Monday, November 27, 2006

Gartner Fancies

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done. ~Andy Rooney

Those wacky folks at Gartner are at it again. You know Gartner, the people who said a company's annual cost of owning a computer was $25,000. Bob Lewis, writing a column for InfoWorld at the time, showed that, using Gartner's methods, the annual cost of ownership of a Daytimer was $3000. That's right, the thing you write in with a pen and carry in your briefcase.

Now, Gartner's been around for a long time, and they have surely made some savvy predictions, if only accidentally. After all, when you make as many prognostications as they do, you're bound to hit one once in a while. But it seems that the ones the news media pick up are the ones that give one pause, if not outright belly laughs. The Register is reporting that Gartner thinks that the next few months will see the biggest changes in computing in a generation. Windows Vista is going to be disruptive to the organization, new hardware is going to change the price-performance relationship, users want more freedom while IT wants more control, and blah, blah, blah.

I presume they issued this same report when Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and even Linux came out. In fact, the fundamental issues of computing haven't changed much in the last 10 or 15 years.

In the beginning, computer work meant banging away on a terminal, and relatively few people within a company actually had them. Most of the ones who did were data entry types or production control workers. At more advanced companies, you might even find Computer Aided Design (CAD) rigs with digitizer tablets that were the size of card table. Meanwhile, the rest of us were using ledger paper, graph paper, and calculators. In fact, to do all the graphs I used to do as a quality control engineer, I had a really neat set of colored pencils which were better than any crayola set I had as a kid.

PC's started creeping into companies during the mid-1980's. Sometimes it was a finance department wanting to use spreadsheet software to do what-if projections easily, sometimes it was technical departments wanting to crunch numbers with software that was more flexible than the mainframe offered. Initially, the PC's came in without IT blessing. In fact, the IT people could have cared less. As long as these guys were playing with the new toys, they bothered the programmers less, so that was good.

Eventually, PC's got more affordable, and people started creating ad hoc networks, sometimes with the cooperation of IT. People who never had a terminal might now get a PC. And if one person got a PC, someone else had to get one, and so on until most everyone had one. That was all right, until people began to play with the software.

For those few who had been working on the terminals, there were few options to play around with. The mainframe applications had their basic functionality, and the user could live with it or get out the ledger paper and colored pencils. Suddenly, with the PC, here was the user using programs that gave them all sorts of options to play with. There also seemed to be software to do most anything anyone wanted to do. The trouble was that people spent more time fooling around with the software than they did actually generating output.

They also started playing games. Then came Internet access, and what little productivity was left went into the tank.

The computing vicious circle also began. Computer makers would bring out new hardware, and software makers, dominated by Microsoft, would bring out new software and operating systems. No sooner did you get hardware that could run the old stuff than you got new software that needed new hardware again. We've been in this cycle for years now; Vista is just the newest iteration.

But there was a more subtle problem. For reasons which I have never understood, people seem to feel that the computer on their desktop is their personal property. The desk, the phone, they belong to the company, but it's the user's computer.

It goes back to those aforementioned early days of PC's, I guess, when users could finally control their computing environment, as opposed to being limited to the mainframe's few options. Even when PC's became more widespread, individual departments got whatever software they wanted. Indivdual users within departments got their own flavor of software to put on "their" computers, and they weren't interested in using anything else. IT has been trying to get that horse back into the barn ever since.

Gartner seems to have finally discovered that fact.

If I would have been transported from the first network environment I was ever in to one of today's modern networks, I know I would have marveled at the new technology and at the Internet, but the thing that would amaze me most is how little things would have changed between 1986 and today. I think the thing I would find most amazing is how Microsoft had wiped out most of its competition and the ever-increasing number of network servers companies use. But as to the way people use computers? It would seem quite familiar.

Something is going to occur one of these days to change the computing environment, but, whatever it is, it isn't on the horizon yet. Maybe Linux will finally offer a real alternative to Windows, maybe companies will realize that bloated "productivity software" is actually wasting employees time and computing resources. Whatever the change will be, history shows that the pundits, who have predicted the "year of ISDN", ATM to the desktop, and thin clients all running Java applications, haven't got a clue.

