Here then is the sad but common tale of Alex Southwell, a nom de plume, professor at “Hudson University” (Columbia?). The De-Professionalization of the Academy, from Quillette magazine. Excerpts only. See the original for all.
…I was promoted to full Professor last year…Over twelve years, I have watched with increasing dismay and incredulity as academic integrity, fairness, and intellectual rigor have been eroded, with the implicit endorsement of administration and faculty alike. I have witnessed the de-professionalization of the professoriate—hiring policies based on tokenized identity politics and cronyism, the increasing intellectual and ideological conformity expected from faculty and students, and the subsequent curtailment of academic freedom…
Some of the faculty members with less than impressive credentials hold positions of significant authority in terms of curriculum development…
My first collision with the rather anomalous and dismissive treatment of credentials and accomplishments in the program occurred during my second semester at Hudson and involved the election for writing faculty chair in the spring of 2006.
The candidates included me and another faculty member. She holds an M.A. degree, but no degree in literature or writing. After each of us was asked to write an introduction and mission statement, the voting began. The ballot box was controlled by a faculty aide, and the votes were cast manually. Upon counting the votes, the faculty aide announced that I had won by two votes. Upon hearing this, a proxy of the competitor, who had no official role in the process at all, confiscated the ballot box, and absconded with the ballots to his office. Subsequently, a “recount” was conducted (by whom, I never discovered, and after what happened to the ballots, I am obviously entitled to suspicions). I suddenly became the loser by the same margin that I had won.
In a more recent election for writing curricular chair, my competitor accused me in his mission statement of writing books and publishing essays…
Here is the best part, where I use “best” in the sense of “hilariously worst.”
I was…the chair for a writing hiring committee…The committee of three met…I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that “we do not teach grammar” in our writing classes…
In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate…In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.
…Next, I was on the receiving end of [the committee member’s] verbal barrage. Not only did she call me some choice expletives but also rose from her chair and posed as if to charge me physically, all the while flailing her limbs and yelling. I left the room and proceeded to the dean’s office. I told the dean what had just occurred. He advised me to calm down and let it rest until the following week.
What happened next was telling…The woman who had verbally assaulted me was a black female and the candidate whom she championed was also a black female. I was informed by the dean that pursuing a grievance, or even remaining on the committee, was now “complicated.”
You know what happened. Southwell resigned from the committee and the unqualified black woman was hired. Hired affirmatively, we might say. In just the exact precise way proponents of the original Affirmative Action promised would never happen. “Standards will never drop…”
Southwell never tells whether the tuition rose at “Hudson.” I’m guessing it did.
Incidentally, Affirmative Action is dead. It’s no longer needed, as is obvious.