The University of California admissions department has updated its applications to reflect alternative genders. However, the school has not simply added “transgender” or a third option. Instead, it has added six gender identity categories.
New Horizons made its farewell pass of Pluto and left us with incredible pictures of the dwarf planet to analyze and discuss for years. It has been an incredible experience for all of humanity to see the most distant planet, even if it has been downgraded to dwarf planet.
The extensive move to remove the Confederate Flag from public and some commercial settings has raised serious concerns over both free speech and academic freedom. While the flag has been used as a racist symbol, it is also a historical symbol. According to one author, that distinction appears to have been lost by Amazon, which reportedly took done the book by Michael Dreese, a civil war author with six books on the conflict. Two of those books concern both the Union and Confederate battle flags and their roles in the Civil War. However, “This Flag Never Goes Down” (a book on the Confederate flag) was taken down by Amazon from its listed works.
As an academic, I am often cautious about stories criticizing scientific studies due to some esoteric or humorous subject matter. However, I must confess that I am perplexed by the scientific basis or value of a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) study to understand why lesbians are supposedly fat. The government has spent over $3.5 million thus far on the study, “Sexual Orientation and Obesity: A Test of a Gendered Biopsychosocial Model.” [Some reports however put the original grant at $1.5 million] The study seeks to determine why there is a disparity in the obesity rates between straight women and lesbian women and straight men and gay men.
The academic world is facing another professor accused of misrepresenting her ethnic background. Andrea Smith, an associate professor at the University of California Riverside has written extensively on Native American subjects and long claimed Cherokee heritage. However, critics have said that Smith is no Cherokee — a scandal reminiscent of Elizabeth Warren scandal after her lifetime claim of being a Native American were debunked. Likewise a former University of Colorado professor and radical “Native American” writer Ward Churchill was found to have phony claims of being Native American. The question is what is the proper response of a school if an academic long claimed such a status, which comes with obvious benefits from schools seeking to diversify their faculties. On one hand, there can be a question of academic honestly while on the other academics can claim that they were acting in good faith on the basis of family accounts or misguided assumptions.
There is a new debate over impact of social media on academics. We previously debated the status of Boston University sociology professor Saida Grundy after a series of racist postings on social media. Boston University retained Grundy while many asked what would have happened if a white professor had posted the inverse comments about the “problem” of black males on campuses. Now a Memphis professor, Zandria Robinson, has triggered the same debate after denouncing whites and insisting that “whiteness is most certainly and inevitably terror.” However, in Robinson’s case, she was rehired by Rhodes College, which seemed to view her controversial comments as a positive element supporting her appointment. Some have criticized the decision and asked again if a white professor had called blackness a “terror,” if those comments would have been deemed a positive intellectual perspective.
There is an interesting academic controversy out of Louisiana State University where Professor Teresa Buchanan, who specializes in early childhood education and trains elementary school teachers, has been fired for creating what university administrators describe as a “hostile learning environment” that amounted to sexual harassment. However, the crux of the charges appears to be Buchanan’s use of foul language and bawdy jokes. The question is why (as recommended by the faculty committee) Buchanan was not simply reprimand or censured for such violations as opposed to fired.