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Speaking Out

  • Still Active, Not Out of Touch
  • Protecting Intellectual Property
  • Questioning Quality
  • Still Active, Not Out of Touch

    Professor Paul Allison’s letter in Almanac October 11, 2005 is insulting to me and misrepresentative of the facts. First, I retired in 2002, not several but only a few years ago. Moreover, at the request of the sociology department of which Allison is the chair, I taught a graduate course last spring of 2005. It is not I who is out of touch with the doings of the department. I have also remained active professionally. A book that two colleagues and I put together was brought out this August 2005 by the Russell Sage Press. It was well advertised at the national meetings of the American Sociological Association held in Philadelphia this past summer.My retirement has not been spent in moldering reclusiveness, as Allison’s comments might lead one to believe. Second, I very clearly explained in my letter to the department and in subsequent notes and conversations with Allison, why I wrote to the department. At the national meetings of the American Sociological Association many colleagues from all parts of the country as well as Europe were speaking with concern of the unacknowledged relation of Professors Kathryn Edin and Maria Kafalis’s book to Professor Elijah Anderson’s work. Rumors of all sorts were circulating that were harmful to Edin, Kafalis and Anderson as well as to the department and the university. I wrote to express my concern and to urge the department to deal with this issue forthrightly and fairly. This is not an issue that can be resolved by personal invective from partisans or by ex-cathedra statements from the department that all is well. Only a full and impartial appraisal of the works in question and a frank statement by the department of the findings and their disposition will quash the rumors and put this sorry matter to rest. This, regrettably, the department has failed to do.

    —Harold J. Bershady,
    Professor Emeritus of Sociology


    Protecting Intellectual Property

    From the public record it appears to me that the Anderson-Edin dispute is about intellectual property, in this case concepts and methods. In this regard I am concerned about one aspect of particular importance to the university which has not received attention. Ordinarily intellectual property is protected by laws and regulations. In the academy, however, these safeguards are buttressed by historic traditions of respect for seniors, attribution to leaders and pride in collegial association. In the cited dispute, these considerations seem to be absent, which may not be surprising considering the circumstances.

    Professor Anderson is a senior African American scholar in the field of African American studies whereas Associate Professor Edin, currently seeking tenure, is clearly a junior colleague. There is no evidence of the recognition of Anderson’s status in the field nor of conceptual kinship nor of pride of association with a senior colleague in the very same department. In effect, this is a historic approach which characterizes much modern research which impedes progress and offers negative guidance to students and novices in the field.

    —Robert J. Rutman,
    Emeritus Professor of Animal Biology/Veterinary Medicine


    Questioning Quality

    Quality control in supplies purchasing is in crisis. Tape is so thin that it tangles or disintegrates before use. Pens and markers last only a few months, and write either too thin or too fat a line, and are the wrong color. Pencil leads are of such poor quality, that their writing cannot be seen on the page. Scissors come with unsecured blade bolts, and fall apart on first use (What genius thought this one up?). Staples jam, and come in a different box with each order, so you can’t store them in your desk in the spot designed specifically for the last box. White out dries up after a few uses. Special orders (such as for stamps) turn out to be not what we expected, and not what we can use.

    In frustration, many of us buy superior products on the open office products market, with our own personal funds, usually without hope of reimbursement.

    Large pieces of equipment (like copiers) come with lots of bells and whistles the user does not need, at the expense of basic service. When they age, they are not replaced in a timely enough manner, and repair calls become a daily occurrence.

    Office furniture is stained and broken within a few months of purchase, and clogs loading docks for months waiting for repair schedules to permit repair or replacement.

    Buildings are constructed with the least expensive materials and techniques, and soon spawn waves of expensive repairs and replacements (remember the High Rise pipes?)

    It is more cost effective to purchase and employ superior products and skills, than to begin with inferior materials and methods which invite more costly repairs sooner.

    The University buys and uses products it should not. A good example of this is post-it-notes. Their adhesive lasts less than seven days, and they are often knocked off in transit, or with use of the item they are labeling. As mail clerk, I have several times handled confidential correspondence with no identification; I have had to open this mail to determine its destination, much to my discomfort. Other items identified with these bits of paper get lost or stolen when the notes come off. Post-its have made a lot of money for 3M, but the University is not obliged to maximize the profit margin of a multinational at the expense of its own materials and communications.

    The University is a very large institution, and leaves a big economic and social footprint. It is obliged to purchase supplies and equipment not only with regard to cost savings, but most especially to high quality and appropriateness.

    I eagerly anticipate a meaningful dialogue with purchasing, real estate, and other involved University departments on these matters, leading to substantive resolution.

    —Frances G. Hoenigswald, Invoice Clerk, Biddle Law Library

    Speaking Out Correction:

    There was a factual error in Dr. Rutman’s letter last week. Dr. Kathryn Edin has been an associate professor in the standing faculty with tenure since 2004.


    Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday’s issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. —Eds.



      Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 8, October 18, 2005


    October 18, 2005
    Volume 52 Number 8


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