faculty

Suggestions for alt-ac careers that may be overlooked (opinion)

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If a tenure-track faculty position is not in your future, you should consider many different types of jobs, David McDonald advises.

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Advice Newsletter publication date: 
Thursday, June 7, 2018
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Academic Careers You May Not Have Considered

Colleges award tenure

Indiana University Northwest

  • Yuanying Guan,  mathematics
  • Daniel Kelly, chemistry
  • David Parnell, history
  • Crystal Shannon, nursing

Kenyon College

  • Chris Bickford, biology
  • Will Luther, economics
  • Pashmina Murthy, English

St. Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania

Review of Amy Werbel, 'Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock'

A reference librarian of my acquaintance was once asked by a patron to locate an authoritative account of how Johannes Gutenberg -- after finishing up with the Bible -- applied his invention to the manufacture of pornography. It had the odd quality of sounding both preposterous and faintly plausible at the same time. The patron was sure he'd read it somewhere, but couldn't remember where, which is exactly the kind of problem reference librarians make their bones by solving.

But a thorough search of both print and digital sources turned up nothing. It seems likely that the patron had seen a reference to how pornographers tend to be early adopters of new technology and made an overly literal deduction from it. At the same time, however, "the intertwining of religion and pornography in diffusing communication technologies" is "far closer than might otherwise be suspected," as Jonathan Coopersmith said in a paper published in 1998. Besides the sacred and profane uses of the printing press, Coopersmith noted that "religious and pornographic images were the earliest and major uses of Stanhope lenses -- glass slivers which magnified images -- in the mid-19th century."

The struggle between piety and the libido in the age of mechanical reproduction is at the core of Amy Werbel's Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock (Columbia University Press). Making good use of recent monographic studies of mass media and the history of sexuality, the author, an associate professor of the history of art at the Fashion Institute of Technology, places the architect and chief executor of U.S. anti-obscenity law in a thick social and cultural context.

The variety and sheer abundance of erotic merchandise on sale in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century is staggering: not only evidence of Yankee ingenuity but also proof that the sexual revolution of later decades was long in preparation. Stanhope lenses of the illicit variety -- "depicting a single [nude] female figure standing or sitting in a languorous pose … set against backdrops of Moorish architectural elements, holding peacock feathers, or in faux agricultural scenes" -- were among the tamer commodities available. There was a thriving and very profitable industry in sex toys such as, in Comstock's words, “‘dildoes (that being the trade name) made of stout rubber, and in the form of the male organ of generation, for self-pollution.” Their manufacture, advertisement and sale was subject to prosecution under the Comstock laws, though Comstock professed himself unable to understand who would buy them.

The limits of his imagination were no brake on his effectiveness. In the late 1860s and early '70s, Comstock's activity was confined to the Northeastern Unted States. Over a seven year period, he was involved "in seizing and destroying 134,000 pounds of books, 194,000 'bad pictures and photographs,' 6,250 microscopic pictures, and 60,300 'articles made of rubber for immoral purposes, and used by both sexes.' " (The puzzling expression "microscopic pictures" refers to Stanhope's.) His influence went national in 1873, when Congress passed "An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, obscene Literature and Articles, of immoral Use" -- the legislation that became his namesake. Besides the trade in sexual imagery and writing, the Comstock Act took aim at the distribution of anything about or enabling contraction or abortion, and could even be invoked to prosecute material that denied the value of marriage. It was a law designed to perpetuate monogamy, procreation and guilt.

In short order, Comstock was named an official but unpaid employee of the U.S. Postal Service, his activity subsidized largely by donations from wealthy supporters who gathered to view samples of the immoral material he was seizing. While never as inventive about using new technology as merchants of the erogenous, Comstock was driven to use every venue available to him in advancing his cause. "If Comstock wasn’t physically in your hometown during his career between 1873 and 1915," Werbel writes, "he was there in your hometown newspaper, fighting the purveyors of vice on the streets and in court, weighing in as a critic of art, theater and literature, suffering editorial and physical attacks from his many enemies, being defended by ministers and moralists, and lampooned as a Puritanical knucklehead."

The degree of resistance to his crusade, even when enforced by federal law, is remarkable and merits more comment than I can give it this week; we'll get into it in the next column. Suffice it for now to say that the title of one of his pamphlets, "Morality Versus Art," is indicative of both his attitude and his Achilles heel. The manufacturers of sexual devices "of stout rubber" had very limited recourse in opposing him, while creative people did not. A satirical cartoon depicts Comstock as Saint Anthony -- triumphant over temptation like the early Christian monk of that name, or making quite a show of sparing others from it, in any event. A polemic by George Bernard Shaw included a reference to “Comstockery" as "the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States.”

The dart must have hit the mark, because Comstock felt compelled to offer his own definition of Comstockery: “The applying of the noblest principles of law, as defined by the higher Courts of great Britain and the United States of America, in the interest of Public morals, especially those of the young.” It seems extremely unlikely anyone else has ever used the word in his preferred sense.

