A question

I need and want more research and writing time. I am also teaching three different courses this semester that all need to go well. I am leading an upcoming round-table, and hosting an upcoming speaker. I am on four graduate committees and directing two undergraduate research projects, of which one due to involves some administrative and bureaucratic work, i.e. FERPA and a lot of institutional interfacing.

In addition, we are to write a strategic plan this year and it has been becoming increasingly evident that only I have the right skills to do major writing on it. Now, it has also been announced that I am to rewrite the departmental website by May.

Something has to go and it is going to have to be my decision what it is. I think what has to be left until fall is the strategic plan. I think rewriting the website can function as work toward the strategic plan, and that pieces of this writing will be easier to farm out to others.

I think I need to give myself permission to put the strategic plan on the back burner. What do you say?


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I have to learn APA style and pull the shorter version of the piece from the non-refereed ‘zine where it was scheduled to come out. Look what I must do — I don’t think I have done such a complicated submission before, have you? Should I have any queries, I am to visit the Author Services website or contact Taylor and Francis at authorqueries@tandf.co.uk.

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My colleague said we had to assign writing because writing brings students to an act of intellectual discovery unavailable otherwise. I said yes, of course.

I realized then that I never considered writing an act of intellectual discovery but a show of virtuosity. I never allowed myself the kind of risk I allow the students because I thought the objective was to be brilliant, yet also very conventional, so as to abe acceptable and pass.

I was always more daring writing about things Portuguese than things Spanish, and about prose rather than poetry, because officially I was in Spanish and in poetry and there, I thought it was most important to be very careful. I always thought writing was only an act of intellectual discovery for those who could afford for it to be.

That is why I like all my political writing, and writing on policy matters, and bureaucratic writing, even: I allow myself to think as I work, and to write in my own voice. If I am writing about Spanish language literature or poetry, I am only crafting something intended to be generally acceptable and therefore, to pass or to sell.

This perception is very important.


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Doom du jour

Board of Regents warns of serious adverse impact of budget shortfalls on higher education
SACS institutional accreditation could be in jeopardy

Dr. Katara A. Williams
Asst. Commissioner for Public Affairs

February 12, 2016

Baton Rouge, LA -Louisiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education says colleges and universities across the state are bracing themselves for drastic budget cuts that could potentially devastate higher systems and destroy local economies.  In a recent letter to the Division of Administration, Commissioner Rallo outlined several immediate impacts which would occur if budget reductions are not reversed.

This includes:

*  A significant number of faculty and staff who will be laid off, leaving institutions to suspend classes during the spring semester and issue incomplete grades resulting in the cancellation of May graduation on campus.
*   All campus construction projects will immediately cease.
*   The impact of lay-offs, students leaving campus and loss of payroll will have severe economic impact on every community served by our institutions.
*   The ability to prepare students for those high demand, high wage jobs currently available and those coming to Louisiana will be reduced by over 75%.
*   The reduction in the Taylor Opportunity Programs for Students (TOPS) funding by nearly 80% will require every student now in high school to bear most if not all of the cost of attendance to college. Students currently enrolled will have their TOPS award dramatically reduced or eliminated.  This means that many students will be unable to attend college due to the inability to fund their education.
*   Division I rules require grades to be issued to students who seek to be eligible for fall sports. Since only incomplete grades will be issued during spring semester, no student will be eligible for fall sports.  This means that all athletic events will be cancelled for fall 2016.

“Should worst case budgetary reductions occur, outcomes ranging from lay-offs to closures are inevitable,” said Rallo. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”

This session, Louisiana legislators will publicly decide if higher education is a priority by finding solutions to Louisiana’s fiscal problems that are both significant and sustainable for higher education.  One program that has been specifically targeted for drastic cuts with serious implications is TOPS. TOPS funding is slated to be reduced by approximately 80 percent for FY 2016-2017, with only $65M projected to be allocated from tobacco funds.  This means that most students who are anticipating TOPS may be unable to receive the award, and students who are currently receiving TOPS may have their award dramatically reduced if not eliminated. Regents states that TOPS awards will not be disturbed for the current award period.

