Women Make History Every Day At Trinity!March 19, 2015
(Photos by Ann Pauley: Trinity students and faculty with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (blue jacket) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ’62 in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol at event honoring women on the Supreme Court as part of Women’s History Month, March 18, 2015)
The photo says it all: WHY women’s colleges matter, WHY Trinity sisterhood is powerful, HOW the “Old Girls’ Network” connects women across generations and positions to lift as we climb, to foster leadership and courage in each succeeding generation. Trinity Alumna Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962, the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives and first and only woman to be Speaker of the house always takes care of her Trinity Sisters. To mark Women’s History Month, Leader Pelosi threw a party to honor the women justices on the Supreme Court: Justice Elena Kagan (blue jacket, above), Justice Sonya Sotomayor (photo below, with Trinity students Anna Roland and Hareth Andrade) and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Leader Pelosi invited Trinity students to be part of the event — a great example of a role model, a powerful woman reaching out to help other women set their sights on high achievement.
Fostering leadership ability, self-confidence and the intellectual prowess to be outstanding leaders in the community and across many professions is the historic and still-urgent mission of Trinity and other women’s colleges. Trinity leaders in all communities and walks of life have been hugely successful for 118 years — and Trinity aims to keep that ball rolling for at least another century or more! Looking at our students seizing the moment at the podium in Statuary Hall, below, I have no doubt that they will succeed, and so will Trinity!
Women’s colleges have been in the news recently because of the sad announcement from Sweet Briar College in Virginia that the trustees of that venerable women’s college have decided to close after this academic year. That’s very sad for Sweet Briar, but not at all indicative of the future for Trinity or other historic women’s colleges that are thriving. Trinity took steps years ago to diversify programming, creating the university model, and refocusing our historic mission on the women who could benefit most from this powerful mission. Trinity’s women’s college (the College of Arts & Sciences) has more than tripled in size since I became president in 1989, from 300 students then to nearly 1100 today. The entire institution has more than doubled in size with the addition of many graduate and professional programs. We’re building that beautiful new academic center next because we’ve outgrown our old buildings and truly need 21st Century learning environments, especially for the sciences and health professions.
Facts are important, but often overlooked in the current popular discussion of women’s colleges. One college closes, and the pundits say it spells doom for all. Not true!! Of the 40+ women’s colleges operating today nearly 65% have actually grown in the last 10 years, defying the naysayers who say this sector is declining. Of the original 230 women’s colleges in 1960, about 90 closed or merged — most of them very small Catholic women’s colleges that not only had large populations of religious sisters as students, but also who relied on the free labor (“contributed services”) of the nuns on the staff. The economic model for the Catholic institutions was always unusual. When the Church went through progressive changes as a result of Vatican II in the 1960′s, many sisters left their orders, leaving the schools without the free labor. This affected not only the Catholic women’s colleges, but also the Catholic schools in cities — the Church could not afford to replace the nuns with paid staff in all of those schools. Trinity is one of the Catholic institutions that weathered the economic downturn and rebuilt its financial model without reliance on contributed services. Trinity experienced some very lean years but, in the end, the model we built in the 1990′s is strong and durable. Our balance sheet now exceeds $100 million in worth, and we operate in the black.
For the larger group of historic women’s colleges, of the original 230, about 140 remain, with about 40 of those maintaining women’s colleges and the others being fully coeducational. However, even those that are fully coed are about 70% female. The mission to educate women remains central for all of these historic schools. Additionally, sustaining a strong central mission in women’s education does not need to be hostile to men, and as we do at Trinity, many of the 40+ women’s colleges today enroll men in some programs. The focus on equity and justice that is inherent in the women’s college mission proclaims values that also work for male students who understand and respect this mission.
