This is news? Though the academic blogosphere hasn't exactly been a-buzz about it, cable and radio news has made a fuss of late about John Daly's nasty e-mail to a student about her politics.
In case you missed the story, Professor John Daly of Warren Community College sent a nasty e-mail to freshman Rebecca Beach about her involvement with a lecture by some Iraq War veterans. Some of the dirtiest bits come at the end, in which he writes:
I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs [...]
If the "professors hate America" storyline weren't enough, Daly essentially calls for acts of treason and murder. It doesn't hurt either that Beach is very attractive and telegenic. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this story is far too trivial for the coverage it has received. The media is behaving as if Daly were the next Ward Churchhill. Hardly -- at best he's a Ward Molehill.
Daly is a professor, all right -- he's an adjunct professor. For those who aren't in academe, let me explain what this means: Daly is a part-time employee with an M.A. teaching a few freshman writing classes ... at a community college. In other words, he's very, very, very far down the academic totem pole. Making a news story about this e-mail is roughly the equivalent of calling hell-and-damnation down on all Do-It-Yourself projects because one Home Depot clerk made a snotty comment to you. Is it unprofessional? Yes, of course. Is it worth much concern? Not really; you can find hateful kooks on any streetcorner.
Now the above might sound like an awfully snobby dismissal of adjuncts (the majority of whom work their butts off) and community colleges (which too often get denigrated because of the word "community"), but my point is that this wasn't any angry e-mail from the president of an opinion-making school. This was from an adjunct at a local community college who had been working there for only about a year. Usually, adjuncts suffer a great deal because of their invisibility, and are treated like they are not "real" professors.
OK, fine. Let's say adjuncts aren't real professors. If they aren't real professors, though, can we stop treating Daly like a "real" professor?
OK, let's say they are real professors. In that case, shouldn't the story be about how a real professor is so poorly paid for his real work?
This story seems to want to have it both ways. Just this once, couldn't we let the adjuncts' invisibility work in their favor? Just let Warren Community College quietly decline to re-hire him next semester because of his unprofessional behavior.
By the way, the real scandal is that an English professor produced such a poorly-written e-mail. I mean, my e-mails (and blog posts) have their fair share of surface errors, but the e-mail is just rhetorically horrific.