faculty

Author discusses new book on 'creativity crisis' in science

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Author discusses new book on the flaws in American science -- and the ways that government agencies and universities support it.

Anthropologists Issue Statement on Climate Change

The American Anthropological Association has issued a statement on climate change and the need for broad study of its impact. The statement -- consistent with the scientific consensus -- states that climate change is a "present reality" and will have a growing and profound impact on humanity. The statement further says that climate change is likely to intensify "underlying problems" related to economic inequality, and says that the impact of climate change "will fall unevenly."

Given these aspects of the climate change, the association calls for the involvement of many types of scholars in studying the issues. "Focusing solely on reducing carbon emissions will not be sufficient to address climate change — that approach will not address the systemic causes. Climate change is rooted in social institutions and cultural habits. Real solutions will require knowledge and insight from the social sciences and humanities, not only from the natural sciences. Climate change is not a natural problem, it is a human problem," the statement says.

The statement reflects the work of a task force of the association.
 

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A '50 Shades' for the scholarly set (essay)

I hate my hair. Really. It refuses to behave. I try brushing it into submission, but it refuses, springing out from its confinement in hair band and bobby pins. I hate my roommate more. Why is she sick? Now I have to go interview Dr. Christian Black for the school paper and I am too nervous and scared of him to even begin to make sense.

Everyone knows about Dr. Black. He is the youngest Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard, graduating at 24 with distinction. Now at 29 he’s at the top of his game, an endowed professor teaching social theory here at Anonymous U. And he’s rich, too. They say he has his own private helicopter pad on the top of his penthouse apartment.

Who am I to interview him? Sure my name, Anastasia Irons, makes me sound like a princess, but I’m just the daughter of a lumberjack and a secretary. It’s crazy that I even got into AnonU and even crazier that I majored in Social Theory.

I mean, Social Theory is for intellectuals. People who have time to sit around and think deeply about the sort of post-Marxian reimaging of capital done by the likes of Pierre Bourdieu. I’m just a poor girl from the backwoods who works at the local hardware store and is too skinny to be anything but a guy’s best friend.

Speaking of best friends, mine is José, who is poor, too. And not white. That’s not important, but I’m not going to marry him, even though he’d like to marry me and our fathers are best friends. But as Bourdieu says, class classifies and it classifies the classifier and my racial and social capital just hasn’t given me a “taste” (in the Bourdieuean sense) for a poor Latino. I’m going to marry a prince, someone rich and white who will sweep me off my feet.

Just kidding. Of course a modern-day girl like me doesn’t believe in fairy tales. I’ve read my Eva Illouz.  I know that “love hurts” and the trope of modern romance is irony.

Oh shoot, I’m late. I have to be at Mr. Black’s office in five minutes.

***

I arrive, panting, a flush on my face. Mr. Black’s secretary, a perfectly dressed blond with well-behaved hair, ushers me into his waiting room and asks if I would like some water or a paper towel to wipe the perspiration off my face. I want to disappear. Why did I sprint across campus?

“Ms. Irons? Come in,” says a voice as smooth and velvety as a panther. I look up to see the most beautiful man I have ever encountered. His eyes blacker than black. His hair a golden brown swept back from his brow. And his lips, oh, those kissable lips, full and red and pulled into something between a sneer and a smile.

I walk across the room, trying not to tremble in his gaze. I move past him and electricity circulates between our bodies.

And then I trip, flat onto my face.

Mr. Black reaches out his arms, trying to break my fall, and our bodies are pressed together. It is more than I can take. I let out a gasp.

***

Mr. Black’s apartment is everything cold and sleek and modern. It is bereft of clutter. White walls, abstract paintings, utilitarian light fixtures more suitable to a theater than a home.

I sit on the white leather couch, nervously chewing my lip and looking up at him.

“Ms. Irons,” he says, “if we are going to go any further with this relationship there is something I need you to sign.”

He hands me a contract.

I look at it. 

  1. The submissive will only touch the sacred objects when instructed to do so.
  2. The submissive will refer to the dominant as Dr., Sir, Professor, or Herr Doktor at all times.
  3. The submissive will stay thin, pale and trembling at all times, awaiting the dominant’s touch in order to truly understand her desires.

There was more.

“This is sexist!” I throw the contact on the ground, petulantly, like a small child.

“Careful, Ms. Irons. If you act like a child, you might get treated like one,” he says, a sharp edge to his otherwise sexy voice.

“What does that mean?” I ask, a tingle running along my spine.

“If you sign, I’ll explain everything,” he purrs.

I sign. What choice did I have?

***

I’m kneeling on the floor before him. I have never felt more afraid and more excited.

“So,” he asks, “what do you think of my secret?”

His secret, his secret room, his read room of pain(ful) abstract thought.

“Can I touch it?” I ask, stretching out my fingers toward what lies between his hands.

Slap!

Ouch, that hurt.

“No, you cannot touch my 1939 German edition of Norbert Elias’s The Civilizing Process,” he snarls.

