Dear Pony, please come back. Love, the Barn.

Pony by Stefani Rossi and Chloe Leisure

It looks like The Nation is starting to fear that they’ve backed the wrong pony horse.  Via TalkLeft, we learn that they’ve written a forlorn letter and petition to Barack Obama begging him please, pretty please, to be a progressive:

You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement’s energy and passion.

. . . . . . .

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance–including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.  (Ed. note:  And how did the junior Senator from New York vote on that?  Oh, yeah–the way The Nation wanted everyone to vote!)

. . . . . . .

Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:

§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.

§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country’s collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.

§ Universal healthcare.

§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.

§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.

§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.

§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.

§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.

§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.

§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

. . . . . . .

Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you’ve encouraged us to believe is possible.

Which of these principles, aside from withdrawal from Iraq and reform of the political process, did he ever espouse during the primary?  Certainly not universal health care!  I feel like Alice in Wonderland, only I stayed awake on the river bank this primary season while everyone at The Nation fell down the rabbit hole.  They were just too busy publishing malicious and dishonest articles like this one and this one about Hillary Clinton to pay attention to what Obama was actually saying and doing, because he was just the guy they hoped would finally beat the bitch.  If the editorial board and columnists had come to a reasoned decision to back Obama, fair enough–but why the constant, nasty, unfair attacks on Clinton?

Lately, my e-mail inbox and my home telephone have been barraged with messages from Katrina vanden Heuvel, Victor Navasky, and paid telemarketers begging me to renew my subscription and to donate still more cash to fight a big postage increase that may crush many smaller circulation and independent magazines.  Well, sorry Katrina and Victor:  I guess you should have thought about that before you alienated at least half of your readership by repeating right-wing smears against Clinton and talking yourself into fantasies about Obama becoming “America’s most progressive President in more than half a century.”  (Good night and good luck, indeed!)

Oh well, you know what they say:  sow the open barn door, and reap the piles of crap left behind.  (The headline from this post was inspired by commenter kredwyn here at TalkLeft.)  And Historiann says:  Oh, yeaahh!

Dead wood: a person, a place, or a state of mind?

Related to the various debates over tenure at MoneyLaw, the kids over there have spent some of the summer in their tree house talking about dead wood, as in, the lazy and/or destructive faculty members that the institution of tenure protects, unfortunately, along with the fabulously productive and generous colleagues like us.  (Don’t ask me about all of the hockey stuff over there–it must be a law proffie thing.  Wev.)  Historiann would like to offer a few thoughts inspired by Jefferey Harrison’s recent post on the subject, “Wood.”  I like the way he debunks the notion of “dead wood” somewhat, and goes with the metaphor to describe things much more destructive of faculty morale:  dry rot and pulp. 

It occurs to Historiann that in common usage, “dead wood” is always someone else.  No one wakes up in the morning and trots off to work happily thinking of themselves as dead wood.  No one embraces that label–it hasn’t been reclaimed, like “queer.”  It’s more like “feminazi:”  a weapon that people (other faculty, administrators, and maybe some students) use to demean and undermine other people and their work.  Let’s be honest:  most of us faculty types who have been successful (so far!) think we’ve got the exact right balance of work on research, teaching, and service down.  Most of us walk around believing that many of our colleagues do not.  Why did he agree to serve on that committee when his book’s not even finished?  She needs to teach that course again–the rest of us have been stuck teaching it, so she should, too.  That teaching award was nice, but he really has to get his research agenda going again or he’ll never get promoted.  Why am I always stuck chairing a search committee, when I’ve got a second book under contract, too? 

