Sharing Ideas

Sharing your research with the public can change minds

A recent study finds evidence that thoughtful, persuasive commentary by academics can shift the debate and affect policy.

I think this is true and absolutely crucial. When academics share their thoughts with people outside their field, it’s very useful both for them and their audience.

But fewer people are doing it because it gets scary. I find myself more and more often wanting to write something but then deciding to stay silent because I don’t want it to be resurrected for my “social scorecard” ten years from now. Every morning I hope through a list of ideas I want to write about and discard all of them out of fear. Then I post something about the weather or the news, and that’s it.

The preceding post I just published, I think I need to put it under a password or delete it because it’s one of the list of the untouchable subjects that is growing every day.

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Sharing Ideas”

  1. \ Every morning I hope through a list of ideas I want to write about and discard all of them out of fear. Then I post something about the weather or the news, and that’s it.

    It’s a pity. I have noticed you publish less on ‘topics.’ We used to have such interesting discussions and they still happen but less. May be, the solution is to put under a password? Most comments are from constant readers who have a password, and if a new reader is added – he will ask for one.

    Like

  2. I don’t know what is wrong with academics these days.

    Today I got a mass-email from a colleague sent to everyone in our department about “a reminder” to put certain sections in our course syllabi. What are those sections? The first is what is the diversity and inclusion policy of the class, second is a section about students with disabilities and the third is information about sexual harassment.

    I honestly don’t think any of this has any place in my syllabus; do you? I also honestly don’t know what to do. Speaking up against any of this is a huge taboo — it’ll go into my scorecard, and I’ll have swarms of my colleagues descend on me immediately.

    What happens if I quietly don’t put any of this junk up? Well, if certain colleagues find out, it could go into my scorecard. I am also not sure if the students will find my class less diverse and inclusive because I didn’t put up the statement. I secretly hope they are not that stupid, but I don’t really know.

    What would you do?

    Like

    1. Anon, may I ask what those sections mean?

      “the diversity and inclusion policy of the class” – That a professor won’t discriminate against minority students? Or that the studied texts are not only / mainly from white male authors?

      “second is a section about students with disabilities” – There are so many possible disabilities – mental and physical – that “talk to me, I will try accomodating you and solving specific problems” seems more suitable than going into exact accomodations, or no?

      “and the third is information about sexual harassment.” – My first thought was that academics (should) expect harassment to happen during their lectures. 🙂 During all my years at university, I’ve never seen anything like that.

      Wonder whether somebody in administration forces you to include those sections, or whether it was your colleagues’ initiative.

      I am from Israel and have never seen anything like that.

      Like

      1. Of course — happy to clarify. This email is not from an admin — this is the initiative of one of my colleagues. I suspect this colleague has designs to get into administration — so perhaps a “future” admin. I dread that future though 🙂

        “the diversity and inclusion policy of the class” – Apparently, here we are supposed to include some bland statement that says that the professor does not discriminate against women and POC, and also that diverse views from said folks are welcome.

        “second is a section about students with disabilities” – It’s mostly come and talk to me about accommodations. We are also supposed to include a link to the office of disabilities — yes, there is such an office! — and add various meaningless statements about how we welcome students with disabilities.

        “and the third is information about sexual harassment.” – This is information about what to do if sexual harassment happens to the student. Again, I personally feel that this does not belong on the syllabus, and professors are the wrong people to counsel students about sexual harassment. But this is what we are supposed to include in all our class syllabi.

        Like

        1. // some bland statement that says that the professor does not discriminate against women and POC

          If I read such about Jews, I would immediately feel discriminated against by being publicly singled out as “a special case.”

          Would ignore the bit about women if one professor included it on a syllabus. However, if all professors started mentioning women in this context, I would be surprised since my basic assumption has always been that women are equal in academy. Finding out all professors feel the need to single women out would send the message of “female students have a long history of feeling unwelcome here, and we are currently trying to change matters.”

          Last, the singling out of ‘special’ groups (‘special’ like in ‘special’ ed, not in a good fashion) sends out a message to other ‘usual’ students that members of the former groups are fundamentally so different that a special mention is needed.

