California travel ban highlights dilemmas facing some academic conferences

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California’s ban on using state funds to travel to Texas highlights the dilemma facing national groups with meetings scheduled to take place there.

Academics alarmed by TSA plans to require books to be removed from carry-on luggage

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Faculty groups alarmed by potential impact of new TSA plan for screening carry-on luggage.

Professor Cancels Course Over Proposed Pay Cut

A professor of biology at Youngstown State University canceled a summer course after finding out that the university planned to prorate his salary based on low enrollment, WKBN reported. The professor, Chet Cooper, reportedly said that “it was wrong for me to accept that kind of position given my expertise and my professional position at the university.” Cooper, whose now-canceled microbiology course was to have eight students instead of the required 15, wrote in an email to those enrolled, “The issue is that I adamantly refuse to teach this course for less than full pay. Due to contractual restrictions based upon enrollment, I would have to agree to teach the course for a 43 percent decrease in salary. As any faculty member knows, it is as much effort to teach eight students as it is 15.”

Moreover, he wrote, “by accepting this egregious decrease in pay, I would be tacitly agreeing that either my expertise is worth less in the summer or that I am overpaid during the fall and spring semesters. Either assumption is an overt insult. … I hope you understand my position.”

Ron Cole, university spokesperson, said in a statement that professors “volunteer to teach in the summer” and their pay “is above and beyond what they get paid for the regular nine-month academic year.” At the same time, he said, Cooper “did not do anything wrong. He absolutely has the right” not to teach in summer. Cole called such situations “unusual,” according to WKBN. No student reportedly needed the course to graduate.

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AAUP Condemns Threats Against Faculty Members

The American Association of University Professors on Thursday condemned a recent pattern of threats against faculty members for their public comments. “We are dismayed that another faculty member, John Eric Williams of Trinity College [in Connecticut], has become the target of a flood of threats following reports about his social media postings by the right-wing media outlet Campus Reform,” AAUP said in a statement. “We support and stand with our colleagues and campus communities whose academic freedom is threatened. The free exchange of ideas is incompatible with an atmosphere of fear.”

Williams was threatened, triggering a temporary campus shutdown this week, after Campus Reform and other websites shared some of his Facebook posts about race; Williams has since said they were taken out of context.

“This is the second time this month that an institution of higher education has had to close down in response to threats, disrupting education and creating an environment of fear on campus,” AAUP said, referring to another temporary campus shutdown at Evergreen State College over threats related to a faculty member’s public questioning of a planned day of protest there. Several other faculty members on other campuses also have been physically threatened and harassed online in recent weeks.

“We condemn the practice, becoming all too common, of bombarding faculty members and institutions of higher education with threats,” reads AAUP’s statement. “When one disagrees with statements made by others, threats of violence are not the appropriate response. Such threatening messages are likely to stifle free expression and cause faculty and others on campus to self-censor so as to avoid being subjected to similar treatment. Targeted online harassment is a threat to academic freedom.”

The association earlier this year released a set of institutional recommendations for dealing with targeted online harassment of professors.

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Microbiology society cuts back on small conferences

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Decision by the American Society for Microbiology to scale back number of small conferences highlights pressures on the economics of scholarly gatherings.

Professors: time to reconsider reliance on anti-plagiarism tool

Turnitin has received its share of complaints regarding its accuracy, although it remains the standard bearer for plagiarism detection. Likewise, some writing professors have long said they fear reliance on the service has led colleges to abandon efforts to teach students about academic integrity.

Colleges offer online summer courses for residential students

Colleges find their own residential students are good targets for distance learning this time of year, with education and financial payoffs.

Google Classroom not in the college classroom

Using the Classroom platform, instructors can post announcements, share documents, create self-grading assessments and more. But it's no substitute for the LMS. 

CAEL tool measures support of adult students

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has launched a tool that allows colleges and universities to measure their support of their adult students. Adult Learner 360 compares the institutions' effectiveness against adult students’ perceptions using two surveys: one that captures the importance and effectiveness of the institutions' activities, policies and practices, and one that measures the satisfaction of the adult learners.

CIC consortium offers way for small colleges to develop online courses

Liberal arts colleges see joint online courses as providing breadth of offerings that may be financially impossible with traditional instruction.



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