News

Report: More than 140 organized racist acts on campuses last year

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were more than 140 reported incidents of organized racist acts on American campuses in 2017. It’s a problem problem outlined further in a recent piece from the Washington Post on hate groups making a recruitment push on campuses.

Those reports are not a surprise to those who have been paying attention to racist incidents in higher education over the last year.

They wouldn’t come as a surprise to many students in the UNC system either, who have dealt with everything from racist and anti-Islam graffiti  to harassment of those protesting the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus.

As the Post reports, organized racist groups are concentrating on campuses specifically.

From the Post’s piece:

The targeting of colleges and universities was not a haphazard choice by the white-power groups but rather a calculated strategy.

“It’s striking a blow directly at the heart of our foes,” said Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a far-right organization that seeks a whites-only nation-state and has been labeled a hate group for its anti-Jewish and homophobic stances and its opposition to racial mixing. “It lets them know that there are people that are radically opposed to them, that aren’t afraid of them, that will challenge them. It shakes their thought that they’ve got the campus environment locked down and lets them know that people who oppose them go to their school or are a part of their local community.”

College campuses, Heimbach said, are ideal for recruiting members and gaining publicity because the presence of the hate groups inevitably creates an outcry on campus and in the community. He said the ranks of his organization have tripled over the past year from 500 to 1,500 members, although The Washington Post could not independently verify that assertion.

White Supremacist murders more than doubled over last year, according to the ADL.

News

Visitation and profit at the Mecklenburg County Jail

If you haven’t yet, you need to go read this column by Toussaint Romaine in the Charlotte Observer. The Mecklenburg assistant public defender takes on the big business of visitation at the county jail.

From the piece:

Global Tel Link (GTL), a billion-dollar company, is working with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office to exploit poor people for profit. Here’s how it works: GTL contracted its service with the Sheriff’s Office to provide online jail video visitation services. Once GTL installed the new equipment, the Sheriff’s Office terminated other forms of visitation. GTL was then left with a monopoly on how inmates communicate with loved ones.

To no one’s surprise, GTL also sets outrageous prices. After a free first “virtual visit,” one video visitation costs $12.50. That’s a lot of money. Especially when GTL uses platforms like Facetime and Skype, which are almost free. Consequently, those in jail (and their families) end up paying for services that they cannot afford.

But what’s the alternative? Not speaking to your loved ones in a moment of crisis?

Advocates for this technology say it increases jail efficiency, eliminates contraband and enhances visitor convenience. I don’t buy it. I have been visiting clients in the Mecklenburg County Jail for the past 10 years. What those advocates say and what I see are two different things.

I see the money. It’s only about the money. If it isn’t, then take away the profit incentive and see if those corporations stick around.

Still, I know who it hurts. During a jail tour last year, I learned that women are less likely to receive financial support from their family or friends. Sadly, the high price tag associated with this new video visitation exacerbates the anxiety felt in the jail as these women desperately try to call home so that they can hear their child’s voice. This happened a lot during the recent holiday season.

It is worth your time to read the whole thing.

News

New report: NC best in the country for campus free speech. Was UNC policy necessary?

Great story this week from Jane Stancill at the News & Observer about free speech, the UNC system and whether a new campus speech policy passed late last year was necessary.

If you followed Policy Watch’s coverage of the speech policy debate, you’ll want to read this piece, which starts with a new study finding North Carolina the best state in the country for campus free speech.

From the piece:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in academia, released a report in December on how 461 U.S. universities stack up on free speech. The organization judges campuses with its own rating system, with designations of green lights, yellow lights or red lights.

Its study, “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2018: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses,” gave mediocre or poor marks to most universities, but said free speech policies have significantly improved over time.

Fifty-nine percent of the colleges were given yellow lights, denoting policies that are either too vague or restrict speech in narrow ways. Nearly one-third of campuses were given red lights for policies that substantially restrict free speech. Only 35 colleges managed to earn a green light, the group’s highest rating, for policies that protect free speech on campus.

North Carolina had eight green light campuses in the 2018 study – more than any other state. The campuses earning that designation were: Appalachian State University, Duke University, East Carolina University, N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Wilmington.

“North Carolina, as far as having policies that respect students’ free speech go, is a national leader,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research.

 

That begs the question then…why did N.C. lawmakers, using FIRE’s reports, come to the conclusion that the state of campus speech was so in peril that the UNC system had to create a policy that students, faculty, staff and civil liberties advocates worry can be used to crack down on free speech?

Michael Behrent, vice president of the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the answer is simple.

“FIRE’s efforts to construe the issue of campus free speech very narrowly, reducing it to the fight against so-called political correctness, actually contributes to efforts to limit free speech on campuses, which, for the most part, is alive and well,” Behrent, an Appalachian State University history professor, said in an emailed statement. “FIRE’s reporting fuels the attitudes that resulted in the passage of the ‘Restoring Free Speech’ law last summer and the recent Board of Governors’ policy.”

 

Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research, disputes that characterization. She says the new policy will have to be used properly and FIRE will be watching to see that it is.

