Eylers on the Crisis in the Sciences
Lavine on Curriculum 2000
Mosteller, Speech to Academic Council
Duke Masters: Malouf, "The Golden Robe"
Editorial on the Final Difference
Possum's Culture Studies
Parrot's Recitations (RPW)
Note: Minutes of the Academic Council Meeting of November 19, 1998--and of all meetings since 1991--are located at http://www.duke.edu/web/acouncil
THE CRISIS IN RESEARCH, TEACHING,
AND FUNDING IN THE SCIENCES
by John P. Eylers, Ph.D. (Duke, 1975)
Research Associate in Zoology
In the November-December 1998 issue of American Scientist there is a timely article by our Duke colleague Steven Vogel on the state of biology today (Academically Correct Biological Science). In it he succinctly outlines the down side of the current mechanisms for funding research and their unintended consequences. If you have not read it you should do so.
Evidence for Vogel's thesis, that the quest for funding is distorting the priorities of research, has been there to be seen for many years. In 1976, upon returning from a post-doctoral in England, I immediately realized that a watershed had been crossed in my absence. When I left everyone was talking about their research. When I returned everyone was talking about their grants. It did not take much imagination to see where things were headed. The three scenes depicted in the lead of Vogel's article were already taking place as university administrators were quick to adopt the notion that overhead was "profit" and big research labs were "profit centers". But whenever I expressed doubts about the wisdom of this approach to my colleagues I got responses which clearly indicated that they could not or did not want to comprehend the problem. Justifications for the status quo ranged from an analogy to the relatively small number of talented basketball players who make it to the NBA, thus confounding sports and entertainment with scholarship, to a frank admission that the system was unfair but it was the only game in town, which made me wonder what that person thought was the basis of his own success. Like Cassandra, I was doomed to make true prognostications which would not be believed, and I soon realized that only when the most senior members of the faculty began to feel uneasy about the situation would there be any possibility for change. Thus my joy at seeing Vogel's ideas in print. At last we have a statement by a James B. Duke Professor that all is not well.
One of the immediate consequences of the new order of business at the universities was borne by the tens of thousands of Ph.D.s who were out of work in the early '80s. If the subject of their research was not sufficiently au courant to attract significant funding they found themselves without tenure at their first post and unlikely to obtain another tenure track position. The phrase: "evidence of the ability to conduct fundable research is required", is a clear statement about an institution's priorities. The adjectives significant or highly original are seldom used in conjunction with research, as if they are assumed to be proportional to the resources an outside agency is willing to fork over. However, academic misfits do not become uneducated through loss of rank. Some drifted off to follow their bliss and have not been heard from since. Most settled down to apply their skill in other areas. Those who stayed in the university system often embarked on an endless round of postdoctorals or were shunted into one of the many administrative "slots" which were multiplying at a rate far exceeding the growth in either students or faculty. On the other hand, quite a few former physicists ended up running the computers at Wall Street brokerages. A few diehards carried on with their scholarship as best they could, begging and borrowing resources where they were available, making do where they were not. In his book, The Camel's Nose , Knut Schmidt-Nielsen said that he would not advise anyone to go into research who was not possessed of an irresistible curiosity, an overwhelming drive to solve problems, and a high tolerance for frustration. Certainly the path of independent scholarship is strewn with enough obstacles to test all three. Those who persevered, along with others who have decided to return to scholarship after pursuing other goals, comprise a small but potentially very productive assemblage of talent which through sheer demographic inertia is growing every year. Unfortunately there is no place for them in the "education business".
Sadly, the deleterious effects of modern grantsmanship extend far beyond the research issues covered in Vogel's article. Faculty are constantly being pressured to make teaching a third priority behind fund seeking and research, and as a result will often avoid taking on a challenging subject. Consequently a number of classic courses, classic in the sense of being both fundamental and of enduring interest, are disappearing from curricula. In many schools comparative vertebrate anatomy is being replaced by human anatomy and physiology. The latter may adequately serve the needs of pre-medical students and testing services, but it is hardly a sufficient foundation for a true student of biology and will offer little insight to geneticists who realize that molecular biology is just a technique in service of the study of organismal development and evolution. What will happen in another generation if no one is left who is competent to teach courses such as this? Consider the cautionary tale of an English department which recruited a batch of "superstars" who would infuse the discipline with "modern" ideas. They soon discovered that the new thinking was rapidly being deconstructed while the historical basis of English literature had not changed. However, no one was left who knew what that was.
Of all the institutions in which I have taught, large public, small private, small public, and, just to complete the symmetry, large private, only one had any formal mechanism for evaluating teaching proficiency. Three times in the last twenty years I have had a senior faculty member sit in on a class. Whenever I hear of an award for teaching excellence being handed out I wonder: how would they know? We always give lip service to the idea that teaching is of equal importance with research, but if on the one hand you have dollars and on the other hand you have nothing but sporadic student evaluations, which do you think will receive more weight?
This laissez faire attitude toward teaching also assumes, quite incorrectly, that a young Ph.D. fresh out of grad school is prepared to take on the responsibilities of a full course load alone and is in no need of help in learning how to teach well. Again, in only one of the institutions I know were senior faculty encouraged to mentor juniors and help them improve their pedagogy. Lamentably, these young innocents are often called upon to teach general biology, the single most important course in the curriculum.
Why is teaching so important? For one thing, it is what the parents of our students, and increasingly the students themselves, are paying for. It is their perception that since a university has such a large complement of big guns in research the quality of the teaching must be equally high. Little do they know that one of the most common bargaining chips thrown in to attract academic superstars is a reduction in their teaching loads, sometimes to a point that would be considered ludicrous. Often the result is a void in the teaching coverage which is filled either by adjunct faculty working part time or instructors with masters' degrees. This is never mentioned by college recruiters.
