This fall, CAA will visit local New York colleges and universities and host a number of wine and cheese receptions throughout the country, connecting professionals in the visual arts within their communities. Taking place at many art institutions in major U.S. cities, these meet-and-greets are a great opportunity to join arts scholars and art makers in your area. Whether you are an existing or former CAA member, work in some capacity in the arts, or are just curious about what we do, we hope you will be able to join us.
CAA’s new executive director, Hunter O’Hanian, will attend many of the receptions and will discuss his ideas and vision for the future of CAA. Come meet new CAA members and reconnect with fellow members.
Upcoming Receptions and Meet and Greets
Brunswick, ME Sept. 24, 3:30PM Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Please RSVP to the Brunswick, ME event here.
Boston, MA Sept 26, 5:30PM Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Paine & Bakalar Galleries
Please RSVP to the Boston, MA event here.
Nashville, TN Sept. 26, 6:30PM Vanderbilt University, Sarratt Center Gallery
Please RSVP to the Nashville, TN event here.
Portland, OR Oct. 5, 6:00PM Yale Union
Please RSVP to the Portland, OR event here.
posted by CAA — September 22, 2016
In a competitive job market, everyone could use the opportunity to get feedback on interviewing and presentation. Take advantage of this opportunity to have a twenty-minute interview/mentoring session from a seasoned professional.
Students and emerging professionals have the opportunity to sign up for a twenty-minute practice interview at the 2017 Annual Conference in New York. Organized by the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee, the Mock Interview Sessions give participants the chance to practice their interview skills one on one with a seasoned professional, improve their effectiveness during interviews, and hone their elevator speech. Interviewers also provide candid feedback on application packets. Mock Interview Sessions are offered free of charge, but you must be a CAA member to participate. Sessions are filled by appointment only and scheduled within the SEPC Lounge for the following times:
Thursday, February 16: 11:30 AM–1:30 PM
Thursday, February 16: 3:00–5:00 PM
Friday, February 17: 9:00–11:00 AM
Friday, February 17: 2:00–4:00 PM
Conference registration, while encouraged, is not necessary to participate. To apply, fill out the Google Registration Form. You may enroll in one twenty-minute session. The deadline to register is February 6, 2017. You will be notified of your appointment day and time by email. Please bring your application packet, including cover letter, CV, and other materials related to jobs in your field. The Student and Emerging Professionals Committee will make every effort to accommodate all applicants; however, space is limited. There will be VERY limited registration onsite. If you have any questions, please email the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee.
CAA is committed to supporting and advancing the careers of professionals in the visual arts. As a CAA member, you have free access to a diverse range of mentors at Career Services during the 105th Annual Conference, taking place February 15–18, 2017, in New York.
All emerging, midcareer, and even advanced art professionals can benefit from one-on-one discussions with dedicated mentors about artists’ portfolios, career-management skills, and professional strategies. You may enroll in either the Artists’ Portfolio Review or Career Development Mentoring. Participants are chosen by a lottery of applications received by the deadline; all applicants are notified of their scheduled date and time slot via email in January 2017. Conference registration, while encouraged, is not necessary to participate; appointments are offered free of charge. Deadline: December 16, 2016.
Artists’ Portfolio Review
The Artists’ Portfolio Review offers CAA members the opportunity to have images of their work reviewed by artists, critics, curators, and educators in personal twenty-minute consultations. Whenever possible, CAA matches artists and mentors based on medium or discipline. You must bring a charged battery-powered laptop or hard copy of your portfolio to review your work. Sessions are filled by appointment only and scheduled for 8:30 AM–noon and 1:30–5:00 PM each day.
Career Development Mentoring
Artists, art historians, art educators, and museum professionals at all stages of their careers may apply for one-on-one consultations with veterans in their fields. Through personal twenty-minute consultations, Career Development Mentoring offers a unique opportunity for participants to receive candid advice on how to conduct a thorough job search; present cover letters, CVs, and digital images; and prepare for interviews. Whenever possible, CAA matches participants and mentors based on their career area or discipline. You must bring your résumé or CV, your other job-search materials, and your specific career goals to discuss during these appointments. Sessions are filled by appointment only and scheduled for 8:30 AM–noon and 1:30–5:00 PM each day.
