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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

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» KC Johnson: the other Duke Lacrosse prosecutor from Re:harmonized
This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at the crusades mounted on both sides of the Duke lacrosse case. The first has an introduction and overview. The second and third are about the potbanging protest and its connection to and impact on the c... [Read More]

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The Constructivist

Seriously suggest you read Lubiano's essays and edited collected before you accept Johnson's hit piece. And I'm not just saying that b/c she was my diss advisor and changed my life.

SEK

Constructivist, I think it's implicit in what I wrote that the only critique of substance I saw was with what's she's published, not its content. I can't think of a single program that would've accepted her CV (as presented), but I have no issue with the work she's done. I should've been more and/or less subtle, but it's hard to tell these days.

Jonathan Dresner

I'm a lot more sympathetic to "forthcoming" since I started working with academic publishers myself. I've had one journal fold after accepting a paper, and another dither for two years with unresponsive reviewers and "wrong stack" errors. And KC's wrong: edited volumes are blind reviewed, but as book manuscripts, not chapter by chapter the way journals are. What standards they hold it to depends, as always, on the reviewer, the press, the editor, but to say that it's "not reviewed" is absurd. I got some critical comments back on the chapter I had in a book published.

Given the parlous state of academic publishing (especially, I imagine, in the overheated world of comp/rhet), tenure committees are sometimes willing to accept completed and submitted manuscripts with some outside review to testify to their quality. So I'm told, anyway: I haven't had that honor yet.

On the broader point, much of the time when KC has published his views on the 88 at Cliopatria, he's been challenged, mostly by other Cliopatricians (Tim Burke, Ralph Luker and, sometimes, myself). That makes your challenge somewhat... moot?

Jonathan Dresner

Oh, now I remember. I had another point I wanted to make:

He divined the truth of what happened in Durham on the night of March 13th long before the police announced the results of their investigation. He was correct.

No, KC was always very careful, at least in what I read, to acknowledge that he had no idea whether the charges were correct or not (at least until enough evidence came out for reasonable certainty). What he was right about was that the prosecutor violated his public trust and took shortcuts and played the case in public for political gain, and that the Group of 88 violated its ethical/academic trust and was jumping to conclusions about the case when they had no more idea than he did about the truth of the matter, but played it for political purposes and ignored/shortcut university procedures.

Whether or not we approve of the political stances of the 88, I've never been able to find fault with KC's criticism of their public stance in this case: it was premature, excessive, uncompromising, damaging to the public discourse and to the university community. I disagree with KC about the structural critique he draws from this (which is consistent with the disagreements I had with his structural critiques of the academy before the Duke case arose) and about his individual evaluations of (at least some of) the scholars in question.

Josh

Scott, particularly a propos of your takedown of his hits on Harris --after his denunciations of Bérubé and his comments on Inside Higher Ed, it seems clear that Johnson is incapable of reading any academic prose without putting it through his mental Horowitzinator. In a blind review, I have no doubt that he'd categorize the prose of Bauerlein or Genovese as part of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. It's a comprehension thing.

KC Johnson

Many thanks for the link to DIW; and also for your suggestions on how to manage Cliopatria.

To respond to your two general criticisms:

1.) If I were planning to keep DIW open for the next 73 weeks, I probably would do a Group profile for all 88 members. I am not, however: the blog will have active posst only through next week, and then a few ending posts in September. For the series, then, I tried to choose people who had been active in the lacrosse case (neither Hardt for Wald, to my knowledge, have commented on the case other than signing their statements), with posts somewhat evenly distributed between the departments that included most of the ad's signatories.

Lest your readers misunderstand the focus of DIW: the Group profile series has featured 15 posts (after Monday's concluding post on Bill Chafe). To date, the blog has had 971 posts.

2.) On Harris' "corporate" claim for the academy: your post, in fact, proves the weak nature of Harris' analysis. In any "corporate" environment, Wahneema Lubiano would have been fired long ago. Here's a professor who received tenure without a scholarly monograph, has been claiming to have two monographs forthcoming and under contract for 10 years(!), and in the last eight years, according to her CV, has produced four pages of scholarship. Yet she has a lifetime job, at a salary of probably $100,000. Whatever that arrangement is, it's surely not "corporate."

Moroever, for someone so convinced that the academy is structured in a "corporate" way, Harris didn't seem to behave that way when it came to his own actions. As the head of the University Writing Program and thus "manager" of "contingent labor," Harris should have recognized the dilemma that he presented to his "subordinates" by signing the Group of 88's ad. To maintain employment in the ruthless "corporate" world, surely they would feel some pressure--implicit or explicit--to sign the ad themselves, and thus remain in the good graces of their "boss."

