Mid-Twentieth Century Blues. Chapter Four. Part Two!

A Bag of Nails and a Hammer

I will never forget what this professor did to me!


Retirement gives you time to think.  As I look back upon the bureaucrats and professors who were essentially my enemies, I wonder if they were threatened by Religious Studies?  So many on campus had only experienced one religion, their religion.  And if you are taught that your religion is the only valid one on earth and the rest are of the devil, then I can understand some of their antics.  They were protecting themselves from evil.

I wonder also if the success of Religious Studies was a threat.  We had hundreds and hundreds of students and they kept on enrolling in more classes.  At one small college, a professor told me that I was taking away students from other classes.  Maybe people felt like their jobs were being undermined.

I was a pile of energy in those days and marketed classes constantly. One wise president who hired me told me to make the campus my classroom.  Every year I brought in speakers, created panels, offered music from other faiths, and so much more.  It was an unwanted invasion to those who had never traveled to other countries or met people with their own precious faiths.  And their responses were often “crazy!”

Playing Checkers with Offices

Sayre (Woman Professor)

“The men in her department envied her.  She was too handsome, had published too many books ….  Sayre!   She’d claim she was a lonely woman with a bad spine.  Who’d envy her?  So intense [was she] that her fist would smash glass on a Sunday evening.” Lynn Strongin

The feeling of desperation dogged me every day I worked because I wanted to find an office away from the very mean and bullying men and women with whom I was housed. For over 20 years faculty in the department that housed my office, never forgot that their candidate was not hired.  The chair of this department had stonewalled interviewing candidates in order to give his candidate a better opportunity of landing my job.  This chair had to be replaced and another professor was brought in to manage the search committee. This committee offered me the job.  I never knew of this political problem until months after I had moved to begin the job.

In almost everything I did on campus, this chair and his department tried to block me.  They complained about me incessantly.  They sidelined grants for which I applied. They offered classes similar to the ones housed in Religious Studies.  They blocked funds for projectors, office furniture, and classes in technology. They blocked my request for market pay. In their classes they defamed me to Religious Studies students.  They blocked curricula I brought to the curriculum committee.  Fortunately, after many years, some of the old guys died or retired and I won some peace for a while.

Religious Studies was growing by huge numbers and this necessitated more room. I managed to hire adjunct faculty who taught in the evenings to help me. There was no where for them to work. Finally, I convinced the dean to allow me to move to a big room that was no longer in use two floors above my current hole in the wall.  Of course, no one was going to help me clean and organize the old room. I brought cleaning equipment, moved in a table (by myself) and set up the room.  In the process some of the old bookcases fell on me. Bruises covered my back and arms!

During the next week, I packed up everything in the office ready for the move.  The dean would not allocate any funds to move me, but I knew my students would help me. I brought a few students to my office after class only to find that a letter had been shoved under my door. Apparently, the dean had changed his mind.

A larger department wanted the room.  I was mortified.  I asked the students to leave and sat at my desk and cried for hours.  People knocked at my door to determine if I was okay but I could not answer it.  It was very late that night before I could find the energy to move!

The next day, the dean ordered me to ask departments if there were any other buildings on campus that would house Religious Studies.  He could have made one phone call and found something for me in a couple of minutes, but he would not do it.  The chemistry department told me that they had an open lab and there was plenty of room for me.  They welcomed me.  But the dean would not allow me to move.  Tormenting me was his hobby!

I appealed the dean’s letter informing me that I could not move to the upstairs office to the space allocation committee. They awarded to me an empty office, but they never sent a letter to inform me of their decision. There was a professor across the hall who would be moving into that space two floors above that I had cleaned and organized.  Months later I accidently discovered from a professor, not from my dean or any other bureaucrat, that I had been given her office.  That office was hard-won!

It was great to have an office away from the predators but it was also a “sentence” to work in hell.  During the spring and summer, the temperature was in the 90’s and in the fall and winter it dropped to 50 degrees or less.  I bought heaters to warm it up but there was nothing I could do about the heat, just wilt.

A New Big Office

After finally securing private office space, the dean would not allocate funds to purchase a desk and chair.  Of course, my wonderful students came down and carried all the boxes to my new office.  They carried my small refrigerator and microwave too.  The only furniture that went with me was a 1950’s style file where I kept student grades.  I was not prepared to purchase everything new for my office so I brought things from home, bookcases, long folding tables, and chairs.  I moved most of things in my van one-by-one.

One day when I was moving a huge six-foot long metal folding table from my car into the office, the automatic doors closed on me and the fifty-pound table fell on me.  I struggled to get it upright again on my dolly and make it down the hall.  In that hallway stood several male professors who saw me moving furniture by myself.  Not a single professor offered to help me.  They just snickered.  Sometimes I thought I was working in a horror movie where nightmares kept coming at you. Screaming would have helped.  I was treated like a sub-class human being, like a voiceless nothing.

The ironic part about the dean not providing support in any manner is that we offered evening classes through another office at that time. There was a revenue share about which I knew nothing.  Our college received funds based on enrollment in evening classes, and Religious Studies classes were full.  The dean never shared any of that money with us.  (And that lack of support was a way of harassing me.)

Over the years I purchased almost everything in my office. (And faculty kept asking about how I managed to obtain such nice things in my office.  It was a no-win situation.)  I finally bought a desk which I assembled myself that was broken by workers when asbestos renovations were done in the building in which I worked.  I fixed it, but it was never the same.  I will tell this story later.

Evicting Professors. The Mailbox Crisis.  Were they crazy?

