Mudwoman in Virginia?

Howdy, friends.  Since I’ve been living in the long eighteenth century for the past week or so, at least in my own head, I haven’t been consuming either print or electronic news as I usually do.  But several of you have written to ask my opinions on the unexpected and untimely cashiering of the President of the University of Virginia, Teresa A. Sullivan, last week.  As many of you know much better than I, Sullivan had been prez for only two years, and was the first woman chosen to lead Mr. Jefferson’s university.  This morning, I read something that several of you (in person and via e-mail) had already suggested to me, namely that forces on the university’s Board of Visitors against Sullivan were peeved at her resistance to online education.  (Earlier this week, other reporting suggested that Sullivan was perceived as reluctant to cut low enrollment programs such as German and Classics.)

I’m really grateful to you readers for the e-mails and the prodding on this, but since I’m actually making some research and writing progress this week on my own irrelevant and self-indulgent intellectual work, I’d like to turn the conversation over to you.  Some of you who have written to me have UVA connections, so feel free to discuss the Sullivan firing and its causes and consequences. Continue reading

Code Blue at Ferule and Fescue!

Drink up, then find another publisher

Friends, as you know I’m conferencing this weekend, but I’m wondering if some of you can offer some helpful advice and assistance to our friend Flavia at Ferule and Fescue.  As some of you may know, she’s enjoying a completely enviable summer in Rome, but that’s beside the point.  Last week, someone peed in her negroni, big time:

As you may recall, I’d been working with this press for two years. They first sent the manuscript to one outside reviewer, who had stern but encouraging words, so I revised according to her suggestions. They sent it to her again, and she was very happy with my revisions and recommended publication. Then they sent it to a second reviewer, who read the entire MS in three weeks and was highly critical–but he also seemed confused about the basic parameters of my project; he made lots of suggestions, but most of them were, at best, tangential to my topic. I was asked to address “at least some of” his concerns, and I did so to the extent that I felt I could while maintaining the integrity of the project. I also told the press very clearly what I had done, what I had not done, and why.

So after winter break they sent it back to him. . . and after more than four months he submitted a one-paragraph review, most of it cut-and-pasted from his previous review, saying that I hadn’t engaged sufficiently with his criticisms.

And that means that’s it for that press. The editor was quite apologetic, but explained that such a negative review tied the press’s hands and would make it hard for the editor to make a case to the publication board–even if the editor were to find a warmly receptive third reader. Continue reading

Fire, fire, go away, burn again another day.

Thanks for all of the concerned e-mails, but Famille Historiann and all of the animals are just fine.  We live about 40 or so miles east of the High Park Fire that’s now tearing up the foothills west of Fort Collins.  We’ve been seeing, and unfortunately smelling, the smoke even this far out.  This is the second major fire outside of Fort Collins this year, and it’s only June. 

This is the great advantage to living on the High Plains Desert rather than in the mountains:  there’s no such thing as a forest fire down here!  Because of course the only trees are the cottonwoods along the creeks and the landscaping in the sweet, quiet little towns like mine. Continue reading

The successes of the LGBT rights movement

In her thoughtful review of Linda Hirshman’s Victory:  The Triumphant Gay Revolution (2012)  E.J. Graff says that Hirshman presents a serviceable overview of the GLBT movement.  However, she says that Hirshman’s core argument for its remarkable success slights the Civil Rights and feminist movements that preceded gay liberation, and misunderstands the importance of the previous two movements to the victories of LGBT rights:

Of course, Hirshman isn’t trying to tell the entire history of the lesbian and gay movement, but so much is missing that she gets her analysis wrong. Or did she limit her focus because her analysis is off? In the book’s introduction,Hirshman claims that America’s two great preceding social movements, for racial justice and women’s equal rights, were less ambitious and therefore less successful, making strategic calculations to emphasize their similarities to the dominant social order. Lesbians and gay men, in contrast, had to work hard to open up room for our deviance, and therefore achieved more profound social change.

.       .       .       .       .

But in praising the LGBT movement’s drive to make the world safe for difference, Hirshman implies that black people and feminists never had to establish their moral cred. Is she kidding? Blacks had to fight depiction as subhumans, sexual monsters, immoral criminals, and intellectual inferiors. Feminists were painted as sterile, heartless harpies; women’s brains as supposedly too small for public life. Both groups expanded the meaning of the founding American dictum: All of us are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Continue reading

Student evaluations of online courses: rife with hostility?

In a recent conversation with a friend who’s teaching an online course for her university,* she commented that she’ll probably get really bad student evaluations again this summer, as she has in the two previous summers in which she’s taught online classes.  “I’m not a body to them,” she said, and therefore she thinks that the students feel freer to rip into her in their evaluations.  (Of course they may also be venting some frustration with the online course format itself, although they may not know enough about online classes and what they can expect from their instructors.)

It sure makes sense to me that much of the humor in the classroom–quotidian small talk before class starts, questions about a student’s health, expressions of concern for their well-being, banter about university politics or sports teams, asking for student opinion on a local issue, dumb jokes by the professor–well, all of that is pretty much drained out of online courses.  I hadn’t really thought about this until my friend made her observation about how much lower she’s rated in her online courses versus her F2F courses, but I think much of this kind of communication between students and instructors, and vice-versa, and among the students themselves–all of this non-content related, non-subject relevant communication is going to have a major impact as to how a student experiences a class emotionally.  Continue reading

Jerk du jour: Matt Arnold, Republican liar for CU regent

Matt Arnold, grandiose liar

Via the Denver Post, an outstanding example of the kind of person who believes he should hold governing authority over higher education in my state:

A Republican running to sit on the governing board at the University of Colorado has erroneously told voters he has a master’s degree in international economics from [Johns Hopkins University.]

Called on it by critics, Matt Arnold mocked advanced degrees Thursday, explaining he completed the coursework but not his thesis.

“I was more interested in getting on with my life than trying to, quite frankly, waste more time in pursuit of academic BS that no one cares about,” he said.

Right.  “Academic BS that no one cares about” probably wouldn’t make it onto resumes and into campaign literature, then, right?  But somehow, it did in your case, Matt.  Arnold continued: 

“I think that’s one of the big problems, quite frankly, with education these days. We’re graduating a bunch of people who hang letters after their names, but they have no useful skills.”

As opposed to people like you, who hang fraudulent and unearned letters after their names, and have no “useful skills!” Continue reading