U of Missouri Board Responds to AAUP on Click Case

The University of Missouri Board of Curators on Thursday responded to the American Association of University Professors’ planned investigation of the Melissa Click case. Pamela Q. Henrickson, board chair, said in a 10-page letter to AAUP that the termination of Click, the former assistant professor of communication at the Columbia campus who asked for muscle to remove a student journalist and yelled at police during on-campus protests this fall, is fundamentally consistent with AAUP values. That’s despite AAUP’s contention that Click was terminated without an opportunity to appeal to a faculty body, a widely followed standard endorsed by the association.

Henrickson said that AAUP’s statements on such matters don’t establish an absolute right or requirement to such a hearing, and instead focus on matters of academic freedom and tenure. She denied that Click’s case concerns academic freedom or tenure, which she noted the professor did not have. Henrickson also wrote that while the board endorses faculty hearings in midterm dismissal cases, Click’s case was not typical in that existing university procedures failed to address the seriousness of her actions (no one filed a complaint against Click).

“[The board] addressed conduct by Dr. Click that was contrary to those basic expectations and at odds with principles of free expression that animate [AAUP policy],” the letter says. “Indeed, by calling for physical intimidation or violence against a student, Dr. Click engaged in conduct that, if tolerated, would pose a risk to the safety of students and faculty and fundamentally endanger the university’s academic environment.”

Henrickson said the board’s actions do not merit censure by AAUP, in which the investigation could result, but that the body is nonetheless reviewing existing Missouri polices to ensure that it will not have to act on its own in instances of future faculty misconduct. Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of AAUP’s department of academic freedom, tenure and governance, said the association’s investigation will continue as planned, with the investigating committee possibly responding to the board’s concerns in its report.

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Would-Be Iowa Professor Loses Age Bias Suit

For the second time, a jury found that the University of Iowa didn’t discriminate against an applicant for a faculty position in the College of Law because he was too old, The Gazette reported. Donald Dobkin, an administrative law attorney who is now 62, first sued the university for age discrimination after he was denied a faculty position in 2008. The job went to a younger candidate with what Dobkin said were inferior qualifications, but a jury sided against him in 2012. He was denied a new trial and lost an appeal.

Dobkin launched a second suit that same year, based on a failed second attempt at a faculty job in 2010 (the job went to a 40-year-old, less experienced applicant, according to the most recent suit). Dobkin alleged discrimination based on age and employment, as well as retaliation for the first suit, but a jury sided against him this week. The university said in a statement that it was “pleased with the jury ruling and the recognition that the law school did not discriminate and did not retaliate.” Dobkin could not immediately be reached for comment, according to The Gazette.

Professor Barred From Campus After Child Porn Arrest

Holt Parker, professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati, was arrested this week on child pornography charges, according to WKRC. Parker reportedly attempted to destroy a thumb drive as federal agents entered his home, after which he told them that he’d been trading videos and images every day for years. He’s being held on $250,000 bond.

Gregory Vehr, university spokesperson, said in a statement that the institution “takes these charges very seriously and is cooperating fully with authorities. Per university policy, Parker has been suspended from his position, barred from university property, and is to have no contact with students."

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Furloughs at Morehead State

Kentucky’s House budget, revealed Tuesday, restored state funding the governor recommended cutting from higher education, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

But for now, that won’t make a difference to the employees of Morehead State University, who will be furloughed during the college’s spring break.

When Morehead State announced the five-day furlough last week, President Wayne Andrews said the institution needed to prepare for a proposed cut in state funding.

But at least for now, it is the college’s responsibility to continue planning for the worst, said Beth Patrick, Morehead State’s chief financial officer and vice president for administration.

“While we are very hopeful and appreciative of the work the House has done to approve a budget that restored the proposed cuts to postsecondary education,” she said in an email, “we also recognize that much work remains before a budget is finalized.”

Notre Dame Professor Accused of Abuse Commits Suicide

An endowed professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame who was accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s killed himself Monday, the South Bend Tribune reported. The Reverend Virgilio Elizondo, 80, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after repeatedly denying claims by an unnamed man that he had abused him. In a lawsuit, the accuser says he was the victim of frequent abuse at the hands of another priest in a San Antonio orphanage and sought counsel in Father Elizondo, who allegedly abused him as well. Father Elizondo taught at Notre Dame from 2000-2015, according to information from the university. A university spokesperson reportedly responded to the Tribune’s request for comment with a link to a memoriam web page that says, in part, “Extolled as a founder of U.S. Latino religious thought, Father Elizondo was hailed in Time magazine as one of the leading spiritual innovators” in the country.

