Imaginary problems department: faculty "freeloaders" for using e-mail and letterhead?

Call me a freeloader, but this seems totally ridiculous.  Since when is it inappropriate to use a university e-mail account and letterhead to apply for another job?  Over at the Chronicle blog “On Hiring,” Gene C. Fant, Jr., writes,

When I see applications coming in, I really like to see people using their own private e-mail accounts, home or cellphone numbers, and “From the Desk of” letterhead. The use of campus e-mail and phone numbers doesn’t spoil me on a candidate, but I have to say that, for the sake of both stewardship of resources and confidentiality, I like to see personal materials used.

Good grief!  Tom Benton had a good reply in the comments to the post above:  “There is no generally accepted rule that graduate students and faculty should not use university letterhead and email addresses for job searches, and in fact some encourage graduate students to do just that. In my view it is unethical to start setting ad hoc ethical traps for people at other institutions who are acting in good faith.”  In my first non-tenure track job, I was urged by the Chair of that department to send out applications on department letterhead–so long as I was using it for professional purposes and not my grocery list, I was told that it was not only acceptable but one of the perks of employment.  Many fellowships include an e-mail address and the use of fancy letterhead, which is a big bonus for otherwise unemployed graduate students and recent Ph.D.s–why shouldn’t an actual employer offer the same? 

Furthermore, applying for other jobs is very much a part of professional life and development in modern academia, whether or not one has tenure or a tenure-track job.  Please advise me if it’s different where you work, but at Baa Ram U., the only way to get a substantial raise is to attract an outside job offer, so the university’s own incentives clearly encourage us to apply for other jobs.

I’d also like to note something that Fant overlooks:  affiliations don’t just work one way.  I’m not just affiliated with an institution, Baa Ram U., Baa Ram U. (Sheep be true!) is also affiliated with me.  The university gets to list me and all of my colleagues on its website and use our names, publications, grants won, and areas of specialization to attract interest from students and impress the taxpayers, so I fail to see why faculty should hide their affiliations in the name of not “misusing campus resources.”  I’ve chaired a search committee and served on several others–if someone claimed to be affiliated with an institution but didn’t use their campus e-mail, contact information, and letterhead, that would suggest to me that they’ve got a good reason to seek employment elsewhere if they feel that unsafe from spies and retaliation.  It would strike me as eccentric in the extreme to see an application on blank paper with only home or private contact information from someone with a job and an affiliation.

But, let’s pretend this is just a bean-counting exercise.  Imagine, if you will, that you’re a department Chair or a Dean.  How many job applications would your faculty have to send out every year, year after year, that it would make a serious dent in your stationery budget or server space?  (Psst:  if your faculty are sending out that many job applications, wouldn’t that suggest that you’ve got bigger problems?)  Duh.

Welcome to the working week…

Welcome To The Working Week“I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you,” as the old (very old!) song goes!

Well, Historiann is back from vacation.  (Why can’t famille Historiann just rent a beach house somewhere like normal vacationers, instead of doing the Indianapolis 500 from southern New England to Northern New England and back again, from the Green and White Mountains to Narragansett Bay?)  But, it was lots of fun, and full of family and old friends, so who’s complaining, eh??  What did I miss while I was drivin’ fishin’?

