Barbara Bush, Randa Jarrar, and the Outrage of Free Speech

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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177 Responses

  1. Maribou says:

    Been hearing a lot about this so I’m glad to have these links / contexts.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    What is the purpose of a university?

    Given that it appears to be the maintenance of an endowment, this professor is actively harming the purpose of this particular university.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the university decided to fire her. If you want to keep your job, you help your company achieve its mission. She ain’t doing that. Worse, she ain’t doing that in a very, very, very public way that raises a *HUGE* stink. Look for new and improved official policies to be put in place that limit the ability of professors to harm the purpose of the university.Report

    • j r in reply to Jaybird says:

      What is the purpose of a university?

      That question has a few answers. The first two are obvious: to confer degrees and to serve as a home for researchers. Some others are less obvious. For instance, quite a few universities are essentially operating as hegde funds. A bunch of other answers are somewhere in between on the obvious scale: semi-professional athletic leagues, matchmaking, etc.

      The one answer that should be obvious, but hides in plane site is that the university exists to hire people who would otherwise be on food stamps. That’s not a joke: We could ask why NPR thinks that having an advanced degree makes a person somehow above collecting food stamps, but that would just raise a bunch of questions about what the value of an advanced degree is.

      Does Jarrar fit into this category? I don’t know. A little bit of Googling reveals that she has published a couple of novels and some short stories in anthologies. That’s probably not enough to make a living purely on writing. Her other major skill seems to be pissing off people on the internet, which can be quite remunerative if you can do it on big enough of a scale. Maybe that’s her ultimate ambition, but she’s not quite there yet. She may have other job market skills or just possess enough grit to make it outside of academia. I don’t know.

      I’m not sure that I agree about endangering endowments. My guess is that the sort of people who would give an endowment to an English Lit or Creative Writing program know exactly what they’re getting. Generally speaking, people don’t donate large sums of money without doing their due diligence. The real danger that Jarrar poses is that she’s just showing off and nobody likes that.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to j r says:

        PhDs: Not to ding the PhD specifically, when I worked in academia, I met a lot of PhD & PhD candidates who just couldn’t play well with others outside* of the academy. They had all tried to get jobs outside and failed and we’re working for the PhD in the hopes of either getting the academy job, or making themselves attractive enough to overcome their own shortcomings outside the academy.

        *The kind of person for whom the idea that if you feel like you are constantly encountering assholes all day, you need to understand that you are the assholes.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          What does it mean to play well with others? There are times when it is absolutely important but it is also subjective and group based. Take someone who fled a small town for the bright lights and big city. In the small town they were mocked for being into arts instead of hunting, in the big city, they find their tribe. Would you mock this person as not playing well with others?

          If everyone was polite and bland and oppressed, we would not need free speech. But life would also be very boring.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I thought my bit about being the asshole spelled it out, but…

            The kind of person who is so sure of their own brilliance that they refuse to listen to anyone they do not view as a peer or their better. They want to be in academia because that is who they consider their peers and betters.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I also suspect a lot of what are now called “neurodiverse” people go into academia. I have known people who were probably on the high-functioning end of autism who managed to be fine in the academy. I myself am “weird” – I’m one of the nice weird ones (or so I think) but there are some things about me that would make me really ill-suited to many corporate jobs. (Including a cynicism and suspicion about all “enforced fun” and artificial team-building type stuff)

          I’ve also known my fair share of a-holes. I don’t run into them often these days and it’s jarring when I do, but yes, you can be an a-hole and get ahead in academia.

          I remember one faculty member (NOT HERE – another university, and years ago), pointing out another’s office as “at the very end of the hall; if I had a shotgun I could hit him from here.” There was a reason all the older grad students told people “Do not put those two together on your committee, no matter how logical seems given their specialties.”Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk says:

            To be sure, I worked with many wonderful people at the UW, and many wonderful grad students and PhD candidates (I still have a bottle of 18 year old single malt scotch that was a gift from a PhD who I helped with some parallel computing issues for his work; he’s faculty at a SLAC in FL now). But there were those handful who were always a handful.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I think you can find plenty of people like that in the private sector too.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                True, and my gut feeling is that “in the private sector there are more a-holes in high places” but maybe I’m wrong on that.

                I will say it does seem when someone gets a little power, if they were already inclined to be a jerk, that inclination often seems to get stronger.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                And yet they somehow managed to find a way to stay employed in the private sector.

                ETA I worked in IT for over a decade, a field that is/was riddled with people who didn’t play well with others, who were only employed because they were so valuable.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I was thinking mainly in finance. Guys who think because they are good at finance, they can solve everything.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Sure, but you again run up against the existence of a highly valuable skill that allows them to be tolerated beyond the norm.

                This is something I come back to so very often; some skills and degrees translate directly to the modern business world / private sector, and if you are very very good, you can get away with being an asshole to one degree or another.

                But a lot of degrees don’t translate so cleanly, and the private sector is not just going to accept the value of those degrees on their face, the person has to know how to sell it, and themselves.

                If one is so utterly self assured of their brilliance, they may be unwilling to do something so pedestrian as to market themselves to people who are unable to recognize that brilliance. Especially when other academics are more than capable of seeing their brilliance as it is, thus they belong in academia.

                Now if only some of those old fossils would retire and give them an opening…Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                FWIW I really liked school and I am one of those weird people who really liked grad school. I decided not to pursue a PhD or a career in academia for several reasons. One of which was the doubts that I could successfully complete one. The other reasons were more practical and noting the difference between my imaginary academic career and the reality.*

                But there is always a part of me that is going to want the romantic variant and many lawyers seem to see themselves as failed academics. So I have a bit more of a tendency to defend an academic over a douchebro in finance or tech. I also tend to like things that esoteric because they are not easily translated to marketability.

                *My romantic image was straight out of those wonderful booklets that colleges sent out when I was applying with pictures of perfect fall foliage on beautiful campuses. The reality is that even at 25 I saw adjunct hell was a real thing and unless you are a superstar you need to go where the jobs are. Even superstars need to do that. I knew I wasn’t lucky or good enough to get to my romantic imagination.Report

              • FWIW I really liked school and I am one of those weird people who really liked grad school. I decided not to pursue a PhD or a career in academia for several reasons.

                If money were no object, I would live where I could walk to an appropriate campus, and I would collect terminal masters degrees. Both times that I have started a PhD track, I bailed for reasons other than not being able to do the work. Also, my research interests tend to be strange interdisciplinary things that make it hard to find an advisor/committee.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                “Willie Gillis Goes to College.”

                I kid you not, that was my mental picture of what college was like when I was a child. Then I arrived on campus, moved into the dorm, lived through the first late-night party (to which I did not go) the night before I had an exam, and the scales fell from my eyes.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I hear ya, @saul-degraw. Hell, I’ve toyed with he idea of a PhD more than once, but the reality is I just don’t have the time without making sacrifices I really don’t want to make. I’ll probably settle for getting my PE next year.

                But I think @j-r was right, there are some people who are in academia who really just are not suited to be anywhere else, and not because they are the best of the best (except in their own minds).Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Sure but I think you could say that for any position and not in a good way. We just look down on it more in academics because their work doesn’t correspond to profit-making enterprise as easily.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                But we are talking about academia.Report

              • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                This isn’t about good or bad, unless you need it to be. And who said anything about looking down on academics?Report

              • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                For epic yet sustainable dysfunction, you need to look at middle managers.