Working as a room monitor at CAA’s 105th Annual Conference, taking place February 15–18, 2017, in New York, is a great way to save on conference expenses. CAA encourages students, emerging professionals, and any interested members—especially those in the New York City area—to apply for service.
Session Room Monitors
CAA seeks members to work as room monitors for all session rooms, Career Services rooms, and various conference events between Wednesday, February 15, 2017, and Saturday, February 18, 2017. Room monitors are responsible for monitoring conference badge and ticket adherence at the doors of session rooms, recording session attendance and collecting tickets, monitoring the capacity of session rooms, aiding the communication between session chairs and the onsite audiovisual specialists, checking in conference attendees with mentoring or portfolio-review appointments, and/or facilitating the work of the career-development mentors.
Successful applicants will be friendly, familiar with digital projectors and both Mac and PC laptops, communicative, and able to problem-solve quickly in the hectic conference environment. To apply, please send the following three items to Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs, by
December 16, 2016[DEADLINE EXTENDED!] JANUARY 9, 2017:
- One-page résumé
- Brief letter of interest including your CAA Member ID# and preferred days for scheduling
- An application form
Chosen applicants will be paid $12 per hour and receive full complimentary registration to the conference. Selected room monitors will be required to work a minimum of twenty hours over the four days of the conference, but may work up to thirty-two hours. All people hired for the conference must also attend a one-hour (paid) training meeting on Tuesday night, February 14, 2017.
All candidates must be US citizens or permanent US residents and able to fill out a W-9 employment form.
CAA membership is encouraged but not required. Students should check to see if their schools and universities are CAA institutional members, because institutional membership now includes the benefit of specially discounted student memberships for individuals.
Please contact Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs, at email@example.com or 212-392-4405 with any questions.
caa.reviews has published the authors and titles of doctoral dissertations in art history and visual studies—both completed and in progress—from American and Canadian institutions for calendar year 2015. You may browse by listing date or by subject matter. Each entry identifies the student’s name, dissertation title, school, and advisor. Once a year, each institution granting the PhD in art history and/or visual studies submits dissertation titles to CAA for publication.
posted by CAA — July 06, 2016
About the Program
CAA’s Professional-Development Fellowships program supports promising artists, designers, craftspersons, historians, curators, and critics who are enrolled in MFA, PhD, and other terminal-degree programs nationwide. Fellows are honored with $10,000 grants to help them with various aspects of their work, whether it be for job-search expenses or purchasing materials for the studio. CAA believes a grant of this kind, without contingencies, can best facilitate the transition between graduate studies and professional careers.
One award will be presented to a practitioner—an artist, designer, and/or craftsperson—and one award will be presented to an art, architecture, and/or design historian, curator, or critic. Fellows also receive a free one-year CAA membership and complimentary registration to the Annual Conference. Honorable mentions, given at the discretion of the jury, also earn a free one-year CAA membership and complimentary conference registration.
CAA initiated its fellowship program in 1993 to help student artists and art historians bridge the gap between their graduate studies and professional careers.
Are You Eligible?
CAA seeks applications from students who are current members; are citizens or permanent residents of the United States; will receive their MFA or PhD degree in the calendar year following the year of application (2017 for the next fellowship cycle); and have outstanding capabilities and demonstrate distinction in approach, technique, or perspective in their contribution to art history and the visual arts. A jury of artists, curators, and other professionals will review all applications in fall 2016 and announce the recipients in January 2017.
How to Apply
Please visit collegeartassociation.slideroom.com to submit applications to the 2016 MFA and PhD Professional-Development Fellowship programs. The deadline for applications for the PhD fellowships is Monday, October 3, 2016, and Friday, November 11, 2016, for the MFA fellowships. CAA will send notifications in January 2017.
