Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To buy or not to buy...

Every year when we hit the graduation extravaganza, I contemplate buying academic regalia. I hate trying to remember to order robes, going to get them, and remembering to return them. I have a skill set...this kind of minutiae just isn't part of that skill set!

A colleague of mine who is in her 60s bought a brand new set of regalia. Her husband joked with her and asked if she planned to be buried in them. My partner wagers that she was tired of her original robes--pretty old and worn by this point--and that she couldn't imagine renting robes for the next 6-10 years.

As all of you academic-types know, those suckers are expensive. They average between $400-600 just for the robe, with extra expense for the hood and the cap. I had no money to afford robes when I graduated, and neither did my mom. I rented a gown, borrowed a cap, and only bought the hood.

I have heard that some schools pay for robes for their new hires--a nice perk for a young faculty member, and a good way to start a new job. Needless to say, I never worked at one of those schools.

I couldn't have afforded them before now, but I have recently considered using some (well, all) royalty money from my book to pay for them. Of course, that is money I could easily use some other way...say, a vacation, home repairs, or even conference travel money.

So far in my academic career, I have attended 11 years of graduations and hoodings, including my own doctoral hooding. At $20 per year, I have spent $220 in rentals. A few more decades, and I will have paid for the regalia. I cannot see waiting until I am in my 60s to buy some.

So, should I go ahead and make the purchase? Has anyone bought them and regretted it? Any recommendations on where to get it?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduations: pleasure and politics

Phew! I am pleased to report that the graduation tilt-a-whirl has officially stopped and all of my events are over. I attended an undergraduate graduation recognition ceremony, Masters and Doctoral hooding ceremonies, along with the universitywide banquet for students of color and the university commencement ceremony. I am TIRED.

I do enjoy these events, though... getting to see students celebrate their accomplishments, meeting their family members and friends, seeing myself as part of a team both within my department and in the larger university. I came away also very glad that we have some event planners in our crowd who know how to manage getting the students organized, on and off-stage, and making sure everyone can hear us and all the names can be pronounced clearly. I hooded my first doctoral student, which was exciting and gratifying. I was and am incredibly proud.

After giving my own graduation speech and listening to others, I can testify that this was a truly difficult year to speak at graduations/hoodings/commencements. My own speech mirrored those by my colleagues--a bad year economically also offers graduates potential to be part of the changes we need to see in our country and opportunities to be entrepreneurial. Obama's speeches at ASU and Notre Dame echoed some of this same tone.

So, let's speak of Obama's speeches. I have been sent copies of the texts from both speeches from numerous friends, family, and colleagues. They are both thoughtful, politic, poetic even. He (and his speechwriters) tailored both speeches to address the controversies swirling at both campuses: ASU's decision *not* to offer President Obama an honorary degree, and Notre Dame's decision *to* invite Obama as commencement speaker and offer him an honorary degree regardless of his support for reproductive choice. I had a hard enough time speaking where I know people will like me; I can't imagine speaking where people were actively protesting me and where my success or failure would be recorded in papers nationwide. I thought he handled these controversies with grace and humor, for the most part. I suppose that as a politician, President Obama has had a lot of experience with protesters, so it might be easier for him.

As a strong supporter of women's rights as well as LGBT rights, I am very concerned about one section of the President's Notre Dame speech related to abortion. He says:

Because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to
those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we
believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we
can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made
casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions,
let's reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let's make adoption more
available. (Applause.) Let's provide care and support for women who do carry
their children to term. (Applause.) Let's honor the conscience of those who
disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do. (Applause.)

Here is my question: What is a sensible conscience clause? To me, that would mean that if you don't want an abortion, you don't need to have one. If you don't want to distribute morning-after pills or birth control pills, you should pursue a job other than pharmacist. If you don't want to perform abortions, you should work in a job other than gynocologist or obstetrician. I don't think that medical staff should have decisions about who they serve and which procedures they will do. I am sure this isn't what Obama meant, but I am not sure what he did mean.

If a conscience clause HAS to exist and individual providers can opt out of certain procedures and services, the medical facility in which they are located should be required to have someone on staff who will do the procedure/service and/or provide referral information. (And referral may not be feasible if there are no other nearby facilities, nearby facilitaties covered by someone's insurance, or if there is not available public transportation to another facility; in that case, I would say that someone on staff MUST be able to offer the procedure/service.)

On a similar topic, I am annoyed by Mary Ann Glendon's decision to decline the Laetare Medal. Well, I would respect her decision, if I could be convinced that she would also decline the medal if the Commencement speaker was someone who supported/advocated for the death penalty. Either you hold with Catholic beliefs regarding the sacredness of life or you don't, you know? That said, I acknowledge that it is her decision, and I am fine for her to make it.

Well, enough of the graduation politics. I am glad that the semester is officially over, and that I am not teaching summer school classes. I plan to write all summer, and I hope to feel excited and proud at what I accomplish this summer. I hope your experiences are similar.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Here comes the sun!!

Wow, here it is May 11, and I haven't written an entry since April 18! What have I been doing, you ask?

Well, I have been dealing with student crises, managing my own massive class (the big one I mentioned earlier), getting some writing done for school projects and my own research projects, collecting data on my students, traveling all over the place, and trying to finish up countless reports, articles, and so on. But classes are over, and the light is bright at the end-of-the-semester tunnel.

I am emerging from my winter funk, excited by the possibilities of summer. Last summer was very different--I couldn't seem to get started, and as a result, I wound up the summer with very little to show for it.

This summer has a different agenda. I have 2 monographs and a report to a funder to complete, a couple articles to write, and a (successful) plan for sabbatical in 2010-2011 to design and compose. The gf will be traveling a good deal this summer, so I will have days of alone time, which is exciting. (I don't like being alone or without the gf all that much, as a rule, but brief stints alone are helpful to the writing process.) I have NO TRAVEL planned right now, which makes me very happy after my conference-laden year... seriously, no one should ever attend 7 conferences in 8 months. And that didn't count all the personal travel for family gatherings, visits to friends, and other stuff...

I feel hopeful about getting some work accomplished this summer. I even found a little money for a doctoral student who will help me support this work. It feels nice to be hopeful, and even nicer to feel determined and energized.

Congratulations to all of our graduates--I hope you have a chance to celebrate your accomplishment. I am celebrating my accomplishments for this academic year, and the many to come. Here is to the summer!

(I can't embed this, but click on the link below to get "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves. )