The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a complaint against Adams State University administrators on behalf of Danny Ledonne, a former adjunct professor of mass communications and video production employee who was banned from campus after he repeatedly criticized the university on a personal website called WatchingAdams.org. Ledonne wrote about pay differences between faculty members and administrators and questioned the university's hiring practices, among other topics (he was turned down several times for a tenure-track job, according to the complaint). Adams State issued Ledonne a no-trespass order this fall. The complaint, filed in a federal court in Colorado, alleges violations of Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights, as well as false and defamatory claims by the university that his behavior was threatening.
Adams State said in a statement that the complaint is “based on a wholly false premise that we have been eager to completely refute, but have lacked the legal ability to do, until now.” Officials said that they look forward to “making the case that the university’s actions were based solely on evidence and the belief that Mr. Ledonne’s longstanding pattern of inappropriate actions and threatening statements required us to act in an abundance of caution to protect our students, faculty and staff. We will aggressively contest any accusation that our safety-based decisions were in any way related to constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
Legislation in Kansas would eliminate a tenure system for community college faculty members that grants them the right to due process prior to dismissal once they have taught four years, The Kansas City Star reported. Similar rights were eliminated last year for elementary and secondary school teachers. At a hearing on the bill Tuesday, faculty members criticized the legislation. “Due process gives us the freedom to speak up with a dissenting voice, without fear of retaliation,” said Melanie Harvey, who teaches chemistry at Johnson County Community College.
Groups representing administrators and trustees spoke in favor of the bill. Greg Goode, representing the Kansas Association of Technical Colleges, said the due process system takes too long and makes it too difficult to dismiss a faculty member "gone bad." He said that "it's heartbreaking to hear students complain" about such professors.
The University of California at Berkeley Wednesday morning announced a major initiative aimed at maintaining educational quality while addressing serious budgetary concerns. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a campus message that the university faces “a substantial and growing structural deficit, one that we cannot long sustain,” and introduced what he called a comprehensive strategic planning process to establish a “new normal.”
“We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance,” he said. “This is a moment not just to stabilize our finances, but also to consider our future as a leading institution of higher education. The guide for this effort has to be our core mission: to enhance the educational experience we provide to students while maintaining our commitment to access, to increase the support we provide for groundbreaking research and scholarship, and to align our public outreach with 21st-century societal needs.”
Dirks said the Academic Senate, deans and administrators have been analyzing their budgets and programs for months and must now transition to comprehensive planning in the same collaborative spirit -- even though some of the process is sure to be “painful.” Every aspect of Berkeley’s operations and organizational structure will be under consideration, according to the memo, including:
Controlling staffing levels and adopting staff hiring “discipline” that mirrors that for faculty positions.
Improving support for teaching and research while redesigning work processes to achieve greater “efficiency,” such as the previously adopted end-to-end review of research grant proposals.
Making investments to improve fund-raising capacity.
Achieving additional revenues through the Berkeley “brand,” land and other assets, such as through licensing.
Working with senate leaders and deans on the redesign of some academic structures, including strengthening some areas, narrowing the focus of others and combining units.
Expanding online offerings and enrollments in University Extension, as well as professional and other master’s programs that earn revenue.
“We realize that many of you will want to know more, and have many good ideas to offer for our consideration,” Dirks said. “In the months ahead, we will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in order to share more detailed information, answer questions and solicit suggestions. You will also hear more from the leadership of your school, college or administrative unit as work on the initiatives broadens and deepens across the campus.”
Changes will start to take effect this summer, though significant academic and administrative realignments will take longer. Updates will be posted on Berkeley’s website.
“This endeavor must not be interpreted as an abandonment of our commitment to a public mission nor [of] our efforts to advocate for increased public funding for higher education,” Dirks said. “We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate ‘public’ with mediocrity, against those who have lost faith in the need for higher education to serve as an engine of social mobility and against those who no longer believe that university-based inquiry and research have the power to shape our society and economy for the better.”
He added, “What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.”
Due to declining state funding and other factors, Berkeley expects an operating budget deficit of 6 percent this year, or about $150 million. Officials say that while that is manageable in the short term, trend lines call for proactive sustainability measures.
Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.
The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.
One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”
In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.
Submitted by Josh Logue on February 9, 2016 - 3:00am
A black professor at Princeton University said in several recent posts to social media that she was arrested and mistreated by police over an unpaid parking ticket.
