John Beckman, NYU Spokesman, Writes a Strong and Honest Letter to the Student Newspaper.

Washington Square News has suggested that three recent campus suicides should have been marked more publicly by the school, and that they may reflect NYU’s lack of a community and possibly substandard mental health services. Beckman responds:

[S]uicides, especially among the young in a closed community like a school, are prone to a contagion effect, which is exacerbated by rapidly spread information about the deaths and by honoring the individuals publicly.

… [I]t is a perilous endeavor to speculate about the motives for self-harm. The defining characteristic of suicide is typically deep, unrelenting hopelessness that goes untreated. It is little more than a guessing game to try to ascribe a suicide’s reason to one thing or another. That is why we were so disappointed to see WSN … impute the student’s death to a lack of community at NYU.

… WSN’s characterization of NYU’s health and mental health services doesn’t tell the real story. We routinely conduct patient satisfaction surveys with students, and the overwhelming majority feel their clinician was knowledgeable, that they felt respected, that their appointment was scheduled promptly and that the services helped them stay in school.

… [W]hile some will no doubt continue to disagree with our position [we hope] they will at least come to understand that our decision is guided by the research in the field, our experience and an unwavering focus on doing what is the best interests of students.

It sounds cruel – don’t honor the students publicly, etc. – but NYU is correct about the research and about the enigmatic complexity of the event. Boris Pasternak wrote:

We have no conception of the inner torture which precedes suicide.

… The continuity of his inner life is broken, his personality is at an end. And perhaps what finally makes him kill himself is not the firmness of his resolve but the unbearable quality of this anguish which belongs to no one, of this suffering in the absence of the sufferer, of this waiting which is empty because life has stopped and can no longer fill it.

… What is certain is that they all suffered beyond description, to the point where suffering has become a mental sickness. And as we bow in homage to their gifts and to their bright memory, we should bow compassionately before their suffering.

‘“Hilary told us she does not think a jury in Waco is ready to convict someone if this was only his first rape,” the statement reads.’

You have to understand Waco, Texas. You have to understand Baylor University. You have to understand fraternities. You have to understand football.

Once you begin to understand the culture of Waco, you’ll have no trouble understanding the likely legal outcome of the university’s 1,534th rape this week.

***************

Begin by understanding context. To start with, this latest campus rape was just a rape: it wasn’t a gang rape, and it wasn’t filmed. At Baylor, this barely rises to the level of an event, let alone a crime.

As for a jury made up of average Waconians: Waco’s famous for breastaurants that host rival biker gangs that slaughter each other in hours-long shootouts right down the street from Baylor.

It’s just that kind of down-home all-American place okay? and no way the good citizens of Waco are going to convict a Baylor frat president of rape. I mean, that’s not what Waconians would call a violent crime. And remember: Baylor’s a Christian school! This boy’s a Christian.

At America’s scummiest university…

moral exemplar suspends moral exemplar.

‘This conference also allowed an opportunity to recognize and honor the singular contributions and achievements of Dr. Piero Anversa on the occasion of his 70th birthday. We celebrated research advances made possible by “The Professor”, who established the concept of the heart as a regenerative organ, and through his research and passionate commitment has revolutionized the field of cardiac biology.’

They love him at San Diego State; they loved him, for years, at Harvard. And Harvard still seems ambivalent about Piero Anversa; it doesn’t want to comment at all on the decade or so during which it did nothing and during which plenty of people knew Anversa was faking his research. It has nothing to say about why it took Harvard years and years and years to call for the retraction of essentially his entire body of work.

Officials at Harvard declined to comment on why it took so long to take action on Dr. Anversa’s published work. Dr. Anversa could not be reached for comment.

Through arrogance and bluster ol’ Piero has, since 2001, been peddling pretty obvious bullshit about how the heart can regenerate itself. Lots of legitimate scientists said he was a fraud, over and over again, but too much money was at stake. Harvard would do well to apologize for having given this person legitimacy for so long.

**********

And what country’s university system would be so farcically shabby as to welcome Piero and one of his, uh, associates to take up new prestigious positions?

ITALY’s, of course.

***********

Best part of this story: Anversa a few years back sued Harvard cuz pointing out that he was a fraud was hurting business. (He lost the suit.)

What’s the Italian for Da guy’s got balls?

Un uomo ha i coglioni … ?

The Showy Convictions of Universities

If I can be sure of one thing about the moneyed mess that college sports in this country have become, it is that I don’t feel sorry for the schools that have willingly made basketball and football coaches the highest-paid public employees in thirty-nine out of fifty states while maintaining their showy convictions regarding the sanctity of amateurism.

