Maryville U offers intensive iPad training for faculty members

Administrators at the Missouri university realized that an initiative to give every student an iPad wouldn't pay off if professors didn't buy in. Its hefty investment in training has been rewarded with significant adoption and strong student results.

Trial and Error: University of Arizona's digital asset management

The biggest challenge in the University of Arizona's efforts to consolidate its digital assets was getting organized. 

Two Virginia universities form online degree partnership

As reported in Inside Higher Ed, two Virginia universities have formed a partnership to launch an online education initiative to boost degree completion in the Commonwealth. George Mason University and Old Dominion University launched the Online Virginia Network, an online portal where students can browse both institutions' online programs and calculate the cost of earning a degree. 

Barnes & Noble Ed enters into agreement for predictive analytics

As reported in Inside Higher Ed, Barnes & Noble Education took another step beyond college bookstores and textbooks Wednesday, announcing a deal to bring predictive analytics services to universities in the digital education consortium Unizin.

3 examples of online applied learning

Amy Rottman and Salena Rabidoux suggest three examples of effective online applied learning.


Northern Iowa Faculty Union Preserves Contract Benefits in New Handbook

The University of Northern Iowa’s faculty union says it will manage to preserve many of its contractual benefits, despite a new state law that severely limits collective bargaining rights for professors at public institutions. United Faculty, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, issued a joint statement with the university vowing a “collaborative process” to ensure current contract terms are maintained after the master agreement expires at the end of June.

The mechanism is a new faculty handbook, and it’s nearing completion ahead of that deadline, according to The Courier. “We really give a lot of credit to President [Mark] Nook, because he realized right away that it was important to preserve all the parts of the contract that allow United Faculty and others to preserve proper working conditions for faculty, so the process of collaboration on this was really great,” Joe Gorton, union president and professor of criminology, told the newspaper.

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A faculty member recalls his 26 years in an undergraduate residence hall (essay)

Through 26 years serving as a residence hall faculty adviser, James E. Moore II discovered there are many ways to do right by the students with whom we live.

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Sierra Nevada Puts Faculty Contracts on Hold

Sierra Nevada College has notified all faculty members, who normally receive contracts for the next academic year in May, that no contracts are being awarded this month. The college says that some faculty members will in August receive contracts for the next academic year. A letter to faculty members, obtained by Inside Higher Ed, says that the college needs more time "to better gauge the most likely level of enrollment that can be expected for the 2017-18 academic year and the college's ability to develop a balanced budget."

Via email, Alan Walker, the president, confirmed the accuracy of the letter. He said that the need for more time to determine enrollment levels for next year is because "a significant portion of the entering class has historically come in later than other institutions (beyond the traditional May-early June period)."

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Philosophy journal apologizes for symposium on Black Lives Matter written without black people


Political philosophy journal, subject of two scathing open letters, apologizes for lack of black authors.

How the humanities can illuminate air travel incivilities (essay)

When I worked at an airport between 2001 and 2003, the airline that hired me gave out laudatory certificates to employees whenever passengers would report above-average customer service, or any other effort that had been noticed and appreciated. On the one hand, those medal-emblazoned posters were cheesy and brimmed with the type of hollow praise proffered to alienated workers. But on the other, they were well intentioned and meaningful: they reminded us that we were working together, with and for other human beings, on both sides of the counter (as well as above, at the corporate level).

I look at a couple of those certificates now, saved from many years ago, and I wonder if the airline still recognizes such little instances of harmony in the maelstrom of contemporary commercial flight. These days it can seem as though humanity has left the airport entirely, what with random fistfights breaking out, hapless passengers dragged off airplanes, racial epithets lobbed heatedly across seat backs, families humiliated for the most minor domestic incursions and so on. Our worst tendencies and habits come into full bloom during air travel. And people seem at once both surprised by and weirdly expectant of it. We roll our eyes at the latest viral video of violence in the aisles, and we turn the channel or swipe over to a new feed.

