Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 3, 2017

American University announced Monday that it will remove a large statue of Leonard Peltier from outside its art museum. Peltier is a Native American activist who was convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in a 1975 incident at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Many Native American activists have long maintained -- backed by groups such as Amnesty International -- that Peltier did not receive a fair trial and was convicted unfairly. Some of those activists have been promoting the statue to draw attention to their campaign to have President Obama grant clemency to Peltier, but law enforcement groups have been criticizing American University for letting the statue be so visible on campus.

In a statement, the university said in part, "The decision to host the Peltier statue required a more thorough assessment of the implications of placing the piece in a prominent, public space outside the museum. With the benefit of a fuller review, we have made a decision to remove the piece from this location. The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken. Further, the nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community."

The artist who created the sculpture goes by the name Rigo 23. He condemned American University's decision in an interview with WUSA 9 News. "My reaction is one of sadness and disbelief," Rigo 23 said. "What the director of the art center told me is the Fox News item unleashed the crazies, and the crazies are threatening the university."

January 3, 2017

Antioch College has announced that it is dealing with budget shortfalls by eliminating five positions and cutting the salaries of 23 senior administrators, The Yellow Springs News reported. The president and four other senior administrators are taking pay cuts of 20 percent, while other administrators will see their salaries cut by 5 percent. Fund-raising at the college, which was revived in 2011 after being shut down, has not met targets. Nor has enrollment. This academic year, only 45 new students enrolled, while the target was more than 80. Total enrollment stands at 220.

January 3, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is today clarifying and adding to its guidelines on comments on articles that appear on the site. The guidelines aim to preserve an open forum for readers to discuss their views on the articles and essays published here, rather than abandoning or severely restricting such conversation as others have done. We strive, though, to promote an environment where those views may be shared and debated in a civil way. The guidelines may be found here.

January 3, 2017

Jobs for economics Ph.D.s -- whether they wish to work in or outside academe -- are plentiful, according to new data from the American Economic Association.

At the end of 2016, the association had recorded 3,673 listings for positions for Ph.D.s in the calendar year. That's up 11.2 percent from 2015. The association gathers Jan. 6 for its annual meeting (this year in conjunction with other social science groups), a key point in the interview process for many faculty searches. Similar meetings of humanities groups in coming weeks are not expected to see similarly healthy job markets.

The AEA's listings do not include every job (faculty or otherwise) for economics Ph.D.s. But association studies of their job listings are generally considered reliable measures of the state of disciplinary job markets.

One key measure of the health of a disciplinary job market is how job listings compared to the number of new Ph.D.s awarded -- and the numbers are quite favorable to economics Ph.D.s. The most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates -- covering Ph.D.s awarded in 2015 -- found that 1,256 doctorates in economics were awarded that year, roughly a third of the open positions this year.

Of the AEA listings, 2,642 are in academe, a 7.5 percent increase. Nonacademic jobs are up 21.2 percent, to 1,031.

The AEA also examines trends in specializations sought by those doing hiring. As has been the case in recent years, mathematical and quantitative methods led in popularity. It was followed by macroeconomics, microeconomics, financial economics and general economics and teaching.

January 3, 2017

The National Labor Relations Board, on a 2-1 vote, ruled Friday that an election on whether adjuncts want to be unionized should proceed at the University of Southern California. The Service Employees International Union is seeking to represent the adjuncts. The university argued that adjuncts are given substantial participation in shared governance, such that they should be considered managerial employees ineligible for unionization. But the regional director's opinion, upheld by the NLRB, said that while adjuncts indeed serve on many committees, they do not control decisions in the ways needed to be considered managers.

William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of City University of New York, said via email of the decision, "The NLRB decision is reflective of the extremely high evidentiary burden institutions face in attempting to have contingent faculty determined to be managerial."

emails out to USC for comment -sj

January 3, 2017

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has charged an executive with the Pakistani company Axact in connection to an alleged diploma mill scheme. Umair Hamid has been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with what the U.S. Attorney's Office press release describes as “a worldwide ‘diploma mill’ scheme that collected at least approximately $140 million from tens of thousands of consumers.”

Hamid served as assistant vice president of international relations for Axact, which was the subject of a May 2015 New York Times investigation into the company's alleged trade in selling fake academic degrees. The U.S. government alleges that after Pakistani law enforcement shut Axact down and prosecuted certain individuals associated with the company, Hamid resumed selling fake diplomas to American customers in exchange for up-front fees "based upon false and fraudulent representations." He also allegedly traveled to the U.S. to open a bank account used to collect money from customers.

Hamid was arrested Dec. 19 and appeared the next day in federal court in Fort Mitchell, Ky. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

January 3, 2017

Lake Superior State University on New Year's Eve released its 42nd annual "List of Words Banished From the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness." The university collects nominations all year on this Facebook page and releases the word to honor the new year. The word cloud is from the university, showing some of the previously banned words. Previous lists and more information about the project may be found here.

The 2017 list and the reasons given by the university:

You, Sir: Hails from a more civilized era when duels were the likely outcome of disagreements. Today, we suffer online trolls and internet shaming.

