Professors Plan to Strike at Illinois-Springfield

The union representing tenure-track and tenured faculty members at the University of Illinois at Springfield announced late Monday that it would start a strike today. A statement from the union said that it had hoped negotiations would avert the strike, which comes a week before the end of the semester. The university sent a note to students last week in which it said it would seek to minimize disruptions of normal activities. The note asked students to wait 15 minutes before leaving any class for which no instructor showed up.

The State Register-Journal reported that a key issue in the dispute is the union request -- opposed by the administration -- to have a grievance procedure outlined in the contract for cases when faculty members believe there have been violations of policy in tenure reviews.

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Utah President and Senior VP Will Step Down

A controversy over leadership of a cancer center at the University of Utah is leading to multiple transitions -- and has led the president to announce his plans to leave.

Vivian Lee resigned as senior vice president of university health sciences at the University of Utah just days after she abruptly fired Mary Beckerle, head of the Huntsman Cancer Institute on campus, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Faculty members and the influential Huntsman family of donors objected to Beckerle’s termination as leader of the institute, and she was promptly reinstated last month with a new chain of command, allowing her to report directly to David Pershing, university president, and bypass Lee.

Pershing announced this week that A. Lorris Betz, former CEO of university health care, will fill in for Lee while the university looks for a permanent replacement. Lee will stay on as a professor of radiology. "I have worked as hard as I could to carry forward the mission of our entire health sciences community and of the university," Lee wrote in a resignation announcement to colleagues. "Taking account of the events of the last two weeks, I believe the best interests of the university are now served by the decision I am taking today."

Then Pershing announced Monday that he would be leaving so that the search for his successor could be run at the same time as a search for the new senior vice president, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Pershing said he had planned to leave at the end of the 2017-18 academic year but moved up the timetable so that the searches could be conducted together.

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Journal Apologizes for Article on 'Transracialism'

Hypatia, a prominent feminist journal, has apologized for publishing an article on "transracialism," the idea that people may identify as members of a different race, as in the case of Rachel Dolezal, the former Spokane, Wash., NAACP chapter leader who declared herself to be black although she is white. The article compared transracial identities to transgender identities in ways that critics said demeaned transgender people and black people, among others. Many scholars called on the journal to retract the article.

An apology posted on Facebook said in part, "We, the members of Hypatia’s Board of Associate Editors, extend our profound apology to our friends and colleagues in feminist philosophy, especially transfeminists, queer feminists and feminists of color, for the harms that the publication of the article on transracialism has caused. The sources of those harms are multiple, and include: descriptions of trans lives that perpetuate harmful assumptions and (not coincidentally) ignore important scholarship by trans philosophers; the practice of deadnaming, in which a trans person’s name is accompanied by a reference to the name they were assigned at birth; the use of methodologies which take up important social and political phenomena in dehistoricized and decontextualized ways, thus neglecting to address and take seriously the ways in which those phenomena marginalize and commit acts of violence upon actual persons; and an insufficient engagement with the field of critical race theory. Perhaps most fundamentally, to compare ethically the lived experience of trans people (from a distinctly external perspective) primarily to a single example of a white person claiming to have adopted a black identity creates an equivalency that fails to recognize the history of racial appropriation, while also associating trans people with racial appropriation."

Rebecca Tuvel, the author of the original piece, has posted a response, criticizing those who have attacked her article for engaging in "ad hominem attacks."

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In Jefferson Lecture, Martha Nussbaum discusses anger and the politics of blame

In the 2017 Jefferson Lecture, Martha Nussbaum uses the classics to start a discussion about how we express outrage -- justified or not.

You need to identify internal influencers to accomplish things in academe (essay)

You need to know your internal influencers, and the problem is that they don’t necessarily follow formal reporting structures, titles or positions in higher education, writes Ellen de Graffenreid.

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Key principles of open labs (essay)

At their best, our public institutions of higher education have always been public laboratories: sandbox-like spaces that support failure, learning and discovery. As the ideas and ethos of the maker movement become more mainstream, communities and institutions are investing in physical maker spaces. Older-style computer clusters in colleges and universities are being updated into “open labs,” combining the functionality of a basic computer lab with newer high-tech tools and toys. These new physical spaces are infused with the sandbox ethos: they promise to transform students into makers, explorers, risk takers and innovators.

But what makes an open lab open? As public colleges and universities invest precious tuition dollars in these spaces, we wonder if the case for open labs as hubs of innovation has been overstated. While they may be effective marketing tools, helpful on a campus tour, open labs should also let us enhance the quality of education for students, especially at the undergraduate level. If public institutions are going to divert key resources into building and equipping these spaces, they should be guided by their public mission and use these physical spaces to open collaborative and mutually enriching connections among students, the university and the various publics that our universities serve.

