Central American International Film Festival

On September 16 through September 18, 2016 LASC and SPAP with the support of Film Studies, USLT, and MICA co-hosted the Central American International Film Festival at the Stamp Student Union in the University of Maryland.

The event included the screening of films, documentaries, and shorts. In addition, the program included workshops, Q&A sessions, and panels with actors, directors, filmmakers, and professors from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, which enabled a conversation about Central America, its sociopolitical issues, and its film industry. Panelists challenged accepted opinions and perceptions of the region in an attempt to present a more nuanced image of these complex countries. Claudia Yvette Canjura de Centeno, Ambassador of El Salvador, applauded this effort and appreciated the organization of the event in the Washington DC Metro Area, where Central Americans are the largest Latino group.


Post tenure review: Another assault on tenure?

The Association’s existing policy on post-tenure review, approved by Committee A and adopted by the Council in November 1983, is as follows:

The Association believes that periodic formal institutional evaluation of each post-probationary faculty member would bring scant benefit, would incur unacceptable costs, not only in money and time but also in dampening of creativity and of collegial relationships, and would threaten academic freedom.

The Association emphasizes that no procedure for evaluation of faculty should be used to weaken or undermine the principles of academic freedom and tenure. The Association cautions particularly against allowing any general system of evaluation to be used as grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions. The imposition of such sanctions is governed by other established procedures, enunciated in the 1940 Statement of Principle on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings that provide the necessary safeguards of academic due process. By the mid-1990s, new forms of post-tenure review were appearing: a significant number of legislatures, governing boards, and university administrators were making such reviews mandatory; others were in various stages of consideration. For this reason it has become necessary not only to reaffirm the principles of the 1983 statement, but also to provide standards that can be used to assess the review process when it is being considered or implemented. This report accordingly offers practical recommendations for faculty at institutions where post-tenure review is being considered or has been put into effect.

The principles guiding this document are these: Post-tenure review ought to be aimed not at accountability, but at faculty development. Post-tenure review must be developed and carried out by faculty. Post-tenure review must not be a reevaluation of tenure, nor may it be used to shift the burden of proof from an institution’s administration (to show cause for dismissal) to the individual faculty member (to show cause why he or she should be retained). Post-tenure review must be conducted according to standards that protect academic freedom and the quality of education.

Read more at: http://www.aaup.org/report/post-tenure-review-aaup-response

The Slow Death of the University

The Slow Death of the University

By Terry Eagleton
The Chronicle Review

A few years ago, I was being shown around a large, very technologically advanced university in Asia by its proud president. As befitted so eminent a personage, he was flanked by two burly young minders in black suits and shades, who for all I knew were carrying Kalashnikovs under their jackets. Having waxed lyrical about his gleaming new business school and state-of-the-art institute for management studies, the president paused to permit me a few words of fulsome praise. I remarked instead that there seemed to be no critical studies of any kind on his campus. He looked at me bemusedly, as though I had asked him how many Ph.D.’s in pole dancing they awarded each year, and replied rather stiffly “Your comment will be noted.” He then took a small piece of cutting-edge technology out of his pocket, flicked it open and spoke a few curt words of Korean into it, probably “Kill him.” A limousine the length of a cricket pitch then arrived, into which the president was bundled by his minders and swept away. I watched his car disappear from view, wondering when his order for my execution was to be implemented.

This happened in South Korea, but it might have taken place almost anywhere on the planet. From Cape Town to Reykjavik, Sydney to São Paulo, an event as momentous in its own way as the Cuban revolution or the invasion of Iraq is steadily under way: the slow death of the university as a center of humane critique. Universities, which in Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the distance they established between themselves and society at large could prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced priorities of global capitalism.

Much of this will be familiar to an American readership. Stanford and MIT, after all, provided the very models of the entrepreneurial university. What has emerged in Britain, however, is what one might call Americanization without the affluence — the affluence, at least, of the American private educational sector.