As the dismal fiscal state of Louisiana intensifies, so does its impact on higher education, with dire warnings from regional and national regulators.  Louisiana higher education recently received notification by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) the regional accrediting body for public, private and for-profit institutions in southern states, conveying their awareness and concern of the financial challenges that Louisiana higher education is facing.  The letter states that if solutions are not found and institutions cease operations before  the end of the current semester, the following could occur: (1) students would not be able to complete classes and, subsequently, earn no credit for courses taken this semester, potentially  impacting their financial aid eligibility, and (2) payroll will not be met and bills would not be paid placing employees in an untenable financial situation as well as negatively impacting the credit ratings of the institutions. If institutions are unable to demonstrate continued financial stability or continue to enroll students, the Board of SACSCOC would have to consider a public sanction of the institutions or a withdrawal of their accreditation.

The Board of Regents believes that should this action occur, the short-term and long-term effects on Louisiana higher education and this state would be irreparable.

Louisiana  is currently leading the nation as the state that has the greatest level of disinvestment for higher education, and with an anticipated $943M shortfall for the current year and a $2B shortfall for FY 2016-2017, Louisiana will continue on the same trajectory of remaining last on every list.

As a result of the Revenue Estimating Conference’s budget projections earlier this week, higher education’s portion of the cuts in state funding have risen to an estimated $205M for the current fiscal year which ends June 30th, and another detrimental round of cuts of approximately 180.3M for FY 2016-2017 for higher education entities.

Additionally, higher education leaders have been keenly focused on efficiencies consisting of program reviews with recommendations for elimination and consolidation, reducing university personnel by almost 5000, and consolidating and streamlining operations. “We cannot continue on this path for the sake of higher education nor our state,” said Richard Lipsey, Chairman of the Board of Regents.  “It’s unfair that we’ve shifted financial burdens from the state to our students. Our students, faculty, staff and citizens deserve better.  There is no such thing as cutting our way to excellence, and our legislators need to send a clear message to constituents that they believe in Louisiana.  This can only be done by finding the necessary budgetary solutions to rebuild and restore higher education to an enterprise that we all can be proud of.”

The Board of Regents will continue to engage constituents across the state through scheduled public forums, media tours, and a budget update webpage with a newly created platform for stakeholders to submit questions relative to higher education. Also scheduled is Higher Education Day at the Legislature, set for February 24, 2016 – Details are forthcoming.

“Engagement is key during both the special and legislative session,” said Rallo.  “We are already receiving correspondence from citizens who are deeply concerned about the future of higher education in Louisiana, and we pledge to keep them informed.”



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James Kyrilo, Alvin Burstein

These colleagues have pieces recently published and forthcoming on curriculum and academic freedom, a key perception being that faculty rights and tenure are not the only or perhaps even the main point of attack on education. The place where student and faculty rights are both being eroded is curriculum — which is of course one more reason why I should be preparing my piece for a curriculum journal. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, it is said, but the converse is perhaps yet truer.

I have a version of the piece forthcoming — I believe — in a professional, but not refereed venue, and it has been suggested to me that an even shorter version can go to the CHE or Truthout. The Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy has been suggested to me. I, meanwhile, am fascinated with another journal, New Political Science.


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The scourge of “relatability”

What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.

But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.

Read the whole thing, then assign it.


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Sandemose — eller Jantelov, igen

“Jante Law is just as normal as the law of gravity,” newspaper editor and anthropologist Anne Knudsen assured me. “You find it everywhere, especially in peasant societies, and back [in Sandemose’s day] there were peasants peasants peasants all over the place in Denmark. This kind of ideology became the State ideology when democracy was established in the country [in 1849] and it got a second life with Social Democracy, and all of this was transmitted from generation to generation by propaganda and by a unified school system.” She added, “But, you know, the envy part is not the important part. The important part is the inclusiveness: we want to include you, but that is only possible if you are equal. It’s what peasants do.”

The entire piece is really interesting.


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