But does the conjoining of teaching and research really matter? On the coin of scholarship, research is the obverse and teaching is the reverse. Teachers who do no research end up preaching holy writ. Being unacquainted with how knowledge is actually acquired, they have an unwarranted reliance on expert opinion and are uncomfortable dealing with ideas that have not been given the imprimatur of wide circulation and codification in textbooks. On the other hand, researchers who don't teach end up becoming unintelligible. I am far from a beginner at this enterprise, but too often I have sat in a darkened auditorium, looking at an endless parade of graphs of this against that, wondering what on earth the speaker was talking about. If you know something but you cannot express it clearly to someone else, do you really know it? Learning how to communicate well requires practice.
As if it were not enough to distort research and devalue teaching, the mercantile mind set currently infecting those who walk the carpeted halls of academe is wreaking its greatest havoc by undercutting the principle of collegiality, the collective responsibility shared by a group of scholars. Rallying to the cry that "a university should be run like a business", they have adopted the attitude that the administration are management and the faculty are labor. This makes about as much sense as saying that the appropriate model for university governance is bishops and priests, or officers and troops. A university is not a business. Neither is it a church nor an army. The concept of the university long predates that of a capitalist enterprise, and it has always implied an institution founded on and dedicated to the needs and ends of scholars. Universities are not here to generate wealth. They are wealth. One of the chief jobs of an administration is to defend the integrity of the university against the onslaughts of whatever political, religious, or economic ideology the crowd for now judges to be the best and only moral way to run the world.
The proper way to view the roles of faculty and administration is to consider their Latin roots. Faculty comes from "to do", administer from "to serve". An administrative post should not be viewed as a goal, a reward, or a sinecure. Administration should be an interlude in a career of scholarship during which one forsakes one's studies to carry out certain necessary tasks for the good of the whole community. Sitting in their offices and signing off on budgets, deans and provosts may fall prey to the notion that since they oversee the flow of money they are responsible for the flow of ideas. They should remember that it is neither their money nor their ideas.
The faculty is the sine qua non of a university. Of all the members of the academic community, only they can produce the real goods, new knowledge. Vogel has concluded that universities must take the lead in assuring the quality of the scientific community. Within the universities only the faculty can be relied upon to keep that goal squarely in sight. If they should fail, no one else has the ability or interest to take up the cause. It is with that in mind that I suggest the following course of action to any faculty member who is truly interested in preserving academic integrity.
Pay more attention to teaching quality. Spend some time observing your colleagues and invite them to observe you. Practice self criticism and encourage it in others. Organize the process sufficiently that it creates a paper trail of accomplishment which can be referred to when making promotion and tenure decisions. Never allow good teaching to be assumed or overlooked.
Resist the tendency to inflate research projects. The proliferation of schools, institutes, and named laboratories within the university does not so much reflect the needs of scholarship as it manifests a basic tendency of bureaucracies to pursue growth for its own sake. By the time various institutional interests are factored in, a research plan which would have required half a million dollars, two people, and three years to accomplish can grow to ten million dollars, a dozen people, and a lifelong commitment to seeking funding, all without improving the science in any significant way.
Demand accountability from the administration. It is not appropriate to shut the faculty out of the decision making process, and whenever this occurs both the actions and intentions of those involved should be carefully scrutinized . Whether it concerns determining who will sell books on campus or in what order departmental vacancies will be filled, it is incumbent on the administration to come up with a plan which meets the needs and goals of the faculty and not vice versa.
Encourage your colleagues to be intellectually adventuresome, and then be prepared to back them up. When it comes to deciding how to develop a research program there will be no end of reasons proffered as to why something novel is not very interesting or won't work. Had everyone throughout history heeded such advice there would indeed be nothing new under the sun. If you have no constructive suggestions to offer someone who asks your counsel, do not automatically offer discouragement. You may not understand as much as you think you do. Instead, point the individual toward someone with similar interests who may be able to help. On the other hand, if you are convinced that someone is pursuing a reasonable if somewhat unorthodox program, be forthcoming with your support and vigorous in your defense of his or her ideas, especially when debating issues of promotion and tenure.
Devote more time to the peer review process. The only real defense against bad science is good peer review. However, for a variety of reasons senior researchers have been consistently dodging their peer review duties, to the extent that the NIH are considering funding guarantees to lure them back. By default these duties land on the less experienced who often have a more parochial view of what constitutes good research, especially when it comes to choice of subject, resulting in waves of enthusiasms which pass as each cohort of younger researchers replaces the ones who have attained their funding goals.
Foster access to university facilities for unaffiliated scholars. What they need most is the active support of an intellectual community and the use of resources which are prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable outside the university. By sponsoring senior associates in your lab you could also be providing alternative role models for your students who may be unimpressed with the academic career choices currently offered up.
Spend time socializing with your colleagues. At the University of Leeds, R. McNeill Alexander instituted the practice of having tea laid out every morning and afternoon for the enjoyment of anyone associated with the department. Not everyone went every time, but most showed up regularly, and with consistent attendance it was quite possible to meet and talk with everyone from the Professor himself to the technicians and housekeepers within two to three weeks. Exchanging small talk and making friends is one way of cementing the personal relationships which are the foundation of collegiality. Talking to someone is also by far the quickest and most efficient way to learn about his or her research. Schmidt-Nielsen is of the opinion that five minutes of conversation can convey more useful information than many hours of reading research papers. If these two giants of science could afford the time to engage in such ostensibly trivial activities perhaps you can too.
