Friends and Family of slain Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts would like politicians to stop using her as a figure in anti-immigrant messaging!


Dear Commons Community,

The bereaved friends and family of slain Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts would like political pundits and politicians to stop using her as a figure in their anti-immigrant messaging.  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color,” her aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, wrote on Facebook. “Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

Samantha Lucas, who is Tibbett’s second cousin, told HuffPost that while she was not close to her cousin, “I know enough about Mollie to know her political standings and that she would NOT want this to be used as fuel against undocumented immigrants.” Lucas emphasized that she was speaking only for herself and not as a representative for the family.

Kasie Schultz Taylor, a friend of the slain 20-year-old University of Iowa student, posted on Facebook that Tibbetts would not approve of being included in political conversations.

“Please do not compound the atrocity of what happened to her by adding racism and hate to the equation. Anyone that knew Mollie knows she wouldn’t want that. Respect each other, support each other but most importantly BE KIND!” Taylor said.

Another friend, Annie Zeimis, told Tibbetts would “want us to focus on getting justice for her regardless of the murderer’s color, immigration status, etc.”

Twenty-four-year-old Cristhian Rivera, a Mexican national who has been in the U.S. for years without proper legal documentation, is the prime suspect in the investigation, the Department of Homeland Security said. But his attorney has denied that he is undocumented. Cristhian Rivera has been jailed in lieu of a $5 million bond.

At a Wednesday candlelight vigil held at the University of Iowa, Tibbetts’ older brother, Jake, urged the crowd to befriend someone in his sister’s honor. That same day, the White House posted a video on its official Twitter account, featuring several grieving family members of the victims of violence whose assailants happened to be undocumented immigrants.

“For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts,” the tweet reads. “Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder led police to the cornfield where her body was found. The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed White House sentiments during a Wednesday press briefing.

“Sadly, the individual believed to be responsible for the murder is an illegal immigrant, making this an unfortunate reminder of why we need to strengthen our broken immigration laws,” Huckabee Sanders said.

A few hours later, President Donald Trump posted his own video to Twitter.

“A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her,” Trump says in the video. “We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed, we need our border laws changed. We need Republicans to do it because the Democrats aren’t going to do it.”

Authorities said Cristhian Rivera confessed to abducting Tibbetts on July 18, when she was jogging in Brooklyn, a rural town located about 70 miles northeast of Des Moines. Her death has since been ruled a homicide. She died as a result of “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to the Iowa State Medical Examiner.

After news broke Tuesday that Tibbetts’ body had been found in a Poweshiek County cornfield, Trump wasted no time turning her death into a political ploy, mentioning her demise during a campaign rally in Charleston, W.Va.

“You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in very sadly from Mexico,” he told supporters during the rally. “And you saw what happened to that incredible beautiful young woman.”

The White House reiterated Trump’s comments in a tweet.

Tibbetts’ death became a heated topic during “Cuomo Prime Time” on CNN Thursday night. When White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “God rest her soul,” host Chris Cuomo’s response was sharp.

“God rest her soul,” he quipped. “You’re not letting her soul rest. You’re waving her like a flag.” Cuomo then accused the Trump administration of “hijacking grief.”

Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera called out his own network for turning Tibbetts’ death it into an immigration story.

“We, at this network, are putting that spin on this story,” Geraldo Rivera told Fox News host Martha MacCallum, who said Cristhian Rivera should never have been in the country.

“This is a murder story. It’s not an immigration story,” Geraldo Rivera added. “I’m begging – you to have compassion and not brand this entire population by the deeds of this one person.”

Compassion would be good at this time!



Fox News’ Neil Cavuto in Response to Trump’s Comments about the Stock Market Crashing if He Was Impeached:  ‘The Problem Is You’!

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News host Neil Cavuto skewered Donald Trump yesterday for focusing on the stock market’s positive performance while creating “a moral bust.” 

″You are so darned focused on promoting a financial boom that you fail to see that you are the one creating this moral bust,” Cavuto said. “And we could all be the poorer for it.” 

Cavuto was responding to Trump’s claim in a Fox News interview this week that the stock market would crash if he were impeached. 

“You don’t prevent a constitutional crisis by threatening a financial one,” Cavuto said. “But, Mr. President, you guarantee both when your very actions and words create that crisis or make people think that you’re hiding one.”

The Fox News host then listed some of the president’s most “worrisome and tiresome” lies, calling out Trump for changing his story on controversies ranging from “hush money” payments to women who said they had affairs with him to his knowledge of a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in hopes of gathering damaging information on Hillary Clinton. 

“You are right to say that some are out to get you,” Cavuto said to Trump. ”But oftentimes, Mr. President, the problem is you: what you say, and how you keep changing what you say.”

These are tough but true words especially coming from a Fox News commentator.


Attorney General Sessions Defies Trump for Criticizing the Justice Department!

Dear Commons Community,

In a rare show of defiance, Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to President Trump’s recent criticism of him and the Justice Department by stating that “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”  While I do not agree with the policies Sessions has initiated in the Department of Justice, it is good to see somebody in the administration showing some gumption in response to Trump and his bullying tactics.  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions shot back at President Donald Trump on Thursday after Trump told a “Fox & Friends” host that his attorney general “never took control” of the Justice Department.

In a statement issued through a spokeswoman before he arrived at the White House for a meeting on criminal justice reform, Sessions said he took control of DOJ the day he was sworn in, adding that he has had “unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.” Sessions defended Justice Department prosecutors and said DOJ wouldn’t be improperly influenced by politics when he was the nation’s top law enforcement official.

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Sessions said.

Trump’s feud with Sessions has lasted more than a year. The president blamed Sessions for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller in the spring of 2017, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Sessions even wrote up a resignation letter at one point last year, but DOJ has said releasing it would violate the attorney general’s privacy. More recently, Trump has called on Sessions to “stop this rigged witch hunt” ― referring to the Mueller investigation ― and said Sessions is “scared stiff.”

In a “Fox & Friends” interview that aired Thursday morning, Trump said he only gave Sessions the job because he “felt loyalty,” and that he might need to intervene in the operations of the Justice Department more than he already has.

As his statement suggested, Session has been remarkably successful at reshaping the Justice Department’s priorities to benefit Trump’s political agenda.

On immigration, for example, Sessions has directed more resources toward prosecuting immigration cases and used his power over immigration courts to make it harder for many Central Americans to receive asylum. He has also effectively ended the work that the Civil Rights Division was doing on police reform and killed another police reform program being run by DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office. Sessions has also rolled back Obama-era sentencing reforms and reversed an Obama-era policy that curtailed DOJ’s use of private prisons.

All that hasn’t been enough to satisfy Trump, who has publicly longed to have more control over prosecutorial decision-making at the department by encouraging DOJ to easy up on his political allies and go after his political opponents. Trump’s extensive campaign against the FBI and the Justice Department has had a tremendous impact on his supporters’ view of federal law enforcement, with many Trump voters now believing that the FBI and DOJ are biased against his administration.”

Congratulations Mr. Sessions.  His full statement is below.



Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ full statement:

I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda—one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.

While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action. However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States.

I am proud to serve with them and proud of the work we have done in successfully advancing the rule of law.



Purdue University Global Requiring Faculty to Sign Expansive Nondisclosure Agreement!

Dear Commons Community,

Faculty at Purdue University Global are being required to sign a nondisclosure agreement which prohibits instructors from discussing nonpublic matters about the institution, potentially including aspects of teaching like “methods of instruction” and “course materials.”  The agreement is raising questions among the faculty at Purdue University as well as the AAUP.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Professors at Purdue University and leaders of the American Association of University Professors are questioning the expansive nondisclosure agreement that Purdue University Global is requiring its faculty members to sign. The four-page document prohibits instructors from discussing nonpublic matters about the institution, potentially including even aspects of teaching like “methods of instruction” and “course materials.”

Greg Scholtz, director of the academic-freedom, tenure, and governance department at the AAUP, called the agreement “breathtakingly inappropriate” for higher education and said it was unlike anything he had ever seen in his work, which is focused on nonprofit institutions. The nondisclosure agreement also includes a one-year non-compete clause similar to those used in private industry. Among other restrictions, it prohibits instructors from inducing anyone known to have confidential information to leave Purdue Global or work for a competitor.

Purdue Global is the name Purdue University gave to the for-profit Kaplan University after acquiring it this year and reconstituting it as an entity it calls a “public nonprofit university.”

