Month: August 2014

Mills College, a Selectively Progressive Institution


The Oakland College Has Been Very Progressive on the Rights of Transgender Students but Not on Collective-Bargaining Rights or Adjunct-Faculty Rights

In a very recent post, I commented on Mills College’s becoming the first single-gender institution to admit transgender students [].

The college’s progressivism on that issue, however, seems to stand in fairly stark contrast to its stand on the unionization of its adjunct faculty, who now account for about two-thirds of the faculty at the institution.

These faculty voted by a more than 3 to 1 margin to affiliate with SEIU Local 1021, and they have just recently begun their negotiations for an initial contract.

But, according to “The Battle for Adjunct Faculty Rights,” an article written by Sam Levin for the East Bay Express [], the college has already been retaliating against the union’s organizers and vocal supporters:

“SEIU 1021 has already filed four…

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One Might Ask Steven Salaita Why There Are No MOOCs on Gaza


In late July, Kris Olds wrote a piece for Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U: Global Higher Ed titled “Why No MOOCs on Gaza?” [The complete article is available at:]

Rightly recognizing that the MOOC format would be perfectly suited to providing succinct overviews of the conflicts in the world’s hotspots, Olds searched sites of the half-dozen most prominent MOOC providers, a process that she describes in detail in order to illustrate that on most sites identifying the courses by topic is counterintuitively difficult. Initially she searched for courses on the conflict in Gaza. But when that search yielded no results, she looked for courses on the comparable, ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq. But none of these searches produced any results.

Olds then reflects on the implications of the seemingly complete lack of MOOCs on these regions in conflict:

“These are not insignificant places and conflicts…

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When Simplification May Be Too Simplistic


On August 27, the Denver Business Journal ran an article on proposed legislation that will dramatically overhaul the application for federal student aid. The article opens with the following two paragraphs:

“Several Colorado universities are getting behind a recent bipartisan bill zeroing in on speeding up the financial aid application process.

“The bill—proposed by Sens. Michael Bennett, D-Colorado, and Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee—would cut down the current 10-page, 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to a single-page, two-question form.”

The university leaders who are endorsing the bill make the indisputable point that a 10-page form that includes 108 questions is almost certainly keeping some students from applying for federal student aid and therefore from applying to or enrolling in their institutions. Furthermore, the form is likely to be most intimidating to those prospective students who need to aid the most in order to enroll—students from…

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Discussing the Steven Salaita Case in Our Classrooms


If you want to engage your students in a thoughtful debate about public discourse in the age of Facebook and Twitter, you can of course use the ten or twelve excellent posts that John K. Wilson, Hank Reichman, Michael Berube, and others have made to this blog on the Steven Salaita case.

If you would like to frame the discussion somewhat more broadly, here are some essays, all available online, that might provide a nice mix:

Christenson, Christian. “The Public Professor: Critical Intellectual Discourse in the Age of Social Media.” Christian Christenson—Stockholm University [Personal Bog]. Posted: 22 Nov. 2011.

Daniels, Jessie, and Joe R. Feagin. “The (Coming) Social Media Revolution in the Academy.” Fast Capitalism. Posted: 02 Aug. 2011.

De Boer, Freddie. “Where Online Social Liberalism Lost the Script.” The Dish: Biased and Balanced. Posted: 21 Aug. 2014.

Drum, Kevin. “The Intersection of Social Liberalism and Social…

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Poorer by Degrees


Here is a link to Poorer by Degrees, a new short documentary by Jennifer Shuberth, a former faculty member at Portland State University:

The documentary questions the premise that our economic growth requires a dramatic increase in the number of college graduates. Indeed, it suggests that the increased emphasis on completing degrees may actually just be increasing the pool of over-qualified applicants for all levels of employment and forcing less educated workers out of the workforce. In effect, a college degree has become increasingly necessary to find employment, but that employment is no longer guaranteed to provide a sufficient salary to offset the personal debt that increasingly must be incurred to complete the degree.

The documentary shows that the biggest proponent of increased college completion rates has been the Lumina Foundation, which, not coincidentally, has been funded by Sallie Mae, the largest holder of student debt.


