Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Explaining the Doctor Shortage

Consider this an addendum to yesterday’s post about the coming-- or should I say, arrived-- doctor shortage. Investor’s Business Daily reports some findings, compiled by the Mayo Clinic.

How bad is the doctor shortage?

An article in a recent issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings says that nearly one in five doctors plan to switch to part-time clinical hours, 27% plan to leave their current practice, and 9% plan to get an administrative job or switch careers entirely.
Another survey found that nearly two-thirds of doctors feel burned out, depressed or both.

This is already having a significant effect on patient access to doctors. A Merritt Hawkins survey of doctors in 15 metro areas found that "average new-patient physician appointment wait times have increased significantly. The average wait time for a physician appointment for the 15 large metro markets surveyed is 24.1 days, up 30% from 2014. "

Getting a new-patient appointment with a family physician, for example, went from an average 19 days in 2014 to almost 30 days in 2017. To get an appointment for a heart checkup with a cardiologist, wait times climbed from seven days in 2009 to 21 days in 2017. For a well-woman exam with an OB/GYN, they went from 17 days to 26 over those years.

We all have mandated health insurance. And yet, we have less access to physicians.

Many physicians are being driven out of the profession by onerous record-keeping requirements. These requirements-- to keep electronic health records-- were imposed by Obamacare. They were supposed to render medical practice more efficient. They made medical practice more difficult. Score one for the behavioral economists who concocted this nightmare:

One of the big drivers of doctor exits, by the way, is the Obama administration's "electronic health records" mandate, which was supposed to vastly improve the quality and efficiency of care.

It's had the opposite effect. A Mayo Clinic survey found that the EHR mandate is reducing efficiency, increasing costs and paperwork hassles, and pushing more doctors to quit or retire early.

A Harris Poll found that 59% of doctors say the current EHR system foisted on them by the Obama administration needs "a complete overhaul," and 40% say it imposes more challenges than benefits.

ObamaCare continued what had been a long and sorry trend in health care. Government-imposed rules designed to fix some problem in the system instead generated mountains of new administrative work.

The result has been that while the number of physicians in the country has climbed modestly over the past three decades, the number of health care administrators exploded.

Why are you not surprised? Put the government in charge and you get fewer physicians, less medical care, and an explosion of healthcare administrators.

Social Justice Warriors Attack Engineering

Indrek Wichman has a warning. The social justice warriors who have systematically ravaged the social sciences and humanities have set their sights on engineering. Through the advent of programs in something called “engineering education” they are working hard to introduce more diversity into engineering… regardless of whether or not the bridges hold up or the machines actually work. Diversity is its own justification. Welcome to the new front in the social justice war.

A flagrant irony hangs over this issue. After all, Wichman points out, nothing could be more race neutral and gender blind than engineering. What matters when you engineer a device is: whether it works:

A second and related reason is that engineering (and the sciences generally) should be, like the scales of justice, blind. Engineering does not care about your color, sexual orientation, or your other personal and private attributes. All it takes to succeed is to do the work well.

Even as an undergraduate many years ago, my engineering classmates and I noticed that fact, and we were proud to have a major that valued only the quality of one’s work. In that sense, engineering was like athletics, or music, or the military: there were strict and impersonal standards.

Objective standards… isn’t that what we want? Apparently not, if the outcomes defy the expectations of the social justice warriors.

Wickman continues:

Alas, the world we engineers envisioned as young students is not quite as simple and straightforward as we had wished because a phalanx of social justice warriors, ideologues, egalitarians, and opportunistic careerists has ensconced itself in America’s college and universities. The destruction they have caused in the humanities and social sciences has now reached to engineering.

He presents the evidence: the growing power of engineering education programs:

One of the features of their growing power is the phenomenon of “engineering education” programs and schools. They have sought out the soft underbelly of engineering, where phrases such as “diversity” and “different perspectives” and “racial gaps” and “unfairness” and “unequal outcomes” make up the daily vocabulary. Instead of calculating engine horsepower or microchip power/size ratios or aerodynamic lift and drag, the engineering educationists focus on group representation, hurt feelings, and “microaggressions” in the profession.