Historiann wonders:  is “dead wood” what we call colleagues who have gray hair (or no hair) and too many wrinkles?  Is “dead wood” the reward that our senior colleagues get for agreeing to chair a department or serve as a dean when they didn’t really want to, but there was no one else to do the job?  Is that their reward for offering to chair and serve on time-consuming committees so that their junior colleagues could finish their books and articles and get their tenure files ready?  Is that what they get for being mensches, and teaching an overload so that their untenured colleagues don’t have to?  For a bunch of people who spend a lot of time in the past, there’s not a lot of honoring of our elders going on in this profession.  (And no, this is not a personal complaint–Historiann is ageless, miraculously unmarked by gray hair or wrinkles!  She’s never done any of these selfless things for her department, either, except chair Graduate Studies for a year.)

As we slide into August, that beautiful, awful month in which we face the return of the faculty meeting, please reconsider the next time the phrase “dead wood” pops into your mind.  Those senior faculty may not have published a book recently, but their work has value that you may not fully understand or appreciate, although others surely do–the students they mentor, that class they’ve been teaching for twenty years that’s a legend on your campus, that wry humor and good judgment that gets everyone through those T&P committee meetings without unduly damaging anyone’s career or anyone else’s relationships with one another.  Please also recall “dead wood”‘s usefulness to people outside of the university who don’t want to fund higher education.  “Dead wood” is everyone’s favorite rhetorical bludgeon when arguing to end tenure, but how many truly worthless faculty do you know?  How many people can you name whose immediate retirement would be a net benefit for your department, institution, or academic field?

Baa Ram U: we don't want to talk about it

Well, the local news is all het up about the Princeton Review rankings for colleges and universities in my state.  The headline for the story in today’s Denver Post (both in print and on-line) is “Higher, headier ed on campuses in Colorado?”  Well, only two of our colleges apparently have that reputation, and they’re pretty much the ones you would expect–the University of Colorado, Boulder, came in at third for pot use, thirteenth for party school, and fourteenth for liquor use; and Colorado College is seventh for pot.  Dog bites man, anyone? 

Fortunately, Baa Ram U. is not listed among the top drinking or drugging schools, but has the dubious distinction of ranking seventh in the category of “class discussions rare.”  That’s unsurprising–the other top schools in that category are also old Aggie schools whose traditional emphasis is science, engineering, and technology.  Still, it makes Historiann something of an eccentric in offering comparatively few lectures and spending at least half of class time on discussions.  My students aren’t that difficult to engage in class discussion, but then, they don’t act like they’re just dying to talk in class, either.

How did your schools rate?  Are you pleased, or were you dealt rank injustice this year?  Check it out here, and report your results in the comments.


John Bohstedt: British historian, tough guy


An overlooked detail in yesterday’s terrible shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee is that one of the heroes who tackled the shooter is UT-Knoxville historian John Bohstedt.  According to the New York Times, Bohstedt jumped on shooter Jim D. Adkisson while he paused to reload in spite of the other dangers Bohstedt and the other congregants might have faced.  According to church member Sheila Bowen, “[Bohstedt] moved very quickly and he assessed the situation very quickly. . . . He’s sitting on this guy. [The shooter] had a package with him, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, and John was afraid that that might be a bomb, so John was screaming at everyone to get out.”

Melissa at Shakesville notes that the Unitarian Univeralist church was targeted by Adkisson because he hated liberalism in general, and gay people in particular.  (The UU church is very progressive, invites gay members, and ordains gay ministers.)  Looks like you might want to start wearing that high-fashion kevlar vest pretty much everywhere in the U.S. these days, my friends. 

When I hear news of the latest (yes, sadly, we can only assume this is the latest, not the last) shooting in a school, a church, or other public spaces, like many of you perhaps, I wonder how I would react and if I would muster the kind of metal clarity and physical courage that Professor Bohstedt showed.  His example is very inspiring, but what a world we live in where that kind of bravery is called upon so frequently.  My heart goes out to the TVUUC community and their friends and allies in Knoxville and beyond. 

UPDATED, 7/29/08:  See this description of the attack at TVUUC by a church member who was present Sunday morning.  She gives a moving account of the heroism of Greg McKendry, the first shooting victim who was shot at point-blank range trying to shield others from the bullets.  She also reports that other people saw John Bohstedt take down the shooter in a “flying tackle.”

