Friday, December 31, 2004
From "The Stream"
By Mona Van Duyn, 1921 - 2004
What is love? Truly I do not know.
Sometimes, perhaps, instead of a great sea,
It is a narrow stream running urgently
far below ground, held down by rocky layers,
the deeds of mother and father, helpless sooth-sayers
of how our life is to be, weighted by clay,
the dense pressure of thwarted needs, the replay
of old misreadings, by hundreds of feet of soil,
the gifts and wounds of the genes, the short or tall
shape of our possibilities, seeking
and seeking a way to the top, while above, running
and stumbling this way and that on the clueless ground,
another seeker clutches a dowsing-wand
which bends, then lifts, dips, then straightens, everywhere,
saying to the dowser, it is there, it is not there,
and the untaught dowser believes, does not believe,
and finally simply stands on the ground above,
till a sliver of stream finds a crack and makes its way,
slowly, too slowly, through rock and earth and clay.
Here at my feet I see, after sixty years,
the welling water - to which I add these tears.
This Seemed About Right
For UD's First Official
Story of the New Year.
Jan 1, 2005
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE
TWISTED ARMS, TWISTED EGOS, TWISTED POLITICS
By DANIEL RUTH
This is what happens when a bunch of pols get their egos out of joint.
You, gentle taxpayer, wind up having your wallet - manipulated.
Last year, before the 2004 Florida legislative session, Gov. Jeb Bush found himself in something of a pickle wrapped in a kerfuffle shrouded in a narcissist.
For running the Florida House was none other than Speaker Johnnie Byrd, a walking series of unfortunate events.
Byrd was eager to accomplish two missions during the session: 1) secure funding for his vanity Alzheimer's research institute at the University of South Florida and 2) wrap up business as soon as possible so he could hit the stump in his delusional and doomed bid to become a U.S. senator.
Aside from MacLean Stevenson walking away from ``M-A-S-H,'' never has a man been in more of a hurry to become irrelevant.
Enter then-Senate President Jim King, who regarded Byrd with all the respect and affection of former President George H.W. Bush contemplating a head of broccoli.
But King also knew he had leverage over the speaker.
If Byrd wanted his vainglorious Alzheimer's center, then King insisted his own stocking be stuffed with a chiropractic school at his beloved Florida State University.
There in the middle was the governor, not wanting yet another acrimonious and protracted legislative session during a presidential election year.
Ergo Byrd got his Alzheimer's institute and, in the process, Bush promised not to veto the $9 million-a-year-in- perpetuity appropriation for King's equally dubious chiropractic school at FSU.
So much for staunch conservative fiscal principles. So much for principles.
Ah, but there was an itsy- bitsy problem with King's prideful piece of pork: Nobody ever bothered to ask either the pooh-bahs who run FSU or the state's Board of Governors whether they wanted and/or needed a chiropractic school in Tallahassee.
Up to a point, it's understandable why Bush, Byrd and King never thought to consult with the Board of Governors. After all, the Vichy Government was more uppity than this gaggle of political appointees.
But even this collection of Muppets has gotten its dander up over being so publicly dissed by the governor and the Legislature in funding a taxpayer-supported school before the board even approved the proposal.
For that matter, the Board of Governors, which heretofore had made lemmings look downright Pattonesque, also never was consulted on Byrd's $15 million-a-year conceit.
But wait! It gets even more deliciously muddled.
Apparently the stethoscopes at the FSU medical school are about as thrilled at having chiropractors entering their hallowed midst as Barry Bonds in discovering he's been elected the International Association of Asterisks Man of the Year.
Aside from the fact that haughty medical doctors view chiropractors as little more than bone-twisting World Wrestling Federation refugees in white coats, an argument is being made that we need more chiropractors about as much as Fallujah needs more scrap metal.
Indeed, in the Tampa phone directory alone there are nearly 200 listings for chiropractors, which either means we do in fact have perhaps too many chiropractors or whiplash is contagious.
The Board of Governors, emboldened with all the fierce independence of Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, will meet Jan. 27 to ponder the future of the FSU Jeb Bush/ Jim King School of Chiropractic Medicine.
Of course, the program will be approved if only to provide treatment for all those twisted arms, headlocks and broken kneecaps.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
A LOVELY YEAR-END HOLIDAY LETTER TO FRIENDS,
WRITTEN BY UD'S FELLOW BETHESDAN,
NEW REPUBLIC WRITER GREGG EASTERBOOK.
by Gregg Easterbrook
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 12.20.04
" Dear Family and Friends,
What a lucky break that I'm in first-class on the plane back from Istanbul, because there's room to take out the laptop and write our annual Christmas letter. My brand-new laptop receives wireless satellite Internet from anywhere in the world. While I was at the board of directors session during the Danube cruise, I pretended to be listening to the chairman but actually was using the laptop to watch Emily's oboe recital on live streaming video from Chad's digital minicam! So the world really is growing smaller. And if you haven't gotten one of these new laptops, you should. Of course, now there's a waiting list.
It's been another utterly hectic year, and yet nurturing and horizon-expanding. It's hard to know where the time goes. Well, a lot of it is spent in the car.
Already Rachel is in her senior year at Pinnacle-Upon-Hilltop Academy, and it seems like just yesterday she was being pushed around in the stroller by our British nanny. Rachel placed first this fall in the state operatic arias competition. Chad was skeptical when I proposed hiring a live-in voice tutor on leave from the Lyric Opera, but it sure paid off! Rachel's girls' volleyball team lost in the semifinals owing to totally unfair officiating, but as I have told her, she must learn to overcome incredible hardship in life. Now the Big Decision looms, and that is whether to take the early admission offer she has from Harvard or wait till she hears about Julliard. She is just a wreck about that; girls her age should not have to make such high-pressure choices! The whole back of her Mercedes SUV is full of advanced-dance brochures as she tries to decide.
Nicholas is his same old self, juggling the karate lessons--he doesn't tell the other boys he is a Yodan fourth-degree black belt so he won't frighten them--plus basketball, soccer, French horn, debate club, archeology field trips, poetry-writing classes, and his volunteer work. Yodan usually requires nine years of training after the Shodan belt, but prodigies can do it faster, especially if (not that I believe this!) they are reincarnated deities. Doing the clothing-advertising modeling for the Gap cuts into Nick's schoolwork time, but how could I deprive others of the chance to see him? His summer with Outward Bound in the Andes was a big thrill, especially when all the expert guides became disoriented and he had to lead the party out. But you probably read about that in the newspapers.
What can I say regarding our Emily? She's just been reclassified again, now as EVVSUG&T--"extremely very very super ultra gifted and talented." The preschool has retained a fulltime special-needs teacher solely to keep her challenged: Educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against the gifted anymore, not like when I was young. Yesterday Rachel sold her first still-life. It was shown on consignment at the leading gallery without, of course, the age of the artist disclosed. The buyers were thrilled when they learned!
Then there was the arrival of our purebred puppy, and the issue of what to name him. Because our family mission statement lists cultural diversity as a core value, we settled on Mandela.
Chad continues to prosper and blossom now that he has gone freelance. He works a few hours a day, spends the rest of the time with the children or restoring the house--the National Trust for Historic Preservation rules are quite strict--or supervising the maids. Whose Social Security taxes we pay, not that they ever say "gracias." (I write "maids," plural, because can you hold onto to one of these women more than a month? We can't!) Corporate denial consulting turns out to be a perfect career niche for Chad. Fortune 500 companies are calling him all the time. There's a lot to deny and Chad is good at it.
Me? Oh, I do this and that. I feel myself growing and flowering as a change agent. I yearn to empower the stakeholders. And this year I made senior partner, plus cashed out 825,000 stock options. I was sorry I had to let Carmen go on the same day I brought home the $14.6 million, but she had broken a Flora Danica platter and used the main house phone line for personal calls, something about a sick child! Chad and I got away for a week for a simple celebration of my promotion. We rented this charming, quaint five-star villa on the Corsican coast. Just to ourselves--we bought out all 40 rooms so it would be quiet and contemplative.
Our family looks to the New Year as a continued opportunity for rejuvenation and enrichment. Chad and I will be taking the children to Steamboat Springs over spring break, then in June I take the girls to Paris, Rome, and Seville while he accompanies Nicholas to another international tournament in Copenhagen. He swears he never looks at the blonds! Then the kids are off to their camps in Maine and before we know it we will be packing two cars to drive Rachel's things to college. And of course I don't count Davos or Sundance or all the routine excursions.
I hope your year has been as interesting as ours.
Jennifer, Chad, Rachel, Nicholas, Emily & Mandela (paw-print) "
FOLLOWUP or TRACKBACK or Whatever One Calls It
To the UD Post Directly Below, Titled 'THE AILING OLD BOWL.'
The blog Cold Spring Shops, which UD has always liked, and whose attentions to UD lately she finds gratifying, worries that "The Ailing Old Bowl," a poem UD wrote this morning, indicates a certain falling off in UD's blogskills.
"I fear," writes Cold Spring, "that University Diaries has jumped the shark."
UD ran to Google when she read this, for she hadn't the slightest idea what "jumped the shark" meant, and she's still a bit vague, though she gathers the idea is that in a desperate bid for attention she wrote something over the top.
This may be, but UD wishes to point out that the poem attempts to be a faithful verse transcription of someone else's argument about the college bowl system. The poem is not written from UD's point of view, but from the Washington Post writer's point of view. UD's position on the matter is less, er, jumpy.
THE AILING OLD BOWL
[UD makes a poem out of an article
in yesterday's Washington Post]
For I considered the frailty of the system:
That a field goal kicked by a schoolboy is worth fourteen million;
That the ill-gotten Bowl won’t send a penny to tsunami victims.
And once my queasiness at 93 million in payouts subsided,
I wracked my airy little head and decided.
Congress should not be soothed, or fooled
Into considering the big football schools
Some sort of academic endeavor.
For they are of corruption a sewer,
A sculptured and blazered buffet,
A vote-swapping, kickbacking, cash-grabbing trophy
Scheme without a single redeeming quality.
Their hoarded revenues, I thought, should go to charity.
For I considered the system, and its frailty.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
15,000 books and no television set …
… that’s what the inside of Susan Sontag’s New York apartment looked like. It’s hard enough to imagine an American interior with no televisions; it’s much harder to imagine an American space with so many books.
But Sontag was more European - high modernist European, at that - than American, UD thinks. Sontag complained, in “Against Interpretation,” that American culture “is based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life - its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness -- conjoin to dull our sensory faculties. And it is in the light of the condition of our senses, our capacities … that the task of the critic must be assessed.”
Forty years later, our strongest novelist, Don DeLillo, writes about the “narcotic undertow” of the televisions his characters watch all day and all night. More than ever, critics should, if Sontag is right, awaken and excite our deeply sedated senses so that we can see the world more clearly.
Sontag’s work, now subject to fresh reading because of her death, stands as a timely rebuke to much of what’s happening at the meeting of literary critics now wrapping up in Philadelphia. Sontag’s attack on content-driven interpretation, which “poisons our sensibilities … like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere,” targets the deadly ideologies of her day - Freudianism, Marxism - but describes equally well the prevailing race/class/gender industrial zone.
Sontag mentions Randall Jarrell's essay on Walt Whitman as an exemplar of the sort of criticism that “suppl[ies] a really accurate, sharp, loving description of the appearance of a work of art.” Jarrell’s essay is able to “reveal the sensuous surface of art without mucking about in it.”
One of the things Jarrell says about Whitman in that essay makes me think of Sontag herself: “When you buy him you know what you are buying. And only an innocent and solemn and systematic mind will condemn him for his contradictions: Whitman’s catalogues of evils represent realities, and his denials of their reality represent other realities, of feeling and intuition and desire. If he is faithless to logic, to Reality As It Is -- whatever that is -- he is faithful to the feel of things, to reality as it seems; this is all that a poet has to be faithful to, and philosophers have been known to leave logic and Reality for it.”
Regular readers know that UD has been following a couple of university-related stories throughout this year, both of them involving the tricky etiquette question of how to turn down an enthusiastically proffered gift.
In one case, the state of Utah is pleased as punch to extend its conceal/carry laws to its university campuses, but the campuses keep turning the gesture down. Bitter and disappointed, the state is now threatening legal sanctions if its universities don't get with the gun laws.
In another case, Florida State University is to be the beneficiary of a local political operative's largesse in the form of the nation's first school of chiropractic medicine. Yet FSU medical school faculty and other interested observers are not only condemning the corruption that allowed the operative (who is also a chiropractor) to get the idea through the legislature; they are also heaping scorn upon the "pseudo-science" of chiropractic itself:
" A growing number of professors in the Florida State University College of Medicine are saying they will resign if FSU administrators continue to pursue a proposed chiropractic school.
"I would no longer wish to volunteer my teaching energies to FSU medical school, should it encompass a school of chiropractic," wrote Dr. Ian Rogers, an assistant professor at FSU's Pensacola campus, in a Dec. 15 e-mail. "This is plainly ludicrous!!!!"
The threatened resignations - at least seven to date, all from assistant professors who work part time - reflect a belief among many in the medical establishment that chiropractic is a "pseudo-science" that leads to unnecessary and sometimes harmful treatments. Professors are even circulating a parody map of campus that places a fictional Bigfoot Institute, School of Astrology and Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory near a future chiropractic school.
But the professors' stance has a political aim, too.
Opposition is clearly mounting as the chiropractic school heads for crucial votes in January before the FSU board of trustees and the state Board of Governors.
In fact, the school is now seen as a test case for the fledgling Board of Governors, which critics have accused of kowtowing to Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature on the higher education issues it is supposed to oversee.
FSU was closed for the holidays Tuesday. FSU president T.K. Wetherell, provost Larry Abele and John Thrasher, chairman of the FSU board of trustees, could not be reached for comment.
But Sen. Dennis Jones, the Treasure Island Republican who spearheaded legislative support for the school in the spring, said the professors were "overreacting."
He accused anti-chiropractic groups from outside the state of stirring faculty opposition at FSU.
"If they resign, so be it," said Jones, a chiropractor himself. The instructors don't deserve to teach at FSU, he said, "if they're putting their credentials with people known for promoting professional bigotry."
The Legislature appropriated $9-million annually for the chiropractic school, which was pushed by Jones and then-Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, an FSU graduate. It would be the only school of its kind in the country.
