New York Times Study:  Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago!


Dear Commons Community,

The staff of the New York Times did an analysis on race and first-time college freshmen using data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.  The major finding was that after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago.  An article of this analysis is in today’s edition and can be summarized as follows:

“The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans.

More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened.

The Times analysis includes 100 schools ranging from public flagship universities to the Ivy League. For both blacks and Hispanics, the trend extends back to at least 1980, the earliest year that fall enrollment data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities.

The courts have ruled that colleges and universities can consider race or ethnicity “as one element in a holistic admissions policy, so it’s something that can be considered, but it’s not a magic bullet,” he said.

Affirmative action increases the numbers of black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.

Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“There’s such a distinct disadvantage to begin with,” said David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”

Black students make up 9 percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans, roughly the same gap as in 1980. At all eight schools, white enrollment declined as Asian enrollment increased. In recent years, the growth of Asian enrollment has slowed at some schools, and some Asian-American students say they are being held to a higher standard.”

The article contains details on each of the 100 colleges included in the analysis.



Former FBI Director James Comey to Hold Endowed Chair at Howard University!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been named as the opening convocation speaker at Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, D.C., and appointed the 2017-18 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy, according to a university news release.

Over the course of the year, Mr. Comey will lead a lecture series that includes five lectures with an array of speakers, the release said. He is expected to announce the topics of the lectures at a later date after consultation with the campus community.

Mr. Comey’s “expertise and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus,” said Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard.

For his part, Mr. Comey said he was honored to hold the endowed chair this year. “Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today,” he said. “I look forward to contributing to this remarkable institution and engaging students and faculty alike.”

Kudos to Howard University for this appointment!


Protesters in New York Support Colin Kaepernick’s Right to Free Speech!

Dear Commons Community,

Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, caused a major conflict last season by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial oppression. He inspired several other players to follow suit or make similar gestures, leading to debate about whether athletes should publicly engage in political displays during football games.

Kaepernick is now a free agent without a team and many analysts believe teams are refusing to sign him because of his political nature, not his ability.

With the nation consumed by racial division and discussion, the Kaepernick protests are now spreading and drawing more people not associated with the sport to speak out. 

As reported by the New York Times:

“The latest demonstration took place yesterday in Manhattan when a dozen groups including Justice League NYC and Color of Change rallied in front of N.F.L. headquarters. Several hundred Kaepernick supporters showed up, holding signs and chanting “I’m with Kap.” The event’s speakers took the N.F.L. to task for a lack of racial sensitivity and Kaepernick’s continued unemployment.

“First, we are here because we believe Colin Kaepernick deserves a job,” said Symone D. Sanders, the former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. “We also believe that the N.F.L. has been complicit in the ostracization of Colin Kaepernick. And today, it is time for the N.F.L. to take a stand.”

The N.A.A.C.P. wants to meet with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the N.F.L., to discuss Kaepernick’s absence from an N.F.L. roster.

“No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech — to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the N.F.L.’s own regulations,” Derrick Johnson, the organization’s interim president and chief executive, said in a letter to the N.F.L. commissioner.

Just as Kaepernick’s protest drew criticism, so did the rally in support of him. A small group of protesters stood across the street, some holding signs in support of the police.

“They are alleging that there is racism involved in Kaepernick not signing in the N.F.L., but he’s a free agent to sign or not sign,” said Karen Braun, who was among the counterprotesters. “Was race the intent? No one can prove that.”

On Monday, in the largest on-field demonstration yet, a dozen Cleveland Browns players knelt during the national anthem, while several other players stood next to them in solidarity. In contrast to last season, when Kaepernick and a handful of black players refused to stand during the anthem, the group included white players.

Goodell has insisted that the league’s 32 teams are not banning Kaepernick. But the issue has put Goodell in the awkward position of defending owners and coaches who have twisted themselves in knots defending their decision not to sign Kaepernick, a quarterback who, unlike the two dozen or so who have been signed so far this year, has led a team to a Super Bowl.”

The Kaepernick story is not going to go away and if NFL owners do not step up, it is likely that there will be a number of embarrassing demonstrations sympathetic to Kaepernick’s situation.  In addition, the possibility of a major freedom of speech lawsuit is also likely.


New York State/City Standardized Test Scores Inch Up in 2017!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York State Education Department released the results of standardized test scores yesterday.  The data indicate that math and English scores for students who took the  standardized tests last spring inched up slightly compared with 2016 scores.

