Put the Breaks on Anti-Semitism

If we were to listen to Bibi Netanyahu, Hillel, or the US Republicans, one would think that at any moment Israel would be bombed off the planet with millions of Americans cheering alongside of militant Islamists with their covert Islamist leader Barack Hussein Obama.

Except that this sort of narrative is false and uses only fear to conserve its kinetic pulse.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses in three of the last four years is actually the lowest it’s been since the ADL started keeping track in 1999.

via The Anti-Semitism Surge That Isn’t – Forward.com.

If the trend is going down, there are some positive causes somewhere out there. In fact, this might be the result of efforts at campuses to ramp up racial and ethnic dialogue in order to reduce tensions at the boundaries of differences between people. We may very well be more aware of differences that bother us and create tension and that awareness may even make a problem seem larger than it actually is. But while reality seems this way, it is important not to focus as much on the uneasiness in feeling, but on the positive outcomes and measurable behavior changes towards tolerance over time.

While appropriately muscular responses from campus authorities are welcome, our hunch is that much of this perceived anti-Semitism fits into a broader pattern of incivility with regards to race, gender and ethnicity, and should be addressed in that context.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/217167/the-anti-semitism-surge-that-isnt/#ixzz3VKSHWN1O

Despite the fact that Netanyahu and many, many others insist that protests against Israel’s political machine and its handling of Palestinians are fundamentally anti-Semitic, I expect that what we will continue to see is evidence that this connection is a fiction driven by people who use distorted experiences to control agendas that have one goal in mind: grasping and maintaining power.

Gordon College’s Tightrope Between Theology and Diversity

Every religiously-affiliated college and university is discriminatory. The question is the degree to which the institution discriminates and how close those policies come to breaking policy with accrediting agencies and civil authorities. Right now Gordon College is navigating their niche in between these entities.

It is very difficult for a college to maintain its theological integrity when it places values on specific identities and behaviors while at the same time it seeks to expand it programs and ranking as an institution that is advancing potential careers of its students. It is easier for an institution to maintain its boundaries and grow when the social environment in which it sits is more conducive to its given worldview. Institutions like Liberty University or BYU are physically located in environments that are good matches with their policies and honor codes. Both are in very religious areas where the sponsoring denomination of the institution is in the majority of the religious adherents for the region. Internal policies will often have a much better match with civic policies.

Institutions like Gordon College have a different path to carve given that their own religious values may not be as well matched to the environment. This is where internal policy and external pressure find friction. Gordon College finds itself in an area that is less religious and politically liberal creating a disconnect between its worldview and that of the outlying communities. This is no more true than in Gordon College’s policy regarding homosexual behavior.

It is perfectly justified for the institution to have clear religious view on homosexual behavior as it is with many other institutions across the country. There is nothing inherently illegal in such policies as long as it is clear in all of the admission and enrollment literature. As with many evangelical institutions, especially those within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Gordon requires students and faculty to profess their Christian faith commitment. This commitment assumes behavioral standards which are binding. The very first of these includes sexual conduct and homosexuality.

A. Practices Governed by Scripture—The following behavioral expectations are binding on all members of the Gordon community.

Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.

With this in mind, Gordon College is doing something different to address the needs of those in the LGBT community to feel safe at the college, even if the college does not affirm the lifestyles of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students. The core of the college policy has to do with behavior itself. So the issue for Gordon College is how to be both affirming of its students and clear about its conduct policy in a way that does not outright reject students who may not feel they fit its understanding of what a committed Christian looks like.

(President Michael) Lindsay said in his email that the college has spent the last nine months discussing the issue of human sexuality. On Monday the college announced a series of initiatives, including more training for staff, surveys to address the well-being of students as it relates to sexuality and sexual identity, stronger anti-bullying policies, and the formation of a task force of students, faculty and staff.

Opening up the conversation like this is a new direction for an evangelical college. It might not look like much from an outsider especially from a secular or liberal perspective. However, with the mishandling of sexual abuse that is at the forefront of higher education and the fallout of Bob Jones University’s egregious coverup, this has the potential to be a positive direction for how to handle a religious community that will only be more diverse in its sexuality if Gordon College does not become more prohibitive of the students it accepts.

US Higher Education Gets Islam

In a historic first for the United States, an American Muslim college has now joined the nation’s community of accredited institutions of higher education.

On Wednesday, March 4, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) granted Zaytuna College accreditation.

The school was founded in 2008, “rooting itself firmly in the American liberal arts tradition” and welcomed its first freshman class in 2010 making this is a very fast track top accreditation. Now accredited, the school can apply for federal and private grants as well as student visas. In most ways, this is a school that has now begun as most small, liberal arts colleges began – small, religiously affiliated, and liberal arts. Moreover, the legacy in American higher education of its religiously affiliated institutions is that they have always been rather selective.

