The Faculty Forum
Vol. 9, No. 3 NOVEMBER 1997
"The most futile cry of the heart is the wish to be understood."
--Guy Davenport, reviewing Permanent Errors
(1970), by Reynolds Price
1. President's Annual Address to Faculty
2. Corless on Who Runs the University?
3. Fluke on Curriculum Reform
4. Possum (Passim)
5. Parrot's Recitations (Tennyson)
6. Ferret's Deconstructions (Shakespeare)
7. Editorial, Welcome Back, Beasties
8. Editorial Policy
9. Ednote: The Academic Council Minutes from 1993 to the present are on the Internet at
--by President Nannerl O. Keohane
Presented on October 16, 1997
As always, I welcome this opportunity to address the faculty of the university. Today I ask you to think with me about Duke's future, about choices we need to make in the years ahead, with as much clear-sighted vision and sound evidence as we can muster.
I want to use a framework from a source that may seem unlikely to you: the strategic planning exercises of successful business corporations.
Assessing Our Core Enterprise
We are accustomed to saying that universities and corporations are quite different, and this is true in many ways. Corporations, unlike universities, approach their work in terms of "the bottom line," maximizing shareholder value, increasing productivity. We have no simple bottom line at Duke, although in some specific parts of our organization we can and must think in these terms. We have no shareholders instead, to use contemporary business jargon, we have multiple "stakeholders," all the different constituencies who care about Duke and have a legitimate interest or stake in what we do here students, faculty, trustees, staff and employees, alumni, parents, townspeople, taxpayers, and prospective employers.
Our pricing structure is very different from that of a corporation, since we provide an implicit subsidy to every student who studies here rather than raising the price we charge to cover the full cost of our product.In fact, we have no clear-cut "product," but a mandate to carry out our missions of teaching, research and service (including patient care). These missions involve some kinds of "products," but many of the outcomes of our work are difficult to measure or assess. We must think of "productivity" in dealing with some of our auxiliary enterprises or administrative support services; but faculty members rightly resist any narrow definition of "productivity" in your work.
Teaching 200 students rather than 20, or teaching one more lecture class rather than advising graduate theses and completing a path-breaking paper, might seem to a naive observer more "productive," but imposing such definitions of "productivity" would quickly dilute the quality and resonance of what we do.
Given these significant differences between campus and corporation, it is easy to assume that all corporate insights are irrelevant or antithetical to universities. Yet we can learn some very useful things from corporate life in understanding and leading this complex enterprise. Our future success will depend to a significant degree on recognizing these dimensions of what we do, and responding appropriately.
Corporations are generally much better than universities at thinking in bold, hard-hitting and visionary terms about their future. Such strategic planning includes reflecting routinely on the environment in which the organization is imbedded and on the quality of the enterprise, and deciding how to invest selectively in those activities that are most likely to be fruitful and profitable in the future. In that sense, Duke is also a creative enterprise, and we need to think together, as a faculty and administration, about how we will invest our future efforts.
Let me suggest one model for doing this, drawn from the kinds of discussions corporate boards and management teams are used to having. Let's look at Duke's core activities under the following headings:
-- which of our core activities might we label as solid today, but with an unclear future?
-- which current activities would we identify as clear areas of growth?
-- which of our programs are comparatively weak, and are unlikely to continue to serve our students and faculty well in the future?
-- which general areas hold the most likely potential for future intellectual excitement and educational value, areas we may not have thought about much in the past?
-- and finally, from which direction are the most significant threats to our enterprise likely to come, in whatever future we can foresee?
Five rubrics, then: activities that are solid, but with an unclear future; current growth areas; relatively weak programs; and potential future opportunities as well as threats.
Of course I could not today provide a complete overview of which activities at Duke belong in which box, even if I were foolish enough to try. My major purpose is to encourage us faculty members, department and division chairs, deans and the senior officers to think along these lines in our own planning. To spur your thinking, I will provide a few suggestions.
A) under the heading of solid, future unclear, I believe we must include some of our most central enterprises: undergraduate liberal arts education, and the traditional programs leading to several of our professional degrees.
It is fashionable today to say that higher education will be faced, over the next few years, with a "tidal wave" of change that will require fundamental restructuring of everything we do in the face of demands from our customers, both family and corporate, and from our competitors, who will be swift to take advantage of the opportunities of new technologies to render traditional ways of learning obsolete. Medical care has indeed faced such a tidal wave of change in recent years, and according to these futurists, higher education overpriced, bloated, and stuck in its ways will surely be next in line.
I do not subscribe fully to this radical view of the future, for many reasons; but the futurists are right to warn us that we need to be more nimble, more ready to re-think traditional ways of doing things, more creative in embracing new technologies and new patterns of learning, and more self-critical in assessing the relative strengths and weaknesses of our activities, if we are to sustain our intellectual excitement and provide the best possible education to our students in every school.
It is surely true that some institutions, less solid than Duke, will have to undergo radical change. For us, the challenge is more subtle to embark on one of the recurrent exercises of serious self-scrutiny and re-adjustment that have marked the strongest institutions of higher learning across the decades.
The undergraduate education we provide is much sought after and highly prized today; but this demand for our "product" may not be deeply rooted. We need to consider the elements of the educational experience that make it worthwhile, and make sure we nourish and burnish them for the future. A baccalaureate degree from a well-regarded university, as the marker for the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood, will probably continue to be the goal for which many families in our society will strive. Those who can afford it will surely want their children to experience the full range of collegiate experience, including residential life, sports, extracurricular activities, study abroad, community service. But they will also press to be sure that the degree really provides "value for the money," in preparing their students for the world of the next century.
Fortunately, the data today demonstrate that a higher education does indeed return rich dividends in higher income and broader career opportunities. However, we cannot take for granted that many families will always be willing to invest in the intensive, expensive baccalaureate degree that we provide, unless we can continue to demonstrate that it really does provide "value added," compared with a range of new educational products provided by our competitors, which will surely proliferate in the years ahead.
In my view, the threat to undergraduate education at Duke, and places of Duke's caliber, comes more from the potential consequences of the growing economic inequality in our country than from fear that the market for the baccalaureate from a top private university will suddenly disappear. I worry that as novel and more accessible ways of getting a degree become more prominent, and some of our lower-priced competitors become more aggressive about marketing the advantages of their ways of learning, it will be harder and harder for poor or middle-class families to justify the cost of an elite private university, or even to consider it as they think about college.
As I emphasized in my report to you last year, we need therefore to be very aggressive about our financial aid policies, and conscious of our costs, lest Duke become a refuge only for the rich. Were this to happen, the quality of the education we provide would be impoverished by the homogeneity of the student body, and we would have failed in one of our most important missions, to educate leaders for the society of the future the whole society, not just the bastions of the few.
To carry out this mission without sacrificing the quality of what we do will require rethinking some of our traditional patterns of providing an education. For example: in what courses, and for what kinds of disciplines, is the traditional lecture course a good idea? Why have a professor standing in front of 50 or 200 students delivering information that could just as well be provided on videotape or on the Web? The answer to this question depends on the type of material and the professor's style. In some cases, the nuances of the material, the immediate interaction, the physical presence, the opportunity for direct engagement by the student and flexible reactions by the teacher, fully justify this learning-as-interactive- -theatre. In other cases, it could make more sense to employ video or computer instruction and use the professor's time to explore the material with the students in a seminar or tutorial style.
In such instances, the much-maligned term "productivity" does indeed have some uses in thinking about how faculty members use your time to best advantage for all our missions, including research as well as teaching and service. Unless we are willing to take a fresh and serious look at how time is used and rethink some familiar practices, we will have a hard time retaining both the intellectual freshness and the affordability of the undergraduate education we offer at Duke. And the pressures on faculty members for multiple uses of your time, with no time to pause and reflect, or to give to students who need it at the moment they need it most, will continue to build without relief.
