Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I fear my friend (see below) spoke too soon. New Orleans could go under.
UD’s dear old ‘thesdan pal, David, a refugee from Louisiana, sends an email out to family and friends:
Well, taking the good news first (and I trust that y'all will understand the need to address y'all in 'y'all' mode, under the circumstances), this e-mail is being written from a very high, dry, comfortable, and familiar place, WAY inland and about 600 miles distant from my South Louisiana home. I'm sitting at the computer room of the Athens-Clarke County Main Library, in good old Athens, Georgia…
To the Many|
Welcome, ISTEVE legions.
IUD. (Tee hee).
UD Rewrites John Denver’s
“Song of Wyoming”
Here come ole Alan Contreras!
Shinin’ a light down on me!
He done made fun of our diploma mills!
A song of Wyoming sings he.
From today’s Inside Higher Ed:
Here are the Seven Sorry Sisters : Alabama (split authority for assessing and recognizing degrees), Hawaii (poor standards, excellent enforcement of what little there is), Idaho (poor standards, split authority), Mississippi (poor standards, political interference), Missouri (poor standards, political interference), New Mexico (grandfathered some mystery degree suppliers) and of course the now infamous Wyoming (poor standards, political indifference or active support of poor schools).
For more from UD on where the diploma mill industry meets the great outdoors, go
Monday, August 29, 2005
Mr. UD’s Next|
Wisconsin Public Radio
For Program On: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 4:00 PM
You can also listen online.
Via Andrew Sullivan, who got it via Wonkette. From Fox News Channel today:
SHEPARD SMITH: You’re live on FOX News Channel, what are you doing?
The Campus Squirrel Listings notes that “The quality of an institution of higher learning can often be determined by the size, health and behavior of the squirrel population on campus.” Some colleges go to great lengths to secure a 5-Squirrel rating. (GWU gets a respectable three.).
Mary Baldwin College, whose crest features a squirrel, is a shoo-in. Other places, like the United States Naval Academy (“Pro-squirrel would be an understatement for the USNA campus,” a student writes. “After 156 years of Federal Government protection, you've got to expect that these squirrels know they've got a good thing going.”) and Berkeley also get 5 squirrels. As does Rice, whose campus directory features a squirrel on its cover.
Hyperexpensive Sarah Lawrence has black squirrels, and sells a t-shirt that says: "Sarah Lawrence College: Where even the squirrels wear black."
ALWAYS TIME TO TAKE A SWIPE|
"If the levees hold but the water spills over, the water will be almost impossible to remove, considering the pumps will be swamped and shut down. Some of the city's pumps sit in houses made in the 1890s, said Stevan Spencer, the Orleans Levee District's chief engineer.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I've added Ann Althouse's blog to my (woefully unalphabetized) blogroll. It's second on the list, after Critical Mass. I like Althouse's aesthetics (lots of pictures!), her feisty ways, her writing. She's a law professor.
More MSM attention for Mr. UD.
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
This is part of a larger story about a general decline in the number of people applying to law school this year. UD isn’t sure what to make of it:
Among the 19 responding schools, the one receiving the greatest number of applications for the upcoming year was George Washington University Law School, with 11,500 applicants. Its first-year class, at 530, represents 4.6 percent of its applicant pool. George Washington also had the second-biggest incoming class, next to Harvard, where 559 students will start law school this year, representing 7.8 percent of the 7,129 applications it received.
She could cite the obvious stuff, like location and political connections, but these have always been there. Is it because GW law school lately has a lot of very high-profile faculty members commenting in very high-profile media outlets on all sorts of things going on in the country?
A Few Comments
On the New York Times
Article Directly Below,
On Intellectual Diversity
In America’s Law Schools
[And I mean “intellectual diversity.” One commenter on the subject at History News Network irritably asks, “Why not just call it ‘ideological diversity’ or political diversity,’ since, you know, that's what [one commentator on the subject is] actually talking about?”
Because that’s the beginning of what most people are talking about. Ultimately they’re talking about intellectual diversity.]
