Monthly Archives: February 2017

Campus Rape Policies

WASHINGTON — The letters have come in to her office by the hundreds, heartfelt missives from college students, mostly men, who had been accused of rape or sexual assault. Some had lost scholarships. Some had been expelled. A mother stumbled upon her son trying to take his own life, recalled Candice E. Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education.

“Listening to her talk about walking in and finding him in the middle of trying to kill himself because his life and his future were gone, and he was forever branded a rapist — that’s haunting,” said Ms. Jackson, describing a meeting with the mother of a young man who had been accused of sexual assault three months after his first sexual encounter.

The young man, who maintained he was innocent, had hoped to become a doctor.

In recent years, on campus after campus, from the University of Virginia to Columbia University, from Duke to Stanford, higher education has been roiled by high-profile cases of sexual assault accusations. Now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is stepping into that maelstrom. On Thursday, she will meet in private with women who say they were assaulted, accused students and their families, advocates for both sides and higher education officials, the first step in a contentious effort to re-examine policies of President Barack Obama, who made expansive use of his powers to investigate the way universities and colleges handle sexual violence.

How university and college administrations have dealt with campus sexual misconduct charges has become one of the most volatile issues in higher education, with many women saying higher education leaders have not taken their trauma seriously. But the Obama administration’s response sparked a backlash, not just from the accused and their families but from well-regarded law school professors who say new rules went too far.

In an interview previewing her plans, Ms. Jackson, who heads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and organized Thursday’s sessions, made clear that she believes investigations under the 1972 law known as Title IX have gone deeply awry. A sexual assault survivor herself, she said she sees “a red flag that something’s not quite right” — and that the rights of accused students have too often been ignored

Hundreds of cases are still pending, some for years, she said, because investigators were “specifically told to keep looking until you find the violation” on college campuses even after they found none — a charge her critics strongly deny.

As of Monday, the office had 496 open sexual assault cases, and the average length of a case is 703 days, according to the department. The longest pending higher education cases, against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Arizona State University, have been open for more than five years. The office is required to complete 80 percent of its investigations within 180 days.

Candice Jackson, center, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education, in October 2016. Ms. Jackson believes that the rights of students accused of sexual assault have too often been ignored. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Jackson said that “90 percent” of sexual assault accusations on campus “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”

Ms. Jackson later apologized, called her remarks “flippant” and said they were based on feedback from accused students. That did not mollify victims of sexual assault and their supporters, who staged a protest outside the Education Department headquarters Thursday morning.

Candice Jackson, who leads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, last year. She recently apologized for comments about the origin of sexual assault at college campuses. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

“Unfortunately those remarks are now out there, and at the highest levels they need to undo that damage by countering those myths about rape,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, which helped organize the demonstration.

Referring to Ms. DeVos, she said: “She has to reject the idea that rape is just regretted sex. She has to reject the idea that most women lie, and she has to say it and say it and say it again.”

One major issue before Ms. DeVos is whether to rescind a letter issued in 2011 by the Obama administration that urged colleges and universities to take a tough stance on rape on campus or risk losing federal funding. Another question is whether her department will instruct schools to change the standard of evidence used to determine whether students are responsible for sexual assault. The Obama administration asked colleges to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard, a lower bar than the “clear and convincing evidence” threshold that many schools had been using. Some accused students have protested that the lower standard turned nebulous cases into grounds for discipline or suspension

Columbia University

It was a performance art piece that became famous: A woman who felt that Columbia University had mishandled her charge of rape against a fellow student turned that anger into her senior arts thesis, a yearlong project in which she carried a 50-pound mattress whenever she was on the Morningside Heights campus.

The woman, Emma Sulkowicz, won national acclaim and was largely embraced by her fellow students, who often helped her carry her burden, which she even brought to a graduation ceremony in May 2015.

The accused man, Paul Nungesser, who was cleared of responsibility in the case by a university disciplinary panel, found himself alternately hounded and ostracized, and condemned at a campus rally and on fliers posted around campus. A month before he and Ms. Sulkowicz received their degrees, he sued Columbia, accusing it of supporting what he called an “outrageous display of harassment and defamation” by giving Ms. Sulkowicz academic credit for her project.

Columbia said late this week that it had reached a settlement with Mr. Nungesser, the terms of which it did not disclose. But the university said in a statement: “Columbia recognizes that after the conclusion of the investigation, Paul’s remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience. Columbia will continue to review and update its policies toward ensuring that every student — accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible — is treated respectfully and as a full member of the Columbia community.”

Wm. Theodore de Bary, a venerable Columbia University educator and distinguished scholar of China who was credited with broadening the way colleges nationwide study Asia, died on Friday at his home in Tappan, N.Y. He was 97.

His death was announced by Robert Hornsby, a spokesman for the university.

Professor de Bary was an internationally esteemed Sinologist with a shelf of at least 30 books to his credit, either written or edited by him, and a bevy of academic awards and honors, including the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama.

More locally, on the university campus in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, he was the consummate Columbia man — “one of the towering figures of modern Columbia history,” as Columbia College Today declared in 2013, a courtly figure “with the bow-tied elegance and comportment of a seasoned ambassador.”

As an editor, Professor de Bary presented thinkers from various Asian cultures in their own words in dozens of books that became standards in the field, elevating Asian studies far beyond Columbia to a prominence once reserved for European scholarship. In 1987, The New York Times reported that his “Sources of Chinese Tradition” had been the fourth-best-selling nonfiction book in universities over the last 25 years.