                Academia also has its share of weird but extremely talented jerks, of course.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

                On another online place I frequent, there’s some discussion of whether “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” is problematic as a physics-prize that might go to a woman, given some of Feynman’s attitudes.

                I guess certain levels of behavior are forgiven once one reaches a certain level of genius-hood. (Then again, I’ve known a few super grade-A jerks that I didn’t consider to be all that bright, just maybe lucky, pushy, and good at knowing where the bodies were buried)

                (I remain unconvinced I even approach the foothills of “genius,” so I strive to be a nice person)Report

              • pillsy in reply to fillyjonk says:

                On another online place I frequent, there’s some discussion of whether “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” is problematic as a physics-prize that might go to a woman, given some of Feynman’s attitudes.

                I can definitely see that.

                Wish I could say such attitudes are unheard-of in contemporary physics departments. But well.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

                I guess certain levels of behavior are forgiven once one reaches a certain level of genius-hood.

                Certainly that was my experience during my years in R&D. But managers worked hard at finding places where they could do genius work but not screw up the rest of the team. And never, ever get close to the customers.

                For several years I had a title that was sometimes used for “geniuses we don’t trust to always behave properly”. I worried from time to time about why I had been given it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                We have more than our share of those. I’m one of the few developers who is normally allowed to interact with customers.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Middle manager dysfunction is the Peter Principle at work, and thus the failure is one of upper management, for not understanding it.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oh for sure. But you can have a lot of terrible middle managers before the company can’t keep its head above water.

                All things considered I’m about a zillion times happier in the private sector than I ever was in academia. But it provides more than enough room for the maladjusted and the useless to flourish.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon Given that upper management is also governed by the Peter Principle, the failure is hardly surprising.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:


          • but there are some things about me that would make me really ill-suited to many corporate jobs. (Including a cynicism and suspicion about all “enforced fun” and artificial team-building type stuff)

            I strongly suspect most people in corporate jobs are cynical and suspicious about “enforced fun,” etc. So that doesn’t make you weird.Report

        • @oscar-gordon

          This isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison, because I’m comparing people who are PHD-holders/PHD-seekers with people who are (mostly) MA/MS holders, but in my anecdotal experience*, history programs seem to train people to be a**holes–to assume a confidence and breadth of knowledge they don’t have and to treat a good number of things, not all of them academic, as arguments to be won or proved.

          In the one library environment I’m familiar with, there appears to be a much stronger culture of geniality and cooperation. There can be strong personalities and sometimes harsh things are said, but even in those situations, people are most of the time pretty nice to each other. Maybe that’s because their jobs are more “customer focused” than the typical academic historian’s. Another possible reason is that the library I’m familiar with is more bureaucratic, with a hierarchy that’s enforced in a way different from how (what I take to be) typical academic departments are organized.

          While in some ways, some voices are silenced by the “culture of geniality” I describe–it’s not all roses. But I greatly prefer that culture to the culture of the academic history department.

          *Observations from being a grad student at 2 schools and being an undergrad at a 3d schoolReport

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

            There were certainly some a-hole profs that could be producing a-hole grad students. It was the business school, after all, there was no lack of egos floating around.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        The mission of the university to provide middle class employment probably cannot be understated.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to j r says:

        It appears equally true that the purpose of the military, hiding in plain sight, is to provide employment to those who otherwise would be unemployable, since, as NPR helpfully discusses, many military families need food stamps as well.

        But I admit there could be a flaw in this logic.Report

        • j r in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Yes, a significant portion of the entire defense industry is operating as a subsidy to defense contractors and their feeder industries and also as a jobs program. We will continue to pay way too much money for defense until we are willing to come to terms with this. In other words, we will continue to pay way too much money for defense.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          This is true. However, the military does actually attempt to impart skills and qualities upon those unemployable people such that they are employable when their enlistment is up. It’s not 100%, but it’s pretty effective.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Given that it appears to be the maintenance of an endowment…”

      That’s a strange given, no?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Eh, it’s revealed preference.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Then maybe this will be telling, no? If they fire her, it would reveal that preference. If they don’t, perhaps your assumption is incorrect.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            Well, reading this article at the Warshington Post, it contains the following line in the middle:

            School officials also said they were reviewing the tenured professor’s position.

            So, at the very least, the school feels like it was important to send a message.

            If another point of the school is, as j r ably points out, to provide Middle Class Employment, we see that there are two things in the University’s mission that are in conflict with each other.

            I guess we’ll see which priority is more important.Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

              Most universities have an “insubordination clause” (mine does) that triggers a tenure-review if a faculty member is deemed “insubordinate.”

              The problem is: what is defined as “insubordination”? We once had an admin who claimed that failing to follow the sick-day procedures (1) to the letter was “insubordination.”

              (1) These were procedures sufficiently complex that if you taught an 8 am class you would have had to send someone to campus ON YOUR BEHALF to post a sign about class being cancelled the sufficient number of minutes before class started. And no, you couldn’t just ask the secretary to do it as most secretaries arrived at 8.

              I was sufficiently unwilling to test the thing out (I NEED this gig) that I taught borderline-sick a couple of times. A colleague assured me the e-mail was to set up a paper trail for someone in another department who was actually abusing the sick-day policies (i.e., taking sick days when not sick and not reporting it) but I am sufficiently paranoid….I have to be REALLY sick (or clearly contagious) to take a sick day. I have, for example, taught with migraines or on the tail end of a cold where I had no voice.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              Is it possible that reviewing her position is motivated by something other than the endowment?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                The fact she shared the counseling number.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, I suppose I could see that as being the official reason if something happens.

                Throw a bone to the other professors and say “you can still give controversial opinions… just don’t screw up and do the counseling number thing!” while, to donors, say “hey, we got rid of the offending person”.

                Then she can be picked up down the road a ways. Like Melissa Click.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                There’s another tweet that went out that strikes me as untoward.

                I don’t have a link to it, only to a screencap.

                You can see it here, it’s the second picture. (I don’t know about the original tweeter so if they did something wicked in their previous timeline, whoops. Sorry. The point isn’t that I support the original tweeter but wanted you to see the screencap.)

                She said, and I’m transcribing this (and (sic) for everything):

                “sweetie i work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year doing that. i will never be fired. i will always have people wanting to hear what i have to say. even you are one of them! <3"

                There's some… I dunno. That sort of thing can generate bad blood. *I* wouldn't want to defend that sort of thing under the new post-post-enlightenment attitudes.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                So your stance is if she is disciplined, it can ONLY mean because university’s see their point as securing the endowment?

                Don’t you have a thing about things being flasifiable?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                My stance is that since she harmed the mission of the university, it struck me as exceptionally likely that she was going to be fired as a result of that.

                While it’s certainly true that the “official” reason will likely be that she was insubordinate or that she did the mental health line thing, the “real” reason will be the precipitating event.

                Remember Ward Churchill?

                If we were to discuss whether he was “really” fired for “On The Justice Of Roosting Chickens” or whether it was for his research misconduct…

                Which would it be? Would you really look at the research misconduct and say “well, that’s the official reason! It obviously had nothing to do with the Chicken Justice essay!” or would you say “they had to find something and, wouldn’t you know it, they found something”?

