Bertolt Brecht Comes to CUNY

Last month, the English Department faculty at Queensborough Community College (QCC), which is part of the CUNY system where I teach, voted to recall their chair and elect a new chair. (At CUNY, chairs are elected.)The vote was a landslide, as these things go: over 20 out of 30 full-time faculty were in favor of the recall and the new chair. On Tuesday, the president of QCC decided to overturn the faculty’s decision. Among the reasons the president gave for her decision was that the department was divided (apparently, only Soviet-style election results in which 100 percent of the people vote for the Party are acceptable) and needed time to heal (by having its decisions overturned). The president also reappointed the old chair to handle department business. Let the healing begin.

It seems fitting that all this thuggery was set in a literature department. As soon as I heard about it, I thought of Bertolt Brecht’s famous poem “The Solution,” which he wrote in the wake of the failed 1953 uprising of East German workers against the government.

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Update (November 9, 8:15 am)

You can sign a petition asking the president to reconsider her decision. Please do so.

Update (November 12, 3:15 pm)

More information on the crisis here.


  1. brahmsky November 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm | #

    Sartre said hell is other people. But what he forgot to mention is those people are in English departments. Ruled over by thugs.

  2. NewHavenGuy November 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm | #

    Dr. Robin,

    Having read a lot of your material I gather you have a problem with authoritarianism. WTF? (Joke, I tend to agree.) Among the shadenfreude today I see a lot of this toxic nonsense in the American Right. Glenn Beck, Franklin Graham, Charles Krauthammer among many others who think and feel this way towards us.

    America has failed the Ideology, it must be destroyed so it can prosper.. (WAY beyond “we had to destroy the village to save it”.) A lot of very scary projection in Wingnutistan.

    KEEP PUSHING from the outside, productively and strategically. And from the inside, too. Looking at Movements in recent American political history, I admire not only the aims of the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Gay Rights movements much more than I do the Birchers, but their tactics also. Right Wing activists took over a party and made it extreme; MLK and LBJ’s relationship was more complicated(!!!) but far more productive in the long game. Without the other I wonder if either would have approached greatness.

    I know about our stupid, shitty war in Vietnam. Tragic, and I use that word advisedly. (Nixon made it worse, predictably so.) No life story, but w/o Medicare my middle class family would be bankrupt many times over, and that is very real to me, duh. Or I guess we should have dumped the looting and mooching grandmothers on the curb. Medicaid a Big Fuckin’ Deal, too.

    A complicated election night, but the meta news is good news.(Marriage Equality, Prop 32 dying in CA, PR statehood. Rape caucus going down in flames. MUCH better Senate, which seemed impossible two months ago. Harry Reid burying “Grand Bargain” more with each interview, filibuster reform. Say what you will, Mr. Reid has fought for my values a hell of a lot more effectively than I’d have ever dared possible. Did a lot more real, tangible good than Jill Stein or Gary Johnson ever will.

    Sort of a (D) Loyalist myself, though never prouder to be one, Not so much yourself, no offense taken or given, I hope. Much in common in terms of the sort of country we want to live in, however..

    Also, hell of a book. One of maybe a dozen that I make a conscious effort to pass around.

    We held the line on Tuesday. Enough of this line-holding shit. Itching for a counteroffensive a la Stalingrad. Let us fight like hell to make ours a better country. As a Democrat I implore you: help us do it. And make us do it, to paraphrase some guy in a wheelchair.

    Keep swinging, brother.

  3. Sumanth November 9, 2012 at 1:17 am | #
  4. Sumanth November 9, 2012 at 1:20 am | #

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