Hm. Let’s see if we can follow this latest dispatch…

… from America’s colleges. It’s a little complicated, because it involves a football team/fraternity synergy… But okay. Let’s go.

A fraternity at Cal Poly has been suspended because the frat is a cover for a drug dealing operation. Nothing new there. More than a few frats have figured out that they’re supremely – UD would even say unbeatably – well-situated as far as the drug trade goes. Recall the federal raid of a bunch of San Diego State fraternities/drug houses. The raid netted guns along with drugs. These boys don’t fool around.

This latest thing, the thing at Cal Poly, also involved guns as well as drugs. Here’s the rather complicated first paragraph of an article about it:

Cal Poly has suspended the fraternity targeted in an attempted armed robbery last summer for violating student conduct policies, after the university determined chapter members knew illegal drugs were sold at the house and failed to take action.

See, what blew the cover of this frat’s operation was the school’s football team. A group of players wanted drugs, and they knew where the campus drug market was, and, well, something went wrong.

The Delta Sigma Phi house at 244 California Blvd. was the target of an attempted robbery on Aug. 10 allegedly committed by a group of Cal Poly football players believed to be looking for drugs.

I guess the football players didn’t want to buy the drugs; they didn’t seem to understand that the frat is a drug market, not a free drug distribution center.

So. To recap: You’ve got university football players committing armed robbery for drugs against a university fraternity.

Cal Poly: Keepin’ it all in-house!

UD’s father interviewed in 1972…

… on CBS News. About his cancer research.

“… all / I tried to overcome but I could not— …”

It’s true that from the time UD discovered the poet Franz Wright (who has died), she has failed to understand his renown. The son of James Wright, who wrote the much-anthologized “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio,” Franz Wright always seemed to UD like a hapless royal born to a crown he doesn’t want and doesn’t fit — an Edward VIII needing a Wallis Simpson to take him away from it all.

Franz Wright never abdicated poetry, and his misery in that rarified life shows in every line. William Logan’s takedown of Wright’s work is brutal (Wright dropped a line to Logan in response to it: “I do not wish to kill you or hurt you, and so I beg you to get away from me, without delay, if you realize we are in the same room somewhere.”), but comes pretty close to UD’s own sense of the writing. In just the first paragraph of an essay about Wright, Logan manages to work in the following adjectives:


All of which seem apt. To them UD would add unpoetic, in the sense that Wright’s language never astonishes or delights. Most of his poems are truncated lines of prose, bleats of anger and sadness. Sometimes a line will shine out with a sort of Joe Orton quality of rage glossed to the point of hilarity –

sorry, I have been given the job
of vacuuming the desert forever.

And like Joe Orton, you get the feeling that above all it was his peculiar quality of masculinity, rather than a painful family inheritance, that did the guy in. That note to Logan, and Wright’s repeated rageful variants in his poetry on all I tried to overcome but could not, convey his hair-trigger frustration with the human condition. He was the perfect opposite of a Buddhist.

On those occasions when Wright does calm himself, the result is rather a nice poem, like this one:

Thoughts of a Solitary Farmhouse

And not to feel bad about dying.
Not to take it so personally—

it is only
the force we exert all our lives

to exclude death from our thoughts
that confronts us, when it does arrive,

as the horror of being excluded— . . .
something like that, the Canadian wind

coming in off Lake Erie
rattling the windows, horizontal snow

appearing out of nowhere
across the black highway and fields like billions of white bees.


First the blunt admission that behind all of it – behind most of it – is his rage at having to die, “the horror of being excluded.” The “And” with which the poem begins signals that this insight about death comes at the end of a long familiar stream of consciousness on the subject: Having isolated himself in a farmhouse and started meditating, he winds up where he always does when he gets serious — the relentless endpoint of death, and the equally relentless effort to transcend it, to come to terms with it, to reconcile oneself to it. When you actually look at death, you see not death but our long repression of it, the “force we exert all our lives” to deny it (in Wright’s case, this meant a whole hell of a lot of drinking and drugging). After the word “excluded” comes both a dash and an ellipsis as the poet sort of gets to the end of what he can do with the wholly unmanageable subject his meditative mood has conjured.

The pause also introduces the second half of this classic little lyric, with its near 50/50 mix of metaphysics and nature, idea and metaphor. Thoughts impossible to clarify dissolve into the view out of his window; mentally overwhelmed, the poet moves his perception to the world outside:

the Canadian wind

coming in off Lake Erie
rattling the windows, horizontal snow

appearing out of nowhere
across the black highway and fields like billions of white bees.

