The University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication: top notch…or not?

“You’re the top,” wrote lyricist Cole Porter. A lot of Oregonians feel that way about the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC).

SOJClogo

Graduates have a lot of pride in their school. One of the top journalism schools in the country, its champions say.

I’ve been a guest lecturer there and I’ve been impressed with the inquisitive students.

UOlecturehall

Nothing wrong with hometown pride, but does the school deserve the accolades? As a former reporter at The Oregonian, corporate communications manager and still a journalist, I wanted to know the answer.

With dead newspapers across the country, massive personnel cutbacks, and turmoil even at digital news sites, what are the prospects for the 646 students who earned a Bachelor’s degree and the 43 who earned a Master’s or PhD from the SOJC during 2018-19, one of the largest graduating classes in the program’s history?[1]

In many areas, the prospects are poor. “2019 crystallized something media people have known to be true for a while: While digital media dries out in the wake of the VC funding boom of the 2010s, and the country’s regional newspapers are swallowed by corporate consolidation and hedge fund vultures, there is very little stability to be found anywhere,” Maya Kosoff wrote on Dec. 16 in Gen, a Medium publication about politics, power, and culture. “If 2019 signaled a change, it was the realization that not only is the ship sinking, but that there aren’t any lifeboats.”

But SOJC is optimistic. “Today’s thriving creative and media economy offers a wealth of exciting career paths…,” says the SOJC’s website. “No matter which of our four majors you choose, you’ll get a strong foundation and the professional skills and connections to succeed.”

True or academic hyperbole?

wearenumberone

There are almost 500 U.S. schools with higher education journalism programs. Of those, there are 117 schools accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), including the University of Oregon’s SOJC.

Leaving aside the question of whether a journalism degree is even a necessary prerequisite for anybody entering the field (After all, Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame dropped out of the University of Maryland and Chuck Todd,  moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, dropped out of George Washington University), which undergraduate journalism school is the best?

Where does the University of Oregon’s SOJC stand in the rankings? From a mercenary point of view, which program will generate the best pay?

It’s tricky to rely solely on college ranking systems to pick the best journalism school. There are multiple ranking systems and they are all over the map in their selections and the factors they take into account. I recall one highly regarded college rating program, for example, that threw into the mix how many graduates joined the Peace Corps.

The ranking systems also change every year as ideas about how best to measure quality in education change.

U.S. News & World Report says, for example, “over time, the ranking model has put far less emphasis on input measures of quality – which look at characteristics of the students, faculty and other resources going into the educational process – and more emphasis on output measures, which look at the results of the educational process, such as social mobility, six-year graduation and first-year student retention rates.”

Niche lists the University of Oregon 101st in its “2020 Best 4-year Colleges for Communications in America.” Niche is not, however, as prestigious or as often referenced as other ratings services.

College Factual, another data analytics website for higher education, says U of O is 29th in its list of 2020 Best Journalism Colleges in the U.S.”

Journalism-Schools.com ranks the University of Oregon’s SOJC 74th in the nation.

QS World University Rankings ranks the University of Oregon 151st in North America among colleges offering Communication & Media Studies programs.

The highly regarded Forbes America’s Top Colleges 2019 places the University at #191, but doesn’t break down data by major.

Another well-regarded survey, U.S. News & World Report’s U.S. News Best Colleges, places the University of Oregon 104th among national universities, but also doesn’t rank the SOJC.

Do you go with Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications because it’s the biggest program, with 2,670 students in the fall of 2018? How about the University oi Missouri School of Journalism because it was founded in 1908 and is the oldest program? Maybe Columbia University’s Columbia Journalism School because it is uniquely positioned in the media capital of the world and is the home of the Pulitzer Prize? Or the University of Oregon because you plan to stay and work in the Northwest and the SOJC has over 17,000 alumni who could serve as contacts and mentors?

As a paper from the Knight Foundation, which promotes excellence in journalism, put it, “The best journalism school in America is … a mystery. There’s no sensible system for comparing programs or knowing if they are really healthy. The measurements schools now file…turn out to be about as useful as a jumble of mismatched socks.”

How about comparing how the graduates of journalism programs do in the workplace?

How does earning a degree from the University of Oregon’s SOJC work out in terms of finding a good job and moving up the pay ladder?

I asked the school:

  • Does the SOJC attempt to track the career paths of its graduates?
  • If yes, where are the graduates in their careers? Have the recent grads found jobs in their field of study? Are earlier grads still working in their fields of study?
  • What are SOJC grads earning?

“We love our alumni” and “Our alumni mean the world to us,” the SOJC says on its website, but it doesn’t keep track of them.

To my considerable surprise, the OSJC said it didn’t know the answers to my questions. “I can tell you that we do not have job placement data or salary data,” Andra Brichacek, then the OSJC’s  Interim Communication Director, told me earlier this year.

There are, however, other sources of data.

