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Philosophy professor Tommy Curry’s work (and part of the reason Texas A&M hired him) asks, in part, whether violence is politically necessary for dismantling white supremacy — an exploration of “violent resistance in the context of American racism ‘not as a call to arms, but as an open-ended political question.'” A frequent guest on a friend’s radio show, it was only a matter of time before the right-wing internet outrage machine found him. The repercussions are still reverberating through his professional and family lives, and shaking the foundations of academic freedom at A&M. Steve Kolowich walks through the story for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“You and your entire family of low-IQ, affirmative-action herpes-infected african monkeys might need to be put to death.”
There were dozens like that. The professor forwarded them to the campus police department. Mr. Curry says a detective told him some of the messages appeared to have been sent from within the county.
Police officers made a point to drive past his apartment building often for several weeks. But Mr. Curry worried about whether his 6-year-old was safe at her elementary school. Driving her home at the end of the day, he would circle the block a few times to make sure they had not been followed.
Nobody came to his door, knocked him down, disarmed him, fired a bullet between his legs, or made him beg for his life. The mob that came for Mr. Curry reflected his own time. It was digital and diffuse, everywhere and nowhere.
The goal, however, was the same as ever: fear. And it worked.
What might a more-efficient trial system look like? One collaboration in Chicago offers a possible way forward.
Working together, several of the city’s academic medical centers have established a joint network for conducting clinical trials. Participating institutions now routinely interview all of their hospitalized patients, regardless of diagnosis, to keep detailed records on their health status. With permission, those records are made available to researchers.
Over 15 years, the process has enrolled 100,000 patients, many of whom are then recruited for clinical trials, said David O. Meltzer, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Health and the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Much of the data is collected by undergraduates, and the team has grown large enough that newcomers can be trained without the need to constantly rebuild for each new trial, Dr. Meltzer said. “It’s wildly cost-effective,” he said, “and it’s incredibly good for the students.”
Even more savings could be realized by reconsidering when trial participants are even needed. A dozen years ago, Benjamin A. Olken, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wanted to study corruption in Indonesia, to learn which of two strategies—threatening audits of government officials or giving community members a more direct role in monitoring—would do a better job of keeping road builders from “cheating.”
In college, I rearranged my majors and minors, all in the humanities, for years. I loved everything. Finally, I majored in English. It was fate—second-grade me was constantly in trouble for sneaking books under her desk. Majoring in English was both the joy and bane of my life. I struggled with a Faulkner-heavy Southern Lit course, even though Faulkner remains beloved. I groused about Shakespeare. I wrote my senior thesis on Michael Chabon. And I transformed my love for editing into a prestigious position on the college newspaper. My Lit Crit class—a notorious gauntlet at my college—introduced me to Derrida’s jeu and the revelation of feminist theory. I spent my time studying and socializing in the English department suite. I TA’d for the head of the department. When I am nostalgic for college, I am nostalgic for the English suite—for the camaraderie among my fellow students and best friends, my professors and mentors, and the dusty books and teacups and flyers.
A confession: today, I whined to my boyfriend about the great gigs my journalist friends have procured. Daily papers! Grad school! Photography internships! New York City! On my worst days, I feel envy and inferiority. On my best days, I go to the library and check on a huge stack of books, remind myself to be grateful for my temp job and come home to write for Longreads. I remember that I did something right. If I remember that, I will continue to do something right, to do something, write.
You couldn’t see Skull and Bones from the seminar room in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, though it was directly across the street. But the building was much on my mind the afternoon of the reception and had been from the day I got to New Haven. To my 26-year-old self, it seemed nearly impossible that literature—Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, Whitman—was sharing space with Skull and Bones. I did not know much about Bones, but I took it to be a bastion of reactionary America. The society reached out its withered hand to tap future Wall Street pirates, CIA agents, and the sort of State Department operatives who had leveraged us into Vietnam, where a number of my high-school buddies had gone to be maimed and worse.
At least the Skull and Bones building looked its part. They called it the Crypt—and it did look like it was designed by Edgar Allan Poe. It was all stone and metal, with no real windows, and doors of enormous weight. Those doors must have closed with the grimmest finality, though never in my five New Haven years did I see them open or shut.