Friday, August 21, 2020

Whining About Lack Of Academic Leadership

 At my so-called university named for the fourth president, the slaveowning "Father of the Constitution."  No, I am not going to talk about the racism issue, which there is some effort to deal with on campus, notably in renaming three buildings named for Confederate figures, with our Provost originally from South Africa speaking reasonably intelligently about that issue.

No, we had our annual general faculty meeting to begin the year, classes supposedly beginning on Wednesday, supposedly a mixture of live and online, although likely to go totally online any minute as Eastern Mennonite University also in Harrisonburg just went totally online and delayed student move-in due to an outbreak of the virus, and Facebook is full of photos of our students partying without masks and packed together on balconies. We will not be far behind on that one.

So many of my colleagues never attend these meetings, but when I have been in town, I have since I first started here in 1977, the year the name was changed from Madison College and there were only a third as many students as there are now.  The speeches are mostly full of party line rah rah baloney I have always had fun making snide remarks about to pals. But in fact I have long enjoyed seeing faculty from across campus, with this meeting increasingly the only time in the year one sees any of them.  I knew that was not to be this year with the meeting virtual, but another regular feature has been a speech by our president, with the current one starting his 8th year here, Jonathan R. Alger.  These speeches, despite usual propaganda, also usually do provide some information about new developments on campus, and there have been some not related to racism or coronavirus, not to mention relations with Richmond, important as this being a state school.

But, no, Alger did not speak except for a minute at the beginning to introduce the Provost. OK, I get that he does not want to say anything inaccurate, but there is much he could say that is not inaccurate, including being honest about just what all we do not know and is up in the air. But he chiekened out, a complete failure of academic leadership.  I am already down enough as it is with everything, but I admit that irrational as it might be, this failure of him to speak at all left me completely demoralized at the end of the meeting, which they did not even clearly announce.  The Provost stopped speaking and sort of said "have a good semester," with many of us watching still pictures for quite some time obviously expecting Alger to appear and speak, gradually dropping off. I hung on until the number dropped below 30, the old number of statistical significance, before I left demoralized and depressed.  I have gotten over that and am now just disgusted and ticked off at this complete cowardice and lack of academic leadership.

Barkley Rosser

15 comments:

2slugbaits said...

My youngest brother is a bigshot at one of the Big Ten universities. The other day he was telling me that whenever the topic of on-campus learning comes up the university leadership just keeps quiet and would rather not talk about it. No one wants to say it out loud, but it's understood by everyone that the university only wants to keep students on campus until Sep 10th, because that's the official date that's used for funding purposes. After the 10th the expectation is that the university will send students home and they will go to online learning. In other words, the university is lying to students and parents just because the university needs money and is looking for a way to lock in revenues.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. The leadership at the University of Richmond is a combination of incompetence and dishonesty. I am not looking forward to how they will handle continuing challenges.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

2slug,

The date we have heard here is Sept. 17 for JMU keeping the students' money. As noted in my post, with local EMU already having cases, it looks like JMU will probably close before then, but I really do not know. We are just completely up in the air, but I understand that this story is not all that serious compared to people dying and getting laid off.

A.,

UR is not any worse than others. I know one mid-level admin person there I have a lot of respect for, but she is not in charge of these matters.

All higher ed places are facing challenges at this time, although some have had decisions made for them from higher up, such as the Cal system where the state simply imposed online on all the campuses. The rest of us are just floundering around, and in my institution I am sorry that the top leader could not step up and at least be respectable at this difficult moment.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and needed commentary.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Bush’s Comeback Tactics From 1988 Echo in the 2020 Race

George H.W. Bush, trailing Michael Dukakis in the summer of 1988,
turned to harshly negative campaign tactics and won the presidency.

As President Trump faces similarly daunting poll deficits against
Joe Biden, he and his allies are going negative.

A Glimmer of Hope for Trump? How Bush Mounted a Comeback in 1988

NY Times - August 22

For Biden, a cautionary tale. For Trump, a search for his own Willie Horton.

(Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high.")

(Donald Trump is saying, I will continue to terrify everyone,
unless & until you re-elect me, so you should just do that.
It can only get worse. It is how it is.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trying to Explain the Pandemic

... Illegitimate political power can be disguised as expertise. This was a favorite idea of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who used it to explain how experts had expanded definitions of criminality and sexual deviancy. One of Italy’s most celebrated thinkers, Giorgio Agamben, has recently applied similar insights to the coronavirus, at the risk of turning himself into a national pariah.

In late February, Mr. Agamben began using the website of his publisher, Quodlibet, to criticize the “techno-medical despotism” that the Italian government was putting in place through quarantines and closings. ...

