Friday, May 29, 2009

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is a much-discussed topic, often used to suggest that faculty can do just about anything they want. Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post, For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009) provides a better understanding of this issue and its history. They examine, drawing on the important 1915 and 1940 statements by the American Association of University Professors and numerous case studies, freedom in the areas of research and publication, the classroom, intramural speech, and extramural speech. As they conclude, “Academic freedom is not the freedom to speak or to teach just as one wishes. It is the freedom to pursue the scholarly profession, inside and outside the classroom, according to the norms and standards of the profession” (p. 149). Finkin and Post argue that the notion of academic freedom is the result of a covenant between the university and the general public, and that it is a critical one for supporting the “social good of advancing knowledge” (p. 44). They try to demonstrate the intricacies of supporting academic freedom, such as noting that “no university currently deals with its faculty as if academic freedom of research and publication were an individual right to be fully free from all institutional restraint. Universities instead hire, promote, grant tenure to, and support faculty on the basis of criteria of academic merit that purport to apply professional standards. Individual faculty have no right of immunity from such judgments” (pp. 58-59). As they deal with the various dimensions of academic freedom, they occasionally discuss aspects of higher education that seem to be susceptible to much misinterpretation; here is an example: “It is important . . . to distinguish between respect for person and respect for ideas. Faculty must respect students as persons, but they needn’t respect ideas, even ideas held by students. In higher education no idea is immune from potentially scathing criticism” (p. 105). This is a well-written, clear assessment of academic freedom.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Latest household wireless survey

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) routinely surveys households; as part of that survey, they include telephone ownership. So, CDC has become one of the more interesting sources on trends in telecommunications, especially the increasing switch to wireless-only. Their latest survey has some interesting data in it. Consider these ... by category, the largest percentage of wireless only households is:

Household structure: Unrelated adults, no children
Poverty status: Poor
Geographic region: South (Midwest close behind)
MSA status: Metropolitan
Home ownership status: Renting

Who would have thought that a landline was a luxury of "not poor" households?

Here's a figure from the report that is interesting, but not surprising to me:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Holding College Chiefs to Their Words

From the WSJ, May 6, 2009

"Reed College President Colin Diver suffered writer's block. Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, wrote quickly but then toiled for hours to cut an essay that was twice as long as it was supposed to be. The assignment loomed over Wesleyan University President Michael Roth's family vacation to Disney World.

The university presidents were struggling with a task that tortures high-school seniors around the country every year: writing the college admissions essay. In a particularly competitive year for college admissions, The Wall Street Journal turned the tables on the presidents of 10 top colleges and universities with an unusual assignment: answer an essay question from their own school's application."

See to read their essays.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wafers, not papers

Here is an article from Venturebeat via NY Times about something that is (at least to me), partly related to some discussions about what IS really is (as against CS for instance).
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Friday, May 01, 2009

Check out the editorial commentary at

It's entitled A challenge to Goliath, and was written by Mike Rossner, the Executive Director of the Rockefeller University Press

He begins, "Megapublishers obligate librarians to buy hundreds of journals they do not need in order to access the journals their constituents actually read. The time has come to challenge this business model, which is unsustainable for the libraries. ..."