Archive for December, 2013
The inntertubes have been all aflutter over two very related incidents this week. First, Patty Adler was harassed by deanlets, punished with no due process, and essentially encouraged to take early retirement for the horrific crime of teaching a course on deviance which had the audacity to claim that sex work was deviant and that sex workers are stratified. Next, several colleges found that their new “anonymous victim” rape reporting sites were inundated with false anonymous reports from juvenile men. Most people don’t see the connection, so let me sexsplain it for you.
I’ve known Patty Adler for nearly 30 years since my first year at the University of Tulsa where she taught briefly as an adjunct and her spouse, Peter, was on the tenure track, though I never had a course with her or Peter. Throughout her career she has been known as an excellent and engaging teacher, and she did a wonderful AKD ceremony lecture here at SIU a few years back. She’s always done deviance, and has a remarkable set of diverse ethnographic books and articles in the field, on top of teaching it for over 30 years. Not surprisingly, her course covers sex work as a deviant career, and like all careers sex workers are stratified on several planes. And, since it’s a class with 500 fucking kids (that would be 1500 credit hours for you deanlets), so she does things like have skits so the kids stay awake and maybe get the concepts with visual cues and narrative scripts. No student has ever complained about the course. A complaint isn’t bitching about your commie hippy professor, it is actually filing a grievance because you feel that something inappropriate was done to you. Feeling uncomfortable about street prostitutes (male and female) talking like street prostitutes is part of the experience of understanding the lower ranks of sex work, which, like the lower ranks of higher education is a really bad job performed only by the most desperate individuals. It SHOULD make you uncomfortable, as should a great many things in sociology.
That’s where the deanlets come in. Since Jerry Sandusky forcibly raped several children and this was covered up by the Penn State football coach, president of the university, and head of “public safety” and this was finally discovered (oops!), the deanlets and deanlings have taken this as an opportunity to oppress the faculty. Yes, you know, because we’re always sodomizing children and having our buddy the football coach cover it up. And, more importantly, we have decided that feeling uncomfortable with how someone talks about sex in a course on deviance is exactly the same thing as child rape. Indeed, crimes are our responsibility (they always bring up the Clery Act, where Lehigh failed to have adequate security and didn’t publicize actual crimes and this led to a horrific murder—because learning about sociology is just like rape and murder). It is telling that the asshole deanlets, deanlings, and deans justified harassing Professor Adler with a dizzying number of claims, and most of this was coming from their “diversity” office—because this helps increase the number of deanlets needed in that division, and they think teaching people about sex is equivalent to sexual harassment or rape. They have conferences on this where presenters move from Jerry Sandusky raping a ten year old to some poor person feeling uncomfortable because a professor said “fuck” in class a few times. They do the same with racial stuff, so don’t show the Eyes on the Prize in your social movements course, they say “nigger” a lot in that one. We can’t have the children learning the uncomfortable truth about virulent racism now, can we? Indeed, someone in the diversity office is going to have to double check all of our syllabi for our courses on race, sex, deviance, crime, religion, ok, just everything. They’ll need at least two more deanlets to pull this off, and then another three deanlets and four secretaries to help process the slew of grievances they will encourage in workshops like “Did Your Professor Say That? We can change that!” which they’ll present in dorms and fraternities and sororities. And, if that doesn’t work, we’ll send our deanlings to classes where they teach about uncomfortable things and then discipline them for not making anyone uncomfortable enough to file a grievance! Awesome! Best yet, one of those horrible tenured professors who writes lots of books and is known worldwide will be forced into early retirement, and we can replace her with an adjunct and use the extra money to hire another deanlet! SCOOOOOOOORE!!!
The case of juvenile men punking the anonymous sexual assault reporting systems at several colleges is interesting and wrong on many levels. I’m not going to focus on the young boys, but on why this strategy is the focus of a highly organized social movement organization which seems to reek of being a front group for deanlets looking for organizational expansion. Sure, they may mean well on some levels (I’m sure they don’t like rape….), but their tactics are not just highly suspect, they are counterproductive to the goal of reducing sexual assault and bringing criminals to justice. Supposedly because of the Clery Act, we have to have an anonymous reporting system? Bullshit. Because Bullshit. It is acknowledged that this cannot be used in any way against some young boy accused of rape. If it is, he can sue big-time and will win (I think there are four cases going on right now regarding such things, though I don’t know if any are connected to the violation of the idea that the accused can’t be accused anonymously). So, if schools can’t do that, what can they do with this? What good is it? It does nothing. It is not an accurate representation of the crime risks on a campus—-which is what the Clery Act was supposed to be about, Lehigh falsely presented itself as a safe haven when in fact it had some serious issues with campus security. But, I KNOW it takes at least two deanlets to administrate the reporting of Clery Act “compliance” and if you expand the Clery act to include all possible hints of any kind of crime that might have happened anywhere in the vicinity of campus even though none of this shit is actually supposedly going to become public unless we want to use it against someone then we’re gonna need at LEAST three more deanlets, and one of them should have a JD and pull down $200k! SCOOOOOOOOORE!
