Posts by author:


Independence day

by Michael Bérubé on September 16, 2012

Last summer, Jamie, Janet and I were hanging out in this New York apartment we’ve managed to split with a few friends. We got a call from Jamie’s cousin Trevor, who lives on the Upper West Side, at 102nd Street and West End Avenue; Trevor proposed to visit us and hang out with Jamie for the day. And he told us that he’d take the subway by himself and walk from 59th and Lexington (we were on 62nd Street and 1st Avenue). When Jamie heard that, he turned to me in astonishment, saying “Trevor will take the subway by himself–and he has disability!

[click to continue…]

Good to see that the discussion of NTT faculty is spreading far and wide in the blogosphere. OK, let’s see what people are saying. Outside the Beltway, <a href=””>James Joyner doesn’t think much</a> of the MLA recommendations for per-course wages for NTT faculty. (He also refers to me as the “newly installed” president of the MLA**, perhaps because my only-somewhat-violent usurpation of the post from former president Russell Berman was payback from NATO for my support of the Libya intervention. They told me I could take Tripoli or the MLA, and naturally, I went where the oil is.) Joyner writes:

[click to continue…]

More about adjuncts

by Michael Bérubé on February 8, 2012

So my first month as president of the Modern Language Association (MLA) has turned out to be surprisingly eventful. After receiving my very own gavel with my name on it and being given access to the nuclear codes,** I returned home from the convention in Seattle to write the president’s <a href=”″>welcome letter</a>, the letter <a href=””>announcing the theme for the 2013 convention in Boston</a>, and my first (of four) newsletter columns (soon to be found in an MLA Newsletter near you, and of course on the MLA Web site). I then began the rigorous training regimen required for chairing the two-day meetings of the MLA Executive Council (February, May, October), which includes drinking egg-white smoothies and punching enormous hanging pieces of tofu in the MLA’s icy soy locker.

Then in mid-January, Executive Director Rosemary Feal and I decided I should attend the January 28 <a href=””>summit meeting</a> of the <a href=””>New Faculty Majority</a>, whose tweets I had been following on the Twitter machine. (I finally activated my account. Yes, I have a Twitter account. But I’m still not joining Facebook, now more than ever.) Washington, DC is one of the few places I can visit on short notice from my remote mountain lair, and the NFM is a group Rosemary and I want to work with during my presidential year and beyond — trying to get the US higher education apparatus (starting with the American Association of Colleges and Universities) to take seriously, and to ameliorate, the working conditions of non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty. So attending the summit, together with MLA Director of Research David Laurence, made all kinds of sense.

I reported on the summit for <a href=””>Inside Higher Ed</a>, and then posted a longer (though not Holbonian — merely 2500 words) <a href=”″>director’s cut</a> on the MLA site. Rosemary and I then Tweeted these things to the Twitterati.

And here’s where things get interesting.

[click to continue…]

At least one good thing happened in 2011

by Michael Bérubé on December 31, 2011

On the home front, the year opened with the inexplicable rupture of a whole-house water filter on January 2, a mishap that left four inches of water in the basement, ruining a bunch of Jamie’s books and DVDs; it closes as I return from visiting my father, who is intubated and unconscious after triple-bypass heart surgery.  We didn’t know he would be unconscious for my entire visit — I learned that via a phone call from my sister only after Nick, Jamie and I had gotten halfway through a seven-hour drive.  Our assumption was that at some point he would be conscious but unable to communicate, which is why I did what any dutiful son would do, namely, bring a copy of <i>A Year on Ice</i>, Gerald Eskanazi’s chronicle of the New York Rangers’ 1969-70 season, to read to him at his bedside.  When that plan fell through, we videotaped a bunch of messages for him (including my rendition of the final game of the Rangers’ regular season, April 5, 1970, which was the most exciting thing a nine-year-old kid could possibly hope to see — thanks for taking me, Dad!) and I’ll go back when he’s back home, which should be in a few weeks.

And oh yes, in March Lucy the Dog died after thirteen and a half years of faithfully guarding the house, playing with Nick, tending to Janet whenever she had migraines, and talking to Jamie when no one else would understand him.

But there was one good thing about 2011, and it was a world-historical event.  I refer, of course, to <strike>our family’s decision to topple Qaddafi and plunder Libya</strike> a milestone we had been anticipating for approximately twenty years:

[click to continue…]

Final exam

by Michael Bérubé on December 17, 2011

I stopped giving in-class final exams a few years ago.  It was a light-bulb moment, brought on by a student who needed a disability accommodation — in that case, someone with mild cerebral palsy.  I immediately recalled being asked for an accommodation a few years earlier, by a student who said not “I have arthritis” but rather “I need some extra time because of the arthritis that is in my hands,” which seemed a poignant way for a 20-year-old to speak of the strangeness of having arthritis at 20.  But this time, rather than simply offering an accommodation to one student (and it was <i>reasonable</i> accommodation, thus required by the Americans with Disabilities Act — just a note to all you professors out there who think that Federal law stops at your classroom door), I asked myself why I was offering in-class final exams in the first place.

Every semester for 15 years, I had been asking students to identify and/or comment on passages from our readings, and then to write a couple of longer essays on various aspects of those readings, and for some reason the essays were (with notably rare exceptions) pretty bad.  Why was that?  Perhaps, I thought, asking sleep-deprived students to scribble madly in bluebooks for two or three hours wasn’t a good way to get them to say something interesting and coherent about literature.

[click to continue…]

Glenn Reynolds Hates America

by Michael Bérubé on November 4, 2011

<a href=””>From Open Pajamas Media</a>:

<blockquote>A JOURNOLIST REMINDER: There was this email group, called <a href=””>Journolist</a>, where journalists got together and talked about how to bury stories that hurt Democrats and push stories that hurt Republicans. <a href=””>Here’s a list of the members.</a></blockquote>

No, that was not the purpose of Journolist.  It was an ordinary liberal listserv that included pundits and professors.  Once in 2008, one of its members, angered by the American media’s harping on the Jeremiah Wright nonsense, suggested an aggressive pushback against conservative pundits.  No one took him up on the suggestion.  People complained for a while (on list and off, in public even) that Sean Hannity had fed a stupid debate question to George Stephanopoulos, and then they went back to arguing about social policy and the Red Sox.  The end.

Reynolds’ second update to his disingenuous/delusional post acknowledges that there might in fact be something to the Herman Cain sexual harassment story after all.  Do tell!  Now all Professor Reynolds needs to do is to take down and apologize for his little piece of slander about a liberal listserv that (a) did not actually do anything wrong in the first place and (b) clearly had nothing to do with the Cain story, having disbanded in 2010 when the right-wing press proved by geometric logic that it was unseemly for liberals to use the Internet to converse with each other.

Full disclosure: yes, I myself was a member of Journolist for about two years.  I was invited to join because I signed <a href=””>the open letter about that ABC News debate of April 2008</a> — indeed, the very letter that is repeatedly cited in the wingnutosphere as proof that Journolist was colluding on an open letter!!  How did the writers of the open letter get in touch with me if I was not already a member of Journolist, you ask?  The amazing but true answer is below the fold:
[click to continue…]

American electoral politics: a brief introduction

by Michael Bérubé on September 3, 2011

[Now updated for clarity and symbolic reasons!]

I can see from the comments on <a href=””>John’s post below</a> that there is some confusion out there about the way the American political system works.  Specifically, there seems to be some serious misunderstanding of the dynamics of national elections in the US.  So let me try to clear this up once and for all.

You are welcome.

Basically, post-Watergate America works like this.  It’s what you might call a “twelve-step” program.
[click to continue…]

Facing new challenge, Romney stakes out fresh position

by Michael Bérubé on August 25, 2011

Deepinaharta, Texas — Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said today that if he should win the White House in 2012, his administration would seek to introduce legislation barring corporations from having abortions.

“Corporations are people too,” Romney said to a dwindling group of supporters who seemed to be distracted by a picture of Texas governor Rick Perry <a href=””>in a flight suit</a>, “and they should be denied the same basic reproductive rights that I once supported and now oppose for people.”  Romney went on to say that people-corporations should enjoy the same tax and regulatory relief as corporation-corporations, “giving job seekers and job creators alike the freedom to innovate and to invest their money as they see fit.”

Romney did not respond to a question as to whether his administration would permit corporations to merge with other corporations of the same sex.

[click to continue…]

Adorno Made Him Do It

by Michael Bérubé on August 4, 2011

Shorter <a href=””>Mark Bauerlein</a>: The leftist books Andrew Breitbart didn’t read in college eventually inspired him to slander Shirley Sherrod.
[click to continue…]

Sex, hope, and rock and roll

by Michael Bérubé on May 16, 2011

Somewhere between the end of my spring semester at Penn State on April 29 and the beginning of my month-long guest-teaching gig at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa (founded over a decade before that Johnny-come-lately Cornell in upstate New York) on May 2, I found some time to speak at <a href=””>this totally awesome conference on the work of Ellen Willis</a>.  Just glad to be on the bill, you know.  Anyway, here’s a slightly expanded version of what I said that morning.  Why slightly expanded?  Because I’m including 15 percent more of Ellen Willis’s prose, which makes my remarks 15 percent better.  That is why.

