Coastal Carolina Under Investigation For Title IX Protocol and Retaliation

#Breaking: #CCU under investigation by The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for violations of #TitleIX protocol and retaliation against those who filed the initial complaint. Title IX is a federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education such as sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. A coalition of faculty, staff, parents, students and community members from around South  Carolina put together a blog where this information was published in addition to publishing a survey where students and/or employees can submit their experiences to be forwarded to the Office of Civil Rights for review. CCU policies are also condensed and available for review so students and/or employees can determine whether or not their experiences align with Coastal policy and/or federal law.

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Neither The Coastal Carolina Student Union nor the coalition play any part in determining the outcome of any complaints submitted via the survey, as the Office of Civil Rights is the governing body. The Coastal Carolina Student Union is, however, encouraging students/employees to participate in the survey in an effort to make Coastal a safe and equitable learning environment for everyone. We are here to help and answer questions however we can, however, cannot provide legal advice nor should anything we post be considered as such. We, as always, encourage dialogue but ask that due to the nature of Title IX and sexual assault, people monitor the rhetoric of their comments. Thank you all so much, please share, spread the word, check out the survey, make better happen.

http://saacoalitionsc.blogspot.com/2015/01/coastal-carolina-university-conway-sc.html (COALITION BLOG AND SURVEY)

———–Supportive Resources on Campus————

Student Organization SAGE (Students Advocating Gender Equality)
https://www.facebook.com/sage.coastal?ref=ts&fref=ts

Title IX (currently under investigation)
http://www.coastal.edu/titleix/index.html

Department of Public Safety
http://www.coastal.edu/safety/

Student Health Services
http://www.coastal.edu/health/

The WRC, Women’s Resource Cooperative http://www.coastal.edu/counseling/peereducatorprograms/wrc/

Counseling Services
http://www.coastal.edu/counseling/index.html

The CARES (Campus Assault Resource and Education Support) Team http://www.coastal.edu/counseling/outreach/cares.html

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Guest Feature: An open letter to the cast, crew, and production of HAIR the Musical: BRAVO

First off, BRAVO! Everyone’s performances were spectacular, and the crew and production team put together a wonderful set design. I was particularly touched by this show, and I think that it needs to be said. This show is symbolic of REVOLUTION. Not like a “bang bang yehaw” revolution, but revolution in the sense of a change in society and culture. This is the type of revolution that was not only needed in the 1960s time period of the show, but it is also needed TODAY. Look around and you will easily find evidence of injustices and oppression. This show is not only discussing the Vietnam War, but also the racial and feminist issues of the time period. These issues, however, are not just history. They are current events, and these types of issues are present in today’s society whether or not all people would like to admit it.

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Sometimes I hear people say things like, “If I lived back then, I would’ve been such a hippie, such an activist.” And to you I say, nope. No you wouldn’t, because there are plenty of things happening RIGHT NOW in the world and in this country that deserve attention. WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? Are you helping solve problems, or are you perpetuating them with your apathy? Are you caught up in the system that is blatantly screwing the majority of us over, i.e. capitalism? Where are you when we talk about the one percent? Where are you during the modern day Civil Rights Movement, fighting for lives that have been lost due to the racist state of our country? Where are you while we fight against fracking, deforestation, pollution, and a long list of other environmental issues? Where on you in the fight for LGBTQAA+ equality? Where are you while we march to end gender inequality and sexual assault? Where are you while we stand at the front lines, fighting, researching, solving problems, finding solutions, proposing legislation, boycotting, making waves, writing, and calling people out? Again, where are you really?? The same duties to be an activist are just as alive and well today as they were 1960s. So allow yourself to become self-aware, just as HAIR tells us!

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As generation Y, we get a lot of heat for not being involved enough or being addicted to technology or being slackers or whatever. But guess what, previous generations handed us the world in this state. Like a torch handed off to us at the end of its wick, as it burns our knuckles. It’s our duty to the earth and to humanity to address these issues. We are running out of time. Look at the state of the environment. Look how species diversity is on the decline. Look at how black men and women are killed and oppressed at epidemic proportions. Look at how Native Americans are still fighting for their land and for rights to their own crops. Look at how women, especially women of color, endure epidemic proportions of violence, rape, harassment, and assault. Look at what groups are always on the receiving end of “jokes” and discrimination. Look at how we are so terrified of letting immigrants into our country. Look at how we have only known a world where the U.S. is at war. Look at how we are so quick to blame those suffering from injustice…for their own injustices. What is wrong with that picture? Why don’t we turn and blame the systems that structure and mold our society? Why don’t we blame our clearly non-functional government? Why don’t we blame the greedy, elite, straight, white dudes, living it up with their one percent lifestyle? OUR TIME IS NOW! In this moment, we are called to the front lines to fight injustices. It is our duty not only to the earth, but to EACH OTHER. We are all in this together, and it’s so important to never lose sight of that.