The committee that produced our self-study report for the SACS compliance audit has focused our attention thoughtfully on these kinds of issues of balance and use of time. The establishment of Dean Chafe's new committee to review the curriculum in Arts and Sciences, chaired by Peter Lange, also gives us an excellent opportunity to ask and answer such questions.
Similar questions could be raised about the programs leading to many of our professional degrees. As the needs and expectations of career executives and professionals change rapidly in several fields, it is important that we keep current with the demands of our potential customers, those who hire our graduates. Fortunately, in each of our professional schools, such examinations are underway, indeed continuous. We are not content with solid programs from the past, knowing that such solidity may be founded on assumptions that were previously serviceable, but must now be revised. It is in these areas that many of the programs that we would count today as "growth stocks" may indeed be found.
B) which of our current programs are clearly growth enterprises? Each of you will have your own examples; I will cite only a few, mindful that I will probably leave out many you would name.
The GEMBA program in the Fuqua School is an excellent example of a bold new venture in education, building on traditional strengths and marketing them successfully in a changing environment for a changing clientele and a changing future. The robust and growing program of clinical research and clinical trials in the Medical Center is another. The School of Nursing's work in educating nurse practitioners to improve access to health care in rural areas in Eastern North Carolina also involves reaching out to a changing clientele in a changing environment.
Several partnerships with government, corporations and other universities in the School of Engineering have led to exciting programs, including the center for Emerging Cardiovascular Technology and The Center for Cellular and Biosurface Engineering.
In the Law School, areas of growth include programs focusing on dispute resolution, and the increasing emphasis on the education of lawyers from other countries. In the Divinity School, the developing programs in urban ministries, both in Durham and in providing models for this work for other "mid-size" cities.
In the School of the Environment, there are many growth areas, given the importance of this topic to our society today, including programs which deal with immediate societal issues such as coastal erosion or the effects of human beings on complex ecologies. Interdisciplinary work involving Arts and Sciences and several of the professional schools, including the health policy program and the proposed program on the study of democratic institutions are other good examples. The exciting new Brain Imaging and Analysis Center in the Medical School provides the core partnership for building our developing activities in cognitive neuroscience.
In Arts and Sciences, the African and African-American Studies program and the proposed program in child policy could be mentioned. The Kenan Ethics Program is an area of growth and intellectual excitement in which faculty members and students from almost every school are increasingly involved, as well as people from the community.
These are only a few of the many programs that could be noted across the university which are areas of robust growth, intellectual excitement, and solid appeal to our students in thinking about the future.
C) so which parts of our enterprise are relatively weak? By "weak" here I mean not programs that fail to meet quality standards which every program at Duke meets, but programs that are unlikely to be intellectually exciting and educationally productive in the future. By this definition, none of our schools is weak; but some of the programs within each school, and some of the interdisciplinary programs across schools, have probably outlived their usefulness. In an institution such as Duke, with a strong tradition of creative entrepreneurship and no "sunset laws," programs founded at one time by dedicated and involved faculty members may live on without the earlier sense of intellectual excitement and cutting-edge activity.
One might mention here some relatively narrow programs in area studies which have been or could be reformatted and rejuvenated by being embraced in a larger or more thematic enterprise, as our understanding of social, economic and political configurations changes. Or a few small Ph.D. programs offered by excellent faculty members which have been or will need to be phased out, simply because Duke's departments are too small to support a full Ph.D. program and there is not sufficient demand to justify our having such a program. Dissolving some of the weaker programs in order to redirect faculty time, energy and resources in other directions, will be essential if we are to navigate the challenging waters ahead.
When a president or provost talks about dissolving programs, the tendency of many faculty members is to reach for their wallets and raise the flag of academic freedom. Let me be clear that I am not talking about cutting back on faculty; Duke is not oversupplied with faculty, in any school; but the energies and commitments of faculty members are not always deployed in a way that will be most rewarding for you and most productive for the educational and research enterprise. Rethinking some of our programmatic structures in a truly bold way ought, in fact, to be invigorating for all of us, as well as professionally savvy in this changing world.
As Dean Dowell commented in describing some of the most exciting growth areas for his school, "the overarching point is that we expect to have a number of multidisciplinary, multiuniversity centers and programs that will have long but finite lives. And we believe this will be a major organizing paradigm for the future, complementing the traditional disciplinary, departmental foci."
D) what are the areas of future potential where we should be looking to place our bets, make our investments for the future?
The obvious answers here are in areas that may provide both popular and marketable new "products," and also a novel sense of intellectual excitement and entrepreneurship for the faculty. Several of the areas to which we should look for potential future development have already been suggested in the list of present growth areas, and thus are foreshadowed in programs that are already in place or in development.
I am thinking, for example, of global education, our commitment to make Duke a more international university. Global programs are complex and expensive, but as several of my examples show, they can be designed well and within our means, by choosing our targets and our allies carefully. Surely this will be one of the most exciting areas for potential future growth for Duke, including our programs in telemedicine which involve both classroom teaching and medical consultation.
Other examples include clinic programs for our professional schools, to use a generic term that covers several activities now in the planning stages or contemplated; or experiential education for undergraduates, combining classroom learning with community service as an area of potential future development.
Duke has some interesting comparative advantages in the field of "life long learning." We are located in an area that is attractive to retirees, and are blessed with a loyal and curious alumni body from every school. Our work in life long learning so far is concentrated in the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement, which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and some programs sponsored by the alumni association. There are also excellent short-course executive education programs for mid-career executives in several of the schools, especially Fuqua. Clearly there is much more we can do in this area, and we are being asked to do so by many potential customers.
In all of these areas of potential future development I have named, the role of information technology will be crucial. Many of you, individually, use information technology imaginatively in your teaching; almost all of you use sophisticated technologies in your research and scholarly communication. Some of the growth programs I have cited, such as Fuqua's GEMBA program, already rely heavily on such technologies. In other areas, especially the School of Engineering, there are bold new steps such as the exciting Center for Computational Science and Engineering that involves faculty from virtually every school at Duke.
But collectively, as a university, Duke is in the early stages of exploring and taking advantage of technology in the curriculum. We have some great opportunities before us to use technology more imaginatively to enhance learning for generations of students who are already familiar with these methods and themselves proficient in their use. We must do so wisely and thoughtfully, remembering the fundamental importance of the teacher/student relationship the physical presence and direct interaction at the core of what we do, which is part of what makes Duke distinctive and exciting. Duke will never become a "virtual university." The sense of place and people are too central to our identity, and our success in carrying out our particular mission. But there are many ways in which we can enhance our work in teaching and learning through the imaginative use of technology.
In this and other areas, I believe that much of our future potential comes in continuing to build partnerships, especially with other universities in our region. In the 1930s, bold leaders on our campuses created the Triangle Library Consortium, which has served us remarkably well across the decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, equally bold leaders envisioned the Research Triangle Park. Now it is our turn to think with equal boldness about how we can take advantage of the close proximity of some excellent neighbors who share many of our goals and face many of the same dilemmas, so that we work together more imaginatively and much more seriously to build the future.
These and other opportunities offer a vision of a bold new world in which Duke can venture with exciting new programs, at the same time that we keep our eyes on our core missions and distinctive advantages.
E) However, as is always the case in bold new worlds, there are some pitfalls of which we should be mindful. I shall be dealing here only with potential internal threats and dangers.
Much of the danger facing higher education, I believe, comes from too great a degree of complacency, clinging to a status quo that threatens stagnation and mediocrity while others are changing with changing demands. Complacency, fortunately, has not been a hallmark of this restless, entrepreneurial university, and if we adopt the mindset I have been describing, complacency will not be a major problem.
I do fear, however, that we will be subject to what is sometimes called the "NIMBY" syndrome not in my backyard. People at Duke may agree, that change is needed and be enthusiastic about change that involves growth or new opportunities. But like most universities, we are much less willing to face the tough choices that must be made to redirect resources to our highest priorities. Every unit in the university is likely to assume that making the choices is somebody else's responsibility, and that in any case one's own particular enterprise should be preserved and allowed to expand.
