Against Reading E-mail

Against Reading E-mail

I am shocked, shocked, and in a tizzy, about demands from Wisconsin Republicans to read the e-mail of faculty members at the state university. Can they do that? Can Republicans in my state demand to read my e-mail? I am not at a state university, but we do, everyone does, get government funding. Will I be exposed—read with malice aforethought, and malice afterthought, by my political enemies, and my academic enemies, and the people here and there who don’t like me? What would they find?

(1) My extensive correspondence with colleagues about the scandalously low quality of food at the Faculty Club—with some cruel remarks about other colleagues who don’t have the taste to notice the quality of the food, and who serve on the faculty committee that runs the Club and don’t do anything about it, and who therefore shouldn’t be on the committee, and who vetoed my membership on the committee because they know that I know when the foie gras isn’t up to par.

(2) My complaint to the recent author of a book in my field that doesn’t cite a single one of my articles, though several of them are obviously relevant to his argument.

(3) My e-mail to a female student in one of my classes, asking her not to sleep during my lectures. Fortunately, she didn’t interpret this as a suggestion that she sleep somewhere else (as my enemies will do), but answered that she would consider staying awake if my lectures were less boring. Which is unfair, since thirty-seven other students were consistently awake or only dozing.

(4) My request to the dean that I be assigned a parking space nearer to my office, now that I am a senior professor and a leader in my field (even if my articles aren’t cited in the literature of ignorant colleagues). And my second and third requests after the dean turned me down on the absurd grounds that my current parking space is only a five-minute walk from my office. But Professor X, as everyone knows, has a closer space and a three-minute walk.

(5) My e-mails to various friends on the faculty urging them to vote against the overly constrained return of ROTC to campus, which I later voted for, and their furious denunciations of my “opportunism” (as they called it). But the dean specifically asked for my vote, and I thought that he would reconsider the parking space issue, which is a matter of principle for me.

(6) My reader’s report on an article sent to the leading journal in my field, which attacked a view that I have strongly argued for. I recommended against publication, but the article was published anyway, and has been widely praised. My opposition might be thought self-serving, but getting things right is another matter of principle.

(7) My letter of protest to the department chair after she cancelled my course on the use of the gerundive in sixteenth-century Lithuanian folktales, claiming that the enrollment was too low. But important subjects should be covered by th...