Mills College

May 20, 2017

I posted the above entry here on this blog on May 20, 2015. This past Wednesday, it was publicly announced that Mills has officially declared a state of financial emergency with a reported budget deficit of over $9 million, and has made the decision to terminate the contracts of 11 tenured faculty members, many, if not all, of whom have devoted decades of their lives to the College and, more importantly, to their students. In addition to the tenured faculty, Mills will also be cutting numerous staff, full-time and non-tenure-track (NTT) positions as well, and is furthermore eliminating the entire Philosophy Department and merging many of the remaining departments in hopes of cutting costs. 


While I am now two years removed from Mills and thus am unaffected, professionally, by these decisions, I am nonetheless personally overwhelmed by this news. As a passionate and dedicated educator, it positively kills me to know that Mills will undoubtedly suffer a huge loss in parting with some of their most well-respected and established faculty and staff members, individuals whose contributions throughout campus, within the classroom and impact on the lives of students cannot be equated to their paychecks, however large or small. 


I have the utmost confidence that the Board, current College President and all those in positions of leverage have not taken this decision lightly; I cannot even begin to understand the difficulty with which they must have made their final decisions, and I fully respect the unenviable position in which they too currently find themselves. Given the advanced state of decline in the College, frankly doing absolutely nothing at this point is simply not feasible. This said, however, I am utterly devastated over this proposed "solution", not only because I have dear friends and former colleagues who were selected for termination, but because I know and have personally experienced what a tight-knit and supportive community Mills encompasses. 


The most positive outcome at this point, of course, would presumably be the recovery of financial stability and the avoidance of full closure of the College, but I worry that the negative impacts of these decisions, priceless as they are, cannot be ignored. My broken heart is with you, Mills College.

The CoolComforts Go to Norway!

My parents recently took a cruise to Norway in order to see the Northern Lights. Follow along with their adventures (complete, of course, with some epic photos!) over here

#TalonsUp

D and I went to the first ever Salt Lake Screaming Eagles game tonight! We may have lost 47-78 (!), but it was SUCH a fun time; follow along with the entire game, streamed via SI, below. Alternatively - if football isn't exactly your cup of tea, skip to 1:51:40 and watch a thoroughly entertaining game of dodgeball between all the local team mascots who showed up to support the Screaming Eagles in their inaugural game.

This Is Why I Teach

Words cannot express how humbled I was by this note. I take an enormous amount of pride in my teaching, and there's nothing more rewarding than knowing that all of my efforts, all of my advance planning and organization, all of my hard work with students and all of my time spent constantly trying to be a better instructor have paid off even in the eyes of one single individual.

For Your Enjoyment #42

If there’s one thing I learned in this odyssey, it’s that automatic cat feeders are the equivalent of giving a piece of dental floss to someone serving life in prison. With infinite time, you can escape anything, and (it turns out) break into almost any robot.

- Cat v. Cat Feeder (images above; h/t DM)

Netflix recently conducted a global survey of more than 30,000 couples who stream and released its findings on Monday. The new data reveals that more than 48 percent of streaming couples in the U.S. are slipping up and watching ahead of their partners. Since 2013 the number of cheaters has tripled as it has become more socially acceptable to commit streaming adultery. What’s worse is that most say they plan to keep on cheating. Indeed, 63 percent of cheaters say they’d gladly do it more if they knew they’d get away with it, and nearly half of those who do the dirty are repeat offenders — once a Netflix cheater always a Netflix cheater.

- I once caught D watching the next episode of Westworld without me, so I watched the next few episodes of Stranger Things without him. So there. (True story) 

Donald Trump had Scott Baio and a “Duck Dynasty” star. Hillary Clinton had Jay-Z and Beyonce, Katy Perry and Bruce Springsteen, Clooney and Leo, Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, among many, many other A-listers who hosted glittering fundraisers, who raised hundreds of millions of dollars for her. One takeaway: celebrity endorsements in presidential politics don’t matter anymore. Another, more likely and long-term: They hurt. Why? It’s an old saw in conservative circles that Hollywood liberals — and, by extension, the cultural and coastal elite — are out of touch with mainstream America. This unprecedented election proves, now more than ever, how true that is. While celebrities spoke of social issues, of preserving Obama’s legacy, of the first female president, a huge swath of America voted for one reason: rage at being left behind, economically and culturally.

- Apparently even Miley Cyrus couldn't change the outcome of this election

In the pitch black of night on the Colorado River's burly Lava Falls rapid, an aluminum bar had snapped and punctured a 4-inch hole in the inflatable beam of the custom-built craft. The air hissing from the punctured tube wasn’t just the sound of trouble. It signaled the dissipation of a dream to paddle the 277-mile length of the Colorado River’s Grand Canyon in record time.

