Central European University Press Announces Innovative Open Access Funding Model

For Immediate Release via Project Muse

Central European University Press

22 October 2020

The Central European University Press (CEUP) announces that it is transitioning to an open access (OA) monograph programme through its new library subscription membership initiative, Opening the Future. The Press will provide access to portions of their highly-regarded backlist and use the revenue from members’ subscriptions to allow the frontlist to be OA from the date of publication. The Press is working with the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project.

Additional partners on the initiative include Project MUSE, as hosting platform for the subscription packages and new OA titles, along with LYRASIS facilitating library membership participation, and with OAPEN for hosting and dissemination of OA titles.

Established in 1993 to reflect the intellectual strengths and values of its parent institution, the Central European University, CEUP is a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy. It is widely recognised as the foremost English-language university press dedicated to research on Central and Eastern Europe and the former communist countries. It publishes approximately 25 new monographs and research-based edited collections a year and has a large backlist of over 450 titles with 300 e-books available through several platforms.

CEUP is creating a sustainable OA publishing model that will give members access to a selection of the extensive backlist, DRM-free and with perpetual access after three years. In return, this membership revenue will then be used to make newly-published books openly accessible to anyone. When the revenue target is met and the entire monograph frontlist is openly accessible, future membership fee rates can be lowered. The model has support from LYRASIS who will assist with organizing library participation in the programme and has support from OAPEN. Project MUSE will host the books, providing MARC records, KBART files and supporting discovery systems, and subscribers will have access to COUNTER compliant statistics. Membership is open to libraries and institutions worldwide.

The initiative builds on library journal membership models such as Open Library of the Humanities and ‘Subscribe to Open’ such as being piloted by Annual Reviews, and also on successful book membership programmes such as those at Open Book Publishers and punctum books.

COPIM is an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, open access book publishers and infrastructure providers supported by the Research England Development Fund (REDFund) as a major development project in the Higher Education sector with significant public benefits and by Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

CEUP will be provided with assistance in implementing this model through Work Package 3 of the COPIM programme including documentation of this ‘working model’ as a step towards creating a free, open toolkit and roadmap for other book publishers considering OA.

Frances Pinter, Executive Chair at CEUP said, “We’re pleased to be working with COPIM as this partnership will allow us to not only achieve our goals at CEUP but to also demonstrate a sustainable model that I believe will scale up in ways that provide efficiencies and equity to the benefit of all. I am delighted that Project MUSE, LYRASIS and OAPEN are supporting the project. We’re looking forward to working with many stakeholders to ensure success.”

Martin Paul Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London, and one of the COPIM project leads, said, “We are looking forward to working with CEUP over the next two years and will be recording our progress through regular blog posts and reports. This case study collaboration will be a keystone in the COPIM project’s future success. We hope that, with the documented success of Opening the Future, we will have a model that could lead to the widespread transition of university presses worldwide to OA.”

“Participating with initiatives such as CEUP’s Opening the Future aligns strongly with our mission to support university presses and other non-commercial publishers in the sustainable, equitable dissemination of scholarship worldwide,” said Wendy Queen, Director of Project MUSE. “We’re excited by the promise of this model to demonstrate a pathway for more publishers to an open future.”

Celeste Feather, Senior Director of Content and Scholarly Communications Initiatives at LYRASIS, said “The Opening the Future model represents a thoughtful and sustainable approach to making CEUP’s scholarly monographs accessible to the widest possible readership. We are enthused about continuing our work with stakeholders in the library community to develop this very promising route to OA.”

Libraries and other institutions can support the move to full gold OA, without author-facing charges. Visit the project website https://www.openingthefuture.net/.