Marchers at Raleigh's first Moral Mondays march of 2014, February 8 (United Workers/Flickr)

To me, this is what HAIR the Musical is about. These are the reasons that the show is still running in 2014 and will continue to run. It’s about calling to mind what issues are relevant TODAY. No matter what year your “today” happens to be in, you are being called to reflect on the injustices happening at that moment all around you. But not only just to reflect, but also to take action, to get angry, to get organized, to gather communities and bands of people together, and to most importantly—effect positive change. I thank everyone involved with HAIR the Musical for calling to mind my own self-awareness, which I will use as momentum for my activism. I call on everyone to do the same. I was inspired by the show, and I can’t wait to try to see it a second time to see what else I can gain from it.

Now, in light of all I have just written, I call out the fact that a particular number was pulled from the show. This was a number in which the only black man was supposed to shine and reach out and touch people by blatantly calling out the ongoing racism. This was supposed to be symbolic of the Black Power Movement. To leave such a piece out is not only disrespectful to the black people in your cast, but it is also racist and an example of symbolic annihilation. Symbolic annihilation is the act of misrepresenting, under-representing, or not representing at all a certain group of people. In this case, you cut out the song that is supposed to call attention to the racial issues in the show, therefore removing that experience—rendering it invalid or unimportant. This is symbolically annihilating the issues that black people faced in the 1960s and the issues they continue to face today.

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I would now like to mention the scene where a black woman dresses up as Abe Lincoln and gives his famous speech, with a white girl polishing her shoes with her hair. She does a marvelous job calling out the fact that black people do not have to conform to “whiteness” to be deemed as acceptable by society. Take a moment to think about what that scene really represents. She exclaims, “I ain’t dyin for no white man!” as she runs off stage after John Wilkes Booth comes out with a gun. Think of how many black women have been oppressed, beaten, pushed aside, disrespected, abused, and killed at the hands of the “white man” (i.e. our androcentric, white supremacist systems that are in place). What a powerful scene it was, and I extend an extra bravo to those involved.

As an activist, this show touched me. It touched me to remember all the activists that have come before us and have fought for many of the rights we now know and take for granted today. Think and reflect on those who have come before us, and extend a thank you to them. But also, use that as fuel and momentum to address the issues and injustices that are happening TODAY, right in this moment. These are just of few of the many thoughts I was left with after seeing the production, and I would like to thank all those involved in the production (cast, musicians, crew, production team, etc.) for helping me to come to these thoughts and revelations.

Peace, Love, and Thanks,

Jillian Ditch

P.S. Stay radical. Radical people are the ones who change the world.

P.P.S. GO SEE HAIR AND CHECK OUT THE THEATRE DEPARTMENT AND THEIR PRODUCTIONS! (http://www.coastal.edu/theatre/html/2014-15/hair.html)

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A Successful Take Back The Night

Thank you to everyone who made Take Back The Night a success, especially CARES who organized the event. Take Back The Night went extremely well and, in relation to our earlier publication, the community was glad to see participation from Greek Life. As explained in the article, we were not asking Fraternities do not attend but that they do so respectfully as was not entirely the case last year. We feel the write up served it’s purpose in not only outlining what Take Back The Night is but also for setting expectations which everyone met. Moreover, the publication pushed some people from fraternities to come demonstrate the daunting statistics about Greek Life and it being a major catalyst for sexual violence is not indicative of all fraternity members nor is it representative of some student’s individual participation and attitudes. This created a great environment of support and solidarity last night for survivors, the extra effort of fraternity members was both noticed and appreciated.

