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Recent suicide by professor sparks renewed discussions about access to mental-health services for faculty members
Will Moore, a professor of political science at Arizona State University, typically used his blog to comment on -- in his words -- “human rights, conflict, teaching, life as an aspie [someone with Asperger's syndrome] and whatever else strikes my fancy.” Earlier this week, however, he used it to share a suicide note.
“Assuming I did not botch the task, by the time this posts I will have been dead via suicide for several hours. Nope, that’s not a setup to a joke,” he wrote.
Attempting to explain his decision, Moore said that he’d long struggled feelings of social isolation. Far too often, he said, “I angered, insulted, offended and otherwise upset people, without expecting or intending to,” and “I rarely felt that I was successful explaining my ideas, perceptions, understandings to others.” He said he’d considered suicide off and on since he was a teenager, and learned early on that the topic was “taboo” and not to be discussed.
In closing -- what he called “punching out” -- Moore thanked “each and every one of you who interacted with me, in person and/or virtually, and especially those who I interacted with frequently and came to know. … Though I chose to exit rather than persist, I have been very privileged, and I thank you for being a part of my life.”
A reader immediately alerted authorities to the blog post, but it was too late. Moore had already taken his life.
Friends and colleagues in political science struggled to make any sense of the news in their own blog posts. Several touched on the emotional toll studying Moore’s specialty, political violence, can take, even from a physically safe distance.
Steve Saideman, Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, in Canada, described Moore as a brilliant peer who was zany enough to have once attended the Burning Man music and art festival dressed as a Republican pollster. Sometimes harsh, Moore “was fierce in his pursuit of understanding,” Saideman wrote. “His focus was mostly on the denial of human rights, a topic that could be stressful to study. His passion for justice carried over into how he acted within the profession. Will was very protective as he mentored several generations of students.”
Joshua Busby, associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote that he didn’t know Moore well but that his death struck many international relations scholars “especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. … These sorts of tragic events remind us that the human condition is hard and that aspects of our profession can be unkind to our mental health.”
Christian Davenport, professor of political science at the University of Michigan and a close collaborator of Moore’s, said via email that there was some truth to the idea that one’s professional passions can hurt. But they can also heal, he said.
“The study of political conflict and violence does take a toll on the individuals that do it, but at the same time this pales in comparison to the toll it would take on those who were aware of what was taking place but did not address it,” he said. “My particular way of dealing with it has been to talk and later write about my experiences and, to a lesser extent, feelings.”
Beyond self-care, Davenport said scholars need to practice some “communal care.” There isn’t enough of it, and “I will make sure that this is one of the positive things that emerges from this tragedy,” he added.
There's no research to suggest that professors have higher than average rates of suicide, and in fact most possess certain risk-reducing traits, such as high levels of education. And for those who aren't adjuncts, quality health care coverage typically includes mental health. But even when scholars aren’t dealing with potentially traumatic material, their lives are high stress. The carefree academic way of life (if it ever existed) has been replaced by new funding pressures, increased administrative work, the decline of the tenure track and a more corporate, consumer-driven model of education. And while student mental-health issues have received much attention and destigmatization in recent years, it’s unclear how much of that has translated to the professoriate, where there’s a premium on clarity of thought.
“Stigma with regard to mental health seems to be strong in the faculty community,” said Negar Shekarabi, coordinator for faculty and staff mental-health care and respondent services at the University of California, Irvine. “The very specific pressures that faculty experience around work expectations and their ability to think, foster knowledge and ideas, and be academically productive causes a particularly threatening vulnerability should they disclose that they have mental-health issues.”
Many worry about losing their jobs, status or the confidence of their colleagues and students in their abilities if they're public about the challenges they face, she said. “This creates some additional silence around mental-health concerns in the faculty population.”
Still, a number of individual faculty members have outed their mental-health challenges. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dalio Family Professor in Mood Disorders at Johns Hopkins University, wrote about her struggles with bipolar disorder in her 1995 book An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. More recently, Peter Railton, Gregory S. Kavka Distinguished University Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of philosophy at Michigan, revealed his struggles with depression in a major 2015 lecture, to much praise. Santa Ono, now president of the University of British Columbia, last year shared that he’d twice attempted suicide as a young man. John W. Belcher, Class of '22 Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also shared his experiences with depression in the student newspaper, in 2013, after an undergraduate wrote a piece about similar challenges.
“There is a stigma attached to having been clinically depressed and being on antidepressants (as I am),” Belcher wrote. “That stigma is undeserved, and many people who should embrace such treatment instead avoid it. The more open people like [the student] and I are about our experiences in dealing with depression, the more acceptance of those treatments there will be.”
Belcher said this week of his disclosure, “I would do it again in a heartbeat. It makes a tremendous difference to students when they see you can deal with this sort of thing, recover from it, and not be ‘permanently broken,’ as a student once said to me.”
He’s experienced no negative repercussions from his admission, either, but he said that as a senior faculty member nearing the end of his career, it involved minimal risk. In general, he said, “I don’t think there’s particularly less stigma surrounding faculty mental health these days.”
