In Search of Lost Time: Further Reading

Time as infinite spiral

With thanks to all who have read and shared my “In Search of Lost Time” (an essay on why academics work so much, published in Inside Higher Ed today), here are a few links for further reading. Most of these were embedded in the original piece, but didn’t make the transition to the Inside Higher Ed website. I’m listing them in the order they appeared in my piece.

  • Kate Quick, “Hello, Class. Your Professor is on Food Stamps,” Huffington Post, 24 Jan. 2014. (I’d linked my claim “adjuncts are increasingly joining the ranks of the working poor” to this piece.)
  • Miya Tokumitsu, “In the Name of Love,” Jacobin Magazine, Jan. 2014. Excellent piece argues that the “Do What You Love” mantra “may be the most elegant anti-worker ideology around,” and notes that it’s particularly pervasive in academia.
  • Kate Bowles, “Beyond a Boundary,” Music for Deckchairs, 9 Dec. 2013. Really thoughtful essay makes the point that “we don’t yet understand this as behaviour that is harmful to others, not just to ourselves. We overwork like cyclists dope: because everyone does it, because it’s what you do to get by, because in the moment we argue to ourselves that it feels like health and freedom. But it isn’t.”
  • Stevie Smith, “Not waving but drowning” (1972). Repr. on Poets.org. In my essay, I quoted the title to this poem.
  • Dekka Aitkenhead, “Peter Higgs: I wouldn’t be productive enough for today’s academic system,” Guardian, 6 Dec. 2013. The Nobel Prize-winner observes that the imperative to publish constantly would disqualify him from contemporary academia. “Today I wouldn’t get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough,” he said. “It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”
  • Kate Bowles, “Irreplaceable Time,” Music for Deckchairs, 24 Nov. 2013. I didn’t link to this one, but it definitely influenced my thinking. Among the many great points Bowles makes is this: “If we have created a culture in which only those who are most single-minded about work are applauded, promoted and respected, we have made something whose capacity for harm is pervasive and long-term.” Go and read it.
  • Mark Slouka, “Quitting the Paint Factory” (Harper’s 2004). I was reading Slouka’s Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations (2010), and this piece — also not linked to in my original — was another influence. The whole collection of essays is great. I recommend it. (The link is to a — probably unauthorized — reblogged copy of Slouka’s essay.)
  • The tweet below appeared after I’d already sent in my essay to Inside Higher Ed, but it would have made a great epigraph to the piece.

More thoughtful comments on this subject (links added 4 Mar. 2014, thanks to Kate Bowles).

  • Ferdinand von Prondzynski, “Recognising hard work in higher education,” A University Blog, 3 Mar. 2014. “But honestly, in what other profession would you find anyone reading their work mail after midnight?”
  • Overworked TA, “The Underbelly of Putting Yourself Last: Mental Illness, Stress, and Substance Abuse,” Overworked TA, 3 Mar. 2014. “This culture of ‘do, do, do’ never stops.  And it starts in graduate school.”
  • Kate Bowles, “On impact,” Music for Deckchairs, 4 Mar. 2014. “We overwork because the current culture in universities is brutally and deliberately invested in shaming those who don’t compete effectively; as a correlative to this we are starting to value and promote to leadership roles people who really do believe in the dodgeball triumphalism of university rankings as a way of nurturing educational values and critical inquiry.”

Thanks again to all who have read and commented on my essay!

Image source: time as infinite spiral from Mom Biz Coach.

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What Can’t You Say in Kansas? An Experiment in Civil Disobedience

graffiti, University of Kansas

Governor Appointed Regents who set KU’s administrative policy seem to think that avoiding bad press on Twitter is more important than preserving academic freedom

— graffiti, University of Kansas

If you’re an employee of a university overseen by the Kansas Board of Regents, all speech expressed through social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, any website) can be grounds for firing. Employees (faculty, staff, student employees) may not say anything that’s “contrary to the best interest of the university,” nor may they utter something that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers,” or “otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.”

In other words, the Kansas Board of Regents is in violation of the social media policy it created — which, conveniently, it is not compelled to abide by. (The Regents have no social media of their own.)  The Regents’ attempt to stifle free speech is “contrary to the best interest of the university” because the freedom to express ideas is the cornerstone of academic inquiry. Sometimes debating ideas may “impair discipline” or “harmony among co-workers”: through argument, we clarify our ideas, discover what works, what needs to be refined, and what should be set aside. Such a policy “adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services” because revoking freedom of speech makes it harder to attract and retain faculty members. It also puts all Kansas universities at risk of losing accreditation. To assess student learning, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ Higher Learning Commission (the accrediting body) asks, “By what means do you create and maintain a climate that celebrates intellectual freedom, inquiry, reflection, respect for intellectual property, and respect for differing and diverse opinions?” As an example of valuing a “life of learning,” the Higher Learning Commission “has approved and disseminated statements supporting freedom of inquiry for the organization’s students, faculty, and staff, and honors those statements in its practices.”

Unless all university employees take a vow of silence, it’s impossible to abide by so broad and all-encompassing a policy.

So, friends, Kansans, and allies of freedom of speech everywhere, join me in a little experiment in civil disobedience. If you’re on Twitter, tweet something and tag it #ksspeech — that’s “ks” (the postal abbreviation for Kansas) plus the word “speech.”  If there’s still room, tag @ksregents as well. What should you tweet? Anything you like. A quotation. A recipe. A hypothesis. An observation. A pun. Something else.

I will be tweeting one such statement each day until the Kansas Board of Regents rescinds its unconstitutional social media policy. But I don’t see why I should have all the fun. Join me!

I plan to keep my Tweets civil. I mean, I could say that the Kansas Board of Regents are cowardly political appointees who lack any qualification to oversee higher education (112 characters). I could also say that the Kansas Board of Regents are addle-brained dunderheads (53 characters). But I wouldn’t.

To give credit where it’s due, I’ve borrowed the idea of daily tweets from Amy Lara (@AmyLara12), who has been doing this on Facebook, and is now doing it on Twitter as well. Why not join us? If you can’t think of something to say, just RT (retweet) ones that you like.  You might even MT (modified retweet) someone else’s tweet and add the #ksspeech hashtag.

So many ways to participate! It’ll be fun! If you’d like to be listed as a participant in this experiment, just let me know (via the comments or email) your Twitter handle, and I’ll add it below. If you don’t want to be listed, then say nothing. Thanks!

Free Speech Advocates

  1. @philnel, Kansas State University
  2. @AmyLara12, Kansas State University
  3. @lowellmickwhite, Pittsburg State University
  4. @charleshatfield, California State University, Northridge

Update, 12:40 pm, Thursday, 30 Jan.: I thought inviting people to add their name (above) would be a good way of keeping track of support, but a much better measure seems to be all the RTs (retweets) and new tweets bearing the #ksspeech hashtag.  Here’s a sampling.

  And, finally, quoting the Clash’s “Know Your Rights” (Combat Rock, 1982):


Image credit: The photograph of KU graffiti comes from Howard Callihan on Facebook, but I learned of it via Kansas Universities Faculty & Staff Against Regents’ Speech Policy (also on Facebook).

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Kansas Board of Regents, Freedom of Speech, and Bad Faith

Kansas Board of RegentsWhen the Kansas Board of Regents announced its new social media policy on December 18, I thought it must have made a mistake. After all, this Board of Regents had seemed an ally of higher education in Kansas. Unlike previous Boards, this one had — for instance — been asking the Kansas Legislature to fund the state universities in Kansas. Adopting a social media policy that suspended freedom of speech and (in effect) eradicated tenure was surely because the hastily passed proposal was ill-considered. So, I thought: if we let the Board of Regents know how damaging the policy is, then they’ll realize that they’ve made a mistake, withdraw the policy, and start over.

I was wrong.

As emails and subsequent statements to the media have revealed, the Board of Regents crafted the most repressive policy that (it thought) would withstand a legal challenge. Working with State Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Board created the policy using specific language from United States Supreme Court cases. Then, at its December meeting and over the objections of university faculty and administration present, the Board unanimously passed the new policy.

The policy is not a mistake, but a carefully executed plan to muzzle free speech. This is why the Board passed the policy as faculty and staff were grading exams and preparing to leave town (indeed, many had already left town). This is why, though the policy has been panned with near unanimity from both within and beyond Kansas, the Board is not backing down.

As further evidence, one need look no further than board members’ statements about the plan. Their words are perfect examples of the “political language” that, as George Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language” (1946), “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”  In response to the recent letter signed by 81 distinguished professors from KU and KSU, Fred Logan, Chair of the Board of Regents, wrote, “I very respectfully disagree with your apparent assessment that faculty and staff at Kansas universities ‘no longer have freedom of speech, academic freedom . . . , nor tenure.’  I assure you that all three of those items are alive, robust and well.”  His assertion that freedom of speech, academic freedom and tenure “are alive, robust and well” collides with a policy that says faculty and staff can be fired for saying anything “contrary to the best interest of the university” or anything that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers” — a definition so broad and vague as to encompass any speech. Mr. Logan’s statement and the social media policy cannot both be true. Given that he is using his “freedom of speech is alive, robust and well” statement to defend a policy that rescinds freedom of speech, his words are a superb example of language designed to — in Orwell’s words — “give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Another word for this sort of speech is doublespeak.  Yet another word is lie.

Here’s another example. Mr. Logan recently asserted, “The board unanimously approved this policy and did so in good faith,” despite the fact that it approved the policy over the objections of faculty and administration present at the very meeting. As KSU Faculty Senate President Julia Keen (who was present at the meeting) noted on 21 December,

The creation of this policy was done with no input from university faculty or administrators; it was put near the end of an 84-page agenda without notification or announcement.  The Council of Faculty Senate Presidents made a statement at the KBOR meeting on Wednesday, December 18, voicing our concerns about both the content and the timing of the policy change.  We asked that the vote be delayed to a future KBOR meeting to allow for faculty input.  The KBOR chose to proceed with a unanimous vote to pass the policy language.

And yet Mr. Logan says that the Board approved the policy “in good faith.”  Either his definition of “good faith” is so rare as to have eluded the dictionary-makers, or he is again lying.  Based on the available evidence, he appears to be delivering another lie. It’s a very polite lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.

By failing to act in good faith and dressing its policy in doublespeak, the Kansas Board of Regents no longer deserves the confidence of those it serves. Since the Board itself is not an elected body, I doubt that a vote of no confidence would be persuasive. If the Board is so convinced that its draconian policy is correct that it’s willing to lie about it, then why would it care about a vote of no confidence?