One day I arrived at my new office to find that the office professional had decided that I could not pick up my mail. “Where is my mailbox?”  I asked her. “It is in the basement housed in the radio station.” “Why,”I asked her.  The office professional had a couple of stories about why the mailbox was moved. One of them was that there was a faculty vote to take away my box.  “You don’t belong here.  You don’t even teach in this building.  Why don’t you move to the building where you teach!” Of course, it was not her idea to move my mailbox?  The abusive deed originated from the desk of the bullying chair.  They wanted to evict me, so, however stupid it might sound; they played havoc with my mailbox.

When I left the confines of the hole-in-the-wall office, I did not take my mailbox with me because there was nowhere that the mail could be delivered near my office, so I kept it in the hallway in this department where it had been for five years. I was furious and wrote the following letter to the Dean.

“Over the years, whenever I tried to inform you of the abusive language, attitude, and activities of several members of this department, you extolled their virtues.  Taking away my mailbox is not virtuous.  The office professional has consistently abused my students, visitors,   and me for five long years….

This moving of the mailbox is problematic.  I do not work in  the other department and my mail would still come to the box I have had for all of these years. Students need a place to send items they want me to read.  Some of my audio visual equipment and videos were scheduled to be delivered to this mailbox.  Where will they go now?  Sometimes I come into pick up mail on the weekend and I cannot access the other department’s mail area.  I am not an animal.  I deserve to be treated with some consideration.”

In the end, my box was moved to a room within proximity of the dean’s office.  After nefarious hateful items kept showing up in my mailbox, the dean placed my mailbox in his office proper.  That solved the problem.  How crazy and silly all of this was!  And the campus had to learn my new number that was not publicized for a year, but some never changed the number of my box so mail circulated and circulated until it found me or it did not.

Destroying Personal Property.  The Broken Desk

This is what my desk looked like after it had been destroyed.

Earlier I spoke about a broken desk. The building in which Religious Studies was housed was to be renovated during the summer.  Not one person told me about the renovation. This was another useful tormenting strategy.  I found out about it about two days before the renovations were to begin when I saw people carrying items out of their offices.

The dean had simply forgotten?  Huh?  This was passive-aggressive at the very least.  Or he was drinking too much vodka!  I was teaching that summer and needed an office.  This time a crew moved my things into an office in another building, for free!  My own office was empty.  During the renovation, tradespeople used my office as a dump.  In it they stored all of their equipment, tools, and garbage. I wonder who gave them permission to use it?

After teaching for the summer and then going home for a month, I came back to a filthy office–from top to bottom.  The carpet was soiled and the paint was ruined.  I tried to find my desk and other materials and they were nowhere to be found.  One of the cleaning people found remnants of my things thrown into a closet in another building.  No one knew who threw my things into a closet.  The desk was broken and many items were missing.

I managed to get the broken desk back to my office, found a chair, and put my bookcases back together so I could teach in the fall.  I bought paint and painted my office, of course there was no money in the budget for that sort of thing.  After a week or so, I noticed that every other office (except mine) in my building had new carpet and paint.

I went to the dean and told him to come down and look at the black, torn, and worn carpet in my office.  Again, there was no money to purchase carpet or renovate. There was no upgrade for me. Miraculously, about a week later someone told me that there was money left in a grant that was used to renovate the building.  I asked the dean if this was true.  He said, “Go over and pick out your carpet.”  He never offered an apology.

I never knew if this type of abuse was intentional or if the players were incompetent. Scams like this happened to me over and over and over.  I really think it was intentional.  It was harassment at its worst!  And the men enjoyed it!  They always made me beg for everything like a little dog.

Controlling Your Personal Life.  No Pregnancies Allowed!

While you would never see the above words in a faculty guide, male professors early in my career did not like the idea of having to cover (substitute teach) for a pregnant female professor. A pregnancy could put your tenure in danger and you might never achieve a promotion (which meant a raise in pay). And I did have colleagues who knew that choosing to have children might mean the end of their careers. Bureaucrats would not speak these words but the expectations were there.

During the first fifteen years of my career at several institutions, only one female faculty member became pregnant.  She was given a leave of absence and she never returned to teaching. Giving your life to a child, to your students, and to publishing is an almost insurmountable task for women.

When I arrived at one job, the dean arranged for a party to introduce me to his friends. Some of the wives of the professors sat by me during a meal and began to drill me.  Where is your husband?  Where are your children right now?  Where are you living?  You mean you are living alone?

In my previous decades of employment not one person had ever asked me if I had children.  It never seemed important.  But, now, these women were putting their hands over their mouths because they were alarmed that I did not have children.  I told them that I really was not interested in having and raising children. It was not my thing!  They went wild and never spoke to me again.  Of course, if you follow the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, being “fruitful” is a command.  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).  I guess I was not following the divine dictate!

Minimizing Computer Support.  Technology and Technocrats

I was familiar with computers and had learned how to use an IBM computer in 1982.  My first computer was an Epson.  I kept learning about software and finally migrated to a MAC in the mid-1980’s.  At some of the institutions where I taught, I offered classes to faculty to introduce them to computing.  At one institution, I bought a subscription to an online index database and ran searches for my students.  In those days we connected by phone. (I will discuss this later.) Other institutions also lagged behind in computing and support. I think they thought that computers were not important!

When I negotiated a new contract at an institution a personal computer was part of the deal. In those days very few professors had computers or knew how to use them.  They agreed to provide a computer but when I arrived, they would not purchase a printer for me.  What good is a computer without a printer? There was no Internet at this time. After creating syllabi and handouts for class, I could not print them.  So, I had to purchase a printer with my own money.  This happened often.  During my first ten years on one job, I donated more than $2000 a year for supplies, teaching materials, and office equipment to keep Religious Studies functioning, not to mention paying for campus speakers.

