Category Archives: education

AU Says No to Trigger Warnings

The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the decision by American University’s Faculty Senate to pass a resolution against “the use of ‘trigger warnings’ to shield students from instructional materials they might find disturbing.” Here is the text of the Faculty Senate resolution:

For hundreds of years, the pursuit of knowledge has been at the center of university life. Unfettered discourse, no matter how controversial, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, is a condition necessary to that pursuit. American University stands in this tradition, as stated in section 4 of the Faculty Manual. (

Freedom of speech–protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution– undergirds the cherished principle of academic freedom. As limits, either subtle or explicit, are increasingly placed on intellectual freedom in venues of public discourse, the academy is committed to the full expression of ideas.

American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas—without censorship—and to study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings. This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.

As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn, or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that American University will not compromise.

Faculty may advise students before exposing them to controversial readings and other materials that are part of their curricula. However, the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering “trigger warnings” or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to “opt out” of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.

Faculty should direct students who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues to resources available at American University’s support-services offices.

In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.

Good decision.

(Note: American University is my employer but that, of course, does not mean that it endorses any positions taken on this blog. Nor the reverse unless otherwise indicated.)


Hogan’s Unforced Error


From Facebook

Since taking office, Gov. Larry Hogan has made a variety of small mistakes, such as the Jon Stewart bait of a press conference at the start of the Baltimore riots (“When the Mayor called me, which quite frankly, we were glad she finally did.”). Overall, however, he has avoided major unforced errors as he moved forward in shifting Maryland towards his priorities. Until now.

Yesterday, Gov. Hogan announced that he would withhold $68 million in funding allocated by the General Assembly for education. The money would have gone to fully funding the program that sends extra money to the school systems in the state that are the most expensive to operate. In policy argot, the program is known as the GCEI, or Geographic Cost of Education Index.

Education is Maryland’s brand–we have consistently had the best schools in the nation. Moreover, as a high income state, we are only going to continue to grow incomes and economically with an ever more highly educated and skilled workforce.

It’s an even bigger political mistake. Gov. Hogan has generally been successful in using his position to focus debates and draw lines of comparison between him and his opponents. This time, he drew the line in a way that benefits his opponents.

He may think that he just alienated the teachers’ unions and their Democratic supporters. But education is widely popular around the State and currently by far the best issue going for the Democrats. Instead of missing a chance to undercut them completely by releasing the funds, he handed them an issue.

Even if he had released just one-half of the funds, as widely expected earlier in the day, he would have totally undermined the Democrats. Though they still would have bitterly complained, the public would have discounted them heavily as he moved halfway. He also hurts himself with the General Assembly as he had repeatedly made noises about releasing the funds during the session.

This decision will go down particularly poorly in Montgomery County in which education is like religion. Though he didn’t carry it, Hogan made inroads into Montgomery in the County in 2014. His brand of avoiding social issues like abortion and gay rights but pursuing center-right economic policies positions him well to extend those gains in 2018.

But not if keeps handing the Democrats education as an issue.



Education Cuts at the University of Maryland

Education cuts by both outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley and new Gov. Larry Hogan are hitting the University of Maryland. Most of the following information is cribbed from President Wallace Loh’s letter from last month.

State Funding Cuts

Gov. O’Malley made a one-time cut of $15.6 million before leaving office in order to address budget shortfalls. While Gov. Hogan’s budget includes a 1.3% increase for UMD, he has made O’Malley’s one-time cut permanent. Moreover, he further rescinded COLAs of 2% and merit raises of 2.5%

Impact at the University of Maryland

Tuition Hike:
After four years of no increases, UMD made an unusual mid-year tuition hike of 2%. The new tuition levels will be maintained in the upcoming year.

Faculty and Staff Salaries
Taking away the COLA means that faculty and staff will see their remuneration decline in real terms. Moreover, this is now the fourth consecutive year with no merit increases, so faculty have seen no real increases over that period.

will take another bite out of the salaries of faculty and staff who earn more than $60,000 per year:

State-funded employees who earn less than $60K—about 40% of our workforce—will have no furloughs; those who earn $60K+ to $100K will have 1 furlough day; $100K+ to $180K will have 2 furlough days; and those that earn $180K+ will have 3 furlough days.
Eliminate vacant positions
Instead of filling current vacancies, including teaching and research faculty, positions will no longer exist.

