Advice for First Year Dance Majors

Two of our professors, Cynthia Newland and Laura Morton-Zebert were interviewed extensively for this article for Dance Informa, about what new dance students should expect their first semester

Your First Semester of College Dance
Advice for freshman dancers …
By Deborah Searle

So you’re about to start college? You’re excited, but nervous and wondering what to expect?

Dance Informa spoke with leading professors and college dance instructors from across the country to give you the advice you need.

READ MORE

No Christianity Please, We’re Academics

Today’s guest editorial out of “Inside Higher Education” shares only two examples of Christian discrimination in higher education, but it is pervasive across the academy.

Especially this time of year, it saddens me that many strong Christian families are sending their children off in to schools who blatantly discriminate against Christians in the classroom.  And these students don’t yet have a clue of what they will be facing, and the damage it will do to their faith.

Research shows that 50% of Evangelical students who attend a secular university lose their faith before they graduate.

These type stories make me humble in thankfulness to God that Belhaven can be a bright and shining alternative that builds up a student’s faith and provides an excellent and rigorous education.

No Christianity Please, We’re Academics
July 30, 2010
By Timothy Larsen

I had lunch this summer with a prospective graduate student at the evangelical college where I teach. I will call him John because that happens to be his name. John has done well academically at a public university. Nevertheless, as often happens, he said that he was looking forward to coming to a Christian university, and then launched into a story of religious discrimination.

John had been a straight-A student until he enrolled in English writing. The assignment was an “opinion” piece and the required theme was “traditional marriage.” John is a Southern Baptist and he felt it was his duty to give his honest opinion and explain how it was grounded in his faith. The professor was annoyed that John claimed the support of the Bible for his views, scribbling in the margin, “Which Bible would that be?” On the very same page, John’s phrase, “Christians who read the Bible,” provoked the same retort, “Would that be the Aramaic Bible, the Greek Bible, or the Hebrew Bible?” (What could the point of this be? Did the professor want John to imagine that while the Greek text might support his view of traditional marriage, the Aramaic version did not?) The paper was rejected as a “sermon,” and given an F, with the words, “I reject your dogmatism,” written at the bottom by way of explanation.

Thereafter, John could never get better than a C for papers without any marked errors or corrections. When he asked for a reason why yet another grade was so poor he was told that it was inappropriate to quote C. S. Lewis in work for an English class because he was “a pastor.” (Lewis, of course, was actually an English professor at Cambridge University. Perhaps it was wrong to quote Lewis simply because he had said something recognizably Christian.) Eventually John complained to the department chair, who said curtly that he could do nothing until the course was over. John took this to mean that the chair would do nothing and just accepted the bad grade.

I suspect that many readers are already generating “maybe …. ” scenarios that fill out this story so that John was actually treated fairly. Blaming the victim is a familiar response to reports of discrimination. Maybe John is just one of those uppity believers who don’t know their place.

Maybe. Maybe John got an F purely as an academic judgment. I’ve seen the marked paper (and my own view is that it is academically weak, but certainly not deserving of an F), and I’m not in a position to hear the professor or the chair’s explanation of the broader context. But the wider point is that those of us in Christian higher education often hear such accounts. We also experience similar incidents ourselves. Here, for instance, is a story of my own:

“Rethinking the Western Tradition” is a Yale University Press series that reprints influential texts along with original essays. It has an editorial committee of eminent academics. I submitted a proposal for a volume on The Idea of a Christian Society by T. S. Eliot (you remember Eliot — for much of the 20th century he was a prominent pastor). Perhaps the committee members did not realize their comments would be passed on, making them unusually frank. They agreed that my proposal was well-crafted, drawing on well-chosen experts to write the essays, including an outspoken atheist. Nevertheless, most did not want this volume in the series and the reasons for rejecting it which they gave were often explicitly anti-Christian.

One of the few who said they would begrudgingly allow it to go forward justified their decision by conceding, “It is worth considering why ideas we find not just impossible to believe but even impossible to believe that others believe — such as the ideology of the Taliban or Saudis — have such appeal.” (That urbane Modernist poet, Eliot, the voice of the Taliban?) One of the “nos” wrote a four-page anti-Christian rant. Here is just a bit of it: “In order to believe in that I fear, you have to believe in something like the ‘Holy Catholic Church’ (which we who were brought up as Anglicans were taught as children to say we believed in as we recited the Nicene Creed – not understanding even half of what we were professing so fervently to believe.) … But who – other than someone willing to swallow all the offensive nonsense in the same creeds (the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, the trinity, complete with the filioque) – can believe in that? Surely no one who pays any heed to the historical evidence.” (The filioque? As if the double procession of the Holy Spirit was conclusive proof that Christians always take things too far.) Another was unsympathetic to the proposal, but candidly admitted that “this is doubtless prejudice to some extent.”