Who knows? Maybe someone will decide that large centralized servers are the wave of the future. Might even call them mainframes.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Yankee Amongst the Magnolias – 4

Wherein our hero discourses on the wonders of Southern collegiate football.

To play this game you must have fire in you, and there is nothing that stokes fire like hate. ~ Vince Lombardi

Given that this past weekend featured any number of well-known college football rivalry games, it seems an appropriate time to consider the difference in attitude toward toward the fall's premier sport.

I lived in Ohio for over thirty years, and, like most Ohioans I rooted for Ohio State to beat Michigan each year (well, nearly every year; the Big Ten teams only play 8 of their opponents each year, so every 8 years, they didn't play each other). Even though I've moved to Alabama, I still like to see the Buckeyes come out on top. This year's game got a lot of national attention because OSU came in ranked number 1 and Michigan came in as number 2, meaning that the winner was going to the BCS championship game.

The sports networks made a huge deal about the game, especially ABC-ESPN, who were showing the match. It was supposed to be the most important game ever between the two. Every time they interviewed an ex-player or coach about it though, the reaction was the same. Listen, they would say, back in the day, the winner of this game generally went to the Rose Bowl, while the loser went home. Period. The Big Ten (and the Pac Ten) wanted the Rose Bowl to be special, so none of their teams could go to any other bowl games.

Eventually, of course, money began to talk, and bowl games began to proliferate, so that changed. But, the idea of the rivalry game being a big one has always been huge based on the consequences of winning and losing. So, adding the championship game into the mix was no bigger deal than the olden days.

Even given that titles were perennially on the line for OSU and Michigan, the buzz for the game didn't really start to build until a week or two before the game. Once the game was over, that was that for another year. Thoughts turned to the Rose Bowl, and once that was over, we began to think about hockey and baseball. It ain't that way down here.

My first inkling about how serious people are about football in Alabama came the first week I arrived in April of 1985. I was reading the morning newspaper and got to the sports section expecting to read about the upcoming opening of baseball season. Instead, the paper was full of college football news: Recruiting news, spring practice news, all kinds of football news. Baseball was relegated to a small section on part of one page. I began to suspect there was something different about sports attitudes in the South.

I got serious reinforcement at my new job, as I heard people in the spring of the year already arguing over the superiority of Alabama or Auburn in the coming annual Iron Bowl game. I presume the name “Iron Bowl” came about because the game was played for many years in Birmingham, once the steel capital of the South. At any rate, I found that I would be asked if I followed college football. Once I answered in the affirmative, I was asked whether my allegiance was to Auburn or Alabama. The answer, “Well, actually, I'm an Ohio State fan,” was not acceptable. I had to state a preference or be regarded as some sort of non-football-appreciating pariah.

In case you're curious (and anyone from the state of Alabama is), I chose the perennial underdog, Auburn. Of late, that's looked like a good choice, hasn't it, Tide boosters?

This year's Iron Bowl was for pride only, with neither team having a chance at the SEC title game or a national championship. I can assure you, however, that the bulk of Alabamians were watching the Iron Bowl Saturday rather than the big one in Columbus, which is where my attention was focused. They're far more serious about their rivalries here.

It's not just the Iron Bowl. Both teams have other rivalries, Alabama with Tennessee and Auburn with Georgia. People worry over those games almost as much as they do over the Alabama-Auburn tilt. But, every Southern college has one really, really serious rivalry, and it is a subject of discussion, debate, and downright arguing 365 days a year (366 in leap years).

I don't really understand it. Football is a sport associated with cold and snow, at least to anyone living north of Memphis. I can remember freezing my nether parts off watching many a high school, college,and pro game. Down here, they postpone games because it's raining. Of course, down here, games are played in heat that will cause the football to sweat, so I guess things have a way of evening out.

