Sunday, May 28, 2006

CFP: Tamkang Review issue on "The Neighbor: Literature, Politics and Ethics in the Age of Globalization"

English Department, Tamkang University, Tamsui, Taipei Hsien, Taiwan 251
TEL: 886-2-26215656 EXT. 2329 E-MAIL:

The Neighbor:
Literature, Politics and Ethics in the Age of Globalization

Deadline for Submissions: 20 September 2006

The neighbor, as a central figure in Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, and Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis, is a nebulous, enigmatic category that calls for rethinking in terms of subjectivity, desire, fantasy, communication, and community. The neighbor in its various manifestations―immigrants, ideal egos, ethnic Other, enjoyment, for example―provokes ambivalent responses of love and hate, fascination and fear, and problematizes the demarcations of the private and public, proximity and distance, inside and outside, hospitability and aggressivity, law and transgression. In our age of globalization, driven by fluidity, becoming, and deterritorialization, the neighbor turns out to be an unavoidable issue in the fields of literature, politics and ethics.

Tamkang Review will launch a special issue on the neighbor in spring 2007. Papers addressing the following topics are particularly welcome:

  • ethnic differences and conflicts
  • Neo-Nazism and xenophobia
  • fundamentalist and terrorist violence
  • urbanization, immigration, and diaspora
  • global consumerism and tourism
  • cultural translation
  • monsters in Gothic fiction or horror films

Please note:
  1. Tamkang Review only publishes papers in English not being simultaneously submitted elsewhere.
  2. Please send your MLA-styled manuscript, an abstract of (no more than 250 words), a list of no more than 10 keywords, and a curriculum vita as Word-attachments to
  3. The manuscript should be anonymous. Your name and affiliation should only appear in the curriculum vita.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A book the former Bianchi-rider hopes someone will buy for him...

Get my copy now! ;-)

Taiwan fails to get into the World Health Assembly again...

...and neither the BBC's nor CNN's websites even mention it.

For those who are counting, this was the tenth attempt by Taiwan to get observer status (not even full status as a member!) in the World Health Assembly. For those who are not counting, you should be.

As the Taipei Times reports, the assembly refused (again) even to include Taiwan's application on its meeting agenda (pdf). This was after the assembly listened to protests from Pakistan and the PRC (those role models of humanitarianism). (If you're interested in the discussion of the adoption of the agenda, you can find it in this document [pdf], page 10, Item 1.4)

The Taipei Times quotes "Ambassador and permanent representative to the UN Sha Zukang (沙祖康)" as lying saying, "'We have been very concerned about the [Taiwanese people's] health. This is absolutely for sure'." As the Times editorialized during the SARS crisis of 2003, "the biggest contribution China has made to the health of the people of Taiwan and the world lately is the transmission of the SARS virus." Those of us with memories that go back to the 921 earthquake also recall how China's Red Cross demanded international Red Cross organizations work with it if they wanted to help Taiwan. Typically, what the PRC says and what it does regarding its "concern" for the people of Taiwan are diametrically opposed.

Maybe the reason that CNN and the BBC haven't reported on this is that, after 10 years, it isn't news anymore.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

On the bright side, it's impossible to be denied tenure here...

[Update: I've made some changes to this, based on some informative comments from Clyde Warden.]

