Application for a Wolfhaven

“In the church of my soul, the choir is aflame.”
………………………………- Vladimir Mayakovsky

1.
I speak mainly for myself.

Custodial,
Waste Management, Chancellor, Catering,
President & Vice-Chancellor, Rector, Principal,
pizza and alcohol delivery drivers,
Provost, TAs, Vice-provost,
Housing, House-cleaning,
esteemed faculty,
drifters & servers,
students,
sessional instructors,
tutors,
Presidents and Vice-presidents Academic,
Security, Parking,
leaders of the sundry academies,
Research Services,
sundry receptionists, secretaries,
Tim Horton’s, Deans, Starbucks, Assistant Deans,
Department Heads,
Counsellors, friends:
it is an honour to speak with you today.

2.
I would sing the academy, bills attendant,
laid green eternal, sunshiney bright,
cross-cut lawns stretching to the fence-line,
a place of mind.
let us be mindful of place.
a place, for example,
which has no agreement
with the first nations peoples,
upon whose land this
global-thinking place
does its thinking,
its globalizing.
Let us be mindful, then,
of where we step.

I would sing
so the private
might be made public,
so industries of knowledge
might find a modern home
–for in the postmodern,
where nothing is fixed,
but the game seems rigged,
we have seen the decentering of ethics,
of morality,
the privatization of the academy,
of thought itself,
so even Nancy Olivieri*
would think twice
about another university gig.

3.
I speak of imaginings.

do not imagine that we are not distracted,
that what is spoken here
is not spoken almost only here
and not loudly here,
not enough spoken of this place.
do not imagine that here is not connected so greatly
to out there,
that there could even be a here
without all the world which makes this place
shapes it, pays for it in tributes forced,
in taxes torn from the oppressed,
whom we have sworn to guide,
to lead out of the morass;
do not imagine we are not purposefully distracted,
that our endless running for awards and honours,
our ceaseless scribblings and debates
are not, in part, designed to contain us,
to fix the gaze in such a manner that the misery
and war, the real chaos, lies(check usage here) cloaked in periphery;
do not imagine that all we do is good,
or that the millions of academics
have yet to stem the tide of starving billions;
do not imagine the halls themselves
aren’t under scrutiny,
with their cafeterias,
exercise yards
and cells—we penal colonists;
so, too, the suburbs,
the condos
moreso;
do not imagine the pay, the office, the gowns, the silly hats
will in any way compensate for the growing mass
of troubled and confused,
nor will such honours
ease our conscience as,
on that fateful day, even we are stopped at the check-point,
taken from our coteries, epaulettes removed, very like a Beria**;
do not imagine the state—the very one we help to build—
do not imagine it will love you,
for in any great upheaval the intellectuals,
too, are washed away, down gulag drains,
Treblinka trains, anonymous, vanished, forgot;
do not imagine the state will mourn you;
and, please, do not imagine Passover
any great honour, for if, in it’s heated threshing,
the state does not erase your papers, your lecture notes,
your very face from the faculty photos,
why, then, your tenure is guaranteed
—you have long since failed to matter
as one who bears the light of knowledge,
and complicit be in torture, the snuffing of the light.

4.
i speak as i was taught.

we gather in such places
for this very purpose—we are the risk
power takes each September:
will we be swayed by position, money,
office?
or are we the moment when the wager falters,
when the lettered women and men
begin to piecemeal construct a different sort of machine;
imagine your art, your gifts, your very heart
set to tasks fulfilling, embarked upon a bloodless reversal,
speaking truth to power,
advocating evidence-based policy,
accountable government,
the nurturing of community,
filling the sky with hopeful light;
imagine the power in metaphor,
what must be
if we are not to prove ourselves
lesser re-runs
of the falling empire;
imagine, please, not your tenure-track,
your corner office with the indoor,
flourishing tree;
imagine not emeritus, for in such stripped and impoverished soils
such imaginings seem fruitless;
imagine the brutish, ignorant wheel
bearing down upon the child;
imagine your hand, staying such tragics;
imagine the terror in the single mother, the aged,
the infirm, and the torch you bear to light their way;
imagine your own academy, flayed of pseudo-science,
rid of untruth and horseshit;
imagine, if you can, beyond the fear of deadlines
and rules, a place so mindful
you are not breathless with anxiety
but with joy, communitas
as you study, create, and build.

– by Clay McCann

* Dr. Nancy Olivieri: The case of University of Toronto clinician, Dr. Nancy Olivieri, gained attention when her research at the Hospital for Sick Children led her to believe that a new drug treatment posed dangers to some patients. It is alleged that the hospital and the university failed to come to her defence when Apotex, co-sponsor of the research, objected to her publishing her findings. It is further alleged that hospital and university officials and representatives of Apotex variously subjected her to workplace and other harassment.
The case was reviewed by CAUT’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure which concluded that the issues raised are serious and that many questions remain unanswered by reviews conducted by other bodies. In addition to matters affecting Dr. Olivieri, broad institutional policy issues exist. Accordingly, the AF&T committee has appointed an independent committee of inquiry. (http://www.caut.ca/pages.asp?page=199).
** Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria (29 March 1899 – 23 December 1953) was a Georgian Soviet politician and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus (NKVD) under Joseph Stalin during World War II, and Deputy Premier in the postwar years (1946–1953). During the coup d’etat led by Nikita Khrushchev and assisted by the military forces of the Marshal Georgy Zhukov, they formed an alliance to remove and kill Beria. In that same year, he was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason by Zhukov’s soldiers during a meeting in which the full Politburo condemned him. The compliance of the NKVD was ensured by Zhukov’s troops, and after interrogation Beria was taken to the basement of the Lubyanka and shot by General Pavel Batitsky along with his most trusted associates.[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavrentiy_Beria)

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