Phone as leash

A survey by the Center for Creative Leadership found that 60 percent of smartphone-using professionals kept in touch with work for a full 13.5 hours per day, and then spent another 5 hours juggling work email each weekend. As Mother Jones reports, “That’s 72 hours a week of job-related contact. imgresAnother survey of 1,000 workers by Good Technology, a mobile-software firm, found that 68 percent checked work email before 8 a.m., 50 percent checked it while in bed, and 38 percent “routinely” did so at the dinner table. Fully 44 percent of working adults surveyed by the American Psychological Association reported that they check work email daily while on vacation—about 1 in 10 checked it hourly. It only gets worse as you move up the ladder. According to the Pew Research Center, people who make more than $75,000 per year are more likely to fret that their phone makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about work.

“Over time, the creep of off-hours messages from our bosses and colleagues has led us to tolerate these intrusions as an inevitable part of the job, which is why it’s so startling when an employer is actually straightforward with his lunatic demands, as with the notorious email a Quinn Emanuel law partner sent to his underlings back in 2009: “Unless you have very good reason not to (for example when you are asleep, in court or in a tunnel), you should be checking your emails every hour.”

“Constant access may work out great for employers, since it continues to ratchet up the pressure for turning off-the-clock, away-from-the-desk hours into just another part of the workday. But any corresponding economic gains likely aren’t being passed on to workers: During the great internet-age boom in productivity, which is up 23 percent since 2000, the inflation-adjusted wages and benefits for college graduates climbed just 4 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Continue reading “Phone as leash”

Animal personhood

The New York Times Magazine has just published an interesting piece on the Nonhuman Rights Project and Steven Wise, whose mission is to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from “mere things” to “legal persons.” (I have previously written on their work here).

Harvard School of Law Petrie-Flom Center offers the following on this issue: “It is widely agreed, among both advocates and opponents of Wise’s work, that granting legal personhood to animals would be revolutionary. imagesI think that this view is mistaken. To understand why, it is helpful to clarify and differentiate between three possible conceptions of what it might mean to be a “legal person”—a term that is often used in imprecise ways. Doing so reveals that animals are already legal persons, and that personhood does not itself count for very much.

“The first possibility of what we might mean by “legal personhood” is that an entity has the capacity to be granted rights. If this is what we mean, however, recognizing legal personhood for animals should not be seen as controversial. Insofar as the constitutions of states clearly allow them to grant rights to animals and other non-human entities, animals are already legal persons in this sense.

“The second possibility is that a legal person is an entity that has been granted some rights—rights that might, but need not, include the power to enforce them. But again, if this is what is meant by personhood, there is nothing radical about granting it to animals. Animals have long held rights in the Hohfeldian sense that humans have had duties to not harm them under various animal protections laws. Continue reading “Animal personhood”

On the humanities meltdown

Public colleges and universities across the country are under the gun as state budgets face huge shortfalls. NPR reports that “Universities are now ending low-enrollment programs and increasing class size.images

“The State University of New York has had to cut $640 million from its budget, and the president of its Albany campus recently announced the suspension of five humanities programs, including French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater.

“Although there have been cuts at SUNY Albany in everything from journalism to business, the fact that five humanities programs have been suspended has resonated with the public and the press.Upon learning about the suspension of the foreign language programs, David Wills, a professor of French, was shocked at first, but then he was angry.

“None of us accepted that it was something that a university could do and still call itself a university,” Wills said. “This is not a university if you only have one non-English European language program left standing.”To be fair, students can still take some classes in these subjects. Suspension means new students will not be able to major in these areas, at least for now.Juniors and seniors at SUNY Albany will be able to finish their majors in French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater. But most freshmen and sophomores will have to choose alternatives.

