Monday, July 29, 2013


People come from all over to teach at your institution. Things being the way they are, the quality they found in their original institution is not evidenced here. They may proudly wear the gown of their doctoral institution, they may casually refer to Harvard, or Yale, or Chicago, or...

Most of us end up in dumps. We do our best to make them better, and some of us more than acquit ourselves, perhaps being bid away by a stellar institution, or we stay at our dump and make it better. Sometimes we can transform our department or our subfield to make it a real contender.

Such dumps may well allow for a strong scholarly career. I always say I get away with murder. I cannot judge my colleagues, in the detailed and titrated way others seem able to do. But I do judge the extent of their ambition in the work they choose to do. And the institution's ambition gives me freedom to follow my nose.

I am enthusiastic about the high quality people we hire and promote, while noticing that this is still rare. I am appalled by deans who justify weak candidates, and advocate tenuring those who have not proved themselves in an assured way, or their hiring ringers. But deans are effectively the proverbial used car salesmen, at least to their provost and to donors. What's nice for deans is that they are rarely around for long enough for the lemons they have sold to break down.

Of course, such is the history of Southern California: celebratory and hyperbolic. And that has made it a rich and growing place: agriculture, armed services, aerospace, entertainment/motion pictures, the Ports.

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