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.