Category Archives: Cultural priorities

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An Adjunct’s Farewell

To my students at Assumption College:

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you, but to answer the question many of you have asked: No, I will not be teaching at Assumption College again next year. Although I did receive an offer to return, the conditions that led me to decline that offer are most likely unfamiliar to many of you and your families. This letter aims to remedy that.

I am an adjunct (part-time) instructor. As such, I receive drastically less pay than full-time faculty members, and…

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How to Remove Bias From Peer Review

The ugly side of peer review was on full display last week when a scientific paper was rejected for reasons that smacked of sexism. Two female authors had submitted a paper to a journal that is part of the open-access PLOS family. A negative decision was made based on a single review stating, “It would probably also be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal review from, but better yet as active co-authors). … ”

The reviewer has since been removed

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Save the Academic Conference. It’s How Our Work Blossoms.

It’s fun to mock academic conferences. They are quite mockable, because academics are nerds. At our best, because we all know that we are nerds, we work hard but don’t take ourselves or our rituals too seriously.

And yet I was concerned when Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French and Italian at Princeton, asked, in a widely shared essay in The New York Times, “What is the purpose of the conference?” Her purpose was to call for better behavior, promoting a manifesto of best practices (…

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A Field Guide to American Higher-Ed Reformers

This short and easy-to-use field guide is designed to help both academics and lay audiences quickly identify some of the important species and subspecies that now occupy the higher-education landscape in the United States. Recognizing these various species, many of which are new to this environment, has become particularly important in this period of drastic university climate change and species migration.

1. Venture philanthropists and foundations

Species: Benevolentia disrumpo

Habitat/range: F…

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Institutions’ Misplaced Fear of Fossil-Fuel Divestment

The campus divestment movement is losing. The wealthiest, most prestigious colleges and universities are declining to divest. News reports indicate that Harvard actually increased substantially its holdings in oil and gas companies in the fall of 2014. The message is clear. Market logic rules. Profits come first, even for not-for-profit institutions.

Well-publicized estimates of endowment-income losses at Swarthmore, Wellesley, and Pomona, coupled with threats to financial-aid and compensation b…

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Let This Satirical Campus Newspaper Live

In 2007, a group of students at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fought to establish the first satirical newspaper on the campus. Eight years and nearly 70 issues later, the paper still hits the newsstand every other week. Recently, however, a committee charged with allocating student fees proposed defunding it — saving students a mere 15 cents annually — for the one reason that scares and baffles me the most. “While it does create a number of opportunities for students,” the commit…

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Professor Non Grata: Andrew Ross on Collusion and Delusion

Across the board, faculty have been skeptical of their college administrators’ enthusiasm to build campuses in illiberal societies, like China and the Gulf states. What agreements have been made to smooth the way? How much money is changing hands as part of the deal? Who will oversee the curriculum design? And, above all, who can guarantee that basic protections for academic freedom will be honored in countries where dissenters are locked up, physically abused, and deported on a regular basis?

T…

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Teaching While Black

“There will never be a nigger SAE … You can hang him from a tree, but they will never sign with me … There will never be a nigger SAE.”

That vile chant has reverberated in my head throughout these last couple of days. And as it has, my thoughts have drifted to the students, particularly the minority students, who attend the University of Oklahoma, who have sat in classes with the young men who so proudly and gleefully chanted those disgusting words. I doubt that this type of ignorance, this rac…

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Academe’s Willful Ignorance of African Literature

Every now and again, people declare that African literature has arrived, or is arriving, or will arrive soon. It’s not surprising that African literature is read as emerging: In the long emergency that seems to define Africa in the eyes of the rest of the world—in which “Africa” is a place of starving children, warring clans, and technological backwardness—the idea of African literature can seem positively utopian. It can be a delightful discovery when it seems to emerge. But that discov…

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We Can’t Judge Community Colleges’ Success by the Numbers

I am a community-college teacher jumping with joy at President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal, which would undoubtedly send more students to community colleges. But I can’t help but ask: Doesn’t he know that, by federal accountability standards, we’re an abysmal failure?

As Eduardo Porter writes in The New York Times, “precious few of the students at community colleges are likely to complete their education.” He has some “bottom of the barrel” (his words) statistics to show i…