Category Archives: Working

Writing goal for finals week

Locate draft manuscript and open it.

I am not joking, this is my writing goal for the whole week.

Otherwise my goal is to grade in an organized and sane way.

Axé.

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Very important!

I found some fragmentary notes from an old meeting that should have been followed up upon.

1. Our financial situation is not that bad (although we have contracted notable debt, and we appear to have mysterious overseas donors)
2. Data is reported strangely
3. We spend a great deal on sports, buildings and administration
4. We have very few assistant professors (i.e. newer tenure track hires)
5. We do not submit data to the salary survey
6. We appear to have misplaced priorities
7. We appear not to prioritize academics

We should realize that budgets are plans and projections, not audited financial statements (which are an entirely different thing

Administrations that dismantle departments, are divisive and separate faculty, are those who deserve votes of no confidence

We do not need to ask permission to put out press releases.

Axé.

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Books and journals going now

…because they are just too tattered, they are depressing me. They are wonderful and epoch-making as well, and I hate to let them go since they are like limbs. They are:

New German Critique 22 (Winter 1981), special issue on Modernism. Articles by Habermas, Giddens, Bürger, Huyssen, Nägele, Bainard Cowan, Michael Ryan, more.
Revista Iberoamericana 118-119 (enero-junio 1982), with classic articles on the avant-garde, wonderful (if outdated) texts I should really reread; 127 (abril-junio 1984), a marvelous issue on “la proyección de lo indígena en las literaturas de la América Hispánica” with articles on Mariátegui, indigenismo, and much more; 175 (abril-junio 1996), with additional wonderful articles on modernisms I want to reread.
Santiago, Silviano. Uma literatura nos trópicos.

There is so much that I don’t read or write because I do not feel at ease or at home. I am concentrating on holding things together, repressing the desire for life, and containing or tolerating pain and outright terror.

I read and wrote little for several years because I had a book contract. I was not sure I agreed with the revisions I had promised for commercial reasons, and I knew this project could not be finished in six months. But I could not say this, because I was afraid that if I said so out loud I would be accused of laziness or conspiracy to procrastinate, and would have to undergo torture for it. So I did not read or write for other projects, because I was to manage time such as to concentrate on this project; yet I could not find a way to plan the time since in fact, there was no feasible way to read enough in six months to consider whether or not the required revisions were desirable, let alone make them.

Without that six-month deadline, that recurred again and again, I could have worked these things out but the six-month deadline, with the exhortations about time management, laziness and conspiracy to procrastinate, but due to these exhortations I mostly transformed myself into a rabbit or cat, hid behind the couch, and panted.

After that I came here to Maringouin. I had wanted to do something more interesting but had been exhorted not to. I felt guilty about the pain I would cause others if I did not do as they wished, and fearful of the torture I would have to undergo if I caused them that pain. I came here to Maringouin on the theory that now, relieved of that deadline, I would write and read.

What I did was build program and serve others, because they were crying out in pain and requiring it and also because we were all threatened with annihilation if I refused, I was told. Now I do not know whether I would write and read the things I would write and read as an academic in this field if I were no longer employed in it, but I can no longer tolerate this repression.

Let us look at the ways in which I have been repressed by certain categories of academic work, or more accurately by their distortion under neoliberalism:

  1. Teaching. Your primary interest is to be a nurturing teacher of lower division students; your next interest is accompanying advanced undergraduates as they emote with literary texts. Those students may deserve someone to do this with them but it is not me.
  2. Research. You should publish, but not what you are interested in or think best. You should do only what is most marketable, because the objective is not knowledge but measurable production in the most visible English-language venues possible.
  3. Service. You should over-function. We will give you no credit for this, in fact we will penalize you for this, but we will annihilate you and yours completely if you do not over-function.

Mutilate yourself to survive the present, so you will still be alive to regenerate and flourish in the future, is the message I have always perceived. That, of course, fits my personal history but I think there is also a politics to this: teaching as caretaking, research as product preparation, and service as defense against siege.

Axé.

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Writing about the university as a site of class struggle

The new (and last) piece will follow on this one and will start out talking about the question of trust and solidarity: do we really have these, are we really one faculty? Part of why we are not is hierarchical management and part of it is that in situations where basic survival is at stake, the lofty goals of a campaign like One Faculty are not anyone’s first priority (really).

The university is the new factory floor, someone said. “The struggle is not just over campus labor, but over the social reproduction of the labor force, knowledge of ‘the economy,’ and more.”

Eagleton on the death of universities

Facing the corporate university (by that Basque scholar)

Newfield on UW: originally the state university systems gave opportunities to all

The false promise of the entrepreneurial university (UM-Milwaukee)

Not about this precise point, but on another part of my piece: The university and the public good.

Whose university is it, anyway? The brilliant LARB piece.

Lagniappe: on Wilhelm von Humboldt

Legitimation crisis — on hierarchical micromanagement: https://poptheory.org/2018/03/03/the-crisis-of-legitimation-in-higher-education/

On labor, focusing on the contingency wars: Contingency, Exploitation and Solidarity (Seth Kahn et al.) — despair is not a strategy

Reichman quoting Jacobin quoting WV teacher on uniting with other public employees, parents of low income students (Bolivia: obreros, campesinos, jubilados, amas de casa, empleados públicos, estudiantes)

Demands against the long crisis of the university (on faculty complacency).

