Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 15, 2014

James Kilgore, who is on the verge of losing an adjunct position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, got the chance Wednesday to speak directly to the university's board about his controversial past. Kilgore has been receiving good reviews, and every indication that he could return, but that changed after publicity over his past (about which he privately had informed the university when he was hired) with the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the jail time he served as a result. In his remarks, he spoke of the need for adjuncts to have job security and transparent evaluation systems, and he urged board members not to write people off because of a criminal past.

Kilgore also addressed his own role with a violent group. "As a young man I committed acts of which I stand ashamed, acts which were not only illegal, but utterly destructive to innocent members of the community and damaging to my family, loved ones and all those who campaigned for social justice and peace. For more than three decades I have attempted to move beyond those acts, to chart a different road, working through non- violent means as an educator in the cause of social justice," he said. He added that like "many people who have traveled errant pathways, have learned lessons which are important for young people to know. Who better to tell someone how to avoid a destructive path than someone who has walked that path? And what better place for young people to learn these lessons than in the most esteemed universities in the land, like the University of Illinois?"

Kilgore's reappointment is currently under review by administrators.


May 15, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, discusses complex mathematical algorithms. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


May 15, 2014

Robert Buckingham was fired as dean of the public health school -- and banned from campus -- at the University of Saskatchewan this week because he spoke out publicly against a controversial reorganization plan, CBC News reported. A statement from the university provost did not dispute the reason for the dismissal, saying: "It is not open to anyone to wear the hat of a leader and a non-leader simultaneously." The specific act that got him fired was releasing a statement called "The Silence of the Deans" that explored the many reasons to oppose the university administration's plans, and suggested more people should be speaking out.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a statement backing Buckingham: "The outrageous firing of the University of Saskatchewan dean undermines the very basis of the university. What the president of the University of Saskatchewan has done is an embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and it is an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada. It’s inexcusable. Buckingham should be reinstated immediately and U. of S. President Ilene Busch-Vishniac should issue a public apology. The Canadian Association of University Teachers, along with our member association, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association, are going to do everything possible to see that this injustice is remedied."

May 15, 2014

Adjunct professors at Mills College voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, they announced Wednesday. Adjuncts make up 64 percent of the faculty at Mills, the union says, and 78 percent of voters approved of the union bid. "Forming a union will give adjuncts at Mills the ability to advocate for students, education and ourselves," David Buuck, adjunct professor of English, said in a statement. "We will all benefit from a supported and empowered faculty at all levels, and Mills will be able to maintain its standards of academic excellence as well as live up to its social justice mission."

Mills adjuncts are the first in the San Francisco region to vote to affiliate with SEIU, but the union is organizing on other campuses in that city, and in metro areas across the country, as part of its Adjunct Action campaign. A vote count for adjuncts at San Francisco Art Institute is planned for later in the month.

A spokeswoman for Mills did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

May 15, 2014

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds changes in the brains of college football players -- with and without a history of a concussion, Reuters reported. Compared to men who did not play college football, football players had smaller hippocampuses, a part of the brain critical to memory. Researchers said that the findings could be significant because these changes were found for those finishing college. Many other studies on the impact of football on the brain have examined long-term professional players, while the new study suggests the potential for real damage before a player leaves college.


May 15, 2014

Mary-Faith Cerasoli, a New-York area adjunct professor of Spanish and Italian, visited the hospital Wednesday after a five-day hunger strike outside of Nassau Community College. Cerasoli, who taught at Nassau this year, said she was protesting unfair working conditions for adjunct faculty there, including a recent proposal – never voted on – by the Board of Trustees to fire those adjuncts who went on strike in September over union contract negotiations. Cerasoli also says she wants New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to respond to her call to help improve working conditions for adjuncts. Declared healthy by a doctor, she is continuing her strike.

“Institutions of higher education provide working conditions that starve many contingent faculty of their livelihoods,” Cerasoli said in a statement, “so I felt a hunger strike was exactly the right way to highlight the problem, particularly at Nassau, a college that just recently retaliated against adjunct faculty who took a stand against exploitation by striking earlier this year.”