As supporters envision it, more than 100 new faculty members would train legions of chiropractors, with a special emphasis on Hispanic and African-American students. The school would also draw lucrative federal grants in alternative medicine.
Planning began years ago, but criticism didn't ramp up until after the legislative session.
Some opponents see the school as an end run around the Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 11 universities but has yet to consider the chiropractic school. Last week, a group headed by former university system chancellor E.T. York filed a lawsuit against the board, accusing it of failing to flex its constitutionally granted muscle and pointing to the chiropractic school as a prime example.
But some FSU faculty members are upset, too, fearing the school will shatter FSU's academic reputation. The list of critics include FSU's two Nobel laureates - Robert Schreiffer, a physicist, and Harold Walter Kroto, a chemist - and Robert Holton, the chemistry professor who developed the cancer-fighting drug Taxol, which has brought FSU tens of millions of dollars in royalties.
In recent weeks, more than 500 faculty members have signed petitions against the chiropractic school, including about 70 in the medical college, said Dr. Raymond Bellamy, an assistant professor who is leading the charge against the proposal. The medical college has more than 100 faculty members.
Some of them say they're willing to do more than sign a petition.
"I teach wonderful medical students from Florida State University here in Orlando," Dr. James W. Louttit wrote in an e-mail to Bellamy, who shared it with the St. Petersburg Times. "If they decide to start a chiropractic school I would no longer be able to support this program."
"It should come as no surprise that no major medical institution in this country, public or private, has embraced chiropractic medicine," wrote Dr. Henry Ho, a Winter Park physician and FSU assistant professor, in another e-mail. "If Florida State University were to do so, its fledgling attempt for credibility as a medical institution of stature would be severely jeopardized." "
UD finds both of these stories - Utah's and Florida's - heartening. Under the comedy, they are really about the slow evolutionary processes by which shitty state university systems drag themselves out of the muck and become respectable. Anti-intellectualism and political corruption have to be seen for the poisons they are, and FSU in particular has begun to do that. Its legitimate scientists are rejecting the gift of quackery undiplomatically, to be sure. But maybe there's no other way.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
MORE ON SONTAG
It used to seem to UD that Sontag, Susan appeared in the index of every book UD owned. Now that Sontag has died, UD finds remarkably few Sontags, at least in her library at home.
When she’s back in her office at GW, she’ll look there, especially for “Against Interpretation,” the Sontag essay UD first encountered in Lionel Trilling’s 1970 anthology, Literary Criticism. That hip little number had much to do with UD’s decision to get serious about literature. Here was a way to be serious without being dry; here was, as Sontag put it in the essay, an erotics of reading.
UD read “Against Interpretation” again not long ago, and she saw the less savory aspects of Sontag -- her arrogance, her humorlessness, her rhetorical excess. But the power of the prose was still there; the shimmer the essay had given off in its first reading, of energy and clarity and lofty polemic all at once, had survived.
Beyond her enormously attractive analytical style, Sontag’s openness to travel, exoticism, languages, and all sorts of cultural movements, drew UD. Sontag’s politics seemed to UD pretty absurd; but her aesthetic and social curiosity, her wandering into odd corners of European writing, for instance, was inspiring in its generosity and sympathy.
Above all, UD loved Sontag’s lack of sentimentality and narcissism. Sontag was an intellectual. She was interested in thick descriptions of human experience, descriptions that would have broad relevance. If her own experience of cancer illuminated the larger metaphors through which illness is filtered, then Sontag would make use of that experience. But it never felt personal. Sontag had the inestimable gift of infusing consciousness with truth.
...inspired essayist, moralist, and aesthete, is dead.
Restless with a four-year imposed ban on corruption in its basketball program, the indefatigably corrupt University of Georgia has turned to that other mainstay of academic malfeasance, corporate stuffing of the chancellor's salary.
UD's readers may recall the long farce of UG's basketball program (see UD posts dated 11/16/04, 8/7/04, and 3/7/04), temporarily halted by the NCAA, which, after inventing a new category to cover the breadth of UG's "recruiting inducements, unethical conduct, academic fraud and extra benefits" ("Because the violations found in this case occurred within five years of the starting date of penalties associated with the 1997 Georgia football infractions case, the institution is a repeat-violator and subject to repeat-violator penalties."), shut down the program for four years.
Now, with the help of the Attorney General, who recently overruled the university's eagerness to keep secret the financial relationship between corporate donors and corporate vendors (they are often the same people, with donations tending to appear days after the awarding of contracts), the University of Georgia is in trouble again: REGENTS' FUND FATTENED BY FIRMS THAT DEAL WITH COLLEGES headlines the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which points out that nearly half of the chancellor's compensation comes from a very private, very exclusive university foundation ...
"This has all the appearance of a pay-to-play thing," says Bill Bozarth, a director of Common Cause, who attempts to clarify the problem with a couple of analogies: "If the head of the Department of Natural Resources was getting a supplement to his salary from Waste Management, what signal would that send?" And: "This is just as disturbing as it would be if Governor Perdue were getting money from state contractors."
The university insists it hasn't got the slightest idea who the people giving the money are...
Monday, December 27, 2004
"EGGHEADS' NAUGHTY WORD GAMES"
The New York Times has written its obligatory article about the MLA convention, which is going on in Philadelphia even as we blog. You can sense the dread the Times writer felt when he realized he'd drawn this assignment, this event whose ridicule he calls a "holiday ritual for journalists." For lo his prose is weary, Lord... it seemeth in each sentence to pray for deliverance... nay even to be full of thankfulness as its final paragraph descends...
The writer reminds us of desperate MLA titles of years past, and he updates the roster with this year's desperadoes. His take on the MLA convention is that English professors are "naughty" immature people (the article is titled "Eggheads' Naughty Word Games") whose annual gathering resembles a "hyperactive child who, having interrupted the grownups' conversation by dancing on the coffee table, can't be made to stop." He quotes another writer who sees no way out of the "arrant foolishness that has turned literary studies into a laughingstock."
Yet if you look at the titles the Times cites, few of them are remotely literary. Even if some novel seems involved, it's really not -- a few lines or images from the book will be pressed into an argument that has nothing to do with literature. Or again, a poem or a play may appear, but it turns out to be a work not of art, but of propaganda. When you edit down the MLA convention, the problem isn't infantile provocativeness, as the Times writer suggests, but ideological non-deviationism. The papers are displays of party discipline.
FROM YESTERDAY'S ACROSTIC PUZZLE IN THE NEW
Clue: "Joking nickname for a person seemingly learned."
Sunday, December 26, 2004
It's been a slow week at University Diaries, of course, but it's never too early to scope out next year's Ig Noble Award nominees. (She'll link to this year's Ig Noble ceremony when she gets home to a friendlier computer.) Although at the moment she's sitting only blocks away from the MIT/Harvard ideopolis from which flows the Ig Noble, UD has no influence on the nominations process... but perhaps someone, somewhere, may learn of the work of Professor Ralph Pettman through her weblog. For UD, that will be enough.
A professor of international relations at Victoria University in New Zealand, Professor Pettman has already received some thousands of dollars from his university to set up a website devoted to stamping out sex on Mount Everest (see www.stuff.co.nz). Pettman argues that one of the many things climbers apparently do to keep warm offends the Sherpas, for whom the mountain is sacred. ("I find that claim rather questionable," comments one veteran guide. "Sherpas have a very raunchy sense of humor.")
UD awaits details from Pettman's website as to how he will enforce the No Sex on Everest rule. Celibacy pledges? A Sherpa in every tent? Of all the places where you'd think you'd be allowed a little privacy...
Friday, December 24, 2004
UD is currently located in the epicenter of Blue State Cool: Tealuxe at Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She and her daughter are taking a break from last-minute Christmas shopping.
As always, UD finds Tealuxe a well-observed ripoff of the Mariage Freres tearoom on Rue du Bourg-Tibourg in Paris. Narrow, dim. High walls lined in tea tins.
"Tealuxe Corporation has gone out of business," she could swear the guy with a mohawk behind the counter just said to a customer. Well, then, how cool can Tealuxe be? Another sign of the Blue State crisis...
UD sits in her small Cambridge hotel's lobby late at night, checking the news online while a few steps away from her, at the front desk, the night clerk gently snores. As usual, the weather around Harvard Square is wretched -- high winds and rain -- but earlier in the day it wasn't so bad, and UD and her daughter checked out the tilted Graduate School of Design Building, the circular Le Corbusier Carpenter Center, and then the quads, full of Asian families taking pictures of themselves in front of Widener Library.
For UD, Harvard has always had a disappointing prestige-to-ambiance ratio. Unlike Stanford, for instance, which really wows you, Harvard's physical actuality seems incapable of keeping up with its immense international aura. Its series of quadlets, each rounded or squared with arbitrarily thrown together, conventional buildings, fails to add up to HARVARD. "They filmed 'Legally Blonde' here!" UD's daughter enthused as they entered the largest of the quads. Then she shrugged. "Looked more interesting in the movie..."
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
UD DOES CHRISTMAS
UD has the vaguely diffused holiday season you get when you grow up an assimilated Jew and marry a Catholic. Hanukah, never very firm in her mind beyond its association with gelt in fishnet, has pretty much vanished. Christmas is a big deal for her husband’s Polish family (much wafer-breaking), but less so for spiritually on-the-fence UD.
No, for an aesthete like UD, the holiday season is about singing and listening to great music (except for the Hanukah songs, which can be really bad), walking with her daughter around chilly, greened Harvard Square (UD’s husband’s family home is nearby), and mooning over the beautiful photography books everyone gets and gives as presents.
The larger culture of academic Harvard, into which UD has dipped every December for the last twenty-five years, has always seemed to her both enigmatic and stifling. She has been to many ponderous old houses inside of which campus eminences (John Kenneth Galbraith, Richard Pipes, Stanislas Baranczak, Harry Levin) reclined on couches and held forth.
She was never particularly happy to be in these houses, all of them underlit, slightly cold, and full of anxious milling people, but she is grateful to have had the experiences.
It is not, after all, Harvard’s fault that UD only goes up there in what Quentin in Absalom, Absalom calls the “iron New England dark” of Cambridge in December.
Monday, December 20, 2004
VARIETIES OF BEARDEDNESS
AMONG SENIOR ACADEMICS
Via The Cranky Professor, UD notes with interest the following article in The Telegraph:
WOMEN IN ACADEMIA LOSE OUT BY A WHISKER
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
A correlation between having a beard and being a professor has been uncovered by scientists, suggesting a reason for discrimination against women in academia.
A study of 1,800 male academics has revealed professors are twice as likely as lecturers to have bristles.
The survey, which appears today in The Pharmaceutical Journal, was done by doctoral students Sarah Carter and Kristina Åström who were inspired by an "impressively hairy" supervisor at the University of London. "Sixteen members of our 18-strong research group are female. Would we, and do we, face discrimination?" they asked.
The answer appears to be yes. While 10.5 per cent of lecturers were bewhiskered, the figure rose to 13.6 per cent for senior lecturers, 16.7 per cent for readers and 21.4 per cent for professors.
One theory is that being unshorn makes men more likely to be appointed to professorships, as facial hair is linked with high testosterone and aggression.
First, let us dismiss with the contempt it deserves that little testosterone theory tacked on at the end of the piece. When you look at a bearded professor, you do not say 'Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair.'
UD offers eight varieties of beardedness among senior academics (some categories blend into others), in alphabetical order:
I. BUM. This professor believes himself to be, wishes to be, jimmies his life so that he is, more or less, poor. Despite a goodish salary and no wife or kids to support (too shy to date), the Bum lives like Jeremy Irons at the end of that horrible Louis Malle movie, Damage. Remember? Subsisting in a North African slum and with infinitely pathetic meticulousness reusing the same crinkly Baggie…
II. CAVEMAN. Cavemen is a wild untrammeled force who growls and shakes his mane at his students and shouts SHIT and FUCK. Blind to the desperation behind his acting out, Caveman’s students adore the wooly wacky ways of this fraudster.
III. DRUNKARD. The endpoint of academic despair (see UD post dated January 30, 2004 for a discussion of this) may be the bearded Drunkard, whose beard is one of many emblems of his inability to look after himself. There is indeed a testosterone angle to the Drunkard, whose core affliction usually involves self-hatred at being a sissy professor when he could have been something manly.
IV. LEATHERMAN. Closeted for years, now that he’s senior he’s out with a vengeance. A slim man in jeans, he has a sculpted beard that follows the same jaw lines as a helmet strap.
V. OGGSFORD -- as Meyer Wolfsheim calls it in The Great Gatsby. The Oggsford beardman went to a British university and introjected Bernard Berenson. A cultured, judgmental aesthete, Oggsford is buffed and studly. As studly as professors get.
VI. ORTHO. An Orthodox Jew.
VII. PIRATIC. Libertarianism run amok, Piratic is often seen being escorted out of his office by campus security because he won’t stop smoking his cigar in there. While lecturing on Wordsworthian daffodils, the Piratic bearded professor makes random references to the Derringer he keeps in his desk.
VIII. RADICAL FRINGE. Abbie Hoffman sans suicide.
THE VOICE OF THE ALPHA MALE BLOGGER -- II
[for I, see UD, 12/19/04]
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
"How dumb are academics? Part XXIII: Today's N.Y. Post reports on a Harvard School of Public Health Study that found "men tend to do less exercise and put on weight" after they remarry, even though they eat healthier diets. The explanation, offered by Dr. Patricia Mona Eng:
"Time demands of a new spousal role may preclude routine exercise."
Alternative non-Harvard-approved explanation for why they exercised more before they remarried: They wanted to get laid. ... On second thought, that theory may be crude and inappropriate. Sex isn't a big factor in male motivation. We all know that. Stick with the "time demands of a spousal role" business. Yes, that's the ticket. ... 4:37 P.M."
Mickey Kaus, kausfiles.com
MORE BLOGGY-MINDEDNESS FROM UD
[for earlier navel-gazing on the subject of blogging, just look down the page a bit]
“I don’t see the point of privacy. Or rather, I don’t see the point of leaving testimony in the hands or mouths of others,” Harold Brodkey wrote in his spectacular memoir, This Wild Darkness. UD is inclined to agree, and she would add that the current anxiety about government and technological threats to American privacy that people like Jeffrey Rosen are expressing (he’s a colleague of hers at GW, in the law school) is somewhat misplaced.
