George Mason Students Sue for Donor Agreements

Transparent GMU, a group of George Mason University students, is suing the institution to obtain grant and gift agreements between private donors and the George Mason University Foundation. They’re concerned about the university’s ties to the Charles Koch Foundation, which has donated heavily to their campus and whose previous donation to Florida State University raised concerns about influence over hiring and curriculum decisions. Transparent GMU filed a public records request for copies of relevant agreements, but the university claimed those documents fall outside the scope of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

“We believe the public has a right to know the details of our university’s operations, including its relationship with private donors,” student Gus Thomson said in a statement. The foundation “is doing work for our public school, so it should be held to the same disclosure standards as the university itself.”

Evan Johns, the students’ attorney, said the law “simply does not allow a public university to conceal its records by outsourcing its public business to a private company.”

Michael Sandler, university spokesperson, said via email that gifts come through the institution's foundation, a nonprofit organization "exempt from Virginia public records laws. Donors have the right to request anonymity. And the university and foundation have a responsibility to respect the privacy of those donors. The state recognizes this. If not for the support of private gifts, many of our students would not have the opportunity of higher education. And many of our researchers wouldn’t be able to pursue their work without that support, either.”

UnKoch My Campus, a group fighting donor influence in academe, has previously argued that a gift, according to federal tax regulations, is defined as an “irrevocable donation made without expectation of exchange for anything of significant commercial value.” Yet a 2016 donation from the Koch foundation, related to renaming George Mason’s law school after late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, says that if the institution doesn’t live up to various provisions, the Koch foundation can end the agreement and demand the return of all unexpended funds.

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Journal Retracts 8 Articles by Maryland Researcher

A professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine lost his research privileges there after eight of his scientific journal articles were retracted for incomplete or unreliable information, The Baltimore Sun reported.

In January, six of Anil Jaiswal’s articles were retracted from the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The other two were retracted in 2014.

Jaiswal, a professor of pharmacology, did not respond to requests for comment from the Sun or from Inside Higher Ed.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore, had investigated the accuracy of Jaiswal’s articles, which led to some of the retractions. Each article is accompanied by a retraction statement.

"This article has been retracted by the publisher," one of the retractions says, according to the Sun. "An investigation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, determined that the data shown in Fig. 2A are unreliable and do not support the hypothesis of this work."

Another retraction states that figures in the article were digitally altered. A third says the data from the paper do not align with the author’s conclusion.

University officials did not go into detail about the investigation, but they did confirm it. In a statement the college said Jaiswal, who had been a professor there for almost 10 years, was “transitioning out of research.”

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Professor Resigns Amid Cheating Allegations

An instructor at Galveston College in Texas resigned last week after a student claimed the instructor was trying to help him cheat on upcoming tests, Click2Houston.com reported.

Robert Shields, director of the electrical and electronics technology program at the community college, sent the student copies of tests and correct answers to those tests, the student said.

W. Myles Shelton, president of Galveston College, called the situation “very troubling” and said Shields resigned voluntarily.

The student, Josh Araujo, informed multiple people at the college that Shields had sent him test answers. “I just don’t think he was meant to be a teacher,” Araujo told Click2Houston.com. Araujo also said the instructor was disorganized and appeared unfamiliar with some of the material he was teaching.

Araujo was taking a three-semester course from Shields, which ultimately would have provided him with a necessary certification to continue in the construction industry. He said he had spent about $3,600 on the course, and neither he nor the president of the college could say whether Araujo would be refunded.

Administrators don’t yet know if other students received the test questions and answers.

Shields did not respond to requests for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

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How academic funding is racialized (essay)

The well-substantiated racial differences in research support are yet another hurdle that scholars of color face -- one that sets many of us behind, argues Victor Ray.

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Editors discuss new volume on the many fictional portrayals of higher education

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Editors discuss their new essay collection on the portrayal of colleges, students and academics -- across genres and eras.

Grad Assistants at Loyola Chicago Unionize

Graduate student assistants at Loyola University at Chicago voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Tuesday. A total of 120 out of 210 eligible graduate assistants voted, with 71 voting for the union and 49 voting against it. Graduate students at Columbia University also have voted to form a union since the National Labor Relations Board ruled they could do so in a major decision in August; the ruling reversed past legal precedent against graduate student unions on private campuses. Columbia has said it’s challenging the election, and a similar vote at Harvard University proved inconclusive. Graduate workers at Duke University are currently holding a union election.

Funding has been a “critical issue” for graduate student employees at Loyola, where the average yearly salary is $18,000, according to information from SEIU. “With this vote, we’ve leveled the playing field for all Loyola graduate student workers,” Liz DiStefano, a graduate assistant in social psychology, said in a statement. “Together, we will negotiate better pay and decent health care so we can focus on our students and our studies without the distractions of struggling to buy groceries and pay rent.”

John Pelissero, Loyola’s provost, said in a statement that while the university is “disappointed with the result, we will work through the NLRB's processes and procedures to bargain a contract for the represented graduate assistants.”

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Second Vote of No Confidence in U Alaska President

Faculty members at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks voted no confidence in the president of the statewide university system, roughly 2-1, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The Faculty Senate at the system’s Anchorage campus also voted no confidence in the president, Jim Johnsen, last month. Reasons for both motions center on a system reorganization based on budgetary concerns, with faculty members saying they’ve had little to no say in the process. Robbie Graham, system spokesperson, said that Johnsen and the state’s Board of Regents “understand that change is necessary, that change makes people uncomfortable and not everyone will be happy with the outcome.”

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Advice for making a successful midcareer move (essay)

For academics wondering how to best approach the job market further along in their career, Jennifer Lundquist and Joya Misra offer some advice.

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The negative impact of the executive immigration order on foreign scholars (essay)

As I type this, my eyes flicker over my smartphone, anxiously looking for a text to show that a scholar we once helped has been allowed back into the United States after brief trip abroad. He has lived and worked here 10 years and raised a beautiful family. His three children are American citizens. His crime back home in Syria was peacefully fighting for democracy and human rights, work he has continued in this country.

His alleged offense here? He comes from there.

Airports around the country and around the world have been unnecessarily thrown into chaos and confusion in recent weeks as a result of an executive order by the Trump administration to bar travel to the United States from nationals of seven predominantly Muslim nations. Immediately after the order, senior citizens, solo travelers and parents with children were all delayed, turned back and, in some cases, detained -- but not because of who they are or what they have done. On the contrary -- it was because of where they come from and how they might pray.

Although partial clarifications from the administration regarding green card holders and some dual nationals, and subsequent court orders, have at least temporarily mitigated some of the order’s negative impacts, grave and lasting damage has already been done. The “gotcha” imposition of the blanket bans on entry, and even on re-entry for those who were here and showed themselves to pose no threat, expose the administration’s predisposition to paint with a broad brush. As a result, even if the legal challenges ultimately reverse the order in its entirety, all immigrants, refugees and visa holders will be forced to live with uncertainty and doubt about their future prospects in the United States.

Among those most affected have been many scholars and students at American colleges and universities, including some we at Scholars at Risk, an international network of higher education institutions and individuals, have worked to protect: scholars and student leaders who risk everything to stand up to authoritarian states and militant radicals alike.

Stand up for what? For values essential to higher education, values America has traditionally stood for: freedom of thought, inquiry, expression and belief. Scholars at Risk offers them a lifeboat so they can keep fighting for those values in a safe place. This rash executive order threatens to sink that lifeboat.

It imposes hardship on the people caught outside, even while it denies support to those fighting for freedom and democracy in their home countries, often against the very same forces intent on harming the United States.

It also imposes huge costs in time and resources on host campuses, whose staff members and leadership are already going to heroic efforts to help stranded scholars and students get back or otherwise to resume their studies, teaching and research.

It means campuses and industry alike can expect even more extensive delays in processing study, work and visitor visas, and possibly higher rates of denials of requests. The latter not because applicants have done anything inappropriate, but because the executive order suggests that instead of showing the valuable, creative work that they want to do during their time in the United States, scholars and students must somehow prove that they don’t want to do unspecified harmful acts imagined by a fear-infused administration.

Meanwhile those currently in this country will be advised not to leave here unless absolutely necessary. And this is not just for people from the seven countries flagged in the executive order. They are just the first wave, as administration officials have already suggested publicly that additional countries may be added. Already scholars and students in America are canceling field research, exchanges and conference participations, making studying and working here less attractive. But equally it means straining families and agonizing decisions to skip weddings, births, visits to aging parents and funerals. Arbitrarily forcing such decisions through blanket, rash actions -- in the administration’s terms, “ripping off the Band-Aid” -- does not strengthen America. It makes us weaker.

Inevitably the executive order will drive foreign scholars and students who are considering study or work abroad to think more favorably about other, more welcoming places to make their careers, including Great Britain, Europe and even China and the Gulf nations. Already there is talk of scholars abroad skipping annual conferences in the United States and moving major academic projects elsewhere. This risks making American higher education and education-dependent industries less competitive, and that may ultimately cost our nation jobs, let alone incalculable costs to its honor and prestige. Driving foreign scholars and students away isn’t smart and won’t make us safer. Real security comes not from such shortsightedness but from seeing over the horizon.

What should American colleges and universities do now?

  • Keep doing what they do best. Already many institutions have publicly communicated their commitment to core higher education values and their support for students and scholars directly impacted by the executive order -- those caught outside and those inside the United States alike. They should be commended for this, and for their behind-the-scenes efforts to mitigate the harms and cruelties of the executive order. (What if alumni who are proud of their institution’s response sent a check to show their support? Institutions could use the funds to support vulnerable scholars and students hurt by the order.)
  • Redouble efforts to seek, support and tell the truth. The executive order operationalizes fear and a distrust of the procedures and American personnel engaged in vetting visitors, but without any coherent data or analysis in support of those views. Universities, scholars and students have an obligation to gather, share and present data to inform the debate and any future policy adjustments, which may have major effects not only for higher education but also the entire nation. Such efforts should include gathering data and stories on the people affected by the new restrictions, and sharing that information with elected officials, policy makers and the media so that the negative impacts of the order are widely known.
  • Continue to build inclusive dialogue on campuses, in communities and across the nation. Colleges and universities should invite those inside America who are affected by the executive order to tell their stories about the order’s impact on their lives -- to allow their stories and bravery to stand in contrast to the fear and cruelty of the executive order. They should organize conferences and public events to expose those impacts. And they should continue to invite scholars and students from abroad -- especially those from targeted countries and those at risk for their work and for supporting free inquiry and expression -- to work, study, visit and attend conferences and events. Even if their applications are denied, we must insist on the inclusion of such scholars and students in our research and learning communities, even as we expose the arbitrary and shortsighted nature of their exclusion.

Robert Quinn is the executive director of Scholars at Risk, a network of over 450 higher education institutions in 35 countries headquartered at New York University and dedicated to protecting threatened scholars and university communities worldwide. For information on hosting threatened scholars, joining the network or otherwise supporting Scholars at Risk, visit www.scholarsatrisk.org.

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Students protest at Boston University.
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Paper says it is time for publishers to punish tardy journal editors

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Paper argues that those who can't meet deadlines for evaluating submissions should be removed from their positions.


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