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How to teach students about thorny issues without insinuating your own views (essay)

Teaching Today

In today's political environment, how can professors challenge students to make sense of a changing world without imposing their own value-based judgments on classroom discussions? Jo-Ellen Pozner suggests some approaches.

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Brief Suspension Ends for Creighton Law Professor

Kenneth Melilli, a popular tenured faculty member at Creighton University's law school, was suspended from Wednesday through Friday after an argument with an associate dean, The Omaha World-Herald reported. Melilli was suspended after the law dean consulted the human resources department about what he viewed as a threat. Many other faculty members said that there was no reason to suspend the professor and that -- in cases where suspension of faculty members may be warranted -- it is the faculty who should review the circumstances. Faculty members said that only the university's president can make an emergency suspension. Late Friday, Melilli issued a statement Friday indicating that he had been reinstated and that differences had been resolved.

 

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A Ph.D. prepares you for the multitasking the work world demands (essay)

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Contrary to popular and judgmental opinion, your doctoral experience is some of the best real-world working experience you can get, writes Briana Mohan.

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Advice Newsletter publication date: 
Thursday, March 2, 2017
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Study suggests university presses publish fewer humanities books

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Study suggests university presses are publishing fewer books in the humanities. Experts say the publishing industry is facing more significant changes.

Hundreds of Scientists Rally in Boston

Hundreds of scientists, some in lab coats, held a rally in Boston Sunday to draw attention to their concerns about the Trump administration's policies. Speakers and signs criticized those in the administration who deny that climate change is real, who question the collection and distribution of data on science and other policies. Photos are from social media posts about the rally. More can be found a #standforscience. The rally comes as some scientists are planning a national march for science in Washington.

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Presidential Historians Rank the Presidents

President Lincoln held on to his first place slot as the best president of the United States in C-SPAN's third survey of presidential historians. He was followed by Presidents Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Lincoln also was ranked first in the two previous surveys, in 2009 and 2000.

The survey only considers former presidents so this was the first one in which President Obama was included. He ranked 12th, just behind President Wilson and ahead of President Monroe.

 

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U.S. copyright law significantly hinders access to information (essay)

Last summer, the U.S. Senate easily confirmed Carla Hayden to became the first new librarian of Congress in almost three decades.

At her confirmation hearing last April, Hayden conversed fluently with admiring members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. All enthused about the promise of the internet to make information universally available. All agreed on the need to digitize the Library of Congress’s holdings and place those holdings on the web. Senator John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, said it was time to get the Library of Congress “out to the hinterlands.” Hayden agreed.

In this era of fierce partisanship, the genial bipartisanship on display that day was remarkable, flowing naturally from the self-evident value of disseminating information as widely as possible.

Good education happens, and, indeed, democracy itself works, only when students and citizens enjoy unfettered access to good information and good scholarship. In practice this means that neither a homeschooled fifth-grader, nor my 15-year-old son, nor a high school student in rural Arkansas, nor a college student at a state university, nor a scholar in Niger, should be denied free and easy access to nearly all unclassified information held by the Library of Congress. Or, for that matter, from any major library.

Current technology makes this somewhat lofty vision eminently achievable.

But standing in the way is an 800-pound gorilla: U.S. copyright law.

The current copyright statute, passed in 1976 and revised in 1998, grants authors of books, articles, films and other creative work exclusive rights to their publications -- including the exclusive right to distribute their publications -- for the length of their earthly sojourn. Plus 70 years after they die. The vast bulk of material published in the U.S. after 1923 cannot be digitized and shared.

Hayden knows this. She sees the gorilla every day. But she ignored him during her confirmation hearing, thus placing herself in an awkward position. She could describe in the Senate hearing room the Library of Congress’s laudable decision to digitize the 1774-1804 papers of Alexander Hamilton, this past year’s unanticipated Broadway idol. But she could say nothing about most of the approximately 2,000 published works about Hamilton cataloged in the Library of Congress’s collection.

Might not a student/retiree/scholar/hipster interested in Hamilton’s papers be equally interested in John Chester Miller’s Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox (1959), James Thomas Flexner’s The Young Hamilton (1978) or Albert Furtwangler’s The Authority of Publius (1984)? The Library of Congress and my library own all three books, but, under current law, we may not digitize or distribute any of them.

Examples of disconnects between copyright law and the public interest are endless. Should the mother of a child with leukemia enjoy access only to medical books published more than 70 years ago? Should the father of an autistic child read only scientific literature published before 1923? (Hint: the serious study of autism began only in the 1940s).

The point, here, is obvious: Congress’s library and other libraries cannot distribute most of their literature to most people. Current copyright law undermines the Library of Congress’s mission, Carla Hayden’s ideals, the professed desires of senators and, of course, the public interest.

It was not always so.

The first copyright statute, enacted in 1790, allowed authors to retain copyright in their work for 14 years. And they could, if they desired, renew that copyright for an additional 14 years. Congress believed that a maximum period of 28 years offered the “limited” protections authorized by the U.S. Constitution to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Under the original statute, the Library of Congress, my library and any library in the world could digitize and disseminate without charge Miller’s, Flexner’s and Furtwangler’s studies of Hamilton to the homeschooled fifth-grader, to my 15-year old son, to the high school student in rural Arkansas, to the college student at a state university and to the scholar in Niger.

We have now, today, the technology to achieve the vision endorsed by our new (and possibly best) librarian of Congress -- a vision ostensibly shared by her admiring senatorial colleagues who, though they agree on little else, appear to agree on this.

What we lack and what we need is an old law -- an old law to serve new technology.

But first we need our new chief librarian to point at the gorilla, yell for Congress’s attention and beg the legislators who confirmed her to act in accord with the ideals they articulated last spring.

Bryn Geffert is the librarian of the college at Amherst College.

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Advice to minority scholars for obtaining financial support for research (essay)

The freedom that research support brings is particularly important for radical scholars of color, writes Victor Ray, who gives advice on how to obtain it.

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Diversity Newsletter publication date: 
Friday, February 24, 2017
Advice Newsletter publication date: 
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Professor's anti-immigration comments on social media fuel a day of action on campus

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Minnesota philosophy professor writes that immigrants have low IQs and refugees are part of "religious-political cult." Reaction is intense.

An insider's view of the life of a first-generation scholar (essay)

While a huge literature exists on first-generation undergraduates, there is only silence about what happens to those students when they go on to doctoral or faculty life. Herb Childress provides an insider’s description.

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