College defends professor accused of being anti-Christian

This week Polk State University is standing behind a humanities professor accused of giving students anti-Christian assignments, even as the allegations were picked up by national conservative outlets. The college’s leaders say the case raises important issues for professors’ rights in the classroom and for academic freedom. “The overall fallacy of your position rests singly on the premise that that an instructor should not require a student to consider, discuss or present arguments that are contrary to his/her personal beliefs,” lawyers for Polk State wrote.

I find this argument fascinating because generally institutions are are lobbying for a further separation of church-and-state. However this case is unique for two reasons. First, because the college’s leaders recognize that the students are being challenged; regardless of their religious beliefs, adults are required to deal with issues they do not agree with, and are uncomfortable with. So I believe that (1) the professor is doing a good job by challenging his students to think outside their comfort zone. Furthermore, I find it refreshing that the institution supports its faculty, rather than “apologizing”for wrong doing. One can only hope that this is indicative of a united vision and faculty culture.

Uniqueness aside, how is the grey area reflected in a religiously-neutral dilemma?


Hillary: “Deep-seated … religious beliefs” have to be changed for abortion

Hilary Clinton was recently quoted saying:

“Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton said.

“Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will,” she explained. “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. As I have said and as I believe, the advancement of the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century and not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

While this statement may seems to make sense in theory, to remove deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural bias means removing ethical standards. If they are removed, what will we be left with to guide our moral decisions? Right or wrong, Hilary has stepped into a grey area, and it will be interesting to see whether people react to choose black-or-white or if they will accept this statement with a grain of (grey).


Recently, Emmy-nominated transgender actress of “Orange is the New Black” Laverne Cox spoke in front of a body of Nevada students to talk about transgender discrimination. Of all the things that Cox spoke about, the thing that struck me was how she identified through her gender, race, and socioeconomic status. “I think it’s important to name the various intersecting components of my identity because I’m not just one thing and neither are you,” Cox said. One student who attended the talk commented, “I love how she talked about the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. That’s not talked about as much as it should be and I’m glad she brought it up.” Cox is living in the grey area. She is actively bringing a very uncomfortable topic to the table, and has been received with respect from students and a variety of audiences. I admire Cox’s courage to address these three areas of identification head on, and bring awareness in an open forum.

California Agency Orders Corinthian Colleges to Stop Enrollments

Last week the U.S. Department of Education fined Corinthian Colleges nearly $30 million for misrepresenting job placement rates at its Heald College chain in California. It turns out that this for-profit education company had been skewing its job prospects advertisements for students after graduation. The department conducted an investigation which revealed that Heald promoted false advertising. Examples of violations include some of the following:

  • The for-profit college paid companies to hire its graduates for as few as two days. The college then counted those graduates in its placement rates.
  • One criminal justice program boasted a 100 percent placement rate, but the college had removed almost 60 percent of the graduates from the calculation by deeming them unavailable for employment.
  • In other cases, Corinthian counted graduates as employed even though they were clearly not working in their field of study. For example, the department said, Corinthian claimed that a graduate of an accounting program working in a food service job at Taco Bell was employed in her field.

As a result of this misleading information, as well as the poor job placement for graduates of Heald, the department placed a large fine on the company and as of yesterday, ordered Corinthian Colleges’ campuses in California to stop enrolling students. It claims that this is to protect the best interests of potential students who could fall into greater debt to pay for an education that doesn’t actually help them obtain a job in that field. But not only is the government taking steps to shut down this avenue of education to protect students, it has proposed a resolution to the debt incurred for their “worthless” education.The department and state seem to be responding to Obama’s administrative goals to improve students’ educational debt problem as a result of student loans. Officials are considering ways to make it easier for some former Corinthian students to have their federal student loans canceled. Student borrowers are also arguing that they shouldn’t have to repay the federal loans they took out to attend the for-profit college.

“It’s a step in the right direction but the real issue here is that these students who were the victim of Corinthian need a full refund and the chance to start over.”

I was impressed by the government’s proactive and harsh punishment of Heal colleges for taking advantage of students. It took a stand and said that such treatment of students is not right. As a school known for online and trade school programs, many of these students are attending this college because it is more affordable and “guarantees” a better paying job after graduation. I think the students have a right to be outraged now that the results of the investigation have been released, and I am glad they have someone in their corner to help fight for them.

