Florida State instructor sparks controversy with Klout score grades

A Florida State marketing instructor is drawing heat for grading students based on their Klout scores, a metric meant to measure online influence.

Texas Ends Inquiry Into Paper on Children of Same-Sex Couples

The University of Texas at Austin announced Wednesday that it has it has closed an inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct against one of its faculty members, Mark Regnerus, over a paper he wrote that found children are generally better off if they have a married mother and father. The paper, which appeared in the journal Social Science Research, has been highly controversial. Many scholars have said that his sampling techniques resulted in a pool of research subjects that resulted in unfairly negative assessments about the children of same-sex couples -- and one writer on the issue filed a complaint of scholarly misconduct. Critics of same-sex marriage have showered praise on the study.

Under Texas rules, all such complaints are evaluated to determine whether a full-scale investigation is needed, which in this case the university said was not needed. The university said that there was no evidence of scientific misconduct, even that scholarly disagreement could not be considered misconduct.

A memo released by the university outlined the reasons for dropping the matter: "Whether the research ... possessed significant limitations or was even perhaps seriously flawed is a determination that should be left to debates that are currently underway in the academy and future research that validates or invalidates his findings. Professor Regnerus has stated that the data on which the research at issue was based will soon be made publicly available. At that time scholars can examine the data themselves and arrive at their own conclusions."


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Essay calling for conservatives to engage more with higher ed

For generations, American conservatives have had an uneasy relationship with higher education. Although most recognize the importance of a college degree for employment, many conservatives are convinced that college campuses are indoctrination mills, designed to convert impressionable students into lifelong supporters of the Democratic Party. Republican concerns about higher education have become so serious, that the party delegates specifically address the issue in their 2012 platform:

“Ideological bias is deeply entrenched within the current university system. Whatever the solution in private institutions may be, in state institutions the trustees have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their enormous investment is not abused for political indoctrination. We call on state officials to ensure that our public colleges and universities be places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance favoring the left.”

Beyond their vague demands for the careful oversight of public colleges and universities, conservatives actively work to counter the influence of liberal academia, promoting right-leaning institutions like Liberty University and Hillsdale College. For impressionable youths already drawn into academia’s web, the right creates alternative centers of learning like Prager University. This website, created by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager, offers five minute courses designed to “undo the intellectual and moral damage” done by a traditional college education.  

As fellow conservatives who study the politics of higher education, we recognize elements of truth to the conservative critique. Virtually every study of higher education finds that college professors, regardless of their field, lean left. Furthermore, even those few professors who do identify as Republicans tend to hold views well to the left of Republican voters. Anecdotally, we know that some faculty use their classrooms to promote an ideological agenda. However, judging from the strong language included in the GOP platform, it seems clear that many conservatives overstate the problem. Whatever the long-term effects of a college education, there is little evidence that it has a dramatic effect on most students’ political beliefs. For example, the authors of The Still Divided Academy provide evidence that over time students’ views are remarkably stable. Additionally, relatively few conservatives feel victimized by their status as a political minority.
Yet even if liberal professors do not oppress conservative students, professorial ideological imbalance causes problems. While conservative students benefit from hearing alternative worldviews, liberal students at many institutions are rarely exposed to ideas challenging their core beliefs. Furthermore, without a critical mass of conservative faculty to challenge their liberal colleagues, social scientific research is inherently skewed to support leftist policy positions.
We argue that, rather than abandon American colleges and universities to the Left, conservatives need to “infiltrate” higher education, joining the faculty and thus reinvigorating higher education. In our recent article for the American Political Science Association's journal PS: Political Science and Politics, we synthesize more than a decade of research on politics in academe to provide conservatives with a roadmap for success. While conservatives in academe often face special challenges, with hard work, caution, and humility many can prosper in universities seemingly closed to the right.
For conservatives bold enough to consider academe, it’s important to select a field that is relatively tolerant of dissent. Obviously, fields like chemistry and engineering are less hostile to conservatives than sociology or women’s studies. Our own political science is a field already accustomed to political disagreement, with a solid seventh of political scientists leaning right. Whereas political scientists sometimes delve into ideologically charged debates, its practitioners often pride themselves on examining controversies like Congressional voting patterns, voter turnout, and judicial decision making that transcend the traditional liberal-conservative divide.
Conservatives who aspire to work in academia must recognize that, to succeed in academia, they must be intellectually rigorous, particularly since many peer reviewers will lean left. To guard against the onslaught of criticism that may follow work contradicting liberal orthodoxy, conservative scholars must do excellent research rooted in facts, and devoid of extraneous political commentary.