I also worry about internal divisiveness and fragmentation, along some of the fault lines that have been highlighted by recent episodes on campus. I fear mutual suspicion, distrust or disdain among us, rooted in the failure to recognize that all of us black and white, Hispanic and Asian, gay and straight, managers and workers -- all of us --, are part of Duke, and each person here deserves to be treated with respect and given a chance to flourish. Such divisiveness is a corrosive force which fortunately has been kept mostly in abeyance this fall as we have tried to tackle issues around race and now sexual preference, but it always lurks in the background in institutions like our own, and has great power to divide us and deflect us from our goals.
I fear as well the consequences of an overdeveloped and cumbersome bureaucracy, layered in over many years of well-intentioned accretions but now creating byzantine obstacles to many ordinary activities, much less purposeful change. I am sure that every one of us could give multiple examples of how bureaucracy has placed apparently mindless obstacles in the way of getting something accomplished, or required of you something whose purpose you cannot fathom.
For many rules, there are good reasons; but we need to prune away those that are no longer reasonable, and explain better the smaller number that remain. And we need to be aware that many policies here that keep the place running more or less smoothly by a kind of common law occasionally blow up in our faces, as with the bridge-painting policy last week. The whitewashing of the gay slogans was directly in opposition to our university's policy of non-discrimination against gay people. Those who did the whitewashing were following a policy apparently of long standing about painting out the bridge that most of us in the senior administration knew nothing about.
We need to provide some scope for judgment for all our employees rather than trying to routinize everything they do; but we must also get a handle on and revise policies that are athwart our fundamental goals. Much of what we need to do is through better training and persuasion, to make sure that all employees understand the depth and seriousness of Duke's commitments to diversity and inclusiveness for all members of this community, and are held accountable for sustaining those commitments.
Issues of Governance
Given the complexity of some of the internal pitfalls I have just sketched out in a university such as Duke, it is not surprising that, along with the futurists who predict that campuses are about to be swamped by a tidal wave, there are those who say that universities cannot expect to deal with the major challenges of the future with our current cumbersome governance structure. These observers compare the tradition of faculty governance that characterizes a university with the relatively straightforward, hierarchical authority of the CEO of a corporation. How can we make the needed changes on campus, they say, without first changing this outmoded structure?
The answer, it is often said, is to provide greater power to the president, so that he or she can get on with the job that needs to be done. I understand the impulses behind this critique, and I confess that I sometimes find it tempting; but I think the answer is far too simplistic.
Drawing on my background as a political theorist in a recent address to a group sponsored by the Association of Governing Boards, I described the current governance structures of universities as "Madisonian," meaning that our governance emphasizes checks and balances, multiple power centers, in much the same way that our federal constitution is designed to work. I spoke of the alternative of giving more power to the president as "Hamiltonian," after Alexander Hamilton's preference for a more monarchical structure. At certain points in the past, there would also have been support for a more "Jeffersonian" structure, in which power devolves even more radically to the faculty and students.
I believe that only a Madisonian model, allowing some appropriate voice and authority to each of the major core constituencies that comprise the university, can preserve both the integrity and the basic missions of universities today. However, higher education's version of Madisonian governance is much better at blocking unwanted action than at gathering a consensus for change; much better at protecting individual interests than focusing on the common good. I believe that we must address this issue, enriching those parts of our governance structure that are open to change and dedicated to the good of the whole university.
Such an enrichment at Duke will depend greatly on faculty leadership and participation. It will also depend on a realistic acceptance of both the necessary scope of, and the limitations on, the power of the president, the deans, the provost, and other officers.
So we must move in concert, supporting and spurring one
another, keeping our eyes on the prize and our energies unflagging, making
sure that we focus together on those things that are truly important for
Duke University. Only if we use our governance structure in this way to
make needed changes rather than remaining narrowly protective of the status
quo will we be able to build on the foundations of excellence laid by our
predecessors as leaders of Duke, and sustain Duke's trajectory of remarkable
achievement in the years that lie ahead.
Who Runs The University?
--by Roger Corless (Religion)
Who Runs The University? The Politics of Higher Education in Hawaii, 19851992. By David Yount. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. xii + 403 pages. Paperbound. $21.95.
The title grabs you, doesn't it? When I saw the book on display at Border's in Honolulu, I pulled it down and bought it almost automatically. It's the question we have asked ourselves for so long. Does it finally give us the answer? Yes, I think it does. Although it is a case study of a seven year period in the history of the University of Hawaii, its implications are broad enough for anyone who is a teacher or administrator in any college in the USA to draw conclusions about what is going on at their own institution.
Yount was a mild-mannered professor of physics who, after having accepted, with commendable reluctance, administrative duties, turned into Super Sleuth. When he was appointed Vice President for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus, under the presidency of Albert "Al" Simone (from August 1985 until August 1992), he approached his job with the same combination of involvement, objectivity, and attention to detail that he had been trained to give to his scientific experiments. He made notes of every telephone conversation and every committee meeting. He kept every letter and memo, even including attached post-it stickers, that came across his desk. He researched the publicand, so far as was possible, the privatelives of his fellow administrators. At the end of his administrative term he had amassed a data base of approximately 45,000 documents totaling 228,000 pages, and on the basis of this he wrote his 400 page analysis.
Yount's devotion to detail is staggering. He does not merely note, for example, that President Simone often canceled pre-arranged meetings and was late for many more, he records precisely how many meetings were called, when they were called, who they were called with, how many were canceled, and the average delay in starting meetings that were actually held. He then interprets his data with Olympian detachment, leaving us wondering whether we should laugh or cry:
Recalling that the average delay in starting times was 29.8 minutes for meetings with the author, 18.3 minutes for meetings with the University Executive Council, and 12.3 minutes for meetings with the deans and directors, it seems that Simone's lateness syndrome was mitigated somewhat by having larger audiences. Nevertheless, each of these cases represents a colossal and unnecessary waste of other people's time: half a person-hour per meeting for me, 6.5 person-hours per meeting for the University Executive Council, and 10.3 person-hours per meeting for the deans and directors. (page 31)
Following standard practice for a scientific report, Dr. Yount states his thesis at the beginning and then presents the evidence to support it. The thesis, taken from a statement of Manoa Chancellor Dick Takasaki, is worth quoting in full.
Both the collegial and bureaucratic models by themselves seem unreal to the decision making world of the university. A third model, the political model, which recognizes the conflicts among students, faculty, departments, colleges, administration, and the external community as normal, has emerged. Under this model, decision making is viewed not as a matter of consensus as in the collegial model, or a matter of direction as in the bureaucratic model, but a matter of negotiations, bargaining, and conflict resolution through a political decision making process. (page x)
At the end of the book he claims that he has proved his point:
It is my thesis and my conclusion that no single person or constituency is running the University, nor should any single person or constituency be held accountable for the result. Regardless of how it should be, that is the way it is. (page 360)
Many of us may have felt for some time that this is the way it is, but we have relied upon hunches and random anecdotes. The strength of Yount's argument is the care with which he has amassed and presented his data. This make it difficult to dismiss him as a disaffected, cynical old codger. We are compelled, or at any rate this reviewer is compelled, to accept his conclusion.
Some of the features of Yount's book are only tangentially, or not at all, relevant to a private university like Duke, since he is dealing not only with a state university, but a state university with a special relationship to the culture of its region. Hawaii, 2,000 miles from the United States mainland, equidistant between Chicago and Tokyo, a comparative latecomer to the Union, has managed to preserve, even in the face of haole domination, Asian commercial takeovers, and endless tourists seeking to "get lei-d in Hawaii", a considerable amount of national (as the residents sometimes call it) pride. It is against the law, for example, to give a foreign (i.e., English) name to a new street. A Hawaiian name must be used, and it must be correctly spelled, using, if the name requires it, the kahako (macron) and the 'okina (the sign for the glottal stop) which visitors find so exotic. It isn't Kansas.
