Archive for September, 2015

Going off the rails.



I remember meeting my old dorm mate Sanders the first day I moved into the dorms at Oklahoma. He probably followed the smell of weed. I wound up rooming with a series of frat boys who peed in their trashcans, and Sandy was roomed with a transgendered guy who disappeared after the first week….We were roommates by week four in Oliver House, an unairconditioned party dorm closest to the main campus.

We spent the year sitting around in our dorm room drinking cheap whiskey, smoking weed, listening to music and studying. Tom Thiel and Danny Bartfeld would come up and we’d party, and Teresa and some of her friends might come over. We were the party kids on a budget. We didn’t go out. We couldn’t afford it. I worked in Tulsa on the weekends and brought “home” my tips and shit. We’d figure out how much beer, whiskey, and weed we could afford, and maybe a couple of pizzas or a concert or some acid.

Sanders had done it all and was a good bit older than my 17 years. He’d worked in construction and oil rigging, attended a shit school in Chickenshit OK where he lived in the dorms with some really interesting characters. He is from Sapulpa, which is where most of my family is from on my mom’s side. We had a great year. But I had to move on. I was engaged, my fiance was in Tulsa in a nursing program, and OU wasn’t the place for me. Sanders was in my wedding, I keep looking for pictures but I can’t find one, but I only saw him a few times after that. He moved to Florida with Teresa, but it didn’t end well, and I heard from Tom that Sandy wound up in prison for a bit in Florida on a coke charge.

Tom died of cancer in the early 1990s while in med school at Wisconsin after an MA in Physics at Davis. I used to sometimes get together in Tulsa with Tom’s brother Dan who is a physicist at Cornell, but he was my last connection with Sandy after he’d split with Teresa. Last time I saw evidence of Sandy was in a blues bar in Tulsa in the mid 1990s, where he had scrawled his name on the ceiling. I always hoped I’d run into him and we could hang out. Teresa disabused me of that hope. Drugs are bad. Sandy got in way too deep. Apparently he was living in Texas and had an altercation with his 20 year old son in 2012, and wound up killing his own kid. He’s serving a long sentence in Huntsville.

It’s strange how things can get off track. Sanders was doing a major in theater tech and set design. He had a shit-ton of experience with bands and plays, and I figured he’d be head roadie for major touring acts. But, that didn’t happen. I don’t know what did. I keep thinking I need to make a trip to Huntsville, but I don’t know what I’ll find. The Sanders I know is the coolest guy in the world, fun, smart, easygoing….but I guess sometimes things go off the rails. We saw Ozzy together in 1983….

There is only one track, and that is as it should be.

Douglas Lee Eckberg

Douglas Lee Eckberg

Jessica has a nice post over at Scatter expressing some wisdom and concern about the perennial red herring of a teaching track versus a research track in academe. I totally agree. It is really unfortunate that students often develop networks where they fantasize about something other than the grind of a research focused job geared towards tenure. As if that is something horrible. If that is your idea of hell, quit. I’ve been a full professor for over a decade and I frequently wake up in the middle of the night with an idea about research. Teaching is not easy, and teaching four or five courses a semester must be ungodly. And people who do that do it for way less than half of what I make. Money matters just a tad, not too much, or I’d be a retired lawyer now, but there is a big difference between what you make at a 4-4 fake liberal arts college or minor state university versus what you pull down at an honest to gods research school or serious liberal arts college.

But, the difference is really in the margins. And I fear that many students just don’t get the point. What about some nice 3-3 state university? Why should they have to learn all of that nasty research methods and theory and publish stuff once in a while in order to get a job at Southwestern State? Because you don’t deserve it, you entitled pricks.

Jessica and I have something in common. His picture is up there. Dougie. Douglas Lee Eckberg, author of a Intelligence and Race: Origins and Dimensions of the IQ Controversy on UT press, articles in ASR, Social Forces, Ann Rev. Soc, SSQ, JSSR….He was one of my key undergraduate mentors, and Jessica’s as well, I believe. I had Dougie for several classes at Tulsa, which is a liberal arts university with small classes and strong students. Doug couldn’t have done his job at all if he didn’t do research at Tulsa, because a substantial fraction of us went on to graduate school in the social sciences. Dougie got fucked. Despite having a record that would be tenurable at any top university, he was denied tenure at Tulsa and moved to Winthrop—a small commuterish college on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte fringe. There, he taught a bit more (but his research record gave him courses off), and did a lot of administrating. But, because he was the legitimate article, when students looking to go to the next level were in his courses or plopped themselves in his office, he KNEW what to do. Because he had done the research, and understood the research, and understands the discipline.

Our system of education must amplify the potential for students at lower tier universities. If second and third and fourth tier schools do not have faculty who at least understand the cutting edge of the discipline, then all of the students are cut out of the potential to contribute to scholarship. Talented people will be lost. Jessica could have instead been living in a trailer park in South Carolina….

There is no shame in not being at the top tier. There is no reduction in the work load, either. Nor should there be. The work is different, sometimes, and you certainly can’t crank out the research the way you can teaching 1-1 at a real university, but it still matters. If you want more “balance” than that, maybe you should take Ken Land’s old advice “the Post Office is always hiring.” Only, I guess now it’s Wal Mart….