In the first case, this is a simple violation of everything higher education is about, not just academic freedom, but learning. A bunch of kids from the suburbs of Denver and small towns in the prairie learned that we have sex slaves in the United States (and a lot of them are coming from Eastern Europe), and also that some sex workers actually make a lot of money and kind of like their jobs. I’m sure I could find a film that depicts much of this within 10 minutes of searching, and I’m sure that many people who teach courses in deviance regularly show films depicting various aspects of sex work. But, some deanlet doesn’t care about scholarly content, on a similar issue I had a deanlet tell me this to my face. She wanted to have one of my faculty members disciplined for an innocuous skit and at one point in our very heated, hour -ong argument she said something to the effect that “It may have been Ok to talk about sex in a sociology class back in the 1960s at Berkeley, but not here at SIU.” Notably the wrongfully, anonymously accused wasn’t even accused of talking about sex.
The second case is even worse and has cost universities throughout the country billions of dollars in administrative and policing bloat and legal liability. Sometime right around the start of Ronny Raygun’s war on education (coincidence?) universities began an expansive program to claim in loco parentis status, meaning that we’re responsible for everything bad that happens to any little children (which there are very few) on college campuses. Frat boy burns off a girl’s face in a stupid drunken party trick, it’s the University’s fault, not the fault of the boy or the fraternal organization (true story from my Vanderbilt days). Crime happens on campus, it’s the university’s responsibility to investigate the crime. Now, what do you think a university will do with their investigations? You think they may have an incentive to hide crime or protect students who might be children of powerful alumni or football players or something? Are the glorified rent a cops on college campuses your ideal people to investigate crime? We should have never gone there! Call the Police. The Real Police. Campus security should be for reporting ice on the sidewalks and helping you get into your office if you forget your keys. You wanna increase the reporting of sex crimes TO THE REAL POLICE, then we need to stop wasting our money on rent a cops and deanlets, and increase (rather than decrease….) the staffs of our counseling and psychological service centers. Those people already know what to do, one of my best buddies is one, their only problem is that every year there are more and more cuts, and next thing you know you have holes in the rape crisis line and wait times that may discourage victims from seeking help or justice. Instead, we’ll hire three more deanlets and a lawyer…..
There is an exceptionally comical research agenda in “education administration” (which is not a scholarly field in the academy) that constantly beats the drum of crisis in higher education and points to the desperate need for radical reform. Higher education is broken. Students aren’t learning. Professors are out of step with the “real” trends in research. There needs to be more accountability to the public for all the money being wasted on these egghead dilettantes who are a bunch of commie homos who hate America. What has ensued is an exponential proliferation of administration in higher education seeking to combat these windmills of pedagogical impasse and mediocrity—it isn’t an accident that this began with the anti-communist crusades of the 1950s and gained permanent (so it seems) dominance during Ronny Raygun’s war on education.
But, fuck all that. I’m hear to tell you a happy story. Despite the fact that the ever expanding phalanx of deanlets and deanlings are trying to ruin college by overadministrating, those people are worthless losers and they can’t even properly fuck things up. Better yet, nothing is really broken. At the top tier, in research focused private universities, flagship public universities, and top of the line liberal arts or science colleges, nothing is even hurting. Higher education is wonderful. Great things are accomplished. Contributions are made to science, the arts, and humanity, and students learn a great many things about myriad subjects and life in general. The experience of going to college and completing college is a marker of success that commands a substantial return in the future. And you only get that from real college. Not online MOOCS or telecourses or from institutions with a revolving door of instructors who are not Professors. Tenured and tenure-tracked professors are the key ingredient in college education. They are the experts who convey and make knowledge. And, nothing can replace that.
I always wonder where these asshole deanlets and deanlings and chancellors and prevosts and shit went to school. Was college broken where you went? Did you learn nothing? Do you think you would be a better person if you just took a telecourse degree? Did anyone write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school? Was it the instructor of a junior college telecourse who was teaching it for $350 and only held a Bachelors or Masters degree in some field of study? College wasn’t broken where I went to school, and I attended a flagship state school (the University of Oklahoma), a solid junior college (Tulsa Junior College), a strong liberal arts and engineering college (the University of Tulsa), and a top tier private (Duke). I had excellent professors at all of these institutions. I learned a great many things. I talked to professors about how to learn more, and they helped me. When it came time to go to graduate school or eventually to get a job, professors wrote me letters of recommendation—and those letters mattered. I wasn’t some number in an online course where the “instructor” might be able to say, “studentx earned an A in my course” but a person about whom they could discuss a variety of characteristics that are relevant for success in graduate school.
