‘We were disheartened to watch the video and learn of the mistreatment of these customers by another passenger. Our employees intervened to offer assistance and diffuse the situation in a calm and professional manner…’

Southwest Airlines assures its passengers that, faced with a very nasty situation, they did all they could to spread the problem around.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Learn the difference between diffuse and defuse.

‘Ms Sushko apologised and claimed that she sometimes outsourced her editor’s letter to a trusted freelancer as she had a lot of work and could get stuck on the letter for “several days because of the big responsibility and stress.”’

If you’re an academic, it’s an evil grad student/research assistant; if you’re a magazine editor, it’s a trusted freelancer — but whoever the ghostly awful person who plagiarized and then put the product under your innocent name, the important thing, when you’re caught red-handed, is to find someone to blame it on.

But social media users were already posting previous instances of plagiarism by the [Ukrainian] Vogue editor…

BTW: Nice move, international-relations-wise, to be a Ukrainian who rips off a Russian. I mean, who needs independence?

“Hundreds give blood for the mayor of Gdansk.”

In the city of Solidarity, people come together in an ultimately losing battle for the life of their assassinated mayor.

O powerful western fallen star! 
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night! 
O great star disappear’d—

Class will…


We’re not in Florida anymore.

Cat Who Looks Like Hitler…

… surely you know the website… relaxes in her more than ample Sanibel Island bed in the early morning sun.

My favorites from my haul…

… of seashells at one of the most famous shelling beaches.

Four olives and a conch.

UD remembers, as a Northwestern University undergrad…

… trying not to stare at the Greek letters branded into the arm of a fellow student across from her at a seminar table. What could this degrading mark mean?

UD had much to learn about fraternities.

Sororities too. In the wake of a mentally unstable Northwestern university coed’s suicide, her mother is suing her sorority, and anyone else within a ten-mile range of the place, for neglect, wrongful death, etc. Turns out sororities and fraternities degrade, humiliate, and otherwise torture people who want to join them. Who knew?

UD does not wish to sound unfeeling. But this lawsuit will fail precisely because everyone knows that these organizations are the most perilously perverted locations you can find outside the pages of The Story of O. Enter them at your own risk. If masochism ain’t your thing, avoid them; and certainly if you have a history of mental fragility, avoid them like the plague.

Lots of people like to be hurt or are willing to be hurt in order to be included in a group; but lots of other people have more self-respect than this. And then there’s the category at hand: Some people aren’t emotionally strong enough to undergo protracted torture. You can’t expect the sorority to notice this. On the contrary, sororities often represent a group of women salivating at the spectacle of other peoples’ distress. If I’m not making this explicit enough: They like this kind of thing.

So who’s to blame? NU doesn’t blame the sorority. Sure, the school has suspended them for a decent interval (all schools temporarily suspend on the occasion of pledgedeath), but the place will be up and torturing again in no time. Universities typically consider fraternity carnage the price of doing business. ‘”Kids have died, the university didn’t do sh*t, I’m not really worried,” [a] police officer recalled a 23-year-old [University of Iowa fraternity member] saying [to him].’

As with most suicides, “blame” is not only hard to assign; it’s hard even to invoke as a relevant category. The lawsuit will fizzle; the only likely outcome is the elevation of the sorority’s status: That’s the place where a pledge killed herself.


UD thanks Dirk for the Iowa link.

Snapshots, Sanibel

There’s a surprising amount of interesting architecture around here.

Mr UD admires the interior of an all-green (inside and out) Episcopal church.

On Captiva Island, the firehouse is a brilliant white. More pix.

A girl plays a game in back of the Island Cow restaurant.

Home again, after a drive around the islands: Cat, shells, palms, bayou.

Chicago State University, America’s Little North Korea…

… (as UD has always called it) has disappeared as a university (few students attend; almost no one graduates) but continues to thrive as a taxpayer-sponsored kleptomania/litigation machine. Corruption, virtually the only game on campus (uh, plus basketball), must be kept quiet in order to sustain itself, so the school’s constantly suing or threatening to sue students, professors, and administrators who tell the truth about what’s going on. CSU loses the suits, of course, and has to pay (the good people of Illinois have to pay) big settlement and legal costs.

Here’s the latest payout, the result of the school suing two faculty bloggers who did not conform, wrote CSU, to the “high standards of civility and professionalism [that] are central tenants [sic] of the University’s values.”

Schubert in Florida

All that’s best of dark and brightThis is Florida, where supremely brilliant days give way to the blackest of cosmic backdrops. The intensity of light and lightlessness draws poets, among them Charlie Smith.

Schubert in Florida

When you slunk across my dream

I was listening

to Schubert, I was standing in a stairwell

in a beach town, listening to Schubert’s darkest sonata

Poetry, so much of poetry, is dream. I’ve said this – and tried to demonstrate it – constantly on this blog. Poetry is the navigation of dream, if you like — poetry takes for granted our hard-won, fugitive awareness at any daylight moment; it tells us we are not really in command of ourselves. Rather we attempt, every blessed day, to marshal our consciousness-forces with enough plausibility to make it through social life, though a public world, all the time in peril of being pulled under into our private stream of consciousness.

