once we begin a conversation with those very few possessing the
necessary talent and areas of expertise required in order to generate
the same level of interest on our part in them as they have in us,
we often encounter a problem that threatens to become an insurmountable
barrier to a successful resolution of our common desire: difficulty
in finding housing that provides easy access to campus and good
access to public schools. I am sometimes tempted to add to those
advertisements that we are required by law to publish when positions
become available a notice that “those without trust funds
or richly employable spouses need not apply,” but such restrictions
would eliminate most of the best and brightest.
we struggle on, sometimes winning (particularly when those base
salaries provided by the state can be augmented by additional funds
from private sources), but often losing. There are obvious, marketplace
reasons why it costs more to live in West Los Angeles than in Ithaca,
New York; Charlottesville, Virginia; or even Chicago, but there
are limits in the sacrifices one is willing and able to make in
terms of shelter, children’s education and proximity to work
(which for good faculty members, means proximity to their students).
MY PARENTS’ WARNING about the perils awaiting the braggart,
I hesitate to say that in my department we have for the most part
been successful during the last decade in recruiting and retaining
superb faculty (as well as the very best graduate students). But
it has been extremely costly, and I fear very soon our losses will
far exceed our successes, that we will become at best an energetic,
well-conditioned “farm team” for more privileged institutions.
me this thought is intolerable. Fortunately, it is a thought many
of our alumni and friends also find intolerable. This is important,
because it is only through their help and support that we will remain
competitive, that we will be able to maintain excellence in the
worthy environment of a public university.
is not impossible, but it will take considerable imagination on
the part of our administration and, even more, the considerable
generosity of our alumni and friends who believe not only in the
fact of UCLA, one of the most stimulating intellectual environments
in the nation in which to work and learn, but also in the very idea
of public higher education.
Wortham is chair of the Department of English.