LSU Professor Fired For Profanity And Sex Jokes, Sparking Free Speech Outcry

A leading college faculty association is sounding the alarm over the termination of a tenured Louisiana State University professor for using profanity in the classroom in what school administrators said amounted to sexual harassment.

Teresa Buchanan, a professor of elementary education, was officially fired by LSU administrators on June 19 after an 18-month investigation, The Daily Reveille reported Monday.

Buchanan occasionally cursed and used sexually liberal humor within the classroom, which the university investigated as “sexual harassment.” She also allegedly used the word “pussy” in an off-campus conversation with a teacher, according to LSU.

The American Association of University Professors decried Buchanan’s termination over language it said was “run-of-the-mill these days for much of the academic community [and] also is protected conduct under principles of academic freedom” in a letter sent Tuesday to LSU President F. King Alexander, embedded below.

Buchanan plans to sue the university for her termination, according to numerous reports.

The professor, who has been tenured since 2002, first learned she was under investigation on Dec. 20, 2013 — but the school declined to say why, according to the AAUP. Buchanan later learned it was her use of profanities that triggered the investigation, she told The Advocate and Reason magazine.

Buchanan defended the language as free speech.

“If the curriculum is fucking awful, I might say that it is,” she told Reason. “I’m not teaching Sunday school.”

In March, a group of five faculty members held an 11-hour dismissal review and concluded that Buchanan’s profanities were not “systematically directed at any individual,” according to Reason. The committee also condemned the university for ignoring intermediate steps like offering Buchanan counseling or sexual harassment training before involving the human resources department.

The review committee —> Read More

Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship Awards Announced

Five Fellows from across the United States will receive grants as part of the 2015-2016 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship to travel overseas and use multi-media storytelling techniques to build awareness of transnational challenges, the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society announced yesterday.

The Fellows were selected by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board following an academic review and recommendations by an editorial panel of National Geographic staff. Over a nine-month period, the Fellows will share their stories on a dedicated National Geographic blog using a variety of digital storytelling tools, including photography, video, audio, graphic illustrations, and social media. Editors from National Geographic will mentor the Fellows to help them tell their stories to a global audience.

  • Ari Beser, from Baltimore, Maryland, will travel throughout Japan to tell the stories of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. His goal is to produce a “blogumentary,” which gives voice to the people directly affected by nuclear technology today.
  • Ryan Bell, from Seattle, Washington, is a writer and photographer who travels the world documenting “cowboy” cultures. For this Fellowship, he will travel through rural Russia and Kazakhstan for his project, titled “Comrade Cowboys,” documenting pastoralists who are working to rebuild cattle industries decimated by the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • Janice Cantieri, from St. Louis, Missouri, will travel between the Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. She will tell the stories of the Banaban Islanders, who were displaced to Fiji in 1945, and the stories of those currently facing displacement from Tarawa, Kiribati to Fiji as the sea level rise inundates parts of the islands.
  • Hiba Dlewati, from Grand Blanc, Michigan, is a Syrian American writer who will travel throughout —> Read More

Hawaii Just Became The First State To Ban Plastic Bags At Grocery Checkouts

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As of Wednesday, grocery stores across the entire state of Hawaii are banned from distributing plastic bags.

The City and County of Honolulu — which covers the entirety of Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island — is now enforcing a ban that prohibits stores from handing plastic bags to customers at checkout, making Oahu the last populated island in the state to give the bags the boot.

Hawaii is the first state to fully ban plastic bags at grocery stores. California recently passed a law that requires stores to charge for bags, but the measure has been put on hold until a referendum is held in November. Unlike the California ban, which was passed by the state legislature, Hawaii’s ban was instituted at the county level.

“This was not done by the state legislature, but instead by all four County Councils,” the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said in 2012 when the ban was first passed. The group called the effort “a great example of local activists and decision-makers addressing the serious issue of plastic pollution.”

Plastic isn’t biodegradable, and the United States is one of the biggest contributors to ocean garbage patches, often described as floating islands of trash. Even if you conscientiously reuse your plastic bags, they likely still end up sitting in a landfill or adding to the 28 billion pounds of plastic already in our ocean, where they may be ingested by or otherwise harm marine animals.

In other words, whether or not you live in an area where plastic bags are already banned, it’s a good idea to opt for a reusable bag. Store reusable grocery bags in the trunk of your car or opt for a lightweight option that —> Read More

Blue Eyes Linked To Higher Risk Of Alcohol Dependence In New Study

Could a potential sign of alcohol dependence be lurking in your reflection?

People with light-colored eyes — which researchers defined as blue, green, gray, or with brown in the center — may have a greater chance of becoming dependent on alcohol, a new study from the University of Vermont suggests.

Researchers found that within a sample of 1,263 European-Americans, alcohol dependence was more prevalent among those with light eyes than those with dark brown eyes. People with blue eyes had the highest rates of alcohol dependence, according to the study. Scientists controlled for other variables that could influence the result, such as age, sex and genetic ancestry.

The study also found a “statistically significant” interaction between genes for eye color and genes associated with alcohol dependence. A genetic interaction is when one gene influences the effect that another gene has.

The study defined “alcohol dependence” using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Edition, researcher Dawei Li told The Huffington Post. Li co-led the study with Ph.D. student Arvis Sulovari.

Li told HuffPost that the next step is to try and replicate the study’s results. If future studies still show a correlation, Li says, researchers will try and determine whether the link is strictly due to genetics, or if cultural factors play a role.

“Right now it’s a question for us — we don’t know what drives this,” Li said.

Nevertheless, the research “suggests an intriguing possibility — that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis,” Suvolari said in a release.

The researchers’ findings, published in the July edition of the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B, echo the results of earlier work. A Georgia State —> Read More

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