Friday, September 19, 2014

NMU Archives event illuminates history of school

The North Wind
September 18th, 2014

Students using the new John X. Jamrich Hall may already know a lot about its new Starbucks and classroom design, but perhaps not so much about its namesake.
“I believe that [Jamrich] was probably the most important and significant president in the history of this college,” professor and chief archivist Marcus Robyns said.
The night before the new Jamrich Hall’s dedication, Robyns will present “Blood on the Table: The Battle for Shared Governance at NMU 1967-1976” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24 at Room 126 in the Learning Resources Center.
“The event is sure to be informative and entertaining,” senior library assistant Nora Scholl said, noting Robyns “spirited” presentation style.
Senior student assistant Allison Engblom works in the NMU Archives and said the audience can expect to learn about “a time when it showed how people were actually able to make a change by protesting and making their voices heard.”
Jamrich was president when the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) became the collective bargaining representative for NMU’s faculty.
One of the AAUP’s responsibilities is to negotiate the faculty’s employment contract with NMU’s administration. Before the faculty was represented by the the AAUP, there was no contract that guaranteed them shared governance of the university.

Full-Time Faculty at College of DuPage Votes No Confidence in President

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 19th, 2014

The union representing full-time faculty members at the College of DuPage, a community college in Illinois, has voted no confidence in the college’s president, the Daily Herald reports. The union’s president said Robert L. Breuder had “contributed to the creation of an environment of turmoil, distrust, fear, and intimidation.”
Relations between full-time faculty members and Mr. Breuder have been strained since 2011, when contracts were last negotiated, a college spokesman said. He also pointed out that full-time faculty members constitute only 10 percent of the college’s employees.

Scholars Take Aim at Student Evaluations’ ‘Air of Objectivity’

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 18th, 2014

Student course evaluations are often misused statistically and shed little light on the quality of teaching, two scholars at the University of California at Berkeley argue in the draft of a new paper.
"We’re confusing consumer satisfaction with product value," Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at Berkeley, said in an interview.
"An Evaluation of Course Evaluations," which he wrote with Richard Freishtat, senior consultant at Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning, lays out a mathematical critique of the evaluations and describes an alternative vision for analyzing and improving teaching.
Even though evaluations have become ubiquitous in academe, they remain controversial because they often assume a high-stakes role in determining tenure and promotion. But they persist because they are easy to produce, administer, and tabulate, Mr. Stark said. And because they are based on Likert scales whose results can be added and averaged, he said, they offer the comfort of a number. But it is a false kind of security. "Averages of numerical student ratings have an air of objectivity," the authors write, "simply because they are numerical."

Scholar Behind U. of Illinois Boycotts Is a Longtime Activist

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 18th, 2014

On a Friday night in early August, Corey Robin put out a call on his blog. There had been plenty of grumbling over the University of Illinois’s decision to revoke a job offer to Steven G. Salaita, who gained notoriety for incendiary tweets about Israel. But it had not been enough to persuade the university to reinstate the professor. So Mr. Robin, a political theorist at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, ratcheted up the pressure.
He suggested that scholars in every field begin organizing public statements refusing to accept any invitations to speak on any campus of the University of Illinois—a serious disruption of academic business.
"Nobody’s gonna do this," Mr. Robin remembers telling his wife, who was reading in the bedroom of the Park Slope apartment that the couple shares with a daughter and five cats.

