Fort Wayne Faculty Rejects Plan to Split Campus

Faculty members at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne formally opposed a recommendation that the university split into two separate universities, Indy Star reported. The Faculty Senate voted unanimously this week to urge the presidents and boards of trustees at Indiana University and Purdue University to reject a recent proposal by a working group tasked by the state's General Assembly to divide the campus. The working group of Indiana, Purdue and Fort Wayne representatives voted 6-2 to approve the recommendation, but Fort Wayne Chancellor Vicky Carwein said she voted against it, according to the Star. Fort Wayne Faculty Senate President Andrew Downs, an associate professor of political science, also voted against it.

According to the working group’s recommendation, Indiana would keep control of the School of Medicine and bolster its health science and medical education programs, while Purdue would control everything else. The senate resolution says that the group’s recommendation was based on an “insufficient investigation” and lacks supporting data. Supporters of the plan say it would streamline operations and clear up who's in charge of what on campus. The recommendation goes next to the boards of trustees for Indiana and Purdue for consideration.

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U of Illinois Approves Background Check Policy for Professors

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a revised policy requiring criminal background checks for new employees, including faculty members. The new policy addresses concerns about privacy and fairness raised by faculty members on various campuses about a previous policy approved by the board in September. That policy had been prompted in part by the revelation that the Urbana-Champaign campus hired James Kilgore, an ex-convict and former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, as an adjunct instructor of global studies and urban planning.

While Kilgore had shared his record with the university and it hired him anyway, local media reports sparked backlash against that decision and questions about the university’s background check policy for all faculty members (it didn’t have one). That resulted in the adoption of the older policy, which some said was too vague, didn’t address issues of rehabilitation and repaying one’s debt to society, and could have a disproportionate impact on minority applicants.

A working group of faculty and administrators worked to review the policy, consulting with faculty governance bodies. The revisions seek to put a bigger focus on campus safety and distinguish between criminal background checks and other kinds of checks, as well as on supporting workforce diversity. Under the new policy, there is no list of crimes that automatically disqualify someone from employment. Checks yielding criminal records will be weighed against a variety of factors, such as one’s age at the time of the crime and employment record since. Checks are only done after job offers are made, contingent upon a successful result.

The Urbana-Champaign Faculty Senate approved a resolution rejecting the policy, citing residual concerns.

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Wheaton professors ask college to drop case against colleague

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At Wheaton in Illinois, faculty members are asking the college to drop its case against a professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Will the administration listen?

Turnitin, expanding beyond plagiarism detection, launches Revision Assistant

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Turnitin, seeking to expand beyond plagiarism detection, launches a tool to help students improve their writing as they write. Many writing instructors continue to be skeptical of the company's products.

Adjunct and Tenure-Line Faculty at U of Minnesota File for Union Election

Tenure-line and adjunct faculty members at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities will soon file cards with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services asking to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced this week. The filing is the first of its kind for SEIU, in that both tenure-line and non-tenure-track faculty members -- full-time and part-time -- would be part of the same bargaining unit; up until now SEIU has mostly focused on organizing adjuncts. Teri Caraway, an associate professor of political science, said in a statement that faculty members “want to work with the administration as equal partners to help them resist the pressures that divert resources from our classrooms and labs. We are not forming a union in search of a bigger paycheck, but because our working conditions have deteriorated as resources for teaching and research have dwindled and the proportion of tenured positions has declined.”

Kathryn Brown, Minnesota’s vice president for human relations, said the via email that the "university wants to continue working directly with faculty on governance and terms and conditions of employment. We believe the current governance structure gives faculty a strong voice and it will continue to be effective in the future."

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Kent State Prof Probed for Possible Ties to ISIS

The associate professor of history at Kent State University who made headlines in 2011 for shouting “Death to Israel!” at a campus event is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible ties to ISIS, ABC News reported. News of the investigation into Julio Pino was first broken by Kent State’s student newspaper, KentWired, according to ABC.

Emily Miller, a student editor, said the FBI questioned her about Pino because she has interviewed him for news articles in recent months. “A joint terrorism task force has been investigating Pino for the last year and a half, said an FBI special agent who did not wish to be named for safety reasons,” Miller wrote in KentWired. “The agent said they interviewed several faculty members and more than 20 of Pino’s students Tuesday about his alleged involvement. He is also being investigated for allegedly recruiting students to join ISIS.”

