Response to Seas

Seas, in her article, is redoscovering the problem of praxis that a lot of modern philosophy (of which I would argue rhetorical studies are properly considered a subset). In taking as the model an ecological model, Seas removes the ability to use intentionality as a meaningful metric. In other, clearer, words, the complex web of material realities, social mores, and individual perspective into which every bit of communication is tossed makes it essentially impossible to have any reasonable foreknowledge of what that bit of rhetoric’s effect might be. (Calling that clearer language may have been optimistic, I now realize).

Not being a particular expert in rhetoric, except perhaps in the sense of having an amateurs acquired practical expertise, I can’t really critique Seas’ theoretical points or framework. Nevertheless, I do feel I can offer some general points from the perspective of philosophy, and will attempt to briefly do so.

The view of rhetorical ecology, to me, seems to be bound up in two larger frames. First, there is the problem of praxis: every ‘rhetorical situation’ is a subset of the larger society. Society, of course, is a massively complex set of interactions between almost innumerable factors which interact in ways that nobody can really fully describe. Because of this almost inherent unknowability, most structural theorists since Marx have confronted the question of praxis. In short, the question of praxis is thus: given that we don’t know how our actions affect society (or even if we do), and given that actions are meaningful in their effects (this is a big point that I don’t have enough space to touch here), then how can anyone know whether their actions are meaningful? There is no bridge, in other words, from the analysis of society to the understanding of the individual action. Various philosophers have attempted to solve this problem: Herbert Marcuse and the other Frankfurt School philosophers were enamored with the idea of negation, Hannah Arendt with a reclaiming of the public sphere in its proper form, Hayek and the neoliberals with a return to the principles of a civic society.

This gets at my second point. While Seas is insisting that intentionality has to be discarded to gain a proper ecological view of rhetoric, as intentionality “fails to provide a truly ecological perspective” (55). This may well be true, but it points to a weakness in the ecological view of memetics, if not rhetoric specifically.

Take, for example, religions. (Dawkins, being one of the earlier theorists of memetics, seems to offer a clue here). While the spread of religious ideas certainly resembles the epidemiology that Seas describes, the epidemiology argument breaks down as time approaches zero. In other words, an epidemiological approach can describe how an idea spreads, but not how it begins. Islam, for example, is generally taken to be the original idea of a man named Muhammad. Of course, the set of ideas that we now call aíslan have been permutarse, changed, altered, and absorbed by a thousand different environments since then. Even Islam, as a discrete idea, comes out of a mix of Abramic influences and local Arab culture in the Byzantine-Sassanid period. But this brings me to the larger point.

We can say, I think, that Islam (to keep with the religious example) is a separate idea or set of ideas than Christianity. Yet, at the same time, we equally have to acknowledge that they have been and continue to be shaped by their interactions with each other, with the lives of their respective adherents, and with the rest of human society/societies more generally. But then the question becomes clear: how do we know–that is, what is the metric– by which we can say that Islam and Christianity are two distinct ideas?

if the question is solely about how each of these ideas has spread, then we’ve sidestepped the groundwork we need to do first, in defining how we understand an idea. For example, if I want to know how the H1N1 virus spreads, I need to rule out examinations of other flu viruses; I need to define my area of investigation. While Seas’ description of framing changes as more concrete measures of influence moves in this direction, the definition is hardly exhaustive (the idea of changing frames as a predecesor to changing concrete actions doesn’t take into account the fact that a concrete action must be preceded by a specific intention toward that action, no matter how momentary). So, when Seas argues that rhetorical success is outside of the rhetoritician’s control, that may well be the case. But when the assertion becomes that rhetorical success can only be measured with a fundamental uncertainty about effects, I can only wonder if that is because we have a vague definition of what exactly we’re looking at.

Again, these are clearly very incomplete and fragmented thoughts on the subject. They’re probably more informed by my previous biases and ideas than by the reading, honestly. (That in itself is interesting anecdotal evidence of a kind, though). The bottom line is that describing a second order process (dissemination and influence) without a firm grasp of the first order process (idea or meme creation) leaves the description of the second order process vulnerable to changes or ambiguities in the definition of the first order process.


