Goosey, goosey gander

Goosey

Tom Bredehoft at Chancery Hill Books has another great post from the alt-academic/post-academic life on the insight that professional liminality has granted him.  You might remember that Tom is the guy I wrote about earlier this week who resigned a tenured full professorship at the University of Northern Colorado so that his spouse could pursue another professional opportunity, which led to him teaching for a few years as an adjunct instructor.

Today he asks some simple questions inspired by the eruption in Wisconsin over tenure this week:  “Cutting the UW budget and working to limit tenure there are simply obvious extensions of the notion that some teachers do not, in fact, need tenure, and that some teachers can teach for lower salaries. If some, why not all?. . . . If tenure is good for tenure-track teachers, why not for all? If a living—or even middle class—wage is good for tenure-track teachers, why not for all? This is a moment where common cause needs to be made between tenure-line and non-tenure-line teachers.”  To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution:  “we must hang together or we will all hang separately:” Continue reading

The climate change debate, nineteenth-century style

abenaki-westernFrom “An Account of Quebec,” The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics(London: Rudolph Ackermann, September 1809), 149-150.

Although Quebec is situated so far south as 46º 47′, two degrees to the southward of Paris, yet the climate approximates to that of St. Petersburg, in 60º north.  It is upon record, that in a severe winter, many years ago, the mercury in Fahrenheit’s thermometer sunk to 39º below zero, where it froze.  At the same time, a bomb-shell, filled with water and closely stopped, exploded as if charged with gunpowder.  It is a disputed point, whether the climate has, or has not, gained a permanent degree of amelioration. The former is the public sentiment. One the first settlement of the English in the country [ca. 1759], it was an established custom, that no vessel should depart from the river after the first week in November: at present, however, they venture to take their departure so late as Christmas.

The first fall of snow generally occurs about the middle of October. This is followed by a thaw, and three weeks or a month of fine warm weather, which is called the Indian summer. There is then a heavy fall of snow, and the frost sets in hard about Christmas. From that time to the middle of March, the winter is unrelenting.  From an average of ten years, the range of Fahrenheit’s thermometer, during the months of January, February, and March, was found to be from 12º to 28º.

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Red Alert! Wisconsin lege moves to destroy tenure at state unis.

cowgirlgunsign1David J. Vanness, an Associate Professor in Population and Health Sciences at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has started a petition to thwart a proposal to destroy tenure as we know it at public universities there.  He explains:

In the Omnibus Motion adopted by a 12-4 vote of the Joint Finance Committee on May 29, 2015, the Board of Regents is to be granted new authority, which even if not exercised, by its very existence will create a chilling effect upon the research and teaching activities of our faculty and staff. Specifically, language in point 39 of the motion states that the “… Board may, with appropriate notice, terminate any faculty or academic staff appointment when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, instead of when a financial emergency exists as under current law.” Our fear is that this language is so broad and imprecise that it would allow for programs of academic inquiry and instruction (or even individually targeted tenured faculty within programs) to be terminated on the basis of political whim and convenience.

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Caitlyn Jenner portrait “a picture from the past rather than the present.”

caitlynjennerOne of the things about L.A. I’m really going to miss is reading the shrunken, vestigial, adware-addled Denver Post instead of the rich and lively LA Times, and one of the writers I’ll miss most is art critic Christopher Knight.  Here’s his review of Caitlyn Jenner’s big reveal portrait by Annie Leibovitz on the cover of Vanity Fair published yesterday.

For all the advance buildup, the picture feels flat — a pedestrian celebrity pastiche of rather tired visual cliches. That’s too bad. Jenner’s courage in taking control of the public process of coming out as transgender is bold, and this will be the most widely seen initial image.

.       .       .       .       .

[T]he Vanity Fair photograph seems a missed opportunity — a picture from the past rather than the present. Maybe that’s because all its conventional, glamour-girl signals weigh down the lively fluidity swirling at the center of gender identity.

After describing work by photographer Catherine Opie and Judith Butler, and explaining that a more expansive and complicated vision of gender performance has been part of both the feminist and LGBT movements’ DNA since the early 1990s, Knight writes that the VF cover appears to have missed these conversations entirely.  Instead, it’s a portrait of a 60-something woman by a 60-something woman that feels dated and conventional.  “Leibovitz’s Caitlyn Jenner is a newfangled Vargas girl, one of those airbrushed cuties from the old pages of Playboy. Is that all there is?” Continue reading

Real stories from the Post-ac/Alt-ac world: “You Must Change Your Life”

cowgirlbeerIt’s been too long, friends!  What can I say, except that my last six weeks on sabbatical are chock-full of visitors, travel, and reunions, which have left me little time to live in the virtual world.  I’m back online now, though, and have an idee or two to share.

First, I should say that I’m a great believer in the power of personal narrative.  When I was younger, letter- and journal writing helped me make sense of the trials and errors of youth.  When I was older, blogging at Historiann.com served the same purpose as I wrote about some of my early professional challenges and created a space in which others could find a supportive audience and share strategies for dealing with abusive colleagues and the insanely competitive academic job market.

Around the same time, I started writing a biography of a woman in my period of study, so clearly I’m committed to individual narratives as both a storytelling device and as pedagogy:  we learn so much from reading about other lives.  They can offer us encouragement, cautionary tales, and perhaps most importantly, help us imagine other lives and different ways of living.  There is a real creativity crisis among us professors who want to offer our students ideas for career alternatives to academia (alt-ac) or post-academia (post-ac) careers.  Professors are the worst people to ask, because we took the conservative path and remained in academia!  But we can seek out stories that may give us and our students new ideas for alternative ways of making a living and living a satisfying life.  (Because trust me:  academia is not necessarily a path to either goal, let alone both!)

An old friend of mine who used to live in my hometown of Potterville, Colorado, the distinguished medieval English literature scholar Thomas Bredehoft, has started blogging about his decision to leave a tenured full professorship and his new life as an entrepreneur.  Tom was a full professor who took a position off the tenure track as a spousal accommodation, when his wife took a tenure-track position at a university in another part of the country.  After teaching off the tenure track for five years, he left traditional academia in 2012 to pursue his own alt-ac business in the rare book and antique trade.  As he continues with his academic writing, Tom wants to use his blog to consider the academic, alt-ac, and post-ac worlds, from the perspective of someone who has spent most of a career thinking about books and poetry. Continue reading

Why do so many people resent Trigger warnings?

trigger

Roy Rogers and Trigger

Friends, you’re going to have to explain something to this cowgirl:  I just can’t understand all of the irritation and resentment aimed at Trigger!  (What did this poor horse ever do to Peggy Noonan, anyway?)  From everything I’ve seen, he was a born showman, a high-stepping son-of-a-gun who never did anything worse than steal the show from his owner, Roy Rogers.  Trigger never bit or kicked anyone who didn’t deserve it, now, did he?

But let’s face it:  horses are really big animals, and some people are a little trepidatious around them.  Some horses are afraid of people, and can startle or jump when they’re spooked.  Just because some folks are a little fearful of horses, and just because some horses are easily spooked doesn’t make them bad people or bad horses.  It just means that those of us who are comfortable with Trigger should remember that not every person (or horse) feels the same, and keep that in mind when we’re discussing Trigger or bringing him around for company. Continue reading

Z.O.M.G.: I agree with Katie Roiphe entirely.

AnneTaintoryourlifestyle

Why, yes! Yes, I do.

Alert the authorities:  Katie Roiphe is dead right about “Why Professors Should Not Have Affairs with Their Students:”   Longtime readers may recall that I’ve been pretty unsparing in my criticism of Roiphe for a long, long time now, but she really nails it here.

In this new essay, Roiphe writes from the perspective of seeing a number of male colleagues have affairs with their graduate and undergraduate students, and I’ve seen it too among men in the profession–my age and even younger, so it’s not going away anytime soon (although thank the Goddess I’ve never seen it among my colleagues in my department.)  First, it’s an obvious and embarrassing trope:  “The dynamic is so trite one can barely commit it to the page, but it seems that otherwise charismatic, original men are completely happy to inhabit this cliché, to live and work in it. In my experience these are men who would rather die than dress or speak or write in a clichéd way, but in this particular area of triteness, they feel entirely comfortable.”

Also, “the prospect of sleeping with an undergraduate seems a little like wanting to sleep with a puppy,” as in bestiality, not as in chaste and adorable puppy snuggling, which is obvs. perfectly fine.  But who cares if a middle-aged schlub makes a fool of himself?  I don’t, and neither does Roiphe, because of course it’s the damage to students and to the trust in the professor-student relationship that concerns her most: Continue reading