On this Thanksgiving Day:

We are thankful that here in America, even our homeless have arsenals.

They may be down, but they’re not out. Of ammunition.

This Thanksgiving Day, the Florida State University Community Gathers Around its Tables to Thank God for its New President, John Thrasher.

America’s rapeabilliest campus prayed for a president able to deflect relentless incoming sexual assault claims, and God gave it the perfectly named Thrasher — a man willing to spend his twilight years (he’s in his seventies) thrashing back and forth like Bonnie and Clyde in their 1934 Ford Model 730 Deluxe Sedan as one sex-bullet after another smacks him pow right in the kisser.

As they pass the turkey, students, faculty, administration and alumni can reflect with gratitude on the way Thrasher’s long career as a Florida pol and lobbyist, er, seasoned him for the curious job of chief academic officer at a school with virtually no academics and virtually non-stop rape claims.

FSU is the star of a new film; it’s featured in big splashy New York Times articles; and just this morning, as FSU football fans begin to dig in to the bird, news outlets all the country are headlining the just-released content of court papers that detail special treatment for football players accused of rape, the fear of retaliation on the part of victims, and… you know … just the whole stinky stewpot of a school that wants everyone to shut the fuck up so it can watch men bash each others’ heads in.

And sure – things are closing in on FSU. Even the DOE is after them for mishandling the assault claims. But did Bonnie and Clyde give up? Did they run and hide and try to live respectable lives? No! They were what they were unto the breach! Sic Semper FSU and amen!

Florida State University: Keepin’ It Real!

At Florida State, salaries for non-coaching administrators rose from $7.7 million to $15 million. That’s the raise that Seminoles athletic staff gave themselves for running up a deficit of $2 million, while presiding over an academic fraud scandal involving 10 teams, and mishandling criminal allegations against football players.

It sounds like a Christo work…

… but apparently Korean academia’s project to re-wrap hundreds of book covers is a homegrown effort.

[200 Korean] professors, mostly in science and engineering majors, are accused of publishing others’ works under their own names by simply changing the book covers to boost their academic profiles ahead of assessments for rehiring.

UD‘s always complaining about how boringly uniform the act of plagiarism is, but HEY. New one on me.

Yet is it even right to call this innovation plagiarism? Plagiarism involves at least glancing contact with, and often manipulation of, the writing of other people. In this scheme, carried out with the full cooperation of publishers, and in many cases with the original authors’ cooperation (publishers got to re-market “new” books; authors allegedly got kickbacks), you simply supply your name to the publisher, who redesigns the cover with you listed as the author. This looks more like the decorative arts.


Plenty of scope here for puns in any case. Korean publishers offer non-binding contracts… Psychoanalytic volumes? Shrink-wrapped… The wit of Seoul is brevity…


A Baltimore school name of Towson
Was recently found to be housin’
Both Freundel and Mead
Who sure seem to need
Lots of videotape for arousin’

At some point, the nothingness of university football becomes metaphysical.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If [the University of Hawaii] loses its ninth consecutive game of the season at Aloha Stadium in a near-empty area, did it actually happen?

On failing to see the historical inevitability of universities like Louisiana State.

LSU’s football program is rich as all get-out; whatever’s left of the university it’s sort of attached to is totally up shit’s delta.

So what to do with the shabby close to bankrupt nothing that used to be a university? The bunch of rags dangling off the quarterback’s Platinum Dazzle thigh? Team boosters at LSU are about to find seventeen million dollars to buy out a coach they don’t like, but money for a … school?

This guy’s panicking because after all “there is no football team without a functioning Louisiana State University… [T]here is no LSU Athletics without Louisiana State University.” You gotta keep the school at least on life support to keep the football team alive. Don’t you?

Not really. Think of the evolution of LSU in the following way. You know how in the first Alien film the alien baby needed John Hurt’s body in order to gestate? That’s LSU football. Needed a nice warm university to grow in, but now it’s all grown up and its host has no reason to live anymore.

There are plenty of ghost universities with thriving football teams, and UD has often named them on this blog. Auburn.* Clemson. Nebraska. Their spectral story is also LSU’s. Accept it, says UD.



Some [Auburn] purchases … were optional, like two new twin-engine jets: a six-seat 2008 Cessna Citation CJ2+ ($6.4 million) and a seven-seat 2009 Cessna Citation CJ3 ($7.8 million), each bearing a blue and orange “AU” insignia on its tail.

The jets are used primarily by coaches to criss-cross the country meeting with recruits, contributing to Auburn’s recruiting costs nearly doubling in a decade, from $1.6 million to $2.7 million.

[Its] new video board, the largest in college sports, was also optional. Auburn has a history of trend-setting electronics displays. In 2007, it installed the first high-definition video board in the SEC, a $2.9 million purchase Athletic Director Jacobs decided was obsolete eight years later.


UD thanks John.

A Rector Set

21% of Russia’s university leaders submitted plagiarized dissertations.

“Although the cuts are mainly targeted towards the liberal arts side, the athletic department knew they weren’t exempt.”

Shite! Things are so bad at the University of Montana that they’re not just going to gut their liberal arts — THEY MIGHT GO AFTER ATHLETICS TOO.

You’d feel some pity, I suppose…

… if it weren’t soul-crushing, budget-crushing, brain-crushing, and university-crushing football.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm takes a badly written opening paragraph…

… to remind you that crazy all over the place figurative language makes for ugly and clotted prose.

Critics of the hit documentary The Hunting Ground – which illuminates in damning detail the prevalence of sexual violence at American universities – are ramping up their attacks just in time for The Hunting Ground‘s prime time debut on CNN this Sunday, November 22. And if they aren’t careful, their aspersions might dovetail with the massive audience CNN commands to result in a spectacular backfire: For the film’s central premise is that whistle blowers on campus sexual violence are demonized and delegitimized by the very same universities who are going on the offensive in advance of Sunday’s screening.

