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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0654.  Friday, 13 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 09:01:09 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0648  The State of the Profession

(2)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 12:20 ET
        Subj:   SHK 7.0648  The State of the Pro

(3)     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 14:19:36 +0200
        Subj:   the profession under fire


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 09:01:09 +0000
Subject: 7.0648  The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0648  The State of the Profession

I must say that a number of newly hired PhD's are a bit reluctant to dicuss
"original texts", cannot quote from them and indeed give more evidence of
thorough knowledge of theory and criticism than of the books they are
presumably hired to teach. This I say from reports students have relayed to me,
and perhaps I am being less than fair. Maybe they can type with more facility
than I, but it strikes me that there is a general avoidance of the texts.

If students arrived from high schools and Junior colleges already more familiar
with the books, I could understand this trend with a more charitable
comprehension.

        Harry Hill

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 12:20 ET
Subject: The State of the Pro
Comment:        SHK 7.0648  The State of the Pro

Bill Godshalk wonders if we can "map the profession," confessing that the terms
that occur to him are things like "fragmented."  Presumably he looks back on
the days when we were in graduate school together and everybody at the MLA
convention talked the same critical language, so that a "map" of the profession
could be printed in one color (though even then there were a few bibliographers
in one corner of the bar and a few linguisticists in another and even a few
working poets and novelists in a third).  But consider the metaphor further. On
a map of the United States (all the liberal arts and sciences, shall we say, as
they are represented by the departments in a university) Ohio, where Bill and I
both live, he at one end of the state and I at the other, is all one color.
The maps of the state that hang in state government offices, however, are
likely to be particolored, so as to discriminate the counties (Explication
County, Analytical Bibliography County, Queer County, and so on?).  The maps in
political party offices may well show a different set of divisions,
congressional districts (very odd and complicated shapes, for the most part);
those in a geologist's or botanist's office another and different set, perhaps
requiring 17 or 30 colors instead of 4.  (Somebody cleverer than I can continue
the allegory.)  On the ground, however, the state, at this time of the year, is
mostly shades of green.  I drove to Cincinnati and back last weekend, and
although the rolling, partially wooded country south of Cleveland gave way to
the intensely cultivated plain that starts around Columbus, only to be followed
by the more steeply accidented contours of the Ohio River valley a few miles
north of the Queen City, the transitions were gradual, and nothing but a few
signs marked the political division into counties, while fewer though larger
signs (election year billboards) indicated in a very general way a few but by
no means all of the congressional districts.  On the ground, linguistic and
social differences could also be observed, including some traditional
animosities--conservative Cincinnati competing against liberal Cleveland for
political influence, federal contracts, Ph.D. programs in English (though alas,
no longer for the championship of the AFC Central).  For all that, as residents
of the state Bill and I, his neighbors and mine, still have more in common than
similar residents of Michigan or Kentucky--to say nothing of Caernarvonshire or
Apulia or Szetzuan--even though in some contexts we may feel more comfortable
with people from Michigan or Kentucky than with some other Ohioans--from
Columbus, for example (the world's largest small town). I'm persuaded that that
more complex understanding of mapping--including attention to the subsurface or
geological elements, the methodological bases that may run across disciplinary
boundaries the way the Laurentian shield crosses not only state but national
lines, now overlaid, now exposed--reveals that we are not truly fractured, just
complex.  Various factors--especially, I think, the economic and psychological
stresses that are accompanying the challenge to traditional literacy posed by
The Screen--which happen, causally or not, to be coeval with those forms of
economic retrenchment which have left all those younger scholars clamoring at
the gate of Walden College--are tending  to exacerbate the moments when the
differences-that-need-not-be-divisions appear in our discourse, just as the 3-D
map of a geographical terrain typically amplifies the vertical dimension by a
factor of 10 or 20 in order to make the relief more apprehensible--and more
interesting.  I don't regard that as something necessarily worrisome.

Geographically,
Dave Evett

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 14:19:36 +0200
Subject:        the profession under fire

I don't know what Bill Godshalk means by calling "the state of the profession"
fragmented--I would more correctly call it "terrified".  As if all those jobs
that DID NOT materialize in the 1990's and the thousands of qualified and
talented Ph.D's desperate for employment were not enough; as if the hostility
of the religious right and Republican majority to the mythic "tenured
radicals"--you know, all those militant Marxist feminazi lesbian homosexual
Satan-worshippers currently in charge of American universities --hasn't done
enough damage in drying up millions of dollars in formerly available loans,
grants and subsidies, demoralizing and impoverishing students and faculty alike
(and making college simply impossible for many). Now we have the very real and
present danger to the tenure system, first enacted in the firing of a third of
the tenured faculty at Bennington last year, and currently embodied in
legislature proposed and about-to-be-voted on at the University of Minnesota.

I quote below from a posting I received via LISTSERVE from U of M faculty which
explains their situation, and how the proposed new policy is being regarded as
a "vanguard" of a larger national movement.  This attack on the foundations of
our job security and academic freedom is yet another manifestation of the
increasing tendency to "run" universities just like corporations (Hey, why not
hire all part-time faculty and save money on benefit and retirement packages,
as so many businesses have done by replacing full-time empolyees with "temps"
and part-timers?).

Such "innovations," coupled with the job market "crisis" that has lasted half a
decade and shows no signs of improvement, threaten "the future" of our
profession--(not simply "our jobs" but what we offer, the value and integrity
of what we do) in real, material, and substantial ways--far more than
differences in approach, method and ideology could ever do us harm.

Here are some citations from the U of M mailing, which provides a Net address,
if you would like to see the documents.  I will be happy to send full-text of
the Faculty's response to the new proposal anyone interested; if these items
are deemed of sufficient interest, Hardy can post them.

Jean Peterson
Bucknell University

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From the University of Minnesota faculty:

>the following ...[has]  to do with all of us who hold or want to hold
>positions >as faculty in colleges and universities around the country. I ask
>you to read >it and share its information with your colleagues and other
>academics.

>The University of Minnesota, as many of you already know, has been under
>attack by an activist
>board of regents for over a year now that would like to see the tenure policy
>revised and  tenure ultimately removed. They see themselves as in the vanguard,
>as leading the charge, as it were, for making universities across the country
>more efficient and business-oriented. Now they have come up with a 30-pp.
>document (which is available on the Web, in case you are interested, at
>http://mmnt1.hep.umn.edu/ufa/) to which the following is a response.

>     The following email was sent to all University of Minnesota
>     faculty by the chairs of the Senate committess responsible
>     for the Minnesota tenure code. It was sent Friday, September
>     6, 1996. The mail header has been removed and a couple of
>     line breaks and tabs have been fixed. Otherwise, it is unchanged.
>
>     We are sending this to you for your information. The actual
>     new tenure code can be found in text form at
>     http://mnnt1.hep.umn.edu/ufa/, which will enable you to compare
>     this document with the code.
>
>     The new code was developed by the regents together with their
>     consultant Richard Chait and also Martin Michaelson of the
>     Washington, DC firm of Hogan & Hartson. As best we can tell,
>     the code was worked out between June and the release date of
>     September 5. We are not aware of anyone outside this group
>     who knew of the provisions before release.
>
>     We regard this code as the prototype of tenure revisions
>     which other university governing boards will attempt to
>     impose in coming years. It is therefore of national interest.
>
>     Paula Rabinowitz, Department of English
>     Thomas Walsh, Department of Physics
>     University Faculty Alliance
>     University of Minnesota
>
>                     ------------------------------

Contact me for full-text of the faculty's "response" to the new tenure code--JP
 

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