Monday, October 29, 2007

Oops, Busy

I suddenly realise that I have been ignoring this blog. The past few weeks have been beyond hectic. I blog when I have time. Of late I have had none.

Last weekend and much of last week I was away from home at a conference. It was wonderful, stimulating and fun, but left little spare time -- on one day we had twelve hours of sessions, with only two hours long breaks. We did get to see the Space Shuttle launch though, which was fun.

The weekend before that, I had to play a role at a local event. It seems my activities were appreciated. Next weekend, I will have to play the role of a town crier at another local event. It seems that having a loud voice is appreciated in some quarters. There is even talk that I might get appointed town crier for the place that I live. This could be curious, but yet more time consuming.

The conference trip was hectic, as I had to put together an entirely new talk. It is done now. It went well. However, I need to catch up on stuff. I have a good friend who is in jail. I owe him several letters. He is important and has very little, so I will make writing to him a priority. I also have to return a manuscript to the journal that accepted it. The changes are minor and bibliographic. However, this has a short deadline, so it too will have to be attended to very soon. The book chapter that is due at the end of the year, is next in line behind the obligations just mentioned.

So, this is a long way of saying that The Combat Philosopher is currently somewhat hors de combat. This should be a temporary state of affairs though. I'll be back. I, at the very least, intend to post at least once a week from now on, until I can get back to a more rapid schedule. Sorry to all.

The CP.

Monday, October 08, 2007

To New Orleans...

This weekend was fun. One of my graduate students got married. They were kind enough to invite me. The wedding was held in New Orleans and turned out to be a very fancy affair.

The wedding itself was glorious. It was held at a venerable old institution. The venue was amazing. The reception was very good too. It too was held in a classic old building. The food was excellent. Of course, there were many friends there, including several former and current students. It was most jolly.

Before the wedding, there was all the chaos of people meeting together from many different points. I rode down to The Big Easy in my new truck, that performed flawlessly, in excellent company. The journey was enriched by my iPod. At the last moment, one of the Bridesmen (a new fangled idea), had to use my hotel room to get changed. There was then a gathering for 'pre-match' drinks. This was in the very 'down at heal' "Chuck's". It made a nice counterpoint to the opulence of the wedding itself.

The ceremony was interesting. I have never seen so many bridesmaids (and bridesmen), and groomsmen (and groomsmaids). It looked like there was an entire football team of attendants. The other thing which was kind of unusual is that not a word of the ceremony was audible. I whispered to the folks around me that they might have been saying "Isn't this fun! Let us mouth some stuff for a while and then just go party". Who knows. However, there was an announcement of the new married couple, so we must assume that the deed was done in the proper manner.

After several hours of reception, the whole proceedings were interrupted by the arrival of one of the better New Orleans brass bands. Parasols were handed out. After a couple of circuits around the room in which the reception was held, the band led a second line out into the street. This was both excellent and fun. It seems that the families have some 'stroke' (as they say in these parts). There were police there closing down the roads so that the second line could proceed without impediment. It was absolutely fabulous. For those who know New Orleans, we went down both Magazine and Poydras with our procession. Tourists were even taking pictures!

Eventually, we reached a rather grand hotel, where the bridal party was staying. After a big finale, the brass band left. Apparently, the plan was then that we should all go down to the French Quarter, with the bride and groom. Needless to say, the theory on this was not quite what happened. After some chaotic hanging around, a consensus was reached that those of us in the proverbial 'madding crowd' should retire to the hotel bar, to await further instructions. There had been a brief incident with a limousine and a visiting football team outside the hotel that made this seem like a prudent choice. However, this move to the hotel bar too turned out to be a little more interesting than might have normally been assumed.

When we arrived in the bar, one of the other patrons turned out to be the Reverend Al Sharpton. I was just a little disappointed that he was only drinking coffee. However, due to a small collision incident (note to self: learn to look where you are going next time), I got to chat to him a little bit. For all the public persona (I have an in built distrust of public figures), he is actually a nice and interesting guy. I certainly applaud his efforts on behalf of the Jena 6. When the bride (eventually) arrived, he was kind enough to pose for photos with her. Although I have a copy of the picture of Rev. Sharpton kissing the bride, I will not share it here -- I am sure that my students new husband and Mrs. Sharpton would prefer that (not that there is anything sordid -- it is actually very sweet).