Chancellor Betty Vandenbosch of Purdue Global said in a written statement to The Chronicle that the terms of the agreement had been in place for at least 10 years and “are very standard in the online-learning world, including at ASU Online.”

A spokeswoman for Arizona State University, however, told The Chronicle that it does not require faculty members to sign such an agreement to teach online. Neither does Southern New Hampshire University, a private nonprofit institution with an online enrollment of more than 100,000. Nondisclosure agreements are not universally used in for-profit higher education either; the American Public University System, for example, doesn’t require its faculty or staff to sign such agreements, according to its chief executive.

David Nalbone, a professor of psychology at Purdue University-Northwest, called the restrictions on discussing teaching “an attempt to deprofessionalize faculty” that would not serve to advance good teaching. “It’s going to intimidate faculty into keeping their head down and just serving as drones,” he said in an interview.

Nalbone, who is also vice president of the Indiana conference of the AAUP, said the noncompete clause seemed to be “a particularly pernicious poison pill, especially given that so many adjunct faculty are working multiple jobs,” which they sometimes get through colleagues. “That just seems like a terrible way to treat employees.”

statement from the national AAUP office highlights concerns about the agreement’s “sweeping gag clause.” That, said Scholtz, could impede faculty rights to complain to groups like his or even to free-speech organizations, like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The statement also decries the agreement’s claim that Purdue Global owns all faculty members’ contributions to courses they develop. The question of who owns course materials can be a murky intellectual-property issue at institutions where online courses often are created by teams that include faculty members, instructional designers, and experts on assessment. Still, Bill V. Mullen, a professor of American studies at Purdue’s main campus, called that claim of ownership “antithetical to the conditions” that he and his colleagues work under.

Vandenbosch said in her statement that since curriculum and content at Purdue Global are created collaboratively, “it would be inappropriate for an individual to claim ownership.” She did not respond to questions about the noncompete clause or the broad confidentiality restrictions.

The nondisclosure document, which includes a preamble that states the institution “is engaged in the highly competitive business of providing students with a broad range of educational services and distributing educational materials,” is contained in a faculty handbook that all instructors are required to sign. A former president of the Kaplan Faculty Senate, Robert Winters, said that it had been previously endorsed by Kaplan faculty members and then recently approved by the Purdue Global faculty body during the transition.

“It’s never been a problem,” said Winters of the policy, citing his own experiences. He said he’d discussed his teaching methods with outsiders and “I’ve never had anybody at the university tell me that I shouldn’t.” A lawyer by training who teaches in the Purdue Global public-safety program, Winters said he also didn’t share the concern over the noncompete clause. Even for faculty members who leave and go teach elsewhere a week later, he said, “I’ve never heard of it being enforced.”

Purdue University Global will continue to attract lots of attention given it unique organization structure.  The non-disclosure agreement is unusual in higher education regardless of whether an institution offers programs that are primarily online or not.


Witches Caught:  Manafort Found Guilty;  Cohen Pleads Guilty!


Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday two more witches were caught as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or what President Trump refers to as a witch hunt. Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of multiple crimes carrying years in prison at the same time that his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to his own criminality. Cohen also confessed that he had committed at least some of the crimes “at the direction of” Mr. Trump himself.  A New York Times editorial below comments on these developments.  Not a good day for Donald Trump and his coven.



New York Times

All the President’s Crooks

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

August 21, 2018

From the start of the Russia investigation, President Trump has been working to discredit the work and the integrity of the special counsel, Robert Mueller; praising men who are blatant grifters, cons and crooks; insisting that he’s personally done nothing wrong; and reminding us that he hires only the best people.

On Tuesday afternoon, the American public was treated to an astonishing split-screen moment involving two of those people, as Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of multiple crimes carrying years in prison at the same time that his longtime personal lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to his own lengthy trail of criminality, and confessed that he had committed at least some of the crimes “at the direction of” Mr. Trump himself.

Let that sink in: Mr. Trump’s own lawyer has now accused him, under oath, of committing a felony.

Only a complete fantasist — that is, only President Trump and his cult — could continue to claim that this investigation of foreign subversion of an American election, which has already yielded dozens of other indictments and several guilty pleas, is a “hoax” or “scam” or “rigged witch hunt.”