Railton, of Michigan, also said this week that he’s been “deeply moved by the number of younger people in this country and abroad who have written to me to say that my talk was helpful to them in contending with their own difficulties, or in understanding the difficulties of others.”
However, he said, these are “complicated times,” in that “I myself am far enough along in my career that I have been able to accept the wonderful support many colleagues have shown, without having to worry excessively about other effects.” More junior faculty members “unfortunately do not have this luxury,” though, “and academic life is deeply tied up with how others view one's mind. There's much more to be done.”
Robert E. Brown, now a professor of communications at Salem State University, shared his account of depression and a suicide attempt early in his career several years ago in The Boston Globe.
Like some students today, he wrote, “I felt like an impostor. What right had I to the title of professor? With each passing week that summer, darkness deepened in me. I feared facing my classes every Tuesday and Thursday. As soon as the students left, I’d drive to a quiet place in the hills near my apartment to sit and stare for hours. On Tuesday afternoons, I dreaded Thursday. Thursdays, I obsessed about the next Tuesday.”
Brown recently told Inside Higher Ed that he didn’t seen any evidence of professors being increasingly open about considering suicide, though professors and administrators, including his president, thanked him for his piece. “I assumed her gratitude was for my being willing to open an issue shrouded, so to speak, in silence and stigma,” he said.
Asked whether academic culture was moving more toward acceptance of mental-health issues, Shekarabi said yes -- at least in her own “little corner of the world.” Shekarabi’s coordinator position is relatively new. The idea is that having someone on campus to talk to before navigating other resources will lead to increased use of services, she said.
Shekarabi’s office is also tasked with identifying the need for and developing mental-health training for professors, “not just from the perspective of what to be aware of in their students, but how to recognize and respond to distress in their colleagues, how to manage their own mental-health concerns, and how to create a more inclusive environment in their departments and schools.”
Creating a Culture of Access and Inclusion
As to how campuses can better support faculty members struggling with mental-health concerns, Shekarabi said accommodations and awareness matter, but so too does inclusivity. Is mental health integrated into standard, mandatory training and policies for all faculty members, for example, she asked. Do those policies prohibit stigma and harassment?
Margaret Price, associate professor of English and director of disability studies at Ohio State University, and Stephanie L. Kerschbaum, associate professor of English at the University of Delaware and coordinator of its faculty development program, recently published a resource guide and set of suggestions for practice on promoting supportive academic environments for faculty members with mental illnesses. Based on a survey of 323 self-identified professors with mental-health histories, the report takes the view that mental illness is not a problem to be “fixed.”
Rather, it says, “efforts to improve campus climate should be directed primarily toward environments and attitudes," over individual people. "Most importantly, we advocate going beyond the notion of passively ‘supporting’ mental health through compartmentalized campus counseling and wellness services.”
The report encourages everyone on campus, especially those in leadership roles, to increase “access” via effective policies for inclusivity, and against stigma and harassment; supportive structures for hiring, performance review and promotion; and a proactive, centrally located service infrastructure, among other recommendations.
Here are some reasons (verbatim) that professors in the survey gave for not disclosing their mental health concerns.
- Fear of losing all credibility. When my child was younger, fear of losing custody.
- I have seen a colleague with a serious mental-health issue subjected to constant gossip, originating with administrators, and I believe such would seriously damage my ability to work.
- Because academic work requires a very sharp, functioning mind, I've been terrified that revealing my mental-health problems would cause others to respect me even less than they already do.
- I am exhausted and overworked, which doubles the difficulty in hiding symptoms.
- I’m very worried I won’t be seen as capable of doing the job if I disclose that I’ve suffered from major depressive episodes in the past.
Kerschbaum said that disclosure narratives provide an important function in acknowledging that disability exists within academe. They also provide affirmation, she said, but it’s important to note what people are comfortable sharing and leaving out, and who’s talking.
“Willingness to disclose is often tied to institutional status, employment stability, gender and even academic discipline, as some fields are more accepting or hospitable while others remain hostile,” she said.
Faculty mental-health issues often stay hidden because there are far fewer professors than, say, students, who have “critical mass” enough to generate movement toward disclosure. Faculty members also have trouble accessing services, she said, since campuses rarely have “a single recognizable space where faculty with disabilities negotiate accommodations and access.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, confidential 24-7 service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).Health ProfessionsThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyMental healthImage Caption: Will MooreIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Citing safety concerns, two universities this week attempted to block planned appearances at their campuses -- one from white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University, the other from conservative political commentator Ann Coulter at University of California, Berkeley.
Both right-wing figures defied the universities, boasting they would show up regardless, and the institutions, both public, eventually said that they would allow the events, in Auburn’s case because a federal judge backed Spencer’s right to speak.
