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:

Jonathan:

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!

Danielle


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:

J:

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???

D


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.

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