Please sign Open Letter to NC Supreme Court re: Ginsberg v. NCSU

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

At North Carolina State University (NCSU), shortly after Dr. Terri Ginsberg made supportive political comments at a screening of a Palestinian film in 2007, she went from being the favored candidate for a tenure-track position to being denied even an interview. Her efforts at redress were summarily rejected by NCSU and two courts. A jury should be permitted to decide whether NCSU's real reason for firing Dr. Ginsberg was its hostility to her political views, but this legal right has been denied. We urge the Supreme Court of North Carolina to review Dr. Ginsberg's case and to reverse the lower courts' decisions to dismiss it. On this basis, faculty at NCSU and elsewhere may finally exercise their legal right to academic speech on the topic of Palestine/Israel and, as such, to their full human rights as scholars, teachers, and intellectuals in the academic community.

To support this request to the NC Supreme Court, we invite academic faculty and students worldwide to sign our Open Letter as an e-petition at this URL:

We expect to submit the Open Letter with all signatures received by February 7, though signatures received later would still be helpful.

You are also encouraged to send your own letter to:

Supreme Court of North Carolina
Clerk's Office
P.O. Box 2170
Raleigh, NC 27602-2170 USA

Thank you for your support,

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
Center for Constitutional Rights
Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester
WESPAC Foundation
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)

What is going on at the London College of Communication?

First there is the article in the Times Higher Education about 16 courses being shut down. The closures include four bachelor's degrees, one master's programme and 11 foundation courses, six of which have "top up" options that allow students to convert them into full honours degrees with an extra year of study.

Then the University and College Union plus others called on Professor Kemp to resign.

Now we hear that academic staff are too scared to talk as some of their best colleagues have lost their jobs by daring to voice their opinion. Bullying and intimidation tactics?

Abuse of Phd students

I was a Phd student in the US and went through a similar experience. It is like a hazing process that lasts 4-5 years. Perhaps they were just whipping us into shape, and maybe I learned from it, but at the time it did not feel good, and I'm not sure if it is the most effective learning environment. I witnessed heavy handed punishments for the slightest infractions, abusive and insulting emails and phone calls, mutinies against individuals, and a soviet era style code of silence in the face of this abuse. All faculty and administrators would stick together if a student complained, and there was no authority to report them to. Students would not even talk about the bullying because they were too scared. And there was nowhere to go because we were trapped for 4-5 years, dropping out would have meant wasting all that work it took to get this far, and you need them to graduate and sponsor your thesis, and transferring is not an option. They really do have the upper hand. And the males do seem to get it worse.

By Anonymous on PhD students suffer from bullying supervisors

Make it easier to whistleblow while you work

Whistleblowers need more support when reporting falsified or flawed research carried out by university colleagues, leading scientists have claimed.

Following the publication by the British Medical Journal of research suggesting that one in eight scientists and doctors in the UK has witnessed some sort of research fraud, a conference on scientific misconduct heard how junior academics were sometimes bullied into silence or had their contracts terminated if they spoke out.

At the meeting in London organised by the BMJ and the Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope), Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, said that "institutional corruption" had resulted in a culture that "penalised whistleblowers".

"I think the problem is that institutions refuse to deal with the problem," said Dr Wilmshurst, who was embroiled in a four-year legal battle between 2007 and 2011 when a now-defunct US medical company tried to sue him for libel after he criticised one of its products.

He cited several cases in which whistleblowers had been discredited and forced out of institutions while those guilty of falsification continued up the career ladder.

Nick Steneck, director of the research ethics and integrity programme at the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, said many complaints were dismissed too lightly by institutions.

"Some set a very high bar of what the allegation must be - most cases just get ignored," he said.

Observing a "disincentive to whistleblow", he added: "Why do we put junior people in a position where they have to blow the whistle? Most senior people are aware of [the misconduct] - they know and suspect the same things.

"We should have a better whistleblowing process for senior staff."

Evan Harris, the former Liberal Democrat science spokesman who lost his parliamentary seat in the 2010 general election, said that more independent oversight was needed because universities had a "vested interest" in suppressing cases of malpractice due to fears of reputational damage.

"The temptation to cover it up or not deal with it is enormous," Dr Harris said.

"But it only takes one high-profile case where a patient has suffered for the whole of UK medical research to be put under the spotlight, causing political confidence and the confidence of funders to drop."

Subtler types of research malpractice were, however, more damaging than those few outright cases of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, said Sir Iain Chalmers, coordinator of the James Lind Initiative, which calls for better, more controlled drug trials.

The tendency of journals to publish only "successful" scientific studies with a positive result "created a bias in research, which leads to avoidable suffering and death", he said. Failure to publish those studies that "went up a blind alley" meant that future researchers might undertake similar projects, wasting time, money and even lives.

