Education Secretary Miguel Cardona – U.S. to cancel $6 billion in student loans for 200,000 defrauded borrowers!

Biden administration canceling $6 billion in student loan debt for 200,000 borrowers | Fox Business

Dear Commons Community,

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced on Thursday that the United States will cancel $6 billion in student loans for 200,000 borrowers who claimed they were defrauded by their colleges.

A settlement agreement between the borrowers and the U.S. Department of Education was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday and must be approved by a federal judge.  As reported by Reuters.

Student debt cancellation has become a priority for many liberals and one that could shore up popularity with younger and more highly-educated voters, who lean Democratic, before November’s midterm congressional elections.

About 43 million Americans have federal student loan debt, according to

The loans of those borrowers will be fully eliminated, and any payments they made will be refunded, according to the court filing of the settlement deal.

The lawsuit from borrowers had accused the administrations of Biden and former President Donald Trump of illegally delaying for years any action on the applications that borrowers had filed with the Education Department seeking debt relief.

In a statement on Thursday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona described the settlement as “fair and equitable for all parties” and said it will deliver “billions of dollars of automatic relief” to the 200,000 borrowers.

The Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents students across the U.S. in fighting against student debt, described the settlement as “momentous.”

The Biden administration had previously approved $25 billion in student debt forgiveness for about 1.3 million borrowers.

The administration had been reluctant to unilaterally make an unprecedented cancellation of college debt owned by the U.S. government. The president had instead earlier asked Congress to pass a bill forgiving debt that he could sign.

Good move on the part of President Biden and the US Department of Education.


Who are the 15 Republican senators who voted in favor of the gun safety bill?


Senate clears bipartisan gun safety package - POLITICO

Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn Speaking in Support of Gun Safety Legislation

Dear Commons Community,

In a rare example of bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate, fifteen Republicans voted on Thursday to pass gun safety legislation, the first of its kind in three decades.

Ten Republicans were part of initial negotiations over the bill in May, following mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas that put pressure on lawmakers to come together on legislation.  As reported by USA Today.

The bill, known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, includes billions of dollars in funding for state mental health services and school security. It also targets the “boyfriend loophole” that allows dating partners to own guns after being convicted of domestic abuse, unlike federal law against spouses. The bill also provides grants to states to adopt “red flag” laws, which allow courts to remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his tentative support of the measure last week and voted in favor of the bill on Thursday.

Only two of the 15 Senate Republicans who voted  to support are facing re-election this year: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana.

Four of the senators are set to leave office this year: Senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The rest of the Republican senators aren’t up for re-election until 2026, with the exception of Mitt Romney of Utah, whose election is in 2024.

The bill now moves to the House; if it passes, it will then be sent to President Joe Biden for signature. Biden has already expressed his support for the bill.

The 15 Republicans were:

  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
  • Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
  • Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
  • Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
  • Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
  • Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
  • Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.
  • Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

The bill had bipartisan support and enough votes to pass from the beginning, as 10 of these senators were part of initial negotiations over the bill and gave their support.

Many of the Republicans who voted for the bill have A or A-plus ratings from the National Rifle Association.

Some Republicans who voted in favor, including Capito and Murkowski, were uncertain ahead of procedural votes held this week. The two had not expressed support for the bipartisan framework announced in May, saying they needed to review the bill text before deciding.

Murkowski is up for reelection this year in Alaska, a state with some of the loosest gun laws in the country. In a video she tweeted Wednesday, Murkowski said she wanted to see efforts from Congress to protect children in schools while acting in good faith to protect the rights of “proud gun owners” in Alaska.

Senators who did not vote for the bill have expressed doubts about checks on gun ownership like “red flag” laws and the “boyfriend loophole.”



Video: Rage, despair, tears fill streets across nation as thousands protest Roe v Wade reversal!

Dear Commons Community,

Reaction came fast and furious after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion.  The court’s decision issued yesterday is the culmination of a generational conservative campaign to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established abortion rights. The three conservative justices whom Donald Trump appointed to the court supplied the votes to finally do so.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Roe’s fall is a political and social earthquake, one that Americans alternately celebrated and mourned. “I cannot think of a precedent for this in our modern history, where you have an individual civil right that people depend on that has been rolled back after 50 years,” said Emily Bazelon, who writes about abortion access and the court.

Anger and dismay erupted first outside the Supreme Court moments after the decision was announced.

Quickly, it spread as devastated abortion-rights protesters across the country railed against the conservative justices who wiped away a half-century of precedent and made access to  abortions all but impossible in many states.   As reported by NBC News and the Associated Press.

Massive crowds gathered in front of the federal building in downtown Chicago and then marched through The Loop to Grant Park chanting, “My body! My choice!” Protesters also staged noisy demonstrations outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, and across from the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. And in Flint, Michigan, hundreds blocked the sidewalks in front of the Genesee County Prosecutor’s office.

Demonstrations continued into the evening. Crowds marched in downtown Seattle, and in Los Angeles, protesters marched on the northbound 110 freeway downtown, blocking traffic.