In particular, in line with a certain emphasis UD and many other bloggers have lately been placing on the subject of blogging as such, UD proposes to lightly fisk (yes, split infinitive… but it sounds okay, doesn’t it?) a recent essay of Rosen’s in the New York Times magazine [for the article, go to crookedtimber.org and read the current post by Eszter] on the subject of blogs and the way they threaten our privacy.
Rosen wants to highlight the danger that irresponsible blogging about other peoples’ personal lives represents. In so doing, he extends far greater publicity to certain examples of this than they’d have gotten otherwise. Although he’s naming names in the spirit of exoneration, he’s still naming names, repeating calumnies in the huge-circulation pages of the New York Times. He is also giving an immense sales boost to the sex-blog spinoff books he mentions. Rosen tut-tuts quite a lot about “Internet exhibitionism,” but he’s promoting it in the nation’s most high-profile newspaper.
Indeed, like the sensationalistic bloggers themselves, Rosen goes in for scary hyperbole: “In the age of blogs, all citizens, no matter how obscure, will have to adjust their behavior to the possibility that someone may be writing about them.” Sounds bad! What could it really mean, in practice? Well, later in the article, Rosen gives us one chilling example: A fellow law professor about whom some students blog has decided to “start an anonymous blog of his own.” Shiver me timbers, me hearties.
Rosen is also hyperbolic - and misleading - in describing the amount of play blog rumors typically get. He counts hits, not unique visits, in citing the bigtime traffic many irresponsible bloggers get, with one, for instance, experiencing “900 hits a day.”
Hey baby - UD gets upwards of 2,000 hits a day, but you don’t hear about it here, because she knows, like all responsible commentators on the subject, that it’s a meaningless number.
Rosen concludes his privacy pensees petulantly: “Now that I know that students may be reporting my after-class comments without my knowledge, I’m more likely to be circumspect in private conversations.” Talk about having to adjust our behavior! Rosen is announcing no less than the end of the wild bohemian babble that we associate most strongly with law professors. The beginning of “circumspection” among this most verbally carefree and irreverent group will be a heavy burden to bear.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
ADDENDUM TO MOI, MARGUERITE BLOGGIERE...
[Look two entries down for Moi ... ]
THE VOICE OF THE ALPHA MALE BLOGGER:
"The bloggers are conduits, forums, niches, designed to unleash the broader wisdom of the online crowds. That's one reason a Hayek-Oakeshott Tory like me loves the blogosphere so much. Not so much spontaneous order as the endless pursuit of a million intimations - a constant conversation, with peaks and lulls, discourtesies and jokes, outbursts and rants, meditations and quips, and all going nowhere in particular. And in the end, some truths do emerge, if you have the balls to acknowledge them. It's the purest form of democratic discussion yet devised. It's a big fucking deal. But if you're reading this, you probably know that."
--- Andrew Sullivan
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME:
A Regular University Diaries Feature
Last night, UD joined about twenty fellow Garrett Parkers on a cold clear night and went caroling door to door. In her red-gloved hand she held a flashlight from Sharper Image which burned blue.
For an eerie and elegant effect, everyone in town had lined the street in front of their house with luminaria, stenciled paper bags inside of which had been placed an inch or two of sand and a lit votive.
The evening’s air of wholesome bonhomie stirred up the angry ghosts of Ambrose Bierce and Evelyn Waugh, who, along with many other writers, lodge quietly within UD but can be roused on these sorts of occasions. Throughout the greeting of neighbors and the exchange of good wishes and the choruses of We Wish You a Merry she heard them grumbling. She heard the many cutting and witty things they said and she laughed with them as they shed their dark radiance on the luminaria. Yes, yes, of course…
And yet, and yet, and yet (to quote once again a favorite locution of one of UD’s college professors, Erich Heller), in the midst of their rancor she heard as well the voice of John Cheever, who understood the setting better than those other two, and had an affection for it. UD decided to go with Cheever.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
MOI, MARGUERITE BLOGGIERE...
There's a big ol' discussion going on at Crooked Timber about the relative scarcity of women bloggers. UD thought it might be useful to review some aspects of her own blogging experience, since she is herself a bona fide woman. Who blogs.
TEARS, TRIALS, TRIUMPH: ONE WOMAN BLOGGER'S STORY
Everyone but everyone is on about the gender gap in blogging -- tons of men blog, and few women do -- or rather, few women who blog get serious readership and serious attention.
UD isn't sure what truly serious readership is; she assumes her own readership of roughly 500 unique visits a day (visits have fluctuated a lot this month, from 1600 one day to 300 another), plus a little under fifty links, is respectable for a sole proprietor who's been in business for a year… She's also worth almost $11,000 on that meaningless Blogshares fantasy market thing! Anyway, she hopes this means she is respectable enough to say a few things about the situation.
I don't know how much of what I have to say pertains to being a woman, or just being a human being, or just being the peculiar human being that is me and me alone. But here goes. Make of it what you will.
I am totally non-technical and in fact pretty actively hostile to or indifferent toward a good deal of technology. If it were not for the fact that my niece is a brilliant computer science undergraduate willing to be bothered by me night and day for help with everything imaginable I would not have been able to open shop. I still can't figure out how to put images on my site (though now my fourteen year old
daughter does that for me). Nor have I developed much of an affection for or interest in the endless technical thingies I could be learning to enhance my site, increase my readership, whatever.
I do find that I'm competitive about my site - I want it to be noticed - but not to the extent that I'm willing to futz in any serious way with technology. I do what I do, with help from my niece (she even designed and ran an ad for me! I couldn't have done this at all.), but I'm aware that it's not all I could be doing.
In short, technically I remain pathetic - every time I add a new blog address to my Blogger template I'm incredibly proud of myself. Pathetic.
People who blog get ridiculed, attacked, etc. I don't know whether, as a woman, I'm less inclined to allow this to happen than a man would be, but I know that the prospect of cruel remarks slowed down my decision to blog. Like many people, I can dish it out, but I don't take it very well.
A couple of things got me over this fear. One was the realization that of course all public writers of any kind who take strong views can expect to get shat upon on occasion, and if I were serious about the state of the American university (the subject of my blog) I'd just have to learn to take it.
Yet my fear of what people might say kept me from making my site comments-enabled until only about a month ago. And when a satire I wrote about Isaiah Berlin generated a lot of comment on Crooked Timber awhile back, I was so afraid of what people might have said that I made my husband filter out any nasty remarks (there weren't any, as it turned out) and only read pleasant ones aloud to me!
I've advanced a bit since then, as I say, but I'm still nervous about the very public nature of my blog. In fact, I intended originally for it to be anonymous, but my niece went ahead and opened the account with my real name on it, so I figured what the hell. In retrospect, I'm glad I'm not anonymous; I respect, however, anyone's decision to run an anonymous blog.
Although I've always worried about I and II - technology and courage - I've always been pretty confident about my ability to write, and I've adored the daily business of getting some prose down on things that matter to me. Because all of the "how to write a successful blog" articles I've read insist that readers want some personal data, I provide some of this, but unlike a lot of women bloggers I've seen, I'm rather reluctant to do so (here, as in many other matters, I'm on Ophelia Benson's wavelength - she's the proprietor of Butterflies and Wheels), and when I do so, I try hard for most of it to have some relevance to larger university or more broadly social issues.
I do think that the assumption of some women that the details of their personal lives are of interest to people is an unfortunate one and perhaps undermines the effectiveness of some of their blogs. A good writer, of course, can make anything interesting to readers, but it's not at all easy to carry this off, and running a photo of your cat with a couple of paragraphs describing his treatment for diabetes is probably not that keen a move for an ambitious blogger, unless you do it very seldom, or can make the whole thing uproariously funny.
I also think that in the business of having strong political and social views, men tend on average to be better about striking the right range of tones, seem more comfortable keeping up an engaging, serious flow of commentary about the world. Plenty of women bloggers are good at this, too, but some of them are too emotional. Blogging, it seems to me, is a cool medium; you need to modulate your voice.
Friday, December 17, 2004
A COUPLE OF 2004 MLA CONFERENCE PAPER TITLES
“Eating Indians: Benjamin Rush, the Circularity of Stagism, and a Pharmacy of Race”
“Tolkien and the Other: Gender and Race in Middle-Earth”
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME:
A Regular University Diaries Feature
The Common Ground of Hummering
UD, as you know if you've been listening, lives sort of in Bethesda, Maryland (her little incorporated town, Garrett Park - where UD grew up by the way - is, despite its autonomy, part of the Bethesda area), a rich close-in suburb of Washington. She and a good friend who also grew up here have evolved over the years a sort of shorthand with which to talk about the place -- its Hummers, malls, and real estate agents.
It all adds up, for UD and her friend, to 'thesdan Culture, and, like anthropologists, they enjoy mapping its ways.
Key to 'thesdan culture is a depth and breadth of affluence unimaginable outside of the Atlantic seaboard and certain pockets of Palo Alto. Most places in the world have some rich people (example: Rupert Murdoch just spent 44 million dollars on an apartment in New York City), but here it's pretty much everybody.
Everybody drives a late-model LandRover with Josh Groban pouring out of it. Everybody adds 10,000 feet to their house for a second entertainment den.
'thesdan women are slim and paranoid, 'thesdan men bulkier and more paranoid. Due to lawsuits, bankruptcies, botched plastic surgeries, and divorces, they live in gated communities where it's hard to find them. The conceit is that they're being exclusive. In reality many of them are hiding from creditors.
Two locations dominate the mental and physical world of the 'thesdan: treeless fields with empty houses, and long avenues of gas stations. These are the lodestars of their lives. They orbit the first in search of a television, and the second in search of a five cents per gallon savings.
The 'thesdan is almost always driving, and, when driving, talking on his cell phone. Let us listen in: "Amoco is a dollar eighty-five! Fuck that! I was in Kensington the other day and Exxon was a dollar eighty!"
Why, you ask yourself day after day, does UD go after psychology, creative writing, and women's studies in American universities and not the obvious --schools of education?
Franchement, she ain't got the stomach for it. Some things are too much for high-strung, highly acidic (she puts Tabasco sauce on everything) UD.
Fortunately, there is Professor Plum, to whom (glance to your right and down) UD has now linked. The abysmal-to-the-point-of-surreality realities in America's schools of education are his whole thing.
Due to this relentless focus, Professor Plum is in a constant overheated sputtering volcanic rage ... which UD will admit is not her favorite rhetorical mode ... but on the other hand, someone's got to do it, and Professor Plum seems able to read reams of edutrash without slowly scratching his eyeballs out, which is what UD would do.
IDENTITY, TRAGEDY, AND AGON IN MODERN PLAGIARISM
UD is beginning to worry about herself. She has read so many stories about professorial plagiarism lately that she’s developed a shameful obsession with the lamest excuses offered by the plagiarists.
But they have to be truly lame. Simply saying, like Thomas J. Woodall of Boise State University, that anything appearing on the internet is “free and clear” is insufficient (though Woodall gets points for having plagiarized a letter to the editor and sent it to the BSU student newspaper). No - for UD to offer any real credit, your excuse must be outstandingly, heart-stoppingly shameless. As in:
I: MAN’S IMMORTAL QUEST FOR IDENTITY
Most shameless so far is Professor Charles J. Amtzen of Arizona State University, who, on being accused by a furious graduate student of having stolen his work (Amtzen “lifted whole paragraphs of my work and represented it as his own”), said the following:
“I take the blame in that I didn’t fully comprehend Dwayne’s search for identity here.”
Here are Amtzen's rivals for the crown:
II: THE TRAGIC VISION
Roger Shepherd, a now-fired professor of fine arts at the Parsons School of Design, plagiarized freely from a variety of books for his (now shredded by the publisher) work on significant modern buildings. When cornered, he referred darkly to a naughty research assistant, and then called the incident “a tragedy.”
III: SAMSON AGONISTES
The prodigious George O. Carney of Oklahoma State dismissed all of the complaints his raft of plagiarees have made against him as, in the words of the Chronicle of Higher Education reporter who interviewed him, motivated by ‘academic jealousy’ or even in-state football rivalry.”
Thursday, December 16, 2004
HE SAID IT; I DIDN'T
"...high school sports will continue to fester into shameful overemphasis in too many places, will continue to emulate the college sports model that is America's educational shame."
|BASEBALL THREAT LOWERED|
It’s just UD and a sleeping construction worker this morning at the little red tables in Penn Place, her town’s one commercial building (she’s waiting for the 8:40 train to Union Station.) The town post office is here (residents have successfully fought home delivery for decades), as is the town archive, the town administrator, the town restaurant, and the town therapist.
The amount of activity around this just-renovated and enlarged building (delivery vans, street stripers, pickups with cherry trees in the back) reminds UD of the vocal minority of townspeople who were opposed to this change. One of them, on the day the Town Council passed a motion to go ahead with it, taped a piece of cardboard up in the old post office lobby on which he’d written, in morbid calligraphy, IF YOU HAVE TEARS, PREPARE TO SHED THEM NOW (Shakespeare).
One can swing this sort of small town data Barbara Pym’s way, grinning at its absurdity, but UD is disinclined. There was a slightly thready privacy about life here once, now replaced by a natty something which has us closer to quaint fakes like Middleburg and Burlington than we’d like.
UD is heading into DC (she’s now on the MARC train) to give the first of her two final examinations - this one on Don DeLillo, who writes about precisely this sort of American success story, the series of events by which a real place becomes a concept.
UD has now transferred from the MARC to the Metro. Her ride is free, courtesy, as the conductors keep announcing, of ING Direct, a new bank in town. How much would it cost, UD wonders, for her to do the same? “Your free ride today is courtesy of UNIVERSITY DIARIES, a blog about American university life…”
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
WHAT CAN UD SAY,
A BUSY WEEK?
[for background, see UD post titled "Stroke of Genius," dated 12/14/04, below]
" DA FILES CHARGES IN OSU EMBEZZLEMENT CASE
Charges were filed Tuesday by District Attorney Rob Hudson against Bonnie Leann Jones, former Oklahoma State University senior staff assistant for the geography department.
