• What if the humanities were marketed within the academy by the names of their best and most important ideas, and not by the names of their calcifying disciplinary formations?

    Interesting, yet dubious.

    The Humanities Have a Marketing Problem | Chronicle of Higher Education ($)

  • Yesterday I received a calendar request re: final implementation of a newly-approved policy, which is to be completed on 26 August 2024. I believe this is currently my furthest-out work commitment…

  • How did such an ambitious project by one of America’s most innovative architects turn into a punch line?

    And to think the University could have had a building designed by Taliesin Associated Architects instead…

    How the Humanities Building Went Wrong | On Wisconsin

  • Infinite Zoom

    Such large-scale social change should prompt us to ask larger questions: What kind of world do we want to live in when we emerge from these chaotic times? How much of that world will have been actively built with our input, and how much of it will have been constructed for us by engineers in ways that only in hindsight we will understand to have been foundational? What patterns of behavior and habits of mind do these solutions privilege over other ways of doing things? What are the likely unintended consequences?

    Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix | Hedgehog Review

  • We are all Perpetual Novices

    The fast pace of technological change turns us all, in a sense, into “perpetual novices”, always on the upward slope of learning, our knowledge constantly requiring upgrades, like our phones. Few of us can channel our undivided attention into a lifelong craft. Even if we keep the same job, the required skills change. The more willing we are to be brave beginners, the better.

    A fantastic argument for the value of a liberal arts education & for embracing a lifetime of shoshin (“beginner’s mind”).

    The joys of being an absolute beginner – for life | The Guardian

  • My office in UW’s (In)Humanities building was, by far, the worse I’ve ever occupied — including the Vietnam-era pole shed housing cryptographic gear where I nonetheless had to beware of after-hours incursions by gangs of trash-diving raccoons.

    Beyond Mosse | Sift & Winnow

  • Gown is Town — College, Community

    This Cornell sophomore does not mince words:

    The employees who make this university run are a part of our community just as much as any student is. I will die on that hill. Most of them will be here or have been here longer than any of us, and they will be here long after we are gone. They are definitely more a part of Cornell than certain freshmen who have busted in here like they own the place, publicly flaunting their inadvertent endangerment of the livelihoods of hundreds.

    You interact with Cornell employees daily. You recognize their faces. They work incredibly — incredibly — hard, they smile and give you words of encouragement and they feed you every day of the week. If this campus shuts down, they will not be going back to Westchester or Long Island or Miami or Manhattan. You owe it to them to do everything in your power to keep this semester alive. What is a crappy semester for you has enormous implications for the lives of our staff here, and the college town community as a whole. How dare you. How dare any of you forget about what is at stake for them this fall.

    Our county public health data suggests this perspective needs much more encouragement among our undergraduates.

    Students Will Not Bear the Greatest Cost of a Shutdown This Semester | The Cornell Daily Sun

  • The Business Model of Education: A Moral Bankruptcy & Looming Financial Disaster

    Calling a halt to on-campus operations and going totally online, thereby waiving on-campus fees, was the right, moral choice. And yet it was the option that this reckless system could never take, because those inflated fees were needed to pay the fixed costs of the business model. Without sufficient state funds, universities are reliant on federal grant money, which requires students to enroll. If online courses drive away even a fraction of those students, the house of cards will collapse. For the university to do the right thing would be financial suicide.

    The article’s title is misleading. The business model of education is the root problem, but it did not start with state universities. State governments — enthralled by neoliberalism, harried by zealotical anti-tax lobbyists & myopic voters — have spent forty years divesting from funding education as a public good, forcing public universities to rely on a mix of federal funding, out-of-state/international tuition, an amenities arms race, & ever-inflating service fees.

    I don’t agree with the article’s proposed solution, but something must be done in the wake of the havoc on budgets — state and university — that will follow the pandemic.

    Correctional, police, & military budgets bloat without restraint while the viability of the Post Office and public universities are jeopardized. One can only conclude American society cares more about imprisoning & killing people than we do connecting & educating them.

    The Corner That State Universities Have Backed Themselves Into | The Atlantic

  • Archivists & historians might one day save us from madness, or at least be able to tell us how we got to where we are.

  • Visited my office on campus today for the first time in months. It will be good to Hamm have a display larger than my 13” MacBook Pro screen again. Now I can just hope I won’t need to return to campus again until next summer.

