What can be troubling is that open discussions like these don’t always happen, because faculty has followed the PAC model of politics: they lobby chairs, deans and provosts privately so that these questions never see the light of day. However, if the question ever made it to the floor, there is a possibility that faculty in the Humanities would respond by stating the “the university should pay for all of the above mentioned languages and for Latin as well. We might as well throw in Ancient Greek and Coptic because faculty committees are not versed in skills like “counting,” and department chairs, deans and provosts just appease the whiners, so they can get on with their jobs.
There is also the problem of the Deal Makers that act as tawdry procurers. They are not interested in quality, but rather in doling out as little substance and as much appearances as possible. “Yes,” she will say, “we can have Latin for reading like the (horrendously superficial) courses given to PhD candidates,” which responds to their colleagues’ geocentrism. In effect, the deal makers are giving in to the narcissism of finding one’s self in their students. What is lost, however, is the opportunity to teach a substantive amount of undergraduates who are looking to develop their own notion of self as they fulfill their basic university requirements. Even though the specialists in medieval theology, ancient history and historical linguistics may be content with DM’s compromise, this kind of course doesn’t address the general language requirement and permits narrow short-term interests to drive curriculum and cost. In this case, Latin will be relegated to the same ivory tower and will cast aside students with broader curricular needs.
If one is luck, there will enough open discussion to ensure that there aren’t any back room deals. However, open discussion can be averted through the formation of the ad hoc committee, which is a place where good ideas go to die, and where the blind lead the inept into the Promised Land where one votes resources into existence. With all the credence that professional administrators grant to “Best Practices” documents, it’s worthwhile to discuss what really happens in committees.
An absolute must for this concave of ancient linguaphiles is the Idealist, a person who is emotionally attached to the idea and driven by a sense of nostalgia. His feet are so firmly planted in the air that he can barely formulate an agenda. He feels the same way about course objectives, outcomes, lesson plans and assessment. He’ll say, “One cannot quantify the depths of his knowledge of the traditional Humanist.” His central logic is that the university should just cough up the money for this program. “They have the money! What kind of a university doesn’t have a program like this? What would our colleagues at other institutions think of us if we didn’t have a Latin program?” So, when it comes to budgets and long-term planning the Idealist is so stupid he drools, and it is useless to explain to him that this course will not generate sufficient tuition dollars to cover the instructor’s salary and keep the lights on in the room.
If the committee is fortunate, they will have a Martinet who will play a crucial role keeping the Idealist focused on things like meeting times, agendas, minutes, and goals. He is the eternal optimist, performs his duty diligently, and is deeply concerned about his title: Sergeant at Arms of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Resurrection of Latin. He will volunteer to serve and elaborate a new mission statement, re-launch the web page replete with pithy misspelled quotes in Latin, and even design a masthead that evokes inscriptions on triumphal arches for a sequence that, at best, will have a total enrollment of six students, half of which will be nerdy professors who don’t pay tuition anyway.
No Ad-Hoc Committee can be complete without a Fanatic, someone who sees “scores” of students lining up to enroll in Latin because she has four requests and a petition with twenty-five signatures sitting on her desk. (NB: the author’s deliberate use of the subject pronoun “she” is not an attempt to be politically correct and deny the fact that he is a white male with a penis, but rather he is describing a real human being to whom he has referred to as Frau Blücher in earlier posts.) The Fanatic is a self-righteous firebrand and sanctimonious blowhard that confuses volume and vehemence for content and insight. In other words, she “never” shuts up. She also fears the sky will come crashing down if she is not there to hold it up, and to forestall the Apocalypse, she will point in nine directions at once to indicate the ease at which the word can become flesh and a dead program can come back to life. It matters little if this whole scenario plays out or not because the Fanatic will move on to a new crisis before this project actually takes root.
Depending on whether or not he is on campus or not, the committee may also have the occasional support of the Departmental Anarchist and Conspiracy Theorist. The DA/CT will be just as emotionally attached to the issue as the Idealist, but for different reasons. His weltanschauung assures him that Deans and Provosts are the technological autocrats and “running-dog lackeys” of the fascist corporate world, and in this regard, a Latin program is an act of resistance to managerial intervention and oppression. Ironically, the DA/CT is as Machiavelian as his Arch Enemies, and would shiv his best friend in a heartbeat to draw attention away from the one program he actually cares about: his own. If deans and provosts even know who he is they refer to him as the “Crack Pot.”
The faculty side of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Resurrection of Latin will be rounded out by assorted Narcissists from different departments. Your Faithful Blogger refers to these buffoons by the moniker of the Ubi-Et-Meas. Like the eminent scholar from the English Department, mentioned earlier, the UEMs are small minded, and for them a successful outcome could be as low as three students in their courses who reflect their values and ideas. (NB: Yours Truly will refrain from discussing at length the perverse implications of Mirror Stage pedagogy of this brand of academic incest.) The UEMs somehow believe that students will emerge from the depths of frat orgies, abandon their adolescent debauchery, and become followers. The UEMs have never been able to accept the horror of teaching undergraduates and retreat to the ivory tower by surrounding themselves with a few disciples who remind them of themselves. The UEMs will likely include specialists in Ancient and Medieval History, a closet Theologian, two descriptive linguists that vote like prescriptivists on curricular issues, and the entire Philosophy Department, if it is not already on life support. After a week of deliberations this committee will likely add Ancient Greek, Hebrew and Coptic to their agenda.
The final piece of the puzzle is a neophyte Departmental Chair, one who has no experience in tough fiscal times, no head for planning and no vision of the future. His “leadership” style is based on an emergency room and has no idea that everything will eventually become an emergency. It really doesn’t matter because the DC doesn’t plan on being around long enough to see results: what he wants is a series of quick kills so that he can move up the university ladder. So, his goal is to pick up the admin-speak as soon as possible and because of this his speech is peppered acronyms, jargon and trite phrases like “moving forward, we can be proactive, and optimize our resources ” So while other departments nation-wide are hunkering down, limiting their fiscal obligations in this climate the DC is in heat, desperately searching for another administrator with whom he can mate and produce more programs (on the cheap, of course). If he’s successful, he will become a deadbeat that leaves a brood of dimwitted programs for others to care for, incarcerate, or eliminate. This man should be neutered before he can do any real damage.
Perhaps it is unfair for Your Faithful Blogger to suggest that the members of this committee are remiss in their basic math skills; they have mastered it in every other aspect of their lives: mortgages, credit card payments, and paychecks. But for some twisted reason, they refuse to consider enrollments, numbers of minors, salaries, contributions to general studies programs as relevant to the discussion. In this sole corner of their lives, they claim that applying numbers is the application of business models that fall outside the values endemic to the Humanities. If this truly is the case, the next time faculty is up for a raise, they should hold out for poems dedicated in their honor. When the shit hits the fan, as it always does when departments over extend themselves, once again the departments will have to cut into areas resources that matter to students.
How long, Oh, Lord? How long?
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=938