University of Michigan president seeks court injunction to force graduate student instructors back to work

University of Michigan president seeks court injunction to force graduate student instructors back to work

The University of Michigan is responding with a new round of threats and intimidation to the overwhelming vote Sunday by graduate students to extend their strike. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announces the following road work this week, but be advised that road work schedules may change as needed during COVID-19 mitigation or due to changes in … Some children – particularly those with profound intellectual handicaps – are not doing well with online… As Samuel Beckett said, we must go on, and as Tony Kushner said, the world spins forward. These two playwrights weren’t talking about the current moment, but they might have been. In this most unlikely of fall seasons, spring will come. After speaking with daughter Anna, I’m feeling empathy and compassion for the millions of parents thrust by covid-19 into the dual role of breadwinner and full-time public school teacher. If the thought of talking about yourself makes your skin want to crawl, then Meredith Fineman is someone you need to know. She’ll teach you everything you need to learn about how to Bag Better.

The University of Michigan is responding with a new round of threats and intimidation to the overwhelming vote Sunday by graduate students to extend their strike.

On Monday, UM President Mark Schlissel sought a restraining order and court injunction to break the strike against the university’s reckless reopening of campus and in-person classes amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In a video statement to “the campus community,” Schlissel said that the university can no longer allow the “profound disruption to the education we’ve promised our undergraduate students.”

What contemptible hypocrisy! It is the university’s own policies that will cause not only a “profound disruption” to the education of students but to their lives and the lives of their families and “the campus community” at large.

Schlissel went on: “We want our great classes to continue, our students to learn without interference and we don’t want anyone to feel threatened simply for wanting to go to class.” Again, the “threat” comes from the fact that undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty are exposed to the coronavirus with the initiation of in-person classes.

“Going to the court,” Schlissel claimed, “was our only choice after learning the strike would continue. We’d much rather our classes be in session while we work out our differences.”

The rest of Schlissel’s video response was dominated by the usual hollow phrases and platitudes about welcoming the “opportunity to discuss the issues” and being “committed to addressing them,” all the while feigning that their main concern is the students’ education.

The action by the university administration is a direct threat to the striking students and workers. For all the talk about “wanting to talk things out,” Schlissel has a clear position on the strike: End it or face fines and expulsion.

The striking graduate students began this struggle out of a concern for their own lives and the lives of their fellow students, university workers, and the community. The support they have received since launching the strike reveals the broadly felt sentiment among workers and youth throughout the region and across the country.

Behind the administration’s response stand political forces that are acting on behalf of the ruling class. The drive to reopen schools for in-person learning is a reckless, homicidal campaign which prioritizes profit over life. It is part of the broader back-to-work campaign, spearheaded by the Trump administration but supported by the entire political establishment.

Despite the statements of support offered by the Democrats, such as former UAW President Bob King and Representative Rashida Tlaib, their real response to the striking students is expressed in the actions of Schlissel and the Board of Regents.

The university is dominated by highly connected Democratic Party operatives with close ties to the corporate interests that determine UM policy.

Regent Jordan B. Acker, the vice chair of the Board of Regents, worked for the Michigan Democratic Party as the Deputy Communications Director before moving to Washington to work as a communications aide to the House Judiciary Committee. Acker served as an associate in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and was then appointed by President Obama in March 2011 to be an attorney-adviser to Secretary Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security.

Regent Denise Ilitch is chair of the Board of Regents and president of Ilitch Enterprises, LLC. Regent Paul W. Brown is a managing partner of eLab Ventures, a venture capital firm headquartered in Michigan with offices in Silicon Valley. One could continue this exercise for every member of the board.

With seven weeks left until the US election, the main concern of the Democratic Party is to suppress growing opposition in the working class and the Trump administration behind their own right-wing campaign. Indeed, Biden’s wife Jill is in the midst of a multiweek “Back to School Tour” that will stop in 10 major cities to promote her husband’s campaign to “reopen safely.”

As for the trade unions, they are working to isolate the strike at UM to facilitate its defeat. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the parent organization of the GEO, has done nothing to mobilize broader support, despite widespread sympathy among teachers and opposition to the back-to-school campaign.