  • It’s hard to not equate the amount of corporatespeak coming out of a public sector administrator’s mouth with the originality of their thought.

  • No Fall 2020 instruction plan is going to be ideal. My institution’s “Smart Restart” plan seems to maximize disruption in the near term, creates more potential for disruption of instruction later in the fall, and exposes faculty, staff, and students to grave public health risks.

    In the near term, students who have already enrolled will have their schedules altered to adjust for evening and Saturday in-person meeting times. Students whose schedules have been set since April will now likely have to swap & drop courses to mitigate conflicts with other courses, work, practice for ensembles, and so on. Given how long it took to make this decision, this enrollment turnover seems likely to coincide with students new to campus in the fall (first-year or transfer) beginning to enroll in their own schedules.

    Instructors in some courses will be asked to switch their pedagogy mid-semester, once again. Sure, they have more time to plan this change now, but instructors are still being asked to create the infrastructure for both an in-person and online version of these courses. Planning for online instruction to last just a few weeks actually compounds the burden of setting up those courses.

    Students will again be asked to change their own modes of learning midway through the term. This is particularly disruptive for students with accommodations. The University must now develop, test, and fully support accommodations for each course in every format offered throughout the term.

    In the event of a public health emergency on campus, in the local community, or in students’ home communities, adaptations that shift instruction to an online format earlier than Thanksgiving will be disruptive. Despite its stated commitment to testing, the University is taking on a massive risk for community transmission. What happens to a class if a student tests positive? Will it immediately move to online instruction during contact tracing/quarantine period? Or the instructor? Who teaches the course then?

    Suspending in-person instruction after Thanksgiving is a sign that UW’s leadership doesn’t trust students — rightfully so, I think — and doesn’t want to risk an outbreak when students return, post-Thanksgiving. This just begs the question: why do these leaders believe students can be trusted to abide by campus public health guidelines & community standards prior to Thanksgiving?

  • A dangerous, potentially fatal (for some) fantasy. Who will prove more risk-averse: college students this fall, or university chancellors & presidents after their next budget briefing?

    Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy | New York Times

  • Sometimes embarrassment is the price of a good outcome. I’m proud of my faculty & staff colleagues who spoke out against a hiring process that trampled our institution’s standards for shared governance, transparency, and — frankly — good sense. We made our voices heard.

  • My institution just suspended in-person delivery of classes between 23 March–10 April; instruction is shifting to alternate means. This will be our fullest test of online learning infrastructure. Lab & studio courses seem very difficult to approximate in a virtual environment.

  • An Email Drama

    * opens late-afternoon email from CFO *

    * reads *

    ”…we have some exciting things to share with you.”

    * glances at calendar *

    ”…implementing a single cloud-based Human Resource System (HRS) and Shared Financial System (SFS)…”

    * trash *

  • Four hours researching a 45-year old curricular loophole in the archives yesterday yielded a chance discovery: an interdisciplinary major — American Institutions — I didn’t know once existed. Had I been an undergrad in the mid 1960s–early 1980s, I would’ve been very interested.

  • Does anybody believe anything HR says, much less trust their judgment, when they’ve hired not just one, but two multinational consulting firms to restructure titles, salary structure, & compensation?

  • Reading curricular policy memoranda drafted when my dad was in junior high, and which detailed policy still in effect when I was a college student, is a bit of a trip.

  • Time for a little afternoon coffee.

  • Meiklejohn House was home to my first two offices on campus; I’m very attached to it. Built 105 years ago as a single-family home, it was a women’s co-op for 41 years. Integrated Liberal Studies will mark 50 years at home there in 2020. Sadly, it’s endangered by development.

  • Contemplating the wisdom of ordering a print or two of Hieronymus Bosch paintings — Cutting the Stone and/or Ship of Fools — to hang in the outer room of the office suite.

  • This morning’s reading: academic polices that went into effect the same month I was born, yet remain current today. These in turn reference degree requirements already in place before Lyndon Johnson was elected President in his own right.

  • On day one it’s been pretty amusing to surprise so many campus colleagues with a “Well, I’m part of this college now.” response to their “What brings you by?” questions.

  • I detest meeting activities predicated on prompts that could be sent out to committee members in advance for greater reflection, but are not, instead forcing participants into spur-of-the-moment thinking.

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