Monday, December 23, 2013

Such Were the Joys, 1834 Edition

A brief anecdote from my current research on the Midwest Indians:

In the 1820s the Episcopal Church set up a mission station and school for the Indians residing near Green Bay, Wisconsin. At the time the local Native American population consisted of a few Menominee communities, a colony of Stockbridge Indians (Munsees and Mahicans) from western New York, and (after 1832) a settlement of Oneida immigrants. The school, under the direction of Reverend Fish Cadle – really, you can't make these names up – offered instruction in the 3 Rs, grammar, and geography, but it attracted few students, and I get the impression that the church drew few converts. Part of the reason for this lies in the religious history of the eastern Wisconsin Indians: some of the Menominees were already Christian (Catholic), as were many of the Oneidas, and the Stockbridges had already founded their own Presbyterian church. A larger problems, I think, was the willingness of the missionary teachers to use corporal punishment on children not used to such treatment at home, and the difficulty the missionaries had feeding their students. Food was expensive in Green Bay and the Anglican missionary society was very parsimonious, so the few dozen pupils at the school were underfed and “sickly,” according to the report of a church inspector. This stood in contrast to the abundance that one could find at some local Indians' tables: when ministers visited local Oneida families in 1834 their hosts treated them to “pork and beans...chicken pies, squashes, potatoes, peas and rice pudding.” I do not get the impression that the missionaries learned very much from this experience, but there are clear messages for modern readers less invested in Rev. Cadle's ideology: the Indians of eastern Wisconsin were not “blank-slate” pagans awaiting the Episcopalian Gospel, and neither were they starving savages – indeed, they could better feed their guests than the missionaries could provide for their students. (David R.M. Beck, Siege and Survival: History of the Menominee Indians (2002), 125-127; Jackson Kemper, "Journal of an Episcopalian Missionary's Tour to Green Bay, 1834," Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin 14 (1898): 394-449, quotes pp. 426, 433.)

Perhaps, in the manner of many missionaries, Cadle and his co-workers believed they were offering students more important treasures than mere material sustenance, but it's hard to appreciate geography or Christian theology on an empty stomach.This was a lesson that did not escape other missionaries: Franciscans in New Mexico and Texas often drew in potential converts by accumulating large food supplies, or at least grain crops and herds of beef cattle, in their missions, and observers of the Baptist mission to the Kansas Shawnees opined that many families had placed their children with the boarding school in order to feed them, which (given the hardships the Shawnees experienced during Removal) may well have been the case. If one believes that one cannot turn Indians into Christians without completely isolating them from their community and old lifeways, one has to make some effort to feed and shelter the converts, unless one wants them to become dead converts.* “Grub first, then morals,” as the playwright said. (Andrew Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 (1995); Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman (2007); Kevin Abing, "A Holy Battleground: Methodist, Baptist, & Quaker Missionaries among Shawnee Indians," Kansas History 21 (1998): 118-37.)

* That missions and boarding schools often had very high rates of epidemic disease was something missionaries deplored but attributed to God's will. Until the nineteenth century missionaries' medicinal toolkit was generally no more effective than that of their Native American converts, a point Andrew Knaut makes in his book on the Pueblo Revolt.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Am the Emperor and I Want Dumplings

Readers of this weblog are probably familiar with the term "Columbian Exchange," with whose definition I will not trouble them. That a similar matrix of intercontinental exchange covered the Old World well before Columbus's day is well known to world historians, but as James Millward's new book is the first I have read that proposes using the term "Silk Road" as a shorthand label for these exchanges. Part of the useful Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press, The Silk Road focuses on the exchange of people, plants, animals, goods, technologies, and ideas within Eurasia between 3500 BCE and 1500 CE, particularly during the last millennium or two of this long period. Millward observes that the Central Asian steppe region, with its abundance of grass and horses and shortage of practically everything else, occupied an analogous position in the Silk-Road exchange system to the Atlantic Ocean: it was the dangerous but efficient transit zone that tied the civilizations around it together. The various nomadic cultures and empires of the region, such as the Scythians, the Xiongnu, the Seljuk Turks, and the Mongols, served the same function as Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch mariners of the early modern era: violent and exploitative as they were, they also created the trade networks that enriched and disrupted the surrounding cultures.

