Bill Arney Oral History Interview


Bill Arney Oral History Interview
20 November 2020
11 December 2020
Bill Arney
Eirik Steinhoff
extracted text
Bill Arney
Interviewed by Eirik Steinhoff
The Evergreen State College oral history project
November 20, 2020
[Begin part 1 of 2 of Bill Arney on November 22, 2020]
Steinhoff: It’s Friday, November 20, 2020. I’m in Olympia. Bill Arney is in San Juan Island. This will be
our first session for the Evergreen Oral History project. I think the place to begin would be with the
beginning. Bill, could you tell me something about
Arney: I was born in North Carolina. September 18, 1950.
Steinhoff: Great. I know when we spoke last time, you began to tell me a little bit about your family.
You began to tell me about going to college. I’d love to hear about family, and then getting to college.
There might be some follow-up questions along the way.
Arney: Both of my parents were United States Marines. My father was a sergeant major in the Marine
Corps, eventually. I knew him when he was a first sergeant. He was in charge of the military police.
When I was a baby, I’m told, the military police would come and pick me up every morning to take me
over to the flag raising. My mother would have to call and say, “Have you got Bill again?” to the military
police. They would say, “Yes, ma’am,” and eventually bring me back. That’s one of my first
Where to go from there?
Steinhoff: I can actually jump right in and say, sergeant major, what does that signify in terms of the
hierarchy? What’s your understanding of that position?
Arney: Top dog. Answers to higher-level officers, not lieutenants. He told me a story once that this
obnoxious first lieutenant came into his office when he was in Okinawa. He couldn’t go to Vietnam
because he had too high of a security clearance and he would have been a security risk, apparently if he
had gotten captured, but he went to Okinawa.
The story went that this second lieutenant came in and threw his foot up on my dad’s desk. He
had been in before. My dad reached in the desk and got one of those Marine rulers that has a metal
strip in it an hit the guy’s shoe and split it open, split the leather. If you know anything about Marines
and their shoes, at least the enlisted men are very proud of their shoe-shining abilities. [laughing] But
this guy kind of went apeshit, my dad said. “I’m going to have you run up on charges.” My dad said, “Sit

down, son. Let me get you an appointment with the colonel,” whose office was right next door to my
He went over and opened the door and said, “Colonel, there’s a goddamn second lieutenant
here that needs to see you.” “What’d he do?” Told him, “Send the sonofabitch in.” He said, “Don’t you
ever come into the sergeant major’s office without an appointment again.” That gives you an idea of
where the sergeant major stood in terms of things.
My mother was a fairly low-ranking enlisted person. She signed up during the war. After she
died, we found pictures of her sitting with a bunch of women Marines, as they were called, on a grassy
hillside with some pine trees. The thing underneath it was “President Truman’s camp in Maryland.”
This was Camp David before David Eisenhower came along to the White House. She was doing some
kind of administrative work for the President. Probably just a detail of women Marines hanging around.
I don’t know what it was. Those are early memories of early and supplemented later by pictures.
Growing up in the Marine Corps was fabulous. I grew up in the South at Paris Island Marine
Station down at Paris Island in South Carolina. I think later Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. I know I
went to Camp Lejeune as a teenager after we got back from Japan.
I’ve often said that one of my earliest memories was going to Sears off the base and getting over
to the water fountain and there being two water fountains and four toilets. A water fountain for white
people and one for black people, and then two bathrooms each—you know, black women.
My sole memory of that really, besides the layout of things, was that I had this gut-driven
attraction to the Negro water fountain because it was filthy, as opposed to the white. I don’t
understand that, except psychoanalytically, of course. But that was the situation that we lived in off the
base. I know that there was racial prejudice in the Marine Corps, although one of my dad’s happiest
times was when—who was the guy who became Secretary of State later? Big, black general.
Steinhoff: Colin Powell?
Arney: Colin Powell, thank you. He came home very, very happy when Colin Powell was moved up to
general because he had total respect for him. On the base, the only questions were, “Can you shoot
straight?” and “Are you going to shoot me?” If you got the right answer to those two questions, you
were fine. You were a Marine.
It was a lovely way to grow up, in a way. As a kid, I could go to movies for free. Hollywood
movies. They raised it to a dime for a major motion picture by the time I got back to Camp Lejeune as a
teenager. Free sailing lessons, free swimming pools, and all of that kind of stuff.


We spent three years in Japan as a family. It didn’t occur to me until later that this was not a
long time after the bombing of Japan. This was in the ‘50s. Clearly, my dad was there for cleanup and
realignment kinds of things. The biggest thing that happened there was just before we left, he had
made friends with some people in Japan Sword Company.
Japan Sword Company is the place that had made all the Samurai swords for hundreds of years.
One night he came home, and he said, “I have a dinner appointment tomorrow.” He never had dinner
appointments. “I have to go down to Japan Sword. They’re giving me a dinner.” Just because they liked
him for some reason, I don’t know.
The two things he told me later was they put a translator right next to him so that anything that
got said around the table—whether it was to him or not—anything that got said got translated. Then
they gave him a Marine sword that they had made with his name and everything on it. I’ve got it sitting
in there. It’s one of those things. He was totally surprised that they would do that for him. He didn’t
quite understand why, but he had a way of making friends, I guess.
Those are the early memories, the Marine Corps and all that stuff. By the way, this is a
reasonable transition, I suppose. People wonder, why didn’t you go into the Marines? It’s because of
him, my dad. He said, “I’ve served enough time for both of us. Just go and get an education.”
The only tiny blip in that was the night that we were sitting around with the first draft, when
they were pulling ping pong ball dates out of the hopper. I watched some of my fraternity brothers just
get picked off, and I didn’t come in until 248, so I never had to worry about going against my father’s
wishes of getting an education. [laughing]
Steinhoff: That’s so interesting. I’ve got one or two follow-ups. One would just be a timestamp. You
said that you were in Japan for three years?
Arney: Yeah, from age seven to 10. The biggest thing that I did there that I remember is I learned judo,
and I became very good at it. I think it’s something that infected my way of being very deeply. Because
in judo, you don’t win by being aggressive. You win by letting your opponent make mistakes and you
take advantage of them. And afterwards, you always bow.
Steinhoff: Still that respect.
Arney: Yeah. It’s an ideal culture of competition that I think is part of me. The work that I’ve been
doing in the last several years. Forty years, whatever it’s been.
Steinhoff: You mentioned going to Sears, and that’s when you were young in North Carolina. Was
there something comparable in Japan, which is to say I’m imagining that base culture in Japan, there
was a lot that was similar from base culture in North Carolina. Maybe I’m wrong about that. But I’m

also imagining that there may have been some thresholds along the lines of visiting Sears, going off
Arney: No, not really, because when we went off base, we basically took fieldtrips. I remember going to
Tokyo Tower when it was only built up to the observation deck. They hadn’t put the spire on the thing
yet. Had a lunch there. Just different things of Japanese culture.
Another big thing that happened there—big for me, I think you might understand this—is that I
had a black female teacher in, I don’t know, fifth grade. Something like that. My biggest visceral
memory was that she was kind of drop-dead gorgeous.
She came in one day and said, “You may have heard that the San Francisco Giants are in town
playing against the Tokyo something-or-other. Tomorrow night, I’ll be having dinner with Willie Mays.
If you would like him to sign a baseball, bring it tomorrow morning.” My dad went and requisitioned a
U.S. Marine Corps ball and Willie Mays signed it. I was the only one that brought a ball in. I still have
that ball.
He also gave her, though, a 1960s team ball. Everybody on the team had signed it. Somebody
stole this out of our house. They didn’t steal the—we don’t have a key to the door. We don’t worry
about anything here. But it wasn’t long ago that somebody took that team ball.
Steinhoff: Amazing.
Arney: But I’ve still got the Willie Mays ball. “To Bill, Tokyo, Japan, 1960.”
Steinhoff: Wow! That’s actually a nice transition as well. What was your teacher teaching? What was
the classroom like?
Arney: Standard school. She was the humanities side of things, and then there was some guy that did
science-y things. Mr. Linker. I don’t remember her name, but Mr. Linker was the science guy at the
Steinhoff: You mentioned that your father was intent on you continuing your education past high
school. I’m guessing, or maybe I’m remembering, that he went straight into the Marines, didn’t go to
Arney: Yeah. He had some trouble that I never was able to piece together with the family, including
getting hit on the head with a cast iron frying pan. That didn’t come out literally until his deathbed.
Pam and I sort of nursed him into death at his house. It came out at that point that somebody in his
family—probably his father—had hit him with a frying pan and cracked his skull, so he kind of wanted to
get away. [laughing]
Steinhoff: Where did he grow up? Where was he from?

Arney: He was from North Carolina, sort of backcountry. His brother, Hiram—classic—ran an Ace
Hardware store. The last time I saw him he was pulled up in front of the Ace Hardware store and he and
his son, Johnny Arney—he was named after my dad, John Arney, and Hiram’s son was Johnny—were
both sitting—classic, stereotypical Southern scene—in rockers on the front porch of the damn hardware
store. They said, “Hey, Bill.” I hadn’t seen them in 10 years. “Hey, Bill, sit down. You want a Coke?”
[laughing] And just carried on from there. My dad didn’t have a lot to do with his family, but he did stay
in touch with Hiram.
Steinhoff: What about your mother?
Arney: What about her?
Steinhoff: Where was she from?
Arney: She was from Montana. We have a painting that somebody did of a photograph of their house.
Just a watercolor. It’s just a two-story, very small house probably for six or seven children out on the
Montana prairie. That was her life growing up.
Steinhoff: They clearly met in the Marines.
Arney: Yeah. They met at a bar. The story was that somebody picked a fight with my dad in a bar. He
had been playing poker and he had $3,000 in cash in his pocket. He looked around for the most
beautiful woman in the room and went over to my mom and gave her the cash and said, “Hold onto
this. I’ve got to take care of this guy.” [laughing] He said, “Well, she gave it back, so I married her.”
Steinhoff: That’s incredible. So, North Carolina to Japan, back to North Carolina. Camp Lejeune. When
you were telling your story a moment ago about the draft, there was a fraternity involved, so you were
already in school.
Arney: No, that was later. Down in North Carolina, I was mostly in the Scouts. A Marine base is a great
place to be in the Boy Scouts because there’s all the camping stuff out there, and your trip leaders are
really good campers and things like that.
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was just a dream place for me to be a young person. I got to
take free sailing lessons. The only trouble was that the girl that I liked—I was just a wee thing, but really
liked this girl—was an officer’s daughter. The officers lived literally a bus ride away from the enlisted
men’s housing. But in general, I just had a fabulous time on the Marine bases.
Then we went to Japan and came back eventually to Colorado. I came back to Colorado in
eighth grade. When my dad retired, he got a job at the credit union as a teller to keep a little money
coming in. Then he got a job in San Diego. I told him I didn’t want to go because I wanted to go to the
University of Colorado. That would have been a year, year and a half, away.

Things didn’t work out in San Diego, so he came back and bought another house just down the
street from our other house and got back together. Then we’re getting on to my going on to the
University of Colorado.
Steinhoff: Was there a Marine connection with Colorado? How did you guys end up there?
Arney: He as on recruiting duty in Denver. That was one of the last things he did after getting back
from—we couldn’t go to Okinawa when he was there during the Vietnam War, so he would just call
every so often and say, “I’m fine still.” I just kind of hung out there. Actually, got into high school and
did well there, and on to Colorado.
I think I told you I heard this comedian recently. He said, “When you get ready to go to college,
if you come from my stock, you just ask your parents what state you live in, and you send an application
to the university of that.” That’s literally what I did. [laughing] I was the valedictorian in the class, or a
co-valedictorian in the class, just because I loved learning. I just applied to the University of Colorado,
and they took me in.
Oh, by the way. The Navy Foundation—the Marine Corps don’t think of themselves this way,
but they’re an adjunct of the Navy—had scholarships. My tuition was $200 a semester and they gave
me a scholarship for as many semesters as I needed, which was only six, so I got my degree in three
years, my BA.
Then I wrote to them, and I said, “Okay, I’ve got my BA. I can start paying you back now.” They
said, “No, no. You’re going to graduate school. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get back to you later. Let us
know when you finished.” [laughing]
Steinhoff: Wow.
Arney: Yeah, that’s student finances.
Steinhoff: For sure, but also a kind of patronage or a kind of support for—
Arney: Yeah, absolutely. So, co-valedictorian, which suggests that there must have been some pretty
teachers, or at least good classes. I’m curious to hear a little bit about that high school experience.
Arney: All of that. I just sent a letter to an Ed Butterfield in Grand Junction not too long ago. It was
basically “Are you still alive?” He wrote back and said, “Yeah.” He was a biology teacher, and we just
had a great time together.
He did pick favorites. He had six or seven students that he really favored. I knew I was one
when I came into his room one day after school and I said, “You got anything I could do?” He said, “No,
but you’re welcome to use the lab back there any time you want.” I thought, oh, cool. He was a real
force in my learning back then.

Steinhoff: It sounds like he liberated the lab for you. What happened in the lab? What was attractive?
Arney: Whatever you wanted to do. His point was you want to learn some biology? There’s a bunch of
stuff back in there that you could learn with. Help yourself. You don’t need a teacher to go there.
Another guy was Bill McCurley. Shortly after I graduated, he got fired for being a gay guy. He
taught calculus. I still remember, he came in the first day of calculus and he said, “Look, there’s only two
ideas in calculus, and they’re related to one another. Differentiation and integration. That’s all we’re
going to do for a year now.” [laughing] He was just terrific.
I went to college planning to be a math major because of him. The first thing I had to take was
calculus. I knew it all, so that was a nice, easy pass in my first year of college because of Bill, or Mr.
I had a Latin teacher who was terrific, too. Mrs. Hutchinson, I think. She just loved teaching
people this crazy language. We read Caesar’s wars, like all the basic Latin people do, I guess. Worked
through the whole thing.
I was a good swimmer, too. Terry Anderson was this English teacher, but he was the swimming
coach. He got me up to the point where I was a state champion in sprints, freestyle sprints. That was
fun. But he also wrote a letter for—what was it called? The trophy is still sitting in there. The Don
Brown Sportsmanship Award. This was an award that was given out at the first, big, major all-state
swim match of each year at the University of Denver.
The only reason I had any aspiration for that was this guy, who was an extraordinary swimmer—
I was not extraordinary, I was pretty good, but this guy was extraordinary, and he had the most beautiful
body. He won it the year before. He was a year ahead of me. He won this award. I thought, I’d really
like to win that, so Terry wrote this great letter for me. and I won the award.
You’re making me think about all these things I rarely think about, but they’re obviously in there
Steinhoff: I think that’s part of my intention, actually, is to, insofar as your vocation has been teaching,
among everything else that you’ve done, but I think that—
Arney: Mostly learning.
Steinhoff: Yes.
Arney: I don’t mean to correct you, but we can talk about that.
Steinhoff: That might be helpful, actually, to here how these early experiences would inform that claim.


