Friday, October 17, 2014

Federally mandated and intrusive "training" at a community college

If you have been thinking all this time that federal funding of higher education doesn’t have content-control purse strings attached to it, guess what? You’ve been deluding yourself. And it’s time to wake up and smell the student programming:

“A new training at Laramie County Community College has reportedly been asking students some personal questions. In an effort to follow new federal rules, the college recently started requiring that students complete a new training, college president Joe Schaffer said at a recent Board of Trustees meeting.”

And what, you might ask, does that “training” consist of? “Drug and alcohol awareness and abuse, harassment and sexual conduct and violence… The training gives information on how to handle different situations …” Schaffer said.

But the “training – a mandated two-hour course – has some students up in arms. “Some of the topics covered and the questions have made students uncomfortable,” Schaffer said. “Some of the questions … have been about past sexual behavior or experiences.”

And just what “federal rules,” you might ask, necessitate LCCC’s delving into its students’ “sexual experiences”? Those would be the Department of Education’s Title IX regulations concerning sexual violence, along with the 1990 Clery Act, passed after Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986.

Well, who doesn’t want to prevent campus sexual violence? That’s a laudable goal. But it’s highly questionable whether the approach taken by the feds will ever achieve it. I doubt that the next campus molester will be paying any attention to the mandates of the course. Unless someone wants to claim that respect for rights and a “sensitivity” to the needs of others has ever been at the top of a criminal’s concerns?

No, the solution to such travesties would be better security forces and stiffer prosecutions, not intrusive questions about students’ alcohol consumption or past sexual conduct, all in the name of “campus safety.”

But never mind all of that, for Mr. Schaffer continues: “It’s helpful for us to know, is this a major issue on our campus or not?”

I don’t know, Mr. Schaffer: Has anyone been raped and murdered in your campus dorms lately? But Mr. Schaffer doesn’t just stop there: “We can argue are (students) answering truthfully or not, and there is going to be some of that. But those questions are intended to get us an understanding of what students are doing.”

And that is the point where Mr. Schaffer unwittingly lets the federally mandated cat out of the bag. He reveals the real reason for this disaster of a “training” course: Not “campus safety” but to gain “an understanding of what students are doing.”

What’s next, Mr. Schaffer? Questions about political orientation? Or the financial histories of your students’ families?

If so, this wouldn’t be the first time a government that funded the educational system took such a course of action, as the Communists in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union were famous for purging university students who weren’t members of the Party or who had “bourgeoisie” parents. (So much for the “right” to an education.)

Yes, I know, Mr. Schaffer. You are only following the orders of your federal educrat masters. But I would like you to honestly tell me, if you can, that you aren’t busily realizing the fundamental precept lying at the root of this catastrophe: They who control the educational purse strings control the educational content as well.

Once that precept is implemented, Mr. Schaffer, the rest is merely a matter of time. As the federal takeover of all levels of education proceeds amok, count on it: More and more stipulations, requirements, decrees, edicts, directives, commandments, “training” courses and mandates will be passed on down from on high. And you – as college president – will eventually have to choose whether you want to be a fellow slave driver or whether you’ll resign and find honest work somewhere else.

But to be fair to you, it should be noted that you have been working with the questionnaire vendor to have some of the more offensive questions removed: “There are some questions that are very, very personal,” Schaffer said, “and from an institutional perspective, we don’t see how we would use that information in any productive way.”

Well, that’s a plus at least, Mr. Schaffer, and you deserve credit for that. But if you really want to scrap that questionnaire completely, there’s only one way you’ll be able to do it: Quit accepting the federal loot. For those dollars are the golden handcuffs by which your institutional sovereignty has disappeared.


Teachers Sue Union for Censoring Charitable Donations

Two teachers have taken Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union to court over its attempt to decide which charities may be supported by teachers as an alternative when they decline to join the union on religious grounds.

The teachers, Chris Meier from Lancaster County and Jane Ladley from Chester County, are required—as a condition of employment—either to be a member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association or pay a nonmember “fair share” fee of $435.

