January 30, 2004


Earlier this evening some !@#$%&* dumped 220 pieces of comment spam onto my weblog. Well, the same piece of spam, from the same IP, but at 220 different blog entries. I had to delete them all by hand.

Okay, it's time to finally install MT-Blacklist. I've put it off because MT plugins make me nervous: I'm afraid I will do something wrong and mess things up completely. And for the past few months, my comment spam has been more or less manageable: just the odd piece every few days that I have been able to quickly delete. But 220 is not manageable. And 220 makes me feel downright cranky.


Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 11:04 PM | Comments (7)

January 26, 2004

Community College Teaching?

I'm not really here. (Not yet).

But here's a good question from reader DM (comment to Semi-Open Thread: Graduate School Reform):

Here is a possible question that might keep discussion going during our IA's break. Currently I am in that realm, in which I await responses from the initial interview. These colleges interview 15-18 candidates and select three finalists. Several community colleges seeking Ph.Ds have upcoming deadlines. Since I would rather be a full-timer at a CC, than someone adjuncting somewhere, I am filling out these applications. One never knows. My question/wish is for others, who have been down this road, to share their Community College experiences, including the application process.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 11:55 PM | Comments (37)

January 20, 2004

Blogging Break

For the past month or so, I've been thinking seriously about taking an extended break from blogging. I hesitate to do so for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which are the regular readers of this weblog (I love you guys. Sniff). But there's a lot going on right now in my other life, and I really need to focus my energies there in order to get some stuff done.

I've decided to take a two-week break, during which period I will decide whether or not to take an even longer (one or two-month) hiatus.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 08:45 AM | Comments (22)

January 15, 2004

Semi-Open Thread: Graduate School Reform

So much to blog, so little time.

Consider this a semi-open thread. The suggested topic is graduate school reform. It's clear from the comments to this entry (on PhD attrition rates) that there are some people out there who would like to see some changes to the structure and organization of humanities graduate programs. What, in particular, might you propose?

Feel free to digress and divert. As always, I welcome amusing anecdotes, heartfelt testimonials, playful badinage, and bloodcurdling tales of the academic macabre. But please keep it reasonably clean: I'm just a nice Irish Catholic girl who wandered into a PhD program (yes, of course I should have gone to law school).

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 11:15 PM | Comments (54)

January 14, 2004

Followup to PhD Attrition

Just a quick post, as I'm down with the flu. A couple of fellow bloggers have taken up the question of graduate school attrition, which I posted about below.

Erin O'Connor notes that "there's a reason most departments and schools don't keep data on attrition--the numbers and the reasons behind the numbers are truths they just don't want to know." I think that's exactly right. My guess is that many of those directly involved in humanities graduate programs do not have even a rough sense of the numbers when it comes to both attrition rates and employment figures. And John Bruce (scroll to "Ph.D. Program Attrition Rates") writes that he's "always thought that English departments took in exactly as many graduate students as suited their purpose." Both are worth reading.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 02:39 PM | Comments (24)

January 13, 2004

Chronicle Colloquy on PhD Attrition Rates

In some humanities programs, only one of every three entering students goes on to earn a doctorate. No comprehensive national statistics are available, but studies suggest that the attrition rate for Ph.D. programs is 40 percent to 50 percent.

That has been the way graduate school has worked for years. It's about separating the wheat from the chaff, some professors will argue. Others may spout additional clichés about cream rising and sink-or-swim environments. The good students get through, they say.

-- Scott Smallwood, "Doctor Dropout"

"Given the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into graduate study by institutions and the federal government, not to mention the years of the students' lives," asks Scott Smallwood, "should we accept a system in which half of the students don't make it?" His article is the background piece for a Colloquy Live on Leaving the PhD Behind," to be held this Thursday, January 15, at 1 pm.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 09:11 AM | Comments (79)

January 12, 2004

Those Tenured Radicals are at it Again

The Bush administration's doctrinaire view of the war on terror, which lumped together regimes like Saddam Hussein's and al-Qaida as a single undifferentiated threat, led the US on a dangerous 'detour' into an unnecessary war, according to an unusually strong critique from the US army war college.