- You have to read about this valiant but ultimately failed recent attempt at breaking the Grand Canyon speed record 

Sure, coaches had talked about "changing the culture" in Oakland for years, ever since Jon Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. From Bill Callahan's "dumbest team in America" rant to Norv Turner's painfully awkward two-year tenure to Art Shell's unfortunate one-year "fox in the hen house" return to Lane Kiffin being eviscerated in Al Davis' awesome overhead projector presser that included an intermission to Tom Cable's sanguine "We're not losers anymore" proclamation after going 8-8 in 2010 to Hue Jackson's epic meltdown to Allen's uninspiring visor and sharpie, it's been quite the chaotic ride. But none actually pulled the culture change off until Del Rio - who grew up in the shadow of the Oakland Coliseum in nearby Hayward and shared the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Raiders in college at USC - arrived [in 2015]... Change the culture? You could say Del Rio, who has pictures of the Raiders' Super Bowl-winning coaches, John Madden and Tom Flores, hanging in his office as inspiration, simply dug the team's swashbuckling nature up again as if it was Sparano's football.

- Raider Nation

When are we going to face up to the fact that we have got our priorities all wrong? When are we going to stop the blame game and take the steps that need to be taken to improve conditions in our schools for both teachers and students and, in doing so, inevitably raise standards?

- The state of education. Sigh.

“I think that gnawed at Michael a little bit,” said author Max Byrd, a longtime friend of Crichton’s from their undergraduate days at Harvard, “that if you were popular you can’t be very good . . . . Michael kept talking about Charles Dickens — Dickens was both popular and good. It vexed him when people would just say, ‘Well, a pop writer or a pop scientist.’ He knew the subjects; he knew the subjects he went into better than just ‘pop.’ ” 

- Revisiting Michael Crichton's life and career 

For the Hollywood origin stories we know to be satisfying, the heroine in question must have no idea she is worthy of such attention until she is suddenly rescued from obscurity. Especially if she is to be remade as America’s next great sex symbol — as Anna Nicole Smith was in 1993, when she suddenly saturated American media, appearing on magazine covers, billboards, and screens of all kinds, and found herself touted as her decade’s Marilyn Monroe. If the heroine’s allure is the product of not just blind luck but sustained effort and intent — let alone strategic surgical alteration and courtship of wealthy benefactors, as Anna Nicole Smith’s was — then she is too powerful to remain sympathetic, and becomes an object of jealousy, rather than aspiration. It’s one thing to be chosen as a goddess; it’s quite another to claw your way to the top of Mount Olympus. And when the public finds out a goddess is in fact a striving mortal, this revelation will push her into a very different kind of myth: one whose satisfying conclusion comes not when a woman is exalted, but when she is destroyed.

- A look back on the tragic rise and fall of Anna Nicole Smith

Understand the logic of polarisation and you will understand that Trump wants a violent reaction. He wants to be able to tell white Americans that his opponents are “professional anarchists”, as he said last week. He wants liberals to treat all his supporters as if they are as debased as he is. He can then turn to his base and say liberals hate them because they are white; that they see them as nothing more than stupid, deplorable bigots. Force me from power, he will conclude, and these hate-filled enemies will come for you and give the “tremendous advantages” he was pretending blacks enjoyed in the 1980s to their favoured minorities.The alternative, and not only in America, is to go back to the despised and patronised working-class followers of the right. You should try to win them over in elections rather than march with the already converted at rallies. You should cordon off the true racists and fascists and listen to and argue with the rest with a modicum of respect. If that can happen, then perhaps the world will learn that the best way to end the power of compulsive liars is to break the compulsion of their followers to believe.

- In not-at-all groundbreaking news: the real problem lies not necessarily in the liar, but in the believers

"The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies. And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don’t seem to get that the outdoor industry—and their own state economy—depend on access to public lands for recreation. I say enough is enough. If Governor Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Governor Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah’s economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business—and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands.We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions. I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation."

- Patagonia (along with Arc'teryx and others) plans to skip this year's Outdoor Retailer show. If nothing positive comes out of the meeting planned this week, perhaps the show can take Denver up on its hosting offer?

[Rogue NPS Twitter] feeds have stepped into a space briefly opened by verifiable public employees who were promptly shut down [last month]. On January 24, the official Badlands feed posted, “Today, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate.” Coming as the Trump administration removed references to climate change from the White House website and froze the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding for research (the freeze was lifted on Friday), this bare factual tweet rang of defiance. Shortly afterward, it was taken down. Soon thereafter, the alternative accounts began to appear. NASA and the EPA have their anti-Trump Twitter doppelgangers. Even an alternative account for the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, in West Branch, Iowa, has been reminding followers of Hoover’s warning that, “Immediately upon attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.” No matter who is running the alt-public feeds, the popularity of their tweets seems to come from their saying and doing things that many of the people who are alarmed by the first days of the Trump administration would love to see from public servants. That the first, actually official Badlands tweets on climate science became a cause célèbre indicates just how subversive and defiant basic science feels to critics who don’t trust the new administration to honor it.

- "The Gentle Anarchy of the Park Ranger"

Sunday's Starting Lineups