"halloweeny" | sunday | november 2, 2008 | 11:01 am
T'S BEEN A FULL WEEKEND.
Two Halloween parties in a row. One on Halloween proper at my friends Kate and Jed's place. Greg and I
got gothed up, basically. I really didn't have any good ideas. So, a little make-up and some black clothes
later, we were sufficiently ghoulish to head out on the town. Kate and Jed (in combination with neighbors
Steven and Julia) threw a pretty big party. It was low key. And I really didn't know most of the people
there save for my friends from school and a few acquaintances. We didn't stay too long there.
We decided we wanted to go see what Capitol Hill was up to, to see what the gays were doing for Halloween, and
we ended up having a drink at the Elite. We ran into some familiar and not so familiar people.
The next night, Saturday night, we went to my friend Aaron's "big gay mansion" for a follow-up Halloween
party. It was a little slow at first but then picked up. Greg went as a "satanic mechanic," and I went
as a "zomb-gay." I did a little more with my make-up and costume. We picked up my friend Colin and headed to
the Central District. There was spooky Halloween punch, lots of fun costumes, a good mixed crowd, and
a hot tub.
All in all, it was a fun weekend. Super tiring but fun.
read footnotes |
• • •
"happy birthday to jane" | sunday | november 16, 2008 | 11:01 am
APPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FRIEND AND ROOMIE JANE. She's at the
tail end of her Ph.D. exams right now, so we'll have to celebrate later. But I hope she has a great
birthday "week" and best of luck on her writtens (not that she really needs it). Happy, happy, happy,
happy, happy birthday.
• • •
"happy birthday to lindsay" | wednesday | november 19, 2008 | 11:01 am
APPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FRIEND LINDSAY! I know we haven't
hung out a lot, but hopefully that will change in the new year. Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Lindsay! Happy birthday to you!
• • •
"departmental woes" | friday | november 21, 2008 | 9:10 am
HIS HAS BEEN A REALLY STRANGE AND STRESSFUL WEEK.
I am actually kind of tired of talking about it, but here is the short version: my department,
specifically certain cliques within the grad students and faculty, is exploding. But before I can
explain why my department is exploding, I have to provide a frame.
First, my department is undergoing review by the university. Basically, every department on campus
gets reviewed, usually once every ten years, to see if the department is doing what it is supposed
to be doing -- teaching students, retaining and graduating majors, researching, publishing, earning
the university money and prestige, and so on. The last review, which was like five or so years ago,
did not go so well for English. In fact, we failed. So, the university mandated that English undergo
review again sooner than usual. Last year, the department brought in a new chair, who has had success
in preparing other departments for reviews. The chair wanted some feedback from graduate students
about the program, about how they were doing, about what they thought was going well and what needed
improvement or revision.
So, last quarter, in the spring, the
Graduate Student Organization of English
embarked on a self-study to try to collect some informal data about grad life. I am an officer in the
GSO. We designed a questionnaire for grad students and then later a questionnaire for faculty. At the
start of this quarter, my friend and de facto GSO lead Lee interpreted the data and wrote a report
about what we discovered, what the respondents said, and what recommendations we had for the department.
Lee wrote most of the text. I added my two cents here and there and mostly worked on revision, rewording,
and softening the language of the report. We hoped that the report would be included as an appendix to
the departmental review document. We sent the report to the chair of the department and
published it to the graduate listserv and GSO wiki:
GSO Self Study.
We asked for responses, comments, suggestions, revisions, concerns, and complaints. Four weeks go by
and the response was minimal. The chair did vet the document to the faculty at faculty retreat.
Personal emails from both students and professors were sent to both Lee and I mainly thanking us for
all of the work put into the report. Agreement or disagreemtn with the report did not really surface
until the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.
Last week, Lee and I met with our departmental chair Gary. He wanted to talk to us about the inclusion of
the GSO self study in the departmental review. He gave us some general feedback and reaction to the report
from the faculty -- it was pretty mixed as we predicted -- saying that most of the faculty though the
report should remain an internal document only. Gary, however, did want to honor the fact that he wanted
to include grad student generated material in the review, something that is not required in the review
process. I argued that the inclusion would be a good gesture to show that the department was willing
to at least listen to grad students. So, Gary agreed to include the report in a much shorter form as an
appendix. He was the one to cut the report down to a third of its original length, from a twenty-some page
document to a seven page document. We then announced to the grad students listserv that a shortened
report would be included.
A few days later, my friend Allison sent an email to a handful of grad students, mostly people in our
circle of friends asking about a mysterious letter that was being circulated, a letter that was being
drafted by unnamed grads in opposition to the GSO self study and to block its inclusion in the review.
