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Should You Go to Graduate School?

[ 191 ] April 22, 2017 |


Let’s talk about graduate school.

I’ve spent this year as the Interim Director of Graduate Studies in my department as the usual director is on sabbatical. Speaking of which, I have one more week of teaching until I start my sabbatical. Yes, I am going to enjoy the next 16 months of not teaching, while researching, writing, and hiking as much as possible. Anyway, graduate school. The question of whether to go to graduate school and how to survive graduate school is one I have thought about a great deal. As someone with a PhD from the University of New Mexico, I had to. Not only was nothing ever guaranteed for us Lobos who weren’t ever thought to be able to compete with the Yale and Harvard graduates of the world, but I hit the job market right as the economy collapsed in 2008. The first full year I was on the market, 1/2 of the jobs I applied for were shut down before interviews took place. It was grim. I had a visiting position but it took me 4 years to find a tenure-track job. And I am damned lucky.

It turned out in the end that my fellow UNM people almost all survived the collapse of the job market and either got tenure-track jobs or else good work in professions they wanted, ranging from museums and university presses to federal jobs and permanent positions at community colleges in places they wanted to live. Meanwhile, I heard tales of Big 10 universities having their history programs go 5 years and place 1 person in a U.S. history tenure track job. Why the discrepancy, which was exactly the opposite of what one would expect?

Fundamentally, I think the reason for this is that because we had second-rate funding packages (only 3 years of guaranteed funding as opposed to the 5 or 6 years at supposedly better programs) and because no one believed in us anyway, we had to hustle. So we ended up on the market having done a whole variety of different things that the Yale students never had to do, making us more versatile and allowing us to stand out. I put myself through the last couple of years of graduate school doing work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, making sure it complied with the National Historic Preservation Act. I also put together a climate change report for New Mexico environmental organizations that gave me some early consulting experience. That, plus the blogging, made me different than other candidates. I never quite realized how important that was until I was on a search committee for a job last year for the first time. What became instantly clear to me is that every Ivy League applicant is basically the same–the projects are very similar, the letters are all from the same people, none of them have meaningful teaching experience. You could barely tell them apart. We ended up bringing in 4 candidates from public institutions and hiring two amazing historians.

I say all of this because there are a couple of interesting posts from the last couple of days about graduate school and I think these stories help frame a discussion not only of whether to go to graduate school but also how to do graduate school. There is one basic rule about graduate school: don’t go into debt for it. If someone doesn’t want you or you can’t pay for it in some way yourself that makes sense, then don’t do it.

Now, you might say that it is immoral to send students to graduate school for jobs they won’t get. Possible, but this gets to how to do graduate school and why to do graduate school. The biggest problem right now with Ph.D. programs is that professors don’t know how to get a job as a historian today because they all got extremely lucky to get a job in academia or they did so a long time ago. So when I advise a student on going to graduate school, the first thing I tell them is that they have to assume they will never get an academic job and therefore must prepare for that as well as doing the academic work necessary to get a dissertation and compete for whatever jobs are out there. As part of that, I tell them to keep this in mind even if their advisor doesn’t agree because their advisor may be the absolutely worst person for a student to listen about career preparation.

And then even if you do get a job, be prepared to not live with your partner (mine teaches 500 miles away), have absolutely no control over where you live, not be able to buy a house or have children because of the constant instability, etc. This is a good overview of these issues by someone who has chosen to leave academia, as part of a longer post on what kind of characteristics help someone succeed in academia.

4. You don’t care where you live.

Here, briefly, is how the academic job market works. Suppose you’re writing your dissertation, and the fall of 2018 rolls around and it looks like you’ll be able to successfully defend in the spring of 2019. Because tenure-track academic jobs — I’ll get to non-tenure track jobs below — work on a year-long lead, you need to start applying now, so that you can defend your dissertation in spring 2019 and begin your new job the following fall.

Each academic position will have many, many applicants. Via friends who have served on committees, the number is routinely several hundred. The odds, then, of being offered an interview at any one place are very low (unconditionally, say less than 5%), and to reach a reasonably high probability of receiving an offer you will need to apply everywhere there is a job listing you might reasonably fill.

I have heard early career graduate students or undergraduates considering academia say things like “I wouldn’t mind starting out at a place like the University of Kansas,” or some other institution they perceive to be of similarly low prestige. Let me be clear: you probably won’t get a job at Kansas. Getting a job at Kansas would be fantastic and is therefore exceedingly difficult. For nearly all students outside of the very top graduate programs, a job at Kansas (or similar institution) is almost certainly your best-case scenario. If you have family ties that prevent you from living outside a certain area, or a partner with an inflexible job, you will be very unlikely to find an academic job.

5. You don’t mind moving frequently, or being very mobile in general.

Because finding a tenure track position is very difficult, new PhDs often move from graduate school to a series of short-term positions, either postdoctoral fellowships or, more frequently, visiting or adjunct professor positions. These positions differ from tenure track positions in that they do not offer the promise of long-term employment: generally one would only stay at one of these positions for one or two years. Many times they also do not offer benefits like health insurance. If you can publish enough during this time period, it is sometimes possible to move into a tenure-track position. However, publishing is doubly difficult in visiting and adjunct positions, because you will be teaching a large number of courses.

So while the ideal path leads from graduate school to a tenure track position, more likely is one leading from graduate school to one or more short term positions that will require you to move — often across the country or the world — each year.

A related point here is that academics’ lives are often hilariously peripatetic. I know multiple people who live hours away from their home institutions and commute in to work for 2-3 days each week. If you arrive to graduate school single, you may soon acquire what is known as the “two body problem,” the name given to the deeply unfortunate situation in which one academic is married to another. This either complicates the problem of finding a job dramatically, provides an opportunity for the aforementioned several hour commute, or sets you up for a permanent long-distance relationship.

Again, none of these things are bad. But tolerance for them varies from person to person, and so they are worth pointing out to someone before this person invests six years of their life into a relatively infungible degree.

On a personal note, the last two of these played the biggest role in pushing me out: I didn’t want to give up control over where I lived, and I didn’t want to move frequently. This meant I needed to apply very selectively to jobs, which in turn meant that I didn’t get one. If those sound like dimensions you’re unwilling to compromise on, understand that academia will almost certainly be six to eight years of training for a field you will not find employment in.

