Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Gender Neutral" Housing

Earlier this year, Ohio University announced a new pilot program for gender-neutral housing, which has become all the rage on college campuses. The program allows people of “all genders” to live together in the dorms.

Some of my older readers might assume this is just a lame attempt by middle-aged administrators to seem cool by allowing male and female students to shack up together. You’d be wrong. These days, gender-neutral housing is mostly a bow to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students who demand their own special dorms. OU’s student newspaper praised the “progressive step,” which is mostly meant “to accommodate those students who identify as transgender.”

The idea that college life is so tough for gay and transgendered students that they need separate housing is preposterous. Far from being uniquely oppressed, the LGBT contingent is often the most catered-to of any group on campus. Administrators go to great lengths to satisfy these students while simultaneously nurturing a victimhood complex.

The Weekly Standard’s Heather MacDonald wrote about this phenomenon two years ago in an article titled “Victimology 101 at Yale.” Two months after announcing serious budget cuts to compensate for a 25% decrease in its endowment, Yale rolled out a brand-new Office of LGBTQ Resources.

The LGBT community had accused Yale of creating an “alien, hostile environment”—despite the fact that Yale had pioneered the field of gay studies, issued the Pink Book (“an official reference guide to courses geared towards lesbian and gay concerns”), and hired a special deans’ assistant for LGBT issues. The students were in a huff about not having their own office space.

“The fact that we don't actually have a physical space says lots about Yale's stance towards LGBT life on the ground at a metaphorical level,” one student whined to the school paper. The school responded by securing this “physical space” as soon as possible.

After they demanded—and got—their own office in the midst of budget cuts, these self-absorbed students moved on to their next complaint: the lack of gender-neutral housing. Yale quickly formed a committee to implement it. They conceded that this was mainly a concession to transgender students, although, according to MacDonald, “there is no suggestion in any of the news coverage that Yale has tried to determine how many transgender students are actually enrolled at Yale.”

This is the same Yale that refused to allow five Orthodox Jews to live off-campus in 1998. Unlike the LGBT contingent, the Jewish students didn’t ask the school to set aside special dorms or overhaul housing policies just for them. They simply asked to be exempt from the housing requirement because the dorm atmosphere (which includes co-ed bathrooms) conflicted with their religious lifestyle.

Yale said no. They called the residency requirement “a central part of Yale’s education,” and sent the implicit message: “If our student housing makes you uncomfortable, don’t come here.” But when LGBT students demanded special accommodations, Yale dropped everything to form a committee that could give them exactly what they wanted.

Although I don’t support self-segregation among college students—whether they’re gay or religious—this does show where administrators’ priorities lie. If you’re a student looking for a dorm atmosphere that suits your “personal values” and makes you feel comfortable at all times, you’d best be a member of a group with liberal victimhood status.


British photography phobia again

Schoolgirl threatened with arrest for filming teachers end-of-term show

A schoolgirl who filmed her teachers performing an “embarrassing” end-of-term show had her iPod confiscated and was threatened with prosecution. Jessica Cocks, 13, had the device taken away by teachers and was told that police were investigating whether she had committed a crime.

The pupil had secretly filmed an X Factor-style show which teachers put on as a treat at the end of the autumn term. She captured several minutes’ footage of staff attempting to sing and dance, which pupils had paid 50p to watch. She was spotted filming by one of the teachers and told that her iPod Touch would be confiscated until the start of the new term.

On learning of the incident, Jessica’s mother, Sharon, went to see Mark Parry, the head teacher at St Peter’s Church of England School in Exeter. He told her that the device could not be returned because police were investigating whether her daughter had committed a crime by filming staff. He refused to reveal why he thought it could be a police matter.

Mrs Cocks said Jessica spent the Christmas holidays terrified about the prospect of prosecution. But when Mrs Cocks and her husband Graham, 52, a taxi driver, contacted Devon and Cornwall Police they were told that the incident was not a police matter and no crime had been reported at the school.

Yesterday, Mrs Cocks, 47, said: “I’m very angry about the inappropriate way my child was disciplined. I have no idea why they did it, perhaps they were embarrassed by their performance in the show. “To threaten a child with police action when they have committed no crime is a disgrace. She was so worried it ruined her Christmas. “I know she needed to be punished, but I would have preferred if she had been excluded.’’

