faculty

Howard spends big on administrator bonuses, then announces austerity measures

Faculty members are protesting after Howard University doled out $1.1 million in administrator bonuses and then announced a budget shortfall.

Essay on how faculty members can start using Web 2.0 tools

Roger McHaney offers advice for professors who want to embrace digital tools, but aren't quite sure where to start.

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Interview with scholar who applauds the Tea Party

The prospect of reading a book about the Tea Party by a professor who supports the movement has a certain piquancy to it -- especially now, as campaigning for the Republican nomination enters what feels like its second or third year. Eight more months until the election? Even a political news-junkie's mood might turn a little gray at the thought. The Tea Party: Three Principles (Cambridge University Press) by Elizabeth Price Foley, a professor of law at Florida International University, is certainly a change of pace.

Its argument is clear enough to be forceful while revealing its presuppositions at every step. Foley regards the Tea Party as a movement that emerged as a spontaneous expression of concern to defend the U.S. Constitution from all enemies, foreign or domestic. (Whether Barack Obama counts as foreign or domestic, she does not address.) The Tea Party movement stands proudly apart from the two major parties, holding fast only to three principles: limited government, forthright American sovereignty, and constitutional originalism. It is a lucid and necessary response to threats such as "the globalist agenda" and Obama's suggestion that the founders "bequeathed to us not a static condition but a perpetual aspiration." The movement is not driven by racism, nor is it engaged in the culture wars, nor should it be treated as the religious right with a makeover. Tea Partiers are, she writes, "united in their fearless query, 'What happened to the America I grew up in?' "

That's one way to look at it, I guess, although "fearless" is hardly an apt characterization either of the Tea Party or the usual tone of that question. To ignore the level of racial animus expressed in the movement requires an act of will. In a paper from the American Political Science Association meeting in September, Alan I. Abramovitz said that an analysis of data from the American National Election Study Evaluations of Government and Society Survey showed that, while "ideological conservatism was by far the strongest predictor of Tea Party support," support for the movement also corresponded to both white racial resentment and aversion to Obama himself. "These two variables," Abramovitz noted, "had much stronger effects than party identification. Racial resentment had a somewhat stronger effect than dislike for Obama." The influence on the movement of constitutional-law scholars such as Foley is minute compared to that of the fantasies that Jill Lepore discusses in her recent book The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History (Princeton University Press). And anyone believing that the Tea Party is a spontaneous and nonpartisan movement -- driven only by the humble but anxious civic virtue of just-plain-folks -- should take Deep Throat's advice during the Watergate affair: "Follow the money."

Foley's book shares the Tea Party's politics, but not its fevers. It has the soul of a talk-radio call-in show in the body of a law-review article. It left me wanting to argue with the author, or at least interview her -- not that the distinction lasted very long. A transcript of our e-mail discussion follows. If ever there is a Tea Party think-tank, it's clear Foley would be a capable director.

Q. Your dedication page reads, "To the intrepid members of the American Tea Party movement, with admiration and respect." Would you say something about your degree of involvement or interaction with the movement? Is this book simply an expression of political sympathy, or does it grow out an activist commitment?

A: I am not a Tea Party activist personally. I have spoken to Tea Party groups, who have read some prior articles and op-eds and invited me to talk. So I have met many Tea Partiers over the last few years and have learned to admire and respect them tremendously. They are the only group of ordinary Americans I have ever met who carry around pocket Constitutions and want to engage in substantive discussions about the text's meaning. From my perspective, this can only be a good thing for the country. The Constitution has become almost a dirty word in some parts of America's intelligentsia, and it's too often viewed as an anachronistic, backward-thinking document written by a bunch of dead people who were racist, sexist, and not worth admiring. This is a dangerous narrative, and the Tea Party seeks to reverse this trend by re-embracing the Constitution and its original meaning.  As someone who has dedicated her life to teaching and studying constitutional law, I find the Tea Partiers' attitude healthy and refreshing.

Q: You write that the Tea Party is opposed to people who think of the Constitution as "an anachronistic, backward-thinking document written by a bunch of dead people who were racist, sexist, and not worth admiring." That seems like equal parts straw man and red herring. The racism or sexism of the authors isn't a topic for debate, since the evidence in the document itself: Article 1, Section 2 was to gave slaveholding states extra influence by letting them have extra representatives proportionate to three-fifths of their slave populations (not that this did the slaves any good); plus it took 133 years and 19 amendments before women got the vote. This doesn't mean the framers were Neanderthals, but it does suggest that "original intent" counts for only so much.

