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Despite the odds, I decided to pursue a doctorate after my master’s degree. Here’s why.

Despite the odds, I decided to pursue a doctorate after my master’s degree. Here’s why.

In response to the article “Why I decided not to pursue a PhD after completing my master’s”, Kharoll-Ann Souffrant explains what motivates her to continue her studies.
By KHAROLL-ANN SOUFFRANT | OCT 09 2019
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                    [post_content] => The days are getting shorter and professors across the country are polishing their course outlines for the new semester. There is no better time than the new school year to renew our commitment to academic freedom. Here for your metaphorical school bag are three ways faculty members can help to defend academic freedom in the coming year.

1. Hold up your end of the bargain

Academic freedom is a cluster of protections afforded scholars so that they can play their part in postsecondary institutions’ important social function of seeking truth and advancing understanding. That is, academic freedom is not merely a negotiated perk of being a professor, like a health plan or a paid vacation. Rather, it is a sine qua non of the university’s mission. In order to advance knowledge, scholars need to be able to engage in controversial and risky research and teaching, without fear of reprisal.

Thus, important responsibilities are baked in to the very concept of academic freedom. When we shirk those responsibilities, we risk weakening academic freedom by removing the reason for its existence.

The core responsibility associated with academic freedom is to engage in good faith in brave, honest research and teaching in pursuit of truth and the advancement of understanding. We ought to be brave in our scholarship precisely because academic freedom exists in order to allow scholars to push beyond the status quo – whether by undertaking a research project that might fail to prove the hypothesis, by teaching controversial material, or by contributing to an inchoate subject area. But this scholarly courage ought to be in service not of risk for its own sake but of the pursuit of knowledge. Teaching a theory that has been thoroughly discredited by experts in the field – like climate change denial or race science – merely in order to be provocative is not a good faith use of our precious academic freedom, students’ time, or university resources.

Responsible scholarship also requires us to pursue our academic projects in accordance with the evolving ethical and methodological standards of our disciplines or subdisciplines. The considerable protections associated with academic freedom are extended to scholars in virtue of their expertise. A physics professor has greater freedom to pursue scholarly projects of their devising than their undergraduate students do precisely because of the prof’s expertise in the methods and norms of the discipline. If they violate those standards, the community of scholars has both the right and the duty to take them to task using a range of professional discipline mechanisms.

The notion here of a community of scholars points to a further crucial responsibility: participation in collegial governance. Since the main purpose of universities is scholarship, universities’ academic governance bodies are largely composed of scholars. This system of collegial or shared governance ensures that academic decisions are made for good scholarly reasons informed by appropriate expertise. While collegial governance is beleaguered around the world, it remains comparatively strong in Canada. Canadian professors have a duty to keep collegial governance strong by participating in it with principle and vigour. For collegial governance as for academic freedom more generally, if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it.

2. Defend academic freedom for untenured and minority scholars 

The strongest protection for academic freedom is tenure or its equivalent – for instance, permanent status for teaching-stream professors. However, in Canada as elsewhere, tenured faculty members make up a shrinking proportion of university scholars. Last year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report indicating that in 2016-2017 almost 54 percent of Canadian university faculty appointments were non-tenure stream. According to the report, this figure reflects a sector-wide reliance on precarious faculty that has lasted for at least a decade.

Further, universities increasingly employ highly credentialed scholars in staff (rather than faculty) or contract research positions – neither of which typically come with academic freedom protections. And, as the 2017 strike by Ontario community college professors made clear, in Canada, academic freedom protections at community colleges are much thinner than at universities, even though a large proportion of Canadian scholars teach in the community college system.

Even among university professors with tenure, academic freedom is unevenly distributed. African American sociologist Johnny Williams, himself the target of a campaign by conservative website Campus Reform, argues that critical scholars, especially “socially defined black faculty who critically examine white supremacy,” do not benefit from the same robust academic freedom as scholars in general. Recent research by Jeffrey Sachs seems to support this view. Dr. Sachs found that the majority of recent faculty members terminated in 2017 for political speech were liberal, and “the most common types of speech to result in termination were those perceived by critics as ‘anti-white’ or ‘anti-Christian.’”

In the face of these challenges to academic freedom, tenured professors ought to use their tenure to “have the backs” of their colleagues, whether precarious, non-faculty, college faculty, or minority. This can take a variety of forms – supporting campaigns for better working conditions and job protections for these colleagues, fighting the “precarification” of the postsecondary sector, and very publicly defending colleagues who get attacked by organizations like Campus Reform, Breitbart and Turning Point USA. If a colleague – tenured or not – is attacked by one of these publications, tenured professors ought to vigourously fight any reprisal by the university against the targeted colleague.

Further, if a precarious academic workforce is the new reality for postsecondary institutions, then as a sector we need to develop creative mechanisms to ensure that scholars, irrespective of their appointment type or duration, have the protections they need to play their part in the performance of the university’s scholarly mission.

3. Support colleagues around the world

Most of this column has focused on the situation in Canada and, to a lesser extent, the U.S. However, around the world, academic freedom is under serious attack.

Since 2016, the Turkish government has dismissed thousands of academics, with many of the dismissed academics facing detention and trial.

