NAFSA Formally Joins Boycott of Arizona, Urges Repeal of SB1070

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At the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference and Expo this week in Kansas City, Missouri, members and the board of directors approved a resolution formally opposing SB1070, Arizona’s unjust immigration legislation.

NAFSA’s own Everett Egginton, a past president, describes the resolution in a blog post at the NAFSA website:

The resolution calls for the immediate repeal of anti-immigrant legislation by the State of Arizona urges other states to refrain from passing similar measures; asks the U.S. Congress to act quickly to enact comprehensive immigration reform; and resolves the association to not hold national and regional meetings in the State of Arizona until the situation is rectified.


Of course there is great meaning in this resolution for me at personal level as well, related to where I live, work, and seek personal satisfaction in my life. New Mexico, one of Arizona’s neighbors, is a majority-Hispanic state. But it’s not only the Hispanics in New Mexico that are hurt and embarrassed by this legislation; the hurt and embarrassment are felt across the entire state. As such, we as New Mexicans are concerned with the burdens of this legislation on our Arizona colleagues…

As an employee working in higher education (and a student studying it), I am encouraged to see higher education groups mobilizing on this issue. Unfortunately, those opposed to the legislation are in the minority nationally. This makes standing up and speaking out against this legislation even more paramount. Props to NAFSA for taking a stand. Hopefully similar groups follow its lead.


More Critical Thinking, Less Hegemony

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Matt Bai writes an interesting piece in the Times today, noting both how far we’ve come in our various debates since the 1960s, while acknowledging that, in some ways, we have not come far at all.  Bai used the controversies surrounding Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal to make his case.

Why then, to quote the ubiquitous Bono, is our political debate so stuck in a moment it cannot get out of? In part, it is probably because so many of the Americans most engaged in politics — as well as those who run campaigns and comment endlessly on them — are old enough to remember Altamont. It is your classic self-fulfilling prophecy: the more the ’60s generation dominates the political discourse, the less that discourse engages younger voters, and the longer the boomers hold sway over our politics.

On a deeper level, though, this all probably has as much to do with our basic human tendency toward moral clarity. As much as conservatives may view the decade as the crucible of moral relativism and the beginning of a breakdown in established social order, there remains something powerfully attractive about the binary, simplistic nature of it all, the idea that one could easily distinguish whether he was for war or against, in favor of equality or opposed.

By contrast, war today seems more a question of degrees and limits, while equality seems less about the laws of the land than about disparities in economic and educational opportunities that are subtler and harder to address. The choices of our moment are not nearly so neat or so satisfying as they were a generation ago, which makes them less useful as a basis for one’s political identity, and harder to encapsulate in some 30-second spot or prime-time rant.

Emphasis is mine.  I find myself agreeing with Bai’s explanation, especially given my work with college students.  Our students today are getting their bachelor’s degree and I would wager that, the way we construct our educational system in this country, a significant number get out of it without having to think critically about issues.  If I’m a student and I have followed external formulas guiding my behavior, never having this behavior challenged, I am not even aware that there is anything other than my cozy dualistic system from which I can choose (Harvard developmental psychologist Robert Kegan would say I am subject in my meaning-making capabilities).  Of course a simplistic, yet disingenuous politics is going to thrive.

In order for us to challenge this lack of preparation we are offering our students, we must challenge the hegemonic structure dictating that campaigns or discussions on public affairs must run this way.  Simultaneously, we must purge ourselves of the assumption that we must go to college to have a chance to learn this.  These are big tasks; these notions unobtrusively penetrate our lives everyday, seducing us to believe that, because its the way things work, we must follow it.  You go to college, get a four degree, and then work somewhere because you are deemed to be bright enough to do so and be a citizen.  There’s a code for it:  it’s “tradition.”  It’s romanticized.  The degree is money, we’re taught.  Yes, our realities are much more contextual than they used to be; our technology, while improving our lives and making them more efficient, gives us a tangential responsibility of learning supplemental skills to be able to cope with the effects of the improvements.

Yet, how many of these college degree-holding, former students come home from work and sit in front of their TVs, allowing the sonorous tones of Bill O’Reilly, Wolf Blitzer, and/(but most likely) or Keith Olbermann to fill their living rooms?  Many, I’d be willing to bet.  And it’s because “we’re tired.”  We’ve been thinking all day.  We need someone to explain things to us, not help us understand anything more.  And so when Blitzer’s voice gets pitchy with excitement, indelicately discussing stories as complex as the history of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the opportunity to parse what he is saying, to explore it, to uncover it, comes and goes.  “Why is this garbage on TV?,” someone might ask.  But given the way we tackle education in this country, we are all too often incapable of answering our own questions.

So when I read Matt Bai’s piece this morning, I couldn’t help but get excited.  A writer for one of the main cogs in this hegemonic structure takes notice of the primary problem — it’s a welcome event.  Yet, until we have younger people willing to challenge the status quo of journalism and education in this country (and older ones courageous enough to assist), our external formulas will rue the day.  Anyone up for the task?

UPDATE: Changed the title to better reflect the post.

William and Mary Student Elected to Williamsburg City Council

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You’ve read about this movement before here.

And now, it’s taken another step forward.

After a failed student campaign a year ago, William and Mary students put together an organization called Students for a Better Williamsburg (SBW), an organization engaging local government in order to provide the best outcomes for students. This effort led to the amendment of a housing ordinance, making it more student friendly and eliminating an issue that divided the town and gown factions in the community for years.

This past spring, a student ran for a Williamsburg city council seat once more. Last Tuesday night, Scott Foster, a graduating senior, dominated the contest.

Foster was elected to the Williamsburg City Council on Tuesday night, becoming the first William & Mary student ever to do so. The 22-year-old said his win was a victory for town and gown relationships.