“It’ll just remain to be seen how the university enforces it,” Harris said. “If it is enforcing it on people for engaging in peaceful protest, who are exercising their right to free speech in a legitimate way, then that would obviously be very problematic. But when protest crosses the line into what we call ‘a heckler’s veto,’ when you are actually preventing someone else from being heard, then that is not a valid exercise of the right to free speech. Of course, the question is how it will be handled in those sort of gray areas.”

She added, “It will be very important that they err on the side of protecting free speech.”

Read the whole story here.

 

 

News, What's Race Got To Do With It?

What’s race got to do with it? UNC emails highlight views on Confederate statue controversy

Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series of NC Policy Watch blog posts examining disproportionate impacts on race — in the environment, education, the courts and other sectors — and the structural issues that lead to these inequalities.

My story this week on the main Policy Watch site examines hundreds of UNC Board of Governors emails concerning the ongoing controversy over “Silent Sam” – the only Confederate monument on a UNC campus.

The emails were sent last summer in the wake of deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and protesters toppling a Confederate statue in Durham. They give some insight into how fractured, contentious and backbiting relations have gotten on the UNC Board of Governors. But it’s worth remembering that UNC President Margaret Spellings and UNC Chancellor Carol Folt touched off the political firestorm at the center of the story by reaching out to Gov. Roy Cooper to convene the N.C. Historical Commission to decide the statue’s fate.

A majority of the board signed on to a letter that called the gesture “weak” and “hand-wringing,” suggesting that the university should meet protests that might threaten the statue not with a discussion of how to deal with the statue but by arresting the protesters.

It would later be revealed that Spellings and UNC Chancellor Carol Folt joked the University of Texas – in Spellings’ native Lone Star state – was “smarter” for immediately taking down their statues while North Carolina’s university system is mired in state-level political fight over the matter with no simple solutions.

The movement to remove the “Silent Sam” statue from UNC’s campus is very diverse. Students, staff, professors, alumni and even members of the UNC Board of Governors from various racial backgrounds have argued that the statue is racially offensive. But as emphasized in an interview with Dr. Valerie Johnson, a Bennett College professor who taught on UNC’s campus and is now on the historical commission, the greatest burden of the issue rests with Black people who are confronted with a monument to the confederacy on the campus where they work and study.

“If you have a big, gigantic statue to something that touts the supremacy of one group over another, that’s not a true reflection of the history,” Johnson said in her interview with Policy Watch. “You have one single view of that history.”

“I know this is a point of contention,” Johnson said. “Because some say the Civil War was an honorable cause. But for those of us who believe in the Union and understand what was at stake, it was seditious activity.”

“We can have conversation about that, but if that’s the only statue that is there, the only thing that is interpreting that aspect of history, you will get folks who recapitulate that – that it was an honorable endeavor, an honorable war,” Johnson said. “I want that to be in contention.It was not okay to enslave other humans. It’s still not okay. Full stop. Period.”

For Johnson and other professors from a large and growing list of departments at UNC and beyond, reducing the conversation about “Silent Sam” to one of law and order and the need to simply arrest protesters is offensive on multiple levels.

As Durham District Attorney Roger Echols made clear in a statement on those charged with toppling a Confederate statue in his city, the issue is far more complicated. This is from Echols’ statement: Read more

News

Report: NC leading in industry-funded university research

A new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation finds North Carolina leading all other U.S. states in industry-funded university research.

The report, based on data from the National Science Foundation, found North Carolina getting 12 percent of its university research funded by industry. That’s well above the U.S. average of 5.9 percent.


Many faculty members at universities see heavy industry financing as a potential threat to independence and academic freedom.

But as the report notes, the states with the highest percentage of industry funded research – which also include Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Missouri among the top five – have both well-regarded research universities and long-running state-supported technology commercialization programs. A close relationship between industry, government and state university systems also characterize the top ranking states. North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park is seen as a model many states would like to emulate and a driver of industry funded research at the university level.

From the report:

Before WWII, industry funded a significant share of university R&D. However, as federal research funding increased dramatically during and after the war, industry’s share fell, to just around 3 percent in the 1970s. That percentage started to rise again in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in part due to the growth of more science-based industries, including information technology (IT) and biopharmaceuticals, but also because of federal and state policy changes. For example, the Bayh Dole Act in 1980 gave universities rights to intellectual property generated from federal funding, which spurred many universities to work more with industry. Separately, the National Science Foundation during the Reagan administration developed new industry partnership programs like the Engineering Research Center program, while many state governments developed university-industry research centers to grow technology-oriented businesses. Both of these types of initiatives spurred industry funding. As a result, the share of university research funded by industry increased from 4.9 percent in 1980 to a high of 7.4 percent in 1999. The share has fallen since then, even as federal funds have dropped overall. In 2016, industry funded just 5.9 percent of U.S. academic research.

Many of the highest ranking states also have some of the country’s lowest wages even for skilled research positions, leading critics to note the industry investment goes where labor is cheapest.