In Phoenix on Friday night, state troopers used tear gas after protesters banged on the doors of the Arizona Senate building, and after part of a door was broken, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said.

The gas was deployed from the roof of the House of Representatives, he said. There were no arrests. The Senate, which was in session, was interrupted but later resumed.

Big demonstrations were reported in Richmond, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina and Topeka, Kansas.

There were also demonstrations outside the U.S. embassies in London and Ottawa, Canada.

In New York City, thousands gathered in Union Square and began marching downtown.

“Abortion is health care, health care is a right,” the crowd chanted.

One of the protesters was 16-year-old Anura Bracey, who was carrying a sign that read “Overturn Roe? Hell No.”

“I’m enraged,” Bracey said. “I’m terrified for what this means for birthing people in the country.”

Bracey said she feels lucky to live in a state where the right to an abortion is still protected but said she fears the Supreme Court could take aim at other rights including marriage equality.

“So I’m just here to get my rage out,” Bracey said. “I want someone to listen to us. I don’t know how much this is really going to do, but I just feel very desperate.”

Zonmund Heok, 51, of Ohio, was in New York City on vacation, but joined demonstrators.

Heok had pre-eclampsia and delivered her now 15-year-old son at just 28 weeks pregnant, and her doctor advised an abortion when she became pregnant shortly afterward.

“To think that if the same thing happened to me next week in Ohio, I would either have to travel out of state or risk my life, and my son would not have a mother, it infuriates me to no end,” Heok said.

Friday night, hundreds of demonstrators were in Union Square when Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived.

The lawmaker, whose district encompasses the Bronx and Queens, earlier called for people to hit the streets in protest, and urged voters to cast ballots in primaries to help change the Democratic Party.

In Washington Friday, a woman who asked to be only identified as Skye wept openly after the decision was announced.

“It feels like a betrayal,” Skye said. “It feels like my country doesn’t love me and appreciate my body as a woman. I can’t even chant because I can’t say anything. It hurts.”

Amanda Herring, who is 32 and nine months pregnant, showed up with her 1-year-old son Abraham and the words “Not Yet a Human” written in ink across her swollen belly.

Herring, a Jewish educator who said her due date is Saturday, considers the Supreme Court ruling an infringement on her religion.

“I feel like it’s important for me to be out here and let everyone know my religion says that that life begins with the first breath,” she said. “It’s in the Torah, and it’s in the Old Testament.”

Hanna Fredeen, who was in high school in 1973 when Roe became law, said she remembers how a classmate had to travel to another country for an abortion. She said poor women in states where the procedure is now banned will be forced to get back-alley abortions or resort to doing it themselves.

Nearby, Lauren Handy of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising was part of a smaller crowd that was celebrating a Supreme Court decision that capped the decades-long struggle by conservatives to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

“It’s a roller-coaster of emotion,” Handy said. “Complete and utter joy it was finally overturned.”

Handy then added, “The battle is not over.”

“The abortion industrial complex is strong in blue states, and we gotta go after them as well,” Handy said.

In St. Louis, demonstrators on both sides of the decision gathered at the same site — a Planned Parenthood clinic. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple known for waving guns at social justice demonstrators in 2020, celebrated the end of Roe, according to NBC affiliate KSDK. Mark McCloskey is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri as a Republican.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, a Democrat, discussed the abortion she had after she was raped at age 17. “They can strike down Roe v. Wade, but they can’t strike down our voices,” she told the crowd outside the clinic.

Shock about the decision and what it means was not confined to the United States.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “a big step backwards.” World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was disappointed, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that “the news coming out of the United States is horrific.”

Now that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land, abortion is protected in less than half of the states and in none of the U.S. territories, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Before the Supreme Court ruling was announced, Republican legislators across the South and Midwest passed “trigger laws” that would make abortion illegal the minute Roe was overturned.

“Make no mistake, the decision goes beyond abortion,” said Elizabeth Meyer, founder of Women’s March in New Jersey. “We may be protected in New Jersey, you know, but we’re certain that is not going to be the case elsewhere.”



Key Takeaways from the House January 6th Committee Hearing Yesterday!

Watch CBS Mornings: Day 5 of the Jan. 6 committee hearings - Full show on  CBS

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday’s House Jan. 6 committee  hearing provided incredible testimony on how Donald Trump tried to install an inexperienced  loyalist atop the Justice Department who would pursue his false claims of voter fraud and stop the certification of the 2020 election that Democrat Joe Biden won.  Jeffrey Rosen, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, all high-ranking Trump appointed administrators in the Justice Department, provided critical commentary under oath at this hearing.

It’s the latest account of how perilously close the United States could have come to a constitutional crisis if the department leaders had not threatened to resign over the scheme and the defeated Trump had been able to orchestrate a plan for the U.S. government to overturn election results in several pivotal states.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., led the hearing, saying it would show “how close we came to losing it all.” 

The hearing concluded with naming members of Congress who asked for pardons for their role in pushing Trump’s lies in trying to undermine the 2020 election

The committee investigating the causes of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been trying to make the case that Trump’s efforts to reverse his loss resulted in the deadly siege after he sent supporters to the Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory. Here are some important takeaways from yesterday’s  hearing courtesy of the Associated Press.



