Will he sign my kindle?
Revision of Three And Out Q&A: Part Three from October 21st, 2011 at 10:06 AM
[ED: Parts one and two here. Book on sale Tuesday. Bacon will be giving his first local book talk and signing at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Center on Friday night, October 28, 7 p.m.; other events can be found on his website’s appropriately-named Event page.
Cave people: Three and Out is a book about the Rodriguez era from John Bacon, who was given unprecedented access to the program by Rich Rodriguez because Rich Rodriguez does these sorts of things.]
6. WHAT'S NEXT?
“What books are you going to write about now that Michigan won't let you within a mile of any of their programs anymore? I mean, it's not easy to piss off everybody.”
Well, first: Despite the sacrifices I mentioned in the first installment – time, money, and possibly professional opportunities -- writing it was my decision, naturally, and I don’t regret it. Given my choices, trying to write an honest book is certainly more appealing to me than trying to keep everyone happy and produce a book I could never respect.
Plus, I had the chance to see a big-time program form the inside that no fan, and no reporter, has ever had—and probably never will again. If there was one great privilege that I hope every reader can share, it was getting to know these young man not as gladiators but as human beings, some of the best I’ve met. If you were proud of Michigan football before, I can tell you this: getting to know these guys can erase much of the cynicism we all feel for college football these days. They were, quite simply, the real thing.
None of that, unfortunately, solves the problem in the question. Mr. Brandon and Mr. Carr, through various means and channels, have made their contempt for the book (and its author) plain enough. I have no idea what’s going to happen with my various ties to Michigan, including my teaching arrangement, but I’d probably be foolish to count on anything.
It’s almost impossible to write anything interesting without at least some cooperation and access, and I might find those in short supply under the Brandon regime. I will likely have to go “off the reservation,” if you will, to pursue future projects. And perhaps it’s time.
But I also believe this book would cost me a lot more if I were writing about Kentucky basketball under Eddie Sutton or, say, Ohio State football (as a convenient example). Those schools and fans generally don’t want the truth, and will attack anyone who attempts to deliver it (witness Mr. Herbstreit’s forced move to Tennessee). Michigan football fans are very demanding—they expect a first-class program on and off the field—but they also want the truth, and they can handle it.
I feel the same way. After all, I learned how to do all the things I needed to write this book – researching, writing and thinking critically – from world-class professors at the University of Michigan. But the most important principle Michigan taught me was the central importance of pursuing the truth without fear, wherever it leads.
For those who say this book will hurt Michigan, I can only respond: not the Michigan I know.
7. Does the idea of being a "Michigan man" emerge as tortured shibboleth in need of burial or does Bacon make the case that there is something valuable in it, something RR just really didn't get?
This is why you have to love Michigan fans. What other school’s backers would inquire if their culture’s central concept emerges as a “tortured shibboleth in need of burial”? It was such fans, by the way, that made it easy for me to persuade our highbrow publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, that our readers would have no trouble getting through a 438-page book with no photos, nor digesting the word “crucible” in the subtitle. (Arthur Miller, after all, went to Michigan.)
The term “Michigan Man” probably goes back to the day men arrived at Michigan. But it’s taken more than a few twists and turns since.
Fielding Yost gave the term “Michigan Man” a boost when he started using it in his speeches. But the phrase really took off in 1989, of course, when Schembechler announced he was firing basketball coach Bill Frieder on the eve of the NCAA basketball tournament because Frieder had signed a secret deal to coach Arizona State the next season. This prompted Schembechler to bark: “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!”
Pundits have wondered exactly what Bo meant, but I think it’s pretty simple: anybody coaching at Michigan better be completely committed to Michigan.
The phrase took on more weight four years ago, when a reporter asked brand-new head coach Rich Rodriguez if the Michigan coach had to be a Michigan Man. He joked, “Gosh, I hope not! They hired me!”
He was criticized for that—and not without some justification. The question was inevitable, and it exposed Rodriguez’s superficial knowledge of the program upon his arrival, and the athletic department’s failure to prepare its new coach for his mission.
From that point on, the phrase was used more often to beat somebody over the head—usually Rodriguez—than to underscore the values it’s supposed to represent, much the way extremists use “patriot” to castigate someone as un-American.