Last spring, PSEA accepted Meier and Ladley’s status as religious objectors. In lieu of paying membership dues, state law instructed the teachers to pay a “fair share” fee to a charity of their choice.

Pennsylvania law stipulates that religious objectors must select a “non-religious charity” that is “agreed upon” by the union, but it does not specify a procedure or deadline for reaching that agreement.

Meier, an Advanced Placement economics and history teacher, chose the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which provides free legal advice and representation to teachers like himself.

But because that foundation represented teachers in unrelated lawsuits against the PSEA, the union told Meier his charity was a “conflict of interest,” and he must choose a different organization.

Meier, a father of three who calls himself a “bona fide religious objector” to the PSEA, was not going to give up easily.

“I want the freedom of choice—to be able to donate to the charity I choose,” he said in a press release.

Ladley, who is retiring this year after teaching students with learning disabilities for 25 years, initially chose a scholarship fund for high school seniors interested in studying the Constitution. But the PSEA sent her a letter in March saying she must choose a “nonpolitical” charity instead.

“I shouldn’t have to agree with the PSEA; that’s the whole point of being a religious objector,” she told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Ladley next selected the Constitutional Organization of Liberty, a charity that provides educational materials on the Constitution and American history. The teachers union didn’t respond to this second choice.

The two public school teachers, who are represented by lawyer Nathan R. Bohlander of the The Fairness Center, filed a lawsuit Sept. 18. They  argue:

The PSEA cannot maintain a unilateral ‘policy’ of withholding funds and restricting religious objectors’ choice of a substitute charity simply because the charity is, in the union’s view, ‘political,’ or otherwise takes positions with which the PSEA does not agree.

In blocking the teachers’ donations to certain organizations, Bohlander told The Daily Signal, the PSEA not only was enforcing “restrictive” policies but also being hypocritical.

“When the PSEA first told Ladley she could not give to political organizations, they gave her an approved list of 12 alternative organizations they supported,” the lawyer said.

After looking into those organizations, Bohlander found that “over half spend hundreds of thousands—or millions—of dollars on direct political lobbying,” while the organization Ladley chose is “dwarfed” in comparison.

PSEA spokesman David Broderic told The Patriot-News that the union only just learned of the lawsuit and is in the process of reviewing it. Broderic emphasized that  state law lays the foundation for the union policy.

We are charged with following the law. We make every effort to accommodate charitable requests. And we’ll continue to do that.

However, Bohlander said that promoting groups that the union fundamentally agrees with while inhibiting organizations with which it disagrees is “hypocritical.”

Now, Meier and Ladley’s donations are being held indefinitely in an interest-bearing escrow account —another issue their lawsuit seeks to address.

“There’s no mechanism for resolving this—it’s taken out automatically, and it can go out indefinitely without any resolution,” Bohlander said.

The money is not being used by the teachers, it’s not being used by the union, and it’s not being used by the charity. The relative size of a small charity like the one Ladley chose would be greatly benefited by $400.

The PSEA faced an Oct. 9 deadline to respond to the complaint by Ladley and Meier.

“They are telling me which groups I have to choose,” Ladley said of the union. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted.”

Broderic, the union’s lawyer, also told The Patriot-News that Ladley and Meier were among only eight educators with religious objections to the “fair share” fee whose designated charities were under union review.

Of the union’s 180,000 members, he said, 200 have religious objections to paying the fee and their charitable choices were approved.


UK: National Union of Students refuses to condemn ISIS due to fears it would be 'Islamophobic'

The National Union of Students has come under fire after it refused to condemn ISIS - because of fears it was 'Islamophobic'.

Students put forward a motion at the body's National Executive Council meeting calling for the condemnation of terrorist atrocities and support for the Iraqi people.

But the call was defeated after a rebellion led by Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said the motion was merely a 'justification for war'.

It comes a day after military chiefs from around the globe met to discuss the battle against ISIS and despite a number of Muslim leaders in Britain having condemned the extremist group.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'Islamophobia is a meaningless term used by irrational people when unable to rebut a rational criticism.

