Congratulations!

Congratulations to Prof. Kenneth Wheeler and his students in IDS 317, whose article, “Black Student Experiences in the Racial Integration of Reinhardt College, 1966-1972,” published this spring in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, has won the 2019 John C. Inscoe Award. From Reinhardt’s Jordan Beach:

“I am surprised and thrilled to hear the news that I and my students have been awarded the John Inscoe Award by the Georgia Historical Society for the best article to appear in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in 2018,” said Wheeler, professor of history. “I’m so proud of my hard-working students. The award is a happy reminder of how talented our Reinhardt students are, and what a wonderful course we had together that led to the article.”

The award honors the legacy of Dr. John Inscoe, an editor of GHQ from 1989-2000, a professor at the University of Georgia and a mentor for historians in the South. The award presents the authors with a framed certificate and a $500 cash prize.

Wheeler previously co-authored articles published in GHQ in 2009 and 2013, however, this is the first time an article received an award.

“We were delighted to have that article accepted by and, after review by a number of historians, published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly. Winning this award from the Georgia Historical Society is the cherry on top,” Wheeler said.

The publication and award are just several of many examples that showcases the benefits of Reinhardt University’s low student-professor ratio.

“In a multitude of ways, Reinhardt professors provide opportunities for our students to go above and beyond,” said Wheeler. “This article and the John Inscoe Award are just one manifestation of how our students seek excellent educational experiences at Reinhardt.”

Congratulations, Graduates!

Congratulations to our history graduates of the class of 2019!

Grant Ashton, cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2019.

Madeline Gray, magna cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2018, Engaged Learner of the Year Award 2019, Arts and Humanities Student of the Year 2019.

Paige Oglesby, cum laude, Phi Alpha Theta, History Program Student of the Year 2019.

Aliyah Reeves, Phi Alpha Theta.

Followup

A followup to the post below about Hagan Chapel. Yesterday Reinhardt released the following statement:

Reinhardt University and Waleska United Methodist Church have mutually agreed on an expense sharing plan for Hagan Chapel, and vow to work cooperatively to build a relevant partnership in support of the community of students, faculty, staff and residents of Waleska.

Together, the university and the church mourn the breakdown in our relationship and have pledged to work for a full reconciliation between our communities in order to demonstrate the way of Christ, which is to love and serve each other.

We invite the community of faith known as Waleska United Methodist Church and the educational community of Reinhardt University to renew their commitment to cultivate the fruit of spirit of Christ: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Church Buildings

I was as shocked as anyone by the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday. How could such a thing happen to such a famous building? You would think they would have taken better precautions to prevent it, and I really hope that no foul play was involved. But it is good to remember that over a long enough timespan the likelihood of such disasters happening approaches 1, and that all ancient buildings have been repeatedly damaged and renovated over the course of their existence – at its most extreme it’s like the hammer that has had three new handles and two new heads. And happily, Notre Dame’s roof might be gone, and the spire toppled, but the building retains its structural integrity, so rebuilding the lost parts should be easy enough.

Artist Daniel Mitsui said it well in a speech he made in 2017, an excerpt of which he posted yesterday to Facebook:

And earlier on this blog I wrote that:

As a historian I am interested in sacred space, but as a Christian I don’t care much for it. Christianity is wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name. Christianity derives from the Bible and Church tradition, and you can have these anywhere. Whenever people designate a particular place or object as being essential to their faith, they are just asking for trouble – what happens when you lose control over it? Your entire life’s purpose then becomes getting it back, at the expense of everything else that matters.

Having said all that, I don’t believe in the gratuitous destruction of Christian monuments, and when I denigrate fighting over sacred space, I mean specific coordinates on the earth’s surface, e.g. the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or the Temple Lot in Independence, Mo. I do believe that one’s built environment reflects something about one’s values. In the very early days Christians worshiped in people’s homes, and some sects continue this practice (e.g. the Amish – who have adopted plenty of other ways of publicly expressing themselves). But church buildings have been an integral part of Christian practice since before Constantine, and most religious universities have a chapel on campus somewhere for the use of the university community. Even if they don’t use it all that much, the fact that it exists at all is a statement: this university is affiliated with a Christian denomination.

This is Blanche Hagan Chapel at Reinhardt University, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. When I first arrived at Reinhardt, the college chaplain was directly responsible to the president, and she presided over a weekly chapel service on Thursday at 12:30. This was a dedicated time: no classes or meetings were scheduled against it, and all members of the college community were welcome to attend. This situation is very much in accord with my view of things – Christian practice at a college should include all its members: students, faculty, staff, and friends. Alas, this situation was not to last – the chaplain is now under the Dean of Students, and weekly chapel is now “Tuesday Night Fellowship” which takes place in the Student Center. TNF is an informal affair with lots of guitars and not much liturgy, aimed primarily at the students, for whom the chaplain serves as a sort of youth pastor.

I don’t have anything against this sort of thing but I don’t see why we can’t have both a weekly student service and a weekly corporate service, for all the other members of the Reinhardt community.

