The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Adjunct Advocate—Free Speech in Peril!

The selector begins, ideally, with a presumption in favor of liberty of thought; the censor does not. The aim of the selector is to promote reading not to inhibit it; to multiply the points of view which will find expression, not limit them; to be a channel for communication, not a bar against it.
           —Lester Asheim, “Not Censorship but Selection” (Wilson Library Bulletin,1953)

The following is yet another account of how academics slam the door shut on vigorous debate when criticized.  Editor Patricia Lesko was going to publish some of my P. Maudit cartoons in the Adjunct Advocate... until I criticized her and the Academy. As long as people like Lesko run the show, things will continue to worsen and get more corporate-like, more apparatchik in demeanor, more conforming and less and less questioning and challenging in the spirit of democracy.  Manifest a little visceral un-functionary-like indignation in the face of corruption, and the Leskos go wacko. 

Subj: Re: Query
Date: 11/6/00 9:01:38 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Dr. Sloane: Feel free to send along 1-2 sample essays and half a dozen cartoons, if you like. We would be happy to consider the work for publication in The Adjunct Advocate magazine. Please send materials to: P.D. Lesko, P.O. Box 130117, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0117. Please include a SASE if you would us to return the samples. Thank you very much for thinking of The Adjunct Advocate. Best wishes, P.D. Lesko, Publisher
>Dear PDLesko, >Would you consider publishing my cartoons, highly caustic and critical of >academe? I could attach some samples for your perusal. I have been a >caustic critic of academe, wrote a weekly column for and well, >could I send you some essays? The Chronicle of course won't touch anything I >send them... to direct... to stand upright and speak the rude truth a la >Emerson. I am a blacklisted unemployed professor looking for work and >freelance. >Best, >G. Tod Slone, Ed. >The American Dissdent, a biannual literary journal >

Subj: adjunct advocate submission
Date: 11/27/00 4:04:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Tod: Thanks for the submissions. I like your writing style, and think it would fit into the magazine. How would you like to tackle the subject of adjuncts as research fodder? In other words, I would love to have a slightly off-center look at how adjuncts are going from being invisible to being placed under the microscope of academic research. Poking fun of recent studies, books, etc... is what I'm looking for (naming names is what it's all about, provided one tells the absolute truth). 900-1000 words tops. On spec. If we take it, we'll publish it in the March/April 2001 issue. Pay is $50.00. As for the comics, they are too broad-based for our use. I'd love to have regular cartoons in the mag., but nothing which smacks of singing to the choir, if you know what I mean. Adjuncts know how bad it is. Everybody else is busy slinging vast amounts of sympathy. The best cartoon I ever saw about adjunct faculty was one which had had the tagline "Will Teach for Food," which Cary Nelson took for the title of his most recent book. I'd pay $25-$50 per cartoon that we wanted to use. Let me know what you think, and thanks for the query. Best wishes, Patricia Lesko Executive Editor 734-930-6854

Subj: (no subject)
Date: 12/10/00 12:09:52 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Patricia: Cartoons not right? Well, so be it. RE the tenured radical [Cary Nelson]. I'd written him a while ago. No response. Probably because I told him I found the term tenured radical to be a veritable oxymoron given today's academe. Thought & Action won't respond regarding my critique of the NEA, nor will Buffalo University's poetics program. This tends to be common in academe--silence in the face of criticism. I assume you're aware of the article in the Chronicle on Adjunct Profs and the call for papers for an adjunct anthology. Here's a few thoughts on the latter: The reality of the adjunct issue is one of money and really nothing else but money. That's a fair cause in itself. But to infer that other issues are significant becomes hypocritical and simply helps strengthen academe's foundation of hypocrisy. The question is money. The proposed Burning Bush anthology on adjunct professors would have us believe, hypocritically, that the question is multifaceted and much more complex, including threat to academic freedom and tenure, conflict between PT and FT faculty, undermining of academic program consistency, coherence and service to students, poor communication between PT and FT faculty, Administrative time lost due to maintenance of two policies for FT and PT faculty, the undermining of the democratic nature of academic institutions, the fragmentation of the Academic community, the environmental damage caused by added gasoline consumption, traffic andpollution resulting from PT faculty commuting to and from work, diminished race and gender equity and the devaluation of higher education, knowledge and service. Some of these issues appear absurd. Academe does not have the reputation of being democratic and the kind of professors currently obtaining tenure rarely if ever need academic freedom [because they never speak out about anything]. Best, G. Tod Slone, Ed. THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT

Subj: Re: (no subject)
Date: 12/11/00 10:17:10 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Tod: I'll accept one of the cartoons. The one with the tagline "How the hell am I supposed to do that?" The final sentence of that tagline should be removed, because this is a publication for adjuncts and they know why the cartoonist has his work cut out for him. If you can remove the final sentence, and send along the piece as a Photoshop jpeg (300 dpi minimum), we'll run it in the March/April 2001 issue (the next available opportunity). I would love to see a cartoon poking fun a bit at adjuncts having to use their cars as "home" offices, or ridiculous places where an adjunct might have to meet with a student for a student conference. I would also like to see cartoons about adjunct faculty who teach evening courses and, as a result, never get to know the other faculty or staff. Finally, when you send materials to me, please realize that I need 2-3 weeks to look over what you've sent. Thanks, Patricia Lesko The Adjunct Advocate

Subj: Adjunct cartoons
Date: 12/11/00 10:27:04 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Patricia: Yes, I can see you've got a sharp critical eye (well, of course, I'm happy too that you'll take that cartoon). I will take out that line because, you're right, it is superficial and will send at 300 dpi, though I'll try 600 if you like. Also, will get to work on the other cartoon possibilities. I am happy you'll take that cartoon. I've been applying for adjunct positions so am a bit jittery... well, no, I'm just full of rage exploding in the seams from 14 years of academic battle... I think that's more truthful. Sorry about pushing you. Yes, I'll wait 3 weeks next time. Best, G. Tod

Subj: Re: New illustration: adjunct in car
Date: 12/16/00 3:28:40 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Tod: Some feedback on the cartoon submitted. First, if the car is the adjunct's office, it doesn't look like it. No office-like stuff sitting around. The adjunct is reading a book--and the students peer in and discuss the fact that they are early. So what? He's reading. He's not doing anything they couldn't interrupt. Why not have a student in the car with whom the adjunct is meeting about coursework, and a group of students waiting outside in the rain or snow? (Something like one sees outside of certain faculty members' office doors?) I think exaggeration is the key here (chalkboard in the car, stapler hanging from the rearview mirror, cell phone, filing cabinet in the backseat, etc...whatever.) The office hours sign should be bigger (but I love it posted on the driver's side window)! It should be clear that the students have appointments and expect to meet in the "office." Best wishes, Pat

Date: 12/23/00 10:02:11 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Pat, The following is probably too harsh for The Adjunct Advocate, but maybe not. I'd be curious to discover reaction regarding it. In my thoughts, I have come up with some interesting concepts. One of them is the evident prevailing idea of ACADEME: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT! Well, I had two bites this month... lost them both to those letters of recommendation. I've got only two letters now. One of my letters doesn't want me to use his anymore. It is interesting to note how those references can so easily destroy a career. Well, enjoy your vacation. I'm up in Montreal for a week... breath of fresh air... dip in French the linguistic bath et al. My field is French. Best, G. Tod Slone

Letter to a University Chairperson
This letter/essay was sent to Dr./Prof. Peter Podol, Chairperson Foreign Languages at Lockhaven University (PA). I had applied for an adjunct position in French… without health benefits. The timing was bad because I had gone to South Carolina at the same time for an interview as full-time instructor… with health benefits. I informed him about the South Carolina interview. Eventually, it was too late for the Lockhaven position… and I ended up with nothing. Interestingly, though quite expectedly, Dr./Prof. Podol did not respond.