I’ve had more to say about these issues recently in a blog I wrote on the Huffington Post, Disrupting the Daisy Chain: What Modern Women’s Colleges Really Do and also a recent interview with Molly Greenberg in an online magazine called DCInno “The Sweet Briar Story Could have been Trinity’s”
We’re also building a web page with resources about women’s colleges and institutional innovation
What does Trinity’s mission as a women’s college mean to you? Make a comment by clicking below or send me an email email@example.com and I will publish your thoughts…
(White House Photo of “The Trinity Sisters” in the Washington Monthly)Read comments (0) Add Comment
“Selma is Now”March 7, 2015
“Selma is Now.” On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the violent confrontation between civil rights marchers and police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, President Barack Obama offered a pointed reflection on the state of civil rights today. The nation’s first African American president knows full well the progress and regression of this nation’s ongoing struggle with equality and justice, civil and human rights. In an excellent commentary for Slate, Jamelle Bouie sums up the many points of retrenchment on civil rights since the pinnacle of the movement in the 1960′s, most notably, the Supreme Court’s 2013 retreat on voting rights, the galvanizing issue for the marchers in 1965 and still a flash point for justice and equality in this nation.
For most of the 20th Century, in too many southern states black citizens faced impossible barriers to the most fundamental right of citizenship, the right to vote. In the State of Alabama, notorious for horrific acts of violence and intimidation against African Americans, the resistance to voting rights continued into the 1960′s. The story of the Selma marches appear in many places, as well as this year’s movie Selma, so I will not recount the details here.
Robert Caro, the great biographer of President Lyndon Johnson who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, includes an excellent summary of the violence and conditions of oppression that blacks faced in the southern states, and particularly in Alabama in his volume Master of the Senate. He details Johnson’s long and slow conversion from mouthpiece for the Senate’s southern segregationists to the Senate Majority Leader pushing for civil rights legislation. Controversy has swirled around the depiction of President Johnson in the movie Selma, but Caro’s detailed multi-volume biography offers telling details about Johnson’s shrewd political calculations that ultimately forced him to do the right thing, but often only after counting the votes. Of course, to turn the rhetoric of the great Civil Rights demonstrations like the Selma marches into the reality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, political shrewdness was as essential as passionate advocacy for Justice. For Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the partnership with Lyndon Johnson provided precisely the kind of political muscle necessary to force Congress to take action to ensure long-denied voting rights.
Such political shrewdness and muscle seems absent in today’s national legislative and judicial landscape, where highly partisan camps dig deeper trenches from which to lob their ugly and destructive maneuvers that undermine and thwart the original intention of the civil rights laws. When national leaders on the bench of the Supreme Court or in the halls of Congress take actions or make speeches that question the continuing need for vigilance in civil and human rights, they give encouragement to those who still actively pursue policies and practices of racial hatred.
Coincidentally, just days before the 50th Anniversary of Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” in which police brutally beat voting rights demonstrators including John Lewis (now Congressman John Lewis), the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report on the deplorable conditions within the Ferguson, Missouri police force. While the DOJ did not find enough evidence to charge former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson with a federal crime in the death of Michael Brown, the Justice Department did find pervasive patterns and practices of racism, including obvious practices of racial profiling in detaining persons on the street, intimidating practices imposing fines and harassment over small civil violations, blatantly racist emails including several disgusting portrayals of President and Mrs. Obama, and other offensive conduct no U.S. citizen should ever tolerate in law enforcement.
Strong political and moral leadership would demand swift and certain punishment for the Ferguson police force and for any other law enforcement agency engaged in repeated and blatant patterns of racial harassment, intimidation and discrimination.
Today’s observation of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma should not be simply an occasion to remember, but rather, a moment to reaffirm this nation’s commitment to equality, justice and freedom for all people — regardless of race, bank account, religion, neighborhood, appearance, friends or lovers, abilities or accents, heritage or choice of political parties. The bitter hatred, fractiousness and mindless partisanship that has come to characterize our national government must give way to genuine leadership that acts, always and only, in the best interests of “We, the People.”
And “We, the People” need to remember that we are a self-governing community, that we choose those who will represent our needs and wishes, and that we must do that by exercising the precious right so many others gave so much to make possible for us: the right to vote.
Selma is now, and Selma is every single day. Take nothing for granted, especially when it comes to the ability of a self-governing nation to ensure equal rights and justice for all.