Building these alternative skills during a graduate program helps address precisely these issues. If you are from Seattle or New York, do you really want to live in rural Arkansas, just to teach indifferent 19 year olds intro U.S. history? The same goes for the self-exploitation of long-term adjuncting. Reimagining what a graduate program can be opens up opportunities to make your degree useful while also allowing you greater control over your life choices. A couple of years ago, I was talking to some people just finishing up their PhDs in U.S. history at Brown. There was one late job at a decent school in one of Alabama’s less terrible cities. They said they weren’t even going to bother applying for it because they didn’t want to live in Alabama. A reasonable choice, but nothing in their degree program had prepared them to do anything else but get a job as a professor and that wasn’t happening, in part because of the terrible market and in part because their advisors had not prepared them for the real live job market or anything else except getting a job at a school like Brown.

So why go to graduate school? Well, if you aren’t going into debt and you don’t want to work for a corporation, then why not? It’s not like there are tons of great options out there for humanities and social science-minded 22 year olds. At the very least, you will get to meet some interesting people, have your mind blown, see the country some, get a lot smarter, and figure out your life. There really isn’t anything wrong with that if your eyes are open going into it.

But at the same time, it’s critical to reorient the graduate program to these new realities. Because of New Mexico’s unusual placement record, it was selected as one of four schools to participate in a pilot project through the Mellon Foundation and the American Historical Association that seeks to redirect graduate education. I have played a small role in this, coming back to Albuquerque for a couple of events, talking about what I do outside the academy, and eating a lot of green chile. A current student at UNM has a post up at the AHA blog about career diversity and graduate school and it’s worth your time.

The conversation was geared toward PhD students but I wondered, quite selfishly, how it could apply to master’s students. Between my undergraduate and graduate program, I worked in several different industries that appeared to have no relation to my own historical training and background. Whether it was performing administrative duties at a law firm, selling computers, or tending to children at a daycare, I was unsure how these jobs corresponded with the skills I had learned as part of my BA in history and government. In my last position, however, I worked as a legislative analyst for a lobbying firm in Austin, Texas. There I dug through archival materials, read other scholars’ and professionals’ analyses of legislation, and tried to frame my findings in terms relevant to the fast-paced debates occurring in the domed building across the street. Such tasks were fundamental in sharpening my talents as a researcher at the graduate level. Even in the jobs seemingly unrelated to history, I realize now that I learned important skills such as communicating and collaborating with others that are essential to succeeding within and beyond the professoriate. Transferable skills, therefore, are not unidirectional. The training historians receive in the academy prepares them for a surprisingly large array of career paths, but those careers also feed back into how historians work and how they think about their own research, particularly, in terms of how it relates to a wider audience.

Professors attending the session at the annual meeting expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of helping their students pursue other professional possibilities and using them to mold their academic work. Faculty, however, complained that a cultural shift was necessary among those still pursuing their graduate degrees. Participants noted that most graduate students failed to attend career diversity events because of busy schedules and, more jarringly, due to the fear of being tainted as a student considering a path beyond the professoriate. Even considering the possibility of a career beyond the tenure track was viewed as “depressing.”

If master’s students wish to continue on to the PhD, as I do, we need to think of our connections to the nonacademic world in a way that is invigorating instead of threatening. We should seek out opportunities for career diversity workshops, internships, and other programs because they provide real benefits in terms of how we relate to others’ scholarship and how we produce our own. Students should display the same kind of fearlessness when taking opportunities for training beyond the university as we did when we applied ourselves to the rigors of graduate education. To get the career that best suits us we may need to move beyond our comfort zones.

I think this is right and I also think that even at participating schools there are a lot of professors who still see the only legitimate path as one that ends in a tenure-track job. That is a recipe for irrelevance and the death of programs. Graduate school can be a wonderful thing if you are so inclined, but its also the duty of professors to train you to get an actual real job after it is over, not just throw you overboard to be devoured by the sharks of unemployment, depression, and disillusionment.


The Gorka Dissertation, Part II

[ 67 ] February 25, 2017 |


JDCIn my prior post, I tried to make clear that you don’t need to get very far—less than twenty pages, in fact—into Gorka’s dissertation to recognize its academic shoddiness. Something like 7% of it is a cut-and-paste job from an earlier article. In of itself, that’s not a problem. But the article came out 3-4 years before the dissertation, and Gorka couldn’t be bothered to change the text or update the data to reflect that gap. The first twenty pages also reveal a pattern that persists throughout the entire thesis: Gorka is not big on citations, especially scholarly ones. Moreover, the citation practices are, shall we say, lax. For example, here’s footnote 10:

The sarin gas attack executed on the Tokyo metro by Aum in 1995 was in fact preceded by several unsuccessful biological agent attacks prepared by the private laboratories the cult had established with millions of dollars of its funds. For a journalistic account of the history of the cult see David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshal: “The Cult at the End of the World”, Arrow Books, London, 1996. For a scholarly and detailed analysis see the relevant section in Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thayer: “America’s Achilles’ Heel: nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism and covert attack”, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998 [emphasis added]

In fact the discussion of Aum Shinrikyo appears to be spread over multiple chapters. Along these lines, footnote 20 reads “CNN even showed footage of al Qaeda experimentation that involved the gassing of dogs.” That’s it. In fact, getting an appropriate citation isn’t that much of a challenge. But, at least, a reader can be thankful that he provides references at all. The section called “The New International Scene” runs from pages 19-23. It contains myriad empirical claims—such as the countries within which Al Qaeda had affiliates in 2001—and analytical ones—that Al Qaeda launched 9/11 against the United States to divide it from its allies,  or that “the Arab and Muslim world still has a perturbed relationship to the question of modernity” (21)—none of which are sourced in any manner. The only such reference, involving the number of CIA officers who spoke Pashto on September 11, is to “author’s discussion with Marine Colonel who had served in Afghanistan as a covert paramilitary operator within the CIA, Summer 2004” (2007, 22 fn18).

I stress this lack of citations not merely because it amounts to poor scholarly practice—if anything, the typical dissertation suffers from too many citations—but also because it reflects the bloviating tone that runs throughout. The lack of references creates the impression that Gorka is passing off every insight—from the shopworn, the clichéd, and the banal to the unoriginal but tendentious—as his own.

Some examples:

Here it may be too early to prove the existence of a large-scale trend, but with the second and successful attempt against the World Trade Centre (WTC), – following the earlier truck-bomb attempt in 1993 – al Qaeda at least, has demonstrated a determination to attack highly symbolic targets. This author believes the logic behind this tactic is clear. Terrorism is, like guerrilla warfare, always the tool of choice of weaker actors that cannot win a stand- up fight against their nation state adversary. As a result they will rarely, if ever, be in a position to exact lethal damage to the vital interests or functioning of the state they have pitted themselves against. This is why fear has to be the overarching goal, a fear which can be directed as a tool in applying greater and greater political pressure upon the targeted authorities until policies are changed. In this inculcation of fear, the attack of universally recognisable symbols – such as the Pentagon and WTC – is invaluable, especially in this age of live, global cable and satellite news services. Thanks to the likes of CNN, NBC, BBC, etc., Osama bin Laden was able to send his message of fear to as wide an audience at possible in the fastest time imaginable. Add to this last element of media exploitation, the recent rise of media outlets which challenge the ‘white man’s’ news monopoly, e.g. Al-Arabiya and al Jazeera Television, and we now have channels which in fact may be favourable to the terrorist and act as a force-multiplier in the globalisation of his message (2007, 18).