Suddenly my arms are pinned over my head. He snaps the handcuffs shut and takes the key and puts it into the pocket of his faded jeans. Oh, the beauty of his body, the loose jeans, his eight-pack abs, his alabaster skin.

“You have no idea how valuable this is. Without this book, Foucault would never have written Discipline and Punish!” he says as he rubs a 1975 original edition of Surveiller et punir over my quivering body.

“Please, Herr Doktor. Professor. Sir?” I moan, unable to contain my desire to get my hands on all the beautiful books around me, the Zizek, the Butler, the Derrida. Oh, the Derrida.

***

The next morning as I walk across campus, what should be the walk of shame transforms into something that makes me glow from the inside out. Oh, the read room of pain(ful) abstract thought. My beautiful lover’s dirty little secret. And now my dirty little secret, too. I can’t wait to go back.

Laurie Essig is associate professor of sociology and gender, sexuality and feminist studies at Middlebury College.

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Al-Arian, Controversial Former Professor, Deported

Sami Al-Arian, who was fired as a tenured professor by the University of South Florida in 2003, was deported last week from the United States to Turkey. Al-Arian was fired after he was indicted on federal charges of helping a terrorist group. In 2005, a jury cleared him of some charges and deadlocked on others -- convicting him of nothing. He has continued to deny doing anything illegal, but in 2006 he accepted a plea agreement under which he served jail time and agreed to be deported after that. The university said after the 2005 jury decision that it would not take him back as a professor. Many faculty groups over the years criticized the way the university handled the case -- especially for suspending him, prior to his indictment, after comments he made were viewed by Florida politicians as supporting terrorism. The university said that his presence on campus could lead to disruption or safety issues.

Jonathan Turley, who in the past was part of Al-Arian's legal team, posted on his blog a statement in which he said the case "raised troubling due process, academic freedom and free speech issues."

Turley's blog also features a statement from Al-Arian in which he said in part: "Today, freedom of expression has become a defining feature in the struggle to realize our humanity and liberty. The forces of intolerance, hegemony and exclusionary politics tend to favor the stifling of free speech and the suppression of dissent. But nothing is more dangerous than when such suppression is perpetrated and sanctioned by government."

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Union sets 'aspirational goal' for adjunct pay

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It's widely acknowledged that adjunct instructors are underpaid, but just how much do they deserve? A new union proposal shocks some, but others say it's appropriate.

Essay on facing career doubts

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Whether you are graduating with an undergraduate degree or a Ph.D., you need to consider the tough issues, writes Jake Livengood.

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Essay on problems that the economic model of e-books poses for college libraries and scholars

According to academic libraries, there’s a just-over-the-horizon golden age in which “you always have whatever scholarship you need access to, at any time and wherever you are.” This quote comes from my library’s “welcome” page, but it could as easily come from many American university libraries.

Having e-books supersede and replace physical books is essential to the vision. Accordingly, libraries have made great advances in digitizing their paper book collections and making them available online through Google Books, HathiTrust and other digitized collections. These superb collections make the vision seem possible, enticing and even closer than we might imagine. Many university libraries have taken another step toward its realization by instituting policies that either prefer or require new book acquisitions to be in digital rather than paper format, when available.

But there is a fundamental difference between digitized versions of physical books and born-digital books. While the former move us closer to the “anyone, anytime, anywhere” future, the economics of the latter are pushing us in the opposite direction, toward a future in which access to digitally published titles is restricted and provisional. 

This difference becomes apparent when we consider interlibrary loan. I regularly explain to patrons that they cannot use an e-book licensed by another University of California campus and that their best option is to request a paper copy by interlibrary loan. In one recent case a patron wanted a book that had been published only online and only as part of a package. Since subscribers to the package were prohibited from sharing any of its contents via interlibrary loan, there were only two options for the patron: either she had to read it while physically situated at a subscribing library, or my library would have had to pay many thousands of dollars to license the package. 

To understand what is happening, it is first necessary to understand that digitizing projects like Google Books and HathiTrust are possible because libraries own the physical books they contain and because they choose to exercise the option to make them available in this fashion. The key point is ownership. Acquisition of a physical book brings with it a consistent and well understood set of rights and restrictions that have been clearly defined and relatively stable for more than a century. 

Collectively we refer to these rights as conferring ownership. The principle that the sale of a book extinguished the right of the seller to control the subsequent disposition of a book was established by the United States Supreme Court back in 1908 in Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus and reaffirmed only last year in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Known as the first-sale doctrine, this principle underpins fundamental practices of a research library. It means that libraries can do pretty much what they wish with their books as long as those actions do not violate copyright (or other) law -- such venerable library practices as lending books to whomever they choose and for however long they wish, sharing them through interlibrary loan and selling or giving them away derive from the first-sale doctrine.

