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Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 4:21am

Simmons College is facing criticism for announcing a shift in its M.B.A. program -- heralded as a rare business program designed for women -- to online only. “The Simmons M.B.A. was launched 40 years ago at a time when women were not welcomed in M.B.A. programs. Today, women are recruited aggressively for the M.B.A. wherever it is offered,” said a statement from the college announcing the shift. “An ongoing challenge for businesswomen is their very busy schedules, which require balancing many demands and can complicate their ability to travel to a campus to complete their degree.”

A Boston Globe editorial noted that college officials reported that declining enrollments made the in-person program financially unsustainable. The editorial also noted that many alumnae are upset by the change and believe their degree is being devalued. Under the hashtag #SimmonsMBA, many alumnae are voicing criticisms on Twitter, such as “failure of vision, failure to lead” or saying that the on-campus experience with professors and fellow students was the crucial part of the program.

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Some six months after one racist incident on campus, Bucknell University is dealing with another -- this time directed at a faculty member. President John Bravman said in a statement to faculty, students and staff this week that a “message containing racist, hateful language was found written on a whiteboard hanging on a faculty colleague’s office door,” and that the university is “doing all that we can to try to identify the individual(s) responsible for this disgusting display of intolerance.” Details, including the name of the targeted professor, have not been released.

This week’s incident comes a semester after three students were expelled for using racial slurs and making threats during a student radio station broadcast. Bravman said in his note that the “events of last semester made us acutely aware of the discrimination that exists on campus and in society more broadly,” and that everyone at Bucknell “must continue to work in earnest toward confronting those inequities.”

He added, “We cannot allow acts such as this to derail our efforts toward genuine and needed change. To accept anything less than a safe, inclusive community for all is to fail. I urge you to continue this fight for yourselves, for our colleagues and for our students.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 3:00am

A regional National Labor Relations Board office said Wednesday that adjuncts at Manhattan College may count their union election votes. The ballots have been impounded since 2011, when the Roman Catholic college objected to NLRB jurisdiction over its campus, citing its religious affiliation. The case was pending before the NLRB in Washington until earlier this year, when the board sent the Manhattan adjunct union case and a handful of others involving would-be adjunct unions at religious colleges back to their regional NLRB offices for re-evaluation based on the recent Pacific Lutheran University decision. In that case, the NLRB said that adjuncts who wanted to form a Service Employees International Union-affiliated collective bargaining unit could do so, because their service to the institution was not sufficiently religious in nature to conflict with the National Labor Relations Act giving workers the right to organize.

The Pacific Lutheran decision included criteria by which other adjunct union bids at religious colleges were to be assessed. In her decision regarding Manhattan, Karen P. Fernbach, director of the NLRB’s regional office in New York, said the college “failed to establish that it holds out the petitioned-for adjunct faculty members as performing a specific role in maintaining” its religious educational environment. For example, she said, the college's faculty application materials say there is “no intention on the part of the [governing] board, the administration or the faculty to impose church affiliation and religious observance as a condition for hiring or admission, to set quotas based on religious affiliation, to require loyalty oaths, attendance at religious services, or courses in Catholic theology."

The proposed Manhattan adjunct union is affiliated with New York State United Teachers, which is in turn affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Paul E. Dinter, a visiting professor of religious studies, said that as "an educator, a Catholic and a social justice advocate, I have to be pleased that the NLRB decision supports the clear Catholic moral teaching that workers have a right to organize. All of us who love Manhattan College and its social justice mission are heartened by this fair and long-delayed decision.”

In a statement, Brennan O'Donnell, Manhattan's president, said, “We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling. We continue to assert our position that the NLRB does not have the right to define what constitutes the Catholic identity and mission of the college.” Manhattan has the option to appeal the ruling. The college said in a statement that it's considering how it will respond.

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Nearly 700 faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have signed a letter to the editor of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opposing a proposed state law that would bar the use of fetal tissue in research in the state. Wisconsin is one of a number of states where anti-abortion politicians have responded to the recent videos of Planned Parenthood officials by pushing new measures to limit the sale or use of fetal tissue. Many university researchers, however, use fetal tissue.

