Thursday, April 30, 2009

Privacy and Confidentiality in the University Libraries

In January our Penn State Faculty Senate received an informational report on "Privacy and Confidentiality in the University Libraries." It may be of general interest to readers of this blog. The report's introduction says, in part:
This report is presented as the result of a collaborative dialogue among the faculty, students, and Libraries’ professionals meeting as the Penn State Faculty Senate Committee on Libraries. Prompted by recent changes in national security laws and rapid developments in technology, we asked: What are the current policies and procedures protecting the privacy of library users? How, if at all, do new national security policies and technological developments present new problems for the protection of privacy, and how are the Libraries addressing these problems? How do the Libraries resolve cases in which privacy interests may be in potential conflict with each other, or with other interests? The current report is a first assessment of the policies of the Libraries, the regulatory and policy environment in which the Libraries operate, a glimpse of the new challenges the Libraries are dealing with in privacy protection, and a description of the training offered to all Libraries’ staff in how to protect the privacy of library users.

Penn State University, Faculty Senate, Committee on Libraries, informational report, "Privacy and Confidentiality in the University Libraries," January 2009.

The University Is Doomed. Or Not.

According to Mark C. Taylor, writing in the New York Times Op Ed page, we should "End the University As We Know It." Taylor, chair of the department of Religion at Columbia, complains that students run up mountainous debt being taught by graduate students, who are themselves going into debt, and for whom there will be no academic jobs at the end of the process -- unless we abolish departments, end tenure, and retire professors early -- to make room for the new professors.

There is plenty wrong with our current system of financing higher education, which has turned in a few decades from a widely acknowledged public good to a ruinously expensive private purchase.

And it is no doubt true that disciplines can be stuffy and professors can grow stale. But in sum, Taylor seems to me to appeal essentially an anti-intellectual hostility to professors, who, in my experience in universities, mostly do not grow stale, mostly do work actively both in and beyond their departments and disciplines, and for these faculty, tenure is an essential guarantee of academic freedom and shared governance. The rapid increase in non-tenure-line or "contingent" faculty undermines both academic freedom and shared governance, and in general may, some argue, lower everyone's pay.

Further, though disciplines can be myopic, they are also, importantly disciplines -- that is, they nurture structures of thought, knowledge, and skill that can take years to develop, and that can equip specialists to make deep contributions to the more general public and academic sphere.

On disciplinary knowledge, see Howard Gardner, Five Minds for the Future, for example. It seems to me he makes a good case for disciplinarity -- by which he does not mean dogmatism, hierarchy, or insularity. What Gardner suggests, and what it seems to me Taylor breezes past, is that disciplinarity succeeds when it works together with, and not as an alternative to other "minds" -- the synthetic, the creative, the respectful, and the ethical.

No doubt my own views are shaped in part by my particular experience, and by habit and self interest. And surely self criticism should be an important part of the ongoing university experience.

As of last count, there were almost 500 comments in response to Taylor's piece in the New York Times.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter (Democrat, Pennsylvania)

He actually did it.

Arlen Specter has switched parties, he announced today. He will become a Democrat.

Here is the statement he released today, as published in the New York Times:

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

It seems likely that Specter may sometimes be as frustrating for Democrats as he has sometimes been for Republicans. In any case, it will be interesting to watch. And, who knows, perhaps we'll find an easier path to progressive legislation in health care, education, the environment, and in judicial confirmations.

As of this moment, even Specter's official Senate web page does not say anything about this remarkable event.

The president called Senator Specter this morning: "we're thrilled to have you."

(President Barack Obama speaks by phone to Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania on April 28, 2009 about the Senator's decision to become a member of the Democratic Party. White House Photo, Pete Souza)

They Remembered

Hasia R. Diner, We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962 (New York: NYU Press, 2009).

From the publisher's description:

"It has become an accepted truth: after World War II, American Jews chose to be silent about the mass murder of millions of their European brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis. Whether motivated by fear, shame, or the desire to assimilate, the Jewish community in the United States simply did not memorialize the Holocaust until the Eichmann trial and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War made it socially acceptable for them to do so.