Arney: Yeah. Most of the teachers I had were mostly interested in me learning rather than me being
taught. When I went to the University of Colorado, I got the acceptance letter, but then came this letter
from the Director of the Honors Program, Walter Weir.
He was a pretty old guy, and his specialty was Ancient Greek stuff. He had set up the Honors
Program as Colorado’s first effort to do non-graded studies. They got their own grades—Honors pass or
fail. Everybody got Honors, so it was a bit like Evergreen. You can’t fail, so just come and learn stuff.
Walter Weir writes to me and says, “I want you to be in the Honors Program, but I also want you
to be in my seminar.” He did everything in terms of seminars, 15 people to a seminar. He got faculty
from all over the university. He said, “I want you to be in my seminar, Greek and Roman stuff, and we
will meet at my house out on the edges of Boulder.” Beautiful house, as you might imagine, with a full
professor there. “And if you haven’t got a car, I will drive you out there every Thursday night and we’ll
sit around and talk about Greek and Roman things.”
Greek and Roman? I didn’t even know where Rome was, or that it was that old, or something.
But he didn’t care. He just didn’t care. He just wanted to show you how people can think, meaning him.
After that he said, “All right, you go take some of the classes now from some of these other
people.” I finished up my final science requirement. When I went in, I was going to be a pre-med. I had
done a lot of stuff in high school for being pre-med. Went and watched operations and shuttled some
of the Vietnam guys around the Army hospital across the way. I was definitely going to be in pre-med.
Between Weir and some of the other stuff that I took in my first year, my eyes just went, whoa,
this is a lot more interesting than trying to get a yellow precipitate up there in that lab. [laughing] So, I
switched out of science-y things. I got a minor in mathematics. I couldn’t finish the major in
mathematics because I hated applied mathematics, and you had to take a class on applied mathematics
down in the Engineering School, and I just said, “No, I’m not going to do that anymore.”
My favorite class in math was set theory. It was just abstract mathematics, basically
introduction to abstract mathematics. We had a terrific professor. His name was Taylor, but I don’t
remember his first name. But one time he was absent, and the author of the textbook that we were
using was in the Math Department at University of Colorado, so when this guy Taylor was absent one
day, he got the author of the textbook to come in and teach the class.
Again, this is a formative experience, because somebody said—I forget his name, Dr. So-andSo—“We’re having trouble with this number six on page 42 here. Could you help us out?” He leans
over the book. [laughing] He looks at the book and he says, “This book.” He looks at the book. After

about a minute of doing this, he says, “Seems trivial.” He turned around and starts writing on the board.
Fills up that wall and then that wall over there. Then he steps back, and he says, “Oh! I see why it’s not
trivial.” [laughing] Cool. That’s all I could think. Cool. That’s kind of how I want to be.
How’s that? Is that enough stuff?
Steinhoff: It’s barely scratching the surface, Bill. It’s amazing stuff. The way you’ve set things up,
though, right now makes for a big question, which is, how do you get from that scene to sociology?
Arney: I was a sociology major.
Steinhoff: Right, but you came in on the pre-med track, or with that as the ambition. You got swerved
off into Ancient Greece and Roman by Professor Weir. You got turned on to seminar. You got turned on
to set theory. You got turned on to this kind of life of the mind, where you can set a trap for yourself in
your own textbook, and you watch the professor, right? At some point, you get introduced to sociology.
Maybe there’s something from high school that got you there? I’m curious about that.
Arney: No, nothing in high school, of course. I just took a couple sociology classes in my first year and it
was exactly the same experience there as with Walter Weir. This was during the Vietnam War, so
people had a lot to talk about if you’re sociologist and stuff. I sat there listening, and sometimes
participating in seminars, and my eyes just went, boing! Really? You can do this as a profession?
That’s what I did, and the combination of mathematics and sociology came naturally, so to
speak, because they had a kind of a program in mathematical sociology at the graduate school.
I suppose it’s worth telling you how I got into graduate school. Three years in undergraduate
school, and then I went into the see the Director of the graduate program and I said, “Professor Adams, I
would like to join the graduate school here.” This is an old guy. I’m looking at my hair. This was like
Merrill Adams’s hair. He was a pretty old guy.
He says, “Well, we have a lot of students in sociology. Most of them really, they’re avoiding the
war. Can I ask your grade point average?” I said, “3.9 something-or-other.” I was in the Honors
Program. He looks at me and says, “Were you in my class in Sociological Theory?” I said, “Yes, sir.”
It was a required class. Met in the movie theater on the hill in Boulder. Three hundred
students. Merrill Adams lecturing on sociological theory. “Yes, sir, I was in your class.” He looked at me
and said, “You came to my office hours several times.” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Oh, well, we can get
you a fellowship here. That’s not a problem. But if you wanted to go study with my professor at
Harvard, Talcott Parsons, dean of American sociology, I can set you up pretty easily to go there.” I said,
“Well, sir, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d rather stay here.”


I got hooked up with this guy, Tom Mayer, who is in mathematical sociology. It was a field that
was just coming along, and he was adding to it. He basically gave me a PhD thesis to do a time series
model of fertility in the United States and all that. I did it and got a PhD three years later. Six years, high
school to Dartmouth College.
Do you want to hear moving on to Dartmouth?
Steinhoff: Not yet Bill. I see you want to get us there, but I’m now curious about, well, Harvard. For
some people, that would be the most delicious bait. For you, “If it’s all the same to you, sir, I’ll just stay
here.” I’m curious to know how that offer signified to you?
Arney: It’s easy. I was completely ignorant of Harvard. I knew the name, Talcott Parsons, because
Merrill Adams had taught him to us. But I had no notion about higher education and what happens
above all this.
Steinhoff: Now we can maybe tap into the story about the lottery and the draft, and that experience as
being—basically, in that milieu, in the fraternity, and watching some of your peers get drafted. And with
you own upbringing. I would be curious to hear a little bit of that.
Arney: My big brother in the fraternity, his number literally came up number two, his birthday, so
things quieted down a lot around that table at that point. He’s the guy who went to Vietnam and
became a medic because he didn’t want to kill anybody. Then he re-upped after that. Went back as a
medic for a second go.
What’s catching your ear about this?
Steinhoff: Your father didn’t want you to follow his footsteps into the service. I’m thinking about—
maybe there’s a little bit of C. Wright Mills here, The Sociological Imagination. I guess I’m curious to
hear your own coming into awareness. You mentioned earlier that sitting in sociology classes during the
Vietnam War, there was a lot to talk about. Your eyes opened, your horizons expanded.
There’s a deeper thing here, which is you’re starting school in ’68, you’re graduating in ’71.
Evergreen starts in ’71. This is my own separate theory, which we don’t need to pursue, but to create a
new college at that time is to mess with the lottery and the draft and so on. On the one hand, people
are getting funneled into the war machine. But if you create an education machine, you’re creating
something that sucks people out of, or has the potential to suck people out of the war machine. That’s a
bigger, structural thing, and I’m just curious about your own relation to that historical moment, relative
to war on the one hand, education on the other. It might be too abstract a question, but that’s part of
my own curiosity.


Arney: I can give you another story that points in the direction you’re talking about. Oh! This is just a
kind of cartoon. There was a professor of sociology, Ed Rose, who had stark white hair and always wore
hippie kinds of things and beads and stuff. Long story short, Pepsi said, “We want to do a commercial in
which you sit on the library lawn, and a little girl will come up and hand you a flower, and we’ll film it.”
He lived off the royalties from that commercial for about 10 years, I think. [laughing] But that’s the kind
of invasion of the culture into the times.
But the bigger one was I’m pretty sure I was still an undergraduate, so before ’71, students
assembled on the library lawn. We were going to vote to close the university. There were about 7,000
people on the library lawn. A car drives across the sidewalks, and out gets the President of the
university. [laughing] He said, “I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak, if it comes up.” I thought,
that’s pretty cool. People protesting, all that stuff. I’m just sitting there listening, like I usually did.
Somebody said, “Okay, President Thieme, you want to say something?” “Thank you, I would. I
respect entirely what you’re doing here, and I can certainly understand your motivation for wanting to
close the university. But I want to let you know that I will not do that. You don’t have to go to classes.
There may be classes that won’t be held, but I won’t close the university.” I thought, that’s pretty cool,
too. [laughing]
What happened afterwards is that I went to classes. Like I said the other day in a class, “I’m
turning really white here as the sunshine is coming in.” I went to classes. I went to a philosophy class
that I was in, and the guy said, “I’ve been talking about all this stuff in philosophy, but I want to tell you
that there’s a theory of the just war, and that’s what I want to talk about today.” “Oh, cool.”
Went to the chemistry class and the guy said, “You’re going to be hearing a lot about a
chemistry thing that’s going on in Vietnam now. It’s called Agent Orange. I want to give you an hour to
an hour and a half introduction to this that’s going to be on your horizon that you really need to know
something about.”
There were seven of us in this 150-seat auditorium. Again, I just thought, cool. Let me have it.
That’s where I got a real sense of what a university could be, and the idea that I could possibly be a part
of that was, coming from my background, very unlikely. But it happened.
The mathematics stuff, I think I told you, it just happened that this guy had a grant. He gave me
a research assistantship. Got me my PhD.
At the same time, I was working as a graduate assistant at the Western Interstate Commission
for Higher Education. It was on a project called “The Outcomes of Higher Education.” It was the first
time that anybody had started talking about that in the country that there would be outcomes from

higher education. We did these various studies, Sid Mesick and I—one of the graduate students—
polling people around the country to see what they thought of outcomes of higher education. There’s a
couple of pamphlets in the library that came out of this.
Basically, we said, “This doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s really no way to talk about this that
makes any sense whatsoever. But here’s what we came up with and here’s a list of outcomes of higher
education.” The funding agency took it away and sent it over to ACT, and they ran with it. That’s where
we got “Outcomes of Higher Education,” which are still floating around, which breeds stupidity, like
student success and all that. [laughing] If you’ve got outcomes, right?
Steinhoff: That’s right.
Arney: You’ve got to have some success somewhere.
Steinhoff: I’m so glad that you’ve mentioned this, actually. That’s ’72 to ‘74—I’m consulting the cheat
sheet here—so that’s while you’re doing your doctorate work.
Arney: Yeah. I had two jobs and it was great.
Steinhoff: Here, I need to betray my own ignorance relative to sociology.
Arney: I’ve got a lot of that, too, so never mind. [laughter] We’ll support each other here.
Steinhoff: Good. But I think you’d mentioned that mathematical sociology was an emerging field.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: My appetite for sociology developed out of much more the qualitative side. I’ve dabbled, I
can say, so I’m curious to hear your own sense of that emergent paradigm. It clearly speaks to your own
appetite for mathematics, the fact that you could fly through calculus, and that you encountered an
obstacle with the applied mathematics requirement.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: I’m just curious to hear a little bit about these kinds of disciplinary confluences and your own
sense of them.
Arney: Not sure quite what to say about that except I got hooked up with Tom Mayer. I think I was his
first PhD student, so he had an investment in getting me through. He helped me. I would write my
dissertation and he would revise and say, “Okay, try this, try that.”
We went back and forth for six, eight months on a spectral analytic model, distributed lag
model, which was a mathematical thing coming mostly out of econometrics, and he wanted to bring it
into sociology. It’s a statistical way of thinking about relationships where the relation is not static at one
timepoint, but that the relationship can be—there’s a variable that five years earlier is going to predict


something now, and there’s another on three years, and the effect is smaller than the five-year. That’s
what I got was a distributed lag model on U.S. fertility rates.
It was no great shakes, I don’t think. It wasn’t anything terribly important, although we did a
couple of papers published out of it. One was in a pretty well-known series of book called Sociological
Methodology. It came out with one a year for about seven or eight years and we got a paper in that.
Tom got a paper in that, and I got to ride along. [laughing]
That’s how I got there. What I was going to tell you before is Tom said, “When you go to apply
for a job, here’s a letter. You can run it out as many times as you want and send it wherever you want,
and I’ll just sign them.” I think I sent out about 80 letters of application.
I had about three or four, maybe five, interviews around the country. Somewhere in this, I got a
call from a guy name Joel Levine at Dartmouth College. He was a mathematical sociologist at Dartmouth
College. Turned out that he had been a research mate of Tom Mayer’s when they were both at the
University of Michigan. Joel gets me on the phone and he says, “I understand you’ve got an interview
up at the University of Vermont.” I said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “Any way you could stop by Dartmouth
on the way and just let us hear from you?” I said, “Yeah, if you tell me where Dartmouth is.” [laughing]
I figured I knew nothing about the Ivy Leagues from my class background. I figured Dartmouth, that’s
somewhere near New York. It’s gotta be the New York City environs, I learned. [laughing]
I did it. I flew first to Boston, then up to Dartmouth. Landed in the snow, and then went on to
the University of Vermont on the same trip. Dartmouth calls me about a week later and says, “We’d like
to offer you a job as assistant professor of sociology.” “I accept. Fine. I enjoyed the snow.”
About two weeks later, the chairman, Stan Udy, calls me up and he says, “We’re really glad that
you’re going to join the faculty here. There’s just one little thing that’s come up. It’s just a small,
bureaucratic hitch. It’s not a problem, but we’ll take care of it. There’s this new thing at the college. It’s
called an Affirmative Action Officer. She said that because you didn’t apply for the position, you’re not
eligible to get it.” [laughing] He said, “This doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s just a bureaucratic that
we’ll get cleared up here really soon. But just wanted to let you know we can’t send you the
appointment letter right now. Probably four, five days from now you’ll get the appointment letter.”
Long story short, I really came to enjoy being around Margaret, the Affirmative Action Officer.
First time I met her, I said, “I’m Bill Arney, sociology.” She said, “Oh, you’re Bill Arney.” [laughing] She
was very good, good to be around.
Steinhoff: Bill, this is 1974.
Arney: Yeah.

