Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18

It’s Friday afternoon—the last day of finals week. I’m glad it’s all over with. Well, almost all over with. Saying how he knew how busy we must be right now, Saltz over at Harvard gave the grad students until Monday to turn in our papers. This is really a boon since, in addition to studying for finals, I was swamped with finishing papers for my classes here at Charles this past week. I am happy to report, though, that I got them all in except the one for Saltz. I'll finish that over the weekend.

Spring semester here at Charles doesn’t begin until the end of January. After the two week Christmas break, there is a three week intersession which the undergrads are required to take a class in, but not the grad students.

Shivvy explained to me that these January intersession classes are mainly just for fun: they have courses on detective novels, science fiction, and that sort of thing. There are also study tours—usually to places where there is either skiing or warm sunny weather—for students whose parents can afford it. Being in this category herself, Shivvy and two of her girlfriends have signed up to study the tourist industry in Barbados.

I wish I could afford to go with her, but I can’t. I’ll just go out to California for the Christmas break and then come back here before Shivvy shoves off for points south. While sunning herself in Barbados, I’ll prepare myself for becoming a TA next semester.

On this last point, I have some good news to report: I will be TA’ing for Briggs after all! The reason for this is that Doug has done something truly unbelievable. I knew that, like me, Doug had been admitted to Gates University (home of the neo-liberal, Arch Faircloth) with a fellowship. Well, Doug came in the office this morning and told me that he was leaving Charles altogether and would be starting up at Gates next semester!

He told me that he was so incensed by what Briggs had done to him that he called Faircloth on Monday, told him that he couldn’t stand to work with Briggs any more (but not why this was so), and begged to be let in. Faircloth was apparently delighted to have a defector from the neo-radical camp. He said he’d see what he could do, and then called Doug yesterday to say that both his admission to and fellowship from Gates had been reinstated for spring. He could even get credit for all the courses he took at Charles—all, that is, except Briggs’s. Faircloth said he wanted Doug to take his own course on IR theory.

“I told him that was fine with me,” Doug related, “since Briggs’s class was all bullshit anyway.”

I was shocked! I couldn’t believe what Doug was saying, much less what he was doing! And I told him so too.

“It wasn’t very pleasant, I’m sure, to come home and find Briggs in bed with Angie,” I told him. “But to renounce neo-radicalism and become a neo-liberal over it? You’re overreacting, Doug!”

Doug chose not to take my comments in the helpful, constructive spirit in which I had offered them.

“Are you out of your mind?” he asked me. “The bastard was fucking my wife behind my back! In fact, he’s still fucking her; it’s just that everybody knows about it now. I can’t stay here!”

“But how can you go work with Faircloth?” I asked. “What about the great critique of neo-liberalism you’ve been expounding all semester? How can you trash neo-liberalism and praise neo-radicalism for Briggs all semester here, and then go to Gates and do the opposite for Faircloth next semester? That’s just incredibly unethical!”

“You apparently assume,” replied Doug, “that Faircloth is like Briggs and just wants his students to parrot his own views. But he’s not like that. I had a long talk with him and told him all about my attraction to neo-radicalism and even about my critique of neo-liberalism. And you know what? He said that that was fine with him. He wants his students to develop their own views, not just repeat his. He said he likes it when grad students challenge him; he said it helps him keep his own ideas fresh and sharp!

“What a healthy attitude!” Doug continued. “And so very different from the sick one prevailing around here with senior professors like Briggs and Asquith who just want students to be their clones. No, Jonathan: what I’m doing is not unethical. It’s what Briggs has been doing with my wife that is!”

“I’m afraid you’re wrong there, Dougie,” interjected Michael. I’m not sure when he came in the room or how much of our conversation he had overheard. “If your wife was a student here, then a professor having an affair with her would be considered unethical. But your wife wasn’t a student here, was she? So she was fair game!”

Doug looked at him in disbelief. “She was my wife!” (Yes, he definitely said it in the past tense.) “I never expected that my major professor—someone whom I thought the world of—would do anything like this.”

Michael described how there were “progressive ethics” upheld by universities against discrimination and sexual misconduct and there were “reactionary ethics” which forbade all sex outside of marriage. What Doug was expounding, he explained patiently, was an example of reactionary ethics—which universities were not obliged to uphold. “They couldn’t even if they wanted to,” he told us. Nor could a neo-radical like Briggs be expected to abide by any such reactionary code of conduct.

Doug, I’m sorry to say, responded to this by calling Michael all sorts of foul names. Michael just laughed. But I was mad.

“You know, Doug,” I said, “You really can’t blame Briggs for your problems. Angie would never have let herself be seduced by him if you hadn’t been so nasty to her.”

Doug turned toward me. “So you’re on their side too? Well, I’m not surprised. You’d never dare challenge anything Briggs said or did, would you? Why, if he took a shit on your dinner plate, you’d eat it up and ask for more, you ass kisser!”

I started to object strenuously to this, but Doug interrupted by asking, “Why am I even arguing with you losers? As far as I’m concerned, you’re history!” He then proceeded to pack up his desk and leave.

So now with Doug as well as Danielle gone, there are just four of us left in the office.

I had a much more pleasant conversation later on with Professor Briggs when he came in and asked if I would be his TA. I was thrilled by the offer, of course, but told him that I had been assigned to Trizenko.

“I think an assistant professor—especially one who’s likely to be turned down for tenure—can do his own grading,” he responded. He then told me that the choice was mine, and that he would even talk to Trizenko for me if I felt awkward doing so. I accepted immediately! And who can blame me: being Briggs’s TA will look far better on my cv than being Trizenko’s. And besides: it was what I really wanted to do anyway.

I did see Trizenko in the hall later and told him myself that I would be TA’ing for Briggs. I started to explain how I was far more knowledgeable about Briggs’s field than his anyway when he interrupted me by saying, “You don’t have to explain anything, Jonathan. I understand perfectly.”

That didn’t sound too friendly. I hope he doesn’t take it out on me when it comes to assigning grades for the course I’m taking with him this semester. Maybe he’s turned his grades in for that class already; I think he’s the type that would. I should be okay then.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13

I am writing on the Sunday following the last week of classes. Final exam week starts tomorrow, but I feel great—although I’m a little ashamed to admit it. I was feeling a little jealous of Doug for much of the semester since Briggs seemed to favor him over me. It became clear this past week, though, that Briggs is far less interested in Doug than in Doug’s wife.

It turns out that Briggs and Angie have been having an affair. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on, but Doug found out about it last week when he went back home earlier than he normally does. Doug told me later that when he went inside, he found two sets of clothes—male and female—on the couch. Realizing that he was there, Angie quickly threw on her robe and even gave Doug’s to “Barry!”

Doug was furious, he told me, not just at discovering that both of them had betrayed him, but at how nonchalant they both appeared at being caught. “Now, Doug,” he told me how Briggs had said, “I know this is a bit of an awkward situation, but I think it’s important that we all keep calm.”

Doug said that he was anything but calm, and that he called Angie a “worthless slut.”

“Well, none of this would have happened, Dougie,” she told him, “if you had treated me decently instead of like shit.”

Doug then told Angie that he wanted her out of his apartment (and him being the student, it was indeed his) as soon as possible. Briggs then said she could move in with him, at least for the time being. Instead of being ashamed of herself, Doug told me angrily, Angie appeared to be delighted by this turn of events.

After retrieving his clothes and retreating to the bedroom to change back into them, Briggs came back out and announced that he’d come by with his car at the end of the working day to transport Angie and her stuff out to his place. Angie, Doug said, remained in her short, skimpy terry cloth robe which she had not bothered to tie very carefully. She seemed to really enjoy showing herself off before the two of them, said Doug, scandalized. I have to admit: I wish I’d been there to see her dressed like that!

“Now Doug,” Briggs said just before leaving, “I’m sure you’re a little upset by all this, but I want you to know that I have great respect for your work, which I really do think is quite promising. From what I’ve seen of your work so far, I’m sure you’ll be earning an “A” in my seminar. And I really am looking forward to your being my TA next semester. If that would be uncomfortable for you, though, I’m sure I can arrange for you to TA for Trizenko and for Jonathan to take your place with me.”

Doug was indignant as he told me this. I have to admit, though, that I was thrilled at the prospect of our trading professors to TA for. The issue, however, was not resolved since Doug then ordered Briggs to get out.

Briggs continued in what Doug described as his patronizing tone of voice, telling Angie he’d pick her up around five o’clock and advising Doug that he had a great career ahead of him and that Briggs would hate to see him jeopardize it by doing or saying anything “rash” now. “This sort of thing happens all the time,” Briggs was saying as he stepped out into the hall and Doug slammed the door on him.

After calling each other a few choice names, Doug related, he and Angie quickly got down to dividing their few possessions which, fortuitously, did not include either a car or any furniture (the grad student apartments we lived in came furnished). That settled, Doug told her she could pack up by herself. He then went to their bank and drew out the few hundred dollars they had in their checking account. After that, he came over to the office where he found me and told me all about it.

I sympathized with Doug, but I didn’t want him to take up my entire afternoon talking about his personal problems. I was just about to get up and leave when Michael came into the room. Doug immediately stopped talking, and so I was able to get back to my writing. Michael didn’t say anything, but the supercilious way in which he asked Doug how Angie was doing these days indicated that he knew what was happening—indeed, that he had known for some time. Doug tried to act busy, not looking at him and only answering his questions with one or two syllables. Michael said he was glad everything was going so well, laughed derisively, and then made a show of getting to work himself.

Lisa came in the room a little while later. She apparently sensed that something was wrong because she asked why we were all so quiet. “I guess we’re just busy!” I tried to say cheerily.