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Cornell Violated Federal Labor Law in Grad Assistant Union Election

Cornell University violated federal labor law during last year’s union election for graduate assistants, but the election results will stand, an arbitrator said this week. Some 856 students voted in favor of unionization in 2017 and 919 voted against it, with an additional 81 ballots unresolved. The American Federation of Teachers, with which the would-be union is affiliated, contested the results of the election, alleging administrative interference.

Howard Edelman of the American Arbitration Association dismissed some of the union’s claims. But he said in his award that Barbara Knuth, graduate dean, was wrong to write in a newsletter just prior to the vote that unionization could affect the number of graduate assistantships on campus. Students would “have to believe” that their positions were “in danger” after reading that statement, which did not include the “objective fact” that voters are protected by typical funding guarantees, Edelman said. Cornell therefore must create a posting noting its violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Still, it’s unlikely that the comment impacted the election outcome, he said. The union will have 12 months from the election certification to petition for a new vote.

Joel M. Malina, university spokesperson, said in a statement that some 80 percent of eligible Cornell graduate assistants participated in the election, with “the majority voting against unionization. A handful of ballots remained uncounted pending the outcome of this decision, and we are confident their inclusion now will reaffirm the original result.” Cornell worked with the unions seeking to represent graduate assistants prior to the election to establish a set of campaign and election guidelines, he said, "and we are proud of our efforts to honor that commitment. We understand that this issue has created divisions within our graduate student community, whose daily contributions to Cornell’s teaching, research and engagement mission cannot be overstated, and agree with the arbitrator that it is time to certify the results of the election so we can move forward together and continue our collective work to strengthen graduate education at Cornell.”

Aubrie James, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology, said in a statement, “I feel relieved that we have a path forward for how to resolve last year’s election. We are working so hard in organizing for labor rights at Cornell, and this decision is another thrust forward in those efforts. I also feel energized by the unionization movements of grads like us across the country."

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U. of Denver settles with EEOC, agreeing to pay $2.66 million to seven female law professors who alleged gender-based pay bias

University of Denver settles with the EEOC, agreeing to pay $2.66 million to seven female law professors who alleged gender-based pay discrimination.

Small steps women in academe should take to support each other (opinion)

Entire systems must be fixed, but for now, we can all take some small, immediate steps to improve the work environment for our female colleagues, writes Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt.

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Professor faces possible disciplinary action after university review finds he harassed and retaliated against student he once dated

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Professor faces possible disciplinary action after East Tennessee State review found he harassed and retaliated against a student he once dated. He lobbied against relationship policy he may have violated.

Prepublication Disclosure of Scientific Results

More scientists disclose results before publication than not -- at least in some fields -- according to a new study in Science Advances. The study is a based on a survey of 7,103 active faculty researchers in nine fields. Researchers in seven fields said they disclose results prior to publication, but they reported different reasons for doing so. Particularly in what the authors call “formulaic fields,” scientists disclose results to attract new researchers to the field and to "deter others from working on their exact problem," the study says.

A probability model shows that 70 percent of field variation in disclosure is related to differences in respondent beliefs about “norms, competition and commercialization,” reads the study, led by Jerry G. Thursby, Ernest Scheller, Jr. Chair in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our results suggest new research directions -- for example, do the problems addressed or the methods of scientific production themselves shape norms and competition? Are the levels we observe optimal or simply path-dependent? What is the interplay of norms, competition and commercialization in disclosure and the progress of science?”

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Women and Underrepresented Minorities Less Likely to Be Last Authors

Women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minority scholars are less likely than other groups to be last authors, an indicator of career independence, says a new paper in American Economic Association Papers and Proceedings. Lead author Gerald Marschke, an associate professor of economics at the State University of New York at Albany, and colleagues applied big data methods to millions of biomedical sciences papers with U.S. authors, finding that gender gaps are smaller among blacks and Hispanics than among non-Hispanic whites. “Our analysis is timely given serious concerns with underrepresentation of women and minorities in biomedicine” and other science, technology, engineering and math fields, the authors wrote.

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Washington State U Settles with Wolf Researcher for $300K

Robert Wieglus, director of the Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, will accept a $300,000 settlement to leave the institution, the Associated Press reported. Wieglus sued the university over alleged violations of academic freedom, in relation to his research on wolves. He has argued that Washington’s policy of killing wolves who prey on cattle actually increases cattle predation because it destabilizes packs. Recommending non-lethal options instead, Wieglus angered some local ranchers who support the killing of wolves. 

Facing complaints from ranchers, the Washington State Legislature cut Wielgus’s funding and demanded he be removed as principal investigator on a project, according to the Associated Press. Wielgus later sued the university, saying it punished him for political reasons. The university said in a statement that Wieglus will resign at the end of this semester and “release all claims and employment rights in exchange for two payments totaling $300,000, with funds coming from the state.” In reaching this agreement, it said, neither party acknowledges any wrongdoing.

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