Pamela Paul Makes the Case for File Cabinets!

Dear Commons Community,

Pamela Paul, editor for the Times Book Review and author of 100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet, has a guest essay in this morning’s New York Times, making the case for file cabinets that at one time were part of our innermost lives. She comments:

“Most of us paper-based people accumulated our fair share of these cabinets, which held, as such things do, a carefully organized history of one’s past: artwork, by grade; camp letters, by year; cards, birthday; cards, Valentine’s Day; cards, other; insurance forms; house deeds; medical records. Birth certificates, tax receipts, diplomas, fading photocopies of Social Security cards. Who knew when one scrap or another might prove useful?

…And how all of this must sound so archaic and pointless to the Gen Z employee heading off to work in the cloud.”

I must say that I had forgotten the file cabinets that use to ring my office.  However, I still keep one small file in a desk drawer in my home office for my income tax documentation.  Sorry!

Below is Ms. Paul’s entire essay.  File it under “P”!



The New York Times

The Case for File Cabinets

Oct. 16, 2021

By Pamela Paul

Ms. Paul is the editor of the Book Review and the author, most recently, of “100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet.”

Remember filing cabinets? Those lumbering, clattering towers of drawers stuffed full of Pendaflex folders? They were once vital to every workplace, as much a part of the landscape as desks and chairs. There was always a warren of them in a back room somewhere, and no matter what your eventual profession, if you ever served time as an intern, an executive assistant, a clerk or a catalog manager, you filed. You filed and filed until your thumbs wore down. You’d painstakingly recenter those metal rods, always prone to slipping free; you’d occasionally handwrite a label onto the perforated fragment of paper nested inside each plastic tab, folding it just so and inserting it, only to see it worm out the other end. And only after you’d climbed a few rungs on the corporate ladder could you let all this filing go to someone else, another rung down.

But filing wasn’t just for the office; files were part of our innermost personal lives. (Let’s not forget that the portal into John Malkovich’s mind lurked behind — why, yes — a file cabinet.) For a young adult, acquiring your first metal contraption, or one of those brown accordion files with the little figure-eight string closure, was part of becoming a grown-up. It was no longer Mom’s job to keep track of your life’s paperwork. It was on you.

Most of us paper-based people accumulated our fair share of these cabinets, which held, as such things do, a carefully organized history of one’s past: artwork, by grade; camp letters, by year; cards, birthday; cards, Valentine’s Day; cards, other; insurance forms; house deeds; medical records. Birth certificates, tax receipts, diplomas, fading photocopies of Social Security cards. Who knew when one scrap or another might prove useful?

This all must sound so archaic and pointless to the Gen Z employee heading off to work in the cloud. What was this paperwork of which you speak?, they ask. This “pushing papers” people once supposedly engaged in — didn’t things get lost, forgotten, overlooked?

Answer: Yes, sometimes. Sometimes one had to locate something in an unfamiliar file hidden according to some unknown person’s inscrutable clerical system. Sometimes one had to clean out an entire tower and load its contents into cardboard boxes built especially for deep storage, and no matter how hard one tried to keep these relocated files in upright order, they would cascade forward in domino fashion and need to be rebuilt.

Today, digitally functional people don’t have to deal with any of this. They have scans of all they need lodged in virtual spaces. They can print out documents as necessary, but this, effectively, means never, because scanned items can simply be transferred from one place to another through secure and password-protected pathways, then kept on assorted drives (flash, hard, shared).

Surely this is more organized. Surely it is more efficient and secure. Surely it is cleaner and more environmentally friendly (especially if we ignore the power required to keep the servers running). On these unearthly planes, it’s harder for people to accidentally stumble across something they weren’t meant to see (darn); no forgotten documents peek out mischievously from a manila folder begging to be read (ooh). No longer does the simple act of rifling turn up something damning or private; it now requires special I.T. skills to sneak such files open.

Yet not being able to find these things — whether we were meant to or not — also means we’ve lost something too.