'The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate US military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security,' says the study by Jeffrey Record, a visiting scholar at the Strategic Studies Institute.

-- Suzanne Goldenberg, "Bush Besieged by War College"

Jeffrey Record is a professor in the Department of Strategy and International Security at the US Air Force's Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. Here is his paper [PDF format], which argues that the current administratation has

postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have conflated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.

He also takes issue with the notion that the US can rid the world of evil.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 10:56 PM | Comments (37)

Historians and the Public Sphere

'For once,' as one of the five historians behind the microphones in the cavernous ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel cheerfully announced, 'history's relevance is quite clear.'

Why, then, did the audience at this opening session of the 118th annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington last Thursday night -- like Gen. Douglas MacArthur's old soldiers -- appear to be fading away?

'I can see we've conducted a war of attrition,' joked Harvard's Charles Maier, as he watched his fellow association members quietly but steadily get up to leave. The scholarly papers presented under the rubric of 'Thoughts on War in a Democratic Age' had been a classic academic combination of insight and obscurity, thoughtful analysis and mind-numbing delivery, and by the time the question period finally rolled around, even the AHA's president, James McPherson, was ready to head for the door.

-- Bob Thompson, "Lessons We May Be Doomed To Repeat"

Another reader who wishes to remain anonymous emailed me about the above-linked piece, which carries the subtitle: "American Historians Talk About War, but Is Anyone Listening?" According to Thompson, the historians aren't even listening to each other:

The AHA conference, which will wrap up its business today, exemplifies a conundrum that faces all practitioners of history. In a world ever more dominated by rapid-fire, sound-bite-size units of information, how can they make their painstaking reconstructions of the past more relevant to the community at large?

To put it a bit more harshly: If they can't even hold the attention of their colleagues on such an innately compelling subject, how can they expect ordinary humans to absorb what they have to say?

Actually, I think historians can and do hold the attention of nonhistorians on topics of war and diplomacy. Military and diplomatic history may be marginalized in the academy, but check out the history shelves at the local Barnes and Noble.

(For a really interesting discussion of historians and the public sphere, check out Timothy Burke's latest entry at Cliopatria, where he looks at controversies over how to represent history in public spaces.)

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 07:51 PM | Comments (4)

Cash-Starved Adjuncts Click Here

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous emailed me with a novel solution to the adjunct's cash flow problem:

Check out this Web site: www.headvertise.com

So I clicked, and then read the following:

Collegians are a highly attractive market, however students are increasingly hard to reach. Largely, they are immune to traditional advertising methods, as it plagues them day in and out, online and off. Soon, with the abundance of marketing thrown at them from every direction, even the most stimulating traditional marketing campaigns will go unnoticed.

Being a new venue, we are offering lower than industry rates for the services we provide. We do it all, we are flexible, and we have teams of willing students, who want to market your product, run sampling campaigns, and who will do what it takes to get your product or service noticed. We do it all with forehead advertising™!

As my anonymous reader suggests, who better than the instructor at the front of the classroom to reach these legions of collegians suffering from advertising ennui?

A company can pay to have legions of college students
across America sport temporary tattoos of the company's
logo on their foreheads. The students earn about $200
per week for wearing the tattoo continuously Monday
through Friday.

Could you imagine what would happen if an underpaid,
disgruntled adjunct decided to get in on the act?

If the adjunct, at a small Catholic liberal arts college,
is only making $1800 for a single section of freshman
composition, the adjunct would make more in a semester
sporting the temporary tattoo.

Sure, it's crass, commercial and demonstrates bad taste,
but that's a lot of cash for doing nothing.

What's more, it would probably get people on campus
talking about how poorly adjuncts are treated.