Day after day, Trump pressured the department leaders to dig into false claims of election fraud after the November 2020 election.

Former Attorney General William Barr had described the swirl of false voter fraud theories coming from Trump’s orbit as “wack-a-mole.”

The department declined Trump’s overtures because “we did not think they were appropriate,” testified Jeffrey Rosen, who became acting attorney general after Barr stepped down.

Over and over, the officials explained to Trump that the states conduct their own elections, free from federal interference. They tried to show him there was no voter fraud on a scale that could have tipped the election in his favor.

Trump, however, only pressed harder and started looking for alternatives.

At point in late December 2020, Trump asked what Rosen found to be a “peculiar” question: Do you know Jeff Clark?

Trump was eyeing Clark to take over at the department.



Clark led the civil division and particularly handled environmental cases. He was introduced to Trump by a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, a leader of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus.

Clark had been circulating a proposal that would have the legislatures from battleground states not certify their election results. It was similar to a plan from Trump lawyer John Eastman for alternative slates of electors loyal to Trump, rather than Biden, when Congress met Jan. 6, 2021, to certify results.

Clark’s ideas alarmed his colleagues, as did his sudden rise into Trump’s orbit as a potential new acting attorney general.

“It may well had spiraled us into a constitutional crisis,” testified Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general.



During a meeting at the White House days before the riot, Justice Department leaders told Trump they would resign if he tried to install Clark and put his scheme in motion to reject electors.

Trump had called the officials to an unexpected Sunday meeting to lay out his plan. Donoghue described how he was dressed inappropriately in jeans, muddy boots and an Army shirt. Trump had him sit between Rosen and Clark. The president asked Donoghue: What if I replace Rosen with Clark?

“What have I got to lose?” Trump said, as Donoghue recalled.

Donoghue told Trump that the president would have everything to lose: mass resignations at the Justice Department, starting with those arrayed before him at the meeting.

Clark would be left to run a “graveyard” at the department, one of the officials said. Trump’s plan to reject the state electors with those loyal to Trump would never work. It was a “murder-suicide pact,” as his own White House counsel told him, they testified.

Donoghue made the point that “Jeff Clark wasn’t even competent to serve as attorney general.”

When Clark shot back that he had worked on complicated civil and environmental matters, Donoghue retorted: “How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill?”



At least five Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who had connected Trump and Clark, sought pardons from the president that would shield them from criminal prosecution, according to testimony Thursday.

Perry and Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Louie Gohmert of Texas all had been involved in efforts to reject the electoral tally or submit “fake electors.” All sought pardons, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Hutchinson testified previously in video shown at the hearing.

Blanket pardons for all those involved in Jan. 6 were also discussed, according to another White House aide, John McEntee.

Gaetz tweeted that the hearing is a “political sideshow.”

Kinzinger said the only reason to ask for a pardon “is if you think you’ve committed a crime.”

Excellent hearing and an example of our government doing right by the people!



Dark day has come – US Supreme Court strikes down restrictive New York gun law!

New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen] Oral Argument |

Dear Commons Community,

The US Supreme Court struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry one in public.  The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, was the first major gun rights case before the Supreme Court in more than a decade.

The justices said the requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have similar laws likely to be challenged as a result of the ruling. The Biden administration had urged the justices to uphold New York’s law.

The justices’ 6-3 decision is expected to ultimately allow more people to legally carry guns on the streets of the nation’s largest cities — including New York, Los Angeles and Boston — and elsewhere.

About a quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, the high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade.

This ruling comes as Congress is actively working on gun legislation following recent mass shootings in Texas,New York and California.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she was “sorry that this dark day has come.”

“That we’re supposed to go back to what was in place in 1788 when the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified,” Hochul said during remarks Thursday morning. “I would like to point out to the Supreme Court justices that the only weapons at the time were muskets. I’m prepared to go back to muskets. I don’t think they envisioned the high-capacity assault weapon magazines intended for battlefields as being covered, but I guess we’re just going to have to disagree.”

Hochul said that she was considering a special session of the state Legislature, adding on Twitter, “It is outrageous that at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons. … Just as we swiftly passed nation-leading gun reform legislation, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence.”

Some of the state’s top law enforcement officials also responded. The New York state attorney general’s office said in a statement, “We are currently reviewing the decision from the Supreme Court on New York’s ability to regulate who can carry firearms in public. But we will continue to do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers from gun violence and preserve our state’s common sense gun laws.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said, “At this very moment, my office is analyzing this ruling and crafting gun safety legislation that will take the strongest steps possible to mitigate the damage done today.”

Other prominent New York Democrats expressed frustration at the potential fallout from the ruling.

“We will work together to limit the risk this decision will create once it is implemented,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “And we cannot allow New York to become the Wild Wild West. That is unacceptable. We will not allow our city to live in fear that everyone around us is armed, that any altercation could evolve into a shootout.We will not allow the men and women of the police department to be subjected to further danger making their already difficult jobs even more harrowing.”