Sir Iain cited the near-fatal human drug trials conducted by the German pharmaceutical firm TeGenero in 2006, in which participants were left in intensive care as a result of adverse reactions to an anti-inflammatory drug.

This could have been avoided if research on a similar drug had been more widely shared, he said.

"There is a much more insidious influence from minor examples than the 'big bang' examples that reverberate around the world," said Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex and a founding member of Cope.

However, despite concerns that some professors were "untouchable" in their departments, the idea of a US-style independent external regulator failed to find favour.

Graeme Catto, a former president of the General Medical Council, said the presence of a state regulator would allow institutions to "duck out of their responsibilities" and "would have to have a huge budget".

Professor Farthing said universities needed a more consistent approach to research misconduct, but argued that self-regulation and greater emphasis on prevention was the way forward.

Research Councils UK and Universities UK are working on a "concordat" to agree aspects of policy in this area but, two years on, nothing has been announced.


So You Wanna Be a Law Prof But Not Really?

All you really knew is that you did not want to be a lawyer. So you got into teaching and what did you find out? Law teaching meant teaching law or at least how to be a lawyer. That is not so hot either because actually law is not interesting to you. Do not fear, a whole generation of new courses for the law teacher who wants no part of law has evolved. Here is a recent proposal just received:

Dear Curriculum Committee:

I would like to propose a new course, Law and Life, to be taught by me. I have attached the proposed syllabus. The course will work best if capped at zero students. Because I feel it is important enough to make it available to others, I have decided to cap it at six.

Thank you Tristan

Law and Life
Professor Tristan & Professor Gold (Music Therapy Department)

Materials needed: 1)A Prune
2) My law review article in any of the seven forms I have published the same article.
3) Dancing slippers
4) A gender-neutral Teddy Bear
5) (Optional) Pancake syrup.

We meet every Tuesday evening from 6-8 unless there is a full moon.

Your grade will be based on the weekly assignments as described and a machine graded, multiple choice, take home, open book (if there were one) exam.

Week One: Birth

Prepare for presentation to the class a limerick that describes how you felt while being born. How is this like a new law? Or is it? Dr. Madelain. a recent graduate of our law school who also once read a book about birth will first present a lecture on "What it feels like to be Born and the Law." This class will not be graded. Instead, each student will be given a laminated photocopy of my Harvard degree. I have thousands so do not worry. This means if I forget to mention where I went to school (and I rarely do) you can refer to the card. It is wallet sized.

Week Two: Telling is Feeling and Client Confidentiality

In this class you must tell the rest of the students the one thing you would least like them to know about yourself. You also must tell something about your best friend that you believe would make your best friend mortified. The goal of this exercise is to allow you to experience how a client would feel if you violated his or her confidence. Students telling the most embarrassing things about themselves will receive an A. All others will receive another laminated copy of my diploma.

Week Three: You and the Prune

Please visit the restroom before class. In this class you will sit quietly and observe a prune for sixty minutes. The music in the background will be John Cages 4 minutes 33 seconds. While observing the prune you are required to adopt the perspective of a cat. What do you feel? Please purr if you are so inclined.

In the last hour of the class, you will share the feelings you experienced. This must be whispered. The lights will be dimmed to enhance the darkness. The best presenters will receive and A as well others in the class.

Week Four: Sex and Negotiation: First Experiences

Prepare a 30 minute detailed description of your first sexual encounter. You may use power point. Your first sexual experience, whether you realize it or not, was a negotiation. Think of the steps of that negotiation. Since there are six of you and only 120 minutes, two students will be picked at random not to participate. They will receive a grade of A. This class will be videotaped by a very small person.

Week Five: Self Defense and the Law

Steven Thog, a guy a met while walking my collie, Jung, around the park will present some really good moves to use on unruly clients. There will be role-playing with each of you taking the role of an abusive client and Steven will play the role of you or what you would be like if you were Steven. All students who do not tell the dean about this class will receive an A.

Week Six: Client Movement

You are required to wear dancing slippers. Each of you will have 10 minutes to display the feelings of a client through movement. You may not speak. Is she happy or sad, tall or short, skinny or large?

The second hour of class you must critique the interpretations of your classmates also through movement only. Important: no levitation is permitted during this class. Students who are more expressive or wear the most colorful costumes will receive an A. Students who would have their feelings hurt if given less than a A will also receive an A.

Week Seven: Attorney Movement

You are required to wear dancing slippers. Each of you will have 10 minutes to display the feelings of a attorney in a case involving a legal name change. You may not speak. Through movement you must exhibit your feelings about the client's new name without revealing those feelings to the client.

