Early this year, a Report was issued by the White House Council on Women and Girls with the startling finding that one in five of our nation’s female students have been sexually assaulted. Since that time, this oft-repeated statistic has been called everything from “appalling” and “tragic” to “overblown” and “inaccurate.” Wherever an individual falls on that continuum of reactions, I think all would agree that even one incidence of sexual assault is too many.
Just last week, an eight month- long investigation of academic fraud involving student- athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of our nation’s most prestigious public universities, was released. This investigation, led by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a longtime official at the U.S. Justice Department, revealed a well-orchestrated, long-standing and widespread corruption of the academic program at Chapel Hill. In brief, the Wainstein Report described a “shadow curriculum” that had been developed by the departmental manager and the chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department to ensure the academic success of “at risk” student – athletes.
Just two weeks ago, the first case of Ebola in the United States had been confirmed. My Commentary at the time reflected my belief that our nation’s colleges and universities needed to exercise “an abundance of caution” in their reaction to this entry of Ebola to our country. Universities and colleges not only host large numbers of functions where large numbers of people come together in close proximity – concerts, athletic events and the like – but they are also places which welcome thousands of West African visitors – students and faculty – from the very countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak. They also participate in international study programs where their faculty and students visit – often for prolonged periods of time – these very countries. As I stated at the time, I was very concerned by the apparent lack of rigorous protocols for prevention and management at most universities and, perhaps worse, the feeling expressed by many student health professionals that the chance of an outbreak is so low in the U.S. that more aggressive responses are not, at the moment, really necessary.
Yesterday, we all woke up to the news that the first case of Ebola in the United States had been confirmed in Dallas, Texas. A person recently arrived from Liberia, here to visit family, was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and is currently being treated for the disease. Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the “CDC”, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that he is confident that this single case will be contained.
Across the country - in Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Vermont, Massachusetts, and on and on - economic development experts are paying increased attention to the creative organizations which add so much to the vibrancy, productivity and quality of life of their regions. New York is no exception; and, a particularly strong initiative in this regard is ongoing right here in the Capital Region, embracing such industry segments as design, media, museums and preservation, performing arts, visual arts and hand-crafted products.
Over the last several months, discussions of the Common Core State Standards have been eclipsed by the public’s reaction to major issues which have arisen in their implementation – issues such as declining student test scores, and the role of such test scores in teacher evaluations, evaluations mandated if a state was to receive its share of federal money from the “Race to the Top” funds. The Common Core, we remember, is a set of standards or goals which has been developed to describe what our students should achieve at various points in their education. Accepted by some 45 states and the District of Columbia, these standards are meant to ensure that our young people will be prepared for whatever futures our rapidly evolving society creates, that they will be college-ready and employment-ready, that they will be globally competitive.
On June 30th, this coming Monday, an era will end at one of the Capital Region’s most respected institutions of higher education, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. President James Gozzo will leave the helm of this exceptional college – turning its leadership over to the new president, Dr. Gregory Dewey. I have been fortunate to have known President Gozzo for virtually all of his 16-year tenure at the college, a college which has been transformed by his presence.
Each year, graduates of our nation’s colleges and universities participate in an ancient ritual known as “commencement.” They don medieval garb and participate in a ceremony designed to honor their accomplishments and be celebrated by their final “teacher”, the famed “commencement speaker.”
In a recent commentary, I raised the question of whether the United States is losing its global competitiveness in the area of scientific research. And yet, despite the fact that major reductions have been made in our research infrastructure and productivity due to cuts arising from sequestration and over a decade of federal research budgets which have not exceeded inflation, I was startled to learn that “only 38% of Americans feel science [research] is getting too little funding” (reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Strapped,” February 28, 2014). Why isn’t the message getting out? Why do so few Americans see the risk in falling behind in areas of research critical to understanding disease processes, to addressing environmental issues, to developing alternative energy, and on and on?
On March 26, 2014, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, Peter Sung Ohr, issued a ruling which has sent shock waves throughout the world of big-time college sports. In short, he ruled that football players receiving full scholarships at the Big Ten school, Northwestern University, qualify as employees and are, therefore, able to unionize under federal law. Northwestern, as expected, has formally requested a review of this decision, a ruling which has engendered spirited debates around the country. On the one hand, Northwestern football players cite the requirements and restrictions applied to them as scholarship-holding athletes, conditions which they feel render them de facto employees, while Northwestern contends that college athletes are students, first and foremost, and therefore do not qualify as employees.