Blogs > Cliopatria > To Tweak A Yalie's Nose ...

Mar 16, 2004 5:59 am

To Tweak A Yalie's Nose ...

Kikuchiyo at Kikuchiyo News thinks I've been unfair to David Adesnik at Oxblog. Reporting on the turmoil at the University of Southern Mississippi, I wrote:
Then, of course, there is the attitude of Oxblog's David Adesnik that an affair like that at USM is a"tempest in a teapot." When you're a Yalie at Oxford, you have more important things to think about: a world economy to manage, a Middle East to democratize, and Salma Hayek to bed -- you know, the BIG picture.
"Oh my. That's a bit unfair, I think," says Kikuchiyo.
I'd like to venture that regardless of whether the frame of reference is Swarthmore or Harvard or the University of Michigan or Southern Mississippi academic disputes can often be fairly characterized as temptests in a teapot because even at an incredibly august academic institution the stakes are fairly low. We academic types might, just possibly, be slightly vulnerable to overestimating the importance of our own affairs. After all, tons of people are fired from their jobs with little reason or explanation after decades of service, and the ACLU doesn't come running into the breach for them. It would be disingenuous of me to claim that I don't think that tenure is a good that should be protected, but there's no point being nasty to David for pointing out that it's easy to exaggerate the importance of the latest fencing-match in the ivory tower.
Kikuchiyo misunderstands my frame of reference. Having thrown a newspaper route and manned a cash register within the last decade, I identify with the plight of non-academic labor. More importantly, I refer Kikuchiyo to a 1993 article by Hochnaesig and Vordeck,"The Beak as Social Text," in the Journal of Proboscis Studies. Studying 5,000 sons and daughters of old Eli and a comparable number of ordinary mortals, Hochnaesig and Vordeck found that the primary function of a Yalie's snout was for pulling. Only secondarily did it serve the breathing function common to the rest of us. Since reading their study, whenever necessary (see, for instance, here [scroll down]), I've never hesitated to tweak a Yalie's nose.
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Ralph E. Luker - 3/16/2004

Very interesting that you refer to McAfee, Oscar. I did a week's trial of its spam-killer and was just overwhelmed with spam, each of which I had to click _twice_ to delete. I chose not to subscribe to the spam-killer after the trial and _low and behold_ my spam actually decreased dramatically!

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/16/2004

Also there is an old legal tradition of providing a special respect for free speech in an academic setting. It's one of the few places speech is largely free of employer limitations (which is one reason speech codes are not fairing well in courts).

It is a pity that private employers have such wide lattitude to restrict the speech of employees.

(And it is an outrage that McAfee has tried making restrctions on public criticisms of their products part of the user contract. I hope the ACLU is involved in that)

Ralph E. Luker - 3/16/2004

Jonathan, Do you think I would make up such a reference? The study and the journal are very obscure ones, I admit. I did a WorldCat search and didn't find the Journal of Proboscis Studies listed anywhere, but that is the plight of small, rather specialized journal these days, isn't it? It's no wonder that the history profession is in a crisis these days, when historians just make up references which they believe should be out there somewhere in cyberspace.

Sam Brown - 3/16/2004

Bravo! Pull the noses! I assure all that the Kikuchiyo News never intends to stifle or even lightly chill speech intended to make good natured fun of anyone. Particularly not the fortunate few like myself for whom life is, and I really do mean this, an endless stream of lucky breaks and misclaneous good fortune. And atrocious writing. Sorry about that...

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2004

I'm pretty sure the ACLU has involved themselves in cases of other people who were terminated for exercising their rights of free speech. The difference is that for academics, that's really all there is.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2004


OK, I'm just dumb/gullible/freakily curious enough: I googled the reference and couldn't find it. It's a lovely touch, and if you just made it up I'd very much like to give you credit for it when I use it myself, as I'm sure I will.

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