The new academic season is upon us. The toniest institutions offer the most fun. Not only are they preposterously expensive—for example, Williams College, tucked away in bucolic Williamstown, Massachusetts, carries a sticker price of $69,950 this year. But think of what you get for all that dough! The college’s roster of new faculty for 2018–19 indicates some of the delights that await the discriminating pupil.
Parents will be pleased to learn that their delicately raised children can sign up for a class with Roxana Blancas Curiel, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Mexican Literature and Cultural Production, to learn about “feminist and queer theory” and the “contributions of the performance of female masculinity in our understanding of femininity and masculinity outside the heteronormative spectrum in Mexican social imaginary towards the construction of national identity.” Delicious!
Then there is Julia Bryan-Wilson, a Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History, who “researches contemporary art in the Americas through the lenses of artistic labor, feminist and queer theory, and critical race studies.” Fans of Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee and noted performance artist, will be pleased to learn that he will be at Williams as the Bennett Boskey Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership Studies. Leadership!
We’ve quoted the economist Herb Stein in this space before: what cannot go on forever, won’t.
Kevin Flaherty, a Lecturer in Astronomy, is interested in the formation of stars, but if that sounds dull, don’t despair. He is also interested in “making astronomy a more inclusive environment, and in bringing astronomy to others through outreach in the community.” For her part, Prisca Gayles, the Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in Africana Studies, focuses on “the politicization of blackness in the context of collective action in African Diaspora with a focus on Afro-Latin America. Further interests include Transnational Black Feminist theory and social economy in the African diaspora.” The current interests of Pallavi Sen, an Assistant Professor of Art, “include inner lives of birds and animals, South Asian costumes, domestic architecture, altars, deities, skate/bro culture, style, pattern history, toxic masculinity, friendship + love, lovers as collaborators, farming and the artist as farmer, work spaces, work tables, eco-feminism, love poems, the gates to Indian homes, walking, and cooking deliberately. Completely devoted to material and craft, she works with all sustainable surfaces and tools.”
Or how about Ben Snyder, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, whose “classes focus on making the turn from social critique to social action, and often involve building bridges between the classroom, student activism, and publics outside the academy. He is especially excited to work with students who want to engage in unabashedly utopian thinking about the future.” And why not? When you’re spending $70,000 a year for make-believe radicalism and sex-in-the-head nonsense, why deny yourself a dash of unabashed utopian thinking?
We’ve quoted the economist Herb Stein in this space before: what cannot go on forever, won’t. Super-rich Romper Rooms like Williams and Yale cannot go on forever. Are there signs of disintegration, of things grinding, finally, to a halt? Not yet, not really. But there is a greater and greater impatience abroad outside the protected purlieus of these increasingly absurd institutions. Someday, that impatience will translate into the social disenfranchisement of this academic racket. The reckoning cannot come too soon.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 37 Number 1, on page 2
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