Monday, November 28, 2016

The sudden relief of no deadlines

October is a hellacious month for deadlines. It is mid-semester, so there is grading to do, plus there are many proposal deadlines to hit. Early November is spent catching up on all the things that slid in October. Mid-November, it is the hectic end of class period, plus Thanksgiving planning (for those in the US). The beginning of December is bliss--classes end, so no more lectures. The final exams are written. There are no more proposals due (at least in my field), and service obligations are ending for the year.

My favorite time of the academic year is in early December. This is the time I can actually have great discussions with my grad students, catch up with the manuscripts on my desk, and actually spend some long stretches of time on research. It is like a mini-summer, but feels all the sweeter after the huge Fall proposal rush. Alas, the feeling of relief is all too short before the wind up to start the next semester!

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I am not really sure what I want to say. The US has elected someone who is uniquely unqualified, has made a mess of every job he has attempted (except for reality TV), made no attempts to hide his hatred and disdain for anyone who is not white, straight, cis-gendered, Christian, male, and able bodied, and whose economic plans are likely to lead the country into ruin. There are no brakes on him, since his party also controls both House and Senate.

I take some relief from the fact that he didn't win the popular vote, so at least half the voting population was not interested in this package, but I am also depressed that 45% of eligible voters would rather just sit at home than pick the next president, even in an election that was as pervasive (and high stakes) as this one. I am also bummed by the fact that the GOP controlled Senate was rewarded for refusing to do their job for 10 months and at least hold hearings for Merrick Garland. This does not bode well for future administrations with split control of the executive and legislative branches, and is a terrible precedent to set.

Keeping the focus on the usual subject of this blog--science and academia, I think the Trump administration will be terrible for basic science research. This is a man who is an anti-vaxxer and climate change denier, regardless of the heaps of evidence to the contrary. He has threatened retribution against his enemies, which might include all the scientists that supported Clinton. The GOP thinks academia is a hotbed of radical progressives bent on brainwashing American youth, which does not bode well for increasing support for Universities in general. Both Trump (who ran Trump University!) and the GOP are all in for unregulated privatization of education, which won't help students OR universities either.

I don't see the funding climate getting better. I hope it doesn't get worse. Depending on how things go, the best and brightest students from abroad may consider opportunities outside the US, as other countries provide more research support, possibly more opportunities for immigrants (depending on how that plays out) and a better social climate for their families. It certainly isn't the apocalypse, and I do think there is a lot of overreaction in terms of predictions of future consequences, but there is no denying that it feels like a kick in the teeth from the country to those groups attacked by Trump and his alt-right friends. It is also a full on reminder (like I needed one) that sexism is not only alive and well, but will not be solved one funeral at a time.