Co-founder Hamza Yusuf is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and “outspoken critic of extremism.” However, no founding of an Islamic institution of any sort will go without criticism and condemnation. This is falling to Zaytuna’s other co-founder, Hatem Bazian,

Contributor to Al-Jazeera,

Hatem Bazian is coeditor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at Berkeley University.

Bazian is targeted as an anti-Semite with a decidedly anti-Israel agenda. Naturally, the right will put forth the fear that he will use the institution to further his political agenda.

“He’s an anti-Israel activist and he uses academia to further his agenda,” Nonie Darwish, founder of Arabs for Israel and a human rights advocate, told FoxNews.com.

The right-wing media that generates fear over Muslims gathering just about anywhere often conflates Islamism with any view that does not actively engage American exceptionalism much less any Muslim that dares critique the US policies and attitudes towards Muslims. Bazian is vulnerable to feel the fire from the right.

He is outspoken in his criticism of the US policies towards Israel, domestic policies with respect to hate crimes towards Muslims, and an activist working to prevent Islamophobia worldwide.

As we witness recurring attacks on Gaza and the continued unconditional support of administrations in the US, England, France, Germany, Canada and Australia for Israel, one must ask the question as to why Arabs and Muslims should buy products from these countries. How can one stand for justice while purchasing products that provide economic power that is transformed into financial, political and military support for Israel?

Naturally, for some, this translates into: Israel must die, America is the infidel, and capitalism is at war with Allah. For those of us who value reason and educated opinions, Bazian has never said anything of the sort.

Christian institutions such as Patrick Henry College are decidedly religious and political in their mission but will rarely get the same criticism from the right because they forward the agenda of their media megaphones. However, the left has never been that friendly towards an institution like Patrick Henry College which asserts that when government:

1) commands disobedience to God, 2) enjoins the right and duty of human beings to worship God, 3) denies other God-ordained rights by extreme oppression and tyranny, or 4) “when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object (tyranny), evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism” it is the right and duty of godly men and women “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

As a representative of the minority Muslim population, Zaytuna will have an uphill battle to gain public currency of its degree offerings. These offerings are slim at the moment, but will need to expand as the institution grows and will eventually seek re-accreditation.

Congratulations, Zaytuna.

Hiding in Plain Sight: College and the Mentally Ill

Stigma and mental illness

There are students in deep pain and struggling with emotional problems and mental disorders all over college campuses.

Most of us have no clue who they are.

As Kay Redfield Jamison, co-Director of the Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins University, recently said to a group of Northwestern University Students:

“No one noticed that I was in any way different,” Jamison said. “I had no idea how I managed to pass as normal in high school, except that other people are generally caught up in their own lives and seldom notice the despair in others if those despairing make an effort to disguise their pain.”

Jamison is not only a leading scholar of mood disorders, she is also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She wrote her story of suffering, recovering, and managing her own illness in the book An Unquiet Mind.

If we sense that something is “wrong” in someone’s behavior, the attitude of the “rugged individual” might take over.

If only that person would just be happier, calm down, keep their mouth shut, stop being so impulsive, stop being so rude, or stop being so quiet and awkward. Mental illness is just a phantom problem. It’s really an issue that the individual must resolve on their own. If people would take more responsibility and just act differently, all would be ok.

A few facts:

  • Public rejection of the mentally ill is far more common than not. Socall & Holtgraves (1992) argued that “a mental illness label, regardless of a person’s behavior, can result in public rejection” (p. 441).
  • Stigmas about mental illness seem to be widely endorsed by the general public in the Western world” (Corrigan & Watson, 2002).
  • A CDC report (2012) found that while most adults believe treatment of mental disorders is effective, less believe that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness.
  • Coverage of mass shootings and the near immediate link to mental illness do not help public sentiment towards the mentally ill. Rather, in a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry (McGinty, et. al., 2013), “The stigmatization of people with mental illness may lead to a reluctance to seek treatment or raise other barriers to care” (Barry, 2013).
  • Those with mental illness may internalize public stigma and as a result will be less likely to self-disclose their problems. This is in spite of the growing body of research showing that self-disclosure has positive effects for the mentally ill person and to reduce public stigma (Hyman, 2008).

Disclosing a mental illness is a big risk. If one encounters public stigma about a mental illness the results can damage reputation, employment, friendships, etc. Even if these are not facts, the risk of further alienation is a problem that most of the human race would rather avoid.

For those who aren’t even sure that they have a mental illness but just feel different about the world and their identity, reaching out for help might be compounded by all of these factors. They will go undiagnosed and untreated for illnesses that they have no personal power to manage without help.

When we bring these issues into an environment where often thousands of young adults live, work, and play together it can be a cauldron mixing together a dangerous brew. When we add substance abuse to mental illness the problems worsen. It is then that violence is more likely. More students may bring their drug habits on campuses that started in high school. Add to that fact, 80% of college students will drink and half of those will binge drink.