The conviction of Paul Manafort, who ran the Trump campaign for three months in 2016, was a win for prosecutors even though jurors were unable to reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts against him. On the other eight, which included bank fraud, tax fraud and a failure to report a foreign bank account, the jury agreed unanimously that Mr. Manafort was guilty. He is scheduled to go on trial in a separate case next month in Washington, D.C., on charges including money laundering, witness tampering, lying to authorities and failing to register as a foreign agent. Mr. Manafort faces many decades behind bars, although he will probably serve less than that under federal sentencing guidelines.

A few hundred miles to the north, in New York City, Michael “I’m going to mess your life up” Cohen stood before a federal judge and pleaded guilty to multiple counts of bank and tax fraud as well as federal campaign-finance violations involving hush-money payments he made to women who said they’d had sex with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen, who spent years as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and “fix-it guy” (his own words), was under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, to whom Mr. Mueller referred his case. In April, F.B.I. agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office, home and hotel room looking for evidence of criminality on a number of fronts. Apparently they found it.

Mr. Cohen didn’t agree at Tuesday’s hearing to cooperate with prosecutors, but if he eventually chooses to, that could spell even bigger trouble for Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen has been involved in many of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Russia, including his aborted effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and could shed light on connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials involved in the 2016 election interference.

But back to Tuesday’s news. Mr. Manafort was not an original target of the inquiry by Mr. Mueller, who was appointed in May of last year to look into possible ties between the Trump campaign and efforts by Russian government officials to interfere in the election. But Mr. Mueller’s mandate authorized him to investigate any other crimes that arose in the course of his work. It didn’t take long. As soon as he and his lawyers started sniffing around, the stench of Mr. Manafort’s illegality was overpowering.

As a longtime lobbyist and political consultant who worked for multiple Republican candidates and presidents, Mr. Manafort had a habit of lying to banks to get multimillion-dollar loans and hiding his cash in offshore accounts when tax time rolled round. In at least one case, he falsely characterized $1.5 million as a loan to avoid paying taxes on it, then later told banks that the loan had been “forgiven” so he could get another loan.

He also enriched himself by working for some of the world’s most notorious thugs and autocrats, including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Jonas Savimbi in Angola and Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He helped elect the pro-Kremlin Viktor Yanukovych as president of Ukraine, a job that earned him millions until Mr. Yanukovych was ousted from power in 2014.

Despite this mercenary history — or perhaps, more disturbingly, because of it — Donald Trump, while running on promises to clean up Washington, hired Mr. Manafort to run his presidential campaign, a job he may well have kept but for news reports that he was receiving and hiding millions of dollars from his work on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych.

What does it tell you about Mr. Trump that he would choose to lead his campaign someone like Mr. Manafort, whom even on Tuesday he called a “good man”? It tells you that Mr. Trump is consistent, and consistently contemptuous of honesty and ethics, because he has surrounded himself with people of weak, if not criminal, character throughout his career.

While the president has so far dodged questions about whether he will pardon Mr. Manafort, he’s already shown a willingness to make a mockery of the justice system with his pardons of unrepentant lawbreakers like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D’Souza. Last year, the president’s lawyer dangled the prospect of a pardon to lawyers for Mr. Manafort and Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. If Mr. Trump were to follow through and grant clemency to Mr. Manafort, it would make his pardon of Mr. Arpaio look like the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

You’re forgiven if you’ve lost track of all the criminality, either charged or admitted, that has burst forth from Mr. Trump’s circles in the last couple years even as Mr. Trump has continued to claim that the investigation is a hoax, a pointless waste of taxpayer dollars. So here’s a brief refresher:

In addition to the prosecution of Mr. Manafort, the special counsel’s office has secured guilty pleas from multiple people, including Mr. Flynn and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, both of whom lied to federal investigators about their communications with Russian officials.

Others have pleaded guilty to identity fraud and making false statements. Mr. Manafort’s longtime associate Rick Gates also pleaded guilty and testified against his former boss.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mueller has charged more than a dozen Russian individuals and companies for their roles in a coordinated and deceptive social-media campaign aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and helping Mr. Trump’s. Some Trump campaign officials were unwittingly in contact with some of these defendants.

Mr. Mueller has also charged a dozen Russian military officials with hacking and helping to release emails of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The hackers first tried to break into Mrs. Clinton’s personal servers on July 27, 2016 — the same day that Mr. Trump publicly called on Russians to do exactly that.

And he has charged Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian associate of Mr. Manafort and a suspected spy, with obstructing justice.