It is interesting to note that despite the beacon-like example that modern Turkey represents, here too there have been significant developments recently toward a revitalisation of a national identity that relies far more on religion than would otherwise even have been imaginable during recent decades. This resurgence can in part ironically be explained by the negative way in which the European Union has delayed talk of Turkish EU membership (2007, 22 fn17).

Globalisation as a process is not new. Many an ancient empire can be seen as a form of (limited) globalisation. Even so, the fact that globalisation is now occurring in an environment of interconnected market economies and the spread of one specific model of nation-state structuring, namely market democracy, means that an actor wishing to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the democratic model, such as a the religious terrorist, has a broader environment in which to operate. Additionally the attitude of many people nominally belonging to the faith community of Muslim fundamentalism may be swayed by interpretations of the current trends to globalisation that exacerbate the centuries old question of Islam’s relations to modernity and the West. Lastly, the fact that the pre-eminent exponent of globalised terrorism at this time has chosen to restrict his actions very much to attacks aimed against just a handful of Western nations (UK, US, Spain) results in the fact that existing alliance frameworks may be severely weakened by differing assessments as to whom has most to fear from “Transcendental Terror”. Within the previously united western world there is now no agreement on whether or not this is a significant new threat that applies to all of us. In part, the problem is that man has a propensity to judge others based upon himself. As a result it is very difficult to believe in, let alone comprehend, an adversary who thinks in a fashion so contrary to our own. We tend to posit our rationality, even our morality, onto the other. Additionally, many of America’s European allies are more inclined to resolve dispute and potential conflict through diplomatic and political means, rather than through the use of force (2007, 24).

The basics needs of a human being are quite easy to identify: shelter, sustenance and community. The importance of the first two is also simple to explain. As a biological entity, without protection from the elements and food and water, we will not function and quickly die. The relevance of the third requirement is superficially obvious, but on closer examination more complex. There are, of course, the economies of scale that come from living in a cooperative group. As our ancestors who did not have the use of firearms well knew, it is quite difficult to hunt and kill a large animal by oneself. Likewise to fish the seas in an efficient fashion or even to build a sizeable home is a faster and easier a task when done in the company of others. But there are also the psychological and societal benefits of not living the life of a hermit or recluse. Man craves friendship and companionship and finds fulfilment in living within community. If this were not the case, given all the benefits of technology, we could in fact choose to live in total isolation from one another today, but we do not. Then there is the more practical profit that accrues with regard to safety in numbers.

It has been said more than enough times that the history of Mankind is the history of conflict. Respect for one’s territory, one’s chattels and even one’s right to life was never a given. There have always been, and will always be, those that threaten our very existence or livelihood. As a result, the need to be able to defend oneself and one’s family has always been apparent. Such defence is easier when done in numbers than individually or just by family unit. In modern terms, this is the function of providing security (2007, 27).

This last bit of banality opens a section entitled “The Evolution of National Security.” Gorka presents one of the diagrams for which, if nothing else, he deserves all the credit due to him.


Gorka (2007, 28) did not think this through.

In conventional language, shifts in scale from “micro” to “macro” are shifts in size: smaller to larger. As best I can tell, Gorka is trying to tell a temporal story here: the evolution of security is a story about the increasing scale of the object that needs to be secured. The result is a mess. As he writes:

It is not the purpose of this dissertation to provide a lengthy discussion of this evolution, to enumerate the dates when one macro level gave way to another.  In gross terms we can speak, however, of a chain of security being tied first to the tribe or clan, then to a village and, or, religious community, and further to the local landowner unit, followed by a kingdom or empire, or a city-state until we arrive at the modern object of macro-security, the nation-state’ (Gorka 2007, 28).

There are a bunch of problems with this, but the most obvious goes something like this.

Here is the Neo-Assyrian Empire:


Here are some empires in around 750 AD:


Over the past three millennia, there have been many empires that are much larger in scale than national-states. Indeed, empires—along with federative and confederative polities—constitute some of the most time-honored ways of organizing large, heterogeneous political communities. It makes no sense to call “nation states” a more “macro” stage in security evolution than these forms.

Regardless, Gorka next briefly discusses Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles—for just long enough to tell us that “while there is much to commend the work… it does have its distinct flaws, flaws that it shares with a majority of recent treatise that have proclaimed the death of the nation-state, somewhat prematurely” (2007, 30). This allows him to open his next section (“The Westphalian Inheritance”) with a paragraph that gives me hives.

It is often far too easy to take for granted the system of governance and administration in which we today live. If one does not professionally study modern history or the evolution of international law, one could be forgiven for thinking that the current system of independent nation-states has existed for much longer than it has in fact existed. The truth is that as a concept we can describe its evolution as being quite recent in historic terms. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is taken by most commentators as introducing the foundations for the creation in the West of a system in which the objects were states, bodies that were independent of each others – although which could ally with one another – and into whose internal affairs it was not allowed to become involved, a system in which sovereignty would eventually become paramount26. Later, as this concept evolved and as the individual allegiances of the people would shift from local landowner or royal house, to a professional political elite defined around a national identity, the state would evolve further into the nation-state, with is fundamental aspects of citizenship and nationality.

26In fact it was the sacrosanct nature of sovereignty that would later lie behind the creation of the ‘balance-of-power’ system that would be so important to Europe in following centuries.

Again, no sources. None. Zero. And while “most commentators” may have once believed this, it’s wrong. Westphalia had nothing to do with the foundations of the state system. At least if Gorka had been troubled to cite some of the (very smart) people who argue that it did—even if erroneously—he would come across as less of a pretentious blowhard. The footnote is just the icing on the cake. The balance-of-power system did not render sovereign sacrosanct, because it was premised on moving territory around to maintain the balance of power. The inhabitants of what would later be called “Belgium” certainly did not appreciate being placed under the rule of the United Netherlands for the sake of blocking future French expansion.

