Author Archives: Claire Potter

December 12, 2014, 9:42 am

Noel Jackson’s Loony Bin Trip

Massachusetts Institute of Technology lit prof Noel Jackson is claiming that his employers hospitalized him involuntarily after he posted a series of enraged tweets about police violence against black men. He has also called out #DH colleagues at the University of Maryland for failing to bring digital humanists to the barricades. Jackson’s tweets include a charming picture of himself (apparently posing as a hip-hop artist), in which he gives MIT the finger. Check out this story by Nina Strochlic in The Daily BeastCheck out Jackson’s Twitter feed here.

So what’s my problem with the story? Strochlic’s only real source is Jackson’s Twitter feed.

In a tweet sent yesterday, Jackson states:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 8.24.24 AM In case you are wondering who “bitch tricks” is, Jackson is referring to his employer: he uses this phrase regularly to refer to MIT. When challenged by a female graduate student on Twitter a…

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December 11, 2014, 10:07 am

And The Dead (Fields of History) Shall Rise Up

jefferson-davis-in-a-dress-1865-caricatureFollowing on the public hissies being thrown about the demise of The New Republic, there is apparently another cause for concern about the death of intellectual life as we know it: the history of the Civil War is being miserably neglected.

This will surprise many people. Am I the only one who remembers that some years back the Journal of American History announced that it was no longer accepting everything written about the Civil War for review? This was not because of an unreasoning prejudice against these books, but because they were completely awash in them and there were many other fields that needed the space.

Fact: military histories of the Civil War are staples for some university presses. They are not being published because they are exactly interesting, but because there is a solid and dependable market for Civil War and local history. There are enthusiasts out there who…

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December 10, 2014, 9:37 am

Gifts From the Childless

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Lots of pieces are critical to the successful present.

It’s that time of year — lots of gifts to buy and no time to buy them. Our buddies over at ProfHacker have some terrific ideas. Alternatively, if you are planning on shopping Amazon, you can go over to the Althouse blog and support a small-business killing megacorporation and a libertarian law professor at the same time.

But in this post I want to address my particular expertise during the holiday season: I am the childless person who buys presents for other people’s kids. If you are childless, and you like the children in your family, you must buy them presents. The parents, not so much! A fruit basket will do for them.  But the key way to be remembered by children who you do not see as much of as you would like (which is, like, all of them in case any …

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December 7, 2014, 11:13 am

Is The New Republic Dead? Who Cares?

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What do you mean A DIGITAL MEDIA COMPANY????

I won’t even begin to try to recapture the traffic on Facebook about the recent implosion of The New Republic (mostly because I don’t have time to ask my friends if I can quote them) but several things surprised me about this event.

First, many people who have resigned from TNR in the past week are friends of mine. Second, they were all men, and all white. Yes, this honkin’ radical lesbian has a lot of #whitemalefriends, and some of them wrote for TNR. Surprise!  None of my friends who resigned from this 100-year-old publication were gay, people of color or women: they never wrote for, or worked at, TNR in the first place.

I was unaware of all these things since I haven’t had a subscription to TNR since college (and yes, contra one of my friends, I do…

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November 29, 2014, 12:30 pm

Study says Humanities Ph.D. Candidates Should Drink More Coffee

Drink-Coffee

Ok, I lied. But you clicked on it, didn’t you?

Today we focus on yet another study, this one by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The AAAS injects new life into a tired conversation (one that has been going on intermittently for about five decades) about whether humanities Ph.D.s spend too much time in graduate school. What are they doing there? Should they do less of it? More? Should they do the same things — only faster? No one seems to know much, except that the median time to degree is 6.9 years.

As Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed noted last week, in a follow up to the MLA’s 2014 report that recommended a five-year Ph.D. clock “with wiggle room” (perhaps two years of wiggling?), AAAS is suggesting that humanities graduate students might benefit more generally from a shorter time to degree.

Among the key findings is that the median time is longer in the…

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November 28, 2014, 12:35 pm

Edu-blogging After the Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict

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Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, who never allowed her son to be forgotten.

If you are a writer for an education weekly, what exactly is supposed to happen in the aftermath of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO? The decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, reached just before Thanksgiving, has swept through the academic Facebook and the blogosphere, making everything else seem irrelevant. Here are a few random questions and thoughts.

What should we teach next week? In an ideal world, we would all agree to take a day off for a teach-in on race in Amerika — like maybe once a week. Barring that outcome, many faculty may be puzzling about how to go back into the classroom after break. Will students expect, hope for, or dread, a special class devoted to Ferguson? I suspect it depends where you are…

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November 20, 2014, 8:12 am

Harvard Housekeepers Strike, Rally

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If you remember this one, you are as old as me.

Citing “pain and sometimes life-altering injuries” acquired while working at the Harvard-owned Doubletree in Allston, housekeepers went out on strike this morning at 5:30 a.m.

What do they want? They want to join a union, something they originally approached Harvard about in 2013.

The workers, who claim they are the first housekeepers in Boston history to go out on strike, are assembling at 9:30 and 5:00 at Harvard’s Science Center Plaza, supported by students and clerical workers.

As an aside, one wonders what Harvard is doing owning a hotel in the first place. Small colleges often build, or partner with hotel chains, to maintain a hotel (Williams and Wesleyan come to mind) because otherwise there might literally be nowhere for visitors to stay, much less a…

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November 16, 2014, 10:15 am

Sunday College Roundup

This sweet guy is Derrick Gordon, first out gay man to start a DI college hoops game.

This sweet guy is Derrick Gordon, first out gay man to play in a DI college hoops game.

A powerful essay by Yale professor of women, gender and sexuality studies Inderpal Grewal about why racial and gender diversity on the faculty matters to how women, people of color and queers are treated on campus. Check out the section of the comments thread where someone (presumably a Yalie but maybe not) claims WGSS is not getting adequate resources from the university because the courses are easy A’s, providing even more evidence for what Grewal has argued.

This week, Derrick Gordon, of the University of Massachusetts, the first men’s DI college basketball player to come out as gay, started his first game since the announcement on April 9. Note to campuses trying to recruit talented scholar-athletes: he chose UMass be…

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November 14, 2014, 10:10 am

I Want To Borrow Gobs of Money for College (Said No One Ever)

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How are educational debt and assumptions about student borrowing related to other forms of financial fraud perpetrated under deregulation?

In “A House is Not A Credit Card,” Bethany McLean of The New York Times points out the obvious: encouraging people to take money out of their home equity for consumer spending was a major factor in a foreclosure crisis that is not yet over. “A sizable percentage of mortgages — including most of the risky ones that were made in the run-up to the financial crisis — are not used to buy a home,” McLean writes. “They’re used to refinance an existing mortgage. When home prices are rising and mortgage rates are falling, many homeowners choose to replace their mortgage with a bigger one, taking the difference in cash. In other words, mortgages are a way to provide credit.”

Well here’s the news: people also take a lot of money out of their…

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November 12, 2014, 9:22 am

J. Edgar Hoover Uncensored

mag-16Lede-t_CA0-blog427Yale’s Beverly Gage has an essay in the New York Times about the famous letter sent to Martin Luther King on November 18, 1964 accusing him of being “a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” The letter, sent by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of its COINTELPRO operation intended to disable radical movements in the United States, catalogues a range of sexual misbehaviors. It uses the word “evil” multiple times, as Gage points out; and concludes with the well known phrase: “There is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is.”

We have known about this letter for years, but it has always appeared in redacted form, and those who have used it have always presumed that it was intended to push King to suicide. But was that actually its purpose, and under what circumstances would Hoover have imagined that a man schooled in non-violence, a…

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