Sunday, April 13, 2008

Congratulations Brian Donovan

Since the Radical is now associated in the public mind with all things tenure, I noted with pleasure last week that The Chronicle of Higher Education had linked me with this YouTube video, which is one of the most perfect visual conceits I have ever seen.

Now, I ask you -- how funny is this? Very funny. It also makes me jealous that he knows how to make a video like this and I don't. Finally, it reminds me that one of the things I love about being an academic is the wit and the high jinks. Other than professional comedians, the only group of people who are funnier are people who work in advertising.

So just in case you think the Radical has fallen into the trap common to radicals everywhere -- in other words, taking her political positions so seriously that she loses her sense of fun (North Korea is a good example of this error, as was the second incarnation of the radical feminist collective Redstockings) -- let's give a big round of applause for Brian and everyone else who made it through the tenure process this year.

And for those of you who were made to walk Spanish: take heart. Life will go on, most likely even better than before.


squadratomagico said...

That's one of the most awesome things I've ever seen in my life! Brian deserves promotion to full for the video alone!

(And what an amazing collection of cheesy 70s movie clips, too.)

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Brian. Awesome video.

Dr. Virago said...

Rock chalk Jayhawk to Brian!

Ahistoricality said...

As someone who's moving from a 3-3 position to a 4-4 position because of a failure to win tenure, I'm not sure I see the humor in a self-indulgent piece of 2-2 triumphalism.

It may be truly hilarious, however, if you're not in my situation.

Tenured Radical said...


Look, I don't mean to lecture you but: this is the problem with tenure. Now you are bitter towards someone you don't even know because of what happened to you. I want to say as gently as possible: put a lid on criticizing others for feeling good, ok? I think we are all sympathetic to your situation -- I would say, however, that you have a choice now to not project your feelings about your situation on others. People who have gotten tenure have a right to not skulk around because other people have been turned down: you have a right to a job and a future that suits you.

Good luck & goddess bless you,


Ahistoricality said...

I'm not bitter towards the subject and maker of the video; I'm annoyed at the number of otherwise intelligent academic bloggers who seem to think this is guffaw-worthy and insist on reposting it at every opportunity. Feeling good is one thing: doing victory laps in people's faces is another.

It's a wonderfully authentic representation of the failure of imagination which tenure promotes, the self-absorption, and the emotional turmoil of many academics.

I'm trying to think about how this video would be percieved by people outside of academia, or if it could be used in any other profession. Think about it for a while.

Debrah said...

"Feeling good is one thing: doing victory laps in people's faces is another."

All I can say about this pity party is be very glad you chose the academy.

If you had chosen the arts and entertainment fields.....or better yet, the rough and tumble business world, this little concern of yours would look like child's play.

It's a dog-eat-dog world.

No one is there with warm milk and cookies when things don't turn out the way we plan.

Go listen to Carly Simon's tune "Coming Around Again".

Buck up!

Tenured Radical said...


Once again, genuine sympathy. But I am having a strange cosmic convergence with debrah here -- falling out of a 3-3 into a 4-4 is bad, but in a world where you have a job. And I don't exactly feel sorry for them -- but did you hear the news that 200,000 people in the financial industry are going to be let go this year? People who did not make the decisions that led to their dismissal?

But -- have you missed the campiness of this video? It's over-the-top corniness? That's what I mean by calling it a conceit: the elevation of the self to ludicrous centrality. And I think that is utterly conscious. I think he is really saying the whole thing is fucking absurd. And he's happy. Which is really ok. He doesn't even know you.

Be well,


Ahistoricality said...

have you missed the campiness of this video? It's over-the-top corniness?

Yes, I saw it, but I didn't read it the same way you did.

I'm done with this discussion, because there are only two directions it's going to go from here, clearly: detailed discussion of the video itself, which is tiresome; comparative misery, which is absurd. Or maybe it's the other way around. You're not open to discussing the structural or positional issues at the moment, and that's fine. Another time, then, when we're both feeling less defensive.

Anonymous said...

If you want people who have not been tenured and fallen into a less favorable professional situation than they were in before not to resent people who have had these experiences, maybe you should try not telling them how they should feel about it.

If you wonder why this blog makes some people so angry, this is a good demonstration of it: the smug tone you espouse and the suggestion that you know how other people should feel (Your life will be better than before!) about an experience that you don't share.

Tenured Radical said...

Oh please -- both of you. Call me smug -- I call you bitter and small. Are we even?

In a saner register, it is, in the end, what a critical commentator does: deliver opinions. If you don;t want opinions, restrict your reading to the local supermarket penny saver. If you don't *like* the opinions, read another blog!

And I do acknowledge that are "structural and positional issues" here, but I don't agree that the response to someone doing something funny on line about a common human experience -- being happy about success -- happens to be "in your face" or particularly obnoxious, particularly when it is ironic. Let me be explicit: because you have suffered, and because you have been treated cruelly, doesn't make it ethical for you to be nasty about someone else's success.

And keep it to yourself about what experiences I do and do not share, vebranntes. I have a perspective, and that perspective is actually drawn from having been treated cruelly. The difference was, I didn't lose my job: only time, money, self-esteem, and friends. No biggie, eh? But nobody's experience can be used as a truth-telling instrument, mine or yours.

And yes, if you think not getting tenure means the rest of your life is a second best choice you are, in fact, just wrong. If you insist on being right by leading your life that way, then that would actually be a choice.


Anonymous said...

I just don't think you should tell people who have been turned down for tenure to "buck up" or how they should feel about it. Just like I don't tell people who have been the victim of racial discrimination how they should feel about it. Or people who have been the object of downsizing in the "free market" how they should feel about it. Because it's arrogant to do so. Because I learned, in my oh-so-conservative raising, that it is rude to tell people how they should feel. Because I learned, during my liberal education, that you can sympathize with people's situation but you can never really know what another person feels and that it is condescending to imply that you do. Because I learned, in adult relationships, that it is often best simply to listen rather than judging.

