Monday, December 21, 2009


It's been awhile, but I now feel an old familiar holiday feeling I used to have - anticipatory dread of the holiday job application rejection season.

Because of an ages-old tradition of inhumane psychic brutality, the American Philosophical Association runs the largest chunk of tenure-track university faculty job searches. (I suppose the official rationale has something to do with the integrity of the search process and the profession, but I'll leave such bullshit aside.) The way the APA runs this show is as follows:

They hold the "Eastern Division" meeting of the APA every December 27-30 in a large Eastern city, generally rotating between New York (this year's site), Boston, Atlanta, Washington, and Philadelphia. The location and date assure maximum possible disruption of the holiday, highest possible travel and accommodation expenses, and greatest possible travel difficulties.

At the meeting, there is a main program of papers and presentations, as well as meetings of numerous philosophical societies (for instance, the group for "Realist/Antirealist Discussion" usually meets there). But the main event is the job interviews.

University philosophy departments across the continent (yes, including Canada) who have made early decisions about hiring a tenure-track faculty member tend to hold initial interviews at the APA. The way this used to run, I believe, was that job candidates and people with job openings would all show up, and the meeting would be a kind of open-enrollment job fair. That never happens anymore. Although some departments set up additional interviews at the meeting, almost all of them have slated their interviews already.

So why go to an expensive hotel in the dead of winter, between Christmas and New Year's, if you've already selected your 10 candidates and won't be inviting any walk-ins? Is it just because you like hanging out with the group for Realist/Antirealist Discussion, and can't get out to see them otherwise?

To really understand why this tradition subsists despite all the very good reasons to stop it, you have to go to one of the meetings. I'll save you the trouble. It's depressing as hell. Hundreds of (mainly newly-minted Phd) unemployed philosophers hang around looking like an army of Eeyores, or carting around massive briefcases full of their CVs and writing samples and trying to look impressive as they ask knowing questions in conference sessions. They're all desperate for what they imagine to be the ultimate job. A sorrier looking pack of mutts you'll never see. They all have the look in their eye like they just want to know what they have to do to avoid getting beaten with the newspaper again.

Meanwhile, during the week before, with your plane ticket and hotel already booked for 3 glorious days hanging around the lobby of the Marriott (or whatever), your future in hock to pay for the privilege, you wait around home for the phone to ring, setting up that last-ditch interview chance. Every so often the mail brings you another form letter from another college thanking you for your interest and explaining that it was unilateral. That's the joy the APA meeting and job search tradition brings to hundreds of people every holiday season.

I don't have a ticket. I'm not going. It would have cost over $1000 for me to go sit feeling stupid and forlorn in New York, and if I'd wanted to make a holiday of it and bring my loveliest with me, add an extra $500 to the trip, while we anticipate my imminent unemployment. So no, I'm not going. I am waiting, however, for a phone call that may never come.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

rallies last week at CSU Stanislaus

I just wanted to post links to youtube video of rallies on campus this week.

The student walk-out on Wednesday drew 200-300 people. Some great speeches, some weirdness, and afterwards a march through the administration building, to a busy streetcorner, and back. (The occupation of the president's office followed all that.)

So, the start of the rally:

Midway through this chunk of it, if anybody's interested, I suggest being hopeful and organizing:

And then, on Thursday, the music and art students' performance in the administration building. Have a hanky at the ready.

I haven't seen video of the whole Thursday performance. It was beautiful and tremendously moving, as I mentioned in my earlier post.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

holiday wake for the music and art programs

We attended a wake today, held by the students in the art and music departments, for their own programs. It was a heartbreaking, powerful, symbolic protest, that the soulless and gutless administrators callously ignored even though it was happening right in front of them.

There's a holiday tradition on our campus of the university's tremendously accomplished choir singing carols in various buildings. This year, they decided to alter this tradition in protest. This year they suffered a $209,000 cut, and next year they stand to suffer another $205,000 cut in their funding. As a result, the program could stand to lose 2/3 of their students.