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Dear Fraternities, We Are Taking Back…Take Back The Night

Dear Fraternities, We Are Taking Back…Take Back The Night

A few weeks ago, hazing complaints at Coastal Carolina University resulted in the suspension of three of five fraternities on campus, Kappa Sigma, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Pi Kappa Phi fraternities. This development echoed local and national concerns regarding fraternities and their reoccurring failure to recognize boundaries and appropriate behavior. For this reason, as members of the Coastal Carolina Community, we are respectfully asking fraternity members do not attend Take Back the Night for the purposes of rallying for Homecoming or self-promotion but only attend if they would have otherwise- as survivors of sexual assault or humble allies.

sexualashttp://www.zencollegelife.com/15-frightening-facts-about-sororities-and-fraternities/

This week is Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which is a series of events that provide space for important discussion and much needed education about sexual violence and consent. Sexual Violence Awareness Week includes Tuesday, October 7th’s Take Back The Night, however, this event is not meant to serve as an educative piece or as an invitation for general admission. Take Back The Night is a collective march across campus, composed of survivors of sexual assault, a vast majority being women given their over-representation in assaults. In suit with its name, the purpose of Take Back the Night is for survivors to literally take back the night. It is not an event, as previously held, to accumulate points for a Homecoming competition. It is not a space to plug your fraternity and “rep your letters.” Most of all, it is not a space where survivors should be put in a position where they not only carry the responsibility of educating disinterested groups about how to behave, but also be put into the position where they have to justify their stories, experiences, and presence to attending fraternity members who have made a mockery of the event in the past.

Last year’s Take Back the Night was seen as troubling for many survivors, as previously reported in a national write-up. “As part of CCU’s annual homecoming competition, Greek organizations [were] able to win points for attending certain MultiCultural events — including sexual assault awareness programs. This result[ed] in disinterested frat members showing up at sexual assault panels/events en masse, which can create a very antagonistic environment… In one such instance members of the Greek community were obligated to go to a Take Back the Night [2013] rally and reportedly made attendees uncomfortable by making loud and sarcastic comments.”  Moreover, the focus and publicity was later directed to these very fraternities, repurposing their inappropriate participation as a marketing platform, implying Coastal is a safe place for women demonstrated by the fraternities’ attendance and “support.”

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Coastal, however, is not a safe place for women because we know 1 in 4 women on college campuses report having survived rape or attempted rape and these fraternities are not representative of the people who dedicate their lives to working on these types of issues the other 364 days of the year. Last year, Pi Kappa Phi specifically, showed disrespect by taking the signs made by women, including ones that said, “My dress is not a yes,” trivializing and mocking the meanings of the signs.  The fraternity then proved to be a trigger for some survivors.

One student anonymously submitted in reflection of last year’s event, “The loud male voices shouting in the back of the crowd – not following along with the chants of the rest of the group – made survivors like me feel overpowered at our own event where we are supposed to be taking our power back!  The speak out was extremely tense and uncomfortable, and many survivors felt silenced in our own space. Take Back the Night is not the event to come to if you are not a survivor or ally.  Take Back the Night is not the time to take the power and voices away from survivors. This is our one night.  One. Night. Sexual assault is not only a social justice issue, but a public health issue.  It is rampant and embedded in our culture and until we address that (and address the events of last year’s Take Back the Night as evidence of such) the problem cannot be solved.”

Another student submitted, “I didn’t attend because I feared it would turn into exactly what it did. It’s really unfortunate and disheartening in an analytical sense. For one, that a survivor was intimidated out of attending an event designated specifically for them and, two that it could be so easily predicted that it would go poorly. It blows my mind that I had the foresight to know the combination of homecoming points, fraternities in attendance, lack of education, and already proven hostile climate was a combination bound to create turmoil.  This year, I feel I am attending out of obligation and oversight. For me, I do not personally want to go but I feel I need to go to ensure it isn’t coopted and to be there as support for people I care about if, God forbid, there is a repeat of last year…Dr. Decenzo is planning to speak. I have not personally known him to be a fellow  activist on campus. I hope his remarks are genuine and limited to his experience as a person and not as a representative for the university. He carries a powerful position as president which, if not minded, can belittle, undermine and, honestly, insult the work and autonomy of those of us who have been on the front lines every day.”

http://www.zencollegelife.com/15-frightening-facts-about-sororities-and-fraternities/

 

 

