this post collects the email messages I’ve sent to the english listserv since we transitioned to remote mode — fyi for the video and other informational links embedded! ——————————————————————————————————————–

Wednesday, 3/11/2020, Subject: okay, then…

here we go, to distance learning for the rest of the spring term.  I know your inboxes are overwhelmed with links to resources designed to help you make the transition to remote teaching and learning; instead of reproducing those again, I’m asking anyone who needs those links or more information please just let me know and I’m happy to help.

A couple of things prompt this message.  First is that we are being asked to keep track of “what form of distance learning the instructor has chosen to use — e.g., Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, email, conference call, etc.” (quoting from a message from the building powers that be) and to report back by 3 April.  So, those offering English program courses this spring, I’ll be in touch with you directly to elicit that information in a few weeks’ time.

Second, students teaching at the other campuses, I believe you are to hear directly from the powers that be at those campuses as to expectations for distance learning and how to report, etc.  The “instructional pause” should afford time for guidance to come your way; if it doesn’t, please let me know and I’ll try to help you sort things out.

Third, students, if you have need of functioning computers or wifi connection, please let me know. The general presumption – and likely more right than not – is that GC students, in contrast to CUNY students at other campuses, will have no such issues, but I’m not sure and so I’m asking.  While the campuses are staying open, meaning you’ll have access to the computers in the libraries and lounges, it’d be good to know if you end up having to commute because for these sorts of reasons. 

Of course please also let me know if other kinds of access issues are precipitated by this shift to distance learning.

And, finally for now, for what it’s worth, I’ve found Zoom to be an easy platform to use for things like seminars and meetings.  I’m not hawking them; WebEx and the other options might be just as if not easier and better – I’m just familiar with Zoom.  You might want to try out the free plan; I understand they may be lifting the 40 minute per session limit for affected universities, but can’t find word on that in their official information. (Those participating in the candidate visit events this week will get a look first hand at this platform.)

I also regularly rely on CUNY Academic Commons as an additional space for my courses.  You can share files, post blogs, comment, link to things, keep the groups/sites private, and, importantly, all the content belongs to the writesr/posters and not to CUNY (h/t to Matt Gold, who I believe was key to setting it up that way).  The Academic Commons uses wordpress themes, including one that allows for commenting on documents in such a way that everyone can read and remark on everyone else’s remarks.

I’d be glad to talk with anyone about either of these options if it’d be useful to you, so please holler if you want to talk or walk through them with me.  Those of you who’ve used other platforms that might be recruited toward our present purposes, please share!  For most of us, distance learning will be a new pedagogical challenge, and the more we can draw on each other’s knowledge, the better, of course.  If there is sufficient interest, I’ll set up a (zoom) conversation where we can talk in real time.  (I’ll be at the GC tomorrow and Friday this week, and Tuesday and Wednesday next week, fyi.)

Okay, just two more things – I know I’ve been writing you a ton of email, and I expect more will come! Will try to be brief(er) in all of them. 

1. I worry about the unintended impact of social segregation as a strategy of virus containment, and especially for those who are far from home and/or family, bio- or chosen.  I don’t doubt the reasons for distance, but do worry about its correlation with isolation.  I wrote to students about this before and will repeat it again, which is simply, please check in with each other, and try to reach out even/especially when you don’t really want to.  Please let someone know if you’re ill so we can get some help for you.  We can act in ways mindful of both the pandemic and the need to be people in the world.

And 2. Also for what it’s worth, given that distance learning is a new form and format for most of us, I wanted to suggest trying to conceive of the work we’re being asked to do just now less as a transitioning from one mode to another, and more as experimentation with a new form altogether.  In other words, rather than trying to think about how to reproduce the kinds of encounters and learning that happen in our classrooms, to conceive of how to make uses of the affordances of remote teaching, including how it can stretch time – the affordance that strikes me immediately.  Students and faculty, for example, can have more time to respond to each other’s thoughts by using blog posts and the like; and/or, we can screen videos or listen to soundtracks or even smell whatever smells in our own time(s).  We might also think about how compulsory virtuality requires us to create intellectual spaces differently – how our couches become study spaces (or not), and how our rhythms of speech and thought shift in accordance with the operations of a given platform.  We might even think of this as a space-time of collective play, which in some sense, teaching always is, no?  Just, amid all the dense forces compelling us to virtual relationality for the rest of this term, see if there’s some fun to be found – I think there must be!  The intellectual and creative energy across the people on the various distribution lists to which I’m writing is *phenomenal,* and that can’t but give rise to the pleasures of learning through whatever forms!

More pedantically, don’t forget also to keep track of the time you spend not just executing this renovation to your course, but also in interacting with students.  I don’t mean keep track so that you can have a strict accounting, though that might be useful and satisfying down the line, but moreso so that you don’t inadvertently spend hours on end on line…

Okay, I know, hardly brief.  But done for now!

More to follow, and as ever, well wishes to all.

Kandice

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Monday, 3/16/2020, Subject: gratitude, dance, and fyis (including lovely news!)

Dear Everyone:

I hope you’ve been able to catch your breath a bit these past few days and that you’re finding ways of staying grounded amid the surreal quality of reality just now.  Last week, despite the mandated (and, I think, helpful) pause in instruction as CUNY moves to remote teaching, despite (and maybe because of?) the unsettling nature of the impact of and efforts to slow the spread of COVID19, and despite what were daily disappointments as yet another thing was cancelled, our program came together really amazingly, to host our first job candidate visit (in virtual form, of course), and to offer a virtual visit day for prospective students from this year’s admissions cycle. 

To all of you who were able to participate in the candidate visit in some form or another, a rousing hand of thanks!  (and that is not at all to cast shade on those who weren’t; it was, simply, an intense and chaotic week and if you simply made it through, brava to you, too!)  An especially loud THANK YOU to those who made virtual visit day for the prospectives to happen, too: Nancy Silverman, of course, and Maxine Krenzel and Daniel Hengel, the ESA student reps who did (and do) so much work toward these ends and who so graciously rolled with the viral punches of last week – cannot thank you enough, really; to Jojo Karlin, Christina Katapodis, Will Arguelles, Jacob Aplaca, Queenie Sukhadia, Rob Yates, and Sandra Moyano, who “zoomed” with the prospective students despite navigating the shifting state of everything; to Jason Nielsen, Sam O’Hana, Britt Munro, Gen Bettendorf, and Daniel Hengel (again), for so generously standing ready to host visiting prospective students; and, to the wonderful array of our faculty colleagues who made themselves available for conversations with the applicants throughout the day.  I can’t quite imagine fully what it must be like to be one of the prospective students right now, trying to make decisions about where to pursue their work under these present uncertainties; I do, however, know fully how helpful contact with all of you was – certainly in giving them a sense of the people who comprise us (many have written to tell me so), and perhaps also, in enacting that relationality, helpful to us as well.  An extended and sustained thank you for all of it….

…you are, collectively and individually, an exquisite corps (I *love* this piece – the idea, project, movement, music, people-ness of it) and hope you will enjoy…forms of being together-apart. 

Some business things:

  1. You’ll have seen the GC and city/state news that most of us are being asked to work from home.  The program will be staying open at least in a virtual way throughout, of course; please keep an eye out for information about the in-real-life office openings if there is some pressing need to conduct business in person.  The situation in the building, the city, the nation, the state(s) (I live in NJ, so, two states for me), on the planet, is obviously so rapidly changing that it’s impossible just now to make firm plans, hence the request to please stay tuned.
  1. Speaking of which, I’m going to stop sending these kinds of messages to both the listserv and the student and faculty contacts separately.  I’m not sure how much overlap there is among the lists but would ask you please simply to subscribe to the listserv if you want these general messages.
  1. I’m transforming my weekly office hours into drop in office hours.  What that means is that I’ll send out a Zoom invitation for those times on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and you can just drop in.  If there’s something you want to discuss privately and someone else is already there, we’ll arrange a separate time to meet.  I’m thinking of these drop in hours also as a time simply to be/read/study/chat together – a way of keeping company in the time of social distancing. Drop by, check in, touch base, if not with me, with each other, with someone, with whomever.  (I connected with my beloveds in this manner over the weekend and found even the virtual glimpse of them all kinds of reassuring; I hope you’ve been able to do the same with yours whomever and wherever they might be.)  The first of these invitations will go out tomorrow morning to the listserv.
  1. Earlier, I’d shared the Zoom site info and the news that they were lifting the 40-minute limit on the free plan for educators.  It turns out that’s really directed to K-12 teachers, though I’ve heard people from other universities may have successfully received the same assistance.  In any event, two related notes:  a) before I started using a paid plan, I regularly scheduled two back to back 40-minute meetings and simply used the switchover as a break.  There’s no barrier to doing that in zoom, which is say, even without the lift in limit, it’s possible to accommodate a class meeting; and, b) if you’re stuck without a viable way of creating a synchronous space via one of the platforms the GC is making available (like WebEx), please let me know – I’m glad to share my account as much as possible with you (especially students); because I can’t host more than one meeting at a time, that sharing will be limited, but I’d be happy at least to try to make it work.
  1. Kind of relatedly, addressing especially those who are new to teaching, it might be helpful to keep in mind that it’s okay to jump tracks from the learning objectives or content with which you started out this semester — maybe even more than okay, it’s maybe necessary even…I think what we will want to note when we look back on this semester a year or years hence is that we offered forms of care through our work as teachers in the best ways we could, and that that might mean creating assignments that deliberately allow the present uncertainties and anxieties and creativities some place or means to be recorded: essays that record the experience of reading in the context of a pandemic; projects that reflect on the unexpected intimacies that arise through social distancing; creative work that like the Exquisite Corps articulates continuity and embodied life…

I know there are constraints on what you’re allowed to do if you’re a teaching fellow or adjunct; and/but, I think maybe giving yourself some leeway with the constraints might be important to staying grounded in the real through and despite the virtual – grounded in the point of teaching at all.  If you’re not already, talk to your colleagues, your peers, your mentors, to help you figure all this out.  (This probably doesn’t belong as an item in the business list, but it is meant to be specifically/instrumentally useful, anyway, and responds generally to questions I’ve gotten.)  And again, if you’d like direction toward resources for teaching online, please let me know.

  1. More straightforwardly, information for those who might have access to Comcast – and might be helpful to undergrads to know as well, fyi their “internet essentials” plan: https://www.internetessentials.com/  They’re broadening and enhancing their lowest cost plan as a response to current conditions.
  1. I wanted also to share this resource with you – Duke University Press has made available for free online reading a series of texts under the heading “Navigating the Threat of Pandemic Syllabus.”  Super helpful as a most satisfyingly academic-nerdy response to the state of the world, namely, study.  I’ve also found Johns Hopkins U’s Coronavirus Resource Center likewise satisfyingly academic, fwiw.

Finally, the lovely news!  Please join me in offering warmest congratulations to Wayne Koestenbaum for the Arts and Letters Award in Literature he received last week from the American Academy of Arts and Letters !  (I saw him last week – maybe even the day the award was announced – and he said not a peep about it and instead was concerned about teaching and community and us.  He writes of divas but isn’t a very good one, I think…tee hee!)  We have long known he is a source of brilliant light and intelligence and hurrah for this acknowledgment that that knowledge has spread far and wide.  Yay for Wayne!

That’s it for me for now.  Stay in touch and I will, too!

Kandice


Wednesday, 3/18/2020, Subject: Quick fyis!

Dear Everyone:

Here they are, the quick fyis…

  1. Students, please remember that the GC offers the Student Emergency Grant Fund which provides for up to $2k of assistance.  I know many of you depend on supplemental income from the service economy or are facing other kinds of financial stresses intensified by present circumstances.  Don’t forget this exists!
  1. To pass time, or maybe teaching? Broadway is making 15 of its plays stream-able from home.  This page provides a list and tells you where to find them.
  1. Likewise, the Met is offering a series of free opera streams – Puccini was last night!
  1. For the artists among you and your networks, the Rauschenberg Foundation, together with the NY Foundation for the Arts, is launching an emergency grant program to help address medical needs.  It won’t be rolled out until May-ish, likely, but fyi for then.
  1. And finally and always, more dancing, to keep us going! 

More to follow!

Kandice


Friday, 3/20/2020, Subject: earworms and excess

Dear Everyone:

I had the thought this morning that I don’t typically write to the program on Fridays, followed immediately by the absurdity of thinking “typically” has stable meaning – heh.  Nothing urgent in what follows and so could wait, but I think maybe makes better sense to share heading into the weekend.  (I won’t be on line much of the rest of the afternoon, as I’m participating remotely in a colloquium; will tune in again on Monday, fyi.)

Just a couple of things, really.  First is that I wanted to say something congratulatory for having gotten through these first days of being a teacher and student in virtual formats, but I’m not quite sure what to say.  Alexandra T. Vazquez, in Listening in Detail, writes about the impossibility of writing about music and musicians, about Cuba, about art, which is to say about the impossibility of the work we do, even as she enacts and explains how we are all always having to exceed our existent capacities in our efforts to do justice to ideas and people and art.  It’s that sense of congratulation-as-recognition (or something) that I want to share: notice how you and we are exceeding our capacities in manifold ways always, intensely now.  This is not to celebrate the conditions we’re living, but to remind us all of how our ordinary activities are always already phenomenal, to remind us not to dwell in the not-enough (not good enough, not present enough), to notice the creativity that accompanies constraint, with the hope that recognizing all this will help sustain!