Wickman is sad to see Purdue University, a school that has always excelled at teaching engineering, creating a School of Engineering Education. To head the school it has chosen a perfectly “woke” fool, named Dr. Donna Riley. He presents her agenda:

In her words (italics mine): “I seek to revise engineering curricula to be relevant to a fuller range of student experiences and career destinations, integrating concerns related to public policy, professional ethics, and social responsibility; de-centering Western civilization; and uncovering contributions of women and other underrepresented groups…. We examine how technology influences and is influenced by globalization, capitalism,and colonialism…. Gender is a key…[theme]…[throughout] the course…. We…[examine]… racist and colonialist projects in science….”

That starts off innocently enough, discussing the intersection of engineering with public policy and ethics, but then veers off the rails once Riley begins disparaging the free movement of capital, the role of Western civilization, and the nature of men, specifically “colonialist” white men. How can it improve the practice of engineering to bring in such diversions and distractions?

It’s not about improving the quality of engineering. It’s about overthrowing the free enterprise system, the patriarchy and white male colonialism.

That’s not all. Wickman offers another example:

Lest the reader believe I exaggerate, let him peruse a periodical called the Journal of Engineering Education, the Society for Engineering Education’s flagship journal. In each number, readers find at least one article with a title such as “Diversifying the Engineering Workforce” or “Understanding Student Difference” (January, 2005, Vol. 94, No. 1).

I chose this volume at random, but they are all like that. The first section of the latter article is “Three Facets of Student Diversity” in which the authors explain how to “motivate” and “retain” students in engineering, the emphasis being on minorities and women. We’re told that “diversity in education refers to the effects of gender and ethnicity on student performance.” Issues like “validation” and “learning styles” are discussed, and of course the instructor must teach “to address all three forms of diversity.”

The problem is that the profession of engineering is insufficiently diverse. There are not enough women and minorities:

The central philosophical premise of the article is leveling. … If only we were more fair and just, women and “minorities” (whatever that word means any more) would flock to engineering.

Engineering education’s basic assumption is that engineering will be improved if the profession is crafted to be more diverse, but that is completely untested. In the universe I live in, engineering is for those who want to and can be engineers. It’s not for everybody and there is no reason to believe that aptitude for engineering is evenly distributed.

To institute diversity you need to forget about talent and achievement.

Nobody wants to see an uncoordinated doofus on the NBA basketball court simply to add “diversity.” We pay to see top-notch talent compete for victory. We should apply the same standards to engineering and stop pretending that we can “game” our wonderful profession so that anyone can succeed.

Nor should we attack engineering’s foundations, its dominantly Western character, so that non-Westerners might suffer fewer “microaggressions” and somehow feel better about studying it.

What is won without effort is surely without merit, and what is torn down and trampled will not easily be raised up again. We had better tread carefully.

Is Work/Life Balance a Con?

Yesterday, Claire Cain Miller was reporting about it in the New York Times. Today I bring you Christine Armstrong, with a long expose in the Times of London.


They are addressing the same topic: work/life balance. Better yet, they are exposing the lie that today’s women have been told. Namely, that they can hold down demanding jobs and bring up children. Too many women, Armstrong tells us, have bought this lie and are suffering for having tried to fit their lives into a template of unrealistic and unrealizable expectations.


The question does not just involve work/life balance. It involves the notion that a woman can have it all, that she can be great at a great job and still be a great mother. All she needs is a non-demanding workplace and a husband who picks up the slack at home. As Armstrong explains, it’s all lies, big little lies. They are damaging women:


The really negative effect of these big little lies is that so many other women conclude that if they can’t make it work, then they are not trying hard enough. Or they are not good enough, or well organised enough.


