Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Governor Brown Denounces Indiana's 'Religious Objections' Law

Governors Office
March 31st, 2015


Salem,OR—Governor Brown released the following statement today regarding Indiana's "religious objections" law.

“Indiana's new law offends me. No individual, regardless of where they live or whom they love, should suffer discrimination. I urge state leaders in Indiana to take swift action to prohibit discrimination and reverse the damaging impact of this law. Oregonians continually demonstrate a strong belief in fairness and equal treatment under the law. As recently as 2013, Oregon voters have defeated proposals similar to Indiana's law, underscoring our shared values and rejecting discrimination. I encourage Oregonians to join me in expressing their concerns about this erosion of individual rights in Indiana and anywhere it may occur.”

Tenure Denied for Being Trans?

Inside Higher Ed
March 31st, 2015


The U.S. Justice Department on Monday sued Southeastern Oklahoma State University, charging that it denied tenure to Rachel Tudor, effectively firing her in 2011, over her identity as a transgender woman.
The suit is a strong federal endorsement of the idea that transgender status can be a cause for illegal discrimination.
Tudor was hired in 2004, at the time identifying as a man. In 2007, she started to present herself as a woman. The Justice Department lawsuit outlines a series of issues that point to discrimination against her in a tenure bid.

Oklahoma College Discriminated Against Transgender Professor, Justice Dept. Says

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 31st, 2015

The U.S. Justice Department has sued Southeastern Oklahoma State University, alleging it discriminated against a transgender professor, Reuters reports. According to the lawsuit, Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor of English, was denied tenure because of her gender, and then was fired when she complained. “The university is confident in its legal position and its adherence to all applicable employment laws,” the university said in a statement.

Sweet Briar Faculty Votes No Confidence in President and Board

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 31st, 2015

Faculty members at Sweet Briar College voted no confidence in the college’s president and Board of Directors on Monday, echoing a vote they took two weeks ago opposing the college’s closure. The News & Advance, a Lynchburg, Va., newspaper, reports that a college spokeswoman, Christy L. Jackson, said the administration was “surprised and disappointed” by the vote, which occurred on the same day the Amherst County attorney sued the college, seeking to stop it from closing.

Don’t Go It Alone

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 31st, 2015
I spent much of my writing life “going it alone,” and though I still managed to publish articles and books, I now know that my solitary approach made that life harder — and lonelier — than it needed to be. Joining an academic writing group can make all the difference in your scholarly career.
Trouble is, most advice on creating and using writing groups is geared toward fiction writers. Academic writers need something different.
Fiction writing groups tend to focus on content and critique, and members often read their writing aloud for others to evaluate. That kind of “workshopping” -- in which a bunch of people give off-the-cuff (and sometimes conflicting) feedback about what you’ve written -- is not what academics need. Thanks to the peer-review process, faculty manuscripts receive no shortage of feedback. Papers by graduate students are (or should be) critiqued by their advisers and mentors prior to submission. Meanwhile faculty members often seek guidance on their written work from trusted colleagues, mentors, and peers.
- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/955-don-t-go-it-alone#sthash.T8U9jM51.dpuf



I spent much of my writing life “going it alone,” and though I still managed to publish articles and books, I now know that my solitary approach made that life harder — and lonelier — than it needed to be. Joining an academic writing group can make all the difference in your scholarly career.
Trouble is, most advice on creating and using writing groups is geared toward fiction writers. Academic writers need something different.
Fiction writing groups tend to focus on content and critique, and members often read their writing aloud for others to evaluate. That kind of “workshopping” -- in which a bunch of people give off-the-cuff (and sometimes conflicting) feedback about what you’ve written -- is not what academics need. Thanks to the peer-review process, faculty manuscripts receive no shortage of feedback. Papers by graduate students are (or should be) critiqued by their advisers and mentors prior to submission. Meanwhile faculty members often seek guidance on their written work from trusted colleagues, mentors, and peers. 

Median Salaries of Higher-Education Professionals, 2014-15

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 31st, 2015

The median base salaries of professional staff members on college campuses rose by 2.2 percent in 2014 — a rate of salary growth that was a tenth of a percentage point higher than the previous year, according to the results of an annual survey released on Monday by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.
The increases for academic professionals at public colleges were slightly greater than that at private institutions, at 2.3 and 2.1 percent, respectively. The figures below reflect the salaries of more than 186,000 academic professionals at 1,104 public and private colleges nationwide. A dash indicates insufficient data. View recently released survey data on the salaries of tenured and tenure-track professors at four-year colleges, and senior college administrators.

