All posts by Andy Thomason


Kean U. Backs Away From Choice of Rapper as Commencement Speaker

Kean University has backed away from its choice of a commencement speaker, the rapper Common, whom the New Jersey state police have long criticized for a song he wrote that sympathizes with a convicted murderer and fugitive. The Record, a New Jersey newspaper, reports that the public university announced Common as the planned commencement speaker on Monday, but on Tuesday it said it was “pursuing other speaker options.”

The state police’s disdain for Common stems from his 2000 song portraying Joanne Chesimard, who in 1977 was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper, as a victim. Ms. Chesimard escaped from prison and now lives as a fugitive in Cuba. The police also protested Common’s invitation to a poetry event at the White House in 2011.

“The students expressed interest in Common because he composed the Oscar-winning song ‘Glory’ with our prior commencement speaker John Legend,” a university spokeswoman, Susan Kayne, told the newspaper. Common won an Academy Award this year for that song, featured in the film Selma.

Just hours after announcing the selection of hip-hop artist Common as commencement speaker, Kean University pulled back on the decision Tuesday evening as it became clear that the choice was opposed by New Jersey State Police who were concerned that the singer had sympathized with a convicted cop killer in his lyrics.

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U. of Nebraska Chancellor Will Step Down

Harvey Perlman, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, announced on Wednesday that he would step down next year, after 15 years on the job, “for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional,” he wrote in a message to the campus.

“It is apparent that my age, longevity in this office, and the uncertainty of my continuing tenure creates challenges for the recruitment of high-level administrators,” wrote Mr. Perlman, who is 73. “I also believe UNL could benefit from an infusion…


Noose Found Hanging From a Tree at Duke

Duke University has started an investigation after a noose was found hanging from a tree on its campus early Wednesday morning, reports The Chronicle, the university’s student newspaper. In an email to the campus, the vice president for student affairs, Larry Moneta, called the act “hateful and stupid,” adding that he couldn’t “begin to describe the disgust and anger” he felt after learning of the incident.

Just last week, Duke began investigating another incident of reported racism. A black female student said she had heard a white male student making racist remarks. A group calling itself the Duke People of Color Caucus said a group of white students had sung to the black student the same racist chant infamously caught on video at the University of Oklahoma.

A noose was discovered hanging from a tree on the Bryan Center Plaza early Wednesday morning. Reports on social media showed a photo of the noose, made with a thin yellow rope, with several students linking the incident to racially charged motivations. The noose was removed from the tree prior to 2:45 a.m.

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Grand Jury Rips Controversial U. of Texas Regent, but Does Not Indict Him

A grand jury has opted not to indict the controversial University of Texas regent Wallace L. Hall Jr., who has been criticized as leading a witch hunt against the departing president of the system’s flagship campus, William C. Powers Jr. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Travis County grand jury was charged with investigating whether Mr. Hall should be indicted for abuse of office, misuse of information, or official oppression.

While it chose not to indict the regent, the jury did condemn M…


2 Campus Police Officers Are on Leave After Harassing and Arresting Black Teenagers

Two campus police officers at a Dallas community college have been placed on leave after the disclosure of a video showing them harassing and arresting a group of black teenagers, The Dallas Morning News reports.

The video was shot last week and subsequently posted on Reddit. El Centro College’s police chief and spokeswoman did not provide comment to the newspaper. But the Dallas County Community College District’s director of media relations, Ann Hatch, said the district would investigate. “In…


3 Bucknell Students Are Expelled for Using Racial Slur in Radio Broadcast

Bucknell University has expelled three students for using a racial slur this month in a campus radio broadcast, The Patriot-News reports. One of the students was a disc jockey, and the other two were guests on the show, Happy Times, which has since been taken off the air by WVBU, the student-run station. “We will not perpetuate racist and violent comments by sharing the audio or recapitulating the language used,” said a college spokesman, Andy Hirsch.

LEWISBURG — Three Bucknell University students have been expelled for using language that included a racial slur on a campus radio station broadcast. The expulsions are permanent and the three will not be permitted to return to Bucknell in the future, spokesman Andy Hirsch said Monday.

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Sweet Briar Faculty Votes No Confidence in President and Board

Faculty members at Sweet Briar College voted no confidence in the college’s president and Board of Directors on Monday, echoing a vote they took two weeks ago opposing the college’s closure. The News & Advance, a Lynchburg, Va., newspaper, reports that a college spokeswoman, Christy L. Jackson, said the administration was “surprised and disappointed” by the vote, which occurred on the same day the Amherst County attorney sued the college, seeking to stop it from closing.

The faculty of Sweet Briar College announced a vote of no confidence in the college’s president and board of directors Monday night as the battle over the Amherst County school raged on.

In a resolution explaining the vote, the faculty said the board and Sweet Briar President James Jones had abdicated their responsibility and cut off substantive dialogue with the staff.

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Oklahoma College Discriminated Against Transgender Professor, Justice Dept. Says

The U.S. Justice Department has sued Southeastern Oklahoma State University, alleging it discriminated against a transgender professor, Reuters reports. According to the lawsuit, Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English, was denied tenure because of her gender, and then was fired when she complained. “The university is confident in its legal position and its adherence to all applicable employment laws,” the university said in a statement.

The DOJ said it also sued the Regional University System of Oklahoma. The department said the woman, Rachel Tudor, was denied a promotion because of her gender identity and was retaliated against after she complained. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Eric Beech)

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County Attorney Sues to Stop the Closure of Sweet Briar College

[Updated (3/31/2015, 4:48 p.m.) with a statement from the college.]

[Updated (3/30/2015, 8:07 p.m.) with details on and analysis of the lawsuit.]

A county attorney in Virginia sued on Monday to block the closure of Sweet Briar College. In a complaint filed against the college on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the attorney said she was seeking the following actions:

  • To enjoin the college from taking further steps to close.
  • To bar the college from “using funds raised by charitable solici…

Rhodes Scholarships Will Be Offered to Chinese Students

Students in China will soon be eligible to receive Rhodes scholarships, the Rhodes Trust announced on Monday. The first group of recipients from mainland China will be selected this year for the program, which sends students to the University of Oxford for two years of postgraduate education.

The change in eligibility rules underscores Rhodes’s desire to stay relevant in global higher education. The New York Times notes that the program is creating a platform for fund raising. But an expansion i…