ACT’s college admission testing grows, but scores stagnate | The Washington Post

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Aug 262015
 

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By Nick Anderson
August 26

The ACT, the nation’s most widely used college admission test, continues to expand its reach in Maryland, Virginia and several other states where the SAT’s dominance was long unchallenged. But results released Wednesday show that ACT scores across the country are stagnating.

The average score for the high school Class of 2015 was 21, out of a maximum of 36. That was unchanged from the year before and largely echoed results going back a decade. Of 1.92 million people taking the test, the share who met the ACT college readiness standard in English was unchanged from the previous year: 64 percent. The share who met the math benchmark — 42 percent — has slid each year since reaching a peak of 46 percent in 2012.

The share who reached none of the ACT readiness targets in English, math, reading or science stood at 31 percent. That figure has not budged in two years, and it is more worrisome than comparable data from 2011 and 2012.

“The needle is barely moving on college and career readiness, and that means far too many young people will continue to struggle after they graduate from high school,” Jon Whitmore, chief executive of ACT, said in a statement. “This should be a wake-up call for our nation.”

Another top official said he feared that years of reform efforts were having little effect on high school achievement.
“It’s just been the same old, same old,” ACT President Jon Erickson said of the test results. “We’re not closing that gap.”

Students who aren’t ready, of course, are much less likely to enter college or finish.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of U.S. high school graduates who won’t earn a two- or four-year college degree because they aren’t academically prepared to do so,” Whitmore said. “In the increasingly competitive job market, where decent jobs are requiring more advanced skills and training, this is a huge problem.”

ACT officials said their data show wide racial and ethnic gaps in college readiness, with African American, American Indian and Hispanic students less prepared than their white and Asian counterparts.
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In standardized testing, there is often tension between the twin goals of boosting participation and raising scores. It is hard to accomplish both on a broad scale because when more students take a test, especially those with educational disadvantages, very often average scores are weighed down. When fewer take a test, average scores often rise.

The ACT, based in Iowa, has grown steadily in use during the past decade, surpassing the SAT with the Class of 2012. Selective colleges nationwide accept either test. (Some don’t require any test scores.) Students will often take both to learn which one suits them best. The ACT is billed as an achievement test, measuring whether students have mastered core subjects in high school.

The SAT, once known as a test of “scholastic aptitude,” is being redesigned. The new SAT, to be launched in March, will return to the familiar 1600-point scale and will no longer require students to write an essay. College Board officials pledge that it will have fewer tricks and fancy words and will be more in sync with the high school curriculum. Results from the current 2400-point version of the SAT, given to the Class of 2015, are expected to be released in early September.

ACT officials estimate that 59 percent of all high school graduates in 2015 took their test, up from 47 percent five years earlier and 40 percent a decade ago. In many states, public high school students take the test for free. ACT said it had contracts with 18 states in the most recent school year, from Alabama to Wisconsin, to provide testing to all 11th-graders. Similar arrangements enable public school students in the District and a handful of states — including, soon, Connecticut and New Hampshire — to take the SAT for free.

In the District, about 1,600 students in the Class of 2015 took the ACT. Their average score was 21.1, down from 21.6 in the previous class. Participation rose from 37 percent of 2014 graduates to 42 percent this year.
In Maryland, there were about 15,800 test-takers, with an average score of 22.7, compared with the previous mark of 22.6. Participation rose from 22 percent to 25 percent.
In Virginia, about 25,000 took the test, with an average score of 23.1. The previous average was 22.8. Participation rose from 28 percent to 30 percent.

“We are certainly excited that ACT scores have continued to improve in Maryland even as participation has gone up,” said Jack Smith, chief academic officer and deputy superintendent for the state’s Department of Education. “This is the same phenomenon we’ve seen with [Advanced Placement testing] over time, and it indicates that aspiring to continue one’s education can fuel academic improvement. ACT’s focus on college and career readiness mirrors a priority for Maryland public schools, and we expect the scores to continue to improve as more rigorous standards take hold.”

In all three jurisdictions, the SAT remains more widely used. But the ACT in recent years has gained ground.

That is also true in California. The SAT remains dominant in the nation’s most populous state. But three out of every 10 California graduates in 2015 took the ACT, twice the participation rate of a decade ago.

“More students are taking both tests, determining which one they do better in, and usually submitting that one,” said Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the University of California system. Or they double up on test scores.

UC data show that 26,000 applicants for the incoming freshman class submitted only ACT scores and that 84,000 submitted only SAT scores. Nearly 39,000 submitted results from both.

