CLAS Acts Dec. 2009

December 2009 Volume 2, Issue 5

Our Mission: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a student-centered and diverse learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending knowledge to enrich and enliven individual and public life.

Please note, due to some lost data, this issue is a recreation of the December 2009 issue.


Frederick J. Antczak

"At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;  But like of each thing that in season grows."

-   William Shakespeare

As our attention moves beyond the turkey leftovers toward final exams and commencement ceremonies, I'd like to encourage you to take a little time out to mingle with your colleagues at the CLAS Holiday Open House (Dec. 4, 11:30 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.  Pere Marquette Room 2204 KC).  Gather up a new faculty member or a staff member who doesn't get away from the desk often enough and come over to enjoy the food and music.  The menu for this luncheon is posted on the CLAS website (under For Faculty and Staff).  We've started this new procedure as part of the CLAS Inclusion Plan, which the Grassroots Inclusion Taskforce (made up of CLAS faculty, staff and student volunteers) presented to me a few days ago.  I'm grateful to them for this work and their on-going commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity in our College and the University. Our CLAS Staff Advisory Committee suggested that we have a book drive for young people this year.  Each department has a poster with the details and the locations of the several drop off points. We're always thankful for young people who read; here's a chance to help them get off to a better start. I'd also like to encourage you to vote on the CLAS Standards & Criteria for Personnel Evaluation.   This is a document which NCA encouraged us to have, your elected UAS senators directed us to write, and your elected faculty governance committees have worked tirelessly to hone to the standards of the university's and existing departmental documents, your Unit Heads have sanity-checked, and your colleagues have devoted creativity and attention to test and improve (through Blackboard discussions, three Out of the Box consultations, and a Faculty Forum). It's an opportunity for the college to make its standards transparent, provide clarity for important decisions, and maybe more usefully, build a firm foundation for faculty mentoring so those decisions turn out well. During the compressed working days of the month of December, I'll be attending the New Faculty Seminar, helping to develop student internship opportunities, meeting with unit heads, working on transfer recruitment and continuity issues, going to recognitions for our students, faculty and alumni, doing some fundraising for the capital campaign, and of course participating with our students and faculty (and College Marshals Cindy Hull and Al Steinman) in winter graduation.  It's a celebration of our students' accomplishments, and I hope to see you there. AD Jann Joseph will be completing the proposal for the capstone for the new liberal arts and science major for elementary teachers, continuing the new faculty orientation series, and performing a review of a science program for a professional organization.   AD Mary Schutten will be supporting CCC and all curricular initiatives; continuing data collection for a Wii project and for K-12 teachers seeking higher education degrees; continuing academic advising, beginning work on editing the CLAS strategic plan to align with the newly approved GVSU strategic plan; continuing with student-related initiatives related to advising, orientation, and retention; and preparing a paper for an international conference.  AD Gary Stark will be monitoring Winter enrollments, reviewing scheduling for 2010-11, facilitating the college referendum on new personnel standards, participating in new faculty orientation sessions, administering Digital Measures and offering faculty workshops on its use. I'm sure your list is similarly long.  Nevertheless and therefore, I encourage you to take in (of course in moderation) the delights of the season.  We've had a very good year, full of signal accomplishment by students, staff and faculty alike.  Our university bobs along buoyantly in the heavy seas of our state's fiscal difficulties.  In a very real sense, evident in the extraordinary commitment of those with whom we work, we have each other--and this is the special kind of place where, at the end of the day or the end of the year, that really means something.  So we have much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate. I wish each and every one of you very happy holidays.    


The Changing Face of Madness

by Monica Johnstone  

The vita of Sociology Professor Mary deYoung speaks of long commitment to society's victims, its marginalized and its traumatized.  A board certified expert in Traumatic Stress and a frequent consultant on programs to address child sexual assault and exploitation, Mary has published five books on topics ranging from incest to daycarer ritual abuse.  She has spent a career facing the issues that make most of us shudder. Book number six, out soon, in which Mary provides a social history of madness in America, is sure to benefit from her unflinching gaze.  Tentatively titled Perspectives on Madness, this work looks at how we conceive of madness, how we treat people, and the science that has grown up around madness. "It is full of first-person narratives about what it is like to be labeled, to be institutionalized," Mary explains.  In her sociological account, she makes the point that madness is not always the same entity, that it has been socially, economically, ideologically constructed differently in different eras.  While what we mean by madness is certainly influenced by psychology, that field isn't the sole arbiter. In fact, Mary considered poems, short stories, song lyrics, and other cultural artifacts to help her analyze how we understand madness and how we have in the past. She admits that her reason for writing this book is somewhat political.  She sees our culture as quite immersed in psychology-"very diagnostic"-and that can mean that we forget that our ideas about madness are socially constructed, mutable.  The line between normal and "crazy" moves with gender, race, class and sexual orientation.   "Culture, broadly defined, is extraordinarily important in all of this," Mary offers. And in our modern world, some conditions become markers of identity.  We discuss the changing perceptions over time of where personal responsibility ends and conditions such as ADD or Asperger's Syndrome start.  We consider the higher tolerance for eccentricity (which Mary points out is quite class bound) in Britain relative to the U.S.  I offer that the lines move between San Francisco and Baltimore and Grand Rapids.  We speak of the classical connection of madness and genius.  We note Freud's more colorful pronouncements about women.   Mary makes your entrée into this conversation very easy. This book has taken a little longer than she had at first imagined-she mentions that the project began a year and a half ago on her sabbatical and will be done this month.  The book will appear next spring or summer. (Even a two-year cycle is sounding like expeditious work to me, but Mary clearly has set the bar very high for herself).  "I have no life," she quips.  I suspect that she listens to the call of other lives more than most of us manage.  And then, of course, there are her students. For instance, Mary has taught "for a decade or so" a course on the Gen Ed theme of marginality and difference.  The Gen Ed students are inspirational for her.  With little or no background in sociology, they ask differently formed questions and bring a wealth of pop culture examples that inform the discussion. The material that has been the subject of her research, whether it comes from pop culture or the archival work she loves, has a big impact on how she approaches her courses.  Her self-consciousness of the complexity of the topic adjusts her teaching.  She mentions that she checks in with her students more frequently to make sure they understand. "We don't just teach; we learn, too," Mary reminds me. Having seen her vita with its many, many articles and presentations, ongoing education, expert court appearances, and many other kinds of service-and knowing that she is in the final stages of her sixth book-I hesitate to ask what she has in mind to do next.  I hazard it anyway and she doesn't miss a beat.  Mary would like to see what she can find in old psychiatric records in terms of gender and race. I leave Mary deYoung's office (several students have lined up in the hall to see her) feeling glad she is on the case and looking forward to her book.