At the University of Michigan alone, the AFT includes the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, AFT Michigan 6244, consisting of non-tenure-track faculty on all three campuses, Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint. It also includes the United Physician Assistants of Michigan Medicine (UPAMM), consisting of physician assistants at the University of Michigan hospital. However, the AFT has not called out the LEO and UPAMM to support the graduate students.

Detroit Public School teachers voted by a margin of 91 percent to 9 percent to authorize a “safety strike” to block plans by the district to start in-person teaching. The Detroit Federation of Teachers, part of the AFT, ignored the mandate and agreed to a reopening scheme with in-person learning. The strike vote and the setting up of rank-and-file safety committee, independent of the DFT, makes clear that there is overwhelming opposition among teachers to the reopening of schools.

The opposition of educators, parents and students to the unsafe reopening of schools and the new wave of budget cuts must be freed from the stranglehold of the AFT and the entire corporate-controlled union apparatus.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), the student and youth movement of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), condemns the threats from the university. The fight, not only against the unsafe reopening at UM but the policy of the ruling class as a whole in response to the pandemic, requires the mobilization of the working class against the Democratic and Republican parties and the capitalist system.

It is not to the Democrats and the union executives that students should turn, but to teachers, auto workers, service workers, health care workers and the entire working class.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality in the US is holding a national online meeting Thursday, at 8 PM EDT to organize students against the reckless reopening of schools. We urge students and youth to register for the event today.

The author also recommends:


Author: Genevieve Leigh

Road work this week | Times News Online

Road work this week | Times News Online

Published September 15. 2020 11:27AM

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announces the following road work this week, but be advised that road work schedules may change as needed during COVID-19 mitigation or due to changes in the weather:

Carbon County

• Franklin Township: Forest Street between Long Run Road and Green Street, crack sealing, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.

• Weatherly Borough, Lausanne and Lehigh townships: Buck Mountain Road/Leslie Run Road between Main Street and Laurytown Road, crack sealing, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday-Friday.

• Franklin and Penn Forest townships: Maury Road between Long Run Road and Route 903, crack sealing, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

• Penn Forest and Kidder townships: Route 903/Highway to Adventure between Maury Road and Monroe county line, drainage work, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday-Friday.

• East Penn and Mahoning townships: Ben Salem Road/Mahoning Mountain Road between Schuylkill county line and Route 443, crack sealing, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Wednesday.

• Nesquehoning and Beaver Meadows boroughs, Packer and Banks townships: Route 93 between Route 209 and Luzerne county line, shoulder work/widening, daytime lane restrictions, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Wednesday.

Lehigh County

• Upper Macungie Township: Route 22 construction between I-78 and Kuhnsville Exit, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Friday; I-78 West sweeping between Exit 49 (Route 100) and Exit 55 (Route 29), 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

• Allentown: I-78 utility work between Exit 57 (Lehigh Street) and Exit 59 (to Route 145), 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Tuesday and Wednesday.

• Heidelberg Township: Memorial Road lane restriction with flagging between Route 309 and Heidelberg Road, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday.

Monroe County

• Multiple townships: Neola Road between Business Route 209 and Route 715, shoulder work/widening, daytime lane restriction, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; Old Route 115 between Mount Eaton Road and Route 209, drainage, daytime lane restriction, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday.

• Jackson Township: Mountain Road between Route 715 and Frailey Road, bridge repair, daytime lane restriction, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

• Pocono Township: Route 611 between Route 940 and Interstate 380, daytime lane restriction for side dozing, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

• Various municipalities: Interstate 80 between Exit 293 (I-380) and Exit 309 (Route 209), guide rail repair, nighttime lane restriction, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Thursday.

Northampton County

• Various municipalities: I-78 highway beautification between Exit 75 (To Route 611) and Exit 60 (Route 309), 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Thursday.


Online school especially hard for functional needs students

Online school especially hard for functional needs students

Some children – particularly those with profound intellectual handicaps – are not doing well with online learning, their parents say. In fact, they are falling behind.

Brandi Richardson of James City is the mother of Jayden, a 15-year-old boy with autism and severe intellectual disability. “He is like a toddler,” she said. “We have to do all his care for him. He’s verbal, but he’s hard to understand.”