At the “Victors’ Rally” held in February 2010, Rodriguez wanted to show that he’d gotten the message. So, he closed his speech by saying, “I’m Rich Rodriguez, and I am a Michigan Man.” This time, he was criticized for being presumptuous.
Finally, with great humility, he told the crowd at his final speech at the Bust in December 2011, “I hope you realize, I truly want to be a Michigan Man.” But this time his critics said a true Michigan Man wouldn’t have to ask.
And thus, the silliness of the entire exercise had come full circle. The phrase had become so distorted, Michigan’s critics started using it as a mocking insult. Much like the word “classy,” it seemed, whoever uses it, probably isn’t.
Despite my temptation to chuck this overused and little understood phrase forever, I still think there’s something to it. Everyone knows the values it’s supposed to stand for: honor, sacrifice, pride in your team, and humility in yourself, all in one. But ultimately, to define it, I have to resort to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
Pardon the comparison, but when it comes to the phrase, “Michigan Man,” I know it when I see it, too. They might be Big Men on Campus, but they don’t act like it, in college or afterward. The men I’ve been lucky enough to get to know—many as good friends—really do put their team and their school before themselves, and become the kind of adults you want to be your employee, your colleague, your boss, your neighbor, your brother-in-law. Not because they played football for Michigan, but because they represent its values. And they really are different than the players I’ve met from other schools.
I can cite too many men who fit this description, and too many examples of their conduct, simply to dismiss it.
Here’s a small one: a few years ago the football alums of Ohio State and Michigan were invited to an event in Columbus. The Buckeyes showed up wearing everything from sport coats to sweatshirts and jeans. But the Michigan alums arrived wearing coats and ties. No one told them what to wear. Bo had already passed away. But they simply knew, reflexively, if you represent Michigan, this is how you do it.
A bigger example: a few years after graduating, Scott Smykowski, a former backup under Schembechler, discovered he needed a bone marrow transplant, but his health care wasn’t going to cover all his expenses. That’s all Schembechler needed to hear to rally Michigan Men from coast to coast. And that’s all they needed to hear to raise $150,000 in just a few weeks – even though most of them never played with Smykowski or even met him. That’s what being a Michigan Man meant to them.
When I speak at Michigan events, I often end with a quote from arguably the first important Michigan Man, Fielding Yost. Near the end of his life, they held a big banquet for him called, “A Toast to Yost from Coast to Coast,” which was broadcast nationwide by NBC. After all the speakers had paid tribute, he got up in his eponymous Fieldhouse and said, “My heart is so full at this moment, I fear I could say little else. But do let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan. It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts. And a conviction that nowhere, is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.”
It gets me every time. But what really gets me is the response from the people in the audience. None of them ever met Fielding Yost. Most of them weren’t born when he passed away in 1946. Most of their parents weren’t, either. And yet, when they hear these words, they nod involuntarily, the words resonating with something deep inside them, and they are often glassy-eyed when I finish the quote.
If you could stand on that podium and look out on those faces, you would not have to wonder if the idea of the Michigan Man is for real.
Despite the best efforts to kill it, it is still very much alive.
Had the thing pre-order for what seems like forever.
totally going to purchase this book.
The Quote gets me everytime. The book is on my must list and you are accurate in your opinion, we want the truth, it will improve the institution and the program in the end.
I can't wait for my copy to arrive.
I walked into the Big Chill right behind you last year. I remember being surprised you were walking alone. Thanks for being honest, Bac.
You are a true gentleman and a scholar. If, as you suggest, the term "Michigan Man" still has any meaning left in it, it is embodied in your person and in your work. You make me proud to be a Michigan Wolverine, and that's more than I can say for Mr. Carr, Mr. Brandon, or many of the characters in your book.
If you're Dave Brandon, you -want- total professional journalists like Mr. Bacon around your program. Period.
It's petty and small to shove him out the door for writing a book based on access the school gave him. For three years. You take this book and learn from it. Don't let its narrative happen again. And don't shoot the messenger, especially when Michigan let him in the door.
I understand kicking someone like Rosenberg to the curb when he did a half-hearted job of research, skewed the result toward anti-Michigan, and did his best to damage the university in the process. But when you gave someone who bleeds maize and blue and earns his living from the university full access and he writes an honest and well-researched account of what he saw the boot....that's a shame.
