TIME LGBT

Colleges See Gay Students as Growth Market

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With enrollment flat, schools are courting LGBT students

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian in Austin, Texas, Josh Bergeleen says he “didn’t know that gay was a thing.”

That changed when he went off to college at Emory University in Atlanta, and he came out at 18, shortly after beginning his freshman year. Four years later, Bergeleen credits Emory’s welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students as a key factor not only in his discovering his own identity, but in helping him stay on track to graduate from the business school this year.

“I wouldn’t have been able to continue if not for their support,” Bergeleen says. At one particularly rough point after coming out, Bergeleen stopped talking to his own family and says Emory’s LGBT student support office “made me feel comfortable with myself.”

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Student Josh Bergeleen

Experiences like that are important advertisements for schools that are increasingly competing to attract LGBT students. Their efforts are more than a response to the legal and cultural sea change in favor of LGBT rights. They’re good business. Nationally, total college enrollment is stagnant and has been declining at some institutions.Meanwhile, the median age that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults say they came out is 20, exactly when they’re college age, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center. And with 92 percent of those polled saying that society has gotten more accepting of them in the last decade, LGBT students are becoming more visible at the same time overall enrollment is flattening out.

“It’s a competitive advantage,” says Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, one of the nation’s first on-campus support centers for LGBT students. “If you want to attract the best and brightest students, you don’t want competitors to get a leg up.”

A growing number of campuses are launching programs to attract and hold onto LGBT students, including college fairs aimed at LGBT applicants, LGBT student-support offices, special graduation ceremonies, and housing and healthcare for transgender students. Colleges and universities are also putting more resources into LGBT student centers, including by hiring full-time employees to direct them.

At Kennesaw State University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning Student Retention Services Office and Resource Center, director Jessica Duvall says she has seen the annual number of visits rise from 158 in 2012, when she was hired, to 494 last year. She has launched programs such as an annual gay history exhibit and a “rainbow graduation ceremony.”

“What is happening now [with LGBT students] is what happened with minorities,” says Jerome Ratchford, vice president for student success at Kennesaw, who was hired 26 years ago to help recruit black students.

Ratchford says a “critical mass of gay students came on campus and organized” in recent years. Administrators determined that, “if they met the needs of these students, the students [would] have a higher probability of being successful.” That would “change the culture” of the school, and lead to more LGBT students choosing it, he says.

During his time at Emory, Bergeleen led gay student groups on campus and worked in the admissions office. Both activities led him to discover “a great demand” among LGBT students for assurances that the colleges and universities they are considering attending will support their identities, he said.

There are about 200 LGBT student centers nationwide, according to Ronni Sanlo, a founding chair of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. While there’s no data on the year-over-year increase, Sanlo says that they have even started popping up in the 29 states whose discrimination laws don’t mention sexual orientation and gender identity. Sanlo spoke in Kentucky in the spring, for example, and discovered three new centers on campuses there.

One tool that has helped LGBT students find supportive schools is the Campus Pride Index. The index rates campuses on a scale of one to five stars based on a voluntary survey of more than 50 questions ranging from, “Does your campus offer health insurance coverage to employees’ same-sex partners?” to “Does your campus have a LGBT alumni group?”

More than 400 campuses have now taken the survey, an uptick of 35 percent in the last two years, says Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, the organization that oversees the index.

“Campuses today want to be called gay friendly,” Windmeyer says. “They see they’re going to lose students if they’re not, [and] realize the pool of non-LGBT students is dwindling.”

At the same time, Windmeyer says one of the obstacles in continuing to attract and, especially, retain LGBT students is the delicate issue of knowing who they are. It was only three years ago that Elmhurst College in Illinois became the first American college or university to ask students about their sexual orientation on its admissions application. Since then, only a handful of other schools have followed suit.

“Recruitment starts by learning about a population and what their interests are,” says Gary Rold, dean of admissions at Elmhurst. Until asking prospective students, Rold says, “We didn’t know much about this population.”

Among the things Elmhurst has learned about its LGBT population is that they are more likely than the rest of the student body to be nonwhite and the first in their families to go to college. About half of the college’s incoming students who identify as LGBT are also black or Hispanic, compared with about a third of the general student population. Elmhurst has acted on this knowledge by providing additional resources to aid these new students in their transition to college and highlighting clubs, financial aid and other services aimed at LGBT students on its website.

Experiences like Rold’s at Elmhurst are why Windmeyer says that campuses will best serve LGBT students when they understand where they’re coming from and what they need to flourish on campus. A first step in this direction would be to ask in applications about students’ sexual and gender orientations, he says. But there is resistance to that idea, for reasons ranging from religious believes to concerns about privacy.

“You can’t do it in a bubble without having a way to track who they are,” Windmeyer says.

Bergeleen, for one, is confident that experiences like his will become more common.

“As there is more awareness of LGBT [people] in the larger community,” he says, “more and more kids are going to want to know what resources and information are available. Schools will catch up.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

TIME Education

Don’t Segregate My Special Needs Child

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But by not integrating children with mental illness into the general school population, we contribute to the ongoing stigma

This week, all my friends are posting Facebook and Instagram pictures of their adorable children, whose forced grins and too-neat clothes suggest that the kids aren’t quite as thrilled as their mothers about the inevitable return to school. But for parents of children who have a mental illness or a developmental disability like autism, back-to-school preparation feels more like manning a war room, complete with strategies, maps and complex diagrams. The enemy? Unfortunately, it’s likely to be the very people tasked with helping your child to succeed: his teachers and administrators.

