An assistant professor of physiology at Brigham Young University has been told to stop asking students to drink what they think is urine during a class demonstration, the Associated Press reported. The professor, Jason Hansen, told the AP that he has on multiple occasions asked students to drink a secret mixture of water, vinegar and food coloring during a lesson on hydration. "This is usually a fun way to teach this concept to the class," he said. But a student reportedly complained to a local TV news station, saying she didn’t know the mixture was fake and that the lesson went too far.
Dixon Woodbury, Hansen’s department chair, said in a statement that Hansen has been told to skip the demo next time he teaches the lesson, but that no disciplinary action will be taken. "The apparent requirement of drinking someone else's urine is inappropriate, but it was neither required nor actually urine, so was considered a learning opportunity," Woodbury said.
Northwestern University plans to hire 20 new faculty members as part of a $150 million response to growing interest in computer science, the institution said on Wednesday. Ten of the new hires will be based in "core computer science areas" -- the departmental website lists artificial intelligence and machine learning, graphics, human-computer interaction and robotics, among others -- while the other 10 will be interdisciplinary hires that combine computer science with other disciplines.
Today, the computer science division of the department of electrical engineering and computer science has 27 tenured and tenure-track faculty members, according to a university spokesperson. The university noted in its announcement that the number of students who major in computer science has more than tripled in the last five years.
The University of Iowa has approved a new policy aimed at strengthening working conditions and career prospects for its 280 non-tenure-track lecturers. The Instructional Faculty Policy, developed by Faculty Senate committees, deans and the provost’s office, gives lecturers grievance rights, representation in faculty governance, a pathway to promotion and clearer workload expectations, according to information from the university. It was approved by a nearly unanimous vote by the senate. The provost’s office will work over the summer to draft college-specific policies, to be rolled out in the fall. The changes follow a two-year study of quality of life among lecturers on campus, which found that these non-tenure-track instructors lacked clear and consistent pathways to promotion, a role in shared governance, and access to dispute procedures. Compensation was a top concern.
In a rare move among private institutions, Notre Dame de Namur University in California has agreed to recognize a faculty union that includes tenured and tenure-track professors. A majority of tenure-line faculty members voted last week to join an existing part-time faculty union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. In the midst of that organizing campaign, Judith Maxwell Greig, university president, recommended to Notre Dame de Namur’s Board of Trustees that the university no longer invest full-time faculty with managerial authority, so as to legally allow tenure-line professors to unionize if they chose to do so.
According to the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning Yeshiva University, tenure-line professors are considered managers and not entitled to collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act. A more recent decision from the National Labor Relations Board concerning Pacific Lutheran University outlined a series of new tests for assessing faculty members’ managerial status, but several recent bids involving tenure-line faculty unions on other campuses have been rejected under the new standards. Notre Dame said in a statement that its decision was “considered,” and that “internal university governance processes will be changed to adapt” to the faculty’s choice. It has signed a voluntary election agreement with SEIU.
Kim Tolley, president of education at Notre Dame de Namur and president of its Faculty Senate, in a separate statement called the development “historic” and “hard-won.”
William Herbert, executive director of 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, agreed that the decision was “significant." It's the first new private sector bargaining union since 2010, when the American Federation of Teachers was certified to represent a unit at the Longy School of Music, he said. Prior to that, in 2001, United Auto Workers Union was certified to represent faculty members at Goddard College. The American Association of University Professors was certified to represented tenured faculty at Delaware Valley College in 1994.
“The election at Notre Dame de Namur is another clear sign of the growth of unionizing efforts on private sector campuses,” Herbert said.
A group of university librarians and press directors is criticizing a partnership between the University of Florida Libraries and Elsevier, saying the arrangement "represents a Trojan Horse strategy that … serves to undermine the value and promise of our institutional repositories by turning them into little more than discovery layers for commercialized content."
The publisher and the university last month announced a pilot that would link UF's institutional repository of scholarly work to Elsevier's ScienceDirect platform, giving subscribers to Elsevier's journals access to articles by UF authors. Since it didn't already store the articles locally, the university said the partnership would expand the scope of the repository, which contains dissertations, theses and digitized materials.
Members of the scholarly communication blog IO: In The Open disagree. In a blog post published Monday, Ellen Finnie and Greg Eow, two librarians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the partnership "cedes too much to a commercial entity whose values and mission are orthogonal to our own, and sets us on a road that is in opposition to realizing our deeply held values and mission." Elsevier also approached MIT about a similar partnership, they wrote, but the library declined as it did not "align with our vision for scholarly communications and open access." The statement is signed by all the members of the blog, representing 11 different libraries, universities and presses.
Shu-Ju (Ada) Cheng, associate professor of sociology at DePaul University, is resigning from her faculty post. And she did send a letter to the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, the president of the university, criticizing him for defending the free speech rights of Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative writer whose talk at DePaul was interrupted and ended early by protesters last week. On Friday, Breitbart.com (for whom Yiannopoulos writes) reported on the letter she sent and said that she resigned because of her frustration over the Yiannopoulos event. And since then she has been receiving hateful emails, many of them with many expletives and insults.
Cheng confirmed the accuracy of the words in the letter, which Breitbart.com pulled from her Facebook page before she removed it. "To believe that universities are simply neutral platforms for 'equal' exchanges of ideas, the so-called free speech rooted in the market ideology, is delusional and that positional objectivity ends up reinforcing the exact inequalities and dominant ideologies upon which this institution is built. It is a hypocrisy to believe that one can promote diversity without tackling the racism that underlines all educational institutions," she wrote to Father Holtschneider. "The incidents that took place during these past two days are just symptoms of the historical institutional racism embedded in this institution.... Your handling of this case is shameful and embarrassing. It is a lack of moral courage in the disguise of intellectual objectivity and positional neutrality."
But both Cheng and DePaul confirmed that she actually submitted her resignation months ago -- before the recent controversy -- and that her letter did not claim she was leaving because of last week's dispute.
Students at Emmanuel College are protesting the denial of tenure to two popular professors over the last three years, Boston.com reported. Students have formed a group -- Student Input and Institutional Transparency (or SAINT) -- to call for changes in the tenure process. Specifically, they want more input into tenure decisions, and for a clear statement of the rationale to deny tenure to candidates. Sister Janet Eisner, president at Emmanuel, will review appeals from the professors, and is planning a meeting with the student group.