Jessica had the phone confiscated during the show on Dec 19 and was allowed to collect it on Jan 4. Footage from the performance, which was not deleted from the device, shows six teachers taking to the stage to sing and dance.

The family is seeking an apology from the school. A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that no complaint had been made by the school in relation to the incident. The school declined to comment.


Australia: A refuge from NSW government schools getting ever more expensive

The state's richest schools are more out of reach than ever to ordinary families. In the 10 years since the Howard government introduced a funding system to make private schools more affordable, the most expensive schools' fees have risen by about 100 per cent - against inflation of 37 per cent.

At Trinity Grammar, a private school for boys in primary and high school, year 12 fees have increased from $10,020 in 2001 to $25,330 this year - a rise of 153 per cent.

Scots College, at Bellevue Hill, will charge as much as $28,296 for year 12 day students this year. Scots' headmaster Ian Lambert said this was all-inclusive, unlike schools that charged for additional expenses.

The Howard government made assurances that its socio-economic status funding model, introduced in 2001, would keep a lid on fee rises. The model aims to allocate funding to schools based on the socio-economic status of the families of their students. But it uses census data to measure the average wealth of families in the areas where they live.

This has drawn criticism of the funding for schools such as Kings, which draws some of its students from wealthy farming families, even if they live in relatively poor areas.

Under its "no losers" policy, the Howard government refused to cut funding to schools, even if they were entitled to less under the new funding arrangement. This has meant that more than half the schools funded under the system have received more than their strict entitlement.

The Rudd and Gillard governments have maintained the $27 billion four-year funding arrangement, despite a federal Department of Education review finding it delivered $2.7 billion in overpayments. The inflated payments will grow to at least $3 billion by the end of 2016 if the current system continues.

The Gillard government has commissioned a panel of eminent Australians, headed by Sydney businessman David Gonski, to review schools funding. Mr Gonski told a recent meeting of the Australian Education Union that the charge for his panel was to address disadvantage. He said a direct measure of parents' income or occupation might be a more effective measure for funding needs than census data.

"The panel believes that the focus on equity should be ensuring that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possession," he said. The funding system should be "transparent, fair, equitable and financially sustainable".

Of NSW's 20 most expensive schools, the 17 that provided full details lifted fees by an average of 102 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Cranbrook, at Bellevue Hill, managed a surplus $8.4 million while receiving a Commonwealth subsidy of $3.5 million. Malek Fahd Islamic school, at Greenacre, got one of the biggest subsidies - $15.46 million.

The Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation, which oversees 16 schools including Roseville College, received $88 million in government revenue in 2009, when it also posted a $20.7 million surplus. In 2004 the corporation received $45.4 million and posted a $13.95 million surplus. Laurie Scandrett, chief executive of the corporation, said enrolments had increased by 28 per cent between 2004 to 2009.

Funding for independent schools is tied to the average recurrent cost of funding government secondary schools, which rose by 24 per cent between 2004 and 2009. "Multiply these together and that will explain the increase in the government revenue," Dr Scandrett said.

In 2009, he said, parents had paid $85 million in addition to the $88 million in government subsidies.

Some of the "accounting surplus" included capital grants, such as those awarded under the Building the Education Revolution. Of the $20.7 million surplus, $12 million was used to pay loans on school land and buildings; the rest went to capital works. "Any surplus earnings, after day-to-day operating expenses are deducted, are retained for SASC's self-preservation, expansion and future plans," he said.

The chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said education costs had increased by about 8 per cent last year and on average about 6 per cent a year since 2001.

"Independent school fees have to take into account both recurrent and capital costs, so it is not surprising that fees have had to increase at or above these average figures over the years," Dr Newcombe said.

Trevor Cobold, from Save Our Schools, a public school advocacy group, said the wealthiest schools had become more exclusive. "The fee increase is more than double the cost increases in private schools. The wage price index for private education and training increased by only 44 per cent between 2001 and 2010 …

The school funding review has to put a stop to this appalling waste of taxpayer funds."

A Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "There are grave concerns that Julia Gillard's schools funding review panel will not understand the frustration felt by public sector teachers and parents after 11 years of watching ever greater amounts of government money flooding into wealthy private schools."


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