Take your turn on the wheel of administration but don't make a career of it. Chairmen, deans and provosts are all necessary to the function of the university as a corporate entity and there are any number of excellent reasons, the highest being the principle of collegiality, for taking an administrative post. But when you do, do so with the attitude that one day you will return to your scholarship and face the colleagues who once had to live with your decisions. Be like Cincinnatus, not like Caesar.
It is fair to say that if you follow my advice you will incur some risk. The risk of not getting tenure is the greatest, so the junior faculty may be forgiven if they are less than enthusiastic about bucking the system. However, those of you with tenure have far less excuse. Tenure is not an irrelevant relic from the middle ages. It exists, and should continue to exist, so that there is always a coterie of senior scholars who can defend the integrity of the university and of their disciplines without fear of losing their livelihoods. Those who have attained tenure should use their positions to fight against forces, especially those from within, which tend to distort or coopt the free growth of ideas. Perhaps you will never get to be dean and will have to content yourself with a mere professor's salary. But consider this: anyone who is able to take home the equivalent of a median family income on one paycheck while doing a job which affords such a wide latitude for personal fulfillment has very little to complain about. So what do you believe in, and what are you willing to risk for it?
Curriculum 2000: A Commentary
-by Michael Lavine (Statistics)
The curriculum 2000 proposal (C2K) makes academic policy recommendations based on purported benefits. The extent to which those benefits would actually be realized and whether C2K is the best way to realize them are questions that can be explored by gathering data and evaluating existing programs. In many cases the data haven't been gathered and programs haven't been evaluated.
An example is the C2K recommendation that all students be required to take a foreign language. The purported benefits are that``students can develop cross-cultural competency ... become more successful members of their ... international communities... gain respect for other peoples, and learn new ways of thinking.'' These are laudable benefits. Would they be achieved by requiring students to study foreign languages? One could start to answer this question by finding out from alumni, especially those who took a language to fulfill an area requirement, how their foreign language courses have helped them. Were their language courses intellectually stimulating? Are they glad they were forced to study a foreign language? Did their language courses give them any of the benefits that C2K hopes to achieve? C2K does not show that the curriculum committee has tried to answer these questions.
A good policy analysis would ask whether the purported benefits of a language requirement outweigh the disadvantages. Part of the assessment would be an understanding of why 19% of our seniors avoid foreign languages. How important are considerations such as GPA protection, students' lack of interest, advice from faculty or peers, courses' perceived lack of intellectual excitement, and perceived lack of relevance to post-Duke activity? These questions could be answered. Students and alumni are articulate and available for questioning. C2K is mute.
C2K also points out that many other universities have foreign language requirements but not whether those universities have evaluated the effect of their programs. Has the curriculum committee looked for such evaluations? If so, what were the results; if not, why not? The report doesn't say. A related question is whether the same benefits could also be provided by courses taught in English. If the answer is yes, then the rationale for insisting upon language courses is much weaker. Unfortunately, the report doesn't say.
A good policy analysis would address the effects of the proposal on the courses students take. It is possible, for example, to take a sample of last year's graduates, examine the courses they took, and see how close they came to fulfilling the proposed requirements, how many classes each student would have to change in order to meet the requirements, where the major deficiencies are, whether the impact differs by academic major, etc.
A good policy analysis would address the effects on departments. Under C2K every student would take at least two science courses and at least one language course. How many new science and language students does that represent? Will they be handled by new courses or by increased enrollments in existing courses? These questions could be answered, at least roughly, without much difficulty. If there will be more science and language students, but the same total of 34 courses per student, it follows that some areas will experience decreased enrollments. What will they likely be? How much will their enrollments likely drop? Will they be handled by having fewer courses or by decreased enrollments in existing courses? These questions are a bit harder but still approachable. C2K does not indicate that they have been approached.
C2K has many more pigeonholes than the current curriculum and many more requirements to fulfill. (32 cells in the matrix as opposed to six areas of knowledge; 4 rows and 8 columns to fulfill as opposed to 5 areas of knowledge.) C2K suggests that all these pigeonholes will encourage faculty to design courses to fit, and that this is a benefit:``the structure encourages professors to develop courses ... in ways that also meet our collective curricular priorities.'' On the other hand, our experience with the requirement for relatedness and the current abuse of 100-level courses suggests that courses designed to fit pigeonholes do not always meet the intent of the policy. In light of that experience, the curriculum committee should tell us why they think their pigeonholes will reap their intended benefit.
The current curriculum recognizes six areas of knowledge: Arts and Literatures, Civilizations, Social Sciences, Foreign Languages, Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning. C2K retains AL, CZ and SS, relabels FL a ``competency'' and lumps together NS and QR. Courses are required in all areas except QR. That is, under the current curriculum, students may choose one of the six areas to avoid. Under C2K there is no choice: if an area is avoided, it must be QR. (The response that QR is taken care of by the QIDR requirement is disingenuous: QIDR can be satisfied with non-QR classes.) Here is a clear policy statement. Where is its rationale? Is there any analysis to support the idea that QR is becoming less important in the world than it is now?
I have indicated several areas where
C2K policy recommendations are not supported by analysis and where there
are attractive avenues for gathering data that would help us make a more
informed decision. The report neither explores them nor gives us confidence
that they have been considered and found wanting. There is no need to change
our curriculum before these questions have been explored. Let's make decisions
based on evidence, not wishes and dreams.
Speech to Annual Meeting of the Faculty
--by Robert P. Mosteller (Law School)
Chair of Academic Council
October 8, 1998
Last weekend, I spoke for the first time to the Trustees as Chair of the Council. I described for them in general terms how I saw the nature of our shared governance relationship here at Duke and my role as Chair of the organization that officially represents the faculty. I would like to begin my address today with some of the same basic points I made to the Trustees. I also want to address two other areas. I believe it useful to describe the general outline of what are known as the "Christie Rules," which are critically important to our role in University governance. My final point will be to describe some of the activities that have occupied the Executive Committee this fall and a minor experiment we plan with Council meetings this year.