As advocates for Open Education, we believe deeply that working open can have important benefits for learners and for the wider community outside of the academy, and we don’t want this movement to be devalued by using the word “open” carelessly in higher education contexts. We want to focus the lens of the open education movement to help leverage administrative support for a vision of open labs that truly enriches the learning landscape. Six key principles could frame the open ethos of an open lab, adapted from the kinds of definitions and philosophies that underscore open education.

Open as in open-ended: generating learner-driven outcomes that evolve with the work. In most university courses, learning outcomes are generated -- often by departmental committee -- well in advance of the course’s start date. What this means is that at least symbolically -- and in many cases practically -- all acceptable end points are prescribed before a single student has entered the room. This has the negative consequence of leaving out of the curriculum the value that students and faculty members generate. It fails to engage students as collaborators and contributors of knowledge and to take advantage of resources that could emerge and be made part of the course to provide broader context, fresh analysis and new goals.

In any open lab environment, we should encourage all participants to have a hand in crafting the expected and desired outcomes, and then allow the contributions of the participants to shift and revise those outcomes as the work develops. In many cases, open lab experiences offer opportunities for alternative credit-generating experiences for students, and we, along with our students, should co-develop flexible, open-ended outcomes for our open labs.

Open as in open to the public: using the principles of connected learning to put the academy in conversation with a wider community. Connected learning takes as its starting point the idea that education is a dialogic process, enhanced by networked communication. The flow here is in multiple directions across networks: students contribute work to the knowledge commons; participants in the commons, whether scholars or students from other institutions or stakeholders from outside the academy, can revise and critique that work. It also supports the more traditional flow where scholars and the public can offer ideas that our students can absorb, critique, remix and the like.

An open lab should integrate the critical digital literacy skills students need to participate in these networked communities. Students should build personal learning networks, publish their work to the open web and learn about digital citizenship and about the rewards and challenges of working in public as they undertake open lab projects.

Open as in open access: using open licenses to share data, research, products and processes with the world. Traditionally, the university has been a proprietary knowledge-creation zone focused -- often for good reason -- on protecting its intellectual property. But as researchers and teachers, we have an obligation to share our work. Sharing can benefit students who are getting gouged on textbook prices. Sharing also benefits college libraries by allowing them to recover funds spent on the skyrocketing costs of databases and subscriptions as more journals convert to open access. And it benefits a public that is often being required to support university research with tax dollars yet buy back access to the results because they are published in closed, paywalled journals. Some closed journals seek to further monopolize the research and publishing process for their own enrichment with actions like patenting the online peer-reviewed research process.

Open labs should make open licensing a priority and focus on being active advocates for the open ecosystem, including the use and support of: open-source software, open data, open educational resources and open-access publishing models. For example, an open lab project team might openly license and publish on GitHub the source code and documentation for their software research project.

Open as in open 24-7: rethinking delivery systems for education. No lab -- open or otherwise -- needs to be physically open all the time in order to thrive. But seat time measures and credit counting have limited many traditional universities’ ability to offer different kinds of learning experiences. Faculty members who have to teach a certain number of credits, students who have to sit in chairs a certain number of hours and reductive either/or online vs. face-to-face characterizations of courses end up creating structures into which all learning must fit.

The open lab should offer structural flexibility to faculty members and students who have ideas about how to learn and work that may not conform to the traditional structures that the institution currently enables. That may include non- and alternative-credit generating experiences, inventive workarounds for block schedules, and more hybridized schedules that are driven by the needs of the participants and projects. An open lab has a distinct opportunity to support the tenets of Project-Based Learning by providing a physical third space and tool set with which to build learning experiences not bound by seat time or semesters.

Open as in open for business: building a sustainable economic system for education. Open labs can provide a point of partnership and collaboration among universities, their students and faculty members, and corporations and industry. As economic pressures on universities mount, such partnerships can provide additional revenue for the institution and opportunities for students.

But for public universities in particular, it is imperative that corporate interest not define the shape of higher education at the expense of students or scholarship. In some emerging models, as colleges struggle to market themselves as relevant to families who desperately need a well-paying job to follow years of expensive tuition bills, we have seen universities set competencies in response to immediate workplace needs -- which, in turn, can help students secure jobs upon graduation for which they have effectively been trained. That can appear to be a win-win, except that it doesn’t necessarily help students prepare to help shape the economic system they are entering, nor does it encourage a curriculum that would prepare them to evolve as the needs of the company evolve. It also guarantees a perpetual source of starting-level employees, which makes retaining employees unprofitable over time.

