Notes from the Chair (Nov 2003)

Dr. Michael J. Opitz


Last fall when I wrote this column, I had assumed the position of "Acting Chair" while Ozzie Mayers was on sabbatical.  Then, at the end of spring semester, Ozzie finished his second consecutive term as chair of the English Department.  Unlike some organizations, the English Department has no rule against a third consecutive term.  Still, even though all the rhetorical strategies of argument were employed by some (me, for example), Ozzie remained firm in his desire not to seek a third term.  Thus after the traditional English Department ceremony-called an in hog uration-I donned the traditional green "jumpin' joy" feed hat that has come to symbolize our department's office of chair. 

In my first news notes in my new role, I'd like to thank Ozzie for all the excellent work he did as department chair.  His warm personality, his even-handed policies, and his commitment to the best interests of the English Department have served us well for the past six years.  I must also report that he seems pretty relaxed this semester, despite having returned to teaching a full schedule of classes. 

A major restructuring of academic departments has also begun this fall.  As a result, the English Department is now grouped in the Humanities Division with departments of philosophy, theology, history, modern and classical languages, and communication.  Professor Annette Atkins of the History Department has assumed the responsibility of leading this division as we all try to figure out what we can or should do within this new structure.  She accepted the role because of her sincere desire to help us strengthen our sense of community.  She believes in open communication and collegial relationships.  But the position she has assumed is so new that it has no name.  Divisional Dean seems a bit too grand; Division Head seems a bit sterile.  Annette has suggested that she be known as Divisional Diva-and until we learn otherwise, that will be her title.  Meanwhile, a more serious result of this restructuring plan is that department chairs within the Humanities Division are meeting regularly and exploring exciting new areas of cooperation.  I am happy to report that our meetings have been excellent and that the sense of community among chairs in the Humanities Division seems to be stronger than it has been in the past.  Although many changes appear to loom on the horizon as the new plan gets implemented, I remain optimistic that the new structure will be an improvement over the old one.  Because of Annette's leadership, for the first time in some years, channels of communication among faculty and administration seem to be strengthening.

Within the Department itself, David Rothstein and Madhu Mitra have returned to us from year-long sabbaticals.  Both Madhu and David are writing about their experiences in this issue of The English Web.  Chris Freeman is currently leading a study abroad program in Australia; in spring, he will be on sabbatical.  At our first department meeting of the year, we toasted Christina Tourino and Ozzie Mayers, both of whom have published articles in the past year.  Christina's article, entitled "Ethnic Reproduction and the Amniotic Deep: Joy Kogawa's Obasan," can be found in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 24.1 (2003).   Ozzie has published two reviews in the fall 2003 issue of Japan Studies Association Journal.  The first is a review of Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures by Kyoko Mori (New York: Fawcett, 1997); the second is a review of The Samurai's Garden, a novel by Gail Tsukiyama (New York: St. Martin's-Griffin, 1994).