For good or for ill--and I hope it is for good--I am a lawyer. My academic field is law, but I also had substantial experience as a practicing lawyer. I was Chief of the Trial Division of the Washington, D.C. Public Defender Service before I came to teach here fifteen years ago.
I will use two somewhat discordant images from the world of law to describe how I view my role as Chair of the Council. I find that in some of the civic organizations where I serve, I am the person who most resists the creation of rules. This no doubt seems strange since lawyers thrive on rules. I can best explain my position through a quotation from one of my gifted professors at Yale Law School, Grant Gilmore. This is one of my favorite statements about the law, and I suspect this is the one point that may be remembered from my speech. Gilmore said: "In Heaven there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb . . . . In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed."
I take a powerful insight from this statement. In organizations and societies that function best, rigid rules are not required and can impede positive action. Rigid rules are needed in my old line of work--criminal law. There we have the worst transgressions of our values; harsh sanctions are often necessary; and the need to protect both against erroneous convictions and abuses of power are the greatest. On the other hand, if cooperative organizations too often rely on rigid rules, some day they will find themselves in situations where they are required either to act unjustly, to miss an opportunity to do good, or to violate an established rule.
That is one view of the law or rules in general. Let me give you a somewhat contrasting view. This image comes from A Man for All Seasons, the play based on the life of Sir Thomas More. More served as lord chancellor, the highest judicial officer in England in the time of Henry VIII, and was beheaded as a result of conflicts over the king's plans to divorce his wife.
I focus on a scene that begins with a confrontation between More and a man, whose lies will ultimately lead to his execution, through, it is important to note, a failure of the rule of law. In this scene Roper, More's son-in-law, pleads with More to arrest the man because "he's bad," but More responds, "there's no law against that." Roper insists that "[t]here is . . . , God's law," to which More irreverently replies: "Then God can arrest him." Roper remains skeptical, and More continues: The law . . ., the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.
Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!
More: No, far below, but let me draw your attention to a fact. I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate . . . .
While you talk, he's gone.
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law.
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil the benefit of the law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you--where would you hide . . . the laws being flat? . . . Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
This exchange presents a different picture of the function of rules. It emphasizes the inability of humans to know and judge what is right. It touts the modest safety of following a set of human rules that provide protection when times are most trying.
Laws and rules should not get in the way of effectively accomplishing positive results just for the sake of "due process" or following procedures. But established procedures exist to make sure that in those situations where pressures are intense or where the answers seem remarkably clear, we pause and take stock and consider. Have we asked the right questions? Have we consulted the people most affected, and have we listened to what they have to say?
I see my job as translating these lessons into the world of the Academic Council and to faculty governance generally. This works chiefly through the general mechanism of the Christie Rules. What are the Christie Rules? The are the product of a set of reports and meetings and ultimately took the form of an agreement between the faculty and then President Sanford. They deal with basic concepts of faculty representation, consultation, and expression of views on issues of major importance to the academic mission of this institution.
First, the Christie Rules established representation. They defined the Academic Council as the official voice of the faculty. They authorized the Executive Committee to act when necessary for the Council and generally to serve as intermediaries with the administration, and they established the support needed for the Chair to be able to pay the necessary attention to the task.
Second, they defined a type of consultation process. They established the principle that the senior officers would meet monthly with the Executive Committee to ensure a basic level of consultation. Very importantly, they defined who could be representatives of the faculty. The Christie Rules noted sensibly that the administration can seek advice from any member of the faculty. However, faculty members act on their own and are not representatives of the faculty unless they are selected through consultation with the Academic Council, which acts in this respect through the Executive Committee.
Third, the Christie Rules establish a requirement that the faculty be consulted. Here I will quote: "Except in emergencies, all major decisions and plans of the administration that significantly affect academic affairs should be submitted to the Academic Council for an expression of views prior to implementation or submission to the Board of Trustees." The approved mechanism for the expression of the views of the faculty is by communication from Academic Council to the Board of Trustees, which "should be transmitted along with the administration's proposal when these plans and decisions are considered by the Board." The Christie Rules do not claim the right to a faculty veto or to unlimited debate. However, they do establish a requirement that the faculty be consulted and given a chance to express its view in a formal fashion.
President Sanford accepted this third point but acknowledged that "[i]t is possible that there will be some disagreement as to what is 'major.'" He expressed the expectation that the issues could be worked out in discussions with the Executive Committee.
I will not take the time to recount the positive tradition of faculty involvement in governance at Duke. On several occasions, we prevented a serious mis-step by the University. While usually not so dramatic, I believe that the faculty's representatives often do add significant value. And we can generally act with dispatch when necessary. However, what the faculty's place in the process does require is an advanced, public articulation of the University's position so that we can consider it and state a response. I believe this early articulation of position is generally beneficial to sound decision-making.
At the same time we maintain the tradition of shared governance, we should recognize the changing nature of the University. In the modern, dynamic environment of higher education, Duke must be bold and nimble, capable of quick and decisive action, and able to take advantage of its strong leadership. The really interesting challenge to faculty governance arises when problems come upon us unexpectedly and require quick resolution, and the situation is not an emergency but neither are the issues of such obvious academic significance that the Christie Rules clearly apply. While the challenges for shared governance in these unusual situations are real, they should not prove insuperable. I believe that faculty governance should have the capacity to be flexible. We want our voice heard on all the tough choices that involve academic concerns, without hamstringing the University. What I believe we should insist upon is not formalism but truly meaningful consultation, which can come in differing forms.