This school was so far behind all of the other institutions where I had taught that we had to use a mimeograph machine to create tests.  That meant that a stencil had to be cut (no typing mistakes).  Then the stencil was run across paper that made blue type.  It was very messy and you could not save the tests because the ink faded.

The only computer staff at this time was two guys who physically worked on computers.  Over the years, faculty progressed and began using IBM’s or PC’s.  There was always a battle for resources for computers.  One president decided that Apple’s/MACS were to be thrown off campus.  Of course, this unilateral and erroneous decision could not and would not happen. Many creative software packages were developed only for MACs.  Essentially the president was taking away the tools that faculty needed to do their jobs. And this decision, while in the beginning harmed many faculty, was eventually reversed.

Eventually software was developed to enhance instruction on the Internet.  There were many types of software that could be used online but the school where I taught chose Blackboard. It was not popular in the beginning because it was complicated to use.

Eventually there was a push to place classes online because those courses could reach students who otherwise could not enroll.  (I believe the push came because bureaucrats wanted to attract more students to pay tuition. The fact that it would enable stay-at-home moms, handicapped people, the military, students without cars, etc. never entered into their minds.  It was all about cash.)

Certain faculty were chosen to learn how to use the software.  I was not one of them even though I had substantial experience in computing.  I had to beg the technology office to tutor me, and, thankfully they did tutor me a couple of years later.

One of the greatest problems I had while developing and teaching courses on Blackboard was the incompetence of the support staff.  Over and over students could not view videos, or could not upload their research, or tests would fail. They did not know how to fix the software when it failed.  They did not have enough experience to keep the software fully functional.

Some of the tech people suggested that I buy a drop-in cartridge to use in my classes. Many professors do not know how to develop online classes and so they buy ready-made courses that they just upload to Blackboard (drop-in cartridges) and then they babysit the students.  This is a travesty.  Faculty should not be allowed to teach online if they don’t know how to develop a class.

Students lose when teachers are lazy and administrators figure out how to take advantage of them!

When faculty use drop-in cartridges, they do not know how to solve problems when they surface. Why would anyone want to teach a class where all of the notes, tests, outlines, videos, and other teaching tools are already provided for the professor?  It seems antithetical to excellence in teaching.  Where is the creativity?  To me this is also an ethical question!

Colleges choose to buy these drop-in cartridges (classes) because they do not want to hire full-time faculty.  They want to hire someone who is less qualified (less pay) so that they make more money from the tuition for the class.  And many of these people who offer these classes are not paid very well and know very little about the subject matter.  Colleges cheat students when they use these drop-in cartridges.

All of my classes were developed online from scratch by me.  I had to obtain permission for films and readings that were uploaded to Blackboard.  I bought a subscription to a clipart database and also used thousands of my own photos. At least fifteen presentations were developed for one course alone.  Many included voice.  This was the norm for my classes.  But there were always problems.

One semester my presentations for a class would function within Blackboard and the next semester they would not work.  I had not had any programming at this time so I did not know how to solve the problem myself.  The techs could not solve the problem or would not solve the problem.  So that meant I had to create totally new presentations for the classes I taught.  These presentations represented years of work.  Eventually, as the Internet matured and sites developed, I used other materials.  Students could go directly to these sites online but, even then, this broke down also!

This insanity went on for a decade.  I would receive scores of phone calls late at night or early in the morning from students complaining that Blackboard was not working.  This wreaked havoc in their life and in mine. Finally, I requested permission to work on a Certificate in Web Programming and Design.  When I finished this program, I knew that the support people in the tech department had never had these classes because they would have been able to solve the problems.

Since I did not have access to the Blackboard platform, even with my knowledge, I could not solve the problems.  In the end, when I retired, one of the main reasons I left was because of how difficult the lack of tech support made my teaching, my life every day. It was chaos.  Below is a section of a letter I wrote to the tech people just before I left.

For most of my career, I had obtained copyright permission to use videos or other written materials in my classes that were uploaded to Blackboard.  I knew the rules well.  During my last semester, I had requested permission to use videos that had no real copyright holders.  The university attorney ruled that they were in “fair use” after consulting with specialists in the field.  The tech people did not like his ruling.  They pulled rank on the attorney and went over his head to argue their case. He changed his mind!  In the end, he left the university.  When the technology area began making legal rulings is when the university did not need an attorney. Besides being unfair to me, the bigger travesty was that the bureaucrats allowed the tech department to define course content!

The real problem here was the culture of the tech department.  They thought that because they had computer knowledge that they had the power to control everyone who used Blackboard. They ruled us!  Our issues did not matter to them.  While they may have understood (better? than faculty and bureaucrats) how the software was created, they did not teach using the software and were always unaware of all of the problems they caused by their decisions. They did not want to support faculty and students. They were bullies!

Misusing funds Generated by Small Departments

The greedy always find others to prey upon, like parasites!

I had worked for about 20 years at a college before I learned about the thousands of dollars that we were generating for the entire college.  (As noted earlier.) This continued until I retired, although one dean shared a percentage of those funds during my last few years.  Religious Studies was a department of one full-time person that was generating thousands of dollars for a college of over one hundred professors with huge departments.  (As already briefly mentioned. I had hired at least six adjunct professors to teach specialty subjects in Religious Studies and enrollment in our classes kept growing.)