In other words, as we use open labs to partner with businesses and private donors, we should think about long-term economic sustainability from the perspective of students -- not just that of the institution or partner companies. For public universities, that means thinking about funding and revenues in the context of public support for higher education -- not just in terms of patents and products. It also means thinking about partnerships in the context of the long-range sustainability of public universities and their graduates -- not just short-term job placement. And it means considering how open labs work for the public -- not just how they can plug crisis-level funding gaps for universities or manufacture custom-trained graduates for entry-level jobs. Identifying the benefits of working partnerships between universities and external stakeholders based on the power of the relationship rather than the monetary value of the product will help institutions make the case for continuing, consistent public support for higher education.

Open as in open arms: thinking critically about our own terms, their limits and challenges to working inclusively open. Each of these principles is fraught with promises that open can’t keep. Open labs are typically walled off inside the institutional structures that ironically profess to free them. But this tension is part of what animates open. In our opinion, open provisionally agrees to work within the oppressive structures of institutions in order to refigure those structures into an architecture for the public commons.

That being said, we must work to open a space that is at its core critical of its own promises. We must be willing to do the work of identifying how exclusion, gatekeeping, prejudice and violence close down even the most well-intentioned open spaces. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia -- open spaces use a democratizing rhetoric that runs the risk of alienating those people who see such sites of “freedom” as essentially fraudulent. And while working open can drive down some costs for students, 3-D printers and fancy glass-walled rooms with rolling furniture contribute to rising bottom-line tuition costs that further disenfranchise the large number of students who struggle to afford higher education.

Above all else, open labs should work to be honest about how power and privilege operate in institutions of learning and how they are replicated, challenged and sometimes exacerbated by universities’ efforts to innovate. For open labs to be truly welcoming, they need to be open about the limits of their promises and the realities that vulnerable learners in the academy -- and in society -- face today.

Who are the stakeholders who govern decision making around open labs? That is a question fraught with the tensions that surround much higher education “innovation” right now. But to preserve the pedagogical possibility of the word “open,” we should encourage earnest conversations around the mission and methods of these emerging spaces, and integrate those conversations into whatever protocols exist for defining and branding them.

Here are some guiding questions for the collaborative group of faculty members, administrators, students and community advocates or users who represent the stakeholders of open labs:

  • How will the group encourage revision and development of goals as the work emerges?
  • How will the group connect its work to larger relevant scholarly and public conversations outside the room?
  • Is the group familiar with open licensing and actively working to make its work shareable for others to build on?
  • Is the group pressing the institution to adjust or develop institutional structures that support emerging ways of working?
  • Is the group considering how funding sources and revenue streams related to the work can sustain the institutions’ learners in the longer term in a way that supports academic freedom and inquiry?
  • Is the group asking critical questions about the challenges and barriers that threaten the inclusion, safety or well-being of the full range of possible participants in the work?

Does your college or university have open labs? If so, do they engage with any of these questions? What thoughts do you have about the “open” in open lab?

Robin DeRosa is director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University. Dan Blickensderfer is senior curriculum and assessment developer at College for America, Southern New Hampshire University.

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Colleges award tenure

Caldwell University

  • Theodora Sirota, nursing
  • Rebecca Vega, music

Centre College

  • Kyle David Anderson, Asian studies

College of Saint Rose

Professor Accused of Providing Drugs to Students

A professor at Oakland University in Michigan has been arrested on charges of operating a drug house out of his home and providing drugs to students, among other offenses, Local 4 News reported.

Joseph Schiele, a business professor at Oakland, has been charged with seven counts, including a felony related to firearms, possession with intent to deliver and operating a drug house.

The university police chief said he had received two anonymous tips during a six-month period, both relating to parties at the professor’s home in Oakland Township.

“There were references to drugs, illegal drugs, and underage drinking made during the anonymous tips,” Mark Gordon, Oakland University police chief, said. “There was enough consistency between the two of them, from two different people, that we said there’s probably something to this.”

Because the events occurred off campus, Gordon handed the case over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the allegations and found ketamine in Schiele’s home.

A 22-year-old female student visited Schiele’s house more than 30 different times to drink and do drugs, according to court transcripts. She specifically mentioned using cocaine and ketamine at his house. A 19-year-old male students said he had been to the professor’s house fewer than 10 times and had been provided alcohol, marijuana and ketamine.

