Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED





UD is...
"Salty." (Scott McLemee)
"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
"Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious."
(Rate Your Students)
"I think of Soltan as the Maureen Dowd of the blogosphere,
except that Maureen Dowd is kind of a wrecking ball of a writer,
and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

IS THE BLIMP ORWELLIAN?


A university professor glances out of her sixth floor windows at the low rooftops of Washington DC. A white blimp jammed with surveillance cameras circles a large area which includes her office. She is immediately reminded of the opening scene of the film 1984, in which surveillance helicopters buzz Winston Smith's apartment.

Is the blimp, then, Orwellian? Should UD find scary, oppressive, and objectionable the big white blimp?



Hell, I don't know. It doesn't feel scary, though it's certainly creepy enough to have the thing bobbing about taking pictures for hours. Round and round she goes...

Unlike Winston Smith, I don't revile and fear my government. I'll vote for Kerry, but the prospect of four more Bush years doesn't horrify me. My responses to the big white blimp have more to do with how vulnerable the city is than with how endangered my civil liberties are, or feel.



But the blimp is quite a thing. Part of the emergent atmospherics of Foggy Bottom, a sky ghost for Halloween.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST...


GUARDIAN UNLIMITED

Agency Tests Security Blimp in Washington

Wednesday September 29, 2004 6:31 PM


WASHINGTON (AP) - Here's a head-turner for a security-nervous city: A large white object was spotted in the skies above the nation's capital in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday.

Pentagon police said the Defense Department is testing a security blimp - fully equipped with surveillance cameras. The white blimp was spotted early Wednesday morning hovering at various times over the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

The 178-foot-long device, which is expected to remain in the skies until Thursday, is conducting a mission for the Defense Department.

Authorities say the airship is equipped with infrared cameras designed to provide real time images to military commanders on the ground. The equipment on the blimp already is being used to protect troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army says the device will make at least one 24-hour flight in the District of Columbia area. It has been in the region since last week, and is also being used for test runs over the U.S. Marine Corps Base in nearby Quantico, Va., and the Chesapeake Bay.


SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME

III


It's a funny world here in Foggy Bottom on a foggy day. UD has just finished her seminar on contemporary France, and she is back in her office, relaxing for a moment before she gets on the Metro.

Circling the sky outside of her windows is ... a white blimp.

This she has never seen before - a pure white blimp, like Melville's whale only up in the air, gently and quietly circling the sky above the university, the World Bank, the White House.

What does it mean? It's like - UD often thinks in terms of literature, you'll be surprised to hear - that scene in Mrs. Dalloway when everyone in London looks up at the skywriting plane.

Since the airspace around here is very restricted, UD figures this pale apparition has to do with presidential security ... inside the blimp are state of the art surveillance technologies and NSA analysts and all ...

Whatever it's about, UD likes it. A little intrusion of the surreal into her worklife.
REDNECK WOMAN DIARIES


Headlines that hurt:

WESTPORT'S MARTHA STUART ORDERED TO WEST VIRGINIA PRISON

[Westportnow.com]
BASEBALL THREAT LEVEL RAISED

The warning that the Montreal Expos may be coming to Washington DC has been raised to a watch.





INTERNATIONAL PLAGIARISM AMNESTY DAY


In response to burgeoning reports across the globe of plagiarism in all fields (journalism, history, law, fiction, drama, etc.), Livia Uffdasdottir, a mathematics professor in Odd Grenland, Norway, conceived the idea, two years ago, of an International Plagiarism Amnesty Day. “The choice of September 30 was pretty arbitrary,” she explained from her office in the small rainy university town. “We just felt that something had to be done about the problem, and a group of us from around the world decided to model a holiday on Gun Amnesty Day in the United States, where you can turn in any weapon, legal or illegal, no questions asked, to your local police department.”

Tomorrow, at Kinko’s Copies stores everywhere, people can toss books, research papers, poems, whatever they’ve stolen from someone else in whole or in part and then put their name on, into the Borrowed Without Attribution bin to the left of the checkout counter. These materials will be shipped to Odd Grenland, where Professor Uffdasdottir and other members of the I-PAD Executive Committee will check through them. Later that day, as has been the custom for the last two years, Uffdasdottir will issue a worldwide Plagiarism Absolution announcement for all of those who participated in the holiday.

“No one is more staggered by the success of I-PAD then I,” commented Uffdasdottir, allowing a smile to appear on her normally stern face. “But many people carry a burden of guilt, even decades later, about this.”

Uffdasdottir continued: “What’s been particularly moving to the committee is that relatives of long-dead plagiarists, family members who have uncovered proof of plagiarism by their fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts, have also deposited relevant materials into the bins.” Some of the historical examples of plagiarism discovered in this way have been both shocking and puzzling. “Helen Keller?” asked Uffdasdottir, shaking her head in amazement. “Why? How?”

The I-PAD committee is bracing for an unprecedented outpouring of chastened plagiarist materials this year. “The numbers just from year one to two went up astoundingly. And this year, with all the high-profile cases like Laurence Tribe, Bryony Lavery, and The DaVinci Code, we’re expecting a tidal wave.”

Asked which of the plagiarisms the committee has reviewed surprised her the most, Uffdasdottir paused. “Like a lot of people in this part of the world," she said, "I was raised in the socialist tradition, and one of our bibles has always been George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier. Let’s just say it was not my happiest day when a letter from the great-granddaughter of a miner appeared in the committee’s mail. Mrs. Jane Edwards attached to the letter the now-authenticated transcription of an interview Orwell conducted with her great-grandfather which, when ‘translated’ out of her great-grandfather’s local patois, is pretty much Orwell’s essay.”

Uffdasdottir provided this example from the very opening of Orwell‘s essay:

Passage One [Clive Edwards] : I don’t give a fuck what Chesterton says, civilization is all about coal when you think about it. Every fuckin thing that moves, like, needs coal. I mean, alright, maybe the farmer’s a bit more important, but nothing goes in one hole and out the other without coal, man. Your miner’s kind of like one of those Greek girl statues that hold up buildings - only he’s a lot dirtier! What I mean to say is, we’re the guys who get filthy underground keeping what’s above us clean, see? That’s why I think it’s worth it, if you’ve got the time and’ll take the trouble, to see how we actually do it.


Passage Two [George Orwell]: Civilization, pace Chesterton, is founded on coal, more completely than one realizes until one stops to think about it. The machines that keep us alive, and the machines that make the machines, are all directly or indirectly dependent upon coal. In the metabolism of the Western world the coal miner is second in importance to the man who ploughs the soil. He is a sort of grimy caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported. For this reason the actual process by which coal is extracted is well worth watching, if you get the chance and are willing to take the trouble.

“The essay goes on like that forever,” said Professor Uffdasdottir sadly. “From the simple, coarse diction of Edwards to the elegant translation of Orwell. Clive Edwards even appends a note to the effect that Orwell never even went down the mine. Apparently he stuck his head in for a moment, said ‘Nothing doing,’ and went home to his typewriter.”

On behalf of the committee, Uffdasdottir urged everyone to stop by their local Kinko’s tomorrow on International Plagiarism Amnesty Day and drop off anything they’ve been meaning to get off their chest.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Apology Proferred with All Deliberate Speed


Prof Admits to Misusing Source
By DANIEL J. HEMEL and LAUREN A.E. SCHUKER
Harvard Crimson Staff Writers
September 27, 2004


"Harvard constitutional law scholar Laurence H. Tribe ’62 apologized yesterday for not properly crediting another professor’s work in his popular 1985 book God Save This Honorable Court, one day after a conservative political magazine accused him of plagiarism.

The Weekly Standard posted an article on its website Saturday charging Tribe with using language that closely mirrors sections of Henry J. Abraham’s 1974 book on Supreme Court appointments, Justices and Presidents.

And at one point in his 1985 book, Tribe lifts a 19-word passage verbatim from Abraham’s text.

Tribe could not be reached directly for comment yesterday, but issued a statement to The Crimson via e-mail.

He said he recognized his 'failure to attribute some of the material The Weekly Standard identified.'

'I personally take full responsibility for that failure,' Tribe said.

Tribe’s mea culpa comes just three weeks after another prominent Harvard faculty member — Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree — publicly apologized for copying six paragraphs almost word-for-word from a Yale scholar in a recent book, All Deliberate Speed.

Last fall, Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz also battled plagiarism charges. And in 2002, Harvard Overseer Doris Kearns Goodwin admitted that she had accidently copied passages from another scholar in her bestseller The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.

University President Lawrence H. Summers told The Crimson in an interview last week —before the allegations against Tribe surfaced — that he did not see 'a big trend' of plagiarism problems at the Law School as a result of the charges against Ogletree and Dershowitz, but indicated that a third case would change his mind.

'If you had a third one, then I would have said, okay, you get to say this is a special thing, a focused problem at the Law School,' Summers said of the recent academic dishonesty cases."

NEVADA UNIVERSITY SYSTEM REGENT'S
HEAD BITTEN OFF BY TIGER






RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
University Chancellor Calls for Sweeping Change
9/1/04
Lenita Powers



"Interim [Nevada state university system] Chancellor Jim Rogers has issued a scathing call for sweeping change at the top levels of Nevada's higher education system. ... Rogers characterized the [Nevada] Board of Regents as inefficient and crippled by infighting.

...Doug Hill, one of two regents who represent Reno on the 13-member board, said Wednesday that 'If [Rogers] is looking for efficiency in government, Nazi Germany under Hitler was extremely efficient. But our Founding Fathers did not set up the Republic to be efficient. ... [Rogers] is used to giving orders and everybody clicks their heels and says Yes, sir, and follows his commands.'"
IT PAYS TO READ REVIEWS



"[W]hy does Frozen leave me so cold? Two reasons, I think. First, Lavery stacks her deck a little more deliberately than she needs to. The arc of the play is apparent within ten minutes — Lavery doesn't grow characters so much as manipulate them, and us right along with them. I felt myself being very consciously guided to a conclusion all the way through Frozen; I prefer it when a playwright trusts me to reason things out on my own.

Second, and possibly even more problematic, is Frozen's structure. A great deal of the play is told through monologues — indeed, Nancy has only one scene with Ralph and only two with Agnetha; Ralph and Agnetha interact only in formalized interview settings. Thus, we're denied the chance to see these people interact in human ways (which contributes to that manipulation I just mentioned). And Lavery proves very ineffective in solving the chief problem of the confessional structure, i.e., who are these people talking to? Especially when Nancy was speaking, I never knew. If the playwright can't place her characters inside some kind of reality, how are we supposed to?"


Martin Denton
newyorktheatre.com



"I believed less and less in the play as it became more and more twisty. Even an adultery subplot, dragged in from left field, struck me as contrived and manipulative. And the metaphor of freezing, extending from “the Arctic frozen sea that is the criminal mind” to Agnetha’s being Icelandic-American, and, beyond that, to the scenery and sound effects, smells strongly of a forced conceit. So too does the antifreeze of the final stage direction: “The sun breaks through, birds twitter, music plays,” which the savvy director, Doug Hughes, pretty much ignores. He has, though, inserted a kiss that I thoroughly disbelieve, but then, why not, given that such crucial scenes as Nancy’s visit to Ralph in jail, with its fatal consequences, are well past the credible?"

John Simon
New York Magazine

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Playwright Lavery Accused of Plagiarism

Playwright Bryony Lavery Accused of Plagiarizing Parts of Tony-Nominated 'Frozen'

The Associated Press



NEW YORK Sept. 25, 2004 — English playwright Bryony Lavery has been accused of plagiarizing passages from a criminal psychiatrist and a magazine writer in her Tony Award-nominated play about a serial killer and his psychiatrist.

Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker said they had found at least 12 instances of plagiarism in "Frozen," which earned a Tony nomination for best play this year.

Biographical and thematic details had also been taken from a New Yorker profile Gladwell wrote about Lewis in 1997 and from Lewis' 1998 book "Guilty by Reason of Insanity," the two charged.

"Had she asked for material we would have given it to her, but what she has done is a theft," Lewis' lawyer, Martin Garbus, told The Associated Press Saturday.

One passage in Gladwell's article, quoting Lewis, allegedly is included almost verbatim in Lavery's play. It reads, in part: "I just don't believe people are born evil. To my mind that is mindless. Forensic psychiatrists tend to buy into the notion of evil. I felt that that's no explanation."

For the play's character Agnetha, a criminal psychologist, Lewis charged Lavery used several biographical details from "Guilty by Reason of Insanity."

"If you look at the incidents in the play, you'll see every one of them comes from the book or the article," Garbus said.



THE UNIVERSITY AS POLITICAL HACK



Los Angeles Times
September 25, 2004



"[Cal State Fullerton's] Social Science Research Center conducted a telephone poll commissioned by an opponent of an Irvine mayoral candidate that included inaccurate statements about that candidate.

The public places extra faith in universities because they have a reputation for doing things carefully, intelligently, and fairly. That's especially true for public universities, which by the nature of their funding are called on to be apolitical and transparent in their dealings....

Some of the questions on the Cal State Fullerton poll included statements accusing candidate Mike Ward of championing causes that are clearly anathema to most Irvine voters. Then the poll asked whether respondents would vote for Ward. Further, the polling director agreed to keep the identity of the poll's backer secret - an oral agreement the university rescinded after public outcry.

It's easy to foresee the campaign mailers that might have resulted, proclaiming, "A Cal State Fullerton poll shows that most Irvine voters won't vote for this man."
Sure, they wouldn't - after they were fed several erroneous statements about him.

The polling operations at colleges were set up to do academic research, not to advance political causes."
Character and Diploma Mills


Times-Picayune
September 27
:



"Our commander in chief does not have the character to say, 'We screwed up,' " Mendoza, a Democrat, said of Bush.

Mendoza, 45, said he's financing his own campaign [for Senate from Louisiana] but would not say how much he plans to spend.

Among his college degrees, he lists two from LaSalle University, a now-defunct diploma mill that had a Mandeville mailing address. A federal investigation showed in 1996 that LaSalle had misrepresented the value of its mail-order degrees, bilking students out of $36 million.

Mendoza said he was one of those victims but that he completed the research and workload the programs required. He said his military career, which required him to move often, made "distance education" his only option.

"I did not know about the fraud until it surfaced in the news," he said.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

THE WASTE LAND


[for background, see UD, 9/19/04; 3/29/04; 3/19/04]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


["On Thursday and Friday of last week, the University of Southern Mississippi was closed, in anticipation of a direct hit by Hurricane Ivan. As it turned out, Ivan was deflected to the east and USM's buildings and grounds were spared major damage. But no one has yet found a way to deflect President Shelby F. Thames, who remains hard at work tearing USM down from within.

We could measure the decline in a number of ways; for instance, in donors alienated, or in faculty who have fled into early retirement or taken jobs at other universities. But the most widely visible indication of decline is USM's position in the latest US News and World Report rankings, which were published last month.

US News classifies USM as one of 248 "national universities." Up through 2003, it was placed in the third tier, which would rank it somewhere between 130th and 186th (US News does not publish exact ranks for institutions below the second tier). By way of comparison, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, generally regarded as the two top institutions in the Mississippi state university system, are in the third tier. This year USM has dropped into the fourth tier.

I believe that some of Shelby Thames' political sponsors are privately applauding the drop in the rankings. But there is no reason to think that Thames, a man of enormously swelled head who endlessly claims "world class" status for one or another favored aspect of USM, is consciously aiming at any such outcome. In any event the underlying agenda is the sort that can't be publicized.

So what is left to do, but make excuses and offload blame?

On August 21, when asked to account for the tierdrop, Thames' spokesperson Lisa Mader flopped and floundered in desperate improvisation:

"We are proud to be ranked among schools like Alabama and Michigan in the U.S. News and World Report ranking," Southern Miss spokeswoman Lisa Mader said Friday. "We are a Carnegie I Research Extensive university that ranks in the Class I Southern Regional Education Board ra`nkings. The Carnegie status places us among an elite group of universities across the nation."

Unfortunately for Mader, the Carnegie classification is a function of doctoral degrees granted and grant funding for research, not of program quality. And the Universitiy of Michigan is in the first tier of the US News rankings, while the University of Alabama is in the second. It's Southern Alabama and Central Michigan that sit down in the fourth tier.

Confronted with the revelation that USM's graduate programs were not rated at all this year, because the relevant questionnaire had not been returned to US News, Mader couldn't dodge fast enough:

"We do not show receipt of a survey from U.S. News and World Report," Mader said. "Obviously if we didn't receive it, we didn't complete it and return it."

US News addresses such questionnaires directly to the president's office.

On September 2, Thames convened another meeting of his President's Council. He assembled the PC in May to create the semblance of cooperation with faculty and staff, and to avoid the ongoing embarrassment of communicating with a Faculty Senate that had voted by an overwhelming margin to ask him to resign. The PC has largely accepted Thames' promises at face value (for instance, when he declared he would no longer read an employee's email without prior approval from a committee). But on this occasion Thames had Ray Folse to reckon with. Folse is a Professor of Physics who decided to put off retiring for a year.

Folse pointedly asked Thames how Lisa Mader's false statements were affecting the university's credibility with the public. In a portion of his speech unfortunately not quoted in the newspaper, Folse went on to note that Mader purported to be the spokesperson for the entire university, not Thames' personal press secretary. He asked on what basis Mader pretended to speak for the faculty. She could have told the press that President Shelby F. Thames was happy to see USM ranked with Alabama A&M and Central Michigan, Folse said, and under those circumstances no one could complain of being misled.

Now that it is providing a forum for such challenges, observers wonder how much longer the President's Council will last before Thames orders it disbanded, or just quits attending the meetings.

In his open letter to USM dated September 7, Thames was still in full cover-up mode:

I'm sure many of you have heard about Southern Miss' drop in the rankings of the U.S. News and World Report from a third-tier university to a fourth-tier university. This matter was discussed during the President's Council meeting. It was reported that immediately upon notification of the ranking, we began looking into what caused the drop. After officials at the magazine were contacted, it was confirmed that portions of the information requested were not sent from the Office of the Provost. We also verified that our university did not send in our graduate program report. This is a most unfortunate situation that cannot be allowed to happen again. It is inexcusable that complete and accurate information requested was not provided to the U.S. News and World Report. We must make certain that such an omission will not happen again. We will be in discussions with all components of our university to ensure accuracy and accountability of data retrieval and reporting.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the President to see that such information is provided. At most universities, the Institutional Research office plays a major role in collecting and organizing the data needed to respond to US News and World Report. But at USM Institutional Research is in complete disarray. The office was gutted once by Thames' immediate predecessor, Horace Fleming. Thames proceeded to gut it again in the Fall of 2002, when IR employees arrived at work one Monday morning to find that the locks on their office doors changed, and campus security ready to escort them all from the building.

