Notes & Coffee: September 18 - 24

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.

What does the end of Obama’s Title IX guidance mean for colleges – Practically speaking, federal guidance on campus sexual-assault policy has returned to the pre-2011 era. But colleges’ policies won’t. At least not right away. Campus Title IX officers told The Chronicle on Friday that their colleges would remain committed to sexual-assault prevention and response, despite the federal government’s announcement that the approach to the gender-equity law that the Obama administration had championed was effectively over.

How campus sexual assault became so politicized – On Friday, the Department of Education officially revoked the Obama administration’s guidance on college sexual assault, offering interim guidelines on how universities should handle the issue. Democratic Senator Patty Murray said in a statement the decision could send sexual assault survivors “back into the shadows.” When DeVos gestured at these upcoming plans in a speech earlier this month, many Democrats made similar statements. All 56 Democratic members of Congress who tweeted about the speech criticized it. Democratic Senators Bob Casey and Kristen Gillibrand called DeVos’ decision “an insult to survivors of sexual assault” and “[a betrayal of] our students, plain and simple,” respectively. Since her confirmation hearing, DeVos and her staff have largely been depicted as perpetrator-sympathizers with no concern for sexual-assault victims who, in part thanks to Obama’s policy changes, now feel empowered to speak out. (This criticism has, at times, been understandable.) But there is  serious disconnect between the harsh reaction to DeVos and the substance of what she said—one that underscores the deeply partisan nature of policy-building around college sexual assault.

Online abroad, and beyond Title IX reach? – Online courses – and especially the special brand of massive open classes that emerged earlier this decade -- have helped colleges expand their reach geographically as well as educationally; they are far likelier today than they were a decade or more ago to be educating students in, and from, other countries. An unfolding lawsuit shows that a key federal law may not be keeping up with that reality.

Consistency vs. ethnic studies – For the California State University System, it’s a bit of streamlining. For ethnic and gender studies professors at the university's Northridge campus, it’s not only overreach, but threatens the study of marginalized groups. Objectively, all that is clear right now is that the CSU system’s attempt to make its campuses’ general-education requirements more uniform is up in the air. 

Who is blocking campus speakers now? – Last week, the University of California, Berkeley, spent $600,000 on security to assure that Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer, could speak on the campus without being disrupted. Also this month, Charles Murray, whose research is blasted by many as racist, appeared at Harvard University. Security was tight there, and some protested outside, but Murray spoke without incident. In both cases, the universities rejected requests by some that the appearances be called off. In both cases, the speakers praised the universities for the way they handled the events.

More Notes

What DACA’s end could mean for colleges

Editorial: Helping first-generation students

How generations X, Y, and Z may change the academic workplace

Briefing: Single mothers in college: growing enrollment, financial challenges, and the benefits of attainment

Being good neighbors