According to the U.S. News & World Report College Compass, median starting salaries by major for alumni of the University of Oregon are:

  • $45,300 for Journalism graduates
  • $46,500 for Public Relations and Advertising
  • $43,600 for Communication and Media Studies

College Factual, a privately-run website designed to assist in college selection, says SOJC journalism graduates earn an average of $37,000 when starting their career and $66,000 at mid-career. This compares with:

  • an average starting salary of $34,766 and a mid-career salary of $62,908 for journalism graduates across the United States.
  • an average starting salary of $36,000 and mid-career salary of $65,000 at mid-career for journalism graduates of the University of Missouri – Columbia
  • an average starting salary of $38,000 and mid-career salary of $87,000 for journalism graduates of Northwestern University.
  • An average starting salary of $44,000 and mid-career salary of $72,000 for journalism graduates of New York University.
  • An average starting salary of $41,000 and mid-career salary of $86,000 for journalism graduates of the University of Southern California.

The U.S. Department of Education is another source of earnings data.

collegescorecard

Under an Obama administration initiative, the government published schoolwide data on debt and earnings for undergraduates. In November 2019, the Trump administration expanded the program by publishing new data allowing comparisons of first-year earnings of graduates based on their college major.

Earnings were measured in 2016-2017 for students who graduated in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, which are fairly recent.

The data, released as the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, are based on information provided through federal reporting from institutions, data on federal financial aid, and tax information.

A key weakness of the Scorecard is that the earnings and debt data are based only on students who either took out a federal student loan or received a federal grant in college. Scorecard also doesn’t report the percentage of entering students at every school for which it has earnings data.

Scorecard also calculated student college loan debt to help prospective students determine their ability to repay it considering their expected earnings after graduation.

According to Scorecard, median annual earnings of bachelor’s degree SOJC graduates in their first job were $27,800; for SOJC graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication median annual earnings were $36,200.

This compares with median annual earnings in their first job of:

  • $37,300 for journalism graduates and $33,900 for Communication and Media Studies graduates of the University of Missouri – Columbia.
  • $42,000 for journalism graduates and $42,600 for Communication and Media Studies graduates of Northwestern University.
  • $33,500 for journalism graduates and $42,900 for Communication and Media Studies graduates of Boston University
  • $40,600 for journalism graduates and $39,200 for Communication and Media Studies graduates of the University of Southern California.

Then there’s a database is provided by Payscale, a salary negotiation tool. Their College Salary Report database provides self-reported earnings data by college for alumni who use their website tool.

Only nonprofit or public schools for which PayScale has a statistically significant sample are included.  Salary figures combine base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime, and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.

Based upon PayScale survey data*, students graduating from the University of Oregon with accredited degrees in Journalism realize early-career earnings of $37,201 and mid-career earnings of $66,153.

For comparison, students graduating from the University of Missouri – Columbia Based with a degree in Journalism will have average early-career earnings of $36,000 and average mid-career earnings of $65,000.

What else might be relevant in comparing programs?

College Scorecard shows how much student loan debt people can expect to owe based on their choice of major. Not only is that useful information overall, but the presumption is that the lower the ratio of student debt to income is for a given major, the higher the value of the investment in that major.

At the University of Oregon, median total debt for graduates with a degree in journalism is $21,030. For graduates with a degree in public relations, advertising and applied communication it is $21,500.

Compare that with the University of Missouri – Columbia: median total debt for students with a degree in Journalism is $23,250 and median earnings are $37,300; median total debt for students with a degree in Communication and Media Studies is $23,250 and median earnings are $33,900.

So, now where does the University of Oregon’s SOJC stand? Hard to tell.

First, it needs to be understood that the ranking programs are unreliable. No matter what the ranking factors and algorithms, it’s been widely reported that schools game the system and falsify data. There have been efforts, for example, to manipulate faculty salary reports, alter reported class sizes, highlight academic expenditures and minimize administrative overhead, and even give low ratings to competing schools and programs.

In 2019, Richard Vetter, who had administered Forbes’ Best Colleges rankings, wrote a Forbes article, Are Universities Increasingly Liars And Con Artists,” I think one consequence of the moral decline is that universities increasingly lie and cheat, both their customers (students) and the general public,” he wrote.

Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness wrote in Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education that universities engaged in a wide range of highly deceptive marketing and other practices that were  morally untenable.

With all this understood, the University of Oregon’s SOJC probably isn’t at the top overall, but for an individual student it might be.

I’m not trying to be wishy-washy. I know that, as with talk radio hosts, nuance can be difficult for an opinion writer.

But just an evocative photo of a bucolic campus doesn’t tell the whole story about a college, ratings are only part of the story.  Evidence suggests enrolling at a top-tier university with a highly ranked journalism/communications program isn’t necessarily key to getting a good education or having a successful career in those fields.

While there is some evidence that a college’s quality (or its reputation for quality) can have an impact on professional success, it may be a massive institutional deceit that obtaining a journalism degree at one well-regarded college versus another school is critical.

A research effort by Gallup, in partnership with Purdue University and Lumina Foundation, found there’s no difference in subsequent workplace engagement or a college graduate’s well-being if they attended a highly selective institution or a top 100-ranked school in U.S. News & World Report.