All of this amounts to a belabored way of making a rather simple argument: almost all states are organized to defend themselves against military aggression, to police their territory, to engage in espionage, and to protect themselves against espionage. Moreover, Gorka contends, the western allies oriented those capabilities against the Soviet Union and its clients. With the end of the Cold War, things are so much more complex and uncertain, what with the cyber, and the environment, and the terrorism. Add a few footnotes, and we’d have pretty much all we need to move forward.

Thus Gorka returns us to terrorism. Or, more accurately, he summarizes a very few sources to tell us nothing original about conceptual issues related to the study of terrorism. But he does supply us with this wonder of a passage: “One more avenue that takes us out of the abstraction of mere words is a pictographic representation of the mechanics of terrorism. By resorting to a Venn diagram-like approach, it may be easier to understand the dynamics at work between the various subjects and objects of political violence [emphasis added].”

A Venn Diagram-Like Approach (Gorka 2007. 47)

A Venn Diagram-Like Diagram

Now, to the uninitiated, this may look merely like a simple flow chart. So I’ve created a diagram to help make sense of it:


Locating Venn Diagram-Like Diagrams: a Venn Diagram


That’s the end of Part II. I still haven’t gotten to the ‘good stuff’. 150 or so pages to go.

Sebastian Gorka’s Dissertation, Part I

[ 92 ] February 25, 2017 |

This is real. This is an actual diagram from Gorka’s (2007, 166) dissertation. I will discuss it in a later post.

We should exercise caution when evaluating dissertations. Dissertations are not works of scientific perfection. I finished mine in a marathon month, as I was pushing the deadline for retaining my position at Georgetown. Even the substantially revised book that emerged from contains a handful of truly embarrassing historical errors. In other words, I think it would be grossly unfair to reduce Gorka to his dissertation, or to use it as evidence that he is unqualified for his position. Moreover, I concentrated in the study of international security. I know a bit about the intersection between great-power politics and transnational religious movements. Still, I am not a terrorism expert. I am certainly not an expert on Islam. And I am far from an expert on Islamic terrorism.

Nonetheless, I did read the dissertation last night. Members of the Lawyers, Guns and Money community have asked for my opinion. I would not characterize it as a work of scholarship. I am confident that it would not earn him a doctorate at any reputable academic department in the United States. Indeed, it would be unacceptable as an undergraduate thesis for the Department of Government or the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My guess is that Gorka wanted to call himself “Doctor,” and his PhD-granting institution was happy to oblige.

Despite its overwrought title and often ponderous prose, the dissertation starts with a rather straightforward claim. There are two “sub-divisions of terrorist, the Rational and and Pragmatic and the Irrational, or Transcendental Terrorist.” The former seek a “fundamentally feasible and realistic goal”—such as national independence or autonomy—and hence “there is the possibility for a political or diplomatic solution to the root grievance.” The latter, however, “has as his end goal the realisation of a state-of-affairs that is not obviously feasible or realistic and which is completely antithetic to the opposing government. There is no possibility for a political resolution or even negotiations” (2007, 12).

In November 2007, when Gorka finished his dissertation, this was already a well-established line of argument. Scholars were debating the degree that the latter characterization applied to movements such as Al Qaeda, and bringing multifaceted evidence to bear on the subject.Thus, there was certainly room for an intervention that moved the ball forward. But that would require a dissertation with discipline and focus. This is not such a dissertation.

That becomes clear on the next page, where Gorka (2007, 13) introduces four hypotheses and ways that he will validate those hypotheses. They are:

1. Irrational terrorist actors have become more numerous since the cessation of the Cold War
2. Governments are sorely limited in the selection of tools that can be used in the face of such actors
3. The Irrational or Transcendentally informed terrorist represents a wholly different category of threat, since due to the fact that he is completely uninterested in political resolution, he can justify the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
4. Osama bin Laden typifies the new threat and poses a challenge which we cannot adequately deal with given existing Westphalian state structures and national security divisions of labour.

The evidence comes from:

a) How national security has evolved as a function of the modern nation- state.
b) What the difference is between the geostrategic environments of the Cold War and the post-September 11th 2001 state-of-affairs.
c) Who Osama bin Laden is and how novel an organisation al Qaeda is and,
d) What should be done to reform Westphalian security architectures so as to make them applicable to the new threat environment that has been shaped by the rise of the Irrational/Transcendental Actor and the globalisation of security.

If you wonder how Gorka can accomplish these tasks in 240 pages, the answer is that he can’t. He makes little effort to consider alternative explanations, use anything resembling a proper methodology, adequately source key claims, cite or take seriously more than a smattering of scholarly works, or even sufficiently develop lines of thought. Parts of the dissertation come across as filler. Perhaps they are. Toward the end of the piece, he dumps about eight pages of “potential theories or doctrines that have been penned in an attempt to make the current strategic environment more understandable” (page 167ff). He also used the same text in a September 2007 co-authored survey for the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs (CENA), which is no longer online.

Regardless, the bulk of the dissertation summary—its first part—consists of boilerplate within the realm of conventional wisdom. Gorka argues that the end of the Cold War made the international security environment more complex and the identification of the proper hierarchy of threats more challenging (2007,  7-8), he offers a fairly standard definition of terrorism (sourced exclusively to “discussions” with “Dr. Jenkins“) and defends restricting the term “terrorist” to non-state actors (2007, 11).

The introduction continues apace. He writes that “there has been a resurgence in terrorism that is not purely political in nature” and that the Aum Shinrikyo 1995 gas attacks, along with Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, “together… describe a proto-trend that is supported by quantitative statistics pertaining to terror attacks in the last decade” (2007, 15-16). The only such statistics offered appear in Appendix I, which uses US Department of State data for 1993-2003. This obviously does not cover the “last decade”—recall that the dissertation was deposited in 2007. The data boils down to a rather crude average of number of death per attack.

Why does the”last decade” ends with 2003? The relevant sections are—as best I can tell—recycled from a paper Gorka first wrote in 2003, and come from what I think is a 2004 version. Regardless, this is a good example of how shoddy the scholarship is. Gorka wants to claim that there’s something radically different about contemporary terrorism from that of, say, the classic terrorism of the 1970s. So he needs to extend the data back well beyond 1993. That is, we need to actually compare the different waves. It would also require some basic statistical work that looks at regions and countries, the effects of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, how much the average is driven by outliers, and that kind of thing. It’s hard not to read this section and hear Gorka insisting on “empirical evidence” in his phone call to Smith.

I’m only about 17 pages in, and there’s a lot more to talk about, including some parts that seem relevant to Gorka’s worldview. Stay tuned for Part II.

A warning, though: working through it this way is quite a slog, and I’m not sure that I have the energy to blog the whole way through.