She did not agree with the letter and was wondering where it was coming from, who was it by, who was it
for. Well, about half the people she queried had no idea what was going on -- myself included. The
other half either knew or were part of the letter motion or did not care. Basically, a back and forth,
he-said-she-said flurry of emails began. Allison did not know that the letter had not been sent to
Lee or me. And the revelation of a "secret" letter instigated a mini-flame war. It was fine until
one of the letter drafters went beyond the local conversants and emailed the whole grad student listserv
with a "you might be hearing rumors about a letter..." posting. Of course, making public something
that much of the public as no idea about only serves to sow further confusion and to set the frame for
how the public will talk about, receive, and respond to that something. In other words, it automatically
put the GSO report on the defensive.
All of a sudden the report, the letter of opposition, personal emails, and public flaming began circulating.
Unfortunately, the situation escalated in vitriol and vituperation really fast. I think there are some
personal issues between individuals that were being vented through the debate about the GSO report and
the "secret" letter. I, myself, was pretty blindsided by the letter. It was not so much that I disagreed
with the letter or the opposition to the GSO report. I was just disappointed and frustrated that no one
voiced their concerns in the four weeks since the report had been released and that the way the opposition
did play out was shady and shitty. After all, some of the letter's signatories were my friends and my peers.
I would have hoped that some of these people would have talked to me beforehand. Unfortunately, in this
line of work, the personal, the political, and the intellectual are all interconnected. To attack a
study for its own merits and deficiencies is by extension to attack its writers and interpreters, at least
on some level. It's of course impossible to separate the personal and the political no matter how much
we want to believe in that kind of objectivity.
What has come out of the past week or so is a lot of intellectual and academic territorializing. There
have been some pretty vehement reactions. Again, it's mainly been between a select few. I think the
majority of the grad population has no idea what's going on, is completely confused by all of the
daggers and desperation, and really doesn't care enough to want to get into the middle of it all. My friend
Lee responded pretty personally and I think hatefully, which of course has generated simliar responses.
I pretty much chose to stay on the sidelines and to just stand by the fact that I felt the whole
situation has blown itself out of proportion and that the GSO report is overdetermined in its
power, effectiveness, and influence. The irony here is that I would've probably signed the "opposing" letter,
too, and would've been fine holding an ambivalent position in process. After all, the report was
supposed to generate conversation and collaboration. Alas, I don't think that's really going to be
possible in the immediate future.
In the end, I had to resort to just taking care of myself, following up with people who matter (e.g. my
friends and my committee), and to just make sure that my name isn't dragged through too much mud. I was
really worried an anxious over the fact that now there are faculty members who have never met me but now
know me as one of "those guys." I don't know what kind of effect that will have. Granted, I'm sure
most faculty are professional and will keep their feelings to the scope of the report only. But I
felt like suddenly I was in a hostile work environment, perceived or real. I sent emails to my committee
to be sure that there were no hard feelings. I plan on talking to all of them. And fortunately
friends like my friend Sydney, who admitted she was one of the signatories of the opposition letter,
came forward to talk to me and to tell me that our friendship was way more important than any letter.
I concur. My friendships and my academics are more important than any report.
I still think the GSO report is useful. I think that most people do say that there are parts that are
worth reading and following-up on and working with. I think that there are parts that are problematic,
mischaracterizing, contested, and even ridiculous. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I
think that for the departmental review to move forward and to be successful, the kind of back and forth
bashing and not listening needs to stop. I really wonder if this is about the GSO report or the
opposition letter at all. And shouldn't people really be focused on the document that actually
holds weight, that actually has some power -- the departmental review itself -- which should be taken
to task in a far more robust way than any student-generated report. Without the GSO report included,
the review contains no grad student voice save for statistical and demographic data. That to me seems
much more of a representational and political problem.
read footnotes |
• • •
"turkey" | friday | november 28, 2008 | 11:01 am
URKEY DAY. Thanksgiving. Native American Colonization Day?
Turkey Day is probably more fitting. My turkey day was pretty uneventful. Most of my local friends
had plans or were returning to familial lands. There was no push or drive to plan, to gather, to
cook a ton of food. So, Jane, myself, and Jane's boyfriend Chris decided we would be fabulously tragic
and go to the Thanksgiving buffet at the Broadway Grill. It was fine, reasonably delicious, had all
the right trimmings, and there were fun drinks to be had. After buffet, I met up with Greg, who
had been dinnering with his family, and we went out for drinks with the "holigays." It was a pretty
quiet night, all told, and that was fine.
read footnotes |
• • •
last month |