The professor has been at Oakland since 2004 and was tenured in 2010. He declined a request for comment from Local 4 News.

The university has placed Schiele on paid administrative leave.

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Why virtually all faculty members should be concerned about problems with remedial math (essay)

There is a crisis in our traditional remedial mathematics education. Many, likely most, math faculty members have already heard much about this crisis. But many faculty members outside math departments are unaware of it and how it negatively affects them, which it probably does. Once you are aware of it, you may want to contribute to solving it, which you possibly can.

The basis of the crisis is that 60 percent of new freshmen in the United States are assessed as unprepared for college-level work, most commonly in math, as Mari Watanabe-Rose, Daniel Douglas and I summarize in a recent paper on the topic (a paper that provides citations for much of the research reported in this article). Only about half of students who start taking remedial math ever complete it, and many students, though they are required to do so, never take remedial math at all. Evidence even shows that students assessed as needing lengthy remedial math courses, while accepted to college, are less likely to actually begin it, contributing to what is known as “summer melt.”

The end result is that students assessed as needing remedial math are far less likely to graduate than students who have been assessed as being college ready. For example, at the City University of New York, only 7 percent of the new freshmen assessed as needing remedial math graduate from a community college in three years vs. 28 percent of other students. Being assessed as needing remedial math (which most commonly consists of elementary and/or intermediate, as opposed to college, algebra), may be the single largest academic block to students graduating in our country.

Numerous Impacts

So if you’re not a math faculty member, why should you care? If huge percentages of the new students coming to your college are failing remedial math or never taking it, how does that affect you? Let me count the ways.

First, of course, even though they are not necessarily students in your classes, or majoring in your discipline, they are students at your college, and you are likely to have some compassion for them and wish that they could be successful in their math courses. Students who are assessed as needing remedial math are disproportionately students from underrepresented groups, the first in their families to go to college and from families with limited financial resources. Graduating from college will, on average, significantly enhance the quality of life of these students and their families. Students who do not obtain a degree earn less, are more likely to default on their student debt, pay fewer taxes, are less healthy and are more likely to go to prison -- all of which can harm not only the students and their families themselves but also hurt you as a taxpayer.

In addition, the United States is only 11th in the world in terms of the proportion of young adults with college degrees. Meanwhile, the percentage of jobs that require a college degree is growing, and the number of such degrees that we produce is projected to be increasingly inadequate. So the graduation block of remedial math may be harming our country’s economic growth and competitiveness.

But perhaps such consequences are all too vague or delayed to have much impact on you. Let us consider some consequences of students getting past the remedial math block (or not) that may be closer to home.

Students who have been assessed as needing remedial math usually don’t reach the point of being allowed to take college-level math courses -- or nonmath, college-level courses that require math as a prerequisite or co-requisite. That means that if you teach such courses, your enrollments are probably lower because such students can’t enroll in them. And if those students drop out or transfer to another college, then virtually no matter what you teach you’ve lost enrollment for your courses. (Follow-up data from our research on a successful alternative to traditional remedial math show that students assigned to traditional remediation are indeed more likely to transfer or drop out than students assigned instead to college-level statistics with extra support.) And with lower enrollment comes the lower probability that courses will continue to be offered, lower operating budgets for departments, lower probability of tenure, lower budgets for hiring part-time faculty and lower numbers of full-time faculty in a department.

Moreover, in terms of your institution as a whole, lower enrollment can mean lower total funds for the institution because it receives less tuition or government support. The majority of the states now tie public higher education funding to graduation rates (performance-based funding). Currently in the United States, only about 61 percent of all new freshmen in bachelor’s degree programs receive their bachelor’s degree within six years from any institution (not just the one at which they started), and only 39 percent of new freshmen in associate’s degree programs receive any degree -- associate’s or bachelor’s -- within six years from any institution (not just the one at which they started). What is the percentage for your institution? It may not be as high as you have been led to believe. And could remedial-math reform at your institution boost that percentage?

And what if your college is one that wants to help fill its seats with transfer students? Not completing remedial work can hurt a student’s ability to transfer. At CUNY, students assessed as needing remediation can’t transfer into, or be admitted to, a baccalaureate program. California has similar challenges.

But, you may say, I don’t want students who cannot pass remedial math in my courses, because they won’t be able to do well in, or perhaps even pass, my course. Let’s dig down into that statement.