I became a slave to the rest of the faculty in my college who fed on the funds Religious Studies generated.  The dean shared the funds we generated through online courses with other departments and faculty.  He created grants and awards to be given away.  Of course, Religious Studies was never offered those grants or funds.  At one point, this one full-time person (me) department netted $450,000 for the general fund.  No one ever complimented me or offered any additional personal compensation for the work.

Those shared-funds supported online faculty and face-to-face faculty in Religious Studies, allowing them to purchase items  for classroom use and attend national conferences.  And this money also supported my attendance at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR). These national organizations were sources of academic, personal, and social support for me.  Year after year they accepted my papers and presentations. I served as president of a regional SBL and developed sessions for many years for AAR as a chair of different groups. Publishers also treated me with respect and were eager to publish my work.  For years they were my family.  I would meet old friends from graduate school and made friends with editors and publishers.  I was so fortunate that academics across the country appreciated my work.

Alienating and Marginalizing of Faculty.  The Ultimate Wound

Probably one of the most stinging things that happened to me in my entire career was the day a cowardly dean (and I worked with scores of deans) met me in the hallway as I was on my way to the chair’s meeting.  Of course, all of the chairs were male, except me. Once in a while a female would be elevated to the chair’s position in a department but she did not stay long. They refused to give me the title of “chair” and so my title was “director.”  I was always shocked when I attended chair meetings. All of the men looked alike.  They wore blue sports coats with open collars and had light hair with receding foreheads and light skin.  For several years I could not really remember their names because they all looked the same.  There was not a tall one in the bunch.  Most of them were shorter with an occasional chair that almost reached six feet tall.  They all looked like brothers, and they almost always hired themselves or look-alikes!

I met with the chairs but I was not one of them.  We sat at huge conference tables that were pushed together. I was assigned a space at a corner on a table, which meant that I had no room to place a notebook or put my feet under the table.  It was a very uncomfortable symbol of their feelings about my presence.

This weekly meeting was the doorway to information on campus.  If there were funds for computers, or special activities on campus, this is where we were informed.  Each chair would explain what was happening in his area. It was a learning experience. Since I was the only full-time professor in Religious Studies, it also provided social time with fellow colleagues.

How could this man do this to me?

As I was saying earlier, I was on my way to this meeting that I had attended for probably fifteen years, and even during summers when I was not teaching on campus. (I lived 60-70 miles away and it was a long trip just for a single meeting.)  The dean met me in the hallway and stopped me.  He said, “Your presence is no longer required at the chair’s meeting.”  I said, “What? What is the issue?”   He would not answer me.  He turned back toward his office and walked away. (I think he went into the men’s restroom to hide.)

I had no idea regarding the politics of the situation.  Soon, I learned through a third party (Thank goodness for friends.), that Religious Studies had been placed under a department with a brand new chair who was junior to me.  No one had even bothered to talk to me about the move.

I was not the only female to be stung by the power-hungry who wanted to put women in their place.  Every time we were blessed with a new president, he would begin to re-organize. If there were women in charge of areas or programs like academic advising or international affairs, he would place a young male over them or, sometimes, a young inexperienced female would become their boss.  Humiliation was a great tool to force women to leave their jobs.

In that same year when I was told not to attend chair meetings, I was approved for a sabbatical. No discussion on the political decision of placing Religious Studies in another department was allowed.  The dean ordered me to his office to sign my sabbatical papers for my leave.  And here is cruelty in action.  The dean had the contract typed with the name of the department chair who was approving my sabbatical.  (My sabbatical was one semester off with pay.)  I told him that this was unacceptable.  I was not a member of the department.  He said that if I did not sign my name and accept this junior professor as my chair, that my sabbatical would be cancelled.  He told me I had to sign the paper at that moment.  He would not give me any time to think about it. I signed the paper, and I have regretted it ever since I did.

Over the years there were many political attacks from rotating provosts to bring down Religious Studies.  One day the dean came to me with the news that the Center for Religious Studies was going away, again!  Why would they pick on one Center and not the others?  None of the other Centers were targeted.  So quickly, my student assistant and I began to research Centers and Institutes on campus.  We found twenty-two centers and most of them were “stand-alone,” which meant that they were not housed in a bigger department.  So, I sent off the research and a letter with lots of questions.  Why does the provost’s college house the most Centers on campus?  How long have these Centers been in existence?  Who funds them?  Shouldn’t all of these Centers be cut, if Religious Studies is cut?  That research stopped one provost from harassing Religious Studies for a little while.

 Bullying is an Accepted NormA Bag of Nails and a Hammer

I will never forget what this professor did to me!

At one point in my career I was member of the university curriculum committee.  The job of a person on a curriculum committee is to determine if the classes that are proposed are academically well-constructed and funded. A new international curriculum was proposed and I asked many questions about the content. After all, at this stage in my career I had visited scores of countries and I wanted to know what was “international” about the classes. They interpreted my questions as intimidation because they could not answer them.  (They were not really international in scope.  It was a snow job.) On the second day of considering a proposal one of the men was very upset.  At the end of the session, he brought over a brown paper bag with a hammer and nails in it.  He said that he was going to use them on me.  What?

I reported this threat to the dean, who promptly discounted it. In a very demeaning way, he told me that I might be on the curriculum committee but I was not one of them (of course).  One of the professors (with the hammer and nails) had complained to him about me. So, the dean told me to apologize to him.  What? That professor brutalized me and I told the dean that I would not apologize and reward him for his bullying.  I really feared him.  The dean remarked that I had a deficient personality.  How cruel he was!  Deans often attacked you personally if you did not follow their outrageous orders.