Rather than admit that he had pummeled his Institutional Research office until it barely functioned, Thames chose to scapegoat Tim Hudson, the former Provost on the main campus. Little matter that Hudson, who many believe harbored aspirations to take over the presidency, had virtually no authority remaining during his last year at USM, because Thames was determined to keep his rival out of the important decisions. Hudson left in late July to become President of the University of Houston-Victoria.

The Interim Provost, Jay Grimes, who until recently was a fifth-wheel academic administrator at USM's Gulf Park campus (his title there was "Provost" but he never seemed to be in control of academic affairs) took the only step that he could to protect himself. On September 9, he announced by email that Institutional Research would no longer report to him, as he was turning its direction over to one of the Special Assistants to the President.

The tierdrop once again signals the utter incompetence of the Thames administration at anything that approximates running a university. But then it is doubtful that Thames' chief sponsor, IHL Board Chair Roy Klumb, expects competence, or would be pleased to see any on display.

Whether the questionnaires get answered on time or not, under Shelby Thames USM is going to keep sliding downward in the US News rankings. Except that another tierdrop is out of the question, so long as USM keeps qualifying as a national university. But if Polymer Science were packed up and moved to Roy Klumb's favorite institution, Mississippi State, and USM's other doctoral programs were shut down or deaccredited... then new roads would open. There are four full tiers in the rankings for Master's level universities in the Southern region. Imagine the jubilation among Thames' sponsors should USM drop into a new third tier (shared with Austin Peay and Alcorn State) or a new fourth tier (alongside Troy State and Southeastern Louisiana). Wouldn't Roy Klumb and the IHL Board would feel obliged to honor Shelby Thames with an on-campus colossus?"]

Robert L. Campbell


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



The USM is broken: the last fingers of Klumb
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the dead campus, unheard. The profs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run madly, till you reach some end.
The campus bears no books, research papers,
Ideas, integrity, governance,
Or other testimony of university life.
The profs are departed.
And their students, the heirs of Faulkner,
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the Mississippi I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run madly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run madly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of bones, death at the fourth tier.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

"Of course, melancholics have always written in praise of a simplicity that they could not attain - while secretly taking pride in their own inner complexity. But we seem now to have entered an era in which intellectuals praise whole-heartedness and mean it wholeheartedly. Our aesthetics have undergone a sea-change.

This shift in taste is now becoming apparent in books meant for a general audience. In January, Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist whose work is grounded in Buddhism, will offer up Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life. And this month, Kay Redfield Jamison contributes Exuberance: The Passion for Life."


---Peter D. Kramer, "Goodbye, Darkness," in Slate Online




The latest entry in what people are calling the "exuberbook" craze that's sweeping the nation is by University Diaries, an English professor at a private college in the nation's capital. Written at breakneck speed in only two weeks, Hot DAMN! I'm Happy has been called "a cynical instabook," by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times, who goes on in her review to comment, "Rarely have I seen such shoddy self-aggrandizing fad-surfing as in the ludicrously titled Hot DAMN! I'm Happy." "A scummy little book," agrees Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic. "Read it and weep."

Yet copies of this heartfelt, highly personal account of UD's victory over Claritin addiction and elevated blood pressure are jumping off the shelves of high-end bookstores all over America. In one short, chatty volume, UD has managed to encapsulate her philosophy of happiness in a way that plucks at the heartstrings of upper middle class people everywhere.

The secret of UD's happiness recipe lies in an unapologetic moral superiority to other people. "In a world clogged with absolute shitskies," UD writes in the amusing style of the book's introduction, "it's relatively easy for only moderately virtuous people to look like saints and feel like a million bucks because of it. Merely refraining from smoking, or being willing to donate blood a couple of times a year, or turning down insider trading information, or actually authoring books and articles that carry your name, has become, in the current climate, ethically equivalent to, say, Janusz Korczak choosing to perish with his students during the Holocaust."

UD goes on to urge her readers to "embrace your inner savonarola" and "freely explore the joy-making possibilities inherent in looking down your nose at people who have less self-control than you do, especially self-righteous hypocrites." Chapters include Laughing at William Bennett; The Pastor Who Plagiarized His Sermons; and Funny Business at The United Way.
Rah. Rah.



If you go to Google News and key in COLLEGE or UNIVERSITY, ninety percent of what you get is sports-related: game won, game lost, coach paid, coach overpaid, post-game riot, post-game rape.

UD sometimes feels irresponsible, paying as little attention to campus sports as she does, since the subject dominates American news coverage of the university. Every now and then she tries to work herself up to giving a shit.

Yet not only would UD's interest in sports have to grow to become cursory (as Oscar Wilde put it in another context). She is also hampered by the fact that most of the significant college sports stories make you want to puke. They are full of sweaty field flunkies idling away their pre-professional years with illicit trips, under-the-table gifts, and staff-provided prostitutes. The feel is very 'fifties, a Rat Pack Vegas sort of thing, and UD routinely fails to stay awake for it.

Yes, most of it represents a stupendous travesty of higher education in America and a staggering waste of money. But UD can't for the life of her see any way in which it'll ever change... except that it'll certainly grow worse.... can you sense the futility UD feels here? ... Ah, Sunflower! weary of time... I fall upon the thorns of life... I bleed... Allow UD, as her voice fades, to have a very eloquent professor, who teaches at a Big Sports school, do the talking for her...




One of the witty things that sports fans say to me is, Don't you wish you could pack 60,000 people into the stands for a lecture on Beowulf? This tiresome question is supposed to remind me that more people care about what happens at the stadium than in my classroom, that classrooms are in fact boring, that literature isn't nearly as exciting or as popular as football. So, who am I to be criticizing athletics? Obviously, I'm just envious.

My answer is no, I'm not motivated by envy. The parents of America aren't shelling out $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000 a year to send their kids to watch football games, I remind them, but to get an education. There are tens of millions of parents out there refinancing the house and going into lifelong debt because they consider the classroom experience that I provide just that valuable. I have no doubts about the value of what I do.

---

Only a few weeks later, I read another story in the morning paper, which reported that our university's annual "civil war" game against Oregon State had been rescheduled for the Saturday before finals week at the request of network television. I wasn't the only faculty member to learn about this development from the newspaper; not even the provost had been consulted. His precious "dead week," with its elaborate rules forbidding distractions, was now the biggest party weekend of the year.

---

The fans, of course, can't be expected to consider the situation from the owners' point of view — the owners in this case being institutions of higher learning, mostly public ones, and almost all in deep financial trouble. Most fans would be surprised to learn that these tremendously popular spectacles make no money for their owners, and in fact cost most universities precious millions they can't afford. How could fans know about the danger posed by athletics budgets that rise at twice the rate of academic budgets? If they did understand, perhaps they'd worry that what they were watching was really the college sports bubble, not unlike the dot.com bubble or the Enron bubble. Rapid growth often spells disaster. The fans probably wouldn't worry anyway. It's not in the nature of fanhood. So it's up to the owners — us — to slow things down before the bubble bursts.

But the fans are not going to understand why, and they're going to scream bloody murder if they think professors are interfering in their fun.
---

But then there's another part of me that sometimes takes over, which is simply outraged about the situation of American higher education in relationship to athletics. I'm lucky: the University of Oregon has a relatively clean, self-supporting, well-managed, and pretty successful, sometimes even inspiring, athletics program, and an enlightened administration. But still, the faculty leadership at the university is at this moment absolutely and totally furious about athletics. Nike wants to build us a new $200 million basketball arena. I suppose we should be grateful, but the fact is that we don't need or want it, and all the procedures of shared governance are being bypassed to make it happen.

Oregon is becoming a test case, an extreme example, a cartoon of what's going wrong in higher education today, with this spectacle of arms race mentality and commercialization.



THE COLLEGE FORMERLY KNOWN AS CLARE


9/24/04

QCTIMES.COM

CLINTON COLLEGE CHANGES NAMES AGAIN
By Kay Luna

Clinton, Iowa -- A Clinton university's name just got longer.

The Franciscan University, formerly known as Mount St. Clare College, has expanded its name to The Franciscan University of the Plains.

[Some] school officials said the change ...is designed to prevent confusion between the university and other similarly named institutions. [But] President Michael E. Kaelke declined to say what prompted the decision.

"I'm legally bound not to talk about it," Kaelke said. "I can say that in the spirit of cooperative collegiality and cooperation, the added modifier to our name was made."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

HURRAY, UA



President-elect fails confidence vote by faculty senate

By TOM MORAN, Staff Writer

In an inconclusive Monday meeting, members of the University of Alaska Fairbanks resoundingly failed to lodge a vote of confidence in president-elect Michael Hannigan, who has caught flak for receiving his doctorate from an alleged "diploma mill" in the Caribbean. But no one on the senate proposed Hannigan's ouster.
Senate President Abel Bult-Ito said he considered the results of the meeting a clear vote of no confidence in Hannigan, an associate professor of social work at the UAF Northwest campus in Nome. But he said whether that results in anything depends on what senate members choose to do at future meetings.

"It really depends; it depends on how strongly people felt about it," he said.

The controversy over Hannigan's degree from International University for Graduate Studies, located in the island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis, arose when he was quoted about it in June in a national weekly paper for academics.

Hannigan told the paper he considered the university "light weight" and said he was "used to a bit more rigor in academic things," while the article questioned the university's apparent lack of faculty, five-day residency requirement for a degree and the extensive credit that a pair of sources said the university offered for "life experience."

The article led Susan Andrews and John Creed, a husband-and-wife team of professors at the UAF Chukchi campus in Kotzebue, to send out an open letter in August arguing that Hannigan should resign both his senate presidency and membership because of the degree. They also requested the senate consider the situation, which led to the discussion at Monday's meeting in the UAF Wood Center.