If your child has behavioral symptoms associated with his or her diagnosis, it’s likely that you’ve experienced that painful phone call—probably right in the middle of an important work presentation–unleashing an arsenal of assessments and tests and meetings with teachers, counselors and administrators. The end product is likely either a Section 504 plan, named for that section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or the dreaded Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is essentially a contract with your child’s school to ensure that he or she receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Have I lost you with the acronyms yet? Even if you earned your Ph.D. in astrophysics, you may soon discover that getting an appropriate education for your special needs child is harder than rocket science. Parents are forced to become instant experts, not only in the complexities of their child’s condition, but also in disability rights. I hate to break this to you, but the school district is not your ally in this fight for your child’s education. Neither are the parents of so-called neurotypical children, who don’t understand why their children’s learning environment should be disrupted by your “weird kid” (yes, I have heard that phrase more than once about my bright, funny, sensitive boy).

Combine that already adversarial relationship between parents and schools with well-intentioned but misguided zero-tolerance policies, and you find school districts creating IEP solutions like the one they used for my child: pull-out programs for all children on behavioral IEPs, complete with padded isolation rooms. At first glance, this might seem like an ideal solution: the neurotypical kids get to learn without disruptions, and the students with mental illness and/or developmental disabilities have a safe environment with additional dedicated support from teaching assistants. And since it’s a contained program, it saves the district money in the short term—and we all know how thin most school districts are stretched.

But I would suggest there is an uglier word for this approach to education: segregation.

What is the logical consequence of taking 100 students with behavioral and emotional symptoms between the ages of 12 to 21, 95% of whom are male, and putting them together in a program that will not allow them to earn a high school diploma or to learn to interact with neurotypical peers?

In our society, too often the consequence is prison.

Zero-tolerance policies were developed in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings as a way to reassure parents that their children were safe in public school. Statistically speaking, they are safe, and they were safe before zero-tolerance policies too. Just like your chances of dying in an airplane crash are far less than the chances of dying in a car accident, we ascribe far more risk to the school environment than actually exists because of the media ever-presence of statistically rare mass shootings like Columbine or Newtown.

But by not integrating children with mental illness, which admittedly sometimes manifests through challenging behavioral symptoms like unpredictable rage, into the general school population, we are contributing to the ongoing stigma of mental illness. Worse, more often than not, we are condemning these children to prison.

Children like my son are not “bad” kids; in fact, with the right support and treatment plan, they can survive and thrive in public school, and beyond. As a society, we should be investing our resources in educating all of our kids. Early prevention and treatment can change the entire course of a child’s life. Instead of a life on the streets or in jail, a child with mental illness can graduate from college and have a successful career. This school year, I hope that parents, teachers, administrators and legislators will do the math. By complying with IDEA and providing appropriate education to all children, we can save money—and lives—down the road.

Liza Long is a mother, educator and author of The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness, from Hudson Street Press.

TIME College

An Ode to the Random College Roommate

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A host of new apps are making roommate selection less random than ever. Here's what too much control means you might just miss out on

I met my best friends in the world on Craigslist. I also lived with a bulimic, a woman who taped “Bush/Cheney 2000″ posters all over our dorm room, and one who communicated only through passive aggressive Post-It notes on the house refrigerator.

There was the roommate whose bedroom didn’t have a door — only a curtain — and whose boyfriend I saw naked more times than my own. Then there were the two best friends who happily welcomed me in, sweet as pie, only for me to discover I’d signed a yearlong lease to become the buffer in their roommate feud. Roommate A had taken all of the kitchen supplies — pots, pans, silverware, dishes — and locked them, with a padlock, inside her bedroom. (Maybe that’s why I still don’t cook.)

For decades, the random college roommate has been a right of passage. Every year around this time, hoards of students show up to dorm rooms across the country, racing — with parents in tow — to claim the side of the room with the window. But in the age of social media, the randomness of that experience has been all but erased. As Rolling Stone reported last month, today’s college students are using apps to find harmonious bunk matches. RoomSync, a Facebook app reportedly used at more than 60 campuses, crunches data based on questionnaire responses to suggest a roster of choices. The unthinkable has finally happened: college students are suddenly able to avoid the awkwardness of getting thrown together with the last person they’d ever choose as a companion.

And yet, as Stephanie Wu, the author of a new collection of essays called The Roommates puts it, “There’s something to be said about being squeezed into very small quarters for a long period of time.” There are lessons learned — about love, rivalry and friendship. You learn to negotiate. You learn to move your own boundaries. And for every horror story, there is a tale of best friends and overcoming odds.

I asked my senior year college roommates — still some of my best friends — to help me come up with a list of things we all learned from the old way of doing things. Here are our top 10:

1. How to Stage An Intervention

Going through a bottle of mustard in a single day just isn’t OK, OK? Even if you really love the taste.

2. Clothes Exist for a Reason

No, really. Can you tell your boyfriend to put some on?

3. Sharing Closets Only Works When Both of You Have Equally Great Wardrobes

Borrowing each other’s clothes is best left to Sweet Valley High.

4. Teamwork Is Necessary

Specifically, when you must remove a screaming mouse trapped inside the coils of your oven with your bare hands.

5. The Bathroom and Its Mysteries

There will always be hair in the tub and yet it will belong to no one. The layers of soap scum will eventually come to resemble the faces of roommates past. Your most important heart-to-hearts will end up taking place across the six inches between the toilet and the shower.

6. Patience Is a Virtue

You know the roommate who always swears she’ll be ready in “just 15 minutes”? Get ready to uncork some Yellow Tail and wait.

7. Binge-Watching Should be Offered for Credit

There’s nothing like a pleather a pleather couch, a box of Wheat Thins and animated feminist discourse over Carrie’s relationship with Mr. Big.

8. It’s Possible to Know More About Your Roommates’ Intimate Parts Than What’s Going on in the World

Periods, sex partners, STD results: the dorm room as OB-GYN office.

9. Your Friends Will Always Be There to Listen (Because they Have to Be)

An unwritten rule of room-sharing is that I get to crawl into your bed after an epically disastrous night and have you help me relive the gory details.

