Author of new book on the history of the American Association of University Professors discusses how the organization has changed and remained the same over the last century, and what its next 100 years might look like.
The number of postdoctoral fellows in biology and biomedical sciences declined for the first time in more than 30 years, according to a new paper in The FASEB Journal, a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study says that even though the number of Ph.D. students continued to grow from 2010-13, the period surveyed, the number of postdocs declined 5.5 percent. “For some newly minted Ph.D. students, eschewing a postdoc may reflect a rational response to a tight academic labor market with low compensation and uncertain prospects for success,” lead author Howard Garrison, FASEB’s director of public affairs, said in a statement.
Garrison and his co-authors found that the number of postdocs in the biological or biomedical sciences at U.S. doctorate-granting institutions increased annually from 1979 through 2010. But the postdoctoral population fell from 40,970 in 2010 to 38,719 in 2013. While men and women and U.S. and foreign postdocs all decreased in number, the sharpest decline was among U.S. men, whose ranks dropped 10.4 percent from 2010-13.
The authors say that the postdoc drop did not coincide with reductions in graduate students or visas for foreign workers, but may be consistent with reductions in the number of research grants, independent labs and job announcements over the same period. A major study last year called for better pay and mentorship for postdocs, who increasingly are expected to do one or more fellowships on their way to faculty positions. Some have dubbed this the “permadoc” trend.
Ben Carson, among the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, on Wednesday renewed his call for federal monitoring of colleges' potential political bias. Appearing on Glenn Beck's radio show, Carson was asked if he favored shutting down the Education Department. Carson surprised his host by saying that he had a job for the department. That job: "It would be to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and to deny federal funding" when such bias is found. His campaign staff did not respond to a request from Inside Higher Ed for a definition of the type of bias that merits denial of federal funds.
The exchange starts at about 3:26 of the video below.
In a rare move of coordinated reproof, leaders of the faculty governance bodies of eight Big Ten universities are rallying around their counterparts at the University of Iowa -- decrying the lack of faculty consultation that went into the university's most recent presidential search. And at Iowa, the protests are continuing.
The Iowa Board of Regents selected the businessman Bruce Harreld as the institution's next president, despite widespread faculty opposition to Harreld's candidacy. Shortly after the selection, the Faculty Senate at Iowa passed a vote of no confidence in the governing board, saying the selection showed "blatant disregard for the shared nature of university governance."
Now leaders of the faculty governance bodies at eight of Iowa's Big Ten colleagues have signed a statement supporting the no-confidence vote. The statement was signed by leaders of the faculty groups at Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue Universities, and the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska at Lincoln, Wisconsin at Madison and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Principles of shared governance dictate that the voice of the faculty, which carries out the core mission of the university, is accorded considerable weight in all important decisions of university governance. In appointing Bruce Harreld as the president of the University of Iowa against overwhelming opposition from the faculty, the Board of Regents, state of Iowa, appear to have violated these principles," the statement reads. "We call on the Board of Regents, state of Iowa, to adhere to the principles of shared university governance and to ethical behavior and transparency."
At Iowa on Wednesday, hundreds of protesters interrupted a Board of Regents meeting, chanting, "Resign, resign," and urging board members and Harreld to quit, The Gazette reported. While board members didn't in fact resign, protest organizers said that they would continue their efforts.
A controversial study this year found that, other factors being equal, faculty members seeking new colleagues in science and technology fields prefer female candidates over male candidates. But the Cornell University scholars who did that study have now published a new analysis in which faculty members were asked to evaluate for possible hiring (based on a portfolio of materials) male and female candidates in which the male candidate received slightly higher ratings. In these comparisons, faculty members generally picked the male candidate. “Faculty apparently view quality as the most important determinant of hiring rankings,” write Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams in the study, published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Tarleton State University, in Stephenville, Texas, says that it followed proper procedures in the events leading up to the resignation of Jeff William Justice, a former assistant professor of social science accused of performing a self-mutilation-based ritual in front of students. “Tarleton’s highest priority is the welfare of our students,” Cecilia Jacobs, a university spokeswoman, said via email. “These allegations were taken seriously and an investigation was promptly launched, during which time Dr. Justice was placed on administrative leave. In the midst of the investigation, Dr. Justice offered his resignation and it was accepted.”
The university had no additional comment on the allegations, but Inside Higher Ed obtained a campus police report. It is based on a complaint from a single student who says that Justice invited several students to his home and drank alcohol with them before complaining that he was sore from hanging by spikes in his chest from a tree branch in order to pray to the sun. He allegedly hung from the tree twice before the students left. The student who filed the complaint allegedly returned at a later date at Justice’s prompting, out of fear it would it affect his class grade if he did not. The student said he got scared and left, then talked to his father, who helped him report it to campus police in May.
Justice, who is no longer at Tarleton, could not immediately be reached for comment. The event was first reported by the Texan News Service, Tarleton's student newspaper. In a statement from Justice posted to the newspaper’s website, Justice denied giving alcohol to minors, but said he had attempted to harm himself in front of students due to severe depression, for which he is seeking treatment.
East Stroudsburg University must uphold an arbitrator’s decision that it reinstate and reimburse for lost wages a professor denied tenure by the university president, according to a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision.
John Freeman, a former assistant professor of chemistry at East Stroudsburg, appealed through his union the president’s determination that he did not deserve tenure because he hadn’t sufficiently progressed as a scholar. (He was denied tenure by the previous president two years earlier and was allowed to reapply, when he was again reject by the new president, Marcia Welsh.) As dictated by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty-negotiated union contract, Freeman’s case eventually went to arbitration. The arbitrator decided that the university had violated the contract when Welsh denied Freeman tenure without reviewing the recommendations of the department chair and the universitywide tenure and promotion committee, and also by improperly consulting the provost.
The arbitrator said Freeman should be reinstated as a professor with the ability to reapply for tenure, to be determined by a neutral third party. The university challenged the arbitrator’s decision in court, which found that the president had indeed violated the terms of the contract by not consulting previous reviewers’ recommendations and by consulting with the provost.
The collective bargaining agreement “prescribes a detailed procedure by which faculty committees and department chairpersons are to submit written tenure recommendations to the president within specific time frames,” Judge Rochelle S. Friedman wrote in her opinion. “While the president may ultimately disagree with those recommendations, he or she cannot make a decision without first considering them. … [The contract] expressly permits the president to ‘act independently’ on a tenure decision only ‘if the committee(s) fail [sic] to act within the time limits specified’” for submitting recommendations to the president. Friedman also rejected East Stroudsburg’s claim that limiting the president’s authority would violate public policy.
A university spokesperson said administrators were reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. William H. 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, said via email the decision’s major takeaway is that it “rested on the negotiated language concerning the tenure review procedures in the collective bargaining agreement. The excerpt of the at-issue contract provision, set forth in the court’s decision, supports the conclusion that a final decision to grant or deny tenure is to be based, in part, on a review of the positive recommendations.”
Amy Bishop, a former biology professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, has for the first time apologized for in 2010 killing three of her then colleagues and injuring three others, NBC News reported. In a handwritten note as part of a new appeal to undo a plea agreement she made, Bishop referred to what she did as a "terrible crime" and said she was "terribly sorry for the victims and their families, and my family." She is serving a life term under the plea agreement, but is asking that it be thrown out on the grounds that she was mentally ill at the time, and that her lawyer didn't adequately represent her.
One of those she injured, Joseph Leahy, a microbiology professor, said he doubted the sincerity of the apology. "Do I think she's truly sorry?" he asked. "I think she truly wants to get out of prison. That's what I think."