First, such a statement may be based on an assumption that students who are placed into remedial math are students with significant limitations in how to learn, at least in how to learn algebra. However, research now shows that the placement tests and other mechanisms for deciding which students do not know remedial math are often wrong. Students sometimes don’t realize the import of the test and so don’t prepare for it or take it seriously when they are indicating their answers. Perhaps a minimal brushup is all they need to do well in a college-level course, not a full-semester remedial course. Or perhaps a student wasn’t feeling well the day of the placement test or was late getting to the testing site due to a transportation problem.

Judith Scott-Clayton, associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, has found that 25 percent of students assigned to remedial math could have passed a college-level math course with at least a B if they had instead been assigned directly to that course. Placement tests are not perfect predictors of who knows something and can make use of that knowledge, and who does not and cannot. The cutoff scores for remediation versus college-level math are somewhat arbitrary, are set differently by different colleges and can have many false negatives and false positives no matter where they’re set.

But, you might say, given so many students don’t pass remedial math, that must show that most students placed in it should not have been put in a higher-level math course. However, even failure to pass remedial math doesn’t necessarily indicate that a student is limited in his or her ability to learn math. Students don’t pass these classes for many reasons that don’t have anything to do with the student’s ability.

One is simply that they do not take these classes -- the thought of having to take a course they took in high school is too aversive, paying for a course that will not give them any college credits is too hard to swallow and the goal of graduation just seems too far away. None of that has anything to do with ability, but everything to do with motivation.

Students also may not pass remedial courses because of poor teaching. Remedial math is more likely than, say, calculus, to be taught by a rotating cast of part-time faculty. Some of those faculty members may have insufficient training or inadequate time to dedicate to student success. And students taking remedial math may feel stigmatized by being identified as “remedial” -- as only capable of high school courses. So they may be less motivated to work in the class, as some evidence suggests.

Finally, saying that you do not want students who do not pass remedial math taking your own college-level course assumes, particularly if you do not teach math, that whatever limitations these students have regarding remedial math are limitations that carry into other courses as well. But many students placed into remedial math are able to pass their science and other general education requirements without ever having taken remedial math.

However, what if you believe that any student graduating from your college, even those majoring in, say, English literature, should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of math? Then you need to consider whether what you think is important is knowledge of algebra (the traditional focus of remedial math) or rather a facility with the numbers and quantitative expressions that most college graduates are likely to encounter. Because if it’s the latter, research has shown that students are more likely to pass courses with such material (e.g., statistics) than traditional remedial courses, which can contain topics such as quadratic equations and are considered, at least by some people, to be less connected to the quantitative aspects of our daily lives.

Better Solutions

So do we have to keep putting so many otherwise successful students into remedial math (algebra) only for them to avoid the course or fail it -- and thus never enroll in our or our department’s courses or leave our institution entirely? No. Based on rigorous empirical research, we can place students using high school grades, even self-reported high school grades, which predict future performance in quantitative courses better than do tests. We can provide students with just the remedial instruction needed to pass their college-level courses, in combination with those college-level courses (what is known as co-requisite remediation). And we can allow students to take courses in statistics and/or quantitative reasoning instead of algebra to satisfy their general education requirement (unless, of course, a student needs algebra for his or her major).

Yet such changes are being made only sometimes, and slowly. For example, at CUNY, four colleges are actively involved in remedial math reform (three of them through the Project for Relevant and Improved Mathematics Education, PRIME, funded by the Teagle Foundation), but 10 CUNY colleges still offer remedial math.

Maybe it is time for nonmath faculty to become more involved in this issue. At your college or university, does each department get to decide what course or courses all the institution’s students should take from that department? Or do all faculty members get together and decide, as a group, what skills and knowledge each graduate from that institution should know and be able to do, and then design courses consistent with those decisions? If it is the latter, are the nonmath faculty weighing in on the nature of the math requirement? Particularly if that math requirement is preventing potentially successful students from being in your classes? And particularly if that requirement isn’t needed to pass college-level non-STEM classes? Or even some STEM classes?

So if you are a college or university faculty member who is not in math, know that what is going on in many math departments can be directly hurting your own department, and possibly your own teaching preferences -- in addition to potentially harming the lives of students and your local economy. Perhaps your institution, department or courses already have all the enrollment and revenue that you want, and perhaps your institution’s graduation rates are already stellar. But if that isn’t all the case, maybe you or your department should get involved in what is happening in math. It’s up to you.

Alexandra W. Logue is a research professor in the Center for Advanced Study in Education at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

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Advice for how research scientists can best mentor those who work in their labs (essay)


Adriana Bankston provides advice for how research scientists can positively influence the personal and professional development of the trainees who work in their labs.

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