George Orwell, 1984

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the Board of Regents resumes doing its job, which (according to its mission statement) is to “advocate powerfully” for “continuous improvement in the quality and effectiveness of the public postsecondary educational system in Kansas.” Based on its responses thus far, I think it more likely that its next statement to the state universities will be more along the lines of “freedom is slavery.”  Or, given how much freedom of speech seems to frighten the Regents, perhaps it will be “ignorance is strength.”

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Distinguished Professors from KSU and KU: Open Letter to the Kansas Board of Regents

Kansas State University

Dear Kansas Board of Regents,

As University Distinguished Professors at Kansas State University and Distinguished Professors at the University of Kansas, we write to express our continued concern about the new social media policy. We appreciate that the Board has invited representatives from the universities to review the policy, and to offer recommendations for amendments to said policy. However, we ask that the policy itself be suspended until such review has taken place.

With the policy in place during this period of review, faculty and staff at Kansas universities would no longer have freedom of speech, nor the academic freedom necessary to do their jobs, nor tenure. The policy stifles free expression, adversely affects morale at all universities, makes it harder for us to recruit top-tier faculty, and indeed makes it likely that our own faculty will seek work elsewhere. If we lack the ability to debate controversial ideas, we cannot do our jobs as teachers or scholars.

According to its mission statement, the Board of Regents’ job is to “advocate powerfully” for “continuous improvement in the quality and effectiveness of the public postsecondary educational system in Kansas.” Instead of advocating for its quality and effectiveness, this new policy undermines both.

Sincerely yours,

Christer Aakeroy, Chemistry, KSU
Ken Armitage, Biology, KU
Jeff Aubé, Medicinal Chemistry, KU
Victor Bailey, History, KU
Raj Bhala, Law, KU
John Blair, Biology, KSU
Frank Blecha, Anatomy & Physiology, KSU
Susan Brown, Biology, KSU
Edgar Chambers IV, Human Nutrition, KSU
M. M. Chengappa, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology, KSU
Lew Cocke, Physics, KSU
Gary Conrad, Biology, KSU
Ann E. Cudd, Philosophy, KU
David Darwin, Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering, KU
Lynn Davidman, Sociology, KU
Richard De George, Philosophy, KU
Rob Denell, Biology, KSU
Elizabeth Dodd, English, KSU
Walter Dodds, Biology, KSU
Michael Dryden, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology, KSU
James H. Edgar, Chemical Engineering, KSU
Charles C. Eldredge, Art History, KU
Paul Enos, Geology, KU
Stephen Fawcett, Applied Behavioral Science, KU
H. George Frederickson, Public Administration, KU
Victor Frost, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, KU
Prasad Gogineni, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, KU
David Hartnett, Biology, KSU
John Hatcliff, Computing & Information Sciences, KSU
Dale Herspring, Political Sciences, KSU
Jonathan Holden, English, KSU
Ryszard Jankowiak, Chemistry, KSU
Anthony Joern, Biology, KSU
Michael Kanost, Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, KSU
Susan Kemper, Psychology, KU
Barbara Kerr, Psychology & Research in Education, KU
Ken Klabunde, Chemistry, KSU
John Leslie, Plant Pathology, KSU
Bob Linder, History, KSU
David Littrell, Music, KSU
Susan M. Lunte, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, KU
Joe Lutkenhaus, Microbiology, Molecular Genetics & Immunology, KU
Daniel Marcus, Anatomy & Physiology, KSU
James Marsden, Animal Sciences & Industry, KSU
Richard Marston, Geography, KSU
Elias K. Michaelis, Pharmacology & Toxicology, KU
Russ Middaugh, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, KU
T.G. Nagaraja, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology, KSU
Joane Nagel, Sociology, KU
Philip Nel, English, KSU
Berl R. Oakley, Molecular Biosciences, KU
Rosemary O’Leary, Public Affairs & Administration, KU
A. Townsend Peterson, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, KU
Harald E. L. Prins, Anthropology, KSU
Chuck Rice, Agronomy, KSU
Juergen Richt, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology, KSU
Jim Riviere, Anatomy & Physiology, KSU
Richard A. Robison, Geology, KU
Tom Roche, Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, KSU
Dan Rockhill, Architecture, KU
Jan Roskam, Aerospace Engineering, KU
Edmund Russell, History, KU
Paul Selden, Geology, KU
Ted Schroeder, Agricultural Economics, KSU
James Shanteau, Psychological Sciences, KSU
Prakash P. Shenoy, Business, KU
Chris Sorensen, Physics, KSU
Paulette Spencer, Mechanical Engineering, KU
Brian S. Spooner, Biology, KSU
Valentino J. Stella, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, KU
Xiuzhi Susan Sun, Grain Science & Industry, KSU
Karan Surana, Mechanical Engineering, KU
Barbara M. Timmermann, Medicinal Chemistry, KU
Michael Tokach, Animal Sciences & Industry, KSU
Ann Turnbull, Special Education, KU
Rud Turnbull, Special Education, KU
Barbara Valent, Plant Pathology, KSU
David B. Volkin, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, KU
Philine Wangemann, Anatomy & Physiology, KSU
Ruth Welti, Biology, KSU
Donald Worster, History, KU
Dean Zollman, Physics, KSU
University Distinguished Professors, Kansas State University
Distinguished Professors, University of Kansas
Manhattan & Lawrence, KS

cc: Governor Sam Brownback, KSU President Kirk Schulz, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, KSU Provost April Mason, KU Provost Jeff Vitter, KSU Faculty Senate President Julia Keen, KU Faculty Senate President Chris Steadham, KSU Director of Government Relations Sue Peterson


A print version of this appears as an ad on Sunday, 12 January 2014 in: The Lawrence Journal-World, The Manhattan Mercury, and The Topeka Capital-Journal.