Or, as Philip Larkin puts it, when the reality of your own extinction hits you, and hits you hard,

The mind blanks at the glare…
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Vast horizontal snow, white bees, blanked mind, clayey skies — choose your sudden bitter cold appalled visitation image. Choose “The Dews drew quivering and chill.” Etc.

Another chapter in the legend of SAE.

It’s America’s worst fraternity – a distinction extremely hard to attain, given the competition.

UD loves the image of Yale’s Sean Stewart getting his degree in ethics while being an SAE man, for, as you know, UD loves hypocrisy, the cruder the better. Stewart went on to become a finance person (he’s just been charged with insider trading), and a striking number of finance people seem to go in for this moral seriousness/massive theft of funds approach to life. Michael Martoma, you may recall, was also an ethics guy in college… Bernard Madoff, come to that, was a pious Yeshiva University insider…

None of these men seems to have been able to keep his dual-track life going. Bernie kept it up, as it were, longest, but now he’s rotting in jail. Martoma will get out of jail in nine years, and I’m sure he’s working out in the gym every day in order not to rot. Stewart could go to jail for 25 years, but he’ll get less time than that. Ten years, maybe. He and his father were in on the scheme together (Bernie also made it a family affair), and they used golf code in their phone conversations about their various trades, which is so cute. Golf is this adorable subtext in many insider trading arrests – remember this guy? Does his perp walk while wearing a sweater with little vintage golfers on it! Sweet.

Greed and Irritability Aren’t a Very Attractive Combination…

… and when they’re exhibited by the president of a university so icky it’s lately being called not the U of L (we’re talking about the University of Louisville), but the U of Smell, the effect is doubly unattractive. Sports- and felon-factory Louisville (put Louisville in my search engine) always makes sure its inept administrative staff is highly paid, and some of the trustees have asked for details about the sources of their salaries and perks – in particular, the board would like to know more about a campus foundation that seems to specialize in directing vast deferred compensations at the president and other execs.

The president’s response to this request is to “lash out,” publicly, at the trustees, and accuse them of not trusting him.

Which is weird, eh? The whole point is that the trustees don’t trust him; that’s why they want an audit of the foundation (which he also heads). UD doesn’t think the president’s best move, faced with trustees who don’t trust him, is to get all hurt and angry and accuse them of not trusting him. A better approach would be for the president to

1. grasp that the trustees don’t trust him, and

2. do something to gain their trust.

A Swarm of Bees in May.

Here’s the nursery rhyme. I just found a massive swarm of bees in May.

I was in my backwoods.

Mr UD ordered a new chaise lounge, and for some reason they sent us three. I’d carried one of them on my head (thinking, as I did so, about my time in Bali, where women carry things on their heads) out to a clearing I’d made under a honeysuckle canopy. The idea was to create a very hidden green space – kind of a natural bird blind or something. As I hacked and raked and then settled the chair, I noticed a huge sound – like an oncoming train. Down the the path a bit, midway up a very old tree, what looked like thousands of bees were swarming.

Back inside, I emailed the Montgomery County Beekeepers and heard back right away from someone wanting to know if the swarm was still there. If it was, he’d be out immediately.

I went to check, and although bees buzz around as you walk, the swarm is gone. No more sound of an oncoming train.

But the beekeeper I’m emailing with tells me to

Feel free to call me directly if it shows back up. Usually they will swarm to a tree while they are looking for another location to call their new home. Usually it is not too far from where they were when they swarmed so you may want to go back out and check later in the day.

UD learns about bees.

“Despite his age, Mr Shor has already notched up some significant achievements.”

You can say that again! The president of ORT Moldova (a charitable educational organization) stands accused of having stolen one eighth of that country’s gross domestic product.


The North Adams Police Department is urging everyone to NOT chase bears through the woods with a dull hatchet, drunk,” the post said.

A GW Student Talks About the Amtrak Crash.

One of the passengers was 18-year-old Gaby Rudy, a student at George Washington University who had been sleeping in the last car when she felt it verge off the tracks and then flip over.

The car immediately began to fill with smoke, she said. She called 911. And then she saw another young woman on the floor. Her back was injured. Rudy said she helped her out of the train.

Rescuers told them they had to run across another set of tracks in case another train approached.

They walked into some woods while helicopters circled above.

Rudy, who had been on her way home to Livingston, N.J., called her dad. He was at Temple Hospital 90 minutes later to pick her up.

“She was very panicked and screaming,” Daniel Rudy said. “It was the most traumatic thing imaginable.”

The University of Louisville Becomes Prudent at this Juncture.

Is this parody of a university actually parodying a parody? Are they aware of Dana Carvey’s famous wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture parody of George Herbert Walker Bush? Having been forced by a lawsuit to release the most recent auditor’s report of their crime-ridden money pit, UL says this:

Settling the lawsuit at this juncture is the prudent course of action for the University.

