Black Women Writers in a Space of Their Own

by Lena Ampadu, Towson/English

Alice Walker in 2010. Credit: darthdowney/flickr

Alice Walker in 2010. Credit: darthdowney/flickr

When most people recall the Underground Railroad, the woman who usually comes to mind is Harriet Tubman. They often overlook Baltimore-born Frances E.W. Harper, a prolific nineteenth-century poet and orator, thought to have been the most reprinted novelist before Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston (Foster xv). Like Tubman, Harper was a fearless fighter who assisted enslaved black people in their quest for freedom. Harper fought inequality with her pen and voice, whereas Tubman toted a gun during the many trips she made from Maryland’s Eastern Shore escorting enslaved people to freedom. Tubman, often thought of as an historical figure to be honored mostly during Black History Month, should receive more acknowledgement in the annals of black literary tradition, for she has helped to inspire and create this tradition forged by Harper and other black women writers, whose voices, like Harper’s, are often muffled in traditional American literature courses.

In my course on black women writers at Towson University last semester, we explored these writers to recover their lost voices in a space of their own, one not dominated by black men, white men or white women writers. The course introduced students to twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, and it informed students of new conversations across and within generations. When a young Mississippi author Jesmyn Ward, a National Book Award winner, penned her memoir Men We Reaped, she borrowed her title from Harriet Tubman’s observation about a unit of Black men who died fighting in the Civil War (Garner). When Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie delivered a 2013 TED Talk, she incorporated Beyonce’s feminist commentary from the song “Flawless” into her address. This form of women’s talk is one attribute of black feminist or womanist literature, a literature in which women of African descent promote a sense of community among themselves by talking to each other. Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga is therefore convinced that she and African American women writers are part of the same community because they speak to similar forms of racial and gender oppression (Veit-Wild 30).

In Octavia Butler’s science fantasy Kindred, sometimes classified as science fiction, we discussed black women’s oppression under slavery. A revision of the traditionally male slave narrative and science fiction genres, Kindred has many parallels to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Kindred’s emphasis on twentieth-century interracial marriage and love between protagonists, Dana and Kevin Franklin, represents a bold reversal of these expressions of love forbidden by law during the antebellum period and beyond.

Of course, no black women writers’ syllabus would be complete without Paule Marshall’s, woman-centered bildungsroman, Brown Girl, Brownstones, underscoring the Barbadian experience in Brooklyn, New York. Originally published in 1959, Marshall’s book, when republished in 1981, became one of Feminist Press’s best-selling texts. In 1986, literary historian and UMCP Professor, Mary Helen Washington, penned the foreword for Brown Girl, but the book’s 2006 edition, has a revised foreword by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. Marshall’s work emphasizes the centrality of love by peering into a complicated mother-daughter relationship between the protagonist Selina Boyce and her mother Silla, and illustrating supportive relationships among Barbadian women.

Tsitsi Dangarembga in 2006. Credit: David Clarke, Wikimedia Commons

Tsitsi Dangarembga in 2006. Credit: David Clarke, Wikimedia Commons

Another significant member of the community of black women writers is Alice Walker, who has been profoundly influenced by the music of blues legends like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Walker’s short story, “You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down,” pays homage to this tradition. We studied Walker’s volume of thirteen stories, In Love and Trouble, centering on young black women who are faced with situations of romantic love, familial love, unrequited love, and struggles in life and love. Walker’s womanist theory, perhaps her greatest contribution to the literary tradition, provided a crucial framework for analyzing literature in light of its celebration of the asexual, or sexual love, that black women express for each other (xi-xii) . Not to be overlooked is the importance of Walker’s restoring Zora Neale Hurston to her rightful place as a literary foremother.

Black women, whether from Africa or America, share more than similar themes and concerns about race and oppression. The course examined the experimental verse and form of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, alongside Changes: A Love Story, the fiction of Ghana’s Ama Ata Aidoo, which fuses poetry and oral forms. Both lyrical works examine women’s constraints in patriarchal societies and their responses to these strictures; however, Aidoo’s work has political ramifications for a changing post-colonial Ghana and women’s place within it. Aidoo, like Dangarembga, sees herself as part of a larger community of black women writing; thus, she often credits inspiration from other black women authors, such as Maya Angelou and Bessie Head (4-9).

Toni Morrison in 2008. Credit: Angela Radulescu/Wikimedia Commons

Toni Morrison in 2008. Credit: Angela Radulescu/Wikimedia Commons

The course appropriately concluded with Toni Morrison’s Love. Inspired in part by the Biblical scripture on love from First Corinthians, Love complicates and interrogates African American history and culture. With many of her novels filled with love metaphors, Morrison asserts the importance of love to the survival and well-being of the African American community.

Studying the literature that black women, like Morrison and others, have created has helped my students to understand the ways that black women writing and those writing about them have moved across time, geographical regions, and generations to create a powerful, enduring literary tradition within spaces they carved out for themselves.

 Works Cited
Adichie, Chimamanda. “We Should All Be Feminists.” TED. April 2013. Lecture.
Aidoo, Ama Ata. “Interview by Adeola James” In Their Own Voices: African Women Writers
Talk . Ed. Adeola James. London, Heinemann, 1983. 4-9.
Foster, Frances Smith, ed. Minnie’s Sacrifice, Sowing and Reaping, Trial and Triumph: Three Rediscovered Novels. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.
Garner, Dwight. “Through Five Men’s Lives A Memoirist Illuminates Her Own ” Review of
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. New York: Bloomsbury USA. 2013.
New York Times Book Review. September 2013.
Veit-Wild, Flora, “ ‘Women Write about the Things That Move Them’: A Conversation with
Tsitsi Dangarembga,” Moving Beyond Boundaries: Black Women’s Diasporas, Vol. 2.
Ed. Carol Boyce Davies. New York: NYU Press, 1995. 30-31.
Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1983. xi-xii

Hearing is Understanding: A perspective on film sound tracks

By Elsie Walker, Salisbury/Cinema Studies*
Walker Film book cover
Eric Garner’s last words—“I can’t breathe”—have been repeated by millions of people to signify a new recognition of current racial politics. Such a phenomenon drives home the potential significance of a single utterance and why it might matter for all Americans, from the street right up to the Supreme Court. This recent tragedy also suggests that sometimes hearing means more than seeing, especially in our visually-saturated culture. Live video footage showed Garner in Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold shortly before he died, but this did not lead a grand jury to indict Pantaleo. Garner’s last words have become a resonating, rallying cry that just might inspire a different kind of justice.

The worldwide response to Garner’s death reminds me of the director Michael Haneke’s argument that what we hear potentially affects us more than what we see:

It seems to me that the ear is fundamentally more sensitive than the eye. To put it another way, the ear provides a more direct path to the imagination and to the heart of human beings.[1]

Sometimes it takes a tragedy like Garner’s death to reawaken our alertness to difficult realities beyond our own experiences. But I also believe that many films can provide a similar lesson, and without a real-life cost.

My research is on the importance of hearing cinema, especially as it allows us to experience others’ lives from a position of empathy. I wrote my current book, Understanding Sound Tracks Through Film Theory, because I was inspired by filmmakers like Haneke who are unafraid of making unfashionably broad claims for the capacity of art to enlighten humankind.