On Twitter Sunday, Imani Perry, an African-American history professor at Princeton, described being pulled over by police in Princeton Township and arrested “for a single parking ticket three years ago.” Police handcuffed her to a table, she said, refused to let her make a call before being arrested and, despite a female officer being present, a male police officer performed a body search.
A spokesman for the police department said Perry was pulled over for speeding, after which it was discovered that her driver’s license had been suspended and there was an active warrant for her arrest due to unpaid parking tickets. "She was put under arrest pursuant to the warrant, our policy and state law," the spokesman said. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident, all of which was recorded. (A local news site collected more details here.)
In a subsequent post to Facebook, Perry elaborated on her feelings about the incident. "I did not purport to be without fault," she wrote. "Now, make no mistake, I do not believe I did anything wrong. But even if I did, my position holds. The police treated me inappropriately and disproportionately. The fact of my blackness is not incidental to this matter."
"Some critics have said that I should have expected what I received. But if it is the standard protocol in an affluent suburb to disallow a member of the community to make a call before an arrest (simply to inform someone of her arrest) and if it is the protocol to have male officers to pat down the bodies of women, and if it is the norm to handcuff someone to a table for failing to pay a parking ticket, we have a serious problem with policing in the society."
Talking about our professional problems to a point where our peers and colleagues may perceive us as pessimistic can be damaging not just to our mental health but also to our career prospects, writes Thomas Magaldi.
Delilah White, a visiting assistant professor of mass communications at Emory & Henry College, in Virginia, quit her job last week amid fallout from a campus protest, WCYB News reported. Minority students held a rally at the college last week. White supported the protest, and in a statement quoted by the news outlet, she said fallout from that support made it impossible for her to continue at the college. "After the demonstration on Wednesday, further isolation from colleagues and students ensued from the idea that I was behind the deeds not words movement, bringing me to a breaking point. I cannot function mentally nor physically in a manner that holistically benefits all of our students when I am immersed in an atmosphere of intimidation and prejudice from the majority of students and now, from a host of my colleagues," said the statement.
White could not be reached by Inside Higher Ed.
Via email, Dirk Moore, a spokesman for the college, said, "We did have a professor meet Friday with our president and vice president for academic affairs, asking to be released from her one-year contract. Although, according to a news report, she issued a statement about her reasons for wanting to be released from her contract, I'm not aware of what reasons she may have presented to the president and vice president during their meeting. I only know that they did not ask her to resign and that they accepted her request with sadness and regret."
Are many academic job ads discriminatory to people with disabilities? That’s what David Perry, a professor of history at Dominican University, alleges in a new op-ed in Al Jazeera called “Disabled People Need Not Apply.” Perry argues that academe, despite its focus on inclusion, is a regular offender when it comes to job ads that exclude large groups of people. “I found around 60 current advertisements, including faculty, staff and administrative positions, at diverse types of universities,” Perry wrote of the analysis on which his piece was based. “At many institutions, every job posting receives one of these clauses, despite many positions being perfectly suited to individuals with all types of bodies, senses and minds.”
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for example, regularly inserts the following clause into job ads (including one for a professor of French), Perry wrote: “Sedentary Work -- Exerting 10 pounds: Occasionally, Kneeling: Occasionally, Climbing (Stairs, Ladders, etc.): Occasionally, Lifting 10-25 lbs.: Occasionally, Carrying 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Pushing/pulling 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Sitting for long periods of time: Occasionally, Standing for long periods of time: Occasionally, Speaking; Essential, Hearing: Essential, Vision: Ability to distinguish similar colors, depth perception, close vision: Essential, Walking -- Short Distances: Frequently.”
Even the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Tarrant County College District, an office that includes oversight over disability issues, must be able to meet “physical demands” such as the need to “sit; use hands to finger, handle or feel objects, tools or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk or hear,” Perry wrote. “What’s more, the employee is ‘occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; and taste or smell,’ as well as ‘frequently lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.’ And ‘Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and the ability to adjust focus.’”
Sam Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a disability rights lawyer, told Perry that some of the ads were likely illegal, and that an employer cannot simply list categories that exclude wide swaths of disabled Americans without a very strong reason.
Perry said he was hoping to start a conversation about hiring best practices. “Unintentional discrimination is still discrimination,” he wrote. “Boilerplate clauses keep disabled people from even applying for jobs. ‘Requirement creep,’ likely put in place by [human resources] professionals eager to avoid trouble, exacerbates discrimination and could, if someone had the time and money, lead to legal trouble.” Without deliberate change, he wrote, “unemployment will continue to be the biggest problem facing Americans with disabilities. It’s time for employers to take a hard look at their hiring practices.”