An English Professor, An Art Professor…

killed at Bataclan.

Paris 2015.


‘And I send these words…

to Paris with my love,

And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them,

For I guess there is latent music yet in France — floods of it …’


“[T]he current wave of censorship that threatens the continuing excellence of U.S. higher education can be repudiated, as it should be, as a transitory moment of weakness that disrespects what our institutions of higher learning must represent.”

To that end, UD‘s University of Chicago recently assembled a faculty committee which came up with “a powerful new statement on the importance of freedom of expression on campus.” Here’s a place where you can, if you like, add your endorsement to it.

The U of C statement revisits and clarifies the nature of free thought.

Under the category democracy, this blog has covered growing numbers of hideous, farcical, tiresome, and alarming instances of speech repression on campus.

More on a depressing trend here.


Think back, in this connection, on Carl Schorske, who has died at the age of 100.

At UC Berkeley, Schorske was regarded by colleagues as a liberal thinker and a reputed supporter of the aims of the Free Speech Movement, identifying with students’ demands for free speech and respect.

“You have to convert the poison of social discord into the sap of intellectual vitality,” Schorske said in an interview in 2000, reflecting on his time at UC Berkeley.

UD thanks Dirk.

Saudi Arabia?

Women harassed when they refuse to go to the back of a public bus. Women forced to sit in segregated areas at public health clinics and at burials in cemeteries. Women berated for wearing clothes deemed to be immodest. Women’s voices banned from a radio station. Women excluded from participating in municipal programs and state celebrations.

A woman attacked in a [public] square for wearing jeans.

A woman soldier, in uniform, called a “whore.”


Wilde Speculations.

Like the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, UD has been struck, since the inception of his campaign, by what a Wildean character Donald Trump is. But while she has been tending toward Lady Bracknell, the paper points to Dorian Gray.

He is our nation’s “Portrait of Dorian Gray,” the not-so-secret creation of our worst values.

Like the hidden portrait which over the years manifests the cruel and dissolute truth of Dorian Gray’s life (while he himself maintains a black-magic youthfulness), Trump is the portrait with the curtain drawn fully aside, the picture of young and at the same time dissolute America which many of us would prefer not to see (hence the outrage his candidacy has excited).


For UD, the Trump Bump isn’t quite this grim or this simple or even this moral a tale. That’s why the rollicking amorality of The Importance of Being Earnest – subtitle: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People – seems closer to the truth. Though loud, Trump is – like Aunt Augusta – trivial (note that the Huffington Post is covering his campaign in its Entertainment section). The Trump/Bracknell comedy derives from the contradiction between this triviality and their cosmic self-importance.

The reason the Bracknell role is often played by a man is the same reason Donald Trump is played by a man: Both are unfortunate victims of too much male hormone. Both parody The Hyper-Male of any culture, not just America: Braying, belligerent, boastful, brainless, and utterly beside the point.

Both care, in the crudest fashion, only about money (“A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her.”), and both make absolutely nothing happen. Bracknell flounces and rages but both parties marry over her objections; Trump flounces and rages but the Republic romps along.

Bracknell and Trump are the best parts of the shows they’re in, yes. But this glorious country is not going to form an alliance with a parcel.

Vox populi.

Cruz shut down the government. Paul filibustered the Patriot Act. And together they can’t edge out the loudmouth clown who delights the GOP’s nativist base by declaring that the U.S. should have invaded Mexico instead of Iraq.

Garrett Park Fourth of July Parade…


… A photo taken moments ago by our
friend and fellow Garrett Parker Koneti.

Click on it to see Les UDs sitting
in front of their Prius, UD clapping
and Mr UD holding a copy of the
Declaration of Independence, which
every year he reads to UD while the
parade is going by for maximal inspiration.

La Kid Rainbows a Recent Photo of Herself…


…to celebrate marriage equality.

“Empty cans make the most noise.”

Farah Ann Abdul Hadi. Hell yeah.

Whether it’s sex-segregated events at its universities…

… or bans on women driving, England seems to have woken up to the fact that it’s a democracy. It is actively fighting back. Last year it beat back the segregationists, and now it seems to have beaten back the woman-annihilating wahhabis. Or rather the haredim.

Women’s Liberation.


A woman casts off her burqa
as she escapes ISIS.

Details here.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:

If you want to read an example of a really good essay, go here, to Jay Michaelson’s piece on the ongoing death of Israeli democracy. Let me tell you why it’s a terrific essay.

First of all, it’s very short, but within that concision Michaelson brilliantly, elegantly, and with dramatic – even poetic – flair, conveys his argument. An essay is “a short piece of writing on a particular subject,” says the first dictionary definition I get when I Google “meaning of the word ‘essay.'” The best essayists know how to pack their meaning into very few words, and this brevity often packs quite a punch… It is, if you like, a punch – a quick feint to the brain which suddenly distracts the mind from its customary thoughts and makes it pay attention. Think Joan Didion – that weird evocative minimalism which somehow by picking out only a few powerful words (and these are often repeated words) hooks onto you and holds you.

Second, Michaelson’s tone is neutral, controlled, calm, observant… And at the same time it manages to convey intense underlying emotions. Didion’s great at this too: On the surface, in her essays about her husband and her daughter, for instance, she’s so much about dry perceptive intellect directed to the world, careful precise language brought to the description of her experience, that you only gradually realize the almost unbearable melancholy that she’s really feeling, the bafflement and despair that’s in fact motivating the writing as a way of understanding and assimilating the tragic nature of life.

