December 2011

the space between black and white

Fly to Durban or drive a year in a Lincoln Navigator

In the last few years, it’s become very trendy to fly to different places either for investigative purposes (e.g., CPUC to Europe for energy efficiency; honestly, it’s really not that hard), or to brag (e.g., the state contingency that flew to Copenhagen a few years back).

The Pace Law Blog just published this piece with good advice on how to gauge the benefits of your attendance at these events:

Each participant ought to ask themself the question: is my participation going to lead to the equivalent of one Lincoln Navigator being taken off the road for the next year?

Universities should be bigger than their chancellor

I just returned from the academic senate meeting (this is the representative body of faculty at UC Davis). There were a predictable range of opinions about the paper spray incident. But in some ways, despite all the protestations in support of the students, I feel there is a shared responsibility for what happened that is not being acknowledged.

Let me explain with an example. A colleague in physics has argued that it doesn’t matter what the Chancellor said in terms of removing the tents that day, or even who she said it to. She should have personally been out there on the quad, talking to the students.

Perhaps. Or perhaps the Provost should have been there. Or perhaps all of us, the faculty, should have been there, maybe especially those who were keeping track of the events at other campuses. While I do not agree with Nathan Brown’s calls for resignation, in some ways he speaks with greater credibility than most of the rest of us.

We are a public institution, and as a great university, I would argue that we are bigger than any given administrator. Berkeley has seen many good, and some not so good chancellors come and go, and yet it maintains its prestige. Yale? I don’t even know who the president of Yale is, or Princeton for that matter. The University of Washington? I know who their Provost is, but their president? A guy.

My point is that we, the faculty, are what give a university its stature. Sure, some decisions are beyond our capacity to directly manage, but none are not beyond our capacity to influence. We share accountability; perhaps we also share responsibility.