If I can't vent, why do I write a weblog?
Posted by aogSunday, 25 February 2007 at 19:36 TrackBack Ping URL

Do you ever read weblog posts from people you consider normal and realize that if they are, you’re not?

I have been following the Duke Lacrosse case on and off. A subject that has come up there recently is the relationship between the faculty and the students. The weblog propietor, K.C. Johnson, is aghast at how the Duke faculty left the lacross students on their own, with almost no support. He reiterates this point strongly here

I think it’s disappointing to me the sort of role I’ve played in this case to the extent that it wasn’t played by professors at Duke. We have 47 guys on this team that are encountering, say, 150-200 professors a year. I don’t know all the players on the team. I’ve met a few; some I like. Nice kids. And you have 200 or so Duke Professors that came into contact with these people, knew they were pretty good people, and chose to remain silent or sign the Group of 88 statement. These guys were targeted in part because they were college students. I wish there had been more involvement by Duke. It’s depressing.

It comes up again here in a discussion of whether the Duke Trustees should intervene to preserve Duke’s good name and keep admissions up. The counter-argument (which seems persuasive to me) is that admissions are doing fine, why worry? I can’t imagine anyone who knows the details of this case sending their child to Duke, but I suspect this is another issue that is big in the blogosphere but with virtually no presence on the American Street, even among the type of people who can afford Duke.

But, back to the important subject, me. It would never have ocurred to me to think that, should I have ended up in anything like this sort of trouble, any professor would notice, much less expend any effort on my behalf. Nothing I experienced during my 3½ years as an undergraduate and way too many years as a graduate student1 even hinted at such an expectation2. Is that me being my usual bitter3 and cynical self? Or is Johnson living in a fantasy world?

1 For instance, no professor bothered to explain to me that being a teaching assistant was considered a red flag because if you actually had any talent, you wouldn’t waste your time teaching but would be a research assistant. I, on the other hand, enjoyed teaching and was very good at it and thought it a normal and expected part of graduate education. Ah, the naiveté of youth!

2 There was one professor who was a that sort of professor, but of course he was punished by being denied tenure despite his outstanding academic efforts for having such an attitude.

3 Oh yeah, describing me as “bitter” is like referring to Senator Clinton as “ambitious”. My dream is to become a multi-millionare alumni so I can ostentatiously donate money to some other department (like Physics — those guys were cool — most of my fond student memories are from classes I took there, even though my major wasn’t even in the same College).

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Robert Duquette Sunday, 25 February 2007 at 20:20

I don’t think it is expected or proper for a professor to make a public declaration in a criminal trial involving students, either for or against. The proper stance should be to say “let the defendents and their accuser have their say in court”. But when the gang of 88 broke that rule of propriety I would think that it would be proper for other professors to make it known that the 88 don’t speak for the university. Anyone that cares about the institution, whether a student, professor, alumni or the local public should want to counteract the damage that the gang of 88, through their own hubris and misplaced sense of authority, has done to the reputation of Duke University. Does that answer your question?

Who else is calling you bitter? Besides yourself, that is.

erp Monday, 26 February 2007 at 09:59

It was the president of Duke who should have spoken out immediately, supporting the players by saying they were innocent until proven guilty. I read somewhere that’s how we run our court system or something.

After this is over, I hope the players bankrupt Duke with a law suit of mind boggling proportions.

erp Monday, 26 February 2007 at 10:03

AOG - I spent a lifetime in academe. Being popular with students is the kiss of death tenure-wise. Never underestimate the pettiness of a protected species like tenured faculty.

cjm Monday, 26 February 2007 at 14:11

there is a heirarchy to a college/university:

top: permanent staff middle: faculty bottom: students

erp Monday, 26 February 2007 at 16:32

cjm, I see you’ve been there too. I’d change your order slightly, add tenured faculty to permanent staff at the top, and untenured faculty and students at the bottom.

cjm Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 09:05

permanent staff don’t have to beg for grants, nor petition for resources :)

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