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Respecting Adjunct Faculty

We have lived lives of being unappreciated part-time faculty members and we support the American Association of University Professors and their want to bring adjunct faculty up to a higher level of respect and standing in universities:

Today,
48 percent of American faculty serve in part-time appointments, and
non-tenure-track positions of all types account for 68 percent of
faculty appointments. Year after year, the problem gets worse as more
and more faculty jobs are part time or non-tenure track. Faculty
holding these appointments are often poorly compensated–receiving low
wages and few, if any, fringe benefits. Without job security and
academic freedom protections, they are subject to administrative whim.
Students suffer when the majority of faculty are inadequately supported
by their institutions.

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Katrina Faculty Firings and Due Process

We were disturbed to learn many faculty members at New Orleans universities were fired without due process:

Many
tenured faculty were fired with scant notice, no meaningful due
process, no stated reasons, and no appeal save to the very
administrators who released them. Faculty were not consulted about
these actions or given an opportunity to suggest alternatives. Some
found out they had already been taken off payroll and health care.
Departments and programs were closed without appropriate review. While
a number of institutions had suffered serious damage from the
hurricane, we found no justification for this wholesale abandonment of
due process and shared governance. Indeed, as the report eloquently
declares, this is exactly the kind of challenge that requires wide
consultation and full participation by the faculty before drastic
actions are taken.

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Publishing Kills the Weak and Weakens the Strong

Writing is hard work. Hurtful work. Deadly work.  Putting together a book is a long and painful process of recognition, writing and ongoing negotiation.

Continue reading → Publishing Kills the Weak and Weakens the Strong

Virtual Chats Using Famous Avatars

The University of Illinois at Chicago have come up with a method of providing interactive video chat online using realistic avatars:

UIC also has developed technology that provides viewers with 3-D images that do not require wearing special glasses.

One important factor in the project is to impart appropriate body language to the avatar as it responds to comments and questions, said Steve Jones, a UIC professor of communication.
“In real life, it’s just assumed that you can read a person’s responses without saying anything,” said Jones.

A subtle hesitation before speaking can have meaning, but such nuances have been mostly lacking in software programs created so far.

The project will use video cameras to record a person’s mannerisms, and that information will be fed into the programs that activate the avatar, Jones said.

This technology means you could become your favorite actor or politician or family member and “chat” online as that person or even with that person.

Professors could hold online virtual meetings with students — and neither student or instructor would have to dress up or even look special for the occasion.

We are quickly moving into the Age of Masks and with that virtualization of our real selves, we must remember to always preserve our humanity in the negotiation.

Cheating to Get Ahead

There is no greater harm to intellect or the education process than plagiarizing.
When you steal or purchase the thoughts of others and claim them as your own — the entire salvation of the world crumbles to ash.

We were thrilled to learn this week that Google have refused to accept advertising from Paper Mills as reported by Chronicle.com:

Term-paper and essay-writing services join prostitutes, firearms dealers, and hacking sites in Google’s forbidden-advertising zone, the company announced yesterday. Academic paper-writing services, or “paper mills,” will no longer be able to buy search terms in the Google AdWords program, and thus their ads will no longer pop up in the
“sponsored links” sections of a Google search-results page. (Links to those sites could still be found among the results on the main part of the page, however.)

The paper mills, which offer buyers papers written to order for a fee, have been the subject of sharp complaints from universities, which view them as sources of plagiarism. But the companies themselves have a different view.

It is only in the free discussion of ideas that thought gains purpose over emotion and instinct.

We are humanized by our minds and the facts of our shared human memory.