                Because, for me, I look at Churchill’s firing and I see the precipitating event as the Chicken Justice essay and the misconduct was an after-the-fact justification.

                Can I *PROVE* this?

                No. Absolutely not. If you’re not inclined to believe it, that’s cool.

                So too with this. When I saw her tweets, I thought “huh… she’s going to get fired for this sort of thing.”

                If (when) she gets fired, I am sure that there will be a lot of people who will argue that it’ll be because of the health line tweet and not the ones before it. There will be a lot of official explanations that they’ll be able to point to!

                And yet my initial response to hearing about it remains my initial response to hearing about it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                So, the strange thing, we started because you said:
                “Given that it appears to be the maintenance of an endowment…”

                You have to squint pretty hard for it to appear that way. Which means we’re pretty far from it being a “given”.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                You don’t have to accept my premises.

                What’s your premise here? “The purpose of the university is to create scholarship and educate and train adolescents as they turn into adults” or something like that?

                Then you can run with “it’s obvious to me that what this professor said is covered by tenure but the hotline thing is definitely not so if she gets fired and the university says that she got fired because of the hotline thing, it’s obviously because of that”.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                Possibly for broad enough interpretations of “endowment”? JB mentioned the Ward Churchill case. Churchill’s essay brought down the ire of the state legislature, with questions raised about whether the University of Colorado really needed to be spending state money on any of that department. Once a bunch of people’s livelihood was threatened, the outcome was foregone; some excuse would be found. Jarrar is at a state school; if it seems likely that the California legislature will raise the question of whether Cal State-Fresno needs Creative Writing, or other parts of the English Department, the Jarrar matter’s outcome will be the same.

                I assume that for private schools it’s somewhat more out of sight, but that if someone calls the Provost (or whoever), and says, “I was thinking about gifting $100M, but not if that <bleep> is going to run their mouth in public that way,” the outcome is probably a done deal.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

                The politics of the nation and California have changed since the Ward Churchill days.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m a tenured prof and it makes ME grind my teeth, so, yeah. If a colleague of mine pulled a stunt like that I’d be totally “I don’t know her” (or him) in public.

                it’s not like academia needs to be giving those who dislike it any more ammunition.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yeah, in my mind, that seems a bridge too far. But I’ve already expressed my issues about that being done.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    Leaning into this a bit…

    I remember people celebrating in the streets when Osama Bin Laden was killed. I remember it looked like a tailgate party or music festival. At least one scene showed people batting around a beach ball if memory serves. There was some criticism of this response but I don’t remember true outrage.

    Now, I wouldn’t put Barbara Bush — or her husband or son — in the same category as OBL. And I’d probably argue against someone who tried to do the same. But it also doesn’t seem outlandish to me that someone of the Muslim faith might leverage some rather unnuanced categorizations of the world and decided that the Bush family is to her what Bin Laden was to America and, as a result, bat the proverbial beach ball around.

    I’m sure this opinion would carry less than zero traction with the outrage mob.

    Somewhat curiously, her seemingly very intentionally provocative posturing here risks lending credence to the Provocateur-in-Chief’s claim that Muslims stood on rooftops cheering 9/11. Would anyone be shocked to see him make reference to this as “another” example of how Muslims hate America and cheer the end of our institutions?Report

  4. fillyjonk says:

    The “as a private citizen” thing is huge here.

    On my blog, on my (locked/pseudonymized) Twitter account, on my Ravelry page, I have a line that goes something like “Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent my university (or other groups of which I am a part)”

    We had an incident back during the primaries of the 2016 election where someone, using a Facebook page that had the official university logo on it, promoted a particular candidate (I don’t know who; I am assuming, but I don’t know for sure) and also told their students to come and “like” the page for extra credit.

    Okay, my opinion of that kind of “extra credit” aside (it is not fair to the Facebook refusers and also extra credit of this nature is seriously stupid and why not just pat the student on the head and GIVE them those points for nothing at all), this opened a hornet’s nest.

    First, we got an e-mail demanding all our online handles, and also hinting they wanted our passwords, too (presumably so someone could lock the accounts? I don’t know).

    I ALMOST deleted the blog (that I had had for 14 years at that point) despite mostly talking about knitting and books on there, and heavily pseudonymizing everything, and not really talking about particular students/colleagues. And I almost deleted my Twitter account.

    And then, the word came back down – no, wait, we can’t do THAT. So, the compromise: if you host a page that used the university logo in any way, we want to have the power to vet what you post. (Which seems fair enough to me: my department has an “alumni information” FB page with the logo, and we submit any posts we want to put up there to the person whose job it is to vet such things. It works…okay.

    And yeah, I worry every day of my working life about “the death of the university” because I’m basically unemployable anywhere else without retraining (plant ecologist, which would only be hireable by the sort of rich patrons who no longer exist on the outside). And I’m nearly 50, so I’d probably wind up underemployed doing something like a service-sector job that would kill me because I can’t suck up to the “Can I speak to a manager” types.

    My only other thought on all this is my dad’s comment about: “Free speech is great, because the a**holes self-identify.” Do we really want to protect ourselves from knowing who the a**holes are?

    (And also, it’s a big country: one person’s “a**hole” is maybe another’s “truth-talker,” I don’t know. I do find celebrations-of-death like Barbara Bush’s distasteful, no matter how much a person might have disagreed with her politics. And while I might mute or unfollow someone who expressed joy at her death, I wouldn’t call for them being fired from their job)Report

    • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

      This is a great set of points. The story about the backlash to the professor’s dumb stunt surprised me for a second… then it stopped surprising me when I sat down and thought about it.

      The “as a private citizen” distinction is one that has pretty much evaporated in the last decade or so.

      The thing where people say “you have free speech, but that doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of your speech!” has replaced whatever Enlightenment Ideal we once pretended to have.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

        My fear is that this kind of thing will be more fuel for those who want to abolish tenure (“Look at what this person thinks she can do!” and then the rest of us wind up interviewing with Bob and Bob every year to keep our jobs) and maybe for those who want to abridge free speech.

        What she did was distasteful. I am particularly put off by the “nyaaah I have tenure and make $100K a year (1) and they can’t fire me” attitude. As I said before: most unis I know have the “insubordination” loophole they can use, and possibly the tying up a suicide-prevention hotline could rise to that level.

        I dunno. I am kind of grinding my teeth and quoting that old Voltaire quote about “…but I will defend your right to say it to the death” but I admit if I were asked to serve on a panel with the prof in question I’d probably take a pass.

        But the whole situation (on both sides: what she said, what people did, and what she did in return) is childish and ugly and it makes my head hurt.

        (1) Okay, full disclosure: there may be a bit of jealousy going on there for me. I WISH I made $100K a year, I make just a bit more than half that.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Oh, yeah. They can run with “the point of Tenure is to protect professors who want to teach evolution instead of young earth creationism. It is *NOT* so that professors can mock the recently dead with impunity!” or something like that.

          I don’t think that they’re going to get rid of tenure entirely, though.