“Today’s Supreme Court decision may have opened an additional river that is going to feed the sea of gun violence in our city and in our nation,” he added. “Now is the time for every elected official who cares about the safety of all Americans to come together and respond thoroughly and comprehensively to this appalling decision.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision will deepen the crisis of gun violence in NYC and beyond,” wrote Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., who represents part of the Bronx. “Striking down the proper cause requirement, as SCOTUS has done, means allowing the average person a right to carry a gun in public, even in a city as densely populated as NY.”

Top Democrats in Congress and governors’ seats across the country also criticized the ruling.

“In the wake of horrific gun violence in Buffalo & Uvalde, the Supreme Court’s radical conservative majority has taken us further back, unilaterally weakening gun safety laws across the nation,” wrote Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Countless American lives are endangered by this decision, including in Massachusetts.”

“A dark day in America,” wrote Gov. Gavin Newsom ofCalifornia. “This is a dangerous decision from a court hell bent on pushing a radical ideological agenda and infringing on the rights of states to protect our citizens from being gunned down in our streets, schools, and churches. Shameful.”

A dark day indeed!


Nate Hochman on the Religious Right and the Republican Party!

Dear Commons Community,

Nate Hochman, a fellow at National Review, had a guest essay published in The New York Times earlier this month entitled What Comes After the Religious Right, in which he describes the decline of religion as a driving force in the Republican Party and the rise of socio-cultural issues.  Here is an excerpt:

“Even for an insider like me, the whirlwind of energy and debate within today’s conservative movement can be bewildering. But what’s clear is that the Republican Party is changing. A new kind of conservatism, represented by right-wing elites like Ron DeSantis, Christopher Rufo and Tucker Carlson, is making itself known. We are just beginning to see its impact. The anti-critical-race-theory laws, anti-transgender laws and parental rights bills that have swept the country in recent years are the movement’s opening shots. They have made today’s culture wars as fierce as they have been in decades. But this new campaign is also distinctly different from the culture wars of the late 20th century, and it reflects a broad shift in conservatism’s priorities and worldview.

The conservative political project is no longer specifically Christian. That may seem strange to say at a moment when a mostly Catholic conservative majority on the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. But a reversal of the landmark 1973 ruling would be more of a last gasp than a sign of strength for the religious right. It’s hard to imagine today’s culture warriors taking any interest in the 1950s push for a Christian amendment to the Constitution, for example. Instead of an explicitly biblical focus on issues like school prayer, no-fault divorce and homosexuality, the new coalition is focused on questions of national identity, social integrity and political alienation. Although it enjoys the support of most Republican Christians who formed the electoral backbone of the old Moral Majority, it is a social conservatism rather than a religious one, revolving around race relations, identity politics, immigration and the teaching of American history.

Today’s culture war is being waged not between religion and secularism but between groups that the Catholic writer Matthew Schmitz has described as “the woke and the unwoke.” “Catholic traditionalists, Orthodox Jews, Middle American small-business owners and skeptical liberal atheists may not seem to have much in common,” he wrote in 2020. But all of those demographics are uncomfortable with the progressive social agenda of the post-Obama years.”

His conclusion:

“While the old religious right will see much to like in the new cultural conservatism, they are partners, rather than leaders, in the coalition. That may be the best thing they can hope for in a rapidly secularizing country. The new cultural conservatism may protect the embattled minority of traditionalist Christians; it will not restore them to their pre-eminent place in public life, as the old religious conservatism hoped to do. But it may have an actual chance at winning. And that, from the conservative perspective, is worth a great deal.”

An interesting analysis worth reading!


AAUP Annual Faculty-Pay Survey Records the Largest One-Year Salary Drop Ever as Number of Contingent Faculty Increases!

Click on to enlarge

Dear Commons Community,

Average full-time faculty salaries decreased by 5 percent in the 2021-22 academic year when adjusted for inflation, the largest single-year drop in the 50 years that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has tracked academic wages.

The AAUP’s latest faculty-compensation survey, which was released yesterday as part of its annual report on the state of the profession, says that full-time faculty salaries in 2021-22 were 2 percent higher — essentially flat — than in 2020-21. But that actually was a big pay cut in real terms. Adjusted for inflation, faculty salaries fell at 95 percent of institutions that were surveyed in both 2020-21 and 2021-22.  It also found that three in five faculty members were on contingent appointments.

Faculty-pay levels and other trends “paint a bleak economic picture of the profession,” the report says. The report’s release comes amid the continuing pandemic, a historic increase in interest rates in an effort to combat rising inflation, and the economic impact of both Covid-19 and the Ukraine war.

Data collection for the survey concluded in March 2022, with over 900 US colleges and universities providing employment data for more than 370,000 full-time and 90,000 part-time faculty members as well as senior administrators at over 500 institutions.  Here are the key findings.

