Friday, January 27, 2017

Mass.: State's public colleges see rise in hunger, homelessness

What??  The "caring" Leftists who run Mass. have allowed  this?  Leftists care only about themselves

The state's colleges and universities are reporting that hunger and homelessness among students have increased over the past year, an alarming new disclosure that makes clear that many low-income students have far more to worry about than just exams and extracurricular activities.

The findings, released Tuesday, come from a survey of administrators at the 29 state colleges and universities, 24 of which operate their own food pantries or have partnerships with community food banks.

Forty-five percent of the colleges reported a rise in student homelessness over the last year. Thirty-eight percent saw an increase in students living with "food insecurity," roughly defined as a lack of consistent access to food. And 34 percent saw a rise in students being served by food pantries.

"Quite frankly, it's heartbreaking to know the kind of challenges they're facing, and they still come to school, and they still try to succeed," said Patricia A. Gentile, president of North Shore Community College in Danvers, which has a higher percentage of students experiencing hunger than its peers nationally.

The results were included in a report presented to the state Board of Higher Education, which is weighing how to respond. The next step may be to survey students, not just administrators.

"The larger picture here is we should do everything we can within our power to support those students who are demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to their studies," said Fernando M. Reimers, a board member and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "They need a little helping hand."

Most colleges reported they have students living in shelters, cars, or "couch surfing," and some described students living in 24-hour businesses such as Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's, or outside in warmer weather.

All told, 1,020 students at Massachusetts' public colleges and universities are homeless or at risk of homelessness, according to federal data. State colleges and universities serve more than 290,000 students.

The administrators blamed the problem of hunger and homelessness on lack of family support, student debt, the rising cost of living, and insufficient financial aid, among other reasons.

Last November, North Shore Community College surveyed its students about hunger and homelessness, after noticing that many were taking fewer courses per semester because of financial - not academic - pressures.

The results indicate that 32 percent of the 6,500 students at North Shore Community College are "hungry," compared with 20 percent of community college students nationwide. Nineteen percent are homeless, compared with 13 percent of community college students nationally.

Bunker Hill Community College and the Greater Boston Food Bank have teamed up to give out food to those in need.

"That was disturbing to know that our students face a disproportionate challenge to staying in school and completing their education due to hunger and homelessness," Gentile said.

When the survey asked North Shore Community College students to describe where they live, the responses included: "shelter for 3 years with kids;" "in my car," and, "I live with friends and family - whoever has room for me at the time."

Gentile emphasized that average age of a student on her campus is 27, meaning many are mothers and fathers, and not the typical 19-year-old who might attend a private four-year college.

She said the college has sought to raise awareness of a campus fund that provides low-income students with $7 vouchers for the college cafeteria.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, meanwhile, administrators said the school may create supply closets with toiletries and other household items for needy students.

Salem State University said its students and alumni are holding a "Grilled Cheese for Giving" event to raise money for the campus food pantry.

Christopher Aguirre, a 20-year-old student at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, is among those who have confronted homelessness and hunger while working toward a degree. He told the Board of Higher Education his story Tuesday, bringing at least one member to tears.

According to a copy of his testimony, Aguirre was working full time as a bank teller and living in Revere when his rent increased and he could no longer afford the bills.  Determined to attend college, he applied to Bunker Hill and started sleeping between Terminals B and C at Logan Airport in July 2015.

In September of that year, just as he was preparing to start classes, he landed a job at a bookstore in the airport, he said, and was able to afford one meal per day.

He continued to sleep in the airport until December 2015, he said, until he managed to find housing through a shelter program.

At Bunker Hill, he said, he qualified for the dean's list, and saved money through scholarships and federal financial aid grants. He said he expects to graduate this year, and is preparing to transfer to a four-year college. He hopes to become a molecular biologist.

He credited his success to his professor and advisers as well as to Single Stop USA, a program at Bunker Hill that connects students to a mobile food pantry, financial aid, legal assistance, and other essential services.

Aguirre urged the board to work urgently to help other students like him.  "While housing and food insecurity may be most visible on the sidewalk, it strikes far too many of this state's young men and women who understand that their education can lead them to success," he told the board. "That benefits not only them, but the Commonwealth as a whole."


Christian university to send students to mosque for `religious experience'

Students enrolled in a world religions course this semester at Texas Christian University must attend a mosque service as part of the class.

The field trip was scheduled to take place on Good Friday - one of the most holy days for Christians - observed as the day Jesus Christ was crucified.

"Every student is expected to attend this service," states the syllabus, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix. "This visit is part of your participation in class. Many other students from our department will join us. It is a religious experience visit. No student is required to participate in mosque's service during our visit."

