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How The University Works » academic freedom http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress Mon, 21 Nov 2011 00:40:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.12 Sympathy For Eichmann? http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/302 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/302#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2011 00:40:41 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/302 With “Why I Feel Bad For the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike,” Atlantic magazine senior editor Alexis Madrigal provides a useful discussion of the criminalization of protest and related militarization of police response. Madrigal is quite right that we’re missing the point if we pretend that Pike is an “independent bad actor” and “vilify” him as an individual without analyzing the flawed system of protest policing in which Pike operates. However, Madrigal makes a serious blunder in framing the piece.

Madrigal’s intention for the frame was to offer a provocative meditation on the way that the management of disorder dehumanizes police officers as well as the police–the sort of thing any reasonably well-read grad student should be able to churn out (cf Foucault, Fanon, etc):

I am sure that he is a man like me, and he didn’t become a cop to shoot history majors with pepper spray. But the current policing paradigm requires that students get shot in the eyes with a chemical weapon if they resist, however peaceably. Someone has to do it.

And while the kids may cough up blood and writhe in pain, what happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse.

We get the point, as far it goes: Most victims of police brutality recover, but the policeman remains a brute. The ruling class doesn’t do its own dirty work; it pays the weakest of us very well to be its police (and university administrators, corporate lawyers, etc).

The last line of Madrigal’s piece is a direct homage to James Baldwin (who wrote those words about the moral ugliness of Alabama troopers using cattle prods on civil rights marchers). Channeling the novelist, Madrigal positions Pike in an educated liberal’s cartoon of the working class, a child-like Christ-figure and fool, a lumbering innocent “man like me” (except nowhere near as clever), dumbly shouldering the sins of his masters.

There are several problems with this glib, recycled framing observation. It neatly targets the magazine’s readership–the morally-conflicted members of the professional-managerial class and educators (inhabiting the upper and lower half of the top income quintile, respectively), which is to say, “us.”

It makes us feel feel better about our own complicities: I serve the system in some ways too but I’d never do what that guy does!

It produces smug condescension. We have a few moral scars ourselves, but overall we feel glad that we’re not morally deformed on Pike’s scale. We feel wise to have exchanged a degree of possible monetary rewards for affective compensation instead. The framing material is one step away from the consumable irony of the Colbert Report, which has a vast, enthusiastic viewership among those whose ideology it purportedly skewers. Like Colbert’s material, Madrigal’s frame makes it pretty easy to consume the piece in ways all too close to the one he claims to critique.

In short, Madrigal misses the point about the banality of Lt. John Pike. Hannah Arendt’s study of Eichmann (and scores of social psychologists and clinical researchers) have helped us to understand that everyday brutality (the “banality of evil”) is furthered by ordinary, unimaginative careerists obeying both orders and law out of a strong sense of duty. All Eichmanns are little Eichmanns; there’s no master villain to blame. Eichmann is responsible for his own sins and those sins are precisely his ordinariness, his obedience, and conventionality. Eichmann isn’t innocent in the system; he’s complicit.

We are Eichmann. Arendt wasn’t trying to get us to “feel bad for” Eichmann, but to see his evil in our ordinary selves, recoil, and change. The discovery that Lt. John Pike is a nice fellow to watch the game with and a good scratcher of puppy ears isn’t meant to lift his moral responsibility–or ours. His and our failure to refuse the system is the system.

Madrigal’s note erases personal, moral agency on both margins of his caricature. The lieutenant–and a few tens of million like him–have not resisted the inner Eichmann. They have chosen obedience and the warm praise of their masters, and the material rewards of their complicity.

By contrast the objects of Pike and his masters’ brutality have chosen the brave, difficult, path of refusal.

But by brave and difficult, I don’t mean exceptional. At most of the forks in our road, most of us choose the brave and difficult path. Every day, hundreds of millions of us refuse invitations to be Eichmann. We refuse to be exploiters and thugs, or their attorneys and lower managers. That’s why democracy works better than hierarchy, and that, among imperfect social organizations, more democratic generally works better than less democratic.

Of course, many of us having made many better choices than Pike doesn’t make us perfect. Far from it. We have accepted a whole lot of Eichmann in our own lives. We could choose a lot more democracy than at present–particularly in our workplaces and schools.

The lesson of Lt. Pike is not that he’s the victim of a lousy policy (“just the end point” of a system of which he “is a casualty too,”as Madrigal says). The lesson is that even within a flawed system he could and should have chosen better. So can we all.

So no, you don’t pretend that the legion of Eichmanns are master villains. But you don’t make excuses for them, either. You try them for their crimes–and you hunt down the little Eichmann in your own soul.

Update Sunday 7pm: Pike and one other UC-D officer have been suspended, and UC system president Yudof will conduct an immediate review of police protocols on the individual campuses.

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch this incredible footage of a shocked and chagrined UC-Davis chancellor walking through a long, seated double file of silently reproachful students.

Also this interview with one of Pike’s victims in BoingBoing: “I received a lot of pepper spray in my throat. I vomited twice, right away, then spent the next hour or two dry heaving. Someone said they saw him spray down my throat intentionally. Another girl near me who has asthma had an attack triggered by the pepper spray, and she was taken to the hospital.”

Previous coverage:

What UC-Davis Pays for Top Talent
Campus Occupations Intensify
Occupying the Catholic Church
Teach-in at Washington Square
Crackdown at OccupyBoston
Why I Occupy
All the News Fit For Bankers

Bankers Chuckle (Must-See Footage of the Week)
Occupiers Issue First Statement (And it’s Bigger News than Radiohead Rumor)
Mass Arrests on Wall Street
Protests Spread to Both Coasts
Police Violence Escalates: Day 5
Wall Street Occupation, Day 3
What Are You Doing for the Next 2 Months?
Occupy and Escalate
Big Brother on Campus
California Is Burning
Will Occupation Become a Movement?
Grad Students Spearhead Wisconsin Capitol Occupation
The Occupation Will Be Televised
The Occupation Cookbook

related:
More Drivel from the NYT
Citizens Smarter than NYT and Washington Post, Again
Education Policy Summit or Puppet Show?
Parents and Teachers, the Alienated Democratic Base
Dianetics For Higher Ed?
We Are All Roman Porn Stars Now
The Churchill Case Goes To Trial

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Giggling at Stereotypes http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 13:57:55 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/290 When we added humorous chapter books (eg Roscoe Riley) to my three-year-old’s story time, we were appalled to find that one of them featured one of the cruder and, we thought, outmoded Asian stereotypes–the New Kid from the Black Lagoon, it turns out, is not the scary blue-skinned alien from Mars that the other kids imagined, but simply Xu Ping, whose family has flown all the way from Beijing to start–you guessed it, a Chinese restaurant. How reassuring.