  • From 2020–21 to 2021–22, average salaries for full-time faculty members increased 2.0 percent, consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
  • Real wages for full-time faculty fell below Great Recession levels in 2021, with average salary falling to 2.3 percent below the 2008 average salary, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Real wages for full-time faculty members decreased 5.0 percent after adjusting for inflation, the largest one-year decrease on record since the AAUP began tracking this measure in 1972.
  • In 2021–22, 97.2 percent of full-time faculty members were covered by retirement plans, a 2.8-point increase from 2020–21.
  • Institutions reported full-time faculty salaries for women that are 81.9 percent of those for men in 2021–22, on average. The gender pay gap is greatest at the full professor rank.
  • From 2019–20 to 2021–22, the number of full-time women faculty members increased 1.6 percent, compared with a 2.5 percent decrease for men.
  • In 2020–21, average pay for adjunct faculty members to teach a course section ranged from $2,979 in public associate’s institutions without ranks to $5,557 in public doctoral institutions.
  • In fall 2020, about three in five (61.5 percent) faculty members were on contingent appointments.

This report does not paint a rosy outlook for the profession, although it is possible that as higher education eases out of the pandemic that salaries and other indicators will improve.


Purdue University’s Board Chose Mung Chiang to Replace President Mitch Daniels – Trustees Bypassed Input from Faculty or Students!

Incoming Purdue president has a taste for ice cream - and listening |  Campus | purdueexponent.orgMitch Daniels and Mung Chiang

Dear Commons Community,

When Purdue University’s trustees announced their new president earlier this month, they left out some key information as to how and why they had chosen that person.

What made the event even more surprising was that the trustees announced the retirement of President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., who has led the university for a decade, at the same time they named his successor, Mung Chiang, Purdue’s dean of engineering and executive vice president for strategic initiatives.

Picking a college president is often described as the most important responsibility of a governing board, but that task is usually accompanied by at least a modicum of transparency and input from constituents, including faculty, staff, and students. The stealthy move to name a new president at Purdue has set off alarm bells nationally as the latest example of trustees’ willingness to ignore the core values of shared governance.

While it’s the Board of Trustees’ responsibility to hire the president, doing so without buy-in from campus constituents can lead to a backlash and a lack of trust in the new leader, said Leigh S. Raymond, a professor of political science and president of the American Association of University Professors’ chapter on the West Lafayette campus.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“There are different ways to run a university,” Raymond said, “and the board is choosing a way that is not productive and not good for the morale of faculty.”

While searches for college presidents have become more secretive in recent years, Purdue’s governing board may have set a new precedent for opacity. Not only was no search announced publicly, but the board did not even tell Chiang and other possible candidates that they were under consideration, said Michael R. Berghoff, the board chair.

Had we not been so certain about the candidate, we would have been more likely to have a search that looked outside.

Instead, the board evaluated several members of Daniels’s executive team “on the job” over a three- to five-year period, Berghoff said in an interview. Even as it approached a decision, the board did not conduct any formal interviews with Chiang, he said.

The board did not need to interview Chiang, Berghoff said, because Daniels had provided regular updates on the dean’s successes. In addition, Berghoff said, the trustees had already gotten feedback on Chiang’s performance from a variety of sources, including people on campus and elected officials who had worked with Chiang.

The process and decision resembled how the board of a large corporation might choose a new leader by considering talent that has been groomed from within, said Berghoff, who is the founder and president of the Lenex Steel Corporation.

“Had we not been so certain about the candidate,” Berghoff said, “we would have been more likely to have a search that looked outside.”

Chiang, who earned a doctoral degree in electrical engineering at Stanford, has a lengthy list of accomplishments as an academic and entrepreneur, with numerous awards for research and teaching. He holds more than two dozen patents and has cofounded three start-ups as well as a global nonprofit group. His Purdue biography credits his leadership with improved rankings and enrollment at the engineering school as well as a significant rise in sponsored research.

But surprise announcements of campus leaders in other cases have sometimes ended badly both for the person who took the job and for the reputation of the institution. The challenge for those leaders, even when they are well qualified for the job, is that a flawed process, without public vetting, leaves them with a deficit of good will from the campus community, according to experts in governance.

“While the search process is intended to help gather diverse perspectives and ensure that the candidate is examined from all angles, it also serves to legitimize the process and build trust among stakeholders,” according to a written statement from Henry Stoever, president and chief executive of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, a nonprofit organization that promotes best practices.

Several presidents or system heads who were appointed as sole finalists and with minimal campus vetting have resigned under pressure, including F. King Alexander at Oregon State University and Mark R. Kennedy at the University of Colorado system.

Chiang is no stranger to Purdue, but faculty members are fuming over the board’s secrecy and are concerned the trustees considered only a narrow perspective in evaluating Chiang, even in his current position.

AAUP chapters on three of Purdue’s campuses, as well as the national organization, have issued statements condemning the board’s lack of transparency.

“There are lots of ways in which academic institutions are not the same as businesses,” said Alice Pawley, a professor in Purdue’s School of Engineering Education and past president of the AAUP chapter on the West Lafayette campus. In particular, she said, hiring at a university is meant to provide all job candidates with an equal chance to get the position based on their qualifications, not on favoritism.

It’s interesting that the board has adopted a corporate strategy. An academic strategy is meant to hire people on merit with as little bias as possible.