Vazquez’s thought on this is the first of the earworms bouncing helpfully around my head these days.  Another is the refrain from the children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, about a family navigating a series of challenges.  I am decidedly opposed to hunting even as metaphor, and yet and still this book’s “we can’t go over it/we can’t go under it/…we’ve got to go through it!” has totally stuck with me over the years; offering it here as a kind of collective mantra, and maybe TMI insight into the quirky ways my mind works (!) and how I’m thinking about the situation into which we’ve been plopped.

These, though, are thoughts that are contextualized by the sense of loss I’ve been feeling as the immediate demands of the past week to attend to business have given way to trying to plan toward and for the next months.  All the cancellations – of conferences and travel and in person meetings of every kind and celebrations and even funerals; I wonder, how do we grieve those even as we put them into the perspective of global well being coupled with knowledge that the most vulnerable socially are those for whom these measures are most important?  I had thoughts of trying to stage a collective primal scream!  And/but, then, this, which has been making its rounds on social media, came across my desk(top).  The pristineness of the voices, the hopefulness of the gesture, the collectivity despite separation — maybe it’ll induce a good and necessary cry (as, yes, it did for me – this parenthetical note is for my advisees, who know well my disinclination toward having feelings, and publicly!  LOL!)…

Maybe the weekend will afford grieving and dancing, maybe even at the same time?  We are, I think, lucky in that given what we do, we are arguably better positioned than most to be able to hold competing thoughts and emotions without requiring resolution; that is, after all, the stuff of metaphors.  I am myself going to walk and bike as far and as much as possible (and drag my teenage children along, though they don’t yet know it) and will be screaming and mourning and dancing with you from afar (how’s that for a mental image?!).

More business-y things to follow on Monday.

Kandice


Tuesday, 3/24/2020, Subject: More bits & pieces + open program meeting, 27 March

Dear Everyone:

I open with deep thanks for the thoroughly buoying and immensely generous messages I’ve received from so many of you, and among them, from many I hadn’t yet had a chance to meet.  Being with you all by writing has been grounding for me amid the swirling uncertainties of the present, so the thanks are all mine, really.  I’m so glad to be part of what has become our English program diaspora!

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about zooming with so many of you across the diaspora is getting a glimpse of you in places other than the GC.  Maybe it’s just because I’m nosy, but I thought it might be nice to share a sense of place and emplacement with each other, especially since it looks like we’ll be connecting across distances for a while yet.  Also, I miss adding to the program flickr photo file!  The attached is my home office – the people who owned the home before us converted a Florida room into an enclosed space, so I have lots of windows that look out onto lots of trees.  It’s freezing here in the winter and way too hot in the summer and stink bugs keep finding their way in and I’m surrounded by books and photos.  In essence, it’s a grubbier (“homier” in real estate parlance) version of my GC office (yep, I have chocolate here, too).  Send me a picture of your space and I’ll compose an album for us! 

I’m writing also to invite you to an open program meeting, zoom invitation below, for this Friday, 4p.  The agenda is to check in generally, of course, and to confer as to the kinds of things we’d collectively like to do as the rest of this semester unfolds: shall we try to hold Friday Forum panels? Create a reading group meeting for Fridays?  A standing program virtual happy hour?  I think we will want to follow through on the already planned conversations on advising and mentoring, curriculum, as well as revisiting admissions processes and practices.  We of course also have two more virtual visits from candidates for the Africana/Black studies position upcoming.  And, I’d appreciate hearing from you regarding what it is the program could do to be supportive in your work – expansively construed – just now.  Whatever we garner from this open meeting, we’ll fold into the Executive Committee meeting scheduled for the following week and create appropriate apparatuses from there on out. 

Speaking of meetings, I sent to the students a little while ago an invitation to a session on oral exam committee constitution scheduled for next Friday, 3 April, at 2:30p.  If you didn’t receive that invitation, please check your gradcenter email and/or let me know and I’ll resend.  Another session focused on dissertation committee constitution will follow.  These, by the by, are in part a response to suggestions made through the advising and mentoring survey we conducted earlier this semester.

A few more bits & pieces subsequent to the humanities and social sciences Eos meeting held earlier today – the very business-y things:

  1. The GC is setting up an institutional license to use Zoom, and we’re expected to have access to that by week’s end.
  1. Students enrolled in as consortium students at Columbia U, please note that CU has gone to pass/fail grading for the semester, meaning you will also receive a pass/fail for your grade. 
  1. A renovated GC website is due to be launched in January 2021.  We will be asked to provide input as to what information our program will want and need to included in our pages, so, there will be some follow up to that to come.  And,
  1. I can’t remember if this was a community wide announcement, but fyi, the visit from the Middle States accreditation review team has been postponed to fall.

Finally – and I can’t come up with a graceful transition to this, so apologies for the abruptness of tenor- and subject-shift – you may have noticed and/or experienced the surge of anti-Asian/anti-Chinese racism that has accompanied the pandemic.  I’m attaching here a statement by the CUNY University Council on Diversity that reminds us of the racialized histories of public health discourses in relation to U.S. nation-building, fyi.  The pandemic is, as various kinds of disasters have before it, revealing deeply entrenched social inequities and systemic vulnerabilities for a variety of people and communities.  I can’t help but also see the resonances between the bio- and necropolitics of HIV/AIDS and those correlating with current racialized and ethno-nationalist discourses.  We can teach and learn about the long histories of the mobilization of racism and sexuality as technologies of U.S. settler nation formation as part of the strategy of emerging in solidarity, as community  – in addition, of course, to being infuriated, exasperated, and saddened by it all.  We are the antidote to the state-sanctioned stupidity on which racism thrives!

Abundant well wishes to you all, and hope to be with you at one or another of our upcoming meetings!

Kandice

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Thursday, 3/26/2020, Subject: GC not recalibrating

Hi all (faculty and students) –

As Nancy flagged, the GC is not participating in the Recalibration Period for Educational Equity (could you come up with a phrase more absent of poetry?).  But of course we can’t but be affected.  Consortial colleagues and students, you’re on break and you’re not; you’ve transmogrified your courses but need now to create new schedules; everyone teaching this semester will have students who are teaching through break, or who are “recalibrating” now…I know also that some of the colleges are asking to allow faculty to opt out of recalibration, so, there may be more coming down the pike.

All this is not to complain: I get – and I think we’re all trying to embrace – the fact that CUNY is massive and there’s enormous variegation among students’ access to equipment, resources, living conditions, etc., and under present circumstances, the powers that be are doing their best – I really do believe that.  And, there is huge impact on graduate students/teaching fellows – I thought to say disproportionate, but I’m not sure what “proportionate” would mean here – as well as consortial colleagues, of course.  Educational equity in practice unfolds across an aggressively uneven terrain…

As is so often the case, I don’t have a solution (sorry), but do have a suggestion, which is really just a reminder: we have a lot of flexibility in what we’re able to do in terms of shaping the seminars we offer and working with the students in them, which includes creating the schedules that make sense for you and your seminars.  It’s not unusual for seminars to have make up classes, or off-schedule sessions, or substitutions of class meetings for smaller group or individual conversations; blog posts and other non-synchronous work might be useful in this context, too.  All this is simply to say, shape the seminar’s work in the ways that make best sense to the seminar, mindful of the broader institutional demands on time and work, of course, but in ways that keep your heads from exploding.

