Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

“Are you happy, are you satisfied?
How long can you stand the heat?
    “Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen

Chemistry professor Julie Peller has accepted a position at Valparaiso University.  Several years ago Peller and Kizhanipuram Vinodgopal received a $120,000 grant to study water quality threats to swimmers and the ecosystem.   Vinod, deemed obstreperous by administrative critics, has since left IUN for greener pastures.  When Peller (below) dared run for faculty office against the incumbent Faculty Organization chair, detractors joked that she “was pulling a Vinod.” 

The daughter of beloved former Education professor John Ban, Peller, I believe, was a victim of shabby treatment at the hands of sexist, two-days-a-week senior professors as well as administrators who help favored faculty get promoted and turn a blind eye to the disproportionate number of women being shot down for advancement, usually for specious reasons.  While Peller was tenured, apparently the “Old Boys” who have a stranglehold on the promotion process didn’t think she deserved to be a full professor. 

A generation ago, Mark Reshkin and other senior faculty provided help to those who needed guidance in building promotion and tenure case.  Where, now that we desperately need them, are such mentors to halt the scandalous exodus of talented women?  While it is too late, apparently, for Julie Peller, Taylor Lake (LGBT adviser who started radio station WIUN) and popular English teachers Anne Balay and Pat Buckler, something needs to be done before IUN loses even more valuable women faculty members.  Affirmative action guidelines require that a university mentor professors who might be at risk for tenure or promotion due to discrimination in the past or lingering prejudices at present.  It’s high time that IUN practice what it claims to stand for – diversity and fair play.

One faculty member stated sarcastically that her neighbor’s heroes are Phyllis Schlafly, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman, and now that IUN has gotten rid of lesbian Anne Balay, she can send her sons there.

Both Peller and Balay were tough graders; otherwise they might still be teaching at IUN.  The ringleader behind the complaints that Anne’s chair used as an excuse to oppose her was an unprepared (academically) graduate student whom others had awarded passing grades rather than face the consequences of her ire. Studies indicate that students are less willing to accept a poor grade from a woman professor.

Fifteen years ago Roberta Wollons was chair of IUN’s History and Philosophy Department.  Like most female Arts and Sciences faculty, her salary was pitifully low, but the administration blamed the situation on market realities. Higher-ups claimed that the best way to prove one’s value was to receive a job offer from another university and then ask IUN to make a counter offer.  A popular teacher and internationally known scholar, Wollons spent countless hours on committees to create a Shared Vision statement and then implement its principles.  It seemed that Chancellor Bruce Bergland admired her contributions to the university and might be grooming her for more of a leadership role.  Then Roberta crossed swords with him over newly appointed Vice Chancellor Virginia Helm.  Bergland wanted Helm to implement a shake-up within the Arts and Sciences Division, but at a general meeting she came across as so tactless and heavy-handed that she had a rebellion on her hands.  Wollons met with her and suggested she be less confrontational and more open to compromise, but when Helm attempted to follow her advice, Bergland fired her, punishment he meted summarily meted out to two other prominent female administrator as well.  Wollons subsequently received a job offer from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  Hopeful of staying at IUN, she expected to receive a reasonable counter offer, but none was forthcoming. 

James Brady, shot in the head by John Hinkley on March 30, 1981 by a bullet meant for President Ronald Reagan, died at age 73.  Partially paralyzed, in constant pain, and suffering significant loss of speech and short-term memory, Brady for 40 years fought indefatigably for gun control legislation.  In 1994 President Clinton signed into law the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requiring background checks prior to firearm purchases from a federally licensed dealer, but the measure contains loopholes and violators are rarely prosecuted.  Much admired but largely ineffective due to the power of the gun lobby, Brady never lost his sense of humor or moral outrage at the cost in lost lives of political timidity.