Deans had to toe the line because if they did not agree with the higher-up bureaucrats, they could be attacked and their careers could be on the line.  So, it was safer and easier for a dean to abuse the one who was abused–than to take on his friends, the bureaucrats.  I never realized how broken and cowardly bureaucrats could be until I was in my 50’s.  How naive I was!

If you would like to read the entire book, Final Exam Jihad.  An Opportunity for Loneliness, click on this link.  Link








As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  The book itself is copyrighted!




Posted in Cause of Violence, Computer Support, Disillusionment in Higher Education, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Jihad, Misogynism, Misogynism in Higher Education, Religious hatred, Strategies to derail females, Stress and Professors, Violence Against Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Twentieth Century Blues. Chapter Four, Part One.

Inescapable Institutional Violence  

“For the beauty of strong courageous women is ugly by misogynist standards of “beauty.”      Mary Daly


Sometimes you get caught up in a cause or a battle and you cannot step away from it.  This must have happened to me.  As I read my words, I am so happy that my life is different now.  I also grieve about what is happening in higher education.  Education can be a key to a great future, but I am not sure my students received any of those keys.

I don’t want to drone on, but people need to know the “awfulness” of higher education today!  I am sure that most people have encountered abuse or violence in their careers.  But, integrated into the organizational fiber of colleges and universities is a self-aggrandizing cancer that harms and even kills its members.

The environment that should provide a passage to creativity and growth can become a cesspool of political struggles.  The environment that should provide a peaceful respite from the stresses of life turns out to be filled with booby-traps and snares. The powerful and those who lust after power use many and varied, active and passive strategies to enhance their own egos and status.  In my forty or more years of experience in higher education, violence and verbal abuse were my constant companions.  Most of the bullying was used to control, constrain, punish, or to manipulate.  And it was often effective!

Preying Upon Students

Over the years many students came to me with stories of assaults by professors.  The only problem was that they never had any proof. One story comes to mind.  She was an international student who had been attacked by a professor in her department.  She did not understand rape.  She was so naive.  I asked her about going to the hospital and she did not know that she should have gone. There was nothing I could do for her because there was no proof that the incident happened.

There was a lot of gossip about male professors attacking students.  None of the professors lost their jobs. Sometimes they were given a semester off (with pay), or reassigned to another department, but they were seldom punished for their crimes.

One office professional was sexually attacked repeatedly by a professor who constantly, in a public way, demeaned her and her work. (I do not know why she did not report him.  Later, someone else did.) Eventually she quit her job, but before she left she told me that she sprayed his office with urine.  What a revenge for a rape!

 Feeding on International Students and Others

International students are a coveted group on campus because their out of country tuition is so high. Out-of-state tuition (alone) can be two to three times higher.  Bureaucrats used them to add money to the general fund. But the bureaucrats abandoned most of them once they arrived in town.

When International students arrived on campus, no one helped them to adjust to the town or the university.  Apparently, the International Office did not have a requirement regarding funds that students should have when they arrived.  So many students without support from home lived in total poverty while attending classes. They had little money for warm clothing, food, books and supplies, and transportation.

I can’t remember how many times I brought food and household items for my international students. They were so kind that they even invited me to dine with them on the top floor of an old building. It was not clear as to how many international students lived on this one floor where my students lived.  They had put up sheets to create independent living arrangements.  (Where was the restroom and shower?) I don’t know how they survived!

When I arrived for dinner the food had been placed on a mat on the floor.  I was supposed to eat the food with my hands.  I asked for a fork.  The student went from cubicle to cubicle on this floor looking for a fork and finally found one.  We sat on the floor and ate rice.  It was the kindest thing that anyone had ever done for me.

Sometimes I paid the tuition for my students.  Tom and I had recently toured Turkey and spent an afternoon with one of my student’s parents and her sister near Izmir, Turkey.  It was a rare experience for us.   They were Muslims and prepared enough food for an army just for us.  A couple of days after we returned, an earthquake devastated Turkey.  My student’s parents lost their home and their business was ruined.

My student told me that she had no money and her parents could not send her any money because assets had been frozen and they were living out on the street.  Their apartment had huge cracks in the walls and the aftershocks kept coming.  I asked the student if I could buy one of her mother’s paintings.  (Fortunately, they were able to send it later from Turkey.) The price I paid for the painting was exactly the amount of money my student needed to pay off her tuition and survive until she graduated.  The painting arrived and is still hanging in our hearth room today.  It was the most expensive painting that I ever purchased and the best return on an investment.

International Bureaucrats Were Clueless about Travel Issues

 One of the greatest issues I had with international students had to do with vaccinations. They came from a variety of countries and many of them were not immunized.  Their very presence presented a threat to other students and the U.S.A. students presented a threat to them.  I complained to the International Office about this issue. And reminded them that faculty who take students abroad must require students to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to protect them. But they ignored my advice!

One professor took students to Africa and every one of the students and the instructor herself came back with Malaria and who knows what other diseases.  This was an outrageous thing to do to students who should have been taught how to protect themselves.  Neither the faculty member nor the bureaucrats were concerned with the diseases the students had acquired.  And why were they unconcerned?  In my experience, most bureaucrats and faculty have never traveled internationally. And those who had traveled did not choose an underdeveloped country to visit.  So, they knew nothing about the CDC and the threats that the diseases posed.