Various groups of us have written to the various powers that be to make note of the inequities exacerbated by the effort to produce equity; I’ll pass on any responses, of course.

As always, holler with questions or whatnot –

Bye for now!

Kandice


Monday, 3/30/2020, Subject: practicing us

Dear Everyone:

It was so nice to see and/or hear so many of you at Friday’s program meeting.  Though all the zooming makes me keenly miss the opportunities to converge in person, I’m very grateful for the affordances of technology that are continuing to allow a sense of us to percolate.

That’s especially true as we were able to share a little of the widespread admiration and affection for David Greetham; the notes shared to this listserv have been such beautiful expressions of that.  I hope to have captured some sense of all this in the attached statement, which I was asked to write for publication on the GC’s website [since this message went out, the GC website posted this version].  I imagine it will be edited before it appears, but thought to offer it with this group in this form.  Including and in addition to those who wrote to the listserv, Steve Kruger, Joe Wittreich, John Brenkman, Jack Hill, Gerhard Joseph, Mario DiGangi, and Joan Richardson provided insight, guidance, and story in response to my request for help with this, all of which infuse the attached, however insufficiently given space and breadth.  My thanks to all.  I’ve also attached an image of David – the one used for his retirement celebration in 2014, h/t Mario for that – that conveys a bit of his style and grace, I think. 

I don’t want to lose sight of the distinctiveness of the loss of David and recognize, too, that this loss perhaps compounds those accompanying social isolation.  I’m mindful, too, that some of us are mourning other deaths, from COVID19 and otherwise, even as we are working so hard to remain buoyant for our families, students, each other – even as we are working so hard at everything!  I keep thinking about how all this is practice – “this” including how we’re learning to give care from a distance; how we’re learning how to sit still in front of a computer for hours on end; how to continue toward milestones within the context of uncertainty; how one zoom session might go great while another falls flat; how much reading or writing or thinking is and isn’t possible in between all the handwashing and sanitizing we’re doing – and practice means we have to keep doing it and learning it over and over again.  How do we keep from getting exhausted?  What forms of rest are actually restful?  I find myself wanting to ask, did you drink enough water today?  Get outside for a walk?  Turn away from screens and read and write and cook and draw and whatever else?  Jean Anyon, who was one of our colleagues at the GC, wrote of the social embeddedness of education in ways that resonate so strongly, and have for so long: if we don’t have these elements together, how can we possibly learn or teach?

The memories of David shared on this listserv spoke of his generosity and humor, his joy and kindness.  I can’t instrumentalize what that means for us in the now, but am pretty sure that continuing to practice these things – embodied by so many of you and so richly! – are crucial to the “hows” above…

I heard in the program meeting the desire to do that for one thing through a session on pedagogy.  What has the move to remote teaching meant for you?  What particular challenges – conceptual, technical, technological, interpersonal, situational – are you navigating now?  What questions do you have for others?  I propose we hold this this Friday, 3 April, at 4p!  I’ll send out a zoom invitation toward those ends on Thursday. 

I also made note of a desire to continue to stage a variety of events as we’ve been doing all year, and I’ll confer with the Friday Forum Committee and the Executive Committee to sort out a plan along those lines. 

And, I made note of several concerns and issues to be addressed stemming from present conditions, including: contingency plans for the fall; possibility of extension of GCF funding; possible changes to time to degree expectations; particular impact on international students; and, communicating understanding of but dissatisfaction with upper level administrative decision-making protocols in the management of the crisis.  All this, I’ll be sure to raise with our associate provost, of course, and internally, we can make sure our program is attentive to these matters in our local practices and policies.  Please of course let me know if I neglected to mention anything else raised.

Finally, I heard from several people that it’d be helpful to hold open regular spaces for us just to hang together and talk.  Perhaps that could take the place of our after-Friday Forum receptions?  Let’s try that this Friday – those who want to stay on after the pedagogy conversation can just do so, with a break to get food or drink or whatnot.  Sound okay?

Til soon in whatever forms and formats, all –

Kandice


Monday, 4/6/2020, Subject: Popcorn, the hedgehog

Dear Everyone:

Popcorn, the hedgehog, made an appearance at the after-the-4p-session session on Friday – along with a couple of scene-stealing cats and a wonderful array of us! 

That after-session session was the end of a long day of zooming – into committee meetings (executive and faculty membership met), a super informative session on constituting orals committees, and the warmly collegial session on the peculiarities and problems of the pedagogies of compulsory virtuality – and what better way to finish the day/the third week of sheltering in place but with sight of a hedgehog?  (My human family also popped by, but really, the most excitement was the four footed critter in my family – my daughter’s beloved pet…)

What this long day meant is that I at least got to talk and think and laugh with many of you – and a few of your little ones of both the two and four footed varieties!, and for that I am immensely grateful.  Param Ajmera, Filipa Calado, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Talia Schaffer provided enormously thoughtful guidance on what to think about and how to go about putting an orals committee together – a key takeaway of that session was an emphasis on working with people who inspire enthusiasm and incite and share the pleasures of work and working together; big thanks to each of them.  John Brenkman and Eric Lott will equally inspiring in leading the pedagogies session that followed, and importantly emphasized the crucial need to, as Eric put it, affirm the collective project that is us in whatever way makes sense given our current conditions.  I’ll be channeling the insights from both of these sessions and from everyone who participated in them in my remarks below and to follow separately.  For now, just to offer hearty thanks on all our behalf for the time, care, and thought you all brought and cultivated.

While I’m at it, let me also express and encourage appreciation for the members of the Executive and Faculty Membership Committees, who remain thoroughly present and engaged to our work despite the multiplying demands on their time and energies.  (I’ll offer thanks again on 8 May at our end of year open meeting, but why not sooner and and more often, too?!)  On the EC this semester are John Brenkman, Genevieve Bettendorf, Tanya Agathocleous, Joan Richardson, Christina Katopodis, Carrie Hintz, Matt Gold, Mario DiGangi, Filipa Calado, Will Arguelles, Ammiel Alcalay, Jacob Aplaca, and Eric Lott.  On Faculty Membership are Alan Vardy, Eric Lott, Stefano Morello, Shoumik Bhattacharya, Tanya Agathocleous, Mary McGlynn, Duncan Faherty, Matt Gold, Ashley Dawson, and Jonathan Gray.  With special thanks as always to Nancy Silverman and to Kent Yuen for keeping us afloat and running.

