University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Oct. 29, 2015

By
University News Editor
Thursday, October 29, 2015

U. of Mississippi takes down state flag

The University of Mississippi removed the Mississippi state flag from campus grounds Monday, following student and faculty protests against a symbol that features the Confederate flag, NPR reported.

The University of Mississippi is steeped in Confederate tradition, from the old mascot Colonel Rebel to the more common moniker “Ole Miss,” which comes from the title enslaved people gave to the wives of plantation owners, NPR reported. The school’s decision to remove the flag drew anger from some at the State House.

“I think college students react a lot emotionally,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, regarding the Student Senate’s 33-15 vote to ask the administration to remove the flag last week.

The university’s initiative to “distance itself from Confederate iconography in general” was led by its College Democrat and NAACP chapters, said Buka Okoye, president of the school’s NAACP chapter, CNN reported.

Morris Stocks, interim chancellor of the University of Mississippi, spoke to “a deep love and respect” in his announcement speech, though he ultimately concluded that “the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued.”

Yik Yak said to promote hate speech

A coalition of 72 advocacy groups wrote to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Oct. 20 to demand action against Yik Yak — the 9th most popular social media app — for promulgating anonymous hate speech and racial and sexual intimidation on 1,600 college campuses, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The coalition of groups includes the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Yik Yak is a free app that allows users to post statements anonymously and see posts of all other users within a 1.5-mile radius. Users also have the ability to vote posts up or down in prominence.

The letter asks the Department of Education to ensure monitoring of Yik Yak and other online forums and to demand legal prosecution of those who post hate speech or death threats, which are not constitutionally protected forms of speech. The letter also alleges that many colleges have invoked “vague First Amendment concerns” to avoid their responsibility to curb harrassment on these online forums.

Leaders of the advocacy groups cite instances in which women felt threatened or bullied by other users on Yik Yak. “We were sexually harassed, called vulgar and offensive names. The most vitriolic of the posts threatened us with rape and murder,” Julia Michels, president of Feminists United at University of Mary Washington, told the Chronicle.

R. I. college graduates rack up debt

Students at Rhode Island colleges and universities averaged the fourth-highest debt in the nation upon graduation at an average of $31,841, according to a study by the Institute of College Access and Success released Tuesday, Time reported.

Graduates from schools in Utah had the lowest average of $18,921, while the average for the class of 2014 nationwide rested at $28,950.

The statistics reveal a trend in which the highest debt can be found in the Northeast, while the lowest debt occurs in the West. New Mexico, Nevada, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Hawaii and Washington follow Utah to round out the 10 schools with the least debt top 10, while Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Maine, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, and Alabama make up the fifth of lowest fifth of states with the highest debt.

Most of the debt comes from federal loans, with 70 percent of students in the class of 2014 taking out these loans, Time reported. The level of average debt has risen 56 percent in the last decade.