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Wikipedia and Gender – Where are the Women?

Dear Commons Community,

About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia participation and discovered that only 13 percent of contributors are women.  The study was conducted by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University (Netherlands).  The study was based on a survey of 176, 192 respondents representing 231 countries.  Among other analyses, the study’s authors reported that men dominate both the readership and contributor list of Wikipedia,  and that contributors show a substantially larger percentage of males and that among respondents only 12.64% of contributors are female.

The NY Times has an article examining this issue and quotes Jane Margolis, co-author of a book on sexism in computer science, “Unlocking the Clubhouse,” argues that Wikipedia is experiencing the same problems of the offline world, where women are less willing to assert their opinions in public. “In almost every space, who are the authorities, the politicians, writers for op-ed pages?” said Ms. Margolis, a senior researcher at the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles.”   According to the OpEd Project, an organization based in New York that monitors the gender breakdown of contributors to “public thought-leadership forums,” a participation rate of roughly 85-to-15 percent, men to women, is common — whether members of Congress, or writers on The New York Times and Washington Post Op-Ed pages.

I am sorry but I would never have suspected that a project like Wikipedia – the epitome of a free, open access service – would have such a disparity.

Tony

Egypt, Social Networking, and Young Professionals!

Dear Commons Community,

The demonstrations in Egypt and the recent violence is being very well reported in all the media.  Young college graduates are leading these demonstrations by using  social networking (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.) to communicate and organize.    The NY Times has a story today that “President Hosni Mubarak has cut off Internet access  and in doing so….has betrayed his own fear — that Facebook, Twitter, laptops and smartphones could empower his opponents, expose his weakness to the world and topple his regime. “   The article mentions other acts of large-scale demonstrations in Tunisia and Iran that also relied on Internet communications.  The article goes on to say that while the regime in Tunisia was toppled, the regime in Iran quelled the demonstrations and has since been using Internet tools to monitor anti-government activity.

I had the good fortune to visit Egypt last April.  It was a special experience given its history and culture.  But in conversations with my tour guides (all Egyptians) , it was evident that the economy does not produce enough professional positions for college/university graduates.  One of my guides, about 35 years old who had a college degree, indicate that he needed to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.  He also indicated that this was the norm for most young people.

Let’s hope for a peaceful and democratic resolution.

Tony

Brooklyn College Revokes Adjunct Faculty Member’s Appointment!

Dear Commons Community,

Making the rounds of several faculty LISTSERVs is the story of Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct professor scheduled to teach a course on Middle Eastern politics at Brooklyn College this semester.  His appointment to teach this course was suddenly rescinded by the Brooklyn College administration after questions were raised about his credentials.  What makes this action particularly troublesome is that Dov Hikind, a Democratic state assemblyman from Brooklyn, wrote to the college president and to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein  to express alarm about the “slanted nature” of this professor’s scholarship. The NY Times has picked up on this story and reported:

“In an interview, Mr. Hikind, who himself has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College, said he had spent 20 hours reading Mr. Petersen-Overton’s work and studying his Web site and syllabus. “Everything I read was incredibly one-sided,” Mr. Hikind said. “It was all about Israel being the bad guys in every way. He’s entitled to anything he wants to say, but if he’s going to go into a graduate course in my neighborhood, I just want a guy who’s going to be fair.”

Academic freedom versus political influence will probably get a lot of press over the next few weeks as supporters on both  sides of the issue become more actively involved.  More  important is what will happen to Professor Petersen-Overton in all of this.

Tony

CUNY Bans Smoking on All Campuses!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night, at its January meeting, the CUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution banning smoking anywhere on CUNY property including outdoor spaces.  The NY Times is reporting that banning smoking on college campuses is a trend that began about five years ago and has gathered momentum in recent months. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group, reported this month that at least 466 campuses had completely banned smoking or passed resolutions to do so.  CUNY campuses have until September 2012 to implement the new policy.  CUNY’s Executive Vice Chancellor Alexandra Logue  said the new restrictions could impel smokers to give up the habit. “The more you can remove cues in the environment that are associated with that addiction, the less craving the smoker will feel.”

Tony

Bill Gates: “In five years, the best education will come from the Web”

Dear Commons Community,

Some of you may have seen this but I have to confess that I missed it.

