Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Sermonizing: An American Tune

I made a video.  Photos and video from the goings on at my university set to music

The song is Paul Simon's American Tune as preformed by him in 2011.

Obviously the pictures of articles are ... you know, pictures of articles.  Most of the photos of students, and most of the video of students, comes from this day.  The first bit of video of students, however, is from when students we kept out of a public building by handcuffing the doors shut.*

The "Don't have a friend who feels at ease" series of shots zooming in on someone's door were taken on the most recent day I was at the university.  I had stop by to pick something up, and I noticed that they hadn't torn down her signage yet.  Still her door, still her bulletin board.

Classics being cut never really made the paper the way that French did.  The reason is not, as you might think, that cutting French in Maine** was so shocking it made news, but rather that they had to vote to cut French.  Classics, on the other hand, was cut without a vote.  As were various other programs including every single (non-French) language program.

The reason they could get away with cutting those programs without a vote was that they'd been doing some bureaucratic shuffling for quite some time which kept the programs from being officially recognized as programs.

Anyway, pictures of the office of a teacher who has been terminated.  She was mentioned in a recent article, so have a quote:
One of my most exemplary colleagues teaches classics, and we’ve shared many students. Her students learn Latin and translation; they learn a different way to view the world, and a closer and more critical way to read the information around them. They learn to make sense of themselves and their lives in new ways. Just recently, she proctored a reading group of veterans who read Homer’s Odyssey together. It was an experience that helped all of them see their experiences in a new way. It was a surprising and transformative experience. It was the kind of experience that universities make available to those in their communities. But it was, apparently, “grandiose.” That colleague, Jeannine Uzzi, who recently published her second book with Cambridge University Press and has only begun what will be a long and distinguished career, was retrenched recently, in USM’s rush to stop trying to be a “flagship.”
The "wonder what's gone wrong" pictures of the Board of Trustees, featuring President Flanagan, are from the meeting where over 70 people, including myself, came to speak out against certain cuts because they were economically harmful (cut something that turns a profit and you end up deeper in debt) and morally repugnant (I could go on for ages.)  No one on the board responded to a single point raised in public testimony.  Some didn't even listen to it (Flanagan was having a side conversation with a member of the BoT during the part where someone explained the negative effect the cuts would have on providing healthcare to children of color.)

I've already pointed out that the rest of the video is from this day.

The "the ship they call the Mayflower" picture is just pointing out that they cut American and New England studies.

The "the ship that sailed the moon" is a picture of, and article about, the professor that had an asteroid named after her.  Not named one after herself, that hardly merits note, had the International Astronomical Union choose to name it after her (much to her surprise.)  Probably for her contribution to knowledge of comets.  (I guess a comet wasn't available so they gave her an asteroid instead.)  She was, of course, let go.

We can afford to pay two university presidents at once (high level administrators are never fired for incompetence, they're replaced but paid for the rest of their contract) but can't afford someone whose name is written in the stars.

I fucked up the formatting of the article trying to get it to fit nicely, and as a result if you pause and read the article you'll see the words "ago. Ziffer was part of the team that" before and after a line break.  Not a big problem (better than something getting left out) but it means on your initial read your brain will try to parse the sentence "Ziffer was part of the team that ago," which cannot be parsed.

And I think that about covers everything.

Next semester's going to be another working day.


* Things to note:
  • The doors had locks.  Using handcuffs was entirely to send a message.
  • There never would have been that many students if they'd been allowed in the building; forcing them to stay outside caused them to draw a crowd, myself included.
  • The building in question houses the law school and the administrative offices but the two are largely separated by floor.  If the administrators had really wanted to hide they could have locked down their floor (the penthouse) without disrupting the law school.  Instead they forced the law students to all file through a much smaller side door, which was never intended to service the entire building, where they were each individually confronted by police who were tasked with making sure that they really did have pressing business in the building.  After half a day of seeing the law students treated like criminals, the person in charge of the law school decided to cancel classes.  Said person: not consulted on the whole shutting down the building in which the school resides.
  • Note the "after half a day" thing in the last point?  Students, being students, need to attend classes.  The demonstration was at it's greatest point during a 15 minute break between classes and, in its entirety, lasted about two hours.  The armed guards were there all day.  The main entrance was closed to the public all day (though in the afternoon it was un-handcuffed and simply guarded by police officers with batons out.)  The secondary entrance was closed to the public all day.  The tertiary entrance was closed to the public, save law students who were subject rigorous verification that they were law students with classes at that time and not simply impostors who were trying to sneak passed the armed guards, during the first half of the day, and closed to the public entirely during the second half.
  • The parking lot, where the protest did not take place, was closed all day.  The only cars were police cars.  The only people who set foot in it were police officers who did a very good job of looking perpetually pissed off.  The reasoning for this has never sufficiently been explained.
  • I've often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
** First you have to realize that cutting French at USM cut the major system-wide and is going to seriously fuck up the French teacher supply in the state.

Second you have to realize how important French is in Maine.  Where I live French is mostly spoken by recent immigrants.  That is not why Maine has so many French speakers though.  Maine's Francophone culture runs deep.

It has to do with Acadia.

Acadia was a French colony.  It included New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, parts of eastern Quebec, and most of Maine.  (I live in the extreme south west of Maine, which was not part of Acadia.)

The French settlers allied with native tribes.  Some members of those tribes speak French still.  Those are the deepest roots you'll find, French speakers whose families have been here for as long as there have been people here.

The largest portion of French speakers trace their roots to the French settlers themselves, of course.

The border of what is now Maine took a long time to get solidified.  That didn't just mean absorbing parts of Acadia, well after Acadia had ceased to exist there was a dispute over exactly where the border was and so there were parts of modern Canada that people considered parts of Maine and parts of modern Maine that people considered parts of Canada.

That only partially matters because British rule of the entire area was solidified by 1763.  That sort of stopped French people from coming in large numbers to settle in areas that would eventually become part of Maine.

In fact, it led to an exodus, (more from the other parts of Acadia than from Maine, though.)

The exodus resulted in the creation of Cajun culture in Louisiana.

Which brings us to how many people in Maine are French speakers, as compared to the rest of the USA.  It, like so many things, depends on precisely how you count.  Maine might have the highest proportion of French speakers of any state if you count one way.  Or, if you count another way, it's second to Louisiana.


  1. I can't believe they let the Comet lady go! And that whole situation sucks, I sympathize.