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Member since: Wed Jul 24, 2013, 01:10 PM
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not sure if this has been discussed around here -

I attended a professional meeting in another country last week.

At one point, I was having breakfast with a good friend and colleague who works in another state - a state in which the right to abortion is now sharply limited.

According to my friend, admissions staff at his university are starting to see a real impact on the applicant pool.

It's a large, public research university whose students are drawn primarily from that state, but it's prestigious enough that quite a few students from other states (and from abroad) go there.

They're seeing a sizable number of women from states without limited abortion access withdraw their applications. There's a surprisingly large number of women from in-state doing the same thing, hoping to apply for schools where their reproductive rights aren't under such acute assault.

I sent an email to some administrators at my university. Our state doesn't ban abortion yet, but it almost certainly will in the very near future. And like my friend's institution, ours attracts applicants from out of state - mostly from a neighboring state that isn't going to be banning abortion any time soon.

I don't know if this will be a problem at my university, but I can easily see how it might be.

I've wondered about what laws banning reproductive health care would do for companies that hire highly-educated women from across the country. I also wondered what would happen to our efforts to recruit high-end applicants for faculty openings, though our budget is so tight right now, there aren't many such openings. It didn't occur to me that this would impact the demographics of college admissions - and to my shame, I have to admit that it should have.

Anyone else in academia noticing anything like this?

We should call "it just sends it to the states" what it is -

An attempt by (mostly) men who helped put these ignorant Federalist Society knobs to absolve themselves from their own responsibility for having caused millions of women to lose a big part of their health care.

Itís like a prosecutor blaming the jury for a wrongful conviction based on the prosecutorís misconduct. ďI didnít convict that person - the jury did. All I did was present my case.Ē

ďI didnít ban abortion. Your stateís legislature did that. All I did was vote for the senators and presidents who stacked the Supreme Court with the foolish, dishonest ideologues who allowed your state legislature to do so. See? Not my fault.Ē

Do you know who's utimately responsible for our current situation?

Gerald Ford.


He pardoned Nixon. That opened the door for nearly every really serious scandal to hit the Executive Branch that came after his administration.

Iran-Contra? Invasion of Iraq? Worse than Watergate. Thousands died because of them. And neither might have happened had those in charge thought real consequences were a possibility. Rather than learn from the scorn Nixon faced after his resignation, they learned to hide their tracks better, and they learned that even if caught, they could blame underlings and knew no one would really hold them accountable because it would "divide the country."

As much as I loved Barack Obama as president, I will never forgive him for his decision to "look forward" and not hold the higher-ups in the Jr Administration accountable for the invasion of Iraq, for its grotesque mismanagement, and for decisions that allowed men and women in US uniform to torture people. He really dropped the ball on that.

But perhaps he listened to the faux historians who claimed Ford "healed the nation" by pardoning Nixon.

Ford did not heal the nation. He gave us a placebo. He didn't lance the boil; he merely put a smiley-face bandage on it. It festered. It went septic. It was fed by the self-sustaining bacterial feedback loop of right-wing talk radio, right-wing hyperpartisan Republicans, evangelicals, and the centrality that ignoring physical reality was taking among conservatives. Hundreds of thousands died in Nicaragua, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world because of this.

For extended periods, people in other countries could only shake their heads in disbelief as a country that gave the world so much - the Apollo landings, jazz, rock, the ice cream cone, the Jedi knight - elected people who gave every appearance of being illiterate to head its government. The disbelief I encountered while travelling abroad during the GWB administration became downright disdain when TFG came to office. Many expressed sympathy, but many more just stayed away from me, as though I carried something contagious from the red-hatters who simply would not see reality.

I don't know that the prosecution of Richard Nixon would have solved all of our problems, but I am nonetheless firm in my opinion that we would have avoided many of the scandals that brought dishonor to this country.

we need a constitutional amendment curtailing the presidential pardon

I highly doubt the framers of the constitution considered the possibility that someone might ask for a pre-emptive pardon, much less the possibility that we'd have such an appalling president who might actually consider issuing them.