You must know how long and inefficient hiring can be in Academe. Once I was flown out to Chicago for an interview only to be told they wanted someone with a PhD in Spanish, not French. Now, why didn't they look at my resume before spending that $1150 to fly me out? Public money, not their money, that's why! I've got plenty of stories like that one.

Have you ever contemplated how incredibly similar (uncreative!) Academe has become throughout the Nation? For example, every job ad I look at appears as if written by the very same person. Sameness does not favor creativity, intellectual inquiry, or improving Academe. Have you ever contemplated what those three letters of recommendation mandate? Most Academics do not... sameness oblige! Generally they mean FIT IN. Now why is Academe so concerned with FIT IN? Doesn't FIT IN generally mean sycophant? Doesn't it mean that the new hiree will not likely make waves, question, challenge, or offer original input as opposed to input apt to put a smile on the chairperson or dean or university president? Do you follow me here? Don't those three letters really mean that the candidate befriended, that is, did not offend, did not challenge, did not question the three professors who wrote them? Even The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a front-page article recently on the questionable institution of those three letters... yet all academics still insist on that sameness.

Don't the three letters generally exclude from the profession PhDs who challenged their institution? Weren't you concerned that maybe I didn't get along? Wasn't that the information you were looking for when you called my references? But what does not getting along mean? Again, it generally means, questioning, challenging, etc. Academe is not a Corporation... or ought not be. Unfortunately, it has been mimicking the Corporate model ever closely. Note the grand emphasis on civility uber alles in Academe today. Of course civility as an imposed criteria (and usually undefined... good teaching is also usually vaguely defined in academe because lack of definition gives more power to superiors) is a subtle way of keeping challengers at bay. The three letters work to exclude intelligent people who do have the courage to challenge... institutional corruption. If you only knew the kind of corruption existent and rampant at the State College where I last taught; well, perhaps it is similar-sameness oblige-at your institution.

The problem with tenure and life-time job security, that which you possess, is that it inevitably dulls the mind, the spirit and the will to fight corruption in Academe. Yes, I have written much on the subject. I mention these things here because it seems that even for an essentially insignificant position as adjunct instructor, you and others in power do the most intense background checks, as if the position were for something in the upper echelons in the CIA. In any event, I simply wish to inform you that I have essentially been banished from the Academy because of whistleblowing at that State College... nothing to do at all with my teaching or scholarship. That ought tell you something in itself. Two separate ad hoc evaluation committees recommended I NOT be terminated. Of course, I would have taught those two French courses as you might have requested... mandated. I have learned. I'm sure too that this letter would indicate to you that I am some wild crazed person with a PhD. But that is not the case at all. I am simply a person who somehow escaped the indoctrinating influence exerted by Academe on academics throughout the Nation. Graduate students, like that French woman I talked with on the phone, are programmed to keep their minds as if in blinders within the restricted paradigm of their respective fields... that way, they will not trouble business as usual in Academe.

By the way, my problems at that State College began with my chairperson asking me to come to his house every weekend, where only he and I. It became so apparent, such that other professors could not help but notice, that HE was in love with me. When, after several months and a very favorable letter regarding my teaching, I decided I no longer wanted to go to his home, he turned against me with the fury of a jealous teenager (he is now professor emeritus!). His next evaluation recommended termination. Yes, I'm sure that you know these things occur throughout Academe. But why do you remain silent regarding them? Why did all faculty members but one remain silent at that State College? How do I obtain three letters from a place like that? How do I continue on my merry way seeking another job... in or out of Academe?

Well, I'm sure this is much more than you'd like to hear. I did end up fighting for truth and justice at that State College... but in vain. Institutions are extremely powerful. I didn't go away sheepishly with a letter of recommendation from the dean. I did win a monetary settlement when it became evident during arbitration hearings what an imbecile my chairperson was (Ed.D with a thesis on LESSON PLANS... no, I'm not kidding... and no knowledge of my field, French and Spanish, the field he evaluated!). Only then did the President finally decide to make an offer. I took the money because the President was not at all interested in truth and justice... aren't 99% of college presidents like that... probably 99% of college professors too? Of course, the college did not have to admit wrong. This practice is called CLOSURE. CLOSURE has replaced justice in academe and elsewhere in America.