Overall Impact

The State of Maryland has made enormous investments in the University of Maryland over the past several decades. Universities, highly labor intensive by nature, cannot attract the best faculty or build new modern facilities without it.

These efforts have paid off–the quality of the students and the faculty at UMD has steadily risen. UMD’s admission to the Big Ten was a sign not just of athletic prowess of but of the university’s desire to take its place among its academic peers.

Gov. O’Malley kept tuition down, which has only increased the attractiveness of the university and helped keep many of the most talented Marylanders in state. It also acknowledged the reality of the barrier of the cost of education for many families.

Tuition increases were bound to begin again at some point, though they are now rising from a lower start point than would have otherwise occurred. And, as already mentioned, universities need money with tuition being a major source. The real impact of these increases will depend on their rate relative to inflation.

However, as UMD is demonstrating, tuition increases alone are unlikely to makeup for cuts of these levels. President Loh expressed concern, rightly, about retaining and attracting top-notch faculty who can go to other high-level research institutions.

In short, we have to be very careful not to allow to crumble what the State and UMD have built painstakingly over many years. Beyond being a waste of past investment, we should leverage UMD more economically as North Carolina has done with UNC. Indeed, the goal should be not just to maintain UMD but to continue its upward trajectory. As a high-income state, educational advantage will be critical to continuing to advance economically.

Next Up: Why Such Big Cuts Now?

Note: Just a reminder that I am a professor of political science at American University in Washington, D.C.


Crossing Swords on Education

The battle has already been joined between Democrats and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on education:

Fissures between Hogan and Democrats had already started to emerge over a budget proposal he submitted Jan. 23, two days after being sworn in. Hogan has stressed that his proposal includes record funding for K-12 education, even though it would provide counties with $144 million less than expected under existing education formulas.

Gov. Hogan says that education is his “first priority” and brags that his budget spends more than ever on education. Only addled Democrats who want to increase spending at out of control rates could think that his mild slowing of spending increases could constitute a cut. Democrats say he is taking an ax to schools.

So Who is Right?

Unfortunately, Hogan’s claims are so much political pap and every bit as reheated as the annual credit taking by legislators and governors alike for having balanced the state budget–something required by our Constitution.

Due to inflation and an expanding student population, spending on education always increases. One has to spend more just to stay even in real terms. This year, Gov. Hogan’s budget proposal reduces spending per pupil by $189. That’s no small amount.

Taking from Public to Fund Private

Hogan wants to further cut spending by making donations to parochial and private schools tax exempt. Sounds nice except that by reducing the tax take, Hogan cuts the funds available for education, effectively shifting spending from public to private schools. How letting me make a tax deductible gift to a DC private school benefits Maryland children remains a mystery to me.

Impact in Montgomery

Hogan would like to become the first two-term GOP governor in a very long time. Towards that end, he wants to appeal to small business owners and people sensitive on taxes in order to chip away further at Democratic margins in Montgomery. Hogan has also targeted Asian Americans, heavily concentrated in Montgomery, through his wife and family as well as substantive appeals.

Except that attempts to cut education will undercut all of these efforts, so he has to mask the cut as an increase. Education is Montgomery’s brand and there is universal commitment to maintaining it. Some may rail against immigration but when people move from around the world and struggle to live here to send their children to our schools, we’re doing something right.

In Montgomery, Hogan’s cuts will drop per pupil spending by $144–a cut that will reverberate through an already burdened school budget. Many moderate Montgomery voters who might be attracted to Gov. Hogan’s other proposals will have trouble getting past that one to even take a look at them.



NAACP Criticizes PG School Cell Towers

The controversy over the plan to place cell phone towers on school grounds in Prince George’s to generate money continues. Yesterday, Prince George’s NAACP President Bob Ross criticized the proposal, according to the Montgomery County Parents’ Coalition. Objections from the Coalition to the cell phone tower center on the potential effects of radiation emanating from the towers.