A Message From Academic Affairs
From the Senate Chair...
I will soon, happily, pass the responsibility of chairing the Faculty Senate to Kathy Jakielski, along with my hearty congratulations. I offer here a few final observations to you, those of my colleagues who read the weekly newsletter.
As I stated in my remarks at the opening meeting of the Senate (for those that may have been listening), we began the year in interesting times. This year has also contained some items of interest. Throughout I have tried to constantly remind myself that, while the elected members of the Senate make up roughly one third of the voting Faculty, we are chosen to represent not just the rest of the Faculty, but in a very real sense, all those who are affected by our decisions. As I understand “representation” that means that we all have a responsibility to actually talk and listen to the other members of our community. In particular I stated that we must take great care to listen before presuming to speak for any other group or individual. And that also means that we have to avoid the “Dick Cheney syndrome”—only talking and listening to those who we know agree with us. If I have listened too much to those with whom I agree and not done enough to seek out others, please accept my apologies.
Speaking of dialogue, I was struck by the following passage. In his novel Straight Man (great novel; I recommend it highly!) Richard Russo tells the story of Hank Devereaux, the chair of an English Department at a branch campus of a state University that, rumor has it, is facing pending retrenchments. You can imagine the level of paranoia! At one point Hank (or “Judas Peckerwood” as one of the members of his department likes to call him) points out that
“[a]nyone who observed us would conclude the purpose of all academic discussion was to provide the grounds for becoming further entrenched in our original positions.”
Call me naïve (or any other name you feel appropriate), but I honestly don’t believe that is the case here at Augie; well, ok, at least not all the time!
I was also struck by the very first sentence of the first chapter of Clueless in Academe, where Gerald Graff reminds us (warns us) that
“[a]n old saying has it that academic disputes are especially vicious because so little is at stake in them.”
On the contrary, as you well know, there is a lot at stake in some of the discussions we’ve had and will continue to have, for our future as individuals and as an institution. There are and will continue to be points that we disagree on; but there is also plenty of common ground. It is up to each of us to be respectful and patient with each other in our discussions in the years ahead.
I finish this year more convinced of the good nature of my colleagues and I thank all of you who provided me with guidance and suggestions. Morale may wax and wane, but this is still a great place to build a career. And Kathy, don’t be nervous; you’ll do a great job!
– Jon Clauss, Outgoing Senate Chair