(Sidebar/Note to Myself: this is a good article to illustrate the Kantian critique of instrumentalizing humans as baked into the whole field of communications as a basic assumption.)



Questions for Serenity Wright

1. As I’m sure you’re more familiar with than I, a lot of this administration wears two or more hats. Do you think that makes it more important to cultivate relationships with individuals, rather than roles or departments?

2. Because everyone seems to know each other here, do you think that infomal power dynamics and relationships take on a greater importance in Transy’s Administrations’s decision making process?

3. Frankly speaking: do you find that there are some people (not necessarily naming names) who generally hold up the sort of reform initiatives that we’re talking about here?

3.a. Related to above, do you find that a universal consensus is needed to move certain projects forward, or is general or partial support usually sufficient?

4. When you were a part of the adminsitration, did you find it more useful, from that perspective, for students to be transparent in their work with you, as a part of their own projects and iniatives?

5. Honestly: do you think that this administration, as a body, is reform-minded?

Questions for Teddy Salazar

1. What’s your general approach to figuring out when something is an issue that needs to, in some form or another, be fixed or improved?

2. How has this approach changed for you since you came to Transy, and/or started getting involved in activist work?

3. Tactically speaking, what approaches do you find tend to produce the best response from the administration (recognizing that the administration has plenty of component parts)?

4. Many articles (Martin in this case) tend to emphasize the importance of viewing student activism as a part of the educational experience. This is a two-part question:

A) Does this view of activism as an instrumental means of growth unfairly de-emphasize the very real goals of the activist, in a way that makes tangible progress ore difficult to achieve? (ie, making it about the student experiences can justify a less progressive response from an administration that can say it is focused on the process and not the product)? Do you find it an infantilizing view that doesn’t take your work seriously?

B) What are some of the more significant things you’ve learned from being involved in campus activism? Did they come from particularly vivid single experiences, or were they more dawning realizations over the course of several ‘moments’?

5. What have been some of your successes? Failures?

6. Given your track record, (which legitimately I do not know), do you think it’s been worth your time to work on these issues? Why?

A) At what level of futility does it no longer become ‘worth it’ to you? Is there a level where that would be the case?

Reflecting on Other Campuses’ Activist

I am not, as a general rule, particularly sympathetic of the strategies and tactics of today’s campus activists. But while I have plenty of critiques, criticisms, and unhelpful snark to direct their way, I’d like to take this particular post to talk about what I think the ‘arch-typical modern activist’ does right. To do so, I’ll be drawing from my general reading around of the topic, which is informed usually by the press coverage around the usual succession of controversies that accompany campus activism (particularly when that activism is occurring at elite institutions). I’ll also note that a few particular pieces are at the forefront of my mind: the Heller piece discussed in yesterday’s post, a brouhaha that came to my attention today around an article in the journal Hypatia that discussed transracial and transgender issues, and a profile/review I’ve recently read of the scholar Laura Kipnis and her new book Unwanted Advances.  I’m not certain how much they’re currently weighing on my thoughts, but I’d be remiss not to note that I’m currently thinking about this issue in the context of those pieces.

The first thing that would strike just about any observer of the campus activism of today (I think) is that it has a remarkably developed vocabulary. Questions of intersectionality, performative identity, complicity in society’s intellectual superstructures like a capitalist economy and patriarchy are comfortable topics of discussion for the typical campus activist. I’m reminded of an Atlanticarticle (to which I cannot just now find a link-sorry!) where a student at Yale emailed a columnist to explain a recent controversy on that campus, and in doing so, ended up giving a pretty decent summary of postcolonial theory all the way back to Fanon.