Like other students in the Craven County School District’s Exceptional Children program – there are 1,800 of them, according to program director Lynn Hardison – Jayden is enrolled as a student where he receives training and therapy.

He does well in school, Richardson said – at least he did well before his classroom world went from one of physically working with his teachers and therapists to having to watch them on an iPad while his mother – who is not trained in therapy – tries to carry out instructions given over the screen.

“When things are ideal in his world, he’s a very happy boy,” Richardson said. “He smiles a lot. He loves adults, he loves to be around people.”

Tonya Cedars, the mother of another intellectually- and physically-delayed child, echoed Richardson when she pointed out, “My son needs to be in class. He is very compartmentalized: School is where he attends to classes and studying his lessons. Home is not the place where he does that – home is the place where he goes to play and relax and sleep. He learns a lot of things from his friends and fellow students, and he’s not getting that at home.”

Originally, when it looked as if schools were going to follow Governor Cooper’s outlines for Plan B schooling, Jayden and students like him would have gone to school five days a week. But under Plan C – which will last until October 16, the end of the first nine weeks, when school board members will decide which plan to advance with into the next nine weeks – does not allow students and teachers to physically interact at all.

“When you rock his world and he doesn’t have that structure and routine, his world falls apart,” she said. “He gets aggressive and irritable. He will hit the walls and tables. That’s his outlet: he doesn’t understand how to handle it otherwise.”

It isn’t just the lack of physically being with his teachers that hurts him, she said.

Often, the family has had technical difficulties with online classes – a situation that, as a video Richardson placed on her Facebook page shows, sends Jayden into an angry fit of yelling and beating the table and computer.

“The first few days of school there was some issue with Zoom,” she said, “and we couldn’t get in with the teacher.” Those issues continue. She added that the Zoom sessions also have audible echo and feedback that he finds distracting.

Equally difficult is the fact that Richardson– a nurse working at Onslow Memorial in Jacksonville – has to sit beside her son during the whole of his online classes. “He has a lot of hands-on, a lot of (physically) manipulative (work), a lot of one-on-one instruction,” she said. He is unable to work the iPad himself, nor can he at times respond to instructors’ commands, such as in phys-ed classes, and so she must do the work with him, herself – a job for which she doesn’t feel qualified. “I’m not trained to do this,” she said.

“His teacher is absolutely amazing,” Richardson said. “The therapists have been great. They’ve tried to support me the best they can. But there’s only so much they can do behind a screen.”

Danielle Parish is another mother of an exceptional child, 13-year-old McKenzie, who is autistic, epileptic and intellectually disabled.

Parrish and her ex-husband are both medical field workers who cannot be with McKenzie during most days – instead, McKenzie’s stepmother gets her through her online schoolwork Mondays through Thursdays. “She’s been amazing,” Parrish says of her. “I’ll have to say that.”

She said that McKenzie struggles in part with indifference regarding iPad-related classes. “She thrives on face-to-face, in-person instruction,” she said.

And it is difficult for family members to act as teachers for her. “With autism, they associate a specific person with a specific task,” she said. “I’m Mom. He’s Dad. Mom should not be teaching school and Dad should not be teaching school (in McKenzie’s view): that’s what her teacher is for.”

Parrish also related to the idea that the same compartmentalization exists for physical space: even if teachers were to visit her home it wouldn’t work out well, because she doesn’t associate the house with education.

“She’s been in a school setting since she was three,” she said. “She knows nothing other than that (routine) and now it’s hard for her to really thrive.”

Parrish also agreed that parents being made to handle the therapy and skills-teaching with only a person on a screen to coach them are not adequate to the task. “I feel like it would be like having a teacher come in and take care of my patient,” she said.

Both McKenzie and Jayden learn and keep up their skills through repetition, and both their parents fear their child is losing ground. “We feel like her focus is more limited at this point,” Parrish said. “She cannot really expand and build outside of the learning environment.”

Cedars feels her son is being hurt. “His teachers are phenomenal,” she said, “but it’s just not working. The kids are getting farther and farther behind and it’s worrisome.”

Craven Schools superintendent Meghan Doyle sympathizes with the parents. “We know they’re frustrated,” she said. “We are frustrated also.

