May 16, 2007

Ward Who?

I can't believe it's been two years since the Ward Churchill brouhaha took place.

Especially since the Privilege and Tenure Committee at UC Boulder has only just given its recommendations on discipline for Churchill to the powers that be at the university. On May 8, in fact. 2 years later.

But commentary on the slow-moving (or barely-moving, your pick) nature of academic committees aside, the recommendation is interesting:

"Ward Churchill’s lawyer said today that a faculty committee at the University of Colorado had recommended that the ethnic-studies professor on the Boulder campus be suspended for a year — not fired."

Okay, let's recap.

Last May, almost a year ago exactly, a committee at Boulder delivered a 125-page report that reviewed "charges of misconduct," including:

"...misrepresentation of federal laws regarding American Indians, fabricating material regarding a smallpox epidemic in 1837, and several instances of plagiarism."

And here's where it gets hinky. If undergraduates can be expelled for plagiarism--and I would think that repeated instances of plagiarism (which is what the committee found that Churchill did) would result in expulsion--then shouldn't professors be held to at least that standard, if not a higher one?

Of course, as the original article noted:

"The investigative committee emphasized that it was uncomfortable with the timing and the motives of the accusations against Mr. Churchill, noting that several of them had been well known by scholars years before but had not been brought up formally until after the professor became publicly reviled."

So, what to make of this? The still, small cynic inside my head is telling me that the committee's recommendation is likely based more upon their reluctance to be seen as "kowtowing to the man" than to upholding academic standards.

I hate it when I agree with the cynic in my head. Darn thing starts getting all smug about being right all the time.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at May 16, 2007 04:25 PM | TrackBack
Comments

The trouble with plagiarism in students is that it defeats grading on their work, which is the point of the university degree. On the other hand, plagiarism in a teacher is not harmful ; he's just passing along what struck him as a nice presentation of some idea or other.

Latureamont : Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It closely grasps an author's sentence, uses his expressions, deletes a false idea, replaces it with the right one.

Nobody but other teachers, competitors of Ward in other words, cares, and that is for their own petty reasons.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 16, 2007 06:36 PM

Since I'm not another teacher or competitor of Ward, I am not allowed to care. I'm glad Ron told me what I think. Your planet was wise to send you to instruct us in the way we should be.

Posted by: marc at May 16, 2007 07:27 PM

as someone going through the horror show between now and next February I find the name of the UCo committee charmingly blunt: "Privilege and Tenure Committee." Promotion, hunh. Privilege is more like it.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at May 16, 2007 08:34 PM

Michael -

Oh, boy, the dreaded tenure review! Well take heart - if ol' Ward is anything to go by, you can fabricate half your research and steal the rest and make department head within 5 years!

Clouds, silver linings, yadda yadda....

Posted by: BAW at May 16, 2007 11:00 PM

A friend of mine, destined to never rise above simple computer programmer, quit in disgust with management and went to look for work at the univerisity just up the hill from his house, as a computer science lecturer, a field that he had vast experience in. (Did you ever hear about the yellow pages entry for a funeral home under ``Frozen Meat''? That's his program.)

The department head in the computer science department interviewed him, and it developed that he'd have to also be a PhD candidate to work in the department.

My friend, spotting the universal management problem right away, demurred. ``No, it's all just memorization.''

The department head drew himself up to full inflation. ``It's a bit more than memorization, I think you'll find.''

``No,'' my friend continued. ``I know lots of PhD's and they all say that's all it is.''

``Well, it's been interesting meeting you...'' concluded the Department head.

So they didn't get a competent teacher, and he didn't get stuck in a house of credentials.

Why no Marxists analyze the degree system is a mystery.

Which is to say, nobody outside the system is impressed, or cares.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 17, 2007 07:02 AM

Ron: Lautreamont spoke of creative writing, not historical scholarship. The rules are necessarily different.

Especially for someone granted tenure to "protect academic freedom". You gets the perks, you follows the rules.

Posted by: Sigivald at May 17, 2007 02:28 PM

I don't see any restriction to creative writing. Evidence?


Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 17, 2007 03:33 PM

``No, it's all just memorization.''

