Non-tenure-track professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday began a planned two-day strike over stalled negotiations regarding their first union contract. Shawn Gilmore, lecturer in English and president of the American Federation of Teachers- and American Association of University Professors-affiliated non-tenure-track-faculty union, said in an interview that the union would have preferred to continue negations over striking. “But the university has made very little in the way of overtures to bargain or settle outside issues,” he said. Of particular concern to the union is standardized, multiyear contracts for eligible faculty members. Participation in shared governance and assurances of academic freedom also are key.
Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, said the strike seemed “fairly limited in scope.” While the union wasn’t keeping track of participants, Gilmore said a midday rally saw several hundred attendees, and members plan to continue picketing today.
The university said in a statement that although “we continue to believe a strike is not in the best interests of our specialized faculty members, our students or the campus, we respect the right of each specialized faculty member to decide whether or not to participate. Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to work with the [Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition] to reach a fair and equitable contract.”
While the university supports multiyear contracts, the statement said, individual academic units “are best positioned to award multiyear contracts, as they best know their unique curricular needs and financial capacity. Multiyear contracts should be awarded based on performance, evaluation and merit, not centrally mandated and automatically granted based on the amount of time someone has worked here.”
An assistant professor of outdoor studies at the University of Alaska Southeast was mauled by a bear during a mountaineering class on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The professor, Forest Wagner, was with a group of students on Mount Emmerich when he was attacked by a sow with two cubs. A student hiked down the mountain to notify authorities, since there was no cell phone service at the site of the attack. Students were safely removed from the mountain but the professor remained in the hospital in serious condition on Tuesday.
Tenured and tenure-track faculty members at the College of Southern Nevada voted 263 to 126 to form a union affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, they announced Monday. The college said in a statement that its looks "forward to moving ahead with the collective bargaining process."
A group of professors known as Faculty Against Rape has deep concerns about the American Association of University Professors’ recent draft report arguing that some interpretations and applications of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prevents sex-based discrimination in education, threaten academic freedom. “As it stands, we are troubled by much of the framing, content, unrepresentative nature of, and failures of accuracy within, the draft report,” reads an open letter from the group to the AAUP.
“The overall impression given by the report is that the Department of Education’s Office [for] Civil Rights is ‘overreaching’ in its mandated mission of providing guidance to universities and ‘abusing’ Title IX; this, despite the fact that there is broad underreporting of campus sexual assault by universities,” the letter says. “While we would ordinarily join with the AAUP in resisting the corporatization of institutions of higher learning, we are deeply concerned that the AAUP’s analysis of this issue as it pertains to Title IX, by pitting student concerns for campus safety against faculty interests, reinforces the symptoms instead of addresses the problem.”
Faculty Against Rape says it does support the report’s recommendation for more funding for programs and departments that “analyze how sex, gender, power and advantage operate,” but it requests that AAUP not release draft reports to the media before seeking broader input from its members and subject matter experts. It also includes a number of suggestions for improving the report, including by ceasing -- in the group’s view -- to conflate “the actions of the [civil rights office] with specific university actions in a few specific cases, while ironically, ignoring the much more frequent retaliation against students, staff and faculty as sexual assault survivors, allies and advocates.”
Faculty Against Rape plans on sending its letter to AAUP today. Risa Lieberwitz, a professor of law at Cornell University and chair of the AAUP report committee, said via email, "We welcome all comments on the AAUP draft report and will carefully consider those submitted by [Faculty Against Rape]. As the AAUP draft report explains, universities should effectively address and prevent problems of sexual harassment while fully protecting academic freedom and due process. We do not argue that speech can never create a hostile environment, nor that all speech is protected, only that matters of speech in the university always require attention to academic freedom. The report criticizes both the OCR and university administrations for failing to adequately protect academic freedom and due process. The report also offers recommendations for developing, through shared governance, fair and effective policies that pertain to sexual harassment."
A transgender adjunct professor of English is suing Saginaw Valley State University for sex discrimination for allegedly taking away her administrative position after she began presenting as a woman. According to the suit, filed this month in a Michigan federal court, Charin Davenport has taught at the university since 2007, when she was still presenting as a man. She took on a second, part-time job as coordinator of academic tutoring services in 2011 and was named assistant director of academic programs support in 2012, reporting to Ann Coburn-Collins, director of academic programs support.
Davenport received strong performance reviews, the suit says, until 2013, when she informed the university that she was undergoing a gender transition and intended to dress as a woman from then on. She asked her colleagues for support, but Coburn-Collins made negative comments and told Davenport that she must have had too much free time on her hands, according to the suit.
Coburn-Collins stopped talking to Davenport and two months later informed her that her administrative job was being eliminated for budgetary reasons, the complaint says. When Davenport tried to talk to her former supervisor about what had happened, Coburn-Collins allegedly called her a liar and threw an unspecified object at her, and said that Davenport disgusted her.
Davenport says she lost the job in retaliation for her transition, not budgetary reasons, as stated, and she is seeking an unspecified amount in damages and lost wages. Neither Coburn-Collins nor a Saginaw Valley State spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment, but the university told The Daily Beast, “We are aware of the lawsuit and we are confident that we will prevail in court, as all the facts come out. SVSU does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. … We support all our students, faculty and staff, including those who are members of the LGBT community. We have a Pride Center on campus to serve those individuals and to contribute toward an inclusive campus environment.”