"In a compelling work sure to draw fire from academics and pundits alike, Hasia R. Diner shows this assumption of silence to be categorically false. Uncovering a rich and incredibly varied trove of remembrances—in song, literature, liturgy, public display, political activism, and hundreds of other forms—We Remember with Reverence and Love shows that publicly memorializing those who died in the Holocaust arose from a deep and powerful element of Jewish life in postwar America. Not only does she marshal enough evidence to dismantle the idea of American Jewish "forgetfulness," she brings to life the moving and manifold ways that this widely diverse group paid tribute to the tragedy."

This book appears to be a potentially important corrective to a widely circulated assumption in academic writing about Holocaust memory.

No to Notre Dame? The Politics of University Awards

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, has declined an award from Notre Dame to protest Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to speak at commencement.
Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor and prominent Roman Catholic conservative who served as ambassador to the Vatican under President George W. Bush, today declined a prestigious medal from the University of Notre Dame in protest of its decision to invite President Obama speak at its commencement.
One supposes any person has the ethical right, and perhaps the obligation, to disavow an association with another person as a matter of conscience. Still, Glendon's refusal seems particularly churlish given her association with the Bush regime, and the fact that although her gesture will not silence President Obama, it signifies that it would if it could. That act of silencing, though impotent, confers a tone that I cannot entirely fathom, though surely my resistance to it is colored by my agreeing more with the President than with the ambassador.

Lots of presidents have spoken at Notre Dame. If their speaking could take place only on the premise that they were doctrinally pure, that would render presidential rhetoric presumptively a captive -- it would make speech, or at least genuinely rhetorical speech, meaningless.

Or maybe I am just resisting an insult to a President whom I admire. One still remembers the sense of moral outrage, depending on your point of view, over writers and artists who accepted or declined invitations to the Lyndon B. Johnson White House in the years of the Vietnam War. Nuances were not observed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tortured Rhetoric

The Bush administration, the evidence now seems to show, did not engage in what it knew to be torture in order to prevent an attack on the United States or to head off a war. If this argument is correct, they self-consciously and explicitly authorized torture to make a political case for going to war against Iraq -- to torture their victims into admitting a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda that the victims and the torturers knew did not exist, and thereby to justify the attack on Iraq and the engagement that continues to this day.

The torture served an array of rhetorical purposes, and, according to this line of analysis, it served only rhetorical purposes.

According to Frank Rich,
The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

See Frank Rich, "The Banality of Bush White House Evil," The New York Times, 26 April 2009.

Rich provides several useful links to the relevant literature.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Traitor to His Class

It's an old story but still a good one even in a re-telling, especially with a writer who displays the narrative energy, historical perspective, and political balance of H. W. Brands, professor of history at the University of Texas. I enjoyed reading the book in the late days of last winter, as the Obama administration was getting underway and our hopes for another New Deal came back to life. And as we were being told that we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

H. W. Brands, Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New York: Doubleday, 2008).

Thomas J. Sugrue reviews the book in The Nation: Thomas J. Sugrue, "The Hundred Days War: Histories of the New Deal," The Nation, 27 April 2009. Sugrue also reviews Adam Cohen, Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America.

The Mob's Golden Moment

While businesses around the world are hunkering down for survival, the Italian mob is living a golden moment.
Frances D'Emilio, "Italy's Mafia Thrives in Global Financial Meltdown," The Huffington Post, 25 April 2009. (dateline Naples)

Al Gore, "If you think it's about greed, you don't know me . . ."

Al Gore, "If you think it's about greed, you don't know me . . ."

From You Tube, discovered on Talking Points Memo.

The rhetoric of standing up to a Congressional smear.

The Torture Argument

Here is the way the rhetoric of responsibility is shaping up in the debate about America's regime of torture --

  • We cannot prosecute the agents who actually administered the torture, because they were following what they believed to be legal orders.
  • We cannot prosecute the neo-con lawyers who twisted the Constitution into a recommendation to permit torture, because they were just giving their best legal opinions.
  • We obviously cannot prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, and Tenet because to do so would set the bad precedent of a newly elected party going after its predecessors.

