Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canada: School board allows Muslim sermons in schools

Despite the foundations and long tradition of Christianity in Canada, any accommodation of it — even at Christmas time — is largely rejected in the public school system, which supposedly adheres to secularism. But there is a single exception to the rule, as one religion seems to stand supreme:

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction.

The Peel school board in Mississauga (near Toronto) is not only allowing Islamic sermons, but it is also refusing to monitor the contents of those sermons. This is despite the very real risk of the jihad doctrine being spread. The Toronto Star reported that “Islamic schools, mosques in Canada are filled with extremist literature, according to a study.” More troubling was that “the authors of the study say what worried them was not the presence of extremist literature, but that they found nothing but such writings in several mosque libraries and Islamic schools.”

Back in November, a large assembly of the Peel District School Board listened to the lamentations from the Muslim community “that Muslim students feel stigmatized and targeted” because their Friday prayers were restricted to pre-approved sermons, whereas previously, Muslim students were free to use any sermon they chose that was approved by an administrator. The identity of the administrator and his or her knowledge about Islamic sermons was not disclosed. The complaints from the Muslim community led to the reversal of the policy: the practice of allowing Muslim students to choose sermons was resumed.

The board also bent over backwards, working for over a year “with 10 local imams to develop the six sermons to be used during Friday prayers”; these were intended to be used “as a starting point,” to be developed to “a collection of hundreds of sermons available to students.”

Muslim Friday prayer is the only group-prayer activity that is allowed by the Peel District School Board.

Peel board members “justified the policy reversal” not to monitor the Islamic sermons “by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness”; but its singling out of Muslims for preferred treatment above all other faiths was not an exercise in inclusivity, but rather a demonstration of the appalling exclusion of all other faiths. Even worse, when protests erupted, Peel police intervened as though they were Sharia police, and bullied a female protester outside:

Protesters were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

It is also worthwhile to note that Omar Alghabra, who ascribes to Sharia, is the Member of Parliament for Mississauga; upon his election, someone on stage at his victory party exclaimed:

“This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam won!… Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics.”

The Peel District School Board’s genuflection to one community is a slap in the face to all Canadians who aren’t Muslim. It represents a new low in Canadian organizations’ descent toward dhimmitude. It’s alarming that such imprudent administrators are awarded with the trust to educate children and to serve as their role models.

“Board To Allow Muslim Sermons In Schools, And Protesters Aren’t Happy”, by David Krayden, Daily Caller, January 11, 2017:

Local residents expressed their anger Tuesday night at a decision by a school board in a suburb of Toronto, Canada to reverse its policy on monitoring Muslim sermons.

Last September, concerned about the potential for radical Islamic propaganda infiltrating religious meetings, the Peel Regional School Board had insisted that students read prayers and sermons from an approved text. The board’s decision to allow students to write their own sermons resulted in angry residents storming a public meeting held to discuss the policy change.

Protestors were told to remove their signs because they were deemed anti-Muslim and one woman was taken outside by police after she interrupted the meeting with her objections.

Anger over the move was evident on social media. Protestor John Goddard wrote: “Anti-sharia activist Sandra Solomon, born a Palestinian Muslim in Ramallah but [who] left Islam, disrupt[ed] a Peel District School Board meeting on Tuesday night. The board tabled a staff report recommending expansion of Muslim religious privileges in public schools.”

Muslim students in the province of Ontario are entitled to hold weekly prayer meetings, held on Friday.  These “Jumm’ah” prayer and sermon sessions have been the focus of intense criticism as the provincial public school system is not supposed to be promoting any religion or hosting any religious instruction. Many schools will not even host Christmas music concerts in deference to non-Christian faiths who may be offended by the observance.

Board members justified the policy reversal by insisting it represented a commitment to inclusiveness:

“The board has always been committed to an inclusive approach in all activities related to religious accommodation for students and staff of all faiths,” director of education Tony Pontes said in a statement released Tuesday night.

Muslim students and their parents argued the ban on personalized sermons negatively impacted the religious freedom of the students while suggesting a stereotyped view of Islam….


A liberal arts college without English majors?

NEW LONDON, N.H. — Colby-Sawyer College has all the hallmarks of a classic New England liberal arts college — the rural setting, the small classes, and quaint traditions like Mountain Day, when students and professors hike side-by-side up Mount Kearsarge.

What you won’t find on this campus, as of next year, are two majors once considered cornerstones of a liberal arts education: English and philosophy.

The small private college announced last month that it was scrapping those programs, laying off 18 people, and cutting the hours of a dozen more to fill a $2.6 million budget gap.

As middle-class families struggle, so do small schools that have traditionally drawn from a regional, middle-class pool of students. They face a set of problems you don’t see on the campus tour: mounting debt, dwindling enrollment, and virtually no endowment.

Many students seek technical skills that will guarantee them a job, rather than a well-rounded liberal arts foundation. Small four-year colleges have to work harder to convince families they are worth the $50,000 tuition most schools charge.