A persecution complex is not a healthy thing. A mantra among Christian academics is that if your work is rejected, assume it was because it is not good enough. Like others experiencing discrimination, we expect that we might need to do significantly better than the competition to have a chance and think that we should primarily just get on with trying to do exactly that. We are apt to apply to ourselves the Canadian politician Charlotte Whitton’s observation about gender discrimination: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

So, although we hear these stories frequently, Christian academics are the first ones to respond to them with suspicion. Maybe John got a bad grade because his work was not very good. Maybe my proposal was written in an irritating tone that baited some members of the committee to respond that way.

Nevertheless, scholars ought to be concerned that Christians often report that the academy is a hostile environment. Are academics generally glad that such a perception exists? If not, how might it be dispelled? If it is based on genuine experiences, what can be done about a climate that tolerates religious discrimination? If the two stories presented here are merely assailable, anecdotal evidence, then why not gather information on this issue more systematically? Do academic institutions ever try to discover if their Christian students or scholars experience discrimination?

I am hereby calling for such an effort. This could be done through surveys, or focus group discussions, or even just by inviting people to tell their experiences and following up on them, seeing if certain patterns emerge. If these are not the best methods, just think of what you would do in response to reports that a university or academic society was marked by institutional racism or sexism and then apply those same strategies of listening, investigation, and response. Like John with the department chair, however, I too am tempted to be defeatist about the academy being willing even to investigate the possibility of discrimination against Christians, let alone attempt to eradicate it.

Timothy Larsen is McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. His most recent monograph, A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians, is forthcoming in January from Oxford University Press. The author provided Inside Higher Ed with the comments Yale University received about his book. The press declined to discuss the matter.

Fall Chapel Schedule

We’ve just completed the fall chapel schedule and it is going to be a dynamic semester, hearing from a variety of speakers.  Here is the outline:

August

ROGER PARROTT. President, Belhaven University

JOHN PERKINS, John M. Perkins Foundation

September

GRACE BATEMAN, Founder, Peru Paper Company

ANDREW MORGAN. Broken Voices

SAM HUSBAND. RUF Minister, University of Memphis

MICHAEL OH. President/Founder, Christ Bible Seminary, Japan

October

DAN MARTIN, President, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, OH

TOM ELKIN, Minister of Marriage and Family Life, First Presbyterian Church

B. J. JOHNSTON, The Man from Aldersgate

November

JULIE STRAW, Anchor/Reporter, WLBT-TV

MICHAEL MANUAL, Pinelake, Clinton Campus Pastor

KEVIN BROWN, Executive Director, Trinity Christian Community, New Orleans, LA

RANDALL FLINN, Founder and Artistic Director of Ad Deum Dance Company, Houston, TX

FACULTY CHRISTMAS CARD

For-Profit Higher Education – 10% of the students and 44% of the default

Below is an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times that is important for Higher Education, and will help Belhaven University in the long run.

Washington is finally waking up to what is happening with for-profit higher education.

This editorial from Senator Harkin is one of the strongest statements I’ve seen from a policy maker, and is an encouraging sign that significant change may be in the works.

For-profit colleges and the threat of a new bubble

Students are taking out loans that they may not be able to repay, and some fear massive defaults.

By Tom Harkin

July 13, 2010

Haven’t we heard this story before? It features a high-pressure sales force persuading consumers in search of the American dream to go deep into debt to purchase a product of often dubious value. Default rates are sky high. Taxpayer money is squandered. Top executives walk away with fortunes.

This sounds like a description of the subprime mortgage industry, which came crashing down two years ago. But what I just described is the reality at many for-profit colleges.

Their recruitment ads are ubiquitous, offering visions of a cap-and-gown graduation, followed by placement in a well-paying job. At their best, for-profit colleges deliver. Many provide top-quality, innovative options for students who want to pursue postsecondary education while managing work and family obligations.