Hence, nobody is responsible, and since there is no one to hold accountable, there is no point in pressing any further to find out what actually happened.

Have I got that right?

Tourism -- Go Somewhere Else

Thanks to the tourism industry and the spirits of journalism for Gail Collins and "Come Visit. Life Life. Eat Cheese." New York Times, 25 April 2009, in which Collins explains how, "in 1985, Gov. Anthony Earl of Wisconsin decided “America’s Dairyland” was boring and sponsored a contest for a new state slogan, which drew an avalanche of suggestions. A screening committee declined to consider the popular favorite: “Eat Cheese or Die.” I truly believe that nothing has gone right for Wisconsin on the slogan front ever since."

Personally Accountable Representation

I have been sent a copy of The Cure for Our Broken Political Process, by Sol Erdman and Lawrence Susskind (Potomac Books, 2009).

The book addresses what it describes as the partisan gridlock fostered by non-competitive, safe-district, low-turnout Congressional elections and proposes a solution the authors call Personally Accountable Representation. The idea is to create a system of proportional representation in Congress based on preferential ballots (you rank your top candidates; the winners are chosen by gradually eliminating the person with the least votes and awarding their votes to the next person on each voter's ballot, until the number of remaining candidates equals the number to be elected). Erdman and Susskind advocate doing away with the current system, in which each Congressional district is represented by one candidate, enlarging the districts to include several representatives, but keeping Congress at about the same size it is now, with members of Congress representing about 600,000 people.

The idea is that those elected would be peronally accountable to the voters who elected them, and thus motivated to actually deal honestly with real problems, and to negotiate in good faith with other politicians.

It is more complicated than I have been able to represent it as here, and I'm frankly skeptical whether this would in fact create a more productive legislative process, though the argument that it would motivate voters sounds persuasive.

This is an intriguing idea, and it is recommended by some presumably sensible people, so my own hesitation may be simply the conservatism of habit. The book itself presents the case as a fictionalized account of the conversion of a newly elected member of Congress to the PAR scheme. The tone is sometimes annoyingly E-Z reader, but perhaps that's what it takes to involve the casual reader.

From a rhetorical point of view, any broad electoral proposal identifying itself as THE CURE surely seems to tempt the gremlins of unintended consequences.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

BBC News: "As correspondent David Willey leaves his apartment in the 1,000-roomed palazzo in the centre of Rome where he has lived and worked for the past two decades, he reflects on the microcosm of daily life in one of the few remaining privately-owned homes of the former Roman and papal nobility."

David Willey writes that he is moving out of his apartment in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj for a place in the country.

The Penn State summer in Rome program of our Department of Communication Arts & Sciences is headquartered in another set of rooms in the palazzo, home of the family of Pope Innocent X. Willey's story of Rome is an old one -- the gradual degradation of the center of the city as tourism, development, congestion, graffiti, and pollution ruin the city of the past.

Thanks to Mark Hlavacik for sending me the link.

David Willey, "From Palazzo to Pastures New," BBC News, 25 April 2009.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ben Nelson and Higher Education Loans

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (Nebraska) is apparently holding up progress on direct federal lending to students in higher education, which would save them and the government money. According to a story in the Huffington Post, Nelson is threatening the Obama administration reform because federal subsidies send money to private student lenders in Nebraska.

The Bush administration changed federal student lending for higher education to force it into privatization -- but then guaranteed all the loans, which in effect is simply a direct subsidy of the banks, not the students who are borrowing the money, and who actually pay higher interest to the banks than they would pay if they were able to borrow the money directly from the government.

If students are to be forced to borrow money as the only way to attend even public universities, surely the government, if it is the ultimate source of the money, should lend the money directly at the lowest possible interest. But the lending regime in any form is itself part of an abandonment of the national obligation to support public higher education.

See Ryan Grim, "Obama to Nelson: 'We're Going Around You,'" Huffington Post, 24 April 2009.

Nelson photo from the Senator's official web site.