Spencer addressed Auburn’s campus Tuesday. Coulter has been invited to appear May 2, not April 27 as originally scheduled. Berkeley on Thursday reversed its initial announcement that Coulter couldn't come until the fall. Late Thursday, Coulter was tweeting that she was going to come on the original date, with or without the university's approval.
The decisions to cancel had been panned as a violation of free speech protections considered paramount on college campuses and protected, at public institutions, by the First Amendment.
Legal experts and academics say that public colleges and universities need to prove a real threat and meet a high standard of proof before invoking student and attendee welfare as a reason to curtail expression protected by the First Amendment.
“We have always been clear that colleges and universities bear the obligation to ensure conditions of peaceful discussion, which at times can be quite onerous. Only in the most extraordinary circumstances can strong evidence of imminent danger justify rescinding an invitation to an outside speaker,” the policy of the American Association of University Professors reads.
Recently, though, security issues have grown more complex at colleges as campus protests in some cases have devolved into preventing people from speaking and, in few cases, to violence. Last month, with the visit of controversial scholar Charles Murray to Middlebury College, the audience consistently interrupted Murray’s lecture with catcalls, eventually forcing him to live-stream it from a private room. Afterward, a group donning bandannas cornered Murray and a Middlebury political science professor, pulling her hair and injuring her neck. When Murray was in a car, they climbed, jumped and stomped on it. The university said later the aggressors did not appear to be students.
At Berkeley in February -- explaining part of its concern with hosting Coulter -- a riot erupted ahead of a planned talk by divisive Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, with protesters lighting fires and hurling rocks at police. Those protesters were also not affiliated with the university.
Demonstrating evidence of a true threat to the campus falls to the university, said Michael A. Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center, and an expert in higher education law. Suing Alma Mater: Higher Education and the Courts (Johns Hopkins University Press) is among the books Olivas has written on higher education law.
Using safety or the cost of security as an excuse to bar a speaker, when the real reason concerns what the person might say, must be guarded against, Olivas said.
Contentious speakers like Spencer, a leader of the “alt-right,” a radical movement characterized by its white supremacist views, can exploit systems like Auburn’s to appear on campus, Olivas said. Auburn allows those not connected to the university to use its facilities, and indeed, the man who rented the auditorium for Spencer, Cameron Padgett, said he was a student from Georgia. He did not explain why he booked Spencer other than he wanted to create discourse. Student groups at Berkeley invited Coulter.
“It invites mischief … and certainly provides a much easier mechanism to give them a platform,” Olivas said of Auburn’s rules for using campus buildings. A public college could limit use of its facilities to an individual or organization with a connection to the institution, provided that the rule is applied equitably.
Judge W. Keith Watkins ruled in favor of Spencer's right to appear on campus, writing in his decision that Auburn didn’t present evidence that suggested Spencer advocated violence.
“The court finds that Auburn University canceled the speech based on its belief that listeners and protest groups opposed to Mr. Spencer’s ideology would react to the content of his speech by engaging in protests that could cause violence or property damage,” Watkins wrote. "However, discrimination on the basis of message content 'cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,” and “listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.”
Berkeley was slammed by many for restricting Coulter from campus. Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, released a statement before the university backpedaled, and said it would set a “chilling and dangerous precedent.”
“The Berkeley administration is incentivizing anyone who doesn’t want a particular speaker to be heard to threaten (or even engage in) acts of violence. This all but guarantees that controversial speakers on a particular campus will be silenced, and teaches a generation of students that resorting to violence will be rewarded. Students are learning deeply illiberal lessons. I can think of few things that are more corrosive to higher education or a pluralistic democracy,” Lukianoff said in his statement.
Criticism of Berkeley came from a range of sources.
Robert Reich, a prominent liberal thinker and Berkeley professor who was U.S. secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, wrote in a Facebook post the university had made a “grave” mistake.
“Coulter should be allowed to speak. How can students understand the vapidity of Coulter’s arguments without being allowed to hear her make them, and question her about them?” he wrote.
In addition to widespread social media scorn, the satirical publication The Onion published a faux article Thursday mocking Berkeley for going on lockdown after littered pages from a Wall Street Journal were found on bench. "At press time, a black-clad group of 50 students were throwing bottles at the bench while chanting, 'No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist USA!'" the article reads.
Right now, college administrators face an extremely challenging balance in these types of scenarios, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. They will collect intelligence from law enforcement that suggests a danger, but must weigh this with free speech rights, which are at “the core” of universities’ missions, Kruger said.
“It’s just a hard thing to balance,” Kruger said. “I don’t have any inside information, but the last time at Berkeley [in February] there were a lot of people from off campus and not affiliated with the university that might have a different agenda for the event than members of your own community. If you have intelligence around that, you may not feel like you’re prepared. I’m not saying this is the case for Berkeley, but in the higher education community, we should not use security and or the cost around security as a way to indirectly inhibit free speech.”
Controversial speakers have visited campuses for decades, but recently, demonstrations against them have “amped” up, which Kruger attributed to the most recent political cycle that invited people to spout “horrible” rhetoric on race and gender, he said.