Minority Students

Bureaucrats also used the same strategies on minority students.  I met a professor who told me that her state school “used” minority students to fund their other programs. Bureaucrats would admit academically poor students who they knew could not compete.  They brought hundreds and hundreds of minorities into her technology classes.  Most were there for less than a semester because they could not do the work. Bureaucrats could claim their tuition funded by the Federal government as their own. She quit her job because she felt it was unethical to do this to people.  This is exactly what for-profit colleges had been doing and many of them have been shut down.  Public-funded colleges and universities that use these strategies should be closed also.

Male Hegemony.  Dominating the Females 

Rape manifests itself in many forms.  It can be physical to be sure, but males can violate you in many, many ways.  So many men crave power over females because they believe that they have a divine right. Their faith tells them that God gave males the ultimate dominance over females. And females have no right to teach Religious Studies or Theology. (As I was told.) Those fields are for “males only!”  In my long career, most males rarely appreciated my creativity or abilities in the classroom, on campus, or in print.  They were jealous, rendered impotent by my very presence, and devised ways of attempting to harm my reputation or block my plans for developing a department or a career.

Promotion and Tenure

I will never forget the time I went to the dean to ask for help in preparing my dossier for promotion.   (Tenure means, barring some catastrophic happening, you had a job for life.) My dean pointed me toward a man in the college who had a three-page dossier.  He was a full-professor.  I don’t know if the dossier was real or not.  I was distressed because his dossier was a joke. He could not help me at all because he had accomplished little to gain promotion.  He was one of the good old boys.  I had published articles and books and given more papers in my first three years of teaching than he had in his thirty years.

I finally found a female professor in another college who gave me insights on how to write a successful dossier.  Her dean invited me to a workshop on tenure and promotion that my college did not offer.  All of this advice worked!  But it took me six long months to assemble that dossier with examples of my work, letters of recommendation, and more. (This very kind Dean was demoted.  He ended up dying of cancer.)

I knew that the dossier had to be the “best in the college” in order to win a promotion because I had so many detractors.  (Every single item was clearly documented so there could be no questions about whether I did or did not do something. There were no skeletons in the closet.) When you are fighting for your existence you have to excel.

Every person who has experienced discrimination understands what I am saying here. 

You are not among the “in” group, nor are you “privileged.” You were not given a job, you earned the job.  This is not arrogance. It is a fact.  I did not have access to the old-boys club to help me! It is difficult for the old boys to harm you when a committee ranks your dossier as number one in the college.

Breaking Privacy Laws.  Common Practice

When I moved to a new job at a university, I spent some time with a real estate agent.   Before I actually bought a home, the man showed me a copy of my Vita (extended resume) and one of the books I had written.  It was really weird to discover that someone at the university was sharing my information with his/her friends.  He thought that I was a Christian fundamentalist because Jerry Falwell had written a forward to one of my books on that very topic, fundamentalism.  He was so wrong!

 Using Threats and Bullying.  Misogyny and Me

 I should have consulted a crystal ball on my first day on campus at one university.  A faculty member asked me if I was a Christian.  I said that my faith has nothing to do with academics and would not answer him.  He said, “I am going to the president.  If you are not a Christian, you should not be teaching on this campus.”

Within a few minutes another faculty member came up to meet me.  “Are you the new Religious Studies professor?”  I answered in the affirmative.  “Well, I don’t think that Religious Studies should be taught on campus.  It is against the law.  I am going to complain to the president.”   That day predicted the coming onslaught of abuse that I would experience for decades.  I should have got in my car and left!

The academic study of religion is not outlawed by the constitution as long as the religions are taught from an inclusive and objective point of view. It is an exploration of the history, geography, culture, beliefs, rituals, music, politics, laws, and more of religions around the globe.  Separation of church and state is the rule but is only violated when a specific religion, the religion of the professor, is the only religion that is taught in class. I never subscribed to a single religion in class or on campus during my career in Religious Studies. (But I knew of professors who prayed in class and taught their beliefs to students, without hesitation!)

For years, faculty, bureaucrats, and students at this university accosted me. Hate-centered emails came flying at me and had to be stopped by the university attorney.  Students secretly taped by lectures and took them to the board of governors and the president. People put books, flyers, and more with outlandish titles and threats in my mailbox. It was a constant battle!  I think the main issues that bothered these people were that I was a female, and that I brought non-Christian groups to campus. They did not want to hear about other faiths around the globe, which is the central goal of Religious Studies.

Not-so-Kind Christian Ministers

At a meeting of all the male Christian ministers in the community where I taught, I discussed plans for growing a Religious Studies department and wondered if they would like to participate.  They asked me to answer many theological questions.  (Theological questions are questions about a personal faith and have nothing to do with the academic study of Religion at a state college.) Their response was that they would have to audit my classes before they would want to work with me.  None of those pastors ever gave me the time of day, nor did any of them visit any of my classes.  It was like I was taboo, untouchable!  For them, the only true faith was their faith and studying other religions was considered to be “of the devil.”  They did not understand the differences between practicing a single faith (theology) and Religious Studies.

The Whore of Babylon had come to Town!

During my first year at the above academic institution, one day on my way to work and listening to the radio, I heard the announcer say that the university had recently hired the Whore of Babylon. He went on to say that she was the Head of Religious Studies.  I could hardly believe my ears.  He was calling me the “Whore of Babylon.”  How do you stop that kind of violation?  To whom do you complain?  And, who would listen? Where does a radio announcer obtain information about faculty?  Were my colleagues already threatened by the teaching of Religions on campus?

Years later a Jewish president of the university was given the same kind of treatment.  He left and died shortly thereafter from cancer.  I always wondered if the stress he experienced from the harassment had hastened his death.  He was not the only one on campus who died shortly after being “mugged” by the bureaucrats.