The Electoral College and the National Popular Vote

Hendrik Hertzberg writes that, "Anyhow, the real reason for the electoral college wasn’t all that high-minded guff about voter information, or even some noble desire to protect small states. It was to enhance the power of slaveowners."

Hertzberg has been an eloquent supporter of the National Popular Vote Plan, which might allow states to ameliorate the anti-democratic features of the Electoral College, which magnifies the influence of small states.

What would be the rhetorical and political consequences of finding a way to achieve one-person, one-vote direct election of the president of the United States? Would such a change make politics more responsive to the needs of citizens (every vote counts), or merely make mass media demagoguery that much more convenient (achieve fifty percent plus one vote by any means necessary)? I honestly don't know, though since the botched election of 2000 it appears clear that the legitimacy of our electoral system depends on reform to bring about the direct popular election of the president.

Hendrik Hertzberg, "A Great Amarican," The New Yorker, 23 April 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mow That Astroturf for You, Mister?

Paul Waldman on the tea bag rallies and right Republican hysteria:

"They cried "socialism!" and no one seemed to care. Now they cry "fascism!" and still their words do not cause the whole nation to rise up. It must be terribly frustrating. But that's the thing about democracy -- it can be pretty frustrating, particularly when you lose. What the right doesn't seem to get is that the more extreme and shrill their rhetoric grows, the less convincing they become to the broader public. And the more ridiculous they seem."

Waldman usefully traces the astroturf origins of the tea parties.

Paul Waldman, "It's the End of the World as They Know It," The American Prospect, 21 April 2009.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reviewing Scholarly Book Manuscripts

If you are an academic, you might enjoy reading this short essay by Patrick Alexander -- "What Just Ain't So," Inside Higher Ed, 6 April 2009. Don't miss the comments section following Patrick's essay. Mr. Alexander discusses what makes a useful external manuscript review, and some of the typical ways in which inadequate reviews fail to do what is required.

Patrick H. Alexander is associate director and editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania State University Press.

Wanted in Rome

Wanted in Rome at Babelgum.

Un Metro Dentro Roma

The film is here.

Ermanno Olmi, IL PREMIO

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Economy - President Obama at Georgetown, 14 April 2009

In President Obama's speech on the economy at Georgetown last week, he said, in part,

For even as too many were out there chasing ever-bigger bonuses and short-term profits over the last decade, we continued to neglect the long-term threats to our prosperity: the crushing burden that the rising cost of health care is placing on families and businesses; the failure of our education system to prepare our workers for a new age; the progress that other nations are making on clean energy industries and technologies while we -- we remain addicted to foreign oil; the growing debt that we're passing on to our children. Even after we emerge from the current recession, these challenges will still represent major obstacles that stand in the way of our success in the 21st century. So we've got a lot of work to do.

Now, there's a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was soon destroyed when a storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

It was founded upon a rock. We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity -- a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It's a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century: Number one, new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation, not reckless risk-taking -- (applause); number two, new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive -- (applause); number three, new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and new industries -- (applause); number four, new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and number five, new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations. (Applause.)

That's the new foundation we must build. That's our house built upon a rock. That must be our future -- and my administration's policies are designed to achieve that future.

The speech is well worth reading as a masterpiece of exposition and advocacy. President Obama tells his listeners in the opening of his speech that, "I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. This is going to be prose, and not poetry. I want to talk about what we've done, why we've done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we've made, but I also want to be honest about the pitfalls that may still lie ahead."

You may not quite agree with the president's economic policies, but at least it appears to be treated by the president as a subject of democratic deliberation.

John Murphy of the University of Illinois, one of our most astute critics of presidential rhetoric, offers a nice analysis of the speech on his blog, The Oratorical Animal. Murphy praises the speech but with the reservation that, in his view, the arguments offered to support the bank bailouts are incoherent and unsupported.

Barack Obama, "REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE ECONOMY," Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 14 April 2009.

And see Paul Krugman, "Too Many Narratives," New York Times, 15 April 2009. Krugman argues that the administration has offered too many different explanations for the way it is supporting the banks, and writes, "Can I say that this very proliferation of narratives is disturbing? I don’t want to claim moral equivalence with the Bushies, who were utterly cynical about such things. . . ."