Well, here's hoping that you might open your eyes one day. Is it not horrendous that Academe today would brandish the motto: ACADEME, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT? Never thought about that, huh? Well, do America a favor and contemplate it… even if for a few seconds.


Date: 12/25/00 12:11:14 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Tod: I read your piece and have some feedback. You have a talent for writing. It is undisciplined, and that is why you cannot find homes for these pieces. The topics are splendid and with more disciplined treatment I would have no problem publishing pieces which dealt with, for example, letters of recommendation or unfair termination. So what do I mean by undiscilined? Put simply, the pieces I've read wander and are the product of rage. Justified rage is a fine basis for a piece. However, rage is not a productive writing style for the same reason nobody likes to listen to a neighbor's television or radio through the wall late at night. Do you know what I mean? Now, if these pieces were done to convey outrage, that would be a different story. Outrage is a writing tool which can be used to express these same emotions and feelings, but which leaves room for the emotions and feelings of the reader, as well. Tame your pieces, and I will happily publish them. Outrage is a powerful tool, Tod. Rage is by and large and overpowering emotion. If you can channel your rage into outrage and be more structurally disciplined in your writing, I think you will find pages of many publications open to you, not just The Adjunct Advocate. Thanks so much for sending your writing and cartoons to me. I will happily read whatever you send, provided you read what you send first with a more critical eye. Happy Holidays, Patricia Lesko

Date: 12/25/00 5:28:22 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
File: Letters of Recommendation.ZIP (16170 bytes) DL Time (28800 bps): < 1 minute
Pat, Well, thanks for the comments. I think I probably received them because somehow I managed to irk you with that letter I sent to Lockhaven U. Nevertheless, my experience has been that the large majority of academics will simply not comment regarding such letters (e.g., the Lockhaven professor). You must certainly be different… and that is a compliment. Moreover, your area is of course quite restricted and not really the area I have been working in, which is Academe in general, not adjunct teaching. I came across your site while looking for work. By the way, I have compiled some 300 pages of essays on Academe and was even writing a weekly column for cash at one point for, which is now defunct. The column was called “The Blacklisted Professor.” The very possibility of blacklisting is never discussed in academe. Or if on a rare occasion it is, nothing is done about it. Well, I do not agree with the statement that my writing is “undisciplined.” I spend much time correcting, revising, etc. However, what I sent you was a letter, not an essay. I do reread my letters, but do not spend hours on them like I do my essays. The reason is not lack of discipline in writing at all. I cannot “find homes for,” as you put it, my pieces because of the subject matter. That is quite simple and clear. I'm not sure how you can believe that subject matter has nothing to do with it… unless of course you never went through what I've gone through in Academe. I sent a batch of cartoons to The Chronicle of Higher Ed after receiving an okay to send from a sub editor. Those cartoons will not be published in The Chronicle. I have no doubt about that. Have you ever seen the inane, anodyne cartoons they publish? I sent them because I have been documenting all the places I send material to. The reason is not because they lack civility and the correct tonality, though surely they do, but because of the subject matter. The subject matter goes right to the heart of university presidents, college