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100+ doctoral programs not admitting new students

The Wall Street Journal has the details.

In what is perhaps the largest recalibration ever in academic graduate
programs, more than 140 doctoral programs across dozens of schools are
saying they won’t admit new students for fall 2021. Ph.D. programs in
seven of eight Ivy League schools are pressing pause, and so are others
at the University of Chicago, University of Minnesota and University of

Saudi graduate student: I’m safer at home than in America right now

Writing on the Al Arabiya website, Layan Damanhouri, who had been studying in Massachusetts, states

Health officials had to find a place willing to accommodate our sudden arrival. We anxiously waited and were finally taken to a hotel arranged by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism. The luxurious hotel room and hot meal waiting for us was a heartwarming end to my 19-hour journey.

We were informed we’d get tested and receive full-board service for the next couple of weeks. The ministry’s mobilization and strict measures made me feel secure and assured of the coming days. I was miles away from my family but already felt at home.

A day out with friends

One of the great aspects of my job is meeting new students. Whether they are an undergraduate or graduate student, male or female, from the U.S. or another land, their personal and professional stories always interest me.

Today, my wife and I spent a wonderful morning and afternoon with one of those graduate students and her husband. A visit to Round Hill Park, Mingo Creek State Park and then lunch at the Spring House included some great stories, plenty of laughs and promises of follow-up get-togethers.

Curious about seeing something resembling rural America, our friends certainly took advantage of my wife’s knowledge of such places. She’s from “a little town in the middle of nowhere,” as I like to say, and she effortlessly shared her knowledge of farm life and more.

Today was a lot of fun. Tomorrow, whenever it comes and wherever the four of us go, will be better.

The “raw meat market”

I’m in Washington for about 24 more hours, as I attend the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications annual conference.

There are likely 2,000 people here. But for one particular group of attendees, this year’s conference is the most exciting and the most stressful they will ever attend.

They are the doctoral students nearing the end of their graduate work and who are eagerly anticipating being hired by a college or university in the coming months. Beginning here, with the chance to meet chairs, deans or faculty from schools where openings are available for the 2019-20 academic year, the next few months will be filled with fine-tuning a curriculum vitae and cover letter, confirming their research and teaching presentations, and waiting and waiting and waiting for that phone call that says, “We want to hire you.”

It was 2002 — amazingly, 16 years ago! — that I was that graduate student. I was fortunate; in the year I was interviewing, more than one-dozen universities were seeking someone like me: a soon-to-be freshly minted PhD who had a background in broadcast news and sports.

That year the AEJMC conference was in Miami. Before I left, one of my advisers at Ohio University reminded me that I was on the “raw meat market.” Like everyone else on the job hunt that year, I was sized up, compared to others, examined for strengths and weaknesses, and evaluated for whether I’d be a good fit at those schools.

In August, I met people from multiple institutions. By October, I was being invited to various campuses. In mid-November, I made a visit to Texas Tech University. Just before Thanksgiving, I was offered a job there.

It was a whirlwind three months.

I don’t know if I have any special advice for the graduate students embarking on that journey I took 16 years ago. I’d urge them to be patient, but anyone who knows me knows that I lack that gift. Far be it from me to tell today’s graduate students to be something I can’t.

I might tell them to enjoy the experience, if it’s possible to do so. My wife and I often relate to people how we approached the job hunt that year. I took care of the academic issues: the aforementioned CV, cover letter and more. She took care of examining each city that we and our sons (one was born, the other would soon be on the way) would call home: home options, housing prices, school districts and more.

She had the more difficult job. My job largely remained constant. Granted, the cover letter wasn’t the same for each school, and what was expected from each institution didn’t match, but I had control over what was happening. She couldn’t really jump in until our list of possibilities narrowed.

Our teamwork was a success.

I hope for each of the graduate students roaming the conference halls this week that their efforts are as fruitful as can be.

Lindsay Shepherd: The graduate student who has been turned off by academia (and who could blame her)

Photo: Anthony Moretti 27Nov2016

Until a few weeks ago, Lindsay Shepherd was just another graduate student.

Now she’s at the center of a free speech storm.

What has happened at Wilfrid Laurier University, where Shepherd is a student, over the past few weeks offers powerful evidence to right-wing critics of higher education that any idea that challenges left-wing orthodoxy will be slapped down.

Now, before we go any further, let me make my position clear: I am a free-speech advocate who believes that all sides of a debate deserve an equal and free hearing. Yes, I want to hear from people who disagree, especially if they do with me, on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, guns, transgender rights, kneeling during the national anthem and more. Whether I agree with the person is irrelevant; he or she has just as much right as I do to advocate for what he or she believes.

Put another way: I hate censorship. And unless someone breaks a law in an effort to have his or her voice heard, then he or she should have the desired platform to make a case.

With that, we return to Lindsay Shepherd.

Readers of this blog will remember that I introduced them to her a few days ago. I suggested then that if people didn’t know anything about Shepherd that they likely soon would.

Oh, boy, was I right.

The Chronicle of Higher Education explores what has happened to Shepherd since she showed what she thought was an innocuous video to her students.

Early last month, during the small-group tutorial she leads, she showed a short video clip from a Canadian current-affairs talk show called The Agenda, in which panelists debated the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

Remember: Shepherd showed a video clip as part of a class-wide conversation; at no point did she advocate for or against any position.

Soon after, Shepherd was called into a meeting with faculty from her department. The Chronicle report notes she was

…told that one, or perhaps more than one, student — they wouldn’t say how many — had complained. They wouldn’t let her see the complaint, or tell her what it said, or what exactly the student (or students) had found offensive or perhaps threatening.

Smacks of McCarthy-like tactics, no? Tell someone there’s negative information about them but don’t let the person see it? Not cool, if you ask me.

Lest you think the saga ends there, well…

Shepherd recorded the meeting. (Perhaps the most important elements of the exchange are here.) And soon it became public. The Chronicle adds

When she made that recording public, the response was instant and vehement. Canadian newspapers published articles with headlines like “Laurier university accused of censorship,”“University bullies student,” and “Thought police strike again.”

Much of that publicity strongly favored Ms. Shepherd.

I bet it did.

Perhaps coincidentally, she received an apology from the administration.

You guessed it: That decision added fuel to the conflagration and led a group of people who argued Shepherd had created the equivalent of a hostile-work environment to write to the administration. The Chronicle reports that

The signers of that letter, who wrote that they wished to remain anonymous because they feared retribution, wondered why the president didn’t issue “an apology to the students who were harmed by the showing of this video.”

As far as I know, no one has made clear how these students were harmed. (I’m not trying to be sarcastic, and I’m not trying to be naive; I’m stating that I don’t know what kind of harm they suffered.)

I’ve come across one op-ed that questions why Shepherd is being lauded while other people who openly advocate for social change often are treated with hostility. I have an answer: Shepherd was not advocating for anything. She didn’t tell her students that transgender people are good, bad, right or wrong. Rather, she asked the students to consider how society uses language.

She was doing what she was supposed to do.

It’s not surprising that Shepherd says she’s been turned off to higher education as a result of what’s happened to her.

That’s a pity.

Her critics will be thrilled if she never teaches again. But her voice and her message that the open exchange of ideas matters won’t be silenced.