And, indeed, five did so.

Finally, I'm a bit amused by the Howoritzian argument, as I have been publicly denounced by Horowitz and have publicly opposed (through an AHA amendment) the ABOR. In any event, Until Proven Innocent has received strong words of praise from ACLU president Nadine Strossen, former Crossfire co-host and LA Times editorial page editor Mike Kinsley, defense attorney and author John Grisham, and Kirkus Reviews. It would strike me as rather unlikely that such figures would endorse a book that was "positively Horowitzian in tenor and substance."

Rob Barrett

The corporate world gave us the Peter Principle (among other theories of improbably successful incompetence), so I don't think theses about the corporatization of the university are undone by the example of Wahneema Lubiano.

SEK

KC, first, I said nothing about how to manage Cliopatria. In this regard, I believe there must've be some context I've missed, as you and Ralph both think my criticism of you is a call for your removal from the roster. I said, quite plainly, that "keeping you on the roster does the rest of [the contributors] a disservice." I suspect, given the context I'm missing, that any comparable statement in which I distinguish between what you've written and what your compatriots have would've sounded like I was armchair managing Cliopatria. I wasn't.

As to what you've written here, it's baldly self-contradictory: you claim there's no attempt to create a corporate environment vis-a-vis adjuncts, then say that because of the corporate environment (and the perceptions it creates), Harris was able to pressure his subordinates to sign the Group of 88's statement. You can't have it both ways.

Some specific contentions:

In any "corporate" environment, Wahneema Lubiano would have been fired long ago.

Did you miss the part where I acknowledged that people who abuse the tenure system are an outrage? Yes, any system will be abused. Should we abolish corporate charters because of Enron? Your argument's flawed on its face. Unless, of course, you can present evidence of wide-spread abuse ... which you haven't, and if Harris is any indication, most likely can't.

If I were planning to keep DIW open for the next 73 weeks, I probably would do a Group profile for all 88 members. I am not, however: the blog will have active posts only through next week, and then a few ending posts in September.

Your blog, your prerogative, esp. as you're leaving for Israel shortly. That's entirely understandable. However, as you're making sweeping statements about these fields, I'm assuming you've done the requisite research on all the signatories. That you've chosen to post only profiles of professors flattering your narrative -- and, in Harris' case, manipulate his record in order to do so -- I'm not sure I believe your claim that you'd have posted all eighty-eight. Your audience wouldn't stand for a post detailing the scholarly history of a sound, responsible scholar who signed the statement out of his or her conviction that actual, but unreported, rapes far outnumber false accusations. You whipped that crowd into a frenzy, then went to bank on its shoulders.

KC Johnson

To SEK:

"Your audience wouldn't stand for a post detailing the scholarly history of a sound, responsible scholar who signed the statement out of his or her conviction that actual, but unreported, rapes far outnumber false accusations. You whipped that crowd into a frenzy, then went to bank on its shoulders."

As you might know, the current official line coming from the Group of 88 (offered in long articles from a few months back in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and in Diverse) is that the statement had nothing to do with any allegation of rape at all. (This claim, of course, contradicts e-mails from early April 2006 that I obtained and on which I have posted.) If, in fact, there is "a sound, responsible scholar who signed the statement out of his or her conviction that actual, but unreported, rapes far outnumber false accusations," I'd urge that person to admit so now. I hope that you'll join me in the call.

"As to what you've written here, it's baldly self-contradictory: you claim there's no attempt to create a corporate environment vis-a-vis adjuncts, then say that because of the corporate environment (and the perceptions it creates), Harris was able to pressure his subordinates to sign the Group of 88's statement. You can't have it both ways."

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear: I was saying that Harris can't have it both ways. He has claimed--repeatedly--that the academy is a "corporate" environment, which he considers a lamentable development. If that's what he truly believes, then he should have gone out of his way to avoid the appearance of pressuring his "contingent labor" over which he was manager. Instead, of course, he signed the Group statement, and forwarded it to every (non-tenure track) employee of the UWP. So, it seems, when it's an issue that he really cares about, Harris didn't mind throwing his "corporate" weight around.

I have said, on many occasions, that I consider the claim that the academy follows a "corporate" model to be badly flawed.

On Lubiano: again, I apologize if I wasn't clear. I don't advocate abolishing tenure or anything resembling it. (I think schools might consider very minimal post-tenure reviews, simply to ensure that people who are tenured do some work.) I was merely using the Lubiano example to point out the flaws in Harris' "corporate" model. The "corporate" system has nothing like lifetime tenure for employees, nor the freedom of the workers to hire and make permanent their colleagues.