Monday, March 30, 2015

How Sweet Briar's Board Decided to Close the College

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 28th, 2015

Hilary Bowie remembers when she made the mental jump from being a college student to being a member of her college’s Board of Directors. It was at her first board meeting, in November 2012, six months after she had graduated from Sweet Briar College.
The college had announced a new strategic plan a year and a half earlier. Ms. Bowie, then a junior, had been taken in by the upbeat language in the title: "A Plan for Sustainable Excellence." Her college, already excellent, was going to get even more excellent. There was a plan — a beautifully worded one, at that.
Sitting in her first board meeting, Ms. Bowie realized that the words in the plan didn’t really mean much. It was the numbers that counted. Sweet Briar had missed its target numbers for enrollment and per-student revenue, explained Jo Ellen Parker, then the president. The college really needed to start hitting those numbers, the president told the board.

The Silencing of Harvard’s Professors

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 24th, 2015

Today Harvard faces a serious governance problem that requires institutional change. When we first came here, the university was organized on the constitutional principle: “Each tub on its own bottom.” This meant first of all that each of the component schools (arts and sciences, medical school, law school, and so on) had not only a high degree of budgetary independence but also that its faculty and dean had a large measure of autonomy. And at the level of the schools such administrators as there were worked under the direction of the dean and in close cooperation with faculty committees. Correspondingly, the central administration was very small: There were four vice presidents to oversee administration, alumni affairs and development, finance, and government relations, and a general counsel.
In 1991, when Derek Bok left office after 20 years, there was no provost. The president managed his academic duties alone, with a small ministerial staff. He chaired the ad hoc committees that considered permanent appointments, read the supporting materials, heard the witnesses, and submitted his conclusion to the governing boards. The president’s establishment was small, so of necessity much of the business of the university — academic and administrative — was conducted at the level of the individual faculties. There, individual faculty members took on many of these administrative tasks, though not always to their delight.

Gagged in Kansas? Bill Would Deny Free Speech to Public-College Employees

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 30th, 2015

Oh Dorothy, we are indeed in Kansas. Under a bill pending in the state’s Legislature, public-college and public-university employees in Kansas would be barred from using their official titles in newspaper opinion articles written in their capacity as private citizens.
The bill would prohibit public postsecondary employees in the state from “providing or using [the] employee’s official title when authoring or contributing to a newspaper opinion column.” But … don’t worry. The restriction applies “only when the opinion of the employee concerns a person who currently holds any elected public office in [the] state, a person who is a candidate for any elected public office in [the] state, or any matter pending before any legislative or public body in [the] state.”
Given various pressing issues likely to need attention in Kansas, it’s reassuring to know that the bill’s sponsors are hard at work to make sure that hapless elected officials are protected from bullying by public-college and -university employees.

Right-to-Work Threats, State by State

Labor Notes
March 25th, 2015




Right-wing legislators and pressure groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council continue their push to expand “right to work” across the country, though it appears Wisconsin will be the only state to enact it in 2015.
Such laws allow private sector workers represented by unions to dodge paying their fair share of dues. Wisconsin becomes the 25th state with such a law; the previous two were Indiana and Michigan, both in 2012.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, related bills were introduced in 20 states last year. Visit their database to track the progress of this year’s legislation. Here’s the status of some of 2015’s crop:
The Missouri House approved a right-to-work bill, and a different version is scheduled for Senate debate, but Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has said he will refuse to sign any such law.


Right-wing legislators and pressure groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council continue their push to expand “right to work” across the country, though it appears Wisconsin will be the only state to enact it in 2015.
Such laws allow private sector workers represented by unions to dodge paying their fair share of dues. Wisconsin becomes the 25th state with such a law; the previous two were Indiana and Michigan, both in 2012.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, related bills were introduced in 20 states last year. Visit their database to track the progress of this year’s legislation. Here’s the status of some of 2015’s crop:
The Missouri House approved a right-to-work bill, and a different version is scheduled for Senate debate, but Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has said he will refuse to sign any such law.
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2015/03/right-work-threats-state-state#sthash.aBSq2cfF.dpuf