A: I'm afraid you misunderstand the nature of originalism. I can tell by the way you phrase the question that you've never had anyone objective explain it to you -- I'm sorry for that. But it's not as though you are alone in this view, and indeed it was a view I shared myself until I went to law school.

First, let me clarify what originalism means to most self-identified originalists today. I don't know any originalists who focus on "original intent" anymore. Instead, originalism is "original meaning" originalism, which asks the interpreter of constitutional text to ascertain what the meaning of the text would be, in commonsense terms, from the perspective of We the People who ratified it. By contrast, "original intent" originalism (which again, no one seriously espouses) tries to ascertain the subjective, oftentimes unknowable "intent" of those who wrote the constitutional text (i.e., the founders themselves). Notice that when I talk about originalism, I talk about not just those who wrote the text, but those who ratified it -- i.e., We the People. This is important because the founders had extensive conversations with the American people during the ratification process -- in widely-read pamphlets, newspaper articles, speeches, etc. -- and it is this understanding of the Constitution that matters to originalists.

With that clarification, I hope you don't honestly believe this is a red herring or straw man. The Three-Fifths Clause to which you refer, for example, was anti-slavery provision, not a pro-slavery one. Remember that the slaveholding states argued that slaves should be counted as whole persons (to boost those states' representation in the House), whereas the non-slaveholding states argued that slaves should not be counted at all. What the founders ultimately proposed (and the People ratified) was a Three-Fifths compromise. It certainly by no means meant that the founders endorsed or approved of slavery. Some did; many didn't. Indeed, you should look further at the constitutional text to get a more accurate picture. The Constitution never even uses the word "slavery," assiduously avoiding it because some of the founders (e.g., Madison) thought that mentioning it by name would give it further credibility, and they wanted to avoid that at all costs. Moreover, the 1808 Clause in Article I gave Congress the power to abolish all further importation of slaves beginning Jan. 1, 1808 (20 years after ratification). This was designed to choke off all future slave trade, stop its expansion, and hopefully its demise.  Indeed, on Jan. 1, 1808 -- the first day this constitutional power kicked in -- Congress enacted exactly such a law and prohibited all further importation. 

So the bottom line is that slavery was a very controversial issue, for obvious reasons, among the founders. To dismiss them all as racists is far too simplistic, and disregards the fact that the constitutional text they wrote was at ambiguous on the topic (to be expected given the divergence of opinion among the ratifying states) and in some key respects, quite hostile to it.

More fundamentally, please realize that originalists such as myself do NOT advocate that judges try to reinstitute the original Constitution. This is a very common misunderstanding, so again, you are not alone. But it is simply not accurate, as I discuss in the book.  Originalism asks judges to interpret the Constitution's text as it presently exists.  So, for example, none of the original Constitution's clauses addressing slavery have any continuing legal validity after the ratification of the Civil War Amendments -- the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. And of course the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, is likewise part of the text of the Constitution that is entitled to full respect and implementation.

The Constitution as a whole -- as its text and that text's historical context stands today -- is what originalists (and the Tea Partiers) seek to honor and preserve.

Q: Whatever the merits of claiming that Obama's health care reform violates the commerce clause, my recollection of the Tea Party in late 2009 and early '10 isn't one of a debate over constitutional law. It's of people carrying guns to demonstrations, growing hysterical about "death panels," and venting in ways that sounded pretty much like what you would have heard at a George Wallace rally in 1968. You refer to people carrying around well-thumbed copies of the Constitution, but what argument is there to make for that reflecting the true concerns of the Tea Party movement, rather than, say, that picture of Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose?

A: As I spend a good number of pages explaining in the book, the Tea Partiers' opposition to the health care reform law is grounded in their belief in limited government. If one knows anything about this concept, one can easily see how the health care reform law threatens this foundational constitutional principle. The individual mandate is an unprecedented, breathtaking exercise of federal power. If upheld, it will have significant, negative implications for individual liberty. 

A ubiquitous government presence in healthcare will indeed predictably lead to some form of health care rationing -- it is a matter of supply and demand. The health care reform law added some 32 million Americans to health insurers' rolls, but did nothing to expand the supply of available health care providers. Substantially increased demand, without a concomitant increase in supply, will lead to not only price increases (which we have already witnessed and will continue to do so), but access shortages that will necessitate some form of rationing. Tea Partiers were naturally concerned about this, as older Americans, as high-demand users of health care, are the most vulnerable in a rationing regime.

