Its beloved coach sexually assaulting boys in a campus shower; its last president convicted of child endangerment; fraternity brothers stripping unconscious women students and then publishing naked photos of them on social media; fraternity brothers stepping over the dying body of a pledge all night until he dies of neglect…

Penn State is always in the news. Hometown hero Jerry Sandusky (he had his own ice cream!) dominated the news for years – and you can still follow ongoing stories about how much his case continues to cost the university ($237 million as of January). Even as the Sandusky thing finally began to quiet down, everyone was covering the unconscious naked women thing… and now PSU has done it again, dominating the university-news cycle by hosting on its campus such spectacular cruelty (even by Penn State standards; even by fraternity standards) that the whole nation is once again riveted to Happy Valley.

Read the (literal) blow-by-blow here.. The frat camera records Timothy Piazza’s long dying. Highlights:

4:59 a.m.: Piazza stands up and staggers into the fraternity’s front lobby, falling again onto a stone floor. There, at 5:15 a.m., Beta brother Jonathan Martines steps over the prone Piazza on his way to the kitchen for a glass of water.

… 6:44 a.m.: One of Piazza’s fellow pledges, according to the report, enters the hall. At 6:57 a.m., he starts to take a video of Piazza using the “snapchat” app …

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

Yes, a most unusual school.

Date with Destin…

… for three clever University of Alabama students.

Allison Stanger in the New York Times

What alarmed me most … was what I saw in the eyes of the [Middlebury College] crowd. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. They couldn’t look at me directly, because if they had, they would have seen another human being.

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

Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous “never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

Students are in college in part to learn how to evaluate sources and follow up on ideas with their own research. The Southern Poverty Law Center incorrectly labels Dr. Murray a “white nationalist,” but if we have learned nothing in this election, it is that such claims must be fact-checked, analyzed and assessed.

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

[W]hat the events at Middlebury made clear is that, regardless of political persuasion, Americans today are deeply susceptible to a renunciation of reason and celebration of ignorance. They know what they know without reading, discussing or engaging those who might disagree with them.

Inauguration…

… the University of Florida way.

“We saw that he needed help, but how could we offer it to him? … I tried to talk to him (the) last few times that I saw him on campus, but the conversation would not go anywhere, and I started to shrug it off, instead of looking into it.”

In the wake of the most recent killing of a professor by a graduate student, one thing’s clear: Universities need to work harder to publicize their protocol for reporting troubled and troubling people on campus.

UD assumes no one contacted the University of Southern California’s counseling office about the graduate student who yesterday stabbed his faculty mentor to death. If someone did, we’ll find out about it; but it looks as though no one did, despite worries about his stability.

Of course reporting him would not necessarily have kept the attack from happening; but he would have had some monitoring. Maybe his mentor would have been alerted.

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

You might argue that universities are uniquely bad places for the identification of unbalanced people.

There are simple logistical reasons for this. Unlike offices, universities are loosely run, with people on leave, seeing each other one day a week, finished with coursework but still sort of around, etc. It’s hard to perceive patterns or evolutions of behavior.

More deeply, universities are committed to the tolerance – even the championing of – freedom and non-conformity. You get zero intellectual culture in, say, Saudi Arabia – in repressive, conformist, strictly doctrinal, universal-surveillance societies. You get America’s spectacular system of universities when you offer exactly the opposite: individual freedom, radical self-fashioning, secularism, and privacy. Universities are hands-off zones, and indeed to the extent that they’re intrusive it’s often intrusion in the name of further hands-offism: seminars in the practice of tolerance, for instance.

But the problem goes beyond this. The combination of the valorization of eccentricity with a fierce commitment to personal privacy may mean that you think you’re respecting someone’s autonomy, and someone’s right to be different, when in fact you’re overlooking pathology.

