Some six months after one racist incident on campus, Bucknell University is dealing with another -- this time directed at a faculty member. President John Bravman said in a statement to faculty, students and staff this week that a “message containing racist, hateful language was found written on a whiteboard hanging on a faculty colleague’s office door,” and that the university is “doing all that we can to try to identify the individual(s) responsible for this disgusting display of intolerance.” Details, including the name of the targeted professor, have not been released.
This week’s incident comes a semester after three students were expelled for using racial slurs and making threats during a student radio station broadcast. Bravman said in his note that the “events of last semester made us acutely aware of the discrimination that exists on campus and in society more broadly,” and that everyone at Bucknell “must continue to work in earnest toward confronting those inequities.”
He added, “We cannot allow acts such as this to derail our efforts toward genuine and needed change. To accept anything less than a safe, inclusive community for all is to fail. I urge you to continue this fight for yourselves, for our colleagues and for our students.”
A regional National Labor Relations Board office said Wednesday that adjuncts at Manhattan College may count their union election votes. The ballots have been impounded since 2011, when the Roman Catholic college objected to NLRB jurisdiction over its campus, citing its religious affiliation. The case was pending before the NLRB in Washington until earlier this year, when the board sent the Manhattan adjunct union case and a handful of others involving would-be adjunct unions at religious colleges back to their regional NLRB offices for re-evaluation based on the recent Pacific Lutheran University decision. In that case, the NLRB said that adjuncts who wanted to form a Service Employees International Union-affiliated collective bargaining unit could do so, because their service to the institution was not sufficiently religious in nature to conflict with the National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to organize.
The Pacific Lutheran decision included criteria by which other adjunct union bids at religious colleges were to be assessed. In her decision regarding Manhattan, Karen P. Fernbach, director of the NLRB’s regional office in New York, said the college “failed to establish that it holds out the petitioned-for adjunct faculty members as performing a specific role in maintaining” its religious educational environment. For example, she said, the college's faculty application materials say there is “no intention on the part of the [governing] board, the administration or the faculty to impose church affiliation and religious observance as a condition for hiring or admission, to set quotas based on religious affiliation, to require loyalty oaths, attendance at religious services, or courses in Catholic theology."
The proposed Manhattan adjunct union is affiliated with New York State United Teachers, which is in turn affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Paul E. Dinter, a visiting professor of religious studies, said that as "an educator, a Catholic and a social justice advocate, I have to be pleased that the NLRB decision supports the clear Catholic moral teaching that workers have a right to organize. All of us who love Manhattan College and its social justice mission are heartened by this fair and long-delayed decision.”
In a statement, Brennan O'Donnell, Manhattan's president, said, “We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling. We continue to assert our position that the NLRB does not have the right to define what constitutes the Catholic identity and mission of the college.” Manhattan has the option to appeal the ruling. The college said in a statement that it's considering how it will respond.
Submitted by Paul Fain on August 26, 2015 - 3:00am
Cengage Learning will offer the 24,000 members of the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) access to a portal of online courses and professional development tools. The site will include more than 350 online courses in health care, business, IT and other areas. Cengage also will provide 100 certificate-bearing career training programs through the portal, which will be accredited through community colleges and other institutions.
When I moved into administration after being a professor, a colleague who had made the same move years before told me to brace for the loss of my faculty friends.
Impossible, I argued -- we attended regular Friday cocktail hours, had fought and won battles across campus, supported each other across the thorny paths leading to tenure and promotion. We’d been through it all, and those are precisely the kinds of experiences that make for lasting relationships.
I was wrong. My colleague was right.
About this time in my career, I began noticing for the first time the term “incivility” in higher ed news. Perhaps I noticed it because for the first time, it rang true. Where once I had been respected as a caring teacher and a hardworking colleague, I was now viewed with suspicion.
Now perceived as someone out for personal glory and set on bungling things for everyone else, I began finding it difficult to interact with my department (where I still taught one course a semester). After my move to the administration building, returning to my home department was like returning to the house of ex-in-laws after a bad divorce -- everyone froze, smiled stiffly and waited for me to leave. This office had been my home for over 15 years.
