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'#CommunicationSoWhite'

Nonwhite scholars continue to be underrepresented in publication and citation rates and editorial positions in communication studies, according to a new paper called "#CommunicationSoWhite" in the Journal of Communication by researchers at New York University. Coding and analyzing the racial composition of primary authors of articles in 12 disciplinary research journals from 1990 to 2016, along with citations, the new study’s authors found that nonwhite scholars were almost absent from publications as recently as the 1990s. Representation increased to 6 percent by the end of 1990 and to 12 percent by the end of 2010, but nonwhite first authors are still cited significantly fewer times than their white counterparts. The only exception is for articles about race.

"If we truly value research produced by faculty of color, and are serious about promoting their scholarly and professional success and advancement, we must make a conscious effort to make sure our citation practices reflect this," Charlton McIlwain, co-author and an associate professor of media, culture and communication at NYU, said in a statement.

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Connecticut distance-learning organization plans to close after 20 years

Connecticut's budget shortages and enrollment challenges claim a distance-learning organization as its victim.

How to avoid bias in faculty evaluations (opinion)

W. Carson Byrd suggests some first steps to take to combat student biases in teaching evaluations.

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From Potential Bias to Action

Overview of fall books

While updating my running list of the books forthcoming from scholarly presses, I often notice connections among them. Often a theme or trend seems obvious -- the numerous recent volumes pondering Trump, for example -- though on occasion the pattern may exist only in the eye of the beholder, like the face of Elvis in a breakfast taco.

Here are a few clusters of titles scheduled for the next publishing season, with descriptions quoted from the presses’ catalogs and websites. Bon appétit.

The 50th anniversary of the worldwide social, political and cultural upheaval of 1968 naturally yields its share of recollections and appraisals. Among other things, it was a period of immense creativity in film. Christina Gerhardt and Sara Saljoughi, the editors of 1968 and Global Cinema (Wayne State University Press, October), acknowledge the pantheon of European and American directors but stress that “the influence of cinemas of the so-called Global South is pivotal for the era’s cinema as well.”

Also widening the angle of vision to take in more than the familiar Western image of the period’s conflict is The Japanese ’68: Theory, Politics, Aesthetics (Verso, September), a collection of documents and analyses edited by Gavin Walker. The Prague Spring and its crushing by Soviet tanks are among the best-remembered developments of 1968 -- certainly overshadowing the protests that spring in Poland and the repression that followed. The authorities halted publication of Zygmunt Bauman’s book Sketches in the Theory of Culture (Polity, September) and presumably sent it down the memory hole by the time Bauman himself was driven out of the country not long afterward. An uncorrected set of proofs for the book was discovered only recently, making possible its publication half a century after it was ready.

With Sketches being at least the third new volume of Bauman’s work to appear since his death last year, the sociologist remains as prolific posthumously as he was while alive.

Second-wave feminism did not start in 1968, but it picked up a great deal of speed and energy that year. Lisa Greenwald’s Daughters of 1968: Redefining French Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement (University of Nebraska Press, January) emphasizes two tendencies that emerged in France as the movement took shape there: one became individualist and intensely activist, the other particularist and less activist, distancing itself from contemporary feminism, leading to debates and battles “between women and organizations on the streets and in the courts.”

Debates and battles of a decidedly different variety exploded when second-wave feminism reached Indiana, Erin M. Kempker recounts in Big Sister: Feminism, Conservatism, and Conspiracy in the Heartland (University of Illinois Press, October). It met with conspiracy theories about subversion, collectivism and one-world government. Feminists “compromised by trimming radicals from their ranks,” for whatever good that did them. Anxiety tends not to accept compromise.

As if to embody the sum of all Midwestern fears, we have The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation (Verso, September). Authorship is attributed to Laboria Cuboniks, a collective “spread across five countries and three continents” seeking “to dismantle gender, destroy ‘the family,’ and do away with nature as a guarantor for inegalitarian political positions.”

