Dartmouth students: Fire the babysitters

Dartmouth should stop “policing student life” and return to educating students, argues a group of students in a petition on change.org.

Administrators have become “paternalistic babysitters” creating “safe spaces” that protect students from “uncomfortable ideas,” the petition charges.

By effectively taking sides in sensitive debates and privileging the perspectives of certain students over others, administrators have crossed the line between maintaining a learning environment that is open to all and forcing their own personal views onto the entire campus. In doing so, they have undermined the value of civility, harmed the free exchange of ideas, and performed a disservice to those students who see their time in college as preparation for success in the real world.

Adding administrators and support services has driven up college costs, the petition charges. (“The sticker price for a year at Dartmouth is now just below $70,000,” notes FIRE.)

The students want to strip away “unnecessary deans, administrators, and support offices,” give students “the liberty to lead their lives as they please” and “freedom to speak their minds.” Finally, they write, “We envision a College that has recommitted itself to its roots in rigorous and stimulating undergraduate education.”

Today’s college protests were predicted in 1969

Yale students and faculty rally to demand inclusion on Nov. 9, 2015. At center is associate professor Crystal Feimster. Photo: Arnold Gold, New Haven Register

Yale students and faculty rally to demand inclusion on Nov. 9, 2015. At center is associate professor Crystal Feimster. Photo: Arnold Gold, New Haven Register

Racial preferences marginalize black college students, argue Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim in the Wall Street Journal. “Many students spend four years in a social environment where race conveys useful information about the academic capacity of their peers.” Furthermore, creating “ethnic enclaves” such as identity studies centers and departments, and diversity training, is likely to backfire.

Today’s college protests were foreseen in 1969, adds Haidt, a NYU psychology professor, in Heterodox Academy.

Macklin Fleming, Justice of the California Court of Appeal, warned Yale Law Dean Louis Pollack about lowering admission standards to meet racial quotas. (Go here.)

If in a given class the great majority of the black students are at the bottom of the class, this factor is bound to instill, unconsciously at least, some sense of intellectual superiority among the white students and some sense of intellectual inferiority among the black students.

Fleming predicts that “black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression.”

Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training.

“To overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies,” less-qualified students will demand “the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards,” Fleming predicted.

“If you read Judge Fleming’s predictions after watching the videos of student protests, and then reading the lists of demands posted at TheDemands.org, the match is uncanny,” writes Haidt.

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf analyzes Brown’s $100 million plan to meet protesters’ demands.

Seattle U students protest ‘dead white dudes’

Robert Gavino, Fiza Mohammad and Zeena Rivera talk about their sit-in.  “When am I going to start reading writers from China, from Africa, from South America?” Rivera said. Photo: Steve Ringman, Seattle Times

A college devoted to the humanities teaches too many “dead white dudes,” complain students at Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci College. Protesters want less Plato and more Ta-Nehisi Coates, reports Katherine Long in the Seattle Times.

Also they’re sitting in to demand that the “racist” dean, Jodi Kelly, be fired. She gave a student a copy of Dick Gregory’s autobiography and explained why he used a racial slur for the title.

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In a meeting with Father Stephen Sundborg, president of the Jesuit university, a black student charged Kelly used the “n-word” and said she could “reclaim” the word, as the black comedian had.

It is not her place to tell me not to be offended,” the student said. “This woman needs to be removed. I’m worried about the students that come after me.”

In a letter to the university community, Sundborg refused to fire Kelly. Otherwise, he groveled. “I cannot pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings as educators and administrators,”  he wrote.

Kelly pledged to review curricula, “hire a consultant to assess the college’s culture and climate, and train faculty and staff in racial and cultural literacy,” reports Long.

As part of a sit-in, students have displayed books they want the Matteo Ricci curriculum to contain.

(The display) includes books on Buddhism, the civil-rights movement, feminist theory, social movements, poverty, mass incarceration, alternative views of American history. They say they want to read and discuss authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Malala Yousafzai, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexie.

 Instead, they say, many Matteo Ricci courses are focused on close readings of the classics.