A good filing system could be strangely inspiring. For three months, I worked at Time Inc. with a woman named Charlotte whose ability to color coordinate paperwork left me quaking with inferiority, yet fueled with a certain ambition to go about my own business in a more logical and accessible way. As onerous as it might be, the very process of filing things physically helped to organize your work life and your life life. In the same way people acquire and retain information better when handwriting rather than keyboarding, manually going through papers and positioning them in a physical space reinforces the information.

For those with a tactile or visual orientation, placing documents in a particular place imprints them in your brain: the folded corner, the weight and smell of the paper. “I remember putting that memo with the chart here in the back,” you’d think to yourself, making your way to the rear of filing cabinet K-M.

During this early paperbound era, I acquired four hideous beige towers of four drawers each. Three of them now stand empty, reminders of a moment of weakness when, in an effort to “keep up with the times,” I let myself be persuaded that papers were no longer necessary — that everything could be either uploaded or downloaded. Feeling modern and free, I spent an afternoon throwing out years of accumulated magazine and newspaper clips. I got rid of printed-out transcripts from old book research. I let go of dozens of poorly written college essays. I released a fourth-grade report on the caribou into the wild.

In the wake of my Great File Purge, those cabinets loom reproachfully in my garage. It’s been years since I’ve even attempted to rattle free one of their jam-prone metal closures — hard to close, even harder to open. I am no longer certain what’s in them, but I can’t quite be fully persuaded they’re no longer necessary.

On the rare occasions I made it into those cabinets, a term paper for an anthropology class I’d forgotten about or a clipping from my hometown paper about the hurricane that knocked down our front tree might catch my eye and I’d be transported — a whoosh of nostalgia or the relief of thank-goodness-I-am-no-longer-you when I happened upon some youthful ephemera. But you don’t just happen upon such things among the uniform folder-shaped icons in the cloud or unfold their contents gingerly to discover something unexpected scribbled on the back. We have shut the door permanently on all of that.


New Book:  Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss– “Countdown bin Laden”



Dear Commons Community,

Last week I finished reading Countdown 1945:  The Extraordinary Story of the Atom Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World by news anchor, Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss. It was only natural that I pick up and read their current best-seller, Countdown bin Laden: The 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice. Even though the subject matter of the new book is a more familiar event that most of us remember, Wallace and Weiss’s treatment did not disappoint in its style and attention to details in the search for Osama bin Laden.  A critical element of the story is once they “think” that bin Laden is in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA and others involved with tracking him down, have no definite proof.  Also, the nature of the commando-type raid by US Navy Seals is fraught with danger and peril.  There is a lot of decision making and process described here among President Barak Obama, Leon Panetta, Admiral  William McRaven and several other dedicated CIA and military personnel over whether to make a raid or not.  There is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who keeps reminding the President of the disastrous attempt during the President Jimmy Carter administration to free hostages in Iran.

As with their earlier book, the last one hundred pages are riveting and you will not want to put it down.

Below is a brief review, courtesy of Publishers Weekly.



Publishers Weekly

Countdown bin Laden: The Untold Story of the 247–Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice

Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and Associated Press reporter Mitch Weiss follow Countdown 1945 with an engrossing if familiar account of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Toggling between key players including CIA director Leon Panetta; Admiral William McRaven, who planned the mission; and Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who fired the shots that killed bin Laden, the authors start in August 2010, when Panetta first learned that CIA agents had tracked a suspected al-Qaeda courier to a heavily fortified compound on a dead-end street in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Aerial surveillance led operatives to believe that a compound resident they nicknamed “the Pacer” might be bin Laden, though an attempt to collect DNA evidence confirming his identity through a CIA-funded vaccination program proved fruitless. Anxious to take action before the Pakistani government caught wind of the operation, President Obama made the “50-50 call” to authorize the raid, which got off to a rocky start when the lead helicopter went down. Synthesizing material from published memoirs, journalistic accounts, and interviews, the authors build a cohesive narrative, but break little new ground. Still, this is a cinematic overview of one of the CIA’s most heralded missions.

