Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Couldn't have said it better myself

As some of you know, I am friends with Dean Dad in real life, and he is as wonderful in person as he is to read online. But he has outdone himself in his critique of Stanley Fish, who honestly drives me CRAZY!

Do yourself a favor. Read Dean Dad's latest entry.

DD, you rock!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sad news

It has happened again...a murder on the Virginia Tech campus. Students were warned that someone was stabbed in the new graduate housing area. They have not disclosed who was the victim or the assailant. They have arrested someone for the murder and told the students that they could resumed moving around campus. I can hardly imagine the trauma and backlash of another tragedy in such a short time.

I am always a little scared that violence will happen on my campus. It makes sense, really, when you have so many people living and working together in a small space. The odds are that untreated mental illness, poor anger management, relationship issues, and/or substance abuse will lead someone to engage in illegal and violent behavior.

I have had times when I have been concerned about a student's behavior. When those issues arise, I have reached out to university law enforcement and student services staff members--just to stay safe and get help for students in need.

Universities can only do what they can do. We can prepare, train faculty and housing staff to recognize students in trouble, and put emergency systems in place, but we cannot preclude violence from happening. Sometimes, all we can do is pray.

I will keep the Va Tech community in my prayers tonight.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We are (missing) one

Okay, I very much enjoyed the "We are one" concert inauguration event yesterday, but I was kinda aggravated that the Inaugural planners decided not to air Bishop Gene Robinson's invocation at the beginning of the event. It came across as a needless kick in the teeth on a day we are supposed to feel more connected to the rest of America. I never in my life thought I would say this, but I am with Dan Savage, who wrote: When you're throwing folks a bone, it's a good idea to make sure they can, you know, see the bone.

As a Jew, I would rather none of our events had invocations or any religious exercise, but I have learned to accommodate our civil religion, as long as "in Jesus' name" is not part of the prayer. So, I would like to have had the prayer televised and broadcast on NPR.

For those of you who also wanted to see his prayer, you can watch it on Christianity Today's website or below. It isn't perfect--shot from pretty far away--but the sound is great. You can also read the text below. His words are brave and pretty progressive. I came away impressed.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural Event Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Musings on sabbaticals

Sabbaticals are one of the rewards of the academic life. That is what my mentors told me.

Other professions occasionally get sabbaticals--there are companies that offer sabbaticals to employees in the private sector (see Fortune magazine's list); some religious denominations offer leaves for their ministers. Some have argued that military leaders should also get paid leave.

The purpose of the academic sabbatical is straightforward, as MJ Perry from Carpe Diem notes:

Faculty time at research universities is allocated among teaching, research
and service, but what often happens is that teaching and service become so
time-consuming that it detracts from scholarly research. Having a semester
every seven years without any obligations for teaching and service allows
research-oriented faculty an opportunity to devote full-time attention to
research projects that are often impossible to complete with teaching and
service obligations, e.g. write a book, or travel internationally to collect
scientific data or conduct scientific studies, etc.

Thus, the benefits of the sabbatical are straightforward:
  • Paid time to focus on the topics and activities of your choice
  • No service responsibilities
  • No teaching responsibilities
  • Chance to travel and spend time in new places
  • Opportunities to study/work with colleagues in new places
  • Time to focus on large projects

Those of us academic administrators can also use this sabbatical time to participate in an administrative training program, like the ACE Fellowship Program.

Unfortunately, like every other aspect of faculty life, sabbaticals are widely misunderstood and, in many forums, resented. I mean, who are faculty to get some special perk that "real people" don't get.

My gf raised the issue when I started visualizing my own sabbatical (still a couple years away, unfortunately). If I got a paid year "off" to do research, travel, or gain administrative training, what would SHE be doing? Would she be travelling with me, or would she be at home, alone and working, to handle things here?

I raised this to a friend who had a recent sabbatical, asking how his wife felt about it. His face dropped. "She was pissed!" was his quick response. Pissed during the whole sabbatical. Suspicious of how he was using his time...Was he really working, or was he screwing around and watching Prime Time in the Daytime? And if he was home, shouldn't he be taking on more chores?

It is hard to communicate the concept of a "working leave" to someone who works everyday on a more regular schedule and has no chance of ever getting a leave from any of their activities. It is easy to see why partners thus employed might be resentful. So, how do we woo the partners and convince them the sabbatical is a good thing?

And another question: Is it better for a future higher ed administrator to do an ACE Fellowship, or to focus on writing and publishing to up the number of pubs, the research money, and such to raise her status to full professor? I am considering both of these options, assuming I don't take another position that pushes the sabbatical even further in the future. Obviously, I could do the research one first, and wait for the administrative one until after I have reached full professor status. But that seems to drag everything out so long...

Ah, well. Enough of that. Back to the everyday, beginning-of-the-semester grind.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How the Jews handle the holidays?

By shopping after the Christmas rush is over! I don't mean to feed into a stereotype (i.e., Jews are cheap). Honestly, there are plenty of goyim hitting those post-holiday sales. But we decided to forego "gifts" and just go shopping for things we needed once the holidays were done.

On top of the necessary purchases (new longjohns, gloves, and a recycling center for the kitchen), we have both been thinking about 1 larger "gifty" purchase. I have been contemplating getting a Kindle. Obviously, there is a waiting list, and there are rumors of a 2.0 version in the offing. Any advice, pro or con?

My recommendations to you? Go see Milk and Frost/Nixon. Now. They are amazing.

Otherwise, I plan to go see a couple more movies, enjoy the shopping, and get started on the list of tasks that are cluttering up my Outlook task list.

Happy New Years, everyone!