Revising our Mission

Screen shot of Tweet saying: How does a professional org recalibrate to take higher ed changes into account, esp when grad students/un- & under-employed comprise a large portion of members & annual attendees...? A question we should have already answered. So let’s get cracking.

I posted the above the other day while retweeting a story on Twitter about some of the obstacles that can stand in the way of early career scholars — notably those that are financial, such as annual registration fees at our conferences. Stories like these are not new to social media commentaries on the current state of academia, of course, but they took on even more urgency in the light of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature’s joint decision to put QR codes on name badges for the upcoming 2019 conference. Although the retraction statements that came out a few days later (read the AAR‘s and the SBL‘s) emphasized the goal of using the codes for enhanced networking (as the SBL statement put it), at least according to the email that SBL members received when their name badges were first distributed online, the codes were to be used to identify people using someone else’s badge (a so-called “pirated name badge”) — prompting such attendees either “to register immediately or be removed from the meeting.”

Unless there’s a rash of people in the wider public pirating name badges, it’s not tough to imagine that those who would be directly impacted by the spot scans would be grad students and under-employed scholars, sharing a name badge to get into the book display. Continue reading

On the Problem With Reproducing Ourselves

Photo of a man working in a mannequin factory

It’s long past when faculty in doctoral degree-granting schools in our field need to start reconsidering what it is that we’re doing in graduate education.

I’m hardly the first to say that, I know. Continue reading

Rigor on the Line

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The other day, Jesse Stommel tweeted about public work not being counted for tenure, and that the qualifications for awarding tenure should be changed.

The conversation of tweets that followed included an elaboration, stating that we need to “think more broadly about the locations of scholarship. Public, open-access should be seen as rigorous.” Continue reading

Rant, Screed, or Valid Critique?

The Study of JudaismDictionarily, the difference between a screed and a rant is the difference between written and oral discourse. What joins them together is a certain angry compulsion to “get the word out”, “wake up the lethargic” and/or, not without a certain brazenness, “right the wrong”. All-too-often, the words chosen are themselves hostile, and, rather than engaging the reader or listener, they serve to close the very doors they were originally intended, perhaps, to open.

Not so with Professor Aaron Hughes’s latest commentary on the, for him, sad state of Judaic Studies, my own subfield in the academic study of religion. Hughes, Ph.D. Indiana University and Philip S. Bernstein Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Rochester, wrote a piece “Jewish Studies Is Too Jewish” in The Chronicle Review of The Chronicle of Higher Education on March 24, 2014, and which, in many ways, was an all-too-brief summary of his recent book The Study of Judaism: Authenticity, Identity, Scholarship (Albany: Suny Press, 2013; 1672 pages). Both the book and article have evoked fascinating responses from, among others, Michael Satlow (Brown University), and Zachary Braiterman (Syracuse University). More on this in a bit. Continue reading

In the Currents of Change

savannah fSavannah Finver is a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College, double majoring in Religious Studies and English. She is an avid reader and writer. She is interested in the impact of religion on American politics and social order. This piece was originally published in STAC’s student newspaper, Thoma, and when it came to our attention we thought it would make an ideal guest post on the REL blog.

When I first came to STAC, I declared a Childhood/Special Education major for two reasons. The first was that I could not see myself doing anything other than teaching; after all, my mother is a teacher, and I have spent my entire life around young kids. The second was that, knowing myself fairly well, I was certain that I could never, ever, ever work a desk job.

Now, here I am, in the middle of my sophomore year, having recently switched to a double major in English and Religious Studies.

Yeah, it’s a jump. Continue reading

Got, Got, Got, Got No Time…

Yesterday, I participated in a faculty panel as part of my university’s recruiting day, for high school students, and their parents, interested in attending our school–a panel in which a few of us answered questions about what we wish we knew then that we know now, what our favorite courses were to teach, etc. Message sent? Faculty are approachable. Not a bad one to transmit. Continue reading