Steinhoff: You are all of 24 years old?
Arney: Yeah, I started teaching at Dartmouth a few days before my 24 th birthday in September.
Steinhoff: Wow. What was that like? What was that transition? You hadn’t done teaching in grad
school, or you had?
Arney: I had been a teaching assistant, too, along the way.
Steinhoff: Okay.
Arney: Not sure it did anything for me.
Steinhoff: That was part of your apprenticeship. You were doing the statistical modeling with Tom
Mayer, and you were getting some trained up in the teaching as such, which qualified you for this job.
Arney: It got me the job. [laughing]
Steinhoff: It got you the job. What I was about to observe was there was an old boys’ network. Maybe
they weren’t so old, but Tom Mayer, Joel Levine—then suddenly, the chair has to acknowledge that
1974, new world, where there actually are protocols, etc. Did you have to make an application? How
did they finesse that?
Arney: No. He did what he said he was going to do. He said, “Just take a couple of days and we’ll clear
it up.” They didn’t tell me how they cleared it up. I’m not sure I would have understood what it meant
because this was the first time an affirmative action officer had been around in my life.
Steinhoff: Exactly. And theirs, it sounds like.
Arney: And theirs, yes. It was a new thing. “We’ve got this new thing here.” [laughing]
Steinhoff: Exactly, so we could maybe say that you got grandfathered in.
Arney: If I weren’t so young, you could say that. [laughter]
Steinhoff: But it was a previous paradigm, like if we’re acknowledging this old boys’ network, and that
you were wandering around in the Northeast—UVM, Dartmouth—
Arney: Yes. They were just doing things the way they’d always done things.
Steinhoff: Exactly.
Arney: They didn’t know any better.
Steinhoff: Exactly. I’m mindful of our time. We’ve gone for about an hour, so I’m thinking we should
check into say taking a five-minute break. I’m completely flexible to whatever your preference might be.
Arney: Yeah, I’ve just got to go stoke the stove.
Steinhoff: Great. I’ll hit pause on the recording and let’s just catch back up at 10 minutes after 1:00.
[End part 1 of 2 of Bill Arney on November 22, 2020]
[Begin part 2 of 2 of Bill Arney on November 22, 2020]

Steinhoff: We’re back. We’ve probably got another 50 minutes or so in this round. I think we’ve got
you into the snow, or maybe it’s not snowing when you return to New Hampshire. Get us from
Colorado to New Hampshire. What do we need to know about that transit?
Arney: From Colorado to New Hampshire? What do you mean?
Steinhoff: Did you drive? Were you by yourself?
Arney: Yeah, we drove. We had a young child with us, and a friend of my first wife, Debbie, went with
us to help take care of John, this guy who’s now a 38-year-old tech guy over in Eastern Washington. Got
there. Set up house. Started learning about heating with wood, which is what I was just doing. Kind of
got it into my blood, I suppose.
Moving to New Hampshire was a place I’d never been before. Never thought about existing. I’d
tell the kids that there were always three or four days in the winter in New Hampshire where it got to 40
below. It was drop-dead gorgeous because all the water freezes out of the air and the trees turn into
icicles. That’s one of my memories.
We were also talking this weekend about the way my two younger ones loved to golf. I said,
“Back in New Hampshire, there’s a ski jump on the golf course.” [laughing] When you’re not using it for
one thing, use it for another.
Steinhoff: Exactly, multiuse territory. What was it like at Dartmouth? You’re coming from a wellresourced state school, the University of Colorado, and landing into Dartmouth, one of the Ivies. I’m
curious to hear about that experience coming into your first job as faculty.
Arney: I came into it, as you might imagine, with almost complete ignorance of what it meant to be a
faculty member, and what it meant to be in the Ivy League. Like I said, the Ivy League, I thought, was
something that was gathered around New York City. Turns out that’s not true. I was a very naïve guy,
but it’s like you fake it until you make it, that kind of thing. That’s pretty much the way I felt.
Steinhoff: I’m remembering from the team-teaching text that you’d prepared that you had an early
experience of team teaching.
Arney: Yeah. This has another large dose of Bill’s naivete in it. They assigned me to teach in my first—
were we on quarters or semesters?—I forget, but I think it was my first quarter—a class on population. I
got four students to sign up. Good, Ivy League chair of the Sociology Department that he was, he said,
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal. Just teach them.” I said, “Okay, I can do that.”
But I started sniffing around and found out—I wanted to know why nobody was taking this. It
turned out that there had been a population class offered, I think, the summer just prior to this fall
quarter. I found out who had taught it and I went to see her. Somebody named Donella Meadows—

Dana, as I came to know her. She was the author of The Limits to Growth. Big, big, big, bigtime
professor. The college had hired her without portfolio basically. They hired her and said, “We’ll give
you a wing of the Business School down there for whatever it is that you want to do, and whatever you
want to call yourself, professor of, let us know.” She named herself a professor of environmental
studies. It was one of the first times that those terms had been used in academe ever.
I went down to visit the professor of environmental studies without knowing anything about Ivy
League protocol or anything like that. I said, “I hear you taught this population class. That’s what I’m
going to do, too.” She, in her extraordinary generosity, said, “Well, why don’t we teach it together next
year this time? Team teach your four students now, and I’ll get a few more next fall.” I said, “Great.”
We went back to the Sociology Department, and I said, “I found out why there was this low
enrollment from this woman, Dana Meadows.” All the guys start rolling their eyes, these professors of
sociology. I said, “She suggested that we could teach population together next fall.”
Long story short, it turned out that they had just denied her an adjunct appointment in
Sociology a couple of weeks before this. She just wanted to be recognized in the Sociology Department,
too, and the boys didn’t allow her to do that. It was an all-boys department at that time. But the
department chair said, “Oh, I guess it’s okay if she wants to just teach with you. We can give you your
course credit and all that stuff.”
Anyway, that was my first foray into college politics, I suppose you would say. [laughing] But
she was a completely charming person, completely amenable to doing whatever needed to be done to
have a good time there.
Steinhoff: This is striking me as yet another instance of a kind of tectonic encounter, these two different
modes. Limits to Growth is probably in 1972 is my guess.
Arney: Yeah, about that.
Steinhoff: It’s very contemporaneous with Evergreen’s birthday. That’s what I remember. That was
just a breakout book. Hugely influential. As you’re indicating, the old boys hired you and denied her
Arney: It wouldn’t have cost them a dime because she was paying for herself to be there with her
grants and everything. It’s just the obnoxiousness.
Steinhoff: Yeah. It’s a taste of campus politics of department turf. The gender stuff is there. But it’s
also you’re connecting with a contemporary. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about that relationship
with her, this idea of team teaching and just that experience of working together in the classroom.


Arney: She was older. She was the real deal when it came to the professorial ranks. She had been at
MIT, and she and Dennis, her husband then, had worked on Limits to Growth together.
It was not a big deal, for her or for me. I suppose, if I want to infer, she was doing me a favor.
Basically, I don’t want to take away your possible enrollments, and you might learn something. My
attitude was, well, I might learn something. [laughing]
If you want to really extrapolate, that’s my attitude about most things. I think I’m very naïve
about ranks and protocols. At least, if I’m not naïve, I don’t respect it very well. I think I’ve actually
gotten to something that’s probably a kind of core of me that—sergeant major doesn’t respect anybody
below the full colonel. I had no trouble approaching Dana.
When Michel Foucault came with this huge professorship for a week at Dartmouth, I went and
knocked on the door of the house that they gave him for the time. This guy set up this professorship,
this oil guy, and he bought a house that was right near the hospital, so it was extraordinarily expensive
and just waiting for some really, really well-incomed Dartmouth graduate to buy it. This guy, I think,
bought it right out from under a couple of other people.
I just went up and knocked on the door and introduced myself. “I’m working on a book on
obstetrics and you’re a big motivation.” He got this big grin on his face, and he said, “Well, come in,
come in. I’ll be here for one week. You can come to my seminars. Of course, those are open, but you
should come watch these people come in and pay me court.” [laughing] So, I got to sit around in this
living room and watch all these high professors get taken down a few notches, usually, by Foucault. It
was great fun.
Steinhoff: You’re underway with the book on obstetrics. You’ve been influenced by Foucault. I don’t
imagine he was on the curriculum at the University of Colorado.
Arney: No. The way I heard about him was very odd. It has to do with the Affirmative Action Officer,
too. There was a woman in the department, Joan Smith. I don’t think she was there before I got there,
but she may have been. I may have misspoken when I said it was an all-boys club. Joan was probably
She was a Marxist and she introduced me to this book. Foucault’s book. In retrospect, it’s quite
funny, because—I said, “Did he do anything with your work in there?” She says, “Oh, yes, I got a
footnote.” She didn’t get a footnote. That was just a lie. [laughing] But we all do that once in a while,
right? But she’s the one that introduced me to that book.
When I got my first sabbatical—at Dartmouth, you get a sabbatical after three years, so I got a
sabbatical, and I went to England to finish up the obstetrics book and get into some of the libraries over

there. I just folded Discipline and Punish into the obstetrics book, trying to talk about new structures of
power in medicine. Worked with David Armstrong over there. He was doing a lot of sociology and
medicine, influenced by Foucault and other cats like that.
I had written to him just to get an appointment in the Department of Community Medicine. He
said, “Well, you’re working on obstetrics. How about if you take obstetrics and I’ll take the rest of
medicine?” So, two books came out at about the same time.
Although later on, when I got back to Dartmouth, I showed this book to a guy named Bernie
Bergan. He was a professor of sociology and in the Department of Psychiatry in the Medical School. He
read the book and he said, “What you say happened in obstetrics happened in all of medicine.” I said,
“We could work out something and maybe do a book together.” That’s what we did. That was Medicine
and the Management of Living that came out of that collaboration. That was just before I came to
Steinhoff: The influence of Foucault seems seismic for you.
Arney: Oh, yeah. It was one of those eye-opening things that I experienced so often. Why? Because
the histories of obstetrics that were being written were not interesting, and they struck me as kind of
naïve. Foucault’s work helped me say something that I think was not so naïve. Basically, that there’s a
new structure of power in obstetrics from the time when women were having babies with other women
around them.
I spent a lot of time in the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine library. I went to the
Royal College of Obstetricians and gynecologists, and I started telling them what I was doing, and the
librarian motions me over and said, “Come around the desk, please.” She reaches down and picks up a
manhole cover and flips on a light switch and said, “Dr. Arney, the books you require are below. Please
help yourself.” [laughing]
I ended up at the Wellcome Institute because I was trying to work at the British Library, and
every time I would put in a request for a book, I’d get this pink slip back that said, “The book you require
was destroyed in bombing in World War II,” so I had to go to the Wellcome, where they’d kept their
books well contained in the bomb shelter below. That was a great time.
Steinhoff: Did you have to take a ladder down there?
Arney: Yeah, there was a little ladder.
Steinhoff: Just incredible. The history of obstetrics in a bunker at the Wellcome Institute.
Arney: Yes. Well, because they’re useless books. Nobody needs them. “Dr. Arney, the books you
require.” [laughing]

Steinhoff: It’s incredible. Okay, this is really very interesting because it’s also occurring to me that the
kind of research that you’re doing—archival stuff, spelunking practically, and basically a kind of the
history of ideas, the history of institutions, the history of practices—doesn’t sound like stuff that would
have been coming up with a PhD for mathematical sociology.
Arney: No, it wouldn’t, and it wasn’t. I guess I’ve never been one to come up to something interesting
and say, “Oh, no, I’m a blah blah blah.” Which frankly, I think, has helped me a lot at Evergreen. If I
wanted to be a blah blah blah at Evergreen, I think I would have died, because people don’t act that
way. The good ones, anyway. [laughing]
Steinhoff: Yeah. But I’m also hearing that you’re continuing your learning, you’re continuing your
development. You have the relationship with Meadows. You reach out to Foucault, having had him
drawn to your attention by Joan Smith. You’re in the UK, working in collaboration with David
Armstrong, who must have been a little bit more senior than you, or got more established?
Arney: Not a lot, but, yeah, he was more established.
Steinhoff: But he takes you in and divvies up the labor.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: I’m also thinking about Foucault and biopower and the right to give life or to withhold life.
He’s thinking through some of this stuff. Did he read your work? Tell me more about that relationship.
He was there for that week but tell me how that helped.
Arney: I sent a copy of the book to him once it came out. It was a University of Chicago Press. He wrote
a very nice, proforma letter, which I still have, of course. I don’t know if he even read it, but I just
wanted to acknowledge him in a more direct way.
I also got to work at the University of Edinburgh during that sabbatical. I came back for winter
quarter and then went in the spring to Edinburgh and got an honorary appointment in community
medicine at the University of Edinburgh. David said, “Just write to Sir John Brotherston up there.” I had
to go look up, how do you write a letter to a “sir”? [laughing] It turns out you say, “Dear Sir.” They
were “Love to have you here, whoever you are.” It was just great.
Steinhoff: How was that book received?
Arney: I don’t know. Yeah, I really don’t know. I think it didn’t make any big bombshells or anything.
But I got to know Barbara Ehrenreich through it. The way I got to know her was I knew her work from
the stuff that she did with Dierdre English on midwives and so on, so I knew her work. Then at
Dartmouth—again, a place with money—I got to invite her up to give a lecture, and we got to know one
another a little bit there. She wrote a blurb for Bernie’s and my book on Medicine and the Management