So they held a holiday wake for themselves. They sang dirges along with carols, and in the end, they sang "Joy to the World" in four-part harmony, in their building-filling voices, while they one-by-one covered their mouths with black gags and silenced themselves. They put themselves, symbolically, to death, in the building occupied by the administration that has spent more than $500,000 on new administrative positions just this year, instead of funding their programs, and blamed the state's economy for it. They mourned their tremendously successful program on the same day the university administration announced the arrival of a new associate vice president for human resources, and candidate visits for a the third dean of business in the last calendar year, and for the new provost. Easily, far more has been spent on replacing administrators - during a period of "hiring freeze" - than it would take to continue this vibrant, creative program going strong.

Lauren was crying throughout their concert. I was fighting tears, mainly successfully, because for me anger trumps despair.

All I could do today was bear witness. What a stupid, vicious, corrupt waste! What a terrible abuse of power! Imagine - choosing to sacrifice music and art for that!

(I was going to write something analytical about the obvious indication of budget priorities is presented by the constant hiring of high-level administrators during a hiring freeze, but my heart's broken. Can't do it.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

note on protest and power

Briefly: Power is not located only in "seats" or palaces. An action protesting governmental action doesn't have to take place in the so-called seat of governmental authoritarian power. Because authoritarian power is deployed ubiquitously over broad regions, and in countless exchanges and interactions, resistance can happen anywhere. Moreover, resistance should happen everywhere (which is as much a prediction as a prescription).

Any intelligent contemporary media theory would point this out. Networked communication is networked power. Resistance can be an overtaking of the machinery of the network, a reverse-flow, or even just cognitive dissonance. Tactics and strategy do not have to be concentrated, nor even apparently rational (not according to the instrumental rationality of a dominant force) to be effective. And "effective" does not need to mean "winning, today."

But the people who are publicly denying that small-scale action and media networking are effective are only doing so cynically or in reaction to the real threat to their power that those nodes of resistance create.

Finally, human energy and fun are forms of counter-power.

That's what I'm learning so far from CSU resistance movements.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

uncomfortable questions

The last week or so, several people have asked me about what I'm teaching next spring. The fact of the matter is, I don't know whether I am teaching next spring. I don't know if I'm teaching in Winter Term come January.

This has got me a little freaked out.

I don't have much more to say about it at the moment. Life hasn't been in this much flux in a while. Losing steady employment is like that. Potentially losing a career is like that, too.

I heard a story this afternoon on the local NPR station about budget cuts to services provided to California inmates, in particular education and job training services. The story included a soundbite from a woman who has taught printing classes at a California prison for many years. She's 46, thought she had a career going, and now is pretty much stuck. Man, I can relate.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

scholarship opportunity at the CSU

Given the recent news of the CSU's great success at getting students to apply for admission to the university campuses they won't be able to attend, I thought it'd be timely to present again the:

Schwarzenegger-Reed Scholarships

The Schwarzenegger-Reed Scholarships honor California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California State University Chancellor Charles Reed for their leadership in, and commitment to higher education in California.

All California residents qualified to attend the California State University under the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education (i.e., those graduating in the top third of their high school classes), who are denied admission to the California State University due to enrollment reductions.

The Schwarzenegger-Reed Scholarship will fund full tuition and fees for any qualified student who has been denied admission to a California State University because of enrollment cuts.


The Schwarzenegger-Reed Scholarship will be revoked at such time as the recipient becomes admitted to, and enrolled in a California State University.


Send letter of application explaining the circumstances of your being refused admission to the California State University, along with a copy of a high school transcript showing qualification under the 1960 Master Plan, to:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Here's the actual press release from the CSU:

CSU Breaks Record for Student Applications

A record 609,000 prospective students have applied for admission to the California State University, up 28 percent from last year. The largest increase came from community college transfer students whose applications increased 87 percent over last year with a total 195,113 applicants. First-time freshmen applications were up 12 percent with just over 412,000 submissions.

A large number of students—nearly 74,000—applied on Nov. 30, the final day of the priority application period which began Oct. 1. Ten thousand of those came in between 10 and 11 p.m., the highest volume of the day. Applications from African American, Latino and Native American students rose by more than 24 percent from the previous year.