Blogs > Cliopatria > Here and There, In Absentia

Jan 7, 2005 3:38 pm

Here and There, In Absentia

Great column in today's Washington Post offering a"profile in courage" to Colorado Republican Joel Hefley--chair of the Ethics Committee and among the few Repubs to take on Tom DeLay.

As the bodies of 7000 more of its victims were discovered in Indonesia, a list of the 12 most inane public comments related to the tsunami.

The Economist asks a good question: what the United States abandoned any pretense toward meritocracy?

The latest from Columbia: a new student organziation, Columbians for Academic Freedom, has been recently established. Among its first findings: Hamid Dabashi did, in fact, violate a Columbia rule when he cancelled his class to attend an anti-Israel political protest and informed the students not in advance but by sending his TFs, who were wearing black armbands, to inform the students who were operating under the pretense that when they showed up for their class, their professor would be there to teach them.

Frank Rich on why popular culture seems to be paying more attention to Al Qaeda than is the administration.

From the other side of the popular culture spectrum, Daniel Henninger wonders why so many among New York's Left intelligentsia celebrate the 1970s as the heyday of the city.

A representative of this line of thinking, Richard Gere, is appearing in a TV ad (in English) running on Palestinian TV, urging Palestinians to vote. Most Palestinians don't seem to know who Gere is; one Palestinian worker remarked,"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them -- they elected a moron."

For the second day in a row (first Iowa, then Wisconsin), a kangaroo was discovered wandering around the upper Midwest. Authorities were baffled.

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Jeff Vanke - 1/9/2005

I used to teach at an activist-filled liberal arts college. I took attendance every class (a college requirement). And I did excuse students for precisely the reason of attending protests, although I made them write short reports on their experiences, in addition to making up any missed coursework. Of course, the requests were made in advance, not ex post facto or via intermediaries (a distinction, I think, from the Columbia case here).

I do not recall rescheduling individual midterms or finals for such reasons, but I would have been open to a compelling argument, if the student were willing to take the exam in advance and could be trusted not to divulge its contents. (Ah, the advantages of small, intimate colleges.)

Lisa Marie Casanova - 1/9/2005

I have a question for the professors- if I were your student, and I asked to be excused from a class period in which an exam or other exercise for credit was being held, on the grounds that I needed to attend a political protest, would you excuse me from class? As a student, I wouldn't be too impressed with this professor, since he basically seems to be saying "I have more important things to do than teach you." But I am a little curious about how a professor might react to that sitution with a student.

Jeff Vanke - 1/8/2005

KC, Aren't you being selective here? You're defending a guy in Utah who cursed at a student, but you're coming down on another for skipping class. In the real world, I'll wager (since I can't lose a hypothetical case!) that an employer would be swifter to fire someone for cursing a customer than for incidental absenteeism in routine duties.

I'm as opposed to the collegiality criterion in academics as anyone. And as long as absenteeism is not frequent, I wouldn't dwell on it, either.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/8/2005

I'm not sure I understand the great interpretive problem here. The language of the faculty handbook seems, for the most part, straightforward. The faculty handbook says faculty should meet their classes as announced. Where that is impossible, alternative instruction and adequate notice shall be provided.

I think 'adequate' includes 'prior' within the concept. And I don't think a demonstration maps very well the concept of impossibility -- that would seem to entail illness, family emergency, prior commitment to other duties associated with the position (such as conferences), etc.

Professional conferences are an expected part of faculty performance. We can distinguish between conferences and demonstrations without reference to such concepts as objectivity, diversity, etc. But the main ingredients seem to me to be prior notice where possible, and excused faculty absences for professional activities also involving prior notice. Certainly in this case the notice was not adequate, it wasn't prior, and the case did not involve the sorts of impossibilty that are countenanced as excuses. But perhaps you have a different view.

chris l pettit - 1/8/2005

I don;t see what they are claiming...

Did he re-schedule the class? If violation. Are you proposing that any professor that cancels a class without giving at least a class periods notice is in violation...if the cancellation is due to anything other than sickness? I can assure you that this happens quite often...even at Columbia. in my opinion, we should try and let students know that a class will be canceled at least one class period before the canceled class, but this is for the reason of being respectful to the students, so they don;t waste their time driving all the way to the faculty just to find the class canceled. i always was annoyed when this happened in law school and grad school and told myself that I would not let it happen if at all possible in my lectures (of course it has from time to time).

You still have no proof of any bias in the proof that the prof intimidated the students or graded on ideological reasons.

By the made the statement about protests or marches being different than conferences. i think this his highly dubious, due to the fact that the majority of conferences attended have some sort of ideological slant to them. Granted, there are many instances of conferences that are totally objective with a wide myriad of viewpoints, but there are many more that have a decided bias in a certain direction. I think you are simply playing semantics with what you want the words to mean. It then allows you to judge what is a "good" march or meeting and what is a "bad" one...the ultimate example of bias and restricting freedom due to your own ideological prejudices.

If you can point me to the infraction (be careful...a lawyer drafted this and you are talking to a lawyer reading it, so I know what the phrasing means as well as the justifications behind it)...please point it out. I will wager a good deal of money that your ideological bias as well as that of the offensive student organisation you cite is clouding your ability to actually view the issue objectively.


Michael Meo - 1/8/2005

It's a pleasure to see, Mr Johnson, that you too found the Economist's so-called "special report" on social mobility in the US of significant interest.

As a high-school teacher of US history, I xeroxed the article and handed it out to my class today.

Perhaps it would not be out of line in this Forum to explain the manner in which secondary-schoolteachers in 2005 get their students to read interesting articles:
the class is split into eight small groups of four people each;
the article is cut into paragraphs;
each group is given one paragraph each (in this case we'll do it twice, since there are about 20 paragraphs);
the group illustrates on butcher paper what the paragraph says;
the butcher paper illustrations are posted around the room;
each group explains to the whole class the meaning of their illustration.

That will take two days for three pages of text. But that is how one conveys ideas to teenagers in our country at this time.
-- Works pretty well, too, I might add.

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/7/2005

Thanks for the link to the article on Hefley. We need more people--and not simply more Republicans--who aspire to improve the use of power and not simply change who is powerful.

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