Category Archives: ENGLISH DEPARTMENT

Me, Pushing You, Pushing back. Merry Xmas.

Ol' Saint Nicholas

Ol' Saint Nicholas

The powers at be have instructed us to lay low, to take it down a notch, to refrain from going to the press (Sara Rimer, we’ll stay in touch).  So far, this ‘exercise‘ has proven that current and former students do care, that the value of professors and the Arts (or the Idea of the Education of Liberal Arts at Vassar) does matter to those who choose to teach within the Vassarian walls and to those who choose to be educated here.  Choices have been made by us all.

We’ve caused quite a stir, enough to prove to faculty, administration, and the public that the answer to the economic problem is not by cutting compensation-costs and eliminating cornerstones of important programs. The answer is obviously more complex–that’s my gut speaking out of line. Nevertheless, we’re currently subjected to the practice that economics drives academia; but this economic pillar is collapsing and we either fall with it or must replace it with something new or old, perhaps the founding ideals of Vassar? After all, we trust Google because up to this point everything they’ve created points back to the promise that it will ‘do no evil.’ Economics explains free-market competition; Darwinian cell-theory explains evolutionary survival–what at Vassar will survive, what is being systematically selected to cease? Either we compete or we work together.

In the end, Vassar is in the hands of a select few whose trust is publicly being judged. I have absolute confidence that democracy is at play, that built into the practice of democracy is the exercise of revolution as a right. What the admin has failed to prepare for is unity–that the Faculty of the English Department have united, that students have united and so have alumae/i. If only All Departments, as a collective voice, would united in cross-disciplinary defense of Liberal Arts, then I think, we come to demonstrate (and near an understanding) what Vassar means. Currently, the admin has been forced to reconsider the details of their plan. It’s their move, and together we wait for it.

For now, a knife is pressed to the skin of somebody and it’s in the admin’s power and interest to make a decision. I have complete faith that the alums, parents, students, and professors will respond accordingly.

Merry Xmas.

“I think I agree with Joyce’s lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.”

For Some People, God is Not Enough by Umberto Eco

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Lip Service

I was pleased to open my e-mail this morning and find a note from President Hill, only four days after writing a direct message to her. I believe the turnaround on my first e-mail was about six days, so it’s clear that they’re making an effort to respond to our concerns.

“I am sorry not to be able to reply in detail and individually to each of the messages I have received recently concerning academic staffing plans for next year and how those plans affect various academic programs and departments.  Please know that your concerns have been registered and contribute to our understanding and appreciation of the issues.  We continue to develop those plans in consultations with the chairs of departments and programs.”

This “consultation” process sounds great, but it’s glossing over some things. It’s glossing over the fact that adjunct professors who were assured of their “moral tenure” a year ago are now being brushed aside. It’s glossing over the fact that this fight is headed for lawsuits, not “consultation”. This is going to get ugly, and it should get ugly. There is more behind this than we are seeing in the President’s words, and it’s clear that she and the administration are hoping that the alums and the students on campus forget about this over the break.

To those with friends in the media – contact them. Jon and I have contacted a few people who will hopefully be able to bring more publicity to this, but nothing will make that need for publicity more clear than if newspaper reporters are hearing from many, many people. I’ve heard about all the kind e-mails and letters that faculty have received, and we know how moved they have been by our enormous show of support. Now is the time to get this issue in the papers, to apply public pressure to what has been a private campaign so far.

-Austin Murphy ’05

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Administration Rejects Proposal

vassar-englishDuring a meeting with the Administration, faculty collectively proposed to take pay cuts and to with-go bonuses in order to pay for the salaries of Professor M Mark and Julie Rose.  The Administration refused, suggesting that the proposed layoffs by the Administration is not about academic downsizing but that an alternative “agenda” might be at play.

The Pro: The English Department faculty have united against President Cap Hill and Dean of Faculty Jonathan Chenette. The Con: The Administration is stubbornly steadfast, does this remind you of President Bush’s Administration?

DON’T LET THIS ISSUE FIZZLE OUT OVER BREAK.  I CALL ON THE MISC NEWSPAPER TO DIG DEEPER INTO THIS ISSUE WHEN SCHOOL COMMENCES IN JANUARY. WHAT ARE OTHER COLLEGES DOING?

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New Page – Believers

Yesterday I put out a call to all who’ve been inspired by the Vassar Creative Writing program to put those writing skills to good use, to explain what made Vassar’s writing classes so special to them. Our new Believers page will house any essays, poems, stories, plays, grocery lists, receipts, or credit card bills I receive. Please send all submissions to fireatvassar@gmail.com for immediate posting. Maybe eventually we can print them out and share them with the administration? I picture a scene like “Miracle on 34th Street”, with bags and bags of writing being brought in to President Hill’s office. Keep the submissions coming!

-Austin Murphy ’05

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Response from the Dean and Trustees Meeting

What else can we cut? Ah, music and arts! -Principal Skinner, Vassar Administration?

What else can we cut? Ah, music and arts! -Principal Skinner, Vassar Administration?

Well, I finally received a response from the administration, if a brief note ” on behalf of Jon Chenette” and a word-for-word copy of President Hill’s letter to students and faculty can be considered a response:

“Sent on behalf of Jon Chenette:
Thank you for your interest in the financial situation at Vassar and its impact on the English Department. President Hill sent this note to faculty and students yesterday. We hope you will find it helpful.

Best wishes,

Jon”
I’ve also heard RUMOR that there is a Trustees Meeting in NYC tomorrow, so anyone with further information on that should be in touch. The Vassar website lists the names and graduation year of the Trustees, but no contact information. I will contact the Vassar Office of College Relations, but I won’t be surprised if they tell me something about confidentiality.
With the semester coming to a close, it is important that we do not let up our pressure. Our outrage may fade, but the adminstration’s plan to slash away at the kinds of classes that make Vassar Vassar remains as alive as it was before we wrote a single word. Keep up the good work.
-Austin Murphy ’05

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NOW ON TWITTER

picture-22We’re up and running on TWITTER and will start involving people outside the Vassar wall, perhaps we can get Steven Colbert to follow us, or some Bloggers and Media folks.

Twitter name: fireatvassar

Link: http://twitter.com/fireatvassar

“FOLLOW US”

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LOW-END DISRUPTION

vassar-english1President Hill and Dean Chenette met with the Faculty of the English Department. During the meeting, President Hill is rumored to have told the faculty that she refuses to cave into “alumni pressure.”

So here’s my question: Is a two-day old blog really pressure? And to Alumnae/i who are reading or joining Mary Beth’s Facebook group, what concrete things can we do collectively?

  • Poughkeepsie Journal? NYTimes?
  • Form a fund for the Creative Writing Program?
  • Reach out to Steven King and other High Profile Writers/Celebrities with connections to Vassar?
  • Campus-wide professor boycott?
  • Writing a formal letter to parents who pay tuition?

Cuts to the Creative Writing program is the tip of the ice-burg (sorry for the lame analogy). My concern is that Hill has already scheduled similar meetings with smaller Academic and Service Departments?

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