          My reaction partly derives from growing up in FSU where the word “Jew” was one some Jews were afraid to hear, but being especially mentioned would’ve made me more self-conscious in that prof’s class. I would imagine the prof seeing me not as an usual student but as A JEW and internally reacting to me differently than to others, even if the prof would (try to) hide that.

          Interesting how POC would view those statements.

          // Again, I personally feel that this does not belong on the syllabus

          Agreed.

          Like

            1. // Sorry, I should have mentioned that we are in an engineering school. Our classes are about 20 percent women.

              I know about engineering classes with less than 20 percent women. The class I observed was more like one percent women. Singling out female students would only succeed in sending the opposite from intended message to some male students.

              Like

      2. We only have the disability statement so far but as I said, it keeps changing and it’s like they are trying to catch you out on purpose by constantly shifting the language of the statement very slightly. Some poor bugger will surely miss the most recent iteration of the statement, place the old one on a syllabus and catch flak for that. And it’s not even that but the way you get chided for this kind of thing. “Are you unwilling to do this minor thing to avoid harming disabled students who already are suffering from being extremely underprivileged? Don’t you care about hurting people who have been entrusted to our care?” I’d honestly rather jump off a cliff than hurt a disabled person in any context. My problem is that I don’t see how slightly changing the format of a syllabus statement could do that. It’s ridiculous because you honestly don’t get more fanatically pro-rights of the disabled than me. But this makes me sound like some evil hater of the disabled.

        Like

        1. Of course, and it’s the same here. I am a non-white woman in an engineering department, and there are few people as passionate about participation of women in engineering as I am. I have fought several battles to include women and increase diversity at the highest level of more than one professional society that I am involved in.

          Look, if I were to be honest, I feel insulted by the inclusion of such bland statements about diversity — I think they cheapen the discourse, and allow people to get away with making bland politically correct statements instead of taking any action and trying to solve the real problems that women face in our profession.

          But who will tell my colleague this? Anyone who does will be inundated by “oh, you must not really want to empower women and people of color…” accusations…

          Like

          1. Exactly. As I said on our college discussion board in summer, why can’t we assume that our colleagues are good people who are acting in good faith instead of immediately jumping to a conclusion that questioning this type of virtue-signaling means you are a horrible person who actively wants to harm victims?

            Like

    2. It gets do ridiculous. We all have to put the disability statement in our syllabi. It’s ok, I put it in. But disability services keeps futzing with the statement. Within two weeks this summer, it sent us three slightly different versions of the statement. Of course, the last one arrived after I already printed my syllabi. Of course, I had to dump the whole lot and waste a ton of paper. How this actually helps disabled students is a mystery.

      I have disabled students. I have no doubt each of them will tell you that I go out of my way to help and accommodate because it’s the right thing to do. As I’m sure do you.

      But this professions of faith on syllabi – what purpose do they serve? It’s ridiculous. I keep silent and follow the rules but it’s so annoying. I love helping students but how does any of this help?

      Like

      1. We have a required disability statement on our syllabi. And it’s a good think, I think, just in case some first-generation college students are not aware that disability-related services are provided on campus.

        We also have a required inclement weather statement. This has to be included for those idiot students–the ones that only the university administration thinks exist–that have no idea where to find out if the university has been closed for snow or a hurricane.

        We don’t have a required sexual harassment policy statement, so I guess my university is not sufficiently committed to fighting sexual harassment.

        At a curriculum committee meeting a couple of years ago, where a colleague was presenting a new course proposal, I noticed that on her syllabus she–and apparently the other professors in her program–have a statement against racist, sexist, etc., comments in class–sort of like an anti-hate speech code for the classroom. I asked her and her department chair at the meeting how they enforce such a policy–do they make a student leave the classroom for a racist remark? I had in mind the more “ambiguous” (for lack of a better word) or poorly articulated comments that students might make about race, ethnicity, gender, etc., during a class discussion. I gave a specific example: What would you do if a student in your class said, “Yes, we have to build Trump’s wall to keep out all of the Mexicans!” And I said that I personally would view that statement as racist or bigoted, but I wouldn’t want to somehow punish the student for saying what s/he believed, because that wouldn’t succeed in helping the student to consider another perspective. And I was very pleasantly surprised by my colleagues’ answer. They said that instead of silencing or reprimanding the student, they would want to engage the student and the class in (further) discussion about immigration and Latinos in the US…

        Like

      2. “It gets do ridiculous. We all have to put the disability statement in our syllabi. It’s ok, I put it in. But disability services keeps futzing with the statement. Within two weeks this summer, it sent us three slightly different versions of the statement. Of course, the last one arrived after I already printed my syllabi. Of course, I had to dump the whole lot and waste a ton of paper. How this actually helps disabled students is a mystery.”

        -That’s ridiculous. I’ve seen them stay the same in a syllabus year after year. Once they have a blurb, they should just keep it.

        Like

    3. The part about disabilities is to let students know that if they need test modifications or some other reasonable accommodation, they need to go through the Office of Disability Services. It’s essentially a rehashing of whatever the school’s policy is, so that students know they have the option if they need it. Why do you think it’s outrageous for someone to need a reasonable accommodation, or for that office to exist? It provides an official channel to make sure that everything is aboveboard, and to make sure that no student faces discrimination based on a disability, which is illegal.

      The most common accommodation involves test modifications. A blind student may need a test printed in braille. A dyslexic student may not be able to decode fast enough for a 50 minute test, and may need it read to them. A student with a panic disorder or severe anxiety might need a little extra time to process a test. People with hearing or learning disabilities might need to tape lectures, or might need a transcriber, or interpreter, or they may need their professors to use an induction loop. Less common are people who require service animals to do everyday things, like attend school.

      This is not an outrageous thing, and it’s not frequently made clear to the students exactly where they need to go or who they need to talk to in order to receive accommodations in the classroom.

      Like

      1. Nobody reads syllabi in great depth. At most, students glance at the due dates. These stock statements that they see on 5 different syllabi every semester don’t even register any more. What’s the point? Why is it so crucial that everybody have an identical statement on the syllabus when that precisely what makes it unnoticeable? Why modify the wording ever so slightly again and again? How is this helping students?

        I’ve been accommodating students with all kinds of disabilities for years and I do it happily. In all these years, I’ve received exactly zero assistance from our disability support. All they do is bug us with paperwork and obsessively redo these statements. What else they do beyond that remains a complete mystery.

        Like

        1. “Why is it so crucial that everybody have an identical statement on the syllabus when that precisely what makes it unnoticeable? ”

          This is the US so one thought is lawsuits… if a single class doesn’t have the statement on the syllabus then a lawsuit happy person could go to town, you do realize there are some people who essentially make a living by searching for, spotting and suing for non-compliance with the ADA, don’t you?

          With some other stuff, it’s the mirror image of the Le Pen strategy (as I now call it in my head). The Le Pen strategy is to persecute an unpleasant person on flimsy grounds that can then be used against anyone else.

          The mirror image is the parade of petty humiliations, by requiring continued public loyalty oaths for perfectly reasonable positions a person becomes conditioned to accept the less reasonable positions later on.

          Like

  3. Seconding the more-posts-under-a-password idea, or maybe a parallel all-password blog. Awesome conversations used to happen here. I get that it’s no longer safe for you to do this sort of free exploration in a public space, but I hope you still have it in private, somewhere. I’d, of course, love it if it happened someplace where I could also see it and participate, but that’s a bonus 🙂

    Like

    1. You probably were never publicly accused at work for trying to re-traumatize rape victims because you expressed a mild doubt as to the usefulness of trigger warnings. I was. So yeah. . . I’m not expressing anything on the subject again because who needs this?

      Like

          1. If tenured academics don’t speak up against academic bullies, how do you expect that insignificant students can defend themselves against those same bullies?

            You publish too much and you’re paid too much to be a pariah.

            Like

              1. I’m sure the union would if the membership cared enough about this. But for many professors it’s easy to parrot the party line and they don’t mind.

                Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.