I’ve been reading some good stuff the last few weeks, thought I’d share it here.


Cheating to Learn. A great way to engage students is put them in charge of the conditions for their exam. These students “cheated” by working together on an animal behavior final.

Math teacher explains math anxiety. Math and science anxiety is something that comes up quite a bit in my Anth 143 course, which is why over the years I’ve designed it to address critical thinking and basic science skills. I still don’t feel like I have a handle on how to help students who feel this way, even though I have my own personal experiences with this kind of anxiety that make me empathetic.

Higher ed

The Ever-Shrinking Role of Tenured College Professors (in 1 Chart). Yes, they really did use an old white greybeard for their image, as though those are the jobs in peril (they aren’t). But the fact that tenure-track positions now represent so few of the academic jobs out there has pretty dire consequences for how much a professor feels they can invest in their students. Adjuncts don’t know from semester to semester whether they get to keep their jobs, so they can’t easily advise undergraduates. And tenure-track professors are so panicked to keep their jobs that one has to fight to be truly well-rounded and not just be a research maniac who ignores undergrads and abuses grad students.

Colleges curb adjuncts’ hours to skirt Affordable Care Act rules. Jerks. Of course, if you have a tenure-track job like me, that gives you tons of privilege, but STILL doesn’t protect you from people who think your work is worthless. Exhibit A: the great state of Illinois is screwing us over on pensions. Which is why we should all be working together to protect our basic working conditions. (Give me a U! Give me an N! Give me an I! Give me an O! Give me an N!)

Universities Benefit From Their Faculties’ Unionization, Study Finds. Of course this is behind a paywall. Of course. But if you’re an academic and you’re on campus, you should be able to get this. Short version: unions aren’t just good for workers, they actually make their universities better. (This was a study of public universities, like the one where I work. Ahem.)

Why Professors at San Jose State Won’t Use a Harvard Professor’s MOOC. And here is an excellent example of organizing for change. I’m not totally against MOOCs, but I am certainly against using them in a way that implies that Ivy League courses are better than those at other universities (I love you guys, but we all know folks at universities and colleges where teaching is the priority are in fact the best teachers – if anyone should be making MOOCs it’s them), and in a way that leads to a bunch of poorer students of color looking on while a bunch of wealthier white kids on a video get to interact with the famous guy.

Discovery of sexual harassment by scientists attracts little attention. Paul Raeburn points a finger at the folks who decided not to cover our conference paper over at Knight Science Journalism Tracker. Though the good news is, the American Anthropological Association issued a Zero Tolerance statement in response to our presentation. If you are in a field-based science and want to share your experiences, you have until Friday May 10th to be included in our final analyses: click on the survey now.

US academic speaks out about gang rape ordeal in PNG. Alas, soon after news of our research broke out, so did this devastating story.


Cesarean delivery rates vary tenfold among US hospitals; reducing variation may address quality and cost issues. This is a paper I haven’t gotten around to blogging about, so I thought I’d just share the abstract for now (though the link in the upper right corner suggests you should be able to get the full text). What this paper shows is that cesarean rates vary widely between hospitals, and that that variance is even greater in low-risk pregnancies, where you should expect the least variation and lowest rates.

Investing in Women in STEM: Because Girls Grow Up. A great perspective from AWIS on why investing just on getting more girls in STEM is not going to fix the leaky pipeline. There are already lots of girls in STEM in many subfields, but they aren’t staying.

‘Know your IX’ campaign to stop sexual violence. I’m sad to say I’ve had to learn about this aspect of Title IX for my students in the past. My university does fairly well reporting these things, actually, and so far I have had a very positive experience with the sensitivity and thoughtfulness of the folks who work on this and related issues at the University of Illinois. I think we can do more on prevention and awareness, but the policies that are in place are pretty good.

Nifty things

But I’m a nice guy. Imagine you are one of a lucky group of people who gets unlimited access to ice cream, pouring from a wonderful Infinity Fountain of Ice Cream Goodness. Then, someone from another group gets one scoop from that fountain, one measly scoop, and has the gall to enjoy it in front of you. Of course, you get to go back to enjoying your unlimited ice cream after that, but HOW DARE THAT PERSON GET ONE SCOOP TOO?!? It’s a pretty apt metaphor for Men’s Rights Activism, and the video has gone so viral that there is now a Feminazi Stole My Ice Cream tumblr. And while we’re on the topic of great tumblrs, check out Boys Clubs.

Fitness and attention span. At this point I doubt there is anyone I’ve ever met who isn’t aware of my obsession with exercise and sports. But maybe this enhances, rather than detracts from, my day job.

A Highly Effective Way to Avoid Wasting Your Time. I found this via LinkedIn, which mostly has articles on business stuff that doesn’t feel relevant to my day job. But I enjoyed this article and have been doing what it advises – writing out every hour of your day, then filling in those hours when you don’t use your time productively. And it really has made me more productive, because I don’t want to have to fill in a line with “used social media too much.”

In praise of Boston. Dave Munger writes a touching post on his experience running Boston this year. He really captured the feel of the marathon. I’ve been many years (even brought the kiddo a month after she was born), and we usually cheer at mile 16 or the finish line. Maybe we’ll be cheering on some friends next year. (I won’t be running – I have run one marathon and it was enough. I’m happier working out with wheels on my feet these days.)

NBA Player Jason Collins says he is gay. I know you all know it by now. I just love this story, it’s raw and honest and beautifully written.