We know that this has been a huge burden on all our students, but especially those who cannot access a device independently because of their severe exceptionality,” she said. And she agrees that “a student who has been with us a good 10 years, we have created hard wiring that our building is where that happens.”

But, at least for now, students – special needs or otherwise – will not be returning to their campus. Nor can school employees visit students at their homes.

That doesn’t mean the district isn’t doing what it can, she said. “We’re working very hard to meet the individual needs of the students. It’s very difficult when we’re so constrained, but with over 70 percent of students in North Carolina on remote learning right now, it’s a challenge.”

Hardison added that the roughly 250 district-wide employees who specifically work with exceptional children are doing all they can. “Our teachers have to adjust as well,” she said. “Many of our students require lots of support, even when they’re in the classroom. To make that happen virtually has been a learning curve for many of our teachers.”

She said a system is set up that parents can get extra help online to help them assist in their children’s educational needs. “That is a component included in the contingency plans,” she said. “If we know that a parent is going to need some assistance in navigating the computer, to schedule, to handle manipulatives, the teacher will give guidance or training sessions as needed.”

Doyle said the district is looking into the possibility of contracting with outside therapists and teachers to begin some visitation at some homes to provide more help. “We’ve received funding for that purpose and the board has been informed that we are investigating it,” she said. Those home visitors won’t begin – if they do – for at least a couple more weeks. “We are recognizing that no time is soon enough,” she said.

But while Cedars, Parrish, and Richardson feel that home visits will help, they are convinced the only real answer lies in bringing their children to school.

While they say they understand the need for most students to do online work under a Plan C system, the women do not see why the school can’t use some elements of Plan B for some of its higher-needs students such as Jayden and McKenzie.

“I understand all of the precautions the folks are taking,” Cedars said. “I don’t want to expose him any more than is necessary but with all of his treatments, his appointments, the people coming in and out of our house to help him, it’s not that much of an increase to his threat of exposure to COVID.”

Richardson agreed. “Not all children can be at school for health and safety reasons, but for him it cannot work. For us, the risk of COVID exposure is not nearly as great as the detrimental effects online school is having for him at home.”


Column: In Chicago, an artistic fall like no other. Yet, Godot will appear.

Column: In Chicago, an artistic fall like no other. Yet, Godot will appear.

“Vladimir: I can’t go on like this.

Estragon: That’s what you think.”

Samuel Beckett’s two famous tramps were waiting for arrival of the mysterious Godot, supposedly arriving Saturday, rather than a vaccine or clearance from the authorities to gather again indoors. But if there is one work that sums up the feeling that arrived with Labor Day, 2020, “Waiting for Godot” is that work.

Godot has shifted his shape. Beckett knew he would. But as Zoom fatigue and cabin fever threaten to finally sap the stoic Midwestern soul, his arrival never has been more desired.

Nor has it felt less imminent.

In the typical fall, Labor Day brings a return to routine. Kids go back to school. Summer vacations end. The dog days of August lie down and die. Cool nights return. Collaborative projects begin. There’s always a shot of melancholy as structure returns and schedules threaten stress, but that can be shaken off just by perusing all that now lies ahead.

Usually, a new season of cultural offerings is starting in a great American city where these things matter: there will be music to hear, plays to watch, bands to check out, comedians to take a risk on, exhibits to attend.

In every other year, September is the least cruel of all months. It’s still possible to sit on a lawn and listen to a free concert in a golden light, still doable to find a street festival or sneak off to a show by a lake. But it’s also a time when plans come to fruition, artists get serious and venues fill with the openings of national tours, world-class exhibits, blockbuster movies and weighty plays, all probing the issues of the day and helping people maybe walk a mile in the shoes of another.

Allen Gilmore and Alfred H. Wilson in "Waiting for Godot" at Court Theatre in 2015.

Allen Gilmore and Alfred H. Wilson in “Waiting for Godot” at Court Theatre in 2015. (Joe Mazza photo)

Better yet, the world starts arriving on our doorstep. Come the usual fall, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport starts to disgorge cellists and theatrical Belarusian revolutionaries, troupes of actors and visiting scholars from South Africa, dancers and thinkers, and dancer-thinkers, from all the far-flung corners of the world. They bring their passion, their art, their ideas to a city that they know has a storied tradition of cultural embrace.

