A group of professors known as Faculty Against Rape has deep concerns about the American Association of University Professors’ recent draft report arguing that some interpretations and applications of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prevents sex-based discrimination in education, threaten academic freedom. “As it stands, we are troubled by much of the framing, content, unrepresentative nature of, and failures of accuracy within, the draft report,” reads an open letter from the group to the AAUP.
“The overall impression given by the report is that the Department of Education’s Office [for] Civil Rights is ‘overreaching’ in its mandated mission of providing guidance to universities and ‘abusing’ Title IX; this, despite the fact that there is broad underreporting of campus sexual assault by universities,” the letter says. “While we would ordinarily join with the AAUP in resisting the corporatization of institutions of higher learning, we are deeply concerned that the AAUP’s analysis of this issue as it pertains to Title IX, by pitting student concerns for campus safety against faculty interests, reinforces the symptoms instead of addresses the problem.”
Faculty Against Rape says it does support the report’s recommendation for more funding for programs and departments that “analyze how sex, gender, power and advantage operate,” but it requests that AAUP not release draft reports to the media before seeking broader input from its members and subject matter experts. It also includes a number of suggestions for improving the report, including by ceasing -- in the group’s view -- to conflate “the actions of the [civil rights office] with specific university actions in a few specific cases, while ironically, ignoring the much more frequent retaliation against students, staff and faculty as sexual assault survivors, allies and advocates.”
Faculty Against Rape plans on sending its letter to AAUP today. Risa Lieberwitz, a professor of law at Cornell University and chair of the AAUP report committee, said via email, "We welcome all comments on the AAUP draft report and will carefully consider those submitted by [Faculty Against Rape]. As the AAUP draft report explains, universities should effectively address and prevent problems of sexual harassment while fully protecting academic freedom and due process. We do not argue that speech can never create a hostile environment, nor that all speech is protected, only that matters of speech in the university always require attention to academic freedom. The report criticizes both the OCR and university administrations for failing to adequately protect academic freedom and due process. The report also offers recommendations for developing, through shared governance, fair and effective policies that pertain to sexual harassment."
A transgender adjunct professor of English is suing Saginaw Valley State University for sex discrimination for allegedly taking away her administrative position after she began presenting as a woman. According to the suit, filed this month in a Michigan federal court, Charin Davenport has taught at the university since 2007, when she was still presenting as a man. She took on a second, part-time job as coordinator of academic tutoring services in 2011 and was named assistant director of academic programs support in 2012, reporting to Ann Coburn-Collins, director of academic programs support.
Davenport received strong performance reviews, the suit says, until 2013, when she informed the university that she was undergoing a gender transition and intended to dress as a woman from then on. She asked her colleagues for support, but Coburn-Collins made negative comments and told Davenport that she must have had too much free time on her hands, according to the suit.
Coburn-Collins stopped talking to Davenport and two months later informed her that her administrative job was being eliminated for budgetary reasons, the complaint says. When Davenport tried to talk to her former supervisor about what had happened, Coburn-Collins allegedly called her a liar and threw an unspecified object at her, and said that Davenport disgusted her.
Davenport says she lost the job in retaliation for her transition, not budgetary reasons, as stated, and she is seeking an unspecified amount in damages and lost wages. Neither Coburn-Collins nor a Saginaw Valley State spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment, but the university told The Daily Beast, “We are aware of the lawsuit and we are confident that we will prevail in court, as all the facts come out. SVSU does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. … We support all our students, faculty and staff, including those who are members of the LGBT community. We have a Pride Center on campus to serve those individuals and to contribute toward an inclusive campus environment.”
The University of California will pay $4.75 million to the family of a UC Berkeley football player who died after a strenuous training drill in 2014. As part of the settlement, the university will also review workout and conditioning plans, provide education on sickle cell trait to players and staff, and ban "high-risk physical activity" as punishment. Berkeley previously admitted negligence in the player's death.