          It seems most likely to me that most of the tenured will just leave through attrition and only hotshot superstars will be offered tenure anymore. Everybody else will be an adjunct.Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

            Yeah, I really suspect you’re right – that it will end through attrition, and there will perhaps be about 100 “superstar” profs across the nation, who have tenure, who teach via video, and the “hard work” (grading, advising, people-wrangling) is done by low-paid adjuncts – so they get all of the hard part and none of the fun. I know I’m not a superstar so if that somehow happened tomorrow I’d either have to try to survive as a grading-slave or retool to do something else.

            I think about this a lot; my latest iteration of it is, “Could I overcome my serious squick about things like blood, vomit, and feces, and become an RN?”

            My dad tells me “this was talked about before with IETV, and that never went anywhere” but that was also in an era when budgets weren’t contracting as seriously and we didn’t have this bizarre “If it doesn’t bring immediate profit, it is worth nothing and should be thrown on the dustheap of history” mindset.Report

  5. j r says:


  6. j r says:


    Now, I wouldn’t put Barbara Bush — or her husband or son — in the same category as OBL. And I’d probably argue against someone who tried to do the same. But it also doesn’t seem outlandish to me that someone of the Muslim faith might leverage some rather unnuanced categorizations of the world and decided that the Bush family is to her what Bin Laden was to America and, as a result, bat the proverbial beach ball around.

    This is a good point and I would add that in both cases neither OBL nor Barbara Bush are really functioning as people. Their identity is purely symbolic. I was living in DC in 2011, close enough to the White House to see the crowds coming and going; they were mostly young people. To the kids chanting “America! America!” in Lafayette park, bin Laden wasn’t so much the leader of Al Qaeda or the mastermind of 9/11; he was an obstacle to America’s awesomeness and he’d just been beaten.

    Something similar is going on with Jarrar; although she’s got about twenty years on most of the kids who were celebrating bin Laden. That age difference should matter, but I’m not sure how much people mature when it comes to politics. The possibility of provoking Trump or other bigots is a feature, not a bug.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

      Great point. While it doesn’t undo any harm caused by her or her family, Barbara Bush has been irrelevant for a couple decades now at least insofar as impacting general people’s lives. Jarrar is largely reacting to what she symbolizes/ed, which has largely been inflated in the time since Bush was an impactful figure on a larger stage.

      What’s that saying? You either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain? Sometimes you become a villain in death because you become a rallying point in a broader war. I doubt Jarrar had much to say about Barbara until she died at which point her becoming a part of the public consciousness again facilitated her become a rallying point for both/all sides.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        What’s that saying?

        I’m not sure that it’s saying anything other than that we are increasingly becoming more motivated by symbolic actions in our personal lives. It is probably not a good thing, but it is to be expected as life becomes more and more virtual.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to j r says:

          we are increasingly becoming more motivated by symbolic actions in our personal lives

          I have my doubts this is a new thing.

          I think if we go back in time we’ll always find one idiot willing to throw stones over some symbolic offense(*), the only difference now is it’s easier to hear about.

          (*)Yes, often from racism… but her belly dancing statements seem pretty racist so maybe that’s here too.Report

          • j r in reply to Dark Matter says:

            It’s not a new thing. What’s new is the technology (the internet, social media) and the ideology (“the personal is political”).

            One group of tribesman throwing sticks and stones at each other is one thing; it becomes a completely different thing once someone comes along and gives them AK-47s and technicals ( and tells them that they’re now fighting for Allah or Karl Marx or “freedom.”

            Absent Twitter, Jarrar would be that “eccentric” creative writing teacher from the university who writes a lot of letters to the editor and has some petition to sign.
            You’d walk down a different aisle when you see her at the supermarket and maybe make an offhand comment that night over dinner, but that’s about as much thought as you’d give her.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

          Sorry… I was asking what the saying actually was… the hero/villain one. I wasn’t sure I was recalling it properly.Report

    • Pinky in reply to j r says:

      I totally disagree. Those people were rallying in Lafayette Park because of who OBL was. There’s no reason to assume there was anything symbolic about it.

      The death of a private figure may be used for symbolism; something may happen to a public figure that is merely symbolic. But the death of a public figure is far less prone to symbolism. OBL and Barbara Bush were people whose lives affected us, and their passing is a most concrete reality. We may broadly reflect on what they meant as a substitute for more personal stories, but again that’s something shy of calling them symbols.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    Wasn’t there something about Dr(?) Jarrar also posting on her feed a mental health hotline number as her own contact number? (As a way to troll her haters)Report

  8. pillsy says:

    I’m torn between my extremely negative reaction to Prof. Jarrar’s astounding stupidity, and my equally negative reaction to the laughably bad faith displayed by the organizers of the outrage mob.

    Given the suicide hotline angle, she definitely gave the administration an out to investigate and even discipline her.Report

    • Taking politics and academic issues out-I tried to just look at it as I would when I was a manager/supervisor: I cannot infringe your private personal speech. I can protect our employer once you purposefully included the organization and specific members into your private speech and implied their consent, protection, and agreement. If you are going to discipline, that would be the angle to take. Also depending on contractual agreements, openly discussing the amount of money you are making can be an issue for some folks, not sure if that is applicable here or not. I found the comments themselves horrid, but she is free to be horrid all she wants. It mostly came across to me as a person venting for attention, and I treated it as such.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

      I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most: having had friends who were on the brink of suicide and who got pulled back, and got help, by calling the line. What if the people calling in on her trolled information crashed the line or tied it up so people who genuinely needed it didn’t get through? I can see being in a state of mind where being put on hold by a suicide line would be exceptionally bad.Report

  9. Saul Degraw says:

    Proving once again that Twitter is a special place.

    Barbara Bush was incredibly popular with the American people. From what I have read, she was also an old-school WASP who could be incredibly haughty to those of less pedigree. She looked down upon Nancy Reagan from what I read. Bush the First was the head of the CIA and Bush II is still disliked on the Left.

    So this was inevitable and unsurprising. But the causes of liberty are rarely advanced by Saints to paraphrase Mencken. The professor’s rhetoric was strident but stridency should be allowed on the left too.Report

    • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Why is giving birth to and marrying bad people (perhaps very bad people) any sort of reason to celebrate that person’s death? I can understand celebrating the death of a bad person. The world is a better place without them etc. But while marrying a bad person may be a sign of poor judgement, that in and of itself does not make the world a bad place and dying won’t make it better. While giving birth to a bad person does do some harm, there’s no half way plausible progessive view according to which you can blame the parents of wrong-doers. That view seems very medieval. Even if she could be blamed for raising her son badly, it is done, her death does not make the world better. Moreover, her death is hardly some karmic retribution. She died peacefully of old age. I’m not sure which particular lefty point is being made: stridently or otherwiseReport

  10. North says:

    Exibit #1248745890 in the case the twitter is a festering cess pit and that absolutely no organization of any size shold pay any mind to what goes on in it.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to North says:

      Where’s a good witch hunt when you need one?

      “Are you or have you ever been a member of twitter?”

      Twitter thereupon disintegrates in a metaphysical contradiction of profound effect.Report

    • pillsy in reply to North says:

      The specific dynamic is really common to Twitter, since Twitter often fools people (especially ones with small numbers of followers) into thinking that they are just shooting the shit with their friends [1], but it also makes it incredibly easy for everyone in the whole damn world to find out if you said something obnoxious.

