Saturday, May 21, 2016

AAUP Investigative Report on the Dismissal of Professor Melissa Click From the University of Missouri--Of Process and Speech Acts in the University


(Colleen Flaherty, "A Firing With Consequences," Inside Higher Education, May 19, 2016).


The AAUP released its investigative report touching on the actions taken against Professor Melissa Click by the University of Missouri in the wake of the protests at the University of Missouri.  The decision is a very narrow one.  As reported in Inside Higher Education:
AAUP does not argue that Click’s actions toward two student journalists during an on-campus protest in the fall were protected by academic freedom. Rather, the association argues that in failing to adhere to established disciplinary procedures in her dismissal, the university compromised academic freedom for all. (Colleen Flaherty, "A Firing With Consequences," Inside Higher Education, May 19, 2016).

Brief comments follow along with the AAUP Press Release.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Challenging University Approaches to Sexual Assault: Time to Reassess University Approaches in Light of the the ALI's Rejection of Proposed Changes to its Model Penal Code?

(Pix © 2015 Larry Catá Backer)

The sexualization of conduct, and its management, has become an important element of the discourse of rights, and of human dignity in American society.  Such sexualization, and its punishment, extends from the most egregious conduct traditionally suppressed (rape) to conduct that in another era might have been annoying but hardly criminal (wedgies). It is viewed by some as a battleground for gender equality, and for others, as a means for using the state to effect substantial changes --and to harmonize norms respecting--a broad range of conduct that is deemed sexual and with respect to which there is substantial controversy in society. But as important, that discussion of sexualization is also tied to a number of related issues, from the legal effects of individual interactions, to the complexity and degree to which such conduct might be minutely regulated, to the standards of liability, and to the procedural protections of both parties in disputes touching on sexualized conduct. My thoughts may be found here

This post considers the effect that the recent actions by the elite American Law Institute--in rejecting changes to the criminal statute on Sexual Assault in its Model Penal Code--may have provided a basis for seriously reconsidering the conventional university constructions of sexual violence rules adopted uncritically and at the instance of the federal education bureaucracy. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sexual Assault at the American Law Institute (ALI)--Intensified Controversy Over the Criminalization of Sexual Contact in the Proposed Revision of the Model Penal Code


(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)


In 2012, the American Law Institute (in which I am a member), agreed to launch a revision of its famous and quite influential Model Penal Code to focus specifically on rising issues of "sexual assault and related offenses." The project It was acknowledged at the time that the issue of the decriminalization of certain conduct around sexual activity "deals with some of the most controversial matters on the current public agenda." (Richard L. Revesz, Director ALI in Forward ALI Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses (Tent. Draft No. 2 (April 15, 20916). The project has been overseen by its reporter, Stephen J. Schulhofer and its associate reporter, Erin E. Murphy, both of NYU Law School. But it has been highly controversial as I reported last year (see, Sexual Assualt at the American Law Institute--Controversy Over the Criminalization of Sexual Contact in the Proposed Revision of the Model Penal Code).

The controversy is well evidenced by the history of this project before the ALI. In 2013, a draft on procedural and evidentiary principles applicable to the sexual assault provisions (¶ 213 of the Model Penal Code) and on collateral consequences of conviction was presented to ALI for discussion but no vote. For the 2014 ALI meeting, a tentative draft containing substantive material for discussion and an evidentiary section (proposed revision ¶ 213.7) for approval was submitted but no vote was taken. Again, for the 2015 meeting a draft on substantive and evidentiary material was presented for discussion but no vote. For its 2016 meeting, the ALI is asked to consider for approval two key provisions: ¶ 213.0(3) (definition of consent) and ¶ 213.2 (sexual penetration without consent).

Both proposals have produced some significant opposition--both to the specifics, and generally to the approach taken on the spirit of the revisions of Section 213 in its entirety. This post briefly discusses the context in which this highly controversial project is going forward and includes (1) National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Memo Comments on Preliminary Draft No. 6, and (2) a two Memos (dated April 4, 2016 and May 12, 2016), signed by a number of ALI Members summarizing concerns about Draft No. 6 Revisions to the Sexual Assault Provisions of the Model penal Code.

This is a discussion that is quite relevant to the university.  It suggests that the federal government's efforts to legislate new forms of criminalization through its administrative powers under Title IX may indeed be subject to challenge.  It also suggests the extent to which the conversation about sexual mores--whether in the context of criminalizing behaviors or changing cultural norms--is far more complex that than the federal regulators would have it.  This suggests some caution for universities who seek governmental approval by all to quick compliance with standards that themselves may be controversial.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Consequences of Power/Responsibility Asymmetries: Administrative Power and Faculty Responsibility at the College of Saint Rose





As universities come under greater financial pressure, as the function and role of universities change, university administrations are showing themselves sometimes unequal to the task of responding to these challenges in an ethical and orderly way. 

It is easy to be a highly paid administrator during good times.  It is tempting to embrace the increasingly separate cultures of administrations during these good times.  The logic of administration at the contemporary university increasingly sees administrators as a privileges class with obligations to manage their resources, and the factors in the production of their "product".  These resource management cultures increasingly dehumanize and objectify labor--and especially the expert professional labor of faculty.