Zeena Rivera is sick of Plato. “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes,” she said.

Kelly said classics courses include Confucius and Lao Tsu, while “students read African-American and Latino scholars, historians, playwrights and poets” as part of the core curriculum, reports Long.images

In addition to decentralizing whiteness, students want “a critical focus on the evolution of systems of oppression such as racism, capitalism, colonialism, etc., highlighting the art, histories, theologies, political philosophies, and socio-cultural transformation of Western and non-Western societies.”

Teacher Maria Martin, a “woman of color” from a low-income family and a Matteo Ricci graduate, learned a great deal studying Greek and Roman culture, she writes on The Stranger.  Students who don’t want to read  classical literature should choose a “different major,” she suggests.

Matteo Ricci offers a “humanities for education” major and many graduates plan to become teachers.

Get practical: ‘A BA in every pot’ is a fantasy


Credit: Christopher Corr, Getty Images/Ikon Images

Vocational education, now known as “career tech ed (CTE),” is back in vogue, says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Young people need a “middle path” to middle-class jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, he tells KUNC reporter Claudio Sanchez. However, Carnevale wouldn’t want his own son or daughter in CTE.

. . . a huge number of technical certificates that take a year to complete, pay more than a [four-year] college degree. You can make a lot more money with a certificate in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Still, “high school to Harvard” is the “tried-and-true path” to success, says Carnevale. “Until we invest enough to build an alternative pathway and respect real work in the U.S., I wouldn’t risk my child’s [education], even though I know that learning by doing is more powerful than learning with your head alone in school.”

Thirty to 40 percent of young people say ‘school is irrelevant.’ But saying to [parents], ‘I’m going to send your kid to trade school,’ will not appeal to people.

CTE will succeed if it develops a broad set of skills while teaching technical skills, Carnevale says.

In Europe and Singapore, businesses help design training programs and hire the graduates. That’s a “long shot” in the U.S., says Carnevale.

For more than 30 years, the U.S. has rejected practical, applied learning.

Every year, more than 400,000 young people in the top half of their high school class go to college, and eight years later they have not earned either a two- or four-year degree or certificate. So at some point, failure matters. Education reform in pursuit of academic excellence is floundering. We need to change our curriculum. The notion that the Common Core will make people college and career ready is largely a fantasy.

“Politicians want to put a BA in every pot,” says Carnevale.

Students need skills that lead to middle-class jobs

Seventy percent of young Americans will not earn a bachelor’s degree, write Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, in Bloomberg View. Most community college students drop out without earning a degree or certificate. Schools must provide “effective programs that prepare kids who are not immediately college-bound for middle-class jobs,” they write.

For many students, the college-prep track is a dead end, they argue. Students don’t master the academic skills needed to earn a two- or four-year degree or the technical skills needed to gain entry to a job with chances for advancement.

In New Orleans, education, business and civic leaders have created YouthForce NOLA to help students qualify for “jobs such as EMT, junior software developer and manufacturing process technician,” write Bloomberg and Dimon. Schools will provide career-tech classes and businesses will offer paid internships aligned with students’ coursework and goals.

JPMorgan Chase and Bloomberg will invest $7.5 million in YouthForce NOLA, and plan similar investments in Denver and Detroit.

Obama: Use your words


President Obama gave the commencement speech at Rutgers on Sunday.

“Ignorance is not a virtue,” said President Obama on Sunday in a commencement speech at Rutgers University. Coming out against ignorance at a university isn’t all that startling, but it was seen as a knock on Donald Trump.

I think President Obama’s words on democracy were more important.

I know a couple years ago, folks on this campus got upset that Condoleezza Rice was supposed to speak at a commencement.  Now, I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagree with many of the foreign policies of Dr. Rice and the previous administration.  But the notion that this community or the country would be better served by not hearing from a former Secretary of State, or shutting out what she had to say—I believe that’s misguided. (Applause.) I don’t think that’s how democracy works best, when we’re not even willing to listen to each other. (Applause.) I believe that’s misguided.

