Cornel West Interview

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Cornel West I came across on Alternet.  I was most interested to read about West’s criticism of Obama and his comments about Michael Moore’s faith in Obama:

McNally: My fiancee said the saddest moment for her was watching how excited people were the night Barack Obama was elected. Share a little bit about your feelings that night and your feelings today.

West: I was ready because I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you’re going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.

Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There’s no fundamental change at all. Continue reading

Community Organizer aka “Elitist” Obama

Seriously, I thought this was just tasteless – is this the way to appeal to the nation? by mocking “community organizers”? helping people in the community is somehow too… elitist and thus bad for the future president?

Stephen Colbert puts it best.

P.S. A voice of reason from the conservatives – maybe more and more people will start asking this simple question:

“Is she the one we’ve been waiting for?”

So asks the Weekly Standard (with, I assume, at least a touch of irony) on the cover of its September 8 issue.

We conservatives have had a good time ridiculing the Obama phenomenon, especially its messianic feel — the willingness of its adherents to pour so much hope and belief into such an empty, or at least incomplete, vessel — and its elevation of “narrative” over substance.

It turns out that we were dying to have basically the same experience.

Mugabe Decides To “Announce Results”

So the “elections” in Zimbabwe are heading into a run-off – clearly a move by Mugabe aimed at keeping the power – with “war veterans” harassing the opposition, surrounding countries quietly condoning the bullshit, it’s going to be a great show of democratic power – does anyone still believe that this is a fair election? But then again, Mugabe isn’t in the business of explaining things, is he? Everyone should be thankful that he finally decided to do anything about the situation. The problem now is of course a very serious one: if opposition ignores the run-off, Mugabe “wins” the election, if they participate, then Mugabe’s thugs will intimidate the voters and even if MDC wins again, how’s to say the results will ever see the light of day? So this is a “do-over” election and we all know it’s a mockery of democracy:

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s opposition leader defeated President Robert Mugabe in the presidential election but faces a run-off vote after he failed to win an outright majority, the electoral body said. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai won 47.9 percent of the vote on March 29 and Mugabe took 43.2 percent, said Chief Elections Officer Lovemore Sekeramayi. The result was announced after a verification process by the candidates to check the result, but an opposition MDC spokesman said the announcement was scandalous and described it as “daylight robbery”. He said the party executive would decide on the next move. Read the rest.

I remember in 1990s in Russia people sabotaged elections by voting “Against All” – do they have that option on the Zimbabwe ballots? – Russian goverment since decided to eliminate the option since “Against All” sometimes “won” the elections…

Things as They Are: A Rejoinder

Mikhail touches on some good points in his post, “Things as they Are: Academic Paysage,” and I have a few points to add. Mikhail suggests that

A book contract will always beat 10 years of teaching experience, publications in known journals (even though not many read those, including the authors themselves) will always beat a good record of students evaluations – why?

Yes, a good point about hiring practices and no doubt true, but it may be much worse then this given the often unacknowledged laws that govern the system. Not only is it possible to do everything “right,” e.g. finish the doctorate in a reasonable amount of time or quickly (and beating the 45% attrition rate), have some teaching experience, publish an article and/or write some reviews, participate in conferences etc., and not get placed into a tenure track position, it’s possible that this is exactly how the system of labor is structured. In his recent (and quite excellent ) book, How the University Works, Marc Bousquet discusses how earning the doctorate degree (however counterintuitive) actually serves to flush the degree holder out of the system:

Many degree holders have served as adjunct lecturers at other campuses, sometimes teaching master’s degree students and advising their theses en route to their own degrees. Some will have taught thirty to forty sections, or the equivalent of five to seven years’ full time teaching work. During this time, they have received frequent mentoring and regular evaluation; most will have a large portfolio of enthusiastic observations and warm student commendations. A large faction will have published essays and book reviews and authored their department web pages. Yet, at precicely the juncture that this “preparation” should end and regular employment begin–the acquisition of the Ph.D.–the system embarrasses itself and discloses a systematic truth that every recent degree holder knows and few administrators wish to acknowledge: in many diciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career (23). Continue reading