"We wonder whether legislators have considered the ethical implications of denying current and future patients the benefits of the research that would be blocked by this legislation," the letter says. "The cell lines derived from fetal tissue are commonly used for research in laboratories worldwide. Other tissues and cells, such as those derived from miscarriages, cannot be substituted for this research, despite the claims of the proponents of this ban."

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Knewton on Wednesday opened its doors to what the company called the "world’s first and only open adaptive learning platform," making its technology broadly available to instructors and students. The adaptive learning company has grown its business by lending its technology to publishers and educational-technology companies, but the new platform signals a more direct-to-consumer approach. In a press release, Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira described the platform as a "friendly robot-tutor in the sky" that will help instructors and students create personalized supplemental learning plans.

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Donna Decker, professor of English at Franklin Pierce University, analyzes the importance of personal interviews. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 4:24am

Layoffs at La Salle University recently ended the jobs of 23 people, or about 3 percent of the workforce, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The layoffs followed a significant decline in the number of freshmen, which is currently projected to be 725, down 16 percent from the class of a year ago, which was 860. University leaders said they are planning changes to bolster La Salle, which currently has a $12 million budget shortfall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 3:00am

There is a crisis in Russian studies within social science disciplines, according to a new report on the state of Russian studies in the U.S. commissioned by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies.

A survey of 36 universities that provide graduate-level training in Russian studies found that these institutions together employ a total of 50 tenure-line political scientists with Russia-related expertise and collectively award an average of seven political science Ph.D.s per year to Russian specialists. The report, which also includes insights from a survey of about 660 Russia-related experts, notes that political science has historically been the social science field with the largest concentration of Russian specialists.

“Eighty percent of the social scientists in our individual survey sample agree that interest in Russia among Ph.D. students in their field has fallen in recent years,” the report says. “Even top programs with long-term reputations for excellence in Russia-related social science, such as Berkeley and Harvard, have seen the number of their Russian specialists in political science dwindle. The movement within political science away from devoting faculty lines to area specialists in general and Russia specialists in particular threatens to vitiate the ranks of social scientists studying Russia in the medium to long term as current generations of political science faculty who work on Russia retire and are not replaced by other Russia specialists.”

The report finds that coverage of Russia is even weaker in anthropology, economics, geography and sociology, for which the 36 surveyed institutions have collectively awarded a total of 26 Ph.D.s for Russia-related work since 2010. Of those 26, 15 were in anthropology.

Meanwhile, the report notes that humanists studying Slavic literature and culture or Russian history face “declines in job opportunities” and “shortfalls" in graduate student funding.

Another trend highlighted in the 93-page report, authored by Theodore P. Gerber, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is the decline in federal government funding for Russia-related research and graduate training. The report specifically mentions the elimination of the Title VIII grant program that pays for research and language training in Eastern Europe and Eurasia (recently restored, but at half its former funding level) and the relatively poor performance of Russia-related centers in the most recent competition for Title VI grants, which funds area studies centers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Rutgers University is investigating whether its head football coach violated National Collegiate Athletic Association or other rules by sending email to a professor about the status of a player who faces possible academic ineligibility, NJ Advance Media reported. The New Jersey news site, citing anonymous sources, said that Coach Kyle Flood sent an email from his personal account to an instructor in Rutgers's arts school about the status of Nadir Barnwell, a junior on the team. Coaches are generally discouraged from having direct interaction with faculty members, out of fear that such contact can intimidate the professors.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 4:28am

John Montalbano has stepped down temporarily as board chair of the University of British Columbia amid an investigation into allegations that he violated a professor's academic freedom, The Globe and Mail reported. Montalbano remains on the board itself, but stepped down as chair because he “wants to ensure the integrity of the process is not hindered by his performing the duties of chair,” said a statement from the board. Montalbano is accused of calling a professor and criticizing her -- and telling her he had spoken to her dean -- about a blog post she wrote about the recent and unexplained departure of UBC's president. Faculty leaders said that it was highly inappropriate to make such a call. The university has launched an investigation into the incident.


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