The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 15, 2005


The Mournful and Whining Encounter


First - I never did get any TA help at all; is there any chance this will
change? The area needs both tech support on an on and off basis, and a TA
who would also be a lab monitor. I will give out the password, as we
talked about, but I'm not completely comfortable with this; still, I don't
see any other possibility. As in the past, we'll have a signup sheet and
students can come in when they want. (I do want to note for the record
that every media room I've seen has had both lab monitor and full-time or
part time tech (sysadmin) help - if we do anything more than graphics or
video (and we need to upgrade here - have to use the department credit
card to pay online once someone wires the computers in), the latter is
essential. Even 2-3 hours every two weeks would be an enormous help.)

Second - as far as (from what I recall yesterday) the students finding me
depressed - I _am_ depressed. It's difficult for me, as a new faculty
member here only a month, to have to deal with things like a roof, floor,
and biohazardous materials, no TA, and a lot of student complaints about
equipment. When I was told I'd have to build up the area, I never assumed
it was literally from construction onward. As I mentioned, it's been far
too much work, considering I'm also teaching, trying to research equipment
for the area, etc.

Someone said we might be able still to hire adjuncts? Is there a freeze
also on this? Working with someone who is a Mac/Flash expert would be a
huge relief to the area. What I'm expert in - Internet studies, the Net,
etc. - simply isn't set up, as you know, in 105. I'm hoping we can hire
IRM to configure the Mac computers to connect to the Net through the phone
line - that should be possible? (For some reason I couldn't get them to
work - I have a Mac here at home and it connected immediately.)

Third, I wrote Satan about the vendor situation - do you know any
creative way around purchase orders? There are huge discounts in the
retail shops (I went to Circuit City and Comp USA a few times to research
this, as well as some smaller retailers); if we have to order through
official channels, we're likely to get a lot less equipment for the $4000.

Again, any help/advice greatly appreciated. I'll be in tomorrow around
noon (meeting with Stephen Heins from another dept.) and will check on the
room again at that point (as well as today); in other words, I'll be in
and out of the university tomorrow and possibly Monday.

yours, Alan

Sounds good; I called God and am waiting to hear from him.

Impatience unfortunately is built into what you want from me. For example,
as you know, the university can't fix the camera. This is the one camera
we have for all 20 students - who now have to wait until we can get it
commercially fixed. And I have to explain this to the students - and I
will have to field complaints. (It's already been out for two weeks.)

Did a TA ever come through for us? We desperately need one, but I haven't
heard back from you on this.

All of this is really disenheartening. I should be focusing, I believe, on
teaching and trying to settle in Miami, and instead there seem to be con-
stant difficulties with the multimedia area.

Anyway I will not be aggressive with God or anyone else.

yours, Alan

Does this mean I'm in danger of losing my job at the moment? I absolutely
need to know, because if it's the case, I have to start making other plans
of course -

yours, Alan

Hello - I was the faculty member from new media you met at the luncheon.

As you probably know, my position, my job (as first-year tenure-track
faculty member), and the new media area have all been eliminated.

I understand there is no recourse, no appeal to this decision. The Dean
called me in and handed me a termination notice. There was no discussion,
and at no time during the semester did he bother to find out what we were
doing in the studio.

Art departments all over the country are EMPHASIZING, not cutting back new
media; this is even true in Florida. The situation at FIU is deplorable -
the students are quite honestly being robbed of working in what is the
hottest and most prevalent international medium today.

As for myself - if you do a search on http://www.google.com - you will
find at last 3500-4000 listings for "Alan Sondheim" (use the quotes to
exclude other references). This will give you some idea of my online
community presence and reputation - which I was bringing to FIU.

