The Demands From Students Protesting Racism At 51 Colleges
December 4, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

What do student protestors want? College students have for weeks led protests over race relations on campuses across the country after well-publicized confrontations at the University of Missouri and Yale University. A list of formal demands made at 51 U.S. campuses has been collected on a website called The Demands. posted by MythMaker (115 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Related: the emptiness of "resilience"
posted by qcubed at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The most common demand is for a more diverse faculty. The unfortunate reality is that there simply aren't enough non-White people with doctorates or pursuing doctorates (or other terminal degrees) for every or even a significant number of institutions to hire additional faculty that makes their total makeup reflective of the student body or broader U.S. population. Both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education have recently written about this. What may happen is that the most wealthy institutions (e.g., Yale) may be able to make significant gains in this area by outhiring the less wealthy institutions. And hiring certainly doesn't address critical issues of retention for these faculty (e.g., this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece).

So institutions are being placed in the position of either (a) acceding to what appears to be a reasonable demand that is actually impossible or (b) working with students to help them understand that the change cannot happen quickly and progress can not be made in this one area without progress being made in other areas (i.e., enrollment and retention of minority students as undergraduates, recruiting and funding minority students in graduate school, changing the culture of institutions so they can retain minority faculty). They're both difficult positions to take especially with the second one being the only effective, long-term answer but the one that is far less satisfying for people experiencing pain and problems *now.*

(Just a few days ago, one of my colleagues who is a faculty member raised an interesting point by noting that nearly all of these demands are being made of administrators with very few being made of faculty. This makes it clear that students believe that administrators are ultimately in control of our colleges and universities despite many member of the academy believing very strongly in both the principles and the reality of shared governance.)
posted by ElKevbo at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


Douglas Williams in Gawker: The Mizzou Blueprint
It began as many disputes do in a country without a publicly-funded national health service: as a fight over insurance.

The graduate students of the University of Missouri got a surprising email as the lunch hour approached on August 14th. With the screaming subject line “CHANGES IN STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE SUBSIDY FOR GRADUATE TEACHING AND RESEARCH ASSISTANTS”, then-Assistant Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies Dr. Leona Rubin dropped a bomb: medical insurance for graduate students would be discontinued. Citing the Affordable Care Act and alleging that the university would face substantive fines because they provided subsidies for “individual market plans,” the university decided to end the subsidy. Instead, they would use the money to give a one-time fellowship to graduate students that would allow them to purchase coverage on their own.

However, there were three issues with this arrangement. The first was that the subsidy would be taxable, which shifted the tax burden from a university that holds an endowment worth over $800 million and expenditures of nearly $600 million onto a graduate student population where nearly a quarter are living below the federal individual poverty line. Given the meager compensation that many graduate students receive, the notion that they might be able to purchase their own health insurance and still have money to eat and pay bills is one that is disconnected from reality. It certainly was not my reality: as a Thurgood Marshall Fellow and a graduate research assistant, I still took out loans in order to make ends meet during my time at MU. And that was without being asked to pay the equivalent of $254.25 per month for insurance so that I could see a doctor at the Student Health Center.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:29 AM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


> So institutions are being placed in the position of either (a) acceding to what appears to be a reasonable demand that is actually impossible or (b) working with students to help them understand that the change cannot happen quickly and progress can not be made in this one area without progress being made in other areas

Students know this. We knew this 30 damn years ago when we were demanding this and I'm positive that activists 30 years before us knew it, too. The institutions keep not making (much) progress in those other areas, and that's not an accident.
posted by rtha at 8:34 AM on December 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


It's interesting how many of these list in their demands a social justice-focused course as part of general ed requirements. I went to a college that had exactly that, and they had actually gotten rid of it the year before my freshman year. Basically, classes in any department that related to social justice would be marked as such, and taking at least one was required for graduation. Everyone agreed that it was great in theory, but the faculty hated it in practice: basically, it meant that classes that fulfilled the social justice requirement would be swamped with people who didn't care and needed to fulfil the requirement, which both choked out people who were legitimately interested in the topic and led to a substantial decrease in the quality of class discussions since the class was full of people who were only there to tick a box.

I guess all this is to say, how do you balance that? How do you create a requirement for social justice studies (which, again, I think most everyone can agree is a great idea) while dealing with the fact that for most students it's just gonna be one more thing to get out of the way? Or is that just an inevitability, and do you instead focus on how to make it meaningful and valuable for the people who do care and ignore the people who don't?
posted by Itaxpica at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's interesting how many of these list in their demands a social justice-focused course as part of general ed requirements. I went to a college that had exactly that, and they had actually gotten rid of it the year before my freshman year. Basically, classes in any department that related to social justice would be marked as such, and taking at least one was required for graduation. Everyone agreed that it was great in theory, but the faculty hated it in practice: basically, it meant that classes that fulfilled the social justice requirement would be swamped with people who didn't care and needed to fulfil the requirement, which both choked out people who were legitimately interested in the topic and led to a substantial decrease in the quality of class discussions since the class was full of people who were only there to tick a box.

This is sadly true of every gen ed class ever taught, says the man grading 70 intro stat quizzes and sobbing quietly.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:42 AM on December 4, 2015 [29 favorites]


I guess all this is to say, how do you balance that?

I think it's safe to say there are plenty of classes students are loathe to attend, and I think faculty deals with that in any myriad of ways, whether the classes pertain to Victorian children's literature or social justice. I don't see why required social justice classes would necessitate some brand new form of making education compelling and interesting.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


(which, again, I think most everyone can agree is a great idea)

Well, you run into two blocs. Those who think "The Academy" should be promoting Western civilization i.e. (classical) liberal arts* and (classical) liberal values, and those who think the purpose of a degree is getting a job.
Both are opposed to social justice education, the former treats it as anathema, the latter as a distraction.

The first was that the subsidy would be taxable, which shifted the tax burden from a university that holds an endowment worth over $800 million and expenditures of nearly $600 million onto a graduate student population where nearly a quarter are living below the federal individual poverty line. Given the meager compensation that many graduate students receive, the notion that they might be able to purchase their own health insurance and still have money to eat and pay bills is one that is disconnected from reality

Cash for the cotton goods, Cash for the hard goods.
Cash for the soft goods, Cash for the fancy goods.


*funny, they never seem to want to fund performing and fine arts programs.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't see why required social justice classes would necessitate some brand new form of making education compelling and interesting.

Because the resentment of students who are in that class and feel entitled to speak up—students who, studies have shown, are disproportionately likely to be Of Privilege—may wind up creating a toxic environment for the people who'd theoretically most benefit from social justice principles being better understood and internalized.

(Full disclosure: I say this as a person who's had some amount of experience with Itaxpica's college's students' neuroses.)
posted by rorgy at 8:49 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I found this one interesting: We demand that Yik Yak, an anonymous social media application, be banned from the USD area.

There seem to be a bunch of demands that seem relatively easy to implement and also (to my mind) quite reasonable. There are others (free tuition for some groups) that seem like non-starters.
posted by el io at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Related: Yik Yak Returns from Reply All, updating and expanding their earlier story about harsh anonymous Yik Yak hate speech attacks on URM student activists.
posted by aught at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do you ban an anonymous social media application? From what I know of Yik Yak, there's no way of knowing who's posting on it and who isn't. Because it's, you know, anonymous.
posted by rorgy at 8:56 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


From what I know of Yik Yak, there's no way of knowing who's posting on it and who isn't. Because it's, you know, anonymous.

Yik Yak warns anonymous users they can be arrested after Missouri threats - "Anonymous social networking application Yik Yak has warned its users that statements they make can get them arrested, because while those users can’t identify each other, Yik Yak can."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:04 AM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


From what I know of Yik Yak, there's no way of knowing who's posting on it and who isn't. Because it's, you know, anonymous.

Yik Yak very much knows who is posting and from where. The company has readily handed over identifying information of users to law enforcement in several cases involving threats.

They have restricted use, by request, at many high schools, though they have declined to do so at colleges.
posted by anifinder at 9:05 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


"(Just a few days ago, one of my colleagues who is a faculty member raised an interesting point by noting that nearly all of these demands are being made of administrators with very few being made of faculty. This makes it clear that students believe that administrators are ultimately in control of our colleges and universities despite many member of the academy believing very strongly in both the principles and the reality of shared governance.)"

I don't know ... When I was in college students routinely went to the faculty Senate and the answer was basically always "Hahaha, fuck your trivial and wrongheaded concerns," or "Let the grownups talk now kiddies, we're not here to deal with student issues," or "Look, you're right but we don't want to spend any of our political capital fighting the administration on your behalf."

