3.804 supporting the humanists, cont. (154)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Thu, 30 Nov 89 21:31:03 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 804. Thursday, 30 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 29 Nov 89 17:22:42 CST (37 lines)
From: Natalie Maynor <MAYNOR@MSSTATE>
Subject: User Support

(2) Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 07:42:07 EST (39 lines)
From: Elliott Parker <3ZLUFUR@CMUVM>
Subject: support

(3) Date: 30 November 1989 (34 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: mutual snobbery and the place you're in

(4) Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 09:56:11 CST (14 lines)
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: MIS

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 89 17:22:42 CST
From: Natalie Maynor <MAYNOR@MSSTATE>
Subject: User Support

At first I was only skimming the postings on user-support. Lately,
however, I've become more interested in them -- as studies in
condescension. I can't decide whether to be embarrassed by the
attitudes of some of the people on this list or simply grateful that I
am at what appears to be an exceptional university. A posting today,
for example, says this: "They [support people] know nothing at all
about academic work of any kind, and simply throw up their hands if
asked any questions that seem to involve subject matter." Granted,
the person making this statement was describing the situation (or at
least his view of the situation) at a single university. Similar
attitudes, however, have been at least hinted at in other postings. I
have a question: Exactly what credentials are required to qualify one
as an academic -- or knowledgeable of academics? A PhD? Tenure? X
number of publications? A couple of nights ago I was discussing James
Joyce with an employee of our Computing Center. He knew much more
about -Finnegans Wake- than I know. But how in the world could that
be?? I have a PhD in English! He's a mere computer programmer!
There must be some kind of error here! Maybe Mississippi State
University is just lucky. I have found all of the employees of our
Computing Center to be intelligent, knowledgeable in many fields, and
helpful. And they do not discriminate on the basis of kinds of help
needed: they have helped one of my colleagues who is working on an
important edition of Thackeray's works, they have helped my colleagues
who edit -The Mississippi Quarterly-, they have answered the very
stupid questions I asked when I started using a computer a couple of
years ago and knew absolutely nothing. The list could go on and on. I
think somebody mentioned the word "status" in a previous posting.
Status? I consider the status of most of the employees of our
Computing Center to be far, far higher than mine. Hmmm. I must have
muddy vision or something. After all, I'm a tenured "academician"!

Natalie Maynor
Mississippi State University
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------47----
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 07:42:07 EST
From: Elliott Parker <3ZLUFUR@CMUVM>
Subject: support

Date: Wed, 29 Nov 89 11:05:30 MDT
From: Skip Knox <DUSKNOX@IDBSU>
Subject: Re: 3.794 supporting the humanists, cont. (30)

Don't blame MIS in general, only blame yours (generalizing from a single
source? - shame on you!). I work in such a place - we call it the Data
Center. Academic support is overly biased toward the mainframe, and I
would like to see that change, but users certainly don't have to jump

And sometimes the best support in the world comes to grief
when confronted by a policy of putting any adminstrative
requirements ahead of academic requirements. With tight
resources, administrative concerns take precedence.

As for Bitnet, we've been racking our brains for ways to get faculty
excited about it - and not just Bitnet. Over and over we show faculty
about some interesting procedure or technology, only to be met by a vast
indifference. I think what you have experienced reflects the management

And this is the other side. If there was widespread
interest, academic interests might not always go to the end of
the queue. Even if there was a computer on every academic
desk, in many cases it would only be one more shelf for
piling paper. I, too, have tried to interest my own
department of journalism in using Bitnet, etc., offering
to sit down individually with each colleague and get them
started, but the interest is in journalism, not
communications :-)

Journalism Dept. Internet: eparker@well.sf.ca.us
Central Michigan University Compuserve: 70701,520
Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859 BIX: eparker
USA UUCP: {psuvax1}!cmuvm.bitnet!3zlufur
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 30 November 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: mutual snobbery and the place you're in

Condecension seems built into human nature, though I suppose with hard
work it can be conquered. I have in turn both been in an ordinary
computing centre as a front-line techie and sought help as an academic
from techies in computing centres. I, too, have found wit, intelligence,
and knowledge in such places from people without Ph.D.s, tenure, or
other privileges granted to some in our community. Like many others, I'm
sure, I've found dullness and ignorance among academics, tenured and
otherwise. The problem about support that most concerns me has rather to
do with opportunities good people are not given, that is, with how our
administrative structures militate against the community -- perhaps it
is even a discipline -- we are trying to establish. Clearly, technical
competence must move into the traditional disciplines; for that to
happen, applications of computing to traditional scholarship must be
given credit towards hiring, promotion, and tenure according to some
reasonable criteria. Perhaps it is also clear to some that humanities
computing itself needs to be cultivated as an academically respectable
activity. In both cases, time for research, and the eventual (and
earned) liberty to pursue research in whatever directions, are required.
People in computing centres with such interests are often seriously
disadvantaged by their circumstances. Not always, of course. Some
centres are exemplary -- but, alas, they are exceptions to the rule.

The opportunity to do the work for which one is most fit, the work one
loves, is a great blessing worth our every effort to provide for our
fellows. Don't you agree?

Yours, Willard McCarty

(4) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 09:56:11 CST
From: Norman Hinton <SSUBIT12@UIUCVMD>
Subject: MIS

Probably the last thing HUMANIST and its readers want is a discussion
of Management Information Systems, but I wasn't generalizing from only
one exposure.

As a personal opinion, I suspect that one example of MIS at work can be
found in the hearings of the (U.S.) President's Commission on the
Challenger disaster.

I _think_ mine is partly a humanist's reaction to any kind of "human