Search This Blog

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Dr. Tinkle dislikes the idea of interrupting the dialogue regarding Jim Nemeth's comments but feels the need to review a bit of connected business that apparently took place at the last A & S Council Meeting. The Council meeting was its usual moderately exciting event (passing curricula, discussing the Confuscious Institute, you know the usual fun and games) until right at the end. Dr. Tinkle has it on good authority that at this point two student government types were introduced to the assembled throng. One is the President of the Student Government. She proceeded to lash out at the blog and Jim Nemeth. What evidently became apparent was she was not prepared for the response. Some departmental reps had no idea what all the hoopla was about, not having read the Nemeth post. Others agreed with the Post while the students evidently wanted the Council to support their demand the Nemeth be censured or censored. Dr. Tinkle hopes he has this somewhat correct but there are slightly divergent views. Being a card carrying member of the ACLU Dr. Tinkle does not question the student's right to free speech. However, one should be fully prepared when one enters the public arena. According to reports, the students still believed this blog to belong to the Council. It does not. It is owned by a consortium of faculty. The students did not have copies of Nemeth's post and so could not fully inform the Council of what he said. The students did not know the address of the blog. The students were stunned when the Council did not immediately agree to have Jim tarred and feathered. Chair Patrick stopped the discussion and suggested that if they wanted to have Council take up the subject in a meaningful way they should come to an executive committee meeting; explain the issues; and, then get placed on the agenda.

There's a point here and I'm actually getting to it. There are many real discussions that faculty in A & S should have. I congratulate both Jim Nemeth and Ashley Pryor for doing just that. Many of these are not simple, easy subjects. If they were they would have been dealt with much earlier. However, calling someone a racist does not move any discussion forward; it merely builds walls higher and wider. Who we are as a faculty and what defines a university education are subjects that should be argued about endlessly.


Anonymous said...

So it's come to the point that student reps now come to the Council to demand the punishment of a faculty member who has had the temerity to criticize a planning document ? And the Council invites them to come back and try to make a case to its exec committee since they apparently don't know just what the faculty member they want censured actually wrote ?
And at least one member of the faculty who recently blogged here applauds their ill informed smear ? This is unbelievable. While I would rather not succumb to paranoia, it's hard for me to believe those students acted on their own, prticularly since they are so ill-informed about Professor Nemeth's actual opinions. Anyone know who put them up to it? More importantly, the Council should make it clear to all parties that it is not in the business of censuring faculty members whose opinions some one might find poltically incorrect.

Rocky said...

Can we please get away from "Anonymous" posts? If the issues here are important enough for you to make accusations and inuendos, then the issues should be important enough to attach your name to.

Professor Walt Olson

yo, duh! said...

Let us not forget a few things that seem important, to me at least:

a. The original blog posting was a report on the most recent Roundtable briefing, and anything negative was offered as constructive criticism. (Look at the posting yourself. It's there.)

b. Nowhere in the posting does Dr. Nemeth tie together the ideas of academically unmotivated students and urban areas. (If you feel a need to connect a lack of academic motivation with urban areas, then you must see it that way yourself, and are coloring the original post with your own thinking.)

c. This whole thing was instigated by an anonymous poster / e-mailer. Why, I don't know--why the instigation, why the demand for anonymity. But if he or she had the courage of his/her convictions, and anything to back up the charges, why not just post a reasonable response? (I would think that this, in and of itself, would make a thinking person stop and use those thinking abilities, rather than jumping enthusiastically but blindly on the bandwagon.)

d. Notice how this discussion has been hijacked away from the Roundtable and to these untrue allegations? Is there a reason for this?

These are just some things to think about rationally.

I encourage you to read the original post yourself:

Anonymous said...

As a former student of Dr. Nemeth (aka DJN) and having read the original blog post in its entirety, I can assure you that the language and intent of the post was neither racist, demeaning to the students of UT, nor critical of any scholarship program intended to recruit (and reward) high performing students. Rather, Nemeth identifies an array of issues facing institutions like UT such as civility in the classroom and the implications of devoting significant academic and budget resources on recruiting and retaining under-prepared students. While I realize these issues were not explicitly addressed in the single post, these debates have been regular themes on the CAS Faculty Forum and are regularly discussed on higher education blogs and other on-line venues (such as

Was the post provocative? Yes, it should have been. The issues facing Colleges of Arts & Sciences--writ large--and their constituent disciplines are many and significant. Specifically, the role of the arts & sciences at institutions like UT is increasing ambiguous as student expectations change (i.e., training/real world experiences v. formal academic experiences) and institution focus their energies on “more professional” programs. The real issues are whether colleges of arts & sciences will continue to serve as the intellectual center of campuses, traditional academic disciplines will be disproportionately impacted by the changing financial realities of higher education, and how emerging pedagogies (often based in the professional schools) may transform the classroom. All of these issues should be rigorously debated. Ultimately, the “playground” post and others address the crisis in academic leadership that has plagued UT in recent years--not its students. Specifically, the full collection of Nemeth posts identify the failure of academic leaders to invest time and resources in understanding the unique needs of CAS (programs, students, and faculty), as well as the proliferation of language and policies that alienate traditional academic disciplines.

yo, duh! said...

Great comment! And so well said. I couldn't agree more.