A few final thoughts on Penn State’s Empire of Rape

It’s gratifying to see so many sports writers and other male commentators decrying the culture of corruption that big-time men’s college sports breeds.  Really it is.  However, feminists have pointed out for decades that football teams are dangerous to women and that women get raped and their rapes covered up and denied by these same teams and their all-male, extraordinarily well-compensated leadership. 

But, I guess that’s what women are for:  rape.  Regardless, I’m truly grateful that so many people are eager to take a courageous stand against the rape of little boys.  I just wish they were equally vigilant about the rape of teenaged and adult women.

Once again, feminists will get zero credit for having raised these issues repeatedly about big-time college sports, but this is nothing new.  Continue reading

The “crisis” in higher ed? truffula sniffs out “administrative bloat.”

Associate Vice Provost of Incentivization

Of all of the contributions I’ve had to the “crisis” of higher education meme inspired by Tony Grafton’s recent review in the New York Review of Books, no one has yet called out administrators and/or administrative bloat.  Most of us humanist faculty types appear to see the liberal arts college administrators as tapdancing as fast as they can with the budgets handed down by the central administration.  (Or, perhaps the other problems just loom larger–who knows?) 

Well friends, that changes today with this guest post by commenter truffula, who is a department head in the natural sciences at an urban university.  She identifies the “growth toward a corporate organizational structure” as the burr under her saddle these days.  She asks, given the budgetary pressures in public higher ed, can we really afford all of those administrators, especially when the ones at her uni seem to be more dedicated to their own salaries and perks than to serving the students or the general public?  She portrays the administrative class at her uni as barbarian invaders of the groves of academe, “harvesting as much as they possibly can and . . . salting the fields.”

Take it away, truffula:

A colleague whom I love dearly has this crazy scheme to storm out of the castle, form guilds, and conduct our transactions directly with our customers. Unfortunately, his preferred alternative to the brick and mortal castle is the interwebs. I’ve argued with my colleague about the pedagogical problems and the risk of ghettoization associated with online classes but I can’t dismiss his idea entirely and here’s why: the maintenance costs associated with the modern university president, vice presidents, provost, vice provosts, and various assistant and associate deans are very high.

Here at Provincial State U, a large public university, our growth toward a corporate organizational structure has led to what some would call an administrative bloat problem. Some code of public relations suggests that it is bad to give one of the dozen or so vice presidents/provosts a raise in these times of furloughs and hiring freezes so instead the big bosses create new job titles and promote internally to fill those jobs–at higher pay, natch. The administrative class didn’t get where it is today by being stupid. But the costs of professional administrators are more than just their salaries. They’re harvesting as much as they possibly can and they are  salting the fields. Continue reading

Separated at Birth!

I’m old enough to remember the often juvenille but extremely entertaining Spy magazine from the 1980s, and its popular feature, “Separated at Birth.”  So here’s my revelation:  something about Jon Huntsman has been bugging me all along.  He’s a perfectly conventional-looking politician and he seems like a completely decent person.  So why do I keep thinking that he reminds me of someone I used to know, someone who gives me an uneasy feeling?

Continue reading

Sunday round-up: the “crisis in higher ed,” your turn edition

Girl howdy did my post last weekend soliciting your views on the “crisis in higher ed” get an avalanche of replies, like, immediately!  It was almost like you were just waiting for someone to ask!

As regular readers will recall, I commented on Tony Grafton’s recent essay in the New York Review of Books, in which he reviews the current jeremiads about what’s wrong with American colleges and universities these days and called for “curious writers . . . [to] describe some universities and colleges, in detail, with all their defects.”  I solicited your views, dear readers, and am blown away by the number and diversity of viewpoints you have contributed.  So today I offer you a very briefly annotated bibliography of the responses.  Please click and read them for yourselves!

