Friday, March 22, 2013

University Faculty Politics & Russo's Straight Man

From Wednesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution article "Emory faculty tables vote of no confidence in Wagner:"
Emory University President James W. Wagner, shown in an October 2012 photo, was censured by the faculty for his column about the notorious three-fifths compromise reached by the founders of the U.S. Constitution. Emory University faculty again tabled holding a vote of no confidence in President James Wagner, but agreed to meet within the next three weeks to continue the debate. “This is a serious issue and we want to get this right,” said Stefan Lutz, faculty governance chairman for the College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty in the college met privately with Wagner on Wednesday to discuss a variety of topics ranging from communication issues to cuts to college programs to the national condemnation Emory received because of a column he wrote. In the essay Wagner used the notorious three-fifths compromise as an example of how people with opposing viewpoints can work together toward a common goal. 
Wagner's essay was a major news story when it broke last month. I was glad to find the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's follow-up article because it allows me to mention one of my favorite novels, Richard Russo's Straight Man:
William Henry Devereaux Jr. finds himself past midlife, chair of the English department at an academic backwater, not having produced a book in 20 years, embroiled in departmental politics, maybe about to lay off colleagues, maybe on the block himself... Still, his relationships with his father, wife, daughter, and students occupy most of his time, until one day, wearing fake nose, glasses, and mustache, he threatens on TV to kill one of the campus ducks every day until his departmental budget is finalized, making the national morning talk shows.
There's a great review of Straight Man on the Tales from the Reading Room blog.

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