Not to worry, Hagan Chapel still gets used on Sundays. The local UMC congregation gathers for worship there… for now. Two years of negotiations between the congregation and the university over cost-sharing have apparently broken down, and this week the university has told the congregation that it must agree to a new set of terms, or face eviction. Rumors flew that Reinhardt was hoping to take the steeple off the chapel and use the building for some other purpose, although today these were vigorously denied.

So that’s a relief. Whatever happens to the Waleska UMC, we will still have a proper chapel on campus for use on those formal occasions when we need one, and for expressing our Christian identity at all other times.

Addendum. I am a big fan of Daniel Mitsui, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2013. Check out his home page, or his Facebook presence

Canada

Friday at noon, Profs. Judith Irvine, Peter Bromstad, Graham Johnson, and Jonathan Good, the four Canadians by birth on the Reinhardt faculty, talked about their homeland at the International Coffee Hour. My own contribution went something like this:

When you go to Canada, you’ll find that it’s just like the United States, but different enough to be disconcerting – like the characters in the Simpsons having only four digits. Someone once said that Canada sits in the uncanny valley. It looks and feels the same as the US, but there will be a bunch of little differences. For example, in Ontario at any rate, you’ll notice a plethora of British place-names, and the Union Jack on the provincial flag. But you’ll also see French everywhere. There will be no billboards along the freeway, or those corporate logos atop tall poles at highway interchanges. You’ll be excited to see that the speed limit is 100, and gas only 1.53, before you realize that the first number designates kilometres per hour, and the second the cost per litre. When you go in to pay for your gas you’ll be curious about the coloured, polymer notes, the dollar and two dollar coins, and the lack of pennies. You also might want to try some of the exotic candy bars or, if you smoke, a pack of “Players” or “DuMaurier.” The locals will have a slightly different accent and use the occasional Canadianism, like “hydro,” “chesterfield,” or “grade two.” And so on.

But really, you’d experience much the same thing if you went to Texas. The money and units of measurement might be the same, but you’d hear a different accent, see Spanish all over the place, and see regional brands that you might not find in your own state. In other words, if Texas is just a state, then how does Canada presume to be its own country? Why did this place, which is by rights just another American region, escape being annexed?

To answer that question you have to look to history, of course. And when you do you realize there are a couple of pretty big differences between Canada and the United States that are not immediately apparent. In the eighteenth century, as you are probably aware, there were two rival European colonial empires in North America: the British and the French. As a result of the Seven Years’ War, the British annexed French Canada, and for a brief while pretty much all of eastern North America was under British suzerainty. But that war sowed the seeds of the American revolution, as the British colonists did not want to help pay for it, and were offended by how solicitous the British government was of the French colonists, who were allowed to keep their religion and their civil law, and of the Indians, who were protected from settlement by the Proclamation line of 1763.

Anger at these things, plus some inept moves by the British government, eventually led to the American Revolution, which the colonists won by 1783. But not everyone in the colonies supported the Revolution, as Canadians are fond of pointing out – some people even refer to the Revolution as America’s First Civil War. Certainly the French Canadians, invited to join the American Revolution, refused, preferring instead to take their chances with British rule. And up to a third of the English colonists actively opposed the Revolution, on the principle that independence was not the only solution to any colonial grievances (and suspecting that it was all a project of the cool kids, who stood to benefit the most from it). What to do with these types? Well, you expel them, of course, and the period immediately after 1783 saw a great exodus of Loyalists from the American colonies. Some went to the Caribbean, others back to Great Britain, but the vast majority of them went to the other British colony in North America, i.e. Quebec! The British kindly split Quebec in two, giving “Upper Canada” to the Loyalists, and reserving “Lower Canada” for the French. These two colonies were reunited in 1841, and then granted independence in 1867.

This is the fundamental fact of Canadian history. English Canada was founded by refugees from the American revolution who were happy to remain part of the British Empire. They ended up dominating Canada, which means that they reduced the French to a second-class status. This has given us Canada’s National Obsession: the issue of Language, and the Constitutional place of Quebec in Canadian confederation. (In America, the national obsession is race, but in Canada it is language.) The Loyalism of the early Anglophone settlers has had another long-term political effect. English Canada might not be as oriented to Britain as it once was, but those settlers simply trusted the government in a way that the American revolutionaries did not. As a consequence Canada has always been more “statist” than the United States. This has given us our prized national health care system… and an economy that is not as dynamic as America’s and a docile population that tends to do what it’s told. (Q: How do you get 42 Canadians out of a swimming pool? A: “OK, 42 Canadians, out of the swimming pool”)

Reinhardt in the GHQ

Congratulations to Ken Wheeler and the students of his IDS 317: Town and Gown course in the fall of 2017, whose research on the racial integration of Reinhardt College in the late 1960s has been published in the most recent number of the Georgia Historical Quarterly, and which provided the cover illustration to boot:

Curt Lindquist is Retiring from Reinhardt

Curt Lindquist and his extensive office door cartoon collection.