This week, a group of Trinity students were in Selma for the Alternative Spring Break, along with Dean Meechie Bowie and Sr. Kristen Mathes, SND. We are eager to hear their stories when they return next week! Thanks for sending along the photos….
Interesting article explaining why Dr. King and others wore white leis during the 1965 Selma march
See article in the National Catholic Reporter on the role of Catholics in the 1965 Selma marchRead comments (0) Add Comment
Dream City: Still DreamingFebruary 28, 2015
(check out the Dream City website!)
Can the great city that is also the nation’s capital ever be allowed to grow up and become a true self-governing metropolis? Or is Washington, D.C. condemned to live out its days in a kind of student-council-type half-life, a high school homeroom run by Hill nannies and Congressional bullies?
Such questions often dominate my thinking about politics in our fair city, illustrated too well in the recent staring contest over the legalization of marijuana. The majority of D.C.’s citizens voted in a referendum last November to legalize possession and use of small amounts of pot, triggering much Hysteria on the Hill including threats to arrest and jail members of the D.C. Council and the mayor if they even talked about legislation to implement the will of the people. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not wild about dope — and we still prohibit it at Trinity (as it is on other college campuses), along with alcohol, smoking regular tobacco, and overnight visitation (we are a serious school!) — but the most important issue at stake here is not really about marijuana at all, but about the citizenship rights of the people of the District of Columbia.
Unfortunately, over the course of the last 40 years since the Home Rule Charter was enacted in 1974, giving D.C. a modicum of self-governance, the shenanigans of too many D.C. politicians have taunted and triggered the self-righteous twists of the Hill Nannies. And no politician was better at pulling those triggers than the late Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry, Jr.
Dream City tells the story of a great city repeatedly thwarted in its efforts to grow up. Whether due to the fundamental racism of the overseers or the oft-outrageous misconduct of the local politicos, the repression of the potential of the District of Columbia is painfully clear. While there are, and have been some exceptionally fine leaders in the city’s political corps over the years, in fact, the political debilitation of the city represses the opportunity to attract and keep some of the best and the brightest leaders.
Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, co-authors of Dream City, are two of the best journalists in this or any city. Jaffe is the national editor of Washingtonian Magazine, and Sherwood is well known for his hard-hitting interviews on NBC-4 News. Their collaboration on Dream City produced a remarkable account of the promise, potential and devastating setbacks across the last 40 years of Home Rule in D.C., the Dream City of fond hopes and painful realities.
We were fortunate to be able to host Jaffe and Sherwood on February 19 for a great discussion of Dream City and the situation in D.C. today. First Year Students in Dowan McNair-Lee’s class read Dream City as one of their assignments this spring, and that triggered our invitation to the authors who readily agreed to come. Social Hall was packed! The fate of D.C. is so much a part of Trinity student lives, and it’s a big part of Trinity’s life as well.
Dream City should be required reading for every student and faculty member in all of the colleges and universities in the District of Columbia. The authors pay careful attention to factual details of the law, the personalities, the relationships and the actions that are the inevitable web that expands and contracts across time to offer great opportunities and monumental disappointments for D.C. Aspiring politicians in D.C.’s universities must absorb the essential lessons that this book imparts through the rise and fall and rise again of Marion Barry, a man whose gift for connecting with his constituents was as large as the appetites that repeatedly marginalized his potential for greatness. The book offers great case studies of opportunities lost, such as the inability of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly to keep the football team in town because of a tiff with the owner Jack Kent Cooke. Too many of D.C.’s lost opportunities are about personal pique and pitiful pratfalls.
In the discussion last week, Sherwood and Jaffe engaged a robust debate about whether and how the city can ever break free of its Congressional overlords, most of whom could not find their way to the Anacostia riverfront without a chauffeur. One point of view says that the repeated elections of Barry, despite his felonious behaviors, demonstrated the poor judgment of the citizens of D.C. An aggressive response to that perspective points out that Congress did not intervene to strip the citizens of Illinois of their rights when four out of seven governors went to jail; nobody talks about disenfranchising Virginia over the McDonnell scandal; and let’s not even talk about Congress, itself.
