Category Archives: the Horror

November 6, 2009, 1:10 am

And If You Give Us A Full Book Of Green Stamps, You Can Teach Macroeconomics

These noble bloggers provided the second notification of the evening that Patricia Turner, vice provost for the University of California Office of Undergraduate Studies (and henchman Winder McConnell, the director of teaching resources for that floundering institution) have a great new idea: get people to teach for free. The first time I saw this news on Facebook I wouldn’t have believed it, except that the source was impeccable. According to the online edition of The California Aggie, freshman seminar instructors all received a letter asking them whether they would be willing to forgo the small sum they are paid for this work, $1500-2000 that is normally deposited in their research accounts. “Though Turner could not predict how much money the salary reduction would save,” staff writer Lauren Steussy reports, “she stated that approximately 25 instructors agreed to forgo or reduce…

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October 21, 2009, 6:49 pm

Here’s A Place To Begin Reforming Health Care: A Letter To My (Former) Primary Care Physician


Dear Dr. PCP,

I called your office this morning at 9 a.m. because I realized this morning that a cold I had yesterday had triggered an asthma attack. I am currently on maintenance medications for asthma (Singulair and Zyrtec), which means I am almost never actively asthmatic. The corollary to this is that when an asthma attack commences I know that the situation is potentially serious, and I explained this to the woman who answered the telephone at your office. I asked for a prescription refill for an albuterol inhaler and an Azmacort inhaler, and told the administrator that my history of asthma, and the drugs I have been prescribed in the past (including these) could be found in my file. This is what followed:

I offered to come in to the office if a doctor wished to see me before refilling my prescriptions.

The administrator said that you were out of the office, but that there was an…

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September 29, 2009, 10:08 am

More Annals of the Great Depression: What Divides Us And Why

At Zenith University, like everywhere else, there are budget cuts. There were cuts last year; there will be more cuts this year; one imagines there will perhaps be more cuts next year. Everyone thinks of us as a rich little school, and compared to some we are: compared to many schools with which we are associated (Amherst, Williams) we are not. What compounds the problem (and I won’t bore you with the details) is that up until about a decade ago, the combination of poor investing, insufficient fund-raising and living beyond our means meant that not only did Zenith’s endowment not grow, it shrank dramatically from the bountiful era of owning My Weekly Reader, a period which shaped the expectations and thinking of several generations of faculty still working at the university. Assertions that we are very short of cash are met with varying levels of disbelief, even though we all also…

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September 26, 2009, 2:48 pm

Our Person In Tegucigalpa: Zelaya Returns to Tegucigalpa, Honduran Police Violence Escalates

As the Obama administration clicks its worry beads over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the potential for a nuclear Iran, threats to democracy in our own hemisphere fight for attention as they often do. I call your attention to the fact that political violence in Honduras has escalated this week. Crowds gathering peacefully to demand that the President they elected be restored to office are being assaulted; some protesters have been killed, and many others have been arrested. The photo at left, taken in Tegucigalpa this week, is of a police surveillance helicopter. With new elections coming up in late November of this year, the stakes for democracy in Honduras are very high.

Many of you may recall that Manuel Zelaya was arrested by the military last summer, flown out of Honduras in his pajamas, and dumped like a bag of laundry. Roberto Michiletti, the choice of the country’s oligarchy,…

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July 14, 2009, 3:02 pm

“Sincerely Yours, The Department Of Miserable Bastards”

“The partly filled lifeboat standing by about 100 yards away never came back. Why on Earth they never came back is a mystery. How could any human being fail to heed those cries?” Jack B. Thayer, a survivor of RMS Titanic, April, 1912.

Thanks to my colleague Margaret Soltan at University Diaries, I have acquired a link to this letter. It is signed by Andrew Scull, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of California, San Diego and twenty-two of his fellow chairs, including John Marino, the chair of history. English, in my experience often the home of gentler folk, is not a signatory. I don’t see any of the chairs of interdisciplinary programs like Gender Studies or Ethnic Studies either. So that tells you something right there.

