit institutions that have recently announced plans to change tax status as a solution to legal, regulatory or marketing hurdles.
The law school has faced growing scrutiny in recent years from legal education observers and its accreditor over its admissions standards and bar-passage rates. The American Bar Association found Florida Coastal out of compliance with accreditation standards last year. Other law schools operated by its parent company, InfiLaw, meanwhile, have closed or faced sanctions in recent years.
But Florida Coastal leaders say they’ve overhauled their academic curriculum and have made significant strides in student outcomes, boosting bar passage rates by 15 percentage points last year to over 62 percent.
“We’ve improved our entry credentials. We’ve improved our bar-passage results,” said Scott DeVito, Florida Coastal’s dean. “So that’s part of why this is now the time to do it.”
Law school officials say the change would allow professors to apply for federal research grants and would facilitate the expansion of an endowment. Converting to nonprofit status would also have the added benefit of reducing federal regulatory requirements and removing a for-profit label that has become toxic for many students.
Florida Coastal officials said that at the end of the process, the law school would be an independent entity. But they didn’t rule out some kind of role for InfiLaw, its parent company.
“We’re not exactly certain what InfiLaw’s final role, if any, will be. But they will not be the owner,” said Jennifer Reiber, Florida Coastal’s dean of academic affairs.
Other institutions, like Grand Canyon University, that have converted to nonprofit status have signed management agreements with their former parent companies after splitting off. Kyle McEntee, the executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency, said he questioned what kind of arrangement the new nonprofit entity would have with InfiLaw.
“Will InfiLaw be managing or does it hope to manage the law school?” he said.
Florida Coastal officials also plan to form a partnership with a nonprofit university if the conversion goes through. They said talks are ongoing with one potential partner but declined to offer further details.
To make the switch, the law school will need approval from multiple regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Florida Commission for Independent Education and its accreditor, the ABA.
The next step is for ABA to send a fact finder to Florida Coastal to review the application and file a report.
Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA's section of legal education and admissions to the bar, said a change in tax status is rare but not unheard-of for law schools. Western State University College of Law last year and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2001 both converted from for-profit to nonprofit status. The review process typically takes six to 12 months before a decision is reached, Currier said.
“Florida Coastal School of Law is on the list of ABA-approved law schools, and it remains subject to published notices that it is operating out of compliance on specific standards,” he said. “The school has been directed to take specific remedial action to demonstrate that it has come back into compliance with those standards. The school’s accreditation remains in place while the review processes are continuing.”
The law school will have to show it is in compliance with its accreditor’s standards before its application to change tax status is approved. But its leaders are confident it will do so after a major rebound in recent bar exam results.
Less than a decade ago, Florida Coastal regularly posted pass rates of 75 percent on the bar exam, which is the biggest obstacle for graduates to go on to practice law. But over the past five years, the law school’s bar-passage rates cratered. After lowering entrance standards in 2016, it fell below 50 percent for summer bar exams the next year. Bar-passage rates had declined overall in Florida at the time, but Florida Coastal was also one of only two law schools to fail the Education Department’s 2017 gainful-employment ratings.
Last year, however, Florida Coastal cleared a 62.5 percent bar passage rate -- a result, law school officials said, of an overhauled curriculum that gave students more early preparation for the range of subjects they faced on the state’s bar exam.
“We believe we’re seeing a lot of success as a result of those curriculum and program changes,” Reiber said.For-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: For-profit collegesImage Caption: Florida Coastal School of LawAd Keyword: For-profit Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
A federal judge ordered the dismissal of a case against the American Studies Association filed by a group of current and former members who argued that in endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities, the ASA breached its contract with members and misappropriated association funds.
In dismissing without prejudice the case against ASA and several of its current and former leaders, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek damages for what they alleged were injuries to the association.
Further, Judge Contreras found that while the plaintiffs “may have meritorious claims arising from their individual injuries as ASA members,” the value of such potential claims did not exceed $75,000 and therefore fell beneath the threshold under which the federal court could act. Judge Contreras concluded that the plaintiffs "have raised allegations and presented evidence indicating that they may have meritorious claims, but they must assert these claims before the proper tribunal."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they were undeterred and would continue to press ahead either in federal or state court with the lawsuit.
The suit concerns a December 2013 vote in which ASA members voted by a nearly two-to-one margin in support of a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities The text of the resolution describes Israeli higher education institutions as "a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students."
At issue in this case was the plaintiffs’ claim, as Judge Contreras put it, that the “defendants coopted an apolitical educational organization and, against its members' wishes, turned that organization into a mouthpiece of the Israel boycott movement.”
The plaintiffs claimed that the December 2013 membership vote in which ASA members voted by a large margin in favor of the resolution endorsing the Israel boycott was conducted unlawfully. They alleged that ASA leaders misrepresented their intentions to the membership and manipulated the association's voting procedures for their own interest, including by freezing membership rolls prior to the vote in an alleged attempt to prevent boycott opponents from rejoining and voting.
They alleged that after the resolution passed, ASA leaders improperly spent association resources to defend and promote it, including by accessing the ASA’s trust fund to pay for resolution-related insurance, public relations and legal fees. The plaintiffs also claimed that ASA raised membership dues from $120 to $275 to offset expenses related to the resolution.
Judge Contreras ruled in dismissing the case that even “if Defendants misappropriated every dollar that Plaintiffs contributed to ASA in annual dues, it would take each Plaintiff 625 years to reach $75,000 in damages,” the threshold necessary for the federal court to have jurisdiction.
In a statement, three lawyers for the members who sued the ASA said they "fully intend to go forward with this lawsuit, whether in federal court, should we choose to appeal the amount in controversy dismissal, or in state court, where there is no amount in controversy requirement."
"Our clients are four esteemed professors of American Studies," said the statement from the three lawyers for the plaintiffs, which was released by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, an advocacy organization focused on anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on university campuses. "They brought this case because they believe that the ASA’s academic boycott of Israel violates cherished principles of academic freedom. They opposed the academic boycott on the same grounds as the American Association of University Professors, the presidents of dozens of universities, numerous former presidents of the ASA, and many, many others. They also believe that the individual defendants violated democratic principles and the ASA Constitution and Bylaws in the adoption of the academic boycott."
Liz Jackson, a senior staff attorney for the legal advocacy organization Palestine Legal, which provided advice to ASA in the lead-up to and aftermath of the resolution vote, said the decision was "a significant victory for academic associations, for professors who want to stand up for Palestinian rights. There has been so much fear and intimidation kind of kicked up around this case, and the Brandeis Center was very clear about their intent to deter other groups of professors from taking a stand in support of boycotts for Palestinian rights. Professors should take heart that they have a right to boycott and they have a protected right to stand up for Palestinian human rights. There will be more intimidation, there will be more lawsuits and professors should take heart that they will fail."
John F. Stephens, the executive director of the ASA, said, "We had a great day in court and we look forward to continuing with our mission of interdisciplinary and critical studies of the U.S."
Other U.S.-based scholarly associations that have formally supported the academic boycott of Israel include the African Literature Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the National Women's Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
Some larger associations have rejected the boycott. The American Anthropological Association narrowly voted down a pro-boycott resolution in 2016, and the Modern Language Association's Delegate Assembly in January of 2017 rejected a pro-boycott measure in favor of another measure, subsequently ratified by the membership, calling on the association to refrain from a resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli universities on the grounds that such an endorsement "contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature."
The lawsuit against the ASA was originally filed in spring of 2016. One of the original lawyers for the plaintiffs was Kenneth L. Marcus, the former head of the Brandeis Center who has since been appointed as assistant secretary of civil rights for the U.S. Department of Education. Opponents of Marcus's nomination argued that his appointment as the department's chief civil rights enforcer could have a chilling effect on speech and activism critical of Israel on college campuses.Editorial Tags: Academic freedomIsraelScholarly associationsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: