In academia, the rule has always been "publish or perish." Or, if your name is Ward Churchill, publish -- then perish. Institutions of higher education wish to appear as esteemed as possible in the public eye, so they demand results from the people they employ. You want tenure, professors? Then more breakthroughs, goddamn it, more articles published! Hey, geography department, when was the last time you discovered a new freaking continent? What do you guys do, anyway? And don't say cartography, because you know how mad that makes us.
It's a lot like the relationship What's So Funny has with Westword. Around here, it seems we can't finish up one diatribe about how Ethiopian cabdrivers have been displaying way too much back-sass lately before someone demands that we chime in on the ousting of President Askar Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. And we're like, yeah, it's a tumultuous time in the capital city of Bishkek, population 800,000, but you have to remember that Akayev has been in office since 1990, before Kyrgyz independence, even, and perhaps that country is due for a change. Granted, instability will ensue, but with any luck, interim opposition leaders Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Felix Kulov can hold things down until a free and democratic election is held, possibly as early as May.
Jesus, now can we get some lunch already?
Back at What's So Funny's alma mater -- Wesleyan University, an institution that produced both Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that little beer-brewer who could, John Hickenlooper -- tenure was harder to come by than Ritalin during reading week. While I was there, two particular professors came up in consecutive years -- both of whom were widely published, adored by students and looked good, nay, damn good, in corduroy blazers. What more could Wesleyan want? A lot, apparently. Both profs were denied tenure, prompting student petitions and, when those didn't work, hunger strikes.
What's So Funny didn't know what to make of that first hunger strike; we were new to the school and didn't want to ruffle any feathers. But the next year, when students again struck for a beloved professor, we knew exactly what to do. We ordered five Meat Lover's pizzas delivered to the hunger artists on the main lawn, then sat on the library steps with our friends, guffawing loudly when the delivery man arrived and the student protesters flashed us oh-that's-really-mature-guys looks.
Hunger strikes, What's So Funny determined, should be reserved for the independence of nations.
Besides, we were actually kind of impressed with our school's expectations. If those professors couldn't get tenure, imagine the backs of the baseball cards of the guys who could! If only the University of Colorado had such stringent standards, it wouldn't be taking the embarrassing step of examining how certain professors obtain -- and keep -- tenure.
Most profs receive tenure after six years of teaching and a full evaluation, but Churchill was knighted early by CU administrators, apparently because they were afraid that a California school was trying to lure their one little Indian away. Now, while that Cali school does a celebratory dance and CU kicks itself in the ass, the regents are scrambling to make sure it doesn't happen again. Their plans are in the formative stages at this point, with Governor Bill Owens suggesting that the legislature impose statewide tenure standards -- to be immediately followed by official Colorado uniforms and giant television screens that monitor us inside our homes -- but regardless of how things turn out, What's So Funny has a few suggestions for CU's tenure track:
Eliminate having climbed all of Colorado's fourteeners as noteworthy scholastic achievement
Determine where each candidate stands on tricky "cunt" issue
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Track down/read candidate's published works -- though costly and time-consuming, should pay off in long run
Instill public confidence in university by stripping all current professors of tenure -- yes, even you, 2001 Physics Nobel Prize-winner Carl E. Wieman -- and starting from scratch
If professor claims Native American heritage, make him track and kill buffalo to prove it
Have potential candidates prove allegiance to university by locking them in small room, not letting them out until keg is kicked.