The Lawrence Journal-World:
Letter to Kansas Board of Regents, Lawrence Journal-World


The Manhattan Mercury:
Letter to Kansas Board of Regents, Manhattan Mercury


The Topeka Capital-Journal:
Letter to Kansas Board of Regents, Topeka Capital-Journal

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Children’s Literature and Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2014

Modern Language Association 2014: logoWith thanks to Craig Svonkin for assembling the children’s literature panels list and Charles Hatfield for assembling the comics panels list, here’s a list of panel sessions on either children’s literature or comics/graphic novels at the Modern Language Association Conference in Chicago, 9-12 January 2014.  Is there anything missing here?  Drop me a line, and I’ll add it.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

97. Children’s Literature and the Common Core

3:30–4:45 p.m., Belmont, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Jan Christopher Susina, Illinois State Univ.

Speakers: Daniel D. Hade, Penn State Univ., University Park; Michelle Holley Martin, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia; Kristin McIlhagga, Michigan State Univ.; Sarah Minslow, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte; Joe Sutliff Sanders, Kansas State Univ.

This roundtable will address how the English Language Arts Standards of the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) will affect the teaching of college courses in children’s and adolescent literature, given that many of the students enrolled in these courses are preparing for careers in K–12 education.

This session has been chosen by MLA President Marianne Hirsch to be part of the presidential theme, “Vulnerable Times.”

Children’s Literature Division Executive Committee Meeting

Thursday, 10 January, 5:15-6:30 pm, Dupage, Marriott


Friday, 10 January 2014

193. Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic, and Fin de Siècle Children’s Literature

Friday, 10 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Addison, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the William Morris Society and the Children’s Literature Association

Presiding: Andrea Donovan, Minot State Univ.

  1. “Laurence Housman’s Field of Clover and the Pre-Raphaelite Politics of Making,” Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson Univ.
  2. “Mapping the Invisible and the Multivalent: Arthur Hughes’s Illustrations for George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind,” Carey Gibbons, Courtauld Inst. of Art
  3. “Illustrated Labors: Text, Textile, and ‘Wise-talk’ in Christina Rossetti’s Sing-Song,” Jesse Cordes Selbin, Univ. of California, Berkeley
  4. “Art Critics in the Cradle: Fin de Siècle Painting Books and the Move to Modernism,” Victoria Ford Smith, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs

269. Deliver Us to Normal: Children’s Literature and the Midwest

Friday, 10 January, 10:15–11:30 a.m., Los Angeles–Miami, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Children’s Literature Association

Presiding: Katharine Slater, Pacific Lutheran Univ.

  1. “The American Urban Jungle: Tarzan of the Apes and Chicago,” Michelle Ann Abate, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
  2. “Coming of Age in a Divided City: Navigating Chicago Cultures in Sandra Cisneros’s Poetic Bildungsroman and Veronica Roth’s Dystopian Fiction,” Suzanne Hopcroft, Yale Univ.
  3. “When Myth Becomes Truth: Adolescent Identity in Depression-Era Kansas,” Jill Coste, San Diego State Univ.
  4. “Environmental Conservation and Racial Purity in the Fiction of Gene Stratton-Porter,” Sarah Clere, The Citadel

310. Randall Jarrell at One Hundred

1:45–3:00 p.m., Great America, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Chamutal Noimann, Borough of Manhattan Community Coll., City Univ. of New York

  1. “The Child Is the Animal in Randall Jarrell’s Animal Family,” Patricia Oman, Hastings Coll.
  2. “Jarrell the Heroic Reader,” Molly McQuade, American Library Assn.
  3. “Randall Jarrell’s Impossible Children,” Stephen Louis Burt, Harvard Univ.

Respondent: Richard McDonnell Flynn, Georgia Southern Univ.

388. Transnational Comics

Friday, 10 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Chicago X, Sheraton Chicago

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives and the Division on Literature and Other Arts

Presiding: Anke K. Finger, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs; Nhora Lucia Serrano, California State Univ., Long Beach

  1. “Traveling Comics; or, What Happened When Winsor McCay’s Innocents Went Abroad?” Mark McKinney, Miami Univ., Oxford
  2. “Graphic Memories of Revolution: Women on the Verge in Iran and Lebanon,” Julia Watson, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
  3. “Transnational Regards from Serbia,” Ioana Luca, National Taiwan Normal Univ.
  4. “Conceiving the Cosmopolitan Muslim Superhero in The 99,” Stefan Meier, Chemnitz Univ. of Tech.

