Smorgasbord of Methodology

In the interests of working smarter, not harder, I've decided to greatly limit my posting on the Great Methodology Battles of 2000-200?. Instead, I offer a buffet (or smorgasbord, if you prefer) of accounts taken from emails. Although there was also some IM venting involved, I don't have permission to post that part--and everyone knows I always ask permission first. Well, almost always. Don't know about the Great Methodology Battles? Then you haven't been paying attention.

First the short versions:

1) Results in brief:

Next year, there will be reforms to the quant course which will make it a course that includes epistemology and covers large-n and small-n methodologies. The epistemology course will become a combination of epistemology and qualitative methodologies, taught by Weberman.

Any other discussion of changes to the required core of PhD courses will be discussed further next year.

We cannot institute a team-taught course because 1) The dept does not have the faculty to do this right now, 2) the administrative requirements for such a course are unknown, and 3) such a course would under-represent the mainstream quantitative methods of IR and Poli Sci.

I will leave any editorial comments to the group.

2) Waiting for the email:

P: since bbc has boring elections coverage today, am listening to your fave radio channel and am blaming you for moments of humming and yells (apparently) which are punctuating my "work" today and are startling my two colleagues.

good luck with the committee!

ps: didn't know the Police sung songs in French...always knew I found Sting a pretentious prat

E: the proposals went from two to four in the last ten minutes. I think. this does not bode well.

P: also v concerned about the whole doubling of methodology proposals issue...it must be past noon there so hopefully done by now?

E: just finished (well, at 12:30). final result was a two course series (quant and qual) with epistemology, methodology, and some methods mixed together, but not team taught. will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the reasoning behind unanimous consent for this new idea.

[E: Adding a conclusion here for anyone who wasn’t part of the original, ongoing conversation. How is it possible that a professor is available to teach this new quant course in a satisfactory manner, but that same professor is unable to team teach the same class as part of a year-long course? Is the charisma of the other professor in question so great that he cannot be in the same room without drawing all available students into his evil web? Does this magnetism pass through walls and disrupt nearby classes, or is it only effective on students within the sound of his voice? How does he manage to stroll the campus every day without tripping over the students who throw themselves at his feet? How does anyone ever graduate without falling under his spell and becoming an evil qual-meth themselves?

And if the team-teaching thing is so troubling, why would anyone want to give this guy the last word? Shouldn’t they stick his class somewhere in the middle, and hope the attraction wears off before it’s time to start picking committees and writing prospecti?

We should do a survey and find the answer to these questions using advanced statistical analysis. You know, quant. Real social science. The kind that will get us jobs.]

all other questions tabled for further discussion next year

GS: that doesn't sound too horrible but then again we'll hear more details from you i'm sure.

on the team teaching: i think some folks might be totally paranoid about the prospect of a coup.

And the long one:

E: Will talk to S about party and check the schedule. You're welcome at the workshop if you want to go--they're talking about realism and constructivism as competing / complementary / related epistemologies.

just out of curiosity, do faculty disputes at other universities turn into name calling and barely veiled attacks against students as proxies for unpopular faculty? Or is it just TUWSNBN?

HRD: Come after workshop - this party will go late. Call me on cell phone if problem.

academia is hell, didn't you know that? (though not law school academia, where everyone is secure and well paid).

E: I'm sensing sarcasm. After today's (ahem) polite discussion, I may stay later at the workshop to see some real debate.

HRD: Was in [small town against which awful places to live are measured] last week to give talks - students as usual completely unable to organize way out of paper bag.

E: You have to give them clear bags so that they can see the way out. Paper is much too complicated. Did the talks go well, though?

HRD: Seminar somehow not quite my thing. Was invited to Foreign Policy discussion group today for journalists - including people like [edited to remove names of people you should know, if you don’t] - very enlightening. Met a guy from Midwest U who works on disease/science and international affairs - have his name somewhere (starts with K). The subject of discussion was George Kennan and Greek civil war. Felt like being back at school - lots of readings.

