Skip to comments.Politics Eyed for Professor Leaving Yale
Posted on 10/23/2005 3:55:09 PM PDT by kennedy
By all accounts, Yale anthropology professor David Graeber is one of the brightest minds in his field. His books are taught worldwide, and the London School of Economics recently asked him to give a lecture reserved for the most promising young anthropologists. But he's about to be unemployed.
Yale's anthropology department recently voted behind closed doors not to renew Graeber's contract. University officials won't give the reasons, but Graeber's supporters point to politics.
Graeber is an anarchist whose counterculture writings are nearly as popular as his academic work. He carries an Industrial Workers of the World union card and has been arrested during anti-globalization protests. He also objected when some at Yale wanted to kick out a student who tried to unionize graduate students.
When Yale told Graeber not to return next year, it touched off a letter-writing campaign from professors worldwide, some suggesting the Ivy League university was letting politics influence its hiring. More than 4,000 people have signed a general online petition supporting him.
"It's extremely odd that one of the most brilliant anthropologists is being excluded from the department at Yale in such an extraordinary fashion," said Maurice Bloch, a London School of Economics anthropologist who wrote to Yale.
Graeber, who has taught at Yale since 1998, appealed the decision. University spokesman Tom Conroy said the university is negotiating an informal settlement but would not discuss the reasons behind the contract decision.
Dozens of the 250 non-tenured professors come up for renewal each year, Conroy said, and it is not unusual for them to leave for other universities or for personal reasons. Some are just not renewed.
Graeber, 44, grew up in a working-class family and still lives in the same New York City co-op where he grew up. "Socialist housing," he calls it. He wears cargo pants to class and is not shy about his disdain for the tenured Yale faculty who showed him the door.
"I'm both more productive intellectually than they are and I'm having more fun. It must drive them crazy," he said. Later, he added: "I'm publishing like crazy. I'm all over the place. I try hard not to rub it in."
Graeber said he got along with colleagues at first and passed a three-year review before leaving for sabbatical in 2001. While on leave, he joined groups such as the Direct Action Network and Ya Basta and appeared at anti-war and anti-globalization protests and in newspaper articles.
When he returned to Yale, he said, things changed. During a six-year review, he was given a short-term renewal after colleagues expressed concerns about his turning in grades late and coming late to class, he said. He believes he made more enemies when he objected to colleagues who wanted to kick out a student trying to unionize graduate students and prepare a strike.
Enrique Mayer, a Yale anthropology professor who was in the department's meeting, said he doesn't believe Graeber was fired simply for being an anarchist.
"I have my own opinions, but I'm gagged," Mayer said. "There are people who don't like his politics and people who don't like internal graduate student issues. That's true."
Andrew Hill, chairman of anthropology at Yale, did not return a call seeking comment, but he told the student-run Yale Daily News that professors should not assume they will be rehired.
Since Graeber's firing, he has become a cause celebre for student union activists. It's bittersweet, he said, because he disagrees with the union's centralized organization and tried not to get political on campus.
Though he wants to stay at Yale, Graeber is polishing his resume just in case. But he worries his reputation is tainted.
"Anybody looking at this is going to think one of two things: Either Yale is very, very bad or I did something very, very bad and they're not saying what it is," he said. "You're going to cut it either way depending on how you feel about anarchists and how you feel about Yale."
Yes, extremely odd. Usually only conservative professors get excluded from Yale (and most other universities).
If he is that brilliant I'm sure he'll have no problem getting another gig. Or else he'll have to find some "industrial work" to do.
An anarchist who is upset when denied entree into the orderly world of academic tenure. Perfect.
Anarchists have union cards?
"Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."
Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd)
A Yale anarchist.......LOL! Maybe he should just anarchy his butt down to Patagonia and live what he teaches. What a poser.
Don't jump to the conclusion that universities are havens for slackers. Even fairly mediocre universities now require professors to publish a certain amount of work to be given tenure. This can be stressful, on top of teaching three courses and doing often time-consuming committee work. Some professors stop researching when they do get tenure, but most continue to publish research -- both because they like to do research (you become a college prof because you're totally into the subject you specialize in), and because you don't get as big of pay increases if you aren't productive. (And you want to be promoted to full professor, too.)
HA - HA your fired because your to liberal even for a liberal college like Yale.
The worst professors that I had were those who had never worked anywere except academia. The also tended to be the most liberal.
This IS Yale we're talking about here, right? A guy gets bounced for being a commie scumbag by Yale? I'd say we are making progress.
Hey, sounds like Howard Dean has found a running mate for his next try at the presidency.
I think Graeber was fired for publishing in Prickly Paradigm Press. How banal!
Yale is pretty ruthless in weeding out young professors. This guy is too old and unfocused for the long haul.
I too think that this, or some such thing, is the real cause. This faculty would never kick out a leftist for being more of a leftist than they are.
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