Things As They Are: Academic Paysage

While reading Stanley Fish’s latest post on New York Times blog and its numerous comments, I have noticed how much of the passion against “French theory” is fueled by references to “careerism” and how deconstruction supposedly helped a whole generation of charlatans get an access to the sacred spaces of the innocent academic world that mistook “deconstructionism” for a genuine philosophical school.  “So-and-so made a career as a deconstructionist! How unfair! How awful!” Of course, the evil of such situation is not in the making-of-the-career part, but in the being-a-fake-philosopher part; there is nothing wrong with careerism itself, seems to be a view in the comments.  In fact, there is a plenty of advices one usually gets (when one has the luxury of advice) from the “senior” academics on how to get published, how to get noticed, how to talk to a right person, whose ego to stroke… This reminded me of a recent post on RateYourStudents: Continue reading

Mid-Level College Workers Pay Increases, Someone is Losing…

In this week’s online edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education there are some rather telling stats in an article reporting on an annual salary survey under the headline “Median Pay Increase for Colleges’ Mid-level Workers Beats Inflation.”

Midlevel administrators at colleges and universities received a median salary increase of 3.9 percent for the 2007-8 academic year, exceeding the rate of inflation, according to an annual survey released last week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The increase is slightly greater than that of the 2006-7 academic year, at 3.8 percent. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers rose 2.8 percent in the past fiscal year.

Midlevel workers at public institutions saw a 4-percent gain, compared with a 3.7-percent increase for their counterparts at private institutions. That difference was consistent with last year’s figures (4 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively). The survey comprised 1,125 institutions, and the numbers reflect 206 jobs, including those of accountants, doctors, lawyers, and security guards. Like last year, the highest-paid midlevel administrators were staff doctors, with a median salary of $122,648. Staff lawyers and veterinarians were the next highest-paid. The lowest-paid midlevel employees were security guards, at $26,355.

By institutional category, workers at master’s-degree institutions and two-year colleges saw the greatest median salary increases, at 4 percent — slightly higher than the gains at doctoral institutions (3.9 percent) and bachelor’s-degree institutions (3.8 percent). Median pay increases at specialized institutions were slightly lower than in 2006, at 3.5 percent.

There is also a chart by salary/job title/institution type available here. I wonder how these operations were able to accomplish such an increase…could it be the rise in contingent faculty? Of course not, that couldn’t be right. I’m far too naive to even think that.

The Current State of the University, Um, Not Great

darth.jpg NYU University Press recently published Marc Bousquet’s How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation. You can read his blog here and find his you tube page here.

Here’s the blurb from NYU UP:



As much as we think we know about the modern university, very little has been said about what it’s like to work there. Instead of the high-wage, high-profit world of knowledge work, most campus employees — including the vast majority of faculty — really work in the low-wage, low-profit sphere of the service economy. Tenure-track positions are at an all-time low, with adjuncts and graduate students teaching the majority of courses. This super-exploited corps of disposable workers commonly earn fewer than $16,000 annually, without benefits, teaching as many as eight classes per year. Even undergraduates are being exploited as a low-cost, disposable workforce. Continue reading

Awesomeness of Students: Professor Zero edition

Taking a break from grading this morning I came across Professor Zero’s interesting post about a letter from a student arguing why he should not fail her course, but instead receive a D. Now, I am no stranger to such audacity (as chronicled here, here, here, and here) having been accused of ageism last semester and more recently (by which I mean last week) I had a student who will without a doubt receive an “F” explain to me that she is actually an “A” student and I can’t fail her because she will lose her scholarship. To which I replied, “Well, perhaps you should have, you know, attended class regularly and turned assignments in. If you were confused you should have approached me, I’m happy to help out, but now it’s too late.” It’s a problem. As Detective McNulty (from HBO’s entertaining cop show The Wire) says to his partner sometime during the first season “You know what I like about you? When you fuck me you’re gentle and you take your time.” Or something to that effect. Sometimes the perverse egalitarianism at work in the University works its magic to fuck the unsuspecting.

Recently, a colleague of mine received a cc (she was one of 6 addressees) of a letter from a student via the President of the college. Yes, the student, after complaining loudly to student services, got passed off to to the dean, who sent it to the department chair, who passed it onto the coordinator, who eventually met with the dept chair, student services and the discipline dean all at once to resolve the situation. The original disagreement over a final grade for the course was not changed and remained an F. Case closed. Not quite, now that a letter was sent to the President, the VP of Academic Affairs is on the case. The student is upset because she received an “F” in a class and will lose her scholarship, she wants it erased from her transcript. Now, this student earned a 28 on the final exam, a twenty fucking eight percent!!! Continue reading