The disintegration of the university

“There is no community, but there are still gangs,” someone said.

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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Pandoc

This is Pandoc, and I need it.

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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Paris Spleen 48

Vallejo read Baudelaire more assiduously than we even realize, and did this before getting to Paris although he refers to him most obviously there.

“Anywhere out of the world”

Cette vie est un hôpital où chaque malade est possédé du désir de changer de lit. Celui-ci voudrait souffrir en face du poêle, et celui-là croit qu’il guérirait à côté de la fenêtre.

Il me semble que je serais toujours bien là où je ne suis pas, et cette question de déménagement en est une que je discute sans cesse avec mon âme.

«Dis-moi, mon âme, pauvre âme refroidie, que penserais-tu d’aller d’habiter Lisbonne? Il doit y faire chaud, et tu t’y ragaillardirais comme un lézard. Cette ville est au bord de l’eau; on dit qu’elle est bâtie en marbre, et que le peuple y a une telle haine du végétal, qu’il arrache tous les arbres. Voilà un paysage selon ton goût; un paysage fait avec la lumière et le minéral, et le liquide pour les réfléchir!»

Mon âme ne répond pas.

«Puisque tu aimes tant le repos, avec le spectacle du mouvement, veux-tu venir habiter la Hollande, cette terre béatifiante? Peut-être te divertiras-tu dans cette contrée dont tu as souvent admiré l’image dans les musées. Que penserais-tu de Rotterdam, toi qui aimes les forêts de mâts, et les navires amarrés au pied des maisons?»

Mon âme reste muette.

«Batavia te sourirait peut-être davantage? Nous y trouverions d’ailleurs l’esprit de l’Europe marié à la beauté tropicale.»

Pas un mot. — Mon âme serait-elle morte?

En es-tu donc venue à ce point d’engourdissement que tu ne te plaises que dans ton mal? S’il en est ainsi, fuyons vers les pays qui sont les analogies de la Mort. — Je tiens notre affaire, pauvre âme! Nous ferons nos malles pour Tornéo. Allons plus loin encore, à l’extrême bout de la Baltique; encore plus loin de la vie, si c’est possible; installons-nous au pôle. Là le soleil ne frise qu’obliquement la terre, et les lentes alternatives de la lumière et de la nuit suppriment la variété et augmentent la monotonie, cette moitié du néant. Là, nous pourrons prendre de longs bains de ténèbres, cependant que, pour nous divertir, les aurores boréales nous enverront de temps en temps leurs gerbes roses, comme des reflets d’un feu d’artifice de l’Enfer!»

Enfin, mon âme fait explosion, et sagement elle me crie: «N’importe où! n’importe où! pourvu que ce soit hors de ce monde!»

Axé.

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A book from 1874

“Our American system of diet is altogether bad. There is too great variety, the food is too rich, the cooking is often very bad, we eat too frequently, and we eat at the wrong times.”

“One of my sincere regrets in life is, that I prepared about fifty young men for college.”

“In this country of consumptives, [social singing] is especially valuable in fortifying the pulmonary apparatus.”

Read it all–I learned of it from Hattie. It is a book about health for girls, it is not all wrong, and it is marvelously worded.

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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