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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 14, 1998)
Harris t< year stay
HARRIS from page 1
After sharing it with many college
students during his tenure, Harris feels it
may be time to give his insights to the
younger middle school or high school
But after seven years of helping col
lege students go beyond their comfort
zone with projects such as UNEs diversi
ty retreat, which Harris has facilitated
during his time at UNL, he admits it will
be hard to go.
But he wants to assure students, fac
ulty members and staff that he is not
“UNL is a place that needs people
like me -people who want to be a part of
change and people who are willing to say
some of the things that need to be said,”
Being part of campus change during
his time here has not always been easy
He cites the 1997 Sigma Chi
Fraternity cross-burning as one incident
that challenged him professionally as
well as personally.
Affected deeply by the cross burn
ing, Harris took two weeks off of his job
to deal with the incident. During that
time, Harris said, he debated whether he
could come back after discovering the
harsh reality that UNL was not exempt
from issues dealing with racism.
“It said that UNL is a place like any
place else,” Harris said.
But the incident prompted him to
evaluate hisTole aodunderstaadhow
“It hurt me emotionally and chal
lenged me spiritually,” Harris said. “Blit
whatever role I played, it need^fb &bfr
With time to reflect back oh the situ
ation, Harris said he realizes that a cross
burning doesn’t have the same meaning
to white people as black people.
‘My problem was expecting that
they would feel the same land of indig
nation that I did.”
Open door, open heart
Since Harris has been a part of the
university, he has set out to educate stu
dents to be more aware of the feelings of
those around them.
By organizing the diversity retreat,
he has realized that erasing the attitudes
and feelings that people are socialized
with is not a process that people can be
“I’ve had to learn that learning is a
process,” Harris said. “I shy away from
words like diversity training.
“Diversity education is a process.”
Many students during Harris’ tenure
have come to learn that firsthand.
Matt Boyd, a senior broadcasting
major, had contact with Harris from his
first day on campus at the Summer
Institute for Promising Scholars.
Since then, Boyd said, Harris has had
a strnna nn nnpnina his mind
and has given him inspiration to instigate
change at UNL.
After attending a diversity retreat,
Boyd and some other students who
attended the retreat were prompted to
form the Diversity Council.
Boyd said the council was an exam
ple of Harris motivating students.
“He gave us tools to start that sort of
thing,” Boyd said. “He didn’t want to do
it for us.”
“(Harris) really gets you started,” he
said. “Once he gets you started, he gives
you posftwe energy.”
While Hams often works witii large
groups, Boyd said his care for individu
r.als runs deep.
5' “He’ll sit down and work with you on
an individual basis,” he said. “A lot of his
time is spent there.”
The time that Harris has spent with
so many groups and individuals on cam
pus will be missed, Boyd said.
I "W A
“Losing (Harris) is a huge loss,” he
said “Everything that he has in hip.'heart
and his mind to convey to other people
will be gone.”
Being a strong voice on campus also
has benefited everyone at UNL, said
Chuck van Rossum, assistant director of
the Minority Assistance Program.
“Not only in big ways does he make
change, but in the time he spends with
students fflid staff talking about the val
ues we need,” van Rossum said. “The
values for life, not just die values for
“His door and his heart are always
open,” he said.
Bring it on
Though Harris has strong allies, he
said he also knows many disagree with
him. But he welcomes his critics, saying
their open disagreement provides discus
sion that will eventually lead to solu
“I don’t want to agree with every
body.” Harris said. “If there is common
ground to find, how do you find it?”
With many differing opinions on
many issues, Harris understands that
there are things that he and his critics will
never agree on. But he thinks that is OK,
as long as one condition is fulfilled.
“The one thing I want from my crit
ics is the one thing I’m willing to give -
respect,” Harris said.
At the end of the semester, Harris
said, he will be gone from UNL. With a
mixture of fear and anticipation, Harris
tries to imagine what his life will be like
where he feels God is calling him.
While he doesn’t know much about
what the future holds, he said, he does
know one thing that will have the great
est influence on him.
Pointing to the 814-by- 10-inch sign
banging on his file cabinet, Harris said,
“Your circumstances are not your prob
lem, it’s your attitude.”
■ -. - '
John Harris has never been bashful about sharing his thoughts
on the Daily Nebraskan opinion pages. We chose excerpts from
more than a dozen letters published in the last three years. Each
demonstrates his willingness to engage controversial topics and to
enact social change.
“Your cultural filter has obviously done what education
in this country is supposed to d^Make white people feel
good about being white.”
Feb. 20,1998, on an argument that was had on the DN’s editorial
pages between Harris and Chemistry Professor Gerard^Harbison.
Harbison contended that the phrase “Real McCoy" was coined in
Scotland, while Harris said it could be attributed to Elijah McCoy,
an African American who received a patent for the stedro engine.
“As I have sat back and watched the events of the past
week unfold regarding Dr. Hibler’s e-mail, I have been
reminded of something that noted African-American
scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois said many years ago.
Du Bois said, ‘The problem of the 20th century will be the
color line.’ Truer words have never been spoken.”
Feb. 16,1998, on English Professor David Hibler’s allegedly
racist e-mail. -•
“I just want to let you know that last week's cartoon
depicting a dark-skinned man holding a little ‘white’ girl’s
hand in front of a police officer has not gone unnoticed."
Oct. 1, 1997, on a Sept. 24 cartoon about two Iraqi men
accused of having sex with their underage girlfriends in Lincoln.
“You have no understanding about racism at all.
