5 stories you should read this July

Supporting adjuncts, doing away with tenure, training for the workforce, trying to understand cheating, and making a syllabus more interesting are the topics for this month’s list.

July 14, 2015

With tenure under attack in Wisconsin, Sweet Briar College reopening, and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum criticizing spending on student rec centers, academics have had plenty to talk about this past month. And they say summer is a sleepy time. We’ve compiled five more buzzworthy articles to pique your interest as the weather heats up.

The real reason faculty fear their students
In a recent essay in Vox, Edward Schlosser stated that he would no longer teach controversial subjects for fear students would complain and his job would be in jeopardy. The essay became a viral sensation, in part because it blamed political correctness for stifling academic freedom. But Amanda Taub argues that adjunctification, and not identity politics, is what’s really putting professors’ freedom at risk. Part-time faculty restrict their speech because they’re afraid of their contracts’ not being renewed, she says, and the solution is for administrators to stand up for adjuncts.
Vox, June 5

The post-tenure university: Utopia or dystopia? 
What would academia look like without tenure? Rebecca Shuman imagines a post-tenure university where both full-time and contingent faculty are hired for multiyear renewable contracts. In this scenario, she posits, both full-timers and adjuncts could channel their energies into making their school a better place to learn, rather than competing for tenure. The alternative, she says, is an increasingly “corporatized” university, where, after the last remaining tenured professors retire, departments are staffed solely by overworked adjuncts.
Slate, June 17

Businesses, not colleges, should prepare students for the workforce
It’s become a truism that colleges and universities need to prepare students for the workforce. But the responsibility for training workers should rest with businesses, not academia, Eric Johnson argues. Too often, he writes, businesses want universities—and, by extension, taxpayers—to shoulder the costs of teaching employees sector-specific skills. This utilitarian approach to education, he writes, has led to the decline of the core curriculum.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22

Cheating may be a sign that a student is suffering
We tend to view students who cheat as slackers trying to pull one over on us. But the reality is often more complex, says Chris Loschiavo, a past president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration. Students cheat for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with laziness, including poor time management, fear of failure, and being unprepared for college-level work. When faculty members encounter cheating, they may want to ask the student what prompted it in case there’s anything more serious going on.
Quartz, May 27

Make your syllabus more inviting
If you find it hard to stay awake while writing your syllabus, imagine how your students feel reading it! Though syllabuses often have to contain formal policies and other dry information, that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. There are many techniques you can use to make your syllabus more engaging, including using quotes, photos, a personal bio, and even nonstandard fonts (though we recommend you avoid Comic Sans).
Faculty Focus, June 19

Courtney L. Vien is an associate editor with the magazines and newsletters team at the AICPA.

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