Rights to Scholarly Work

Inside Higher Ed
March 26th, 2015

For many years, Ohio State University -- like lots of peer institutions -- had an understanding with its faculty: the institution might claim intellectual property rights to innovations, inventions and patentable research, but scholarly works belonged to professors alone. Now a new draft intellectual property policy is threatening that agreement in the eyes of some faculty members. Ohio State says the policy is preliminary and the final document will result in no new limits on faculty property rights. But the ongoing debate and others like it elsewhere in recent years have implications for defining scholarly work in the digital age and for just how much of an academic’s work -- digital or not -- his or her institution can claim to own.
Earlier this month, an ad hoc, faculty-led committee charged with updating Ohio State’s 14-year-old intellectual property policy presented a draft to the Faculty Council. According to a copy obtained by Inside Higher Ed, “All rights, title and interests in intellectual property (I.P.) are the sole property of the university” if the faculty, staff or student creators were “acting within the scope of their employment,” using “funding, equipment or infrastructure provided by or through the university,” or carrying out the research at any university facility. (The language mimics state code on the matter.)

The End of College? Not So Fast

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 30th, 2015

In his new book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, Kevin Carey lays out a dystopian future for American higher education as we know it. Colleges and universities will cease to exist, with the exception of perhaps "15 to 50" of them, and will be replaced by the "University of Everywhere," which will provide "abundant and free" educational resources that for centuries have been locked up in the monopoly enjoyed by universities. The reasons for this revolution? Carey ascribes his predictions largely to the availability of massive open online courses and the coming revolution in badging, or microcredentials.
In Carey’s educational future, students will no longer need to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year for four (or often, six) years on a bachelor’s degree. Any courses they could take at an accredited institution will be available for free on the Internet, and third-party certification organizations will crop up that will attest to the learning achieved in each of these courses. These certification badges, in Carey’s model, will verify free or at very low cost the equivalent education and training that students today receive in a bachelor’s-degree program. Voila! The end of college.

Guilt by Association

Inside Higher Ed
March 27th, 2015


Most medical researchers have a mantra about relationships with industry, financial and otherwise: disclose, disclose, disclose. It’s a position with which most professors (and journal editors) in other fields -- even those without life-and-death implications -- agree. But should colleges and universities be held to the same standard, and just how much disclosure is enough?
Those are questions faculty members at the University of California at San Francisco are raising this week, ahead of a decidedly controversial medical conference co-sponsored by the university and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank that the professors view as anti-science and pro-tobacco. The university meanwhile, says that such questions are important but that the event in question is about the future of medicine, not partisan politics.

Professional Salaries Up 2.2%

Inside Higher Ed
March 30th, 2015

Professional positions in higher education administration saw an overall median base salary increase of 2.2 percent in 2014, according to a report issued today by the College and University Professional Association of Human Resources.
The increase  a year ago was 2.1 percent. Reversing a trend of recent years, increases at public colleges and universities were greater than those at private institutions (2.3 percent vs. 2.1 percent).
Of the various positions covered by this report, the best compensated positions (excluding coaches) were (on average): staff physician ($148,722), followed by staff lawyer, veterinarian, pharmacist, senior technology licensing officer. The lowest paid position was that of student residence hall manager ($31,470 plus room and board).

Faculty Critic of NYU’s Role in Abu Dhabi Is Target of Secret Investigation

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 27th, 2015

Andrew Ross, a faculty member at New York University who has been a sharp critic of the abuse of migrant workers in the construction of its campus in the United Arab Emirates, is the target of a mysterious investigation, The New York Times reports. An investigator has been seeking out “people to comment negatively” about him, the Times says, but has refused to disclose who hired her.
The investigation has also taken aim at a reporter, Ariel Kaminer, who co-wrote an article for the Times about the exploitation of workers in NYU’s project in Abu Dhabi, the emirates’ capital.

Ohio U. Faculty Objects to $1.2-Million Purchase of House for President

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 27th, 2015

Faculty members at Ohio University have objected to the $1.2-million purchase of a new residence for the institution’s president, The Athens Messenger reports. More than 80 professors wrote an open letter calling the Ohio University Foundation’s purchase a “poor use” of money.
“At a time when student debt is spinning out of control, and the funding of higher education is in crisis … it makes no sense to undertake such lavish expenditure,” the letter states.

