The University in a few years: some predictions

A few years from now, there will be two kinds of faculty member. Researchers will be hired, retained, and promoted based on a formula combining external funding amounts and bibliometrics. Instructors will be hired on a casual basis. A few years from now, faculty hires will be not only set and approved but also designed … Continue reading The University in a few years: some predictions

Since I was young, I have been curious

"Why does every PhD applicant start their essay with 'since I was young, I have been curious'?" This question, asked on Twitter today,  is an interesting one. As a fairly frequent reader of applications, I will confess to believing that some application essays are too personal. This is not to say that childhood interests or family … Continue reading Since I was young, I have been curious

Galileo Hates Your “Campus Free Speech” Arguments

"Four centuries after Galileo was silenced", a headline blares, "UK students are still curbing free speech." (At issue was a student union's no-platforming of Julie Bindel and Milo Yiannopoulos.) "Whether it’s Galileo’s heretical rejection of geocentrism, Darwin’s godless theory of creation or the bravery of dissidents resisting oppression all over the world," a Telegraph op-ed against … Continue reading Galileo Hates Your “Campus Free Speech” Arguments

On Mendacious and Shitty Academic Punditry

[I have meant to write a blog post about this almost since my last one went up, but Twitter threads keep coming out instead. What's below is an amplified version of one of them, so apologies in advance to Twitter followers of mine who tire of harangues. The title repurposes, not unfairly I hope, a … Continue reading On Mendacious and Shitty Academic Punditry

Student-Teachers and the Limits of Academic Freedom

The news that this has been a slightly more abysmal year than usual for academic jobs in history has provoked a lot of justified (if impotent) outrage online. An important part of this has centred on the "adjunctification" of the university -- the replacement of tenure-track positions with part-time, temporary gigs -- and with the … Continue reading Student-Teachers and the Limits of Academic Freedom

The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

November approaches, and with it thoughts of #snowflakes. I was called one not too long ago, for arguing that a history magazine should not have published a letter promoting a debunked myth and defaming one of its debunkers. The use of editorial discretion in such a venue, I was told, would be "censorship". As I've … Continue reading The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

Empathy for the Devil

The idea that "Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner" has never convinced me. Explanation is not vindication; it's often the opposite. Historical analysis does not always or even usually result in more sympathetic characters. And scholars who draw on ever more extensive archives to revisit the deeds and thoughts of the great and dead are more … Continue reading Empathy for the Devil