Presidents should not be allowed to pardon members of their own families or their own administrations. Future presidents may be enabled to do this, but sitting presidents should be blocked from issuing pardons if there's any sort of conflict of interest.

That presidents shouldn't be allowed to pardon themselves should go without saying, but the fact that some Republicans were talking about it as if it might not only be possible, but a good idea, means we have to formalize it in the Constitution.

Presidents should also not be allowed to issue pardons if the crime would have benefitted the president's own administration or the president as an individual. Ford's pardon of Nixon was an abomination that gave the illusion of healing the nation while enabling future scandal-minded presidents to commit crimes with no accountability. It also benefitted Ford himself, as he was a member of the Nixon administration. Killing the process before it really got underway allowed Ford to minimize the the impact of Watergate during the 1976 election.

(In fact, I go back and forth in my head whether sitting presidents should even be allowed to pardon their immediate predecessor - or if they can, it should involve additional steps to make it harder. I have no problem with a president pardoning the person he or she replaced for a minor offense committed as a juvenile, but not something done to subvert democracy.)

Iran-Contra? The invasion of Iraq? Pretty much everything the hairy orange organism living on TFG's head tried to pull? All of which were, in my opinion, worse than Watergate? They might not have happened - or they'd have been much harder to pull off, anyway - if Nixon had been held accountable.

Took my daughter to kindergarten this morning/why this is personal

She'd been a bit difficult this morning. She dawdled at getting dressed. She resisted efforts to feed her breakfast, get her to brush her teeth, and do other parts of her morning routine. She really wanted to play - and when she did, it was with a toy ukelele that drives her mom and me to the point of insanity.

So I was feeling a bit frustrated and grumpy when I drove her to school. (It's raining, so she couldn't ride her scooter.) She hopped out and started to cross the street before I could help her across.

Once in the school, I got back in my car. Then I noticed it -

The name of the school, right over the front doors.

That's one of the first things they show you when reporting on a school massacre - the name of the school, whether on a sign in front or over the door.

And it occurred to me that I had no business being frustrated with my daughter.


None of the elementary or high school shootings has ever directly affected me. None has taken place in a town where I lived (though I did often pass through Uvalde en route from Austin to the Big Bend area in grad school), and no one I know has ever been directly impacted.

But I can't say that for college shootings - and it's why these K-12 shootings feel personal regardless.

On November 1, 1991, a graduate student at the University of Iowa killed four people in the physics building (Van Allen Hall), then walked over to an administrative office in a different building and shot two more people, killing one and leaving the other paralyzed. He then shot himself.

This was during my third year of graduate school at UT-Austin. I was in my office putting together a poster presentation for an upcoming meeting. (This was in the days before Photoshop and Illustrator, so I was cutting printed photos with scissors and pasting them to the posterboard.) It was fairly late at night. NPR broke its program to announce the shooting.

I got my BS at the University of Iowa, and I had taken some physics classes. So this was very jarring news.

I spent the night unable to sleep, worried that one of the professors or TA's I knew in the Physics and Astronomy department was one of the victims.

The following morning, I grabbed the newspaper - this was before online news was really a thing - and read the article.

None of the victims in Physics and Astronomy was someone I knew. So I kept reading, and my whole being stopped still when I came across the name of the secretary who'd been wounded - Miya Sioson.

I knew her.

We'd taken some classes together. I went out with her roommate once in sophomore year, though I actually had something of a crush on Miya. We were friends.

By all accounts, Miya had a good, meaningful life in spite of her full paralysis below the neck. She passed away a few years ago, but not (so far as I can tell) from anything related to the shooting.

This really affected me. It still does.

Many people will tell you that there are moments when everything seems to stop, and they remember every detail. When it comes to this particular event, there are two such moments - the one where I first heard the announcement on the radio, and the other when I saw Miya's name in the newspaper.

Not looking for pity or sympathy or anything. Nothing really happened to me, at least physically.

Anyway - that's all.

regret about previous post/question about mental health care and political views

First - earlier today, I posted a comment suggesting that we withhold judgment on the officers in Uvalde who appear to have done little to nothing useful for 40 minutes while the shooter was in the school.

