Category Archives: the Radical Addresses Her Public

February 2, 2011, 8:28 pm

The Ice Storm: A Few Observations About The Workings Of The University

From the upper deck of Tenured Radical.

Last week the snow day was great, a gift of 24 hours that (depending on your teaching schedule) created the equivalent of a Thanksgiving break.  Now the weather is increasingly a drag.  Despite the dangers and inconveniences of coming up to Zenith, one canceled day seems to be all the educational enterprise can sustain, and we receive messages saying that it is “our choice” whether to come to campus or not.  This often puts one in the untenable position of deciding how much of one’s personal safety is worth risking to not fall any further behind than one already is, given the difficulties of travel (or even walking down the street) in the last ten days.

In 1997, Ang Lee made a film called The Ice Storm about the emotional perils of suburban living in the 1970s.  Based on a 1994 novel by Rick Moody, the movie shows one evening in the life of two New…

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December 4, 2010, 6:44 pm

Saturday Blogging Notes: The Radical Responds To Her Mail

I imagine that many bloggers find themselves getting stuck reading the comments sections of past posts when there are other things to do:  mothers to call, articles to revise, papers to grade, and whatnot.  I’ve been resisting this distraction.  On the other hand, it is the case that a comment, or set of comments, can inspire me to thoughts that I can’t help but write up.  So here goes.

Re. My Recent Post On Skype interviews: Susan points to the advantages of the phone interview over the vagaries of Skype, and noting that each mode calls for equal focus (she also offers several good reasons to wear pants while Skyping.) I agree that focus is required for each, but that phone has its own challenges.  Interviewing committees need to remember that the candidate has no way of recognizing individual voices on a conference call, so that each person who speaks must say:  “This is Tenured Radical…

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November 20, 2010, 3:49 pm

In Case You Were Wondering: The Financial Penalties For Being Unmarried

Stigma or Pride?  Shall the Congress or the Courts Decide?

Despite the fact that I would include myself in the category of people who are utterly unmoved by the romance of gay marriage (except when I am softened by pictures of people who are moved by it), I occasionally feel pissed off about structural discrimination that awards bonuses to people who can and do marry.

Today I opened a letter from TIAA-CREF that contains an “update” to my “original contract…which states that same-sex marriages aren’t recognized under current federal tax law” because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Passed in 1996, DOMA defines marriage as a legal contract that can only be entered into by one man and one woman, and was declared unconstitutional by a federal district court last July.  It was signed into law by William Jefferson Clinton, for which (along with welfare reform and NAFTA) he will roast in…

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November 3, 2010, 12:11 pm

The Space Between Us: An Election Day Wrap-Up From A Bright Blue State

Photo credit:   Smithsonian.com

Exclusive report by Tenured Radical from the People’s Republic of Connecticut. 

Yesterday, as I was going door to door on a get out the vote effort in Zenith, I had to admit that it wasn’t much of an effort, and that it had little to do with getting out the vote.

The idea, for those of you who haven’t done election day door knocking, is this.  You have a map on which are marked likely Democratic voters in a certain region (in this case it was three long blocks just outside the strip malls that lead into Zenith and four apartment buildings embedded in those malls), and you knock on people’s doors.  If they answer, you ask them if they have voted; if they don’t answer, you put what is called a “door hanger” on the knob that has the names and pictures of all the Democratic candidates running for statewide office.  You mark down on your sheet what the outcome of …

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July 14, 2010, 7:15 pm

“Little Gels, You Are The Creme De La Creme:” Teach For America, Redux

It’s been a big week at Tenured Radical. For reasons we are not altogether clear about, our Monday post about Teach For America went viral. According to our sitemeter, Facebook had a lot to do with that, perhaps because people who had a positive or a negative interest in TFA reposted on their own FB pages. Tumblr played a minor role in the last 24 hours, and as I told our dog yesterday, at least four sites (including Google) listed the post as trending (“Trending?” she said to me condescendingly, “You may be a famous blogger and talking head, but speak English, please.”)


I must say, my readers deserve a lot of credit. The comments section represents one of the liveliest and most civil disagreements on this blog, ever. I deleted very few posts, and none for rudeness. You folks who are not very bloggy tended to repost the same comment, slightly edited, multiple times. In your case, I…

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July 8, 2010, 12:27 pm

Dr. Radical, Your Liberal Media Membership Card Is In The Mail

Yesterday afternoon I was tending my email — a precondition for fruitful writing — after having dumped several boxes of old research with a young scholar who plans to make lemonade with it (in a metaphorical sense.) Up pops an email from MSNBC, asking me if I would like to come to New York — like now –to be on one of those political news/opinion shows. It was the Dylan Ratigan Show, hosted that day by Cenk Uyger. Cenk is normally the host of a show called “The Young Turks,” a name you probably couldn’t use in today’s climate if you were not actually Turkish, which Cenk is.

I wrote back and said perhaps I would be interested. Moments later a young feller was on the line and asked: “Can I send a car and bring you to New York now for a 4:30 air time?” Since I had come home from New York at 1:30 in the morning, and it was 103 degrees in Shoreline, I though that sitting in traffic,…

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June 26, 2010, 3:12 pm

Uncivil Liberties: Teaching Evaluations and A Clarification

Courtesy of Margaret Soltan at University Diaries, who draws our attention to the recent exchange between Stanley Fish and Ross Douthat on this matter, I began thinking about teaching evaluations in a more orderly fashion than I have of late. My disorderly thoughts have been sparked by colleagues, several of whom are quite experienced teachers, receiving some of the rudest and cruelest teaching evaluations I have ever read at Zenith. Sexism is also on the rise, particularly among the students of younger, female faculty (who are also sometimes presumed to be adjuncts.)

I found these evaluations remarkable because my experience in the past has been that Zenith students often go out of their way to be charitable to someone they like and have empathy for, sometimes damning their professors with faint and contradictory praise as a result. The evaluations in question do the exact opposite: …

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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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June 9, 2010, 1:21 pm

How To Afford Your First Job, Professor Bumstead: Radical Advice For The Newly Employed

We can all agree it was a terrible job market last year. And yet, some of you will be proceeding, newly hooded, into more highly paid employment than you had last year. When I was in graduate school, we used to distinguish between “a job” (something that pays better than graduate school, which could be anything from a one-year adjunct to an administrative, IT or public history position) and “a real job” (employment that offered a longer future, most likely tenure-track.) Nowadays there is also a third category that has expanded dramatically: the post-doctoral fellowship.

Regardless of what category you fall into, if you have finished your PhD and proceeded to paid employment of any kind, you may be making two to three times the money you made last year, which will make you feel giddy. For this reason, my dear, you are in need of Radical Financial Advice.
1. Find out when you will…

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June 8, 2010, 12:46 pm

Gonna Walk Before They Make Me Run: On Helen Thomas And Retirement

Because of my grown niece, a second wave feminist in a third wave body, I took an interest in Helen Thomas a few years back. Third Wave Niece, a Smith grad, is very into biographies of interesting women who have battled their way through to careers that are characterized by their maleness — journalism, politics, and whatnot. So I purchased a copy of Thomas’s Front Row At The White House: My Life And Times (Scribners, 2000) and read it. A lively account of her career with UPI, it’s a great history of journalism from one woman’s point of view. But it’s also graphic example of all the ways women were locked out of professional life in structural ways until federal legislation, and lawsuits filed under that legislation, literally permitted them in the room. As Thomas (a not particularly ideological feminist) broke down those barriers in political reporting, women streamed in behind he…

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