Third, Michaelson gives his essay a narrative frame. The obnoxious Hasid on Michaelson’s flight from Israel begins and ends the essay, giving the author’s abstractions about “a minority group … that pays those who are destroying it” (he has in mind Israeli and American Jewish subsidies of the most reactionary sects within the faith) a grounding in the immediacy of the real world… Or perhaps SOS should say a floating in the immediacy of the in-flight world, where women are angered by the Hasid’s refusal to sit next to them, and where women and men are made anxious by the man’s bizarre rule-flouting behavior throughout the flight.

Finally, Michaelson’s not got much space so he’s not going to fart around. He’s not going to mince words. He’s going to tell you – calmly, precisely – what’s in the mind of the Hasid, what has been put in the Hasid’s mind by the education that the larger Jewish community continues to subsidize.

Most likely, he has learned in religious schools – paid for mainly by government largesse, thanks to “faith-based initiatives” and the erosion of the garden wall between church and state – that goyim have no souls, or are like animals, or worse… . Taught that the customs of the goyim – that includes non-Orthodox Jews, of course – are filthy, stupid and nonbinding, Haredim are unruly passengers on airplanes. “Fasten seatbelts?” – goyishe toireh. “Don’t gather in the aisles?” – narishkeit.

But no – he can’t really know exactly what the Hasid is thinking.

Really, I have no idea what the Hasid is thinking, what the flight attendants are thinking or what my fellow passengers are thinking.

I can report only what I am thinking. And that is that this moment of obstinacy and disrespect is one that we Jews have created. Our cousins in Israel have given the Haredim everything they’ve asked for in exchange for their political support – just watch as the new government undoes all the progress of the previous one – at tremendous cost to society as a whole. And our institutions here in America continue to dole out benefits to fundamentalists opposed to the very institutions that are feeding them.

The last two sentences of Michaelson’s essay wonderfully meld the particular, the immediate narrative of the obnoxious Hasid, with the general:

An obstreperous man on an airplane is not so bad; after a few hours, we made it to JFK, safe and sound. Reversing course on Jewish fundamentalism will be a lot harder.

“[Laura Kipnis] was accused … of writing an article that upset some students. Turning that into a federal case is beyond the pale.”

UD liked Northwestern. She didn’t love it (she loved her graduate school, the University of Chicago), but she liked it. In Erich Heller, for instance, she found not merely a compelling teacher, but a compelling human being.

As Geoffrey Stone points out here, NU has been making an ass of itself, in the matter of free speech, for some time now. He discusses two recent cases, including that of Laura Kipnis.

Laura Kipnis wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she raised important questions about the regulation of student-faculty relationships, the meaning of consent, the procedural irregularities that frequently taint the efforts of colleges and universities to address such issues, and the messy and destructive lawsuits that often follow.

Kipnis’ article is a serious, provocative, and valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about these often difficult and vexing issues. Among other things, Kipnis charged that some of the recently enacted campus codes dealing with such matters have had the effect of infantilizing women students. This, she reasoned, is not a good thing.

In response to this essay, several students at Northwestern staged a protest demanding “a swift, official condemnation” of the article because they had been made to feel uncomfortable by her thoughts on the subject. One woman student went so far as to describe the essay as “terrifying.” Shortly thereafter, a women student who had filed sexual assault charges against a professor at Northwestern filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) complaint against Kipnis because of the publication.

As Kipnis traces in a powerful new article published this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the past several months she has been subjected to a star-chamber proceeding in which outside investigators retained by Northwestern University have sought to determine whether her initial essay somehow constituted unlawful retaliation, “intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination” against the student who had previously filed the sexual assault charge against the faculty member at Northwestern.

As anyone who has read Kipnis’ initial article can discern, the accusation is ludicrous on its face. An essay that takes aim at the substantive values and procedures employed by universities in their efforts to regulate sexual relationships on campus is not, and cannot rationally be taken to be, an act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment directed against any particular student who may have filed such a complaint.

What Northwestern should have done in the face of such a complaint was to dismiss it as quickly and decisively as possible and to reaffirm the fundamental right of members of the university community to write, speak, argue, and complain openly and vigorously about matters of public concern. Instead, Northwestern put Kipnis through months of “investigation” for doing nothing more than writing an interesting and provocative article in a journal of considerable repute.

It was only after Kipnis went public in her second article this week that Northwestern finally informed her that the charges against her were unfounded. As evidenced in both of these situations, it seems, not surprisingly, that the best way to get universities to stand up for academic freedom is to call them out publicly on their lack of commitment to the principles for which they are supposed to stand.

As Stone suggests, NU should be ashamed. It should replace whoever is running its Title IX office.


Update: Same idea.

Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan Law Professor who, until 2011, served as the number two official in Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, says Northwestern wasn’t compelled to go as far as it did. “Federal law requires a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint,” he says. “They do have to look into it. The question is, what does looking into it mean?”

In the Kipnis case, he says, “ All you would have to do was read her article, read the Tweet, and maybe talk to the people who filed the complaint to understand that there’s no conceivable way that even if everything in the complaint were true, there’s no way that was a violation of Title IX.”

Support from left and right.

[R]ight now, France is debating whether to extend the headscarf ban from grade schools to universities as well. Support is wide-reaching and includes former Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on the right and the current minister for women’s rights on the left.

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