More than 100 members of the Faculty Senate -- a little less than half the body -- moved this week to hold a special meeting by the end of the month to vote on postponing the plan. Such an action is rare for the Faculty Senate, Brent Yarnal, professor of geography and body president, said in an e-mail.
Employees have complained about details of the plan since they were announced this summer, including punitive surcharges of up to $100 monthly each for not completing a biometric screening, smoking and covering spouses eligible for health insurance through their own employers. Faculty and staff members also have raised privacy concerns about the uploading of years of personal medical information onto a third-party provider's website and the nature of the questions in a mandatory, online wellness profile, such as those about drinking habits and mental health.
University administrators have repeatedly said that serious intervention is needed if the university is to tackle skyrocketing health care costs, predicted to increase by 13 percent next year, and that previous, voluntary programs to mitigate costs have not been effective. All information collected and its uses comply with federal health care privacy laws, Penn State has said, including that it is only reported to the university in aggregate form.
Brian Curran, professor of art history and president of the institution's new advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the meeting "a major victory for us."
A university spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the Senate matter. It is unclear if the body has the authority to delay the plan, even if it votes to do so.
Michigan State University should not have removed a professor from classroom teaching based on a video showing him making anti-Republican statements, the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors says in a statement released Tuesday. Video of William Penn making comments about Republicans led the university to remove him from the classroom. The AAUP statement says that the association "affirms the importance of mutual respect in faculty-student interactions," and the statement does not rule out the possibility that Penn's conduct was inappropriate. But the AAUP says that "a video, however apparently conclusive as evidence of offensive statements or disrespect to students, is not an adequate basis for immediate punitive action against a professor."
The statement continues: "A professor may well experiment with modes of presentation meant to shock. We are not prepared to agree that no professor may do that in the exercise of judgment about means of engaging students. We do not believe that what we know from the release of the video is sufficient as a basis to conclude that Professor Penn should not continue to receive the protections afforded by academic freedom. Indeed, we are concerned by the suggestion that one ten-minute video taken by a student of a professor in a class can be the basis for abbreviating the process leading to suspension of the professor from teaching responsibilities. The harm of a professor's controversial approach to stimulating students’ response, expressing his own take on one 'identity,' is minor compared with the chill on the classroom that arises from a rush to judgment in which there has not been an open fact-finding process or deliberation by a faculty body."
The University of Denver went ahead Monday night with its plans to honor President George W. Bush, as a protest went ahead outside the event, The Denver Post reported. Bush appeared at a fund-raising event (closed to the press) for the university's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Anger over the award first surfaced this summer, when word spread that the university was going to honor Bush for "improving the human condition." The university then announced that it would change the award so that it would honor the former president's "global service." That change did not satisfy those who picketed outside the event. They held signs saying things such as "No Awards for War Criminals" and "The Iraq War Is Not a Global Service."
Johns Hopkins University on Monday asked a faculty member to remove a blog post, citing national security issues, and then several hours later said that he could restore the post, and that no national security issues were raised. The post was about the National Security Agency privacy debates and encryption engineering. The removal and restoration of the blog post were discussed on the Twitter feed of the faculty member, Matthew Green, and also in an article in ProPublica. The article noted ties between Hopkins and the NSA.
In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, a Hopkins spokesman, Dennis O'Shea, said the following: "The university received information this morning that Matthew Green’s blog contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo. For that reason, we asked Professor Green to remove the Johns Hopkins-hosted mirror site for his blog. Upon further review, we note that the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media. Interim Dean Andrew Douglas has informed Professor Green that the mirror site may be restored."
O'Shea said that "we did not receive any inquiry from the federal government about the blog or any request from the government to take down the mirror site." He said it was not yet clear how Hopkins was informed of Green's blog post.
Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said via e-mail that he had doubts about the explanation from Hopkins. He said when a professor is told to remove a blog post that criticizes a government agency with which a university works, one should question why such a request was made. Further, he said that the university owes the public an explanation of how it became concerned. "The university also says that it doesn't know who originally raised the concerns. Really? Why not ask the dean? He would know, right?"
A History News Network poll of historians at highly rated colleges and universities have found that they give President Obama a B- grade on his performance as president. The historians were asked to grade the president in 15 categories. He earned the highest grades (all A-) in communication ability, Supreme Court appointments, integrity and crisis management. He earned his lowest grades in transparency and accountability (C+) and relationship with Congress (C).
In today’s Academic Minute, Stefan Lüpold of Syracuse University explain how females of certain species can pick the father of their offspring after mating with multiple males. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.