These idiosyncracies do not detract from the book's more general usefulness. We can all relate to chapters with titles like "The Executive Council: A Web of Tensions", "The Pursuit of Excellence: Going for the Gold" and "Alphabet Soup". As I read, I changed the names a bit, and felt (unfortunately) right at home. Other readers might extrapolate a little more than I did, especially if they are more aware than I am of the play and the players at Duke.
"Play" is, according to Yount, a very appropriate word. He starts to use it as a metaphor, but it begins to appear more and more like a straightforward description. Since Hawaii has a large Japanese population, many University of Hawaii administrators are of Japanese origin. It therefore occurs to Yount to use the trope of shibai, taken from Noh theater, to explain what is going on. He translates shibai as "drama, a staged production". It has the general meaning that, as an artistic device, the important events occur off stage and the audience has to infer most of the plot from what little it is allowed to see on stage. My Japanese dictionary therefore suggests "fake, put-up job" as derived meanings.
What he means is that the goings-on that we see, that are made public, have no direct relationship to what is really happening behind the scenes. We see certain actors playing certain roles, with the aim of "present[ing] to the public a facade that is at all times pleasant and harmonious" (page 113, et passim) while the real negotiations are hidden from view. Speaking of the qualifications of H. Howard Stephenson for the position of Chair of the Board of Regents (July 1991 to February 1992), Yount says:
[Stephenson] was eminently presentable. He kept the peace, protected the reputation of the Board, and presented to the public a facade that was at all times pleasant and harmonious. In other words, if meetings of the Board are viewed as pure shibai, then Stephensonwas ideally cast to improve the image of the University and mask the politics inside. (page 145)
Less than 1%, he asserts, of what occurs inside a university administration is visible on the outside (page 34). But, he says, this does not necessarily entail deceit on the part of administrators, it is simply an unavoidable effect of the mass of paperwork. Yount calculates that if the parents of every student wrote one letter to the president a year, the president of a university the size of the University of Hawaii would receive 274 letters a day, year round, and if every parent insisted on meeting with the president once a year for thirty minutes, the president would be committed to 50,000 hours of interviews even though "there are fewer than 9,000 hours in a year" (page 33). The president, although responsible for everything that happens in the university, can have no more than a superficial knowledge of, perhaps, 10% of what goes on, and middle management can only have "a limited awareness of activities outside of their special areas of responsibility and experience" (page 34).
If the president of a university does not know what is going on in their university, who does? Yount suggests that, for the University of Hawaii, it was Al Simone's secretary, Jean Imada, "who received all materials addressed to the president, read them or scanned them, and recommended appropriate action; who scripted the president's calendar and called his attention to the pitfalls and dangers; and who gave the president advice on every subject from how to dress to how to deal with a foreign dignitary or an irate student or dean" (page 34). She thus functioned as "information coordinator, office manager, and de facto chief of staff" (page 35). One might assume that, if one sent a message to the president and received a reply, that one had received a reply from the president. More than likely, however, even if the reply were signed by the president, it had come, effectively, from Jean Imada. She was the real power at the hub.
Now, we might ask, how is it at Duke? If Yount's thesis is applicable here, and there seems to be no reason why it is not, we can be assured that Nan Keohane receives too much mail (including, nowadays, electronic mail) for her to attend to in person, and we must assume that much of what apparently comes from her is largely or wholly the work of Judith White, or of someone delegated by her. My own experience of communicating with the president is that I have received a speedy and enthusiastic reply referring me to some other office of the university. Generally, I have addressed the president because I have run into a problem dealing with just that other office, and it is disappointing to be referred back to that office.
Finding myself back at the office with which I had the original problem, I then discover that the denizens of that office are largely or wholly unaware of the scope of my problem since, as Yount found at Hawaii, much of it falls outside their area of responsibility and experience. Only the president, as the person at the top, could be expected to be aware of all the ramifications of the problem. But, she cannot possibly, in fact, be aware of all the ramifications, as there are too many ramifications. Therefore, she passes it back down the line (or, perhaps, it never gets to her and is bounced back down by Judith), and I find myself stuck in a loop. How I get out of the loop, or how to prevent such loops in the first place, is unclear. We need those other offices because the work load is too much for one person or office. But the proliferation of offices leads not only to middle-management myopia and the shuffling around of responsibility ("That is not the responsibility of this office" or "The memorandum to which you refer did not emanate from this office") but it generates more paperwork, creating a need for more offices.
As an example of the blinkered over-specialization of offices, which resulted in many people being inconvenienced without anyone being clearly to blame, and without anyone even, it seems, wanting the events to occur in the first place, I instance the pseudo-epic of my relocation from an office in one building to an office in another.
I had been happily inhabiting room 408 Perkins, to which I had been moved some years ago when somebody important wanted my office in Carr Building, surrounded by all the books and files which I needed. It was a large office, in fact one of the largest on campus, so I was able to keep everything, just in case it might be needed someday, and the books, as they have a way of doing, continued to grow in number. Then came the news, in a postscript to an E-mail from the Departmental Chair, Bruce Lawrence, about something else, "By the way, do you know you'll have to move your office?" No, I didn't, and I tried to find out who had decided that I had to move. The Chair said that he had been told this by Cathy Callemyn of Facilities, Arts and Sciences. Cathy said that "a decision had been made" to consolidate faculty in their departments. Since 408 Perkins had come to be (for it was not always so) located within the territory of the Department of Political Science, and my appointment is in the Department of Religion, I, as a wanderer and a sojourner, must go to be amongst, as it was assumed, my own people.
Since I am a specialist in Chinese Buddhism, the scholarly advantage of physical proximity to the learned colleagues of my department, the majority of whom are specialists in the Bible, was not immediately evident. Indeed, 408 Perkins is next door to a professor whose native language is Chinese, and in any case, hadn't I read somewhere that Duke University wished to encourage interdisciplinary activity amongst faculty? How is that helped by lumping all faculty in one department together, so that they are encouraged to think in lock step? That memo, I suppose, emanated from another office.
At any rate, "a decision had been made". By whom? Cathy said "by the University". I thought it improbable that the University had spontaneously acted in this way, and I asked which individual had made the decision. Well, Bill Chafe had formed a committee to look into the problem of space. So, Bill had made the decision? No, he's just the Chair of the Committee. So, the Committee had informed Cathy that I should be moved? Not exactly. I began shouting, and Cathy said "I'm sorry you're upset" and I stormed off.
In search of the chain of command, I entered a building, lurking somewhere between the University and the Hospital, known as the Facilities Center where, I was informed, resided the nerve center of relocations, under the command of Bob Barkhau. There I found, at first, Nancy Thomas, whose card proclaimed her to be Administrative Assistant to the Director, Facilities Management Department. Aha! Now we're getting close! I asked Nancy for the organizational chart of her Department. She was pleasant and helpful and asked which of the eight organizational charts I would like to see. "The one with Cathy Callemyn and Bob Barkhau on it" I innocently replied. "Oh, no, they are in Facilities, Arts and Sciences. That's down the hall." "What might be the difference?" "Facilities Management has control over moving and storage space, but not over office space. Facilities Management works with Facilities, Arts and Sciences, when an office move has been mandated, on renovation and maintenance, but has nothing to do with the actual move."
So, down the hall I went in search of Bob Barkhau, but he wasn't in, and he didn't respond to his page. I asked who he reports to, thinking I could miss out a step. Well, as the Staff Architect, he is "affiliated" with the office of the University Architect, John Pearce. "Does this mean that he reports to John?" "Not exactly." "So, where could I find the organizational chart on which he appears?" "I think Mary Jacobs (in Bill Chafe's office) may have it" said the secretary. Running into Bill at some function or another, I asked him if he knew who had given the relocation order. "E-mail me and I'll look into it" he said. I did, and he (or an assistant?) replied, by an E-mail message dated Thursday, 27 February, 1997, "We discussed it in staff and they're finding the answer I hope."