Within the Silk-Road system, Central Asia supplied an abundance of horses, which remained one of central Eurasia's most important trade goods - as late as the eighteenth century the Mughals were importing 50,000 central-Asian horses into India every year. The steppeland peoples also introduced the chariot, the cutting-edge war machine of the late Bronze Age; developed the equestrian rituals, such as polo games and royal hunts, that became features of aristocratic life from Europe to China; and invented the stringed instrument known to the Arabs as the oud and to southern Europeans as the lute. From India came cotton, lemons, sesame, the humoral theory of disease (which Galen brought to Europe and traders to China), and the Jakata tales, which may have inspired the 1,001 Nights. Europe supplied wine and viniculture - first developed in the Caucasus but popularized by the Classical Mediterranean cultures - as well as new types of beans, peas, and alfalfa, and a new weapon, the trebuchet, of which the Mongols became very fond. It is an open question whether new crops or new military technologies spread faster through the Silk-Road trading network.

From China and East Asia, the network diffused several plant species eagerly adopted in the Middle East and Europe, such as sugar cane, peaches, almonds, and millet, as well as the new technologies of paper-making (which reached Europe via Spain in the thirteenth century) and gunpowder, which helped build the empires, notably Russia and Qing-dynasty China, that eventually conquered Central Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Chinese sericulture - that is, knowledge of how to make silk - gave the Silk Road its name, and Chinese silk was itself an important trade good, but other cultures spent considerable effort learning how to make it themselves, with the Byzantines (for instance) learning the secrets of silkworm-raising by the sixth century. The same was true of China's eponymous blue-and-white kaolin porcelain, which in the early-modern era became one of the most widely copied artifacts in the world, produced by Safavid Persians, Ottoman tile-makers, the Dutch porcelain center of Delft, and Mexican Indian workers in Puebla.

Of particular interest to your narrator was the emergence of a distinctive foodstuff whose origins are obscure, but which probably could not have existed without the Silk-Road exchange system: the dumpling. The distinctive triangular potsticker, cased in wheat-flour and stuffed with pork, chicken, horse meat, pumpkin, and/or various spices, first appeared in central Asia in the eighth century CE* and spread as far west as Italy and as far east as Japan. Various Eurasian cultures steamed or fried these pastries and served them with "soy sauce, vinegar, sour-cream, yogurt, butter," and broth. I write here in the past tense, but these are the same dumplings one can order at most Chinese restaurants today, and I like to think they are the same kind of food that Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria (r. 1835-48) demanded in the one coherent sentence he ever spoke: "I am the emperor, and I want dumplings." Food fit for a king, in other words, though readily available to modern commoners.

* Millward notes that archaeologists discovered a "dessicated dumpling" in a 1,200-year-old tomb near Astana, Kazakhstan. Despite its advanced age and condition I'll bet my petite amie's dogs would still eat the thing if one allowed them.

The potsticker image above is courtesy of haleysuzanne, is available under a Creative Commons license, and may be found here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What I Saw of the ASE Conference, 2013 Edition

When not eating seafood, drinking too little booze, and dodging the occasional downpour, your humble narrator spent most of the 2013 meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory (September 11-14) attending panels and listening to about twenty different papers. These represented, I should say, only a narrow slice of the scholarship presented this year; there is no shortage of energy and innovation in the discipline, though at least one ASE officer observed that there was very little interaction between the different regional tracks (especially North America versus Latin America) in the program and their audiences. That is a problem easily redressed by future program committees.

Here are some of the common themes and threads your faithful working boy detected in the panels he attended and the conversations he held with other conferees:

  1. National identity and how one determines and regulates it remain hot topics in Native American historiography because they remain critical issues in Indian country, as Greg O'Brien observed when he reminded an audience of recent efforts by the Havasupai to control access to their own DNA samples. Rachel Purvis and Mikaela Adams discussed nineteenth- and early twentieth-century identity politics in their papers on the post-Removal Cherokees and Choctaws, while Cameron Shriver discussed how the different nations of the eighteenth-century Northwest Indian confederacy used residential separation and – an intriguing point – grew different species of maize in their fields to retain distinct national identities.
  2. Scholars are falling in love with social-network analysis and software (like UCINet or Visone) that allows one to identify complex bonds and degrees of connectivity between different individuals in a community. Robert Morrisey summarized the research on Kaskaskia that went into his recent ground-breaking William and Mary Quarterly article. Emilie Pigeon applied the same methodology to analysis of a prominent metis family in Michilimackinac, Jennifer Spear discussed a forthcoming project on social networks among Indian converts at Santa Clara mission, Jacob Lee mapped the individual connections that held together Pontiac's far-flung alliance, and Nicole Saint Onge noted the apparent isolation of metis families in the upper Mississippi Valley from those of the upper Great Lakes.
  3. Water and waterways were the declared themes of the conference and of many of its panels. Kasey Keeler discussed the importance of a single aqueous site, Coldwater Spring on the upper Mississippi, to the Dakotas and Ojibwas, and the difficulties they face in convincing the modern U.S. government of their claim to it. Kevin Motes studied motifs in Choctaw pottery and argued, I think persuasively, that they evoked the totemic serpents that inhabited Mississippian cultures' watery underworld. In the same panel, John Dyson presented his linguistic research on Chickasaw waterways, noting that the names of rivers and creeks demonstrated the Chickasaws' increasing exposure to European culture and lifeways. (For example, Chickasaws referred to one creek as “Yaakni'patafa',” or “slit-earth creek,” a reference to the plowed fields nearby.) Peter Wood gave a paper on southeastern Indians' use of dugout canoes, an essential technology if one wished to navigate the treacherous Mississippi River, and Michelle Cassidy noted Ojibwas' use of carved canoes to commemorate their military service in the War of 1812.
  4. The “southeastern mafia,” as Angela Hudson referred to students of Daniel Usner, Theda Perdue, the late Michael Green, and other doyens of the field, were out in force, which one might expect in New Orleans. One of the rising capos of this mafia was Christina Snyder, whose paper on Indian students at Choctaw Academy and their use of Classical history to critique American policy drew a large audience (in fairness, some of the audience members were also there to hear Natalie Inman's paper on civilization policy and to show their support for panel chair Robbie Ethridge) and electrified its listeners. The book from which the paper was drawn will almost certainly become one of the classics of the field when it is published.

    Well, except among the Latin Americanists. Heaven knows what they're up to.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Denmark is Letting Down the Side

Among the more surprising social developments of the early twenty-first century is the advance of Scandinavia, of all places, into the vanguard of popular culture, at least in the industrialized world. Today Americans and Europeans play a bird-themed game from Finland on their smartphones (and at one time bought most of the phones from Finland as well), read Swedish detective novels about tattooed hackers and world-weary policemen, and shake their backsides to the musical stylings of Norwegian furries. Even Iceland is becoming a tourist destination for aging hipsters who remember how much they once liked Bjork. 

One Scandinavian people, however, has yet to step up and produce a distinctive popular cultural artifact: the Danes. Come on, Denmark! You were once a power to be reckoned with, and I’ll bet there is still much trashy greatness in you. At least give us a pop group akin to Smile DK, or an eccentric feel-good movie or two.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Twitter and NaNoWriMo

A little over a decade ago a group of Bay-area writers instituted National Novel Writers' Month (NaNoWriMo), an informal Web-based event which encourages aspiring writers to start churning out that Great American Novel, or at least that novella about dinosaur-human romance, that each of us carries in our head but can't quite commit to paper. While I'm not a novelist myself, I've been piggybacking on this event for the past couple of years to accelerate my own non-fiction writing. This year during NaNoWriMo I am trying to add at least 300 words a day to a project I plan to finish by late December, a short history of the Indians of the Great Lakes region. Those interested in my progress are welcome to follow the short progress posts I am going to start leaving on Twitter. These posts will continue through November 30th, after which I will probably break out the whiskey, or the advent calendar, or the whiskey-based advent calendar.

(I probably will not make much use of the #NaNoWriMo hashtag, since I'm not actually writing a novel, but will use it or something similar to it on my first few posts to distinguish them from my earlier tweets.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our Man in Genoa

Like most American historians, I know little of the city of Genoa save that it was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and that it is located in northern Italy. However, some years ago a Marxist author piqued my interest in the early-modern Genoese by suggesting that one ought really to call the Spanish conquest of the New World an Italian mercantile-capitalist project. A bit of research which I recently undertook to enliven a stale lecture on Columbus has persuaded me that there is a lot of truth to this sweeping statement. 

