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Modern Language Association taps Paula Krebs, dean at Bridgewater State and longtime humanities advocate, as new executive director

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Modern Language Association taps Paula Krebs, dean at Bridgewater State and longtime humanities advocate, as new executive director.

Analysis suggests age bias at play in reduction of federal funding to early-career researchers

New analysis suggests that age bias is at play in a reduction of federal funding to early-career researchers and recommends addressing it by redirecting grant monies.

Publishers' new anti-counterfeiting measures include certification seals on books

Textbook publishers announce new measures to curb counterfeiting of physical books, including certification seals on book covers.

Backing for Princeton Scholar, Subject of Threats

Scholars are expressing their support for Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University. The activist and co-planner of the March women’s strike recently canceled planned public talks, saying she received hateful messages and death threats for calling President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” in a commencement speech at Hampshire College. The American Association of University Professors, which has previously expressed concern over online targeting of academics, released a statement Friday called “Princeton Must Speak Up for Academic Freedom.”

“We join with others in condemning the wave of intimidation and threats that have swept campuses and the country this year,” including Taylor, AAUP said. “We have recently seen a surge in politically motivated, targeted harassment against academics, especially those teaching ethnic and gender studies. We call on the administration of Princeton to speak out clearly and forcefully in defense of the rights of faculty and students, generally, and Taylor, specifically.”

Princeton previously acknowledged the threats against Taylor, but noted she is currently on sabbatical and not on campus. A spokesperson referred a request for comment on the AAUP statement to an expression of solidarity from Taylor’s department colleagues at Princeton, which has since been signed by more than 6,000 other supporters.

“We denounce these acts of racial, gender and sexual violence and the efforts to intimidate and harass Taylor. Her ideas deserve the widest possible audience, free from threat or intimidation,” that statement says. Taylor is a “brilliant and innovative scholar of inequality, segregation and American public policy. Her meticulous, award-winning research on the history and politics of black America is a model, and Taylor has earned the widespread respect of both her peers and her students for her painstaking scholarship, passionate teaching and advocacy for a better world rooted in both. We support her wholeheartedly.”

More than 1,000 members of the Hampshire campus and others have also signed another open letter condemning hate speech and threats directed at Taylor. Noting that the attacks on her are not isolated, the letter expresses regret for what she’s faced as a result of being an invited speaker. “As is expected of any commencement speaker, Taylor addressed with incisiveness, wisdom and rigor the times and world into which a college sends its graduates. Her speech took on this task -- a daunting one today -- with courage, car, and grace.”

Subsequent “threats of violence and the racist, misogynist, homophobic language that accompanies them, are not simply matters of ‘political disagreement,’” it reads. “These threats and this language constitute hate speech, explicitly designed to terrorize and to silence those posing critical questions about the world we live in. In this particular context, they are also a violation of Taylor’s rights to intellectual freedom and free speech, and the rights of our entire community to the same.”

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Why did UNC call off course based on Chapel Hill athletic-academic scandal?

Academics at UNC want to know what was wrong with plans for a class dealing with athletics scandals, including one at Chapel Hill.

Health survey for faculty, staff first of its kind

Pilot survey finds good health, but also concerns about uncivil behavior by colleagues.

Fresno State Says ‘Unauthorized Party’ Contributed to Cancellation of Faculty Search

California State University at Fresno pushed back Thursday against faculty claims that a search for an assistant professor in Middle Eastern studies was canceled earlier this spring over the Middle Eastern backgrounds and Palestinian research interests of final candidates.

“In the Edward Said Professorship search, we did not recognize improper search approvals and search committee formation in a timely manner,” the university said in a statement. “No department had actually approved the search, and the search committee was not formed by an election of the department members as is required by our policies. We admit we were too slow and should have canceled this search much earlier based on these academic policy violations.”

In addition to the election and approval issues, the university said it discovered that an “unauthorized party was participating in the search committee’s deliberations, and that this party was sharing perspectives influencing the committee, again a clear violation of our academic policy.”

Lynette Zelezny, university provost, said in an interview that the university heard nothing from and was certainly not pressured by any group or individual about the search, as has been alleged. Zelezny expressed regret that the process got so far along before she became aware it was problematic, but said Fresno State must follow policy.

She declined to comment on the identity of any unauthorized party involved in the confidential search, saying it “might” be a personnel issue. The professorship, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a private donor, was initially approved as a philosophy department search, yet there were no philosophers on the search committee, she added.

“We were way too slow in recognizing that we had an improper search committee in terms of no election and other factors,” Zelezny said. “We’ve learned from this. … This is very unusual -- typically we don’t see these kinds of issues in our searches.”

The chair of the search committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vida Samiian, the current Middle East studies director who resigned in protest from that post last week over what she alleged was Fresno State’s buckling to political interference in the search, remained unconvinced that the university had acted out of concern for policy alone.

“As I said before, there was no problem with the search committee or the process until the list of finalists was announced,” she said via email. “This was an interdisciplinary search for an interdisciplinary program. The procedural error they claim justifies canceling the search (having a search committee that is appointed, not elected) has been in fact the norm and past practice for interdisciplinary searches. Moreover, membership of this search committee was announced in the faculty meeting of the Middle East studies program and approved by the faculty.”

Samiian guessed that she was the “unauthorized” party involved in the search, but said she was assisting the search committee in an advising capacity as founder and director of the Middle East studies program. Zelezny’s office “was aware of this and authorized me to use the software to access files,” she said. “I did not participate in the interviews or the deliberations for selecting among the finalists.”

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New Guide on Undergraduate STEM Education

The Association of American Universities, which works, in part, to improve math, science, engineering and technology education for undergraduates, this week released a report on “Essential Questions and Data Sources for Continuous Improvement of Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning.” It includes questions to aid faculty discussions on STEM education at the course, department, division and campus level on pedagogy, scaffolding and cultural change. There are key data sources and other tools to guide institutional decisions, along with information on evaluating quality and effectiveness of instruction.

Mary Sue Coleman, association president, in statement called the report a “useful resource for research universities as they continue to work at improving the effectiveness of undergraduate STEM teaching and learning.” The new document complements AAU’s earlier “Framework for Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning.”

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Librarian behind list of 'predatory' publishers still faces harassment online

Months after deleting controversial lists of “predatory” journals and publishers, the librarian behind them still faces anonymous harassment online.

Academics focus too much on what they should do and too little on what they've already done (essay)

Why do people in academe tend to downplay what we have achieved, asks J. E. Sumerau, for the sake of some future possibility?

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