The Watchlist

[ 48 ] December 13, 2016 |


I wrote a piece for The Nation about what it’s like to be on the Professor Watchlist:

 We have been down this road before. During the widespread crackdown on civil liberties during and immediately after World War I, with the Espionage Act and the Red Scare that followed, professors were fired for opposing the war or for espousing positions that angered politicians. Similar affronts to academic freedom took place during the 1950s, when Joseph McCarthy led a fight against alleged communist infiltration of leading American institutions. In each of these periods, professors suffered and the United States lost necessary voices of dissent in times of conformity and fear—times when they were needed most.

I do not know what the future holds—for the country, for myself, or for my colleagues. But it is absolutely critical that professors play a central role in the struggle to come. There are few places in American society where individuals have the job security and the freedom to develop and articulate critiques based upon a lifetime of study. We need to marshal everything we have learned about capitalism, racism, sexism, and homophobia.

My own work seeks to tame the corporate outsourcing of jobs and pollution to the global South by creating new labor and environmental standards enforceable wherever corporations move. The goal of websites like the Professor Watchlist are to make sure that I do not have the wherewithal or the financial and institutional support to do my work. The academy is the last place in the United States where the marketplace of ideas flows freely, including ideas that directly challenge those in power. Silencing us—allowing ourselves to be silenced—would devastate the opposition to Trump’s radical agenda. Conservatives know that. That’s why the list exists.

Is It “Irrational” for People to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities (Or Even in the Sciences)

[ 211 ] August 28, 2016 |


No, no it is not. After all, the job market for college graduates except for a very few fields is pretty terrible everywhere, at least in something having to do with the field of choice. What, are they supposed to go to law school? Go become teachers and be attacked by politicians? I guess they could drive for Uber! What a future!

But we have a national narrative that the humanities are worthless and that people are “irrational” for getting a Ph.D. in those fields. Aaron Hanlon in the L.A. Review of Books:

In a fascinating way, the NSF data challenges a long-standing narrative about job opportunities by field of study. We’re used to thinking of — more accurately, maligning — humanities students as idealistic, unsystematic dreamers prone to “Peter Pan syndrome,” irrationality, and reality avoidance. Humanities PhDs struggling to find sustainable employment don’t garner much societal sympathy, largely because it’s considered axiomatic that a person with a humanities PhD has no business thinking she possesses economic value. But when the scientists and engineers — the ones confirmation bias demands we view as rational and pragmatic — are caught in a rough job market flirting with something that looks like quixotic delusion, we’re forced to rethink our assumptions. Once it appears that it’s not just humanities students making unadvisable career choices, it suddenly becomes more difficult to victim-blame unemployed doctors (of philosophy) as a whole.

Indeed, when it comes to explaining the seeming contradiction of increases in earned doctorates alongside diminishing job prospects for PhDs, we’re still wedded to the irrationality narrative we’ve unfoundedly ascribed to humanities PhDs. This is the case even though 75 percent of earned doctorates in 2014 were awarded in science and engineering.

The irrationality narrative has accompanied even some of the best analyses of PhD job prospects. As a follow-up on an earlier attempt to explain why people keep pursuing humanities PhDs, Jordan Weissmann provided a telling compilation of Atlantic readers’ responses in 2013. Weissmann’s own conclusions include, per the familiar narrative, the idea that “arts and humanities students aren’t necessarily the most career-minded or pragmatic individuals,” and PhD seekers “aren’t aware of how much debt they might take on in the process of earning their Ph.D.”; readers responded along similar lines. In fact, of the 11 categories Weissmann’s roundup uses to organize reader responses, three deal with suggestions about asymmetric information (people do PhDs based on some form of ignorance or misunderstanding), three deal with suggestions about student irrationality (people do PhDs because love of subject, or of being a top student, blinds them to harsh economic realities), and two are corrective points of information that don’t offer a theory.

If we compare the tenor of Weissmann’s findings in 2013 with that of Laura McKenna’s 2016 Atlantic piece on “The Ever-Tightening Job Market for Ph.D.s,” we see a common premise in spite of the new data: there must be something lacking or irrational about the choice to pursue a PhD. McKenna’s concluding set of questions, simultaneously genuine and rhetorical, suggests as much:

Why hasn’t all this [employment] information helped winnow down the ranks of aspiring professors — why hasn’t it proved to be an effective Ph.D. prophylactic? Are people risking so much in the hopes of getting a cushy job with a six-figure salary […] ? Is it because academia is a cult that makes otherwise sane people believe that there is no life outside the university?

The problem is not people getting a Ph.D., whether in English or Chemistry. The problem is not that schools are producing too many graduates. The problem is that we are engaging in a national disinvestment in valuing the graduate degree and thus there aren’t jobs.

We’ve presupposed a scenario in which there really is a massive oversupply of PhDs, and thus PhD students must be irrational for treading into an oversupplied labor market. But that’s simply not true. PhD “oversupply” is just a euphemistic way of talking about the fact that colleges and universities haven’t met student-generated demand with a commensurate supply of full-time, tenure-track faculty. Instead, we’ve rendered the majority of faculty contingent, increased administrators and administrative staff by 85 and 240 percent, respectively, over the past 40 years, and created a massive holding pen of temporary postdoctoral positions in STEM. If we look outside of academia for good measure, we see similar evidence of increased dependency on contingent labor, decades of stagnant wages, and no increase in leisure time to accompany increases in economic productivity. In this light it becomes harder to claim that PhD students are especially irrational or shortsighted, since so much of the broader US workforce is facing similar problems.

So why do people pursue PhDs despite grim job prospects? For one, because job prospects elsewhere haven’t been great either. Though PhDs are a skewed sample for all kinds of reasons, they also have a lower unemployment rate than master’s, bachelor’s, associate’s, and high school diploma holders. Accepting the five to seven years of employment and insurance benefits that come with a PhD is hardly an easy decision, but in light of deteriorating stability in nonacademic jobs, and the low unemployment rates of PhD holders, it’s hardly an irrational one either. In fact, it’s reasonable to think that a society continually touting the value of STEM research, a college education, and the “knowledge economy” does value PhDs. It would be irrational to think otherwise.

Perhaps the most compelling reason one pursues a PhD, however, is what it means beyond the immediately commodifiable. When we say it’s irrational — and worthy of ridicule — to pursue any kind of education that doesn’t maximize earnings, we’re effectively pathologizing healthy desires to learn and teach, and to pursue a course of research with long-term benefits. In fact, prestigious funding schemes like the MacArthur Fellowship offer no-strings-attached funding precisely because they get better results by untethering fellows from immediate financial pressures. This is also the idea behind no-strings and open-access funding developments in biomedical science: if you want results, you have to think long-term in ways that markets don’t always support. The PhD is hard work, typically with day-to-day teaching, grading, or lab responsibilities, but it’s also a rare opportunity to pursue research that you care about but the market doesn’t, all while keeping the lights on.

