Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Backwards World

Margaret Mead where are you when we need you. Help me understand the strange rituals practiced by a tribe I have discovered.

1. The subjects speak to each other using informal names and the hang out together. Then they have meetings monitored by the chief of the tribe. Now they take on a completely different tone. People who were calling each other Phil or Jane before the meeting now use much more formal terms -- referring to their pals as Professor Jones and Professor Smith.

2. They make formal speeches at these meeting using codes that are know by some but not by all. A new visitor to these meeting would be misled if he only relied on the words spoken. For example, "I am concerned" means "I disagree with you."

3. Very often in these meetings a speaking contest breaks out. To the outsider it seems to be a competition to determine who can speak the longest or repeat the same things the highest number of times.

4. Just before the chief calls the meeting to order, there is usually much laughter. The problem is that nothing funny is being said. The silliest statements draw howls. It's like they are so nervous about the combat to come in the meeting that they are trying to hide the tension.

5. Sometimes they do the cruelest things to each other. They will lie about someone or disparage them to others. Sometimes they take things from each other. Yet, in public they act like they like each other and make a big show of their mutual affection. This is especially true when it comes ot the chief. They will be very critical of the chief and then fall over themselves to display their great love of the chief.

5. A very odd trait is volunteering when they want something. Several tribe members may want to visit a neighboring village. They do not ask to go but "volunteer" to go. They place great value on getting things without appearing to have asked. Instead, they want it to appear that either someone asked them or that they are actually doing a favor for the tribe. It's like what they do and say is designed to appear to be the opposite.

6. The theme of opposites also comes up in their work. They conduct what the refer to as "research." Unlike other cultures that conduct research they do not look for answers to questions. For example, in regular research one might as "Do green apples make you sick?" and then attempt to find the answer. In his tribe they do the opposite -- they start with the answer and then their research is devoted to explaining why their preconceived answer is the correct one whether it is or not.

7. One other odd trait is how they assess the accomplishments of each other. The value each other not so much by how hard they work or what they produce but sometimes on the basis of how much they are alike. In fact, in finding new tribe members they often search very hard for those who are the most like.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don't Hold Your Breath

Don't hold your breath if you expect to hear or even think these thoughts may occur on a law faculty:

1. I've talked enough. I'll be quiet and let someone else speak.

2. It does not seem fair that I teach so few students while others teach so many.

3. This seminar topic is really interesting to me but it would be better if I taught something the students need more.

4. That article you wrote was so interesting!

5. Maybe it is not right for me to vote against hiring or tenure candidates because they do not agree with me politically.

6. I should probably pay for this trip with my own money.

7. Maybe it is not right to vote to give someone tenure who has not done much but is my friend.

8. Maybe the Dean will catch on to the fact that my office visits and phone calls are just a way of kissing ass.

9. Maybe I am not the smartest person on the faculty.

10. Maybe this article is too much like the last one I wrote.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Diverisity, Capture, and the Latest by Ken Oldfield

Ken Oldfield, one of the editors of Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class, has published yet another insightful piece about the downside of elite hiring. "Our Cutting Edge Isn’t Cutting It: Why Public Administration Should Be the First Discipline to Implement a Social Class-Based Affirmative Action Plan for Hiring Professors"

It is in the latest issue of Administration and Society.

Here is the abstract: "Over the last several years, various writers and commentators have argued that as part of their affirmative action efforts, universities should enroll more students of working class origins because socioeconomic integration ensures greater social equity, democracy, and intellectual diversity. The present study shows that the justifications applied to student diversity pertain equally well to professors. This discussion proposes that if public administration were first to use socioeconomic-based affirmative action in faculty hiring, it would prove the discipline’s willingness to meet its self-imposed obligation to be “cutting edge,” a promise studies have shown it has yet to fulfill."

I do not know much about Public Administration but before Ken decides that field is far from "cutting edge," I'd suggest he check out Law School administration and hiring. By the way, Ken is also working on a long term project, Hypocricy Studies. My own efforts to cover some of this ground are found at "Confess'n the Blues: Some Thoughts on the Class Bias in Law School Hiring," 42 JOURNAL OF LEGAL EDUCATION 119 (1992) and
"Law Faculty Ethics: Shirking, Capture and “The Matrix,”" 82 DETROIT MERCY LAW REVIEW 397 (2005).