When planning her own recent humorous chapter book, Brainstorm colleague Naomi Schaefer Riley (no relation to Roscoe) apparently didn’t get the memo that the “lazy professor” stereotype has been consigned to the cultural dustbin since, roughly, her own graduation from kindergarten. As you might surmise from the title (The Faculty Lounges–har har–And Other Reasons You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For), the book relies on silly, outmoded stereotypes, arguments from anecdote and bluster from the likes of John Silber instead of evidence.

At one time or another in what too often reads like an audition for Fox News higher education attack dog analyst, Riley deals every bromide in the deck, usually from the bottom: while accepting conservative foundation support for her own propaganda, she goes far out of her way to caricature Ford Foundation grants in support of academic freedom as a”gravy train” for left academics (would that it were so!)

Just like the beginning chapter books my son favors, Riley’s book features one cartoon illustration per chapter, usually reprinted from stock cartoon banks. None of them have anything to do with the issues; they just underscore the irrelevance of her stereotypes (“Your wife hasn’t broken the law, professor–she can leave you even if you do have tenure!”) Ha, ha, chuckle, zzzzzz.

That’s too bad, because Riley is bright and analytical, and sometimes grasps real problems with the tenure system, which is more than I can say of many contemporary observers on my own side of the political aisle.

She’s right, for instance, to note that the tenure system as we know it today is deeply flawed:

Supposed to produce courage and security, it breeds cowardice and anxiety, check. Supposed to unite the faculty, it now serves as a marker of apartheid between the academy’s minority “haves” and majority “have-nots,”check.

Supposed to encompass peer accountability for all professional activities it too often rewards those who neglect their students, family, and the profession, check.

Supposedly the pipeline for equality in the professions, the tenure system funnels academic and professional women into subordinate positions, check.

Supposed to guarantee reasonable economic return on education (you know, so that English professors can expect lifetime earnings not too much lower than good legal secretaries), tenure has become a generational lifeboat for greybeards selfishly uninterested in the crisis of young faculty, check.

All of these concerns, which plenty of tenure’s defenders are all too happy to gloss over, add up to an argument against tenure from the labor front.

Contingent-faculty activists like Joe Berry have long observed that tenure is reserved for a shrinking labor aristocracy–the group of persons who do front-line supervision of transient labor, and who provide the talent pool for upper administration. From the perspective of actual, informed unionists like Berry, tenure has frequently served as an engine of inequality.

Nor is it generally the goal of contingent-faculty unionists to win entrance into the stressful, irrational tenure crapshoot which is far from the gold standard of job security that most faculty imagine (ask anyone who’s had a department restructured or eliminated, or had an administrator declare a fake fiscal crisis).

Therefore, many contingent faculty, and left-labor faculty of any appointment type, share Riley’s sense that tenure should be abolished. (Either that, or like me and the AAUP, they feel that a reformed, teaching-centric tenure system should be the norm of faculty experience, as it was in 1972, when the professoriate was largely populated by well-off white men.)

Riley’s at her best and most revealing when she talks about how the tenured (like her father) treat contingent faculty, like her mother. At times the book is honestly reported–Riley admits that tenure isn’t the reason college is expensive–quite the contrary, it saves on salary–and that tenure is a minority experience.

I think if Riley’s analysis had taken the form of a long essay on the extremely important theme of how the tenure system marginalizes women teaching faculty, a topic scandalously under-addressed by liberals and academic feminists alike, it almost could have been one of those occasional offerings from the right that joins with the left in challenging some of the sacred cows of the liberal mainstream. (See chapter 4, “The Academic Underclass,” which appropriately excoriates “the hypocrisy of academics who claim concern for society’s marginalized while ignoring the [gendered and racialized] underclass in their midst.”)

If you subtract the ideological claptrap from Riley’s book, you have a perfectly reasonable call to invest in undergraduate teaching. However, in adding enough vitriol and borrowed observations to make a book, Riley goes awry in two basic ways, the scary and the lame.

Under the heading of scary, I have to point out that every once in a while, Riley’s mask of reasonability slips. In chapter 2, she wonders aloud, a la David Horowitz, Don’t some radical faculty members deserve to be run off campus?

A little later we learn the identities of the radicals to be run off, when she channels the radio talk shows for this sweeping non sequitur: “Whether it’s women’s studies or black studies or queer studies, the entire premise of the discipline often rests on a political agenda…. there [is] a growing sense that projects that are not strictly academic are not deserving of academic protections.”

The scary part is that we and her actual target audience know what she’s saying even though she isn’t saying anything–what is the meaning of the nonsense phrase “the entire premise of the discipline”? This is all too much like Limbaugh, rolling empty longish words off the tongue in order to manufacture a sense of cogitation and portent.

Under the heading of lame, I have to place the one argument she really makes with any vigor, that so much of higher education is “vocational” that there’s no controversy in those fields, hence no need for academic freedom. “These are all fields with fairly definitive answers,” Riley says in total ignorance of the fields she cites–like nutrition, family sciences, security, and sports history. “Faculty members don’t really need the freedom to ask controversial questions in discussing them,” she says, with unearned confidence.