According to documents obtained from the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, Jones “fraudulently appropriated to her own use, certain money, to wit: $18, 659 for a use and/or purpose not intended or authorized by the proper owner, Oklahoma State University, with the fraudulent intent to appropriate it for her own benefit under a common and ongoing scheme of deception.”
According to OSCN documents, the felony charge of embezzlement is punishable by imprisonment for one to 10 years.
Listed among witnesses in the case are geography department members Dale Lightfoot and George Carney, and BancFirst of Stillwater.
Judge Donald Worthington has been assigned to Jones’ case, however no court date has been set. "
THE GOLDEN BOWL
While the ongoing Bowl Championship Series controversy has brought out some bad writing in the nation's sports journalists ("The thievery has been done, the dreams have been diced. The University of California's outstanding season has been ransacked, ravaged and reduced, shrunken and shriveled like a raisin." "Do they even understand the lessons they really teach with their transparent greed and pompous twists of the truth?"), it has also inspired at least one scribe to writing that rises, in UD's opinion, from mere journalism to classic American ethnography:
" OPEN SEASON ON BOWL GAMES
By Steve Dilbeck
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Been doing those thumb exercises for the remote? Made the annual Costco run for the super-sized bags of Doritos and oversized bottles of caffeine-filled soda? Readied the overstuffed imitation-leather chair?
Warned wife and children you are not to be disturbed over the next 29 days, excluding an unexpected act of God, and then only if of Biblical proportions?
Then you were there Tuesday night, excited as Mike Tyson on a car hood that the bowl season finally got under way.
Propped right in front of your overpriced big screen, watching North Texas and Southern Mississippi kick off the bowl season, happy as a pig in slop.
It is the silliest bowl season ever, or at least since last year, but no matter. If you failed to get chills over North Texas-Southern Mississippi in the New Orleans Bowl, then you don't know consomme from gumbo.
Incredibly, it was the Mean "Don't Call Me Joe" Green's fourth New Orleans Bowl. Can you believe it? They lost Patrick Cobb, the nation's leading rusher last season, to a knee injury in the second game of the season. Replaced him with unheralded freshman Jamario Thomas, who naturally led the country in rushing this year. Which school is Tailback U?
Matched against a Southern Mississippi team so tough that even when it lost to Cal in the final game of the season, it somehow knocked the Bears out of the Rose Bowl.
Who can't get excited about directional schools going at it in a bowl game on Dec. 14? What, you have embalming fluid for blood?
It was the first of a mind-boggling 28 bowl games. That means every eligible school in the country but one, not counting self-banned South Carolina and Clemson, made it to a bowl game.
Nothing for the Akron Zips. Not one lousy bowl watch. Not one chicken dinner. A team that never in its history has made it to a Division I-A bowl.
But with the scene so action-packed with thrilling matchups, who has time for sympathy for the Zippos?
Coming up next, the Champs Sports Bowl, where the players not only get to play in a bowl game in exciting Mobile, Ala., but receive a free jersey of the steroid-invested NFL player of choice.
The Champs Bowl used to be the Tangerine Bowl, but these games change names faster than a con man on the lam.
Alas, compassionate types are apparently in short supply these days, the Humanitarian Bowl this year morphing into the MPC Computers Bowl. The San Francisco Bowl had a shorter run than tech stocks, this year becoming the Emerald Bowl.
Sponsorship changes make for great fun, too. Not sure which was the bigger surprise, learning that it was now the Vitalis Sun Bowl or that they still sold Vitalis. Coming soon, the Brylcreem Las Vegas Bowl, because you can never be too slick in Las Vegas.
There are always games sponsored by someone whose product you can only guess at. It's the EV1.net Houston Bowl, which I guess means Elvira has her own cable channel now.
It's the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl and the MasterCard Alamo Bowl, which goes to show that football-crazed Texas can never have too many obscure bowl games.
All-time holdover fave: The Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl game. Fried chicken and peaches -- can it get any better than this?
And the matchups in these babies!
It's 6-5 Alabama vs. 6-5 Minnesota in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. It's 6-5 Georgia Tech vs. 6-5 Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl. Not to mention 6-5 UCLA vs. 6-5 Wyoming in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl.
Remember last year when you said the Silicon Valley Classic couldn't lower itself any further than 6-6 UCLA and Fresno State? Are you ready for Northern Illinois vs. Troy? What is that, USC's JV team?
The only non-BCS bowls that are truly interesting as games are the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl with Cal and Texas Tech (get out the calculator) and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl with unbeaten Boise State and 11-1 Louisville (get out the main frame).
The BCS is such an unmitigated disaster that even its bowl games leave you crying for an intriguing matchup. Poor, unbeaten Utah deserved a chance to prove itself worthy, but the Utes instead drew 8-3 Pitt in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Unbeaten and No. 3 Auburn deserved Cal, Utah or Texas, but the Tigers drew 10-2 Virginia Tech. The Rose Bowl deserved Cal-Michigan.
The best is saved for last, so don't blow all the cashews by the Continental Tire Bowl.
USC and Oklahoma, the top-ranked teams in the nation, will settle it on the field, which will be something of a new experience for the Trojans. The FedEx Orange Bowl will offer a fitting finale.
Get out the eye drops, fluff up the Superman slippers and settle in for the long haul. Bowl season is under way, and it's a special time, no matter how silly the games. "
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Occasionally -- very occasionally -- UD stumbles upon superior undergraduate writing, as she did in the recent case of Ben Hoffman, a student at Tufts [see UD post dated 12/1/04, "Sporting"]. Now she's pleased to feature the equally promising prose of Bridget Sharkey, at the University of Illinois:
'The Daily Illini - Opinions Issue: 12/13/04
Opinion column: THE DICKS ON THIS CAMPUS
By Bridget Sharkey
After three and a half years on this campus, I have learned many things. Of course, there are the obligatory lessons on Shakespeare and the Cold War. But aside from those unimportant facts, I also became an expert on a little something I like to call Guy-ology.
There are many guys on the Quad these days, and they sometimes can be hard to read. Because it's finals week and most of us are reading enough as it is, I have broken these men down into four simple categories:
Pain McSorrow - As an English major, I have had many close encounters with this species. Pain McSorrow is a brooding lad who fancies himself as a deep, dark, emotional guy. He usually can be seen wearing dark colors and purposely ugly clothing, generally topped off with a wool scarf and a Parliament cigarette. He often makes cynical and sarcastic remarks about "society" and "the idiots on this campus" - all while secretly checking out his reflection in a nearby mirror. His known habitat is smoky coffee shops, like Cafe Paradiso, and he will generally quote Bright Eyes or Tool on his away messages. This kid is in pain, people, and boy does he love it. If you want to hook up with him, be prepared for his emotional outbursts and his wandering eyes. After all, he's just too deep to be monogamous for long.
Frat McAbercrombie - Frat McAbercrombie can be identified by his Hollister sweatshirt, Corona visor and by the Greek lettering on his flip-flops. McAbercrombie generally hangs out at KAM's and C.O's, but he also can be seen at Station. McAbercrombie most likely is from the Chicagoland area, and even if he isn't, he pretends to be. He usually majors in sports management or perhaps business. McAbercrombie loves Maxim, The Man Show and Adam Sandler movies. If you want to date him, be prepared to be on his back burner. Even if he only shows up for the final exam, he still is busy every night, generally engaging in homoerotic Taps with his frat bros.
Chi-Town McGoombah - We should consider ourselves lucky because McGoombah is only found in his natural state in the central Illinois area. McGoombah also claims to be from Chicago, even though he most likely lives an hour away. He also pretends to be Italian, even if his last name is MacMorris. He can be identified by his unseasonable tan, his unnaturally white teeth, his wife beaters and by the silver or gold chains around his neck. McGoombah goes to any and all bars, but he usually is seen on the streets fighting with another McGoombah over who gets to take home Miss McGoombah. If you are lucky enough to snag a McGoombah, be prepared to hear him repeat "Fugettaboutit!," "Do it, Do it," and "Lil' bit" ad nauseum.
Townie McPotHead - McPotHead, as his name suggests, can be recognized by his bowl and his vintage Mr. T-shirts. McPotHead might have at one time attended the University, but now he works at Silver Mine Subs and hangs out on his balcony or in his basement all day. McPotHead usually is in a shroomy haze, and his primary passion is Burger King spicy chicken sandwiches. This guy is too stoned to date, but if you are looking for an unimpressive three minutes in a room that smells like the inside of a pirate's leg, McPotHead is your man.
Of course, some might claim that my list is a little biased. Some might even accuse me of being a bitter man-hater. But those people probably fall in one of these four groups.
And for those who feel their lame ex-boyfriend was skipped over, I'm sorry, but I ran out of room. Stay tuned for part two next semester.'
STROKE OF GENIUS
[For background, see UD post below, dated 12/13/04, titled
"Oklahoma State University: Pioneer in Plagiarism Credit"]
"OSU Investigating Plagiarism Allegations Against Professor
STILLWATER, Okla. 12/14/04 (AP) _ Oklahoma State University officials have launched an investigation into whether an award-winning geography professor plagiarized several publications.
An article released Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education, cites seven instances when George Carney allegedly lifted material without crediting the authors.
Carney copied the topic, structure and research methods of one paper in 1979, lifted several sentences from a book for an essay in 1996 and copied sentences from two essays and a textbook for several essays in a collection last year, the article alleges.
"A close examination of several of his papers and book chapters reveals that the professor has plagiarized both frequently and brazenly," the article said.
Carney, who has been with OSU since 1969, told The Oklahoman on Monday that he had a stroke two years ago and doesn't remember the circumstances of some of the articles in question, particularly those several years ago.
"Everything that happened during that time period is all kind of foggy and cloudy," he said. "It might be that I did this, but it was back in the days before word processing."
OSU spokesman Nestor Gonzales said the case was turned over to Stephen McKeever, vice president of research, who has assembled a three-member committee to examine the allegations.
McKeever wouldn't comment on the investigation or say when it may be finished. Carney, a regents professor, is continuing to serve as a professor and is scheduled to teach three classes next semester.
"These are only allegations contained in a newspaper article," said Gonzales."
p.s. : This could prove more than ordinarily embarrassing for OSU. The University has an annual lecture series in this man's honor: The George O. Carney Honorary Lecture in Cultural Geography.
OMIGOD. FIRST THE ACADEMIC BILL OF RIGHTS,
AND NOW THIS...
Monday, December 13, 2004
ACKERMAN INTRODUCES RESOLUTION TO DISSOLVE BCS
SACRAMENTO -- The Republican leader of the California Senate has introduced a resolution calling for the dissolution of the Bowl Championship Series.
Sen. Dick Ackerman, an unhappy alumnus of California, is only half-kidding with the measure, which even if approved could not force the breakup of the BCS.
Ackerman, a 1964 Cal graduate, is furious that his school lost a chance to play in one of college football's big-money games despite ranking among the top five in the polls most of the year.
"The BCS has proven in its seven-year existence that it is a failure," Ackerman said. "It has failed at the expense of California and other Pac-10 teams that have lost millions of dollars in revenue."
There's no word yet whether the Texas legislature will seek a resolution endorsing the BCS. Texas slipped past Cal in the BCS standings in the final week and received an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl, even though the Longhorns were previously ranked behind Cal.
Ackerman blamed Cal's loss on last-minute lobbying efforts by Texas officials.
"Politicking and campaigning have no place in college athletics," he said. "Teams should be judged on their performances on the field and not by the success of their PR campaigns."
Monday, December 13, 2004
UD feels compelled to say something ...
...about Tom Wolfe’s having been declared this year’s winner of the Bad Sex Contest, a British competition for the worst writing about sex in a novel. After all, Wolfe won it for a university novel, and this is University Diaries, etc.
But UD is disappointed in this year’s decision, which seems to her to have been cynical and corrupt. Wolfe’s bad sex writing is unimaginative, unmetaphorical, unmetaphysical. It is not artistically bad; it is just bad.
In year’s past, the prize committee has judged among the contenders based on their literary worth, not on the fame of particular authors, and the result has been a short list of fantastic hardcore crapola.
This year this committee seems merely to have gone for a big name, with no concern for first-rate bad sex writing. Perhaps they saw this as a way to publicize the award. UD thinks they’ve lost a lot of credibility.
OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY:
A PIONEER IN PLAGIARISM CREDIT
One of the ways universities judge the research-activity of their professors is through citation-searches. If your work is routinely cited by many other scholars, this indicates a high stature in your field, and it adds significant points to whatever point-system your institution uses in their evaluation of you for the purposes of salary and promotion.
Now that scholar-to-scholar plagiarism is rampant in American universities (see the article in the December 17 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education), one university is leading the way in thinking creatively about the problem. If professors are rewarded when they are cited, should they not receive even more credit when they are plagiarized?
Oklahoma State University has been embarrassed by recent revelations that one of its highest ranking, most beloved, professors has for decades been a majorly shitfaced plagiaristo.
While OSU has no intention of even talking about, let alone punishing this man, its provost has announced that “in the interest of leveling the playing field,” OSU will now extend research-activity credit not only to faculty whose work has been cited (and of course to faculty who have plagiarized their work), but also to those whose work has been plagiarized. “We see our new Plagiarism Credit Initiative, or PCI, serving as a model for universities all over this country which want both to right a wrong and acknowledge work whose high quality is such that other scholars are writing it too,” says one high-ranking OSU administrator.
Details of the PCI have yet to be worked out, but this administrator was able to sketch a few of its features for UD. “Obviously, the better known your plagiarist, the more points you will receive for having been plagiarized. The committee will be less impressed by some graduate student plagiarizing you than by (to take a recent case) Charles Ogletree. Similarly, the degree to which the plagiarism is word-for-word will count. Vague reiterations of your ideas in language that echoes, in a Proustian way, your own argot, even if these ideas are presented in strict sequentiality, will not make the cut. On the other hand, if, as in the case of plagiarist Neil Winn of the University of Leeds, your plagiarist has retained your words but Anglicized them, it will still count as verbatim plagiarism.”
Other universities, including Harvard, are beginning to take notice of OSU’s leadership on the issue. “Yes, we’re aware of what they’re doing at OSU,” says Harvard’s president; “but until we have a critical mass of faculty plagiarism cases at Harvard -- say, twenty a semester, rather than four, which is about where we are now -- we’re going to take a wait and see approach.”
