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CAA News Today

Top News in 2015 from the Art and Academic Worlds

posted by Christopher Howard — Dec 30, 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, CAA would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season to its members, subscribers, partners, and other visual-arts professionals. As we reflect on the past twelve months, we would like to offer CAA News readers a look at the most accessed articles from the past year.

I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me

I’m a professor at a midsize state school. I have been teaching college classes for nine years now. I have won (minor) teaching awards, studied pedagogy extensively, and almost always score highly on my student evaluations. Yet things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me—particularly the liberal ones. (Read more from Vox.)

Why Absolutely Everyone Hates Renoir

When God-Hates-Renoir protesters recently rallied outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, there was only one reason why anyone might have been surprised to see them there. The museum isn’t mounting a big Renoir show, or celebrating the artist in some other way. Any institution foolhardy enough to do so knows by now to expect some kind of pushback, because everyone hates Renoir, and everyone always has. (Read more from the Atlantic.)

Entire USC First-Year MFA Class Is Dropping Out

We are a group of seven artists who made the decision to attend USC Roski School of Art and Design’s MFA program based on the faculty, curriculum, program structure, and funding packages. We are a group of seven artists who have been forced by the school’s dismantling of each of these elements to dissolve our MFA candidacies. In short, due to the university’s unethical treatment of its students, we, the entire incoming class of 2014, are dropping out of school and dropping back into our expanded communities at large. (Read more from Art and Education.)

Speaking for the “Quitters” and “Failures”

In the eyes of many academics, as Leonard Cassuto recently pointed out, I am considered a failure because I did not earn a doctorate. Meanwhile, American universities are awarding more doctorates than ever. And yet I have something most of those newly minted PhDs will never have: a full-time, tenured teaching job. (Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Why Is College So Expensive If Professors Are Paid So Little?

Twenty-five years ago, a student at a public college or nonresearch university campus would see twice as many faculty as administrators on average; now the ratio is roughly equal. Just 20 percent of the teaching workforce in 2013 were permanent or tenure track. About half worked part-time or as adjuncts, often stitching together temporary gigs at different institutions. (Read more from the Nation.)

Dealing with Inappropriate Emails from Students

About once a week I will open my inbox and be greeted by an email that will leave me at a loss for words. A few nights ago, for instance, one student emailed me at 10:30 PM on a Sunday requesting—”urgently”—a meeting at 7:30 the next morning. She wanted to discuss an assignment that was due the day after and couldn’t make it any other time during the day. I decided not to respond—at least not immediately. (Read more from GradHacker.)

Making the Most of the Syllabus

On the first day of class, after a brief introduction to the class topic and my related background, I pass out the syllabus in hard copy. We then read the document together out loud. I ask a student to read the first paragraph. Then the next student reads the next paragraph, and so on. In addition to ensuring that every student reads the entire syllabus, I help students get over possible anxieties about hearing themselves speak in front of their peers. (Read more from Inside Higher Ed.)

What Ever Happened to Google Books?

It was the most ambitious library project of our time—a plan to scan all of the world’s books and make them available to the public online. “We think that we can do it all inside of ten years,” Marissa Mayer, who was then a vice president at Google, said to the New Yorker in 2007, when Google Books was in its beta stage. “It’s mind-boggling to me, how close it is.” Today, the project sits in a kind of limbo. (Read more from the New Yorker.)

Great Colleges to Work for 2015

This special issue features results of the Chronicle’s eighth annual Great Colleges to Work For survey, based on responses from nearly 44,000 campus employees. The survey found that at colleges recognized for a strong workplace culture, employees were more likely to feel acknowledged, supported, well informed by their leaders, and engaged in a common mission. (Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Dying of Exposure

At some point, two years ago, maybe, I stopped doing things for free: no free writing, no free talks, no free critiques with artists or art students, nothing. I didn’t make the decision out of avarice; I made it as a matter of survival. I used to accept all kinds of invitations to do such things, paid or not, when I was a tenured professor. But, of course, the privilege of not having to think about my intellectual labor in those terms was predicated on the very fact that I was being paid, by my university, if not by the publishers, colleges, students, or artists who hosted the events to which I was invited. (Read more from Art Practical.)

Thirty Art-Writing Clichés to Ditch in the New Year

It’s a new year, which is a fine excuse as any to ditch old bad habits. Here below, I have assembled a not-at-all exhaustive list of art-writing words that I could do without in 2015. I admit that I’ve been guilty myself of abusing some or all of them—but of course that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for. (Read more from Artnet News.)

Behind the Impasse That Led USC’s 2016 MFA Students to Withdraw in Protest

The graduate class of 2016 at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design has withdrawn in protest from the visual-arts program over administration and curriculum changes. The conflict stems from changes made to the program after students had already arrived on campus, as well as resignations by prominent faculty members. (Read more from the Los Angeles Times.)

Is Adjuncting the “Kiss of Death”?

Numerous commentators have observed that being an adjunct, as a recent essay put it, “actually seems to decrease your chances of securing a tenure-track position.” Some have even gone so far as to label adjuncting a career destroyer, the proverbial “kiss of death.” But is it really? (Read more from Vitae.)

The Hostile Renegotiation of the Professor-Student Relationship

There is a scourge on college campuses today, driving a wedge between students and faculty. Political correctness? Maybe that, too. But I’m referring instead to the newly triumphant caricature of today’s undergrad (and perhaps some grad students as well) as a hypersensitive, helicoptered student-customer who will file a Title IX complaint if the dining hall kale isn’t organic. Today’s undergrad is so entitled as to demand to be employable after graduation. (Read more from the New Republic.)

O Adjunct! My Adjunct!

I spent half of my undergraduate career figuring out what I didn’t want to do. I started off in the journalism program, switched to literature, was undecided for a few panicked, free-floating months, and studied photography for a time. But the spring of my sophomore year, I enrolled in a fiction-writing workshop with an instructor named Harvey Grossinger. What I didn’t know at the time—and what I wouldn’t figure out for the better part of the next decade—was that Harvey was an adjunct. He didn’t tell us, and I didn’t know to ask. As an undergraduate, I never heard the term. (Read more from the New Yorker.)

The Conference Manifesto

We are weary of academic conferences. We are humanists who recognize very little humanity in the conference format and content. We have sat patiently and politely through talks read line by line in a monotone voice by a speaker who doesn’t look up once, wondering why we couldn’t have read the paper ourselves in advance with a much greater level of absorption. (Read more from the New York Times.)

How Art Became Irrelevant

In terms of quantifiable data—prices spent on paintings and photographs and sculptures, visitors accommodated, funds raised, and square footage created at museums—the picture could hardly be rosier. Equally robust is the art market, to judge by a Christie’s auction on May 11 that set several records, including the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art. But quantifiable data can only describe the fiscal health of the fine arts, not their cultural health. Here the picture is not so rosy. (Read more from Commentary.)

Dear Liberal Professor, Students Aren’t the Problem

In a recent Vox essay, a self-described “liberal professor,” writing under a pseudonym, explained how students had changed over his nine years in the college classroom. His liberal students now “terrify” him, he wrote, with their identity politics and imagined grievances. Here we go, I thought, another lament of the loss of white-male privilege, this time set at the university. What I quickly realized, however, was that the essay might be better characterized as a jeremiad, a cautionary tale that exaggerates current woes to elicit social change. (Read more from Vitae.)

The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking

The moment of truth for me came in the spring 2013 semester. I looked out at my visual-communication class and saw a group of six students transfixed by the blue glow of a video on one of their computers, and decided I was done allowing laptops in my large lecture class. “Done” might be putting it mildly. Although I am an engaging lecturer, I could not compete with Facebook and YouTube, and I was tired of trying. The next semester I told students they would have to take notes on paper. Period. (Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Historian Uses Lasers to Unlock Mysteries of Gothic Cathedrals

Thirteen million people visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris every year, entering through massive wooden doors at the base of towers as solidly planted as mountains. They stand in front of walls filigreed with stained glass and gaze at a ceiling supported by delicate ribs of stone. If its beauty and magnificence is instantly apparent, so much about Notre Dame is not. To begin with, we don’t know who built this cathedral—or how. (Read more from National Geographic.)

I’m Paid Less Than My Colleagues. Help!

I’m in the biological sciences at an R1 school and am a relatively new full professor. Recently, I was shown the mean salary for all faculty at this rank within my department. To my surprise, my salary was about 20 percent less than this number. Meanwhile the mean salary for full professors in my department is approximately 6 percent lower than the average provided by the Chronicle’s latest salary report for my university. (Read more from Vitae.)

What’s the Point of a Professor?

In the coming weeks, two million Americans will earn a bachelor’s degree and either join the work force or head to graduate school. They will be joyous that day, and they will remember fondly the schools they attended. But as this unique chapter of life closes and they reflect on campus events, one primary part of higher education will fall low on the ladder of meaningful contacts: the professors. (Read more from the New York Times.)

Slow Teaching

At some point on the first day of classes I am going to ask my students to answer some questions anonymously. In all honesty, why did you enroll in this course? What final grade you would be happy with? What about this class are you most concerned or anxious about? Exploring students’ responses over the years has led me to identify two prevailing suspicions: that art-history courses are based on rote memorization of names and dates, and that class time will consist of a battery of artworks crammed into a swiftly delivered lecture. (Read more from Art History Teaching Resources.)

A Guide to Thesis Writing That Is a Guide to Life

How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco, first appeared on Italian bookshelves in 1977. For Eco, the playful philosopher and novelist best known for his work on semiotics, there was a practical reason for writing it. Up until 1999, a thesis of original research was required of every student pursuing the Italian equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Collecting his thoughts on the thesis process would save him the trouble of reciting the same advice to students each year. (Read more from the New Yorker.)

What Are Some Good Art Documentaries?

What are some worthwhile art documentaries? I am an art instructor and working on compiling a list of films for my students to watch in their spare time. Any suggestions? (Read more from Burnaway.)

