Isabel Vittorio, who, as a department chair at the fictional Austin University, had variously “been described as narcissistic, charismatic, brilliant, and opportunistic” was found slumped over her desk in the Department of Literature and Rhetoric early on a Monday morning, her neck broken. What ensues as the murder investigation unfolds is a peek inside what author Lynn C. Miller called the closed, “wonderful dysfunctional family template” of a humanities department.
Winning research support is tough for faculty members in all disciplines -- and makes or breaks careers, especially at research universities. For those in the sciences, competition from many federal agencies has grown more intense in recent years, but there are still billions given out annually and even relatively junior professors can hope to land grants of significant size.
At last year's annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, Elisabeth Ladenson found herself in discussion with a bus dispatcher while waiting for a shuttle. "You all have that look," the dispatcher told Ladenson, an associate professor of French at Columbia University.