As to your point that "I'm not sure I believe your claim that you'd have posted all eighty-eight . . . You whipped that crowd into a frenzy, then went to bank on its shoulders."

The first sentence seems to me an extraordinarily strong claim to make without any evidence to back it up. As to the second, I'm not sure how you've determined the nature of my "audience" and "crowd." Since August 28, 2006, when I put on a Site Counter, the blog has had just under 2.9 million unique visitors, from 141 countries, and just over 5.26 million hits. I'm also not sure what you mean by "went to bank." The blog has no advertising: I put my own money--around $8000--into twelve trips to Durham to cover hearings and conduct interviews. I did so because I came to believe in the innocence of the three falsely accused students, and also because I recognized that covering the (non-televised) hearings in person was the only way to produce the highest-quality blog. It would be nice if the book sells enough for me to cover the blog costs, although I've never published a book that allowed me to recoup my research expenses, and I don't expect this one will sell well enough to do so, either.

The Constructivist

Duke hired Lubiano with tenure after Princeton denied it to her. So I hardly see how she is abusing the system or an example of the Peter Principle, particularly when a number of those who voted against her tenure file had worse publication records than she did at the time. (Do I sound bitter? Hell, yeah! I lost three of my four advisors at a key point in my dissertation to internal department politics.) Unless you want to make an argument for quantity over quality or nothing matters except publications, I don't see how Lubiano is the glaring example of tenured deadwood here. And if you knew anything about her service and teaching record, the deadwood charge would be ludicrous. Much easier to count pages.

Ralph Luker

The fact remains, TC, that Lubiano was found *not* to meet expectations of publication by the department at Princeton and Duke tacitly acknowledged its lower standards by offering her a tenured position. In that capacity, she will, undoubtedly, herself vote on the tenuring of junior colleagues and, as likely, some of them will be denied tenure because they do not meet the department's standards for publication. In other words, she will repeat (perhaps she has already) at Duke what embittered you at Princeton.

Adam Kotsko

Scott, It's pretty obvious that you were calling for KC to be removed from the Cliopatria roster -- claiming otherwise is downright Jesuitical. Obviously that's not your call to make, and you're not threatening a boycott, but you clearly think that Cliopatria's quality was, on the whole, negatively affected by KC's involvement. Many people, including me, would agree with that assessment. Why back off from what you're obviously saying?

SEK

KC:

I was saying that Harris can't have it both ways. He has claimed--repeatedly--that the academy is a "corporate" environment, which he considers a lamentable development. If that's what he truly believes, then he should have gone out of his way to avoid the appearance of pressuring his "contingent labor" over which he was manager.

You're trying to hoist him by his own petard, but to do so, you're having to indulge in what you consider his hypocrisy. The only problem, as I discussed at length in the post, is that he's not being hypocritical: university administrators can't treat tenured employees as disposable; they can, and do, treat adjuncts as such. Harris's point concerns the adjunctification of academia, and on that front, he's absolutely correct. As for your argument that the very act of signing the petition put demands upon the adjuncts under him to do so, well, that's possible. Have you verified with them that that's their reasoning? Have you talked to the adjuncts who didn't sign it? Are they still employed at Duke, or have they moved on? And if they moved on, when did they do so, and why? It seems to me that you've turned the possible into the probable, but I haven't seen any evidence to back this up.

I'm not sure how you've determined the nature of my "audience" and "crowd."

I spent an afternoon reading through the past two month's worth of posts and comments. I define "crowd" by the commentariat you've established, and their interest in the case was obvious. Consider this fellow:

I found it interesting that his only book won a major award from MLA. Getting that award from a Houston Baker organization is akin to [someone] getting an award from [their mother]. Carry about the same weight, anyway.

I edit only because the specifics are too tedious to detail. But he called the MLA a "Houston Baker" organization, as if that alone was condemnation enough. With a few exceptions, your commenters weren't familiar with academia -- outside the stereotype they've encountered via Horowitz. They're a far-right commentariat, and a particular breed at that. This really requires no detailing. You know the audience you wrote for, and you very ably stoked their fires. I could do a rhetorical analysis of your posts, if you'd like, but for now, all I'll say is that when you insert "[naturally]" into any quoted material having to do with race/class/gender, you're playing to a very particular crowd.