For more information about the CAA fellowship program, please contact Roberta Lawson, CAA fellowships coordinator, at 212-392-4404.
Photograph: Derrick Woods-Morrow
posted by Christopher Howard — January 22, 2016
CAA has awarded four 2015 Professional-Development Fellowships—two in the visual arts and two in art history—to graduate students in MFA and PhD programs across the United States. In addition, CAA has named two honorable mentions in art history and four in the visual arts. The fellows and honorable mentions also receive a complimentary one-year CAA membership and free registration for the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC.
Receiving fellowships in the visual arts are:
- Delano Dunn, School of Visual Arts, $10,000
- Derrick Woods-Morrow, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, $4,000 (gift of the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation)
The two recipients of the fellowship in art history are:
- Marin Sarvé-Tarr, University of Chicago, $10,000
- Emilie Boone, Northwestern University, $2,500 (gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust)
The honorable mentions for art history go to: Adrian Anagnost, University of Chicago; and Monica Bravo, Brown University. For the visual arts, honorable mentions are bestowed upon: Zhiwan Cheung, Carnegie Mellon University; Sarah Hewitt, Purchase College, State University of New York; Victoria Maidhof, San Francisco Art Institute; and Kaiya Rainbolt, San Diego State University.
DeWitt Godfrey, president of the CAA Board of Directors, will formally recognize the fellows and honorable mentions at the 104th Annual Conference during Convocation, taking place on Wednesday evening, February 3, 2016, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
CAA’s fellowship program supports promising artists and art historians who are enrolled in MFA and PhD programs nationwide. Awards are intended to help them with various aspects of their work, whether for job-search expenses or purchasing materials for the studio. CAA believes a grant of this kind, without contingencies, can best facilitate the transition between graduate studies and professional careers. The program is open to all eligible graduate students in the visual arts and art history. Applications for the 2016 fellowship cycle will open in late spring.
Fellows in the Visual Arts
Born in Los Angeles, California, Delano Dunn currently lives and works in New York. Through painting, mixed media, and collage, he explores questions of racial identity and perception through various contexts, ranging from the personal to the political and drawing from his experience growing up in South Central LA.
Dunn has had solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, and Buffalo and is currently completing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He holds a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Upcoming exhibitions include a solo show at the 2016 Affordable Art Fair and a group show at Artspace in New Haven, Connecticut. His work is also on view at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts in Wilmington until March 4.
Derrick Woods-Morrow was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is an MFA student in the Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in Illinois. He holds a BA from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and earned a postbaccalaureate certificate from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) in Boston. Woods-Morrow’s work has been shown at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, Randolph’s Maier Museum of Art, the President’s Gallery at MassArt, the Sullivan Galleries at SAIC, and the ACRE residency, where he was a Terry Plumming Scholar. He has received the Carol Becker Merit Scholarship at SAIC.
Woods-Morrow’s work explores the problematic ideals of masculinity embedded in systems that constructs gay pornography, where intimacy is frail and domination and disregard are desired traits; where oppressive force is the norm; where the African American does not exist except as fetishized commodity; and where a prevailing use of heterosexual vocabulary continues to establish masculine credibility within queer imagery.
Fellows in Art History
Marin Sarvé-Tarr will complete a PhD in art history at the University of Chicago in Illinois in summer 2016. Her dissertation, “Seizing the Everyday: Lettrist Film and the French Postwar Avant-Garde, 1946–1954,” examines the films produced by members of Lettrism, Nouveau Réalisme, and the Situationist International; it also identifies informal networks between later rivals forged in cafés and ciné-clubs in 1950s Paris. Her project shows how artists’ collaborative films and public demonstrations impacted the agendas of publishers, cinemas, and museums that patronized artists, molded public reception of the arts, and figured social progress in reconstruction France. With support from the Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, the Getty Research Institute, and the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust, Marin presented on religion and the avant-garde at CAA’s 2014 Annual Conference. She is also publishing a chapter on Lettrist cinema in a forthcoming volume from the European Postwar and Contemporary Art Forum, to be published later this year.
