Monday, July 31, 2017

Is Academic Freedom's Watchdog Losing Its Bite?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
July 27, 2017

At least once a year, Frank Phillips College, in Borger, Tex., gets a letter inviting its administration to work with the American Association of University Professors to get off of the AAUP's censure list.  Like many institutions that annually receive such letters, the small community college rebuffs the offer.

The routine has been the same since 1969.  That's the year after the AAUP censured the college's administration after concluding that it had fired Aileene Ledford Gauntt, an instructor who had worked there for 10 years, without due process or severance pay.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education's website here.

Coping With a Blockade

Inside Higher Ed
By IHE Staff
July 31, 2017

For two decades Qatar has been building its Education City, which is now home to six prominent American universities.  The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development has financed the project for the small, wealthy nation, which is located on the Arabian Peninsula.

Last month, however, five Arab nations began a blockade and severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, raising worries about the possible impact on Education City and its U.S. partners -- Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth Universities.

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What's in a Grade? It depends on Whom You Ask

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Beckie Supiano

How precisely can professors evaluate students' work?  That question was at the heart if a recent debate over whether to change the grading system at Eastern Washington University.

Eastern Washington had long awarded course grades on a 4.0 system, in which grades are given to the tenths decimal place, offering many more options for professors than the more conventional letter system.  Instead of awarding an A or an A-minus, for instance, professors might give a 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, or 4.0.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education website here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Interviews on Women and Harassment in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Academe Blog
By Irene Ngun
July 21, 2017

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is conducting a study of the impacts of gender-related experiences on women in science, engineering, and medical fields, and they have contracted with RTI International to gather information for the study.  RTI International plans to conduct one-hour, in-depth telephone interviews with approximately 40 women faculty members in science, engineering, and medical fields at research institutions who have been personally impacted by any of the following behaviors in a professional setting within the past 5 years:

  • Someone making repeated, unwanted sexual advances to you
  • Someone using pressure or manipulation to get you to agree to sexual contact
  • Inappropriate or sexual remarks, sexual oriented jokes, or comments about cognitive or intellectual sex differences
If you meet these criteria and are interested in being considered for the study, please complete a brief screening form here.

Thanks for your support!

Uncertainty on Trump's Transgender Order

Inside Higher Ed
By Nick Roll
July 27, 2017

On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that his administration would roll back previous guidelines that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.
"[P]lease be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military," Trump announced in a tweet.  "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail"

It is unclear what impact this policy could have on U.S. service academies and other military programs, several of which either have or formerly had transgender students enrolled.

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

Professor Plans to Sue Evergreen State for $3.85M

Inside Higher Ed
By Scott Jaschik
July 27, 2017

Bret Weinstein, the Evergreen State College professor who became the target of student protests at Evergreen State College in May, is planning to sue the college for $3.85 million, The Olympian reported.  Weinstein faced threats such that, for a brief period, campus police suggested he remain off campus.  Weinstein angered some students by refusing to participate in a day in which white people were asked to stay off campus.  His filing about a suit states that the college "permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment...

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Great Conference Con?

Inside Higher Ed
By Colleen Flaherty
July 25, 2017

Scholars -- particularly those working off the tenure track, with little to no access to institutional funds -- have long criticized the costs associated with attending academic conferences.  But a recent round of criticism comes from tenure-track and tenured professors, as well, with some proposing alternative means of meeting in response to logistical, political and . of course, financial concerns.

"Yes, being an academic is a privilege, Yes, we are lucky to get to see the insides of conference centers the world over.  And yes, we need to have a discussion abut the costs we're required to pay to keep this privilege," Pamela L. Gay, an assistant research professor of astronomy at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, wrote in a Medium blog post called "The Unacknowledged Costs of Academic Travel."

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

Purge of Turkish Academics is "Staggering"

Academe Blog
By Hank Reichman
July 21, 2017

In the year since the attempted coup in Turkey, a "staggering" number of academics have faced criminal investigations, detentions, prosecutions, mass dismissal, expulsion and restrictions on travel, according to an open letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, signed by Quinn, executive director of Scholars at Risk (SAR), the New York University-based scholar network, and reported in University World News.

Shortly after hundreds of thousands of people joined a mass rally in Istanbul on July 16 against the Erdoğan regime, the government announced that it had arrested almost 900 people over the previous week, including 72 university staff.  On July 13, the state announced that some 302 scholars had been dismissed from their jobs for their alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is blamed for the failed military coup.

Read the full article at the Academe Blog website here.

Organizing, Organization, and the AAUP

Academe Blog
By Hank Reichman
July 20, 2017

If there's an organized outrage machine, we need an organized response".  Those words from Tessie McMillan Cottom, assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, author of the excellent Lower Ed, prolific blogger, and frequent (and often witty) presence on Twitter, headline a story in this morning's Chronicle of Higher Education on the growing epidemic of online (and also direct) harassment of the left-leaning, very minority, faculty members to which the AAUP has been calling attention for some time (see also our successful fight to defend the academic freedom of Trinity College professor Johnny Williams).  The Chronicle report summarizes a useful essay Cottom posted to her blog tat provides concrete advice for dealing with "orchestrated outrage and social media attacks on academic legitimacy."  As Drexel professor George Cicciarello-Maher, a target of such harassment earlier this year, told the Chronicle, "Some faculty think this is about a handful of individuals when in reality, it's about all of us."

Read the full article at the Academe Blog here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

'If There's an Organized Outrage Machine, We Need an Organized Response'

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Chris Quintana
July 18, 2017

Anticipating the possibility of an internet mob harassing a professor because of something he or she said can seem a bit like prepping for a lightening bolt.  Yes, people get stuck by lightening, but more often than not it feels like a freak occurrence.  It's easily avoided, some might say, by not flying a kite in a thunderstorm.

But these strikes appear to have grown more common in recent months.  Sure a professor who calls for the hanging of President Trump should expect blowback, but it's hard to argue the same for, say, a professor who writes a lengthy essay on classical statues and how they have been co-opted by the modern white-nationalist movement.  These attacks also come at a time when a majority of Republican or right-leaning Americans harbor a negative view of the nation's higher education institutions.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education's website here.

Read the Academe Blog's response to this article titled, Organizing, Organization, and the AAUP, here.

Former Top Official in Obama's Education Dept. Is Named President of ACE

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Goldie Blumenstyk
July 20, 2017

Ted Mitchell, a top U.S. Department of Education official during the Obama administration and an architect of several of the college and student-loan accountability regulations the Trump administration is now trying to dismantle, was named on Thursday as the new president of the American Council on Education.

Mr. Mitchell said countering the "narrative that college doesn't matter anymore for individuals in society" would be among his highest priorities for the organization, which represents about 1,800 college presidents on national policy issues.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education's website here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Victory for Academic Freedom at CSU Fullerton

Academe Blog
By Hank Reichman
July 18, 2017

In a victory for academic freedom and faculty rights, a California State University, Fullerton part-time anthropology lecturer facing dismissal after a fracas at a campus demonstration in February has been reinstated by order of an arbitrator.  The university's College Republicans had accused Eric Canin of striking one of them at the demonstration.  Canin denied hitting anyone, although he acknowledged that the confrontation got heated.

The incident took place February 8 as pro-Palestine students and counter-protesters marched through campus. Canin reportedly approached the counter-protesters and tried to rip a sign out of a student's hand.  He was accused of then striking another student who tried to step between them.  The Young Republicans' president, Chris Boyle, said he saw the hit and proceeded to restrain Canin until police arrived.  An internal investigation by the university determined that Canin did strike a protester.  As a result the university issued a letter of termination.

Read the full article at the Academe Blog here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Worse Than It Seems

Inside Higher Ed
Colleen Flaherty
July 18, 2017

Like many debates about higher education, those about sexual harassment are often based on anecdotes and opinion.  To some, male professors in particular are victims in waiting of the PC police anxious to punish a stray comment.  To others, faculty harassers are finally being held accountable for sexually predatory behavior toward vulnerable students.

"A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty" seeks to cut through the noise with data analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities.  The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases -- 53 percent -- involved alleged serial harassers.

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brief Supports Climate Researchers in Public Records Request Case

AAUP National
July 17, 2017

On July 12, the AAUP yesterday submitted an amicus brief in support of the faculty members who have been subjected to intrusive public records requests for emails related to their climate-science research.  The AAUP brief, filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, argues that the academic freedom to conduct research is essential to a vital university system and to the common good, and that this warrants protecting certain research records from disclosure.

Read the full article at the AAUP website here.

Academic Freedom Prevails at Trinity College

AAUP National
July 14, 2017

In a victory for academic freedom, the administration of Trinity College in Connecticut acknowledged today that Professor Johnny Williams's social media posts "were protected by academic freedom and did not violate Trinity College policies."

The administration's statement observed that "Our understanding of academic freedom in America today is rooted largely in a joint statement from 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges that asserted the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth."

Read the full article at the AAUP website here.

Law School Accreditation Should Not Be Weakened

AAUP National
July 12, 2017

The AAUP this week submitted comments to the American Bar Association opposing proposed revisions to the ABA's accreditation standards that would eliminate a requirement that full-time faculty "teach more than one-half of the total credit hours offered by the law school in a year or more than two-thirds of student contact hours generated in that year."

Read the full article at the AAUP website here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Long-Term Contracts for 1,500 Adjuncts

Inside Higher Ed
By Colleen Flaherty
July 10, 2017

City of New York's 30,000-member faculty union fought for six years for a contract that ensured a handful of must-haves.  Among them was more job security for adjuncts, who previously taught on semester-to-semester appointments.

Now that provision--secured in a contract inked last summer -- is starting to materialize: some 1,500 long-serving adjuncts have been awarded three-year appointments, to begin this fall.

Read the full article at the Inside Higher Ed website here.

One Activist Has Hundreds of Colleges Under the Gun to Fix Their Websites

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
July 6, 2017

After the 2016 presidential election, Marcie Lipsitt looked up the alma maters of Donald J. Trump's chief advisers and persuaded the Education Department to investigate them for illegally having websites inaccessible to people with disabilities.  At the height of this year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, she similarly triggered federal scrutiny of the colleges represented in the "sweet sixteen" regional semifinals.  Morgan State University became one of her targets because she had met one of its blind students in Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Ms. Lipsitt, a veteran disability-rights activist from Franklin, Mich., says she regards virtually any college as an easy target, because nearly all have web pages inaccessible to people who are blind or deaf, or who have motor or cognitive disabilities.

Read the full article at The Chronicle for Higher Education's website here.

Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country. Why?

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Clara Turnage
July 10, 2017

A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released bu the Pew Research Center on Monday.  The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges ans universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent.  That number now stands at 58 percent.

By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges ans universities have a positive impact on the United States.

Read the full article at The Chronicle for Higher Education's website here.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Letter Issued in Trinity Prof Suspension Case

AAUP National
June 27, 2017

The AAUP today issued a letter to Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of the Trinity College, urging her to immediately reinstate professor Johnny Eric Williams to is normal faculty duties.  Professor Williams, an associate professor of sociology with twenty-one years of service at Trinity College, was placed on leave Monday evening after being targeted with a flood of threats following reports about his social media postings by the right-wing media outlet Campus Reform. (More background information here.)

The AAUP has long held that academic freedom includes the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest without institutional discipline or restraint, save in response to fundamental violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence.

Read the full posting at the national AAUP website here.

Read the full letter here.

Sign a statement against targeted harassment of faculty.

Travel Ban Case to be Heard, Threats to Academic Freedom Remain High

AAUP National
June 26, 2017

This morning the Supreme Court announced that it will hear a legal challenge to Trump's exclusionary travel ban.  The case will be heard in the upcoming term that starts in October.

In the meantime, the ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries has been allowed to go into effect, with exemptions for foreign nationals "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

We believe that the exclusion is at odds with the fundamental AAUP principles and our nation's historic commitment to the free exchange of ideas.

Read the full posting at the national AAUP website here.

Stand Against Targeted Threats and Harassment

AAUP National
June 22, 2017

We are dismayed that another faculty member, Johnny Eric Williams of Trinity College, has become the target of a flood of threats following reports about his social media postings by the right-wing media outlet Campus Reform.  In this case, the college was shut down for a day so that law enforcement officials could investigate threats to the college and to the faculty member.  This is the second time this month that an institution of higher education has had to close down in response to threats, disrupting education and creating an environment of fear on campus.

Read the full posting at the national AAUP website here.

SEC settles fraud case against for-profit college ITT

OregonLive
July 3, 2017
By The Washington Post

WASHINGTON-- The Securities and Exchange Commission has settled its fraud case against ITT Educational Services, but it continues to pursue top executives from the defunct for-profit college firm for deceiving investors about high rates of late payments and defaults on student loans backed by the firm.

A final judgement order filed Friday resolves civil fraud charges brought against the company two years ago for false and misleading statements about the failure of two in-house student-loan programs.  There is no monetary penalty, and the company did not admit any wrongdoing.

Read the full article at the OregonLive website here.