It comes as no surprise, then, that in the face of challenge, administrators seek to preserve their privileged position and to export their mismanagement--without any accountability for their decisions--onto the "factors" in the production of "product."  That process of redirecting responsibility is particularly ironic as it also serves as the culminating point of a process in which  administrations acquire all responsibility for decision making at the university but insist that all responsibility for the consequences of operation fall to the faculty.  The consequences are perverse: administration retains an increasing monopoly on decision making, but faculty increasingly bear the burden of accountability for these decisions.

It is this pattern--this perversity of accountability--that marks university administrative decision making in many institutions today.  It is in this light that one might consider the recent evaluation of the actions of administration in the College of Saint Rose in New York, which has been the object of an investigation by the Association of American University Professor (AAUP).  The press release and links to the report follow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--Moving Forward Embedding Divesity Policy--Advisory/Consultative Report




(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members). Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.

Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:
1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
2. Diversity Best Practices
3. Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy

Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
4. Moving Forward
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19. An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy, which was prepared by our Substantive Policy Recommendation  Sub-Committee.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--Diversity Best Practices--Advisory/Consultative Report




(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members). Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.

Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:
1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
2. Diversity Best Practices
3. Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy

Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
4. Moving Forward
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19. An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, Diversity Best Practices, which was prepared by our Policy Coordination Sub-Committee. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Diversity at Penn State: Reports of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force--US/IL Courses Survey--Legislative Recommendations

 
 (Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)


It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF). JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members).

Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.
Presented March 2016 for consideration by the PSU Faculty Senate April 2016:

1. US/IL Courses Survey--Recommendations (Legislative; and Advisory/Consultative)
Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
Each of the next several posts will provide links and the text of the reports to be considered by the Penn State Faculty Senate on April 19.  An "after action" report will follow Senate action on the 29th--action which I hope will be positive.

This post includes the Report, US/IL Courses Survey--Legislative Recommendations, prepared by our Technical Issues Sub-Committee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16


The American Association of University Professors announced the publication of the AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16. The report, published in the March-April issue of Academe, includes the results from our annual Faculty Compensation Survey.  Salary transparency is one of the most important elements of administrative discipline in a culture, like that of the United States, in which employers have been able to shroud their salary and pay decisions in secrecy, "for the protection of employees."

March-April 2016 (The Compensation Survey) Volume 102, Number 2 . The March-April issue is available for download as a pdf. There are two choices (AAUP member login required for both versions): A .pdf formatted as a spread for online viewing or A printer-friendly pdf. This year, some materials are being published online only. They are not in the print issue or the .pdfs listed above, but you can download them here: Online-Only Feature: Innovative Faculty Research, by John Barnshaw; Additional survey report tables ; Appendices, which contain listings for individual institutions.

The Press release with links follows.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Conundrums of Intersectionality: AAUP Draft Report on "The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX"


Today the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released a draft Report: The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX.  They have asked for comments by April 15, 2016.

The Report provides an opportunity to examine the difficulty of balancing multiple laudable principles when, in the process of operationalization, they appear, if carelessly applied, to do damage to each other. The Report effectively considers the difficulties of harmonizing fairness where academic freedom, constitutional speech rights, due process, racial justice and gender equity meet. That harmonization is difficult enough--but when it is mixed with corporatization, bureaucratic cultures, political agendas, and a perverse mania for wrongheaded assessment and accountability measures, the resulting cocktail is toxic indeed. Quoting Janet Halley, “Trading the Megaphone for the Gavel in Title IX Enforcement,” Harvard Law Review Forum, 103, February 2015, pp. 103-117, p.117), the Report (p. 36) notes: "Increasingly, schools are being required to institutionalize prevention, to control the risk of harm, and to make regulatory action to protect the environment. Academic administrators are welcoming these incentives, which harmonize with their risk-averse, compliance-driven, and rights-indifferent worldviews and justify large expansions of the powers and size of the administration generally.” This is not unique to Title IX; I have noted its effects in other aspects of administrative cultures at Penn State (eg, The Riskless University and the Bureaucratization of Knowledge: From "Indiana Jones" to Central Planning).

The Report is a step in the right direction, to be sure. But the enterprise of great cultural shifts, in the context of the university and even as the cultural basis of societal norms changes around us, may well be beyond the instrumentalism of both state and academy, or it may produce unintended effects.

The AAUP press release with links to the report and contact information for submitting comments and the executive summary of the report follows.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Embedding Diversity at Penn State: A Progress Report From the Penn State Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016))


It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of the Penn State University Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF).  JDATF was charged this past April by our Provost and the University Faculty Senate Chair to consider a number of important diversity initiatives at Penn State (Charge (PDF); Members).

Our work over the academic year has produced four reports with recommendations for substantial changes in a number of areas.  
Presented March 2016 for consideration April 2016:
1. US/IL Courses Survey--Legislative Recommendations
2. Diversity Best Practices
3. Moving Forward Embedding Diversity Policy

Presented February 2016 and Approved by the PSU Faculty Senate March 2016
One of these has already been considered and approved by the University Faculty Senate and awaits the President's decision.  The others will be considered by the Senate in the next several weeks.

This post provides an update on the work of the JDATF.  I have provided copies of the PowerPoints of the presentation of that update which was delivered on 21 March 2016 to the Penn State Academic Leadership Council and now more broadly shared. I welcome comment and further engagement.  We look forward to our Senate's review of our reports and hope for favorable action. In any case the reports as the final products of the work of the JDATF are worthy of consideration more broadly in their own right.