She concludes that it’s simply not doable:


Because if the only people heard talking about what it takes for women to rise to the top at work are extremely senior, and they feel constrained from telling the truth about the hard bits, then we end up with an airbrushed public story that suggests you simply have to put in the effort. A whole generation is being led to believe that all this is doable, when it patently is not.


Armstrong’s article, adapted from her book The Mother of All Jobs, is richly adorned with anecdotes--truth telling from women who present themselves as being completely in control of every aspect of their lives, but who, in truth, are imploding. The world sees them as superwomen. They present themselves as superwomen. But, they are failing their children.


Here are a few stories:


This mother, like most of us, doesn’t have her sights on a board-level job and is just working to get to the end of the month and pay the bills. She says her children are “the love and light” of her life and yet sometimes she feels they don’t even respond to her because she’s away from them too much and is ready to cry with tiredness when she finally gets back home.


What are their lives really like? What does work/life balance look like, for women who portrayed themselves as happy and fulfilled:


But then a week, a month, six months later, I might run into some of these women and something more complex might emerge. Perhaps she was no longer with “the rock” partner who made it all work. Or her boss was a bully. Or her daughter was anorexic. Or her son was struggling at school. Maybe she’d been signed off work with stress or depression. Or she expressed regret at not being around enough during her children’s early years. Others said they didn’t have time for many friends. Another revealed she was saving for a hayloft in the Hebrides so she could escape her life.


And, also:


Some of these superwomen talked about “flexibility”. It took me a while to realise that what they often meant was the flexibility to leave at the end of their contracted hours — say 5pm — to pick up, feed, bath, read to and settle their kids before working online again later to catch up. One mum-of-three, describing this in practical terms, told me: “I start eating my dinner and catching up on work at 10pm, just as everyone else is going to bed. It’s completely normal for me to finish at 1am or later.” The underlying message seemed to be that modern jobs are fine — as long as you’re willing to work all the waking and non-waking hours of the day.


As it happens, the demands of a serious job have changed. As has most families’ cost of living:


Twenty years ago, the average working day was about seven hours and many mothers didn’t have a job outside the home. In the years since, the working day has grown by an average of about two hours and a million more mums have jobs. This is partly because house prices have quadrupled in that time (a change attributed, ironically, to the rise in women’s incomes). Most households now need to have two parents out of the house working for long periods of the day. But, in that time, the needs of our children and the structure of childcare and the school day haven’t changed at all — as every parent of a school-age child is finding out right now, with more than two weeks of the summer holidays still left to go, their own leave used up, their finances spent and the kids going bananas with the need for our involvement, our undivided attention.


Here’s another slice of real life:


I realised we needed better answers to these questions on a freezing January night when I met a friend in a pub. Between us, we had four children under three and two full-time jobs and, as the wine flowed, we let rip about how hopeless we were. Our lives were shit. She was leaving work by the fire escape in the desperate hope of seeing her kids awake once a day without annoying her colleagues. I was crying before work because I didn’t want to go in. We felt remote from our kids and our partners. We both wondered how we’d screwed up so badly and become such disasters. But then we began to question whether the world of work was set up for both parents to be in it full-time. Maybe there was a different story to tell where, however hard you work, there are very tough choices along the way and just being well organised doesn’t fix it.


And another:


She would describe some manageable challenges and how she was tackling them. But then there were the things they told me but begged me not to write up, like the woman who’d put on a vast amount of weight immediately after giving birth and suffered terrible depression but didn’t want her colleagues to know. Other times, I was asked to tone down a light joke about their partner not doing their fair share of the household jobs, or an admission that sometimes they ended up screaming blue murder at their kids, or maybe to take out one too many references to needing a few glasses (or bottles) of wine to get through the week.


As often happens in such articles, the author blames it on motherhood, on the fact that women are still mothers. One might question their expectations and their sense of reality. Wherever did they get the idea that they could repeal human nature:


We still tend to see mothers as linked to homes, small children and domesticity. Despite the fact that 80% of all mothers now work outside the home — and 25% of those in professional jobs — expectations about maternal roles have not changed. However much we might fight it, being found wanting as a mother, being judged by other parents in this way, really hurts. Especially when your boss, team, competitors, partner and older kids will read what you say. And the wound is even deeper if those critical comments compound your own sense of unease about decisions you have made or are making.