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How High Schoolers Spent Their Summer: Online, Taking More Courses | The New York Times

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Aug 262015
 

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By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
AUG. 25, 2015

As summer began, Dan Akim, a junior at Manhattan’s ultracompetitive Stuyvesant High School, planned to attend debate camp, to study for the PSATs and to go on some family vacations.

Yet he felt that he could pack more into these months, so he also signed up for three online courses, in precalculus, computer science and public health. While on car rides with his family in Italy, he would sometimes use a mobile hot spot to chip away at one of the courses, while his mother asked why he was not soaking up the view instead.

“Why not multitask!” Mr. Akim said.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were originally intended as college-level work that would be accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. But among the millions of people who have signed up for these classes, there are now an untold number of teenagers looking for courses their high schools do not offer and often, as a bonus, to nab one more exploit that might impress the college of their dreams.

College admissions directors, as well as administrators of the Common Application used by many schools, say that such online classes — for which students are not likely ever to see credit — are popping up on college applications, adding to the list of extracurriculars, like internships and community service projects, that have helped turn summer vacation into a time of character and résumé building.

“We’ve noticed in the past few years, more and more students who apply to us mention they’ve taken online courses of various kinds,” said Marlyn McGrath, director of admissions for Harvard College. Lest anyone think, however, that MOOCs are a magical key to getting into Harvard, she added:

“It falls into the category of very interesting things we’d like to know about you.”

The courses are designed by colleges and universities around the world and distributed online, by organizations like edX and Coursera, where they can be taken free. No application is required, so anybody can sign up for “The Science of Happiness,” from the University of California at Berkeley, for example, or “American Government” from Harvardx, which is affiliated with Harvard University. More recently, MOOCs have also been employed to supplement high school Advanced Placement classes, including a project called Davidson Next.

Katherine Cohen, founder of an admissions counseling company in New York City called IvyWise, said the number of her clients who had taken MOOCs had been steadily increasing in recent years. Dr. Cohen says they give applicants the chance to take classes not offered at their own schools, like advanced math or a business course, and to “appear more scholarly” in their areas of interest.

These classes also offer high school students the chance to show that they did not just spend the summer playing Xbox and napping.

Last summer, just before his senior year, Musa Jamshed, an accomplished chess player who had spent several summers teaching at a chess camp in Manhattan, decided to augment chess with a couple of MOOCs.

“I didn’t really know exactly how valid or how common it was to put this kind of thing on a college application, but I had some open space in my summer,” Mr. Jamshed, 18, said. “I didn’t want it to seem like I wasn’t doing anything.”

A data science class he signed up for required several prerequisites he did not have, he said, so eventually, he dropped it and signed up for a social psychology class instead. That one, offered by Wesleyan University, he finished.

When it came time to fill out his college applications, he wrote about the data science class even though he did not finish the course, which he disclosed. That does not appear to have been a problem. Last week, he began freshman orientation at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

Seth Allen, dean of admissions at Pomona College, said his school had seen online courses on applications from both domestic applicants and those abroad. In other countries, Mr. Allen said, some young people use the classes as a way to augment fairly narrow curriculums — in India or the United Kingdom, for example, students specialize quite young, he said. And even in the United States, some students use them as a way to study subjects not offered in their high schools, not just during the summer but year-round.

Anthony Liu, 17, who will be a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, said he completed five MOOCs on topics like artificial intelligence. He estimates he tried out nearly 20 others that he did not finish.

“I come from a school that’s really humanities-focused, and I’m a math and science guy,” said Mr. Liu, who is from Daly City, Calif. When he signed up for the classes, he was not planning to put them on his college applications, he said, but then decided it could not hurt.

“They’re not going to view it badly,” he said.

Mr. Akim, the Stuyvesant High junior, said he took online courses because he was curious about the subjects and in fact, he was not sure whether he would include them on his college application because the classes were introductory. (He completed only one.)

“If I were to take something more high level,” he would be more inclined to include it, he said. “Whether they want to say it or not, everyone wants to put something overly impressive on their college application.”

But admissions officials cautioned that MOOCs are not necessary for already overburdened students, and that the number of applicants listing them at this point is still relatively small. (The Common Application, which is used by hundreds of schools, said it could not provide the number of applicants who had included online courses because there is more than one way to list the information on their forms.) Mr. Allen of Pomona said that when they become just another tool in the “education arms race,” he considers them neither productive nor persuasive.