Michael left the room a short while later, telling Doug to be sure and give Angie his best regards as he went out. Almost as soon as he was gone, Doug cried out in a hoarse whisper, “He knew! That bastard knew! He even intimated something was going on between them at Thanksgiving!” So that’s what they were really arguing about! Lisa, of course, was all curious and concerned, and so he told her the whole story. Lisa was indignant that Briggs had seduced Angie. She said that the university should not tolerate such unethical conduct.

At four o’clock, I reminded Doug that Briggs would be coming by in his car for Angie and suggested that we go over and help her get her stuff down to the lobby.

He thanked me for offering to help, and so we set off. Once we got to our apartment building, though, Doug said he didn’t want to even see her. He asked if he could wait in my apartment until she was gone. Since he wouldn’t even phone her from my place, I did. She said she’d appreciate my help. With him standing there in front of me and her on the line, I arranged to bring her half of their bank balance upstairs in exchange for her key to Doug’s apartment. She was quite business-like on the phone, while it was clear to me that Doug was becoming increasingly emotional.

I popped him a beer, gave him the remaining half of a potato chip bag that Shivvy and I had opened on the weekend, and then went over to what would soon be just Doug’s apartment.

I was amazed at the sight of her when she opened the door of the apartment to me. Although it was a cold December evening outside, she had on a short, revealing black dress and black stockings. The blackness of the dress vividly contrasted with her pale skin and blonde hair. But despite the self-confidence that being dressed so sexily implied and her business-like tone on the phone just a few minutes ago, she was crying quietly now.

“He treated me like shit, Jonathan! You and your girlfriend saw how he acted that night you came for dinner. I was so embarrassed! He was always belittling me like that!”

I tried to say something reassuring, but she wasn’t listening to me.

“Ever since we got here,” she continued, “he’s just steadily lost interest in me. Every time I tried to talk to him about what he was studying, he’d just say that it was too hard to explain to someone not already in the class. I even tried talking to him about the news, but he’d just blow me off by saying that whatever situation I wanted to talk about was `trivial’ as far as theory was concerned.”

I’m sure Doug was right about this, but I didn’t think that it was a good time to say so.

“For the past month or so,” she went on, “he’s just ignored me altogether. Why, he wouldn’t even take the time away from his studies to stop and fuck me!”

This was embarrassing. I didn’t know what to say. Luckily, the phone rang. It was the front desk calling to say that Briggs had arrived, and asking us to please hurry up and come down since cars were only supposed to be parked in front of the main door for just a few minutes.

I remembered to give Angie her cash, and she gave me her key. All of her stuff fit into just one suitcase and four cardboard boxes which she had gotten from the custodial staff. They had also let her borrow a dolly, which was great, since that meant we could take all her stuff down to the lobby in just one trip.

I reminded her to put on her coat and hat since it was pretty cold outside. She reminded me to lock the door since I now had the key.

As we got off the elevator, Briggs was there waiting for us impatiently. I went out to the car with them and helped him load her stuff into it. “Thanks for helping out, Jonathan,” he said. “I won’t forget this.” Turning to Angie, he said, “Okay, sweetheart; if you’re all set, let’s get going.”

Before getting in his car, though, Angie came over to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks for being a friend, Jonathan,” she said, looking directly at me. “I won’t forget this either.”

I said I hoped we’d keep in touch. She got in the car and as they started to drive off, I saw her take off her hat and release her long blonde hair to flow down her shoulders.

I took the dolly back inside and left it by the elevator for the custodians to find. When I got back to my apartment, Shivvy was there with Doug. After I gave him Angie’s key, he thanked me for helping him out and left.

“He looks like he’s in bad shape,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s a mess,” responded Shivvy, shaking her head. “But you know what? I think he’s a lot less bothered by the fact that Angie was cheating on him than by the realization that he really wasn’t Briggs’s prize little pupil after all.”

She laughed at her own observation and continued, “I’m afraid it’s the old story, Dougie! Briggsy didn’t love you for your brain, but for your body! Your wife’s body, that is!”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 6

This has been a traumatic week. The professors all met just after Thanksgiving break to assess our progress and decide on funding for next semester. All of us first year students passed muster, and we got our TA assignments for next semester. Just as she had hoped, Lisa Dudwick will TA for Theda DeKlerk—the feminist professor. And just as, I’m sure, Craig Hatfield wanted, he will TA for Elton Asquith. But much to my chagrin, Briggs picked Doug to TA for him, and not me. I kind of expected this, given how well Doug gets on with Briggs, but it still hurt. Much worse for me, though, is that I was picked to TA for Trizenko.

This is a disaster! It’s bad enough that he and I are not on the same intellectual wavelength. Worse, it won’t do my career any good to be associated with someone who is probably going to be denied tenure this year. Even if he successfully appeals the decision next year, the stigma of being turned down this year is going to stick with him—and me!

I can just see it now: when I’m on the job market sending out my vita, people are going to look at it and say, “He TA’ed for Trizenko? Isn’t that the guy that got turned down for tenure at Charles?”

Worse still, whatever is left of Trizenko’s reputation is going to be completely shot as a result of this whole incident with Danielle. People are going to say, “Wasn’t Trizenko the guy who led a demonstration in defense of a racist TA?” People may think that the TA in question is me! What the hell did I do to deserve all this? Being Trizenko’s TA is going to make the next semester sheer hell for me.

Michael, of course, is getting fellowship support for next semester. And just as he predicted, Danielle is not. She has already announced her intention to withdraw from the Ph.D. program and leave Charles University altogether at the end of this semester.

Michael thinks that this is the only appropriate course of action for her after being accused of racism. Lisa and Craig, though, are saying she has not received due process: it would be one thing to take away her funding if it had been proved she had been guilty of racism, but it was quite another to do so after only being accused of it. Doug and I aren’t as down on her as Michael, but we’re not with Craig and Lisa either. Taking away her funding as a result of an accusation of racism is harsh, but we can understand how the faculty doesn’t want to be seen protecting a racist. I personally think she should go on leave until the matter is settled one way or another. But maybe it’s best for her to just go away altogether: with Trizenko likely to leave next year at the latest, there’s probably nobody else here she would want to work with—or who would want to work with her—on a dissertation about Russian politics.

In any event, she’s not being forced out. She could come up with the tuition herself through student loans or getting a job. It was Danielle herself who decided to leave before the charges against her were cleared up. So, in the end, I really can’t feel too sorry for her.

It’s very clear, though, that she’s feeling rather sorry for herself. She sent me the following e-mail message, which I reproduce in full:


Being shoved by [once again, I omit his name—JV] was bad. Being then accused by him of racism for calling him an asshole—which he was—for shoving me was also bad. But neither was as bad as being betrayed by my so-called colleagues and see them trumpet their raw, naked hostility toward me at the top of their lungs. I wouldn’t have stayed here even if they had renewed my funding after that.

It didn’t surprise me to see lickspittles like Michael and Doug join Briggs and Asquith in that vicious demonstration against me, but I expected you to give me the benefit of the doubt the way Craig and Lisa did.

I used to think of you as a friend, but not any more. Still, I hope that you never experience what has happened to me—no matter how much you deserve to!


Strong stuff! I sent her back what I thought was a diplomatic message saying that I participated in the demonstration not out of any feelings of personal hostility toward her, but from my desire to join Prof. Briggs in expressing my principled opposition to racism in general.

She wrote back:


Briggs and Asquith acting as cheerleaders in that demonstration had nothing to do with any “principled opposition to racism.” And do you always write so ponderously? Through branding me a racist, they hoped to discredit Ilya and derail his application for tenure. And by coming to my defense the way he did, he fell right into their trap.

Can’t you see through all their leftist mumbo-jumbo???


I didn’t even bother to respond; the poor woman is clearly hysterical. She’s lucky I didn’t forward her libelous message on to Professors Briggs and Asquith—like someone else might have done who wanted to curry favor with them.

This past Friday afternoon (yes, I’m back to writing this diary on a Sunday), all of us incoming TA’s were called to a meeting with the professors we have been assigned to as well as the outgoing TA’s. Not only did Danielle not show up, but Trizenko didn’t either—yet one more black mark against him. The rest of us, I think, were just as happy that they didn’t. I’ll have to meet with him at some point, though, since I’ll be working with him.

Anyway, after the chair, Prof. Stavros, said a few words, both Asquith and Briggs gave talks about the extreme importance of TA’s being sensitive in dealing with—and especially grading—minority students. Prof. DeKlerk then appealed to the new male TA’s in particular to be sensitive to students from “the other gender.” Asquith then got back up and urged us not to overlook the “special needs” of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students. We then had a general discussion in which everyone expressed their fealty to these important principles.

[I would never admit it publicly, but I am not quite certain what “transgendered” means. I would, of course, never knowingly discriminate against such students. I only hope, though, that they will let me know if they are in this category so that I can treat them with the sensitivity they undoubtedly deserve.]

Afterward, Michael, Doug, and I all went out for a beer (we invited Craig and Lisa, but they wouldn’t come with us). As we began drinking, Michael announced that he would now give us the “inside scoop” about racially sensitive grading—what nobody on the faculty would say out loud, but which we needed to know.

“The whole point about being racially sensitive,” he informed us, “is to advance the progressive agenda and not the reactionary one.” What this meant, he explained, was that we should “encourage and reward” members of minority groups who did this and “correct” those who did not.

Both African-Americans and Latinos were the most disadvantaged minority groups, he explained, and so they needed to be especially encouraged and rewarded. There were, however, “reactionary exceptions” within these two groups who needed correcting.

“African-American males who have served in the military are all right-wingers, to a man!” said Michael. “Nor are they ashamed about it either.” It was necessary to be patient but firm in trying to re-educate them, he advised.

“And while Latinos in general are progressive, one group—Cuban-Americans—are ultra-reactionary.” Michael suggested that students from this group were so stubbornly reactionary that attempting to speak with them politely was useless. “Just give them the “C minuses” they deserve,” he advised. They were in no position to complain, Michael observed, because other Latinos would not come to their defense. “They’re that unpopular,” he concluded.