I had gone to the top, and the trail, I thought, had gone cold. But it had not. A paper memo to me from Bill's office, initialed by him (or someone authorized to initial his memos) and dated March 11, 1997, proclaimed that "it is essential that you be relocated within your department". It had taken a mere twelve days for his staff to find the answer to my question, and, unafraid to let the blame fall where it may, they had discovered that the perpetrator was none other than the Dean of the Faculty himself. The move, the memo went on to say, "should afford additional opportunities for growth and exchange of ideas" since I would be "housed with [my] colleagues". In the event, I have been housed in 317 Gray Building between the unisex bathroom and a professor in the Divinity School (which, to the untrained eye, and even to the person who entitled the memo "Office Space in Divinity", is part of the same building, but the wise will discern the thin but definitive Normative Barrier that separates Gray Building from Old Divinity Building). The best part of this arrangement is the bathroom which is, by comment consent, the most elegant in either building and which, once I am inside, becomes mine exclusively since, by North Carolina law, I am required to lock the door behind me.
The memo enthusiastically stated that the author supported the Department Chair and the Facilities Office (it did not specify whether it meant the Office of Facilities, Arts and Sciences, or the Office of Facilities Management) "in being resourceful towards locating an office for you". This meant, in English, that there wasn't an office for me at the time that the memo was written. So, at first it was proposed that the departmental secretaries' lunch space, grandly known as the Departmental Lounge, which had been an office but had been converted into a loungette when the real Department Lounge had been converted into an inner and outer office combo for the previous Chair who, it was rumored, would not Chair without such commodious space, would be converted back into an office, which I would inhabit with great pomp, it being centrally located and I, at the time, being honored as the Director of Undergraduate Studies (a minor administrative post whose duties were never made clear to me). The Departmental Loungette having been thus destroyed, a Departmental Mini-Loungette would be created by converting an even smaller room across the hall which had been an office but which had been converted into the copy and supplies room. There being, in consequence, no longer a copy and supplies room, the copy machine and supplies would be moved back across the hall into the main Department Office. Since the copy machine and supplies would thus be required to occupy a room that did not exist, a copy and supplies roomette would be created by the simple addition of a false wall or two erected in the main office.
This, I thought, was entirely too resourceful, and I wondered about alternatives. It turned out that a colleague had just retired and left the area. The office he had occupied, on the third floor, next to the unisex bathroom aforementioned, was not a serious one, since he was on half time during his exit year and so had graciously given up his real office to a younger colleague, but it was already an office and did not need converting. However, it was less than one quarter the size of the office from which I was being ejected, so it had to be modified to accommodate my files and books and, at the same time, to compensate me somewhat for the inconvenience, it was to be provided with new furniture, carpet, and so forth. Even so, it could not possibly hold everything that was in the old office, so it was resourcefully decided to convert a storage room down the hall, which had been converted into an office, into a combination storage room and graduate students' computer cluster, and to equip it with locking bookcases for my use.
The process of conversion then began. I spare the reader the details of sub-contractors' delays, suppliers' mistakes, and miscommunications between the Office of Facilities, Arts and Sciences and the Office of Facilities Management. The memo bearing the initials of Bill Chafe was "confident that the move will be handled smoothly and with as few interruptions to [my] professional work as possible" over what it called "the next couple of weeks". The memo, remember, was dated 11 March 1997. Today, 25 October 1997, the move is not yet complete. The locking bookcases, when they arrived, turned out to be half-height kitchen cabinets fitted with locks, entirely inadequate for the quantity of books they were supposedly designed to hold, and inconveniently positioned over the computer desks rather than, as I had fantasized, opposite them. Where the files are to go, even after many of them, which I have found to be quite outdated, have been discarded, is not yet apparent. I am continuing, therefore, to be resourceful.
I wish to emphasize that during this entire tragi-comedy, which could at best result in my having an office in which I was surrounded by all the books and files which I needed, just as I was before the move, no-one was impolite or unprofessional. Everyone was doing his or her job according to the mandate of his or her office, everything was, administratively speaking, working perfectly. But, stepping back from the events only a little, it is obvious that a disruptive disaster had been engineered for which, however, no-one could be held accountable. I might also say that it was costly, although I have no idea of the budget involved, but in the context of an institution that has declared a $9,000,000 surplus, that hardly seems to matter.
The fact that the System tripped over itself so consistently in such a trivial matter as a faculty member's office move bodes ill for more important matters. The attack on the SHARE living group, for example.
The selective house which called itself Student Housing for Residential and Academic Experimentation (SHARE) was founded, with full administrative support, in 1970. The administration supported it because its mandate fitted the responsibility and experience of one or more of its offices (and, perhaps, it was a kinder, gentler administration back then). It was to be an academically elite group of students, chosen from applicants who were already in Program II or some kind of independent study, in order to stem the tide of anti-intellectualism with which, the administration had decided, Duke University was at that time afflicted. It was also to put an end to freshmen dormitories, which had been declared a failure. SHARE, however, quickly went its own way. Without in any way abandoning academic seriousness (last year it produced the Churchill Scholar in Mathematics) it opted to try for diversity of living styles to enhance the quality of the undergraduate residential experience. It continued this dual experimentation, as it were balancing the "A" and the "R" in its name, becoming a haven for undergraduates who, while perfectly competent academically, did not fit in with the general social scene of booze and date rape, and were not comfortable looking like a J. Crew model. The SHARE students were definitely my kind of undergraduates. I found that their curiosity about the ultimate questions (which is another name for religion) was far above the average for Duke, and I developed an informal association with them for fifteen years. SHARE was also playful and mischievous, questioning authority. It was the gadfly, the court jester -- everything, indeed, that I thought characterized a superior undergraduate education. If, I tell my students, you get out of here without your presuppositions having been seriously challenged, you have wasted your time, my time, and your parents' money. Administrators don't like gadflies and they don't like to be made fun of, especially when the cartoon hits home, but for many years it didn't bother SHARE because it was on East Campus.
East Campus, you may remember, used to be the Duke Coordinate School for Women or, more simply, the Women's College. As such, it had an identity. It knew what it was. When Duke University went co-educational, largely as a result of the success of SHARE (which had been established, on the women's campus, as an experimental co-educational dormitory, and which renamed its space from Faculty Apartments to Wilson House, after Mary Grace Wilson, a former Dean of the Women's College who was opposed to co-educational living groups) East Campus suffered an identity crisis. It didn't have any serious stuff like science going on, it was all about art and music, the library held the art collection and the lighter kind of reading that was thought suitable for Southern ladies, and it was where students ended up if they couldn't get housing on West but were able to avoid going to Trent. The physical plant reflected the administrative neglect. Buildings were crumbling and many were condemned, sometimes more than once (although most of them were saved at the last minute), air-conditioning was unknown, pathways were overgrown, lights were infrequent and mostly burnt out, and there was a general air of decay. In this environment, SHARE flourished, because there was no office in the administration that cared about it.
In 1995, all that changed. That was the year that East Campus became, twenty-five years after all-freshman dormitories had been abandoned as failures, The Freshman Experience. The year before, the so-called possibility of converting East Campus to the First Year Campus had been publicly debated but, of course, the debates were shibai. While the debates were being staged on West Campus, massive renovation was taking place on East Campus. Little attention was paid to this, though I do remember reading something about it here and there, because the spotlight and the footlights had been turned on the Possibility Discussions. Faculty were permitted to present their objections and students were allowed a photo opportunity in a little camp out in front of Allen Building, and then the decision was announced: In the best interests of all, and so on and so forth, East Campus will become the First Year Campus. And behold! what a beauty we espied! Cute, wiggly red brick walkways, no weeds, lots of bright lights after dark, every building renovated (although the East Campus Cultural Center, which we were told would be preserved, was razed to make way for two big dormitories with small rooms), and air-conditioning frequently, though not universally, present. A very attractive spot to show to the parents.