Updates on the case study and details on CEUP’s progress towards OA will be published on the project website www.copim.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

Open Access and the Global South

by Dr. Sven Fund, Managing Director, Knowledge Unlatched GmbH

Supporting access to scholarly content for researchers worldwide but in particular in the Global South is one of the altruistic arguments mentioned most commonly by librarians and funders in the more economically-developed regions of the world. But that wish alone does not fully address the demands and needs for equitable participation in the global publication and research process. In order to explore this in more depth, Knowledge Unlatched organized a truly global virtual panel within the context of the digital Frankfurt Book Fair. The three panelists invited were Liz Ngonzi, Founder / Executive Director, The International Social Impact Institute at Hunter College, USA; Juan Cordoba from Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, and Abel Packer, the director of SciELO, Brazil. About 30 participants from around the world also joined the conversation which took place on October 16.

It soon emerged that is a truism for all three panelists that there is no such thing as “the” Global South, as conditions vary greatly from country to country and continent to continent. While a number of academic systems in Africa for example still lack very basic technological preconditions to enable scholarship to take advantage of the free resources available, others are well-advanced both when it comes to publishing as well as reading/using open content. While in some countries even top institutions are just starting to familiarize themselves with digital publishing and the concept of openness, others can already look back at several years of experience.

Liz Ngonzi highlighted that there are blocking issues on a number of levels, not just the technical restrictions. Many – particularly authoritarian – governments in the world still restrict access to knowledge, viewing academic freedom on both the consumption as well as the dissemination sides as a threat to their rule.

However barriers also exist on a more individual level, and Abel Packer was able to report from his own experience at SciELO on how important education about available open access models is, as well as individual training in a number of fields. Juan Cordoba, with a strong background in and overview of the scene at Latin American university presses, emphasized the importance of a stable organizational setting. He reported from the experience of his region, where journals and books are often published by libraries directly, thereby providing a cost-efficient alternative to other forms of scholarly publishing.

The panelists agreed that the trend for more collaboration necessitates a better use of digital resources, independent of world region, and it is no surprise that open access is seen as an ideal means to that end. They also unequivocally called for better access to publication opportunities for researchers from less economically-advanced regions (or institutions) around the globe. This entails inclusion in international research contexts as well as better funding opportunities for scholarly projects and academic publishing within the countries of the Global South.

The discussion highlighted the many motivations and facets of open access, not only within one academic system, but more particularly across different types of borders. Be it technical preconditions, funding resources or the issue of different national languages beyond English, as well as research publication traditions in the academic production – open access as a model needs to take all of this into consideration if it wishes to enhance its inclusive nature. Funders and research organizations, libraries and publishing houses have a tool at hand to create a more equitable and better environment, to the advantage of researchers in both the North and the South. All three panelists made it very clear that open access is not a charity or a funding transfer between world regions, but that it does have the power to make the research itself better, provided resources are pooled effectively and viewpoints include more global input.

But at the same time methods must be developed to eliminate the existing boundaries within the respective communities, requiring a shift in mindset alongside the need for more pragmatic solutions.

The panel discussion was recorded and is freely available here: https://openresearch.community/posts/oa-in-the-global-south-video-conference?room_id=frankfurt-book-fair-open-conversations.

 

by Nayla K. Muntasser John R. Clarke

As the world struggles with the horrifying toll that the COVID 19 pandemic is taking on lives and livelihoods, from time to time moments of clarity emerge, providing a glimmer of hope that positive outcomes are possible. In a very small way, a decision made over a decade ago that was met with some skepticism within the humanities, has turned out to have been prescient and doubly valuable. Such was the decision by the members of the Oplontis Project, with the support and collaboration of the ACLS Humanities E-Book team, to begin the process of producing a born-digital multi-volume series on the research being undertaken at the ancient Roman sites of Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, Italy. It was uncommon at the time to publish a book on archaeology and art history straight into a digital format; even rarer was the aim to also make the results of the research freely available. Yet today, especially while libraries remain inaccessible, our work is a boon to scholars, with two comprehensive open-access volumes offered online and a third in production.

The Oplontis Project was created within the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin in order to study and fully publish the two ancient Roman structures at Oplontis that had been buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Although both are called villas, only one, Villa A (of Poppea), is strictly a luxury residence. Villa B (of Lucius Crassius Tertius), is better called Oplontis B, for it is a multi-use complex that incorporates a wine distribution center, storage facilities for agricultural products, some modest residential quarters and possibly a harbor. Villa A and Oplontis B were excavated and reconstructed by the Italian archaeological authorities beginning in the mid-1960’s through 1991, but neither structure had been fully published. The sites were made UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1997.