Q: You write that "the Constitution doesn’t require prior approval by the UN Security Council" for use of the military. But neither does the Constitution require prior approval by Congress. Article 1, section 8 gives Congress the power to declare war.  If there ever was any sense of obligation on the part of the executive branch to seek approval for the use of military force abroad, it's been more or less a dead letter since the Korean "police action" -- with the War Powers Act of 1973 not changing the situation much. According to a Library of Congress report, "U.S. Presidents have consistently taken the position that the War Powers  Resolution is an unconstitutional infringement upon the power of the executive branch," beginning with Richard Nixon.

A: Completely agree with you here.  The war power is shared between Congress and the President. As Commander-in-Chief, the President under Article II can commit US troops in defense of US interests.  Congress can declare a formal war, constitutionally, but doesn't have to, and the Supreme Court has never said otherwise. Congress's ultimate power lies in the power of the purse — i.e., withholding appropriations.

Q: You go on to say, "Americans – particularly Tea Partiers – would think it odd that either our Supreme Court or our president would think they need to consult with the international community before doing what they think is right for America." But how is that an either/or? "Consulting with the international community" is a matter of building support for what the US is going to do in any case. How seriously can we take the "globalist agenda" as something to worry about, given that US leaders, Democratic and Republican alike, pay exactly as much attention to international law or world public opinion as is expeditious for pursuing what they regard as the national interest?

A: "Consulting" is fine, if by that word you mean literally "consulting" rather than asking for approval. The difficulty with President Obama's statements prior to committing troops to Libya was that he espoused a view — embraced by progressives — that something more than mere consultation was desirable and necessary. He suggested that it would contravene international law to commit U.S. troops without prior UN Security Council approval, and it is that radical position about which tea partiers are concerned, from the perspective of defending US Sovereignty.

Q: You only quote Tea Party people once or twice, if memory serves, not counting a couple of passages from Glenn Beck. The book seems not so much about the Tea Party, or even of the movement, as for it. That is, you offer arguments and perspectives that support Tea Party positions -- but they express your sense of how the TPers ought to be arguing. You downplay any "culture war" or social-conservative aspect of the movement, although there's evidence that the Tea Party overlaps considerably with the religious right. I've given you a hard time here about the element of racism that has been abundantly evident in some Tea Party discourse -- and a recent statistical analysis of poll results from 2010 showed a high degree of correlation between Tea Party support and white racial resentment. But just to be clear, there's nothing of the sort going on in your book. It's as if you are trying to raise the tone a little bit. Is that fair? Is it any part of your intention? Isn't the book more about what the Tea Party can be or should be, from your perspective, rather than what it is?

A: I did not want to write a book about individual Tea Partiers (as many books have already done, some well, some not so well).  Instead, I wanted to write a book about the constitutional principles that define the movement as a movement. My goal was to have a substantive discourse about these principles -- to offer, if you will, an intellectual defense of the Tea Party movement. 

I downplay the culture war aspect because the Tea Party itself downplays it. It is a conservative movement, true, but conservative in the sense of fiscal and constitutional conservatism, not social conservatism. You don't attend Tea Party events and hear any serious discussion about abortion or gay marriage. Polling data confirms this, revealing that a majority of Tea Partiers support the legal availability of abortion, as well as gay marriage or civil union. So I don't think it would be factually accurate to try to paint the Tea Party movement as a socially conservative movement. There are undoubtedly some social conservatives within the movement, but this is inevitable, given that some social conservatives are also fiscal and constitutional conservatives.

 

 

Essay offers guide to those who review journal submissions

Everyone gets rejected. And it never stops being painful not matter how successful or how long you have been in the business. Some of this is inevitable; not everyone is above average. But some of it isn't. I thought that I would offer some dos and don’ts for reviewers out there to improve the process and save some hurt feelings, when possible. Some are drawn from personal experience; others, more vicariously. I have done some of the "don’ts" myself, but I feel bad about it. Learn from my mistakes.

(Author's note: I'd like people to focus on the ideas in this piece, not the strong language, so I've substituted a new version with all the same points, but a few different words.)

First, and I can’t stress this enough, READ THE PAPER. It is considered impolite by authors to reject a paper by falsely accusing it of doing THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what it does. Granted, some people have less of a way with words than others and are not exactly clear in their argumentation. But if you are illiterate, you owe it to the author to tell the editors when they solicit your review. It is O.K. – there are very successful remedial programs they can recommend. Don’t be ashamed.

Second, and related to the first, remember the stakes for the author. Let us consider this hypothetical scenario. In a safe estimate, an article in a really top journal will probably merit a 2-3 percent raise for the author. Say that is somewhere around $2,000. Given that salaries (except in the University of California System) tend to either stay the same or increase, for an author who has, say, 20 years left in his/her career, getting that article accepted is worth about $40,000 dollars. And that is conservative. So you owe it more than a quick scan while you are on the can. It might not be good, but make sure. Do your job or don’t accept the assignment in the first place. (Sorry, I don’t usually like scatological humor but I think this is literally the case sometimes.)