As at the Trustee meeting, I do not want to be misunderstood. When I am talking about flexibility in procedure, I am not talking about issues such as the Upper Class Residential Life Plan or the possibility that the Duke Bookstore may be "privatized." In those situations, the formal process of faculty governance is clearly appropriate because of the significance of the academic issue and the absence of a rushed schedule. What I am thinking about are the types of issues that arise in the Medical Center and new Health System, which will require all of us--trustees, administration, and faculty--to adjust to demands unlike those ever previously faced.
Admittedly, faculty governance has its greatest difficulty in initiating action. We are best in a consultative role, but consultation is valuable not only to add legitimacy to the result but by bringing different perspectives to the decision. It is not an outmoded fashion.
The overall goal is obviously to avoid Grant Gilmore's Hell of nothing but law and useless due process, while not taking away the structures that might permit an unrecognized disaster to overtake us.
Implementing this process of consultation may sound easy. Unfortunately many issues arise in complicated and unconventional packages. I thought I might get some help in analyzing how to handle consultation by talking to George Christie, who was chief author of the rules, and from Larry Evans, who served with George on the drafting committee and who was actively involved in the governance of the Council in the immediately ensuing years. In the law, we call this original intent. While it is not decisive, I do think their insights are valuable, and I will share two points.
Professor Christie recommended that the Council focus on stating positions on matters that have real significance--major issues of policy. His view is that our voice matters most on such issues, and too much attention to detail can give the sense of participation in decisions without the reality. Professor Evans' advice was very practical: take votes in Council. Define faculty positions through resolutions and put them to votes. Our power is to persuade not to command, and the best way to persuade is to speak clearly.
My goal is to continue and build on the rich tradition of those who have served in my position before me. You, the members of the Council, will help define the meaning of shared governance at Duke. The Christie Rules are neither fixed for all time nor are they a complete set of decision rules. They establish only a framework, and the details must be refined over time as we participate in the process of governing.
I said I would cover three points in my address: first, my general sense of the purpose of faculty governance; second, the nature of the Christie Rules; and third, the activities of ECAC to this point and plans for the future. I now I turn to the third point.
By now some of you may be thinking in the vernacular that I "need to get a life." I assume that for some these meetings are relatively uneventful if not boring and perhaps it may appear that I am trying to make something sound significant that simply isn't. If none of you have that thought, I guess I am happy, but I have to admit that when I was first a member of Council my mind occasionally wandered as I sat at these meetings.
To a major degree, the lack of "excitement" in the sense of rancorous debate and consideration of proposals that are badly flawed is positive. It is the result of sound work by our committee structure and by the Executive Committee. Academic Council is at the top of a pyramid that has as its base an extensive committee structure in which a large number of talented colleagues willingly serve. We hope to keep the worst ideas from progressing and to have the toughest questions resolved before a proposal reaches a Council meeting. In the end, however, our committees and the Executive Committee are only doing preliminary work for Academic Council's consideration, and it is Council's authority as the official voice of the faculty that gives clout to what the committees do.
Our intent at the Executive Committee is not to radically change the level of excitement at Council meetings, but we hope to find ways to get Council a little more involved in issues at an early stage. We will begin a modest effort in that direction with the appearance of David Bell, Chair of Academic Priorities, and Roy Weintraub, Chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Resources. They will briefly describe some of the issues their committees expect to handle this year. We hope this fall to have a similar preliminary report from Ken Spenner, Chair of Faculty Compensation Committee, regarding compensation issues under discussion that are likely to affect the faculty in the spring.
I would like to be more specific about a couple tasks the Executive Committee has been considering this academic year, and from my perspective, the year has already been a little more exciting than I might prefer. Our first task was to complete the search process for the renewed position of Dean of the Medical School. This search began with the task of finding a Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The effort led to the selection of Dr. Ed Holmes, who has recently accepted the positions of both Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Medical School, and who will be an extremely valuable addition to Duke. I won't go into the detail, but we reconstituted the search committee by reducing its size and adding three very senior and experienced colleagues. The result was to allow a fundamentally sound process to proceed and at the same time to preserve the essential feature of the Christie Rules that duly appointed representatives of the general faculty must be involved in such a dean search.
Our most visible task thus far involves the proposal to "privatize" the Duke Bookstore. We have been working hard to ensure the issues are fully examined and the faculty interest expressed with unmistakable clarity to the administration and the Trustees, once that interest has been determined. For the first step, we have entrusted this issue to the Bookstore Committee, chaired by Michael Gillespie. ECAC met with Professor Gillespie, and we are satisfied that he has identified the significant issues involved and recognizes the desire of members of the faculty to be heard. He and his committee are planning several different mechanisms to receive faculty input. We also met with Tallman Trask. Recently he told me that this issue, if it progresses beyond the Bookstore Committee, is likely to be examined also by the President's Advisory Committee on Resources as well. If the issue proceeds beyond the committee stage, the Council will receive the issue and will ultimately vote on a formal resolution in support or opposition. This process is not being rushed by any artificial timetable associated with Trustee meetings, and the issues will be fully considered.
Finally, proposals involving the Upperclass Residential Life report are working their way through Academic Priorities and PACOR. I leave that issue to later discussions.
In my judgment, by its very nature
shared governance is a work-in-progress. I am proud to be part of a tradition
at Duke where talented faculty members of good will have worked hard to
make this institution stronger. We are joined in that effort by an impressive
group of administrators and senior officers. I do not claim that there
have been no rough points or that all our disagreements are in the past.
However, my perception is that we are all working hard at the task of shared
governance, with a good spirit, and with considerable success.
