Notes & Coffee: January 30-February 5

As we all try to navigate the information overload, Notes & Coffee will continue to strive to help you cut through the noise by highlighting the trending stories most critical to the student affairs community. If you ever have any feedback, a story to share, or question to ask, feel free to reach out to [email protected]. We hope you enjoy this week’s expanded digest, and find some time this Sunday to take care of yourself. 

HEADLINE: NASPA In The News - Controversial speech in a polarized climate - “Our nation has changed. And along with it, the climate at many colleges and universities has become more polarized, especially during the most recent presidential race and now as the new administration settles in. The election stimulated an emerging culture where people who may hold offensive or hateful beliefs now feel their perspective has been legitimized and they have permission to give voice to their views, many of which students may find repugnant or even threatening to their safety. In response, student activism, already on the rise these past two years, will surely increase. The most recent set of executive orders from the new administration has clearly activated college students, as thousands of them protested the executive order on immigration across the country this past week.” 

Higher ed seeks footing amid immigration policy chaos - “Questions about the implementation and reach of President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee rights still roil, three days after it was signed. The city of Rutland, Vermont, was prepared to welcome 100 Syrian refugees in a plan devised by city officials. Under Trump’s order, that is now in question. Rutland faces a labor force problem shared by many isolated New England cities: an aging population that will be leaving the workforce over the next decade or two. In an effort to reverse demographic trends and bring in more residents with needed skills, civic leaders decided to welcome Syrian refugees. With the executive order, however, Rutland may never see all 100 refugees. To date, only nine refugees had arrived, and under the order, refugees from Syria are banned for the indefinite future.” 

Johnson amendment and higher education - “President Trump on Thursday repeated a campaign pledge by promising to "destroy" the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 federal provision that bans political activity by nonprofit organizations, including colleges and churches. Under the amendment, nonprofit colleges cannot directly or indirectly endorse specific candidates or otherwise engage in politicking without risking their nonprofit tax status. Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University's president and an early Trump supporter, has called for the amendment's repeal, arguing that it has been used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to target conservative and religious groups. “In recent years it’s been used as a club,” Falwell told Inside Higher Ed in July. “It would be best for all nonprofit organizations if it were repealed.” 

Athletes and activism - “From the protests at the University of Missouri over racial representation to the women’s volleyball team at West Virginia University Institute of Technology declining to stand during the national anthem, college athletes have embraced a renewed role in campus activism in recent years. It may come in the form of a football team threatening to boycott a game over racial inequality or a quarterback posting a photo of himself online wearing a hat emblazoned with the words “Fuck Trump.” Either way, such protests often spark debates about free speech, with colleges and teams caught in the middle. That debate was a common theme at last month’s National Collegiate Athletic Association meeting in Nashville, Tenn., with college presidents, athletes and NCAA leaders all weighing in on the topic. The consensus: let the players speak."

On the fence about DeVos - “The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday with a party-line vote of 12-11. But her confirmation by the full Senate does not appear to be a sure thing after two Republican committee members expressed doubts about voting for her confirmation on the Senate floor. Maine Senator Susan Collins said DeVos's focus on charter schools as a philanthropist and activist raised questions about whether she understood her primary focus as education secretary would be to strengthen all public schools. And Collins voiced concerns about the nominee's commitment to enforcing the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.”

5 of higher ed’s alternative facts - “There are many alternative facts I choose to believe in my personal life; for instance, the salad I eat for dinner cancels out the cheesesteak I had for lunch; or the sale is so good I can’t afford not to buy a singing Margaritaville machine; or I’m completely up for going to a bar instead of sitting at home reading in my pajamas. It seems that we all have these alternative facts we tell ourselves instead of the truth, and higher education is no different. No matter how many times research reports, educator testimonials, or student performance metrics reveal seemingly undeniable truths, antiquated practices or beliefs about how higher education should operate are still used frequently thanks to the citation of these alternative facts.” 

More Notes

Is ‘holistic’ higher ed’s latest innovation star?

Could Trump cut Berkley’s funds?

No baseline for accessibility

What Edtech tools are community colleges flocking to? 

Standing up to trolls

Rift in women’s studies over transgender issues

NASPA Highlight

Statement on executive orders and Senate confirmations - “We are 10 days into the new administration which has brought with it an unprecedented number of executive orders that have far-reaching impacts on the world at large. This is not politics as usual, with these orders signed and implemented outside of the customary process of checks and balances that exists between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the government. The confirmation process for cabinet nominees has also been fast-tracked, bypassing and/or expediting the full and careful consideration usually given to these individuals prior to their hearings.”