Skip to content

Regression to Homogeneity: The Five-Year Ph.D.

December 10, 2012

A colleague recently shared an excellent blog post by Claire Potter of Tenured Radical on Stanford’s 5-year plan. One passage in particular stood out to both my colleague and myself:

“But what assumptions are built into the five-year plan? Who does it include — and who does it exclude? Some graduate students — single, without debt, from well-employed families who support their career ambitions and do not require economic support from them — will be able to focus exclusively on graduate study. Many other aspiring graduate students, equally ambitious and intellectually capable, will not have the economic liberty to live as independent, unfettered people.”

Stumbling into a family during the course of my graduate study at Yale (which is without a doubt the best thing that has happened to me since I came to New Haven) has made it glaringly clear to me that many of these restructuring measures are predicated on an abstract, homogeneous notion of what a “graduate student” is or should be. As this blog does a good job of pointing out, we must not lose sight of the fact that by restructuring the way our work is done, administrations are also reconceiving who it is that does the work. We are not all single individuals in our mid-twenties able to sacrifice all hours of the day to the completion of our project and willing to float rootlessly through the world according the the whims of the job market. Nor should we be! But the demands of this system in which we have no voice not only means that we are increasingly considered as such by administration, but that we also face pressure from advisors and professors who believe that we ought to follow the path to “success” they had to take.

Like many people I know, I have strongly criticized the cut-throat business model where people have to choose between personal/family life and professional success, and yet that is exactly what is expected of us. And we accept it. We play into it. But we shouldn’t. Our desire to make a contribution to collective knowledge–whether it be through research on stem cells, the history of Christian missionaries in China, literary analysis of Haitian poets, detecting early signs of diabetes, or whatever–should not make us feel as if we have no right to live our own lives and have a voice in the work that we perform.

There is such an incredible richness (and potential for much greater richness) in the graduate population, and we must recognize how much we benefit academically, socially, and professionally from that wealth of diversity and perspective. What is necessary is to fight for EQUITY to ensure that we are able to expand, deepen, and broaden our community, not further limit and narrow those who are part of it. It is insane that graduate student-employees feel such great anxiety over getting into committed relationships, starting families, or prioritizing proximity to family and community. And yet, these are anxieties that we have internalized and come to view as natural to our line of work.


November 29, 2012

Just a fantastic post from Jonathan Rees.

More or Less Bunk

“A profession may be defined most simply as a trade which is organized, incompletely, no doubt, but genuinely, for the performance of function. It is not simply a collection of individuals who get a living for themselves by the same kind of work. Nor is it merely a group which is organized exclusively for the economic protection of its members, though that is normally among its purposes. It is a body of men who carry on their work in accordance with rules designed to enforce certain standards both for the protection of its members and for the better service of the public.”

– R. H. Tawney, from The Acquisitive Society, 1920.

In a class of 82,000+ students, it is no wonder that Jeremy Adelman has both fans and detractors. If you think I’m hard on him, read James Atherton or even Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association…

View original post 702 more words

The University as Economic Zone (UEZ?): “Universities and the Urban Growth Machine”

October 22, 2012

I received my copy of the new issue of DISSENT magazine in the mail the other day, and was happy to see that it is a special issue on higher education. One of the articles that I found particularly interesting (and available online!) was Andrew Ross’ Universities and the Urban Growth Machine. Ross does an excellent job getting to the heart of the issue:

“Why has the price tag of an American college degree skyrocketed (500 percent in the public sector since 1985) in recent decades? Instructional cost is not one of the reasons. Salaries of full-time faculty have been stagnant for a long time, and the massive conversion of tenure track jobs into contingent positions (more than two-thirds of professors are now off the tenure track) has sliced the teaching payroll at almost all institutions. Aside from the obvious factor of shrinking state inputs, there is common agreement that the addition of many new layers of administrators, combined with rapidly rising salaries at the senior ranks, has played a leading role. Throw in the heavy investment in all kinds of extracurricular amenities, sports facilities above all. And then there is the less tangible factor of buoyant demand for places….

“Other factors are less well understood. Expansionary growth is foremost among them, and there are few colleges that have not embarked on ambitious new building campaigns in the last two decades (students joke that UCD is the acronym for “Under Construction Daily”). Contrary to the truism so cherished by developers, growth does not pay for itself, and it is even more costly in cities where land is scarce. Yet many of our urban research universities have been expanding their footprints. This is not simply to meet their needs, but also because city managers are relying on them to do so, often permitting them to behave like quasi-sovereign planning entities in the neighborhoods that host them. Universities, in short, have become a vital part of the urban growth machine.”

