Berkeley Math Lecturer Files for Wrongful Termination

A popular lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley has filed a wrongful termination complaint against the university's board after openly criticizing his department's policies.

In the complaint, a self-identified mathematics lecturer accuses Berkeley of opting, improperly, not to renew his appointment after, among other things, he wrote an open letter critical of the math department. “I believe my employer discriminated and retaliated against me on the basis of my disability, medical leave and engagement in protected activities,” the complaint reads in part.

Though the lecturer’s name was redacted from a copy of the complaint provided to Inside Higher Ed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Alexander Coward wrote such a letter, in which he also revealed he had been hospitalized for depression, and then expanded on it in an October blog post. In the post, Coward, who is widely loved by students, asserts that he wasn’t reappointed because the department was uncomfortable with his teaching style and suppressed evidence of its success.

Both Coward and the university, whose officials said they had not yet seen the complaint, declined to comment. California's fair employment department accepted the complaint and officially granted a right to sue notice.

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Pentagon Wants Psychologists to Lift Interrogation Ban

The Pentagon has asked the American Psychological Association to reconsider a ban it enacted last year on psychologists participating in national security investigations, such as those at Guantánamo Bay, The New York Times reported. The ban was adopted after many psychology professors and practicing psychologists expressed outrage over some of their colleagues helping the military in ways many viewed as unethical. The APA said it would meet soon with the Pentagon to discuss its policies. Military officials have said they don't object to the association adopting ethical standards, but urged the group to avoid a "blanket prohibition" on helping with national security interrogations.

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Humanities R&D Spending Up, on Small Base

From 2005 to 2014, inflation‐adjusted expenditures on humanities research and development increased in every year but one, and in 2014 the total was 75 percent higher than it was in 2005, according to new Humanities Indicator data from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The rate of increase is far greater than for most science and technology fields. But the base for humanities spending is much, much smaller than that of other fields. In 2014, spending for humanities research equaled 0.6 percent of the amount dedicated to science and engineering. Unlike most other forms of research in higher education, humanities research does not rely on federal spending for a majority of its support. In 2014, federal support made up only 19 percent of humanities funding. Details may be found here.

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Jordan Kurland, AAUP Stalwart, Dies at 87

Jordan Kurland, who worked for more than 50 years at the American Association of University Professors, died Saturday morning at the age of 87. He worked for the AAUP up until Jan. 8. His title at the AAUP was associate general secretary, and his job focused on conducting investigations into alleged attacks on faculty rights and academic freedom. As an AAUP resolution honoring him noted, Kurland played a role in more than 90 percent of all of the investigations conducted in AAUP history. Last year, as part of the AAUP's celebration of the organization's centennial, Kurland compiled a list of AAUP investigations he considered particularly significant in each decade of the group's history.

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Professors Vote No Confidence at Loyola New Orleans

The University Senate at Loyola University New Orleans voted 38-10 to pass a measure of no confidence in the president, the Reverend Kevin Wildes, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Professors say cuts Father Wildes has announced are in large part due to poor decisions he made when the university faced earlier financial and enrollment problems. The board has expressed confidence in the president, and board leaders spoke to the University Senate before the vote.

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Grad students should think like entrepreneurs about their careers (essay)


Grad students need to apply to their career preparation the same entrepreneurial spirit they apply to their academic research, argues James M. Van Wyck.

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Fort Wayne Faculty Rejects Plan to Split Campus

Faculty members at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne formally opposed a recommendation that the university split into two separate universities, Indy Star reported. The Faculty Senate voted unanimously this week to urge the presidents and boards of trustees at Indiana University and Purdue University to reject a recent proposal by a working group tasked by the state's General Assembly to divide the campus. The working group of Indiana, Purdue and Fort Wayne representatives voted 6-2 to approve the recommendation, but Fort Wayne Chancellor Vicky Carwein said she voted against it, according to the Star. Fort Wayne Faculty Senate President Andrew Downs, an associate professor of political science, also voted against it.

According to the working group’s recommendation, Indiana would keep control of the School of Medicine and bolster its health science and medical education programs, while Purdue would control everything else. The senate resolution says that the group’s recommendation was based on an “insufficient investigation” and lacks supporting data. Supporters of the plan say it would streamline operations and clear up who's in charge of what on campus. The recommendation goes next to the boards of trustees for Indiana and Purdue for consideration.

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U of Illinois Approves Background Check Policy for Professors

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a revised policy requiring criminal background checks for new employees, including faculty members. The new policy addresses concerns about privacy and fairness raised by faculty members on various campuses about a previous policy approved by the board in September. That policy had been prompted in part by the revelation that the Urbana-Champaign campus hired James Kilgore, an ex-convict and former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, as an adjunct instructor of global studies and urban planning.

While Kilgore had shared his record with the university and it hired him anyway, local media reports sparked backlash against that decision and questions about the university’s background check policy for all faculty members (it didn’t have one). That resulted in the adoption of the older policy, which some said was too vague, didn’t address issues of rehabilitation and repaying one’s debt to society, and could have a disproportionate impact on minority applicants.

A working group of faculty and administrators worked to review the policy, consulting with faculty governance bodies. The revisions seek to put a bigger focus on campus safety and distinguish between criminal background checks and other kinds of checks, as well as on supporting workforce diversity. Under the new policy, there is no list of crimes that automatically disqualify someone from employment. Checks yielding criminal records will be weighed against a variety of factors, such as one’s age at the time of the crime and employment record since. Checks are only done after job offers are made, contingent upon a successful result.

The Urbana-Champaign Faculty Senate approved a resolution rejecting the policy, citing residual concerns.

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Wheaton professors ask college to drop case against colleague

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At Wheaton in Illinois, faculty members are asking the college to drop its case against a professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Will the administration listen?

Turnitin, expanding beyond plagiarism detection, launches Revision Assistant

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Turnitin, seeking to expand beyond plagiarism detection, launches a tool to help students improve their writing as they write. Many writing instructors continue to be skeptical of the company's products.


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