New Yorker

“[T]he coldly corporatized world of big-time college football indulged and exacerbated the very traits in Hernandez that would one day destroy his life and end others. His anger. His recklessness. His fascination with violence and the violent.”

[H]is verbal SAT score of 420 was below the minimum required at Florida, where the majority of freshmen scored 600 or above…

[There was] destructive impunity, drugs, and the company of bad actors he met through Florida football. This was the time when he snapped a selfie that later went viral — posing in front a mirror, a raised Glock handgun in his left hand…

[T]he Gators had so much contact with the Gainesville police that [Urban] Meyer once addressed officers at roll call. A running tally of arrests compiled by the Orlando Sentinel during Meyer’s six-year tenure reached at least 31, for offenses ranging from firing an AK-47 in public to throwing food at an employee at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.

The Boston Globe revisits the University of Florida’s contribution to the tragedy of Aaron Hernandez.

“[T]here are 50 other middlemen out there just like him who truly run college basketball. This is the sport, no matter what Mark Emmert’s Blue Ribbon Commission thinks.”

T.J. Gassnola is the president and head of the board of trustees of the University of Kansas. He is the face of the school. The front porch of the school.

T.J. runs basketball at KU, and basketball is just about all you’re ever going to read about when it comes to KU.

More specifically, he runs KU’s players. T.J. is in charge of giving them and their families huge wads of cash under the table at Las Vegas hotels to play at KU. T.J. keeps KU all basketball all the time. He is KU’s VIP, MVP, and HRH all rolled into one.

**************

Everyone knows there’s nothing wrong with outfits like Adidas – for whom T.J. also works – giving money to future basketball greats. This wise investment often starts well before these players launch their adventures in university education… well before they decide to take advantage of the intellectual resources of places like Lawrence.

KU enjoys an extremely lucrative business relationship with Adidas.

Marc Emmert’s multimillion dollar NCAA salary is predicated on his absolute indifference to the transformation of once-respectable American universities into stinky petty hilarious crime gutters, places run by people like T.J. Gassnola.

So. All good. Everyone gets rich: The player, his family, Marc Emmert, the University of Kansas, and ol’ T.J.

***************

So… FUCK the FBI. What the fuck? It sashays in like it’s king of the world, drags T.J. into court and makes him sing in exchange for reduced prison time for the many many naughty things T.J. has been up to … Worse yet, it makes KU and Emmert scrunch up their features, take a deep breath, and blow out the very best horseshit they can come up with about how shocked and disappointed and eager to be helpful they are…

UD‘s only sorry this woman is no longer KU’s chancellor – she came to KU after running Chapel Hill into the ground cuz of their athletic scandal, remember? She’s just the sort of person you want running a basketball factory, and she’s still getting paid too.

*************

We had a nice tidy world here, see. Emmert and the whole “university” thing at KU did the work of shedding respectability-light upon the scheme so no one would think anything dark and criminal was going on. The players and the corporate suits and the coaches pocketed the money and kept their mouths shut. But now T.J.’s talking, and it’s… well, it’s Kafka, kiddies.

The most absurd moment of a most absurd day at the federal fraud case featuring one of college basketball’s most absurd characters had to be the following … well, actually, there are many contenders.

Maybe it was when Billy Preston wrecked his Dodge Charger on the campus of the University of Kansas. The fact a top incoming basketball recruit was driving such a car caused concern with the KU compliance office, which investigated who owned the vehicle.

Text messages later revealed Preston’s mother Nicole Player bragging about buying the car for her son, but … the car was … registered with “Nicole Player’s recently deceased grandmother” who lived in Florida.

KU was fine with this explanation. Who wouldn’t be?

[I]n the process of looking into the car, KU discovered a wire transfer to Player that came from a man named T.J. Gassnola. Player lived in Euless, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Gassnola hailed from Ludlow, Massachusetts, a little town a couple hours west of Boston.

There appeared to be no good reason for this exchange – and there wasn’t, at least by NCAA standards. Gassnola, a member of Adidas’ so-called “Black Ops” group and AAU team owner, detailed from the witness stand how he had plied Player with $89,000 over the course of nearly a year, including a $30,000 cash payout in a New York hotel room and another $20,000 brick delivered while in Las Vegas.

But wait, that’s not the best part.

Worried there was no proper explanation for the payments, Player texted Gassnola to inform him she had told KU officials the two had been involved in an “intimate” relationship, believing such activity would somehow make it NCAA legal.

If you can’t get enough of this stuff – and there’s TONS – go here.