And wait. The problem goes beyond even this. Years ago, UD got to know a fellow participant in a summer seminar for professors well enough to worry about her mental health. She said disturbing – self-destructive, delusional – things to UD, and UD was worried and didn’t know what to do. Eventually, with great delicacy and in the most tentative language, UD said something to one of the seminar’s organizers. The organizer fixed UD with a nasty look and said “Oh. Aren’t you healthy. I suppose you think you’re so healthy…”

“Uh, no,” UD replied, taken aback. “I don’t think I’m so healthy. I just worry B. is having difficulties.”

“Ugh.”

That was the end of the conversation. That was the end of the smackdown. And that was the beginning of UD deciding she’d better keep her trap shut on the matter of people at universities who seem troubled. UD vividly recalls not enjoying being made to feel like an East German Stasi agent by the seminar organizer. Being made to feel like a prison guard in the land of Michel Foucault’s panopticon. How dare I direct my smug hegemonic gaze anywhere other than at my own fucked up self …

So all I’m doing here is drilling down to what I take to be some of the underlying difficulties with identifying and reporting troubled people at universities. I fully acknowledge the vexed problem of distinguishing between fruitful, exemplary, odd, against the grain, selfhood, and mental problems. But I also think one should acknowledge the specific ways in which the university setting makes acting on your suspicions about someone’s mental health peculiarly daunting.

Wow. We sure make classy fascists here.

In 2001, [Richard B. Spencer] received a B.A. with High Distinction in English Literature and Music from the University of Virginia and, in 2003, an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. He spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 at the Institute Vienna Circle. From 2005-07, he was a doctoral student at Duke University studying modern European intellectual history…

More on Spencer.

And more.

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche made a lasting impression; Spencer found his critiques of equality and democracy darkly compelling. He identified with the German philosopher’s unapologetically elitist embrace of “great men” such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the composer Richard Wagner. Yet Spencer found little in Nietzsche about the organization of the state; it was only after entering the humanities master’s program at the University of Chicago that he discovered Jared Taylor, a self-proclaimed “race realist” who argues that blacks and Hispanics are a genetic drag on Western society. [Taylor has nothing to do with U of C; Spencer discovered him online.]

… He was attracted to the writings of the late University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, a Jewish German-born philosopher who had been accused by some of supporting fascism. Spencer’s master’s thesis was an analysis of German philosopher Theodor Adorno, who he argued was afraid to admit how much he loved the music of Wagner because Wagner was an anti-Semite championed by the Nazis. “If you looked at what I was doing, there was a clear interest in radical traditionalist right-wing German philosophy, a semi-fascist type thing,” Spencer says. “But there was always plausible deniability to it all.”

By the time he entered Duke as a Ph.D. student in European intellectual history in 2005, his views were on his sleeve. Fellow students recall Spencer openly sharing his opinions on biological differences between races and endorsing books such as Harvard professor Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We?, which argues that Hispanic immigrants are less suited than Europeans for assimilation. One Caucasian woman who was a student at the time recalls Spencer saying that people with her level of education needed to bear more children. Yet Spencer was charming enough to maintain collegial relations with his peers; an official graduate student party that he hosted at his spacious apartment was well attended. “Not many of us had ever come across as an out-and-out fascist,” says a college professor who studied in the same history Ph.D. program as Spencer. “We didn’t know how serious he was.”

… “In this weird way that Trump is trying to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to America, [Spencer says,] he’s also, like, bringing America to an end in the sense that he is a first step to white identity politics, which will bring about fragmentation… This is where I am kind of a Hegelian. Whenever you see a phenomenon, you see its negative aspect. There is a dark side to something that is happening, and I think that is Trump’s dark side, that he is reviving America and accelerating [the end of America]… That’s why I love him…”

Just in Time for Thanksgiving

A noise complaint led to the arrest of seven University of Albany students for hazing, police said.

Police said they arrived at an off-campus sorority house and found four young women being forced to eat mud and garbage.

Sorority members were also accused of pour[ing] fowl smelling liquids onto the women.