I, of course, had known that Cuban emigres were all right-wingers. I had never thought of them as Hispanics, but as Spanish-speaking whites instead. I was, though, a little uncomfortable with the idea that a whole segment of the African-American population—those who had served in the military—were reactionary. Michael’s depiction, though, made me wonder whether Prof. Saltz had been in the armed forces; this might explain a lot.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27

It’s almost two weeks since my last entry, but at least I’m writing on a Friday. Today, in fact, is the day after Thanksgiving and I am here alone in my apartment.

Well, Michael was right: there have been negative consequences indeed for Danielle over the incident with the black student. Danielle’s attempts to get him arrested, expelled, or suspended all failed due to lack of any witness to his allegedly shoving her. Furthermore, the student has filed charges of racial discrimination against her with the university, citing the two low grades she gave him as well as her calling him an “asshole”—which several people overheard, including Michael. The student claimed that since assholes are black, Danielle’s calling him an “asshole” was a racial slur. The Charles University Office of Equity and Diversity Services has launched an investigation.

For once, I did not learn all this from Michael. Instead, I read about it, along with everybody else, in last Friday’s student newspaper. The article, which started on the front page, did not mention the black student’s name; the editors explained that they were not identifying him in order to protect him against racist reprisals that might be made against him. I was struck by the editors’ sensitivity. Even though I know the student’s name, I will follow the same practice here to protect him against the possibility of future reprisals either when my biographers quote from this diary or it is eventually published.

The paper, though, did publish Danielle’s name. Things got even worse for her afterward. Word quickly spread that day that there would be a demonstration against “racist TA’s” in front of our building, Case Hall, on Monday morning. I saw some demonstrators, including Michael, when I was coming to the building for Briggs’s class that day.

Briggs was a little late for class that morning. When he came in, he launched a diatribe against racism here at Charles University, citing what Danielle had done as only the latest instance of it. He really gave an impressive speech. It was too bad there were no black students in our seminar to hear it. They would have been deeply impressed, I am sure.

Briggs then announced that he was canceling class in order to participate in the demonstration against racist TA’s. He said that we were all free to join him in making a statement against racism or not: it was up to us. Almost everyone, including Doug and me, went with him. I must admit, I felt a little bad about demonstrating against Danielle, who had always been nice to me. I decided, though, that making a statement against racism was far more important than feelings of personal friendship.

(I can’t help but note that neither Craig Hatfield nor Lisa Dudwick came with the rest of us to the demonstration. I won’t speculate as to their motives.)

Back outside, the cohort from our seminar served to double the size of the demonstration. We were certainly a diverse group of mainly white graduate students and black university employees, mainly from the Office of Equity and Diversity Services. In addition to Briggs, Prof. Asquith was also there from our department. There were also a couple of reporters there from the student newspaper. I thought it was a little strange that, apart from the student involved in the incident with Danielle, there were no black students there. Perhaps they hadn’t heard about the demonstration.

The demonstration probably would have broken up after ten minutes or so except for two things that happened. First, Danielle herself happened to come by, apparently on her way into the building. Upon seeing her, Briggs, Michael, the black student involved in the incident with her, and the head of the Office of Equity and Diversity Services all got us chanting, “Down with racist TA’s! Down with racist TA’s!”

Even while I was chanting, I felt very sorry for Danielle. She looked genuinely stunned. She, apparently, had not heard about this demonstration. She stared at us for several seconds. She tried to say something to us, but I couldn’t hear her because the chanting then grew louder. It looked like she was starting to cry as she turned around and started to go into Case Hall when something else happened.

Just as she was opening the door, Prof. Trizenko was coming out at the head of what looked like his entire lower division comparative politics class (the one for which Danielle is his TA). (I guess it was to go to that class that she had been coming to Case Hall in the first place; obviously, she was running late.) Trizenko took her by the hand. It looked like he was speaking quite earnestly to her until all of his students were outside and he began leading them in a chant of “Justice for Danielle! Justice for Danielle!”

Trizenko’s classroom apparently overlooked the front of Case Hall, and so he and his students undoubtedly saw and heard our demonstration. Danielle threw her arms around Trizenko and was openly weeping. She seemed even more surprised by Trizenko’s demonstration than by ours.

We were quite surprised by his demonstration too—especially since it was a lot bigger than ours. Not only that, but it rapidly got bigger as several passers-by—including Shivvy—joined it.

Briggs and Asquith were furious over what Trizenko had done. “How dare he?” demanded Asquith.

“I don’t care what Stavros wrote in his favor,” said Briggs grimly. “Leading a demonstration in defense of a racist TA is going to sink his tenure application when it gets to the college promotion and tenure committee. The students at this university may be unprincipled right-wingers, but the people I know on that committee are not.’

It was a sign of just how upset Briggs was that he would talk like this in front of Michael, Doug, and me. I remember Cohen back at Barstow telling me that professors were never supposed to talk about tenure decisions and other sensitive personnel issues with students.

The “Justice for Danielle” crowd was growing intimidatingly large when the campus police arrived and positioned themselves between our two groups. I was glad they arrived, because who knows what the right-wingers might have done otherwise? The cops announced that it was time for everyone to cool down. After putting up a brief show of not wanting to leave, both groups dispersed shortly after Trizenko led Danielle away from the building.

The fallout continued. The next day, a sign appeared on our office door saying that Danielle would no longer be holding office hours here, but in Prof. Trizenko’s office instead. She apparently didn’t want to be in the same office with Michael, Doug, or even me. Michael told me that she and Trizenko came and got all her stuff. Michael is absolutely positive that she will not get any fellowship support for the spring semester now. He even thinks that Lisa and Craig not joining our demonstration will be a black mark against them. At least they didn’t join Trizenko’s demonstration; that really would have cooked them with Briggs and Asquith!

Before we parted company that morning, Briggs asked Michael, Doug, and me if we’d like to come over to his place for an “alternative Thanksgiving” on Thursday. Michael accepted immediately and so did Doug after making sure he could bring Angie. Much as I wanted to accept, I could not: I had already agreed to spend the day with Shivvy and her family. Damn!

Shivvy and I had a furious argument Monday afternoon about Danielle and over the two of us being in opposing demonstrations. Fortunately, our relationship is strong enough that we were able to overcome our differences. Besides, neither of us could afford to spend time thinking about Danielle and her problems since we both had a lot of work to get done. The end of semester crunch has definitely arrived!

Although I didn’t get to attend Brigg’s “alternative Thanksgiving,” I heard all about it earlier this evening from Doug and Angie, who were kind enough to invite me to their place for dinner (like most undergrads, Shivvy is spending the entire Thanksgiving break with her family; it is only impecunious grad students like Doug and me who have to stay on campus).

It was mainly Angie who described what happened. “It was a good thing I was there,” she said laughingly, “otherwise these boys wouldn’t have had anything but beer and potato chips for their Thanksgiving dinner!” Briggs had apparently not prepared anything and was just going to order pizza for his guests. At Angie’s insistence, though, he and she went out and miraculously found a store that was open. “He bought and I cooked!” she explained. Since there were only four of them for dinner and cooking a whole turkey would take so long, she had him buy a chicken instead.

“When we got back,” Angie told me, “Michael and Doug here were having a furious argument over whether the word `asshole’ is a racial slur. Michael was saying it was because assholes are black while Dougie was saying it wasn’t because they are brown.

“After they each made their case to Barry,” she continued, “he told them that the only way they could settle the issue was to ask Professor Asquith, since he was more familiar with assholes than anyone else in the department!” Angie laughed uproariously at this, but Doug did not look pleased. I had a feeling that they were still not completely in harmony with each other.

I have to admit, I was just a little taken aback to hear Angie talking dirty like that. I don’t know why, but I was.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15

An ugly incident took place this past week. I mentioned earlier that Danielle had a run-in with a black student over the grade she gave him on a midterm for the Trizenko class she is the TA for, and that he accused her of racism. Well, she gave him a low grade on another assignment for the class. Angered by this, the student came to confront her about this during her office hours. As it happened, there was nobody else in the office (the rest of us were, as usual, somewhere else at the time).

The situation quickly escalated: he allegedly shoved her against the wall (they were apparently standing) and she shouted, “Keep your hands off of me, you asshole!” Hearing the noise, people from neighboring offices and the hallway rushed in, including Michael. According to him, Danielle called the campus police. To his credit, the black student didn’t run away, but stayed there telling everyone how this “white bitch” was prejudiced against him because he was black. Danielle was in tears.

What happened next was very interesting. If an incident like this occurred off-campus, the regular police would undoubtedly have carted the black male off to jail immediately. But, as Michael explained, university police are for more sensitive about racial matters. Since nobody else was in the office at the time, there were no witnesses present to say whether the black student shoved Danielle or not. She said he did, but he denied it. Since it was just his word against hers, the police didn’t arrest the student—much to Danielle’s fury.

The black student also claimed that Danielle had called him an “asshole” just out of the blue. She, of course, said his actions had provoked her to say this, which many people outside the room (including Michael) had overheard her calling him. The student demanded that Danielle apologize and raise his grade, but she refused. The campus police then attempted to initiate a “healing” session, but according to Michael, Danielle would not cooperate. Instead, she insisted that a police officer escort her back to her campus apartment, which one did. The black student, the police, and everyone else who did not have a carrel there then left the office. It was all over by the time I arrived, but Michael was there to tell me all about it.

After doing so, Michael said ominously, “This little episode is not over!”

I expressed concern that the black student might experience negative consequences as a result of it.

Michael snorted at this, saying that Danielle was the one likely to experience negative consequences—and that she might do so in just a few short weeks when the department faculty met at the end of the semester to decide upon whether grad students should receive continued funding.