So not really dark and light, but a tissue of them, a dance with them, a struggle — a musical counterpoint — between them, and this tends to be poetry’s territory, the exploration and expression of the mind oscillating between something like what Freud meant by ego and id. If Schubert’s darkest work waltzes forward with deep obscure personal sorrow, sunniest Florida strains hard in the other direction, all communal sweetness and light even as the cosmic blackdrop is always there. Smith will place his speaker in that tug of war as he tries to drag himself out of a darkly persistent passion for an ex-lover and enter the light of day.

thinking of children

coming on love for the first time, of their hands,

trembling as they reach across an obscure space

to touch the beloved who has become everything

important in life

Well I’ll be damned, writes Joan Baez in a song about her long-ago lover Bob Dylan, here comes your ghost again.  In this instance, the woman the speaker can’t get over has “slunk” into his dream, prompting, on his waking, thoughts of early, cryptic, all-encompassing passion… and, implicitly,  personal amazement at the lifelong intensity of his passion for the woman who haunts his dreams.

and thought how ridiculous

and destructive this is, this irrepressible need

for the loved one, the cascade through the self

of another’s presence – 

His mature non-dreaming mind can see the crazy, damaging thing letting someone essentially crash into you and take you over represents; but obviously there’s not much to be done about it. (“Love,” wrote James Merrill, “buries itself in me, up to the hilt.” Whether he likes it or not.)

thinking of the music

picking my way through this like a man searching

tearfully for his most important possession, a man drifting

through one of the aging Florida beach towns

on an August day

Of course music, pure music, is pure dream; there’s a kind of structure, a kind of dream logic; and there’s an expressivity that is strong but inarticulable.  Dreams and music move along to some meaning, or at least both feel profoundly meaningful, and we pick our way through both because both often seem to contain not only the most important things but, in their self-contained power and beauty, some explanation, some justification, for the way we are.  

So… that “aging” town is our guy, having moved past passion to tearful acknowledgment of its weird loss/retention; and that Floridian August is the passion still somehow burning very bright – at least on the evidence of who goes slinking through one’s dreams.

who abruptly leaves the dolphin performance

and returns to his car

parked in the shade of a gumbo-limbo tree

and takes a nap

& dreams of his ex-wife crossing a sun-streaked lawn,

a fine woman who glances at him without desire

That “limbo” tree is a nice touch, since we’re arguing that all of us exist not in clarity of consciousness and then sleep, not in past and then present, but in a much more interesting state of limbo. And here the drifty confused impassioned old guy suddenly (not with forethought) leaves the bright dolphin display of the Florida beach and goes back to his Schubertian car (one assumes it’s his own radio he’s hearing when he stands in the stairwell) and takes the nap that generates the dream with which the poem begins: the lost lover never lost, always crossing the sun-streaked world of youth that his unconscious generates in the night.

as one would glance

indifferently at a stranger standing in an outdoor stairwell

in a beach town listening to Schubert playing on a car radio,

a stranger waiting almost patiently for a brief sadness

to quell and die down, so he might move on from there.

Tomb of the Unknown Stoner

Captiva Island, Florida.

I think this must be…

… the first book I read about Florida. I remember it in the bookshelf of the room I shared with my older sister in the second house we rented in Garrett Park. I also remember being charmed and excited by the pinkness of the motel’s buildings and by descriptions of life under Spanish moss and under a hot sun. From the outset, Florida was for UD a whole other world.

Every December, my parents loaded their four kids into our VW camper bus and drove down to explore a part of Florida. On the way, we always stayed at South of the Border. I recall the Everglades; orange groves; Jonathan Dickinson State Park (which my mother loved); Daytona Beach; a Seminole reservation. We watched a guy wrestle an alligator. We stayed at campsites.

Years later, I lived for awhile in Key West and loved it – loved everything about it (see the category Snapshots from Key West). The tropical exoticism I’d come to associate with Florida was intensely there at the southernmost point. But so was a loose oddball way of life, a way people had of rolling out the path they wanted to take and then taking it. I’ve never seen houses so expressive of philosophies of happiness as I’ve seen on Key West.

I always knew about the catastrophic overdevelopment of Florida; I always knew the state’s tacky side, and its ostentatious side. But my sentiment in favor of its beautiful strangeness hasn’t diminished since I sat in my parents’ VW staring at an armadillo crossing in front of our van.

Even here, on this well-heeled island, where I’m living the softest life imaginable in a floating world of perfect weather, warm water, and sheltering palms, I’m alive to the odd and alluring undercurrent of this state.

Headline of the Day



A family of cormorants…

… a little blue heron, and two dive-bombing brown pelicans. Morning activity along my deck, on an inlet to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Dr. Bernard Carroll, known as the "conscience of psychiatry," contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan's University Diaries, for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name Adam.
New York Times

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
The Electron Pencil

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