African-American Alva Earley officially graduated from Galesburg (Illinois) High School 55 years after administrators denied him a diploma as punishment for attending a picnic in all-white North Lake Storey Park.  Earley recalled: “I was out!  Twelve years of hard work, and with one sentence I was out.” It cost him a post office job and curtailed his college education, but he eventually received doctorate degrees in jurisprudence and religion and now has a high school certificate to go with them.
The second half of Graham Greene’s “The Heart of the Matter” morphed into an existential examination of the nature of religious faith and obligation.  Unfortunately, Scobie, the tragic protagonist, lost all semblance of believability.  I did, however, like this statement by Scobie’s priest, Father Ronk: “The church knows all the rules.  But it doesn’t know what goes on in a single human heart.”  In 2012 author Aimee Liu wrote:
Scobie is Graham Greene's fictional twin. Greene's actual first name, like Scobie's, was Henry. Like Scobie, Greene converted to Catholicism in order to marry, and was then unfaithful to his wife. He was plagued by theological doubt, an obsessive sense of obligation, and a guilty conscience, all of which are mirrored in his protagonist.”

Hampton Sides, author of “Hellhound on His Trail,” about the hunt for MLK assassin James Earl Ray, has written “In the Kingdom of Ice,” dealing with the ill-fated voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette.  In 1879, under the command of George Washington De Long the refitted gunboat set off from San Francisco on an Arctic expedition to the North Pole.  Stuck in pack ice, the U.S.S. Jeannette eventually sank, and the crew was forced take off on foot and with small boats in hopes of reaching the Siberia coast.  Of the 30 crew members, just 13 survived.  A Time critic compared De Long to Louis Zanperini, the hero of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”

Russian computer hackers have apparently stolen more than a billion user names and passwords to more than a half-billion email addresses.  Should I be worried about this?  Are all the spam emails that I have been receiving evidence that advertisers have already gotten their tentacles of my email address?  Can “Big Brother” at this time read my email correspondence?  Do I really want to know?  Back when Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act, citizens were able to discover whether the FBI had been spying on them and, if so, gain access to the files.  Certain that my anti-Vietnam War activity made me an FBI target, I chose not to find out whether or not there was a file on me.  My blood pressure is high enough as is.

A Judicial Nominating Commission chose Loretta Rush to be the new Chief Justice of Indiana’s Supreme Court.  Before feminists jump for joy, it should be noted that Rush likened her judicial philosophy to arch-reactionary Antonin Scalia.  Even so, she hopes to be a role model and consensus builder.

Vice President Joe Biden wants Americans think of the unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. as “our kids.”  Like me, he believes that the rest of the world will judge us by how well we treat them.  I agree.

At lunch Chris Young mentioned visiting St. Augustine with his father and brothers and everyone getting in free on his dad’s lifetime senior pass.  I got one at a national park where Lewis and Clark stayed during the winter and have since utilized it at harper’s Ferry and at Qwest beach of the Indiana Dunes national lakeshore.

South Bend Tribune writer Andrew S. Hughes did a feature on “The Signal: A Rhapsody” ahead of the musical being performed Sunday at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan.  Henry Farag called the production “‘Jersey Boys’ with grit.” Of Vee-Jay Records founder Vivian Carter Farag said, “She had no qualms about plugging her own records [on her radio show].  She was a marketer and a half.”

Anne Balay passed her truck-driving test.  Next she will apprentice for two weeks with an experienced driver, becoming, so to speak, his co-pilot.  Before then she’ll attend the United Steelworkers of America convention in Las Vegas to autograph copies of “Steel Closets” and hopefully sway delegates into supporting an anti-discrimination resolution.  In a Windy City Times article entitled “Exposé could lead to protections for LGBT steelworkers,” Derrick Clifton explained that Anne’s book led to several locals passing resolutions calling for the International to vote affirmatively on an LGBT employment protection resolution. Clifton wrote:
Some of those factory employees and leaders, including straight ally Paul Kaczocha of northwest Indiana, are heartened and hopeful with the progress they've already seen. Kaczocha's local, based out of the ArclorMittal plant in Burns Harbor, Indiana, voted almost unanimously in favor of protecting their LGBT steelworkers.
"The thing is that people have so many relatives, children, who have been touched by LGBT discrimination and they're much more open about this than they were 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago when I was hired into my shop," said Kaczocha, a past president of his local, who says he will retire soon. "Mills can be a brutal place to work. If you show any weaknesses, people exploit them. If someone was openly gay or lesbian, they probably did get harassed by people over the years."
Kaczocha said the broader governing body, United Steelworkers International, would likely not shy away from the issue at the Aug. 11 meeting, where many policies and procedures are revisited during a constitutional convention.  Indeed, the issue isn't confined to northwest Indiana mills and, in fact, extends to unions nationally.
Paul and Alter Kaczocha

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