Six Dos and Don’ts for Gallery Representation

The road to getting into a gallery can seem impossibly rocky with obstacles at every turn. How do you know if you’re choosing the right path and using the right approach? We chatted with a veteran gallery owner and turned to the experts for six important dos and don’ts to achieving gallery representation. (Read more from Artwork Archive.)

Thirteen Art-History Emojis We Desperately Wish Were Real

This one goes out to all the art-savvy texters of the world, looking to add some of history’s finest manifestations of creative expression to their OMGs and LOLs. It’s been over two years since the glory days of #emojiarthistory, when the art world banded together to adapt art classics into emojis using the options available. What if, instead of using two dancing ballerinas to signify a Diane Arbus photo, there existed a whole realm of ready-made art emojis based on the canon of art history? (Read more from the Huffington Post.)

The Art of Having Difficult Conversations

The ability to have difficult conversations is important for career success, productivity, and relationships in almost every field, and higher education is no exception. However, despite the need to have these conversations, the idea of addressing sensitive issues can be scary. This article provides strategies for having difficult conversations and gives example scripts. (Read more from Inside Higher Ed.)

Ten Tips for More Efficient and Effective Grading

Many instructors dread grading, not just because grading takes up a sizable amount of time and can prove itself a tedious task, but also because instructors struggle with grading effectively and efficiently. However, effective grading does not have to take inordinate amounts of time, nor does one need to sacrifice quality for speed. The following tips can help instructors grade more effectively while enhancing student learning. (Read more from Faculty Focus.)

A Win for Academic Freedom: Steven Salaita Awarded Back-to-Back Victories against University That Fired Him

The first part of June has awarded back-to-back victories to Steven Salaita, a professor who last year was dismissed from his post at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for posting tweets considered by some to be beyond the pale of proper academic discourse. What makes this case especially interesting—and what the recent court decision and a critical vote by the largest confederation of US professors in the country shows—is the undue and improper interference of wealthy donors on the internal affairs of public educational institutions. (Read more from Salon.)

There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts

Apart from feeling sorry for the underpaid faculty, why should we care that college professors have the same job conditions as day laborers, fast-food workers, cashiers, taxi drivers, or home-care aides? They did, after all, choose to pursue a career in higher ed. Administrators at these institutions of higher learning argue that they need to use adjuncts because it is the only way to keep tuition from rising even faster than it has. And isn’t access to education the higher good? (Read more from the Atlantic.)

Re: Your Recent Email to Your Professor

In the age of social media, many students approach emailing similar to texting and other forms of digital communication, where the crucial conventions are brevity and informality. But most college teachers consider emails closer to letters than to text messages. This style of writing calls for more formality, more thoroughness, and more faithful adherence to the conventions of Edited Standard Written English—that is, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax. (Read more from Inside Higher Ed.)

Using Smarthistory to Generate Good Conversations in the Art-History Survey

I had been aware of Smarthistory for years, occasionally assigning videos as supplemental readings and directing students to its content. But following their use of the Khan Academy platform in 2011, the site’s content expanded exponentially. Suddenly, there were enough videos on diverse topics that I could assign Smarthistory videos for every topic in my syllabus. (Read more from Smarthistory.)

Does Color Even Exist?

Color perception is an ancient and active philosophical problem. It’s an instance of the wider category of sensory perception, but since the color spectrum fits on a single line, it has always been of particular interest. In her new book Outside Color, M. Chirimuuta gives a serendipitously timed history of the puzzle of color in philosophy. To read Outside Color as a layman feels like being let in on a shocking secret: neither scientists nor philosophers know for sure what color is. (Read more from the New Republic.)

That “Useless” Liberal-Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket

Stewart Butterfield, Slack Technologies’ cofounder and CEO, proudly holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Canada’s University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy and the history of science. “Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings.” (Read more from Forbes.)

There’s a Game for That: Teaching Art History with “Reacting to the Past”

When faculty facilitate involvement in activities such as simulations and games, and when students work collaboratively through role play and debate, deeper learning and transfer occurs. As part of my efforts to include more active and student-centered learning opportunities into my courses and to encourage knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, I added a “Reacting to the Past” role-playing game to my introductory-level art-history course. (Read more from Art History Teaching Resources.)

Two Bronzes Attributed Convincingly to Michelangelo

A team of art historians, scientists, and anatomical experts has announced that a pair of bronze statues—meter-high, idealized, muscular nude male followers of the god Bacchus riding panthers—are by Michelangelo and date from around 1508–10. The pair, which is in a private collection, will go on display on February 3 at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. (Read more from the Art Newspaper.)

An Illustrated Guide to Arthur Danto’s “The End of Art”

In an obituary for the New York Times, Ken Johnson described Arthur Danto as “one of the most widely read art critics of the Postmodern era.” Danto, both a critic and a professor of philosophy, is celebrated for his accessible and affable prose. Despite this, his best-known essay, “The End of Art,” continues to be cited more than it is understood. What was Danto’s argument? Is art really over? And if so, what are the implications for art history and art making? (Read more from Hyperallergic.)

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