Category Archives: The Radical Seeks A More Perfect Union

October 29, 2011, 9:47 am

What Movement History Do We Mobilize? In Which Michael Zweig Begins The Conversation and Tenured Radical Continues It

Illustration/Design Fran Luck; Special Collections, Duke University Library

SUNY-Stonybrook economist Michael Zweig has a great piece up at the HuffPo (October 28 2011), linking the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to a longer history of radical youth protest. “In challenging the 1%,” Zweig writes,

“OWS has taken the moral high ground at a time when our country seems to have lost its moral compass. The growing movement holds corporate elites and their political representatives responsible for the moral failings exposed by the great and growing inequalities between the 1% and the 99%, and the widespread suffering of mass unemployment and home foreclosures in the midst of highly concentrated personal wealth and political power. OWS challenges the deep immorality and total unacceptability of the economic a…

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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…)

March 29, 2011, 11:18 am

Tuesday Found Objects: What You Need To Subpoena From My Zenith Computer Today

I was hanging out this morning using my university computer to download BDSM pornography and order Angela Davis posters (paid for out of my research account, of course) when I decided to take a break and check up on what my other radical colleagues were doing.

They’ve been busy!  So without further ado:

  • The Facts, Ma’am.  Jon Wiener, from his perch at The Nation, asks:  “What does it take to become the target of this kind of attack?”  Wiener points out that Cronon is “not Bill Ayers,” but a self-avowed political centrist who published “a simple fact” that Republicans in Wisconsin did not want revealed:  their close ties to a group that drafts union-busting legislation and creates public relations strategies for passing that legislation. This fact, Wiener argues, “disrupts the Republicans’ explanation of what they are doing in Wisconsin. They say the new law there ending collective…

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March 18, 2011, 1:10 pm

Take My Phone. Please.

“Why don’t you try two Dixie Cups and a string!?”

A couple years ago I began to receive e-mails from a dear friend in the University of California system; in the signature line, the e-mails said: “ACADEMIC OFFICE PHONE DISCONNECTED DUE TO BUDGET CRISIS.”  The first time I got this message the initial, draconian cuts had just been announced. Students and faculty were in the streets in California.  Many of us at private institutions were waiting for the ax to fall.  Later, we were accepting the news that there would be no raises the following year, and that by doing this our institutions might be able to avoid the layoffs of adjuncts and staff that many of the public unis were enduring.

Fast forward three years to where we are at Zenith, as far as I can tell.  We ended up laying off lots of those people, and allowing other positions to go unfilled. At street level, things are horrendously…

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October 26, 2010, 10:00 pm

Department of Economics, Part II: Organize, Goddammit!

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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September 22, 2010, 2:11 pm

It’s Not The Football, Stupid: It’s The Dangerous People Who Misplay The Game Of Life

My partner asked me the other day why I don’t really watch football anymore. There is the time factor: how many of us in academia can really set aside whole afternoons or evenings just to watch games that would be 2/3 as long if they weren’t packed with ads? Then there is the concussion factor. I also stopped enjoying professional boxing when I realized that I was watching the very tip of an iceberg of men (and now women) who were being slowly battered into disability and early death in the hope of making slightly better than a working class living as an athlete.

Then there are the steroids, and the enforced obesity in certain positions, since super-sizing yourself is required for success at every level of football. There is the “these men-are-a$$holes” factor, which ultimately caused me to stop watching ice hockey, since it suddenly struck me that normal athletes do not see…

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September 1, 2010, 1:35 am

This Is The End, My Only Friend The End: US Combat Forces Out of Iraq

Answer the following question. The closest parallel to the outcome achieved by seven years of war in Iraq is:
a. Vietnam;
b. Korea;
c. Weimar Germany;
d. Only time will tell.

August 18, 2010, 1:11 pm

Department of Radical Pedagogy: Or, A Few Easy Steps Towards Being A Good Academic Adviser

Thirty-four years ago this month, I packed an old steamer trunk, a duffel bag of jeans and tee shirts, a newish (manual) typewriter, and I headed off to Oligarch University to make my fortune. Having made a declaration of interest in the direction of the English Department, I was assigned a genteel, elderly male advisor who had wispy white hair, excellent manners and the nickname of a baby farm animal. I met with him exactly once, I think, and although he gave me very little advice he also did no harm. Being me, I also didn’t really want any advice. I had been steered, by a high school mentor, to a member of the large staff that taught multiple sections of the introductory literature course to which those of us with an AP were admitted, and I cared about little else. My new professor wore sunglasses throughout our entire meeting and treated me with gravity and formality, all of…

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August 15, 2010, 3:01 pm

Never Mix, Never Worry: A Brief (And Incomplete) History Of The Academic Couple

Push your way past the Katie Roiphe essay on page 2 of the New York Times “Sunday Styles” section today (yes, this conservative anti-feminist really does seem to own the column named “Cultural Studies,” which is an irony, is it not, given what cultural studies represents on the academic left? Does Roiphe know this? One suspects not.) Make your way to “Modern Love,” where Boston College Shakespeare scholar Caroline Bicks, who also blogs at Academic Shakespeare, writes about academic commuting. In “Is The Husband Going To Be A Problem?” she addresses going on the job market as a couple, commonly known in academia as “the two body problem.” She also mentions what I think is probably a widespread experience: Bicks’ husband was never asked about what would happen to her on his interviews; but whether he would be a “hiring issue” was an anxious subtext of her interviews, a question that was …

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