I think the article is devastating. Law professors use direct speech (humanities types generally do not), and the direct statements the law professors quoted in the article make about the culture of law schools and the intellectual implications of the study are devastating:
“ ‘Law schools are sort of organized in a club structure, where current members of the club pick future members of the club.’ ”
“The most serious problem pointed to by the study, Professor McGinnis said, is that the ideas generated by the law schools are both uniform and untested.”
" ‘We have a higher responsibility to our students, ourselves and our disciplines," he said, "that our preference for ideological homogeneity and faculty-lounge echo chambers betrays.’ "
Note that the commentators are indeed drawing intellectual conclusions (“the ideas generated”) from political data. At some American law schools, virtually everyone thinks alike (they are “clubs,” “echo-chambers”), with the result that the ideas generated out of those schools are “uniform and untested.”
Law schools make humanities departments look like hotbeds of polemic.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
From tomorrow’s New York Times :
Professors at the best law schools are generally assumed to be overwhelmingly liberal, and now a new study lends proof. But whether the ideological imbalance matters - to the academic environment students encounter, to the kinds of lawyers the schools produce and to the stock of ideas the professors generate - depends on whom you ask.
The study, to be published this fall in The Georgetown Law Journal, analyzes 11 years of records reflecting federal campaign contributions by professors at the top 21 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Almost a third of these law professors contribute to campaigns, but of them, the study finds, 81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans.
The percentages of professors contributing to Democrats were even more lopsided at some of the most prestigious schools: 91 percent at Harvard, 92 at Yale, 94 at Stanford. At the University of Virginia, on the other hand, contributions were about evenly divided between the parties. The sample sizes at some schools may be too small to allow for comparisons, though it bears noting that by this measure the University of Chicago is slightly more liberal than Berkeley.
If the liberal law professors mean to indoctrinate students, though, they have failed spectacularly in some notable cases. The United States Supreme Court's two most conservative members, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are products of Harvard and Yale, respectively. And if John G. Roberts Jr., another conservative, is confirmed this fall, another conservative graduate of Harvard Law will be added to the court.
Whatever may be said about particular schools and students, professors and deans of all political persuasions agreed that the study's general findings are undeniable.
"Academics tend to be more to the left side of the continuum," said David E. Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern's law school, where the contribution rate to Democrats was 71 percent. "It's a little worse in law school. In other disciplines, there are more objective standards for quality of work. Law schools are sort of organized in a club structure, where current members of the club pick future members of the club."
That can do a disservice to academic values, said Peter H. Schuck, a Yale law professor and the author of "Diversity in America: Keeping Government at a Safe Distance." "We have a higher responsibility to our students, ourselves and our disciplines," he said, "that our preference for ideological homogeneity and faculty-lounge echo chambers betrays."
Law professors' politics may be similar to those of other academics, but they are not representative of people with similar credentials and incomes. In the 2000 election cycle, according to data from the National Election Study produced at the University of Michigan, 34 percent of people with advanced degrees and 44 percent of those earning $95,000 to $200,000 gave exclusively to Democratic candidates. For law professors, the new study finds, it was 78 percent.
The figures suggest that liberal law professors do not always produce liberal lawyers.
"I don't think the liberal bias of law school faculties has much impact on the students," said Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge who teaches at the University of Chicago. "Law students are careerists, and for them law school is career preparation, not Sunday chapel."
The profession itself, said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, may moderate the influence of the academy. "Insofar as an elite law school might push students to the left," Professor Persily said, "corporate law firms might bring them back to the center."
John O. McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern who prepared the study along with two New York lawyers, Matthew A. Schwartz and Benjamin Tisdell, said it was meant for the most part to present data rather than draw conclusions.
But the study does note an arguable inconsistency in the way law schools approach student admissions and faculty hiring.
When the United States Supreme Court endorsed race-conscious admissions policies in 2003, it based its decision on the importance of ensuring the representation of diverse viewpoints in the classroom.
Law schools that take race into account in admissions decisions, the study says, "open themselves to charges of intellectual inconsistency" if they do not also address the ideological imbalances on their faculties.
The most serious problem pointed to by the study, Professor McGinnis said, is that the ideas generated by the law schools are both uniform and untested.
