Tag Archives: cultural

Whatever Happened to the Group of 88?

A few years ago, Cornell University spokesperson Thomas W. Bruce rejoiced that the Ivy League school had brought to Ithaca a man whose “distinguished background in contemporary global cultural studies,” and whose “unique perspectives and talents” would “add to the range of reasoned intellectual discourse at Cornell.”
The professor about whom Bruce gushed was Grant Farred, whose latest contribution to “intellectual discourse at Cornell” came when he labeled two graduate students “black bitches.” One of the most extreme members of the Group of 88 (the Duke faculty members who issued a guilt-presuming public statement two weeks into the lacrosse case), Farred had denounced as “racist” those Duke students who registered to vote in Durham; and had wildly charged that unnamed lacrosse players had committed perjury. Duke’s settlement with the three falsely accused players shielded him from civil liability for the latter remarks. Cornell knew this record of contempt for the students he taught when it not only awarded Farred a tenured position, but promoted him to full professor, with a median salary of $154,300.
Farred’s experience typifies the Group of 88’s rebounding from their rush to judgment in the lacrosse case. Indeed, at least three Group members moved on from Duke to endowed chairs at other institutions. Charles Payne, who violated Duke rules by authorizing departmental funds to pay for the Group of 88’s ad, is now Frank Hixon Professor at the University of Chicago. He has moved on from presuming the guilt of his own school’s students to receiving fellowships to fund his work on urban schools. Payne’s most recent book, Teach Freedom: Education for Liberation in the African-American Tradition, is an edited volume published by Columbia Teachers’ College Press; it features contributions from self-described “educator-activists” on how principles of African-American “liberation” education remain relevant today.
Rom Coles, who denounced an early 2007 from Duke economics professors that affirmed that the economics professors would welcome all Duke students, even student-athletes, into their classes, is now McAllister Chair in Community, Culture & Environment at Northern Arizona University. He’s involved himself in a host of pedagogically predictable causes, ranging from learning communities to “sustainability” initiatives.

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What’s New In Diversity

Yale’s burgeoning diversity program has another announcement: it wants to “incorporate the role of ethnic counselor into that of freshman counselor, who will become responsible for providing enhanced community support for cultural affairs on campus,” according to the Yale Daily News.

What does that mean? Well, according to the News, which neglected to supply an English-language version of the plan, “students would become increasingly aware of extant cultural resources on campus, along with gaining knowledge of new support to be rolled out under the restructure.”

Okay, that clears it all up. There is, however, dissent. “This is unbelievable. It reads like an article from the Onion,” said the first reader comment on the News site yesterday. “Do these people realize they are becoming laughing stocks?” Apparently not. The feeling at Yale seems to be that most students lack sufficient diversity awareness and are in some danger of going mainstream instead of remaining in their identity cubbyholes.

Yale currently has 90 residential counselors in its 12 residential colleges and only 13 ethnic counselors, hardly enough by today’s diversity standards. The Daily News says the ethnic counselors have a “sometimes nebulous role within the college community,” but nebulousness seems destined to fade. The goal, as one ethnicity counselor told the News, is to change the culture at Yale so students aren’t afraid to talk about diversity and race and “really understand the way in which ethnicity plays a role in their life within the residential colleges.” To that end, the “intercultural educators” take a missionary position, planning speeches and intercultural events, and preaching the diversity gospel.

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Diversity – There’s Never Enough

Yale’s college council has come up with a bright idea: it endorsed a call for each of the twelve residential colleges on campus to have two diversity coordinators. The relentless expansion of what Claremont McKenna professor Frederick Lynch calls “the diversity machine” is not exactly breaking news. Diversity is a restless quasi-religion whose missionaries are ever on the move. Yale already has an impressively vast diversity bureaucracy headed by Nydia Gonzalez, the new chief diversity officer. She is working on a long-term plan, “Diversity Yale 2010 and Beyond.” Each school has its own system of diversity apparatchiks. There’s even a Yale library diversity council with 10 to 16 members and a three-year diversity program. Now Yale’s Coalition for Campus Unity (CCU) is encouraging the residential colleges to create “some kind of diversity-awareness position or board.” A board of, say, ten members in each college would add 120 new officials – another diversity gusher. Last February, Yale continued its long-term program to segment the student body into ever smaller ethnic and sexual groups. It hired a new assistant dean for Native American affairs. Can anyone say that a provost for the transgendered is somehow out of the question?

Why does Yale, or any university, need to keep creating more diversicrats? Undergraduate Robert Sanchez says his group, CCU, “thought most Yale students lacked sufficient cultural awareness,” i.e. a high enough degree of enthusiasm for the diversity movement. Sanchez, according to the Yale Daily News, seems distressed that “when we have these forums and panels we are preaching to the choir because only a certain demographic of students attend the event.” This certainly sounds familiar. I grew up Catholic, and while everybody went to Sunday mass, the nuns and priests frequently would express their anguish that few parishioners bothered with daily mass. Perhaps unwisely, the parish neglected to address the crisis by naming a few dozen boards of pro-mass officials.

Sanchez called attention to two offensive graffiti discovered a month ago on campus. Everyone knows that most campus graffiti, even the hoaxes and pranks, provoke calls for more diversity. You are not allowed to simply erase the scrawls and dismiss their authors as morons. No, you must behave as Yale did. The deans of the college and the graduate school sent emails to all, stressing how appalled they were. “We Shall Overcome” was sung at a Rally Against hate. Four major panel discussions covering the history and sociology of hate were scheduled. Yale decided to coordinate all of its multicultural centers to create a campus-wide team to addresses the graffiti. Yale will develop a new “protocol” for coping with hate speech on campus.

What an impressive display of diversity mongering. Imagine the uproar if three graffiti had been discovered instead of just two.

Research As Self-Branding

By Mark Bauerlein

If you browse through the list of dissertations filed in American literary and cultural studies last year, you will find many conventional and sober projects that fit well with traditional notions of humanistic study. Here are a few sample titles:

– “Rethinking Arthur Miller: Symbol and structure”
– “Tragic investigations: The value of tragedy in American political and ethical life”
– “Reading and writing African American travel narrative”
– “From demons to dependents: American-Japanese social relations during the occupation, 1945-1952”
– “The culture club: A study of the Boston Athenaeum, 1807-1860 (Massachusetts)”
But amidst these works, you also find a fair portion of projects with titles that border on the bizarre.
– “The fluviographic poetics of Charles Warren Stoddard: An emergence of a modern gay male American textuality”
– “Transperformance: Transgendered reading strategies, contemporary American literature”
– “Cruising and queer counterpublics: Theories and fictions”
– “‘Skirts must be girded high’: Spaces of subjectivity and transgression in post-suffrage American women’s travel writing”
– “Roddenberry’s faith in ‘Star Trek’: ‘Star Trek”s humanism as an American apocalyptic vision of the future”
– “Exhibiting domesticity: The home, the museum, and queer space in American literature, 1914-1937”
– “From sodomy to Indian death: Sexuality, race and structures of feeling in early American execution narratives”
– “The sentimental touch: Hands in American novels during the rise of managerial capitalism”

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