New crew docks at China’s first permanent space station!

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, China, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 shows three Chinese astronauts, from left, Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping waving after entering the space station core module Tianhe. China's Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts on Saturday docked at its space station, kicking off a record-setting six-month stay as the country moves toward completing the new orbiting outpost. Chinese characters,  left, read "Platform Camera B." (Tian Dingyu/Xinhua via AP)

Chinese astronauts Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping after entering the space station core module

Dear Commons Community,

The Associated Press reported this morning that Chinese astronauts began their six-month mission on China’s first permanent space station, after successfully docking aboard their spacecraft.

The astronauts, two men and a woman, were seen floating around the module before speaking via a live-streamed video.

The new crew includes Wang Yaping, 41, who is the first Chinese woman to board the Tiangong space station, and is expected to become China’s first female spacewalker.

“We’ll co-operate with each other, carefully conduct maneuvers, and try to accomplish all tasks successfully in this round of exploration of the universe,” said Wang in the video.

The space travelers’ Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was launched by a Long March-2F rocket at 12:23 a.m. Saturday and docked with the Tianhe core module of the space station at 6:56 a.m.

The three astronauts entered the station’s core module at about 10 a.m., the China Manned Space Agency said.

They are the second crew to move into China’s Tiangong space station, which was launched last April. The first crew stayed three months.

The new crew includes two veterans of space travel — Zhai Zhigang, 55, and Wang. The third member, Ye Guangfu, 41, is making his first trip to space.

The mission’s launch was seen off by a military band and supporters singing “Ode to the Motherland,” underscoring national pride in the space program, which has advanced rapidly in recent years.

The crew will do three spacewalks to install equipment in preparation for expanding the station, assess living conditions in the Tianhe module, and conduct experiments in space medicine and other fields.

China’s military-run space program plans to send multiple crews to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

When completed with the addition of two more sections — named Mengtian and Wentian — the station will weigh about 66 tons, much smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 450 tons.

Two more Chinese modules are due to be launched before the end of next year during the stay of the yet-to-be-named Shenzhou-14 crew.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday renewed its commitment to cooperation with other nations in the peaceful use of space.

Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space was a “common cause of mankind.” China would “continue to extend the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchanges” in crewed spaceflight and “make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe,” he said.

China was excluded from the International Space Station largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese program’s secretive nature and close military ties, prompting it to launch two experimental modules before starting on the permanent station.

U.S. law requires congressional approval for contact between the American and Chinese space programs, but China is cooperating with space experts from other countries including France, Sweden, Russia and Italy. Chinese officials have said they look forward to hosting astronauts from other countries aboard the space station once it becomes fully functional.

China has launched seven crewed missions with a total of 14 astronauts aboard — two have flown twice — since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a person in space on its own.

China has also expanded its work on lunar and Mars exploration, including landing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and returning lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

This year, China also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, whose accompanying Zhurong rover has been exploring for evidence of life on the red planet.

Other Chinese space programs call for collecting soil from an asteroid and bringing back additional lunar samples. China has also expressed an aspiration to land people on the moon and possibly build a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.

Good luck to these astronauts!


Conservative Charlie Sykes Torches ‘Absolutely Bats**t Crazy’ Republicans In Texas!

Charlie Sykes: 'I'm used to being disappointed' in Congress

Charlie Sykes

Dear Commons Community,

Conservative Charlie Sykes slammed Texas, Florida and Arizona Republicans for competing on “the most hair-on-fire culture war games.”

Yesterday, he lamented what he described as the “race to the bottom” to “see who can be the most MAGA” between Republicans in Florida, Arizona and Texas.

“I know that Republicans in Texas have been conservative for a long time but there was a time when conservative Republicans in Texas were not absolutely batshit crazy,” Sykes, founder of the conservative website The Bulwark, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace in video shared online by Mediaite.

“Texas Republicans used to be respectable,” Sykes continued. “And now we are almost in this competition … between Florida, Arizona and Texas to see who can be the most MAGA, who can play the most hair-on-fire culture war games because that seems to be this race to the bottom that we’re talking about here.”