"It may be," he added, "that the rise of conservative think tanks counterbalances this effect to a degree. As one who believes in markets, I think that alternative institutions in the long run will arise to supply ideas." Even so, he said, "liberal ideas might well be strengthened and made more effective if liberals had to run a more conservative gantlet among their own colleagues when developing them."
UD Blogs Her Husband's Radio Interviews
Interview #1: 12:50 PM, WTOP Newsradio:
WTOP Newsradio just finished interviewing Mr. UD about the Iraqi constitution. I thought the questions were very good, and Mr. UD very pithy.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Mr. UD …|
will be interviewed about the Iraqi constitution tomorrow at 12:50 in the afternoon on Washington’s WTOP News Radio (it’s broadcast online too). We figure it’ll be a three-minute in-depth discussion.
He’ll also be interviewed and take calls next week, on Wisconsin Public Radio. Date and time when I know them.
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
A Regular University Diaries Feature
My freshman year at college? Don’t ask. It was strange.
But I found myself thinking about it after reading this article in the Washington Post about a woman whose horse also had to apply for admission to her college. I went to a college like that, for a year. A college with stables.
Let’s begin by focusing in on UD, circa late teens. A Joan Baez clone hoves into view. Long hair, pathetic clothes (some things don’t change), a nylon string guitar. College? I didn’t have the slightest idea what college meant or where I wanted to go. I knew I liked to read novels and that I wrote pretty well. I knew - my incredulous father, a scientist, knew - that I was beyond belief bad at math.
I didn’t know what to do about college, and I don’t recall caring. My mother, a middle-class Baltimore girl, had always been impressed by Goucher College, a place just outside the city for well-bred females and their steeds. She suggested I apply there. I did, was accepted, and went.
It was a grotesque mismatch. My mother drove from ‘thesda to Towson every weekend to take me home because I was so miserable. She and my father had paid for the whole year, so I couldn’t leave as soon as I wanted to.
I had a very good year there academically -- Goucher was (no doubt still is) a solid liberal arts college -- and then I left.
The experience put me off college altogether for awhile. I spent the next year working as a secretary in ‘thesda and then traveling in Europe. I transferred to Northwestern.
Much of the mismatchery had to do with the all-girls thing (Goucher is now coed). Plus I’d gone to a public high school and everyone else at Goucher had gone to private school. I didn’t even know private schools existed. My roommate had to explain to me what they were.
The atmosphere in the Goucher dorms seems to me in retrospect to have been about the unhealthiest I’ve ever been in. At mealtime, I munched on my burger and watched anorexics wash amphetamines down with caffeine. For dessert, everyone gathered in the lounge and recited the captions accompanying the photos in their horse scrapbooks (“Hay! Don’t I know you?” “Misty’s being BAAAAD.”).
The year I spent working and traveling was the chance I needed to focus upon the real world, the things I loved, the ideas and books that mattered to me. By the time I arrived in Chicago, I had a pretty good idea what college meant, and why it was valuable.
THE PLOT THICKENS|
The Washington Post is pursuing the Benjamin Ladner story with the same persistence he is said to have displayed in his pursuit of rich donors. The newspaper has another article about it today, in which its reporter wonders why the university decided to handle the allegations of financial wrongdoing against President Ladner by very publicly suspending him.
UD wonders about this too. Why physically remove him from his office? Are the trustees worried he’ll shred papers?
And didn’t they know that in a short time 44 news outlets would be running the story (that’s the current number, via Google News)?
The story quotes Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity University, also in Washington:
"The president should be subjected to the same audit rules" as others at the university. She turns in her receipts to the chief financial officer -- and pays for some trips on her own because the small school can't afford them. She has her own house and her own car, she added, and sometimes takes potential donors not to elegant dinners but to cafes at Union Station. Good donors, she said, don't want the president to waste money wooing them. They can get good meals on their own dime.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
CHERCHEZ LA TUITION|
From today’s Bloomberg.com :
In the mid-1990s, long before oil prices topped $60 a barrel, U.S. companies sought access to Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation that the U.S. State Department says will be among the world's top 10 producers of crude by 2015.
UPDATE, PRESIDENT LADNER|
[for earlier post, go here]
“But there has always been this underlying feeling [that] he makes a lot of money, and I think that makes most people skeptical."