If you disagree with somebody, bring them in—(applause)—and ask them tough questions.  Hold their feet to the fire.  Make them defend their positions.  (Applause.)  If somebody has got a bad or offensive idea, prove it wrong.  Engage it.  Debate it.  Stand up for what you believe in.  (Applause.)  Don’t be scared to take somebody on.  Don’t feel like you got to shut your ears off because you’re too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities.  Go at them if they’re not making any sense. Use your logic and reason and words.  And by doing so, you’ll strengthen your own position, and you’ll hone your arguments.  And maybe you’ll learn something and realize you don’t know everything.  And you may have a new understanding not only about what your opponents believe but maybe what you believe.  Either way, you win.  And more importantly, our democracy wins.  (Applause.)

These days, coming out for listening and logic at a university is startling.

Every story you choose to tell, by necessity, omits others from the larger narrative,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, who gave the commencement speech at Penn.

Two girls, different futures


As a 12th grader, Guadalupe Acevedo started thinking about college, but learned she qualifies only for community college. Photo: Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times

Lizbeth Ledesma and Guadalupe Acevedo grew up in low-income, immigrant families in Los Angeles, but their college futures are very different, write Joy Resmovits and Sonali Kohli in the Los Angeles Times.

A straight-A student in public school, Lizbeth earned a scholarship to Chadwick, a private school, in ninth grade. She pushed herself to meet higher academic standards. By 10th grade, expert counselors were helping her plan for college. A counselor helped her get a full scholarship to Babson College, near Boston, her first-choice school.

Lizbeth Ledesma meets with her colleague counselor, Beth Akers, at her private school.

Lizbeth Ledesma discusses college plans with counselor Alicia Valencia at Chadwick, a private school.

At Roosevelt High, a Los Angeles Unified campus in a low-income neighborhood, Guadalupe didn’t think seriously about college till her senior year. Even then, “I was so lost. I didn’t know how college worked.”

California students must complete a college-prep sequence of courses with C’s or better — and an overall B average — to qualify for a state university. Guadalupe realized too late she qualified only for community college.

She’ll start at East Los Angeles College and “hopes to transfer to USC, where she wants to take dance and Chicano studies and be a cheerleader,” reports the Times. (And ride a purple unicorn.)

Someone who earned mediocre (or worse) grades in low-level classes at a not-very-demanding high school is almost certain to be placed in remedial classes in community college. Most remedial students drop out in their first year, sometimes in their first few weeks.

Guadalupe could work hard and beat the odds. But her USC dreams show she’s still not getting useful advice.

UO tells students what’s OK to say, write

4 Posters with biased comments crossed out and corrected.
University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team has designed posters showing what not to say.

At the University of Oregon, “thought police” step in when one person’s “constitutionally protected speech has offended” another person, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. The Bias Response Team, made up of seven administrators, is fond of staging “educational conversations” and is “not shy about referring its cases to university agencies with more robust enforcement powers.”

The BRT’s annual report lists 85 incidents, including a faculty member’s insulting comment on a blog, a poster that “triggered” bad feelings about “body size” and a complaint about a “culturally appropriative” party.

“Students, faculty, and staff who feel threatened, harassed, intimidated, triggered, microaggressed, offended, ignored, under-valued, or objectified because of their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability status, mental health, religion, political affiliation, or size are encouraged to contact the BRT, writes Soave.

When a student reported that a sign in a dorm encouraging cleaning up after oneself was sexist, the BRT Advocate “empowered” the student to contact Housing staff. “A BRT Case Manager followed up to ensure that the sign was removed, and the program staff had an educational conversation about the issue.”

An anonymous person thought the student newspaper wasn’t providing enough coverage of  transgender students and “students of color.” So “university administrators had ‘an educational conversation’ with student-journalists about what kinds of stories they should be printing,” reports Soave, who finds it “positively Orwellian.”

These “conversations” the BRT sponsors reflect a massive power imbalance between students and administrators, since the administrators appear to have the authority to punish the students.

. . . Would a student in such a situation feel like he could invoke his First Amendment rights without facing reprisals?