One of the reasons I think Michigan found itself in the position it was these past few years is an inability to see our flaws. The various factions that have developed and the distorted definition of "Michigan Man" is evidence of that. Having someone point out both these flaws and the greatness that still exists among them should only help the program - and we need John Bacon to be a part of that.
I had the chance to attend an alumni rally several years ago at a Penn State away game where John was the speaker. At the time I didn't really know anything about him but I was blown away by his speech and passion for Michigan. To think that he may fade from our program thanks to the reaction of Dave Brandon frustrates me greatly.
The easy answer is that Carr and to a lesser extent Brandon both personally come off horribly in this book.
However, regardless of the fact that he was shed in an unflattering light personally in this book, I think we know enough about Dave Brandon to know that he will kick to the curb anyone whom he perceives as harming the brand, regardless of his personal feelings.
Even if he had come accross like a saint, Brandon is not the type that likes to lose control of message, and he likely still would have been hostile.
Brand Management uber alles. I tend to think that a book like this will ultimately serve to enhance the Michigan "brand" however. I suppose only time will tell.
Nothing in that book covers M in glory. It is certainly a contrapositive to the corrolary that any publiciity is good publicity.
Re-opening the wounds left during those three years, especially when the so many of the wounds were self-inflicted by pettiness and incompetence throughout the family is not a recipe for improving the brand. Its not like Brandon himself is coming out saying we know our pizza sucks so were going to make it better as a marketing ploy.
Only Borges learning about snap counts, and Mattison learning how to protect the edge will restore the brand.
...and you have clearly been around Michigan and Michigan-history enough to know that things haven't always been peaches and cream, no matter who the AD or the Head Football coaches were.
So when people talk about how "pissed off" the subjects of Bacon's book have to be, I find it a bit odd.
Obviously, Rosenberg and Snyder come out of the book as inexcusable arch-villains. But hatred of Rosenberg is more or less official policy of the Athletic Department now. I imagine David Brandon hating on Rosenberg and Snyder just as I do! So that would not constitute a reason to exile Bacon.
And Lloyd Carr is treated in the book as a respectable man who behaved awfully for the three years of the Rodriguez tenure. Not a monster; just an inscrutable jerk. But anyway, Lloyd Carr isn't part of the Athletic Department any more. He's a retiree.
Bill Martin and Mary Sue Coleman come off badly in the book, basically because the book doesn't propose to give a complete, on-balance summary of their respective careers. The book focuses on both of them exclusively in relation to the coaching change, in which both Martin and Mary Sue made several very serioius mistakes. But there is no other attack on them. And while I've seen Bill Martin at some of the games, he's a mere consultant now.
And Dave Brandon -- the book might actually frustrate some people with how little it says about Dave Brandon. I'm not sure how or why David Brandon's personal ego would have been bruised one bit by this book. Maybe Brandon hates the notion of someone else taking control of the Michigan Message. There's very little Brandon negativity of any other kind in the book.
If anybody's a Michigan Man who cares first and foremost about our student-athletes wearing the Maize and Blue, that sort of Michigan Man ought to love this book, in which time and time again the astonishing work ethic and resilience of the remarkable kids (they are always "men" in the book) is lauded.
We have lots and lots of marvelous physical facilities at Michigan. But before the Big House, there was Fielding H. Yost, from West Virginia. Before we had an Ice Arena that held more than 1,000 people, there was an All-American from Canada named Red Berenson. Before we had a football plant worth about a billion dollars, there was a hard-working coach named Bo Schembechler whose starting salary was under $50,000 and who was greeted by the Detroit sportswriters saying "Bo who?" It is people -- Michigan Men (and Women!) -- who really make Michigan work. And one of our best is John U. Bacon.
Very well said. Thank you.
But agree with your ultimate conclusion.
Carr - comes accross as petty, classless and spiteful. Really disappointing for someone who used to really respect Carr.
Martin - comes across as the man who saved M financially, but was done in by his lack of understanding the athletic side to running the department. His handling of the coaching search and the transition tarnished what should have been one of the more successful AD tenures since Bo. Very prescient anecdote/quote in book regarding a conversation between Bruce Madej and Bill Martin which really sums it up.