10. It Can Always Be Worse

Even when your patience is strained beyond what you thought possible, just be thankful you’re not living with that roommate down the hall. Need a reminder? Just take a flip through Wu’s “The Roommates.” From mental disorders to harassment to cleaning up sewage, there’s always a roommate story worse than your own.

Bennett is a contributing columnist at TIME.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. A formerNewsweek senior writer and executive editor of Tumblr, she is a contributing editor for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s foundation, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Big Picture

San Francisco 49ers Go Long on STEM Education at Levi’s Stadium

In 2010, when the San Francisco 49ers’ brain trust was drawing up the plans for what is now Levi’s Stadium, they went to one of the tallest buildings in the area and looked out over Silicon Valley.

According to Joanne Pasternack, director of community relations and the 49ers Foundation, these executives could see Google, Intel, Apple, HP, Facebook and many of the leading tech companies in the world laid out right in front of them.

It was at that point that they made the commitment to somehow use the new stadium to help create tech leaders of tomorrow. As one of the 49ers execs told me recently, they wanted to “help develop the people who will someday engineer and create greater features for Levi’s Stadium and develop innovative technologies that can impact the planet in the future.”

Educational Roots

The 49ers have had a long history of supporting education. “Our family has always been interested in education,” said Dr. John York, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers. “My father-in-law, Ed DeBartolo, Sr., always felt that if you could give people an education, they can make a way for themselves and their lives. And the 49ers Foundation’s mission has been to keep kids safe, on track and in school.”

“My mother was a school teacher, my father was the son of Italian immigrants,” said Denise DeBartolo York, co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers. “They always thought that education could level the playing field with at-risk students that were disadvantaged. Once you enable them to get an education, it’s an even playing field.” Mrs. York also told me that she and her husband, Dr. York, have contributed significantly to various underprivileged children’s causes and Title I school initiatives, as well as programs for at-risk kids.

The 49ers organization’s philanthropic contributions — much of which is focused on education — are at least $3.3 million per year. For years, the organization has supported what is called the 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto, CA. According to the academy’s website:

The San Francisco 49ers Academy was established through a partnership with Communities in Schools (CIS) in 1996. CIS started as a small grassroots movement led by Bill Milliken, one of the nation’s foremost pioneers in the movement to help young people graduate from high school and go onto rewarding careers. The 49ers Academy is a unique partnership – a public school, supported by a private non-profit agency. The 49ers are the major underwriter of this program.

Cultivating STEM

However, what they are doing in STEM education at Levi’s Stadium itself is amazing. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is a dedicated educational program to get kids interested in these disciplines, eventually guiding them into related career endeavors.

“On and off the field, talent alone will not lead to success,” said Dr. York. “The game changer for promising future leaders is to provide a stimulating environment where their natural talent and drive will be fed by motivating mentors, meaningful activities and academic enrichment. The 49ers STEM Leadership Institute’s vision is to be a leader in STEM education, preparing and inspiring talented learners to meet the challenges of the global society through innovation, collaboration and creative problem solving.”

Budding Brains

The 49ers STEM Leadership Institute program will bring 20,000 students to Levi’s Stadium for daylong programs that tie sports and education around the STEM focus. Each day during the school year, 60 kids from one of the various schools in the Bay Area are brought to Levi’s Stadium in one of the 49ers’ official team buses. They are then broken up into three different groups of 20 each to rotate through three distinct activities.

The first activity features a full tour of the stadium, focusing on the engineering involved with creating a stadium. It shows off the green aspects of the stadium, including a visit to the garden on the roof as well as a look at the solar panels and how they’re used to create energy. The tour also demonstrates how clean technology is used to irrigate the field in order to care for the grass and turf. The kids also get to see the visiting team’s locker room, the field and many of the public areas of the stadium.

The second activity takes place in the new 49ers Museum and includes lessons using various games and interactive screens. Students learn how engineering and math are used to create 49ers football equipment, and how physics is applied to things like passing, kicking and running. The day I was there, they also included a section on careers in math and science. By the way, a trip to the 49ers Museum is highly recommended. It’s one of the best sports museums in the U.S. They use Sony Xperia tablets and various technologies to really enhance the overall museum experience — and for those of us in the Bay Area, it evokes some great memories of five 49ers Super Bowl wins.

The third activity takes place in an actual high-tech classroom that’s built into the new 49ers Museum. This classroom has multiple screens as well as half a dozen touch-based video worktables created by Cortina Productions. They serve as interactive teaching tools that the students can use to do various projects.

49ers STEM
Students receive instructions from teacher Matt Van Dixon while sitting at interactive video tables made by Cortina Productions at the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute at Levi’s Stadium Terrell Lloyd / San Francisco 49ers

I was privileged to attend the inaugural class where they were studying the engineering principles of making a football. Using all of the materials needed to make a football, each group got to assemble a football from scratch, sew it up, inflate it and then test it in a special kicking area where the students could see how each ball performed based on how well they created it.

49ers STEM
Denise DeBartolo York helps students assemble a football at the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute at Levi’s Stadium Terrell Lloyd / San Francisco 49ers
49ers STEM
Students assemble a football at the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute at Levi’s Stadium Terrell Lloyd / San Francisco 49ers

Many of the 49ers star players become the students’ tutors and team captains via video at each workstation table, giving instructions and encouragement for each project.

The interactive lessons vary: One class might teach how a helmet is engineered. Another might be on the physics of throwing a ball, explaining how a physical object like a football deals with airflow, throwing mechanics and force, and how each impacts the direction and length of a throw. There are even lessons on engineering your plate, including nutrition facts and a fitness class that uses the 49ers’ training camp as an example.