      I suspect that Prof. Jarrar’s comment was not one that would have particularly outraged, or even surprised, her friends, online or off.

      [1] A ton of my Twitter volume is talking with OTers about video games, movies, et c.Report

      • North in reply to pillsy says:

        I get that. And while my own disdain for the platform burns with the heat of a thousand suns I grant Twitter has its uses.

        I do, however, think that organizations and especially journalists and politicians should be barred from it en masse.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

        Cat pictures ? (or maybe duck pictures?)

        I dunno. I like Twitter even as I recognize it has its problems. I don’t follow many people and if someone starts RTing asshattery, I mute their retweets, and if they start being a jerk, I mute them and maybe unfollow them.

        As I said before: I will never forget how a few of my twitter “friends” virtually sat with me while I kept calling around to find my parents up in Illinois when my dad was taken to the ER in an ambulance. (It ended well – it was a fixable medication error – but it was absolutely the most terrifying 20 minutes of my adult life)Report

        • North in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Yeah I recognize its use on an individual level which is why I don’t think it should vanish altogether. But it is worse than valueless when politicians, corporations or media entities are paying it any mind.Report

    • j r in reply to North says:

      I say this every time the topic comes up, but the utility of Twitter is directly proportional to how youuse it. It is a direct reflection of what you choose to care about.

      I use Twitter primarily as a news feed, particularly focused on the area in which I work. In that regard, it is very useful.Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    Does anyone know if it’s common for umiversities to grant tenure to people without a doctorate?Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe says:

      Speaking only as an outside observer, there seem to be certain niches where it’s more common. Creative writing is one of those.

      The strangest tenure arrangement I ever saw was at the University of Texas at Austin, in Petroleum Engineering. The prof taught one class every semester, sometimes referred to as “Practical Mud”. His formal education ended at high school, but he’d spent 35 years in the oil fields and knew everything there was to know about drilling fluids in practice. He didn’t lead research projects, but he was a consultant on a lot of them.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

      There are fields where an MFA is the terminal degree.

      My MFA in directing is terminal. So I could theoretically teach university and get tenure.

      Law Professors usually only have J.D.s which is a doctorate in the most technical sense.Report

    • gabriel conroy in reply to Kolohe says:

      Community colleges often do, or at least I know some that do. I suspect, but don’t know, that the more a university is a teaching-oriented school, the more likely it is to offer tenure lines to some masters-only holders. But again, I don’t know.

      I do know that some university library’s are organized as “colleges” with tenure lines, and in the case I’m familiar with, an MLS or equivalent masters is the accepted degree, although some people do have doctorates.Report

      • Yes, here our librarians go up for tenure. I think MLS is considered the desired degree in a lot of cases.

        In my department we have to have a “terminal” degree (so, for us: MD or Ph.D. or I suppose a doctorate in Public Health or similar) to go up for tenure; a colleague of mine who was a full-time instructor with greater seniority than I had was “let go not for cause” during our 2016 budget retrenchment because she had never sought (or wanted) a Ph.D. and was teaching with a Master’s. It was discombobulating in the extreme to me, though in the end my former colleague landed on her feet – she is now the science coordinator for a school district nearer where she lives, so her commute has been cut in half and apparently the students there love her (which does not surprise me).Report

        • Aaron David in reply to fillyjonk says:

          When my father started as a prof. in ’75, he was the only Ph.D. in the dept. It was mostly old guys, a lot of whom were WWII vets. Oh, and Joanne the entomologist.Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to Aaron David says:

            I think it’s definitely changed in the last 40+ years, what is expected. Some of the departments on my campus who have some real old-timers have people with Masters’ or similar. I think the expectations have, in general, gone up, because more people have gone to grad school for Ph.D.s recently and in some fields there’s supposed to be a glut of them.

            I can’t remember now whether my dad had any non-Ph.D.s in his departments but I would not be at all surprised, especially among the petroleum geologists and similar.

            I know I’ve been on a few search committees where we got applications that were triumphs of hope over reason – like the field mycologist who applied for a geneticist (experience with human genetics a plus) position.Report

    • Murali in reply to Kolohe says:

      Peter Singer doesn’t have a doctrate but he’s got tenureReport

  12. Jaybird says:

    People in California! I have a question!

    Is Fresno one of the good schools? Like, if a co-worker said “Can you believe it’s time for Little Harley to go to college already? How time flies! They got a letter where they were accepted to Fresno!”, would you think to yourself “oh good for Little Harley!” or would you have to withhold a snort?Report

  13. Doctor Jay says:

    Political speech by a tenured professor is pretty much completely protected. The protection of political speech is one of the reasons, if not the reason, tenure exists. As opposed to political speech by a lecturer, which is a contract position, and has no tenure, generally. I think it was obvious that she wasn’t speaking on behalf of anyone but herself.

    Of course she gets to say stuff like that. I’m not big on using mental health as an insult – I don’t like that at all. But what I can do about it is say that, and roll my eyes. And that’s about it.Report

  14. LTL FTC says:

    This is just lefty Milo Y. behavior. Say something obviously outrageous, watch your ideological opponents lose their mind and then whine when the mob tries to shout you down. This latest player could stand to play up the victim angle a bit more if she wants a better book deal, but the pattern is more or less the same.

    Righties and lefties alike have built personal brands on this. There’s a long list of people who were nobodies until people started threatening them. Richard Spencer, Anna Sarkeesian…Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LTL FTC says:

      Richard Spencer, Anna Sarkeesian…

      This is quite the BDSI!! As far as I know, Sarkeesian never called a group of people sub-human like Spencer did for Jews. She pointed out a lot of sexist stuff like scantily clad women which could make video games unappealing to women and received rape and death threats.Report

      • LTL FTC in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        • Maribou in reply to LTL FTC says:

          I assume he meant BSDI aka both sides do it.

          I noticed that odd juxtaposition of examples myself, but since you were giving examples, not equivalences, saw no reason to complain about it.

          (Also, now that I am commenting, note that it’s Anita Sarkeesian. Obviously she’s still enough of a nobody that people don’t get her name right…)Report

          • LTL FTC in reply to Maribou says:

            It was about people who got famous by being threatened online, not who is in the right.

            And whether I can personally remember a name has nothing to do with actual notoriety. 🙂Report

  15. Kazzy says:

    You started with the premise that it’s a given that Uni’s appear to exist for the sake of their endowment. With the seeming intent to argue they were justified in firing her because she interfered with their mission.

    But you have offered little in the way to demonstate why it appears that way to you. Then layered on all sorts of other assumptions. Eventually creating a situation wherein you simply can’t be wrong. Clever. But nothing more than junk.

    It must be frustrating when the world refuses to conform to your priors.Report

  16. Jaybird says:

    Justified? I’m not sure I’d go *THAT* far.

    If I thought that the point of the university was to promote diverse thought or some of that weird “enlightenment” stuff that was popular in the imagined past, I’d say that her firing was not, absolutely not, justified at all and I’d probably throw in a paragraph about defending scoundrels or something.

    I’m not arguing that the outcome is right or good (or “justified”) but merely that it follows.

    But you have offered little in the way to demonstate why it appears that way to you.