Anonymous reader has a point. Still, it's not exactly "a lot of cash for doing nothing." It's a nice bit of cash for agreeing to make a spectacle of oneself by turning one's very person into a walking billboard. But as headvertise puts it (under Benefits of Headvertising), you'll have "money for books (or beer)" and "all the cool kids are doing it."

(We're all going to hell in a handcart, aren't we?)

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 07:25 PM | Comments (9)

January 11, 2004

Everybody Googles Everybody

Well, not quite everybody. Not quite yet.

But people do google people.

This came up in the infamous MLA thread, where an Anonymous Member of a Job Search Committee warned:

I'll be interviewing people at MLA, and, trust me, we've 'Googled' every job candidate to establish whether they are a good 'fit' for our institution. Watch what you say.

Not surprisingly, a number of people expressed dismay at the practice. But as Anonymous Member of a Job Search Committee pointed out, "It should not surprise any of you that departments google job candidates." Prospective employees, potential dates, long-lost high school buddies: people google people.

And I suppose it was only a matter of time before the trend went corporate. This article recommends "counter-googling" as "an integral part of corporate 1:1 marketing strategies." As an example, they note that

The Bel Air Hotel in LA already Googles first-time guests upon arrival, based on their reservation details (name and address), leading to personalized services like assigning guests a room with morning sun if Googling shows the guest enjoys jogging early in the day.

Just a reminder: when you post something on the web, you leave a record. If you're planning to stay at the Bel Air Hotel in LA and you don't want your name to come up in connection with this site (they might greet you at the front desk with the latest dispatch from the Chronicle), please use a pseudonym.

Light blogging ahead as real life intervenes.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 10:47 PM | Comments (40)

January 09, 2004

First Principles Only?

It may be that the ideal of freedom to choose ends without claiming eternal validity for them, and the pluralism of values connected with this, is only the late fruit of our declining capitalist civilization: an ideal which remote ages and primitive societies have not recognized, and one which posterity will regard with curiosity, even sympathy, but little comprehension. This may be so; but no sceptical conclusions seem to me to follow. Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed.

-- Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"

In "The Case for Cannibalism," Theodore Dalrymple characterizes the defense of cannibalism from mutual consent as a "reductio ad absurdum of the philosophy according to which individual desire is the only thing that counts in deciding what is permissible in society." This argument is not "purely theoretical," he writes, for it is precisely on the grounds of mutual consent that the lawyer for Armin Meiwes will base his defense.

Now, in practical terms, it seems to me that Dalyrmple at least implicity acknowledges that most people aren't going to agree with the counsel for the defense. He notes that the view that eating people is wrong is "thorougly conventional." And when he argues -- quite persuasively, I think -- that it is not an effective counterargument to mutual consent to simply assert that Brandes (the man who agreed to be eaten) must have been mad, he again recognizes that most people aren't prepared to admit the validity of mutual consent: that is, by attributing the incident to insanity they are looking for a way to not agree with this argument, or at least to wriggle out of its implications.

But despite the fact that there is absolutely no mainstream support in our society for the practice of cannibalism, and probably not much support on the fringes either, and despite the fact that most people aren't going to agree with the idea that anything and everything is permissible, Dalrymple believes the case confronts us with a very real dilemma involving our principles. What is needed, he insists, is an argument from "first principles:"

Brandes wanted to be killed and eaten; Meiwes wanted to kill and eat. Thanks to one of the wonders of modern technology, the Internet, they both could avoid that most debilitating of all human conditions, frustrated desire. What is wrong with that? Please answer from first principles only.

Well, I can't answer from "first principles only," and I'm afraid I can't answer from first principles at all. I can think of any number of arguments based on any number of legal, moral, and political principles, but I cannot come up with anything that I would be prepared to describe as a "first principle." What all of these second-order (which is to say, unavoidably -- and admittedly disturbingly -- contingent) principles would boil down to is something like this: We have agreed to define human in such a way as to exclude the practice of killing and eating human beings as an act that is compatible with our notion of human. And we must enforce this (admittedly historically and culturally contingent) definition or risk undermining an ideal that we think it is important to cherish and uphold.

