Category Archives: Politics

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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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Gagged in Kansas? Bill Would Deny Free Speech to Public-College Employees

Oh Dorothy, we are indeed in Kansas. Under a bill pending in the state’s Legislature, public-college and public-university employees in Kansas would be barred from using their official titles in newspaper opinion articles written in their capacity as private citizens.

The bill would prohibit public postsecondary employees in the state from “providing or using [the] employee’s official title when authoring or contributing to a newspaper opinion column.” But … don’t worry. The restrictio…

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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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Why Did UMass Ban Iranian Students From Some Graduate Programs?

After a week of outrage over their decision to ban Iranian students from certain graduate science programs, officials at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst backed down on Wednesday, stating that they had “always believed” the ban conflicted with their institutional values. In the future, the university announced, the admission of Iranians would be handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply being prohibited outright.

The reversal represented a triumph for those who had mobilized …

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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…

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What’s Missing From the Debate on Obama’s Free Community-College Plan

Next week, when the president re-announces his “free community college” plan during the State of the Union address, I’d like to see him add a sentence about the teachers.

They’ve been missing in the White House language promoting the plan. None of the critics, even those who have said mean things about community colleges, have mentioned the plight of part-time community-college teachers. With a few exceptions, such as this Chronicle piece by Peter Schmidt, the journalism surrounding the plan has…

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‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Houellebecq, and France’s Pungent Satirical Tradition

Accompanying many of the appalling accounts of Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo is a reproduction of the satirical weekly’s cover. It features a caricature of the writer Michel Houellebecq, garbed in a blue wizard’s outfit, face unshaven, jowls sagging and eyes bleary (no doubt from one glass de trop), smoke spiraling from a cigarette wedged between his fingers. No doubt in a slurred voice, France’s best-selling novelist, whose new book Soumission (Submission) went on sale th…

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wrDon’t Blame Youth for the GOP Sweep

November 5 was a cloudy day, literally and metaphorically, in the progressive college town where I live and in my little corner of social media. Everywhere, friends were asking what had carried the Republicans to their many victories the day before. For the most part, their answers were varied but familiar—the unstoppable power of money and corporate influence, Obama’s waning popularity, gerrymandering, voter intimidation, and disenfranchisement.

Added to the bitter mix was a group of people we …

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Why I Don’t Want Guns in My Classroom

Every morning as I head to my office at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, I have to drive past two armored military vehicles aimed in my direction: an M60 tank and an M42 Duster anti-aircraft gun. The vehicles are on display in front of the National Guard Armory, which happens to sit beside my academic building, and the campus and the armory share an access road. While the armored vehicles may be an appropriate symbol for the armory, they create an unfortunate and unwelcoming entrance to camp…

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In Defense of Theory

Is gender theory relevant to undergraduate students? Skeptics have long dismissed theory’s intellectual import largely on the basis of style. In the 90s, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, and Homi Bhabha were scrutinized for their “pretentiously opaque” prose, “bad writing,” and “indecipherable jargon” respectively. Of course not all scholars are equally subject to these sorts of critiques. As Butler noted in her response, “The targets … have been restricted to scholars on the left whose work f…