Inside Higher Ed recently reprinted a letter to the Financial Times advice column “Dear Lucy,” in which a disgruntled faculty member inquired, “Should I plot the downfall of our dean?” The offense that inspired this angry faculty member to ask the question was this: while traveling to Asia with a special delegation from his university’s business school, he had been forced to sit in coach. Directly in his line of sight was his dean, seated in the much more comfortable business class. For this, the dean must be destroyed.
While not all of us in the academy engage in this kind of career terrorism, we have all at least witnessed or been privy to such schemes and dark plots. I have myself experienced deep frustration as a faculty member, feeling underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Certainly I would not have been pleased to be dragging an administrator along to a professional meeting, either. And I would have especially been dreading the stiff small talk at baggage claim, or the forced chat at the evening’s cocktail hour.
Also quite familiar was the willingness on the part of a faculty member to assign the worst motives to that seat placement and to wish on the dean the disaster of losing his job. The language “plot the downfall” contains a kind of professional violence too often at play in relationships between faculty and administrators. It’s an aspect of academic life of which we should not be proud.
Over lunch I once asked a professor friend whom I admired a great deal -- with impeccable scholarship, this superb teacher made one of the highest faculty salaries and enjoyed research release time and summers away -- if s/he really thought “all administrators were bad people.” The answer came back an unblinking, “Yes.”
I was an administrator at the time.
“Administrator” does not signify “human being” in scenarios like the one I just described. In such cases of deep suspicion administrators are assumed to be self-centered mismanagers or, worse, bloodless careerists. And certainly not committed to the institutions they serve. This is precisely the objectifying of others that we teach our students to recognize and reject. It is a powerful tool for excusing or justifying hostility toward an identity position. And it was certainly at play inside that airplane.
As an administrator I am precisely the same person I was when I was on the faculty. Same strengths, same weaknesses, same commitments to my family, identical professional goals. And to be fair, when I made the move to administration, I did not lose every friend, and my next administrative post included some very nice relationships with faculty colleagues.
But there is no question that once I became an administrator, simply by virtue of being an administrator, I fell under the suspicion of many. Was I seeking power? Would I continue to value teaching? Had I lost my mind? Was it mere greed driving my decision?
The truth is, on most campuses, there are not pots of money squirreled away under deans’ desks; we don’t enjoy giant travel budgets or outsize benefits packages. And we continue to possess whatever powers of ratiocination we enjoyed before.
What’s different: we carry responsibilities across a college or unit that force difficult decisions that are quite visible and affect many people, and that will often result in deep disappointments for some while satisfying (even rewarding) others. Many deans/provosts admit that these are jobs few would actually want if they knew beforehand what they were getting into, because it can be difficult to exist happily on a campus under a cloud of suspicion, making decisions that will destroy your credibility with one half of the campus one week and render you despised by the other half the next.
Yet I chose administration because of these difficulties; they suit me. I love higher education, am committed to student success, deeply respect faculty and research. Me? I’m a fine (not great) scholar and a respected teacher, but my heart is in the institutional project and has been for a long time.
And while I have endured much incivility in my new administrative life, it would not be fair to attribute the loss of true friendships to mere malice or professional pettiness. In truth, we tried to stay close at first, but whatever suspicions my faculty friends harbored about administration in general hung between us, squashing conversation.
Friday night debriefs over cocktails became impossible if I attended. There were things I couldn’t share, gossip I could no longer indulge in -- guessing other deans’ motives, parsing the language of the president’s latest missive. We have all known the fun of harmless gossip with colleagues; it’s part of being close friends at work. Sadly, the nature of academe itself, with its intractable tension between faculty and administration, had rendered me an outsider, and I could never go back.
Academe has become known for its internecine warring, as a place fraught and gossipy and deeply bifurcated. And often not a little ridiculous. Certainly the gentleman asking Lucy’s advice above works in a place like that.
If you are a career academic reading this, you recognize what I’m saying. You’ve been on one or both sides of this business. As an administrator who still believes in the higher education enterprise, I’d ask faculty to think next time the impulse to plot strikes, and to remember that many of us in administration are just as competent as we were as faculty, and no matter where we are seated on a plane, still as human.
After 15 years as a professor of English, Kellie Bean became an associate dean and then provost.
Baylor University is facing questions and criticism about its handling of sexual assault accusations against a football player, following the publication of an article in Texas Monthly alleging that the university may have known that the player had previously been suspended from another team over violent behavior toward women. On Friday, the university announced an investigation of the situation.
