In the pages of the New Republic, Josephine Livingstone says what needs to be said about the sexual harassment scandal at NYU.

And she says it well. Excerpts:

[Avital] Ronell’s [background here] supporters have swarmed to defend her. But rather than expose a hypocrisy or invalidate the #MeToo movement, this has only underscored the point that #MeToo feminists have been making along — about the nature of power and the way it fosters abuse.

… [Avital’s defenders admit] they have had no access to the dossier of claims against Ronell. But they called [her accuser’s] allegations “malicious,” while emphasizing Ronell’s seniority and prestige — precisely what the allegations accuse her of exploiting. The signatories said they have “collectively years of experience to support our view of her capacity as teacher and a scholar, but also as someone who has served as Chair of both the Departments of German and Comparative Literature at New York University.” Later in the letter the group noted, “As you know, [Ronell] is the Jacques Derrida Chair of Philosophy at the European Graduate School and she was recently given the award of Chevalier of Arts and Letters by the French government.”

In the last few days, further defenses of Ronell have appeared online from well-known figures in cultural studies and literature like Chris Kraus, Lisa Duggan, and Jack Halberstam. Duggan … dressed up harassment in the guise of sophisticated theory. The language of Ronell’s emails must have baffled the investigators, she asserted, because they could not understand the sexualized language that passes between queers (Ronell and Reitman are both gay). “The nature of the email exchange resonates with many queer academics, whose practices of queer intimacy are often baffling to outsiders,” she wrote. This reasoning echoed the philosopher Colin McGinn’s denial that he sent sexual overtures to one of his graduate students, saying he referred to masturbation in an email only to teach her the difference between “logical implication and conversational implicature.”

Yes, I know it’s getting funny. That’s why, in an earlier post about this scandal, I used the term “tragicomic.” Another Ronell defender, Slavoj Zizek — a person in all ways indistinguishable from Chauncey Gardiner — believes he has disposed of the power-corrupts essence of the case in this way:

To explain the accuser’s participation in the game with Avital through her position of power is ridiculous. If he effectively felt oppressed and harassed, there were ways of signalling this, which would have definitely not hurt his position.

This is the vacuously oracular Chauncey Gardiner with Lady Augusta Bracknell thrown in – the comedy lying in the clueless conviction that anything asserted by a person of … magnitude? … becomes true.

Livingstone again:

Furthermore, other former students have accused Ronell of abusive behavior, with one anonymous student accusing her of a variety of unethical practices on Facebook, including breaking her students’ self-esteem, humiliating them in front of others, then using the newly malleable student to do menial tasks for her, like folding her laundry. Andrea Long Chu, who was at one time Ronell’s teaching assistant, wrote on Twitter that the accusations track “100%” with Ronell’s “behavior and personality.”

So how surprised can we be by the obvious parallel with the brutal coaches also in the news lately? Same hierarchy, same closed ranks, same self-pleasuring abuse of subordinates. As I said in an earlier post, whether it comes from the most reactionary or the most revolutionary arm of the university, abuse of power would seem to be the constant, the name of the game. On the field of corrupt behavior, the coach, the Continental, and the cheering squad meet.

“If even one-quarter of what [Ronell’s accuser] describes … is true, it suggests a more intense, more extreme, more abusive instance of a pervasive imbalance of power in academe,” concludes Corey Robin.

University of Louisville: You can’t keep a sleazy athletics program down.

Last Sunday night, UL’s tight ends coach

swerved on Interstate 64, nearly struck a barrier wall multiple times and drove through a construction zone where workers were present.

… Sheriff’s deputies had to pull [him] out of his car after he refused to comply with their orders to exit, according to the citation. Deputies then attempted to run field sobriety tests, but [he] walked into the interstate, “almost being struck by a truck pulling a horse trailer,” before deputies pulled him to safety. [He] had multiple open containers in his vehicle as well as multiple empty beer cans in the passenger seat.

He’s been hitting the bottle ever since they closed the on-campus whorehouse.

Though you’d think he’d find some consolation in his $600,000-plus salary AND a monthly $500 car allowance.


Hey! They’re paying this guy to drive his car into construction workers! What a deal.