professors and the entire academic establishment, in other words right to the very heart of the advertisers and subscribers of The Chronicle. Things are so incredibly horrendous in Academe. I'm not sure if you realize just how horrendous. As “splendid a topic” as 'three letters of recommendation,' that topic will not be discussed with any seriousness in academe because eliminating those letters will inevitably eliminate power from those in power. That's quite simple. I have, of course, been through this over and over from places that respond, including The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Thought & Action. Incredibly, I received a letter from the latter once upon a time that my essay was not personal enough. I thus rewrote it to make it personal and resubmitted. There was never a subsequent response. I have also gotten the opposite as a comment. Academics are fixated on tone and civility. Clearly, tone and civility are simply shields to keep the truth at bay. A simpler case in point was my eviction from a part of campus. That was a FACT. All my classes had to be rescheduled. That was a FACT. Yet neither the local paper or college paper would print that fact. Nothing there at all to do within disciplined writing at all. Well, you mention rage. But rage is simply another term for bitter, full of personal animus, angry, lack of civility, and lack of the correct tone of voice. In your letter, you did not note that any points I made were incorrect. This, I hate to say it, is quite typical from the academic responses I've received over the years. In other words, kill the messenger, call him angry or outraged, and don't bother at all with the message. I'm sure you've heard that one before. Finally, I would prefer of course dealing with you as an equal. The tone of your letters always seems to come off as if you're dealing with a subordinate. When I deal with people who submit to The American Dissident, I always make an effort to deal with them as equals. That said, I am of course not at all angry with you. I appreciate your input. I just cannot agree with it. I will attach several essays that may be of interest to you. Actually, I did eventually manage to find a publisher(a tiny one no doubt) to publish my 220 page account of a high school teaching experience I had similar to the college one. Again, the subject matter was highly controversial. I have several 200-page accounts of my college experience but have yet to find a publisher. My most recent book has met with the same problems. The title alone will tell you why I have had problems placing it in a “home.” SUBURBANITICA: JOURNAL OF A CITIZEN LOST, TRUE TALES OF ALIENATION IN THE AMERICAN HYPOCRACY. Oddly enough or perhaps not, I shared that letter with one of my contributors, quite an ace writer. He responded that it was the best letter he'd seen yet. I always include a healthy sample of battle letters in each issue of The American Dissident to illustrate how people in power generally react to criticism. I've just reread that letter to a friend and we both see no anger in it whatsoever. So, we have a curious situation. In fact, I was not angry at all with that professor. I really had no reason to be. I just thought I'd send him some thought, rather than the old academic/automaton discourse. I think it is time that we rage regarding what's going on in the ivory tower. All of this civil discourse has gotten nowhere at all. It is time we established a list of corrupt professors, deans and college presidents. I have made that suggestion to Nader's Public Citizen, which has established and publishes a list of corrupt doctors. As I reflect, I want rage, outrage, visceral indignation and anger to resound in my writing. I think that if I toned down, my writing would become just another example of ineffectual New Yorker, Ploughshare, Kenyon Review script, that is, utterly academic (i.e., bourgeois)! Best, G. Tod Slone

