February 20, 2010
Killing for TenureBy Kathy Garriott
At this juncture, the University of Alabama at Huntsville killing/maiming is a mesmerizing car crash, as gripping, appalling, and terrifying as the mass assembly-line wreckage on this week's snowy Kansas highways.
Every day yields a new ghastly revelation. She killed her brother...was it an accident?...police say the shotgun was discharged three times...arrested, but never charged...crime scene never investigated...political connections...Democrat congressman was the DA...PIPE BOMB?...she was prime suspect in a mail bombing!...a fanatic for Obama?... assaulting a mom at an IHOP over a booster seat...met her husband playing Dungeons and Dragons at Northeastern...
All for tenure.
Mothers of clever children should fear that freshman year at university. These children -- the ones whom mothers strive to educate, in whom they try to instill a Western sense of morals and character, and for whom they try to provide a respectable Puritan work ethic in preparation for a productive career -- these bright children are going to be exposed to the most seductive allure of their lifetimes: the apparent ease, leisure, and luxury of the Academic Life. The Life of the Mind. (Sabbaticals! Seminars! A seraglio of post-docs! A lifetime of tending one's inner garden!)
It briefly seduced this particular mother, who had a yen for Shakespeare which hadn't been poisoned by the postmoderns that were yammering at the gates of academia during the last few months of her earning a bachelor's degree at the University of Texas. Carter was soon elected, but Stanley Fish had not yet attained ascendancy over the sacking and souring of English literature (with the help of the vile, reeking, slavering orcs and goblins at the Modern Language Association).
It was an abiding affection for Shakespeare which led me to attempt graduate school and a teaching assistantship, part of a a series of odd jobs needed to pay my husband's way through medical school. At the University of Texas at El Paso, there was afforded an opportunity to earn our keep and be able to attend graduate seminars.
It wasn't UTEP's fault. A bad moon was rising over all universities. The aforementioned Eye of Sauron (the MLA) came to wicked ascendancy during these early years. Jane Austen's sexuality became a source of puerile speculation. Any writer lacking sufficient melanin became suspected of imperialism.
It wasn't just the slow P.C. poisoning of the canon of Western civilization -- it was the academicians themselves. The easy life of the tenured, even in science and business departments, is a goal, but few who pursue tenure ever get it. Graduate students lead a serflike existence of impoverishment and debt pursuing the Ph.D., and they spend equally grueling post-doctoral years until that most important designation is made -- in or out? The "tenured" designation is the star-billing Oscar of academia, a validation and testimonial and Hollywood red carpet. No wonder there is so much backbiting, jealousy, politicking -- and, as we are seeing with the global warming hoax, outright fraud.
Having attained the promised job security, the Gentleman Scholar professor can project that ease onto his envious and impressed undergraduates, some of whom may become the pitiable post-doc fodder to advance his research, tend his classes, grade the papers, and otherwise live under the heel of the tenured.
The undergraduates don't see the disappointed "assistant professors" and "adjunct faculty" regularly kicked to the curb to eke out some teaching job in a junior college.
The tenured are the representatives and remnants of an elite, or elitist, artistocracy -- "of the mind," as they would be quick to remind. After all, they put in the years of work, they garnered impressive research, and published enough to avoid perishing. They have proven just how smart they are, how insightful and observant.
Amy Bishop, arrested for murder, not only wanted tenure, but expected it. She had known that she would not get tenure for months, but she was lobbying and lawyering up. An acquaintance (Bishop didn't appear to have friends) said that Bishop was one of those tiresome people we remember from before the 2008 election who were noisily obsessed with the cult of Barack Obama. A psychology professor didn't see anything unusual about her behavior, which included collaring people in the hallways to make her arguments as to why she should not be denied tenure. The arrest for assault in the IHOP in 2002 didn't make anyone's radar. She went out to the shooting range with a pistol not her own in the weeks leading up to the murders.
The curious thing about this latest in what I'll call "existential meltdown with bullets" is the media coverage and treatment. It was hard to find coverage in the networks, and they were slow to issue details. The curious had to go to the Boston Globe and Herald, and the Huntsville news outlets, to get the real dish. With previous American existential meltdowns, we knew all the details of the parents' backgrounds within hours. And if Amy Bishop were a churchgoer, it would have been "Christian goes ballistic" in the headline. Her politics, had they been conservative, would have featured in the very first newscast. What is Amy Bishop's religious background?
What's so different about Amy Bishop's existential meltdown that it doesn't get the 24/7 coverage that a mass shooting usually garners? For starters, she's a woman, rare in killings of this type. She has a Ph.D. ...from Harvard. There you go. She got her Ph.D. from the same place where Obama got his law degree.
The left is leery of this story because Bishop is one of the "educated class" of which David Brooks approves. She doesn't fit the more comfortable narrative of the dangerous, ignorant fanatic who clings bitterly to guns and has red-state bonafides. And, Buffy, she's from Harvard! And Northeastern University! That last is particularly ironic, since that makes it definitive that she's not a southerner. Her politics are even their politics.
Have you heard from any of the networks that none of those dead in this shooting are white? She killed two black professors and another of East Indian descent. White woman kills two black people in Alabama. No big issues here. This isn't the mass killer you're looking for.
Both of the black professors who died got their Ph.D.s at a modest public university in North Carolina. Both were popular with their students.
One was a Boy Scout leader, active in his church.