“Venality, Pretension, Irresponsibility and Risible Claims”: That sounds just like the UofC

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Stanley Fish is really hit and miss for me: sometimes I agree with him, and other times really, really not. This is one of those times I agree:

By By Stanley Fish
Published: October 19, 2009
Reader responses and further debate on the issue of academic freedom and the law.
When he talks about how sordid academia can become, I can’t help thinking about the UofC as a shining example of just how low one can go. While there are still some great people there, they are becoming fewer and fewer, and they are becoming more and more oppressed.  The term “Death March” springs to mind.
My former doctoral supervisor is one who has always tried to present the bright side of things and has often talked about how wonderful things are. Sometimes I even felt better after talking to her. She also often talks about free speech, which I must admit disturbs me a little. You see, when I was still her student and going through the final throes of being driven out of my tenured position by a chair, department, faculty, and union whose actions would have made Kafka cringe, she insisted that these situations were complicated and that it was not as simple as just standing up and saying NO. Things must have gotten even worse than they were when I quit, even she now complains. Sad, there would have been a real chance to prevent this perversion of the Academy and change things 6 or 7 years ago when it became clear to some of us what the Pres. had planned. But, you know, we never seem to learn.

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done ( for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.” (more here)

Talk may indeed be cheep, but when it comes to asking someone to risk something and stand up for principles, almost no-one will. All those people who I thought (for decades) were my friends stepped back and let me be insulted, defamed and ultimately assaulted.
“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
—Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)
All is not lost though. While the UofC may indeed have compromised itself beyond repair, the “other” university (MRU) is taking a different approach, and while it has some problems of its own, corruption, betrayal, and ignominy aren’t among them. In fact, being at MRU after nearly 30 years at the UofC is like coming out of the darkness into the day.

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