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Earlier today CNN ran a story (Update: since removed!) about new research suggesting that women’s political views are shaped by their menstrual cycles. I’m not going to rehash everything that’s wrong with the piece, beyond what I’ve already tweeted, but I did want to point out one thing.

The study, “The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politics, Religion, and the Ovulatory Cycle,” which is to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, has three authors —Kristina Durante, Ashley Arsena, and Vladas Griskevicius.

Thought you might find that illuminating.

Last week a former Amherst College student’s harrowing account of being raped on campus — and of the administration’s subsequent appalling failure to support her or deal with the incident responsibly — was published in the college newspaper and almost immediately began to draw attention across the country.

Angie Epifano’s story of rape, involuntary institutionalization, and administrative failure brought other campus rape survivors forward, sparked vigils and other organizing, and prompted Amherst president Biddy Martin, until recently the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to announce an investigation of Epifano’s allegations and a series of possible revisions to campus policy.

In her statement, released six days ago, Martin declared Epifano’s experiences “horrifying,” and declared that the administration’s approach to rape complaints “must change.” As a result of an open meeting with students, she said, students would immediately be added to the campus Title IX and student life planning committees, campus penalties for sexual assault would be reviewed, and new regulation of off-campus fraternities would be considered.

On Friday a group of students secured a meeting with the Amherst board of trustees to discuss the crisis on campus, and the next day the board announced the establishment of a committee, to include student representation, which will conduct a review of campus policy in the area. The committee will make a public report in advance of the board’s next meeting in January, though it will have no formal institutional authority.

A crucial question going forward will be which students are brought into these processes, and how they are chosen. The president of the Amherst student government, not the administration, chose the delegation for the trustee meeting, but some students have been critical of the composition of that group, and are pressing for a less “manufactured” process for choosing representatives to the upcoming advisory committee.

Some activists also express concern that a narrow focus on written policies evades the core issues at stake. “The policy in place isn’t the heart of the problem,” senior Alexa Hettwer told the school paper. “Its enforcement by the administration has been shameful. This is more than just tinkering with policy; it raises serious questions about the direction and inclusiveness of the College in the future.”

Meanwhile, organizing continues. A new student website devoted to exposing sexual assault at Amherst appeared in the immediate aftermath of the publication of Epifano’s story, and yesterday they posted a photo essay of survivors (and allies) “featur[ing] eleven men and women who were sexually assaulted at Amherst College and the words that members of our community said to them following their assaults.” (The photos appeared on that site in slideshow form. They can be seen here in a single page format.)

And the impact of Epifano’s statement continues to be felt, most recently just this morning with the publication of another student’s account of how the Amherst administration mishandled her own rape complaint, leading to her transfer. (This student was enrolled at Mount Holyoke, a nearby college closely affiliated with Amherst, and was raped on the Amherst campus.)

Yesterday I wrote a piece about a Tuesday evening meeting of the CUNY Queensboro Community College Academic Senate, but the piece wasn’t quite complete because I didn’t have confirmation of the vote results or final text of the resolutions. Well, I do now, and it’s pretty extraordinary.

To recap: A few weeks ago an administrator at QCC threatened to dismantle the college’s English Department and outsource its composition course offerings in retaliation for the department’s refusal to scale back its comp courses to comply with CUNY’s new Pathways curriculum initiative. The administrator in question eventually apologized, and the president of QCC kind-of sort-of walked back the threats.

Which brings us to Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening the Queensboro Academic Senate passed two resolutions in which they rejected the administration’s actions in the strongest possible terms. First, they denounced any attempt to shut down composition at QCC over the Pathways dispute, declaring that such a move would violate state law, put the college’s accreditation in jeopardy, and contravene various binding regulations and policies. That resolution passed in a nearly unanimous vote.

But it was the second resolution, which passed by a reported 44-12 margin, where the Academic Senate really laid down the law. That resolution began with an overview of the deep flaws in the Pathways program and the method by which the CUNY administration attempted to implement it, and then continued on to declare the faculty’s support for the QCC English Department’s refusal to compromise their academic integrity in the composition vote.

Looking forward, the Academic Senate declared that they would not participate in any further deliberations on the implementation of Pathways at QCC “until and unless Vice President Steele’s email outlining the consequences of the English Department vote is formally retracted” and the administration pledges in writing “that the academic judgment and academic freedom of the faculty will be upheld without reprisal.”

