The 2015 Official UW-System Faculty Exodus Update Part 2: The “Everyone’s Leaving” Edition


A few weeks ago I found out one of my closest colleagues will be leaving the UW Colleges for another job.  It’s a better fit for my colleague, she and her partner will be closer to family, but I will miss her dearly.  And if not for years of budget cuts and this last year from hell, I can’t help but think she’d have stayed.  We both got tenure last year and often talked about loving the student population we worked with.  But she’s not the only one.  The emails keep rolling in.  More colleagues leaving–not for better pay, not because they didn’t love their jobs, but because of uncertainty.  With the new regionalization model and now discussion of a merger of the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension, we are living in a realm of uncertainty.  As Representative Katrina Shankland said, “Now that Republican legislators have decimated our public universities, we should get a freshman legislator with no experience in higher education to conduct a study on how we can ‘realign’ them,’ said no one ever.'”

My fellow colleagues who teach in the UW College system do so because they believe in the Wisconsin Idea.  They believe in being great teachers above all else, and are some of the finest colleagues I’ve ever had the opportunity of working with.

And now many of them are leaving.  Because they simply don’t know if the UW Colleges will even exist in one year or two.  And that is enough to put anyone on the job market.  As I stated in my letter to the Joint Finance Committee, “I simply can’t imagine what my campus and others will look like next year. Our mission is central to the Wisconsin Idea. The UW Colleges are the UW System’s open door, offering an affordable and accessible option for thousands of students. We offer the first two years of a liberal arts education with an Associate of Arts and Science degree, and six campuses currently offer a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree-completion program. We have the lowest tuition in the UW System and offer students the opportunity to pursue a degree while living in their home community at our campuses, online, or through the UW Flexible Option program. We serve more part-time students, more adult undergraduates, and more first-generation college students than any other UW institution. In fact, 60% of our students are the first in their families to go to college. Students from the UW Colleges graduate from 4-year campuses at a 20% higher rate than any other transfer group, including those from technical schools, private schools, and 4-year campuses. And our students—the Wisconsinites staying within their communities, seeking a college degree to improve their lives and others’ in these communities—are the ones who will be most hurt by these cuts.”

The UW Colleges literally embody the Wisconsin Idea–the idea that everyone should have access to affordable, quality education.  And now we’re losing our best.  Those professors who stayed a few hours extra after classes to make sure a student who was struggling whether in life or in their class was ok.  Those professors who checked in if a student missed a few classes because more than likely, something pretty life altering was going on in their lives.  Those professors who cared so much that they would put the needs of their students above their own in every situation.

It takes a special kind of person to teach in the Colleges–I know many.  They are selfless, loving, and take joy in seeing their students succeed.  They see it as a failure of themselves if a number of their students are struggling and change up their pedagogy, syllabi, readings, teaching styles-anything to make sure their students succeed.

I taught a summer class for the past five weeks and on the first night I had a student who had been out of school for over 16 years.  This student was clearly overwhelmed with what was expected so I gave him a tour of campus.  I showed him how to use the computer lab.  I showed him where the library was and how to access his ID and password.  Why?  Because that’s what you do when you want a student to succeed and remain in your class.  That’s what you do when you believe in students who have never been told they’re worthy.  That they matter.  That it doesn’t matter if they are the first ones in their families to go to college because we’re here to help them navigate those waters.

We’re losing our best.  My dear friend was one of the greatest teachers, scholars, and genuine human beings I’ve ever met.  This fall, students in Wisconsin will never get to experience one day in her class.  They will never have their minds blown by her ability to break down the most complex texts and theories into digestible ideas.  They will never know her kindness and her brilliance.

There have been many sad days over the last year but when I found out she was leaving, reality really began to set in.  I keep thinking, who’s next?  Because who wants to work in a system that may not exist in a few years, that has been so crippled through defunding and divestment it’s barely able to function? Who wants to work in a state where tenure is an abstraction?  And who wants to work in a state that simply doesn’t value what educators do and instead demonizes them?

I predicted a mass exodus but even then I never imagined this.  And it’s not just in the colleges.  Openings in the 4 year institutions are everywhere–some even looking to start as early as January 1st to fill positions that will be left open by those who chose to take buyouts or simply left to work and live in a state and institution that valued them.

Classes start on September 2nd and I’ve never felt so demoralized.  Who’s next?  When will I be getting the next email from another amazing colleague informing me that they’ve found somewhere else to go because they just can’t take this anymore?  Classes will begin.  My students will continue to amaze me.  The semester will go on.  But not without deep sadness that the possible collapse of one of the most necessary institutions may become a reality.  I have no words of wisdom tonight, no amazing insights, just a deep sense of loss.  And I just don’t know what it will take to convince the citizens of Wisconsin that we’ve gone too far.  That the corporatization of higher education is not a model we should be looking to.

So to all my fellow educators who start in a few weeks, know my heart breaks with you.  Know I understand the sadness of losing your closest colleagues and friends.  And that I know we must, we have to do better.  This cannot continue.  We are powerless now but I still hold out hope that the people of Wisconsin will wake out of this slumber and realize the damage that has been done.  That they will fight back, vote for leaders who will restore whatever is left of the ruins of a once great system so that the generations who will be here long after we’re gone won’t ever remember a time when Wisconsin was run by a handful of legislators who were willing to strip access to higher education from the most vulnerable of our citizens.  When Wisconsin was run by a handful of legislators hell bent on destroying education for their own selfish purposes.  And when Wisconsin became a laughingstock that gained national media attention for such deep corruption and division.  I look forward to that day when this all becomes a distant memory.  Unfortunately, how many of us will remain to live amongst the ruins until that day comes?

Rape Culture 101: A Love Letter to My Fellow Rape Survivors

Things that cause rape

It wasn’t your fault.  I believe you.  What happened to you was rape.  You are not alone.  Those are things I wish someone had said to me when I was raped.  But that didn’t happen.  I never reported my assault because I was 18. Because he was my sister’s friend. Because it wasn’t “rape rape.” Because I was more concerned with being pregnant or having an STD than getting revenge on my rapist. Because I was a virgin and had no idea what had just happened to me. And my story is not uncommon. And the repercussions of what happened to me are also not uncommon: anxiety, depression, total loss of self, unwillingness to trust, dysfunctional relationship with sex and my own body–this is what happens to those who are raped.  But we live in a culture where we don’t talk about these things. Because it’s traumatic. Because it’s embarrassing. Because we blame ourselves, or others blame us for our actions.  Because who wants to tell their new partner about how they have a really difficult time with intimacy because they were raped?  These aren’t first date discussions, and sadly they end up being non-discussions because we live in a culture that doesn’t talk about the bad, the horrifying, and the traumatic.  We live in a Facebook era where we only ever want to show the best parts of ourselves to the detriment of so many who believe they are the only ones who’ve faced this.  And it needs to stop.

The following is my analysis of our current rape culture, the reasons so many never come forward, and a call to everyone that we need to stop victim blaming and start looking at the root causes of sexual assault.  Why does this keep happening?  Why do we as a society still engage in victim blaming? Why is it still so difficult to believe their stories? And how do we stop the epidemic of sexual assault here and around the world?

As Jennifer Cady reports, “For the first time since accusations of rape were made against Bill Cosby, 35 of the reported 46 women total who allege that the 78-year-old comedian sexually assaulted them have united together to tell their stories. New York Magazine photographed and interviewed each woman separately and notes that each of “their stories have remarkable similarities . . . . An empty chair was also left on the cover to represent those women unable to tell their story, which subsequently sparked a Twitter hashtag around that discussion.”  Twitter users created #TheEmptyChair as a way for victims/survivors of rape, sexual assault and abuse who are/were too frightened to come forward due to shame, stigma or the possibility further abuse to have a space to share their stories.  Others have posted in support.  Though heartbreaking to read, I would encourage everyone to read these stories.

But the fact that in 2015, we need a hashtag for those who were victims/survivors of sexual assault to share their stories, prompted by a cover of a magazine in which only 35 out of the 46 accusers were visually shown, shows how far we have to go in the ways in which we treat those who have been sexually assaulted.  That empty chair represents far too many who never speak out for so many reasons. Too many people in my life have sat in that chair. Enough. We need to break this culture of silence.

So why is it, how is it, that in this day and age, it takes 46 accusers to bring down a serial rapist?  My top reasons in no particular order.