And also:


Another mother I spoke to, a PA to a CEO, had downshifted to working three days a week after kids, but was still drawn back into being online the rest of the time. The stress of trying to serve her boss led her to shout at her kids and lose control of them because she was distracted even when she wasn’t officially at work. This culminated in a trip to the park with her sons where one ran off and hid in a tree and one insisted on doing a poo in the bushes. She chased them home raging and, mortified by her own behaviour, locked herself in the bathroom crying hysterically before realising changes had to be made.


Finally:


The mum who threw up before her daughter’s birthday party because she works full-time and doesn’t know the other parents, who make her really nervous. The mum who works in a demanding job while her partner is mostly at home, but finds he doesn’t clean up or cook dinner or manage the homework, so when she gets home she often ends up crying at the burden of getting it all done and the injustice of being responsible for everything.


The next time you hear the propaganda about work/life balance, refer back to some of these testimonials and understand that ideologues have been lying to women… to the detriment of women and their children. It's good to see women speaking truth to power.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Perplexed by Motherhood

You have to wonder where they got these ideas, but today’s young women have been entertaining unrealistic expectations. To put it more succinctly, they have been lied to.

Claire Cain Miller explains it in an excellent New York Times article. She does not explain who was doing all the lying, but, effectively, she does not have to. The story tells itself.

Generations of girls have been told they can achieve anything they aspire to, including having both a career and children — and many women have done so. But at the same time, both work and parenting have become more demanding. The result is that women’s expectations seem to be outpacing the realities of public policy, workplace culture and family life.

Apparently, no one told these  young women that bringing up children is difficult, demanding and time consuming. One might imagine that their mothers could have told them this, but, alas, such seems not to be the case.

Miller seems to be suggesting that it can be solved by new public policies and a more friendly workplace culture, but this assumes that young mothers want to drop their children in daycare so that they can go out to market widgets. As we shall see, in other parts of her article, she suggests that women who have just given birth or who are caring for young children value their time with their children over their time on the job.

Speaking of lies, everyone told these women that they would be granted perfectly egalitarian marriages, where their husbands would share the childcare and housekeeping duties.

Miller writes:

As women do more paid work, men have not increased their child care and housekeeping tasks to the same extent — another surprise for young women who, research has shown, expected more egalitarian partnerships.

Reporting on a study of female workforce participation, Miller explains that more and more mothers are spending less and less time at work… and more and more time with their children. She attributes it to social pressure, but perhaps we do not need to insult these women. We can just as easily say that they are making a rational choice about how best to spend their time.

The researchers documented a sharp decline in employment for women after their first children were born, in both the United States and Britain, even though about 90 percent of women worked before having children. They used data from the Labor Department’s National Longitudinal Surveys, the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the British Household Panel Survey. Each covers several decades, but the study focused mostly on women born between 1965 and 1975, who were in their 30s in the 2000s.

For many women, the researchers show, stopping work was unplanned. Since about 1985, no more than 2 percent of female high school seniors said they planned to be “homemakers” at age 30, even though most planned to be mothers. The surveys also found no decline in overall job satisfaction post-baby. Yet consistently, between 15 percent and 18 percent of women have stayed home.

In a better world we would want to know how many women have the option of staying home to bring up their children. If we eliminate those women who are forced to return to work, the percentages would probably be higher.

What accounts for these shocking results? Miller responds that young mothers tend to discover traditional gender roles. In other words, gazing on their infants tells them that all the blather about gender being a social construct is just that… blather. When they see the way their husbands interact with their infants they decide that said husbands should spend more time on the job… thus, allowing them to take charge of childcare.