Louise Horn, a widow four doors down, died last month. Her house sold right away, and her daughter had to scramble to set up an estate sale and clear the place for the young couple moving to our town from the city.
A fellow pianist, Louise had already given UD a lot of her old sheet music, most of it popular songs of the ‘thirties with strange titles (“The Irish were Egyptians Long Ago”) and banal tunes.
Art Songs for School and Studio was different. Its editor, Alfred Spouse of Rochester, NY, announced his intention to “engender in the student, aside from the music, a more conscious aesthetic sense, from having lived intimately with an art subject.”
Among the songs, UD found one whose title seemed almost as silly as the Egyptian one: “My Love’s an Arbutus.” A red, red, rose, yes. An arbutus?
She gave it a whirl on the piano, though, and loved its stately Irish lines:
My love’s an arbutus by the borders of Lene,
So slender and shapely in her girdle of green.
And I measure the pleasure of her eye’s sapphire sheen
By the blue skies that sparkle thro’ the soft branching screen.
But tho’ ruddy the berry and snowy the flow’r
That brighten together the arbutus bow’r,
Perfuming and blooming through sunshine and show’r,
Give me her bright lips and her laugh’s pearly dow’r.
Way sentimental, of course; but there was a bit more:
Alas, fruit and blossom shall lie dead on the lea,
And Time’s jealous fingers dim your young charms, Machree.
But unranging, unchanging you’ll still cling to me,
Like the evergreen leaf to the arbutus tree.
“Unranging, unchanging” was nice. Sang well, too ….
Eventually UD noted the odd antique name of the lyricist - Alfred Perceval Graves - but thought no more of it until, singing the song again a few days ago in honor of Louise, something clicked.
UD got out her copy of Goodbye to All That and read Robert Graves’s description of his father:
“That my father is a poet has, at least, saved me from any false reverence for poets. I am even delighted when I meet people who know of him and not of me. I sing some of his songs while washing up after meals, or shelling peas, or on similar occasions.”
So UD had come full circle, as she often did, taking a circuitous path back to one of the handful of writers she obsessively rereads … She thought of the chasm between father and son, and the Great War which stopped Perceval Graves’s sentiment:
“We waited on the fire-step from four to nine o’clock, with fixed bayonets,” writes the younger Graves later in his memoir, “for the order to go over. My mind was a blank, except for the recurrence of '‘S’nice ‘S’mince Spie, S’nice S’mince S’pie … I don’t like ham, lamb or jam, and I don’t like roly-poly…’
The men laughed at my singing. The acting C.S.M. said: ‘It’s murder, sir.’
‘Of course it’s murder, you bloody fool,’ I agreed. ‘And there’s nothing else for it, is there?’ It was still raining. “But when I sees a s’nice s'mince spie, I asks for a helping twice …’"
Does This Look to You Like a
Comfortable Florida Retirement?
Far be it from UD to impugn the research of any fellow humanities professor, but, thanks to an alert reader, she must take issue with the finding of the person a few posts down (see UD post dated 12/11/04, titled "Countdown to the MLA Convention"), who describes an enviable fun-in-the-sun type retirement for the "space chimps."
No, the reality is that the chimp named "Able" (and who knows how many of his cohort) finds him/herself (there's some confusion as to gender in the sources this reader and I have consulted) stuffed and put on display in the Smithsonian Museum.
How many other empirically ungrounded claims could we find if we subjected all MLA papers to this sort of scrutiny?
Sunday, December 12, 2004
“Southern Miss is a world-class institution with faculty members and an educational experience that are among the best in the nation,” says America’s most delusional university president, Shelby Thames.
UD has been tracking with fascination the ebbs and flows of Thames (see UD posts dated 3/29/04 and 9/19/04) as he allows USM to meander into something much worse than mediocrity.
USM’s latest outrage is something it hasn’t tried before. It isn't the persecution of its faculty, or political corruption, or nepotism (“The school already has been shaken by faculty bickering with Thames, an enrollment scandal last fall and a money squeeze. Thames also reorganized USM early in his administration, with nine deans suddenly dismissed.”). No, this time USM has gone and got itself placed on probation because of simple rank administrative incompetence. It has failed over a long period of time to provide documentation to the state of its educational activities. As a result, the school could lose its accreditation.
As UD noted in a previous post (see UD, 4/10/04), university corruption is so widespread in certain southern states that you now see hometown newspapers arguing that their schools ain’t so bad onaccouta it's just as bad coupla states over:
"It is worth noting that just before it was learned that USM was being placed on probation, it was announced that Auburn University over in Alabama was being taken off probation by the same accrediting association. Did Auburn's probation taint its degrees? Of course not. And neither should USM's. Maintaining academic accreditation is a complicated process, as is restructuring an established university. USM is trying to do both and, we still believe, will do so successfully."
Hoowhee. Yes. Maintaining academic accreditation is complicated. President Thames is hard at work figuring out how to do it, but while he’s learning, USM will have to put up with the paralysis and humiliation of being a university on probation.
As ever, in the eternal tides of human affairs, the great poets were there before us. Here's Wordsworth:
Glide gently, thus forever glide,
O Thames! that other schools may see
Your school drown softly while you bide
Your time, fair river! Glide, fair stream,
Thy turbulent soul its powers bestowing,
‘Till all good minds and souls outflow,
Leaving you up shit’s creek, rowing.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
" ONLINE SEARCH CITED
Slaying suspect's computer used in researching 'perfect murder'
By Tim Carpenter
LAWRENCE -- In the month before Carmin Ross-Murray was slain, research on "how to murder someone and not get caught" was performed on a computer owned by the man accused of killing her, a prosecution witness testified Thursday.
Thomas Murray, professor of English at Kansas State University, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 13, 2003, beating and stabbing death of his ex-wife, Ross-Murray. The preliminary hearing in Douglas County District Court to determine whether Murray stands trial for murder is expected to conclude today.
Detective Dean Brown, a forensic computer expert with the Lawrence Police Department, said dozens of searches associated with causing physical harm were conducted on computers in Murray's home in Manhattan or in his faculty office at K-State.
Other phrases typed into search engines on his computers between Oct. 17, 2003, and Nov. 12, 2003, were "murder for hire," "perfect murder," "how to make a bomb," "best way to kill someone," "drug overdose" and "eye drops and murder." Searches
for information extended to odorless and tasteless toxic substances capable of being lethal to an adult, Brown testified. There were searches that led to a page on Jack the Ripper and a drug tied to instances of date rape, Brown said on the fourth day of the preliminary hearing.
He said that on Nov. 12, 2003 -- 24 hours prior to the time prosecutors believe Ross-Murray died -- a search on a computer in Murray's possession was done to find a map of highways connecting Manhattan, Topeka and the Kansas City area.
Ross-Murray, 40, was living in a farmhouse northwest of Lawrence at the time of her death. Murray, 48, lived in Manhattan. "
THE MLA CONVENTION
The Modern Language Association’s annual convention is almost here, and to get us all in the mood, UD offers a look at recent essays and presentations by humanities professors. She’ll start with three examples of one writer’s work in race, gender, and colonialism.
RACE: In a recent paper, this professor condemns Curious George as a racist justification for slavery because George represents a black man brought, like a slave, to America. Once here, George is given various tests to perform, which compounds the racism with speciesism. Sexism also appears when the story portrays George as an excellent test pilot, erasing NASA’s chauvinist history (why not a woman test pilot?).
GENDER: In line with her interest in “representations of women in outer space in contemporary culture,” this professor has written a paper called “Retiring the Space Chimps.” She summarizes its argument:
This paper examines the late 1990s media event surrounding the “retirement” of the non-human primates who became known as the “space chimps”—the original Air Force chimps sent into space with Project Mercury and their descendants. These chimpanzees, used as surrogate astronauts in 1960s, form part of the baby-boomer generation—the generation that seeks retirement (in places such as Florida) in the 1990s. Drawing on the discourses of the space program (NASA), primatology, the military, and gerontology, I argue that non-human primates continue to serve in their retirement years as surrogates for humans and, moreover, that they invite us to consider outer space as a significant imaginary retirement home for baby boomers. What can the representation in popular culture of these non-human primates tell us about the interrelationship of the earth, outer space, species, gender, and age?
COLONIALISM: In “Coprophagy, Conservation, and Colonialism in Gorillas in the Mist,” this professor looks at the film “Gorillas in the Mist”
and extends the argument of another post-colonialist theorist who asserts that the presence of shit in certain post-colonialist works of art “underscores the divided self of the protagonist and the division between him and the new nation.” In the Fossey film, “postcolonial excrement is produced not by humans, but by animals - in particular non-human primates who walk the divide between nature and culture, animal and human.” A number of previous scholars assume that “the excremental actant, we might say, is a black African male. What might we conclude, however, when the shit is dung, and when it is displaced onto, into and out of the bodies of the white western woman and the (especially) male gorilla, both fighting to establish their space in the Francophone African jungles of the 1960s and 70s?”
When Fossey returned to the United States for a visiting stint at Cornell University in 1980, her biggest fear, she later admitted, was that she would forget to flush the toilet. The disposal of feces defines, this anecdote reveals, the border between nature and culture, jungle life and academic life. And this border was flushed from the body of woman, the white primatologist who made her way to Africa not for overt political reasons but to become intimate friend and protector of the mountain gorilla - a species not known for flushing toilets.
Fossey, like the author of Curious George, is a racist colonialist stooge: “If indeed written shit does not smell, it would appear to be the work of Fossey's book to cleanse the postcolonial state by focusing on the author's beloved animals, rather than on the quite shitty lives of the humans around her. (Fossey famously wrote "This book is about gorillas, not people.").”
Friday, December 10, 2004
THE AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENT TODAY
An essay in the latest issue of Psychology Today presents a catastrophic account of contemporary American college students. Fragile, dissociated, tattooed from tit to ass, this country’s university students stumble around the quad dribbling into their cell phones and trying to decide whether to die from drink, drugs, or depression. Fifteen percent of them, the author announces, are clinically depressed right now : “Psychological distress is rampant on college campuses.” Students are “riddled with anxiety.”
And yeah, fine, okay, rampant, riddled…. The PT crowd has long been in the business of scaring the crap out of us so we’ll sign up with them, and this writer‘s no different….
Yet her essay turns out to be an odd sort of self-consuming artifact. She blames the ghastly situation she describes on the soul-crushing over-solicitude of psychotherapy-mad parents. By allowing themselves to be spooked by experts who kept telling them how brittle everyone’s psychological health was, how likely they were to make mistakes in bringing up their children, these parents conveyed to their sons and daughters a terrible, smothering, insecurity, which produced the fearful, dependent, disengaged people we now see crawling about our campuses.
The author tries out a number of phrases for this phenomenon (one of these phrases will eventually appear on the cover of the book she no doubt has in mind to write): hothouse parenting, parental protectionism, parental hovering, overparenting (nice Nietzschean ring to that one)… But whatever the name, the culprit in this reduction of the youth of America to pathetic wraiths is precisely the sort of upbringing that involves things like biweekly sessions with therapists.
The author concludes in this way:
Parents need to abandon the idea of perfection and give up some of the invasive control they’ve maintained over their children. The goal of parenting…is to raise an independent human being. Sooner or later… most kids will be forced to confront their own mediocrity. Parents may find it easier to give up some control if they recognize they have exaggerated many of the dangers of childhood…
Yet the author overlooks the history of that phobic worldview. Therapists themselves, cynically hyping the physical and psychic dangers of life, contributed significantly to the creation of this mess.
Anyway, UD is intrigued by this new “leave your kids alone, dammit!” approach.
She will even confess to having tinkered with some possible book titles of her own…. She envisions a two-book series, in which the first book would be Piss Off: Fundamentals of Parental Neglect, and the second Fuck Off: Advanced Parental Neglect.
LEFT/RIGHT RANCOR IN THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY:
THE NUTELLA SOLUTION
"THE POLITICS OF NUTELLA
By Elisabetta Povoledo
International Herald Tribune
Friday, December 10, 2004
Is Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread, left- or right-wing?
"Only Italians could turn something like this into an ideological question," said Gigi Padovani, who put the question to a group of students at the Velso Mucci Institute, a technical school for chefs and waiters in this small town in northern Italy.
As the dark creamy treat turns 40, intellectuals throughout the country have been debating what Padovani calls the "cultural, social, artistic and gastronomic phenomenon" that is Nutella.
"It's only here that people say that a shower is 'left' while a bath is 'right,' jeans are 'left,' a jacket is 'right,' or that Nutella is 'left' and Swiss Chocolate is 'right,"' said Padovani, setting off titters among the students.
He was teasing, but he had a point to make: "All generations have appropriated Nutella - they all feel as though it belongs to them. It transcends generations. It is national-popular," he said, referring to a concept coined by the founder of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci. "Today we would call it bipartisan."
Padovani, who writes for the Turin daily La Stampa, is the author of "Nutella, un mito italiano," (Nutella, an Italian myth).
As Italy's foremost "Nutellologist," he has had a busy year, traveling around the country, and Europe, lecturing on the pervasive popularity of his gooey specialty.
Eulogized in print, in song and on screen, Nutella is one of those rare products that have transcended their nature as food to enter the collective consciousness.
Over time, it has come to resemble Proust's madeleines, the small cakes that evoked for the French writer the serenity and pleasures of childhood.
Want to see Italians get misty-eyed? Just ask them for an early childhood Nutella memory.
Padovani said that Nutella had never been contested by antiglobalization activists "because it belongs to the people." Eaten by princesses and proletarians alike, Nutella is also a social equalizer, he said, "like pasta."
Then there are the spread's "political tendencies," to which Padovani devotes a section of his book.
Inspired by a celebrated scene in "Bianca," a 1984 movie by the leftist filmmaker Nanni Moretti in which the actor/director relieves his post-coital anxieties by eating from a gigantic jar of chocolate spread, Italian leftists appropriated Nutella as their own.
But Padovani points out that when Italians started holding "Nutella parties" in the mid-1990s, the first were organized by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's rightist Forza Italia party.
