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Poke, Prod, and Rile: Secrets of Good Teaching

Dogs tend to look like their owners, and often the same is true about academics and the historical figures they study. The reason could be as predictable as two friends’ becoming drawn to the same tastes after having spent considerable time together—I once heard a lecturer confess that her Southwestern wardrobe was inspired by her intellectual mentor. Or it could be something closer to what the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote about his own experience in reading like-minded authors:…

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Associate Dean of What?

The School of Social and Clinical Medicine at the University of Bristol is hiring a new “associate dean of eureka moments.” The job advertisement went viral on academic social media last Friday.

This is a real job at a real British university, not a satire. Someone decided to advertise for a new associate dean, an important leadership position, by using the phrase “eureka moments.” What’s going on here?

Jonathan Sandy, incoming dean of the faculty of health sciences at Bristol, writes in an emai…

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CUNY’s Pathway to Shared Governance

William Bowen and Eugene Tobin’s new book, Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education, has resulted in much commentary and discussion about the appropriate roles of faculty members and administrators in the activities and governance of colleges. Let us assume that the goals of all concerned are the best possible education for students and the best possible environment for faculty scholarship and creative activity. What should faculty members be doin…

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Students Are Welcome to Shop Online During My Lectures

I have a confession: I am writing this essay while attending a presentation. Normally, I give a speaker my full attention, but there are many people here, so it is easy to miss that I am doing something other than listening. Besides, I am still paying attention (for the most part). The speaker is giving us an update on our university’s shuttle schedule.

As I write this, I think of students in my classes who are obviously on their computers doing something other than, or in addition to, listening…

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Bringing BDS Home

On January 4, the American Historical Association voted not to consider two resolutions critical of Israel’s interference with Palestinian academic freedom. Though boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) were not on the table at AHA, their specter loomed over the debate. I want to offer here the perspective of a scholar of social movements. I see BDS as a strategy for applying global pressure, especially economic pressure, in the hopes of changing Israeli policy, a strategy that I respect. Alth…

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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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How One Building Reveals What’s Wrong With Higher Education

On the heels of its inaugural football season in the Big Ten Conference, the University of Maryland announced bold plans: The Board of Regents’ Finance Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with construction of a new building that would transform Cole Field House, an old basketball arena turned student activities center, into a “dynamic hub at the intersection of athletics, academics and research.”

Jump-starting the project is a $25-million donation from an alumnus, the Under Armour found…

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Obama’s Plan Focuses Where It Should—on Our Neediest Students

At one point on Friday afternoon #FreeCommunityCollege was the top trending hashtag on Twitter, a sign of universal interest in, if not universal acceptance of, President Obama’s “America’s College Promise” proposal. The president’s big vision is to ensure that postsecondary education is as universally affordable and accessible to as many Americans as possible. Community colleges are the logical place to realize this vision. Whatever Congress does with the proposal, it is safe to predict that,…

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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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A Season of Anger

The last weeks of the fall semester were uneasy ones on many campuses as students angrily protested the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. We can pretend that we didn’t really know what happened in these cases: parse the Ferguson, Mo., grand-jury testimony, ignore the video of Staten Island police taking Garner down in a choke hold, or speculate on what happened in the two seconds that elapsed between the arrival of police at a Cleveland playground and the shooting of…