faculty

Tallahassee CC to Disband Faculty Senate

Tallahassee Community College wants to do away with its Faculty Senate now that the faculty is represented by a union, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Jim Murdaugh, college president, is reportedly disbanding the senate at the end of the month, despite objections from faculty members who say the senate and union have different functions. Murdaugh wrote in an email to faculty members earlier this month that they should think about creating some other representative body to handle issues not addressed in union contracts, such as academic affairs and curricula.

“Under Florida law, the college is now required to deal exclusively with the [union] on all matters relating to wages, hours and working conditions,” he wrote. “Inasmuch as the [union] is now the official voice of faculty on those matters, the continuation of Faculty Senate and the reassigned time afforded to and stipends paid to the chair and chair-elect are no longer necessary.”

The campus chapter of the United Faculty of Florida is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Chapter president Jen Robinson, a professor of art history, told the Democrat that despite Murdaugh’s statement, many institutions operate with a union and a Faculty Senate. “You’re basically cutting off an avenue for any kind of academic discussion,” she said, noting the decision could have a disparate impact on part-time faculty members not included in the contract. “He’s taking away the voice of our adjuncts. I don’t know where they would go to address their issues.”

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New paper proposes framework for supporting pretenure faculty members' needs

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New paper proposes framework for supporting the needs of pretenure faculty members, namely making sure they're poised to find intrinsic motivation.

Princeton Theological Seminary revokes honor for controversial speaker, but will let his talk go on

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If an institution prepares women and gay people (and others as well) for the ministry, is it wrong to honor or invite to speak someone who opposes the ordination of women or gay people?

Essay on a new publication, "The Journal of Interrupted Studies"

Few accounts of a scholar’s working conditions lodge themselves in a reader’s imagination quite like Eric Auerbach’s understated remarks in the epilogue to his Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946). A German-Jewish philologist, Auerbach was forced out of his academic position in 1935. He escaped with his family to Turkey the following year, and for most of the next decade, he pursued a study in comparative literature on a grand scale -- analyzing texts in several language from more than two millennia -- amid the uncertainties of exile.

The book was written during the war and at Istanbul, where the libraries are not well equipped for European studies. International communications were impeded; I had to dispense with almost all periodicals, with almost all the more recent investigations, and in some cases with reliable critical editions of my texts. Hence it is possible and even probable that I overlooked things which I ought to have considered and that I occasionally assert something which modern research has disproved or modified. I trust that these probable errors include none which affect the core of my argument …. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the book owes its existence to just this lack of a rich and specialized library. If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might never have reached the point of writing.

This passage tends to stick in one’s memory. It gives the book an aura of heroism. And Auerbach himself stands as the patron saint of everyone trying to resist the urge to consult just one more paper … just one more book … before adding their own mite to the scholarly literature.

Romanticizing the condition of exile is ultimately one of the more dubious privileges of unreflective security, however. And as such, it evades an unwelcome truth: the condition of the refugee scholar is no historical matter but a 21st-century reality.

So much so, in fact, that one of the oldest academic presses in the world has now added a new periodical to its catalog. As of its second issue, The Journal of Interrupted Studies, founded in 2015 by students at the University of Oxford, will carry the imprint of Brill Publishers. (With headquarters in the Netherlands, the press has been around in one form or another since the 17th century.)

Describing itself as “a multidisciplinary publication dedicated to academic work jeopardized by forced migration,” the Journal debuted in June 2016 with six peer-reviewed articles. Three were by Syrians; the other three by scholars from Ethiopia, Gambia and Jordan. By my count, two of the papers concerned political and economic issues directly affecting refugees, while a third, which explored problems in teaching English-language sentence structure and intonation, had clear practical implications for how some refugees adapt to a new country. Another two papers analyzed economic developments in Africa without directly focusing on emigration. Finally, the issue ended with a first-person account of primary and secondary education in Syria, by a teacher and translator who studied English at the University of Aleppo -- an essay that, judging by a slightly anxious headnote, the editors clearly wanted to have yet worried did not belong in a peer-reviewed scholarly publication.