This is even becoming true at those traditional finishing schools for the English gentry, Oxford and Cambridge, whose colleges have always been insulated to some extent against broader economic forces by centuries of lavish endowments. Some years ago, I resigned from a chair at the University of Oxford (an event almost as rare as an earthquake in Edinburgh) when I became aware that I was expected in some respects to behave less as a scholar than a CEO.

When I first came to Oxford 30 years earlier, any such professionalism would have been greeted with patrician disdain. Those of my colleagues who had actually bothered to finish their Ph.D.’s would sometimes use the title of “Mr.” rather than “Dr.,” since “Dr.” suggested a degree of ungentlemanly labor. Publishing books was regarded as a rather vulgar project. A brief article every 10 years or so on the syntax of Portuguese or the dietary habits of ancient Carthage was considered just about permissible. There had been a time earlier when college tutors might not even have bothered to arrange set tutorial times for their undergraduates. Instead, the undergraduate would simply drop round to their rooms when the spirit moved him for a glass of sherry and a civilized chat about Jane Austen or the function of the pancreas.

More click here.

A Tribute to José Emilio Pacheco

February 17 at the Mexican Cultural Institute

The University of Maryland’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the School of Languages Literatures and Cultures, in collaboration with the Mexican Cultural Institute, are proud to present A Tribute to José Emilio Pacheco. This tribute will honor the lauded Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco (2009 Cervantes Award Winner) a year after his death with discussion and readings. The event will feature special guest, Cristina Pacheco, prominent Mexican journalist and Pacheco’s wife. Also in attendance will be scholars Saúl Sosnowski and Hernán Sánchez Martínez de Pinillos. Join us at this celebration of José Emilio Pacheco’s extraordinary life and work.

El Departamento de Español y Portugués y la Escuela de Literatura y Culturas de la Universidad de Maryland, en colaboración con el Instituto Cultural de México, se enorgullecen en presentar Un homenaje a José Emilio Pacheco. Este diálogo y lectura de la obra de Pacheco honrará la memoria del galardonado escritor mexicano (Premio Cervantes 2009) a un año de su fallecimiento. En el evento participará como invitada especial Cristina Pacheco, destacada periodista mexicana y esposa del escritor, así como los acádemicos expertos en literatura hispana Saúl Sosnowski y Hernán Sánchez Martínez de Pinillos. ¡Acompáñenos en esta celebración a la vida y obra de José Emilio Pacheco!

More info: http://www.instituteofmexicodc.org/index.php#pacheco

This event will be held in Spanish

How One Building Reveals What’s Wrong With Higher Education

How One Building Reveals What’s Wrong With Higher Education
January 12, 2015 by Kevin R. McClure

On the heels of its inaugural football season in the Big Ten Conference, the University of Maryland announced bold plans: The Board of Regents’ Finance Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with construction of a new building that would transform Cole Field House, an old basketball arena turned student activities center, into a “dynamic hub at the intersection of athletics, academics and research.”

Jump-starting the project is a $25-million donation from an alumnus, the Under Armour founder Kevin Plank. The “New Cole Field House” has little to do with academics and everything to do with competition and money. It is a perfect example of American higher education’s distorted incentives and misguided priorities. In their zealous pursuit of prestige, many institutions are erecting monuments to donors and buzzwords, shortchanging students and faculty in the process.

More here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2015/01/12/how-one-building-reveals-whats-wrong-with-higher-education/

The languages we speak at home, mapped by county

The vast majority of us — about 80 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — speak English at home. But we are a polyglot society in which big pockets of non-English speakers dot the national landscape. Our good friends at @MetricMaps have put together a cool gif that shows where the highest concentrations of English, Spanish, Indo-European and Asian languages are spoken around the country.

Almost 13 percent of Americans over 5 years of age, a total of 37 million of us, speak Spanish at home. Not surprisingly, Spanish speakers are concentrated near the U.S. border in counties in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

More here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/11/18/the-languages-we-speak-at-home-mapped-by-county/



Academics Anonymous: an open letter to university ‘leaders’

Dear leaders,

I address you as “leaders” because, for some reason (perhaps manager comes too close to rhyming with janitor for your liking), you’ve increasingly taken to styling yourselves in this way. How grand. How imposing. How spurious.

Leaders are followed. The capacity and willingness to drive people along with the use of the pitchfork of threatened redundancy or the flaming torch of disciplinary action does not make a leader and the mere fact that you so brazenly call yourselves leaders is evidence of the malaise that prompts me to write.

For the record, if you’re not Alexander, Napoleon, Monty or the modern equivalent you’re not really a leader. Be neither managers nor leaders. Be provosts, masters, principals, vice-chancellors, rectors, deans, registrars, bursars. How quaint. How medieval. How refreshing.

Some problems

I know you think I ought to feel insignificant, as a mere teaching and research drone. My saying any of this is, of course, in forlorn hope. You listen to us all, and ignore us all: very egalitarian; very democratic.

Dictators (elected or not) always ignore everyone who’s not a member of the ruling clique. You’re not collegial just because you go around addressing people as colleagues all the time. Actually, there’s an inverse relationship. The more you say it, the more you show that you don’t really believe it. You simply want secure fiefdoms for the members of your cliques at the expense of making others into vassals with even fewer rights than hitherto.

Everything is directed towards that end. You break your own rules and make it up as you go along to suit yourselves. There is no genuine collegiality, no trust, no sense of equality in a republic of ideas.

So, whether you’re elected leaders (as in older universities such as mine) or appointed, your currency is the same: ill-conceived change to entrench the interests of your cliques and for the sake of being seen to do something. It’s a simple truth, but lost on people who “lead”, that all progress requires change but not all change constitutes progress. There is such a thing as change for the worse and that’s what you’re presiding over. Take three examples:

• Instead of standing up for the idea of the university against the league tablers you prefer riding the tail of that tiger – taking the credit when an institution’s on the up and making sure we catch the blame when it’s falling.

• Seemingly, there’s never enough money… except when there’s more for new administrative staff: courtiers for the ruling clique.

• And, of course, there’s money to pay for rebranding. (But don’t you realise that the only thing any branding consultant ever sells is him- or herself? They persuade the shallow-minded to think in their terms and sell the idea that they can unerringly influence others as well.)

Some solutions

1) Defend what we do against governments and other external interests with vigour and courage.

2) Don’t change for the sake of being seen to do something and don’t confuse change with progress.

3) Accept that the university is a community made up of all those who serve it, not your plaything; nobody can be sacrificed in your name.

4) Stay involved, but don’t interfere. (Although there’s more science in scientology than management science.)

5) Trust academics to do good work. (Almost all of them do.)

6) Favour principles, not rules, but follow the rules you have and stop letting power win over truth and reason.

7) Remember that culture trumps system.

8) Stop thinking and speaking in the terms given by the deadly triumvirate: pseudo-intellectuals, neo-liberals and technofuturists.

9) Never again use the word strategy: with whom are you at war?

10) Stop calling people colleagues until you’ve learned to mean it.


Homo Academicus

PS. I’m sorry if I’ve written this in something too much like English for your liking, not enough”going forwards”, “high level vision statements” and so forth, but I still use words to reveal, not to obscure.

PPS. Are you remotely troubled that so many academics are resorting to anonymous writing/blogging to say these things?

This week’s anonymous academic is a professor in the arts and has taught in universities and colleges in Scotland, England and Ireland.

If you’d like to contribute an anonymous piece about the trials and tribulations of university life, contact claire.shaw@theguardian.com.

Taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/08/academics-anonymous-open-letter-university-leaders

El valor del saber


El valor del saber

Por Santiago Carregui

La idea de que vivimos en una sociedad del conocimiento se ha convertido en un lugar común. El saber y la formación, se dice, son los principales recursos, y quien invierta en formación estará invirtiendo en el futuro. A primera vista parecería que se cumple así el sueño de una sociedad formada. Una segunda mirada es más bien decepcionante: mucho de lo que se presenta como “sociedad del conocimiento” no deja de ser un gesto retórico que tiene menos que ver con la idea de formación que con intereses políticos y económicos inmediatos. Uno tiene incluso la impresión de que en la sociedad del conocimiento precisamente lo que no tiene ningún valor propio es el conocimiento, en la medida en que el saber es definido de acuerdo con criterios, expectativas, aplicaciones y valoraciones externas.