My book is divided into several chapters approaching films from various theoretical angles, and each with the express purpose of listening to what films can teach us about others’ perspectives. With each chapter, I consider representative films that play out a given theory’s preoccupations: I provide a feminist reading, for instance, of the show-stopping songs performed by Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not and the empowering piano pieces played by Holly Hunter in The Piano. I apply genre studies to the sound tracks of two westerns, especially in terms of racial politics, by exploring how Max Steiner’s score for The Searchers insists upon a lyrical, all-too-consoling response to the overt racism expressed by the central character of that movie (Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne) as opposed to the experimental subversiveness of Neil Young’s improvisatory score for Jim Jarmusch’s revisionist western, Dead Man. I use postcolonial theory to analyze Peter Gabriel’s rousing world music for Rabbit-Proof Fence as it invokes our sympathy for its Aboriginal protagonists and communicates a transcendent sense of space as it accompanies many panoramic views of the Australian desert. I compare this with the dialogue and localized sounds effects of Ten Canoes, the first Australian feature film entirely in Aboriginal languages, a production that provides us with a more “direct” experience of cultural authenticity. I use queer theory to explain the importance of Franz Waxman’s orchestral score for Hitchcock’s Rebecca, especially as it invokes most interest in the film’s queerest characters (Mrs. Danvers and the woman she loves, the ironically absent Rebecca). I then analyze the operatic extracts, heightened sound effects, and patterns of speech in the based-on-a-true-story film directed by Peter Jackson, Heavenly Creatures, which also subversively insists on our alignment with its queer protagonists. I delve into more personal politics by applying psychoanalysis to David Raksin’s score for Bigger Than Life, Nicholas Ray’s shockingly candid film of 1956 that deals directly with domestic violence, and to the sound effects and avant-garde compilation score for Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster hit Shutter Island, a film that deals with the impact of post-natal depression in an atypically compassionate, as well as tragic, way. Finally, I turn to the sound track of the recent Academy-Award-winning film Gravity as it demands our complicity with its central character: a queer, feminist icon named Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock. Gravity features an emotive original score by Steven Price that is meant to match “the tempo of Stone’s heartbeat,”[2] and sound effects through Dolby Atmos technology that provide us with an immersive sonic experience of space much as she might feel it. Throughout this book, I draw upon hundreds of well-established and contemporary theoretical works. That said, when I was asked to write this article about my book, I realized that my belief in the power of sound tracks extends beyond the boundaries of any or all theoretical approaches.

Garner’s death is a humbling reminder that we must continue to hear others’ voices. Though I can never fully realize what Garner endured, the repetition of his last words has prompted me to repeatedly attempt to understand his final moments. Similarly, all the sound tracks I analyze are exceptional in that they enforce our attachment to others’ lives, and give us the extraordinary impression of hearing everything in a place and time beyond our own. The transportive and affective power of such sound tracksdemands an empathetic response to experiences we can never have. Perhaps this is the ultimate goal of cinema. In short, we should embrace the audio-visual power of the medium. As sound designer John Currie writes:

 

Cinema overall is 70% sound. Because your ears are far more developed than your eyes. You cannot stop yourself hearing, even if you put your finger in your ears, you still hear. Because it goes through the cheek bones and everything. But eyes are . . . you can shut your eyes and that’s it.[3]

 

*Elsie Walker is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at Salisbury University. She has published many articles on sound tracks and film adaptations of Shakespeare. She is also coeditor of Literature Film Quarterly.Her Understanding Sound Tracks Through Film Theory is published by Oxford University Press (2015).

Endnotes

[1] Haneke, Michael. 2000. “71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance: Notes to the Film.” In After Postmodernism: Austrian Literature and Film in Transition, edited by Willy Riemer, 171-75 (174). Riverside, CA: Ariadne

[2] Ayers, Mike. “Secrets of the Gravity Soundtrack: Composer Steven Price on the score of 2013’s biggest movie.” Rolling Stone. 9 Oct. 2013. Web. 21 Dec. 2013. <http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/secrets-of-the-gravity-soundtrack-20131009>.

[3] Starrs, Bruno. “Aural Auteur: sound in the films of Rolf de Heer. Diss. Queensland University of Technology. 2009. Web <http://eprints.qut.edu.au/29302/2/Bruno_Starrs_Thesis.pdf>. Dec. 4. 2013 (249).

 

The Art of Irene Chan

Irene Chan.

Irene Chan.

The Artist
Irene Chan is a multidisciplinary artist who works conceptually in print media, papermaking, installation, storytelling performance, and book arts. Her books and works on paper have been exhibited internationally and held in 70 public collections including the Walker Art Center, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, and British Library in London. In 1995, Chan established Ch’An (ch’ ahn) Press through which she has self-published prints and 29 limited-edition artist books to date. She is the recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Arts Council, Maryland State Arts Council, Washington D.C. Commission of the Arts and Humanities, fellowships to 14 artist residencies, and has exhibited and performed in 76 venues in the last ten years.
Irene Chan holds an M.F.A. with honors from the San Francisco Art Institute and a degree in architecture (BArch) with a Minor in English from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is an Associate Professor in the departments of Visual Arts (Head of Print Media) and Asian Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County For more information, go to her website, http://ch-anpress.com; check facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ch.anpress; and see her iInterview at http://www.wsworkshop.org/2014/08/alumnae-spotlight-irene-chan/

YELLOWSKIN BRACELET

This book is in a performance. This is an alternative book form because the “pages” are the text around the bracelet.

This book is in a performance. This is an alternative book form because the “pages”
are the text around the bracelet.

AN INCOMPLETE (SEX) EDUCATION

The sculptural book is first a flat leaf, then opens into a flower. When tied around the waist, it is a skirt. The text is paper cut-outs and comes out of the four petals of the sculptural book skirt. When placed in the “garden”, the flower is pollinated with text from the story.

The sculptural book is first a flat leaf, then opens into a flower. When tied around the waist, it is a skirt. The text is paper cut-outs and comes out of the four petals of the sculptural book skirt. When
placed in the “garden”, the flower is pollinated with text from the story.

MOON-FACED TYPECAST

The lyrics satire a well-known song from an American film that used Yellowface.

The lyrics satire a well-known song from an American film that used Yellowface.

BABOONS MARCHING

A collage self-portrait in response to an 1858 newspaper cartoon. The commentator says he cannot understand how Southern Chinese women can be described as beautiful. He likens their appearance to baboons.

A collage self-portrait in response to an 1858 newspaper cartoon. The commentator says he cannot understand how Southern Chinese women can be described as beautiful. He likens their appearance to baboons.

MOVING PARTS CONCENTRATION

While watching contemporary dance performances, I noticed pairing, natural opposites, placement memory, and chance patterns. I thought of playing the memory game Concentration. In this specialized set, there are representations of flora, fauna, and man-made nature. Part of a ten-box set with nine other artists sponsored by Pyramid Atlantic and CityDance.

While watching contemporary dance performances, I noticed pairing, natural opposites, placement memory, and chance patterns. I thought of playing the memory game Concentration. In this specialized set, there are representations of flora, fauna, and man-made nature. Part of a ten-box set with nine other artists sponsored by Pyramid Atlantic and CityDance.

Three Poems by Joshua Lavender

Joshua Lavender earned a B.A. English Literature at Georgia College & State University and an M.F.A. Poetry at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he now serves as a communications coordinator for the College of Education. His poems have previously appeared in Free State Review, Able Muse, Town Creek Poetry, and The Southern Poetry Anthology.

Joshua Lavender. Credit: Jacob Lavender.

Joshua Lavender. Credit: Jacob Lavender.

CAESURA

And here, to interrupt a rambling tour
of dreary rooms and shadowy passages,
the poet throws an unsuspected door
open on light. The scope of sight explodes.

The slightest pause, but world enough and time
to touch the relics, see the frescoed walls,
gape at the vaulted roof of archetype.
You have to wonder, though, why has the room

turned out to be a dirty kitchen, strewn
with unwashed pans, plates, cups, and tupperware?
And what are all these creatures doing here?
Is this a kitchen or a menagerie?