Sykes’ comments came during a discussion about a Texas law that instructs teachers to offer opposing perspectives on historical events. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) recently banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state which is also now subject to a highly restrictive abortion law.

A school administrator faced backlash this week after saying educators should “make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one” with alternative viewpoints.

Sykes said it was “easy to beat up on the administrator” but “the focus ought to be on the law and the fact that the teachers are terrified. They don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“What is the other side of the Holocaust?” Sykes later asked. “Are you going to assign fourth-graders ‘Mein Kampf’? Are you going to make them listen to Seb Gorka’s radio show? I just don’t know what she actually had in mind. But again, this is exactly what you get when you have politicians playing culture war and then trying to ram that into badly thought out draconian legislation.”

Rough language but Sykes has it right!



The 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey: Findings on Demographics of Senate Chairs and Governance Structures!


Dear Commons Community,

Hans-Joerg Tiede, the Director of Research for the AAUP, gives a report in the current issue of  Academe on the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey.  It provides data (see sample table above) on governance leaders at four-year colleges and universities. Here is an excerpt.

The 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first such national survey in two decades, covered a wide range of topics related to academic gover­nance. I reported on responses to survey questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on governance and the relative authority of the faculty in various areas of academic decision-making in an online data snapshot titled “Survey Data on the Impact of the Pandemic on Shared Governance” and in the report Findings on Faculty Roles by Decision-Making Areas, respectively. This report focuses on responses to questions about the composition of senates and similar faculty governance bodies, faculty-board communication, and the conduct of presidential searches as well as questions about the demographic composition and professional character­istics of faculty governance leaders. I present the results by institutional control (public or private nonprofit); by Carnegie classification (distinguishing broadly between doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s institutions); by institutional size, with institutions categorized as “small” (fewer than two thousand students), “medium” (between two thousand and five thousand students), or “large” (more than five thousand students); and by the collective bargaining status of tenured and tenure-track faculty members (at institutions with a tenure system) or full-time faculty members (at institutions without a tenure system). When possible, I also compare findings with results from previous national surveys on shared governance conducted or sponsored by the AAUP…

… Findings related to the demographics of senate chairs show that, as a group, they are overwhelmingly full-time faculty members at the higher ranks and, at tenure-granting institutions, have tenure. Compared with the overall racial and ethnic composition of full-time faculty members at four-year institutions, white faculty members are overrepresented, and Asian fac­ulty members, especially, are underrepresented among faculty governance leaders.

Interesting data on a population that has generally not been studied very much!


Student loans: ‘Landmark settlement’ reached in lawsuit over Public Servant Loan Forgiveness Program!

(Screenshot from Zoom conference)

Randi Weingarten

Dear Commons Community,

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the US Department of Education (USDOE) announced a settlement on the  Public Servant Loan Forgiveness(PSLF) program  used by my many public service workers.

The AFT hailed the “landmark settlement” in the case of Weingarten v. DeVos — originally filed in July 2019 and titled after the AFT President Randi Weingarten and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — as an agreement that will “hold the federal government accountable for its failure to manage the PSLF.”

The news comes a week after the USDOE announced a series of major changes to the troubled PSLF program.

“This agreement unravels the problems of PSLF’s implementation and shows the power of advocacy and collective action,” Weingarten said in a statement, adding: “It represents a game-changing victory for the millions of educators, nurses, public employees, and other AFT members yoked to crushing monthly repayments that have upended their lives. And it gives muscle and teeth to the Education Department’s reforms to PSLF announced last week.”

The PSLF program, created by Congress in 2007, enables government and non-profit employees with federally-backed student loans to apply for forgiveness after proof of 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan.  As reported by Yahoo Finance.

”Yahoo Finance recently detailed the immense difficulties one professor faced while navigating the system over 12 years before ultimately receiving debt cancellation this year.