In 2018 the Polish government tabled “Bill 2.0” or “Constitution For Education,” a sweeping bill that, among other things, stripped small, regional universities of their research budgets and their right to award PhDs, placed universities under the governance of external councils rather than collegial governance, and lowered the mandatory retirement age for women professors (and only women professors) to 60.

In Brazil, the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro was quickly followed by military police storming classrooms and arresting university employees for their political views. Within months, Bolsonaro was threatening to withdraw federal support for university sociology and philosophy programs.

Last month, Central European University (CEU) president Michael Ignatieff called on European governments to fight back against Hungary’s attacks on academic freedom, which most notably included chasing CEU out of the country as part of the right-wing Orbán government’s so-called “Stop Soros” law.

By June of this year, the Chinese government had reportedly imprisoned in camps more than 300 ethnic minority Uyghur scholars in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and was beginning to seriously compromise academic freedom in Hong Kong. Now, after a summer of anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong, the academic freedom of the students and university personnel who are leading the protests, and now returning to school, is more vulnerable than ever.

This list only scratches the surface of the serious, ongoing state attacks on scholars and scholarship around the world. Canadian faculty have a moral duty to stand with the global scholarly community to protect international scholars’ academic freedom. Start by educating yourself by following Scholars and Risk, Human Rights Watch and PEN International. Then, when you’re ready to do more, consider donating to these organizations, joining letter-writing campaigns in support of imprisoned academics, persuading your university to join Scholars at Risk (or, if they already belong to the organization, asking how you can get involved locally), or hosting a refugee scholar in your department or institution.

Summer’s over. Time to get to work. There is much to be done.
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                    [post_content] => The field of Black studies is slowly getting its due recognition at Canadian universities, thanks to the tireless work of Black scholars and student activists. For decades, Black scholars and students in Canada have found ways to bring Black studies into the academy. Now, thanks to the work of this network of scholars and students, the field is getting formal recognition, funding and space.

In 2016, Dalhousie University launched what seems to be the first minor on the subject in this country – and even getting that in place took years. Afua Cooper set about requesting the program after she was named to the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies in 2011. According to Dr. Cooper, the first time around, the approval committee said the program’s focus was too narrow. So, she rewrote it and brought it back a second time to a newly appointed committee – only to have it rejected, she recalls, for being too broad. The third time was the charm for Dalhousie’s interdisciplinary Black and African diaspora studies minor. “Students love it,” Dr. Cooper says, “whatever their race or ethnicity.” Her intro class takes upwards of 70 people and she says it always has a waiting list.

Dr. Cooper’s experience goes to show that despite the many decades of Black scholars teaching courses on Black scholarship in Canada, drawn-out administrative processes and their requirements have left these scholars and courses without an official home at most universities.

York University has a long tradition of Black studies courses and is home to the Harriet Tubman Institute, but it was just recently, in late 2018, that the school announced five new initiatives to support Black studies and students, most notably its Black Canadian studies certificate and the Black studies and theories of race and racism graduate program stream. Andrea Davis, coordinator of the certificate program and chair of York’s humanities department, said that these initiatives, including the hiring of world-renowned Black diaspora scholar Christina Sharpe, marks “an important moment in the advancement of scholarship in Black studies – both with a focus on Black Canada and in relation to the U.S. and the rest of the world.” And at the program launch last October, Rhonda Lenton, York president and vice-chancellor, noted that the certificate was born of student advocacy and students’ desire to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

That desire from students is driving the push for Black studies at universities across the country. At the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, the Black Liberation Collective has staged protests and made demands for more Black faculty and a recognized Black studies program, among other things. In Montreal, a group of students and faculty members at Concordia University have been working for some time to create an official minor in Black studies.

[caption id="attachment_69832" align="alignnone" width="644"] Andrea Davis, chair of the department of humanities and coordinator of the Black Canadian studies certificate program at York University. Photo courtesy of York University.[/caption]

What goes into building a minor

Shannon Gittens-Yaboha completed an undergraduate degree at Concordia between 2013 and 2017, and now she’s back for a second. When she first started in postsecondary, Ms. Gittens-Yaboha took every single class she could find in African and Black studies, an experience that she says “changed the way I interacted as a student. As a Black student, you spend your entire academic journey ... learning about Western culture and colonialism,” she says. “You spend all that time learning about white people, and as a Black student you have to hear your history as a secondary story to that primary narrative.” But when all was said and done, she still had to work towards a minor in history, not Black studies as she would’ve preferred. In fact, she and four other students have hosted events in support of such a program at Concordia, including a student-organized conference called “Living Black Studies.” This year’s events, which took place in March, covered topics like citing Black sources and writing while Black, among others. Concordia’s dean of arts and science, André Roy, says he received a letter of intent in May 2018 for an interdisciplinary Black studies minor from faculty members in the departments of English, history, geography, planning and the environment. As part of that process, they assessed the university’s current offerings that could be cross-listed under the new program. He says they found some 34 courses and 21 instructors on faculty that would fit the bill. But only seven of those faculty members are racialized minorities. “What is at issue is who’s going to teach in it, and whether we have enough Black scholars to make it a Black studies program that would be reflective of the Black experience,” he says. The idea of offering a Black studies minor without the majority of courses being taught by Black instructors doesn’t sit very well with the dean, nor would it likely sit well with professors and students like Ms. Gittens-Yaboha who’ve been asking for it. With hiring requests already in for the 2019-2020 school year, Dr. Roy says recruitment of new tenure-track faculty members to get the minor off the ground won’t happen before 2020-2021 (though other preparations are unofficially underway). “It’s a long process. Curriculum change, even for a minor, can take a year-and-a-half or two years, sometimes more,” he says, but the faculty of arts and science is “fully supportive of this minor” and “things are well aligned for this minor to happen.” He adds: “I think a minor is a first step. I think we should have something that’s much more encompassing of Black studies … The program so far comes mostly from the humanities departments, but it could have a much broader scope if we think of the contributions of Black scholars throughout the university.” Still, the students and professor Ted Rutland, who has supported their efforts, say it is disappointing that the university hasn’t made Black studies a more immediate priority, especially since Concordia has acquired archives from Black community organizations, including the Negro Community Centre. They say it would be a good opportunity to fully delve into this rich local history, and to advance the careers of Black scholars – particularly since Concordia currently has so few.