Before September ends, we’re awake again.

We are better able to see that the problems that seem to engulf Chicago and its environs are best understood in a global context, that too much time spent talking to ourselves, and to those like ourselves, on social media merely confirms our prejudgments rather than challenges them. The arrival of the fall arts season also contains reminders that humanity is in it for the long haul, that history provides lessons on how to deal with the present, that conflict and division can only be overcome by empathy and critical thinking.

That is every other fall. But what of this one?

Estragon’s point, and Beckett’s central observation, is that Vladimir has no choice but to go on because that is what human beings do. We go on. We adapt to circumstances, even if that means embracing situations that would have been thought unthinkable merely months ago.

Like the moment we now are living.

To lament the freedom of past Septembers is pointless. We are living in this one for, as Tony Kushner famously observed, the world only spins forward.

We don’t get the chance to go back so as to better appreciate that which we should have better appreciated in the moment, but we can vow to correct that mistake in the future. When we gather again, we’ll value more the sound of an overture, the chance to experience the passion of a new playwright, the smile of the person in the next seat. For, yes, they will be in the next seat again, just not this fall.

This fall, the artists mostly will be on your computer screen, striving to “pivot to online,” to use the most over-used phrase of the cultural moment. For a few, this is exciting and welcome; for most, this is a matter of staying relevant and of living to fight another fall. It is like a giant caveat has descended over the arts this fall, just as it has over education, a colossal suspended main clause: “Since we can’t all be together …”

Considering the realities. In these difficult circumstances. Given that we’re online.

Those are the words that will be on many lips in coming weeks. So how do we deal with this?

We head outside where we can and enjoy the crunch of leaves and the comfort of a natural cycle. We look forward to spring.

I mean, we always do, but this coming spring — heck, let’s go out on a limb here — will see a great flowering of the arts, an over-scheduled and diverse cultural paradise headed to the State of Illinois and offering renewal and opportunity for all. It will be fall and spring and winter all flowing into one.

Over the top? Nah. It’s gonna happen. Godot will appear. You just happened to read it here first.

And you will want to be there.

Meanwhile, we have a fall of artistic preparation, of making lemonade, of maintaining, of ensuring that which we treasure the most does not vanish in plain sight.

You can find fun stuff online. Some artists have taken it outside, rushing along before the weather makes that impossible. Whatever the pivot, all of Chicago’s cultural folk want you to know they’re still here, still working, still creating.

Waiting for a vaccine so they can better go about their essential business.

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

Recommended on Chicago Tribune


Author: Chris Jones



After speaking with daughter Anna, I’m feeling empathy and compassion for the millions of parents thrust by covid-19 into the dual role of breadwinner and full-time public school teacher.

Now in her early 40s, Anna has held a responsible and demanding civilian government job for five years. Her daily responsibilities at work generate plenty of pressure without having to also join her seventh-grade son on the computer for hours each weekday to help fulfill his daily assignments and function as his instructor.

“I feel as if I’m back taking college classes online, only I’m the one teaching, since most online instructors just hand out reading and homework assignments each day without meaningful teaching to support that work,” she said. “This means I’ve become the one who has to teach, explain and help with the continual workload.”

Gosh knows, there are plenty of assignments in seven classes, which amount to ample daily and even weekend homework.

When parents were informed her school district was going to remote learning this fall, Anna accepted her expanded role as a mother and federal employee with a mortgage to meet. She just never expected the load, alongside her job responsibilities, to be so enormous and demanding.

“I’m fortunate in that my job has allowed me for months to work on our home computers each day,” she said. “And while not commuting helps a little time-wise, the school work still requires an incredible amount of time and attention. Assignments alone take me an average of six hours daily to teach and complete. Believe me, there’s a lot to try to teach and mentor him.”

She said she can’t fathom how so many parents find the energy and time to work and teach from home. “A lot of people aren’t computer literate and many of them don’t sufficiently involve themselves in the heavy load of class work required for their children to learn and hopefully earn passing grades.”

Anna, who retired at age 37 as a Navy chief, earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees largely online during her 20-year military career. So it’s not as if she hasn’t endured years of demanding class assignments, papers and exams in conjunction with work.