Alexandra Cialeo, a sophomore majoring in Italian, transferred to SUNY Albany a few months ago. Noting that SUNY Albany’s slogan is “The World Within Reach,” Cialeo asks, “How is the world within reach when a school is going to take away the foreign language department so you can’t communicate around the world?” She says the program suspensions sadden her because she wants to be a teacher and has a passion for Italian.

SUNY Albany Provost Susan Phillips says up until now, cuts in the humanities have been 4 percent — less than in other areas. She says there have been more faculty losses in the social sciences and in the professional schools. And she emphasizes that no decisions have yet been made to close down these programs permanently. Continue reading “On the humanities meltdown”

What professors do

Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.

It’s a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here’s what he discovered.

All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:images

Professors, then, worked 51 hours during the official workweek and then, in addition, put in ten hours over the weekend.

What were they doing those days?  Research, teaching, and service are the three pillars of an academic workload and they dominated professors’ time.  They used weekends, in particular, to catch up on the first two.  The suspension of the business of the university over the weekend gave them a chance to do the other two big parts of their job. Continue reading “What professors do”


Which type of cheating is worse, sexual or emotional? It depends who you’re asking — more specifically, what gender you’re asking.

A new study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology set out to determine how people feel about the two types of infidelity.images

Researchers from Kansas State University recruited 477 adults — 238 men and 239 women — and asked them to fill out several questionnaires on a variety of topics, including relationships and cheating. One such question was, “Which would distress you more: Imagining your partner enjoying passionate sexual intercourse with another person or imagining your partner forming a deep emotional attachment with another person?”

After analyzing the results, researchers came to a very clear conclusion: “Males reported that sexual infidelity scenarios were relatively more distressing than emotional infidelity scenarios, and the opposite was true of
females,” they wrote in the study.

Interestingly, the purpose of the study was to determine which factors — be it attachment style, feelings of trust, relationship habits, etc. — would lead someone to feel one way or the other about cheating. But at the end of the study, researches discovered that the only factor that played a role was gender. Men were most upset by physical cheating and women were more upset by emotional cheating — end of story.

What do you think: Can it really be so black and white?

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The allowance gap

Nearly 70 percent of boys say they get an allowance, compared to just under 60 percent of girls, according to a new survey from Junior Achievement.images-1

But unfortunately, it’s not likely because boys do more chores. One study found that girls dotwo more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.

And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.

Young girls suffer a wage gap even when they leave their home in search of wages. Despite the fact that the vast majority of babysitters are girls, the few boys who take on those jobshave higher hourly rates.

A chore and wage gap for young girls may seem trivial, but they are both problems that only grow as they age and the socializing children experience at home may contribute. Asking girls to do more chores without paying them teaches both genders that women are meant to do unpaid work. And when they’re older, far more women will end up doing housework than men. Mothers spend nearly double the time on unpaid work in the home that fathers do each week. On an average day, nearly half of women do housework compared to 20 percent of men, and on the days when they do those activities, women spend more time on them, on average. Meanwhile, fathers manage to find three more hours of leisure time.

At the same time, a record number of families is relying on women’s wages as the main source of income. Yet women are paid less than men in nearly job and at every educational level.

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The invisible knapsack, again

A survey of more than 6,000 faculty members, across a range of disciplines, has found that when prospective graduate students reach out for guidance, white males are the most likely to get attention. The survey also found that public university faculty members are much more likely than their private counterparts to respond equally to students of varying backgrounds. And the greatest victims of discrimination may be those with names that suggest they are Chinese women.

The study (abstract available here) — just released by the Social Science Research Network — aims to identify whether academics create pathways for students of all kinds who want to enter graduate school.

For the study, three researchers sent faculty members letters (as would-be grad students), expressing interest in talking about research opportunities in the program, becoming a graduate student and learning about the professor’s work. The letters asked for a 10-minute discussion. The letters were identical in every way except for the names of the fictional people sending them (see text at bottom of article).

