The University Record, May 10, 1993

LETTERS

Goldberg a person ‘of absolute honesty and integrity’

Prof. Cohen’s letter in The Record of April 26th provided my first news of the charges against Prof. David Goldberg.

During the early ’60s I suffered the pain and pleasure of taking several courses from Goldberg and having him serve as my dissertation chair. As Prof. Cohen observes, David can be a difficult man to work with, but he provided invaluable intellectual and scholarly discipline and incentive to my graduate student fumblings. During the past 30 years I have come to know hundreds of professors at this and other universities where I have taught. Goldberg and a very few others stand out from the crowd as persons of absolute honesty and integrity. I have patterned some of my own ways of dealing with students on the bluntness and forcefulness I learned from Goldberg. While some students may cringe and seek to avoid such contact, the honesty and directness I learned from Goldberg have served me and most of my students well over the years.

It is disturbing to learn that Goldberg has also fallen prey to this form of academic witch-hunting and that apparently the administration has taken no steps in his defense or support. There are unpleasant lessons here for all of us.

Allan G. Feldt,
professor of urban planning

Benefit package basic requirements, not ‘perks’

This letter is regarding the bit of University propaganda which I received at my home this past week, informing me that because of all the benefits that the University provides, I actually make about $8,000 more than what my salary amounts to. I would like to tell whoever came up with this brilliant idea that benefits such as health care and retirement plans are not extra perks that we as humble staff should continually be thankful for. They are basic requirements for professional workers today. I hardly believe that any of the hard-working faculty and staff of this University would ever consider working somewhere else where basic benefits were not provided.

I fully realize that the University does offer an excellent benefits package. But this helps to offset the reduction in salary found at a university level in comparison with salaries for the same positions in the business sector (at least in my field). It would be a different story if the Univer-sity offered salaries that kept pace with the business sector AND excellent benefits. So please do not try to tell me that I make another $8,000 when, since the cost of living increases each year and I received no raise last year, my salary buys me less this year than last. I am very worried that this little mailing is a preparation for informing the University faculty and staff that we will again be asked to swallow what amounts to a decrease in salary.

Colleen Murphy, engineer in research, Department of Physics

Sociology chair responds to Carl Cohen’s letter

The April 26 issue of The University Record carried a letter from Carl Cohen concerning, among other things, the decision by the Sociology Chair to remove David Goldberg “from the teaching of his graduate course in statistics, Sociology 510.”

First, Sociology 510 is not “his” (Goldberg’s) or anybody else’s course; it is one of three courses required of all students in our graduate program and has been taught by a number of different faculty members over the years, with Prof. Goldberg not having taught it previously since 1986.

Second, Prof. Goldberg is not being removed from the course next year; instead, there will be two sections of the course, with the second taught by a different faculty member, and students will be allowed to elect whichever section they wish.

Third, the reasons for this change, discussed at length in our Executive Committee, were not based on the charges of sexism and racism that were made, but on other types of problems that arose in the course.

Fourth, a letter from me appeared in the Michigan Daily , April 19, objecting strongly to the way in which the charges of racism and sexism were made against Prof. Goldberg.

Finally, just as charges of sexism and racism can be employed as a way of silencing those dealing with controversial issues, so also a defense in terms of academic freedom can be used to avoid dealing with classroom actions unrelated to the ideas a faculty member is expressing.

Howard Schuman,
Chair, Department of Sociology

Daughter-at-work day ‘exceptional’ experience

As most people know, April 28 was “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.” Because my 13-year-old daughter Claire is interested in subjects not directly related to the work I do, I chose to make arrangements for her to spend the day in another office. What I had hoped would be a pleasant educational experience turned out to be an exceptional one!

I want to thank the research and support staff and graduate students at the Institute for Public Policy Studies for making Claire’s day so wonderful. She had a special opportunity to interact with many talented people at various levels. I know the experience has influenced both her short- and long-term goals, and deepened her appreciation for the hard work and study required to achieve academic success. Everyone was generous with their time, which I know was in short supply last week. To Dr. Gramlich and all of the staff at IPPS, especially Judy Jackson who made it possible, thank you again for a wonderful day! “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” was a huge success for us and I encourage office administrators and parents to participate in the future.