Focus: Good word, but overused when concentrate or look at would work fine. See 1983's banishment of We Must Focus Our Attention.

Bête Noire: After consulting a listing of synonyms, we gather this to be a bugbear, pet peeve, bug-boo, pain or pest to our nominators.

Town Hall Meeting: Candidates seldom debate in town halls anymore. Needs to be shown the door along with "soccer mom(s)" and "Joe Six-pack" (banned in 1997).

Post-Truth: To paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.

Guesstimate: When guess and estimate are never enough.

831: A texting encryption of I love you: eight letters, three words, one meaning. Never encrypt or abbreviate one's love.

Historic: Thrown around far too much. What's considered as such is best left to historians rather than the contemporary media.

Manicured: As in a manicured lawn. Golf greens are the closest grass comes to being manicured.

Echo Chamber: Lather, rinse and repeat. After a while, everything sounds the same.

On Fleek: Anything that is on point, perfectly executed or looking good. Needs to return to its genesis: perfectly groomed eyebrows.

Bigly: Did the candidate say "big league" or utter this 19th-century word that means "in a swelling blustering manner"? Who cares? Kick it out of the echo chamber!

Ghost: To abruptly end communication, especially on social media. Is it rejection angst, or is this word really as overused as word-banishment nominators contend? Either way, our committee feels the pain.

Dadbod: The flabby opposite of a chiseled-body male ideal. Should not empower dads to pursue a sedentary lifestyle.

Listicle: Numbered or bulleted list created primarily to generate views on the web, LSSU's word-banishment list excluded.

"Get your dandruff up …": The committee is not sure why this malapropism got nominators' dander up in 2016.

Selfie Drone: In what could be an ominous development, the selfie -- an irritating habit of constantly photographing and posting oneself to social media -- is being handed off to a flying camera. How can this end badly?

Frankenfruit: Another food group co-opted by "frankenfood." Not to be confused with other forms of genetically modified language.

Disruption: Nominators are exhausted from 2016's disruption. When humanity looks back on zombie buzzwords, they will see disruption bumping into other overused synonyms for change.

January 3, 2017

The Business History Conference, an affiliate of the American Historical Association, has announced that it will change the location of its 2018 meeting from Charlotte, N.C., to Baltimore. The organization has been considering such a move to protest HB2, the North Carolina law that bars localities from extending anti-bias protections to gay people, and that requires public institutions -- including public colleges and universities -- to bar transgender people from using bathrooms other than those associated with their biological gender assigned at birth. (The law is currently not being enforced in higher education, pending litigation.)

Several academic organizations -- as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- moved events from North Carolina after the law was first passed this year. Other groups -- such as the business history group -- held off on fully canceling events in the state because of reports that the North Carolina General Assembly would this month repeal HB2. When that didn't happen, the business group moved ahead with its plans to relocate the meeting to Baltimore. "We simply cannot meet in a state that sanctions discrimination against LGBT individuals—which includes some of our own members," said a statement from Roger Horowitz, a historian at the University of Delaware who is secretary-treasurer of the Business History Conference.

Via email, Horowitz said that about 300 people typically attend the conference, and spend $120,000 on lodging costs.

January 3, 2017

Stanford University took the unusual step Thursday of issuing a detailed statement objecting to an article in The New York Times about the university's handling of a sex assault case.

The Dec. 29 article was about how two separate panels -- on three-to-two votes -- found that a student had been raped by a football player, but the football player was not found responsible because Stanford requires a supermajority to do so. At the time of the case, Stanford required that four members of the panel vote to find someone responsible. Now Stanford requires a unanimous decision by a three-member panel. The article quoted the woman who brought the charges and others saying Stanford does not do enough for victims of sex assaults, and also noted that Stanford's supermajority rule is unusual in higher education.

In its statement, Stanford said it was unfairly portrayed as an institution unwilling to find students responsible for sex assaults. The university said that in 2016, it considered charges in 16 cases of sexual assault, stalking and sexual harassment. Thirteen people were found responsible, and one was expelled. Stanford said that its supermajority rules are consistent with California civil trials (where nine out of 12 jurors must vote to hold someone responsible) or criminal trials, where unanimous verdicts are required.

The football player, who said he had consensual sex with the woman, is on the Stanford roster for today's Sun Bowl.

January 3, 2017

Montclair State University is an arm of the State of New Jersey and is therefore immune from a former employee's employment discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Tuesday.

The 40-page decision by the three-judge appeals panel -- which overturned a lower court's ruling declaring that Montclair State could be sued by Paula Maliandi, a former media relations officer -- engaged in an extensive three-part test of the ways in which the university does, and does not, qualify as a state entity. The court determined that Montclair State is financially not an arm of the state because it derives more funding from alternative sources than from the state and because the state is not awarded to pay financial judgments against the institution. But because the university can't sue and be sued in its own name, is immune from state taxes, and (as a member of the state college system) is not governed autonomously, the court concluded that on balance, the university is an arm of the state.

It ordered the lower court to therefore dismiss Maliandi's lawsuit.


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