1) Victim blaming.  As Laci Green notes in this video, there are horrible ramifications when we blame the victim instead of the perpetrator.  We place the onus on victim/survivor to engage/not engage in certain activities or to “prevent” themselves from “getting raped” versus looking at what causes some to rape in the first place, victim blaming protects sexual predators, and it makes it harder for justice to be served.  We invent things like rape-proof underwear and rape-proof nail polish.  And while the intentions come from a good place, the logic is horribly misplaced.  Again, it tells women, “you’re most likely going to get raped in your lifetime, so you should probably wear these underwear so it will be harder for someone to assault you.” Or even worse in the case of the nail polish, “Ladies, men are so horrible and disgusting, that they’ll probably slip something into your drink every time you go into a bar, but worry no more! Just dip your nails into your drink to tell if you’ve been drugged! Problem solved!”  This again not only reinforces the idea what someone needs to “prevent” themselves from getting raped, but is an incredible insult to men who DON’T drug people like the four men who created the nail polish.  I’ll get to the problem with the “boys will be boys” mentality in a bit.  In addition to others blaming victims, victims often blame themselves which leads me to my next point.

rape proof underwearrape proof nail polish

2)  Culture of Silence/Self Blame/Shame:  In a culture where we blame those who get sexually assaulted and place such a high prize on purity and virginity, it’s no wonder that those who are assaulted don’t come forward.  In Jessica Valenti’s “The Purity Myth,” she claims, “The lie of virginity—the idea that such a thing even exists—is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active . . . . so while young women are subject to overt sexual messages everyday, they’re simultaneously being taught—by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less—that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain ‘pure.'”  So, what happens when you’ve been told that your power rests in your ability to stay “pure” until marriage, when you’ve decided to remain abstinent, when you’ve attended a purity ball (yes these exist) and you’ve made a conscious choice to not engage in sexual activity until marriage and then someone takes that decision away from you?  Many see themselves as “damaged goods” who no longer hold their v-card, and since their purity is now gone, they may engage in dangerous sexual activity or have an incredibly toxic relationship with sex and their own sexuality because they’re no longer “pure” in the eyes of their God or society.  In addition, survivors tend to use the same rhetoric others use when victim blaming on themselves, “well, I probably did drink too much” or “maybe I did give off mixed signals” or any other of the thousands of reasons we tell those who have been assaulted that they somehow brought this on themselves.  When that happens, these assaults go unreported, the victim rarely tells someone, and does not seek treatment which can lead to dangerous repercussions.

3) A taught behavior:  We assume this is normal, that “boys will be boys,” and that this is just part of human nature.  Again, this is HUGELY insulting to all the men who do NOT rape and assault other men and women.  In addition, as Emily Hauser notes, “We teach our boys, from a very young age, that access to sexual release is their right, that indeed, their manhood is to be judged by how many vaginas they can penetrate. We teach them that those who would deny them this release may be manipulated and ignored, because the measure of a man is more important than the humanity of a woman. We encourage them — in winks, nods, jokes, songs, and men’s magazines — to view women as prey and as body parts, women’s own needs and desires as obstacles to sexual release. If removing those obstacles requires roofies, so be it — but often enough, copious amounts of alcohol (the original date rape drug) will serve.  We teach young boys and men that they “can’t help themselves,” that they should be sexually aggressive, that if they DON’T objectify women, they are “weak,” and if they are not sexually active, they are “weak” or “less than” a “real man.”  So whereas women are told that their power lies in protecting their virginity, we have entire films devoted to men losing theirs to “gain” power or masculinity: Porky’s, Weird Science, American Pie, The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Girl Next Door, Superbad, Sex Drive–you get the point.

4)  Dehumanization:  In ads, films, and almost all popular media, women’s bodies are constantly turned into things and objects which creates a climate of widespread violence against women.  Again, it is not a direct correlation, but turning a human being in to a *thing* is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.  As Jean Kilbourne notes, “Just as it’s difficult to be healthy in a toxic physical environment if we’re breathing poisoned air for example or drinking polluted water, so it’s difficult to be healthy in what I call a toxic cultural environment, an environment that surrounds us with unhealthy images, and that constantly sacrifices our health and our sense of well being for the sake of profit. Ads sell more than products. They sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, success, and perhaps most importantly, of ‘normalcy.’ To a great extent they tell us who we are and who we should be.”—Jean Kilbourne, Killing Us Softly 4.  As Rance Crain, former Senior Editor of Advertising Age notes, “only 8% of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind. The rest is worked and reworked deep within the recesses of the brain.”  Messaging matters.  Language matters.  It is because of these objectifying images and this toxic culture that allows boys to rank their female classmates in a bracket and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.  96% of sexually objectifying imagery is of women’s bodies.  When we don’t see people as fully human and only as parts and things time and time again, we create a culture where it is much easier to do harm to that person.

5) Lack of Conversations Around Consent:  There is a myth that consent isn’t sexy.  But as Laci Green points out here, not only can it be, but conversations regarding consent need to be seen as something that become part of our everyday vocabulary.  What is consent?  It’s clear.  It’s enthusiastic.  There shouldn’t be any confusion, and if there is, check in.  Ongoing dialogue should be part of sexual encounters. Still confused?  Maybe this will help.  What’s troubling is the lack of consent or discussion of consent anywhere in the media.  We don’t see people having these conversations, so how would we know how to model this behavior?


6) Sexual violence/Street Harassment isn’t taken seriously.  I’ll just leave this right here.

7)  “Rape Rape”/Trivialization of certain kinds of assault.  We are conditioned to believe that it only counts as “rape” if what happened to you was 1) done by a stranger 2) in a dark alley 3) at knifepoint/gunpoint.  The reality is:

Approximately 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger.
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
28% are an intimate.
7% are a relative.

This is why we have words like “spousal rape,” “intimate partner sexual violence,” etc.  Yes, you can get raped by your spouse. Yes, you can get raped by your partner.  Yes, you can get raped by someone with whom you once had consensual sex. Yes, you can get raped by a friend.  Yes, you can get raped by a loved one.  Not sure if you were raped? Read this.

So, what do we do?

Here are the realities, the statistics:

In Wisconsin

  • 1,224 women were reported forcibly raped in Wisconsin in 2012, up 3.6% from the year before.
  • 21.4 forcible rapes per 100,000 Wisconsin residents.
  • *The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), administered by the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008-2012
  • *Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center Report, 2013
  • Crime Information Bureau
  • Department of Justice
  • P.O. Box 2718
  • Madison, WI 53701

In the United States

  • By age 18, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual violence
  • At some point in their lives 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced attempted or completed rape
  • Sexual Assault victims are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from PTSD, 13 more times to abuse alcohol, 26 more times to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide
  • *The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), administered by the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008-2012

Many of these numbers are low because sexual assault is still one of the most underreported crimes in our country.  Roughly only 27% of rapes or sexual assaults were reported to police in 2011.

  • *The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), administered by the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011

You know someone who has been raped.  Statistically, it’s impossible that you don’t.  So what’s the answer? Stop the blaming.  Intervene if you see something happening that seems wrong.  Speak out against sexual harassment, street harassment, rape, and sexual assault. Support ongoing training for those who investigate allegations of any type of interpersonal violence to include trauma-informed investigation training.  And support anyone who comes to you.  Every assault is different, but circumstances don’t make any assault less traumatizing.  Tell them you believe them.  Tell them you love them.  If nothing else, just listen.  You won’t be able to fix it.  Nothing *fixes* it.  As my fellow survivors know, you’re never really “ok.”  Ever.  Something has been taken from you and from that point on, your life is never the same.  No, you are not “damaged goods” but you are damaged.  A part of you will forever be destroyed.  But nothing will change if our culture remains the same.  If we place the blame on the victim; not the perpetrator.  If we don’t believe their stories.  We as individuals must speak out.  We need to read the heart wrenching stories of others and do our best to reframe the ways in which we talk about rape and assault in our culture.  To my brothers and sisters who survived these unspeakable acts of violence, and to the many others who did not, my heart breaks for you every day.  This is for you.  It wasn’t your fault.  I believe you.  What happened to you was rape. You are not alone.  We will heal.  We will survive. We will thrive.  And I will forever love and support you just as I was loved and supported by so many who made it possible for me to even write this.  Peace be with you all, and here is to hoping that by speaking out, someday, someday, we won’t all know someone who’s been raped.

Update:  since posting this yesterday, within less than 24 hours, I have had enough men and women contact me or publicly post their own stories that I could write an entirely new blog with just their horrifying experiences.

An Open Letter to Those Who Hate Teachers

When I graduated from college, I, like many graduates, had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.  I was medically cleared to go to West Africa to join the Peace Corps.  I’d applied to seminary and to graduate school.  Grad school took me first, I took it as a sign, and started on a path to get my Ph.D. and become a college professor.  At no time on this path did anyone warn me that at some point in my life, I would be hated, despised, loathed, and treated with contempt for the occupation I chose.  I don’t know that it would have made any difference, but a heads up would have been nice.