The study tested names to make sure that most people would associate certain mixes of gender and ethnicity with them. So for example, Brad Anderson was one of those used for white males. Keisha Thomas was used for black females. Raj Singh was one of the names for an Indian male. Mei Chen a Chinese female. Juanita Martinez a Hispanic female.

Then the professors analyzed the response rates for different types of names, and by different categories of academics — by disciplinary groupings and the public or private status of the program. (The authors of the study are Katherine L. Milkman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Modupe Akinola of the business school of Columbia University, and Dolly Chugh of the business school of New York University.) Continue reading “The invisible knapsack, again”

New drugs raise old concerns

The abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic proportions in America.

Nearly half of the nation’s 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York Times reports that: “These narcotics now kill more adults than heroin and cocaine combined, sending 420,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year.images-1

“So many state health officials and advocacy groups were incredulous last fall when the Food and Drug Administrationapproved an even more powerful prescription painkiller — against the advice of its own expert advisory committee.The drug is Zohydro ER, a long-acting formulation of the opioid hydrocodone. The short-acting form, sold under brand names like Vicodin and Lortab, is already the most prescribed drug in the country, and the most abused.In March, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts sought to ban Zohydro outright, calling it “a potentially lethal narcotic painkiller.” The manufacturer, Zogenix of San Diego, went to court, and last week a federal judge struck down the ban pending further legal action.But other states in New England are moving to restrict the use of Zohydro, and 29 state attorneys general have asked the F.D.A. to reconsider its approval.“People are fearful this will be another original OxyContin,” said Sharon Walsh, director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky, referring to an early formulation of the painkiller that resulted in a wave of prescription drug deaths in the 1990s and early 2000s. (OxyContin is now available in an abuse-deterrent formulation.)Zohydro is pure hydrocodone in an extended-release formulation. It is intended for people suffering from chronic pain who now must take short-acting hydrocodone pills every few hours around the clock. Continue reading “New drugs raise old concerns”

Changing times

Remember the good old days when men were men and women were women? You know, when the manliest of men wore their hair long and curly with their best high heels.imgres

Oh, maybe you were imagining a slightly different picture of modern gender? Consider the earring. Associated exclusively with women for about 200 years, guys have recently started to reclaim them. “In the last two decades,” Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told The Huffington Post, “men have gotten in touch with their inner pirate.”

While there are real biological differences between the sexes, gender is generally considered to be a social construction — it can be pretty much whatever we want it to be, and we’ve wanted it to be a lot of things over the years. Below, find some ways our perception of gender presentation has already changed from the past to present.
Not so long ago, parents dressed their babies in white dresses — due to the fact they could be bleached — until about age six. Yes, even the boys.

Pastels came into style when a 1918 retail trade publication attempted to nail down the rules: pink for boys and blue for girls. “Being a more decided and stronger color, [pink] is more suitable for the boy,” the article stated, “while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Whether or not people listened (and blatantly sexist rationale aside), they at least seemed to accept a much wider variety of color options for their infants until sometime around 1940, University of Maryland historian Jo B. Paoletti notes, when preferences switched to the color divide we’re familiar with today.Persian soldiers wore high-heeled shoes in the name of necessity when riding horseback, since shooting an arrow from a saddle was easier with a heel to secure the foot in its strap. As the European elite became fascinated with the unfamiliar culture, men adopted the horsemen’s masculine footwear for their own (totally impractical) use around 1600. After the (gasp!) lower classes began sporting heeled footwear, the leisure class responded as only they could — by making the heel higher. Continue reading “Changing times”

The persistence of gender pay inequity

For all the progress made on women’s rights, one measure of inequality still stands out: Females earn less than males, even in the same occupations. Closing this gender gap will require changing the way employers think about work.