The embattled PSLF program has yielded an extremely low success rate — in the single digits for years — partly because many borrowers simply did not qualify. In 2018, Congress provided USDOE with $700 million to create the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (TEPSLF).

As of April 30, 2021, the latest date for which federal data is available, both programs still have anemic outcomes: According to Federal Student Aid, PSLF had an approval rate of 2%. Only 3,458 out of 168,702 completed PSLF forms submitted met the requirements for loan forgiveness. TEPSLF had an approval rate of 3.4%, with only 224 forms out of 6,629 forms meeting the government’s requirements.

Projections by the loan servicer handling the PSLF program also indicated that only 22% of borrowers are on track for forgiveness in the next five years, according to records obtained by the SBPC.

The settlement announced on Wednesday represented “a redemption and redeeming moment for a Department of Education who under the last administration, refused to listen to the people who teach in schools, who nurse in our hospitals, who fight fires,” Weingarten said in a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s clear that elections do matter.”

Addressing the PSLF program is a priority for the Biden administration.

During his nomination hearing in April, James Kvaal, now undersecretary of education (the top official in charge of colleges and universities) said that the administration was looking into PSLF and how to fix it.

In early October, USDOE announced temporary changes to how it was counting qualifying payments and more. The details of those changes can be found here.

Fixing the PSLF program could greatly help recruit more teachers, as school districts struggle to fill positions and as education jobs take a dip (as per the jobs report), former Education Secretary John B. King Jr. told Yahoo Finance Live earlier this week.

“We probably need help from Congress really to make that program as strong as possible,” King said. “There were definitely some bureaucratic hurdles that were created in the design of the program that made it hard for people to access.”

According to King, the previous administration did not consider fixing PSLF as it was not “not something they were interested in supporting, and that led to lots of folks getting rejected who should really have gotten their debt forgiven… the Biden administration is trying to right the ship there. Congress can help as well.”

Settlement’s implications for other PSLF applicants

The settlement reached by the AFT and ED accomplishes several things.

First, it discharges eight individual AFT member plaintiffs’ balances, which totals nearly $400,000.

Second, it allows for an official review of those who had their PSLF applications denied. Those denied applications will be reconsidered.

This will be an automatic review, if their application was denied prior to November 2020, especially if the borrower had at least 10 years of repayment on a direct loan.

Borrowers will receive credit for years of payments made in the past, and also get detailed notices telling them how many payments remain before they qualify for forgiveness, how they can find out which payments are qualifying, and whom to contact to receive guidance about how to obtain loan forgiveness.

On top of that, the settlement also promises to bring more transparency into the system, with publicly available audits of student loan servicer performance, publication of corrective action plans, public releases of data on why borrowers fail to qualify for PSLF, and improved data on turnaround times and outcomes.

Congratulations to Ms. Weingarten and the plaintiffs in this case.


Georgia Regents Approve Changes in Post-Tenure Review over Faculty Objections!

Janet Murray, a professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech addresses professors from several Georgia universities who rallied Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 at the Keneda Building on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta against proposed changes to the state system’s post-tenure review process. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Faculty Protest Changes to Georgia’s Post-Tenure Review Policy

Dear Commons Community,

The University System of Georgia regents yesterday approved changes in the board’s post-tenure review policy that Georgia faculty members and the American Association of University Professors have criticized as a hobbling of tenure.

Before the vote, professors around the state called on the Board of Regents to table the issue. Concerned instructors and students chanted, “Hands off tenure!” at a Tuesday protest outside a two-day meeting of the governing board. The AAUP issued a statement on Tuesday saying if the revisions were approved, tenure and academic freedom would be “severely compromised.” Given “the severity and scope of this potential attack,” the organization’s executive director would authorize an investigation if the changes were ratified, the statement said.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Some observers have characterized the changes as eliminating tenure at the state’s public colleges — the university professors’ group tweeted in advance of the vote that the new language would “end tenure.”

