Monday, October 31, 2016

RYS Flashback. 9 Years Ago Today. (AKA The Gumdrop Unicorn Kerfuffle.)

Yes, Cal was and is
a genius.
On Discourse.
From the moderators of RYS:

Over the past 18 hours or so, we've read a ton of mail regarding a deep divide between - for lack of better terms - junior and senior faculty. It's made us awfully sad about the state of this virtual faculty lounge. So, we want to take a minute here to say a few things about the discourse that occurs on these pages.

We read through the mail and choose posts. We try to choose posts that capture the climate of what our readers are writing us about. If plagiarism stories fill up the box, we choose the best or liveliest and put it out there the next morning. If a lot of mail comes in saying cigarettes are better than cheese, we publish something on cigarettes and maybe make fun of those damn cheese-eaters!

Obviously this site started with a focus on students, those lovable but maddening creatures who stare up at us each day. But, this forum has gone much wider, and we've let it. The folks who write to us want to talk about a lot of things surrounding being a professor, and so we go where the flow goes.

We also confess that we publish posts that we think will make for an entertaining read between your 9 am and 11 am classes.

Aside from giving these things titles - which some of you think sublime, the rest ridiculous - we don't chart the course for RYS. We answer the mail, take the temperature of the crowd, do an image, and put it up.

So, we were moderately annoyed today when a number of writers (both young and old) took shots at us as though our coverage of the "Gumdrop Unicorns" issue was so clearly biased in the favor of whoever they disagreed with. It's rare you can get people on both sides of an issue mad at you! And we're overstating it saying we were even moderately annoyed. Bemused, we guess, is better.

The mail continues to come in - although it's slowed down a bit as little ones around the country are ringing bells and jonesing for chocolate - and we'll post a couple more pieces tomorrow. It's worked out that there's a bit more mail in favor of "Professor Mushy Brain," than there is against him, but we're going to pick posts for tomorrow that address the issue without some of the unhinged vitriol that absolutely bleeds out of the messages we've been receiving today.

We do think it's been a powerful enough message, however, that this issue - the seeming transience of junior faculty - has resulted in our biggest mail day ever. You would not believe the name calling and attacks that we've read today, including hateful and hurtful stories that come right from writers' own departmental struggles. We think there is a simmering and dangerous divide here that we all should think about, all might want to consider talking about. And not on a blog that spent most of yesterday urging you to buy the new Britney CD - although we're still urging you in that direction.

Some of the mail that day.

The Original Gumdrop Unicorn post.

The next day.

PS: Some may remember that Katie's blog was involved in this flurry It's clearly referenced in the original post and a comment there started things rolling.


  1. Katie is still alive and making life horrible for her colleagues...

    1. Oh, God, I hope she isn't visiting here today. Yet, I can't bring myself to take the image down.

    2. It is, indeed, a marvelous image. Is that a long-haired kitty playing with the unicorn's nose, or is that just my rorschach-blot interpretation?

    3. And, in fact, we are witnessing paw-play.

  2. I can sympathize with much of the spectrum of views from new vs. established faculty. From them I glean the following bits that I had not previously considered.

    Older faculty: many new faculty are initially resistant to your mentoring. Read your audience, lest you waste your time.

    New faculty: sure, you're smart, but you don't know how much you don't know about getting things done at THIS institution. Also, shop around BEFORE you buy the car.


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