The Chronicle of Higher Education asked me to write a column about President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, focusing on what impact she would have on higher education across the nation. DeVos, who has a long track record as a Republican activist and supporter of charter schools and school vouchers in Michigan, was a surprise choice to many. While she has paid much less of her attention to higher education, in the column I suggested a few areas on which she may focus as Secretary.
During the presidential campaign I wrote about the higher education proposals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since the election last week there has been so much that has happened in our country that I almost wouldn’t know where to start to comment. However, one thing that has been very disturbing has been the outbreak of racist, nationalist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, and other bigoted actions across the nation. This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has an op-ed I authored calling on President-elect Trump to take quick action to stop them.
There has been a good amount of discussion on the presidential campaign trail about the issue of college affordability and student loan debt. I have written in previous blog posts about some of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, as well as those of Martin O’Malley. This week, I wrote a column for the website The Conversation, where I described why any discussion of college affordability needs to start with the role of Pell Grants, the foundation of the federal government’s student aid programs.
Last Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to march in San Francisco’s Pride Parade with members and supporters of the university’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) Caucus. It was a beautiful summer day in San Francisco, which means, I am finding out as a new resident, it was sunny and about 70 degrees on Market Street in the city.
There were over 200 participants in our group, which included faculty, staff, and students; young and old(er); and members of the LGBT community and those who are supporters of it. Everyone appeared to be having a wonderful time, and it was great to see all the enthusiastic supporters of the university along the parade route. San Francisco has long been known as being welcoming to the LGBTQ community, and this was demonstrated throughout the entire parade route.
In 2014 the White House launched a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign to help combat sexual assault at the nation’s colleges and universities. Titled “It’s On Us,” the campaign uses celebrities to help raise awareness about the problem – what some are calling an epidemic – of sexual assault and rape in higher education.
This issue has received much attention from policymakers as well as the media over the last few years. The U.S. Department of Education, through its enforcement of Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965, has stepped up its oversight of how colleges adjudicate reports of sexual harassment and assault. The recent case of Brock Turner, a Stanford University student athlete convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while she was unconscious – and who received only a 6-month prison sentence for the act – has brought the issue to the forefront of the news once again.
The presidential election is less than a month away, and the candidates are gearing up for the final push. As most observers expected, the economy has dominated much of the political discourse. But other topics have crept into the campaigns, including education.
Last week’s first presidential debate focused on domestic policy issues, and moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS opened the session by stating that it would be divided into six segments, with, “three on the economy and one each on health care, the role of government, and governing,” according to Mr. Lehrer (you can read a transcript or watch a video of the debate if you missed it). Lehrer did ask one question about education: “Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?”
Governor Romney’s response to this question was one of the few times where he said that his views were aligned with any policies of the Obama administration, stating that he agreed with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program. President Obama, not surprisingly, also touted the Race to the Top program, as well as other initiatives his Department of Education and administration had put into place, including steps to try to control the growth in tuition prices across the country.
This week I had the opportunity to testify at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The hearing was titled “Making College Affordability a Priority: Promising Practices and Strategies.” This committee of the Senate, long chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts until his death a few years ago, has held a number of hearings on the topic of college affordability in recent years in response to concerns raised in the media, by students and parents, and by policymakers at the state and federal level. The committee is now chaired by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, with Mike Enzi of Wyoming the ranking minority member. The hearing came in the middle of a vacation I had planned in New York City, where I was attending a number of Broadway shows. This was certainly a very different type of theater experience.
This was my first time testifying to a Senate Committee; my three previous trips to Capitol Hill as a witness were on the House side of the Capitol. I was joined on the panel by three college presidents: Steven Leath of Iowa State University, Jim Murdaugh of Tallahassee Community College, and Thomas Snyder of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. Also on the panel was Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation.