In 1962, Grove City College fired Larry Gara, a history professor whose left-wing politics offended a powerful trustee. As recounted in an Associated Press article, the college brought various charges of incompetence against Gara and fired him. Gara went on to a successful teaching career at Wilmington College, in Ohio. But a Grove City alumnus, Steven Taaffe, a history professor at Stephen F. Austin University, did research on his firing and found considerable evidence that the charges were unfair. All the Grove City officials involved in the firing are dead. Based on Taaffe's research, a former president of the college, Richard Jewell, recently visited Gara and personally apologized on behalf of the college. Gara, 93, told the AP, "I never thought they would come around."
Clay Christensen, a professor at Harvard University's business school, has since his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma been widely acclaimed in the business world for his theory of “disruptive innovation” to explain why upstarts derail established companies. A later book applying the ideas to higher education has led many administrators to feature Christensen at meetings and quote him to promote various ideas about change. But an article in The Boston Globe notes that his ideas are increasingly being questioned. A year ago, The New Yorker published a critique. But now an article in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan Management Review (summary available here) offers detailed academic criticism of the disruptive innovation theory. The article questions whether many of Christensen's examples actually prove what he says and cautions business leaders against relying on the theory. In another article in the Globe, Christensen explains why he thinks the theory is still valid.
Campus Equity Week, an annual week of events to draw attention to the treatment of non-tenure-track faculty members, kicks off today. A list of some of the activities -- including film viewings, panel discussions and protests -- may be found here.
Fordham University's English department is winning rave reviews on social media for its take on the recent elections that will make Justin Trudeau the next prime minister of Canada. Among American academics, the joy isn't necessarily about Canadian politics, but Trudeau's major at McGill University. (Update: While Fordham's English department spread the image far and wide, it originated with Damian Fleming, associate professor of English and linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.)
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.