'Malia Bouattia should realise how lucky she is to be able to stand up and express her opinions with freedom and security. 'She would not enjoy the same freedom if she were to visit the ISIS/ISIL that she refuses to condemn, and protested her opinions.'

Another added: 'I personally would find something rather Islamophobic in Ms Bouattia's idea that condemning ISIS is also to condemn the other, approximately two billion Muslims on the planet - who don't rape minorities or murder journalists.

'They don't want ISIS to carry out such attacks in the name of their religion, and who in the West have repeatedly begged not to be associated with the activities of "Islamic" State.

'If the vast majority of Muslim students in the UK are in fact repeatedly standing up and telling you that they don't like ISIS, that these terrorists don't represent their faith, that they don't want to be associated with them in any way - then how exactly is not condemning ISIS helping to fight Islamophobia?'

The motion, proposed by Daniel Cooper, was raised at the National Union of Students' NEC meeting at Derbyshire House in London in September.

It put forward seven suggestions as to how the body could support the ongoing battle with the Islamic State.

The motion stated: 'To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi, Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this situation.

'To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular support the hard-pressed student, workers' and women's organisations against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.

'To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.

'To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.

'Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.

'To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees. and To issue a statement on the above basis.'

But Birmingham student Malia Bouattia led a team who either abstained or voted against the proposal, leading to the motion's defeat.  She said: 'We recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia.  'This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.

'The NUS Black Students' Campaign stands in support of Black communities across the globe and uncompromisingly against imperialism and Western interference which history shows all too often leads to the suffering of Black people.

'We stand in complete solidarity with the Kurdish people against the recent attacks by ISIS and join many others in condemnation of their brutal actions.

'The NUS Black Students' Campaign will be working with Kurdish students and the International Students Campaign to raise this issue within the NUS.'  She added that she will now begin work on a revised motion which will not be 'Islamophobic'.

But Daniel Cooper, who proposed the motion, said he could not see any signs of Islamophobia.

He said: 'I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.

'There is a stranglehold of "identity politics" on the student movement.

'This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad.'

Earlier this year Muslim leaders in Britain condemned ISIS expressing their 'grave concern' at continued violence in its name.

Representatives from both the Sunni and Shia groups in the UK relayed their message that the militant group does not represent the majority of Muslims.

Shuja Shafi, of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said at the time: 'Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion.'

As international condemnation of the extremists continued to grow this week, US President Barack Obama met with representatives from a global coalition of 22 countries to discuss the battle against ISIS.

Representatives from Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq and Jordan were among those who attended the meeting.

In a statement, the NUS said: 'At our most recent NEC meeting, a motion on this issue was presented and voted on by all members.

'Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn.

'NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people.'


Kafka Was the Rage:  At a Catholic school, a professor fighting the academic boycott of Israel is investigated on secret charges

By Doron Ben-Atar

The email arrived on the last Friday afternoon of the spring term shortly before 5:00 p.m. Anastasia Coleman, Fordham’s Director of Institutional Equity and Compliance, and its Title IX Coordinator, wanted to meet with me. “It has been alleged,” she wrote, “that you may have acted in an inappropriate way and possibly discriminated against another person at the University.”

I was stunned. My wife, kids and friends have been warning me for years that, in these prudish times, my outrageous sense of humor and intellectual irreverence (my last book is about bestiality) could get me in trouble. I imagined myself brought before an academic disciplinary tribunal from Francine Prose’s Blue Angel, where all my past transgressions would be marshaled to prove that I don’t belong in the classroom. My mind raced, recalling the many slips of the tongue I had in three decades of teaching. I perspired profusely and felt the onset of a stomach bug. What would I tell my mother?

“Did it have anything to do with a student?” I shot back anxiously, hoping to get a sense of my predicament before the director left for the weekend. I was lucky. Coleman responded immediately. “This does not involve students and is about your behavior regarding American Studies.”

