The University of Illinois at Chicago has agreed to a tentative contract with the United Faculty Union, whose members went on a two-day strike in February seeking what they called a living wage for full-time, non-tenure-track professors and better pay for tenure-line faculty, among other goals. The union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, announced the agreement Wednesday but said details are embargoed through the end of next week, when members put it to a vote. In a news release, the union said "[m]any aspects of faculty work life and professional conditions are dramatically improved under the new agreement," and that it "averted" the possibility of a second strike planned for April 23.
University Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and Provost Lon Kaufman said in a joint statement: "We are pleased that the university and the union representing bargaining units for tenure-system and non-tenure-system faculty have reached tentative agreement on final contracts. Both sides in this long process have been focused on the teaching, research and service missions of the university, and this agreement will allow us to move forward together to serve the city and the state and, most of all, our students." The statement noted that the agreement is tentative is "subject to ratification and approval by both sides."
Ball State University is planning to toughen post-tenure review to weed out "chronic low performers" on the faculty, The Star Press reported. Under the plan, faculty members whose performance is unsatisfactory two years in a row or three years out of five will be given a year to improve or to face termination. Ball State officials said that only a very small share of faculty members fit this category, but that failing to deal with them creates extra work for other professors. Dave Pearson, chair of the University Senate, said, “It’s a very, very small problem, but it can cause real problems in small departments.... I think the faculty have bought into this."
Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles and essays -- in print-on-demand format -- about the flipped classroom. The articles and essays reflect key discussions about pedagogy, technology and the role of faculty members. Download the booklet here.
On Thursday May 8, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles. To register for the webinar, please click here.
The suspect in Sunday's deadly shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas was a guest lecturer in a class at Missouri State University in 2012, BuzzFeed reported. David Embree, an adjunct professor of religious studies, told the website that he invited Frazier Glenn Miller, an active white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, to speak with his students during an interterm course on cultural and religious subgroups. “One of the groups that students were pretty fascinated by and wanted more on was white supremacists,” Embree said. “One of the things I’ve found with many of these groups is that if I tell the story myself [the students] don’t believe me, they just think I’m trying to make them look bad.”
Miller, who is suspected of killing three people Sunday, was one of three white supremacists invited to the class by Embree. Miller frequently shares his views on the Internet, and apparently described his visit in this post. It uses ethnic slurs to refer to students in the class.
A Missouri State spokesman said via email that the university is a "marketplace of ideas; some that we agree with and some that we aren't as comfortable with." In an accompanying statement, Embree said: "My acquaintance with Glenn Miller is a couple of phone calls and one hour in a classroom. He epitomizes the worst possible manifestation of white supremacy/British Israelism and demonstrated to the twelve students who heard him speak that his philosophy is repulsive and truly threatening (as his actions on Sunday demonstrated all too clearly)."
The American Federation of Teachers on Friday announced a new campaign, "The Promise of Higher Education," to focus attention on policies that the union said are hurting students and faculty members. The AFT is planning efforts both to draw attention to and challenge these policies. "Higher education should be about expanding opportunities for middle- and working-class families, not a 'debt sentence,' and not a way for Wall Street and for-profit colleges to profit off of students and families," said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a speech announcing the new campaign. "Together we can reclaim the promise of higher education as a means to opportunity and success."
A junior scholar had been waiting months for a response on an article she had submitted to a good journal. One day she happened to be visiting a colleague’s office, as the colleague was bemoaning being hassled by an editor, having missed the deadline to “review this damn paper.” The title was visible on the colleague’s computer screen. “But that’s my article!” the junior scholar cried. There followed a moment of rather awkward silence, followed by some nervous laughter. The colleague, shamefaced about his tardiness as a reviewer, hastily dispatched a friendly critique of the piece to the editor.
If the colleague hadn’t realized the article was written by someone he knew, he probably would have put it off even further. In the ideal world, the review process is perfect, but unfortunately it involves the actions of humans.