The article is excellent in many ways, but what I find perhaps most interesting is Ross’ concluding argument against the buzzword “corporate university.” For Ross, sneering at the “corporatization” of the university is easy & sloppy. It is sure to win you nods from those in agreement, but refuses to inquire into how universities are being restructured in a way fundamentally different from corporations. Ross states, “Modern research universities need to be seen as a new kind of organizational species evolving on their own power track, as they shake off older functions regarding public accountability, inclusion, and access. Their market orientation is not akin to corporations, not even corporations in the military sector who are just as dependent on federal contracts and guarantees.”

I think this is a great point, and it makes me rethink the convenience with which I’ve referred to corporatization & the corporate university in conversations with colleagues and friends. We need some other word to discuss the neoliberal transformation of the university. Instead of a corporation, I wonder if we might think of the university as a “special economic zone” akin to the kind that dot the PRC, Bangladesh, India, & several other countries. After all, there is an incredible amount of un- and under-paid labor on university campuses, and elite research universities reshaping cities are powerful multinational actors. Also, while elite private universities certainly took a hit in their investments during the economic downturn, the situation was far worse for the low-income areas surrounding universities that are now being gobbled up as “non-profit” universities expand. How do states, corporations, banks, and universities co-exist with one another? Considering all of these as interlocking institutions might give us new ways to look at the drastic increase in post-docs, precariousness of adjunct labor, skyrocketing tuition rates, crushing student loan debt, huge administrative bloat, geographical expansion of university campuses locally, institutional expansion of university networks globally, and degradation of work being done on campuses by non-academic workers.

But the question is, as always, what can be done? How might things be otherwise? I believe the first major step is that faculty, adjuncts, post-docs, graduate student-employees have to organize themselves together with registrars, administrative assistants, dining hall workers, facilities workers, custodial workers, and the communities hosting universities. The poisonous mix of false prestige and self-loathing that afflicts many academics (and is quickly imparted on graduate students) is an enormous problem that has kept academic laborers from rallying in solidarity with other workers at their universities and in their communities. I hate to sound overly simplistic myself, but the time has come to pick a side, to stand up for ourselves by standing with others, and to recognize that none of us are here because of the benevolence of university administrations. If you want the university to be otherwise, find allies, find issues of consensus, and assert your collective power to do something about them.

NHI on New Haven Blight

July 17, 2012

Just posting a link to an article today. I hope to get the blog going, so if you do stumble here, check out old posts and look forward to upcoming ones!

In Science Park’s Shadow, City Tackles Blight

BY Paul Bass | JUL 13, 2012 2:03 PM

(11) Comments | Post a Comment | E-mail the Author

Posted to: HousingDixwell


Paul Bass Photo


Neighbor Kelly: No sign of life “except the raccoons.”

Breakthrough may be in works for 235 Winchester (above).

Less than a block from where millions of dollars are pouring into high-tech offices and new homes, New Haven seeks to untangle a legal mess that has kept empty a trashed three-story wreck—and to convince a 74-year-old carpenter to paint his house.


Those are the latest developments—a mixture of legal negotiation and shoe-leather persuasion—at one of the city’s starkest contrasts of progress and stubborn blight.

The progress has been on relentless display at the entrance to the old Winchester rifle complex at the juncture of Munson and Henry streets, Winchester Avenue and Hillside Place, the crossroads of the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods.

That complex of once-rotting industrial carcasses is now called Science Park, a high-tech incubator Yale hatched 30 years ago. That complex has taken off as of late. Developer Carter Winstanley has turned the 25 Science Park building on the corner into a thriving office complex. HigherOne, the city’s top new-economy job-creating success story, in March moved into a gleaming new 150,000 square-foot headquarters inside a once-decrepit former factory building across the street. Next door Winstanley and New York-based Forest City Enterprises claim to be embarking on another transformation of an old factory, into stores, offices and apartments.

The world looks far gloomier a half block east on Winchester Avenue.

Three-story 235 Winchester remains boarded up, battered, chipped, stripped of paint, surrounded by an overgrown lot, its 18 apartments empty, uninhabitable.

It has looked that way for at least seven years thanks to an acrimonious dispute between city officials and the building’s owner, a former NFL cornerback-turned developer named Kenny Hill. The dispute has included allegations of political interference and misuse of public money, a federal housing investigation, lawsuit threats, and a threatened demolition. Meanwhile the imposing eyesore has been left to rot.