Subj: Salut, ca va?
Date: 1/15/01 10:23:29 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Patricia: I assume that you still intend using that cartoon you accepted. Also, I assume the cartoon sketch I sent to your specs was not what you had in mind. I do hope that my last letter did not send you into a rage. I have thought about what you said. For me, as mentioned, the tone is the message is the tone. Dulling the tone would thus serve to dull the message. I really think academe needs a sledgehammer on the head, not a little whisper in the ear. There's an interesting article on Rice U. being engulfed by the corporation. I think the entire system of academe in America has been subtly engulfed. Hopefully, you have thought about my letter as I have yours... though you are in power and I am not. I have heard good things about Ann Arbor and would like to get my literary journal, The American Dissident, on the shelves of a bookstore or two there. Hope you enjoyed vacation. I just finished an essay critical of the state cultural councils. Best, G. Tod Slone

Subj: A final effort at dialogue
Date: 1/18/01 10:05:22 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Dear Patricia, Well, let this be my last letter. Silence is how it tends to be in the world of Academe, that's how it is, though still can't accept it. That has been my 14 year experience. Try to debate with an academic… and silence. I wrote several poems recently. Both were largely inspired by our "exchange." I'll include them below. If you have an open mind and heart, you might wish to read them. If you are simply another academic with closed mind, then simply discard them. Academe seems to have reached a most pitiful state, where debate is refused, where those who question and challenge are rejected and labeled "bitter," "rage," "uncivil." Regarding this, Professor Camille Paglia noted in this week: "Many of today's best graduate students are getting their degrees without ever having encountered a genuinely erudite professor in the humanities. The rampant careerism of American academe, which puts a premium on patter, hustling and networking, has yet to be seriously examined. It has had devastating consequences on education by driving free-thinking graduate students and junior faculty out of the profession." Of course, I know quite well what Professor Paglia is talking about... and am quite pleased at the glimmer of hope that there are a few professors in the country like her... but very, very few. If you and other academics would only set aside a tiny corner in your periodicals and campuses for harsh Emersonian rude truth critique, perhaps you'd be able to improve higher education a hundred-fold. I publish a biannual literary journal, The American Dissident, and make an extra effort in each issue to publish the harshest critique lodged against the journal and/or the editor. I do not find this difficult to do. Perhaps it is a matter of security with ones ideas and self versus insecurity. Best, G. Tod Slone Grievous Failure
It is distressing
how so many
in paltry positions
of utterly
minor power
would flee
like myriad
scattering mice
and rats
in spin-wheel cages
Pavlovian current
sets shock.
It is perturbing
how so many
when criticized,
when challenged,
when questioned
would slam
the door shut to ensure
fit-in ambiance.
It is grotesque
how academics,
literary editors,
poets, writers,
teachers, politicians,
cultural council chairpersons
born from public education
would flee to the safety
of happy-face ritual, familiarity,
and business-as-usual tonality.

The Tone Is the Message Is the Tone

Subj: Re: A final effort at dialogue
Date: 1/19/01 3:34:28 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl)
Hi Tod: No offense intended, but I am really, really busy. I simply don't have the time to "debate" anything with anyone. Catch you at a conference, or when I am not under a tight deadline, and you will find a much more willing participant! Best wishes, Pat

Subj: C'est triste...
Date: 1/19/01 5:05:48 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge
Pat, Well, it's not only the debate, but also the cartoons, the one you accepted for your March/April issue, for example. Are you now going to reject it because of our philosophical disagreements? And what about the cartoon you suggested, which I spent several hours doing and forwarded a sketch to you? You simply never responded. Clearly, you do seem to have fallen ill with this societal malady ever proliferating in academe and other American institutions: no time to debate and visceral rejection of disagreement or criticism. I know that I am not alone in my observations of this subtle though devastating malady. Below are several quotes I picked up just this week in the press, one relating to tone, while the other to the cancerous (terminal?) malady. Interestingly, Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago has been decrying this week in the press the very same things I have been decrying for the past five years. I feel bad for you that you do not have the time to question, challenge, criticize and debate, nor apparently the interest. Nearly every academic I have met has responded in the same way. How bizarre. G. Tod
1. I think arresting fiction is written out of a sense of outrage. -Robert Ludlum
2. Many of today's best graduate students are getting their degrees without ever having encountered a genuinely erudite professor in the humanities. The rampant careerism of American academe, which puts a premium on patter, hustling and networking, has yet to be seriously examined. It has had devastating consequences on education by driving free-thinking graduate students and junior faculty out of the profession. When learning is no longer a criterion for employment and promotion, both teaching and scholarship suffer. --Camille Paglia
El pensar es algo que todos los días, poco a poco, nos van quitando. No se pretende el pensamiento único; se pretende el pensamiento cero. [Thinking is something that everyday, little by little, is disappearing. It's not a matter of thought becoming one acceptable mode of thought, but rather no thought at all.] --Jose Saramago

Subj: Re: C'est triste...
Date: 1/20/01 3:26:34 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: (pdl) To:
Hi Tod: I learned long ago that writers who demand too much of my time and energy are just not the kind of folks I can work with. Good luck placing your work elsewhere. The cartoon you submitted [and I accepted] will not be used in the magazine. Pat Lesko Executive Editor The Adjunct Advocate

Subj: C'est apitoyable... mais drole tout de meme!
Date: 1/20/01 3:57:25 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Enmarge

Pat, In reality, you are nothing but a typical academic, unable to deal with any outside criticism whatsoever. You disgust me. You're part responsible for the horrendous state of affairs in the Nation's colleges and universities. By the way, your letter of "not enough time" will be published in the next issue of THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT to illustrate the deranged priorities of academics. Keep your luck. I'd rather have luck wished upon me by an intelligent, secure person. G. Tod