She writes:

One key to understanding why women have diverged from their plans, the economists found, is that their beliefs about gender roles change after their first baby. The surveys ask questions like whether work inhibits a woman’s ability to be a good mother and whether both parents should contribute financially to a family. Women tend to give more traditional answers after becoming mothers.

Worse yet, these new mothers, mostly college educated, have discover another inconvenient truth: that a man who spends more time at work will probably earn more, thus affording his wife the freedom to choose to stay home:

More women with degrees and these kinds of demanding jobs are having children, and they’re likely to be married to men with similar jobs, as Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago, has described. A result is that dual-earning couples may feel the best choice is for one member, usually the mother, to step back from work so the other parent can maximize the family’s earnings.

By my calculations, this suggests that a man who is working more will earn enough to compensate for the loss of his wife’s salary. And then some. This might also be factoring in the cost of child care. If that cost is subtracted from a working mother’s take home, the numbers will probably favor a more traditional division of labor.

The story does not consider that men are not very skilled at childcare… because they lack sufficient empathy. And it does not consider that said male beings are more likely to be happier themselves if they are working harder and doing better in the marketplace.

The Coming Doctor Shortage

I haven’t read too much about this, so maybe you haven’t either. It’s the looming doctor shortage. America is running out of physicians. Fewer students want to study medicine and more experienced physicians are leaving the field. It's nice to make political noise about how the government should provide medical care for everyone. It's not as nice to notice that there are not enough physicians to provide it. And that the more the government gets involved the fewer physicians want to practice medicien.

NBC News opens its report by explaining how wonderful it is to be a physician:

However, becoming a doctor remains one of the most challenging career paths you can embark upon. It requires extensive (and expensive) schooling followed by intensive residencies before you’re fully on your feet. The idea, generally, is that all the hard work will pay off not only financially, but also in terms of job satisfaction and work-life balance; then there’s the immeasurable personal benefits of helping people, and possibly even saving lives. In terms of both nobility and prestige, few occupations rank so highly.

And yet, it continues:

So why is there a waning interest to grow a career as a physician? A recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by 2030, up from its 2017 projected shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 doctors.

Naturally, we all want to know why this is happening. So does NBC News. It begins with the simple fact that college students seem more drawn to STEM jobs. They pay better; require less training; and allow people to live in more desirable locations:

There appear to be two main factors driving this anticipated doctor drought, as it were: Firstly, young people are becoming less interested in pursuing medical careers with the rise of STEM jobs, a shift that Craig Fowler, regional VP of The Medicus Firm, a national physician search and consulting agency based in Dallas, has noticed.
“There are definitely fewer people going to [med school] and more going into careers like engineering,” Fowler told NBC News.

Fowler also speaks to the desire among millennials to be in hip, urban locations — a luxury you likely won’t get when you’re fresh out of medical school and in need of a residency.

Apparently, there is also a shortage of residencies across the nation.

We also point out that STEM jobs have a greater concentration of males than do medical jobs. Of late, medicine has attracted more and more women. Traditionally, professions that become women’s professions lose status and prestige. And see lower wages. Young men tend to avoid them. This already applies to veterinary medicine and to psychotherapy. Why would we not see it in the medical field?

Recent medical school grads have difficulty finding residencies-- there are not enough-- and this produces a bottleneck effect.

Bureaucratic requirements, imposed on physicians by legislation and by insurance companies have pushed physicians out of the profession. I myself have heard from physicians that in order to keep the required records, they would have had to hire another staff member… thus making it too expensive to practice.

This “bottleneck effect” doesn’t usually sour grads on staying the course, Fowler finds, but he does see plenty of doctors in the later stages of their careers hang up their stethoscopes earlier than expected. Some cite electronic health records (EHRs) as part of the reason — especially old school doctors who don’t pride themselves on their computer skills. New research by Stanford Medicine, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that 59 percent think EHRs "need a complete overhaul;" while 40 percent see "more challenges with EHRs than benefits."

