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Airline travel and more disrupted by global tech outage; Nevada gets OK to sell federal public lands for affordable housing;Science Moms work to foster meaningful talks on climate change; Scientists reconsider net-zero pledges to reach climate goals.

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As Trump accepts nomination for President, delegates emphasize themes of unity and optimism envisioning 'new golden age.' But RNC convention was marked by strong opposition to LGBTQ rights, which both opened and closed the event.

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USD threats to fire staff part of larger trend

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024   

The University of South Dakota threatened to fire staff members in what some see as an ongoing attack on academic freedom, according to reporting in The Daily Yonder.

Two university administrators said they were told they would be dismissed if they did not comply with a new state rule banning the use of tribal affiliations and gender pronouns in staff email signatures. It follows a 2022 state law limiting universities' use of training and funding for what it calls "divisive concepts," including race, religion and sex.

The measure was one of more than 150 bills brought to state legislatures aimed at academic freedom and university governance, according to new research.

Isaac Kamola, associate professor of political science at Trinity College and director of the Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom at the American Association of University Professors, said academic freedom is vital for higher education to serve the public interest.

"The teaching and research that takes place within those institutions has to be free from external pressures," Kamola urged. "To ensure that what takes place in the classroom and in research, pursues truth wherever it leads, not where those with political and economic power wishes that it leads."

Opponents of initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion said they lead to fear and resentment. Kamola countered limiting email signatures is among several trending threats to higher education, including banning critical race theory, weakening tenure or accreditation and mandating content.

The University of South Dakota's student senate passed a resolution against the policy. Kamola called the new rule "actively hostile."

"Even in little things like their email signatures is really an important part for people," Kamola explained. "To both express their identity and say, 'This is who I am,' but also to send a signal to say, 'Hey, you can trust me. I'm somebody that you could reach out to.'"

John Little, director of Native recruitment at the university, said he was one of the staff members whose job was threatened. In a statement published on the social media platform X, Little wrote he still includes his tribal affiliations and gender pronouns in the body of his emails.


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