When I grew up, I loved my teachers.  I loved my professors.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been in classrooms with some of the most gifted teachers who inspired me, taught me what it means to teach, and were not only amazing teachers, but scholars and activists as well.  I truly learned from the best.  When I finally landed a job as a college professor, I was excited to pay it forward–to give my students all that I had learned during those years.  But once I actually began teaching, I was stunned and deeply confused at the very vocal resentment towards those who had chosen to work in the field of education.  When Act 10 was passed, to say it divided Wisconsin would be an understatement.  We were called lazy, overpaid, greedy, and undeserving of the benefits we had bargained for in lieu of lower wages.  At the time, I thought this was hurtful and it made me incredibly angry.  Then, Governor Walker got reelected and we saw an increase in the vitriolic rhetoric towards educators when they began to speak out against his proposed budget.  Admittedly, I have put myself in the spotlight through Facebook posts, tweets, and now through my blog posts, so I expected to get a few horrible comments thrown my way.  I was told I should be on a government watch list because I teach in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies.  I was called a communist.  I was told to “quit whining” and get a real job.  Some wrote:

“if you want to know why I seem angry, it’s because this “crisis” was a manufactured one ” much like the rape crisis you manufactured on campus. Watch, remove the gender studies courses and rape claims go way down;”

“so is someone going to start mocking and insulting her and telling HER to ‘quit your complaining and whining! omg! suck it up!” and all that?”

“Teach students something that will allow them to get a job and pay their mortgages, and then we can worry about your job and mortgage.”

All hurtful and frustrating but I had no idea how bad it would get.

Here are a list of things I have been personally called since I started blogging:
“Liberal union cunt”
“Dyke profesor”
“Lesbo cock sucker”
“Flaming liberal whore”

You get the idea. There are more. You won’t see these on my blog, because I have the ability to delete them, but they’re there.  Anonymous strangers who feel better about themselves by demeaning me.  Misogyny and ignorance at its finest.  And this is mild compared to some of the things other writers or those in the public eye have gone through–I don’t in any way want to diminish the very real death threats that have sent some into hiding for daring to speak out against that which they see as unjust. As John Oliver points out in a segment on online harassment this regularly happens to “any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind, and then vocalizing it online.”

Again, these were online comments.  And I’m clearly not the only one who’s experienced this. Just this week, a friend posted this:


Once again, none of these responses to his tweet were accurate (professors don’t teach children, tenure is not a job for life,) but that didn’t stop the immediate backlash against one tweet regarding the elimination of tenure from state statutes in Wisconsin and the very real ramifications of that.

Fast forward to two days ago.  I was at a gas station when a man approached me.
Man: “Looks like gas prices have gone up!”
Me: “Um, yep? I guess so?”
Man: (looks at my UW-faculty parking sticker) “If I had your kind of money, I wouldn’t be complaining about gas prices, bitch.”

I was dumbfounded.  A good friend noted, “Wow, eliciting sympathy purely in order to twist it around into mistaken and misplaced class rage. That is truly sociopathic.”  Agreed.  This man, this complete stranger, felt it necessary to make sure I knew how much he hated me.  I’ve never experienced anything like it, but I know it has happened to others. Example? One friend got punched in the face at a bar by a 70 year old man for simply trying to correct misinformation regarding faculty salaries.  Let me repeat that.  Punched in the face by a 70 year old man.

I posted my experience on Facebook, and perhaps most disturbing was the number of people who had reached out and told me they’d experienced similar interactions.  I don’t know when it became ok to physically confront someone and attack them just “because.”  Another friend pointed out, “The thing is – misconception aside – even if you were a billionaire it shouldn’t be commented on by a hateful stranger who would call you or anyone a bitch.”  Exactly.  And the fact that this is evidently happening more often and to more educators should call us all to take pause and ask ourselves, how did Wisconsin get this divided?  What happened in this man’s life, and what had he been told about educators that he felt entitled to speak his mind and let me know exactly how much contempt he had for me and everyone who does what I do?  It takes a lot of hatred and misplaced anger to behave in such a way.  And to know that this is not an isolated incident frankly both saddens and enrages me.

As I wrote in my Facebook post, I truly want to invent a sign that says “everything you know about college professors is wrong” and wear it daily.  As I pointed out in the letter I wrote to the Joint Finance Committee before they passed the budget, “I will officially make less now as a tenured professor than I did when I started in 2009. In most jobs, your pay is supposed to increase over time—not the other way around. And contrary to popular belief, I don’t make a six figure salary nor will I ever if I spend the rest of my lifetime working in the Colleges. Up until a few years ago, I was still eligible for the earned income tax credit.  Starting salaries of a professor with a Ph.D. remain at $43,000 and have stagnated. The highest paid professor with a Ph.D. at UW-Marshfield/Wood County, after 23 years of experience and service to our campus, makes $65,521.00. Most of my colleagues have second jobs, some at other institutions and others in any part time job available. Several who work full time on my campus and at other institutions are eligible for food stamps and reduced priced lunch programs for their children. They live paycheck to paycheck, working as line cooks and waitresses. They continue to pay off student loans and will do so for the next 25+ years at our rate of pay. Just the other day, a tenured faculty member asked if I’d be a reference on her application to Family Video. I bartended for several years during the summer to help pay off my student loans and make sure I didn’t find myself further in debt. As awkward as it was to have my students see me behind a bar, sadly, I couldn’t afford to leave that job because I made more serving alcohol than teaching in the UW System . . . . We are being asked, for yet another year, to do more with less. There is nothing left. State divestment in public education cannot continue. I get it. Defunding public education has become politically easy. As the Nation recently reported, ‘If states won’t raise taxes or cut back on mass incarceration, gutting higher education becomes the path of least resistance.’ But it’s a dangerous path we’ve been walking on for far too long.'”

So how did we get here? And what can we expect in the future? As Katharine J. Cramer writes in her piece regarding the politics of resentment, “Consistently conservative groups saw things differently, obviously. They wanted lower taxes and fewer government programs . . . and asserted that government programs —except for defense spending—should be as small as possible. They believed in bootstraps and lamented peoples’ apparent inability to use them. Besides spending on defense, they were also ok with funding for programs like the WPA [Works Progress Administration] and the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] that rewarded hard work. Notice how their support for government spending hinged on notions of deservingness. We have seen this theme before. In their eyes, government programs are only legitimate if they support deserving Americans. And this group, like others in my sample treated deservingness as a matter of whether or not the policy recipients are hard-working Americans like themselves (Soss and Schram 2007; Skocpol and Williamson 2012, ch. 4). They approved of government programs when they perceived the programs gave out benefits that were payments to people who had earned them, not handouts to the undeserving (Winter 2008). Hard work was a key consideration, not just for the consistently conservative groups, but arguably for the vast majority of the groups, including the groups who were ambivalent about small government. This is important. It suggests that support for limited government is not driven mainly by a principled belief in small government, but instead by attitudes about a particular program’s recipients (Nelson and Kinder 1996;Schneider and Ingram 1993) . . . Support for small government policies or candidates seemed motivated by something other than abstract adherence to the idea that smaller government is better, and was not a simple result of disliking government or feeling ignored by it. This is where the politics of resentment comes in. In the conversations, you can see how resentment toward target groups often served as the glue between anti-government and small government attitudes . . . . The blow-up over Governor Walker’s budget measures shortly after he took office in early 2011 illustrates these sentiments . . . Each of these groups was supportive of Walker’s proposal to require public workers to pay more into their health and pension benefits. As we saw in the previous chapter, they perceived that these benefits came directly from their own pockets and that as rural residents they worked much harder than the desk workers in state government. In addition, they perceived that the public workers in their own communities (especially school teachers) made salaries that were much higher than their own.”

The problem with this is that public sector employees like UW professors and public school teachers aren’t the enemy, nor have they ever been, and by placing the blame on them for everything from the recession to unemployment rates, we don’t focus on what actually blew up the economy. As Robert Reich argues, “Divide and Conquer tactics pit average working Americans against each other, distract attention from the most unprecedented concentrated wealth at the top, and conceal regressive plans to further enlarge and entrench that power.”  Similarly, Paul Krugman noted, “There is a better answer, and a teachable moment here, which gets at the real nature of inequality in America. It’s not about overpaid teachers. Let’s start by looking at the real winners in soaring inequality — the people who not only make incredible amounts of money, but get to pay very low taxes.  According to Forbes, in 2012 the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders took home a combined $16.7 billion. Now look at those supposedly overpaid government employees. According to the BLS, the median high school teacher earns $55,050 per year. So, those 40 hedge fund guys made as much as 300,000, that’s three hundred thousand, school teachers — almost a third of all high school teachers in America. OK, teachers get benefits, so their total compensation cost is higher than their wage, so maybe it’s only 200,000. But you should keep numbers like these in mind whenever anyone tries to shift attention from the one percent (and the .001 percent) to Americans who aren’t even upper-middle class.”