Though we are dispersed far and wide, there’s still a functioning “we,” an “us” we practice, to borrow phrasing from an earlier message…along these lines, remember that call for pictures of something that defined your workspaces?  Here, a glimpse of what far and wide looks like!  With thanks to those who sent images, and apologies for the rudimentary crafting of this video…the best one, of course, is of the furry companion…

Some straight up fyi things to share:

First, as many of you already know, Interim President Muyskens informed us (the GC, not just us) last Thursday that we’d be curtailing the admissions process for this present year, with an eye toward the intensifying budget crunch the GC will face given present circumstances.  Because NY State anticipates revenue shortfalls, we must plan accordingly is the gist of the message.  So, the GC will honor all outstanding offers of admission but as of 5p today, we will not be able to make any further offers of admission. So, we’ll have a smaller cohort than planned, but a cohort we will have – somewhere between 14 (the number of those who’ve accepted thus far) and 21 (with 7 outstanding offers). 

Obviously, the budget news isn’t happy-making; it hasn’t been for quite a while, since well before the pandemic took hold.  And we don’t know what the full picture will look like for us, for the state, the country, the world, for some time yet to come.  While we’ll start identifying the various ways in which further budget cuts might affect us – reduced course units, for one – I think also we will not over-worry this particular problem right now, as there are simply too many unknowns.  What our dean, David Olan, promisingly informed the humanities and social science EOs at today’s meeting, however, is that our administrators are aware that smaller cohorts may, for example, mean having to lift the floors on the minimum numbers of enrolled students to run a course – in other words, they recognize current policies and practices will need to be made flexible to accommodate the ongoing consequences of the pandemic.  Again, we’ll find ways to affirm our collective project in whatever ways we need, as the scenario keeps changing!

Second, along those lines, let me also note that the provosts across the CUNY campuses have begun to discuss contingencies for fall 2020, in the event that we’re still in virtual mode.  That call will be made at the state-level, and it’s not yet possible to know when we will know.  We’ll start working through some contingency plans of our own in the coming weeks.   

Included in that thinking through fall contingencies at the GC is attention to summer teacher training.  The GC’s TLC has begun to consider how to offer teacher training to second years/entering teachers, and perhaps to everyone for on-line instruction guidance.  Again, nothing is known for sure about the mode we’ll be in in the fall, but good to know there’s thinking around the teacher training part, too.  Also, there is special attention being paid to the situation of international students who may be unable to get visas to enter the country or who for whatever reason may not be able to join us in the fall in person.

Third, the zoom license is held up not by us, but because zoom is busy.  If and when we secure it, the powers that be will let us know!

Fourth, students, in accordance with CUNY-wide policy, you can take a pass/fail instead of the letter grade you receive for your class(es), and make the decision to do so in the 20-day window following the receipt of grades for this semester. 

And, finally, as Nancy Silverman announced to the students earlier today, we’ll be postponing the language exams scheduled for May to sometime in the summer, with new dates TBD.  The EC also concurred that as a program, we want to be as flexible as possible with the kinds of deadlines we have in place.  Students, please be in touch with Nancy or me if and as these kinds of matters arise.  As I’ve noted before, there’s no expectation that you’re plowing on as if nothing as changed…

Speaking of not plowing on….

Or at least, the lack of the expectation to do so: I want to share some things that have arisen through the course of conversations on Friday, but through the conversations that I and many others have been having about getting through the rest of this semester.  In the main, they have to do with reminding all of us – faculty in particular, perhaps, but students as well for other reasons – that the courses we’re teaching now are fundamentally not the same as the ones we were teaching a month ago.  If you’ve not already, perhaps consider streamlining the reading and writing expectations you have given the multitude of distractions, conditions, issues everyone is facing, including households that aren’t at all conducive to focused work, heightened anxiety and related difficulty of focus, the physical challenges of being on screens all the time, the fact of sickness – COVID19 or otherwise, the lack of access to materials, the lack of access to food, the double-duty obligations of being a teacher and a student online…

Some crowd-sourced strategies and suggestions for executing that streamlining include: giving everyone “A”s outright; submitting a grade but allowing for the work to be finished over the summer; allowing for different kinds of seminar projects – creative, non-essay forms; and overall, of keeping in mind the goal of enabling students to complete the semester doing something substantive and/but in ways that avoid Incompletes. 

I’ll write separately about some of the other mentoring and advising insights that arose out of the conversations on Friday – just to keep this message from getting longer, and not to bury that stuff – but wanted also to note that the principles of encouragement and inspiration emphasized by Param, Filipa, Wayne, and Talia are helpfully remembered in this present context, too.  As John B put it in a separate note to me (I’m paraphrasing), we have amazing students; our task as teachers is to rise up to the occasion for them.  Exactly so.

Students, I wrote this before and will say it again and again, modify your expectations, too, such that you’re kinder to yourself about what you’re able to read and write and think in the present, and to remember, also, that the rest of us are also stretched and stretching in many different ways, so, kindness all around, I think.

Okay, so then, are you still reading?  This is a marathon message!  Here, Popcorn, as a reward for sticking to the end.  She is even cuter in person.

All my best wishes, as ever –

Kandice


Tuesday, 4/7/2020, Subject: cringing and a site for sharing, fwiw + fyi

Dear Everyone:

This is sort of part II to the message featuring Popcorn from yesterday, which is also the source of my cringing…not so much at content, but at the terribly messy writing!  I am so sorry for the multitude of grammatical errors riddling that message; I in fact cringe at running across each one.  Would that that had been the case in the last read of it I did before sending it off – clearly, not so much!  You’ve been collectively so generous about offering warm feedback and embracing the occasional error; this last one, though, was really awful – really so sorry about that; a lesson in slowing down…it’s hard to stay in front of these screens so much and to write in this form (I still prefer longhand), so I rush…thank you for reading regardless, and I’ll be more careful.

A cleaned up version of the message is below, just because I couldn’t stand leaving it so messy.

But, what I’m really writing to highlight is the emphasis on inspiration, joy, and encouragement that was so much a part of the conversation on how to go about constituting oral exam committees held last Friday.  That conversation is part of our program’s effort to attend explicitly to mentoring and advising.  We’ve learned both from the surveys distributed earlier this semester and other forms of student input that one of the areas where more structured guidance would be helpful is in navigating the transition from coursework to exams and, subsequently, dissertation.  (We’ll hold a separate session focused more on dissertation committees; more on that TBA.)  I’ve summarized some key takeaways from that session and posted them here/onto an Academic Commons site I’ve created to see if it might be a useful space for us precisely to collect and share such information.  We’ll also keep the attention on mentoring and advising going in other forms and forums, too.

Over the next days, I’ll try to gather the resource and other kinds of information that has circulated as we’ve moved into this remote work/teach/live mode and publish it on that site, which we can also use to share things like strategies and practices – several people have asked whether it’d be possible to have a google doc or something like that for these purposes; let’s see if this form/forum works?  If you have ideas for topics or posts, please let me know – happy to have others among us use this site!