It’s hard to believe that someone with two academic parents made this argument or, having made it, kept it in the manuscript–as its great gotcha! centerpiece, no less. When Gary Rhoades pointed out to Riley that nutrition faculty, just for example, engaged in plenty of controversy, she amateurishly dismisses the point rather than checking to see whether, in fact, there aren’t some fairly intense controversies in the field. Hint: there are, as in every one of the other fields she names.

But what of the obviously roiling controversies in other “vocational” fields, like legal, business, and medical education? Riley has nothing to say.

Riley is similarly cavalier with the evidence regarding faculty and teaching. There are literally thousands of studies evaluating faculty teaching, but instead of addressing any of them, Riley uses a few administrators as quote farms in support of her preconceived thesis and dials up the Limbaugh: “Tenure means they can simply neglect their students!”

At other points the just-published work is already out of date, touting the Garcetti decision, which has been successfully challenged, or Stanley Fish’s positions since recanted.

Frequently it’s just juvenile, as with the cartoons or snarkily describing the academy as a “profession” only in skeptical quotation marks.

Sometimes it’s just inept, as when she relies on John Silber’s “analysis” of tenure to make her case that it isn’t necessary to protect academic freedom–when, notoriously, it was only tenure that protected the late, beloved and irreplaceable Howard Zinn from Silber’s relentless efforts to drive him from the campus.

Much of the rest is cribbed from usual suspects like ACTA and Richard Vedder, or retread David Horowitz–Oh my gosh, the Berkeley writing classes sometimes cover controversial content!

A couple of points under the heading of full disclosure: Riley interviewed me for this book, and I make several appearances in the one chapter I thought worthy of her talents. She treats me as far less of a caricature than she might have, and I wish I had kinder things to say about the project.

Additionally, my spouse and I are, like Riley’s parents, and as many as a third of all faculty, navigating the often-breathtaking challenges of a dual-career academic couple in a system that is particularly cruel to academic women.

I share Riley’s disquiet with academic hypocrisy. On top of still rampant sexism and sex discrimination in academic employment, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the viciousness with which many academic “feminists” with tenure treat some of their “sisters” off-track.

As I read Riley’s book–which I had to buy because her publisher declined to send me a review copy–I thought often of my son, and his sunny disposition. I hope that we can find a way to insulate his good nature and deeply, deeply inquiring mind from the academic shabbiness, hypocrisy and dishonesty that Riley chronicles best from her personal experience.

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Beyond Yeshiva: NLRB Tackles Both Church and State http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280#comments Wed, 19 Jan 2011 18:02:23 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/280 You don’t know the name Elbert F. Tellem, but you will. Just last week, as the acting Director of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) District 2, Tellem issued a potentially historic decision green-lighting contingent-faculty unionization at Catholic-affiliated Manhattan College. In the process, he threaded his way through some of the most dishonest law in the country, throwing the NLRB’s support behind the human rights of faculty serving contingently at many religiously-affiliated institutions.

This is the front lines of academic labor struggle, pitting the moral force of the NLRB against a conservative, reactionary Federal court that refuses to enforce its rulings and the arrogant hypocrisy of wealthy, influential religiously-affiliated administrations.

Legal Fictions: Great Falls

The terrain of this struggle is far beyond the Yeshiva decision, which applies only to the minority of tenurable faculty (on the basis of the specious claim that they are managerial employees). Since ¾ of today’s faculty are graduate students or lecturers on casual appointment, they can hardly be described as managerial, and can’t be denied bargaining rights by way of Yeshiva.

Instead, today, private institutions with a religious affiliation rely on the claim that employees at “religious institutions” should be sweepingly excluded from National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protections. (As if being forced to bargain collectively with groundskeepers, secretaries and writing instructors might interfere with their “religious liberty,” an argument that could be made with the same merit about obeying traffic laws.)

While the NLRB has consistently distinguished between institutions with a substantial religious character and those with a religious affiliation, a 2002 D.C. Circuit Court opinion involving the University of Great Falls, a small Montana institution, radically undermined the Board’s authority, substituting a very loose religious-exemption test for the NLRB’s stricter standard.

Under Great Falls, courts may compel the NLRB to accept at face value the claims to a religious exemption of any institution that “presents itself to the public” as a religious institution.

Denying NLRB the power to distinguish between real and false claims to the exemption is a transparent assault on long-established employee rights and protections. Under the Great Falls ruling, essentially, any employer that claims the exemption may have it.

And unlike Yeshiva, the ruling applies comprehensively–to part-time faculty, students, and non-teaching staff.

This sweeping and radical new barrier to organizing came into being in much the same way that Yeshiva did, with the determination of a conservative activist Circuit Court judge. Backed by Jesse Helms and appointed by Ronald Reagan to fill the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia’s elevation to the Supreme Court, and at this writing the chief justice of the D.C. Circuit, David Sentelle has been described by The New York Times as “one of the federal judiciary’s most extreme conservatives.”*

Sentelle’s vote was instrumental in overturning the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter. He replaced the moderate Robert Fiske with the right-wing ideologue Kenneth Starr as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. A long-term Republican party operative, even four years after his appointment to the federal bench, Sentelle was still publishing right-wing screeds against “leftist heretics” who he claimed sought to establish “a collectivist, egalitarian, materialistic, race-conscious, hyper-secular, and socially permissive state.”

Sentelle’s transparently activist opinion in Great Falls gutted the NLRB’s authority so far beyond reason that several attempts have been mounted as a test of the ruling.

The best of these before Manhattan College came forward in March 2009, during the first year of the Obama administration. Fully supported by the NLRB’s ruling that the school’s ties to the Presbyterian Church were too insubstantial to justify a religious exemption, the UAW-affiliated faculty of Carroll College, like the faculty of Yeshiva, simply came to Federal court seeking enforcement of the Board’s ruling in its case.

But who did the NLRB and the faculty union find waiting for them? A fellow named Thomas Griffith, who arrived at the D.C. Circuit Court directly from a five-year stint as general counsel and assistant to the president of Brigham Young University.

