Today on the Academic Minute, Lisa Stowers, associate professor of molecular and cellular neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute, describes how the brains of female mice can shut off male-detecting neurons. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Submitted by Jake New on October 16, 2015 - 3:00am
The University of Oregon's new "pioneer-themed" athletics uniforms celebrate a "history of genocidal violence, ethnic cleansing and exclusion of nonwhites," a coalition of Native faculty, staff and students said in an open letter this week. The uniforms, unveiled by Nike earlier this month, are inspired by the travels of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and feature the explorers and a map of the Oregon Trail.
The university said the uniforms are meant to honor the state's "maverick heritage" embodied by Lewis and Clark. The coalition, Native Strategic Initiatives, said the uniforms emphasize "white supremacy, a sense of divine obligation of free white men to take -- by force if necessary -- the land belonging to the nonwhite nations west of the Mississippi."
"Instead of condemning this process," the open letter states, "the celebration of Lewis and Clark valorizes it, papering over the ongoing consequences of colonization and indigenous traditions of 'exploration,' 'innovation,' 'free-thinking' and 'risk-taking' that existed in this place long before the expedition arrived at the Pacific coast."
The coalition urged the university and Nike to discontinue the uniforms and to recall related merchandise from stores.
The University of Missouri at Columbia will offer graduate student workers health insurance next year, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said this week, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. The news came after weeks of outcry from graduate students over the university’s announcement just days before classes started that it would cancel graduate student health insurance subsidies. The university blamed its choice on a new federal interpretation of the Affordable Care Act limiting how individual subsidies could be used to buy health insurance.
Mizzou -- unlike most universities, which have employer-sponsored health insurance plans -- offers graduate student workers individual subsidies to buy their own health insurance. A week after the August announcement, amid student protests and questions from faculty members about how they could recruit new graduate students under such circumstances, Mizzou put its decision on hold. Loftin’s announcement this week cements the university’s plan to continue to provide health insurance coverage in some form, at least through next year, but he was short on details about how the university would do it and still comply with the ACA. A university task force will make recommendations on how to do so by the end of next month.
The Huntington Library, a freestanding research institution in California, and the University of California at Riverside are starting a collaboration to hire faculty members in the humanities. The new assistant professors will each have full research fellowships at the Huntington, with the library covering their salaries for two years of their initial appointments. The library and the university say this is a way to add humanities professorships and to provide those who get the jobs with a path to advancing their careers.
David Kelly, a mathematics professor at Hampshire College who is getting ready to retire, has long shared his fascination with the number 17 with students. He loves to teach facts about the number, such as: "You can color all the (136) edges joining pairs of 16 points with three colors without having three of the edges forming a triangle be all the same color; with 17 (or more) points, there must be a monochromatic triangle." (For 16 other of his top 17 facts about 17, go here.)
So to honor Kelly upon his retirement, the college is changing all of its speed limit 15 signs to 17.
When news of the Geoff Marcy sexual harassment case at the University of California at Berkeley broke last week, a number of astronomers across academe asked why the university hadn’t been tougher on him. An investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 determined that Marcy, a professor of astronomy, had violated Berkeley’s sexual harassment policy over a decade, and that he’d allegedly groped, kissed and inappropriately touched a number of students, critics said, so why had the university only given him a firm warning not to repeat the behavior? Now the majority of astronomers at Berkeley are joining those critics. In an open letter to the Berkeley administration, 23 members of the department -- all but a few -- including the chair, asked the university to “reevaluate” its response to Marcy.
“We believe that Geoff Marcy cannot perform the functions of a faculty member,” the letter says. The professors also appear to address some claims that Marcy’s behavior was a kind of open secret among his colleagues. “We regret the harm caused by our faculty, and reject any suggestion that our sympathies should be with the perpetrators of sexual harassment,” they wrote, adding that Berkeley policies led to a lack of communication with the department about the case. “We are committed to developing and maintaining a supportive, open climate in which all members of the department can thrive, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religious faith.”
Marcy did not respond to a request for comment. A Berkeley spokeswoman referred questions to an earlier statement outlining Berkeley’s response to Marcy’s case. "Professor Marcy and the vice provost [for the faculty] entered into an agreement that states he will abide by clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students," reads that statement. "Were he to fail to meet those expectations, the terms of the agreement provide that he would be immediately subject to sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal; such sanctions would be imposed summarily by the vice provost." The university said it took the matter very seriously, and that its consequences for Marcy amounted to "strong action."
The New York Timesreported that Berkeley placed Marcy on probation over the summer, but eventually opted to put him on a tight leash instead of pursuing dismissal proceedings -- the outcome of which would be "uncertain." Marcy reportedly has waived his due process rights, should he be found in violation of the university's sexual harassment policy in the future.