faculty

Dean Warns Against 'Politically Charged' Comments

The medical dean at the University of Ottawa has sent a memo suggesting that faculty not make "politically charged" comments on social media or make "personal or demeaning attacks on celebrities or politicians," The National Post reported. The memo added, “While most of our faculty members are demonstrable champions of professionalism, it has come to light” that some members of the faculty had been “using material or presenting information that may be considered inappropriate in the context of the educational values that we as a university uphold.”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has asked the dean, Jacques Bradwejn, to rescind the memo. “One of the key components of academic freedom is the right of faculty to exercise free speech without the university’s censorship or reprisal,” said a statement from the group's executive director, David Robinson.

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New report says trustees have role to play in fighting BDS efforts on campus

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Report says movement to boycott represents challenge to academic freedom in the U.S., and urges trustees to take action. Critics say report is a challenge to academic freedom.

Professors Allege Discrimination, Retaliation and Hostile Climate at U Michigan

Two professors are suing the University of Michigan for discrimination based on race, gender and marital status and retaliation for voicing their concerns, among other counts. Their joint complaint, filed in a county court, alleges that the university’s stated commitments to diversity are superficial, and that institutional racism and a hostile campus climate for underrepresented faculty members and students of color persist. Scott Kurashige, a onetime tenured professor of American culture at Michigan, says he was terminated from his position as director of the Asian/Pacific Islander American studies program in 2014 after asking his dean for equitable retention packages for three faculty members. Eventually, he says, he was forced out of his faculty position in a campaign of retaliation for complaining about institutional equity issues.

Kurashige's wife, Emily Lawsin, a longtime lecturer in American culture and women’s studies at Michigan, says she was laid off with no prior notice in 2015, while she was on protected leave caring for their baby with Down syndrome. Lawsin fought the layoff, but was again barred from teaching this year, she says. Both professors are requesting immediate reinstatement, damages and injunctive relief to stop the alleged discrimination on campus.

Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesperson, said via email that Michigan “will vigorously defend the university against this lawsuit,” and that it’s already filed a motion to dismiss much of the complaint.

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Advice for making the most of graduate school (essay)

Just about everyone is trying to cope with new circumstances and environments, writes Victoria Reyes, who provides some helpful advice.

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President of Calvin College writes a response (essay)

A recent piece in Inside Higher Ed on Calvin College by Susan Resneck Pierce was disappointing to me on numerous levels. It characterizes Calvin as an academic community indifferent to teaching traditional academic skills such as critical thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, Resneck Pierce selectively pulled one element without context from our Expanded Statement of Mission but failed to even reference the actual Calvin mission statement, which is to “equip students to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” This selective cherry-picking was not present as she described the mission statements of other institutions in her piece.

In addition, while it is certainly true that Calvin seeks to ensure that the values that guide our teaching and scholarship will be Christian, at Calvin we also contend that it is possible to be simultaneously grounded in a Christian worldview and capable of critical thinking. A recent example might serve to illustrate my point.

In a March 1, 2017, piece on Calvin on The Atlantic, Jane Zwart, a Calvin English professor, said, “When you hear a phrase like ‘the kingdom of God’ around here, the point is that the world belongs to God -- which is not the same thing as the world belonging to those of us who believe in God, to those of us who are Christians … the kingdom of God does not thrive on exclusion; it chokes on exclusion … It thrives when we remember that Jesus wanted to make every last one of us a sibling and that, in consequence, we need to treat every person as a sister or a brother.” Calvin is not perfect, but Zwart gives a passionate account of our aspirations.

Baylor historian Thomas S. Kidd believes that “Christian colleges and universities may be the best educational institutions today for fostering real political diversity.” In the midst of a season of tremendous uncertainty and considerable political polarization, this is more important than ever, and at Calvin we believe we possess an opportunity in our teaching, scholarship and service to model civic and public discourse that meets arrogance with humility, hatred with love, bluster with wisdom, falsehood with truth, injustice with justice, ignorance with learning.

That none of the depth and nuance of Calvin came out in the recent Inside Higher Ed piece is unfortunate, so we think it’s important to try to create a fuller picture of the college. You are also welcome to visit Calvin anytime to learn even more.

Michael K. Le Roy is president of Calvin College.

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Princeton Students and Faculty Members Participate in Day of Action

Hundreds of students and faculty members participated in teach-ins and attended talks at Princeton University Monday as part of a day of action to address political challenges currently facing the U.S. and the world. A number of panels were critical of policies of the Trump administration, but organizers said the event was open to those of all political persuasions and ideologies. They encouraged other campuses to follow their lead in taking time to engage in action-oriented discussions about the current political climate.

“The goal of the day is to reaffirm the responsibilities of a community devoted to scholarship, the use of knowledge for the common good, and the ideals of diversity, democracy and justice,” said Sébastien Philippe, a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.

Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, who delivered a talk on U.S. immigration policy and the proposed border wall, said that he wanted to participate because “illegal migration has been net zero or negative for nine years now. Border apprehensions are at their lowest point since 1971. Building a wall at this point makes no sense at all. It is simply a symbolic affront to our southern neighbors and a bone to the Republican base.”

John Cramer, university spokesperson, said via email that Princeton didn’t sponsor the day of action but “applauds the effort by students and faculty to study, discuss and learn about important national public policy issues and what those issues mean for the Princeton community and the principles of equality, diversity, freedom and justice.”

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Study details tool to help professors measure the amount of active learning happening in their classrooms

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Study details tool to help professors measure how much active learning is happening in their classrooms.

A professor devises a new way to help uphold academic standards (essay)

Teaching Today

Howard V. Hendrix explains a new way he plans to deal with what some students characterize as the stress of his too-high demands in class.

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NLRB Office: Columbia Grad Union Vote Was Valid

A National Labor Relations Board office rejected Columbia University’s objections to a recent graduate employee union election Monday, recommending that United Auto Workers be certified as the students' collective bargaining representative. Columbia has challenged its graduate employees’ right to form a union at all, but also lodged specific complaints with the NLRB about the December election. Those included that UAW employees were too close to one of the polling sites on election day. The local NLRB office decided, however, that the mere presence of union agents within the vicinity of an election, absent evidence of coercion or other objectionable conduct, does not warrant throwing out the results.

The local office also found uncompelling Columbia’s claim that the election was invalid since voters did not have to show identification, in part because the university only presented evidence that four ballots may have been affected. Votes supported unionization by a much bigger margin, with 1,602 in favor and 623 against. Columbia has until later this month to file exceptions to the decision. The Columbia graduate student union, which includes teaching and research assistants, on Twitter called the decision an affirmation of its “historic election.” Graduate students at private institutions have long faced legal challenges in seeking collective bargaining, but a major national NLRB decision last year in favor of Columbia graduate students who hoped to organize paved the way for such unions.

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Academic Minute: Nonbelievers in America

Today in the Academic Minute, Washington University in St. Louis's Leigh Schmidt discusses nonbelievers in America. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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