A very ’68 agenda, on the whole. By contrast, Dianna E. Anderson’s Problematic: How Toxic Callout Culture Is Destroying Feminism (Nebraska, September) seems closer in spirit to the sort of chastened liberalism of subsequent decades, embarrassed by the excesses of its youth and willing to settle for considerably less than utopia. “Too often feminist criticism has come to mean seeing only the bad elements of women-centric pop culture and never the good,” the argument goes. Against an “insistence on feminist ideological purity,” Problematic endorses “new, more nuanced forms of feminist thought for today’s culture.” Forget Valerie Solanas! Rally to the leadership of Lena Dunham!

Finally, there’s Donna Zuckerberg’s Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press, October), which “dives deep into the virtual communities of the far right, where men lament their loss of power and privilege, and strategize about how to reclaim them.” Ordinarily I might take a pass on another chance to go on such a ride along; the stench stays with you for a long time. But Zuckerberg follows what sounds like an interesting course by focusing on how the classics of Greek and Roman antiquity are being enlisted in the cause:

She finds, mixed in with weightlifting tips and misogynistic vitriol, the words of the Stoics deployed to support an ideal vision of masculine life. On other sites, pickup artists quote Ovid’s Ars Amatoria to justify ignoring women’s boundaries. By appropriating the Classics, these men lend a veneer of intellectual authority and ancient wisdom to their project of patriarchal white supremacy.

Zuckerberg is a classicist with a Ph.D. from Princeton and is the founder and editor of Eidolon, an online classics magazine. (Also, because you are probably wondering: yes, Mark’s sister.) She maintains that “some of the most controversial and consequential debates about the legacy of the ancients are raging not in universities but online.” It’s an interesting premise, and I look forward to reading the book.

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The neoliberal academy in the age of Trump

Following a series of high-profile right-wing faculty bulling campaigns -- from Johnny Eric Williams to Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Randa Jarrar and Rochelle Gutiérrez -- the white supremacist blitz against activist scholars has continued. Recently, George Ciccariello-Maher resigned under pressure from right-wing assailants. We activists who have undergone this abuse get frequent calls from one after another targeted colleague needing advice and support.

The presence of outright thuggery at colleges and universities seems like a new development in the Trump era. Indeed, he has emboldened white supremacists and anti-intellectuals. But such bullying is, in fact, a social movement tactic that is closely tied to other, long-term attempts to minimize the critical potential of universities. Attacks on professors are part of a collective, social movement phenomenon. Our responses, accordingly, must also be collective in nature.

Confronting the Original Pro-Capitalist University

Those who would defend a progressive vision of higher education have faced material and ideological pressure from all directions for a long time. For example, anti-intellectualism was commonplace as an attempt to discredit Communism in the 1950s. The university at that time was highly corporatized and largely captured for use by the militarized state during the Cold War, in spite of emerging democratic and Marxist critique in history, economics and across the humanities.

Hal Draper, an activist at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s, wrote an analysis of “the mind of” Berkeley president Clark Kerr. Kerr defined the university as a site of profitable knowledge production on an industrial model, a merger among education, industry and politics. That goal motivated Kerr to crack down on student protests on his campus: opening up the university to radical politics challenged his vision of a corporate “multiversity” run by bureaucrats and driven by profit, Draper says, as Kerr saw the university as a factory producing compliant workers and the knowledge necessary to run a capitalist society.

But the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley rejected the idea of a corporate university and asserted the mission of a democratic institution that could produce knowledge for the common good. The eruption of dissent across that campus was a struggle over the purpose of knowledge. And the activists won a great deal: the right to assemble and protest, the inclusion of black and immigrant students, attention to the oppression of women and exclusion of LGBTQIA citizens, and more.

In the 1960s and 1970s, campuses were sites of struggles over freedom of expression, inclusion and integration. They embraced a proliferation of knowledge from marginalized perspectives. Disciplines devoted to critique and empowering knowledge -- women’s studies and black studies, for example -- exploded as hubs of thought and organizing. All academic disciplines were challenged by their members to incorporate new voices and overthrow canonical thought.