Third, the author gets to choose what he/she writes about. Not you. He/she is a big boy/girl. Do not reject papers because they should have been on a different topic, in your estimation. Find fault with the the paper actually under review to justify your rejection.

Fourth, don’t be petty and whiny. Articles should be rejected based on faulty theory or fatally flawed empirics, not a collection of little cuts. Bitchy grounds include but are not limited to – not citing you, using methods you do not understand but do not bother to learn, lack of generalizability when theory and empirics are otherwise sound. The bitchiness of reviews should be inversely related to the audacity and originality of the manuscript. People trying to do big, new things should be given more leeway to make their case than those reinventing the wheel.

Fifth, don’t be a jerk. Keep your sarcasm to yourself. Someone worked very hard on this paper, even if he/she might not be very bright. Writing “What a surprise!”, facetiously, is not a cool move. Rejections are painful enough. You don’t have to pour salt on the wound. Show some respect.

Sixth, remember that to say anything remotely interesting in 12,000 words is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE. Therefore the reviewer needs to be sympathetic that the author might be able to fix certain problems when he/she is given more space to do so. Not including a counterargument from your 1986 journal article might not be a fatal oversight; it might have just been an economic decision. If you have other things that you would need to see to accept an otherwise interesting paper, the proper decision is an R&R, not a reject. Save these complaints for your reviews of full-length book manuscripts where they are more justifiable.

Seventh, you are not a film critic. Rejections must be accompanied by something with more intellectual merit than "the paper did not grab me" or "I do not consider this to be of sufficient importance to merit publication in a journal of this quality." This must be JUSTIFIED. You should explain your judgment, even if it is something to the effect of, "Micronesia is an extremely small place and its military reforms are not of much consequence to the fate of world politics." Even if it is that obvious, and it never is, you owe an explanation.

Brian C. Rathbun is associate professor in the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. This essay is adapted from a blog post by Rathbun at The Duck of Minerva.

Essay on the experience of serving on a grant review panel

I am only in my early 50s, yet I have lost count of the number of grant and contract review committees on which I have served. I wish I could say it is because I am some sort of academic superstar. In fact, it is just the combination of an odd specialization that crosses technical boundaries and a substantially cooperative nature. I always agree when asked by panel officers from the National Institutes of Health for two reasons: I have been on the government side of the aisle, and I desperately need people to review my stuff. The upside of my unfettered willingness to do what is essentially continuous community service is that I hear about interesting research and novel techniques that would have never crossed my desk of their own accord. The downside is that I spend a lot of time sitting in windowless hotel conference rooms in and around Washington, trying to stay engaged in conversations at 3 o’clock on Friday afternoons. I have developed waiting habits not dissimilar to those I use for long train rides and delayed flights. I watch and write narrative in my head.

I am happy to say that the story of review panels is a happy one. Despite a well-developed penchant for cynicism, I have found grant review panels actually accomplish their tasks with almost the idealistic aplomb one might hope for. This is by no means a Nicholas Sparks novel with clean moral progression and sentimental tidy outcomes, but rather more a Kazuo Ishiguro story with enough complex ambiguity to render it believable. How can 10 to 25 people of disparate background and expertise, with only limited preparation and exact knowledge, decide on the future of scientific research project funding in a 20-minute discussion? It is done the same way that a memorable high school prom is planned and executed: the power of small group process.

The first challenge of grant review is the scoring algorithms. The NIH has changed this quite recently from a 1-5 scale with decimals to a 1-9 scale with no decimals. Not surprisingly, changing the scale has not done a great deal for how people map their evaluations to the metric. Some struggle mightily to develop their own algorithms to allocate points and retain measurement fidelity across all applications. Others lead with their gut and are quite idiosyncratic from application to application. The adjudication of these mapping processes happens in those airless hotel conference rooms when the applications are discussed and scored. People engage in brinkmanship, acquiescence, passionate articulate speechifying, and occasionally embarrassing backtracking. The consequence, however, is a scoring mechanism for any given application is constructed through a rough form of consensus building. Obviously most of the debate occurs in slicing up those on the margins. Everyone in these rooms recognizes the Elvis on Velvet and the Picasso of applications. Everything else is much harder.