Admin at least listened to student complaints and gave some kind of pro forma response, because they wanted our money. Faculty always acted like students were a distraction and an irritation from things they'd rather be doing.

I can remember only one time where Faculty Senate addressed a student-related issue and that wasn't until the issue had been going on for a year and the New York Times covered it because it got super-egregious.

I was even on the student advisory board to the Faculty Senate for three years, that THEY created and demanded we present them with periodic reports on various topics and their answer literally every time was "Yeah, we think you are wrong about what students want and we are going to vote to ignore your report that we commissioned."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Interesting! Thank you both.
posted by rorgy at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2015


re yik yak as an example of a "distractor".

i) Don't let most of the plausible justifiable demands be drowned out by the amplification of the occasional demand that is neither. This is a deliberate tactic by the press and their reactionary asshole enablers/supporters..... when dealing with anything non-mainstream- I call it " throwing baby out with the drop of bathwater" syndrome. You see this with politicians/occupy where one gaffe they make results in a deliberate attempt to negate their credibility and progress.

ii) Don't be afraid to call out implausible demands IN THE CONTEXT OF SPENDING MOST OF YOUR TIME ON THE MEAT OF THE PROBLEM. If one demand out of 50 is bunk, then spend 2% of your time on it, not 50%!
posted by lalochezia at 9:10 AM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


How do you ban an anonymous social media application?

On smart phones, they can "geo-fence" areas such as high schools by limiting posts from that location - but if the fencing is done by IP address rather than the phone's GPS location, my understanding is that users can get around it by using their wireless account (effectively changing their IP to something non-local). But as others have said, Yik Yak knows a bit about the "anonymous" posters and has begun cooperating with law enforcement in some cases.
posted by aught at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2015


The most common demand is for a more diverse faculty. The unfortunate reality is that there simply aren't enough non-White people with doctorates or pursuing doctorates (or other terminal degrees) for every or even a significant number of institutions to hire additional faculty that makes their total makeup reflective of the student body or broader U.S. population. Both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education have recently written about this. What may happen is that the most wealthy institutions (e.g., Yale) may be able to make significant gains in this area by outhiring the less wealthy institutions. And hiring certainly doesn't address critical issues of retention for these faculty (e.g., this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece).

So institutions are being placed in the position of either (a) acceding to what appears to be a reasonable demand that is actually impossible or (b) working with students to help them understand that the change cannot happen quickly and progress can not be made in this one area without progress being made in other areas (i.e., enrollment and retention of minority students as undergraduates, recruiting and funding minority students in graduate school, changing the culture of institutions so they can retain minority faculty). They're both difficult positions to take especially with the second one being the only effective, long-term answer but the one that is far less satisfying for people experiencing pain and problems *now.*


I'd add that schools could add evaluative criteria in the hiring process about whether or not the candidate can demonstrate any interest, experience or expertise in supporting diversity and inclusiveness in student learning and research. You don't have to be a person of color to support students of color, but until hiring anybody interested in doing so is a priority we'll keep ending up with professors who are great at research and great at continuing systemic bias. If the problem is that there's not enough URM candidates for faculty positions, the solution is to create more URM candidates for faculty positions.
posted by one_bean at 9:23 AM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also related (only tangentially to the topic, but more directly to qcubed's NYT link in the first comment): Mark Neocleous' Resisting Resilience from Radical Philosophy.
posted by still bill at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2015


On smart phones, they can "geo-fence" areas such as high schools by limiting posts from that location - but if the fencing is done by IP address rather than the phone's GPS location, my understanding is that users can get around it by using their wireless account (effectively changing their IP to something non-local)

I'm going to expand on this point, because I seem to see a lot of people confused by it. There are two ways to block apps like YikYak.

1. An institution blocks YikYak's servers on their network using firewall rules. This is the same method they'd use to block any site, like MetaFilter for instance. If my phone is on the school's wireless then I can't use YikYak because it can't contact its servers. But if my phone is on any other network (cellular, private business, home) then it won't be blocked. This is the IP block.

2. YikYak implements a geofence for a region, which is like drawing a box on a map and saying "If the phone reports being in this box, disallow usage." It doesn't have anything to do IP addresses or networks, since YikYak gets a phone's coordinates from the phone's location services (GPS, GPS assisted, database of wireless APs). You can verify this by turning off Location services on iOS for YikYak and the app will refuse to launch.

The point is that an institution cannot geofence themselves, it has to be done by YikYak. All an institution can do is request a geofence be implemented, but there's no reason YikYak has to comply. In fact, YikYak has every reason to not comply with geofences on college campuses. These students are their core users and the lifeblood of the platform.

In the case of high schools I imagine that the group of immature, underaged users were causing much more trouble for YikYak than they were worth. But college aged students are adults and a key demographic.

Not to bring up a sore topic, but the way to deal with YikYak is to do what was controversially suggested at Yale: get your supporters involved in the platform and callout/downvote racist posts.
posted by sbutler at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


A lot of the problems brought up in response to the students' demands are nowhere near insurmountable, they just require thinking outside the box or dismantling systems that don't seem to be working so well anyways. If the faculty hiring process has resulted in decades and decades of hires lacking in faculty of color, the problem is with the system and it should be changed. Find a way to do that and stop making excuses as if these systems are some sort of unchangeable thing handed down from on high rather than sets of flawed policies created by flawed people.
posted by sallybrown at 9:40 AM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


It is clear to me that when students make demands they more often than not know little about how universities are run. More diversity? Very few truly qualified minority students go on for PhDs and then go into teaching. Very few (if they are to invest all that money and time they want a more lucrative position). Those few that are truly qualified are picked up by elite universities. That leaves....To try to impose a percentage is a bit similar to having quotas for minority students in a college, something done a number of years ago at some major schools.
posted by Postroad at 9:42 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not to bring up a sore topic, but the way to deal with YikYak is to do what was controversially suggested at Yale: get your supporters involved in the platform and callout/downvote racist posts.

I mean, I guess. We could ask minorities to take on the extra emotional labor of doing such a thing, making them go into an unwelcome digital community and educate those anonymous users.

Why don't they do that to NextDoor and the like as well? Why don't they do that with the news media? Why don't they do that at Free Republic and Newsmax?
posted by qcubed at 9:42 AM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


I mean, what it boils down to is that more and more, you can peg what kind of person someone is if they use a certain website. If you're a channer, you're probably an asshole and more likely than not to be a racist.

Maybe it's time to just assume the same of YikYakers, much like how we're starting to do with Redditors?
posted by qcubed at 9:45 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how many of these list in their demands a social justice-focused course as part of general ed requirements. I went to a college that had exactly that, and they had actually gotten rid of it the year before my freshman year. Basically, classes in any department that related to social justice would be marked as such, and taking at least one was required for graduation. Everyone agreed that it was great in theory, but the faculty hated it in practice

I totally agree that this is an issue, and the solution isn't just getting educators to be more engaging teachers. Having intro-level students in a class with students who are actually engaged and educated on a subject disrupts everyones' education. This was a problem throughout the humanities at my school. I studied literature, and the prevailing idea seemed to be that students should be able to sign up for, say, a higher-level class on Jane Austin without having taken *any* courses in basics like critical theory. So we'd get a ton of STEM students checking off their pre-reqs who were totally hostile to/unfamiliar with the idea that you could ever read a work through, say, a feminist lens. But since they were largely not cognizant of their own ignorance (see Randall Munroe's dumbass comic where he thinks he totally nails literary theory as a sham because he can nonsensically spout the few buzzwords he know, completely unaware of his own mediocrity) everyone else had to walk them through the 101 and dumb themselves down. No one learned as much as they would have, had they been placed in appropriate classes. I guess the idea is that being literate is the only qualification you need to get to join a high-level literature discussion - nevermind that no one would be allowed into a 400-level engineering course just because they can do some math. /rant

Anyway, I think a solution could be having a required social justice 101 course specifically designed to introduce students who haven't thought about these topics to them, instead of throwing all the students into Race Theory 305 or whatever with the students who've done the background work. It would benefit everyone; you could introduce ideas in a way that would work for the general population, and not hold back your talented students who want to dive in deep. Obviously this costs money, and administrations would prefer to tack a "social justice badge" onto existing courses and call it a day, but if they prioritized these issues they could easily make this happen.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Find a way to do that and stop making excuses as if these systems are some sort of unchangeable thing handed down from on high rather than sets of flawed policies created by flawed people.

