Archive for October 31, 2013

UK higher education lecturers and staff strike

I have a CS Ed PhD depth exam meeting later this morning.  One of the committee members can’t make it, because she’s a UK faculty member who is going on strike today. (BBC coverage here.)

The concerns of the strikers (press release linked below) seem pretty similar to the issues that we have in the United States: No pay raises for faculty (University System of Georgia faculty haven’t had a pay raise since 2008), big salaries for upper administration, and increasing middle management bloat.  Interesting to see if this picks up on this side of the Atlantic.

UCU, UNISON and Unite trade unions announced today that their members working in higher education will walk out on Thursday 31 October in an increasingly bitter row over pay.

Staff have been offered a pay rise of just 1% this year, which means they have suffered a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008. Will Hutton this weekend highlighted that as one the most sustained cut in wages since the Second World War.

The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000.

via UCU – University and College Union – University strike dates announced.

October 31, 2013 at 9:21 am 1 comment

Marvel Girls in Stem Mentor Contest: The value and challenge of role models

I’m glad to hear that Marvel wants to get involved in drawing more women into STEM.  The involvement of Natalie Portman is interesting, but also challenging.  There are these interesting studies showing that role models of women in STEM can trigger a kind of stereotype threat: “That can never be me, so I’d better not even try.”  They’ll have to be careful in how they frame her involvement in science.  Since I’ve been thinking about live coding, I’ve been wondering more about the importance of seeing embodiments of STEM workers that are otherwise invisible.  Perhaps Marvel can provide that through this effort.

Marvel has announced the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, part mentor program, part contest, that gives American girls in grades 9-12 the resources to find and interview professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and then rewards them for doing it.

Natalie Portman has always been a consistent voice for greater screentime and opportunities behind the scenes for female characters and real women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that she’s the first face you see on the Ultimate Mentor Adventure’s explanatory video. Portman talks about her character Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, amid finished and behind the scenes clips of Jane in Thor: The Dark World, and, while the bombastic music of the trailers plays, she says, “the truth is, I really do love science. And the role gave me an amazing opportunity to explore science in all its possibilities.”

via Marvel Girls in Stem Mentor Contest | The Mary Sue.

October 31, 2013 at 1:44 am 1 comment


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