“[W]hen Hanna’s mother, who was in the middle of a divorce, tried to pay with a credit card, she found that her husband had canceled her credit. As Hanna fought back tears, a saleslady took out scissors and cut up the plastic card. It was not until the law changed two years later that women became entitled to credit without their husbands’ sponsorship…”

“In July 1999, the little girl who had seen her mother’s credit card scissored became a tenured law professor with all the associated stature and job security.”

This blog is authored by the daughter of a suicide – a man who, like Vermont Law School’s Cheryl Hanna, had one of the world’s great jobs (he was a branch chief at NIH who did cancer research) as well as family happiness (Hanna told an interviewer “I was sort of getting to that point in life where it probably wasn’t going to happen… Now I have this crazy family. I thought I was just going to have a career.”) – and University Diaries has from its beginning discussed both particular university suicides and the larger national problem of suicide (most recently Robin Williams’ death has had people thinking about it).

In this nicely written brief review of Hanna’s sad and traumatic youth, and then her socially committed, successful academic career, UD senses the same complex mix of painful early years and strikingly successful adult years that characterized her father’s life. There’s also the same strange onset of a total determination to die (her husband describes “the rapid onset and severity of Hanna’s depression”) on the part of a person everyone recalls as – in the words of a colleague – “a vibrant, enthusiastic person who was fun to be around.”

“People seemed to run out of their own being,” Philip Roth writes in one of his novels, as his character tries to figure out why even people with what look like great lives kill themselves. It is an odd thought – that just as each of us is given a physical life of a certain length, so each of us has a — call it a spiritual allotment…

Maryam Mirzakhani…

challenging the Summers model.

“The couple traveled the globe together to work on humanitarian causes.”

A beautiful life massacred. In two weeks their first child would have been born.

Elif Yavuz, 33, was born in Turkey, raised in the Netherlands, and educated here in the United States, at Harvard. Her partner was from Tasmania but like her a totally global citizen.

As an HSPH doctoral student [in the Department of Global Health and Population], Elif completed her dissertation research on malaria in eastern Africa,” [Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio] Frenk wrote. “[She] had lived and worked abroad for many years, both in Africa and in Asia. She was currently working with the Applied Analytics Team at the Clinton Health Access Initiative [a global organization based in Boston] and preparing her thesis for publication.”

“Women who wear the burqa by choice do not exist.”

Fadela Amara, “[French] founder of the activist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, translated as ‘Neither Whores nor Submissive,’ and later … the Secretary of State for Urban Policies,” spoke a couple of days ago about France’s anti-burqa law at the University of Chicago’s International House (UD lived in an apartment directly across the street from I House when she studied there).

Amara knows France’s fundamentalist ghettos well; she has watched them become cults of “forced marriage, polygamy, [female] circumcision, and violence against women.” Outlawing the full burqa (the law had seventy percent support among the French) has had some effect on

[t]he strategy of radical Islamists … to send in veiled women to force unveiled women to wear the burqa. And this is a real battle that has been going on for 15 years in France. And women who do not wear the veil, who were refusing to wear the veil, have been harassed and attacked, either verbally or physically — verbally by insulting them and calling them sluts, because for them these are not women who are respectable…. So we decided to stop all of this. And to act in a way to protect the women who were resisting in these neighborhoods.

Israel – where any woman who boards certain buses or walks on certain streets can be assured of being called a slut and spat on – could learn from the way France is dealing with its fundamentalist bullies.

“She now continues to work as a senator for life and last month harshly criticized Mario Monti’s government of technocrats for abolishing the peer review mechanism in funding policies to researchers.”

That was just a few months ago; and now Rita Levi Montalcini has died, age 103.

She won a 1986 Nobel for her work in nerve growth factor; a few years later, she started a foundation for the scientific education of African women. Well into her hundreds, she spent part of each day at the lab, and part at the foundation.

An atheist, she said the reason she lived so long was selflessness – she never cared or thought much about herself, but spent her energy on scientific and social problems that engrossed her. Pesky obstacles like a sexist father, fascism, anti-semitism, and a whole lot more sexism, were ignored, or somehow gotten around.

UD’s buddy, Tenured Radical, deserves all sorts of praise…

… for having understood what Columbia University’s Sudhir Venkatesh was long before the New York Times got wind of it. Her post about Columbia’s adorably rogue sociologist appeared way back in April 2009, and her attack on his book about living in a Chicago housing project tells you a lot about the power of the singular, agile, independent blogger to get out ahead of issues (look how long – with a few exceptions – it took everyone else), and about the power of a true education in the methods and ethics of particular scholarly fields.

