Last night John and I attended a reception given by the provost for the faculty who received tenure and promotion last year. Illinois has a longstanding practice of asking promoted faculty to choose a book for the university library's collection. The book would then be plated with our names and brief statements we composed about the book's importance. This can be a book that influenced us, a monumental book in our field, a book we believe represents our values, or just a book we like quite a bit. This is a nice tradition: we are professors; we like books. I chose the most recent book by my intellectual hero for both its arguments and its methods.
But in a conversation with Elfhead yesterday, it occurred to us that as with any ritual, this one has serious room for making another kind of statement. And sure enough, at the reception where all the books were displayed with their new dedication plates, we noticed these: