What Kind of Business Practices?

In 2007-8, when the recession hit, most universities stopped hiring people for tenure-track positions. A little over a half of the universities where I applied for a job in 2007-8 and 2008-9 replied saying that the search had been cancelled due to budget constraints. Instead, universities started to create an ever-growing number of contingent teaching positions at an even faster pace than before.

There was a university, however, that adopted a different strategy. It responded to the recession not with lay-offs and cancellations of tenured positions but by hiring aggressively. In 2007-8, this university hired 45 new tenure-track faculty members. In 2008-9, it hired even more people. Fifty-three new scholars entered the university in the rank of tenure-track Assistant Professor in that year and I was among them. Next year, three dozen new TT professors were hired.

During the new employee orientation, these new hires were told insistently and repeatedly, “We want you to get tenure with us. We will do all we can to facilitate your tenure-track progress.” And it was all true. Since then, the university has demonstrated that it has real commitment to supporting the professional aspirations of these new hires. At the same time, the number of new contingent faculty members who were hired by this university during each of the academic years in question can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

These tenure-track hires were people who had graduated from fantastic graduate programs and had suddenly discovered that nobody needed them because of the recession. The university I’m talking about used this opportunity to hire brilliant, enthusiastic young academics who will raise the research profile of the school dramatically and are already doing so. Since the work conditions are very good and the benefits are very generous, this large group of new hires has the time and the energy to explore new teaching strategies and connect to the students on a personal level. As a result, everybody wins.

We keep hearing that universities are starting to act like businesses and it harms academia at large. The problem, however, is not only that we adopt business models but that we adopt really bad business models. Companies that operate on the revolving-door model, that hire people, squeeze them dry and throw them out within a few years represent a very poor, unproductive approach to business. They are oriented towards a short-term profit-making and soon create a very bad reputation for themselves. To give just one example, my sister and her business partner have created a very successful business from the ground and were aided greatly in that effort by the fact that their chief competitor, a big, well-established old company had abandoned its standards of excellence and had become a revolving-door place of employment. Now, the clients are abandoning it in droves and seeking out competitors who attract and retain talented, loyal employees.

I often have a feeling that when colleges hire administrators with a background in business, they select people whose business skills are not very good. They frequently don’t even realize that treating employees like crap and offering them no opportunities to grow within the company is a stupid practice both in business and in academia.

Judge Garzón

In 1975, Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco finally died. All of the decent people in the country had been waiting with bated breath for the dictator to draw his last breath and to leave Spain free to explore life without fascism.

Just like many other countries who suffered from bloody dictatorships, Spain decided that the only way to go forward with its transition to democracy was to pretend that the Civil War of 1936-1939 and the dictatorship that the war put in place never really happened. There were no investigations of the crimes committed by the dictatorship, there was no restitution, no public apologies extended to the victims by people who tortured and killed them and their family members. Everybody was expected to get over it, forget everything that happened and just move on.

"In support of Judge Garzon"

Of course, this strategy never works. I hasn’t worked in Argentina, in Chile, in the countries of the Former Soviet Union. And it hasn’t worked in Spain either. You can’t heal such deep wounds by pretending to forget.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón understood that. He was the only judge who accepted the case against the Chilean dictator Pinochet on his docket. Of course, Judge Garzón wasn’t a judge in Chile, but what else could he do if nobody else in the world was willing to listen to Pinochet’s victims?

And then Judge Garzón also started investigating the atrocities committed by the Spanish fascists during Franco’s dictatorship. Since there was no real transfer of either political or economic power in Spain during the so-called Transition to democracy, many powerful people got terrified. They are not prepared to open the discussion about the Civil War and the post-war era. They want to keep pretending that nothing happened in Spain between 1936 and 1975.

So Judge Garzón was accused of being a promoter of totalitarianism because he investigated the corruption of the ruling party in Spain and was reopening the cases of crimes committed during the dictatorship. Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously condemned the Judge and ruled that he will be barred from practicing law for 11 years.

This is a sad moment for Spain because the last hope that the legacy of Spanish fascism would finally be addressed has now been extinguished.

Different Communication Styles

People seem to enjoy stories from my personal life, so here is one I especially like.

N. and I have very different styles of communication. I’m very impatient, verbose, intense, passionate, loud (you would have never guessed, right?) I have these endless, animated monologues going on in my head. They spill out onto the blog, then when N. comes home from work, I continue the monologues aloud for his benefit, then my sister calls and I continue delivering them to her, and so on and so on. I speak very fast, think very fast, make decisions instantly, constantly analyze every aspect of my life and every shade of my emotional state.

In short, I’m a circus show. I have this very expressive gesticulation and this huge range of facial expressions that I use to entertain people and myself all day long.