Earlier this year, the University of Rhode Island settled a similar lawsuit with the family of a baseball player who died during a team workout in 2011.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and several other veterans' groups held a rally on Capitol Hill Thursday to protest a proposed cut to a benefit included in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The veterans, who were joined by several Democratic members of Congress, were pushing back against a provision in a bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed last month. The bill included a 50 percent cut in the housing stipend for dependents of a military or veteran parent who had transferred the benefit to them. The U.S. Senate is considering a similar version of the bill.
"It is embarrassing that we have to come here and beg our elected officials not to steal from the pockets of our military, veterans and their families," said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff in a written statement. "As we stand in front of the U.S. Capitol, men and women are fighting in a prolonged war in Afghanistan and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, earning this very benefit. We are once again seeing the impact of a growing civilian-military divide in this country. It is national disgrace that some members of Congress are willing to use veterans' benefits as a piggy bank to pay for other programs."
Earlier this month Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed legislation to require the state's public institutions to provide students with detailed annual reports on their projected student loan debt, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Under the legislation, which is modeled on an Indiana law, colleges must tell students the total amount of federal loans received, estimates of monthly payments, the number of years they can expect to be in debt and how close they are to aggregate borrowing limits.
Lake Michigan College, a community college in Michigan, has suspended and may soon fire its new president, The South Bend Tribune reported. Board members have indicated that the new president, Jennifer Spielvogel, purchased a ceremonial medallion for her inauguration, renovated her office and made other purchases without authorization. Spielvogel's lawyer said she made those decisions with the assumption that they were within her rights as president.
Scholars, scholars everywhere and no professor to pick. Cornell University took heat last fall for posting an unusually vague job ad for a professor showing “outstanding promise” in “some area” of the humanities or social sciences, with special consideration of “members of underrepresented groups, those who have faced economic hardship, are first-generation college graduates, or work on topics related to these issues.” Critics took to Twitter, simultaneously making fun of the ad and wondering if it was a hoax (it wasn’t).
One applicant has now been told the search that applied to an exceptionally broad pool of scholars has yielded no hires. The university, meanwhile, says the search has, in fact, resulted in a hire.
“I’m writing to inform you that our search did not yield a successful candidate to match our specific research needs,” reads an email sent to one applicant Tuesday by the office of the dean at College of Arts and Sciences. “We received many qualified applicants from our pool and we surely passed by some talented individuals. We wish you well in your future endeavors.”
The applicant, who did not want to be identified in any way due to an ongoing job search, called the decision disappointing. “Who knows if they’ll run the search again, or even if they’ll break it up into a series of smaller, more specific searches …. I think elite institutions are in a very privileged position: in a shrinking market, many seem to be able to run failed searches without any repercussions.”
Karen Kelsky, an academic job consultant who runs the blog The Professor Is In, still jokes about the original job listing and didn’t express surprise that the search may have been unsuccessful. “It was a preposterous ad that said something like ‘We want a scholar in any of 25 disciplines.’ There is simply no way to create a short list when the criteria are removed entirely from any kind of clear departmental, disciplinary or programmatic context. It’s comparing apples, oranges, sliced ham and … garden shears.”
Cornell, meanwhile, says the search did lead to a hire. John J. Carberry, spokesman, said in a brief statement Wednesday evening that he couldn’t confirm the rejected applicant’s statement because “this ad did result in a successful hire for the college.” No additional details were immediately available.
Adjuncts at Seattle University seeking recognition of their Service Employees International Union-affiliated union are planning to fast on Thursday. The adjuncts held a union election nearly two years ago, but the university has filed a series of appeals saying its religious affiliation puts it outside the National Labor Relations Board's jurisdiction. The votes remain uncounted.
"We voted nearly two years ago and the [university] administration continues to deny us," Ben Stork, a film studies instructor, said in a statement. "We cannot eat well unless we have a seat at the table." The university did not provide immediate comment on the protest. Seattle is one of many religious institutions that have opposed adjunct unions on religious grounds in recent years.