As Mr. Trump rages on about the unfairness of the investigation, remember that Mr. Mueller has been on the job for just 15 months. For comparison, the Watergate investigation ran for more than two years before it brought down a president and sent dozens of people to prison. The Iran contra investigation dragged on for about seven years, as did the Whitewater investigation, which resulted in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Also remember we still don’t know anything about the ultimate fate of several other Trump associates who have been under Mr. Mueller’s microscope, including Roger Stone, Carter Page and Donald Trump Jr. (“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer”).

For a witch hunt, Mr. Mueller’s investigation has already bagged a remarkable number of witches. Only the best witches, you might say.

Video:  Protesters Topple Statue of the Silent Sam Confederate Monument at the U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! 


Dear Commons Community,

Protesters last night toppled Silent Sam, the prominent Confederate monument whose presence has divided the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus for decades.  Video published by The News & Observer, a Raleigh newspaper, showed protesters yanking the eight-foot bronze statue down from its nine-foot-high pedestal, where it had been obscured behind banners that the protesters had raised. After the statue fell, jubilant protesters cheered, chanted, and embraced as the police looked on.  The Silent Sam Memorial was dedicated in 1913 to Confederate and student soldiers who served in the Civil War. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“In a statement the university said that around 9:20 p.m. “a group” of the protesters who had gathered near the statue pulled it down. “Tonight’s actions were dangerous,” the statement said, “and we are very fortunate that no one was injured. We are investigating the vandalism and assessing the full extent of the damage.”

The sudden unseating of the statue — the climax of a large, hours-long protest coinciding with the start of the fall semester — was all the more surprising given how much effort the university had exerted to keep it up. Last year alone the university spent $390,000 to provide security for the monument. 

Student activists and others have long called for the removal of Silent Sam, citing its unmistakable endorsement of the Confederacy, but the energy behind the demand intensified after the August 2017 white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va. In the aftermath of those protests, in which one person was killed, activists pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., just 10 miles down the road from where Silent Sam stood.

University leaders signaled their personal objections to the statue, but argued that they did not have the authority to remove it because a 2015 state law prohibited the removal of “objects of remembrance” from state-owned land without special permission.

As the university had watched over the statue since the Charlottesville violence, activists sought to keep the pressure on. Maya Little, a graduate student in history at UNC, in April doused the statue with a mix of ink and blood. She was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of defacing a public monument, and reportedly faced consequences from UNC’s Honor Court as well. Little was present at the protest on Monday and spoke to the crowd.”



Melania Trump Speaks Out About Cyberbulling While Her Husband Is Cyberbullying!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, first lady Melania Trump addressed a panel as part of her Be Best Campaign on preventing cyberbullying just hours after her husband, President Donald Trump, was tweeting nasty things about Special Counsel Robert Mueller..

“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives. It can be used in many positive ways, but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly,” Melania Trump said in her opening remarks as she addressed a panel featuring youth activists, social media executives, law enforcement officials and educators.

“That is why Be Best chooses to focus on the importance of teaching our next generation how to conduct themselves safely and in a positive manner in an online setting,” she added, referring to her initiative on children’s issues. 

Trump also emphasized that children who use social media should be included in conversations about potential solutions.

“By listening to children’s ideas and concerns, I believe adults will be better able to help them navigate this often-difficult topic,” she said. “Let’s face it: Most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults.”

Trump’s focus on cyberbullying as part of Be Best has long been the source of criticism and mockery, given her husband’s regular stream of Twitter attacks.

“She is aware of the criticism but it will not deter her from doing what she feels is right,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement to reporters.

Just hours before Melania’s remarks, the president again took aim at Mueller and his team, calling them a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” in response to a New York Times story about White House counsel Don McGahn cooperating with Mueller’s team as part of the probe into whether Trump obstructed justice.

Later Monday morning, Donald Trump attacked former CIA Director John Brennan, whose security clearance the president revoked last week. He called Brennan, who has frequently criticized the administration, a “political ‘hack.’”

Last week, the president referred to his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, once the only African-American woman among the senior White House staff, as a “crazed, crying lowlife” and “that dog.”

I wonder if Melania and her husband talk to one another about their differences of opinion. One of them does not get what the other is saying and doing!  Hypocrisy anyone!