“Today, the people of Williamsburg demonstrated that our city is truly unified,” Foster said Tuesday night. “When I decided to run for City Council, I hoped to receive the student vote. Now, I have been additionally honored and humbled to have received such strong support from across our City.”

Foster received 1559 votes in the election, 741 more votes than the next finisher, Planning Commission Chairman Doug Pons, who also earned a seat on the council Tuesday night. Five candidates, including one incumbent, ran for the two open positions. According to Foster’s campaign, approximately 67 percent of his votes came from students and the remaining votes came from residents.

Over 1000 William and Mary students voted for their fellow student in the election, ensuring that college students will have a strong voice in the city’s government. Between this victory and the aforementioned organization of Students for a Better Williamsburg, William and Mary students have provided students across the country with a model for organizing within the system to produce positive outcomes.

How did Foster do it? Well, in textbook Millennial fashion. Foster used online social networking to spread the news, and then benefited from a student-coordinated voter registration and GOTV effort on William and Mary’s campus.

Foster benefited from a coordinated get-out-the-vote campaign by William & Mary students. Earlier this year, student organizations, including the Student Assembly, worked to encourage students to vote in the election through a series of registration efforts. Approximately 300 students registered this year as a result of the drive. More than 2,100 students are registered to vote in the City of Williamsburg and early estimates indicate that roughly 50 percent of registered students voted in Tuesday’s election.

On election day, the Student Assembly provided transportation for students between the Sadler Center and the Stryker Building voting location. Sarah Rojas ‘10, outgoing president of the assembly, also sent an e-mail to the College’s students, encouraging them to vote in the election.


Much of Foster’s campaign was run by students who utilized a website and social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. Foster also spent a good deal of time meeting city residents.

After his upcoming graduation, Foster plans to continue his studies at William and Mary in 2011, attending the William and Mary Law School.

NAFSA Names Winner in Student Diplomat Video Contest

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NAFSA announced this week that it has named a winner in its Student Diplomat Video Contest. Here’s the release:

Winner Named in Student Diplomat Video Contest

Study Abroad Experience Inspires a Recent Graduate to Help Local Youth Think Globally

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2010 – NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Abroad View Foundation are pleased to announce Nicole Barrasse, a recent graduate of Keystone College in Pennsylvania, as the winner of the 2009 Student Diplomat Video Contest. During the fall semester, NAFSA and Abroad View watched as students from across the country showed us how their educational experiences abroad shaped them as global citizens, served as bridges to cross-cultural understanding, promoted peace, or positively impacted the local communities in which they studied. After reviewing dozens of entries and narrowing those down to five finalists, we asked the public to vote. More than 1,300 votes were cast and combined with the votes from an expert panel of judges to select the 2009 Student Diplomat.

Nicole’s video tells an inspiring story of cultural understanding and global connections as she gives us a glimpse into her study abroad experience in the small agricultural village of Ladakh, India. Nicole stayed with a host family in the village and spent her days farming and learning the local language and culture. The cultural understanding that Nicole developed through this experience not only allowed her to learn about the Ladakhi people, but also to communicate to them how much she appreciated their culture and way of life.

Nicole came away from this experience not only knowing much more about sustainable farming and the Ladakhi culture, but also understanding what it means to be a citizen of the world. “Ladakh has not only taught me life lessons, but also what it truly means to be connected to the world around you,” she says in her video.

Nicole is now home in Pennsylvania and plans to start a local effort to inspire youth in her community to think more globally.

The Student Diplomat Video Contest was open to undergraduate students who studied abroad during the fall semester or had recently returned from a study abroad experience. Entrants were asked to focus their short videos on how their study abroad experience helped to advance global understanding. In addition to being named the 2009 Student Diplomat, Nicole will be awarded a cash prize of $300.

To read more about the 2009 Student Diplomat, or to watch her video, visit

Here is Nicole’s video:

Liberal Arts Institutions

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While societal observers, particularly those involved with higher education, castigate liberal arts education as being passe, Inside Higher Ed published a piece today by Mary Marcy, provost and vice president of Bard College that made the opposite argument.

Marcy’s thesis regarding the gap between conventional wisdom and actual student attitudes rests on two legs: 1.) Liberal arts education IS conducive to a job search, and 2.) Liberal arts education matches students’ desire for a well-rounded college experience.

There are likely two reasons for this gap between conventional wisdom and student decision making. The first is that the separation of liberal arts education from employment is simply unfounded. Employers consistently say that they want to hire graduates who can write and speak clearly, who are innovative and critical thinkers, and who are sophisticated and comfortable with diversity. While not exclusively the domain of liberal education, these traits are certainly cultivated in a liberal arts environment.

The second probable reason for the persistence of the liberal arts is the focus of students themselves. Today’s traditional college age population is more globally-minded, less interested in work as a means only to material success, more willing to find middle ground on issues that typically lead to bi-modal responses (such as abortion), and entirely comfortable with differences in race, gender, and sexual orientation.

In short, today’s young people are balm to the liberal educator’s soul. Ideally, liberal education should literally do just that – it should be education that liberates, that frees the mind from the vagaries and prejudices of received opinion and limited life experiences.

This generation gets a bad wrap of being too materialistic mainly due to technology’s hold on Millennials. But as Marcy goes on to point out, technology can go with an engaging education targeting the whole person; the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I find it very interesting that “for the first time since 1982, more than 50 percent of first year students identified ‘developing a meaningful philosophy of life’ as an important or very important goal of their college experience.” This is a statistic I’ve looked at for a few years now with fascination and pessimism. But with this turning around, perhaps liberal arts is actually due for a comeback much more quickly than we realize.

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