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Former Professor Awarded $1M for Threats About Suit

A former professor of architecture at Catholic University won $1 million in damages this week after a jury found that the institution attempted to scare her out of suing it for discrimination, The Washington Post reported. After a four-week trial, a jury in D.C. Superior Court rejected Rauzia Ruhana Ally’s claim that she was fired because she is a Muslim Indian woman, but determined that administrators engaged in an email campaign to get her to drop a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ally was fired in 2012, a year after taking on a job as director of a university project, according to the post. The university said she was insubordinate and failed to keep project costs down, but Ally alleged discrimination. Ally’s attorney during the trial presented emails from Randall W. Ott, dean of Catholic’s School of Architecture, accusing the former professor and her husband of stealing a desk-size model home and discussing a plan to press charges. Ally said she never removed the model, and charges were never brought, but Ott in an email to another administrator referred to the proposed charges as a “threat.”

Elise Italiano, university spokesperson, told the Post that in “both policy and practice, the university is committed to fair and equal treatment of every employee. We have respect for every employee and a rich compliance and ethics program.” She denied that Ott’s emails were malicious but said the university was reviewing standards about how managers communicate.

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Stakeholders all across higher education share an emerging vision for future faculty (essay)

For 30 years, critics have proclaimed that the tenure-track and adjunct models of faculty are broken. It is 2016, and we still have a crisis when it comes to how higher education should deal with faculty members and the roles faculty members should play.

Tenure-track faculty models overemphasize a very narrow definition of research and do not encourage or provide accountability for quality teaching or improvement of teaching. Studies demonstrate, for instance, that only 25 percent of faculty members excel at both research and teaching. Such models also hamstring institutions to paying wages beyond traditional retirement age to faculty members (who aren’t required to retire at 65) and to supporting fields of study where enrollments may no longer exist.

Of course, the reality is that almost three-quarters of faculty members today are not on a tenure track. And a faculty workforce with a significant number of adjuncts provides no institutional stability for the teaching force, brings in droves of fluctuating employees with limited or no experience teaching for the institution, and leaves students without faculty members available for office hours and mentoring. In addition, adjunct faculty are left out of institutional discussions about learning goals, course assignments or textbook selection and are typically excluded from professional development, evaluation and feedback.

Meanwhile, the adjunct model clearly has human and moral costs. Such faculty members are often living on poverty wages, with no benefits, job security or career trajectory -- and all this after they’ve received a Ph.D. from a university that never told them about the low job prospects.

As part of Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, we have long highlighted the need to better support faculty off the tenure track as a short-term solution to the larger faculty crisis. But that is indeed only a short-term solution -- one with increasing popularity but limited long-term utility. While it can eradicate some of the most egregious problems that have resulted from higher education’s overreliance on adjunct and contingent faculty, we have to rethink faculty roles for the long run. The academy simply can no longer ignore this essential work.

What should the faculty look like in the future so we can overcome this crisis once and for all? To respond to that question, we recently surveyed key stakeholders across higher education -- including boards, policy makers, administrators at all levels, faculty of all types, disciplinary societies and unions -- to examine their perspectives on what the future for faculty should be.

One current stereotype is that faculty and administrative views of this issue are so diametrically opposed that discussions of future faculty roles are not possible: as faculty members (and unions) cling to tenure-track roles, administrators driven by neoliberalism want to deprofessionalize all faculty into adjuncts.

But the survey findings debunk that stereotype. We found many points of consensus among all those surveyed -- including unionized faculty members -- that seemed to indicate a shared vision and some clear ways forward for academe. Some of their key points of agreement included:

  1. We need more full-time faculty. The academy needs to decrease its dependence on part-timers and have more full-time faculty, although not necessarily tenure-track faculty.
  2. We need to professionalize the faculty. Institutions can do that through ensuring for faculty members academic freedom (potentially outside tenure systems), inclusion in shared governance, professional development, a fair and equitable system of promotion, and decision making related to curriculum and students. (Those surveyed saw these actions as vital for any type of faculty member, whether tenured of adjunct, full time or part time, senior or junior.)
  3. Nontenured faculty members need longer contracts. Semester to semester and year to year is just too short. Those surveyed thought three-, five- or seven-year contracts (with longer ones given over time) were more reasonable.
  4. We need more emphasis on teaching. Institutions must make that happen, whether through tenuring faculty members for teaching-only positions or hiring full-time faculty members on long-term contracts who focus on teaching.
  5. All faculty members should have a scholarly role. Although that role typically would not involve conducting original research, it would include attending conferences and keeping up with developments in one’s field.
  6. Differentiation and customization of faculty roles are crucial. Not all faculty members need to teach, conduct research or perform service. Also, faculty members should not do the same thing their whole career. Perhaps they should focus on teaching for a while and then move more to service and administrative roles or to research.
  7. Faculty members should have greater work flexibility. Such flexibility could include stop-the-clock policies, part-time tenure-track positions and job sharing. That kind of approach is vitally needed to accommodate families and create better working conditions.
  8. Faculty roles should emphasize collaboration. Faculty members should work across departments, units and outside groups to foster student success and cross-disciplinary research and service.
  9. Faculty members should focus on student learning as the most central activity. They should particularly work to support and ensure the success of first-generation and low-income students.

Our survey asked not only about potential faculty models or faculty roles in the future but also the feasibility of those features becoming part of the enterprise. Here those surveyed expressed pessimism: they doubted there would be adequate funding to support this vision for the faculty and believed bureaucratic complexities would hamper such approaches. While difficulties in altering policies and contracts can certainly arise, I was surprised by these comments -- especially given the reality that some campuses are already doing this work.

In fact, for those institutions that have implemented new models, it is has been fairly easy. I have spoken to senior administrators and faculty members at dozens of campuses and departments that are quietly revising their approach to faculty work to look much more like the emerging shared vision of those we surveyed.

But those same administrators have voiced a fear about being too far out in front of what those at other institutions are doing. Campuses do not embrace this work with a sense of pride -- as being leaders.

The time has come for institutions to stop being quiet and start seeing this work as one of the primary drivers for advancing the broad mission of student and institutional success. Ample evidence suggests that the future faculty model outlined above would be much better to support student success. There are national calls (see the Aspen Institute Initiative-New College Leadership Project) for campus leaders to make student success a primary focus, and championing these new faculty models would be clearly aligned with these efforts.

I hope that institutions will proudly promote their work to implement new faculty models that support student learning and outcomes and institutional goals. And I hope that foundations and policy groups will find ways to support this work by bringing it out of the shadows and demonstrating not only that it can be done but that it represents a high priority for the future of academe.

Adrianna Kezar is a professor for higher education at the University of Southern California and co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. She directs the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success.

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Missouri Board Rejects Melissa Click's Appeal

The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Tuesday that it has rejected an appeal from Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the university's Columbia campus, of the board's February decision to fire her. Click was given the right to file an appeal, which she did. She was fired based on two incidents, both videotaped. In one, she blocked the access of a student journalist to campus protesters even though they were in an open area on a public campus. In the other, the board determined that she interfered with a police officer trying to maintain order amid a protest during a parade.

Pamela Henrickson, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said that “in the board’s view, her appeal brought no new relevant information to the curators.” The board’s full rejection of the appeal may be found here.

In her appeal, Click wrote in part, “In my participation and in my actions on both days I firmly believe I was exercising my protected rights as a United States citizen and a citizen of the state of Missouri. I steadfastly believe it would be a violation of my First Amendment rights and my rights to academic freedom to suggest that my interactions on either day provide grounds for the termination of my employment. Additionally, I believe that your decision to terminate my employment without due process in the form of a fair hearing by a faculty body violates my contract of employment with the University of Missouri.”

The American Association of University Professors has questioned the decision to fire Click, and many observers expect the case to end up in court.

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New effort to improve climate for LGBT physicists

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American Physical Society effort seeks to illuminate and improve the climate for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual physicists.

Successfully establishing a mentoring program despite opposition (essay)


What do you do when people on your campus resist the establishment of a new faculty mentoring program? Kerry Ann Rockquemore offers advice.

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