May 8 Update: The Chronicle has discontinued Naomi Schaefer Riley’s blog and distanced itself from Amy Lynn Alexander’s tweets. Details here.
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The Chronicle of Higher Education has taken a lot of heat this week for a fatuous, obnoxious takedown of the discipline of Black Studies posted by Chronicle blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley. Riffing off the sidebar to a separate Chronicle piece, Riley attacked in-process dissertations by young Black Studies scholars as axe-grinding, politicized, and irrelevant even as she admitted she hadn’t read a single word of any of them. (Perhaps strangest of all, she dismissed 1970s housing policy and black midwifery as subjects intrinsically unworthy of academic study.)
The Chronicle has posted an editor’s note about the controversial blogpost, but has mostly stayed quiet otherwise. Last night, however, a representative of the paper appeared on Twitter to respond to the Chronicle’s critics.
It got weird pretty quick.
Amy Lynn Alexander, “Editorial Promotions Manager” at the Chronicle, is new to Twitter. Her Chronicle account was created in March, and she’d only tweeted from it a few dozen times before this week. After a couple of tweets on the Riley piece on Wednesday, she entered the online discussion with gusto yesterday evening.
As Alexander waded into the fray she festooned her tweets with sarcastic asides, random capitalization, and textspeak. When folks expressed surprise at her lack of professionalism, she added awkward, self-justifying hashtags like #PR101, #MediaLiteracy, and #LanguageMaven to the mix.
It’s an embarrassment, frankly. In one representative exchange, Alexander twice accused grad student “TressieMC,” author of the first and strongest rebuttal to Riley’s piece, of “flaking” when Alexander tried to discuss the issue with her on the phone (“I made good faith effort 2 parlay & you umm Flaked” and “Evil Ol’ AA here extended 2 @tressiemcphd a civil, adult phone talk: her reply? “Sure,” w #. When @Chronicle_Amy rang? Flakery” were the quotes), then chided TressieMC for calling her on it: “careful: no one called you a flake. Pls back read.”
All in all, Alexander tweeted nearly fifty times last night, returning on two separate occasions after saying she was done for the evening. This morning has seen two dozen more tweets so far, many of them snarky replies to academics who’ve expressed dismay at her behavior.
It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes her employer to ask her to back away from the keyboard.