faculty

Missouri S&T online, residential students conduct lab experiments from homes

There isn't enough lab space for all hands-on courses at Missouri University of Science and Technology. So thousands of online and residential students are doing experiments in their homes and dorm rooms, producing both conveniences and challenges.

Online class sizes: one size doesn't fit all

Some colleges cap online class registrations while others adhere to their face-to-face limits. Still others consider each specific course. Which strategy works best?

U of Illinois calls off James Watson lecture over his racist comments

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U of Illinois research institute agreed to host James Watson. But it called off the event after faculty members cited his comments on race, intelligence and geography.

A provost with an unconventional background describes her advancement to grad school (essay)

Terri E. Givens describes her advancement through high school and college -- and how Ph.D. programs should value students from unconventional backgrounds who take on more than expected.

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Graduate student who is subject of Title IX critic Laura Kipnis's new book sues for defamation

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Graduate student who is subject of Title IX critic Laura Kipnis's new book sues for defamation and invasion of privacy.

A professor bemoans representing in class the status quo that she originally hoped to challenge (essay)

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The classrooms that we as professors have tried to create -- spaces where inequities are voiced and the status quo challenged -- are becoming reality, writes Lynn Cockett. The problem is we now represent that status quo.

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How Ph.D. students can best cope with a challenging environment in higher ed (essay)

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Briana Mohan takes a broad view of academe and careers and consider how graduate students and postdocs might best engage with the challenges of the present moment.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017
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Support for Professor Accused of Advocating Violence Against Whites

Texas A&M University professors and students are sharing their support for Tommy Curry, an associate professor of philosophy there who has faced physical threats and race-based harassment for talking about violence against whites in a 2012 podcast interview that resurfaced last week. That’s when The American Conservative ran a piece called “When Is It OK to Kill Whites?” that quotes Curry, who is black, as saying, “In order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people might have to die.”

Many critics have taken the quote to mean that Curry actively supports violence against white people, but his comments related to a larger discussion about the historical lens and the Second Amendment, sparked by the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.

“We would like to emphasize two points in particular,” a number of Curry’s department colleagues wrote in an op-ed in the newspaper The Eagle Saturday. “The first is that nowhere in the interview does Curry incite violence. What he does do is discuss remarks made by the actor Jamie Foxx about [Foxx’s] role in the film [and] relate those remarks to the role that violence and armed struggle has played in the progress of black civil rights. Second, in pursuing this discussion Curry is not simply exercising his First Amendment rights as a private citizen, but also is doing the job for which he has been awarded tenure at Texas A&M.”

Curry’s “assigned role at Texas A&M is to teach and research in critical race theory, an area where he is an acknowledged expert,” the statement reads, calling out the university for its “anemic” support for Curry in the matter thus far. “He has been encouraged to disseminate his ideas both within the academic world and more broadly.”

Students also have created a petition, which approached 1,000 signatures Sunday evening, criticizing Michael K. Young, university president, for calling Curry’s comments “disturbing” in a mass email about the case and for not expressing explicit support for him -- though Young did affirm First Amendment rights for all on campus.

“Young’s language in this email not only allows for but encourages the campus community to assume that Curry, in the podcast in question, used his First Amendment rights to ‘espouse hateful views’ by advocating for ‘violence, hate and killing,’” reads the petition, quoting Young’s email. “We believe that this is not only a mischaracterization of Curry’s comments but serves to perpetuate a targeted campaign against his person and his work."

The professors in their op-ed also “urge the university to fulfill its obligations in the face of a vicious attack on the academic values that are fundamental to our faculty and to our students.”

A university spokesperson said Texas A&M had no immediate comment Sunday.

Curry has since publicly clarified that he was making a philosophical point and not advocating violence against whites in the podcast. “I said in the initial conversation five years ago, the hypocrisy of self-defense proponents is that every group has a right to self-defense except historically oppressed groups like black Americans. My comments are about this historical contradiction. Black Americans’ right to defend themselves against white violence has historically been framed as hateful, whereas white Americans’ right [to] self-defense, which is often understood as their need to protect themselves from blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, is thought to be constitutional and an exercise of freedom,” he told KBTX-TV.

A number of outside scholars have defended Curry, too. Daily Nous, a philosophy blog, said that it Texas A&M seemed to be “buying” the decontextualized framing of Curry’s comments, or perhaps doing “public relations damage control.” It “would have been much better for Young to stick up for Curry,” it said, “rather than say things which he should know will in all likelihood make things worse for [Curry].”

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Critics of proposed legislation on First Amendment rights at Wisconsin public universities say it goes too far

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Critics of proposed legislation to ensure First Amendment rights at Wisconsin public universities say it could backfire and limit expression. Requirement for political neutrality alarms professors and administrators alike.

Trump Reported to Pick Nonscientist for Top Ag Science Job

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign co-chair with no science background, is reportedly the pick to lead the U.S. Agriculture Department's research section, according to reports from agriculture trade press and the investigative news site ProPublica.

Clovis, a professor of economics at Morningside College, a small private institution in Iowa, is being considered to fill the post of undersecretary for research, economics and education, according to the reports. The research section's chief oversees work on areas from climate change to nutrition, ProPublica notes. Clovis was perhaps best known previously for his role in sketching out the Trump campaign's higher ed platform during the GOP presidential primaries.

He's published little as an academic and is more accomplished as a conservative radio host in his home state. After Trump's election, Clovis oversaw the Department of Agriculture for the new administration's transition team.

He is also an open skeptic of the established scientific consensus on climate change and has said the administration's priority in agricultural policy will be boosting trade, not addressing the impacts of climate change. That's a stark contrast from the position of the previous head of USDA's research section under the Obama administration. Catherine Woteki, ProPublica noted, launched "climate hubs" across the country to find local solutions to the effects of climate change. She also holds a doctorate in human nutrition and served as dean of the school of agriculture at Iowa State University, among other science-oriented roles in government and industry.

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