THE WEEK IN HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CON­TENTS -

The Univer­sity of Ten­nessee-Knoxville has been con­demned for host­ing what has been de­scribed as “six days of XXX-rated de­bauch­ery that make Mardi Gras on Bour­bon Street look like a Sun­day school pic­nic”. Those look­ing for steamy scenes on cam­pus may, how­ever, be dis­ap­pointed by the “Sex Week” or­gan­ised by a stu­dent group ti­tled “Sex­ual Em­pow­er­ment and Aware­ness at Ten­nessee”. With talks such as “Queer The­ory”, “Trans Convo Starter Pack” and “Trans Sex Pos­i­tiv­ity”, it seems doubt­ful that the sex ed­u­ca­tion week was akin to “Sodom and Go­mor­rah Week”, as de­scribed by Fox News com­men­ta­tor Todd Starnes on 6 April. Mr Starnes also claimed that the “raunchy shenani­gans” rep­re­sent ev­i­dence that the “state’s flag­ship univer­sity is be­ing run by a bunch of sex-crazed per­verts with PhD de­grees”. The event’s or­gan­is­ers, how­ever, did not seem too per­turbed by the at­tack, stat­ing on their web­site that “col­lege is about ed­u­ca­tion and thought­ful dis­cus­sion, and that in­cludes im­por­tant top­ics like sex”.

Stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Utah have been asked to go on a Net­flix binge in the name of their stud­ies, Es­quire re­ported on 4 April. The univer­sity has made the 10-episode Mak­ing a Mur­derer se­ries the ba­sis for a new course that teaches law stu­dents about flaws in the le­gal process. The course fol­lows the con­tro­ver­sial con­vic­tions of Steven Avery and his teenage nephew Bren­dan Dassey for the mur­der of pho­tog­ra­pher Teresa Hal­bach in 2005, which later saw Dassey’s con­vic­tion over­turned. “This is a re­ally good case study of crim­i­nal jus­tice in gen­eral and all of the prob­lems we have – in­clud­ing taint­ing of ju­ries, im­proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion, DNA ev­i­dence and con­tam­i­na­tion of ev­i­dence, pros­e­cu­to­rial ethics, in­ef­fec­tive coun­sel and many other is­sues,” said Shima Baradaran Baugh­man, the law pro­fes­sor be­hind the course.

The “ex­ag­ger­ated im­age” of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents as wealthy be­came a “vi­ral meme”, the BBC Three web­site re­ported on 5 April. The meme took off af­ter a tweet “jok­ing about how in­ter­na­tional stu­dents eat gold chains for lunch”. While Twit­ter wags piled on with images of gold toi­let roll and Louis Vuit­ton­branded fried eggs, oth­ers coun­tered that “In­ter­na­tional stu­dents are broke. Don’t let twit­ter fool you.” Do­minic Scott, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the UK Coun­cil for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Af­fairs, said: “If you popped into any cam­pus you would find one stu­dent in a Lam­borgh­ini, 50 on the bus, and 20 cook­ing baked beans over a cheap stove.” Those ra­tios might need tweak­ing for the Univer­sity of Ox­ford or Re­gent’s Univer­sity Lon­don, but we take his point. The ar­ti­cle pointed out that “some in­ter­na­tional stu­dents man­age to win funded univer­sity places – ei­ther in part or in full – via aca­demic schol­ar­ships. And oth­ers have fam­i­lies who de­cide to spend their sav­ings on their kids.”

The Daily Mail is not known for its gush­ing praise of UK uni­ver­si­ties, so academia will have been sur­prised to see the pa­per’s front page pan­e­gyric to one in­sti­tu­tion. “Save the Open Univer­sity!” was the un­likely head­line on 9 April, with a fur­ther two pages in­side de­voted to what the pa­per called a “lad­der of op­por­tu­nity for mil­lions” and an “in­spir­ing en­gine of so­cial mo­bil­ity”. As part of its cam­paign to save the so-called “Univer­sity of the Air”, which was started by Harold Wil­son’s 1960s Labour gov­ern­ment, the Mail pic­tured two “suc­cess sto­ries” helped by the OU, which it said had been a “vic­tim of changes to tu­ition fees” and could be helped with the rein­tro­duc­tion of pub­lic sub­si­dies. Its ap­peal “Has the Open Univer­sity changed your life?” sug­gests that the cam­paign might not be short-lived, but the Mail will no doubt still find room for its usual bashing of stu­dent “snowflakes”, lefty pro­fes­sors and over­paid vice-chan­cel­lors.

As the Mail goes a lit­tle sweet on one univer­sity, is The Sun strug­gling to find ma­te­rial for its cam­paign to high­light the be­hav­iour of so-called “snowflake stu­dents”? While its at­tempt to mock the sup­pos­edly “Left Loonies” be­hind “PC-mad” de­ci­sions on cam­pus led by its “ded­i­cated wuss”, “Jon Snowflake”, be­gan with some solid tar­gets, the de­ci­sion by Gold­smiths, Univer­sity of Lon­don to hire a “hate crime of­fi­cer” does not have ob­vi­ous hu­mor­ous ap­peal. “The win­ning ap­pli­cant will be paid £35,000-a-year to tackle re­ports of racism and sex­ism,” re­ported The Sun on 6 April, adding that “the move fol­lows sev­eral in­ci­dents on UK cam­puses – many gen­uine griev­ances, oth­ers blamed on the over-sen­si­tive”. As the story high­lights re­cent al­leged racist chant­ing at Not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity, Gold­smiths’ new role – thought to be the first of its kind – does not look un­rea­son­able.

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