So, in gist, why are we taking back Take Back the Night? It is one night out of the year for survivors of sexual violence and their close allies to join together in solidarity of one another’s experiences.  It’s a time for survivors to feel comfortable enough to share if they feel compelled to do so. Please respect the space.  Respect the purpose and intent of the event.  Respect who this is for and who chooses to speak or not speak out.  We encourage you to attend all the other events next week to have  deep, important conversation on sexual violence and consent.  Come to the Got Consent student talk and panel discussion, for example, Monday, October 6th at 6 in Wall 118.  The talk and panel will be peer led in hopes of students hearing out other students, and it will also provide important information and resources on these issues.  Students will talk about rape culture and its role on our campus. Show support.  Have important conversations.  Learn important information, and gain knowledge of resources on campus, in our community, and in our country.  Most importantly, respect boundaries and respect the triggers of survivors and our allies. Allow survivors and allies a safe and comfortable space to TAKE BACK THE NIGHT!

 

-Coastal Carolina Survivors and  Humble Allies

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#WheresMyVoiceCCU #HandsUpDontShootCCU What Does it Mean to be Marginalized?

#HandsUpDontShootCCU

#WheresMyVoiceCCU

What Does It Mean to be Marginalized?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised… Or Included In Your Syllabus

    Alongside Harvard Law School, The Coastal Carolina Student Union organized one of the nation’s first #HandsUpDontShoot demonstrations at a predominately white institution. Similar to Harvard Law School, despite Coastal Carolina University being about 70% white, participants and organizers were predominantly black. Why is there so much disproportionality? Students of any marginalized identity and their allies are encouraging each other to use the hashtag #WheresMyVoiceCCU  to demonstrate why. (Hashtag individualized to any participating institution) handsup

While many institutions, such as Coastal Carolina University, reach out to diverse populations in admissions and recruitment, they often fall devastatingly short in remedying structural inequalities and bridging de facto segregation on campus upon enrollment. This results in the superficial celebration of diversity on data spreadsheets and brochures while the issues and needs of these diverse and marginalized communities struggle to make it into the public sphere for discussion, evaluation, and, most importantly, solutions.

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On August 19th, 2014 about 70 predominantly black students participated in #HandsUpsDontShootCCU followed by an all white sorority participating in the ice bucket challenge, unaware of what #Ferguson is and why it would resonate with a community so much so as to move them to action.

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 These events reflected with eerie accuracy what Janee Woods described in an earlier article, articulating the racial politics in predominantly white communities, “Those same [white] people who gleefully jumped on the bandwagon to dump buckets of ice over their heads to raise money for ALS… who immediately wrote heartfelt messages about the extraordinary Robin Williams, may he rest in peace…but an unarmed black teenager minding his own business walking down the street in broad daylight gets harassed and murdered by a white police officer and those same people seem to have nothing urgent to say about pervasive, systemic, deadly racism in America?” DSC_7001

Woods attributed this lack of participation from the white community, in part, due to the “fear of being alienated socially and economically from other white people for standing in solidarity with black people, or of putting one’s self in harm’s way, whether the harm be physical or psychological.” Whether purposeful or not, CCU maintains this fear of not only alienation but retribution as well.

tweet2tweet3                                                    For example, in a preceding, unrelated, statement a CCU Dean maintained just  a few weeks before the #HandsUpDontShoot demonstration that CCU is “MEANT to be an ivory tower [pejorative term describing a place where self-proclaimed elitists isolate themselves from those they feel are unworthy of access, often among racial & socioeconomic lines]” tweet3

At a college with more black students, fewer black faculty and fewer black programs and classes than surrounding peer institutions, statements like this maintain the fear of speaking out and pursuing solutions. It’s a symptom of marginalization, it is continuously made clear these actions and perspectives are unwelcome. ccudem

In result, students organized without assistance from the university through the Student Union Twitter, unfortunately, having to pick battles, students did not invite or inform any faculty for fear “they would get in trouble if anyone saw they were involved or knew… even if they were just showing support.” Meanwhile, CCU administration takes the ice bucket challenge with a plethora of resources to publicize their initiative and support the cause. It’s fun, it’s safe, no one is going to be uncomfortable or intimidated by their presence or advocacy and at the end of the day we can superficially call ourselves a “progressive campus” for our participation.