An aardvark hides his snout inside a pot,
a departmental troop of ants advances
on a sugar tin left open overnight,
an elephant is staring down a mouse.

The zoo is not the worst of it, not with
the poet’s daddy issues, symbolized
by Clem Kadiddlehopper beating eggs.
He whisks with vigor, bleating sheepishly

for Shirley, who reclines against the fridge
browsing a J.C. Penney catalog—
the poet’s mother? metaphor of loss?—
to see if she can find the sassafras.

What’s more perplexing, somehow, is the cloud
of consonants that hovers overhead:
abundant P’s and S’s. “Plenary”
and “stoic” are particularly loud.

Why all this thunder? Can’t the poet hear
the roar his diction makes? And why these lines,
why these atrocious, willy-nilly breaks?
Did the poet set the meter loose?

But what a short reprieve—caesura: space
of breath—to think about all this. Besides,
the cat has crept into your Morris chair.
She wildly flicks her tail against the page.

She won’t be satisfied until she’s fed.
And come to think of it, you still have stacks
of dishes in the kitchen, trash to haul
out to the curb before your wife comes home.

You close the door and see the reader off
with iambs waving from the final line.
How tiresome, writing poems! How unlike
your stoic, plenary, and mythic life.

JOB HUNTING

My landlady, scrubbing peaches in the sink,
suggests I fib on my résumé. I balk
at such an idea. But she’s right, I think.

Here’s the problem: I’m outmoded. I’ve spent
all morning listing skills and experience,
but looking at it, I feel anachronistic.

How Kipling felt, perhaps, as industry
consumed nature, leaving no place for men
like Mowgli—close-to-earth, romantic beings.

I’m typing this on an old Smith Corona,
dot-matrix paper. Corduroy jackets hang
on the coat tree next to my beat-up cane,

and on a nearby table a pocket-watch ticks.
Job descriptions give me anxiety attacks.
I’d like to reinvent myself to work:

web design, a mastery of JavaScript,
grant writing, educational leadership—
even a carpenter’s touch would bless me.

Not a bookworm or poet, nothing archaic,
nothing that says I’m frivolous or messy.
Even Mowgli at last left the wolf-pack

and chased the spring running in his blood,
the path that led him back to the human brood.
Man belongs with man, with his own age.

And I need timely work, some worthwhile gain.
Instead I have this page, its marginal pain—
looking back, and so eager to look again.

ALLUSION IN A GREASY SPOON

I am not the best egg and cheese sandwich ever made.
I cannot be a perfect sandwich. I have seen,
In my brief, sandwichy life, things you cannot imagine.
Though I have seen a head of lettuce
(grown slightly limp) brought in upon a platter,
I am no BLT—and here’s no great splatter;
I have seen the flint of the gas stove flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Grill Cook hold the mayo, and snicker,
And in short, I was sautéed.

Senryū by Robert Deluty, UMBC/Psychology

Robert Deluty

Robert Deluty

poker-playing prof
hands back papers while saying
Read ‘em and weep

the college senior
believing post-bac is short
for post-bachelorette

the chalk producer
writhing through a nightmare:
blackboard-less classes

old prof requesting,
at all faculty meetings,
schnapps be served

mid-winter at Brown…
one foot of snow causing her
to ditch the flip-flops

the geographer
referring to atlases
as placeholders

the biologist
referring to his nieces
as bags of germs

celebrating
her fifth year polishing
the same poem

Turkish-born Ufuk
telling insulting colleagues
it means horizon

the scholar
urging his wife not to voice
every thought

Organic Chem class…
students praying that the prof
curves his curve

chess club treasurer
confiding he far prefers
Texas Hold ‘em

college dean asking
an art professor to cease
calling him Dude

pre oral defense . . .
telling his grad student
Don’t embarrass me

proud immigrant Dad
bragging My son’s at Princeton…
the one in Jerse

Eating, Reading, and Recipes

Jennifer Cognard-Black, St. Mary’s College of Maryland/English

 

Cookbook historian Margaret Beetham has said, “[T]here is a relationship between eating and reading.”

This relationship, however, relies on a specific kind of written text: the recipe, which acts as a go-between. For a recipe is a piece of writing that turns reading into eating. And yet, as a mediator between words and food, a recipe isn’t just an instruction manual. A recipe is a story. It sets a scene, forms a plot, arrives at a climax, and ends with a denouement. Curiously, readers themselves become the main characters within these stories, for readers must enact recipes, transforming ingredients and instructions into narratives that they perform and shape. Recipes, then, are both collaborative and embodied—a unique form of reading. They also have a distinct ability to be shared and passed on, and not only through recipe boxes and cookbooks and food blogs. Recipe stories are carried within the very bodies of the readers who cook them, eat them, and then carry those words into the future.

It’s these remarkable aspects of recipes that have fascinated me for years, leading me to teach an upper-level English seminar in the literatures of food, called “Books that Cook.” In this course, my students and I discuss poems, essays, memoirs, novels, and films that contain recipes, from Sherman Alexie’s “13/16” to Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe to Maya Angelou’s Hallelujah! The Welcome Table to Campbell Scott’s and Stanley Tucci’s Big Night. But even before we think about how recipes are embedded in various forms of writing and visual culture, we start by closely reading the recipes themselves. For my students, it’s a bit of a puzzle when I hand them recipe cards and ask them what stories they tell. The easy answer, of course, is that if there’s any “story” here, it’s a how-to one: how to bake banana-almond bread or how to make paella. Yet once students think more complexly about how the list of ingredients arranges a setting, how the instructions form a narrative arc from A to B to C, how the finished product might be seen as a happy or tragic (or at least adequate) ending, and how the garnishing or serving or even the calorie count becomes a finale to the whole, all of a sudden, recipes become something more than the sum of their parts.

Jennifer Cognard-Black with her students on a field trip to Slack Winery in 2009. Credit: Andrew Cognard-Black

Jennifer Cognard-Black with her students on a field trip to Slack Winery in 2009. Credit: Andrew Cognard-Black

Like other literary forms, recipe stories also communicate history and culture as well as setting, plot, and character. Rather quickly, my students come to see that recipes convey certain time periods, construct gender, and express ethnic, racial, and class-bound ideas and ideals. For instance, in an American recipe that calls for “oleo” or “oly,” such word choice suggests that this dish was first prepared during wartime. Initially patented in the U.S. in 1873, “oleomargarine”— from the Latin oleum, meaning “oil,” a foodstuff made from purified beef fat mixed with milk—became more widespread when real butter was rationed during WWI and WWII. Other items in a list of ingredients might signal industrialized agriculture (corn oil), consumer culture (Rice Krispies), regionalism (Andouille sausage or blue crabmeat), or ethnicity (okra or tortillas). The narrative style of a recipe is often feminized or masculinized in traditional ways, with a writer such as Mollie Katzen explaining that, when talking about bread baking, she’s tempted to “go on and on about how exhilarated and connected to the universe one feels, about how the kitchen atmosphere acquires sublime soufulness, about how born-again bread-makers are magical, charismatic individuals,” and one such as Roger Welsch, who believes that “Food and men go hand in hand. The secret is, however they may feel about cooking, men like to eat.” Narrators also alternate between chefspeak (“soufflé,” “fricassee,” and “reamer”) or cookspeak (“casserole,” “fry,” and “juice”), which creates either more intellectual or conversational moods, and numerous recipes are rife with sense-based imagery—as sharp and vivid as poems.