So why are we still blaming the wrong people for societal’s ills?  When will it stop? And how do we convince someone who only knows and truly believes that educators are the reason their lives aren’t where they should be–that educators and other public sector workers should be punished for “undeserved” benefits, and that their lives are truly better off because of the dismantling of public education–that all of these beliefs are based in false ideologies?

I have no answers.  But to those who hate me, who see no value in what I do, and who think I don’t deserve the privileges conferred by years of hard work and determination, I ask–if my job is so wonderful, so star spangled awesome, why don’t you do what I do?  If being a teacher is so easy, why not become one? If our benefits are so egregiously disproportionate to yours, what is stopping you from going to graduate school and obtaining your very own Ph.D.?  Because instead of dismissing my job, asking for (more) “shared sacrifice,” and belittling my career choice, maybe your time would be better spent becoming an educator, spending some time with people who live and work in my profession, and a little less time in the comments section of your local newspapers, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in peoples’ faces saying cruel and ugly things based on falsehoods, deeply rooted misplaced resentment, and ignorance.

Update:  this piece has been posted in the following places.  Thank you all who have shared:

American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Academe blog

Blogging Blue

Monologues of Dissent

Say no to Vouchers Facebook Page

An Open Letter to Those Who Still Stand With Walker

scott walker bumper sticker
Dear Walker Supporters,

I doubt we have much in common.  In fact, I’d bet money on it.  And I wish this were a dia-blog so that this could be a conversation, but given the medium, this will have to serve as a letter to you, to those who still, after every policy this governor has proposed, support him, his policies, and perhaps even see him as a frontrunner for the next Commander-in-Chief.  Because I know you exist.  I know you love this man.  You see him making “tough decisions” and “sticking it to” those you feel caused you financial pain or somehow wronged you in this life.  I want you to know I respect your opinion to support him, defend your right to vote for him or whomever you feel best represents the best interests of you and your own, but I also need to know, truly and honestly, why.  Why you still support him.  Because for the life of me, I can’t think of one justifiable reason anyone who isn’t directly benefiting from him financially (i.e. giant corporations), feels as though this governor and his policies are making their lives better.

As I stated in a previous blog, “To my friends who voted for Governor Walker, all three times, I often asked and still do, has your quality of life improved?  Does me having to pay more for my healthcare make yours any better?  Does weakening my job security strengthen yours?  Did my pay cut help to get you a raise?  Usually I get blank stares, but the point is that the reasons for voting for Governor Walker in the first place run much deeper.  One of the most effective messages Governor Walker used against public sector employees was to tap into the deep resentment that many people feel/felt toward those they perceived to be an elitist class apart.  As he stated, it was a fight between the ‘have-nots’ vs. the ‘haves.’ To many who voted for Walker, it wasn’t about making things better for your fellow Wisconsinites, for Wisconsin’s economy, or improving misguided policies.  Walker supporters wanted to even the playing field through shared misery.  Instead of working together to get better healthcare, job security, and pay in the private sector, instead, voters wanted some kind of justice where everyone suffered equally.  Public workers were and still remain an easy scapegoat with our ‘Cadillac benefits’ and ‘job security for life.’  Even though tenure is not job security for life and those ‘Cadillac’ benefits were bargained for in exchange for lower wages, most have no idea of those realities unless they know someone or personally work in higher education or in the public sector.”

I can understand why you voted for him in 2010.  I can even understand why you supported him in 2014–many of my conservative friends truly had no idea, nor had Walker run on the policies he proposed in his initial budget that have upended workers’ rights in Wisconsin, dismantled public education, and made history by putting Wisconsin on the map for all the wrong reasons.  But now?  I’d like to take a minute to assess the damage this governor has done to this state in an attempt to show you exactly how he has directly and indirectly negatively impacted you, your friends, your families, and your fellow citizens.

Many have called July of 2015 a historic month for progressives.  The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.3%, its lowest level since April 2008.  But here in Wisconsin, it doesn’t seem as if we’re making the same progress.  It is, in fact, and has felt as though we’ve been living in an alternative universe for years now.  A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Wisconsin’s middle class — households earning between about $34,500 and $103,000 — has shrunk at a faster rate than any other state in the country.  As the Journal Sentinel reported in June, “Wisconsin was 35th out of 50 states in private-sector job growth over the four years of Walker’s first term, according to recently released government data.  The numbers came as no surprise. The state was 35th in 2011, 36th in 2012, 38th in 2013 and 38th in 2014, based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Wisconsin has persistently lagged behind the nation and most nearby states during Walker’s time in office, and a sizable chunk of the state’s voters are aware of that trend, polls show. Walker’s unmet 2010 campaign promise of 250,000 new jobs and the partisan war over his governorship has turned Wisconsin’s employment picture into an ongoing political saga fueled by chronically tepid jobs reports.”  As Christopher Flavelle notes there has been low wage growth, job growth, and “state tax revenue increased just 4 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of last year, compared with a 20 percent increase for the median state. So the news this month that Wisconsin was skipping a scheduled $108 million debt payment, owing to an unexpected budget shortfall, only underlined a trend that’s been years in the making. Of the 40 states with general-obligation bonds, 25 have credit ratings from Moody’s that are better than Wisconsin’s.” In addition, he states that “measured by relative economic outcomes, Walker’s tenure falls somewhere between lackluster and a failure.”

Despite campaign promises to move Wisconsin forward and create jobs, Governor Walker has failed in every way imaginable.  But perhaps the most egregious abuses of power can be found in his budget (fiscal and non-fiscal policy proposals), that have put Wisconsin on the map as perhaps the most dysfunctional state in the union.  Take the budget recently passed by the Joint Finance Committee.  A comprehensive list of policy proposals is here, explained by Nick Fleisher here, and this budget has notably and arguably been labeled by those on both sides of the aisle as the “worst budget Wisconsin has ever seen.”  As Fleisher aptly notes, “It hardly needs repeating at this point, but all of these extremely damaging changes to the state of Wisconsin—the gutting of open records laws, the planned dismantling of the state’s largest school district, the elimination of tenure in the UW System, and much more besides—were developed totally in secret by the twelve legislators who comprise the JFC majority, and passed on party-line votes within hours of being released to the public (or to committee Democrats, for that matter). The open records changes have drawn the harshest and broadest rebuke, but they are emblematic of a broader pattern of brazen disregard for the public that this committee has exhibited throughout the budget process. Chris Abele’s aligning himself with this committee in its attack on Milwaukee Public Schools is unforgivable. UW administrators’ steadfast refusal to question this committee’s false narrative of budgetary strain and scarcity has predictably led to a dire outcome for everyone but those administrators themselves. Meanwhile, legislative leaders invoke cash balances amassed by UW administrators as an excuse for slashing funding, while in the next breath calling for those very same administrators to be invested with newly broadened powers. It is difficult to imagine a moral failure of leadership more absolute than the one we are now witnessing at almost every level in Wisconsin.”

What has garnered the most attention was the issue of open records.  As The Green Bay Gazette, pointed out, strange bedfellows lined up against the open records gutting in the biennial budget including the Center for Media and Democracy, WI Attorney General Brad Shimel (R), State Sen. Robert Cowles, (R-Allouez), The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, One Wisconsin Now, the conservative think-tank, the MacIver Institute for Public Policy and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.  Not shockingly, none of the lawmakers that slipped the measure in were willing to take credit for it.

Within a span of a few days and facing so much criticism, on July 4th, Governor Walker and legislative leaders announced they would drop the provision from the budget.  However, as State Senator Jon Erpenbach noted, “just the fact that they even tried to do this in the first place should bother everybody in this state.”

So, to you, dear Walker supporters, what will it take?  If a horrible economy, corrupt policies, and a sheer contempt for the state you live in isn’t enough, what will it take for you to stop supporting this man?  Because all of this comes down to voting.  And I fear, to many Walker supporters and many voters in general, facts don’t matter.  We like to create our own facts.  We like to watch news that merely reflects our existing opinions.  In the New York Times this week, David Leonhardt pointed out that “not only are people more likely to believe information that fits their pre-existing beliefs, but they’re also more likely to go looking for such information.”  And, in addition to seeking out information that conforms to our existing narratives, we accept language given to us by others rather than creating our own frames.  As Paul Fanlund points out, in many cases, progressives use the language of the GOP to frame our arguments. He states, “But here’s the thing: By focusing with such zeal on Walker, might we be bolstering his brand by allowing issue debates to occur on the GOP’s rhetorical turf?”  Yes.  Instead of reframing, or using new ways to talk about things like liberty, freedom, and other moral values, we accept and reinforce existing frames.