Marin earned a BA in 2008 from Scripps College in Claremont, California, where she curated The Politics of Satire: La Caricature in Post-Revolutionary France at the Clark Humanities Museum. She contributed to exhibitions and programs at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris, and the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Marin helped to organize Interiors and Exteriors: Avant-Garde Itineraries in Postwar France (2013–14) at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. As a 2015–16 Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Fellow for the Chicago Object Study Initiative at the Art Institute of Chicago, Marin is currently preparing object-based research and publications on Surrealism.
Emilie Boone is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She focuses on the history of photography, the art of the African diaspora, and American art. Her dissertation, “Visions of Harlem: Reconsidering the Studio Photography of James Van Der Zee,” demonstrates the intrinsic role of Van Der Zee’s images in constructing multivalent narratives of Harlem. Boone has written for History of Photography and African Arts and for Columbia College Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography and Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in Saint Louis, Missouri. Most recently, she has contributed to an exhibition catalogue, From Within and Without: The History of Haitian Photography, for the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale in Florida. She also has an essay in the forthcoming anthology, Towards an African-Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance.
Boone’s honors include a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery, a Fulbright fellowship at the Notman Photographic Archives, a Terra Foundation Residency in Giverny, France, and an Eliza Dangler Curatorial Fellowship at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2011, 2013, and 2015, she was an invited participant of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A critical-studies residency at the Center for Photography at Woodstock led to her recent role as a selection panelist for the Woodstock Artist-in-Residency Program for artists working in the photographic arts. As a postdoctoral Mellon curatorial fellow, Boone looks forward to advancing her research, teaching, and curatorial engagement at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Honorable Mentions in Visual Art and Art History
Adrian Anagnost is a historian of modern and contemporary art whose scholarship investigates the intersections of urban space, political economy, and aesthetic practice. She earned a PhD from the University of Chicago in Illinois in December 2015. Her dissertation, titled “Contested Spaces: Art and Urbanism in Brazil, 1928–1969,” considers how the artists and architects Flávio de Carvalho, Lúcio Costa, Lina Bo Maria Bardi, Waldemar Cordeiro, Lygia Clark, and Hélio Oiticica engaged with the built environment as a concretization of social relations in Brazil.
Before coming to Chicago, Anagnost completed an MA in modern art from Columbia University in New York, with a thesis on the contemporary photographer James Welling. She also worked in the archive and registration departments of David Zwirner in New York. Anagnost’s writings on Waldemar Cordeiro, Carol Bove, Oswald de Andrade, and Pedro Almodóvar have appeared in the Chicago Art Journal, Hemisphere: Visual Cultures of the Americas, and ArtUS. Her upcoming publications include an article on the Polish Constructivist Teresa Żarnower for the Woman’s Art Journal and an essay on the work of the contemporary artist Theaster Gates.
Monica Bravo is an ABD doctoral candidate specializing in American art in a global context and the history of photography at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She received her BA in studio art from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 2004, and an MA in art history and criticism from Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, in 2009. Bravo’s dissertation examines exchanges between modernist photographers in the United States and modern Mexican artists working in painting, poetry, music, and photography, resulting in the development of a greater American modernism in the interwar period.
Bravo has been a fellow at the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently a Wyeth predoctoral fellow at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington, DC.
They say that geography defines a person. Born in America and raised by Chinese immigrants, Zhiwan Cheung lives in a sort of permanent in-between state of being neither fully American nor Chinese. As a journey toward a home that does not exist, a rite of passage with no destination, he uses his work to search for a critical understanding of an impossible homecoming. Cheung’s practice focuses on the meaning and space between identities, examining the feeling of a liminal displacement through sculpture, film, and performance. In approaching this journey, he probes the intersection of national identity and the personal psyche with an open-ended, multimedia approach.