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Torture Memos

The American Civil Liberties and other organizations have now won their argument to release memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques in the Bush administration.

The memos are here.

Richard Kim, "The Torture Memos, Obama, and the Banality of Evil," The Nation, 17 April 2009.

Barack Obama, "Statement of President Barack Obama on Release of OLC Memos," 16 April 2009.

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Law

Got that?

O. W. Houts

In State College, PA, the O. W. Houts store has closed. This rambling department store, hardware, garden center, and lumber yard had been in town since the twenties. The old buildings will eventually be torn down, to be replaced by university, residential, and commercial uses.

Speaking as a President

"Refreshment" Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME at White House Photo Blog Time/CNN

It appears that as a public we are fascinated by the apparatus of presidential communication and image making. This seems not to be simply an impulse to demystify, but also, simultaneously and contrarily, to raise fandom to a higher level. We fetishize the instruments of our seduction. There are other fascinating "backstage" glimpses of the preparations for and conduct of a presidential press conference and town hall on the Time/CNN White House Photo Blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's in YOUR tea bag?

Granted it is probably all too easy to portray a whole movement by reference to its associations, its funding, or its fringe. No doubt a lot of the tea bag protesters yesterday suppose they are joining a good old fashioned grass-roots populist movement.


Have a look at this slide show at Huffington Post.

See also Paul Krugman, "Tea Parties Forever," New York Times, 12 April 2009.

photo: "Barack Hussein Obama The New face Of Hitler"-- T. Romao, Chicago.

The Inner Circle

There's an interesting review by Lizabeth Cohen in the American Prospect. Cohen, chair of the history department at Harvard, reviews

Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America by Adam Cohen, Penguin Press, 372 pages, $29.95
The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and his Moral Conscience by Kirstin Downey, Doubleday, 458 pages, $35.00
Lizabeth Cohen, "Team of Rivals Redux," The American Prospect, 16 April 2009.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Justification, Reason, and Action

this announcement from Bob Hariman was published today in CRTNET

Robert Hariman,

"Justification, Reason, and Action: Tradition and Innovation in Public Argument"
A Conference in Honor of Professor David Zarefsky
Northwestern University May 29 & 30, 2009
Annie May Swift Hall Auditorium

For advance registration and dinner reservations, contact Robert Hariman at

Friday, May 29, 2009 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Lobby outside Annie May Swift auditorium

Session 1

James Jasinski, University of Puget Sound, "Slavery, Constitutional Hermeneutics, and Practical Reason: Tradition and Innovation in Lysander Spooner's 'The Unconstitutionality of Slavery'"

John M. Murphy, University of Illinois, "Freedom From Fear: FDR's Campaign to End Isolation, 1936-1941"

Noon-1:30 Lunch Break (on your own)

1:30-3:15 p.m.

Session 2

Denise M. Bostdorff, The College of Wooster, "Redefining Foreign Policy Leadership: Barack Obama's March 19, 2008, Address on the Iraq War"

Martin J. Medhurst, Baylor University,"Barack Obama and the Tradition of Inaugural Addresses: Rhetoric, Race, and Reconciliation"

3:30-5:15 p.m.

Session 3

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, "Andrew Johnson: The Constitution vs. The Declaration of Independence."

Michael Leff, University of Memphis, "Practice as Theory: Lincoln's Address to the Temperance Society, February 22, 1842."

6:30 p.m. No-Host Cocktail Time 7:30 p.m.

Conference Dinner ($25 reservation required)

Saturday, May 30, 2009 9:00-11:15 a.m.

