Two members of the US Commission on Civil Rights, Pete Kirsanow and Gail Heriot, have written to congressional leaders urging them to reject the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights proposed thirty-one percent budget increase.

In their letter, Kirsanow and Heriot note that they “have noticed a disturbing pattern of disregard for the rule of law at OCR,” and “[t]hat office has all-too-often been willing to define perfectly legal conduct as unlawful.”

Though OCR may claim to be under-funded, its resources are stretched thin largely because it has so often chosen to address violations it has made up out of thin air. Increasing OCR’s budget would in effect reward the agency for frequently over- stepping the law. It also would provide OCR with additional resources to undertake more ill-considered initiatives for which it lacks authority. We strongly encourage Congress to take into account this troubling pattern of over reach in deciding whether to support the President’s proposed increases to OCR’s budget.

The letter goes on to reference how OCR has expanded the definition of “bullying” and “harassment” — an “error” which “is entirely unforced”:

No federal civil rights statute requires OCR to undertake such an expansive initiative. Insofar as there is statutory authority allowing OCR to regulate bullying at all, it is much more limited than OCR’s initiative. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 … states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance …” This provision has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to make schools civilly liable for failing to remedy student-on-student sex harassment but “only where [the school districts] are deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, of which they have actual knowledge, that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.” By analogy, those who advocate federal intervention into bullying argue that a school district that is deliberately indifferent to bullying based on sexual orientation should be liable if the circumstances match those in Davis.

The commissioners also address problems with “racially proportionate” discipline measures.

The College Fix previously reported on a controversial (racial) discipline policy in the Minneapolis Public Schools, which Commissioner Kirsanow said was “legally suspect.”

Read the full letter from the commissioners.

h/t to Hans Bader.

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After a doctoral student suggested getting rid of racial descriptions in crime alerts at the University of Minnesota, the school decided to meet him halfway.

Minnesota Daily reports that the school will be “more selective” in mentioning race in the alerts:

The school will now include suspect descriptions in its alerts only if there is information specific enough to help identify a person or group, according to an email sent to University faculty members, students and staff.

The modified alerts are part of an effort to make the University community feel more comfortable, according to an email from Vice President for University Services Pam Wheelock and President Eric Kaler. …

Wheelock, along with University police Chief Greg Hestness, will now decide what to include in the alerts on a case-by-case basis.

This is important because the campus was “hit with a string of violent crimes in fall 2013 — including a sexual assault and an attempted armed robbery — prompting safety discussions among administrators and the campus community,” the Daily says.

Read the story.

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It seems February — officially Black History Month — doesn’t sit well with some (black) University of Pennsylvania students.

Concerns range from it being seen as “separatist,” to the view that black history should be a “year-round” thing.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports:

“I think Black History Month is good at providing awareness, but we should aim to make progress year round,” UMOJA co-chair and College sophomore Ray Clark said.

“I generally like Black History Month because it is a time for people to learn about, discuss and recognize the achievements and contributions that African-Americans have made throughout history,” College sophomore Courtney Sloan said.

Despite her belief that Black History Month promotes positive discussion, she also sees a negative implication of dividing black history from American history as a whole.

“I also feel that the celebration of this month sort of implies that there are two historical narratives: American history and black history,” Sloan said. “But black history is American history. Black people’s achievements and accomplishments should be recognized as an integral part of the general American narrative, not as a separate story that can be only taught and celebrated one month a year.”

She is not alone in her reservations. Sydney Morris, a College freshman, worries that Black History Month can also potentially marginalize the black experience overall.

Any history teacher worth his/her salt will always weave the black experience into the total American historical narrative.

Still, Ms. Sloan, among others, should realize that her words about “dividing” and “separating” are borderline heresy in the politically correct academy.

Lumping everyone together as “Americans” and/or adhering to a “color-blind” philosophy have even been dubbed racist.

Read the full article.

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Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon announced the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” at the end of January, and said the school has committed one million dollars per year “to further this diversity initiative.”

Vice provost for academic initiatives Denise Anthony, who’s helping “retain and recruit a diverse faculty,” said “To the extent that we are an educational institution and really training the next generation of thinkers and leaders, it is also necessary to have a diverse faculty to be training those leaders to recognize the value of diversity.”

