The article was written by my former student and friend Mike Lamm. Mike is a reporter for the Decatur Daily Democrat.
This may be a somewhat desperate attempt to link the topic of this piece to academia, but after I read it, I couldn’t help but wonder how the folks who have done the R&D on these products might have described the nature of their work in progress reports or on grant applications—and, if any of them have been academics, how they might have done so in their self-reporting for their annual-evaluations or in their promotion and tenure documents.
Originally, I was going to re-post this piece with the title, “I Wonder If I Can Make These on My 3-D Printer.”
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As the first national AAUP president from a collective bargaining chapter, I frequently heard the Association described by some as “just another union” and by others as an irrelevant and ineffectual vestige of a less complicated and more innocent time. There are those who view the staff and the elected leadership as either politically naïve obstacles to progress or as fire-breathing radicals who will bring dishonor to a revered institution. The same act is viewed by some as too much, too soon and by others as much too little, much too late.
The AAUP is now a tripartite organization that serves the needs of the entire professorate in a unique fashion. Pursuant to the restructuring effort that I initiated in 2004, as of January 2013 the Association now comprises a professional organization; a labor organization, the Collective Bargaining Congress; and a foundation. Our approach to collective bargaining is a principled one, relying on the core values articulated almost a century ago and codified in our policy documents–academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure. Our unionized chapters maintain an enormous amount of autonomy, and our national organization is the only one exclusively devoted to post-secondary education. All of our individual members, unionized or not, belong to the professional organization. Despite our tripartite nature, we are one. Only if we forget our commitment to the needs of the entire profession, including those unable or unwilling to participate in collective bargaining, will we become “just another union.”
At Wright State, we have “Garcetti language” in our contract, protecting criticism of the administration as an aspect of academic freedom. We don’t abuse this right, but if our administration endorsed the sort of policy just approved by the Kansas Board of Regents for the public universities across that state, we would lambaste them on campus and off.
But what makes what is going on in Kansas all the more egregious is, of course, that it actually has nothing to do with criticism of a university administration or university policies–or, in fact, with anything directly related to campus life. It is all in response to a political comment made by a faculty member in a tweet.
Yes, in a tweet–the rhetorical equivalent of a small burp or a mere whisper of a fart. Continue reading
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis drew upon his prominence as the first American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature to issue a national warning against the dangers of fascism. Huey Long was emerging as a likely candidate in the 1936 presidential election, and in the satiric novel It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis provided an extended expose of the political career of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue with great populist appeal who costumed his ruthless, personal pursuit of power in endless, hokey appeals to patriotism and “core American values,” which then as now was a euphemism for distracting poor WASPs from their own miserable lives by heightening their abhorrence of racial, ethnic, and religious groups that might be opportunistically scapegoated for being less truly “American.” Of course, Long was assassinated in the same year that the novel was published, and despite attracting much literary and political attention in the years immediately following its publication, the novel faded into obscurity as quickly as Isolationist sentiments after the Japanese attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
Now you might be thinking that this discussion of Lewis’s novel is going to provide a prelude to some discussion of the appeal and dangers of Far-Right ideology. But, although it could provide a nice introduction to such a discussion, what this post is about is toilet paper. I’m not saying that it has nothing to do with politics, but it’s primarily about toilet paper. Continue reading
Here are some relatively recent headlines that I have collected:
Former Al-Qaeda Barber Seized in Iraq
American without Arab Roots Almosts Wins “Arabs Got Talent!”
Andy Kauffman’s Brother Says He’s the Victim of a Hoax
Biologists Use Cannons to Capture and Tag Endangered Birds
Celebrating the Holidays behind Bars
China to Send Pig Sperm to Space
Dave’s Killer-Bread Founder Arrested after Chase Leaving Three Cruisers Wrecked
Fortune Teller Stabbed by Son in Murder-Suicide
Nationwide Moth Hunt under Way in UK
New York’s Hottest Club Goes Boating in Sewage
Paul Walker, “Fast And The Furious” Actor. Dies in Car Crash Continue reading
An AAUP report this month on the case of John Boyle (see more about it in the post by Peter Kirstein earlier today), an assistant professor of linguistics at Northeastern Illinois University, raises once more the problem of using the vague term “collegiality” in questions of the granting of tenure. The NEIU president, an AAUP posting on the case says, ”cited only two reasons for denying tenure: the candidate’s failure to meet her deadline for filing a plan regarding student advising and the inadequacy of his ‘cooperation with colleagues and students.’” According to the report, the deadline wasn’t missed: The plan was simply and inadvertently misdirected, hardly a reason for denying tenure. This certainly should not be a cause for termination, but it is the other reason that is most troubling.
In August 2013, Tim Murphy at Mother Jones described the sinkhole at Bayou Corne as “the biggest ongoing disaster in the United State that you haven’t heard of.”
That was already a year after the sinkhole had first appeared. Writing for the Daily Kos, Jen Hayden offered the following overview:
“One night in August 2012, after months of unexplained seismic activity and mysterious bubbling on the bayou, a sinkhole opened up on a plot of land leased by the petrochemical company Texas Brine, forcing an immediate evacuation of Bayou Corne’s 350 residents—an exodus that still has no end in sight. Last week, Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the company and the principal landowner, Occidental Chemical Corporation, for damages stemming from the cavern collapse.
“Texas Brine’s operation sits atop a three-mile-wide, mile-plus-deep salt deposit known as the Napoleonville Dome, which is sheathed by a layer of oil and natural gas, a common feature of the salt domes prevalent in Gulf Coast states. The company specializes in a process known as injection mining, and it had sunk a series of wells deep into the salt dome, flushing them out with high-pressure streams of freshwater and pumping the resulting saltwater to the surface. From there, the brine is piped and trucked to refineries along the Mississippi River and broken down into sodium hydroxide and chlorine for use in manufacturing everything from paper to medical supplies. Continue reading
Some one once asked me what a president does all day. They thought, like so many others, that presidents held out tin cups traveling the world searching for alumni with money.
I replied that presidents are better thought of as King Solomon determining how to divide the baby. They behave most days as nineteenth century political ward bosses rationing funds and dispensing favors while working to manage an enterprise run by faculty operating like a medieval craft guild. A large, unwieldy, archaic volunteer governing board further confuses their job.
There was a thoughtful interlude between the question and the answer. Then – I hope graciously – I accepted their quite sincere condolences with good humor.
In fact, for those attracted to the work it’s a pretty unique job. Presidents meet interesting people, promote big ideas, and affect the lives of countless students. They watch as students and families live dreams that are limited only by their imagination. College remains that one special place where dreams still matter.
The best presidents see themselves as holding title to a tradition as well as a job. These presidents recognize that the job is a limited term engagement. Every day that they hold the office must count. Some preside. Others focus on the issues that interest them. A few “duck and cover.” The strongest and most respected ground their actions in strategy devoid of personal interests and passions. For these individuals, the price is always worth the costs paid to lead. Continue reading
Jeff Gundlach is the CEO of Doubleline Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm. He was previously the star performer for another firm, the Trust Company of the West (TCW), where he managed the Total Return Bond Fund. He left TCW in a very public, law-suit spawning spectacle of mutual accusations of self-interested impropriety. Still, the rapid growth of Doubleline Capital demonstrates that the dubious press has not impacted investors’ faith in him. He has been called the “$70 Billion Man” by Forbes, the “King of Bonds” by Barrons, the “Bond Savant” by Businessweek and one of the “50 Most Influential” investment managers by Bloomberg. Crossing Wall Street has demonstrated a certain awe of him by titling a recent profile “The Mind of Jeffrey Gundlach.” And, indeed, Jeff Gundlach is a very smart guy. He graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth with a double degree in mathematics and philosophy, and he completed much of the doctoral program in either applied or theoretical mathematics at Yale—it’s reported differently in the sources that I looked at, but in either case, it’s impressive.
To add a certain avant garde cachet to his persona, profiles of him usually mention prominently that he once was the drummer in a rock band initially called Radical Flats and then Thinking Out Loud. Likewise, his departure from TCW was followed quickly by their assertions that a large stash of pornography, sex toys, and drug paraphernalia were found in the offices that he had vacated. Very recently, he was in the broader news again because his mansion was broken into and, in addition to some undisclosed amount of cash, several expensive watches, expensive wines, paintings by such renowned artists as Jasper Johns and Piet Mondrian, and a Porsche Carrera 4S were stolen. Gundlach offered a seven-figure reward for the recovery of the paintings and the car, and the paintings were eventually recovered, but not the car. Continue reading
One of the dangers of the over-reliance on (some would say “abuse of” and I would not argue) adjuncts and other contingent hires is that it creates a pressure-cooker environment for those particular teachers, one that sometimes explodes–as it did yesterday for adjunct and Slate contributor Rebecca Schuman. Writing, putatively, about student essays and whether or not they should be assigned, Schuman, as she admits, doesn’t actually “want to help anything, other than some over-graded professors blow off steam,” her own explosion keeping others from having to do it themselves. Continue reading