I don't think ElKevbo is saying that hiring more minority faculty members is unchangeable or unsolvable; just that this is not something that administrators can fix immediately or in a vacuum, at least not without the effect that they mention (schools with more power/money being able to "outhire" schools with less power/money), because there's a shortage of POC's getting PhDs, because there's a shortage of PhD's in undergraduate programs that feed into graduate programs, etc. -- it's something that needs to be addressed earlier in the pipeline if we want a permanent and lasting solution.

But I agree that it's sort of a red herring, because the student's aren't make the demands for more minority faculty in a vacuum. The demands of the students to, in general, make academia a more welcoming and inclusive place for students of color will help seal the leaky pipeline and can potentially create more future PhD students and faculty members of color.
posted by damayanti at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Very few truly qualified minority students go on for PhDs and then go into teaching. Very few (if they are to invest all that money and time they want a more lucrative position). Those few that are truly qualified are picked up by elite universities. That leaves....To try to impose a percentage is a bit similar to having quotas for minority students in a college, something done a number of years ago at some major schools.

This is simply untrue. There are many qualified minority students getting PhDs. There are many qualified minority PhDs looking for jobs right now. Prioritizing hiring a diverse faculty is not imposing a diversity quota. It is not lowering faculty standards. It would entail is saying something like "One of our priorities is increasing representation of minorities in our department" and then going out of your way to attract minority candidates. There are ALL SORTS of organization for minority faculty and PhD students. There are all sorts of places where minorities in academia have conversation and come together - both online and at conferences. Advertise for jobs there. Send faculty representatives there. Ask people how you can make your department or institution a more welcoming place. If increasing faculty diversity is a priority - and it really, really should be, because when it isn't we get homogenous research and homogenous science and a homogenous faculty teaching an increasingly diverse student body who don't see themselves represented, who don't see academia or science or the humanities or research as an option, who are being marginalized right out of an educational system that needs them and their ideas and energy (and enrollment) - then we as the current faculty need to MAKE IT ONE.

I'm a grad student now (and a white woman), but I've asked our department chair, the chairs of our last two hiring committees, and the graduate studies coordinator in my department what we're doing to attract minority and women job applicants and whether we're recruiting an economically and ethnically diverse grad student (and why that has translated to an all-white faculty with another white male hire, and a graduate student body with three Hispanic students and one black student. In an anthropology department!). And I'm trying to develop an explicitly "decolonized" lecture on the development of theory so that I can point to the fact that Western Europe is not the only place where our science comes from. And I'm working to put together a set of resources for other students teaching in our department so we have examples of research in anthropology being done by women and underrepresented minorities, because the reality is this is our student body, and if our field doesn't get with it, then we're irrelevant at best and reproducing systemic racism at worst.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


Free tuition, room and board for all students whose parents make less than 75k? Good luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:18 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


God bless these kids. The kids get it. I love that young people are talking about social justice on Tumblr, I love that they are organizing and making demands in colleges. Fuck yeah.
posted by aka burlap at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have sat and read through about 70% of these demands, and this has to be the most conservative, risk-averse approach to so-called social justice imaginable.

The bulk of the demands are "MOAR BUREAUCRACY NAO!"

Which, given the way that the uneven percentage of admins to faculty currently stands, and the way it has driven tuition through the roof, is pretty damn ironic.

These kids are not activists, they are apparatchiks.
posted by gsh at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Free tuition, room and board for all students whose parents make less than 75k? Good luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:18 AM on December 4


I have sat and read through about 70% of these demands, and this has to be the most conservative, risk-averse approach to so-called social justice imaginable.
posted by gsh at 10:38 AM on December 4


Too much. Too little. Not realistic. Anything to avoid addressing the real problems that the students are trying to change.
posted by one_bean at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


The bulk of the demands are "MOAR BUREAUCRACY NAO!"

Bureaucracy, a.k.a. "someone whose job is to address the problems that the current and all past regimes let happen."
posted by Etrigan at 10:52 AM on December 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


The bulk of the demands are "MOAR BUREAUCRACY NAO!"

It reads to me more like, "Let's implement change within pre-existing bureaucratic systems to fix systematic problems." Can you blame them for a conservative approach? Whenever people of color advocate breaking up existing paradigms, they're labelled as dangerous or radical. Hell, these protesters are being called unreasonable despite trying to work within the system.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:01 AM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


> These kids are not activists, they are apparatchiks.

Gross.

You, of course, know exactly what course of action would be effective, and you're just declining to elaborate because Kids Today don't listen to their elders and betters so why bother. Why contribute to the discussion in a constructive way when throwing zingers is way more fun?
posted by rtha at 11:17 AM on December 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Free tuition, room and board for all students whose parents make less than 75k? Good luck.

I really do not see how this is such an outlandish suggestion. A combined income of 75k isn't exactly living high on the hog, and there are tax revenue resources available that could be steered away from, say, four or five high-end military aircraft to cover this. The outrageous amount of money that goes into wasteful military expenditures, for whatever reason, is sacrosanct and a given but you talk about a right to free education for working class or poor families and suddenly it's madness to think that money could come from somewhere.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:30 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


there are tax revenue resources available that could be steered away from, say, four or five high-end military aircraft to cover this.

Unless Mizzou is packing more punch than I thought, this sort of request is better made of the feds.
posted by jpe at 11:32 AM on December 4, 2015


Some of the demands are very timely, appropriate, and need backing, but others like this:

"a. Data must be shown on GPA and financial statistics for each racial/ethnic category, and also for queer students on campus, so that we may be more of aware of what percentage of scholarships and financial aid is going to these groups, and how we as a particular demographic compare to the more privileged students in order to address how the university can better help us."

Makes me want to *headdesk*. How many queer students are no way in hell going to identify as such until the day they are no longer relying on family for money? Aren't even willing to admit it to themselves yet? Are very private people and aren't comfortable disclosing their sexuality to the world?

Hell, I wouldn't be comfortable disclosing my GPA and financials if they were going to be used in such a manner, no matter what my racial/ethnic category is, just because that's how I'm wired.

Also, some serious questions from an older, non-traditional student:

Doesn't it take longer than 1 or 1-1/2 school years to create a whole new College/Degree Program that's actually any good?

Are they willing to acknowledge that the colleges, even if they up the rate of admissions for POC, cannot guarantee a certain graduation rate for those students?
A lack of college readiness, and just life in general, tend to get in the way more for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, and there's only so much a college can really do to shield them from that.

How do you even increase support for undocumented students?
My college experience, both Community and University levels was a merry-go-round of constant proving you are who you say you are. Mostly mandated by state/federal law.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2015


i) Don't let most of the plausible justifiable demands be drowned out by the amplification of the occasional demand that is neither. This is a deliberate tactic by the press and their reactionary asshole enablers/supporters..... when dealing with anything non-mainstream- I call it " throwing baby out with the drop of bathwater" syndrome. You see this with politicians/occupy where one gaffe they make results in a deliberate attempt to negate their credibility and progress.

ii) Don't be afraid to call out implausible demands IN THE CONTEXT OF SPENDING MOST OF YOUR TIME ON THE MEAT OF THE PROBLEM. If one demand out of 50 is bunk, then spend 2% of your time on it, not 50%!
I don't think I'm either press or a reactionary asshole enabler/supporter (obviously you may disagree on the asshole part, although such name-calling seems a bit inappropriate in this forum). I also don't see the press calling them out on this particular demand (hell, I don't see much press coverage of their demands). I'm not sure it's right to call unreasonable demands gaffes... Presumably they were decided on by a consensus of the students involved with the protest - these demands were deliberated on - calling them gaffes seems a bit insulting to the students that made these demands.

Maybe instead of spending 2% of ones energies on unreasonable demands - they could just drop demands that are unreasonable. That being said, I'd say more than 2% of these demands are unreasonable.
posted by el io at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


alleging that the university would face substantive fines because they provided subsidies for “individual market plans,” the university decided to end the subsidy.

They weren't alleging it. They would face big fines: $100 per student per day.
posted by jpe at 11:40 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless Mizzou is packing more punch than I thought, this sort of request is better made of the feds.