Now both Hill and the city Livable City Initiative (LCI) Director Erik Johnson say they put the dispute aside and are on the brink of signing an agreement that will enable the developer to renovate the building. The deal would include a $150,000 city loan to fix the outside and perhaps clean remaining asbestos. (More about that later in this story.)


Sam Kelly, who owns the three-story home (pictured) next door to 235 Winchester, has grown accustomed to the neighboring neglect. “Nobody goes over there but the raccoons,” he said with a shrug.


Kelly, a 74-year-old carpenter, bought his circa 1920 house in 1981 with his wife Barbara. It’s not blighted, but the property could use some sprucing up. LCI has been after him informally to pull out the paintbrush.

“I’m getting ready to fix up my house,” Kelly said Wednesday. “Hopefully by September I’ll have it done.” He said it was “too hot” Wednesday to get started.

The house bordering the other side of Kelly’s property (pictured behind Kelly at the top of the story) is also abandoned and blighted. A church called the Upper Room Prayer Mission bought it in 1995. After the church’s spiritual leader passed away, the property became largely abandoned. No longer housing a congregation, it lost its tax-exempt status. And it has amassed a back-taxes bill of $52,229.07.

Meanwhile, LCI has struggled to find a responsible party connected to the property with whom to deal, according to Erik Johnson. Johnson said “word” reached someone who did finally cut the grass. He said a potential buyer has expressed interest in the property.


Finally, the next Winchester Avenue property, across Tilton Street, is a once-majestic three-story apartment building that Kenny Hill’s company did restore and rent out—until a Saturday in April when it erupted into flames.  It’s now empty, charred, and awaiting repairs (pictured).


Johnson said LCI is not taking action to force repairs because Hill has proved that the property was insured, and he’s just waiting for the check to get work started. A fire inspection found that the fire started after a tenant’s visitor had flicked a cigarette butt over a balcony.

“I’m going to gut it and rebuild it,” Hill said in a conversation Thursday,” “I’m going to have two not good, but great heart properties right in the heart of Science Park at Yale.”


Acrimony Set Aside



235 Winchester.

Hill has been hoping to turn 235 Winchester into one of those “great” properties since he and a partner Daphne Benas, bought the declining circa 1900 hulk in 2003. Hill had been a star Yale football player before joining the New York Giants. He returned to New Haven to plunge into rehabbing buildings, which he has done in Wooster Square.


They qualified for a federal grant, distributed by the city, to get rid of lead paint. Work stopped after Hill accused the city of forcing him to hire a contractor who messed up the work. The city denied the charge and argued that Hill’s own crew had created a lead problem. Click here to read about how the dispute spiraled and stalemated.

It remained in stalemate in 2007. The city proceeded with an order to demolish the building. (Read about that here.) Hill responded with a lawsuit threat.

And nothing has happened on the property since.

Hill filed a formal complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over claims that the city misused the $150,000 lead abatement grant it spent on 235 Winchester by, in part, improperly choosing the contractor and avoiding “safe work practices.”

HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control investigated. Deputy Director Matthew Ammon reported on the results in a March 11, 2010 letter to the city. HUD found Hill’s allegations to be “unsubstantiated,” Ammon wrote. But it also found that the city did “err” in “reporting” the apartments as “cleared” when the lead-abatement work hadn’t been completed. It ordered the city to reimburse HUD $2,800 for for “final clearance sampling” at the property.

“It is unfortunate that lead hazard control work at the property was not completed, as this would have benefited low-income residents of New Haven,” Ammon wrote.

Around the same time, a new boss, Johnson, was taking over LCI, City Hall’s neighborhood anti-blight agency. By both Johnson’s and Hill’s accounts, the tenor of negotiations abruptly changed. Both sides decided to “put aside” the past differences and try to hammer out a solution.

This week lawyers on both sides were discussing the details of what that proposed solution. LCI would give Hill a $150,000 low-interest loan. That would pay for fixing the huge building’s exterior. Up to $25,000 of the the money could go toward remediating any lead found in the building; that $25,000 would be converted into a grant.


Paul Bass File Photo


Kenny Hill.

And Hill would proceed with fixing up the inside on his own dime, and putting 18 apartments back on line in the shadow of the Science Park-Yale-Winstanley progress machine.


“We’re suspending all the acrimony,” Hill said. “If we can get this deal finalized, it could be a matter of weeks” before work starts in earnest at 235 Winchester with a goal of finishing some time next year.

Then his own monetary bleeding could stop. By his own account, his company has lost over $1 million in lost rents and other costs since 235 Winchester has sat idle. Thanks to the Science Park-driven neighborhood improvement, the property could prove more valuable than ever if fixed back up.