It still doesn't explain the football madness that pervades the South. Texas is legendary in its mania for high school football; there are high school stadiums that some colleges would kill for. As mentioned above, people following the recruiting circus year round, looking to see if the home team can sign that hot quarterback from some bitty high school in Arkansas.

My guess is that it has to do with the lack of professional sports that the South endured for so many years. Today, there are pro baseball, football, basketball, even hockey teams throughout the southern United States, but for decades, pro sports were the domain of the North, the Midwest, and the West. Down here in the the land of magnolias, grits and barbecue, it was the colleges that provided the sports fix for people. Interestingly, it was only the outdoor sports that really caught on. Except for the Carolinas, basketball was something to do while you were waiting for baseball (and spring football practice) to start. In recent years, basketball has gained in popularity, but even last year, we were treated to the Alabama basketball coach pleading for more fans to show up.

So, ultimately, a Southerner's first love is still football. It's hard to understand how this land of gentility and charm has given its soul to a game that is based on collisions, concussions, and general mayhem. Well, I think that's the point. Southerners are unfailingly polite and friendly people (okay, in Craigsville, Virginia, they shoot first and ask questions later, but that's atypical), so they have to put their aggressions somewhere. What better place than on a football field? For the fan, it brings together the elements of Southern sociability (tailgating and game parties) with that universal characteristic of mankind, violence (the game itself).

I don't know if any of that is correct, but I do know that when I get back to work, the discussions will not be about Ohio State going to the BCS national championship game. People will still be replaying Saturday's Iron Bowl and already talking about how next year's game will go. Me, I'm focused on Ohio State ... although I would like to say, for the record, War Eagle!

If you don't understand why it was necessary to add that last, you don't understand Southern football.

More Southern musings:
Southerners are nice people
Human Nature overcomes all
Northerners just don't understand

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Left Out in New Jersey

If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score? ~Vince Lombardi

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight. There are currently four undefeated Division I-A college football teams: Ohio State, Michigan, Rutgers, and Boise State. According to the Bowl Championship Series (also known as the BCS or “that stupid piece of ...”) poll, they are ranked 1,2, 6, and 12 respectively. According to the computer portion of the BCS, they are ranked 3,1,2, and 10 respectively. As things stand now, once Ohio State beats Michigan, there could still be three undefeated teams, but only one of them, Ohio State (oh, okay, or Michigan if they should defy the gods and win in Columbus) will get into the national championship game.

Now, Boise State, which plays its home game on an azure blue field, is in a weak conference and doesn't play any significant non-conference foes, so one could understand how they might be excluded from the party. But the State University of New Jersey at Rutgers, as it is properly known, is getting the shaft.

Here's a team that is 9-0. Louisville was ranked number 3 when they met Rutgers and staggered home after losing to a team that was outmanned, out-talented, and outgunned. All Rutgers did was win. This was the same Louisville team that trashed West Virginia the previous week, when West Virginia was ranked number 3. Yet most people are saying that West Virginia will beat Rutgers.

What they really mean is that they hope like the dickens that West Virginia beats Rutgers. If they don't, we're going to have the embarrassment of an undefeated team that played some of the same opponents as teams above them, and beat them more impressively, yet will be left out of the championship picture.

Some of the rationale for promoting teams with 1 loss ahead of the Scarlet Knights goes like this:
  • Rutgers is in the crummy old Big East Conference. Last time I checked, there were three teams from the Big East in the top 10. There's only 1 from the PAC 10, that supposedly might conference that USC waltzes through each year. Only the Big 10 has as many in the top 10 as the Big East.
  • Rutgers doesn't have as much talent as Ohio State or USC or insert-name-of-traditional-powerhouse-here. You want talent? Auburn has talent; they got whupped by Georgia, a team that can barely get out its own way this year. I thought the idea of football was to win games, not to look good on scouting reports. If you go 9-0, there's some sort of talent on that field.
  • Rutgers can't beat Ohio State in a playoff game (no, really, I actually heard this one). Well, it's entirely possible that no one can beat OSU in the championship game, assuming they get there. So far, 11 teams have failed to beat OSU. If you used that criteria, according to most sports pundits, OSU should show up at the championship game and just conduct a scrimmage. But, after the Louisville game, no one should be saying that Rutgers has any worse chance than anyone else.
  • Rutgers is Mr. Magoo's alma mater. Well, maybe that one hasn't come up, but that's about as good an argument as the others.
The human pollsters are to blame mostly, but the BCS is at the root of the problem because while the BCS is run as currently constituted, there's no playoff structure to give a Rutgers a chance.