Genoa's days of military glory were behind it by the late 1400s, but its era of commercial expansion was still very much underway in Columbus's day. In the thirteenth century a series of armed conflicts with Venice had ended (1281) in Genoa's exclusion from the Adriatic, and in the city-states' tacit admission that their wars with one another had grown too expensive to prosecute. Thereafter, Venice used its geographic advantage to dominate trade in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the maritime spice and cotton trade with Egypt and the Levant. (It helped that Venetian sailors had access to the compass, which allowed them to sail in the open sea during the overcast winter months, and thus to take advantage of favorable seasonal winds.) (Fernand Braudel, The Perspective of the World [1984], 33-34, 118-119; Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers [1985], 221-222.)

The displaced Genoese, however, merely took their capital and sailing expertise and transferred them to the western Mediterranean and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.  Genoese ships had opened direct oceanic trade with Bruges in 1277, and around the same time Genoese merchants established trading colonies in Seville, which the Kingdom of Castille had recently conquered, and Aragon, whose king they helped conquer Sicily in 1282. These merchants intermarried with local traders and gentry and became part of the Spanish elite. Seville became the base for Genoese voyages to the Canary Islands in the fourteenth century, while later Genoese mercantile colonies in Morocco and Lisbon dominated those regions' provisions trade in the fifteenth century. (Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain [1992], 143; Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism [1986], 71, 79-80; Braudel, op. cit., 110, 141-142, 164; John Kicza, "Patterns in Early Spanish Overseas Expansion," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 49 [1992]: 229-53, esp. 230, 237.)

Genoese merchants did not remain content to act as shipping agents and bankers. Their city, whose hinterland consisted of a few miles of coastal plain and a great many mountains, could not feed or clothe itself without trade, and Genoa's merchants therefore took direct control of vital resources whenever they could. Genoa financed Aragon's conquest of Sicily in exchange for many of the island's grain plantations and control of its silk exports. Genoese merchants also established sugar plantations in Sicily, bringing to the western Mediterranean the crop that would play such an important role in the history of the Atlantic World, and gradually expanded sugar cultivation into Spain, Portugal, Morocco, the Madeiras, and the Canaries. (These were generally small plantations, with only a few fields and slaves, but they provided the Genoese with experience they applied to the larger farms of the New World). In the sixteenth century, after a Genoese navigator opened the Atlantic to Spanish navigation, merchants from Columbus's home city sent agents to Hispaniola to market the island's gold exports, and Genoese artisans came from the Canaries to introduce sugar cultivation. Genoese bankers financed some of the entradas that extended Spanish rule to the mainland, including Cortes's conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519-21, and Genoese bankers in Seville provided the operating capital for the fleets that subsequently sailed between Mexico and Spain. Indeed, financing the Spanish Crown and marketing Spanish American bullion became Genoese merchants' principal pastime by the late sixteenth century, and remained so until the Spanish government's finances collapsed in 1627. (Braudel, 142, 157, 159-161, 163-168; Kicza, "Patterns," 231, 242; David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years [2011], 318-319.)

So was the conquest of the Americas merely part of the expansion of Genoese capital? The "merely" in that question gives away the answer. Christopher Columbus may have come from Genoa, but the Genoese did not finance his first voyage; that took a more adventurous investor, namely a national government. Moreover, Spain provided the personnel and arsenal for the conquest of the West Indies, Mexico, and Peru, and its conquistadors and administrators didn't regard themselves as the employees of bankers - they were fighting for Church, king, and country. What the Genoese did was provide the financial infrastructure for the empire that the Spanish built so quickly. Those of us amazed at the speed with which Spain conquered the West Indies, Mexico, and Peru need to consider not only the impact of disease and metal weapons on Native Americans, and not merely the expertise of Spanish sailors and navigators, but also the large amount of money and technical know-how that Genoa injected into the process. The bankers weren't necessarily calling the shots in Spanish America, but they were certainly an important motive force behind this burst of expansion that transformed Spain into a global empire in just three quarters of a century.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Niall Ferguson is still spinning the dross of his rage and vanity into a bigger pile of dross

Fans of Niall "Saucypants" Ferguson will take pleasure in learning that after a fairly quiet summer, the Sexiest Scotsman has come roaring back into public view with a scathing indictment of Paul Krugman, a three-part essay cheekily titled "Krugtron the Invincible" (the link will take you to Part Three). In it, Our Man Niall reveals the prize-winning economist for the charlatan and character assassin he is. Professor Ferguson so thoroughly undermines Krugman's credibility that the well-whipped cur has subsequently announced plans to resign his professorship, return his Nobel Prize, and take up a new career as a flagellant and leper. And then we wake up.

