College retracts invitation to scheduled Commencement speaker

first_imgActivist and author Jean Kilbourne spoke out last week after Saint Mary’s rescinded her invitation to speak during the College’s 2017 Commencement ceremony. The College withdrew its offer once it became aware that Kilbourne had received the Hilda Crosby Standish Leadership Award from Planned Parenthood of Connecticut in 2005, Kara Kelly, special assistant to the president of Saint Mary’s, said in an email.According to Kelly, no contract had been signed before the decision to rescind the offer was made. The College has since continued with Commencement planning and will announce the speaker later this month.Kelly said the President’s Office accepts nominees for Commencement speakers. Those candidates are then reviewed by the Student Affairs Council and are approved by the Board of Trustees, which has the final say in the decision.“There is a difference in a department or student group inviting someone to speak on campus, versus inviting a Commencement speaker,” Kelly said. “Commencement speakers at Saint Mary’s also receive an honorary degree, the College’s highest honor, subject to approval from the Board of Trustees.”Kilbourne said she has spoken at over 50 Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada without her award ever presenting an issue.“I’ve spoken to Saint Mary’s in the past,” she said. “I’ve always had a wonderful time. I’ve spoken at Notre Dame.”Although the College extends an invitation to multiple speakers — as scheduling conflicts sometimes occur and a new speaker needs to be selected quickly — Kilbourne said she was not aware of this and thought she would be speaking, as she had accepted the initial offer.“That certainly wasn’t my understanding,” she said. “I received an offer, a contract was drawn up. It had not been signed, but it was in the works. In fact, I turned down another engagement for that day. … As far as I knew and understood, this was an offer for me to be the Commencement speaker, and it was then withdrawn for this reason.”Kilbourne said after her invitation was rescinded, she was told that an alumna or alumnae had found out about her award and put pressure on the College.“I’m sympathetic to the position that Saint Mary’s was put in,” she said. “I just feel like this was really too bad. It’s too bad it’s happening here, and it’s happening other places as well.”Kilbourne said she has no resentment toward the College, but rather is disappointed with the decision that was made.“It makes me sad, it makes me disappointed,” she said. “I really had some important things to say. I’m a graduate of Wellesley College — an all women’s college. I’m very supportive of women’s colleges, so I really had looked forward to speaking to the young women of Saint Mary’s. I was honored by the invitation, and I was looking forward to it.”Kilbourne said this situation is indicative of the times, as many campuses across the country have barred people from speaking because of political issues.“It’s very disturbing, the increasing divisiveness,” she said. “I’m a uniter, I’m not a divider. I really have always tried to bring people together on difficult issues. … This is happening from the left and the right, people being disinvited to campuses because they don’t meet certain tests. I think this is dangerous for education.”Kilbourne said she was not planning on speaking about Planned Parenthood, abortion or even reproductive rights in her speech.“I was going to speak about what I speak about, which is the influence of advertising on all of [us] and trying to help the young women, in particular, to resist the negative images of women in advertising.”Kelly said College departments and student groups go through a different process of bringing speakers to campus than the process used in selecting the Commencement speaker, due to the speaker’s additional honor of receiving an honorary degree at Commencement.“As an educational principle, Saint Mary’s encourages the free and vibrant exchange of ideas, and grants campus groups considerable freedom in determining the speakers who best contribute to a challenging and stimulating academic atmosphere,” Kelly said.Tags: Commencement 2017, Jean Kilbourne, Planned Parenthoodlast_img read more

Professors implement mindfulness, meditation practices in classrooms

first_imgCommunication studies professors Marne Austin and Terri Russ are redefining learning through their implementation of mindfulness in their classroom setting.Professor Austin said she defined mindfulness as a commitment to always being present in the current moment.“Mindfulness is a practice of presence and of radical presence with each other,” she said. “It means that we must strive to be present to ourselves in our own lives. This requires purposefully slowing down to be here entirely in each moment.”After noticing the negative effects that many cultural trends have had on learning, Austin said she chose to implement mindfulness in her classes.“So often in our culture and society we pride ourselves on business and like to pretend that we are very good at multitasking,” she said. “Studies are showing more and more is that multitasking can’t actually happen effectively. If we are doing multiple things at once it means it’s only getting a fraction of our attention. It’s no wonder that we are losing our connections with each other and the things that we’re doing if we’re only partly present.”Austin uses two main mindfulness practices in her classes: breathing exercises and compassionate listening. These practices allow students to slow down and open themselves up to endless educational possibilities, she said.“In class we start by pausing,” Austin said. “The idea is that there’s nowhere else we’d rather be, nothing else we need to do, except be here and we can trust that we have this inherent brilliance and that we all matter and have something to offer.”Austin said she has noticed a great change in the classroom as a result of these small enhancements.“Students have more courage and feel safe to ask questions,” she said. “The energy shifted. When we were able to divorce our being from the things we said and the questions we asked, then anything could be said and learned.”Russ said she begins classes with what she calls a “mindfulness moment,” often employing use of freewriting.“Just write for the next 10 minutes,” she tells students. “Don’t stop writing. If you don’t know what to write, [then] write ‘I don’t know what to write.’”Professors tend to feel crunched for time to teach everything they need to during class time, so the idea of giving up a few minutes for a mindfulness exercise can seem risky, Russ said. However, Russ said she finds this to be a worthwhile use of class time.“It allows not only for more focused discussion, but also deeper discussion,” she said. “So the cost-benefit analysis of that is that I end up gaining some class time by taking away some class time.”Implementing mindfulness into their daily lives helps students focus outside the classroom as well, Russ said, so long as it doesn’t become another item on an increasingly long to-do list. She said she has even given a keynote address titled “I’m Too Busy to Be Mindful.”“We’re very task-oriented as a society,” she said. “We like our checklists. We like to know exactly what we’re going to do [and] how to get things done. Mindfulness, then, becomes another task. By making it another task, we think ‘I’m too busy to be mindful.’”Mindfulness is said to improve focus and productivity, but Austin and Russ agree that it goes beyond this.Mindfulness‘ positive effects go beyond simply improving one’s focus and productivity, Austin said.“When you start practicing mindfulness, you do it personally because it’s this self-care, but it’s through this that you transform the world around you,” Austin said.Tags: classroom practices, meditation, mindfulness, teaching methodslast_img read more