Every year, just before the real Nobel Prizes are announced, the Ig Nobels are announced in a spoof of the more famous awards. This year's Ig Nobel winners include researchers who studied how to partially unboil an egg, timed the bladder elimination duration of mammals, determined that every language has an equivalent of "huh?" and determined the body parts on which it most painful to be stung (nostril, upper lip and penis shaft).
The Faculty Senate at American University has passed a resolution affirming the importance of academic freedom and questioning the use of "trigger warnings" that alert students to books or other materials that may be offensive or upsetting to them. The resolution was not prompted by an incident at AU, but concerns -- especially among librarians -- that they might be asked in the future to provide such warnings.
"As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that American University will not compromise," the resolution says. "Faculty may advise students before exposing them to controversial readings and other materials that are part of their curricula. However, the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering 'trigger warnings' or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to 'opt out' of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries."
A Pennsylvania judge has granted an injunction to block the State System of Higher Education from starting background checks on all faculty members, Lancaster Online reported. The faculty union challenged a new policy to conduct background checks on all faculty members as a policy that must go through collective bargaining, and the injunction will allow time for a state labor board to review that challenge. The union says that it does not object to background checks as required by state law for some faculty members, such as those who work with children on a regular basis. But the union says that just because there are people younger than 18 on most campuses -- as the state system has noted -- that does not mean all professors should be covered by the background check policy.
A professor of history at Arizona State University who’s been accused of plagiarism multiple times was placed on administrative leave this week as the university looks into new allegations of misconduct, The Arizona Republic reported. While previous allegations against Matthew Whitaker involve his published research, the most recent complaint involves Whitacker’s extracurricular consulting business.
Last month, the city of Phoenix demanded a refund of the $21,900 it had already paid the Whitaker Group to develop cultural consciousness training material for its police force, according to The Republic. The city said more than half of some 80 slides Whitaker produced were ripped from the Chicago Police Department, with minor, if any, changes. Lonnie J. Williams Jr., Whitaker’s attorney, said he questioned why the university would investigate a matter in which it’s not involved, and that Whitaker had been up front about his intention to borrow the Chicago material.
Some activists raise questions about appointee to lead college's Native American Program, drawing attention to political debates about who is a Native American and whether such status should matter in higher ed.
Many congressional Republicans have mocked the idea of federal support for behavioral research (and tried to cut it). But President Obama this week expressed backing for such research. He signed an executive order that praised the value of behavioral science and told U.S. agencies to look for ways to apply behavioral science findings to make various policies and programs more effective.
"A growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights -- research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology about how people make decisions and act on them -- can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people," the executive order says. "Where federal policies have been designed to reflect behavioral science insights, they have substantially improved outcomes for the individuals, families, communities and businesses those policies serve. For example, automatic enrollment and automatic escalation in retirement savings plans have made it easier to save for the future, and have helped Americans accumulate billions of dollars in additional retirement savings. Similarly, streamlining the application process for federal financial aid has made college more financially accessible for millions of students."