Unsurprisingly for the recent former general counsel of a religiously-affiliated university, Griffith’s 2009 opinion in the Carroll case bluntly applies the 2002 ruling advanced by his sitting chief: “Under Great Falls, Carroll is exempt from the NLRB’s jurisdiction. We thus need not address Carroll’s argument that its faculty members are managerial employees who fall outside the protection of the NLRA. We grant Carroll’s petition for review, vacate the decision and order of the NLRB, and deny the Board’s cross-petition for enforcement.”

*New York Times, August 17, 1994. Qtd in Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. The Hunting of the President. Macmillan, 2000, p131 (cited p 387).

Tellem’s Stand: Against the DC Circuit Court

With his decision in the Manhattan College case, Tellem is clear about the nature of the struggle: “The D.C. Circuit has refused to enforce Board cases asserting jurisdiction based on the Board’s test. Instead, the D.C. Circuit has set forth” its own test, which the NLRB “has not adopted.”

By highlighting the Circuit Court’s activist intervention and NLRB’s resistance–in a decision that will likely be contested in that same Circuit Court, with David Sentelle still sitting as its chief–Tellem is placing the court on notice that the NLRB will continue to affirm its constitutional right to jurisdiction.

Waiting for Tellem?

It’s not clear how the Manhattan College struggle will turn out.

What is clear is that decisions made by Tellem and the NLRB don’t make faculty self-organization possible.

It’s the other way around: Faculty self-organization makes it possible for Tellem to make decisions like this one. The Manhattan College faculty serving contingently have been fighting this battle for well over a decade and will keep fighting it.

When we face shabby rulings like Great Falls, does it make sense for us to assume that the decision proceeded from ultimately reasonable arguments advanced by truth-seekers? Are they arguments put forward in an adversarial system but refereed with a reasonable degree of impartiality and with the prospect of eventual accountability in higher courts?

Of course not. We need to see clearly that these are specious, intellectually dishonest arguments by activist reactionaries abusing the power of the bench to deny fundamental human rights.

We need to see clearly that these rulings are the product of a flawed, inherently political process that is likely to disadvantage both truth and justice for decades to come. Few observers would say, for instance, that the current Supreme Court is the place to test David Sentelle’s opinion in Great Falls.

But if the Supreme Court can’t help us, what should we do? If the United Auto Workers and American Federation of Teachers aren’t willing to spend any more of their resources fighting a reactionary judiciary, what should we do?

Ultimately what Yeshiva (1980), Great Falls (2002) and Carroll (2009) teach us is simple: what matters more than the law is the movement. The individuals who used (or abused) their power in these decisions were part of a social reaction to liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including workplace democracy, feminism, and civil rights.

They aren’t lone wolves; they’re conservative activists bound in a net of common culture, values, and mutual support. They didn’t have law, precedent, or reason on their side; they simply imposed their reactionary will and made new law out of the power represented by their movement.

It would be tremendously foolish if we permitted any of these rulings to constrain us.

We can build a movement with the students, nurses, young lawyers, schoolteachers, and countless others affected by exploitative and super-exploitative patterns of employment.

We can overcome this dense lattice of hostile law. We can and must imitate the 1960s movement of public employees whose self-organization was illegal and yet also an unstoppable force for writing new law reflecting truth, justice, fairness, and democracy.

From the perspective of our individual campuses: Is Yeshiva relevant? Are Great Falls and Carroll?

Not to a movement, no—no more so than any of the thousands of municipal statutes once theoretically constraining the movement of schoolteachers and sanitation workers. The tightest straps on those schoolteachers and sanitation workers were never the law; they were emotional and intellectual and habitual—habits of deference to, and trust in, authority.

They burst free. We can too.

Partly adapted from a recent contribution to Expositions

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NYT Offers Dianetics for Higher Ed http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/262 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/262#comments Tue, 27 Jul 2010 16:06:57 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/262 Should The New York Times (NYT) exist? Ha–you’re thinking, “What an unfair question!” Or “You’ve framed the debate in an obviously unfair or careless way.”

And right you are. But since I’m a rich and powerful chunk of media capital with a stake in the answer, I don’t care what you think, and I’m free to compound the injury by holding a false “debate” on a question that unfairly asks one side to argue for its existence.

Enter The New York Times and its latest bungled attempt at analyzing higher ed, which just riffs on a piece reported by Robin Wilson for the Chronicle. As if framing a loaded question weren’t enough, they stack the deck, a couple of different ways. In the more obvious manipulation of the lineup, opponents of tenure outnumber proponents 3-2.

More importantly: in a debate about the “demise” of tenure,” the debate’s framers don’t include any voices of persons who are living the circumstances they purport to examine: the life of career faculty, full time or part time, with a teaching-intensive load and a nontenurable contract. One participant is on a nontenurable research contract–for a Harvard outfit that does management consulting for higher-ed administration, natch. But that’s like dressing up the testimony of someone who’s always driven a Rolls as the honest voice of straphangers–the near-volunteer faculty on freaking food stamps, like Monica, Andy, and many others.

As it turns out, 95% of the sense made in this debate is contained in the 40% assigned to the pro-tenure folks. AAUP president Cary Nelson patiently explains the centrality of tenure for academic freedom, and USC’s Adrianna Kezar, points to the real debate we should be having–about the high cost of nontenurable hiring in higher education, especially for the majority of faculty whose appointments are teaching-intensive, and the students they try to serve in the unsavory conditions management has created.

In the Opinion of L. Ron Hubbard…

Excepting a couple of minor points by the nontenurable researcher/management consultant, the anti-tenure side had little to offer beyond witless praise for The Market. Remember the the Planet of the Apes sequel where the surviving mutant humans live in a cave and worship the Holy Bomb that destroyed them?

It’s like that, including the gallows flavor to the campy humor, once you rip off the masks of the robed ritualistas:

Batting first for the NYT education-capitalist home team is Richard Vedder, perennial flack for the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute. His line here, that tenure “reduces intellectual diversity,” is just warmed-over David Horowitz, long debunked by any serious study.  The fact is that more academics fear for their academic freedom today than in the McCarthy era–because they lack access to tenure, not the other way around.

