Today on the Academic Minute, Franco Pestilli, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, examines how a once-forgotten discovery may bring huge benefits to our health. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Larycia Hawkins, whom Wheaton College in Illinois is trying to fire from its political science faculty, on Wednesday held a press conference to criticize the college. Hawkins attracted attention in December by saying she would wear a hijab during Advent to express solidarity with Muslims in a time of considerable anti-Muslim political rhetoric in the United States. The college, a Christian institution, said Hawkins disqualified herself to teach there by stating that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
At her press conference, surrounded by some of her students and by religious leaders, Hawkins said Wheaton treated her unfairly. "Wheaton College does liberal arts well. Yet, I am left to ponder, how well does Wheaton College treat its employees who dare to challenge students and peers to stand with, not merely for, people outside the Christian fold?" Hawkins said. "How well does Wheaton College care for its neighbor in Syria, in the south side of Chicago and in Soweto? And what if the neighbor on the south side happens to be Muslim? Will we fail to engage her because she is veiled? Will we shun the divine in her because she denies the deity of the one we call son of God and son of man?" Her full statement is here.
The American Political Science Association on Wednesday released a letter to Wheaton officials urging that Hawkins keep her job. “Her suspension appears to be connected to public statements about the status of religion in public life -- statements that cannot be separated from her scholarly focus on religion and politics,” the letter says. “While we cannot presume to know all the facts of her contractual relations with Wheaton College, we find the overlap between her scholarly focus, her public statements and Wheaton’s resulting action particularly troubling. We urge you to continue working to resolve the situation so as to leave no doubt as to the college’s commitment to academic freedom, to freedom of expression and to its stated support for ‘a robust exchange of ideas among faculty and students on the critical issues of the day.’”
Florida Atlantic University announced Tuesday that it has completed the process of firing James Tracy, an associate professor of communication known as a denier of the Sandy Hook mass shooting and other mass shootings. Last month, the university announced its plans to fire Tracy. While the university statement did not detail its reasoning for the dismissal, the university has in the past said that Tracy had a legal right to express his views. But the university's action followed complaints from the parents of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, who said Tracy was harassing them. The Sun Sentinel reported that the university is technically firing Tracy for failing to file, for three years, a required "Report of Outside Employment or Professional Activity Form."
The Sun Sentinel also reported that the United Faculty of Florida, the statewide faculty union, is providing legal help for Tracy, who is trying to hold on to his job.
Laurentian University, in Canada, has removed professor Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist, from teaching an introductory psychology course because of a waiver he asks students to sign over his use of vulgar language in class, CBC News reported. The waiver lists some of the words -- including obscenities and some slurs -- that Persinger says come up in class. He says he's been using the waiver for years, that it is a teaching tool and that it attracts students to the course. The university has not detailed its objections to the waiver, but issued this statement: "It was recently brought to the dean's attention that a Statement of Understanding issued to students by Dr. Persinger was not in compliance with Laurentian University policies."
The Laurentian University Faculty Association has filed a grievance in the case, saying that Persinger's academic freedom has been violated. Anis Farah, president of the union, said academic freedom "includes freedom of teaching, research and discussion, no matter how controversial, without reprisal or censorship."
More than 100 Republican state legislators have urged the University of Missouri at Columbia to fire Melissa Click, a communications professor who was videotaped during a campus protest blocking a student journalist from getting close to the protest. Click subsequently apologized for her actions, which were widely condemned by journalists and other groups. "The fact that, as a professor teaching [in] the communication department and the school of journalism, she displayed such a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of reporters should be enough to question her competency and aptitude for her job," said a letter from Republican legislators, The Columbia Missourianreported. The university declined to comment on the letter.