Dr. Amy Baxter explained why she was leaving medicine:

“I began to feel like an easily replaceable cog in the healthcare machine. With the [enforcement] of EHRs, I had to spend more time as a scribe. One night a child I was treating had a seizure and I couldn’t get the medicine to enable them to breathe because their chart wasn’t in the system yet. This kid was fixing to die and I, the doctor, couldn’t get the medicine. It was demoralizing.”

Bureaucratic regulations, whether imposed by the government or by insurance companies, make it more difficult to practice medicine. The same is true of other businesses.

One also adds that the sole practitioner model is going out of style. Young physicians who want hospital admitting privileges are obliged to work for hospitals. They cannot open a private practice. If they prefer independence to staff jobs, they are more likely to walk away from the field.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Last Word on Avital Ronell

As Shakespeare said: Once more into the breach…. I trust you will avoid imagining that there is anything Freudian about the quote-- uttered by King Henry V-- because we are yet again going to examine the furor and hubbub over NYU professor Avital Ronell. Hopefully, for the last time.


As noted in a previous post, it’s the reductio ad absurdum of #MeToo. A lesbian professor accused of sexual harassment by a gay male grad student. What’s not to like about the story. The university undertook a lengthy investigation and concluded that Ronell was acting inappropriately and unprofessionally toward her graduate student. The student was named Nimrod Reitman. It chose to suspend her for a year… which is better than stripping her of her tenure.


Meantime a cabal of radicals formed to defend Ronell, led by notable Hamas and Hezbollah supporter Judith Butler. Now, famed philosopher clown Slavoj Zizek has come forth to declare that the allegations are untrue. How does he know? He does not say, but he assures us that the facts do not support Nimrod’s claim. The amusing part here is that the great philosopher clown has suddenly decided that facts exist… clearly a deviation from party orthodoxy.


Anyway, The New York Times has returned to the story, because, among other reasons, Nimrod filed a lawsuit. Within the Times report we find instances of Ronell’s passionate emails to Nimrod.


Among them:


“I was crying when I did not hear back from you. It was a hard night,” read one. Or: “I am on a need to hear from you basis, please don’t refrain much longer!”


True love, you will naturally think. But also very, very needy. She responded that it was all just a pile of rhetoric, the kind that is understandable within the gay community. And she responded, by showing that Nimrod returned her passion, or was playing along, or something. He wrote:


“Sweet Beloved, I was so happy to see you tonight, and spend time together. It was so magical and important, crucial on [sic] so many ways. Our shared intimacy was a glorious cadence to our time in Berlin.”


Can anyone say power imbalance? Does the notion of impropriety pop into head? To be fair to the radical professor Ronell, those who continue to practice deconstruction have long since deconstructed the notion of propriety.They have exposed it as a bourgeois, capitalist, colonialist, phallocentric, patriarchal concept… one that good radicals must immediately expunge from all proper discourse. For the record, the practice of deconstruction was invented by a Nazi philosopher…. It is philosopher-speak for: pogrom.

Let's not call Ronell and the cabal that has formed to defend her liberal or progressive. They are anything but.


This much to say that Ronell engaged in conversations that would, in any corporate or professional environment, be considered wildly out of bounds.


But, to give a better sense of Avital Ronell’s discursive practice and the way she treats her students, I turn to a Facebook post, reposted by one Louis-George Schwartz. It was written by someone who preferred to remain anonymous. It is illuminating, to say the least.


Ronell likes to use and manipulate her graduate students:


AR pulls students and young faculty in by flattery, then breaks their self-esteem, goes on to humiliate them in front of others, until the only way to tell yourself and others that you have not been debased, that you have not been used by a pathological narcissist as a private slave, is that you are just so incredibly close, and that Avi is just so incredibly fragile and lonely and needs you 24/7 to do groceries, to fold her laundry, to bring her to acupuncture, to pick her up from acupuncture, to drive her to JFK, to talk to her at night, etc.