The BCS apologists always go on about how well the system works. It works so well that's it's been changed every year since its inception. Simply put, it's no better than the “mythical” championships that were handed out over the years by AP, UPI, and other press outlets, magazines, and networks. What makes the BCS worse is that it masquerades as some sort of “real” title game. Hell, it's not even what it calls itself; it's not a championship series. It's one game based mostly on two human polls with a computer poll thrown in just to confuse things.

The BCS has given us such farcical situations as:
  • A one-loss Miami team not getting to the championship game in 2000, while a one-loss Florida State team did. Who beat Florida State? Why, Miami, of course.
  • In 2001, a team ranked number 4 in the human polls, Nebraska, going to the championship (and getting pounded) over number 2-ranked Oregon State. Why? Strength of schedule, even though Nebraska didn't even win their conference, and Oregon State played in the mighty PAC 10 (which is now supposedly the toughest conference in the country).
  • Oklahoma loses its championship game but plays LSU for the title in 2003. USC was ranked number 2 in both polls, but, whaddya know, that ol' weak sister PAC 10 conference bit them again in the BCS poll.
  • Auburn, 13-0 in 2004, not only doesn't get to the title game, despite playing in what most people regarded as the toughest conference in the nation (the SEC), Texas is voted past them (thanks to politicking by coach Mack Brown) in the final poll.
Now, the lame apologists will say that this sort of stupidity makes for spirited discussion and arguments among fans, which is somehow good for the game. Well, here's a bulletin for you guys: People have been arguing about the national champ ever since Parke-Davis called both Princeton and Rutgers national champions in 1869. We don't need any more arguments; we need a playoff system. And, please, don't give me that stuff about adding games to the schedule. The NCAA saw no problem with giving teams a 12-game schedule, allowing teams in a conference with a title game to play 13. So, what are two or three more in a playoff series?

After Ohio State, the team I'll be rooting for most will be Rutgers. I don't know if it's possible to embarrass the NCAA, but leaving a school that beat two top-10 teams to stay undefeated (assuming they get by West Virginia) on the sidelines while some team with one loss is playing for the championship ought to do the trick. Then, perhaps the school presidents will think about doing what much smaller schools and all other Division I sports have been doing for years: Determine the champion in a playoff.

I won't be holding my breath.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Election Musings

Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~Richard Armour

So, we've survived another political season, although the next one has already started, since someone I never heard of announced himself as a candidate tor the Democratic nomination for the presidency. The city I work for will have a mayoral election next November, so candidates for that post will start announcing themselves any day now, too. The political season never really ends anymore.

At any rate, as a card-carrying pundit, commentator on the passing scene, and the best blogger in my house (the Daughter has her own place, where she, presumably is the best blogger), I feel I must utilize my wit, wisdom, and incredible command of the English language to offer a few thoughts for your consideration.

Pardon me while I admire the incredible construction of that last sentence.

Oh, well, back to the mundane stuff. Incumbent governor Bob Riley easily beat Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley. The campaign was a most unusual one for Alabama in that it was conducted with restraint by both combatants. Lt. Gov. Baxley was a huge underdog, which usual means below-the-belt ads in a vain attempt to close the gap. But, both candidates seemed to limit themselves to the usual “the other guy is going to raise taxes, while I'm going to lower them”, which no one believes, but at least no one is calling anyone a fascist or a socialist.