Mary Sue - comes accross as someone who has a high degree of competence, but was pulled into a coaching search in which she was out of her element. The only real negative on Mary Sue that I perceive is the way she handled the WVU buyout - keeping it from the regents and then trying to sweep it under the rug and being complicit in RR taking the fall to cover for her and Martin. Other than that (and it is a big deal) she does not come accross too badly.
Brandon - not much on him, but the way he handled the coaching search to me does not put him in the best light. Results based charting and all that. Aa few unflattering anecdotes make him appear to be less than a good man most notably his ignoring requests from Shoelace to meet before RR's fate was announced.
He does not come accross as incompetent, but rather he comes accross as most people already perceive him. The "pocess" is covered, but not as in depth as the Sailboat Bill process, most likely due to the fact that Brandon himself kept things really closed to the vest. Leaves unanswered whether Hoke was inevitable, but there were a core of former players led by the 1997/Griese group that long wanted Hoke. Whether or not it was inevitable, Hoke was not the only one offered the job. Harbaugh, other Harbaugh and maybe Fitzgerald were purportedly offered before Hoke.
Other Harbaugh was offered the job too? Intriguing...
As always Section 1, well said indeed.
Thanks Bacon for letting the truth be known and for allowing those of us who backed a Michigan coach from the beginning to the end as loyal Michigan fans to know the entirety of what happened and be able to at least know we were not misguided in who RR was as a coach and a person. It is helpful to see what he was up against from day one and understand that while he certainly made a lot of PR mistakes, they were the result of a coach being left to twist in the wind in a program and community that, at least during his tenure, seemed long on intolerance and snobbism and very short on class.
I, for one, will be on the phone and writing letters to 'any and all' if you lose any kind of access to the program and certainly if your teaching position is in any way impacted by revelations contained in your book. I donate. I won't. I will be vocal.
I agree wholeheartedly about what the concept of a Michigan Man/Woman embodies and that that is has been employed in an extremely inappropriate manner in the last 3-4 years and has been turned into a bludgeon for those with a selfish agenda who do not have the best interests of the program at heart.
I hate to say it, but my esteem for a large segment of the michigan fan base has taken a huge hit during this whole process. The program and its fans, rather than circling the wagons and rallying behind the new coach, split into factions and turned on itself and I think will be paying the price for the position we put ourselves in for many years to come.
I want it on a felt banner at M-Den.*
Anyway, tremendous insights from Bacs, and I do appreciate his take on A Michigan Man. When I wrote about it in January during the coaching search, I used the quote as a starting point, which I had taken from Blue Ice, Bacon's book on Michigan hockey. I think that Coach Hoke had a great line on Monday "The truth never hurts. You know, it's things that aren't truthful that hurt." And while it's simple and cliched, he's right. We need to know the truth of what happened in the last three years, in part so we can move forward, not in speculation and rumor, but in reporting. If there are those who want to refute, rebuke, or share their side of the story, we'll be willing to listen, because in the end, the truth shall set us free.
*--Where else will you get a piece of home decor with the words "deathless loyalty" on it?
Good job to all on this. Mr. Carr and Mr. Brandon are but some representatives of the university. I've recently had an email correspondence with one who is perceived as a "representative" of the football team (his words not mine) that was the embodiement of the ideals noted for the Michigan Man. They are still out there just as you noted.
Thank you Mr. Bacon for your book and your time. I believe that you will be welcomed back in the future if the Michigan Man ideal holds on. If it doesn't then those of us who still cling to it will still consider you a "Michigan Man".
I can no longer wait for this book to arrive. I am having an anxiety attack in waiting.
So we have John U. Bacon eloquently stating what constitutes a Michigan Man to him and now we will engage in a thread in which "Michigan Men" will be petty and condescending to men (past and present) who gave their all to Michigan. I think Mr. Bacon's message will be lost in a cascade of self righteousness. I fully expect a torrent of posts castigating, Bill Martin, Dave Brandon, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and others.
If I had to guess, many of these men did what they thought was best for the program. In my experience, it is easy for major conflicts to have their genesis in good people doing what they think is the best thing to do. Sometimes the behaviors are honest mistakes. Sometimes they are actually right, but the result turns out badly due to circumstances.