This American University student’s reaction to the news that the president of the university, under investigation for financial wrongdoing, has now been suspended, points to the problem with overcompensated university administrators.
Like quite a number of university presidents, Ladner both earns a fortune (edging up toward $700,000 a year) and enjoys goodies freebies and perks on top of that, including a great house on campus.
Ladner also owns a house in nearby Maryland (AU’s in Northwest DC), and is accused of using university money for its maintenance. Plus he’s accused of having “charged the university for [his] son's engagement party, presents for [his] children, a personal chef, vacations in Europe …and wine that cost as much as $100 a bottle.”
If AU’s president had a salary people felt was appropriate to a member of a university community, there wouldn’t be an underlying skepticism about his character. Now that he’s in trouble, people are inclined to assume the worst.
UD’s old friend, and the person who brought Mr. UD to Erbil and Baghdad last month, is featured in today’s David Brooks column in the New York Times:
President Bush doesn't lack for critics when it comes to his Iraq policies, but the smartest and most devastating of these is Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
UD, as regular readers know, likes to feature the campus newspaper writing of first-rate undergraduate writers from around the country.
Here are a couple of earlier examples.
Today she’s found something very good from Arthur Martori, a student at Arizona State University (also known as the ‘Spa on the Salt’ and the ‘Tempe Country Club’). It’s witty, relaxed, and confident, and it gives us a window into the world of his school:
The days of coasting though an ASU education could be coming to a close. With the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication operating as an independent entity, ASU students are faced with an unmitigated disaster. A catastrophe of this magnitude has not been seen since 1674 - when ninja commandos overran ASU. (I know; I was there.) Soon, we may be forced to undertake a more demanding role than just one student in a crowd of 60,000. We may be looking at more personalized attention, and man, does that suck.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
BLOG DAYS OF AUGUST|
Ho hum. What shall we speak of as August winds down and the new university year begins?
What, for instance, can we say of this season’s school lists (US News and World Report, Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, etc.) that has not been said on this blog in the past?
Just that, as they proliferate, these lists tell you more and more. They tell you which small Christian colleges in the upper midwest have the largest number of artificially inseminated Peace Corps volunteers on Pell grants.
They tell you which schools have the highest and lowest graduation rates. Schools with low graduation rates boast that their rates are a function of a demanding intellectual atmosphere. Schools with high rates boast that their students are brilliant. High rate places scoff at low rate places and say their students are dumb. Low rate places scoff at high rate places and say their courses are guts.
Although sodden SUNY Albany continues sloshing around near the top of the dread “party school” list, this year it’s Wisconsin Madison’s turn to issue a prissy rejection of its Number One ranking, along with some language about how fewer students than ever are being treated at the campus clinic for delirium tremens.
The new Washington Monthly list focuses on the degree of student social mobility in various colleges and universities, with first-rate public schools like UCLA, packed with smart and ambitious lower-income students, shining brightly. Desiccated baronial Princeton makes a particularly bad showing.
Monday, August 22, 2005
"...[S]ome Boise State University students think the vagina-shaped, white chocolate candy that the school's women's center is distributing is in poor taste. "That's almost to the point of being degrading to a woman's body in my opinion," says business student Vicki Johnson.
Representatives from the women's center distributed the candy this week during a meeting for freshman honors students. But the center has actually been distributing the candy for six years now, and during that time the center says it's received plenty of criticism.
The center's interim coordinator Autumn Haynes thinks that criticism is okay because it gets people talking. "We want to dispel that myth that it's not okay to talk about 'down there.' Many times young girls, particularly in our society, are raised with the belief that they have to fit a certain kind of body type and that it's not okay to feel comfortable about their sexuality, and our mission is really to dispel that myth so that women can feel comfortable about their bodies," Haynes says."
THE WAGES OF SIN|
UD warned you. This is what comes of the Syllabum Omnium. You should have stuck to one page.
[The] dean of the College of Letters and Science [at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh] [has] told professors that — for financial and educational reasons — they should put their syllabuses online, and stop distributing them
“Black-and-white photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Cooleridge, Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway looked down on the approximately 350 attendees who wrote down their thoughts once they climbed a large black staircase that led into an open-air tent. Chandeliers and mounted wild-game heads decorated the booze-ridden ceremony.”
