Search Results for ""excellence without money""

25th 2010
Susan Gubar and the FUBAR American uni: or, the mad bitch in the attic tells all

Posted under jobs & students & women's history

Good morning, friends.  I got nuthin’ today but a burning desire for a morning run and then a stack of essays and rough drafts of research papers to plow through, so you’re on your own.  May I suggest that you go read Roxie’s World today, where co-blogger Moose has a wonderful valentine called “To Her With Love” to Indiana University English Professor and feminist hero Susan Gubar, and a brilliant meditation on the FUBAR American public university?  (Roxie is of course the author of the “Excellence without Money” series inaugurated in 2008–don’t miss this latest installment!)

Here’s a little flava:

This is partly a story about luck and good timing, but it is also a story about the structural conditions of American public higher education, conditions that have changed significantly since my undergraduate days. I stumbled into Gubar’s class because I needed to pick up a senior seminar after deciding to add English as a second major at the end of my junior year. A friend recommended the course because she’d heard the co-author of a recently published book called The Madwoman in the Attic was a pretty good teacher. The seminar, with the rather dry-sounding title of “Feminist Expository Prose,” didn’t necessarily lead one to expect life-altering encounters with radical texts and ideas. I had never even heard of Mary Wollstonecraft, and Three Guineas, the Virginia Woolf text on the syllabus, was the first Woolf I would ever read. I had never heard of Charlotte Perkins Gilman either, but her Women and Economics rocked my young world, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s autobiography Eighty Years and More so fascinated me that I hopped in my car over Thanksgiving break to go read the author’s letters in a library 700 miles away. It was the excitement of that first research trip that propelled me into Susan’s office to announce that I had found my vocation. Continue Reading »


10th 2009
Thursday Round-up: chapping your a$$ edition!

Posted under American history & class & Gender & jobs & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings

elvgrensnowfunWell, friends:  we’re in the midst of a butt-chapping deep freeze, thanks to an Alberta Clipper that just won’t quit.  It’s -15 degrees Fahrenheit here in Potterville, and won’t get above freezing until sometime this weekend.  Those of you in the East might be enjoying a snow day today, so here are a few tidbits to warm you up and get your engines running this morning:

  • Chris Hedges asks, “Are Liberals Pathetic?“  (h/t Susie at Suburban Guerrilla.)  He writes that their “sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision.”  He then goes on to contrast elite, sheltered liberals with working class men who “knew precisely what to do with people who abused them. They may not have been liberal, they may not have finished high school, but they were far more grounded than most of those I studied with.”  What do you think?  I think he’s onto something, but he also engages in a romanticization of a partcular kind of working-class masculinity that equates “fighting” with manhood only, and by implication slights the liberal coalition of today which is based on feminists and gays.  Can we get away from these gendered tropes for criticizing the left?  (Hedges himself identifies the intersection of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue that’s really to blame for Dem reluctance or even refusal to attempt real change.)
  • Hedges’ essay reminded me of an interesting piece by Joe Bageant on the absence of compassion among so-called “progressives” called “Shoot the Fat Guys, Hang the Smokers.”  I worry about this–it’s part of what I was trying to get at last year in most of my posts on Sarah Palin.  Laughing at or condescending to people isn’t a winning strategy.  Smugness will be the death of the left.
  • Clio Bluestocking brings us more tales from the Orwellian world of online teaching at her school–or, as Hacky McHackhack, the overpaid consultant puts it, “delivering education.”  Continue Reading »


20th 2009
Excellence without Money!, part III: Knowledge without Books!

Posted under American history & jobs & students

knowledgewithoutbooksAnother in our occasional series on the Great Recession and the crisis in funding public institutions of higher education, with thanks to Moose at Roxie’s World for coining the phrase “Excellence without Money!”

Johann Neem, an Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University, has an article over at Inside Higher Ed called “Reviving the Academic Library.”  In his brief comments, he defends the traditional library, something that many librarians are reluctant to do these days.  Just read some of the angry comments–most of them from librarians, and some of them well-earned, by the way.  Neem writes rather condescendingly about librarians, who are at most universities tenure-track and tenured scholars themselves, and he claims that education can only take place inside university classrooms.  That was unfortunate hyperbole, in my view, because in the main I agree with Neem.  (Can’t we all just get along?)

In case we’ve forgotten, amidst all those i-Pod downloads and football games and keg parties, Neem explains that “[t]he core purposes of the academy are to teach and to produce new knowledge. Continue Reading »


19th 2009
Excellence without Money! Redux

Posted under jobs & local news & unhappy endings

excellenceWell, for those of us who work at state unis with fiscal years that begin on July 1, the budget crystal ball is becoming clearer and clearer.  There is no money to support our excellence!  Notortious Girl, Ph.D. reports that her uni is considering furloughs that aren’t pay cuts, but rather “two unpaid days a month (where we´re not supposed to work — yeah, right) comes out to 6% of our work days, which means that my tenure raise is effectively wiped out before I ever see it.  Add to this the suggestion from our dean that the course releases that allowed us to teach 3-3 rather than 4-4 may be going away (but with no decrease in research expectations), and you can see why I´m cranky.”  Crank on, my friend–that is one bum deal.