The dilemma should not come up again. In January, the journal launched a blog called “Interruptions: New Perspectives on Migration,” open to “the journalism, personal essays, fiction, poetry, photography and art of those directly or indirectly affected by migration, and of those who feel they have something to contribute to a revised discussion thereof.”

Behind this ambitious enterprise are Marcos Barclay and Paul Ostwald -- two Oxford undergraduates whose friendship owes something to their similarly extraterritorial upbringings. Mark (as he prefers) describes himself as “half English and half Argentinean,” while Paul’s early years were spent in Germany, Kenya and Russia. Between travel, editorial duties and preparing for finals in a few weeks, they managed to respond to my questions about JIS by email.

The seed was planted in late 2015. While watching a German television show with his father, Paul noticed something about how the program identified its talking heads: a German citizen would be presented with his or her full name, while a refugee would be noted as “Kazim, refugee.” Paul had met highly educated Syrian refugees and found the “small but very telling instance of condescending chumminess” offensive on their behalf.

Discussing it later, Mark and Paul decided that what displaced academics needed was a platform from which they could intervene in public life as displaced academics -- figures whose participation in the community of scholars ought to be regarded not as marginal but as having been interrupted.

In letting them resume their work, such a publication would have to be interdisciplinary -- and open access as well. As Mark put it, “Accepting submissions across disciplines means we can show interruption in different academic fields (social science, natural sciences, art history, law and creative writing, to name a few) and different migration contexts (environmental, political, humanitarian).” Likewise, he says, open-access publishing “allowed us to promote the intellectual dignity of our authors” -- who retain intellectual property in their work -- “in a forum that encourages exchange.”

The first issue of the journal took about six months to prepare. “We started off with encouragement from our tutors and Act Now, an Austrian institution which funded our first issue,” Paul told me by email. “Then we received support from the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, the German national scholarship program. Beyond that, we have a fantastic team of about 12 people and independent peer reviewers who continue to work on submissions, and our blog.”

A second issue was announced for late 2016, but it has been delayed for what sound like altogether pretty agreeable reasons. “After an exchange of emails and Skype meetings,” Mark says, “we found ourselves sitting in the office of [Brill Publishing] CEO Herman Pabbruwe in Leiden. I remember the sleepless night in anticipation of our meeting and the slightly surreal bus trip to the airport at 3 a.m. as we tried to make our 10 a.m. meeting. When we arrived in Leiden, Paul suggested we mark the occasion by stretching our student budget and going for breakfast. I will never forget sitting next to a canal trying to enjoy a very nice scrambled egg, but quaking with nervousness!”

The discussion went well, perhaps in part because of Brill’s record of support for open-access scholarship. Besides its digital edition, the journal will also be available in print.

The editors told me a little about the forthcoming contents -- but no details, as yet, about the scholars involved: “We make it a policy not to supply the names of our authors unless we have their consent, as sometimes they may wish to withhold their identity for reasons for personal safety.” They hope to be able to give all the names when the journal finally appears.

Of six papers slated for the next issue, three strike me as possibly indicative of the journal’s range and potential. One looks at “the strategies employed by German municipalities in integrating [Syrian] refugees at social, cultural and economic levels” and makes recommendations about how the tactics might be more widely applied.

Another paper makes the case for national and international aid to victims of ecological catastrophes in Bangladesh, based on “a number of precedent cases where international bodies have made humanitarian interventions on grounds of environmental risk.” The editors say they chose the paper because of the relative neglect of the issue in the West “in spite of the fact it has become a severe threat in the developing world as rapid industrialization unfolds.”

And a paper on art history goes back to the origins of forced migration -- or at least one of the earliest stories in which it features. The author examines how the Tower of Babel has been the overt or implicit image of “cultural and social dislocation … throughout many examples of Western contemporary art ranging from Soviet Constructivism to postmodern art.”

