A legal challenge to an alleged no-hire agreement between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has survived an important test. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles rejected the universities’ request to dismiss a lawsuit from an assistant professor of radiology at Duke who claimed that she’d been denied a job at North Carolina due to an alleged agreement that the two universities wouldn’t recruit from each others’ faculties.
The class-action suit brought by that professor, Danielle Seaman, alleges that the secret agreement was binding, with the intent to artificially suppress wages, and violates antitrust laws. The recent court decision includes a denial of state action immunity against antitrust liability, based on the defendants’ argument that they should be exempt from federal antitrust laws because a state university and health system is involved. Seaman’s attorney, Dean Harvey, said in a statement that the decision “confirmed that secret agreements in restraint of trade are not immune from the antitrust laws simply because a co-conspirator is a state employee.” A spokesperson for Duke declined comment, as did a spokesperson for North Carolina.
The latest on the controversy at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, where many are outraged by the firing of two faculty members without faculty reviews -- dismissals widely viewed as an attempt to squelch dissent.
Inside Higher Ed asked the university's accreditor if it plans to examine what is going on and received a reply that it does. Elizabeth H. Sibolski, president of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, said via email, “I did want to assure you that the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is well aware of developments that have been reported in national, state and higher education press. We take our accreditation responsibilities seriously and will be addressing the situation through our normal and usual processes.” Asked if this meant looking into the situation before the next review of Mount St. Mary's, she said, “This week’s press has been remarkable -- and the situation has developed over just the past few days. We are concerned and we will act with appropriate care for the integrity of the accreditation process.”
Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, wrote to parents of students Wednesday to tell them that he disagreed with press accounts of a growing national controversy over his dismissal of two faculty members. In his email, Newman said, “I want to briefly address my decision to dismiss two faculty members who violated a number of our university policies and our code of ethics. We, as an institution, have received quite a bit of press recently and have chosen not to respond more forcefully with information about the specifics of their conduct which we have available to us. In keeping with our values, we will take the high road. But it is critical that you know that we would never undertake actions like that unless the conduct in question warranted it. You may see other versions of events, but we have chosen to restore our focus on educating your students rather than explaining the damaging actions of a few individuals. We need to move forward with hope and faith rather than fall prey to fear and disparity during this time of transition.” Many faculty members say that their dismissed colleagues lost their jobs for disagreeing with the president, and they note the absence of any faculty review of the firings.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a complaint against Adams State University administrators on behalf of Danny Ledonne, a former adjunct professor of mass communications and video production employee who was banned from campus after he repeatedly criticized the university on a personal website called WatchingAdams.org. Ledonne wrote about pay differences between faculty members and administrators and questioned the university's hiring practices, among other topics (he was turned down several times for a tenure-track job, according to the complaint). Adams State issued Ledonne a no-trespass order this fall. The complaint, filed in a federal court in Colorado, alleges violations of Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights, as well as false and defamatory claims by the university that his behavior was threatening.
Adams State said in a statement that the complaint is “based on a wholly false premise that we have been eager to completely refute, but have lacked the legal ability to do, until now.” Officials said that they look forward to “making the case that the university’s actions were based solely on evidence and the belief that Mr. Ledonne’s longstanding pattern of inappropriate actions and threatening statements required us to act in an abundance of caution to protect our students, faculty and staff. We will aggressively contest any accusation that our safety-based decisions were in any way related to constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
Legislation in Kansas would eliminate a tenure system for community college faculty members that grants them the right to due process prior to dismissal once they have taught four years, The Kansas City Star reported. Similar rights were eliminated last year for elementary and secondary school teachers. At a hearing on the bill Tuesday, faculty members criticized the legislation. “Due process gives us the freedom to speak up with a dissenting voice, without fear of retaliation,” said Melanie Harvey, who teaches chemistry at Johnson County Community College.
Groups representing administrators and trustees spoke in favor of the bill. Greg Goode, representing the Kansas Association of Technical Colleges, said the due process system takes too long and makes it too difficult to dismiss a faculty member "gone bad." He said that "it's heartbreaking to hear students complain" about such professors.
The University of California at Berkeley Wednesday morning announced a major initiative aimed at maintaining educational quality while addressing serious budgetary concerns. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a campus message that the university faces “a substantial and growing structural deficit, one that we cannot long sustain,” and introduced what he called a comprehensive strategic planning process to establish a “new normal.”
“We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance,” he said. “This is a moment not just to stabilize our finances, but also to consider our future as a leading institution of higher education. The guide for this effort has to be our core mission: to enhance the educational experience we provide to students while maintaining our commitment to access, to increase the support we provide for groundbreaking research and scholarship, and to align our public outreach with 21st-century societal needs.”
Dirks said the Academic Senate, deans and administrators have been analyzing their budgets and programs for months and must now transition to comprehensive planning in the same collaborative spirit -- even though some of the process is sure to be “painful.” Every aspect of Berkeley’s operations and organizational structure will be under consideration, according to the memo, including:
Controlling staffing levels and adopting staff hiring “discipline” that mirrors that for faculty positions.
Improving support for teaching and research while redesigning work processes to achieve greater “efficiency,” such as the previously adopted end-to-end review of research grant proposals.
Making investments to improve fund-raising capacity.
Achieving additional revenues through the Berkeley “brand,” land and other assets, such as through licensing.
Working with senate leaders and deans on the redesign of some academic structures, including strengthening some areas, narrowing the focus of others and combining units.
Expanding online offerings and enrollments in University Extension, as well as professional and other master’s programs that earn revenue.
“We realize that many of you will want to know more, and have many good ideas to offer for our consideration,” Dirks said. “In the months ahead, we will be engaging with faculty, staff and students in order to share more detailed information, answer questions and solicit suggestions. You will also hear more from the leadership of your school, college or administrative unit as work on the initiatives broadens and deepens across the campus.”
Changes will start to take effect this summer, though significant academic and administrative realignments will take longer. Updates will be posted on Berkeley’s website.
“This endeavor must not be interpreted as an abandonment of our commitment to a public mission nor [of] our efforts to advocate for increased public funding for higher education,” Dirks said. “We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate ‘public’ with mediocrity, against those who have lost faith in the need for higher education to serve as an engine of social mobility and against those who no longer believe that university-based inquiry and research have the power to shape our society and economy for the better.”
He added, “What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.”
Due to declining state funding and other factors, Berkeley expects an operating budget deficit of 6 percent this year, or about $150 million. Officials say that while that is manageable in the short term, trend lines call for proactive sustainability measures.
Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.
The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.
One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”
In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.