Performativity gets closer to the heart of all identity. It is no coincidence that many great actors continue to employ their characters long after the camera stopped running. For the best performances, the blurring between fake and real becomes so powerful that we cease to see the actor or the character: one is constantly subsumed by the other, leaving the residue of the actual and the imaginary to shift and ebb between various in-between-states. This sacrificing of the self and the fabrication of a persona speak to the destruction of the self for art. Or is it perhaps the other way around? James Luna, a Native American performance artist, once said, “How do you talk about things like intercultural identity[?] Do you talk about it in third person? If you sacrifice yourself, so to speak, then it becomes much more dynamic.” The sacrificing of the true self and the fabricated persona speaks to the destruction of the soul for art, or perhaps it is the other way around. Life is art. Art is life.
The intersection of national identity and the personal psyche is complex, not always clear nor fixed. As an artist, Cheung probes the paths and how and where they join and diverge. This personal odyssey explores the permanent liminal through diverse strategies and processes. It is a journey guided by an allusive visual language, with a mix of pop-cultural, art-historical, and aesthetic choices that also guide audiences into finding their own rites of passage.
To make plastic art
Redefine plastic art
To make you love plastic art
To challenge and bewitch you with what you think is formal or plastic
To make you bow to her craft\
To weave your mind
To weave your mind into confusion
To drag you into the sacred without your consent
Let the work be deep, dark, and dirty—gritty. It comes from a place of authenticity. Sarah Hewitt is not looking to create a spectacle for fun or frivolity. This is serious business for her. She is crafting a new fabric in a manner that is complicated—as complicated and fragile as our contemporary moments.
Hewitt’s works are exhibited around the country and have garnered many awards, grants, and residencies, including the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center. This spring she will receive her MFA in visual art from Purchase College, State University of New York.
Victoria Maidhof has been fascinated by unconventional people for as long as she can remember. She was raised in a middle-class suburban neighborhood where her family stood out as eccentrics. They were the only secular family on the block, and her parents encouraged their children to run wild, play hard, and reject authority. Maidhof’s father told captivating stories about his unusual upbringing, many of which revolved around his mother, a paranoid schizophrenic, and his father, a merchant marine with severe posttraumatic stress disorder.
As Maidhof got older, she became curious about other people that lived unorthodox lifestyles. Having seen the work of Mary Ellen Mark and Diane Arbus, she knew that the camera could grant permission into the lives of complete strangers. In 2003, Maidhof moved to San Francisco to study photography at the San Francisco Art Institute in California. After completing her BFA, she returned to her home town, San Diego, with her now-husband Tahan in tow. They currently reside in La Mesa, where she works full time as a photographer. Maidhof is finishing her MFA through the San Francisco Art Institute’s low-residency program.
Kaiya Rainbolt earned her BA in English literature at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and studied studio art at City College of San Francisco in California, with a focus in metalwork. She currently attends the MFA program in jewelry and metalwork at San Diego State University. Rainbolt has participated in several national juried exhibitions and has been recognized with numerous scholarships and awards.
Though trained as a metalsmith, Rainbolt currently uses a wide variety of materials in her work, including fabrics, clothing, steel, lead, and animal hide. She is focused on creating work that has the potential to elicit a visceral response from the viewer in order to promote engagement in a way that makes it easier to participate in dialogue about socially sensitive issues. Rainbolt believes that an art object, as a representation of a particular human struggle, has the potential to span differences in experience, background, and culture in a way that creates connection, generates empathy, and fosters understanding.
posted by Katie Apsey — January 12, 2016
Interested in attending the 2016 Annual Conference but find the registration fees prohibitory? Working as a projectionist, room monitor, or registration attendant at this year’s event is a great way to save on conference expenses. All temporary workers who agree to twelve hours of work and a paid training meeting are given complimentary full-conference registration; they will also receive $12 per hour upon the completion of their shifts.
CAA is still accepting applicants for the following positions and shifts.