As for the argument that "individual desire is the only thing that counts in deciding what is permissible in society," this is either an adolescent fantasy or else it is an interesting thought experiment, but it is an experiment that has never been tried. All available evidence strongly suggests that we must come up with baseline rules which inevitably entail some limits on some desires, and that we must further come up with ways to enforce them, and based on past experience we are justified in asserting that it is better to be subject to the rule of law than to be vulnerable to lawless bands of mauraders, though of course we must be eternally vigilant to ensure all reasonable rights and liberties. Which probably won't satisfy the libertarian invoked by Dalrymple, which libertarian should probably read Hobbes.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 08:33 PM | Comments (30)

Nice Work

Some days she's a raven, other days a frog, and nowadays she is gainfully employed. Congratulations to Rana, who has just received a job offer from the place where she's been temping. Go Rana!

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 07:57 PM | Comments (4)

January 08, 2004

Historians in the Blogosphere

I had to laugh when I read Kieran Healy's Historians of the World, Unite:

A group of well-known history bloggers — including Timothy Burke, Robert ‘KC’ Johnson, and Ralph Luker — have banded together to form Cliopatria. Proof if proof were needed that group blogs are continuing their irresistable rise to global dominance. Or, as a historian would put it, proof if proof were needed that at least one, probably quite atypical, group of historians launched what we can loosely refer to as a group blog (with all the difficulties that amorphous term implies) in late 2003 or thereabouts, according to the best available sources (but see below for futher discussion on this point).

And I thought of it again as I read Timothy Burke's recent post on the use of historical analogies, where he sets forth "some loose, informal standards of discursive fairness when making explanatory historical analogies in general public debate, so as to preserve the mutual transparency between all participants." It's a really nice piece, and well worth reading (and not only by historians).

Burke's post intersects with a set of questions I've been thinking about lately, which have to do with the boundaries between academic and popular history, or between history as an academic discipline and the use (and possible abuse) of history in other spheres (e.g., the blogosphere). What, if anything, can historians contribute to public debate and discussion, and how might they go about doing so?

In terms of analogies, much as I agree with the substance of Burke's post, I do wonder how exactly his guidelines would play out in an actual online conversation. The problem, I think, is that people tend to use analogies as a kind of shorthand or shortcut -- which requires, as Burke quite rightly notes, that the analogy "should be one that a generally educated person not only recognizes but can evaluate fairly." You say B is like X on the assumption that everyone already knows what X is like. And if people don't already know what X is like, then you're not saying anything useful about B.

So far so good. Where things get trickier is with the case of the "unfamiliar example," in which case, writes Burke, it is

incumbent on the person citing the analogy to provide some details at a very high standard of preemptive fairness to those who might disagree with the reasoning. Meaning, if I use an unusual or unfamiliar analogy, I should provide the kinds of details that I myself might use to argue against as well as for the relevance of the analogy in question.

Which is only fair, and the only productive way to make use of the analogy. But at some point, I think the analogy starts to lose its shorthand/shortcut force, as the historian enters the territory of making a lengthier and more detailed argument from history -- which is a very good thing to do, of course, but not necessarily what is required in a conversation about this or that contemporary issue, question or policy.

I suppose the larger question is: What do people want from history, and are historians willing and able to provide it?

Must run. More on this later...


Edward at Mildly Malevolent responds to Tim Burke's post on the use of historical analogies.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 03:35 PM | Comments (13)

January 06, 2004

I Stand Corrected

"Can anyone deny," I asked of Britney Spears the other day, "that this young woman would have benefitted from a college education?" Well, yes, anyone can and at least a few people did (see comments and followups to this post). Today I read that Ms. Spears' ex-husband is "looking forward to returning to Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond later this month." Clearly, the pursuit of a college education did not prevent Mr. Alexander from actively participating in what may well be the shortest celebrity marriage on record.

