faculty

How to keep discourse civil in online courses

Professors teaching online courses offer effective strategies for pre-empting offensive remarks -- and what to do when discussions go awry.

The value of seeking academic leadership skills and opportunities as a graduate student (essay)

Doctoral programs should learn the skills to best respond to the growing demands on higher education institutions, write Ralph A. Gigliotti and Maria J. Qadri.

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Study offers window into what search committee members value in assessing faculty candidates

Study of what one panel’s members wanted in biomedical sciences may offer insights into how candidates at other universities are assessed.

Allegation and Denial on Professor at U of Rochester

An article in Mother Jones, published Friday and attracting considerable attention, details allegations made by graduate students and professors at the University of Rochester against T. Florian Jaeger, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences. The university is disputing the article, saying that it investigated the allegations and that they were not substantiated.

The headline of the Mother Jones piece, which summarizes the piece well, is "She Was a Rising Star at a Major University. Then a Lecherous Professor Made Her Life Hell." The article and a 111-page complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission detail complaints about inappropriate sexual comments, a blurring of professor/graduate student boundaries and a series of interactions that left young women uncomfortable and anxious not to work in Jaeger's laboratory. While the story is told through the experience of one woman, it notes complaints from others. The article states that 11 women have opted to avoid interaction with Jaeger, who is a prominent researcher. Jaeger did not comment to Mother Jones or respond to Inside Higher Ed.

The article said the university cleared Jaeger of any wrongdoing.

The University of Rochester released a statement on Saturday disputing the article, while not citing the article, the publication or the professor by name.

"We understand that those not familiar with the investigation conducted would find the language in the complaint deeply disturbing. However, the core allegations in this complaint were thoroughly investigated and could not be substantiated. We are highly confident in the integrity of these investigations -- we followed our processes for fair investigations and due process for all involved, interviewing dozens of witnesses whose names were given to us as alleged victims. Through two separate investigations -- one by an internal investigator and one conducted by an external investigator -- no violation of the law or university policy was found," the statement said. "We believe that the 100-plus-page complaint document represents a narrative that is largely based on hearsay that was not substantiated in our investigations or in the subsequent appeals, and ignores factual evidence."

Then the university's president, Joel Seligman, sent an email to everyone on campus Sunday in which he defended the university and criticized the article. "I would urge you not to reach any conclusions about what may have occurred based on the allegations in the complaint itself or in media reports. Allegations are not facts, and as we saw in Rolling Stone’s withdrawn story about sexual assault at the University of Virginia, even established media outlets can get it wrong," Seligman wrote.

Seligman also described the investigative process that the university used, and said that every possible effort was made to find out if the allegations were true. But he added that he understood why so many people are upset about the reports.

"The allegations in the EEOC complaint are horrific," he wrote. "They will undoubtedly be particularly distressing to those who have experienced sexual misconduct and their advocates and allies. I acknowledge that many are outraged. But again, I urge you to consider these allegations for what they are: assertions that remain unproven despite two thorough investigations. I commit to you that when sexual misconduct is brought to our attention, we will address it completely and fairly in keeping with our policies and with the law. No one should be afraid to speak up. No one should be concerned that our procedures are not fair. No one should worry about being retaliated against. We will be vigilant in upholding these principles."

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How to present your volunteer service and leadership to your best advantage in a job search (essay)

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Graduate students need to recognize the marketability and value of their unpaid work and anticipate how it could be attractive to a future employer, writes Amanda Cornwall.

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A nontenured teaching professor asks for his seat at the table (essay)

I’ve been a teaching professor in the school of communication at Florida State University since the fall of 1993. As a graduate student, I found the teaching invigorating and the research alienating, and I knew in order to be in the academy, I would need to carve out a distinct niche. FSU provided the opportunity, and I’ve done my best to serve, teach and support.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to chair the teaching evaluation committee for the Faculty Senate. I was eager to serve, yet I found it problematic that I had no representation on the senate even though I was being asked to take such a leadership position. The senate president at the time was very receptive to my concerns and became a proponent for nontenured faculty representation on the senate.

The quiet debate has circled informally for the last couple of years, coming to head during the current term. The senate president contacted me, asking that I speak in favor of the bylaw change at two open forums and at the formal debate when the proposal would be considered. I carefully wrote and delivered the following statement.