EdNote: Melissa Malouf (English department) published a novel, It Had to Be You, in 1997. Her story collection No Guarantees (1990), from which the following story is cited, was republished this fall. "The Golden Robe" won the Pushcart Prize in 1989.
THE GOLDEN ROBE
I am not going to put on the lady's golden robe, even though it is the color of the body of my son. It is too soon. The robe is so heavy in my hands and it is also so light that I can roll it into a ball and hold it next to me under one arm. It rests against my hip. I know of no smoothness that is so smooth as the golden robe. But not one time until last night did I show to the lady how much I have wanted to touch the robe with both my hands and dream of somebody else's life.
The lady said I was to die for. She said it on the first day that I was brought to her and on many days after that. She made me speak long American sentences to the ladies who came to play cards in her living room. I do not know why she wanted to die for me.
Last night the lady said to me that the golden robe was to die for and that I knew why. But now it is resting against my hip and I am not dead.
I am remembering the first day, one year ago. The lady was so angry at the weather, which was very cold. It was even colder than it is today. Her red hands took away my coat and they took away my sweater and then they turned me in a circle so that she could see my whole self. The lady said she knew that I was different from other wetbacks. She said that she wanted me to love my room. She said that my room had been specially designed by a designer of rooms.
My room is behind the kitchen where there are blue and red and green tiles on the floor and on the walls and on the counters. The tiles in the lady's kitchen were made in my country. The lady owns many precious objects that were made so long ago by the Mayan people of my country. Many times company has come to her house to touch these objects and to stare at her view of the ocean and to eat the food that her caterers make.
My room is next to the room where I have washed and folded the lady's large white towels and where I have ironed her heavy white sheets and where only one time did I stroke my face and my neck with her undergarments, which have no color.
I do not need a mirror to know how I will look when I put on the golden robe. But there is a mirror in my bathroom. I am the only one who is supposed to use my bathroom, but many times I have found the lady's old son with his lips loose against the seat of my toilet, sick with drunkenness, so heavy and so soft when I have tried to lift him up and send him back to his own place that is on top of the lady's garage.
He comes to this house for his meals every day. He does not speak to the lady. He has knocked on the back door and on the front door this morning, but I have not let him in. One time he came to my room and cried for so long when I refused to suckle him.
Yesterday I became forty-eight years old. I said to the lady when she came into my room last night that I would never let my son's two golden daughters die in a room like this, but the lady did not answer.
I am not afraid. I am not afraid of the red eyes of the lady's old son. I am not afraid of the black water that surrounded the boat that brought me here. I am not afraid of the lady's hands. I am not afraid of this place that they call in my own language Marina del Rey.
The walls in my room are gray. The blinds are white. The drawers are white. The carpet is black. The bedspread is black and white and gray. On the wall beside the bed is a large painting of black and blue streaks. The towels in my bathroom are dark red like the color of the blood of my son.
I am remembering when the lady had so much company that she wanted her old son to stay in his place on top of her garage. But he would not go. He stayed with me in the kitchen and drank his liquor and talked. I did not look at him too many times. He is an albino man. He told me that he wears white clothes to hide it. I told him that he looks as if he were designed by the designer of my room. He laughed. His lips were pink and wet the whole time. The lady's caterers pretended that he was not there, even though he talked very much.
He asked me many questions about my son. What does he look like? Once he was golden. Once? Now he looks like you. Like me? Now he looks like death. Where does he live? In a grave in the town of Concepci6n del Oro. He is dead? He could not swim fast enough. How old was he when he died? At the moment when the ocean filled his body he was very old. How old? Twenty-two. Was he married? He was. For how long? For three years that felt like three minutes. Children? Two. Boys? Girls. Where are they now? With the sisters at the Church of the Angels until I return. Was he brave? His hair was thick and wet. Was he strong? His dark eyes saw California. Was he handsome? He could not run fast enough. Can I stay with you when I take you back to your village? No. Can I stay with you? You cannot stay. Can I?
The lady's old son went to sleep on my bed. I sat on the white stool in my room and went to sleep two times. The second time I woke up and I knew that I must never put my brown hands around his white white throat and hold him tight against my hip. I woke up and I knew that his sickness was a sign. The lady's old son had vomited on the beautiful tiles on the kitchen floor many times.
I have cleaned all the tiles in the kitchen two times every week. One time every week I have polished the lady's silver. I do not like to polish the silver. In order to polish it I must look at it. I cannot look away. I always see my round brown face in the lady's shining silver trays. I do not see myself clearly, but I know that it is me.
I am remembering the silver vase that is so high and so wide that I must carry it with both my hands and still it is heavy. I had to see my face stretched out long and thin in the vase while I polished. I was not myself when I saw myself in that vase. Then I saw the lady's yellow hair and her long pink face in the vase next to mine. She smiled. In the vase the lady's smiling teeth were as long as the tiger's. I did not smile into the vase. But still we looked like long sisters. One pink, one brown, both silver. I could not make my eyes go away from those faces until the lady said to me that she wanted to wash my hair. I did not let her do that.
Now I will have to open the door and speak to the lady's old son. But first I must iron the wrinkles from the golden robe. The lady never put on the robe when it was wrinkled. She would always call someone who would come to her house and take the robe away. For a whole day the robe would be gone somewhere to be cleaned and ironed by strangers. Yesterday this happened. She would not let me do it. She did not worry when they took the robe away. I am the one who has always worried that they will lose it or steal it or forget to bring it back.
Last night I was asleep when the lady opened the door to my room and came in. She said for me to wake up and then she tried in my own language to wish me many more birthdays. She was wearing the golden robe. I was so happy that the robe was back with us. That was when I showed to her in my face what I had vowed not to show her.