Some, like Marion Court College in Swampscott, have closed. Others have merged. Still others, like Colby-Sawyer, are trying to survive by reinventing themselves, but with that reinvention has come soul-searching about what it means to be a liberal arts institution, and whether such places have a future.

Colby-Sawyer’s new president, Sue Stuebner, is still passionate about producing graduates who can write, read, think, and analyze, but she said the English and philosophy majors just aren’t popular anymore.

“If we try to do it all we’re not going to do it all well,” Stuebner said in an interview in her office in the school’s central brick building.

Instead, she has a two-pronged plan: narrow the school’s focus to its most successful programs, like nursing, business, and sports management, and market them aggressively. She hired a consulting firm to recruit students and determine how much financial aid to award each to increase their likelihood of attending. So far, it’s working.

“I think we have to focus on the things we can control,” she said.

News of the impending cuts has elicited mixed reactions from students at the school, which has about 1,100 students. Some spent time in classes discussing the cuts, which also include majors in accounting, health promotion, and health care management. Others have said they are disheartened. There are 18 English majors and no philosophy majors, the school said.

On Monday, as Stuebner outlined her success strategy, prospective students gathered outside her office for a tour of the 200-acre campus. They crunched over frozen snow as the guide showed off amenities and described programs you won’t find at most larger public schools, many of which cost half the price.

Colby-Sawyer’s five-story library is an architectural wonder, made from two renovated barns where light illuminates exposed beams and potted plants make the space feel alive.

Outside, the tour guide unlocked the door to a sugar shack that becomes the classroom for a two-credit course on sugaring.

High school senior Alexandra Doliber of Wolfeboro, who was on the tour with her mother, Jennifer Guldner, loved the library. She also liked the idea that professors would know her name.

Doliber, who already has been accepted to Colby-Sawyer, would have to pay $40,000 a year after financial aid. Plymouth State, which has also offered her admission, would cost around $10,500 annually. The private school price tag worries her mother.

“It’s a huge expense, and it’s kind of scary,” she said.

But the expense at small private colleges wasn’t always so huge. The cost has risen faster than the income of the middle-class families who have traditionally attended them, and students are increasingly wary of taking on debt.

Many of the problems small schools face are a result of the 2008 economic recession.

Wealthy small privates like Williams and Amherst saw their endowments tank overnight, but the effect was delayed for schools like Colby-Sawyer that rely on tuition revenue rather than investments.

“We really felt the middle-class hit a few years delayed,” said Thomas Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer from 2006 until last year. “That hit us hard.”

Galligan, now dean of the Louisiana State University Law Center, called his tenure a roller coaster ride. Without a large endowment, the admissions office agonizes every year over whether the school will enroll enough students to balance the budget. A difference of as few as 50 can spell trouble.

The main way Colby-Sawyer attracts students is by offering sizable aid packages — as much as 67 percent off the $54,000 tuition. But that requires a balancing act, because the school so sorely needs revenue.

Adding to the pressure, these schools have found themselves increasingly locked in an amenities arms race. Students want the latest technology, the best professors, the most modern gymnasium, and gourmet food, and as much as schools are stretched thin, they lose students if they don’t keep up.

Some have criticized Colby-Sawyer’s president for supporting a new $7.4 million performing arts center at a time of staff layoffs. But, she says, it’s important to stay modern, and the building was funded almost entirely by donations for that project.

Just as these schools didn’t get into trouble overnight, it will take years for them to recover, experts say.

Ed MacKay, director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission, said their fate is very much tied to the struggles of public schools. As state legislatures cut funding to public colleges, those schools have begun to aggressively recruit the students who traditionally attended the privates.

In addition, the number of high school graduates is expected to drop annually between now and 2023, according to a report released last month by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

MacKay also sees the fate of small colleges as an economic issue. Colby-Sawyer, which was founded in 1837, is integral to the economy of New London.

“These institutions are not appreciated enough for what they bring to their respective communities, and the loss of an institution to a small community can be devastating,” he said.

Colby-Sawyer alumna Mechilia Salazar looks back fondly on her time in New London. She graduated in 2000 with a degree in early childhood development and credits the school with teaching her how to pivot, when she switched majors and later when she changed careers.

Over the years she’s realized it was more than just her classes that made college special.

She still remembers “Marriott” Mike, who ran the cafeteria, and his wife, who taught water aerobics. She recalled how the school helped her start an after-school program for local elementary school students.

“The small intimate feel, it felt like one big family,’’ she said. “You can’t really hide on a campus, everybody eventually gets to know each other.”


Kangaroo courts won't solve campus sexual assault problem

Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of education. This past week, groups such as End Rape on Campus launched a #DearBetsy social-media campaign urging DeVos to continue the Obama administration's policies, under which schools across the country have defined sexual assault in expansive terms and scaled back protections for students accused of it.

Meanwhile, the American Association of University Women, among other organizations, has zeroed in on the $10,000 that DeVos gave to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an ACLU-like outfit that, among other things, supports due-process rules.