Michael, I’m sure, was exaggerating. He really seems to harbor an active dislike for Danielle. But if he went to one extreme with regard to this incident, Shivvy went to the other when I told her about it. According to her, Danielle would never have accused the black student of shoving her unless he had actually done so. Further, she claimed that Danielle would never have called him an “asshole” unless he deserved it. I almost wish I hadn’t told Shivvy about the incident (although she probably would have found out anyway) because it has only served to increase her irrational fear of black males. She’s going to have to get help for this problem, I think.

As for me, I take a more balanced view of the situation. If indeed he did do so, it was clearly wrong for the black student to have shoved Danielle. But it was also clearly wrong for Danielle to call him an “asshole”—which she definitely did. But the underlying problem that led to this incident—the fact that Danielle gave low grades to this black student on two assignments—must not be overlooked.

Now if she had given low grades to a white student on two successive assignments, it could be argued that the student may have actually deserved them. But giving low grades to a black student on two successive assignments does seem a little suspicious to me. More than this, it was insensitive. Surely Danielle should have realized that, given the history of injustice experienced by them, black students are far more likely than white students to react negatively to receiving low grades from white professors or TA’s.

Yes, I think it is always important to exhibit the highest degree of racial sensitivity whenever the occasion arises. And this is something, I must say, that Danielle obviously did not do.

Clearly, though, she is not alone. Another person who, most surprisingly, does not seem to exhibit much racial sensitivity is Prof. Saltz at Harvard. Although black himself, I have not yet heard him even once refer to an African or African-American perspective on international security. The one African-American whose views on international security he cites positively is Colin Powell. But being both a Republican and a former general, Powell is hardly representative of African-Americans, as far as I am concerned. And Saltz has frequently disparaged the views of Jesse Jackson on international security issues. This makes me very uncomfortable.

It seems obvious to me that an African-American like Saltz would never have become a Harvard professor had it not been for the efforts of Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders. It also seems obvious that for Saltz to criticize Jackson is an instance of biting the hand that fed him. And by criticizing Jackson and ignoring the African-American perspective on international security, Saltz is being less than loyal to his race.

Re-reading the last paragraph, I realize that some might see Colin Powell as an example of an African-American perspective on international security, but this is not true. Powell is a Republican. And as everyone knows, authentic African-American perspectives are always liberal.

I find, then, that I profoundly disagree with Saltz on many issues. My own intense concern for racial sensitivity, however, prevents me from challenging him. Republican though he may be, I am afraid that openly disagreeing with an African-American professor would be interpreted—either by him or by others—as racially motivated.

It never ceases to amaze me, though, that the white Harvard grad students do not hesitate to challenge Saltz, often quite fiercely. They, clearly, do not possess the same degree of racial sensitivity that I do. While Saltz gives no indication of being bothered by this, I am sure that he must be hurting inside.

[I really have to congratulate myself: this entry will truly demonstrate to my future biographers just how racially sensitive I am. This will really go over well. Don’t delete anything I’ve written here—except, of course, for this paragraph.]

The only other news I have to report this week is what Michael told me about the progress of Trizenko’s tenure application. I don’t know how he learned this, but according to him, the chair of the political science department, George Stavros, decided to recommend in favor of Trizenko receiving tenure despite the negative vote from the tenured faculty.

I hadn’t realized before Michael explained it to me that that there are many stages in the tenure process. First, there is a vote by the tenured members of the candidate’s department. Second, the chair of the department makes his, or her, own recommendation. Third, a vote is taken (in this case) by the social science subcommittee of the Arts and Sciences College’s promotion and tenure committee. Fourth, a vote is taken by the college’s full promotion and tenure committee. Fifth, the dean of the college makes a recommendation. Sixth, the provost makes a recommendation. Seventh, the president of the university, reviewing all the earlier stages, makes a decision on the case. And eighth, if the president’s decision is positive, the university’s board of trustees then has to ratify it. Whew!

Michael expressed sheer disgust that Stavros would recommend Trizenko for tenure after the tenured faculty of the department had voted him down. As for me, I hope that Trizenko does get tenure. He’s obviously not in the same league as Briggs. But he really is a pretty good professor—even if he did testify on Capitol Hill and appear on TV.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8

Well, I’m writing on a Sunday again, but this time only one week since the last entry. Something happened last night that I need to describe while the memory is still fresh in my mind.

Last week, Doug invited Shivvy and me to have dinner with him and his wife, Angie, in their apartment.

We didn’t have far to go. Doug and Angie live in the same building I do, but they have a one-bedroom since they’re married. I was going to bring a six-pack of beer, but Shivvy insisted I buy a bottle of nice white wine. She even went with me to the liquor store to make sure it was nice enough. When we got there, Doug and I had beer while Shivvy and Angie drank the wine.

Angie seemed very pleased to see us. She said that life here was kind of dull for her between waitressing, Doug studying all the time, and her not knowing anybody since she wasn’t a student. It looked like she had gone to a lot of trouble making little appetizers (I know there’s some French term for them, but I can’t think of it). Shivvy commented that although their apartment was a lot larger than mine, it was also a lot neater.

Doug and I mainly talked about neo-radicalism and how we each hoped to extend it, leaving the two girls to chat by themselves. I know that sounds kind of sexist, but it wasn’t our fault that they didn’t want to talk about neo-radicalism with us. It looked like Shivvy was helping Angie in the kitchen anyway.

Dinner was excellent! Angie had made jambalaya for us, and we toasted her for it. For the vegetable, she had fried up okra. I’ve never liked okra before, but the way Angie cooked it was terrific.

Angie said that since she and Doug really didn’t have a social life, she wanted to make this dinner special. Doug denied that they had no social life. Just last weekend, he reminded her, they had gone over to Barrington Briggs’s house for dinner.

“You don’t mean Professor Briggs, do you?” asked Shivvy incredulously.

“That’s the one!” said Doug, clearly quite pleased with himself. “He told us to just call him Barry.”

I have to admit, I was not happy to hear this. To tell the truth, I was jealous that I hadn’t been invited too.

“What was the occasion?” asked Shivvy. “Were there a lot of people there?”

“It was just us,” said Doug, with what I thought was an artificial nonchalance. “No special occasion.”

“Maybe he invites each of his students over in turn,” Angie added, apparently trying to soothe me. She didn’t succeed.

“What’s his house like?” asked Shivvy.

“Oh, it’s real nice,” said Angie enthusiastically. “He’s got a lot of interesting art work.”

“He calls it `neo-radical art,’” chimed in Doug. “It’s all by artists from nations struggling for freedom from oppression.”

“Is that what it was?” said Angie. “He should come by where I work. We’re all oppressed, and I’m sure we could draw him a picture too!”

We all laughed at this. I don’t know why, but I was surprised that she could say something so clever.

“Jeez!” exclaimed Shivvy. “I can’t believe Briggs actually lives in a house. We all thought he lived in the library or some place like that.”

We all laughed at this too. Shivvy saying something clever was no surprise at all.

“Actually,” said Doug in a more serious tone, “I think he invited us over because he’s interested in my critique of Faircloth and the neo-liberals. He’s wrestling over precisely what angle to take on them in his new book.”

“Oh yes,” I said, trying to act knowing. “I remember he mentioned that at the International Relations Association conference.”

“Right. I’m helping him with some of the finishing touches,” Doug added.

I was getting increasingly jealous. “You’ve seen it?” I realized what a stupid question this was as soon as I had asked it.

“I could hardly help him with the finishing touches if I hadn’t,” Doug responded, with more than a hint of condescension.

Apparently sensing that this line of conversation was not promoting sociability, Angie tried to change its direction by saying, “Oh, Doug! Barry wasn’t just interested in hearing about your old critiques. He was interested in my ideas, too.”

Doug stared at his wife for a moment, and then in a highly sarcastic tone, responded, “Of course, he was interested in your ideas, Angie. We all are, I’m sure.”

Poor Angie. The sweet smile on her face of a moment ago was instantly replaced by a look of utter pain. It was clear she was about to cry, but she got up from her chair and ran into their bedroom before doing so.

I was stunned by what had just happened. I didn’t know what to say. As usual, though, Shivvy did. “As a matter of fact, I am interested in her ideas,” she said. She then got up from her chair, went over to the bedroom, and closed the door behind her.

“Oh, shit!” said Doug when we were alone. “These Southern girls are so damned sensitive.”

“Maybe, but that really wasn’t a very nice thing to have said to her,” I responded. (I think I said that. If I didn’t, I should have.)

“She started crying over something I said when we were at Briggs’s place, too. It was really embarrassing.”

We talked desultorily for awhile about Trizenko’s situation, but both of us were really listening for any sound coming out of the bedroom. “Maybe you’d better go apologize,” I said after awhile. (I think I really did say that. I should have said it sooner. But then again, I shouldn’t have had to say it at all: he should have just gone and done it right away.)

Just as he was getting up, the bedroom door opened. Angie came out with Shivvy behind her, with her hands on her shoulders. Doug hurried over, and said, “I’m really sorry, honey,” in a much quieter and meeker tone of voice than I was accustomed to hearing from him.

“We have dessert!” she announced brightly, ignoring him. “I’ve made pecan pie!” She and Shivvy then went into the kitchen and made a show of bringing the pie out and serving it up.

We all—especially Doug—told Angie how great it was, and she thanked us nicely. The strain, though, was still there. As soon as we’d finished our pie (which was awfully good), Shivvy and I left them to what we were sure was not a night of bliss.

On the way back to my place, Shivvy told me about what transpired in the bedroom. Angie completely collapsed into tears, and complained bitterly about Doug. Before they came to Charles, he had treated her more or less as an equal, but ever since he had started the program here, he treated her disdainfully and generally took her for granted. She was also terribly lonely since she didn’t know anybody here except the people whom she met at work and through Doug. The former did not exactly share her interests in international relations, and the latter did not take her seriously. And with Doug talking to her in front of others the way he had in front of us, nobody was going to take her seriously either. Besides Shivvy and me at the party we had and again tonight, Angie related, Prof. Briggs was the only person here who had bothered to talk to her.

How sad. Well, I’m sure Doug and Angie will work things out. Despite what happened last night, I know that Doug is a really humane guy. He’s a neo-rad, after all.
I am puzzled, though, as to why it is that Doug has managed to get so much closer to Briggs than I have. What am I doing wrong that Doug is obviously doing right? I’m going to write up that critique of Saltz and hand it in to Briggs as soon as possible. Maybe then he’ll invite me over for dinner too!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1

Yes, I know I’ve done it again: I’ve let another two weeks slip by before writing this entry. And again, it’s Sunday.

Why do I feel guilty about writing this on Sundays? I don’t feel guilty about writing anything else on Sundays. Of course, I haven’t been writing all that much recently. And that's something I feel less guilty about than anxious since the end of the semester is not all that far away.

Although the little papers we’re supposed to do for Asquith’s methodology class are irritating, they’re not hard since he basically tells us what he wants for them. Writing for Trizenko’s class isn’t hard either. But I’d been having a hard time coming up with major paper topics both for Briggs’s seminar and for Saltz’s class at Harvard. And it’s important to me that both these papers be good.

Having Shivvy to talk about this with, though, has helped me reach a breakthrough. I had been seriously considering handing in a revised version of my senior thesis to Briggs, but Shivvy persuaded me that Briggs might not be open to a critique from me during my first semester with him. But she has come up with a brilliant alternative. I should write something based on my senior thesis critiquing Briggs for Saltz, and a paper critiquing Saltz for Briggs! Isn’t she brilliant?

The idea really is brilliant since, in that I’m in both of their classes, I’m becoming quite familiar with each’s thought processes. As a result, I not only have a strong basis for critiquing them each, but also for doing so in a way that the other is likely to appreciate. Yes, after talking this out with Shivvy, I am no longer facing the task of writing these papers with dread, but with relish! Like no other woman I have ever met, she is truly my intellectual soul mate!

Speaking of Briggs’s thought processes: as one might expect, I have learned far more about them by studying directly with him than I ever did studying with Cohen back at Barstow. For Cohen, the key to understanding Briggs (or any other theorist) was a close reading of what he had written. Since being here at Charles, though, I have learned that Briggs does not feel bound by anything that he has written previously. Since he is the “father” of neo-radicalism, neo-radicalism can become anything he wants it to be! God, I’d love to have that power!

What this means, of course, is that sometimes things he wrote in his great book seem inconsistent with things he says now. Craig Hatfield seems to delight in pointing this out to Briggs in class. (I can’t tell whether Craig is brave or whether he’s foolish. Either way, he certainly is irritating with his constant reference to methodological issues a la Prof. Asquith.) But as Briggs invariably responds, his neo-radicalism is not static, but dynamic and evolving. He sees no reason why he shouldn’t refrain from changing his mind about various things. What does not change, though, is the basic, humane tenets of his neo-radicalism. And as Briggs has pointed out, while there may be some small inconsistencies between his past and present statements, there is a larger overall consistency to his neo-radical thinking. That always shuts Craig up.

Briggs himself acknowledges one seeming inconsistency in his exposition of his ideas. Although, as he himself stresses, neo-radicalism is a deeply humane body of thought, Briggs does not hesitate from disparaging or ridiculing the ideas of others. But as Briggs points out: people are all unquestionably equal to one another, but their ideas are not. Nobody benefits by treating bad ideas as if they were in any way the equivalent of good ones. Indeed, bad ideas must be pitilessly exposed as such to stop whatever pernicious effects that adhering to them may result in.

Thus, when Briggs heaps scorn and ridicule on ideas he disagrees with, he is actually exhibiting a profound degree of humanity. For by ridiculing the works of others, he acknowledges his concern for the harm their ideas can—or actually do—cause.

Still, despite the humane nature of Briggs’s ridicule, I would not (as I mentioned before) want to be on the receiving end of it—as was, much to my surprise, Professor Trizenko.

I clearly have much to learn about academia. In my last entry, I wrote about how great it was that Trizenko testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and appeared on ABC News and all. I began to learn just how wrong this assessment was the very next morning in Briggs’s seminar.

Briggs came into class angrier than I have ever seen him. He immediately launched into a diatribe about how the only academics whom the simple minds in Washington and in the news media could understand were “the most primitive descriptivists.” Those who did theory, by contrast, were almost never asked to testify or give interviews.

He then offered a two-part explanation as to why this was the case. For the vast majority of legislators and journalists, he said, the explanation was simple: “Theory was just too damn complicated for their pretty little heads.” But, he insisted, not everybody in Washington was stupid. “Contrary to what you might think, there are some very, very clever people there.” It was these, he explained, who were the most determined to exclude theorists from the policy discourse on international relations. For if the theorists suddenly began appearing on Capitol Hill and on the talk shows, they would unquestionably crowd out the descriptivists. Those who now dominate the Washington discourse on international relations would soon lose control over it, thus paving the way for the adoption of a neo-radical foreign policy agenda.

Briggs never mentioned Trizenko by name. He didn’t have to: we all knew who he was talking about.

Craig Hatfield chose this inopportune moment to ask why it was that a neo-radical agenda would emerge if IR theorists came to dominate the foreign policy discourse in Washington. There were, after all, several contending schools of IR theory.

Briggs stared at him for several seconds and finally replied, “Your question is so ridiculous that it isn’t even worth addressing.” He was that angry!

Craig, though, pressed on. “Surely,” he claimed, “our Senators and Congressmen would mainly adhere to the realist/neo-realist or the liberal/neo-liberal schools, and almost none would embrace neo-radicalism—just as virtually none embraced radicalism in the past.

Briggs just shook his head, saying, “I think it’s time we got to the subject of today’s seminar.” It was clear that Craig had gone too far. He seems to think that he can say anything he wants to just because he’s gay.

Briggs, though, wasn’t the only one whom Trizenko had offended by getting so much publicity in Washington. In the methodology class later that same day, Prof. Asquith also made derisive comments about the “unsound pop scholarship” that Washington seemed addicted to. “The trouble with Washington,” he said, “is that the people there can’t distinguish between good and bad scholarship the way highly trained academics can.”

“I haven’t done a scientific study,” he added, “but I suspect that someone who did would find that Washington tends to lionize those academics who tell them what they want to hear, and shun those who dare to tell them anything different.”

Craig, I noticed, did not argue with Asquith the way he did with Briggs. Indeed, he didn’t say anything at all. [Please note, though, that I make no inference as to why.]

The very next week, I was told, Trizenko’s situation deteriorated dramatically. I don’t know how he knows these things, but Michael Radkowski said that the tenured faculty of the department voted on Trizenko’s tenure application this past Wednesday. According to Michael, the vote was against him by a small margin. And also according to Michael, getting more than one or two negative votes from the department faculty is the kiss of death for a tenure application.

I don’t know how much of what Michael said is really true. Certainly, though, Trizenko was uncharacteristically subdued in class this past Friday.

Even more than Trizenko, Danielle appears to be extremely unhappy. I know that she was planning on doing a dissertation on some aspect of Russian politics, and was counting on Trizenko to be the chair of her dissertation committee. If he ends up leaving, there is nobody else in the department for her to work with on Russia.

Michael says that if Trizenko ends up being turned down for tenure this year (and Michael thinks he surely will be), Trizenko can stay at Charles one more year and appeal. But if he loses the appeal, he’s out altogether.

Here’s the problem Danielle faces: she can still work with Trizenko on a subject she likes and hope that he somehow gets tenure this year or on appeal next year. The risk she runs here, though, is that he might not and so would have to leave one year after she takes her comprehensive exams this coming summer. This would probably not give her enough time to write a dissertation with him. If she began it, she would then have to start working with a new dissertation committee chair, who would undoubtedly insist that she alter her dissertation from whatever she and Trizenko had agreed upon.

But even if she did manage to write a dissertation for Trizenko in less than a year, it would be a wasted effort if he was forced to leave: who’s going to give a job to someone who got a Ph.D. from someone who was denied tenure?

I feel very sorry for Danielle. Michael, though, does not. That’s the risk she ran by attaching herself to someone who hadn’t gotten tenure yet, he argues.

Fortunately for me, I’m not running any such risk in working with Briggs; he’s long been a tenured professor. In fact, he’s a full professor.

Yes, I have certainly learned much about academia during these past two weeks. I wonder what other lessons are in store for me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18

I really am getting lax. Not only is this entry being written on a Sunday instead of a Friday, but it is also being written two weeks after the last entry instead of one. I would like to be able to say that this is due to the press of my course work. In fact, getting through all the reading is a struggle. But the truth of the matter is that I have mainly been distracted by Shivvy.

I had not realized just how narrow and lonely my life was. Before Shivvy, all I did was study. I continue to study now, of course. But it’s nicer because we usually study together. Being a grad student, I have an efficiency apartment on campus. She has gradually moved more and more of her clothes and other stuff over here from her dorm room. Whenever she comes over, she also brings her laptop, which is more powerful than the one I brought with me from Barstow. As a result, we each take turns on it while the other is reading. It’s fun because she keeps making wisecracks about whatever she’s reading or writing.

It’s not all fun and games, though. We each read and critique what the other one writes. I, of course, am able to help her considerably. What is truly wonderful, though, is that she is not only able to understand what I write, but she thinks it’s interesting too! Yes, I think Shivvy is my intellectual soul mate!

She even read (or at least skimmed) my senior thesis critiquing Briggs. She asked many intelligent questions about it too. She warned me, though, never to show it to Briggs. “If he sees this,” she said, “he’ll cut off your cock and make you eat it!” (Seeing my shocked reaction, she added, in a much sweeter voice, “And that would be a real pity.”) I told her that while I was sure his reaction wouldn’t be quite so extreme, perhaps it would be prudent not to show it to him before getting my Ph.D.