  1. Roxie at Roxie’s World must be reading the New York Review of Books up in heaven, because she wrote a post fully 24 hours before I solicited her opinion on what’s wrong with modern American universities.  Her answer?  The unconscionable reliance on adjunct labor, which is after all at the heart of most Excellence Without Money strategies.  (Just go to her blog and search Excellence Without Money to read her catalog of crimes against education over the past three years.)
  2. Roxie also kindly reminded me that Tenured Radical got in on the game even earlier with this post calling for faculty “to get off the Education Carousel and get to work Occupying Education.  Faculty, in particular, are becoming more like each other than not, regardless of where they work.  While some of us will age out under the old system of tenure and stratified privilege, increasingly we too must come to terms with the effects of the neoliberal education agenda (shrinking salaries, reduced and more expensive medical benefits, the destruction of entire fields of study to eliminate tenured positions, political attacks on unionized faculty and staff, higher workloads) in the here and now.”  (Just to name a few of the problems facing us in higher ed!)
  3. Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar says from her perch at Crisis State University (after Walt Kelly’s Pogo) that the enemy of higher education “is us,” that is, the American voters who have consented to withdraw their support from higher education at both the state and federal levels.
  4. Lance Manyon writes from Flagship Public U. that Americans in general approach university education in a way that’s too career-oriented rather than thought-oriented, and urges other faculty not to fall into the trap of buying into this vision of education.
  5. Dr. Crazy, in a brilliant riff on Foucault and the repressive hypothesis, asks who’s failing and on what terms?  From her position at a comprehensive directional university where she teaches a 4-4 load (plus usually some summer courses), she thinks that her university does just fine in offering first-generation college students a fine education at a bargain price.  Continue reading

What’s the matter with higher ed? Too much talk about degrees, not enough talk about achievement.

I’ll have a comprehensive post up tomorrow with all of your wonderful links and contributions to this conversation, but I thought I’d lay out briefly something that I’ve been thinking about this week with respect to the ongoing “crisis of higher education” conversations we’ve been having.  In particular, I’d like once again to address the subset of these conversations in which people whose college years are 20+ years behind them, and who frequently hold degrees from the Ivy League or other elite private colleges and universities, nevertheless counsel the youth of today that college just ain’t worth it, that it’s a waste of money, and that there are plenty of people with bachelor’s degrees wishing they could find a job flipping burgers or washing cars. 

What’s missing in these conversations is any sense of the responsibility that students have for their own educations.  In this respect, the discourse on higher ed very much reflects the discourse on K-12 education, in which teachers have been identified as the only people with any power or responsibilty for a student’s progress in their classrooms.  Similarly, these articles preaching that college is a waste of time foster the notion that mere enrollment and graduation with a degree should be all that’s required for a ticket to middle-class security.  In the case of higher ed, which is 1) not compelled by the state, and 2) costs them cash money, we should ask what besides money the students are pouring into their own educations. Continue reading

Brief thoughts on Penn State

I don’t have any special knowledge of what’s going on there–to be clear, I went to Penn by the way, which is in Philadelphia and on the entirely other end of the state of Pennsylvania.  I’ve never been within 60 miles of State College, to my knowledge.  (Like most Penn grads, it rankles me to be associated with Penn State.)  But readers have written to ask when I’ll comment on the accused child rapist who was protected by the football program there, so here goes:

  1. I’ve seen a lot of commentary to the effect that “institutions do a poor job of policing themselves.”   That may be a part of the problem, however, it seems clear to me that this is more of a gender problem than anything.  The facts of the case so far show that men are reluctant in the extreme to interfere with the sexual prerogatives of other men, even when their sexual behavior is criminal.  Furthermore, this is not just a comment on the institutional power of the football program at Penn State–all of the university administrators accused of crimes and/or who lost their jobs yesterday are all men.  I would expect that a female AD and/or a woman vice president or president of the university would have acted swiftly on eyewitness accounts of child rape and would have called law enforcement, not because women are more virtuous or braver than men, but simply because women who make it into positions of authority tend to be more willing to blow the whistle than their male peers.  Continue reading

Why I’ve fallen down on the (uncompensated) job this term

A self-portrait, minus cowboy hat.

I was wondering the other day why I’ve managed to get so little scholarship or blogging done since classes started in August.  Why, why, why?  Is my middle-aged brain incapable of nimble, complete synaptical connections?  Am I lazy?  Am I distracted?  Too much wine at dinner?  Then I remembered:  I’m teaching 2 new classes this semester, a team-taught undergraduate class on the History of Sexuality in America, and the graduate historiography class (or as I call it to make it seem less intimidating:  Introduction to Historical Practice.)  So, lots of lecture writing and new-book-reading is what’s keeping me busy.  No doy.

Apparently, my tiny brain only has so much room for innovation at this stage of midlife.  I think that age and/or complacency has a lot to do with this.  Continue reading