An angry Hannigan showed no indications Monday he would consider stepping down. He called Andrews' and Creed's letter an "attack" and noted that he took all but 15 of his doctoral credits at another university. He also pointed to his long history at UAF.

"I've got 19 years at this institution," he said. "I'll match my record against anyone in this room."

Hannigan also argued that scrutiny of his degree could lead to a similarly strict crackdown on all faculty. "We are going to start looking at everybody's work, everything everybody's done," he said. "It's a very slippery slope."

An ad hoc committee appointed to determine whether or not Hannigan's degree was legitimate--and if so, what the senate should do about it--gave an inconclusive response on Monday, leading senate members to debate the issue

Jane Weber, an associate professor of developmental education, noted that Hannigan's doctorate isn't listed in the university register and that he didn't bring it up when running for the seat.

"I feel like we should just end the discussion," she said. "It shouldn't be about his degree."

But others on the senate argued against letting Hannigan serve as president. "We need to uphold whatever standards we have, and in order to uphold them we need to personally exemplify them," said geology and geophysics professor Rainer Newberry.

Weber was the only professor to support her proposed vote of confidence, which drew 16 "no's" and six more abstentions. Some faculty members said they felt uncomfortable making a judgment on the issue with limited information and a thick report from the ad hoc committee that they had just received.

Hannigan was chosen in April to be president-elect of the senate, a group of 37 elected faculty members that serves as the primary creator and overseer of academic policy at the university. He is set to serve as president-elect for a year under Bult-Ito, then become president in 2005.

Bult-Ito said it would take a two-thirds vote to remove Hannigan from his position or from the senate altogether. But Professor Norm Swazo, head of the ad hoc committee, warned against making any quick decisions regarding Hannigan's status. He noted that the legitimacy of his degree is still unclear, and that union and constitutional issues could be involved as well.

"We're saying 'hey, there's a need for care with respect to how you proceed.'"

Monday, September 20, 2004

September 20, 2004


To my fellow Ollies [for background, see UD, 13 September 04, etc.]

From Gwyneth



Not that I'd be caught dead reading USA Today, but my eating coach showed me this article [LOW-INCOME STUDENTS SCARCE AT ELITE COLLEGES], and I gather this is the sort of thing we're supposed to share with each other.

The article reprises the tiresome tirade of Mr. Edwards against legacy admissions (so far only Texas A&M -- not at the tippytop of my college list -- has rescinded the policy), and worries that "the class divide is going to hinder" the experience of poor students at places that former Princeton president William Bowen calls, in a neat new turn of phrase, "bastions of privilege." Such places must "create an infrastructure" within which lower-income students can "survive and thrive."

Yet what might this mean in practice? Piped in Dolly Parton while we dine? NASCAR madrigals? Will I be made to sit astride a Harley and feign an orgasm? When my new roommate rushes up to me all pumped about the free Pontiac Oprah Winfrey just gave her Uncle Wayne, how, precisely, am I to respond?

I don't of course see this as an immediate problem - statistically, we're still well-ensconced, as the article notes - but it's something to ponder...



Sunday, September 19, 2004

"As we dance to the Masochism Tango...."



Manifold are the ways of provincial universities when it comes to maintaining their hopelessly provincial status (see, for instance, the University of Southern Mississippi's retention of turbulent President Thames: UD,3/29/04). More recently, the University of Alaska's ad hoc committee on whether an incoming faculty senate president so unethical as to pass off a diploma mill degree as a legitimate one [see UD, 9/13/04] should have such a critical position of authority at the university decided, well, sure. Why not? Who are we to judge any degree?


Our man Hannigan, the degree-holder in question, sensibly refused to cooperate with the committee, the question of the validity of his diploma being a closed one. (Here's a sample of Hannigan's writing, from a recent article he signs Michael Hannigan, Ph.D.: "It is very well documented that since first contact with the western world, the native people of North America have been dehumanized, stigmatized, stereotyped, killed, generally marginalized and frequently dealt with in an outrageous manner. When one considers the enormity of the effects of western civilization upon the native populations, it can be a staggering thought.")

Even without a word from Hannigan, however, the committee felt comfortable announcing - in the pseudo-speak characteristic of such places, that "In view of the foregoing facts, the Committee concludes it is not in a sufficiently informed position to render an adequately warranted judgment on the question of legitimacy [sic] of a PhD obtained from International University for Graduate Studies." How about Googling the name of the university? Contacting the excellent Oregon Office of Degree Authorization? When one considers the negligence of this committee, it can be a staggering thought.

Anyway. One can hear the University of Alaska singing to the committee charged with protecting its intellectual integrity the immortal words of Tom Lehrer:

Let our love be a flame, not an ember,
Say it's me that you want to dismember.
UD wishes to know...


...whether the headline writer in today's Scotsman is being clever or not:


Cremation Researchers will Grill Bereaved over Fate of Ashes

CORRECTION of UD post dated 9/13/04


A reader points out that our man Hannigan's pretend title [Dr.] remains on the faculty page of UAF's Northwest Campus: See: http://www.nwc.uaf.edu/web/facstaff.html


UD is grateful for the correction.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.


Thomas Sowell's recent column, "Choosing a College," is a model of agitprop. The essay meanders among features of the modern American college that Sowell doesn't like (drugs, coed dorms, political correctness, psychobabble, "cafeteria" curricula), but the prose is bored with itself: it has ticked off this list so often it's doing it in its sleep.

The innovation in the essay is Sowell's decision to haul into his argument the recent suicides of students at NYU [see UD, 9/10/04]. Youth is a dangerous, tumultuous time, and parents and their children too often bow to the pressure of "experts" who tell them what school to attend: "But these 'experts' suffer no consequences if their bright ideas lead some young person into disaster. It is the parents who will be left to pick up the pieces." [Nice choice of image there, given the way most of these students died.] Parents should be more careful about the "atmosphere" of the university their children decide to attend, because this is "always important and sometimes can even be a matter of life and death."

In time-honored fashion, Sowell doesn't come right out and say that liberal campuses kill, but you get the idea.
THE FUTURE OF ENTREPRENEURIAL PUBLISHING



"I was sitting in a crowded downtown restaurant during a busy lunch hour," writes Joe Rogers, author of the New York Times' Metropolitan Diary (September 6). "At the table next to me, a bit too close for comfort, were two well-dressed businessmen. I couldn't help overhearing their conversation and gleaned from it that they were social friends..."

The part of their conversation that Rogers found noteworthy went something like this [UD is paraphrasing because she doesn't have the rest of the article in front of her -- don't ask why -- too complicated]:

"Thanks for the gift you got me!"

"You're welcome! ... What did we get you?"

"...I don't know..."


UD predicts that in a few years similar sorts of conversations will take place between entrepreneurial professors and their readers:

"I read your book... "

"Thanks. ... What did I write?"

"...I don't know."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

...AND IN OTHER NEWS...



George Washington University Hatchet

MEN MASTURBATE IN FOGGY BOTTOM

Published: Thursday, September 16, 2004
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1




University Police are on the lookout for three men involved in seperate [sic] public masturbation incidents that took place in Foggy Bottom last weekend. The most recent incident, which occurred at the International House, prompted UPD to post Public Safety Advisory notices in all residence halls.

On Sept. 10, an unknown male approached a first floor International House window, knocked, waited for someone to approach the window and began to masturbate. The previous incidents happened in the same manner but involved different suspects.

"We are asking that if someone knocks on your first floor window, don't look and call UPD," UPD chief Dolores Stafford said. "People who are most vulnerable are those on the first floor."

Because the exposures occurred outdoors, the suspects could not be seen on security cameras, Stafford said. UPD is looking for three white males. The first is described as five-feet-six-inches tall, 19 to 25 years old with a goatee. The second subject is 30 to 38 years old, and the third is 5-feet-10-inches tall, 25-30 years old with no facial hair.

This is not the first time men have exposed themselves on campus. On May 4, a female student standing near Townhouse Row said a man revealed his buttocks to her.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Future of Plagiarism



Every now and then, UD likes to try her hand at predicting the future (recall her post of 4/2/04, for instance, on the future of the college syllabus). She is now prepared to make another prediction, this one about the future of academic plagiarism cases.




Because so many professors now employ legions of assistants to write the books the professors pretend to have written, UD predicts that eventually plagiarism battles and lawsuits will take place exclusively among various competing teams of anonymous drudges, while the professors who employ the drudges will disappear from the story altogether.

The sequence of events in such plagiarism cases will go something like this: One squad of assistants steals three pages of prose from a book written by someone else's squad of assistants. The second squad of assistants, on discovering the theft, will call the first squad on it. A major tiff will ensue, but hostilities will remain underground, as it were -- the front men, the professors who signed their names to the work of these teams, will stay above the fray, since none of it, after all, has anything to do with them.

If things do get at all public and begin to embarrass the employers of such teams, UD further predicts that a new entrepreneurial opportunity will open up - management consultants for professors. These people would specialize in helping professors choose their writers, and would give the professors tips on managing their staff so that plagiarism is less likely to occur.
DAVID PLOTZ ON PLAGIARISM


"In a 1997 New Yorker essay, James Kincaid argued that plagiarism should not bother writers so much. Most journalism is mediocre, unoriginal prose, Kincaid says, so writers shouldn't mind if it gets recycled. Some literary theorists minimize plagiarism for a related reason. They are skeptical of the ideas of authorship and originality, contending that everything new is cobbled together from older sources.