    Because it explains the behavior of the university in the modern era?

    Do you need me to put together a list of university behaviors and compare some list of theoretical responses that would follow from a handful of mission statements and compare these theoretical behaviors with the actual ones that universities actually did and we can see if the enlightenment thing is better at predicting behavior than the endowment thing?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Given that it appears to be the maintenance of an endowment, this professor is actively harming the purpose of this particular university.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if the university decided to fire her. If you want to keep your job, you help your company achieve its mission. She ain’t doing that. Worse, she ain’t doing that in a very, very, very public way that raises a *HUGE* stink.”

      “Do you need me to put together a list of university behaviors and compare some list of theoretical responses that would follow from a handful of mission statements and compare these theoretical behaviors with the actual ones that universities actually did and we can see if the enlightenment thing is better at predicting behavior than the endowment thing?”
      If you are into false dilemmas, yes.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m into false dilemmas. But I’m also into other things.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Kazzy says:

        I bet we see this situation, though, turning into one of those rules that people point out with “every ridiculously detailed rule is the result of an even more ridiculous situation.” Probably lots of universities are going to now make doxxing or misdirecting people or tying up an emergency service a tenure-revokable offense. (If they don’t have that first one already, which they maybe SHOULD).

        (And I think of the time I taught with a migraine because my university’s sick-day policy was made needlessly Byzantine by a now-retired admin who also said “if you don’t follow it to the letter, that’s grounds for insubordination.” I am too much of a rule-follower but I also know I am exactly the kind of person who gets caught the very first time they break even the minorest of rules)Report

  17. Jaybird says:

    Eventually creating a situation wherein you simply can’t be wrong.

    Oh, and I absolutely *CAN* be wrong here. All they have to do is not fire her.

    Given the vagaries of the news cycle, I can *EASILY* see the attention spans of everybody switching to some new outrageous thing before close of business today (Mountain Time) and Fresno quietly releasing a new Social Media Policy that covers exactly what you can and cannot say (see Fillyjonk’s story above).

    Heck, we can come back here in a week and you can yell “IN YOUR FACE!” if she’s still employed.

    And, if she gets fired, you can point to the official statement from the official from the college written on the official letterhead and point out that they talk about the help line but not about anything else so, therefore, I’m wrong. That’s all good too.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Only if the news cycle turns over and she doesn’t get fired you’d say, “See? It fell out of the news so they were no longer worried about their endowment. Everyone’s move on.”

      You are essentially arguing for a conspiracy theory. With all the glorious bells and whistles they offer.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, a given at the beginning of a sentence is a statement of “here is my premise. if you accept my premise, this is what follows.”

        If you don’t accept his premise, that’s fine, that’s why he laid it out first. (If one did, one might then proceed to argue about why, given that premise, his logic is faulty – or one might not accept his premise, but accept it provisionally for the sake of the argument…)

        It’s like if someone said, “Given there’s no God, blah blah blah.” The point is not to get into an argument about whether there’s a God or not. The point is that the speaker is assuming something that isn’t the important part of what they are saying, but about which they recognize auditors may differ. You aren’t expected to agree with it, it’s an explanation of the framing with which the speaker is assessing the situation.

        It’s a rhetorical device meant to put aside arguments, not to start them.

        Geez louise.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

          I’d be curious if that is any sort of common understanding of that phrasing.

          Wiktionary, for what it’s worth, seems to agree with me:

          • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

            @kazzy *puzzled look* the vast majority of the synonyms listed there, are also words used to identify a clause that’s a premise.

            A premise is something the speaker is taking as a fact for the purposes of the statement, yes? That doesn’t mean you have to agree that it’s a fact, that’s just what a premise is.

            “Given that the sky is blue,” <— uncontested premise stated as a fact (well, you could contest it but it would be kinda pedantic)
            "Given that my child is THE BEST CHILD EVER," <— highly contestable premise stated as a fact, the speaker is almost certainly (one hopes) clear on the fact that others do not agree with them, but that's not the point of what they're about to say.

            Now, if you're in the middle of building a full argument, sure, your premises might stack, so a 'given that' will then refer back to something you already proved earlier in the argument. I mean, ideally it would.

            But if a comment starts with "Given that," and the next words aren't data, I would almost always assume that the "here is my premise that I am assuming is true in this context" part would have been obvious. And that the speaker’s focus not being on that assumption would have been obvious. I mean… I don’t even know why you don’t see it that way, and your link to prove that I’m in left field, to me, looks like it fits into my way of seeing it without any problems. So I guess we’re at an impasse?

            If what I'm saying doesn't make any sense to you, I'm obviously not managing to clarify matters and I will respectfully refrain from the attempt.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

              Maybe I’m overly focusing on or misunderstanding this part: “In consideration of the fact that.”

              Of course, when questioned on it, the response was, “Well, that is my take.”

              It was, “It is a revealed preference.”Report

              • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

                To me, all of those things you quote, including the Wiktionary definition mean: “I’m taking this as a fact.” [ie This is my premise.]** Which I guess could be me being strange, but if we’re going to argue from authority, I’d take my 800 on the verbal GRE and the verbal SAT as a reasonable indicator of my reading skills. (I actually think they’re both dumb indicators, but still they probably indicate that I have a reasonably consensus-reality view of what words mean.)

                Perhaps if you had said, “I don’t agree with your given, can you explain more why you think that?” or “I don’t agree with your premise, I think the answer to the question is more like this…” as your first response (as j-r effectively did), instead of “That’s a strange given, no?”, you might have received answers more in line with what (it seems to me) you were looking for. Because it’s not a “strange” given, it’s a given that Jaybird has discussed at length, lo on this very board, many times, and something a person might even reasonably assume Jaybird is convinced is a fact without him having to mention it, ie the obvious given for him in this context – but he was just laying it out there in case anyone didn’t know that’s where he was coming from.

                I mean, if I said, “Given that there’s no God, etc etc etc” and someone said, “That’s a strange given, no?” I would assume they didn’t actually want to know why I thought that***… and were instead interested in winning an argument about God, rather than discussing the topic at hand. Because instead of “agree” or “disagree” or “wait, where’s the logical chain here?”, it was “that’s strange – isn’t it?” Like, obviously he doesn’t think it’s strange or he wouldn’t assert it as a given. so what are you expecting him to say?

                ** There is a slight difference, I suppose, in that the wiktionary definition maintains a pretense of objectivity – but in everyday speech, people assert facts that aren’t facts all the time, and don’t literally mean, “this is a scientifically proven-to-be-as-accurate-as-possible statement.” I generally take wiktionary as describing everyday uses, not scientific-standard ones.

                *** (for the record, I don’t think that but I also don’t exactly not-think it, which is why I keep using it as an example, because it isn’t a thing I believe *can* be known as an uncontroversial fact, and yet people assert it as such all the time)Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Maribou says:

                Not sure it matters, but I tend to see the phrase “Given that…” similarly to how Kazzy does, which I take to be more as a declaration of a presumed fact than as a premise.

                It’s still a premise, I guess, but for whatever reasons (I certainly didn’t get close to 800 on the SAT), I take it to be a stronger sentence.