All three articles are scheduled to appear in the second issue of the Journal of Interrupted Studies, due out this summer.

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The importance in the job search of understanding the emotions of employers (essay)

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It's important to realize that employers see the world differently than you do and to understand their specific emotional states, advises Joseph Barber.

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Suit alleges Ohio U sat on complaints of professor's sexual misconduct for a decade

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Grad students’ lawsuit against Ohio U says it failed to act on complaints of an English professor’s sexual misconduct for a decade, allowing him to continue harassing young women. A former department chair is named as a co-defendant.

Science advocates dismayed by size of cuts proposed for NIH and other agencies

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Advocates for science hope Congress will block proposals.

Howard Investigates Alleged Mock Slave Auction

Howard University is investigating an alleged incident in which a white professor asked his class to engage in a mock slave auction. News of the exercise was first reported by the Caged Bird blog, which did not name the professor or his department. The instructor reportedly was teaching Frederick Douglass’s slave narrative earlier this month and asked one of two black men in the class to stand up and be examined because he looked “healthy,” according to the blog.

“He asked me to show my butt to the class so that he could get a better sense of my worth and had the audacity to say that it was uncomfortable for him, too, because he’s a white man,” the unnamed student reportedly told Caged Bird. “He started propping my body up as if we were on a slave auction block.” The student said the professor told him he could stop participating when he felt uncomfortable but that he stood up “because I didn’t expect him to do or say the things he said and did. I didn’t sit down sooner because I was so shocked.”

Other students allegedly asked the professor to stop, and the entire class objected to the buttocks remark, according to Caged Bird. The blog did not name the professor because it does not want him to be fired, but does want him to stop teaching that particular lesson, according to an editor’s note.

A spokesperson for Howard said the university is aware of the report and is currently investigating.

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How to keep situations like the Middlebury fracas from recurring (essay)

Earlier this month, Middlebury College was beset by what could fairly be termed the Academic Perfect Storm. Several hundred students on the Vermont campus shouted down Charles Murray, an author of the controversial The Bell Curve, apparently outraged by the visiting scholar’s claims that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites because of their genetic makeup. Murray’s talk was sponsored by a conservative student group affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and was to be moderated by Middlebury professor Allison Stanger. Not only did the lecture never materialize because of shouting, shoving and other intrusions, but Stanger also was injured in the process.

Much has already been written, tweeted and posted about this event. The college has launched several levels of inquiry, while apologizing to the community, alumni and others. The administration has vowed “accountability” for students and others who engage in violence and thus thwarted the event.

Among the major players in this turbulent drama, Middlebury’s president, Laurie Patton, merits special deference. A New York Times editorial lauded her firm and visible commitment to free expression: “She did this admirably in defending Mr. Murray’s invitation and delivering a public apology to him that Middlebury’s thoughtless agitators should have delivered themselves.” Further background enhanced this encomium. Despite growing easiness about the imminent Murray lecture, Patton consistently reaffirmed her commitment to host the event. And just days before the gathering, she forcefully reminded Middlebury students of the college’s historic commitment to free expression, even for hateful views and words.

She also agreed to chair the event in person and courageously remained on stage throughout the turmoil. Beyond offering cordial hospitality, Patton had recently issued a two-page set of policies governing potentially contentious events, offering a model scenario that contains a firm warning that “disruption may also result in arrest and criminal charges.” One of the student organizers praised Patton’s grace and courage as “the one positive thing of the night.”

Otherwise, however, the evening seems to have been a disaster. Although only students were officially invited to attend, many observers noted the catalytic presence of a dozen or so nonstudents wearing black clothing and face masks that mirrored those of the disruptive contingent at a protest at the University of California, Berkeley, several weeks earlier. Given the predictably contentious character of Murray’s widely published writings, tighter security would surely have been appropriate. A plan to extricate the speaker in the event of turmoil was invoked at the 11th hour but foundered immediately when protesters invaded the seemingly secure site; more advance planning and escape routes would have seemed an obvious imperative. In that and several other dimensions, Middlebury’s logistical preparations seemed woefully inadequate.