N. is very different. He is quiet and he always thinks hard before saying anything. He feels things instead of analyzing, classifying and verbalizing them like I do. He often can’t explain why he feels a certain way, which drives me up a wall. I mean, how is it possible not to know why you are in a bad mood? It’s your mood, isn’t it? Weird.

And he never says things just to say something. He needs to construct each utterance very carefully in order for it to come out precisely as he wants it to.

The first two and a half years of our relationship were long-distance. So we talked on the phone a lot, which I, as an autistic, detest passionately. Once, when we’d just known each other for a little over a month, I called N. from Montreal.

“So do you miss me?” I asked in the course of the conversation.

A silence ensued.

“He doesn’t miss me!” I realized. “He wants to break up but he doesn’t know how to say this to me.”

The silence continued.

“The jerk!” I thought. “He must have met another woman. A really nasty, vile horrible woman who is going to make him miserable.”

The silence went on.

“And then she will dump him and he will be really sorry that he’d left me and he will come back to me and I will proudly reject him!” I thought.

“Yes, I miss you a lot,” N. finally said.

“Why did it take you so long to answer?” I asked.

“I was thinking about how to word my answer,” he responded.

It took time to get used to but now I don’t get worried when I sit in the bedroom reading a book and N. comes in and says, “Yes.” I know immediately that he is answering the question as to whether he wants any pomegranate juice that I asked him 20 minutes ago.

Facial Care and Makeup, Part I

I have a hobby, people. I’m into makeup and facial care like there is no tomorrow. So I decided to share my knowledge of different products with my readers. For every pricier product, I will suggest a cheaper (or free) alternative because some of these products can be quite expensive.

1. Make-up removal is a very important thing to do. Please, people, never go to bed with your makeup on. It’s a horrible, horrible mistake. You can be sopping drunk or falling over with exhaustion but you should never forget to remove the makeup before sleeping, OK?

My favorite makeup cleanser is Bioderma Crealine H2o Ultra-mild Non-rinse Face and Eyes Cleanser. Mind you, it isn’t any Bioderma, it’s this specific one. A 500 ml bottle costs $27, which isn’t cheap. But it’s a very good, mild and, most importantly, effective. I tried many of those cleansers that come in the form of napkins, but they look like such a waste. And the napkins dry out soon, too.

When I don’t have money to buy the pricey Bioderma Crealine, I prefer not to buy any product at all. One can remove makeup with water, very easily and water is always good for one’s skin.

2. Facial masks are great. They offer one an excuse to relax in the bathroom and have a much needed break in a busy day. (I’m really not into this “How can I be expected to have time for myself” kind of vapid martyrdom, so please keep it out of the comment thread.) I have tried an endless number of masks and have discovered that the best mask ever is Clinique’s Turnaround 15-Minute Facial. A 2 ounce can costs $29, which is quite a lot. The good news is that you only need a small portion to create a mask, so the can lasts for quite a while.

Still, this is too expensive and many people can’t afford this mask. For such people, there is an alternative: Montagne Jeunesse masks. They are very good, there is a good variety of masks, and they only cost $1.99 each. Alternatively, one could make one’s own masks from different foodstuffs. My favorite is a sour-cream mask that only requires some  good (not fat-free, of course) sour cream to be applied to the face and kept on for 20 minutes.

Sometimes, however, even that is more than a person can afford. The important thing to remember, though, is that the central thing about facial masks is not what’s in them. They matter because they are applied while one is lying in a bath, in semi-darkness, and enjoys thoughts about one’s spectacular beauty. So as long as you can spend 20 minutes lying down, thinking happy thoughts and not rushing anywhere, you don’t really need to have anything on your face.

3. I have dry skin, so a moisturizer is crucial for me. I tried I can’t even tell you how many, including the insanely expensive La Mer (which I didn’t buy and would never consider buying because I’m not insane.)

The very very best moisturizing cream I could ever find was Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream.  Everything they say about it in the commercial is absolutely true. It doesn’t last me very long because I use it at least twice a day, especially in winter. And it’s cheaper than almost everything else on the moisturizer market. What a wonderful product!

If you can’t afford it, you can still do many good things to moisturize. Don’t dry off your face after you wash it and let it dry on its own. (But don’t go outside in cold weather with a wet face, of course.) Never spend any time in direct sunlight without sunscreen. Wash your face with an ice cube at least three times a week. (This is a very good thing for everybody to try. If you do it in the morning, it also wakes you right up and gives you a beautiful natural blush. Highly recommended.)

A discussion of products that allow even the most clumsy people to create a beautiful smoky eye at home is coming in part two of this post.