Your Weekly Radical Reader: Shorts From Around The Web

September 8, 2013, 11:18 am


My current favorite shorts are being worn by Rafa out in Queens.

There’s a lot sitting on our desk at Tenured Radical, each item of which deserves its own post.  But since we will be away much of the week doing research at Cornell and hanging with the History Department (Thursday, September 12, Guerlac Room in the Andrew White House, at 4:30), there may not be much attention to bloggy biz. So, without further ado, our news shorts include:

The University Without Students!  If you read this week’s New Yorker puff piece on John Sexton, the president of New York University, you will realize that the future is now. The role of universities is to provide real estate for executives and law school faculty, conduct high-level negotiations with dictatorships, and move as many students abroad as possible where they can be educated at the expense of said dictatorships while the United States campus collects tuition.

Except as objects of sentiment, undergraduates are more or less an afterthought in Rachel Aviv’s article about the controversial president of this downtown campus where Tenured Radical took her graduate degree. Although it begins with a student literally trembling under the extraordinary stress of the loan burden he has taken on in his freshman year ($14,000, $5,000 shy of the loans I took out in eight years of graduate school), students nearly disappear from Aviv’s article. (Indeed, we are led to believe that the student himself probably disappeared, at least from NYU-World, due to lack of funds.) The crucial piece of information that goes unmentioned, as Aviv paints a sunny picture of Sexton’s global campus that keeps 40% of NYU’s undergrads circulating around the globe at any given moment, is that the executive compensation practices and expansion plan that sketches NYU’s 21st century will be paid for by undergraduate tuition increases pegged to 6% a year.

My question is this: when a reporter has the opportunity, as this one had, to make an argument about the actual reasons tuition is going up, up, up — and what the money is being spent on — why did she not make it? Why instead did Aviv emphasize Sexton’s emotional life, his ongoing grief about the untimely death of his wife Lisa, and his weirdly physical touching relations with individual students — while the vast majority of NYU undergraduates and employees are suffering under the financial burden of Sexton’s, as the article calls it, “Imperial Presidency?” And that, in return for tuition that will soon exceed $70,000 a year, these students can expect to be taught by underpaid, contingent instructional staff?

Department of Recent History: Just received my own copy of Radical Buddy Paul Sabin‘s new book, The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon and Our Gamble Over the Earth’s Future (Yale, 2013). Organized around an intellectual rivalry, The Bet looks at the recent history of environmental politics through the lens of scarcity and abundance. Decide for yourself whether you want to buy it, but I can guarantee you that it is well-written because it was workshopped in a writing group in which I participated. You can get a little preview here in a New York Times op-ed by Sabin.

Still Waiting for A United States Attack on Syria? Go here for Dennis Kucinich’s top ten unproven claims; and read Charles Blow’s op-ed on why Americans seem to care about some dead children but not others.  The Moustache has had another helpful suggestion about a Syrian intervention, which is that the United States should pick some good rebels to arm. This would be because, of course, the Obama administration would know who they are like the Reagan administration knew that arming the Taliban was a robust policy for Afghanistan. Of course most effective policy, Thomas Friedman concedes, would be for a huge international force to go in there and partition the country (what is this man smoking?), but because that can’t happen:

the best response to the use of poison gas by President Bashar Assad is not a cruise missile attack on Assad’s forces, but an increase in the training and arming of the Free Syrian Army – including the anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons it has long sought. This has three virtues: 1) Better arming responsible rebel units, and they do exist, can really hurt the Assad regime in a sustained way — that is the whole point of deterrence – without exposing the U.S. to global opprobrium for bombing Syria; 2) Better arming the rebels actually enables them to protect themselves more effectively from this regime; 3) Better arming the rebels might increase the influence on the ground of the more moderate opposition groups over the jihadist ones — and eventually may put more pressure on Assad, or his allies, to negotiate a political solution.

Along with his colleague Nicholas Kristoff, Friedman seems to believe that while nerve gas kills thousands of non-combatants by floating around everywhere, conventional weapons do not, and only explode when and where you want them to explode. (Tell that to civilians around the world who are getting whacked at their weddings by drones, or still getting their feet blown off by unexploded US ordinance years after a war has ended.) The history of the twentieth century would argue, overwhelmingly, that the preponderance of casualties in any war have always been civilian casualties. Syria would be different because…..?

Furthermore, there is no group of rebels that, regardless of how well or poorly they use their weapons, seems to think that torturing, raping and executing civilians is a bad idea. So who would the “good guys” be? Tom? Nick? Enquiring minds want to know.

Why Do They Call It Hot ‘Lanta? Well, this year it might be because of Spellman College’s awesome feminist lineup for the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series. I have to go down to this hopping city to do some research, and might time a visit to coincide with one of these guest speakers: Evelyn Hammonds, Deborah Willis, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, and Dorothy Roberts. Keep your eye on the website, since last I heard they were talking about live streaming some or all of the talks. See what you have money for when you ditch intercollegiate athletic programs?

And Finally, It’s Job Season.  The Modern Language Association has stopped making people without jobs pay to read the job listings. Better late than never! Put that $60 towards a pair of interview shoes or your bar bill, whichever seems more relevant. Starting September 13, job listings in literature  will be open access, as they are at the American HIstorical Association as well (HT to the beautifully redesigned AHA Today.)



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