Returning to reality for a moment, we may note that Ferguson's new essay, which appeared in the Huffington Post, is a fairly typical display of Niall Campbell Douglas Elizabeth Ferguson's favorite subject: his own vanity. He expends much effort trying to prove that Krugman is consistently wrong about important subjects, like the imminent break-up of the Euro, and closes by labeling Krugtron a crude, anti-intellectual bully, unworthy of the important public position (columnist for the New York Times) he now holds. We must not forget, Ferguson exclaims, "the importance of humility and civility in public as well as academic discourse." As The Krugman has repeatedly flouted these standards, it is up to Professor Niall, the defender of decency in our public discourse, to call him out and cut him down.

The evidence that Professor F. piles up against Mssr. Krugman seems damning. As I lack the expertise to judge which of the two men is correct, I leave it to members of Krugman's "claque" of "crass" and "crank"ish economist friends to refute Ferguson's allegations. Dean Baker, for instance, notes that Ferguson's characterization of the 2007-08 crash as a "financial crisis" is incorrect; the banking industry did undergo a dramatic meltdown in the fall of 2008, but both the meltdown and the recession resulted from a burst housing bubble, which destroyed several trillion dollars' worth of household wealth. This may seem a merely semantic point, but Ferguson's interpretation of the causes of the current recession underlies the policies, namely fiscal austerity and tight money, that he believes will cure it. Joe Wiesenthal, an honorary KrugClaque member, observed last spring that Ferguson had been making consistently inaccurate economic predictions for years, all stemming from his distaste for Barack Obama's 2009 economic stimulus bill and the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy. Brad Delong reported earlier this month that Ferguson either made an appalling mistake or flat-out lied about interest payments on the national debt, which he claimed were 8 percent of GDP (they are 1.3%) and likely to rise to 40 percent over the next six decades (they will almost certainly do nothing of the kind).

If Ferguson was trying to benefit the public by offering a more accurate view of economic reality than Paul Krugman's, he didn't do a good job. I conclude that what drove Ferg to waste electrons on this screed was less an effusion of public spirit than A) a desire to prove he is actually better at economics than the Krugster, B) envy of Krugman's position at the Times, C) his own desire to preen, evidenced by Ferguson's repeated self-identification as a "historian" and his posturing as a martial hero in the "Scottish regimental" mode, and D) an inability to accept negative criticism from anyone, particularly if it comes from those Ferg considers beneath his dignity, whether they be unwashed economists from a vulgar school like Princeton or "mediocre" authors and book reviewers

This latter trait was conspicuously evident two years ago, when Ferg responded to an unfavorable review in the London Review of Books by insulting the reviewer, demanding an apology, and threatening a lawsuit when the reviewer offered a correction ("Ferguson is not a racist") but declined to grovel. Ferg also displayed it in a non-apology he issued last spring, after he remarked in a public address that John Maynard Keynes's homosexuality made him a bad economist. Ferguson began his May 7 "Open Letter to the Harvard Community" by admitting that his remarks were stupid. He then walked back his contrition, asserting that he was right to draw attention to Keynes' sexuality because it was relevant to "historical understanding of the man," attacking his critics for their intellectual laziness and unwarranted hatefulness, and arguing that while he occasionally said "stupid things" so did "most professors and – let's face it…most students." In closing, he demanded that the public forgive him.

There is something almost pitiful in a man so paranoid and self-aggrandizing that he cannot even make a proper apology, but must instead use the occasion of apologizing to assert that his sin was actually intellectual heroism, and to trash his enemies, real and imagined. The more recent subjects of Niall's ire, namely Paul Krugman's "claque" of bloggers, have been happy to repay Ferguson in kind, with one predicting that "Ferguson will teach us the importance of humility…in the same manner that Lindsey Lohan can teach us the importance of sobriety." One, however, intensified the pathos that clings to Professor Ferg by reminding readers that Our Man Niall was once a halfway-decent historian, whose innovative study of World War One, The Pity of War, sounds so appealing that I might just go read it myself. Since then Ferguson has squandered his talents, such as they were, in the service of the plutocrats who pay his lavish speaking fees, whose interests Niall-o cheerfully defends and to whose prejudices he routinely caters. The Sexiest Scotsman's solicitude for the ruling class has brought him wealth, fame, and prestige, but it hasn't brought him the level of respect he feels he deserves, and I think that really means it hasn't properly substituted for the self-respect Ferg forfeited when he sold out. "The wealthiest person," a wise man once said, "is a pauper at times / Compared to the man / With a satisfied mind."