Paul LePage’s Premenstrual Election Cycle Blues

Grrrrr. He be in bad mood cuz maybe Trump no win. Damn hippies!

“Despite the controversy caused by the protestor’s appearance, his presence did seem to attract a larger crowd, and [one of the organizers] said that his arrival was a good thing. ‘I was going to let him stay as long as he wanted to, because once white people see how [a racist] acts, they can just reflect on that and see, ‘Oh, I’m not like that. Oh, I actually might want to help.’ And they might want to push against what his thoughts and what his beliefs are.”

A racist clown rolls through a small Black Lives Matter rally at East Tennessee State University, and because of the inherent drama of a person with a Confederate flag, hanging rope, gorilla mask, and bananas, he attracts far more attention to the rally than it would have had without him. Not only did the crowd grow; thanks to “fervent Trump supporter” Tristan Rettke, the rally has enjoyed big national coverage for the past few days.

Manhattan Transfer

[A]mong college Republicans at the University of Pennsylvania, “Everybody hates Trump,” said Matt Shapiro, executive director of the university’s campus Republican organization.

“On campus it’s a disaster,” said Shapiro, 21, a political science and history major. “People are almost embarrassed he went to our school. People love to say that he transferred here: ‘Oh, at least he didn’t start here.’”

“It’s extremely obvious that the drug culture is within the frat culture and thriving. It gave you a group of people bound together by brotherhood to hide drugs.”

UD has long pointed out on this blog – illustrating the point with several cases from particular universities – that nothing beats a college fraternity for major drug distribution. It’s not only the strong secretive bonds of brotherhood, which is of course your basic Mafia thing. It’s also the pathetic fact of very young stupid people desperate for acceptance into a particular brotherhood. Dealing is part of their hazing, their testing, their proof of allegiance and obedience.

And it’s the symbolic value of colleges and universities. The seemingly wholesome aspect of the student scene gives the dealing fantastic cover.

[The College of] Charleston [is] on a growing list of college communities with fraternity-linked drug operations: In 2010, New York police in “Operation Ivy League” busted a ring operating from Columbia University fraternities that dealt cocaine and LSD painted onto Altoid mints and SweetTarts. In 2008, police in California arrested 96 young men in “Operation Sudden Fall,” in which undercover officers infiltrated seven fraternities at San Diego State. Last year, a Florida International University nursing student died of an overdose of cocaine and alcohol after an off-campus fraternity [party]. Police found text messages from members of Phi Gamma Delta bragging about coke dealing, including one that said: “We practically supply (FIU).”

At the University of South Carolina, three-quarters of the school’s chapters — 18 in all — have been closed or put on probation in the past three years for drug, hazing and alcohol violations…

Major weaponry appears in frat house drug distribution settings. People get killed.

The Unbearable Lightness of Persky

Judge Aaron Persky probably regrets his decision to go unconscionably easy on young gifted and white Brock Turner in the Stanford University rape case, but it’s too late now. He has sealed his and Turner’s legacy.

On the up side, this historic case has riveted national attention to rape, much as Rutgers sports hero Ray Rice’s elevator ride brought us all together on the subject of domestic abuse. Although Rice provided graphic evidence of his ability to physically destroy an opponent, he has of this writing been unable to secure another NFL placement.

Another up side: Unlike the open air gang rape during Spring Break at Panama City Beach

The video shows several men assaulting an incapacitated woman on Panama City Beach while a crowd of spring-break revelers watches…

— which the crowd filmed but didn’t give a shit about (police only discovered it later, when they got hold of the video), the Stanford open air rape drew the attention of two students, who held down the rapist and called the police.

The University of Georgia’s Next Top Entrepreneur

An award-winning B-School Boy, PCP, UGA… these acronyms add up to a naked angry slimy mess inside a trash truck’s hopper …

The spectacle of this student fighting with the cops for his right to die in a mobile dumpster was impressive even on a campus famous for its immensities of trash. Crowds of student onlookers apparently took lots of videos.