Much as UD would love it if university spokesperson Mark Hebert turned out to be doing a conscious parody of a parody, she figures he’s simply unaware that the hilarious formulation he’s chosen with which to cover his school’s ass has already been made notorious.


How do you leach millions from a university?

Gotta get you a bank account.

As part of its examination, [the auditor] tried to determine how many bank accounts existed in the name of University of Louisville, University of Louisville Physicians or any derivative. The firm requested information from all banks in a 50-mile radius. The university provided a list of 11 authorized accounts at PNC Bank, as well as one account in the name of the University of Louisville Athletic Association.

The firm ultimately found more than 20 additional bank accounts linked in some manner to U of L. They include accounts for the German Club, the U of L Sports Administration Club, U of L Parking, and more.

[The firm] also learned of several accounts linked to University Medical Associates, the previous incarnation of University of Louisville Physicians. However, Fifth Third Bank told [auditors] that they were unaware of any accounts in the name of the university.

The auditing firm later found additional accounts linked to previous entities tied to University of Louisville Physicians, according to the report.

Practical Nursing

If you’re failing, sue.

Mid-May, With Wrens

Comical fledglings now appear out of the striped planter (kind of like this, only deeper) in which they’ve been nesting. I watch them blunder into the ivy and try to fly out of it.

These are house wrens with a vengeance. The planters sit inches from UD‘s front door; the birds seem positively to want my company.

You could say wrens are dull. A poet picks up a dead wren, and when he lets it drop

my hand changed for a moment
By a thing so common it was never once distracted from
The nothing all wrens meant

But my wrens sing beautifully, even meaningly; and they have an alluring Madeleine Albrightesque insistency about them, emanating from their sharp eyes and puffy chests. They certainly mean to reproduce, and to express themselves – which covers a good deal of what anyone does…

May is busting out all over in Garrett Park; the wren nest is one of several in UD‘s front yard. Yesterday a caterpillar worked its way along Mr UD‘s arm as he sat on the deck reading. Rabbits of course are everywhere.

I’ve been spraying the front steps to get rid of wasps in the brickwork. I’ve been poisoning the poison oak. My neighbor Caroline has installed elegant high black fencing to keep out deer. Only a bright red door in the fence gives you access to her back garden.

We are all trying to hold back, even as we invite, the natural world.

Forging Ahead

Monika Juneja, who rose to become deputy leader of the Conservative group at Guildford Borough Council…
pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to three counts of forgery dating back to 2000, obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, and a charge of “wilfully pretending to be a barrister” between January 2010 and May 2014.

As in many of these cases, she seems to have spent a good deal of her non-working time forging academic papers – degrees, certificates, approvals… A fraudster’s work is never done until she – or he, like Michael Martoma – has to go to jail.

“[U]gly, kitsch, ridiculous, and rather childish.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm might quibble with the order of adjectives here – isn’t childish a bit weaker than ugly, kitsch, ridiculous? Those are stronger words, and I think you should build up to your stronger words to avoid a letdown at the end of a sentence. SOS might have started the list with childish and then continued by means of ascending number of syllables:

kitsch (1)
ugly (2)
ridiculous (4)

“Childish, kitsch, ugly, and rather ridiculous.” Or drop the rather. “Childish, kitsch, ugly, and ridiculous.”

The ur-text for thinking about the style and content of lists is The Importance of Being Earnest:

ALGERNON. [Speaking very rapidly.] Cecily, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.

CECILY. I don’t think that you should tell me that you love me wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly. Hopelessly doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?

Doesn’t make much sense and is, again, a bit of a letdown.

In the case of practically bankrupt Louisiana State University finding money to buy “a ‘lazy river’ on the LSU campus in the shape of the letters L-S-U,” it doesn’t really matter how the LSU Faculty Senate president organized his list – the remarkable nature of the construction certainly comes across. Students whose campus is in the tank will soon be literally in the tank, paddling while Rome burns.

Mass Insanity

University Diaries has followed the very strange public university system of Massachusetts for quite some time. Virtually all of its campuses clamor for attention. There’s the pointless bankrupting football program, the drunk and violent students… and, of course, the spanking new law school.

Yes. Law school. New law school. In the current climate for lawyers, U Mass opened, just a few years ago, a new law school.

Everyone with half a brain tried shouting it down, but up it went, with all sorts of cretinous promises (“the state would even earn a profit as enrollment was projected to more than double by 2017″). Its first president was quickly fired for financial malfeasance. It’s almost four million dollars in debt, and it’s shrinking its enrollment. Plus it’s not yet accredited.

UD is speechless.


UD thanks Andre.

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