Furthermore, conservative academics must be both resilient and good-natured. Academic life is full of setbacks. Articles submitted to top journals are generally rejected, notwithstanding their political content. Just as women in business ought not blame every problem on sexism, and African Americans should resist the instinct to see every slight as racist, so conservatives must not play the victim, blaming every setback on politics. The ability to work diligently and happily, despite the normal travails of academic life, will ensure that conservatives don’t give up when the road to tenure seems bumpy.
Finally, if conservatives are to "infiltrate" academe they should leverage the power of the free market, moving from colleges or universities that prove inhospitable to political dissent. While some institutions will not tolerate right-leaning faculty, many others welcome a fresh perspective. 

With boldness, persistence and patience, conservatives can make inroads into academia rather than simply abandoning higher education.

We think this is a battle worth fighting.

Robert Maranto is the 21st Century Chair in Leadership at the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and with others has authored or edited 11 books, including The Politically Correct University (American Enterprise Institute, 2009). Matthew Woessner is associate professor of political science and public policy at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg. He is the co-author of The Still Divided Academy: How Competing Visions of Power, Politics, and Diversity Complicate the Mission of Higher Education (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011).

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British lecturer compiles best student excuses


Ghosts. Being declared dead. And more of the reasons cited to get out of turning in a paper.

Canadian University Rewrites Deal With Donor

Carleton University, in Canada, has rewritten an agreement that led to a donation of $15 million and to considerable faculty criticism, The Globe and Mail reported. The concern focused on an advisory committee, controlled by the donor. The new agreement says that the committee will provide "strategic" advice. But removed from the committee's purview are roles in faculty hiring and curricular decisions for the institute created with the gift.


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Political Scientists Call Off Annual Meeting

The American Political Science Association announced Tuesday that it is canceling this year's annual meeting, which had been scheduled for this week in New Orleans. The APSA originally postponed the start from Wednesday to Thursday, given the hurricane that hit the region Tuesday night. On Monday, the association expressed confidence that people could arrive in time for Thursday sessions, but social media sites have been full of reports of people announcing that they were not going, and that sessions were going to be canceled.

A statement posted on the association website said: "A primary function of the association is to provide the highest quality meeting experience possible. In light of revised information we have from local officials about the trajectory of Isaac, we now anticipate the potential for sustained rain, flooding, power outages and severely restricted transportation into the city on Thursday. Under these circumstances, it is not prudent to convene the meeting.... For all attendees, we will provide additional refund information as soon as we are able. Please bear with us while we work with our vendors and local partners to provide you with detailed information."

Michael Brintnall, executive director of the APSA, said via e-mail that the association was "trying to assess all the implications." He said that the association does "carry meeting insurance to cover both meeting cancellations of this sort, and attenuated attendance had we carried on."

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A Career Remade After Vietnam-Era Firing

A profile in The Lincoln Journal Star examines the career of Steve Rozman, whom the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fired after students organized an overnight sit-in/protest in the building that housed the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Rozman -- an untenured political scientist -- supported the students, but is also credited with helping resolve the protest without violence. Amid political demands that someone be punished, the university fired him, arguing (successfully in court) that he was not being dismissed for political reasons, but because the protests disrupted a class. Rozman accepted a job in 1972 at Tougaloo College, a historically black institution in Mississippi, and said that he has been very happy there, and is not bitter about his dismissal from Nebraska. At Tougaloo, he leads the Center for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, and he has created a volunteer income tax assistance program to help low-income taxpayers.