I’ve bolded the figurative words, which I’ll get to in a minute. But note also the wordiness of this paragraph, with its repetition, in the first sentence, of the film’s title (just write the film’s), and its strange coupling of demonized and delegitimized … If you’re demonizing, you’re certainly (but more weakly) delegitimizing… and delegitimized is an ugly mouthful. Just stick with “demonized,” which goes well with “damning.” I mean, if you’re going to start out with that very strong rhetoric, “delegitimized” takes all the air out of your argument, or at least makes it look as though you’re backing down from it. It would also be stronger to drop dovetail with the massive audience CNN commands to result in a spectacular backfire and simply write backfire. Backfire is your strongest word: go for it, and end the sentence with it.

Note also all the “to be” verbs in here: are ramping; aren’t careful; premise is that; are demonized; are going on the offensive. This feels plodding, when we want agile. Use stronger verbs and less repetition. And drop who are: Write universities going on the offensive. We’re trying for punchy concise language here, so that the reader grasps the argument quickly and can go from there through the piece.

And okay, look at all the metaphorical stuff she’s got going, all of these images fighting against one another and making comprehension difficult: Aspersions, for instance, dovetail and then backfire. When you add figurative words like whistle blowers to the weird scene this language has already called up in our minds, chaos ensues. Steady as she goes on the figurative language – use it, but use it sparingly, and make sure your metaphors make sense together.

Basic point here from SOS: SIMPLIFY. Speak directly.

UD’s friend, the painter Paul Laffoley, has died…

… and the New York Times (again with UD‘s help – she most recently provided the same writer, William Grimes, with information about the Polish painter Wojciech Fangor) has written a good obituary about this odd and complicated man who painted elaborate metaphysical, visionary works.

UD found him too odd for close friendship (her sister-in-law Joanna – who was also consulted by the obit writer – understood Paul with far greater depth and sympathy), but year after year, when they met at Soltan Christmas celebrations, UD would watch Paul with special interest, and with compassion. She was not interested in his impossibly convoluted and at the same time rather shallow and adolescent (he never got over the science fiction of his youth) theories of consciousness and the universe. She was interested in the man himself, his pale face and bald head and strangely serene demeanor out of place in the hectic business of gift opening in front of a fire. He stayed chilly amid that warmth, a wanderer above the mists down from altitude for a day, his pale face and labored breaths (in his later years heart failure made it hard for him to breathe) somehow conveying his inability to adapt to temperate climates.


Or not a wanderer above the mists — a Rocket Man above the mysteries, an icon, for UD, of the terrible human desire to know everything. Aliens, Paul believed, had implanted something in his brain that made him a conduit of cosmic truths, and his artwork was the materialization of those truths. There was no irony that I could see, no humor or teasing evasion or bet hedging here. Either his flatly literal messages from beyond beguiled you with their astonishing plausibility or they made you draw back somewhat from the man and the canvases, unsettled by their Bartleby-like remoteness from the human realm.

The human realm, after all, is where – far from knowing everything – we know shit, and where the vocation of the artist, usually, is to reconcile us to knowing shit by aestheticizing both our cloud of unknowing and the suffering and beauty it generates. For UD, people like Paul represent a refusal of the human condition.

Paul Berger, a Writer for The Forward, has been able to make a career out of following…

… the amazing greed, hypocrisy and incompetence of Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel. The financial and moral ruination of that university at his and his friends’ hands (these include the current board of trustees and some former trustees, like Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin), its reduction to a Moody’s basket case, represents one of the most stunning university stories of the decade. Berger has been right on top of it throughout.

This is a university that has named one of its campuses after the Wilfs. Its Entrepreneurial Institute bears the storied name of Ira Rennert.

The latest dispatch from Berger captures two out of three Joel attributes: greed and hypocrisy.

As his college’s finances continued to crumble last year, Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel publicly took a pay cut. Then months later, he privately pocketed a deferred compensation payment of $1.6 million.

That payout took Joel’s total compensation for 2014 to $2.8 million, among the highest packages for college presidents nationwide.

… In the year that Joel received the $1.6 million payment, Y.U. ran an operating deficit of $150 million, according to recently released tax records.

That same year, Y.U.’s endowment fell by $90 million, the school was forced to sell $72.5 million in real estate, and Y.U. entered into negotiations to spin off its prestigious but money-losing medical school, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The investor ratings service Moody’s demoted Y.U.’s debt rating to junk status in January 2014 and it has not been raised since.

When you think of the various sorts of noise students and faculty are making at universities across America lately, it’s staggering to consider the almost-total silence at Yeshiva, where people who care about things like spirituality, ethics, and the value of serious study have allowed themselves to be ruled by cynical hedgies for years and years. UD feels confident Yeshiva’s next president (Joel retires soon, with full honors) will maintain its legacy of robbing the school’s mouse-like professors and students.

An English Professor, An Art Professor…

killed at Bataclan.

Moody moon, high nests, and a touch of blusher…


… in the sky above UD‘s house
right now. At the end of a rainy day.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE





It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
Carlat Psychiatry Blog

Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
Perplexed with Narrow Passages

Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

The inimitable Margaret Soltan is, as usual, worth reading. ...
Medical Humanities Blog

I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
Ducks and Drakes

As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
The Bitch Girls

Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
Tenured Radical

University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
Mary Beard, A Don's Life

[University Diaries offers] a broad sense of what's going on in education today, framed by a passionate and knowledgeable reporter.
More magazine, Canada

If deity were an elected office, I would quit my job to get her on the ballot.
Notes of a Neophyte