The study found it was students who were closely engaged with faculty or participated in an internship-type program who were more likely to be engaged at work and have high well-being after graduation.

The study also found a relationship between the level of student debt and a graduate’s well-being and working experience. “It turns out that student debt…hinders the individual life prospects of students who borrow too much of it,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

In addition, graduates who had at least one professor who made them excited about learning, cared about them as a person, and was a mentor, had more than double the odds of being engaged at work and thriving in well-being.

Then there was the time-to-graduation factor. The Gallup-Purdue research revealed that graduates who finished their degrees in four years doubled their odds of being engaged at work and that more thrived.

So, despite my plan to reach a firm conclusion on where the University of Oregon’s SOJC stands in the panoply of options, I’m going to leave you a bit up in the air with, “It depends.”

You will have to just gather all the needed information and decide for yourself.

As the leadership scholar Robert Greenleaf observed, “On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over.”

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[1]

Bachelor’s degrees by concentration:

Journalism: 141

Advertising: 308

Media Studies: 16

Public Relations: 218

 

Master’s and PhDs by concentration:

Advertising and Brand Responsibility: 11

Journalism: 10

Media Studies: 4

Multimedia Journalism: 8

Strategic Communication: 10

Source: University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication

 

Scofflaw City: Eugene’s blizzard of unpaid parking tickets

 If you see a notice on your windshield that says, “Parking Fine,” it’s not a compliment.

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Are you a University of Oregon student who has skipped paying a Eugene parking ticket? If so, you’re not alone.

It’s like the wild west out there, with thousands of students, locals and out-of-towners ignoring their parking tickets in Eugene.

In 2018, the city declared 8,356 parking tickets delinquent and sent them out for collection. Over the past four years the total sent out for collection reached a staggering 91,621 tickets. And still, a lot don’t get paid.

The city says it doesn’t track unpaid parking tickets by geographic area, so it doesn’t have data on where all the unpaid tickets were handed out, whether the University of Oregon district, for example, has a high delinquency rate.

Frustrated with all the scofflaws and sensitive to the loss of the ticket revenue, for the past four years the city has been sending delinquent parking tickets to Austin, TX-based Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP.  Linebarger, a collection agency masquerading as a law firm, is one of the nation’s largest government debt collectors.

“We help communities thrive,” the firm says.

With 46 offices and 112 attorneys across the country, the firm is a money-raising behemoth in the parking ticket business.  It claims to collect $1 billion annually in delinquent taxes, traffic citations, parking tickets and tolls.

Some other Oregon cities have contracts with different collection agencies. Bend and Salem for example, have contracts with Professional Credit Service (PCS), a Springfield, OR-based company.

For Bend tickets, PCS adds collection fees of 23% of the total balance and keeps that amount when collecting on a delinquent parking ticket.

In Salem’s case, PCS collects 25% of the principle amount, while the City receives the principle. In cases where there is interest, the City and PCS split this amount evenly.

If a delinquent $10 Salem parking ticket is sent to PCS, the total due becomes $12.50. If 10 cents in interest is assessed before the bill is paid, the total due becomes $12.60. PCVS would retain $2.60 of that and the city $10.10.

Under Eugene’s arrangement with Linebarger, the firm can retain a 20 percent commission of the total amount collected for its work.

Example: 

  • Parking citation: $100.
  • Accrued interest: $21.60 (Interest is calculated at a rate of 18% from the date the account is referred to Linebarger for collection until paid in full)
  • Total owed: $121.60 (Parking fine + Accrued Interest).
  • Commission to Linebarger: $24.32 (20% of $121.60)
  • Payment to City of Eugene: $97.28

If the city’s Parking Enforcement Department places an immobilization device on a vehicle for unpaid fines that have been sent to Linebarger for collection, those delinquent accounts are recalled back to Eugene’s Municipal Court. In such cases, the city isn’t obligated to pay Linebarger a commission for the collection of the citations.

The city considers it reasonable for Linebarger to pursue a collection claim for up to two years. That’s one reason why Linebarger has a reputation for being persistent in its mail and call center collection efforts.

Over the past four years, Eugene has sent delinquent parking tickets with initial fines of $3,072,918 to Linebarger for collection, according to data provided by Jill Wright, a Court Operations Specialist with the City of Eugene, in response to public records requests.

Joe Householder, a Managing Director and spokesman for Linebarger, said the firm’s collection efforts have allowed it to remit $911,003.00 to the city. That represented $627,420.02 in fines and $283,583.98 of interest charges, the city said. This means Linebarger recovered just 20 percent of the original delinquent fines, plus interest.

In other words, a whole lot of delinquent tickets still don’t get paid, even after persistent and extensive efforts to locate delinquent miscreants, forceful letters, and aggressive call centers.

Our overall results are what matter and our overall results are routinely strong,” Householder said.

“Some accounts take a day to resolve; some take years,” he added. “In some cases, we’ll connect with the person on our first outreach attempt but they’re not ready to resolve the matter – maybe they’re waiting till they get their tax refund, or some other expected money comes in. In those cases, we have to stay in touch week after week or month after month and remind them of the debt.”