428. Cash Bar Arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Friday, 10 January, 7:00–8:15 p.m., Grand I, Chicago Marriott


Saturday, 11 January 2014

437. Diaries of the Young Girl: The Craft of Female Selfhood

Saturday, 11 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Indiana-Iowa, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: June S. Cummins, San Diego State Univ.; Rocío G. Davis, City Univ. of Hong Kong

  1. “Writing to Survive: Child-Writing Characterization in Sade Adeniran’s Imagine This,” Suzanne Ondrus, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
  2. “Constructing the Self: Pocket Diaries as Discipline in Nineteenth-Century America,” Martha L. Sledge, Marymount Manhattan Coll.
  3. “‘Okay! Fine! You Can Read It!’: Memory, Adolescence, and Belonging in Lauren Weinstein’s Girl Stories,” Tahneer Oksman, Marymount Manhattan Coll.
  4. “Witness, Re-vision, and the Constraints of Child Authorship in Nadja Halilbegovic’s My Childhood under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary,” Anastasia Ulanowicz, Univ. of Florida

541. Queer Youth: Sexuality and Adolescent Transformations

Saturday, 11 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Chicago F, Chicago Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Philip Nel, Kansas State Univ.

  1. “The Queer Case against Willa Cather’s Paul,” Adam Sonstegard, Cleveland State Univ.
  2. “Queer Sentiments: Tomboys and Familial Belonging in Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding,” Kristen Proehl, State Univ. of New York, Brockport
  3. “When Queer Isn’t So Queer: The Absent Adolescent in the Work of David Levithan,” Kent Baxter, California State Univ., Northridge

Responding: Sarah Sahn, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana

563. Postcolonial Graphic Memoirs

Saturday, 11 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Erie, Sheraton Chicago

Program arranged by the Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing

Presiding: Linda Haverty Rugg, Univ. of California, Berkeley

  1. Malamine, un africain à Paris: A Closer Look at Contemporary Postcolonial Unbelonging,”Michelle Bumatay, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
  2. “Self-Construction of a Transnational Feminine Identity in an Andean Context: Power Paola’s Virus Tropical,” Felipe Gómez, Carnegie Mellon Univ.
  3. “Drawing Memories, Visualizing Texts: Transnational Belonging in GB Tran’s Vietnamerica,”Lan Dong, Univ. of Illinois, Springfield
  4. “Illustrating Alternate Narratives: Unconsumable Racialized Bodies of Young Women in Half World and Skim,” Michelle O’Brien, Univ. of British Columbia

575. A Reading and Conversation with Katherine Paterson

Saturday, 11 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Chicago D, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Conference on Christianity and Literature

Presiding: Roger W. Lundin, Wheaton Coll., IL

Speaker: Katherine Paterson, Barre, VT

595. Comics and Fine Arts

Saturday, 11 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., Lincolnshire, Chicago Marriott

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Hillary L. Chute, Univ. of Chicago

  1. “Art Worlds, War Worlds, Girl Worlds: Henry Darger, Henry James,” Michael D. Moon, Emory Univ.
  2. “Cartoonists Greet the Future: The Antiart of Comics, Modernism, and the Armory Show,” Peter Sattler, Lakeland Coll.
  3. “Not Made to Be Looked at with ‘Aesthetic’ Eyes”: Boxed Works by Chris Ware and Marcel Duchamp,” Jonathan R. Bass, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

Sunday, 12 January 2014

691. Broadway Babies

8:30–9:45 a.m., Great America, Chicago Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Donelle Ruwe, Northern Arizona Univ.

  1. “Belting: The Construction of Childhood Voice in Annie,” James Leve, Northern Arizona Univ.
  2. “‘There’s Going to Be a Change in This Workhouse’: Lionel Bart’s Oliver! and Postwar Youth Culture,” Marc Napolitano, United States Military Acad.
  3. “Urchins, Unite: Newsies as an Antidote to Annie,” Marah Gubar, Univ. of Pittsburgh

Abstract:
“Broadway Babies” examines AnnieOliver!, and Newsies, musicals in which the child is at first isolated, unloved, and impoverished and then is brought into a nurturing, albeit non-traditional, “family.” As the panelists demonstrate, these shows’ dual fantasy of the vulnerable child in need of rescue and the redemptive child who rescues others is complicated by the medium of musical theater.

755. Female Rebellion in Young-Adult Dystopian Fiction

Sunday, 12 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Sheffield, Chicago Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Sara K. Day, Southern Arkansas Univ.

  1. “‘I Am Beginning to Know Myself’: Rebellious Subjectivities in Young-Adult Dystopian Fiction,” Miranda A. Green-Barteet, Univ. of Western Ontario
  2. “‘Rebel, Rebel, You’ve Torn Your Dress’: Distractions of Competitive Girlhood in Young-Adult Dystopian Fiction,” Amy L. Montz, Univ. of Southern Indiana
  3. “Docile Bodies, Dangerous Bodies: Sexual Awakening and Social Resistance in Young-Adult Dystopian Novels,” Sara K. Day

768. Collaboration in Comics

Sunday, 12 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Colorado, Sheraton Chicago

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Charles Hatfield, California State Univ., Northridge

  1. “Multimodal Composition and the Rhetoric of Comics: A Study of Comics Teams in Collaboration,” Molly Scanlon, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ.
  2. “‘A Story Lived, Photographed[,] Told[,] Written and Drawn’: The Dance of Pen and Camera in Guibert and Lefèvre’s The Photographer,” Birte Wege, Freie Univ.
  3. “The Problem of Collaborative Authorship in the Comics Jam,” Isaac Cates, Univ. of Vermont
  4. “Collaboration as Consciousness Raising: The Bodies of Feminism in Wimmen’s Comix,” Margaret Galvan, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

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Kansas State University Distinguished Professors: Open Letter to the Kansas Board of Regents

Kansas State University23 Dec. 2013

Dear Kansas Board of Regents,

As University Distinguished Professors at Kansas State University, we write to call for the immediate repeal of the new social media policy, and to ask that you instead work together with elected faculty representatives and administration to craft a social media policy that best serves the interests of Kansas universities, their faculty, staff, and students. By revoking the faculty and staff’s right to freedom of speech, the new social media policy is an affront to academic freedom and academic excellence.

