This is a memorial essay for Barbara Gordon, written by my friend Yvonne Raley, formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University.
The sound of your voice will always be with me, Barbara, my beloved and loyal friend, my teacher of song. I am so grateful to have been graced with your presence for 27 years of my life, and so torn apart by your untimely death.
I knew you as delicate and fragile in many ways, and yet you were mighty, a true force that would fill people’s hearts with music and joy. I will never forget how you grilled me before taking me on as your student, to make sure I had enough dedication, because you would accept nothing less. I finally won you over with our shared love for Debussy and my ability to speak French, and so in 1994 I became your tutee Friday mornings at NYU, and a couple of years later at your home where I became part of your extended family: I stood next to the piano and practiced as Josh graduated high school and Ellie graduated college, got married and had kids of her own. I met Josh’s cat Milo who loved your yard, and I shared a memorable Seder with you. Not only did you introduce me to Satie and Ravel, but also to your Chiropractor and to Whole Foods!
I just got news today, a week after the fact, of the untimely passing of my friend and colleague Barbara Gordon, Associate Professor of Music and Instructor in French at Felician University. Hired about a year before I was (2007), Barbara essentially built the university’s music department and program (including its choir) from the ground up, and was responsible for just about every major musical event–religious, classical, jazz–that took place on campus. She organized the Christmas concert as well as the musical parts of the convocation and commencement ceremonies, and virtually every concert and recital in between. Where there was high musical culture to be had at Felician–be it Adele, Bach, or Coltrane–Barbara was likely behind it.
In one year, Felician University has lost its President, its Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, its Dean of the School of Business, its Registrar, and most recently, its Vice President of Academic Affairs. Before that, it lost a Trustee, a previous VPAA, a Provost, the Dean of Nursing, and two Deans of Business. Vanity compels me to mention that it also lost an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Pre-Law Adviser, along with literally dozens of faculty and staff, often terminated on the flimsiest of pretexts, and in some cases, on the basis of manufactured scandals and outright lies.
Today is Thanksgiving, a day on which it’s appropriate to give public thanks for the gifts we’ve received from life itself. Until recently, I had great disdain for Thanksgiving–just last year, I wrote a bitchy attack on it–mostly because until recently, bitterness and resentment were my favorite go-to emotions.
Paradoxically, I had to lose a lot in the past few months to appreciate what I have, and to grasp the true meaning of gratitude: a job, a marriage, a house, a car, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of labor, and a large handful of illusions, for starters. I sold the house, but stand to make very little from it, so I count it as a loss. I sold the car for a ridiculously lowball figure, so I regard that as a loss. I’m in litigation, make a nominal wage at a dirty job doing hard physical labor, and lack permanent housing or the means to pay for it. I have temporary housing, but it lacks running water. So there are challenges. And yet, life has never been better. Last year, I had everything I now lack, and made sure to get up bright and early “to take a crap on Thanksgiving.” Now I’m writing a paean to gratitude. What a difference a year makes. Continue reading
Some readers may remember that back in May, I resigned my position as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University in protest at malfeasance I encountered at the university, malfeasance that upper-level university administration wanted covered up. These same administrators apparently expected me to help them cover it up, but I wouldn’t and didn’t; after a ten-day standoff with these assholes, it became clear that they wanted me off of payroll and out of the way. As an at-will employee at a non-tenure-granting institution (five years on the AAUP’s censure list), I had no viable institutional options for dealing with corruption that willful and entrenched, so I quit before they fired me. I’m glad I did. As I’ve been saying for years, Felician is a sinking ship. It’s only a matter of time before it goes under. Continue reading
I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing a few days ago of Carol Manigault, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Felician University. Carol was a dear friend, and one of the very few people I would see in Kirby Hall either “after hours” or on the weekend–there for the same reason as I was, out of a preference for working at the office rather than working at home. I sometimes wondered whether the explanation for that preference was the same in Carol’s case as in mine–a reluctance to go home from the sense that home was better avoided than inhabited. Continue reading
From Nebraska to New Jersey and Back: College Life Under Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic first became a reality for me when I was flying back from my home state of Nebraska to New Jersey after spring break. I was chatting with members of the Columbia University baseball team on our plane when they received a notification that Columbia was canceling school for the next few days, and would then be holding online classes for the next two weeks. We were all a bit shocked. It was a bit hard to believe that they’d cancel school over a virus. Nor was it clear what this meant for the future. Continue reading
I drove through the “epicenter of the global pandemic today.” What was it like? Nothing in particular.
Colleagues in the Department of Art at my university answered my earlier plea for medical supplies by offering up their hidden stash of nitrile gloves. So I drove from my home in Readington, New Jersey to the university in Lodi (Bergen County), and called security to let me in. The security guard, who’s seen me hundreds of times before over more than a decade, professed for the nth time not to know who I was. After some pro forma wrangling, interrogation, and perusing of my ID from-a-distance, he let me in. Continue reading
If you want to see the unconcealed essence of American higher education in action, pay attention to one simple contrast: As the coronavirus spreads, universities across the land are either closing or contemplating closure. But “closure” doesn’t quite mean closure; it means “continuity of instruction” for the duration of the public health crisis. So faculty and staff are struggling to convert on-ground classes to an online format, in order to maintain “continuity of instruction.” Not easy, not fun, but necessary. Continue reading
(THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK. I’M HOPING TO RE-SCHEDULE IN THE FALL.)
I like democracy. Democracy is perhaps best exemplified in local government. Hence, I like local government.
You might quibble that that’s not a valid argument, and suggest that the conclusion is a reductio, but hey, democracy is messy.
Anyway, I’m interested in local government. To that end, I’m organizing and moderating a panel discussion at Felician University that you might want to attend if you’re in the neighborhood. Sponsored by the Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. Continue reading