I like this aspect of the modern campus activist for two reasons. First, I’m a philosophy student, and so hearing people reason within a theoretical framework is personal intellectual catnip, even if I think their reasoning flawed or weak. But more importantly, I think it strengthens the activist’s case. The general fetishization of data as a condition for adopting any proposal is so well-known as to be cliche. However, I would argue that a well-developed theoretical framework is necessary to interpret most datasets. So, the fact that most activists seem to have a well-developed sense of their own theoretical framework makes me more inclined to believe them capable of presenting a solid case to their stakeholders when it comes to their chosen issue. (I’m speaking in generalities here, of course).

In short, I think that there’s a norm among campus activists today that emphasizes the importance of a theoretical framework from which the activist can work to create change. I regard this norm as a valuable one, which strengthens the argument, when it is presented, for the changes sought by activists.

Regarding this theoretical sophistication as a strength, I obviously want to work to develop a theoretical framework for our group’s issues. On that note, most of the research I’m conducting is focused on creating just such a framework, through an investigation into possible mechanisms to relate the creation of physical spaces with the creation of communities. A framework which provides that mechanism will, I suspect, by the framework on which our group hangs its arguments.

Supplemental to the Heller, Kezar & Maxey Response

I have to admit that I am as a rule remarkably uncomfortable with the current strand of activist thought. I think most of it centers around the narrative of privilege and the way it interacts with what I have begun to think of as a would-be mass movement. So, for this post, I’d like to take a few hundred words to try and work through why, exactly, I’m uncomfortable with the current activism, even as I generally agree with the goals and ideals of the movement.

I’m taking this opportunity to do so because I can use this forum to convince my normally lazy and unfocused brain that I am working this out as a class assignment. I certainly don’t expect anything concrete to come of this supplemental; it is a pure exercise in attempting to put though onto paper (or bits, as the case may be). I also think it only fair to warn you that this is going to be me at my most narcissistic, navel-gazing, and indulgent of all my worst tics as a writer and philosophy student.

Let’s start with me, as is usually the case with these sorts of posts. I grew up in a liberal Catholic household, and the contradiction between those two adjectives were apparent to me from a very early age. Partially because of that, and partially for reasons both too obscure and too personal to go into at this point, I became immensely attracted to the philosophies of the Enlightenments (The first one being the one everyone thinks of, and the second being the Utilitarians and their orbit. I personally like to link them, though it may be bad historiography). I still have a copy of Paine’s Rights of Man on my shelf. (Though I have to confess my current thoughts trend more towards the Burkean.)

The important takeaways, for this discussion, is the Montesquieu-derived (though it shows up in everyone from Voltaire to Paine) idea of equality before the law, and the Popper-ite idea of the Open Society. Both ideas, fundamentally, rest on arguments from principle. They accept the basic premise that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This idea, of basic natural right (Setting aside the theistic clause) forms the bedrock of my own thinking. Everyone has a basic right to ownership of the state, to recognition of their rights and inherent worth from their (chosen) society, and to the full enjoyment of their life in whatsoever manner they choose to live it (accepting, of course, the rule of mutual non-interference: your right to swing your fist ends at my nose).

Thus, a social movement for a minority, in my view, should be based on a negative argument: the rights of whatever group recognized, respected, or allowed by the majority, by the state, or by whatever else. My discomfort with the modern movement, I think, comes from the fact that it often seems (at least to me) to make a related but distinct positive argument: that the full enjoyment by the majority of their rights is impeding the full enjoyment of the minority’s rights. (Sidebar: I use the term minority here in the way Mill does: any group which does not enjoy the social privilege of numbers is in a minority, and must as a consequence agitate more aggressively for their rights to be recognized). (Second Sidebar: I am, of course, talking from my own experiences of the modern movement. However, those experiences do include an attempt to read widely and deeply, to try and get a sense of the movement itself as it exists in practice. I cannot guarantee a perfect sense, of course.)

This positive argument makes me uncomfortable. What it does, I think, is make an implicit case against the idea of natural rights. By insisting that the enjoyment of certain rights–say, the right not to get shot by a policeman for no discernible reason besides skin color– is in fact a function of privilege, there is an implicit argument that, in a world without privilege, nobody enjoys that right. In other words, by framing privilege as something extra that is enjoyed only by an oppressive majority, the argument becomes not an argument for an expansion rights to the minority, but for a curtailing of rights for the majority.