“Where we put value on it is where it demonstrates curiosity rather than achievement,” Mr. Allen said. In some cases they display an impulse “almost like trophy hunting, just one more thing to make me appear to be this impressive student.”

The dean of admissions at Brown University, James Miller, said that while these online courses now sometimes appear on applications, the college does not give them much consideration.

“We don’t know enough to be able to discern their relative quality,” he said.

Indeed, it can be difficult to know how much a student gets out of MOOCs. Classes are a mix of video lectures, quizzes and projects, and though students must complete assessments in order to pass, nobody is watching to see if a student is marathon-texting throughout.

The courses also tend to have a very low rate of completion. Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX, said about 6 or 7 percent of students complete and pass the courses, but that since there is no barrier to entry, like an upfront fee or application process, that does not strike him as problematic. Among students who pay for a verified certificate of completion, which generally costs about $50, the pass rate is about 60 percent on both edX and Coursera, company representatives said.

Even at M.I.T., one of the founders of edX, the admissions office does not check that the classes have been completed.

“We have not looked to verify that, in the same way we don’t verify other activities,” as opposed to a class on an official transcript, said Stuart Schmill, M.I.T.’s dean of admissions.

But, he added, that may not always be the case.

“It depends on the direction it all goes and how central a part of the application it is,” Mr. Schmill said. “Now, it’s just one of many things a student might do. We’ll have to see in the future.”

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ECU ranked No. 1 in Southeast for “Best Bang for the Buck” | WNCT

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Aug 252015
 

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By Caitlin Hunnicutt
Published: August 24, 2015

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — East Carolina University is ranked No.1 in Washington Monthly magazine’s list of “Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the Southeast.”

Rankings are based on the net price of attendance, the university’s graduation rate and whether students go on to earn enough to pay off their loans, according to the magazine.

“The Washington Monthly is one of the few rating systems that actually measures what difference the university makes to the student,” said Chancellor Steve Ballard. “Because student success is our number one priority, we pay attention to this kind of ranking.”

This is the second time the university was recognized by the magazine in 2015. In March, a new book “The Other College Guide: A Road Map to the Right School for You” also named the university in the top ranked university in the Southeast region. The book measured affordability and outcomes in higher education.

The latest rankings are taken from the book and include updated information on 1,540 colleges from five geographic regions across the country. The rankings measure student loan default rate, graduation rate, the number of Pell Grant students and cost of attendance.

“We are very pleased that ECU is rated first in the Southeast,” Ballard said. “Our students pay a reasonable price, they have the opportunity to receive a good degree that prepares them for life and they are developed as leaders. East Carolina makes a difference for our students.”

The Southeast region includes colleges and universities from Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

UNC system campuses account for 10 of the top 20 “Best Bang for the Buck” schools in the Southeast. N.C. State University was ranked 2nd, UNC Pembroke was 7th, UNC Greensboro was 8th, Appalachian State was 9th, UNC Charlotte was 10th, UNC Chapel Hill was 11th, Elizabeth City State was 17th, Fayetteville State was 18th and N.C. Central was 19th.

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ECU club and intramural sports adopt gender identity procedure | WNCT

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Aug 252015
 

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By Kelly Byrne
Published: August 24, 2015

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – “We are all pirates.” It’s the new slogan that ECU is adopting, as transgender students are now able to participate in club and intramural sports as their identified gender.

“Basically, whatever that student identifies as, that is the sport in which they will participate in,” said Justin Waters, the Asst. Director of ECU Club Sports & Facilities.

ECU club sports partnered with the LGBT Resource Office to create the Gender Identity Operating Procedure.

“It’s imperative that all students feel welcomed here,” said Mark Rasdorf, the Asst. Director of the LGBT Resource Office. “We know that participation here in extracurricular participation for students contributes to their overall success.”

There are 39 club sports, and five that offer men and women’s teams. Over 1,200 students participate in these sports, making the program a big part of ECU.

Many students, such as sophomore Stephanie Brown, think the amendment procedure is a positive reflection of societal changes.

“I think it is a positive thing because i think that you have the right to be who you really are. And it’s not fair for someone to say you can’t do something.”

When competing against other schools, the students have the right to play, as long as the opposing team does not have a policy against transgender participation.

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Back-to-school traffic busy | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 252015
 

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By Sharieka Breeden
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heavy back-to-school traffic slowed travel to crawl on several area roadways Monday, but officials reported no problems beyond routine jams.