She sat down on the end of my bed. She leaned her yellow hair against the gray wall and began to tell me her memories of many happy birthday parties. Her big teeth bit at her dry lips and made them bleed. Her long hands were red and so dry. They were holding a crystal goblet, like that of a priest. In the goblet there was milk mixed with liquor. The lady's yellow hair snapped from the static in the air. Strands of her snapping hair grabbed onto the gray wall where she was leaning. She ran one of her dry hands over the bedspread and laughed at the sparks that her hand made.
I got out of the bed. I put on my black sweater over my nightgown. I sat on the white stool in my room while the lady talked. The golden robe covered every part of her except her head and her hands. It also covered the bed and poured down onto the floor.
The lady drank from the goblet. She said that on her last birthday she gave herself the ruby ring that she wears on her right hand. She told me to look at the ring. She said that she might decide to give the ring to me. But I did not want to look at the ring because the lady's right hand was holding and rubbing her breasts. Her right hand with the ruby ring was moving the golden robe around and around her nipples. I did not want to look at the robe moving over and over the lady's breasts. It was my own breasts that the robe wanted most to touch.
I said that my year in her house was over. I said that her old son would take me back to my granddaughters. I said that I must go back. She could not make me stay. I said that I did not want the ruby ring. The lady pressed the golden robe between her legs.
I said that I did not know what to do.
The lady leaned toward me and I took the goblet from her. I drank some of the gray milk. She let the robe fall open. I did not want to see her soft pink body. I did not want to see her wrinkled stomach or her limp breasts that were swollen at the tips from rubbing.
The golden robe was everywhere.
The lady put some of it into her mouth. I knew that she wanted me to go into the robe with her. That is what she wanted me to do. Both of us inside the robe moving it over our breasts and between our legs in so smooth a circle many times. That is what she wanted us to do. She wanted us to love the robe. She took it out of her mouth and rubbed herself with the wet piece and said that I wanted it too, many times.
I told her that she must leave my room and that she must leave the golden robe with me. I do not know why I spoke to the lady as if I were the lady. I said that she will do as I say. I do not know why I said that. Then the lady stood up. Her yellow hair snapped and flew. She stood up so fast that the golden robe filled with air. The lady looked like a pink bat with golden wings that did not belong to it. The lady knew that is how she looked, but she did not care. I told her that she must leave the robe with me and that she must not move it over and over her breasts.
The lady laughed very loud. She brought the golden wings of the robe down and around me where I stood in front of the white stool in my room. When I did not let her kiss me on the mouth, she slapped me hard, two times, with the back of her hand. And then three more times. I slapped her back. I slapped the lady with the crystal goblet that was in my hand. I slapped it hard against her dry mouth and her pink ears. The rest of the gray milk splashed into her flying hair. The lady's face was bleeding. I hit her again. Then she fell down.
The golden robe was all over her. I could not see her. I did not want the blood from her face to soil the robe, so I removed it with both my hands because it is so heavy. I tried not to look at the lady curled up on the black carpet in my room.
Then she said that she wanted to give me something for my birthday. She said that she wanted to give me the golden robe.
That was all the lady said.
At home in my broken village I will put on the golden robe. Then I will stand atop the highest hill and look down upon the brown and yellow land that surrounds us. I will stare in the direction of the black and selfish ocean that gives me no peace. For many days I will supplicate the blank white sky while I feel the golden robe so smooth against my skin. The people of my village will gather at the bottom of the hill. They will gaze upon the golden robe for many days. And the ancient eyes that have lost their color will see that when I wear the golden robe I look like an Aztec princess. And the dead eyes that have watched the heavens every day and have seen always the same empty sky will believe that I look like an Angel of God. And the dark eyes that belong to the daughters of my son and have seen everything already will think that I look like the Statue of Liberty that stands somewhere in America.
THE FINAL DIFFERENCE
"There is no difference among men. . . so profound as that between the sick and the well."
--Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald's remark is a memorable instance of a true/false statement. It is profoundly true insofar as serious illness makes other forms of difference seem petty. An hour's walk through the Duke Hospital, with special attention, let's say, to the bone cancer unit or the MS ward, would probably lead most people to downgrade for a while their routine grievances about race, class, or gender. And there is no question that serious illness will be the path for most of us to the final difference, that between the living and the dead.
Even so, from another point of view Fitzgerald's statement is profoundly false. As important as one's body is to one's social identity-it is, after all, how we recognize each another-many of us feel in our bones that the deepest mode of identity is not constrained by one's bodily condition. That is why I do not respect any religious or social conventions that impose the slightest degree of inferiority upon women. It cannot be true that a woman's physical body denotes a lower status in any way whatever than another type of physical body. Widespread acknowledgment of that fact will hopefully be the main achievement of the coming century.
The same principle holds for the sick and the well. Perhaps theirs is the most profound difference among men, but beneath that difference is a common status of vulnerability that bridges the difference on every side. At this point, as a man who has been healthy his whole 63-year lifespan, I shall yield the floor to a someone who knows the subject vastly better than I.
Reynolds Price, whose A Whole New Life is a classic work about dealing with deadly illness, broadcast the following commentary on PBS radio a couple of years ago.
I became paraplegic ten years ago and, since, have spent my waking time entirely in a wheelchair. For five of those years, the country had no uniform code of accessibility for public transportation, for access to public buildings, or for hotel and restaurant accommodations. Then Congress passed a law which was widely trumpeted as emancipation for the millions of Americans who move through our midst with substantial deficits.