The second hour of class you must critique the interpretations of your classmates also through movement only. Important: no levitation is permitted during this class. Students who are the quietest dancers will receive an A. Students who would have their feelings hurt if given less than a A will also receive an A.

Week Eight: Review

This week will be devoted to a discussion of which of the prior classes you liked best. How did it make you feel.?How do you think I will feel if you did not love them all? Special guest lecturer is Bubba Henson author of the brilliant article, "Law: So What?" an unpublishable manuscript now in his file cabinet.

Week Nine: Waffles

Thema Henson, Bubba's mother and waitress at the 3rd street Waffle House will be our special guest lecturer. Special treat: She will bring strawberry waffles for all. Her lecture will cover the perils of late night attorney-client relationships. She is not a actual attorney but once waited on a table of 4. Two had BLTs and two had grilled cheese with onions. After the lecture we will think really really hard. The hardest thinkers will receive grades of A. Each of them may keep the A or give it to someone else in the class.

Week Ten: Princeton and Dreams

There will be no class this night. I will be attending the Princeton reunion. The class will be made up between 2 and 4 AM when you are required to dream a dream of your law professors dancing. A's will be awarded to all those reporting they had the required dream. A's are also available if you promise not to tell the dean we cancelled class and did not make it up.

Week Eleven: Multiple Choice Exams

I will mime a 30 minute lecture on why I use multiple choice machine graded exams. Over the next 90 minutes you will each write an essay on "Why Machine Graded Multiple Choice Exams are the Best Way to Evaluate Student Performance." You will mail your essays to the dean.

Weeks Twelve -Thirteen: Guest Lecturers

Yes, I am pretty much out of ideas and don't really like preparing for class so I am going to figure out who I can get to come and talk to you about whatever. It'll be great. Really! These classes are optional plus I will not be in attendance.

Week Fourteen: Aren't We Feeling Better

Tonight the entire two hours will be devoted to a class evaluation in which you will describe how you benefited from the class. Please emphasize how the class changed you for the better. Oh, not that it is relevant, but I have decided to give you all As and there is a plate of cookies at the front of class.

Is Diversity Dead?

Maybe the better title to this should be "Was Diversity Ever Alive." When people think about diversity it is usually racial. To me, that "effort" at diversity was always a curious one. Most faculty I have been around really wanted the least diverse diversity candidates possible. By that I mean African American who went to fancy law schools, had middle class or professional parents. etc. But, I've covered this before and to the extent racial diversity is a goal, I see no changes.

Now, though, I realize I have misusing the term "intellectual diversity." In the past I and others have used the term to mean ideological diversity. It is obvious to most that most law schools are not ideologically diverse. There are few conservatives, perhaps fewer libertarians, and almost no leftists. Instead we have the (not) liberals. Most have an agenda (like I do) that is self-referential. I think of them a psycho-capitalists. Not psycho as in crazy but people who are rational maximizers of whatever makes them feel good. And, what makes them feel good is to be around people like themselves. Call it narcsi-pyscho-captalitism.

There is little hope for ideological diversity.

Intellectual diversity is something different. I could mean different levels of intellectualism -- different levels of pure curiosity and a willingness to go with ideas where ever they may lead -- law schools are not diverse (and not not diverse at a high level)

On the other hand, if intellectual diversity means different interests, it is true that some people really get into antitrust and some love teaching contracts with all of its history and puzzles. The problem is that for most law professors, the breadth of intellectual diversity seems to extend to different facets of law. To put it a bit too bluntly, except for knowing about non law things at a Jeopardy level, they don't seem to know much. Ever heard the subjects of conversation at a law faculty party? I can assure you the range is teensy. Just ask the non lawyer spouses who refuse to go.

I'd add one more element to this. This lack of this version of intellectual diversity seems most evident among younger faculty. It's a given that that vast majority of law professors are graduates of a handful of schools. Yet somewhere along the line it seems like those schools stopped teaching or stopped recruiting people a broad range of interests.

In the olden days of law teaching ,when I began, there were characters and eccentrics and people from fancy schools who could talk knowledgably about all kinds of topics. Now those fancy schools seem to select their students from a very narrow range of intellectual potential and then suck whatever potential might have been there right out of them. Some, thankfully, survive going to those schools but many do not.

Whistle and we won't be able to come to you, or won't have to after all

Whistleblowers contacted England's funding council 18 times in the past two years, alerting it to allegations that included pressure being put on staff to lie during an audit and the manipulation of National Student Survey results.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England looked into all of the cases, but either decided that no further action was required on its part or was unable to respond to the whistleblowers to follow up the complaints.

Half of the tip-offs were made anonymously.