It’s not quite that simple. The alterations center on the process of post-tenure review. The revisions may very well weaken tenured professors’ job security, though to what degree is not immediately clear. (The policy changes leave room for campuses to write their own rules to conform with the board’s language, with guidance from the system chancellor or a designate. A system official declined to make Tristan Denley, the system’s chief academic officer, available for an interview.)

So what’s changing?

Under the former framework, tenured faculty members went through post-tenure review every five years. If there were “deficiencies” identified, that faculty member worked with a supervisor to develop a plan with desired outcomes, a timetable, and a “monitoring strategy.” If after three years the faculty member had not improved in the identified areas, that person could be fired for cause. That dismissal process was governed by the regents’ dismissal policy, which outlines specific procedures that must be followed. Among those procedures are that a tenured professor facing termination has the right to a hearing before a faculty committee made up of three to five impartial faculty members, chosen by the executive committee of the highest faculty legislative body.

Under the new policy, if, during a tenured faculty member’s annual review, that person’s performance is deemed unsatisfactory or not meeting expectations for two years in a row, that faculty member is required to go through a “corrective post-tenure review.”

While it cannot be said to do away with tenure entirely, it certainly moves in that direction.

The policy doesn’t define this term but says if the results of a post-tenure review are unfavorable, then the department chair and dean, in consultation with the faculty member, will create a performance-improvement plan.

Should the professor fail to make sufficient progress or refuse to “engage reasonably in the process,” as determined “by the department chair and dean after considering feedback from the committee of faculty colleagues,” the new policy states, then the college shall take appropriate remedial action, like a pay suspension, a revocation of tenure, or termination. The college president makes the final call.

The system’s 25 tenure-granting institutions must create their own policies for carrying out the system’s new post-tenure review policy, and said policies “shall be developed in consultation with the institution’s faculty and shall include appropriate due-process mechanisms,” the new language says. Campus-level policies must be approved by the system chancellor or a designate. The chancellor or a designate will also provide colleges with “more specific guidelines” for their post-tenure-review policies.

System leaders have defended the policy adjustments, saying they came after a working group thoroughly reviewed what was and was not working in the post-tenure-review process systemwide. That working group was asked to recommend policy and practice updates “to ensure all faculty remain productive throughout their careers.” The goal of the changes they recommended, wrote Lance Wallace, associate vice chancellor for communications, in an email, is “to support career development for all faculty, as well as ensure accountability and continued strong performance from faculty members after they have achieved tenure.”

Faculty critics say proper due process is anything but guaranteed. That’s because before Wednesday, the way in which tenured professors who had undergone post-tenure review and not shown improvement could be fired was set in stone, thanks to a systemwide discipline policy that closely mirrors what the national AAUP recommends. Now, the new policy says, such action can be taken “in accordance with the guidelines provided by the chancellor or the chancellor’s designee(s), as well as the institution’s post-tenure-review policies.” That opens the door, these faculty members say, to firing faculty members through post-tenure review in a way that skirts existing due-process protections.

In September, Gregory F. Scholtz, director of the AAUP’s department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance, pointed out that disciplinary sanctions would no longer fall under the existing dismissal policy. “While it cannot be said to do away with tenure entirely,” he wrote in a letter outlining concerns, “it certainly moves in that direction by making it possible to dismiss a tenured faculty member — without affordance of academic due process — for failing to fulfill the terms of an imposed performance improvement plan, as determined by an administrator, not a body of peers.”

Tenure is an indefinite appointment “terminable only for cause as demonstrated in a hearing before an elected faculty body, with the burden of proof resting with the administration,” Scholtz continued. Tenure without those procedural protections “is tenure in name only.”

Professors have objected to other aspects of the new policy, like that it adds “student success” as a benchmark on which faculty members will be evaluated. Faculty members have pressed for clarity on how, exactly, “student success” will be gauged, and why it’s necessary to add another category to the traditional teaching, research, and service. In evaluations, professors already report many things they do to help students beyond instruction in the classroom, said Heather Pincock, an associate professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University and a member of United Campus Workers of Georgia, the union that mounted Tuesday’s protest.