“In other cases,” Householder said, “just finding the person can take a long time. They’ve moved multiple times, they’ve remarried and changed their name – any number of factors can make it a challenge.”

So, don’t assume you’re safe because you’ve managed to escape Linebarger’s reach so far. “We continue to pursue collections of the remaining outstanding tickets,” Householder said.

Furthermore, if Linebarger fails to collect the balance on your delinquent parking ticket, and your vehicle is found on a city lot or street, the city may still immobilize the vehicle with a boot device.

Linebarger collects a wide array of receivable types for government clients, primarily payments due on taxes, traffic citations, parking tickets, and tolls.

Much of Linebarger’s work is pretty simple. In Eugene’s case, the Court forwards a record of delinquent parking tickets and Linebarger follows up with letters and pestering recorded phone calls to miscreants urging them to pay up.

“Partnering with Linebarger allows our clients to focus their resources on their core responsibilities, while we focus on locating and contacting the relative few who have continued to ignore their delinquent parking tickets,” the firm’s website says.

To counter the thuggish image of collections agents, Linebarger portrays itself as a company with “a big heart beneath that law firm veneer,” and says its work collecting unpaid bills is helping communities thrive by raising money for parks, schools and essential service.

But it hasn’t been able to avoid some criticism.

For some unexplainable reason, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives the Linebarger firm an A+ rating, while at the same time giving it the lowest possible rating, just one star of a possible five, based on customer reviews. Hundreds of complaints have been filed with the BBB against Linebarger nationwide. Complaints range from inaccurate notices of delinquent accounts and rude call center employees to harassing collection calls and allegations of fraudulent charges.

“I am being charged for parking violations in Denver, CO,” wrote one BBB reviewer. “I live in Oregon and have never been to Colorado.”

“I got a letter, that I find threatening, regarding an unpaid parking ticket from 12 years ago,” wrote another reviewer. “Give me a break!”

Yelp reviews are similar, with an overall rating of one star out of 5.

What do Eugene’s Parking Services Manager, Jeff Petry, and City Manager, Jon Ruiz, have to say about all this? Nothing.

Despite repeated requests that they answer a series of questions relating to the parking ticket and collections program, neither responded. So much for government transparency.

 

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Parking Ticket Fines in Eugene

Overtime Violations

Parking meters and time limits are placed in high use parking areas of Eugene to encourage turnover which increases accessibility for everyone and supports local businesses that rely on street parking for customer access.

Time limit citations in Eugene are $16.

Other Violations

 

 Violation Fine Amount
Parking in Space Reserved for Persons with Disabilities
First Offense
Second Offense
$200
$400
Storage of Vehicles on Street /Abandoned Vehicle
First Offense
Second Offense
$25
$50
Parking on Sidewalk, Crosswalk, or in Front of a Driveway $25
Parking in a Yellow, Bus, Taxi or Tow-Away Zone $25
Parking on wrong side of the street (facing the wrong way) $25
Parking in Bike Lane $40

For more information on parking fines, see the Municipal Court’s Presumptive Fine Schedule.

Fines Increase If Not Paid Within 30 days 
Parking citations (tickets) that are not paid or contested within 30 calendar days will double. Citations not paid within 120 days will be sent to a collection agency, and interest will begin to accrue.

Source: City of Eugene, https://bit.ly/2tKY7wC

 

      

 

 

The University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center: a step back

University of Oregon President, Michael Schill is excited about the $2.5 million Black Cultural Center under construction on campus. He shouldn’t be.

Portrayed by its advocates as a step forward, the Center, a response to demands by some black students after a 2015 demonstration, is actually a step back in encouraging diversity and inclusion.

Kingbrothers

 

Kevin Fletcher

Golden, Colo.

In an April 22 presentation to the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego, Schill said academic success and diversity go hand in hand, so completion of the new Black Cultural Center is a huge priority.

If diversity is so important to academic success, why is the university facilitating construction of an identity center that will spur division and encourage black students to self-segregate?

It’s a contradictory effort that only hard-left academics could endorse, arguing they’re for inclusion while espousing policies that support separateness.

“Civil rights leaders put their lives on the line working for a color-blind, non-race determined society,’ “ Richard Vedder, Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University, wrote in 2018.  “The bitter struggle to break down racial distinctions in education lasted for decades, yet now universities are reintroducing segregation.”

 After generations of schools denied admittance to blacks and only under pressure eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures, how ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by allowing, even facilitating, separation by race.

Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, founders of the New American Civil Rights Project and Congressionally appointed members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, lambasted the reversion to separateness when opposing black housing at the University of Connecticut. Rather than expand the horizons of young black college men, this “safe space” will ghettoize them, they said. The same principle applies to other black identify centers.

Some weak-kneed academics, overly eager for student approval and worried about being labeled racist, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students…on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College/CUNY.

“The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of knowledges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience,” Macdonald said.

This is very professorial, but it sounds suspiciously like something segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language.