Monday Morning Roundup: troll patrol edition

Historiann spent the last weekend riding Old Paint around the Sonoma and Napa Valleys and attending the birthday luncheon of dear friends here.  (Beautiful setting, incredible wine and food, but short on hitching posts, amazingly enough.)  Happy birthday to JPZ and RJM!

So herewith is a feminist academic news roundup, the bad news/good news/bad news edition:

  • Here’s the latest example of a sectarian university shedding women and feminist scholars like they have cooties:  Rosemary Radford Ruether, a married woman in her seventies, was apparently too terrifyingly radical to hold the one-year visiting appointment as the Monsignor John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology at the University of San Diego.  You can see Professor Ruether’s frighteningly accomplished record here, if you want, or you can just go along with the church’s judgment that women are closer to animals and are therefore incapable of serious theology and unworthy of ordination.  And how’s that working out for you in Western Europe, Canada, and the U.S., boys? 
  • This story about girls’ and boys’ math equality was reported everywhere in the world, but I saw it first in the Denver Post, print edition.  That’s the good news–or, should I say, the “duh” news?–portion of our roundup.
  • Mary Hatcher-Skeers has a thoughtful commentary on the “brain drain” of women in science.  Go read the comments to her article–is it any wonder so many talented and smart women run screaming away from jobs where they may have to work with “Robert,” “Frank,” and “Assistant Professor?”  Nice work, a$$holes.  Arguing like that will prove once and for all that women face no barriers to careers in science!  Kinda like the little troll infestation at this blog, when I posted on the problem of antifeminist commenters on women’s blogs.  P.S. to all trolls:  please master the rules of effective sock puppetry!  When you post under different names but from the same IP address, you pretty much give away your little secret.  Putting on dressup clothes and talking in a funny voice when you post under a different name doesn’t really do it!  Also, special note to the banned commenter, who keeps trying to post stalkerish and obsessive comments:  guess what?  You’re still banned–consider it a life sentence, and just go away.  Or do you think you get to play by insurance company rules here?  (H/t to Susie at Suburban Guerrilla.)

Saturday morning funnies

Cakewrecks is the most hillarious website I’ve seen in a long time.  The photo at right comes from this post.  (Thanks to Susie Madrak for linking to Cakewrecks last week.)  Don’t you wish you could have been invited to that wedding?

I’m really impressed (in a queasy sort of way) by the large number of professionally decorated cakes there are in the world in the shape of body parts and/or bodily traumas.  Don’t miss the extremely weird baby shower/childbirth cakes.  Today’s post is a cake in the shape of a bound foot.

Cakewrecks is internet crackrocks if you’re looking to fritter away some time on the world wide timewasting web. 

Schadenfreudelicious! Baylor Prez canned Thursday

Via Inside Higher Ed, we learn this fine summer morning that Baylor President John Lilley, who merrily tried to fire so many junior faculty this year (and disproportionately women faculty, natch!), was himself $hitcanned yesterday.  It so rarely happens that we get to see an administrator so destructive of faculty hopes and dreams get his comeuppance–so let’s savor the moment.  (See these old posts on Baylor, for more background.)

IHE reports that “the regents had offered Lilley the opportunity to serve out his five-year contract as the board began a search for a new president. He rejected that offer.”  Well, good on all of them for not prolonging the misery.  But, check this out:  “Lilley, 69, said he was retired ‘as of this morning’ and returning to his home in Reno, Nev. Prior to coming to Baylor, Lilley had spent four years as president of the University of Nevada at Reno.”  Hmmm…remember all of those lawsuits by current and former staff and faculty at at UNR I told you about a few weeks ago?  Well, let’s hope he stays good and retired as of now. 

Time’s up, cowboy.  You fell off the bull.  No points for you.  (But welcome new readers from Inside Higher Ed!)