What a relief. But it was also very odd. The decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities in December 2013 had upset me. I wrote emails, circulated articles, and was pleased that my university president quickly declared his opposition to the measure. I joined a national steering committee that set out to fight the boycott and participated in the drafting of a few statements. As an American historian who delivered in 1987 his first paper at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association and served on the executive committee of Fordham’s American Studies program, I wanted Fordham’s program to sever official ties with the national organization until it rescinded the measure. Other programs have taken this courageous symbolic step, and I thought it proper for the Jesuit university of New York to take the moral stand against what most scholars of anti-Semitism consider anti-Semitic bigotry.

It was this stand that led Fordham’s Title IX officer to launch the proceedings. During an emotional meeting convened to discuss the appropriate response to the measure, I stated that should Fordham’s program fail to distance itself from the boycott, I will resign from the program and fight against it until it took a firm stand against bigotry. The program’s director, Michelle McGee, in turn filed a complaint against me with the Title IX office, charging that I threatened to destroy the program. (As if I could? And what does this have to do with Title IX?) This spurious complaint (the meeting’s minutes demonstrated that I did not make such a threat) ushered me into a bruising summer that taught me much about my colleagues, the university, and the price I must be willing to pay for taking on the rising tide of anti-Zionism on American campuses.

The following Monday, Coleman appeared in my office to conduct her investigation. Alas, she refused to explain what I was accused of specifically or how what I supposedly did amounted to a Title IX violation. Remaining vague, she hinted that others, including perhaps Fordham College’s dean, who chaired the fateful meeting, supported the complaint. Who are the others, I asked? Is there anything beyond that supposed one sentence? She would not disclose. I told Coleman that I took the complaint very seriously, but at the advice of my attorney I needed to think things through. Coleman told me she’d be in touch with my attorney, and we parted ways.

Over the next few weeks, Fordham’s general counsel, Tom DeJulio, and my attorney engaged in a few friendly conversations, in which we were led to believe that Fordham agreed I was perfectly within my First Amendment rights to oppose the boycott. We informed DeJulio that I’d be happy to meet with Coleman, even though we were still not informed what the specific charge was. I resigned from Fordham’s American Studies program because it refused to distance itself from anti-Semitic bigotry. Five other Jewish members of the program did the same. Not a single non-Jewish member resigned in solidarity.

Coleman never asked to meet me, and I assumed that the attempt to muzzle my opposition to the boycott died down. In late July, however, I received Coleman’s report in which she cleared me of the charge of religious discrimination. It was the first time that I learned what I was actually accused of doing, so I’m still not sure how opposing anti-Semitism amounts to religious discrimination. But Coleman was not satisfied to leave things at that. She went on to write that I refused to cooperate in the investigation (even though my attorney informed DeJulio weeks earlier of my willingness to meet her), and concluded that my decision to use an attorney was an indication of guilt. Coleman determined that in declaring I would quit the American Studies program should it not distance itself from anti-Semitism, I violated the university’s code of civility.

It was a sobering summer. I have had to defend my reputation against baseless, ever-evolving charges, ranging from sex discrimination to religious discrimination. I went through a Kafkaesque process in which I was never told exactly what I supposedly did wrong, nor was I ever shown anything in writing. Eventually I learned that the charge was religious discrimination born of my opposition to anti-Semitism. The implication is that anti-Semitism needs to be tolerated at Fordham, and that those who dare to fight it run afoul of university rules.

Administrators and colleagues failed to protect my First Amendment rights, and fed the assault on my character. A person utterly unqualified to understand anti-Semitism sat in judgment of a scholar who publishes on and teaches the subject. A report has been issued without letting me even defend myself. My choice to have legal representation has been cited as proof of my guilt. Most painful was realizing that my commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, so central to who I am, has been used against me in a most unethical manner not only by the member of the faculty who filed the baseless charge, but also by the office of the University Counsel.

Fordham remains my intellectual home. Some colleagues, appalled by the charge and proceedings, turned out to be actual loyal friends who supported me through the ordeal. But I also learned about another part of the university where colleagues resort to legal bullying to settle political scores; where heartfelt utterings at faculty brainstorming become evidence for politically motivated character assassinations; where those charged with protecting women against real abuses engage in a politically motivated witch-hunt; where fighting against the oldest hatred—anti-Semitism—makes one a pariah. The Jesuit University of New York should do better.


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