faculty

Should University Website Publish Anti-Evolution Views?

Like many colleges and universities with faculty/staff newspapers or websites, Iowa Now at the University of Iowa publishes periodic articles by faculty members. A recent piece, however, which questioned the validity of evolution, has angered many Iowa professors. The controversial piece -- by Ned Bowden, an associate professor of chemistry -- was about the conflict between science and religion, and argued that there need not be such a conflict. In making his case, Bowden wrote: "It's remarkably consistent how evolution and Genesis look at the process and tell the same stories using different words. Science can never prove or disprove God, but science can provide support for the existence of God and that is what the Big Bang and evolution can give us. There are, of course, holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through, but it is highly possible that evolution was the tool that God used to bring humans into being."

Twenty-five faculty members responded with their own piece. They said faculty members were entitled to their own views. But they questioned why the university would publish a piece that suggests evolution isn't a settled view in science. They wrote that just as today no scientists dispute that the Earth revolves around the Sun, "we no longer debate the central principles of evolutionary theory as a scientific framework for understanding Earth's diversity." Further, the faculty members said, "Iowa Now, by publishing a piece that suggests otherwise, has done a disservice to the university."

A spokesman for the university said via e-mail that, "as a public university, we welcome a diversity of views and encourage robust and civil dialogue. Iowa Now is one place where that takes place. The views of the writer ... are his or her own and not necessarily those of Iowa Now or the University of Iowa."

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Essay on issues of fit in academic job searches

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A key task in the job search is figuring out whether you and the institution are a good match, writes Cheryl E. Ball.

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U. of Oregon, Faculty Reach Union Contract Deal

The University of Oregon’s new faculty union reached its first contract agreement with the institution this week, following 10 months of negotiations.

In addition to an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent spanning the 2-year agreement and the creation of a salary floor for adjuncts, union members said the contract protects both academic freedom and freedom of speech. The union and the administration had clashed over language concerning such protections in negotiations, with the administration wanting to address each protection in separate clauses and include expectations of “civility.” Faculty involved in negotiations said divorcing academic freedom from freedom of speech could leave faculty who spoke out against the university vulnerable to potential punitive action. They also objected to the civility expectation.

The final contract’s statement on speech protections does address free speech and academic freedom separately, but explicitly grants faculty the right to engage in internal criticism -- something an earlier university counterproposal did not. It does not include expectations of civility.

Deborah Olson, a full-time adjunct instructor of special education who served on the bargaining committee for United Academics, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said administrators “moved considerably on those positions from their first proposal, so for the first time at the table we’re very happy.”

Tim Gleason, dean of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and a member of the institutional bargaining team, said it never tried to limit academic freedom for faculty, and that language in earlier proposals reflected the university’s attempts to protect both robustly. “That’s what we do at Oregon,” he said.

Bill Harbaugh, a professor economics who blogged from negotiations from a faculty perspective, said he felt the final agreement didn’t go far enough. Language proposed last year by the Faculty Senate, which is still being reviewed by senate leaders and administrators and expressly guarantees faculty’s right to engage in internal criticism “without fear of institutional discipline or restraint,” would have been better, he said.

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Penn State backs down on health insurance requirements that set off faculty revolt

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Amid faculty uproar, university abandons requirement that those who don't comply with annual health testing -- and complete a detailed health profile -- pay $100 a month.

Tufts Bans Professor From Research on Human Subjects

Tufts University has found one of its professors guilty of ethics violations during a study of vitamin-enriched rice in China, National Public Radio reported.

In a report released Tuesday, Tufts says that Guangwan Tang, associate professor of nutrition science and policy, failed to comply fully with federal regulations for research in human subjects in her study of so-called “golden rice.”

The rice, which contains high amounts of Vitamin A, is designed to treat malnutrition. But Chinese activists last year accused Tang and her Chinese partners of failing to notify parents of children involved in the study that the rice also was genetically modified. Nature reported that Chinese journalists said the information had been withheld from parents purposely because some involved in the project felt it was “too sensitive.”

Tufts says Tang will be banned from research involving human subjects for two years, followed by a two-year probation in which all human research must be overseen by a colleague.

Tang did not respond to a request for comment.

In an e-mail, a Tufts spokeswoman said that although Tang’s positive results regarding the effectiveness of golden rice in addressing malnutrition were still valid, “[w]e regret that deviations from certain approved protocols and standards occurred. Tufts has strengthened our policies and procedures to prevent recurrence of such problems, and we remain committed to conducting research of the highest quality, with rigorous oversight.”

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AAU Protests Efforts to Cut Federal Funds for Social Science

As Congress debates over a stopgap spending measure to keep the government open past October 1, the group representing America’s elite research universities on Tuesday issued a statement protesting efforts by Congress impose restrictions on or ban federal funding for social and behavioral science research.

The Association of American Universities said called those efforts “disturbing” and “inappropriate,” arguing that they would “relegate such research to second-class status in federal research funding.”

Congress in March approved a ban on the use of National Science Foundation funds for political science research. Proponents of the measure, which was sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, argued that federal dollars should flow only to research projects that involve the physical or biological sciences or technology fields. A House subcommittee earlier this year approved a measure barring economic health research at the National Institutes of Health, but it was not included in this year’s legislation to fund the government.

“Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to de-fund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines,” the statement said. It also said that social and behavioral science research was important to addressing the nation’s challenges in a variety of areas such as national security, public safety and transportation. 

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Quick (1-sentence) tips for success as a faculty member

Advice can be pithy. Kevin Brown offers guidance for new faculty members trying to make their way in higher education.

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A Plan to Honor Howard Zinn at Purdue University

This summer, the Associated Press revealed that Mitch Daniels, while governor of Indiana, tried to discourage the use of the books of the late Howard Zinn, a leftist historian, in the state. In a new effort to defend Zinn's legacy, scholars have announced plans for a "read in" of Zinn's work, to take place at Purdue University, where Daniels is now the president. Efforts are under way to organize readings at other colleges and universities in the state that day to give Zinn's work more visibility. The events will take place on November 5, the 158th anniversary of the birth, in Indiana, of Eugene Debs, the socialist leader.

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Colleges start new programs

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$100,000 Gift Offer Has Unusual Condition Attached

Madison Area Technical College is turning down an offer of a $100,000 gift because of a condition attached to it, The Capital Times reported. David Peterson, a long-time instructor, pledged the money if the college would change the name of the Bettsey L. Barhorst Welcome Center by removing the name of Barhorst, former president of the college. To drive home the point, Peterson said he would turn over the funds specifically for the lettering currently used in the welcome center. Peterson explained his rationale to the newspaper. He said he was offended by the "decadent display of self-promotion." A welcome center, he said, should be "functional, not personal." College officials say, however, that the welcome center wasn't just named to honor the former president, but because she and her husband made a donation. Having accepted funds and agreed to name the center, officials said, they can't remove the name.

 

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