Deborah C. Elmore, academic secretary, English Language Institute

San Francisco has its ‘Painted Ladies’

I’d like to console Dean Halloway for the drubbing he took from Susan Wineberg concerning his “demeaning” reference to Angell Hall (Record 4/12/93, LETTERS) by reminding him that in San Francisco, a pc place if ever there was one, the lovely Victorian houses are affectionately called Painted Ladies, even in book titles.

J.G. Wendel,
professor emeritus of mathematics

Allegations against Goldberg not issue of academic freedom

Prof. Carl Cohen’s April 26 letter to the Record depicts beleaguered sociology Prof. David Goldberg as “intellectually pugnacious,” “ a powerful scholar whose very prickly manner has long irritated colleagues and students alike,” in short, as a man too honest to be polite, too intellectual for social niceties. Goldberg’s brusqueness, Cohen contends, is the cause of the accusations against him. To be rude is not to be racist or sexist.

For all his collegial warmth for the admittedly difficult Dr. Goldberg, it seems to me that Prof. Cohen has missed the point. The demands made by the offended students were not that Prof. Goldberg be removed from the department, or that he be silenced, but rather that he be excused from teaching required classes. Why? Because he creates an unpleasant classroom environment in which students feel intimidated and prejudged, and no student should be forced to endure that.

This is what institutional racism and sexism are all about. Legal scholar Isaac Balbus points out that if citizens are fundamentally unequal in some respect, then perfectly due process will perfectly fairly reproduce that inequality. From my understanding of the character of Sociology 510, I believe that this is what Prof. Goldberg has done. He has tried to treat all students equally rudely, to offend and to outrage, without understanding that his actions are not received equally by different students. For those students from traditionally powerful backgrounds, Goldberg’s animosity probably feels like just what Prof. Cohen argues that it is: the pedagogy of unpleasantness. It may be irritating but ultimately motivating, as though first-semester statistics were some sort of graduate school boot camp. But if students have come from traditionally excluded groups, Prof. Goldberg’s technique might easily be felt as an academic version of social exclusion, a statistically disguised version of the hate they overcame to arrive here.

What David Goldberg feels in his heart is not at issue; whether he is or is not personally racist or sexist is immaterial. The question is whether his teaching helps to train good quantitative sociologists, or if he demoralizes and dismisses bright, promising students. From the discussion in the meetings of the Sociology Graduate Students group, it seems clear to me that his effect was clearly the latter. It is on these grounds that he should be given course loads outside the required curriculum, and on these grounds that the department should hold a series of meetings and workshops to talk about the effects of growing University diversity.

This issue is most decidedly NOT, as both Prof. Cohen and Prof. Goldberg have argued, one of intellectual freedom. Prof. Cohen went so far as to imply that by criticizing Prof. Goldberg’s teaching style, the critical students sought to cover up research results with which they disagreed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No one denies that the bases of social inequality are the most morally and intellectually important foci of sociological research.

As it was with Prof. Reynolds Farley in 1989, the question is very simply whether or not shock tactics are acceptable pedagogy. Although brusque and confrontational teaching may be vested on all students equally, it does not produce unbiased outcomes, as a statistics professor might say. I think the time has come for us to say no, that the aim of graduate pedagogy is not to discriminate, choosing the elect from those who can tolerate offense, but to train the next generation of demanding scholars.

There have been many answers offered but few questions asked in the public debate. Prof. Cohen, for instance, believes that the offended students have “attack[ed]” Prof. Goldberg because they “dislike him intensely.” But why would so many students dislike a professor so much? What would motivate first-year students to take such a risk, to criticize a senior, tenured faculty member? Beyond the volatile language of racism and sexism, where is the real power in a classroom? Could a professor so offensive be a good teacher? Is there a positive, or more likely, negative, association between angering students and motivating them to study difficult questions?

Graduate students are more unanimously in agreement with the call for an examination of what went wrong in Sociology 510 than we have been on any other issue in my five years as a student in this department. We must as a department, and as a University committed to embracing the diversity of our society, consider what culturally coded aspects of our pedagogy and our scholarship are socially constructed from our social locations. With that understanding, perhaps we can begin to consider how such mannerisms are received by students, colleagues and advisers different from ourselves.

Patrick Ball,
Department of Sociology