Joy James is the “John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of Africana Studies and College Professor in Political Science at Williams College.” Or do we need to change her title? Turns out that my obsessive web surfing has uncovered a real story. A reliable Williams source reports that “She is still employed by the College but no longer associated with Africana Studies.” Comments:
1) Pathetic! James was the highest profile faculty hire of Morty’s administration, the first tenured Ivy League professor to come to Williams in many decades, almost certainly one of the highest paid employees at Williams. And now she isn’t even “associated” with the department that she was hired to lead! Morty messes up very few things, but he seems to have messed up here.
2) This should be the lead story in this week’s Record. Begin by checking with the Registrar as to why she isn’t listed in the catalog. Then get a statement from current Africana Studies Chair Kenda Mutongi. Then poke around some more. Does current Record editor Kevin Waite ’09 have sources as good as those of Mike Needham ’04? And don’t forget to credit EphBlog. I also give excellent quote.
3) I don’t have details on what went on behind the scenes, but it sure seems like someone (in Africana Studies?) got in a huge fight with James and that, as a result, James left the department. Without knowing more details, it is tough to know who is at fault. None of this speaks well for the Administration. The President and the Dean of the Faculty are supposed to referee these sorts of disputes and keep them from getting out of hand.
4) What are the odds that hiring James two years ago was a big mistake? The great risk in bringing in senior faculty that you do not personally know is that you can never be sure what it will be like to work with them, however smart and well-published they may be. James might have seemed like a great hire, to those who did not know her, but only a fool would expect anyone at Brown to tell Morty that, “She is an egotistical jerk, impossible to work with. She hates everyone. But, please! Take her off our hands.” Outside hires are risky. Williams should probably do less of it.
5) Note that it is just as likely that James is wonderful but that someone else started a fight with her and she had no choice (?) but to leave the Africana Studies. That seems less likely to me since she is, easily, the most powerful faculty member associated with the department. Who could force her out if she wanted to stay? There is a story here and I bet that some of the senior majors in Africana Studies know it.
6) What happens now? James is on sabbatical but will, I think, return to Williams next year. What classes will she teach? What department will she join? The fun will be endless! Perhaps she will spend most of her time on tendentious teach-ins. My bet: She leaves Williams within three years.
UPDATE: Whoops! I was joking about the title change above. Turns out that reality is every bit as funny as I am. The college directory reveals that Professor James’s new title is “John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of Humanities and College Professor in Political Science.” We don’t need no stink’in Africana Studies!