You might not like DeVos's financial conflicts or her family's record on LGBT issues - I don't - but the #DearBetsy campaign and the controversy over her FIRE donations show how ideological and unmoored the campus rape debate has become.

Let's be clear: Cases of horrific sexual violence occur in college communities. Last year, Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received a prison sentence, albeit a lenient one, for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

More recently, 10 University of Minnesota football players were suspended after a confidential investigator's report detailed numerous acts of sexual aggression against a female student and specific evidence of players' culpability. The rest of the team threatened to boycott a looming bowl game - until the report leaked and they saw what was in it.

In 2011, in an effort to protect women's right to learn without fear of harassment or discrimination, President Obama's Department of Education sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter seeking tougher action against sexual violence, while leaving many of the details up to individual schools. In response, well-meaning campus administrators have responded by erasing due-process protections for suspected offenders.

That erosion becomes evident in the public paper trail left by a contentious case at Brandeis. In 2011, the student handbook there gave those accused of serious misconduct the right to be informed of the charges in detail, to confront them at a hearing, and to review "all evidence and reports" presented there. The burden of proof, the handbook said, rested with the accuser.

The next year, the university gutted those protections in sexual misconduct cases. It lowered the standard of evidence that it used to assess guilt, as the government's "Dear Colleague" letter had specifically demanded.

The university went further. In the 2012 handbook, "there was no requirement that copies of any `substantiating materials' submitted by the accuser, or the names of any witnesses, be shown or provided to the accused any time," wrote Judge F. Dennis Saylor, who reviewed Brandeis's procedures in connection with a lawsuit in federal court. Saylor went on, "The accused had no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser, no right to call witnesses, and no right to confront or cross-examine the accuser's witnesses. The accused had no right to review all the evidence."

In the context of American legal culture, this is crazy. When corporate polluters get sued, not even the most passionate environmentalist would deny them details of the accusations against them. While violent crime devastates a community, progressives in particular would be aghast at efforts to repeal the Fourth and Fifth Amendments for suspected armed robbers.

Campus disciplinary proceedings aren't court cases, but the underlying principle is the same: Standard rules of evidence and other protections for the accused keep things like false accusations or mistakes by authorities from hurting innocent people.

Instead, tales of murky, Kafkaesque proceedings have proliferated.

In the Brandeis case, a student identified as "John Doe" had sued Brandeis in federal court after being deemed guilty of sexual misconduct. (Saylor made a significant initial procedural ruling in Doe's favor, though the suit was ultimately withdrawn.) His ex-boyfriend, "J.C.," had filed a complaint against him more than six months after the end of a 21-month relationship.

A special examiner prepared a report, which, according to Saylor's summary, wasn't provided to Doe at any point in the investigation. Brandeis found him responsible for supposed misdeeds such as kissing J.C. while he was asleep, looking at his private areas when they showered together, and, at one point, sought to initiate a sexual act without formally asking permission. In other words, Doe behaved like normal, nonpredatory adults sometimes do when they're dating.

The examiner treated their relationship as irrelevant. Instead of just dismissing a patently flimsy sexual-assault complaint, Brandeis seemed to split the difference: It held John Doe responsible for some minor sexual infractions but stopped short of expelling him.

Then the outrage-amplification machine kicked in. "Brandeis University Punishes Sexual Assault With Sensitivity Training," a Huffington Post headline declared, after J.C. publicly decried John Doe's penalty as overly lax. The case was one of two mentioned on the influential liberal website ThinkProgress in a piece entitled "Universities Keep Failing To Actually Punish Rapists."

In an information vacuum, all sexual assault cases look the same. As Harvard Law School professors Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk Gersen declared in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month, "In essence, the federal government has created a sex bureaucracy that has in turn conscripted officials at colleges as bureaucrats of desire, responsible for defining healthy, permissible sex and disciplining deviations from those supposed norms."

Any backtracking by Trump's administration will be greeted by suspicion at liberal colleges.

Yet those of us who generally believe in governmental activism, and think public and private schools alike should look after their students to the best of their abilities, should also recognize the limits of a university's omniscience.

In the Stanford and Minnesota cases, the involvement of local law enforcement was crucial in establishing facts - and the gravity of the situation. Far more often, universities handle accusations of sexual assault on their own, in opaque proceedings that take the place of criminal investigations, rather than complementing them.

On their own, schools have never done this job well. While the Minnesota investigator did thorough work, most schools lack expertise in collecting evidence and evaluating witnesses. To avoid adverse publicity, schools have an incentive to keep all proceedings quiet, which means it's impossible to tell from the outside whether they're adjudicating cases fairly.

When students like John Doe are labeled as sexual assailants, while many victims of serious crimes still feel ignored, the problem is that colleges and universities are being pushed to do a job they're not cut out to do. Sexual violence is a crime. Federal policy should press students and schools to involve law enforcement in every case. It shouldn't just make harried college bureaucracies take on more investigations - only with ever more draconian rules.


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