As for my relationships within the department - for the first half of the
semester (I arrived around August 15), they were very edgy; I was
"whiny" and quite honestly depressed - and the students knew it. I was
teaching in substandard space, with no finished floor (cement with glue),
with no ceiling (tin roof), and air conditioner (not working); there were
termite droppings on the equipment, dead lizards and waterbugs in the
space, and both white and black powders over everything - probably insec-
ticides. After considerable complaining, we got a drop ceiling put in
(there are probably still termites above it - this is W10, RM 105),
flooring put down, the room cleaned - including biohazard testing, and the
air-conditioner working. But this took a tremendous amount out of me, the
department, and the class - and in spite of that my students did profes-
sional work (for the most part), and I received very good evaluations from
them.

And on top of this - to be terminated at this point, to have the whole
area closed down - this is intolerable, particularly given what you passed
out - the university mandate. I had hoped to help several of my students
towards online and offline exhibitions by the end of this semester - this
is blatantly unfair to them as well.

I am well aware this letter will do absolutely no good, but I found the
luncheon was not a good time to bring this all up, and it wasn't until the
next day that I received the termination notice.

sincerely,

Alan Sondheim

Of course I won't be teaching this summer, etc.; I also won't be advising
at this point.

I'll be going to the student crits, etc., but I will use the faculty meet-
ing time for working on job applications, etc. I'm not getting anywhere,
but I've been working the whole vacation on this stuff. We'll have a
furniture etc. sale in mid-April and leave after that. I'm going to go to
Human Resources next week to find out about TIAA/CREF, health and unem-
ployment, etc. etc. It's a very depressing time.

I'm going to be working with two students outside of class (I think) - one
will be doing a one-credit course, and Jehovah is the other. If there are
any difficulties, I'll get in touch with Beezlebub.

I cancelled out of the Sorbonne (and England - I was also asked to speak
there); I'm going to Minnesota late February for a few days, but that's
all. The courses will work around that.

Hope your holidays are good -

yours, Alan

I just wanted to add a few things.

Although it's technically irrelevant, I was told verbally I'd get startup
monies for the department area (new media) - none came through.

I'm really not sure why the position was terminated. Two reasons - budget
and the fact the Dean didn't think I'd stay the whole time and "the
university's investment in the position wouldn't pay off" make little
sense to me in a lot of ways. I have reason to think there was something
else - someone hinted at it - but I don't know what it is. It may be that
I had an argument with the Devil early on and asked if I would be able to
take the startup equipment with me if I left in a year or two. According
to Evil One I said that I was definitely leaving after one year "and
everyone heard me." But I didn't say that, Angel was there and didn't hear
it, and I wouldn't have said it. I was despairing at that point of teach-
ing altogether, because as I pointed out the room I was given was in
terrible disrepair (as was/is a lot of the equipment) - and Evil kept
insisting "I knew what I was getting into" - that I was told everything
during the interview. But I wasn't - I had no idea about the termites, the
flooding, the broken air-conditioner, the ripped-up flooring, the lack of
a ceiling... The job was a mess at first. I have before-and-after pictures
of the room - we did manage over two months to get it repaired - but we
also lost around a month's studio time for my classes in the process....

I can't follow through on any of this because I don't want to lose my
recommendations/references - I'm applying for other jobs.

Most of the time I try and stay level; I have a huge amount of anger in
me. I told the Dean the university should never have advertised the job,
and if they did, I would try and write everyone I know to stop the hiring.
I knew the last finalist very well for example. I feel bound to do this -
and do whatever I can - because at this point I'm feeling basically raped
- it's the only way I can put it. I'm 58, one of the oldest people in the
department, and it was a HUGE move for Azure (my wife) and I to come down
here. Right now it's catastrophic, affecting my health, etc.

Anyway the Dean said if I wrote anything it would affect his letter of
recommendation "of course" - I said I would never ask him for one, and he
said that the Deans are always consulted. I don't think this is true in
the slightest, but I need the letter from Evil One - she gave me one
already, but if she's called on it, I have to appear positive to her.