Students making challah bread with cookbook author Joan Nathan in 2011. Credit: Alex Gardullo

Students making challah bread with cookbookauthor Joan Nathan in 2011. Credit: Alex Gardullo

As my students and I transition from stand-alone recipes to those integrated into poetry, fiction, memoirs, and films, what’s most intriguing is the elasticity of the recipe form. From such simple and functional parts—a list of ingredients followed by a set of instructions—come a myriad of artistic structures and intents. Some recipe essays are elegiac, some comedic. For a piece grappling with the necessity of death within life, see “Funeral Food” by Michael Lee West; for one that brings laughter, try “Tasteless” by David Sedaris. In turn, some recipe fictions are novels of social protest, some coming-of-age narratives. A pointed indictment of modern factory farming is Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, whereas Thomas Fox Averill’s Secrets of the Tsil Café is a novel that moves its cooking hero from innocence to experience. And some recipe poems reveal beauty, some harsh reality. Bill Kloefkorn’s “Porkchop Gravy” remembers his mother at her stove with heartbreaking beauty, while Ravi Shankar’s “American Liver Mush” exposes the racial severities of American popular culture. One might say that the literatures of food appeal to a range of tastes and satisfy many appetites. And, indeed, I think it’s arguable that much of lived experience—and that experience as reflected in art—might be seen as a gathering of ingredients, one resulting in a set of instructions on how best to understand the human.

So it’s not an overstatement—at least I don’t think so—to claim that recipes are an unrecognized genre of American literature, one that deserves acknowledgement and appreciation, study and discussion, preservation and innovation. For recipes are a kind of literature that provides a reading experience unlike any other. To cook a book is to consume it both literally and figuratively, the words made flesh. And can there be a more intimate relationship to reading than eating? To bring a story into oneself, through the mind but also through the mouth? Such intimacy suggests a potential power of empathy and transformation among readers that is at the very center of literary pursuit. Dare I say it? Such potential is the very meat of the matter: the recipere (the giving and the receiving) of the recipe as literature.

 

Works Cited

 

Beetham, Margaret. “Of Recipe Books and Reading in the Nineteenth Century: Mrs. Beeton and her Cultural Consequences.” The Recipe Reader: Narratives, Contexts, Traditions. Eds. Janet Floyd, and Lauren Foster. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 2003. 15–30. Print.

Katzen, Mollie. The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. . .and Other Timeless Delicacies. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1982.

“Oleomargarine.” The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 2015. 24 January 2015. Web.

Welsch, Roger. Diggin’ In and Piggin’ Out: One Man’s Love for Real Food, Home Cookin’ and High Spirits. New York, NY: Perennial, 1998.

 

*Jennifer Cognard-Black is Professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she teaches creative writing, the novel, and the literatures of food. The recipient of a Fulbright award to Slovenia as well as a Maryland State Arts Council award for fiction, Cognard-Black has long been interested in the connections between reading and eating. Her current co-edited collection, Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal (NYU Press 2014), explores how recipes are pieces of literature—forms of storytelling and memory-making all their own. Cognard-Black has also written about the intersections of food, feminism, and culture in Ms. Magazine as well as for Feminist Studies with Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland.

 

 

March Commentary

Commentary

Lots of thoughtful writers make stimulating comments, and copyright laws plus economics and focus prevent us from turning the Faculty Voice into a reprint publication. But there are a few brief items that we’d like to share.

 

Culture

“The discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business. There are ‘metrics’ for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past. Beyond its impact upon culture, the new technology penetrates even deeper levels of identity and experience, to cognition and to consciousness.”

Source: Leon Wieseltier, “Among the Disrupted,” NY Times Book Review, 7 January 2015

 

Teaching

“Could your students identify the most important concepts in your discipline? Do they leave your class understanding these most fundamental concepts, including the ability to reason using these concepts to answer essential questions? Do your students become critical thinkers who connect concepts and practices in your course with other courses? With their future professional lives? Traditional ways of teaching and the customary use of textbooks can hinder the development of critical thinking and meaningful learning. …”

Source: Faculty Focus, 12 January 2015

 

Meritocracy

“Through their admissions criteria, our colleges and universities have adopted [Michael Dunlop] Young’s nightmarish meritocracy. Cocky boys and girls internalize success and take personal credit for the trappings of privilege, including the educational resources and networks of their college-educated parents. The rise of the testocratic meritocracy has enabled those already at the top of the heap to continue to preside without a sense of moral or political accountability. They believe that their ‘advancement comes from their own merits,’ as Young writes, and thus that they are entitled to their power.”

Source: The Chronicle Review, 9 January 2015) The article is adapted from her book, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy, 2015

 

March News & Notes

Kirwan on Money

“We in higher education must seriously rethink our business and academic models. While aggressively seeking better funding, we must simultaneously actively pursue lower-cost means of delivering high-quality higher education to more students. Failure to do so will, I am convinced, lead to a seriously diminished America both in terms of economic strength and social equity.” Source: Chancellor Kirwan at the AAC&U Presidents’ Forum Plenary Session, “How Leaders Are Tackling the Cost/Value/Debt Consternation,” 22 January 2015

Loh on Change

From UMCP’s President Wallace Loh: “Our challenge is to respond creatively to long-term forces that impact higher education. We are in a “new normal” of constrained state and federal funding due to budget deficits and slow economic growth. Nationwide, state appropriations for public universities have fallen while the share from tuition and self-generated funds has risen. Taxpayers increasingly view public higher education more as a private benefit than as a public good. Technology, demographics, and globalization are reshaping society, and we are not immune.”

Fracking in Maryland

The University of Maryland School of Public Health published a study in July, 2014 for the Maryland Department of the Environment which concluded that the likelihood for negative public health impacts for Maryland communities in the areas currently targeted for hydraulic fracturing to be moderately-high to high in seven of the eight areas they studied.  These areas range from “cumulative exposures/risks” to “air quality.”  This assessment agrees with the great majority of scientific studies published nationally on the question of the health hazards posed by fracking.

Undocumented Students

A UCLA study reports: “Uunauthorized immigrant students often felt a sense of isolation on campus and said they believed they were likely to be treated unfairly or negatively by university officials, faculty or other students. They said it was difficult to find people on campus they believed they could trust.

‘This study provides a new and alarming picture of what undocumented college students are facing,’ said Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a co-principal investigator of the study and graduate school dean at UCLA said in a statement. ‘The time has come for colleges and universities to unequivocally commit to supporting undocumented students as members of their campus communities. These students are studying and working hard, and they long to belong. It is high time to fully embrace them. These new data suggest a blueprint for providing a safe environment in which they may learn and succeed.’”

Source: http://www.undocuscholars.org/undocuscholars-report.html

Engineering Research

Funding to move forward with the University System of Maryland’s plans to build a $70 million center for engineering research, development and instruction on a campus adjacent to the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport is not included in Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget plans for next fiscal year. It is a sign of the times, and the quality and quantity of work in the Maryland System may not be catching up with peer institutions.

Drones

“The pickup truck speeds down the runway of the airfield here on the Eastern Shore, a small, unmanned aircraft in its payload. And then the aircraft takes flight, banking over the heads of the spectators. After years of planning, the University of Maryland’s drone test facility is open for business.

Unmanned aircraft systems are most familiar to Americans for their use in war to scout, spy and kill. Privacy groups have watched warily as law enforcement has started to experiment with them.

But there is a growing interest among businesses eager to employ them to deliver goods, monitor agriculture and measure environmental conditions, among other applications, and the Federal Aviation Administration is encouraging research into how they might safely be introduced into U.S. airspace.” Alas, drones can do lots of harm. Won’t terrorists be delighted to send drones with bombs or poison gas over the U.S. Capitol or maybe the University of Maryland?