Citing George Lakoff, he claims, “Lakoff maintains that voters do not choose leaders based on the sum of a candidate’s positions but on this larger, moral frame. Issues must be tied together in this big frame, and conservatives have dominated the moral debate by consistently asking which side best stands for liberty. Progressives should effectively counter ‘liberty’ with ‘freedom,’ Lakoff argues, but have failed to do so. Here, in staccato phrases, is what he’s getting at:

If you get cancer or break a leg and do not have health insurance, you are not free.

If you can’t get a decent education, you are not free.

If you are a woman and do not control your body, you are not free.

If you cannot marry someone you love, you are not free.

If your work largely benefits only the wealthiest of the wealthy and not you, you are not free.

If you are treated with suspicion or disdain because of your race, you are not free.

If a few billionaires determine election outcomes, you are not free.

If you cannot easily vote, you are not free.

If you are not protected from harmful products and fraudulent business practices, you are not free.

If companies are allowed to foul the air you breathe and the water you drink, you are not free.

Get the picture? Government not as the evil enabler of a nanny state, but as an indispensable agent for freedom.”

This is not new.  Think of the ways in which we look at taxes.  The word “taxes,” has become synonymous with something Americans need to be “relieved from” since the phrase “tax relief” was first invented–yes invented–by the same people who decided it would be wise to start using the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming” because it sounded more benign; by the same people who figured out more Americans would oppose the “estate tax” if it were relabeled the “death tax” because that sounded far more insidious. Language is powerful–so powerful that we no longer see the constructedness of these labels–they’re just a given. We see taxation as an affliction or burden and since there is no established frame or language that discusses taxes as an investment or a public good, we default to the idea that tax cuts *are* good–no matter how paltry or insignificant.

So when Governor Walker claimed he would hold true to his promised property tax cut that would amount to $10 over the next two years for the owner of a median-valued home, a savings of $5 a year for Wisconsin homeowners who meet this criteria, he made the mistake of including the actual dollar amount. When we hear we’re getting a tax break or a tax cut, the average citizen assumes they’re going to be saving hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. In this instance, many pounced on the idea that the dollar amount was so low, and that the cuts proposed were so deep, they’d gladly give back those five dollars if it meant saving jobs, keeping the UW System in tact, and if it meant not having to make cuts to programs around the state.

Lakoff in his book, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant: Know Your Values And Frame The Debate,” expands on the power of framing here:

“What is taxation? Taxation is what you pay to live in a civilized country-what you pay to have democracy and opportunity, and what you pay to use the infrastructure paid for by previous taxpayers: the highways system, the Internet . . . Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it.You did not build the basketball court.Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won’t be maintained and will fall apart” (24-25).

A year ago, Wisconsin lawmakers approved a more than $800 million tax-cut package after budget forecasters projected a nearly billion-dollar windfall in unanticipated tax revenue. Now, the state will collect less than half of the projected $912 million that was the basis for the tax-cut package last year. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects the state will end the year with a $233 million deficit after starting the year with a $517 million surplus.

It is the idea that tax cuts will produce revenue, coupled with the idea the we need “relief” from taxes that allowed this to happen. We need to reframe the debate–to look at taxes as an investment, and tell your legislators and Governor Walker that they can keep your $5. That they can keep your $5 and use it to restore funds for counseling services on college campuses. That they can keep your $5 and use it to bring back study abroad programs, jobs, and cuts to public media. That they can keep your five dollars so Wisconsin can rebuild our economy, our infrastructure, and our once enviable educational institutions. 

Walker supporters, if you are not swayed by facts, by frames, by narratives, and by language, then let me attempt to appeal to your most base patriotic notions of what is good, fair, just, and democratic.  In an excerpt from a blog written specifically in regards to the Declaration of Independence and Walker’s policies in Wisconsin, the author writes, “‘Consent of the governed’ is a key phrase, because it implies that in the mind of the Founders legislators would have told the people how they intend to govern, and that people should have approved of the policies and actions that are taking place, likely through elections. Does that sound like this crew, who have governed by surprise and instituted numerous policies in this budget that they never ran on last November . . . .Think about the state’s secretive gerrymandering and numerous examples of the overriding of local initiatives and powers. These moves have skewed the makeup of the state’s legislature and laws to something that does not reflect the views of the state and local areas.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

The most recent example is the gutting of the state’s long-established open records laws last night, but it’s far from the only time Walker and his minions in the Legislature have ‘dropped the bomb’ on numerous initiatives without warning. These last four years have featured plenty of ‘special’ and ‘extraordinary’ sessions to limit debate on non-pressing issues, and this budget session has seen numerous omnibus measures be introduced into the Joint Finance with no formal hearing, no public notice, and little connection to the budget items scheduled to be discussed.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people….

This ‘manly firmness’ not only includes repressive laws against unions and women’s health rights, but it also goes back to the centralizing of power and overriding of local government, which Walker and WisGOP have done time and time again.”

In all reality, those of you who support Governor Walker and his policies will never read this.  But to those who do, I truly ask you to take a look at your life.  At your neighbors’ lives.  And ask yourself, am I proud of the state I live in? Is this the path I want our state to continue on? Is this the future I want for my children, my grandchildren, and for those who will reside in this state long after I’m gone?  Because elections are all we have left.  The damage done to this state was both preventable and is now irreversible.  Those who have all the power will continue to abuse it, use it for their own political and financial gains, and in the end we all suffer together.  History tells us that the pendulum always swings when any party in power is perceived as having gone too far in their overreach.  I have faith that history will repeat itself–that the backlash from so many ill-advised policies will spawn a win for Democrats in 2016.  I’m also a realist.  And I just don’t know what it will take for so many ardent supporters to finally see through this man’s agenda, his willingness to destroy his own state for political gain and a shot at the presidency, and for those supporters to stop voting against their best interests and start voting for those who want this state to thrive again.  Walker supporters, what will it take?  What will you do in the next election?  It is you we need now to turn this around.  It is you we need to step up, put aside falsehoods, stereotypes, misplaced bitterness and anger, and vote for candidates that will restore this state to her glory.  Without you, we continue to suffer together.  Without you, our state remains divided and broken.  And without you, those drunk with power will continue to drive this state and its people further into desolation and despair.

“The Perpetrator Was Caught, but the Killer is Still at Large”- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II: Why We Need to Stop Blaming All the Wrong Things and Truly Understand the Root Causes of Mass Shootings in America



Rev. Clementa C.Pinkney. Cynthia Hurd. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Tywanza Sanders. Myra Thompson. Ethel Lee Lance. Susie Jackson. Daniel L. Simmons. Depayne Middleton Doctor. As my beautiful friend, Suzanne Enck said, “remember their names. Learn their stories. Ensure that their legacies live on.”  In churches across Charleston this morning, church bells are ringing.  The Charleston Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau claims that “Charleston is often referred to as the ‘Holy City,’ a place where church steeples–not skyscrapers–dot the skyline.  This Sunday, our bells will ring loudly and proudly to proclaim our community’s unity.”  There has been much debate and conversation as to who and what is to blame for yet again another mass shooting in America, but I want to be clear.  On this Father’s Day, this is no joyous occasion for those who just lost their loved ones; whose names we must remember.  Whose stories, lives, memories, and legacies should be our sole focus.

As I watch the service, I am filled with such incredible sadness.  When I first heard of the massacre, I was sitting in a hotel lobby, lazily eating my continental breakfast and watching the news, the giant television one foot away from my face, and my eyes just welled with tears.  Perhaps this tragedy hit me harder than others because I’d just spent so much time in peace and beauty, high in the mountains of Glacier National State Park, feeling connected and loved and forgetting how much darkness still exists in this world.  Perhaps it’s as my friend, Richard Grusin said, “The older I get, the harder these horrifying attacks hit me. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

Because this is neither the first nor the last mass shooting I will bear witness to in my lifetime.  As Jelani Cobb points out speaking of the recent death of Walter Scott along with the Charleston massacre, “The two incidents seem like gruesome boomerangs of history until we consider the even more terrible idea that they are simple reflections of the present. The daisy chain of racial outrages that have been a constant feature of American life since Trayvon Martin’s death, three years ago, are not a copycat phenomenon soon to fade from our attention.”  And sadly, the plot line remains the same.  Horrible tragedy occurs.  There is moral outrage.  Politicians and pundits blame the media, violent video games, mental illness, and lax gun regulations.  The sitting president calls for stricter gun regulations and policies.  A bill is proposed, maybe two.  And then the next salacious news story grabs our attention.  Nothing happens and we forget.  We forget so quickly.  As Melissa Harris-Perry posed this morning, we have to ask ourselves whether “emotional solidarity formed in trauma can last and whether it can make lasting change.” Sadly the answer, I believe, is no. A few months will go by and we will forget.  We will forget them.  Perhaps the Onion displayed this sentiment best in its headline following the Isla Vista shooting back in May of 2014 when it read, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

I’ve been wanting to write about the issue of mass shootings in America for awhile now because of this very reason.  I’m tired of this plot line.  I’m tired of this cycle.  Phrases like “mass shootings” and “school shootings” shouldn’t exist in our culture.  And until we start talking about what motivates those who engage in these mass shootings to do this kind of ultimate act of violence, we as a society will never progress.