Monday marked the first day in recent memory when East Carolina University and Pitt County public schools returned to class on the same day. Traffic was heavy on major city thoroughfares such as Arlington and Greenville boulevards, Fifth and 14th streets, and others shared by public school and university commuters, officials said.

Elsewhere in the county, heavy traffic was reported in several areas:

Worthington Road near D.H. Conley High School and Christ Covenant School;
Ivy Road and Mills Road near Hope Middle School;
The intersections of Frog Level and Davenport Farm roads, Forlines and Reedy Branch roads, and Reedy Branch and Devenport Farm roads near South Central High School, Creekside Elementary School and Pitt Community College;
County Home Road near Wintergreen Primary and Intermediate schools;
Thomas Langston Road near Ridgewood Elementary School.

Greenville Police Department Sgt. Mike Montayne reported no major problems.

“Being that it was the first day and all the schools are back in session, I thought it went extremely smooth,” Montayne said. “If the rest of the week goes like this, it will be great.”

The department’s traffic safety unit and other law enforcement agencies plan to monitor school zones throughout the week and expect pedestrian and vehicular traffic to remain higher than normal.

Montayne said his department stationed officers at Ridgewood Elementary, South Greenville Elementary on Howell Street and The Oakwood School, a private school on MacGregor Downs Road. It also placed message boards and speed radar trailers in several school zones.

“One tip for drivers and pedestrians is put your phone up,” Montayne said.

He also encouraged pedestrians to use crosswalks because drivers are required to yield. Montayne said if no crosswalk is present, people need to be alert.

“Make eye contact with the driver who is stopped or stopping so you can know that you see each other,” he said. “Don’t let yourself get distracted or rushed.”

Parents taking children to school for the first time, new teen drivers commuting to local high schools and students going to East Carolina University all added to the bustle Monday, Montayne said. Allowing time for heavier traffic flow is crucial, he said.

“All summer you’ve been used to not having to leave early to get to one point to another,” Montayne said. “With all schools back in session, you have to remember that you have to leave some extra time. I don’t want people to think you can leave at the same time. You need to leave early to get where you’re going.”

ECU Deputy Chief Jason Sugg said there is an increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Fifth, 10th, 14th and Cotanche streets along with Charles Boulevard and College Hill Drive.

The university reported that 3,804 commuter parking permits have been sold this year. Parking and Transportation services said the upcoming three days usually are the biggest sale dates for commuter permits.

During the previous academic year, 7,084 commuter permits were sold.

ECU police are monitoring Cotanche Street, in particular, as construction work wraps up on The Boundary, a large private student housing development. The completion of Gateway East and Gateway West dormitories also is expected to increase pedestrian traffic on 14th Street, which is busy with vehicle traffic headed to Elmhurst Elementary and C.M. Eppes Middle School.

“We haven’t found that to be problematic, just something we are aware of,” Sugg said.

“Many drivers and pedestrians may not be accustomed to Greenville and ECU traffic patterns and habits at this point, so I would ask that everyone please use a little caution,” Sugg said.

State Highway Patrol Sgt. Marvin Williams said troopers are focused on the increased traffic flow.

“At this point in time we haven’t had any major collisions,” Williams said Monday afternoon.

“… Drivers should maintain a decent following distance and look out for kids. People also need to pay attention to buses.”

Pitt County Schools spokesman Brock Letchworth said Monday’s traffic was standard for a first day of school.

“We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “Any issues we had with traffic being backed up and congestion were all in the same areas where we usually have congestion.”

He said the traffic should die down by the end of the week.

“The first few days are always a little more intense when it comes to traffic,” he said. “You have a lot more parents driving their kids to school during those first few days.”

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Attempted identity theft against ECU students already reported | WNCT

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Aug 252015
 

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By Josh Birch Published: August 24, 2015

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Although classes at ECU have just begun, attempted identity theft is already being reported.

Lt. Chris Sutton with ECU police said an ECU student received an email from someone claiming they were a police officer. In the email, the student was told there was a warrant out for their arrest for fraudulent tax statements. The only way to avoid jail was to pay the officer money.

Sutton said in the heat of the moment, these emails can scare students enough that some actually provide the information requested.

“You get intimidated by the fact that somebody is telling you that you owe a lot of money and if you don’t pay you’re going to get arrested,” Sutton said.

Sutton said generally officers won’t resort to email messages, but rather show up at your door if there is a warrant for your arrest.

