faculty

How to write an effective journal article and get it published (essay)

Victoria Reyes breaks down the structure of a well-conceived scholarly piece and provides tips to help you get your research published.

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EPA Dismisses Academic Scientists From Board

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members -- generally academic scientists who study environmental issues -- from a key advisory board, The New York Times reported. A spokesman said Scott Pruitt would consider replacing the scientists with representatives of industries that the EPA regulates. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” the spokesman said.

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Faculty Strike Ends at Illinois-Springfield

The faculty union at the University of Illinois at Springfield announced Sunday afternoon that it had reached a tentative agreement with the administration and would end a strike. Professors have been on strike for the last week, with final exams looming. The strike has been suspended, pending a union vote on the contract. Details of the settlement were not available.

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William Paterson Faculty Votes No Confidence in President

The Faculty Senate at William Paterson University in New Jersey voted no confidence in its president, Kathleen Waldron, last week.

The vote stemmed from concerns that Waldron could not meet performance goals, including enrollment benchmarks, and was not helping elevate the university’s reputation, among other things.

The resolution also cites a lack of transparency and collaboration with faculty and a disrespect for promotion recommendations. Six faculty members were denied promotions in the last year, despite available slots and committee recommendations, according to Arlene Holpp Scala, chair of the Faculty Senate and professor of women's and gender studies.

“A no-confidence vote is not a call for dismissal,” Holpp Scala said. However, she said, it would take time and a new collaborative approach to working with faculty to improve a working relationship that has deteriorated since Waldron’s hiring seven years ago. “If she wants to turn things around, she will have to be more attentive to what people are saying. It is important that the president take immediate actions after this no-confidence vote to show greater respect for the faculty.”

The vote came out 24 in favor of the no-confidence resolution, 10 against and seven abstentions.

The university responded to the vote in a statement provided to Inside Higher Ed.

“The University Board of Trustees fully supports President Waldron and remains very confident in her leadership,” the statement said. “The 45-member Faculty Senate’s vote was related to enrollment and issues that are part of statewide labor negotiations between the faculty union and the state of New Jersey. Those negotiations have been underway for months.”

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The importance of internships for Ph.D. students (essay)

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Internships are not a standard part of Ph.D. training, especially in the biomedical sciences, write Kimberly A. Petrie and Ashley E. Brady, but the tide is shifting.

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First-year writing classes can teach students how to make fact-based arguments (essay)

Perhaps the greatest challenge to academe in the current political environment is the ascendancy of a “post-truth,” “alternative fact,” “fake news” culture, in which claims are detached from evidence and words do not necessarily bear any relation to reality. In the culture of post-truth, social institutions formerly seen as mainstays of objective information -- the judiciary, news media and, not least, the university -- are widely regarded with skepticism, if not hostility, and their adherence to fact-based argument dismissed as elitism. Indeed, the very concept of a fact may have already become a casualty of the post-truth era.

“There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts,” Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes declared on Diane Rehm’s NPR show in December. “And so Mr. Trump’s tweets amongst a certain crowd,” Hughes continued, “…are truth.” Hughes was widely reviled for her assertion, but she appears to have correctly assessed the temperature of the times.

How should those of us in academe respond? How do we prepare our students to respond?

I offer here a modest suggestion: support your local first-year writing program.

For much of its history, the first-year writing class has been an arena for teaching values and virtues like honesty, accountability, fair-mindedness and intellectual courage that serve as the foundations, indeed, the essence of academic argument. Moreover, the first-year writing class promotes those values in thousands of institutions across the nation, serving tens of thousands of students each semester by introducing them to principles of ethical argumentation. In so doing, the first-year writing class offers a robust defense against the post-truth culture and provides a model for constructive, fact-based public discourse.

Consider, for example, the teaching of argument in the first-year writing class. While by no means uniform in their approaches, first-year writing courses commonly teach argument as a social practice, a discursive relationship between reader and writer. For that relationship to thrive -- or to borrow Aristotle’s term, to flourish -- readers and writers must be confident in making certain assumptions about one another.

The first of these is mutual honesty. Readers must be confident that claims made by the writer are not intended to deceive or manipulate; you will not read much further in this essay if you conclude I am lying to you. The author, in turn, writes in the expectation, or at least the hope, that readers will not willfully distort the writer’s message but will offer a fair hearing of the argument.

Reader and writer may be skeptical of one another’s claims, and they may disagree vehemently about given policies. Yet if each enters the argument trusting in the basic honesty of the other, there is the possibility of dialogue between them. In the first year-writing class, accordingly, students are taught that successful arguments begin with relationships of trust grounded in expectations of honest exchange.