“I felt like I was the only one who cared about my brain.”

Words from a University of Maryland student to emblazon on all of their advertising, yes? Come study at our university. Why? Just listen to wide receiver DeAndre Lane: I felt like I was the only one who cared about my brain.

Meanwhile, amid the heat deaths and concussions, it looks likely that the disgusting state of the football program at Maryland will take down a whole bunch of people, including the president.

It would appear the Board also believes the AD and President either knew about what was happening with the football program and failed to report it, learned of it and didn’t react accordingly, or simply didn’t do enough to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Of course, you’ve also got the Board of Trustees… Trustees, you know… AKA Regents… They’ll feed us some horseshit about having been kept out of the loop (this narrative plays out so often, there’s a game plan they all use) and, satisfied by the humiliation and possible criminal culpability of the big guys, we’ll let it go.

But mes petites. You and I know that the rah-rah trustees bear just as much responsibility for the abattoir. If any of them have any decency, they will quit the Board.


UPDATE: The larger picture.

UD is grateful to a reader for linking her to this Guardian article about university football player deaths. Excerpts:

The sport is needlessly and heedlessly killing athletes…

Athletes are asked to do too much, too fast, for too long, performing workouts that are untethered from both the sport’s demands and basic principles of exercise science. Too many college coaches use offseason workouts as a tool for developing mental and emotional toughness – as a way to inflict physical pain and suffering, the better to push the limits of what their players are willing and able to endure.

… “Pick a stakeholder or constituency group [in college football],” [one observer] says. “I’ve had conversations over and over with them about conditioning and preventing deaths. And it’s not just me. Others have been involved as well. It just hasn’t resonated as a point of priority within the culture, period … Because it happens so often, there gets to be a little bit of acceptance of things…‘Well, football players die of heatstroke. That’s just a risk.’ I’m kind of wondering what body count we’re waiting for before we take some action.”


And back to Maryland:

[University of Maryland football player] Jordan McNair died because his humanity was secondary to the egos of the members of the Maryland coaching staff. He died because he was physically abused in the course of what was supposed to be training for the upcoming season. He was a victim of both workplace violence and of domestic abuse.

… The death of Jordan McNair opened up a chamber of horrors for all to see. ESPN’s subsequent reporting has produced tales of almost inhuman abuse under the guise of coaching, and a reckless disregard for the health of the athletes in the name of “coaching.” Players forced to eat until they vomited because coaches thought they were fat. Verbal abuse more suited to the SERE training given to Navy Seals than to young football players in a college weight room. The Maryland football family was an abusive family, like so many others around the country. The essential dynamic is there for all to see. Jordan McNair is the kid who gets beaten to death in the third-floor walk-up after which everybody stands back and wonders how it all happened. They seemed like such a nice family.


UPDATE: Details, kill rate.

You know how many kids NCAA football coaches have killed with conditioning drills in [the last seventeen years]? Twenty-seven. I say “kill,” because that’s what it is, when tyrants force captive young men to run themselves to death, out of their own outdated fears of weakness. Why is the NCAA tolerating this kill rate, which is unmatched at any other level of football?

… Only the NCAA tolerates – and refuses to regulate – unhinged dictators who think football has to be conditioned with sadistic extremes.

“They get to dictate these things, and we get to keep burying athletes until we make definitive changes to the culture,” said Dr. Douglas Casa, a kinesiologist who serves as CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut.

Polly Toynbee on the Burqa

The top-to-toe burka, with its sinister, airless little grille, is more than an instrument of persecution, it is a public tarring and feathering of female sexuality. It transforms any woman into an object of defilement too untouchably disgusting to be seen. It is a garment of lurid sexual suggestiveness: what rampant desire and desirability lurks and leers beneath its dark mysteries? In its objectifying of women, it turns them into cowering creatures demanding and expecting violence and victimisation. Forget cultural sensibilities.

More moderate versions of the garb – the dull, uniform coat to the ground and the plain headscarf – have much the same effect, inspiring the lascivious thoughts they are designed to stifle. What is it about a woman that is so repellently sexual that she must diminish herself into drab uniformity while strolling down Oxford Street one step behind a husband who is kitted out in razor-sharp Armani and gold, pomaded hair and tight bum exposed to lustful eyes? (No letters please from British women who have taken the veil and claim it’s liberating. It is their right in a tolerant society to wear anything including rubber fetishes – but that has nothing to do with the systematic cultural oppression of women with no choice.)