 His particular focus was in explicating the thoughts of the great Chinese sage Confucius as they were interpreted over the centuries. The Journal of Chinese Religions in 1987 praised his explorations of how the Confucian belief system became “a major component of the moral and spiritual fiber of the peoples of East Asia.”

Professor de Bary offered detailed evidence that Confucian thought, as reinterpreted in 17th-century China, had a radical core that justified revolutionary action. It was a view diametrically opposed to that of China’s most consequential revolutionary, Mao Zedong, who saw Confucius as the consummate reactionary.

In a 1988 lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor de Bary wryly noted that Mao, after decades of censoring any mention of Confucius, had to revive the philosopher’s memory in the 1960s in order to revile him.

New York Schools

The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City. They often drew inspiration from surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, jazz, improvisational theater, experimental music, and the interaction of friends in the New York City art world’s vanguard circle.

Concerning the New York School poets, critics argued that their work was a reaction to the Confessionalist movement in Contemporary Poetry. Their poetic subject matter was often light, violent, or observational, while their writing style was often described as cosmopolitan and world-traveled.The poets often wrote in an immediate and spontaneous manner reminiscent of stream of consciousness writing, often using vivid imagery. They drew on inspiration from Surrealismand the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular the action painting of their friends in the New York City art world circle such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

The New York School which represented the New York abstract expressionists of the 1950s was documented through a series of artists’ committee invitational exhibitionscommencing with the 9th Street Art Exhibition in 1951 and followed by consecutive exhibitions at the Stable Gallery, NYC: Second Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1953;[2] Third Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1954;[3] Fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1955;[4] Fifth Annual Exhibitions of Painting and Sculpture, 1956[5] and Sixth New York Artists’ Annual Exhibition, 1957.[6] Included in the New York School were Bradley Walker Tomlin (1899–1953), Rosemarie Beck (1923–2003) and Philip Guston (1913–1980)

 

Martin Guichardo’s first shot at high school did not go well. While attending Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, which has over 3,500 students, he would skip class to hang out with his friends, and he rapidly fell behind.

By the fall of what should have been his senior year, in 2006, he had only nine of the 44 credits he would need to graduate. A counselor told him that if he stayed at F.D.R., it might take him several more years to finish.

But she suggested another option: a small school that had recently opened called West Brooklyn Community High School, dedicated to helping students who had gotten off-track get their diplomas. In its more intimate setting, with a lot of one-on-one attention from teachers and counselors, Mr. Guichardo buckled down and was able to graduate in 2008.

“Without West Brooklyn, I think I would have probably ended up dropping out or going for a G.E.D.,” said Mr. Guichardo, 27, who is now a commercial pilot. “I’m really, really glad I had that opportunity.”

West Brooklyn Community High School is what is known in New York City as a transfer school. The city’s Education Department now runs 51 such schools, serving 13,000 students.

The schools are small, and many of them work with community-based organizations to offer counseling, college and career advising, and internships. They have a significantly better track record than other high schools in graduating students who are two or more years behind. But because students often enter transfer schools with few credits, it can take them six, seven or even eight years in total to graduate.

Now advocates and city education officials fear the schools may be in danger. On Monday, the State Education Department is expected to present the Board of Regents with regulations to conform with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind. Under the expected regulations, the vast majority of the city’s transfer schools would be designated as “in need of improvement” and could be at risk of being closed.

Under the regulations, schools that fall short of a six-year graduation rate of 67 percent would be put on a list to receive “comprehensive support and improvement.” Only four of the city’s 51 transfer schools currently meet, or are on track to meet, that benchmark.

If a school could not get off the list within three years, it could be moved into the state’s receivership program, which could eventually lead it to close.

Student Homelessness

Since the onset of the economic recession, rates of student homelessness have increased rapidly in urban, suburban, and rural school districts throughout the United States. Despite the widespread urgency of the issue, there is a lack of general coherence in the research about how diverse conditions of homelessness affect students and how schools and communities can best serve them. This literature review attempts to deepen scholars’ understandings of such matters by examining (a) homeless students’ school experience in comparison to that of other students, (b) federal policy’s shaping of homeless students’ rights and opportunities, and (c) homeless students’ key support mechanisms. The author suggests that these three focus areas provide foundational insights into the nature and extent of students’ opportunities to succeed in school. Although homeless students’ experiences are noted to be similar to those of residentially stable low-income students, they appeared to be distinguishable based on their high rates of isolation and school mobility. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was found to have profound formative influences on the wider field of practice, but its full implementation is limited by the disconnected nature of students’ diverse support mechanisms. Based on the findings, the author suggests that researchers and practitioners consider the people, places, and policies that affect students in more holistic manners—as networks of practice.

A student at LaGuardia Community College recounts his two-year struggle with homelessness, showing a reporter and a photographer where he found shelter. Take the tour

College students live on ramen noodles. College students couch-surf. These popular images can obscure more ominous realities: hunger and the little acknowledged problem that some do not have a place to live at all.

“‘Homeless college student’ seems like a contradiction in terms,” said Paul Toro, a psychology professor at Wayne State University who studies poverty and homelessness. “If you’re someone who has the wherewithal to get yourself into college, well, of course you should be immune to homelessness. But that just isn’t the case.”

It’s difficult to know exactly how many students are homeless, or are dangling dangerously close to it, in part because of the enormous stigma surrounding the issue. But new research shows how pervasive a problem it is — and one that some educators believe is growing.