Doc, from two weeks ago: 

I understand why people who feel that professors are lazy or don’t do work or generally sit in their offices in tweed coats and smoke alabaster pipes all day think tenure is bullshit. Truth be told, those of use who view tenure as a shield hate people who use it as a sword to fend off actual work and shared responsibilities. However, you shouldn’t get rid of the whole system simply because a few useless assholes are taking advantage of it. That’s like throwing away your Cadillac Escalade because somebody jammed gum into the ashtray.

NPR, yesterday: 


“Sticking it to academics and the faculty lounge — people love to talk about the faculty lounge — that makes a good line, but I think a lot of it is really about demonstrating conservative accomplishment credentials,” Azari said.

While Azari isn’t sure about savings through tenure changes, she says it appears the governor’s supporters want a more market-based pay structure.

“You know, ‘How can we think about the market in a competitive way to make labor inexpensive?’ And, that’s a logical response in a way to economic decline and the politics of austerity — and it’s proved to be a very effective framework for some constituencies,” she said.

Well, and why not, right?

Why not strip away protections professors have in their jobs, if I don’t have the same ones in mine?

If I can get fired for mouthing off to my boss why shouldn’t P. Louis Scholarly? If I can get fired for looking at my boss funny, for coming in five minutes late, for telling a customer to get bent, for being nearby while my boss has a bad day, why shouldn’t the very fine taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin and every other state be able to fire educators who are tasked with teaching the public? Why shouldn’t they be able to shitcan F. Poncey Publishable, if they don’t like the way he talks back?

Here’s why. It’s not because tenure protects academic freedom and fearless research (though it does) and it’s not because fuck you, Walker and your pet legislators who make you look like the love child of Albert Einstein and the Marlboro Man (though fuck you, really). It’s not because strong tenure protections make the university I attended, loved, still love and hope I can keep loving a first-rate place to work and thus attractive to smart profs who can add to the learning environment in new and fantastic ways.


This is what we are saying when we say we want a market-based approach: If I don’t have something, you shouldn’t have it either.

If I don’t have reasonable protection for my job, either through tenure, or a union, or non-discrimination guarantees or any other civilized measure, then you shouldn’t have protection either.

It is an argument based entirely on resentment and jealousy and bitterness and fear. It says you are safe, and I hate you for it.

It says your work has value, and I want to take that away.

It says you are secure, and that means I am not.

It says it’s better to tear down your security than use it as a rock on which to build my own.

It gives credence to every lie our own cowardice tells us, about how we’re not doing well enough and we’re not getting rich enough and we’re not living large enough and that is everybody else’s fault.

Instead of saying that I am not safe unless you are, it says I am not safe unless you are not, also. When in truth we’re both in danger, we’re both unprotected, we’re both at risk.

We will tear down the protection of others before we will build our own. If someone has something in his or her job that I think would be beneficial in mine, I can’t just take it from them like that. I have to find out how they got it, and how they’re using it, and see if I can use it too.

And you know what? Nine times out of ten I bet they’d help me figure that out, help me get stronger because they’re in a position of strength and helping others costs them nothing.

As opposed to this Hunger Games nonsense where everybody’s competing to see who can have it the worst.



2 thoughts on “Unprotected

  1. Generally in agreement, but isn’t it just marvelous that the kick-downers have this wonderful “market-based” solution on which to rely? We all know that this market stuff, down at the level of the real world, is just code for “let’s drive wages into the toilet.” Academia, for all its purported distance from the free market, is still a very competitive place. Just attaining tenure track today is difficult, let alone getting through the four or five years to reach an assistant professorship. The odds are much more likely of not being considered at all, or having to take on adjunct status with a heavy teaching load for very little pay.

    It’s also part and parcel of the increasingly widespread anti-intellectualism that the reactionaries in this country have been promoting for decades, which in turn fosters precisely that attitude described, i.e., why should some pointy-headed ivory tower asshole get the protection of tenure while I, a guy who actually works for a living, who is the holder of much common sense, get none at all?

    Such a view betrays a complete lack of understanding of what academia is, but try telling that to the guy who been told for decades that his tax money has been wasted on higher education. And, I’m guessing that in places like Wisconsin, such people actually feel empowered by a governor who’s a drop-out, feel good about that governor taking money from higher education to pay for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Gullibility and short-sightedness are both characteristics of the uneducated, and education is meant, in part, to overcome those tendencies. Destroying the educational system ensures that the uneducated remain that way. Which just might be Walker’s goal. I shudder to think of the damage he could do were he, against all odds, to become President. I wonder if Jeb Bush has ever considered that he’s running against a low-rent version of his older brother.

  2. This is the best description of the Scott Walker doctrine I’ve ever seen put into print.

Comments are closed.