Better yet, go here. This narrative, penned by Kafka after he dropped acid, is truly one of the greats.

The front porch of the …

university.

“[W]hen you’re inside an extremely loud, jam-packed student section for over an hour and overindulgent fans begin to fall on and around you, it’s time to go.”

An Auburn student explains why even that football factory’s students leave football games early. Or don’t go at all.

‘Man Run Over by Lawn Mower While Trying to Kill Son with Chainsaw’

‘Man Tries to Drown Girlfriend; Nearly Becomes Murder Victim Himself When She Tries to Saw Off His Head’

***************

This is the sort of news UD likes to read when she feels herself getting too coastal-elitey.

Student suicide…

… presents agonizing problems for universities. How do you mark it communally without risking contagion? What if the student’s family has begged you to preserve its privacy? Students may want to discuss whether it points to larger problems with campus mental health care, or with quality of life at the school altogether.

Like other large urban universities, New York University has had more than its share of student suicides, including suicide contagions. It has had to retrofit its library to keep students from jumping off its high atrium.

This year, there have been two suicides in the med school, and, at the beginning of this month, an NYU freshman threw himself in front of a subway train. In the med school cases, the school announced each death, expressed sympathy, and reminded students of available counseling. It has very carefully not gone beyond this, even when prompted:

[Journalists asked NYU] if the school was concerned over a trend of suicide among medical professionals and if any larger efforts are being made by the university to prevent future instances, but the Medical school’s response didn’t tackle those questions.

“Because of the sensitive nature of this issue, we will not be commenting further,” the spokesperson said.

The school has been even more subdued about the 18-year-old male freshman who killed himself this month. Asked why, a spokesman said:

“If we believe that refraining from sending a broad communication can reduce the chances of a contagion effect, we are more than willing to absorb any resulting criticism.”

The spokesman cited “the university’s own research and personal experiences with suicide along with consultations with national experts.” Rather than make a large public announcement, the school has acted locally, contacting “anyone the university deems … in close proximity to the student: family, friends, professors, floormates and sometimes even the student’s entire school or degree program.”

*************

The real problem, if you ask me, is that suicide seems to all of us one of the most eloquent things we do. We attach all sorts of broad existential significance to the act, even if most actual suicides are, in the words of A. Alvarez, “a terrible but utterly natural reaction to the strained, narrow, unnatural necessities we sometimes create for ourselves.”

This iambic pentameter is TOTALLY Wallace Stevens.

Moons can have moons and they are called moonmoons.

**********

Autumn Refrain

The skreak and skritter of evening gone
And grackles gone and sorrows of the sun,
The sorrows of sun, too, gone . . . the moon and moon,
The yellow moon of words about the nightingale
In measureless measures, not a bird for me
But the name of a bird and the name of a nameless air
I have never – shall never hear. And yet beneath

The stillness of everything gone, and being still,
Being and sitting still, something resides,
Some skreaking and skrittering residuum,
And grates these evasions of the nightingale
Though I have never – shall never hear that bird.
And the stillness is in the key, all of it is,
The stillness is all in the key of that desolate sound.

**************************

If you’d like more poetic thought on the moon, the full moon, and nothing but the moon, there’s also T S Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night (for full depressive effect, listen to Jeremy Irons or Tom O’Bedlam recite this poem), and Sylvia Plath’s The Moon and the Yew Tree (go here for UD‘s analysis of the Plath).

Theme of them all? Shall we sum it up?

Regarde James Merrill: AU FOND EACH SUMMIT IS A CUL-DE-SAC

‘ He would listen to my radio show and tell me how dumb I was for something I said. I’d ask him how someone so dumb could get into Rice.’

An example of very good writing.

‘Although the silence has been broken in Somalia – and it is no longer possible to claim that girls do not die from FGM – we are still waiting for the country’s politicians to even investigate these cases, much less prosecute them.’

As UD anticipated, not a thing has been done by whatever they’re calling a government in Somalia these days about the deaths of little girls from mutilated genitals. And of course

It is clear to those of us who have worked on the issue for years that the recent deaths we have heard about in Somalia and elsewhere are not uncommon.

Life of the Mind, 2018

[T]he men going to trial [in the national basketball bribery scandal] are facing decades in prison for something that no one truly believes is a crime. We know that the victims in this case — the universities — are not actually victims, that they are willingly complicit in the deals that get done. If they weren’t, would Kansas have signed a 12-year, $191 million extension on their apparel deal with Adidas after Adidas victimized the university by allegedly funneling $90,000 to [one basketball recruit] and $20,000 to [another]?

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