Got this in our mailboxes on Friday. It confirms something I heard about earlier, but didn't want to mention here because I didn't have all the details.
The university is following an MOE mandate to evaluate teachers every three years. Teachers are evaluated by four categories: Teaching (40-50%), Research (20-40%), Service (10-30%) and Student counseling (10-30%). Teachers need to have 70 points in total to pass the evaluation. There is no minimal point requirement for each category, but there has to be at least some points for each category. Teachers will be evaluated every three years and the evaluation is done at the college level, not the department level. If a teacher does not pass the first time, then s/he will be evaluated once a year (maximum of 6 years) also, the teacher will not be allowed to teach part-time outside of Tunghai, will not be paid overtime, annual-promotion-pay will be frozen, and cannot be "lent to other institution". If a teacher does not pass after 6 years of yearly review, s/he will be referred to the university FAC, which reserves the right to terminate his/her contract. Each college needs to come up with guidelines to calculate points for evaluation. These guidelines have to be approved by the college FAC and university FAC, but they also have to meet the MOE mandate. Each college has flexibility in assigning points. We need to create guidelines to submit to the college that will meet the needs of the teachers in our department.
The main conclusion that I draw from this is that there is no tenure system in Taiwan the tenure system in Taiwan is quite different from what many applicants might expect. (Some say there was never any tenure system--this is probably true. [But see Clyde's comments below.]) If any department or university in Taiwan is advertising for a "tenure-track position", the writers of the ad have either been misinformed and/or are misinforming the audience need to make sure applicants understand what exactly is meant by "tenure" in the Taiwan system.

My questions:
  1. Are other schools doing this? Is this only new for private universities or is it new for public and private schools?
  2. Can someone point me to the relevant MOE guidelines/mandate? I'd just like to take a gander at it myself.
Feel free to discuss.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Comparative driving

Had to link to this description of driving practices in Burlington, NC. Sounds so much like home (here), only without the motorcyles and scooters:

See, over the last three years, I've lived in a town where there are no rules, exactly, for driving. They're more like suggestions. You know: "if it's not too much trouble, you might want to consider keeping your car right of the center line--but no biggie. We know sometimes you just need the whole road." Since moving here, Lee and I have (in most cases, many times) seen drivers:
turn left from the right lane
turn right from the left lane
wait in the right
lane until traffic clears so they can get into the left lane to turn left
back up on the interstate to take an exit
back up on a busy four-lane
road to turn into a business (and then still just drive onto the curb and into the grass between the street and the parking lot)
stop in the middle of the road to hand a package from one DHL van to another
park in the entry drive of the TJ Maxx lot because it's easier than finding a spot
pull up to an intersection, wait until we were upon said intersection, then pull out in front of us (and proceed to go 15 mph below the posted limit)
come to a complete stop to turn right from a busy street

There are more, too, but my neural net can only process so much at once.

Sound familiar?

Two more books that the former native speaker ordered, and one that he didn't...

Today I received my last shipment of books from the University of California Press sale that I mentioned earlier. One of the books that I ordered didn't arrive, though, and was replaced with a book on a completely unrelated subject. I wrote to UCP to find out what happened, as no explanation was given on the invoice.

Here are the two books I ordered:

And the book I didn't order:

[Update, 5/20/06: The representative I e-mailed apologized for the error and sent out the book I had actually ordered. She asked me to tear off the cover of The Bodhidharma Anthology and send it back so that they can count it for inventory purposes. So I cut off the cover (if you're reading, Mr. Broughton, my apologies!) with one of those razor-knives that all Taiwanese elementary students seem to carry around, and I'll send it back on Monday.]

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Perspectives on the Language Centers in Taiwan's Universities" Symposium

I know I'm supposed to be finishing up that third post on A Pail of Oysters, but I wanted to mention a couple of other things in the mean time. One is the symposium that Tunghai's FLLD held this past Saturday (May 6). Our department hosted nine invited speakers who run language centers at different universities around Taiwan. The directors were asked to address the following questions about their programs:
  1. What is the mission of your language center?
  2. What is the history/development/reasons for creation?
  3. Introduce your language center (staff, faculty, students, structure within the universities, etc.).
  4. What are the facilities (space, allotment/office space)?
  5. What is the number of faculty and staff?
  6. What is the status of teachers/kind of contracts?
  7. What are the requirements in terms of teaching load and responsibilities for teachers?
  8. What programs/classes do you offer?
  9. What are some of the pros and cons of having a language center?
  10. How are teachers in the language center evaluated?
The basic motivation behind this workshop was that Tunghai is in the process of developing its own language center and wanted to learn about the pros and cons of having one. I am not on any of the committees that are in the process of developing this center, but from what I understand as of the last time the school's president came to the FLLD to talk with us, the language center would be primarily a teaching unit, separate from the FLLD. It would be under the College of Arts, if I remember correctly. It would have its own director, who would be of the same rank as a department chair. So the purpose of the symposium was to find out what other universities' language centers have dealt with in their development, so we can learn from both their successes and their difficulties.