Session 4

Robert Asen, University of Wisconsin - Madison "Public Argument and the Promise of Democracy"

Gordon R. Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh "Translational Research in Argument-Based Medicine"

Edward Schiappa, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, "Defining Marriage in California: An Analysis of Public & Technical Argument"


"Rhetorical Studies at Northwestern" Presenters: NU Alumni 5:00-7:00 Reception honoring David Zarefsky Allen Center (program at 6:30) 7:00- Dinner ($100 reservation required) Allen Center

-- contact Robert Hariman, Chair Department of Communication Studies Northwestern University 2240 Campus Drive Evanston, IL 60208-1340 847-467-0746; 847-467-1036 (f) 847-425-7561 (h); 515-779-9706 (cell)

David Zarefsky and Elizabeth Benacka, eds., Sizing Up Rhetoric (Waveland, 2007).

Papers from the 2006 conference of the Rhetoric Society of America.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Finding Animals

Penn State University


Finding Animals in Paradox and Parable

Zoller Gallery, visual arts building

from the announcement:

In Spring 2009, we are hosting a major two day conference “Finding Animals: Toward a Comparative History and Theory of Animals” (free and open to the public), which will bring together many of the leading contributors to the field of Animal Studies, and feature an artist’s talk by Mark Dion. In conjunction with this conference, we are hosting an exhibition “Finding Animals in Paradox and Parable” at the Zoller Art Gallery, including works by many of the local artists whose images are included on our website.

Image Bite Politics

Maria Elizabeth Grabe and Erik Page Bucy, Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

From the publisher's description:

"Image Bite Politics is the first book to systematically assess the visual presentation of presidential candidates in network news coverage of elections and to connect these visual images with shifts in public opinion. Presenting the results of a comprehensive visual analysis of general election news from 1992-2004, encompassing four presidential campaigns, the authors highlight the remarkably potent influence of television images when it comes to evaluating leaders. The book draws from a variety of disciplines, including political science, behavioral biology, cognitive neuroscience, and media studies, to investigate the visual framing of elections in an incisive, fresh, and interdisciplinary fashion. Moreover, the book presents findings that are counterintuitive and challenge widely held assumptions--yet are supported by systematic data. For example, Republicans receive consistently more favorable visual treatment than Democrats, countering the conventional wisdom of a "liberal media bias"; and image bites are more prevalent, and in some elections more potent, in shaping voter opinions of candidates than sound bites. Finally, the authors provide a foundation for promoting visual literacy among news audiences and bring the importance of visual analysis to the forefront of research."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Student Loans

Useful story in the New York Times on the Obama administration plans to reform the hugely profitable industry of government subsidized private lending for higher education, which would save billions of dollars now going, in part, for huge salaries and benefits for private lenders.

The lobbyists are on this case.

David M. Herszenhorn, "Plan to Change Student Lending Sets Up a Fight," New York Times, 12 April 2009.

My own view is that if the government needs to subsidize these lenders to guarantee their huge profits, then the loans would be better made as direct government loans without the private industry rake-off. As a college professor, I see students leaving college every year with huge debt loads, or taking on too many hours of low wage work while trying to stay afloat in college, thus interfering with their ability to spend time on their educations. Then they leave college with debts that force them to make career plans based not on public service but on paying back their debts.


Daniel Pinkwater is here.

Literary and Cultural Map of Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book has created an interactive, online map of Pennsylvania with information on Pennsylvania authors.

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book is here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

AAUP Statement on Faculty Governance in International Education

The American Association of University Professors, together with its counterpart, the Canadian Association of University Professors, has issued a statement on faculty governance in study abroad and international education. The report says, in part,

Moreover, as the U.S. and Canadian presence in higher education grows in countries marked by authoritarian rule, basic principles of academic freedom, collegial governance, and nondiscrimination are less likely to be observed. In a host environment where free speech is constrained, if not proscribed, faculty will censor themselves, and the cause of authentic liberal education, to the extent it can exist in such situations, will suffer.

Consequently, it is essential that all international initiatives undertaken by North American colleges and universities respect the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel, with its emphasis on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, collegial governance, nondiscrimination, and employment security.

These and the other principles in the report are a useful counterweight, at least in theory, to the rapid globalization of American campuses, an operation in which very frequently there is virtually no faculty participation or oversight--thus putting at risk the core academic values of the originating institution and its international partners and employees.

American Association of University Professors, "On Conditions of Employment at Overseas Campuses," 2009.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vermont, Vermont

I want to gather a few bits and pieces of advocacy, celebration, and analysis here.