No matter how many times you tell that story, Ron, it's still funny.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at May 17, 2007 09:06 PM

I've spent 14 years as a university professor and 10 years (3 before and 7 after) as a practicing engineer. It is very common for each group to deride the accomplishments and abilities of the the other.

The derision is unjustified. I can assure Ron and his buddy that you cannot get by on only memorization, at least in engineering, in either environment. A good memory is necessary but not sufficient.

Had Ron's buddy taught for a decade and then walked way from it then he would have earned the stripes to justify his opinion.

No matter how capable he is, Ron's buddy sounds like a common "I'm smarter than everyone else" malcontent computer scientist who can't fit in anywhere. Engineers value such people because our social skills look superior by comparison.

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at May 18, 2007 11:32 AM

Consider the possibility that my friend was having a little fun, as they say at barber shops when a know-it-all comes in.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 18, 2007 02:21 PM

No matter how capable he is, Ron's buddy sounds like a common "I'm smarter than everyone else" malcontent computer scientist who can't fit in anywhere.

Actually, Ron's buddy sounds like Ron.

Consider the possibility that my friend was having a little fun...

Because, hey, doesn't everybody go to the trouble of applying and interviewing for a position just to yank someone's chain?

Posted by: Angie Schultz at May 18, 2007 10:02 PM

Managers are the same in every field. If you find the same old type running the department you thought it might tbe nice to work in, you change your mind. They don't advertise ``Department run by a jerk;'' you find out for yourself.

No, it's not me.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 19, 2007 05:30 AM

Managers are the same in every field. If you find the same old type running the department you thought it might tbe nice to work in, you change your mind.

True.

`No, it's all just memorization.''

Not true, and stupid as well. As it is every time you tell that story.

Posted by: Michael at May 19, 2007 09:33 AM

This shouldn't be this hard. Do you people interpret literature and stuff, or is it all comics there days?

What is such a department chair least likely to imagine his PhD represents, when compared to the lower classes around him, especially when it is used a club (nice ambiguity there) against them?

Right, mindless repetition.

The joke is not that he's being insulted, but that he's psychologically bested by one of the very lower classes that he feels needs just his sort of improvement.

He could stand for somebody who feels he's important and at exactly that moment doesn't get it. They turn up all over.

Not everywhere. Some places, for limited times, the management looks for interest and curiosity. These places are regularly stamped out when their own management changes, but keep coming up occasionally. The trick is to stumble into one for a few years at a time.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 19, 2007 01:25 PM

The joke is not that he's being insulted, but that he's psychologically bested by one of the very lower classes that he feels needs just his sort of improvement.

Bested? Not really. Your friend only demonstrated his lack of understanding of anything beyond his own narrow vision. Much as you do whenever you tell thast story. You're the one writing comic books.

Posted by: Michael at May 20, 2007 04:09 PM

Now we're getting somewhere! What do I fail to understand?

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 20, 2007 04:29 PM

Um, maybe that rather than being psychologically bested, the department head identified and eliminated an a-hole?

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at May 21, 2007 08:47 AM

By telling him that he has to be a PhD candidate to work in the department?

What about interest and curiosity? I've worked with lots of PhDs and non-PhDs and I can't tell them apart ; I do notice interest and curiosity, however. It comes from people of each kind, just like plodding dullness does.

So if you want a good teacher, you should look for what? In your view.

Imagine you're the chair of the computer science department.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 21, 2007 10:49 AM

Well, you're probably right, Ron. In fact, I don't know why they even teach classes in computer science or programming. Any Joe Blow off the street could program computers if he just had the chance to look at a few lines of code. All that money IT people make - it's a racket.

Posted by: Laura(southernxyl) at May 21, 2007 11:15 PM

Well that's why you interview them.

Remember what the problem is. He can work there. He just has to submit to something.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 22, 2007 05:37 AM

"He can work there."

Really? How would anyone know? He'd never taught before had he?

Posted by: Locomotive Breath at May 22, 2007 01:00 PM

My experience in taking courses is that they just grab somebody who knows what the course is supposed to teach, who isn't busy at some higher priority, and let him teach the course, at least in industry. It works out okay.

Perhaps you're talking, though, about skills in riot control?

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 22, 2007 03:31 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?