Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 11, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Alyssa Crittenden, an anthropologist at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, compares the bacteria living inside an indigenous African tribe with that of an urban dwelling control group to study the differences. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


August 8, 2014

Updates and new developments on tensions on American campuses over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  • Julio Pino, a historian at Kent State University, has published an open letter to "academic friends of Israel" in which he holds them responsible for recent deaths in Gaza. "I curse you more than the Israelis, for while The Chosen drain the blood of innocents without apologies you hide behind the mask of academic objectivity, nobility of research and the reward of teaching to foreign youth -- in a segregated university, of course. Lest you think this is a personal attack I swear it applies equally to all who engage in collaboration with fascism, and we both know the fate of collaborators. In the same manner, only with more zeal, than you have sworn to the Jewish State I pledge to you, and every friend and stooge of Zionism, Hasta la victoria siempre! Jihad until victory!" Kent State issued a statement condemning the letter. "We condemn the professor’s statement as reprehensible and irresponsible," the university statement says. "At Kent State, we value collegiality and mutual respect. Assailing the public with broad statements of culpability violates these principles."
  • The Joint Council of United Auto Workers 2865, which represents teaching assistants and other student workers at University of California campuses, has announced plans to take a membership vote on backing the boycott of Israel. A statement issued by the council endorses the boycott and calls the "situation in Palestine one of settler-colonialism," and states that Israel "enforces an apartheid system." The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a letter denouncing the UAW's action. "As Israel now defends herself and fights for her life in the face of thousands of incoming rockets -- something that ANY democratic nation would do -- the very UC tutors and assistants that thousands of Jewish and pro-Israel students rely upon daily now prepare to export their incendiary anti-Semitism to every UC campus," says the letter.
  • The American Association of University Professors has issued a statement on the decision of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to block the hiring of Steven Salaita to teach in the American Indian studies program, apparently because of his anti-Israel tweets. The statement says that "there is good reason to fear that Professor Salaita's academic freedom and possibly that of the Illinois faculty members who recommended hiring him have been violated." Further, the statement says that Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP, is not speaking for the organization when he has defended the decision made not to hire Salaita.
  • More than 9,000 people have signed a petition to the University of Illinois demanding that it hire Salaita.


August 8, 2014

The University of Colorado at Boulder has moved to fire a tenured philosophy professor, David Barnett, saying that he retaliated against a graduate student who reported that another graduate student had sexually assaulted her, The Daily Camera reported. The victim accused Barnett of preparing a report that depicted her as "sexually promiscuous," and saying that she made up the allegations. The Boulder philosophy department has been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism over its treatment of women. Barnett declined to comment, but his lawyer said he would fight the dismissal. "Every male member of the CU philosophy department already has had his reputation damaged as a result of the administration's selective release of information," the lawyer said. "Now, even though professor Barnett is not accused of harassing anyone, the administration is attempting to make him the scapegoat." (Note: This story has been updated from a previous version to reflect that the graduate student, not the university, has publicly accused Barnett of preparing a report that was damaging to her reputation.)

August 8, 2014

Adjunct union organizers at the University of LaVerne, outside Los Angeles, have pulled their petition for a union election from the National Labor Relations Board. The election took place in February but ballot-counting was on hold for several months, as the board considered numerous unfair labor practice claims filed by the Service Employees International Union.

The NLRB dismissed those claims last week. But organizers decided that ballot-counting should not go forward, saying that administrative interference in the election process could not have made for a fair election. Organizers said they would most likely file for another election again in the future.

Alisha Rosas, university spokeswoman, said via email that LaVerne had “consistently stressed the importance of counting the ballots so that our adjuncts’ voices can be heard. Unfortunately, because of the union’s efforts, that will never occur. In deciding to withdraw, we can only assume that the union believed that it would lose the election if the ballots were counted.”

August 8, 2014

Iowa State University will no longer hold the Veishea student festival each spring, President Steven Leath announced Thursday. Veishea is a mix of officially sponsored parties and events, and unofficial events that in many years have turned into riots featuring significant numbers of arrests, injuries and property damage. Leath acted based on the recommendations of a task force he appointed to consider what to do about the event.

"I understand that it is very sad and disappointing to see this 92-year tradition come to an end, and there may be some who are upset with this decision, but I am not going to continue to put students at risk so that we can preserve what, to many, has become a weeklong party,” Leath said at a news conference. “I will not be the president who has to call a student’s parents in the middle of the night to say your child has been critically injured in another Veishea-related disturbance.”

August 8, 2014

The Montana senator accused of plagiarizing his final paper for his master's degree has ended his election campaign. John Walsh, a Democrat who was appointed by departing Sen. Max Baucus, and who was running for a full term this fall, came under fire last month after The New York Times reported he had apparently plagiarized large portions of his final paper at the U.S. Army War College. National Democrats initially supported Walsh, who attributed the flap in part to post-traumatic stress disorder from a deployment to Iraq with the National Guard. But public sentiment against the senator, including from Montana veterans, continued to grow. On Thursday, Walsh released a statement to supporters, reported by the Billings Gazette, saying "I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator." Walsh will serve out the rest of his current term, through 2015.

August 8, 2014

Pasadena City College announced Thursday that Mark W. Rocha will be quitting as president at the end of the month, The Los Angeles Times reported. Rocha said in a statement that he wanted to spend more time with his family, and to return to teaching and research. His tenure at Pasadena has been controversial. Faculty members have said that he has left them out of key decisions. Faculty leaders have voted no confidence in him twice and were thinking about a third vote.

August 8, 2014

A vocational college in Gaza is reporting widespread damage to its facilities as a result of the war with Israel, Al-Fanar Media reported. An administrative deputy for the University College of Applied Sciences, Mahmoud Hamid, said the shelling appeared to directly target college buildings. The central administrative building was reportedly destroyed, as was a conference hall and some laboratories and classrooms. The Israeli Defense Forces could not immediately be reached for comment.

August 8, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Michelle Hersh, an assistant professor of biology at Sarah Lawrence College, discusses the unlikely relationship between ticks and white-footed mice. Though these ticks carry Lyme disease, the population of white-footed mice appears to be unharmed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.




August 7, 2014

The Illinois conference of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Wednesday about the way the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign backed away from hiring Steven Salaita, who had been expected to take up a position in the American Indian studies program this month. Salaita had been offered the position, pending board approval, typically a formality, and the university told him recently that his appointment would not go forward, reportedly because of concerns about his comments on Twitter and elsewhere about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics have said that the comments suggest a lack of civility, while his defenders say he is being punished for outspoken support of Palestinians.

"Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East," the Illinois AAUP statement says. "Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement. Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America."

The statement adds: "What one says out of class rarely, in the absence of peer review of teaching, confirms how one teaches. Passion about a topic even if emotionally expressed through social network does not allow one to draw inferences about teaching that could possibly rise to the voiding or reversal of a job appointment."

The university has said it will not comment on the situation.




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