I stand by the sentiment I shared - that we should be careful in calling people cowards without knowing the full facts of the situation. I also stand by my argument that many of you missed this point. I never, at any time, said the officers were courageous. In fact, I never said they weren't cowards. I merely said that I didn't know, and that I could envision situations in which officers might hold off before charging after a shooter in a school building.

A lot of you took exception to that. I still think some of those who did failed to really understand my point, which was not about defending the police or declaring them faultless, but about learning what actually happened before armchair-quarterbacking what other people did. I've seen the same videos and read the same news articles, and I didn't think they carried enough information to really form a solid opinion. Maybe I'm overly careful about such things, but I've had friends who became police officers, which gives me some sense that not all of them are overtly racist nutjobs who just want to shoot things up. (Though too many clearly are!)

Anyway - I do regret that some of you were angered by what I wrote. And I have to say, having done some more research, my views are starting to move closer to the "these cops are worthless" end of the dial and a bit further from "these cops were being careful and deliberate."


Second - I have a serious question about the mental health angle of this discussion.

I do not, in any way, buy into the argument that the central issue of these mass shootings is mental health. I accept that mental health is a serious part of the problem, but so is the easy access to the kinds of semiautomatic firearms that allow people, mentally ill or not, to kill large numbers of other people in a short amount of time. No one needs an AR-15 to protect themselves or their families, the whole "tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants" schtick only works if the tyrants aren't better armed than you (and if the "tyrants" really are tyrants in the first place), and one can hunt or target-shoot with a rifle less capable of causing mass casualties.

That being said -

I'm not a fan of relying on anecdote, but when it comes to the relationship between household politics and mental health treatment, anecdote is all I have.

My 12-year-old nephew has very serious behavioral problems. He's been expelled from multiple schools for violent behavior, including his kindergarten when he stabbed a teacher with a pencil. He's also injured his mom (my sister), with whom I have very little contact for a list of reasons I'd rather not discuss here. And on top of that, he's had multiple suicide attempts.

No one seems to know what, exactly, is going on with my nephew. His diagnoses change more frequently than the seasons. It's ADHD. But then, it's not - it's dissociative personality disorder. Then, it becomes Asperger's (which I don't for a minute believe). And then it's back to ADHD, and something else after that. Is it an organic mental health problem? A personality disorder? A developmental problem? Who knows?

Why do we not know? Largely, it's because of his parents. My sister has never really held a job that carries health care benefits, so he's never had any sort of consistent psychiatric or psychological treatment. I suspect a lot of it comes from my sister's "research" on the internet.

his father - a gun-nut who wears a hat from the "National Gun Rights Association," which I think exists because some gun enthusiasts decided the NRA was too pinko - refuses to get him any sort of treatment on his own. Not wanting him "labelled" and all of that. Nothing that a little discipline won't fix. And he refuses to get rid of his guns, even though the number 1 predictor of whether someone contemplating suicide will succeed in that decision is the presence of a gun in the home.

My sister and her ex are both WAY over on the political right. Trump was tolerable, even if he wasn't quite right-wing enough. That their side of things opposes every sort of government action that would make mental health treatment easier to find and more affordable never seems to cross their minds.

My nephew did spend a brief time in an in-patient facility, so he's been seen by actual psychiatrists at least once. But he wasn't there long, and I doubt any follow-up instructions were respected. (From what I heard, he was in the facility at the order of a court following some sort of violent outburst.)

I lot of my friends are parents, and they're all open to getting help for their kids if they need it. Very, very few of my friends are Republicans, and those that are tend to be either (a) old-school New York-type Republicans who are actually conservative and not right-wing, or (b) high school acquaintances who found me on Facebook. So my sample is very low - but based on that small sample, including my sister and a couple of people who somehow completed a high school education without actually learning anything, right-wing people are less likely to get help for their children.

Is what I'm observing based on a skewed distribution of examples, or is there really something to this? Because this could be important - the people calling for better mental health screening might be the least likely to see the need for it under their own roofs.