The Hefce records for January 2010 to October 2011, released to Times Higher Education under the Freedom of Information Act, show that only four complaints were made using the formal Public Interest Disclosure Act mechanism, which protects whistleblowers who speak out against wrongdoing in the workplace.

A third of the 18 complaints related to the University of Gloucestershire in 2010.

The institution had a turbulent year as it sought to recover from a £31.6 million debt. Its vice-chancellor departed and it lost a damaging employment tribunal to one of its managers, Jan Merrigan.

Hefce audited Gloucestershire's student number returns in 2010.

The Gloucestershire complaints that were submitted to Hefce, all made anonymously, included a request "for each member of the finance team to be interviewed alone during the forthcoming Hefce data audit".

A summary of Hefce's response states: "Audit team advised. Request has not been shared with the institution to ensure that the audit is not influenced."

There was also a complaint about alleged "variance in student number reporting and tuition fee recovery". Hefce said that this had "already been prioritised" in the audit.

Another Gloucestershire complaint alleged that "staff [were] told to lie during [the] forthcoming audit". Hefce's response states: "Audit team aware of the factors which may have prompted staff concerns."

Paul Drake, Gloucestershire's executive director of external relations, said the university was "aware of a number of the issues raised by anonymous individuals, but has not been able to respond to them individually as the authors are unknown".

He noted that "some of the concerns expressed date from a turbulent period of the university's past", adding that a "change agenda" had brought about "a more stable institution and positive financial surpluses".

Other complaints submitted to Hefce concerned the alleged "manipulation of the NSS" at two unnamed institutions. Hefce found that no action was required.

One of the formal Public Interest Disclosures concerned Coventry University, where there was a claim that a "company connected with the university" was "alleged to be returning falsified enrolments".

But Hefce said that "no evidence...[was] found during the audit which was instigated" and described the allegation as "unsubstantiated".

A spokesman for the funding council said that judgements were made "in all cases as to what action was necessary, either by Hefce or the institutions involved".

He added that "if necessary, the matter was investigated to give us the information we needed".


Get Those Numbers Out of Here or I will Call the Authorities

The other day I spoke to a colleague about the fact that my school has two grading curves depending on the size of the class. I wondered allowed if we could study whether the 2 curves influenced course selection, class rank, and GPA. The response was not argumentative at all but more or less "I'm not that interested in numbers."

That is, in fact, a common theme in legal education and represents how far legal educators are from the applying various principles and measures that would follow from good educational policy.

The example I have given is directly related to the issue of student choices. Do we want students to select courses that will best prepare them for the practice of law (or tending bar as the case increasingly seems to be) or do we want them to be tempted to game the system.

The two curve example reminds me of one of the worse testing strategies around: Please select and answer any 3 of the following 5 questions. Yes, it's a policy that says to pick the test you would like to take. The student who would get an B on three quesitons and a C on the other two gets the same grade as the student who would get a B on all 5. Like the different curves, the testing method itself intrudes on the process in a way that is disconnected from the goal. But there too we get into numbers.

Something that also falls in the area where law professors do not venture is the reliability and validity of exams. Reliability is really a question of consistency. For example, you turn the hot water tap on half way for your bath and the water is always 90 degrees. You can count on it. But, you also say 90 degrees is just right for making your aching muscles feel better. That is a question of validity.

Suppose every time you write and give an exam, there is a nice bell shaped curve. You might say your testing is reliable: every time you give an exam X happens. But, do you know anything about the connection between what you hope to be testing for and the outcome? This question of validity is a different matter. I am far from an expert but, let's say you give machine graded multiple choice exams. How do you know the questions are valid measures of what you want to measure. There could, after all, be 5 reasons to miss a question or get it right and only some are related to what you are testing for. I would guess that any multiple choice question that does not require a student to explain his or her answer would have to undergo testing itself and perhaps trial runs and debriefings of the students so see what they understood the question to be asking and how the different choices could be interpreted.

And then there is the matter of student evaluations. What do they tell us? I'd say they are very reliable and valid indicators of what the students wrote down on their forms. Other than that, I do not know. The problem is that no one else does. Wouldn't it be nice to know what the evaluations mean as far as actual student learning? I've seen studies that indicate no correlation between evaluations and learning and even some that indicate a negative correlation.

But then again, to actually attempt to determine what the numbers mean would mean dealing with numbers.

Finally suppose you offer three or four credit course you would like to teach in 2 days. There are all kinds of studies on the impact of different class lengths on concentration and learning. I wonder if any law professors have looked at these "numbers."

Sometimes it seems clear to me that numbers are discounted principally because they may tell us something we do not want to hear. The main thing we do not want to hear is anything that casts a shadow over whether we should get our way.