I think we should be careful to judge these men too harshly. I think it's one thing to be frustrated with the situation, but it's another to disparage a person without knowing all perspectives.
If Lloyd Carr has a story to tell, he should tell it. And he should be as prepared to answer questions as is the author of Three and Out.
I would personally be very interested in hearing Coach Carr's story, but I'm not sure he HAS to tell it.
It would be really interesting to understand the dynamics more deeply, but I think I feel that way from a fan's perspective. Sometimes things don't need to be aired for the masses. Certainly things need to be discussed within the football program, but I'm not sure I feel entitled to being privy to it (as much as I would love to be).
Carr doesn't have to do anything. He has every right to stay silent. But I don't like the idea of ignorant "masses" who must be protected from too-dangerous knowledge about the workings of an inner sanctum.
Carr is widely regarded as a thoughtful man and a literate man. Frankly, I presume that he has a memoir in him, and if I were a betting man (wait -- I am a betting man), I'd say that a future Lloyd Carr autobiography is a pretty safe bet.
I think you misconstued what he was trying to say. He didn't say the masses needed protecting. He said that they didn't necessarily need to know.
The blackballing of Bacon by the AD is a reminder that the AD is now being run as a corporate enterprise, where efforts of openness and transparency must give way to the demands of marketing and spin. This is somewhat different than Ft. Schembechler. Bo, Mo, and Lloyd never would have let Bacon in. Brandon would be happy to have him in, so long as he wrote PR instead of his account of the truth. Because he didn't, he's out.
That said, I'd be quite surprised if Bacon lost his teaching assignments due to the book, for reasons that have less to do with the ideals of academic freedom than the politics and economics of the university. Having some knowledge of the Am Culture department that employs Bacon as a lecturer, any efforts by the AD to lean on them are likely to be met with cries of outrage about the AD trying to interfere with the university's true mission (though no doubt many faculty in AC have some discomfort with the perceived "seriousness" of the classes Bacon teaches). Second, and perhaps more importantly, unless the AD offers AC some way to make up for the student numbers that Bacon draws (and they are substantial from what I understand) AC stands to lose significant monies from LS&A, as student enrollment is one way in which the internal accounting of the university works.
AmCult profs having misgivings about the courses Bacon teaches? As compared to, say, Bruce Conforth's classes on blues music, or any of the other "non-serious" yet totally legitimate cultural studies work AmCult does through their course work?
All they'd have to do is go to one of his lectures. I took other classes in AmCult, and Bacon's classes were just about as rigorous and difficult as the rest of them combined. I worked my butt off because not only was it expected I do so, but also because it was worth it. He's a great professor (er, lecturer, as far as the U is concerned), and the rest of the University could take a lot of lessons from the way he teaches his courses.
To be sure, I'm only guessing, and guessing based on my knowledge of the department as a grad student in a related department more than a decade ago. And I may be very wrong. But knowing academic politics, I would imagine some faculty are uncomfortable because 1. Bacon doesn't hold a PhD, and isn't on the tenure track, thus will always be perceived as a second-class citizen. 2. Related, his classes exist within a vague disciplinary space (as opposed to Conforth's classes which are lodged firmly in ethnomusicology). 3. They're very popular, which creates the sense that they're easier than other classes offered in the department. (this was certainly the perception of the "wars" classes and the History of UofM within the History Dept). And faculty spend almost no time in each others classes, other than during tenure evaluations. 4. AC's always been an uneasy mix of ethnic studies and cultural studies, which haven't always seen eye to eye within the department, don't know how much that has cooled, but it was quite hard to be universally well liked within the department.
All of this is beside my main point, which is that I'd expect AC will resist any calls to stop hiring Bacon, particulary in light of the Golden Apple he won.
of corporate enterprises, one post before you detail the horrendous political ass-baggery of the academic world.
Sounds like you could write your own book. Maybe you should embed yourself with Bacon over the next few years.
Don't know if I'd characterize the academic world as full of horrendous political ass-baggery so much as remarkable pettiness and credentialism.
That said, it allows freedom that there's no space for in the corporate world.
and perhaps ignorant. A pet peeve of mine: certain groups believing corporations are evil, while extolling the virtues of government. Other groups despise the government as wasteful and corrupt, while praising corporations as efficient warriors of economic growth.