Faculty Senate at U. of Hawaii Votes to Censure System President

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 18th, 2014

Faculty members on the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus voted on Wednesday to censure the system president, David Lassner, over his firing of the campus’s chancellor, Tom Apple, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Faculty Senate considered strengthening the resolution to express no confidence in Mr. Lassner, but the vote to do so was a tie, which the Senate’s chairman broke in favor of a censure.
Mr. Lassner had been system president for less than a month when he fired Mr. Apple, citing a “less than satisfactory” performance. He later told protesters that Mr. Apple had not dealt with the college’s financial woes and lacked an efficient leadership team.
The resolution takes Mr. Lassner to task for not consulting faculty members or students in the decision, among other things.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Professors Win MacArthur 'Genius' Fellowships

Inside Higher Ed
September 17th, 2014

Ten professors were among the 21 people named as the latest class of MacArthur Fellows. The fellowship, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, provides $625,000 over five years, no strings attached. Many refer to the program as the "genius awards," even if the foundation doesn't.
Biographies of this year's fellows may be found here.

Punished for Winning?

Inside Higher Ed
September 17th, 2014

Some colleges actively oppose union drives for their adjuncts or other faculty members, and sometimes the fights get ugly. None of that happened at Mills College last year. By all accounts, adjunct faculty members’ campaign to form a union associated with the Service Employees International Union was civil, as was the college’s response: it pledged to remain neutral, and did so.
So what’s happened since the union announced a 78 percent “yes” vote in May is puzzling to some at Mills. Various adjunct faculty union members and tenure-line professors who are not part of the bargaining unit say that recent personnel actions and program changes feel retaliatory toward adjuncts, and out of line with the college’s social justice mission. Several adjunct faculty and staff members involved in the union drive have had their workloads reduced or have been laid off, and the college recently announced that it is enforcing a longstanding but rarely followed policy of canceling classes that enroll fewer than 10 students. Adjunct faculty members and their tenure-line supporters say that’s bumped adjuncts out of their assignments at the last minute, at an institution that charges high tuition -- some $41,000 -- in exchange for unusually low student-faculty ratios: an average of 10 to 1, according to Mills.

Adjuncts in Michigan and Louisiana Protest Long Waits for Pay

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 17th, 2014

Part-time lecturers at Eastern Michigan University are protesting a decision by its administration to delay their first paycheck, leaving them among many adjunct instructors nationwide who find themselves facing long waits to be compensated at the start of each academic year.
Adjunct instructors at Delgado Community College, in New Orleans, are similarly facing financial hardship as a result of the college’s decision to extend their wait for their first paycheck from five weeks to seven, The Times-Picayune reported on Monday. The newspaper said administrators there had blamed the delay on new data-reporting requirements associated with the Affordable Care Act, but both adjuncts there and the American Association of University Professors have expressed doubts about that explanation.

Appeals Court Reverses Conviction Over Threatening Poem Sent to Professor

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 17th, 2014

A federal appeals court has tossed out the conviction of a former Utah Valley University student who was found guilty of a felony for sending a professor an email containing a violent anti-immigrant poem, according to reports by the Associated Press and The Salt Lake Tribune.
The poem, sent from the email username “siegheil_neocon” to a professor at the University of Utah, contained such phrases as “we will … detain you and slay you, by a bowie knife shoved up into the skull” and “we put the noose ring around your neck and drag you as you choke and gasp.” The professor forwarded a copy of the poem and other emails to the University of Utah police, who traced its origin to a computer lab at Utah Valley University and eventually to the former student, Aaron Michael Heineman.
Mr. Heineman, who is now 35, was born deaf and has received a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder. He argued in court documents filed before his trial that the government should be required to prove that he had intended the communication to be received as a threat. He also asserted that his disorder impaired his ability to understand how others would understand things he said. The trial-court judge rejected those arguments, and Mr. Heineman was convicted of one count of sending an interstate threat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

University of California Plans Venture-Capital Fund for Campus Startups

Wall Street Journal
September 16th, 2014

The University of California is planning a $250 million venture-capital fund to finance startup companies stemming from research conducted by its faculty and students.
The fund, seeded with money from the UC endowment, would be one of the largest of its kind, targeting work done at the university's 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories. A proposal to establish the fund is set to be presented to the governing UC Board of Regents on Wednesday. The plan was posted online Monday.
Academic research is becoming increasingly entrepreneurial. The number of university-launched startup companies topped 800 nationally in 2013, up from just under 600 in 2008, according to a survey by the Association of University Technology Managers, a group that tracks the licensing of research discoveries and innovations.
Most major research universities, including Stanford University, New York University and the University of Texas, have created incubators and accelerators to explore commercial uses of research conducted on campus. Several institutions have launched independent funds to invest in their innovations developed on their campuses—though most are smaller than the pool proposed by UC.

Tracking a Discipline's Evolution

Inside Higher Ed
September 16th, 2014

Two Kent State University professors frustrated by the lack of analytical data on the evolution of their discipline have compiled all of the field’s doctoral dissertations into a database to track growth and changes in the field.
Professors David Kaplan and Jennifer Mapes hope their study will provide geographers with a comprehensive overview of shifts in the regions and topics of interest from the ground up.
Some findings were as they expected. Dissertations related to more analytical work, such as geographic information systems, have grown more popular in the past few decades, for example.
But even some of the most basic data compiled in the study have proved interesting, Kaplan said.
When he and Mapes started this study, they’d ask colleagues at conferences and meetings how many dissertations they thought there were in geography.
“People really had no clue,” Kaplan said.
They do now, thanks to Kaplan and Mapes's compilation. There have been 10,290 dissertations, dating back to 1888.
And in recent years, there have been about 300 annual dissertations in geography. That’s a lot for a small field, Kaplan said.

U. of West Florida Trustees and Faculty Clash Over President’s Performance

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 16th, 2014

Faculty members at the University of West Florida and the institution’s Board of Trustees are at odds over the performance of the university’s president, Judith A. Bense, the Pensacola News Journal reported.
Last week the university’s Faculty Senate voted no confidence in Ms. Bense’s leadership. Faculty members asserted that she had put the university’s accreditation and state financing at risk by overseeing lax admissions policies and that she had given priority to the university’s football program over its academics. The university was one of three Florida colleges to have a portion of its state support withheld because of a low rating under the state’s performance-based financing model.

New Report’s Recipe for Economic Success: Nurturing University-Business Ties

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 16th, 2014

For the United States to stay economically competitive, research universities must strike many more partnerships with the private sector, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said in a report issued on Tuesday.
The report was written by a 25-member panel of academic, government, and business experts. Their call for tighter ties between universities and businesses was among a series of recommendations for bolstering American research and economic growth.
University attitudes toward private partnerships have softened since the 1970s, when American faculty members and their institutions largely shunned business ties. But in many foreign countries, those ties are now deep and growing, and American attitudes and policies need further adaptation to keep up, the panel said.
The suggestion is likely to be politically divisive, said a co-chairman of the panel, Neal F. Lane, a professor of physics at Rice University and former director of the National Science Foundation.

Are More MLA Faculty Jobs on the Way?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 16th, 2014

When there aren't many jobs, the Modern Language Association’s Job Information List—the online compendium of full-time faculty positions for scholars in English and foreign languages—isn't much fun to look at. And this year, according to the early returns, there aren't many jobs...

When there aren't many jobs, the Modern Language Association’s Job Information List—the online compendium of full-time faculty positions for scholars in English and foreign languages—isn't much fun to look at. And this year, according to the early returns, there aren't many jobs: - See more at:

An English Ph.D. Tailored for a Job, Academic or Not

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 16th, 2014

In the 1990s, efforts at Georgetown University to start a doctorate in English fell apart because of concerns about the dim employment prospects for graduates. Today those job worries have only worsened, but the English department is now set to offer a new Ph.D., one that it says has career preparation at its core.
Faculty members who have backed the proposal call it the first English Ph.D. in the nation created specifically to train students for employment both inside and outside academe.
With academic jobs drying up or shifting away from the tenure track, Georgetown and other universities are looking for ways to help doctoral graduates expand their career opportunities, as well as to ensure that Ph.D. programs are relevant in today’s economy.