University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Sept. 23, 2015

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Art installation’s ‘White Only’ and ‘Black Only’ signs ignite debate at SUNY Buffalo

Graduate student Ashley Powell hung “White Only” and “Black Only” signs around bathrooms at the State University of New York at Buffalo Sept. 16, in what she later called an art piece intended to “expose white privilege,” the New York Times reported. Students and faculty members were unaware of the intention behind the signs, and many called authorities out of indignation and fear. The signs were meant to fulfill an assignment for Powell’s course “Installation: Urban Space,” which was to create an installation “about time,” the Times reported.

In a statement, Powell, who is black, likened racial conflict in America today to that of the 1950s and 1960s and intended for the signs to make “racist structures” visible again. “If (the signs) weren’t needed, and if they are irrelevant, then why are people so upset?” she said.

“These signs illustrate that white people do not have to be active aggressors, like the KKK, to be responsible for this system of racism and white privilege that threatens, traumatizes, brutalizes, stunts and literally kills nonwhite people every day in the United States,” she added according to Inside Higher Ed.

Columns in the Spectrum, SUNY Buffalo’s student paper, included both support and anger for Powell’s actions, with one column reading, “It is necessary to remind people as to how some things have not changed” and another noting, “It’s natural for students to not view the signs as art. Students have a right to be mad.”

The university expressed a commitment to ensuring that freedom of speech and open dialogue continue on campus in a safe and inclusive manner, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Massachusetts to vote on free community college initiative

The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill to provide community college for free to all residents. If passed, the initiative would make the Bay State the third in the country to do so, Public Radio International reported Tuesday. Tennessee signed a similar measure into law in May 2014, and Oregon did so in July 2015.

The bill was debated at a Joint Committee on Higher Education hearing Sept. 16, where student advocates and representatives alike spoke of the current barrier to education for many in the state and the need to alleviate it for reasons of both equality and economics. Students “don’t think college is for them and I think if it gets the brand that (it’s) free, they’ll say, ‘Well yeah, I can afford free community college,’” Massachusetts State Representative Tom Sannicandro told PRI. Opponents countered that the initiative could cost more than $160 million each year and would deprive community colleges of necessary resources. Massachusetts has 15 community colleges which currently educate roughly 196,000 students, Boston.com reported.

Tennessee finances the system through extensive use of federal funding, specifically Pell Grants, said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, in a statement.

In January, President Obama announced the “American College Promise,” which would use $60 billion in federal funds over the next decade to provide two free years of community college to any students enrolled at least half-time with a 2.5 GPA. Obama has requested $1.36 billion for “American College Promise” to be included in the 2016 federal budget.

Virginia ROTC student dies after collapsing during routine training

Virginia Military Institute freshman Sean Duc Hoang died Monday after collapsing during “regularly scheduled physical training” for his cadet program, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Hoang, a biology student, was running with his Army ROTC unit when he suffered his fatal complication. VMI officials said they do not have any additional information on the incident, but that a coroner in Roanoke, Virginia will reveal the cause of death soon.

Another VMI cadet died in 2009 after suffering from cardiac arrest during a 10-mile run, the Post reported.

  • Chelsea Schalton

    Please show enough respect to get your facts straight if you’re going to report the news. The 2009 VMI Cadet died in his barracks room AFTER completing a 10-mile MARCH. He had an undiagnosed heart condition.