                All that said, I see your point that if someone says “Given that…,” it’s probably best to take it as an invitation to acknowledge it’s a premise that either needs to be challenged/accepted or treated “for the sake of argument” purposes. Also, just because I and Kazzy interpret it one way doesn’t mean that’s how others do or should.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, the crazy thing is that we both know that they care very much about the endowment.

        It’s just that it’s my position that the mission of the modern university is to maintain an endowment and, I’m guessing, your position is that the endowment is some epiphenomenon that goes with being a modern university these days and so, sure, the university cares about the endowment but it’s not their *MISSION*.

        I mean, you agree that the university cares about the endowment, right?

        It’s just that you think that the endowment is a #5 on the list of most important things. If I said something like “you think that the university doesn’t care about the endowment!”, I’d be mistaken about what you think, right?

        Given that, the argument isn’t over whether the university manifestly cares about the endowment. We agree that it does. We (apparently) disagree over how much it does.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          “Given that it appears to be the maintenance of an endowment, this professor is actively harming the purpose of this particular university.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if the university decided to fire her. If you want to keep your job, you help your company achieve its mission. She ain’t doing that. Worse, she ain’t doing that in a very, very, very public way that raises a *HUGE* stink.””

          If we don’t agree on how important the endowment is, we likely won’t agree on whether or not she is harming the purpose of the university.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            If we don’t agree on how important the endowment is, we likely won’t agree on whether or not she is harming the purpose of the university.

            Well, that depends on what you think the purpose of the university is.

            We might agree that she is harming the mission… just for very different reasons.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              So you think the university will fire her because it’s primary mission is the endowment?

              If they don’t fire her, will that change your belief that the primary mission of the university is the endowment?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                So you think the university will fire her because it’s primary mission is the endowment?

                Not necessarily. We don’t know whether she’s harming the endowment yet. She created a stink, sure. But maybe that stink will pass quickly. We could be talking about something else entirely by the end of tomorrow.

                Let’s go to the beginning. Yesterday was the first that I heard that she said a bunch of offensive things (including the hotline thing) and, shortly thereafter, I heard that she was “on leave”. (And I don’t know what that means. On vacation? Told to not come into work until May? Told her bosses “I ain’t coming in until this blows over!”? I don’t know.) My assumption, and it’s a total assumption, was that she was asked by management to stay home until this blew over and, for God’s sake, DON’T TWEET ANYMORE.

                So that’s where I started. From there I assumed that the university would not have asked her to do this if they were just a small commuter-type school.

                That was the main thing I wanted to suss out with my question about whether it was a brag-worthy school or not (like a commuter school or whatever) was to get an idea over what its own vision of itself was likely to be.

                If it were a commuter school, for example, I’d suspect that it’d have a much much much smaller endowment and see itself as more in the business of customer service. They wouldn’t care about people who said “I’m not going to put you in my will” because who leaves money to commuter schools in their will? What those schools *DO* care about is *ENROLLMENT*.

                They would have waited to see what happened with enrollment first.

                But it turns out that they’re a school that the kids of privilege are likely to go to as well. (Checking the wikipedia, they’ve got a % admittance rate in the high 50’s but I don’t know what that necessarily means. They don’t seem to be need-blind, as far as I can google.)

                Given that, I’m back to suspecting that it’s based on the endowment thing rather than the enrollment thing.

                And the endowment thing is something that will be hurt more and more the longer this stays in the news. If, tomorrow, everybody is talking about something about Donald Trump or the CEO of In and Out Burgers announces that he’s against SSM or something then we don’t even have a Fresnoghazi, it’s just another tempest in a teapot that was whipped up by twitter and we’ll have moved on to the next big thing… and, given that this will not have turned out to have an impact on the endowment, no. It won’t change my belief that the primary mission of the university is the maintenance of the endowment.

                What might change it?

                Well, something that they would have done… I dunno… 30 years ago? But they didn’t do yesterday at their press conference.

                If they announced something about how they believe in Academic Freedom and the common good being increased by professors who know they are free to say things… even wrong things. Even *OFFENSIVE* things. But a modern university is one in which professors are not cowed by modern McCarthyite tactics trying to shut down Free Speech.

                At their press conference yesterday, the university did not announce that the statements were made by a private citizen about an issue of public concern and then shrug and say “our hands are tied… academic freedom, yo”, they announced an investigation. Check out this excerpt:

                Asked at the news conference about that tweet, Zelezny said: “Does tenure mean that you, technically, cannot be fired? The answer to that is no.”

                (Hrm. And the followup says that she was on leave before this all happened. Like this happened *WHILE* she was on leave. So I guess that that question is answered. She it’s time to adjust my assumptions. I now suspect that she was on leave, tweeted some stuff, tweeted some more stuff, *THEN* management told her to shut the heck up.)

                So here’s what I see playing out: she stays quiet. No tweeting or anything. This blows over. Monday sees a new and improved social media policy at the university. She shows up for Summer Session as planned or for Autumn Session as planned.

                But! If this stays in the news? More and more people debating over whether the university ought to fire her (including right-wingers and libertarians proudly announcing their support for Free Speech on Campus for EVERYBODY), the more people will say “you know what? I’ll just leave that money to Some Other University instead” and *THAT* will result in her termination. (And it can be blamed on the right-wingers and libertarians who were calling for her head.)

                So if you’re wondering what will falsify my theory that the primary mission of the university is maintenance of the endowment?

                Something that probably won’t ever happen. The university has to officially announce its support of Tenure, Academic Freedom, and the importance of maintaining this grand academic tradition in the face of censorious scolds.

                Because… yeah. I could see the university firing her, I could see the university *NOT* firing her. Either could happen.

                But I can’t really see the university announcing its support for Free Speech on Campus. That would hurt its bottom line.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                “Randa Jarrar, an on-leave English Professor at Fresno State…”

                Dude… 4 words in.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

                She was already on leave when she made the initial Bush twitter comments.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

                That’s my point. He somehow missed the 4th and 5th words of the post.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

                Yes, I know that *NOW*. But I didn’t know, from the article, if that meant that she was on leave at the time of the original tweets.

                (That is: I could see reporters trying to “help” by obfuscating that a bit and arguing that the situation was already taken care of. Why… she’s on leave, even. Like a police officer being investigated for a bad shoot or something.)Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

                Either deliberate obfuscation on their part, or that they just don’t know how some universities work.

                Though I think if she were officially on sabbatical, that would have been made clear, either by the university or by her. (Or then again: I may be projecting how *I* would act onto another person)Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

                I assumed “on leave” meant she was on sabbatical. Which is a thing some people at some universities get.

                I could be wrong about that, but I assumed the leave started BEFORE this whole mess, that she wasn’t teaching at all this spring. So either this was something she requested and got (in order to write another book or whatever) or else she peeved off the wrong person in the fall and has just BEEN on leave. IDK.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Now I know how to read that phrase in the future.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Having worked at private R&D firms that granted academic leave from time to time, the fact that you were going to go back meant that the same rules applied while on leave as while not. By my standards from that experience — and YMMV — certainly as soon as she dropped the word “tenure” into the conversation she was speaking as a tenured faculty member, and the whole conversation should be judged on that basis. My bottom line is she owes her department and her university an apology for coming off like a drunk sophomore.