Even at that, though, the demands from seventh-grade classes are crushing. “I find myself wondering how other parents can possibly cope and keep up with all that’s expected,” she said. “It really is just too much if you expect to do right by your kids and what’s expected of them. His English class the other day had five different home assignments. Those were on top of the other six classes.”

Teachers also deserve understanding and empathy after being thrown into this difficult situation of trying to manage what amounts to abbreviated classes. Many can and do become as frustrated and confused as the students and parents. No one involved in this computer-based form of education voted for it.

And frankly, who knows what long-term educational and socialization effects of today’s isolation learning may well have in the students’ lives?

“My son’s math teacher gave him “10s” on the past two exams when he had been carrying an A average,” Anna explained. “I saw that and contacted her for an explanation of how that could possibly be. She double-checked and said she had forgotten to add zeros to the end of both 10s. In other words he’d made 100 on each test. But if I hadn’t inquired, I assume those 10s would have stood as his grade.”

His science teacher recently used Zoom to meet and advise parents of the seventh-graders. “Turned out, I was the only parent online with him. I couldn’t believe no others made the effort. Then he explained how 17 of the 30 students in his class had failed to turn in assignments,” Anna continued.

“If these kinds of things I’m experiencing are a wider indication of what’s happening on a larger scale with teaching from home, I fear we are creating a disastrous mess by simply handing out assignments without significant instruction or context and expecting parents to oversee and complete their child’s many home work assignments every day.

“Trying to keep up is too much to put on people, especially those who have to work, or perhaps don’t grasp computers, or are just too tired or disinterested to become involved in so much daily school work and the process of education.”

I know my daughter well. She’s never been one to fault others for any of her shortcomings and inabilities. Truth is, she’s always been driven and focused on accomplishing her tasks at hand.

So if she’s cautioning that this distance-learning plan for easily distracted children, as well as teachers and parents, has some serious shortcomings, we can take her word for it.

“It’s all I can do to keep my son focused on the task at hand. He sees a lot of shiny things all around him,” she said. “But I realize what’s riding on this is nothing less than his education and future.”

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master’s journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]


Author: Mike Masterson

How To Brag About Yourself At Work, According To Author And PR Expert Meredith Fineman

How To Brag About Yourself At Work, According To Author And PR Expert Meredith Fineman

Meredith Fineman

In today’s environment, it’s harder than ever to be visible at work – whether you’re someone who wants to advance internally and be regarded as a subject matter expert, or you’re an entrepreneur trying to grow your business.

The catch is that it’s also more important than ever to promote your accomplishments. But doing so can be intensely uncomfortable, especially for those who consider themselves to be quieter, more introverted, or sensitive.

If the thought of talking about yourself makes your skin want to crawl, then Meredith Fineman is someone you need to know. She is the author of Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion and a PR aficionado who is helping women all over the world get their achievements recognized with grace and confidence.

In this interview, she shares easy strategies and shifts to boost your personal brand and discover your voice.

Melody Wilding: What inspired you to write Brag Better?

Meredith Fineman: I first came up with the idea for it in 2013. I have a consultancy, FinePoint, where I teach people how to be out there–whatever that might mean to them– whether that’s within a company, in public, TV, or other media and speaking.

I realized also that nobody knew how to talk about themselves, and this was particularly difficult for women. And it was not getting better with seniority, age, awards, or household names. I would have young women that wanted to work for me that couldn’t brag about themselves and talk positively about professional accomplishments. I’d be at networking events and act as a publicist for friends, but they couldn’t do it themselves.

I was angry at the lack of vocabulary to talk positively about professional accomplishment and the inability for women to Brag Better. I use the word “brag” because it’s the only word we have. But I define bragging as seeding facts about your work strategically and cohesively to get what you want.

So I wrote the word “braggart” in the margin of my notebook, put parentheses around the word art, and arrived at “the art of bragging”. I don’t know why that evolved into “Brag Better”, but that was its first sketch of the idea in the fall of 2013. I have been pushing this concept for a really long time.

Wilding: In the book, you talk about The Qualified Quiet. Who falls into this category?