Of course, the argument is rarely spelled out this explicitly. Take the above example: the ideal arrangement, I think we would all agree, is for nobody to get shot by the police without cause. This is an expansion of right (to life, in Lockean terms). However, this logic doesn’t always hold. Take the common use of the phrase “check your privilege,” or the related phrase, “an ally should shut up, sit down, and listen” (both phrases, of course, have infinite variants). In both cases, the implicit assertion is that, in order for the member of the oppressed victim to exercise their right to speak, they have to prevent someone else from speaking. While in some specific cases this may be true (say, if two people want to try and literally speak over each other), I cannot accept that it is true in the larger societal sense. Naturally, the counterpoint is that these arguments aren’t meant to create a permanent silence, but, as I think the Heller piece demonstrates, that is often their effect (the effort to defund the Wesleyan student paper was hardly temporary in its aims). Thus, I’ll stand by the point that these arguments can and often do try to restrict the rights of the majority in the same way that the rights of the minority have historically been (and to some degree still are).

The clear rejoinder to this whole critique, however, is that historically it may well be true that the rights of some can only be exercised by trampling over the rights of others. The golden age of the British Parliament, that period from Melbourne to Disraeli to Gladstone, occurred in the context of an ever more brutal colonial expansion and subjugation of half the world. The First French Republic was founded on Robespierre’s Terror, the Second on an invasion of Algeria, the Third and Fourth on a general political chaos surrounding the world wars, and the Fifth on a series of questionable moves, both ethically and legally, in the wake of De Gaulle’s dictatorship and the Algerian War. American Republicanism was founded on a genocide of the native peoples. The Latin American republics were founded by the only sometimes benevolent dictatorship of El Libertador. Even the Haitian Revolution produced Dessalines’ pogroms against the white inhabitants of Saint-Domingue.

My reply to this, such that it is, is that history is not determinative, and that every one of the cited examples has shown significant ability to reform itself. The British state, having mostly peacefully divested itself of the Empire into a state of Commonwealth, in an act so historically anomalous it singlehandedly blew up several theories of leftist history, is an encouraging example of a multicultural society, especially in London, Edinburgh, and the other major cities. France, though currently experiencing a bad wave of fascism, has mostly lived up to the promises of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. It has had to fight several revolutions to do so, but the Fifth Republic, while not perfect, is a far sight better than that of the First. France also stands as a part of the community of nations that is the European Union. This same capacity for improvement is evident in Latin America and Haiti, though both struggle economically in the shadow of the US to the north.

To bring it back to a less theoretical level, I think the positive argument discourages progress. It discourages conversation in favor of preaching by the most righteous–who are in this framing those who are the most oppressed or disfavored–members of the movement. When we emphasize personal experience, and personal narrative, over a common appeal to rights and the principles we should all theoretically hold, then we have weakened our case for social justice. We have made it into a pet cause of the affected minority, and not an outrage against all of our collective rights. I think that this positive argument makes the civic debate into a question of competing interests, and not a question of shared values. And in a republic, I think the more sectarian an interest becomes, the less a chance of seeing society and policy bend to it becomes. And ultimately, for an issue like social justice, making it a sectarian interest is going to weaken the importance we attach to it, and the importance I believe we should attach to it. So I think that’s why I’m uncomfortable with the argument. I don’t know that a high-minded appeal to civic virtue and our shared heritage is going to accomplish anything. I actually don’t think it would, if we tried it. Maybe the positive argument is, tactically speaking, the best shot at achieving social justice aims. All I know is that there’s a part of me that hopes it’s not.