“It’s interesting that the board has adopted a corporate strategy,” she said. “An academic strategy is meant to hire people on merit with as little bias as possible.”

While Chiang’s academic credentials are appropriate for a leadership post, Pawley said, his administrative experience at Purdue is somewhat thin. Chiang was appointed dean of engineering in 2017 and has not yet gone through the typical five-year review for an administrator, she said.

Chiang also has not spent that entire time at Purdue, Pawley said, because he took a leave of absence to serve as an adviser to the U.S. secretary of state during the final year of the Trump administration. In the most recent year, Chiang has split his time between service as dean of engineering and as a vice president, she said.

Raymond, the AAUP-chapter president, said the board’s actions, in this case and others, are part of a larger trend toward the corporatization of higher education.

In recent years, Raymond said, faculty and other groups at Purdue have been shut out of decisions and actions that have a direct impact on academic issues, such as the creation of a new online institution from the purchase of the for-profit Kaplan University.

Last year the board approved a new civics-education requirement despite a vote against it by the University Senate and warnings from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which advocates for academic freedom and free speech, that the process had undermined shared governance and faculty trust.

“It’s a culmination,” Raymond said, “of acting like an institution of higher education is effectively the same as ExxonMobil.”

The times they are a changing!


Seven Major Takeaways from the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s Fourth Hearing!

Three Republicans, Arizona state House Speaker Russell "Rusty" Bowers, left, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, testified about Trump's intimidation campaign after the 2020 election.

Three Republicans, Arizona state House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers, left, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, testified about Trump’s intimidation campaign after the 2020 election.
Dear Commons Community,

The House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol attack held its fourth public hearing yesterday, focusing on the intense pressure campaign led by former President Donald Trump as he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Through live and recorded testimony, text messages, video and audio segments, the panel showed how the effort to keep Trump in power for another four years was extensive and unrelenting. Trump’s team took particular aim at fellow Republicans in swing states who might have been in positions to sway the final outcome, either by falsely revising the final tallies, meddling with the Electoral College or saying evidence of fraud had been found. But there was zero evidence of election fraud on a scale that could have affected the results.

Fueled by the wrath of his supporters, Trump’s anger at having lost the election put him on a direct path to lighting the spark that ignited on Jan. 6, 2021, with the deadly attack on the Capitol building, according to the committee.

I thought the testimonies of Arizona state House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers and former poll worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, were riveting.

Below are seven takeaways, courtesy of the Huffington Post.



Major Takeaways from the Jan. 6 Committee’s Fourth Hearing

Trump’s lawyers pressured Republican officials in swing states to overturn the election results but provided no proof of fraud.

The committee presented evidence showing how Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis aggressively lobbied officials in swing states, including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, to help them try to overturn the election results.

In audio clips played at the hearing, Giuliani and Ellis can be heard calling Bryan Cutler, the Republican speaker of Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives, several days in a row in late November.

“I really have something important to call to your attention that I think really changes things,” Giuliani said in one call. According to the committee, Cutler found this inappropriate and directed his lawyers to tell Giuliani to stop calling, but Giuliani would not back down.

Russel “Rusty” Bowers, the Republican speaker of Arizona’s state House of Representatives, said the pair put similar pressure on him. He recalled Giuliani telling him, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.”

The lawyers offered to provide evidence, Bowers testified, but never did.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, testified that his office tirelessly pursued allegations of election fraud, opening nearly 300 separate investigations, but came up empty. In one case, Trump’s team claimed that 66,000 underage voters were counted, but Raffensperger’s office found no evidence to back it up.

“The numbers are the numbers. We investigated every allegation,” Raffensperger testified. He said his team “ran down the rabbit trail to make sure our numbers were accurate.”

Trump had infamously told the Georgia official he needed to “find” just enough votes for Trump to win the state. On Tuesday, Raffensperger testified: “What I knew is we didn’t have any votes to find. There were no votes to find.”

A mother-daughter duo of Georgia election workers described how their lives were affected by Trump’s targeted attacks.

Ruby Freeman, who said she used to go by Lady Ruby, was a poll worker in Georgia during the 2020 election. She and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, found themselves personally attacked by Trump and his supporters in the wake of the election as Trump repeatedly fueled the idea that the vote had been rigged against him.

Moss testified with her mother sitting behind her. Portions of Freeman’s videotaped testimony were also played at the hearing. The women said their lives had been upended by abuse that came online and in person after Giuliani shared security camera footage of the pair counting ballots. Trump’s team accused the women of counting “suitcases” of fake ballots that favored Biden.

“Nowhere. There is nowhere I feel safe. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one,” Freeman said in her recorded testimony. She left her home for two months in early 2021 amid the harassment, which included death threats.

Freeman added: “But he targeted me, Lady Ruby. A proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of a pandemic.”

Moss said she felt guilty for exposing her family to so much hate: “I felt bad for picking this job, for always being the one who wants to help.”

She also cleared up an accusation Giuliani made that she and Freeman were passing a USB drive back and forth while working. It was nothing but a ginger mint, she said.