Racism is about power and privilege. And because of the
power of folks who looked like you, African Americans like
myself and those of other racial groups have the privilege
of hearing you whine about being thought of as a racist. In
a phrase, ‘Give me a break!"’
Oct. 3,1996, on DN columnist Cliff Hicks' pride in his maleness
and German heritage, and his anger about being called racist.
“This university never ceases to amaze me. In my four
years here, there has been a number of things that have left
me simply stunned. And the university has done it again.
Mr. Melvin Jones, an African-American man, is hired, and
Dr. Joan Leitzel, a Caucasian woman, is shafted.”
Nov. 27,1995, on the hiring of Jones as vice chancellor for
business and finance, and Leitzel not being selected for the final
pool of UNL chancellor candidates.
the cost of college here, Munier said. Today that
only covers two-thirds of the cost.
“I got my loans to help defer the cost of
school,” senior architecture major Craig
Unterseher said he also worked 16 hours a
week at a university job to pay for school.
“It is not possible to work your way through
school anymore,” Munier said.
UNL graduates fromMay lffibfinished
up from $8,4f?in 1* v
But the good news for students who do have
to borrow money for school is that student loan
interest rates have been slashed to their lowest
rate in 17 years, thanks to the higher education
bill Clinton signed last week.
The bill creates a new interest rate formula
based on Treasury bill rates equal to 7.46 percent
interest for students starting to repay their loans,
and the rate is capp^^^^^ercent.
life j .j uiiisvixj aju* «
idatfc;themthfouglLth£ direct loan pfogramata
special low rate until the end of January.
After that time, consolidation loan interest
rates will be based on an average of the interest
rates on previous loans.
The bill also includes a special provision to
forgive up to $5,000 of loans for education stu
dents who work for five years in parts of the
country with teacher shortages.
Munier said other parts of the bill will reduce
the bureaucracy students face when applying for
and receiving financial aid.
"*T>sq.qioK eeribaH si a arii jiinVf
a / ; The bill al$p increased the amount of money
students can earn before it will affect their feder
al aid, authorized the Department of Education
to offer lower interest rates to students who con
sistently pay their bills on time and changed the
way need is determined for financially indepen
But Munier said the key to all these reforms
is the money Congress appropriates for them.
“Congress has never funded grants at the
maximum level,” he said.
“The real test is appropriations.”
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• Check antifreeze, air filter, wiper blades,
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fpe&ort g ntroversy m department
REPORT from page 1
bers were biased because they had
written letters last spring to Moeser
protesting the ARRC’s ruling.
“They shouldn’t have been
appointed to Chancellor Moeser’s
committee,” said Robert Herling, a
senior criminal justice major who has
helped begin a committee that will
look at UNL’s sexual harassment pro
Shavers said she signed a letter
written to the chancellor but that the
letter questioned whether the ARRC
should have investigated the com
plaints, not its findings.
She and another faculty member,
not associated with the committee,
signed the letter.
Shavers said another letter was
written but she would not say who
letter protesting the ruling of the
Academic Rights and Responsibilities
Committee,” she said.
Schwebach said the letters were
written 2d the request of and with polit
ical science faculty members.
Though die ad hoc committee con
cluded the department’s environment
was not hostile, it made seven recom
mendations to improve the climate for
women in political science.
The recommendations included:
■ Work to recruit more woman
HMS members on uni
versity policies and procedures to
respond to claims of gender bias or
J ■ Develop practices that demon
strate its sensitivity to the needs of
female faculty members and non
fun^ graduate students.
The ad hoc committee’s recom
mendations were based partly on a sur
vey last summer of faculty members,
staff members and graduate students
in the department §
Shavers said the survey was one of
the committee’s main sources of infor
mation. The committee had a “very
high rate of return on the surveys,” she
said, though she would not say how
many surveys were returned.
Othermethods die committee used
included some face-to-face interviews
and telephone interviews. Shavers
Tuesday, the committee reported the
survey results showed that “a vast
majority of respondents did not identic
fy problems with gender-related dif
ferential treatment in die department”
Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, the politi
cal science department’s graduate
chairwoman, said she expected such
“Basically what the report says is
that we should continue to do what we
are doing in the department” Theiss
a— — -“——
I sincerely hope this report puts to rest the
disagreemen ts of last spring and that the
department can get on with the task
the people of the state of Nebraska
pay us to do”
political science department chairman
Sire said other department mem
bers-with whom she had visited
seemed to agree with the report.
In a statement, John Comer, the
political science department’s chair
man, said he supported the recommen
“I sincerely hope this report puts to
rest the disogreefireals of last sprihg
and that the department can get On
with the task the people of the state of
Nebraska pay us to do,” Comer said.
But Schwebach said she would be
taking “appropriate” legal action to
fight the report. She said the commit
“This is not the kind of thing
decided by majority rule,” Schwebach
“There’s no way this survey amid
be objective,” Heriing said. He said it
was “typically the minority that
become die victims of harassment).”
H Schwebach^ attorney, Thom Cope
of Lincoln, said the report was contra
dictory. He said it seemed the report,
by making recommendations, agreed ■ .
that the department had a long way to
go in gender equity - yet it still reject
ed the ARRC’sruhng.
Moeser will report die recommen-x
dations to the ARRC and Patricia
Kennedy, the Academic Senate presi
Schwebach said she has filed
many formal and informal complaints
with UNL. But, she said, “when we
were harassed nothing was done ”
She said it was “beyond offensive”
dud the university had not taken her
“I believe (the report) confirms
that the university is not going to
address this problem.”
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