Petition (fwd). (For Academics on List)

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Fri Jun 14 12:31:55 MDT 1996

    The message forwarded below should be of interest to academics on
this l*st.
    (Donald Morton, original author, wrote an interesting critique
of "queer theory" and postmodernism in a recent issue of PMLA

Forwarded message:

> From dmorton at MailBox.Syr.Edu Thu Jun 13 18:24:17 1996
> Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1996 19:25:25 -0400 (EDT)
> From: Donald Morton <dmorton at MailBox.Syr.Edu>
> X-Sender: dmorton at
> To: cbcox at
> Subject: Petition
> Message-Id: <Pine.SOL.3.91.960613192118.8915A-100000 at>
> Mime-Version: 1.0
> Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: QUOTED-PRINTABLE
> Dear Carrol Cox:
> I wonder if you would be willing to take a look at the petition I am sendin=
> g
> below and consider supporting it?  Would it be possible for you to
> (a) download it or print it in a hard copy without this prefatory note;
> (b) get some faculty and student and other signatures for it; and
> (c) send it back to me next week sometime?
> I and others around the country are trying under severe time pressure to
> get signatures for this right away and have some impact on the issues
> at SUNY-Albany.
> Please let me know if you are interested and if you have any questions.
> Yours,
> Donald Morton
> Professor of English
> Syracuse University
> email: dmorton at
> From=20TE609 at cnsvax.albany.eduWed Jun 12 16:04:09 1996
> Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 23:18:39 -0500 (EST)
> From: TE609 at
> To: dmorton at mailbox.syr.EDU
>     [The following text is in the "ISO-8859-1" character set]
>     [Your display is set for the "US-ASCII" character set]
>     [Some characters may be displayed incorrectly]
> To Restore Democratic Processes to=20
> The English Department at SUNY-Albany
> =09We strongly protest the violation of democratic processes in=20
> the English Department at SUNY-Albany which has resulted in the=20
> overthrow of the democratically-elected new chair (with a vote of=20
> 25-14) by the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Judy L.=20
> Genshaft. This act of violence suppresses the democratic practices=20
> of faculty self-governance in the academy and is an effort to silence=20
> intellectual dissent. We urge the SUNY-Albany administration to=20
> rescind its unwarranted, extremist and undemocratic act--which=20
> threatens the freedom of intellectual inquiry--and to install the=20
> democratically-elected new chair and restore fully democratic=20
> governance in the SUNY-Albany English Department.
> =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=
> =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D
> Name                 Signature                   Institutional Affiliation/
> (please print)                                   Independent Scholar
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> (page 2)
> =09On June 1, 1996, the Vice President for Academic Affairs=20
> at SUNY-Albany, Judy L. Genshaft, overturned the democratic=20
> election of a new English Department chair (chosen by a vote of=20
> 25-14) and took over control of the Department through an=20
> Administration-appointed surrogate chair (from outside the=20
> Department). This action amounts to an administrative coup=20
> d'=E9tat that violates the basic principles of democratic self-
> governance in the University whose role is to guard open=20
> intellectual inquiry and academic freedom. The Vice President's=20
> ostensible "reason" for such an extremist and undemocratic=20
> action is that the Department is in "crisis." The differences=20
> among faculty, she declares, "and their attendant emotions" have=20
> created an unfriendly "atmosphere" in the Department that=20
> prevents it from "delivering an academic program."=20
> =09The "crisis," however, has been invented to block changes=20
> that are aimed at redressing the Department's unequal labor=20
> relations and ending the special privileges of a small group of=20
> English faculty. This highly privileged group is a staunch ally of=20
> the University Administration and supports its pro-business=20
> policies that (following Governor Pataki's administration) aim at=20
> weakening academic departments--particularly their capacity for=20
> conducting independent inquiries in the Humanities--and setting=20
> up in their place autonomous units modeled after private=20
> enterprise in order to "privatize" and commercialize more and=20
> more of public education. This group of English faculty has=20
> enjoyed unparalleled privileges; they have taught very light=20
> teaching loads (2-2 and  2-1 and even 1-1 courses a year) while=20
> many others have been assigned much heavier teaching loads (3-
> 3 and 3-2 courses a year). They have been rewarded with huge=20
> merit raises (a memo circulated on campus last summer showed=20
> that some members of this group had received over 35 percent=20
> salary increases over a two-year period), and are appointed to=20
> choice university and departmental committees that control=20
> policies and this has enabled them (among other practices) to=20
> limit the access of other faculty to graduate courses and to=20
> directing doctoral dissertations. Some of these privileges have=20
> been recently put in question by reforms that were underway in=20
> the Department. The chair-elect was to gradually implement=20
> these reforms.=20
> =09In order to cover up the violence of its undemocratic acts=20
> and conceal the actual causes of differences in the English=20
> Department (the unequal work conditions and lopsided power=20
> relations), the Vice President has represented the invented "crisis"=20
> as a "disciplinary" question: a tension between "writing" and=20
> "literature." However, the privileged faculty is itself a mix of=20
> "literature" and "writing" faculty and no particular disciplinary=20
> interest defines their differences from the rest of the faculty. What=20
> binds the faculty in this group together is the structure of=20
> hierarchical power in the Department.
> =09The intellectual differences, which are being used to cover=20
> up the English Department's unequal labor relations, are not in=20
> any simple sense disciplinary but are far more complex and=20
> institutionally layered. They are extensions of the conservative=20
> "myth of political correctness." The difference is not the old=20
> conflict of "writing" vs. "literature" but rather is over the=20
> introduction of new and not-so-new knowledges into the=20
> curriculum: the privileged faculty resists changes that will bring=20
> New Historicism, Postcolonial Theory, New Americanism,=20
> Critical Theory and particularly Marxism and Materialist=20
> Feminism more actively into the curriculum.
> =09As a leverage in silencing the progressive faculty, the Vice=20
> President, as part of her extremist actions, has already gone so far=20
> as to postpone final approval of one Marxist-feminist faculty=20
> member's tenure.=20
> =09Democracy in the classroom and the university must be=20
> defended as a safeguard and an extension of democratic practices=20
> in society at large. It is, therefore, necessary to protest these=20
> repressive acts to silence intellectual dissent, block reforms, and=20
> suppress democratic practices in the English Department at=20
> SUNY-Albany. =20

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