It’s hard to overstate how far women have come in the last century. They are now almost as active in the labor market asmen, and equally or even better educated. They account for about half of all law and medical school enrollments, and lead men in fields such as biological sciences, pharmacy and optometry.images-1

Still, women have yet to reach the same level of pay. As of 2010, the annual earnings of the median full-time, full-year female worker stood at 77 percent of the median male’s — up from 56 percent in 1980 but still far from parity. For college graduates, the number was an even lower 72 percent.

Why the persistent difference? U.S. data provide two clues. First, the gap increases with age: Women start their careers close to earnings parity with men, then fall behind over the next several decades. Second, wage differences are concentrated within occupations, meaning that women earn less not because they choose lower-paid professions.

The earnings gap is most pronounced in occupations such as law that place a premium on the willingness and ability to work long hours, be in the office at specific times and build face-to-face relationships with co-workers and clients. In these professions, the penalty for working part time or taking time off — to give birth or care for a child, for example — is particularly large. Small differences in time away or in hours translate into large differences in pay.

Consider the case of women with master degrees in business administration. At 10 to 16 years into their careers, they are typically earning only 55 percent of what men do. Child bearing is a primary reason for the divergence. A year after giving birth, women’s workforce participation rate declines 13 percentage points. Three to four years later, the decline increases to 18 percentage points. In other words, many MBA moms try to stay in the fast lane but ultimately find it unworkable.

The huge value that so many employers place on a standard work schedule affects more than the careers of women. Anyone who, for whatever reason, needs to take time off or work flexible hours gets penalized. The broader economy suffers when businesses are unable to make full use of highly educated and productive people.

To be sure, some professions may never be able to offer much flexibility. Merger-and-acquisition bankers, trial lawyers and the U.S. secretary of state have 24/7, on-call-all-the-time jobs. That said, the universe of such jobs is probably smaller than it appears.

Many professions that once tied people to specific hours are finding ways to reduce the cost of flexibility by making employees more substitutable. Veterinarians, optometrists, pharmacists, pediatricians, anesthesiologists and primary-care providers are shifting from self-employment to group practices and corporate ownership structures that allow them to cover for one another. Smaller veterinary practices that once required staff to have weekend, night and emergency hours are giving way to larger regional hospitals. Such changes often occur because of increased economies of scale, or in response to pressure from employees.


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India recognizes third gender

India’s Supreme Court for the first time recognized a third gender Tuesday in a judgment aimed at giving transgender Indians their own legal status and better legal protection and privileges.

The Wall Street Journal reports that: “A two-judge bench ruled that transgender people will now have the option to identify themselves as a third gender—instead of just male or female—in government documents, including passports and identification cards.The Supreme Court said discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation violates constitutional guarantees of equality, privacy and dignity.

“This is an extremely liberal and progressive decision that takes into consideration the ground realities for transgender people in India,” said Anitha Shenoy, a lawyer who helped argue the case. “The court says your identity will be based not on your biology but on what you choose to be.”India is the latest of several South Asian countries to recognize a third gender. Neighboring Nepal has added a third gender option to government documents, as have Pakistan and Bangladesh. Germany became the first European country to recognize a third gender last year, allowing parents to mark “indeterminate” on birth certificates.India’s top court Tuesday also directed the federal and state governments to include transgender people as members of the country’s “backward classes,” an official designation, often based on caste, which entitles socially and economically disadvantaged groups to affirmative action in school admissions and state employment.The decision is revolutionary, some activists said, especially for a court that just last December reaffirmed a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality.In that ruling, the court upheld Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which makes consensual gay sex punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years. Continue reading “India recognizes third gender”

Narcotic use rising among those expecting

Doctors are prescribing opioid painkillers to pregnant women in astonishing numbers, new research shows, even though risks to the developing fetus are largely unknown, says the New York Times.images

“Of 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationally,nearly 23 percent filled an opioid prescription in 2007, up from 18.5 percent in 2000, according to a study published last week in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. That percentage is the largest to date of opioid prescriptions among pregnant women. Medicaid covers the medical expenses for 45 percent of births in the United States.

