Centuries ago, Leo Braudy and a bunch of other very cool English professors at the University of Southern California…

… interviewed UD in a hotel room during a New York City MLA convention; they then invited her to spend three days in LA – she gave a paper, walked around the cool campus, got taken out to cool LA restaurants, and left the city feeling extremely good about USC.

She was thrilled to get a job offer a few days later, but ultimately decided she was more of an east coaster.

UD recalled all of this when reading an opinion piece by Braudy about the resignation of USC’s benighted president, Max Nikias. He left under the impossible pressure of multiple very big sex and drug scandals, and he really had to leave. But Leo makes the important point that despite the awful scandals on his watch, Nikias did a huge amount of good for the school.

When Nikias became provost in 2005, one of his first acts was to institute Visions and Voices, an arts and humanities program that is free to all students, bringing writers, actors, dancers and other prominent artists to campus to create a vibrant nighttime activity rather than the commuter wasteland that had existed before.

… More than 100 endowed faculty chairs and 20 new research centers were established under Nikias’ leadership and with the funds he raised. The number of residential colleges, where students can fruitfully interact with faculty, graduate students and each other, increased from one to 15. Older campus buildings were renovated and new ones added, including the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, and the Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. The campus itself has been beautified with more than a thousand new trees as well as numerous places for students and faculty to sit, have coffee and converse.

And if you are in search of an ethical as well as a bricks-and-mortar legacy, consider his enormous expansion of the diversity of USC’s community of scholars, and especially his strong support of first-generation students, students from foster families and DACA students.

The USC student body now is drawn from all 50 states and 129 countries. Sixteen percent of the incoming freshman class will be the first in their families to attend college; about a quarter are underrepresented minorities. Two-thirds of all USC students receive financial aid, which has increased almost 80% under Nikias, from $187 million to $325 million — the biggest financial aid pool in America. Very few “spoiled children” here.

Nor is USC any longer the University of Second Choice. The university is rated 15th nationally by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, and USC this year had 63,000 freshman applications.

At some universities, theft is endemic…

… among faculty and staff. At our most career-criminal schools, like the University of Louisville, the theft starts at the top (UL is currently trying to use the courts to claw back a few of the millions their last president apparently swiped) and moves briskly and efficiently through various heads of programs (who can forget Dean Felner?) and also into – no kidding – athletics.

UD has learned over the blogging years that the less legitimacy – hell, the less reality – something calling itself a university has, the more the random people hanging around this random place will steal. Schools with a graduation rate approaching zero percent – for instance, Southern University, with its beloved, larcenous band leader – and schools approaching zero enrollment, like Chicago State University, will be the national theft standouts.

Obviously, as the school tanks, very few conscientious people will want to have anything to do with trying to run it. You end up hiring rogues, hastening the process of decline.

“Don’t worry about me. Nobody is more blessed than Jim Ramsey of Fern Creek, Ky.”

Little Jimbo! His is the story of a local boy who rose all the way to university president, whereupon he took as much money from its foundation as he thought he could get away with. And he did! He got away with it!

I mean, maybe he did. The University of Louisville announced today that they’re gonna sue him… Gonna see if they can’t get back a little of their pilfered loot… Gonna see if they can’t make the pride of Fern Creek give up one or even two of his McMansions in Florida…

Lehigh and…

Lelow.

Paul Krugman’s Column Today on Hobbesian America…

… reminds ol’ UD to talk about a trend among prospective students and faculty at our country’s universities.

Krugman points out that

our madness over guns [is] just one aspect of the drive to turn us into what Thomas Hobbes described long ago: a society “wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them.” And Hobbes famously told us what life in such a society is like: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

There are larger and larger areas of this country where

[people regard any] public action for the public good, no matter how justified, as part of a conspiracy to destroy our freedom.

This paranoia strikes both deep and wide. Does anyone remember George Will declaring that liberals like trains, not because they make sense for urban transport, but because they serve the “goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism”? And it goes along with basically infantile fantasies about individual action — the “good guy with a gun” — taking the place of such fundamentally public functions as policing.

Anyway, this political faction is doing all it can to push us toward becoming a society in which individuals can’t count on the community to provide them with even the most basic guarantees of security — [including] security from crazed gunmen…

We’re beginning to see evidence of some faculty leaving, and some students not applying, to universities in these frontier settings. Bullets, rapists, and riots, oh my…

Many such locations are already cultural wastelands; some are also beginning to look like shooting galleries.

Why, for instance, would anyone with a choice want to live – even for a few years – in Waco, Texas, home of armed cults, armed motorcycle gangs, and Baylor University? Why would a non-Hobbesian want to work there, live there, go to school there, teach there? It’s not as if there’s any cultural compensation to living in the Wild West. It’s guns and strip malls and megachurches where you beg divine protection.

Why would you go to Hammond, Louisiana and attend Southeastern Louisiana University, famous for being the last school in America willing to take Jonathan Taylor? Can anyone be surprised that at 3 AM yesterday a fight broke out on campus and a bunch of people got shot?

