Reading fiction because it is actually better than binge-watching

Yes!  From Ben Dolnick:

And pleasure is, after all — once I scrape away the layers of self-image and pretentiousness — the reason that I read. When I’ve found the right book, and I’m reading it the right way, reading is fun — head-tingling, goosebump-raising fun. It’s a vivid and continuous dream that is somehow both directed from without and cast from within, and I get to be awake for it. Netflix can wait.

I am reading Nobokov’s King, Queen, Knave right now and every day I cannot wait until evening to get back to it.

Posted in Reading

Super Furry Animals – Run! Christian, Run!

I’ve loved this song for years…

Posted in Music

Molly Sarlé – Human

Posted in Music

Recent stories in The New Yorker

I must say the past few months have, in my opinion, been generally excellent, with many stories that I think are extremely well crafted and profound (many deal with rape), and very little of the silly stuff (yes, I’m looking at you Coraghessan Boyle).  I will link to the my favorite literary blog Mookse and the Gripes, where people discuss The New Yorker stories so you can see more profound remarks other than my own “I liked it.” Most of these I listened to the author reading via the Fiction Podcast.

Pat Barker: “Medusa”   I found it amazing. An artist is raped. Her body goes through the motions of life. Her mind, though…

Colson Whitehead: “The Match”  You start getting nervous during a story, with that dreadful feeling that you do not want to know where it is going, but where it is going is to a place that just cannot be forgotten, that has to be remembered every day, of cruelty so vast it is buried in the trunk of trees.

Lore Segal: “Dandelion” You must listen to her reading the story, with her wonderful accent. Wild Strawberries from a woman’s point of view. Profound and nostalgic.

Sally Rooney: “Color and Light” I gather she is getting a lot of good press. I liked the story, which is wonderfully vague and ambiguous.

Yiyun Li: “All Will Be Well” A writer listens to the stories told by her hairdresser, about her lost love. Much of the story is a meta story, and, one learns later when reading about Li, sadly unfolded from the author’s own experience.

Jonathan Lethem: “The Starlet Apartments” Not for everybody, but I thought there was more to the story than the surface. Perhaps a meta story buried in there?

Leïla Slimani: “The Confession” A young woman from the village is raped by the narrator. How can he live with it? Beautiful, sad story.

Mary Gaitskill: “Acceptance Journey” Dragged on a bit but how we can make sense of our sometimes all too ordinary lives is wonderful.


Posted in Book and film reviews

Aldous Harding covers “Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty

Posted in Music

Budget transparency at private universities: Some thoughts about SCU

A few days ago, the Santa Clara University campus recreation unit sent an email to faculty and staff announcing that starting in the next academic year fees of $200 per year would be charged for use of the recreation facilities (gym, exercise room, courts, pool). These had been a free benefit of university employment. Faculty and staff were upset, and 100s of emails were shared, until 12 hours later when the university chief operating officer sent an email suspending the change.

The event was a lesson in poor management communication. Not lost on faculty and staff was the constant rhetoric of the university as an institution committed to the health and wellness of employees!

The action also tapped into a frustration with budget opacity.  I served in 2018-19 on an entity called the University Budget Council (UBC), part of our university’s shared governance system. The UBC in the past year did not discuss the recreation facility fee change. Should it have? The way the UBC worked ( it seemed from my first year of experience, and from talking with an earlier faculty representative) was to quickly vet modest changes from the previous year’s budget. Certain major unit heads (Provost for all academic units, IT, residence life, admissions, development) made a “pitch” for why they should get a possibly small increase (i.e. instead of 3% merit pool for salaries, a small increase to a 3.5% merit pool; or instead of 0% increase in budget for IT, a 1% increase). After 30 minutes of discussion in the UBC, these “pitches” were then adjudicated by Vice President for Finance Michael Crowley and his team, and a “compromise” was presented in followup meeting (about six meetings over the Fall quarter).

Informal practice has been to have no voting or UBC resolution of competing requests, instead the administration did that behind the scenes. I guess if major department heads really wanted to fight an allocation, they could push for a “constitutional crisis” and ask UBC to formally vote on their proposal. The UBC has no bylaws, though, so the mechanisms by which requests would be adjudicated have not been established (secret vote? who decides on wording of vote?). In any case UBC is part of the shared governance institution that in the end is advisory in that the Trustees ultimately decide on this “macro” budget.

I feel that my role in coming year as a member of UBC is to advocate within UBC and faculty senate for greater budget participation and transparency. Faculty and staff, for example, know next to nothing about the Athletics budget, for example. The administration will not, apparently, generate and share a university-wide report on adjunct salary structures, information that is crucial to addressing policy on compensation and unionization. The administration has embarked on extensive borrowing to fund large campus construction projects, but does not share “bad case” scenarios that might require drastic expenditure reductions.

The Faculty Senate voted a resolution several years ago to establish a long-term budget priorities committee. For three years the administration has contrived a variety of excuses for why this committee could not undertake its charge, even after agreeing in principle to the committee.  (Incidentally, want a model of what budget transparency can produce? See this white paper on football at San Jose State University.)

I also think the transparency issue was not so salient for faculty when university priorities seemed fully aligned with faculty priorities (during the 1990-2010 period?). As the administration has increasingly committed to a different path (increasing reliance on non-tenure track faculty, increased emphasis on elite athletics, greater investment in physical plant and student amenities over scholarship, gradual decline in “real” faculty salaries- that is, adjusted for Bay Area living costs) the questions about transparency become more important.

Posted in Santa Clara University

Why does SCU want to take the faculty unionization straight to the NLRB? Because they could reverse every unionization on every Jesuit and other “religious” university

From Philip Miscimarra, current Trump-appointed chair of the NLRB, in his dissent (when he was minority) in both the Duquesne and the Loyola University cases of 2017:

Second, as explained in my separate opinion in Pacific Lutheran University, 361 NLRB No. 157, slip op. at 26–27 (2014) (Member Miscimarra, concurring in part and dissenting in part), when determining whether a religious school or university is exempt from the Act’s coverage based on First Amendment considerations, I believe the Board should apply the three part test articulated by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in University of Great Falls v. NLRB, 278 F.3d 1335 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Under that test, the Board has no jurisdiction over faculty members at a school that (1) holds itself out to students, faculty and community as providing a religious educational environment; (2) is organized as a nonprofit; and (3) is affiliated with or owned, operated, or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a recognized religious organization, or with an entity, membership of which is determined, at least in part, with reference to religion. Id. at 1343. In my view, Loyola University has clearly raised a substantial issue regarding whether it is exempt from the Act’s coverage under that three-part test. As stipulated by the parties, the University holds itself out to the public as providing a religious educational environment. Additionally, the University is organized as a nonprofit, and it is affiliated with the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus. Accordingly, I would grant the University’s request for review because substantial questions exist regarding (i) whether the Board lacks jurisdiction over the University as a religiously affiliated educational institution, and (ii) whether the Pacific Lutheran standard is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. I would consider these jurisdictional and constitutional issues on the merits.

Posted in Santa Clara University