I read Dream City when it was first published 20 years ago, and it really hit home. As a law student in 1975-1977, immediately after the enactment of Home Rule, I worked with the first D.C. Council, and was excited by the potential for a whole new way of life and government in D.C. I drafted legislation for the late Councilmember and Civil Rights Activist Julius Hobson. I met and admired David C. Clarke, Polly Shackleton, John Wilson, and the young firebrand known as Marion Barry.
Too soon, my excitement faded when I realized the extreme limitations that Congressional control imposed. Today I live in Maryland because I want to vote for Senators and Congressional representatives, I want to live in a jurisdiction where citizenship is respected, where citizen voices truly matter, where Congress cannot interfere with local decisions made in self-governing freedom.
Can the political future of D.C. be different? I am grateful for, and optimistic about, the kind of leadership we see today in Mayor Muriel Bowser, and a number of more recent Councilmembers like David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie, leaders for the long-term in our city. But, in the end, so much depends on the willingness of Congress, itself, to respect the rights of the people of this jurisdiction. On that topic, I remain pessimistic, especially given the current gestalt on the Hill that seems so utterly divorced from real life for most people. Changing the future for D.C. does not mean that all the boys and girls here need to sit up straight and behave. Changing the future for D.C. will only come when Congress is inhabited by true citizen leaders, people who have a large interest in creating a good and just society for all, not just protecting their own narrow interests and strange ideologies about government. Until we get a majority of such true citizen leaders in Congress, full enfranchisement for D.C. is just plain dreaming.
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Read my most recent op-ed on the documentary about campus sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground”Read comments (1) Add Comment
Sr. Dorothy Stang, SND: 10 Years of RemembranceFebruary 11, 2015
On February 12, 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang, SND, was murdered by some hired assassins in the Amazon rainforest. That basic fact still seems hard to state. Who would pump six bullets into a 73 year old nun who had devoted her life to living the Gospel’s call to take the option for the poor, to work for justice among some of the most marginalized people on earth?
Who would do such a thing?
Wealthy, powerful men who were so frightened of the grace and power of this singular woman that they felt compelled to take her life.
Several powerful Amazon ranchers were eventually tried and convicted of hiring the gunmen who killed Sr. Dorothy, but even justice for her murder proved elusive. Time and again, the murderers got their convictions thrown out of the Brazilian courts. Of the five men tried and convicted for Dorothy’s murder, only one is in prison. According to a story this week in the National Catholic Reporter, in the decade since Sr. Dorothy’s assassination, 106 people have been killed in land disputes in the Para state in Brazil where she died. A report by an organization known as Global Witness reveals that more than 900 environmental activists were killed all over the world in the last decade, with Brazil accounting for more than half of the murders.
Justice for Dorothy’s murder is elusive, but Dorothy’s work for social justice is enduring. Last Sunday at Trinity, we had the privilege of hearing her story portrayed by Sr. Nancy Murray, OP, author of the play “Rooted in Love” that depicts the key chapters of Dot Stang’s life and work in the Amazon.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Dorothy Stang entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1948 and spent the first part of her religious life teaching in elementary schools. But she had a profound call to work globally, and so when an opportunity arose in 1966 to join the SND mission in Brazil, she seized it with zeal. For the next 39 years, she devoted her ministry to teaching, building schools and advocating on behalf of the indigenous people of the Amazon basin. The lives and livelihoods of the people of the rainforest were increasingly disrupted by developers who seized and destroyed large parts of the rainforest. The environmental destruction has been enormous in the Amazon, and ruthless in the way loggers and ranchers obliterated villages.
The wealthy ranchers soon came to see Sr. Dorothy Stang’s work with the peasants as a threat to their plans to keep clear-cutting and seizing the forest lands. They put her on a “death list” but that did not deter her advocacy for the people who had become her extended family. Tensions escalated, and on the day that Sr. Dorothy was walking on a dirt road to a meeting to discuss the rights of the people who were being displaced, February 12, 2005, the hired gunmen stepped out of the forest and killed her.