Furthering the criticism, the player, Samuel Ukwuachu, was found guilty of the Baylor sexual assault Thursday, but the university -- with its lower burden of proof -- had never taken action against the player and was expected to add the rusher to its football team's rotation this season.
In May 2013, Ukwuachu was dismissed from the football team of Boise State University for "violating team rules" after a drunken dispute with his then girlfriend ended with the player putting his fist through a window. Marc Paul, the assistant athletic director at Boise State, was so concerned about Ukwuachu's behavior, Texas Monthly reports, that he urged the player's girlfriend and another housemate to stay away from him. Paul also made plans to get police protection for the housemate after the housemate received threatening text messages.
Just weeks after he was dismissed, Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor to play football there, though Boise State declined to support any waivers that would help the player get back on the field. That October, Waco, Texas, police received a call saying that Ukwuachu had sexually assaulted a female Baylor student.
Now Baylor and Boise State coaches are involved in a very public blame game over why Ukwuachu was able to transfer. On Friday, Art Briles, head coach at Baylor, denied he was aware of Ukwuachu's history, saying there was "no mention" of any violent incidents in conversations he had with Boise State officials. Chris Peterson, the head coach at Boise State at the time, responded, saying in a statement that he "thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding [Ukwuachu's] disciplinary record and dismissal."
Facing a planned graduate student worker walkout over its decision to drop health insurance subsidies for teaching and research assistants, the University of Missouri at Columbia on Friday announced it will reinstate the subsidies indefinitely. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and other senior administrators said in a statement that the university consulted external experts and peer institutions in trying to “navigate a complex health insurance regulatory environment,” and ultimately decided to “defer implementation” of its plan. “As a result, the university will pay for health insurance for eligible graduate students,” they said.
The university told graduate student workers earlier this month, with one day's notice, that it had to stop providing health care subsidies to the workers because their Aetna health care plan was a market plan, not an employer-sponsored plan as other, unaffected university employees at Missouri and graduate student workers on many other campuses have. A recent Internal Revenue Service interpretation of the Affordable Care Act prohibits large employers from giving workers subsidies specifically to buy health insurance on the individual market, the university said. It planned to give student workers stipends to close the coverage gap in the fall, but graduate student workers would have had to seek coverage on their own after that.
The university faced intense criticism for its approach and the late notice it afforded students. Graduate student workers planned a walkout over this issue, among others they outlined in a letter delivered to the university last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The university said Friday that “continuing the previous practice will allow time for a clearer understanding of federal guidelines and consideration of options and incorporation of input” from a new task force that includes students.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri and a graduate of the university, reportedly intervened on behalf of the graduate students, asking the chancellor to change course. She is also asking policy makers in Washington to find ways for graduate student workers to be covered that are in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. In a letter to the Treasury Department sent before Missouri announced its reversal, McCaskill said there are graduate students who aren’t eligible for Medicaid under Missouri law but who don't make enough money to qualify for federal subsidies under the health care act. “These students are now in danger of losing access to affordable, quality health care without a viable alternative,” she wrote. “Therefore, I request that you act expeditiously and come up with a solution to allow universities to comply with IRS regulations and the Affordable Care Act, while ensuring that health care is accessible for all students.”
Louisiana State University reportedly sent similar notices to their graduate students in late July. But several other universities that provide health insurance subsidies to graduate students haven't moved to revoke them.
Following a spate of recent clashes between student newspapers and administrations, a group of national journalism organizations on Thursday announced a boot camp-style training project for student journalists facing censorship or other kinds of adversity. The Student Press Law Center, the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors will deploy what they’re calling the J-Team to work with student journalists on investigative reporting and other skills. The team’s first mentoring session is next week at the University of Iowa, where members will meet with student journalists from Iowa’s Muscatine Community College. Editors from Muscatine’s student newspaper, The Calumet, are currently suing the college for allegedly removing a journalism adviser and otherwise retaliating against them for writing about a faculty committee member who reportedly voted to give a scholarship to a family member.
“The most effective response to colleges that try to intimidate journalists is to do even more aggressive, impactful journalism,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center and a team member, said in a news release. “The J-Team will send a clear message to colleges across the country that, when you attack student journalists, you are awakening the entire journalism community and your efforts to silence inquisitive journalism will only backfire.”
Muscatine College officials could not immediately be reached for comment.