I stand corrected.

By the way, it's my impression that this young man has been treated rather shabbily. Can he sue for maintenance?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 07:42 PM | Comments (6)

January 05, 2004

A New Kind of Iatrogenesis?

Ever since I installed Norton Systemworks, I've been having problems with my computer. Performance slows down, applications freeze, and at least a few times each day it seems as though the whole thing is about to crash and burn. Perhaps I don't have enough RAM to be running continuous scans of my machine? But in any case, I am losing faith in these doctors (the DiskDoctor, the WinDoctor, the doctor who performs the One-Button Checkup): I begin to suspect their cure is worse than the disease.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 10:57 PM | Comments (16)

"Lynne Cheney of all people"

I've just finished reading Marc Bousquet's "The Rhetoric of 'Job Market' and the Reality of the Academic Labor System" (College English 66 no. 2 [November 2003]). The main argument is a restatement of the thesis put forth in his "Waste Product" article: namely, that the fiction of a job "market" obscures rather than uncovers the reality of a system organized around the ongoing and increasing casualization of academic labor (for discussion of this and related themes, see Oh Sh*t: Marc Bousquet's Excremental Theory of Graduate Education, along with What is a Labor Market? and What is a Guild?).

As in "Waste Product," in "The Rhetoric of the 'Job Market" Bousquet once again takes aim at the Bowen report of 1989, which projected a substantial shortage of PhDs across the humanities and social sciences by the mid-1990s.* Bousquet reads this very wrongheaded assessment as an attempt "to vigorously impose the ideology of 'market' on data that virtually trumpet the structural reality of casualization." In particular, he points to Bowen's decision "'to define 'faculty' quite carefully'" -- which, as it turned out, was not very carefully at all. By including only full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty in his analysis of employment trends, Bowen sought, in Bousquet's words, "to understand the employment system as system while ignoring the largest categories of its working parts."

And as in "Waste Product," Bousquet here seeks to account for the (in hindsight) amazingly uncritical reception of what was clearly a deeply flawed document:

Given the dramatic and startling nature of the conclusions of Bowen and Sosa's 1989 'job market' study, Prospects for Faculty (that faculty jobs would soon appear like manna in the desert), and its origin in an unusual collaboration between a sitting university presdient (William G. Bowen, Princeton president) and an undergraduate student (Julie Ann Sosa, then the editor of the Princeton student newspaper), it's more than a little surprising that almost no one seems to have questioned the Bowen study before a 1994 blurb in the Chronicle of Higher Education -- with the interesting exception of Lynne Cheney, who wrote a scathing New York Times editorial regarding the assumptions guiding it.

For Bousquet, the fact that "Lynne Cheney -- of all people -- was essentially alone in attempting to debunk the Bowen projections shows the staying power of the positivist market fantasy even in the most well-meaning and politically committed quarters of the academy."

Well, I do think Cheney an interesting exception. And I mean to look up the article (an op-ed entitled "The Phantom Ph.D. Gap," from September 28, 1989), as soon as I get a chance.

*From the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website, a description of the infamous report:

This thought-provoking study of academic job markets over the next quarter century uses rigorous analysis to project substantial excess demand for faculty starting in the 1997-2002 period. Particularly severe imbalances are projected in the humanities and social sciences. Contrary to popular impressions, however, these projected shortages are not caused by any unusual "bunching" of retirements. The authors' discussion of factors affecting the outlook for academic employment includes information on changes in the age distributions of faculties, trends in enrollment, shifts in the popularity of fields of study, changes in the faculty-student ratio, and the continuing increase in the time spent by the typical graduate student in obtaining a doctorate.