These schools are part of America’s Hobbesian wastelands, where you grabs your AR-15 and you takes your chances. The idea that a university could thrive under these conditions is hilarious.

Trying to teach or learn in these settings is like deciding to take your family vacation in Beach Blanket Bloodbath Myrtle Beach. Why? Unless you’re a Hobbesian and you enjoy that sort of thing?

UD anticipates a militarization of certain campuses – having been abandoned by civilization, they will become weedy tracts patrolled by open-carry paranoids offering Active Shooter Response seminars.

If you’re in the wasteland, and you can leave, you should. Get out while the getting’s good.

‘Scuse me. Just need to powder…

… my snubnose.”

Our university might be a stinking pile of shit…

… but so’s the NCAA.

The life of the mind, USA, 2018.

To live with books.

Victor Brombert, New Yorker:

In 1941, a week or two after my family’s safe arrival in New York Harbor on a freighter overcrowded with refugees escaping from Nazi-occupied countries, an old friend of my parents took us on an excursion to a small town in New Jersey. He parked his car on what I now know to be Witherspoon Street, near the corner facing the Princeton campus. Looking at the scene of university life before me then, I was struck by the confident gait of figures in tweed jackets moving along the alleys, carrying books and briefcases. No hurry, no sombre faces. Without my realizing it at the time, a series of idyllic images settled in my mind, and I carried them with me throughout the war, all the way to devastated Berlin, where, in the fall of 1945, I determined that this was the kind of life I wanted: to live with books, to study, to learn, perchance to teach.

… A sonnet by William Wordsworth extols the contentment of students in their “pensive citadels” — strongholds not for the exercise of power or for war but for the joy of studies.

‘He holds Honorary Doctorates from the universities of McGill, Montréal, Laval and the Curtis School of Music.’

Until they took it down, the Royal Philharmonic conductors page included an entry on Charles Dutoit which listed some of his honorary degrees. They took it down because

Monsieur Dutoit
Is hot to trot.
All his Mais non!s
Have come to naught.

Will the schools revoke the degrees?

UD predicts that maybe one will follow the Nevernevernever Yale model (To be sure Dr Mengele performed some questionable surgeries, but we never revoke an honorary degree…), while the others will announce that they are passing Dutoit’s, uh, baton back to him.

Bill Cosby is Still Listed…

… so UD assumes that James Levine will remain alongside him, securely honored at her revocation-phobic alma mater, Northwestern University.

NU will apparently take your honor back if it hasn’t formally forked it over yet, as with conspiracy theorist Jeremiah Wright; but once it’s in your hot little hands, you get to keep it.

Levine, whose 1984 recording with UD-favorite Kathleen Battle singing UD-favorite Henry Purcell (Levine’s on piano), is, well, a UD-favorite, has been accused of sexual abuse.

An American Writer Chronicles Perhaps the Most Impressive Moment in the History of the University of Alabama.

It was perhaps inevitable, in the intellectual life of our nation, that when one university rose above all others to express the essence of higher learning for so many of our citizens, it would happen on a basketball court among the scholar/athletes of the University of Alabama.

Their triumph was so intense that my own paltry rhetoric fails me. I will defer to one of countless chroniclers who, this morning, are celebrating this great academic institution.

A SPORTING EVENT FOR THE AGES: ALABAMA FIGHTS BACK AGAINST MINNESOTA WITH THREE PLAYERS

… In a match-up that was primarily seen on Facebook live, the 25th ranked Alabama basketball team played in one of the most incredible sporting events I’ve ever watched against the 14th ranked Minnesota Gophers… [After a huge on-court brawl,] the entire bench got ejected from the game, leaving Alabama with five eligible players for the rest of the game… That’s when the game truly started getting incredible.

A couple minutes later, [an Alabama player] picked up his fifth foul, leaving Alabama with only four eligible players for the final 11 minutes of the game. Less than a minute later, freshman John Petty landed awkwardly and needed assistance getting to the bench with an ankle injury. Alabama was down to THREE eligible players [who] fought back valiantly to make this a truly incredible game.

… I’m usually not glued to my screen during an early season college basketball match-up but this was a sporting event that I’ll never forget. Anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to watch this live should definitely check out the highlights.

The only thing UD can think of that would make this set of events more valiant and incredible would be if someone in the arena – or, hell, on the team – had a gun, and there had been an incredible and valiant massacre. It will happen. But we will have to wait. Meanwhile, anyone who has been watching higher education in America knows that the University of Alabama, in all its splendor, would be the place where this incredible breakthrough in the life of the mind would occur.

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UD thanks dmf.

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And don’t forget! It’s football season!

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

Plus: If you want to keep up with the global bloodbath, a suggestion: Type FOOTBALL BRAWL into Google News.

If you’re interested in how the organizations that run all of these teams are completely corrupt, type FIFA corruption for international; for national, read University Diaries.