Playing new kid in the lineup is Mark C. Taylor, a distance education entrepreneur with books and interests ranging from religion and organization theory to management and–I am not making this up–stealing dirt from the graves of famous persons.

Taylor’s data-free ruminations bear as much connection to the actual world of higher education as Scientology does to particle physics. He’s the fellow that bemoaned per-course salaries “as low as” five grand (!) and basically acts as if you could still arm-chair analyze the academic labor system, which is nearly 80% contingent, as if it were a “market” in tenure-track jobs.

Taylor’s retread analysis is straight outta 1972: “If you were a CEO,” he begins, and races downhill from there. Dunno, Mark: If I was the CEO of my neighborhood… If I was the CEO of my marriage… If I was the CEO of this poker game… If I was the CEO of your church… If I was the CEO of the planet… If my dad were my CEO… If I were the CEO of this one-night stand… If I was the CEO of this classroom… If I was the CEO of this audience at this Green Day concert…

Gosh, Mark. Seems like some social organizations and relationships shouldn’t have CEOs at all.

Wait, there’s more. Taylor goes on to, like, use math and stuff because it sounds good when you’re talking about money. He figures out the lifetime cost of paying tenured faculty and boggles, claiming that funding this commitment “would require” four million in endowment now and thirty million thirty years from now. Et voila! Clearly, then, paying faculty anything at all is impossible! QE freaking D, lads and ladies.

Of course the fact that most faculty aren’t paid out of endowments at all but, like, from tuition and appropriations and grants and stuff, does create some stumbles among the seraphim in Taylor’s elegant pin-top choreography.

I did say that the anti-tenure side contributed 5% of the sense out of the 60% of the space allotted to them.

That modicum goes to Cathy Trower of Harvard’s COACHE, like the handbag, with an elegant E for education.

Her project is like a higher-ed stepchild version, less mean and less well-funded, of Harvard’s toxic b-school/ed-school partnership–you know, the folks that brought you Arne Duncan.

Unlike her comrades, Trower actually thinks about tenure and correctly advocates for a less rigid understanding of it. Somewhat overdramatically, she proposes blowing up the tenure system and starting over with a new constitutional convention:

Some features of a newly imagined faculty workplace might include variable probationary periods, with extensions for parenthood, rather than a fixed seven-year up-or-out provision for tenure; a tenure track for faculty members focused on teaching; a non-tenure track that affords a meaningful role in shared governance; interdisciplinary centers with authority to be the locus of tenure; broader definitions of scholarship and acceptable outlets and media to “publish” research….

Most of these notions, of course, are very sensible, and versions of them are in place all over the country. No need to lug jerrycans of petrol to the bonfire.  It’s not until we get to Trower’s stealthy last two suggestions (“tenure for a defined period of time; and the option to earn salary premiums while forgoing tenure entirely”) that we see that the NYT was perfectly fair to run her piece under the headlines “How to Start Over” and “Get Rid of (Tenure).” Trower conveniently left these out of the version she published two years ago in AAUP’s Academe.

Most Tenured Faculty ARE on a Teaching Track

If Trower were better informed about what’s actually going on, she’d be aware that all of her reasonable suggestions have distinguished histories as well as plenty of contemporary reality. Rendered most invisible by Trower’s crowing from the business-administration battlements is the suggestion that we need to invent a “tenure track for faculty members focused on teaching.”

Huh?

In 1970, the overwhelming majority of tenured faculty were on teaching-intensive appointments. Even today, after four decades of hiring teaching-intensive appointments nontenurably (full-time and part-time), tenured teaching-intensive faculty out-number tenured research-intensive faculty as much as two to one.

The idea that “tenured” equates to teaching 6 hours a week or fewer is just silly propaganda. And I for one am sick of liberal bastions like Harvard and the NYT passing off propaganda as scholarship.

Including propaganda that has numbers in it: for crying out loud, my math-avoidant friends, the whole meaning of the expression that “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics” is that any paid mouthpiece, windbag or liar can claim to be “data-driven.”

I mean, Cathy, let’s be real here.

MANAGEMENT has spent the last four decades actively dismantling a long-existing “tenure track for faculty members focussed on teaching.” Now you lean out from the windows of your Lear jet to shout that we need to hold a constitutional convention to invent it?

You folks at Harvard oughta know that “data-driven” should mean something more than running a bunch of surveys. It should mean some reasonable attempt at a connection with the facts.

Regular readers know I’ve been pointing out the epic badness of the New York Times’ reporting on higher education for some time now. For what it’s worth, I have it on good authority that more than one academic journal is interested in taking a closer look at media bias in higher education coverage.

Of course this is a little like saying I know several clever Davids prepared to flip the bird at slow-witted Goliath. On the other hand, one of them might prove to own a slingshot.

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The United States of Alabama http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/260 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/260#comments Wed, 14 Jul 2010 16:38:09 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/260 Only way to please me
turn around and leave
and walk away
–Alabama Getaway, lyrics by Robert Hunter

Many who learn that the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) amputated a $650,000 state appropriation, not to mention a flow of grant money, just to rid itself of a labor center (and Glenn Feldman, the accomplished historian who directed it) will focus on regional differences. One early commenter to Peter Schmidt’s report for the Chronicle blamed “Dixie” culture, saying that this is what happens to someone who “bucks the system in that part of the country. The more the South changes, the more it remain the same.”

As a veteran of the Southern-gothic, All-The-Kings-Men style politics of one right-to-work state university with close administrator connections to UAB, I guess my first impulse was at least similar: I can still remember the liberation I felt when I left my tenured position at the scandal-ridden University of Louisville (UL), where concerned faculty were run out of town for questioning the wall-to-wall administrative solidarity that protected a dean embezzling his federal grants, a scheme of extreme work-study that has turned thousands of students into the serfs of UPS, and claims of “research-1″ status for a campus with a six-year graduation rate hovering around 30 percent.