I'm not going to summarize each person's presentation, but I want to mention a few of the major themes that came out of the presentations. In no particular order, here they are:
  • There's an increasing attempt to reach out to honors or otherwise advanced students through special semester-long or short-term courses. The program at one school (and possibly more) is also feeling pressure from the rest of the school to offer courses and other kinds of help to graduate students and faculty who now are feeling more pressure to publish in English-language international academic journals.

  • Most of the language centers would probably be better labelled "language programs" because they are responsible for the required first-year English courses and elective language courses. There was one (if I remember correctly) language center that did not have the responsibility for the FY-English program. It operates more as a center that offers short-term courses, lectures, study groups, and other activities for extracurricular English learning. (And the staff there consists of one director, 2 staff members, and no faculty.)

  • There are more and more attempts to make use of computer-aided self-study systems so that students can learn on their own. Some programs require the computer-aided learning to be graded as part of required courses; some just provide the learning stations and hope that students will come. (One director mentioned that they had increased the number of computers in one lab from 7 to 41, but only the same 7 students were showing up...)

  • Most of the directors complained of being understaffed, particularly in terms of full-time faculty. As one director put it, the problem is not a sense that part-time teachers are not as hard-working; the problem is that because it is difficult to give part-time teachers the same level of pay and facilities as full-timers (office space, etc.), part-timers usually have to teach at more than one school and therefore cannot be around for program activities, office hours, or important program meetings. This makes it harder both for students to have more interaction with their teachers outside of the classroom and for programs to be as unified as directors would like. [This is my recollection of what was said--if it doesn't quite accurate to others who were there, please let me know!]

  • I felt a sense that teachers and administrators in the language center are not as highly respected as teachers or administrators in regular departments. The term "second-class citizens" was used more than once in characterizing the language centers' status.

  • Related to this, I noticed a concern that language center faculty will end up being evaluated in the same way as faculty in other departments (in other words, a heavy emphasis on research), despite the heavier teaching responsibilities that come with teaching English to the entire freshman class, teaching English electives to upperclass students, and running various programs to encourage students to use English outside of class and to ensure that the English proficiency of the students meets some sort of externally defined standard (the GEPT or TOEFL, for example).
Part of the problem, from my perspective, seems to be that the schools are stuck in a situation where the MOE's requirements put them at cross-purposes vis-a-vis the language centers. On the one hand they want the language centers to ensure that everybody's English meets a certain vaguely defined standard (and I do mean "everybody's"--not just undergrads, but graduate students and faculty and staff make use of the language centers in at least some schools). On the other hand, it sounded like several program directors felt hamstrung in terms of hiring because of the emphasis on hiring assistant professors and people who are going to publish. National universities don't allow the hiring of full-time lecturers, and there is quite a bit of pressure on private universities to follow suit. (I have more to say about this, but I'm going to hold off on that for a while. In the mean time, see this post on Michael Turton's blog that raises the question, how are all the universities in Taiwan going to hire PhDs to teach in their English departments/language centers?) At this point, I'm not sure to what extent language centers will be able to offer their faculty alternatives to the research/teaching/service (where "research" means publications in big-name journals) promotion/"tenure" model. This is going to become a much more pressing issue, too, as the MOE gives private universities more pressure to require lecturers to apply for promotion (more on that later, too!).

Again, this summary of the symposium is based on my impressions/memories of the meeting. I'd appreciate the corrections of anyone else who was there. (Like Kris Vicca, who in a careless moment admitted that he's read this blog before!) I have thought about whether or not I should mention who said what, but have opted not to at this point, though if the directors want their names attached to particular comments or opinions, I'll be happy to comply with their requests. And the paragraph above is based almost entirely on my own slightly muddled view of things. I'll try to develop these ideas in more depth at some point in the future.