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, left, a former Georgia election worker, is comforted by her mother, Ruby Freeman, during her testimony before the House select committee Tuesday.

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, left, a former Georgia election worker, is comforted by her mother, Ruby Freeman, during her testimony before the House select committee yesterday.

Trump supporters flooded other officials with messages telling them to say Trump had won a second term ― or else.

Michigan’s state Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said that after Trump publicly shared his phone number, he received around 4,000 text messages.

Bowers said his office in Arizona was inundated with phone calls, emails and text messages from Trump supporters, making it hard for his staff to communicate with one another.

The pressure on Bowers led to personal attacks at his home, where his adult daughter was dying of a chronic illness.

During his testimony, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voter system implementation manager, was asked about angry and impassioned remarks he made before the attack on the Capitol, warning that somebody was going to get hurt if the personal attacks on his colleagues didn’t stop.

The Republican official said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came after Trump supporters began targeting a contractor who worked for Dominion Voting Systems. Someone Sterling normally regarded as “pretty unflappable” called to tell him about it.

“I did pull up Twitter. I scroll through it, and there’s a particular tweet,” Sterling testified. “It had his name, ‘You’ve committed treason. May God have mercy on your soul.’ And a slowly twisting GIF of a noose.”

The attackers also turned to Raffensperger. He testified that Trump supporters threatened his wife with sexual violence and that some had broken into the home of his daughter-in-law, a widow with two children.

Trump said Bowers agreed the election was rigged. Bowers said that’s not true.

Bowers refuted a statement Trump sent Tuesday just before the hearing began in which he claimed the Arizona lawmaker told him he supported the idea that the 2020 presidential election had been “stolen.”

“I did have a conversation with the president, but that certainly isn’t it,” Bowers testified, adding he never called it a rigged election to “anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

Trump claimed the opposite in his statement, writing that Bowers “told me that the election was rigged and that I won Arizona.”

Trump allies, including Rep. Andy Biggs, pressured Bowers to decertify Arizona’s slate of electors.

John Eastman, a lawyer for Trump, told Bowers to just hold a vote to decertify Arizona’s electors “and let the courts sort it out.” Bowers testified that he replied: “You are asking me to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States.”

Bowers also testified that Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) called him the morning of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol while a joint session of Congress met to count the electoral votes.

“He asked if I would sign on both to a letter that had been sent from my state and/or that I would support a decertification of the electors, and I said I would not,” Bowers said of his conversation with Biggs. Other witnesses have told the committee Biggs was closely involved in planning the rally that led to the Capitol riot.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) allegedly tried to give Vice President Mike Pence a fake slate of pro-Trump electors.

Damning text messages displayed at the hearing revealed that, shortly before Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to certify the election results, Johnson aide Sean Riley contacted Pence staffer Chris Hodgson to say the senator wanted to “hand” Pence an “alternate slate of electors for [Michigan] and [Wisconsin] because the archivist didn’t receive them.”

Hodgson responded: “Do not give that to him.”

A representative of Johnson, who is running for reelection in Wisconsin, issued a statement Tuesday saying the senator “had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office. This was a staff to staff exchange. His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office.”

Trump and his team allegedly solicited help from the RNC to push its “alternate” elector scheme.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel shared details of a potentially damning phone conversation Trump initiated. The former president called her, she said, and then handed the phone to Eastman, who pressured her to help with the plan to install pro-Trump electors. The committee showed video of testimony in which she described the call and the aid the RNC would give.

“Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states,” McDaniel said.


Shared Governance in Higher Education Eroding Rapidly, AAUP Report Says!

Shared Governance - University at Albany - SUNY

Dear Commons Community,

Shared governance is eroding rapidly at colleges and universities according to a new report from the American Association of University Professors.

The report, commissioned in September, examines Covid-era decisions — which faculty members and the AAUP determined were unilateral actions taken by governing boards and university administrations — at eight institutions, seven of them private. Those examples, the report says, are illustrative of a larger trend in academe, “the gradual erosion of shared governance on some campuses into a landslide,” and prove the pandemic to be the most serious challenge to shared governance in the past 50 years. Here are four key takeaways from the report courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

1. The language being used to threaten tenure is changing, but the message is clear.

Tenured faculty members, longstanding AAUP guidance suggests, can be fired only for cause related to performance or conduct, or “under extraordinary circumstances” like financial exigency — a declaration that a college faces a crisis threatening its core educational mission — or the discontinuation of an academic program. But none of the eight institutions the AAUP investigated declared financial exigency. In fact, only one institution, Lincoln University of Missouri, appears to have declared financial exigency because of the pandemic, the report notes.

One institution the report discusses, the University of Akron, invoked a status even more serious than financial exigency: “force majeure,” which the report calls a “nuclear option.” Force majeure clauses nullify any provisions for faculty input that are typically involved in a declaration of financial exigency, leaving faculty members without any recourse. (The Akron AAUP chapter filed a grievance with an arbitrator, who ruled that Akron’s invocation of force majeure was justified.)