As just one small instance of my own experience: the aforementioned embezzling dean tried to shut down the academic labor journal I founded (then being edited by one of my graduate students and my friend and colleague Wayne Ross, one of the many who left UL– in his case moving on to Canada’s answer to Cal-Berkeley, the University of British Columbia). That little act of nastiness wasn’t even one of the 30+ official faculty complaints about that one individual that the UL administrative Borg was covering up. But what drove us away was in most cases not one act; there were dozens of acts that each dissenter experienced, some raising to the level of grievable offenses, others just making life hard.

‘Sweet Home USA’ for Business

But despite that temptation, my second impulse is more analytical. The point isn’t any minor differences (even differences of degree) displayed by scandal-plagued politicos and jet-setting higher ed “leadership” in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee over the past decade. The real point, as commenter Ellen Schrecker points out, is the similarities–that labor and labor scholarship continue to be under assault across the country.

I’d go further than Ellen with the similarities–it’s a question of the turn toward steadily more anti-democratic practices of education administration more broadly. Not to mention the related notion that politicians are, effectively, the “managers” of the public sphere that we can trace to Democrats Clinton and Gore, right on down to their intellectual heir and Wal-mart admirer currently occupying the White House.

It’s a pretty big picture, and one that clearly doesn’t yield to partisan analysis: the scary stuff is what Democrats and Republicans agree on. Obama’s ed secretary Arne Duncan made Tennessee sole winner of the reviled Race to the Top competition because of the state’s willingness to do to both K-12 and higher ed what he’d already done in Chicago: turn schools over to private and for-profit managers; silence teachers, students, and parents; strip down the curriculum; increase the direct voice of commercial interests in administration at every level.

Likewise, the UAB business school dean (Klock) responsible for pushing  first practiced his hatcheting ways here in California. It’s not a regional issue at all or even restricted to higher education workplaces.

The many things that should concern us about Feldman’s experience in Alabama are all things happening in schools at every level across the country:

+ Administrator pro-business bias

+ Consolidation of administrator power

+ Declining faculty power and declining faculty solidarity

+ Abuse of credentialing (UAB has demanded that full-professor Feldman go back to school and earn a year’s worth of credits to retain his tenure)

+ Ever-closer ties between corporations, politics and the campus

+ Business influence on curriculum

+ The culture-struggle practice of administration, designed to produce compliant subjectivities and expel dissenters

+ A growing legal web that muzzles faculty governance speech at public institutions

+ The abuse of standards of civility and collegiality to paint an understandably upset victim as unreasonable, a tendency in which I have to say that Peter Schmidt’s reporting unfortunately participates (though to be fair to Schmidt I haven’t seen the documents he characterizes).

In general, though, on this subject I agree with the complaints of commenter “thomasjefferson”:

“Let’s see. He was a tenured, full professor at UAB for 14 years. They shut down the labor center of which he was director and then they tried to set him up for termination by trying to get him to take 18 grad hours in a subject in which they’re planning to shut down the department. And he’s not happy about that. I wonder why?”

And with commenter “mchag12″:

“The relationship with the faculty at public universities is just becoming untenable as faculty are treated as line items to be dispensed with at will by high paid administrators. What would you do, azprof, if your department was slated for demolition and your university actually asked the state legislature to defund it? Back out of the room shuffling and bowing and repeating thank you, thank you? If you think you are safe, you’re not.”

That last line by mchag says it all.

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High-handed Administrators Generate High Costs http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/256 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/256#comments Wed, 16 Jun 2010 20:12:20 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/256 Across the planet for the past two years, university management has been opportunistically putting the screws to faculty, staff and students with bogus claims that “the economy made us do it.” Professor of accounting and AAUP Secretary-Treasurer Howard Bunsis has made a second career of flying around North America debunking these hilariously dishonest claims, a reason Bunsis is one of my top picks for next AAUP prez.

One of the more sinister categories of administrator opportunism is program closure, and winner of 2010 Most Egregious Sleaze in that category has to be the UK’s Middlesex University, which in a burst of vocationalist enthusiasm closed an active, successful philosophy program. The department was by far the top research producer in the school, according to the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and ranked thirteenth nationally among philosophy programs measured by the RAE.  (For purposes of thought provocation only, the irksome Philosophical Gourmet ranks the following at around 13th among public philosophy programs in the U.S.: IU-Bloomington, UC-Irvine, and UW-Madison, UC Boulder, and U Mass-Amherst.)

The excuse for this travesty? A temporary 2% shortfall in the percentage of income from the department. British universities are required to pay a 55% pimping-and-moneychangers’ share of their income to central administration. Supporters like John Protevi note that Middlesex will contribute 59% in 2010, but contributed only 53% in 2009–an amount that appears to be well within normal fluctuations, especially considering global financial turbulence. The grant monies pouring into Middlesex’s coffers due to the philosophers’ research amounts to several hundred thousand dollars annually.

The harms to the university’s reputation have been mounting quickly. Already Middlesex’s administration has been widely reviled during occupations and protests. Other institutions have quickly cherrypicked its top talent, petitions of protest have garnered a thousand signatures a day, and mass outrage has forced reversals of draconian suspensions of protesting faculty and students.

The Dollar Cost is High Too

This week gives us yet another example of the mounting dollar costs of the Al Haig (“I’m in charge here!)” school of administration. At Temple, a sleazy management team felt that “the economy” carte blanche to bully the nurses’ union into rolling back tuition benefits and giving up First Amendment rights in the workplace. Outraged staff walked out and management blew through $4 million a week on hotel rooms and airfare for scab labor in its doomed, month-long effort to show dominance.

A Pennsylvania compensation board just delivered the coup de grace, ruling that the administration had acted so high-handedly prior to the 4-week strike that its actions amounted to unilaterally changing the terms of employment–with the result that, for purposes of eligibility for unemployment compensation, the strike was to be treated as a lockout by the hospital… adding another $1.5 million to Temple’s bill.

