[Marxism] Academia miscellany

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 3 21:14:32 MDT 2013


Fran Lebowitz:

On NYU:

     “I don’t love NYU. I didn’t hate it before. I just never thought 
about it. It’s not of interest to me. And it really should be stopped 
from being called NYU, because it really has nothing to do with New 
York. It is Suburban. To. The Core. Those buildings they built on the 
south side of Washington Square Park are giant pieces of suburban junk. 
They have no place in any city. Even cities we hate! Even Atlanta 
doesn’t deserve these! We have a mayor we don’t deserve, we have a city 
council we don’t deserve, and now we have a neighborhood we don’t deserve.”

On NYU’s Student Body:

     “The worst thing about being around these people, about these 
students, is overhearing their conversation. For that alone, I walk 
around my neighborhood in a constant rage, thinking I want to say to 
them: No, no you’re not. NYU should move out of New York. A campus is a 
suburban entity.

full: 
http://observer.com/2012/07/fran-lebowitz-nyu-bloomberg-video-07202012/

---

NY Times September 2, 2013
Amid Exits, President of Hunter College Is Assailed for Her Management Style
By ARIEL KAMINER

Jennifer J. Raab, the fast-moving, fast-talking president of Hunter 
College, recently landed a $25 million donation, the largest in the 
college’s history. A science and health building that Hunter is 
constructing with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center won approval 
last month from the Department of City Planning. And on Tuesday, Ms. 
Raab will cut the ribbon on Phase 1 of a $45 million redesign of the 
college’s library — a bright, inviting, communal space that could 
transform the compact vertical campus.

This was supposed to be a moment of unqualified victory for Ms. Raab, 
who has led the college for 12 years. But the summer began on a 
different note, after a departing assistant dean wrote and distributed a 
letter denouncing “personal attacks and a culture of fear and mistrust.”

“I have watched her publicly shame and humiliate people to serve her own 
purpose,” the assistant dean, Maria Doelger Anderson, said of Ms. Raab 
in the letter.

Ms. Anderson’s departure came amid those of three senior administrators: 
Hunter’s legal counsel, its chief operating officer and its dean of arts 
and sciences.

Ms. Raab’s tenure has seen many such changes. The school of arts and 
sciences, which accounts for 17,000 of the college’s 23,000 students, 
has had six official or temporary deans during that period. The school 
of social work has had five. The fund-raising office has gone through 11 
shifts of leadership. And at Hunter’s prestigious high school, three 
principals left within five years.

Some of these administrators left on good terms. Other offices have been 
more stable. But critics of Ms. Raab, like Michael Fabricant, a 
professor at the school of social work and a member of the union 
representing the City University of New York’s faculty and staff, 
attribute the many departures to what they describe as a highly 
temperamental style of management.

“Those issues really have to do with the kind of assumption and behavior 
that you can lead on the basis of fear, intimidation and humiliation,” 
he said, and “on the basis of threat, withdrawal of resources, 
particularly those who have something at stake like department chairs.”

Barbara Bowen, head of the union, said the number of complaints about 
the atmosphere at Hunter far exceeded the number from any of the 17 
other colleges in CUNY.

The unrest at Hunter, one of CUNY’s top colleges, comes at a critical 
time, with the system seeking a new chancellor and the mayor’s office, 
which chooses 5 of the 17 board members, about to change hands. (The 
governor chooses a majority of the board.)

Under Ms. Raab’s tenure, Hunter’s fortunes have risen considerably. Its 
admissions are more competitive and its faculty is more prominent. And a 
series of shrewd real estate maneuvers — among them finding a shiny 
TriBeCa home for the master of fine arts program, moving the school of 
social work from the Upper East Side to the more relevant neighborhood 
of East Harlem, and turning a crumbling double town house built for 
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt into a public policy institute and 
stunning showpiece — have reinvented Hunter’s physical presence.

CUNY’s interim chancellor, William P. Kelly, praised Ms. Raab’s 
“sterling performance.”

“Hunter,” Chancellor Kelly said in an interview, “is doing extremely well.”

Ms. Raab is especially proud of her record in fund-raising. Building on 
the connections she made in her previous job as head of the city’s 
landmarks commission, she has won significant donations from families 
with names like Lauder, Silverstein, Spitzer and Tisch. The record gift 
came from Leon Cooperman, the chairman of a hedge fund, and his wife, 
Toby, a couple who met while they were students at Hunter in the 1960s.

Brash and outspoken, with the clatter of bracelets accenting her 
impassioned gesticulations, Ms. Raab, 57, has the kind of forceful 
presence that New Yorkers intuitively understand and that much of the 
rest of the country might find terrifying.

“I have a vision and I have always been very, very determined,” she 
rasped. “I’m very tenacious.”

With her lacquered nails and fancy accessories, and with her unguarded 
style of communication (“I mean, how amazing is that!” she is apt to 
exclaim), she is as far as can be from the stereotype of a bland 
academic administrator.

Asked about the complaints, Ms. Raab — her manner veering suddenly from 
affable to incredulous — made no effort to hide her irritation. She 
dismissed the criticism as the carping of a few outliers. To prove it, 
she pointed to a productive relationship with the Hunter College Senate, 
which its chairwoman, Christa Davis Acampora, confirmed. (Only five 
years ago, however, a Senate committee issued a stinging report on 
academic freedom, condemning a course the president’s office had 
initiated. Built around the theme of how counterfeit merchandise hurts 
society, the course had been developed and sponsored not by professors 
but by an anticounterfeiting trade group with close ties to one of 
Hunter’s major donors.)

Ms. Raab said, as did many of her champions, that those who criticized 
her were just uncomfortable with strong female leaders. “Where are the 
stories about men and their leadership style?” she asked. “It is always 
the same story. Where’s the impact and what’s the importance, at the end 
of the day, of this conversation?”

Asked to name a legitimate criticism of how she leads, she drew a blank.

When Ms. Raab sought the presidency of Hunter, she had never worked in 
higher education. A corporate litigator who held positions in the 
administrations of Mayors Edward I. Koch and Rudolph W. Giuliani, she 
had degrees from Cornell, Harvard and Princeton, but no Ph.D. She did, 
however, have a powerful emotional connection to Hunter College High 
School, to which she commuted from Washington Heights as a teenager, and 
she had a powerful vision for Hunter’s future. Most important, she had 
the support of Mr. Giuliani, who was mayor at the time. Over the 
objections of many at CUNY (someone called in a bomb scare during her 
campus interview), and even over the objection of the chancellor, she 
got the job.

To people used to the collegiality of academia, her methods could be 
jarring.

In interviews and e-mails with more than 30 current or former Hunter 
employees, the same few complaints arose repeatedly. Several people 
described being shunned by Ms. Raab without explanation.

“When I finally knew something was really wrong I was in the elevator 
with the president and I said hello and she just ignored me,” said a 
former staff member who declined, as some others did, to be identified 
for fear of professional repercussions. “I offered to help her carry 
something, and she just completely ignored me.”

Others said they were punished for expressing views not identical to hers.

“Academics like to fight and argue,” said Joan C. Tronto, a former 
chairwoman of the Hunter Senate, who now teaches at the University of 
Minnesota. “After an argument’s over, you can still work with the 
people. But Jennifer Raab, after someone has disagreed with her, can 
never work with that person again.”

After making a minor accommodation for students protesting one of Ms. 
Raab’s initiatives, one faculty member said, her dean called her in for 
a formal reprimand on what she was told were the president’s orders. 
“Later that year I applied for funding for conference travel and 
research, and I was told by someone in the provost’s office that the 
president had personally crossed my name off the list and that I 
shouldn’t bother applying,” she said.

Ms. Anderson, who wrote the letter criticizing Ms. Raab, said she was 
trying to buy some time for her boss, the dean of arts and sciences, who 
she felt was being persecuted and who has since left.

People who work well with Ms. Raab describe her as someone who, in 
addition to working tirelessly on Hunter’s behalf, remembers birthdays, 
asks about family, creates honors for underappreciated staff members and 
then invites their children in to see their parents celebrated.

“She’s all about lifting people up and recognizing their service and 
celebrating their service,” said John Rose, the dean of diversity at Hunter.

It can often seem that her critics and her supporters are speaking about 
different presidents entirely. Andrew J. Polsky, a scholar of 
presidencies in wartime, is one of the few willing to bridge the gap.

“She has been able to accomplish some extraordinary things at Hunter 
College and elsewhere,” Professor Polsky said, adding that “the 
overwhelming majority” of the faculty approved of her leadership. “Are 
there parts of this that rub people the wrong way? Yes, but I don’t 
think these are things that are inherently right or wrong. They go with 
the person.”

Then invoking the punch line from “Annie Hall,” about the man whose 
brother thinks he is a chicken, he added, “We need the eggs.”

Ms. Raab’s bosses do, too.

When Ms. Anderson’s letter was released, Stuart B. Ewen, a professor who 
is an outspoken critic of Ms. Raab, tried to press the case against her 
with Matthew Goldstein, who was then CUNY’s chancellor. Dr. Goldstein 
said he was aware of the problem, “but her metrics are very good.”

The search for CUNY’s next chancellor is now under way. According to 
someone with direct knowledge of the process, admirers of Ms. Raab have 
begun putting her name forward.





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