Sunday, October 16, 2022

Ben Sasse and Paper Tigers in Academia

 This quote caught my eye in the Gainesville Sun today. It is about, Ben Sasse,  the likely new president of UF, and faculty opposition: "I think many of my colleagues feel that his  academic credentials are not where we would have wanted them to be."

I've deleted the name of the person quoted because that quote is representative of  law professors speak. They say things that mean nothing or, put differently, allow for total deniability while at the same time stirring the pot ever so gently.  It's the reason I was always an outsider in the Ivory Tower. 

 The statement, and that of law professors' generally, reminds of a something John Cage said, "I have nothing to say and I am saying it."

For example, note the speaker only "thinks" this could be the case. This leaves room to say, if asked to defend the statement, "It's only what I thought or the impression I had. I could be wrong."And then there is the word "many." What is "many?" Is it 12? Could be. Is it a majority? Maybe, maybe not. 

 This reminds me of what I call faculty trolling. For example, say you think someone up for tenure does not deserve it but you are too much of a wuss to say it. You go office to office and say, "I have heard that some people are concerned about Joe's (the candidate) scholarship." Not you, of course, unless the person you are talking to says someone like "Yes, I too was wondering about this." If that is the response, the troller has has hit pay dirt and gets a movement started without ever actually taking a position. If the answer is "I have not heard anything about that." The troller moves on to the next office.

And could someone tell me what "where we would have wanted them to be" means. How about, "are not satisfactory" What on earth does "where we would have wanted them to be" actually say. "We would have/" Would have what? In a different universe? On Mars?

But wait. In the same passage the writer does use the word "we" which includes "I." So it could say "I wish his credentials were better." The problem is nearly everyone wishes everything were better. I  wish my car got better mileage but what it gets is fine. I wish my dinner was better last night but it was fine. Wishing for better or wanting better is saying nothing. 

So what would my quote have been of the Sun had asked me? "I can't speak for everyone but his academic credentials make him unfit. In addition, he is obviously the product of a rigged search that was guaranteed to produce a candidate to the liking of our right wing, mean spirited Governor."

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