Global Resistance Rising

Obviously, from the broader perspective of professionalism in the public service, of course one wants nurses, staff and faculty in a position to criticize the reckless incompetence of management. I mean, do you really want to be cared for by professionals whose speech is controlled by someone with an MBA?

Of course even from the narrowest administrative point of view this kind of high-spending thuggery is bad management.

In addition to the bad publicity, lost work time, and direct costs, this sort of humiliating failure thoroughly emboldens other unions, like the surging campaign to organize the 1,585 Temple faculty who are on contingent appointment.

It seems pretty clear that this kind of administrative bullying is generating a shock wave of global resistance, creating new opportunities to organize and make democratic change.

The day to watch this fall will be October 7th as, already, dozens of groups have committed to it as a global day of action.

More on that, and on the massive student occupation at the University of Puerto Rico, in my next post.

After that, I’ll have lots of exciting news from the AAUP annual gathering and national Council session, including new reports on how to fight administrator efforts to gag faculty (a la Garcetti), sharp reductions in dues for faculty serving contingently and graduate students, changes in election structure, and, from the committee I co-chair, a sneak peek at an important report on tenure and teaching-intensive faculty (over 80% of the faculty are teaching intensive).

I’ll also have follow-up on the iPad as e-reader story, focussing on early learning issues (or, How Apple the Money-Hungry Flash Grinch Deprives Children of Early Learning Opportunities in Favor of Mind-Numbing Game Apps.)

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Academic Freedom RIP http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/252 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/252#comments Mon, 19 Apr 2010 16:25:36 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/252
Think you enjoy academic freedom? Think again. In July 2007, the American Sociological Association reported that 1/3 of its members felt that their academic freedoms were threatened, a significantly higher figure than the 1/5 recorded during the McCarthy years.  What this suggests is that witch-hunts haven’t gone away; they just don’t attract as many headlines. (Just last month, Bill Ayers was disinvited from another lecture: ho-hum.) Today, even tenured faculty at top research schools can legally be disciplined and harassed for questioning the administration in a department meeting.

How are we to understand this moment? How did we get here? Academic Repression,a blistering volume by Nocella, Best, and McLaren, offers some desperately needed history and analysis.

The history alone is worth the price of admission. If you’ve let your AAUP membership lapse–and have been getting your ideas about the state of the academy from cable news or the business and lifestyle reporters at the New York Times–you might still retain fantasies about the unassailable security of tenure.

This book will change that, with a series of eye-opening stories showcasing the extreme vulnerability of individuals with unpopular views.

As Michael Parenti makes clear in the excerpt that follows, the current wave of repression conceals its agenda behind a mask of proceduralism, backed by a tightening net of repressive law.

As in the case of Ward Churchill, the McCarthyism of today bends over backward to pretend that politics isn’t the reason for the attack on the individual–it is generally some other, often pretended offense that provides the pretext. Ironically, the contemporary war on academic freedom usually employs the very procedures and norms that are supposed to protect it:

EXCERPT

On some campuses, administrative officials have monitored classes, questioned the political content of books and films, and screened the lists of guest speakers—all in the name of scholarly objectivity and balance.

In some places, however, trustees and administrators readily pay out huge sums for guest lectures by committed, highly partisan, rightwing ideologues.

The guardians of academic orthodoxy never admit that some of their decisions about hiring and firing faculty might be politically motivated. Instead they will say the candidate has not published enough articles. Or if enough, the articles are not in conventionally acceptable academic journals. Or if in acceptable journals, they are still wanting in quality and originality, or show too narrow or too diffuse a development. Seemingly objective criteria can be applied in endlessly elastic ways….

Mainstream academics treat their politically safe brands of teaching and research as the only ones that qualify as genuine scholarship. Such was the notion used to deny Samuel Bowles tenure at Harvard. Since Marxist economics is not really scholarly, it was argued, Bowles was neither a real scholar nor an authentic economist. Thus centrists ideologues have purged scholarly dissidents under the guise of protecting rather than violating academic standards. The decision seriously split the economics department and caused Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontif to quit Harvard in disgust.

Radical academics have been rejected because their political commitments supposedly disallow them from objective scholarship. In fact much of the best scholarship comes from politically committed scholars.

One goal of any teacher should be to introduce students to bodies of information and analysis that have been systematically ignored or suppressed–a task that usually is better performed by iconoclasts than by those who accept existing institutional and class arrangements as the finished order of things. So it has been feminists and African-American researchers who, in their partisan urgency, have revealed the previously unexamined sexist and racist presumptions and gaps of conventional scholarship.

Likewise, it is leftist intellectuals (including some who are female or nonwhite) who have produced the challenging scholarship about popular struggle, political economy, and class power, subjects remaining largely untouched by centrists and conservatives.16 In sum, a dissenting ideology can awaken us to things regularly overlooked by conventional scholarship.

Orthodox ideological strictures are applied also to a teacher’s outside political activity. At the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, an instructor of political science, Ted Hayes, an anti-capitalist, was denied a contract renewal because he was judged to have “outside political commitments” that made it impossible for him to be objective. Two of the senior faculty who voted against him were state committee members of the Republican Party in Wisconsin.17 There was no question as to whether their outside political commitments interfered with their objectivity as teachers or with the judgments they made about colleagues.

–Michael Parenti, “Academic Repression, Past and Present”

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ACLU Slams UC Administration http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/251 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/251#comments Thu, 08 Apr 2010 17:39:52 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/251 In a nine-page report, the ACLU just slammed the Berkeley administration for trampling on the rights of two student protesters. And: is the Minneapolis conference about this year’s campus unrest the last act, or a prelude to even bolder action? Watch the live broadcast to find out.  There was a police confrontation at a sit-in yesterday and the Oakland schoolteachers are striking later this month. Stay tuned for the events of  May 1 through May 4.

The ACLU report relentlessly portrays an administration that over-reacted and over-reached its authority, laying ludicrous charges (such as “attempting arson”) for which the university had literally no evidence (nor could have, because no “arson” was attempted, duh), imposing punishment without due process (like, uh, being heard), devising strictures it had no right to impose, etc. Read all blistering nine pages here and sign the petition, if you like.