It’s all very primal, isn’t it? Curled naked inside the dark wet womb, UGA’s finest sticks his thumb in his mouth, dilates his eyes and cries No! In thunder.

**************
UD thanks John.

“[T]he norm in such cases is for the attacker to be male, for the attacks to happen on campus, and for the source of the students’ anger to go well beyond a grade (although that may be a spark).”

In the aftermath of the UCLA shooting, Scott Jaschik reviews what we know about the origins and characteristics of such events. Which isn’t much. Fields like engineering, math, and biology do seem to produce most of the attacks, but nursing professors and comp lit professors have also in recent years been murdered by disgruntled students.

I think that “spark” idea gets us somewhere. My own review of these attacks conjures, pretty consistently, a paranoid loser smoldering with rage.

Et alors? All professors who teach long enough encounter students whose behavior unsettles them. Maybe frightens them. (Professors lucky enough to teach on gun-friendly campuses get to worry that these unbalanced individuals may be packing heat.) Behind the vague word assessment lies the hard reality that most of us will never actually report a student, that we expect university settings to be about intensity and struggle and not giving up on people. Several of these killings came after a perpetual grad student was finally dropped from a program. University settings tolerate the sort of bizarre behavior that corporations would boot out the door in minutes.

For what it’s worth – killers in university settings (I’m thinking of professors who kill professors too, like the notorious Amy Bishop) aren’t just paranoid, from what I can tell. They are often strikingly grandiose, arrogant people. They kill those who refuse to acknowledge their superiority. They are solving a problem: They are ridding the world of people whose existence threatens their god-like self-perception. Professors who give middling or failing grades to shaky people who consider themselves transcendent geniuses would be at risk.

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

The gunman has been identified.

[William] Klug was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and had been the target of [Mainak] Sarkar’s anger on social media for months. On March 10, Sarkar called the professor a “very sick person” who should not be trusted.

“William Klug, UCLA professor is not the kind of person when you think of a professor. He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” Sarkar wrote. “He made me really sick. Your enemy is my enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust.”

A source called the gunman’s accusations “absolutely untrue.”

“The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic,” the source said.

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

… Sarkar has been studying for his PhD since 2006 with no graduating date, two years longer than any of the other researchers.

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

The killer had a list of targets and killed one of them – a woman who lived in his Minnesota town – before driving to LA and killing Krug.

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

The woman was his ex-wife.

Teams as Gangs

Fraternities create drug distribution gangs; the Wharton School creates insider trader gangs. University athletic teams create rape-gangs and theft-gangs. At the very highest levels, your team of trustees creates international news.

Campuses are places where you connect with people like yourself – people who have similar strong interests and ambitions. Of course in most cases those ambitions aren’t criminal. But if they are, the isolated secret-brotherhood hothouse intensity of certain campus groups, the general public’s romanticization of college and graduate students as inquiring innocents, and the often rabid winner-take-all ideology of some of these associations (the athletes’ cafeteria at the University of Oregon has EAT YOUR ENEMIES in big illuminated letters on the wall), will make it temptingly easy to criminalize your association, if that’s what you’d like to do.

Not everyone on your wrestling team – to take the latest example, from the University of Minnesota – will want to take part in your Xanax distribution conspiracy. But the beauty of things like wrestling teams is that, once inducted into the brotherhood, it’s unlikely even non-participants will squeal.

My point is that when you’ve already got an organized team, you make much easier the transition to organized crime. There’s a lot of disorganized drug selling and buying at colleges, but it’s always going to be small time, and it’s going to be vulnerable to detection (see Wesleyan University). Fraternity drug rings only seem to get infiltrated after they’ve had a chance to grow enormously, as at San Diego State. The Minnesota gang seems to have had a chance to grow similarly huge — it handles spectacular quantities of Xanax.

*****************
UD thanks two readers
for telling her about
the Gophers and the Xanax.

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