Both are untrue: any large organization is full of distrust, lies, spin, corruption, hatred, ego, jealousy, dogma, and waste. Just as they are capable of nobility, character, charity, courage, joy, success, and grace. They are nothing more than reflections of the people of which they are composed.
If you're talking to me (writing about me) where did I ever extoll academia as a uniquely virtuous place? Or even talk about government (and let's not go in the "are faculty at a public university government representatives" direction, that's a pandora's box that will blow up). And I resent the move to place me within a "group," when you know, by the format in which we're engaged, virtually nothing about me. (Formulations of speech, I could live with).
I'm merely asserting that academia allows greater space for communication directly critical of one's employer than do the vast majority of corporations. And if you think corporations, or any institution for that matter, are merely a reflection of the people of which they're composed, rather than dense combinations of those they employ and the underlying legal and political structures that allow them to exist, I would contend that you are mistaken.*
*HT Profitgoblue's personal attack policy
but don't be mad, dude.
It's rather facile to point out certain characteristics shared by all organizations as if that proves that they're all the same. Whatever its flaws, the principle of academic freedom is largely unique to academia. It's what makes it very unlikely that Bacon will lose his teaching job because he wrote a book that might be considered detrimental to the institution - it would look really bad in light of the notion of academic freedom, and it would give fuel to detractors who would like to claim that the Athletic Dept and its money corrupt the University's intellectual values.
One is not better or worse than the other, individuals make them what they are. And "whatever its flaws, the principle of academic freedom is largely unique to academia" is not an argument. Stating something is so does not provide evidence that it is so.
In fact, the only evidence provided for freedom in academia vs. other institutions argues the other way:
"But knowing academic politics, I would imagine some faculty are uncomfortable because 1. Bacon doesn't hold a PhD, and isn't on the tenure track, thus will always be perceived as a second-class citizen. 2. Related, his classes exist within a vague disciplinary space (as opposed to Conforth's classes which are lodged firmly in ethnomusicology). 3. They're very popular, which creates the sense that they're easier than other classes offered in the department. (this was certainly the perception of the "wars" classes and the History of UofM within the History Dept). And faculty spend almost no time in each others classes, other than during tenure evaluations. 4. AC's always been an uneasy mix of ethnic studies and cultural studies, which haven't always seen eye to eye within the department, don't know how much that has cooled, but it was quite hard to be universally well liked within the department."
That doesn't sound like freedom. It sounds like you have the same bullshit everyone else does.
The bullshit of the workplace has nothing to do with academic freedom, which entails protections that allow Bacon to write what he finds to be true without suffering reprecussions at his job. Academic freedom and the pettiness of some academics are not analogous concepts.
We'll find out if he really did have academic freedom if he's allowed to keep his position. Also I'm not sure writing a tell all book about a football program has anything to do with academic freedom.
Well, I don't see any "evidence" anywhere - we're all just sharing personal perspectives and anecdotes ... you're just choosing to call some "evidence" or "arugments." No one, you included, has proved anything in this Internet forum discussion. And just saying that some one has proved your point doesn't make it so. Calling someone naive doesn't make that person wrong.
And again, just because similar "bullshit" is involved in all institutions, that doesn't mean that they don't also have distinguishing characteristics that may be more important. Your "arguments" are lazy sleight of hand.
We'll just have to disagree. But you haven't proven anything.
are a sensitive lot. And you like to feel special so I'm not going to try to convince you anymore that you're not a special snowflake. You most certainly are, and you're pretty handsome too.
Thanks. But now you're resorting to demeaning me to imply that you've won the argument ... that that it was an argument that anyone was really going to win - we're all special, really.
Who you got in a beauty contest between Al and Winston?
though he does seem a commonplace choice for an academic. Surely there was some obscure literary symbol available, tangentially connected to football in some meaningful yet cryptic way?