The “Black brain drain”

The Black Canadian Studies Association – which celebrated its five-year anniversary at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in June (though not without some controversy that reinforced the group’s importance) – is another way scholars have circumvented slow-moving administrative procedures and created a space for Black studies in Canada. Still, with Black Canadian studies in its infancy in Canada, it will take more than a few committed faculty members and students to help it continue the momentum of these first steps. Charmaine Nelson, an art history professor at McGill University who runs blackcanadianstudies.com, thinks that for a start, Canadian institutions can do better than a minor or a certificate program. “As much as this is progress, we need a major,” Dr. Nelson says. “Putting a minor on the books is a way for [administration] to not have to invest in infrastructure. They’ll rely on who they already have on the ground, they will not invest in new hires, or new tenure-track people.” (A suggestion Concordia’s Dr. Roy disagrees with.) A degree major, on the other hand, secures funding for new faculty and could help reverse what she calls a “Black brain drain.” Bedour Alagraa's experience is a good illustration of this phenomenon. Dr. Alagraa completed her undergraduate degree in political science at the University of Toronto before pursuing a master’s in race, ethnicity and postcolonial studies at the London School of Economics in the U.K., and a PhD in Africana studies at Brown University in the U.S. Although she had to leave Canada to pursue Black studies in the way that she wanted, she credits Canadian scholars such as Rinaldo Walcott at U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Katherine McKittrick at Queen’s University and Dionne Brand at the University of Guelph with providing her a base-knowledge in the field. “Even without formalized institutional space, I had a Black studies education that came from so many places. From my peers, from Black faculty at other institutions,” she says. “It actually made me realize that so much was being generated even in the absence of these formalized institutional spaces; that it’s actually quite remarkable what people have managed to do, even given these institutional roadblocks and bottlenecks,” says Dr. Alagraa. In short, Black studies has always happened with or without the four walls of a university classroom and promise of a degree. [post_title] => The growing field of Black Canadian studies [post_excerpt] => After decades of grassroots work by Black scholars, a few universities have started offering Black Canadian studies programs. Will it be enough to start reversing what one professor calls Canada’s “Black brain drain”? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-growing-field-of-black-canadian-studies [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 10:08:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 14:08:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.universityaffairs.ca/?post_type=news&p=69830 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => news [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 4 [filter] => raw [meta_robots] => ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 69749 [post_author] => 908 [post_date] => 2019-08-05 09:30:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-05 13:30:19 [post_content] => This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. A rising tide floats all boats. Until recently this has been Canada’s attitude towards the fact that there are are more PhD students than there are academic jobs. Some in the sciences have warned that graduate training should be restricted: for example, fewer students could be trained in specialized programs, and then they could move onto professional scientist positions inside universities. But in Canada, compared to the United States, the small scale of grants means there are fewer opportunities for university science researchers. Where will the surplus of science researchers go? How are universities responding to the fact that a majority of graduate student alumni are unemployed, sub-employed or have to receive training from a college in order to procure a good-paying job? The broader political climate and ideologies that have an impact on post-secondary funding may be changing, placing graduate schools at odds: Ontario, for example, is now advising universities that funding will be more tied to skills and jobs outcomes. In addition to my stem cell research as a professor in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, I’ve begun research as a teaching scholar to look at how better teaching and support for science graduate students can enhance student learning, growth and employability.

Interviews aren’t just for facts

As part of my research, I’ve developed an informational interview assignment for the courses I teach — largely popular among the 200 students I’ve assigned this to. In this assignment, students need to talk to an established person in the health sciences working beyond the university. Through these interviews, students also learn that often professionally established people generous with their time, investing themselves in student aspirations. Amongst professionals, students gain tacit skills, learn to read social cues and have constructive conversations. They imagine themselves in a professional role, which motivates them to focus on their career development. Students also gain an awareness that talking to people and soliciting their input — stakeholder engagement — is not only relevant to good science research, but also to finding a job. In the next phase of research — with Beth Archer-Kuhn in the Faculty of Social Work, co-author of this article — we will examine how informational interviews help students map their careers and realize the educational benefits of inquiry-based learning. We’ll also look at how assigning these interviews are part of broader teaching strategies that support transformational learning supported by quality relationships. This means there would be a greater focus on students supporting and encouraging dialogue and inviting critical self-reflection through active learning, assessment and helpful critique, both in students’ classes or with research mentors or supervisors. We are interested both in students’ holistic growth as learners, and their career development.