Source: Baltimore Sun, 7 December 2014

Law Schools

From Business Week, we learn: (1) Law school enrollment is in a free fall, falling 24% since 2010 to its lowest point in 36 years. (2) The quality of the entering class is declining; students with high LSAT scores now make up only 16% of entering class – down 20%; low scoring students’ portion has risen from 14% to 21%. (3) The pass rate for bar exams took a dive, e.g., the scores on multiple choice section hit a 10-year low. (4) Over one-third of recent graduates either did not have a job or had a job unconnected with their law degree; and the employment rate for new law graduates has taken a 6-year tumble.

 

Notes on Campuses and People

Campuses

Towson

            Towson has named its arena, and President Timothy Chandler stated at the ceremony:“When it came to naming this arena, we were selective about who we were willing to put atop our building and link arms with. We knew we wanted a true community partner–but not in name only. We wanted a partner in action, with shared focus and value in serving the community. SECU has a record and reputation for community involvement, scholastic and financial education, and support of many organizations and causes that precede its relationship with Towson. And we took note.” SECU is the State Employees Credit Union.

UMBC

Imagining America is a national consortium helping to reshape higher education’s contributions to democracy by enabling scholars and artists to “thrive and contribute to community action and revitalization.” In October 2015, Imagining America will meet in Baltimore and UMBC.

UMUC

The University of Maryland University College’s cyberdefense team, the Cyber Padawans (a reference to the Jedi knights in training in Star Wars) won first place in the Global CyberLympics, an international competition held in Barcelona, Spain.

UMCP

Town and gown coordinating: The College Park City University Partnership is under new direction with former County Councilmember Eric Olson at the helm. They have also published their annual report. University President Dr. Wallace Loh has been appointed Chair of College Park Academy while former Howard County executive Ken Ulman has been tapped to bring more businesses and investors to the region.

Hopefully, the partnership will – among many opportunities – find ways to reduce the crime; College Park ranks third with 371 reported crimes including 105 for motor vehicle theft.

People

Eric Davidson

Dr. Davidson joins the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Appalachian Laboratory as its new director in the new year. An ecologist, soil scientist, and biogeochemist, Davidson was formerly Executive Director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, where he had worked as a scientist since 1991.

The Appalachian Laboratory, one of four University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) laboratories located across the state, is dedicated to the study of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Dr. Davidson will lead a cadre of more than 30 faculty, research associates, staff, and post-doctoral fellows working to better understand the environment.

 

Maravene Loeschke

Towson University President Maravene Loeschke ’69/’71 announced in December that she was resigning her position effective 19 December 2014 due to her poor health. The university announced in April that Dr. Loeschke had been diagnosed with adrenal cancer; she has been on leave since late August.

Loeschke: “It is the deepest sadness of my life that I find I must resign as President of Towson University because of my health. I was to return in January to continue guiding our goals and vision, but my health will not allow me to give Towson the 100% of my attention that it deserves, which any University deserves from its President.”

Baltimore Sun (26 December 2014): “President Loeschke was Towson’s best president, and this is particularly impressive in view of the consistent excellence of her predecessors. Towson’s growth and flourishing has been due in large part to the truly excellent presidents and provosts Towson has had in the last four decades.

Wallace Loh

The President of UMCP apparently has some spare time, and so he has agreed to chair the charter school College Park Academy.

 

Notes on Students and Money

The Low-Income Challenge

What can we do – what do we do – for incoming students from poor schools and families and neighborhoods? “Students from low-income backgrounds often attend high schools without rigorous college-prep tracks, meaning their access to good information on higher education may be inadequate. Many of them are also significantly behind academically, which stymies them from applying or being accepted to certain schools. And to make matters worse, thousands of colleges across the country lack resources or programs earmarked for low-income or first generation students. That means that, while many schools enroll these students, few are equipped to actually graduate them.”

Source: theatlantic.com, 31 December 2014

Head to Germany

The spectacular Philological Library at Free University, Berlin. Credit: Paula Soler-Moya/flickr

The spectacular Philological Library at Free University, Berlin. Credit: Paula Soler-Moya/flickr

All German universities are now free to Americans and all other international students. The last German state to charge tuition at its universities struck down the fees in recent weeks. In explaining why Germany made this move, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a Hamburg senator, called tuition fees “unjust” and added that “they discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

Note: Another country with free university education is Scotland. And yes, it still is in the U.K. – and they do speak English.

Change: Degree and Money

“In 1965, a typical man whose education stopped after four years of high school earned a salary 15 percent higher than the median male worker. By 2012, a high-school-only grad was earning 20 percent less than the median. The swing has been even more dramatic for women who stopped their education after high school: They earned almost 40 percent more than the median female salary in 1965 and 24 percent less in 2012.”

Source: Washington Post, 16 December 2014

The Solution: Free Community College?

President Obama has advocated that community college education be free to all (with a few requirements). Free! Wow! No more dropping out for financial reasons. The federal government would pay most of the cost, and the states would pick up the rest. But in the distance, we hear heads some institutions yelling “no” “stop”! Of course, proprietary colleges would suffer: why pay when you can get it free? And maybe some heads of Maryland’s four-year institutions would join the “no” “stop” yelling, fearing loss of a significant portion of their freshman and sophomore classes. Apparently, a free community college program is working well in Tennessee and Chicago. Are the U of Tennessee and U Illinois Chicago panicking?

Cartoons by Roger Lewis

Professor Emeritus Roger K. Lewis, FAIA, a practicing architect and urban planner, was on the UMCP architecture faculty from 1968 to 2006.  In 1984 he put on additional hat: journalist/cartoonist.  His Washington Post column, “Shaping the City,” always including a didactic yet witty drawing, focused on urban design and architecture; smart growth and sustainability; historic preservation; housing; transportation and infrastructure; and construction technology.  Republished nationally and internationally, “Shaping the City” has received numerous awards, and Lewis’ cartoons have been exhibited at numerous venues, including UMCP, the National Building Museum, the American Institute of Architects and the University of Miami/Miami Herald.  The 2013 third edition of his book, Architect? A Candid Guide to the Profession, first published in 1985 by The MIT Press, contains many of his cartoons. Since 2007, Lewis has been a regular guest discussing “Shaping the City” issues on the Kojo Nnamdi radio show, broadcast by American University’s National Public Radio affiliate WAMU.

Over the years, Lewis has also contributed cartoons to the Faculty Voice. He is also a keen observer of higher education. We asked Lewis if we could present a page of his cartoons, and he responded with a “yes.” Here is a tiny collection of his vast work.