Moreover, marginalization does not simply mean being a minority though they often coincide. Marginalization means to be treated as a “insignificant, peripheral…to be kept in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group….It denies a section of the society equal access to productive resources and avenues for the realization of their productive human potential and opportunities for their full capacity utilization.”

tweet3  Women, for example, are actually the majority at Coastal Carolina University, however, articles last year published locally and nationally drew attention to problematic attitudes and cultures on campus contributing to a hostile climate priming the area for sexual assault. Although there are increased preventative initiatives this year, it was not without struggle and collateral damage. In April 2014, The White House released a new set of recommendations to help colleges confront the high levels of sexual assault which reflected the very recommendations CCU students and faculty made to administration beginning in October of 2013- an entire six months in advance. Internal CCU petitions, proposals, and concerns, however, were not only dismissed but organizers were often penalized for their involvement in drawing attention to campus deficits.

The original Vagina Monologues Flyer had lips turned vertically, deemed "inappropriate" by administration. The flyer shown was not allowed to be posted on campus.

The original Vagina Monologues Flyer had lips turned vertically, deemed “inappropriate” by administration. The flyer shown was not allowed to be posted on campus.

Students advocating gender and racial equality are not the only marginalized groups on campus. Women and African-Americans are simply the largest marginalized groups on campus, therefore having the largest presence. The LGBTQ, WOC, and Latino community, for example, have long been speaking out without an audience to hear them and, even then, in the words of bell hooks, “Naming oppressive realities, in and of itself, has not brought about the kinds of changes for oppressed groups that it can for more privileged groups.” In other words, if an LGBTQ or WOC student points out that sexual assault is a problem on campus, it’s not enough to just say it. There is an assumption that the LGBTQ or WOC community is complicit, that it’s their individual problem and not one that stems from a systemic or societal shortcoming. The same can be said of #HandsUpDontShoot in contrast with the ice bucket challenge, where white faces and/or privileged people are regarded more generally as victims first while people of color must earn victim-hood, usually presumed to have “deserved it” by the general public before inspecting the situation first.

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Partnering with smaller groups facing equally oppressive structures and providing them a platform is essential. In the restructuring of systems, we must hear from the whole in order to  benefit the whole. Using #WheresMyVoiceCCU will continue providing insight about systemic shortcomings often lost on the populations they don’t effect.

An abbreviated list of proposed policy changes to increase access and transparency is included below, additional recommendations and critiques please direct to coastalcarolinastudentunion@gmail.com or anonymously through our “Submit” page.

Proposed Changes-

  • Policy protecting students and employees from retribution for organizing petitions, demonstrations, forums, etc
  • Open forums between students and administrators
  • Re-evaluation of CCU’s application of Title IX’s sexual assault protocols
  • Clearer, objective, criteria as to what deems an event or flyer “appropriate”
  • Checks and balances (oversight) within the non-academic complaint procedure
  • Designated procedure and opportunities for students/employees to make recommendations and proposals to administration- including evaluation, speedy response, and justification about ultimate decision
  • Transparency and notification about meetings of the Board of Trustees and their agendas
  • Formation of a Board of Overseers, as done at Harvard University. This board provides “periodic external review of the quality and direction of the University’s schools, departments, and selected other programs and activities,” and are elected by current and former students.
  • Weekly notifications of crime on campus
  • Removal (expungement) of any disciplinary action taken against students/employees for their participation in advocacy, especially that which has been echoed by surrounding colleges or nationally.
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CCU Dean Dr. Michael Roberts Believes “We are MEANT to be in ivory towers”

The following opening  year comments and critiques offered by Dean of Science, Michael Roberts, has caused quite the stir at Coastal. In particular, his assertion fellow Coastal academics are “MEANT to be in ivory towers,” left listeners bewildered and in disagreement.  The term “ivory tower” is entirely pejorative, describing a place where self-proclaimed elitists isolate themselves from those they feel are unworthy of access. This results in “impractical often escapist attitudes¹” producing practices that are disconnected from everyday world experiences and are insensitive to racial and socioeconomic differences.  Many felt Roberts’ belief an “ivory tower” is something colleges strive for not only exemplified the problem with said isolation, but reflected the problematic elitist and separatist climate on campus. 

College of Science – Intro Talk 8-14-14

Dr. Michael H. Roberts

mroberts@coastal.edu

In my prepared remarks today, I want to talk briefly about some challenges that we face – not just us here in the College of Science at CCU, but more generally in higher education – However, I will bring these concerns and challenges back around to what we all do as part of this University and hopefully generate a discussion that may be useful as we look forward to the next few years here at CCU.

