Like everyone at UVa, I’ve spent the last thirteen days completely immersed in the debacle here, glued to email, the web, my iPhone etc… At least three of my colleagues across the University have confessed to sleeping with their smart phones and checking their email when they get up in the night to go to the bathroom. Countless others have learned to follow Twitter and some have even Tweeted themselves. One of my students said on facebook that it’s getting to be like Law and Order around here; every five minutes something important happens. It’s a miraculous moment; a revolution of the kind I never would have predicted and I’m proud of my colleagues who have done the hard organizing and thinking work. I’ve been cynical about this place since I was a high schools student and found it too full of republicans and floral dresses.
Let’s be clear that it’s a revolution in part because the tenured faculty among us have job security. I assume that I am not alone in thinking that despite the governor’s veiled threat about everyone stopping the frenzy that no one is going to start firing tenured faculty any time soon. That means we can yell and scream. And we don’t have any where we have to be at 3 p on a Tuesday, i.e., we have the flexibility to get shit done at the last minute. I’m not by any means saying that we sit on our duffs over the summer; in fact the BOV has now cost me about two good weeks of work; that’s a conference paper to be sure, a chunk of a book that was to get done this week, and a grant proposal for an arts outreach project. In lawyer terms that’s a lot of billable hours. But I still have tenure. And I’m well aware that if tenured faculty have felt that the University often treats us as if we ought to feel privileged to work here general faculty, staff, and wage earners have this even worse and do not have the same freedom to speak out.
Dragon lady may have thought that by waiting until after graduation and raising forty million dollars at reunions that she would avoid student outcry and that the faculty might not notice. She failed to account for the fact that the students are fabulously mobile and that even the faculty all have smart phones (except my husband and best friend who call me regularly for updates when they are staking out the Rotunda at ungodly hours of the night); I followed it from a cafe in Berlin and, unlike the governor, managed to weigh in from abroad when necessary.
I’ve spent enough time in the community this year to be, at some level, mistrustful of what may at face value seem like such an overeducated revolution. And at root I’m mad about what this says about public education, liberal arts education, the value of ideas and creativity. But I’m also thinking that in all of this Access UVa, (financial aid) has a giant target on its back. I’ve spent a good deal of time this year working to expose underserved kids to UVa; to help them think of the Lawn as accessible to them. It won’t be without financial aid. And community engagement of any kind likely doesn’t seem especially revenue generating to the powers at be. They are, of course, short sighted in this; it’s good business to partner with the community. And if the corporatization of education can mess with Mr. Jefferson’s elitist institution think of what it can do to underserved kids.
So Governor, I am extremely anxious to get back to work here; to spend less time on twitter and face book and more time writing my book, planning a field trip to The Magic Flute for a group of underserved kids, and focusing on my children without worrying about whether they will have the kind of education I want them to have. And I want to use some of that supposed time flexibility to hang out with them. But I’m afraid that no matter what happens on Tuesday we’ve not looking at business as usual. It’s not just healing; it’s that even if Terri is reinstated the revolution such as it is will have lots more work to do. We are on the cusp of a new UVa, one where the faculty actually buy into the idea that this is our university and that’s a big change.