The class on applied mathematics explains angular attack and game geometry as well as teaching about statistics, using the Super Bowl and its various Roman-numeral numbering schemes as part of the lesson plan. All lessons are designed to emphasize how math, science, technology and engineering are used in everything from building a stadium to creating sports equipment to the math and physics that go into playing the game of football.

The teacher of the class is Matt Van Dixon, who is the education program manger for the 49ers Museum. Matt is one of the most dynamic teachers I have ever observed, his teaching style grabbing the kids from the beginning of each class. I was extremely impressed with how he developed the lesson plans to integrate the role of engineering and math into all of the sports examples. He and his team created various simulations to make the class interactive and highly entertaining. I asked a couple of kids who were in this inaugural class what they thought about the program and each gave it a huge thumbs up.

49ers STEM
Matt Van Dixon instructs students at the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute at Levi’s Stadium Terrell Lloyd / San Francisco 49ers

Branching Out

The 49ers STEM Leadership Institute has also been implemented in the Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara, CA, which is just down the street from Levi’s Stadium. With the 49ers’ support and big help from the Chevron Corporation, who created the STEM labs at the school, 60 students from the Santa Clara Unified School District are selected each year to go through a six-year program designed to inspire and prepare students with high academic potential to pursue STEM majors at top-tier universities and become future leaders in their fields. In addition to enriched math and science instruction, students have regular access to the Chevron STEMZone, a tech lab equipped with a laser cutter, 3D printers and other fabrication tools.

Steve Woodhead, Chevron’s global social investment manager, told me that when the 49ers approached them to help with the STEM Institute, they were glad to be involved and worked hard to create the learning labs used in these special education programs.

Another important partner in this program is the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. SVEF’s charter is to be a resource and advocate for students and educators. They provide advocacy, programs and resources to help students reach their full potential in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math. According to Muhammed Chaudhry, president and CEO of SVEF, his non-profit group played an important role in advising the 49ers and Chevron on STEM studies and helped with the development of the curriculum used in the institute’s educational programs.

What the 49ers are doing is using sports — a subject that most kids understand and can relate to — and tying it to math, science, technology and engineering in a way that brings these disciplines to life, making learning these subjects fun and entertaining. Getting to see this program in action was truly enlightening. I saw how the 49ers’ STEM Leadership Institute could help create future tech leaders, the major goal of their vision and program from the start.

I hope that all of the folks in the sports industry school themselves on the 49ers’ pioneering STEM education program and how it takes full advantage of the role sports can play in teaching STEM-related disciplines.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME feminism

Campus Rape: The Problem With ‘Yes Means Yes’

New students at San Diego State University watch a video on sexual consent during an orientation meeting, Aug. 1, 2014, in San Diego.
New students at San Diego State University watch a video on sexual consent during an orientation meeting, Aug. 1, 2014, in San Diego. Gregory Bull—AP

Having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is a terrible idea

The campus crusade against rape has achieved a major victory in California with the passage of a so-called “Yes means yes” law. Unanimously approved by the state Senate yesterday after a 52-16 vote in the assembly on Monday, SB967 requires colleges and universities to evaluate disciplinary charges of sexual assault under an “affirmative consent” standard as a condition of qualifying for state funds. The bill’s supporters praise it as an important step in preventing sexual violence on campus. In fact, it is very unlikely to deter predators or protect victims. Instead, its effect will be to codify vague and capricious rules governing student conduct, to shift the burden of proof to (usually male) students accused of sexual offenses, and to create a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex.

No sane person would quarrel with the principle that sex without consent is rape and should be severely punished. But while sexual consent is widely defined as the absence of a “no” (except in cases of incapacitation), anti-rape activists and many feminists have long argued that this definition needs to shift toward an active “yes.” Or, as the California bill puts it:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. … Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.

The law’s defenders, such as feminist writer Amanda Hess, dismiss as hyperbole claims that it would turn people into unwitting rapists every time they have sex without obtaining an explicit “yes” (or, better yet, a notarized signature) from their partner. Hess points out that consent can include nonverbal cues such as body language. Indeed, the warning that “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding,” included in the initial draft of the bill, was dropped from later versions. Yet even after those revisions, one of the bill’s co-authors, Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the affirmative consent standard means a person “must say ‘yes.’ ”

Nonverbal cues indicating consent are almost certainly present in most consensual sexual encounters. But as a legal standard, nonverbal affirmative consent leaves campus tribunals in the position of trying to answer murky and confusing questions — for instance, whether a passionate response to a kiss was just a kiss, or an expression of “voluntary agreement” to have sexual intercourse. Faced with such ambiguities, administrators are likely to err on the side of caution and treat only explicit verbal agreement as sufficient proof of consent. In fact, many affirmative-consent-based student codes of sexual conduct today either discourage reliance on nonverbal communication as leaving too much room for mistakes (among them California’s Occidental College and North Carolina’s Duke University) or explicitly require asking for and obtaining verbal consent (the University of Houston). At Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, nonverbal communication is allowed but a verbal request for consent absolutely requires a verbal response: If you ask, “Do you want this?”, you may not infer consent from the mere fact that your partner pulls you down on the bed and moves to take off your clothes.

Meanwhile, workshops and other activities promoting the idea that one must “ask first and ask often” and that sex without verbal agreement is rape have proliferated on college campuses.

The consent evangelists often admit that discussing consent is widely seen as awkward and likely to kill the mood — though they seem to assume that the problem can be resolved if you just keep repeating that such verbal exchanges can be “hot,” “cool,” and “creative.” It’s not that talk during a sexual encounter is inherently a turn-off — far from it. But there’s a big difference between sexy banter or endearments, and mandatory checks to confirm you aren’t assaulting your partner (especially when you’re told that such checks must be conducted “in an ongoing manner”). Most people prefer spontaneous give-and-take and even some mystery, however old-fashioned that may sound; sex therapists will also tell you that good sex requires “letting go” of self-consciousness. When ThinkProgress.com columnist Tara Culp-Ressler writes approvingly that under affirmative consent “both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having,” it sounds more like a prescription for overthinking.