                The Cal State system has regular tenure reviews. I’d be willing to place a small bet that Prof. Jarrar’s appointment will not survive her next one.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Yeah, I would expect to be held to the same standards if I were on sabbatical that I would be if I were actively teaching.

                We have post-tenure review every 3 years. It makes me paranoid, which is probably the point. Though we don’t have a “collegiality” section, which this might fall under – we are evaluated on teaching, scholarship, and service.

                The thing that people outside of academia don’t always get is that tenure doesn’t mean a person “can’t” be fired, it means that they more or less get automatic renewals unless (a) they just quit doing anything and refuse to rectify that when told or (b) violate some very specific rule (e.g., if they had an affair with a student, that would be grounds for dismissal, as would issuing a clear threat against an elected official, colleague, or student)

                I think – though I don’t know for sure – that it’s easier to lose tenure now than it once was; we were told that if we have two unfavorable reviews in a row we’re gone. I don’t know what rises to “unfavorable” but you can be damnsure I’m not testing it out; I need this gig.Report

  18. I think of Fresno as sleepy and dull, but between Jarrar and Victor Davis Hanson it’s quite the happening place.Report

  19. Jaybird says:

    Not that it matters at this point, but both Reason and National Review have written essays against this professor’s firing.

    Ben Shapiro, for that matter, has come out against it.Report

  20. Aaron David says:

    There is no reason she should be fired for what she said. There might be other mitigating factors, but CSUF is a uni in Cali with all that implies. In other words, even though it is in CA’s red belt, it is a deep blue state, far to the left of the US by virtue of its politics. Nothing wrong with that.


    That a bigoted person of privilege is able to use such hate speech is… I just can’t even!11!1

    All joking aside, this is precisely why I find the whole idea of privilege so useless. “I make 100K a year and they can’t fire me”? I have never seen such privilege in my life. Thick, poison dripping, two-pronged and nasty privilege.Report

  21. Dark Matter says:

    1) She said she’s a woman and Muslim, and therefore it’s racist to object to what she said. That’s a good showcasing of where her head is at and what “racist” means in certain circles.

    2) I certainly couldn’t do what she did without being fired. I seriously don’t understand why it’s supposedly in the public interest that her job is super protected while mine is not. Sounds a lot like our “public masters” rather than our “public servants”.

    3) Deliberately pulling her employer into this really should seem like a problem to her employer. None of this was connected to her job, she’s not taking **** because of a paper she published furthering the edges of knowledge. She’s in trouble because she hates a former President so much that she’s taking it out on his dead mother. Deliberately firing up drama for the purpose of dragging the schools good name through the mud seems like a problem.

    It’s probably a good time to review her work. Odds are very good she’s less a rockstar and more someone insisting it’s racist to hold her to reasonable employment standards.

    From wiki:
    Jarrar wrote an opinion piece called “Why I Can’t Stand White Belly-Dancers”, published in Salon in 2014. In this piece, Jarrar said she felt that white women who take part in the art of bellydance are engaging in cultural appropriation and “brown face.”[4]

    Her commentary was widely criticized; UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh stated ironically “Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean ‘telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin'”.Report

  22. Aaron David says:

    I didn’t realize that the suicide hotline wasn’t a Fresno State hotline, it was an Arizona Stare hotline.

    That could be wire fraud.Report

  23. Chip Daniels says:

    Apparently Roger Stone isn’t going to get tenure.

    Or as Redstate calls him, a “weeping, gangrenous, walking pustule.

    Politics does make some strange bedfellows.Report

  24. Aaron David says:

    So, I came across this today:

    A university investigation is underway. But several donors to Fresno State are reportedly considering whether the university deserves their contributions.

    Ed Dunkel Jr., who made sizable financial contributions to Fresno State, said he will await the outcome of the controversy before deciding whether to close his checkbook.

    “I have a lot of friends that I’ve been talking to, and these are people who donate now and talking about holding back, and some are even questioning whether to send their kids to Fresno State,” Dunkel told the Fresno Bee.

    “I admire and have a lot of respect for President (Joseph) Castro and huge affection for Fresno State,” Dunkel said. “But I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It’s hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person’s character and what she’s about.”

    Fresno State President Joseph Castro acknowledged that he’s been having conversations with donors regarding the controversy.

    “The conversations I’m having are more about their concern, and I share that concern. I understand where they’re coming from. I’m asking them for understanding here as we work through the complexities of this issue,” he told the Fresno Bee.

    “I understand where [university donors are] coming from. I’m asking them for understanding here as we work through the complexities of this issue.”

    – Fresno State President Joseph Castro
    “They’re outraged, and I’m outraged as well,” he added. “This is behavior that is unacceptable as a university that models the development of leaders. We just cannot tolerate it.”

    Bush-bashing professor has Fresno State scrambling to keep its donorsReport

    • Dark Matter in reply to Aaron David says:

      “I admire and have a lot of respect for President (Joseph) Castro and huge affection for Fresno State,” Dunkel said. “But I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It’s hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person’s character and what she’s about.”

      This is the 2nd time in 4 years she’s had a self-inflicted public blow up (see my belly dancing statement at the bottom).Report

  25. Jaybird says:

    If you were wondering what the wackiness impact of the hotline thing was, it was apparently this wacky:

    The hotline typically receives about 5 calls per week, according to ASU.

    On Wednesday afternoon, about a day after Jarrar’s post, the line was still getting 50 to 70 calls per hour, ASU said.

    ASU said the professor does not have any apparent affiliation with the university.

    The school said it doesn’t believe any people who needed the phone service were affected.


  26. Jaybird says:

    Golly. I was totally wrong. Check out this official letter from Fresno State:

    Dear Campus Community,

    I write to provide an update regarding the university’s review of comments made last week by Professor Randa Jarrar, following the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. This issue has raised many important questions about the scope of free speech and the extent to which a member of our university community can be held accountable for expressing his or her personal views.

    Professor Jarrar’s conduct was insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university. I know her comments have angered many in our community and impacted our students. Let me be clear, on campus and whenever we are representing the university, I expect all of us to engage in respectful dialogue.

    Immediately following Professor Jarrar’s tweets last Tuesday, we carefully reviewed the facts and consulted with CSU counsel to determine whether we could take disciplinary action. After completing this process, we have concluded that Professor Jarrar did not violate any CSU or university policies and that she was acting in a private capacity and speaking about a public matter on her personal Twitter account. Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, although Professor Jarrar used tenure to defend her behavior, this private action is an issue of free speech and not related to her job or tenure. Therefore, the university does not have justification to support taking any disciplinary action. Professor Jarrar will remain on leave through the Spring semester, which she had previously requested before this incident. This matter has highlighted some important issues that deserve further consultation with our academic leadership.

    Our duty as Americans and as educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them. At Fresno State, we encourage opinions and ideas to be expressed in a manner that informs, enlightens and educates without being disparaging of others. It makes me proud when I see our students, faculty and staff debate and learn from each other. This is how we boldly educate and empower our students to succeed.

    I want to thank all of you for sharing your views and opinions. By doing so, you demonstrate care for our university and commitment to our students’ success.


    Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D., M.P.P.


    They actually came out and supported the First Amendment, Free Speech, and Academic Freedom.

    They even covered her comments about how she can’t be fired because she has tenure!

    Good on them.Report