Unrelated, two fyis.  First, would you tentatively make note of 2p, Friday, 17 April, as an open conversation on the admissions process?  We’ll debrief and plan for next year, and by that point, the entering cohort will be set!  This event is tentative as I figure out whether that time is workable for a variety of people, with confirmation to follow as soon as I possible.

Second, the GC’s spring break starts tomorrow, and, apologetically, because I know not everyone is on break or for the same duration, I’m going to take this as an opportunity to step back and regroup a bit.  That means I won’t be on line much, but will keep an eye out for anything emergent, of course, and will be back in touch toward the end of next week – and sooner with confirmation about the admissions convo scheduling. 

I’ll close by noting that many of the people in our various communities – proximate to the English program and farther afield – are sick, and some critically so, and in the next weeks, even as we celebrate recoveries, we’ll also be mourning/continuing to mourn others.  I don’t have any words of wisdom here, I want simply to ask you to hang on through it all, to acknowledge the losses and the awfulness of mourning in isolation, and to offer gratitude for the ways so many are working so hard to make life possible in whatever ways they can. 

With endless gratitude for your collegiality and abundant well wishes,

Kandice

Kandice Chuh

Professor of English, American Studies, and Critical Social Psychology

Executive Officer/PhD Program in English

CUNY/The Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue, Room 4406.03

New York, NY  10016

kchuh@gc.cuny.edu

Subject: Popcorn, the hedgehog, proofread!

Dear Everyone:

Popcorn, the hedgehog, made an appearance at the after-the-4p-session session on Friday – along with a couple of scene-stealing cats and a wonderful array of us! 

That after-session session was the end of a long day of zooming – into committee meetings (executive and faculty membership met), a super informative session on constituting orals committees, and the warmly collegial session on the peculiarities and problems of the pedagogies of compulsory virtuality – and what better way to finish the day/the third week of sheltering in place but with sight of a hedgehog?  (My human family also popped by, but really, the most excitement was for the four footed critter in my family – my daughter’s beloved pet…)

What this long day meant is that I got to talk and think and laugh with many of you – and a few of your little ones of both the two and four footed varieties!, and for that I am immensely grateful.  Param Ajmera, Filipa Calado, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Talia Schaffer provided enormously thoughtful guidance on what to think about and how to go about putting an orals committee together – a key takeaway of that session was an emphasis on working with people who inspire enthusiasm, and who incite and share the pleasures of work and working together; big thanks to each of them.  John Brenkman and Eric Lott were equally inspiring in leading the pedagogies session that followed, and importantly emphasized the crucial need to, as Eric put it, affirm the collective project that is us in whatever ways make sense given our current conditions.  I’ll be channeling the insights from both of these sessions and from everyone who participated in them in my remarks below and to follow separately.  For now, just hearty thanks on all our behalf for the time, care, and thought you all brought and cultivated.

While I’m at it, let me also express and encourage appreciation for the members of the Executive and Faculty Membership Committees, who remain thoroughly present to and engaged in our work despite the multiplying demands on their time and energies.  (I’ll offer thanks again on 8 May at our end of year open meeting, but why not sooner and and more often, too?!)  On the EC this semester are John Brenkman, Genevieve Bettendorf, Tanya Agathocleous, Joan Richardson, Christina Katopodis, Carrie Hintz, Matt Gold, Mario DiGangi, Filipa Calado, Will Arguelles, Ammiel Alcalay, Jacob Aplaca, and Eric Lott.  On Faculty Membership are Alan Vardy, Eric Lott, Stefano Morello, Shoumik Bhattacharya, Tanya Agathocleous, Mary McGlynn, Duncan Faherty, Matt Gold, Ashley Dawson, and Jonathan Gray.  With special thanks as always to Nancy Silverman and to Kent Yuen for keeping us afloat and running.

Though we are dispersed far and wide, there’s still a functioning “we,” an “us” we practice, to borrow phrasing from an earlier message…along these lines, remember that call for pictures of something that defined your workspaces?  Here, a glimpse of what far and wide looks like!  With thanks to those who sent images, and apologies for the rudimentary crafting of this video…the best one, of course, is of the furry companion…

Some straight up fyi things to share:

First, as many of you already know, Interim President Muyskens informed us (the GC, not just us) last Thursday that we’d be curtailing the admissions process for this present year, with an eye toward the intensifying budget crunch the GC will face given present circumstances.  Because NY State anticipates revenue shortfalls, we must plan accordingly is the gist of the message.  So, the GC will honor all outstanding offers of admission but after 5p today, we will not be able to make any further offers of admission. We’ll have a smaller cohort than planned, but a cohort we will have – somewhere between 14 (the number of those who’ve accepted thus far) and 21 (with 7 outstanding offers). 

Obviously, the budget news isn’t happy-making; it hasn’t been for quite a while, since well before the pandemic took hold.  And we don’t know what the full picture will look like for us, for the state, the country, the world, for some time yet to come.  While we’ll start identifying the various ways in which further budget cuts might affect us – reduced course units, for one – I think also we will not over-worry this particular problem right now, as there are simply too many unknowns.  What our dean, David Olan, promisingly informed the humanities and social science EOs at today’s meeting, however, is that our administrators are aware that smaller cohorts may, for example, mean having to change or forego the minimum numbers of enrolled students necessary to run a course – in other words, they recognize current policies and practices will need to be made flexible to accommodate the ongoing consequences of the pandemic.  Again, we’ll find ways to affirm our collective project in whatever ways we need, as the scenario keeps changing!

Second, along those lines, let me also note that the provosts across the CUNY campuses have begun to discuss contingencies for fall 2020, in the event we’re still in virtual mode.  That call will be made at the state-level, and it’s not yet possible to know when we will know.  We’ll start working through some contingency plans of our own in the coming weeks.   

Included in that thinking through fall contingencies at the GC is attention to summer teacher training.  The GC’s TLC has begun to consider how to offer teacher training to second years/entering teachers, and perhaps to everyone for on-line instruction guidance.  Again, nothing is known for sure about the mode we’ll be in in the fall, but good to know there’s thinking around the teacher training part, too.  Also, there is special attention being paid to the situation of international students who may be unable to get visas to enter the country or who for whatever reason may not be able to join us in the fall in person.

Third, the zoom license is held up not by us, but because zoom is busy.  If and when we secure it, the powers that be will let us know!

Fourth, students, in accordance with CUNY-wide policy, you can take a pass/fail instead of the letter grade you receive for your class(es), and make the decision to do so in the 20-day window following the receipt of grades for this semester. 

And, finally, as Nancy Silverman announced to the students earlier today, we’ll be postponing the language exams scheduled for May to sometime in the summer, with new dates TBD.  The EC also concurred that as a program, we want to be as flexible as possible with the kinds of deadlines we have in place.  Students, please be in touch with Nancy or me if and as these kinds of matters arise.  As I’ve noted before, there’s no expectation that you’re plowing on as if nothing as changed…

Speaking of not plowing on….