ECU freshman Jodi McDougal said the thought of having her identity stolen is scary and has led her to take some precautions.

“If it’s not sent from the organization that I know of then I’m usually just going to kind of go around it,” she said.

ECU junior Chris Lew said he isn’t worried about identity theft because he doesn’t think he would be targeted. He said people just need to think through things before providing anyone financial information.

“A lot of it is just common sense,” Lew said. “If somebody is asking you for money online, you don’t know the person, just don’t send them money.”

Sutton said trying to keep up with all the new scams can be difficult.

“A lot of times you don’t know that it has occurred or is occurring until after the fact, but there’s different times when we get intelligent briefings and we can pass that information on,” Sutton said.

For tips on how to prevent identity theft or to file a complain, following the links below:

https://www.identitytheft.gov/

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt

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NC community college system leader shouldn’t be too political | The News & Observer

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Aug 252015
 

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August 24, 2015

The North Carolina Community College System has been run by veteran politicians such as the late former Gov. Bob Scott and ex-U.S. Rep. Martin Lancaster, both wise to the ways of the General Assembly and knowledgeable about the challenges that have long faced North Carolina’s working people. The current president, Scott Ralls, is an educator, soft-spoken, who brought his own skills to the job.

Ralls is leaving next month for another job, so the system’s leaders are talking about what kind of president they want. It’s an important discussion. The community college system has been vital for more and more North Carolinians who have gotten additional job training in mid-career or even later career following a Great Recession that put some of them, too many of them, out of work.

System board members are talking with individual college presidents to determine what’s needed in the next leader. There seems to be a feeling that “political acumen” is near the top of the list.

That’s fine, as the leader of this 58-college system does indeed have to deal with the General Assembly, and the system has suffered in terms of funding in recent years.

But given the charged atmosphere on Jones Street, the system’s leaders need to look beyond political skills. It would be unfortunate if a leader were chosen because of ties to the state’s current political leadership. The top priority, in terms of the skills desired, has to be management experience in a large and complex organization and not necessarily an educational one.

Yes, the system president has influence, but the position is one of advocacy for the system’s budget, for direction, for the mission. Each college has a board of trustees and, depending upon that board, a powerful presidency. The system president can’t really direct policy at individual campuses and can’t intervene in personnel matters except in extreme circumstances.

The communities in which the colleges exist tend to be very protective of the autonomy of “their” schools. They’re skeptical of anything that could be interpreted as “direction” from Raleigh.

Community colleges have relied on advocates in the legislature and on the influence of supporters in their own communities. They’ve had a strong case, as the colleges are vital to the state’s job training and to its overall economic health.

Now must be the time for a strong leader, someone respected across the political spectrum, who can speak for all the colleges and be heard statewide. The state has such people, and it is the charge of the community college board to find that person and put faith, trust and power in his or her hands.

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Banners at Va. college show parents where to drop off their ‘baby girl’ for ‘a good time’ | The Washington Post

 News clippings compiled by ECU News Services  Comments Off on Banners at Va. college show parents where to drop off their ‘baby girl’ for ‘a good time’ | The Washington Post
Aug 252015
 

washingtonpost

By Susan Svrluga
August 24 at 11:40 AM

At Old Dominion University, some new students and parents arriving at the Norfolk campus Friday were startled to find three huge banners hanging from a private off-campus house touting rowdy fun, with an arrow pointing to the front door labeled, “Freshman daughter drop off.”

(The next sign suggested, “Go ahead and drop off Mom too…”)

University leaders quickly denounced the banners, which were reported in the Huffington Post after someone posted photos online and were taken down after officials contacted the students who hung them.

National leaders of the Sigma Nu fraternity suspended the chapter at ODU pending an investigation, president Brad Beacham announced Monday.

“The Fraternity condemns the derogatory and demeaning language used on the banners,” he said in a statement. “Such language has no place in our Fraternity or within any caring community, such as that of ODU.”

John Broderick, the president of ODU, released a public statement saying he was “outraged about the offensive message directed toward women.”

He added: “While we constantly educate students, faculty and staff about sexual assault and sexual harassment, this incident confirms our collective efforts are still failing to register with some.”

Broderick wrote that a young woman told him she had seriously considered going back home after she saw the signs but was reassured when she read the responses from other students on social media. “She realized this callous and senseless act did not reflect the Old Dominion she has come to love.”

Broderick said there is no tolerance on campus for sexual assault and harassment. He described the new student government association campaign aimed at preventing sexual assault on campus, with video, online and in-person training throughout the year, including sessions for freshmen this past weekend.

