Important to note for this week is how I was taught that normalcy was a façade. In reality we were barely tolerated: we hadn’t been wanted, we were not liked, and it was wished that we would go away. Our successes were events carefully arranged for our amusement by our parents, and if they were not there behind the curtain, creating an illusion or paying others to do so, the truth would be revealed to us. We would see that we were incompetent, and we would also be shunned, as we were not desirable or pleasant.
I remember feeling in graduate school that because my great-aunt had left us college money — such that my parents did not have to pay for college and I did not have to work during the academic year or take out loans — my B. A. was fraudulent, and my presence in a Ph.D. program was fraudulent as well.
He was from New Iberia, I believe.
Having a bad day today. Maybe the hangover from being denied tenure by the right-wing stooge John Silber, the then president of Boston University, in 1981 still stings. Since those dark days, I have always had some hope in the university, recognizing that it was an important site of struggle and filled with contradictions. I am losing that hope. I consistently meet administrators who are not only unimaginative but cowardly and incapable of supporting programs whose value cannot be reduced to cost-efficiency metrics. These people do not just lack a vision, they constitute a kind of academic walking dead, albeit with the ever present smile on their faces–a kind of sickening embrace of civility. They are truly incapable of providing support and resources for faculty fighting for economic and political justice, faculty who take risks, join hands with those colleagues who have been reduced to Wal-mart workers, and act in solidarity with students who refuse to be reduced to customers. Where are the administrators from the ranks of the humanities and liberal arts? In too many instances we have dead-beat administrators drawn from the empirically based disciplines who do not have a clue as to what scholarship is about and increasingly reward the most unfit people with university awards, academic positions, and committee assignments–all the while making clear that qualified people should not apply. Rigorous and courageous scholarship has now gone the way of typewriter. Faculty are rewarded for committee work, grants, and a general attitude that can only be viewed as supine. Even worse, these individuals organize themselves in clicks exercising power that represents the worse form of cronyism. They barely publish, have no international reputations, and feed on gossip and innuendo, reproducing themselves in hires who mimic their own idiocy. I am sure there are exceptions in North America, but dark side of neoliberalism has just about killed the university as a democratic public sphere. All that is left is the detritus, filled with losers and dead beat careerists.