Not that we agree on everything. She says that we “neo-rads” go “too far,” that things really aren’t “as bleak” as we seem to think. She has a far more optimistic outlook on the world. Well, she’s young. And although she’s not really conscious of it, she’s really something of a “neo-lib.”

Some of her ideas I really don’t understand. For instance, although she’s never had a class with Professor Briggs, she insists that he is a “jerk,” and that “everybody” thinks so. No matter what I say, she will simply not be reasonable on this point. She has to take his undergraduate international relations class for her major, but has been postponing it, she says, until someone other than Michael “the Rat” Radkowski is Briggs’s TA.

While she thinks Briggs is bad, she is certain that Michael is truly monstrous. Again, although she has never had any interaction with him, she insists that he is a “total jerk” and that “absolutely everybody” thinks so. Very puzzling.

Some of her views are also contradictory. She has liberal views on everything (she wouldn’t be my girlfriend for long if she didn’t), including race relations. On the other hand, she has a deep, abiding fear of young African-American males. A girl she knew in high school was (perhaps I should add, allegedly) raped by one and ended up HIV positive. Shivvy is deathly afraid that the same thing might happen to her.

Ever sensitive to even the faintest whiff of racial intolerance, I tell her (whenever this topic comes up) that just because one African-American male allegedly raped someone she knew doesn’t mean that all African-American males are rapists. Her usual response is: “What the fuck do you mean, `allegedly?’ It happened!” And then she usually adds, “It’s easy for you to talk; you’re not the one they want to rape!”

One other thing that I find somewhat troubling about Shivvy: after she gets her B.A., her ambition is to go to business school and then be an international banker like her Mom! I keep telling her that this is really quite reactionary. As neo-radicalism proclaims, big multi-national banks and businesses are the exploiters of Third World peoples. Shivvy counters by saying that it is Western investment that provides jobs, taxes, training, and a host of other benefits to the Third World—benefits that they would not have otherwise. She likes to quote a saying of her Mom’s: “The smartest people in the Third World tell me that the only thing worse than being exploited by the multi-national corporations is not being exploited by them.”

Like I said: Shivvy is young. I’m sure, though, that exposure to me will eventually raise her consciousness.

We do other things besides study together. We are, of course, both in Trizenko’s class (unlike Briggs, Shivvy claims that he is very popular with the undergrads). We go out to all kinds of bars, pubs, and nightclubs with Shivvy’s friends. I seem to have a certain degree of standing with them. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a grad student or just because I’m Shivvy’s boyfriend.

Shivvy and I seem to be settling into something of a routine. She stays with me here on Friday and Saturday nights, but goes to Belmont to see her folks on Sunday afternoons. She then goes directly from there back to her dorm room Sunday evenings. That way, we both catch up on our studies. Shivvy, though, has the endearing habit of leaving one of her scrunchies under a pillow on Sundays for me to discover. I don’t know whether she does this deliberately or by accident. We sometimes study together weekday evenings, but she usually goes back to her dorm room for the night. Not always, though!

Shivvy and I threw a little party here at my place this past Friday night. Several of Shivvy’s (all very attractive and very animated) girlfriends came with their (less attractive and less animated) boyfriends. Doug came with his wife, Angie. Lisa Dudwick came by herself. I had invited Craig Hatfield, but he said he had another engagement. At Shivvy’s insistence, I did not invite Michael.

Shivvy herself invited Danielle—who showed up for the party with Professor Trizenko! They didn’t stay long, but they were the hit of the party while they were with us. As I have mentioned before, Danielle is a popular TA, and Trizenko is a popular professor.

As those of us in his Friday morning class knew, Trizenko had just been in Washington where he had testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the latest crisis in Russia. I had seen clips of his remarks on the ABC Evening News, as well as a long interview with him on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He told us that CBS and NBC had also carried clips of his testimony. How fantastic! It was like having a TV star in our midst.

I hadn’t realized it before, but Danielle told me while she was at the party that this was Trizenko’s sixth year at Charles, when he had to go up for tenure. Not that there was any doubt anyway, said Danielle, but Trizenko’s Senate testimony and media appearances would undoubtedly clinch tenure for him. It was all great publicity for the university too.

After Danielle and Trizenko left, one of Shivvy’s girlfriends, Lisa, speculated aloud on whether they were engaged in an “inappropriate” relationship. Doug’s wife, Angie, commented that surely that was nobody’s business but theirs. Lisa explained how, in fact, such a relationship between a TA and the professor she worked for would be inappropriate. Shivvy said that Danielle was obviously old enough to decide what was appropriate for her. I interjected that this viewpoint was incorrect, but that I, for one, would never presume to instruct Danielle in this realm. Doug said he doubted that anything was going on between them anyway; they were both too old for that. The conversation continued on in this vein. Everyone seemed to be having a good time—even Angie, who as only the spouse of a student, and not a student here herself, really didn’t quite fit in.

Before I forget, there’s a couple of things that Michael told me last week that I should note down. He said he had come back to the office one day at the end of Danielle’s office hours and saw that she was having a very unpleasant conversation with an African-American male student over a grade she had given him on a midterm for Trizenko’s lower division comparative politics course. He was telling Danielle that she had graded him down because he was black. She was telling him that this was not so, and that she had graded him down because he had written a poor essay. But the student, Michael said, was not convinced and ended up stalking out angrily.

I was really sorry to hear about this. I would have thought that Danielle would have treated a person of color with greater sensitivity.

In addition, Michael said that Prof. Asquith had come in to the office when Craig Hatfield was there. Michael said he overheard them have a little talk about the propriety of consensual sex between students and professors. Asquith was saying how while he agreed it should not be allowed between heterosexuals, prohibiting it between consenting homosexuals was unjust. Craig, however, argued that the rules should apply to everyone equally. Michael said that Asquith was obviously disappointed when he left, and that it was very clear what he wanted from Craig.

I’m not sure if Michael’s inference was accurate. Perhaps they were genuinely discussing this issue in the abstract. Abstract intellectual conversation does take place at universities sometimes, after all. Assuming Michael’s rendition of the conversation was accurate, though, I could see both sides of the issue. Given the past discrimination toward homosexuals practiced by heterosexuals, heterosexuals should not be telling homosexuals how to behave. On the other hand, I very much admire the principled position of a homosexual such as Craig (as I assume he is) that the same rules of conduct should apply to everyone.

Re-reading this diary entry, it strikes me that a future biographer or intellectual historian might not think what it discusses to be particularly interesting or important. It is human concerns such as these, however, which loom large in day-to-day life, and thus I believe they are worthy of preserving for posterity.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4

I find, once again, that I am writing this entry two days late—on Sunday instead of Friday. Not that it really matters, I suppose.

Now that the fourth week of the semester is over, the office I am in has settled into something of a routine. Since it would be extremely useful, I am sure, for my future biographers to understand my milieu, I will describe it. As I mentioned before, the office contains six carrels. As you enter the door, there are three on the right and three on the left. Michael and Danielle each occupy the carrels furthest from the door, by the window. Michael is on the left (naturally) and Danielle is on the right. I am also on the left, in the carrel next to Michael’s. Doug is also on the left, on the other side of me and close to the door. Across from him on the right is where Lisa Dudwick sits. Between her and Danielle, and just across from me, is Craig Hatfield’s carrel—although he is hardly ever there.

Each of the carrels is equipped with a computer. There is, however, only one telephone for the entire office. This is located on a small table at the far end of the room between Michael’s and Danielle’s carrels. Both told us four newcomers that they have to be near the phone since they are TA’s. Both claim that their cell phones don’t work well in this building (though none of the rest of us had this problem), and that they needed to have priority access to the office phone for work-related calls anyway.

What is especially curious is that the telephone table does not stay in one place. Michael usually has it next to his carrel if Danielle is not around, but she always moves it to a point equidistant between them when she comes in. She does this even if Michael is there, and even if he is talking on the phone, without saying a word to him. I have noticed that Michael will not touch the table while Danielle is in the room, but as soon as she goes out, he moves it back closer to him.

Each of the carrels has a swivel chair. Michael and Danielle have the two newest ones; the rest of us have somewhat older models. In addition, there are two “guest” chairs in the office. Michael and Danielle each keep one next to their carrels, citing the need to accommodate undergrads who come to see them during their office hours.

Let me explain about “office hours:” as TA’s, Michael and Danielle are required, just like professors, to be available in their offices for a couple of hours each week for students to come visit or call. These office hours are posted just outside the door and on the syllabi of the classes for which they are the TA’s.

All the rest of us, including Michael, usually go to the library or somewhere else during Danielle’s office hours. There’s always a steady stream of undergrads coming by to visit her during them, and often for some time afterward, making it hard for the rest of us to concentrate. Sometimes when I have come back to my carrel, supposedly after the end of her office hours, she’ll still be patiently explaining various concepts to two or three undergrads. They are grouped around her carrel in her guest chair, Michael’s guest chair, and sometimes even Michael’s swivel chair. Michael always looks about to explode if he comes in and one of Danielle’s students is in his swivel chair, but before he can say anything she always asks the student to give Michael back his chair and grab another one that’s unoccupied.

By contrast, there’s no problem at all concentrating on work during Michael’s office hours, since almost nobody comes to see him during them. I wonder why this is. Maybe it’s because the professor whom he is TA for, Briggs, explains everything so very clearly that the undergrads don’t need to come see Michael.

Except during Danielle’s office hours, our office is a relatively quiet place. The six of us with carrels in it are almost never there together; our varying class schedules make this impossible most of the time. I almost never see Craig Hatfield there, except just before and just after his classes. Lisa Dudwick spends time at her carrel, often fiddling with a strand of her long brown hair. But she is so quiet that I hardly notice her.