This work will appeal to a broad audience. It will be essential reading for those who are responsible for determining the size and character of graduate programs in universities, for aspiring academics who are looking for a sense of their job prospects, for college and university faculty members and administrators who must recruit new colleagues, and for those interested in the federal role in higher education.


Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 10:15 PM | Comments (10)

January 04, 2004

Let me not to the marriage of true mindlessness admit impediments

Pop princess Britney Spears was married in a Vegas chapel yesterday morning and is apparently "already making plans to annul the marriage".

Here at invisibleadjunct.com, we often raise questions and concerns about the current and future state of higher education in America. But I'd like to suggest that the case of Ms. Spears serves as a timely reminder of the enormous value of higher ed: can anyone deny that this young woman would have benefitted from a college education?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 01:10 PM | Comments (19)

January 03, 2004

The Pursuit of (Carnal) Knowledge

Whether or not it's smart, plenty of professors I know, male and female, have hooked up with students, for shorter and longer durations. (Female professors do it less, and rarely with undergrads.) Some act well, some are assholes, and it would definitely behoove our students to learn the identifying marks of the latter breed early on, because post-collegiate life is full of them too.

-- Laura Kipnis, "Off Limits"

I have to say, I'm not much persuaded by the above line of reasoning in support of faculty-student "hook-ups." Sure, students will encounter any number of bad actors and sharp dealers in any number of arenas as they make their way through the big wide world beyond the gates of the Tower. But that hardly seems a good enough reason for college faculty to offer advanced practicums in unsavory and unethical behaviour.

Anyway, it's scarcely an adequate response to one of the main concerns underlying the move to implement policies regulating faculty-student relations: namely, the concern with professional standards in the treatment and evaluation of students (grades, letters of recommendation, and so on).

Now, Kipnis does realize that this is one of the issues at stake, for she notes that the University of California's recent ban applies to professors and "any students they may 'reasonably expect' to have future academic responsibility for." But rather than treat this as a serious issue worthy of discussion and debate, she chooses to frame the issue as one of protectionism versus free trade in the marketplace of sexual desire: a grim and humourless regime of regulation and prohibition ruled by earnest do-gooders from the caring professions ("David, an earnest mid-50ish psychologist, and Beth, an earnest young woman with a masters in social works") versus a knowing and ironic openness to the messy complexities of experience fostered by those on the artier side of the academic spectrum (Kipnis herself, of course, along with, for example, the unnamed gay male theatre professor who resists the tidy reductionism of the sexual harrassment workshop).

When faced with a choice between the holier-than-thou or the hipper-than-thou, I need to believe there's another available option. Not that I am prepared to suggest a third way: as I've said before, I really am of two minds on this issue. While I can certainly see the problems with regulation, I think the predictable reaction against the puritanical elements of these new codes goes too far in the other direction, romanticizing the halycon days of unfettered sexual liasions.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 06:27 PM | Comments (51)

January 02, 2004

Big Money for Big Sports: "Excess in lieu of accountability"?

For L.S.U. Coach Nick Saban, the outcome of the championship game in the Sugar Bowl carries a personal stake as well.
If the Tigers win and claim the Bowl Championship Series title, Saban will be paid one dollar more than the highest-paid college coach in the nation, according to an incentive clause in his contract. It means his annual compensation will exceed by that dollar the more than $2.2 million package paid to the coach who will stand across the field from him at the Superdome: Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

-- Joe Drape, "Coaches Receive Both Big Salaries and Big Questions"

The above-linked NYTimes article reports that "at least 23 college football coaches now earn $1 million" annually, which figure "sometimes does not even include the abundance of performance incentives for everything from rankings and bowl games to players' academic performances." Defenders of such salaries cite the seemingly inevitable logic of "the market," while critics who worry about "excess in lieu of accountability" invoke such possibly outmoded notions as "academic integrity" and "the college mission."

I have no hesitation in stating that a $2.2 million package for anyone employed by any college in any capacity whatsover is a crazy state of affairs.