Letter to the Editor,
Aspen Daily News
"Editor: Just rode up Lenado, past Hunter launch site. Rent-a-cops everywhere, some peering into hills with binoculars—looking for invaders? Twice, I got stopped on my bike and told, 'Don't loiter, keep moving, don't take any pictures.' The guy who made his reputation opposing authority exits the planet completely surrounded by authority. Who'd have thunk it?"
“[Jimmy Ibbotson] made the wire services when he opened fire with his shotgun on what he termed a 'paparazzi,' who wanted to park on his property."
Saturday, August 20, 2005
A BONIFIED MEMBER
“I am a bonified member of the MLA (Modern Language Association) and NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).”
[Hat tip to Eric.]
…AND BACK AT |
THE DIPLOMA MILLS
“[President Sheldon] Woods said accreditation and the fact his school has no campus or classrooms are the only differences between Cambridge State and a brick-and-mortar institution.”
MEANWHILE, BACK |
AT THE ED SCHOOLS…
By Linda Seebach
Scripps Howard News Service
Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College, Columbia University, describes graduate programs for school leaders - principals and superintendents - as being in "a race to the bottom."
BEST COLLEGES LIST|
UD’s friend JW sent her this year’s US News and World Report results.
A few comments: The decline of the lesser Ivies proceeds apace, with my alma mater, Northwestern, doing better than Cornell and Brown (and better than the more intellectually serious, non-Ivy, University of Chicago, where I got my Ph.D.).
American University, an expensive private college here in Washington, came in at a surprisingly low 85th. Can the scandalette involving its grandiose president have had an impact?
More broadly, I’d note that you can get a very good to excellent undergraduate education at almost any of the first, say, sixty schools listed; and there are quite a few good schools all the way down the list of 120. Rutgers, UC Santa Cruz, Indiana, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon -- none of these ranks very high, but they’re all very good.
Which leads to a couple of questions. How can we account for the dramatic price differentials among some of these essentially equivalent institutions? For some you’ll pay about $50,000 in tuition alone; others will be far, far less expensive.
And why are American students and their parents so anxious about getting into good colleges, when there are clearly plenty of good colleges to go around? From a recent article about high depression rates among college students:
But the cries for help appear to have other causes, too. The quest to get into a top college has grown so cutthroat for many that more students are emerging from it emotionally damaged. "Kids are burning out sooner and sooner," says Leigh Martin Lowe, director of college counseling at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore. "They're not being allowed to enjoy their teenage years, and many of them end up in college and they don't have the energy or stamina to really turn it on." At MIT, Jones, the admissions dean, gives preference to students who are "self-driven" (read: not being pushed by their parents), based on her belief that self-motivated students are better able to cope with failures. "Our culture has become insane — we're making people sick," Jones says.
UD has a theory…|
as to why the Democratic party’s in such bad shape (everybody in the blogosphere and beyond lately seems to be writing about what the Democrats can do to start winning elections again). Her theory doesn’t explain everything, but might have some modest value.
Democrats today are both too happy and too sad. The happiness as well as the sadness tend to make them passive and apolitical, and as a result the party lacks the passionate involvement it needs from people in order to get somewhere.
The Democrats are too happy because millions of them are rich winners. It doesn’t matter to their way of life whether Clinton or Bush is in the White House -- the salient thing is their dreamworld of affluence, ease, and fun. To be sure, they sign large checks and give them to Democrats, but money isn’t everything, as a writer in New Left Review recently pointed out in talking about what he calls the blue plutocracy:
[T]he Democratic Party is a vehicle of reaction, not out of error or lack of wit, but because it is a machine largely controlled by the super-rich, who are perfectly capable of understanding their own interests.
People aren’t just voting expressively for the party that seems to speak for their values; they’re also voting resentfully against the rich winners. As Frank writes, “people know that in everyday life they are being screwed in a hundred ways, and that the people who benefit from this screwing are the ones they see driving Volvos and drinking lattes and enjoying life in Bethesda [UD’s hometown] or Georgetown or wherever.”