Assaulting the Successful

 I had left teaching as a professor for a couple of years to work as a public relations officer for a school system but decided that I missed teaching and came back to the classroom.  My pay was only half of my previous job, but I felt lucky.  At this private college, classes were small and I poured my heart into them.

At the end of the semester, most of the students received good grades and my student evaluations were excellent.  The chair of this department ordered me to his office and lectured me concerning my evaluations.  He told me that I made the rest of the department look really bad.  They had average scores on evaluations and that if I wanted to stay employed, my evaluations had to come in line with the rest of the professors.  So, this belligerent over-bearing slimy large man wanted me to do what?  How do you persuade students to give you a bad evaluation? I think that was the very moment that I decided to leave that school.

Failing to Pay for Work

Uppermost in my goals for Religious Studies was to improve enrollment in my classes and arrange the times classes were offered so that students who wanted to take our classes could enroll. Large departments scheduled their required courses during popular times on campus.  I experimented with two concurrent four-week classes in the summer.  Each class met almost four hours a day.  That meant that I was teaching eight hours a day.  This schedule was so difficult for me that I had to go to my car and take a fifteen-minute nap every day.

The classes were very successful.  After two summers of teaching the classes, I was told that I would have to teach 60 students in each class.  What?  No one teaches 60 students in classes during the summer.  Apparently, there was a summer school committee, headed by two of the people who occupied the department that marginalized me. They created guidelines for the summer.

No one on campus, except me, had to attract 60 students in a class in order to get paid.  Many classes in the business school set the limit of 10 students.  I appealed this decision handed down to me to the dean. No response. I appealed to the provost and he stood by the faculty who came up with the guidelines.  They discriminated against me specifically.  I wondered if the university was discriminating against all women?  I studied all the classes offered by men and women.  Only one woman was teaching two classes in the summer.  All the men were teaching and getting paid for two classes. So, the discrimination against all females was intentional.

I appealed to the faculty senate and they told me that the provost could do anything he wanted.  I argued that this was discrimination but they did not want to address the issue. So the associate provost got involved. She told me that she did not care if they were discriminating against me. I was only going to teach one class and it had to have, now, at least 40 students.  I looked at her and said, “I am not teaching anything this summer.”  Her jaw dropped and I left the room.

I believe they thought that I was going to bring legal action against them for discrimination.  Two attorneys from a town nearby contacted me.  They had been informed about how I was treated on campus.  But I decided not to bring any action against the university. I knew they would punish me even more than they already had.  And who wants to spend many stressful years only to be awarded a few thousand dollars?

Not one word was ever said to me about the altercation about summer school. The next year I requested two classes to teach with maximum 25 students and no one challenged me.  They had dropped all the rigid guidelines that they had forced upon me for summer school. Word of their discrimination reached around the world, literally.

During this tense time I received a letter from W. Henry Walthall who was in charge of the Prabhupada Rasamrita Trust.  He began, “Most Respected Dr. Selvidge, and Dear Friend and Fellow Revolutionary Marla Ma.  You have had these problems before.  Remember it’s like Popeye downing a can of spinach.  Natawhop…ZhaZam!  These will give you strength and help you to defeat Provost Moron.”  He was so kind!  For a long time after that I went by the name he gave me, “Marla Ma.” As an aside,  they failed to pay me and my adjuncts time and time again.  We had to watch our bank accounts and remind them!

Scheduling Nightmare Classes and Rooms

At one of the institutions where I taught the chair arranged the times when classes would be offered.  He gave me a class at 7:30 a.m. and one at 6:00-9:00 P.M. a couple of days a week. I lived 90 miles away from the college so by the time I finished my 6:00 P.M. evening class and talked to all the students; it was usually 10:00 at night. If I had driven home, I would have arrived home after midnight and then would have to turn around at 5:30 a.m. to leave for the next class in the morning.  It was too dangerous to drive all of those miles when I was so tired and when there was snow on the mountain. So, I bought a sofa bed and stayed in my office overnight. I only stayed at this college for one year, if I had stayed longer; I think I would have died in a crash on the mountain.

I have no idea why the chair gave me such a horrible schedule.  There were two other Religious Studies professors who lived in town but they taught during the middle of the day.  I wonder if there was some negative political push back with hiring a woman to teach Religious Studies.  I will never know.

At another institution one of my classes was scheduled in a room that a faculty member wanted to use.  In those days I had to, in writing, request every piece of equipment, audio or video that I needed for every class day in an entire semester before classes began. This task took several hours to do. So, moving from one room to another was very problematic because the audio-visual department would physically move items that needed to be used.  The story is long with the faculty member physically pushing me out of a room and walking back and forth outside my classes.  This man harassed me until I retired.  He became a top bureaucrat at the university and used his power to harm me and Religious Studies whenever he could.

Killing Professors Who Don’t Fit

 I am not the only one on campus who was hounded by greedy bureaucrats and self-serving professors.  Recently I talked with a friend in the library who told me that she knew of at least one person in each academic department that was consistently abused.

Darlene (not her real name) was from India.  She had made her way to Australia where she worked to obtain her Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems.  When she died, she was supporting her husband who was ill, and her son in medical school.  She was a valiant and strong lady who did not deserve to die at 56.  Let me tell you her story!