“The lead author, Rishi J. Desai, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said he had expected to “see some increase in trend, but not this magnitude.”

“One in five women using opioids during pregnancy is definitely surprising,” he added.In February, a study of 500,000 privately insured women found that14 percent were dispensed opioid painkillers at least once during pregnancy. From 2005 to 2011, the percentage of pregnant women prescribed opioids decreased slightly, but the figure exceeded 12 percent in any given year, according to Dr. Brian T. Bateman, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues. Their research was published in Anesthesiology.Dr. Joshua A. Copel, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, said he was taken aback by the findings, which come even as conscientious mothers-to-be increasingly view pregnancy as a time to skip caffeine, sushi and even cold cuts. Continue reading “Narcotic use rising among those expecting”

Arts job report

What are the latest employment figures for working artists—both full-time and their moonlighting counterparts?Keeping My Day Job: Identifying U.S. Workers Who Have Dual Careers As Artists is the third installment in the National Endowment for the Arts’ Arts Data Profiles, an online resourceoffering facts and figures from large, national datasets about the arts, along with instructions for their use. Arts Data Profile #3 reports on employment statistics for U.S. workers who name “artist” as their primary or secondary job.imgres

According to the NEA, “The analysis springs from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a nationwide, monthly survey of 60,000 American households, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS is the primary source of U.S. labor statistics, as well as other data on volunteering, poverty, computer and Internet use, arts participation, and more.

“The big picture – In 2013, 2.1 million workers held primary positions as artists. A primary job is defined as one at which the greatest number of hours were worked. In that same year, an estimated 271,000 workers also held second jobs as artists. Twelve percent of all artist jobs in 2013 were secondary employment.

“Unemployment trends – For primary artists, the unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in 2013, compared to 6.6 percent of all U.S. civilian workers, but higher than the 3.6 rate for all professionals (artists are grouped in the professional category). This is an improvement over the 9 percent jobless rates in 2009 and 2010, but well above the pre-recession unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in 2006. Architects and designers were among the hardest hit occupations. While both have halved the 10-11 percent unemployment rates they faced in 2009, neither is back to pre-recession employment rates of 1-3 percent. By contrast, musicians have faced a steady unemployment rate of 8-9 percent since 2009, much higher than the 4.8 percent jobless rate in 2006. Continue reading “Arts job report”

Post-american studies


Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small.

That adage received a curious twist after the American Studies Association voted in December to boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions to protest its treatment of Palestinians.

A symbolic and nonviolent gesture is what Matthew Frye Jacobson, a former president of the association, called it in a recent interview, adding, “If that’s not allowable, then what is?” Within a month, however, the presidents of more than 100 colleges and universities denounced the resolution. “Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas,” Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard wrote in a statement echoing what the other presidents said.

Since then, the controversy has spilled into statehouses and even Congress. A bill introduced in February in the House of Representatives would make an institution that participates in such a boycott ineligible for certain funds. Legislators in at least seven states have introduced similar bills or proposed resolutions condemning academic boycotts (the Illinois effort was voted down in committee last week).

The association’s protest has also provoked larger questions about American studies. Has a discipline that in the 1950s and 1960s was a model of bold interdisciplinary inquiry — fusing literature and history, sociology and economics, popular culture and ethnography — changed, or degenerated, into a bastion of ideological militancy? Continue reading “Post-american studies”

The popularity of death studies

At Kean University, students are dying (as it were) to get into Norma Bowe’s class “Death in Perspective,” which has sometimes carried a three-year waiting list. images-2WSJ Online reports that “On one field trip to a local coroner’s office, Dr. Bowe’s students were shown three naked cadavers on metal tables. One person had died from a gunshot, the other from suicide and the third by drowning.

“The last corpse appeared overweight but wasn’t; he had expanded like a water balloon. A suspect in a hit-and-run case, he had fled the scene, been chased by police, abandoned his car and jumped into the Passaic River. On the autopsy table, he looked surprised, his mouth splayed open, as if he realized he had made a mistake. As the class clustered around, a technician began to carve his torso open. Some students gagged or scurried out, unable to stand the sight or the smell.

“This grim visit was just one of the excursions for Dr. Bowe’s class. Every semester, students also leave the campus in Union, New Jersey, to visit a cemetery, a maximum-security prison (to meet murderers), a hospice, a crematory and a funeral home, where they pick out caskets for themselves. The homework is also unusual: Students are required to write goodbye letters to dead loved ones and to compose their own eulogies and wills.

“Sure, it’s morbid. But graduates of Dr. Bowe’s death class and others like it across the U.S. often come away with an important skill: the ability to talk frankly about death. Continue reading “The popularity of death studies”

Sweden moves toward gender neutrality

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women.It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. As reported in Slate, “Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are

images-1reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

“But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don’t identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

“Activists are lobbying for parents to be able to choose any name for their children (there are currently just 170 legally recognized unisex names in Sweden). The idea isthat names should not be at all tied to gender, so it would be acceptable for parents to, say, name a girl Jack or a boy Lisa. A Swedish children’s clothes company has removed the “boys” and “girls” sections in its stores, and the idea of dressing children in a gender-neutral manner has been widely discussed on parenting blogs. This Swedish toy catalog recently decided to switch things around, showing a boy in a Spider-Man costume pushing a pink pram, while a girl in denim rides a yellow tractor.

“The Swedish Bowling Association has announced plans to merge male and female bowling tournaments in order to make the sport gender-neutral. Social Democrat politicians have proposed installing gender-neutral restrooms so that members of the public will not be compelled to categorize themselves as either ladies or gents. Several preschools have banished references to pupils’ genders, instead referring to children by their first names or as “buddies.” So, a teacher would say “good morning, buddies” or “good morning, Lisa, Tom, and Jack” rather than, “good morning, boys and girls.” They believe this fulfills the national curriculum’s guideline that preschools should “counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles” and give girls and boys “the same opportunities to test and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles.” Continue reading “Sweden moves toward gender neutrality”

Weighty academic issues

Overweight professors across academe describe battles to achieve self-acceptance, full inclusion in academic life, and genuine respect from students and colleagues. Vitae reports that:

“Some struggle daily to navigate campus spaces that don’t comfortably accommodate their size. Some stand in front of classrooms and wonder whether their bodies influence how students perceive their minds. Some say they have trouble adhering to exercise plans or healthy eating habits because their jobs come with lots of research and little structure.Yet larger professors often grapple with these concerns in isolation and silence. On a national level, discussions of obesity have become increasingly common—and, at times, increasingly contentious. But many fat professors, along with allies in the emerging field of fat studies, feel that colleges and universities have yet to hold productive conversations on the topic, especially when it comes to “fat shaming” and how size influences hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions.

“The situation for fat academics has worsened as our national discourse about obesity has ramped up,” says Christina Fisanick, an associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania.Fisanick has tracked the discourse for some time, in part because she herself has struggled with obesity. (Due to a binge-eating disorder, her weight has risen as high as 353 pounds; it’s now down to 228.) Writing in 2007 for Feminist Teacher, she pointed out that the few fat professors depicted on film are treated farcically: Think of Sherman Klump in Eddie Murphy’s remake of The Nutty Professor, for example, or the unnamed (but Colonel Sandersesque) biology professor played by Robert Kokol in Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy. These images, according to Fisanick, affect students’, professors’, and administrators’ expectations of what a scholar should look like.Fisanick’s piece also hinted at a question that many fat academics have found themselves asking: Will they face bias in job interviews or in tenure and promotion decisions? Continue reading “Weighty academic issues”

It’s rejection season

Enrollment at American colleges is sliding, but competition for spots at top universities is more cutthroat and


anxiety-inducing than ever.In the just-completed admissions season, Stanford University accepted only 5 percent of applicants, a new low among the most prestigious schools, with the odds nearly as bad at its elite rivals.