Just one example along these lines from the university world, bastion of blue. In a recent interview, Camille Paglia points out that
[U]niversities have permitted in the last 40 years and all the media sat on its hands on this, the growth of a bureaucratic master class of administrators. More and more deans who are making fortunes and also the salaries at the Ivy League are astronomical. People are making $200,000 and families are bankrupting themselves to pay for these bills. There should be a national outrage...
Another Democrat at TPM Café writes that “while liberals are steadfastly supportive of racial equality, all too many are outright contemptuous of working class white people. I think we all know that. I think we all hear ‘white trash’ bandied about by people with ‘Free Tibet’ on their car bumpers. My point here is that people are generally very sensitive to the fact that someone despises them…. Social attitudes bred by Harvard are not compatible with any broad-based social movement… When people look at the most prominent Democrats, they don’t see themselves. What they see are the Harvard-educated limo-libs of the entitlement class, who for God knows what reason are trotted out as party spokespersons.” Yet another writer says that Democrats “are prone to be elitist. They come from places such as California and Massachusetts who harbor class contempt for hayseeds living in fly-over country. Witness Michael Moore’s characterization of ‘Jesusland’ after the 2004 elections.”
Again Paglia, who got at this a few years ago: “The Kennedys want it both ways. They want their exclusive life, and they want the pretense that they speak for the people. But of course that’s the hypocrisy of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that we’re now going to be examining with the potential senatorial candidacy of Hillary Clinton in New York. It’s long overdue -- a real shakedown that exposes the arrogance and insularity of the lifestyle not only of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party but of their media cohorts.”
Millions of Democrats, in other words, look around themselves, look at their lives, and see nothing but glory. These are the people who’ve been sitting tight for a couple of years in the house they bought for $500,000 and are about to sell it for two million. When your life is that beautiful, you lose the fire in your belly.
UD’s point is not to complain that many Democrats are successful people. It’s great to be successful. Her point is that success in the blue regions is so over the top that people have become complacent and self-involved, behavior alienating to the rest of the country, and behavior at odds with social commitment generally.
One major sign of this self-involvement is the way in which psychotherapy, and a general struggle toward yet higher degrees of personal happiness, has replaced larger worldly struggles. Democratic elites tend to be inwardly rather than outwardly directed . They contemplate themselves, not the world. They believe it’s worth a lot of their time and money for them to be in therapy and talk about their unhappiness over having had a judgmental father and a neurotic mother. No matter how privileged and happy you are, you can always be more privileged and happy.
Thus the literature that dominates this culture has, Paglia points out, “drifted into a compulsive telling of any trauma that you can find in your life. Prozac --‘I’m taking Prozac.’ - or divorce or diseases or whatever. Endless kvetching. It’s a style of telling of woes and the potential range of literature is being neglected…”
To other Americans, the ideology of therapy and restless self-fashioning toward total happiness which dominates the belief system of Democratic elites is another expression of the elites’ sense of superiority, and their eagerness to indulge in their own comfort. Most non-blue Americans find their belief system not in psychology but in religion of one sort or another. Their religion is a collective belief system, not an individual one like psychotherapy.
Democratic elites are not shy about expressing their contempt for the group-oriented religion of the majority of Americans, even as they fail to see the flimsiness of Freudian faith, whose simple-minded dogma has it that happy people are repressing something and that Christians and Jews are infantile. Frank Furedi points out the tendency on the part of blue Americans to reduce political discourse to psychoanalysis, as the current Democratic guru, George Lakoff, does when he “characterises Bush supporters as dominated by a ‘strict father morality’ which is hostile to ‘nurturance and care.’” Justin Frank performed the same reduction in his book, Bush on the Couch, a spectacularly vulgar psychoanalysis of the president which probably did as much for the Republican cause in the last election as any brilliant Roveian strategy.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
SETON HALL DROPS
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
"He believed in education. |
He made sure his three kids all went to college.
He was one of 10 children.
He sent a lot of his brothers and sisters to college too."
From today’s Bakersfield Californian:
Poor Bob Schrieffer. A brilliant research scientist, the pride of Tallahassee, Fla., snatched from the laboratory before his time. One of America's foremost theoretical physicists, a man of boundless mathematical curiosity and imagination, gone.