Furthermore, it undermines Kansas State University’s 2025 plan by driving away both potential hires and current faculty.  Social media covered by the new policy include cutting-edge venues valued for the dissemination of research, scholarly and creative activity, and development.  The free and open exchange of ideas is essential to fulfilling the mission of any university. As a group recognized for our contributions to and support of the essential research work of our university, we look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Christer Aakeroy, Chemistry
John Blair, Biology
Frank Blecha, Anatomy & Physiology
Susan Brown, Biology
Edgar Chambers IV, Human Nutrition
M. M. Chengappa, Diagnostic Medicine
Gary Conrad, Biology
Rob Denell, Biology
Elizabeth Dodd, English
Walter Dodds, Biology
Michael Dryden, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology
James H. Edgar, Chemical Engineering
Brett Esry, Physics
David Hartnett, Biology
John Hatcliff, Computing & Information Sciences
Dale Herspring, Political Sciences
Ryszard Jankowiak, Chemistry
Anthony Joern, Biology
Michael Kanost, Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Ken Klabunde, Chemistry
David Littrell, Music
Daniel Marcus, Anatomy & Physiology
James Marsden, Animal Sciences & Industry
Richard Marston, Geography
Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, Anatomy & Physiology
S. Muthukrishnan, Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics*
T.G. Nagaraja, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology
Philip Nel, English
Harald Prins, Anthropology
Chuck Rice, Agronomy
Juergen Richt, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology
Jim Riviere, Anatomy & Physiology
Tom Roche, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Ted Schroeder, Agricultural Economics
James Shanteau, Psychological Sciences
Chris Sorensen, Physics
Brian S. Spooner, Biology
Xiuzhi Susan Sun, Grain Science & Industry
Michael Tokach, Animal Sciences & Industry
Philine Wangemann, Anatomy & Physiology
Ruth Welti, Biology
Dean Zollman, Physics*
 
University Distinguished Professors
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS

cc: Governor Sam Brownback, President Kirk Schulz, Provost April Mason, Faculty Senate President Julia Keen, Director of Government Relations Sue Peterson


Updated 23 Dec. 2013, 10:36 am: Since I sent this out, several UDPs have emailed asking to be included. I’m adding their names above, with an * to indicate that they weren’t on the original letter. But they’re very much in support, and asked that I record their support here.

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Kansas, the banana republic

It’s an anti-free speech manifesto that sounds like a pronouncement from the government of a banana republic.

The Board of Regents truly should back up, take a deep breath, and decide on something that meets the needs of its great universities.

This first try was ghastly, pure and simple, and should be stricken down immediately.

— “New Regents policy really bad idea,” Manhattan Mercury, 22 Dec. 2013.

Since the Mercury is subscriber-only (in its on-line version), I’ve taken the liberty of posting a photograph of the full editorial below. If the Mercury would like me to take it down, I’m glad to comply.


"New Regents policy really bad idea," Manhattan Mercury, 22 Dec. 2013


Link to piece on Manhattan Mercury website (subscribers only).

Further information:

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Higher Education is Not a Reality TV Show; or, How A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” Differs from the Kansas Board of Regents

Free Speech ZoneOn Facebook, a friend recently asked me how the recent controversy over the Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media policy differs from A&E’s suspending of Phil Robertson from the Duck Dynasty reality TV show. I see why she asks: The Kansas Board of Regents has rescinded faculty and staff’s right to free speech, just as A&E has rescinded Phil Robertson’s right to free speech.

First, let me go on record as saying that I support Phil Robertson’s right to express his belief that homosexuality is immoral, and to use the language of Christianity to do so. I think that using religion to advocate bigotry dishonors the Christian faith, and I wish that he would express his ignorance in a different way. But the First Amendment grants him the right to express foolish ideas, and I support that right.

A&E, however, is a corporation. If it chooses not to grant Mr. Robertson a venue for his homophobia, he can still express it — just not on the Duck Dynasty television program.

But here’s where reality TV and academia part ways. The free and open exchange of ideas is at the core of the academic enterprise, and one venue for that exchange is social media — blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. The Kansas Board of Regents’ new social media policy says that faculty and staff can be fired for impairing “discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers,” or for doing anything “contrary to the best interest of the university.” In addition to being both broad and vague, that language hampers our ability to do our jobs.

cartoon by Ann Telnaes

A university is different from a corporation. Academics who work for universities exchange ideas because it’s our job to exchange ideas. It is at the core of what the academic enterprise is all about. Thanks to this new social media policy, we now lack some of the basic tools for sharing research.