In conjunction with this rise in activism, protesters can now access information via social media about other incidents in an unprecedented way, Kruger said. During the 1960s, it took months to figure out the details of such demonstrations. Now video clips of protests are passed around the internet for anyone to observe and mimic, he said. If a demonstration shuts down a campus and is subject to media attention, that would interest some protesters, who could copy those tactics, Kruger said.
Protecting campuses, which in some cases sprawl and function as their own cities, has proved quite daunting with these protests, said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).
At least nine states have green-lit “campus carry” laws that in some form allow guns on campus, Riseling said, and when someone arrives at a protest with an intimidatingly large firearm slung across their back, if makes police alert. Law enforcement can’t know whether this individual intends to use the gun or not, she said.
Vandalism or problems won’t necessarily be confined to the site of a speaker, either, Riseling said. Reports of protesters instead targeting buildings or other areas of campus have become more common, forcing law enforcement to strategize.
IACLEA has trained campus law enforcement heads recently on protests, and advised new approaches on meting out officers -- instead of placing all resources in one place where nothing might happen, adjusting and planning to tackle possible scenarios, Riseling said.
Dynamics of protests on college campuses differ from those outside, said Riseling, who was charged with security for the Wisconsin capitol in 2011 when more than 125,000 union representatives converged and shut it down in a show of force against Republican Governor Scott Walker. Walker had enacted anti-union measures, including limiting the collective bargaining rights of most state employees.
Traditionally, such uprisings represent constituent dissatisfaction with some aspect of government, like the war in Vietnam or the bitterness against Walker, Riseling said.
These college protests represent a move to stifle free speech, essentially pitting citizen against citizen, she said.
Few times have colleges successfully limited a speaker appearance. In 2008, however, then University of Nebraska Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman, citing threats of violence, successfully rescinded an invitation to Bill Ayers, a former leader of the Weather Underground.
Robert M. O'Neil, a law professor at the University of Virginia, and its former president, said he knew Perlman, who had cataloged enough threatening messages that proved “an ominous situation” could arise, according to O’Neil.
“I find it difficult to accept that the actions of a few individuals can deprive this university of its right to select speakers who can contribute to the education of our students. Nonetheless I take seriously the responsibility I have for the safety of members of this community, particularly the students. It seemed cancellation was the most responsible action,” Perlman wrote in an email to the campus in 2008.
Kruger, the NASPA president, doesn’t believe colleges have acted recklessly in banning campus speakers. Instead, sometimes they sponsor alternative activities, he said. Spencer spoke at Texas A&M University in December, but administrators set up another talk coinciding with his.
Such conflicts on college campuses will continue, Riseling said. Unlike prominent political protests, these sorts of demonstrations don’t appear to have an end, a resolution.
“This is an emerging issue,” Riseling said. “We’ve got to secure these things so they can occur. The highest law of the land is the Constitution. It pre-empts a lot of things, short of life safety. How do we do hold these events and ensure they can go on and everyone participating can be safe?”Editorial Tags: Academic freedomLegal issuesImage Caption: Violence at Berkeley on the night a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos in FebruaryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Giancarlo Lopez-Martinez, a professor of biology at New Mexico State University, had plans set to attend an academic conference in Amherst, Mass., this week along with two graduate students. Spurred partly by the release of a White House budget proposal that included massive cuts to federal research funding, they decided to make a postconference detour to Washington, D.C., to join the April 22 March for Science.
“When the budget thing happened, we knew we definitely had to be there,” Lopez-Martinez said. “We had to make our presence felt because scientists never really do.”
The national march in D.C. this Saturday, along with satellite events across the country (and around the world) likely won’t match the turnout of the Women’s March on Jan. 21 -- a protest some observers speculated was among the largest in U.S. history. But the March for Science has received intense levels of interest since organizers in January began discussing the possibility and subsequently launched Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said those efforts by first-time organizers grew out of the Women’s March, where many participants brought messages in support of science to an event with an ostensibly separate purpose.
Despite those origins, Holt said this week that the March for Science is a nonpartisan event that will focus on a positive message about what’s needed for science to thrive.
“This is, I think, a once-in-a-generation occasion where friends of science and scientists have shown not just a willingness but an eagerness to step into the public square,” Holt said.
Anxiety about the role of science in society and public policy has led members of the profession to engage the larger public in a way they haven’t before, he said.
As the momentum for the march grew over the last few months, large mainstream academic and research organizations like AAAS have joined more traditionally activist groups to make the event a success. AAAS today is hosting a series of workshops at its headquarters in Washington. And the march Saturday will be preceded by teach-ins on the National Mall.
The motivating issues are both specific to the Trump administration -- concerns over researchers’ freedom of movement due to travel bans or other immigration restrictions, and an open disregard for established climate science -- as well as long-term negative trends in areas like federal support for research. The new administration's first budget blueprint released last month, which proposed slashing NIH funding by nearly 20 percent, punctuated those concerns.
Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the nonprofit advocacy group has long worked with scientists who want to learn how to engage better with policy makers, the media and the broader public. But she said the group has seen incredible excitement in recent months from scientists who say they want to do more than add their names to a letter to Congress. Between January and mid-April, 3,000 new members joined UCS, Goldman said.
“We’re really looking to harness that and turn it into action,” Goldman said. “We want to really effect change in a bigger way than we might have been able to do up till now.”
Sabrina Solouki, a Cornell University doctoral student in the field of immunology and infectious disease, is organizing a contingent of nearly 150 graduate students and postdocs to attend the march. She said she is concerned that federal policies on issues like science should be guided by scientific research.
But Solouki, president of the student group Advancing Science and Policy on campus, said she doesn’t see the march as a protest against President Trump.
“Scientists realize that maybe they’re not doing the best job engaging with their communities,” she said. “Maybe this a way to start.”
Students from Solouki’s group will participate in communication workshops organized by AAAS at their headquarters Friday, where scientists will receive training on how to present their research to the public.
Bruce Monger, a lecturer at Cornell who teaches earth and atmospheric sciences, is organizing another busload of about 50 undergraduates heading to the march in Washington from the university's main campus in Ithaca, N.Y. He said it’s time that researchers speak up and make the public aware of the value of science. But the march’s biggest impact could be on the participants themselves, Monger said.
“For the people who go and attend these things, it deepens their resolve to follow through the next day,” he said. “It enriches your belief in your cause more after you see yourself surrounded by all these people with similar worries and concerns about what’s happening.”Editorial Tags: Federal policyResearchIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Evan Savage, one of the organizers of Saturday’s March for Science in Toronto, looks at what’s happening south of the border in the U.S. and is reminded of what Canadian scientists faced under the previous Stephen Harper government, specifically cuts to science funding and the alleged muzzling of government scientists.
“We’ve seen this playbook before,” Savage said, “this playbook of, let’s go after the people who work on the environment, who work on climate, who work on science in general. Let’s cut their funding; let’s tell them they can’t speak. And we have also seen that it can work to raise our voices as scientists, to stand up and say, ‘This is not OK.’”
The main March for Science is happening tomorrow in Washington, D.C., but the march in Toronto is one of more than 100 satellite marches happening outside the U.S. -- and one of 18 officially affiliated events in Canada alone. “We share many of the concerns of the other marches worldwide,” said Savage. “We want to speak out against the muzzling of government scientists, we want to advocate for evidence-based policy making, we want to see better and more inclusive STEM education. We also want to send a message that science is not and must not be mischaracterized as partisan.”
March for Science events are happening all over the world this weekend, from Greenland to Germany, South Korea to South Africa. Some of the marches are being organized by American academics based overseas, while others are homegrown. Some are expected to be large gatherings of a thousand or more people, while others will likely be no more than a few dozen participants strong.
Although the organizers of the main march in Washington have stressed that the event is nonpartisan, the context of the Trump presidency -- including his proposed cuts to research funding and the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and his actions to undo Obama-era regulations combating climate change -- will no doubt loom large in D.C. The marches abroad are taking on their own local flavors, but the American political context is very much a part of the overall global picture.
"The lines between national and global science are blurred, and increasingly so," said Savage. "A lot of fields depend on international collaborations; a lot of fields depend crucially on data sets that are held within national jurisdictions.”
In Malawi, Terrie Taylor, a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine who spends six months of every year in the country, said the Trump administration’s proposals to cut the National Institutes of Health budget by nearly 20 percent and to eliminate the NIH’s global health-focused Fogarty International Center have galvanized support for Saturday’s satellite event in Blantyre, which she hopes will attract up to a couple hundred people.
“We have a lot of NIH-funded work here, and we have a lot of people who have benefited from Fogarty International Center programs,” Taylor said. “The thrust is not anti-Trump as much as it is support for U.S. federally funded research and the U.S. federally funded training, which has had a huge impact on so many people here. So many people have benefited from taking part in the Fogarty programs.”
In Brazil, scientists are dealing with deep cuts to their own federal science budget, which has just been slashed by 44 percent. Ricardo Maia, one of the organizers of the satellite march in São Paulo, said via email that the march has two main goals: “(1) to close the gap between scientific knowledge and the general public and (2) ask for more investments in the part of the government and states in science, as well as facilitating the process to make the private industry increase its investment.”
“To reach the first goal we're inviting groups and people that work with public awareness of science to prepare expositions and workshops to be presented in the day of the march. For example, we plan on having an explanation on how to date rocks, a workshop in cloud identification and an exposition with preserved animals in jars and bone pieces of human ancestors to talk about human evolution,” said Maia, a master’s student in the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of São Paulo. “The second goal we're trying to reach partly via the invited speakers.”
In London, Saturday’s march will take place in the context of Britain’s negotiations to exit the European Union. Story Sylwester, one of the coordinators of the march, said there are concerns about how Brexit might affect international and E.U. researchers working in the United Kingdom, as well as how it could affect students studying there through E.U. programs like Erasmus. “Right now the research community here is vibrant and world leading, and people are very concerned that even if funding stays that researchers might not,” said Sylwester, a master’s student in paleopathology at Durham University originally from Portland, Ore.