Ferguson with a Chance to Diversify City Counsel

Today citizens of Ferguson, Missouri had the opportunity to elect three new members to City Counsel and increase the diversity of its counsel members. Of the three available seats representing different wards of the city, African-American males are running for two of the the three positions: black versus black for the first seat, two white and two blacks for the second seat, and two whites for the third seat. Currently, there is only one black member on a counsel of six members, plus Mayor James Knowles. The guaranteed seat-one candidate means that the African-American representation will double, and possibly increase to 50% of the Counsel.

Many feel that this is an opportunity for blacks to gain the representation they deserve in a city run by white officials, but with a population that is two-thirds African-American. In light of the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, and the ensuing investigation into the police department and city officials, this is another opportunity towards bringing about change in Ferguson. (The article also touches upon concern for low voting turnout, especially in light of a spell of bad weather today that could discourage those registered to reach polls.)

“People in general want to see change,” Knowles said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think any candidate who is running for office or anyone on the current City Council has said they want to keep things the way they are.”

The general consensus seems to be that in order for change, equality, and fair representation to occur, more blacks must gain access to city government positions; the rallies, protests, and debates against discrimination over the past months will all be for naught if the new counsel members are not of a certain race and ethnicity. While I understand how important it is to have the representatives reflective of their population, I think Mayor Knowles was correct in identifying that change is the first priority for the city’s culture and survival. Furthermore, I believe that this can be accomplished through appointing great minds and perceptive leaders.

Great minds and perceptive leaders exist regardless of race. It is fair to say that any or all of the candidates running for City Counsel could fit this bill and be qualified to bring about the change that the city needs. However, will the represented citizens be able to perceive future changes with the same colorblind goggles, if say only one black candidate were elected? I venture to say that it is very important to two-thirds of the Ferguson citizens that the elected members come from a similar background to themselves (primarily race, socioeconomic status, education, etc.) They need that visual assurance that they are no longer so grossly underrepresented in government. To take it a step further, will this assurance pose as a pacifier even if those black representatives cannot effect the change they promised?

I argue that both are important to the journey that Ferguson officials must take to avoid past mistakes. However, I value the quality of leaders over their physical attributes. Elect those who are most qualified to bring about equity, respect, integrity, equality, and fight against discrimination and the current culture of fear. That is what the democratic system was envisioned to facilitate.

Oftentimes, certain values can be assigned to a candidate based upon his political party. However, political affiliations are not mentioned in this article, neither were the candidates respective platforms. The reporting and central focus were upon the candidates physical qualities.

Lastly, if a leader is to bring about these types of changes, he should also seek to bridge the gap between populations. A cooperative environment must be achieved, and I think the first place to start is by establishing the common values and goals of both the city and its individual Counsel members.

This may be perceived as a black and white issue, however the solution is most definitely grey!

NCAA Considers Strong Social Implications of New Indiana Bill

The NCAA voiced it’s concern last Thursday about a new bill that the state of Indiana passed that the NCAA believes may open the door for discrimination.They are specifically concerned that the bill’s loose language has the potential to allow discrimination against gay people. “The law would prohibit state and local laws that ‘substantially burden’ the ability of people — including businesses and associations — to follow their religious beliefs.” NCAA President Mark Emmert commented that not only is he concerned that the law will allow businesses to discriminate against gay people, but also how it may impact student-athletes and employees. His statement also suggested that the NCAA could consider moving future athletic events out of Indianapolis to boycott the new law.

A spokesman for Governor Pence reiterated that the governor does not believe the bill would “in any way legalize discrimination in Indiana.” “For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and this law will not do so in Indiana either,” he said.

The ESPN article above states, “The NCAA has stepped into social debates before, and there is precedent for it taking events elsewhere.” The NCAA seems to be particularly interested in these implications, since there have been several breakthroughs for gay rights in college sports over the last couple years. The NCAA and the young adults and students it represents have been supportive of changes to make environments more inclusive.

Although this bill has been under review for several months, it did not receive any opposition until this last week. Groups such as the LGBT Sports Coalition also voiced opposition for the bill, calling for the NCAA, the Big Ten, NFL and USA Diving and Gymnastics to move their athletic events from Indiana. The NCAA and Big Ten conferences both stated that they plan to review the bill’s impact carefully in the coming weeks.

What caught my attention is that the NCAA has been so quick to take a stand on this bill. As an independent association created to represent the best interests of student-athletes and higher education, this bill does not directly deal with either. Rather the bill focuses on reducing government regulation over businesses, and has no control over the private sector.