(this is only an infantile reaction to being called facile, which I had to look up)
I'm not an academic, but I'll jump in and say this: One way they pretty clearly seem to differ is the following scenario: I, as an employee of a corporation, publicly express displeasure with my corporation's policies via the media. Chances I am not fired? Very, very small. Scenario 2: I, as an employee of a University, publicly express displeasure with my University's policies via the media. Chances I am not fired? Better than in first scenario. Significantly better, I would think. I think criticism "up the chain" is more accepted in academia than in the corporate world; academia by its nature is the search for knowledge and truth. Corporations, at least publicly-traded corporations, by definition exist to create shareholder value. Criticizing the company doesn't enhance shareholder value; criticizing the University may very well enhance the search for truth.
Because this thread is about someone in academia telling the truth and being put in danger of being fired.
The Ph.D. thing holds some water, but lecturers are often given a pass on it. Most of the lecturers in EECS are Ph.Ds, but one or two are not. Granted we are a department who values their lecturers, and every department is different, but we don't seem to care about it.
As for the discipline: I'm not as sure that it's thought of as soft. Harry Edwards (from whom I took Intro to Sociology at Cal) founded the field of Sociology of Sport as far back as the early '70s, when his seminal book on the topic was published. I could well be wrong about the AC department's specific views on the matter, but it's a broad enough bunch that it would be hard to draw that sort of line without some senior faculty being on the wrong side of it.
But, as a member of the faculty, there is one thing I *can* tell you: We. Do. Not. Take. Well. To. Direction. I can only *imagine* what our chair/executive committee would say if another *academic* department told us to let someone go, let alone the athletic department.
AmCult is a joke of a program with about as much academic credibility as the University of Phoenix. I figure they're kept around to make History's 300 level snoozefests look tough by comparsion. They definitely shouldn't be throwing stones at anyone's academic credentials.
In reality everyone at Michigan knows AmCult is a joke, so they're at the bottom of the funding totem pole. We've been trimming funding and 'rationalizing it' (more to departments that boost the U's image) so I bet AmCult lost a bunch of their cash flow and had to cut staff. A bunch of of the more obscure Centers for X Studies have already started doing that.
A department that includes among their faculty Tiya Miles, a MacArthur Fellow (a.k.a. "Genius Grant"), is probably a notch or two up from the University of Phoenix.
As it happens, I've had the good fortune to meet Tiya. We were both presenters on a panel at a recent Provost's Seminar on Teaching, in the Winter '11 term. She is wicked smart, and is doing some pretty fascinating work---but again, don't take my word for it, because the MacArthur folks backed up that opinion with a cool half million.
bnoble hit this already, with the awesomeness of Tiya Miles, but Am Cult is probably the 2nd or 3rd best American Studies department in the country. If they're at the bottom of the funding totem pole, which I'm not even sure of, it's because every member of the AC faculty is joint appointed in another department.
In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have said anything, given my impression of the department's politics are a decade old and involved many, many people who have departed for other universities (which is the fate of the social science and the humanities at Michigan: hire bright young people, see them make a name for themselves, and watch some place on a coast poach them).
I represent whistleblowers for a living and retaliation against whistleblowers by the corporation is very common.
But you really can't think of "Michigan", especially the academic units as "one corporation". Each department is remarkably autonomous, the colleges even more so. The only point of common administrative control between the academic units and athletics is, more or less, the President and other University executive officers.
Plus, "the academy" is set up with a set of rules that more or less specifically prevent the administration from telling academic units what to teach, etc. There is some administrative involvement in academic hiring, promotion, and tenure, but that's the Provost's office and (in the case of tenure track promotions) the Regents. One book is probably not enough to get the Provost to lean on anyone, no matter what it says. Indeed, the whole notion of Academic Freedom (tm) specifically exists for just this sort of case---to offer safe harbor to a member of the faculty who writes something unflattering about the institution or its surrounding culture, provided of course that those writings are sound.
It is a shame that whistleblowers get treated the way they do. They are the ones that are trying to maintain the ethics and value of said corp. I had a friend whose husband was fired from his job as a police officer because he blew the whistle on the coruption and drug running that his fellow officers were doing. To me, he should have been celebrated and promoted, not kicked out the door.
The same goes for Mr. Bacon. He should be applauded for this book and his undying love for this university, regardless of whether he ruffles some feathers. We should all write Mr. Brandon and express how dissapointed with him we are. But Brandon probably won't look at our emails considering the more and more I read about him, he just comes of as a huge douche.