Among the media accounts of these events, one offers a probing rhetorical question: “What Could Middlebury Have Done to Avoid a Free-Speech Fracas?” Looking back over the long history of controversial campus speakers, at least two alternative options merit some consideration.

A few colleges and universities have reluctantly concluded that a scheduled event posed so grave a threat that cancellation offered the only tenable alternative, with hopes that rescheduling would help. Thus, for example, when former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill initially posted his essay about “little Eichmanns” while planning several speeches, several colleges felt safety and survival demanded what would otherwise have seemed a cowardly act. On a quite different occasion, the then chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln was privy to carefully sorted, screened and verified electronic warnings of potential chaos attending a speech by (surprisingly) Bill Ayres, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who had once been a leader of the Weather Underground, a radical left-wing organization. While cancellation is hardly a welcome choice, it is option that should not always be categorically rejected.

A vivid personal experience suggests another approach. In the spring of 1983, protestors at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where I served as president of the system, shouted down in its opening minutes a long-scheduled speech by former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, who by then had traveled a far different political pathway. Then Chancellor Irving Shain and I agreed that if Cleaver was willing to return to Madison in the near future, we would ensure adequate security during his appearance, even if that required a secure sound booth. The cost of such an arrangement, we realized, would not be trivial.

We were delighted when Cleaver agreed to make a return visit under those different conditions. We specifically affirmed for the media that, “in keeping with the University of Wisconsin’s longstanding commitment to free speech, if Cleaver wanted to come back to finish his speech, he could do so.” Regrettably, the turnout for the rescheduled speech was sparse for various reasons, including the academic calendar. But we concluded that our investment was well worth making, despite the cost, in the interest of free expression.

Campuses will continue to invite controversial speakers and face turmoil over it. What other advice is worth considering in order to keep such turmoil to a minimum? First, careful advance planning with regard to sponsorship and other arrangements seems vital. It may well be worth requiring the sponsors -- whether students, faculty or, ideally, both -- to make firm commitments in writing about the specific steps they propose to take to maximize the success of the event, essentially in lieu of a bond or insurance, though without a financial component.

Second, the Middlebury experience seems to warrant far greater security planning than was evident at the rural Vermont campus. That mandate would, for example, include a clearer location of responsibility within the administration and sufficient engagement of the college’s general counsel, the campus or local chief of police, and other senior officials with expertise in scheduling major events.

Third, formal faculty involvement at Middlebury seems to have been limited if not absent. The location of such responsibility should target a Faculty Senate or other governance body, with a smaller executive committee capable of being convened almost momentarily in event of a crisis. An abundance of relevant materials exists for this purpose, and it may well be that Middlebury’s faculty leadership has in fact consulted them in the past.

Finally, we can hardly overlook the responsibility of the student body. There is much still be to learned about how and why the dozen black-clad and masked intruders were able to enter -- as well as why so few of the rank-and-file Middlebury students resisted or were even indifferent as essentially an angry mob turned their backs on the speaker and continue to shout and jeer. A strong elected student government seems indispensable to such a liberal arts college, visible both to the general and social media as well as within the broader community of which the institution is a major component. Middlebury seems to offer a promising academic venue within which to establish a sounder approach as the next crisis looms.

Robert M. O’Neil is the former president of the University of Virginia and of the University of Wisconsin System, former director of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues Initiative, and founder of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. He is currently a senior fellow at the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities.

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Teaching about the role power differentials can play in sexual assaults (essay)

Sexual Violence on Campus

When the alleged perpetrator is a person with whom we feel some sort of affiliation or reverence, we start to make excuses and bend over backward to deny the plausibility of the victim’s experience, writes Jamie L. Small.

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