Sylwester said organizers are expecting up to 10,000 people for the London march, which will start at the city’s Science Museum and end with speakers and a rally at Parliament Square. “The main part of our march is to get people excited about science,” she said. “It’s not necessarily a protest march. We want to keep it positive. The theme is positivity and celebration.”
One of the organizers of the March for Science in Cape Town, Julie Kohn, likewise said the idea “Is just to be completely positive, for it to be a celebration of science.” The first 200 attendees of the march, the only one in South Africa, will receive free admission to the Cape Town Science Center.
“I do think it’ll be a little different from the U.S.,” said Kohn, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at Cornell University and a visiting researcher at the University of Cape Town. “I don’t anticipate anti-Trump signs that I assume will be in the U.S. -- I hope not, at least. It’s going to have a little different flavor because of the recent history of protests in this country. We want to keep it more of a positive march than a protest.”
In South Korea, Seunghwan Kim, a professor of physics at POSTECH, expects about 1,000 people to be in attendance at the march he's helping to organize in central Seoul, which he said has been gaining momentum and media attention throughout the week. "Scientists here want to put science in the right place, to state the importance of science to the Korean public and also the government," he said.
In Australia, where there will be about 10 different marches throughout the country, organizers have stated a series of aims, including universal science literacy (the March for Science Australia calls for "world-class science education and teaching of critical thinking skills in Australian schools"), open communication of science and public availability of all publicly funded research, evidence-based policy making, and stable investment in scientific research by the Australian government.
"Like in the States, I think there's a general kind of disapproval or weariness about what passes for political discourse here in Australia," said Jocelyn Prasad, one of the organizers. "There has been a disregard for evidence-based research, particularly in the area of climate change."
"Also, I just think that the way science is communicated here has got people a little worried. With more and more people getting information from the likes of Facebook, there is greater scope for misinformation to spread, and we've seen that happen with the anti-vaccination movement here in Australia. They have gained strength," said Prasad. She added that whooping cough -- for which there has long been a preventative vaccine -- had shown up in her son's school.
Similarly, the mission statement of the March for Science in Berlin says that the event "aims to raise awareness of the significance of scientific findings and verifiable results for our society …. Currently, the basis of our modern way of life is now endangered through populist demands and the dissemination of 'fake news.'"
"Every European country has a populist movement which is gaining traction in one way or another," said Eve Craigie, one of the Berlin march organizers. "We have one in Germany which is still rather mild in their popularity compared to maybe France and Holland, but they are also very anti-academia, anti-science, and I think we are concerned that if they gain even more traction that we could experience the same things that are happening in the U.S."
Craigie, a medical doctor, mentioned as other specific topics of concern the threat to Central European University in Hungary, where the right-wing, populist government has passed legislation that the university says would make it impossible to continue operating in the country, and the crackdown on universities in Turkey, where thousands of academics been fired from their jobs and some jailed since a failed coup attempt last July. There is no march scheduled in Turkey. The March for Science shared the following post on its Twitter account last week about the pressures on Turkish scientists.April 14, 2017
In Greenland, ground zero for global warming, the March for Science will begin in the town of Kangerlussuaq -- the site of an airport and a staging area for many international research projects -- and end at the edge of an ice sheet, where demonstrators will take a picture. "It's going to be a very small march," said the main organizer, Mike MacFerrin, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies ice-sheet behavior related to melt, refreezing and runoff. "We're not going to have 10,000-person march in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. We'll have anywhere between one dozen to a few dozen people, and that's fine."
Greenland, after all, has a population of fewer than 60,000 people. But it has "a very outsize importance on the world stage," MacFerrin said.
"Doing science in Greenland has an outsize impact not just on Greenland but on the world," he said. "It is one of the most rapidly changing places on the planet. It's warming far faster than most of the rest of the world."
"It's really important for Miami and New Orleans and countries and cities around the world along the coast to know what's going to happen in Greenland over the next hundred years," he said. Referring to sea level rise, he added, "If they don't think it's important, they're going to find out why."GlobalEditorial Tags: Sciences/Tech/Engineering/MathScience policyInternational higher educationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
- Berea College: U.S. Representative John Lewis; and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the United Methodist Church.
- Cedar Crest College: Molly Barker, the founder of Girls on the Run.
- Coast Guard Academy: President Trump.
- College of New Rochelle: Debra L. Lee, CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks.
- Cornish College of the Arts: Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, director emerita of the Frye Art Museum.
- Emerson College: Dennis Lehane, the novelist.
- Hampden-Sydney College: Bret Stephens, columnist for The New York Times.
- Miami-Dade College: Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and others.
- Mills College: Lateefah Simon, president of the Akonadi Foundation.
- Occidental College: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
- Point Park University: Scott E. Schubert, chief of police in Pittsburgh.