SHARE was, thus, in trouble. It was cross-sectional (administrative-ese for "containing students from all four undergraduate years") and it was messy. It kept telling the truth as it saw it about Duke and, horror of horrors ("What will the parents think?") it contained a significant minority of students who were not only gay and lesbian but comfortable about being "out". Falling, for the first time for twenty-five years, under the direct scrutiny of the administration, it did not fit the responsibility and experience of any office, and it was therefore a nuisance, and it was told to go. But it wouldn't go quietly, it made a fuss, and a fuss is upsetting, especially when it gets in the papers, because it destroys the facade that everything is at all times pleasant and harmonious. So, it was given a two-year reprieve.
When, in 1996, as the culmination of my fifteen-year informal association with SHARE, I was invited to be, and duly appointed as, Faculty-in-Residence for Epworth/SHARE, I had only the vaguest inklings of trouble ahead, even though I knew my case was special. The Faculty-in-Residence program, administered at that time by the Office of the Dean of Trinity College, assigned Faculty-in-Residence to any dormitory that had a vacant faculty apartment, and the Office of Student Development assigned students to any vacant beds. But, I and Epworth/SHARE were different. We had chosen each other, and the administration had, I assumed, given us its blessing. Enough paperwork had been generated that all parties had been made aware of what was going on, and there had been no objections.
I can see now that, not having had the benefit of Yount's book, I made some naive assumptions which led to my having a very rude awakening indeed when, at the conclusion of the first year of my three year appointment, on the Friday of Commencement weekend, the Office of Student Development "regretfully" reversed an earlier decision, which we had successfully appealed, and took SHARE away from me, placing freshmen in Epworth and "expanding" (as the administrative double-speak has it) many rooms from doubles to triples.
A residential group that had solved many of the problems which were discussed in detail, and frequently reported as intractable, at the Duke Symposium on Diversity (which opened, ironically, in the Bryan Center on 28 February 1997, the very afternoon that the first salvo was fired against Epworth/SHARE by the Office of Student Development) had been identified, not as a solution but as a problem, and was scheduled for removal. I countered that the academic and residential environment was, in my experience, the best at Duke; I argued for the value, in academic and residential terms, of a cross-sectional house on the First Year Campus; and I pointed out that we were only talking of fifty bed spaces out of a few thousand. These arguments, I now realize, were futile, because they addressed issues that, although individually falling within the responsibility and experience of one office or another, were not, taken together, the within the responsibility and experience of any one office. No-one, except myself and the students, could see the big picture, and realize that it was worth preserving. The little pictures were either fine as they were, or they were messy.
The Faculty-in-Residence program was untroubled by the movement of students, since as long as there was a Faculty-in-Residence actually in residence in each faculty apartment, there was no problem. The Office of Student Development, however, was troubled because it did not have total control of its bed spaces. The Office of Student Development needs such control because it knows that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions will matriculate more students than there are available bed spaces, and the Office of Student Development must find beds for all incoming students because it has been policy for some time (from I know not what office), to require freshmen to live on campus. Unless the Office of the University Architect (or would that be the Office of the Staff Architect?) authorizes and constructs a new dormitory every year, the Office of Student Development will have to "expand" its presently available space. Even if a new dormitory were to go up every year, the problem would remain, because the Office of Undergraduate Admissions would still matriculate too many students. It always does. I have heard the cry "too many students, too few beds" every year of my quarter-century at Duke, despite the construction, over those years, of Central Campus Apartments, Edens Quad, and the aforementioned big dormitories with small rooms on the site of the East Campus Cultural Center.
Apart from this enforced number crunch, which is already out in the open, and can be made to appear morally neutral, and which was therefore used as the shibai for the rending of SHARE, there is the partially hidden problem of messiness. Queer students, like African-American students, are great to have around in theory, but in practice, they mess up the privileged, white, upper-income, heterosexual image of the squeaky-clean Freshman Experience. Parents, it was feared, might get upset. Maybe some parents, and maybe they were some of the very rich parents, got very upset indeed, and called the Office of Student Development, or the Office of the President (encountering Judith White but perhaps not Nan Keohane) and made a fuss about queers. If so, nothing of this will ever come to the light of day. Homophobia may have been the most important motivation for the attack on SHARE, but we can be certain that we shall never know for certain.
As I say, I was an innocent abroad when all this was happening. My arguments, though strong and valid, had no audience, because there was no office equipped to deal with them. What we could and did do was make a fuss, and get in the media, making it clear that everything was far from pleasant and harmonious. That gave us a stay of execution until the shibai of numbers could be played more effectively. Having been largely isolated by the administration and, when mentioned at all, characterized as "an environment where freshmen do not feel comfortable", since our frehsmen, who enjoyed Epworth/SHARE, were not consulted -- we had difficulty recruiting, and our numbers dropped further. The problem was, rumor and innuendo has it, known to the Office of Student Development at least two weeks before the end of the academic year, yet the Office of Student Development waited until he very last day "regretfully" to break the news, Assistant Dean Bill Burig stating that some people might think that the announcement had been left until most people had left campus so that nothing could be done to appeal the decision.
Where was I in all of this? Gate-crashing the meetings, since I had not been consulted, by anyone or any office at all, throughout the entire sorry business -- until the very end, when my presence at meetings had become expected and so I was brought into the shibai. There was, and still is, no Office of Epworth/SHARE Development, so my contract with Epworth/SHARE, which was fully documented, was nobody's responsibility.
My naivete was to assume that because Duke is a university and because it had an excellent and fully functioning academic and residential environment that was a model of student-student and student-faculty interaction, it would seek to preserve SHARE and, if it discovered that it was in trouble, it would go out of its way to help it. If it had, Duke would have shown itself to be functioning on the collegial model, which is what, ostensibly, universities are all about. When Duke did not function this way, I made my second mistake. I assumed the bureaucratic model, and I looked for some line of command that had directed the breakup of Epworth/SHARE. Not finding it, I was puzzled, until I read Yount's book. What I should have done, I now realize, is to have formed an Office of Epworth/SHARE Development, made myself its Director, appointed an array of associates, assistants, and secretaries, and generated so much paperwork that any attempt to break up Epworth/SHARE would have been impossible, since every memo to that effect would have been answered by two or three counter-memos, keeping the enemy permanently at bay.
Why, then, are teaching and learning, and collegiality, lost at institutions which are founded to support these values? Those of us inside a university tend to place the blame on the administration, but Yount shows that there is seldom individual malice (although there is often some fancy footwork which outwits the less nimble) and he lays the blame on our entire culture which, led by the federal government (which holds so many of the university's purse strings), has developed "a national predilection to be less efficient and more controlling, to be less great and more comfortable, to do less research and more accounting" (page 204; cf. page 202 et passim). As the government (federal and, in so far as it is applicable, state) becomes more centralized and bureaucratic it requires the universities to which it gives accredition and funding to respond with their own expanded bureaucracy and attendant increased paperwork. Yount, as we would expect, provides many examples of this trend, with figures, but we can probably think of enough instances on our own.
I conclude this review by quoting Yount's four theorems of higher education management. They hit close enough to home to need no comment.
The higher you rise in a university administration, the more you will be called upon to re-examine and compromise your academic values.
It is much easier to decide what has to be done than to do what has to be done.
The system is resistant to change and tends to weed out or restrain administrators who are willing to take risks and accept responsibility.
A project isn't finished until all the money has been spent. (page 214)
I put the book down feeling depressed, but wiser. I have lost my innocence. I hope that you, my learned colleagues and hard-pressed administrators, can also learn from Yount's analysis, and do what you can to bring teaching, learning, and collegiality back to the forefront of the concerns of Duke University.