  • I watched from afar, far far away from my own New Yorker subscription and wireless connection, as “covergate” exploded this week.  Diary of an Anxious Black Woman explained it all nicely here and here–after all, what can you say about such colossal cluelessness about African American history and the history of how the white media portray black people?  Do you think that if The New Yorker staff writers included more than just their overwhelming majority of white northeastern men over the age of 50 that somebody might have pointed out that there is more than one way to read those “satirical” images than the way that David Remnick and the rest of his sheltered band of naifs read it?  As always, le dernier mot goes to Bob Somerby, who derides Remnick’s “High Gotham Clueless” response to the outcry.
  • Driving home from the airport, I heard that the horrible Bill Clinton is in the news again.  Typical!  You know, the Clintons will do anything, absolutely anything for power, even try to cure a disease that disproportionately afflicts children under age 5 and pregnant women living in developing countries!  What will this evil genius think of next?  Oh yeah–his loser Vice President will probably do something else ridiculous and self-aggrandizing, proving once again that you’d have to be crazy to want to have a beer with him!  Why won’t these exceptionally competent, smart, and compassionate individuals go away when the Democratic National Committee and the corporate media tell them to?  Why can’t they just hit the links and stick to the for-profit lecture circuit like Republican ex-Presidents?
  • La famille stayed in a hotel with cable television (supreme luxury!) last night, and I awoke dumbstruck to the never-ending train wreck that is “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.  In every way, the show is a worthy successor to Don Imus, whose “nappy-headed” insults to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team got him fired last year.  “Morning Joe” has better production values than Imus’s show, which was essentially watching him do his morning radio show, but it’s still a production that more resembles a “morning zoo” in the local AOR radio station than a proper news program.  (What was I thinking, looking for news in the vast wasteland of MSNBCNNFOX?)  Seriously–who watches this stuff?  They had REO Speedwagon and the Eagles for bumper music (I think I turned it off before they played Styx), and of course, a woman on the show they can patronize and talk over constantly who goes by the name of Robin Quivers Mika Brzezinski.  I don’t usually watch this crap, but perhaps those of you with better cable packages can enlighten me:  does she ever not get interrupted, talked over, or all-around patronized?  The camera work supports the frat house atmosphere that the titular host Joe Scarborough encourages–when Brzezinski makes her ineffective and inarticulate interjections–usually to the effect of “no, no, I just…I mean…no,” the camera continues cutting back and forth between the male regulars and the reporters they invite on as guest experts on a given topic.  Even when they need to break for the news–Brzezinski’s apparent job is to be the resident newsreader–she had to make several starts at reading her news script this morning, because she was still being talked over!
  • Mmmmm…Dunkin’ Donuts!  (We don’t have them in Northern Colorado, so it’s always a treat to visit the land of 3 Double-D’s on every corner!)  I even got to hear a local order a “regulah” this morning–it brought tears to my eyes!  (You New Englanders know that that’s a DD coffee with two shots of cream and two spoonsful of sugar, but you must know that that’s just a regional thing, right?)
  • I’ve been getting offers to monetize this website.  Do any of you fellow bloggers have thoughts about this?  (I’m not really interested, but then, when do I have the chance to monetize anything I do, or even to use the verb “to monetize?”)  Is this just the kind of thing that happens when you have more traffic than just your mom and your friends (and maybe your mom’s friends) reading your blog?  Please advise.

Lambert, your pony has arrived, and man, the barn really stinks now!

By coincidence today, amidst the news of the Senate’s capitulation on the FISA vote, I stumbled upon a new installation on collaborative art in the main library at my university, Baa Ram U.  This is a mixed-media merry-go-round of four ponies with questions and answers typed on them that lead the reader/viewer into some excellent circular logic.  The artists are Stefani Rossi and Chloe Leisure.  Well, imagine my surprise when the first pony said:

In case you can’t see it, the last photo shows a close-up of the question typed onto the pony.  (This is also the title of the piece.)



On the FISA vote, please see also this post by Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft.

Pettifoggery, or sweet, sweet revenge?

The Chronicle’s blog “On Hiring” draws our attention to a news story there (based on a story in the Reno Gazette-Journal) about the dozens of lawsuits by former employees against the University of Nevada, Reno.  Most of the plaintiffs are represented by the same lawyer, Jeff Dickerson.  Is Dickerson engaging in pettifoggery, or is he a crusader against endemic bullying at UNR? 

A commenter over at the Chronicle’s news story provided a handy link to a database that summarizes all of the complaints and their status or outcomes.  There are a number of unlawful termination suits (in particular against the Physics and Economics Departments and the Medical School), first amendment lawsuits, and suits over gender, age, and disability discrimination.  There’s even a lawsuit over a hidden camera!  Yikes.  Many of the lawsuits filed in the early to mid-2000s were settled; some were won, others dismissed or are still on appeal.  Many of the more recently filed cases have been dismissed, while most are still pending.  (This is based on just a brief skim of the summaries, not a systematic investigation–those of you who are lawyers will undoubtedly have better informed opinions about this.)  I don’t think it’s incriminating that one attorney is representing most of the plaintiffs here–Nevada is a very small state, Reno is a small city, and if you had a claim against the University, wouldn’t you want to go with the guy who’s proven his mettle in going up against the U?  Attorneys live or die by word-of-mouth recommendations (or warnings away), so it makes sense to me that plaintiffs would sign up with Dickerson since he’s had some modest success in suing the U.

As regular readers can probably predict, my instincts are to side with the little guy against large institutions, and given the difficulty of proving any discrimination claims or violations of first amendment rights by an employer these days, I’m wondering if we should shine up a chestful of medals for counselor Dickerson.  It’s possible that the guy is a pesky pettifogger–but then, that’s what a guilty university would say, wouldn’t it, when trying to explain to the taxpayers why $1.7 million of its money has gone to fighting and settling these lawsuits?  As many of us know from bitter experience, Universities aren’t always grateful to whistleblowers who let them know where the problems are.  They count on having more time and money to pursue these claims than any individual has, which is why they win so often.

