Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Some of us don’t care

Here’s evidence that some faculty members don’t care about their students...or is it that they care too much?

Discussions - 18 Comments

How many "t's" are in the phrase "mentally unstable?"

That would be two "t's", Dr. Knippenberg . . . two "t's" . . .

You read with some care.

And now I know what it takes to be hired by Dartmouth and Northwestern.

Yes, if that is what it takes to be hired at reputable four-year schools, I should be at the community college level forever.

That poor, silly woman. Yet, she might not be alone in her discomfort with challenging students. Our college's psychologist gave a series of seminars on handling deviant students in the classroom. Being new at this, I attended and the first "deviant" student discussed was the type that is fully engaged, asks a lot of questions and challenges prevailing wisdom. This is just the kind of student I like, yet here such a student was described as deviant. That might mean "not quite the norm," I suppose. Please, give me a student who cares what I say! Don't we work to engage them like that? What's the point if we don't? Apparently, I can send students to counseling if they ask too many questions for my comfort.

Counseling . . . forget that! Kate, you're not thinking as deviously as you need to do to make the most out of being a "professor" institutions like Dartmouth. Apparently, you can find out which students have parents with deep pockets, peg them as "deviant" and "hostile" and "anti-intellectual," get a doctor to give you a diagnosis of "intellectual distress" and then sue their pants off. That certainly beats studying eco-feminism for a living! (And I'd wager it pays better too.) I suppose you could try this at the community college level too . . . but the pockets are probably more shallow there.

Priya Venkatesan sounds a little like Lt. Cmdr Philip Francis Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny." In the spirit of that movie's ending, we might note that she was educated (sic) at Dartmouth itself; maybe she has grounds for a successful law suit against Dartmouth, just not the one she thinks.

Uncaring faculty? No way! ...Here at AU, during the recent debate over Greek that Dr. Schramm wrote about recently, the Faculty Senate (made up of about a third or fourth of the entire faculty, I believe) had a nice little discussion on adding Greek as a foreign language on campus. During the entire debate, students were only mentioned once-- when the President mentioned that this entire thing was a student-driven endeavor.

But the faculty never mentioned student opinion or welfare once. Despite four years of asking for Greek, staging a sit-in, and representatives of the student body occupying an entire row of seats during their meeting, students were mentioned once, and not by the faculty.

Hopefully this isn't a growing trend.

Julie, I have an amazing variety of students in my classes. Kids from wealthy families who party themselves out of the best colleges in the country can end up in my classroom. They are starting over, following re-hab or tedious time at home with mom and dad. They are some of my most entertaining students and a great comfort to me. But I will keep your suggestion in mind.

Steve Thomas, what are you suggesting about the value of a Dartmouth education?

R.O.B., I understand why the study of Greek is desirable, but not why the faculty is opposed. I hesitated to ask before, but maybe you won't mind explaining.

I'm still not entirely sure why they are opposed to it. The Foreign Language Department just seems to be set on only allowing Spanish and French to be offered, and to that degree made the following arguments against it: 1. Greek cannot be counted as a foreign language because it is not useful (not Modern) and fails to meet any sort of "international perspective" requirement.... 2. You cannot teach Greek in Greek, and that's not how we do it here, so we would not be able to teach it.... 3. Dr. Schramm wants to make all Ashbrook Scholars take only Greek.... 4. Student Senate just wants to replace Spanish and French with Greek and Latin.... 5. Having a Greek program will kill French..... 6. Several junior faculty will end up losing their jobs if we teach Greek.... 7. The Faculty Senate and Administration have no right to tell the Foreign Language Department what to do with its curriculum.... 8. This is all just some weird conspiracy between the Ashbrook Center, Philosophy Department, and Religion Department to take over the Foreign Language Department.

When Faculty Senate officially voted on this, up to fifteen of the Faculty Senators were either absent or had a proxy-- one of the faculty who was very much in favor of Greek ended up getting replaced by a Spanish professor, who seconded the motion to table the program. So, between convincing faculty (mostly junior faculty) that this would be bad for the university and that Greek was useless and also the fact that representatives from the Colleges of Business and Education just did not really care, Greek died by a 19-15 vote.

When the student body began to grow very agitated with their decision and the administration and some faculty stood up against it, they just decided to refer it, once again, to committee, effectively reinstating the status quo that the students have been trying to change for years.