2-27-10 Historic Preservation  copy 3-14-09 so 19th century copy 1987-10-10 aping the neighbors copy 1989-01-28 Guillotine Architecture copy 1991-10-26 doesn't know what he's talking about copy 2002-09-21 Housing Voucher Diaper Change copy 2005-04-16 Zorro copy 2008-11-22 Palladio cookbook copy 2009- 08-22 Thermostat-HVAC copy 2010-01-30 Earthquake Effect  copy 2010-07-17 SmartStat copy 2010-07-31 Metro Lighting copy 2010-10-09 Trolley Car copy 2010-12-18 Pet Peeves copy 2011-02-12 Draw by hand copy 2011-11-05 solar decathlon house copy 2012-06-02 Deer in Hollin Hills copy 2012-06-30 Thanks anyway, Mom copy 2013-09-28 BIM - still ugly copy Capture-BabblingExpert Capture-TakingExam HP Someone to Preserve Me copy 2 HP tour telephone booth copy 2 Painting Infrastructure Green copy

Courtesy of Andre da Loba/ Marlena Agency

Courtesy of Andre da Loba/
Marlena Agency

Global interprofessional education at UMB

by Jody K. Olsen, Social Work/UMB*

Background

Global health, by definition and necessity, is a collaborative field. But we often struggle to bridge the gap between this knowledge and building collaborative teams as effective teamwork requires training in soft skills such as perseverance, openness, sharing, and respecting. These are not the didactic or hard skills with which global health educators often feel most comfortable teaching but without which collaboration risks collapse. This theme was identified and highlighted at the UMB Center for Global Education Initiatives (CGEI) sponsored Roundtable in October 2013 on the UMB campus that focused on interprofessional global health education. During the one day event, national global health and interprofessional education experts grappled with what collaborative skills are essential for global health, how best to these identified skills, and how to measure success in this area. These experts commented:

  • “Global health students need to know how to work in teams, and educators need to teach them how.”
  • “In many cases the greatest challenge to the success of interprofessional education is the collaborative component.”
  • “An essential first step in building a healthy team is … recognizing, respecting, and honoring the differences among the team members as strengths they bring.”
Two UMB students interact with a Malawian child during a recent interprofessional global health project. Courtesy of Jody Olsen

Two UMB students interact with a Malawian
child during a recent interprofessional
global health project. Courtesy of Jody Olsen

Interprofessional global health grant program

Partially as a result of the Roundtable, faculty members took on the challenge of modeling interprofessional collaboration and team building within global health by partnering with the UMB President’s office and the six professional schools (dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work) to facilitate an Interprofessional faculty and student Global Heath Grant Award program. Based on UMB’s previous four years of experience with interprofessional global health facilitating annual six-week projects in Malawi, Africa, the Center is now in its second year of this competitive grant program. In these two years, the Center has funded 18 different one- to six-week projects in ten different countries: Malawi, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, the Gambia, Ghana, China (Hong Kong), England, Brazil, and Israel. A total of 24 faculty members have mentored 72 students on these projects, representing all six professional schools.

The critical component of each project is its interprofessional collaborative framework. Each project must be interprofessional, which the Center defines as including at least two participating students from two different UMB schools. Some projects include four or five students, representing three to four different schools.

Two Rwandan dental students working during a visit with a UMB team in summer 2014. Courtesy of Jody Olsen

Two Rwandan dental students working during a visit with a UMB team in summer 2014. Courtesy of Jody Olsen

In the fall and spring, faculty members can apply to CGEI for interprofessional global health grants of up to $10,000 to cover project expenses. Once faculty members are selected, their projects are posted and students then apply for student grants to participate in these projects. Student grants fund international travel, visas, and immunizations.

The individual projects and preparation emphasize both the collaborative hard and soft skills of interprofessional global health programs. Each includes:

  • A research design,
  • A partner in the host country to facilitate the project activity and logistical support,
  • Pre-departure IPE team building preparation,
  • In-country technical, cross-cultural, IPE team activities,
  • Post-project presentations, articles, and the adaption of lessons learned to subsequent campus and Baltimore academic activities

The interprofessional projects represent a wide range of research-related global health topics and have a specific, limited scope to match the short time frame. Projects include, for example:

  • Evaluation and Interprofessional Collaboration: Human Resources for Health (Rwanda),
  • Examining Palliative Care in China (Hong Kong),
  • Community Based Perception of Out-of-Hospital Emergency Care Needs (Kenya),
  • Social Justice and Health: Are they Related in my Community? (Israel),
  • Interprofessional Care Teams in Salvador, Brazil: A Transferable Model of Care (Brazil)? and
  • The Impact of Involuntary Maternal Psychiatric Hospitalization on Children’s Care: An Interprofessional Research Project (UK).

We have learned much about team building and collaboration through this program so far, particularly as a result of debriefs with participating faculty and students. We are now highlighting the following themes in a short faculty orientation video now in production:

  • Global health projects are very human undertakings and therefore require a focus on soft, interpersonal team skills to encourage

o   getting along in different professional contexts,

o   respecting each other professionally and personally while working and living together, and

o   showing trust, patience, flexibility, humor, and humility toward each other and toward in-country colleagues.

  • Poor group dynamics can overshadow the best-designed project.
  • Attention to building and sustaining teams parallels building technical project components.
  • Students consistently ask for social interaction before traveling overseas, separate from required didactic requirements.
  • Stress of travel, being in a completely different environmental context, being with new people of different professions, and working on unfamiliar projects create intense group dynamics.
  • Students have expressed need to reflect both individually and in informal group settings. Faculty members should encourage opportunities for these reflections.

Creating and institutionalizing this interprofessional grant program on campus is creating a dynamic and unique way to operationalize a critical theme in global health: collaboration. The grant program, which is supported by the university President and the campus Deans is creating a body of faculty dedicated to interprofessional education and cross campus collaboration.**

 

*Jody K. Olson, PhD, MSW, is a Visiting Professor at the School of Social Work. For many years, she was with the Peace Corps starting as Volunteer in Tunisia and rising to Acting Director in the Obama administration. Her Ph.D. is from the College of Education at UMCP.

**For information about the grants, participating faculty, CGEI faculty members, and program parameters, go to: www.global.umaryland.edu . To access the article and special issue highlighting the results of the October 2013 Roundtable, go to:   http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jlme.2014.42.issue-s2/issuetoc.

 

 

University Life in Times of Scarcity

by Nelly P. Stromquist, Education/UMCP

A silent malaise permeates the campus today. This malaise stands in harsh and pathetic contrast to university statements exhorting us to become one of the top 10 flagship universities, “equal to the best in the nation.” Few faculty members express their feelings openly, but when they do, it is clear few people are happy. This article is based on views expressed by 14 colleagues in five colleges, all but one either associate or full professors.

We have seen furloughs before. They are, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon in our UM lives. But there are questions about fairness in their application. University officials announced the furlough formula without acknowledging that in the one-day, two-day, and three-day categories, individuals at the lowest end of their category lose a higher percentage of their salary than people at the highest end of their category. According to one math professor, it would be much fairer to say that everyone who earns above $60,000 loses some across-the-board fixed percentage (whatever that percentage needs to be). The president, with a current salary of $492,277 ($450,000 when he began in 2010) and a furlough of three days, is giving up 1.15% of his salary, assuming a 260-day year; the provost, with a salary of $416,615, also with a three-day furlough, is giving up 1.15% of her salary too. These percentages are low compared to the 1.25 to 2% reported by the associate and full professors. Moreover, the dollar amount main administrators lose is much more affordable given their generous salaries. And “furlough” is a misnomer because here it is applied to loss of wages, not work—no faculty would want to take furloughs on teaching days.

The decision to rescind cost-of-life adjustments (COLA) and merit increases are even more serious than furloughs because they affect base pay and, being permanent reductions, they also affect future salary increases. Some salaries have scarcely increased in the past eight years. In fact, the only salary increase a faculty member might earn here is when first hired by UMD. The lack of salary increases has abetted a considerable salary compression, as new hires are attracted on current market prices. According to a professor in one of the colleges, her recently hired junior colleagues earn $30,000 to $50,000 more than she does. This further fosters a demoralizing, resentful climate.

Have faculty members left because of the chronic economic depression at UMD? There has been no mass exodus, yet several examples are identified, most involving young faculty memberes at assistant levels. One faculty member vividly relates, “I do recall that we were recruiting at a time of furloughs, and just about to sign someone on, when the person saw the furloughs being discussed on the UMD home page, and suddenly she did find more reasons to not join us—but the furlough issue was a key factor in my estimation.” Other instances are less dramatic; they usually involve a permanent job search, with the attendant behavior of less commitment to the institution. The current hiring freeze is creating unsustainable situations in some departments, as people who played key roles—including having many advisees at the graduate level—are not being replaced. There is a case of some 30 orphan graduates moving aimlessly through the halls. In the case of one of the wealthiest colleges at UMD, the average professor/undergraduate student ratio is 1/94.