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“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” George C. Wallace at his 1963 inauguration as governor of Alabama.

There are also those who justify racially-based identity centers on the basis of research that affinity groups are a benefit to students who may not identify with the prevalent or dominant culture. The problem is that this is a slippery slope, leaning to justification for splitting  everybody into little niches, rather than reinforcing the common good. Furthermore, it’s one thing to facilitate a coming together of people with common interests; it’s quite another to encourage racial division.

As Kevin Fletcher wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “What is the purpose in the purported effort to achieve ‘diversity’ by colleges in the selection of their entering classes if the result is the segregation of these same students by ethnic group in student orientation programs, residential arrangements and graduation ceremonies?”

If racial divisions end up worsening on the University of Oregon campus because of things like the Black Cultural Center, it will be a self-inflicted wound.

In short, the University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center isn’t the way forward. It’s a way back, way way back.

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Peter W. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars,  and Dion J. Pierre

a research associate at the association and primary author of its new report, “Separate But Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in Higher Education.”, wrote an opinion column on this same topic in the Wall St. Journal on April 30, 2019. Because only WSJ subscribers can easily access their column, it is copied below:

Segregation by Design on Campus

How racial separatism become the norm at elite universities like Yale, Brown and Wesleyan.

 

In his inaugural address in January 1963, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama thundered: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” About “tomorrow,” Wallace was right. More than half a century later, racial segregation comes as easy as breathing to many American colleges and universities.

Wallace had in mind the exclusion of blacks from white-only institutions. Today’s racial segregation, by contrast, consists of ethnic groups walling themselves off within institutions. In the past two years the National Association of Scholars surveyed 173 colleges and universities, public and private, in all 50 states. We found 46% of schools segregate student orientation programs, 43% segregate residential arrangements, and 72% segregate graduation ceremonies. Though these arrangements are ostensibly voluntary, students can’t easily opt out. The social pressure to conform is overwhelming.

This kind of racial separatism on campus isn’t new. We pursued case studies of Yale, Wesleyan and Brown universities, where we found that black students began to organize exclusive groups with separatist agendas as early as the 1960s.

Begin with Yale, the subject of a 210-page study released by NAS this week. The Black Students Association at Yale, or BSAY, was founded in 1964 as the Yale Discussion Group. Black students started the organization because they felt Yale recruited them merely for show. The accusation may have been unfair but it touched something real.

In 1964 Yale’s newly appointed president, Kingman Brewster, declared an all-out “effort to cure racial injustice.” This meant discarding Yale’s old policy of admitting only highly qualified black students in favor of aggressive outreach to the inner cities. Brewster’s like-minded admissions dean, R. Inslee “Inky” Clark, openly set forth a plan to enroll black students regardless of their test scores or other evidence of academic achievement. Brewster and Clark believed they could turn anyone into a Yale man. (The university didn’t admit female undergraduates until 1969.)

The new zeal to boost numbers brushed aside hard questions about college readiness and cultural adjustment. The results were catastrophic for the students. More than a third of the 35 black students Yale enrolled in 1966 dropped out during their first year, and many others lagged behind academically and felt unwelcome.

To stem the exodus, Yale set up a summer remediation program for black students. It did little to encourage their academic success, but it unexpectedly reshaped relations between black students and the university. The program isolated the black students as a group and gave them a sense of solidarity and shared grievance.

Out of this seedbed sprang BSAY, which was Yale’s first racial identity group. BSAY found its voice by demanding that Yale provide an ever-greater number of accommodations, including separate advisers, a separate orientation, and a separate center in a separate building. BSAY also became the leading advocate for a separate curriculum—the African-American studies program—that entailed hiring new faculty members with appropriate qualifications. A new world began to open up at Yale bearing a strange resemblance to the “separate but equal” arrangements that the Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.

Though this happened more than 50 years ago, the pattern set down in the turmoil of the late 1960s continues. BSAY’s goal wasn’t a university where racial difference ceased to matter, but a university that aggrandized race and celebrated separation. Brewster agreed to almost anything activists wanted, apparently hoping a golden age of racial integration would follow.

Instead, BSAY grasped that racial intimidation yields rich rewards. The intimidation expanded beyond BSAY itself to a broader coalition of identity groups. Yale now steers its course with a compass of group rights, with each group asserting its own demand to be compensated for past wrongs. The most famous example is the 2015 mobbing of Prof. Nicholas Christakis over Halloween costumes. Yale President Peter Salovey responded by praising the “affirming and effective forms of protest,” and the trustees soon set aside $50 million to meet protesters’ demands.

Yale is a private institution with abundant resources to deploy as it pleases. But Yale is also one of the templates for American higher education as a whole. Its readiness to appease racial separatists who hold the ideal of racial integration in contempt has become the campus norm.

Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., became one of the first schools to embrace residential segregation when it created the Afro-American House (now called the Malcolm X House) circa 1968. In 1972 Cornell began accepting black students to its Ujamaa Residential College, a 144-resident building for blacks who have “personal knowledge” of the black experience. Other elite schools, such as Columbia University (Pan African House), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Chocolate City), the University of California Berkeley (African American Theme Program), Stanford University (Ujamaa), and Amherst College (Charles Drew House), made similar arrangements. In 2016 the University of Connecticut opened the Scholars House for black male students. The crush of protests across academia in fall 2015 was driven by racial organizations composed of students primed to see themselves not as individuals but as members of persecuted racial groups.

Today’s campus segregation puts people in a racial box. And like other forms of segregation, it has been a major source of tumult in higher education across the decades. Institutions of higher education should stop deliberately balkanizing their student bodies, and work instead to unify them around the common purpose of seeking truth and knowledge.

 

Less State Money = Higher Tuition At Oregon State Universities. Not So Fast.

UofOtuitionincrease

A group of University of Oregon students protested tuition hikes on May 25, 2017.

Here we go again.

Oregon’s state universities will be raising their tuition again next school year.

Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission recently approved a resident undergraduate in-state tuition increase of 8.37 percent at Portland State University (PSU)  for 2017-18, as well as increases at other Oregon state universities.

With the state’s fairly steady disinvestment in higher education over the years, it is commonly assumed that this has been the primary driver of tuition increases.

I even wrote an article a while ago blaming the Legislature for rising tuition at state universities. “Because of the Legislature’s calculated callousness or pure indifference in funding Oregon universities, young people across the state are facing soaring college loan debts and diminished opportunities for higher education,” I wrote.

But research indicates that declines in state support may not be the primary villain.

A Brookings Institute review of research on the disinvestment hypotheses revealed that a clear causal relationship between reductions in per-student state appropriations and increases in tuition has not been established. Moreover, there’s a “surprisingly thin” amount of research on the relationship.

Sure, higher education tuition has been rising as state support has been declining, but claims that changes in state appropriations are the biggest factor causing tuition increases are simplistic assertions based on nothing more than a comparison of two trends, a Brookings Institute paper said.

For example, in a recent article for FiveThirtyEight, Doug Webber, a professor at Temple University, put changes in tuition at public universities side-by-side with changes in state appropriations in a table, divided one column into the other, and then labeled the result, “share of tuition hike explained by cuts” [Emphasis added].

Brookings challenged this analysis. “..it does not explain how much of the funding cut caused the increase in tuition…Rather, it assumes that a causal relationship already exists, that it is dollar-for-dollar, and that no other factor could explain the changes in tuition,” Brookings said.

A study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that changes in appropriations account for only between 19 percent and 28 percent of changes in published in-state tuition prices.

Another study published in a National Bureau of Economic Research volume examined a dozen factors that might be associated with changes in tuition, including changes in appropriations from state governments. This study, by Michael Rizzo and Ronald G. Ehrenberg, looked at these changes for 98 universities over a 10-year period.

The paper includes an important finding on the magnitude of the effect of a reduction in state appropriations on tuition. The effect, it concluded, is miniscule. The authors found that, “for the average institution in our sample, it would take an increase of $1,000 in state appropriations per student to generate an in-state tuition reduction of only $60.” That means six cents of every dollar in appropriations find their way into lower tuition.

A George Washington University study also has found that changes in appropriations have a very small effect on tuition at public universities. This study found that just ten cents of every dollar increase in appropriations would find their way into lower tuition, an effect similar in magnitude to what Rizzo and Ehrenberg found.

“If the relationship between state appropriations and tuition at public universities is as weak as the two studies show, the ubiquitous claim that cuts to state funding are the “primary driver” of changes in tuition are simply not supported by the research,” the Brookings Institute reported.

Equally, the research suggests that increased appropriations for public universities are unlikely to have an effect as large as advocates assume. “That makes increasing appropriations for public colleges and universities an ineffective—even wasteful—policy for keeping tuition low,” Brookings said. “It also implies that grant aid might deliver more bang for the buck than larger state appropriations.”

So why such an apparently weak link between appropriatio0ns and tuition? Brookings speculates that universities may be simply looking to exploit their pricing power in the market, leading them to raise tuition whether appropriations rise or fall.

 

 

DeFazio and Schrader: are they vulnerable in 2018?

What are they smoking?

That was my first thought when I learned Republicans think Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) will be vulnerable in 2018.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s Chairman Steve Stivers announced on Feb. 8 that DeFazio and Schrader would be among the party’s initial 36 offensive targets in the House of Representatives for the 2018 midterm elections.

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Rep. Peter DeFazio

The Committee’s goal is to keep Republicans in control of the House

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Rep. Kurt Schrader

so they can pursue their agenda in areas such as healthcare reform, a stronger national defense, and job growth.

DeFazio has represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District since 1987. The district, in the southwest portion of Oregon, includes Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, and Linn counties and parts of Benton and Josephine counties.

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Oregon’s 4th District

In his first race, DeFazio won with 54.3 percent of the vote. He won his next 16 races with comfortable leads, with a high of 85.8 percent in 1990 and a low of 54.6 percent in 2010. After a 2011 re-districting gave Democrat-heavy Corvallis to the 4th district, DeFazio won 59.1- 39 percent.