Honest question here. I could be dead wrong about this. I don't work on humans - I work on crocodiles. They have only two emotions - indifferent and enraged - and their behavior is pretty much the same regardless. So my ability to actually make pronouncements on human mental health is very minimal.

to my fellow academics in Florida, which has just crippled the tenure system

De Santis just signed legislation in Florida that makes it easier to fire tenured faculty at the stateís public colleges and universities. Iíve pasted a link to a news article about it below.

To my friends at public universities in Florida - please accept my sympathy. I'm sure I speak for a great many academics here. To have such an ignorant loudmouth for a governor is bad enough, but this legislation (which may not survive a court challenge, as I explain below) is a disgusting insult. Your state government may not respect you, but your colleagues do.

I offer a sincere willingness to help in whatever way I can. I know getting another academic position can be difficult, especially for those of us in more senior positions. My wife is at a university in a neighboring state. That means I commute 3 to 4.5 hours, depending on traffic and construction, twice each week. If I wasnít a fifty-something full prof, I might stand a chance at getting a position in her area. Alas, Iím a fifty-something full prof and, thus, not competitive in open searches against younger PhDs who can promise a far longer period of productivity. But Iím willing to bet there will be universities out there delighted to cannibalize the Florida public university system for talent, including mine.

One possible bright side - as implied above, there's a good chance some of this bill will be tossed out by the courts. The law can be applied to new hires, but it probably violates existing faculty contracts. Not an expert on contract law here, and I could be completely misunderstanding the situation, but if I was in Florida, I'd be reaching out to an attorney.

But far more importantly, it reveals yet again how tenure is misunderstood. It can be described as a "lifetime appointment," but only in the way judge appointments are "lifetime appointments." Faculty with tenure are not in bulletproof positions. We can be fired for cause, just like everyone else.

It bothers me that Republicans use this as a wedge issue to divide labor organizations from the Democrats with whom theyíd normally align. Why should professors get lifetime job security when we can lose our jobs any time the economy goes south or some numbskull manager makes a bad business decision? That this derives from a greatly oversimplified understanding of the tenure system hasnít been easy to correct.

(Which brings up a related question Ė where the hell was the business community in Florida when this bill came up? Bills like this come up in my own state all the time. They rarely get out of committee, and the one time it did, businesses across the state mobilized to defeat it. They know the value of higher education when it comes to innovation, and they want educated employees. They want the public higher education system to be strong, and they know that killing tenure would weaken it. Surely businesses in Florida understand this as well as those in the Upper Midwest.)

We often hear that tenure allows freedom to follow what may be unpopular research or pedagogy. It does, but it goes beyond that. What it allows is *consistent* freedom to engage in academic endeavors. If we had to redirect our efforts every time the university's leadership changes, we wouldn't accomplish anything. Can you imagine what would happen if university presidents threatened the jobs of anyone not expressing their personal views on climate science? Human sexuality? Public health? History? Or if they took a dim view of research that didnít have obvious immediate benefits to anyone in particular? Thatís what the tenure system prevents.

Appointed judges are a great analogy. They're given lifetime appointments so they don't all get fired and replaced with ideologues every time the White House or governor's residence changes hands. That would create legal chaos, with previous decisions overturned every few years. We see value in these lifetime appointments because it advances the interest of consistent justice.

And for the upteenth time - no, we professors aren't trying to indoctrinate young adults into leftist ways of thinking. (Most of us arenít, at any rate.)

Some of this "leftist" thinking isn't a matter of opinion. It's physical reality. When I teach about evolution or climate change, I'm not expressing a biased opinion - I'm providing factual information. Those who teach about sexuality may be telling us things that run counter to certain religious beliefs, but they're not telling us these things to advance some sort of "woke" culture (whatever the f-word that means); they're telling us these things because a substantial amount of research is revealing them.

Seriously - if a scientific discovery contradicts your opinion, the problem is with the opinion. Facts can't change to accommodate them. Scientific facts are scientific facts, and we're not going to pretend there's a legitimate fact-based counterargument where it doesn't exist just to create a false sense of "balance."