E: Sounds like fun--would definitely like to know who guy from MU was, if you can remember. Disease and IR folks are pretty rare, so I may be able to figure it out on my own.

Had a brief moment of panic today when someone in committee meeting from hell said that advanced methodology is currently required. V. relieved to find out that legal research and writing is considered advanced, and therefore it's okay that I've drifted around looking for methods for three years and audited the one I plan to use.

Hate committee meetings. Shall tell you all about the potential perils of being a popular professor on the tenure track when I see you next. As Priya would say, "bloody profs, bloody school, bloody discipline can all go and stuff themselves."

I greatly regretted that RandomProf's policy of throwing things when people make stupid comments is not a general policy. Would have liked a bushel of those little foam balls that ILSA hands out at Jessup and some time for target practice. A (mostly accurate) sampling: "There is a mainstream, and it should be stressed that other critical methods are supplemental to it" *thunk* "I think we all agree that quantitative methods take more time to master" *thunk* "We should have balance: this plan (two statistics courses, one qualitative methods overview, a later epistemology course, and no other exposure to quant) does just that." *thunk* "Everyone understands that reform is needed. But we should be careful not to rely too much on particular faculty members" (this from the same person who, last time we met, asked the faculty member in question to put together a proposal IN OPPOSITION TO HIS OWN PROPOSAL so that we could consider other options.) *thunkity thunk thunk thunk*

Considered throwing pens, but realized that would make it impossible to write this crap down for later discussion and blogging. Instead tried to look pleasant while gritting teeth and trying not to snicker at patently ridiculous statements like "We've gone too far from the mainstream, and are teaching our students to be antipositivists." Hello? I'm IN THE ROOM, and I'm using system dynamics. I am a definition of positivist. And I STILL THINK THIS IS A STUPID STATEMENT.

[E: At least, I am in the definition that was assumed by the issuer of the above statement, which is not necessarily the most accurate use of the term. I think that hypothesis testing is a fairly good idea, and that there is a there, there. I think physics has got the right idea. But I haven’t a clue what an anti-positivist is. Is this like antimatter? When you put a positivist and an anti-positivist in the same committee meeting, do they explode, causing the end of the known universe? Should NASA be warned that we’re breeding anti-positivists right here in TUWSNBN? Does anyone have the phone number for NASA? You know, just in case.]

Resolved never to allow students to like my classes too much, or encourage them to pursue interesting research or projects. This will prevent both the antagonism of colleagues and the possibility that I will get any more gifts from students, which I then have to return with regrets bc (legitimately) this is not allowed. [E: I had no idea until this happened that students gave gifts. I’ve never given a professor a gift. Wait, I have. But not until long after I finished the class. And it was completely unrelated. I know I’ve never given anything to a TA, except grief. And the flu, once, but that wasn’t my fault because I was contagious but didn’t feel sick. Damn viruses.]

Also, friendly students are less likely to come to my office hours with [problems] which I then have to take to various people in order to figure out what my response should
have been. [E: Of course, had these sorts of situations been discussed at any point in my academic career, I could have skipped this step. But I’m not bitter. Not me.]

It would have been easier to stay a lawyer, I think. At least I knew those rules. There is very little transparency in academia. And even less logic.

I apologize for every time I sat in your office and 1) complained about [law school], 2) asked advice about interactions with said university, 3) relayed stories about fellow classmates, and 4) whined in general about how hard it was to be a student. I had no idea. But thanks for listening anyway.

HRD: hah - now you get it! It's like when your kid has a kid. Now you know. It was worse when students came to complain about faculty [problems].


At 4/30/2005 4:31 PM, Blogger Priya said...

Btw, the halberd question was a good illustration of sorting out one's methodological orientation before giving/making/ a tool to use. For instance, if my question had been how to decimate huge amounts of population with guns, then I would have probably gotten an exotically-named gun instead of an e-n medieval (?) weapon. But, I wanted to (hopefully) incapacitate just one person to make my way past. So, the question drives the tool-making. Hence, a halberd for me. Even blogthings have methodological orientations.


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