Palaima: Key points for UT’s next president to consider

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Palaima: Key points for UT’s next president to consider

Austin American-Statesman Posted: 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, 2014 Print Thursday July 10, 2014
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/palaima-key-points-for-uts-next-president-to-consi/ngbsF/#94082040.3469532.735423

By Tom Palaima – Local Contributor

The controversy surrounding Bill Powers’ future as president of the University of Texas at Austin has finally played out, with Powers submitting his resignation effective next spring. Even so, we have not seen drama like this since Powers dragged out the process of deciding whether head football coach Mack Brown would go or stay. Eventually Brown went, in mid-December, two years into a four-year contract extension and one year after getting Powers’ full public support.

There is another irony about the timing of the press leak concerning Powers’ position. The best parallel is how Powers timed his announcement of the $2 million raise for Brown, mid-December 2009. Then fall semester had ended. The faculty council could not gather a quorum.

The regents used the same chicanery in scheduling public discussion of the report from planning firm Cooper Robertson on the fates of the Brackenridge tract, its biological field laboratory and Lion’s Municipal Golf Course. They met on June 18, 2009, when members of the faculty committee advisory to Cooper Robertson and many golf aficionados were away.

We live in Texas, after all. That is why Ronnie Dugger’s classic “Our Invaded Universities” and Ken Ashworth’s “Horns of a Dilemma” will remain standard reading for the UT community (its faculty, staff, students, outside supporters, alumni and alumnae).

All members of the UT community should read the Regents’ Rules and the Handbook of Operating Procedures that govern UT-Austin. We might then avoid repeating the mistake of thinking that the UT president is our leader and one of us. He is not.

The UT president is not elected or selected by the UT community. Whoever aspires to become president knows from the start that their experience, values and ways of working must first and foremost prove satisfactory to the Board of Regents and the chancellor the regents appoint.

Once appointed by the Board of Regents, the president also knows that she or he “serves without fixed term, subject to the pleasure of the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor, to whom the president reports and is responsible, and approval by the Chancellor and the Board of Regents.”

In this sense, UT presidents do preside over the university community. They adopt and adapt policies and practices to suit the regents. Presidents can be fired at any time. This applies a conservative pressure that prevents anything too radical, from any perspective, from happening to education and research at the university.

We would do well to be calm and refrain from the demonizing that Thucydides described as characteristic of these kinds of public debates, even if a doctor and a lawyer are at the center of it. Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa is a philosophical public servant with a strong record of achievement. Powers can point to many accomplishments. Opinions will vary on the decisions he has made since 2006 and the directions in which the university is going.

Now, we should focus on how to improve the academic and cultural values of the university and strengthen, maintain or repair its vital educational, research and outreach services to our state, our country and our world — no matter who presides over us. Our next president might well consider some of the following key points:

We should, as a No. 1 goal, accomplish former President Larry Faulkner’s plan, announced in 2000, to add 300 tenured or tenure-track professors to the UT faculty and to bring what university leaders have known for 15 years are unacceptably high student-faculty ratios down to acceptable levels. Both these objectives were picked up as priorities in Powers’ first state of the university address in September 2006. Neither goal is close to being reached. Both initiatives are forgotten flotsam.

The faculty council and its various standing committees need to be made meaningful once again. The faculty in virtually all areas of university operation and governance can only advise, so there is no harm in making sure the faculty council is the main forum for public discourse before decision-taking, not the “closed-door” meetings of presidential and deans’ staffs and committees.

Times are lean. Budgeting and setting of compensation must be transparent and fair. No future president should arrange exorbitant compensation (e.g., $325,000 for five years) off the radar screen for doing the job he then has.

Admissions must be kept free of insider influence.

UT presidents preside, but their actions set precedent. They are not Caesars, but they should act like Caesar’s wife.

Ventris Letters Now Available Online

Back in 2007, the University of Texas Libraries staff digitized and transcribed many of Michael Ventris’ letters held in the archives here at the Program of Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP). They were never fully released and archived onto tape.

This summer (2013) I contacted the UT Libraries staff to see if they still had the files. Colleen Lyon, the Digital Repository Librarian, contacted Wendy Martin in Digitization Services, who managed to restore the six-year-old data from tape. Thanks to UT Libraries, I was able to compile 59 documents from 129 high resolution images and submit them to the UT Digital Repository.

The Michael Ventris Correspondence Collection is available here.

