Well, it’s May, and those of us chained to the delightfully anachronistic agricultural calendar of academe are slathering on the sunscreen, filling up the industrial-sized insulated mug of iced tea, and sitting out in the garden to finish grading exams and calculating final grades. Inside Higher Ed today provided a good roundup of recent controversies that have been covered here at Historiann.com (or should have been!) So while most of you are mired in the details of the work that universities are supposed to do, here are some stories about a few university presidents and administrators (you know, the people who have the power to fire you) who are doing a heckuva job. To wit:
- West Virginia University President Mike Garrison, a politically-connected appointee without academic credentials or experience, continues to be a universally recognized embarrassment. (It’s under Garrison’s watch that the business school awarded an M.B.A. to the governor’s daughter despite her not having actually, you know, earned it. The Dean of the business school and the University Provost resigned recently, but not Garrison, despite his insistence that he “accepts responsibility” for the fraudulent degree.) The most recent related dust-up reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is that two professors are filing a grievance “after being told their offices are being relocated, a decision they were informed of the day after one of them called for President Mike Garrison’s resignation.” Anyone who’s worked in an academic department knows that some faculty are very particular about what kind of office they have, its proximity to the department office or bathrooms, how much or how little sunlight, noise level, views, etc.–like Goldilocks, they must have an office that’s “just right.” This strikes me as the kind of petty, thuggish retaliation that’s characteristic of a political hack, but one who is clearly very attuned to the bizarre obsessions and status games of particular academics. Well played, Mr. Garrison! (How long will this guy be permitted to circle the drain at WVU?)
- Next, in a move that makes Mike Garrison look like Kingman Brewster, Jr., Baylor University’s President John Lilley has apparently reversed 7 out of 12 of his tenure denial decisions on appeal. (Historiann has reported and commented on the Baylor outrage here, here, and here.) The Waco Tribune reports that “[t]wo of the cases were reversed after candidates bolstered their publication records, Lilley said, and external letters about the quality of some of the candidates’ research was influential.” Yeah, right–anyone who knows anything about tenure files knows that it’s utterly impossible to produce something in two months’ time that would reverse a tenure denial, aside from embarassing publicity, poor fundraising, and the wrath of the Board of Regents. Good news for those faculty members who are now among the elect, but this may make the gendered nature of the tenure denials at Baylor even clearer: “Names of candidates awarded tenure were not revealed in Lilley’s e-mail, but the Tribune-Herald was able to confirm that three of the seven were engineering faculty Russ Duren, Randall Jean and Carolyn Skurla,” two men and one woman. (Andrea, if you’re still out there, let us know what you know!)
- Finally, Phyllis Schlafly was awarded an honorary degree at Washington University. Historiann was just flabbergasted by the news that any university (other than Bob Jones or Oral Roberts) would honor Schlafly in this fashion. What’s next? Spellman College honors Clarence Thomas? Calvin College invites Christopher Hitchens to deliver next year’s commencement address? Memo to Washington University: next year, try to find a non-self-hating woman, m’kay? It’s not about “freedom of speech,” it’s about choosing to honor someone whose life’s work is in accordance with the professed values of your institution. What constituency at Washington U. (or anywhere in the nation) was demanding that Schlafly’s dubious achievements should be honored? When you choose to honor someone like that, it make you look confused and un-self-confident too.
Here’s an entirely serious end-of-the-academic year question: Why can’t they just emulate our students and get drunk and act like a$$holes? It’s easy, it’s fun, and as long as you don’t drive, there’s little chance that it will make the morning papers.