“I’ve been at FSU full-time for 23 years, six as an assistant dean and the remainder as a specialized faculty member. I teach three courses per term and have taught four for the last 10 years on overload. I also advise students, both undergraduate and graduate, supervise graduate student teaching assistants, and serve on departmental and university committees. I do everything that people ask of me at FSU.

“It’s always been interesting that I have no representation on the Faculty Senate. In fact, over the years, numerous senators have asked me my views on issues pertaining to FSU faculty. I’ve served three terms on the Faculty Senate committee on teaching evaluation and was asked to serve as chair, but I found it hard to chair a Faculty Senate committee when I had no representation in the senate. You wanted me to serve and work but have no vote.

“I want you to know that:

  1. I am not against tenure. I celebrate when a colleague is awarded tenure, am always proud of their accomplishments. I often advise junior faculty on political issues and strategies when it comes to earning tenure.
  2. In fact, I like to think I play an important part in allowing faculty to have the time to attain tenure. I teach over 500 students per semester and routinely recruit subjects for graduate student and faculty research projects.
  3. I often discuss and celebrate faculty research and creative accomplishments in my classes, so students know all that is being done on the campus.
  4. Sometimes it is hard to be treated as a second-class citizen. I read the names at commencement, and before one ceremony, I was asked to step forward to lead the national anthem because the student who was going to do so hadn’t shown up. To my face, a faculty member said, ‘Why don’t we get a real faculty member to do that?’ I was also once referred to by a colleague in a meeting as ‘people like him.’

“The irony, of course, is that faculty members at universities largely see themselves as egalitarian and inclusive -- a celebratory crew for diversity and multiculturalism. Yet they often work to ensure a multiclass system in their own work setting, something they would decry if they saw it occurring in another arena.

“An inclusive Faculty Senate where there are two at-large senators from the specialized faculty ranks will not hurt tenure. We do not seek to diminish tenure. We simply want a voice in policies that affect our students and our work environment. FSU has a great history of inclusiveness and making sure everyone has a place at the table. However, the refusal to be inclusive on the Faculty Senate weakens the faculty voice as a whole and certainly makes it hard to maintain one’s morale, especially if operating from the specialized ranks.

“We may not have tenure, but we teach, research, serve, discuss, inspire, contribute and belong. Seems like a couple of votes should at least be considered.”

As I finished making the statement, I received a rousing ovation. I was proud I had spoken up.

What followed, however, were numerous disheartening statements from tenured faculty, many of whom I considered close friends and colleagues.

“When is the last time you saw a faculty member wanting to be on a nontenured track?”

“If we let nontenured faculty members on the senate, it will weaken tenure, and the state will think it’s OK to do away with it.”

“This is very scary territory for our university. This could start a tide of change, which would change the university as we know it.”

“We are only here for one reason: research. This is a very scary precedent.”

As this point in the history of higher education in America, we need more than ever to support one another and have one another’s backs. I know of no nontenured faculty members who want to do away with tenure. It is very important at FSU and other institutions, and I will continue to support my colleagues as they work toward it. All I ask is for the support to be reciprocated.

It’s time we work together. In fact, it may be more important now than ever before.

Mark Zeigler is a teaching professor in the school of communication at Florida State University.

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Why faculty senates shouldn't exclude non-tenure-track faculty (essay)

Who counts as a “real” faculty member? In a recent study in Innovative Higher Education, we and several colleagues examined how one group of universities includes or excludes non-tenure-track faculty from an important indicator of faculty membership. Namely, to what extent are non-tenure-track faculty eligible for appointment or election to institutionwide faculty senate bodies?

In our analysis of faculty senate bylaws and constitutions at universities recognized as the highest research doctoral institutions in the Carnegie Classification system, we found that most extended faculty senate eligibility to full-time non-tenure-track faculty but not to those in part-time positions.

Non-tenure-track faculty members, including those with adjunct appointments, contribute in multiple ways to our colleges and universities and now constitute the statistical majority among college faculty. While tenure-stream appointments accounted for almost 80 percent of faculty positions in 1969, today nearly two-thirds of faculty members at American public and private nonprofit institutions are off the tenure track. And three out of every four new faculty hires are not on the tenure track. Increased reliance on non-tenure-track faculty raises important questions regarding how to define and to conceptualize what it means to be a member of the professoriate.

