Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Aeon J. Skoble
By the way, this is my first attempt at the linking method Chris recommended I use for NYT stories. If it doesn't work, someone let me know.
UPDATE: Some have questioned my assertion about"academic enablers." Here's an example.
David T. Beito
Still, what's done it done. We're in this mess, and I have a solution to the problem. First, we've got to realize that Iraq, as a country, need not exist. The Soviets broke up, and it seems to me that holding a group of people together just to maintain a country makes no sense. So I propose we allow Iraq to break up into three separate countries. Borders will be drawn by Iraqis themselves, not us. We'll help pay for moving people around, we'll even help pay for homes that might be lost and other costs. But after that's completed, and the Balkans gives us some illustration of that how long that should take, we're gone.
My plan gives the U.S. and it's Allies an attainable goal, which this administration does not have. It also shows that we will listen to the calls from the Muslim world for the right of self-expression since it's pretty clear that the Sunnis don't want to have a Western style democracy. That's fine; they'll pay for it through lower economic growth compared to the Kurds. But in the end what I propose makes American safer, the Arab world happier, and our failed mission there slightly more noble.
Still in an era when cities all across the country are telling sports owners to start paying for their own stadiums, leave it to the last U.S. bastion of socialism east of Berkeley, DC, to offer major league baseball to pay for a 400 million dollar stadium through taxes and bonds when there's already a franchise 30 miles away. Mayor Anthony Williams, in a Marion Barryesque lie, even had the gall yesterday to tell the people of Washington yesterday that they won't being paying for the stadium because it will be financed by bonds and business taxes.
But the one I wanted to bring up is this one: “When they [“LGBT students”] are verbally assaulted, make loud, personal statements in public venues condemning such action. Empower others to do the same.”
My office on campus is next to one of the main campus roads, and so it sees a lot of foot and vehicle traffic. This means that I’m regularly verbally assaulted: out of some of the vehicles comes pouring some of the nastiest, filthiest, most offensive language I have ever heard in my life. It’s in the form of music that gets played at very high volumes—so high that I hear it through my closed windows on the second floor.
What kind of language? Well, I want to be sensitive to this open-forum audience, but I regularly hear the f-word in all its variations, including the m-f phrase; I regularly hear women referred to and called shockingly demeaning epithets; I hear explicit descriptions of various sexual acts; and I hear what can only be considered racist language of the coarsest sort, even if it is “reverse” racism.
A few weeks ago an allegedly gay man on my campus was allegedly berated on account of this fact by a student comedian performing on a public stage. My university, Safe Zone, and the Faculty Senate all took swift action to condemn the comedian and to reaffirm its commitment to protecting gay people from any kind of verbal assault. The Faculty Senate even passed a resolution calling for the restriction of speech of students and performers on campus.
Can I get a Safe Zone so that I don’t have to hear the kind of language I’m regularly assaulted with? Can I get the Faculty Senate to pass a resolution condemning “hate music”? Can I get one of the law school professors to write a policy that simultaneously affirms the importance of free speech but at the same time calls on the administration to restrict it?
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
David T. Beito
Tom is certainly right that most northerners (including FDR) were racists.....but I don't quite understand the larger point which he is driving at in stressing this.
If he is bothered that the cartoon's author (who I'll wager was born in the south as were most of the readers of the Chicago Defender) was a"yankee moralizer," I wonder what we should call the vast majority of southern politicians, such as Theodore G. Bilbo, who applauded FDR's New Deal policies. Unlike the"yankee" midwestern states, no southern state ever voted against FDR in any of his four campaigns. Moreover, southern politicians (unlike many good midwestern yankees such as Robert Taft), led the charge for FDR's policies in both houses of Congress. During the New Deal period in the 1930s, for example, every speaker of the house and majority leader of the Senate were Democrats from the south.
Only in the 1940s did FDR start to lose support in the south, much later than in the rest of the country.
For this reason and others, the cartoon's emphasis makes perfect sense. Most blacks at the time still lived in the south and thus had good reason to focus on how southern politicians and bureaucrats applied the New Deal there.
Southern racists loved the NRA for a reason which I would think that Tom, as an economist, would want to highlight. It gave them an opportunity through the force of law to discriminate against blacks. Were northerners racists too and did they also use the NRA to disciminate? Sure, but that hardly leaves racists in the south off the hook.
While I would agree with Tom that currently people in the north are on average more racist than people in the south, let's not forget the broader context of the cartoon.
Just how bad was it for a black person living in the deep south in the 1930s? In Mississippi, for example, blacks constituted nearly half the population yet less than two percent could vote. Many Delta counties (where blacks were in the vast majority) did not have a single black voter. Few, if any, juries had any black members, most towns and cities forced them off the streets after dark via curfews, and a black person calling a white person by his first name would be asking for trouble. The reverse, of course, was the norm for whites. Few, if any, whites in Mississippi were even brought to court, much less convicted, for killing a black person.
Having said this, Tom does have a point. Although many blacks were highly critical of the New Deal, black voters (like their racist white counterparts in the South) still voted for him. This is an important issue and I will touch on it later.
Aeon J. Skoble
Robert L. Campbell
On Thursday and Friday of last week, the University of Southern Mississippi was closed, in anticipation of a direct hit by Hurricane Ivan. As it turned out, Ivan was deflected to the east and USM's buildings and grounds were spared major damage. But no one has yet found a way to deflect President Shelby F. Thames, who remains hard at work tearing USM down from within.
We could measure the decline in a number of ways; for instance, in donors alienated, or in faculty who have fled into early retirement or taken jobs at other universities. But the most widely visible indication of decline is USM's position in the latest US News and World Report rankings, which were published last month.