The reference to rubber fetishes in connnection with the burqa is interesting. UD will admit to wondering about the darker jouissance (presumably having to do, as rubber fetishes do, with full-body constraints) possibly in play for some burqa wearers…. As in that “demanding and expecting violence” thing Toynbee touches on…

“Bosses under stress combined with targets who are weak and vulnerable and can’t fight back.”

In a 2015 article with the amusing title Is the Era of Abusive College Coaches Finally Coming to an End? a Sports Illustrated writer totes up the butcher’s bill, to which we have most recently added University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair. “Our [false] conviction that hostility works is encouraged by a culture that makes legendary figures of [Bob] Knight and Steve Jobs,” says the writer, who goes to great lengths to argue that you catch more flies with honey. Maybe he should have held tight until the results of the last presidential election.

Meanwhile, they’re beating the shit out of high school football players too.

[P]ractices [at Grayson High School in Georgia] featured “full-force hitting in shorts.” Although no players were injured this year before the [team walkout over sadistic coaching], they were “concerned for their health heading into the season.”

One parent explained … that concerns have been raised about [the coach] since he took over the program in 2017 because of “multiple ambulance trips for heat-related issues” as well as broken bones and body cramps suffered during practices.

Once the coach is done with you, there’s avoiding anal rape by your teammates. (I’ve linked you to only the latest anal rape story. Google anal rape football and go to town.)

If you survive all that, it’s off to a homicidal fraternity in that big state school that recruited you. And get ready for your new best friend, Richie Incognito!

Concussions? Ha. Concussions are nothing.


Oh. The whole does it work or doesn’t it controversy? Way off-point. Look closely, please. Some coaches love violence for itself, the way most human beings do. Look at the game to which coaches devote their lives.

Most human beings won’t kick or kill other people the way some coaches do; they’ll go to violent movies and football games and watch violent porn, etc. Life won’t afford them the opportunity to physically (and psychologically) brutalize actual human beings. Coaches get that opportunity.

‘In 2004, the tanning-industry associations led Dr. Barbara Gilchrest, who then was head of Boston University’s dermatology division, to ask Dr. Holick to resign from the department.’

Ah, the vitamin D deficiency panic. I remember it well, having been told a few years ago to start taking supplements right away or risk god knows what. I ignored the directive.

Think of all the pointless money and D‘ed up piss I could have passed since then!

And: Read and learn.

The larger picture.

Oh – and not to be a broken record, but if you want to be Vitamin D deficient, here’s a really good way to get there.

Zach Smith and Avital Ronell: One a man, one a woman. One drawn from the most reactionary part of the university, the other from the most revolutionary.

Both – to their despair – find themselves headline news this week. And why? Because no matter how much divides us, sexual strangeness, and a kind of desperate emotional lostness/loneliness, unites us.

We all have access to these things – I mean, being sexually strange; and feeling, in a restless, panicky way, lost and alone – though if we’re lucky in life and love we may seldom experience them.

Smith – until recently a powerful, highly paid coach at Ohio State; and Ronell – a powerful, highly paid professor at NYU, seem to have experienced these things more acutely than most other people; more importantly, their sense of their invulnerability to punishment seems to have allowed them to behave with total abandon. Ronell is tenured; Smith and the famed OSU head coach, Urban Meyer, have a very close personal relationship. Ronell was found guilty of sexually harassing one of her graduate students; she had, with unaccountable stupidity, written down everything culpable she had done in emails. Smith took dick pics of himself in the White House and on the OSU campus and sent them to friends; he ordered large numbers of sex toys to be delivered to his university office, and openly boasted of sexual encounters in the same office with various subordinates.

In both cases as well, powerful friends of these powerful people protected and defended them, which is another whole scandal. In a just-filed lawsuit, Ronell’s graduate student has credibly claimed that Ronell’s associates

launched a widespread disinformation campaign against [Nimrod] Reitman, falsely accused him of, among other things, having waged a ‘malicious campaign’ against Ronell and having a ‘malicious intent,’ thereby further ruining his hopes for any future career in academia.