Of course TR couldn’t know, when she wrote, that Venkatesh’s financial ethics are apparently as shaky as his scholarly; she couldn’t have read these 2010 accounts of his teaching (missing many classes; making highly-selected, immense-tuition-paying Columbia students watch YouTubes when he was too busy to show up); but no one reading her devastating review of his book can miss the larger picture of this man as another in the lengthening line of Jonah Lehrers, Marc Hausers, and Johan Haris.

All of these men, when cornered, said a version of what Venkatesh has said:

I was overwhelmed, I was working both at Columbia and at the FBI, and I struggled to keep up.

In all of these cases, we’re supposed to sympathize with people making up research (Hauser) and quotations (Lehrer, Hari), misusing funds (Venkatesh), and lying to pretty much everyone — because they’re so destructively ambitious that they’ve taken on more than they can handle.

When Tenured Radical went after Sudhir Venkatesh in 2009, several of her readers, in the comment thread, accused her of envy. One of his friends, quoted in the New York Times story, accuses his detractors of envy.

Envy’s a beaut. UD‘s all-time favorite use of it has to be Greg Mankiw’s and Eric Cantor’s, as they labor away against new tax policies. People who aren’t rich envy rich people and want to hurt them — that’s what changes in taxation are about.

Envy’s a real human emotion, to be sure. A biggie. But just because everyone’s susceptible to it, and just because it’s so low, cynical argumentative opponents realize it can be a hell of a good button to push. Instantly it distracts people from the intrinsic legitimacy of your arguments; it makes it all about you, and your grubbiest motivations. It is the quintessence of ad hominem technique.

Bravo to TR, then, not merely for having seen Venkatesh before others saw him, but for standing up to the you’re envious folk.

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

A statistics professor at Columbia recalls:

When Sudhir was in charge of Iserp, he told us that they were out of money and would not be able to honor existing commitments. Or, to be more precise, that things that I considered commitments were not actually so because they had only been transmitted orally, and that more generally Iserp was broke and could not support research in the way that we had expected. I was pretty angry about that, but when Sudhir informed me that he was suddenly stepping down as head of Iserp to work on a project with the Justice department, I assumed that he was better suited to be a researcher than an administrator and I offered him statistical help with his DOJ project if he ever needed it. I figured he was back on the research track and that this was better for all concerned. I don’t think I’d be a very good administrator myself, so I just figured Sudhir had been over his head. I’ve only seen him once since, it was a year or so ago at a sociology seminar, but we were sitting in different areas of the room and I had to leave early, so we did not get a chance to speak.

When I later heard that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing, that put a different spin on the story. I had heard rumors of an investigation but I’d never known that there was an official document, dated Aug 4, 2011 (nearly a year and a half ago!) detailing $240,000 of questionable expenses including $50,000 for fabricated business purposes. If, as Sudhir is quoted as saying in the news article, he’s only paid pack $13,000 of this, I assume more will happen. It’s not clear why the university would pay a salary to someone who still owes them over $200,000.

Marianne is Angry.

If IKEA doesn’t want embarrassing protests like these in its stores, it should think twice before erasing all images of women from its catalogs.

Background here.

Polina, Polina.

University of Georgia student newspaper Editor in Chief Polina Marinova — who walked out to protest the paper’s takeover by a board with the same sure-footed sense of how universities work that the University of Virginia trustees recently showed — now returns to the editorial office triumphant, vindicated.

She walked out by herself (background here), but was followed soon after by the rest of the staff. Non-stop international media coverage of the scandal ensued, just as it did in the case of the University of Virginia trustees’ effort to toss out the university’s president.

Now the fools who tried to turn The Red & Black into an arm of the university’s public relations office have apologized; one of them has resigned; and the students will apparently be reinstated.

Polina, Polina.
Gal, you’re on my mind.

Sally Ride…

… has died.

Among many other things, she was a physics professor at UC San Diego.

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

Charming memories of time spent in libraries.

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

Schmaltzy, but why not.

Teresa Sullivan is Back.

The board just voted unanimously to reinstate her.

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

This is not a surprising outcome. Students and faculty deserve, on this beautiful summer day, to celebrate, and I’m sure they will. They responded strongly and immediately to what really does seem to have been an attempted coup.

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

I actually think this story was au fond about human rather than university values.