After a while and some quite interesting traditional jazz, we moved out to the Quarter. The bride was AWAL by the time we left, but showed up later, along with many of the wedding party. I have to admire the resilience of my students. Thus, it was a very happy, jolly and late night. It was good to be back in The Crescent City. Although all these events took place in the so-called 'Isle of Denial', it was nice to see the place looking something like it used to before The Storms (do not forget Rita!). The tourist dollars are more revenues for the coffers of the City and thus (assuming that the money is not stolen, or diverted -- this is Louisiana, after all) at least in theory it may be able to be used to help regenerate the still badly afflicted parts of the place.

As for me, I had a wonderful weekend. I hope you did too.

The CP

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Under The Rug

The first couple of days of this week were nice. Classes were cancelled, due to a slightly odd local tradition. I managed to get somewhat caught up on all the things that I have to get done between now and the break. When classes started again today, they did so in an exciting manner. An 8am class was somewhat rudely interrupted, when the local police force burst through the door of the class room and arrested a student, including clamping them in handcuffs, in front of the rest of the students in the class. Needless to say, this did not do much to enhance the 'learning environment'.

Such an incident, provided plenty of fodder for the gossiping classes amongst the faculty. However, it also rather egregiously violated the proper protocol for such situations. Apparently, many years ago, our local forces of law and order hit upon the bright idea of tracking down people with outstanding warrants by showing up in the middle of final exams. This was not an academically popular tactic. Eventually, a correct method (advise the professor ahead of time, have them ask the student to step outside, etc.) was developed. Today, all this was ignored.

One of the slightly strange things about Louisiana is that ignoring rules and procedure is almost a way of life, for some individuals. While this does lend a certain 'rustic' and chaotic charm to things, it is not always welcome. However, in this context, the latest hot gossip topic is something of a surprise. It seems that a tenured faculty member is being dismissed for cause.

This is something which has almost never happened, as best anyone can remember. If there is a problem, offenders are 'persuaded' that it is in their best interest to just leave voluntarily. This way, all the embarrassing details can be conveniently swept under the proverbial rug. Not so in the current case. Nobody seems to know who the person is, or what they have done to get such a sanction, but there are plenty of theories.

What is puzzling is what a tenured person could have done to get themselves dismissed for cause. Our campus is replete with stories about 'faux pas' that have been overlooked and even forgiven. There was the case of the faculty member who was trading 'A' grades, in exchange for coeds appearing on his porn site. This was 'discovered' by the father of a student who 'happened upon' the porn site, where he saw his daughter. That faculty member was sent on their way and the matter 'went away'.

In another case, an untenured professor was caught trading sex for grades. Although there was a bit of an uproar, the professor in question still managed to get tenure, quite recently. Needless to say the traditionalists raised a stink about this, but tenure was still granted. This case was not too dissimilar from the professor who specialised in sending out Christian homophobic e-mails to entire classes, attacking individual students. They got tenure too.

It is not just the male professors either. A fairly notorious (barely tenured, or tenurable) female professor seduced a graduate student in their department. When the affair ended, the student broadcast far and wide all the sexual shortcomings of the professor. The situation was widely known about, yet no sanctions were ever taken against her.

Of course, not all transgressions are sexual. There is the professor who likes to cancel classes. Like about 50% of classes in a single semester, without explanation. Result? Nothing. Then we have the minor administrator types who victimize their productive faculty, telling them that they are being nasty for making their idle friend look bad. Thus, all in all, almost every academic crime has been committed in these parts and forgiven and overlooked. So, what did the individual being terminated 'with cause' do? Folks are investigating.

The other amazing thing is that such a circumstance could arise without the details being widely known. Many faculty around here seem to do very little, other than gossip (they certainly do not publish). So, most things are known. In this case they are not. This too is strange.

There are a few theories. One of our mechanical workers swears that he knows which department the problem has arisen in. Given that this is an administrative unit that is notorious for their politics and intrigue (they make the Battle of The Somme look like a 'group hug'), it is certainly a possibility. However, none of the usual cast of incompetents and miscreants seem to fit the bill in this case. So, the mystery remains.

Perhaps the interesting conclusion here though is that maybe, just maybe, there has been a change of heart somewhere in my institution. It could be the case that the culture of ignoring the rules of good practice (indeed, any rules at all) and common sense has at long last been realised to be a shortsighted strategy. I will not hold my breath on this, but it would make a nice change from everything being swept under the proverbial rug. I can think of a few other individuals for whom that particular 'piper' has been calling all too long.

The CP
Listed on 
BlogShares web stats Site Meter