Happy Thanksgiving, and Please Don’t Burn Down Your House

Every year, I briefly contemplate the “how about a deep-fried turkey” thing for about 10 minutes, and then every year, I do a search on YouTube to see what’s new in turkey deep fry fails. Neither of these are particularly new videos, though they are new to me, I guess.

Happily, I have no big travel plans for Thanksgiving, but I still will mostly be away from the blog. So unless something too exciting happens, I’ll see you after the break.

On a positive note, I’m almost certain this would never happen at EMU. Almost certain.

From Gawker comes “College Buys $219,000 Table.”

Of course, EMU did build/buy that multimillion dollar president’s house….

Two bits of EAA note

First off, I heard via a loyal EMUTalk reader that the EMU Student Senate passed a resolution where “Urge the EMU Regents to Sever Ties with the EAA.” A quote from (I think?) a press release:

This evening the EMU Student Senate voted in favor of a resolution (#101-004) to “strongly urge” the Regents to terminate the contract that created the EAA. The Senators heard from Guest Speaker Steven Camron and deliberated President Desmond Miller’s draft resolution. The focus of the resolution was on the negative impact this affiliation has had on students, the graduates and faculty at the College of Education, and the University at large.

Here’s a link to the PDF of the actual resolution with all of its “whereas”-s and such.

Second, I heard that this afternoon, the Michigan Public Radio show “Stateside” is going to be doing a show about the EAA. I don’t know a whole lot more about it than just that, but it might be interesting. It’s on at 3:00 PM and rebroadcast at 10:00 PM.

“ZOOperstars! Set to Appear at Saturday’s Men’s Basketball Contest”

I’ve got plans and I won’t be attending the EMU Men’s Basketball game on Saturday night against UNC-Greensboro, but I was sort of struck by the headline announcing “ZOOperstars! Set to Appear at Saturday’s Men’s Basketball Contest.” As it says here, the ZOOperstars are “described as lovable, outrageous, zany, unpredictable and hysterical inflatable animalistic superstars that are sure to entertain all fans in attendance.”

I have no idea how the game will be. I know UNC-Greensboro has had some decent teams in the past, so I suspect it will be competitive. But this ZOOperstar thing– yikes. I am guessing it will be entertaining for the kids, but when I did a search and found their web site (warning, a video will start up!), I guess I thought two things. First, this is pretty stupid, people jumping around in inflatable costumes with punny animal names– Monkey Mantle, Yao Flamingo, Roger Clamons, LeBronco James, and so forth. Second, I noticed their schedule of upcoming appearances at other colleges and minor league hockey arenas all over the country, and I thought “what a shitty lifestyle that would be.” Get in the van, drive to some God-forsaken place, inflate the costume and dance around for a while, get back in the van. Probably not what most of those people were planning when studying drama at Juilliard.

What I wanted to ask Cary Nelson last night

Dang it! Just as I saw an opening for my question to Cary Nelson about his support of the unhiring of Steven Salaita from the University of Illinois, the night was over. I guess I could have hung around for the reception afterwards and tried to talk to him, but it was getting late and I felt like it would have looked like I was confronting the guy over juice and cookies.

Oh well. I guess I’ll ask it here and see what happens. But first a recap:

Cary Nelson came to campus last night to give a talk, “Bait and Switch: The Purpose of the Movement to Boycott Israel,” which was about his take on the efforts of some academic organizations to boycott, financially divest, and otherwise sanction Israel– the “BDS” movement. The crowd was mostly a friendly group, though there was a “boycott Israel” contingent up front. I snapped this picture that pretty much captured the spirit of the protest:


That woman stood there quietly for almost the whole 45 minutes or so Nelson talked. Then she asked the first question during the Q&A (though it wasn’t really a question so much as it was a sort of disjointed rant) and she left. But I digress.

Nelson started by saying that he was going to not stoop to emotional arguments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he then outlined in broad terms his position (in short, a two state solution where the Israelis are going to have to give up on some settlements and territory, where there is international support to the Palestinians since people who are making decent livings are a whole lot less motivated to bomb people, etc.) before moving to what he thought was wrong specifically with BDS.  Though as Nelson went on, he did get more emotionally caught up, his language became a bit less disciplined, and a lot of his criticism was pointed very specifically at two of the more active/outspoken academics in favor of BDS, Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti.  At one point he said “I would never say this in print, but I think [Judith] Butler is a lunatic.”