Read the letter for yourself and see what you think. True, higher education in California is imperiled by the state …

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April 4, 2009, 8:10 pm

The College Catalogue Goes Bye-Bye: Harvard Catches Up With Zenith At Last

Why does John Harvard look so depressed and defeated? Is it the endowment? Is it the quality of the entering class? No! It’s the death of the course catalogue as we know it.

Following the Harvard Crimson, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Harvard University has eliminated printed course catalogues, faculty and student handbooks, and something called the “Q-Guide,” in favor of on-line versions of all these documents. The “Q-Guide,” which publishes summaries of teaching evaluations, is undoubtedly a grisly publication full of accurate, witty and devastating humor about our colleagues who work at an institution commonly known as the Northern Zenith. I am sure the Harvard faculty are glad to see the back of that one, Mary.

The move to web-based publishing is budgetary to be sure, but one administrator points out that the course catalogue will now be much more accurate than…

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February 23, 2009, 2:06 pm

The Radical Opposes Boycotting Israeli Scholars In The Name Of Peace

I have received numerous emails from progressive colleagues in the last three weeks about a proposed boycott of Israeli scholars. This move is intended as a protest against the recent, devastating illegal Israeli incursion into Gaza. Several messages I received this weekend cited this article by David Lloyd, professor of English at the University of Southern California. As Lloyd reminds us, the boycott strategy is not only a response to the long history of illegal Israeli interventions in the region and the Israeli government’s continuous undermining of the peace process, but a response to the vicious attacks from the American right on U.S.-based scholars who question or oppose Israel’s self-perceived national destiny in the region. Lloyd writes:

It is on account of this climate of intimidation and the lockdown on political discourse that we resorted to calling for a boycott of Israel…

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February 7, 2009, 6:32 pm

Advanced Interviewing; or, My Favorite Martian

“Dear Professor Radical,” wrote a longtime lurker who had finally decided, in desperation, to reveal hirself. “You told us about the job letter. About the phone call. About the conference interview. About wardrobe — even though you obviously know nothing about clothes: everyone knows you wear nothing but black and grey trousers from Banana Republic, complemented by matching T-shirts. And yet, right on the brink of crossing the finish line, you have abandoned us. WHAT ABOUT THE CAMPUS INTERVIEW, DAMMIT?!?”

Well, I’m sorry. This has been quite a dilemma for me, in part because we have been too busy interviewing at Zenith for me to attend to any of my professional responsibilities, much less write blog posts. But I had an ethical problem as well: should I actually be giving advice about campus visits when we, in the history department at Zenith, were interviewing eleven candidates …

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December 10, 2008, 3:22 pm

Lifeboat: A Conversation About The Incredible Shrinking Budget

Yesterday we had a big meeting at Zenith: more members of the faculty attended than at any previous meeting I can recall, except for one about ten years ago when our last newly hired president was introduced. The Radical and several co-conspirators used this unusual quorum to kill a major university committee to which they had been elected. It was a hideous, time-waster of a major committee, one that received institutional problems that no one wanted to do anything about, made recommendations after many circular and ill-informed debates, and saw those recommendations sent to The File That Has No Name by the administrator who had been appointed the boss of us. In retaliation — I mean, response — to this institutional travesty, we secretly devoted our energy, not to issues that were dumped on our doorstep, but to creating a rationale and a strategy for killing the committee. The…

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October 12, 2008, 1:30 pm

And A Special Little F***k You From Citibank: the Radical Comments on the Current Economic Crisis

One of my responses to the financial meltdown was to cancel a bunch of credit cards. How did I acquire all these credit cards in the first place? Well, in several ways, but most of all because they were offered to me by banks at low (or no) interest. They were offered to me as great opportunities, full of flattering language about how my credit history had caused me to be selected as a Particularly Prestigious Customer. In fact, I was getting them because we sold a house, bought a house, paid off a mortgage, acquired a new (relatively modest) primary mortgage, added a small construction loan, and made our payments punctually. In other words, because financial institutions share so much information, it was clear that the Radical family was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the space of about sixteen months. And much as I would like to imagine myself as Particularly…

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