I do not claim to have all the answers, but this is my attempt to continue a much needed dialogue regarding the role of gender in mass shootings and the misplaced blame on mental health, violence in the media, and gun control legislation.

The author, Jackson Katz has been writing on this for years, so if you’re familiar with him, you will notice a lot of his arguments here.  If not, I highly encourage you to become familiar with him, his advocacy, and his work.  I always say, if I ran the world, I would make everyone watch his groundbreaking documentary, Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood, and American Culture. It’s summary: “In this highly anticipated update of the influential and widely acclaimed Tough Guise, pioneering anti-violence educator and cultural theorist Jackson Katz argues that the ongoing epidemic of men’s violence in America is rooted in our inability as a society to move beyond outmoded ideals of manhood. In a sweeping analysis that cuts across racial, ethnic, and class lines, Katz examines mass shootings, day-to-day gun violence, violence against women, bullying, gay-bashing, and American militarism against the backdrop of a culture that has normalized violent and regressive forms of masculinity in the face of challenges to traditional male power and authority. Along the way, the film provides a stunning look at the violent, sexist, and homophobic messages boys and young men routinely receive from virtually every corner of the culture, from television, movies, video games, and advertising to pornography, the sports culture, and U.S. political culture. Tough Guise 2 stands to empower a new generation of young men — and women — to challenge the myth that being a real man means putting up a false front and engaging in violent and self-destructive behavior.”

Let’s start with the troubling “go to” arguments we regularly hear following these massacres:

Mental Illness:  Here’s the thing.  Women suffer from mental illness, too.  They do not commit mass shootings.  Arther Chu has a great breakdown of why we need to stop focusing the blame on mental illness here, so I won’t go into much detail, but he does point out a few key arguments: “We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day — it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough . . . . ‘mental illness’ never created any idea, motivation or belief system. ‘Mental illness’ refers to the way our minds can distort the ideas we get from the world, but the ideas still come from somewhere . . . . We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad. After all, there’s no pill for that.”

Violent video games, music, Marilyn Manson, etc., etc., etc.:  I am the first to admit that the power of the media to influence values, perceptions, beliefs, and actions cannot be overestimated. However, as I stated with the mental illness argument, women also play violent video games.  They listen to Marilyn Manson.  And they do not commit mass shootings.

Lax gun laws/lack of gun control legislation:  Rather than debating the merits or effectiveness of gun control legislation, I want to point out again that women have access to guns.  They have access to illegal guns.  Women do not commit mass shootings.

Let’s start with some statistics, what I believe, and make a few things very clear:

I do not hate men

I do not think men are inherently evil

I do not think men are biologically predestined to be rapists, murderers, or abusers

I don’t think parents intentionally raise their sons to be rapists, murderers or abusers

I do believe there is a correlation between constructed masculinity and violence

I do believe masculinity is socially constructed learned behavior

I do believe the repercussions of constructed masculinity are real, dangerous, and need to addressed

Why does this matter?  The same ways we train young girls to think their only value lies in their beauty, we also train young boys to associate strength with violence.  And the repercussions are deeply troubling.  According to Katz, compared to girls, boys in the U.S. are more likely to:

1) Be diagnosed with a behavior disorder

2) Be prescribed stimulant medications

3) Fail out of school

4) Binge drink

5) Commit a violent crime

6) Take their own lives

Males are most often both the victims and the perpetrators in 90% of homicides.

90% of people who commit violent physical assault are men.

Males perpetrate 95% of all serious domestic violence.

86%  of  armed  robberies  are  committed  by  men.

77%  of  aggravated  assaults  are  committed  by  men.

87%  of  stalkers  are  men.

86%  of  domestic violence incidents resulting in physical injury are perpetrated by men.

99% of  rapes  are  committed  by  men.

Men  commit  approximately  90%  of  murder.

Since 1982 there have been more than 62 mass shootings in the U.S  In only one instance was the gun user female. 

The purpose of listing these statistics is NOT to show that men are inherently evil, though many argue that men are just more biologically dispositioned to be violent and do violence.  To me, that is THE greatest insult to all men–to assume that being rapists and murderers is encoded in their DNA.  No.  This is learned behavior.  We train our young boys to be “tough,” to “man up,” to be emotionally constipated, and to never, never fall outside the constraints of what it means to “be a man.”  And if all of these messages can be learned, if violent masculinity is, in fact, manufactured, it can also be unlearned.  The training can be undone.

So how and where are young boys getting these messages?  Everywhere.
Grand Theft Auto

gatorade50 centchuck norrislynx

300, Tree of Life, Fight Club, Drive, Snickers, Snickers Australia.  You get the point.

The  key  here  with  all  of  this is that this isn’t just about deviant individuals.  The men committing these mass shootings aren’t just a few bad apples. So often they are described as “lone wolves” detached from society–sociopaths committing atrocities in isolated incidents–when in reality, many men often turn to violence out of fear that they don’t measure up to our rigid cultural codes of manhood. Psychiatrist  James Gilligan  interviewed  hundreds of violent criminals in American prisons and found that that the single most powerful reason they turned to violence was because they felt shamed, humiliated, or disrespected as men.  They were so afraid of being perceived as weak, they had been bullied, abused, and taunted to such a breaking point, they were willing to engage in violence to somehow “regain their man card.”  As Katz argues, “What  all  of  this  amounts  to  is  that  our  violence  problem seems to be a lot less about lone wolves and monsters who fail to conform to society’s norms than it is about too many men, in a sense, conforming to our norms and ideals of manhood out of a fear of not being seen as men.” In the documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” the director highlights what so many young men face growing up–trained to be emotionless, to see seeking help as weakness, and to see violence as a way of gaining respect.  Some of the quotes from the young men speak volumes:  “Once I went into high school, I struggled finding people I could talk to because I feel like I’m not supposed to get help.” “As a man, respect is linked to violence.”

We view mass shootings as the number one cause of gun violence in this country, when in reality, most gun deaths are a result of men and boys shooting themselves.  Suicide accounts for close to two thirds of all gun deaths in the United States.  Suicides by gun accounted for about six of every 10 firearm deaths in 2010 and just over half of all suicides, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  If we really want to solve gun violence in the United States, if we really, really want to solve this problem, we need to look at the toxic culture in which we are raising our young boys and the messages we send them on a day to day basis.

So what does this have to do with the South Carolina shootings?  Many politicians, pundits, and reporters have been quick to label the shooter as mentally ill, a racist, and a terrorist, and the media coverage has been entirely predictable.  Many have blamed this attack on everything from the lack of concealed guns in the church to anti-intellectualism.  Clearly, from his own manifesto, Dylann Roof had racist ideologies–indeed this massacre was racially motivated and to not acknowledge that would be wholly irresponsible–but even these ideologies are deeply ingrained in gender identity.  In an excerpt from Michael Kimmel’s “Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era,” he notes, “It is through a decidedly gendered and sexualized rhetoric of masculinity that this contradiction between loving America and hating its government, loving capitalism and hating its corporate iterations, is resolved. Racism, nativism, anti-Semitism, antifeminism—these discourses of hate provide an explanation for the feelings of entitlement thwarted, fixing the blame squarely on ‘others’ whom the state must now serve at the expense of white men. The unifying theme is gender. These men feel emasculated by big money and big government. In their eyes, most white American men collude in their emasculation. They’ve grown soft, feminized, weak. White supremacist websites abound with complaints about the ‘whimpering collapse of the blond male,’ the ‘legions of sissies and weaklings, of flabby, limp-wristed, non-aggressive, non-physical, indecisive, slack-jawed, fearful males who, while still heterosexual in theory and practice, have not even a vestige of the old macho spirit.'”  And, as Lisa Wade points out, “Roof’s act was racist, yes, but his racism was built upon colonialism and sexism. Our hierarchies interconnect, interweaving, providing each other with support.”

If you read Roof’s language closely, it was as if he was trying to prove himself to someone.  Numerous accounts from those who knew him described him as shy, antisocial, a boy who had very few friends, and a home life that left much to be desired.  In pictures, he scowls at the camera, performing the “tough guise” Katz describes, sometimes armed, sometimes not.  But I’ll stop there.  Speculating about Roof’s motives doesn’t get to the heart of this tragedy, nor does it allow us to have a much needed conversation between the correlation between violent masculinity and mass shootings.  Surely he was influenced by racist ideologies, but we have to ask–what led this young man to seek out such hatred?  Roof did not come out of the womb with the will to kill 9 human beings and the intent to take his own life.  What was going on in his life that was so miserable, he just wanted to “hurt a whole bunch of people?”

And that, that is the question we need to be asking.  In the wake of these tragedies, we want to assign blame.  We want to make sense of that which seems so senseless.  We want answers.  We grieve.  We mourn.  We debate.  And tragedy upon tragedy, the cycle continues.  We don’t get answers.  We move on with our lives.  And we forget.  We forget Rev. Clementa C. Pinkney.  Cynthia Hurd.  Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  Tywanza Sanders.  Myra Thompson.  Ethel Lee Lance.  Susie Jackson.  Daniel L. Simmons.  Depayne Middleton Doctor.

Today, let us not forget.  This Father’s Day, today, let us send love to those who lost their fathers in this tragedy and so many others like it.  Today, let us truly try to look at ourselves and our society and understand how these shootings keep happening time and time again.  Today, let us stop misplacing blame on symptoms and look at the root causes of this systemic violence.  And let us hope that by doing so, I may not have to write about this again.

Update: for further reading on the gendered nature of mass shootings, I highly recommend this piece:

Angry misogynist murders women at showing of film by feminist comedian; police worry “we may not find a motive.”

Thank you, David Futrelle.

Point Break: The 2015 Official UW-System Faculty Exodus Update


Well, Wisconsin, it’s official.  You’ve made it so incredibly difficult to want to work in the UW-System, nearly everyone is now looking for jobs if they hadn’t been already.  They’ve finally reached their breaking point.  As Karen Herzog notes, “Already dismayed by prospective cuts to the University of Wisconsin System, higher education observers now suggest the state could become an academic pariah if the Legislature scales back two treasured tenets of academia — tenure and shared governance.”  Academic pariah.  Further, “The impact would be far-reaching if language in a GOP plan that expands the reasons tenured faculty could be laid off or terminated wins support of the full Legislature and becomes law, said Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors. ‘That effectively will be the end of tenure in Wisconsin,’ Fichtenbaum said. ‘I’m not aware of any state that has gone this far. …I can’t imagine anybody taking a job there unless they can’t get a job anywhere else. People who can leave, would leave.'”

And yes, they are leaving.  So to you, dear readers, I offer a brief list of the current UW faculty who have gone on record now as saying they’re officially leaving or currently looking for better opportunities, and what Wisconsin will be losing in talent and funding due to their departures.  If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Mahesh Mahanthappa: “Graduate school tuition has roughly tripled during his tenure, cutting into his research grants because he pays the freight for his roughly 10 student employees. Support staff have been cut, making equipment procurement and the training of junior researchers in using specialized equipment more time-consuming and difficult.  The combination of factors prompted the tough decision to move his family and his research lab — which brings in $600,000 a year in outside funding — to Minnesota.”

Frank Keutsch: who is “moving his atmospheric chemistry lab to Harvard University.”

Sara Goldrick-Rab: “‘They changed the conditions of our employment overnight,’ said Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology. She said she is deeply disappointed in the roles UW System President Ray Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank played in exposing such foundational tenets of the university to attack through their unsuccessful pursuit of the reorganization of the university into a public authority . . . . ‘I don’t feel like I’m going to be able to do my work in the way that I have,’ Goldrick-Rab said in an interview Monday. ‘I don’t’ feel like I’ll be able to teach freely, speak freely —  do the kind of critical scholarship that I do here. I’ve already done more than enough that an insecure chancellor would let me go.’  In addition, she claimed, ‘Those of us that have stayed in this crazy state with all of this political stuff and really low wages, considerably, have stayed because it was different and our voices mattered. And they’re taking that away.  I never wanted to leave. I have so many good reasons to stay. But I can’t stay where I can’t speak. And believe me, I cannot speak without tenure,’ she said. ‘I will be let go so fast and so many people in upper administration will be applauding because I challenge their systems every day.'”

Jesse Stommel: “‘I’m intensely loyal. I don’t abandon ship, but I looked around today and just saw water—no ship’ . . . ‘The current threats to tenure … change the institutional climate—making it even harder for new scholars and teachers to receive the support they need to go out on a limb with their own work,’ said Stommel. ‘The erosion of tenure makes University of Wisconsin a less desirable place to work and learn,’ he said. ‘Work in higher education, and in education more generally, depends upon the ability to have critical conversations. In our work as teachers and scholars, we must leave no stone unturned, and suddenly there are snakes under some of the stones. And, in order to do our work, some of us now have to put our jobs at risk.'”

Mark Karau “Along the way I have published two books and had an article selected for inclusion in a collection of the best naval history articles of the 30th century. I’ve done it all because I love my job. Which begs the question, why am I leaving? I do not have the heart or desire to watch this system that I love collapse so I decided, in March, that I would leave the system within the next year or two. In truth I decided back in February that if we ended up having to lose faculty because of the budget that I would volunteer to take the hit and be cut if I could save another’s job by doing so. I have spent many long hours agonizing over these issues in the last several months and, as of this past Friday, I had planned to return for at least one more year and perhaps two or, on the outside, three. The decision of the Joint Finance Committee to remove tenure from state law has changed my mind.

Shawn Conley:
Shawn (2)

Jeff Linderoth:
Jeff Lindroth tenure

Carey Applegate
Carey (2)

This list may seem short, but keep in mind these are only those who have gone public or on the record as looking for new jobs, or who have currently accepted positions elsewhere.  This does not include the many who are currently seeking other opportunities, dusting off their CVs, and quietly looking so as to keep the job they have. Nor does this include the many who have left in the years prior to 2015.  And this is just the beginning.  I leave you with this, dear readers.  A warning that what is happening in Wisconsin is currently coming to a state near you. As a good friend mentioned today, “I can’t help but think this is a testing ground for legislature (it’s often done in Florida and California) because of the symbolic nature of WI. The labor movement was sparked in WI. Other university systems are modeled after the UW system (SUNY and Penn to name a few). When you break the back of two public protecting institutions it sends a clear message to the United States. I can’t help but feel it’s going to get uglier before it gets better.”

Indeed.  As Mark Levine states, “It is not surprising, then, that conservatives — who have long attacked the notions of tenure, shared governance and academic freedom more broadly — would now set their eyes on Walker’s Wisconsin (it’s worth noting here that Walker did not graduate from college) as the moment to break the institution of tenure, based on the same corporate-dominated neoliberal principles that supported the near fatal weakening of unions a generation ago. In fact, as University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee English professor Richard Grusin wrote on his blog, Ragman’s Circles, the ‘daisy chain of Republican power‘ now extends from the governor to the regents he appoints, the system president they appoint and the chancellors he appoints. There is little doubt that, should Wisconsin succeed, corporatized boards of private universities and state legislatures in the majority of Republican-governed states will jump on the bandwagon and move with lightning speed to remove tenure protections, shared governance and, ultimately, academic freedom protections from their universities. On this 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Association of University Professors, when the principles of academic freedom were first expounded in the midst of another ‘great’ war that history looks upon with horror, the renewed threat to tenure represents not merely an attack on the minority of academics who today enjoy the privilege but also on the bedrock principles upon which America’s system of higher education was built. If faculties across the country don’t take a very public and aggressive stand in defense of their colleagues in Wisconsin, there will be little to stop the process of complete corporatization of higher education, with all the damage to the quality and diversity of teaching, research and knowledge production that this will produce. With the United States and the rest of the world facing so many unprecedented natural and human threats and challenges, destroying the one edifice that protects independent thinking and knowledge for its intellectual class could prove even more costly than destroying the unions upon which America’s unprecedented postwar prosperity was built.”

Expect this list to grow exponentially in the coming months.  And expect those vacancies to go unfilled as the dismantling of public education in Wisconsin continues. “‘It’ll be impossible for us to attract and retain people if we’re the only one that has such a weak protection of tenure,’ said Donald Moynihan, a professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has been at the institution for 10 years and was among hundreds of faculty members in recent days to sign a letter opposing the changes.”  I wish I could leave on a more positive note, but there’s nothing positive about any of this.  It will take years to rebuild what has been done by this administration, and even longer to restore Wisconsin’s good name.  The worst?  Most of these professors have stated that they would have stayed here forever, but again, they, we have reached our breaking point.  Exit stage anywhere but here.

Getting Out of Our Bubbles and Off Our Couches: Mass Exodus, The Importance of Voting, and How All of This Could Have Been Avoided


I will admit.  I live in a bubble.  I live in a world surrounded by family and friends who value public education, know how important tenure is within higher education, and who pay attention every day to what’s happening politically in my state. So it was with great humility when I was reminded by my very intelligent friend that there are many, many people in Wisconsin who don’t live in my world, who don’t see any inherent good in public education, and that the ideas that resonate with me do not so with a large portion of Wisconsinites.  In his post, he claimed, “To me, it feels like there are two obvious paths to understanding.  If these Wisconsin Ideas are no longer resonating with the people of Wisconsin, either people don’t have enough awareness of the benefits of these public institutions or the benefits are not tangible to enough of the voting public. Let’s start with the less popular possibility that these aren’t actually benefits to a significant percentage of voters.  There is a case to make here.  Think of our public universities or public radio.  For those of us that have engaged or do engage with these institutions, it is incredibly difficult to imagine a worldview that doesn’t see their value, but both of these institutions serve as a direct resource for a much smaller percentage of our population than many of us want to acknowledge.  In Wisconsin, as of 2013, only 28.8% of residents twenty-five or older had at least a bachelor’s degree.  While post-secondary education is of increasing importance for the next-generation workforce, this figure remains below 50%–41.3% in 2010–even when limited to the 25 – 34 age group. Educational attainment can be a dangerous segregator.  I have marveled myself at the world I occupy, in which a significant majority of my friends and family have graduate degrees.  I have to remind myself that my normal is made up of America’s educational elite (at just over 10% of the population and 3% of the world’s). Certainly this affects my perspective on education.”

In short, a large number of Wisconsinites do not think like me and either 1) have no idea what happened today, 2) don’t care, or 3) are cheerfully going about their day, happy that Governor Walker, the legislature, and now the Board of Regents totally stuck it to us lazy professors.  I can hear them now–“I don’t have job security for life–why should they?”

Reality check reminder 1:  Governor Walker got elected 3 times in this state.  3.  And he’s running on that in his presidential bid, controversially claiming “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the globe.”  Those looking at his chances at the presidential nomination also claim this is a huge plus for Governor Walker.  “After a fierce battle, Walker prevailed on June 5, 2012, becoming the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt. Walker’s tussle with unions – and his ultimate triumph – endeared him to the conservative base, and some analysts believe it could be his trump card in the GOP nominating contest, enabling him to keep his fans on the right from slipping away to another conservative candidate. ‘He’s the strongest anti-union republican in the bunch, and that’s an issue that resonates both with average Republicans, but also with business Republicans that give a lot of money to the party,’ said Zelizer. ‘It defines him.'”

To my friends who voted for Governor Walker, all three times, I often asked and still do, has your quality of life improved?  Does me having to pay more for my healthcare make yours any better?  Does weakening my job security strengthen yours?  Did my pay cut help to get you a raise?  Usually I get blank stares, but the point is that the reasons for voting for Governor Walker in the first place run much deeper.  One of the most effective messages Governor Walker used against public sector employees was to tap into the deep resentment that many people feel/felt toward those they perceived to be an elitist class apart.  As he stated, it was a fight between the “have-nots” vs. the “haves.” To many who voted for Walker, it wasn’t about making things better for your fellow Wisconsinites, for Wisconsin’s economy, or improving misguided policies.  Walker supporters wanted to even the playing field through shared misery.  Instead of working together to get better healthcare, job security, and pay in the private sector, instead, voters wanted some kind of justice where everyone suffered equally.  Public workers were and still remain an easy scapegoat with our “Cadillac benefits” and “job security for life.”  Even though tenure is not job security for life and those “Cadillac” benefits were bargained for in exchange for lower wages, most have no idea of those realities unless they know someone or personally work in higher education or in the public sector.

Reality check reminder 2:  Voting matters.  In a statement today put out by Jason Rae who is currently running for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, he stated “The Regents’ unwillingness to stand up to the Legislature and the Governor today will have a devastating effect on the quality of the UW System. In a state where job growth has consistently trailed the national average, the likely exodus of the best and brightest faculty will only impede our chances at a stronger recovery. This is why elections matter. We have to put people in office who will fund higher education and ensure we govern the university in the right way. Attacking tenure and shared governance takes us in the wrong direction. It’s time to turn Wisconsin around.”  Exactly.

Elections matter.  Voting matters.  Immensely.  None of this would be happening right now had voters shown up at the polls.  Many of my friends believe that our government is so corrupt and broken that voting is pointless.  Let’s call this the Russell Brand ideology behind voting.  As he claims, “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: ‘Don’t vote, it encourages them,’ and, ‘The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.'”

I have many issues with this line of thinking.  One, not even all Americans have the right to vote, so to not use that privilege because you’re “disenchanted,” in my opinion, is criminal.  As John Oliver claimed in a piece reminding his viewers that Americans living in the island territories don’t have the right to vote, he pointed out that despite the lack of that right, “Guam’s registered voter turnout is actually higher than the rest of America.”  We have a long history of people literally dying for the right to have a voice in their elections.  This argument doesn’t bode well with me, but it’s also illogical and selfish.  I get it.  You don’t care to get off the couch and vote because you feel those running don’t represent you and that the system’s broken.  But when that happens, guess what? All of those other people who turned out get a say in what happens to you, your family, your friends, your state, and your country.  To not use your voice allows others to make important decisions for you, is irresponsible, and frankly, unconscionable.

john oliver (2)

I make no apologies for the strong language because as the title states, all of this–all of this could have been avoided had people shown up to the polls.  The Governor didn’t win because the overwhelming majority of eligible Wisconsin voters agreed with his policies.  He won because his opposition decided to check out.  And yes, you can blame the Democratic party for weak candidates, you can blame Republicans for redistricting and their endless work to suppress voting rights.  But at the end of the day, I blame us.  Myself included.  Because even though we shouldn’t have to convince people that teachers aren’t the enemy, that public education is a public good, that dismantling education hurts businesses, our economy, and our state, clearly those messages aren’t getting through to a large portion of Wisconsin voters and it’s why this Governor has been able to do insurmountable damage making us the laughingstock of the nation.

I do want to make clear that in many ways our government and the election process is broken.  A new poll suggests that “Americans of both parties fundamentally reject the regime of untrammeled money in elections made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other court decisions and now favor a sweeping overhaul of how political campaigns are financed, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. The findings reveal deep support among Republicans and Democrats alike for new measures to restrict the influence of wealthy givers, including limiting the amount of money that can be spent by ‘super PACs‘ and forcing more public disclosure on organizations now permitted to intervene in elections without disclosing the names of their donors.”  But demanding changes to campaign finance reform so that we have freer and fairer elections and working to change the system through voting and being civically engaged is very different from being disenchanted and removing yourself from the political process.

So what is the answer? Get out of your bubble.  Talk to people with whom you disagree–about the importance of public education, the Wisconsin Idea, and how so many of these policies will affect their friends and families.  And as angry as you may be regarding the countless injustices being placed on the people of Wisconsin, I ask that you be tolerant of the intolerant and careful with your words and criticisms.  To be clear, I am 100% guilty of doing this, but making fun of Governor Walker’s intelligence or mocking him for his lack of degree is not only counterproductive but feeds into the narrative that educators are elitists.  Calling those who voted for Governor Walker “morons,” “idiots,” etc., doesn’t help, either.  As my marvelous advisor in graduate school said, “Kelly, no one is evil.  They may just be incredibly misguided.”

And I don’t think Governor Walker is evil.  I don’t think those who voted for him are evil, or hell-bent on destroying my life and my livelihood.  We’re all just so disconnected that we feed on stereotypes and abstractions and when those aren’t challenged, when our news media gives us “stories” that merely reflect our already existing opinions, we never get out of our bubbles.  And neither do those with whom we disagree.

I’ll leave with this.  What happened today will cause many great and talented professors to leave this state.  As Chuck Rybak points out in his “UW Struggle: Real People Edition,” many already have and we will see a mass exodus in the coming months.Mass Exodus

Governor Walker’s policies have hurt many in my life, but sadly, I’m not mad at him.  At this point, I’m not even shocked by his policies or those proposed by Republicans in Wisconsin.  But I fear these policies will drive the Russell Brands in Wisconsin further into their couches, overwhelmed by the power this government has wielded over this state.  I fear that Instead of fighting back, they and others will retreat into the land of apathy and we will have even less of a voice over what happens to our lives, our families, and our loved ones.  I fear those who have fought against this administration for so many years now will finally give up.  I fear good people won’t run for politics, and that the ones who currently serve will be so daunted by the helplessness they must feel going to work everyday, they will soon find other career options.  And when that happens, the “incredibly misguided” voters will rule us all.