Tenure Lawsuit Challenges Privacy of Student Evaluations

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 26th, 2015

Should the confidentiality shrouding students’ evaluations of college instructors always be protected, even if it might conceal violations of the law?
A California state court is expected to take up that question on Thursday in response to Pomona College’s refusal to grant access to such records to a former professor suing the college for discrimination.
Lawyers for Alma Martinez, to whom the private college denied tenure and who was dismissed as an assistant professor of theater in 2013, are seeking copies of students’ evaluations not only of Ms. Martinez but also of faculty members who, unlike her, received tenure at Pomona in recent years.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Academic Freedom or Secrecy?

Inside Higher Ed
March 24th, 2015

The University of Delaware is refusing to fulfill a congressman's request that it release information about who is funding a prominent climate change skeptic’s research. The university is the first of seven institutions facing similar requests to publicly deny them, citing concerns about academic freedom. Delaware’s refusal raises important questions about the line between protecting free inquiry and preserving research integrity, and signals a reversal of sorts from an earlier position on controversial research funding. And not everyone agrees that academic freedom covers a decision to keep funding sources secret.
Last month, Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter to Delaware, expressing concerns about the ongoing work of David Legates, a professor of climatology there. Legates specializes in statistical methods, specifically related to precipitation, and has been a vocal critic of the general scientific consensus that climate change is a result of humans. He’s also alleged -- including in Congressional testimony -- that climate change science “dissenters” are systematically “silenced” by threats to their careers.

You're Distracted. This Professor Can Help.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 24th, 2015

To complete her homework assignment, Meran Hill needed total concentration. The University of Washington senior shut the blinds in her studio apartment. She turned off the music. She took a few deep breaths.
Then she plunged into the task: Spend 15 minutes doing e-mail. Only e-mail, and nothing else.
Soon enough, though, a familiar craving bubbled up. For some people, the rabbit hole of Internet distraction begins with cat videos. For Ms. Hill, who calls herself "a massive weather geek," it starts with a compulsion to check conditions in outer space.
As Ms. Hill plowed through e-mails, the voice beckoned: If I could only just leave and go to Spaceweather.com ...
But the assignment had her trapped. After a while, she says, staying on e-mail felt more natural.

To Help Students Succeed Professionally and Personally, Teach the Art of Being Human

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 9th, 2015

Among the many false dichotomies fostered by the continuing debates surrounding higher education, one that I find especially disconcerting is that which pits the professional against the personal. While it is expressed in a variety of ways, it boils down to this: Either you believe the purpose of going to college is to be able to secure a (preferably high-paying) job, or you think there is something more intrinsically valuable to be gained from the years spent earning a degree. My question is: When did these become mutually exclusive?
Yet believing that they are is one of the unfortunate conclusions many people draw from the endless bickering about the value of a college education, a debate that many believe was ignited by Ronald Reagan’s disparaging of "intellectual curiosity," and intensified with Scott Walker’s recent proposal that the University of Wisconsin revise its mission statement to replace references to the "search for truth" or desire to "improve the human condition" with clear (read "practical") goals of meeting "the state’s work-force needs." Politics aside, I doubt that either of these officials wanted to assert that professionals need not be thoughtful or reflective. However, that is precisely what this sort of sloppy rhetoric implies and what continues to drive the public’s misconceptions about higher education and the "value" it holds for our society.

This Is What Wisconsin's 2.5% Budget Cut Looks Like

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 24th, 2015

I recently learned that when the semester ends in May, nearly half of my immediate co-workers, maybe more, will be out of a job. Of course, adjuncts like me are often "out of a job," since our contracts go only from semester to semester. But because I’m an adjunct in the University of Wisconsin system — the one that’s made headlines thanks to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $300-million budget cuts over the next two years — this time it feels different.
Ask the governor, and it shouldn’t feel that different. "Our budget changes are only 2.5 percent of the total UW system operating budget," he has said. After all, what business or family couldn’t manage a 2.5-percent cut, right? But as others have pointed out, such a number is so misleading that it wouldn’t pass the sniff test in any basic course in statistics. That’s because almost all of the system’s total operating budget is nondiscretionary, meaning the cuts must come from the much smaller part of the budget that can be raised or lowered. In reality, the proposal slashes state support for the university system by 13 percent and includes a 25-percent cut in funding for "essential educational functions," such as instruction, student advising, and programming.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Adjuncts on Hundreds of Campuses Rally Simultaneously

Labor Notes
March 13th, 2015




At Long Beach City College—like most colleges and universities these days—the adjuncts who do most of the teaching earn poverty wages and never know if they’ll even have a job next semester. But that problem wasn’t on the board of trustees’ agenda this week.
Instead the board addressed the job security of superintendent-president Eloy Ortiz Oakley. He already had a contract through 2017—but at his urging they agreed to extend it further, to 2019.
Oakley gets paid more than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
This kind of professional disregard toward the concerns of the staff is just one of the reasons why frustrated faculty on February 25 joined the first-ever National Adjunct Awareness and Walkout Day.

At Long Beach City College—like most colleges and universities these days—the adjuncts who do most of the teaching earn poverty wages and never know if they’ll even have a job next semester. But that problem wasn’t on the board of trustees’ agenda this week.
Instead the board addressed the job security of superintendent-president Eloy Ortiz Oakley. He already had a contract through 2017—but at his urging they agreed to extend it further, to 2019.
Oakley gets paid more than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
This kind of professional disregard toward the concerns of the staff is just one of the reasons why frustrated faculty on February 25 joined the first-ever National Adjunct Awareness and Walkout Day.
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2015/03/adjuncts-hundreds-campuses-rally-simultaneously#sthash.UY8ECRn7.dpuf

Discourse of 'Don't'

Inside Higher Ed
March 23rd, 2015


Books, articles and talks about adjuncts typically include a long list of what these instructors lack: decent wages, upward mobility, office space, assurances of academic freedom and inclusion in departmental activities, among other material and social goods.
But is the activist focus on what adjunct instructors don’t have, rather than what they positively contribute, hurting their cause? That was the premise of a panel here Friday at the annual meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. The topic was particularly urgent among the rhetoric and composition instructors in attendance, whose ranks are disproportionately non-tenure-track -- even compared to the already high numbers of adjuncts across the humanities and academe in general. Experts attribute the trend to the vast number of compulsory, first-year writing courses offered by colleges and universities, the fact that many writing instructors don’t have a Ph.D., and the decline of the share of the professoriate in tenure-track positions.

Solidarity wins at Rutgers

Solidarity Workers
March 23rd, 2015

SOME 4,700 full-time faculty and graduate employees at Rutgers University overcame an intransigent management to win a tentative contract agreement that includes dramatic wage increases for those at the lowest ranks and a substantial modification of management's coveted "subject to" clause used to freeze wages in 2010.
"Membership activism provided the leverage our negotiating team needed to successfully revise management's 'subject to' clause in order to guarantee our raises cannot be frozen at whim. While we were not able to achieve all of our goals, on balance we think this is a good contract," wrote Professor Lisa Klein, president of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professionals-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT).

Anger and Activism Greet Plan to Shut Sweet Briar College

New York Times
March 23rd, 2015

Here at bucolic Sweet Briar College, equestrians awaken at dawn and trek to the stables to ride on 18 miles of trails through wooded countryside, fields and dells. Women study on the boathouse dock at sunset, as geese squawk over a lake. Pearls are still in fashion, and men must have escorts. Students call it “the pink bubble.”
Now, all of a sudden, the bubble has burst.
The abrupt decision this month by the Sweet Briar board to close the 114-year-old women’s liberal arts school at the end of this term “as a result of insurmountable financial challenges” — with no advance warning to students, parents, alumnae or professors — has transformed this tranquil community into a hotbed of anger and activism.

Read more here

The Professor Is in: Don’t Tell an Adjunct Tale

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23rd, 2015



Will it hurt my chances for a tenure-track job to have adjunct work on my record?
There is a lot of anxiety out there about that question, and a lot of what I consider undue paranoia. Adjunct teaching does not typically harm anyone’s chances of getting a tenure-track job, at least in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, at this point, adjuncting may well be almost an expected part of a successful candidate’s record.
Despite its terrible reputation, adjunct work is evidence that you’ve taught a course entirely on your own, and that type of experience is a critical element of a competitive candidate’s record. No amount of TA-ing, even at highly ranked universities, will substitute. The fact is, teaching one course on your own at a local college counts for far more on your record than four semesters of TA work at your doctoral institution. Because TA-ing is, fundamentally, not teaching. (Unless of course your institution is one where TAs actually teach a whole course on their own, in which case that experience is as valuable as any other sole-teaching experience. If that is your situation, make sure your application materials identify you as the instructor of record for those “TA-ed” courses.).