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Archive for the ‘Students & Educational Issues’ Category

AAUW's Nzinga Shury with Delta Sigma Theta sisters“Oh, what a wonderful time to be a Delta!” will likely be chanted across the globe in the next week as the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta celebrate 100 years of sisterhood, scholarship, and service. Founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 Howard University women students, Delta Sigma Theta has grown to become the largest predominately African American sorority in the world, with more than 900 chapters in the United States, Germany, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Japan, South Korea, England, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

During the centennial celebration, I and other Deltas from all over will gather where it all began — Washington, D.C. — to celebrate the sorority’s accomplishments and achievements. Looking back on Delta’s history, I am most proud of its start. In 1913, our founders courageously participated in the Woman Suffrage Parade, which marked the sorority’s first national public act as well as its devotion to women’s rights at a time when women’s voices were routinely silenced.

“We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. And the right to vote would give them that privilege,” founder Florence Letcher Toms later commented.

In a similar push for women’s education, AAUW took quick action after our founding to commission research proving that, contrary to popular thought, higher education does not negatively impact a woman’s health. The connections don’t end there. In 2010, AAUW posthumously honored Dorothy Height, former national president of Delta Sigma Theta and founder of the National Council of Negro Women, as a Woman of Distinction at our annual National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.

Both organizations have strived for years to level the playing field for women. During this time of celebration, it gives me great pleasure to be a member of both Delta Sigma Theta and the AAUW community. Both parties’ accomplishments have inspired and motivated me to know that I too can one day help in breaking through barriers for women everywhere.

The sorority’s 100th anniversary will be celebrated with events throughout the D.C. area. Deltas will continue the celebration by re-enacting the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade in March and holding the official centennial celebration in July. As Delta celebrates a century of service, we encourage our local communities to help us paint D.C. in crimson and cream — the official Delta colors — this coming week and to remember that, even 100 years later, the drive toward women’s rights continues.

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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For-profit colleges get a bad rap, sometimes for good reason:

According to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the [July 2012] Senate report found “overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation. And these practices are not the exception. They are norm. … ”

A former University of Phoenix counselor echoes the Senate report’s findings. She said that while her goal was to help students graduate, she was encouraged to get to know them and then use their personal information to convince them to stay enrolled longer, even if it wasn’t in their best interest. “It reminded me of an abusive

boyfriend,” said the counselor, who asked that her name not be used in this article.

Winter Outlook 2013.inddThey’re not all “bad actors,” as AAUW Government Relations Manager Anne Hedgepeth says. But since for-profit schools rake in $30 billion a year in taxpayer money, there needs to be a way to stop predatory practices. Read the whole story in the Winter 2013 issue of Outlook magazine.

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Warning: The content of this post might trigger unpleasant memories for anyone who has experienced sexual assault.

Last summer in Steubenville, Ohio, two 16-year-old high school football players allegedly raped a teenage girl at a party. The two young men have been charged, and the case made national headlines after the New York Times published a detailed article in December about what happened and after the activist hacker group Anonymous posted a video of teenagers making jokes about the alleged rape.

There have been many passionate, important articles and opinion pieces written in response to this horrific incident. Over the weekend, more than 800 people held a peaceful protest calling for justice for the survivor.

What I want to add — since the alleged assailants, the bystanders, the survivor, and the young men cracking jokes about rape were all high school students — is that this should be a wake-up call to school officials and communities to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in their schools!

Crossing the Line coverIn 2011, I co-authored Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, AAUW’s national study of students in grades 7–12 that showed that sexual harassment is still a widespread problem. Nearly 60 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys said they had experienced sexual harassment during the previous year. One-third of girls and one-fourth of boys said they had witnessed sexual harassment.

Physical harassment was not uncommon either. During the school year studied, 4 percent of girls and 0.2 percent of boys reported having been forced to do something sexual, and 13 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys had been touched in an unwelcome sexual way.

Many students saw these experiences as “no big deal,” and sexual harassment was understood as “part of school life.” Only 9 percent of the harassed students felt comfortable reporting their experiences to anyone at school.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that many of the students who harass and assault at school also do so outside of school, including at parties like the one the alleged Steubenville rapists attended, because sexual abuse is normalized in our society and perpetrators rarely see anyone punished for their actions.

It’s also not a stretch to say that schools should do more to address sexual harassment.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools must inform students that sex discrimination — including sexual harassment — is prohibited, publicize a grievance policy, and have a trained Title IX coordinator available so students can easily report incidents.