It was a little strange that the Lt. Governor ran for governor this time around. Gov. Riley has done a quiet, creditable job, with no scandals or hints of scandal during his first term. Given some of the recent tenants of the governor's mansion, Bob Riley was a pleasant change. It's hard to imagine that he would have been vulnerable. Conventional wisdom would have suggested that Lt. Governor Baxley should have waited until the next election which would have been wide open (in Alabama, a governor can serve unlimited terms, but only two consecutively). But, the Democrats lacked a good candidate, given that former Governor Don Siegleman, who was being tried for various improprieties at the time (he was ultimately convicted), and no one else seemed willing to lose to the incumbent.

It would be nice to see Lt. Gov. Baxley run again next time, but it's tough to stay in the public eye for four years when you're no longer in office.

The incoming lieutenant governor's race was a veritable joke by comparison. In this corner, we had Luther Strange, a former lobbyist, carrying all the baggage that implies, especially with the Abramov mess being exposed on a daily basis in Washington. In the other corner stood former governor “Little” Jim Folsom, Jr., son of Big Jim Folsom Big Jim was the legendary former governor who once exhorted voters to vote for him for a second term because he had stolen all he was going to while a new governor would just start stealing all over again. I don't know if that statement is true, but I've heard it from so many Alabamians, there must be something to it.

Jim Jr. has his own history. He was lieutenant governor during the Guy Hunt administration and became governor when Hunt was found guilty of ethics violations (misuse of some campaign money to pay for inaugural events and using the state airplane to fly around the country preaching; not serous stuff, but not legal, either). Mr. Folsom proceeded to blow his opportunity to be elected in his right when his relatives started flying around on personal trips using the state plane.

I think Gov. Riley had the thing grounded.

At any rate, Little Jim pulled out the election, proving that Alabamians, like any sensible voters, would rather have a rather inept son-of-a-corrupt-politician over a lobbyist.

Oh, and the big news, of course, is that the Democrats have taken control of Congress. It's only taken six years of getting shafted by the most corrupt administration since the Teapot Dome scandal for Americans to realize it might be a good idea to make some changes. Frankly, given the pathetic state of the war in Iraq (which many notable Democrats did nothing to oppose when they could have) and the egregious handing over of power to corporate interests, the Whigs could have made a comeback.

The problem is that there is still no sign that the Democrats actually have any sort of program of their own. Anything they do pass will be vetoed by President Cheney, er, Bush. So, we've got two years of posturing, rhetoric, and general gridlock to look forward to.

It's time to revise the electoral system. We don't need a two-party system; we need a no-party system. Since neither of the big parties have meaningful platforms, they are largely irrelevant. Let's go to an open election process where individuals run against individuals. Basically, we could have non-partisan primaries, with the top two candidates going into a runoff. Let's cut the confusion over moderate Democrats trying to act like Republicans and liberal Republicans trying to act like Democrats. No more party campaign war chests to pump out supposedly “issue-oriented” ads actually aimed at specific opposing candidates.

Let's end the nonsense of a party controlling Congress. Elect the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem from the full House and Senate, instead of getting whatever hack the party-in-charge wants to hand the gavel to. Committee assignments? Draw 'em from a hat, then let the committee members elect a chairman. It can't work any worse than the system of handing out favors that exists now.

Oh, and dump the electoral college while we're at it.

Of course, it would be tough on the voters, having to decide what a candidate actually stands for, rather than just blindly voting the party line. But, political parties are an anachronism, dating back to when the populace was uneducated and politically naive. There's no excuse for that now, with TV, newspapers, and the Internet providing reams of information.

Sure it's a crazy idea, but, then, so was the American Revolution. Maybe it's time for another one, this time against the fat, dumb, and happy politicians lousing up a beautiful system.

It could happen.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Feel the Excitement

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. ~ Oscar Wilde

The Inquirer had a story about a software company in the UK running a competition to find the nation's most exciting accountant. Now, the term “exciting accountant” would appear to be as much of an oxymoron as “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence”.

I've known a lot of accountants over the years, but I can honestly say that I never met one that I could consider “exciting.” In fact, I can't think of one that was even moderately interesting compared to his or her fellow number-crunchers. They were all uniformly staid, bland, and accountant-ish. I suppose, though, that there must be one or two actuarial types who might be construed as less unexciting than their colleagues, possibly engaging in wild and crazy outside activities like philately.

Well, I did know one that had seven kids, but I'm not going to go there.

There are certain professions that seem to draw the more sedate types (to choose the least offensive term I could think of) to their ranks. For example, before I entered the high-energy world of network system administration (lord, it's such a rush deleting someone's files), I spent over twenty years in Quality Control. Let me tell you, I may have picked on the accountants above, but the most boring person at Price-Waterhouse (not counting those under indictment) is a virtual wild man compared to the average QC practitioner.

Perhaps it's more a matter of the profession taming the employee. Both QC and accountancy involve a lot of number processing, maintaining of charts and reports, and following copious and involved procedures (and inflicting them on your fellow employees). No one likes such people because their main function seems to be to hinder people from having a good time, either by preventing the spending of money or by making people remake products because they're defective. Accounting outranks QC, though, because Quality Managers don't inspect the work of the bookkeepers while the bookkeepers can stop QC from having the only fun they can have, buying new measurement equipment.

When you have no friends, you become a dull person.

All of this depressing prelude gets me to thinking about where other professions stack up in the excitement realm. Oh, sure, some jobs obviously attract exciting people and make dull people more interesting by their very nature. For instance, I can't imagine a dull test pilot, Mt. Everest guide, or race car driver (although Ryan Newman comes close). So, as a public service to all the teenagers out there who are surfing blogs looking for salacious material but have had the misfortune to arrive here and had the tenacity to have read this far, I'd like to provide the definitive Gog's Blog What's Exciting and What's Not Career Guide. Within each field, I will list the Potential for Exciting People (PEP) and the Welcome to Dullsvile (WTD) jobs.

Science PEP jobs:
  • Physics: Deals with cosmic questions and energy sources sufficient to vaporize Detroit.
  • Chemistry: Explosions and toxic substances; need I say more?
  • Paleontology. You get to camp out and lift really heavy things that you dig up. Back in the lab you get to make up incredible stories about how the animal that belongs to that tibia was 82 feet long and ate a forest each morning.
Science WTD jobs:
  • Mathematics: If accounting is dull, how exciting can its basis be?
  • Astronomy: Sure, you get to take those pretty pictures. All it takes is sitting in a cold observatory at high altitude for hours on end. You're oxygen-deprived (which admittedly can be exciting, for a while), and you work nights. Not much good for the social life.
  • Biology: Spend your life looking through a microscope rooting for the red paramecium to eat the green one.
Engineering PEP jobs:
  • Electrical Engineering: Not only do you get to design neat stuff like computers and microwave ovens, you get to leave large capacitors charged up and lying around where your friends can get serious shocks from them.
  • Aeronautical Engineering: Nothing like designing things that have no visible means of support.
Engineering WTD jobs:
  • Civil Engineering: Aside from routing a highway through someone's house, what fun can you have?
  • Materials Engineering: This should be exciting, but the people who actually design the materials don't actually get to do anything with them. Besides, all you ever get are unreasonable requests: “Hey, Fred, I need something lighter than air, stronger than steel, and flexible as string. Can you have that by next week?”
Medical PEP jobs:
  • Brain surgeons: Now, THAT'S getting into people's heads. One wrong poke, and some poor patient is going to wake up speaking in tongues.
  • Gynecologists: Always the life of the party.
Medical WTD jobs:
  • Dentists: Sure, you can understand people who have a drawerfull of hardware in their mouth, but you don't know how to talk with people who can form actual words.
  • Podiatrists: Feet are just dull. You see one falling arch, you've seen them all.
Business PEP jobs:
  • Finance: Not to be confused with Accounting. These are the people who actually spend the money. In fact, they're the only ones who know where the money is actually hidden. Everyone wants to be friends with these guys.
  • Marketing: Talk about a fantasy world. You get to invent features that the R&D people never dreamed could be put into your products. Big plus: Guess who gets to go to all those trade shows in Vegas?
  • IT: You get to play with all the new toys, surf the web with impunity, and decide who gets the newest equipment. Power, toys, and play. What more can you ask?
Business WTD jobs:
  • Accounting and Quality Control: Didn't you read the stuff at the top?
No need to thank me. Adding to the number of exciting people in the world is a reward in itself.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A Question of Relevance

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. ~ Henry Kissinger

The mob got its way: Jane Fernandes will not become president of Gallaudet University.

I use the term “mob” because that's what the protesters had become. They had blocked access to the school and refused all attempts to negotiate. All that mattered was that Ms. Fernandes' appointment be rescinded. In the articles I read, I had a hard time finding out what exactly was supposed to be so wrong about this woman. I read about her assessment that some at Gallaudet thought she wasn't “deaf enough” because she was a lip reader who didn't learn American Sign Language until she was 23. That seemed a pretty lame excuse, so I was intrigued by the information in the article cited in the first paragraph.
  • Ms. Fernandes is currently university provost. Students and faculty accused her of being “divisive and ineffectual” in her leadership role.
  • She had wanted to “reach out to the broader population of deaf and hard-of-hearing students”, the vast majority of which attend conventional schools.
  • Gallaudet has serious problems.
That last is in the form of decreasing enrollment, a rating of “ineffectual” from the Office of Management and Budget (the school receives over $100 million of federal funding every year), and a graduation rate of under 50%. That's Trouble, with a capitol “T”, which rhymes with “G” and that stands for “Gone”, which is what Gallaudet will be if current trends continue.

Meanwhile, in a sort of “Lord of the Flies” scene, students and faculty were celebrating their ability to bring the University to its knees, with no apparent direction of their own except to defend “deaf culture”, which sounds suspiciously like elitism.

Who would imagine that someone would treat deafness as a cultural element?

This sort of nonsense is nothing new for the students and faculty of Gallaudet. In 1988, they forced a new president out (interestingly also a female) out after a week, because she was not deaf. That brought in current president I. King Jordan, who has been unflaggingly supportive of Ms. Fernandes. I suspect that he was having flashbacks.

The trustees statement said, “Now is the time for healing.” The protesters said, “Her resignation is not the end.” Basically, while making statements about the need for the search process to be “fair, equitable, transparent, and diverse”, they're really saying, “You won't appoint anyone we don't like. And we're not going to tell you what that is until you appoint someone.”

There's an interesting parallel between Gallaudet and Randolph-Macon Women's College. You may recall, if you're are that 2/3 of a regular reader that I have, that RMWC, a women-only school, voted to begin admitting men. As at Gallaudet, there were howls of protest, replete with demonstrations and comments like this one: “115 years of women can't be wrong.” Right, and 200 years of slave-owners couldn't have been wrong, either.

At least at RMWC, there wasn't an indication that the faculty was opposing the change, but both student bodies share the same blinkered attitude toward society. The thrust of the last 100 years has been to try to make society more inclusive, despite the ongoing attempts of racists, sexists, and generally intolerant people to thwart the efforts.

The disabled and minorities have been trying to get their piece of the American Dream, to be regarded first as “people” and secondarily as black, female, or disabled. That's why places like Gallaudet and Randolph-Macon are withering; they are anachronisms. They're better than the segregated institutions of years past only because they're now an option, not the only choice. It's because there are other options that they are failing.

RMWC has recognized that they need to recognize the existence of the real world and may succeed. Gallaudet tried and was rebuffed by its own students for whatever real and imagined reasons they may have. What's worse is that Galludet's faculty is fighting change as much as the students (one might suspect that there was considerable encouragement of the student protesters by at least some faculty members). The very people who should be forward-looking are choosing to turn their backs just as some RMWC protesters did.

Perhaps the faculty is enjoying the 100 million taxpayer dollars they receive each year. If they continue marginalizing the school, attempting to exclude those who are “not deaf enough”, they are liable to find themselves facing a public that questions their relevance and the relevance of the entire University. After all, if the majority of students don't graduate, that's an indictment of those faculty members and of the school itself.

The next time the school is shut down, it may not be done by the students.