Backlash and the Corporatization of the Academy

In the 1980s, the backlash against the vision of a vibrant democratic university came under the banner of a culture war and an attack on “political correctness” -- the ruling class’s term for the inclusion of minorities and women in higher education. The turn to racism and sexism was, and remains, tied to efforts to cut public spending on higher education. The attacks on women and minorities by the right warranted the state’s withdrawal from support for higher education. Universities focused increasingly on education in science and engineering in order to attract corporate and state funding.

As Henry Heller argues in his book The Capitalist University (Pluto Books, 2016), this backlash was tied to the proletarianization of faculty and the erosion of distinctions between university operations and the rules of business. At the same time, knowledge increasingly because treated as a commodity, a source of external funding and intellectual property.

Since the 1990s, administrators have escalated the rhetoric and practices of austerity, claiming budget deficits to deny faculty raises, student scholarships and staff jobs -- all while spending millions on the beautification of campuses and administrative bloat. Meanwhile students left behind by state and university support have taken on impossible amounts of student loan debt that they will never be able to repay.

The recent Trump tax bill threatened graduate students with taxing their rebated tuition as if it were income, raising the typical student’s tax bill by thousands of dollars. Although that provision was defeated by protest, other parts of the bill would deny students’ deducting their student loan interest from their taxable income.

The legislative onslaught against universities is best exemplified by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s deep cuts in the budgets of state universities and pressure for the elimination of tenure -- along with the academic freedom that it guarantees to scholars engaged in critique, controversy and activism.

The Role of Higher Education in Capitalism

As Nancy Welch explains in International Socialist Review, the assault on the material security of faculty is part of this picture. In the 1970s, 75 percent of college and university faculty members in the United States had secure, tenure-track employment. Today, that percentage is reversed. More than 75 percent of faculty are contingent, teaching on a per-course basis without health care or other benefits. At the same time, university presidents and other administrators are bringing in salaries at a level previously reserved only for corporate executives.

Severe cuts in state funding have meanwhile left many universities scrambling for corporate money. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that state funding of higher education in 2017 was $9 billion less than in 2008, writing, “The funding decline has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses … At a time when the benefit of a college education has never been greater, state policy makers have made going to college less affordable and less accessible to the students most in need.”

Tuition has risen at a record rate since the 2008 economic crisis, by 35 percent on average between 2008 and 2017 -- much faster than the median income. Moreover, universities are making deep cuts in faculty and staff positions as well as in vital student services like health care.

Most public universities face serious financial difficulty due to the decline in state support. In response, they have significantly raised tuition and adopted an ideology unmoored from any responsibility for the common good. It is crucial to understand how administrators’ aggressive push to subordinate every aspect of the university to the needs of capital coincides with the right’s targeting of the left on campuses.

As Welch explains, the university fills an important niche in the reproduction of capitalist society, equipping a population with the knowledge, values and practices of a competent and compliant work force. The university also serves this purpose when it mirrors in its functioning the ordering logics of the broader society. To put it more starkly: the targeting of faculty for bullying and abuse coincides with the needs of the Trump administration in particular and of capitalist society in general.

The heralding of STEM education -- even at colleges and universities with other strengths -- also serves a political and economic function. President Trump’s National Security Strategy document spells out how prioritizing science and technology in education is key to keeping the United States prosperous and at a competitive advantage against other nations. He calls on us to “lead in research, technology, invention and innovation,” not because such knowledge is intrinsically worthwhile but because it enables the United States to “retain advantages over our competitors.” This plan depends upon subordinating university education to private industry and the federal government.

University administrations' valuing of STEM education over and above the humanities thus represents attacks on the gains won in the 1960s in the academy and in the broader society. The erosion of women’s studies and minority studies, as well as programs in the humanities, affects the people also most virulently targeted by the right. The emergence of queer theory and sexuality studies, antiracist and women’s studies, and the critiques of imperialism that were the result of popular movements of the 1960s have become real threats to the hegemony of right-wing ideas on our campuses -- and therefore threats to the restoration of a university system compliant with the imperatives of neoliberal capitalism.