Remember the famous letter that guy who quit Goldman Sachs wrote? (“[I]f you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.”) That thing was everywhere — New York Times and everywhere. Remember? Everyone was talking about it. Why?

Because nobody really wants to become a vampire squid. Some people want to become rich and powerful, but few – beyond a scattering of psychopaths – like the idea of reviewing their lives at the end of days and realizing that all that time they were Lloyd Blankfein. We live in a capitalist economy and a competitive culture, and we all deal with that in various ways; but it’s terribly important to us that there be locations in our country where exclusively market-driven values do not dominate.

Teresa Sullivan is a typical, traditional university president in that she is always trying to balance bottom line exigencies with the university’s higher calling, its status as one of the rare places in the United States where serious people gather to do something other than engage in commercial trade. She lives in the world of humane studies. Humane. Humanistic. Having to do with human beings, and bringing to human beings moral as well as intellectual seriousness. Evolving a sense of the diversity, complexity and vulnerability of human beings — think of all those literature courses — and ultimately perhaps evolving a way of dealing with other human beings that reflects an understanding of diversity, complexity, and vulnerability.

The moguls on the board of visitors at U Va were – to put it very simply – cruel. They gave no thought to the vulnerability of Teresa Sullivan; they simply summoned her and bullied her out of a job. They humiliated her. It is not enough to succeed; others must fail, says La Rochefoucauld. That is the world outside — and, sadly, to some extent, inside — the university. When it reveals itself with such clarity as it just did at one of our greatest public universities, our anxieties over what we’re turning into at the highest financial levels of our culture — amoral acquisitive people who positively enjoy hurting others — we respond with great vehemence, as the Goldman Sachs guy who couldn’t take it anymore did.

I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding.

We all know it’s eroding; and we all know that it continues to be the case that the people who are the most eroded get the biggest rewards. Most of us want in some instinctive way to protect our universities from that process of erosion. When messengers from that world emerge into sunlight, we pounce. It’s the only thing to do.

“No shackles, no to niqab.”

Tunisia’s Manouba University is a major site of resistance to Salafist activity in that country.

Students, faculty, and administration are fighting back strongly, and the government, after first remaining silent about the Salafists blocking classes there until women can attend in full veil, has now condemned them.

Coverage here from the university’s website (in French).

If Tunisia’s not careful, it’s going to start looking like Israel.

“Ever been stuck up here in the snow?”

One of our fellow guests asked Christa, our innkeeper, this as we all ate breakfast this morning.

Well, there was one time… I knew it would be bad, so I told my guests – a young couple – they should leave one day early, before the big snow hit. “No,” they said; “we have an SUV. We’ll be fine.” So down came the snow and that SUV wasn’t going anywhere… I knew we’d be in for a few rough days, but I had some food in my freezer and I was able to cook simple meals.

We spent a lot of time chatting at the fireplace, and one evening I mentioned that I was going to miss an opera in Charlottesville and the young man says “You like opera?” And I said “I love opera.” And he said, “Well, we can sing for our supper.”

And his girlfriend turned out to be an opera singer! Her name is Hyunah Yu, and … well I’ll put on one of her cds.

So now there’s this strong melancholy soprano wafting a Bach cantata through the mountain house, and Christa tells us her story. “She was going to be a doctor…”

You can read the harrowing story here.

Here’s a YouTube that features her singing Amazing Grace.

Agnes Heller Gives ‘Em Hell.

Quite a life she’s had. And she’s still punching – hard - in her eighties.

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

Final exchange from an interview she gave fourteen years ago.

CP: In closing, what kind of advice would you give to young people today?

AH: None. When I was young I hated it when old people gave me advice.

Joan Sutherland…

has died.

Libera Me, from Verdi’s Requiem, 1967, with Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic.

From Anthony Tommasini’s obituary:

Ms. Sutherland was a plain-spoken and ordinary person, who enjoyed needlepoint and playing with her grandchildren. Though she knew who she was, she was quick to poke fun at her prima donna persona.

“I love all those demented old dames of the old operas,” she said in a 1961 Times profile. “All right, so they’re loony. The music’s wonderful.”

Tried to find a YouTube of her singing some Purcell, but expected nothing and found nothing. Not really her thing. Here’s something vaguely Purcellian, three baroque arias.

“I liked the work. After the war, I missed it.”

Mr UD read this New York Times article to UD yesterday, over breakfast. One of UD‘s readers, David, also sent it to her. As if its content weren’t moving enough, there’s the photo.

UD instantly thought of the David Hare play, Plenty.

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