The state Education Department said 39.8 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 were proficient in English language arts, compared with 37.9 percent in 2016.

The department said 40.2 percent of students passed the math tests, compared with 39.1 percent the previous year.

The number of students who opted out of taking the standardized tests declined slightly from 21 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2017, officials said.

Scores in both math and English increased slightly for each racial group, but scores for black and Latino students continued to lag well behind their Asian and white peers.

Just 29 percent of black students and 29.2 percent of Hispanic were proficient in English language arts in 2017, compared with 47.1 percent of white students and 60.8 percent of Asian students.

Officials said 24.4 percent of black students and 27 percent of Latino students were proficient in math, compared with 50.4 percent of white students and 67.2 percent of Asian students.

The racial performance gap has narrowed slightly but remains “troubling,”  NYS Commissioer of Education MaryEllen Elia said.

In New  York City, students showed small improvements on state reading and math exams in 2017, according to standardized test scores released Tuesday.

In 2017, 37.8% of city students in grades three through eight met state math standards, up from 36.4% in 2016. And 40.6% of city kids passed reading tests in 2017, up from 38% in 2016.  New York City students outperformed the statewide average in English, with 40.6 percent demonstrating proficiency, compared with 39.8 percent statewide. The comparison was reversed in math, with the New York City proficiency average of 37.8 percent lagging behind the statewide average of 40.2 percent.

While we would like to see larger gains, the numbers are moving in the right direction.


New Yorkers Enjoy the Eclipse!

Dear Commons Community,

New Yorkers as did most of the country enjoyed viewing the eclipse yesterday.  While only 71% of the sun was blocked, the event still proved irresistible for many people to observe here in the Big Apple.


140 Liberty University Alumni To Return Diplomas Over President Falwell’s Support of Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

140  Liberty University graduates plan to send back their diplomas to the evangelical school in Lynchburg, Virginia, to protest college president Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s support of President Donald Trump, which they say has left them “with shame and anger.”  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“As of yesterday, more than 140 alumni members had expressed support for the “return your diploma” effort on Facebook after university President Jerry Falwell Jr. lauded Trump’s remarks on the recent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “bold” and “truthful.” That praise came despite Trump laying blame for violence on both the rallying hate groups and counter-protesters.

“Anything other than strong condemnation from Trump [of the hate groups] is disappointing,” Georgia Hamann, a 2006 LU graduate and attorney in Phoenix, Arizona, who penned a letter to the school on behalf of the participating alumni’s behalf, told HuffPost on Sunday. 

The group intends to mail the diplomas to Falwell’s office on Sept. 5, and it also seeks his removal as the school’s president. The letter on the group’s Facebook page says Falwell, son of the university’s founder, has failed to condemn “things which are patently against the religion he and LU claim.”

Those actions, the letter says, “have filled us with shame and anger as alums.”

“I think all of the alumni have been troubled by Jerry Falwell Jr.’s intense defense of Trump,” Hamann said.”

As an aside,  Jerry Falwell, Jr. has also been asked by President Trump to head a White House task force on reforming the U.S. higher education system.


New York Times Editorial Labels Trump a “Prince of Discord Divorced of Decency and Common Sense”!

Dear Commons Community,

After a horrendous week of protests, counter-protests, and mayhem that resulted in numerous injuries and several deaths in our country,  the New York Times has a long editorial today lambasting Donald Trump as a “failing” president and a “prince of discord.”   Here is an excerpt:

“With each day, President Trump offers fresh proof that he is failing the office that Americans entrusted to him. The rolling disaster of his presidency accelerated downhill last week with a news conference on Tuesday at which he seemed determined to sow racial strife in a nation desperate for a unifying vision.

Since the 1930s it has not typically been a challenge for an American leader to denounce Nazism. But there is nothing typical about this president; urged by some of his advisers and family members to summon the majesty and moral authority of the presidency to heal the wounds of last weekend’s neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, to put the good of the country before personal pique, he chose instead to deliver a defense of white supremacists that raised as never before profound doubts about his moral compass, his grasp of the obligations of his office and his fitness to occupy it.

This, in essence, is where we are now: a nation led by a prince of discord who seems divorced from decency and common sense. The alarm bells were loud and swift. Five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivered a rare rebuke, condemning race-based extremism in the military and the nation. Foreign leaders, from Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations to Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, condemned intolerance and a failure of leadership in the White House.

Of all the many complaints and condemnations, the strongest came from Mr. Trump’s putative allies in the business community, a glittering who’s who of financial and corporate leaders who began resigning from two White House advisory councils early last week, ultimately forcing the president to dissolve both panels in order to spare himself the humiliation of further corporate desertions. The White House ultimately abandoned a third advisory council, on infrastructure, an area where Mr. Trump had hoped to fulfill at least one of his campaign promises to create jobs.

Mr. Trump was reportedly energized by his Tuesday performance, which he saw as a rebuke to politically correct forces that he thinks are determined to topple him. He crashed ahead, attacking critics on all sides and delivering Twitter bursts of anti-historical nonsense. Not the least of these was his repetition, shortly after the terrorist attack in Barcelona on Thursday, of the canard that Gen. John Pershing, known as “Black Jack,” had stopped Islamic terrorists in the Philippines by killing dozens of them with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, a strategy Mr. Trump thinks worthy of emulation.

One measure of the despair caused by Mr. Trump’s behavior is that we find ourselves strangely comforted by things that in any normal presidency would be cause for concern. One of these is the sheer incompetence that this president has displayed. Apart from threatening environmental, safety and financial protections with largely unfulfilled executive orders, a demonstrably cruel deportation policy, and lamentable court appointments, the worst of Mr. Trump’s plans have thankfully faltered, like destroying the Affordable Care Act, while others are nowhere in sight.”

The editorial documents Trump’s incapacity to govern but it will take a courage not yet displayed on the part of Republicans especially those in Congress to rid us of this monster of a president.  Not likely to happen!


James Murdoch Blasts Donald Trump in Email:  Is this a Signal of a Change at Fox News?

Dear Commons Community, 

This past Thursday, James Murdoch, the son of media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, sent an email (see full text below) offering a striking repudiation of President Trump and a pledge to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. He addressed the note to “friends,” stating in the first line that he was writing it in a “personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father.”  As reported in the New York Times:

“The message was sent to a number of business associates from his company email address at 21st Century Fox, the global media conglomerate where he reigns as chief executive. And within two hours, it had been leaked to the news media, offering a window into the nuanced internal and external politics of the Murdoch media empire.  

The email also raises questions about whether it is a harbinger of change at the Murdoch-controlled conservative-leaning media outlets — including Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post — and the political direction of the company under a new generation of Murdoch leaders, James and his brother, Lachlan, the company’s executive chairman.

With the note, James Murdoch joined a number of other chief executives this week in rebuking the president for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and denouncing racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. Most chief executives released public statements in their roles as business leaders, although some invoked personal terms in their messages.

But Mr. Murdoch is not just any chief executive, and the company he runs, especially its cable news network, has enormous influence over the country’s politics and media.

Rupert Murdoch, 86, who has long pursued power rather than a specific ideology, has served as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump and repeatedly urged him to fire Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist and nationalist who exited the White House on Friday.

At the same time, the Murdoch family controls both News Corporation, the owner of The Journal and The Post, as well as 21st Century Fox, home to a sprawling collection of movie studios and television networks. While there have been some cracks in the conservative wall, with the newspapers publishing more commentary critical of Mr. Trump, Fox News is known as Mr. Trump’s preferred outlet.

That creates an uneasy balance for James Murdoch, 44, who is known to lean more toward the center than his father, but rarely expresses political views publicly. A fiscal conservative, James and his progressive-minded wife, Kathryn, have long advocated for the environment and expressed embarrassment by certain elements of Fox News, associates have said. Kathryn Murdoch has expressed contempt for Mr. Trump on her Twitter feed.

The response from other Twitter users is often critical.

“Well Kathryn it would help if your family’s business #FoxNews wasn’t a synchophantic state media arm of the Trump regime #WednesdayWisdom,” one user said. “Some in your orbit have potential to alter the media ecosystem within which his parasitic organism self thrives,” said another.

Despite all that, the Murdoch sons have said repeatedly that they didn’t plan to significantly change the formula for Fox News, which fuels the company’s business. Analysts estimate that the division generated 25 percent of 21st Century Fox’s operating income last year, which was $6.6 billion.

“He is trying to straddle a recognition that there are a lot of problems out there, and whether Fox News has contributed to them or not, the problems exist,” said Brian Wieser, a media analyst with Pivotal Research. “Even though James is technically the C.E.O., he’s somewhere between can’t and won’t do anything that would cause changes to Fox News. This is a tricky divide.”

Mr. Wieser, who has a buy rating on 21st Century Fox, said that the most common pushback he received from investors involves their concerns about the future of Fox News, calling James Murdoch a “liberal” who will “ruin Fox News,” he said.

“James has to be mindful that the health of the overall enterprise is dependent on Fox News holding up,” Mr. Wieser said.

We can only hope that more of James’ thinking influences  how his father’s media businesses especially Fox News operate.




Subject: Personal note from James Murdoch re: ADL



I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. It has not been my habit to widely offer running commentary on current affairs, nor to presume to weigh in on the events of a given day save those that might be of particular or specific concern to 21CF and my colleagues. But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.

These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.

Diverse storytellers, and stories, can make a difference, and that diversity, around the world, is a crucial strength and an animating force in my business. Often times not everyone agrees with the stories and positions that emerge from this, and that can be difficult. Certainly no company can be perfect. But I’m proud of the powerful art that can emerge, and I’m grateful to all of my colleagues who make this happen. From the potent and compelling narrative of “12 Years a Slave”, to the streets of Pakistan and the bravery of an extraordinary young woman that we saw in “He Named Me Malala”, to name just a few, we’ve never been afraid to help storytellers and artists say important things – hard things, too.

To further demonstrate our commitment, Kathryn and I are donating 1 million dollars to the Anti-Defamation League, and I encourage you to give what you think is right as well. We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too. Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already – now is a great time to give more. The ADL is an extraordinary force for vigilance and strength in the face of bigotry – you can learn more here:

My very best to you and with all my gratitude,




Steve Bannon Out as Trump’s Chief Strategist!

Dear Commons Community,

After weeks of speculation about Steve Bannon’s tenure as President Trump’s chief strategist, it was announced today that Steve Bannon will be leaving the White House.  As reported by The Huffington Post:

Steve Bannon, a senior adviser to the president who was largely credited with shaping the strategy that got Donald Trump to the White House, is out from his role as the president’s chief strategist. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Bannon and Chief of Staff John Kelly agreed Friday would be his last day.

“We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” Sanders said in a statement.

The details of Bannon’s departure remain unclear. The New York Times reported Trump had decided to remove Bannon, but also that a source close to Bannon said the adviser had submitted his resignation on Aug. 7 to be effective Aug. 14. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle also tweeted Bannon is “out.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta and Axios’ Jonathan Swan both tweeted Bannon had been fired. 

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman tweeted that Bannon is expected to return to Breitbart News

Bannon’s departure comes amid a recent wave of White House staffing shakeups and turmoil. According to Axios, Trump believed that Bannon was behind recent leaks to the press. The president has made stopping leaks a top priority.

Backlash over Trump’s response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, may have also led to the departure. Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Sunday blamed Trump’s failure to directly call out far-right groups on Bannon, who is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website espousing white nationalist views

In a statement, the Democratic National Committee said Bannon’s departure would mean “there is one less white supremacist in the White House, but that doesn’t change the man sitting behind the Resolute desk.”

“Donald Trump has spent decades fueling hate in communities, including his recent attempts to divide our country and give a voice to white supremacists,” the group said in a statement.

Bannon, who left Breitbart to run Trump’s campaign in August 2016, pushed Trump to be loyal to the populist base that got him elected. He was a conservative force in the West Wing who helped draft Trump’s controversial ban on travel and immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.

Bannon was once considered one of the most influential members of Trump’s inner circle, but he has receded from public view in recent months. After his feud with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, became public earlier this year, Trump urged the two to work it out. Politico also reported Trump was upset over a new book highlighting the importance of Bannon’s role in Trump’s presidential campaign.

Bannon also gave a bizarre interview this week to The American Prospect, a progressive publication, calling white supremacists a “collection of clowns” and contradicted Trump’s military threats to North Korea. 

In April, when Bannon and Kushner feuded, Trump downplayed Bannon’s role during his presidential campaign, portraying him as someone who took over in the homestretch and whom he didn’t know well.

Major news for a Friday afternoon!


The New Yorker Cover: Donald Trump Powering a KKK Sailboat!

Dear Commons Community,

Next week’s edition of The New Yorker will feature the image above of Donald Trump blowing the sail of a boat with a KKK hood likeness.  As described by the artist, David Plunkert, the image is his “response to President Trump’s weak pushback to hate groups—as if he was trying not to alienate them as voters— that compelled me to take up my pen.”

Plunkert seldom takes on political subject matter, but felt moved to do so in light of Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. “A picture does a better job showing my thoughts than words do; it can have a light touch on a subject that’s extremely scary.”

Well-done, Mr. Plunkert!