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Essay of advice for those going up for tenure

To earn the ultimate academic job security, think about your profession's standards, and don't think too big, writes Steve Saideman.

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As New Orleans colleges shut down, political scientists hope for the best

New Orleans colleges shut down, but government professors trade quips and tips as they ponder an annual meeting right after Isaac is due to leave town.

Essay on one of the most challenging 24 hours faced by a journalism program director

August 23, 2012

4 a.m.

I rise early as is my custom to wade through my e-mails, update my blogs, and walk my 130-pound white German shepherd Ellie around a wooded lake near my home north of the Iowa State University campus, where I direct the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Today I have a potentially volatile article in The Chronicle of Higher Education concerning how institutions, including my own, can eventually lower tuition to make college education affordable again. I check the website only to see that an early draft, rather than the final edited piece, had been posted erroneously. I dash off an e-mail and then wait anxiously for an hour before the corrected version appears online.

This is going to be a difficult day.            

It will be one of the worst days in my 34-year career in higher education.

5:30 a.m.           

I think of my friend and colleague, Barbara Mack, one of the most popular and beloved teachers in the 107-year history of the Greenlee School. She has held the banner on English usage and the importance of copy editing in each of her classes, and she has practically taught our entire curriculum in her 26 years on the faculty. This semester is her last. She is on phased retirement and wanted to teach four classes after a colleague set to teach journalism ethics resigned at the last moment to take a new position at another university. We lost the position, so we couldn’t hire a replacement and decided to cancel the class. But Barbara insisted.           

She is an imposing and loving professor, standing over six feet with thick brown hair and piercing eyes that have scared and inspired generations of students, including Christine Romans, anchor at CNN. Barbara and I often would e-mail each other at this time of the morning, sending links to journalism stories. She has been conversing with several colleagues in an e-mail exchange about the walkout at the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red and Black. Her last e-mail ended the discussion in the typical brash manner that she perfected before becoming an academic as legal counsel for The Des Moines Register and Tribune Company: "The folks in Georgia clearly want the publication to be a ‘Good News from UGA’s Kennel!’ happy newsletter, not a student newspaper. They think the newspaper exists to promote Georgia, not tell the truth. Sigh."        

I am writing to Barbara about copy editing and the Chronicle piece when I receive another e-mail from Daniela Dimitrova, our director of graduate studies: "I just got some bad news about Barbara. Can I call you?"

I stop my e-mail to Barbara, write to Daniela that I am at the computer, and wonder what happened to Barbara. Her health has not been good for the past several years, and she drives from Des Moines to Ames each day for class. And she drives very fast. I’m hoping it is not an accident.            

My e-mail queue is filling up again as my Chronicle article is being read by colleagues across the country. Response looks positive. I send the article link to the head of a journalism grant organization who wants more digital technology in schools like mine. He responds almost immediately and believes I am "hunkering down" — his term — because he has become obsessed with innovation and doesn’t fully appreciate that I am being a journalist, trying to save taxpayer dollars. The e-mail exchange is not good. He calls my research institution "a Model T" and mentions other universities that are media racecars. Iowa State may be too much into fundamentals, but he’s missing the tradition of a watchdog press.            

I’m angry now. I won’t bother him any longer. I will never write to him again nor submit a grant nor have anything to do with his causes.             

Then another email: Barbara Mack has died. It’s all over Facebook.

7:30 a.m.           

My first thought is for Barbara’s students. My second thought is for my colleagues. My best friend has died, but I push that out of my mind and assume the role of United Press International bureau chief. I worked for UPI in the Midwest for several years before becoming media adviser to The O’Collegian student newspaper at Oklahoma State University, my alma mater. I don’t want our students and colleagues to read about Barbara’s death in an email. I don’t know how she died. Because social media is reporting, there are no details. Just one brutal fact.            