Where federal solutions are concerned, yes. I realize many universities are struggling to keep their heads above water, but that's how you kick things upstairs - the same applies in the workplace as it does in campuses. Grievances move their way up to those who can make things happen, with pressure applied from below towards those on the next level up. That said, Yale not having the funds to cover free tuition, room and board for students from a sub-75k household? Hard to believe.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really do not see how this is such an outlandish suggestion. A combined income of 75k isn't exactly living high on the hog, and there are tax revenue resources available that could be steered away from, say, four or five high-end military aircraft to cover this. The outrageous amount of money that goes into wasteful military expenditures, for whatever reason, is sacrosanct and a given but you talk about a right to free education for working class or poor families and suddenly it's madness to think that money could come from somewhere.
And if the Universities in question controlled the military-industrial-complex budget, this would be a pretty reasonable thing to demand. As it stands even if every elected Democrat wanted to enact this radical policy (radical in so much that it would be a very large change), there is no way the Republicans would let this happen.

Also, I don't have the numbers, but I'm skeptical that a 'mere' 10 billion dollars could accomplish this (cost of a stealth bomber times 5).

Don't get me wrong, I fully support ending the corporate welfare to the military industrial state and repositioning the country as a leader in free education rather than the largest military in the world, but this isn't a policy choice that individual universities can make.
posted by el io at 11:44 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


That said, Yale not having the funds to cover free tuition, room and board for students from a sub-75k household?

That particular demand was made at Duke, which has a $7 billion endowment (a third of Yale's, but the highest single-university endowment south of the Mason-Dixon line).
posted by Etrigan at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


As it stands even if every elected Democrat wanted to enact this radical policy (radical in so much that it would be a very large change), there is no way the Republicans would let this happen.

I've been seeing so-called "radical" proposals, more radical than not buying a few expensive wartoys in favor of boosting access to education for the poor, pass Congress over the course of my life with worse odds. Again, what I'm talking about is the chain of grievances - student pressure applied on admins, admin pressure applied upwards. I do not actually believe colleges control the military industrial complex, sheesh.

But fuck it, right, might as well shrug and give up without a push.

That particular demand was made at Duke, which has a $7 billion endowment (a third of Yale's, but the highest single-university endowment south of the Mason-Dixon line).

Thanks for the clarification, which is pretty striking. Seven billion dollars, and working class and poor students can't get this very basic demand met? Kinda depressing to say the least.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Doesn't it take longer than 1 or 1-1/2 school years to create a whole new College/Degree Program that's actually any good?

The actual process depends on the kind of institution. In the SUNY system, where I teach, it takes one-and-one-half to two school years to get a new program through all the relevant levels of administration, including SUNY Central; that's after the year or two, at least, of necessary planning and paperwork at the ground level (which has to include such things as budget, likely student enrollment, cost to establish the program, proof that the university is likely to have the resources for the program, proof that the university has a place to put the program...). And then, you have to hire people, which generally takes another full year. At a private university, where everything can stay in-house, it's a different matter, unless the university requires external reviewers before a program can get going. (So, yeah, it's not very likely that Michigan State U will have a full-fledged doctoral program with ten TT faculty by 2017; 2019 or 2020 would be more likely.)

That said, Yale not having the funds to cover free tuition, room and board for students from a sub-75k household? Hard to believe.

Yale (Harvard, Princeton...) should be able to handle such a thing without a problem. Ironically, less-expensive state universities, which have seen their appropriations slashed drastically over the past few years, may not be in a position to make such arrangements. That's one area where the pressure needs to be applied at the state level; certainly, the SUNY unions have had no success in getting state money back. We got excited just because the governor agreed not to siphon off additional money raised by tuition increases!
posted by thomas j wise at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


We got excited just because the governor agreed not to siphon off additional money raised by tuition increases!

Wait, that's possible? The state government can take tuition money and shove it back to the general budget? Holy shit that should be illegal. What the living fuck.
posted by el io at 12:26 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the (many) things that suck about the academy is that going into academia is a bad financial decision for many. One delays earnings and retirement savings for a big chunk of time (often one's late 20s, which is a good time to maximize on retirement savings before one has kids and a mortgage) (and if one lives in a more expensive area or cannot get full funding, take on loan debt) to enter a job market that is uncertain at best. Some people get adjunct gigs without benefits, some people get teaching jobs with benefits that pay $30-50k/year, and some lucky few (like me) get research/teaching jobs with benefits that pay $60-100k/year and salary increases are small and infrequent. But the odds of getting any of these jobs are slim. And the majority of jobs are in places that may not be appealing to people at a frivolous level or at an identity level (no LGBTQ community, no Synagogue, etc.) and your significant other needs to be okay with moving anywhere for a job.
So, ethically, should I, as a faculty member interacting with undergraduate students, encourage students to enter this system? And in particular students who come from a more disadvantaged background where they don't have the financial security of some others (and may be more likely to have to financially support aging parents or other family members), should I really be encouraging such students to go into this career?
posted by k8t at 12:30 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Another side point. In my experience PhD candidates and faculty of color sometimes (perhaps even often) have a lot of opportunities for jobs. Many universities really want a more diverse faculty and will do a lot to get fantastic researchers/scholars who happen to be PoC on their faculty.
posted by k8t at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2015


The most common demand is for a more diverse faculty. The unfortunate reality is that there simply aren't enough non-White people with doctorates or pursuing doctorates (or other terminal degrees) for every or even a significant number of institutions to hire additional faculty that makes their total makeup reflective of the student body or broader U.S. population... What may happen is that the most wealthy institutions (e.g., Yale) may be able to make significant gains in this area by outhiring the less wealthy institutions.

This is a classic example of making the perfect the enemy of the good.

First off, the problem here is not so much about PoC who are pursuing doctorates or other terminal degrees than it is about faculty turnover. At least in the sciences, a large department might have 2-3 tenure-track positions become available per year. The time required for 10% faculty turnover can probably be measured on the order of decades rather than years.

Second, having worked for years as a postdoc at one of those wealthy institutions, I can assure you that out-hiring is exactly what needs to happen. The gender ratio of professors in my department (which I can comment explicitly on) is appalling, and it's not being improved by the new hires. The heads of my department have spent ages excusing this -- either female candidates aren't high enough achievers relative to their male counterparts or other institutions are more competitive. The reality is that even a few female professors would dramatically improve the gender ratio in our department, but I think it's far easier to be the third or fourth minority professor than it is to be the first. If that means they need to offer a new minority hire more money, they ought to offer a new minority hire more money. If that means headhunting an established minority professor who is able to influence departmental decision making, then they need to headhunt an established minority professor.

Third, in general, in academia, not all universities are equal. Saying that the efforts by Ivy League professors to hire minority candidates actively harm 'less wealthy' (lower ranked; these are not synonymous) institutions is like saying that Google's efforts to diversify their workforce will make start-ups less diverse. Indeed, in the long run, it's likely to make academia more diverse: professors at top-tier universities are far more likely to produce students who go on to secure tenure-track positions at all levels in academia, and (again, mostly speaking from my experience based on gender) professors of a given minority are more likely to support students who are of the same minority. When I applied for grad school, one of the questions my undergraduate advisor told me to ask about was which professors I should avoid as a woman -- and (sadly) most of the professors that people named weren't elderly.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wait, that's possible? The state government can take tuition money and shove it back to the general budget? Holy shit that should be illegal. What the living fuck.

More likely the governor is reducing state appropriations by the amount raised from the tuition increase.
posted by sbutler at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2015


This is simply untrue. There are many qualified minority students getting PhDs. There are many qualified minority PhDs looking for jobs right now.

Yeah but are they in the right subfield that the department wants to hire? I'm in an extraordinarily white subfield in my discipline. I've never met a black PhD student in my subfield. Considering when a top university opens a line for a new job, there may be only a dozen or so candidates that could fit that role. Its not a stretch to conclude that few of those candidates are minority candidates when the subfield itself is very white.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yale not having the funds to cover free tuition, room and board for students from a sub-75k household? Hard to believe.

Yale, Harvard, and Stanford currently cover 100% of costs, including room and board, for anyone from a household making under 65k (as per their admissions sites here, here, and here), with a sliding scale of assorted coverage past that (for example, Stanford covers 100% of tuition for families making up to 125k). I'd suspect other rich schools (though clearly not Duke) have similar programs that I just haven't heard of.

Basically, elite institutions providing full free rides for poor students isn't as far beyond the pale as some people in this thread are arguing, though it may not be realistic for schools that don't have a similarly huge endowment.
posted by Itaxpica at 12:38 PM on December 4, 2015


Presumably "people of color" includes people with ethnic backgrounds from Asia and the subcontinent. In which case there are many very qualified PhDs in a number of disciplines who are very available.