“Allowing an administration to invoke force majeure (or catastrophic conditions, act of God, extraordinary circumstances, and the like) to nullify existing policies, unilaterally shutter programs, and terminate tenure are inimical to principles and standards of academic freedom and governance,” the AAUP report’s authors declare.

There’s another term floating around, too: “budgetary hardship,” which John Carroll University, in Ohio, proposed adding to its financial-exigency policy in the fall. The bar for declaring “budgetary hardship” would be lower than the one for financial exigency — it could be invoked if the university saw a projected 6-percent loss in cumulative net revenue over a three-year period — and it, like financial exigency, would let administrators fire tenured faculty members without appeal. An attorney working with John Carroll’s board, the report says, “is reportedly working with nine other institutions to incorporate ‘budgetary hardship’ provisions into their faculty handbooks,” which the AAUP argues “would effectively render tenure meaningless at those institutions.”

No matter the wording, said Michael DeCesare, co-chair of the AAUP investigating committee, the message is clear. “Any less strict criterion” than financial exigency, “no matter what it’s called, simply puts faculty at greater risk.”

2. Suspending faculty handbooks is one pandemic-era mechanism for abrogating shared governance.

Faculty handbooks have long been standard-bearers for how an institution can, and should, deal with thorny issues involving budget shortfalls, academic freedom, tenure, and more. But what happens when the rulebook is tossed out? At several of the institutions AAUP’s report examines, that’s exactly what happened.

In a July 1 message, Keuka College, in New York, announced it would suspend for a year the faculty handbook’s processes on terminating appointments and closing academic programs. “Ultimately,” the board wrote, “the College cannot financially afford to follow the processes outlined for faculty separation.”

Suspending those provisions, the AAUP report says, allowed Keuka to fire tenured faculty members without first declaring financial exigency or discontinuing an academic program, the two circumstances under which the AAUP acknowledges tenured faculty members’ jobs may be lost, and without allowing the affected faculty members due process.

Marian University, in Wisconsin, the AAUP notes, also suspended handbook procedures after declaring an “enrollment emergency,” and Medaille College’s president exercised a clause in the faculty handbook that allows the handbook to be suspended because of “natural disasters, acts of God, declared states of emergency or other emergency situations.” Also at Medaille, in New York, the administration produced a revised faculty handbook which, among other things, would subject faculty members who received tenure prior to July 2020 to “annual performance reviews” that “may result in discipline and/or termination,” while faculty members who were tenured after July 2020 would work on three-year contracts. A corresponding employment agreement asked signatories to agree that “that the Prior Handbook was validly replaced and rescinded … and that the Employee shall not claim any right, benefit, obligation, or entitlement to any provision contained in the Prior Handbook.” Over objections from faculty members, Medaille’s board approved both documents, and sent full-time faculty members letters saying that if they did not sign the new employment agreement, they would be considered “at-will employees” who could be fired “for any reason.” None of the Medaille faculty, except three new arrivals who weren’t aware of the controversy, have signed the agreement, according to the AAUP report.

Before the pandemic, said DeCesare, an administration unilaterally revising or suspending a faculty handbook was “extraordinarily uncommon.” It is, DeCesare said, “one of the most egregious governance violations that an administration or board can take,” and in the past would have likely resulted in the AAUP sanctioning the institution. (That may happen here, too: DeCesare said that the AAUP’s Council will vote in early June on whether to recommend sanctions for any of the institutions in the report, based on recommendations from the Committee on College and University Governance, which he chairs.)

3. Many faculty members are being left between a rock and a hard place.

At several institutions the AAUP investigated, faculty members “faced the dilemma of either participating in ad hoc governance processes they knew to be flawed in the hope of shaping their outcomes or refusing on principle to participate at all, thereby allowing administrators and board members to move forward without them.” In one case, though, the faculty didn’t even get that catch-22. National University, in California, “really engaged in what we call this trinity of the most egregious violations of longstanding governance standards,” DeCesare said. Administrators there unilaterally abrogated faculty contracts (National has never had a tenure system), suspended the faculty policies, and replaced the elected Faculty Senate with a new “University Senate,” whose members were not elected by the full faculty. The interim handbook that replaced the suspended policies, the AAUP wrote, incorporated no “decision-making participation” for faculty members.

4. Breaches of shared governance have implications for academic freedom, too.

The AAUP investigation took up only issues of shared governance. But that doesn’t mean academic freedom isn’t in danger: Where tenure is threatened, inevitably, academic freedom is, too, DeCesare said. “When tenured faculty can simply be dismissed under the guise of a global-health crisis, then, as so many faculty members we interviewed told us, tenure really doesn’t mean anything. And therefore, academic freedom doesn’t really exist at those institutions.”

Watchers of academic-freedom issues would do well to keep an eye on the state of Kansas, where the Board of Regents unanimously approved a policy that allows the state’s six public universities to carry out “emergency” terminations and suspensions of faculty positions — including tenured ones — through 2022, the AAUP report says. Under that policy, an institution doesn’t need to declare financial exigency to lay off a tenured faculty member, or schedule an adjudication hearing if it does so.

It is my opinion that it was inevitable that shared governance once compromised due to the pandemic would be further eroded after the emergency abated.