Of course, I am saying all this as someone who’s been able to spend a good deal of time working out these issues (I don’t know what it says about me that I haven’t been able to work them out to the point of solution). I’m sure I have plenty of what you can all white, male, cismale, middle-class, educated, privilege. (I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few ways). I’m never sure what to actually say to these critiques–how do I convince anyone that I’m speaking from a place of sincere sympathy and genuine good intentions, and that they shouldn’t discount what I say because of who I am or where I stand? The empathetic argument doesn’t quite seem to work here, and I’m uncomfortable engaging in what Will Tackett so wonderfully called the “Oppression Olympics.” Perhaps that’s part of the point, that I can feel the silencing of a minority. But I have already felt that silencing, in a number of ways, and there’s no reason to drag everyone down to the lowest level of civic participation when the stated goal is to reach the highest, where everyone is a full citizen in every sense of the term.

I dunno. Maybe it’s just that I’m out of touch with the kids these days.

This hasn’t really clarified my thoughts on the topic much at all. But I don’t think another fifteen hundred words is going to improve that score, so I’ll leave it here for now.

Response to Heller, Kezar & Maxey

‘The New Activism,” to borrow the title of Heller’s New Yorker article, seems to be very good at making noise. But the tangible results, to judge from the article, seem to be limited to mostly symbolic gestures. This is not to denigrate symbolism, for symbols are important in defining the worlds in which we live, but it does suggest that the new style of activism is more suited to achieving certain goals above others.

To be blunt, I do not suspect the strategy of raising hell in the press and among the public, in a way that polarizes and radicalizes the university’s ideological battle lines, is going to be a useful strategy for our group’s project. Rather, I suspect that the backroom deal, a comfortable handshake, and a few well-placed PowerPoints are going to get us much closer to our goal. At the very least, the quiet strategy will be more useful during the first steps, when we’re attempting to create a physical space and secure administrative support for the revived talk series. These are essentially bureaucratic steps. and as Heller’s interview with Krislov suggests, most college administration officials are not particularly favorably disposed to a confrontational protest outside of their door. Nor, frankly, do I think our issue is of a kind that could be used as a rallying point for any kind of mass action.

Related: while Kezar and Maxey emphasize that working with faculty, staff, and other stakeholders may be more beneficial to the student learning process and outcomes, it is notable that what I feel we can call the “vanguard” of the campus left is by default quite opposed to working with the administration. While Oberlin is, of course, a quite extreme example, the vanguard’s basic posture of assuming the administration’s hostility towards them, and preemptively responding in kind, might actually impede the changes that the vanguard wants to see implemented. As Kezar and Maxey demonstrate through their handful of case studies, a more tactically flexible approach is more effective in seeing policy changes implemented, and in encouraging social changes. (In other words, faculty moderated student approaches down from loud protests and disruptions). I suspect that maintaining a tactically flexible approach will improve our group’s chance for success as well.

A final point: Kezar and Maxey discuss the importance of a network of support for student activism. While I don’t want to characterize such a network as existing here at Transy, I do want to note a general enthusiasm on the part of the faculty for sponsoring and engaging in student projects (at least in my experience). This may not be a full-blown network, but it is a start in the helpful institutional culture that Kezar and Maxey describe. I suspect it will also be helpful to our project, which will towards its end stages require significant faculty investment.

Confession time: I’d read the Heller article before, in conjunction with a piece by Jonathon Haidt, and some other piece that I can’t recall right now, for some column or essay or notes I was writing about the modern left. I don’t know to what extent that influenced my reading of the article this time around, but I thought it useful to share.

Stakeholder Investigation—Thin Notes, 30 April 2017

Here, I’m jotting down what amount to brief notes on the parties—here called stakeholders—whom at this juncture I/the group have identified as having reactions necessary to consider in order to ensure the success of the project. For a general description of the project, refer to Ms. Elisa Green’s blog.

A note about the notes: I’ve not made a serious dive into archival materials to put these notes together; they are based on general observation, personal experience, and some group chat. As such, I would hardly call this a thorough and complete investigation—this are why they’re called thin notes, as opposed to the thick notes I suspect we may need. Think of these as more of a starting point.

I have also attempted to standardize my notes into a rubric. I have also attempted to avoid gossip. I have been more successful in the former.

