Comments on Being Named
Faculty Member of the Year
In the spring of 1999 I was honored to be voted Faculty Member of the Year by Loyola's Faculty Council. It was an honor I shared with theology professor Micael Clarke. Doubtless we had been named because we had been high-profile participants, on opposite sides, in a debate that absorbed the attention of the Loyola community for several years. At issue was the competence of our then-president, Fr. John Piderit. I was a leading critic, she a defender. The campaign involved both faculty and students, and eventually resulted, two years later, in his resignation. (I am happy to report, we now have an excellent President.)
When nominated for the award, I was asked to send the nominating committee as a statement of "my philosophy." Since it seemed not unreasonable to ask a faculty member about his or her philosophy, especially when that faculty member is a philosopher, I complied with the request. My statement is given below.
I also composed "Some Thoughts Regarding the Faculty of the Year Award" that explain my involvement in the, at the time still on-going, anti-Piderit campaign. They too are posted below.
I believe, with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, that we collectively, but also individually, are responsible for the world, and that feelings and opinions count for much less than actions. One is what one does.
I believe that we are living in a time when almost every human being could live a fulfilling, meaningful life, and yet, for reasons that are mostly structural, the majority of humanity live lives of quiet desperation (as Henry David Thoreau put it) or worse.
So I believe, with Karl Marx, that it is not enough to interpret the world. The point is, to change it.
And I believe, with Emma Goldman, Arthur Murray, and St. Francis, that everyone should learn to dance.
Some thoughts regarding the Faculty of the Year Award
I'm deeply honored to be honored by my colleagues. I hesitated a long while after being informed of my nomination before sending in my statement of philosophy, since I considered my receiving the award so improbable. Then it occurred to me that the award is symbolic of something larger than my individual accomplishments, such as they are. In light of the events of this past semester, the award should surely be seen as an affirmation of the many faculty members who put aside their ordinary concerns to involve themselves deeply and seriously in matters of university policy. So I felt I owed it to all of those who became involved in these matters to at least accept the nomination.
It is by no means the case that only those of us who pressed for a no-confidence vote on the president put in extraordinary time and effort. This fact has been appropriately acknowledged by the Faculty Council in splitting the award between two faculty members this year. One of the heartening conclusions to be drawn from these recent events is that the Loyola faculty can engage in a very serious, high-stakes debate without the debate degenerating into rancorous name-calling or mud-slinging. By the standards of our contemporary political culture, this debate was conducted on a very high level, indeed. I'm pleased to share the award with Micael Clarke, who was an exemplary opponent
I had not intended to play such a high-profile role in these events. My doing so was quite accidental. I joined the No-Confidence Committee out of sense of solidarity, figuring to give moral support. But a chance conversation with an accountant friend informed me that Loyola's tax returns and financial statements were a matter of public record, and hence accessible. So I decided to get them and take a look. To my surprise, the were not so opaque as I had imagined. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. There was a mystery here to unravel. I began circulating my findings and hypotheses to the faculty at large, and got good feedback. It was a remarkable process.
I don't feel that the mystery has been wholly solved, but I think the faculty has a much better grasp of the realities of Loyola's financial structure than it did before, its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Unfortunately, from where I stand, the weaknesses appear glaring and largely out of faculty control.
It seems to me that a new model is being implemented at Loyola--and not just at Loyola. More and more universities are restructuring themselves along corporate lines. Students are becoming "customers." "Profit-centers" are being identified. Non-essential components--e.g. day care centers--are being shut down. Working conditions are deteriorating, faculty and staff are being "downsized." As in corporate America, more and more administrators are embracing the "lean and mean" model as both desirable and inevitable.
It so happens that my own academic research and teaching has been bound up with such issues. Suddenly they've hit very close to home. Theory has become practice--with a vengeance. My own philosophical perspective suggests strongly that these changes can and should be resisted, and that an increased democratization of the workplace is an essential element--which is why I decided to put my academic research on hold this semester and throw myself into the fray.
How it will all come out is of course still very much up in the air. In a very real sense I hope my opponents are right. I hope the administration knows what it is doing, and that its new policies will in fact prove effective in restoring Loyola academics to financial health. I am not, however, optimistic on that score. I suspect that what we have gone through this semester--a newly aroused faculty, a No-Confidence Vote, a dramatic change in Faculty Council leadership--will subsequently be seen as "round one" of a protracted struggle over the identity and future of our university--a university to whom all of us, on all sides, are deeply committed.