14 September 2020

Dear Everyone:

I saw a sweet inchworm yesterday. Is it too predictable or cliched or whatever to make note of how its movements and caution and determination and tiny-ness make it all too appropriate for how we (or at least I) are moving through the semester?  The line of green against the wood is so lovely, and I can’t help but root it on!  We removed her to a plant in hopes of enabling her to flourish.  (Of course, she might morph into something that eats the plant, lol! My ignorance of such things is vast, sadly enough.) I love the magic in the transformation to come.

I’ve talked with quite a few of you in recent weeks who I think share something of that sense with me – of what it feels like to get through the days, to perform determination and resilience and willfully push off the immensity of all that isn’t under our immediate control, and to be utterly exhausted by it – and to find moments, maybe even pockets, of laughter and joy and it’ll-be-fine vibes. These latter are supposed to make it possible to keep going, and I think they probably do, but I thought it might be worth recognizing explicitly that they’re not enough…the affordances of the present are so mean, so tight, and variously so across all of the manifold communities and groups that comprise the “us” of this list. Try if you can to suspend judgment about your ability to be productive – or maybe better, given what it is we do, dwell inside of “productive” and feel/think out its inadequacy as a horizon or guiding principle. I don’t at all mean you shouldn’t try to work, or to focus on something other than the present shitty state of affairs, or to grapple with whatever needs doing, but rather, to try to create some cushion for yourself against the sharp edges we are living.  Students, especially, please know that your faculty are not standing in judgment – honestly, deeply…we hope the work we do together will be a pocket of sustenance, and we know absolutely that it won’t always be so. Those of you muscling through, that’s all good, too. It can help – at least it does for me – to learn about the histories and ideologies and ways of living and being that have landed us in this present, if only by giving us the energies of rage.  Something to try, anyway.

The related thought I want to offer is that you will all please remember that all of us are more than what institutions tell us we are, whether through credentializing mechanisms (exams, grades) or job and postdoc application processes. Affirmatively remember your complex and richly awesome being. Let that being loose and see what comes, not for the sake of ensuring productivity, but toward the ends of proliferating life!

Okay, apologies for the Deep Thoughts, lol (does anyone remember when SNL that ended with those?) – you all know by now I’m afflicted with sincerity.  In the absence of providing bucketfuls of candy, this is what you get!  (just more reason to miss the sweets, heh.)

Of far more practical use – “practical” is in fact where I’m living these days – with huge thanks to Alycia, I’m piggybacking her super helpful message collecting the resources available through the library. At the Friday Forum last week, the discussion of how to access texts for purposes of exam prep and research, etc., turned toward the reminder of the library as the resource. Coupled with the NYPL’s MaRLi program (see here), we have access to really quite a lot. If after pursuing these routes, you still can’t find the thing you need, post to this list to see if someone has a copy to lend.  I’ll note also that many local libraries are making at least curbside pickup possible, so don’t forget about the public library close to home, too.

Other news and updates:

  • The fall Friday Forum schedule is falling into place and the whole slate should be available in the next day or so.  It’ll include opportunities for the kinds of cross-campus conversations on teaching that was suggested at the open forum on Friday, as well as ways of providing for more encounters between students and faculty, designed specifically to connect people through research questions/areas.  One of the points of conversation at the open forum was the necessity now of having to structure opportunities for encounter in lieu of running into people at lectures or receptions or during standing office hours. For sure, students should absolutely reach out to faculty members by email; and my faculty colleagues, please keep an eye out for those missives – and we’ll also organize some other occasions.
  • The Faculty Membership Committee and the Executive Committees met on Friday and voted to approve a consortial appointment of someone whose primary field of address is rhetoric and composition – an approval contingent on one clarification to the job advertisement, so it’ll be a few days before you see that start to circulate, but hurrah in anticipation!  There will be more that follows separately about faculty membership and ideas for future appointments, so please hold onto your ideas about all that for a bit.
  • The interim provost and our dean reiterated at last week’s EO meeting their (and the president’s) commitment to prioritizing the protection of student funding as we enter the anticipated waves of budget cuts.
  • One major piece of news is that the total number of GCFs (the five year fellowship packages we offer to students) available to English has been reduced to 16 from what has been 20 in recent years.  The four taken from English will be redistributed to other programs, so, they will continue to support students, just not in our program.  The EC, FMC, and Curriculum Committees have already started to think through the implications of these reduced numbers on our program, and we’ll of course hold program-wide meetings to consider collectively, too – more to follow on that.
  • The GC’s Diversity Task Force, led by Professor Martin Ruck, and on which I serve, is asking all programs to review their governance documents with an eye toward ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion are reflected infrastructurally.  For us, that’ll fold into EC work as well as, again, open meetings of the kinds we’ve had in the past several years.
  • Please note that Rosh Hashanah begins the evening of this coming Friday, so we won’t hold a Friday Forum (and there are no classes held that day). Best wishes for the new year to all who celebrate!

I think that’s it for now except, of course, to offer thanks to all who met and talked and gathered on Friday at committee meetings and the open forum, for the work and engagement and all –

Hope this third full week is full of interesting thoughts and abundant kindness…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.