Founded in 1960, the minnesota review has long served as a leading outlet for literary fiction and poetry, and, under Jeffrey Williams’ editorship since 1992, established itself as a foremost outlet for cultural-studies scholarship and reflection about the increasingly sorry state of the profession under managerial domination. It has grown into a uniquely influential voice in literary and cultural studies. Every issue features essays by and interviews with leading intellectuals in a wide variety of disciplines.

In 2005, Jerry Graff called it “essential for keeping au courant with the best current thinking in the areas of literary and cultural theory.” In the same year, Paul Buhle called it “the standard-bearer for dissenting views on American literature and culture” that his students in the American Civilization program at Brown read with “near-religious fervor,” outlasting “nearly all of the journals of its type founded in the 1960s and 70s.” During Williams’ editorship, mr garnered more mentions in the Chronicle of Higher Ed than any other academic journal.

But now the quality trolls at Carnegie Mellon, one of the most aggressively “well-managed” institutions in the country, with every tub truly on its own bottom, threatens the survival of this venerable humanities institution with the ceaseless renewal of the doltish mantra to “do more with less.”

Upon arriving at CMU, Williams’ 2-year deal for support of mr was similar to the arrangements he’d had previously at the University of Missouri and ECU: modest subvention for office space and mailing, and just $9,000 for graduate student labor, plus a single course release and one month of summer pay. Hardly a fortune in a world of $50,000 vehicle allowances and $6 million mansion renovations for university “leadership.” And a real bargain for a school like CMU with an engineering rep and a confessed need to brush up its humanities cred. As Williams notes wryly, the level of support he negotiated from CMU–and believed would continue, or he would have negotiated a longer arrangement–was provided without question by the “much less wealthy and prestigious institutions” where he’d previously worked.

But at the end of his first year there, Williams found himself without prior warning (surprise! managerial “innovation” at work!) pressed to “do more with less.” It was suggested–just as a for-instance–that he could get one graduate student to do the work of two, and thereby shave a princely $4500 off the hefty 9 grand they chipped off of CMU’s mighty fiscal block. He quickly assembled a roster of luminaries (Jameson, Felski, Berube, Menand) to defend the journal, and limped through for another three years, when, in in 2007-08, the demands were renewed, this time more firmly.

This time he was offered the option, instead of shortchanging the graduate student employees, of giving back his month of summer pay–doing the same work as before, but for a 12% cut in pay.

There’s a slim chance that the quality clowns will relent, with the possibility of resistance emerging from Williams’ departmental colleagues and graduate students in the literature and cultural studies program at a meeting tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meanwhile, though, Williams has taken the line that enough is freaking enough. He’ll give up the journal if another editor can be found and–more likely–if not, he’s made plans for a final issue. Inspired by the 1950s “My Credo” issue of Kenyon Review featuring short, passionate essays by, among others, Cleanth Brooks, Northrop Frye, and Austin Warren, Williams has invited sixteen cultural-studies intellectuals to contribute credos and reflections about the dismal state of the profession for an issue that he feels would fittingly mark his retirement.

You know, there’s a thread over on (union-busting former university president) Trachtenberg’s corner of the Brainstorm group blog on “education gurus.” Twenty Chronicle of Higher Ed readers offered their thoughts. Nobody mentioned Aronowitz. Nobody mentioned Slaughter, Leslie, and Rhoades or Bill Readings. Henry Giroux? Cary Nelson? You gotta be kidding. Nobody mentioned even centrist disappointments like Bok or Kirp.

Quality management? It’s all about taking actual, tangible, meaningful, intellectual quality and turning it into fresh paint for the business school in quest of enhanced revenue.

Responsibility-center management theorist William Massy (download and play his revolting Virtual U training game–it’s scarier than anything I could tell you about it) once opined, in the midst of an essay praising the work of the HMO, that starving the revenue-poor locations in the university made great sense, saying that if you had six gold mines, you’d want to invest most in the one with the greatest assay. But if you have six runners on your team, are you helping the organization by giving nine lungs to the fastest? If you play football, do you win by giving everyone’s meal to the quarterback?






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