Poor Napoleon


I’m as much into the corny pageantry of politics as anyone–I marched with the Weld County Dems last week in the Stampede Parade, after all, dodging horse poop with Congressman Mark Udall, and I’ll probably park myself in front of the TV to watch the next president’s inauguration, as I have ever since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985.  But, does anyone else think it may be a little risky for Barack Obama to ditch the many millions of dollars for rent and renovation of the Pepsi Center in Denver in favor of renting out the even bigger venue of Invesco Field (formerly Mile High Stadium) for his acceptance speech?  (This is the convention that’s already having fundraising problems, after all!)  If he wins the election, this move may look providential, or even presidential–but if he doesn’t win, what will this stunt look like?

Has Obama learned nothing from Commander Codpiece’s ridiculous “Mission Accomplished” speech on May 1, 2003, when he announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended?”  The photo at left is the image that embodies the arrogant faux-masculinity, incompetence, and all-around a$$hattery of George W. Bush.  (The photo of him surveying the damage of Hurricaine Katrina from 37,000 feet is a close second, and I must admit, there are plenty to choose from, h/t Susie at Suburban Guerrila.)  This picture confirms what so many of us knew all along about Bush:  that he was a boy playing at dress-up, not a man capable of being President.  Will the Obama campaign announce next week that they’ve invited the pope to crown him Emperor, so that Obama can grab the crown and perform the second autocoronation in world history?  Napoleon was a successful emperor, at least until he wasn’t, and this painting by David below (The Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I Bonaparte) still makes him look like a presumptuous jerk, more than 200 years later:

The images of U.S. Presidents and presidential candidates that become iconic are those that capture a widely recognized idea or set of ideas about the person in question.  (Please note that I didn’t say these photos capture a truth about these men and women, although they may do that, too.  In some cases below, the photos capture a moment that’s used to caricature the men in question, and have little if anything to do with the truth of their character or their performance as president.)  Thus, the iconic image of Lyndon Johnson holding his beagle Him by the ears–everyone knew Johnson was a crude man and a bully, and this photo summed it all up:

When Michael Dukakis stepped out of that tank 20 years ago, the iconic photograph of him (at right) sealed his fate.  He looked too goofy to be a “Commander in Chief,” although the photo opportunity was originally intended to beef up his military credentials.  So much for good intentions!

Bob Dole’s fall off of a speaking platform during his 1996 presidential campaign cemented his image (unfairly) as a bumbling older man who may not have the stamina for the presidency.  In this case, it’s an iconic video of the pratfall, rather than a still photo.  Similarly, the iconic image of Bill Clinton as president was probably a video of him shaking his finger and proclaiming, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  Everyone knew he was a tough dog to keep on the porch–and most suspected that he was untruthful.  (Lying about sex?  Who does that?)

The iconic image of the John F. Kennedy presidency was perhaps not one of the president himself, but rather the photo of his family with his little son John Jr. giving him a final salute as his casket passes by.  The image at left captures the feeling of lost opportunities and lost innocence, for both the young family and the nation.

I suppose that if Obama avoids pseudomilitary clothing, animal cruelty, and leaves his sceptre and main de justice  at home, the Mile High acceptance speech will probably work out just fine for him.  But, it seems to me that in a time of war, global environmental crisis, and economic peril for most Americans, a little modesty and humility would go a long way, especially after the breadless circuses we’ve been treated to for the past seven and a half years.  Being photographed speaking to a stadium filled with 76,000 people, after a warm-up by Bruce Springsteen or Stevie Wonder–well, that seems to confirm a lot of suspicions about Obama that even many Democrats have–that it’s all about him, Barackstar Obama, and that it’s not about the greater good of the Democratic Party or the country. 

A friend of mine who has volunteered for Obama and has regularly donated to his campaign sent me some initial thoughts about the Mile High speech, after receiving an e-mail from the campaign offering her a chance to win tickets to the speech if she donates still more money:

I feel like the Obama folks are convinced that his supporters require nothing but being able to bask in his presence. We’re not concerned with silly things like his policy decisions, or a sense of his stance on key issues, like abortion or gun control. Give us the possibility of 15 seconds in the man’s presence, and we’re satisfied. Its demeaning and irritating.

Whose party is it, anyway?  I mean both the one in Denver next month, and the one that calls itself “Democratic.”  (But, I will give Obama bonus points if his first words at Mile High are, “Hello Cleveland!”)