The Dartmouth reports:

Her [Anthony’s] goal, she said, is to increase recruitment and retention for underrepresented groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans in a variety of fields and women in science. Any time a department does a faculty search, that department works with the dean to create a search committee. The $1 million in annual funds will go in part toward increasing resources for department search committees, such as websites and literature on unconscious bias that search committees can utilize before they commence a search, she said. These resources will be available to any department.

Success for the program would mean an increase in the number of underrepresented faculty and in their retention, along with the full engagement of those faculty members.

Chair of the African and African American studies program and English professor Gretchen Gerzina, who has been teaching at the College for 10 years, said that she thinks faculty of color leave Dartmouth for a variety of reasons — the relative isolation of campus, the inability for the partners of some professors to secure a job in the area and the draw of bigger institutions who might have attributes, such as a multitude of graduate students, that the College cannot offer.

“If Dartmouth wants to keep somebody, they have the means to do it,” Gerzina said. “The question is if the reasons people are leaving are personal reasons that Dartmouth can’t address.”

Gerzina added that “having a diverse faculty helps expose students to other important viewpoints.” Without such, she says, students won’t be “very well prepared to face the global-wide community.”

Does Prof. Gerzina include in those “other important viewpoints” political and ideological opinions …?

In addition, which is more vitally important to an employer: knowing the skill and material necessary for the job … or having been exposed to a “[racially/culturally] diverse faculty” while in college?

Read the full article.

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The University of Minnesota has a problem with minorities and “other marginalized communities,” so after releasing a report on the “campus climate,” it convened a huge discussion to talk about ways to make the campus more “welcoming,” Minnesota Daily reported.

One idea? Make it harder to find criminal suspects:

Nicholas Goldsmith, a doctoral student in the College of Biological Sciences … helped lead a discussion on crime alerts, saying the University shouldn’t include a suspect’s race in the alerts. He said the descriptions are too broad to be useful, and instead may induce negative biases toward students of color.

Not all the ideas are so, well, impractical: Goldsmith himself said the school should focus more on retaining students rather than leaving them on their own after recruitment.

The participants split up into “discussion circles” and their suggestions were put into reports, which you can read here. One refers to the fight over funding for the Chicano Studies department, which The College Fix has covered in the context of a supposedly offensive “Galactic Fiesta” bowling party.

Read the Daily story.

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Back on January 26, The College Fix reported on a situation involving New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s son and Yale University.

Blow’s son Tahj appeared to match the description of a burglar who had been reported in the area. A Yale police officer stopped Tahj at gunpoint, and the department detained him briefly.

The elder Blow took to Twitter to lambaste the Yale PD, stating, among other things, that he has “NO PATIENCE for ppl trying to convince me that the fear these young blk men feel isn’t real.”

Blow neglected to note that the officer who detained his son is black. The head of the Yale PD is also black.

Now, the Yale Police Benevolent Association, “an independent union [that] represents YPD officers,” is dismayed at the Yale administration’s response, claiming “it created a presumption of guilt.”

The Yale Daily News reports:

References to incidences where unarmed men were killed by police officers was disproportional, and had “no place” in a discussion of a simple burglary investigation, the [YPBA] statement said.

Defending the actions of the police officer who drew his weapon, the YPBA argued that the administration’s reaction “has a chilling effect on officer safety and may yield a consequence that results in the death or serious physical injury of one of our officers.”

“We completely support our officer in his actions,” a statement from the YPBA read. “Yale needs to unequivocally support its police officers when their actions are reasonable and appropriate; not sacrifice them for political expediency.”

The statement further noted that the officer’s decision to draw his gun was in fact in line with the “reasonable officer standard of review.” The University’s investigation into the event, it suggested, should therefore find the officer’s actions justified.

In condemning the administration’s reaction, the YPBA’s statement argued that the University responded to the incident in the way it did because of public optics.

The YPBA statement also asked if Yale would have reacted similarly had Tahj Blow not been “the son of an influential newspaper columnist and television commentator.”

Read the full article.

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