Or at least, the lack of the expectation to do so: I want to share some things that have arisen not only through the course of conversations on Friday, but also through the conversations that I and many others have been having about getting through the rest of this semester.  In the main, they have to do with reminding all of us – faculty in particular, perhaps, but students as well for other reasons – that the courses we’re teaching now are fundamentally not the same as the ones we were teaching a month ago.  If you’ve not already, perhaps consider streamlining the reading and writing expectations you have given the multitude of distractions, conditions, and issues everyone is facing, including households that aren’t at all conducive to focused work, heightened anxiety and related difficulty of focus, the physical challenges of being on screens all the time, the fact of sickness – COVID19 or otherwise, the lack of access to materials, the lack of access to food, the double-duty obligations of being a teacher and a student online…

Some crowd-sourced strategies and suggestions for executing that streamlining include: giving everyone “A”s outright; submitting a grade but allowing for the work to be finished over the summer; allowing for different kinds of seminar projects – creative, non-essay forms; and overall, of keeping in mind the goal of enabling students to complete the semester doing something substantive and/but in ways that avoid Incompletes. 

I’ll write separately about some of the other mentoring and advising insights that arose out of the conversations on Friday – just to keep this message from getting longer, and not to bury that stuff – but wanted also to note that the principles of encouragement and inspiration emphasized by Param, Filipa, Wayne, and Talia are helpfully remembered in this present context, too.  As John B put it in a separate note to me (I’m paraphrasing), we have amazing students; our task as teachers is to rise up to the occasion for them.  Exactly so.

Students, I wrote this before and will say it again and again, modify your expectations, too, such that you’re kinder to yourself about what you’re able to read and write and think in the present, and to remember, also, that the rest of us are also stretched and stretching in many different ways, so, kindness all around, I think.

Okay, so then, are you still reading?  This is a marathon message!  Here, Popcorn, as a reward for sticking to the end.  She is even cuter in person.

All my best wishes, as ever –

Kandice


Monday, 20 April, Subject: breath and bodies, sonnets and couplets, Arabic, French, and English…

…just the smallest taste of what Friday’s poetry reading brought forward.  In that bringing, the enormously welcome sense of being together despite and because of isolation, the living and feeling and being together that reading aloud and listening together afford.  Huge thanks again to Maddie Barnes for pulling it together!  And to everyone who read and attended, immense admiration and gratitude.

There was a lot of interest in another iteration of a such a gathering; please keep an eye out for more information on how to participate!

As we move into this final push of the semester – just three/four weeks to go – I want to celebrate the fact that several of you who were sick are now recovered sufficiently to be out of danger, even as I channel the well wishes of everyone on this list to those who are still ailing, and/or caring for others who are, and to acknowledge both the individual and collective mourning that infuses the many, many communities and people linked through this listserv.  The overwhelmingness of everything has ebbed and flowed these weeks – at least for me, and I expect for many – and I think it’s been individual, often quotidian acts of caregiving (both the giving and receipt of such care) that has kept that gaping sense in check; very grateful to you for your manifold enactments of such for and with each other, for and with all of us.

We’ll try to give some shape to mark the end of this extraordinary semester we are living together — more to follow on that.

Two other notes:

  1. On Friday, 4:15p, please plan to join an open discussion on mentoring and advising!  I’ll share some of the suggestions that came through the surveys we conducted, and I’m hoping that this session will be an opportunity generally to crowdsource other ideas.  Zoom invitation will follow late in the week.
  1. With thanks to Brian Peterson for collecting this information, here are resources that can help with immediate needs for those of you in NYC:

Free meals are available to every New Yorker at 400 locations

text ‘NYC FOOD’ or ‘NYC COMIDA’ to 877-877 for more.

Learn more: http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals

One week of free groceries are available to all New Yorkers in five boroughs at the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) Nutrition Kitchens, in partnership with the Food Bank of NYC and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)

Learn More: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/neon/programs/nutrition-kitchen.page

Mental Health Support New Yorkers Can Access While Staying Home

Resources and a 24/7 hotline at nyc.gov/nycwell

A free resource guide for all New Yorkers as well as services tailored to the needs of aging New Yorkers, veterans, students and young people, and people harmed by violence, crime or abuse: https://thrivenyc.cityofnewyork.us/mental_health_support_while_home

New webpage full of resources for New Yorkers with Disabilities during COVID-19. For information on Food/Supply Delivery, Social Security/Medicaid Benefits, Home Healthcare Services and more, visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mopd/resources/covid-19-resources-for-people-with-disabilities.page

I’ll close by sharing a poem (below) that’s been welcome company for me these past weeks (with credit to Erica Edwards for sharing it with me) – I’ve copied it from the poetry foundation page.  Living amid the waiting…

All well wishes, everyone –

Kandice

Housekeeping

By Natasha Trethewey

We mourn the broken things, chair legs

wrenched from their seats, chipped plates,

the threadbare clothes. We work the magic

of glue, drive the nails, mend the holes.

We save what we can, melt small pieces

of soap, gather fallen pecans, keep neck bones

for soup. Beating rugs against the house,

we watch dust, lit like stars, spreading

across the yard. Late afternoon, we draw

the blinds to cool the rooms, drive the bugs

out. My mother irons, singing, lost in reverie.

I mark the pages of a mail-order catalog,

listen for passing cars. All day we watch

for the mail, some news from a distant place.


Wednesday, 22 April, Subject: playlist & a few practical notes

Dear Everyone:

I want to put a playlist together — for me, but also for us!  What are you listening to?  What’s getting you through the days and nights, making you move and sing and cry?  I’ll compile and share through some platform or another.  Please add your piece(s) here:

https://forms.gle/WS8N9FwXkFmo6Hqg6

Depending on how much comes in over the next few days, we can have maybe the start of a soundtrack together in time for our 4:15p gathering!  (I’ll send the zoom for that Friday morning; there are so many zoom invites flying around I’m trying to distribute close to events when possible.)

A few practical notes to share, again with thanks to Brian Peterson:

  • Food is available for ALL who need it in New York City.
    • 3 Meals a day, Monday-Friday
    • 7:30am-11:30pm for kids; 11:30am-1:30pm for adults
    • Find a location near you: http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals
    • text ‘NYC FOOD’ or ‘NYC COMIDA’ to 877-877 for more
  • Volunteer, donate or partner with NYC: nyc.gov/helpnow
  • Has your financial situation changed due to #COVID19? NYC Financial Empowerment Center counselors are available to support you over the phone with free financial counseling – it’s secure and confidential. Book an appointment at http://nyc.gov/TalkMoney
  • For DACA Recipients: For help renewing your application call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 (the City may even be able to help you out with the renewal fee)

A final note for now, which is to say that I’m behind in getting through email — well, “behind” probably isn’t right, since this is the usual state of affairs — just, apologies for the delay in responding and I’m working through steadily albeit in triage mode…

Abundant well wishes, as ever!