By Robert Price
UD's husband and another American are walking in Erbil, a town in Kurdistan. A Kurd approaches them and asks: "Where are you from?" They tell him. "Thank you," he says. "I love you."
UPDATE:: The New York Times has a long, front-page article (in the Science section) about the history of Erbil, possibly the world's oldest continually inhabited city.
Monday, August 15, 2005
DASHING MR. UD...|
...is back from Salahadin, Erbil, Baghdad, Istanbul, etc. He appeared on the doorstep last night in full Peshmerga uniform with Barzani headdress. Photo not yet available, but I'm not kidding.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
“The Baffling Descent of a Nobel Prize Winner,” headlines today’s LA Times. “Friends of physicist John Schrieffer [scroll down a few posts for more on this story], who faces prison in [a] fatal crash, are sad and perplexed,” writes the reporter. Everyone is stunned at this “catastrophic aberration,” this “tragic fluke.”
UD finds it hard to believe that his university colleagues and his friends are stunned. Even UD, rotten at math, can do the numbers. Schrieffer, so heavily recruited that Florida’s governor called him for a long phone chat, joined FSU in 1991. Since 1993, he has “piled up nine speeding tickets,” and last year, “at the time of the accident, he was driving on a suspended Florida license.”
So a couple of years after Schrieffer came to FSU, he began to demonstrate a pattern of such reckless speeding that his license had been suspended. For twelve years FSU had on its faculty a high-profile professor who was a notorious peril behind the wheel.
“In his plea, Schrieffer … made no mention of any illnesses that influenced his judgment or his ability to drive.” Schrieffer has to have had a good attorney. Why was no such mention made? Probably because whatever illnesses he has -- he’s a man in his seventies -- they aren’t bad enough for him to have used in his defense. How impaired could he have been to be directing a big important lab?
The LA Times writer settles for being as baffled and stunned as Schrieffer’s friends. But a likely explanation is right there in his article. Schrieffer just loves to make things go fast. Ever since he was young, Schrieffer’s had a “passion for technology,” which “showed even during high school in Eustis, Fla., where he shot homemade rockets over the orange groves…” Later in life, he became addicted to high-tech, late-model sports cars. He obviously loved to gun them and see how fast their engines could go.
The police tried to stop Schrieffer from taking his enthusiasm with the creation of speed to higher and higher levels, but tickets and a suspended license don't discourage people like Schrieffer.
UD continues to await evidence that his friends or FSU did anything about him for over a decade. She fears that everyone decided to protect so powerful and powerfully desired a faculty member. She’s therefore a bit nauseated by the shock and awe currently being expressed. Someone should have had enough imagination to conjure the innocent people Schrieffer was eventually going to destroy.
But it’s early days. UD awaits the next article about Schrieffer in the LA Times. It will, she predicts, be an exclusive interview with a graduate student in his lab, full of guilt over having said nothing to anyone for so long about the scary man for whom she worked.
Friday, August 12, 2005
The Uses of the University|
I don’t say it was beautiful. George Washington University Hospital was never beautiful. But it existed, and things happened in it. My kid was born there. A president’s life was saved there.
For a long time now, it’s been nothing. A chalky field surrounded by a fence marks the spot. It looks like a bullfight ring.
But GWU doesn’t plan to use it for bullfighting. Here’s what it wants for Square 54, as described in today’s Washington Post:
[GW] proposes to hire a pair of classy developers (Boston Properties and KSI) and a world-class architecture firm (Cesar Pelli & Associates) to design and build a $250 million, mixed-use development with offices facing Washington Circle, high-end apartments in the back and plenty of ground-level retail all around. [There will be] about 450,000 square feet [of office space], compared with 250,000 for residential and 80,000 for retail. With office rents at least 25 percent above apartment rents, that balance makes sense for the university, as landowner, and Boston Properties, as the project manager and office developer.
Cool. But what’s missing from this picture?
[The] university argues that with its Pennsylvania Avenue address and its proximity to the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, Square 54 is simply too valuable as a site for high-end commercial development to be used for its own purposes.
Hm. No room for even a little lecture hall?