I'll start with an interesting analysis of anti-gay-marriage rhetoric by Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly. Steve Benen, "Responding to 'The Gathering Storm,'" Washington Monthly, 9 April 2009.

The bill itself and its fascinating history in the Vermont legislature can be found here.

More later -- it's one of those weeks.

Italian Earthquake

Report by Sylvia Poggioli, "Italy Surveys Quake Damage to Historic Structures," on National Public Radio, 9 April 2009.

American Guns

Timothy Egan writes:

In the aftermath of one of these atrocities, nothing is more chilling than a gun advocate racing before a camera to embrace a lunatic’s right to carry and kill.

If it was peanut butter or pistachio nuts taking down people by the dozens every week, we’d be all over it. Witness the recent recalls. But Glocks and AKs — can’t touch ‘em. So we’re awash in guns: 280 million.
Egan writes a sensible, concrete analysis of the crazy American gun debate. Egan is the author of The Worst Hard Time, a wonderful book about which I've been meaning to post a note for some time.

Timothy Egan, "The Guns of Spring," New York Times, 8 April 2009.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Social Documentary Photography

I've been exploring the Flickr group for Social Documentary Photography. Easy to get lost, but worth a look.

The Rhetoric of Torture

Jennifer Ballingee, The Wound and the Witness: The Rhetoric of Torture (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009).

Deborah Atwater, African American Women's Rhetoric

Deborah Atwater, African American Women's Rhetoric: The Search for Dignity, Personhood, and Honor (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009).

Errol Morris on Public Memory and Visual Rhetoric

Mark H. Dunkelman Collection / from the New York Times

If you are interested in public memory or visual rhetoric, I recommend that you have a look at Errol Morris's five part essay on this Civil War photograph of three children, found in the hands of a dead soldier after the first day at Gettysburg.

Errol Morris, "Whose Father Was He?" New York Times, 29 March - 2 April 2009.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Debating Google Books

The Google Books project is digitizing books -- whole libraries full of books. The books will be indexed and searchable online, and will be available in full text, for a price. The library at my own institution, Penn State University, is participating with Google in scanning the full contents of the libraries of the Big Ten -- some of the largest scholarly libraries on the planet.

There's a useful roundup of the debate on the Google Books project by Miguel Helft in the New York Times this morning.

Miguel Helft, "It's Not Just Microsoft That's Balking at Google's Book Plans," New York Times, 4 April 2009.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ward Churchill Verdict

The jury is in on the Ward Churchill case. The jury decided that Churchill was wrongly fired by the University of Colorado, and awarded him damages of one dollar.

This will be a controversial decision for Churchill's supporters and detractors, but it makes a kind of sense. Churchill probably did deserve to be fired for academic misconduct, but the University of Colorado does appear to have been looking for an excuse to fire him after his brutal remarks about 9/11 became generally known, injuring both his and the University's reputations, and making a verdict in this case impossibly contradictory.

If the University was right to fire Churchill, it was by implication irresponsible to grant him tenure in the first place, thus creating a circle of institutional error that can't be cleanly mended. The decision may be as much about due process as about freedom of speech.

As of this writing, it is not clear whether the judge will rule that the University must reinstate Churchill.

The New York Times story is here.

Stanley Fish's essay on the case, in the Times for 6 April 2009, is here. Fish writes: "It was the jury’s task to determine whether Churchill’s dismissal would have occurred independently of the adverse political response to his constitutionally protected statements. . . . The answer seems obvious to me and it has now been given authoritative form in the jury’s verdict."

You've Got Spam

Brad Stone reports in the New York Times that spam is back up to 94% of all email traffic. You don't see most of it because it is filtered before it gets to your mailbox, but it is out there slowing down the Internet, seizing control of computers, and costing you huge amounts of money.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

University of Michigan Press Goes Digital

The University of Michigan Press has announced that it will no longer produce scholarly books in printed form. The Press will move to a digital operation, with its books available in a print-on-demand format for those who prefer it.

Story at Inside Higher Ed.