Se dice que la sociedad del conocimiento ha sustituido a la sociedad industrial, pero da la impresión de que, al contrario, es el saber el que se ha industrializado de manera acelerada y se piensa la producción, transmisión, almacenamiento y aplicación del saber como si se tratara de un bien más. De hecho el lenguaje es muy delator: nos hablan de transferir la investigación en tecnologías, es decir, en zonas de rentabilidad económica.

La Universidad está sufriendo una enorme presión de funcionalización económica inmediata, lo que se pone de manifiesto en esa alianza ideológica entre las cantidades y la pedagogía, en virtud de la cual todo es resuelto en magnitudes contables y dispuesto para su utilidad mercantil gracias a una genérica capacitación pedagógica. Para comprender este proceso basta con reflexionar sobre la significación que tienen algunos procedimientos en marcha: la acreditación está todavía muy condicionada por el peso de las cantidades; los nuevos créditos ECTS están pensados a la medida de las normas industriales; la euforia del PowerPoint sirve para prescindir de las conexiones lógicas; el impulso del trabajo en equipo funciona como procedimiento para favorecer la homogeneización y disuadir de la creatividad individual; los rankings son un producto de la mentalidad del management aplicada a la enseñanza…

Quien pone sus habilidades cognitivas

a disposición de los mercados frenéticos

es una caricatura de

la formación humana

Lo que todo esto revela es que no estamos hablando tanto de formación como de un tipo de saber que es tratado como una materia prima y que convierte a los estudiantes en algo disponible para el mercado de trabajo. El saber y la formación no son ningún fin en sí, sino un medio para los mercados emergentes, la cualificación de los puestos de trabajo, la movilidad de los servicios y el crecimiento de la economía. No es extraño que el lenguaje de los valores inmateriales adopte la forma del capital: como capital humano, social o relacional. Toda capacidad humana se convierte en una capacidad de la que se puede hacer un balance. De ahí la dificultad a la que se enfrentan aquellas materias en las que se ejercita una forma de pensamiento que no tiene relación inmediata con una praxis, como las lenguas clásicas, las matemáticas, el arte, la música, la filosofía… Domina el modelo de la empleabilidad y la competitividad. Como nos advierten reiteradamente, en un mundo que cambia velozmente, en el que se modifican las competencias, habilidades y contenidos exigidos, la “falta de formación” (lo dicen con otras palabras, pero es esto) se convierte en una virtud que permite al sujeto, con flexibilidad, rapidez y sin cargas, ponerse a disposición de las exigencias del mercado.

Ahora bien el “hombre flexible”, que está dispuesto a aprender toda su vida, que pone sus habilidades cognitivas a disposición de los mercados frenéticos es una caricatura de la formación humana. Sin capacidad sintética, sin sentido ni interpretación, un saber así no es más que piezas prefabricadas (módulos y créditos), que se pueden poner a disposición de casi cualquier cosa y se olvidan. De un saber fragmentado y universalmente disponible no se sigue ningún ideal de formación ni de sentido crítico.

Todo esto revela un profundo desconcierto acerca de lo que significa el saber y de su utilidad social última. El saber es más que información con utilidad inmediata; es una forma de apropiación del mundo: conocimiento, comprensión y juicio. Sin reelaboración y apropiación subjetiva en términos de comprensión, la mayor parte de las informaciones se quedan como algo meramente exterior. A diferencia de la información, que es interpretación de datos en orden a la acción, el saber es una interpretación de datos en orden a describir su relación causal y su consistencia interna. Los datos y conceptos sólo se convierten en saber cuando pueden ser vinculados de acuerdo con criterios lógicos y consistentes que constituyan una totalidad con sentido. El saber existe únicamente allí donde algo es explicado o comprendido. Saber significa siempre poder dar una respuesta a la pregunta acerca del qué y el porqué.