US News classifies USM as one of 248"national universities." Up through 2003, it was placed in the third tier, which would rank it somewhere between 130th and 186th (US News does not publish exact ranks for institutions below the second tier). By way of comparison, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, generally regarded as the two top institutions in the Mississippi state university system, are in the third tier. This year USM has dropped into the fourth tier.
I believe that some of Shelby Thames' political sponsors are privately applauding the drop in the rankings. But there is no reason to think that Thames, a man of enormously swelled head who endlessly claims"world class" status for one or another favored aspect of USM, is consciously aiming at any such outcome. In any event the underlying agenda is the sort that can't be publicized.
So what is left to do, but make excuses and offload blame?
On August 21, when asked to account for the tierdrop, Thames' spokesperson Lisa Mader flopped and floundered in desperate improvisation:
"We are proud to be ranked among schools like Alabama and Michigan in the U.S. News and World Report ranking," Southern Miss spokeswoman Lisa Mader said Friday."We are a Carnegie I Research Extensive university that ranks in the Class I Southern Regional Education Board ra`nkings. The Carnegie status places us among an elite group of universities across the nation."
Unfortunately for Mader, the Carnegie classification is a function of doctoral degrees granted and grant funding for research, not of program quality. And the Universitiy of Michigan is in the first tier of the US News rankings, while the University of Alabama is in the second. It's Southern Alabama and Central Michigan that sit down in the fourth tier.
Confronted with the revelation that USM's graduate programs were not rated at all this year, because the relevant questionnaire had not been returned to US News, Mader couldn't dodge fast enough:
"We do not show receipt of a survey from U.S. News and World Report," Mader said."Obviously if we didn't receive it, we didn't complete it and return it."
US News addresses such questionnaires directly to the president's office.
On September 2, Thames convened another meeting of his President's Council. He assembled the PC in May to create the semblance of cooperation with faculty and staff, and to avoid the ongoing embarrassment of communicating with a Faculty Senate that had voted by an overwhelming margin to ask him to resign. The PC has largely accepted Thames' promises at face value (for instance, when he declared he would no longer read an employee's email without prior approval from a committee). But on this occasion Thames had Ray Folse to reckon with. Folse is a Professor of Physics who decided to put off retiring for a year.
Folse pointedly asked Thames how Lisa Mader's false statements were affecting the university's credibility with the public. In a portion of his speech unfortunately not quoted in the newspaper, Folse went on to note that Mader purported to be the spokesperson for the entire university, not Thames' personal press secretary. He asked on what basis Mader pretended to speak for the faculty. She could have told the press that President Shelby F. Thames was happy to see USM ranked with Alabama A&M and Central Michigan, Folse said, and under those circumstances no one could complain of being misled.
Now that it is providing a forum for such challenges, observers wonder how much longer the President's Council will last before Thames orders it disbanded, or just quits attending the meetings.
In his open letter to USM dated September 7, Thames was still in full cover-up mode:
I'm sure many of you have heard about Southern Miss' drop in the rankings of the U.S. News and World Report from a third-tier university to a fourth-tier university. This matter was discussed during the President's Council meeting. It was reported that immediately upon notification of the ranking, we began looking into what caused the drop. After officials at the magazine were contacted, it was confirmed that portions of the information requested were not sent from the Office of the Provost. We also verified that our university did not send in our graduate program report. This is a most unfortunate situation that cannot be allowed to happen again. It is inexcusable that complete and accurate information requested was not provided to the U.S. News and World Report. We must make certain that such an omission will not happen again. We will be in discussions with all components of our university to ensure accuracy and accountability of data retrieval and reporting.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the President to see that such information is provided. At most universities, the Institutional Research office plays a major role in collecting and organizing the data needed to respond to US News and World Report. But at USM Institutional Research is in complete disarray. The office was gutted once by Thames' immediate predecessor, Horace Fleming. Thames proceeded to gut it again in the Fall of 2002, when IR employees arrived at work one Monday morning to find that the locks on their office doors changed, and campus security ready to escort them all from the building.
Rather than admit that he had pummeled his Institutional Research office until it barely functioned, Thames chose to scapegoat Tim Hudson, the former Provost on the main campus. Little matter that Hudson, who many believe harbored aspirations to take over the presidency, had virtually no authority remaining during his last year at USM, because Thames was determined to keep his rival out of the important decisions. Hudson left in late July to become President of the University of Houston-Victoria.
The Interim Provost, Jay Grimes, who until recently was a fifth-wheel academic administrator at USM's Gulf Park campus (his title there was"Provost" but he never seemed to be in control of academic affairs) took the only step that he could to protect himself. On September 9, he announced by email that Institutional Research would no longer report to him, as he was turning its direction over to one of the Special Assistants to the President.
The tierdrop once again signals the utter incompetence of the Thames administration at anything that approximates running a university. But then it is doubtful that Thames' chief sponsor, IHL Board Chair Roy Klumb, expects competence, or would be pleased to see any on display.
Whether the questionnaires get answered on time or not, under Shelby Thames USM is going to keep sliding downward in the US News rankings. Except that another tierdrop is out of the question, so long as USM keeps qualifying as a national university. But if Polymer Science were packed up and moved to Roy Klumb's favorite institution, Mississippi State, and USM's other doctoral programs were shut down or deaccredited... then new roads would open. There are four full tiers in the rankings for Master's level universities in the Southern region. Imagine the jubilation among Thames' sponsors should USM drop into a new third tier (shared with Austin Peay and Alcorn State) or a new fourth tier (alongside Troy State-Dothan and Southeastern Louisiana). Wouldn't Roy Klumb and the IHL Board would feel obliged to honor Shelby Thames with an on-campus colossus?
More news about USM will follow in the next two or three days. For updates, check the message board of the AAUP chapter at USM.