(My thanks to John Craig Hammond for his editorial assistance.  Any errors left herein remain the responsibility of the author.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Containing College Costs (Continued)

Students:  There are constant complaints that college is horrendously expensive, and yet many of you spend money like water while in college. To outside observers, you often look like you are not serious about your studies and then disappointed when you graduate after four (or six) years (if you graduate), having learned and benefited and profited less than you thought you were going to.
            First, if you don’t feel ready to go to college, don’t go! No matter how much your parents or friends or high school counselor are pushing you, listen to your own inner voice. But, if you don’t go to college, get a real job and live on your own on your wages. Find out what the economic choices really are.
            Second, study what you love and are good at, but be practical about it. The best strategy is a double major (or more) if you have multiple or esoteric interests.
            Third, live frugally. Don’t borrow money, however deferred and low interest the payments are, to live a lifestyle above your family’s means. Take the bus. Have an old phone. Go out only once a week. Have a roommate. You can still have fun, and your 20s will be much more pleasant with lower student loan payments.
            Fourth, be involved on campus.  Your major may give you a credential.  Your work and extra-curricular experiences on campus (or off) and your connections to faculty will help you get a job or into graduate school.
            Fifth, persevere when courses are hard.  Dropping a course seems easy at the time, but adds to your time in college and the amount you ultimately pay.
            Finally, you will get out of college what you put into it.  Do not expect to be forced to do all the things necessary for your education and career preparation.  You will certainly be offered many wonderful opportunities.  It is not your university’s fault if you fail to take advantage of them.

Parents: College for one child is probably the third-most expensive thing you have to fund in your lifetime, the first two being your retirement and house purchase.  If you have multiple kids, then college expenses could rival those others.
            First, and it’s probably too late for you if you are reading this, save, save, save, save.  You have to save for retirement. You have to save for a home, and you get to pay that off over 30 years.
            Second, don’t let your kid go to a college you can’t afford. It is not necessary to go to an expensive school to get a good education.
            Third, help your kid see what is important about a college. Not important: fancy dorms, state of the art workout facilities, gourmet food options, national championship athletic teams. All that is nice, but you should see multiple dollar signs hanging over each of those fancy extras. Important: low faculty-student ratio, good academic support services, effective career services center, vibrant extracurricular, internship, and study abroad programs. If you allow your kid to prioritize choosing all the extras even if it’s too expensive for you, please do not complain later that your kid has a lot of debt and no job. You set the tone by giving the message of choosing fun over substance in college.

Faculty: You just want to teach and do your own research, and not have to worry about things outside your job description like whether students actually finish college. It is the case that most faculty are working harder. And faculty see that their pay is rising more slowly than the cost of everything else on campus. Still, you are the backbone of the institution. Students need you.
            So, first, do notice what is going on with your students. It is not coddling to notice when students are struggling or absent, and to provide support, a gentle nudge or a kick in the pants.
            Second, realize that many students have much more serious issues to contend with than may have been the case during your college years. Practice compassionate rigor.          
            Third, it is easier to say “yes” to students. Yes, you can drop that class. Yes, you can change your major. Yes, you can take that difficult requirement during summer school or online at another university. But try saying “no,” or better yet, “why” to the students asking to do those potentially problematic, expensive, education-extending things.
            Fourth, don’t put unnecessary obstacles in the path of students working sincerely to finish a class, a major or a degree. Maintaining standards is crucial, but so is facilitating student success.

Administrators:  Your numbers and cost have been growing faster than anything else in the university except possibly health insurance. Any serious attempt to address the cost of college will take a long, hard look at each administrative position.
            First, then, you serve the institution and students best if every act of administration makes it easier for students to learn and faculty to teach. In practical terms, this means having an attitude of facilitation rather than setting mandates and issuing directives.
            Second, the act of teaching and process of learning does not always unfold with business-like efficiency. Administration should. See how much you can do with the fewest possible resources. The trend has been administrative bloat and cuts to faculty lines. This suggests that high level administrators believe the university’s mission is administration, not teaching.
            Third, vow that no assistant or associate dean, let alone other administrator without an academic title, will make more than the average full professor salary in your institution, calculated on the basis only of regular (not endowed chair) salaries. Send a message that your institution values education more highly than management.

- Anne Foster