Of course anyone who believes that verbal communication about consent is essential to healthy sexual relationships can preach that message to others. The problem is that advocates of affirmative consent don’t rely simply on persuasion but on guilt-tripping (one handout stresses that verbal communication is “worth the risk of embarrassment or awkwardness” since the alternative is the risk of sexual assault) and, more importantly, on the threat of sanctions.

Until now, these sanctions have been voluntarily adopted by colleges; SB-967 gives them the backing of a government mandate. In addition to creating a vaguely and subjectively defined offense of nonconsensual sex, the bill also explicitly places the burden of proof on the accused, who must demonstrate that he (or she) took “reasonable steps … to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.” When the San Gabriel Valley Tribune asked Lowenthal how an innocent person could prove consent under such a standard, her reply was, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Meanwhile, Culp-Ressler reassures her readers that passionate trysts without explicit agreement “aren’t necessarily breaches of an affirmative consent standard,” since, “if both partners were enthusiastic about the sexual encounter, there will be no reason for anyone to report a rape later.” But it’s not always that simple. One of the partners could start feeling ambivalent about an encounter after the fact and reinterpret it as coerced — especially after repeatedly hearing the message that only a clear “yes” constitutes real consent. In essence, advocates of affirmative consent are admitting that they’re not sure what constitutes a violation; they are asking people to trust that the system won’t be abused. This is not how the rule of law works.

This is not a matter of criminal trials, and suspension or even expulsion from college is not the same as going to prison. Nonetheless, having the government codify a standard that may implicitly criminalize most human sexual interaction is a very bad idea.

Such rules are unlikely to protect anyone from sexual assault. The activists often cite a scenario in which a woman submits without saying no because she is paralyzed by fear. Yet the perpetrator in such a case is very likely to be a sexual predator, not a clueless guy making an innocent mistake — and there is nothing to stop him from lying and claiming that he obtained explicit consent. As for sex with an incapacitated victim, it is already not only a violation of college codes of conduct but a felony.

Many feminists say that affirmative consent is not about getting permission but about making sure sexual encounters are based on mutual desire and enthusiasm. No one could oppose such a goal. But having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is hardly the way to go about it.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

TIME Sexual Assault

3 Apps That Will Help Women Stay Safe on Campus

Circle 6

It’s back-to-school time for college students. Yet with all of the stresses of college life piling on — class, extracurricular activities, internships and active social schedules — most students aren’t thinking about how to protect themselves from sexual assault, even though they’re at a greater risk. That’s why the first six weeks of school, when freshmen are getting acclimated with campus life, including partying and being away from home for the first time, is often called the “Red Zone.”

And even as institutions — often with the help of the federal governmentroll out regulations aimed at combatting the issue of sexual assault on campus, a lot of power still rests in the hands of students. But thanks to the following apps, that power can be supported by technology and smartphone applications.

Though they aren’t perfect — because let’s face it, applications alone likely will not prevent terrible things from happening — the following tools were clearly created with modern women in mind.

Circle of 6

Circle of 6 can be a young person’s first line of defense against an assault. The application — one of two winners of 2011 White House challenge — allows users to let a select group of people know they are in trouble so they can get help right away, whether they need advice on health relationships, a ride home or a call to interrupt a risky situation. Through the application, users can even send directions to their exact location to provide for a seamless pick up. The application can also connect users to hotlines and emergency numbers if they’re ever in a bind. This application is likely best used if and when a person feels like he or she is heading into a risky situation— although it’s easy to use, who knows how much time you’ll have to access your phone if and when things go awry. The application is free and available on both iPhone and Android devices.

Bsafe

BSafe isn’t just an application: this all-in-one safety tool essentially creates a community of people working together to keep each other safe. It allows any user to have a group of guardians tagging along with them everywhere they go. It’s all encompassing, too. From the application you can share your location with friends, activate a fake phone call to break up an awkward (or potentially dangerous) moment and send alerts to your safety network if you need immediate assistance. It even has a flashlight. Bsafe is a free application available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Kitestring

Kitestring is probably the most practical tool for young women, though using it will require some advance planning. It’s not an application, but a web-based tool that you set to check-in on you over a certain period of time. Walking home alone from a bar? Meeting a new guy for the first time? Go online, tell Kitestring how long you’re going to be out (or how often you want to be checked up on) and the site will text you to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, an alert is sent to your designated emergency contacts letting them know to reach out. Kitestring is available here; sign up is free, but free users can only designate one emergency contact and are only allowed to activate the service eight times per month. Unlimited usage is $3 per month.

 

 

 

 

TIME Education

Here Are the Crucial Job Skills Employers Are Really Looking For

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Tom Merton—Gety Images

'Soft skills' like professionalism and oral communication rank among the most valued, regardless of education level

Labor Day offers an opportunity for politicians and economists to offer their two cents on the state of labor. It’s a good bet that some of that commentary will focus on the so-called “skills gap” — the notion that millions of jobs in highly technical fields remain unfilled while millions of Americans without those skills remain unemployed.

The solution according to the pundits? Education and training that focus on technical skills like computer engineering, or on crucial but scarce skills like welding. Match these newly trained employees with open jobs that require those skills and, voila, the skills gap is gone — and the labor market is steadied.

If only it were so simple.

Yes, more American workers need to learn skills that are underrepresented in the labor market. And yes, those technology titans who advocate for more challenging school curricula, for greater funding for science and engineering education and for immigration reforms to bring more skilled workers are responding to a real problem. But that’s not all there is to it. The problem with the skills gap argument is that it accounts for only one set of skills that employers consider important.