Hill said he has heard some “rumblings” in the neighborhood not about the abandoned eyesore, but about how much rent he might have to charge to make back his money if he does proceed with repairs.

“I don’t want to be the agent of gentrification. But I want it to be nice,” he said. “Here’s the problem with a lot of well-intentioned socially driven initiatives. I think sometimes they have the opposite effect of the intended effects. If you create a situation that limits the attractiveness of the property, then you’re not going to allow people from the community who want to enjoy some of the same things that others areas have. You almost say: ‘If you live in this neighborhood, you can’t have this, you can’t have that.’ People in every community should have choice.”

Before confronting that dilemma, the legal negotiations on the loan have to be completed. Despite the good will on both sides now, the history of contentious dealings leaves no one ready to celebrate until the parties sign their names on the documents.

Meanwhile Erik Johnson noted that property owners have been investing in upgrades not just at Science Park but on the other side of the row of rundown Winchester properties.

“People see that change is coming,” Johnson said. “This is the last bastion of need-to-figure-something-out.”

Imagining the Yale School of Labor Part 1

May 1, 2012

Imagine if this article was about the Yale School of Labor’s initiative to launch a global network of partnerships between worker-owned cooperatives, unions, and worker advocacy groups to “exchange ideas and collaborate on projects.” The SOL could truly be “the first of its kind in modern business education,” since “allowing more institutions to work together will increase the efficiency and collaborative possibilities of an international network.” Such a network could provide the “infrastructure” necessary to encourage and enforce job creation with good wages and benefits, corporate accountability to local communities, and commitments to safe working conditions and sustainable environmental policies.

Clearly, that would take far too much imagination. Better just stick with management.


SOM launches global network



Friday, April 27, 2012

NEW YORK — Business school leaders from around the world gathered at the Yale Club of New York City on Thursday for the official launch of the Global Network for Advanced Management.

School of Management Dean Edward Snyder announced plans to create a network of partnerships between Yale and 20 international business schools about five months ago. The network aims to help member schools exchange ideas and collaborate on projects, but most aspects of the program remain undetermined. Deans and professors from a majority of member schools attended Thursday’s launch, discussing expectations for the network’s future at a media roundtable.

The network is the first of its kind in modern business education: most other international partnerships have typically involved just two or three business schools and had a pre-determined framework. Snyder has called those two- or three-school partnership models limited, arguing that allowing more institutions to work together will increase the efficiency and collaborative possibilities of an international network.

Administrators at the roundtable said they appreciate the unconventional route Snyder has taken in forming the new network.

“Our host, Yale, has been known not to follow the dogma, the prescribed model for business schools, so that assures me that this aggregation is going to be imaginative,” said Ricardo Lim, dean of the Asian Institute of Management, a network school in the Philippines. “It’s going to be creative about its next steps.”

Snyder told the News in February that his goal in creating the network was to provide the “infrastructure” necessary for future collaboration while also allowing member institutions to shape the partnership after its launch. The 21 schools in the network have agreed to an initial term of three years, ending June 30, 2015.

Administrators who attended the launch said the exchange of ideas facilitated by the network will be a particularly valuable asset to modern business education.

David Bach ’98, dean of programs at IE Business School in Spain, said business faculty today must focus more on “making students think” than on simply disseminating knowledge, as information is so readily available for students online and through other channels.

Dina Dommett GRD ’93, associate dean for programs at the London School of Economics, said modern business students should be taught to take a “diagnostic,” inquisitive approach to their studies. She added that the diverse perspectives and strategies available across the network schools will provide a “powerful” teaching mechanism.

In addition to discussing the benefits of the new network, administrators also highlighted the unique challenges to business education in their home countries.

“At our school, we face a situation where business leaders are now trusted by about 15 percent of the population,” said Damien McLoughlin, a marketing professor at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Ireland. “That’s a shocking situation in the social contract between business and society.”

Firmanzah, dean of the University of Indonesia’s faculty of economics, said the network will help its students better address modern business problems — ones he said “no country can solve alone” — by examining them through multiple perspectives.

The network includes business schools from Asia, South America, Europe and Africa.

The “Neoliberal Arts” and Yale-NUS

April 19, 2012

For a first post, I thought I would offer some thoughts on a topic that has frequently appeared in the news lately: the collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. It is an issue that strikes right at the core of the dissonance between global institutions and local communities, as well as the neo-liberal restructuring of “eds and meds” cities such as New Haven, CT.