Pino denied the allegations against him in an email to Inside Higher Ed, saying, "My only commitment is to serve my students as guided by the light of knowledge. I have no ties to any political organization, nor do I recruit for any cause." A university spokesperson confirmed that he is still teaching at this time. Kent State said in a statement that it is cooperating with an ongoing investigation, and said the FBI had assured it there was no threat to the campus.

In a separate campuswide email, President Beverly Warren said it would be “imprudent” to speak further about an ongoing investigation, but the university continues to find Pino’s past comments “reprehensible and counter to our core values of civil discourse and respect.” Pino gained notoriety after the 2011 incident, which took place during a public lecture on campus by Ishmael Khaldi, an Israeli former diplomat. Many colleagues criticized him at the time, saying both his statement and his attempt to disrupt an invited speaker were outside the bounds of scholarly debate.

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Former UCSD Scientist Charged With Defrauding U.S.

A former research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and his corporation admitted to illegally obtaining millions of dollars in government grants and contracts, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Homayoun Karimabadi, who was a research scientist at UCSD, entered into an agreement with the government on Jan. 7 to settle the charges that he and his company, SciberQuest, engaged in felony wire fraud. Among other conditions, he and SciberQuest will jointly forfeit $180,000. The corporation, which entered a guilty plea, will face an additional fine at sentencing.

In award proposals submitted to NASA and the United States Air Force, Karimabadi wrote that he was primarily employed by SciberQuest -- but in reality, he was employed full time by UCSD. He provided the false information in order to fraudulently obtain Small Business Innovation Research grants, prosecutors said. That money contributed to the over $1.9 million in salary Karimabadi received from SciberQuest between 2005 and 2013.

Karimabadi also failed to disclose all of his and SciberQuest’s current and pending grants and contracts, overstating the time he could commit to the projects he applied for. In one proposal to the National Science Foundation, Karimabadi left out 10 current and five pending grants, claiming he had only committed to three months of work per year. In reality, he had committed over 19 months of work per year to various agencies.

Note: This story has been updated to correct Homayoun Karimabadi's former title at the University of California San Diego.

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National Science Board Releases Indicators Report

The U.S. is still the world’s leading science and engineering enterprise, but China is quickly closing that gap, according to a the National Science Board’s 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators report. China accounts for 20 percent of global research and development, while the U.S. accounts for 27 percent, but China’s investment in science and engineering grew 19 percent annually on average from 2003-13, greatly outpacing U.S. investment.

The U.S. invests the most in research and development, produces the most advanced degrees in science and engineering and high-impact scientific publications, and remains the largest provider of information, financial and business services, according to the report. But Southeast, South and East Asia continue to grow in terms of science and engineering, accounting for 40 percent of global investment, according to the report.

Indicators also notes that China has made significant progress in science and engineering education. It’s the world’s top producer of undergraduates with degrees in science and engineering, accounting for 49 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded there. That’s compared to 33 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded in the U.S. University degree production has grown most rapidly in China in recent years -- more than 300 percent from 2000-12. But the U.S. continues to award the largest number of science and engineering doctorates and remains a destination for international students, according to the report.

“Other countries see how U.S. investments in [research and development] and higher education have paid off for our country and are working intensively to build their own scientific capabilities,” Dan Arvizu, the science board’s chair, said in a statement. “They understand that scientific discovery and human capital fuel knowledge- and technology-intensive industries and a nation's economic health.”

Despite ongoing challenges with federal investment in research and development, Americans have favorable views toward science, according to the report. At the same time, they are losing faith in U.S. K-12 STEM education, compared to other nations.

About half of Americans say science makes life “change too fast,” and the country remains divided on global warming. Still a majority of Americans say they want more focus on alternative energy development.

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Court: Some Pennsylvania Professors Must Have Background Checks

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities teaching introductory, 100-level courses must complete criminal background and child abuse clearance checks, according to a state court. The decision reverses -- in part -- a suspension of such checks imposed in September, after the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties challenged the State System of Higher Education’s new policy requiring all faculty members to complete them. That policy resulted from a change in state law, which was later amended to apply to only educators teaching minors. But the university system sought to keep the broader background check policy applying to all faculty members it already had adopted. The faculty union was successful in part, Penn Live reported, in that the recent decision says faculty members teaching upper-level courses, in which legal minors are less likely to be enrolled, do not have to submit to such checks. The policy can’t be applied universally until an arbiter or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (or both) decide whether the university system has the managerial right to impose the requirement, according to Penn Live. The faculty union responded by asking the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reconsider the lower court's decision. 

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Anonymous astronomers object to efforts to name and shame harassers in the field

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Anonymous astronomers object to some of their peers' efforts to name and shame known harassers in the field.


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