U of British Columbia finds the university failed to protect a professor's academic freedom

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Board chair of U of British Columbia resigns as the university releases an investigative report into "a cascading series of events" triggered by his phone call to a faculty member.

New U of Oregon Uniforms Criticized

The University of Oregon's new "pioneer-themed" athletics uniforms celebrate a "history of genocidal violence, ethnic cleansing and exclusion of nonwhites," a coalition of Native faculty, staff and students said in an open letter this week. The uniforms, unveiled by Nike earlier this month, are inspired by the travels of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and feature the explorers and a map of the Oregon Trail.

The university said the uniforms are meant to honor the state's "maverick heritage" embodied by Lewis and Clark. The coalition, Native Strategic Initiatives, said the uniforms emphasize "white supremacy, a sense of divine obligation of free white men to take -- by force if necessary -- the land belonging to the nonwhite nations west of the Mississippi."

"Instead of condemning this process," the open letter states, "the celebration of Lewis and Clark valorizes it, papering over the ongoing consequences of colonization and indigenous traditions of 'exploration,' 'innovation,' 'free-thinking' and 'risk-taking' that existed in this place long before the expedition arrived at the Pacific coast."

The coalition urged the university and Nike to discontinue the uniforms and to recall related merchandise from stores.

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Mizzou Grad Students Will Still Get Health Coverage

The University of Missouri at Columbia will offer graduate student workers health insurance next year, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said this week, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. The news came after weeks of outcry from graduate students over the university’s announcement just days before classes started that it would cancel graduate student health insurance subsidies. The university blamed its choice on a new federal interpretation of the Affordable Care Act limiting how individual subsidies could be used to buy health insurance.

Mizzou -- unlike most universities, which have employer-sponsored health insurance plans -- offers graduate student workers individual subsidies to buy their own health insurance. A week after the August announcement, amid student protests and questions from faculty members about how they could recruit new graduate students under such circumstances, Mizzou put its decision on hold. Loftin’s announcement this week cements the university’s plan to continue to provide health insurance coverage in some form, at least through next year, but he was short on details about how the university would do it and still comply with the ACA. A university task force will make recommendations on how to do so by the end of next month.

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Partnership Will Fund Humanities Professorships

The Huntington Library, a freestanding research institution in California, and the University of California at Riverside are starting a collaboration to hire faculty members in the humanities. The new assistant professors will each have full research fellowships at the Huntington, with the library covering their salaries for two years of their initial appointments. The library and the university say this is a way to add humanities professorships and to provide those who get the jobs with a path to advancing their careers.

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Retiring Professor Honored With New Speed Limit

David Kelly, a mathematics professor at Hampshire College who is getting ready to retire, has long shared his fascination with the number 17 with students. He loves to teach facts about the number, such as: "You can color all the (136) edges joining pairs of 16 points with three colors without having three of the edges forming a triangle be all the same color; with 17 (or more) points, there must be a monochromatic triangle." (For 16 other of his top 17 facts about 17, go here.)

So to honor Kelly upon his retirement, the college is changing all of its speed limit 15 signs to 17.

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Study finds that inflexible partners block female academics from international collaboration

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Female academics are frequently blocked from international work, and the problem isn't children, study finds.

How to Find a Job in the First Trimester of Pregnancy (essay)

Mieke Beth Thomeer gives tips for surviving long airplane flights, campus interviews and dinners with wine.

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Berkeley Criticized for Response to Harassment

When news of the Geoff Marcy sexual harassment case at the University of California at Berkeley broke last week, a number of astronomers across academe asked why the university hadn’t been tougher on him. An investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 determined that Marcy, a professor of astronomy, had violated Berkeley’s sexual harassment policy over a decade, and that he’d allegedly groped, kissed and inappropriately touched a number of students, critics said, so why had the university only given him a firm warning not to repeat the behavior? Now the majority of astronomers at Berkeley are joining those critics. In an open letter to the Berkeley administration, 23 members of the department -- all but a few -- including the chair, asked the university to “reevaluate” its response to Marcy.

“We believe that Geoff Marcy cannot perform the functions of a faculty member,” the letter says. The professors also appear to address some claims that Marcy’s behavior was a kind of open secret among his colleagues. “We regret the harm caused by our faculty, and reject any suggestion that our sympathies should be with the perpetrators of sexual harassment,” they wrote, adding that Berkeley policies led to a lack of communication with the department about the case. “We are committed to developing and maintaining a supportive, open climate in which all members of the department can thrive, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religious faith.”

Marcy did not respond to a request for comment. A Berkeley spokeswoman referred questions to an earlier statement outlining Berkeley’s response to Marcy’s case. "Professor Marcy and the vice provost [for the faculty] entered into an agreement that states he will abide by clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students," reads that statement. "Were he to fail to meet those expectations, the terms of the agreement provide that he would be immediately subject to sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal; such sanctions would be imposed summarily by the vice provost." The university said it took the matter very seriously, and that its consequences for Marcy amounted to "strong action."

The New York Times reported that Berkeley placed Marcy on probation over the summer, but eventually opted to put him on a tight leash instead of pursuing dismissal proceedings -- the outcome of which would be "uncertain." Marcy reportedly has waived his due process rights, should he be found in violation of the university's sexual harassment policy in the future.

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Is Consensus Possible on the Faculty Role?

Research from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California suggests that better support for non-tenure-track faculty members leads to better student outcomes. The project also has urged a more thoughtful, less-haphazard approach to filling the growing non-tenure-track faculty ranks. But reform has remained largely at a “standstill,” argues a new report from Delphi. Why? Because various groups, from tenured faculty members to administrators to governing board to adjuncts, lack a “shared vision for the future of the faculty.”

With “The Professoriate Reconsidered: A Study of New Faculty Models,” Delphi offers a rough outline of that collective vision, via the results of a survey of some 1,550 faculty members, administrators, accreditors and state-level policy makers. The respondents, about 1,200 of whom were faculty members, weighed in on ideas and priorities such as ideal faculty pathways; contracts; unbundling of faculty roles; promotion, development and evaluation; and flexibility. Delphi found a surprising level of agreement in responses across categories, suggesting there is common ground on which to move forward on reforming the faculty role. “Our findings dispel the pervasive myth that there is a tremendous and impassable gulf between groups’ views about the faculty,” the paper says.

A major theme that emerged was the need to maintain and restore professionalism to the faculty role, such as protecting academic freedom, offering professional development, including faculty members of all kinds in shared governance and working toward equitable pay. Responses from unionized participants did not differ significantly from those of nonunionized respondents. Participants did express practical concerns that about the feasibility of proposals such as creativity contracts, customizing faculty roles, creating more flexible roles and creating consortial hiring agreements.

“The areas of agreement identified in this study can serve as starting points for discussion, providing points of consensus to help move the greater dialogue about the future of the faculty from mere exchange of ideas to the creation of a reality,” Delphi argues.

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Study suggests evidence of gender bias in evaluating evidence of gender bias in STEM

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When it comes to judging evidence of gender bias in the sciences, is gender bias at play? A study involving university faculty members suggests it is.


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