I telephone my dean’s office. No one is around. It is too early. I call my office manager, and she is crying. She tells me what she knows. Barbara has passed away. Any other fact doesn’t matter.           

The next hour is a blur of e-mails as I coordinate with the college and provost’s office how we will handle the situation. That goddamn Facebook has spread the word faster than I can control it. Students love Barbara Mack, who had no children and considered every student a son or a daughter. Imagine reading on Facebook that your mother died? This is going to be devastating.           

I decide to send an e-mail blast to faculty and staff in the Greenlee School:

We have received tragic news about the passing away of our dear, beloved colleague, Barbara Mack. We do not have any details at this point, but I wanted to alert you to what I have been coordinating since this morning, with help of the Greenlee staff.

  • I will be going to each of Barbara’s classes to impart the news personally.
  • Dean Beate Schmittmann is in the process of contacting Provost Jonathan Wickert because we feel the announcement should come from the head of the faculty.
  • We are setting up grief counseling through the Office of Student Services.
  • We will be working with the family for a memorial on campus.

If you need grief counseling, or anything else, please let the front office know what we can for you, your advisees, and your students. I have been coordinating this from home since learning the news. I will be in the office before 9 a.m.

My wife Diane also teaches in the Greenlee School. She cannot believe that Barbara has died and wants to know how. I don’t have any facts but that one cold one.

Ellie, my German shepherd, is nudging me as I dress for work. She hasn’t had her walk. That will have to wait, and I’ll just have to clean up afterward.

8:45 a.m.

I am in my office, about to write Barbara’s obituary. This brings back terrible memories. At UPI, I wrote my father’s obit because my editor said I knew him best.

At moments like these, journalism sucks. But we have a duty. A calling.

I call up Barbara’s husband, Jim Giles, who tells me the details, which I type in UPI fashion, pounding the keyboard with four fingers, two on my right, two on my left:

"She came home from classes tired as she often did early in the semester," he said. "She lay down for a nap. An hour into that, I heard a call or a noise. I went to her and found her inarticulate and pounding on the bedside table. She thought she was having a heart attack. I gave her an aspirin and then transported her to the hospital for tests. She was given the whole works, and it was determined that she had no sign (of a heart attack) given her health history. The tests came up negative. She said she had a pain in her neck. She took some prescribed pain relievers. She was careful about her medicine. When we got home she was in discomfort and said she would try to sleep in the big recliner chair because the semi-vertical position might be more comfortable. She went to sleep. I checked on her during the night and she seemed fine. At 5:30 a.m., I checked again and found her gone."

I put out a statement to the faculty with more facts about how Barbara has died and notice my e-mail queue has lit up with close to 100 messages. Some are from colleagues, some are from students, some are from benefactors. I answer a few dozen in tweet fashion and then call in my staff for a meeting. We arrange for grief counseling, coordinate statements with the college, prepare for a web page redesign and create a full-sized advertisement for the next day’s student newspaper. I meet with our senior professor, Eric Abbott, also on phased retirement, to begin planning a memorial service.           

In between these tasks I am giving interviews to The Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio, KCCI, WHO-TV, the Iowa State Daily, the Associated Press, Patch.com. I lose track.           

The television interviews are the worst. Thankfully, I dressed for a chairs meeting at the College (which I didn’t attend) and so I am in a suit jacket and tie. I still am donning my UPI persona, being professional, remembering how special Barbara was and how she could cut a person down and build him up in a single declarative sentence. She has done that many times to me, and I adore her as her students do.           

During one interview with Iowa Public Radio I slip into stream-of-consciousness, remembering my first encounter with Barbara Mack in February 2003, when I braved a blizzard in Ohio and flew to Des Moines in a storm to interview for the directorship at Greenlee. Barbara was waiting at the airport. Her first words to me were something along the lines of, "Well, I hear your nickname is Mickey. I have a horse named Mikki. Let’s go meet her."      

We went to the barn rather than to the school 35 miles north. We cleaned that barn. We brushed Mikki, and then went to coffee.           

I spent most of my life in the upper Midwest. I got my master's degree at South Dakota State University and worked in the state as a reporter for several years. I knew this was a test. Had I said, "Look, Barb" — a name she hated, by the way — "I just went through a blizzard in Columbus, traveled here in a storm, I’m tired, I need you to take me to my hotel so I can prepare for my job interview" — I wouldn’t have gotten the position. But I enjoyed meeting Mikki, who stood at least 17 hands high. At coffee, we talked about the state of journalism, a habit that we developed over the years, going to breakfast every two weeks and discussing how we would respond to dramatic changes in the digital era.           

After the interviews, my associate director and I work diligently on finding new instructors for Barbara's four classes. We have lost several professor lines to budget cuts. We are understaffed but dedicated. To prepare for her retirement, Barbara has been working with a gifted constitutional lawyer, Jermaine Johnson, a Ph.D. student in education. He has not taught media law before, so we continue our search for Barbara’s replacement. Erin Wilgenbusch, after Barbara, our most talented large lecture instructor — she just won that award from the college — steps up to take the 400-student mass communication class. I take the ethics class in addition to my two orientation classes. I don’t know how I am going to run the school with so much teaching, but I just will have to in academic tradition. Everyone steps up when tragedy strikes, and so does Jermaine. He’s ready. He will do this for Barbara.           

Then I remember my colleagues. I hear crying. I’m particularly worried about one professor who has an office next to Barbara’s. He is also on phased retirement, and I am afraid news about Barbara’s death will startle him. He doesn’t do Facebook. So perhaps he hasn’t read the e-mails.            

He is in his office. He has heard the news in town from someone who read it on Facebook.           

I return to my office. On the way, I hear sobbing behind a closed door. I don’t want to intrude. I will go to that office later and console a professor who, perhaps, is one of Barbara’s closest friends. There is a picture of both, with wide smiles, as in the movie "Thelma and Louise." It is how I will always remember them. Students meet me in the halls, professors, staff. Everyone is in shock, responding tearfully and asking how could this happen or stoically, asking for more facts.            

Facts. Yes. Back to my e-mails. People want to know funeral arrangements. We contact Jim Giles again. Arrangements are pending.

6 p.m.           

I am home again. I have a special-needs son. He has picked this day to have a five-hour tantrum. My dog has not been walked. I cannot sleep. As soon as everyone does, it’s back to hundreds of e-mails.

August 24

3 a.m.  

Ellie, the German shepherd, nudges me hard. She has not been walked in the past 24 hours. We leave the house and head for the lake near my home in the woods. There is lighting in the north, with an approaching storm. But the stars are above me in clear skies. This is Iowa weather. I figure I have a good hour before the rain.           

The lightning is like a strobe. It illuminates the woods by the path to the lake. Ellie is afraid of storms and shakes every time lightning strikes. It is spooky.            

"Barbara, if you are here, let us know, O.K.?" I say aloud.           


We walk about 30 yards.            

"Barbara, show us a sign if you are here."          


I feel silly. Barbara would mock me for asking such a question. "I’m sorry, Barbara. I’m so sorry."         

Above me a hoot owl sounds its eerie music: WHO — WHO — WHO....           

I know the answer to that question. The next day, in Barbara’s classes, I will tell her students who Barbara Mack was — that they are Barbara’s children — and that she wants them always to remember the fundamentals, the grammar, the facts. And I won’t do this on Facebook. I will do it face to face.           

And then, maybe during the weekend, I will cry or sleep. Or maybe I will do what journalists are expected to during times like this.           

I will write.

Michael Bugeja is director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.

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