Instead of hiring people with a Ph.D. as a tenure-track professors, colleges and universities instead have to build some new buildings, provide some ever fancier dorms, and most importantly, take the money for themselves to their escalating salaries, perks, and new administrator positions.

It’s completely fine to get a Ph.D., although at this point one should understand that a) you should never go to a program without a good funding package and b) you aren’t going to get an academic job at the end of it unless you are very, very lucky. But there also needs to be pressure for universities to invest in hiring these people, including in the humanities. But the managerial MBA class that runs the universities and especially the Board of Trustees has no interest in this.

Anti-Union Universities

[ 20 ] August 26, 2016 |


There’s a forum at N+1 about yesterday’s NLRB decision overturning the Brown decision and granting graduate students at private universities collective bargaining rights. Want to point you to the contribution by Gabriel Winant and Alyssa Battistoni. Universities use the same arguments against unions as any other employer, plus simply claiming that graduate students aren’t workers.

The crux of the 2004 Brown decision had been that the relationship of graduate students to the university was primarily educational, and as a result did not fall under the purview of legislation designed to govern economic relationships. What a line to draw—how could anyone who works at a university fail to cross it? In overturning Brown, the Columbia decision states plainly what we’ve argued all along: “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.” The decision similarly demolishes, with reference to empirical evidence, familiar arguments that a union of graduate employees would worsen the quality of education, suck up inordinate amounts of valuable time and resources, or pose a threat to the continued functioning of the university. In other words, Columbia rejects the idea that academia is a uniquely un-unionizable industry (an idea that many employers have of their own industries: Target, for example, warns workers that “ if the unions did try to organize our team members, chances are they would change our fast, fun, and friendly culture”).

Pretense prevails among those who run the institutions. Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. With impressive sophistry, administrators manage to argue that unions would at once destroy academic life and fail to accomplish anything. Columbia’s administration, for example, both warns that the union could break the budget (“all schools may have to make difficult decisions to reflect these new fixed costs”) and cause wages to fall (“Stipend levels, remuneration, and benefits may change; there is no guarantee that they will increase”). The message they’re sending is that change is impossible—that there’s no way to make your voice heard.

To us, then, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the NLRB decision is its explicit recognition of our years of organizing outside the protection of the law, and its argument that this work in itself is admissible testimony for change. Unlike our deans, the federal government has heard our speeches and petitions, and listened to us as adult citizens capable of advocating for ourselves:

It is worth noting that student assistants, in the absence of access to the [National Labor Relations] Act’s representation procedures and in the face of rising financial pressures, have been said to be “fervently lobbying their respective schools for better benefits and increased representation.” The eagerness of at least some student assistants to engage in bargaining suggests that the traditional model of relations between university and student assistants is insufficiently responsive to student assistants’ needs.

When your employer insists that none of your actions matter, it is gratifying to learn that, through years of struggle—sometimes bitter, often seeming fruitless—you have moved the gears of the federal bureaucracy.

Really, this is a hugely important decision for academic labor.

This Day in Labor History: February 17, 1992

[ 77 ] February 17, 2016 |

On February 17, 1992, graduate students at Yale University went on strike. This strike, one of the most prominent in the history of organizing graduate students, is a useful window into one of the most important sectors of labor organizing over the last three decades and indicative of the tremendous difficulty in organizing private workplaces in any sector in those same three decades.

Graduate student unionization has long been controversial on college campuses. Are graduate students primarily students or apprentices? The answer should be obvious that all graduate students getting paid for work are workers, but you would be surprised how many liberal faculty members simply cannot accept this idea. Graduate students are not only workers, but particularly vulnerable workers, in spite of their high levels of education. Especially in the sciences, where a lot of funding depends on the relationship with a single professor, students are quite vulnerable. That is especially true of women and the sexual harassment of female students has long influenced support for unionization among graduate student in the sciences.

The first move toward graduate student unionization took place in tumult of the 1960s, as a lot of politically active undergraduates went on to graduate school. Rutgers and CUNY were the first graduate school units to be covered by a collective bargaining contract, as they were covered by faculty contracts. The University of Wisconsin was the first graduate student union to negotiate their own independent contract in 1970. The University of Michigan and University of Oregon soon followed.

At Yale, the struggle would be and still is a much longer struggle. T.A. Solidarity was the original organizing group, founded in 1987. That turned into the Graduate Employees and Student Organization (GESO) in 1990. Students began organizing to demand union recognition. Yale administrators rejected this from the beginning, refusing to recognize the union as a bargaining unit for the graduate students. Among the union leaders was Gordon Lafer, today one of the nation’s most respected labor economists and activists.

By the time it went on strike in February 1992, the GESO represented 1300 of Yale’s 2200 graduate students. Its demands were union recognition, a pay raise, a grievance procedure, and the expansion of time granted to complete the Ph.D. The strike was announced for three days . It received significant support from other unions, frustrating Yale administrators who hoped to isolate the strikers. 49 percent of union members at Yale refused to work in solidarity with the striking graduate employees, with much greater support among the maintenance and cafeteria workers (75 percent did not show up for work) than the technical and clerical workers (about 30 percent did not show up). Many faculty were of course opposed.

“They really are among the blessed of the earth,” Prof. Peter Brooks, chairman of the department of comparative literature, said. “So I sometimes feel annoyed at them seeing themselves as exploited.”

Never has an employer seen their workers as exploited and thus worthy of being granted power.


Despite these labor actions, Yale still refused to negotiate with the students. The 1992 strike ended without recognition although the administration did raise the pay of the TAs and provide teacher training, showing how strikes can create real victories for workers even when the union remain unrecognized as a bargaining unit. Strikes continued from time to time, including a 1996 strike that only ended when the administration threatened to fire all the strikers because they did not submit student grades as a bargaining tool, despite an overwhelming vote in favor of unionization among the students. In 2003, another strike took place but in that year, the GESO suffered a big setback as student/workers voted against unionization by a narrow margin, giving the administration much more ammunition in its continued determination to never recognize a graduate student union. But a 2005 strike again resulted in the administration providing a lot what the students wanted, including a pay raise for graduate student teachers and new initiatives on faculty diversity and child care.