Reached for comment, a campus spokesperson said the field trip's date was assigned in error, that the university is closed on Good Friday, and the professor is working to reschedule the mosque visit.

"Texas Christian University is actually closed on Good Friday," spokeswoman Holly Ellman told The College Fix in an email. "The date on the syllabus was inaccurate, which the professor is aware of and is modifying. He will notify his students accordingly to ensure that they have accurate, up-to-date information about the course."

Asked for further clarification on the field trip, and the course and its content, Ellman referred to the class' one-sentence online description.

Spring semester launched in mid-January at the private university, located in Fort Worth. The course, "Understanding Diverse Faith Communities," is taught by Associate Professor of Islamic and Religious Studies Yushau Sodiq, whose faculty page states he earned his bachelor's degree in Islamic Studies and master's degree in Islamic law at University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, and his PhD in Islamic Studies from Temple University. He also taught at a university in Nigeria before his post at Texas Christian University, which he has held since 1992.

Sodiq did not respond to emails from The College Fix asking whether there is an alternative assignment for students who do not wish to observe the Islamic service, and well as for more general information on the course and its academic aims.

According to the syllabus, the intention of the mosque visit is to "understand the ritual and tradition of other religions in their own context."

"You can also invite your friends to join in this visit," the syllabus states. ". If you do not attend the mosque, you will not be able to do the quiz and as you know, there is not make-up for quizzes."

The 90-minute visit will include an address by the "leader of the Muslim community" and an observation of the sunset prayer, it adds.

One option for extra credit in the class is called "Being Muslim for a Day," in which students can dress as a Muslim or tell their family they've become Muslim and document the reactions.

The syllabus was provided to The College Fix by Pamela Geller, who obtained it from a campus source.

Geller is president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a nonprofit "dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, individual rights and equality for all before the law." Geller is known for, among other things, her activism against the encroachment of Sharia Law in the United States and her defiant stance against Islam's strict and unconstitutional religious tenets, such as the law that the prophet Mohammad must not be drawn.

In a statement to The Fix, Geller expressed concern about the course at Texas Christian University:

"Sodiq's syllabus for his `Understanding Diverse Faith Communities' states that the course is meant `to enable our students comprehend the meanings and nature of world religions' . Yet while the class discusses Islam, Judaism, African traditional religions, and Buddhism (apparently Sodiq assumes that students at Texas Christian University know all they need to know about Christianity already), Sodiq's syllabus plans for five sessions on Islam, plus two more on The Kite Runner, a novel about Muslims in Afghanistan, and another for the mosque visit, for a total of eight on Islam and related themes," Geller stated. "Meanwhile, only four class sessions are planned on Buddhism, three on Judaism, and two on African traditional religions."

Geller also takes issue with the mosque trip: "Sodiq implies that the visit has a proselytizing intent as he writes: `You can also invite your friends to join in this visit' - and ominously, `If you do not attend the mosque, you will not be able to do the quiz and as you know, there is not make-up for quizzes."

"The syllabus does not explain why there is no visit to a synagogue, church, Buddhist temple, or any other house of worship - only to a mosque," Geller told The Fix. "Sodiq also requires that students complete a journal entry on `Islamophobia.' He asks for no journal entry on anti-Semitism or prejudice or hatred against any other group."

"What is most disturbing about all this is the threat that lies behind it," she added. "The people who passed this information on to me refused to be identified because they were certain there would be reprisals if their identities were known. Just as disturbing as that is the fact that in contemporary American academia, Yushau Sodiq's university class of thinly veiled Islamic proselytizing isn't unusual at all. It's all too common."


Speaker Ryan: `Every Parent Should Have The Chance To Choose a Decent School'

At a rally to celebrate National School Choice Week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said every parent should have the right to send their children to the school of their choice.

"Every parent should have the chance to choose a decent school for your child," Ryan said, surrounded by children from Sacred Heart Catholic School in D.C. who carried signs emblazoned with messages such as "Put Kids First" and "Got Choice?"

Ryan said that attending school should not be limited by one's zip code. "That is just wrong," Ryan said. "In America, we think much, much bigger than that.  In America, we believe that the condition of your birth does not affect the outcome of your life."

Ryan praised President Donald Trump's pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, and said the scholarship program to allow low-income children in the District of Columbia to attend private and religious schools, which was ended by President Barack Obama, would be expanded by the Republican-led Congress.

"We finally have a president and vice president who believe in school choice," said the House Speaker. "And soon we will have a new education secretary who believes in school choice."


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