Category Archives: Fear Itself

August 8, 2014, 11:13 am

Why You Might Not Want to “Reply To All” (and Other Email Reforms)

e6c8_reply_allThere are lots of ways for university profs to waste their own, and everyone else’s, time, but email is a huge one. It has all the disadvantages of old-timey paper memos, as well as the capacity of social media to distract. Every once in a while on Facebook or on a blog, someone I e-know confesses to having upwards of four to five thousand emails in his or her inbox, awaiting an answer of some kind. Probably about 3/5 of these are utterly useless, past due documents. However, people are so afraid to look at what they haven’t done, as well as what they should do, that the emails just sit there and loom. At least a third of these messages will be the same email, in which everyone on the recipient list has hit “reply to all” multiple times.

To purge or not to purge: that is question. And if you purge without reading, much less responding, when you are drowning in email, is that a…

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February 3, 2013, 10:18 am

True Fact: Fully Armed, Trained Sniper Murdered By Gunman

The late Chris Kyle with one of his weapons. Photo credit.

Popular author Chris Kyle, a former sniper and Navy SEAL, was tragically  shot and killed at a gun range, along with a second man, near Glen Rose, Texas on Saturday. “Witnesses told sheriff’s investigators that a gunman opened fire on the men around 3:30 p.m. Saturday,” the Associated Press reports, “then fled in a pickup truck belonging to one of the victims….The newspapers said a 25-year-old man was later taken into custody in Lancaster, southeast of Dallas, and that charges were expected.”

According to the National Rifle Association (NRA) experts now littering our news shows, this should not have happened. Kyle should have fired back, successfully defended himself by killing the “bad guy,” and be here to tell the tale of why the “good guys” need to…

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October 31, 2012, 5:35 pm

The Job Fairy Speaks: Your Letters of Reference

This, for example, is too short for a letter of reference.

If you have been following Tenured Radical lately, you know that we are all about the Twitter feed.  In the midst of all hell breaking loose with Hurricane Sandy, we got this question in 140 characters or less:

“I’m curious as to what happened to @TenuredRadical’s reflections on the academic job market. No new ones for this season? Too depressing?”

I’m certainly not depressed about the job market — after all, I went on the market and got a job! But to tell you the truth, I have been deliberately trying to ignore it. Last year, having moved to a new job, my pal Lesboprof wrote that she was

having to force myself to stop looking at jobs. I have been looking at job ads for several years, trying to find something in the discipline or in central…

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September 28, 2012, 2:48 pm

A Cheating Heart: There Are Reasons, But No Excuses

Did Bernie Madoff’ cheat on tests in high school?

I am in Ithaca for a conference honoring a distinguished scholar. This conference began — as many do — over an evening of drinks and informal chat as we awaited the proceedings that would commence today.   After the usual introductions (this includes assurances that one has met before — which is likely among historians, even if neither of us is sure where we met) folks got down to the business of launching conversations and extracting wine from cunning banks of mechanical dispensers.

One topic was the prevalence of cheating among college students.  Specifically we discussed this article in the New York Times (9/26/2012) in which students at Stuyvesant, a prestigious New York public high school, opened up to a reporter about how they cheat and why…

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September 19, 2012, 6:08 pm

Should the Syllabus Evolve During the Semester?

This piece of pedagogical advice is for all you faculty out there who are well into the semester and feel as though things are not going as well as they could be:

It’s OK to change your syllabus once the semester has begun. In fact, I recommend it. You can’t change everything, but you can change some things, and it might result in a better class.

Most people feel committed to the syllabus they handed out on the first day of class. I understand this. You worked hard on that syllabus and it represents your mastery of a field. It is a symbol of your intellectual authority and autonomy. Finally, even if you want to change it, you may not think that you are allowed to change it. Many faculty and students regard a syllabus as a contract between teacher and student that should not, and cannot, be changed.

But syllabus isn’t a contract: it’s a guide, and a set of appointments you keep…

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September 10, 2012, 10:35 pm

Join Tenured Radical In New York

Illustration credit: Alex Spector, “The Sun”, 2002 Library of Congress

Tomorrow will be the first time I have been in New York on September 11 since before the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. Furthermore, I now live in a building that not only looks out over Lower Manhattan, but has a clear view of where the World Trade Center used to be and the Freedom Tower has arisen. This morning I woke up to a blue, cloudless sky and was overwhelmed with…dread.

Although I knew that life would change that day as the two tallest buildings in New York burned, twisted, and dissolved, I never could have predicted that this country would be at war for more than a decade. This was just as inconceivable as the idea that dedicated terrorists would learn to drive jetliners so that they could steer them into buildings full of…

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July 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

We Are Everywhere – But So What? A Response to Anderson Cooper Coming Out

Photo liberated from Tina Brown

One good reason to maintain a Yahoo email account is that the opening screen is chock full of useless information that you wouldn’t acquire just by sticking your nose in a book or reading Tenured Radical. Today’s news is that Michael Jordan’s son was arrested for some kind of misbehavior at the Olympic basketball trials; and Rupert Murdoch tweeted something nasty about the Scientologists (a struggle between a behemoth conservative corporate media empire and a behemoth conservative corporate church should be fun to watch.) Last but not least (drum roll): Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor, has come out as gay.

Awesome.  I always like it when someone comes out, particularly older people like Anderson Cooper, who is 43.

I always thought Anderson Cooper seemed a little…

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March 29, 2012, 12:57 pm

Playing Park Politics; Or, The Poopy Public Sphere

You would think our little neighborhood in Shoreline was Dog Doo City.

Last spring there was a big hullabaloo about dogs pooping in public.  The short version is this: local residents were in the habit of using a fenced field attached to two primary schools as a dog park.  I am ambivalent about dog parks, since for every twenty good citizens there is one lunkhead who appears not to be aware that his or her dog gets into fights.  Neither of my dogs has ever fought unless attacked; I find it particularly irritating, then, when a menacing dog has mine on the ground and its human companion instructs me to just “let them work it out.” In my imagination, this type of person is the culprit who leaves large dollops of dog doo for the vast majority of conscientious citizens —  those who do and do not live with dogs — to step in. (more…)

December 31, 2011, 1:51 pm

Living In The Middle; Or, What I Learned At My First Job

Today is the day I go off the payroll of Zenith University, the institution that gave me my first job. Tomorrow I officially go on the payroll of another university in Metropolis, the city where I went to graduate school.  If all goes well, we will move in mid-summer.

OK, so Zenith wasn’t actually my first job.  I had a fair amount of work experience before I began my twenty years there in July 1991. Prior employment included: aluminum can recycling; substitute receptionist at Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate; popcorn stand attendant at a neighborhood movie house (the summer Jaws was released, no less); stringer for the Hartford Courant; administrative assistant and general dogsbody at a boutique public relations firm; writer/editor at an advertising agency; bicycle messenger; teaching assistant, research assistant, assistant to the Dean of the College; proofreader at the SoHo

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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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