Small Demon
May 032010

Warm today & I just finished entering my grades for the semester into the computer, so I’m free until my online class starts up. Or I would be except for the job search I’m in charge of for my department. Looks like we’ll now be searching for two candidates since one candidate is about to turn us down & a current colleague is leaving for another institution. Seems like I’ve been doing this forever. The good news is that we have some strong candidates who are still interested in us, even this late in the cycle. It’s testimony  to the crappy job market that these folks haven’t already been snapped up.

The search has the department on edge because it brought out fundamental differences among members of the faculty that we usually don’t need to notice in order to work together. And unfortunately, those intellectual differences in some cases became personal. As Chair of the Search Committee, I’ve tried to keep the search transparent and the decision-making out in the open & democratic, but that has not stopped some of my colleagues from making charges about the fairness of the search, which involved, just for added excitement, the partner of a current faculty member. Concern about ethics has been used as a cover for political sentiments

I guess I really do believe in that hoary old concept, collegiality. There was a time in my life when I would have relished being in the center of an emotional & intellectual maelstrom like this, but not any more. I’ve been surprised & disappointed by the bad faith exhibited by some of my colleagues & at their willingness to attribute ulterior motives to members of the search committee, including me. Can’t help but take it personally.

Dec 112008

At the end of each semester, our departmental majors present the work they have done in their required research seminar. The subjects are wide-ranging because we are an interdisciplinary department the focus is on research methodology rather than subject matter. Earlier this week I attended this semester’s presentations. I had to leave a bit early, so I did not get to see every student present, but I was struck by something I had not noticed in previous semesters: Our students tend to speak almost exclusively in their research from the discourses of power. They are unable to distinguish the normative claims embedded in supposedly descriptive language. One student, a Business double major, presented her research on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), taking employers’ objections to provisions of the law as natural and just while dismissing provisions that allowed employees flexibility in managing medical leaves as “difficult to keep track of.” Another began her presentation of South Korean business conglomerates with a quotation from a journalist that contained the phrase “the more orderly Western mind” & though that phrase was mostly window-dressing, she took the behavior of the paternalistic, hierarchical, authoritarian business structures of the chaebols as natural, at least for Korea. It is this assumption of the naturalness of existing orders & systems that really struck me this time around. We need to do a better job teaching critical thinking in the research seminar.