Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pharyngula Strikes - Again!

(Transformational Verbigeration Redux)

My colleague and role model at the University of Minnesota - Morris, PZ Meyers has posted a link to another stalwart blogging soul, Thorstein Veblen [sic] at Penn State.

I've bragged on Professor von Dassow's moving presentation to the BoRe before, but if you haven't seen it, please do so on YouTube.

Note added later: it's gone viral, current count = 7,838

From the comments section on PZ's post:

Oh be still my beating heart... I just fell in love again.

Was that a shawl Eva was wearing, or a superwoman cape?


Revenue generation, which, of course, is the true measure of a scholarly endeavor

Man, that sounds familiar


I alternate between fury and despair when I think of these things. How did the relationship between faculty and administration come to be so dysfunctional? Do the administrators not understand that the only reason their jobs exist at all is because the faculty teach classes?

...perhaps they understand it all too well, and that's why they're trying to turn universities into education-free sports complexes so they won't need the faculty any more. Ugh.


I'm sure another administrator would make things better....


Damn. She's a good speaker. Now I'm mad at the UofM administration.


She had me at "verbigeration" and "etiolated."


Being a student at the UofM, I see these budget cuts daily.

One of my professors last year was limited the amount of paper that he could print for tests so much that he recommended we bring our own paper for tests because he could only give out one page per problem. (I'm in engineering, generally speaking, it takes 2-3 pages to properly write out a problem).

Everyday as I walk out of my apartment I look down the street at the brand new multi million dollar stadium that couldn't even fill the stands in its opening year. Just about every night the school keeps some of the lights on in the stadium...and advertise that we are a "green school."

It disgusts me when I see wasteful spending like that on the campus that I love.

Tuition keeps rising, but quality seems to be lowering.

Von Dassow was right on in everything she said (and I personally loved her passive aggressive sarcasm), but unfortunately, I'm sure, none of it was actually heard or will be acted on. :(


Wow, she's amazing.

"This cash cow will be milked yet harder now..."

Loved it.


Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | July 10, 2010 2:59 PM

Her audience was a room full of academics, so her language was perfect. Jebus, PP, haven't you been keeping up with "framing"?

Yeah, CC, your accounting is getting in the way. Money to the university matters, but it's disbursement within the university should be about supporting the academic mission...and all those impractical, worthless, goofy disciplines like Classical Studies, foreign languages, philosophy, English, etc., matter. They are part of the training that makes students able to think about more than just how to maximize their paycheck.

We don't care quite so much about what students want to take, as what they need to take. If it was all about popularity, we'd be churning out biology majors who never took a math class.


Her delivery style and message were both excellent.

When power needs a dressing down, "snide and condescending" works just fine.

PP, your ". . pretty fucking large vocabulary. . ." seems childishly focused on four letter words and their cognates.


Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | July 10, 2010 3:50 PM

Of course I know what those words mean! Verbigeration refers to obsessive repetition, and etiolated is pale and feeble. I used 'em both when I was talking to your mom about you last night.


She was speaking extremely fast--much faster than any decent public speaker would choose--because she was trying to cram her speech in to the allotted three minutes. You can hear the presiding officer of the meeting banging the gavel at the three-minute mark to signal that her time was up.

You seem childishly focused on the use by others of words that your mommy and daddy told you were bad when you were a widdle boy or girl. Grow the fuck up.


So the very eloquent Eva used a couple of words you haven't come across before. So what? It's not like her speech was excessively verbose or filled with a large number of uncommon words.

Not knowing the meaning of a couple of words hasn't obscured her point - that university administrators are dropping academic resources and standards in favor of sports programmes and paying for more management and admin.

I didn't know what "verbigeration" or "etiolated" meant either - until I looked them up on google. A dictionary is another option. Do you not see the use of unfamiliar words as an opportunity for YOU to increase your already "pretty fucking large vocabulary? Or are you of the view that when people communicate with you they should be restricted by YOUR vocabulary?


I go weak at the knees when I hear a good mind talking like that, having been exiled to a rural area 25 years ago.

I hadn't realised it before, but I see that universities are running into the same problem that health institutions have faced for some years. Too many administrators and lawyers, none of whom are going to go away.

I came here to practice in a little 29 bed hospital, at a time when we had one administrator, a modest budget and we were very efficient.

ow we have so many admin staff that there are people there whom I don't know, and they don't know who I am. The sad part is that to pay for all the admin, management and clerical staff, we have been cut to eight beds.

We are evolving bit by bit into that administrator's ideal hospital that would work its best without all those damned patients.

can see the same process is at work in higher education - imagine the regents' delight at running a university without the troublesome student body, the tiresome faculty, and gawd 'elp us, the postgrads.


"Revenue generation, which, of course, is the true measure of a scholarly endeavor"

Fans of "Dilbert" will recognise the influence of the pointy-haired Boss.


I didn't know the words, and I didn't look them up, because the way she USED them made the meanings clear enough to get at what she was talking about.

And I also did not find her speech to be perfect, to have the polish of a professional speechmaker, but I also don't expect people who aren't politicians and who are talking about something they are emotional about (and therefore might not have perfectly smooth, unemotional TV newsreader presentation) in a rush to fit into an allotted slice of time, to come off as perfect, to not stammer, to not seem like a real person.

It's fucking strange what we've decided to consider important in this country, and how we've decided to judge ideas and the people presenting them.

Right down to the last little fucking detail we're a silly, shallow society.


It's because, we're not grateful.

Because your argument was an unnecessary flare-up of the very problem. I.e. how humanities are seen as less than the sciences, uppity, need to be put in their place, or trying to justify their existence with meaningless "big words" and such.

In short, what she was doing was trying to communicate a dire problem in how we in America regard education in general and higher education specifically as a priority (i.e. we don't).

What "she was doing" versus "what you were doing", only one actually has a negative and nasty subtext of parochial divide and conquer techniques.

And furthermore, as a fellow science-degree holder wanting to go into academia, I know damn well I need to stick up for the humanities.

Not just because they aren't actually useless and provide very key information and education critical for having a well-educated population, but also for selfish reasons as well.

As we've seen, once the regents have drained all the blood from the stone of the humanities that they can, they start cutting back on the sciences that they see as the least directly profitable and from there, the sciences in general.

Want to lose geology departments? Evolutionary biology departments? Physiology departments?

Want the only thing left in universities to be a place one can get an MBA and the sports stadium?

If not, then we are united as one as academics and aspiring academics and we need to tackle the problem at its source, which is the way education is valued socially and politically.

In short, we don't. We like sports, we like "tax cuts", we like prisons, but funding priorities reveal again and again that a good majority of citizens would gladly see the schools burn than risk having higher taxes to fund them.

And that needs to change.

As does the attitude among administrators that universities should be run like capitalist businesses rather than public services.


It is sad, indeed, that a conversation like this can take place on PZ's blog and yet we can't have such a discussion at the University of Minnesota.

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