During the August 2010 Techonomy Conference, Bill stated his belief that five years from now the Web will provide better educational opportunities than any single university. Bill also believes that college needs to be less “place-based” and that soon “place-based” colleges will be five times less important than they are today.

For many students, rising tuition costs and decreased availability of necessary courses are hindering their ability to enroll in traditional colleges and universities. Bill’s comments highlight his belief that technology is necessary to both adequately control and expand education globally.

Anybody interested in applying for a Gates Foundation Grant?

Tony

Click here to read Gates’ additional Techonomy Conference comments.

Glenn Beck and Frances Fox Piven!!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article today highlighting the verbal attacks of FoxNews commentator Glenn Beck on CUNY Graduate Center’s Professor Frances Fox Piven.    Professor Piven has been a primary character in Mr. Beck’s warnings about a progressive take-down of America.  “Ms. Piven, Mr. Beck says, is responsible for a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system.”   Together with her late husband, Richard Cloward, Professor Piven wrote an article in the May 1966 issue of The Nation titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty”. Her critics have called this the “Cloward–Piven strategy.”     While most of us especially here at CUNY would wear a Glenn Beck criticism as a “badge of honor”,   the 78-year old Professor Piven said in an interview that she had informed local law enforcement authorities that she has received threats of physical harm because of Glenn Beck’s comments and criticisms.  However, she added, “I don’t want to give anybody the satisfaction of thinking they’ve got me trembling.”

Tony

What are College Students Learning? – Not Much!

Dear Commons Community,

Greg Johnson, a colleague of mine at Hunter College, has sent a piece from the Huffington Post summarizing the results of a new book and study entitled,  “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” by Richard Arum of New York University, and  Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia.     The study is based on a survey of more than 2,300 undergraduates at 24 colleges.  Among the study’s findings are that:

_45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years;

_after four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement;

_Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.

_Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.

_Students from families with different levels of parental education enter college with different learning levels but learn at about the same rates while attending college. The racial gap between black and white students going in, however, widens: Black students improve their assessment scores at lower levels than whites.

The above should provide fuel for the growing interest in more formal student assessments at the undergraduate level.

Tony

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Commons Community,

On this day we  remember with great affection and a great deal of thanks, the contribution of Martin Luther King, Jr. to our country.  His messages of peace and racial understanding still reverberate for those us fortunate to have heard his words.  There will be many references to his great oratory.  Surely, parts of his “I had a dream” speech will be played throughout the media today.  However, Larry Shore, a colleague of mine, reminded us on a CUNY faculty LISTSERV that on December 10, 1965,  Dr. King gave a talk at our own Hunter College on the issue of human rights and specifically about what was happening in South Africa.   There are kernels of inspiration and love in this talk many of which Dr. King shared in other speeches and many of which are still important today.

Peace!

Tony

China’s Winning Schools!


Dear Commons Community,

Nicholas Kristof has a fine column today examining the improvements in the primary and secondary education system in China.  Essentially he praises the investment that the Chinese government has made in its public schools, one that was relatively weak a couple of decades ago especially in the rural areas.  Mr. Kristof credits the respect for education based on Confucian principles combined with technical aspects (hard work, some flexibility with reassigning teachers, etc. ) of the education system that have contributed to improvements.  However, the Achilles heel of the Chinese education system is its over-reliance on testing and memorization.  Among Chinese educators there has been a growing concern about the need to integrate more creativity and exploration  into the public schools.   I commented on this issue here on this blog in December 2010.

I agree with Mr. Kristoph that if things  keep going the way they are, China will surely be the dominant power on this planet mainly because of its investment and improvements in its public schools. I am sad to say that many of the reforms undertaken in our country especially in large urban distrticts are designed to do the opposite.

Tony

Rush Limbaugh – Purveyor of Violence!

Dear Commons Coummunity,

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Tucson, there is a story going around the blogoshere about a billboard in Tucson (about five miles from where the shopping mall where Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six people were killed) that contained an ad for Limbaugh’s radio talk show (see below).    The text of the billboard which supposedly had been there for quite some time, was purchased by radio station KNST and advertises: “Rush Limbaugh Straight Shooter“ and has fake bullet holes painted on it.   The ad on this billboard was taken down two days after the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Giffords.

Tony