Michael, Doug, and I are often there together, and when we are, we sometimes hold an impromptu seminar on international relations theory. If she is in, I sometimes try to draw Lisa into the conversation since she’s in the Briggs seminar with Doug and me, but she usually won’t say more than a few words, if that. I think Michael intimidates her. Danielle doesn’t join in either, but not because she’s intimidated. If we’re debating while she’s there, she usually tell us that she’s interested in the reality of international relations, not theories about it invented by a bunch of narcissistic males.

Lisa usually shouts, “Hooray!” if she hears Danielle say this. I think Lisa would like to be friends with Danielle, but Danielle doesn’t seem particularly interested in her. Although I would describe Danielle as a feminist, she’s not at all interested in feminist theory the way Lisa is.

Now that I’ve described my routine, I turn my attention to a non-routine event—which will explain why I am writing this two days late.

When I went to Trizenko’s class on Friday morning, I sat next to the same black-haired, blue-eyed babe I described before. I could not help but notice, though, that she was wearing a short navy blue dress, even though the weather has gotten somewhat cooler.

At the end of class, she actually spoke to me! She asked where I had been the previous Friday. I told her that I had been at the International Relations Association annual conference with some of the other grad students.

“Oh, you’re a grad student!” she responded. “Hey! Maybe you could give me a little help with this class!”

I said I’d be happy to. She asked if I was free for lunch. I said I was, and she said, “Let’s go!”

As we walked along, she told me that her name is Siobahn (pronounced Shi-vawn) O’Keefe, but that her friends call her Shivvy. She is from nearby Belmont, Mass., which even I knew to be an affluent suburb of Boston. And she is a junior majoring in political science, with an emphasis on international relations.

She seemed to think that it was really cool that I come from California. She apparently didn’t know that Barstow is regarded as California’s unwiped rear end—even by many of the people who live there.

We went and got sandwiches and sat outside eating them in the cool sunlight. I can’t remember much of what we said, but do remember how much I enjoyed our conversation. She seemed to like my sense of humor. I liked saying things that made her laugh.

She obviously didn’t know as much as I did about international relations. But she was able to understand what I told her about it and make good points herself. On the other hand, she has certainly seen much more of the world than I have. Except for driving down to Mexico, my only foreign travel was a student tour to France, England, and Ireland that my folks gave me as a reward for graduating from high school. Shivvy’s Mom, though, does a lot of traveling on her job (something to do with investment banking or something bourgeois like that), and she and her Dad have been able to meet up with her in a lot of places, including Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, and several others I can’t remember. Shivvy’s been to Europe not just once, but many times, and has friends over there whom she is in contact with. That is cool!

Shivvy soon discovered that I really didn’t know much about the Boston area beyond the confines of Charles and Harvard Universities. She asked if I wanted to go with her downtown in the evening to an Irish pub and listen to some music there. That was an offer I didn’t refuse!

We had a great time that evening talking, drinking, and laughing together. We both commented how even though we’d never spoken to each other before today, it felt like we had known each other forever.

On the way back, we decided to buy some wine and continue talking back at my place. Once there, however, our communication soon moved into a non-verbal realm. Privacy concerns prevent me from saying anything more, but let me just say this: Shivvy demonstrated that she can provide me with both types of stimulation that I seek.

We then spent yesterday and most of today together, with her showing me her favorite restaurants, shops, museums, and other places in the area. I hadn’t realized that all these things were even out there.

She stayed with me again last night. One thing I will say about Shivvy: while I clearly dominate her intellectually, I must confess that she dominates me sexually. She’s the one who tells me what I am going to do to her or what she is going to do to me, and that’s what happens! She’s incredible! [Check with Shivvy at the appropriate time on whether I should delete this paragraph. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me to leave it in!]

We both decided that if we were going to have any chance of being ready for class on Monday, we’d better spend the evening apart, and so that’s why I am only writing this entry now.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27

I am writing this entry two days later than usual—on Sunday instead of Friday—since I have been incredibly busy attending the annual conference of the International Relations Association. The IRA, as my future biographers will surely know, is the academic association for specialists in international relations. Like other such associations, it holds an annual conference at which hundreds of scholars (not just professors, I found out, but even advanced graduate students) present research papers. The annual conference is never held in the same city twice in a row. It was fortunate that the conference took place in Boston this year. Prof. Briggs encouraged all his students to attend.

The conference began on Thursday and ran through noon today. I went over early on the Thursday morning, stood in line twenty minutes waiting to register, and then spent twenty minutes looking through the huge program (bound like a book!) that was given to me along with a name tag by the registration desk attendant.

I picked a panel on alternate conceptions of international security that sounded interesting, and found my way to the room where it was being held. I was a little surprised because although the program said the panel would consist of four people presenting papers and two more discussing them (plus a chair), only two paper presenters and one discussant were actually there. I would soon learn, however, that this was par for the course at these panels—which was frustrating because the one or two paper presenters I wanted most to hear were usually the ones that didn’t show.

I would also learn that attendance at these panels varied widely. The first one I attended, for example, was in a room with about fifty chairs, but there were only ten of us in the audience—at most (people felt free to come in late or leave early). The audience for some panels, though, was huge. I think it all depended on the prestige of the paper presenters. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that everyone would want to hear the stars of the field, while next to nobody wanted to listen to grad student presentations. Not that the grad students minded. The ones I talked with were quite happy with a small audience, since their presentations tended to get harshly criticized by discussants.

I kind of felt sorry for the older professors who obviously were not stars. For a grad student, there is no shame in not attracting a large audience for his or her presentation. But for senior professors not to be able to do so just showed what duds they are. I attended one panel on revolution where although—surprise, surprise—everyone listed in the program for the panel (three full professors, one associate, and one grad student) showed up, I was the only person in the audience—until I left. To their credit, though, they proceeded with their panel, acting as if everything was normal. Maybe it was, for them.

After the first panel I attended, I went over to the book exhibit room, where fifty or so publishers had booths displaying all their latest releases. Just as among professors, there appears to be a pecking order among publishers. The booths of the most prestigious publishers were always crowded with people wanting to buy their books at the conference discount or trying to get an acquisitions editor interested in whatever they were writing. At the other end of the scale were the publishers’ booths that nobody seemed to visit and where those manning them were sitting around reading novels or just looking bored—if, that is, these unprestegious booths were manned at all, which some of them were not. The prospect of anyone even stealing their books was apparently not a concern.

I shouldn’t have used the word “manned” in the previous sentence. Although there are more men than women in academia, from this book exhibit it appeared to me that there are more women than men in academic publishing. And the women appear mainly to be young and attractive. I have to admit, I visited a few booths mainly to get a closer look at the pretty women running them. I wonder if publishers send them to these conferences specifically to lure the predominantly male participants over to their booths? [I’d probably better delete this paragraph, even if it does point out an interesting example of reverse exploitation]

At the book exhibit, I ran into Prof. Cohen from Cal State Barstow. He pumped my hand and declared loudly how great it was to see me—a little too loudly, for my taste. He insisted on taking me to lunch. But since he was on a tight budget, we didn’t eat at any of the expensive restaurants in the hotel, but went outside of it altogether to a fast food restaurant he’d already found.

I felt more comfortable talking with him there. It was fun hearing about people I knew back at Barstow as well as telling him about my classes and professors at Charles. It was nice, actually, that he was so genuinely interested in what I was doing.

Brendan, as he insisted I call him, asked if I was going to the Charles University reception at the conference tomorrow evening. I replied that I didn’t know there even was one. He then got out his copy of the conference program and showed me where it was listed. He’d clearly studied this a lot more closely than I had.

I wondered aloud whether the reception was intended for grad students like me. He assured me that all receptions listed in the program were open to all conference participants. In that case, I said, I’d probably go. He then said he’d be going too, and asked if I would please introduce him to Prof. Briggs. I said, “Of course.” What else could I say?

He thanked me, and then asked, “Are you coming to the panel I’m giving a presentation on this afternoon?”

“Sorry,” I replied, “but I have to go to my class at Harvard.” I don’t know why I said that, but it felt good. I had actually been thinking of skipping the class and staying at the conference.

Cohen took it well. In fact, he said he wished we could switch places, with him going to Harvard for me, and me giving his presentation at the conference for him. “After all those lectures of mine you listened to, you could probably give my presentation for me without even reading the paper!” he said enthusiastically. He was probably right.

He then asked if I’d be at the big IR theory roundtable tomorrow morning which Briggs, Saltz, and Arch Faircloth would all be on. I hadn’t heard about this either. He showed it to me in the program. I said I’d definitely be there. As we parted company and I walked to the T station, I realized that I’d have to miss Trizenko’s class to attend the roundtable, but I knew it would be worth it.

The next morning, I met up with Michael Radkowski and Doug Terenti (Brigg’s other first year grad student, as I thought of him) just before the big IR theory roundtable. It was being held in one of the hotel’s large ballrooms with hundreds of chairs. Even before it started, the room was pretty full. Yes, everyone wanted to see the stars! And Michael, Doug, and I all felt great being the students of one of them.

We were having a good time together when Brendan Cohen came and sat with us. It was annoying: he didn’t understand all of our “insider” talk and kept asking me to explain what we were saying—which embarrassed me a little in front of Michael and Doug. It was like going on a date and running into an aunt who then decides to tag along.

Fortunately, the roundtable soon started up. Briggs, of course, gave a masterful presentation. Although I didn’t agree with them, both Saltz and Faircloth also did very well. In fact, after their presentations, the two of them engaged in a spirited impromptu debate which Briggs was notably left out of. Similarly, people in the audience mainly addressed questions and comments to them and not Briggs. Toward the end, Cohen (who had been raising his hand in vain up to now) was finally recognized. He started by noting (again, to my annoyance) that Briggs had not published much since International Relations: A Neo-Radical Interpretation came out in the last decade, but then asked (to my relief) when we could expect his next great pronouncement on international relations.

