Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

Holysinner

Diabloii.Net Member
Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120995103004666569.html
WSJ said:
Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.

Ms. Venkatesan's scholarly specialty is "science studies," which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, "teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth." She continues: "Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways." Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the pending litigation.

Such conduct is hardly representative of the professoriate at Dartmouth, my alma mater. Faculty members tend to be professional. They also tend to be sane.

That said, even at – or especially at – putatively superior schools, students are spoiled for choice when it comes to professors who share ideologies like Ms. Venkatesan's. The main result is to make coursework pathetically easy. Like filling in a Mad Libs, just patch something together about "interrogating heteronormativity," or whatever, and wait for the returns to start rolling in.

I once wrote a term paper for a lit-crit course where I "deconstructed" the MTV program "Pimp My Ride." A typical passage: "Each episode is a text of inescapable complexity . . . Our received notions of what constitutes a ride are constantly subverted and undermined." It received an A.

Where the standards are always minimum, most kids simply float along with the academic drafts, avoid as much work as possible and accept the inflated grade. Why not? It's effortless, and there are better ways to spend time than thinking deeply about ecofeminism.

The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor's best efforts, there's life in American colleges yet.
Here’s the school newspaper’s take, and a Dartmouth blog containing purported emails from the professor informing students of her intent to sue. I particularly liked some of the examples of students creating a hostile work environment:
Dartmouth Independent said:
Venkatesan continues: "I would try my best to give her my attention, but she was so demanding - every time I tried to explain something, she would counter with a trivial question, something she should have known for someone who got admitted to Dartmouth. She was the kind of student that needed to be spoon fed." When the term ended, the latter student wrote what Venkatesan describes as a scathing evaluation: "30 sentences...it was like War and Peace." [snip] As such, Venkatesan plans on naming the girl in the suit. [snip] Then there was the nose-blower, who apparently teamed up with another girl in the class who was coughing all the time in order to disrupt class. Venkatesan claims that these "disciplinary problems" persisted in her morning class when another girl asked the spelling of Gattaca, a movie they were studying.

Now, I don’t know the facts of the case, but she appears to take each everyday challenge or slight as a personal attack and example of institutional racism, yet isn’t in the least bit hesitant to lash out at everyone she perceives as against her. This strikes me as a particularly (insert obligatory outrage) example of (insert synonym for oversensitivity).

Ms. Venkatesan has now moved on to Northwestern. Would you take her class?
 

AeroJonesy

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I'd probably sign up for her class just to sit in it for a day or two and see if she's as big of a loon as that article makes her out to be.
 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

When I was in highschool I knew one or two Indian (or maybe they were Pakistani, not sure) teachers who were kind of like this, well except for the lawsuits. Maybe it's partly a cultural thing.
 

th5418

Banned
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

Hell yeah I'd take her class. Indians are loonies!
 

Stevinator

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

This article has made me realize that I need to spend some more time contemplating ecofeminism...
 

WildBerry

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

Now, I don’t know the facts of the case, but she appears to take each everyday challenge or slight as a personal attack and example of institutional racism, yet isn’t in the least bit hesitant to lash out at everyone she perceives as against her. This strikes me as a particularly (insert obligatory outrage) example of (insert synonym for oversensitivity).

Ms. Venkatesan has now moved on to Northwestern. Would you take her class?
Hi, Ms. Venkatesan.

Please teach a few classes in elementary. You don't have to be qualified, just do it for the kicks a few times. Observe the disciplinary issues. Compare and contrast these disciplinary issues with those of your previous institution of employment. In the context of elementary teaching experience, justify the juridical process you have set in motion. Use no more than 4000 words.

Branches of feminist studies have valid results. It always ticks me off when people like her undermine the whole of it, because for some reason, while medicine is not judged by Paracelsus' medicine, they are.



 

Croup

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

Branches of feminist studies have valid results.
That's exactly what I was thinking about post-modernism. So many good ideas, so much pretension and horrible rhetoric.



 

Yaboosh

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I would have liked to have a class or two where the students were intelligent enough to actually challenge some of what the teachers were saying. You wouldn't believe the discussions in my undergrad courses, especially some Constitutional law classes I took. Holy crap were the students morons.

I did piss off my biosocial criminology professor though. I sort of kind of in a backhanded way called him naive for some of his beliefs about biosocial criminology, and he really didn't like that. After reading this article, I think I got lucky not to be threatened with a lawsuit.
 

ohnoyellowdinosaur

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I'm east indian, but I'm not some elitist postmodern loonie so the generalizations wouldn't be true.
 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I would have liked to have a class or two where the students were intelligent enough to actually challenge some of what the teachers were saying. You wouldn't believe the discussions in my undergrad courses, especially some Constitutional law classes I took. Holy crap were the students morons.
Well, they were law students.

Although at least your idiot students are easier on the eyes than our idiot students.



 

Holysinner

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I like your prescription, Wildberry, spot on. I think she could also use a few more sessions with her physician for her "intellectual distress," as well. Your Paracelsus reference went completely over my head, though, even after I read the linked article.

The only time I recall getting upset with and confronting a professor was when an old US Government prof, in a slide showing where different political groups fall in the ideological spectrum, placed "Pro-Lifers" under Loony Fringe. I'm fully pro-choice, and belonged to pro-choice campus groups at the time, but I even found his characterization ridiculous. I asked if he meant violent extremists in the cause, or at least clinic protesters, but he said, no, everyone who holds the pro-life position on abortion. Oddly, I was the only one of the 200+ students in the class to say something about it. Maybe I'm too tolerant of opposing views?
 

WildBerry

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I like your prescription, Wildberry, spot on. I think she could also use a few more sessions with her physician for her "intellectual distress," as well. Your Paracelsus reference went completely over my head, though, even after I read the linked article.
The point was mainly that most of Paracelsus' medicine, especially the treatments, are currently considered at best invalid treatments, at worst disastrous for health. Bottom line is that while he pretty certainly sucked as a physician, he is remembered and somewhat venerated for his at the time novel ideas in stead of casting his field of science into dishonor.

I'm not harping about any perceived double standard for physicians and pheminists, I think it's pretty natural that a younger branch of science, less established and with less direct applicability the feminist studies naturally have to prove themselves further.



 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I like your prescription, Wildberry, spot on. I think she could also use a few more sessions with her physician for her "intellectual distress," as well. Your Paracelsus reference went completely over my head, though, even after I read the linked article.

The only time I recall getting upset with and confronting a professor was when an old US Government prof, in a slide showing where different political groups fall in the ideological spectrum, placed "Pro-Lifers" under Loony Fringe. I'm fully pro-choice, and belonged to pro-choice campus groups at the time, but I even found his characterization ridiculous. I asked if he meant violent extremists in the cause, or at least clinic protesters, but he said, no, everyone who holds the pro-life position on abortion. Oddly, I was the only one of the 200+ students in the class to say something about it. Maybe I'm too tolerant of opposing views?
Colleges are very left wing biased.

That said, most pro-lifers are loons.



 

BobCox2

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

It is a bizarre phenomenon to me. Any theories as to why?
It's not the real world so to speak, Successful people in the real world tend the other way.


 

Holysinner

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

The point was mainly that most of Paracelsus' medicine, especially the treatments, are currently considered at best invalid treatments, at worst disastrous for health. Bottom line is that while he pretty certainly sucked as a physician, he is remembered and somewhat venerated for his at the time novel ideas in stead of casting his field of science into dishonor.
I got that part, but I couldn't see how feminists are judged by his theories. But I guess you're saying that feminists are unfairly judged by the failings of a few rather than taking the whole into perspective, whereas other fields like medicine are viewed by the progressive development, rather than held back by past errors. Makes sense now, though one could argue that feminism made its greatest strides in earlier eras (women's suffrage, for instance) and when it reached a critical mass (60' and 70's), and too much of what has come since tends to the extremes or is just a restatement of what came before - not an analagous progression. But I'm cherry picking and getting into the weeds (to mix metaphors), whereas I see the thrust of your comparison.

Damnit, WB, in trying to follow you I'm starting to sound like you. And the second paragraph you edited in while I was typing makes this post pointless, so I might as well go to sleep.



 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

It is a bizarre phenomenon to me. Any theories as to why?
I dunno, probably the same reason churches are very right wing biased.

In America, anyway.

It's not the real world so to speak, Successful people in the real world tend the other way.
More like any man at the age of twenty who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man at the age of forty who is not a conservative has no wallet.



 

WildBerry

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

I got that part, but I couldn't see how feminists are judged by his theories. But I guess you're saying that feminists are unfairly judged by the failings of a few rather than taking the whole into perspective, whereas other fields like medicine are viewed by the progressive development, rather than held back by past errors.
That was sort of my point. It seems my reference was again up the chimney.

Makes sense now, though one could argue that feminism made its greatest strides in earlier eras (women's suffrage, for instance) and when it reached a critical mass (60' and 70's), and too much of what has come since tends to the extremes or is just a restatement of what came before - not an analagous progression. But I'm cherry picking and getting into the weeds (to mix metaphors), whereas I see the thrust of your comparison.

Damnit, WB, in trying to follow you I'm starting to sound like you. And the second paragraph you edited in while I was typing makes this post pointless, so I might as well go to sleep.
Bwuahaha resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Soon you will look like that 'tar too and then it gets really sad.

Although while the second paragraph is no less meaningful: while I inferred that there is some validity in judging the feminist theory stricter, I did not mention specifically the rather common opinion that their best ideas are already past them and they're just chewing on the same stuff. It remains a valid point, one I would do well to note.

Colleges are very left wing biased.
Not where I live, though. It strongly depends on field of study whether there are any leftist-leaning people in particular part of campus at all; engineering students are not very hot for Social Democrats.



 

Holysinner

Diabloii.Net Member
Re: Postmodernists Gone Wild! (Dartmouth professor threatens to sue students)

Bwuahaha resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. Soon you will look like that 'tar too and then it gets really sad.
I'd have to lose 60 pounds first, so 'soon' in this case is a very relative term.

Although while the second paragraph is no less meaningful: while I inferred that there is some validity in judging the feminist theory stricter, I did not mention specifically the rather common opinion that their best ideas are already past them and they're just chewing on the same stuff. It remains a valid point, one I would do well to note.
Not necessarily a valid point, just an opinion as you observed. I'm not sure I hold it myself. Though I remember reading Susan Faludi's Backlash when I was in school (not for a class) and agreeing with some of it, but the recent C-SPAN interview I saw with her about The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America made her sound like she's gone off the rails. I never read seriously much of the academic literature then or now, so I don't have a point of comparison for that.

Going further off topic...there was an idea I vaguely remember from one class about the linked motivations for sexism and racism. One writer was making the claim that racism stems from an impuse to keep members of another race from access to one's own race's females; and that sexual violence is a means of asserting one's power over all the other males that the target will have relationships with later in her life. I can't remember the writer or the book, though, so I was wondering if you have heard of such a theory and could point me to who proposed it.



 
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