His argument about the coronavirus runs along (these) lines: The emergency declared by public-health experts replaces the discredited narrative of “national security experts” as a pretext for withdrawing rights and privacy from citizens. “Biosecurity” now serves as a reason for governments to rule in terms of “worst-case scenarios.” This means there is no level of cases or deaths below which locking down an entire nation of 60 million becomes unreasonable. Many European governments, including Italy’s, have developed national contact tracing apps that allow them to track their citizens using cellphones. ...

Sure. Why not?

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/22/us/college-campus-covid.html

August 22, 2020

Stop Campus Partying to Slow the Virus? Colleges Try but Often Fail
Coronavirus outbreaks at colleges reopening for fall classes underscore the difficulties of policing student behavior.
By Shawn Hubler and Anemona Hartocollis

At Cornell University, students started arriving over the past week hoping for a safe and socially distanced fall semester. Jason Chang already has doubts.

A 24-year-old doctoral student, Mr. Chang oversees undergraduates in the dorm where he lives. As the first wave of residents checked in, he caught one student out wandering the halls three times when she was supposed to be quarantining.

Another student worker got a phone call from an undergraduate who, from the background noise, appeared to be at an unauthorized party. Another caught two students in supposed isolation hanging out together in a single dorm room.

“Constant insanity and madness,” said Mr. Chang, who this fall will share supervision of up to 300 dorm residents with seven other graduate and undergraduate students, all while working on his own Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. “That’s been my life this week.”

Fred C. Dobbs said...

President Trump’s sister says he has ‘no principles’ and ‘you can’t trust him’

Washington Post via @BostonGlobe - August 22

Maryanne Trump Barry was serving as a federal judge when she heard her brother, President Trump, suggest on Fox News, "maybe I'll have to put her at the border" amid a wave of refugees entering the United States. At the time, children were being separated from their parents and put in cramped quarters while court hearings dragged on.

"All he wants to do is appeal to his base," Barry said in a conversation secretly recorded by her niece, Mary L. Trump. "He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this." ...

---

Retiring as a Judge, Trump’s Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges

NY Times - April 10, 2019

President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The Economic Recovery That Isn’t

NY Times - August 23

As Republicans take the virtual stage for their convention this week, expect to hear much chest pounding about how great the economy has been under Donald Trump’s leadership and how fast it is coming back from the virus-induced shutdown.

Alas, both assertions are untrue.

Yes, the economy did grow and produce jobs during Mr. Trump’s first three years in office. But its performance under Mr. Trump during that period was weaker than during the last three years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Almost exactly 1.5 million fewer jobs were created on Mr. Trump’s watch than during Mr. Obama’s final three years.

Without facts, Mr. Trump resorts to lies. He has claimed more than 360 times that the economy on his watch was the “strongest ever.” Not even close. Annualized growth under Mr. Trump ranked seventh among his 11 predecessors. And growth actually slowed during each of Mr. Trump’s three years.

To accomplish only that much, Mr. Trump needed one of the largest tax cuts in history, a cut that grossly favored business and wealthy Americans while exploding our deficit. Almost 85 percent of the benefits of the bill went to businesses and to those with incomes above $75,000. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

... What we have is an economy in shambles.

Our economy has contracted by 10.6 percent during the first six months of 2020, by far the biggest, fastest decline since the Great Depression. Unemployment soared to 14.7 percent. More than 22 million jobs were lost. And the pain was disproportionately felt by women, people of color, the young, lower-paid workers and those with less education. For example, nearly a quarter of jobs held by Americans with less than a high school education have disappeared, compared to only 2 percent of jobs held by those with college degrees.

By almost every metric, Black Americans have fared far worse than whites, including higher rates of closure of Black-owned businesses. And that’s after struggling under the Trump administration since long before the virus hit — Black median household incomes, which were 66.5 percent of those of white households in 2016, had dropped to 62.4 percent of the level of white households by 2018.

These statistics greatly understate the pain. True unemployment rose to nearly 32 percent in April after including all people working part time but seeking full-time jobs and those who were without jobs but wanted one. Even now, well into the promised recovery, 28 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits.

Job growth in July was less than half the pace of the June increase, and August figures may well show a still smaller increase or — amazingly — no job growth at all. And that’s with only 42 percent of the lost jobs having been recovered so far.

There is evidence that a second wave of layoffs and furloughs is already underway — roughly three out of five workers who had reportedly returned to work have either been let go again or been told they are at risk of being sidelined again.

Much of the damage threatens to become irreversible. According to data collected by Yelp, more than half of business closures that were temporary when the virus outbreak began are now considered permanent. More retailers have gone bankrupt in the first eight months of 2020 than in all of 2008, during the Great Recession. Across all industries, Chapter 11 filings in July surged 52 percent over the same month last year, with no end in sight.

And our economy is in even greater jeopardy because Donald Trump, who proclaims himself the greatest dealmaker in history, can’t make a deal with the Democrats on a much-needed next rescue package.

