As Congress debates over a stopgap spending measure to keep the government open past October 1, the group representing America’s elite research universities on Tuesday issued a statement protesting efforts by Congress impose restrictions on or ban federal funding for social and behavioral science research.
The Association of American Universities said called those efforts “disturbing” and “inappropriate,” arguing that they would “relegate such research to second-class status in federal research funding.”
Congress in March approved a ban on the use of National Science Foundation funds for political science research. Proponents of the measure, which was sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, argued that federal dollars should flow only to research projects that involve the physical or biological sciences or technology fields. A House subcommittee earlier this year approved a measure barring economic health research at the National Institutes of Health, but it was not included in this year’s legislation to fund the government.
“Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to de-fund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines,” the statement said. It also said that social and behavioral science research was important to addressing the nation’s challenges in a variety of areas such as national security, public safety and transportation.
Madison Area Technical College is turning down an offer of a $100,000 gift because of a condition attached to it, The Capital Times reported. David Peterson, a long-time instructor, pledged the money if the college would change the name of the Bettsey L. Barhorst Welcome Center by removing the name of Barhorst, former president of the college. To drive home the point, Peterson said he would turn over the funds specifically for the lettering currently used in the welcome center. Peterson explained his rationale to the newspaper. He said he was offended by the "decadent display of self-promotion." A welcome center, he said, should be "functional, not personal." College officials say, however, that the welcome center wasn't just named to honor the former president, but because she and her husband made a donation. Having accepted funds and agreed to name the center, officials said, they can't remove the name.
The hiring of David H. Petraeus, the former military leader and ex-director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to teach at the honors college of the City University of New York this year angered many faculty members when word leaked that he would be paid $200,000 for a single course. In response Petraeus agreed to teach the course for only $1.
But the University Faculty Senate is now defending the right of Petraeus to teach, and to walk to his class, following protests in which his critics shouted at him repeatedly, calling him a war criminal and vowing to follow him to every class session. A statement released by the Executive Committee of the body said: "Because they disagree with Professor Petraeus' views, these demonstrators intend to deprive him of his ability to teach and the ability of his students to learn from him.... Professor Petraeus, and all members of CUNY's instructional staff, have the right to teach without interference. Members of the university community must have the opportunity to express alternate views, but in a manner that does not violate academic freedom."
Purdue University's regional Calumet campus has rescinded layoffs ordered for seven faculty members, The Journal & Courier reported. Administrators had said that enrollment declines necessitated the layoffs, but now officials say that more encouraging enrollment projects mean that there is no longer the need to eliminate positions.
As pervasive as it is perilous, the recurrent use of two words — "real world" — crystallizes many problems confronting the academy today.
The term gestures toward all spheres beyond the so-called ivory tower; an advertisement in the New York City subways lauded the "real world" experience of teaching in the New York Police Academy. But often this expression more specifically refers to the world of business. When it simply serves as shorthand to distinguish those realms from the university, the reference may be innocuous. And yes, professors and academic administrators indubitably benefit from learning from and collaborating with their counterparts outside those proverbial ivy-covered walls. As a faculty representative, I worked closely with the trustees of Carleton College on a presidential search; these interactions repeatedly demonstrated to me their shrewdness in evaluating people and the practical needs of any organization, thus dissipating lingering prejudices about the business world and reminding me that its variety complicates generalizations about it.
More often, though, contrasting the "real world" outside the academy with its putatively unreal counterpart within is pernicious for three interlocking reasons. First, the two words in question often frequently reflect and encourage self-denigration, even abnegation. Many people outside the academy regard its denizens in the way nuns are sometimes dismissively seen -- as exemplars of a life that in theory one may respect but in practice one greets with bemused condescension. Academics themselves sometimes on occasion refer to the "real world" because they have internalized such judgments. The strategic use of those two words in influential studies of higher education can reinforce these prejudices and insecurities. Thus Louis Menand’s Marketplace of Ideas tellingly defends pre-professional and vocational courses, in contrast to the traditionally defined liberal arts curriculum, in terms of their fulfilling "real-world goals."
Second, by implying that alternative values are unrealistic — indeed, naive -- these two words are likely to justify the increasing importation of certain troubled and troubling "real world" business practices. This shift has been tellingly encapsulated as the recent corporatization of the university, notably in Frank Donoghue’s The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. The lamentable reliance on adjuncts is all too reminiscent of the emphasis on outsourcing in the business world. It is equally dangerous uncritically to copy hierarchies prevalent though not universal in business communities, as the trustees at the University of Virginia learned to their cost. Higher education’s star system went to school on Wall Street (and quite possibly in Hollywood as well). And "scorecards" that rate universities by the amount of money their graduates make after graduation similarly impose the worst values of the corporate milieu.
Third, distinguishing the "real world" of business from the unreal world of the academy misrepresents for better and for worse the longstanding workings of our institutions of higher education themselves. The very term "real" is clearly slippery ("reality TV"? "The Real Housewives of Orange Country"?); but many connotations — not all of them grounds for rejoicing-- do in fact already apply to the academy. To the extent that the adjective gestures toward the competition among ambitious people, many academics and leaders of their institutions not only read books about those issues but also, so to speak, wrote the book on them. The frequent references to “branding” within the academy demonstrate that marketing executives could teach certain admissions officers and other administrators nothing they have not long known about the half-truths that practice can foster.
But in fact the university is also a world committed to, indeed exemplary of, the "real" in more positive respects. Arguably our attention to using language carefully — teaching writing is surely a significant part of the mission of institutions of higher education — in fact encourages conveying a real picture, expressing what one really intends to say. Our emphasis on critical thinking, notably the marshaling of evidence, trains students to distinguish the real from the specious and self-serving. Alternatively, even if one subscribes to the poststructuralist credo that language can never express reality, we can still encourage those students to discern and distinguish positions along a spectrum between reality and deceit. In so doing, we achieve one goal central to a liberal arts education: building the very faculty of discernment — a capacity that, besides its many other potentialities, can and should encourage a re-evaluation of the expression "real world."
Heather Dubrow is the John D. Boyd SJ Chair in the Poetic Imagination at Fordham University. Among her publications are six single-authored monographs, a co-edited collection of essays, an edition of As You Like It, and a volume of her own poetry.
Metropolitan State University has paid its summer course instructors – a week late, the Pioneer Press reported. Administrators said last week that paychecks had been issued to several dozen instructors who did not receive their paychecks on time. The lump-sum payments were for thousands of dollars in some instances.
The Twin Cities-based university’s collective bargaining unit, the Inter Faculty Organization, representing faculty in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, also has requested "detailed, enumerated," line-items on their paystubs going forward, and an audit of six years’ worth of faculty pay and benefits, citing a history of payroll problems.
University administrators could not be reached for comment Friday.