“Really what needs to happen is that colleges and fraternities can’t look … the other way and then act all shocked when someone dies,” he said. “For every death there are multiple hospitalizations before that and sexual assaults and horrible behavior. They need to change the environment — it’s a public health issue.”

The carnage is not only unsurprising, as John Hechinger notes; it’s more than acceptable, and a great recruiting tool. Along with a rising death toll, there’s been a “50 percent increase in [Greek] membership in the last decade.” The synergy between colleges and universities advertising campus enclaves where sadists can gather unmolested, and fraternities signalling to the same applicant pool the deeply satisfying pleasures of Men in Groups, has over the years grown and thrived and – most recently – been captured on tape, so the whole nation can now enjoy pausing and repeating over the slaughter of eighteen year olds.

UD sees no reason why we should pretend that this arrangement doesn’t make almost everyone happy. Enough with the faux outrage. Watching grieving parents rage is part of the fun.

Universities advertise blood on the gridiron and blood in the frat house because that’s how you attract a valued demographic. Blood lust makes generous alumni.

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

[F]or the University of Michigan, Greek life is a liability.

Renée Graham wrote for The Boston Globe last week that “(f)rom hazing deaths to racist parties, fraternities and sororities are incubators of behavior ranging from objectionable to criminal.” And though I promise I’m not trying to be anti-fun, it’s a compelling argument. When was the last time a fraternity made national news for something even marginally wholesome, not for killing a pledge or hosting a blatantly racist party?

Many students go into Greek life in the fall looking for parties, camaraderie and memories to last a lifetime. A nontrivial number of them, though, appear to find the kind of camaraderie that would leave them to lie on a couch for nine hours, dying from alcohol-induced asphyxiation. I realize universities value the sort of alumni loyalty that’s built at fraternities and sororities, but it’s time to [ban them at Michigan].

This is from a strong and well-written student editorial in the UM newspaper.

But this guy forgets the history of his institution. UM is overwhelmingly football and frats now, and it’s too late to change that.

Hiroshima, Mon Kapoor

Unlike benighted Yeshiva University which, when stories of the arrest of their esteemed trustee/treasurer Bernie Madoff broke, went into full silence, denial, web-erasure, Bernie who?, we’re a victim mode, the University at Buffalo, on receiving today’s atomic bomb about mega-donor and (wait for it) pharmacy school namesake John Kapoor, quickly and admirably issued a statement.

That’s the way you’re supposed to go when something grand and consequent and deeply embarrassing happens to your university: spit it out. Acknowledge it. And then when – inevitably – you have to blast the Kapoor name off of the building his massive fatal peddling of fentanyl has turned into a sick joke, you have as it were laid the groundwork for the blasting.

There’s a long description of the Kapoor caper here. To save time, here’s UD‘s paraphrase of it, a sentiment out of Norman Mailer:

THE SHITS ARE KILLING US.

***********

Thanks, dmf.

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Inaugurating the building soon to be renamed the Kermit West Virginia Memorial Hall.

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[Kapoor’s] Insys even made a video featuring a sales rep dressed as a giant fentanyl spray bottle, rapping and dancing to a song that pushed the idea of getting doctors to prescribe higher doses…

The Triumph of the American University.

We did it! We made the NBA look pure!

“There’s a reason I coach in the NBA. I never wanted to be a college coach,” [Golden State Warriors Coach Steve] Kerr said. “I don’t immerse myself in that stuff. The NBA is very pure.”

Thank you, University of Louisville, and all your great affiliated institutions.

“[A]n incomprehensibly long string of scandals.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education hoovers up all the University of Louisville scandals – financial, sexual, sportal – of the last few years (it’s a lengthy article) and pronounces the whole bloody thing incomprehensible.

Not only is the current implosion of UL not incomprehensible, UD will now draw up a menu of options your school – should it want to imitate UL – can choose from in order to get there. Or get close to there. Your mileage may vary.

1. Be a public university.

2. In a southern state.

3. In a corrupt state.

4. When I say corrupt, I mean corrupt all the way down, from the governor to pretty much everyone else who lives in the state. I mean madly flagrantly insanely corrupt.

5. Appoint tyrannical greedy presidents and fail to find – over many years – any way to get rid of them. Make sure the trustees are chaired by the president’s closest friend.

6. Make sure these presidents – and their many greedy administrator cronies – are too busy buying real estate with the endowment or ripping off the program they’re supposed to be running or whatever to give a shit about your sports program.

7. Hire, at staggering salaries and with punishing buyout conditions, corrupt coaches and athletic directors.

8. Respond to all dissent within the institution, and all looming audits, and other stuff like that, with rage, paranoia, and threats.

9. When interviewed by the local press, present yourself (we’re talking the president here) as a local hick made good, a hayseed pulled up by your own bootstraps and by the glorious power of our lord and savior.

10. Once fired, everyone – president, administrators, athletics staff, program directors – files lawsuits. This, coupled with the now massively overextended sports program, bankrupts the university forever.

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UD thanks Wendy for the image.

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