But serious questions have been raised about some of the major players in this rapidly growing industry. Critics charge that many for-profit colleges employ overly aggressive recruiting tactics targeting low-income students. Students take on excessive debt, and though dropout rates are not available, there is reason to believe that they are very high.

Critics say that the entire business model, especially in the case of publicly traded companies, is premised on a college’s ability to churn through many thousands of students, whose federal Pell grants of up to $5,550 and Stafford loans are paid to the school, with no accountability for student learning or graduation. Even good actors in this industry are lured into the vortex of bad practices in order to compete and meet investors’ expectations.

For more than 50 years, the federal government has provided students with grants and loans to help pay for college. This has been a powerful investment in our human capital and our nation’s future. However, an ongoing investigation by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has raised serious questions about whether students — and taxpayers — are getting good value for the surge of federal dollars flowing to for-profit colleges.

From 2008 to 2009, 23.6% of federal Pell grants flowed to for-profit schools, double the percentage from 1999 to 2000. Federal aid to for-profit colleges skyrocketed from less than $5 billion in 2000 to nearly $26.5 billion last year. At many of the major for-profits, federal dollars now account for more than 80% of their revenue, according to a Department of Education report.

The HELP Committee heard testimony in June from Yasmine Issa, a 29-year-old divorced mother of twins who used Pell grants and loans to pay for training to become an ultrasound technician. After completing the for-profit college program in 2008, she was turned down for jobs because — as she belatedly learned — the school’s program was not accredited by the organization that determines if she is eligible for a required exam. She was left with a $21,000 debt.

Issa is not alone; 96% of associate-degree students at for-profit colleges take out loans, compared with only 38% of community college students. And for-profit college students are eight times more likely to graduate with a debt larger than $20,000.

For-profit colleges account for only 10% of students enrolled in higher education, but those students receive 23% of federal student loans and grants, and account for 44% of defaults.

Wall Street money manager Steven Eisman told the committee that many for-profit colleges are “marketing machines masquerading as universities.” Their rapid growth is driven by easy access to federal student loans, guaranteed by the government. “The government, the students and the taxpayer bear all the risk,” Eisman testified, “and the for-profit industry reaps all the rewards.”

Some for-profit schools spend a very large share of revenues — nearly 50%— on non-instructional expenses, primarily marketing and recruiting. They do a poor job of producing graduates but a stellar job of generating wealth for shareholders and executives. One large for-profit institution has a nearly 40% profit margin, larger than most Fortune 500 companies, including Apple. The president of the largest for-profit college is paid nearly 14 times the compensation of the president of Harvard University.

Eisman, who was one of the first to predict the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry, sees disturbing similarities in today’s for-profit college industry. He estimates that students enrolled by for-profit colleges could default on as much as $275 billion in federal student loans over the next decade.

Subprime borrowers were able to walk away from their homes and, therefore, their debt. But it is a different story for millions of students who take out loans to attend for-profit colleges. Under the law, people cannot discharge student debt in bankruptcy; so if they can’t pay it off, it will continue to accrue compounded interest indefinitely. Subprime borrowers lost their homes, but students like Issa stand to lose their future.

In recent years, an absence of federal oversight has allowed a dangerous bubble to grow in the for-profit college industry. The challenge is to crack down on the bad actors and abusive practices while preserving the positive options and innovations that many for-profit colleges have pioneered.

Tom Harkin (D- Iowa) is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times


The Bible and Harvard Business Review Agree

Harvard Business Review summarizes some interesting research on happiness as it relates to giving . . . coming to conclusions that are Truths from the Bible we’ve always known as Christians. I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Harvard Business Review

According to research led by Dr. Elizabeth Dunn at the University of British Columbia, money can buy happiness . . . as long as you spend it on other people.

Researchers conducted three studies. First, they surveyed more than 600 Americans and found that spending money on gifts and charities led to greater happiness than spending money on oneself.

Then they looked at workers who had just received bonuses and found that their happiness was not based on the size of their bonus but on the decision they made about what to do with whatever amount of money they received. Those who spent more of their bonus on others were happier than those who spent the money on themselves.

Finally, the researchers simply gave money to a number of people, instructing some to spend the money on themselves and others to spend the money on others. At the end of the day, the ones who spent money on others were happier.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Remember this — a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.

For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.