of Living. She blurbed on the back of that, so she liked my work well enough to say something nice
about it. But I never really kept track of how these things landed. I was more interested in doing them.
Steinhoff: I’m getting that sense, actually. It’s you’re in whatever the thing is. Something else is drawn
to your attention that you happen to be engaged by, whether it’s, I don’t know, there’s 7,000 of my
students on the lawn. What’s going to happen next? Oh! I’m going to go to class, and I learn about this,
and I learn about that. Or now I’m doing mathematical sociology, being mentored in this particular new
model. Now I’m at Dartmouth. Now I’m reading some book that Joan Smith pressed upon me. Now I’m
in the seminar with Foucault, kind of inside but also observing. It seems like there’s a kind of willingness
to be influenced.
Arney: Naivete, maybe, is a better way to put it. [laughing]
Steinhoff: Yes!
Arney: I never had the capacity to get the least bit inspired by anything . . . by my position.
Steinhoff: Right. You mentioned the community medicine piece with the University of Edinburgh, and
then at Dartmouth, you also had an appointment. Was it in the Medical School? Tell me a little bit
about that.
Arney: The Department of Community Medicine. I was hired by a research project in obstetrics. It was
one of the first efforts to regionalize care of neonatal infants, infants in neonatal care. The big push was
if somebody’s having trouble in the small hospital, can we get them to the big hospital in Hanover where
they’ve got a neonatal intensive care unit?
This was one of the first projects to regionalize neonatal intensive care. There was one center in
Vermont. Jerry Lucey was the head of that, and he was also the Chief Editor of Pediatrics, I think, but
some very big editorial appointment. It was his name that got the money, and then George Little was
the Director of Neonatal Intensive Care at Dartmouth. George hired me to do all of the statistics and do
interviewing and things like that of whatever projects I wanted to do as part of that grant.
At one point, I was literally walking around the halls, and this guy said, “Oh, you’re with the
perinatal thing.” He was the Chair of the Department of Community Medicine. He said, “Would you like
an appointment here?” I said, “Yeah, I guess.” “We don’t have any money for you, but you can get an
appointment and put it on your resume.” I said, “Okay.”
He was a very bigshot in—no, Jack Wennberg was the bigshot in Community Medicine. I forget
the chairman’s name. Jack Wennberg was the one who did what’s called small area variations studies in
medicine. One of his first great discoveries was that there are 10 counties in Vermont, and you could
tell when an obstetrician moved from one county to another by tracking Caesarian births, because, as he

pointed out, surgeons want to do surgery, so when an obstetrical surgeon moves, the operation rate will
move with him. He took off from the early paper of small area variations studies in Vermont and built
an empire of variations in neonatal stuff and all other kinds of things. Anyway, this guy was the head of
the Department of Community Studies and he said, “Yeah, we’ll just give you an appointment here.”
Steinhoff: I’m hearing that that is on the strength of the scholarship of the obstetrics because people
knew you as, oh, you’re somebody that does that kind of thing. But then what you just described, you
were doing interviewing, you were walking the halls, and statistics, so that still was part of your profile,
the mathematical sociology piece.
Arney: Right. We were collecting data on whether or not this had any good effects. Of course, it did.
Steinhoff: This would have been late ‘70s.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: This is a sidebar. I don’t want to distract us, but I was born in 1974. Both of my parents are
pediatricians. We moved to India in 1980. My father was a virologist. My mother was doing community
health, basically. We can do a whole separate sidebar on that, but there’s an interesting resonance for
me here, especially the timeline, that we moved to India just around the time that you’re making your
own transition.
But is there anything else to say about Dartmouth? I want to get us to Evergreen before we
close out our first session here, but I’m curious to hear maybe about—we’ve heard a lot about your
colleagues, your encounters in the hallway, some of the other institutional stuff, but maybe students.
Something about your own experience as a teacher? You’re still very young, but you’re involved in a lot
of things. I’m wondering whether there’s anything to add about the Dartmouth time.
Arney: I’m not sure there is. It was a good job. I was surprised I did not get tenure, but in retrospect,
not surprised at all because the one book with the University of Chicago Press was out and there was
another one in the pipeline, so I thought, eh, that’s pretty good.
But Joan Smith, the one who said she had the footnote in Discipline and Punish, she was a
Marxist, like I said, and she was one of the last to get fired for being a Marxist. Of course, they don’t fire
you for being a Marxist, but they make up reasons for firing you. She came up for tenure about two
years before I did, I think. She goes off in this kerfuffle. Lands on her feet at NYU or somewhere.
You want to stop the recording for just a minute? I want to go get some water.
Steinhoff: No problem.
[Recorder turned off and back on]


Arney: The end of the Joan Smith story is that the President was overheard to say that “those guys in
the Department of Sociology will never have a hand in the running of the school again.”
So, when I came up for tenure, I had the unanimous support of my department. One guy, a
black guy, felt that I was a racist, and he was reluctant to vote for me, but he did. And I got the
endorsement of the Divisional Dean, the Dean for the Social Sciences. Then I got called into the uberDean and he said, “The President has not approved your tenure application.”
That was that. I had to move on. They actually did give me a one-year extension if I wanted to
stay, so I was promoted to Associate Professor but without the possibility of staying on.
Steinhoff: That’s, I think, a very typical Ivy move.
Arney: Really?
Steinhoff: Yes. I don’t know the details, but David Graeber, anthropologist, had an appointment at Yale
and I think he was—he’s an anarchist and was very active in a lot of stuff in the early 2000s, and
basically got shoved out in a similar fashion, where there’s lots of support from the department, but
because of the hierarchy—and also, there’s turf battles within the discipline itself. If people wanted a
Marxist sociologist, the institution itself didn’t. Right? Even if her colleagues were able to live with it.
There’s a kind of gatekeeping process that’s underway.
You’ve also mentioned there’s somebody who’s sprinkling money around that brings in the
notorious Michel Foucault at the height of his glory. That’s good, but only for a week. We don’t want
more of that kind of turmoil.
Arney: That was a great rumor that circulated around Foucault’s arrival that he was supposed to give
three seminars. His seminars filled the auditorium. That’s how he did it in France. The rumor that
circulated that if you were not a gay guy, you would not be admitted to the seminar. [laughing] That’s
what happened around Dartmouth. That’s the kind of thing that happened there.
Steinhoff: Exactly. That must have been a disappointment, Bill, having your tenure application denied
at that level.
Arney: Yeah, but I didn’t know enough to know how disappointing it should have been. [laughter] I
figure, well, I’ve got another year. I’ll apply for jobs like I did before.
Steinhoff: Tell me about that process.
Arney: I don’t remember very much about it. I know I went on a few job interviews here and there, but
Evergreen picked me up.
Steinhoff: That would have been 1980, 1981?


Arney: ’81. It was in the MPA program. David Paulsen, who was married to Barbara Smith, was
another applicant, so Barbara was not involved in my hiring. I got the job over David, and then he got
another job later on. That was in the MPA program.
Steinhoff: That’s right, and you were hired to teach statistics. Is that right?
Arney: Right. Then when they hired me, I didn’t teach statistics for a year.
Steinhoff: I would be very interested to hear about your first encounter with Evergreen, your first
impressions—job interview, campus visit, whatever that process was—what sticks with you from that
threshold, coming to Olympia?
Arney: What sticks with me? Not a lot. I remember I gave a talk on statistics as a language. I had
written a paper for some journal or another. I gave that talk as my talk to the students. A funny end to
that was at my first son’s wedding, about four years ago now, some person came out of the crowd and
said, “Oh, Bill Arney. I was a student, and we just loved your talk. We just got them to take you.”
Apparently, there was some resistance to my appointment, but the students overwhelmed them. That’s
the only thing I know about my appointment here.
Steinhoff: You get the gig. You’re moving now from New Hampshire to Olympia. Did people know
what Evergreen was, others in your milieu, people that, as you were heading out here, what was your
own sense of what the school was?
Arney: I knew about it because I worked at NCHEMS, the National Center for Higher Education
Management Systems. Everybody there knew about Evergreen. It was one of those things going on, so
I knew about Evergreen. The prospect was good, and I needed a job.
Steinhoff: You’d already experienced the seminar model from Professor Weir at Colorado.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: And the honors model of pass/no pass, so that piece of scholarly culture was really deeply
embedded for you.
Arney: Right.
Steinhoff: Now you’re teaching at Evergreen. What was that transition like from Dartmouth to
Evergreen? I’m assuming even with MPA there was the team-teaching model. I’m curious to hear,
maybe to get us started with the Evergreen time.
Arney: I didn’t teach in the MPA program in the first year.
Steinhoff: Oh, you mentioned that. What did you do that first year?
Arney: It was called Health and Human Behavior, I think. I’ve got the list. Barbara called me, and I think
I said—maybe not said, I said it recently to somebody—she said, “What would you like to teach?” I had

the catalog, and there was something about . . . I forget the title now, but long story short, it was about
women returning to college later in life. It was something about reinventing. I don’t know what it was.
Barbara said, “Well, no, not that one. How about, with this stuff you’ve done on health, Health and
Human Behavior?” I said, “Fine.”
It was great. That was a terrific team to be on.
Steinhoff: Remind me. Burt Guttman?
Arney: Yeah, Burt Guttman, Jim Goulden, who was an architect, and Barbara Cooley, who was a nurse,
and me. It was a classic team-taught, collaborative blah blah blah. Just a good Evergreen program.
Steinhoff: But that was your first. Now, in retrospect, you can call it a classic. Did it feel like, oh, now
this is my milieu?
Arney: Oh, yeah. I felt completely at home. I don’t know what you’ve got in mind as an alternative. I
can imagine that somebody might come here and say, “I want to be a professor of biology and I don’t
want to deal with these sociologists or architects. Architects on a team on health?” And human
No, I felt entirely at home, and entirely at ease going and doing biology labs with Burt and all
that kind of stuff. It was a very simple way to come into the college for me.
Steinhoff: Because Burt had experience, and I’m not familiar with Jim Goulden or Barbara Cooley.
Arney: They’d been around for a few years.
Steinhoff: Got it, so you were the new kid. They knew what they were doing, relatively speaking.
Arney: Relatively speaking. [laughing]
Steinhoff: Were there things that stood out for you about the students? I’m still curious about that
coming from one institutional culture to another, from Dartmouth to Evergreen. Evergreen didn’t put a
premium—doesn’t put a premium—on scholarship, so your fancy University of Chicago press
bibliography may or may not have signified to people, but certainly—
Arney: It meant nothing. [laughing] Which was fine with me. It’s not a matter of resting on your
laurels, I don’t even care if I have them. I didn’t read too many reviews of—there were reviews of the
books, but I didn’t read too many of them.
I don’t know, I think I’m quite naïve even still. Some of this talk around the school now, I can’t
follow it. I just literally cannot follow it. I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t know what the problems
Steinhoff: It’s possible that there’s—maybe this is not the appropriate metaphor, but there might be a
transition from midwifery to obstetrics.

Arney: That’s for sure. The college is undergoing a kind of standard institutional transmogrification, if
you want to say that. When you can’t believe in what you’re doing, do something that everybody
believes in, or can be made to believe in. Do you know the term “plastic words”?
Steinhoff: Yes.
Arney: From Uwe Poerksen?
Steinhoff: Yes.
Arney: He was a feature in the [Ivan] Illich group. I think he’s still alive. I’ve seen him a few times in
Germany. He’s just a charming elf. [laughter] He’s an elf.
Steinhoff: Beautiful. One thing that’s coming to mind, actually, since we’ve just touched on
institutional transformation that we’re witnessing. I first started teaching in 2013. First came to
Evergreen in 2012. When you started in 1981, the place would have been 10 years old.
One thing that, I think, did signify—if your Chicago books didn’t mean much, from what I’ve
been gathering from these oral histories—is, were you here at the beginning? Or were you here during
the founding year? When did you arrive?
Arney: Yeah. [laughing]
Steinhoff: I’m just curious whether that was something you were aware of?
Arney: Well, yes, but it wasn’t a big deal. The only anecdote I have—and it’s only that—is that in one of
the meetings talking about the MPA program and what I was going to be doing in that, Duke Kuehn
looked over at me and said, “You’re going to have to get used to being a junior faculty.” I think I
probably said something unkind at that point, like, “I didn’t realize.”
I had never really felt anything about my rank at Dartmouth. For better or for use, it is an old
boys’ club, even with these other gendered types around. It’s like if you’re in, you’re in. That, for me,
has always been the notion of a college. I knew enough to know that a college is something that gathers
around the dinner table. And your task is to—with really sharp humor—put other people in their place
in a way that they don’t know what’s happening, but everybody else around the table knows. You’ve
got to be really good, and Duke’s comment was not a good one. It wasn’t one that I could laugh at.
Steinhoff: No, and it reveals—part of the story, the “four noes”—no rank, if that’s part of the story, we
can see how that’s a myth, that there’s a real story.
Arney: That’s basically what I told him. “I thought there were no ranks here.” We got along after that,
but it’s obviously stuck with me as a kind of emblem of something or other.
Steinhoff: Absolutely. You were being checked. You were being checked by a person who perceived
themselves to have authority.

Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: What you were describing earlier about your own indifference or naivete to rank, and then
your reflection just now about the old boy character of your experience with Dartmouth, you mentioned
a college as “that which happens around a table.”
Arney: Around the dinner table, yeah.
Steinhoff: You said dinner table, and that makes me think of, still, that formative seminar at University
of Colorado in that Honors College, where you actually were in the professor’s house.
Arney: At dinnertime.
Steinhoff: At dinnertime, yeah.
Arney: Oh, yeah. I recognize a lot of the stuff that I just absorbed. It just comes out when I get rankled
about things. “Oh, I see what I’m doing.” [laughing] If I’m lucky, I say that.
Steinhoff: Well, Bill, I think we’ve accomplished our goal. It’s 2:00 and where we can start next time, I
think, would be MPA. We can get MP[A?] out of the way.
Arney: Year two?
Steinhoff: Exactly. You’re 31 if it’s ’81. Right?
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: We’ll be able to hear about MPA, hear about everything else, or at least get started on
everything else. You did mention Ilich’s name, and I think we definitely need to start pulling some of
that in. Maybe we could end with Ivan Illich. I’m just reminding us both about that. We’ve got good
stuff on Foucault, we’ve got good stuff on Meadows, and multiple others.
Arney: I’m just starting to do my class for next quarter on Illich, so it’s a good time to—when do you
want to do this?
Steinhoff: I’m going to hit pause on this. Maybe even stop. How about that?
[End part 2 of 2 of Bill Arney on November 22, 2020]


Bill Arney
Interviewed by Eirik Steinhoff
The Evergreen State College oral history project
December 11, 2020
[Begin Part 1 of 2 of Bill Arney on December 11, 2020]
Steinhoff: Today is December 11, 2020, with the second part of our oral history conversation with Bill
Arney. [My name is Eirik Steinhoff.] I think last time we barely got you to Evergreen.
Arney: That’s the way I feel every day. [laughing]
Steinhoff: You’re still arriving. Let me see if I can remember, and then maybe you can build on what I
remember, or fail to remember, and we can take it from there. You were hired from Dartmouth as a
professor of statistics for the MPA program.
Arney: No, I’m a member of the faculty. Still am, and I’m proudly so.
Steinhoff: Thank you, member of the faculty, but they wanted you to teach in MPA.
Arney: That’s correct. It was for a job that was in the program.
Steinhoff: Got it. This was ’81-’82. That was that school year.
Arney: Right.
Steinhoff: But if I’m remembering correctly, your first year at Evergreen wasn’t in the MPA program.
Arney: That’s correct.
Steinhoff: Health and Human Behavior, a team-taught program.
Arney: Right.
Steinhoff: I think it would be really helpful, as we re-start for the second episode of this conversation—
and I think we touched on this a little bit last time—I would be curious to hear your impressions of
coming to Evergreen, whether it’s in relation to the campus visit or in relation to that first year, those
first two years. I think we got a bit of it down last time, but as just a way of kicking off, I think that might
be an interesting way to build into the second part.
Arney: I have a technical question first. Should I be sitting closer? I notice that most people I talk with
are bigger than I am.
Steinhoff: I think you’re fine. I’ll say this, it looks dignified and distinguished.
Arney: All right. I’m sitting here with the sun coming in from over here, and at one point in my seminar
this quarter, I looked, and I said, “Oh, my gawd, I’m really turning white.” [laughing] I was well
illuminated here.

Steinhoff: Sure. But it must only last for half an hour.
Arney: Yeah, it does do that. It goes away. So, back to several decades ago. Coming here. I’m not sure
what exactly you’re interested in. I knew enough about it not to be terribly surprised. I knew enough
about it, like I told you, from the job at NCHEMS. Everybody knew about Evergreen there, the National
Center for Higher Education Management Systems. So, I had some knowledge of it.
Steinhoff: That was in grad school, right? That was a job you had when you were in grad school.
Arney: That was in graduate school. That was before Dartmouth. After going to Dartmouth, I heard
about it a little bit, but not much. But I got fired from there, and it seemed like right away, I saw an ad
for The Evergreen State College somewhere. I saw this ad and applied. I applied around at other places,
too, but I got this job.
Steinhoff: I hear that. I think what motivates the question, in part, is the first impression. The energy
that comes with first impressions. Of course, you perhaps had a different perspective, in part, because
of that NCHEMS work. Even just what you were able to see from that earlier NCHEMS work, I think,
would be of interest, even if it’s just a sentence or two.
Arney: My biggest memory of the interview was sitting with students who were in the graduate
program. I remember talking about a paper that I had written called “Statistics as a Language.” They
seemed to like it. Did I mention the story about going to my first son’s wedding? A woman came up to
me and said, “Oh, I remember you, father of the groom. I was on the student committee that hired
Steinhoff: You did mention this, yes.
Arney: She was very nice and very generous, surprisingly. But the fact that they put some emphasis on
students being an important part of the hiring process, I was impressed by that. What else? Not a lot
else. People seemed to be pretty nice. I don’t have a real strong feeling or impression or memory of
that first—where the memories start are with teaching in the fall program. Also, I mentioned before
about the MPA program, getting together and being more professorially oriented than the other folks
I’d been meeting around, at least from a member of that group. They had in mind more of a curriculum
than anybody else that I could see. Certainly, the team that I was on didn’t have a curriculum. It was
just like, here we go. Grab on, Bill. [laughing]
Steinhoff: That was a four-faculty team. As I recall, you had done team teaching at Dartmouth. You’d
taught with Donella Meadows. Was it also with Bernie Bergan that you taught together?
Arney: Yeah, it was Bernie Bergan. Bernie and I taught two summers, I think, a class of Sociology of
Medicine. We did it in order to get our book together, Medicine and the Management of Living. That

book came out of that series of lectures. Yeah, I was team teaching and co-authoring, all going on at the
same time.
Bernie later tried to do a summer program when he was writing a book about the Holocaust. It
was his last class because seven weeks into this summer class, he said, “This young thing stood in the
back of the room and says, ‘Dr. Bergan, this Holocaust that you keep talking about, what is that?’”
He said, “Bill, I folded my notes, I went back to my office at the medical school, I made a call to
the college. They sent a boy and a spreadsheet. Made it good for me, good for the college, and I
retired.” [laughing] He got the book out, though, by himself later on, so it wasn’t a complete bad
ending. But it was very funny.
Steinhoff: Absolutely.
Arney: But we taught together, and every Friday, we came to my house and had a wee dram of Glen
Moran and sat around and talked about the next week.
Steinhoff: You had the reflex, the repertoire, the experience of team teaching before you came to
Evergreen, so that wasn’t an unusual element. But like you were saying a moment ago, the memories
really began in the classroom, in the teaching. I’d love to hear some about that. You’ve got this
wonderful document that you wrote for Joli’s (Sandoz) project on your experience on team teaching.
There are really good stories here.
Arney: Do you see it turning white?
Steinhoff: About 50 percent.
Arney: But when you put your bald head down near the screen, you light up a little bit, too, man.
Steinhoff: I know. I was having a meeting with a dean last week at some point, and the sun was going
down, and so the back of the room disappeared, so by the end of our meeting—"I know this is off topic,
but it looks like you’re on the cover of a Queen album.” [laughter]
Arney: Okay, so you want to go back to what? To that first year?
Steinhoff: Anything at all. That coming into Evergreen. There’s already a kind of structure of that first
year in the undergraduate curriculum by comparison with the MPA. I’m not sure how long you lasted in
the MPA, so maybe there’s something there.
Arney: Not long. That team was a great introduction to Evergreen because there was Jim Gouldin, an
architect, and Barbara Cooley was a nurse, and Burt Guttman was writing his biology textbook already
and doing his thing in order to pursue that. But he was the one who said, “Look, Bill, the way we do it
here is if I give a lab, you come to the lab. Do the lab.” I said, “Cool. I can probably learn some biology,
usefully or not. I don’t care. It sounds like fun.”

It was just what I came to understand to be a classic Evergreen thing, a whole year round on a
big theme. I was going to say more or less good colleagues, but more of less involved colleagues. Jim
wasn’t so involved. I think Barbara felt a little bit on the outside because she was actually in the practice
of biology and medicine, and that’s not where Burt was. But even that’s instructive, where you’ve got
team members that feel on the outside, or like they want to be in charge, or something like that. But
that was a good group to learn all that. It was great.
Steinhoff: Because you’re coming from Dartmouth, an Ivy League school, and then you’re coming to
Evergreen, a “Moss League” school, shall we say.
Arney: I’m going to say this, but you may not appreciate it. I don’t care too much for students. If
somebody screws their face a little bit, like Burt would, I’d usually say, “Students require teachers, and
I’m not very good at that, so I don’t like anybody that approaches me as a student. I’d much rather have
somebody approach me as a colleague.” Of course, that became Don’s (Finkel) and my book on collegial
teaching and inviting students in as colleagues.
But that was just my impulse from the beginning, so if you ask me about the students, I have no
idea about the students. I, in fact, have very little memory of the students in that class. I know there
were a lot of them because there were four faculty and 25 per faculty. We had about 100 students in
the class and the labs and all that kind of stuff.
I have, forgive me, literally no memory of any of the particular students from that time. But
that’s not just a memory problem. It’s a kind of philosophical filter, if you will, that I’ve honed over the
years. [laughing]
What else do you want to know about things I don’t think about?
Steinhoff: Here’s maybe one place where the rubber would meet the road, and that is, you’re not giving
grades anymore. You’re writing narrative evaluations. I actually don’t know what that would have been
like before the day and age of computers and copy/paste. But I’m imagining that that may have been a
transition in terms of institutional culture, in terms of your own workflow.
Arney: It did take longer, and the story that goes with that was I was with David Paulsen at some point,
and I said, “I had this dream last night that I took one of these four-page carbon-sheeted student
evaluation forms and I rolled it into my typewriter, and I centered it all up, and I typed A-. And I rolled it
out and signed it.”
David looks at me just nonplussed. He says, “Took you a long time to have that dream.”
[laughter] Then David was one of the first ones to get a word processor and a printer and all that stuff,
and I got one about a year or two after he did. Things started easing up around that time. Here we are

now, where one of my communiques this morning was with the techno crowd so that I can get the
number decoder—what do they call it? Multifactor identification system—so that I could load my
evaluations onto the system. Different times.
Steinhoff: What year would that have been, getting those word processors? Roughly speaking, if you
could guesstimate it.
Arney: Roughly speaking, it was probably ’86 or so. I think it’s actually still under a desk in my office. It
had places for two floppy discs. I wrote the obstetrics book on that, and the statistics book, too. When
the manuscript went to Chicago finally, the editor said, “We’ll get it copyread now.” It just took a long
Finally, I called this guy, Doug Mitchell. He’s now still the head of the Press of Chicago, but he
was sociology editor at the time. I said, “What’s going on with my book?” He said, “Oh, well, mm. How
to say this? The copyeditor said that the I’s on your printout are not acceptable. He can’t read it.” To
which I, the editor, said, ‘That’s nice. What’s going on?’ And the guy said, ‘All this stuff about obstetrics.
I bet you he’s in favor of abortion, too.’” Doug looked at him and said, “Feel better now?” He said,
“Yeah.” Doug is telling me this on the phone. I’m sure it was a little bit longer. But he said, “Yeah.” He
said, “Can you do the editing now?” He said, “Yeah, probably.”
It was those sheets of paper that were this long. I cut the sides off, but it had these funkylooking font. There was only one font at the time. They looked weird and put this guy off. Anyway, that
was a word processor story.
Steinhoff: But that is early, ’86, and I can only imagine how that does change once you can copy/paste
with a narrative evaluation.
Arney: Oh, don’t get me started.
Steinhoff: Okay, so you had a great experience with that first faculty teaching team, and then you’re in
the MPA because that’s what you were hired for. You were saying a moment ago, it sounds like that
was a bit more of a set curriculum.
Arney: It was. There was a statistics thing, and there was a policy thing, and we had specialists in all of
those areas. Yeah, it was a more structured curriculum.
Steinhoff: How long were you in the MPA?
Arney: I can look. I was in it the second year. The third year, I was back in Human Health and Behavior
with Don Finkel and Willie Parson. My fourth year was in the MPA program entirely. My fifth year, I
taught quantitative methods in the MPA with Pete Bohmer and did independent contracts in the fall and


spring. The next year I got a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to write a book. It looks like
I was out of the MPA by that time.
No, I went into the MPA in ’89-’90, it says here, with Lucia Harrison. Then on to the Masters in
Teaching program, which was a real gig there. It was fun.
Steinhoff: Actually, I’m very interested to hear about that year, entering into the ‘90s. But that leave
without pay that we’re looking at here in ’86 to spring of ’87, was that for the obstetrics books? Was
that when you were in England?
Arney: Um. It might have been, although I think that was earlier. I don’t have my bibliography on hand.
Excuse me. I’ll go find the book and look at the copyright.
[Bill leaves and returns 00:21:18 through 00:21:49]
Yeah, the copyright was early ‘80s, so that was not the one. What did I do for that one?
Steinhoff: Did you write the statistics books?
Arney: I think is when I went to . . . yeah, I had a fall and winter leave where I went and went to
Scotland. I think this is where I got the medicine book with Bernie wrapped up, and then got onto the
systems thinking. That’s what I’m remembering.
I think I got a sabbatical leave at Dartmouth—before they fired me—to go to London and write
the obstetrics book.
Steinhoff: Got it, and we did talk about that last time, where the librarian introduced you to the
manhole cover behind her desk or something.
Arney: Exactly. [laughing]
Steinhoff: This is good to have this as a placeholder, which we can maybe circle back to systems
thinking as a thing to touch on.
I’m noticing as we look at this timeline of teaching history that Human Health and Behavior
repeated, but you were the only faculty member that was consistent between the ’81-’82 and then ’83’84.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: Don Finkel and Willie Parson you would have been teaching with.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: I have a perspective from a student who was in that class, namely, Nancy Koppelman.
Arney: Right. She ended up in our book.
Steinhoff: There you go. When I spoke with her a month or so ago, we were just talking through some
of the oral history stuff that she and I are both working on, and I think this idea of sociological

imagination came up. She said, “Oh, you want to hear a story about that?” She told the story of being a
student in this program, reading Foucault, learning about Illich, having herself been in various—I forget
exactly what her work had been. Was she a home health aide? Somehow involved in medical stuff,
hospital stuff, maybe mental health stuff, I’m forgetting right now. But as she was going through the
weeks of the program, she draws in the margin of her notebook a lightbulb. The lightbulb goes off.
Then she’s talking with you in office hours and expressing some of her insights. I think this is her
story. You handed her a book that you had just finished reviewing, and I think your statement was, “I
think you might find this book of interest,” or, “I think you might be ready,” or something like that. I’d
be curious to hear your experience of that program. And you say Nancy shows up in the book. It would
be nice to hear a little bit more.
Arney: Yeah, and in the collegial teaching section of the book, basically the argument at the end of the
book is—and this goes back to the problem of students—students have to renounce the privileges of
being a student if they want to be a colleague. Don and I talked about that.
Anyway, we gave her an early draft of the book to look through and she got to that section, and
she said, “I remember when that happened for me when I gave up being a student.” “Oh, really? What
happened?” She said, “Well, I remember lying awake all night and fretting because I had a question that
I wanted to ask you. I think I was fretting because I knew it was not a student’s question. It was a real
question, so I was really afraid of asking it.” I said, “What did I do?” She said, “You answered it.”
We just put it in the book that way because the implicit statement is I decided that I’m free.
That’s the whole point is that colleagues have to be free with one another. You’re collegial. You’re
sitting around the same dinner table instead of the high table and the plebes out there in British
colleges. That was a big step for her, obviously, but also an interesting anecdote. We put it in the book
then. [laughing]
Finkel and I were sort of playing off and with one another in that program, and Willie was doing
a lot of science. A very thoughtful guy. Terrific team there. That was a good one.
Steinhoff: What kind of science did Parson teach?
Arney: Biology, as far as I remember. I don’t remember a lot of it.
Steinhoff: This was your first time working with Don Finkel. It would be nice to hear a little bit about
that relationship, because you guys were colleagues for several years. You had that first experience in
’83-’84 teaching together. Then you’re back and forth with the MPA. Then you’re teaching the Respect
class, which I do want to hear more about. But then you’re in Classical and Modern, an Integrated