But these scholars, you will note, publish their articles under their own bylines. And both they and Kincaid ignore what makes the plagiarist so sinister. For writers, the act of putting particular words in a particular order is our hard labor. Even when the result is mediocre and unoriginal, it is our own mediocrity. The words are our proof of life, the evidence we can present at heaven's gate that we have not frittered away our three score and ten.

The plagiarist is, in a minor way, the cop who frames innocents, the doctor who kills his patients. The plagiarist violates the essential rule of his trade. He steals the lifeblood of a colleague. A few paragraphs have made Stephen Ambrose a vampire."


Read the whole thing.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

On the Importance of Recognizing Your Own Writing: Ogletree Update


"Ogletree is a man sufficiently brilliant that he is a professor at the Harvard Law School. Yet he read a draft of his own book so sloppily, so carelessly, that even though the six paragraphs in question are two and one-half pages and 824 words long, and even though they introduce an obviously significant chapter which itself begins an entire section of his book, he did not realize that he himself had not written those paragraphs? A man of his acumen didn’t realize that?"

"When the author himself does not recognize that a text of two pages is not his own, something is amiss."

"Genuine scholars should have put enough work and thought into an article/book that it would be totally inconceivable for them to mistake another professor's work for their own."
FULL TO BURSTING [The Slain Chronicle Essay]



I haven't told my department chair yet, but I don't want to be promoted to Full.

I'm a tenured Associate Professor in the humanities at a good private university on the eastern seaboard; I publish; I'm reasonably well-known (I'm recently back from France, having been invited to be a visiting professor at a university there), get good teaching reviews, introduce a new course almost every year, and do my bit on university committees. In short, a pretty good candidate for promotion. So why don't I want it?

Well, think about it. You've thought about tenure because of the perennial
controversies over whether tenure should be abolished or reformed or ignored.
And you've thought about non-tenured teaching because of the notorious ethical
problems involving adjuncts. You've even begun thinking about post-tenure
review, perhaps, because it's the latest fad and lots of people are talking
about it. But I doubt you've thought much about promotion to Full. Why is
that?

"It means so little," said my husband, also a professor, when I mentioned the
subject. "Why think about it? It doesn't amount to much."

"Well, if it means so little and doesn't amount to much," I responded, "why
does it exist?"

"Um. People need incentives to be productive. And Full means more money and
more prestige."

"Full doesn't typically mean that significant a raise. Plus you can give
people very good raises without changing their titles. And vanity is a
motivation unworthy of scholars. If professors are primarily motivated by
prestige, give every productive faculty member a Porsche."
Of course I know the situation is more complicated than this. Americans are
programmed to have unquenchable ambition. They are always restlessly seeking
the next step on the ladder. The Chronicle's own Ms. Mentor, responding to a
recent plaint from a bitter stuck-in-Associate professor, pointed out that
"Academics are people who have been successes in school. They've followed a
linear model of upward striving. They've aced tests, graced the honor roll,
filled up the dean's lists. They've survived the graduate-school rite of
passage, landed a job, and triumphed to tenure. Always, they've moved up to
the next level. ...You must push onward and upward to the last stop, to the
Mount Everest world of full professordom." Indeed, in the American academic
hierarchy, "lifelong associate professor" and "junior senior" are among the
most frightening phrases you can hear; they are uncomfortably close to the
ultimate scare-quote: deadwood.

And this sort of thing describes not just academics, but virtually all
Americans, most academics being like everybody else.

So then, problem solved: Once you promote your Associates to Full, they will
be contentedly productive. But American appetites turn out never to be
satisfied, even at the Full. Vladimir Nabokov once said, with evident
satisfaction, "I've lived to become that appetizing thing, a Full Professor."
But he was Russian. Among Americans, the idea is to keep filling until you're
overfull. Full Professor, to take up Ms. Mentor's mountain climbing metaphor,
isn't the last stop. It's more like Kangchenjunga than Everest - an
impressive peak, no doubt, but there are always a few more meters up ahead.
There's always - to paraphrase Arthur Miller - After the Full : named chairs,
dual and triple appointments in different departments and universities,
executive administrative positions. If there weren't many real-life models for
Morris Zapp, the heavy-duty engine of David Lodge's academic satire, Changing
Places , when that novel came out, today Zapp has plenty of company. The ranks
of Full Professors are now full of people eyeing the extra-plus-fullness
available to post-Full Fulls. More and more real-life people look like Harold
Bloom, whose overloaded approach to academic life has so compromised his work
that a New York Times book reviewer recently called his books "more K-Mart
than Yale."

A principle of inversion is at work here. The more pretentious your title
and lengthy your booklist, the more full of it you look.

Arrogance is always a target of satire, and the more saturated with arrogance
academia becomes, the more absurd. We expect Tom Wolfe's Masters of the
Universe to be arrogant, but many people think that for professors, as John
Jeffries Martin points out in a recent article in Academe, "the primary
motivation in academic life must be the sense that it is, indeed, one's
calling" rather than one's ticket to riches and a title. "It is indeed odd to
see this love of titles...growing up in a country of which the recognition of
individuality...has so long been supposed to be the very soul," complained
William James in 1903 as American academia began the process of aping the
pompous European hierarchies. One hundred years later, Martin is still saying
the same thing: "We needn't parade ourselves and our titles before the public
or one another like the royalty of an imaginary kingdom. ... Our calling is to
be rigorous about the intellectual life; our duty is to foster institutional
structures that do not reduce the life of the mind."

The survival of the sense - vestigial though it may be today - that the
university is a constitutively different place from the corporation, that
something called "the life of the mind" rather than the life of the market
goes on there, and that professors embody values higher than those of the
marketplace, explains why, as highlighted in a recent Chronicle article,
professors in the humanities and social sciences are routinely outraged by the
enormous salaries professors of finance, real estate, leisure studies, and
hotel management earn at their institutions, salaries that dwarf their own.
Non-vocational professors who teach things like moral philosophy, ancient
history, and English literature wouldn't complain if they didn't somewhere in
their mental makeup believe that a university shouldn't be an entirely
market-driven, entirely vocational, sort of thing.

The survival of this sense of the university's extra-market exceptionalism also explains some of academia's more arcane folkways, such as the practice among academic extra-wide-loads of making fun of themselves when they are introduced in public settings. While being announced, the over-named gaze downward with an
effacing grin; when the drumroll of their titles has finally sounded, they
mumble something self-ridiculing, and everyone chuckles. The apparatus of
arrogance appears to have been thrust upon me, these professors seem to say, but this is none of my doing. I remain a modest seeker after truth, like you.

One tends to understand why the adjuncts in the audiences of these
performances feel a bit irritated. "At the conventions these days, resentment
is palpable, as celebrities hold forth before colleagues frightened about
their chances of getting a job or keeping the one they have," writes Andrew
Delbanco.




Indeed I've lately discovered, and read with fascination, a number of weblogs
written by adjuncts who for various reasons left or are getting pushed out of
academia. Some are leaving even as they blog, so there is an emotional
immediacy to their sadness, sense of failure, whatever, about leaving, and a
financial urgency about finding a job. Others left long ago and may have gone
on to lucrative careers, but they still feel sadness, a sense of failure,
about having left or having been pushed out. Most of these people are or were
in the humanities: history, literature, philosophy. Their comment lists
typically feature posters who seem to be in the same or a similar situation.
Every now and then a tenured professor in the humanities - someone like
Timothy Burke, a professor at Swarthmore who has his own very thoughtful
website - drops into these conversations, but it's rare.

Academia described from this perspective - a backward, or almost-backward
look, featuring what you might call the clarity of pathos - looks pretty
accurate to me from my secure and fortunate berth within it. Bitterness and
defensiveness are certainly there in the bloggers' descriptions, but these
emotions don't seem to me to have distorted the picture the bloggers draw of
the typical American humanities department. With the freedom to speak their
minds and the intelligence that got them their degrees, they describe a cadre
of senior professors willing themselves into a denial of reality profound
enough to make Blanche Dubois look like Descartes. Blanche Dubois, though,
had a sense of the tragic nature of life. Some of the professors evoked in
these blogs look more like Amanda Wingfield, sure that any day now their
graduate students will start receiving tenure-track gentleman callers. Still
others look like Scarlet O'Hara: faced with graduate programs that haven't
placed anyone in a respectable job in years, they say "Fiddledeedee. We'll
think about that tomorrow." They are so busy thinking about the next job
offer or administrative stint that will enable them to raise their salary and
title demands at their home institution that they have not noticed the erosion
of their own tenured ranks in American academia and the replacement of these
ranks by huge numbers of untenurable and undercompensated instructors.

"Tenured faculty, the aristocracy of the university, have been disgracefully
complicit in the creation of an academic helot class to subsidize their own
upper-middle-class salaries," writes Jack Miles, "but the helots are
progressively replacing the aristocrats as the latter retire and are replaced
by helots rather than by other aristocrats. What is being phased out, in
short, is the very career which tenured faculty once enjoyed and to which new
Ph.D.s still vainly aspire." Full professors are the aristocracy of the
aristocrats, and that much more disgraceful.





This situation, this vast disparity between the restive bottom and the
fatuous top of our profession, and the evolution of the professoriate away
from a model based upon a calling and toward a model indistinguishable from
market greed and vanity, has gradually become morally nauseating to me, and I
now see a version of the Ben and Jerry solution as one way to begin setting
things right, before large chunks of English departments are run by truckers'
unions. For many years (no longer, alas) the ice cream makers imposed a
salary cap in their organization: the top executives' salary could be no more
than seven times the salary of the lowest-ranking employee. However this
played out fiscally, everyone recognized that its most important aspect was
symbolic: it symbolized a certain humility, a sense of proportion, decency,
and justice, on the part of top management. It said: Way up here at the top,
we're making plenty of money, more money than we know what to do with. The
disparities are demoralizing and humiliating to other people who make
important contributions to our endeavor.

