Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 25, 2013

The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to review Pacific Lutheran University's request to that it reconsider a regional board official's recent decision to allow the university's adjunct faculty to vote on forming a union. Pacific Lutheran objected on a number of grounds, including its religious nature. The national NRLB issued a brief statement that said: "The employer’s request for review of the regional director’s decision and direction of election raises substantial issues warranting review solely with respect to the assertion of jurisdiction over the employer and the determination that certain faculty members are not managerial employees." The local Service Employees International Union, with which the adjunct faculty union is affiliated, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

September 24, 2013

Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, has ordered a review of the way the university reports admissions statistics, The Washington Post reported. The review follows an earlier report in the Post that the university has counted as applicants many who never finished their applications. The university's decision to count those partial applications decreased the university's admit rate, suggesting that it is more selective than it would be otherwise. “I believe that we are acting in accordance with the applicable guidelines and in a manner consistent with how other colleges and universities approach this process,” said a statement from Ruscio. “Nevertheless, if there are questions about our policy, we will address them forthrightly and transparently. Our credibility is fundamental to everything that we do.”

The review will focus on which applicants are counted in certain categories. The questions that have been raised are about that decision, not the accuracy of the data overall.

 

September 24, 2013

Providence College administrators have called off a lecture organized by several academic departments by a philosophy professor at Wayne State University who is an advocate of same-sex marriage rights, The New York Times reported. Hugh F. Lena, the provost and senior vice president at Providence, sent out an e-mail announcing that the lecture by John Corvino could not take place. In his e-mail, Lena cited a document created by American Roman Catholic bishops in 2004, "Catholics in Political Life," which questioned the appropriateness of honoring political leaders who take positions that disagree with church teachings. Lena also said that the college requires that "both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally."

On his blog, Corvino questioned the provost's statement. Corvino noted that he was not being given some award but was invited by academic departments to give an academic talk. Further, he noted that the organizers had invited a theology professor at the college to speak immediately after him, explaining the church's views on marriage, and that the professor had accepted the offer. So, Corvino wrote, his appearance complied with the various rules in place. "The provost seems to want to have it both ways: the appearance of a commitment to vigorous academic dialogue, combined with an isolationist approach to disfavored views; in other words, a Catholic identity defined primarily by what it excludes rather than what it includes," Corvino wrote. "Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians. Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that Providence College may soon better reflect that tone."

 

September 24, 2013

Adjuncts at Wright State University reached their first union agreement with the institution last week. The 180-member union of full-time adjuncts is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors.

In an e-mail, Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the AAUP and professor of economics at Wright State, said the contract was notable for its tenure-like job protections, including assurances of due process and continuous employment. It also includes a 2 percent raise and professional development funds, among other benefits. A separate agreement signed alongside the contract guarantees workloads of seven to eight courses annually for full-time adjuncts, depending on their rank.

September 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Tamar Makin of the University of Oxford explains how the brain creates pain in phantom limbs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 24, 2013

The online learning website Khan Academy has begun translating its video lessons into Spanish, a spokeswoman recently confirmed. The site already features portals that link non-native English speakers to video lessons in English, but translating the more than 100,000 practice problems and video lessons into a different language marks a first for the site. The spokeswoman said about 95 percent of the practice problems and about 2,000 video lessons have so far been translated into Spanish, which means Spanish speakers visiting the new site will see some content in English for the time being. Once the old content has been translated, the spokeswoman said the translation team will adapt new content as it is added to the site.

September 24, 2013

Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanian poet who taught creative writing and African literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was among those killed in the terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya. Awoornor was also a Stony Brook alumnus.

September 24, 2013

The State University of New York has toughened admissions requirements for the teacher preparation programs on 17 of its campuses. To enter an undergraduate major or a graduate program, a Graduate Record Examination or equivalent test will now be required, as only some campuses have done in the past. There will also for the first time be a uniform 3.0 grade-point-average requirement (such requirements also varied by campus). The 3.0 would apply to the first two years of college work for undergraduate programs that accept students as juniors, to high school grades for programs that accept freshmen, and to undergraduate work for graduate programs.

September 23, 2013

The Cornell University men's lacrosse team was placed on “temporary suspension” after a hazing incident involving “coerced alcohol consumption by underaged freshmen,” spokesman John J. Carberry said Friday. All fall competitions have been canceled, but the team, which made the sport’s Final Four in last year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, will continue training and practicing “in accordance with sanction guidelines,” according to a university statement. Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, has been outspoken about hazing issues, and in 2011 said the university would eliminate pledging in its Greek system in hopes of ending the practice. 

September 23, 2013

Adam Ackley says he is in danger of losing his job as a professor of systematic theology at Azusa Pacific University for identifying himself as a man, and telling administrators that he is transgender, ABC 7 News reported. The Christian university had known him as a woman for the 15 years he has taught there. The university released this statement to ABC 7: "University leadership is engaged in thoughtful conversations with our faculty member in order to honor the contribution and treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university. It is an ongoing conversation, and therefore, a confidential matter."

Students have organized a petition that says the treatment of Ackley has raised concerns for many others. "Adam Ackley, a beloved theology professor of 15 years, was 'asked to step down' from his position as a professor at Azusa Pacific University due to his recent openness about his identity as a transgender man," the petition says. "This event has sparked fear and anger within the LGBTQ and Ally community of APU. We stand in solidarity with Adam, and strive to create a safer environment for students and faculty who have been marginalized by APU's conservative policies, as well as those who have been victims of spiritual violence on campus."

 

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