The honesty of claims, however, takes us only so far. Students in the first-year writing class learn that assertions made in an academic argument are but one part of a pairing, the first line of a couplet. When writers make an assertion, first-year writing students are told, they must supply evidence to support that claim. They must be accountable for the things they say and the language they use in saying it. “Accountability,” the philosopher Margaret Urban Walker has written, “means a presumption that someone can be called to answer, to stand before others for an examination of and judgment upon his or her behavior.” When students in the first-year writing course are taught to provide evidence appropriate to their claims, they are learning they will be called upon to answer, to stand before others, to provide the proofs by which their claims may be judged. They are learning something of the commitments that accountable writers make to their readers and themselves.

Nor do such commitments end with providing evidence. While the culture of post-truth seeks to quash competing truths, students in the first-year writing class learn that successful arguments include a healthy consideration of other views. To be credible in an academic argument, students learn in first-year writing courses, writers must attend to evidence and opinions that contradict their own.

What's more, they must do so equitably, generously and fearlessly -- always willing to be one of those, like Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias, “quite as ready to be refuted as to refute.” To acknowledge the views of other people in an essay -- the practice first-year writing teachers typically call the counterargument -- is more than simply a convention. Rather, it is the rhetorical expression of the virtues of fair-mindedness, respectfulness and intellectual courage -- the qualities so conspicuously absent in the culture of post-truth.

Finally, argument in the first-year writing class teaches practices of intellectual humility. Many people have noted how academics represent argument in the language of conflict and war. We attack others’ ideas. We gain and lose territory. We are victorious, or we are decisively defeated. This is the language of intellectual domination.

But argument can equally be understood as a practice of radical humility, in the sense that to argue is to submit ourselves to the judgment of others, offering up our ideas for scrutiny, criticism and rejection. Moreover, while argument in the first-year writing class is frequently taught as the practice of persuasion, it is just as often represented as a process of inquiry, exploration and the reconciliation of diverse views. Understood this way, argument functions not as a truncheon for dominating others but rather as an invitation to collaborate, to reason together and, perhaps, to find and inhabit common ground.

If the next four years of the current administration are anything like the first months -- and the president has provided no reason to think otherwise -- we can look forward to a rising tide of alternative facts. As those in the academic community -- including college presidents, provosts, trustees and deans -- consider how best to meet such challenges, one site that may stand as a model of principled resistance is the first-year writing class, where post-truth finds no purchase and the commitment to fact-based discourse is unwavering.

John Duffy is an associate professor of English and the O’Malley Director of the University Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame.

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NLRB: Vanderbilt Full-Time, Non-Tenure-Track Instructors Aren't Managers

A regional National Labor Relations Board official this week rejected Vanderbilt University’s claim that its full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers are managers under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore not entitled to collective bargaining — similar to tenure-track faculty members at private institutions. The board officer based the decision, in part, on the fact that relatively few full-time, non-tenure track instructors serve in shared governance roles or on committees at Vanderbilt. 

The board also rejected the university’s claim that non-tenure-track faculty members don’t share enough common interests to form a union. But in a somewhat unusual move, it also split up the proposed unit into four separate ones, by school, to further ensure that members share a community of interest: the College of Arts and Science, the Divinity School, the Blair School of Music, and the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Separate elections are to be held in each.

M.L. Sandoz, senior lecturer and director of forensics at Vanderbilt who has organized to form a non-tenure-track faculty union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, said in a statement, “I am pleased with the decision and that we can now move forward again. I believe that working to improve the university as a place of work and a learning environment is a very important endeavor.” 

Susan R. Wente, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Vanderbilt, said in statement that the university “is focused on ensuring that all of our faculty are fully informed and understand the potential changes unionization of full-time, non-tenured track faculty may have on the university's unique shared governance model. We also believe that it is critical that all faculty members in each bargaining unit vote in the upcoming election.”

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Wisconsin judge says Marquette was justified in punishing professor for publicly criticizing graduate student by name

Court says Marquette was justified in punishing a professor for using his blog to criticize a graduate student by name.

Advice for faculty members who are sexually harassed by their students (essay)

What should a faculty member do, a former victim asks, when at the mercy of a student who has no regard for boundaries or authority and doesn’t understand that no means no?

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Student Drops From Ceiling to Steal an Exam

A student at the University of Kentucky climbed through ceiling ducts and dropped down into a faculty member's office to steal an exam Tuesday night, Kentucky.com reported. The student told authorities that, earlier in the semester, he had succeeded in doing so for another test. This time, the student again reached the office and then unlocked it to let in another student. But early Wednesday morning, while the students were still in the office, the faculty member returned. He had been working late and stepped out to get something to eat when the students broke into his office. The students fled, but then returned and confessed.

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