Finally, the resolution declared that “no curriculum, adopted by the faculty under pressure and constraint, should ever be interpreted by Administrative personnel … or any media organization as denoting any degree of faculty support for the Pathways initiative, which is overwhelmingly rejected by members of our faculty as harmful to our students and poor educational practice.”

The upshot of this is that the QCC Academic Senate is not merely on record declaring its opposition to Pathways, but also vowing not to even contemplate implementation of any of its provisions until the administration guarantees their freedom to resolve those issues to their own satisfaction in an open, free, and unencumbered manner.

The pushback against Pathways is heating up.

Regular readers will remember that a few weeks ago an administrator at CUNY’s Queensboro Community College threatened to eviscerate the college’s English Department — eliminate composition courses at the college, terminate all adjuncts, halt all job searches, fire full-time faculty — in retaliation for the department’s refusal to scale back its comp courses to comply with Pathways, a controversial new CUNY-wide curricular scheme. It was bizarre, and scary.

The administrator in question eventually apologized in the face of criticism from this site and a bunch of other good folks, and the president of QCC walked back — but didn’t quite close the door on — her threats. The story has been simmering on campus ever since, but there haven’t been any big public developments until now.

Last night the Queensboro Academic Senate met and made it clear that they’re standing by the department and will resist any attempt to go forward with the administration’s threats. I’m still working on getting all the official details out of the meeting, but here’s what I’ve been told so far.

First, in a “nearly unanimous” vote, the Academic Senate passed a resolution affirming Queensboro’s non-negotiable obligation to continue to offer composition courses to its students. “It shall be the official policy of Queensboro Community College,” the resolution declared, that the college “must not violate state law or regulation … jeopardize its accreditations … [or] violate its agreements … by failing to offer courses in sufficient number required for its degree programs.” It further declared that “these obligations must be honored, irrespective of whether Queensboro’s course listings adhere to the specifications of the CUNY Common Required and Flexible Cores.”

Queensboro needs to offer composition, in other words, and as far as the Academic Senate is concerned the college will continue to offer composition, whatever happens with the Pathways fight.

An additional resolution saw more debate, a little more opposition, and a few amendments, and I don’t yet have a precise picture of how that discussion turned out. But in its original form, the second resolution noted the CUNY administration’s lack of attention to “the objections of faculty across CUNY” to the Pathways plan, and called the proposal to scale back composition and similar courses a “particularly problematic” change to “already flawed … schema.” Reviewing showdown between the English department and the QCC administration the resolution declared its “strong support” for the department’s “academic freedom … to render their best academic judgments” on such issues.

In a meatier, forward-looking passage the resolution — again, as originally proposed — declared that “no further review” of Pathways course specifications “can proceed … until and unless the academic judgment and academic freedom of the faculty are fully respected, and guaranteed, in a written document” and the threats to cut course offerings and faculty “is formally retracted” in writing.

Finally, the resolution declared that “no curriculum, adopted by the faculty under pressure and constraint, should ever be interpreted by Administrative personnel … or any media organization as denoting any degree of faculty support for the Pathways initiative, which is overwhelmingly rejected by members of our faculty as harmful to our students and poor educational practice.”

I’m told that this resolution passed by a margin of about four-to-one after unspecified amendments. As soon as I have the exact details I’ll pass them along.

As many as forty people were killed early Tuesday morning in a student hostel adjoining Federal Polytechnic Mubi, a college in northeastern Nigeria, and authorities are trying to piece together why.

Initial suspician centered on Boko Hiram, a violent Islamist group whose name literally means “western education is forbidden.” But given the nature of the killings and the reported targets, officials now believe that the massacre may be connected to student elections held last weekend.

The police commissioner for the region told reporters that many of those killed “were executive leaders that were elected” in the Saturday elections, which the New York Times said were “bitterly contested along religious and ethnic lines.” The BBC reports that student union leadership positions in Nigeria are often “stepping stones” to careers in national politics, providing opportunities for economic advancement. The new leader of the Mubi student union is said to be one of those killed.

Nigeria also has a history of university violence in connection with unofficial fraternities which have been described as campus cults. In 1999 eight students at Obafemi Awololo University in southwestern Nigeria, including the secretary-general of the campus student union, were murdered by members of the Black Axe Confraternity.

Federal Polytechnic Mubi is a campus of some fourteen thousand students which opened in 1979 and moved to its current location in 1982. In the last six years its student body has more than quadrupled, and it now has a staff of some two thousand faculty and other employees.

The college has been closed since the massacre, and many students are now evacuating the area.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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