I'm not proposing salary caps among the professoriate; I'm proposing that we aristocrats voluntarily restrain our greed and vanity rather than wait for the market to guillotine us; I am proposing that we affirm our shared commitment to something that transcends money and titles.

Like money, the apparatus of arrogance is not something that is thrust upon
you. It is something you can accept or reject. In an effort to slow the
escalating and destructive absurdities of the full/fuller/fullest hierarchies
in American academia, John Jeffries Martin argues that we should, among other
things, move toward the "elimination of the distinction between associate and
full professor." I agree, which is why I don't want the promotion. Lawrence
Poston says that "the theory of tenure is based on the burden-of-proof
principle. [D]uring the probationary period, the burden of proof is on the
individual to demonstrate competence at the level required to achieve tenure
at a particular institution. After the award of tenure, however, the burden of
proof for his or her discontinuance rests on the institution." If Poston, a
dean, is right, then tenure should mean promotion simply to "professor." Not
Associate, not Full - just Professor. The elimination of invidious and empty
titular distinctions like these would help free many professors to think like
thinkers rather than jockeys; it would encourage them to, in Martin's words,
"be more at home in [their] chosen vocation."

This vocation is one which "depends to a remarkable degree, as [Max] Weber
stressed, on inspiration, on intuition, on the accidents of discovery, and on
a willingness (always a hazard from the vantage point of the modern
bureaucracy) to venture outside one's area of expertise and to risk failure,
when it is, generally speaking, the experts who are rewarded." We do not
expect the Professor of Real Estate or the Professor of Renal Dysfunction or
the Professor of Lobbying to be an intellectual venturing outside of the
theory of lending rates or the techniques of dialysis or the modes of
influence peddling, in order to generate new ideas. Rather than resenting the
huge money they make, we should understand that they are technical instructors
with a narrow and highly rewarded expertise, and that for whatever reasons
they have been historically misplaced, in our country, in institutions of
higher learning, rather than in the vocational schools and apprentice settings
where they belong. Most of them are entirely worldly, and titles along with
money are an extremely big part of their lives. That's why our universities
have to pay them so much to keep them.

The overtaking of the American university by such people is too large a
problem for us to do anything about at the moment. What we can do, as true
scholars, is everything in our power to mark the sharpest distinction possible
between our commitment to the life of the mind and their commitment to money
and titles. In the matter of money, we should use our years of reflection upon
how to live a meaningful life in order to generate a sense of what a decent
salary for people like us would be, and then, once we've reached sufficiency,
we should stop thinking about our salary. This will, among other things, free
us to think about more important things, among them the salaries of our
adjuncts. In the matter of titles, we should display indifference toward the
puffery of distinctions. We should scrap the pomposity of Full Professor and
understand ourselves as professors, pure and simple.
No Chronicle After All

UD's piece slated to appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education won't appear after all, an editor tells her this morning. UD is unhappy about this, of course; but she will take her five hundred dollar kill fee and move on. And she'll print the piece here, in her blog, later today.

Monday, September 13, 2004

13 September 04


TO: Undergraduate Oligarchs Consortium [for background, see UD, 4/23/04, 5/24/04, and 6/13/04]

FROM: Josh

SUBJECT: EMERGENCY Meeting Tonight, my place



LOTS of static in the air lately, fellow UO's, and whether we like it or not, we need to be prepared to handle it. Today's New York Times has an op-ed piece denouncing legacy admissions and quoting William F. Buckley sounding absolutely awful (when Yale temporarily cut back on legacy admissions a few years ago, Buckley complained that Yale was no longer the "kind of place where your family goes for generations" and had become a place where "the son of an alumnus, who goes to a private preparatory school, now has less chance of getting in than some boy from P.S. 109 somewhere."). The Democratic vice-presidential candidate has long been on record as calling for the abolition of legacy admissions, and lots of other people are making a similar sort of noise...

Even more troubling is the fact that some observers are picking up on non-legacy family wealth admissions. Here is the Wall Street Journal:

“Most universities acknowledge favoring children of alumni who support their alma mater. But to attract prospective donors, colleges are also bending admissions standards to make space for children from rich or influential families that lack longstanding ties to the institutions. Through referrals and word-of-mouth, schools identify applicants from well-to-do families. Then, as soon as these students enroll, universities start soliciting gifts from their parents."

Finally, and most troubling of all, some of us have seen evidence even here at Harvard of nascent rebellion against legacies. Gwyneth spotted the following lame ditty on the back of a ladies room door in Widener:


Higglety pigglety
Legacy legatee
Got into Harvard
Behind his old man.

Higglety pigglety
Legacy's committee
Threw both his SAT's
In the trash can.

"Higglety pigglety!
All's relativity!
This family's contributed
Since time began!"

So higglety pigglety
A 550 SAT
Got into Harvard
Behind his old man.

And higglety pigglety
Legacy's destiny
Will ever be guided
By this divine plan.



Put aside the excruciating badness of these lines and focus instead upon the fact of their having been written at this place at this time. Something bad is taking shape here, and we need to talk about it and devise a response. See you at 8 this evening.
UNIVERSITY DIARIES SALUTES SUSAN ANDREWS AND JOHN CREED...


...two faculty members at the University of Alaska dismayed to discover that the incoming president of the faculty senate, a man still identified as Dr. Michael Hannigan on the university's website, bought his diploma mill Ph.D. from an outfit whose sole requirement is that you spend five days at a resort on St. Kitt's.

Andrews and Creed have sent a letter to the academic community calling for Hannigan's removal from the presidency of the senate. The faculty senate is "the primary creator and overseer of academic policy at the university," explains the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, so Hannigan will have a pretty free hand setting scholarly and ethical standards.

Andrews and Creed discovered Hannigan's fraudulent degree when they read about him in the Chronicle of Higher Education:



Michael Hannigan saw an advertisement for International University in a magazine. An associate professor of social work at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, he had never finished the Ph.D. program in family therapy at Florida State University and was looking for a way to get his degree.

The professor calls International "lightweight" and says he is "used to a bit more rigor in academic things." Still, he believes that his degree from the university is legitimate. "They have the same accreditation as Oxford has," says Mr. Hannigan.

Not quite. According to Dale Gough, director of International Education Services at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the University of Oxford is recognized by the government of Britain, as are several colleges in the Caribbean. International University is not among them. Mr. Weisman says his institution is accredited by the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a recognition that experts like Mr. Gough and Alan Contreras, director of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, a state agency, consider meaningless. After all, the Caribbean nation once accredited a university that doled out degrees for watching I Love Lucy and other sitcoms.




UD can't help being impressed by the willingness of so many bogus degree holders like Hannigan to chat openly about their educational history: how they came upon their doctoral institution in a magazine advertisement; how they spent such and such an amount of money to purchase the right to call themselves a doctor; how their institution continues to be misunderstood by a world of snarling elitists...

Anyway, if Hannigan had been reading University Diaries he might have spared himself this exposure, for UD has noted again and again that it's only when bogus degree holders rise too high in the academic world - when they become directors of institutes and presidents of senates - that they run into trouble. You want to keep your head down if your degree is dogshit.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Update ten minutes later: No, UD is wrong. Dr. Hannigan has now been officially de-doctorated on the university webpage. This marks, methinks, the onset of serious merde/ventilateur stuff for our man Hannigan.
"But can't you find someone to write your books for you these days who won't plagiarize? Good help is hard to find!"
Mickey Kaus, kausfiles, slate.com



Shades of Rosemary Woods

rosemarywoods.bmp

"An assistant inserted the material into a manuscript and intended for another assistant to summarize the passage, according to Ogletree’s statement. The first assistant inadvertently dropped the end quote, and the second assistant accidentally deleted the attribution to Balkin before sending a draft to the publisher."


Saturday, September 11, 2004

SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME

II


A University Diaries Series

[for background, see UD, 8/22/04]



Interviewer:


You point out that a significant number of students who graduated from Colorado College at around the same time you did have gone on to impressive, interesting careers. And you note that that also holds true for students from other good small colleges that rarely make it to the top of high-achievers' desperate-to-get-in lists. Yet applicants today who don't get into a brand name school imagine that their futures are ruined. Why do you think there's such blindness to the reality that many of the most talented and accomplished adults around aren't products of the most prestigious colleges? And why do these kids' parents seem not to have learned from their own life experiences in that regard?

Gregg Easterbrook:


I think parents are key. The successful boomers who control the nation's desirable suburbs and drive the right cars and eat in the right places are all convinced that college was the absolute formative thing that got them where they are. In a general sense, they're right; they got to live in great places like Bethesda, Maryland, and Winnetka, Illinois, because they went to college and studied and were well prepared at a moment when the economy was shifting from an exertion economy to a knowledge economy. But it's education generally—not any specific college—that did it for them. The boomers misanalyze the situation and think, Oh, such-and-such person must have gone to Harvard to get where he is. But the relevant fact isn't that he went to Harvard, but that he got a good education somewhere. And a good education is now available at a hundred, maybe two hundred colleges in the United States.


“Ogletree said there will be a penalty, though neither he nor the school would specify it.”



FROM: Undergraduate Academic Plagiarism Committee

TO: Charles J. Ogletree, Professor, Harvard Law School [see post directly below]

SUBJECT: YOUR PLAGIARISM PENALTY

This email serves to inform you that you have been found guilty of plagiarism. Harvard has asked the UAPC to determine your penalty, which is described in what follows.