- Queens College of the City University of New York: U.S. Representative Grace Meng.
- Ramapo College of New Jersey: Ron Cephas Jones, the actor.
- State University of New York Farmingdale State College: Stanley M. Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein Inc.
- Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine: Barbara Ross-Lee, vice president for health sciences and medical affairs at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine.
- Willamette University: Leonard Pitts Jr., the newspaper columnist and author.
- Yeshiva University: Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Inside Higher Ed’s annual Survey of Community College Presidents finds institutional leaders dealing with declining enrollments and concerns over the future of their profession.Multiple Authors: Ashley A. SmithDoug Lederman
Ukraine, China and Iraq are the three countries where employers are most likely to offer a better starting package to employees with good English skills, according to a new survey that highlights an English language skills gap at businesses worldwide.
The vast majority of employers in Ukraine (83%) said they would offer additional benefits to English-speaking employees, along with 80% in China and 79% in Iraq.
Around two-thirds of employers in Saudi Arabia and Chile also said they would make a more attractive job offer in exchange for English skills.
In fact, more than half (57%) of the businesses in non-English speaking countries that took part in this year’s QS Global Employer survey said they provide a better starting package to potential employees with good English skills – including a higher salary, faster progression or more senior roles.
They survey by QS and Cambridge English of more than 5,300 businesses worldwide, showed that nearly seven in 10 (69%) of employers based in countries and territories where English is not an official language said that English is nevertheless significant for their organisation.
More than 40% of these employers reported a skills gap when it comes to recruiting employees with good English skills. This reduces to 25% across middle and upper management.
The findings were consistent across all industries, noted Blandine Bastié, country head, UK and Ireland at Cambridge English Language Assessment: “In every industry, there is at least a 40% skills gap between the English language skills required and the skills that are available, irrespective of business size.”
Large enterprises employing more than 2,500 people were more likely to value English than micro-businesses of fewer than 10, but the gap was not significant – across all business sizes, between 67% and 78% of employers valued English.
The extent to which English is considered important varies greatly by country. In Germany and Portugal, for example, employers were unanimous; whereas in Chile, just under half (48%) said English was an important skill for the business.
Aerospace and defence was the area of business where English was most valued, with 89% of employers in non-English speaking countries rating it as important, followed by law, energy and telecoms.
Meanwhile, just half of those in the construction industry said the language is important.
THE latest revelations of wrongdoing in high places struck Brazil with the force of a Netflix release: they are riveting, but so far have left the real world undisturbed. On April 12th Edson Fachin, the supreme-court justice who is overseeing a vast probe into corruption centred on Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, authorised prosecutors to investigate eight government ministers, 24 senators, 39 deputies in the lower house of congress and three state governors. He sent dozens of cases to lower courts; they will now consider whether to launch new criminal inquiries into nine more state governors and three former presidents. All the big political parties and most front-runners in next year’s presidential election have been tarnished (see chart).
This fresh scourging of the political class comes at an awkward time. Brazil’s worst recession on record has not ended. Michel Temer, who became president last year after the impeachment of his predecessor, Dilma...
ONE of the odder pieces of evidence turned up by investigations of Javier Duarte, a former governor of the state of Veracruz, was an exercise book with his wife’s scrawl. “Sí merezco abundancia” (“Yes I deserve wealth”), she had written, over and over. During six years in charge of the state on the Gulf of Mexico, Mr Duarte allegedly did his best to acquire it. He was arrested at a resort in Guatemala on April 15th, after six months on the run. Five days earlier Tomás Yarrington, an ex-governor of the northern state of Tamaulipas, was nabbed in Florence, Italy. He had been eluding justice for five years.
The two fugitive governors are both former members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), to which Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, belongs. The attorney-general has investigated at least 11 state governors since 2010, nine of them from the PRI. Mr Peña once praised Mr Duarte and two other tainted governors as exemplars of the PRI’s “new generation”. This does its image no good ahead of an election in June in the State of Mexico, Mr Peña’s political home. The outcome will be a harbinger of next year’s presidential election (in...
A LONG dictatorship ended in a negotiated transition to democracy. The centre-left took office with a moderate programme, reassured the right by pursuing pro-market economic policies, added better social provision and reconnected the country to the world. Power later switched to the right, which persuaded the country that it had become democratic. Then the centre-left returned, this time as a new generation critical of the compromises of the transition. It veered further left but faced economic difficulties.
Spain? Yes. But Chile, too. Since the dictatorships of Generals Franco and Pinochet, politics in the two countries has run along uncannily parallel tracks, with Chile lagging Spain by ten to 15 years. In Spain, Felipe González, the Socialist prime minister in 1982-96, laid the foundations of democracy, combining liberal economic reforms with a new welfare state and leading the country into Europe. When José María Aznar of the conservative People’s Party (PP) took over, he continued many of Mr González’s policies. Then the Socialists returned under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who confronted the right through progressive social reforms (such as abortion and gay marriage...
ARGENTINA’S national colours are instantly recognisable. The flag’s sky-blue stripes and golden sun adorn everything from football shirts to fridge magnets. A huge monument in Rosario, a port city, marks the site where Manuel Belgrano, a founding father, raised the first flag in 1812. On the anniversary of his death, June 20th, schoolchildren pledge to honour the “white and sky-blue” colours.
But are they saluting the right shade of blue? A study published in a recent edition of Chemistry Select, a peer-reviewed journal, suggests not. Researchers at Argentina’s scientific research council (CONICET) and Brazil’s Federal University of Juiz de Fora examined silk threads from what is thought to be the oldest surviving flag, the enormous but faded San Francisco flag. The shocking discovery: its blue was ultramarine, a much darker pigment.
This is about more than just getting the tint right. Years of civil war followed Argentina’s independence from Spain in 1816. The Federalists, led by Juan Manuel de Rosas, a bloodstained autocrat, fought for decentralised government with strong provinces under dark-blue colours. The...
Secretary of State ...
‘Buy American, Hire American’ rhetoric risks eroding the attractiveness of the US as a study destination, educators warned as Donald Trump’s newest executive order marked the administration taking its first steps towards H-1B visa reform.
Though they acknowledged that a review of the skilled worker system is necessary, stakeholders labelled the surrounding rhetoric wrongheaded and populist.
Overhauling the skilled worker route is a key tenet of the executive order that Trump signed yesterday. In it, he instructs the heads of the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to suggest ways to curb abuse of the system.
“The statement has a racist tone and it will surely affect the future of America as an attractive study destination”
“Widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries to fill the same job for sometimes less pay,” Trump said ahead of signing the order yesterday.
Trump took aim at the lottery by which H-1B visas, a key route to post-study work for foreign graduates, are allocated.
“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery – and that’s wrong,” he said.
“Instead, they should be given to the most-skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.”
Addressing reporters at a press briefing later in the day, a senior administration official said the lottery allocation favours large companies flooding the system with applications for “a very large number of visas… and then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas”.
Proposed reforms should also take into account wages in order to return the H-1B visa program to its “original state of intent” as a skilled labour program, the official said.
“Many people will be surprised to know that about 80% of H-1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields,” they noted.
Speaking with The PIE News, Sonya Singh, managing director of India-based SIEC, is one of many in the sector who have long understood the flaws in the H-1B system.
“In my opinion, the changes are required in the H-1B visa program to address the issues of abuse and misuse of the visa program, but to link it to the Trump Slogan of ‘Buy American, Hire American’ seems to be a sweeping populist statement rather than a deeply assessed or thought about policy,” she commented.
“The statement has a racist tone and it will surely affect the future of America as an attractive study destination,” she continued. “Genuine students who look forward to some work experience in the US after finishing their studies are being put off every day by these statements.”
Eddie West, director of international programs at UC Berkeley Extension, echoed that the system “deserves review”.
“What’s more, adopting a more merit-based approach to adjudicating applications doesn’t strike me as a bad idea per se,” he said.
“Adopting a more merit-based approach to adjudicating applications isn’t a bad idea per se”
“However, in terms of international student mobility to the US, the executive order could deal another negative blow, at least in the short-term,” he added. “The executive order is introducing more uncertainty… that’s likely to deter students from opting to study in the US, and make them look toward more hospitable and stable destinations, like Canada.”
Sushil Sukhwani, director at India-based Edwise, said the real problem at the moment is the fear of the unknown.
“Announcements such as this, which are not clear, create anxiety amongst students as they are unable to understand the factual position,” he said. “This has a negative impact on the prospective student applications.”
The medium- to long-term impact of the executive order will depend to a great degree on the policies federal agencies implement in response. A policy that favours graduates from US universities, for example, would likely be good news for the higher education sector.
In the current system, 20,000 visas are reserved for international students with master’s degrees, which are exempt from salary thresholds. International students seeking their first graduate job may miss out if this exemption is lost or if the salary threshold rises, said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder and CEO of interEDGE.org, which specialises in international student career success.
However, Roger Brindley, vice president of the University of South Florida’s USF World division, pointed out that the executive order appears to be targeting “lower paid foreign nationals who are alleged to be denying employment to American workers”, and so may not directly affect foreign postgraduate students.
“The students who are graduating with a postgraduate or doctoral degree in engineering are looking for those middle, upper management jobs that we do not believe will be directly affected by that executive order,” he said.
“The students we are bringing to the University of South Florida, we expect, will have ample opportunity to seek H-1B visas in those higher skilled categories,” he added, given that foreign talent is needed to fill skills gaps in the US labour market in some industries, such as IT.
Still, Canada and Australia are likely to benefit from the policy as students who are seeking post-study work or immigration opportunities “consider other options”, predicted Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Global Reach.
However, he was nevertheless optimistic the US will remain an attractive study destination.
“The US will remain the first option for students seeking research and high end universities,” he explained. “We must remember that the best universities are in the US.”
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