Kate - I assume, without knowing, that it is possible to flourish at Dartmouth. Venkatesan must not have been so lucky. She chose foolishness, judging only from the interviews, and then went and got more of it on the West coast. So she returned to Dartmouth as an evidently successful alumna, hoping to impart her new expertise [sic] in a campus culture she thought she knew. The Dartmouth people thought she was equipped to teach their undergraduates. How can we not blame Dartmouth for so many things? -- the foolishness Ms Venkatesan learned there, their judgment in hiring her, and their subsequent lack of "due diligence" in allowing themselves to be a laughing stock, and her to self-destruct.

That is quite a jumble of reasons and many of them as absurd as any I have heard in a faculty meeting. Why would Dr. Schramm want you to learn only Greek when Latin is so useful, too? They both really help in understanding English better, that beyond their other uses.

As an undergrad I took Italian, French and German. After thirty years, I can't really speak those languages, except for a bit of Italian, partly because I took a lot of Italian and partly because I used to be able to speak with my husband's aged Italian relatives. They have all been dead for some years now, so I get no practice. I can still understand enough by ear of Italian or French to know when the subtitles of foreign movies have bad or euphemistic translations. Big deal. The other point being that I can still read those languages, enough to puzzle through things, because that is the aspect of the language where I get any practice at all. Modern languages, unused, have diminishing returns.

I bombed a summer Latin course a few years back, (The catalog said it was a semester's worth of Latin in six weeks, which would have been really hard. Instead it was a year's worth of Latin and "That's impossible," the prof. said. For me it was.) but retained enough that my three weeks worth, before I gave up, is still useful. I am glad I did it and hope to get that language down, someday.

I still do not understand how college administration works, but couldn't an (even part-time) instructor be hired by the History department to teach the historical language, bypassing the Foreign Language Dept. altogether? Must the language credits be earned through that department? I suppose it is not your point; that faculty ought to be responsive to the student body. I can see that in this case. However, I saw the results of giving in to student demands at Columbia in the early 70s and it is not always so beneficial.

Steve, yes, I agree. What passes for an excellent education can be pretty questionable, these days. Don't you just wonder what Dartmouth valued in Venkatesan?

I'd like to note that Dr. Schramm does not, in fact, want all Ashbrook Scholars to have to take Greek and that the Student Senate has no intention of eliminating French and Spanish.

Yes, the history department can, and has, taught Greek before. But the fight is whether or not it can fulfill the foreign language requirement for students pursuing a BA at Ashland. And I believe one prime difference between the debate currently at Ashland and the one in the 70s at Columbia is that here the students are asking to be challenged and for the university to grow stronger in the liberal arts.

Times do change. When I was in college we were after "privacy" for you-know-what; elsewhere it was "free speech." Now they want Greek and Latin! Students!!

My dear R.O.B.! I did know the difference between what you are doing and what happened at C.U. or other campuses in my day. Truly. I meant something like what Steve Thomas so cleverly wrote. Sometimes it is the very devil that we can't read smiles in writing. I draw the line at emoticons, but see they have their uses.

Is there anything we can do? A writing campaign from the blog? Email seems most suitable, but actual letters may have more effect. Actually, I think absurd issue #8 might be the most reasonable way to effect what you want.

I'm sorry; I knew it to be a sarcastic remark, but I just wanted to make the point to show the contrast even more to other people. ;) I'm not against emoticons.

I'm not sure what to do now. The students are just going to keep up what we've been doing and hope that the faculty eventually understand.

Well, a local Ashland resident has summarized perfectly, in words far better than those that I have used, the reason we ought to study Greek.

I was thinking we had gone afield from the post, but we really haven't. Your language faculty probably figures that you noisy students, asking for more, will go away to be replaced by more apathetic students, demanding less. They might be right, and that's a pity. I hope you keep pressing this issue, but as I said above, I like demanding, "deviant" students.

R.O.B., just to correct one detail of your narrative--there's no such thing as a proxy in Faculty Senate. Each year the faculty elect alternates as well as regular members, so that any time a regular member can't attend a meeting an alternate can fill in. And unlike a proxy, an alternate is in no way obligated to vote in the same way that the absent senator would have.

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