Tuesday, November 06, 2012

This Is Not About the Election

This is not about the election,  Instead, it’s about next week’s Big Announcement.

Q: So, what’s the big announcement?

A: You can’t just jump in like that.  Show some class, man!

Q: Okay, so can you give a hint?

A: Sure.  It’s a two-parter.

Q: Any celebrity scandal?  Is Lindsay Lohan involved in some way?

A: No.  

Q: Well, that’s refreshing.  Does it involve that book you’ve been unsubtly hinting at forever?

A: It does.  

Q: Hmm.  Y’know, many people would discount a book by an author with a pseudonym.

A: Really?

Q: It’s true.  And other people will make a point of smoking you out, just to prove that they can.

A: Hmm.  Well, that brings me to the second announcement.

Q: Which is...?

A: On Tuesday, November 13, I’ll drop the pseudonym.  The book, and the blog, will be under my real name.  

Q: Why?

A: Because I’m thinking the pseudonym has outlived its usefulness.  I’d like to participate more fully in the national conversation about public higher education, and I’ve hit a point where stepping up requires stepping out.  

Q: What about the folks who already know who you are?

A: I’m asking them to be good sports and not spoil the surprise.  I have the best readers ever, so I’m hoping they’ll indulge me this.  Yes, it’s possible to open presents early, but it’s more fun to wait for the right moment.

Q: What about the effects on campus?

A: My president knows, as does the leadership of the faculty union.  Most of my colleagues do, and a whole bunch of faculty do, too.  So I’m pushing an open door, in that sense.  

Q: Aren’t you afraid that people will comb old posts, pull out passages, and have you tarred and feathered?

A: That was the point of the pseudonym in the first place.  But I’m hopeful that locally, people will see my work over the last several years and understand the difference between policy preferences and a to-do list.  And I’ve made a point of being selective in what I’ve addressed over the years.  There’s nothing salacious about anybody in the book or on the blog, despite the title.  By now, my wise and worldly readers understand what I’m trying to do.  They may or may not agree with all of it, but it should be pretty clear that even when I express frustration or exasperation, it’s out of a desire for things to be better.  My criticism is intended to be constructive, to help public higher education fulfill its mission more effectively.  Besides, if academic freedom means anything at all, it should mean separating the person from the argument.  I trust that my critics will observe academic freedom, just as I do.

Q: Wouldn’t that have been true years ago, too?

A: Maybe, but it took a while for me to develop a writerly voice with which I’m comfortable.  In the early posts, there’s a lot of trying too hard.  Some of them are actually hard for me to read now.  Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve finally found a voice I’m comfortable identifying as my own.  It took experience to figure out that a degree of circumspection can actually help.

Q: So where will the blog go from here?

A: I intend to keep going as long as my readers will have me.  InsideHigherEd has been great, and I hope that dropping a barrier to visibility will allow me to participate more fully in the national conversation.  (For example, with the pseudonym dropped, I’ll participate in a panel discussion at the MLA conference in January.)  I’ve been frustrated over the years by seeing a yawning gap in the conversation where actual, on-the-ground academic administrators should be. I’ve been able to insinuate myself into that discussion at some level.  By taking off the training wheels, I’m hoping to be able to participate more effectively.  The stakes for public higher education are incredibly high right now, and I couldn’t forgive myself for staying on the sidelines when there’s public work to be done.  It’s time to step up.

Q: What’s the book about?

A: I’ll address that on Tuesday, November 13.