Yet despite the significant contributions and prevalence on campuses of adjunct faculty, many institutions still fail to adequately support and fully embrace them in institutional life. That certainly proved to be the case for universities in our study, with almost 90 percent of institutions excluding adjunct faculty from faculty senate bodies. While our study focused on just the nation’s leading research doctoral institutions, our findings raise issues worth considering across institutional types.

Why Faculty Senate Eligibility Matters

The American Association of University Professors and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges have both called for increased participation of non-tenure-track faculty in institutional governance, including those with part-time appointments. But why does eligibility to serve on faculty senates matter for non-tenure-track faculty?

Higher education scholar Robert Birnbaum noted that faculty senates carry out multiple latent and manifest functions. People may debate the efficacy of faculty senates, but a key motivating factor for our study related to an important symbolic function discussed by Birnbaum: the faculty senate’s role in identifying which individuals on a campus are accepted as members of the faculty.

We contend that one function of faculty senates relates to their potential role in legitimating or affirming a person’s status as a “real” faculty member. By convention, we often speak of “the faculty” in higher education in a singular sense. In reality, the disparate treatment of non-tenure-track faculty, and often especially of adjunct faculty, points to a system of faculty haves (often tenure-stream faculty members) and have-nots (often non-tenure-track faculty members). Most universities in our study imparted the message, even if only implicitly, that adjunct faculty are not “real” members of the campus faculty.

Besides important symbolic significance, exclusion of adjunct faculty from faculty senates also can have more pragmatic implications. While institutional variations exist, faculty senates usually serve as a conduit for raising faculty concerns about important issues affecting the campus. Not accounting for the views of adjunct faculty on faculty senates ignores an important voice in institutional life. Previous research also indicates that working conditions -- which are potentially affected by inclusion or exclusion from shared governance -- correlate with non-tenure-track faculty members’ ability and willingness to perform their jobs in ways that impact student learning.

It is widely known that non-tenure-track faculty members, including those with adjunct appointments, are indispensable at many institutions when it comes to meeting instructional needs and serving students. As such, excluding them from an institutionwide body that often exercises substantial authority over curricular and teaching matters makes little sense. Yet a number of colleges and universities in our study -- and many others across institutional type -- fail to include adjunct faculty as part of their faculty senates and, by extension, in the larger fabric of institutional shared governance.

Beyond Faculty Senate Eligibility

One critique of participation by adjunct faculty on faculty senates is that they do not possess sufficient independence to be free of undue influence from administrators. In a study focused on shared governance and non-tenure-track faculty in the context of one institution, the researchers found that many tenure-stream faculty members expressed concerns that their non-tenure-track colleagues potentially would not be critical of administrators due to a lack of job security.

Worries over professional independence are a salient factor in considerations of the service of non-tenure-track faculty members on faculty senates. But rather than a reason to exclude all or certain non-tenure-track faculty from faculty senate eligibility, such concerns should prompt consideration for how to ensure necessary professional independence for those faculty members so they can participate in meaningful ways in shared governance -- including having eligibility for the faculty senate.

In assessing non-tenure-track faculty participation in institutional shared governance and their roles in faculty senates, we are not naïve enough to suggest that faculty senate eligibility represents some kind of panacea to deal with the issues facing such faculty members. Eligibility to serve does not equate to actual selection. Furthermore, faculty senates may play a limited role in the daily lived experiences of non-tenure-track faculty members, including those serving part-time, in their specific colleges or departments.

Thus, faculty senate eligibility exists as part of a much larger continuum defining the professional conditions of non-tenure-track faculty. As such, we urge that consideration of faculty senate eligibility should be considered in a holistic manner alongside a range of issues that affect part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty and their working conditions.

To illustrate such a process, the University of Denver several years ago undertook an institutionwide review of its titling and appointment standards for non-tenure-track faculty. The review included issues related to shared governance, and it resulted in the creation of a revised appointment and promotion structure for faculty members in non-tenure-line positions. As a part of the process, the University of Denver also amended policy language dealing with issues of faculty autonomy and independence in shared governance matters and in relation to academic freedom.