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Dear “Whining Adjuncts,” Just for the Record Even I Think That This Is Tone Deaf


Some time ago, Aaron Barlow wrote a post titled “To My Tenured Colleagues” in which he asked those with tenure to treat the adjunct faculty at their institutions as full and genuine colleagues. It was a great post, one which I fully endorsed. But it occasioned a veritable flood of complaints from adjunct faculty about their mistreatment by tenured faculty who were anything but committed to such collegiality.

I had no issue with the complaints per se, but I had just attended several meetings at which action items on adjunct issues never got addressed because the meetings became forums for such complaints. In a blog post titled “To My Adjunct Colleagues,” I tried to suggest that the tenured faculty meeting with adjunct faculty to address their issues are there precisely because they recognize the issues and want to address those issues, but they often begin to feel, instead, that…

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When One News Story Clarifies Another (and Another)


Ohio State University has gotten national media attention for something other than Gordon Gee’s excessive compensation and the football team’s diminished prospects following quarterback Braxton Miller’s season-ending injury.

The university’s police department has recently acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle through a program that distributes surplus military equipment and supplies not only to local police departments but also to campus police departments.

This is what a Mine-Resistant Ambush Vehicle looks like:


University spokespersons have offered various explanations for why this acquisition was necessary, but none of those explanations has been completely convincing.

In 2008, George Grayson’s seemingly unrelated article “Los Zetas: the Ruthless Army Spawned by a Mexican Drug Cartel” [], was published on the ENotes blog of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The article includes the following paragraphs:

“Los Zetas have set up camps in which to train recruits aged 15 to 18 years old, as well…

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A Correction, a Clarification, or a Cat Chasing Its Tail?


On August 16, the Lafayette Journal-Gazette ran this small item []:

“Some Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne faculty members are unhappy with comments Purdue University President Mitch Daniels made about the role of regional colleges.

“The Journal Gazette reports the former governor told a public radio host that higher-education advocates in Fort Wayne are mistaken about their mission, saying the Indiana Commission for Higher Education reminds them they are not there to do research or offer doctoral programs. They are there to provide affordable options.

“Four members of the IPFW Senate sent Daniels an email Friday saying the commission allows the school to do research and scholarly activities. IPFW Senate Presiding Officer Andrew Downs wants Daniels to recant his comments.

“IPFW is the fifth-largest campus in the state with more than 13,400 students. Purdue University governs the Fort Wayne campus.”

Then, on August 19, the Journal-Gazette ran a…

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An Open Letter to Allan Bense, Florida State University Board of Trustees Chair, and Florida Governor Rick Scott


Dear Chairman Bense and Governor Scott:

The battle over FSU’s next President seems to have slowed, except that the FSU Board of Trustees (BOT) has silently “postponed” its Aug. 26th meeting. This meeting was the last chance for Chair Allan Bense to answer the overwhelming call to restructure the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) before the selection process starts in September. Currently, Chair Bense’s PSAC is comprised of 26% faculty/student seats, while 64% represent corporate/political interests. Chair Bense and 14 other non-academic members voted in May, against all students and faculty, to accept Sen. John Thrasher as the sole candidate for consideration without as much as an application. Interestingly, Sen. Thrasher is running the reelection campaign of Gov. Rick Scott, the same Governor who appointed Bense as Chair of BOT.

Chair Bense also chairs the Board of Directors of the James Madison Institute (JMI). JMI is heavily funded by the…

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Mills College Becomes the First Single-Gender College to Admit Transgender Students


There are currently 119 single-gender colleges and universities in the United States.

Mills College in Oakland, California, has become the first of those institutions to admit transgender students.

The college’s undergraduate admission policy on “transgender or gender questioning- applicants” now permits “applicants whose gender identity does not match their legally assigned sex” as of the 2014-2015 academic year.

In other words, applicants who were identified as male at birth but who now identify as female are welcome to apply, though applicants who were identified as female at birth but who now identify as male and have legally changed their gender are excluded from consideration.

Mills College expects that only a handful or so of the students in any incoming class will be male-to-female transgenders.

Last year, Smith College generated some controversy when it denied admission to Calliope Wong, a transgender student who was identified as male at birth, now identifies…

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