While the Act relies almost entirely on the good will of business, I--and many of my disabled colleagues--anticipated rapid improvement in those problems which have easy solution: the arrangement of public toilets, the small alterations in hotel and restaurant logistics which are vastly liberating. Long years later, I'm sad--no, I'm appalled--to say that improvement has lagged inexcusably nationwide.
I can't speak for opportunities which the Act may have created in the job world; but as a citizen whose work requires frequent travel, I can say that--on the road--I still expect to encounter, daily, ridiculous barricades: all of which are the result of either blindness on the part of the able-bodied, greed which prevents their compliance with the Act, or the ignorance and malice of those Americans who'd like to repel any customer whom they think might prove visually offensive to their able-bodied trade. (I've apparently been luckier than most; I've encountered only one hotel manager who told me that he didn't seek guests of "my kind.")
For now, I'll skip the difficulties of vehicular travel or of navigating our hopeless city streets and focus on a regular and predictable frustration--housing on the road. After explaining my simple needs to hotel reservation clerks and being assured of their ability to supply them, I arrive at a check-in desk, often late at night, to find one of two complications. They're generally articulated, by a nervous clerk, in more or less these words:
--"Yes, Mr. Price, the computer shows that your reservation called for a handicap-equipped room plus a connecting room for your assistant; but our afternoon clerk seems to have rented our only such combination to someone else."
--"Sorry, Mr Price, but our computer implies that those two rooms have an inner connecting door, when in fact they do not."
In either case, the clerk glances away in the desperate wish to dissolve.
In self-defense, I've developed a response. Clean and well-groomed, I sit squarely in my wheelchair, raise my voice slightly above the comfort level, and ask a justified question--"What do you propose to do about this problem you've created for yourself?"
The regulation answer is that the clerk has no authority to propose a solution and--far worse--that no adequate solution exists within the entire large building: standard-size wheelchairs, for instance, cannot pass through the normal hotel bathroom door; not to mention that, when a paraplegic is placed in bed and left alone behind a locked door, the telephone is his only lifeline; and phones fail immediately in most emergencies. Quadriplegics are worse off.
Occasionally, a first-class hotel will apologize and offer their most spacious suite (only the other day, a twenty-five story hotel in Nashville was reduced to providing me with a seven-room suite, all because they had only one handicapped room with a connecting door, and its occupant was refusing to depart as scheduled). So my assistant and I languished for two nights in Music City's very odd notions of grandeur. Since so much space must be in slim demand, the hotel was probably none the worse-off for that lavish concession to the simple needs of one citizen from the millions who share his physical impediment. With a relatively small expenditure, however, that hotel and its hundreds of clones around the nation could quickly convert enough rooms to meet most all needs. If and when the travel, restaurant, and hotel business decides to do so--and a welcome few have made the changes--I and my colleagues hope that they'll ask for advice from people with personal experience of disability: a grab bar, for instance, placed two inches above or below its best position is worse than useless. My hope is not only shared, it's the presently gutless law of the land, it's the course of plain human compassion, it's long-range fiscal good sense; and the owners of all unadapted real estate may wish to know what we gimps call the upright and walking: you're only the temporarily abled your selves. Never forget it.
EdNote: This is the last of four editorials on Difference.
The previous three were on Race, Class, and Gender.
Adventures inNoble Thinking
"What happened was this: I got an image in my head that never got out. . . , the kind which become more and more vivid for us as if the passage of time did not obscure their reality but, year by year, drew off another veil to expose a meaning we had only dimly surmised at first. Very probably the last veil will not be removed, for there are not enough years, but the brightness of the image increases and our conviction increases that the brightness is meaning, . . . and without the image our lives would be nothing except an old piece of film rolled on a spool and thrown into a desk drawer among the unanswered letters.
Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
Random Readings & Culture Studies
SELF-EFFACEMENT WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE
"[Brahms] was temperamentally uncertain of the value of his work. . . . His first published string quartets were preceded, he said, by twenty that have now disappeared. Trunkfuls of early works were burned. . . . But it was not merely the compositions of his youth that have gone forever. In 1880, when he was forty-seven, he played two new piano trios for Clara Schumann. She preferred the one in E-flat major. He burned it. The very large number of works that have survived-121 opuses-must be about one-third of his total output."
Charles Rosen, The New York Review of Books 10/22/98 (64)
SCIENCE FOR LAYPERSONS:
"Hubble telescope observations of Hale-Bopp showed the comet shedding nine tons of water each second."
Marcia Bartusiak, NYTBR 5/24/98 (15)
Query: If Hale-Bopp has been losing nine tons of water per second, how big was it a hundred, a thousand, or a million years ago?
The Faculty Forum is published monthly by the Academic Council of Duke University.
Editor: Victor Strandberg (English). Editorial Advisory Board: Matt Cartmill (Biological Anthropology & Anatomy), Howard Clark (Biomedical Engineering), Buford Jones (English), Seymour Mauskopf (History--on leave), and Kathy Rudy (Women's Studies).
The purpose of the Faculty Forum is to provide an opportunity for faculty members to discuss topics of common interest. The FF therefore welcomes, and indeed depends on, contributions by faculty members. Contributions may be published anonymously, but the editor will need to know the identity of all contributors so as to authenticate the contribution and permit appropriate editing procedures. We welcome fact, opinion, and creative whimsy from across the wide range of Arts & Sciences and Professional Schools--book reviews (new or reprinted), short essays, serendipitous items from random reading, and voices from the eternal kulturkampf. Contributions of every kind should be sent, in both print and (if lengthy) computer disk, to the editor,Victor Strandberg, in 315 Allen Building. Voicemail is 684-3976; no objection to calls at home, 489-5531. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org FAX (English department) is 919-684-4871. The deadline for submissions is about the 25th of each month.