A Pennsylvania judge has granted an injunction to block the State System of Higher Education from starting background checks on all faculty members, Lancaster Online reported. The faculty union challenged a new policy to conduct background checks on all faculty members as a policy that must go through collective bargaining, and the injunction will allow time for a state labor board to review that challenge. The union says that it does not object to background checks as required by state law for some faculty members, such as those who work with children on a regular basis. But the union says that just because there are people younger than 18 on most campuses -- as the state system has noted -- that does not mean all professors should be covered by the background check policy.
A professor of history at Arizona State University who’s been accused of plagiarism multiple times was placed on administrative leave this week as the university looks into new allegations of misconduct, The Arizona Republic reported. While previous allegations against Matthew Whitaker involve his published research, the most recent complaint involves Whitacker’s extracurricular consulting business.
Last month, the city of Phoenix demanded a refund of the $21,900 it had already paid the Whitaker Group to develop cultural consciousness training material for its police force, according to The Republic. The city said more than half of some 80 slides Whitaker produced were ripped from the Chicago Police Department, with minor, if any, changes. Lonnie J. Williams Jr., Whitaker’s attorney, said he questioned why the university would investigate a matter in which it’s not involved, and that Whitaker had been up front about his intention to borrow the Chicago material.
Some activists raise questions about appointee to lead college's Native American Program, drawing attention to political debates about who is a Native American and whether such status should matter in higher ed.
Many congressional Republicans have mocked the idea of federal support for behavioral research (and tried to cut it). But President Obama this week expressed backing for such research. He signed an executive order that praised the value of behavioral science and told U.S. agencies to look for ways to apply behavioral science findings to make various policies and programs more effective.
"A growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights -- research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology about how people make decisions and act on them -- can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people," the executive order says. "Where federal policies have been designed to reflect behavioral science insights, they have substantially improved outcomes for the individuals, families, communities and businesses those policies serve. For example, automatic enrollment and automatic escalation in retirement savings plans have made it easier to save for the future, and have helped Americans accumulate billions of dollars in additional retirement savings. Similarly, streamlining the application process for federal financial aid has made college more financially accessible for millions of students."
Rock Valley College, a community college in Illinois, called off classes today in anticipation of a strike by the faculty union. The college posted a statement that faculty members would be cut off from college email and unable to communicate with students during the strike. The college said it would consider scheduling makeup classes, depending on the duration of the strike. The Rock Valley College Faculty Association has argued on its Facebook page and elsewhere that the college's salary offers have been too low and that professors aren't paid a fair wage. The union also says it was prepared to negotiate through the night but that the college refused to do so and declared an impasse to force the strike. The college says that it has made fair offers and that it can't afford to meet the union's proposals.
Three more former tenured professors at the now-defunct University of Texas Pan American have filed lawsuits against the University of Texas System, saying they deserve jobs at the new University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley campus, The Monitor reported. Junfei Li, former associate professor of engineering; Alexander Edionwe, former associate professor of health and sciences; and Leila Hernandez, former assistant professor in the arts and humanities, all say the university didn’t provide them solid reasons for why they didn’t make the cut as the system opened a new campus this year. All three professors had been working at the shuttered university for more than a decade. Each is seeking $1 million in relief and other damages, as well as reinstatement.
Rio Grande Valley officials declined to comment on the claims, saying they were a legal matter. Another former faculty member has filed a similar suit against the university system, according to the The Monitor.
After months of uncertainly about the future of tenure at their institution, faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Madison received a draft tenure policy proposal this week asserting that the faculty holds the authority to make academic program changes of the sort that could lead to layoffs under a new state law, Madison.com reported. Proponents of the policy say its protections of tenure put it line with peer institutions and guidelines established by the American Association of University Professors.
The university’s administration pledged earlier this summer that it would find ways to preserve tenure as it’s known at Wisconsin, despite recent legislative changes in the state that make it easier for tenured faculty members to be terminated. The executive committee of the university’s Faculty Senate said the new policy “is solidly grounded in the strong tenure tradition at Madison, codifying existing practice of broad involvement in program change and clearly delimiting the narrow parameters under which such change could lead to faculty dismissal.”
Also this week, some faculty members within the University of Wisconsin System objected to a survey of their views on tenure sent from William Howell, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Howell obtained faculty members’ email addresses via an open records request, but professors complained that he didn’t sufficiently disclose funding sources for the survey, which includes such questions as how much professors would accept in terms of a pay increase for giving up tenure. On Tuesday, the secretary of the faculty at the Madison campus emailed professors to say that the survey was funded by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a think tank that describes itself as nonpartisan but which has promoted conservative ideas and has ties to Governor Scott Walker. Faculty members expressed their concerns on Twitter and elsewhere.
Howell said via email, “The only purpose of the survey is to characterize faculty opinion on tenure policy and some policy alternatives to it. This is a live issue in Wisconsin, and I am only hoping to make sense of the range of opinions that faculty have about it.”