Frank Bruni:  How to Get the Most Out of College?

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, had the lead article in yesterday’s Sunday Review.  He focused his piece on the question:  How to get the most out of college?   A good topic as more than 20 million students begin a new academic year.  He based his advice on several sources including collecting surveys from 30 recipients of the Mitchell scholarship; interviews with several individuals in academia; and a study conducted by Gallup, Purdue University and the Strada Education Network.  Bruni makes a number of points aimed at recommending that students consider the big picture of life rather than immediate concerns of careers and livelhoods.  Here are several excerpts:

“College for [many students] is a slapdash scramble to grab credits as they can while working a demanding job, caring for family members or both. More than a third of the students enrolled in higher education in this country attend two-year institutions. Those at four-year institutions often don’t participate in the romantic ideal of nurturing dormitories and verdant quadrangles. They live with parents. They pray for parking.

But [those who] do have the freedom to tailor their time. They just neglect to take advantage of it. My friend Eric Johnson, who provides guidance to underprivileged students at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, put it to me this way: “The more you regard college as a credentialing exercise, the less likely you are to get the benefits… The wisest students, he said, “move into a peer relationship with the institution rather than a consumer relationship with it.” They seize leadership roles. They serve as research assistants.  And they build social capital, realizing that above all else, they’re in college “to widen the circle of human beings who know you and care about you,” he said.”

“But perhaps the most important relationships to invest in are those with members of the school’s faculty. Most students don’t fully get that. They’re not very good at identifying the professors worth knowing — the ones who aren’t such academic rock stars that they’re inaccessible, the ones with a track record of serious mentoring — and then getting to know them well.”

“One crossroads that students often get needlessly worked up about is choosing a major. It’s less make-or-break than you think. I hear that from a majority of thriving college graduates, and the professors I speak with strongly caution students against wedding themselves to a single field of study before being exposed to several of them. College’s greatest gifts can be an introduction to a passion you didn’t previously have and a pivot into an occupation you never before envisioned.

“You have to ask yourself what lies closest to your heart,” said Jim Gates, a theoretical physicist at Brown University who previously taught at the University of Maryland and M.I.T. “If you are fortunate enough to find something that you’re totally obsessed with, you’re likely to work very hard at it. If you’re a human being of average intelligence and you work very hard at something, you’re likely to become very good at it. And if you become very good at it, people are likely to notice.” That means they’re likely to employ and reward you as well.”

Bruni concludes with the following:

Something else that can come in college is an enormously expanded self-knowledge that translates into a hugely improved design for living. But that hinges on an adventurous spirit, especially outside the classroom.

“The mistake is to confuse career success, financial success and reputation with happiness,” said Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia University professor who is the president of the Teagle Foundation…Delbanco added that an important component of real contentment is figuring out what lights your emotional and intellectual fires, not necessarily for the purpose of a job but for the purpose of reflections and pastimes that fill in all those hours away from work.

Is it poetry? Music? Sport? Those and more are abundant on college campuses. “You’re trying to shape a life that leads you to a happy place,” Delbanco said. Let college do precisely that.”

Good luck students for the 2018-2019 academic year and beyond!


NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Walking Back “America was never that great”

Dear Commons Community,

On Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo walked back his controversial comments about American greatness from earlier in the week, calling them “inartful” and saying he believes the country “has always been great.”  Cuomo faced backlashed from a wide spectrum of political figures especially adversaries such as Donald Trump after saying America “was never that great” while taking a jab at Trump’s campaign slogan during a speech on women’s rights in Manhattan.  Cuomo’s initial comments came on Wednesday, when he tried to make the case that Trump’s campaign slogan — Make America Great Again — suggests bringing the country back to earlier times when discrimination, misogyny and racism were rampant.

During a conference call with reporters Friday, Cuomo dialed it back, saying he does not, in fact, question the country’s greatness. As reported by various media:

“The expression I used the other day was inartful, so I want to be very clear,” Cuomo said. “Of course America is great and of course America has always been great. No one questions that.”

He continued: “As you know, my family is evidence of American greatness. My grandparents came to this country as poor immigrants and their son became governor and his son became governor. That’s never been a question.”

Trump has continued to knock Cuomo for his remark on Wednesday, tweeting three times about it Friday morning alone.

