Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens moved a step closer to the presidency at Kennesaw State University Tuesday when a Board of Regents committee recommended him for the role despite stiff student and faculty opposition.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents is now scheduled to vote on making Olens the next Kennesaw State president at an Oct. 12 meeting. The selection is controversial because of both the process and person involved.
Olens has been criticized for antigay stances during his career, including his defending of Georgia's ban on same-sex marriage as attorney general. His office also represented the state and joined a lawsuit seeking to block the U.S. Department of Education from ordering colleges and universities to provide bathroom facilities consistent with transgender students' gender identities. In addition, critics have taken aim at Olens's lack of higher education experience and a presidential search process that was not national.
A Republican, Olens was first elected attorney general in 2010, then won re-election in 2014. He was formerly the chairman of the County Board of Commissioners and a commissioner in Cobb County, where Kennesaw State is located.
"If I’m fortunate enough to be selected by the Board of Regents, I will do everything I can to earn the trust and support of KSU’s faculty, staff and students," Olens said in a statement.
A group of professors and not-so-academic writers declare support for the GOP presidential candidate. But the list of signatures highlights Trump's limited appeal in academe, even among Republican presidential candidates.
Three researchers at American universities were this morning named winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. Half of the award goes to David J. Thouless of the University of Washington. The other half is shared by F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.
A summary by the Nobel committee of the reason for the honor: "This year’s laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics."
Holocaust Denial on Trial, a website founded by an Emory University professor, Deborah Lipstadt, to refute the misleading claims of Holocaust deniers, has been redesigned and relaunched. The site was first created in 2005 by Emory and the university’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies. The website catalogs the legal material arising from David Irving v. Penguin UK and Deborah Lipstadt, a libel claim brought against Lipstadt and her publisher in 1996 by Irving, a Holocaust denier. Lipstadt prevailed in the litigation and her story is now also told in a feature film, Denial.
A federal court has upheld an earlier court decision denying a researcher qualified immunity in a former student’s sexual harassment case against him and the University of Minnesota. The plaintiff, Stephanie Jenkins, was a Ph.D. candidate in natural resources and wildlife management at the university, and she's been public about her case. She alleges that starting in 2011 during a research trip to the Alaskan wilderness, Ted Swem -- then a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Fairbanks assigned as her mentor for field research -- began to sexually harass her, repeatedly telling her, for instance, that he wanted to kiss her and date her, and taking a picture of her buttocks and calling it “scenery.” He allegedly encouraged her to drink alcohol at night and joked about sharing a tent.
Jenkins repeatedly denied his advances, according to the suit. Jenkins was assigned a shared office with Swem back on campus that fall at Minnesota, where he was working on a one-year research agreement. He allegedly continued to seek a relationship with Jenkins but refrained from sexual comments. Jenkins still tried to avoid being alone with Swem, according to the suit, working elsewhere. She eventually told her academic adviser about the alleged harassment and was transferred to a different office, though it wasn’t fully usable for some time, according to the suit.
In early 2012 Jenkins resigned from the university and has since been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The university has argued that Swem was not one of its employees at the time of the alleged harassment, while Swem has argued that he, as a federal actor, should not be personally liable in legal proceedings.
A panel of judges in a U.S. District Court in a decision released Monday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Swem was not entitled to such immunity. “Although disputes of facts remain, when the facts relied on by the District Court are considered in the light most favorable to Jenkins, she sufficiently showed that Swem’s conduct toward her was unwelcome harassment, and that it was serious enough to alter a term or condition of her employment,” the decision says. “She also showed that Swem’s conduct violated a clearly established right [not to be sexually harassed], based on the particular facts of this case.” Swem could not immediately be reached for comment.
Yoshinori Ohsumi (left), a Japanese cell biologist, was this morning named winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was honored for "his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy." Ohsumi is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Early in his career, he taught at Rockefeller University.
In a win for part-time faculty members at California community colleges, Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law legislation mandating that college districts negotiate with adjuncts over re-employment and termination rules, The Sacramento Bee reported. The legislation is a pared-down version of an earlier bill that would have guaranteed a workload for long-serving adjuncts. It nevertheless has significant support from part-time faculty members who seek consideration of seniority in reappointments and increased job security.
“There are over two million students in California community colleges, and part-time faculty play a critical role in their success,” Jose Medina, a Democratic assemblyman who proposed the legislation, said in a statement. “By improving employment practices for part-time faculty, this legislation will benefit both these dedicated educators and their students.”
Seattle University is challenging the recently announced results of an election in favor of a part-time faculty union. “The issue is a jurisdictional one,” Father Stephen V. Sundborg, president, said in a statement Friday. “It involves a higher principle: the constitutionally protected right of Seattle University, as a faith-based institution, to carry out our core Jesuit Catholic educational mission free from government intrusion by the [National Labor Relations Board]. It is a right that we believe is important to the university and our Jesuit Catholic character to uphold.”
The union election took place in 2014, but ballots were impounded as the university challenged the rights of its adjuncts to bargain collectively. It argued that its Roman Catholic affiliation put it outside the jurisdiction of the NLRB, but a major 2014 board decision in favor of an adjunct union bid at Pacific Lutheran University opened the door to adjunct unions at religious institutions. A local NLRB office eventually decided that Seattle’s adjuncts could count their ballots, and the tally -- 73 for and 63 against -- was announced earlier this month.
Sundborg said in his statement that Seattle is not opposed to unions, and many of its employees already are unionized. The problem is faculty unions in relation to the college’s religious mission, he said. “For example, would the university be required to hire faculty openly hostile to our Jesuit way of teaching and Catholic identity?” he asked. “Would the university be prohibited from removing a faculty member who seeks to undermine our core religious identity?”
The faculty union is affiliated with Service Employees International Union. “We see the administration is doubling down on their specious claim of religious exception, by trying to pass off economic issues as religious issues,” Ben Stork, adjunct professor of film studies at Seattle, said in a news release. “In reality this is about not wanting to pay for the basic labor that the university runs on.”