A poll jointly conducted by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland (10 February 2015) found that 32% of the US population are “least favorable” to budget cuts at the K-12 level but that only 11% are least favorable to cuts in higher education. What does this mean? They do not care for what is one of the best attributes of the US in the minds of many people throughout the world? They do not mind dismantling the reputation of public universities? They do not know that that tuition at UMD—at $8,000/year— is cheaper than many private primary schools in the area? A public policy professor has noted that the median annual family income of MD resident students at UMD is $120,000 and that of non-state resident students is $140,000 per year. Poor these students are not. Certainly, exploring the possibilities of increasing tuition is a correct measure to take.

Most politicians at Annapolis have four or more years of college education. So why is it that they do not fully appreciate the crucial role of the University of Maryland? According to several colleagues, the answer might lie in our limited success in articulating the kind of student we foster and how a certain level of resources must be in place to continue producing high quality graduates. Are we really doing a good job in presenting ourselves and our strengths?

Courtesy of Kelcie Grega

Courtesy of Kelcie Grega

Where is the philanthropy toward UMD these days? At my previous university (USC, Los Angeles) a gift of $20 million made it to page 5 in the student newspaper; here this very rare event commands front page and multiple pictures. California, to be sure, has 111 billionaires compared to nine in Maryland, but on the other hand, Maryland has six of the 10 counties in the country with the highest income per capita. Can UMD do better in terms of identifying potential donors? There is evidence from successful fund-raising universities (USC a case in point) that large donors are not necessarily alumni. UMD administrators have stated on several occasions that 25 years ago the university did not have a fund-raising unit, that “we are new at this and it takes time to develop.” Now 25 years is a quarter of a century. This is a rather lame response for a unit tasked with fund-raising/institutional development. On19 February 2015 President Loh established Flagship 2020, a mega commission comprising 96 faculty, staff, and students who will work in five groups: updating the strategic plan, budget and finance, innovation and efficiency in education, research and administrative services, and revenue development. The last of these groups will engage in fund-raising planning—an area in great need of progress.

Faculty members who have been at UMD for at least 15 years think that university administrators engage in short-term politics and respond to petty, near-sighted political party exigencies. In the process, we fail to appreciate the big picture: where is the nation heading in the next decade when you curtail higher education? Faculty members are intelligent, well-credentialed people who know how to maximize their own welfare. Subjecting them to the whims of feckless politicians makes working in the Maryland system a risky proposition. The state has an obligation to its flagship and land grant institution to maintain the quality of its faculty and create supportive environments. Failure to do so will result in fewer and less qualified students applying to UMD and fewer funding agencies engaging the faculty in research.

Faculty members and administrators alike consume an inordinate amount of time on budget concerns. Why does this happen? It is less an issue of “good guys” and “bad guys” but rather one of permanent uncertainty due to the state’s inability to predict revenues and may be linked to some level of financial incompetency, and at least disordered priorities. If past is prologue, we will eventually leave behind this new crisis; unfortunately, in its wake we won’t become strong after this but rather resigned to the efficiency myth that you can always “do more with less.”

 

Robert Caret

Chancellor Kirwan (left) and chancellor elect Rober Caret. Credit: Gary Jones, UMBC

Chancellor Kirwan (left) and chancellor elect Rober Caret. Credit: Gary Jones, UMBC

For several months, most of us have known that Robert Caret would be the new System Chancellor. We have no access to the search team, but from the outside we think that it chose wisely. Caret’s current job is President of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. Before that, he headed San Jose State and Towson. He left Towson in 2011 to head north. His new Maryland job officially begins July 1 although he has been making trips to Maryland to meet with key politicians, state officials, and others.

The Baltimore Sun (December 2014) ran an article headlined “Caret described as transformative, assertive leader.”

Folks at U. Mass are not happy about the departure. “UMass trustees are still reeling from Caret’s sudden departure. Chairman Henry M. Thomas had been directed to negotiate a new contract with Caret and when he signed, everything seemed settled. Bob Connolly, vice president of communications in the UMass president’s office, insists Caret ‘disclosed contacts and discussions with the University System of Maryland at appropriate junctures throughout this process.’ Connolly added: ‘In seeking to extend his contract, UMass took the step that it would have taken given the outstanding performance review President Caret had received, but also was zealous in its efforts knowing of Maryland’s interest and given its desire to retain President Caret’s services.’” (Boston Globe, 26 December 2014)

The Baltimore Business Journal reports (22 December 2014): “A strong relationship with the business community will be a top priority for incoming University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret. Support from businesses is vitally important to the university system’s success, which is why Caret plans to spend a lot of time getting to know local business leaders, he said December 19 at a press conference.” Yes, one has to consider the power centers of the state. Let us hope, however, that components of our state’s higher education without obvious connections to the business community are protected and enhanced by the incoming chancellor.

Laslo Boyd, former state higher education official and professor, reports in his blog on a discussion he had with Caret; he discerned these goals: increase completion rate, maintain access and affordability for students, making universities more responsive to workforce needs, increasing the contribution of our universities to the state’s economic vitality, and promoting higher education’s importance.

One controversy that arose during Caret’s Towson leadership was the establishment there of an MBA program that Morgan State people saw as unnecessary duplication. It is hard to imagine, however, a major institution not offering an MBA.

In December Caret gave a talk at his introductory session at the Maryland System. Check it out at http://vimeo.com/115068180.

Of course, a key issue will be cuts in public funds for our universities – yes, additional cuts. Will he make across-the-board cuts, or will he be selective among campuses and within them? If he opts to select, what will be the criteria? If workforce needs and other contributions to the state’s economic vitality are criteria, the liberal arts may experience additional cuts.

 

 

The Art of Corinne Beardsley

The Artist

The Artist (2) copy

The Artist

Corinne Beardsley was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her love of the physical relationship with the material and the drama of something emerging in space is why she sculpts. She pursued her studies at Hartford Art School in Hartford, CT and University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; building large scale installations of ceramic figures. After receiving her MFA in sculpture from the New York Academy of Art in 2011, she went to China on an Artist Residency with the Central Academy of Fine Art in Bejing and Shanghai University.  Corinne’s current work involves building sculptures, masks, costumes, and collaborative cardboard caves.  She currently is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and Salisbury University in Ceramics, Drawing and Sculpture.

Artist’s Statement

With clay I explore liberation and play through a sculptural process. I manipulate clay spontaneously- slice, slump, slap, stab, smooth, rip, slather, dig, throw, roll, loop, dangle, and smear. I organize and collage the fleshy twists of slumped clay, composing these gestural preservations into facial expressions. They exist as an illusion of being a raw, undulating mound of clay and a smirking mask simultaneously. I am intrigued by how we on a primal level respond so strongly to two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. I enjoy considering how each viewer will discover faces as they are absorbed in the texture, grit of clay, and depth of the ceramic surface.

In earlier works I had been sculpting the figure representationally- aiming to express ideas of liberation and release through the female figurative form. I wanted to create a subversive alternative to the objectified representation of the female body that pervades our culture. I find liberation and freedom from those ideals through improvisational dance. I began observing the creative transformation that occurred when dancing, and liberating my body. I watched and recorded friends and fellow dancers to find those moments of unselfconsciousness, inward connection, and release. I then made realistic figurative sculptures that captured the movement and creative transformation in dancing.