A final note: I have here focused on four ‘elite’ parties. However, the most important buy-in will be from the staff, faculty, and students—the public, in other words. I have not treated these groups for two reasons. First, they are groups, collectives, not individuals, and so require a fundamentally different lens of analysis. Second, their support will be most vital after the initial stage of the project, while the stakeholders identified here are vital to that initial step, and so in my view have priority.


Dianne Fout

Position: Manager @ Campus Center

Relative Power: Being the Manager of the Campus Center space, I understand her autonomy in the physical space to be significant. With that said, the Campus Center (CC) still plays host to a number of events coordinated by outside parties, and which she is probably only consulted with at an advanced stage. (Note: try and determine whether there are standard protocols for university-scheduled events, and to what degree these protocols are routinely followed). As such, her power over the CC space will make her an absolute ‘must-get’ for our project to succeed; it will not be sufficient, however. While she is vital to the question of redesigning the physical space, I do not at this time understand her as having the power to create an event series. (Thus, she is more relevant to the first part of our project.)

Suspected Disposition: Mrs. Fout, as I understand it currently, has undertaken to significantly reform and improve the space on her own initiative over the past couple years. This, to my mind, demonstrates a willingness to see room for improvement in the space, and both a willingness and ability to see through changes.

Suspected Reaction: I believe that her reaction is likely to be strongly determined by the method of presentation. If we come to her suggesting that we have all the answers and are determined to ‘solve’ the problem, then she will most likely (and quite understandably) regard us as a bunch of ignorant, arrogant brats who want nothing more than to meddle around in her job. If, however, we approach as concerned students appreciative of her efforts and eager to help her (not to take over), then I suspect (or hope) that she will be quite willing to work with us. The word of the day, then is not confrontation but co-option.

Suggested Strategy:Present ourselves as a set of students willing to lend some ‘on the ground’ expertise, some manpower, and some public attention, to her work. We want to build, not get caught up in the endless territorial fighting that can come with various power centers jockeying to reform the same institution or space. I would anticipate a good chance of success if we adopt this framing.

Anticipated Concerns: We really do only get one shot at approaching this the right way. Unfortunately, I know Mrs. Fout not at all (I’m unsure of the exact degree of familiarity the other group members have with her). As a result, I’m wary of approaching her without both extensive research and extensive prep.

Possible Risks:If we don’t get her then the whole thing is scuppered.


Michael Covert

Position: Dean of Students

Relative Power: Mr. Covert is ultimately in charge of the area we’re looking to improve. His portfolio as Dean of Students is expansive, and encompasses most of the ‘enrichment’ events (I’m unsure of the technical term) that we’re looking to both create and host in the CC. In other words, if he is emphatically no on board, then we’re blocked. However, I suspect that he need not be enthusiastically on board either. Having such an expansive portfolio, and such a variety of duties, it would be too much to ask that he take on a new crusading project. As such, I suspect that our ideal interaction with Mr. Covert involves obtaining his blessing but not necessarily his endorsement or participation.

Suspected Disposition:Mr. Covert, from my (limited) experiences with him from my time on SJB, has struck me as having a fairly conservative attitude. (I mean conservative as cautious and generally skeptical of innovation or moral crusade). I also understand, from conversation with several other students, that Mr. Covert can be understood to be somewhat unhelpful with particular student concerns he regards as less pressing or urgent than others. (Of course, this last remark is drawn from experiences not my own, and should be teated with appropriate skepticism as a result).

Suspected Reaction: The best reaction may be disinterest. If Mr. Covert sees no need to become involved, and considers this project beneath the level of Dean, then he is far more likely to ‘send it back’ to the appropriate level with a vague imprimatur of approval, which would allow us to operate with a greater degree of latitude. If he takes a disinterest to the point of hostility, then we may find out efforts stymied by orders from above.

