Storm clouds on a sunny day, or, how once again absolute power corrupts absolutely
The end of spring semester should be a joyous time for faculty and for students. And by and large it is: I am extremely proud of my students (and especially those who finish this year). I take great joy in celebrating their accomplishments and in working with them in every capacity. My program of research is going in interesting directions that I never would have expected. The collaboration with Susan Rvachew is going to be amazing. Jan and Mary continue to be great to work with. I could name names for a long time: great TAs, great RAs, great collaborators.
Beyond that, though, there are dark shadows on this campus on even the sunniest days. The reason for that is simple: the way that some of the university's administration have handled themselves this year with respect to the February 9 graduate school reorganization memo has been, well, atrocious. Of course, not all is storm clouds: institutions like tenure (the very institution that gives me the freedom to use the word as sharply critical as "atrocious" to describe something at my university without fear of being fired)(though surely my doing so will mark me in other ways--surely my 'golden boy' days are behind me) still exist. My colleagues are still as wonderful as they could be. I have a more vibrantly intellectual group of students than I have ever had. I had the great privilege of working with students all the way from high-school PSEO students to dissertating doctoral students. The staff I work with every day are great. Moreover, through many events this semester I have made new friends, and have developed a greatly increased appreciation for the complex inner-workings of our university.
It is clear that our university faces an unprecedented challenge to its very existence. Mr. Bruininks correctly pointed out in his state of the university address that our success in addressing these challenges depends on students and faculty being willing to rally together in our common defense and in the defense more broadly of our university and of publicly funded higher education. Yet decisions have been made that feel like a knife to our guts. Each one of us at this university is working harder than we ever have. Yet one of the primary outcomes of recent decisions seems to be to force the faculty into camps, and to create a culture on campus of competition and secrecy. Anna Clark suggested at a recent faculty senate meeting that a program of reconciliation with the students and faculty needs to be initiated. I couldn't agree more.