In the dancing figures I was trying to express inner freedom and spontaneity in a tedious and tight process. I was loosing the liberation. In the process of creating these abstract ceramic faces I feel closer to finding the playfulness, unselfconsciousness and liberation I strive to express.

beardsley_8metal-S

Metal

 

beardsley_6RR-S

RR

 

beardsley_7sticks-S

Sticks

 

beardsley_10self-S copy

Self

 

beardsley_11nhnt-S copy

Neither Here nor There

 

beardsley_9pinkie-S3 copy

Pinkie

 

See many more works here: http://corinnebeardsley.com

Dining Around

By Bill Hanna, UMCP

One advantage of living a long life is that change can be observed and dramatic. Even restaurants! In Bethesda, for instance, back in 1965 there was one non-HotShop type restaurant; it served Chinese food. Now Bethesda reportedly has close to 200 restaurants, and all major cuisines appear to be represented – sometimes multiply. But Bethesda is a middle- upper-middle class area. What about areas that are more working class?

I headed for White Oak, Maryland. My biases led me to think that I’d only find KFC and Taco Bell and the like. But one strip mall has four Asian restaurants! I ventured into the one offering Indian food, Bombay Indian Restaurant (11229 New Hampshire Ave., 301-593-7222), expecting (yes, those same biases) KFC-India, but to my surprise the food was quite good and quite affordable. For lunch, I ordered Baigan Bharta (eggplant plus) and Chicken Tikka Masala., both under $10, plus Naan (a Tandori-prepared bread). All quite good. I look forward to researching the other three Asian restaurants, Hunan Manor, Pho Hung & Grill, and Sarku Japan. If a reader has eaten at any of these restaurants, we’d like to get assessments.
Of course, there are other quality Indian restaurants in suburban Maryland. Many. Among my favorites are Tiffin (1341 University Blvd., Takoma Park, 301-434-9200), Jewel of India (10151 New Hampshire Ave., 301-408-2200), Heritage India (4931 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-3373), and the vegetarian Woodlands (8046 New Hampshire Ave., 301-434-4202). Check out Woodlands on a Sunday when diners in beautiful saris fill the space.

The Host

Chiken Tikka Masala and Naan bread. Credit: SteFou/Flickr

The 2014 Midterm Elections: A Brief Dissection

by Stella M. Rouse, UMCP/Government & Politics*

A decisive Republican wave swept the 2014 elections. The results mean divided government at the national level and in many states. While divided government is not unusual, especially after 1970, this power-sharing arrangement has become a greater obstacle for cooperation and productivity in government due to increased party polarization and partisan gridlock. It is unclear whether the election results were a repudiation of President Obama and Democrats or in favor of the Republican Party platform. All this leads to uncertainty about what the election outcomes mean for passing policies important to the American public over the next two years.

Prior to the 2014 elections, Democrats were confident in their ability to regroup the base constituents—young voters, single women, African Americans, Latinos—that created a winning coalition for the Party in 2012. Despite their efforts, though, Democratic campaigns this year were unable to reproduce similar turnout numbers. Nationally in 2014, voters 18-29 made up 13 percent of the electorate, down from 20 percent in 2012. Single women voted in similar numbers compared to 2012 (21 percent in 2014 versus 23 percent in 2012). However, in 2012, single women supported President Obama more than two-to-one (67 percent versus 31 percent), compared to a 60 to 38 margin for Democrats in 2014. Turnout for Latinos and African Americans was also lower. Latinos made up 8 percent of voters in 2014, compared to 10 percent in 2012 and 12 percent of the electorate was made up of African Americans, compared to 13 percent in 2012. And while turnout is usually lower in midterm year elections compared to presidential year elections, voter turnout across almost all groups this year was also lower than in 2010.

Overall, only 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections; the lowest voter turnout of any election cycle since 1942. So although the Republican Party made significant gains, both in national and subnational contests, it is difficult to say that they did so with a broad mandate. There was a large void in enthusiasm for either party, with many voters staying home and possibly sending the message that “none of the above” was the best choice available. This does not discount a level of rejection of the President and his policies, of course, since his popularity has waned significantly over the last few years.

Elections in Maryland followed a similar narrative as those across most of the country. In a surprising outcome, Maryland voters elected Republican Larry Hogan as the state’s next governor. This was despite the fact that most polls, including the inaugural Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll, had Democrat Anthony Brown ahead of Hogan by almost double digit percentage points among likely voters as recently as mid-October. Maryland is clearly a very liberal state, but that is not the same thing as being solidly Democratic, and the national winds of change also blew over the “Old Line State”. Hogan won by seizing on voter economic anxiety and capitalizing on lower voter turnout. Many Maryland Democrats decided to stay home on Election Day. The I-95 corridor – Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City – holds most of the state’s population and determines elections in Maryland. When Governor Martin O’Malley was re-elected in 2010, he earned about 159,000 more votes in this geographical area than Brown earned this year. That’s about 15 percent of the Democratic votes that Brown missed. Specifically, in Howard County (home of his running mate Ken Ullman) where Brown expected good results, Hogan won by more than 5,000 votes.
rouse chart 1
If elected, Anthony Brown would have been the first African-American governor of Maryland and just the third ever elected in the U.S. However, the Brown camp and the Democratic Party avoided, until very late in the campaign, making race an issue in the election. Thus, African-American voters were not mobilized as they could have been. Registered voters reflected the lack of emphasis on race throughout the campaign. Despite the historic opportunity to elect an African American governor, The Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll showed that a majority of both whites and African Americans believed it would make no difference for African Americans if either Brown or Hogan was elected governor.

Another disadvantage for Anthony Brown was his strong ties to Martin O’Malley. Brown was O’Malley’s hand-picked successor and throughout the campaign, Brown struggled to distinguish his agenda from O’Malley’s policies. According to The Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll, O’Malley’s approval rating was underwater with 41 percent approving of the job he was doing as governor and 48 percent disapproving. This represents a stark change from February 2014, when O’Malley had a 55/41 job approval/disapproval split.

rouse chart 2
Brown relied heavily on the O’Malley connection. He felt confident he would be able to replicate or exceed Democratic voter turnout received by his predecessor. So, rather than focus on an agenda that resonated with voters, Brown’s campaign strategy relied on party affiliation and attacks on his opponent. Hogan, on the other hand, was very mindful of public sentiment about the economy and a promise to lower taxes was the cornerstone of his campaign. The Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll showed that taxes were considered one of the most important issues by likely voters. Furthermore, likely voters trusted Hogan more on the tax issue by a 47-36 difference. The promise of change and tax relief mobilized many voters, especially white voters and Republican and Independent males, in Hogan’s favor.

rouse chart 3

In addition to winning the governorship, Maryland Republicans also gained two state senators and seven delegates. The 50 Republican members of the House of Delegates represent a new high for the Republican Party in the state. It is unclear what Republican gains in Maryland government mean for issues like higher education. Governor-elect Larry Hogan has not outlined a detailed plan to date on how his administration proposes to reduce taxes and reign in the budget. However, education advocates are nervous because they expected continuity in leadership that prioritized education from an O’Malley to a Brown administration. Uncertainty now dominates the mood for a number of state budget programs, including higher education. Hogan has promised bipartisan cooperation, but he also will feel pressure to respond to business groups and conservative voters that helped him get elected. More than anything, the 2014 elections showed that campaigns matter and that pre-election poll analyses and perceptions do not always translate into political reality.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Jim Glenn, graduate student in the Department of Government and Politics, and Natalie Griffin, undergraduate student in Journalism and Arabic Studies, for their assistance with information for this article. Also, special thanks to Government and Politics Associate Professor Michael Hanmer for his work on the Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll.

* Assistant Director, Center for American Politics and Citizenship