After AAUW’s 2011 report was released, I gave numerous talks across the country. Many AAUW branches that invited me to speak tried to set up meetings with Title IX coordinators. But in location after location, they could not find a single Title IX coordinator, even in large cities with many school districts. In speaking with people who regularly work on Title IX issues, I learned that this scarcity is pretty common.

I spoke at several bullying conferences and events. I received mostly blank stares when I asked people — including teachers and school administrators — if they knew what Title IX was or if they knew the names of their Title IX coordinators. At each of these conferences, I was the only person who talked about sexual harassment.

It was worse when I worked with AAUW’s Campus Action Project (CAP) teams. Each year, AAUW grants up to $5,000 to fund grassroots projects that use the recommendations from AAUW’s latest research report. In 2011–12, seven CAP teams focused on the Crossing the Line recommendations. I was appalled when most of the teams faced roadblocks as they tried to carry out their very noncontroversial projects. The following is just one example.

When one team asked to have access to a few high school students to conduct a focus group and then work with them to create an informational poster campaign, the school at first agreed. Then, when it came time to set up the focus groups, the school cancelled, saying in an e-mail that the focus group was too “controversial in nature” and that the discussion of the students’ experiences might obligate the school to report or investigate the incident “as required by law.”

When school administrators have this kind of attitude and it is combined with a culture that trivializes sexual harassment and assault, is it any wonder that sexual harassment and assault are rampant in most schools? Is it any surprise that perpetrators at school may very well become perpetrators outside of school?

It is time for school administrators, teachers, parents, and community members to finally acknowledge that sexual harassment and sexual assault happen in our schools. It’s time to talk to students about it, follow Title IX guidance, and make preventing harassment and assault a priority!

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capitol dome

The 112th Congress officially adjourned Wednesday, ending what’s been described as the least productive Congress ever. For some context, just 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress have been signed into law. The Congress before that passed 383 bills, and the one before that saw 460 bills signed into law. Clearly, a lot of important work was left unfinished and will have to be taken up by the 113th.

For one thing, the 112th didn’t pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), a much-needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. AAUW is a strong supporter of this legislation and led efforts to bring it before both chambers for a vote. Unfortunately, the PFA didn’t get the required procedural votes, so it will have to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Another item still on Congress’ to-do list is the passage of an inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. The Senate passed an AAUW-supported, bipartisan, comprehensive VAWA in April 2012, while the House of Representatives passed a different, damaging bill the following month. Due to resistance in the House, the two bills were not reconciled, and the reauthorization was not passed.

In addition to PFA and VAWA, the 113th Congress will face many other items on its agenda:

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sets parameters for K–12 education and funding, is due for reauthorization. AAUW will be paying attention to many issues during this process, including
    • upholding Title IX protections,
    • opposing private school vouchers,
    • ensuring that charter schools are held to the same standards as other schools,
    • requiring that schools be held accountable for demonstrating that they are meeting educational goals for all students,
    • opposing single-sex education programs that don’t pay proper attention to civil rights protections, and
    • supporting requirements that schools collect comprehensive data on student achievement and graduation.
  • The Higher Education Act, which is the most significant federal law for American colleges and universities, is up for reauthorization. AAUW supports increasing access to higher education for traditional and nontraditional students.

We’re also keeping pressure on the Obama administration. AAUW believes President Obama should pay attention to women’s priorities, especially since women’s votes decided the 2012 election. See AAUW’s list of what Obama should do on day one of his new term.

These are some of our top priorities for the 113th Congress. What are yours?

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Piggy Bank with back to school messageIn this installment of our ongoing Budget 101 blog series, we’re exploring what was in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress over the New Year’s holiday. Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate bill to pull us back from the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax and spending changes that were set to go into effect today and could have sent the U.S. economy back into a recession. But the deal, which President Obama is expected to sign, dealt only with the tax changes and merely delayed the spending cuts known as sequestration.

AAUW commends lawmakers from both parties for coming together to reach a true compromise (look up how your senators and representative voted). Like any compromise, the deal is far from perfect, but it includes several AAUW-supported provisions that will help women and their families, such as

  • Returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for high-income earners while continuing the current rates for individuals earning less than $400,000 and families earning less than $450,000
  • Extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an AAUW-supported $2,500 tax credit to help college students and their families pay for tuition and related expenses
  • Ending the payroll tax holiday and returning to the previous rate of withholding, therefore protecting Social Security’s long-term solvency
  • Extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks
  • Delaying the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for two months, giving Congress more time to find a way to protect key programs like K–12 funding, Pell Grants, and family planning from sequestration

Although the automatic spending cuts have been delayed, they are still dangerous. In the next two months, Congress will need to find a solution to avoid deep cuts to important investments such as education, funding for civil rights enforcement, women’s health programs, and workforce training programs.

obama fiscal cliffThe 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, is in for a bumpy next few months. The sequestration delay is projected to end at roughly the same time the United States hits its newly set debt limit (early March), setting the scene for a pitched political fight. This will likely be followed by another battle when the current appropriations bill that is funding the government expires in late March.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. AAUW members will continue to press Congress to support budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.