While the proposals he has tried to bring about by executive action may well be illegal, they are indisputably ludicrous in their construct: A “payroll tax cut” that isn’t a tax cut at all — and even if it were, it would be the wrong way to provide help to the average American. Special unemployment benefits of $300 per week, half the amount lawmakers provided in the first round, the CARES Act. Nothing for schools, nothing for virus testing, nothing for state and local governments.

In the business world, when an employee doesn’t perform, we fire him (although not quite the way Mr. Trump did on “The Apprentice.”)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/22/us/politics/republican-convention-preview.html?smid=tw-share>Republicans Rush to Finalize Convention</a>

<b>(‘Apprentice’ Producers Are Helping)</b>

NY Times - August 22

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn in the prime-time spotlight — and the party led by a former reality TV star is rushing to measure up. ...

Two producers of “The Apprentice,” where Mr. Trump rose to TV stardom, are involved in the planning. Sadoux Kim, a longtime deputy to the “Apprentice” creator Mark Burnett, is a lead consultant on the production. Mr. Kim once served as a Miss Universe judge when Mr. Trump owned the pageant. Chuck LaBella, a former NBC entertainment executive who helped produce “The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump,” is also on the payroll. ...

Republicans involved in the planning admit that anxiety began to set in two weeks ago. But on Saturday, they said that they were now confident that a fully realized lineup was in place — and that in contrast to the Democrats’ virtual event, voters could expect something more akin to a regular convention, with a focus on live onstage moments featuring Mr. Trump, whom aides described as the week’s “talent in chief.”

Typically, the nominee makes a mundane appearance early in the convention — waving or watching from the wings — before a major speech at the end. Mr. Trump has dismissed that model and now plans to directly address the nation in prime-time on each of the convention’s four nights. The president wants the opportunity to rebut charges made against him throughout the Democratic program, aides said, particularly on his handling of the coronavirus crisis. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Republicans Rush to Finalize Convention

(‘Apprentice’ Producers Are Helping)

NY Times - August 22

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Mark Burnett and Donald Trump plan ‘The Apprentice: White House

Fast Company - November 7, 2019

How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American Success

New Yorker - December 27, 2018

With “The Apprentice,” the TV producer mythologized
Trump—then a floundering D-lister—as the ultimate
titan, paving his way to the Presidency

... As a young man, Burnett occasionally found himself on a flight for business, looking at the other passengers and daydreaming: If this plane were to crash on a desert island, where would I fit into our new society? Who would lead and who would follow? “Nature strips away the veneer we show one another every day, at which point people become who they really are,” Burnett once wrote. He has long espoused a Hobbesian world view, and when he launched “Survivor” a zero-sum ethos was integral to the show. “It’s quite a mean game, just like life is kind of a mean game,” Burnett told CNN, in 2001. “Everyone’s out for themselves.” ...

Mark Burnett: ‘I Have Never Been a Supporter of Donald Trump’s Candidacy’

via @variety - October 12, 2016

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Fred C. Dobbs said...

Fed pledges to focus on low unemployment and tolerate higher inflation

The Federal Reserve, in a significant shift that could keep interest rates low for longer periods, said it would focus on keeping unemployment low and allow inflation to run slightly higher in good times.

The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell. announced the change in a speech on Thursday at the Kansas City Fed’s annual Jackson Hole symposium that was accompanied by an updated long-run statement describing the Fed’s policy strategy. He said the shifts would allow the gains of a strong economy to benefit a wide range of workers.

“Our revised statement emphasizes that maximum employment is a broad-based and inclusive goal,” Mr. Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery Thursday, and “this change reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for many in low- and moderate-income communities.”

The Fed had been raising rates as joblessness fell to avoid economic overheating that ended in breakaway inflation, but in recent years, price gains have been tepid. The changes are an explicit recognition that too low, rather than too high, inflation is the problem.

By emphasizing the importance of a strong labor market and underlining the Fed’s modesty in understanding how long, and how far, unemployment can fall, Mr. Powell and his colleagues used their updated framework to lay the groundwork for longer periods of low interest rates, which could translate into both long periods of cheap mortgages and business loans and stronger future job markets.

Mr. Powell, in explaining the changes, said that “with interest rates generally running closer to their effective lower bound even in good times, the Fed has less scope to support the economy during an economic downturn by simply cutting the federal funds rate.”

The result, he said, “can be worse economic outcomes in terms of both employment and price stability, with the costs of such outcomes likely falling hardest on those least able to bear them.”

Mr. Powell acknowledged that it might seem “counterintuitive that the Fed would want to push up inflation” which, in turn, raises prices. But he the trade-off was a less robust economy that did not deliver gains evenly.

“We are certainly mindful that higher prices for essential items, such as food, gasoline, and shelter, add to the burdens faced by many families, especially those struggling with lost jobs and incomes,” he said. “However, inflation that is persistently too low can pose serious risks to the economy.” ...