Padovani posits that Nutella has transcended generations to become an ideology in itself. It represents, he says, the general sense of getting along well together and "goodism," the Italian tendency "to envelop everything in something sweet, which also hides any difficulties. This is the essence of Italianness: goodness that spreads." "
Thanks to a piratically-informed reader who sent UD an excellent pirate-link (see UD's MLA/Talk-Like-A-Pirate post down below a bit), UD now knows her pirate name.
It is Black Morgan Cash .
... AND SPEAKING OF BARNEY [see UD post below, dated 12/8/04]...
... it looks as though college football has found a way to compensate players for their lack of a college diploma:
"THERE'S A TROPHY FOR EVERYONE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
December 10, 2004
Mike Nugent waited a lifetime for this.
"I've always wanted to win the Lou 'The Toe' Groza Award," the Ohio State kicker said Thursday night. "This has been my goal since the sixth grade."
"This is my Heisman."
Now, even kickers can dream.
And punters. And centers.
And every other position in college football.
On Thursday night at Disney's World Resort, they handed out the Chuck Bednarik Trophy (best defensive player), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), Doak Walker Award (best running back), Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver), Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back) Lou Groza Award (best kicker) Ray Guy Award (best punter), Disney Spirit Award (most inspirational player) and Brooks and Dunn Award (best vocal duo).
And that was just Thursday night. The Butkus Award (best linebacker) will be handed out today. And let's not forget the John Mackey Award (best tight end), the Ted Hendricks Award (best defensive end) and, of course, the Dave Rimington Award (best center).
Don't you just love college football -- the only sport in the world with 28 postseason bowl games and 537 postseason awards? Hey, if you can get a corporate sponsor and sublease an aging legend to put his name on a trophy, you, too, can sponsor a college football award.
The trophy glut has become so ridiculous that there are now more awards than positions. There are two awards for best defensive player (Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski), two for best quarterback (Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas) and three more for most outstanding player (Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp).
Why stop there? Why not the Willie Williams Award for most valuable felon? Or the Jeff Bowden Nepotism Award for the assistant coach who achieved the most through familial favoritism? Or the Ron Zook Public Speaking Award for the coach who can talk for five minutes without actually taking a breath.
It should be noted that Disney also hosted the Pop Warner Super Bowl this week, which seems apropos. In youth sports, everybody wins an award -- and now the same can be said of college football. They called it the "Home Depot College Football Awards Show" Thursday night, but it might as well have been the West Winter Garden Little League baseball banquet. The only thing missing was a Hustle Award for Little Johnny Wannamaker, the kid with the best attitude.
College football has become like country music with 17 different organizations handing out awards. The only difference is we don't get to hear Kirk Herbstreit ask Lee Ann Womack, "After being disrespected by Martina McBride, how special is it to win the Tammy Wynette Trophy?"
At one point last night, Herbstreit asked Michigan's Braylon Edwards, the winner of the Biletnikoff Award, "Do you think we can call you the best receiver in Michigan history?" Replied a confident Edwards: "Yes, I think you can."
Not to be outdone, I asked Daniel Sepulveda, the winner of the Ray Guy Award, if we could call him the best punter in Baylor history.
"I don't know about that," Sepulveda said. "We have a lot of punting tradition at Baylor, including the Atteberry Brothers -- Kyle and Ty."
Most of us have heard of the Flying Wallendas, but now we're expected to know the Kicking Atteberrys, too?
Oh, well. Maybe we shouldn't make too much fun of this never-ending cavalcade of accolades. In fact, I hope this column might even win an award from the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Or the Florida Sports Writers Association.
Or the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.
This is my Heisman."
Thursday, December 09, 2004
BLUESTER MAKEOVER TIP #1:
STOP SAYING "IT'S COMPLICATED."
Tip #1 goes out to the many professors who, on being asked about the extreme blue/red disparity in the university, keep saying, "It's complicated."
When you, a university professor, say this, it sounds to many non-professors as though you are trying to change the subject, or to make the subject appear too complex to define, let alone address.
Growing numbers of statistical studies on the subject make it clear to all but the most obtuse that the situation is not complicated. There is a scandalous degree of non-diversity in one of the most diversity-pious settings in America: the university.
Professors are free to find this situation of analytical interest. But it stands as an overwhelming fact, and professors should be talking policy, not nattering on about the philosophy of knowledge, etc., etc.
UD HAS DECIDED SHE'S TOTALLY ON BOARD FOR THIS!
HOW ABOUT YOU?
"Sick of bad BCS joke? Join the Boycott College Sham movement.
By MIKE NADEL
There are 28 bowl games, and I plan to avoid watching even one second of any of them. Please join me in this fan's BCS - Boycott College Sham.
The people who run NCAA football don't care about the athlete-students they claim to represent. They don't care about fairness. And they certainly don't care about you and me.
So let's celebrate this holiday season by skipping the Holiday Bowl. The 27 others, too.
None of them mean a rat's rear anyway.
Including the Orange Bowl.
Especially the Orange Bowl.
National title game? Please. Why are USC and Oklahoma more deserving than Auburn, Utah or a half-dozen others? Because sportswriters, coaches and computers say so? Right.
The evening of Jan. 4, I will go to a high school basketball game, take my wife to a movie, play board games with my kids - anything but watch a sham title game.
I have been in this business for 22 years and have been a fan a lot longer than that, and I'm still waiting to hear one good reason why Division I-A football should be the only NCAA sport lacking an equitable way to crown a champion.
And it's not just the title game. The entire system is a mess. A joke. A billion-dollar sham.
Coaches are sniping at each other for refusing to make public which six colleagues downgraded Cal in the ESPN/USA Today sham poll.
In the AP's sham poll, several writers also mysteriously changed their minds, unwittingly conspiring with the coaches to send Texas, not Cal, to the Rose Bowl for a $15 million payday.
Hmmm. In Journalism 1, I was taught we should report the news, not make it.
OK, I'm willing to make news, too - by leading operation Boycott College Sham.
Don't watch bowls. Don't buy products sold by bowl sponsors. Show the sham artists exactly what you think by giving them the attention they deserve: none.
Twenty-eight bowls. Not one second of our time. Are you with me?"
TIME FOR A MAKEOVER, BLUESTERS!
The recent performance of Professor Donald Lazere on radio station BUR is only the latest sign that America's academics cannot defend themselves at all against reasoned conservative voices who want to talk about the obvious and problematic imbalance of political positions and affiliations within the university.
Presented with the statistics we have all seen about overwhelming bluesterism in the university, challenged to discuss the imbalance in a detailed and dispassionate way, Lazere begins calmly (not to say soporifically) enough, but all too soon starts to squawk -- COULTER! LIMBAUGH! SIMPLE-MINDED RIGHTWING MEDIA! SIMPLE-MINDED STUDENTS! SIMPLE-MINDED CONSERVATIVES! TOO COMPLEX AN ISSUE FOR ANYONE ON THE RIGHT TO UNDERSTAND! TOO STUPID TO UNDERSTAND IT!
Professor Lazere then advises that we correct our understandings of the situation by studying the thought of Al Franken.
Lazere complains that American college students don't care about this debate anyway, because they're grade-grubbing vocational dummies who get through college without becoming educated in any serious sense. He fails to explain why it is that American colleges - dominated for decades by requirements-hating lefties - are so constituted as to allow this non-education to occur.
Lazere concludes by rejecting calls for balance in the academy because after all the humanities have always been a sort of fox-hole into which brave dissenters from evil corporate hegemony have been able to crawl...
In subsequent posts, UD will suggest ways in which the academy can begin to defend itself. For now, she will restrict herself to one piece of advice: Anyone But Lazere.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
"Susan Rosenberg, who had been invited to Hamilton College as an artist-in-residence with the Kirkland Project, has decided to withdraw. She was scheduled for a month-long seminar on memoir writing next semester, which raised concerns both on and off campus because of her past. Ms. Rosenberg served 16 years in prison for possession of explosives and weapons before her sentence was commuted by President Clinton in 2001."
WAITING FOR THIS YEAR'S
MLA CONFERENCE PAPER TITLES,
OR SOMETHING LIKE THEM
JVC Comments points out that in a defensive maneuver the Modern Language Association this year has restricted the master list of conference session titles to MLA members only. While this doesn’t mean the press won’t get its hands on The Titles eventually, it does mean that things will be delayed a bit.
For those readers who can’t wait, and just to get the ball rolling, UD has gone ahead and made up a title of her own. She hopes it is the first of many:
'Well, me hearties, let’s see what crawled out of the bung hole': Talk Like A Pirate Day and the Reproduction of Compulsory Heterosexuality
UD recalls sitting, about ten years ago, at a talk given by a way obtuse Freudian English professor who taught at Hopkins. After his enigmatic performance, a graduate student in the audience wondered why he could not have been - many English professors could not seem to be - more clear in the use of the English language.
With a haughty impatience conveying barely-suppressed rage, the Freudian said: "Would you ask an advanced cellular biologist to reduce his research in that way? A physicist? Some fields of endeavor are complex."
Of course UD had heard versions of this defense of linguistic hebephrenia many times in similar settings; she had heard a student of Paul de Man's reject with contempt any notion that de Man had been a "fascist," since anyone stupid enough to think you could deploy such simple terms as "fascist," or "socialist" or "democrat" without deconstructing their authoritarian claims to truth was beneath consideration.
UD knows there are still graduate students and professors impressed and even intimidated by this line of argument, and, in simple English, she finds it sad.
Anyway, there's that world, UD's world, and then there's the real world. In which Nobelist Gunter Blobel, a cellular biologist, spoke recently to the New York Times.
Blobel's prize money went toward the reconstruction of a church and a synagogue in Dresden, a gesture that encouraged other prize winners to do similar charitable things with their money.
Blobel says to the interviewer: "I'm always telling my students that if they can't explain what they are doing to their grandmothers then they probably don't understand it themselves." He proceeds to explain, in beautiful clear English, what it is he and his colleagues did with proteins.
Blobel's work was always controversial; it met with a good deal of skepticism from fellow scientists. "When your colleagues were doubting you," asks the interviewer, "what gave you the confidence to keep plugging on?"
"I've never cared about being judged," he replies. "There is an internal revolt in me against conforming. After the war, my family lived in East Germany, and that taught me that truth is the most holy and important thing in life."
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
MORE ON THE GLORIOUS HIGH-TECH UNIVERSITY OF THE FUTURE
In a recent post, UD quoted Newsweek magazine on the wondrous holograms and high-tech goodies which await the lucky American university student of the future [see UD post dated 12/4/04]. And of course she's talked a lot from the early days of this website about the fad for distance learning [see in particular, UD post dated 11/21/03].
Everybody's excited about these dynamic innovations which are bound to make everybody's classroom more dynamic and innovative: "Faculty need to switch among learning modes within the same instructional period," writes one technology enthusiast. "That means switching from lecture, to team interaction, to individual reflection and study, to hands-on building or experiment, and back again, in the same or adjacent spaces. Everything we’ve learned about how we learn points to this pedagogical flexibility as critical to effective learning. From the faculty perspective, this is no easy recipe. In fact, the impediment to building technology-enabled spaces that you might mistake for comfortable lounges or labs, depending on the time of day, is the cultural history of the professoriate. Now that’s another challenge."
Hm, yes. The cultural history of the professoriate is a challenge. Take professors like me, for instance. We think that most of the sparkling technological features of the pedagogically flexible classroom - laptops, powerpoint, television, distance learning, chatrooms - are one big stinking poopoo platter. I'm holding my nose now, writing about them.
But university administrators LOVE this shit, and they're always trying to get us to use it.
Luckily, we professors were not born yesterday. Some of us are in fact quite bright, and even crafty. We have read our Gandhi.
To see us in action, consider this article in today's University of Michigan student newspaper:
PROFESSORS STRUGGLE TO BRING
HIGH-TECH TEACHING AIDS
INTO UNIVERSITY CLASSROOMS
By Jonathan Cohen, Daily Staff Reporter
December 07, 2004
The University has invested in technology and equipment, such as web-based ctools, in-class responder units and online video library software. But students say the University is not instructing the teachers on how to use this technology properly, or in some cases at all.
LSA sophomore Stuart Wagner said PowerPoint slides often are not prepared well and teachers aren’t given proper classroom support.
“In Econ 101, the teacher’s laptop didn’t boot up, so I went up there with some other students to help. It took 20 minutes of class time to get it to work,” said Wagner, a member of the Michigan Student Assembly.
The Educause Center for Applied Research — a Colorado-based nonprofit organization that promotes informational technology in higher education — released a national survey last month that found that professors nationwide use technology poorly. After surveying 13 schools across the United States, such as Ohio and Miami universities, findings revealed that students believe most professors are not technologically proficient.
The University says it provides IT instruction for faculty but does not require them to use it. Kim Bayer, who runs the instructional support for LSA faculty, said the University puts on a weeklong conference with more than 100 technology workshops called “Enriching Scholarship” every year. In addition, there are online manuals, a resource center and training workshops offered throughout the year.
But these resources go to waste if professors don’t utilize them.
The Educause center suggests that most professors surveyed aren’t willing to research new technology on their own. The firm queried professors at Brandeis University, Wesleyan University and Williams College who did not use technology such as class websites, online chat rooms or online grading for assignments.
Of the 184 professors surveyed, 24 percent said they didn’t have the time to learn the technology. Twenty-seven percent said they didn’t know about the benefits, 17 percent said the technology was inappropriate for their classes and 23 percent said it wasn’t worth using.
Unlike most professors, tenured University geology Prof. Ben Van Der Pluijm took the initiative to acquire an in-class responder unit for his geology lecture. Each student can answer his questions by punching buttons on an electronic answering device at their seats. The responses are further discussed in class. Van Der Pluijm said he requested the unit because he “wanted to make the large classroom setting more interesting and engaging.”
Stephanie Teasley, the director of the user support and design lab for Ctools — the University’s web service for online coursework — said she agrees with Pluijm that technology should be more readily available to professors. “There is a void of knowledge about how technology should be used in the classroom,” she said.
LSA students say their professors do not use the simplest technology, such as PowerPoint, effectively. Wagner said “you can fix the problem by teaching teachers how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation.”
Some students say professors have more trouble with equipment at the beginning of the semester but adjust to it as the semester progresses. “Technology slows the class down,” LSA sophomore Jeff Leibovitch said about his musical composition class. “Now, it’s fine, but at the beginning of the semester my professor wasn’t used to the equipment.”
