Category Archives: the Radical Addresses Her Public

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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May 2, 2010, 12:08 pm

Like Sands Through The Hourglass, So Are The Days Of Our Lives: Having The Courage Not To Go To Graduate School

You would think that May would signal the winding down of things at Zenith. In fact, as we all know, the liberal arts college has a tendency to crank things up toward the end of the year. Didn’t spend enough of your budget? There will be a memo asking for suggestions on how to do that. Last year, when I was chair and everyone was in ex post crash-o mentality, we saved a lot of time via a memo telling us that departments and programs were prohibited from spending down at the end of the year, although how they would be able to sift legitimate from illegitimate expenses was not clear. (“Six skateboards? Why did sociology purchase skateboards?”) Prizes and various awards must be given, and we will be solicited for the names of ever-more students to receive them. Committees that have been ruminating on this or that will be rushing legislation to the floor of the last faculty meeting….

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March 16, 2010, 1:43 pm

College Teaching 101: Managing The Lecture Class

In February 2010, I participated in a Roundtable discussion about teaching lecture classes at Zenith. The following essay about teaching is developed from the notes I prepared for that occasion.

Why is it important to learn how to teach lecture classes well?

First of all, for many of us, lecturing will make up the lion’s share of our course load – whether you measure that in students taught (a SLAC) or courses taught (a research or state university.) Novice teachers live with the terror of a little-acknowledged fact: the lecture room is where your weaknesses, or your inexperience, are most easily revealed; it is where your expertise will be challenged most publicly, often by questions that come out of left field, questions that may be designed to undermine you — or not. Disturbing things happen in the lecture room because students (having not yet gone to graduate school to be…

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January 14, 2010, 2:50 pm

Playing The Blame Game: Or; How Should Graduate Schools Respond To The Bad Job Market?

Over at ConfessionsOf A Community College Dean your favorite administrator and mine, Dean Dad, asks: “Why do people still go to grad school in the liberal arts?”

Good question. Although I have no former undergraduates making the leap into a Ph.D. program this year, the bigger picture is quite different. As Dean Dad notes, “the adjunct trend is so well-established at this point, and the economic irrationality of grad school so screamingly obvious, that it’s fair to wonder why many departments are actually experiencing record applications.” While he explores various irrational explanations — love for learning, self-delusion, and hiding out until the recession is over — there is, he argues, some rationality to the choice:

academia still offers a surface legibility. Yes, the odds are daunting, but good students have spent years rising to the top of academic competitions. There’s still a…

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October 25, 2009, 1:00 pm

Next Week, For My Benefit, President Obama Will Play Basketball With Lesbians

What, exactly, has happened to feminism?

If Joanne Lipman’s peculiar rant in yesterday’s New York Times about why women should only blame themselves for the lack of gender equality in the so-called “post-feminist” world was not enough to inspire this question (see Historiann for extended commentary), read today’s paper. A front-page story by Mark Leibovich features former Clintonista Dee Dee Myers wagging a finger at President Obama for playing sports with men. Forget it that a grown woman who calls herself Dee Dee, and whose job description seems to be pundit, is accusing the President of not taking female people seriously. Forget it that Dee Dee would know better than anyone that it is not always a good thing for the President to relax by playing with girls.

No, I am going to lay those issues aside and cut to the chase: who the President plays basketball with has nothing to do with…

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August 8, 2009, 5:23 pm

Research Trip Skills; or, “Be Prepared!”

I remember heading out on my first research trip. It was when I was just beginning my dissertation, and I thought I would start with a week at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

The first thing that happened was that my car broke down. I had to rent another one along the way. Oh, and did I tell you that this was prior to the invention of the easily portable laptop computer? I had not yet purchased the then-revolutionary Kaypro (the computer that looked like a terrorist’s suitcase, weighed enough to actually have fissionable material in it, and required two 6×6 discs just to boot up?) So we took notes by hand. That’s right: on index cards, just like our high school history teachers taught us.

Although I had some money for a motel, I did not have enough for a motel and a kennel, so I took my long-suffering Labrador Daisy with me. She spent the day in the …

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