I've heard the same anecdotes as the rest of you - some conservative student somewhere feels oppressed by the progressive environment at their institution. Opportunities were denied, term papers were graded poorly, opinions were suppressed- stuff like that. Ever wonder why these claims appear in the news media? Partly, it's because cases in which right-leaning students really were mistreated are rare. They're newsworthy when they happen because they're not the norm.
In the vast majority of such purported cases, it's not that conservative students are being bullied or censored. It's that they're encountering diverse communities and people with different political views for the first time in their lives. If their opinions are to the very far right (Q-type stuff), they'll be a minority not because universities shun such students, but because those holding such extreme views are the minority.

Anyway Ė I just want my colleagues in Florida to know you havenít been forgotten.


in defense (sort of) of Will Smith

I do not, in any way, condone Will Smith's decision to strike Chris Rock. At all.

Had the police gotten involved, I would not have been upset. He assaulted someone. That's a violation of the law.

It's also not my place to forgive. That's up to Chris Rock.

But in this case, I'm not going to condemn Smith for this one action. He remains, in my eyes, a great actor, and although I remain somewhat disappointed in him, I don't plan to write him off.

1. That the joke Chris Rock told about Jada Pinkett Smith didn't justify an assault goes without saying. Nevertheless - had I been Will Smith, I'd have been pissed off, and the thought of popping Chris Rock in the mouth would have crossed my mind.

My wife was the target of a focused bullying campaign at her former workplace. I've been in the room while her integrity was impugned behind her back. Although no one was hit, I certainly defended her, usually with language that would have earned the exchange an R rating. So I say all of this having been in situations similar in some respects - not all respects by any means, but some - to what Will Smith encountered.

Does this betray a level of latent toxic masculinity on my part? Maybe. I don't know. I'm not a psychologist. The animals I work on have exactly two emotions - indifferent and enraged - and they behave the same regardless. But I was also bullied very badly until midway through high school, and I react strongly when I see people being needlessly put down, as Jada Pinkett Smith was.

I've also embraced the progressive ideal of condemning jokes directed against people who are dealing with medical conditions, as Jada Pinkett Smith is. Had I been her husband, I'd at least have said something.

I've generally been a fan of Chris Rock, but frankly this particular joke was beneath his talent, and he should have apologized the moment he saw that the joke's target was offended.

It's not a matter of a man assuming women are incapable of defending themselves in situations like this. It's a matter of speaking out against an attack directed toward a loved one.

2. There are "apologies," and there are apologies. What Will Smith has said ever since the incident isn't one of those "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" non-apologies. He acknowledged what he did was wrong and that it caused harm beyond the person he hit. He hasn't shifted any of the blame to anyone else, so far as I can tell. He's taken ownership of the incident and indicated a willingness to ensure it doesn't happen again.

I've seen people try to minimize his apology. "He's only sorry he got caught" and such. Again, not a psychologist here. I cannot assess another person's mindset. But the apologies he's provided in public appear genuine, and at the very least, they're an example others who cross the line should follow when expressing contrition.

3. In general, I'm not a fan of condemning someone for one lapse of judgment. Obviously, there are exceptions. Some acts are so egregious that they cannot be so easily set aside. That, or they reveal a level of internal depravity suggesting that the lapse of judgment may not have been a one-off event.

I'm reminded of the joke about a farmer who complains about not being remembered for the barns he helped built, the leadership he showed when his community was hit with a natural disaster, the willingness he showed to help teach younger farmers, the wonderful and accomplished children he raised, or the prosperity he worked hard to make for himself. "Am I called Fred the Barn-Builder? Fred the Civic Leader? Fred the Dad? Fred the Teacher? Fred the Hard-Working Farmer? No. You fuck one goat, and...."

Like I said, what Will Smith did was wrong. But I'm not willing to set his whole body of work aside because of it.