He also posted a link to a video from student leaders responding to the signs.

Some students laughed off the banners as an obvious joke about all the anti-sexual-assault education happening on campuses across the country, but others said they showed how badly that kind of training is needed.

A professor at another college posted, “And the latest in male machismo, sexism, and rape culture. #ODU.”

ODU officials were quick to add their own “welcome” messages to social media, with no bedsheets, no spray paint, and lots of pretty flowers.

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LGBT memoir on Duke University reading list protested as insensitive to ‘Christian moral beliefs’ | The Washington Post

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Aug 252015
 

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By Justin Wm. Moyer August 25 at 3:39 AM

It’s a tradition at some of the nation’s best universities: Incoming students are invited to read the same book, then talk about it. But before they even set foot on Duke University’s lush North Carolina campus, some members of the school’s incoming class of 2019 had a beef with a summer book they were offered.

It was racy, they said. It made them uncomfortable, they said. And they said it was anti-religion.

“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Grasso wrote in the post, as the Duke Chronicle reported.

The book in question: Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” a memoir of the 54-year-old MacArthur ‘genius’s’ youth, during which she realized that she was gay and her father, who likely killed himself, was too.

Released in 2006, the graphic novel, a New York Times bestseller that spawned a Tony Award winning Broadway musical, was showered with high praise.

“A comic book for lovers of words!” the New York Times wrote in 2006. “Bechdel’s rich language and precise images combine to create a lush piece of work — a memoir where concision and detail are melded for maximum, obsessive density. She has obviously spent years getting this memoir right, and it shows.”

The book’s stellar reputation is perhaps what led it to be taken up by Duke’s “Common Experience” selection committee, which chose “Fun Home” over tamer fare such as Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.”

“’Fun Home’ is a book like no other,” Ibanca Anand, a student member of the Duke Common Experience selection committee, said at the time the book was chosen. “The author uses the unique graphic medium to tell a story that sheds a lot of light on important and weighted issues like mental health, interpersonal relationships and human rights, all critical issues that students will become acquainted with in college.”

Some weren’t impressed.

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?’” freshman Elizabeth Snyder-Mounts told the Chronicle.

The rejection of “Fun Home” by some in Durham, N.C., comes amid an ongoing debate about trigger warnings on college campus. Trigger warnings, often championed by groups perceived as liberal, caution students that material may be considered offensive or traumatizing for those who have experienced, for example, racism or sexual abuse. Some have said that trigger warnings be attached to texts previously thought uncontroversial such as Greek mythology and “The Great Gatsby.”
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“It seems that mostly conservative sites and writers are concerned with the increasingly draconian suppression of free speech on college campuses,” Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist for The Washington Post, wrote earlier this year. “But then, it is mostly conservative writers and speakers who are treated as though they’re bringing the Ebola virus rather than contrarian ideas to the sensitive ears of what we may as well name the ‘Swaddled Generation.’”

Yet at Duke, it was conservative Christian readers who refused to take up an allegedly offensive text — one written not by an author on the margins, but one praised even by the Wall Street Journal. No, the reading wasn’t required — it wasn’t even part of a course. But could readers simply dismiss Bechdel’s work not because they had read it and disliked it, but because they deemed the work too offensive to consider in the first place?
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 07: Alison Bechdel (L) and Sydney Lucas of “Fun Home,” winner of the award for Best Musical, pose in the press room at the 2015 Tony Awards on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
Bechdel and Sydney Lucas of “Fun Home” at the Tony Awards. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Some seemed to think so.

“Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind,” Grasso said, as the Chronicle noted. “It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

The selection committee, it should be noted, was aware that “Fun Home” might make waves.

“Because of its treatment of sexual identity, the book is likely to be controversial among students, parents and alumni,” selection committee member Simon Partner, a professor of history and director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute at Duke, said when the book was chosen. “I think this, in turn, will stimulate interesting and useful discussion about what it means, as a young adult, to take a position on a controversial topic.”

Moreover, the selection of “Fun Home” as reading for incoming freshman has been criticized before — in 2013, at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

“I found it very close to pornography,” Oran Smith, the president and chief operating officer of Palmetto Family, a South Carolina religious group, said at the time. “… Way over the top.”

The book was also criticized after it was used in a course at Crafton Hills College in California in earlier this year.

“It was shocking,” student Tara Shultz said. “I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected ‘Batman and Robin,’ not pornography.” She added: “At least get a warning on the books.”