Amplify and name existing skills

Part of a better science graduate education is also about learning to articulate and tease out the marketability of existing skills that are already being learned. Graduate students have much to offer the non-academic workplace, based upon their superior critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Employment challenges after graduate school may be partially due to an inability to explain or translate these skills into the broader workforce: a skills awareness gap. Alongside learning disciplinary knowledge and skills, students need to learn how to reflect on what they are learning as research collaborators and how it is connected to broader employable skills (such as self management, communication and teamwork) and existing employment gaps. In a survey we recently conducted of Alberta biomedical companies with a graduate student, our preliminary findings suggested that project management skills are in need. The survey asked the companies and recruiters for their perspective about graduate student employability by asking four questions:
  • What non-technical skills do graduate employees struggle with?
  • What non-technical skills do graduate employees excel at?
  • What skills link most to graduate employee success?
  • What’s the biggest change new graduates have to make?
Out of the 235 emails that were delivered to biomedical companies, 93 usable replies were returned. We heard the No. 1 skill that hiring managers said graduate students lacked (at 68 per cent) was project management. Project management is experiencing significant growth. The Anderson Economic Group, a firm that analyzes industries, developed a report for the Project Management Institute that Canada is expected to need 90,000 new project management jobs by 2027, a significant number of them in health care. Project management is relatively new for medicine and is expected to help address costs and quality. For example, project managers can help implement changes in process and procedures ensuring that all team members are following new guidelines. The second skill the Alberta biomedical companies said graduate students need (at 32 per cent) was customer interaction — being skilled and knowledgeable in how to have a service-oriented disposition attuned to customer needs. In medicine, stakeholder management skills are particularly important based on how many different specialists, services or units can be involved in patient care, in addition to family members!

Preparing students

Parallels exist between the graduate thesis and project management. But while students are practising the skills of project management, they aren’t typically equipped to connect these skills and their best practices to the wider workforce. This is unfortunate because formal project management training would both help graduate students complete tasks on time, produce higher quality research and better launch graduate students into professional opportunities. Likewise, stakeholder interaction could be easily made explicit in graduate studies by getting students outside the ivory tower when they formulate their research ideas and write their theses. Governments have called for greater research impact by translating an awareness of needs in society into research and development — in other words, acting in response to the pulls of the market. For example, in the field of health science research, a consideration of “market pulls” could include needs of service users, patients, or those who care for people who use services early in a research process. Graduate students must think more about both their research and their professional profiles to position them to fill societal needs. Part of learning about that means engaging potential customers — project stakeholders — early in their research training. Informational interviews are just one part of doing so. When students learn to pay attention to both critical thinking and relationships in the classroom, when they build connections to the world through inquiry-based and experiential learning and when they learn skills to engage stakeholders in their research, we hope to show their chances of success — and their buoyancy — increases. Derrick Rancourt is a professor in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Beth Archer-Kuhn is an assistant professor in the faculty of social work at the University of Calgary. [post_title] => How universities can really help PhD grads get jobs [post_excerpt] => Explicitly teaching graduate students project management – a skill set they typically learn through trial and error – could mean better research and employability. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-universities-can-really-help-phd-grads-get-jobs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 10:06:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 14:06:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.universityaffairs.ca/?post_type=in-my-opinion&p=69749 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => in-my-opinion [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta_robots] => ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 68594 [post_author] => 318 [post_date] => 2019-06-26 09:30:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-26 13:30:59 [post_content] => After a screening of the documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes this spring in Toronto, the audience rises, tears in their eyes. They leap up again when its subject, Anne Innis Dagg, takes the stage wearing a large smile and a yellow shirt with giraffes on it. There’s another standing ovation in the Q&A session after, when a student of Dr. Dagg’s from 1965 takes the mic. “It is evident that you have shown the strongest leadership over the last 54 years in science, but in particular in personhood. And I applaud you and I ask you all to stand for this fine woman.” After, at the back of the theatre, Dr. Dagg, 86, draws a crowd. “She’s a rock star now,” says the film’s director, Alison Reid. At screenings across North America that both have attended, people flock to Dr. Dagg. “It’s really nice to see her get the kind of recognition and accolades that she so richly deserves.” Indeed, for vast swaths of Dr. Dagg’s career, she got few kudos. She visited South Africa in 1956, in the early days of apartheid, to observe giraffes. She went alone and without a university’s financial backing or other resources behind her. It’s likely she was the first person in the world to do systematic scientific observations of a large mammal in the wild. It wasn’t until four years later that Jane Goodall first went to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. But, unlike Dr. Goodall, Dr. Dagg’s trip did not make her famous. In fact, after she got her PhD, taught for several years and published in peer-reviewed journals, the University of Guelph rejected her tenure bid in 1972. “As I say in the film, that decision ruined her career,” says retired U of Guelph zoology professor Sandy Middleton, who sat on Dr. Dagg’s all-male tenure and promotion committee. He says he was the only one to vote yes. So Dr. Dagg worked part-time at the University of Waterloo and, on her own time and own dime, produced a steady stream of articles and books about animals, the environment, and gender inequality in academia and science. “It’s just who I am,” says Dr. Dagg of her productivity as a self-proclaimed citizen scientist. “I’ve always got to be doing something.” Tenacity, work ethic and curiosity allowed Dr. Dagg to carve out a career, which ended up being one of quiet importance. While she always knew it had sold well, she only found out recently that her 1976 book, The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behavior, and Ecology, has been dubbed “the bible” by giraffe biologists around the world. “It is the standing volume of work on the subject. Even to this day, that is the book,” says Jason Pootoolal, a zoologist based in Cambridge, Ontario, who worked with giraffes while on staff at the nearby African Lion Safari animal park. Dr. Dagg was the first in the world to publish observations of homosexual behaviour in animals. She called out biologists for imposing human social values – and sexist motifs – on their descriptions of animal behaviour. Meanwhile, her work on gender discrimination in academia charted wage inequality and how things such as anti-nepotism rules at universities discriminated against the wives of faculty members. “She’s very much about publishing and getting the knowledge out there, without any spin on the facts. She’s such a trailblazer,” says Mr. Pootoolal. Now, Dr. Dagg is getting her due via apologies, awards and applause. Although some would say it’s too little, too late.
Anne Innis, born in 1933, seemed destined for academic life – and, indeed, all four Innis children did graduate-level study. Her father was Harold Innis, the acclaimed professor of political economy who has a college named for him at the University of Toronto. Mother Mary Quayle Innis was a prolific author and editor who served as dean of women of University College at U of T. Mary took three-year-old Anne to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where she saw her first giraffe. “From then I wanted to know more and more about this wonderful creature,” she wrote in her 2016 memoir, Smitten by Giraffe, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. After high school at Bishop Strachan School (painter Robert Bateman was her first boyfriend back then, she recalls), a degree in biology and a master’s in genetics at U of T, Anne began plotting her trip to Africa. One of her professors suggested she write to a ranch manager he’d heard of in South Africa, and she did so, signing the letter A. Innis – previous inquiries had been rejected because she was a woman. At the Fleur de Lys ranch, Anne took detailed notes on what giraffes were doing at five-minute intervals, charting about 30 creatures every day. She collected leaves from the trees that they ate from to understand their diet. Despite the heat, she stayed inside the Ford Prefect she’d bought for $200, because if they saw her outside the car, the giraffes changed what they were doing. This was in contrast to how Dr. Goodall conducted her field research. “She had the chimps in her tent and they were playing games. That’s just exactly what I would never do,” says Dr. Dagg. She also ignored the rules of segregation, and the acerbic comments, when she struck up friendships with Black people on the boat to and from Africa, and became close to two Black children on the ranch. [caption id="attachment_68603" align="alignnone" width="644"] Anne Innis in South Africa in 1956.[/caption] After the trip, in 1957, Anne married physicist Ian Dagg, who shared her love of tennis. He took a faculty job at U of Waterloo. She taught and did her PhD in animal behaviour at the same university, and the couple had three children. She recalls the children climbing on her lap and wanting to help as she analyzed film recorded while in Africa – Ian had taped strips of film to the walls of Anne’s office so she could examine the giraffes’ gait, eventually discovering that they could not trot. [caption id="attachment_68612" align="alignleft" width="300"] Anne Innis and her husband Ian Dagg with their
children (left to right) Mary, Ian and Hugh.[/caption] A year after completing her degree in 1967, Dr. Dagg landed a job as an assistant professor at U of Guelph. By the time she’d applied for tenure, she had about 20 published articles on topics such as giraffe behaviour, their food preferences, the locomotion of various animals, and the bird population in the Waterloo Region, in publications that included the Journal of Zoology, the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Mammalia and the Canadian Journal of Zoology. Her tenure committee claimed her research program wasn’t fully established and she hadn’t been published in prestigious publications. “That was really a cop-out as far as I was concerned. Women didn’t fare well in my department,” Dr. Middleton says, recalling how one woman got tenure around that time, but her husband worked in a key technical role for the dean. A few years after Dr. Dagg’s rejection, another well-qualified woman also got turned down. “That was the end of everything I had ever hoped for,” Dr. Dagg says in The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. U of Waterloo had already made it clear that they would not hire married women for full-time positions. She applied to Wilfrid Laurier University, but a man with a less impressive resumé got the job. Dr. Dagg launched a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The case dragged on for years, and she lost. “I recall in the 1970s mom being very depressed,” says her daughter, Mary Dagg. Amy Phelps, an animal scientist at the San Francisco Zoo who knows Dr. Dagg, says: “It would have been easy to pull the ‘poor me’ card. But she just used it to fuel her fire.” Dr. Dagg founded Otter Press, publishing a book of her husband’s work, her own first book, Mammals of Waterloo and South Wellington, and many others. She drew on her notes from Africa to write The Giraffe along with former classmate Bristol Foster, putting it out with a U.S. publisher. [caption id="attachment_68630" align="alignright" width="300"] Anne Innis at 17 revisiting the giraffe
enclosure at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.[/caption] By 1978, Dr. Dagg had found part-time work with the integrated studies program at U of Waterloo. It was later called independent studies and at one point she worked as its program director. She served as Cory Doctorow’s advisor in 1992. Now a science fiction writer and journalist, Mr. Doctorow wanted to write his tech-focused thesis in hypertext and submit it on a CD-ROM. “She went to bat for me,” he recalls. The school refused, insisting he file on paper. “While she was always bullish on academic rigour, she’s also not constrained by convention,” he says. She kept writing and publishing, and that work was kept quite separate from her teaching. “No one talked to me about it, ever,” says Dr. Dagg, referring to her colleagues at U of Waterloo. “No one asked me, ‘What are you doing?’ because they would assume I wasn’t doing anything.” Mary thinks her mother’s tireless work ethic came from her upbringing. “Her father was always working, her mother was always working. Being at home working and writing books was just what you did.” Along with a second edition of The Giraffe in 1982, Dr. Dagg published dozens of articles and a total of about 20 books throughout her career, and new books are still coming out, including children’s books on animals and one about her mother. Over the years, Otter Press became marginally profitable, and Dr. Dagg made a bit of money as well from her teaching and writing. She would often say to her kids, “I take care of the travel.” Indeed, she would finance all the family’s trips while Ian’s salary paid the regular bills. When Ian died suddenly in 1993 – he collapsed from a heart attack during one of their Friday night tennis games – Anne kept on with her writing and advocacy work. She later reconnected with an old university friend who’d also been widowed, political science professor Alan Cairns, and they were common-law partners until his death last year. [caption id="attachment_68599" align="alignnone" width="644"] “While she was always bullish on academic rigour, she’s also not constrained by convention.” Photo of Anne Innis-Dagg in 2019 by Ian Patterson.[/caption] While Dr. Dagg came up against blatant sexism in her dealings with universities, the subject of her research may also have proved a barrier. “Giraffes were thought of as these big, stupid, beautiful cows,” says Ms. Phelps in San Francisco. “They were not given the same level of serious study that you see for the great apes and elephants and large carnivores.” Jonathan Newman, dean of the college of biological science at U of Guelph (until August 1), says giraffes can be a challenge to study. “The bigger the animal, the harder it is to do good science, to get replication,” he says. Plus, they tend to live far from Canada. As a poorly funded citizen scientist, Dr. Dagg managed to look past her first love and began tackling another topic: sexist assumptions in science. In 1983’s Harems and Other Horrors: Sexual Bias in Behavioral Biology, she calls out (mostly male) scientists for imposing their gendered ideas on animals, such as describing mating behaviours in females as “coy” or “flirtatious.” Years later, an ongoing argument via journal articles about infanticide among lions with U.S. biologist Craig Packer – during which he called her a “fringe scientist” with a “bizarre obsession” – led to the 2004 book ‘Love of Shopping’ is Not a Gene: Problems with Darwinian Psychology. In it, she links assumptions about animals, the inevitability of war and the inferiority of women and minorities, to flaws with Darwinian psychology. “That book was transformative for me,” says Mr. Doctorow, who reviewed it. “I realized I had accepted some ideas that didn’t hold up to even the thinnest veneer of scrutiny,” he says. “I still talk about that book to people.” Meanwhile, Dr. Dagg’s negative experiences in academia – including realizing that she and other female part-time instructors were being paid less than the men – drew her into writing about gender issues in academia. Her 1988 book, MisEducation: Women and Canadian Universities, used surveys and statistical data to map out the extent of sexual discrimination at Canada’s universities. Her 2001 book, The Feminine Gaze, celebrates the works of female non-fiction writers in Canada. “Part of me thinks it was actually a good thing,” says daughter Mary of her mother not getting tenure. “It means she focused so much on another huge issue, which was getting women respect in the world, not just at universities but on every level.” About a decade ago, Ms. Phelps, who was then working with giraffes at the Oakland Zoo, helped form the International Association of Giraffe Care Professionals and began planning the group’s first conference in Arizona for 2010. She wanted the author of the giraffe book she’d been carrying around since she was a teen to attend. “This woman was so important to us … but nobody knew her,” says Ms. Phelps. [caption id="attachment_68601" align="alignnone" width="644"] Dr. Dagg at the Phoenix Zoo during the 2010 International Association of Giraffe Care Professionals conference.[/caption] She enlisted the help of animal behaviour consultant and former police officer Lisa Clifton-Bumpass. The two had been training an arthritic giraffe at the zoo to comply with treatments to relieve its pain. Since Ms. Clifton-Bumpass had never worked with giraffes prior to that, the first thing Ms. Phelps did was give her a copy of The Giraffe. Ms. Clifton-Bumpass did some digging, found Dr. Dagg’s contact information and Ms. Phelps got in touch. When Ms. Phelps learned what her idol had been through, getting her to the conference was more urgent than ever. “It was really important that her story be told and that she be given the respect she’d been denied for 50 years.” Dr. Dagg showed up, made a presentation and received the Pioneer Award (conference organizers renamed it the Dr. Anne Innis Dagg Excellence in Giraffe Science Award after that, and give it out annually). “She was kind and gracious and I think she was genuinely shocked that, to all of us, she was this amazing hero,” says Ms. Phelps. Mr. Pootoolal was at the conference and remembers her being courteous with him. “She’s the queen of giraffes and there she was acting so humble,” he says. The event got Dr. Dagg connected with the who’s who of giraffe biology around the world. “It’s really nice. When I go to a conference, I know a lot of people and they know me,” she says. “She was re-energized,” says Mary. “She had been digging around and doing her own things and not realizing it was resonating with anybody. She was operating in a bit of a bubble.” That bubble has since undeniably popped. In 2011, the CBC radio program Ideas did a piece on Dr. Dagg, which caught the attention of filmmaker Ms. Reid, who first proposed a scripted movie about the researcher but altered her plan and started work on the documentary. Meanwhile, Cambridge University Press wanted a new edition of the giraffe book. Dr. Dagg tapped her newfound colleagues for the latest research. “I can phone them if I don’t understand something,” she says. Before it came out in 2014, Dr. Dagg wrote a piece for The Globe and Mail that explained her errors regarding social behaviour and anatomy in earlier editions. “She admitted she was wrong,” marvels Ms. Phelps. Around the same time, at long last, she went back to Africa. Ms. Clifton-Bumpass, herself smitten by both Dr. Dagg and giraffes, proposed a trip to Kenya in 2013. Two years later, she returned to Fleur de Lys, now cut up by paved roads and with a dramatically smaller giraffe population. The same year, she contributed to a segment on giraffes for CBC’s The Nature of Things that highlighted their dwindling numbers. In 2016, she released her autobiography, Smitten by Giraffe. Now, with the recent documentary, Dr. Dagg’s story has spread wider still, and the acknowledgments and awards keep coming, including one from her alma mater Bishop Strachan. U of Guelph hosted a screening of the film this past February where Dr. Newman spoke, reading an official apology from Charlotte Yates, the provost and vice-president, academic, and announcing the creation of a summer research scholarship in Dr. Dagg’s name. “Our goals were to allow the college community to engage with the film and with Anne afterwards, and also for us to say we’re sorry for how things worked out for her,” says Dr. Newman. This late-in-life redemption clearly feels bittersweet to Dr. Dagg. “They had to, really,” she says of the university’s apology. “Pretty much everyone is saying, ‘this was terrible.’” Mary says the film may have opened old wounds for her mother, who rewatches it at every screening. “Each time, she gets riled up again about the whole Guelph thing.” Dr. Dagg refers to the dean behind her tenure refusal as “the horrible guy” and says it’s “just disgusting” that it was mainly men who held faculty jobs at the time. Dr. Dagg’s house is full of giraffes – a huge stuffed toy giraffe, giraffe mugs, a painting of giraffes by long-time pal Robert Bateman – but she missed out on decades of working with them, and to protect them. “I’m happy to introduce her to the younger generation of female zookeepers, to remind them that the door was not always open,” says Ms. Phelps. “There were women who beat on that door with blood, sweat and tears to open it.” Yet many other slighted female academics will never get their due. “There are a lot of other stories out there about women like Anne who did significant work and never got the recognition for it,” says Ms. Reid. Dr. Dagg now humbly embraces her superstar status, and looks back on her life’s work with a new perspective. “I feel much happier now. I feel now that what I was doing was something important.” [post_title] => Pioneering biologist Anne Innis Dagg gets her due [post_excerpt] => Canada’s “queen of giraffes” – denied tenure because she was a woman, despite her groundbreaking research – finally gets the recognition she deserves. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => pioneering-biologist-anne-innis-dagg-gets-her-due [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 10:05:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 14:05:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.universityaffairs.ca/?post_type=features&p=68594 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => features [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw [meta_robots] => ) ) [post_count] => 4 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 70702 [post_author] => 802 [post_date] => 2019-09-03 14:04:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-03 18:04:35 [post_content] => The days are getting shorter and professors across the country are polishing their course outlines for the new semester. There is no better time than the new school year to renew our commitment to academic freedom. Here for your metaphorical school bag are three ways faculty members can help to defend academic freedom in the coming year. 1. Hold up your end of the bargain Academic freedom is a cluster of protections afforded scholars so that they can play their part in postsecondary institutions’ important social function of seeking truth and advancing understanding. That is, academic freedom is not merely a negotiated perk of being a professor, like a health plan or a paid vacation. Rather, it is a sine qua non of the university’s mission. In order to advance knowledge, scholars need to be able to engage in controversial and risky research and teaching, without fear of reprisal. Thus, important responsibilities are baked in to the very concept of academic freedom. When we shirk those responsibilities, we risk weakening academic freedom by removing the reason for its existence. The core responsibility associated with academic freedom is to engage in good faith in brave, honest research and teaching in pursuit of truth and the advancement of understanding. We ought to be brave in our scholarship precisely because academic freedom exists in order to allow scholars to push beyond the status quo – whether by undertaking a research project that might fail to prove the hypothesis, by teaching controversial material, or by contributing to an inchoate subject area. But this scholarly courage ought to be in service not of risk for its own sake but of the pursuit of knowledge. Teaching a theory that has been thoroughly discredited by experts in the field – like climate change denial or race science – merely in order to be provocative is not a good faith use of our precious academic freedom, students’ time, or university resources. Responsible scholarship also requires us to pursue our academic projects in accordance with the evolving ethical and methodological standards of our disciplines or subdisciplines. The considerable protections associated with academic freedom are extended to scholars in virtue of their expertise. A physics professor has greater freedom to pursue scholarly projects of their devising than their undergraduate students do precisely because of the prof’s expertise in the methods and norms of the discipline. If they violate those standards, the community of scholars has both the right and the duty to take them to task using a range of professional discipline mechanisms. The notion here of a community of scholars points to a further crucial responsibility: participation in collegial governance. Since the main purpose of universities is scholarship, universities’ academic governance bodies are largely composed of scholars. This system of collegial or shared governance ensures that academic decisions are made for good scholarly reasons informed by appropriate expertise. While collegial governance is beleaguered around the world, it remains comparatively strong in Canada. Canadian professors have a duty to keep collegial governance strong by participating in it with principle and vigour. For collegial governance as for academic freedom more generally, if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it. 2. Defend academic freedom for untenured and minority scholars The strongest protection for academic freedom is tenure or its equivalent – for instance, permanent status for teaching-stream professors. However, in Canada as elsewhere, tenured faculty members make up a shrinking proportion of university scholars. Last year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report indicating that in 2016-2017 almost 54 percent of Canadian university faculty appointments were non-tenure stream. According to the report, this figure reflects a sector-wide reliance on precarious faculty that has lasted for at least a decade. Further, universities increasingly employ highly credentialed scholars in staff (rather than faculty) or contract research positions – neither of which typically come with academic freedom protections. And, as the 2017 strike by Ontario community college professors made clear, in Canada, academic freedom protections at community colleges are much thinner than at universities, even though a large proportion of Canadian scholars teach in the community college system. Even among university professors with tenure, academic freedom is unevenly distributed. African American sociologist Johnny Williams, himself the target of a campaign by conservative website Campus Reform, argues that critical scholars, especially “socially defined black faculty who critically examine white supremacy,” do not benefit from the same robust academic freedom as scholars in general. Recent research by Jeffrey Sachs seems to support this view. Dr. Sachs found that the majority of recent faculty members terminated in 2017 for political speech were liberal, and “the most common types of speech to result in termination were those perceived by critics as ‘anti-white’ or ‘anti-Christian.’” In the face of these challenges to academic freedom, tenured professors ought to use their tenure to “have the backs” of their colleagues, whether precarious, non-faculty, college faculty, or minority. This can take a variety of forms – supporting campaigns for better working conditions and job protections for these colleagues, fighting the “precarification” of the postsecondary sector, and very publicly defending colleagues who get attacked by organizations like Campus Reform, Breitbart and Turning Point USA. If a colleague – tenured or not – is attacked by one of these publications, tenured professors ought to vigourously fight any reprisal by the university against the targeted colleague. Further, if a precarious academic workforce is the new reality for postsecondary institutions, then as a sector we need to develop creative mechanisms to ensure that scholars, irrespective of their appointment type or duration, have the protections they need to play their part in the performance of the university’s scholarly mission. 3. Support colleagues around the world Most of this column has focused on the situation in Canada and, to a lesser extent, the U.S. However, around the world, academic freedom is under serious attack. Since 2016, the Turkish government has dismissed thousands of academics, with many of the dismissed academics facing detention and trial. In 2018 the Polish government tabled “Bill 2.0” or “Constitution For Education,” a sweeping bill that, among other things, stripped small, regional universities of their research budgets and their right to award PhDs, placed universities under the governance of external councils rather than collegial governance, and lowered the mandatory retirement age for women professors (and only women professors) to 60. In Brazil, the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro was quickly followed by military police storming classrooms and arresting university employees for their political views. Within months, Bolsonaro was threatening to withdraw federal support for university sociology and philosophy programs. Last month, Central European University (CEU) president Michael Ignatieff called on European governments to fight back against Hungary’s attacks on academic freedom, which most notably included chasing CEU out of the country as part of the right-wing Orbán government’s so-called “Stop Soros” law. By June of this year, the Chinese government had reportedly imprisoned in camps more than 300 ethnic minority Uyghur scholars in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and was beginning to seriously compromise academic freedom in Hong Kong. Now, after a summer of anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong, the academic freedom of the students and university personnel who are leading the protests, and now returning to school, is more vulnerable than ever. This list only scratches the surface of the serious, ongoing state attacks on scholars and scholarship around the world. Canadian faculty have a moral duty to stand with the global scholarly community to protect international scholars’ academic freedom. Start by educating yourself by following Scholars and Risk, Human Rights Watch and PEN International. Then, when you’re ready to do more, consider donating to these organizations, joining letter-writing campaigns in support of imprisoned academics, persuading your university to join Scholars at Risk (or, if they already belong to the organization, asking how you can get involved locally), or hosting a refugee scholar in your department or institution. Summer’s over. Time to get to work. There is much to be done. [post_title] => Three ways professors can support academic freedom as we head back to school [post_excerpt] => Academic freedom is not merely a negotiated perk of being a professor, it is a sine qua non of the university’s mission. 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