Students need to feel safe in order to self-disclose that they have either been diagnosed with a mental illness or feel that they might have something wrong. College is a petri dish of social experimentation and dysfunction and mental illness is just not a good fit.

The environment must do a better job of reducing social stigma and giving the mentally ill a safe space. Colleges have made a strong effort to give women and minorities a safe place on campuses, and it is time for them to do the same for those with mental illness if anything is to improve.

Jamison spotlighted Harvard’s improvement in mental health services as an example of the important role universities play in advocating for students.

“I think if (support) does not come from the president’s office, you may as well kiss it goodbye,” Jamison said. “The president’s office has to take this really seriously, and commit money to it, and time.”

___________________________________

Sources:

Barry, C. (2013). Media coverage of mass shootings contributes to negative attitudes towards mental illness. In Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Retrieved 10/09/2013, from http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2013/webster_mass_shootings_mental_illness.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors, National Institute of Mental Health, The Carter Center Mental Health Program. Attitudes Toward Mental Illness: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Atlanta (GA); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.

Corrigan, P., and Watson, A. (2002) Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. February; 1(1): 16–20.

Hyman, I. Self-Disclosure and Its Impact on Individuals Who Receive Mental Health Services. HHS Pub. No. (SMA)-08-4337 Rockville, MD. Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008.

Socall, D., and Holtgraves, T. (1992). Attitudes toward the mentally ill: The effects of label and beliefs. The Sociological Quarterly , Vol. 33, No. 3 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 435-445.

Religious Colleges: Promise or Peril?

Center Church on the Green

Center Church on the Green – Yale
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Religiously-affiliated colleges and universities bear a distinctive trait in the higher education market: they are religious. These institutions are mainly small colleges with varying degrees of religiosity. Many of these schools have abandoned their religious roots from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Wake Forest. Some have a present but tense relationship with their religious denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and its schools. Some will be active participants in their religious heritage while others may only recognize it in the archives and “about” pages of their websites.

A problem that creates strain between a college’s religious identity and its educational mission is called “mission creep.” This is when the fundamental mission of an institution changes over time mostly to adapt to education market changes. As online education, part-time instruction, and pressure towards job preparation increase, mission creep places the religious roots of an institution in danger.

But as Gordon College professor Thomas Albert Howard notes:

For a brighter future, these schools will need to do more than look enviously at the Ivies or anxiously at their peers; they will have to look within and boldly and creatively articulate what sets them apart.

Maintaining a decidedly liberal arts centered curriculum and nourishing religious roots are two critical areas that will support institutional distinctiveness. The hazy spot is how distinctive an institution’s religious identity needs to be while maintaining viability in the higher education market. Over-distinctiveness can creep into sectarianism which relies on a niche of students who are willing to adhere to stricter faith and behavior requirements for matriculation. Under-distinctiveness can lead to a loss of that religious identity.

Yes, there is an opportunity to stand out as an alternative in the market. But the religious institution has to move ahead deliberately and with care in order to be successful. This is not a cheap education, either. As I concluded in my dissertation on this topic:

Diversity implies that institutions have to maintain boundaries in their mission in order to maintain an identity distinct from other colleges and universities. The line to tread is between diversity inside the walls of the evangelical college or university inviting the risk of secularization and raising the sectarian walls so high that fresh thinking can neither get in nor maintain enough intelligibility and coherence for the world outside to care.

Now more than ever, treading the tightrope between the high walls and narrow doors of sectarianism on one end and non-religious secular education on the other is the challenge these institutions will have to answer.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Adjunct Full Time

A well-known secret in higher education is that full-time tenure-track positions are dwindling. Many of the seats that we have filled with full-time faculty will not be re-filled when they are vacated in the next 20 years. What universities will need to do is hire more part-time faculty to fill that void. Currently, 38% of the teaching labor force in higher education is made of part-time professors. From the AAUP:

The growth of part-time faculty has often come at the cost of stable employment for those who seek full-time careers. Institutions which assign a significant percentage of instruction to faculty members in whom they make a minimal professional investment undercut their own commitment to quality. Academic programs and a tenure system are not stable when institutions rely heavily on non-tenure-track faculty who receive few, if any, opportunities for professional advancement, whose performance may not be regularly reviewed or rewarded, and who may be shut out of the governing structures of the departments and institutions that appoint them.

If you want to be an adjunct teacher at a university or college, make sure that you are prepared to understand what is involved. These are positions not designed to provide a full-time wage or anything in the way of benefits. Here are practical reasons not to avoid becoming a “full-time” adjunct or part-time professor.

You Are Expendable

Part-time faculty are cheap. Because of rank, the wages per credit-hour taught can be less. The institution does not need to pay out fringe benefits like health insurance or retirement matching. And because most adjunct work is based on course contracts, teachers don’t really have to be fired – they are simply not awarded a new contract. In other words: Do not expect stable employment; you are expendable.