Kandice


Monday, 27 April, Subject: eventually, imperfectly, expectantly

Dear Everyone:

I’m not quite sure why, but the subject lines for these messages come to me regularly as trios — maybe simply reflecting my sense (shared by many of you, I know) that we need a lot of words with which to make sense, certainly of the present.  And today, the openness of the vowels are appealing to me, and apparently so, too, the adverb!  True enough that we’re in the thick of modification, of everything from daily life to — if we’re collectively smart and willful enough — a new world characterized less by grueling inequities and more by the kind of mutual aid that has flourished these weeks.  More locally and immediately, these terms — eventually, imperfectly, expectantly — come to me through correspondence with some of you as well as through the conversations we held on Friday at both the session on dissertation committees and on mentoring and advising.

Starting with perhaps the most important of all adverbs, thankfully!, I express huge appreciation to Luke Church, Sarah Schwartz, and Feisal Mohamed, who joined Nancy and me on Friday for the dissertation committee conversation.  I tried to capture key ideas of the discussion here (however imperfectly).  Thoughtful, collegial, practical, and insightful, this session’s consideration of the purpose and function and the hows and whys of dissertation committees aligned with the ethos of the mentoring and advising discussion that followed later in the afternoon. In that later afternoon session, we asked after how to sustain, develop, and create mentoring infrastructures and practices that work with the particularities of our program, with its breadth of people and institutions and demands…

…what comes of proactively thinking about the kinds of mentoring relationships we want to develop and sustain?  How can we share responsibility for mentoring across the different constituencies comprising our program communities?  How might we address the correlation between the possibilities of sustained engagement with the program and the necessity of being present at the GC for things like Friday Forum? I.e., in what other ways might we stage opportunities for informal conversations that carry so much of the weight of mentoring?  What is the relationship between mentoring and advising?  What do we mean by mentoring and advising anyway? We’ll keep trying to offer through programming and discussion so many have engaged in this year, and through the kinds of attention to the development of new models of mentoring with which Nancy has been involved throughout the year, to attend to the practice of relationality and mutuality surely at the heart of what’s valuable about mentoring and advising.  (Faculty, this is a particular item on the meeting agenda for this Friday.)

It is undoubtedly in part because of these conversations that expectation has emerged for me as a key term in/of the present.  We’ve talked about the need to change our expectations of each other in light of the strenuous demands of living in a pandemic; we might understand that expectation harbor both experience and aspiration – experiences that determine and shape expectations and cast them as hopeful and not, and aspirations that register in the temporality of eventually – and in that light, create the room necessary not to judge in terms of success and failure at meeting (or not) a given expectation, but to recognize it as a nexus of desire and material reality, which is to say, as something that, if you can objectify it, can feel less personal and perhaps therefore less weighty…a somewhat convoluted and certainly wordy way of repeating earlier invocations of the need for kindness and compassion within the terrain of expectation both for self and other. 

This, at least, is what I’ve been thinking with and through this past weekend, which I entered in just plain tired mode!  (not to be taken with alarm!  I don’t want to hide the fact of getting tired along with the rest of you; I don’t want to model energizer-bunniness as if that’s the mode we should be in – and you’re welcome for that visual, tee hee!  Being tired is totally right and okay – just means I’m alive!)

Closing with two fun things: 

First, as I wrote earlier, we’ll have a second iteration of the poetry reading event – the information on that is copied from my earlier message, below.

Second, the crowdsourced playlist rather perhaps too accurately titled Playlist for Kandice!  Several more pieces were added from Friday’s iteration for a total of more than 8 hours of listening.  Thanks for the contributions, everyone, and please forgive me for not continuing to add – perhaps post-pandemic, we’ll do this again and see what music accompanies our celebratory return of social intimacy.  (I haven’t had a chance to finish compiling the youtube version but eventually will…!)  I hope you’ll enjoy!

With abundant well wishes and huge appreciation to all,
Kandice

Kandice Chuh

Professor of English, American Studies, and Critical Social Psychology

Executive Officer, PhD Program in English

CUNY/The Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue, Room 4406.03

New York, NY  10016

212/817.8321

================

Come poetry with us, II!

Please join us for a second poetry reading/sharing event on May 1 at 4pm over Zoom!

This event is open to all students and faculty. We will prioritize people who didn’t read last time, but please put your name in regardless and we’ll create as much room/space as we can!

Please register using this form by no later than Wednesday, 29 April so we can put together an access copy and prepare for the event. Captions will be provided, and a link to the Zoom meeting will be shared five minutes before the reading begins. Questions?  Write to Maddie Barnes at madmads128@gmail.com.


Monday, 4 May, Subject: “comes the familiar dust of summer”

Dear Everyone:

I closed our lovely poetry event this past Friday by reading Li Young Lee’s “From Blossoms.”  It came to mind a few weeks ago, I think as I was casting about for some anchor for the coming months – for some way of imagining a shift in tenor from that of the days we’re living now.  Can you believe, we’re in the final full week of the semester/year?  And then, summer!  I don’t know as yet what summer will be/feel like this time around at least for me, and/but amid the possibilities, Lee reminds of what makes summer so precious – of those “days we live/as if death were nowhere/in the background; from joy/to joy to joy.” I wish an overflowing abundance of those days for us all, whatever the season may be, and for sure, intensely so right now… (the full text of Lee’s poem is here.) 

It turns out that Lee’s poem was a favorite of a former beloved teacher (Mr. Caruso) of Maddie Barnes‘, who organized both poetry sessions for us.  As before, we dedicated this session to absent friends and beloveds, and reveled in the words and worlds brought forward by those who shared.  A copy of the materials read is attached (prepared (by Maddie) as an access version and apologetically distributed only now because it was sorted into my junk mail folder on Friday).  I’m sorry you won’t have a chance to hear the pieces read; on Friday, I found myself freshly astonished by the luminous/amazing/awesome work with words so many in our community do in both writing and performance, and newly reminded of the generosity and collegiality of all of you who show up/are present/support/celebrate/mourn and laugh with and for each other.  Gigantic brava/bravo to all, and especially huge thanks to Maddie!

Quick notes:

This Friday, 8 May, please come to the open Executive Committee meeting that will take place at 4p (I’ll send an agenda and zoom invitation on Thursday), to be followed immediately by the announcement of program prizes, awards, and dissertation fellowships, and then perhaps by some form of Revelry! 

I’ll be writing more as this week unfolds to cover such things as ideas that arose in the faculty meeting last Friday, as well as anything of note that comes from the cluster meeting tomorrow or Grad Council on Wednesday afternoon. 

Finally for now, here’s to joyful, collective noisemaking!

Be well, everyone!  More soon,

Kandice

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