Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener and the Liberty Justice Center. Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Was academic freedom ever really a thing? 'Fluff the paper'!

Almost 10 years ago, I was quoted in Inside Higher Ed: "When I started teaching 10 years ago, I thought universities were the quintessential market place of ideas. I was so naïve, and so, so wrong....  It's not an open market place of ideas -- I hope we can get back to that notion because our society desperately needs places where we can have truly free discussion. I just can't say I see that in the American university today."

10+10.  I've been teaching for 20 years now.

Most of my career, I've worked for two academic employers.  Both at one time had vibrant electronic mail listservs for faculty to be able to discuss, debate, and engage.

At my former workplace, I once made a posting that was critical of my school, but suggested, based on my experiences then visiting off campus at another university, some ideas that we might adopt to up our game.  My dean at that time lambasted me for using the forum to be critical rather than to praise and celebrate the institution.  That was the end of that listserv as a place for serious engagement.  Afterward, it became all about peer-to-peer "Congratulations to Professor So-and-So, Who Achieved This," followed by rousing rounds of Reply-All, "Congratulations, So-and-So!"  (See more recent news.)

At my present workplace, a dialog was recently had about the disused campus listserv.  Online and offline, faculty reminisced about when the forum was a place for vibrant engagement on hot-button issues.  Some speculated about why it no longer is.  Fear of administrative reprisal in the enforcement of vague conduct policy was cited, upon a spate of reported "investigations."  One faculty member reported that the basis for her having been found in violation of policy was that a complainant felt offended.  That accords with my experience.

In recent weeks, the following dialog has unfolded on the campus listserv.  (I emphasize that what is said in this forum is public record in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I have a First Amendment right to republish it.)  I honestly don't know whether this is serious or tongue in cheek.  I don't know whether this is wicked social commentary or innocent chatter.  I do know that I'm afraid to ask.  I really hope it's commentary, because I like it.  I appreciate the earnestness and wit of the responses.  Seriously, I have smiled reading these postings.  I'm just not sure why.  I would hate to conclude that I like this dialog because my mind has become as dull as the subject.

When I started teaching 20 years ago, I thought universities were the quintessential marketplace of ideas. I was so naïve, and so, so wrong.  It's not an open marketplace of ideas.  Maybe it never was.

So here's the latest in scintillating academic engagement, now university approved!  Fluff the paper!


Wed., 2/7, 2:23 p.m.

If faculty and staff (and work study students) logged the hours we spend dealing with paper jams... I'm sure faculty have all had the experience of trying to print out the rubric for an assignment 15 minutes before class time when the machine jams for the 17th time that week.... 


Wed., 2/7, 3:58 p.m.

That is interesting, I never knew these copy machines were so complicated.  Still,  as I saw Elon Musk's SpaceX manage a perfect landing of the two heavy rocket boosters yesterday, I must conclude that it's not rocket science! 


Thu., 2/8, 9:22 p.m. 

I still think we all need a PhD in Copier Technology to operate them. 

Unfortunately, I have already risen to my level of incompetence. 


Wed., 2/14, 9:33 p.m. 

As someone with the experience of a PhD in copier technology (30+ years), I can tell you 2 secrets to keeping paper jams to a minimum: 

1) do not unwrap paper or preferably even take the wrapped paper out of the delivery box until needed (i.e. stacking on a shelf causes the paper to absorb moisture, which causes the jams) and

2) fluff the paper (place the ream in the tray and rifle/fan it) every time you put in a new ream. 

Also, I have always found Hammermill paper jams less frequently than other cheaper papers (the time and material lost isn't worth the savings!)

Hope this helps! 

1 comment:

  1. Here's an important item you can use to start a new thread on your faculty listserv, ideal for scholarly environments: Why Trying to Be Less Awkward Never Works, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/smarter-living/dont-be-less-awkward.html