I did so because I came to believe in the innocence of the three falsely accused students, and also because I recognized that covering the (non-televised) hearings in person was the only way to produce the highest-quality blog. It would be nice if the book sells enough for me to cover the blog costs, although I've never published a book that allowed me to recoup my research expenses, and I don't expect this one will sell well enough to do so, either.

You spent $8,000 you didn't expect to be recompensed on a blog? That's admirable, actually, a refreshing change from the hunkered mentality of so many bloggers who don't believe in reporting. (And I say this as someone who's taught journalism, and bemoans the echo-chamber effect created when every blogger who "reports" on something does so based on the same three articles.) But when you're pulling in 438,000 readers per month and your blog's featured in the New York Times as the authoritative source for a case of national prominence, and when you've got a book deal, you know you're going to recoup your expenses. I say this not as condemnation, but because it makes little sense to deny the obvious: this book's going to be widely and well received by the anti-academic right, and it's going to sell. Put another way: let me assure you, you're going to get your money back and then some. (First time Malkin/Instapundit/&c. links to it, you'll see you've made a wise investment.)

The first sentence seems to me an extraordinarily strong claim to make without any evidence to back it up.

Actually, the claim that "I'm not sure I believe your claim that you'd have posted all eighty-eight" is easily verified: "Scott," I ask myself, "do you think KC would have published all eighty-eight?" "No, Scott," I reply, "I don't think he would've." Claim verified.

TC:

I think Ralph's correct, and more to the point, ever the most stellar service record doesn't earn you tenure at Duke. Or shouldn't, given how ridiculously high the standards are everywhere else, and given that a number of people with far superior publication records are currently working on the margins of academia.

Adam:

[Y]ou clearly think that Cliopatria's quality was, on the whole, negatively affected by KC's involvement.

I do, and said as much. But saying that isn't calling for his dismissal. I have no reason to think that's my call to make -- but I do think his presence on the roster does the rest of contributors a disservice.

SEK

Put another way, Adam: I think Willie Randolph leaving Carlos Delgado in the cleanup spot significantly weakens the Mets lineup. When I say that Moises Alou should bat cleanup instead -- and, thankfully, he finally was -- I don't believe my words are going to have any effect. I have my opinion, sure, but I don't have the expectation that it's going to be heard, much less heeded. Same deal here, except that I'm fairly certain it'll be heard.

Adam Kotsko

What's the difference between clearly stating that something should happen and "calling for" that thing?

SEK

The belief and/or presumption of efficacy?

Ralph Luker

Scott, Was your point that KC should be "benched" at Cliopatria or that Miriam, Tim, Scott, and I should resign in protest of his being there? When you say that links from Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds would be KC's reward, it only confirms my suspicion that your argument is an ideological/political one, rather one about the accuracy of KC's work. In fact, Durham-in-Wonderland's had many links from Instapundit. Which gives me InstaEnvy. And, btw, should Miriam, Scott, Tim, and I threaten to resign because Glenn's bother, Jonathan, is not benched at Cliopatria? Should he be? What about Daniel Larison. He's a paleo-conservative, you know. Damn smart one. And, if KC's Until Proven Innocent wins this year's Lulu Blooker Prize for the best book that began on a blog, I'll count that a feather in Cliopatria's cap -- even though I argued with KC about his position on the lacrosse case more than anyone else at Cliopatria did. That's the reward of our diversity.

SEK

Ralph, my point was that, in my opinion, the works he's doing at Durham-in-Wonderland isn't up to par with what I expect from Cliopatria. I don't expect to see Horowitzian attacks coming from Cliopatria's contributors, and that's what I observed over at Durham-in-Wonderland. The problem isn't that they're conservative arguments, but that they're bad arguments. That's why I documented, at some length, how manipulative he's been in profiling the Group of 88. His treatment of Harris is particularly egregious, given that KC knows there's a wide-spread, commonplace belief that administrators have tried to "corporatize" academia, as manifested most prominently in the creation of the adjunct labor force. He makes no argument against that consensus belief. He doesn't even acknowledge it. Instead, Harris is left in the wild, the lone lunatic who thinks academia has adopted corporate values. Actually, make that the lone hypocritical lunatic, since he himself "forced" (presumably, KC presents no evidence) those in his employ to sign the statements. Well, not all of them. Only three, in fact.

All of whom he would've profiled, were he to keep Durham-in-Wonderland running.

My point is that his attacks on academics strikes me not as those made by "damn smart" conservatives, but as the work of ideological hacks like Malkin. As I noted in the original post, he did a solid job reporting the facts of the case, withholding judgment, remaining impartial, &c. But his uncharitable profiles of working scholars seem cut from a far more familiar and banal Horowitzian cloth.