Once the Oplontis Project received the mandate in 2006 to study both structures further, each year a team of researchers and archaeologists spent 4-8 weeks documenting the villas’ present state, researching archival material and opening exploratory trenches. Excavation campaigns were undertaken in Villa A from 2006 to 2010 and at Oplontis B from 2012 to the present. In 2020, for the first time in fourteen years there was no Oplontis Project excavation and study season, an unexpected hiatus that so many projects around the world have had to accept. So far, two volumes on the research at Villa A are available in the Open Access Humanities E-Book Collection hosted by the University of Michigan on the Fulcrum Platform. 

Readers of the volumes on Villa A at Oplontis will find that the first one provides chapters that place the villa in its historical, geographical and cultural contexts, as well presenting a history of excavations that reveals the complexity of the villa’s excavation and reconstruction as well as the inevitability of our incomplete knowledge of it. Volume 2 provides catalogues of all the paintings, sculptures, pavements and stuccoes in the villa as well as new focused studies of the graffiti, and some previously unstudied motifs on the walls including carpet borders and tiny processional scenes. Scientific analyses include chemical analysis of the pigments in the frescoes, the provenance and composition of the expensive stones used throughout the Villa. There are also digital reconstructions of significant decorative schemes. Volume 3 will present the results of the Oplontis Project excavations, including a study of the ceramic finds, the bones unearthed and miscellaneous small finds. A close study of the masonry informs the two chapters on the architectural evolution and room functions over the life of the villa from about 50 B.C.E to its destruction in 79 C.E. An account of the in the hydraulics of the villa shows the changes over time from the exuberant use of water in the fountains and majestic pool to the damaging effect of the 62 C.E. earthquake. This third volume will also include studies of previously unpublished materials from excavations prior to 2006 and documentation of both the first excavations in the nineteenth century and the most modern attempts at conserving the villa in digital form through the creation of a navigable 3d model.

During the studies of Villa A, the Oplontis Project team noticed a small section of mosaic on the other side of the Sarno canal constructed in the sixteenth century to provide hydraulic power to the flour mills in the area. This canal cut through the seaward façade of the villa complex. This discovery led to a campaign of excavation by archaeologists from the Italian Ministry of Culture between 2014 and 2016 that revealed a series colonnaded terraces descending to the shore. An account of those excavations and a reconstruction of that façade will be included in this volume.

While Villa A with its sprawling layout, cliff-top perch and seaward vista, is typical of the luxury maritime villas that developed along the Bay of Naples, Oplontis B does not fit neatly into any category of Roman building that is known so far. It is, instead, a hybrid of several existing building types. A large courtyard with a two-story tufa colonnade is surrounded by storage rooms on four sides. To the east, on the ground floor is a wide opening that provided access from a north-south road that connected the hinterland to the coast. The southern side of this main core consists of a row of barrel-vaulted storage rooms with spacious apartments above. Abutting the north wall of the building lies a group of row houses built into former shop spaces facing onto a narrow street. They have cooking platforms and latrines on the ground floor and decorative frescoes on the upper story walls. Across the street another row of similar spaces remains only partially excavated, so what lies behind them is not known. To the west is another partially excavated two-story building seemingly not attached to the colonnaded core, but since the rest of it lies under the local school, it is not possible to explore this building further. A detailed account of the row houses, their decoration, and their contents will be available in the forthcoming copy of the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

The 2020 season was to be the last excavation campaign and 2021 was to be a study season. So far, everything has been postponed for a year, so the publication of Oplontis B will also be delayed. However, the study of the over three thousand amphorae found at the site has been completed and should see publication sooner. In the meantime, excavation reports and articles pertaining to Oplontis B can be found on the peer-reviewed online journal FOLD&R (Fasti On Line Documents & Research) at http://www.fastionline.org/excavation/micro_view.php?item_key=fst_cd&fst_cd=AIAC_334.