For example, the Kansas Board of Regents is appointed by Governor Sam Brownback, who believes that gay and lesbian people do not deserve human rights (such as, say, the right to marry). What if you’re doing research on human rights? Or teaching Walt Whitman, Alison Bechdel, or Oscar Wilde? Would that be “contrary to the best interest of the university”? Would it foster disharmony? If your university president is as prejudiced as your governor, talking about these ideas openly might give you pause. I am pleased to report that Kansas State University’s president supports the rights of LGBTQ people, but university presidents come and go. Policies last for a long time. And this sort of policy impedes the exchange of ideas.

In crafting this policy, the Kansas Board of Regents did not consult the faculty, staff, or administration of the Regents institutions. Had they done so, they might have avoided this debacle. Indeed, the most productive way forward would be for them to rescind the new social media edict, and instead work with elected representatives from the faculty and university administrations, to craft a sensible social media policy.

Further information:

Image credits: cartoon by the great Ann Telnaes; “Free Speech Zone” map from UpperLeft.

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Kansas Board of Regents Revokes Right to Freedom of Speech

Kansas Board of RegentsAs faculty grade their last student papers and exams before leaving town for the Christmas holidays, the Kansas Board of Regents quietly — and unanimously — voted to revoke their academic freedom and basic right to freedom of speech.  As the Lawrence Journal-World reports this evening, “The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a policy that would allow the firing of university employees if they communicated through social media in a way that aversely [sic] affects the school.”

According to the new policy, “improper use of social media” includes any “communication through social media that”:

“ii. when made pursuant to (i.e. in furtherance of) the employee’s official duties, is contrary to the best interest of the university”

“iv. subject to the balancing analysis required by the following paragraph, impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary, impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties, interferes with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.”

“In determining whether the employee’s communication constitutes an improper use of social media under paragraph (iv), the chief executive officer shall balance the interest of the university in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees against the employee’s right as a citizen to speak on matters of public concern, and may consider the employee’s position within the university and whether the employee used or publicized the university name, brands, website, official title or school/department/college or otherwise created the appearance of the communication being endorsed, approved or connected to the university in a manner that discredits the university.  The chief executive officer may also consider whether the communication was made during the employee’s working hours or the communication was transmitted utilizing university systems or equipment.  This policy on improper use of social media shall apply prospectively from its date of adoption by the Kansas Board of Regents.”

In essence, anything can be grounds for firing. And the Board of Regents has defined social media very, very broadly:

 “Social media” means any facility for online publication and commentary, including but not limited to blogs, wikis, and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

So, for example, if the university decides that this blog post is “improper use of social media,” it can fire me.  Posting a link to this blog post via Twitter and Facebook (which I will do as soon as I finish writing it) could, if deemed “improper use of social media,” also be grounds for firing me.  (I hope GooglePlus and Academia.Edu do not feel slighted by the Regents’ omission, but rest assured that I’ll push this link out via those means as well.)

I understand why the Kansas Board of Regents would want to encourage responsible use of social media.  However, I find it harder to understand how a body that oversees an educational system designed to foster free and open exchanges of ideas would seek to impede free and open exchanges of ideas. I also wonder how it expects to enforce a policy that violates the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”  I suppose the fact that a state has far deeper pockets than any individual does will be the Board of Regents’ strongest means of enforcement.

At any rate, if you also find this decision troubling, you might let the Board of Regents know.  The telephone number is 785-296-3421.  Here is the contact information for Fred Logan (Chair of the Board of Regents), and contact information for all ten members of the Board of Regents.

Further information (updated 10 Apr. 2014, 3:40 pm, CST):

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This Job Can Kill You. Literally.

G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury

As you likely already know, Margaret Mary Vojtko — an adjunct professor of French for 25 years — was found dead on her front lawn on September 1st. Facing mounting medical bills and lacking money to maintain or even heat her house, she died of a heart attack earlier that day.  As Daniel Kovalik writes, “Even during the best of times, when she was teaching three classes a semester and two during the summer, she was not even clearing $25,000 a year, and she received absolutely no health care benefits.”  His article, “Death of an adjunct,” has been widely shared across social media, been reprinted in the Huffington Post, and inspired stories in Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Gawker.

In some senses, her death was not preventable: she was 83 and fighting cancer. It’s likely that she would have died sooner rather than later.

But in other senses, her job killed her. And I’m not speaking figuratively. As Mr. Kovalik notes,

in the past year, her teaching load had been reduced by the university to one class a semester, which meant she was making well below $10,000 a year. With huge out-of-pocket bills from UPMC Mercy for her cancer treatment, Margaret Mary was left in abject penury. She could no longer keep her electricity on in her home, which became uninhabitable during the winter. She therefore took to working at an Eat’n Park at night and then trying to catch some sleep during the day at her office at Duquesne. When this was discovered by the university, the police were called in to eject her from her office. Still, despite her cancer and her poverty, she never missed a day of class.

Full Time Respect for Part Time Faculty!

Her job left her unable to meet her basic needs (heat, food, medicine). Furthermore, that level of stress has an adverse effect on a person’s health. People forced to cope with large levels of extreme stress — and poverty is definitely an extreme stress — have shorter life expectancies. A job that reduces you to poverty also hastens your demise.

I would not suggest that Duquesne University acted alone in killing Professor Vojtko, nor that all individuals at the university lacked sympathy for her. But the university is certainly an accomplice. While it claims to be a Catholic university, Duquesne has fought its adjuncts’ attempts to unionize, alleging that it deserved an exception on religious grounds; in contrast, Georgetown University, citing the Catholic church’s commitment to social justice, recognized its adjuncts’ union.