It's evident in the verbal tics, like the aforementioned "[naturally]," and it's painfully obvious when you read the anti-intellectual tripe of his commenters, who say things like:

No doubt these people are popular within their mini-universe. However, when the full story of this mess is written into history, a long chapter will be on just how out of touch with reality campus PC deconstructuralist nonsense had become. Little things like due process, truth vs. scam apparently have no weight in that world.

Or this:

Anyone who has dealt with the tangled jargon of modern academic discourse and is still able to place a catalog order over the phone is due hearty congratulations. The sterile, institutional rhetoric of deconstruction, when itself deconstructed, often reads like the parody Derrida probably meant it to be.

Or this:

KC, I love you man, but an award from the MLA* is more likely to be proof of academic trendiness and political correctness leavened with a dash of incompetence than of excellence.

*Modern Language Association for those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with these academic moonbats.

Or this:

Color me stupid, but I cannot for the life of me understand how Queer Theory or pre-Columbian Latin American sex practices or other equally arcane subjects are anything but “marginal.” I can assure you that these subjects are not on the Super Highway of academic inquiry and scholarship. I’m not even sure if one could properly assign them to the metaphor of a “foot path.” Further, it is good that libraries like Perkins have shelving for books that gather enough dust to be buried forever, for that is my view of where some of this “stuff” ends up.

Then there's the most compelling proof:

Reading KC is sometimes like watching Leno's monologue.

These people think Leno's funny. Case closed. But seriously, KC's not responsible for what his readers say, obviously, but that they say it -- in droves, and enthusiastically -- speaks to the audience he's addressing, and the manner in which he's doing so. Again, it's not the ideology, it's the anti-intellectualism, the poor argumentation, &c. that bothers me.

KC Johnson

A few points of reply, as I sign off from this thread:

1.) I'm unaware that I ever accused Prof. Harris of "forcing" anyone to sign the Group of 88's statement.

2.) On the issue of blog commenters, I'd recommend a recent clip from Markos Moulitsas at the Colbert Report. The tactic of using the remarks of commenters to discredit what the blogger has to say was used by Bill O'Reilly to attack DailyKos. I stand with Moulistas on this point.

3.) I spent my own money on the blog because--Ivan Tribble notwithstanding--I believe that my reputation can and will be affected by anything published in my name, and therefore I wanted to produce the highest quality product possible. I believe you might have misread my earlier comment: I put a good portion of the money into the blog before I had a book contract, and therefore had no reason to assume I would ever see it again.

Perhaps you're correct that heavy blog readership leads to large book sales, but that isn't a business model that has frequently occurred in the blogosphere. (If it did, we'd all be rich!) That said, I hope the book sells extremely well, and therefore will be delighted if your prediction is correct on this matter, and mine is wrong.

4.) I reiterate the extraordinary nature of your claim that, if the blog had continued, I would not have profiled all 88, even though I said I would.

Finally, I'll conclude with the opening paragraph of your post, as well as an item from your last comment: "banal Horowitzian cloth." The blog (around 750,000 words) is obviously longer than the book (around 130,000 words). But the basic take on the Duke faculty's role and rationale for action is similar in both the blog and the book. Perhaps I'm naive, but I rather doubt that Nadine Strossen, Mike Kinsley, John Grisham, and Kirkus would give strong, public endorsements of a book that takes a "Horowitzian" approach. Or, perhaps, the first three chose to endorse the book because they wanted to jumpstart my new organization: Pro-Gay Marriage, Pro-Choice "Horowitzians" for Obama in '08.

The Constructivist

Scott, I think Ralph's point is more to the point, as Wahneema had no service record at Duke when she was hired with tenure. Sure, had she been hired without tenure, the best service (and teaching) record in the world wouldn't have been enough for her to get it without scholarly productivity at a place like Duke, but if you're going to get into hypotheticals like that, then you have to grant me similar "what if"s such as major surgeries, deaths of close relatives, and more not happening in the past near-decade in her life.

Ralph, your point about standards is worth responding to. Duke was doing in the late '90s what Vanderbilt has been doing recently--raiding talented faculty from more established places in an effort to improve their humanities departments and national reputations. Whenever you do that you run a risk that the up-and-coming people won't come up or the established people you went for turn out to have been past their prime. If academics were any better at this sort of thing than general managers of professional sports teams, I'd be shocked. Just because Lubiano hasn't yet matched in research quantity what she's already established in quality is not a reason to write her off as a scholar. Yet thanks to KC, that's what people around the country will be tempted to do.

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