UPDATE, Tuesday afternoon:  Chris Bowers at Open Left reports (via Iowa Indepdendent) that “the the Obama campaign is not integrating downticket campaigns into a ‘coordinated campaign’ structure. Instead, local Democratic staff are being fired and replaced with Obama staff.”  Chris continues, “As such, what is really disturbing about these charges is that the promise Obama’s campaign and movement held out for a fifty-state strategy that supported downticket candidates everywhere could be a mirage. If local staff are being fired, coordinated campaigns are being abandoned, and everything is replaced with Obama-focused infrastructure, then this isn’t really party building, it isn’t really a fifty-state strategy, and it isn’t really a movement. It is, instead, an entirely top-down organization serving a single purpose: electing Barack Obama.”  Now you’re catching on, Chris!

Monday morning history roundup: sister can you spare a dime edition

Well, it’s been a heckofa holiday weekend, U.S. American-style:  rodeo Thursday, marching in the Stampede Parade with the Weld County Democrats Friday morning, swimming in the smokin’ heat Friday afternoon (thank goodness for friends with access to pools!), a neighborhood cookout Friday night along with a viewing of the legal fireworks display at the rodeo grounds, errands and a movie Saturday (Kit Kittredge–see the review below), and a visit from friends on Sunday.  Land sakes, a cowgirl needs a vacation from all of this time off!

There was lots of history in the news this weekend, of personal and professional interest.  So, herewith, is my latest roundup:

  • The Black American West Museum has come into the possession of most of the land that once was home to the Dearfield Colony in Weld County, Colorado, an African American agricultural community from 1910-1948.  They’re working with a Weld County Commissioner and hoping to attract volunteers and donors to turn it into a historic site for its 100th anniversary in 2010.  See the Rocky Mountain News story on it, which also includes an interview with two men who lived there, and an audio slide show of Dearfield.  The history of African Americans in the west is overshadowed by a mythology that overwhelmingly privileges the perspectives of white settlers.  The preservation of the Dearfield Colony would be a tremendous contribution to the history of black Coloradoans in the early twentieth century.
  • University of Pennsylvania historian and McNeil Center Director Daniel Richter was featured in a Weekend Edition Sunday look at colonial and early national Philadelphia.  He waxes eloquent on the crowding and mucking up of William Penn’s “greene countrie towne.”  Next week, they’re doing an in-depth investigation of Charles Wilson Peale and his museum as a hook for moving into an exploration of the nineteenth century city.
  • Historiann took advantage of the air conditioning in a local movie theatre Saturday afternoon to see Kit Kittredge:  An American GirlYes, it was inspired by a book that’s part of the insidious “American Girl Doll” borg, but it was more than halfway decent.  Set in the midst of the Great Depression in Cincinnati, it renders a kid’s-eye view of living with the tumult of hard times when Kit’s father moves to Chicago to find work, while she and her mother turn the family home into a boarding house, plant a garden, and even sell eggs to make ends meet.  It was entertaining for adults without resorting to double-entendres and trashy jokes in the fashion of so many movies putatively for children.  And, one bonus of films set in a reasonably distant historical period:  absolutely no product placements or advertising, despite the movie’s connection to the American Girl marketing juggernaut.  (It would have been in very bad taste to advertise anything in a movie about the depression, in any case.)

More on KK:  Well-known character actors from the American film repertoire like Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusak, Glenne Headly, Jane Krakowski, and Stanley Tucci, did their jobs quite well in their roles as the eccentric adults that come into Kit’s life as she lives in the boarding house and struggles to get her articles published in the local newspaper.  (Perhaps unsurprisingly, these adult actors overshadow the lead character, played by Abigail Breslin.)  The movie turns into a caper when a rash of local burglaries cast suspicion on the inhabitants of the local hobo jungle, and on the young day laborers who work for Mrs. Kittredge.  It’s also an extended exercise in nostalgia for twentieth-century childhood, with a tree house, a secret club, strap-on roller skates, children who are permitted to take streetcars downtown without chaperons, bullies in school who get their comeuppance, and a heroine who’s writing it all down with her typewriter, complete with stuck keys when she types too fast.  All in all, wholesome fare that was well-received by the under-12 set in the theatre–and when you consider the absolute absence of decent movies that feature a girl heroine and leader of her kid gang, well–it’s more than worth a look if you’ve got 4-11 year old girls or boys in the house on a too-hot or too-rainy summer afternoon.

Historiann’s only complaint about Kit Kittredge is that Julia Ormond and Chris O’Donnell are too glamourous and good-looking to be cast as Kit’s parents.  You just can’t believe anything could really be all that bad with those two as the resident loving authority figures.  (Am I crazy, or does O’Donnell look better than ever with some grey hair and a bit of a middle-aged paunch?  A few imperfections make him look almost like a real man instead of a cookie-cutter himbo.)  Willow Smith is adorable as hobo sidekick Countee–which turned out to be a great “passing” role!