The second challenge is maintaining the democratic process in light of the many and varied egos and rivalries. Small group process is often derailed by a single strong personality. Grant review panels are no different, but the NIH has embedded some mechanisms to shape the process and the panels themselves enforce others. First, there is always a big alpha dog who acts as chair. The panel officers at NIH know their dogs well and usually choose those who understand the value of careful, graceful, and humorous guidance rather than bullying. I have fallen in love with many a chair over a two-day period as he or she gently guides the group to its destination. Second, for the unsolicited grant proposals NIH receives continuously, there are standing panels that have members who stay on in rotating cohorts for two to four years. The combination of familiarity and new blood expedites the process dramatically. It means that the first half-morning is not spent in the painful process of taking everyone’s measure. By the third or fourth meeting, the habits, humor, and disposition of your fellow cohort members are well-known to you and everyone else, so you spend less time thinking about process and much more time thinking about science. And because there are overlapping cohorts, the old guys train and discipline the young ones.  It is usually gently done particularly for those who have not served on a panel before and are over-eager or simply nervous. 

The famously contentious nature of academics is only rarely on display in these meetings because it is tough to remain in the room once you have been openly ugly and particularly hard if you have to return to a similar room four months later. Finally, the groups themselves retain an almost puritanical sense of justice and fairness that is quite surprising given that these panels usually consist of people with some mileage on them. I have seen panels collectively and clearly redirect any member who tries to subvert due process. In a panel not so long ago, a young gentleman who had been in a lifelong headlock with another researcher tried to scuttle an application simply because of this ongoing animosity. The outrage in the room was both palpable and sharp. He was, indeed, redirected.

These scientific grant panels are not some gloriously functional happy family by any means, but the careful structuring and dynamics of well-intentioned human beings in groups actually has the intended outcome.  The decisions are on average correct and mostly just. There are, of course, built-in biases toward larger universities and established researchers, which some misguided champion of the underdog like me will point out with passion on a regular basis. Mistakes are occasionally made because of oversight, hubris, or a lack of expertise. But surprisingly and delightfully, it usually works. Prom night does finally come magically lit and complete with the best band ever, and most people go away happy.
 

Felicia B. LeClere is a principal research scientist in the Public Health Department of NORC at the University of Chicago, where she works as research coordinator on multiple projects including the National Immunization Survey and the National Children's Study. She has 20 years of experience in survey design and practice, with particular interest in data dissemination and the support of scientific research through the development of scientific infrastructure.

Academic Minute: Archaeology of Gallipoli

In today’s Academic Minute, Antonio Sagona of the University of Melbourne discusses his archaeological excavation of one of the First World War’s most famous battlefields. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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Growing Faculty Unrest at U. of Illinois

Faculty leaders at the University of Illinois are circulating a petition calling for the removal of Michael Hogan as president of the university system, The News-Gazette reported. Faculty critics cite Hogan's push to centralize enrollment management decisions, and his "extraordinary bullying" of Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus, whose e-mail messages reveal that Hogan did not think she was pushing her faculty members hard enough to back his views on enrollment management. The letter in circulation says of Hogan: "In our view he lacks the values, commitments, management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this university, and his presidency should be ended at the earliest opportunity." A spokesman for the university system said that Hogan was not resigning and had "unwavering support" from the board.

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Essay on ethical questions raised by letters of recommendation

Trysh Travis considers when it may not be in students' interests to write them letters of recommendation.

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Education Researchers Move 2013 Meeting From Atlanta

The American Educational Research Association announced Friday that, in response to recent Georgia laws viewed as hostile to immigrants, the association will move its 2013 annual meeting from Atlanta to San Francisco. "As a matter of policy, AERA has an affirmative obligation to operate its own functions and monitor its own behavior in accordance with the research policies it supports, its code of ethics, and a commitment as a democratic organization to the values of equity, equality, and transparency. The relocation from Georgia helps to ensure that AERA members and other annual meeting participants have equal access to engage in AERA activities free of constraint, distraction, and intimidation that could occur under this law," said the association's statement.

The issue of when disciplinary associations should relocate annual meetings -- the locations for which are typically selected years in advance -- has created controversies in numerous fields. Currently, historians are sponsoring an online discussion on the topic.

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Coppin State Faculty Vote 'No Confidence' in President

Faculty members at Coppin State University have voted -- overwhelmingly -- that they lack confidence in President Reginald Avery, The Baltimore Sun reported. "[Avery] has brought neither a clear vision of mission to CSU, nor established a coherent or viable strategic plan, nor wisely allocated resources," wrote Nicholas Eugene, the leader of the Faculty Senate, in a letter to William E. Kirwan, chancellor of Maryland's university system. "We feel that despite the efforts of faculty, Dr. Avery's leadership has resulted in a dilution of the academic quality at CSU." Avery told the newspaper that he would work to improve communication with professors, and he vowed to continue his work at the university.

 

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