Make your voice heard! Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network and speak up for women and families.

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From the time I was a little girl, my parents instilled in me the value and importance of an education. I always knew that I was meant to go to high school and college. Now that I am in college, I have noticed that many of the younger girls I know are not motivated to do the same. And I asked myself, Why, and what can we do?

Part of my question was answered in November, when I had the privilege of volunteering at the Adelante/Moving Forward with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) conference, which was co-hosted by the AAUW Elgin Area (IL) Branch, League of United Latin American Citizens, Elgin Community College, and Judson University. The conference was intended to support Latina girls in middle and high school while encouraging them to pursue STEM fields as possible future career choices. Many of the activities emphasized STEM and the bond in Latino families. The girls attended with their moms, many of whom did not go to college themselves, and the conference also emphasized helping the mothers understand the importance of the college experience and the impact it can have on their daughters.

Volunteers from Elgin Community CollegeOne of the most touching moments of the conference was the book discussion about The House on Mango Street. Lizette Beltran, a Bartlett High School alumna, talked about the importance of having her mom’s support in school and in overcoming obstacles. This prompted many of the moms to ask how they can help their own daughters and what the volunteers’ own moms have done to help us succeed. To me, this was the most fascinating aspect of the conference!

I have a strong bond with my mom, and her support of my education has been very important. From my own experience, I think that encouraging girls at a younger age, especially ethnic minority students, to go to college is crucial to establishing their motivation to continue their education. Minority college students are more at-risk for obstacles in their educational pursuits and often lack knowledge of college options. But having another woman give you her undivided support can go a long way, especially if that woman is your mom.

By encouraging mothers to learn about their daughters’ educational interests, conferences like these offer mothers a better understanding of what college will entail. This is a win-win situation because girls’ enrollment will likely increase and the mother-daughter bond will be strengthened — just like mine was with my mom.

Although this conference was geared toward STEM pursuits, its format could be used in any field of study by including moms and changing the activities to fit the desired specialty. Not only will the conference expose girls to a field of study that interests them, but it will also drive students to work hard in high school and earn better grades, allowing them to enroll at a higher education institution. Similarly, if a girl feels like she is making the wrong choices, an opportunity like this could still come early enough for her to change her habits and do better in school. Although this was the first time that I encountered this type of conference, I have no doubt that it can make a great impact on young girls. From what I have seen, a little support and the proper guidance can truly impact girls’ lives.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Nanci Alanis.

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The end of a year is always a good time to reflect on the accomplishments and joys of the last 12 months and to look ahead to the new year. I spoke recently with members of the newly installed executive board of the AAUW student organization at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, about their highlights from 2012 and their goals for the new term. The UM-Dearborn organization got its legs in early 2012 after four students attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) in May 2011. I was lucky enough to hear from Tina Nelson, president of AAUW UM-Dearborn, and Benita Robinson, membership coordinator of AAUW UM-Dearborn and 2012–13 National Student Advisory Council member, about their 2012 reflections and 2013 goals.

UM-Dearborn students at NCCWSL

Highlights from 2012

  • Starting the AAUW student organization at UM-Dearborn — an idea sparked by NCCWSL 2011
  • Attending NCCWSL 2012 with 34 UM-Dearborn students and 27 students from 13 other Michigan colleges and universities
  • Presenting the Five Easy Steps to Starting an Organization on Campus workshop at NCCWSL 2012
  • Teaching members of the college community about issues of inequality and ways we can work to combat inequality and discrimination
  • Networking with other women and hearing stories of their successes and obstaclesAAUW UM-Dearborn members painted the University rock with AAUW’s logo
  • Painting the university rock during election week with AAUW’s logo and a reminder to vote — a night that made us feel radical and bold

Goals for 2013

  • Engage and excite our members about our organization
  • Return to NCCWSL in May with other members
  • Sustain and further develop the relationships that we have with the AAUW Dearborn (MI) Branch and AAUW of Michigan

I can tell that the AAUW student organization at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, is going to do great things in 2013.

If you are inspired to start an AAUW student organization on your college or university campus, send us an e-mail at coll-univ@aauw.org with “student organization” in the subject line. You can also check out our Program in a Box for more information on forming an AAUW student org.

This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Intern Courtney Douglas.

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