A Perspective on Curricular Reform
by Donald Fluke (Zoology)
The thoughtful piece by Prof. Lawrence Evans in the September Faculty Forum raises two concerns that I would like to address. One is the idea that the distributional requirement in terms of six Areas of Knowledge is less definitive than the form of the distributional which preceded it, since one of the Areas may be omitted. The other is an estimate, reading a bit between the lines, that the "New Curriculum" of 1969 was inferior to that which preceded it, since we replaced a highly prescriptive curriculum with one which provided "much more freedom for the student to make his own course of study." The one idea has been prominent since the introduction of the six Areas, with five of six required. The other is more recent, I believe, and I have gone back in my files to dig out a copy of the Krueger Report, "Varieties of Learning Experience," to refresh my recollection of what it was that we persuaded the Undergraduate Faculty Council (predecessor of the predecessor of the Arts & Sciences Council) to adopt all those years ago, and why.
Is the five out of six distributional substantially more permissive than the earlier distributional? The need for having a "distributional" at all came in with that 1968-69 reform, to enjoin some degree of breadth within a much less prescriptive curriculum, and it was based on the three divisions recognized within Arts & Sciences: the Humanities, the Social Sciences, and the Natural Sciences plus Mathematics. A student's major would obviously be in one of these, and the major has consistently been retained as a requirement in our predominant Program I curriculum. The distributional required the student to pass at least four courses in a second division and two in the third division. Intervening revisions of the curriculum added back a foreign language requirement (two courses at most), and one-course add-on requirements in History of Civilizations, Literature, and Empirical Science. For many students, one among those latter could overlap the major, although not the distributional. In terms of total courses taken after matriculation at Duke or elsewhere, the five out of six Areas distributional controls eleven, while the prior distributional plus its add-ons ranged from eight to eleven, with Advanced Placement and introductory high school language courses eligible to fulfill much of it for many students. Mathematics was not specifically required in either curriculum, nor very much in the Area of Social Sciences (in distinction from the division of Social Sciences). The five of six Areas requirement as implemented represented a distinct stiffening of curricular requirements, prompting an increase in the total courses for graduation as well, and is not accurately to be represented as a relaxation of requirements simply because one of the six Areas can be omitted.
The five out of six Areas of Knowledge rule does make the curriculum vulnerable to negative discussion from those who are always ready to deplore that "a student can graduate from Duke without a course in X," even though the considerable accomplishment of sorting our courses into the six Areas added enough by way of definition to more than offset the provision that one can be omitted. We have a considerable investment in the Areas of Knowledge as an instrument of breadth in liberal education, and let's hope it can be kept without too much tightening of the screws as the price.
In terms of the other concern, revisiting "Varieties of Learning Experience" brought vividly back to mind what our committee was dealing with in 1968, when breadth of liberal education rested on specific requirement of a wide array of courses, and there was no occasion for a distributional since in those days it was hard-wired. The students needed that five-course load to have even a modest amount of choice left over after sitting in so many large-lecture survey courses while still accomplishing a major. In some of the larger majors seniors would have trouble finding any professor who knew them personally when it came time to ask for recommendations. There were concerns that some of those large lecture courses suffered from the effect of having a captive audience, and that some were too much oriented toward introduction to a major than toward serving the broader needs of liberal education. Several previous attempts at reform had demonstrated that we couldn't by and large go picking and choosing among all those turfdoms. Largely, everything had to go, and we'd have a "distributional" instead. It was reasonable after the dust had settled to think how to add some specificity back in I think an increasingly thoughtful way.
The 1968-69 reform also introduced the Small Group Learning Experience requirement (as it came to be called), to further break up the lockstep. From the perspective of 1968, the idea of having a wide proliferation of courses, even with many of them on quite esoteric subjects, but with a substantial market of student choice among them, would have seemed a distinct advance. In my view, having even a quite specialized conversation between a Duke faculty member and a small group of students is preferable to trying to guarantee that specific matters are covered, which could tend to take us back to those big courses.
It's important to have regular curricular reviews; they
allow the faculty to re-possess the curriculum, and to talk constructively
about philosophy of education. I hope that the curricular review now proposed
will be as widely absorbing as the one thirty years ago, and that some
way can be found of getting around the five out of six liability without
overdoing requirements once again.
POSSUM (Passim): Random Readings & Culture Studies
VOICES FROM THE KULTURKAMPF:
1. DIVERSITY? WHAT DIVERSITY?
[EdNote: Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, the writer of the following item, was a Duke faculty member before going to Harvard several years ago.]
"Is it not, indeed, one of the most pious of the pieties of our age that the United States is a society of enormous cultural diversity? . . . Coming, as I do, from Ghana, I find the broad cultural homogeneity of America much more striking than its much-vaunted variety. Take language. When I was a child, we lived in a household where there were at least three mother tongues in use. . . . So why, in this society, which has less diversity of culture than most others, are we so preoccupied with diversity? . . . You may wonder, in fact, whether there isn't a connection between the thinning of the cultural content of [ethnic] identities and the stridency of their claims. . . . It seems that when it comes to diversity, we all march to the beat of a single drummer."
--Excerpts from "The Multiculturalist Misunderstanding," in The New York Review of Books 10/9/97 (30-32)
2. DIVERSITY -- THE AMERICAN BABEL:
"One can take a driver's-license exam in twenty languages in Michigan, twenty-three in New York, twenty-five in Massachusetts, and thirty-three in California. And these are only a fraction of the 329 languages spoken in the United States in 1990.
The policy of benign neglect toward language worked for nearly 200 years. But. . . things began to change about thirty years ago. Extremists began pushing an active multilingual policy for our government, attacking one of the great unifying factors in our nation's history. Yet in the Orwellian doublespeak that is the official language of the politically correct, it is the movement in favor of a common language that is now called divisive."
Mauro Mujica, The Atlantic Monthly 7/97 (6)
3. GENDERING THE SMITHSONIAN
"Recent visitors to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum were greeted with some unpleasant news: the museum was contaminated. Not by asbestos or toxic chemicals, mind you, but by far more noxious substances: racism, sexism, and anthrocentrism. To protect the unwary, warning labels throughout the halls identified which of the museum's venerable dioramas were infected by which ideological error. 'Female animals are being portrayed in ways that make them deviant or substandard to male animals,' warned a label next to an exhibit of American hartebeests. A beloved family of lions at a watering hole was also branded for sexism, because the standing male and reclining female suggested to the museum's gender police a pre-feminist division of labor."
Heather MacDonald, The New Criterion 5/97 (17)
4. DEFENDING THE SMITHSONIAN
"Consider what happened this summer, when. . . Heather MacDonald bashed a handful of harebrained curatorial decisions. . . . The article prompted Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan to circulate a 'Dear Colleague' letter to other Senators slamming the Smithsonian's left-wing bias. . . . But the unpleasant truths about America's past need to be taught as well. If [Smithsonian Director] Heyman ever takes his effort to appease the Hill too far, the institution's intellectual freedom, as well as its vital educational mission, could be in jeopardy."
Jason Zengerle, The New Republic 10/20/97 (19)
PARROT: Recitations--Adventures in Noble Thinking
Lord Tennyson Sees the Next World:
"I have never had any revelations through anaesthetics, but a kind of waking trancethis for lack of a better wordI have frequently had, quite up from boyhood, when I have been all alone. This has come upon me through repeating my own name to myself silently, till all at once, as it were out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state but the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words -- where death was an almost laughable impossibility -- the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life. I am ashamed of my feeble description. Have I not said the state is utterly beyond words?. . . By God Almighty! there is no delusion in the matter! It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder, associated with absolute clearness of mind."
--Memoirs of Alfred Tennyson, collated with
his letter to a friend. Cited by William James in The Varieties of
Religious Experience (295)
FERRET: Transgressive Deconstructions
[EdNote: Having dispatched a pod of seven deconstructees in his last column -- the winners of the annual Bad Writing Contest -- Ferret now takes bold aim at the top of the Writing pyramid. Most scholars agree that the Sonnets of Shakespeare describe the poet's actual erotic entanglements.]