In an email, Wallace said that adding student success “recognizes ways in which faculty deepen student learning and engagement through activities both inside and outside the classroom.” As has always been the case, each institution must establish “clear and transparent assessment of all criteria in ways fitting to their mission and values. The development of the new student success criteria will be no different,” he said.

The new procedure “involves review by a body of peers both at the beginning and at the end of the process, and provides for appeal.”

Matthew Boedy, president of the Georgia Conference of the AAUP, wonders why regents want to make these changes. His assumption: The board thinks tenure is too easy to get and too easy to keep. Among the policy changes is that regents — though they’ve delegated authority for tenure decisions to college presidents — can now take that authority back if a college’s “faculty-review process” is not being carried out “in a sufficiently rigorous manner” until the college’s processes have been fixed. (Regents did not discuss the new policy language at the Wednesday public meeting.)

As faculty concerns mounted, Boedy, an associate professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia, relayed them to Teresa MacCartney, the acting system chancellor. MacCartney, in response, defended the policy changes. They grew out of a post-tenure-review working group that the previous chancellor formed last year, she wrote in an October letter to Boedy. That group, which included faculty members, collected information from all tenure-granting colleges and surveyed faculty members and administrators.

Data the group assembled shows that the vast majority — 96 percent — of post-tenure reviews conducted in the past five years at 22 institutions were positive, meaning no development plan was needed. Of those who had to submit a plan, 39 percent were successful at remediation, though that percentage does not include the many plans counted as in progress. The working group concluded, among other things, that in its current form, “very few low-performing faculty members are identified and remediated during the PTR process.”

The new procedure, MacCartney wrote, “involves review by a body of peers both at the beginning and at the end of the process, and provides for appeal.”

Boedy was unmoved. The post-tenure-review process and tenure due process are not “remotely the same,” he wrote in reply.

“While you point out the obvious, that indeed the PTR process will be not under the umbrella of the dismissal-for-cause policy, you don’t state why that is necessary,” he wrote. And that move by the Board of Regents to remove post-tenure review from the tenure due process “is where tenure dies.”


Video: William Shatner is a real-life Captain Kirk now!


Dear Commons Community,

William Shatner became a real-life Captain Kirk yesterday when the Star Trek alum became the oldest person to travel to space.

Shatner, an Emmy Award-winning actor, 90, set off for the adventure of a lifetime thanks to Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin.

Taking off from Launch Site One in West Texas around 10:50 a.m. ET, Shatner was one of four crew members aboard the New Shepard rocket.

“That was unlike anything they described,” Shatner said as the capsule descended to Earth thanks to a giant parachute minutes later.

“That’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” he added.  Video above of the flight includes more comments from Shatner that begin at the 25 minute – 40 second mark.

Joining the star were Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, as well as crew members Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries.

“It’s life-changing in its way, not because of the aerial adventure, but because of the people I’m meeting,” Shatner said in a video that aired during Blue Origin’s livestream.

Speaking of the joy that space travel can bring, Shatner added, “We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is — how extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning.”

Bezos joined the crew on the launch pad before Shatner, Powers, Boshuizen and de Vries entered the space vehicle and made final preparations for takeoff.  The Amazon billionaire took the honors of closing the hatch.

Bezos revealed on Instagram that Shatner is taking along a special possession for him.

“I made these tricorders and communicator to play Star Trek with my friends when I was 9 years old, and my incredible mom saved them for 48 years,” Bezos wrote.

“She dug them up this past week, and @WilliamShatner has agreed to take them up into space for me tomorrow,” he added. “Please don’t judge me for the artwork. Thank you, Bill!”

According to Blue Origin’s official website, the New Shepard suborbital vehicle can seat six astronauts, and since the ship is “fully autonomous,” there is no pilot.

The reusable craft’s 11-minute flights are “designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line — the internationally recognized boundary of space,” the company’s website says.

Addressing recent headlines about the safety of the vehicle, Blue Origin employees pointed out during the launch livestream that the New Shepard vehicle completed multiple tests without a crew in a years-long process that began in 2015.