Democrats figured the Corvallis shift guaranteed DeFazio a permanent seat and his seat did seem safe when he won in 2014 with 58.6 percent and in 2016 with 55.5 percent.

Further hurting Republicans has been their failure to put up a strong opponent.

With a weak bench, the Republicans have run the same man, Art Robinson, against DeFazio in each of the past four elections. You’d think they would have learned. The first time, 2010, Robinson lost by 10 points, the second time by 20, the third by 21, the fourth by almost 16.

So, is DeFazio really vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? Maybe.

Consider how Donald Trump did in DeFazio’s district.

Trump handily defeated Hillary Clinton in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Linn and Josephine counties. In Douglas county, Trump racked up 64.6 percent of the vote versus Clinton’s 26.3 percent.

Hillary carried only two liberal enclaves, Lane County, home of the University of Oregon, and part of Benton County, home of Oregon State University, but that was enough.

In the end, Hillary barely carried the 4th District with just 46.1 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 46 percent, a margin of just 554 votes.

That suggests the Republican problem is their candidate and his/her messaging, not the dominance of Democrats.

If the Republicans could recruit a strong moderate candidate able to make persuasive arguments, DeFazio could be in trouble.

As for Schrader, he has represented Oregon’s 5th Congressional District since 2008. The district, in the northwestern portion of Oregon, includes Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties as well as portions of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties.

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Oregon’s 5th District

In his first race, Schrader won with 54 percent of the vote. He won his subsequent races with 51.3 percent, 54 percent, 53.7 percent, and 53.5 percent. In 2011, the Oregon State Legislature approved a new map of congressional districts based on updated population information from the 2010 census, but it hasn’t had a meaningful impact on Schrader.

In 2016, Trump took Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties. Clinton carried Lincoln, Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, winning heavily populated Multnomah 73.3 to 17 percent. In the end, Clinton carried the 5th District with 48.3 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 44.1 percent.

Schrader’s winning margins to date have been consistent and comfortable, but not breathtaking. They would likely have been higher without the presence of multiple other party candidates in the general elections, who have been draining principally liberal votes. In 2016, for example, the Pacific Green Party took 3.4 percent of the votes. In 2014, three other parties captured a total of 6.7 percent of the vote.

Although voter registration trends aren’t consistently matching actual election trends, Schrader’s district is becoming increasingly Democratic, though also more non-affiliated.

In Nov. 2012, there were 158,885 registered Democrats, 148,464 Republicans and 89,539 non-affiliated voters in the district. By Nov. 2016, it had shifted to 176,868 registered Democrats, 155,430 registered Republicans and 135,233 non-affiliated voters.

Is Schrader as vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? I don’t think so. Even though he’s been in Congress fewer terms than DeFazio, his district is likely safer for a Democrat, and becoming more so.

How about DeFazio?

I know, he’s been in office for 30 years and just keeps rolling along, seemingly invincible. But I think he’s more vulnerable than he looks. He hasn’t so much been winning as the Republicans have been losing with uninspiring, ideologically rigid candidates.

My advice to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Don’t divide your limited resources in an effort to capture both seats. Instead, focus on finding a strong moderate candidate to run against DeFazio in 2018, building a war chest sufficient for a credible race and running a sophisticated campaign.

Dennis Richardson showed a Republican can win in Oregon. If the right things fall in place, the 4th District could be next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separate but equal: a discredited idea re-emerges at Reed College

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“We envision a vibrant, safe, and inclusive living environment…,” says Portland’s Reed College.

So much for that.

Like many other colleges and universities in the United States moving away from true diversity, Reed has approved an exclusive residential living space, Students of Color (SOC) Community, in the school’s Canyon House.

According to Reed, The SOCis an intentional living community for returning students of color to heal together from systemic white supremacy, recover the parts of ourselves and our cultures that have been stolen through colonization, and dream new visions as we build vibrant, loving community together.”

With schools blasting out their commitment to diversity, why are so many heading down the path of separateness? Why such sophistry by week-kneed administrators in their efforts to justify “separate but equal” facilities?

Controversy has already erupted over other “themed” residential housing programs, with schools establishing separate living quarters for groups such as Native Americans, LGBTQ, non gender-binary, Asian/Pacific American,  and so on.

Two members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights —Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, recently sent letters to the University of Connecticut and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, lambasting UConn’s establishment of ScHOLA2RS House, a “Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of students who identify as African-American/Black through academic and social support, access to research opportunities, and professional development.”

“We are deeply concerned that ScHOLA2RS House was established for the purpose, and will have the effect, of racial separation of African-American male students from others living in University of Connecticut dormitories,” Heriot and Kirsanow wrote. “… It is hard to avoid the conclusion that ScHOLA2RS House was intended to promote racial isolation on campus.  Moreover, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that it will in fact promote racial isolation on campus.”

“…we cannot understand how race-separate “learning communities” help achieve its ideals of “meaningful diversity” or prepare students to work in a racially diverse marketplace. Rather, by limiting students’ exposure to persons of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, they are more likely to do the opposite,” their letter to UConn said.

