Monday, July 30, 2012

In Memoriam: Ralph Del Colle

I've just read the unfortunate news that Ralph Del Colle has died (another post about his work and his passing can be found here).

My only personal interaction with him was brief; I was visiting Marquette a few years ago with the staff of Buswell Library, to tour Raynor Library. Since I was also interested in applying to Marquette's doctoral program, I slipped away during our visit to see the theology department. Del Colle was gracious enough to meet with me for a while and talk about the program.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When is a university not a university?

It has been some time now since the University of Missouri Press first faced threats of closure from Timothy Wolfe, the president of the university. This week a new scheme has been announced to keep the press running, but the whole idea sounds pretty convoluted... current staff are being fired and positions transferred to overlap with English department faculty, and graduate students will apparently be doing the editing work. This doesn't sound so much like a "solution" as it does an exploitation of scholars and students who are already acclimated to desperation and so, it seems to be assumed, will take the reins of a publishing institution that the administration doesn't want around. And then there are the actual publishers and editors who had been doing a great job all along until the administration decided to shift their budget elsewhere.

One of the most frustrating things about this whole situation is that the future of the press depended upon a mere $400,000 annual subsidy. As has been pointed out by many, this is dwarfed by the salary of Missouri's football coach, Gary Pinkel, who makes over $2 million a year. A local newspaper puts it best... UM has "changed its core mission", and I think the same could be said for many other colleges and universities who dump all of their money into sports and then shrug their shoulders when they can't put together an academic structure that is even remotely functional. Would that all college sports were intramural! I want to be careful not to entirely dismiss the benefits of extracurricular investments by universities... I know, especially from my experiences over the past year living and working with undergraduates, that a broadly enriching residential life is a great contribution to the university community, and that this isn't cheap. But it certainly doesn't require multi-million dollar stadiums, or even varsity sports.

When university presses are made to grovel for paltry subsidies while good space and resources are being wasted on games and merchandise, we've lost the point of what we're doing here. Contrary to the extremely unhelpful (though apparently well-intentioned?) piece by Marshall Poe in IHE, this is not a problem of publishers not knowing how to use the internet effectively, or not being efficient enough, or relevant enough, or cheap enough. That's all bullcrap. Find a university press with atrocious business sense and a catalogue of the most opaque research tomes that are completely uninteresting to the wider reading public, and the press will still be a better justified investment than most anywhere else that their subsidy money could have gone is going.

Living up to utilitarian excuses for why we might lose our funding next year is a distraction from our work as scholars. Education and research are expensive commitments, and those who have an interest in competent governance of them need to get used to that fact. In the realm of the wider public, where people can vote with their wallets by funding other things than our schools and libraries, it makes sense that we will need to offer some account of the value of critical research and liberal studies. We need to instill in future donors, future parents of students, and voters a realization of the importance of university work for their lives and the betterment of the community. We should not, however, need to make this case within the university itself. An administration operating under this level of incompetence should simply be replaced.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A few items...

  • Gerhard Müller has been named the new prefect of the CDF. Müller is a close friend of the pope, and the editor of his collected works. With the move of William Levada out of this position, it will be interesting to see if the CDF's work moves away from its recent Anglophone focus (from former Anglicans to American nuns) and on to matters that are more relevant to continental Europe.
  • This is oldish news by now, but a number of homilies by Origen previously unknown in the Greek have been discovered and digitized. 
  • Lionel Deimel has been commenting extensively on the progress of Covenant-related resolutions at the ongoing TEC General Convention. All of the resolutions related to adoption or rejection of the Anglican Covenant are still "awaiting committee action" at the General Convention, but two resolutions have been passed on for voting. B005, originally proposed by Ian Douglas, has been completely rewritten to speak much less explicitly about TEC commitment to the "Covenant process" without the specifics mentioned by Douglas concerning particular aspects of the Covenant text. B008, originally proposed by Tobias Haller, has been significantly shortened, and expresses TEC commitment to the Indaba process.