The Collection mainly contains correspondence between Michael Ventris and Alice E. Kober (until her untimely death in 1950) and Emmett L. Bennett from 1948 through 1955. In these letters we see these great minds grappling with Linear B and its decipherment. We see their humor, their acuity, and the way Linear B brought them together in conquering a common challenge.

For example, in this letter in 1954 from Ventris to Bennett, Ventris grapples with putting a grid together based on Kober’s work with inflection.

ventris-19520124-preview

Not more than five months later, Ventris excitedly reported to Bennett that he has deciphered Linear B as Greek.

ventrs-19520618-preview

One wonders whether in his excitement Ventris has handwritten the letter in his clean architect’s handwriting. This was a major surprise for Ventris who had insisted in earlier letters that Linear B might be Pelasgian or Etruscan.

A year later, Ventris sends Bennett a transcription of a tablet from Blegen where they recognize that “tripods” are written out as ti-ri-po-de.

ventris-19530520-preview

Other letters detail the work of transcribing and publishing the tablets. These letters truly provide us with a look into the not-so-distant past when Linear B was just being deciphered. Please take your time and read through many of them- you can almost hear the conversations between these great minds.

For more information, you may also be interested in the Alice E. Kober papers. Back in 2012, Zachary Fischer and I worked to digitize Alice E. Kober’s paper correspondence. Her work was essential in the decipherment of Linear B, especially with Ventris’ understanding of inflection. That Digital Repository Collection is available here.

Posted July 26, 2013 by Dygo Tosa, Research Assistant – PASP

Margalit Fox’s Book and NY Times article on Alice E. Kober and the Deciperment of Linear B: Uses of the PASP archives

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Margalit Fox’s new book The Riddle of the Labyrinth (Ecco Press) will be released on May 14.      http://www.harpercollins.com/books/The-Riddle-of-the-Labyrinth-Margalit-Fox?isbn=9780062228833&HCHP=TB_The+Riddle+of+the+Labyrinth

The Times Sunday Review for May 12, 2013 has a biographical essay about Kober by Fox:   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/sunday-review/alice-e-kober-43-lost-to-history-no-more.html?pagewanted=all

Margalit used the PASP archives and the School of Information resources at UT Austin in order to tell the story of the decipherment of Linear B. She places the the work of Alice Elizabeth Kober in the context of the research done on the Aegean linear scripts from 1900 through the decipherment of Linear B in 1952.  As Margalit quotes:

“Kober was ‘the person on whom an astute bettor with full insider information would have placed a wager’ to decipher the script.” —Thomas Palaima

Margalit also gives us a way of grasping Kober’s sense that work on the scripts was what we might call ‘a sacred duty’. For her working with other serious scholars like Johannes Sundwall and Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., and John Franklin Daniel was a life calling (alongside her full-time obligations as a professor with major teaching obligations). But it was also  deeply satisfying, worth all the painstaking effort, and fun.

In short, Margalit gives us  Kober as a full human being.

I have read every page of the manuscript in draft and proof stages. The Riddle of the Labyrinth is a fine book, well-documented, fascinating and humanly engaging.  It makes clear how Kober’s work was related to the work of Sir Arthur Evans, Michael Ventris, Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., Johannes Sundwall, Sir John Myres and others.

I just met today with Sue Trombley, director of consulting at Iron Mountain, a digital records management company. In 2003-2005, Sue preserved and organized the Kober archives, writing the first finding aid for the materials. Sue did the Kober-like work of going through each and every one of the cigarette-carton and other files (over 180,000 items) making sure each one was not in a destructive environment (removing all sorts of intrusive matter) and housing all assemblages of items in archivally sound environments.

Here is the commentary piece Sue and I wrote in 2003 about Alice Kober and her archives. It gives some sense of the human side of Alice that going through her records gave to Sue (and vicariously to me):

http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/publications/editorials/27oct03.html

Margalit thanks Zachary Fischer, who put the Kober and Ventris letters up on-line in summer of 2012. He and Sue are happy to see Alice’s story told primarily from the materials they worked hard to preserve and make available.

Zachary reports that as of May 2013, UTDR (University of Texas Digital Resources) usage statistics are that the collections have good use by visitors. In the last nine months or so, SMID has had ca. 1155 views and the main Kober page has had ca. 1245 views!