How does that sound? Here’s another account from the inner sanctum of the NYU German department:


A visiting student described the state of Avital’s posse as “Stockholm Syndrome.” When I was accepted at NYU, students took me to the side and told me – that if I didn’t want to get into serious trouble – I “had to” write a personal email to “Avi,” thanking her for my acceptance in the department. A short time later, I was standing on a rooftop when the cellphone of the person with whom I was talking rang, one of AR’s students; AR screaming on the other end of the line; the student smiled apologetically: “Avi doesn’t want me to go to parties, she thinks I should be at home on the weekends and work.”


And also:


I get literally nauseous every time I see another post about AR. When I was a graduate student in the NYU German department, both she and Eckart Goebel tormented students, postdocs, and staff with their narcissistic personality disorders, their choleric fits, and yes, their sexual harassment. When I refused to have either Avital or Eckart as advisor, they threatened to kick me out of the department; I seriously considered switching departments or quitting academia. Instead, I started therapy again; I remember my therapist telling me in the first session: “Oh, whatever, just say you’re sorry - give the elephant a peanut!” and a little later: “Why on earth would you apologize?”


One espies a pattern of systematic bullying… one which did not always have a sexual component:


Every time I didn’t take a seminar with AR, the departmental manager wrote me an email telling me “you are expected to take Avital’s seminar” (the rest of the time, the same departmental manager was busy baking brownies because “Eckart is in a bad mood” wink, wink). Let me be clear: I learned a ton from AR in the first two semesters; I admired her wit, intelligence, her politics – but after two semesters it was all repetition; she was clearly under-prepared for teaching and rambling self-importantly about her seminar as “the theater of hell” and about how we have to “open another dossier” while we do “very important work in our gentle community.”


And then there was the matter of Ronell’s decorum-- I trust that you understand that decorum has also been deconstructed:


How very gentle, indeed… at conferences, that several people who signed the pro-AR letter attended, she would shout at a graduate student “You don’t deserve to ask a question!”, she would call invited speakers “ungrateful” in front of a whole audience. When one of her most loyal students announced he was getting married she screamed at him in the departmental hallway: “You are abandoning me!” I remember her following me into a bathroom-stall, trying to persuade me that she should be my advisor (“I could also co-advise you!”)


What happened to the student who declined to have Ronell as an advisor?


When later that day, I declined once more via email, writing awkwardly that our “styles” were simply not compatible (What should I have said? “You are a horrible person, go away”?), she wrote me that she first had to break me before she could put me back together intellectually. Later, she contacted at least two professors who invited me for interviews (one for a fellowship, the other for a job), telling them that I wasn’t “trustworthy.” That backfired. Still, I did not get extra-funding like other students, I was prevented from teaching for a professor who wanted me as a TA, I was never suggested for any departmental fellowships or honors -- these were the smaller forms of retribution.


It’s not all about sex. Schwartz concludes that the pattern of systematic abuse, bullying, manipulation, intimidation was the worst part of it:


All I am saying is: the AR-case is not about a single case of sexual harassment, it’s about systematic manipulation, bullying, intimidation, pitting students against each other, creating rivalry between them. Once I spoke out against AR when, at one of her weekly dinners with her posse, she was making fun of a queer student who had just spoken in seminar about having changed her name in fear of her family (“Oooh, I’m so scared of my family! I had to change my name!” AR’s assistant: “Do you think she was sexually abused? She looked like it”); I got furious, AR tried to put me in my place; the next day said graduate assistant takes me to the side: “I had a terrible nightmare about you – you were in an accident and covered in blood. You know, you can always apologize to Avi!” I could go on and on with stories like this but it seems that most of the people who signed the letter do not want to hear negative stories and are enjoying much more a precious moment of group identity with Judith Butler and other luminaries in the field. I agree the concept of “Avital Ronell” is a great one: I too would love to be friends with a smart, hilarious, queer, Jewish, feminist, anarchist theorist!"


Can you imagine any place of business tolerating such an individual. When radicals like Ronell denounced capitalist enterprise, they might be extrapolating from their own behavior in their own little ivory tower.