In March, Cerasoli gained national media attention when she protested outside New York State’s Department of Education wearing a vest saying “Homeless Prof.” Racked with student loan debt, she does not have a home and at times lives out of her car. Cerasoli said she has appealed to Cuomo to help adjuncts, but she has not heard back.

Cerasoli’s supporters have taken to Twitter under #hungryhomelessprof. The hashtag is similar to one that was created last year memorializing Margaret Mary Vojtko, an elderly adjunct professor of French who died alone and homeless after working for many years at Duquesne University. A Facebook page dedicated to the strike encourages adjunct supporters to show solidarity with Cerasoli by skipping a meal and by other means.

Cerasoli, who has a thyroid condition, is drinking only water and sleeping in her car during the strike.

Nassau Community College officials did not respond to a request for comment. Cuomo's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Charles Loiacono, president of the Nassau Community College’s Adjunct Faculty Association, an independent union, said Cerasoli’s “plight is a disgrace to academe. She is a victim of the shameful treatment adjuncts receive throughout the system.”

May 15, 2014
The Modern Language Association announced this week a new way of organizing disciplines and information. Dozens of new "forum" categories replace current divisions and discussion groups, in an attempt to simplify, democratize and update areas of study within the organization, MLA leaders say. Starting in 2016, the forums also represent guaranteed sessions at MLA's annual conference. MLA has published a "Frequently Asked Questions" page to assist members with the change, and is currently recruiting executive committee members for each forum. Some forums have been merged, split or reconfigured from former divisions and discussion groups, and many are new. Examples of new forums include Latina and Latino; African Diasporic; Modern and Contemporary Chinese; Korean; Global Arab and Arab American; and American Sign Language. The discipline review was MLA's first in 40 years. MLA says the new structure was guided by a commitment to languages and their histories; the protection of small fields; an attempt to minimize hierarchies among fields; a desire to lessen the divide between English and foreign languages; and recognition of emergent areas of study.


May 14, 2014

Last fall, the author of The Exorcist contacted the Vatican, alleging that Georgetown University – his alma mater and the backdrop for his book and subsequent film of the same name – wasn’t Roman Catholic enough. And it appears his prayers have been answered, the National Catholic Register and Washington Post reported. Archbishop Angelo Zani, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic education, reportedly wrote to William Peter Blatty that his canonical petition against the university constituted “a well-founded complaint.” Zani also reportedly wrote that “Our Congregation is taking the issue seriously, and is cooperating with the Society of Jesus in this regard.”

Blatty collected 2,000 names on his petition, which asked the Vatican to “require that Georgetown implement Ex corde Ecclesiae, a papal constitution governing Catholic colleges.” If that failed, the petition said, the Vatican should strip Georgetown of its right to call itself Catholic or Jesuit. Blatty criticized the university for once inviting Kathleen Sebelius, former Health and Human Services Secretary and a supporter of abortion rights, to speak on campus, and said neither Georgetown’s faculty nor its students were exemplary of the faith.

Via email, Rachel Pugh, Georgetown spokeswoman, said that the university has received no formal correspondence from the Vatican regarding the petition, and that Georgetown's Catholic identity "has never been stronger."

May 14, 2014

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about strategies for the new economic realities that colleges and universities have faced since the economic downturn started in 2008. Articles include a range of strategies being used at private and public colleges, four-year and two-year institutions. The articles and essays reflect key discussions about pedagogy, technology and the role of faculty members. Download the booklet here.

This booklet is part of a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Wednesday June 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles. To register for the webinar, please click here.



May 14, 2014

The hits keep on coming for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

USA Today reported that three U.S. senators had written NCAA President Mark Emmert expressing concern about "exploitation" of college athletes and seeking a wide range of documents related to the association's business practices. Among them, the newspaper reported, were copies of all of the association's broadcast contracts and copies of all lawsuits and settlements with athletes since 2012.

Also Tuesday, CBS Sports reported that the NCAA had not processed any major Division I infractions cases since last November, the longest such stretch it has gone since the late 1990s. The article, which includes a thorough analysis of discussions about reforming the NCAA's investigative procedures, notes that the enforcement enterprise has gone dark in the wake of the blow that the association's credibility suffered in the wake of its botched investigation of the University of Miami.


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