On this 10th anniversary of Sr. Dorothy’s death, the best tribute we can pay to her memory is a renewed commitment to be advocates for environmental and social justice. The rights of people who are marginalized by power and wealth are severely harmed each day all over the world. At Trinity, with the inspiration of the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to take action for social justice, we work hard to teach our students how to use the power of social conscience to stand up against oppression, to work to change laws and policies to achieve justice, to advocate for the poor and to be servant leaders for others. Sr. Dorothy Stang exemplified all of these values and more, ultimately paying with her life to stand up for justice. She is revered as a martyr today, but she is also remembered with fondness as a sister, friend, teacher and mentor to all who knew her.
The Trinity community extends our sympathy, support and solidarity to the global community of the Sisters of Notre Dame and in particularly to the family of Sr. Dorothy Stang on this 10th anniversary of her death.Read comments (1) Add Comment
Race, Class and Educational OpportunityJanuary 19, 2015
The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. . . ‘The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.
-Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? 1967
Two articles in the Washington Post last Friday, January 16, point to the chronic challenge of poverty in the quest for equality and justice, a challenge that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood. “Majority of U.S. Public School Students are in Poverty” read one headline in a story citing a report of the Southern Education Foundation that also reveals that 61% of D.C. Public School children live in poverty. “Young parents still more likely to leave D.C., tax data shows” read the other. Both stories are, implicitly, about social class and educational opportunity, with the latter story pointing to the quest for better schools as a major driver of middle class family migration to the suburbs.
Equality of educational opportunity is not just “the civil rights issue of our time” as leaders like President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have been fond of saying. Equality of educational opportunity has been a central issue since the earliest days of the Civil Rights Movement. The landmark Supreme Court Decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional, but now 60 years later, racial segregation in public schools remains a significant fact of life for millions of children. The State of New York has the most segregated schools in the nation, but segregation remains an intractable problem in many if not most large urban school systems.
Economic segregation of poor children is the mirror image of racial segregation since poverty disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic children. It’s simply impossible to consider achieving racial justice without also achieving economic justice for all, and both economic and racial justice must start in the condition of schools.
While overt race discrimination is accepted as taboo in most of American society today, behavioral discrimination on the basis of social class shapes all kinds of institutions, from the kinds of stores available in different neighborhoods to the location of hospitals and healthcare providers to taxis to schools. Middle class parents want their children to sit alongside similarly upwardly mobile children in their classrooms, and upper class parents will pay just about any price to make sure that their kids don’t rub too many dirty elbows. (See The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden that illustrates why elite colleges and universities are likely to remain so.)
Social class discrimination certainly crosses boundaries of race and ethnicity, so it’s quite likely that parents of all races with the economic means to get their kids into better schools will do so. Yet, the fact remains that poverty also disproportionately impacts children of color in ways that limit educational attainment for many African American and Latino children.
School reformers have spent entirely too much time beating up on teachers and not nearly enough time and talent addressing the issues of poverty that block educational attainment for poor children. While claiming the rhetoric of “the civil rights issue of our time” they have not truly understood the fact that civil rights is not just an issue of race but truly about the ability of a human being to enjoy all of the benefits of a free society, which has a large dimension of economic justice.
When President Obama gives his State of the Union message tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 20, he will talk about initiatives to change the tax code to redistribute some wealth, to make more college opportunities possible, and other ideas to address economic injustices. Some opposition leaders are already criticizing the proposals as “class warfare,” but I wish President Obama would be even bolder. This nation needs a new War on Poverty, an unabashed and full-bore program to close the wealth gap.
Martin Luther King understood the critical relationship between poverty and racial injustice. He knew that true equality was impossible without economic justice as well as eradication of racism. President Lyndon Johnson also understood these issues and both Dr. King and President Johnson (notwithstanding the current controversy over the portrayal of their relationship in the movie Selma) worked together to address both social problems by forming an alliance that led to the War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other historic measures promoting justice for all.
May today’s leaders be even half so bold. We don’t need more wonkish tinkering on the edges of policies. We need a much greater measure of undaunted courage and conviction in the absolute necessity of pursuing policies for economic and social justice for all. Those are the leadership qualities that we celebrate and yearn for today on the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.
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