Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 10, 2018

"One Man's Vulgarity" is the name of a report being issued today by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on censorship of art on campus. The report documents numerous cases and urges those concerned with free expression in higher education to protect artistic freedom in higher education. "The artwork described here expresses a multitude of ideological viewpoints and depicts subjects ranging from critical illustrations of the Confederate flag to theater productions about Lenny Bruce to posters of beloved television characters. The one thing they all have in common is not the message they send, but the censorship their messages provoked," the report says.

Some of the cases discussed have been covered in Inside Higher Ed, including articles about controversies at Brandeis University, Salem State University and the University of Southern Maine.

July 10, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Ellen Stockstill, assistant professor of English at Penn State Harrisburg, discusses Marvel’s Black Panther in context with African history. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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July 9, 2018

A former professor at Colorado State University faces felony charges after being accused of fabricating a job offer from the University of Minnesota, CBS Denver reported.

Authorities say professor Brian McNaughton fabricated the offer as an attempt to increase his status and salary at CSU, an idea he claimed to get from colleagues who said that former Colorado State professors had successfully done so in the past.

Dan Bush, vice provost for faculty affairs at Colorado State, and Tom Hays, professor at the University of Minnesota, determined that the letter was false through a series of emails obtained by CBS Denver. Hays said he “did not write, nor sign an offer letter to Brian McNaughton during [his] interim term (2014-2015) as Dean of College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.” McNaughton resigned from his position and apologized for his "enormous mistake" in a letter to the dean.

Colorado State investigated the claim that other faculty had fabricated letters but found no evidence of such letters.

McNaughton’s lawyer, Erik Fischer, said that McNaughton returned the raise of $4,000 per year over four years.

July 9, 2018

Two former senior executives of ITT Educational Services Inc., a for-profit university, agreed to settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC announced Friday.

The SEC alleges that Kevin Modany, the former CEO, and Daniel Fitzpatrick, the former CFO, fraudulently concealed the financial condition of ITT from investors. The company settled fraud charges with the SEC for similar behavior in 2015.

Modany and Fitzpatrick are both barred from holding senior positions at public companies for at least five years and must pay fines of $200,000 and $100,000, respectively. They agreed to the settlements without admitting to or denying any wrongdoing.

July 9, 2018

The University of Wyoming's new slogan -- "The world needs more cowboys" -- is drawing criticism from professors who say that it is racist, sexist and counterproductive to recruiting out-of-state students, The Laramie Boomerang reported.

Christine Porter, an associate professor at the university, said that "boy" in the word "cowboy" clearly excludes anyone who doesn't identify as male. She also noted that the university has already made this distinction with its sports teams: the women's teams are referred to as Cowgirls while the men's are Cowboys.

In a survey, Porter asked faculty members to picture a cowboy and describe what the word means to them. Seventy-five percent of those who responded thought first of the Marlboro Man. Some respondents offered new slogan suggestions. Porter's favorite is "the world needs more trailblazers."

Chad Baldwin, director of communications at the university, said that the goal of the campaign was to redefine the word "cowboy" to represent anyone at the university. The slogan is part of a $1.4 million investment to advertise to prospective students in and outside Wyoming. The university paid a Colorado marketing firm $500,000 to develop the campaign.

July 9, 2018

The Middle East Studies Association has sent a letter to Egyptian authorities protesting the detention and arrest in Cairo of Waleed Khalil el-Sayed Salem, a University of Washington Ph.D. student. The association's letter states that Salem was conducting important research at the time on the interaction of judges and lawyers in Egypt. "Mr. Salem is a young scholar, but he has already established a reputation among those who know him for the serious and scholarly nature of his work," the letter said. The Seattle Times reported that Salem's lawyers said he was facing charges of "spreading fake news" and of ties to a terrorist group -- charges they said were false.

The embassy of Egypt did not respond to a request for comment.

A University of Washington spokesman, asked for comment, sent the following via email: "I cannot provide or confirm any information on this individual. However, in a case such as this one, our paramount interest is the safety of any member of our community, whether student, faculty or staff. The university would do everything in its power to contact the appropriate authorities in an effort to advocate for and protect a student. We would, of course, issue a statement if and when we believe it would serve this interest."

