Category Archives: faculty-administration relations

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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June 17, 2013, 4:50 pm

Reasons to Quit Your Job, Part Eleventy

tumblr_m8t23d8EZ71rdpkbzo1_500Try Googling “Leaving Academia” and see how many posts come up. Lots. Many of them are sad or angry.  Some are very creative and talk about the real choices people have and why they activate them. There was at least one post making the rounds of Facebook a few months back in which someone struggling with an emotional disability and racism resigned, saying that it was impossible to preserve one’s sanity in the contemporary university. If you have tenure, or a tenure track job, you might want to check into these: what’s going on “out there” can really make you think hard about your own life and choices.

But then there are the other articles — the ones that the Huffington Post digs up, stories that are of “Jennifer Anniston’s Wedding on Hold” variety of academic news. Those are the ones that really cheer me up. (more…)

January 24, 2013, 12:31 pm

Radical Academic Advice: Think Before Hitting “Reply All”

My inbox at 10:17 a.m. today.

A common faculty complaint at my last job was what we might call “failure to consult.”  Whether it was a project occurring at the upper echelons of the administration, a department chair’s carrying out an initiative or, most commonly, the work of a faculty committee, rule of thumb was to imagine anyone who might be a stakeholder and then keep that person informed. In the days before email, this usually meant having frequent and informative meetings, dropping into offices as you meandered down the hall, or copying a memo multiple time and putting it in separate interoffice envelopes. My favorite form of consultation? – and I bet no one under the age of fifty has ever done this –  using one interoffice envelope and instructing recipients to check their name off the memo, put it back …

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May 26, 2012, 2:04 pm

Should Someone Who Has Been Harassed By A Faculty Member Sign A Confidentiality Agreement?

The answer, in short, is no.  Never. And if an administrator tells you that you must do so in order for the university to act, that person is bluffing.

I am moved to address this question because I stumbled upon a blog post written by a student I used to know.  I am not going to comment on the specifics of this case because I know absolutely nothing about it beyond what is alleged in the post.  But I do know that I have heard this story more than once, and it sounds familiar.  I also know that it is routine on college campuses to remand charges of sexual assault and sexual/racial/gender harassment made against faculty to secret administrative processes which have little or no legal standing except in the (important) sense that institutions must act on violations of their own rules.  What is too often the case is that the person harmed by a faculty member is asked, and agrees, …

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September 4, 2011, 10:50 am

I Hate Teaching on Labor Day: An End of Summer Polemic

Do faculty and students get burned when the academic calendar ignores federal and religious holidays?

Oh sure, write it off to the selfish impulses of a persnickety faculty member who is unwilling to sacrifice for the common good (think again.) Tell me that I just had twelve paid weeks off (not true:  I have a nine month salary that is paid over twelve months), and that compared to such a luxury, one little day can’t possibly matter.  Tell me that this calendar was approved at a faculty meeting I failed to attend (true) and that if I had really cared I would have attended the faculty meeting and made one of my impassioned, fruitless speeches (which would have embarrassed everyone and changed nothing.)

Let’s repeat it for emphasis: I hate teaching on Labor Day.  Hate. It. (more…)

July 22, 2011, 12:09 pm

Why Are The Cajuns Ragin’? Or; How To Balance Budgets At The Expense Of Education

Think hard, then say bye-bye.

Ever wonder how to get rid of tenured faculty?  Kill the whole department!  Any fool knows that.

That’s what they are doing at the University of Louisiana, where the Cognitive Science PhD program (the only one in the state) is being shut down and two faculty will be cut loose by 2013.  The program is, in administration-speak, a “low completer,” which means it is producing too few graduates to be continued.  According to this local news story, “in a three year period it produced five graduates,” although by increasing the window to five years, the number of graduates rises to 10 graduates.  When this was revealed it looked like the program would be saved.  But no dice. (We wonder at Tenured Radical — how many graduates would have saved the program? 12? 15? And could…

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December 18, 2010, 3:31 pm

Is There A Budget To Be Cut Under Your Christmas Tree? A View To The Future

In yesterday’s Huffpo, David J. Skorton, the president of Cornell University  asserted that “We Can Do Better On College Costs.”  He proposes calling a halt to the educational blame game:  “let’s stop the intellectual shoving matches,” he argues, “and get about the business of dealing with those factors that can and should be controlled to attenuate the rate of rise of both cost and price. And let’s also stop apologizing for investments that are necessary to keep higher education one of America’s premier ‘products.’” His suggestions include:

  1. greater specialization on individual campuses, so that institutions are not duplicating partially filled programs;
  2. reviews of “faculty productivity and quality,” including post-tenure reviews;
  3. acknowledging that educational administrators who are skilled at running an institution might not always have the skills to do so in a cost-efficient way.


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    October 25, 2010, 2:07 pm

    Department of Economics: Observations On The Lack Of Raises and Thinking Out Of The Box

    As if you didn’t know

    We are in a prolonged period in which suppressing faculty wages is the preferred solution (after firing the staff) to “controlling” the costs of higher education.  Although paid better than many colleagues at state institutions and community colleges, for my two decades at Zenith, the faculty has come to the depressing conclusion at the end of each year that we are more or less at the bottom of our so-called “peer group” of liberal arts colleges.  One year, in an attempt to raise our position, our peer group was adjusted:  several larger research institutions were removed and they were replaced with smaller liberal arts colleges.  This helped our ranking for a bit, but of course, university rankings — whether they are compiled by U.S. News and World Report or by the AAUP — don’t pay the mortgage.

    At age 52, I make slightly more than 107K, 16K less than the median…

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    June 16, 2010, 2:11 pm

    Why Can’t We Get Anything Done? How To Run An Effective Meeting

    No one likes going to meetings. But admit it: you dread some meetings more than others, don’t you? And if you hate all meetings, academia might not be the career for you. As chair of a major Zenith university committee some years back, one week I was tearing my hair out because I was scheduled up to the eyeballs with meetings. “How the Hades do administrators ever get any work done if they are in fracking meetings all the time?” I railed at my companion, a former dean, as I pulled on a clean black tee shirt to greet that day’s scheduling marathon in high style.
    “That’s how administrators do their work,” she replied patiently, reaching for the Arts section of the New York Times. “They are doing their work in meetings.” I was gobsmacked. Of course that was right. So maybe it wasn’t the meetings themselves that were the problem — it was the question of making — and marking — the…

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    May 14, 2009, 12:52 pm

    If You Try Sometimes, You’ll Get What You Need: How To Think Like An Administrator

    Gary Olson’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, hilariously titled “How To Join The Dark Side” (hence my choice for an illustration) is a useful take on how to think about becoming a university administrator. What I like best about it is that it avoids a common stereotype (administrators are failed academics, or worse, not intellectually inclined at all when lacking a Ph.D.) and takes university administration seriously as a career that intelligent people train for and enjoy. Furthermore (and this is the kind of thing no one talks about in academia) it suggests that an academic career might entail several stages, in which one’s life could be plotted as ambitiously as a Jane Austen novel. A career might begin with the majority of one’s efforts devoted to establishing one’s credentials as a scholar and a teacher, really learning those jobs inside and out as well as…

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