Much of the conversation surrounding Yale-NUS has revolved around the issue of “human rights,” especially the notion of academic freedom and the fact that homosexual relations are outlawed in Singapore. This has fueled a debate about the perceived clash between “Yale values” and the presumed values of Singapore. I would like to shift the discussion from this purported clash of values (civilizations?) to the ways in which Yale and the Singaporean state share values, particularly an anti-democratic decision-making process and a global presence divorced from local context. It is these “values” that I believe form the basis of the shift from the liberal arts to what I would like to call the “Neoliberal Arts,” following the widespread declaration of the failure of the “liberal arts” in the United States.

First, the virtually unilateral decision-making process whereby the Yale Corporation determines the course of the university and the decision-making process of the Singaporean state significantly overwhelm many of the presumed “clashes” of values between these two entities. This was the central point of an April 4 New York Times article entitled Faculty Gives Yale a Dose of Dissent over Singapore, as well as several local articles. Regardless whether or not one agrees with faculty members’ strong statements against human rights policies in Singapore, it is irrefutable that Rick Levin and the Yale Corporation has gone about making this decision in a way that might make Lee Kuan Yew envious.

The Yale-NUS debate has taken place at the same time as a great deal of dissent over Yale’s model of “Shared Services“–“the ongoing University-wide push to centralize administrative services.”  This trend in decision-making policy is not new, but seems to be accelerating as the Yale Corporation increasingly tries to steamroll any voices of dissent against the corporatization of the university, arrogantly declaring that restructuring such as the Pollard Report are “directed at the faculty, not graduate students,” as Dean Tom Pollard recently told Yale graduate students. Further, the administration has been restructuring work at the university through such hyper-rationalizing programs such as the “Breeze” program demanding custodians clean a computer-generated square-footage without taking into account furniture or usage, and the re-assignment of registrar and secretarial work to centralized offices by issuing more 10-month, rather than 12-month, contracts. All of these measures clearly signal that the Yale Corporation and Yale University administration have a vision of how the university should be run that is not to be impacted by the opinions of the vast majority of us who actually make up the daily working of the university.

Second, Yale University and the Singaporean state share a “globality” in that they seem to be able to transcend space and exist in a kind of immaterial global space. How often is Yale linked with its surrounding communities of Dixwell, Newhallville, Fairhaven, or even Bridgeport? How often is Singapore thought of as neighboring (or a part of) Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, or Thailand?

Both entities are perceived as if (and act as if) they are un-geographical. This is perhaps the core issue at stake in the Yale-NUS debate, the NYU-Abu Dhabi project, or any of the up-and-coming collaborations of global higher education. There is a kind of virtual space of the global elite that completely suppresses the reality of the (migrant) labor upon which it depends. Who builds & cleans the Yale-NUS campus? Who works in the hotels putting up visiting scholars for conferences? On the other end, who performs these tasks at Yale-New Haven (the name by which it will now have to be known, for better or worse)? Are these union jobs? What is the disparity between Yale’s spending on its hundreds of commercial properties, its new West Campus, its new School of Management, or the exponentially expanding medical campus and the way in which it treats its workers?

The New Haven community and workers at Yale have created a powerful alliance to resist the Yale Corporation’s hegemony in the city, and I would like to see more attention paid to how this coalition can connect with their counterparts in Singapore. There has been an important backlash against left-wing imperialist critiques of Singapore, but most of these have been sadly lacking in any consciousness of how workers and residents can concretely ally with one another across the globe. The core issue here, folks, is neoliberalism, and how capital is creating powerful global networks that are crushing labor and community alliances. The conditions for organized labor in Singapore appear to be atrocious, given the fact that “the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the sole trade union federation, comprises almost 99% of total organized labor.”

The battle that must be waged is one in which the globality of Yale University is not simply embodied by the members of the Yale Corporation, but by the workforce of Yale & New Haven. Only if the residents of New Haven and workers at Yale rally together to demand the University participate in the city as a member and not as a dictator will the global expansion of Yale bring a potentially positive impact to local communities in both New Haven and Southeast Asia. This will mean the Yale Corporation must not get locked into the “Neoliberal Arts” (more on this idea in a future blog post), but must work with faculty, graduate students, university employees, and the residents of New Haven to make this university more than a non-profit endowment-investment & bio-medical empire.

More or Less Bunk

"History is more or less bunk." - Henry Ford, 25 May 1916.

Post Academic

Just another weblog

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

Your Source for Arts News from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven

QNN Red Team News

The official site of QNN Red Team News


The Union of Clerical and Technical Employees at Yale University

Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD


Life in an "eds and meds" city.