I'd also like to make a point for those who think this really isn't a big issue worth discussion on DU. First - I, and many others, are capable of following more than one news item at a time. I've kept track of global events beyond this. Second - I'm probably not the only one here who suffered from severe and constant bullying as a kid, nor am I probably the only such bullying victim here who felt a certain level of triggering from the incident at the Oscars. For some of us, this isn't just celebrity gossip.

anyway, my opinions. They're worth exactly what you paid for them, I suppose.

Something I've noticed on social media -

As far as Iím concerned, Will Smith and Chris Rock should both be ashamed of themselves.

I said this on Facebook and immediately noticed something - there was a disparity in the responses. Most of my friends agreed with me, but a handful - all of them high school acquaintances to whom Iím not very close - disagreed. They put the blame all on Will Smith. One of them even stated that he found Rockís joke to be funny. When I pointed out that ge was basically mocking someone for a medical condition, he replied with Ďitís not life-threatening, and she and her husband should lighten up.í

Those who said things like this are all Trump voters.

I hear this all the time from the right - people are too sensitive and should learn to take a joke.

Itís what my teachers told me as I was bullied severely up through mid-high school. Suck it up and all that.

A large part of the voting public now openly condones bullying as a normal approach toward life.

Why I'm not panicking about Dan Patrick's push to end tenure in Texas.

Bills to end tenure at public universities show up in state legislatures with great regularity. They appear in my own state's legislature annually. Only once did it get out of its first committee hurdle, and it didn't go very far beyond that, in spite of having a governor and legislature far enough to the right that they clearly want us to be an exclave of Texas or Florida. And the current lieutenant governor of Texas appears determined to end public higher education tenure in his state.

Such bills allow right-wing legislators to appeal to a lot of people, many of whom aren't necessarily aligned with such legislators in other ways. Why should professors get lifetime guarantees of employment when ordinary blokes don't? Especially when these arrogant, elitist professors are wasting their time and taxpayer dollars on worthless "research" and sticking their noses in the lives of everyone with their liberal indoctrination?

It's actually comparatively easy to debunk such statements. Applied research gets nowhere without basic research that, at first, may seem to have no practical benefit. Our lifetime appointments are similar to those of judges, and the reason is the same - we don't want to see massive faculty turnover whenever the governor's office switches parties. And yes, tenured professors can be fired.

But these points, however valid, don't always seem to take hold.

And yet very few anti-tenure bills even make it to the floor for a vote, much less pass.

There are a couple of reasons for this. So, yes - as a tenured faculty member at a public university, and as an alum of the Texas public university system (MS and PhD from the University of Texas), I am concerned about these bills, but not really panicking.

1. Businesses, by and large, like the tenure system. They want universities to promote innovation. Anything that might drive the best and brightest from the higher education system - which tenure will do (see below) - will be opposed by businesses that rely on what higher education provides.

The reason anti-tenure bills never go far in my own blood-red state is because, as soon as they start picking up any sort of traction, business lobbying groups go apeshit. This is especially true of the tech sector, which is even more important in Texas than in my current digs. It's also true of the oil and gas industry, which relies on research at public universities to improve exploration and extraction technology. (I know this for a fact, because my department at UT-Austin was one of the premier departments for such research. Many of my office-mates were headed for jobs in the oil industry. It's also why tenure is most likely safe in Oklahoma and Louisiana.)

A lot of these businesses are also aware that those they recruit from out of state will want to see a robust public university system for their own kids when they're old enough.

I'm serious about this. Businesses will mobilize to prevent Patrick's social science windmill-tilting from hurting their bottom line.

2. The closest we've come to actually eliminating tenure was in Wisconsin, which didn't end tenure per se, but which weakened it substantially. The result was the loss of several prominent faculty members and massive expenditures to retain faculty who were about to bolt. It's still having an impact on hiring at Wisconsin's public universities. It's a good bet the Texas legislature, no matter how far up the ass of the Orange-Skinned Eater of Other Peoples' Boogers* who occupied the White House until mid-January 2021, won't want to repeat that mistake.

Yes, we've got to be vigilant. This could, indeed, go badly if we aren't. But it's not yet time to panic.

*I've got a very creative 6-year-old daughter. She comes up with the best insults.
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