Some criticism of “Fun Home” in schools and elsewhere has focused on the fact that it is not a novel, but a graphic novel.

“The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature,” Duke freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst told the Chronicle.

Though not immediately available to comment on this story, Bechdel has defended her book against similar detractors in the past.

“Fun Home” “takes family secrets and drags them into the light of day,” Bechdel said two years ago as the Charleston controversy unfolded. “… Most families have secrets of one kind or another, and I think we start to become curious about them when we reach young adulthood and are trying to figure ourselves out in relation to our parents.”

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Students arrive at Sweet Briar, following struggle to keep the college open | The Washington Post

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Aug 252015
 

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By Susan Svrluga
August 24 at 3:20 PM

All last spring, alumnae and others fought to keep Sweet Briar College from closing. And they won: A court settlement allowed the private college in Virginia to continue its 114-year-old tradition of educating women.

On Monday, students began arriving on campus to start the new school year.

But the financial pressures which the previous president and board members had cited when they announced last spring that the school must shut down continue, and many supporters are anxiously watching to see that enough students apply, enroll, and remain there to study.

The school won’t have official enrollment figures until September, a school spokeswoman said Monday. But the school’s president, Phillip Stone, who hopes to increase enrollment to record levels, told reporters that unofficial numbers suggest 248 students on the Virginia campus, and about 80 enrolled in the school’s junior year abroad programs, with at least a dozen still undecided. More than 500 attended last year.

Last academic year, there were 124 faculty members; this year there are 100, with 16 of them new to the school. The college has not reduced its academic offerings this fall despite the smaller enrollment, a spokeswoman said.

Later this week, as classes begin, an exhibit will open at a gallery on campus, documenting the struggle to keep the college open.

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School starts today for more than 1 million kids in North Carolina | WITN

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Aug 242015
 

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Posted: Mon 5:40 AM, Aug 24, 2015

More than 1.5 million students in North Carolina return to school today, when public schools open statewide. The year begins with some uncertainty for administrators as the state legislature continues to battle over a budget.

The state senate’s proposed budget would cut $300 million dollars for classroom positions, putting many teachers assistant positions in jeopardy. Some school systems have already had to lay off some of their workers.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory is thanking teachers for their hard work as students on a traditional calendar return to school. McCrory said in a video message to educators that he knows teaching is a hard profession and that it’s both a skill and a passion.

East Carolina University also begins classes today. Drivers in Greenville should expect increased traffic near campus once again.

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Palooza welcomes ECU students | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 242015
 

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By Sharieka Breeden
Monday, August 24, 2015

Students on Sunday packed Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as others stood at an entrance gate in long lines waiting to enter.

But East Carolina University’s season-opening football game is still two weeks away. So what could draw a such a crowd out on a Sunday night?

It’s the popular Pirate Palooza, featuring free stuff and activities like corn hole, ladder golf and a bungee run that gives students a fun outing before starting classes for the fall semester today.

Neel Patel sat in the stadium on Sunday embracing free nachos and an atmosphere where he kicked back and relaxed with friends Phillip Scism and Anthony Williams.

“It’s good to have a little fun before you get started,” Williams, a senior biology major, said.

The three students were a few among hundreds of ECU students who came out to capitalize on a chance to spend time with peers outside of a classroom setting.

For Patel, a senior public health major, the event depicted the pride of students, facilitators and the university community as a whole.

While the three friends knew each other prior to attending the event, experiences at the well-attended function made them hip to the notion of possibly meeting more people.

“Everything that I have experienced has been a positive atmosphere and been getting people together for Pirate Nation,” Patel said of the event and other university gatherings.

The event helps to set the tone for Scism, a junior history education major.

Some students lined up for banking information from vendors like Wells Fargo. Others took advantage of free smoothies provided by Core Powder as music played.

University police connected with passing students while university volunteers welcomed students who entered for everything ranging from pizza to just enjoying summer weather.

T-shirt and sack giveaways were enough for some attendees, but others immersed themselves in the full experience.

As Nate Montana exited “The Meltdown,” he smiled and expressed excitement about enjoying one of the many giant-adult bouncy activities.

Montana, a sophomore, said he was glad that he came early enough this year to miss the lines he waited in as a freshman.

“It’s important so that we are not always studying and in books,” Montana said of Sunday’s event. “It gives us time to alleviate stress.”

Christopher Clifford, another sophomore who ventured through The Meltdown, said he would encourage all students to attend the event.