Fineman: The Qualified Quiet is a term I came up with. It describes people who have done the work but don’t know how to talk about it. It is irrespective of gender and it is irrespective of the level of seniority. So to some degree, we are all The Qualified Quiet, but it is the people that aren’t showcasing their work in a way that they necessarily want.

As someone who cares a lot about the diversity of voices that we do listen to, we just desperately need people that are smart, thoughtful, self-aware, diverse, and truthful to be raising their voices. It’s a matter of getting The Qualified Quiet to strategically turn up the volume on their voices. Maybe it’s just raising your hand in a Zoom meeting or it’s trying to get on a corporate board. There’s a real opportunity there.

Wilding: One of the biggest barriers to bragging better is internal. How do you get over the confidence hump of talking about yourself?

Fineman: People are going to have their judgments about you regardless. But it’s a net positive [as long as] you feel good talking about your work. It helps advance your career and goals, whether it’s a raise or getting your boss’s attention.

But [bragging brings up] imposter syndrome. The Qualified Quiet may say, “What if people think I’m too much? Or that I’m obnoxious? What if I brag too much? The people that are actually frauds don’t think about those things. It is self-awareness that really stops you from ever bragging. So I think that imposter syndrome and being afraid of bragging are both universal things that happen to people who are more thoughtful, introspective, and self-aware. It comes with the territory of being someone who looks at yourself and your work and thinks critically and strategically.

But it shouldn’t stop you. Brag Better is full of exercises that I have refined over the past 10 years, case studies, and data about what to actually do and where to begin, including focusing on the three pillars–loud, proud, and strategic.

Wilding: What are some tactics you’d recommend for someone trying to showcase their work but feeling weird about it?

Fineman: One small action you can do is evaluate your email signature. We are emailing a million people every day. If you don’t have anything in your email signature, what are you asking of someone? This is the idea of controlling the narrative of your work. You want to be in control of the story of your work and your career. Whether it’s putting your direct contact information, a link to your personal website, or more about you – you just need to hand people your work, who you are, and what you want on a silver platter. If I’m being introduced to a company I want to speak for, they have three seconds to look at my email, they can look down and it links to my speaking page, which has my speaking topics and past videos of me speaking. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to say yes to you.

That’s just one thing, there are opportunities all around you to promote yourself. It’s just looking at the small ones and making other people’s lives easier. When you’re a publicist, it’s about pitching, packaging, and telling a pretty story – getting them some of the information really quickly before you lose their attention. Our attention spans right now are totally shot for so many different reasons. Make it easy, “Here’s an article I wrote, I’d be so appreciative if you shared it on social media and here are three prefab tweets I’ve written out so that you don’t have to do anything.” You just want to make it really easy for people to recognize your work and reward you for it.

I talk about the elements of a great brag being about pride, gratitude, presentation, and showmanship, but it’s also stating facts about your work so that people can see them.

Wilding: How can we Brag Better in this remote environment? What are 3 tactics?

Fineman: Buy the domain of your name. If you have a more common last name or it’s taken consider using a middle initial. Start developing a personal website, because you can’t show up somewhere and show someone who you are without one. Invest in one place online where you can control a hundred percent of the conversation around your work and also how it looks. That’s an opportunity to showcase your personality. It’s less about it being pretty and more about having all of your information in one place.

A really great professional development exercise is to sort of taking stock of where you are right now and what you are putting out into the world. Email five people from different viewpoints and ask them, without Googling, to tell you what they think you do. Pick a family member, a friend, a colleague, a loose tie, a professional connection, or someone you only know through social media. Then you can see if people know what you do at all. That’s something you can do right now that’s free and easy.

It’s hard to do it for yourself, but you can enlist a lot of other people to help you. Bragging better can be a team sport. It is important and a good thing to elevate the voices of other people. Especially if you’re someone we listened to because bragging better is so deeply tied to privilege, I think it’s part of your job, to help elevate other voices.

Wilding: Anything else you want to add?

Fineman: It’s so important is to understand that there’s room on the stage for everyone. Part of your job is to elevate the voices of other people. We have this really intense inverse relationship between volume and merit. We’re listening to the wrong people and we desperately need people who have done the work to be the ones that are talking about it.


Author: Melody Wilding

University of Michigan president seeks court injunction to force graduate student instructors back to work

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *