The American Academy of Arts & Sciences made its case for the humanities in high-profile report last year called “The Heart of the Matter.” In the year since, the academy says its Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences has heard consistent requests from college and university personnel and others for more accessible data on the topic. So the academy on Thursday unveiled three new or updated data troves in which decision makers and others interested in the humanities can find facts and figures to continue the national conversation.
HumanitiesIndicators.org was redesigned to provide clearer and more direct access to data about the state of humanities, such as degree completion rates. A new report, called the State of Funding in the Humanities: Funding 2014, is a compilation of the most recent data on funding for the humanities compared to other disciplines. The report says that humanities funding is still below pre-recession levels and makes up less than 1 percent of research and development funding for science and engineering (combined). National Endowment for the Humanities funding is was down to $146 million in 2014, compared to a peak of nearly $400 million in 1980, and Ph.D. students in the humanities who are not supported by any kind of grant rose slightly from 2009-2012, the report says. A third resource, call The Data Forum, invites experts to comment on and critique the data.
Several hundred political scientists have signed a petition urging the American Political Science Association to change the traditional time for its annual meeting: Labor Day weekend. The petition notes that this time is difficult for some political scientists because their courses are just starting, and that the schedule is "family unfriendly" for parents helping their children get started at their schools and colleges. The petition also questions whether this time is particularly helpful to those academic departments doing job interviews. The petition proposes a mid-October meeting time instead. Steven Rathgeb Smith, executive director of the association, said via email: "We are indeed closely following the petition drive. We welcome member input and will seriously consider this member feedback in the coming weeks."
Syracuse University has fired a tenured male professor for a consensual relationship with a female undergraduate, The Post-Standard reported. The university did not identify the professor, but said that, in violation of university policy, he taught, advised and supervised the student during the relationship. The professor was fired on the recommendation of a faculty review panel.
Forget control of Congress and the World Cup. FiveThirtyEight, the new Nate Silver blog, is finally tackling a truly important issue, with a poll of Americans on the Oxford comma. The blog found that 57 percent of Americans favor the comma, while 43 percent oppose it. The poll also asked respondents to evaluate their own grammar. Proponents of the comma tended to rate their grammar as excellent or very good, while those who rated their grammar as fair were more likely to oppose the comma.
The Faculty Association at Pensacola State College in Florida has rejected a contract deal in part because course load and overage concerns, the Pensacola News-Journal reported. Paige Anderson, an English instructor who is president of the American Federation of Teachers- and National Education Association-affiliated faculty union, said the proposed contract would have been punitive to the college's vocational, clinical health occupations and collegiate high school faculty. Anderson said the contract called for the elimination of overload for those faculty and a renegotiation of course load "points," so that those instructors would have had to teach 4.5 additional hours per week, to 22.5 hours. The rest of the faculty would have been unaffected, with a 15-credit course load per semester. But Anderson said the move was a show of solidarity for the minority group of affected faculty members and concern over the college's ability to retain and attract health professions faculty, including nurses, under those terms. Anderson said state funding for the affected fields was lower than for other disciplines, and the college was attempting to compensate on the backs of the faculty.
A university spokeswoman said via email that a change in load points would not added hours to the faculty work week, but rather would have shifted hours between teaching, office and "other professional activity hours."
“The college will return to the bargaining table and continue to negotiate in good faith,” President Edward Meadows said in a statement, “and the college will remain focused on fulfilling our mission of providing access to high-quality education.”
Most publishers keep secret the prices on journal "bundles" (packages including many journals) purchased by college and university libraries. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (abstract available here) finds that there are many inconsistencies in the pricing plans. The authors of the study used open records requests to obtain contracts from many universities (and simply requested other contracts). As the research was described in Science, some academic libraries are paying much more than others. For instance, the study found that in 2009, the University of Michigan paid Elsevier $2.16 million for the same bundle of journals purchased by similarly sized University of Wisconsin at Madison for $1.22 million. Publishers and others cautioned that there may be reasons that aren't apparent for such discrepancies.