I 100% support these students in looking for diversity. While I also support any initiative to bring more underrepresented minorities onto faculty, I would hope that the university communities do not reduce it to the absurdly literal binary of black and white.
posted by synapse at 12:59 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hiring women with PhDs is, I think, not the issue for students demanding more minority representation at colleges. Women may or may not be treated as equal to male colleagues while working, but I believe that the percentage of women PhDs is fairly high.

As for free tuition, the discussion should distinguish between State schools, which would be responsible for such tuition issues and private colleges, which might use endowment funds.
At present State schools are registering more and more out of state students in order to charge higher fees than in state students, thus cutting the chances for state students to attend their state schools, which their parents are taxed for.
posted by Postroad at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2015


While I also support any initiative to bring more underrepresented minorities onto faculty, I would hope that the university communities do not reduce it to the absurdly literal binary of black and white.

This is America we're talking about, so, more of then than not it will be reduced as much as possible. That way it's easier to unfurl a Mission Accomplished banner even when it hasn't.
posted by qcubed at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2015


It's more than absurd that, this long after Martin's speech and decades of learning curve, we have to go through more ... but alas, some of this stuff seems to wired into our monkey brains.

As a graduate of the 60s, I appreciate each and every one of them for caring enough to make a difference. We SHALL overcome.
posted by Twang at 1:15 PM on December 4, 2015


As long as they don't crossover into the realm of claiming violation from "microaggressions" and total offense to any free speech(speech they do not like), I'm ok with a lot of these demands.
posted by Muncle at 1:30 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do you put quote marks around microagressions?
posted by qcubed at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Muncle: Part of having free speech is having people take offense to your free speech.
posted by el io at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


(also, I found your comment offensive).
posted by el io at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why is it that so many "free speech" advocates (why do I feel like that should also be in quotes as well) have such thin skins that they can't stand to hear people talk about something like microaggressions or how offensive some kinds of speech are? What do they think "free speech" is?
posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on December 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


I really do not see how this is such an outlandish suggestion. A combined income of 75k isn't exactly living high on the hog

In the case of Missouri, the median household income in all counties is below $70k. Free room, board and tuition is going to be very, very expensive. And as a nationwide / statewide policy, incredibly regressive if admission to college is a requirement for receiving it, as academic preparedness criteria correlate strongly with socioeconomic status.

It'll work for Ivies (assuming their endowment managers negotiate around the private equity bubble). But the school I went to has double the enrollment of Yale, and a hundredth the endowment.
posted by pwnguin at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2015


What do they think "free speech" is?

They've been told that if they feel that they have to watch what they say lest they look like a git, that this is "self-censorship" and an infringement on free speech.

Pondering free speech as of late, I think I view it less as an end of itself, and more as a means to the end of promulgation of free, open, and diverse discourse within our society.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:40 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


More likely the governor is reducing state appropriations by the amount raised from the tuition increase.

Nope. It's been changing recently, but the state really does just take money that's already in university accounts and shovel it into the general fund.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:40 PM on December 4, 2015




I'm ok with a lot of these demands

Hallelujah! Someone call the student protestors - someone on the internet approves of their demands!
posted by sallybrown at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2015


Skepticism about microaggressions can be legitimate - for example if only it is raised in a relevant context, such as when discussing psychology, or sociology. Whereas if saying ""microaggressions"" is just a person's unexamined, unconsulted reaction to a foreign culture, and deployed in off-topic, premise-questioning way, it's just not helpful or constructive.
posted by polymodus at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2015


Apologies for dropping a long comment at the beginning of the discussion and not replying or participating further until now; it's been a long day with meetings and workshops with little time for web browsing and discussion.

steady-state strawberry, I don't think that I'm "making the perfect the enemy of the good." I'm just trying to state that many of the changes that are being demanded, especially those that focus on the hiring of a large number of very specialized people from minority populations, cannot happen on the timescale that these students are demanding. Many of these demands aren't completely unreasonable and can happen in a brief timespan (whether they *should* happen and whether they'd be effective in addressing the problems is a different discussion) but large organizations, especially those with little room to significantly change their budgets, cannot make large hires of specialized personnel this quickly especially when there aren't nearly enough people in the niche job market that is being tapped for these hires. We especially can't do this in the 1-5 year timespan envisioned by many students who want to see drastic change before they graduate.

I think that one_bean's idea - if we can't immediately hire more URMs then at least be damn sure that everyone we hire is a supportive ally and mentor so we can open up the pipelines - is a sound one. I think that is what some of my colleagues who are most concerned about this at my institution are talking about; I don't know how widespread this idea is but at least our provost is publicly supporting it which is a very good sign.
posted by ElKevbo at 5:28 PM on December 4, 2015


So, ethically, should I, as a faculty member interacting with undergraduate students, encourage students to enter this system? And in particular students who come from a more disadvantaged background where they don't have the financial security of some others (and may be more likely to have to financially support aging parents or other family members), should I really be encouraging such students to go into this career?

A thousand times this. I'm a refugee from academia myself who fled into business early in my career because I literally couldn't afford to be an adjunct anymore. If universities want to meet the demands of diversity (on any given axis) then they need to start paying structural attention to how they do business. My friends who are tenured faculty in the humanities have literally started warning students who are not independently wealthy against pursuing non-STEM PhD programs.

If the Universities were serious about meeting the demands of diversity in its faculty and administration, then they would start to address the broken adjunct system. Just because what the students are on to are not quick fixes, does not mean they should not be fixed.

Imagine what a powerful statement this would be for all of us: "We hear your demand about faculty diversity, and we can take the following short term steps to fix it. (xxx) However, we need to address the reality that really meeting the needs of diversity would mean changing the way we staff our school. As a first step we will support organisation among our adjunct faculty and try to drive improvements in compensation, conditions and benefits for these faculty members. If there are students interested in a future academic career, especially with a focus on diversity and social justice, who would like to be part of this dialogue then we welcome volunteers."

Then do it. You don't have to believe in an illusory overnight fix to take action in a positive way. None of these issues are impossible to change.
posted by frumiousb at 5:54 PM on December 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Earlier, chura chura wrote:

This is simply untrue. There are many qualified minority students getting PhDs. There are many qualified minority PhDs looking for jobs right now. Prioritizing hiring a diverse faculty is not imposing a diversity quota. It is not lowering faculty standards. It would entail is saying something like "One of our priorities is increasing representation of minorities in our department" and then going out of your way to attract minority candidates. There are ALL SORTS of organization for minority faculty and PhD students. There are all sorts of places where minorities in academia have conversation and come together - both online and at conferences. Advertise for jobs there. Send faculty representatives there. Ask people how you can make your department or institution a more welcoming place.

Oh, how I wish that was true in my field! I've got actual, solid, nearly-100%-response-rate numbers for PhD's in mathematics (this site has all the data for the last sixty years) and here's the story for math and statistics PhD's in 2012-13. There were 1843 PhD's that year. Just under a third of those were female (577 total, and for our field that's pretty damn impressive and also due to decades of serious effort in recruitment and retainment). But only 2% (44 total) were Black/African American. 2%.

Now, the employment picture for math/stats is pretty good; most people get jobs, with unemployment around 5%. So, let's say that our small college wanted to hire an African American math professor (and we really do! We have a good number of African American math majors, and it would be wonderful to have an African American professor!). For the year under question (2012-13), there were 1725 full-time positions offered, and a little more than half were tenure-track. What are the odds that a mid-list school like us is ever going to attract the attention of those 44 African-American graduates? How can we compete with the other 1724 positions, given that half of them are at better schools?

We keep trying. One year, I really thought we had it; a husband & wife team in math and history that were looking for a solution to their two-body problem and just wanted to settle down someplace nice. We exchanged emails. They seemed interested! But then they were snapped up by a PhD-granting school before we could even get them to visit us.

That was fifteen years ago.

The answer, of course is to keep trying, and to keep on creating support programs for minority undergrad students and for grad students. And progress is being made! But it's a long, long road. And I'm glad to see students demanding more minority faculty. We want it too! But it's going to take a long, long time.
posted by math at 6:00 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Students at the University of Rochester recently held a peaceful rally to present their demands to the University to improve the climate on campus. President Seligman responded (very, very favorably).

Full disclosure, my son attends the U of R.
posted by cooker girl at 6:01 PM on December 4, 2015


The unfortunate reality is that there simply aren't enough non-White people with doctorates or pursuing doctorates (or other terminal degrees) for every or even a significant number of institutions to hire additional faculty that makes their total makeup reflective of the student body or broader U.S. population. Both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education have recently written about this. What may happen is that the most wealthy institutions (e.g., Yale) may be able to make significant gains in this area by outhiring the less wealthy institutions. And hiring certainly doesn't address critical issues of retention for these faculty (e.g., this Chronicle of Higher Ed piece).