While the initiative at the University of Denver was focused on full-time non-tenure-track faculty (as reported, the university relied less on adjunct faculty than many places), other universities can undertake similar reviews for adjunct faculty. Many adjunct faculty members serve their institutions for years, often without adequate recognition or a voice in governance matters, especially those related to curricular matters or their working conditions. (Remember Youngstown State adjuncts having a cake to “celebrate” 25 years with no raise?) The reality is that adjunct faculty are vital to institutional and student success. They deserve to be included in meaningful ways in institutional shared governance, including representation on faculty senates.

Recommendations

We suggest that universities take the following steps.

  • Institutions should make sure that, at a minimum, non-tenure-track faculty are represented in some capacity on the institutionwide faculty senate. Some institutions reserve specific faculty senate seats to such faculty, but debate exists over the efficacy of this approach. The AAUP notes that reserving seats for non-tenure-track faculty may ensure representation, but it contends that general voting and service eligibility should be the ultimate goal. Whether through reserved seats or general eligibility, institutions should provide some type of meaningful representation on faculty senates for them.
  • Institutions should consider questions concerning faculty senate eligibility for adjunct faculty alongside other factors that shape the campus experience for those faculty members. They should put policies and practices into place that help to ensure the professional independence of these faculty members. For example, they should develop procedures so that adjunct faculty members are subject to evaluation and reappointment standards that are based on more than the discretion of a sole administrator.
  • Institutions should compensate adjunct faculty, who are typically paid per course, for the additional time they spend serving on institutionwide governance bodies.
  • Institutional service, such as being a member of the faculty senate, should be included in the evaluation process for adjunct faculty.
  • No matter the stance adopted on faculty senate eligibility for adjunct faculty, transparency and unambiguousness on the issue are warranted in the name of basic openness in matters of shared governance. In our study, we found it difficult in multiple instances to parse out senate eligibility policies in relation to adjunct faculty. In a 2013 survey, the AAUP reported that many senate leaders reported being unsure about particular policies at their own institutions related to non-tenure-track faculty and participation on institutionwide governance bodies -- further indicating the need for clarity in policies related to adjunct faculty members and faculty senates.

We urge institutions to examine their own policies. Are they in line with institutional values related to the equitable treatment of people and in the best interests of students and their learning? If not, universities will not only miss out on an important opportunity to better serve students but also fail to live up to institutional values related to fairness and social justice.

Neal Hutchens is a professor of higher education at the University of Mississippi and is on Twitter @NealHutchens. Willis Jones is an associate professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky.

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North Carolina board bars UNC Center for Civil Rights from litigating

Move was opposed by civil rights groups and faculty leaders, who see a violation of academic freedom.

Professor Owes Mizzou $600K in Intellectual Property Case

Galen Suppes, a former professor of chemical engineering at the University of Missouri at Columbia, must pay the institution $600,000 in damages, a jury decided this week, according to the Missourian. In an intellectual property lawsuit involving technology that converts glycerin to acetal, propylene glycol and antifreeze, the university system’s Board of Curators accused Suppes of violating his contract and financially competing against Mizzou in denying it property rights to inventions developed within the scope of his employment. 

The board argued that it lost $3.7 million over the disputed technology, while Suppes argued there was no proof of that claim and that both he and the university owned his technology. The jury voted 10-2 that Suppes breached his contract and was competing against it, but it rejected a third claim that Suppes had interfered in business relationships between the university and other parties. 

Suppes was fired from the university in 2016, according to the university, after 12-member faculty panel recommended termination.Mizzou “will continue to protect its intellectual rights, as well as those of the faculty and taxpayers,” it said in a statement. “Protecting and commercializing the intellectual property created by university researchers is pivotal to the growth and strength of our research and economic development programs.”

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Professor Owes Mizzou $600K in Intellectual Property Case

Advice for embracing linguistic diversity in the classroom (essay)

A. W. Strouse, whose students represent a planet’s worth of distinct backgrounds, offers guidance on how to encourage them to speak up in their own way.

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Diversity Newsletter publication date: 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
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How to Cultivate Greater Linguistic Diversity

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