When I arrived at Reinhardt in 2004, religion professor Curt Lindquist was serving as dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, and was very welcoming and supportive of me. I was especially pleased that he accepted me as a member of the Fulbright-Hays seminar that he organized, “Examining China’s Great Western Development Program: the Social and Cultural Effects upon Ethnic Minorities and the Han Majority” – a topic that remains relevant.

Peg Morlier, Curt Lindquist, and Al Carson.

Ken Wheeler organized a get-together for Curt this Tuesday in the Lawson-Tarpley atrium, when people shared their memories of his time here.

I have enjoyed Curt’s presence across the hall these many years and am sad that he will no longer be teaching at Reinhardt. But I wish him and Mary all the best in the years to come.

Grading

When I first came to the United States as an undergraduate in the fall of 1990, I discovered that course grades, given as letters from A through D (with F for failure) had numerical equivalents.* That is, an A was worth 4, a B worth 3, a C worth 2, and a D worth 1 (with an F, of course, counting for nothing). Over the course of your undergraduate career, you built up something called a “Grade Point Average” – your performance in each class was averaged over the total number of classes you had taken, producing a number out of 4. Very rarely did anyone graduate with a GPA of 4.0, although our valedictorian managed to. I myself finished with a 3.75, which was enough for the Latin honors “magna cum laude” (top 15% of the class) and membership in Phi Beta Kappa (roughly top 10%). Yay me! Although I missed out on “summa cum laude” (top 5% of the class) and would probably not have been admitted to Yale Law School should I have applied there.

But I should qualify this. At Dartmouth, plusses and minuses came into the equation. That is, grades were fine tuned – you could get an A, but if your performance wasn’t quite as stellar as the professor was hoping, your A was lowered to an A-. Similarly, if your work was in the B range, but still quite good compared to other grades in the B range, you got a B+ (if it was pretty bad compared with other grades in the B range, you got a B-, and if it was just average, then you got a straight B, with no plus or minus). And so on down the line. There was no grade of A+, and as far as I can remember no grade of D- either. This fine tuning was reflected in the numerical values accorded to each grade: an A- was worth 3.67 (one third down from an A), while a B+ was worth 3.33 (one third up from a B), and so on.

When I started my Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota, grades were given as straight A, B, C, D, and F. By the time I finished they had adopted the fine-tuning of grades with plusses and minuses, with the same numerical values that I had remembered from Dartmouth. Not that I paid much attention to grades by this point; I was just looking to get my dissertation done and get out.

So I thought that this is simply how it was – you could give straight, undifferentiated grades, with values equating to integers between 1 and 4, or allow fine tuning with plusses and minuses, with values subdivided by thirds.

But lately I have discovered (on page 82) that LaGrange College of LaGrange, Georgia doesn’t quite measure things this way. That is, in their system, a B is still worth 3, but a B+ is worth 3.25, and a B- is worth 2.75. So you’re not as rewarded for a plus, or as punished for a minus, as you would have been had you gotten such grades at Dartmouth or the University of Minnesota. Note, however, that even in this system, you can go up as well as down, and by the same amount.

So I must say that I was shocked and dismayed to discover that Mercer University of Macon, Georgia does things rather… eccentrically. That is, they allow plusses, but have simply eliminated the possibility of getting a minus! Here is the whole sordid mess from their catalogue:

Grade
Interpretation
Quality Points
Per Credit Hour
A
Excellent
4.0
B+
Good
3.5
B
Good
3.0
C+
Average
2.5
C
Average
2.0
D
Poor
1.0

You’ll note that in addition to eliminating minuses, they reward a plus with a full half-point, greater than a plus would be worth at a real university.

This is awful. Who came up with this, and how did it get approved? Why hasn’t SACS said anything? This is truly an example of the Lake Wobegon idea that “everyone is above average” (or worse, every snowflake deserves a participation trophy). You can’t have plusses without minuses! The possibility of getting your grade raised has to be offset by the possibility of getting it lowered. Otherwise, it is just an example of officially sanctioned grade inflation, presumably for the sake of maintaining students’ athletic eligibility or for protecting their precious self-esteem.

I swear that if such a system is ever adopted at Reinhardt, I will never award a plus grade. For the sake of academic honesty and integrity, I will simply operate under the assumption that our current system, a straight A, B, C, and D system, still prevails.

* In Canada, in high school at least, you got a grade out of 100, which was converted into a letter if need be, which was slightly different from the American system: in the US, an A is in the 90s, a B in the 80s, a C in the 70s, and a D in the 60s, while in Canada, an A was any grade between 80 and 100, a B in the 70s, a C in the 60s, and D in the 50s. My freshman-year roommate laughed at this, suggesting that Canada was soft, but it just seemed to me that teachers in Canada could grade more honestly. (Not that anyone paid much attention to the letter grades; it was the number out of 100 that counted.)