“Big pushback on Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York for his really dumb statement about America’s lack of greatness,” Trump tweeted. “I have already MADE America Great Again, just look at the markets, jobs, military- setting records, and we will do even better. Andrew ‘choked’ badly, mistake!”

What Trump believes is American greatness “is not greatness at all,” said Cuomo, who went on to list a number of issues — abortion rights, immigration policy, Trump’s response to Charlottesville  — where he disagrees with the president. 

“His philosophy is not just repugnant to New York,” Cuomo said. “His philosophy is anti-American. His vision of America isn’t great at all. Taking children from the arms of their mothers is anti-American. Americans don’t believe in family separation.”

My take on this is that as a governor running for office, Cuomo was indeed “inartful” in his comments and they will probably come back to haunt him in the future especially if he seeks national office.  But what he said or meant to say is not entirely inaccurate.  While most people in most countries have great national pride, when looking honestly at their history will see episodes when their countries were not so great. Here in the United States, we can point to our Civil War when because of regional differences and the issue of slavery, more than 620,000 people were killed by their fellow Americans.  We can point to the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century with its doctrine of hate against blacks, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews.  We can point to the McCarthy era Red Scare tactics in the 1950s.  We can point to the Vietnam War when we sent 58,000 soldiers to their deaths for a conflict we never really understood.  We can point to the Great Recession of 2008 when greed on the part of our financial institutions sent the country into an economic tailspin that caused millions of people to lose their homes and livelihoods.  We can point to our present-day immigration policies that separate young children from their mothers and fathers. On the other hand, we can also point to our country’s significant contributions and finest hours.  Our foundational concepts of democracy and freedom as embodied in the U.S. Constitution while not perfect, are something to be proud of.   We can point to our contributions to victories against Fascism and dictatorships in World War I and World War II.  We can point to accomplishments such as sending men to the moon and developing vaccines against polio and other diseases.  Our country is indeed great but we must also recognized that we have had and will continue to have episodes that are not so great.


NYU School of Medicine to Become Tuition Free!

Dear Commons Community,

New York University made headlines late on Thursday when it announced that it would cover the tuition of all its students, regardless of merit or need, citing concerns about the “overwhelming financial debt” facing graduates.  Tuition at NYU is $55,000. per year. This is a major move by one of the top medical schools in the country.  As reported in the New York Times:

“N.Y.U.’s initiative comes at a time when affordability has become an increasingly urgent issue in higher education, with some graduates struggling with thousands of dollars in debt.

To date, much of the effort has centered on helping undergraduates cover the balance of their tuition bills, including at community colleges in Tennessee, and two- and four-year schools in New York under the new Excelsior Scholarship.

In the field of medicine, schools have become worried that students saddled with steep debt are increasingly pursuing top-paying specialties rather than careers in family medicine, pediatrics and research. So it was big news in December when Columbia announced a $250 million gift from Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, an alumnus who is a former chairman of Merck & Co., and his wife, Diana, that would offer students with the greatest financial need full-tuition scholarships, and other students grants, rather than loans.

About 62 percent of N.Y.U.’s School of Medicine graduates leave with some debt; the average debt incurred by members of the class of 2017 was $184,000……

“This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians,” said Robert I. Grossman, dean of the medical school and chief executive officer of N.Y.U. Langone Health.

N.Y.U. said that it had raised more than $450 million of the $600 million that it anticipates will be necessary to finance the tuition plan. About $100 million of that has been contributed by Kenneth G. Langone, the founder of Home Depot, and his wife, Elaine, for whom the medical school is named.

To date, only a handful of institutions have tried to make medical education tuition-free, according to Julie Fresne, senior director of student financial services of the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit organization that represents medical schools.

At UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, a $100 million fund announced several years ago pays for the entire cost of medical school for all four years, including tuition, fees, books and living expenses for roughly 20 percent of its students. But that program is based on merit, not need.

Meanwhile, a small medical school affiliated with Case Western Reserve University at the Cleveland Clinic covers the tuition and fees for its five-year program focusing on research.

Most of the roughly 20,000 students per year enrolled in American medical schools take out sizable federal loans to support their studies. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2017, the median debt for graduating medical students was $192,000. The median cost of medical school attendance, including living expenses, was $60,945 a year for public medical school and $82,278 for private medical school.”

Congratulations to NYU and thank you to Kenneth and Elaine Langone for their generosity.