I work at Books@Work, a non-profit organization that brings university professors to the workplace to lead literature seminars with employees. The employers with whom we work want to provide professional development opportunities for all members of their organizations, and — we like to think — are more creative in their approach to doing so than most. Yet even this group of employers has few ways of helping their employees to develop skills that aren’t about content or subject matter — skills like communication, critical thinking, creativity, empathy and understanding of diversity.

Such skills cut across sector, hierarchy and function – and are, according to employers, crucial to the success of their companies. According to research conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), 93 percent of business and non-profit leaders who were surveyed consider critical thinking and communication skills to be more important than a person’s undergraduate major when it comes to hiring.

That’s bad news because, while many public programs try to bridge gaps in the knowledge of future workers, there are few programs to address the gap in skills that are more difficult to measure, like creativity and critical thinking. My colleagues and I often hear from hiring managers who are hungry for programs that will encourage their employees (at all levels of the organization) to think more creatively, communicate more effectively and become more adept at reacting to changing circumstances.

The gap in these “soft” skills is very real. Professionalism/work ethic, teamwork/collaboration, and oral communication rank among the top five skills valued by employers hiring candidates at any educational level, according to one study. Yet employers rank significant portions of those entering the workforce deficient on all these dimensions. The problem is particularly acute among those without a college degree. Employers rate those entering the workforce with a high school degree deficient on professionalism/work ethic, critical thinking/problem solving, and oral communication. Meanwhile, employers do not regard a majority of college graduates deficient in any of these areas.

The introduction at the K-12 level of the Common Core, which is supposed to emphasize critical thinking and problem solving, may produce changes in these figures in the years to come. But for now, those without access to a university education — and even some workers with college degrees — enter the workforce lacking the interpersonal, reasoning and thinking skills necessary for success. Unlike direct knowledge areas — like computer basics — that can be taught through employer training sessions, there is no set curriculum for critical thinking or applied reasoning.

There is no silver bullet for addressing this gap, though our approach at Books@Work, having employees read literature and reflect on it, is one example of an attempt to disseminate some of the benefits of a liberal arts education beyond the confines of the traditional university setting. We need many more such efforts. In discussing Macbeth or Frankenstein, workers explore complex (and timeless) interpersonal dynamics — an opportunity that a training on the latest operating system or review of safety regulations is unlikely to provide.

We’ve found that reading literature with colleagues can offer a new perspective on the practice of work itself, leading to greater professionalism and new ways of doing things. Themes of empathy in a powerful novella by May Sarton, As We Are Now, which is about a woman in a terrible nursing home, led workers in one hospitality company to reconsider their approach toward customers, resulting in a renewed awareness of customer needs and expectations. A conversation about the racial tension in the post-war Northwest in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars became a platform to discuss personal integration issues in a company growing rapidly through acquisition and organizational acculturation.

Programs like Books@Work are not an adequate substitute for public policy solutions to the gap in thinking and interpersonal skills. We do not address disparities in such skills among job applicants — only among those who are hired. And they place the burden for addressing the problem squarely with employers. But programs that address the significant divide in soft skills are a first step toward realizing that solving the so-called skills gap requires more than teaching kids to code, retraining the unemployed as welders or encouraging college dropouts to complete technical degrees. We all need to continue to improve the most important skill of them all – our thinking.

Rachel Burstein, Ph.D. is Academic Director at Books@Work. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Education

Napping Around: Colleges Provide Campus Snooze Rooms

Getty Images

Michigan put cots in a library and is testing out a high-tech chair designed for napping, while James Madison is adding more bean bags to a nap room in the student center.

In college, the best grades are usually considered to be the product of sleepless nights. Now, universities nationwide are setting up designated rooms for napping or expanding existing spaces to show students that they don’t have to sacrifice sleep to do top work.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is the latest school to make headlines for piloting a napping station through fall 2014. In the walk-up to finals on April 23, 2014, six vinyl cots and disposable pillowcases were placed on the first floor of the University of Michigan’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library, which is open 24/7. First-come, first-serve, with a 30-minute time limit on snoozing, the area was the brainchild of rising senior Adrian Bazbaz, 23, an aerospace engineering major who came up with the idea as a member of U-M Central Student Government after watching countless students fall asleep in front of the library computers. “They’ll just put their backpacks on the table and lie on them,” he says.

An April 29, 2014 photo shows the napping station that was implemented at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Michigan Daily, Allison Farrand – AP

Ryan DeAngelis, 21, a senior majoring in neuroscience and philosophy, used the napping station twice during finals, each time around 12:30 a.m.-1:00 a.m. for about 20 minutes while writing a 12-page paper about metaphysics. Even though he lives on campus, he says the library setup helped him get the job done because he was in a place where the people around him were studying.

“It forces you to stay there,” he adds. “You’re going to wake up in 20 minutes and keep working, but if you go back to the dorm, you’re tempted to fall asleep and then maybe procrastinate ‘til the morning.”

Pod Life

In August, the library started testing out a MetroNaps Energy Pod, a futuristic chair designed for napping, and is thinking about ordering more, according to Stephen Griffes, Operations Supervisor. Popularized by Google, it keeps the sleeper’s legs elevated, and a dome on top ensures privacy. Users can either select the pre-programmed 20-minute nap cycle or customize the duration. And they can listen to soothing music as the machine gently vibrates.

“We are seeing a lot of interest, in particular, from large universities, those with significant commuter student bodies, and graduate medical institutions,” according to an email statement from Christopher Lindholst, who co-founded MetroNaps with Arshad Chowdhury. “Typically the installations go into campus centers and/or the libraries, except in graduate medical institutions where they go directly into the teaching hospitals.”