It all stinks–but it’s that “no decrease in research expectations” that I think faculties must protest.  At Baa Ram U., my department has no raises to offer and zero travel money–but, we haven’t had to fire anyone, and we aren’t facing an increase in our teaching loads.  A colleague of mine commented yesterday that we might need to consider suspending the tenure clock or revising our tenure standards for junior faculty if this is our new reality for the next several years.  I think this is correct–and if I were a recently hired Assistant Professor, I’d feel like I had just pulled the short straw in a bait-and-switch.  But, this is the Golden Rule, friends:  those who have the gold make the rules.

Should universities–and the people in the states who b!tch and moan endlessly about taxation–get the benefit of our full workload when they’re not paying for it?  Continue Reading »


15th 2008
Excellence Without Money!

Posted under jobs & local news

The weather here in the Rocky Mountains is like the economy:  bottoming out and likely to remain in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.  So after my face-freezing walk across the Baa Ram U. campus, I arrived at work this morning to a flooded department hallway and an office full of wet carpet.  (A colleague of mine 2 doors down got the worst of it–for the second time in two years, the pipes in the heating system in her office burst and flooded half the department.)  Luckily, our decaying, flooding, oddly dead-fly infested building was on a list of buildings to be renovated…before the stock market tanked this fall, and before all of the other harbingers of economic doom that followed in short order.  As the little gingerbread man in that Go Phone commercial says about another crumbling building, in the voice of Steve Buscemi, “I’d like people to stop eating my house…but that ain’t gonna happen.” 

So, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Roxie’s musings on the problems facing public colleges and universities, get thee to Roxie’s World right now to read Moose’s back-of-the-cereal-box history of trends in higher education over the past few decades and her super depression-proof plan for public institutions everywhere

For years, public institutions like Queer the Turtle U have been stuck between the rock and the hard place of declining levels of state support and mounting pressure to keep tuition affordable. Caught in that vise, schools have fought to do more with less while scrambling to catch up to private institutions in the game of fundraising. That strategy worked reasonably well when times were good and the bubbles in stocks or real estate had a lot people feeling rich. Now? The party’s over, public and private revenues have dried up, and schools are desperately trying to figure out how to cut costs without compromising the value of their brand (the ne plus ultra of higher ed under the consumer model).

Moose, who has a healthy respect for academic entrepreneurship, has a slogan for public institutions eager to prove that larger classes, smaller operating budgets, and reductions in advising and other forms of academic support are no threat whatsoever to the quality of education. She’s been using the slogan informally all over campus at Queer the Turtle U this fall, but it hasn’t been officially adopted yet, so, in the spirit of academic capitalism she has decided to auction it off here to one of my legions of loyal fans who works at some other cash-strapped public school. . . .  Are you ready?  Here is Moose’s slogan for hard times in higher ed:

Excellence Without Money

Hey, kids, let’s rent a barn (without money!) and put on a show (for no money)!  Historiann has even developed this generic university seal to symbolize this movement with the Seal Generator at  You can make your own seal–say it with me nowfor no money!  Can you feel the excellence, my darlings?  Let’s see if the copier company will be happy to to fix our copier–for no money!  How about serving up lunch in the student center to us–for no money!  Maybe Shell Oil will donate gasoline for staff and faculty vehicles so that we can get to campus–for no money!  I wonder if banks and landlords will forgive mortgages and rents for everyone employed in higher education, so that we can house ourselves for no money!  This no money thing could work, just so long as it’s not just people in higher education who are doing it for no money!

Moose’s new slogan leads us directly to a comment by Matt L. on a recent post called “Money, class, and the values of academe” about our curious unwillingness to pay for education.  He notes:

One of my colleagues, who had spent a decade in K-12 education said that all teachers were held to an unspoken ideal: the Roman Catholic Nuns who taught in parochial schools. They were sexless, had few or no material needs, required no pay for their work, and disappeared into the convent out of sight at the end of the school day. The trope of the WASP amateur historian or the celibate scholar in the frayed tweed jacket is similar. People with no visible means of support carrying out a higher cultural mission in the name of virtue, not material gain.

Ultimately, these myths mean one thing. People, that is to say parents, students and legislators, do not value education enough to pay for it. Instead they would like it to be a commodity that costs as little as possible. If you want to know what society really values in a university go look at the salaries of Big 10 football and basketball coaches.  

Yes, indeedy.  Let’s see who’s willing to coach the team for no money!  But no university president would dream of asking the coach to work for nothing–he works in a sector that’s very male dominated and hasn’t traditionally coasted on the volunteer labor of religious women, underpaid secular women, or WASP dilettantes with inheritances. 

At the conclusion of that post, I asked, “Is the meaning of what we do all day long–teaching, research, and service–dependent on how badly we need the paycheck?  Is it not work, regardless of the worker?”  Today’s koan, my darlings, is slightly modified:  Is the price paid for the work dependent on the work, or on the worker?  And, what’s the real price of “Excellence Without Money?”


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