I’ve been trying for many years, and over the course of writing three books, to untangle the distinct knots of negativity that airports have become known for. Somehow, it is perfectly acceptable to hate airports, even as they are also supposed to represent the apex of modern progress and cosmopolitan coexistence. How did we get to this contradictory place? And what, if anything, can those of us in academe do to shed light on and possibly even improve matters?

While flying recently I flipped through the pages of Delta’s in-flight magazine, Sky, and I noticed an article called “Higher Education in the Fast Lane” (May 2017). The piece surveyed a range of colleges and universities with expedited degree programs: “helping students get into the work force more quickly and efficiently.” One ad for Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Building Construction showed a worker in a hard hat and caution vest, architectural plans rolled up under his arm and giant cranes in background. The picture is one of professionalism and focused labor, and serves as a synecdoche for orderly society at large. But if the building in the background happened to be an airport, then we would know that all this supposed orderliness would soon come to an end. Build a neat and tidy airport, and you invite pandemonium and civil breakdown.

When I tell people that I teach a college class about airports, they often assume I mean from a managerial or organizational standpoint: what makes them work and how they can be improved. Sometimes I get perplexed looks when I explain that my course is about representations of airports and how we communicate and think about airports. It’s as though it never occurred to these people that airports and airplanes could have any other meaning or existence other than the status they seem indelibly to have: abject, ugly and plainly understood.

This isn’t just a shortcoming on behalf of airports. It’s also about the role of thinking and imagination in our everyday lives, and about basic standards of human interaction, respect and decency. This latter stuff makes what I’m talking about sound snobbish and stuffy, but I don’t mean it that way. I mean it in the way that college instructors try, with great patience and care, to foster classroom environments of empathy, listening and dialogue. Seminars -- especially in the humanities -- have the ability to teach students to bracket initial judgments, appreciate differences and discuss complex, nuanced topics. They do precisely what we could use a lot more of these days, especially in airports and airliners.

But as evinced by the Sky magazine article, we’re increasingly skimping on college -- and particularly the humanities. Foreign-language programs get squeezed to the minimum or cut outright because they are seen as too time intensive for today’s overworked student. History, literature, philosophy, religious studies -- these disciplines are viewed as superfluous or get whittled down to some hotly debated, if barely accepted, “core curriculum.” It is now commonplace to refer to college as too expensive and out of touch with “the real world.” But are we really so proud of this real world we’ve devised as it comes through one of our proudest achievements -- air travel? Automobile prices go up and up, as do housing prices, not to mention medicine and health care -- and people complain about the cost of higher education?

In fact, not only air travel but also contemporary life at large need more, not fewer, people taking humanities courses -- adult learning that is dedicated to reflection, understanding across differences and respectful discourse. Of course, disagreement and disparities play out in college classrooms, too, thus inviting tensions between “safe spaces” and free speech, between self-certainty and the awareness of one’s own epistemological horizons. Yet the thoughtful exercise of these soft skills is exactly what is lacking in the day-to-day grind of flight. And corporate policy and lawmaking are not going to usher such things into bustling transit nodes. Only people can do that, of their own volition and out of a collective commitment to shared humanistic values.

Such values must also be open and flexible, and they must operate irrespective of narrower value systems encoded in family, nationality, religion and so forth. Not that those other values must be jettisoned, but the heterogeneous nature of airspace requires a relentless openness along with excessive patience on all sides. Those qualities, too, can be practiced and honed in the college classroom.

And so a simple plan: if we want to work toward more civil and humane modes of air travel, we should also be willing to invest -- time, money and thought -- in the humanities. I’ve been talking here about higher education specifically, mainly because the lack of faith in humanities at the college level strikes me as a relevant analogue to the dearth of civility in airports. College and air travel are two concentrated places where what happens cannot help but reflect and reinforce broader patterns and trends. We may wish for quicker paths to college degrees, as well as fast and cheap travel by air, but are we willing to accept the consequences -- the attendant pressurized spaces and times? If not, we may want to think about the relationships between these realms, and how they are inescapably entwined.

Christopher Schaberg is associate professor of English and environmental studies at Loyola University New Orleans and the author of three books about air travel. His latest, Airportness: The Nature of Flight, will be published by Bloomsbury in September.

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