Darlene was gorgeous.  She had dark perfect skin, the biggest eyes, curly hair, nice and thin, and wore Fifth Avenue suits to class.  She was dedicated, engaging, innovative, and competent in everything she did on campus.  From the time she landed a job at the university, she was harassed.  In the beginning it was only words from her chair or colleagues like, “How can a colored girl make as much money as I do.” Or, “how come a foreigner can come here and take away jobs from us?”   The boys did not like her because she was beautiful and competent.  They could not have her, nor did they like it that her light was brighter than theirs.  And she was the wrong color.  The female professors in her department saw her as competition and would not advise her or help her in any way.  She was on her own!

The bureaucrats got together and decided they did not want her on campus.  Her chair changed the numbers on her student evaluations so it would look like she was not doing a good job.  She was assigned overloads to keep her busy and given mindless tasks.  Her chair allowed students to bring up charges against her that went to human resources.  She was grading international students fairly but they wanted their grades changed.  The bureaucrats forced her to change the grades.  They did not want to lose the very high tuition the international students paid.  It was a daily battle for her.  How does one keep integrity in classes while trying to please the bureaucrats and lazy vindictive students?

Around her fourth year at the institution, it was time for her to apply for tenure.  Her college passed her but her application stopped at the provost’s office.  He accused her of misappropriation of a huge grant she had received.  The charges were bogus.  She had to argue her case for weeks.  Finally, she appealed to the sensible president and received tenure.  The provost lost but he his revenge would be satisfied eventually.

In about her seventh year at the institution, she came up for promotion to full professor.  This is when I came to know Darlene.  We worked together on a program where we brought speakers to campus.  We became friends.  In the process, she began pleading with me to help her with her dossier.  I made suggestions and edited her documents.  She had accomplished more than most of the professors in my college.

Darlene was working day and night trying to please the bureaucrats.  They denied her promotion.  She appealed the decision all the way to the president again.  This type of argumentation is very strenuous and stressful on a person.  They had promoted one of their male friends who had poor student evaluations and had not published.  (They all went duck-hunting together! Wink!  Wink!) It was a blow that knocked her down.  This is the very moment that she developed cancer.

For approximately two years she battled cancer.  She never gave up, even when she could barely stand or talk, she went to class.  She had to have a microphone installed at her desk so she could teach.  She was in hospice care and still teaching online.  She was remarkable in many ways.

I visited her at home and she showed me all the self-help books she was reading.  She had created very positive signs that she plastered on the mirror in her bathroom like:  “I am going to live! I am going to beat this!”  She adjusted her diet, exercised more, and worked very hard to stay alive.

Throughout this entire ordeal, not one other person from the university visited her (This is what she told me but one faculty member disputes this.).  At the beginning of a semester, as she walked to a class, one of her colleagues said to her, “Oh, I didn’t think you were coming back.”  When she called her colleagues and asked if any of them would help her in her classes when she had to go to the hospital, not one of them would substitute for her.  The week before she died her department sent flowers, finally.

Darlene could not leave.  She had too many responsibilities and she was not old enough to retire. There are many more twists and turns to this story, but you get the picture I am drawing.  In the end, the boys and girls won, they did not want to tenure or promote her — they killed her instead. It took some time, but they won.  The war is over for her.

About a week before she passed away they promoted her to Full Professor.  It was kind of sick gesture.  They knew she would never collect the money. She told me that her dream came true and now she could die.  Only a couple of people came to her wake and no one on campus officially mentioned her passing!  I miss her!

Assigning the Unwanted to Solitary Confinement.  The Dark Pit of Existence for Women and Minorities

Sometimes a female, gay, or minority member would be awarded tenure and promotion. But then they were relegated to an empty space where no one goes.  They are never placed on committees, or voted to become part of the Faculty Senate, or receive any awards or extra pay for anything.  They have no power and are treated like outcasts.  They are alone and alienated.

Bureaucrats relish the power they have over faculty.  I often wondered if they were sadistic because harm came to everyone they touched. I knew a Muslim professor who tried year after year to obtain a promotion, but the administration would not approve it. They wanted to keep him right where he was–poor!  I wrote letters for him and helped him with his dossier.  No amount of extra work would change their minds. Eventually the Muslim left his job. I am sure that this was their goal!

Then there was a female professor who was locked out of her office. (How can anyone do this?) Her dean would not allow her to teach and told her to leave campus. No charges were ever filed, and to my knowledge the woman was very creative and dedicated.  We had worked together on a couple of international projects.

Apparently, the dean did not like her.  Upper management would not challenge this dean. (Why? What did the dean have on the bureaucrats?) So, the dean kept paying this professor for not teaching.  This went on for years.  Finally, upper management found a desk for the professor and she was given statistical work in the administration building.  The bureaucrats urged her to take the dean to court, but she did not want to do this, she wanted her job back.  (The bureaucrats wanted her to do what they were afraid to do.) As I recall, she had taught for over thirty years at this institution.  In the end, the professor resigned  because she did not want a court battle.

While I was awarded promotion and tenure, I was never asked to serve on a search committee to find other faculty for departments in my college, or asked to serve on the tenure and promotion committee at any institution during my entire career.  I did hire my own adjuncts because no one else on campus understood the academic study of religions. I had been pushed into that black pit where so many other females, gays, and minorities languished.

(This chapter is very long so I  have cut it  in half and will publish the other section soon!)

If your interested in reading the entire book just click on Amazon.com

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Cause of Violence, Disillusionment in Higher Education, Education not War, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Killing a Professor, Misogynism, Misogynism in Higher Education, Religious Beliefs destroy females careers, Religious hatred, Strategies to derail females, Stress and Professors, Students at risk, Terrorists on Campus, Violence Against Women, Violence and Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment