The issue of sexual assault on our nation’s campuses has been much in the news, especially since President Obama’s creation of a Task Force in early 2014 to address this serious issue. Lawmakers at the state and federal level, as well as law-enforcement officials have been deeply engaged with college and university leaders in attempting to develop effective prevention strategies as well as ways our institutions of higher education should deal with instances of alleged sexual assault on their campuses.
Mark, a six year-old leukemia patient, was unable to receive the measles vaccine due to his compromised immune system. Given his lack of immunization, he contracted the disease from an unvaccinated playmate and now is in critical condition from encephalitis, a serious, life-threatening complication which can occur with this highly infectious disease. Given the ongoing, indeed increasing, anti-vaccination movement in the United States and abroad, this illustrative scenario is likely to occur more and more frequently.
In the January 20th, 2015 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education there was an unfortunate – but quite revealing – juxtaposition of two major articles. The first, by Kelly Field, was entitled, “6 Years in and 6 to Go, Only Modest Progress on Obama’s College-Completion Goal;” the second, by Casey Fabris, “College Students Think They’re Ready for the Work Force. Employers Aren’t so Sure.”
Today’s Commentary, of course, begins with deepest condolences to Mrs. Cuomo and the entire Cuomo family. Our hearts go out to them at this most difficult time, a time when we all mourn the loss of a very special man, Governor Mario Cuomo.
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.