Something mysterious seems to be going on in Sonnet 20, which begins: "A woman's face, by Nature's own hand painted,/Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion." Though no one knows for sure, chances are that the owner of this face is Shakespeare's teenage patron, the Earl of Southampton, to whom the poet had already dedicated his passionate love poem, Venus and Adonis. The eminent Shakespearean scholar A. L. Rowse describes the face as follows:
Anyone who studies the portrait made of Southampton when he was nineteen will see how striking his beauty was. There are the familiar golden tresses, which he retained for some years more, falling over his left shoulder; the haughty aristocratic look on the face, a perfect oval; delicate features, lightly arched eyebrows, sensitive nostril, small mouth. It is a feminine appearance, yet there is . . . masculinity in the assertive stare of the eyes. . . . There is something that gives an unfavourable impressiona touch of obstinacy and fixation, in the eyes and pouting lip, a look of self-will. [Shakespeare: A Biography (1963), 140]
To be sure, in this poem -- Sonnet 20 -- Shakespeare eschews any carnal interest, punning to the young man: "Since she [Nature] pricked thee out for women's pleasure,/Mine be thy love, and love's use their treasure." But after all, at this point the affair is barely getting under way, perhaps in an initial state of innocence. As the Sonnets proceed through their five-year span (many scholars date these poems from about 1593-1598, with Shakespeare about thirty and the youth some ten years younger), we find a tone of obsession taking deep root. The poet admits as much in Sonnet 76 (in line 1 the word "pride" meant sexual desire in Shakespeare's time):
Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change?
0, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument..
Sonnet 108 apologizes for this obsession even more abjectly, sustaining the inference that Sonnets 1-126 are indeed a tale of passionate love focused on this one comely figure. (The remaining Sonnets are addressed to the the poet's other chief love object, the "Dark Lady"):
What's new to speak, what now to register,
That may express my love or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same . . . .
By Sonnet 35, the Platonic view of things becomes really difficult to maintain. The poem opens with the poet offering forgiveness -- "No more be grieved at that which thou hast done" -- for a crime vaguely described as "thy sensual fault" in line 9. What sensual fault? Did the young man eat too much? Get drunk? Go wenching? Close friends might disapprove of such behavior, but it is not likely that those offenses would produce the towering bitterness of lines 2-4, which compare the young man to a beautiful surface masking rancid corruption underneath: "Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;/. . . And loathsome canker dwells in sweetest bud." (The word "rose" in these poems may be a pun on Southampton's paternal name, Wriothesley, which was pronounced "Rose-ly.")
An abyss of mortification opens in Sonnet 40, where the poet discovers that his young man and his Dark Lady have become lovers. The tone of self-pity, so unmistakable in the opening line ("Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all"), modulates into befuddlement in Sonnet 42, where he puzzles out which grief hurts more, losing the youth or the lady:
That thou hast her, it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
What follows in Sonnet 42 is the most powerful image of suffering that even Shakespeare could think of -- his lovers "lay me on this cross" -- followed by that Shakespearean trademark, a stupendous rationalization of the situation:"But here's the joy: my friend and I are one;/Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone."
Joy, he calls it; but not even Shakespeare could rationalize his jealousy when his travels -- perhaps with a players' troupe -- brought him far afield from the love nest. It was enough to give a man insomnia, and it is hard to see how anything other than sexual jealousy could explain these lines in Sonnet 61:
Is it thy will thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?. . . .
For thee watch I whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, and others all too near.
From here, it is just a short hop to the supreme bitterness of Sonnet 94, with its central metaphor of the young man as a flower. "The summer flow'r is to the summer sweet," the poet tells him, but now Shakespeare adds a powerful stench to the foregoing imagery of corruption:
But if that flow'r with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
To tell his lover that he stinks is pretty harsh talk, especially if the rich young patron has been giving material support to the writer. Even so, there is a consistency on the poet's part that, up to now, fends off the deconstructive malice of the modern critic. With the homosexual theme rendered a harmless curiosity in our time (though a potentially capital offense in Shakespeare's), the only faint hint of scandal is the fact of the poet's wife and children out in the country.
All that changes, however, in what is psychologically (not aesthetically) our favorite poem in the Sonnets, number 110. Here the tables are turned, and it is Shakespeare who has to apologize for his infidelity. "Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there," he says, leaving no doubt about what this wandering metaphor signifies: "[I have] Made old offenses of affections new." Moreover, he has to admit telling lies to cover the deed: "Most true it is that I have looked on truth/Askance and strangely." But here is the crux of the matter: though promiscuity had made his lover a loathsome canker in the rosebud, or a festering lily that smells far worse than weeds, such behavior is perfectly justified when Shakespeare does it. The first rationale is that it made our poet feel younger -- "by all above,/These blenches gave my heart another youth." And then comes perhaps the crowning rationalization in all of Shakespeare: "And worse essays proved thee my best of love." Which is to say, my promiscuity should make you happy, sweetheart: how else could I know you are the best lover!
In view of that brazen argument, we in the Ferret camp declare that this man has deconstructed himself. All we had to do was quote what he said. Fortunately, this confession leads in the end to reconciliation, an oasis of good feeling amid the general guilt, jealousy, and fear detectable in the foregoing poems:
Now all is done, have what shall have no end:
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confined.
Alas, as Robert Frost says, Nothing Gold Can Stay. In our next column we shall trace the sequel to this sad saga, but in the meantime let us leave our lovestruck poet to enjoy the precarious bliss of Sonnet 110.
WELCOME BACK, BEASTIES
That's right, they're back, ready to fill empty space with eclectic, unpredictable academic matter. Admittedly, not everyone has been pleased by their free-thinking ways. Twice in the past month, the Faculty Forum has been compared to the Duke Review, once on the floor of the Academic Council and again in a column by a Duke Chronicle editor.
Although the intent of these remarks was not flattering, I accept the comparison cheerfully so far as it applies. It is true, for example, that the Duke Review and the FF (my portion of it, that is) have shown a common willingness to rebut the deconstructive trashing of great artists like Dickens, Faulkner, and Joyce Carol Oates. And both publications have respected freedom of thought, a principle exemplified in the FF through our (vainly) repeated requests for rejoinders to our controversial entries. For their part, in an interview several years ago, the DR editors faithfully reprinted my laudatory comments about a man I know well and admire (as they assuredly did not), Stanley Fish. In their next issue they will likewise oblige my wish to publish a letter about the campus police which the Duke Chronicle declined to publish last month.
It would be a mistake, however, to claim that the FF (my portion of it) resembles only the Duke Review. My creatures have also emulated the feminist Voices (e.g. Ferret's columns on Freud's blood-spilling misogyny and on Jung's patriarchal arrogance), the populist Missing Link (e.g. Possum's "Party of Greed?" excerpt on the 1996 Republican convention, where one-quarter of the delegates -- most of whom opposed raising the minimum wage -- were in the million-dollars-a-year income bracket), and the gay culture perspective (e.g. Parrot's citation of "Jonathan's Lament for David" in the FF last January). We further assume that Ferret's relentless hammering of Crackpot antiSemitism among academic icons -- Paul de Man, Heidegger, Wagner, Luther, Marx -- should have appealed to readers across the whole ideological spectrum.
So it's Welcome Back, Beasties. So long as empty white
space beckons, they will continue to fill it with a wide variety of items,
sometimes including those voices from the Kulturkampf which
have disconcerted some of our readers. Regarding this prospect, our critics
may choose between two reasonable responses (ignore us or send in a reasoned
critique) and one unreasonable one: abolish the FF. To those who have recommended
the latter course, we suggest a less radical action: install a new editor.
The test of that person's worthiness for the job, however, will be their
willingness to publish material that may remind some readers of the Duke
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), 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 email@example.com FAX (English department) is 919-684-4871. The deadline for submissions is about the 25th of each month.