Since there are dozens of student protesters’ cases still to be considered, ACLU’s swift response is a modest but real blow to the gangster theory of higher education administration: “Call ’em arsonists in the press and then kick ’em out without a hearing! That’ll teach the rest of ’em!”.

Thanks, ACLU. My check is in the mail.

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Obama’s About-Face on Education http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/249 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/249#comments Thu, 01 Apr 2010 19:37:59 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/249 In a surprise move today, President Obama fired all 5,000 Department of Education staff members, including Secretary Arne Duncan. “Education is a failed Cabinet office,” he said. “We needed a clean sweep.”

Spokespersons for the administration said the president was forced to act by a little-known federal law mandating the radical progressive de-funding of any office or department that fails to meet performance goals, whether or not they had sufficient funding to begin with.

“With less and less funding every year,” sources observed, “it was just a matter of time” before a more draconian provision was triggered, requiring every staffer in the office to be fired, regardless of personal performance.

President Obama acknowledged the injustice of the law, observing that the law’s provision permitting him to rehire only half of the mass-terminated staffers was “five times more severe” than the “most notorious example of arbitrary punishment, the Roman practice of decimation,” under which one of every ten soldiers in a “failing” unit was punished.

He also noted that it was probably unconstitutional to make a law firing individuals who had performed well but that the configuration of the Supreme Court meant that “only a fool would let those jokers have a crack at” any issue one cared about.

“We’ll have to hire a bunch of kids from Administrators for America,” the President complained. “They don’t know squat about administering, and just want something to boost their law-school application. Plus they bolster the ridiculous idea that just anyone can administer without training or support.”

School-reform observers were pleased, however, that the law allowed Obama a graceful exit from his ill-conceived association with Duncan, the product of a highly ideological partnership between Harvard’s business and education schools.

Duncan term is over

As the self-styled chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan turned curriculum and management over to corporate interests, turned schools into military recruitment centers, and set easier standards to inflate claims of “learning outcomes improvement” under his draconian reign. Most observers agreed that he was an eager mouthpiece for corporate interests in the city.

Nearly all nonpartisan evidence-based analysis suggests that Duncan’s ideological eagerness to “close failing schools” and shuttle students into charter or for-profit institutions yielded no actual academic benefit–changes of up or down about 1% that were statistically indistinguishable from no change at all.

Nonetheless Duncan unapologetically continued to promote this failed policy at the national level, with Obama’s full support.

“I knew all that,” admitted Mr. Obama, “but I wanted Arne on the team.”

Spokespeople later confirmed that by “team” the President meant the White House basketball squad. They later released a statement apologizing for the President’s desire to spice up his daily two hours of exercise with “the kind of hoops you can only get with a six-foot-five-inch player with a good corner shot on the court” over the needs of millions of students.

Confronted by the twitter feeds of several departing senior staffers who compared the president’s turning education policy over to a ballplayer-slash-corporate-stooge to Caligula galloping his horse on the Senate floor, the President’s spokesperson said, “They got all that on 144 characters?”

There’s no word yet on who the President might tap to replace Duncan, but one source highly placed in the administration was eager to comment on the irony of the administration’s support for draconian punishment of faculty in public schools, like the recent mass firings in Rhode Island.

“The President wants you to know,” said the source, “that he was just funning with you on that, sort of an April-fool’s joke. He just didn’t think anyone would believe he was enough of a jerk to actually support the firing of teachers who were demonstrably excellent at their jobs but believed in working with students who struggled.

“That policy doesn’t even make sense–it tells every good teacher in a school with struggling students that they should promptly quit and get hired on at a school where the students are already doing well.

“It would be likely telling the best teachers in rural and urban schools to cut and run for the suburbs.

“Believe me,” the source concluded,”The Prez was just April-funning you on that Rhode Island deal. Now that Duncan is gone, we hope that’s crystal clear. By next year we’ll have a real education plan, don’t worry.”

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Baddest of the Bad http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/246 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/246#comments Tue, 09 Mar 2010 17:49:23 +0000 http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/246 What’s worse than David Horowitz’s brand of right-wing drivel giving yellow journalism a bad name? A ghost-authored Horowitz sequel, padded with over 150 witless, tendentious summaries of courses that the compilers erroneously imagine will frighten middle America into hauling the faculty up the nearest telephone pole.

The current issue of American Book Review highlights their Top 40 Bad Books.  Heading the list for me is One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine our Democracy, by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin.  Since I often can’t make time to review excellent books, I don’t usually waste pixels on bad ones. But one has to make an exception for the epic badness of Horowitz’s failed hit job.

At least the first book in this series, The Professors, gave the “101 Most Dangerous Academics in America” something to brag about in their red-diaper parent-participation preschools (whilst plotting Trotskyite mayhem from behind piled bookshelves).

This cheesy compilation is too lazy even to attack faculty scholarship. It’s little more than a list of syllabi with a shrill “I see Marxism!” appended to each–150 times.  The somnolence it produces is hard to describe.

Evidently they should have credited Google as the third author.

The Horowitz staffers tasked with compiling this stinker simply trolled online campus catalogs to yield course descriptions employing such “democracy-undermining” terms as justice, inequality, race, and feminism. Then the staffers wrote lame descriptions characterizing the syllabi as part of a plot to deprive plutocrats of their hard-earned profits.

Once I got the concept, I briefly held the flickering hope that I could read it ironically–as in, “hey, what a bunch of good classes I wish I’d been able to take in college.”

Wrong. The relentless, narrow-minded prose immediately disappeared my hopes of snarky thoughtcrime.

Even if you’re sympathetic to its politics, the concrete brutalism of this compilation’s formal properties will crush your spirit in a few pages–like reading a year’s worth of your daily horoscopes straight through, or a cookbook cover to cover.

I know, I know. I’m well-known for holding such anti-democratic views as that we should all have enough to eat, health care, and free education. So don’t take my word for it. Peruse a chapter over at the Random House website. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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