And it is still like that, and it isn’t just at the top tier institutions or for the best and the brightest. While I may bitch and moan about it at this time of year, one of the most important things I do is write letters of recommendation for my students. And this week I’ll be writing one for a typical student, let’s call her Kanisha. Kanisha had three courses with me when she was an undergraduate, and she was a solid B- student. Like many of my SIU students, she had children and lived a long way from campus. But, she also made it to class, and if she was going to be late because of weather or a kid issue, or miss class, she always, always sent me an e-mail apologizing for her absence. After graduating, she took a job in social services in her hometown—yes, she got a job, using her sociology major. It’s been a couple of years and now she wants to go back and get an MSW. And, I’m proud to write her a letter of recommendation. I know she’ll do a great job in that field. You see, I know her. I’ve met her. She’s been in my office many times, and I even met one of her sons once. She may not have been the most talented student, but she learned a lot in my courses—and no, I’m not going to prove that to you, assholes. And, even though she didn’t get A’s, she kept coming back for more. She wanted to learn, and she did. She was a college student, and while I hate going to graduations (and didn’t go to my own) I remember being glad that I went there and saw Kanisha and her family at hers, and I was proud of her. My recommendation will mean something. It will have an impact beyond the numbers of her GPA or GRE score. Notably, this privilege is not questioned for students at top tier universities. No, we just want to eliminate the actual experience and benefit of going to college for people like Kanisha. We want “them” to get anonymous online degrees, and then we’ll have a deanlet produce bureaucratic propaganda about Kanisha claiming that her test scores say something about her as a person entering a program leading to a particular professional career. None of US did online degrees. I never took an online course or telecourse (I could have in junior college). None of US thought that our educational experiences were broken, or that we didn’t learn anything. We learned a lot. I hope that the deanlets who think that people aren’t learning in college are willing to explain why I should listen to them given that they are the product of a broken system and learned nothing.
Much of the whiny, sniveling, right-wing “critique” of higher education is the demand for professors to demonstrate what it is that we do. Some of the deanlets and deanlings (especially people trying to work their way up the deanlet totem pole at research universities) demand quantitative accountability of our research production. We’re only as valuable as our latest publication count or (usually more importantly) our grant dollar total. Others (the “teaching geek” deanlets) demand that we produce evidence that our little children are actually “learning,” and those deanlets want to micromanage our courses, homogenize the content, and enforce some kind of no-child-left behind nonsense on higher education. Few of those deanlets could even pass my introductory course on statistics, or have had any basic training in measurement or time series analysis. The only crisis in higher education is that we’re letting a bunch of mediocre flakes “fix” something that isn’t broken. Flakes. Haven’t I heard something about them before? Happy Zappadan.
Ah, some great intellectuals here….Zappa understood that theocratic bullshit takes place more at the micro-political level. It’s the teenagers in Ada, Oklahoma who can’t listen to certain music or read certain bikes (and all the tens of thousands of towns like that) that skews cultural discourse. Sure, it’ll be shot down in the Supreme Court 20 years later, but twenty generations of students never read Too Kill a Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 451.
A couple of the greatest, being clowns. On velvet……….
Great run for the icon of fighting against racism and rebirthing a post-colonial Africa. I was big into the anti-Apartheid movement back in the 1980s, and Mandela was a hero. I can’t believe what he did or how he took his pain and suffering. I can’t believe he lived to be 95. What an amazing person. I’m glad he’s done with his suffering. I was hanging with my buddy Johnny Voss one day last summer and Mandela was very ill, and Johnny had the TV on and the sound off and it was all Mandela and we both thought he was dead. No sorrow though, only celebration. Wow, what a life. He wasn’t dead yet. Now, he is. But what a run that human had.
In the high holy days of Zappadan, it is only right to point out that Zappa’s frequent collaborator George Duke served as the musical director at the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1988. Duke was one of the greatest musicians in all of Rock and Roll, and he died earlier this year. Here is George with Dweezil and crew in 2010.
Ah yes, Zappadan returns like the falling leaves and the snow and the shitstorm of fuckheads railing about the war on Jesus. We must remember that the reason for the season is not strictly commercial. Nor is it found in the pit of a funky Sear’s poncho, or in the bathroom of the Mudd Club. Reason don’t need a reason or a season, but Punky is sooooo haaaawt…..