undocumented rumors from anonymous sources, accused the department of radicalism and flag burning. Then, last summer, the department became the subject of statewide and national attention after the local chapter of the right-wing National Association of Scholars successfully engineered the blocking of a new syllabus for English 306. In the case of E306, the administration struck its first blow against the department’s autonomy when President Cunningham strong-armed then-Dean Meacham into cancelling the course. Many think that Cunningham struck his second blow by rehiring King, whose regressive history at UT is well known, and turning him loose on the department. Certainly Cunningham’s silence in the face of the AAUP inquiries supports this claim. But whatever his intentions, Cunningham has only watched passively as King’s iron jackboot has squashed the collective intentions of the largest department in the university. All The King’s Men One of the patterns that has emerged during King’s short tenure as acting dean is his refusal to honor commitments made by his predecessor, Standish Meacham. A prime example of this tendency came when King head the Humanities program, an interdisciplinary honors degree. History professor Michael Stoff, Meacham’s appointee, refused to comment on the incident, and told the Observer to rely on the version of the story in the student daily for the facts of the case. According to The Daily Texan, Meacham had offered the position to Michael Stoff, promising a small pay raise and a reduced course load if he took on the added administrative duties. Despite King’s own sizable recent pay hike, he retracted these conditions, and offered the job with no perks and a full course load. Stoff told the Texan King had given him a July 15 deadline to decide if he wanted the job. King, however, had other plans. On July 10 he penned a letter to Stoff, informing him that he’d already given the job to Farmer. Farmer says he had no idea Stoff was still considering the job. He learned of it in the Texan, he said, just like everyone else. Still, Farmer’s appointment by King was not a complete surprise. Farmer, as noted above, has been one of the only English department faculty to support King’s demolition of the department’s chosen structure, having written a personal letter to the interim dean supporting the budget council just prior to his appointment. And last summer he joined King and the Texas Association of Scholars in their bitter opposition to English 306. Farmer was one of only seven English faculty to sign the TAS’s “Statement of Academic Concern” opposing his colleagues’ E306 syllabus. By contrast, Stoff, as chair of the American Area committee in the History department, had pushed for multicultural sections of a required lower-division History course, sought to compile a “multicultural reading list” for faculty and students, and proposed that the department develop “lectures and workshops on race and ethnicity, ” according to a May, 1990 [King’s] actions to ward the English de partment, the Middle Eastern Studies. Cen ter Women’s Studies and the Humanities program reveal a clear pattern of heavy-handedness, cronyism, and reac tionary conservatism. History department memorandum. Stoff’s ousting represents another instance of King obstructing faculty with even a reserved multicultural agenda, and installing opponents of curriculum reform. A Woman’s Work King’s snatching the Humanities position out from under Stoff might be seen as an aberration, except that he repeated the pattern in Women’s Studies. The Women’s Studies Center has never received significant support, and is really just a vehicle for cross-listing courses from many different disciplines to allow a concentration in Women’s Studies. Last spring then-Dean Meacham offered the position of director of the Women’s Studies Center to Susan Marshall, an associate professor of sociology. As with Stoff, Meacham promised Marshall a lightened course load and a pay hike. Also as with Stoff, Bob King refused to honor these conditions, asking Marshall to consider taking the position without them. While Marshall mulled over the new terms, however, King again made other plans. According to English professor Carol Mackay, “I was offered the position while Marshall thought she was still negotiating with Dean King.” Mackay turned down the offer, although she didn’t know at the time that Marshall was considering it. She wanted morel monetary support for the center as well as more physical space; currently the center shares a secretary and an administrative as sistant with several other programs. After Mackay had turned him down, King went back to Marshall, and they negotiated a compromise, whereby she maintained a full course load, despite her administrative duties, but received an adjunct to her salary. The program’s funding, however, will remain “at the same insignificant level as last year,” according to Mackay. And Marshall’s compromise with King was a cutback from what she had negotiated for the directorship under Meacham. Since the program’s funding is so paltry, cutting support for the director amounts to cutting support for the center, said Mackay. Observers say King’s distaste for the center dates back to his first tenure as dean. One professor close to the center, who asked to remain anonymous, pointed out that, “King has never conceived of women’s studies in the serious way that many women scholars on this campus do.” “At another university, a women’s studies program can be a strong, viable resource,” she said, but at UT Austin, “our active growth is being curtailed.” The Merits of Cronyism The case of the Middle Eastern Studies Center perhaps best illustrates King’s high-handed style and his propensity to place his political agenda over accepted principles of academic merit. While the Observer interviewed several individuals knowledgeable about the center for this article, none, including the principal actors, would agree to speak for the record. In addition, the student daily has completely ignored King’s actions affecting the center, printing not one story the entire summer. Thus the following account, while perhaps incomplete in some respects, represents the information we were able to confirm. The story began in January, when former Middle Eastern Studies Center Director Ian Manners decided to resign his post as of this fall. According to sources close to the center, Meacham sent a letter to all the faculty connected with the center asking for advice or suggestions on who should be the next director. In addition, Meacham spoke personally with all or virtually all of the senior faculty. This consultation process took almost two months. By March, Meacham had discovered a strong consensus within the center that Elizabeth Fernea should be its next director. Fernea, an English professor and well-known Middle Eastern scholar, is the only member of the center ever to have been president of the Middle Eastern Studies Association, the most prestigious national group for Middle East scholars. Fernea has been closely associated with the center. She has served as its undergraduate advisor and as a member of its executive commitee. She has lived in the Middle 4 SEPTEMBER 20, 1991
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