faculty

BREAKING: Berkeley Plans a 'New Normal'

The University of California at Berkeley Wednesday morning announced a major initiative aimed at maintaining educational quality while addressing serious budgetary concerns. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a campus message that the university faces “a substantial and growing structural deficit, one that we cannot long sustain,” and introduced what he called a comprehensive strategic planning process to establish a “new normal.”

“We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance,” he said. “This is a moment not just to stabilize our finances, but also to consider our future as a leading institution of higher education. The guide for this effort has to be our core mission: to enhance the educational experience we provide to students while maintaining our commitment to access, to increase the support we provide for groundbreaking research and scholarship, and to align our public outreach with 21st-century societal needs.”

Dirks said the Academic Senate, deans and administrators have been analyzing their budgets and programs for months and must now transition to comprehensive planning in the same collaborative spirit -- even though some of the process is sure to be “painful.” Every aspect of Berkeley’s operations and organizational structure will be under consideration, according to the memo, including:

  • Controlling staffing levels and adopting staff hiring “discipline” that mirrors that for faculty positions.
  • Improving support for teaching and research while redesigning work processes to achieve greater “efficiency,” such as the previously adopted end-to-end review of research grant proposals.
  • Making investments to improve fund-raising capacity.
  • Achieving additional revenues through the Berkeley “brand,” land and other assets, such as through licensing.
  • Working with senate leaders and deans on the redesign of some academic structures, including strengthening some areas, narrowing the focus of others and combining units.
  • Expanding online offerings and enrollments in University Extension, as well as professional and other master’s programs that earn revenue.

“We realize that many of you will want to know more, and have many good ideas to offer for our consideration,” Dirks said. “In the months ahead, we will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in order to share more detailed information, answer questions and solicit suggestions. You will also hear more from the leadership of your school, college or administrative unit as work on the initiatives broadens and deepens across the campus.”

Changes will start to take effect this summer, though significant academic and administrative realignments will take longer. Updates will be posted on Berkeley’s website.

“This endeavor must not be interpreted as an abandonment of our commitment to a public mission nor [of] our efforts to advocate for increased public funding for higher education,” Dirks said. “We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate ‘public’ with mediocrity, against those who have lost faith in the need for higher education to serve as an engine of social mobility and against those who no longer believe that university-based inquiry and research have the power to shape our society and economy for the better.”

He added, “What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.”

Due to declining state funding and other factors, Berkeley expects an operating budget deficit of 6 percent this year, or about $150 million. Officials say that while that is manageable in the short term, trend lines call for proactive sustainability measures.

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Noted Anthropologist Investigated for Sexual Misconduct

Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.

The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.

One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”

In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.

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Black Princeton Professor Raises Issues on Police

A black professor at Princeton University said in several recent posts to social media that she was arrested and mistreated by police over an unpaid parking ticket.

On Twitter Sunday, Imani Perry, an African-American history professor at Princeton, described being pulled over by police in Princeton Township and arrested “for a single parking ticket three years ago.” Police handcuffed her to a table, she said, refused to let her make a call before being arrested and, despite a female officer being present, a male police officer performed a body search.

A spokesman for the police department said Perry was pulled over for speeding, after which it was discovered that her driver’s license had been suspended and there was an active warrant for her arrest due to unpaid parking tickets. "She was put under arrest pursuant to the warrant, our policy and state law," the spokesman said. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident, all of which was recorded. (A local news site collected more details here.)

In a subsequent post to Facebook, Perry elaborated on her feelings about the incident. "I did not purport to be without fault," she wrote. "Now, make no mistake, I do not believe I did anything wrong. But even if I did, my position holds. The police treated me inappropriately and disproportionately. The fact of my blackness is not incidental to this matter."

"Some critics have said that I should have expected what I received. But if it is the standard protocol in an affluent suburb to disallow a member of the community to make a call before an arrest (simply to inform someone of her arrest) and if it is the protocol to have male officers to pat down the bodies of women, and if it is the norm to handcuff someone to a table for failing to pay a parking ticket, we have a serious problem with policing in the society."

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Strategies to combat pessimism (essay)

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Talking about our professional problems to a point where our peers and colleagues may perceive us as pessimistic can be damaging not just to our mental health but also to our career prospects, writes Thomas Magaldi.

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Hashtag to Watch: #4wordacademicsadstory

A new hashtag many readers might enjoy (its title may sound sad, but many of the entries appear to be intended for a chuckle) is #4wordacademicsadstory:

Some of our favorite entries:

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Emory & Henry Professor, Citing Protest Fallout, Quits

Delilah White, a visiting assistant professor of mass communications at Emory & Henry College, in Virginia, quit her job last week amid fallout from a campus protest, WCYB News reported. Minority students held a rally at the college last week. White supported the protest, and in a statement quoted by the news outlet, she said fallout from that support made it impossible for her to continue at the college. "After the demonstration on Wednesday, further isolation from colleagues and students ensued from the idea that I was behind the deeds not words movement, bringing me to a breaking point. I cannot function mentally nor physically in a manner that holistically benefits all of our students when I am immersed in an atmosphere of intimidation and prejudice from the majority of students and now, from a host of my colleagues," said the statement.

White could not be reached by Inside Higher Ed.

Via email, Dirk Moore, a spokesman for the college, said, "We did have a professor meet Friday with our president and vice president for academic affairs, asking to be released from her one-year contract. Although, according to a news report, she issued a statement about her reasons for wanting to be released from her contract, I'm not aware of what reasons she may have presented to the president and vice president during their meeting. I only know that they did not ask her to resign and that they accepted her request with sadness and regret."

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Academic Alleges Discriminatory Hiring Practices

Are many academic job ads discriminatory to people with disabilities? That’s what David Perry, a professor of history at Dominican University, alleges in a new op-ed in Al Jazeera called “Disabled People Need Not Apply.” Perry argues that academe, despite its focus on inclusion, is a regular offender when it comes to job ads that exclude large groups of people. “I found around 60 current advertisements, including faculty, staff and administrative positions, at diverse types of universities,” Perry wrote of the analysis on which his piece was based. “At many institutions, every job posting receives one of these clauses, despite many positions being perfectly suited to individuals with all types of bodies, senses and minds.”

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for example, regularly inserts the following clause into job ads (including one for a professor of French), Perry wrote: “Sedentary Work -- Exerting 10 pounds: Occasionally, Kneeling: Occasionally, Climbing (Stairs, Ladders, etc.): Occasionally, Lifting 10-25 lbs.: Occasionally, Carrying 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Pushing/pulling 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Sitting for long periods of time: Occasionally, Standing for long periods of time: Occasionally, Speaking; Essential, Hearing: Essential, Vision: Ability to distinguish similar colors, depth perception, close vision: Essential, Walking -- Short Distances: Frequently.”

Even the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Tarrant County College District, an office that includes oversight over disability issues, must be able to meet “physical demands” such as the need to “sit; use hands to finger, handle or feel objects, tools or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk or hear,” Perry wrote. “What’s more, the employee is ‘occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; and taste or smell,’ as well as ‘frequently lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.’ And ‘Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and the ability to adjust focus.’”

Sam Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a disability rights lawyer, told Perry that some of the ads were likely illegal, and that an employer cannot simply list categories that exclude wide swaths of disabled Americans without a very strong reason.

Perry said he was hoping to start a conversation about hiring best practices. “Unintentional discrimination is still discrimination,” he wrote. “Boilerplate clauses keep disabled people from even applying for jobs. ‘Requirement creep,’ likely put in place by [human resources] professionals eager to avoid trouble, exacerbates discrimination and could, if someone had the time and money, lead to legal trouble.” Without deliberate change, he wrote, “unemployment will continue to be the biggest problem facing Americans with disabilities. It’s time for employers to take a hard look at their hiring practices.”

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Wisconsin Panel Approves New Draft Tenure Rules

The University of Wisconsin System moved a step closer Friday to approving new policies related to tenure -- policies that continue to worry faculty members. With little discussion, the Education Committee of the system’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to recommend draft policies on tenure and processes for layoffs or termination, paving the way for the full board to vote on the policies next month. The new policies were drafted by a system task force after Wisconsin’s Legislature voted last year to strike strong protections for tenured faculty from state statute, but faculty members say the new system-based policies still fall short of meeting American Association of University Professors-recommended standards. John Behling, the board’s vice president and chair of the system’s Tenure Policy Task Force, said the policies were drafted to reaffirm the board’s commitment to strong tenure and academic freedom while also increasing “accountability” to taxpayers. “Without that demonstration of accountability, whether real or perceived, our budget prospects in future years will not improve,” Behling added.

Tenure has been a touchy subject in recent months in Wisconsin due to the changes. That’s part of the reason faculty members objected strongly to a survey of their views on tenure this fall by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, which has in the past endorsed conservative positions on state policy issues. Despite the controversy, the institute is back at it with a new survey concerning tenure -- this time of non-tenure-track faculty members in the university system. The survey includes such questions as, “In order to receive tenure, you have to take a lower salary. How much of a reduction in your annual salary (keeping your workload constant) would you be willing to take to receive tenure?” and "Would increasing the proportion of classes taught by nontenured instructors harm or improve the overall quality of instruction in your department?" Some faculty members have complained that some questions seem to encourage answers that suggest more faculty members should be off the tenure track.

But Mike Nichols, president of the institute, said this new survey was an effort to gather information on tenure from an entirely new group of respondents -- instructional staff. He shared a letter he sent to Behling last year, attempting to dispel some of what he called the “misinformation” surrounding the institute’s efforts. The letter says neither the institute nor the scholar conducting the survey had any preconceived notions regarding findings, and that the survey will “allow all Wisconsinites an opportunity to sift and winnow all objective information pertinent to a live policy debate.”

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Report finds poor job market for history Ph.D.s

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Openings are down and the number of new Ph.D.s in the field far outpaces available positions, report finds.

Faculty members ask why university posted sexist video on website

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At Simon Fraser U, professors were stunned by video university posted on its website that suggested female faculty members could be viewed as sex objects -- in the name of saving energy.

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