We’ve all received scathing reviews of our pieces by anonymous reviewers. (Or at least I have. Perhaps the gentle reader has only ever received fulsome praise for his or her scholarly efforts, and if that is you, possibly you should stop reading here.)
But for those academic mere mortals still reading, we all know the harsh review, which often contains unfair criticism. (Exhibit A: “The author of this article did not make reference to Smith’s groundbreaking research in the field” -- never mind that Smith’s research has yet to be published, and there is no chance, none whatever, that the author of this significant piece is the person writing the review). Or the more usual reviewer disagreement: Referee 1 says the article has too much brown and not enough purple, Referee 2 says it has too much purple and not enough brown, and Referee 3 (to whom it has been sent to break this deadlock of opinion) says that this interesting article on feudal Japan doesn’t include enough about Richard Nixon. The ideal behind blind review places the reviewer as impartial Justice, but it is much easier to swing a sword than look at a scale when you’re blindfolded.
After a particularly blistering referee’s report (I find these best read with a bloody mary in hand; the reader’s experiences may vary), I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fantasized about kicking that referee’s shins at a conference. Of course I don’t know whom to kick. The distressing thing is there’s a good chance they know who I am.
Somewhere back in the mists of academic idealism, there was a point where scholars’ work was unknown until they presented it for publication. But now that we all leave trails of our research all over the web, the idea behind “blind” reviews seems quite naive. Googling a title will often yield a conference program, or a researcher’s departmental website. How many academics are so pure in their approach that they would AVOID looking up the topic of the paper under review? After all, it may be relevant to catch up on other literature on the topic in order to situate your review of the article in question.
For those of us who work in broad areas, it’s still the case that we will be asked to review (and be reviewed by) people completely unknown to us. Part of blind review’s theory is to avoid the conflicts of refereeing the work of friends (or enemies). But those in small subfields can already guess pretty closely who wrote an article they are asked to review. How many of us wouldn’t be more kind in a review of a piece we knew was written by a friend?
Which brings me to the issue of workshopping papers in public. I’ve heard people wonder whether doing so damages peer review. To which I would respond, no more than the Internet has damaged it already. With two articles of mine, I tried an experiment: posting my drafts on Google docs. I then posted links on Twitter and asked for anyone who was willing to comment.
(I realize that in STEM fields, posting paper drafts on ArXiv and other repositories for comment is more common, but in the humanities we don’t have this type of culture. We simply informally ask friends for comments.)
Getting colleagues from around the world to comment on my work made it stronger. And rather than feeling guilty about buttonholing the same few overworked friends to look at an article draft, the infinite generosity of my Twitter followers gave me volunteers. And they wrote constructive, useful things.
Some time ago, Daniel Lemire (a computer science professor at the Université du Québec) made the argument that blind review should be eliminated because work should be evaluated as part of a scholar’s broader career.
I’m not sure I agree with that, not least because I have my suspicions this already happens to the benefit of some Silverbacks, who manage to get pieces published that, had they landed on the editor’s desk as the work of an unknown Ph.D. student, would have been eighty-sixed in short order. However, I think it’s right to wonder how the current situation is actually operating (as opposed to how it “should”).
Lemire raises some interesting research that suggests rather than helping those outside the academy get published (which in theory it should, as supposedly the work itself is being judged rather than the author) in fact it works against them. Blind peer review is the standard by which we mark the quality and rigor of our scholarship. I do believe research needs impartial vetting but I’m not sure the current system should be it.
[Wondering about what happened to my friend’s article, mentioned at the start? It was not accepted by the journal, as the other referee had written a much harsher assessment.]
Katrina Gulliver is a lecturer in history at the University of New South Wales. Her site is http://www.katrinagulliver.com and you can find her most of the time on Twitter @katrinagulliver.
In today’s Academic Minute, Jeffrey Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University, shows the far reaching effects that gratitude has on children. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.