El valor del saber que la Universidad está obligada a representar no es el del almacenamiento, la competencia o la utilidad inmediata. Cuando sostenemos que la Universidad es un espacio en el que hay docencia e investigación no estamos aludiendo a dos actividades que deban realizarse al mismo tiempo sino a la naturaleza del saber que se cultiva en la Universidad; que uno enseña lo que investiga e investiga lo que enseña quiere decir que nos interesa aquella dimensión del saber que lo tiene como algo provisional, revisable, discutible, sujeto a crítica; de alguna manera nos dedicamos a enseñar lo que no sabemos. Para el saber asegurado están otras academias de noble oficio.

La Universidad es el lugar de la problematización del saber, donde el saber es continuamente revisado y convertido en objeto de reflexión. Este tipo de saber no se puede producir donde no hay una cierta libertad frente a la utilidad, el imperativo de la relevancia para la praxis, la cercanía social, la actualidad. El saber en este sentido se escapa de los modelos estandarizables y reproducibles; remite siempre a una creatividad que no se puede institucionalizar en procedimientos que la aseguren. Y esto es precisamente lo que está en juego: la consideración del saber como una mercancía o como algo que tiene valor en sí mismo, como mera pericia que se transmite o como juicio crítico que cada uno (cada sujeto, cada generación) debe adquirir.

Tomado de http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2014/09/04/babelia/1409839711_470047.html


We call upon the MLA to advocate rather than capitulate

Don’t Capitulate. Advocate.
June 24, 2014

We write as a group of concerned scholars in response to the recent Modern Language Association report on doctoral study in modern languages and literatures. We appreciate the efforts of the committee that produced the document and understand the reasoning behind several of its individual recommendations. At the same time, we feel strongly that this document misses two crucial opportunities: (1) To articulate the underlying structural conditions of the crisis it describes (including but not limited to dramatic cuts in education funding, the deep and ongoing reductions of tenure and tenure-track jobs, the systematic exploitation of adjunct and graduate student labor, and the expansion of senior administrative ranks); and (2) To campaign actively for the value of the scholarly practices, individual and collective, of its members. We are not opposed in principle to the ideals of innovation, expansion, diversification and transformation advocated in the report, but we are concerned that these ideals may operate as buzzwords that detract attention from a more fundamental problem: the devaluation of academic labor and the marginalization of humanities scholarship and expertise. We call upon the MLA to advocate rather than capitulate.

Of the numerous responses to the MLA report, many have been critical of its call for doctoral programs to take into account the bleak realities of the academic job market; other responses have congratulated the MLA for its virtual admission of defeat. We take issue with the sense of capitulation that hangs over the report. Whereas we share the committee’s “concern about the future of humanistic study” and its recognition of “structural problems” in higher education, we worry that the report accepts “doubts about the legitimacy of doctoral study” as its starting point.

The report incorporates rather than disputes the frequent and often ad hominem attacks on the legitimacy of the humanities, suggesting that we should change to meet those criticisms rather than challenge them. Its conclusion that doctoral training must be reformed “to bring degree requirements in line with the ever evolving character of our fields” remains unsettlingly passive toward the realities of such an “evolution.” Yet without a more active response from the largest professional humanities organization, the casualization of academic labor and devaluation of humanities scholarship will only increase. Instead of “responding” to these conditions with unrealistic recommendations for change, the MLA should work to combat and change them.

Although we are well aware that no single professional organization has the power to undertake structural changes throughout all of higher education, part of the MLA’s mission is to set the terms of public discourse about the study and teaching of languages and literatures. A language borrowed from the world of business administrationflexible, adaptable, deliver, evolving — pervades the report. Upon what economic realities are such demands based? Year after year there are more students enrolling in colleges and universities in the United States, which implies a greater demand for well-trained, full-time faculty.

More here; Essay critiques the MLA report on graduate education @insidehighered.