“It’s troubling to see the university policing and micro-managing students’ every day interactions,” Azhar Majeed, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Soave. “One can imagine the chilling effects this would have.”

A “swollen campus bureaucracy, empowered by intrusive federal regulation,” has usurped the faculty’s “prerogative to shape the educational mission and to protect the free flow of ideas,” writes Camille Paglia.

“The entire college experience should be based on confronting new and disruptive ideas,” she writes. “Students must accept personal responsibility for their own choices and behavior, and university administrators must stop behaving like substitute parents and hovering therapists.”

College for ‘justice-involved’ (criminal) students

Don’t ask college applicants if they have a criminal record, advises the U.S. Department of Education in Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice-Involved Individuals.

“We believe in second chances and we believe in fairness,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a speech at UCLA, which doesn’t screen applicants for a criminal record. “The college admissions process . . . should serve as a gateway to unlocking untapped potential of students,” he said. That includes “those involved with the criminal justice system.”

Applicants for federal jobs aren’t asked about a criminal record in the initial screening and the Obama administration is pressuring employers to “ban the box.”

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“There are better ways to ensure campus safety than stigmatizing those who are trying to better their lives through higher education,” University of California President Janet Napolitano said.

“Campus safety is absolutely paramount in this process,” declares a Department of Education press release. Campuses that screen for criminal justice history don’t seem to be any safer than those that don’t, according to the DoE, but there’s little research on the issue.

When college applicants have to admit and explain their criminal record, many just give up, according to Beyond the Box.  A study found 62.5 percent of State University of New York applicants who checked the box for a prior felony conviction never completed their applications, compared with 21 percent of applicants with no criminal history.

The report recommends “delaying the request for – or consideration of – criminal justice involvement until after an admission decision has been made to avoid a chilling effect on potential applicants whose backgrounds may ultimately be deemed irrelevant.”

In addition, the report calls for offering counseling, peer mentors, college coaches, jobs and support groups for “justice-involved students.”

Last July, the Education Department announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue a postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around. In November, the Department also announced up to $8 million in Adult Reentry Education Grants to support educational attainment and reentry success for individuals who have been incarcerated.

The Common App, used by more than 600 colleges, asks about misdemeanor or felony convictions, but no longer will ask about other crimes.

“Ban the box” campaigners cite racial disparities in arrest rates and the “school-to-prison pipeline,” writes Juleyka Lantigua-Williams in The Atlantic.

“Students of color are the most likely to be harmed by putting these questions on the application,” said Natalie Sokoloff, professor emerita of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Most students with criminal records go to community colleges and other open-admissions public schools, she found.

I doubt that would change significantly if applications to selective universities were more welcoming. Most “justice-involved youth” are not on the honor roll. Adults coming out of prison, who may pose a danger to classmates, aren’t likely to be qualified for selective universities.

College students don’t think they’re smart enough


Once chancellor of New York City schools, Rudy Crew now runs Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Rudy Crew, New York City schools chancellor in the late 1990s, now runs Medgar Evers College, a four-year City University of New York campus where fewer than one in five students graduates in six years. Crew talks about college readiness with Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall.

Students come to institutions with a question in their mind. The question is, Do I deserve to be here? Am I prepared to be here? And if I’m not, Who will find me out and when? There is a certain sort of lost confidence that manifests itself in their questions about their own efficacy. They’re quiet about it.

They don’t think they’re smart enough, capable enough.

Students have taken low-level classes, says Crew.

They don’t read well. They don’t read very much. They are conflicted about math. They don’t think of themselves as good analytical minds.

More and more, the real question is not if they can learn it; the question is, can we teach it? They have not been exposed [to learning] at a higher-order level.

Crew started the “Pipeline” program in 2014 to reach students before they enroll, writes Wall. “Partnered with 80 public schools in central Brooklyn, the college offers enrichment classes for elementary and middle school students, early-college courses for high school students, training for teachers, a lecture series for principals, and workshops for parents.”

The percentage of Medgar Evers freshmen who need remediation is down from 85 percent to 68 percent.