Category Archives: Banes

“El secreto está en dejarse la vida en ello”

That is the writing advice given by a journalist in this schlocky film. It is very different from the advice about forcing yourself with alarm clocks while holding it all back in a combination of anti-perfectionism (anything is good enough) and decorum (say something that will be confirm the convictions of the editors) that the professors give.

Axé.

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That One Faculty campaign

I understand why the AAUP is promoting this, and there is no other viable position to take, but I have been being exhorted for decades about how I should support newer or contingent faculty and my question is, when are they going to support me — not me personally, but any academic values, and anything but the administration?

Seriously. When I organized TAs and RAs into a union, many who are full professors now would not support due to fear of not getting jobs, they said. Now, contingent faculty and administration are united against research. So on what planet should I have to put them first?

In graduate school I put recreation aside to organize for health insurance for people who were too cautious for ask for it on their own …  why should I now put my research agenda aside so as to organize on behalf of rights for contingent faculty that they do not understand or want?

My contingent faculty, by the way, are people without the terminal degree, but with full time employment and benefits. And offices with phones and computers in them, and business cards where they can call themselves “Professor” if they want to.

Axé.

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All those threats

Before college: Anything you do that is your own or that is expressive of you causes your mother to suffer the greatest of tortures. Be still.

Before graduate school: You cannot do anything and must get married so someone will support you, but you will not of course be able to marry anyone who loves you or will treat you well.

In graduate school: Do not develop teaching confidence, or any serious interests outside research and writing. You will not be a good researcher and writer so you must put extra time and effort into this, as it is the only thing that counts.

In professordom: The only thing that counts is basic teaching. You have too much research skill, you write too easily, you are too outspoken and you have too many friends outside our circles.

Later: Please do not leave the academic fold! Do not abandon us! And I thought: Anything you do that is your own or that is expressive of you causes your mother to suffer the greatest of tortures. Be still.

I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.

1/ I was always told not to be a professor because it was a bad business. I also knew that graduate school was the only thing I could do at the time, and that it was good for me. And it wasn’t true that I did not want to be a [certain kind of] professor.

I had just had it so ingrained in me that to be a professor was a sign of failure as a person, and that it was also impossible to achieve. These things made it hard to commit.

2/ I do not have a “writing problem” but as a professor I quickly learned to feel guilty and scared about time spent doing research. I hear people screaming at me that I am selfish and should be spending this time caring for others. I hear that if I do not repress my own work and dedicate myself to such care, I may be thrown out on the street and left to die.

I will be gravely wounded and without resources. It will be a slow, painful, abandoned, desolate death. People will kick me as they walk by. I hear that I should be reading more superficially and faster. “Cut corners, dear.”

3/ Nowadays every problem I have has to do with lack of research / writing time and of autonomy. There is also the instability of the university and of my department. There is the malevolent faculty atmosphere — and the majority of students who do not care about a great deal. (I went to a thesis defense the other day and it was so different.)

What can one do about this: insist upon as much autonomy as possible, maintain integrity, fight on one’s own side and ruthlessly put research first every day. Research may not be the only thing that counts but it is the only thing that sets the bones, or that guides the river into its own course.

The malevolence. Having so often had to deal with unsafe elements in the house.

Axé.

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Dear graduate student…

You say you are hiding your intellectual views to be discreet and not offend those you perceive to be in power, but you are quite free with personal insults to those you perceive not to be.

It is in fact a good idea when you are new faculty to ask questions rather than make judgments, at least for the first two years. But not giving an opinion until after tenure is unrealistic and furthermore, you may have been hired precisely because your opinion is desired.

I have noticed, furthermore, that people who do not give opinions until tenure are of two kinds: those who will not give opinions after tenure, either, and those who refrain from poor behavior (not from giving opinions, from poor behavior) until after tenure.

Axé.

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Questo, e questo; París, y 4, y 5

Hoy le ha entrado una astilla. Me viene, hay días, una gana ubérrima, política. These are the poems I would like to present this week.

That pain that is so often just below the surface. “You are in crisis,” someone said. “You are so calm and meditative,” said another. “You are in a panic,” said a third. But it is that pain just below the surface, that I want to pull out.

*

Hazards of professordom were said to be publication requirements and snow, but the malevolent environments were not mentioned. And it was the malevolence, not research or weather, that made me want to leave. But my mother hated me for what I had done already, and if I did another thing like that, another career, advanced degree, I might never be able to make it up to her. The story might go something like that. I was to repeat her unhappiness; I have done. I should end that.

If I worked at a place that had sabbaticals I would be coming up for one right now. It would be a collegial place, with research resources, and sabbatical would not mean salary reduction. I would still go to campus and the town would be friendly, and I would take small research trips.

That is really all it is. A marginally collegial environment including marginally collegial collaboration (as opposed to war) on teaching, and research time. And calm — I really do not like jerking from one political crisis to the next, as we do. That is really all I require. Yet it is a great deal.

Axé.

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“Malicious, intentional destruction, guided by ill will”

It is what is done to my field and research in my field by the university, and from a much broader point of view there is this.

Axé.

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“Grotesque incompetence,” “Threatening,” “Malevolent,” “Evil,” “Ill will”

Those were some words and phrases the Emeritus Professor used tonight in response to my description of some activities of the upper administration.

Axé.

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