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has maintained two EnergyPods for commuter students at each of its Savannah and Atlanta campuses since 2006 and is adding four to its Hong Kong campus this fall. At Saint Leo University in Central Florida, the residence hall Apartment 5 maintains four in a “relaxation room” intended for the 30% of students who commute.

Amanda Brown, 21, a senior elementary education major, naps every day around noon in the relaxation room at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida. Benjamin C. Watters, courtesy of Saint Leo University

But the cost of the pods, which ranges between $9,995 and $12,985 (depending on the model features), may be too steep for some schools. In March 2014, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi installed a less expensive $4,000 “sleep pod” made by the U.K. company PodTime in the Island Hall Gym. Students sign up for a 30-minute interval, grab a sheet and then climb into what basically looks like a white tube with a vinyl mattress inside.

A Room of One’s Own

While Google maps of the University of Texas-Austin, University of California-San Diego, UC-Santa-Barbara, UC-Davis, and Macalester College review the best places to snooze on campus based on noise levels and foot traffic, some students appreciate the privacy that nap rooms afford.

“I used to go into the library and find a comfy chair in between classes to close my eyes for a while, but I always felt awkward sleeping in front of people,” says Meredith Pilcher, 22, a senior graphic design major at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Va., who, at least twice a week, would doze off on a giant bean bag while listening to classical music in a place called “The Nap Nook.” The room on the first floor of the school’s Festival Conference and Student Center opened in September 2013 with six black, microsuede bean bags and antimicrobial pillows that students could reserve online in 40-minute intervals.

Since more and more students seem to be using it – 2,500 naps were taken there between September 2013 and May 2014 – two white noise machines are being added, plus two more bean bags and faux leather covers for them so that they’re easier to wipe down.

“Heavy workloads make you choose between an A and sleep, and I wanted to change the perception that napping was a lazy behavior,” says Caroline Cooke, 22, who founded The Nap Nook at JMU when she was a senior psychology major.

Health Benefits of Napping

Sara Mednick, assistant professor at University of California-Riverside and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, says catching some z’s can boost productivity. In fact, she says the most productive kind of nap is a 60-90 minute one taken 8-9 hours after waking up: “Ninety minutes affords you all of the different sleep stages shown to be important for cognition, memorization, creativity, basic motor skills and the ability to make decisions in a clever way.”

Understanding that many students are also sleep-deprived because they stay up too late socializing, Mednick argues, “Napping is a survival mechanism for college. It’s probably how students get a lot of their stamina to deal with this insane, 24/7 lifestyle that they’re suddenly thrust into after being home with their parents.”

And no matter how many sodas from the vending machine and cups of coffee college students chug from the cafeteria, caffeine cannot make them feel as rested as well as a nap. “The boost you get from caffeine is good for 15-20 minutes up to a half hour, but sleep is actually taking the recent information that you’ve learned and filing it away for you so you can more effectively take in new information,” says Robert Stickgold, an associate professor of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

There’s even research that suggests sleep can be the difference between passing and failing out of school. A study published online in the journal Sleep this summer found sleep-deprived undergraduates were more likely to get worse grades and drop a course than their well-rested fellow students. Poor sleep was found to be as powerful as binge drinking, and more powerful than marijuana, in predicting who would have academic problems, according to co-authors Roxanne Prichard and Monica Hartmann, professors at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Colleges provide resources about hand-washing, drugs, alcohol, to help students stay healthy, but they’re not doing as much to address poor sleep,” says Prichard.

The Future of Nap Rooms

As colleges and universities compete for state-of-the-art amenities, encouraging drowsy students to nod off in a separate room arguably keeps campus buildings looking spiffy, and thus more appealing to prospective students. As Glenn Wallace, SCAD’s Senior Vice President for University Resources, put it, “No one wants to walk around and see people laying on the floor with their mouths open.”

Now what do parents, the people who foot most of the ever-rising bills for college, think about paying for napping pods or rooms? Shortly after Cristina Ley, 21, dozed off at Michigan’s napping station during finals, she was woken up by a phone call from her mom, whom she had been venting to earlier in the night about the stress of writing a paper. “She was like, ‘What do you mean you’re napping in the library?’ And I told her about it, and she was like, ‘Oh that’s really cool!'”

 

 

TIME Education

What it Really Takes for Schools to Go Digital

Students work on MacBook Air laptops in science class at East Iredell Middle School in Statesville, N.C. on May 19, 2014. Margaret Ramirez—The Hechinger Report

President Obama hailed Mooresville, N.C., as a model for the future of public education. But a neighboring district offers a more accurate picture of the challenges most schools face in bridging the tech divide

As a hazy morning sun rises over this rural North Carolina farming community, middle school students settle into their seats and lift their MacBooks, each face illuminated by an electronic glow.

A seventh-grade Social Studies class is rapt by videos about the toll of World War II, while nearby, sixth-graders work through online math drills, testing their knowledge of ratios and percents at a rapid clip. Across the hallway, English and Language Arts teacher Lori Meyer marvels at how much her eighth graders enjoyed doing their final project: a research paper and iMovie on the 1960s.

“This is the first time in my 12 years of teaching that students said writing the research paper was their favorite assignment,” Meyer says, “and I know it was due to the laptops.”

North Iredell Middle School, about 60 miles north of Charlotte, leaped into the digital learning age in March when it gave each of its more than 650 students MacBook Air computers. The gear is part of a $20-million federally funded plan by the Iredell-Statesville Schools District to issue MacBooks to some 11,300 students across nine middle schools and seven high schools. The grant, part of the federal Race to the Top program, is intended to convert the district to a hybrid approach fusing traditional teaching with digital instruction, a concept known as blended learning that has captured national attention.

“This is about changing the way we instruct students,” says Patrick Abele, executive director of the federal Race to the Top District grant. “It’s not just about technology…This is about having teachers be highly effective and highly engaged with students to close academic gaps.”