Suggested Strategy: I suspect a framing of correction may be most useful here. If the issue is presented as returning the CC to the bustling place it was at [some point in the past, perhaps when he was her], then I believe we may stand a better chance of bringing him around to our views. This is perhaps a more favorable framing than that of innovation or trying something new and untested. This latter framing, I suspect, will carry with it a greater implicit risk marker for Mr. Covert, and will likely make him less hospitable to the project. (This is, of course, speculation). As for which reaction is more likely, I truly have no idea. My dataset here is so limited I couldn’t even create criteria for anticipating his reaction.

Anticipated Concerns:I think he might genuinely see no need for the project. After all, the CC is used for plenty of events—‘why do we need one more, and why do we need to devote resources to remodeling a space that’s already in use?’ This perception, of uselessness, may make him less likely ‘get out of the way’ of our project.

Possible Risks: It is generally a bad idea to attract attention from the third floor. They tend to bring the worst of the bureaucratic infighting, and that tends to delay or stymie projects of reform. It is probably unavoidable, however. Personally, (this is based on really profoundly limited personal experience, and is probably shaped unconsciously by the usual scuttlebutt surrounding him more than anything else), I have the impression he doesn’t much like me. I would, obviously, like to avoid confirming that impression, as there are myriad ways someone in his position could make my life more difficult (or simply not make it easier) (I’d also like to emphasize that I am not in any way suggesting that I anticipate Mr. Covert would act in any manner that is unethical, improper, or even simply rude).


Hannah Piechowski

Position: Director, Residence Life & Housing

Relative Power: Given the recent reshuffle in Residence Life and Housing, I am actually unsure of where things actually stand in that department. The formalities, I suspect, don’t really reflect the full range of interactions there. With that said, Mrs. Piechowski has been here for a while, and I suspect this lends her practical seniority as well.

Suspected Disposition: From my experiences, Mrs. Piechowski is exceptionally busy. Given this reality, it may be best to realize that a mostly written correspondence would be a useful tactic. Generally, we might consider a minimally invasive but maximally informative strategy—‘here is what we’re doing, all we need is a signature here and initials here, here, and here.’

Suspected Reaction: Mrs. Piechowski, from what I know of her, is fairly no-nonsense. Thus, a presentation of mainly tangibles, with specific details and timetables, is likely to be most appealing—moreso than lofty and idealistic talk.

Suggested Strategy: The new dorms have very nice common areas. More importantly, these common areas are well-used. I suggest this as a point of flattery. Is Mrs. Piechowski were approached with the question of how we could bring the successes of the common areas in the dorms (her portfolio) to the CC, then I suspect she would be quite likely to offer at the least advice and tacit endorsement.

Anticipated Concerns: This project is certainly at the periphery of Mrs. Piechowski’s portfolio. As such, aggravating her with an endless stream of emails, letters, and graphics is likely to do nothing so much as annoy her. A light touch might avoid this, and a focus on making sure she is only ‘brought in’ as needed is probably our best bet to avoid creating hard feelings of annoyance.

Possible Risks: Aggravating the person in charge of where you sleep at night is usually considered poor form.


Michelle Thompson

Position: Assistant Director, Campus & Community Engagement

Relative Power: Mrs. Thompson’s portfolio includes exactly the sort of event series we’d like to resurrect. As such, she will be an important partner in the organizing of the series, and especially in maintaining it in an institutional capacity. Her support will be invaluable in scheduling the event series, publicizing it, and securing the participation of various campus organizations (SAB, faculty associations, etc).

Suspected Disposition: I have never spoken to Mrs. Thompson before. From what I can gather, she has been doing this sort of work for some time, and likely has plenty of experience working with students. Hopefully this will make her more amenable to supporting the project, especially the revived series.

Suspected Reaction: See above.

Suggested Strategy: I cannot emphasize enough that I have no personal sense of Mrs. Thompson. I am therefore quite hesitant to recommend anything at all.

Anticipated Concerns: The power of the calendar is grave indeed. Mrs. Thompson is yet another failure point—if she is hostile to our project, or even disinterested to a sufficient degree, then it becomes very likely that the project will fail.

Possible Risks: Again, the unknown unknowns are considerable here.

Note: Most of these notes apply also to Hunter Williams, the Director of CCE. I also know very little about them.