Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow Job

“We were made scapegoats for the politicians who had made the stupid decisions.  I had put my life on the line for nothing.” Vietnam veteran Omar Farag

After two clear days snow is returning.  Houseguest Janet Bayer, above, posted a shot of frozen Lake Michigan taken last Saturday.  Thankfully I was able to get in my talk to at Hobart’s Reiner Center about Vietnam Veterans from the Region.  Beforehand, Steve McShane and I enjoyed their breakfast of spinach quiche, blueberry muffin, and fruit cup and were joined by former colleague John Ban.   A half-dozen Vietnam vets were in the audience of two dozen, including Cressmoor Lanes owner Jim Fowler.  A Gary VFW member named Woody said his son served two tours in Iraq but then couldn’t find a job.  The hour went by quickly, leaving me scant time to talk about veterans’ adjusting to civilian life.  I did get in Omar Farag’s story about discovering a leech on his nect while eating spaghetti and thinking about it every time spaghetti is served.  Steve said it went very well.  Afterwards Dennis Klemm showed me photos he took in 1970 of performers from Bob Hope’s Christmas show visiting his base at Bac Lieu.  With Hope were actress Ursula Andress, dancer Gloria Loring, and singer Lola Folana, as well as the 1970 Miss World. 

1970 photos by Dennis Klemm

Bill Buckley inquired about Anne Balay’s tenure case and was shocked the Faculty Review Board only recommended a year’s severance pay compensation despite finding that she was given little warning of alleged inadequacies and virtually no mentoring.  The Board’s report stated that for many, Dr. Balay was a transformational instructor.  One student noted that as a result of Dr. Balay’s class she is now reading books that are not assigned for school.  Professor Buckley, one of her witnesses, reported that students continue to discuss the class long after leaving the room.  Another student wrote that she challenged her students and made them think differently.  This is but a small sampling of the positive opinions found in student evaluations and student letters.  The report noted that Anne Balay was awarded two IUN Trustee’s Teaching awards and one national teaching award.  Regarding the so-called student complaints, the report states that no attempt was made to investigate them. Even so, the report concluded that since tenure is a marriage in which only one party can issue a divorce, members decided the interests of the University trumped those of the candidate.  In reaching this decision the board admitted that they may have acted differently if they were serving on a P and T Committee.

In Anne’s defense the committee concluded that she received inadequate warning of her deficiencies in the area of teaching.  During the period she was winning teaching awards and received above average raises that board concluded that it is quite reasonable for her to have viewed the student complaints as a minor stain on an otherwise good record.  As members read her file, they were struck by the fact that Balay had reached out for help and did not find it. She requested on many occasions that her Chair visit her class.  He did so only once in six years. The board concluded that if the Chair and Dean found any instructor’s teaching lacking, they should have brought to bear all the resources of the University to solve the problem, especially in the case of an instructor with her scholarly attainments and high potential.

The Faculty Board of Review members seriously considered granting Anne's request for more time to work with a mentor but her Chair and Dean opposed the idea and Anne admitted that she couldn’t teach effectively if her Chair and dean stood on the sidelines, hoping she'd make an error which they could use against her.  The report then concludes that sadly this was a good description of the attitude of the leadership of the English Department toward her.  How tragic.

In conclusion the committee members expressed deep regret that the university will lose one of its most promising scholars and a transformational teacher who sets and enforces high standards.  They believe the failures of the University in this process are many: failure to provide Anne with adequate warnings on both the complaints and the DWF (withdrawal) rates; failure to inform her in writing or even at all of the problems in the classroom; virtually no follow-up to the warnings it did provide; little effort to apply the resources of the institution to improving her teaching.  Quite an indictment.

Anne wrote: I have a friend at another Midwest regional campus who says that there are no out faculty pre-tenure on her campus. They are scared. If straight people don't stick up for queers who take the risk of visibility, that will never change. I'm feeling sad about my campus, and about students who are not in big cities or expensive liberal arts colleges. What I write about in my book became true for me as well, and it SHOULD NOT be like that anywhere, not for steelworkers, and certainly not for University Professors. I'm just sad.”

Sarah Gopal from the University of Sussex in England hoped I could send her my Traces article on Vee-Jay Records.  Editor Ray Boomhower said back copies were available, and I also mailed Susan a copy of “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  Californian Allison Lange learned I had published an interview with her great aunt Marie Edwards, a former Lew Wallace teacher and director of Social Studies for the Gary school.  I sent her the Postwar issue in which it appears.
Ron Cohen posted a childhood photo of Lydia Grady, who passed away (sometimes in obits the deceased is said to have “transitioned”) while I was in California.  She didn’t want a memorial service but friends gathered anyway at Temple Israel.  Phil Arnold’s blog points out that Bruno Mars, star of the Superbowl halftime show, was an Elvis Tribute Artist starting at age four.

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