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Academic Minute: Fracking Concerns

In today's Academic Minute, Susan Brantley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, discusses her research on the water in areas where fracking occurs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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Why Is Harvard Closing Its Primate Lab?

Many researchers are wondering why Harvard University is closing a primate research laboratory that has been instrumental in key scientific breakthroughs for decades, The Boston Globe reported. The university says it is making a "strategic" shift, and that the motivation is not a controversy over several monkey deaths that have prompted criticism from regulators and animal rights groups.

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Stanford political science department overhauls undergraduate major

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After seeing its majors drop, Stanford's political science department overhauls the undergraduate major, focusing less on specialization and more on issues students care about. Could other departments be next?

Ithaca College Adjuncts Form Union

Adjuncts at Ithaca College voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, 172 to 53, they announced Thursday. Sarah Grundberg, an adjunct instructor of sociology, said in a news release that the union will “not only make the college stronger as a whole but will also continue to set an example nationally that part-time faculty deserve better working conditions and that coming together can and does facilitate positive change.” Adjuncts elsewhere in New York State, at the College of Saint Rose and Schenectady Community College, have recently formed SEIU-affiliated collective bargaining units as part of the union’s national Adjunct Action campaign. Thomas Rochon, Ithaca’s president, said in a statement that the college plans to bargain in good faith with the new unit, to “reach a consensus that balances the requests of the faculty with the ongoing needs of the college and its students.”

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Essay on frustrations of associate professors

Joya Misra and Jennifer Lundquist consider job (dis)satisfaction among associate professors.

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Essay on mixed feelings at a commencement

Generally speaking, it is safe to say that most college commencements are the same. The students file past their camera-wielding relatives offering smiles and small, inconspicuous waves. A speaker invokes Robert Frost or Dr. Seuss or Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society to encourage the graduates to live lives of purpose and distinction. Degrees are conferred. A representative from the alumni organization urges these new alums to donate money to their school. The alma mater is sung. The young adults file back out.

And after, on the quad or the lawn or whatever the campus’s green space is called, the professors unzip their robes, remove sweat-soaked tams and complain about the heat. They shake hands with parents, pose for photos with their now former students. They pronounce positive judgment on the graduates’ plans for the immediate future. “Excellent.” “Oh, that sounds great.” “Hey, it’s a foot in the door.”

I graduated 16 years ago, from the very university where I have been teaching for the past three years. This is my final commencement, as my visiting assistant professorship is at an end. My second graduation, in a sense. I’m a middle-aged man now, but it doesn’t seem that long ago that my classmates and I stood on this lawn, sipping lemonade and talking with our relatives and mentors about what was to come. It was an exciting time -- the future was pure potential. We don’t realize, as students at commencement, that some doors are closing, or are already closed, that childhood is now finally at an end. The graduate will never take meals with a group of her best friends again. A mistake made at 20 may unexpectedly stay with a person for the rest of his life.

One may find oneself, at 39, grinning next to a 22-year-old as her mother snaps a picture, thinking, She doesn’t know, yet, that life is going to be just a little bit harder from here on.

Of course, I wouldn’t say such a thing out loud. There is no need to spoil this recognition of the graduates’ accomplishments. I remind myself to be happy for these lives that are really just beginning. I remember to be grateful for my own blessings and opportunities. Besides, I wouldn’t really want to experience my adolescence or young adulthood -- dating, career anxiety, acne -- again. The grown-up world may be hard and scary, but honestly, in many ways it’s still better. Or at least, it is for me.

What’s more, I think I know how to handle this world in a way that I didn’t quite know how to handle the world I lived in as a youth. So I sip my lemonade as the alma mater plays in my mind and the wacky kid coasts by on his skateboard, cap still perched on his head but gown unzipped to reveal his cargo shorts and fraternity T-shirt. And for God’s sake, I tell myself, it’s a celebration. Smile.

William Bradley is the author of a collection of personal essays titled Fractals, forthcoming from Lavender Ink. He's also looking for work, so if you need an essayist…

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U of Oklahoma history professors object to joint course with History Channel

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Many historians try to make their work accessible to the public. But how accessible is too accessible, and at what cost? New course offered jointly by History Channel and U of Oklahoma has some on campus wondering.

Essay on how to navigate rules when you are on the tenure track

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Sometimes an academic has to ignore a few rules to get things done, writes Nate Kreuter.

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Criticism of Community College's Saudi Deal

Criticism is growing over Rancho Santiago Community College District's $105 million contract to help two technical schools in Saudi Arabia, The Los Angeles Times reported. Faculty members have worried that the contract is supporting discriminatory policies. Now the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, has weighed in with a letter to the college warning that it must abide by federal and state anti-bias laws even when it operates outside the U.S. “While we support programs that seek to establish collaborative relationships with universities in the Middle East, we do believe that special care must be taken when establishing programs where there are restrictions on the activities of programs based on characteristics such as religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation,” said the letter.

Raul Rodriguez, chancellor of the district, said that it was in compliance with laws, but acknowledged that the Saudi government's policies are discriminatory. The technical schools that Rancho Santiago is helping educate only male students and bar the hiring of female instructors to teach male students. But Rodriguez said that Rancho Santiago doesn't do the faculty hiring. Of the college's view of Saudi Arabia's policies, he said, “It's not an endorsement. We're in no way condoning the views and stance of the Saudi government.”

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Adjunct Sues Broward Over Alleged Retaliation

Evan Rowe, an adjunct at Broward College, has sued the college in federal court, charging that his free speech and other rights were denied when he was not given courses after he published articles criticizing the college's treatment of adjuncts, Broward New Times reported. The articles, such as this one, also appeared in New Times. The lawsuit notes a pattern in which publication was followed by denying Rowe sections to teach. A Broward spokeswoman said that the college does not comment on pending litigation.

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