Cal State Los Angeles is embroiled in the same issue.

In November 2015, Cal State Los Angeles’ Black Student Union sent a list of demands to William A. Covino , the school’s (president). One of the demands was for “…the creation and financial support of a CSLA housing space delegated for Black students and a full time Resident Director who can cater to the needs of Black students. “

 

In response, this year the school debuted the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.

The Black Student Union posted on its Instagram account,…we have finally launched our Black student housing that we demanded from President Covino back in November. The Halisi Scholars Black Living Learning Community is intended for the students on our campus that identify as Black/African American. “

Cal State LA says it is not sponsoring a segregated housing community because “This community is open to all students”, but students who identify as African-American are prioritized in selection.

 After Americans have struggled for decades to bring us all together, universities across the country are acquiescing in, even heartily endorsing, racial and ethnic separateness.

When the University of Oregon recruited Bobbie Robinson and Charles Williams as its first black athletes in 1926, they weren’t allowed to live in university dormitories. All students of color were required to rent housing off campus.

It was a long struggle, but universities across the country eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures. How ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by establishing separate housing by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.

It’s all being done under the guise of building cultural bonds, uniting people with shared values and strengthening identities.

At Brown University in Rhode Island there’s Hispanic House and Harambee House, which is “…focused on perpetuating a sense of community, academic excellence, and leadership for all people of African descent.”

Harambee is Swahili for ” pulling or working together.” But self-segregation isn’t pulling people together; it’s pushing them apart, capitulating to pressure and reinforcing separatism.

Some academics, perhaps eager for student approval, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students who call for programmed houses on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.

“…anyone concerned with the long-range goal of securing broad-based freedom and autonomy should be committed to the continued existence of racially defined communities on the grounds that different racial identities provide people with different experiences of the world,” Macdonald said. “The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of know/edges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience.”

Except for the fact this is very professorial, it sounds suspiciously like something Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language to affirm “segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black student demands to erase history at the University of Oregon: just say no.

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The University of Oregon’s first building opened on Oct. 16, 1876. It was named Deady Hall for Judge Matthew Deady in 1893.

On November 17, 2015, the University of Oregon’s Black Student Task Force sent a list of twelve demands to four top university administrators.

The group asserted that “the historical structural violence and direct incidents of cultural insensitivity and racism” on campus create an environment that prevents black students from succeeding.

In order to create “a healthy and positive campus climate” for black students, the Black Student Task Force said:

“We…DEMAND that you work with us and implement the following list of programs:

  • Change the names of all of the KKK related buildings on campus. DEADY Hall will be the first building to be renamed.
  • We cannot and should not be subjugated to walk in any buildings that have been named after people that have vehemently worked against the Black plight, and plight of everyone working to achieve an equitable society.
  • Allowing buildings to be named after members who support these views is in direct conflict with the university’s goal to keep black students safe on campus.
  • We demand this change be implemented by Fall 2016”

University President Michael Schill appointed a committee of administrators, faculty, and students to develop criteria for evaluating whether to strip the names off Deady Hall and Dunn Hall, part of Hamilton residence hall, because of their association with racist actions in Oregon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Once the criteria were established, Schill assembled a panel of three historians to research the history of Matthew P. Deady and Frederick S. Dunn to guide his decision-making.

The historians recently released an exhaustive, extensively footnoted 34-page report.

The report described the complex lives of both men, lives filled with negatives, positives, ambiguity and contradictions.

Deady, though a territorial legislator, constitutional convention delegate and presiding officer, and U.S. District Judge for thirty-four years, supported slavery.

Dunn, though he graduated from the University of Oregon, spent the vast majority of his career there and enjoyed a national reputation as a classics scholar, was also a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan and led the Eugene chapter.

Based on the historians’ report, there is no question that both men held views and engaged in activities that would be considered loathsome today.

But that does that mean their names should be summarily erased from history at the University of Oregon.

To surrender to the Black Students Task Force’s demands would be to embrace presentism in all its intellectual weakness, to endorse interpreting historical events without any reference to the context or complexity of the time.

If there’s one thing students should learn in college, it’s that It makes no sense to see the world entirely in the present tense.

In looking at history, it is critical to acknowledge the degree to which our position and experiences color how we look at bygone days, places and people.

Presentism “…encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation,” said Lynn Hunt, president of the American Historical Association. “Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior…,”

Many of our forbears espoused racial views that are today considered abhorrent, including people we still consider exemplars of the American experience.

In addition, somebody’s historical goodness and worth should not be based on just one criteria.

“…making race the only basis of judgment…does violence to the spirit of historical investigation, because it reduces complex individuals to game show contestants who must simply pass or fail a single test,” says David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University.

In April 2016, Schill and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh published a letter to the campus community saying, “…we recognize that we can and must do more as an institution to meet the needs of Black students”, but made no commitments on the building renaming issue.

When Schill does make a decision, I earnestly hope he will just say no.