You could write a lot of the same things here a lot more effectively if you just abandoned the assumption that permeates this blog that your experience is somehow normative for every academic everywhere. That would help a lot.

Tenured Radical said...

Well, aren't you fabulous. If only we could all be like you. I'm glad those conservatives didn't bring you up to be rude or opinionated. So many of us were not that lucky.


Anonymous said...

The lyrics of the song he used were "save me darling, I am down but I am far from over"

I thought he was going to say he didn't get tenure, so I was surprised by the ending. It didn't make sense. It was almost as if he made it while waiting to hear and expected a negative decision, then tacked on the ending.

I'm glad he got tenure and he seemed to deserve it, but the video, while enjoyable to watch, didn't make sense.

Ahistoricality said...

Call me smug -- I call you bitter and small. Are we even?

I wasn't planning on calling you "smug" or anything else, for that matter. I said you seemed "defensive" based on your surprisingly personal and escalating attacks.

Humor is not an objective fact: it's a relational communicative transaction, something that I acknowledged in my very first comment.

Tenured Radical said...


It was verbranntes who called me smug, and a few other things that are more or less out of the blue -- the comment was addressed to both of you, however, so it is an easy mistake.

I don't think my responses to you are defensive: I have nothing to defend and no horse in this race, except that I don;t love it when anonymous people snap at me on my own blog because they have reasons to feel crappy about their world -- that I am not in, at least as far as I know. I don't even like tenure. I just disagree with you that such a personal and negative response, either to the original video or to its various reiterations, is really something the rest of us ought to have anticipated.

Ahistoricality said...

OK, TR. I still don't entirely understand what happened, since, as you note, "it is, in the end, what a critical commentator does: deliver opinions. If you don't want opinions...."

But this is your blog.

Anonymous said...

“I'm trying to think about how this video would be percieved by people outside of academia”

Well, I'm not in academia. Never have, never will be. But I must agree with the other members of the newly formed Brian Donovan Video Fan Club that the piece was terrific. I was grinning the entire time. While I suppose that one persons Joie de Dance Fever is another’s Return to Job Nightmare I felt the tone was not one of self-absorption, but of harmless glee and giddiness. All those dancing scenes brought the absurdity. (Without them he’d get slaughtered by his KU brethren, Murder on the Orient Exptress-style.) True self-absorption? Check out a website that’s getting to be quite popular. It’s called YouTube and I hazard a guess that not many of those folks are searching for the tenured grail. But ya know, most of that is harmless, too (but not nearly as fun as Brian’s).

Anonymous said...

I think you really should eschew talking down, from your position of relative privilege, to people who are relatively oppressed, and telling them how they should feel. It is condescending, to say the least. As a great philosopher once said, "Don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining!"

Debrah said...

6:57 PM--

Tsk! Tsk!

On any given day, chances are that it is raining.


What Now? said...

I loved the campy spirit of the video, and I say that as someone who had an ugly tenure battle and felt no cause for rejoicing in the aftermath.

I also really admired Brian's book, White Slave Crusades, so I'm all the happier that he got tenure for it. The system doesn't often work the way it's ideally supposed to, so this happy ending is worth celebrating.

Anonymous said...

I'm in law, not in academia, but I have friends who are and I have a vague sense of what it's like to worry about tenure for years. I liked the video but didn't guffaw over it; in fact, I thought it was a little long. What I did really like was his celebration and relief and appreciation for getting tenure. I think it sucks when someone doesn't get tenure; it's a weird system and there should be less squishy subjectivity and politics and more markers of progress towards guaranteed tenure along the way (not just a third-year review).

ahistoricality did give the caveat that because of his/her position, the video isn't funny; I can understand that. Just like if you're going through a bitter divorce, you may not want to attend your friend's wedding. And we don't know the circumstances of his/her not getting tenure. But that doesn't necessarily mean you snarl at the people getting married for "rubbing their happiness in your face."

I'm not sure this video could be used in other professions *because* no other profession is there the guaranteed job security of tenure (a security I support and think is necessary), so people don't have the same freedoms to be whimsical (especially on the internet).

Elements of Sociology said...

Hi -- I know that I'm coming to the conversation a little late. I extend a sincere thank you to all of you who watched and commented on the video, even if it rubbed some of you the wrong way. I’m glad the campiness and giddiness came through like a sledgehammer. It’s absurd and obnoxious, but I hope it’s *so* absurd and obnoxious that it will prompt some smiling.

To anon@10:02 – Good point. “Down but far from over” makes more sense earlier in the video than later. I guess I’m okay with it not making complete sense; I just dig the song in that “it’s so bad it’s good” way.

To anon@1:31 – Your “its too long” criticism stung because, honestly, I think you’re right. I could’ve shaved some time off of it. On the other hand, I think it seriously lacks Xanadu, and I think a little Breakin’ 2: Electric Booglaloo would’ve been a nice touch, too. But enough with the auto-critique. . .

For what it’s worth, I make and use a lot of short video clips in my teaching, and I often leverage the absurdity of pop culture to make sociological arguments (e.g. a 4-minute clip from “Real Housewives of Orange County” to introduce the concept of cultural capital). I’ve started to put some of these up on youtube (elementsofsoc channel). TR: I’d be happy to chat with you (or anyone else) about the video editing software I use, the dvd/computer set-up, etc. if you’re interested.

-- Brian

Anonymous said...

Hi, Brian!

This is anon 1:31. *Congratulations!*
No video could EVER be too long if it has Xanadu in it. I'm with you!!!

Congratulations again!