You will get the lovely moniker of “second tier faculty” which is a nice pat on the back for all those hours you spend with students. You may find yourself isolated from the institution and connected mainly through email and learning management systems such as Blackboard or Canvass.

Welcome to flexible production of labor.

You Are Cheap

I can’t imagine doing adjunct work to make a living. I would have to pull about 50 credit hours a year to pull that off at $1,000 a credit hour. If we take that and subtract about $1,500 per month for private insurance and taxes that leaves me with $32,000 as a net wage or let’s say $2,600 for rent, gas, utilities, and in my case child support. Then I have to eat and I have no retirement or savings. I also have some loans I need to pay off. Forget car payments. My car had better be indestructible.

All of this financial stress is for taking on at least twice the teaching load as a full-time, salaried member of the faculty.

It Can Kill You

This goes beyond the huge healthcare expenses that you will incur beyond your $900 premium if you are single without dependents. The amount of stress is astounding and stress kills.

What I just figured above, and I think it’s about right, is about a 40 hour work week if you spend 10 hours a week per course to be just over the poverty level in a town like Pittsburgh. This is the ideal. The reality is that adjunct work is contract based and there is no guarantee of any stable income source that will get you that many credit hours per year. You have to work between more than one institution where if you aren’t online, you will need even more transportation costs and higher auto insurance premiums among other things. Forget vacations too. That is 10 hours per week, every week, for 52 weeks out of the year.

This was the case for one woman’s situation in Pittsburgh. a 25 year teacher, Margaret Mary lost her below poverty wage job as an adjunct with Duquesne University. With no unionization and no security, there is no protection for labor:

While adjuncts at Duquesne overwhelmingly voted to join the United Steelworkers union a year ago, Duquesne has fought unionization, claiming that it should have a religious exemption. Duquesne has claimed that the unionization of adjuncts like Margaret Mary would somehow interfere with its mission to inculcate Catholic values among its students.

This would be news to Georgetown University — one of only two Catholic universities to make U.S. News & World Report’s list of top 25 universities — which just recognized its adjunct professors’ union, citing the Catholic Church’s social justice teachings, which favor labor unions.

The system is not set up for part-time faculty to be anywhere close to full-time faculty. However, this will increasingly become the primary teaching labor force in higher education among all institution types in the next 20 years.

Unless you have a job that will give you benefits, vacations, a retirement plan, and some security in your life, use that graduate degree to teach part-time as a part-time gig for fun, the experience, and another source of income. Until the system shakes out and labor has power, it looks bad to be a full-time, part-time college teacher.

The situation looks bad for education because it might just be that our part-time teachers are better teachers. But with the current labor practices as they are, stories like Margaret Mary’s and this will be more commonplace:

This, too, is part of the adjunct lifestyle:  even though I have theoretically landed work at two schools for this fall, I never stop looking.  I never am set. None of the jobs that I have are guaranteed to be there next year, and one of them is so far only for this coming fall.  I still hope and still peruse the sites for permanent jobs in my area of specialty.  Heck, I don’t even care if they’re tenure-track, but just permanent.  Something that I can plan my life around more than a nine-month academic year at a time!

How Not to Enforce a “No Technology” Rule in Class

It is no secret that many professors are not big fans of distracted students. Even more so, some are deeply offended and can even get hostile.

Take this professor who uses laptop distraction as an object lesson for his lecture class.

He staged the event, by the way. Nevertheless, is that the right strategy to start off a semester and create a rapport with your students?

On the one hand, we can sympathize with the logic. It is one thing for a student not to pay attention and get caught in their own distractions. If that lack of attention is then distracting others, the problem is much larger.

On the other hand, with the way that students are using technology and communicating, it is not as cut and dry. While students may seem to be distracted, it may also be that they are not. If we expect a student to stay seated and pay attention to a lecture, distraction will reduce memory retention. But technology is also challenging teachers to be smarter about how to use time in the classroom.

One idea is to use “technology breaks” where you check your phone, the web, whatever, for a minute or two and then turn the phone to silent, the computer screen off and “focus” on work or conversation or any nontechnological activity for, say 15 minutes, and then take a 1-2 minute tech break followed by more focus times and more tech breaks.

Indeed, more frequent, shorter breaks during a class are beneficial for everyone involved. Forcing students to get up and get the blood moving will yield a more productive and attentive class.

These devices are part integrated into the social and psychological fabric of today’s undergraduate. Phones, tablets, iPods, and laptops are not simply ancillary devices. They are are the tools to create and maintain critical connections to peers and yes, even course content. Finding ways to validate and cultivate that central aspect of student identity is increasingly important in how we teach.

So where is the balance between distraction and integration to help students succeed?