Extra Credit for Defying Gender Norms on Body Hair

Breanne Fahs, associate professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University, has an unusual way to teaching students about defying gender-specific norms. She offers extra credit to all female students who opt not to shave any body hair below the neck, and to male students who shave all of their body hair below the neck. Students must shave (or not shave) throughout a 10-week period and keep a journal related to their experiences. “There’s no better way to learn about societal norms than to violate them and see how people react,” said Fahs in an Arizona State article about her teaching technique. “There’s really no reason why the choice to shave, or not, should be a big deal. But it is, as the students tend to find out quickly.” Some of the Arizona State students may be seen in the photograph below.

four students posing on campus



Essay on how academics can think like entrepreneurs

Summer is the perfect time to consider how to be entrepreneurial -- in and out of academe -- writes Kerry Ann Rockquemore.

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Academic Minute: Exploring Exoplanets

In today's Academic Minute, Jason Kalirai, associate researcher at the Center for Astrophysical Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, discusses the deepest of deep space studies. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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Conference considers internationalization of Ph.D. programs

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Internationalizing doctoral programs should mean more than recruiting students from other countries, say speakers at conference.

Former Central Michigan U. adjunct instructor sues student over fake Twitter account

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A former adjunct instructor and a student at Central Michigan U. clash over a fake Twitter account.

Stroke survivors in academe talk about long road to recovery

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Strokes affect hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. For professors, who make a living speaking with authority for long periods of time, the road back -- to the classroom or research or both -- is long.

Essay on jobs for humanities scholars in health professions programs

Those with expertise in language, writing and cultural studies may find good academic jobs far from humanities departments, write Thomas Lawrence Long.

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Group Condemns Israeli Raids on Palestinian Universities

The Middle East Studies Association has written to U.S. and Israeli authorities protesting recent Israeli raids on several Palestinian university campuses. The letter states that Israeli authorities have been attacking nonviolent protest and seizing student property. The letter acknowledges that Israel has in recent weeks been searching for three kidnapped Israeli youth (who have since been found, murdered). But the association says that it believes that "collective punishment against educational institutions and their students are never acceptable and cannot be justified." Israeli authorities have said that their military actions in the West Bank in recent weeks had been to try to located the kidnapped youths or to gather intelligence about them.



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U. Michigan Climate Survey Shows Gains in Morale

Faculty members in science and engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor say the overall work climate has improved significantly since 2001 – but change took that long to manifest, according to a new report. The climate survey was first conducted in 2001 as part of the university’s ADVANCE program to promote women and underrepresented faculty members. The program includes a network for women scientists to prevent women in mostly-male departments from feeling isolated, as well as a mentoring program for new faculty members.

There was little improvement in overall climate reported in a subsequent 2006 survey, but in 2012 – survey data for which was only recently released – faculty members report statistically significant gains in the general climate and climate for diversity in their departments. Faculty members described a more civil work environment and white women and white men and men of color reported hearing fewer disparaging comments about women. All faculty members reported overhearing fewer disparaging comments about racial or ethnic minorities or religious groups. Women of color also reported higher levels of job satisfaction, and all women reported more satisfaction with the level of social interactions shared with fellow professors.

Not all data was rosy, however. Women still report more gender discrimination than their male colleagues, and faculty members of color report unchanged rates of racial-ethnic discrimination.

Janet Malley, director of research and evaluation at the university, said that change takes time is the project’s biggest takeaway. Improving climate is “a long-term project, so one shouldn’t perhaps expect to see dramatic changes in five years – but in 10 years, maybe.”

Malley said change takes a “concerted effort on the part of the administration and faculty,” but that Michigan’s ADVANCE program easily could be exported to other institutions wanting to tackle climate issues.

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Unions Dodge Bullet with Supreme Court Ruling

Public higher education unions dodged a bullet Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a group of home health care workers who mainly take care of their own family members in Illinois don’t have to pay union dues if they don’t want to. Plaintiffs in the case, Harris v. Quinn, sought the larger goal of ending exclusive representation and mandatory union dues for public employees generally, but Justice Samuel Alito in reading the opinion of the court said that the ruling applied only to this special class of “partial-public employees.” (The court, in a five-four vote, said that requiring these loosely affiliated state employees to pay union dues when they didn’t want to was a violation of their First Amendment rights.) Alito indicated, however, that the longstanding precedents in favor of mandatory union agency fees for public employees were based on “questionable foundations” – which many observers took to mean that the court would be open to revisiting the broader issue of open union shops at some point in the future.

William Herbert, executive director of the Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining and Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said a decision that overturned the closed shop concept in the public sector more broadly would have “destabilized” labor relations and collective bargaining nationwide.  But, based on Monday’s ruling, faculty collective bargaining is not immediately affected, he said. Advocates of agency fees -- which are required in 26 states, including Illinois -- say that they protect unions from "freeloaders" who would benefit from but not contribute to their cause, and keep the unions on sound financial footing.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that while the court “upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let’s be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today’s decision makes it worse.”

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