The first thing I will say, and this is probably obvious to many of you, but in spite of our good fortune here at CCU this is a difficult time in our economic sector; a time of great change in our world of higher education. If you look at headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education, you will see reports of these changes: The headlines: “For twenty years Crisis and Change have been the rule”, “There is a deficit of opportunity”, “Higher Education in a World Changed Utterly”.

While many things can cause change, there are three extrinsic factors that often lead to rapid transitions, if not revolutions in societies. The first is the popping of a bubble – speculation leads to a serious miss-match between cost and value. Examples include the dot-com bubble of the ‘80’s, the housing bubble of a few years ago, and even the “tulip mania” of 1637. A second extrinsic factor driving change can be a demographic shift. An interesting historical example is the end of feudalism in the 1300’s. Due to the Black Death, and the resulting population loss, labor became an extremely valuable commodity and the economic system was dramatically altered. A third factor can be a technological innovation – a new way of doing things sweeps through an industry – assembly lines, transistors.

An interesting thing we currently face in Higher Education, is that all three of these potential industry-changing extrinsic factors are occurring at the same time. A Bubble – I think we all know that tuition costs are rising. Now there is nothing wrong with raising prices as long as the perceived (and actual) value of your product rises along with the cost. However, the increase in student loan default rates might suggest that the value of our “product” – an educated student – is not worth as much as we think – students are not being employed at the level necessary to repay their investments. A miss-match between cost and value may indicate a bubble is about to pop.

Demographics – there has been a change in the number of students heading to college. In the decade looking forward there is estimated to be a 10% increase in the college-bound population. This may seem just fine, except that over the past decade, looking back, there was a 27% increase in this population. So our rate of increase is dropping, just as new players in the higher education arena are expanding (in the past decade there was only a 10% increase in non-profit enrollment while for-profit enrollment increased 230%). As a consequence, we may be heading to a demographic “crunch”.

Innovation – I am not that concerned about the arrival of MOOCs and the expansion of on-line learning. However, the advent of “badges” and “competency-based-education” has the potential to dramatically change our educational business model – from one where time is the constant and learning is the variable, to one where learning is the constant and time is the variable. This change may dramatically alter how higher education works and provides its services.

All these three changes occurring at the same time (bubble, demographics, innovation) – each of which alone is capable of destroying an economic sector – worries me deeply, and sometimes keeps me up at night as I reflect on the fact that most university business models are completely unsustainable. Keep in mind however, that I am a strong advocate of what we do as educators, and from previous comments I have made here at these meetings, I have the utmost respect for our role as the defenders of a 1000-year-old tradition in our society… and I don’t let worry paralyze me too easily.

To extend the above, a further worry I have is that our nature as academics is to comfortably live in ivory towers. But I don’t mention this solely as a pejorative. We are MEANT to be in ivory towers; it is how we do what we do – and we do it very well. By isolating ourselves from the “outside” we are able to bring together bright thoughtful people in a distinct physical space. By doing so, both faculty and students learn to create novel connections and create bridges between ideas and disciplines that might not occur in more structured learning environments. The creation of these random and novel connections is what makes our ivory tower such a rich place for students and faculty to learn together and generate the ideas and frameworks that will allow new ways of looking at the world – and thus solve many of our challenges. However, there is a problem of living in the ivory tower if we turn too inward and consciously avoid seeing the challenges, and avoid changing in response to what we see.

With all this as introduction, I want to move in a more positive direction and present a note of hope. It is my contention that there are a few additional things that are occurring around us, that may allow us to delay, or even prevent, our day of reckoning.

First, there is a strong need for education. As I have mentioned at each of our first-year orientations this summer, the pace of change in our society today is such that there is a strong need for continued education and life-long learning. A thousand years ago, if you did things the same way your great-grand parents did them, you would be OK. One hundred years ago, if you did things the same way as your parents did them you would be fine. However, today if you simply rely upon the techniques and skill sets of your older sibling you may be in trouble.

So, society today is characterized by a HUGE need for continuing education – and our universities are uniquely positioned to do that. Second, the “flattening” of the world, and the opening of global markets, has created multiple opportunities for expansion – and Dr. Domke-Damonte will be talking later this morning about how you can participate in CCU’s expanding global initiatives. Third, and finally, if you look at what often drives change in society it is often technological innovations – and as a College of Science we are not just a passive responder to the things that drive change, but we can be a driver of that change – or at least be close enough to the change to see it coming well before others do.