Still, Nelson’s overall take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems pretty reasonable and pragmatic to me, and he was persuasive about the problems with BDS. Though to be fair, I haven’t studied the BDS position and I certainly haven’t studied the specifics of the Butler et al side of the argument. It would have been a different event, but it would have been interesting if there was someone there representing the BDS folks so this was more of a debate. And while I haven’t always agreed with Butler, I don’t think it helps Nelson’s credibility to describe her as a lunatic.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my personal views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are very Milquetoast (“can’t we all just get along?”) and I have a enough imagination to have sympathies with both the Israelis and Palestinians in the region. But I’m not comfortable going a whole lot further than that because I don’t have a cultural/social/ethnic/religious dog in this fight (so to speak) as white agnostic on a good day/atheist on a bad day American of European descent, and also because this has become an incredibly polarizing “third rail” among academics. I have friends and colleagues around the country who feel very strongly one way or the other on BDS, and I’d just as soon not alienate and/or piss off either group.

Anyway, the question and answer time came and Nelson was more than game for some conflict and tough questions. He seemed to be encouraging it in a way I recognize among academics (including myself), basically saying “hey, let’s have an argument, it’ll be fun!” And just when I saw an opening to raise my hand, it was done. Dang it.

So if I could have asked a question, it would have been something like this:

“Just to change the topic a bit, I want to ask you about your stance on the unhiring of Steven Salaita from the University of Illinois. Because I have to tell you, given what you’ve said and demonstrated here about the importance of engaging and debating people who hold opposing views like the folks down front who are in the “boycott Israel” camp, and also given what you’ve said in the past about academic freedom, I have to say your strong support for the Illinois administration’s move to stop Salaita from being hired into a tenured position seem strange. You’re clearly encouraging free and open debate here on the question of BDS, but not when it comes to hiring faculty with different views.

“So I guess this prompts for me several questions:

  • “You have said before that if Salaita had sent his various offensive tweets after he had been hired into his tenured position, then he would have kept his job because he would have been exercising his right as a tenured professor to academic free speech. Let’s set aside the question of whether or not Salaita was actually hired or not because I think that’s something the courts are ultimately going to decide. What is the “magic” about the tenure switch? What is it where one minute, anything a non-tenured academic says can be held against them, but the next minute, once the tenure switch is flicked, anything goes?
  • “Are there any logical limits to academic free speech? That is, is there anything a tenured professor might say that could cause them his or her job?
  • “Shouldn’t non-tenured members of the academic community be afforded at least some level of protection? After all, non-tenure-track faculty are steadily increasing in numbers and it seems problematic to me that we don’t extend any sort of academic free speech to them.
  • “What’s the role of things like social media and other non-official channels and academic free speech? I’m personally very concerned about this because I have a pretty extensive presence online (this blog, my own blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and I think it’d be very problematic if something I wrote in one of these “unofficial” spaces was used against me in my job. As an academic, am I not allowed the chance to express myself on Twitter without it potentially coming back to haunt me in my day job?”

I’m not expecting Nelson to answer any of these questions, but hey, who knows? Maybe someone else who was there can offer their thoughts?

“$100K endowment goal reached by Eastern Michigan University scholarship foundation”

From mLive, “$100K endowment goal reached by Eastern Michigan University scholarship foundation.” From the article:

Eastern Michigan University has announced it reached a $100,000 endowment goal for criminal justice students thanks to the annual Greg O’Dell Golf Outing.

For the last three years, the outing has been held each September at the Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti. Thanks to the efforts of the outing the university will continue to issue the scholarships in the coming years.

“Eastern Michigan 89, Oakland University 77: Experienced Eagles power offense in strong second half”

Enough with the football; let’s talk basketball. From mLive comes “Eastern Michigan 89, Oakland University 77: Experienced Eagles power offense in strong second half.” I almost went to this game last night, but the day job and family things held me back at home. But I get the impression that the Emus might be pretty decent at basketball this year, so I’m hoping to see a couple games this year. Check out the schedule for Men’s BBall here.