Austerity as Context for Recent Events

All of this history should inform our understanding of why the right is bullying individual professors and attempting to get a toehold on our campuses in the form of student organizations and campus watch groups. The tactic of bullying individual professors is part of the larger pattern of neoliberal assault on both resources and ideas. The contemporary (post-McCarthy) campaigns against individual professors began in the 2000s. I endured the first of three bullying campaigns when David Horowitz published a list of those he considered to be the “100 most dangerous professors.” I was on that list as a result of my opposition to war. Later, I was targeted as an outspoken advocate of Palestinian liberation.

In a study of my own hate mail, I discovered how the people attacking me were organized and trained through right-wing radio programs and websites in the language to use against intellectuals; they were set off like arrows from a bow. It was clear that the right-wing culture leaders and pundits were leading the charge, and it was not about me or any other individual. It was a clear, organized political effort to demean and demoralize us -- thus weakening campuses as sites of critique and activism.

Today, this assault is a product not only of a recent proto-fascist movement in our society but also a longer history of pressure on the academy to give in completely to the imperatives of a version of capitalism that requires greater austerity, privatization of social responsibility, massive student debt and a resulting downward standard of living among ordinary people.

The other thing it requires is a quiescent population. The system’s advocates want to squash the creativity, energy and openness to radical politics among the next generations of citizens. The state, the corporations and their pundits think that they can make campuses safe for white supremacists -- who are again pitching their campaigns against antiracist “political correctness.”

The question facing faculty, staff and students today is: How do we fight back?

Multifront and Labor Organizing on Campuses

I recently published a brief “how to” for academics facing right-wing bullying. Targeted faculty members should secure their safety, use evidence and public support to pressure administrators, and build movements in their defense. We should also start a list or network of targeted intellectuals (such as the Campus Antifascist Network) because we have nowhere to keep up-to-date with the right’s campaigns or to offer support to the next targets.

Yet it is also time to think more broadly about how to respond. We need to look to the Berkeley movements in the 1960s to see how they challenged the corporate agenda. All academics should organize, not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of every member of the academic community. Faculty, staff and students should organize against racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA activity and other injustices as part and parcel of protecting ourselves from the right. The American Association of University Professors is a good resource for organizing. So are particular political organizations like the Campus Antifascist Network or the one I belong to, the International Socialist Organization.

In addition to those resources, the biggest source of power for us will be unions.

Since the National Labor Relations Board decision in 2016, graduate students in both public and private universities across the country have used their unions to win real gains and protect themselves against austerity and exploitation. Despite some defeats and bitter opposition by their administrations, they have won higher stipends and better working conditions at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, New York University, Yale University and many other places.

It is more difficult to organize faculty members into unions because professors think primarily about themselves as individuals in a meritocracy, believing that if they just work hard enough, publish enough, get good enough teaching evaluations and so on, they will be protected from precarity. But over the decades of the right-wing capitalist assault on the academy, things have only gotten worse for professors. And where faculty are unionized, they do better. It is little wonder that faculty unions are on the rise.

We can find dozens of examples of faculty unionizing over the past year. In July, unionized contingent and part-time faculty at Duke University won higher pay and longer-term appointments. In March, administrators at Ithaca College, threatened with a strike, gave in to worker demands. In November, in a union election held by the National Labor Relations Board, Fordham University contingent faculty voted overwhelmingly to join Service Employees International Union Local 200United.

The other source of power we have is unity. The Atlantic has reported that the assaults on higher education, including the tax bill, have brought together broad coalitions of activists. We should unite with labor beyond the university, as well. Nancy Welch argues that the division between industrial and intellectual labor is an ideological fiction that obscures the ways in which scholars face the same employers’ offensive as workers outside the academy’s walls.

Learning the alternative histories and experiences of oppressed people could lead naturally to challenging the system that requires that oppression: capitalism. We can only mount such a challenge together. As a unified economic force, unionized professors and graduate students can threaten a university’s profitability and reputation. They can bargain for all faculty and/or all graduate students as a bloc, securing protections and advances for everyone.

We are not just defending ourselves against the thuggery of the Trump era. We are pushing back against a decades-long attempt to render our campuses safe for capitalism and dangerous for the rest of us. Our collective, unified economic power is the most serious weapon we have in this fight. We can use it not only to improve the terms of our work but also to keep our public spaces of dialogue, critique, controversy and activism alive. As inspiration, we must look to the past, when students, staff and faculty rebelled against McCarthyism and the corporate university and demanded change on campuses around the world.

Dana Cloud is professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. She a longtime member of the International Socialist Organization.

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From Austerity to Attacks on Scholars

Economist to Lead Harvard School of Education

Bridget Terry Long, a scholar who studies the economics of higher education, will become the next dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, succeeding James E. Ryan, who is stepping down to become president of the University of Virginia.

Long was HGSE's academic dean from 2013 to 2017 and the faculty director of the research doctoral program from 2010 to 2013.

She specializes in research related to college access and affordability, studying the role of financial aid, the effects of postsecondary remediation and the impact of institutional initiatives aimed at reducing inequality in outcomes.

Long’s research has on occasion departed from conventional wisdom, as with a 2010 paper she co-authored that found that using adjunct professors to teach classes can have a positive effect on enrollment patterns, especially in fields related to particular occupations.

The paper, published in The Review of Economics and Statistics, found that taking a class from an adjunct often increases the number of subsequent courses that a student takes in that subject and may also increase the likelihood that the student majors in the subject.

Long and co-author Eric P. Bettinger found that adjunct instructors may also be especially effective in fields that are more directly tied to professions, such as education and engineering. They found that adjuncts had relatively positive effects in the sciences as well.

The researchers noted that many adjuncts have professional experience “and may have significant prior to concurrent industry experience."

Another study she co-authored, published in 2012 in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, found that low-income high school seniors whose parents got help filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid were more likely to complete two years of college.

In a statement, Harvard said Long is currently studying the influence of information on college preparation and enrollment activities.

A native of Baltimore, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. Long joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 2000.

A research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, she is also a member and former chair of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Board for Education Sciences. President Barack Obama appointed Long to the board in 2010, and she chaired it from 2011 to 2013.

Long is a board director for MDRC, the nonprofit policy research group created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Public Education Nominating Council.

Long will become dean in July, when Ryan steps down.

 

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Political science leaders endorse idea of diversity of responses on research and data transparency

Political science leaders endorse idea that journals may adopt different approaches on release of data.

The 10 worst types of meetings in academe (opinion)

Gary W. Lewandowski enumerates the 10 worst types of meetings in academe -- and how to avoid them.

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Technology can help address accessibility challenges, but many say it's an incomplete solution

Institutions are working harder to ensure digital accessibility than ever before. Technology tools in the LMS and elsewhere can help, but only so much.

Drake Defends Action on Professor in Harassment Case

After facing criticism for allowing a professor found to have harassed students to resign rather than be terminated, Drake University said this week that it handled the situation as well as it could, the Des Moines Register reported. In an email to faculty and staff members and students, President Marty Martin said there are two ways to remove a tenured professor: accepting a resignation or referring the case to a disciplinary committee in a process that would have been “protracted and stressful” for all parties.

Mahmoud Hamad, an associate professor of political science at Drake, resigned in December following reports that he spanked female students and had them sit on his lap. A university investigation found that he had “physically, sexually and verbally intimidated” some students and violated the university’s consensual relationship policy, though Hamad denied the charges.

Hamad will not teach until the resignation takes effect June 1, but students have accused the university of being secretive about the case and too easy on Hamad. They didn’t learn Hamad had stopped teaching until April, for example. Drake’s Faculty Senate in a statement condemned Hamad’s actions but supported the university’s action in the case, according to the Register.

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