In today’s Academic Minute, Benjamin Black of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses the connection between volcanism and one of the largest extinctions in Earth’s history. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Jeff Wilson, associate professor of biological sciences at Huston-Tillotson University, moved into a dumpster Tuesday, planning to live there for a year. Working with students, he plans to show how one could live in a dumpster, using much less space and energy than Americans typically consume. “The overarching goal ... is to test whether one can have a pretty good life while treading lightly on the planet — all from a dumpster that is 1 percent the size of the average new American home,” he said.
For the first time in 35 years in which researchers have tracked the reading habits of American scientists, they report that the number of scientific papers they read each year has declined, Nature reported. In 2012, scientists estimated that they read, on average, 22 scholarly articles a month. That's a decline from 27 that they reported when the survey was last conducted, in 2005. The survey is a project of professors at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A majority of articles read in 2012 were read online, up from about 20 percent of articles read in 2005. However, the study found that 58 percent of articles read by scientists older than 60 were read on paper, although that includes printed versions of articles downloaded online.
Full-time, non-tenure-track professors at Rutgers University are celebrating after winning key bargaining goals in their new contract. Career titles outlining paths for promotion have been established for teaching, professional practice and librarian faculty members, similar to those already in place for clinical and research non-tenure-track faculty members. Explicitly non-renewable contracts have been abolished, as has the title of “assistant instructor.” For non-grant-funded faculty members, appointments will be for one to five years, and advance notice of non-reappointment is now required.
Current assistant instructors also will be absorbed into the rank of instructor as of July and those assistant instructors making the minimum salary for their rank, about $34,000, will be paid the minimum salary for instructors – about $39,000. (No other raises for non-tenure-track faculty are included in the agreement). The union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers, covers all tenure-line and about 1,000 full-time adjunct faculty at all three Rutgers campuses.
Ann Gordon, a recently retired, longtime, non-tenure-track research professor of history at Rutgers’s main campus at New Brunswick, said that the university previously had no strategy for managing the career paths of non-tenure-track faculty, but that the new agreement – reached after many months of negotiations -- puts it ahead of many peer universities on that issue. In a statement, a Rutgers spokesman said the contract recognizes the “important role” of non-tenure-track faculty there. Some 1,300 part-time adjuncts at Rutgers are unionized with the AAUP and AFT, but in a separate unit. The contract does not affect them.
Ray Cool, an assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation at Western Michigan University, will be reimbursed after his paycheck was stolen by hackers, he said Monday. The news came a day after MLive reported that the university had not reimbursed Cool for the paycheck, which was stolen in mid-December. A hacker using a computer in New Mexico accessed Cool's university account and changed the routing number for his direct deposit from a local credit union account to one in Utah. By the time university public safety detectives traced the hack, all that was left in the Utah account was $11 -- some $1,500 short of his paycheck (the amount does not reflect his actual salary; Cool has several automatic deductions, such as to a retirement account, that were apparently unaffected by the theft).
In response, the university offered Cool an advance on his next paycheck but did not reimburse him for the missing check. Cool said he was frustrated by the university's stance, as it was their system that had been breached. But on Monday, the university informed him via email that he would be "made whole" financially, he said. Going forward, Cool said, "They need to make sure the system protects faculty and staff."
Cheryl Roland, a university spokeswoman, said in an email that she did not know how the hack occurred, but suspected it was the result of an organized phishing attempt. The university's backup verification system picked up on the problem and sent emails to both Cool and a second victim, a university staff member who also has been reimbursed, telling them their bank routing numbers had been changed, she said. But neither Cool nor the second employee opened the message until after the funds had been diverted, a week later. The university has indefinitely suspended online changes to direct deposit information, Roland added.