LSA sophomore Ely Key also said professors have difficulty. “There just always seems to be some type of technical difficulty. Sometimes you go into class and the professor seem to have no idea what he is doing,” he said.
James Hilton, associate provost for academic, informational and technological affairs, said there are instructional services offered to teach technology to all University faculty, but a lot of training is upheld by each college individually.
“I don’t mandate if faculty are going to use (new technology). Some of the tools are going to work really well for some faculty and some will not,” Hilton said.
Bayer said it is very difficult to “match the right technology to the learning activity. It can take years to master the “sweet spot,” she wrote in an e-mail.
“Some of the faculty are getting pretty good at this stuff. … However, it’s a process that doesn’t happen in one day,” he said.
How Many Harvard Money Managers
Does it Take
To Pay Off 35 Million Dollars
In Breach of Contract Damages
Readers may recall the ongoing very expensive scandal at Harvard involving a now-defunct group of professors who advised the Russian government on privatization a few years ago (see UD post titled "This Here's a Big Ol' Russki Oil Platform," 6/30/04), even as some of them were making a killing on investments in that country that seem to have been directly linked to the knowledge they were gaining from said advisory role.
The federal government, which had given this group of professors major sums of money, got wind of the conflict of interest and is now suing the hell out of Harvard and assorted advisory group members for return of the money.
This is a slow-moving, intricate tale involving many people and institutions and trials and motions and settlements over many years. The Harvard Crimson yesterday updated one chapter:
"In June, [a Harvard professor and a Harvard employee] were found liable for fraud arising out of personal investments made in Russia while they advised the privatization program.
Under the second charge of fraud, [the professor] could also be found liable for violating the conflict-of-interest provision in USAID’s contracts with the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID).
[Both men] could .. face triple damages of up to $104 million arising from their liability under the False Claims Act, although the damages — to be assessed at a later trial — will likely be a fraction of that amount.
The University was cleared of fraud charges in June but still faces breach-of-contract damages of up to $34.8 million, the amount paid out under the two USAID contracts after the improper investments began in 1994."
UD has done the math and has a suggestion to make to Harvard should it indeed become liable for the $34.8 million (the faculty member and employee are asking Harvard to pay any penalties they get as well, by the way). In another earlier post (UD, 10/17/04, "Wag the Dog"), UD noted the ongoing public relations disaster at non-profit Harvard concerning revelations that its money managers are routinely paid up to 40 million dollars a year ...
See where I'm going with this? It's a bold suggestion ... unorthodox, to be sure ... but what if Harvard very tentatively approached each of its money managers about taking a wee cut in compensation?
"Boys - it's getting to be an embarrassment ... The university's president earns the equivalent of two lunches per year for each of you ... Could you see your way clear to coughing up, say, a million apiece?"
Another way to go would be for Harvard to seek out one samaritan among the group - someone willing to make a one-time donation of thirty out of his forty million yearly compensation toward the resolution of the problem. This would be a huge sacrifice, and whoever was willing to submit to it would have the satisfaction of being regarded by all Americans as a Christlike figure ...
Monday, December 06, 2004
FELINE DISTANCE LEARNING
As with the post directly below, about some game GW University won, UD includes the following breaking news story reluctantly. It is about a diploma mill, and it's getting a lot of play, so some of you will send the link to her, and then she'll have to explain why she didn't blog it, etc. So she'll blog it.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert isn't amused... Colby is a pet cat and a Texas-based online college allegedly gave the feline a degree for $399.
"I filed this lawsuit to stop a massive illegal spam campaign that not only defrauded consumers and employers, but damaged the reputations of numerous Pennsylvania businesses across 24 counties and a government office," Pappert said Monday.
Pappert's office used the pet cat to investigate an alleged scheme designed to promote and sell bogus online academic degrees.
The civil lawsuit filed Monday named two brothers -- Craig Barton Poe and Alton Scott Poe -- as well as Trinity Southern University and Innovative Cellular and Wireless Inc.
The defendants are accused of fraudulently claiming that Trinity Southern University of Plano, Texas, is a legitimate institution that can issue various degrees.
According to investigators, beginning in January 2004, the defendants transmitted more than 18,000 illegal e-mail messages to promote the sale of online academic degrees.
A Web site link included in the e-mails claimed that for a fee between $299 and $499, consumers could get a bachelor's, master's, executive master's or Ph.D. degree in several fields including English, business administration and biology.
Undercover agents contacted the defendants online to obtain a $299 bachelor's degree in business administration for the cat, Colby Nolan.
The information on the student application claimed Colby completed three courses at a community college and worked at two different retailers as a manager. Colby's previous work experience included food prep at a fast-food restaurant, babysitting and a paper route, said the application.
The school then allegedly informed Colby via e-mail that the work experience qualified Colby to receive an executive MBA, not the bachelor's degree that was requested. (Currently, the school charges $399 for an MBA, plus shipping and handling, according to its Web site.)
The state said within several weeks, the defendants awarded an executive MBA to Colby, along with an official looking diploma with the signatures of the university president and dean.
Americans don't care about diploma mills, and this lawsuit won't do anything to put any mills out of business (the boys from Plano are probably already back up and running under a different name). But Americans are happy to laugh at their evening news reporter shaking her head in faux disbelief:
"I ask you, Bob, what next? A cat with an MBA degree?"
"Hey, Sue, lemme tell you, I think my investment advisor must've got his degree at the same place!"
If these viewers thought about it for a moment, they would realize that the story stinks from top to bottom. The cat didn't get the degree; the cat's name did. The cat's owners could as easily have applied on behalf of an amoeba, or a quark, but that wouldn't be all cute. It wouldn't allow you to put on screen, as this tv station did, a doctored photo of a black cat wearing a cap and gown.
The only thing accomplished in this sorry affair was the degradation of the cat, who was made to look a liar. This is exactly the sort of unfairness Peter Singer has been writing about.
All 289 related…
When there are that many stories about something on Google News, UD must give in and note it on her blog. Especially if it’s about her institution, George Washington University.
Apparently one of our sports teams beat some other sports team.
“It was perhaps the most electrifying game between local teams since 1993, when Maryland beat Georgetown 83-80 in overtime at Capital Centre,” says today’s Washington Times. Whatever.
HOMELAND SECURITY NOTES
"[Ian McEwan] began [a recent lecture] with an anecdote about being detained for 24 hours at the Vancouver, British Columbia, airport by Homeland Security operatives as part of the stepped-up security measures after Sept. 11. Asked about his job, he said he was a novelist. 'What kind of novels do you write, fact or fiction?' his questioner inquired."
Sunday, December 05, 2004
THE CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON THE UNIVERSITY TAKES ITS TOLL
UD BEFORE THE CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT
[note all black clothing]
UD AFTER THE CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT
ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, THE END
OF ANY INCLINATION UD MIGHT HAVE HAD
TO IDEALIZE THE WRITING SKILLS
OF JUNIORS AT YALE
"The ivory tower, in this sense, is not isolated from the world but from the ravages of jingoism. Unable to stomach political difference like a plate of escargot, conservatives belch 'Witch!' and let the Inquisition begin."
Yale Daily News, December 3, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
IT’S ALWAYS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
UD wishes to know why it’s always Benjamin Franklin.
Why is it that in magazine articles describing the glorious high-tech future in store for American college students, it’s always Benjamin Franklin?
“Picture this,” the authors write in the current issue of Newsweek Magazine. “You drag yourself to your 9 AM Colonial History class, coffee and laptop in hand. The lights fade and a hologram appears. You pinch yourself as you realize it’s Benjamin Franklin, unmistakably attired in eighteenth-century garb and bifocals. Opening a battered copy of his Autobiography, he begins to address the class. … Scenes like this one - a product of the advancing capabilities of virtual reality - will play an increasingly dynamic role in the future of college education. With technology revolutionizing the way universities work, bringing historical figures back to life is only the beginning.”
Why is this not: “You drag yourself to your 9 AM European History class, coffee and laptop in hand. The lights fade and a hologram appears. You scream in anguish as you realize it’s Adolf Hitler, unmistakably attired in Nazi regalia. Leaning against a podium, he shrieks "DIE JUDEN SIND UNSER UNGLUCK." In the dark, overcome with horror, you spill your coffee all over yourself, drop your laptop, and race out of the room weeping.”
But no. It’s always Benjamin Franklin.
GOING COSMIC - OR, PLAYING RIGHT INTO THEIR HANDS
***In an English department dissertation defense, the student defending asserts the superiority of North Korea to South Korea and meets with agreement around the table.
***In a book written by an English professor, white supremacist David Duke and writer Bruce Bawer are discussed as if they were interchangeable.
***At a literary conference, an English professor defends the imperishable glory of the Chinese cultural revolution against its bourgeois detractors.
***After giving a talk about the modern American novel, a young English professor is approached by a senior professor: “That was intriguing but unformed. You need to put the analysis in Marxist terms.”
These are just a few anecdotes about life in contemporary English departments from UD’s own experience. They tell us that when conservatives complain about far left bias in the university, they’re right, if only about certain humanities and social sciences departments. Most of academia skews soft-left, if you will; but it is scandalous that many English departments express a hard-left groupthink, in which things like the defense of Mumbia Abu-Jamal, the hiring of Susan Rosenberg, open contempt for religious people, and literature-free, propaganda-rich classrooms, are considered mainstream.
The situation is most scandalous in the most inescapable courses - required English composition - where freshmen may confront political activists who couldn’t care less about writing -- indeed, who may believe that good writing is an ideological ruse.
UD is always amazed when colleges get upset about high attrition rates after freshman year. You go to all of this trouble to attract the brightest students you can, and then you treat them to wildly stupid indoctrination sessions. What do you think is going to happen?
It does no good for professors to pretend that this doesn’t go on -- it does.
If you’re going to take on the escalating right-wing attack on the American university, you’re going to have to begin by clarifying the situation and by conceding that some of what goes on is nuts.
Having said that, UD will now offer an example of how not to respond to conservative critics of groupthink in the academy.
In a recent comment, Timothy Burke begins by referring us, somewhat wearily, to his earlier writings on the subject, and reporting that he’s “frustrated with most of the participants in the extended public conversation” going on right now.
UD is a great admirer of Burke's writings and thoughts on the American university, but whoa.
UD has been at countless academic conferences where panel members opened their papers in this way - “See my earlier work on this subject. Other people who’ve commented on the issue since then have added little.” It’s arrogant and off-putting. It’s exactly what conservative red-staters have in mind when they dismiss professors as snobbish and out of touch.
Burke then, for the rest of his comment, goes cosmic. “Going cosmic” is UD’s phrase for something she’s seen a lot of academics do when confronted with a particular problem. Here the particular problem - worth taking seriously - is that, for a variety of reasons, most conservative voices are stilled in the academy, while many uninformed and irresponsible voices from a politically extreme position are encouraged.
What is Burke’s solution to this problem? We can‘t get anywhere, he writes, until we have a “general reconstruction of knowledge and its architecture.” We must “change the entire infrastructure of publication, presentation and pedagogy.”
But couldn’t our English departments, for instance, simply make an effort to recruit young professors with more text-based, ethical, or religious orientations toward literature? Such people do exist.
Nah. First we have to reconstruct knowledge as we know it.
“Groupthink isn’t enforced by partisan plotters,” says Burke, his language (“enforced… plotters”) giving him away. No one sensible on the subject thinks or speaks in terms of policing and conspiracy. The situation is more commonly described in Louis Menand’s terms: English professors are followers of fashion, and their fashion world remains dominated by leftwing obscurantism embodied in charismatic intellectual figures. These professors need to be encouraged to think for themselves, and to be open to new intellectual and political currents.
And there are promising indications, in UD’s experience, that this is starting to happen. She’s heard that one of her colleagues now routinely teaches a section on “the return to aesthetics” in his graduate seminar. That’s how things become less nutty - gradually, from within.
TURNING THE TABLES.
Ellen Goodman, whose main claim to fame as far as UD is concerned is that her sister, Jane Holtz Kay, wrote a book attacking the car (Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back), writes in today’s Washington Post (thanks to Ryan Cordell for the link) about ye olde “libs in the academy” controversy.
Goodman’s column confirms that the most popular defensive maneuver so far against the conservatives' attack involves turning the tables on them --
“What is fascinating, however, is to see how the campus-watchers have usurped the language of liberalism for their own. It reminds me of the arguments in favor of teaching creationism in the name of open-mindedness.
The conversation about liberal bias on campus is chock full of words such as diversity and pluralism. There is even the hint that universities may need a touch of
affirmative action for conservative academics. What next? Quotas for Republican anthropologists?
The Independent Women's Forum has repeatedly claimed that the reason women don't rise to the corner office has nothing to do with discrimination. It's really because, as the IWF president said, 'women often make different choices than men.' Conservatives also like to talk disparagingly about 'victim politics.'
But now it appears that the activists on the right are claiming to be victims of discrimination rather than personal choice. No one is suggesting that Republican PhDs
might rather work in the free market than teach the free market. Nor are they suggesting that ExxonMobil would profit from a gallon of ideological pluralism.”
Not a bad maneuver.
MEANWHILE, IN THE REDDEST OF THE RED STATES ...
... Guns On Campus Are Just the Beginning!
"FORMER Y. PLAYERS INDICTED IN SCANDAL
By Jesse Hyde and Tad Walch
Deseret Morning News
PROVO — A state grand jury has indicted four former Brigham Young University football players on allegations of gang rape, capping an especially embarrassing year for a football program long considered a missionary tool for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The grand jury convened in American Fork on Thursday, the day after BYU head coach Gary Crowton tendered his resignation under pressure. Crowton's final year was marred by a losing season on the field and a spate of problems off it. Over the past year, 14 players have been disciplined for Honor Code violations.
Those indiscretions — which ranged from assault and robbery to alleged group sex in January — badly sullied the reputation of a school once called "a showcase for Mormonism" by a church leader.
But nothing was as damaging as Friday's bombshell announcement that six freshmen players or former players will face a total of 18 felony charges in connection with the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl in August. Not since 1985, when news surfaced that team doctors were illegally giving players prescription drugs, has the school suffered such public embarrassment."
If James Woolcott can blog his colonoscopy (much less offensive a posting than his slightly later one yesterday in praise of George Galloway), UD can blog her participation, earlier this evening, in her town's Christmas singalong.