Approach to Education—Finkel, Thompson, Taylor and Nisbet, and you’ve got a story about that as well.
Was it Finkel lecturing on Meno?
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: I’m just curious to hear about that relationship, about that experience. I’m just also happy to
observe that for you, team teaching and writing books sometimes go together. Not always, but you’ve
got a kind of momentum at this point, so I think that would be of interest.
Arney: That was the program where, in the second week of the program, he gave this lecture on Meno.
I sat there starting to frown—I may have told you this—and just scribbling madly in my notebook,
thinking all the time, this is not right. This is not the way to understand Plato.
He was a Harvard guy, but I had one class in college on Plato’s Republic from Ed Miller. We went
through a book a week of The Republic, so I really knew Plato, I thought. [laughing] Cocky enough to
think that I knew Plato. Enough to know that Don was certainly wrong.
We had our faculty seminar and I said, “I’d kind of like to give it a go to say something about
Meno, even though we’re moving on a little bit next week.” They said, “Okay, fine.” I gave my lecture
on Meno. Long story short, these two lectures are in the middle of the book, but they’re not Don’s
lecture and Bill’s lecture, they’re A’s lecture and B’s lecture. The reason for that is as we were getting to
that point in the book in writing, Don brought me his lecture, and literally threw it on my desk and said,
“Make it better.” Perfect.
Finally, in the end, we couldn’t claim Don’s lecture and Bill’s lecture.
Arney: They’re literally in the center of the book, and everything pivots around that experience and
those two lectures. It’s basically a book trying to say there’s lots of ways to fashion and think about
student-teacher relationships, but at Evergreen, we have the chance—and sometimes we take
advantage of it—to do collegial teaching. Collegial teaching is not just to colleagues or three or four or
five but can include the students if they’re willing to go there.
I don’t think we say it in the book, but there’s really no reason for them to do that because
we’ve all been students and we know the privilege of being a student, that you can’t be forced to do
much of anything. But and so, all I can do is dangle an invitation out there. The invitation usually comes
through—fortunately or not—in the form of what they sometimes think of as invasive questions, or
intemperate questions. [laughing] But basically, those kinds of things for me are probes to see if they’re
ready. When they’re ready, cool. Let’s go.
Steinhoff: It makes sense that an originary scene of this collaboration would be Plato, and what you’re
describing is the discursive, the character of the interaction, the character, the quality of the

conversation of asking questions that provoke, but that also invite. It’s not about domination. In fact,
the very opposite.
Arney: Oh, yeah. We go through all the stuff that Socrates uses—belittling people or laughing at them
or a certain eroticism charges the scene and all that kind of stuff. That’s all part of, in my view, good
teaching. I try always to remember that it’s the student who gets the last work, too. There’s this little
guy, Plato, over there writing down whatever he wants to write down. Right?
Steinhoff: The longest narrative evaluation ever.
Arney: Of a faculty member. [laughing]
Steinhoff: Of faculty. Exactly. Also, I really appreciate what you just said a moment ago about how, at
Evergreen, there’s an opportunity to do things differently.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: I remember the first time you and I had a conversation—this was years ago—we’d just
moved here, and you came over to our house and we had dinner together. You told me about this. It
was Miranda and you and I, and I remember thinking, that’s really interesting, and that’s great for
somebody’s who’s got tenure and who’s getting income from student tuition. What was really on my
mind at that time, I’d just received my PhD and I had a big pile of debt. I felt provoked, I would say, by
the thesis, but also invited it. It hasn’t left my head since, to be honest, Bill. It’s been on my mind
because I hadn’t been teaching at Evergreen at that point. This would have been probably winter 2013
is my guess, because I started teaching in fall of 2013.
But the way it’s shown up for me more recently—slightly different—is I start to rankle when
faculty colleagues talk about “my” student. “My” student. The possessive. And I’ve gone out of my way
for probably 10 years to not use that grammar to talk about students I’ve worked with or someone that
was in a class I taught. Circumlocutions.
The other place it’s come up, is in relation to prison stuff. I’ve done a bunch of teaching in
prisons, and for probably 15, 20 years now, there’s been a fairly successful movement—initiated by
prisoners—asking that we not use the word “inmate.” “Please don’t use this word ‘inmate’ because it
has a whole set of connotations. Foucault would be able to teach us more about that.’” It’s a
euphemism that’s preferred, “incarcerated individual.”
Arney: Too many syllables. [laughing]
Steinhoff: You run into some issues there, right. But I remember having a thought in conversation with
somebody who’s experienced being locked up, to use monosyllabics, and just thinking through this idea
of if “inmates” is verboten, why isn’t “students” verboten as well? Or could you imagine in 25 years, we

look back and say, “My gawd, can you believe we were still using this word ‘students’? Knowing what
we know about the potential for a liberation education, for freedom, education as a practice for
freedom?” But I really appreciate what you’re saying as well about there’s no requirement that the
students accept the invitation.
Arney: Yeah. They’re free. You’re free to put on whatever change you like and enjoy our life. Just
don’t rattle around me.
Steinhoff: Maybe this is a place where I could ask about Ilich, because Deschooling [Society] comes out
in ’72, as I recall, right around the time of Evergreen showing up on the landscape. Illich drops that
incredible provocation. I wonder whether Illich was part of your constellation before you came to
Evergreen. I’m curious to hear about coming into that relationship.
Arney: His work was, certainly, but I didn’t know the extent of the work. I certainly didn’t know the
guy. But I think it was important. It wasn’t of cardinal importance, certainly because I didn’t understand
the depth of what he was doing, or what he would come to do.
A month of two before Deschooling came out, he asked the Saturday Evening Post if he could
write a rebuttal to Deschooling. He said something like, “I was barking up the wrong tree.” I think that
was part of the title. Maybe it was “After Deschooling.” I don’t know. Oh, yeah, it was “After
Deschooling, What?” I think is the way it came out in the Saturday Evening Post. He said later on that
with Deschooling, he had been barking up the wrong tree. The part he was quite happy with was the
Rebirth of Epimethean Man, the epilogue, basically.
A number of people have called that his standpoint. This place here. A number of people have
called that chapter his standpoint. It’s basically about hope, the end of the book. He wanted to reserve
hopefulness, even though he might renounce a bit of the stridency of his analysis. But the form of the
analysis spilled over into all the other institutions that he took on, too. But he never lost the hope part.
I think I was ready to hear that just because my sons of students. Being a student is hopeless.
All you can do is look for a better one, a better teacher, next time. That’s all you can do. You can’t be
hopeful about anything. It doesn’t occur to you. But hope and freedom, they cozy up to one another
pretty well.
Steinhoff: Yeah. I think that piece you’re talking about in the Saturday Evening Post is the prelude for
Tools for Conviviality.
Arney: Exactly. That’s right.
Steinhoff: That book is ’74 or ’75, I think. Then it just cascades. Like you’re saying, he really does start
moving through the institutions.

Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: This was in the air for you. It was, as you were saying, not front and center, not a cardinal
point, but it was informing.
Arney: Right.
Steinhoff: And offering a texture. When did you begin your own relationship with him? When would
that have started?
Arney: It was the year that the systems book came out, in the Experts in the Age of Systems. I think that
was ’86 or something. Let me go look that one up.
Steinhoff: Why not?
Arney: There’s no reason you should believe me, but I had it right in my mind. ’86 was when that book
came out. Do you want the story of meeting him or getting hooked up with him personally?
Steinhoff: Yeah, I think that would be helpful.
Arney: It’s pretty easy. My first wife and I were at home, and she answered the phone and talked to
somebody. She said, “Ivan Illich is on the phone for you.” [laughing] I said, “Hello?” the best I could.
He said, “Dr. Arney, may I call you Bill? There’s no way you can know this, but you’re an influence on a
number of us here. We would like to invite you to our house to give us a lecture on whatever you’re
working on.” I said, “Fine. Where is your house?” [laughing] He said, “Oh, right now, I’m at Penn State.
I divide my time between Penn and Penn State, but we would like you to lecture at the house on Forest
Avenue in Penn State College.”
I had no idea what this meant. He did not know about the systems book. He invited me, I’m
quite sure, because Barbara Duden knew my book. Barbara was and is a feminist scholar in Germany
and had written on the history of childbirth in German. I think she’s still kicking and doing some of that
still. She knew the obstetrics book, and then, I think, got into the Medicine and Management of Living,
and talked Ivan into giving me the call.
Unbeknownst to me, this was a regular thing for him at this part of his life. There was a small
core group of five or six people that traveled with him when they could. Then they would set up a series
of seminars at whatever house they were in, and invite whomever they wanted to invite, and just carry
on for four, five, six days. It was terrific.
I went there and he said, “whatever you’re working on,” and I was working on this book on the
guys who built the atomic bomb. “Emblematic” is not strong enough. They were icons of the systems
age and representatives of systems thinkers—not thinkers but people who were trapped in systems.
Illich was not there for my lecture. He was teaching at Penn that night.

But I lectured to this table of 20-some people. I went down to breakfast the next morning and
he came down and he said, “I heard about your lecture. It was great.” Then we started talking. At one
point, I said, “Could you pass me the milk?” This has never happened to me before, but he picked up
the milk, looked at me kind of this way, smiled, and handed it to me. I’ve never felt a kind of mystical
connection with anybody more than in the moment of the passing of that pitcher. [laughing] It was like,
okay, you’re going to fall in love with me, too? He was quite a presence.
The long story short is I got invited to a number of different seminars—I’ve never counted them
up—over the next several years in Germany, and Oldenburg, Mexico, and State College quite a few
times. It was quite funny. The book that I did called Thoughts Out of School, when I sent it into the
editor, the address was like 108 Foster Avenue, State College, Pennsylvania. I called her up and I said,
“Is this Illich’s house?” “Oh, yes. You’re not the first to ask.” She wasn’t associated with Illich, but they
had bought the house after he decamped mostly to Germany.
Steinhoff: That’s incredible.
Arney: Yeah, so weird kinds of connections.
Steinhoff: He wrote a forward or a preface to the systems book.
Arney: Yeah, to the Experts [in the Age of Systems] book. He talked about systems, especially with
David Cayley, when he couldn’t write a book near the end of his life because he was in such pain. But
David Cayley interviewed him for a big project, and he talked in there about his turn toward systems
thinking. It was going on before I met him. I claim no responsibility for educating him. He was thinking
about him before I got there. I think I just gave him some little examples of how to think about what it
means to be part of a system.
Steinhoff: Wonderful. This would have been mid-to-late ‘80s?
Arney: Yeah, ’86 is when the book came out. The University of New Mexico Press published it, I think,
because it was about the atomic bomb, and New Mexico is the place that they turned it partly to glass
down there.
Steinhoff: Was his preface to a reprint?
Arney: No, I hadn’t published it yet.
Steinhoff: Got it.
Arney: Just one time I went there, and I said, “Would you mind writing a preface?” I think I told you, he
just grabbed a couple of guys and went upstairs and came down an hour later and had it.
Steinhoff: Amazing. Bill, I’m looking at our time, and I’m remembering our plan of taking a nice 10minute break about every hour. Does this seem like a place to pause?

Arney: It’s fine with me.
Steinhoff: Sounds great. Why don’t we come back at eight minutes after 1:00? That would give us 10 ½
Arney: Can do.
Steinhoff: Great. See you in a sec.
[End Part 1 of 2 of Bill Arney on December 11, 2020, at 00:51:51]
[Begin Part 2 of 2 of Bill Arney on December 11, 2020, at 00:51:55]
Arney: I’ve been waiting for you to come to this place.
Steinhoff: We found each other. What’s striking me is the story you just told, about Illich, and the fact
that where the exchange occurred, or the encounter, wasn’t on campus, but rather in the house. His
own peripatetic character of engagement, of instruction. But the idea of seminar happening at that
dinner table, it’s reminding me of your experience in college.
Arney: Oh, yeah.
Steinhoff: I’m forgetting his name, but I’ve got it here somewhere.
Arney: Walter Weir.
Steinhoff: That seminar on Greek and Roman history material, and how he gave you a ride out to his
Arney: Yeah, when Illich invited me, he said, “We have no money to pay your way to get here, but if you
tell your university, they will pay your way.” [laughing]
It was a great association, I was thinking over the break. It was quite amazing. One of the first
things that Pam and I did together was go to Jerry Brown’s house in Oakland when he was—no, he
wasn’t in Oakland, he was in Pacific Heights when we got there—thinking about running for mayor of
Illich sent me and a woman from Germany and somebody else to talk to him about his third
presidential bid and his healthcare policy. We got there, and he owned an old firehouse in Pacific
Heights and it was outfitted in a beautiful house way. He said, “You two stay in our bed. I’m going to go
sleep with my girlfriend, Anne,” who turned out to be the first lady of California and is still his wife.