CAA seeks registration attendants to work in the registration area between Tuesday afternoon, February 2 and Saturday afternoon, February 6. Registration attendants are required to work a minimum of twelve hours, registering conference participants, checking membership statuses, and monitoring registration compliance in various session rooms. Registration attendant shifts are full-day shifts (8:00 AM–7:00 PM) and best for people who would like to complete their work commitment in a single day.
**Registration attendants must attend a training meeting on Tuesday afternoon, February 2, between 3:30 and 5:00 PM.
**Workers are still needed for shifts on Wednesday, February 3, 8:00 AM–7:00 PM, and Thursday February 4, 8:00 AM–7:00 PM.
CAA seeks projectionists to work in the various conference session rooms between Wednesday, February 3, and Saturday February 6. Projectionists are required to work a minimum of eleven hours and must be familiar with digital projectors and laptops.
**Projectionists must attend a training meeting on Wednesday morning, February 3, 7:30–8:30 AM.
**Many shifts still available between 9:30 AM and 5:00 PM on Thursday, February 4, and Friday, February 5.
CAA seeks room monitors to work in the various conference session rooms between Wednesday, February 3, and Saturday February 6. Room monitors are required to work a minimum of eleven hours checking in session participants, monitoring membership compliance in various rooms, and taking attendance in the session rooms.
**Room monitors must attend a training meeting on Wednesday morning, February 3, 7:30–8:30 AM.
**Many shifts are still available between 9:30 AM and 5:00 PM on Thursday, February 4, and Friday, February 5.
Send a two-page CV and a brief letter of interest to Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs. In your letter of interest, please include the following details: (1) the maximum number of hours you can work (minimum twelve, maximum forty); (2) what days you will be in attendance and available to work (Tuesday afternoon, February 2, through Saturday night, February 6); (3) any days or session times you absolutely cannot work (when you plan on attending an important event or presenting a paper); (4) an order of preference for positions, if applying for multiple availabilities; (5) your CAA user/member ID#.
All candidates must be US citizens or permanent US residents.
Image: Working the registration booths at the 2015 Annual Conference in New York (photograph by Bradley Marks)
Working as a projectionist, room monitor, or registration attendant at CAA’s 104th Annual Conference, taking place February 3–6, 2016, in Washington, DC, is a great way to save on conference expenses. CAA encourages students, emerging professionals, and any interested CAA members—especially those in the Washington, DC, area—to apply for service. Students should check to see if their schools and universities are CAA institutional members as institutional membership now includes the benefit of specially discounted student memberships.
CAA seeks applications for projectionists for conference program sessions. Successful applicants are paid $12 per hour and receive complimentary conference registration. Projectionists are required to work a minimum of four 2½-hour program sessions, from Wednesday, February 3 to Saturday, February 6; they must also attend a training meeting on Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM (total of twelve hours minimum). Projectionists must be familiar with digital projectors. Please send a two-page CV and a brief letter of interest to Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs. Deadline extended: January 4, 2016.
CAA needs room monitors for two Career Services mentoring programs (the Artists’ Portfolio Review and Career Development Mentoring), several offsite sessions, and other conference events, to be held from Wednesday, February 3 to Saturday, February 6; they must also attend a training meeting on Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM. Successful candidates are paid $12 per hour and receive complimentary conference registration. Room monitors are required to work a minimum of twelve hours, checking in participants and facilitating the work of the mentors. Please send a two-page CV and a brief letter of interest to Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs. Deadline extended: January 4, 2016.
CAA seeks registration attendants to work in the registration area at the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC, to be held from Tuesday evening, February 2 to Saturday, February 6. Duties registration attendants must attend a training meeting on Tuesday afternoon, February 2 (between 3:30 and 5:00 PM). Successful candidates are paid $12 per hour and receive complimentary conference registration. Registration attendants are required to work a minimum of twelve hours, registering conference participants, checking membership statuses, and monitoring registration compliance in various session rooms. Please send a two-page CV and a brief letter of interest to Katie Apsey, CAA manager of programs. Deadline extended: January 4, 2016.
All candidates must be US citizens or permanent US residents.
Image: Working the registration booths at the 2015 Annual Conference in New York (photograph by Bradley Marks)
Survey reveals a complex picture: threats to academic freedom are not just about “political correctness.”
If the headlines are correct, college students everywhere are demanding professors provide so-called “trigger warnings” to flag material that might make them feel uncomfortable, and in some cases to allow students to avoid the material. If this is happening widely, the free speech implications are enormous: A broad range of works, from a documentary about sexual assault to an historical account of slavery, could be considered “triggering,” along with the possibility that many professors would steer clear of potentially controversial work.
But how prevalent are these demands? Is a resurgent tide of political correctness threatening higher education, or are the media jumping to conclusions?
To shed some light, NCAC worked with the Modern Language Association and the College Art Association this spring on an online survey of their members. While the survey is not scientific, the over 800 responses we received offer a birds’ eye view of the debate over trigger warnings, and the pressures on instructors.
The survey finds that formal university trigger policies are extremely rare: Less than one percent of respondents say their schools have them. But there is abundant anecdotal evidence suggesting that something is going on. It appears to be a bottom-up phenomenon: Students make complaints to individual professors or administrators, and instructors—many of whom are reasonably nervous about job security. As one survey respondent put it, “After teaching a course for the first time, a student complained in the anonymous evaluation. Ever since, I verbally include a trigger warning at the start of each semester.”
Fifteen percent of respondents reported that students had requested trigger warnings in their courses, while over half reported that they had voluntarily provided warnings for course materials, with 23 percent saying they have offered them “several times” or “regularly.”
So who is doing the complaining? In much of the media commentary, the focus is on left-leaning students using trigger warnings to chill speech they find offensive. One widely-read essay on the subject was titled, “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.” While this is certainly happening, and many respondents reported sensitivities to content depicting rape and sexual assault, the survey paints a more complex picture. Contrary to conventional thinking, warnings are sought by both conservative and liberal students. “I used trigger warnings to warn about foul or sexual language, sexual content, or violence in order to allow our very conservative students to feel more in control of the material,” wrote one instructor. Another teacher was aware of “religious objections to nude models in studio courses” and “homoerotic content in art history.” Another teacher noted the use of trigger warnings “because some students were upset by the realization that certain artists were homosexuals.”
Another common theme is that it is impossible “to be able to predict which topics will be problematic for students, or will ‘trigger’ a response.” “I’ve had students want pretty detailed and specific trigger warnings for, well, everything…,” including violent imagery in a horror film class. Reported complaints concern spiders, indigenous artifacts, “fatphobia,” and more.
Many respondents draw a distinction between “trigger warnings” and course or content descriptions. The latter are widely accepted as ways to convey information about the scope, substance and requirements of a given course. As many instructors have pointed out, offering students information about course materials does not necessarily flag content as disturbing or offensive, or offer students an opportunity to avoid it, but simply provides an explanation about what material will be taught.
The strongest findings in the survey are that instructors believe that trigger warnings, if widely used, would threaten academic freedom and inquiry. Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) think trigger warnings have or will have a negative effect on classroom dynamics; on the broader question of academic freedom, 62 percent see a possible negative effect.
Those who oppose warnings say they reinforce taboos, infantilize students, “tend to impede conversation,” “stifle meaningful discussion,” and send a message to students “about what it’s ok for them to get upset about.” In contrast, supporters say they build trust and “create a positive classroom environment,” show respect for the “individual needs of students,” create “a positive and safe space for dialogue,” prepare students “to engage with the material in meaningful ways,” and prevent them from feeling “blindsided.”
The survey revealed that many instructors are deeply concerned about their students’ wellbeing, and how best to fulfill the mission of higher education. And the demand for trigger warnings may reflect a desire by students to be more engaged in their education and their communities, which has positive aspects. However, the trick is to ensure that such an interest is not expressed in ways that preclude discussion, debate, and even disagreement.
Reprinted from Censorship News, No. 123 (Fall 2015), National Coalition Against Censorship www.ncac.org.