July 9, 2018

As accusations grow that U.S. representative Jim Jordan knew and did nothing about alleged sexual abuse of wrestling team members at Ohio State University, President Trump is backing him and calling the allegations part of an effort by "deep state" conspirators who want to bring down the president, The New York Times reports. Jordan, a leading Republican in the House, was a coach at Ohio State at the time of alleged abuse.

“Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington,” Trump said to reporters Thursday. “I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind.”

Jordan continues to deny any knowledge of wrongdoing, even as more former players have come forward with details about the abusive environment they trained in. A Politico story published Thursday reported that the misconduct extended beyond Richard Strauss, the former team doctor currently being investigated by Ohio State for sexual misconduct, to other "male voyeurs" and "gawkers" in Larskin Hall, the Ohio State building that housed athletic teams. Six wrestlers have said Jordan had to have known about the misconduct.

July 9, 2018

The American Historical Association this week launches Where Historians Work, an online tool tracking career outcomes for the more than 8,500 historians who earned their Ph.D.s at U.S. institutions between 2004 and 2014. Where Historians Work is the fullest picture of Ph.D. careers available in any discipline, according to AHA, and signals the association’s “commitment to transparency and breadth in discussions of careers for history Ph.D.s.”

The association says the tool will help “answer long-standing questions about the discipline and prompt new conversations about where historical work happens, what it means to ‘do’ history, and ultimately what it means to be a historian.”

A key finding is that more than two-thirds of history Ph.D.s end up as college and university faculty members, despite declines in academic hiring. The vast majority work at teaching-focused institutions. History Ph.D.s have low rates of unemployment, and those who work outside academe do so across a wide variety of fields. Specialization and degree-granting institution do appear to affect career outcomes, while gender appears to have little to no effect, according to the AHA’s analysis.

The association notes that Where Historians Work focuses on outcomes, not motivations, but that the findings reveal important questions about the “agency” of Ph.D.s. Many history Ph.D.s remain in the cities or regions where they earned their degrees, for example, suggesting location plays a role in educational and career decisions. Where Historians Work is part of a national trend toward increased transparency about Ph.D. employment outcomes.

July 9, 2018

A Charleston, S.C., police advocacy group requested the removal of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas from high school summer reading lists, The Post and Courier reports.

The novel opens with the narrator’s firsthand account of a white police officer shooting and killing a 16-year-old black boy named Khalil. While the book is a work of fiction, the exposition mirrors the real-life shootings of Tamir Rice and Antwon Rose. The Charleston-area Fraternal Order of Police chapter, Tri-County Lodge #3, claims the book is an indoctrination of distrust of police.

In response, Wando High School in Mount Pleasant has kept the book on college preparatory lists but added four more options.

The book is also assigned summer reading for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston. At least one parent has voiced opposition to the book, calling it "heavy duty indoctrination with dire consequences" in a letter to the editor to The Post and Courier.

Sara Peck, an English teacher at the University School of the Lowcountry, has taught the book before and came to the book’s defense.

"Maybe [the Fraternal Order of Police] could spend less time censoring books and more time teaching empathy among themselves -- or how to not kill black people," Peck said to the Post and Courier. "It seems there could be a better use of their time."

July 9, 2018

A professor of political science at St. Cloud State University sued the institution and its faculty union Friday, arguing that forcing her to pay union fees violates her First Amendment rights in light of a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Star Tribune reported. The professor, Kathleen Uradnik, is a not a member of the union but pays it fees and agrees to its exclusive representation as terms of her employment on campus.

Uradnik is seeking a court order declaring that forcing her to submit to exclusive representation by the union violates her rights, as well as a judgment against discrimination toward nonunion instructors. The recent Supreme Court decision on unions, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, held that public employees do not have to pay unions agency fees if they don’t want to. But it did not go so far as to call into question a federal law on exclusive representation. Uradnik’s case argues that union membership is essential to advancement and taking part in meaningful shared governance on her campus, and that it no longer should be. A university spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

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