“It’s a fun event,” he said. “It’s typically always fun.”

While Timothy McCormick lives off campus, the junior’s experiences at Pirate Palooza were enough to bring him back.

“It’s something to go to,” he said. “I like getting free stuff.”

Attending the university has made McCormick used to sponsored events where he can enjoy the company of others and create memories.

When Messiah Rice, a sophomore student-athlete takes the field, it’s usually in his Pirate football uniform for games and practices.

On Sunday, he expressed appreciation for the event and the turnout of the ECU community. He said the event is a good way to relax.

“It’s impressive to see how much Pirate Nation is growing every year … and it’s great to see how people show an interest in our university,” Rice said.

Organizing events like Pirate Palooza is something that Rice said helps with attracting students to come together.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “They share the love and tell others how the experience is and gets more people to come.”

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ECU, public schools start today | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 242015
 

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By Holly West
Monday, August 24, 2015

Today, for the first time in recent memory, Pitt County schools and East Carolina University students will start classes on the same day.

About 27,800 students will start classes at ECU, either on campus or online. Of those, 4,400 are freshman, and 1,900 are transfer students.

Student convocation was held Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Minges Coliseum. The speaker was ECU graduate Scott Avett, a member of North Carolina-based folk rock band The Avett Brothers.

After convocation, students headed to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for Pirate Palooza, an annual welcome-back event for students that includes free food, inflatables, a DJ and other activities.

This year, there were several places for students to take photos, including the tunnels on the football field, a pirate ship where they could walk the plank and a green screen with a number of background options.

“We know how much students love their selfies and love taking pictures,” Emily McLamb, director for student activities and organizations said.

Pitt County Schools will welcome about 23,800 students to 35 schools.

For the first time, free and reduced lunch applications will not be mailed home to parents. They were available to parents at Thursday night’s open house and can also be downloaded from the district’s website.

Completed applications can be mailed or brought to the Child Nutrition office, Room A302, 1717 W. Fifth St.

However, nine schools in the district will offer free and reduced lunch to all their students due to a change in federal guidelines under the Community Eligibility Provision, known as CEP. Students at CEP schools will automatically be enrolled in the program and do not need to fill out an application.

CEP schools for the 2015-16 school year are Belvoir Elementary, Lakeforest Elementary, Northwest Elementary, Pactolus School, South Greenville Elementary, Wellcome Middle, North Pitt High, Sadie Saulter Education Center and Falkland Elementary.

The CEP designation is based on how many students are “categorically eligible” for free and reduced lunch. Examples of students who are categorically eligible include those whose families qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or cash assistance, or those who are homeless, foster children or runaways.

In Pitt County, at least 62.5 percent of students must be categorically eligible for the school to be CEP-designated.

For free and reduced lunch applications, information on bus routes and this year’s school calendar, visit www.pitt.k12,nc.us.

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ECU emergency alert test goes smoothly | The Daily Reflector

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Aug 242015
 

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By Josh Birch Published: August 21, 2015

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With ECU students moving back to campus for another year, ECU Police have planned several tests of the emergency alert system. The first one was Friday.

More than 36,000 text messages were sent, and more than 51,000 emails during the test. Since Tuesday, ECU Police have reported more than 250 new users for the alerts.

Lt. Chris Sutton with ECU Police said they stress how important the alerts are to freshman and their parents during move in.

“The test that we send out, we do while move in is going on so that people hear it, their parents hear it, they know what it’s about,” Sutton said. “We send out notifications about it beforehand so that they’re aware of it.”

The test enable police to see how fast texts and emails are sent. In all, 53,350 people have signed up for alerts.

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Convocation held for first time ECU students | WNCT

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Aug 242015
 

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By Ali Weatherton
Published: August 23, 2015

To view news video at WNCT, click here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Convocation was held Sunday night for first time students at ECU. Freshmen and transfer students gathered in Minges Coliseum for the ceremony.

ECU graduate Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers was the keynote speaker. Freshman convocation is a unique celebration put on each fall to honor the incoming freshman class. This is the first step for new pirates in creating their legacy on campus.

“You know those freshman nerves, everyone is kind of nervous about coming to college, and I think it’s to not be nervous and be excited because college is such a fun time and they should be excited, not nervous,” said Lucy Motsay.

ECU says the purpose of the event is to foster community-building traditions, student involvement and campus commitment. Pirate Palooza is also happening tonight, which has music and free food.

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