Another one of the promises - Angel is young and wants to study museology
- I was told at the interview that there would be a certification program
with the Smithsonian. As soon as we were here we were told it was
postponed - and now I don't know if it's ever going to happen. Angel has
had nothing to do as a result vis-a-vis the university. This may seem
minor, but we were told in absolute terms that the program was in place.
There was a lot of this stuff.

Sorry to vent like this. If you need specific information, I can supply
it, to the best of my knowledge. The paper trail is thin; the email trail
is a bit thicker, but a lot of what's gone on has been verbal. I've
taught, often as a visiting artist, at a number of other places, and I've
never had reason to distrust any of them - unfortunately this hasn't been
my experience here.

yours,

Alan Sondheim

I'll try to make all the crits. I have to apply for work elsewhere at this
point and there are a lot of deadlines in January/February. Please excuse
me if I don't make every one. This semester is going to be difficult for
Angel and myself; the termination of the job and area has been finanically
and emotionally devastating for us. The union has taken an interest, but
this doesn't affect my termination; they want to try and ensure this sort
of thing (i.e. first year tenure-track) won't happen again.

I worry about the art / art history department. Forgetting whether or not
I'm liked, the elimination of the new media area is terrible - if you look
at the CAA listings, this area is becoming one of the most important in
schools all across the country/Canada. Given this, and the problems with
the student gallery, I'm surprised that tenured faculty aren't protesting
(again). The school has some of the best undergraduates I've seen - What
am I to tell my students who might want to major in new media? My only
option is to suggest they go elsewhere if they really want to pursue, say,
Internet studies, cdroms, etc. And that's awful.

I want to thank those of you who have given us letters of recommendation
and emotional support through all of this. It's been very difficult.

- Alan

I'm sending this out, somewhat for protection. I have told my students
about what happened - I felt I owed them this - and that the new media
area of the school is closing down - what Satan said when he termin-
ated my contract. Now the head of the department is insisting I not pass
on negative information, that the area will continue. This woman has also
written a letter of recommendation for me which will be required, I'm
sure, if I'm to be hired elsewhere. She's lied consistently to me, as far
as I'm concerned; she wants me to lie to the students. Fact: There's no
one to teach new media, no money for hiring even adjuncts. Fact: There's
only one video camera still, 2 G4 stations, one half-working Sony station
- and I have a total of  26 students. Fact: There's no budget for more
equipment, the new media line has been taken away, there's no budget for
visiting artists, there's no budget for software. I spend half the time
dealing with students groaning - in spite of which I get good recommend-
ations. There's no budget for technical support. There's no budget for
lab monitors. The students are barely getting an education, and I'm the
only one who can teach new media or Internet in the Art / Art History
area. I'm afraid of lying; I don't want my better students to lose their
own chances at careers because the department head puts the university
ahead of the truth.

This woman has also threatened me, telling me I don't want to know what
the real reasons for the termination are - "Don't go there" - and "I'm
married to a lawyer, so I know when to keep my mouth shut."

How in hell am I to get another teaching job? I've been getting physically
sick with stress at this point; I can't cope. I feel like a victim in
someone's paranoid fantasy. I've spoken to the union who want to publicize
things (and probably will) because the situation is so unusual (and they
want to prevent it from happening again) - but that will make it even
harder for me to get work elsewhere, student evaluations notwithstanding.
I keep a partial paper trail, but so much of what's gone on has been
verbal - the meeting with the Satan, the woman's threats, etc. I've never
seen such an insane situation in my life.

What does one do? I'm a damn good teacher. I'm applying to various
schools. The first thing they'll notice is the one year termination. How
do I protect myself? How do I survive?

Alan

I am writing you to ascertain the reasons for my contract termination. I
understand my situation is unusual, and I need to find out why I was let
go at such an early date.

Thank you very much for your help in this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Alan Sondheim

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 12:11:11 +1000
From: "_dream.thick[ener]_" <netwurker@hotkey.net.au>
Reply-To: arc.hive@anart.no
To: arc.hive@anart.no
Subject: [_arc.hive_] heh

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