Of course there are differences between these two. Zach Smith appears to be a complete mess: Along with what I have already described, he has been arrested for drunk driving; and his ex-wife accuses him of extensive and extreme domestic violence. Ronell is far from a mess; what she is, rather, despite her revolutionary self-presentation, is that saddest of traditional figures: An older woman whose self-regard convinces her she remains attractive to men. Ronell was helped along by countercultural ideology; Smith was helped along by a hypermasculine, alcoholic, risk-taking sports culture.

But under these two current tragicomic figures from the American university lies the same old same old: self-destruction.

Ah. A quintessential, All-American scene.

Our definitive, democratic game – with a play that lets everyone take part in running down the field.

Enjoy the instant replays.

What is this?

Terrible picture.
Best I could do.
I can’t find any
spider that looks
anything like it.

Not a spider?

Oh – it’s very


Some variety of

‘[W]hile some [universities] do not follow the independent medical model, the culture at those programs has to be such that [athletic] trainers can stop practice events “without fear of retribution.”’

The more you know, the more there is to like, right?

What’s not to like about sports programs at universities whose personnel lack the independence to make sound medical decisions about the physical condition of school athletes during grueling practices… Where said personnel fear “retribution” if they for instance take a student who seems in distress out of that day’s practice session…

Atta Boy!

“We are killing our players.”


And if the coach don’t get you, your frat bros will!

Hideki Tito: Tear Down this Wall!

On Fox & Friends on Thursday morning, Ainsley Earhardt proudly recalled the United States defeating “communist Japan.”

Slowly but surely, our major news outlets – like the Washington Post – begin to write neutrally and seriously about the burqa.

Until today’s article by Rebecca Tan, the Post‘s coverage was typical of mainstream Western journalism – burqa bans were pathetic and retrograde and after all almost no one in Europe wears the full veil. All reasonable people support freedom of religious expression, and that’s all the burqa is.

Yet the world of reality has been falling down hard around pro-burqers (if I may), and we begin to see more willingness to acknowledge that most Europeans are ignoring the tsk-tsking of the other side and going ahead and banning this grotesque garment.

[P]olicies governing head veils are likely to grow more prevalent … Countries having nationwide or partial bans are France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Spain and Italy have some local bans in cities or towns. Legislation is pending for local or national bans in Germany, Latvia, Finland, Switzerland and Luxembourg… [G]overnments in Europe now feel like they have license to take such steps because of the legal precedents set by their neighbours.

Blanketing (if I may) the continent, aren’t we? Most of the British would like to ban it, but the moral scolds running the place think the people’s naughtiness needs to be reined in by their betters. Closer to home, Canadians by a large margin want to ban it, but ditto on the moral scolds.

The Post writer still has a little trouble believing you’d ban burqas for reasons other than bigotry or cynical political calculation, but you can see she’s beginning to kind of try to perceive morally legitimate arguments in favor of the ban.


One suggestion for Tan, by the way: Throughout the article, she talks about the number of “women” who wear the burqa. All writers who want to enter the fray on this one need to realize that girls are typically smothered under burqas at a very young age: ten, eleven. An age when there’s absolutely no choice involved in the matter.

UD has often wondered why pro-burqers routinely fail to mention this as they sneer about how psycho we are to care about the very very few women who wear the burqa. She has wondered why they don’t ask themselves: What’s it like to be in a supermarket or a post office or a classroom and see a little girl lost inside a burqa? If they would just ask themselves that question – put themselves in the position of Europeans who witness this sort of thing – they might have less trouble understanding the enormous and growing popularity across Europe and many other regions of burqa bans.

Since You’ve Been …


Welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland!

Dionne Koller, director of the University of Baltimore’s Center for Sport and the Law:

Was it criminal negligence? We need to hear more facts… I’m glad to hear the state’s attorney is monitoring this. We have a public university and we have the death of a student athlete. I would be sorry to see if the state’s attorney’s office just turned a blind eye. I’m not saying they should bring criminal charges, but this is certainly something they should be watching.

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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.
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