As the New york Times reports, “Deluged by more applications than ever, the most selective colleges are, inevitably, rejecting a vast majority, including legions of students they once would have accepted. Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in.Isaac Madrid applied to 11 colleges, a scattershot approach that he said is fairly typical at his private high school, Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif. Students there are all too aware of the long odds against getting into any particular elite university. “It was a crazy amount of work and stress doing all those essays by the deadline and keeping up my schoolwork, and waiting on the responses, and we had more than $800 in application fees,” he said.Mr. Madrid, 18, got a taste of how random the results can seem. He was among the 95 percent turned away by Stanford, but he got into Yale, which he plans to attend, and he admitted having no real insight into the reasons for either decision.Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said he saw “the opposite of a virtuous cycle at work” in admissions. “Kids see that the admit rates are brutal and dropping, and it looks more like a crapshoot,” he said. “So they send more apps, which forces the colleges to lower their admit rates, which spurs the kids next year to send even more apps.” Continue reading “It’s rejection season”

Child obesity, down then up again

U.S. childhood obesity rates have increased over the past 14 years, according to a study published on Monday, casting doubt on a recent analysis by government health researchers that found a sharp drop in


preschool obesity rates over the past decade, Reuters reports.

“The good news, announced in February by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), received widespread media coverage and prompted first lady Michelle Obama to say she was “thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.

“The new study, published online in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, used the same data source as the CDC, but analyzed obesity rates over a different timeframe. It found increases in obesity for children age 2 to 19, and a marked rise in the percentage who were severely obese.Asheley Cockrell Skinner of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the new study, said the main message of her analysis is that childhood obesity rates have not improved.”I don’t want a study like the previous one to change the national discourse,” she told Reuters Health, referring to the CDC’s work.

“Obesity experts had already begun to question the large drop reported by the CDC for children ages 2 to 5. In their February paper the CDC scientists themselves acknowledged the statistical limitations of their data.CDC researcher Cynthia Ogden, who led the study released in February, said in response that her report described trends over the last 10 years and found “an apparent decline in obesity among children ages 2-5 (which we said in the paper should be interpreted cautiously).””We’re confident in our analysis for this time period,” she wrote in an email to Reuters Health on Monday,

Continue reading “Child obesity, down then up again”

Flexibility Stigma

Flexibility stigma is a term scholars use to describe work places that punish those who don’t fit the “ideal worker” profile: solely devoted to one’s job, available 24 hours a day and traditionally male. studies suggest that in academe, such biases are very prevalent in the sciences, and that women with young children are the most frequent targets — hence a “leaky,” gendered  pipeline.images

But a new study discussed in InsideHigher Ed “argues that both men and women with small children report and resent inflexible department cultures. The study also finds that even non-parents resent flexibility stigma, with negative consequences for the department over all.  “Much of the flexibility stigma literature presumes that it is mothers rather than fathers whose parenthood obligations are more likely to trigger stigma,” the study says. “In contrast, we find that flexibility stigma is not just a mother’s problem; mothers and fathers of young children are equally likely to report the presence of flexibility stigma in their departments.”

“It continues: “Related, we find that perceived flexibility stigma is negatively related to desires to remain in one’s position, overall satisfaction, and feelings of work-life balance over and above [researchers’ emphasis] gender, family status, and career-relevant variables.” The study, called “Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers,” was published in the most recent Work and Occupations journal. (The full study is available to subscribers only, but an abstract is available here.) Lead author Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, said she wanted to look at the “mismatch” between outdated, 9-to-5-type expectations for workers and their actual needs, and the consequences of that mismatch. She said that doing so in an academic environment, where workers exhibit devotion to their jobs and scheduling flexibility is relatively high, would be a good place to start.

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