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16096

Christy Costlow Moilanen has done the complete finding aid to the PASP Kober, Ventris and Bennett materials (mainly in 2007-2008).

http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16210

Many PASP assistants have helped in keeping the Kober materials well-organized and fully accessible to visiting scholars.  Margalit Fox, in her acknowledgements (pp. 347-349), explicitly thanks Dygo Tosa. Dygo has worked with these materials for three years now. Dygo has finished his M.A. degree and is now finishing his certification in the University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach Program. Dygo is a mainstay of PASP, a bright young mind and an inspiring teacher. He has written and given papers on Minoan language and linear scripts.

Margalit also thanks, as do I, Alison Fell, whose engrossing novel, The Element -inth in Greek  (Sandstone Press 2012) tells in a fully human way some of the Kober story.

Alison investigated the life of Kober and provided PASP with documents pertaining to Kober’s life, for example, her birth and death certificates, photographs, and the ship’s manifest marking the arrival of Alice’s mother and father in the new world. Alice’s mother was already in her first trimester of pregnancy with Alice. Alison also provided us with census reports showing where the Kobers lived after they arrived in the new world.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-element-inth-Greek-ebook/dp/B0086742OO

The Kober archives were in the possession of the late Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., since soon after Alice’s death (May 16, 1950) until the late 1980’s when he entrusted them to my personal care.  I have made them available to PASP and have supplemented them with the kinds of materials I have mentioned above. Here are links to materials.

http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/venkoba.html

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/15875

Thanks to everyone involved. In a few days Alice will step into the spotlight at last, something she was ever reluctant to do when she was alive and when work took priority over any concern for any kind of fame connected with her work.

The late Robert Graves said, “I write poems for poets…. For people in general I write prose, and I am content that they should be unaware that I do anything else.  To write poems for other than poets is wasteful.”

Mutadis mutandis, this describes Alice E. Kober’s mindset, spirit and work. She wrote beautiful, exacting, sound and serious scholarship for serious scholars.

Tom Palaima May 10, 2013

ALSO OF INTEREST TO STUDENTS OF HUMAN COMMUNICATION BY  MARGALIT FOX:

Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals about the Mind (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Welcome to the new PASP blog!

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This is the updated main website of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, previously located at http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/.

All the material on the previous website is intact and can still be accessed. The majority of content has been converted to this new site. This updated site features better search capability and stable links to articles.

Feel free to leave comments on this post about the new format!

Zachary Fischer completes two digital projects in summer 2012: SMID and Alice E. Kober correspondence

Zachary Fischer, a graduate student in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, completed two valuable digitization projects in summer of 2012: making pdfs of the PASP-produced volumes of SMID and making available images of the correspondence of Alice E. Kober.  He describes these projects here below.

Report of Zachary Fischer on SMID and the letters of Alice E. Kober:

During the summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to work with the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP) at the University of Texas at Austin. I conducted two digital projects: Studies in Mycenaean Inscriptions and Dialect (SMID) (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16096) and the Alice E. Kober Papers–Correspondence (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/15875). Each project was unique, both in terms of technical challenges and intellectual content; however, the primary goal was the same: to provide free, persistent access to the materials in the University of Texas Digital Repository (UTDR). Continue reading

March 10, 2009

Added several Palaima reviews:
Review of Ancient Rome and Modern America
Review of The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000
Review of The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror

Added several Palaima editorials:
“Woody Guthrie’s songs can help you focus on the spirit of the season”
“UTSA is throwing a Hail Mary pass”
“‘Happy New Year!'”
“(with Nathan Tublitz) Barack Obama and the International Education Bowl”
“(with Emily Schenk) Hold onto hope for justice”
“The price of corporate culture at UT”

April 24, 2009

Added several articles:

by Dimitri Nakassis
[PDF]”Named individuals and the Mycenaean state at Pylos,” Colloquium Romanum: Atti del XII colloquio internazionale di micenologia. Rome 2008, pp. 549-561.

by Stephie Nikoloudis
[PDF]”The role of the ra-wa-ke-ta. Insights from PY Un 718,” Colloquium Romanum: Atti del XII colloquio internazionale di micenologia. Rome 2008, pp. 587-594.

by Tom Palaima:
[PDF]”A new Linear B inscription from the land down under: AUS HO(ME) Bo 2008,” in F. Louise A. Hitchcock, Robert Laffineur and Janice Crowley eds., DAIS. The Aegean Feast (Aegaeum 29), Liège and Austin 2008, pp. 429-432.
[PDF]”The significance of Myceneaean words relating to meals, meal rituals, and food,” in Louise A. Hitchcock, Robert Laffineur and Janice Crowley eds., DAIS. The Aegean Feast (Aegaeum 29), Liège and Austin 2008, pp. 383-389.