Much of yesterday was burned up in a university level promotion "workshop." A little background (consult last post if necessary): when one applies for promotion to a higher grade at Our Fair University, one's massive packet of materials ascends thru a number of bolges: a review at the department level; at the college level; at the university level; by the Provost; and then by the President himself. (By the way, just to make things the slightest bit more uneasy, every one of these reviews up to & including that of the Provost is technically merely "advisory": one is promoted, that is, at the will of the President – who of course is more than willing to take the Provost's word for it, happily.)
Anyway, this "workshop" consisted largely of a recap of the procedures that had been far more usefully spelled out at the college-level meeting last week, & an opportunity to get to see & hear from the university Promotion & Tenure committee, which consists of representatives from every college in Our Fair University. And they seem to be mature, level-headed folks, for the most part, all looking to make fair decisions. The one really unsettling moment of the proceedings, however, was when the representative from another college rather grandiloquently announced that he made a habit of never reading the lengthy self-evaluative narratives that candidates are supposed to produce: you know, those walk-thrus of one's work that serve the purpose precisely of explaining the value & relevance of your intellectual labor for members of other colleges who might have no idea of what you're doing. Oh my, I thought; I can't wait until I get on this committee, so I can judge the physicists & biochemical engineers without bothering to listen to their explanations of what they do.
On a far happier note: Michael Dirda reviews The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky in tomorrow's Washington Post Book World. This one's a dandy, paying attention (if perhaps too briefly) to both LZ's career & poetry & to the form & strategy of the biography itself. The money words this time around: "splendid"; "speed, clarity and zest"; "scholarly yet down to earth, full of good sense and useful information." Now who wouldn't want to buy that book?