Just FYI, I hit a paywall on that Chronicle link.

Hiring of diverse faculty is not simple (especially in fields where there are almost no under-represented US minority PhDs in the pipeline), but even when that hiring is successful retention is a huge issue. Yale, in fact, has had some notable losses this year.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:32 PM on December 4, 2015


The unfortunate reality is that there simply aren't enough non-White people with doctorates or pursuing doctorates (or other terminal degrees) for every or even a significant number of institutions to hire additional faculty that makes their total makeup reflective of the student body or broader U.S. population.

Totally reflective might have to be a long-term goal, but I don't see why we shouldn't try to make things more reflective now. That would also produce positive feedback that could widen the pipeline for URM students in academia in the future.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein [previously on MeFi] has some things to say about this issue.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:26 PM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a chicken and egg problem to all this. Diversity is but a proxy for equity, which is what matters. But campus culture depends on its population, and vice versa. Combined with institutional inertia and that academia is just one slice within a larger structure - i.e., sandwiched between K-12 education and the real world - this is why meaningful change is so difficult, despite higher education being the place closest to such ideals.
posted by polymodus at 9:33 PM on December 4, 2015


[One comment deleted. We've been over and over and over the very general worry about the PC police, the campus nazis, the wimpy students, etc, many times in the last few years; we don't need to go down that same road in here, when we've otherwise been talking in more specific terms about how to fix some of the problems in higher ed.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:03 PM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


In thinking about POC with PhDs: Your PhD will not protect you.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:48 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm glad to see some discussion about microaggressions and free speech. Don't get me wrong everyone, I'm fine with people being offended by free speech. It is their right to be offended. I just get a little worried when people mobilize to silence free speech claiming they are being harmed by their words or creation. It isn't silencing people in the most literal sense but by convincing universities to create and enforce rules that are essentially censorship. This appears to go against the idea that schools should imbue students with the skills and tolerance necessary to be successful in the world after graduation.
It just reminds me of a time when a critical mass of people were able to get away with burning books and destroying visual art that they find offensive.

Something I personally find very offensive is how you can drive less that one mile from most urban k-12 schools(those with little money, poor resources and exhausted teachers) to another k-12 school(often in the suburbs) that has every amenity of a top university but there is no serious effort to fix this disparity. This is where the solutions begin.
posted by Muncle at 6:56 AM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of these demands are troubling.

From the Boston College demands: "7. Reform Pedagogy & Curriculum to Reduce Eurocentric Focus and Address Racism and diversity in the classroom"

The first part is where I am troubled. Sorry, undergrad, but having any outside force make proscirptsions as to what should be taught at the university setting is a horrible idea. Curricula have made massive increases in correcting Eurocentrism and bias over the past decades, and this has happened organically.

From Brown: "2. We demand visible and administrative accountability for departments and centers that have a tradition of racist hiring and retention policies and anti-Black pedagogy"

Again, its up to the prof.

Other's are sorta... absurd? From UVA:
"Every course should strive to recognize minority perspectives and every department should make it a goal to offer multiple courses that include or focus on minority perspectives within their field each semester. For example, Biology could study genetics across minority communities, or the ethical history of “progress” in relation to eugenics; Systems Engineering could discuss culturally sensitive industrial organization; and Classics could review the writings and lives of ancient minority writers"
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2015


Are you saying it's absurd to research genetics of marginalized populations?

One of the issues in current medicine is that the sample subjects for many experiments tend to draw from a largely Western pool, which can have unintended side effects.

And what's absurd with studying examples of culturally sensitive organizations?

Mind you, these are just examples, but if you think these lines of thought, research, and learning are absurd, maybe you're not defending the freedoms of academia as well as you think?
posted by qcubed at 7:35 AM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


It just reminds me of a time when a critical mass of people were able to get away with burning books and destroying visual art that they find offensive.

I mean, I like nazi comparisons as much as the next guy, but this sounds awfully like a slippery slope argument. Then again, I'm hardly surprised. All of these conversations seem to end up the same way.

1. Minorities use freedom of speech to say the exist and some of the racist shit they face should stop.

2. The privileged sputtering about free speech and safe spaces are bad and censorship.
posted by qcubed at 7:40 AM on December 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe the curriculum should be entirely up to the professor?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:50 AM on December 5, 2015


> The first part is where I am troubled. Sorry, undergrad, but having any outside force make proscirptsions

Saying that new/different/additional material should be included in the curriculum is not an outside force doing anything. Why are you blowing this up into something it's not? When I was in college - and I'm sure my alma mater was not the only one where this was/is the case - there were student advisory panels that worked to suggest new courses and different ways to approach current courses. Why would you say that students at a college suggesting changes to the curriculum are an "outside force"?
posted by rtha at 8:54 AM on December 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Maybe the curriculum should be entirely up to the professor?

Sorry, but no. If a professor is routinely adding bias into their classes, then someone (preferably the department head) needs to step in and make them knock it the fuck off. It's funny - the academy demands the right to act imperiously and to tell everyone to go pound sand, then are amazed when people choose to work with the administrators who actually at the very least look like they'll work with those groups.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why would you say that students at a college suggesting changes to the curriculum are an "outside force"?

Exactly this. As key members of the academic community, students--undergrad and grad alike--absolutely have a right to criticize what and how they are being taught and to make suggestions for how to improve their academic experience. It's their community, too.

Maybe the curriculum should be entirely up to the professor?

In my experience (which is not universal, of course), there are committees that ensure courses (esp. lower level classes, often taught by TAs and adjuncts) meet departmental standards and that they address specific student learning outcomes. So that, at minimum, students can take Physics 201 from prof A and not fail Physics 202 taught by prof B.

Upper level/grad seminars are less rigid but department curricular committees still are aware of what topics, literature, and authors/theories/techniques will be covered within the course.
posted by skye.dancer at 1:22 PM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Curricula have made massive increases in correcting Eurocentrism and bias over the past decades, and this has happened organically.

I agree. However, organic change is not necessarily sufficient to achieve lasting, structural change.
posted by skye.dancer at 1:38 PM on December 5, 2015


Maybe the curriculum should be entirely up to the professor?

Man, I hope you hold to this defense about the professors of Liberty University speaking and teaching bigoted things. And that you're in favor of medical professors teaching homeopathic remedies they believe in.

And especially for those professors who talk about social justice whatevers and single out white students for being complicit in systemic bigotry.
posted by qcubed at 1:44 PM on December 5, 2015


Maybe the curriculum should be entirely up to the professor?

Sure, that's worked out great for most of human history and certainly didn't result in systemic discrimination in higher education in any way whatsoever.
posted by Etrigan at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fortunately the primary goal of higher education is to educate and advance knowledge, not combat discrimination. Free speech is integral to that mission and many of these demands, if implemented, will limit free speech on campus.

The demands at Dartmouth explicitly call for bans on certain types of words and speech. Duke protests demand that professors be fired if they "perpetuate hate speech" (with no clear definition of what that is) and should be held liable for the effects of their "discriminatory attitudes". Emory protests have demanded that individuals on campus should be able to be sanctioned after a 'bias incident report' is submitted. In addition, professors should be punished for any 'racist actions'. Other protestors have demanded "repurcussions and sanctions" for those guilty of committing "racial bias". Many protestors have demanded sanctioning anyone affiliated with the university for 'hate speech'.

The thrust is that many of these demands are for the policing and sanctioning of language on campus with will invariably result in the curtailment of academic freedom. If these demands are met then that will mean that professors speech in the classroom will be subject to sanction by a bureacracy and that bureaucracy will be the agent that decides if that speech is 'hate speech' or not.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:00 PM on December 5, 2015


Fortunately the primary goal of higher education is to educate and advance knowledge, not combat discrimination.

How are these incompatible goals? The more humanity has overcome small-minded prejudice that locks significant portions of humanity out of contributing to our pool of knowledge, the more we have benefited. If a bunch of potential geniuses can't get an education because the world of higher education is hostile to them on purely irrational terms, we're shooting our collective selves in the foot.

Stop confusing "freedom of speech" with "freedom from consequences of one's speech." You can say whatever you want. No one is asking for anyone to be thrown into jail. But if you walked into your accounting firm and started spouting racism, and refused to stop when asked, most people would agree that your boss would be justified in firing you. How come it's different when we're talking about academics? Is racism considered to be some kind of higher truth that must be preserved somewhere? It's ignorance, and we should stop putting ignorance on a pedestal because it wears the veneer of respectability. How come these academics are considered "champions of free speech" when they are so fragile that they can't handle anyone criticizing their speech? They're the ones trying to silence people of color who are calling them out. How is that championing free speech?

The more we reinforce the idea that institutions of learning should be comfortable places for white people only, and that everyone else should be quiet, the more we fail at educating and advancing knowledge.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:14 PM on December 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I imagine it must really suck to not be able to say every dumb thing that comes into one's head just because it's hurtful to one's fellow human beings. That's definitely a tragedy on the level of, I don't know, having to slow down when you drive past a grade school?
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 PM on December 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, I can think of one incident where using racially charged language was potentially appropriate in class, and the teacher was punished (without significant due process, it seemed).

It is alleged that the professor was merely attempting to explain the word, and that lead to charges against him.

I know FIRE isn't popular here on the blue, but here is one of the many articles on the case.

From that link:
Brandeis sophomore Mike Mendel, a student in the Latin American politics class in which Hindley supposedly made the remark, said an overwhelming number of students in the class took Hindley’s side on the issue, including the Hispanic students who would have taken the most offense to the slur.
...
Brown said Hindley demonstrated against apartheid in South Africa and has sympathetic views on the disenfranchised and poverty-stricken areas of Latin America. He said Hindley is among the most outspoken professors against racism and discrimination.
Emory protests have demanded that individuals on campus should be able to be sanctioned after a 'bias incident report' is submitted.

If making an accusation results in punishment without due process (ie: an investigation, a way for the accused to defend themselves, etc), you can be assured that that process will be abused by some. And I'm certainly not implying it will be those that care about social justice or have progressive politics that would abuse such power.
posted by el io at 11:57 PM on December 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got my PhD at one of the schools in question (Duke, if it matters. I'm not sure that it does. I think the stories are the same everywhere). In addition to mentoring undergrads in research in our lab, I was a TA, so I got to know some undergrads well and got some feel for what it was like there. The joke among the students who talked to me was "Duke is very diverse. We have the richest kids from every country on earth."

Duke does have a scholarship program aimed at recruiting extremely gifted but poor(er) students from North and South Carolina, to help increase diversity (in addition to socioeconomic diversity, many of them were ethnic minorities because NC and SC) and combat the perception in the area that they vastly prefer students from New York and New Jersey. With my drawl and my class status being clearly more like theirs, I was a magnet for those kids, and I loved hanging out with them and being able to support and mentor them. I know that many of them chose to forgo their free room and board to live off campus with others from the same program because they felt so unwelcome on campus. I know that several of them started a new community outreach program to the (majority minority) public schools near campus because no such program existed, and they couldn't quite believe that.

As a woman in science, I also witnessed many other unpleasantnesses there. The Women in Science and Engineering group and the Bouchet Society supporting underrepresented minorities in the sciences had joint meetings where we could talk about things like imposter syndrome and also just confirm for each other that we weren't paranoid or misunderstanding our own experiences.

I saw faculty members neglect grad students who were non-native English speakers, American ethnic minorities, and women, while those same faculty members were excellent mentors for white male native English speakers. By neglect I mean suddenly refuse to mentor someone once they return from years of field work and actually need to meet with you. I mean 9 years in the PhD program then leave with a master's. I mean the rest of the committee has signed off on their dissertation but their advisor still hasn't read it.

I saw faculty members invite those white male students to all manner of fun bonding experiences outside of the lab.

I saw a brilliant disabled student be rejected from the PhD program because "It would just be too hard". She got her PhD elsewhere and is doing great.

I was lucky enough to pick for my dissertation committee not one but two men who (I learned later) "just don't work well with women". I got the PhD, my life is good, but they made sure that I suffered for it.

When I got there, I expected to end up teaching at an elite liberal arts college. Instead, I chose to teach at "the most diverse college in the south", a public, open-access college with the cheapest 4-year degree in the state of Georgia. And I guess I owe Duke for putting me on that path.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:19 AM on December 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


How come it's different when we're talking about academics?

Because of academic freedom. Its that simple.

The point is qutie simple and its suprising how much mental gymnastics are required to not get it. Empowering bureaucracies to place restrictions on speech will restrict speech. The people who will determine if the speech is racist is... who? The administration? students? are we all going to agree that what someone said was racist? Who decides? Are they going to be right most of the time? What if they are wrong?

Note that these demands aren't that that "hey, some people say offensive things and we would like those people to be educated on those issues" its these demands want people fired, want repurcussions, and want sanctions.

Stop confusing "freedom of speech" with "freedom from consequences of one's speech." You can say whatever you want. No one is asking for anyone to be thrown into jail.

Did you read what they demanded? They demanded that people be punished or fired for saying things that they perceive to be racist. No one is saying that there shouldn't be consequences for what one says, but those consequences shouldn't be institutionalized via bureaucratic sanction.

Note too that some state schools are explicitly run by the state and therefore the first amendement does apply.

I should note that there is not an epidemic of academics saying overtly racist things full of hate speech. The racism that occurs in higher education--like most other forms of racism today--is systematic, more subtle, and much harder to detect. This means that these sanctions are not meant to regulate slurs or such, but to punish and fire professors for more subtle forms of racism. And bureacratic sanction is supposed to solve this?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:30 AM on December 6, 2015


If making an accusation results in punishment without due process (ie: an investigation, a way for the accused to defend themselves, etc), you can be assured that that process will be abused by some. And I'm certainly not implying it will be those that care about social justice or have progressive politics that would abuse such power.

Exactly. And its not even abuse--bad outcomes will occur just because of misperception and misunderstanding,
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:50 AM on December 6, 2015


Are they going to be right most of the time? What if they are wrong?

You're right. We shouldn't even try.
posted by Etrigan at 6:10 AM on December 6, 2015


> No one is saying that there shouldn't be consequences for what one says, but those consequences shouldn't be institutionalized via bureaucratic sanction.

For many kinds of speech, even yes at public universities, they already are. The First Amendment is not without fetters and never has been.

Also, it's really tiring to read people like you focus so exclusively on the demands like this that make up such a small proportion of the overall changes that protesters are asking for. In the Dartmouth doc, for instance, their speech-sanctions bullet points come way down near the end, after pages and pages and PAGES of other changes (recruitment, hiring, retention, etc) but no can't talk about that, must discuss in enormous and exhausting detail why it would be wrong to have a policy that might carry the possibility of firing a professor who uses the classroom to talk about the inferiority of people of color or women.
posted by rtha at 6:24 AM on December 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


No one is saying that there shouldn't be consequences for what one says, but those consequences shouldn't be institutionalized via bureaucratic sanction.

Workplace "consequences" that explicitly reject any form of actual punishment from one's employer are meaningless. If the worst that can happen to someone is a slap on the wrist, and they know it'll never escalate beyond that, it sends the message that this isn't a big deal. How does racism get institutionalized, if not through a systematic refusal to consider racism a serious problem that should warrant an equally serious response as any other behavior that would be considered inappropriate?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:06 AM on December 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of material I taught my first semester, especially about theory and early ethnographic research, which is definitely not my strong suit, was the stuff I sort of unquestioningly was told was important. So if that meant talking about Boas and Evans-Pritchard and Malinowski that's what I did (all canonically important white male anthropologists). But then I wondered why I didn't talk about Jomo Kenyatta or Zora Neale Hurston or Ruth Brown (canonically important anthropology PhDs who are not white men) and so I included them and their research the next time I taught. It wasn't like I had to totally overhaul my theory lecture, it wasn't a victory for politically correct censorship out whatever. It just allowed me to draw attention to the fact that basically since the beginning of our field, women and people of color have been contributing and participating and theorizing and impacting the way we understand human behavior and culture.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


In other words, diversifying your syllabus doesn't have to mean throwing in the towel and going all postmodern, or whatever. It's just important for all students to learn and acknowledge the fact that there are a lot of people who aren't white men and women making important contributions in all fields of inquiry. Give a few examples in your lecture, think critically about what you have students read and why, choose a few case studies that have a slightly different focus than the rest of them do.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:15 AM on December 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm just trying to state that many of the changes that are being demanded, especially those that focus on the hiring of a large number of very specialized people from minority populations, cannot happen on the timescale that these students are demanding.

