The University of Wisconsin System moved a step closer Friday to approving new policies related to tenure -- policies that continue to worry faculty members. With little discussion, the Education Committee of the system’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to recommend draft policies on tenure and processes for layoffs or termination, paving the way for the full board to vote on the policies next month. The new policies were drafted by a system task force after Wisconsin’s Legislature voted last year to strike strong protections for tenured faculty from state statute, but faculty members say the new system-based policies still fall short of meeting American Association of University Professors-recommended standards. John Behling, the board’s vice president and chair of the system’s Tenure Policy Task Force, said the policies were drafted to reaffirm the board’s commitment to strong tenure and academic freedom while also increasing “accountability” to taxpayers. “Without that demonstration of accountability, whether real or perceived, our budget prospects in future years will not improve,” Behling added.
Tenure has been a touchy subject in recent months in Wisconsin due to the changes. That’s part of the reason faculty members objected strongly to a survey of their views on tenure this fall by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which has in the past endorsed conservative positions on state policy issues. Despite the controversy, the institute is back at it with a new survey concerning tenure -- this time of non-tenure-track faculty members in the university system. The survey includes such questions as, “In order to receive tenure, you have to take a lower salary. How much of a reduction in your annual salary (keeping your workload constant) would you be willing to take to receive tenure?” and "Would increasing the proportion of classes taught by nontenured instructors harm or improve the overall quality of instruction in your department?" Some faculty members have complained that some questions seem to encourage answers that suggest more faculty members should be off the tenure track.
But Mike Nichols, president of the institute, said this new survey was an effort to gather information on tenure from an entirely new group of respondents -- instructional staff. He shared a letter he sent to Behling last year, attempting to dispel some of what he called the “misinformation” surrounding the institute’s efforts. The letter says neither the institute nor the scholar conducting the survey had any preconceived notions regarding findings, and that the survey will “allow all Wisconsinites an opportunity to sift and winnow all objective information pertinent to a live policy debate.”
Chicago State University on Thursday declared that it was in a state of financial exigency due to the state failing to adopt a budget and provide funds, The Chicago Tribune reported. All public colleges and universities in the state have been voicing concerns about the impact of the state's inaction, but Chicago State has been warning that it may run out of money by next month. A state of financial exigency, under guidelines of the American Association of University Professors, means that a college's financial condition is so dire as to justify speedier elimination of faculty jobs, including tenured faculty jobs.
Submitted by Jake New on February 5, 2016 - 3:00am
An anti-abortion student group at Purdue University targeted the university's Black Cultural Center Tuesday with a series of messages written in chalk, angering many on campus who said the messages were racist and sexist in nature. "All lives matter," the group wrote. "Womb = most dangerous place 4 black kids. Planned Parenthood = #1 killer of black babies. Civils rights begins in the womb." [sic]
"The not-so-subtle meaning behind these messages is that if women of color, specifically black women, exercise their legal right to have an abortion, they are committing a form of self-induced genocide," the Purdue Social Justice Coalition, a student and faculty group, said in a statement. "Aside from the typical sexist nature of these messages, which deny women's autonomy over their own bodies and reproductive choices, what happened at Purdue also reflects racism on campus. Contrary to the idea that 'All Lives Matter,' women of color were specifically targeted with these messages and singled out."
In a statement Wednesday, the group responsible for the messages, Purdue Students for Life, defended its actions, saying they chose to focus on the Black Cultural Center "in light of Black History Month" and the "fact that abortion and the industry that surrounds it disproportionately affects and harms the black community."
"Regarding the recent flyers and chalking, what we're finding is that there has been a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding of our intended message, and because of that, unfortunately some people's feelings have been hurt," the group, which currently has no black members, stated. "This is not about shaming anyone. It's about human equality and the fact that all human lives have dignity that cannot be taken away, be they black or white, male or female, born or preborn."
The Purdue Black Cultural Center did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Stanford University announced Thursday that its next president will be Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist who is currently president of Rockefeller University. He will succeed John L. Hennessy, who announced in June 2015 that he would step down after 16 years as president. Previously, Tessier-Lavigne was a professor of biological sciences at Stanford and at the University of California at San Francisco. A biography may be found here.
Faculty members have voted no confidence in the leaders of City Colleges of Chicago and the University of Akron.
At City Colleges of Chicago, faculty leaders say Chancellor Cheryl Hyman makes decisions about important issues such as tuition, registration regulations and various other matters without consulting with the faculty, The Chicago Tribune reported. Many political and business leaders in Chicago back the chancellor.
At Akron, the Faculty Senate voted no confidence in President Scott L. Scarborough, citing numerous decisions he has made that they argue have hurt the university's academic and financial base, Ohio.com reported. Scarborough spoke early in the meeting where the vote took place but left before the vote.
Submitted by Jake New on February 5, 2016 - 3:00am
Earlham College canceled class Thursday in order to hold a series of meetings with students, faculty and staff about a list of diversity concerns distributed by a group of students earlier this week.
Students at the Quaker college marched across campus on Monday and presented the "list of requirements concerning students of color" to the college's president, David Dawson. "The administration at Earlham College has been made aware that a group of students have concerns about issues related to diversity on campus," Brian Zimmerman, the college's director of media relations, said in a statement.
The students' requirements for the college include that Earlham create a multicultural center that provides counseling and is staffed by people of color, that it more easily allow for exemptions from "expensive and mandatory housing and meal plans," and that it offer diversity training for all students, faculty and staff. Among other requirements, the students also demanded that at least 30 percent of the college's faculty, staff and administrators and 20 percent of the Board of Trustees be people of color by 2020.
"As it currently stands, this campus is unsuitable for students of color to thrive," the students wrote. "Earlham is failing to sustain the diversity that this college promises and, because of this, we cannot in good faith endorse Earlham as a place suitable for students who value diversity, fairness and equity."
Submitted by Paul Fain on February 5, 2016 - 3:00am
Roughly one in four of the 1.9 million high school students who graduated in 2015 and took the ACT are from low-income backgrounds, meaning their annual family incomes are less than $36,000. This group continues to lag in college readiness, according to the latest version of an annual report from the testing organization and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships.
For example, half of the low-income students failed to meet any of the four ACT college readiness benchmarks, according to the report, compared to 31 percent of all students. And the proportion of students reaching each of the four benchmarks, which are in English, reading, mathematics and science, was roughly 40 percentage points lower for students from poorer families compared to those from families with annual incomes of $100,000 and up.
The readiness indicators of low-income students have remained largely unchanged for six consecutive years, ACT said, and have declined in some areas.
“Until these results improve, many students from poorer families are likely destined for a life of financial struggle and lapsed educational plans,” said Jim Larimore, ACT's chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners, in a written statement. “Beyond lamenting the well-known systemic challenges these students face, we are committed to acting on our knowledge, through research partnerships with organizations like NCCEP and our own initiatives, to expand access to rigorous course work and provide free resources to students in need.”