Archive for education

Bad Mess at Evergreen

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington has earned its renown as an experimental – indeed avant-garde – institution; its ‘progressive’ bona-fides have been warranted as well. Back in the day, I explored the possibility of taking a faculty position in entrepreneurship there. Although it didn’t come through, this institution has remained close to my heart.

A recent controversy at Evergreen has made national news and has placed at least one professor as well as students and staff in potential peril. From the New York Times:

[Professor Bret] Weinstein, who identifies himself as “deeply progressive,” is just the kind of teacher that students at one of the most left-wing colleges in the country would admire. Instead, he has become a victim of an increasingly widespread campaign by leftist students against anyone who dares challenge ideological orthodoxy on campus.

This professor’s crime? He had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation.

A bit of background: The “Day of Absence” is an Evergreen tradition that stretches back to the 1970s. As Mr. Weinstein explained on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, “in previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus — a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning.” This year, the script was flipped: “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave campus for the day’s activities,” reported the student newspaper on the change. The decision was made after students of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

Mr. Weinstein thought this was wrong. The biology professor said as much in a letter to Rashida Love, the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.” The first instance, he argued, “is a forceful call to consciousness.” The second “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

Seattle’s The Stranger reports on the “campus lockdown” ordered at Evergreen late this week “after local law enforcement officials received a call with a “direct threat to campus safety'”:

Student activists say they’ve been unfairly maligned. “While it is probably true that some of our strategies were very passionate, they were also peaceful,” an Evergreen student, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in an e-mail. “And while it might be true there was some ‘harassment’ (a subjective term), it was on the lines of condemnation and scorn, rather than threats and stalking.”

One student, who asked to remain anonymous out of safety concerns, said death threats to campus activists followed Weinstein’s media appearances. “A swastika appeared on campus. Student personal information was published on 4chan channels and other neo-Nazi and violent racist internet communities,” the student told The Stranger.

Said another student: “Calling these people ‘Weinstein supporters’ would be irresponsible of me. These people are mostly organized racists from off campus that use internet presence, anonymity, and misinformation to disrupt a narrative, and the threat of violence to suppress those who would fight back.”

Professor Weinstein fears that his and other students have been placed at risk:

On Twitter, [he] claimed that his student supporters were being threatened online by his critics. He subsequently tweeted: “I’m told people are doxing those that protested against me. I don’t know if it’s true. If it is, *please stop.* No good can come from that.” The biology instructor also said that Evergreen campus police warned him that he was “not safe on campus. They can not protect me.”

Student demonstrators refuted Weinstein’s claims that their supporters had attempted to dox the teacher’s supporters. They believe the media’s focus on Weinstein is a distraction from their chief concern: ongoing issues revolving around racism, sexism, and transphobia at Evergreen.

Many of Weinstein’s faculty colleagues want him punished.

Look at Bret Weinstein’s “Rate My Professors” page.

Here are some of the demands from students who objected to Weinstein’s published statements .

A member of the State Legislature has introduced a bill to de-fund and privatize Evergreen.

As a professor and as a person with many fond memories of the energetic intellectual and moral debates I shared or witnessed as a young student at SUNY/Buffalo and Stanford University, I find this Evergreen mess dismaying to the point of heartbreak.

h/t LH

Friday night lights

My advanced-communications students have their final exam tonight – a Friday night! I made the exam short and, if not sweet, at least not sour. I have not met these students in person before; I taught this course online for the first time this semester; it will be good to see their faces.

It will be good just to go outside in the sunshine. For almost three weeks I’ve been holed up at home, nursing an abscess in my jaw and whining about it insufferably. (If you complain about the same thing at least three times in the same hour, you are no longer complaining; you are *whining*. My personal definition.) The jaw feels a bit better today and, as I said, there is sunshine out there.