UD is a member of the town chorus, which puts on not only this popular event, but a "musicale" (like "kerfuffle," "musicale" is a word UD dislikes, though she's unsure why) in the spring.
Despite the fact that she is Jewish, UD has always found most Jewish music embarrassingly bad, and Christian music (a lot of it, anyway), spectacularly good. She loves singing the great hymns, Bach oratorios, Handel's Messiah, etc.
Everyone on stage had obeyed instructions and worn bright red or green skirts and tops. But UD, owning no bright clothing, could only add a drab olive scarf to her black turtleneck to convey the season. She made up for this in enthusiasm.
Friday, December 03, 2004
UD LIBERAL ELITIST SCUM
Ooch. Ouch. Eech. UD feels like O.J. Simpson in the opening scene of Naked Gun, when he keeps getting shot at. Everybody's after her because she's a liberal humanities professor, and she's not even a liberal. (She subscribes, for instance, to the conservative magazine whose attack on American university professors she just linked to.)
Yes, she voted for Kerry, but she dislikes his arrogance, as she dislikes all arrogant liberal elites (one of her favorite books is Christopher Lasch's The Revolt of the Elites And the Betrayal of Democracy), even though you probably think she's a member of the liberal elite. And UD acknowledges that on cursory as well as deeper examination she sort of looks that way.
But it's one of the larger goals of this website to suggest that political, intellectual, and cultural identities are much more mixed and complicated than this. One of UD's friends is a son of John Kenneth Galbraith, and although he's certainly a Democrat, he's also a veritable hawk compared to his father. On many issues - school choice, death penalty, affirmative action - UD is closer to the right than the left. On university matters - curriculum, speech codes, grade inflation - she's a dead ringer for Lynne Cheney.
UD does not think her own complex affiliations are unusual. Yes, she knows professors who are 'tenured radicals,' and she certainly wishes she didn't, and she has condemned a number of them on this weblog. She also knows professors who make Grover Norquist look like a moderate. Most of the professors UD knows and has known fall between these extremes and exhibit the complicated characteristics of reflective people.
I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?
It's not that there are diploma mill graduates up and down this land of ours who get exposed every day; it's how diploma mill graduates react when they're exposed. Wasn't it Marcus Aurelius who said that "Today I escaped all circumstance, or rather I cast out all circumstance, for it was not outside me, but within, in my judgments."? UD awaits the stoic fraudster who, on exposure of his poopoo Ph.D, shrugs off the world's contempt and the loss of his job, secure in the knowledge of his immortal soul ...
A certain twisted version of this gesture may be found in Muncie (Indiana, fellow Bluesters), where Cristobal Rael, Vice President of Operations at a hospital there, said, on exposure of his science degree from the grande dame of the diploma mills, Kennedy-Western: "It's the school's problem. They're the ones that have to defend it, not me."
This statement reminds UD of Roy Cohn remarking to his doctor in Angels in America that although all his adult life he's engaged in homosexual sex, he's not a homosexual because homosexuals are losers and he's a winner. Although Rael graduated from a diploma mill, he's not a diploma mill degree holder ...
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Whenever UD decides to be merciful [see UD post dated 10/29/04], she gets shot down. Not only did the superintendent-designate of a school district near Rochester, New York buy his Ph.D from a diploma mill; he may also be a thief.
Bill Nichiporuk is "now being investigated for possible criminal activity.
Nichiporuk's position was first questioned when the school district learned he bought his Ph.D on the internet from a phony university.
Now the Wayne County District Attorney, Rick Healy, says there may be more evidence that would take him from his job.
Wednesday, Nichiporuk was suspended without pay because of 'red flag' findings by an auditor. The district hired the auditor after the diploma fiasco.
Thursday, state police and the District Attorney’s office investigated the audit’s findings and issued subpoenas for school documents.
Healy is only saying the investigation involves the accounting department of the district and that if Nichiporuk is found guilty of the alleged crimes--that would mean the end of his time with the district."
While reserving judgment on this particular charge, UD takes this turn of events as a reminder that people scummy enough to buy Ph.D's online may also be scummy in a number of other ways.
UD'S SHAMELESS PLAY FOR THE MALE DEMOGRAPHIC
Josh Elliott on the College Playoff Controversy, in Sports Illustrated:
"I'll nutshell my new D-I playoff scenario: The top 12 teams -- as determined by a BCS-like formula, including a coaches' poll requiring all 117 D-I coaches to cast PUBLIC ballots -- qualify. The top four receive byes, and become host teams for four geographically logical bowl sites -- allowing fans of said teams to make travel plans three weeks out -- while incorporating one of the four major (read: BCS) bowls, on a rotating basis. The bottom eight would play in four second-tier bowls two weeks prior to the quarterfinals, slotted No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, etc.; the winners would then move on to the quarters, seeded No. 1 vs. lowest surviving seed, etc. The semis would be held a week later at two of the remaining three major bowl sites, combining with the NFL divisional playoffs to feed a ravenous, football-mad nation. Finally, the following Saturday would offer a true national championship game at the last remaining major bowl site (again, determined by a four-year rotation)."
I'll nutshell my response: What the fuck is he talking about?
UD has added to her links a blog called Veiled Conceit, essentially a set of extended cruel remarks about the New York Times wedding announcements. Sometimes the witty author displays photos of selected couples and pens domestic dramas around them.
UD's own attempt to understand her obsession with these announcements appears in a post dated 3/19/04.
***BLOG*** most requested word of the year.
UD has been studying with interest the just-released Merriam-Webster's list of this year's ten most requested words. "Blog," as many people have already noted, is number one, and UD, une blogeuse tres enthousiaste (a recent check of UD's traffic reveals a healthy number of French readers, to whom UD intends to pander), is of course pleased about this.
Somewhat disturbing, though, is the rest of the list:
At first blush, this looks innocent enough, with its allusions to an election year and various plagues and catastrophes ... Yet on closer inspection, UD can't help but detect an occult meaning lying within this seemingly random list.
UD is about as far from being a conspiracy theorist as you can get, but the more she considers these ten most-requested words, and the more she asks herself who might have requested them, the more persuaded she becomes that they intend to convey a message.
The message clearly involves a blog, and an "insurgent" one at that. Connect the words sequentially into blank verse and see what happens:
Upon each blog it is incumbent
To appeal to the electoral whims
Of readers. When one little blog becomes insurgent
It hits the big guys like a hurricane,
Like a sudden cicada swarm.
Defensively, they form a peloton of partisans
To assert their sovereignty.
I don't know what to do with "defenestration."
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
More of the Same on College Sports;
Only This Time, The New York Times is Saying It.
" ... And maybe it's finally time for every college with a big-time football program - or big-time basketball program for that matter - to turn pro.
Stop pretending that big-time college sports are all about 'the kids' and academics and graduation rates. It is really all about what should be known as campus pro sports - the big money from television, the football bowl games, the basketball tournament that evolves into the Final Four, the big money from alumni contributions when a college has a hot team.
The big money that those kids never see, except for the coveted few who collect some of that money under the table in cash or cars.
Put all those big-time college teams in the Campus Pro League, alias the C.P.L., with its various geographical conferences around the nation.
Pay all those kids on all those big-time teams, not just the all-American candidates. Pay them a decent sum to cover expenses.
But please don't call them student-athletes when many are not. Don't say they're on scholarship when they're not scholars."
THE ANTICIPATORY EXCITEMENT ALL OVER THE BLOGOSPHERE...
... about the forthcoming Richard Posner blog has inspired UD to new heights.
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO POSNER'S BLOG
Much have I traveled in realms online,
And many goodly sites and postings seen;
Round many chatrooms have I been
Which comment on concerns of mine.
Oft of one prolific mind had I been told
That deep-browed Posner rules as his demesne:
Yet never did I breathe its pure serene
Till with blog he spoke out loud and bold.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific - and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
FOR WORLD AIDS DAY, A Couple of Remembrances
"In this dream, I'm in a seaside resort city, made up of all my childhood seasides - Coney Island, Margate, but mostly Atlantic City in the 1960s. I am staying with my father at one of the old hotels several blocks back from the beach. Between us and the beach lies a seedy amusement park, made up of all my childhood amusement parks, mostly Coney Island which I explored so thoroughly in 1961 with my brother Mark.
Dad and I decide to go for a walk on the beach - perhaps I engineer this as an opportunity to finally tell him. I start down the street but he indicates we have to take a detour around the amusement park. 'But this street has direct access; we don't need to go five blocks out of the way,' I complain. I am already tiring from the walk. He is adamant. I am about to say, 'I'm too weak to go the extra blocks because I'm dying of AIDS.' But I can't say that because I haven't told him yet.
... But so crudely transparent! Have I no subtler symbology by which to mediate my fear of writing the letter to my father, or no more finely drawn characterization of him than this Lacanian cartoon, insisting that we 'take the main way' and avoid 'the amusement park'?"
UNBECOMING, by Eric Michaels
"I find operatic arias to be very moving now - showy and subtly coarse, technically elaborate, lengthy, embarrassingly detailed and impolitic, un-American, and beyond the hemming and hawing of dialogue.
My dreams are mostly of vacations again and have a still-sweet quality; they even comment on the sweetness of the air and light in a strange, new place where I am a tourist. It is a maybe cheapened version of paradise. The dreams usually end in a gentle drowning, and then I wake.
I ought to have dinner. I haven't eaten or taken my pills - just a little suicide. I mostly live because of Ellen, although I might put on a show if any of the grandchildren were in the apartment. It is unbelievably strange to live when things are over, when things are done with. Poor Kundera. It is the unbearable lightness of not-being. What do you suppose an embrace of mine would be worth now?"
THIS WILD DARKNESS: The Story of My Death, by Harold Brodkey
UD lays it on thick when it comes to the corruption of bigtime university sports. Here’s the other side of the story, described in a beautifully written article by Ben Hoffman, a Tufts student.
THE WINNING EPHECT
November 11, 2004
"The best program around isn't the New England Patriots. It isn't U. Conn's women's basketball team. Nope, the best program around these days wears Purple.
That's right, over in the boonies, the Williams Ephs have established themselves as the best in Div. III. And it's not just one team. It's all of them. Our NESCAC rival recently won the Director's Cup, given to the best Div. III collegiate athletic program, for the sixth straight time. Sports Illustrated concurred.
But Sunday may have taken the cake. Williams grabbed NESCAC championships in volleyball, men's and women's soccer, and field hockey. For both the volleyball and men's soccer teams, it was the fourth straight league title. Remember, this school has fewer than 2,000 students. Surely there must be something going on here. Money under the table? Recruiting visits to the award-winning Williamstown strip clubs? Booster-funded dinners at Red Lobster?
I decided to use my ace investigative reporting skills to get to the bottom of this. But I don't have a car. Luckily, I do have a phone. Unfortunately, I couldn't trick Williams Athletic Director Dick Quinn into admitting to improprieties or scandal.
Instead, Quinn cited the coaches, kids, facilities, close-knit atmosphere, and tradition. 'I'm a big believer in tradition,' Eph men's soccer coach T. Michael Russo added, and he wasn't the only one.
'Winning is a state of mind,' Tufts cross country coach Connie Putnam said. 'At Williams, the president wants to win, the provost wants to win, the deans want to win, primary givers like George Steinbrenner want to win, alumni want to win.'
'Williams has always been extremely strong, and by always, I mean for 100 years,' Tufts Athletic Director Bill Gehling said. 'It becomes self-fulfilling; when you have that reputation you attract kids. But in the last twenty years they took it to a new level. They were one of the first to have systematically efficient way of working with admissions.'
Both athletic directors noted that because Williams is so strong academically (Number one liberal arts school according to U.S. News and World Report, so we can't even start a 'One day you'll work for us' chant), the Ephs have the potential to steal Ivy League student-athletes. Not Big Ten athletes, which is unfortunate, because I can't decide what would be more fun, sitting next to Maurice Clarrett in math class or heckling him on the field. But still, Ivy League is Div. I.
But that's not even the most amazing thing. In the latest Princeton Review, Williams was ranked seventh in the nation in 'Students Pack the Stadium.' That's out of all divisions. Ahead of Georgia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Texas. Come again?
'That's a little bit tainted in the sense that we're a small school,' Quinn admitted. 'If the question is, "have you attended an athletic event," well, most of the school plays varsity athletics, so they've attended an athletic event.'
(Williams also ranked fifth in 'Everyone Plays Intramural Sports.' Ask yourself, if Tufts was ranked fifth in that category, would I really have been able to win two IM tennis crowns and come within a missed lay-up - not mine - of an IM basketball title? Story coming soon.)
The primary reason is probably location.
'There's nothing to do there except go to the games,' Putnam said. 'Here in Boston you could be going to the Pops, the Bruins, the Celtics, any one of nine libraries. It's a completely different lifestyle.'
'Other schools use it against us in recruiting,' Quinn said. 'They'll say, "what are you going to do up there?" Well, you're going to create a close bond with your team, you're going to excel at athletics, you're going to get a great education, and you're going to get the traditional college experience you might not get in a large metropolitan setting' (read: Tufts).
'[Tuft’s] challenge is to continue to try to rise to the top in an incredible conference," Gehling [a Tufts coach] said. 'I admire Williams. People throw rumors around, 'they accepted this kid that they shouldn't have,' but by and large I think they share the same perspective and commitment to academics and athletics as the other NESCAC schools.'
Now, [trailing after Williams] isn't the end of the world. It's not like choosing the wrong president or anything potentially disastrous like that. And we did have the first American football game. We think. And personally, as a student, I'm pretty happy we've got Boston. Would it be more fun if the athletic scene was a little better, or one of the big sports (football, basketball) was a year-in year-out powerhouse? Sure. But if that's what I was looking for, I would have gone to Duke. And after all the corruption that goes on in Div. I sports, if you give me a choice between too much emphasis on athletics or too little, I'm going with the latter.
At least this way, when I sat next to soccer star Todd Gilbert in Antebellum and Civil War History, I knew he was earning his C+, just like me."
UD’s ALREADY TENUOUS GRIP ON …
… the distinction between “reality” and “fiction” continues to loosen.
The chair of her department, a fellow English professor, is a close relation of the actress Sandra Bernhard … who is about to take the role, on a television series, of … an English professor ...