Overall, I am surprised that by two things: 1) that such a powerful organization is taking a stand against this bill, based on loose wording, and 2) that the NCAA has taken such a decisive and strong stand so quickly. If I have learned anything within the last year, it has been to wait patiently (but not passively) for more information to become available before picking a side. There is a certain wisdom to be had in thinking in the grey area, rather than choosing black or white right away. I think this is especially true, when an organization has not been called upon to make such a decision.

I think President Emmert’s statement was premature. I admire the association’s stand for human rights. I don’t think that they necessarily need to be affected by the law to continue to throw their support behind the LGBT community. However, I’m not sure that it is in anyone’s best interests for the NCAA to be threatening to move athletic events out of Indiana if the law remains. There are billions of dollars tied up in media contracts through the NCAA. This money benefits the institutions participating, as well as the Indianapolis economy when events such as the Final Four come to town To move similar events could be detrimental to the very jobs that the government is trying to stimulate through fewer regulations.

My final comment is that I am content to sit back and see how this bill unfolds. Will its language really enable discrimination against gay people and those with religious convictions, or will Governor Pence be correct in relying on the integrity of Religious Freedom Restoration Act? I wonder if the NCAA will find that it will need to amend its comments or that its threats will prove empty in the coming weeks, as the bill is reviewed. In spite of that, I am glad to see that there are several organizations willing to engage in social issues for the defending of human rights.

NFL Approves Medical Timeout for Athletic Trainers

Tuesday, NFL coaches, CEOs, and owners met to discuss new rules changes and added a pivotal new rule, allowing athletics trainers to call a medical timeout if a player appears disoriented. This power to call a timeout would be limited to an athletic training “spotter” who would communicate with the referee linesman. It was unanimously approved by all at the meeting.

Under the new rule, a spotter at the game would communicate with the side judge if it’s determined a player is showing obvious signs of disorientation or is unstable. Neither team would be charged for a timeout — and teams can replace the affected player only during this stoppage. The opposition also would be able to substitute a player to match up.

NFL competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay stated “It came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, ‘We’ve got these spotters (certified athletic trainers),'” McKay said. “‘They’ve got a really good vantage point. They’ve got technology in their booth. They’re communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors, and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going there.’ Why would we miss a play when a player should come out?”

Those in the sports medicine community are celebrating this safety measure as well as its recognition of ATs’ roles in concussion safety and management. I speak for the athletic training community when I say that this measure is long overdue. The battle to fight for concussion recognition and safety measures has been an issue with athletic trainers for several decades, at all levels and ages of sport participation. While only receiving media attention in recent years, sports medicine professionals have been gathering data for much longer, in order to understand what concussions are, how they should be treated, and what the long-term effects are. Thanks to media attention and the contributions of former football players, this attention has gained momentum. The NFL is currently involved in an initiative that contributes several million dollars to concussion research, as well as money to place athletic trainers in high risk high schools around the Unites States (often states with high risk for heat stroke in fall and summer seasons). Current and former players are speaking out about how concussions have affected their health negatively and often permanently; they also help raise awareness in youth sports safety. Brains are being donated for research. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association leads many programs and legislative bills to help protect athletes. Overall, education and awareness of what concussions are has increased in the general population over the past years thanks to all these efforts.

This new rule stems from a growing recognition that concussions happen all the time, and is based upon the presumption that athlete safety trumps “one more play”. As McKay stated, if there is an effective resource already in place, why shouldn’t it be used to protect a player’s quality of life rather than letting him continue to contribute his disoriented efforts in the next play? Michigan recently adopted this strategy after receiving hot criticism when their quarterback, Shane Morris was allowed to continue playing after staggering on the field after being hit. The NFL claims that the NFL rule was brought to the table in light of Patriots Julian Edelman appearing disoriented after being hit by Seattle Kam Chancellor in the Super Bowl. Despite being disoriented, Edelman continued to play, and even caught the game-winning touchdown.

While I may have given you a brief background as to the contributing factors leading up to this rule, I think this rule is important because it helps take a stand for player safety over competition, and arguably contributes to giving players better cognitive health through early recognition of concussions. It places a value on human life, and the quality of that life. It sets an example for youth and college football, and even other contact and collision sport safety.

Ultimately, whether you have educated yourself or not, concussion is a very real, and very serious issue. It can adversely affect a player’s quality of life immediately and long-term. When it comes down to the ethical grey-area, my question is why has it taken so long to take measures to protect something so essential as the human mind? A current hot topic is whether or not athletes should have the right to receive payment for notoriety and should they be paid to play. However in a country that prides itself on valuing human rights, why have we let our love of competition overshadow the athlete’s rights to safety?