Teaching

Early this morning I guest-lectured, via Skype, in Professor Frank Grasso‘s class on parapsychology at Brooklyn College, CUNY. The students were wonderful. I arrived prepared! Such a beautiful day.

classprep

Come to Canada

In a tart post this morning Atrios notes that he would be

shocked if foreign enrollment in [American] colleges and universities wasn’t down 10%+ next year (I completely made up that figure, of course, but you get the idea) even if they started handing out green cards to anyone who asked for one. And those institutions really rely on full paying foreign students these days, for better or for worse (certainly for worse in some ways, but just ripping away that revenue source isn’t going to help).

Prediction: If the travel bans and if the “extreme vetting” stay in place, Canadian universities like Kwantlen will see a surge in applications. And what a tremendous thing that would be for my country and for my colleagues in postsecondary institutions across Canada. But at such a cost.

cross-posted from nocontest.ca

My university’s president, Dr. Alan Davis …

… issued a statement about the past two days that I want to share here:

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) proudly and unabashedly embraces diversity, and remains steadfastly committed to the values of inclusion and belonging.

For this reason, I am deeply disturbed by events of the last few days. On Sunday, six people were killed and many more were injured during an attack on Muslim worshipers at a Quebec mosque. On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting travel to the United States for 90 days on individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

KPU stands with Universities Canada in expressing our opposition to the executive action taken by the Trump government. …

It was only three months ago that KPU was proud to join with SFU and the City of Surrey to become Canada’s first international City of Refuge, and to work together to offer temporary sanctuary—respite from danger and fear—to writers and artists who are persecuted in their home countries for their creative work. …

Among KPU’s international student population are students from countries affected by the travel ban, and we are currently reaching out to those students directly. Students from other countries who come to KPU to study enrich the university’s global learning environment by furthering cross-cultural engagement. To these students, I offer the university’s abiding encouragement and support, and a pledge that we will do our utmost to ensure their academic experiences are minimally impacted by the order. Further, we remain committed to supporting the international academic pursuits of all our students and faculty members, and that includes maintaining our relationships with universities around the world. …

In terms of any pending or current education leaves, professional development or scholarly activities, KPU strongly advises those who might be subject to these travel restrictions to carefully consider whether their travel plans should be amended in light of the current situation.

Further, we understand that these restrictions may impact the ability of scholars to freely travel across borders.  In some instances, some of those scholars may have been scheduled to speak at KPU. We will review on a case-by-case basis any instances where these travel restrictions will impact plans to have visiting scholars speak at KPU and what might be done to still ensure their voices are heard. …

Hence: Teaching Manners

In a blog post this morning called “A Raging Snowflake,” my good friend Clarissa writes:

Remember the Oppressed Tiffany, a very special snowflake whose “narrative was erased by the entire field of academia” when a hapless prof asked her to work on her writing?

The administration of her college is now going to humiliate the entire teaching faculty by forcing them to attend classes on microaggressions to appease the raging snowflake. Serves them right for not figuring out that their job is not to teach the snowflakes but to praise them slavishly and exuberantly without pause.

I normally tend to agree with Clarissa but need to part ways with her here. The unnamed professor apparently announced his/her suspicions – that the student had plagiarized an assignment – to the entire class. There is never a reason to humiliate a student that way, IMHO, even if you have proof of such wrongdoing, and there doesn’t seem to have been any in this case.

Below is a photograph of part of the assignment. The professor indicates that this student could not have used the word “hence.” I might have been offended by that remark, too!

hence

I am not certain that this teacher was trying to “marginalize” a Latina student. The prof was, though, certainly being a real oaf and, in those moments, a terrible teacher.

And, too, who the heck doesn’t know the word “hence” – in an academic environment? I teach students from all over the world, and practically to a person the word “hence” is in their vocabulary, and if anything used too often.

By the way, you should read Clarissa’s blog every day. She is very prolific, opinionated, brilliant, and vivid. A joy.

h/t Clarissa

Teacher

In the New York Times’ obituary of Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, the Times reporter asks the famous chef Bobby Flay whether Hamilton was a good cook herself.

“I think she was O.K.,” he replied, then cited an even greater gift. “But she was very good at getting some of the best chefs in the world to cook for her.”