Friday, December 01, 2006

Comments Regarding Mary Sullivan, Brandeis, etc.

December 1, 2006

Dear Colleagues:

The appended emails make valuable comments on the posting regarding Brandeis. The second email is being posted anonymously, though I of course know who the author is.

Lawrence R. Velvel

From: scott denny
Date: Tue 11/28/2006 7:31 PM
Subject: Mary Sullivan, Brandeis etc.
Larry, this is a very thoughtful and and valuable article. Brandeis isn't going to be USC or (The) Ohio State University athletically so why not put some time and effort into cultural events, community sports etc. Out here at UC Irvine, we don't have a football team but a lot of kids play in intramurals and you'd be amazed at how many people show up to watch. They have a good time at no cost! Mary Sullivan must have been doing many good things to last all those years. I was a good high school athlete but I ended up playing baseball for an abusive, mad to win coach and he took every last bit of fun out of the game for me. Sorry for cliche, but winning isn't everything.
Your article shows what happens when people lose perspective: good, valuable people get tossed aside. I'm sure Mary Sullivan has had a positive influence on her athletes. Remember when that used to mean something?
-I hope you get a chance to interview or speak to her. You have really given us a fine, very personal piece of writing that strikes a chord with anyone sympathetic to a dedicated employee. Sincerely, Scott

From: Anonymous
Date: Wed 11/29/2006 6:29 PM
Subject: Re: Terminating long time employees
Concerning “Social Justice at Brandeis,” the same sort of thing happened about two years ago at an elite university where I work. A female assistant dean was terminated 12 months before she would have been eligible for retirement benefits. Happily in this case, there was such a firestorm that she was subsequently reinstated in a different office for a year. I am not sure whether to feel better because this was not a cost-saving maneuver; probably the institutional brain trust just thought she was not zippy enough for the preferred youthful image. I’ll bet it didn't even occur to them that terminating this woman when they did would cost her the security of medical insurance and a pension for the rest of her life.

The larger issue these cases raise -- larger even than the age discrimination issue -- is the question of whether institutional loyalty counts for anything in universities as they try to make themselves more “businesslike.” If a university just wants to hire people to do their specialized tasks, without thinking that the institutional mission is any of their concern, well, that would be “sensible” and modern, rather like Wal-Mart. But people who remember their college years with warmth probably knew staff assistants or night watchmen or bureaucrats – or professors, for that matter -- who went beyond their jobs because they were proud of what the university represented. As the management of universities becomes “professionalized” and their employees become interchangeable parts, that way of thinking is coming to be regarded as sentimental, unbusinesslike nonsense. Something lovely, and human, and important, is being lost as a result.

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