A Brief Intermission: Denzler Update


Daniel Denzler

Daniel Denzler was the University of Chicago faculty member who was recently denied tenure; some speculated that the denial was related to the fact that he had been keeping a personal blog. At the time, I entered a brief commentary (10/2005)related to that event. As a pleasant update, Denzler has announced his recent faculty appointment at Tufts University, in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His comments about the appointment can be found at his blog, http://www.danieldrezden.com/blog. A fairly accurate review of his comments are provided below:

Saturday, Nov. 5.

“So Friday was a pretty good day….

Friday was a great day for two reasons. First, a 70-degree day in Chicago in November is a rare treat and needs to be properly savored.

[Wow, you're keeping up such a brave face after getting denied tenure--Editor] Well, that leads to the second and more important reason why Friday was a pretty good day.

I have formally accepted an offer to be an Associate Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, starting in the summer of 2006. Next year at this time, I will be teaching students pursuing a M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) or a Ph.D. at Tufts University in Medford, MA.

[Wait a minute. Wait just a friggin' minute. What exactly does "Associate Professor" mean?--Ed.] It means that, subject to the approval of Tufts University’s Board of Trustees, I will be a tenured professor.

[Why Fletcher? Did you have any other options?--Ed.] I received a number of inquiries (at various levels of seriousness) from academic and non-academic institutions — the latter including government, think tank, and publishing opportunities. This was both gratifying and useful. Gratifying because it’s always nice to be wanted. Useful because it gave me the chance to ponder whether the academy was for me. In the end, Fletcher was the best choice for a combination of personal and professional reasons.

[So how are you feeling now? Still bitter at the University of Chicago?--Ed.] I’m feeling pretty good, actually. Fletcher is an excellent public policy school for what I study, and they actually like the fact that I write for a wider audience on occasion. Oh, and Tufts seems to be doing an excellent job of facilitating policies I like.

As for the U of C, no, I’d say the bitterness level is down to a very tiny nub. Mind you, I still think they screwed up, but they’ve screwed up other decisions even worse. Anyway, that’s the department’s problem now, not mine. I will always have very fond memories the institution, the students, and many of my colleagues. We will miss Hyde Park’s rumored restaurant renaissance — but this will be more than compensated by the plethora of supermarket choices in the Boston ‘burbs.’

[So how do you feel about the blog now? Now that you're tenured, can you really cut loose?--Ed.] No, it’s just the opposite, I’m afraid. Brian Weatherson hit the nail on the head in Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed story on blogging and academia:

While some believe tenure allows more freedom for a blogger, Weatherson said that if your audience grows, that–not tenure status–may be the factor that leads to restraint online. “The more widely the blog gets read the more cautious I am about saying something critical of anyone without quite a lot to back up the criticisms,” he said. “Basically these days I can assume that anything I say critical of anyone in philosophy will get back to them, and I write as if the target of the criticism will be reading. So I probably hold back a little more than I did pre-tenure, when sometimes I would assume that the blog would just remain among friends.”

[So you'll be tenured, huh? Well, there goes the last shred of any connection you have with the "real world" in which other American workers must cope!--Ed.] You’ve been reading the comments too much. I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but the meme about academics having no connection to the real world is a crock of s$#*. Yes, tenure equals lifetime employment. However, consider the following:

1) Compared to other professions that require equivalent education, academics earn lower wages. This is clearly a choice for many of economic security and a more flexible work schedule over increased income. But it is a choice with real economic costs.

2) It’s not like getting a tenured position at a top-drawer school is the easiest thing to do in the world. You have to get accepted into a good Ph.D. program, write an excellent dissertation, demonstrate an ability to generate research of high quality and quantity, and trust your luck that these skills will be recognized by your senior colleagues inside and outside your university.

3) I can’t stress this enough — a professor’s wage is almost entirely determined by the market. Yearly raises in our profession range from infinitesimal to nonexistent. The only way to earn big raises is to demonstrate our value to the outside market by getting a competing job offer. That’s about as real as you can get in terms of the wage structure.

[Yeah, but you academics don't have to deal with your jobs being outsourced!--Ed.] Err…no, that doesn’t wash. The premier positions in American academia have had a global labor market for decades now, so the effect is analogous to off shoring. The long-term effect of professorial podcasting will be interesting, because it suggests an inexpensive way to commodify aspects of teaching.

[Man, a lot has happened to you since you started the blog -- you're going to need to update that "About Me" page--Ed.] Yeah, I already thought of that.

Posted by Dan on 11.05.05 at 08:48 AM

Gentle Evening Thoughts: Starting Points

Gentle Evening Thoughts

The first commentary in this series of discussions serves as an introduction to the general perspective on the relational analytic process that is advanced in the sequence of narrations that will follow. This perspective was born primarily from an encapsulation of my clinical experience.I’m not convinced about whether in emerged at the very beginning or not, but it seems as though in many aspects, almost as far back as I can remember in my career as a therapist, I have been working in a certain way with my patients.

The purpose of this writing is to provide a conceptualization of that way of being a therapist. It strives to clarify the implicit principles and underlying assumptions that have been at work in the process as I experienced it. Of course, in reality, it has not been that simple or that linear. There have been a multitude of external influences–personal, professional, theoretical, and cultural–that have shaped my clinical experiences. For example some of the theoretical influences have included the contributions of Merton Gill, Irwin Z. Hoffman, Donnel Stern and Stephen Mitchell.

Secondly, just as unformulated experiences generate the creation of principles, so too have the principles, once becoming explicit, shaped my manner of working and my way of construing what I was doing. As with the chicken and the egg, there is little sense in trying to determine which came first. In addition, in both directions the connection is not simply an instance of cause and effect. There is a space between the source of influence and its significance, an area in which one is present taking an active role, as a subject making choices.

The unformulated aspects of clinical experiences are ambiguous; there is more than one acceptable way to organize a set of principles that fits them, and consciously or unconsciously, one is “choosing” among them. Obversely, the principles, once clarified, are not inflexible. There is wide latitude in the manner that they may be put into practice. The particular path taken, in turn, promotes a new current of unformulated or implicit impressions.

The remarks in the initial (1/11/2005) brief commentary, Gentle Evening Thoughts, began by setting a context for the note, “In solitude.” Underlying the reference to solitude is the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely, which is to feel desolate and miserable over aloneness. The lonely one feels friendless, a loner and a loser. Feelings of inadequacy engender an emotional state of shame.

Where one has developed the capacity to be alone, solitude takes on the power to be creative, the ability to promote renewal and regeneration, and a sense of hope about the future. William Wordsworth fittingly portrayed this vision of solitude, seen from this self-enriching perspective:

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

Wordsworth, taken from “The Prelude.”

The initial remarks also refer trying to determine strategies to cope with a significant conflict in an important area of work. However, “trying” to determine is somewhat like “trying”to remember. “Trying” to remember, in fact, usually makes actual remembering almost impossible. It is usually the case that when one moves on to some other activity that what one was trying to remember almost spontaneously comes to mind. That was the case in this discussion, where throughout the efforts to develop strategies to manage the significant conflict in the external world of work, my thoughts periodically returned to some of my own interpersonal experiences earlier in the day, and slowly the words to clarify those experiences began to emerge.

As this growing awareness emerged, my admiration in turn deepened for the welcoming acceptance of uncertainty as a crucial element of the path leading to a sense of compassionate understanding. Embracing the value of a solid recognition of uncertainty is enhanced by a capacity to tolerate the feelings of anxiety, or fears of possessing potentially inadequate resources to master the challenge, which are aroused by the inevitably constituent ambiguities characterizing our initial perceptions of concepts that others so easily reify or accept as realities. This internal reminder of the pivotal significance of the acceptance of uncertainty opened a door, which in turned helped me to become more creative in developing the strategies that were needed to face the external work conflicts.

This recognition and welcome acceptance of uncertainty is one of the foundations of the analytic model that this sequence of discussions hopes to clarify.

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