Briggs brightened up considerably at hearing this, replying, “It should be released at next year’s IRA conference in Washington.” He then went on to give a neo-radical critique of the Saltz-Faircloth debate until the chair interrupted him and declared the session over.

I managed to ditch Cohen, going with Michael and Doug to a nearby Indian restaurant where we heaped scorn on Saltz and Faircloth and came up with lines that Briggs should have delivered in response to them. After lunch, we went back to the conference and split up. The two afternoon panels I attended were dull, and I left both early to wander around the book exhibit. We all met back up in the evening at the Charles University reception where we told Briggs what we had decided he should have said at various points during the roundtable that morning. He laughed at some of the things we had come up with and said he wished he’d thought of them. “The reason why I was so quiet,” he explained to us, “was that everything Saltz and Faircloth had to say was so dull and boring that I could barely stay awake listening to them.” We felt most uplifted by this.

Cohen suddenly appeared, clearly waiting to be introduced to Briggs. I obliged. Briggs remembered him from the question he asked this morning and seemed pleased to meet him. Briggs repeated his line about not saying much due to the other panelists having bored him, and Cohen laughed loudly. Cohen was really obsequious toward Briggs; I’d never seen him like this before. Cohen made me uncomfortable again when he started to go on about how I had been his star pupil back at Barstow. Briggs was clearly losing interest in him. Michael and Doug seemed bemused.

Fortunately, Cohen’s elegy came to an end when a remarkably beautiful blonde girl came up alongside Doug and put a lovely bare arm around his waist. Caught by surprise, it was Doug’s turn to be embarrassed. He quickly recovered, though, introducing her to us as his wife, Angie. She, then, became the focus of attention. I had not met her before, and apparently Briggs and Michael hadn’t either. Briggs asked the standard questions: where had she and Doug met, and how long had they been married. She responded in a lovely southern accent (why is it that men who speak with a southern accent sound stupid while women who speak with one sound sexy?) that they had met while students together at New Dominion University in Northern Virginia. They got married shortly after they had both graduated this past summer.

“So what do you do while Doug studies?” Briggs asked.

“Oh, I’m just a waitress now. But Doug and I have a deal: I support him while he gets his Ph.D., and then he supports me while I get mine. Right, Doug?” she asked teasingly, pinching his arm. He nodded, clearly somewhat embarrassed.

I have to admit, I envied Doug a little. It must be nice having the company of such a lovely woman.

I attended conference sessions all day Saturday and Sunday morning as well. It was exhausting, but nothing stands out in my mind that is worth reporting—except that I attended a panel where Danielle Stephens (Trizenko’s TA and one of my office mates) presented a paper. Fortunately for her the audience was small, because she was being lambasted by the discussant.

The trouble with doing area studies, as she does, is that it is just not theoretical. And so nobody who does theory can respect it. Yet while the discussant’s criticisms of her paper were undoubtedly valid, it seemed to me that he didn’t have to be so harsh in delivering them.
But being lambasted appears to be the lot of grad students who deliver papers at academic conferences. And to her credit, Danielle responded with a spirited, good-humored defense. I only hope that I can exhibit such a degree of “grace under fire” when it’s my turn—as I both hope and dread it will be at next year’s IRA conference in Washington.

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

Although the professors and grad students here at Charles are always finding fault with Harvard, I have to admit: I find taking a class there to be quite thrilling. The class I’m in is one on international security with Tim Saltz. Like Trizenko’s class on Russia here at Charles, both undergraduates and graduates attend the lecture sessions, which meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. While the undergrads also meet with TAs in very small sections of four or five students (as apparently is Harvard’s custom), the graduate students meet with Saltz himself for an hour and a half shortly after the Tuesday lecture.

Our class meets on the main campus, right on Harvard Square. I went over early on the first day the class met and walked around a little bit. The campus certainly is beautiful with its old buildings, which really are covered with ivy. I saw that there was a demonstration against the conservative Harvard professors who advised the Bush Administration on the war in Iraq. I joined the demonstration for a few minutes myself. I was glad to be a part of it. It felt good to be alive!

There were about a hundred students at Saltz’s opening lecture—which was extraordinarily well polished. At the end, the students applauded—another tradition at Harvard, I was told. Afterward, there were eighteen or so of us graduate students who met with Saltz. He had us go around the room and introduce ourselves. Most were from Harvard, a few were from M.I.T., and only two of us were from Charles: Michael Radkowski and me.

Saltz’s lectures with the undergraduates are mainly descriptive: the history of war and that sort of thing. His sessions with us graduate students, though, are more theoretical. Back at Barstow, I remember Cohen describing Saltz as a neo-realist. I was surprised to learn at the very first graduate seminar that he is a critic of neo-realism. Not only that: he appears to consider himself a classic realist! I didn’t think there were any of those left, except for a few ancient right-wingers. I’m surprised that Cohen apparently missed this about Saltz.

The grad students have to take two midterms and a final just like the undergrads. But in addition, we have to write a major paper, while the undergrads do not.

There were a few more surprises: the Harvard grad students in the class appeared to be seized with the classic realist vs. neo-realist debate, with only a few neo-liberals sprinkled in. At one point, Michael Radkowski introduced a vigorous Briggsian neo-radical statement into the discussion. What really shocked me was that at the mention of Briggs, several of the other graduate students either laughed or smiled derisively. Saltz himself shook his head, and countered Michael with a statement indicating that he did not take him seriously. Disagree with Briggs, yes. Even I did so in my senior thesis. But dismiss him? I couldn’t believe it! Things are clearly not right at Harvard.

The biggest surprise of all, though, is that Saltz is an African-American. There is, of course, nothing surprising about being an African-American. I was just surprised to find that an African-American professor could also be a conservative. It seems to me that, considering the discrimination and injustice that African-Americans have experienced, they should all be liberals, at minimum.

Michael had not looked pleased when he first saw me at Saltz’s seminar. Afterward, though, we went back to our office together on the subway (known in the Boston area as “the T”). Along the way, Michael ripped in to Saltz, describing him as a “reactionary realist reptile.” He said he wished that Briggs himself could have been there to put him in his place. He called the Harvard grad students “nothing but a bunch of upper classholes.” He said most of them were too afraid to stray too far from their “realist—neo-realist reservation” for fear of jeopardizing the job at State, Defense, or CIA that awaited “all good little Harvard boys” who successfully avoided saying anything intelligent, which would automatically disqualify them.

Although Michael criticized Saltz severely, I was gratified that he did not once refer to his happening to be an African-American. I, of course, didn’t either. After his tirade subsided, Michael asked me about the other classes I was taking. We both agreed that Briggs is the absolute greatest. He advised me to read everything on his syllabus, even if it meant going without sleep, so that I could fully appreciate Brigg’s critique of everyone on it.

“How am I supposed to get through my other three classes if I do that?” I asked him.

As far as Asquith’s methodology class was concerned, Michael advised me not to bother doing any of the reading at all, and claimed that he had certainly not done so. “Just talk the methodology talk with him and he’ll be happy. The one thing you must never do is tell him that any of it is bullshit, even though most of it is.” Michael assured me that this is what he had done, and that he’d gotten an “A” for the course.

I asked him about the mock research proposal we were supposed to do for the second semester of the class. Michael’s response was that by then, Briggs would have taught me as much as I really needed to know about methodology to get me through it with flying colors.

Michael indicated that he had never taken any classes with Trizenko, but he assured me that I wouldn’t have to do any real work to get through the one on Russia. “Don’t bother with his reading list; just keep up with the news. That’s all he teaches anyway, from what I hear,” said Michael.

I wouldn’t say so to Michael, but I was actually enjoying Trizenko’s class. Listening to him made me understand what an incredibly complicated country Russia is—so complicated that applying any sort of theory to try to understand it would not be easy. Maybe that’s what I’ll try to do in the paper for his class.

There is, however, another reason why I am enjoying this particular class: it just so happens that there are some really good looking undergraduate females in it. With the weather still warm here, they come to class in shorts or miniskirts. There’s one girl in particular who’s been sitting in the desk beside mine whom I find it very difficult not to look at. She has long black hair that falls half way down her back. But despite her dark hair, she has pale skin and haunting blue eyes. And what incredible legs! I like listening to her talk with her friends before class starts; she seems to have a mischievous sense of humor and is always laughing. Yes, I’d much rather look at her than at Trizenko during the lecture, but that, of course, would be inappropriate.

On this note, I would like to state here that, like other men, I am attracted to beautiful women. But unlike most other men, I seek both intellectual as well as sexual stimulation from a woman. Indeed, I have found that for me, sexual stimulation leads to intellectual stimulation. Thus, unlike other men whose interest in a woman might be limited to her body, I am just as interested in her mind—and I seek stimulation from both.

The problem I have found, though, is that it is difficult to find both sorts of stimulation to the high degree that I desire together in one woman. So many of those who could obviously provide sexual stimulation just as obviously cannot provide intellectual stimulation. And sadly, those who can provide the latter often seem unwilling or unable to provide the former.

Back at Cal State Barstow last year, I had a relationship with a woman from whom I did derive a tremendous degree of both sexual and intellectual stimulation. Unfortunately, my own intellectual development was proceeding much faster than hers, and after awhile I no longer received the intellectual stimulation from her that I needed. It was necessary then for me to end the relationship. She was very hurt by this. But as I tried to explain to her, she had disappointed me in not sharing my enthusiasm for my senior thesis project, which meant so much to me. Our relationship ended in bitterness. I must admit, though, I still do think about her sometimes.

I wonder if I’ll ever find out whether this girl I sit next to in Trizenko’s class can provide me with both the sexual and the intellectual stimulation which I crave. I have no doubt that she could provide the former. But could she—would she—provide me with the latter?

[Some might advise me to delete the last five paragraphs of this entry, but I will not. In addition to my intellectual life, I want my future biographers to understand the rich, complex nature of my emotional life.]