The women’s basketball team seems to be pretty decent too. They lost to Michigan State in what looks like a fairly close game (the score was 61-69), and they beat Kent State at Tuscarawas by the ludicrous score of 127-40. Apparently, Kent State has a bunch of regional campuses, and as far as I can tell, Tuscarawas is a notch above a community college.

“Retire Already!”

A kind of long but interesting article/post at the Chronicle of Higher Education site by recently retired art professor Laurie Fendrich, “The Forever Professors:
Academics who don’t retire are greedy, selfish, and bad for students.”  I thought it was kind of interesting because I more or less see myself in that “halfway” space in my career: I’ve been on the tenure-track for 18 years now (16 of them have been at EMU), and in another 18 school years, I’ll be 67. Time flies.

I have mixed feelings about this. I think Fendrich has a lot of good points about why it is faculty should think about retiring sooner. It probably contributes to the “adjunctification” problem of higher education, though I think that’s debatable. Older faculty are less likely to do the “heavy lifting” in terms of service and scholarship and they are often/typically not as current as younger faculty. And to be too honest, I have some colleagues who need to retire– and a number of them are nowhere near retirement age.

On the other hand, I also have a lot of senior colleagues who are still very active, who play key leadership roles, and who have a lot more institutional memory. That last one is pretty important at a place like EMU, in my view. Besides, everyone is waiting longer to retire– not just academics– because of increasing life expectancies and decreasing certainties about the retirement “safety net.” No one wants to outlive their savings, and a very simple way to avoid that is to keep working.

Personally, I vacillate between the two logical poles of retirement. A part of me– most of me at this point– thinks “retire from what exactly?” As it is, I have a tremendous amount of autonomy in the work I do, I feel like I’m “doing good” in society by teaching and helping students, I keep interested in things with scholarship, and I get to do a lot of my work in my pajamas– not to mention that I get a lot of time off. Plus most of my “personal worth” is tied to my work as an academic. It’s not like I’m rushing to get my work done so I can spend time doing what’s really important to me. So as long as I stay healthy, I don’t see any point in retiring at all. It beats shoveling coal.

But when I’m facing another stack of a ton of stuff to grade, when some anonymous administrator asks for yet another report on something that will never be acted upon or even read, when I have to deal with another meeting to nowhere, etc., etc.– that is, when I’m having one of those days, I wonder how soon I can join the ranks of the emeritus.

“Students get crafty for college cooking competition”

The ambitious home cook in me liked this piece: from the Freep, “Students get crafty for college cooking competition.” Basically, it’s a dorm room cooking contest where the recipes had to have three (or at least three?) ingredients costing less than $10 that can be prepared with some combination of a microwave, a hot plate, or a blender.

And there was an EMU student in the competition, Betty Adams. She “won the crowd support award for a blue beet pear salad/wrap, which used every part of the beet — including the leaves —and included blue cheese dressing.” Which I have to say doesn’t sound that great to me, but hey, congrats anyway.

“Eastern Michigan University athlete charged with 1st degree criminal sexual conduct”

This was in mLive yesterday:  “Eastern Michigan University athlete charged with 1st degree criminal sexual conduct.” A quote:

Eli Bronson Burdette was arraigned Sunday morning in 14th District Court and formally charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and a separate count of second-degree CSC.

According to a crime summary provided by the Ypsilanti Police Department, the crimes were reported to police at 6:39 a.m. Saturday. The victim in the case reported that she was sexually assaulted and prevented from leaving her apartment by a known subject.

Once the subject left the apartment, she was able to call police. Burdette was arrested without incident, according to the report. The report said the incident occurred sometime between 11:30 p.m. Friday and 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

Two other observations. First, this happened in the infamous Peninsular Place apartments complex– not that sexual assault doesn’t happen at other places.

Second, as one of the mLive commentators on this article pointed out, a sexual assault by an EMU track athlete gets almost no attention; a sexual assault by a U of M football player (and there’s this current example, “U-M’s Frank Clark jailed on suspicion of domestic violence”) gets a ton of comments and attention. I’m not sure what to make of that– other than a lot more people watch football.