[click to continue…]

Hogging III: War on Terror edition

by Michael Bérubé on May 7, 2011

I am happy to report that <a href=””>all my predictions</a> have turned out precisely as I expected: the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins have swept their conference semifinal series, and enhanced interrogation techniques have led to the discovery and death of Osama bin Laden.

You may thank me in comments.

Hogging Part II: Hog Harder

by Michael Bérubé on April 29, 2011

Well, now, seems like it’s about time for me to revisit <a href=””>my predictions for the first round of the NHL playoffs (Eastern Conference)</a>, and … my stars, what do you know?  My new method of choosing teams by way of citing random passages from experimental literary texts has proven to be spectacularly successful!  To recap:


Caps in 5
Flyers in 6
Bruins in 7
Lightning in 6


Caps in 5
Flyers in 7
Bruins in 7
Lightning in 7

I think this pretty much proves that <a href=”″>Dreyfus was guilty.</a>
[click to continue…]

Winter sports roundup

by Michael Bérubé on April 12, 2011

It’s time once again for hockey blogging, or, as we call it, “hogging”!  As CT’s only resident hockey blogger, it naturally falls to me to explain precisely what will happen in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.  As usual, I will provide <a href=””>precise and preternaturally accurate predictions</a> about the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and I will challenge <a href=””>Scott “Scotty” Lemieux</a> to do the same for the West.

OK, those of you who clicked the first link have now learned that my first-round picks last year were a jumbo package of epic fail.  But don’t forget, I’ve had <a href=””>my moments</a>.  And I did say that last year’s finals would be Penguins-Hawks, and I still think that’s what should have happened in the end, so I was kind of right about that too, except for the Penguins part.  So, without further ado:
[click to continue…]

Public safety alert

by Michael Bérubé on April 1, 2011

Washington, DC – The National Governors Association has announced a voluntary product safety recall of sixteen governors, due to a structural design problem that could pose an immediate safety risk to consumers.

“We didn’t know, when we made these governors available to the public, how truly dangerous they were,” said an NGA representative who requested anonymity because he feared swift and remorseless retaliation from one of the defective governors.  “In most cases, they seemed like fully functioning human beings.  But now it appears that many of them avoided routine safety checks or managed to buy off safety regulators.”

[click to continue…]

About being born

by Michael Bérubé on January 17, 2011

Well, things have been quiet around my house lately, except of course for the whole-house water filter that exploded two weeks ago while Janet and I were at the movies, drenching the basement with four inches of water (750 gallons, we learned from the nice young man whose powerful machines drained our house).  The water had just gotten within reach of the bottom of the spines of the books in one bookcase (does a book have a coccyx?), leaving a row of thinkers from Marshall Berman to Harold Bloom shrieking for help and drawing their knees up to their chests.  And of course Jamie lost a lot of stuff — Beatles books, art books, crayons, writing pads, pretty much anything that was on the floor (and there were many things on the floor).  But at least it was clean water, not like <a href=””>last time</a>.  So there’s that.

And now that I’ve spent the weekend putting together new shelving and storage devices and tidying up in general, it’s time to pick a fight!  This time I’m over at the National Humanities Center blog, <a href=””>On the Human</a>, complaining about bioethicists.  For example (from a discussion of Jonathan Glover’s book Choosing Children:  Genes, Disability, and Design):

This then is yet another version of the classic “trolley problem,” in which we are asked to decide whether it is better that people with X disability not be born at all (because the prospective mothers wait two months and have different children altogether) while some people with X disability go “uncured” in utero, or better that people with X disability be “cured” in utero while others are born with the disability because their mothers went untreated.I suppose this is the stuff of which bioethical debates are made, but may I be so rude as to point out that there is no such trolley? This thought experiment may be all well and good if the object is to ask people about the moral difference between foregoing a pregnancy that will result in a fetus with disabilities and treating a disabled fetus in utero (and miraculously “curing” it!). But it does not correspond to any imaginable scenario in the world we inhabit. (And there’s more: because, perhaps, “a disability is harder to bear if you know that people could have prevented it but chose not to do so,” [Derek] Parfit adds that “we assume that those born with the disability do not know they could have been spared it” [48]. Why not assume instead that those born with the disability are given a pony on their fifth birthday?) There simply are no known genetic conditions that present prospective parents with this kind of decision….

[click to continue…]