Global autonomous university

Between the ivory tower and the assembly line

Malcolm Harris’s new book Kids These Days and the chapter on schools. Also, the 1970s pamphlet by Zerowork, “Wages for Students”.

Bowles and Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America.

Aronowitz and Giroux, others, but I want to start with these things. My intuition is that the older forms of shared governance are insufficient, complacency is bad, and just unionizing is similarly inadequate.

Axé.

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An answer to my other post

My third post to this blog of a professional organization could start out talking about the argument I had with New Faculty Majority people, about adjunctification and related matters. They kept saying they did not want tenure, only long contracts and good pay, and that people like me were utterly antiquated, unfair, and “tone deaf” to still be thinking about things like tenure and academic freedom, much less shared governance. They wanted to teach and go, with research optional and they kept saying tenure is dead, we are just employees now. They took pleasure in this and I thought I was on the moon.

But are they right? Has everyone become an atomized, neoliberal subject? Is my idea of what a professor is gone? Is the effort I put into Senate and AAUP misplaced (I think of it as central, key service activity like serving on editorial boards, writing letters of recommendation, but am I wrong)?

A friend said,

You are looking at what may well be the semi-wreckage of our profession.

First, yes, the AAUP is at least a potentially dying organization. It is in a spiral brought on, economically, by too much dependence on a union population that is dwindling owing to court decisions and likewise brought on, economically, by the inflexibility of a mostly male and admittedly occasionally well-meaning geriatric oligarchy (perhaps a “geriocracy”?).  However, I don’t think that it is quite done for if we can manage to get in new leadership and start on a new direction in the next few elections. I disagree: I think the problem is its traditional focus on tenure and academic freedom, which the contingent not only do not have, but to which they do not necessarily even aspire (job security being different from tenure). Now that everyone is contingent, and those who are tenure-track or have tenure don’t realize that is because of the AAUP.

With regard to your first point:  Well taken.  Actually, I think about half of the remaining outspoken people believe primarily in “free speech” rather than the more disciplined academic freedom while the remainder believe primarily in the sanctity of their careers, i.e., they want to preserve their careers because they see something worthwhile in them and they have a suspicion that academic freedom might be part of that mix, but, first and foremost, they are careerists.  That is one reason that the CBC mentality is so dangerous:  it licenses thinking of rights and prerogatives in terms of jobs and careers, which are rather less principled things. [Emphasis added]

Point two:  I do believe that Faculty Senates matter but that they need some updating. Nobody gives a hoot about the outcome of a debate on the official “order of business” for the Senate (this bit of wrangling happened at LSU last week), but plenty of people do give the aforementioned hoot when they think something will impact them, i.e., when the press is around giving administrators good or bad press.  We need a whole lot more people who will go public and who will use tactics from politics and advertising along with their usual academic armaments.
[Emphasis added] I guess that might help make administrators care. I don’t know.

Point three:  I agree with Newfield that we need to keep in mind the public good.  The underlying problem, however, is that we no longer have the kind of educated public that we did back during the Enlightenment.  Until we put some juice in the liberal arts and educate people about basic philosophical principles and about the nature of governments—even at the expense, say, of taking a course in more politically correct topics—we aren’t going to get anywhere with the public good theme.  Put another way, there must be a public before there is a public good, and it must be a good, i.e., educated, public. [Emphasis added]

Point four:  Sad to say, many of our colleagues are like our students, wanting enough money to buy toys and pay for kids’ dance lessons and not much more.  Few are able to take on the mammoth challenges arising from our new age of very large populations (i.e., it’s a whole lot easier to be a man or woman of letters in colonial America with a few million people than in a world with seven billion who are all inundated with messages from commercial social media sources).  We may see a further fracturing in the faculty between those who are activists and fed up and those who are homebodies and want to do nothing other than cash checks.  Perhaps such a civil war within the faculty would not be such a bad idea, for it would separate the doers from the non-doers.

Axé.

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That third post

I wrote this, and with Clarissa wrote a sequel, but there is a third that must come.

Some questions: does anyone believe in shared governance any more? or academic freedom (or do they only believe in free speech)? If the university is corporatized and the administration ignores mechanisms for shared governance, do institutions like Senate mean anything any more? Further, are professors even professors any more, or are they deconstructed (Lombardi), a set of “unbundled” functions?

Chris Newfield says it is important to reclaim the idea of the university as a public good. I’ve said tenure, academic freedom and shared governance are intimately related to issues such as defunding and corporatization; and that we needed to organize around the rights of all faculty and students, and the preservation of academic values generally.

But how can faculty have a collective voice in the university now? Again, do they even want one, or are they content currying favor where they can and going home to promote themselves via their websites when they cannot?

Axé.

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Leaders

People get angry at leaders and accuse them of things. I know this about teaching and about being a department chair. New teachers are shocked when students oppose them because they are the teacher, and new chairs are surprised at the hostility they discover–especially when really, they are working hard to support the department and have good will.

I am always surprised when people get angry because I am a committee chair, or when I am a committee member and come through on what I said I would. It is the same problem, though: people get angry at leaders and accuse them of things. (I believe have made an error with some new department chairs, expecting them to have the kind of experience a more seasoned one would.)

In my AAUP chapter, about Committee A, it has been: “Do you even have a copy of the Red Book?” About the presidency, it has been: “I am merely reminding you of your constitutional responsibility!” I could have said back: “I am following it, are you?” and “When have you lived up to yours?” But I have not, because it would not be solidary.

Axé.

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