Jerry just abandoned his house. He never talked about health policy at all in the three or four
days that we were there. It was mostly about yoga and running, and whether the two mixed, and how
much you have to do.
Steinhoff: This was when he ran for governor the first time?
Arney: The first time. Later, he became mayor and then governor again, I guess. He was a very good
friend of Ivan’s. When he moved to Oakland, he bought a warehouse, and outfitted it with 30 dorm
rooms for seminars, and literally a table, the Oakland table. I think it was about as big as my house here.
I think it was 16 or so feet in diameter. A round table.
Whenever you had a seminar at this house, Lee Hoynoski would give Latin lessons at 6:00 a.m.
Jerry would get on phone calls to NPR and places like that a while. Eventually, we’d have seminars. He
also had a room that was a yoga studio that fit 200 people. But in one corner of it was Illich’s room. It
was on the second floor and two stories high. A little thing. That was the inner sanctum of the whole
house. That’s where he would say Mass, for those that were inclined, at 4:00 in the morning. And
smoke his opium for the difficulties with his jaw.
Steinhoff: Yes, the tumor that he did not seek treatment for.
Arney: Right. He died without a diagnosis, which was one of his demands in a paper, New Perspectives
Quarterly, or something like that. “The Right to Die Without a Diagnosis.” [laughing]
Steinhoff: Just incredible. What strikes me is what a different era, what you’re describing, and yet,
Jerry was Governor very recently, and Illich himself didn’t die that long ago.
Arney: Yeah, 2002, December.
Steinhoff: You ended up staying in quite close relation—you were obviously separated by geography,
but from ’86 to 2002, it sounds like that was a fairly close relationship.
Arney: It was a big part of my life. It’s quite amazing. One of the funniest stories. I was at Penn State,
and somebody picked up the phone, came back to the dinner table, and said, “Ivan, you have a phone
call from India.” He goes off and starts chatting in whatever dialect this guy required, and you hear him
bang down the phone and he comes back in, and he says, “That idiot. He’s called from India to tell me
that the next time I’m in India, he can indeed make an opium connection for me. He is doing this over
transatlantic cables, which are always monitored!” blah blah blah blah blah


The end of that story occurred nine or 10 months later where he was coming through Heathrow
Airport from India. He had a suitcase that went through the screener and this Indian guy, who was the
London baggage security checker, says, “May I open your bag? You have no knives, do you?” Ivan says,
“No, it’s just my opium pipe.” The guy said, “Oh, okay.” Then he looks at his tag and sees “Ivan Illich”
and he says, “Are you the Ivan Illich?” Ivan says, “Yes, I am. That’s my opium pipe in there, and there
are no knives.” “Would you mind if I open it up?” “No.”
Opens it up, takes the pipe out, starts showing it around to all the other Indians in Heathrow.
“Look at this beautiful pipe. Antique from my province in India. My friend, Ivan Illich, it’s his pipe. Isn’t
this beautiful?” [laughing] Then he says, “Thank you very much, Dr. Illich. Please, be on your way. Go
with God,” or whatever the Indian thing was. That was quite funny.
When we stayed then in Jerry’s house in Oakland, Ivan would smoke his opium in that tower
room, and put the foil in the bottom drawer of his dresser. A couple of us were with him one time and
we said, “What is that about?” He just said, “They check the mayor’s garbage for drug residue,” so he
had to ball up the foil and dump it in the river or something. I don’t know what he did with it.
[laughing] It was just crazy the way he got along.
Steinhoff: At one point I remember you telling me a story about—there’s two things I’m remembering.
One was what he had to say about Evergreen. I’m not remembering the details. The other thing I’m
thinking about is that you brought some of your Evergreen colleagues into this circle as well.
Arney: Yeah, for the seminar on gender, it was. I don’t know what he said about Evergreen. I don’t
have any strong memory of it.
Steinhoff: It may have been something about refuseniks. I think you sent it in an e-mail. I can dig it up.
Arney: Okay. I’ll agree with whatever you find [laughing] or make up. I don’t care. When he organized
a seminar on gender—do you know a little bit of the history of the book Gender?
Steinhoff: Yes, but give a sentence or two of context.
Arney: He wrote this book, Gender, and basically, he wrote a small paper—like he usually did, kind of,
here’s what the book is about—called “The Sad Demise of Gender.” You can imagine the kind of
reaction that that would gather in the academy, which is organizing itself at the time around the study
of gender. So, he writes “The Sad Demise of Gender,” and he writes this book that has 124 footnotes in


it. Each footnote was designed to be the basis of a PhD dissertation. At last count, there were two that
were done. Two different footnotes got PhD’d.
We had this seminar and Jutta Mason—another story. She is married to David Cayley, so
they’ve been very close with Ivan forever. She took the book, Gender, xeroxed it—it’s a little, tiny
book—she xeroxed the whole thing, cut out all the footnotes, and reduced the 124 pages of Gender
down to 60. She put them all together and xeroxed a footnote-less version for the participants in the
seminar, so that was our introduction to Gender.
Don Finkel came, and Rita Pougiales came to that table. Susie Strasser was there representing
the capital G Gender side of things. She was welcomed, and she was very smart, of course, and had
done all the work on Gender. She was not that far off from Ivan’s ideas about women not just being
people, but that the world needs this—genders—in one way or another because you’ve got to keep
things going.
I still remember Jean Robert, Swiss architect. I don’t keep up with these deaths very well, but
he’s in the atrium of death, I think, down in Mexico right now. But he did a beautiful, beautiful talk
about Hermes and Hestia at this thing. He said, “This is the only pair in the Greek pantheon that are
brother and sister, so there’s no question about them mixing, so to speak. [laughing] They form a
house, this gender pair.”
You need both in order to have a house. Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and Jean Robert
would say, “The smo-o-o-o-ke.” It was great. He played his accent whenever he could. “The smo-o-o-oke coming out of the chimney. This is the center of the house. But you know Hermes. He flits all
around. He circles everywhere. In fact, he defines the circle at which you bury the dead from this
village, this house. So, smo-o-o-ke and the guy running around. You need both to define a home.”
People that are in favor of gender, they don’t want to hear complementarity and things like
that. To my way of thinking, that’s kind of a major split in this regard; that Illich thought that life was
built out of complementarities in important ways.
Steinhoff: That was a seminar that your colleagues participated in at Penn State.
Arney: Yes.
Steinhoff: Did he ever come to Evergreen?


Arney: No, he had no reason to, unless he was on his way to Japan or somewhere. Lee Hoynoski came.
He did a couple of lectures in some of my classes. He was terrific. Classic old guy.
Steinhoff: What would those lectures have been on?
Arney: Too bad you asked me. What did he talk about? I remember one talk where he demonstrated
how to use an Indian toilet. [laughing] I think it was on fitness, that wherever you are, you have to fit.
You have to become fit, and you have to be fitting for the place. He was just playing with the word. I
think you’re seeing it, if I’m judging by your face correctly. Once you start playing with that kind of a
word, you can gain a realization that fitness talk does not convey. “Of course, we’d all like to be fit. No,
it’s not the point. Let me show you what it takes to crap in an Indian crapper.” And Lee demonstrated it
on the floor of the lecture hall. [laughing] It was a lecture hall at the time, but it was one of those big
Steinhoff: Amazing.
Arney: He would do things like that.
Steinhoff: I’m glad I asked.
Arney: I think it’s really important to laugh at a lot of the stuff, because if you start taking it seriously,
you can get yourself in a world of trouble.
Steinhoff: Yes.
Arney: The thing that I wrote you this morning about humor, George Harrison humor, first and last
resort. I think it’s important to be able to listen and laugh at what you’re actually hearing and not
wanting to hear and so on and so on. Call it learning.
Steinhoff: Absolutely.
Arney: That’s what I would do.
Steinhoff: I think it’s Tom Stoppard who says, “Laughter is the sound of comprehension.”
Arney: There you go. Right.
Steinhoff: I’m sitting here thinking, where am I going to lead us next? I want to think about fitness, I
want to think about squatting, I want to think left and right hand, I want to think complementarity. But


I’m actually going to pull on the Jerry Brown thread and talk about presidents. Dan Evans would have
been the President when you arrived.
Arney: That’s right. The first thing out of his mouth at the convocation was, “Well, there’s another Bill
in the House to close Evergreen down, but this one I think we’re going to have to take a little bit more
seriously because there’s a few Democrats involved.” [laughter] That was my first meeting at
Steinhoff: Wow.
Arney: Yeah, the first words out of the President’s mouth.
Steinhoff: He would have stuck around until ’83 or ’84.
Arney: Till he got appointed to the Senate, yeah.
Steinhoff: He becomes the Senator replacing, who is it? Scoop Jackson.
Arney: Jackson.
Steinhoff: Then in comes Joe Olander. I notice on your biographical form here that you were the
Faculty Chair, and you say, “I chaired the faculty in Olander’s final year,” which I take is supposed to
mean something, but what does that actually mean?
Arney: He got kicked out.
Steinhoff: I know that, but I’m curious for you experience. How did you even become Faculty Chair?
That would have been ’90 or so, right?
Arney: Yeah. I don’t remember exactly when it was.
Steinhoff: Roughly ’90.
Arney: I became Faculty Chair just by getting elected. I hung around with Finkel and York Wong and a
few people that were older and had some clout, and they said, “Why don’t you just run for Faculty
Chair?” So, I did, and got it. There was not too much to it.
Steinhoff: What did that process involve, being Faculty Chair? Agenda Committee?
Arney: Yeah, Agenda Committee, and figuring out how to present things to the faculty, and what to do
with them.

Steinhoff: With Olander, what was the story?
Arney: What do you mean, what was the story? He was just kind of a weird guy. He’s a classic
politician. He nominated me for academic deanships whenever he could. It was obvious to me, even at
the time, just to show me that he cared, something like that. It was a classic political move. We’re
seeing it all the time now. People looking for pardons. I wasn’t looking for a pardon, so I didn’t have to
take any of those trips to try to be a dean somewhere.
I did run for the dean’s position one time and David Marr succeeded in getting it, thank
goodness. He was very good at it. He was the last dean to keep office hours, meaning he would lock his
door and read. I don’t think they do that anymore. His final year was just this last year here. He finally
got the boot.
Steinhoff: He was kind of run out, right?
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: People discovered that he misrepresented some of his accomplishments on his c.v.
Arney: Yeah. Craig Carlson got the dope on that and revealed it. One of the Trustees had a bunch of
papers in the back of her car, which happened to catch on fire. Not the car but the papers. [laughing] I
am very happy not to know anything more.
Steinhoff: That you label it as “Faculty Chair,” not according to ’89-’90, but instead, Olander’s final year,
I infer that those were some spicy meetings, or they were meetings that had energy above average.
Arney: There were meetings that were kind of dopey. At one point, he borrowed some monks’ outfits
from Saint Martin’s. He dressed up as the friar, and he had me and other people on the Agenda
Committee walk in with these monks’ outfits on. It was crazy, but it turns out, he probably was, too.
Steinhoff: I guess I wanted to ask. It was a noteworthy notation on your form. At least I got the monk’s
outfit out of it. I know there’s a cloud over his name, but he also was the person that got the MiT going.
Arney: Yeah, he was, because basically, “We can get money from the Legislature if we do this, and do it
right away, and be first.” That’s what happened. I was part of that group to start the MiT program. It
included—I don’t think I’ve told you this—he gave us—the four-faculty team—money to go on a retreat.


“Go to Seattle and sit around and talk about what you want to walk about, get the act together here,
bring it back.”
Gail Tremblay was on the team, and we were all fretting about the rules that teaching programs
had to follow in the state. There were four or five pages of stuff that you have to do, or the students
have to learn, this kind of thing. That’s where we got hung up. Somehow, somebody got us some
money and sent us to a hotel in Seattle for three or four days.
About the third day, Gail Tremblay is sitting there, and she’s got this big grin on her face, as only
she could do, and she said, “I think it’s probably going to take us eight weeks to complete all these
requirements. The rest of the time is ours.” [laughing] We said, “Groovy.” Whatever we were saying in
those days. “Great. Let’s do that.” So, she got us out or our tailspin and we got on with the program.
Steinhoff: You did that when?
Arney: Right, in ’90 and ’91.
Steinhoff: That’s the prelude to the teaching that leads to the pedagogy book in ’92-’93.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: Part of what I’m observing here is your own relationship to these categories, these systems,
these professional formations.
Arney: Right.
Steinhoff: Also, of course, public administration. There are all these different taxonomies that are
underway, and if you guys are trying to figure out how to do a master’s in teaching that maintains the
Evergreen spirit, while also fulfilling State requirements, you’re in that zone of, what is a student? What
is a teacher? What is a student who’s going to become a teacher, even if you are starting to develop a
framework that refuses those categories altogether?
Arney: Right, and a big part of that, and partly where the book came from, was we all had to go out and
observe student teaching, and comment on the student teaching. That book is just a gathering of essays
from students and faculty colleagues, a few by me. But there’s an untrivial number of students’ work in


It’s called “Thoughts Out of School.” My point was I have to get out of school in order to be able
to think. [laughing] And you should try that, too, I suppose, if you wanted to turn it into a song. I think
it’s a nice collection.
Steinhoff: Yes, it is.
Arney: Don commented on some stuff that I had done in there, too. It was a nice collection.
Steinhoff: I hadn’t realized the Masters in Teaching piece. That emerged from reading your piece for
Joli’s project, and then seeing it on your list of courses here.
Arney: It was a fabulous group with Rita and Gail and Stephanie.
Steinhoff: Oh, and this is actually reminding me that we’d skipped over this earlier program with
Marilyn Frasca and York Wong and Carol Minugh called Respect, because that would have been when
you were still doing the back and forth between MPA—no, I think that was maybe on your way out? No,
no, because you did MPA again in ’89-’90. I’d be curious to hear about that program.
Arney: That program was the Native American Studies Program for that year.
Steinhoff: Ah-h-h.
Arney: With this heavily Native American faculty of York Wong, Asian guy, Marilyn Frasca, white artist,
and Carol Minugh didn’t join this team until the spring quarter. She was the only Native faculty on the
Steinhoff: How did that work?
Arney: Well, how did it get started is the good question. Why did that happen? It couldn’t happen
today. I think Craig Carlson was involved in it behind the scenes. He never told me, and I never asked.
Literally, I was talking the hallway of Lab One sometime or other, and David Whitener, who was the
head of the Native American Studies Program at the time, their offices were all down there, and Craig’s
office was the same hallway. I think he had the ear of most of those folks.
David stopped me in the hallway, and he said, “We would like you to teach in the Native
American Studies Program in Respect this fall year. Would you like to do that?” I said, “Always say
thank you. Thanks very much. Would love to do that.” He said, “Okay, so your teammates will be York
and Marilyn. Good luck.” That was it. A very unusual iteration of the Native American Program. What
else are you going to call it? Right? Respect, when something starts that way.

The end of the conversation happened a few days later, too. I saw David and I said, “I want to
thank you again for the invitation, but I’m not sure that you know what I do.” He got this big grin on his
face, and he said, “We know you’ll do your best.” I said, “I will. Thank you.” That was it. Welcome to
the team, to do good work.
Steinhoff: That’s respect right there.
Arney: That’s respect.
Steinhoff: It does raise the question: what were you referring to when you said, “I’m not sure you know
what I do”? What was the referent?
Arney: Sociology. I don’t know. Guys that built the atomic bomb. Statistics. It seems like in the
academy a conventional enough question. Fortunately, I was not talking to a conventional enough guy.
I didn’t have to get into any of that stuff, like you’re asking me to do here. [laughter]
Steinhoff: Yes. But even what you’ve offered as an answer, I think when we were talking last time, we
established that you more or less stopped teaching statistics at a certain point. That was no longer a
part or your—it’s certainly not something you’re doing now.
Arney: I was actually thinking about that today. To read the newspapers, you’ve got to have a pretty
good understanding of statistics, so I think I’m going to be talking about that with Illich and company.
That’s next quarter.
Steinhoff: Great. I had to do that when I was teaching in the Gateways program, which, Carol Minugh
started in 1996. But the subtitle for the year that I taught it was Critical Literacy and Critical Numeracy.
Because when you start reading the literature on mass incarceration, you start seeing that there’s this
figure called the incarceration rate. It’s X per 100,000, and in order to compare different countries,
different states, etc., you need to have an understanding of how that measure is established. It wasn’t
statistics, by any means, but it was a kind of introduction to statistical reasoning, in my own way. I
actually had students doing probably 30 or 40 percent of it because a few of them had more experience
than I did. That same number now comes up with rates of infection with X per 100,000, with the
Arney: There was an interesting article yesterday. I’m not sure I’ve fully grasped it yet, but the headline
was that vaccine is a firehose.


Steinhoff: Yes.
Arney: The question is, if you’ve got all these infections, you need a really big firehose to have any
effect. Had you started some kind of response to the pandemic earlier, you wouldn’t need such a big
firehose. It’s the firehose that puts things into perspective, but it’s a basic statistical problem of
coverage, in a sense, or responsiveness to a phenomenon. One of the editorialists in the New York
Times was talking about that. Quite good, but you can imagine that he worked hard to make it so that
even I could understand it. You’ve got to have that nowadays. You need statistics, I think, in order to be
able to live without them, and to live together.
Steinhoff: Beautifully put. Because otherwise, we’re at the mercy of them.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: Or at the mercy that’s been established according to—this is a refrain that came up at a
panel presentation in the prison at Shelton that was put on by the Black Prisoners Caucus probably three
or four years ago. I brought a group of students. It was not open to the public, but by invitation, as it
were. Huge crowd of people in the visiting room. Just to use a statistic, 70 to 75 percent of the 10
presenters each said, “I’m telling my story about how I got into this situation that I’m in because I don’t
want somebody else to just become another statistic.” It had a kind of powerful resonance in that
Yeah, I think, with the pandemic, that really illuminates it. But I remember talking with students
about the weather forecast. What does it mean when the announcer says, “Fifty percent chance of rain
tomorrow”? We couldn’t come to a consensus. I did an actual quiz, and the responses were across the
board. It will rain in half the area. What I realized I needed to do was ask, “Are you going to bring your
raincoat?” Rather than what does it mean, it’s what’s your action?
Arney: There you go. How are you going to live? There’s a woman also in Bremen. Barbara Duden
lives in Bremen, Germany. Cilia Simerski just a few blocks away. Cilia and Barbara teamed up. Cilia was
the prime mover on the whole thing. They wrote a book on risk. It was all about perinatal risk. I got
involved in this because of my work with the perinatal program, but I was not involved at all in the
substance of the matter.
They basically said that all of this genetic stuff that’s going on now around pregnancy is a
method for training women to think of themselves in terms of risk. Barbara is the most voluble about

this, but she said, “When you’re expecting, you’re not expecting risk. You’re expecting a baby, and
there’s no way to get past that risk profile approach to having a child, bearing a child, except to see
what’s going on in all of these risk counseling sessions.”
That’s what they do is they go into a lot of these risk counseling sessions and see how these
women are talked to, and how it is that they almost always get out of there dumb. Can’t speak about
it—in part because they maybe don’t want to understand it, or there’s some sort of reflex, like, this is
not my life.
In Germany, Barbara wrote a long thing about the kinderpass in Germany. It’s literally a
passport that you get when your child is born, and in which they start plotting on graphs the growth
curve, and all the tests, and the this, and the that. You keep turning these pages, and you have to have
this kinderpass, of course, to get into school, to get into any programs, and that kind of stuff. Basically,
they mounted an attack on statistics and living.
My first book, the one on obstetrics, was about the fetal monitor and the way it changed
pregnancy. It was Foucault. The structure of power around the pregnancy changed. Power did not
reside in the doctor. Of course, it didn’t reside with the woman, but it resided in the monitor. The
monitor disciplined both parties.
The thing that I found out that sealed the deal was that when anything went wrong in an
obstectrical situation after the monitor was there, the first thing a lawyer did was subpoena the tape—
the monitor’s tape—that it was producing, because it showed all of the contractions, the fetal heart
rate, and it showed—because they had to do this—they had to write on there any time that they made
an intervention in the pregnancy. Where in the timeline, and where in relationship to these other two
big things, did they intervene? How did they intervene? And so on. Lawyers didn’t even want to talk to
the people. They just wanted the tape. Just wanted the records.
We’re in a weird time. We’re very much in a weird time.
Steinhoff: I’m glad you mentioned the Foucault because it’s been also the power of the norm. The
statistic produces a norm that actually doesn’t exist.
Arney: It exists, but in the minds of those people who know about norms and things.
Steinhoff: Exactly. It’s an artifact of the system, of the structure. My version of this in the last two
years, I ask students, “Hey, have you ever been in a car that has a broken speedometer?” It’s

astonishing the number of students that will raise their hand. Actually, every single time I’ve asked that
question, there’s always been a student who could tell me about it. Typically, it’s “My dad had a
motorcycle,” or, “My mom had this old, beat-up car.” Part of it’s indicating the class status of our
students. People who have a lot of wealth don’t have this experience. Although I have had this
experience, I think because mice had been chewing on our electrical system.
I have students tell the story. We talk through the experience of being in a car without a
speedometer. The question is, “How do you know how fast you’re going?” Or “How do you know how
to regulate your speed?”
The punchline is to think about learning without grades. How do you evaluate your own growth
as an individual in terms of what you know, in terms of what you can do, in the absence of grades? And
in true Evergreen, I’m dyed in the wool in the Peter Elbow style of writing in our notebooks. We’re
writing through all this stuff as well, so everybody’s got their own tape, as it were, their own transcript
of the experience of thinking through this. That’s my introduction to narrative evaluations right there.
Arney: That’s great. Yeah, got to start living sometime, even in school.
Steinhoff: Or feeling the sensation of speed in your body in the car. For me, that was the index was
that I was going too fast because I was taking curves too fast. I was going to go off a cliff if I wasn’t
paying attention.
Arney: I was thinking about our Tesla, which has no speedometer. It has a GPS in it. I can sit in my desk
here and watch my wife speeding on the way home past the airport. [laughing] The funny part about
that—it was not exactly funny at the time—was one of the times I was doing that, not too long ago,
when the car got to the top of the hill up here where I constantly warn her that you have to slow down
because there’s sometimes people on the other side of the hill walking the dog and such.
At that point, the car turned black on my phone and stopped. I thought, now she’s gone and
done it. I was on my way out the door when she pulled up the driveway. It turned out that the
whatever it is did not register the car moving on this side of the hill. [laughing] The net, right? She got
lost in the net. But a very strange phenomenon that we now rely on—just these things—to tell us how
fast we’re going.
Steinhoff: Yep, we outsource.


Arney: Of course, it needs to know how fast it’s going so that it knows when to change lanes for you,
too. The Tesla.
Steinhoff: It’s a totally next-level system, there’s no question about it.
Arney: Yeah, it’s right up there. It’s very strange.
Steinhoff: Bill, I’m wondering, do you have any more books in you?
Arney: No, I don’t think so. Too hard. I don’t have compelling interests right now. I’m still more or less
enjoying teaching. I don’t know how long that will last.
Steinhoff: There’s a wonderful shape, though, as well as you now turn to winter quarter and are
bringing Illich as the central focus.
Arney: Oh, yeah.
Steinhoff: There’s something quite—I was so thrilled to see that in the course catalog.
Arney: Yeah, and it’s good to keep me alive, too. I’ve been running stuff out of my computer. Most of
his stuff is available in the ether somewhere, so I’ve been collecting all this stuff, and shuffling it around
my desk.
Then yesterday, this place at State College—the International Journal of Illich Studies, I think is
what it’s called—arrives on my screen, a new issue of this. They’ve been out of business for two or
three years. Here I am trying to get my act together for the next quarter, and they pile on eight new
papers that are all pretty good. [laughing] I’ve got to keep going, and it actually is kind of fun to keep
going. See what some of these names that I’ve known are doing nowadays [unintelligible 01:40:17],
how I should be thinking about things.
Steinhoff: It feels to me very like an Illich moment.
Arney: Oh, yeah.
Steinhoff: The canvas feels like it’s wide open. I was reading Tools for Conviviality at the beginning of
the pandemic because it just happened to be on the shelf in the place that we were staying in San
Francisco, which is where we were. The way in which it changed my understanding of so much of what
we do, it’s difficult for me to describe.


I think we’ve corresponded a little bit about this, but his account of how institutions provide
really great value to a certain point. Once that threshold gets crossed, the inverse occurs. He was
specifically talking about barefoot doctors in China. That’s the first key example in Tools is the medical
system. I was starting to think actively about contact tracing, and trying to figure out, how does that
work in our day and age? Realizing that we don’t have that layer of infrastructure, of community health,
community medicine, people who trust each other, which I know is a key word for you as well.
Arney: Yeah.
Steinhoff: And what we’re going to do for contact tracing is we’ll just outsource it to this.
Arney: You’ve got your contact tracer on, haven’t you?
Steinhoff: Exactly.
Arney: On the phone?
Steinhoff: Not yet.
Arney: I’m serious. It’s a serious question.
Steinhoff: I know, I don’t have it yet.
Arney: You don’t have it? Oh! I never go past anybody. I just sit here, I go to the bakery and get some
stuff, and come home. But I did turn it on right away. I think those are going to be helpful. And I’m
convinced that they’re not invasive. Washington just started this contract tracing program last week
and it’s all on your phone.
Steinhoff: No, this phone is basically like a toaster oven. It doesn’t connect to [unintelligible 01:42:54].
It only works at home, basically. I’m about to get a new phone, and I’ll update that one.
Arney: Yeah, my son got me an iPhone.
Steinhoff: There we go. I really appreciated the note that you sent this morning with reference to
music and to soundtracks, because I think that is actually non-trivial. You may have noticed Eric Stein
has started a podcast that he’s hoping to continue. It came out in one of these newsletters from the
Learning and Teaching Comments. I think the most recent one was a conversation that he did. It’s the
only one he’s done. Was it Russ Fox? I think that’s who it was. He said there’s a conversation with him.


But for a podcast, you need to have some sweet tunes, of course. And there becomes a
licensing issue. Do you really want to have John Denver on your podcast? You’re going to have to go
talk to the John Denver estate. Anyway, the fact that there is a soundtrack, I think, is significant, and
that our lives are not just led through text and seminar alone, but there’s passing milk, and there’s
listening to music.
Arney: Yeah. I assigned my students in the fall—and I’ll continue doing this from now on, I think—I told
them that they should subscribe to Tracy K. Smith’s podcast where she reads a poem each day and just
talks a little bit about the poem. I don’t know how many of them did it, but I find poetry very helpful.
Watching good wordsmiths do their thing and turning my head around.
Steinhoff: You closed out your biography form here with a poem by Dennis O’ Driscoll.
Arney: I did. Yeah. Time enough. It’s pretty good.
Steinhoff: A lovely coda. Bill, I feel like—something you said in your note this morning struck me as an
opening, which was the important of writing as part of your practice. I’m happy to continue this
conversation. Maybe the thing to do would be to get what we’ve done already transcribed—get it into
the system—and then I think what I’m imagining for myself is reading a little more of your work. I’ve
read some of it, not a ton. Just reading around a little more.
You and I already have a bit of a rhythm of a correspondence, so I’m thinking that it’s possible—
not necessary but it’s possible—that we might end up with something that could be a little more hybrid.
There’s the oral history transcript, but we’ve also got a correspondence now, feeding into and fueling
this conversation. It’s possible that what we end up with could have an appendix that we include the
piece that you wrote for Joli’s book, Joli’s project. Along with anything else that comes to mind.
As you’ve indicated, just this kind of conversation opens stuff up, and you’ll think about
something in three days that’s connected to whatever it is that we’ve been talking about. I’ll just say,
open invitation. Send me a note, or say, “Hey, I’ve got some more stuff that might be interesting to talk
about,” because I’m more than happy to continue in whatever format, whatever mode makes the most
Arney: Great. It’s been nice to talk with you this way. I was just looking at the end here. I didn’t put
down my five-year plan, which was to just repeat the things I’m doing this year. I’ve got a program—


What’s Next?—on the end of capitalism. [laughing] And, Do We Need a Future? I should think about
those now. You made me look at them.
Steinhoff: There it is. Thank you so much, Bill. I’ve really appreciated this. I’ve learned so much. I
think I’ll sign off by saying I look forward to continuing this conversation.
Arney: Good. It’s been a real pleasure on my side, too. You’re a very gentle interviewer. You’ve done
your homework and all that stuff. You seem curious. Whether you are or not, I don’t know. Seeming
does not make it so, I hear, but it seems like you are.
Steinhoff: I genuinely am. We’ve got enough shared intellectual commitments or curiosities that—and
then, of course, the institutional relationship is there as well. That’s why I am really emphatic about the
continuing conversation.
Arney: Okay. Cool.
Steinhoff: Because I’m sure stuff will pop up. I’ll have questions, you’ll have questions, or thoughts, and
we’ll just pursue them to wherever they lead us.
Arney: Cool.
Steinhoff: Have a great weekend.
Arney: Thank you.
[End Part 2 of 2 of Bill Arney on December 11, 2020]