faculty

AAUP Files Brief in Challenge to Campus Carry

The American Association of University Professors filed a joint amicus brief this week in support of a legal challenge to a Texas law permitting handguns on public college and university campuses, including classrooms. AAUP and its partners for the brief, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, say that the law and corresponding campus policies violate faculty members’ academic freedom, since instructors may fear discussing controversial topics with guns in the classroom. The brief pertains to a case brought by several faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin who argued the same. A lower court dismissed the case, finding that the plaintiffs had not shown they’d been harmed by the law. The professors appealed and their case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The “decision whether to permit or exclude handguns in a given classroom is, at bottom, a decision about educational policy and pedagogical strategy,” reads the AAUP brief. “It predictably affects not only the choice of course materials, but how a particular professor can and should interact with her students -- how far she should press a student or a class to wrestle with unsettling ideas, how trenchantly and forthrightly she can evaluate student work.” 

Permitting handguns in the classroom “also affects the extent to which faculty can or should prompt students to challenge each other,” it says. “The law and policy thus implicate concerns at the very core of academic freedom: they compel faculty to alter their pedagogical choices, deprive them of the decision to exclude guns from their classrooms and censor their protected speech.”

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Under New Law, Iowa Unions Vote to Recertify

Faculty union advocates in Iowa were worried earlier this year when state legislators passed a law saying that public-sector unions would have to vote, by a two-thirds majority, to recertify their collective bargaining units before the end of every contract. Yet all seven faculty and graduate student bargaining units passed the new threshold for recertification -- most by wide margins, according to information compiled by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York. (In one case, the faculty union at Iowa Valley Community College was recertified without an election for a year because the college failed to submit a voter eligibility list to the Public Employment Relations Board.) The new law, which otherwise limits the scope of collective bargaining for public employees, faces ongoing legal challenges.

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Jury awards more than $1 million to trans academic who sued over tenure denial

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Federal jury awards $1.165 million, finding discrimination in tenure denial by Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

GAO Report on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

The Government Accountability Office on Monday released a report called “Contingent Workforce: Size, Characteristics, Compensation and Work Experiences of Adjunct and Other Non-Tenure-Track Faculty.” The paper follows up on a 2015 GAO report that found instructors off the tenure track earn less and have less stable positions than their tenure-track and tenured counterparts. This time, GAO looked at the makeup of the higher education workforce and what professors off the tenure track like and don’t like about their working conditions. Major findings include that non-tenure-track professors teach about 45 to 54 percent of all courses at four-year public institutions and higher proportions at two-year publics. Echoing other data on adjuncts, GAO found that full-timers off the tenure track may have annual or longer-term contracts providing relative job stability, while part-timers have little job stability. GAO also interviewed administrators at select institutions, who said that full-time, non-tenure-track professors often carry heavy teaching loads and sometimes take on additional responsibilities, such as research or advising. Part-timers, meanwhile, focus on teaching alone, interviewees said. 

Based on data from two states, the GAO found that full-time and part-time non-tenure-track professors at public institutions who teach primarily are paid about 75 percent and 40 percent less per course, respectively, than their tenure-link colleagues. When comparing faculty earnings on and off the tenure-track based considering teaching duties only, however, those pay disparities decreased to about 60 percent and 10 percent less per course for, respectively, according to the office. State and national data show that relatively few part-timers received health or retirement benefits from work. 

In discussion groups with the GAO, the non-tenure-track professors “cited advantages such as the flexibility to balance professional and personal responsibilities, skill development or working with students, and described disadvantages that included uncertainty due to short-term contracts, untimely contract renewals, and pay—including a lack of compensation for some of their work,” the report says. Other concerns included  Other concerns included

“limited career advancement opportunities, not having a voice in institutional decision-making, and not having certain types of institutional support.”

The new GAO study is based on data from nationally representative sources and public institutions in thee states: Georgia, North Dakota and Ohio (states were selected largely based on data availability). The office interviewed administrators from nine institutions in those states , plus one large for-profit university, and ran 21 discussion groups with non-tenure-track professors.

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Nebraska Responds to Demands on Political Climate

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln said Friday that a graduate student lecturer in English who flipped off an undergraduate activist and called her a “neo-fascist Becky” will no longer teach there. Two university spokespeople also resigned in relation to the incident. The announcement follows pressure from state lawmakers to make the campus more hospitable to political conservatives. Courtney Lawton, the lecturer, already has been removed from the classroom but will formally stop teaching at the end of the year, when her contract runs out, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  In August, Lawton was captured on video protesting on-campus recruiting table for Turning Point USA, the conservative student organization behind Professor Watchlist.

Three Republican state legislators said earlier this month that they wanted more “accountability” and “transparency” from the university on political climate issues. The University of Nebraska System has since sent them a letter promising changes that reflect “the importance of open conversation that respects each other’s differences.” Planned actions include formally studying the climate. Two university spokespeople also said last week that they’d resigned, after the institution released internal emails that critics said suggested an attempt to “spin” the Turning Point story, according to the World-Herald. Teresa Paulson, university system spokesperson and one of those who resigned, disputed that suggestion, saying “the clear purpose of my email was simply to ensure that we were conveying the positive attributes of the university’s students, staff and faculty.”

 
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The importance of following your own positive intuitions about career choices (essay)

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How can we better tap into our intuitive selves and factor our internal and intangible knowing into career decision making? Beth Godbee offers five strategies.

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Allegations in Dartmouth Harassment Case

Dartmouth College confirmed last month that it is investigating three professors in relation to harassment claims, all of whom are on paid leave with restricted access to campus. A criminal investigation is also under way. Now a former Dartmouth professor says she reported one of those professors to the college for sexual harassment 15 years ago, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Jennifer Groh, a professor in Dartmouth's psychological and brain sciences program from 1997 until about a decade ago, recently wrote to Dartmouth about the incident. Her note, which has since been shared online, says that Todd Heatherton, a professor of psychological and brain sciences who is now on leave from Dartmouth, in 2002 touched a graduate student’s breasts while telling her she was doing her work poorly. Groh says the student confided in her, and she shared the incident with an associate dean. Simine Vazire, now a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, also has publicly accused Heatherton (whom she did not know at the time) of groping her at an academic conference in 2002, according to Slate.

It remains unclear what action Dartmouth took in the case, if any, Groh said in her letter, adding, “I hope that the current investigation will consider not only the present case but also whether a different approach in 2002 would have prevented it.”

Heatherton’s attorneys said in a statement that their client “is confident that he has not violated any written policy of Dartmouth, including policies relating to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.” Heatherton reportedly told Slate, “If I touched [Vazire] as she described, all I can say is that I am profoundly sorry.”

Diana Lawrence, college spokeswoman, said, “At the heart of our ongoing investigations is an extensive fact-finding process led by an experienced external investigator.” She added, “We appreciate hearing from Groh about her experience and encourage anyone with additional information about the allegations to reach out to us, the New Hampshire State Police or the attorney general’s office.”

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Montana State Faculty Senate Tables Proposal for Koch-Funded Economics Center

Montana State University’s Faculty Senate voted 24 to 5 to table a plan to create a new economics research center funded by a $5.7 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Faculty members opposed to the grant have expressed concern about the center’s academic integrity and autonomy. Similar proposals on other campuses have met like opposition over Koch’s antiregulatory politics and the terms of some grants.

Proponents at Montana State point out that the foundation is already funding economics research on campus, and that such work will continue. The university’s Deans Council was reportedly waiting to see whether the faculty body approved of the proposed Center for Regulation and Applied Economics before taking a position.

Renee Reijo Pera, Montana State’s vice president for research, said of the vote, “Creating centers is a process. We want the process to play out.”

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Southern Illinois U at Carbondale wants to dissolve academic departments -- all of them

The new chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has big plans to eliminate all departments across campus, in the name of “synergy” and cost savings. But many professors question his motives and doubt it’s the right move.

Decrease in number of openings for history faculty jobs

American Historical Association sees 12 percent decline in openings, for fifth straight year of downward trend.

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