9.635 on the tenure flap

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Tue, 19 Mar 1996 18:26:02 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 635.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (30)
Subject: on the great tenure flap

Dear Colleagues:

What we have just seen -- if vision alone is sufficient to communicate the
sense of being in a VERY noisy room -- illustrates the many-edged nature of
the Internet sword. Perhaps I should have edited Humanist 9.630 into a much
calmer, more perspicuous note, but I chose to send out the rash of messages
more or less as received, then to follow it with a bit of comment, so that
all the edges would be visible.

By many-edged I mean approximately this. First of all, I can imagine some
Humanists looking at the flap as an instance of Internet panic, formerly
manifested only in flaming, perhaps concluding that this sort of thing
simply isn't for them. In practical terms, I can do little about the
potential for such panic, except perhaps to stifle anything that seems like
it might be a false rumour -- which I will not do. So I depend on your
judgment a great deal. Second, however, the threat to tenure is hardly a
figment of our imagination, and it is at least arguable that mobilization
such as we have seen constitutes a dose of preventative medicine. Third, we
see a clear demonstration, perhaps the beginning of something much stronger,
of how much we have to learn about this medium and its potential for
altering the boundaries between local and international. Fourth, the
potential for politicization of discussion groups like this one is not
small, and while granting that everything can be viewed as political, I for
one think that putting on those glasses would change Humanist profoundly,
making some of what we value most disappear or take on unrecognizable shapes.

In any case, I hope that your evening, or morning, or mid-day retreat from
the Dog Star of your locale has not been ruined. I still find it curious
that the question of WHAT, exactly, is being threatened, or not, stirs the
blood so much less.