I get that. But saying that a department can't go from 0% PoC to 30% PoC in a few years (which I totally agree with, though I think the ultimate limit here is departmental turnover rather than a supply of potential candidates) doesn't mean that it can't go from 0% PoC to 10% PoC -- and, in all negotiations, it's better for people to bring an unrealistic request to the table. My objection has more to do with the way that you exploited (largely false) concerns about institutional economic inequality to justify the lack of an effort to recruit racial minorities.

Did you read what they demanded? They demanded that people be punished or fired for saying things that they perceive to be racist. No one is saying that there shouldn't be consequences for what one says, but those consequences shouldn't be institutionalized via bureaucratic sanction.

Since Yale is one of the institutions people have been talking about, I'm just going to point out that there have been recent cases in which the administration has taken action against groups whose behavior could have been justified as a form of "free speech." For example, in 2010, a frat (Delta Kappa Epsilon) went around chanting "no means yes, yes means anal!" as part of a hazing ritual.

The student response was rapid. To their credit, after initial attempts to defend themselves, DKE appears to have issued an apology.

Despite the apology, however, in response, they were suspended for five years. (From the Yale News coverage as well.)

So there's very clear prescident for Yale -- and, by analogy, other institutions -- severely punishing groups for hate-related free speech. They could have done this here. They chose not to.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:15 AM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The racism that occurs in higher education--like most other forms of racism today--is systematic, more subtle, and much harder to detect.

Sure.

This means that these sanctions are not meant to regulate slurs or such, but to punish and fire professors for more subtle forms of racism. And bureacratic sanction is supposed to solve this?

Do you have a better solution? Why don't you go tell those students and have them update their demands?

Or would you rather just snipe at those students while just handwringing about racism they're dealing with every day and how they're just wrong about how they're dealing with it?
posted by qcubed at 9:16 AM on December 6, 2015


You know, actually, I don't know why I bother with these things.

I suppose it is easier to just keep on with the status quo, which is rife with systemic bigotry, instead of trying to do anything, anything at all to remedy the situation.
posted by qcubed at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please note that I never said these students should do nothing at all, so I would appreciate a good faith effort to read what I wrote on its own terms. What I have been arguing is that any measure, regardless of its intentions, designed to restrict academic freedom (note this doesn't apply to the hate-related speech of student organizations like steady-state strawberry has mentioned) is going to be rightfully fought tooth and nail by many of the faculty. This is because many faculty--especially those who teach contentious topics--are worried about facing punishment because of something they said in a classroom.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2015


Exactly. And its not even abuse--bad outcomes will occur just because of misperception and misunderstanding,

Ah, my favorite two weasel words for dismissing the experience of minorities. Guess what - if someone thinks that what someone says is racist, it's a bit offensive to dismiss that statement as being that individual just didn't understand what was being said.

Please note that I never said these students should do nothing at all, so I would appreciate a good faith effort to read what I wrote on its own terms. What I have been arguing is that any measure, regardless of its intentions, designed to restrict academic freedom (note this doesn't apply to the hate-related speech of student organizations like steady-state strawberry has mentioned) is going to be rightfully fought tooth and nail by many of the faculty. This is because many faculty--especially those who teach contentious topics--are worried about facing punishment because of something they said in a classroom.

And what people are pointing out is that, despite their fervent belief to the contrary, the academy's shit does, most assuredly, stink. Academia has a long and ignoble history of mistreating minorities for centuries, and a long and ignoble history of defending such abuse under the guise of "academic freedom". Is it really no surprise then that the people who have been subjected to such abuse have long since ceased caring about a principle that has been used to defend it?
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, my favorite two weasel words for dismissing the experience of minorities.

I applied those words not to the experience of minorities but to the bureacratic process, but its clear a legitimate conversation is not going to be had here with such accusations flung.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:03 PM on December 6, 2015


I applied those words not to the experience of minorities but to the bureacratic process,

They're still weasel words in that context. People and organizations have the right to interpret events as they see fit, and to try to make the argument that their failure to see events in the manner you do is a result of them not properly seeing things is a form of gaslighting.

but its clear a legitimate conversation is not going to be had here with such accusations flung.

Well, I agree that a legitimate conversation was never going to be had, but that's because you weren't interested in one in the first place. You wanted to assert the primacy of academic freedom over all else, and were absolutely shocked when people instead stated that "hey, academic freedom should not be a 'get out of abuse free' card." As I've said in many threads, the biggest threat to these sorts of ideals is when they're used as a means to excuse and cover up abuse, because that erodes support for them, ultimately undercutting the principle.

If you really want to defend academic freedom, then don't let it be an excuse for bigotry in the classroom. The academy created this problem by refusing to clean their own house - now they're finding that if they refuse to do it, then it will be done for them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


What I have been arguing is that any measure, regardless of its intentions, designed to restrict academic freedom (note this doesn't apply to the hate-related speech of student organizations like steady-state strawberry has mentioned) is going to be rightfully fought tooth and nail by many of the faculty.

I don't doubt that your prediction will hold true in many cases. But it's a given that pretty much any challenge to the status quo will result in push-back by groups who feel threatened.

From my perspective, these students' demands are the opening salvo in what ideally will be a productive (if possibly heated) dialog/negotiation with other members of their academic communities about improving their university experience. The students will not, of course, have all of their demands met. But that doesn't strike me as a reason for them to preemptively limit their demands to only the things they think won't get push-back or that might be easy to achieve. After all, when you negotiate, you ask for what you want and see what offer/counter-offer the other party will make; you don't start out begging for whatever scraps you think you might get.

This is because many faculty--especially those who teach contentious topics--are worried about facing punishment because of something they said in a classroom.

This is part of the negotiation. Some changes the students propose may be relatively easy to implement, others may be difficult, impossible, or highly contentious requiring a lot of discussion, analysis, the formation of cross-community committees and panels to study the matter, etc. before implementing a compromise. In the case you describe, faculty would probably work with their deans/etc. to craft clear standards for classroom behavior that would also address student concerns.
posted by skye.dancer at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


The Atlantic has a good summary and timeline of all the various protests, including any results.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2015


Erica Christakis resigns

"Among those expressing concern about the Christakis announcement was Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Robin is a prominent voice of the academic left on Twitter...

More issues are raised, Robin wrote on Twitter, by someone in a teaching position who feels unable to teach because of political pressure over her ideas. "All the evidence suggests she is an excellent, popular teacher; the only reason she is stepping down is because of political views she has expressed in the public sphere," Robin wrote."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:55 PM on December 8, 2015


Yeah, Robin's absolutely wrong here.

She's not stepping down because of her espoused political views. She's stepping down because she publicly said that the university asking students to not be dicks to their fellow classmates by wearing racially offensive costumes was a blow to free speech, and found out that a lot of people had a problem with that.

Once again freedom of speech is not freedom from the consequences of that speech. Nobody stopped her from saying what she thought - they just used their own freedom of speech to state how they felt about it, and how they felt that made her unable to fill her position of associate master (which, by the way, she has not resigned from.) And frankly, if this is the sort of response that professors are going to have when publicly challenged on what they say, then it is the academy, not the students, who has the thin skin and intolerance of criticism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:07 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]






Luckily, the NCAA will make sure this bill dies on the vine, because the last thing they want is for a state to enshrine in law the idea that these players are employees.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:59 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]




 Speechbros, Concern Trolls, and the Free-Speech Fraud
 These events seem like a new but persistent feature of the social landscape: a double riot that needs to be grasped as a unified event.

That work is already being done, not in theory but in practice. The events on campus this fall have cascaded from Missouri to Yale, and then across the country. Each incident has its own particulars, but the repetition testifies that this is something structural—something beyond a callous president here, some supposedly coddled students there. The political trajectory was launched by the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and the riots that followed, increasingly branded as #BlackLivesMatter. The movement has landed on over 20 quads, with more to come—the anger over ceaseless racial threat entwining with the recognition of campus as one more zone of unfreedom. The contemporary university is increasingly a financial concern with some classrooms attached. Its austerity programs are enacted unevenly on different populations, requiring ever more aggressive enforcement, both physical and ideological. This has included defending something like the right to racism itself, under the aegis of “free speech.” The response has been a distributed and ongoing event we might call the campus race riot, the double riot simplified into one.

This outcome of complex and long-­developing events has been zealously misnamed the “free-speech wars.” It is nothing of the sort. It’s a struggle against a long-standing commitment to racial violence—a struggle in which shouting “Free speech!” is a move that one side likes. That side likes to pretend it is not a side, that it simply wants to maintain abstract principles assuring the fairness of all future fights. That side has cops.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:52 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


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