Over the years, graduate student unionization has increased significantly at public universities in non-right-to-leech states, including at the University of Rhode Island. But graduate student unionization campaigns at private universities remains almost impossible to win. The only private school with a graduate school union recognized and with a contract is at NYU. 1951 and 1972 court cases ended with National Labor Relations Board rulings prohibiting the National Labor Relations Act from covering private school graduate students because they are primarily students and although that has been loosened with the 2000 NLRB case granting NYU graduate students the ability to organize, difficult barriers remain. In fact, NYU graduate students have struggled mightily with both their administration and the Bush-era NLRB to maintain recognition. In the end, university administrations are some of the best union-busters in the nation. Given the number of self-identified liberals with backgrounds in fields where they study race, class, and gender who are in administrations, it’s sickening to see them turn on treating graduate workers with respect and use the tools of oppression they decry in their own scholarship against exploitable workers, but they do it all the time.

At present, the Yale graduate students are continuing the fight to organize. Now affiliated with UNITE-HERE, major issues include mental health care, fairness in funding, and greater diversity at Yale.

When we think about the labor movement over the last few decades, we often tend to forget about the importance of the academy. Graduate students and, to a lesser extent, faculty, have proven some of the bright spots in American labor and with the collapse of the industrial unions due to capital mobility and the decline of the building trades, public sector workers of all types have risen in importance in the world of organized labor. In the case of schools like Yale, that are not public, major barriers remain to unionization but these campaigns have also developed many important labor scholars and activists, providing key intellectual support for organized labor at large. That in itself is a tremendous benefit of this organizing, even if Yale graduate students remain without recognition today.

This is the 171st post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Student Evals and Sexism

[ 43 ] January 25, 2016 |


As nearly every faculty member knows, student evaluations are a horrible way to measure teaching. That’s for many reasons. Students are primarily evaluating teachers on what grade they think they will get and the easiness of the class, whether you are a white male or a person of color or a woman, how you dress, etc. Yet student evaluations are often the only way administrations want to measure teaching because a) they don’t want to put the resources into evaluating teaching and b) they want to have happy customers who return the next semester. But these evals can be tremendously damaging, especially to the boatloads of contingent faculty who increasingly teach college courses. On the connection between evaluations and sexism:

There’s mounting evidence suggesting that student evaluations of teaching are unreliable. But are these evaluations, commonly referred to as SET, so bad that they’re actually better at gauging students’ gender bias and grade expectations than they are at measuring teaching effectiveness? A new paper argues that’s the case, and that evaluations are biased against female instructors in particular in so many ways that adjusting them for that bias is impossible.

Moreover, the paper says, gender biases about instructors — which vary by discipline, student gender and other factors — affect how students rate even supposedly objective practices, such as how quickly assignments are graded. And these biases can be large enough to cause more effective instructors to get lower teaching ratings than instructors who prove less effective by other measures, according to the study based on analyses of data sets from one French and one U.S. institution.

“In two very different universities and in a broad range of course topics, SET measure students’ gender biases better than they measure the instructor’s teaching effectiveness,” the paper says. “Overall, SET disadvantage female instructors. There is no evidence that this is the exception rather than the rule.”

Accordingly, the “onus should be on universities that rely on SET for employment decisions to provide convincing affirmative evidence that such reliance does not have disparate impact on women, underrepresented minorities, or other protected groups,” the paper says. Absent such specific evidence, “SET should not be used for personnel decisions.”

Needless to say, university administrations will at best pay lip service to this problem.

Faculty Organizing at the University of Washington

[ 39 ] December 27, 2015 |


Faculty at the University of Washington are considering unionizing, the only sensible move for faculty around the nation. Unsurprisingly, the Seattle Times is opposed to it. Unfortunately, from what I understand from a couple of sources, these arguments against unionization, especially that UW promotes its administration from within and thus we are all on the same team, are likely to win out. That’s a bad argument because it’s not like the faculty in the humanities and social sciences and arts are treated any better at UW today than anywhere else. But of course that’s where the core of union support always is in the university, whether the graduate students or the faculty. Assuming business will always be opposed, it’s often up to the sciences and some of the other professional schools like nursing to decide in the end. The two professors making these arguments are leading UW professors in the sciences. So I don’t know. I’m hardly surprised that department chairs and others who simply don’t see themselves as workers or see themselves as needing protection from university administrations or see any need for solidarity with either humanities professors or contingent faculty would oppose unionization.

But the problem with these arguments is that there is literally zero downside for faculty to unionize. You have workplace protections you didn’t have before. You have a committee to negotiate a contract rather than relying on the administration and the state alone. You have a grievance procedure. You have a way forward for dealing with workplace safety issues–which is an underrated problem on university campuses in the older buildings. You have real lobbying at the state legislature level. All of this for the price of union dues, which aren’t that high. The claim made in the article that unionization would stop UW from recruiting the finest faculty in the nation is flat out laughable. There’s no reason that a union can’t work with administration on issues that are common to both faculty and administration. That relationship doesn’t have to be constantly confrontational if the administration doesn’t try to rule without faculty input. But faculty who have not been at unionized campuses really have a hard time seeing these benefits because they don’t come from workplaces with a culture of thinking of themselves as workers, as opposed to awesome researchers are totally where they are because of their own awesomeness (as opposed to their social class, educational opportunities beginning at the K-12 level, and pure luck on the job market that probably explain more than their special brilliance or whatnot). So let’s hope the University of Washington faculty vote in this campaign, but it doesn’t sound too promising right now.

Trite Arguments About University Costs

[ 56 ] December 7, 2015 |


On November 25, Steven Pearlstein made an argument that is guaranteed to get one’s op-ed accepted in a major newspapers: attacking professors. Basically, he looked at 4 reasons he thinks university costs have skyrocketed and what we can do about it. The first is capping administrative costs, which is largely a good idea although it’s worth noting that we also demand a lot of services from our universities today, including mental health, that add to this. Of course there’s no question that top administrator pay is ridiculous and the growth of vice-deans for this and that is a big problem. So OK, this is mostly but not completely correct.

Then Pearlstein goes off the rails. First he wants universities to be open year-round and stop giving professors their cushy summer vacations. This is stupid on so many levels. First, while he might say that these are buildings that aren’t being used all the time, he neglects to deal with any of the implications of such an argument. First is that professors aren’t on vacation, they are working on the rest of their job descriptions. Second is that a lot of professors are in fact teaching overload classes to make ends meet. That includes tenured and tenure-track professors. Third, it’s entirely unclear that there is a demand to use these buildings for classes, especially at the tuition rates students are forced to pay today. Where does that money come from? Fourth, he assumes that professors will start working 52 week years without an increase in pay, which is not possible to implement. Pretty badly argued.

Third is the more teaching, less research canard. He blithely claims that most research, especially humanities research, is worthless and so professors should be forced to teach more instead. What he fails to realize, as do so many writers on higher education, is that Harvard and Yale are not the norm in higher education. Far, far, far more professors are teaching 4-4 and doing no research at all because they don’t have time (or maybe squeezing a little in) than are teaching 1-0 and publishing a bunch. But these people are never acknowledged by those like Pearlstein who have an axe to grind against higher education. He goes on to quote a couple of random academics about research being worthless, but he doesn’t even bother to try to evaluate these claims in any kind of useful way.

Finally, he provides some nonsense about general education that exists solely in technological futurist fantasyland that has proven to be bad for students over and over again when implemented. Like most people who write about education, it becomes pretty clear that Pearlstein has spent very little time in the classroom of the average college or university.

Luckily, Dan Drezner also has a column in the Washington Post and he used to rip Pearlstein apart.

When politicians and pundits argue in favor of reallocating resources from one college major to another, they’re trying to say that they can pick disciplinary winners and losers better than universities, foundations or the students themselves. There are big risks in making that assumption, especially if you base these selections on “facts” such as welders outearning philosophers that turn out not to be true. And usually such suggestions ignore the simple fact that U.S. research universities outperform every other country in the world. Or as that Bain report acknowledged at the outset:

Few industries in the United States have achieved unquestioned global leadership as consistently and effectively as our higher education system. U.S. colleges and universities are the cornerstone of our economic prosperity and the key to realizing the American dream. Thirty years of growth have confirmed the sector’s leadership and vibrancy — the result of demographic and economic factors combining to lift higher education even higher.

I get that higher education is a ripe target in an election year. And I get that blasting the “higher ed bubble” is popular even if it is not necessarily true. But for once, I’d like critics to concede that this is a far more complex topic than just “costs are out of control.”

It shouldn’t be that tough a thing to admit.

But inevitably, in another month, some other blowhard with an anti-univeristy agenda will publish another tired essay bemoaning professors without understanding what is actually driving costs up and a major newspaper will eat it up.

…See also Hiltzik

Academic Job Applications

[ 70 ] November 24, 2015 |


Above: And should include no more

This post is probably only of interest to academics, but then that probably describes half the readership. Increasingly, universities are asking for ridiculous amounts of material for job applications. It needs to stop. It’s unfair to the job applicants, who are already subject to all sorts of unfair and exploitative practices, most egregiously having to spend over $1000 to go to a big conference for what is often a single first-round interview. David Perry calls for a simplified application process:

California State University-Channel Islands is hiring a premodern European historian. The online job ad requires all the usual documents: CV, cover letter, teaching statement, and syllabi examples. Midway through the application process, however, surprises lurk.

First, there’s a spot to upload a writing sample, even though no writing sample is required. The university wants scanned teaching evaluations, but allows only up to 2 megabytes of data. Worst of all, as a candidate works through the online application, nine mini-essay questions with text boxes pop up with no warning. If you want to be considered as a candidate for this job — one of a relatively small number of positions open for a pre-1848 Europeanist — you’d better get writing.

We all know the supply of Ph.D.s looking for full-time work vastly outstrips the available pool of full-time jobs, and academia is struggling for solutions to that macro problem. But one thing we could do: Make the process of locating, applying for, and tracking jobs far more humane. I’ve already advocated that we put an end to costly in-person first-round interviews, move the date on which governing boards vote on an appointment to earlier in the hiring cycle, and formalize the hiring of adjuncts in order to treat them like the professionals they are.

The Cal State job ad points to yet another solvable problem: hyperspecificity in the application requirements.

Mind you, this is all for a 4-4 job that won’t pay you enough to live decently in southern California. Certainly not enough to own a home. What are the essays they make candidates answer?

What do you think about the CSUCI mission statement?

If you are a new Ph.D., briefly describe the topic, significance, and publication plans of your dissertation.

If you are not a new Ph.D., describe your current research project(s), significance, and plans for publication.

Please list those courses you would like to teach at CSUCI in the future.

What makes you a good candidate to work at a young university with plans for rapid growth?

Please explain how your career exemplifies the teacher-scholar model.

Describe one innovative idea that you implemented that enhanced student learning or success, and why you think it was so successful.

Please describe your experience with and commitment to interdisciplinarity including what it means to you.

Please describe your commitment to working with diverse populations, including how you would define “diversity.”

This is totally ridiculous. First, there’s no good reason to ask these questions. Second, the search committee is highly unlikely to read the answer. For a premodern Europe job like this, Perry suggests perhaps 300 applicants. That seems reasonable. That means 2700 short essays for the search committee, which probably consists of 3 people, to read. You know what the chances of them reading those 2700 essays are? 0%. Maybe when they cut it to a short list they would get to it. But it’s not actually possible to read 2700 essays, in addition to all the other material requested. This does nothing more than exploit people already desperate for work in an extreme buyers’ market. CSU-Channel Islands should be ashamed.

Today in Reasonable Conservatives

[ 5 ] November 23, 2015 |


Remember when Mitch Daniels, Reasonable Conservative, was a thing when pundits were talking about Republican presidential candidates? Those were good times. Well, Daniels is now president of Purdue. There have been a lot of racist incidents during his presidency:

Last December, more than 150 Purdue students marched to Daniels’ office in a “Purdue Can’t Breathe” rally. The year before, hundreds of students chanted, “Mitch, let’s face it/It’s time to deal with racists.”

Students of colors have told stories about others on campus hurling racial epithets at them and even physically assaulting them. There were also more high-profile incidents, like when someone scrawled the N-word across a picture of Dr. Cornell Bell, a prominent African American academic and advocate for minority students, or when the words “white supremacy” were written in the Black Cultural Center. Two anonymous Twitter accounts dedicated to mocking Asian students at Purdue also elicited protests. In 2012, the FBI announced that Purdue had reported the second largest number of hate crimes on campus, including five incidents of racial bias in one year.

The 2013 protests demanded the administration take specific actions to improve the culture on campus, including doubling the number of minority faculty and students in the next years, requiring racial sensitivity workshops for faculty, and creating a zero-tolerance policy that results in expulsion for racist acts. The 2014 rally followed up with more demands, saying Daniels was too slow to act.

So his response to the protests at Yale and Missouri? Congratulations on his own great leadership.

With that kind of leadership, maybe Daniels should write a book about how his brand of leaderocity and leadertude can inspire a whole generation of leadership studies students! Because being a university president is nothing but an exercise in self-promotion and justifying your own actions to make yourself look good.

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