Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Continuing concern regarding Supreme Court

Once seen as untouched by political ideology, the Trump appointed conservative swing of the Supreme Court first signaled willingness to challenge Roe v. Wade and now it's coming for affirmative action. Appeals to Harvard's and the University of North Carolina's admissions processes will result in potentially fundamental challenge to what the trial judge in the UNC case found - that "UNC defendants produced substantial, credible, and largely uncontested evidence that it has made the deliberate decision to pursue the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity." This broad benefit to all is discarded by conservatives who dispense research that supposedly documents bias in admissions decisions. The Supreme Court's willingness to consider the Harvard and UNC case is a high stakes matter that "threatens the nation's ideals of equality," said the NAACP's Legal and Educational Defense Fund Director.

The educational benefit of diversity for everyone, students, families, and society at large, are vast at this time of contested ideologies. Overturning this commitment would do irreparable harm and would turn back the clock on progress that has been made and more yet to be realized. The irony is that "Students for Fair Admissions" filing with the Supreme Court claimed that affirmative action undermines advances achieved through the civil rights movement, although the opposition to affirmative action has been simmering since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Thirty-four briefs filed by conservative groups to support the lawsuit. As University of Houston law professor, Michael A. Olivas is quoted, "I... worried the day could again come when the court would revisit the issue. In those soul-searching moments, however, I never imagined a Supreme Court stacked by a President Trump, willing to act in an unprecedented and unprincipled way with the Senate to reverse Roe v. Wade - and now also perhaps affirmative action."

Accepting that minority students have historically and systematically been denied access to higher education is essential to understanding the intent of affirmative action. However, 3 out of 4 in a Pew survey oppose consideration of race in college admissions and with large numbers of Americans opposing affirmative action overall, it is up for grabs. A Chicago Tribune editorial suggested that a supply chain strategy might be a viable alternative to affirmative action. The idea is to provide consistent and broadly available support systems that address educational equity. The point of increasing student success for all is that privileged white students are more likely to have built in supports from family and advanced knowledge of how systems work, resulting in their accessing services and asking for help when they need it. A supply chain strategy to respond to a more diverse student population would offer visible and easily accessible support to all.

Due to higher performance on admissions tests and their academic records, the proportion of Asian American students at elite institutions grew dramatically in the early 1990s. It then leveled off and is now surging again. Although comprising a small percentage of U.S.A. students, the number and proportion of Asian American students is a complicating factor in conservatives' challenge to affirmative action. The question is "what is to be done if a specific demographic group has an inherent advantage in relation to selection criteria?"

My personal prediction is that after Roe v. Wade and affirmative action, free v. civil speech will be the next issue that will likely come to the Supreme Court. It's just a matter of time until conservative students are able to convince courts that they've been discriminated against in campus speech codes and speaker/lecturer selections. Academic conversation can and should be challenging and fostering campus environments that include many perspectives should be the goal.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Arizona State University to offer online business in 40 languages

In Arizona State University's continued online emergence, the latest twist is their online business certificate that is projected to reach 100 million participants worldwide by 2030. The Thunderbird School of Global Management, whose Dean Sanjeev Khagram says is "the most global and digital management and leadership academic in the world," will target participants in the developing world by cultivating their business and entrepreneurial capacity.

Skeptics of the Thunderbird initiative say that the number of potential certificate seekers is hyper-exaggerated and others question how any program could be translated into 40 different languages in meaningful and culturally-respectful ways. Leadership scholars vary in their embrace of the GLOBE research that claims to have created a model that differentiates elements of leadership according to unique cultures.

It appears that ASU has competition in new initiatives. The University of Arizona Global Campus has a big vision as well but is facing scrutiny from its creditors and has enrollment challenges.

One has to question such ambitious, although potentially worthy, goals for the business and entrepreneurship program that could spread across the world. Will the content be truly adaptable to local circumstances or will the result be the imposition of prescriptive models that result in uniformity around the world? On the other case, the race for online dominance has many risks if quality is not a central focus.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Study abroad - reopening and impact

Students' studying abroad collapsed as a result of the pandemic. With exposure to other cultures and learning about the interconnected world in which we live increasing in importance, the rebound in U.S. students studying abroad is a welcome trend. After numerous study abroad programs were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, students substituted virtual alternatives or rearranged their academic schedules to include an international experience before they graduate. The destinations students are considering have necessarily, and unfortunately, shifted back to Europe and away from countries such as India.

One of the interesting implications of study abroad is that a University of Georgia analysis of 35 U.S. institutions found that those who included studying outside their home country persisted to graduation, and a faster rate, than students who did not. When interpreting or celebrating this result for study abroad students, it's important to recognize that those able to expend the time and money may have advantaging demographic characteristics that would influence graduation outcomes.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

HBCUs report bomb threats

The information on bomb threats at eight HBCUs on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, offered little speculation about the cause and if, or how, these threats were coordinated. And, the University of Utah's Black Cultural Center received a bomb threat on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Additional HBCUs were threatened Monday, January 31, and again on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, likely chosen because it was the first day of Black History Month. Continuing the 2-month long surge, Howard University experienced another threat along with three more institutions during the second week of February, 2022. Hampton University received a bomb threat on February 23. Curry College reported threats against Black people on its campus on February 22 and have sustained vandalism and graffiti. These incidents are deeply troubling and will require ongoing focus by campus administrators in the coming days, regardless of whether in HBCUs or PWIs.

It isn't just about the passing panic of the threats and the inconveniences they have caused, it's the impact on the sense of safety and security and the ongoing mental health risks for of all those who attend any HBCU or participate in programs advocating racial understanding and respect. In the words of Tymek Jones, a student leader at Howard University, "students have been fearful and anxious ever since the first threats..., especially knowing the history that lies within bombing Black communities and Black spaces." Hearings were held by Congress and federal funds to assist HBCUs with safety and security offered assistance. Some critics said that investigation of the perpetrators was more important.

As the bomb threatens continued, it became increasingly clear that they were either coordinated, or the result of copycat, acts of white supremacy. An article in Psychology Today cited the persistence of COVID coupled with racism and the weariness of engaging in activism as creating high levels of stress for students of color. The authors advocated taking positive action, enhancing protective factors, and students of color and allies working together, as ways to cope and to overcome racial disparity.

There is not much question that HBCUs are more comfortable learning environments for the Black and other students who attend them, which has led to some institutional leaders proposing branch campuses where no HBCUs are currently available. Some HBCUs have joined together on course-sharing, allowing their students to take courses at cooperating HBCUs when courses are not available from their home institutions. In order to diversify their employees, some major companies are partnering with HBCUs to recruit new hires, a move that is likely to further enhance the attractiveness of HBCUs and other minority serving institutions. These moves are timely alternatives to attract and hold Black and other minority students who seek more supportive campus environments.

A Stanford study previously warned of the possible increase of threats to HBCUs as a result of increases in their enrollments. The increases were credited to fears among students of color associated with the police violence and the protests that emerged over it during 2019. Those who sought safe havens could become new targets, one that is triggering to "faculty members who grew up in that era (1970s) where you're in church and someone calls in a bomb threat." Stanford has experienced 3 incidents of nooses being displayed on its campus, leading to naming them as hate crimes.

The other coincidental or intentional link is that the bomb threats came two days before the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, insurrection of Trump supporters attempting to overturn the 2020 election returns.