Iredell-Statesville didn’t have to look far to see the potential. The neighboring Mooresville Graded School District has been hailed as a national model for the future of technology-aided public education since it made the digital jump in 2009. Last year, President Obama chose the district as the site of his announcement of a new federal program to connect nearly all American schools to high-speed Internet during which he praised Mooresville’s digital classrooms.

Yet while the district’s academic improvement since the digital switch has been substantial, it is not a particularly representative model for the rest of the nation. Mooresville is a relatively small district of eight schools and 6,000 students. Just next door, Iredell-Statesville – with 36 schools and nearly 21,000 students – offers a more realistic portrait of the potential and challenges for larger school districts attempting to navigate the digital conversion.

Iredell-Statesville pulls students from a bucolic cross-section of NASCAR country, a mix of kids from of suburban enclaves and rural farm communities. It’s predominantly white, though not entirely — nearly 69 percent of students identify as white, 14 percent as black and 11 percent as Latino, according to the district’s most recent enrollment figures. And it is not wealthy. Nearly half of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty.

The achievement gaps among black, Latino and limited-English students are significant, says Melanie Taylor, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In 2012-2013, only 47 percent of black students and 50 percent of Latino students in grades four through eight scored proficient on math and reading end-of-grade tests, compared to 78 percent of white students. In that same year, only 13 percent of black students and 22 percent of Latino students in 11th grade scored above average on the ACT, compared to 53 percent of white students.

Digital resources had been scant. The school lacked the money to truly integrate technology into the classroom and the early efforts were hampered by painfully slow school Internet connections.

But that began to change in December 2012, when the district was awarded the $20 million Race to the Top grant by the Department of Education. By June 2013, the district had hired 15 full-time blended learning coaches to train and support teachers in the transition to digital and personalized instruction. Parents were required to pay a $20 technology usage fee for each student receiving a laptop. In September, the fee will rise to $50, though low-income families can request a hardship fee waiver. District officials called their program IMPACT, short for Innovative Methods for Personalizing Academics, Complemented by Technology.

The first step for teachers was understanding the concept. Last September, before any MacBooks were handed out, the blended learning coaches began training teachers on how to form small groups or “stations” in the classroom, and creating digital lesson plans tailored for each student.

“A lot of it was understanding what blended learning is,” says Erin Walle, a blended learning coach at North Iredell Middle School. “It’s understanding that this is personalized learning. It’s not just putting a student in front of a computer. I think that was the fear.”

Not everyone was on board. In February, about a month before the laptop distribution, East Iredell Middle School Principal Jimmy Elliott held a parent meeting on the laptop plan and was caught off guard when some said they were against it.

“There are games, videos, music and other things on there and I didn’t want him abusing it,” says Sissy Shew, whose grandson attends East Iredell.

Elliott says he was able to allay most concerns by explaining that teachers used filters to block certain sites in class and would instruct parents on how to do the same at home. But he wishes he had made a stronger case at the outset.

“If I could go back, I would do a better job of educating parents as to what benefit or how much benefit these devices can have in the classroom,” Elliott says. “Because we saw immediate change in the way our kids were engaged. I mean, it was immediate.”

Some teachers, especially those with more experience, also struggled with the changes and questioned why technology was being “mandated” by the district, according to school officials.

“The learning curve is significant for some teachers depending on their comfort level with technology,” says Meyer, the English and Language Arts teacher. “But in the end, it makes teaching easier. I enjoy the creativity it brings into my classroom.”

Across the four middle schools where students have been given laptops, blended learning takes on several different forms.

On recent morning at Mt. Mourne International Baccalaureate Middle School, Spanish teacher Victoria Principe divides her class into three groups. One conjugates verbs online, using the site conjuguemos.com; another busily types as they translate a handout on Costa Rica, and Principe sits with a smaller group engaged in Spanish conversation.

At East Iredell Middle School, Michell Fandino, 13, is a digital learning success story. For Michell, whose parents immigrated to North Carolina from Colombia, math was a weakness and she was close to failing in June. But, after about two months with her new laptop, the chatty seventh grader with long dark hair smiles widely and says she is now getting “A’s.”

The secret? Michell said the digital drills on the MobyMax math program allowed her to review problems independently — in class and at home — until she understood them.

“The laptop makes it fun, so it makes you want to work more,” she says. “The teacher can’t just keep going back for you, she has to keep on going with the whole class. So, with the laptop, I keep working until I get it.”

East Iredell seventh grader Andrew Johnson says the ease of emailing assignments has helped boost his average.

“I would always lose my homework,” he says. “With the laptop, there’s no way to lose it…I feel more organized because I know everything is right there.”

Those sorts of responses are why district officials are figuring out ways to keep the program up and running after the federal spigot runs dry. Iredell district leaders estimate the technology expenses will amount to approximately 8% of their $175 million budget, or about $14 million, and Superintendent Brady Johnson says discussions are underway on how to sustain the technology budget after the Race to the Top grant ends in June 2016.

“Everyone in the school district realizes that we are now a technology rich district and to maintain that, sacrifices have to be made,” Johnson says.

It’s still too soon to say if the laptop program will be worth those sacrifices. In Iredell, the real test comes this fall when the remaining 12 schools receive their laptops. Still, many educators are convinced a change has already occurred. For some students, the simple act of having their own laptop has led to a deeper sense of ownership over their assignments and education, says East Iredell science teacher Angela Trusler.

Before East Iredell seventh grader Iyana James received her laptop, she said she never used her home computer for school. Asked how having her own computer has helped her in school, Iyana starts to answer, then has a better idea.

“For science class, I did a PowerPoint on Newton’s Law,” she says. “Can I show you that?”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet at Teachers College, Columbia University. This story is part of a Hechinger series examining the digital divide in American schools. Read more about how technology is changing education.

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