Duquesne has many accomplices. Its treatment of Professor Vojtko was cruel, but not unusual. Exploitation of adjunct labor has become the norm in academe. Faced with rising costs (and, in “state” schools, decreasing support from the state), colleges and universities consider adjuncts an “economic” solution to their staffing needs. They’re highly qualified cheap labor, and — as the number of tenure-track jobs decreases — there are more Ph.Ds. to choose from each year. It’s a buyer’s market. Duquesne only did what other universities and colleges have done. Indeed, at American universities, 73% of all instructors are non tenure-track (adjuncts or grad students).*

Adjuncts United!

Yes, some institutions treat adjuncts more humanely than others. Some provide health insurance and even retirement plans. Some. But, even under the best conditions, adjuncts are second-class citizens. And, yes, some make it on to the tenure track. But most do not.

Relying on adjuncts as the primary way to teach classes has become normal, but it’s not good for the adjuncts and it’s not good for higher education. Adjuncts owe no loyalty to the institution that employs them; so, at the beginning of term, heads of departments must scramble to find people to cover classes. That’s no way to run a university. As Professor Vojtko’s death makes all too clear, that’s also not a humane way to treat an educator — or anyone, for that matter.

G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury

One reason that universities rely upon adjunct labor points to the third group responsible for killing Professor Vojtko: all those who mock academic labor, consider teaching a cushy job, argue that educators are lazy (as in the familiar misconception, you only teach a few classes and then you get summers off!). The concerted effort to refashion intellectual labor as a form of leisure diminishes sympathy for a hard-working group that has much to contribute. It deprives them of their humanity. It makes them easy targets. They become easy to neglect, easy to ignore, and easy to crush beneath the weight of indifference and poverty.

Certainly, teachers — at primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels — are not the only people who have been maligned in this way. Factory workers (especially unionized ones), policemen, firemen, all public-sector workers have all been criticized as somehow unworthy of the salary and benefits they receive.

I’ve been using the passive voice, failing to name just who is doing the maligning, because this is not merely the fault of one particular faction. Certainly, responsibility lies with pundits on the right who complain about “the takers” mooching off “the makers,” governors who slash education budgets while simultaneously giving tax breaks to the wealthy, and businesses pushing an “educational reform” because it serves their financial interests. But people on the left are also at fault. In an effort to reduce the cost of college (certainly a laudable goal), President Obama fails to address the single greatest contributing factor to the rising cost of tuition: decreasing state support requires universities to find money from other sources. This is not something that the privately funded Duquesne University (Professor Vojtko’s employer) faces, but the president’s move to hold colleges accountable without a comparable push to restore public funding simply perpetuates the myth that educators are too highly paid. This myth obscures the fact that many of us are not well paid at all.

G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury

I spent three years as an adjunct. Those years (1997-2000) were not happy ones. I was often angry. Indeed, I am frankly surprised and grateful that I have friends from that period of my life: a bitter person isn’t fun to be around. Today, I am tenured, a full professor of English at Kansas State University (which receives 20% of its funding from the state). As an ex-adjunct, I find stories like Professor Vojtko’s especially troubling. Her path might have been my path. It wasn’t, but it has been and will be the path of many others. The exploitation of adjuncts has only increased since my days as an adjunct.

This brings me to the fourth and final group I would indict in the death of Professor Vojtko: me, and people like me. No, I did not create the conditions that foster the exploitation of adjuncts. Nor do I support those who think that college should be run like a business, and am frankly appalled by the efforts (by President Obama, and others) to apply a capitalist ethos to institutions that strive to serve the public good. And, sure, I’m sympathetic to adjuncts. But that’s not enough.

American Association of University ProfessorsThose of us who have attained even a modest amount of institutional power need to speak up. We need to support organizations fighting for adjunct rights — such as the American Association of University Professors. I have been intending to join this group for years, and only now — while writing this paragraph — did I actually join. Writing this essay and joining that group aren’t sufficient, I know. But it is at least a step in the right direction.

We need to stop exploiting adjuncts. It’s killing them. And it isn’t good for the rest of us, either.

__________

* Note and Correction (added 22 Sept. 2013, 5:40 pm): According to the study, the 73% includes full-time, non-tenure track faculty (15%), part-time/adjunct faculty (37%), and graduate employees (21%). Those first two groups are both adjunct: that is, “full-time, non-tenure track faculty” is the equivalent of adjunct. So, if we add these two together, then we get 52% adjunct, plus an additional 21% graduate students, for a total of 73%. A more recent study indicates that  non-tenure track faculty (adjuncts and graduate students) now comprise 76% of instructors at American colleges and universities.  The correction here is that my original post stated that “73% of all instructors are now adjuncts”; using the source I originally cited, the more precise way to state this is that “73% of all instructors are now non-tenure track (adjuncts and graduate students).”  So, when Chris pointed this out (comment no. 37, below), I made the change.

Resources (updated 18 Nov. 2013, 3:00 pm)

Image sources: “Adjunct Professors Petting the Short End of the Stick” (Politics 365, 4 June 2013),  “Precarcity Everywhere” (Disorder of Things, 1 Feb. 2012), American Association of University Professors.  The Doonesbury strips come from “Mathematicians and the Market” (GeoffDavis.net, 1997), but check out Doonesbury at Go! Comics for more of Trudeau’s work.

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