You have explained that you plagiarized because you “read over the [plagiarized] text and hadn’t realized it was not [your] own writing.” THE UAPC believes that it can be most useful to you in helping you in the skill of recognizing your own writing.




Just as most people, when they look in the mirror, recognize their own face (there are exceptions - see the work of neurologist Oliver Sacks), so most people, when they look at a writing sample, recognize it either as

A.] their own; or,
B.] someone else’s.

An example may make this clearer. Let us say you are Michel Houellebecq, the noted contemporary French novelist. You are about to send your latest manuscript off to your publisher, and you find the following two passages in it:

Passage #1: It was about then that I started visiting prostitutes. There were lots of Thai massage parlors in the area - the New Bangkok, the Golden Lotus and the Mai Lin. The girls were polite, always smiling, and everything went well. At about the same time I started seeing an analyst. My case didn’t really interest him much, but I didn’t hold that against him - I was just one more frustrated, aging fucker who didn’t find his wife attractive anymore. At about the same time, he was called as an expert witness in the trial of a gang of teenage Satanists who had cut up some handicapped kid with a saw and eaten him.


Passage #2: Bringing up a child in this flexible, thoughtful way takes time and effort. It involves extremely hard work as well as great rewards. But what worthwhile and creative job does not? Bringing up a child is one of the most creative, most worthwhile and most undervalued of all jobs. You are working to make a new person, helped to be as you believe a person should be!

Remember: you are Michel Houellebecq, author of The Elementary Particles and other novels…

Which of these two passages seems characteristic of your style and your thematic preoccupations? Let us see: one speaks of commercial sex, psychoanalysis, neurotic despair over the aging process, and sadistic depravity… yes, those are all, you (again, don’t forget: you are Houellebecq for the purpose of this experiment) understand, the sorts of things you write about, in the sort of style you write them in. The other passage, on the other hand, speaks without irony and in a trite fashion of the rewards of loving a child. Does this second passage sound like YOU?

Obviously not. [It is by Penelope Leach, Your Baby and Child.] Fine - we said that our first example would be an easy one. Let us challenge ourselves a bit more with example number two.

You are the Pope. You are about to publish a book of your thoughts. Here are two passages. Which one is your own writing?

Passage #1: This is a hard truth for us to accept. As Monod writes, ‘The liberal societies of the West still pay lip-service to, and present as a basis for morality, a disgusting farrago of Judeo-Christian religiosity, scientist progressisim, belief in the ‘natural’ rights of man and utilitarian pragmatism.’ Man must set these errors aside and accept that his/her existence is entirely accidental. He ‘must at last awake out of his millenary dream and discover his total solitude, his fundamental isolation. He must realise that, like a gypsy, he lives on the boundary of an alien world; a world that is deaf to his music and as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering and his crimes.’


Passage #2: The essential joy of creation is, in turn, completed by the joy of salvation, by the joy of redemption. The Gospel, above all, is a great joy for the salvation of man. The Creator of man is also his Redeemer. Salvation not only confronts evil in each of its existing forms in this world but proclaims victory over evil. ‘I have conquered the world,’ says Christ (cf. Jn 16:33). The full promise of these words is found in the Paschal Mystery.


Again, let’s ask ourselves: If we are the Pope, which of these passages is more congruent with our thematic preoccupations and characteristic style? One brutally and arrogantly dismisses all belief in meaning or purpose as disgusting; the other (passage #2) affirms, in a civil, confident tone, the joyous reality of redemption. Remember that you are the Pope. Which passage is your writing?

Good. Passage # 2. (Passage #1 comes from Straw Dogs, by John Gray.)

This is fun, isn’t it? Time to try it on your own writing! Of course things will get more difficult as you restrict yourself to the subject of the law. Legal scholars aren’t much for style; and everyone’s writing about the same stuff (though much of your last book - the one that got you into trouble with the Committee - was a personal memoir). Nonetheless, the Committee would now like to invite you to play the Two Passages Game with your own writing and the writing of others.

Your first assignment, due one week from today, is to turn in one sample of your own writing on the law, and one sample authored by a white supremacist. Please identify the correct author of each passage, and write a paragraph explaining how you were able to tell them apart.
TODAY'S NEWSCLIPPING
FROM OUR SIMULACRAL WORLD




"Concerns raised over use of research assistants
Ogletree controversy draws warnings about `farming out' writing


By David Mehegan, Globe Staff | September 11, 2004

Is the author really the author?

That implicit question is being raised by writers, in and out of academia, about this week's statement that six paragraphs in a new book by Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. were accidently transposed from another scholar's book. Ogletree has attributed the error to research assistants involved in the process of drafting and editing the book.

"It's a problem that is very old in historical writing -- the atelier problem, the work that is a product not only of the author or artist but also his students and assistants," said a Brandeis University historian, David Hackett Fischer. "That sort of problem is growing, with more pressure on historians and others to be more entrepreneurial. Teams are becoming more important in every field."

Pressure or not, writers who don't use researchers in the actual drafting of their books have little sympathy with Ogletree's explanation. "What has to stop," said Caroline Alexander, author of several nonfiction books based on international research, "is the use of the term `scholarship' in publishing for things that are committee-written. Don't kid yourself that farming it out is the same as having something new to say."

Ogletree's law school website statement offers an explanation of how material from Yale Law School Professor Jack M. Balkin's 2001 book, "What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said," got into Ogletree's 2004 book, "All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education."

Ogletree wrote that an assistant inserted the Balkin material into his manuscript, with quotation marks and attribution, but that a second assistant, editing the work, mistakenly deleted the attribution and sent a final draft to the publisher. Ogletree also wrote that he had read over the Balkin text and hadn't realized it was not his own writing. (Attempts to reach Ogletree were unsuccessful late yesterday.)

"Most people use research assistants to gather information for them, or sometimes to read and summarize material," said historian Alan Brinkley, provost of Columbia University. "But it is inconceivable to me that I would ever allow a research assistant to alter a manuscript."

Historian William Cronon of the University of Wisconsin doubts that such errors by assistants is an increasing problem. But he acknowledged the risks. "There are two ethical issues," he said. "One is how to guarantee quality and protect against plagiarism and shoddy work when many people are involved. The second is, how do you figure out who gets the credit?"

For himself, Cronon said, "I can't imagine turning over my text to a research assistant. It's a different relationship to a work product when you have a team of people working on the output."

Ogletree's public statement contained mea culpas and an apology to Balkin -- "I made a serious mistake during the editorial process of completing this book, and delegated too much responsibility to others during the final editing process. I was negligent in not overseeing more carefully the final product that carries my name."

Some writers found that statement unsatisfying.

"Since when is a book a product that bears someone's name?" said Deborah Dwork, the director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, who has written several books about the Holocaust. "We're not talking about razor blades or soap. We're talking about creative endeavors. A book that bears a name is widely presumed to be written by that author."

The Ogletree book is largely a memoir, along with historical background of the Brown decision and the author's political and legal analysis. In his acknowledgements, he expresses thanks to "so many of my students" who worked "to find obscure but important details about Brown." He adds, "I am privileged to have a group of staff members at Harvard Law School [here he lists the names] who have patiently worked with me to ensure that the book would be completed before the fiftieth anniversary of Brown." Cronon wondered whether something in the culture of the law might allow greater reliance on support staff in writing than other fields. However, the Harvard Law School dean, Elena Kagan, took the Ogletree incident seriously enough to appoint former Harvard President Derek Bok and former Law School Dean Robert Clark to investigate, and to issue a statement calling the error "a serious scholarly transgression." Ogletree said there will be a penalty, though neither he nor the school would specify it. His public statement appears to be part of his penance.

"It is certainly true that many legal practitioners rely heavily on their associates to assist in the drafting of documents," said Joseph Steinfield, who teaches at the Boston College Law School. "But I don't see what that has to do with scholarship. Readers assume that the author did the writing, and that assumption applies as much to lawyers who write as to anyone else -- the ethical rules are the same."
"

Friday, September 10, 2004

WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTH LEAVING?
II



[for earlier post, see UD, 3/27/04]



Now that there’s been a suicide - another jumper - at UD’s own university this week, she begins to suspect there’s a “cluster,” or what some observers call a suicide contagion, going on. The fact that all of the NYU students, and a number of the GW students in the last year, jumped, is suggestive, as is of course the sudden high number of deaths on each campus.

There’s a glamour to suicide. It’s a powerful, enigmatic act. “A suicide establishes a man,” says a character in a novel written during the epidemic of fashionable suicides in France during the 1830’s. “Alive one is nothing; dead one becomes a hero. …. All suicides are successful; the papers take them up; people feel for them.” Some people emulate them, drawn by the finality of an act which seems to demonstrate a simple solution to whatever overwhelming problems have brought you to the brink. The drama of the public leap, and of the fall onto public plazas, strengthens, for some, the peculiar argument that suicide makes.

And yet UD always feels, when university students kill themselves, that they must - wherever they are now - be regretting having done it. She doesn’t at all feel this way about old, ill people who do themselves in. But she can’t shake the thought that perhaps even in the commission of the act the GW and NYU students were hoping they could take back what they’d done, that in a sort of final flash they comprehended the breadth and the beauty of the life they‘d been given.




Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. UD worries that candlelight marches, television spots, and high-profile blabbing about the subject might have the effect people don’t want - that it might concentrate the minds of certain depressives…

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

RECHARGING THE STEEL AT THE CORE OF THE FAITH-BASED LANDSCAPE BUBBLE


From "Roll Over, Mark Rudd: College Republicans Converting Columbia," in the New York Observer, September 5:

"But for now, back on campus, the Columbia Republicans will return this fall with steely determination to re-elect George W. Bush. Mr. Schmelzer, the president of the College Republicans, said the R.N.C. in New York has recharged their faith in being a core group of outsiders trying to remake the political landscape in the sheltered bubble of academia."





Do not let this writing happen to you. Discipline your metaphors.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Life imitates a bad novel.



A sixth NYU student has killed herself by jumping out of a building. She jumped out of a campus building, in fact, and landed in the midst of students settling in to dorms and classrooms for the new academic season.

Inevitably the number and the method of these deaths (and this latest one occurring in early September) evoke 9/11. In the heart of New York brightness falls from the air.



What does it mean? UD has already (UD, 3/27/04) said that she doesn't know. But a certain sardonic message seems to take clearer shape with each of these public leaps. The students jump from the library's interior balcony, landing on the lobby. They jump from just-built post-modern high-rise classrooms onto the streets of Greenwich Village. On glorious afternoons in a gorgeous city, the city's favored sons and daughters are arresting the momentum whose energy drew them to NYU in the first place. Is it because it is all too much? Because at some point, for some people, the passionate intensity of the city tips over into a kind of madness? A kind of suffering?
TURBULENCE IN THE WELSH NOUVELLE VAGUE

[see UD,7/23/04]



SURFING COURSE 'BEST IN UK FOR DOSSERS' Sep 7 2004
Gareth Morgan, The Western Mail


A WELSH degree concentrating on surfing has attracted more flak this week after being named one of the easiest in Britain.

Swansea Institute of Higher Education introduces its new Surf and Beach Management BA course next month and more than 130 students have tried for places on the course.

But popular lads' magazine, FHM, which holds massive influence over the nation's students and 20-something males, has just declared the surfing course the best in the UK for "dossers" who like to dodge hard work.

In its latest issue, the magazine offers a Back to Uni Special featuring a list of 10 easy courses to take.

The article promises prospective university-goers, "Disconcerted by actual work? Fear not - there are easier ways to spend three years."

And Swansea takes the top spot in the list, beating subjects like embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University and football studies at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College.

In a poke at non-academic courses, FHM imagines students at Swansea will "learn all about surf destination planning along with, presumably, chilling out with a baguette- sized reefer, and picking sand fleas out of your crotch".

It makes for grim reading for course organisers, who have already defended the course against accusations made at the Professional Association of Teachers conference in Bournemouth this summer.

Conference delegate Peter Morris, an information technology teacher at Swansea's Bishop Gore Comprehensive School, blamed the Government for trying to cram more and more school leavers into university and said the degree was unnecessary.

But FHM journalist Matthew Bingham said the magazine was not joining in any political debate about "Mickey Mouse degrees" and the list should not be taken too seriously.

"There's no conspiracy theory, it just got the number one spot because it looked a bit interesting, better than embroidery anyway," he said.

"I am sure in real life it is probably not as much of a doss as we made out."

Despite a recent sales decline of 4.5% to 573,713 copies per month, FHM is still the leader in the men's market.

In the latest figures, it was only just pushed off the top slot for all monthly magazines by the success of women's compact-size mag Glamour.

"A lot of people will read it and Swansea might even get a few extra students out of that," added Mr Bingham.

"They can put down that it's endorsed by FHM in the course description if they want."

Course organisers were unavailable for comment last night, but have argued that the course fills a necessary training niche.

And a spokesman at Swansea Institute of Higher Education said, "It is more complicated than many people have assumed, because the course is about management skills and is certainly not about lying around on a beach for three years."

Saturday, September 04, 2004

BESLAN




Lecture IV


Reality, what can we do with it? Where is it in words?
Just as it flickers, it vanishes. Innumerable lives
Unremembered. Cities on maps only,
Without that face in the window, on the first floor, by the market,
Without those two in the bushes near the gas plant.
Returning seasons, mountain snows, oceans,
And the blue ball of the Earth rotates,
But silent are they who ran through artillery fire,
Who cling to a lump of clay for protection,
And those deported from their homes at dawn
And those who have crawled out from under a pile of bodies,
While here, I, an instructor in forgetting,
Teach that pain passes (for it's the pain of others),
Still in my mind trying to save Miss Jadwiga,
A little hunchback, librarian by profession,
Who perished in the shelter of an apartment house
That was considered safe but toppled down
And no one was able to dig through the slabs of wall,
Though knocking and voices were heard for many days.
So a name is lost for ages, forever,
No one will ever know about her last hours,
Time carries her in layers of the Pliocene.
The true enemy of man is generalization,
The true enemy of man, so-called History,
Attracts and terrifies with its plural number.
Don't believe it. Cunning and treacherous,
History is not, as Marx told us, anti-nature,
And if a goddess, a goddess of blind fate.
The little skeleton of Miss Jadwiga, the spot
Where her heart was pulsating. This only
I set against necessity, law, theory.



CZESLAW MILOSZ
BERKELEY
1985

Friday, September 03, 2004

Take it slow, and Daddy-o, you can live it up and die in bed. [A nod to JVC Comments, and his penchant for song lyric titles…]


A couple of recent articles (Why Ranking Colleges is Good and Who Needs Harvard?) offer numbers and reasons in support of something UD has believed for quite awhile: There are many excellent colleges in the United States, and, in terms of outcome, Northwestern, for instance, is probably as good as Harvard. One article quotes experts estimating between one and two hundred such places, but this seems high to UD. She’d say there are around fifty or sixty colleges whose strong faculties will equip you to enter a first-rate graduate school.

The authors of these pieces suggest that “going to the ‘highest ranked’ school hardly matters at all” in terms of success in life. Indeed, the highest ranked schools, according to Gregg Easterbrook, are “losing their status as the gatekeepers of accomplishment. …Pretty good schools of the past have gotten much better, while the great schools have remained more or less the same.” Paul Samuelson, reviewing college rankings which sometimes place Ivies like Dartmouth and Cornell below non-Ivy schools, concludes that “A Harvard degree just isn’t the status symbol it used to be. And that goes for Yale and Princeton too….The Ivies have lost some luster.”



UD is pleased to see her sense of things strengthened here, and she hopes that people will conclude from it that they should stop turning their children into hyper-competitive wrecks.



But what really struck UD in these articles was a peripheral comment Easterbrook made toward the end of his essay. For one group of young people - those from poor families - choosing the highest ranked school does matter:


“Kids from poor families seem to profit from exposure to [such schools] much more than kids from well-off families. Why? One possible answer is that they learn sociological cues and customs to which they have not been exposed before. In his 2003 book, Limbo, Alfred Lubrano, the son of a bricklayer, analyzed what happens when people from working-class backgrounds enter the white-collar culture. Part of their socialization, Lubrano wrote, is learning to act dispassionate and outwardly composed at all times, regardless of how they might feel inside. Students from well-off communities generally arrive at college already trained to masquerade as calm. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may benefit from exposure to this way of carrying oneself - a trait that may be particularly in evidence at the top colleges.”

Too true. The losers - in college, graduate school, and life - can’t control their emotions. Haven’t learned to keep cool. The losers who love Rush Limbaugh are out of control. Rush himself is not.





On zee other hand… gelid self-possession can be carried too far. Consider the hyper-stiffs from the Ivy League that the Democrats keep putting up for President - Al Gore, John Kerry… These guys have been refined out of existence.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

A NEW ACADEMIC YEAR:


[Being a Series of Evocations of the University]


III


PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTION


"To have read a certain proportion of Moliere's works is indispensable to a valid understanding of the cultural background of the French," Dr. Whittaker said. He always talked like this. He spoke reasonably even to pets. He talked the way a windmill would talk, the way a sentence would talk - as he spoke, English seemed to have been dead for many centuries, and its bones to have set up a safe, staid, sleepy system of their own, in respectable secession from existence.

He went on: "I have read Le Misanthrope, I am happy to say. It is a work of true sociological insight." His eyes flashed, and then softened as he said: "Unhappy Alceste! Those sacrifices, necessary but onerous, which the social organism has always exacted, must always exact, from its individual cells, those - if I may coin a phrase - intra-social subtractions, are indeed, in Le Misanthrope -- " but here he seemed very human and attractive, for he lost his way in his sentence. The sentence was bewildered: it had begun so promisingly, and now had to finish with a lame "depicted by the pen of a master." In the classroom, where Dr. Whittaker was almost as much at home as in his study, this would not have happened; there each sentence lived its appointed term, died mourned by its people, and was succeeded by a legitimate heir. His voice - he had raised it to the elevation of his sentence - came across the room to me quite clearly, and I remembered the pretty girl who had said to me, "It's not just classes, it's Dr. Whittaker! I can stay awake in my other classes."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

UD's FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL


The customary approach here is to assure your reader that even though you've taught at a university for decades, you're still a nervous wreck on the first day of fall semester classes. UD is not a nervous wreck. Her main source of anxiety is whether she can find marginally acceptable business attire in the hours before her class meets.

Her class meets in one of the new weird time slots -- 2:20 - 3:35 WedFri -- that her university has this year adopted in an effort (UD figures) to make better use of facilities.

Before that, she'll go to her local mall for her traditional dash through department stores. UD has always bitterly resisted dressing up, and certainly "professor" is one of the few jobs where expectations are low along these lines. But even UD feels compelled to punch herself up a bit for the beginning of the academic year. As the semester progresses, her look will collapse.

Off I go.