First-sale doctrine also provides the legal basis for such innovative practices as digitizing books; if the digitized books are in the public domain, then libraries can make them freely available, as they do with the full-view titles in HathiTrust. Copyright law and court decisions also permit digitization of in-copyright books for such transformative uses as full-text searching (you can find out if a term is used in a book, and how often, even if you can’t see it online) and data mining of digitized collections to discover patterns of thought and word use. One of the most exciting uses of digitized in-copyright titles is to provide print-impaired readers with full-text, screen-readable access to a body of literature orders of magnitude greater than previously available. 

Born-digital e-books are very different animals than digitized e-books, even though they may appear similar on the screen. Where digitized e-books are owned by libraries, born-digital e-books are almost always only licensed from either the publisher or a third-party vendor, not purchased outright. The distinction between owning and licensing means, among other things, that the digital file is located on the seller’s server and not on one owned or controlled by the library. Additionally, the bundle of rights associated with ownership of a physical book is not transferred intact when a library merely pays for access. 

E-book licenses vary widely. At one end are subscription packages with low per-title prices and few rights; a library’s patrons can access a subscription title only as long as it pays an annual subscription fee, effectively renting the books like you rent a car. Libraries’ ability to share titles acquired this way is extremely limited.   

At the other end are licenses that ensure the library’s access to the title “in perpetuity,” for a one-time fee, permitting the library to engage in many of the practices associated with owned books. Most limited perpetual access e-books licensed by libraries (in contrast with inexpensive personal copies) generally cost about the same as a physical book, but add on rights and users and prices quickly escalate by three and five times. (The per-title cost drops if book packages are licensed, but bulk acquisition has problems of its own, and in my opinion should be avoided.)

I am aware of a single major vendor that permits the purchase of an e-book allowing a library to download and maintain a copy of the title on its own hardware, but the rights that accompany a title purchased this way are still far more limited than those associated with a purchased book. For example, it would be a violation of the purchase agreement to send one of these books out on interlibrary loan; only a single chapter can be shared per request. 

In addition, the fact that titles are licensed enables the owner to engage in practices that libraries traditionally reject. Foremost among them is gathering data about readers. For libraries, protection of reader privacy is a core value, and they routinely break the connection between borrower and book as soon as the book has been returned. 

Vendors, on the other hand, can monitor and record individual patrons’ book choices. They can even assert control over readers’ behavior. Once, when I was skimming an e-book, a “Browse Warning!” appeared, asserting that I was either illegally copying pages or “navigating the book in an inappropriate manner.” Were I to continue my inappropriate navigation, the vendor warned, it might not only cut me off from this book, but from all its books. I never skimmed one of the vendor’s titles again.

Finally, there is a separate problem associated with the practice of licensing, not purchasing e-books. The perpetual access model assumes that the publisher or vendor of the title is a stable, financially secure corporation that possesses the expertise to write -- or at least vet -- complex legal instruments and has invested in whatever backup mechanisms are needed to provide satisfactory assurances of access, perpetual or otherwise. However, there are ever-increasing numbers and varieties of small, individual and ephemeral publishing outlets that lack the resources to meet library standards. Consequently libraries are simply unable to acquire the e-books produced by a growing segment of the publishing industry.

For all these reasons, born-digital e-books pose significant challenges to libraries’ abilities to operate effectively, protect their patrons and meet their needs, and acquire the books they need at a reasonable cost. If libraries are to continue to provide the unique services they offer, if they are to realize the “anyone, anytime, anywhere” vision, and if they are to support the future use of their holdings in ways we cannot yet imagine, they need to own, not merely license books. And e-book ownership needs to be more closely equivalent to ownership of a physical book than is currently the case.

In short, we need to renegotiate the way libraries operate in the e-book marketplace so that they can fulfill their unique and irreplaceable functions while also ensuring that publishers and authors receive their due. It will be expensive, if we can ever get there. Books will cost more and libraries will have to develop the infrastructure needed to host, preserve and deliver the books they acquire. Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. We have some existing, if imperfect, purchase models on which to build. It will take time, and the golden age may be farther off and not as perfect as we had hoped. In the meantime, libraries should ease off on their preference for licensing e-books instead of buying physical ones.

Daniel Goldstein is an arts, humanities and social sciences librarian at the University of California at Davis.

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Essay on what an ABD can gain by serving on a search committee

Chanon Adsanatham explains what a graduate student can learn from serving on a search committee for a faculty opening.

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A faculty search committee

Instructor Criticized for Teaching Vaccines Are Harmful

Students at Queen's University, in Canada, are demanding that the institution do something about an instructor who is teaching scientifically repudiated views that vaccines harm children, The Globe and Mail reported. Students have shared PowerPoint presentations and other course materials from the instructor, who teaches health. Students have complained in the past, but the issue is attracting more attention now because of the measles outbreak in the United States. Queen's officials said they are investigating the situation. The instructor, Melody Torcolacci, did not return an e-mail message from Inside Higher Ed seeking comment. The Globe and Mail reported that Torcolacci is a former shot-put national champion in Canada and former head coach of the Queen’s track and field program.

 

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Student projects mistaken for dangerous devices

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After bomb squad in Atlanta blew up a camera that was part of an art project, professors discuss how to teach students to balance creativity with responsibility.

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