As a consequence, the reason we explore new programs and new initiatives here in our college is not simply to say “us too” as we compare our program offerings to others in the state. We see new educational opportunities and then we act on what we see. The reason we have Humanities Dean Dan Ennis looking at non-traditional credit-bearing and tuition-generating programs is to open up new opportunities for potential students – and create new revenue streams. The reason I have been spending my time working to create the “Conway Innovation Center” downtown is to expand public-private partnerships to leverage the intellectual capital of CCU, HGTC, and the community to yield more funding opportunities.

So, while in one respect this is a challenging time for higher education, I think we at CCU, and in the College of Science, have always thought creatively about what we can do as we served our local community – and as a consequence, while holding on to the value of our bucolic ivory tower, we also are fully aware of how we can do things differently. This combination of tradition – and forward-thinking – will ensure our successful future.

Over the upcoming year we will be reviewing and revising our five year-plan to see if it matches today what we thought we needed to do when we started the process a few years ago. If asked to serve on the planning committee, please think seriously about an affirmative response. But even if not asked, there will be ample opportunities to make your voice heard. Make sure you bring your thoughts forward, to me or to others, on what you feel we can do to continue to make the College of Science the exemplar of the quality education that students receive at CCU.

In closing, thank you for all that you do for the college, the university, and our students … and welcome to the Fall of ‘14…

¹ “Ivory Tower.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ivory tower>.

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An Open Letter to Max Shireson, Will You Continue To Help?

Dear Mr.  Shireson,

Thank you for your post, “Why I am Leaving the Best Job I Ever Had.” The fact that you were willing to make a career change for the sake of your family is commendable and, moreover, I appreciate you drawing attention to the exacerbated hardships of women in leadership positions. Not only do women face increased public scrutiny, they also face pressure to choose their families over their careers. In 2007 the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that after 10 years in the paid workforce, nearly 34% of mothers reduced their hours or quit altogether, compared to only 3% of fathers. This is just one reason why women lose $431,000 over the course of their careers compared to men’s earnings. For women of color, the wage gap is even larger with African American women earning only 68% of men’s wages and Latinas earning only 59%.

You also rightfully drew attention to the overwhelming demands and double-standards women in the workforce face when juggling a family. Nearly 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 were part of the paid labor force in 2013, 40% of whom were the primary breadwinners, yet women put in an additional 28.5 hours of housework and childcare every week, nearly ten hours more than the average for dads. Worse yet, 51% of those mothers don’t have access to paid leave. Problems for single mothers are even greater, as 58% of them are low-income.

Equal Pay Hands 50 Year

But beyond the stigma and obstacles facing women, I wonder if you’re aware to what extent your situation, as a whole, resonates with middle and working-class America. For many of us, it seems like the ability to achieve the American Dream is no longer a reality. Home ownership is on the decline, student loan debt is rising, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. You stated that writing your piece may cost you $10 million dollars in the future. I suspect you probably just made that number up. When it would take the average American 312 years to accumulate such wealth, however, you have to acknowledge the vast difference in perspectives and standards of living. I suspect you are aware of such hardships and that was largely why you decided to write about your experience.While I sincerely applaud you for the gesture, however, I wonder if your keen insight and platform about these issues will stop as merely a gesture.

I appreciate your nod to women in the workforce and I appreciate your nod to middle and working-class America. As I’m sure you already know, however, you are neither a woman nor middle or working-class. That being said, as you soon will serve as Vice Chairman of MongoDB; I ask that you continue to both keep in mind and take action for those of us who are. I ask that you continue to take action on behalf of those of us who do not have the safety-net to move from one massively powerful and lucrative role to another, those of us who do not have the platform to draw attention to the issues we face ourselves. I ask you to take action on behalf of those of us who are still fighting for a living wage, affordable health insurance, and paid family leave.

You are in a unique position to call upon a powerful audience and shape policy. As class-lines grow increasingly polar and rigid, it’s rare someone even approaches this broadening gap. Thank you for using your platform and privilege to be an ally and for taking the time to provide a space for public discussion such as this. It’s evident your insight and aptitude spans beyond business and technology, upon which you already helped build quite an industry. I ask of you, Mr. Shireson will you follow through on this as well?

Thank you

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