Someday, everyday people will be able to take this ride and maybe come to appreciate a bit more the wonders of our planet and beyond.



Nobel Prize in Economics Goes to David Card, Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens!

David Card, Joshua D Angrist and Guido W Imbens awarded Nobel Economics  prize 2021

Dear Commons Community,

On Monday, the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to three Americans:  David Card, Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens.

David Card has made a career of studying unintended experiments to examine economic questions — like whether raising the minimum wage causes people to lose jobs.

Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens have developed research tools that help economists use real-life situations to test big theories, like how additional education affects earnings.

All three winners are based in the United States. Mr. Card, who was born in Canada, works at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Angrist, born in the United States, is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mr. Imbens, born in the Netherlands, is at Stanford University.

“Sometimes, nature, or policy changes, provide situations that resemble randomized experiments,” said Peter Fredriksson, chairman of the prize committee. “This year’s laureates have shown that such natural experiments help answer important questions for society.”

The recognition was bittersweet, many economists noted, because much of the research featured in the prize announcement was co-written by Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton University economist and former White House adviser who died in 2019. The Nobels are not typically awarded posthumously. Despite that note of sadness, the economics profession celebrated the news, crediting the winners for their work in changing the way that labor markets in particular are studied.

“They ushered in a new phase in labor economics that has now reached all fields of the profession,” Trevon D. Logan, an economics professor at Ohio State, wrote on Twitter shortly after the prize was announced.

Mr. Card’s work has challenged conventional wisdom in labor economics — including the idea that higher minimum wages led to lower employment. He was a co-author of influential studies on that topic with Mr. Krueger, including one that used the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania to test the effect of a minimum wage change. Comparing outcomes between the states, the research found that employment at fast food restaurants was not negatively affected by an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage.

Mr. Card has also researched the effect of an influx of immigrants on employment levels among local workers with low education levels — again finding the impact to be minimal — and the effect of school resource levels on student education, which was larger than expected.

Congratulations to these Nobel winners.



American Airlines and Other Carriers Rebuff Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Will Comply With Biden Vaccine Mandates!

American Airlines issues vaccine deadline for employees, who must comply or  get fired | Post Bulletin

Dear Commons Community,

Texas-based American Airlines said yesterday it would move forward with mandates that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, despite the state’s governor attempting to ban such requirements across Texas this week.  Southwest Airlines also came to the same decision. As reported by Politico, the Huffington Post, and other media sources.

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order on Monday barring vaccine mandates for any business, government office or other entity across the state, despite the ongoing threat of the coronavirus and its highly transmissible delta variant.

That effort is in opposition to President Joe Biden’s federal requirement that businesses with 100 employees or more must mandate vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing. The White House asked the Department of Labor to draft a rule doing so last month, a decision that could ultimately impact 100 million Americans. There is also a separate provision that mandates all federal workers and government contractors be vaccinated as well.

Federal contractors have until Dec. 8 to show they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Southwest and American have asked employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.

“Federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” Southwest told Politico in a statement Tuesday, adding that it would continue to update employees about any “potential changes.”

American Airlines also told The Hill it was reviewing Abbott’s order, but it, too, believed “the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything.”

Almost all major U.S. airlines have announced vaccine mandates for staff after the White House announcements. Delta Air Lines does not have a vaccine requirement but charges a $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated workers.

Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly, said this week he was opposed to a vaccine requirement but added the company must comply with the Biden decision.

Vaccination remains a safe and effective way to prevent severe illness and death associated with COVID-19, but mandates compelling Americans to do so have remained a flashpoint among conservatives. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated himself, has regularly moved to bar mask and vaccination requirements across the state, calling Biden’s orders “bullying” against private businesses.

Only about 52% of the Texas population is fully vaccinated and the state is still seeing an average of more than 7,000 new cases per day.”

Governor Abbot has no pride in showing what an a** he is.

Get vaccinated!