 

By Lauren Heidbrink, PhD.

“The Guatemalan government treats us like we don’t belongeven on the lands of our ancestorsand blocks us at every turn. Bad schools, no work, no medical care. They treat us like indios sucios [dirty Indians] while they rob gold from under our lands. Believe me, I never wanted to migrate. I’d heard the stories from my cousin–about the dangers of the journey, living in a cramped apartment, working twenty hours a day and never saving–but I had no choice. My mother and sister got sick; the [Marlin] mine contaminated our water and spoiled the crops. They call it “desarrollo” [development], but it is not developing our communities; it is devastating them. They are killing us slowly.”

– Juan Gabriel, seventeen years old

Juan Gabriel is one of a growing number of young people migrating unaccompanied from Central America to the United States. Often dismissed as mere victims of poverty or stigmatized as gang members, these young people are social actors who contribute to the survival of their households through their care, labor, and mobility. In spite of his desire to remain in Guatemala, Juan Gabriel migrated due to the environmental repercussions of a gold mine near his hometown of Sipacapa that imperiled his mother’s and sister’s health when it contaminated the soil and local water sources. The U.S. and Guatemalan governments contend that foreign investment—often in the form of extractive industries, free trade zones, and agricultural initiatives—create alternatives to migration through employment opportunities, improved infrastructure, and investment that, in theory, trickles down to communities. For Juan Gabriel, however, the adverse consequences resulting from “development” in tandem with a failing public health system spurred his transnational migration. For other young migrants, limited employment and education opportunities, high rates of unemployment, scarce arable land, financial debt, and family emergencies (such as accidents or death) prompted their migration.           

The experiences of young migrants like those of Juan Gabriel are regularly overlooked, ignored, or discounted. They are relegated to simplified tropes of children left behind, abandoned, or dependent upon the actions and outcomes of adults. When the media and policymakers acknowledge young people’s migratory experiences, their perspectives often are overshadowed by advocates who claim to speak on their behalf. In contrast, my book Migranthood chronicles young people’s long-term trajectories of migration and deportation from their own perspectives. Through research with Indigenous (primarily Maya-Mam and K’iche’) children and youth ages 13 to 17) in diverse spaces and geographies—in communities of origin in Guatemala, zones of transit in Mexico, detention centers for unaccompanied minors in the United States, government facilities receiving returned children in Guatemala, and communities of return—young people share how they negotiate everyday violence and discrimination, how they and their families prioritize limited resources and make difficult decisions, and how they develop and sustain relationships over time and space. In other words, their lives are so much more than the migranthood ascribed to them.

 Migranthood chronicles deportation from the perspectives of Indigenous youth who migrate unaccompanied from Guatemala to Mexico and the United States.

  Alongside young people’s diverse migratory trajectories, Migranthood traces how securitized approaches to migration management, often under the guise of “development,” is a mode of governance that moves across and beyond geopolitical space. National and regional securitization programs, border externalization policies, and detention and deportation are enlisted to manage desired and undesired migrants, increasingly ensnaring children and youth in this global immigration dragnet. Although cast as objects of policy, not participants, Indigenous youth are not passive recipients of securitization policies, development interventions, or discourses of migranthood. Drawing on the resources of transnational kin, social networks, as well as financial institutions and actors, Indigenous youth enlist a rich social, cultural, and political repertoire of assets and tactics to navigate precarity and marginality in Guatemala. As I observed over five years of research, young people enact care and belonging through their paid labor, unpaid care work, and mobility. They shape household bonds and mediate conflict by providing emotional and social support to family members adapting to new cultural, social, and economic contexts. And, like Juan Gabriel, they migrate to ensure the survival of their multigenerational households amid marginality and precarity in Guatemala. By attending to young people’s perspectives, we learn the critical roles they play as contributors to household economies, local social practices, and global processes. In a new era of mass deportation, the insights and experiences of young people likewise uncover the transnational effects of the securitized responses to migration management and development on individuals and families and across space, citizenship status, and generations.

Nearly two years following his deportation to Sipacapa, Juan Gabriel shared, “I dream of the right to not migrate…of having the conditions in which I can choose to stay just like I can choose to leave, but you see the difference? It is a choice.” Explicitly acknowledging young people’s expertise and eliciting their insights creates opportunities to craft policies and programs that more accurately reflect their realities, and collaboratively enacts and ensures their right to not migrate.

 

Read Migranthood Now

About the Author

Lauren Heidbrink is an anthropologist and Associate Professor of Human Development at California State University, Long beach. She is author of Migrant Youth Transnational Families, and the State: Care and Contested Interests (U. of Pennsylvania Press 2014) and Migranthood: Youth in a New Era of Deportation (Stanford University Press 2020). She is co-editor of Youth Circulations.

by Dr. Frances Pinter

About five years ago I ran across a book by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman – Big Data, Little Data, No Data where she draws from a report authored by Paul Edwards, herself and others. They define Knowledge Infrastructures (KI) as:

…robust networks of people, artifacts, and institutions that generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds. In this framing, the distinguishing features of a KI are ubiquity, reliability, and durability: when a KI breaks down, it results in social and organizational chaos. A KI is not one system, it is instead a multi-layered, adaptive effort in which numerous systems, each with unique origins and goals, are made to interoperate by means of standards, socket layers, social practices, norms, and individual behaviours that smooth out the connections among them (Edwards et al). 

Borgman argues that each academic discipline has its own knowledge infrastructure. These include the buildings, the places of activity, the people, the communications networks and, of course, how research is published and disseminated. It’s a complex ecology.

Knowledge infrastructures reinforce and redistribute authority, influence and power – and this has profound impacts both within and outside of these KIs.

As a result of the global pandemic we are about to see some huge changes. Contractions of higher education institutions will make the headlines. There will be redundancies amongst faculty and with that, reductions in library budgets. How much, we do not yet know, but it won’t be evenly spread out. Parts of knowledge infrastructures will contract faster than others: a few may expand, but there will definitely be a scrabble for resources and a chaotic adjustment period. It is likely that the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) will suffer more than STEM – at a time when we need more than ever to learn about ourselves so that we can better cope with the global challenges that threaten the very existence of humankind.

I believe that with some much overdue changes to the way the we publish monographs, we can use this crisis to mark a commitment to reducing costs while improving dissemination of these specialist monographs that provide the foundational basis for development in the HSS subjects.

The key to this is Open Access (OA). For that to succeed, we need to work on four aspects of monograph publishing. The first aspect is the funding – which will come if we can demonstrate that the demand is there, that monographs are good value for the money, and that costs can be reduced significantly. The second aspect is that we need business models through which funding can be channelled efficiently and cost effectively. The third aspect is to produce the right kind of metadata that stays constant throughout the life cycle of a book. Finally, we need to find ways in which OA can sit visibly alongside other formats, such as print, that should continue to be available where there is a demand.

The first is easy. When over 80 publishers allowed their books to be freely accessed from mid-March to the end of July 2020, usage rates skyrocketed. Here are just a couple of examples from the MUSE platform:

  • Johns Hopkins University Press made 1553 titles across the range of monographs, professional, reference, and academic trade books open on the MUSE platform – usage each month grew to 3000% before reverting to closed access.
  • CEU Press, with its narrower range of predominantly monographs, experienced a massive 315,000 visits on the MUSE platform alone for its 300 titles – accessed in 129 countries.

These sorts of figures need to be championed around institutions so they can see the benefit of OA. Mandates are also an important factor. While Plan S comes into force for publicly funded research resulting in journal articles throughout much of Europe in 2021, it is expected that monographs and edited collections will fall under the same mandate by 2024. In the US, the Office of Science & Technology Policy  is looking at OA as a way to enhance public access to federally funded research. While OA mandates remain controversial, they are not likely to disappear, especially with evidence of the benefits having become clearer over the past few months.

At the same time, publishers are looking for ways to reduce the cost of producing monographs without sacrificing quality. An example here is the Sustainable History Monograph Project .

Next, there are several business models that work for OA monographs. Just as there is great variety in the types of monographs published, we have a number of sources for funding and ways of channelling those funds into OA programs. Some examples are listed here:

  1. Research Funding Bodies – see Plan S
  2. Institutions – central funds to support OA – Lever Press
  3. University Departments – many small hidden pockets of money
  4. Crowdfunding – Knowledge Unlatched , Unglue.it
  5. Foundations – Wellcome Trust
  6. Membership – Open Book Publishers
  7. Collective models – Luminos

One area where there is much work to do is improving metadata. We need to agree on standards and apply them consistently. Metadata is often altered on its way through the system to serve the particular needs of anyone along the road to discovery. This can clog the system and result in poor search results. If everyone agreed on a core set of minimal metadata, then success in discovery and finding monographs would show a huge increase. This would also help improve usage data — another essential part of feedback on scholarly publications.

Everyone along the supply chain needs to better understand what role the intermediaries can and perhaps should play in the dissemination of OA content. But to get to that point, we need a better understanding of what their charges are buying currently. The light green box in the diagram below indicates where we lack sufficient information about the costs being applied, and therefore, the price of the book at its final destination.

Too often, OA content resides behind a bush and its full value cannot be achieved. Because the availability of OA books is often unknown, already stretched library budgets are sometimes spent unnecessarily. There is little incentive to intermediaries who make a living selling content, yet there could be a role for them in effectively distributing metadata in this new OA world.  We also need ways of selling books to those who want and can afford the printed text. This should be encouraged as print sales help to provide support for sustainable OA.

The period ahead of us will be one of great changes to the academic knowledge infrastructures. It could also be a period when having grasped the value of OA for HSS, all stakeholders contribute to making the changes necessary to provide cost effective and easily discoverable Open Access monographs.

The pie may well be smaller, but we have a choice. Either all sectors fight one another for larger parts of the smaller pie, or we get smarter about how we do things. And for this, Open Access is the way to go.


Dr. Frances Pinter is Executive Chair for the Central European University Press. Learn more about Dr. Pinter’s work and projects here: http://www.pinter.org.uk/.  

 

In the light of recent Black Lives Matter uprisings, colleagues have been wondering how Virginia Tech is planning to address the legacies of slavery still standing on this campus contrary to its ‘Principles of Community’. The following are some of the suggestions on how to address the concerns of members of the community who would like to honor the legacy of enslaved people on the campus site.

Many visitors who admire the pavilion of the Historic Smithfield Plantation House or rent the facilities for wedding receptions may not be aware of the slavery legacy. The Africans enslaved on this site erected such buildings still standing on campus as The Solitude, The Smithfield Plantation House, the Appalachian Studies building by The Pond and the ‘Slave Woman’s House’ next to it (now renamed the Fractions Family House in honor of the enslaved families that lived in it). 

The Inn at Virginia Tech named its restaurant after the Preston family who owned the slave plantation and some of the meeting rooms at the Inn are named after the houses left by enslavers and still standing on the campus. The road leading to the labs of some of the Engineering professors is called Plantation Road and the Historic Smithfield is located at number 1000 Plantation Road.

(Pictured) Historic Smithfield Plantation Building.   The Preston and Olin Institute was established in Blacksburg for the education of the children of the plantation owners and it was from this that Virginia Tech evolved. The Historic Smithfield building was presented to the Montgomery County Historical Association in 1959 by Janie Preston Boulware Lamb, a great-great granddaughter of Colonel William Preston, on condition that they maintain it and open it to the public as ‘ a testimony to the bravery and devotion to country of the Prestons, who made it their home.’ Two of the daughters went on to marry governors of Virginia and one son, William Ballard Preston (1805-1862), became US Secretary of the Navy but later drafted the Virginia Secession Declaration in support of the continuation of slavery. One of the daughters-in-law, Margaret Junkin Preston, was known as the poetess of the Confederacy but one of the granddaughters, Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902), was a fierce opponent of slavery while her husband, John C. Frémont, issued an Emancipation Edict in Missouri for which he was dismissed from the army, two years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

 

(Pictured) Log Cabin House for the enslaved on Smithfield Plantation still standing on Virginia Tech Campus. The Smithfield Plantation sits on the campus of Virginia Tech as a legacy from William and Susanna Preston who established the historic mansion in 1774. Following his death in 1783, Colonel Preston’s will left his wife, Susanna, ‘the use and profits of all of her husband’s plantations, slaves, and stock if she remained single and also supervised the rearing and education of their children, particularly their daughters.’

Students suggest that all of these names should be changed to honor those who were enslaved on the plantation that gave rise to this campus rather than continue to honor those who enslaved them. I understand that Plantation Road is a city road and so only Blacksburg City Council could change it, but I am sure that a request from the university to rename it Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, or Frederick Douglass Road would be favorably considered by the Council. The Inn at Virginia Tech could change the names of rooms without incurring major costs. For instance, the name of the restaurant could be easily changed from The Prestons to The Hokies or to the names of the American Indian Natives who were forcibly removed to steal their land and build the plantation.

Nearly 12,000 have signed a student-led Change.Org petition to persuade the university authority to change the name of a Hall of residence after Lee, a former professor who entered in his Yearbook pages as a student, the title of the ‘Terror Father’ of the KKK and pictures of the lynching of a black person. President Tim Sands has agreed to review it but the University library continues to publish such pages digitally online in an effort to preserve history. With the decision by the Virginia Governor to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, Virginia Tech should remove divisive names from buildings.

The Smithfield Plantation could be renamed something like The Promised Land or 40 Acres and a Mule, the Solitude could be renamed Emancipation so that when the Virginia Tech Mindfulness and Wellness group members meet there, no student, faculty or staff would feel uncomfortable. And ‘the Slave Woman’s House’ has been formally named The Fractions Family House with a contextualizing plaque at little or no cost.

Beyond the symbolism of name changes, the university could raise funding through the VT Foundation to dedicate some scholarships exclusively for the descendants of those who were enslaved on this campus and to the descendants of American Indian Natives. The state and the university should allocate more resources to Africana Studies Program and to American Indian Native Studies to hire more faculty to help teach students the painful history of the site of the campus, the state and the country.

I commend the Virginia Tech leadership team for increasing the diversity of students and faculty on campus. Although the university started as an institute for white men, today female students make up nearly half the 36,000 population. However, 20% of the high school graduates of Virginia are African American but the population of African American students in Virginia Tech remains under-represented at 4%. I suggest that the athletic recruitment model should be adapted to academic recruitment to bring in more talented under-represented students with adequate support to help them to succeed.

I commend the university administration for initiating the Pow-Wow with the American Indian Natives who were violently forced away from their land to establish the site of the university and for recognizing an annual Indigenous Day commemoration with an office room allocated to the American Indian Native Cultural Center and the appointment of a Presidential Adviser on Indigenous Affairs. 

I hope that most people will agree with our concerned students, staff and faculty that more could be done to honor the memories of those who suffered needlessly that we may have the privilege to call Virginia Tech our home institution. Most people in the country and around the world will be surprised to learn that we continue to honor those who caused peculiar sufferings for American Indian Natives and enslaved Africans.

To those who are opposed to the renaming of historical landmarks because they are part of the history to be preserved, I suggest that renaming the landmarks after the enslaved and after American Indian Native Tribes rather than after those who committed crimes against humanity is still a way to preserve the history. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere as Martin Luther King Jr. warned. If the Prestons opposed slavery and supported emancipation, perhaps the civil war would not have taken place and the US would not have lost more than 700,000 lives unnecessarily.

 

Dr. Biko Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies in Virginia Tech agozino@vt.edu

 

When a city faces a budget crisis, libraries and museums are the first services to be slashed, regardless of their value to the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has already begun to undermine the budgets of colleges and universities across the country and worldwide. Department chairs and university librarians will likewise no doubt be pressured to cut library subscriptions, programs and even faculty–and liberal arts is often the first area where cutbacks are made.

Oh, the Humanities! was recently asked by a professor for suggestions on resources that could be used to defend the humanities in the face of what will likely be unprecedented pressure to slash budgets in the next academic year and perhaps for several years to come. In response, we’ve started a Google document with citations for reports, articles and blog posts that you can use to make the case in defending the humanities. Rather than saying, “I think I read something recently about the economic benefits of a liberal arts education,” you will be able to cite the precise report by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Now we want to throw the list open to the community for their recommendations. Add your suggested resources here; anyone can edit the document.

 

With almost 20 years of teaching Finance in Publishing at New York University’s MS in Publishing program, which provides an in-depth knowledge of how publishing functions, I have helped populate the publishing world with financial wisdom. Typically I teach a class two evenings a week at one of NYU’s midtown or East Village campuses. The mandate to start teaching with Zoom was presented to me just before the mid-term for both of my graduate school classes at NYU. Shorty afterwards, New York City would initiate the PAUSE protocol—as part of the State’s attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, one of the busiest cities in the world would lock itself down and retreat indoors. In that week of the change-over from classroom to Zoom, the Monday class was the last one to be conducted “live” and the Thursday class was to be conducted over Zoom. 

As someone who has worked in the business world for nearly 40 years using Webex, Skype, and many other online collaborative tools, Zoom in my mind was just another teaching tool that would assist with the goal of keeping on track with the syllabus. NYU provided quite a bit of instruction and guidance on working with Zoom and how to run a Zoom class, but nothing prepared me for the reality of Zoom teaching.

What I did not count on is the change in student behavior over the past few weeks and how we seem to be missing the teacher/student interaction that makes higher education more impactful. The first class was an experiment in using the technology, but as the semester continues, patterns began to emerge.  

Primarily, classroom decorum is out the window. Students are now working from their old high school bedrooms in their parents’ houses so I am getting to see my fair share of stuffed animals, band posters and rambunctious dogs and cats in the background. Can you please pick up the dirty laundry sitting on your bed?  While I did not mind small meals in the classroom, Zoom class has turned into full-fledged 3-course meals, with parents bringing in plates of food in the middle of class. I see that cameras go on and off during Zoom class (maybe eating, trips to the bathroom, napping) and frequent “muting” of microphones to control the sounds of munching. Notwithstanding the frequent dog barking or parent conversations off camera, classroom behavior has been modified to reflect meddling parents and nosey pets. More than one ready-for-primetime cat has walked across a student keyboard and got its face in the camera.  Don’t these animals know that it is class time?

Separately, student attire has morphed into sleepwear. Tee-shirts and sweatpants seem to be most rampant among the “Zoomers”, indicating that if we have to work remotely, I might as well be comfortable. I am not sure NYU advised the students to show up for class dressed as if they are in the classroom, but teachers need to be prepared to see students at their most casual which explains why many turn their cameras off during class. I must admit that I am teaching with a dress shirt but I am also wearing sweatpants which are not visible on screen (I hope).

Most notably, the student attention span obviously drifts off after about 75 minutes. I agree it is hard to stay awake when the classroom is now only 15” across (or in my case, 21”) 

Based on my experiences of teaching with Zoom, I’ve come up with some new best practices that others might find useful. 

  • Reduce the class time a bit so students are not falling asleep after 90 minutes. 
  • If students know that a 2 ½ class is now 90 minutes, I think it makes them work harder to get in more content in less time.
  • As a teacher, I prefer to tell them ahead of time what time frame we are going to work under and also what we expect to accomplish this class.
  • Ask questions of those who have their cameras on and question those who turn their cameras off to see if they are still there.
  • I use WORD, Excel or a white board to replace the classroom blackboard and then I post the completed file to the class website.
  • I have given up on advising students on proper attire or class time decorum.  

I am pleased that the Zoom alternative has worked for me and my students and that we are able to make do while the pandemic plays out, but I prefer to be in the classroom and actually see the students rather than a box with a name on a screen. I am hopeful that in-person teaching can resume safely in the fall. 

Have a great idea, some interested experiences or some insights on improving Zoom teaching, please reach out to me at dr4@nyu.edu.

 

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