There's an interesting comment by Southern California's football coach Pete Carroll, who earns $1.5 million per annum:

'It's all about supply and demand,' Carroll said Wednesday at a news conference in Pasadena, Calif., where his Trojans will play Michigan in the Rose Bowl on Thursday.' 'I don't think it's hard to justify that, when you take a look at the stadiums and the money that is generated by the programs and all that.

'But in another sense, in a more pure sense, it is kind of unusual that this would happen in a university setting, that there would be something that would be that far out of line. I think that's clear and it is somewhat uncomfortable at times for me to think about that because we are just coaching football. And other people are teaching some great stuff that is going to make somebody a doctor someday or a lawyer someday. And we're just coaching football.'

As I noted in this post, I don't think this issue is simply a matter of supply and demand. Yes, of course it is possible to create and then meet a demand for televised "big sports" at the college level. But the questions raised by critics of the new collegiate entertainment industry turn on whether or not it is desirable to create and then meet a demand for televised "big sports" at the college level.

Skip Bertman, L.S.U.'s athletic director and former baseball coach, dismisses the concerns of "'professors — guys with Ph.D.'s and 17-page résumés," who "'do not realize that no tax dollars are being spent.'" Well. As I've said before, I'm sceptical of the notion that athletics are self-supporting, and even profit-making. So I was interested to read that William C. Friday, chairman of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics,

points to the hidden costs a university faces in fielding a major athletics program, like facilities and upkeep. Of the 117 Division I-A programs, 40 percent reported an operating profit in 2001, according to an N.C.A.A. report released this fall that examined spending on college athletics. But without state and school subsidies, only 6 percent of athletic departments made money, according to the report.

But leaving aside budgets and operating costs and the like, what about the students? I'm troubled by the various "incentives" which award big bucks to coaches based on the performance of college students. Well, of course the money couldn't go to the students because then they would no longer be ranked as amateurs. Still, the fact that student's aren't paid big-league salaries strikes me as a pretty decisive rejoinder to Mr. Skip Bertman. As a matter of fact, we're not talking about a free market that operates on the principles of supply and demand. It's a tightly regulated system that is still quite obviously (in the case of the athletes) governed by a variety of non-market goals and expectations (eg, students don't play for money). And rightly so, I think. But then, if the students are indeed playing as amateurs in non-professional leagues, then why in the name of all that is sensible should their coaches be paid like big-league operators?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 07:29 PM | Comments (16)

Professors at the Pentagon?

"The public intellectuals' lack of accountability — no bucks stop at their desks — and their remoteness from the world of difficult, flawed, risky, but necessary decision-making," declares Elaine Showalter in "Judging 2003's Ideas: The Most Overrated and Underrated," "makes their critical posture seem self-indulgent despite its virtue." Well, sure. I'm happy to acknowledge that Showalter has a point.

She loses me, however, when she adds the following: "Anybody can complain, blog and find fault; the real intellectual might try to solve problems." Eh? Are we to understand that the real (as opposed to the public) intellectual is directly accountable, and indeed intimately connected to the "world of difficult, flawed, risky but necessary decision-making"? I'm not convinced that the role of the intellectual should be to solve problems in a direct, hands-on, pragmatic way. At the very least, I would need to be persuaded on this point. But I'm pretty sure that this is not, for the most part, the actual role that intellectuals (real or imagined, public or private, or what have you) currently play.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 05:55 PM | Comments (11)

So, how was the MLA?

Given the rather heated exchange in the comments to this thread, I'm curious to hear from readers who attended this year's MLA. Was it high, low, or medium-slow? Best academic conference ever? or the last time, cross your heart and hope to die, that you ever agree to participate in your discipline's annual three-ring circus? Give it to us straight, or tell the truth but tell it slant, or just make stuff up (no, don't lie, but feel free to exercise artistic license).


Don't miss Chun's response to my query. He's an M(L)Animal.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at 05:44 PM | Comments (28)