YOU ROCK MY BOOK|
Wow. Don’t rain but it pours. Via Maud Newton, here’s another fresh plagiarism tale, this one with a postmodern quirk: A woman’s autobiography takes much of its content from one contemporary novel, one contemporary short story collection, and three older novels. A writer in the Telegraph tells the tale:
I didn't more than glance over the original report in The Bookseller. It said that the Bloomsbury bestseller Rock Me Gently - Judith Kelly's memoir of a traumatic childhood in a Catholic orphanage - was being rewritten after "similarities" were spotted with Antonia White's 1933 novel Frost in May. Then a couple of weeks later Hilary Mantel, a novelist with whom I'm friendly, got in touch to say that she, too, had been gently rocked by Rock Me Gently.
After Mantel pointed out virtually verbatim copying to the book’s publisher, she received, notes the Telegraph writer, the following defense/threat:
“Judith… has read very widely and has a remarkable memory, and during the decade in which she was working on her own book, some of her wide-ranging reading emerged in her own prose without her realising it. There is no question of infringement of copyright," she wrote (that last steely, lawyerish phrase being the letter's real payload), "but Judith is naturally very upset that this has happened and is rewriting those passages for the next edition of the book."
Again with the uncontrollable memory! What shall we call this? Incontinent mnemonism?
Apparently Jane Eyre and Brighton Rock have been similarly pilfered for intimate truths about Judith Kelly.
IN OTHER WORDS|
Is it plagiarism? "Alleged cribbing"? In South Africa, a prize-winning poet turns out to have turned in a poem translated almost verbatim from a Canadian writer. From Cape Times, August 12:
South African poet Melanie Grobler has relinquished the Eugýne Marais literature prize and offered to pay back the prize money after it emerged that she had presented an unacknowledged translation of a poem by Canadian author Anne Michaels as her own work.
UPDATE: I found the Michaels poem, and am wondering if Grobler changed the Canadian street names to South African ones:
THERE IS NO CITY THAT DOES NOT DREAM
There is no city that does not dream
from its foundations. The lost lake
crumbling in the hands of brickmakers,
the floor of the ravine where light lies broken
with the memory of rivers. All the winters
stored in that geologic
garden. Dinosaurs sleep in the subway
at Bloor and Shaw, a bed of bones
under the rumbling track. The storm
that turned the city purple, with the electricity
of spring, when we were eighteen
on the clean earth. The ferry ride in the rain
wind wet with wedding music and everything that
sings in the carbon of stone and bone
like a page of love, wind-lost from a hand, un-read.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
LEADING ACADEMICIANS AND|
UD’s all in favor of building up your life again after you’ve taken a fall, but in the case of Rick Bragg, ex-New York Times writer and about-to-be professor of journalism at the University of Alabama , she thinks he owes it to his students to be more honest about his record at the Times than he, and his dean, have so far been.
“The issue here is that it appears that [Bragg’s] not doing any of his own reporting,” said one of the participants in a PBS discussion about big and small scandals at the Times a couple of years ago. And while this is an overstatement, Bragg does seem to have, in a rather arrogant and cynical way, farmed out the reporting of his pieces (journalists call this increasingly common practice “drive-by reporting”) to uncredited and barely paid gophers.
In the particular story that caused the Times to suspend him temporarily (Bragg eventually resigned. Only the resignation is mentioned in most of the Alabama stories.), Bragg appears to have sent a faceless stringer to Apalachicola to interview everyone and look around. Bragg dropped into town for a short spell and then wrote the story as if he’d witnessed and experienced what it described. As one commentator writes:
Bragg appears to be guilty of three counts of editorial deceit in hiring an unpaid, undisclosed, and unauthorized helper — essentially subcontracting his work to others without his bosses' consent. [He visited] Apalachicola for a couple of hours solely to claim the dateline and foster the illusion that [he’d] seen the story [himself].
The same Slate writer continues:
Every reporter makes mistakes, but Bragg's gargantuan goofs defy explanation—often making you wonder if he even visited the scene of his own story. Take this hilarious extended correction for Bragg's June 1, 1998, story about a small Alabama newspaper's crusade against corruption, in which he appears to have gotten more facts wrong than right:
Bragg‘s dean is brazening it out. "I did discuss it with leading academicians and professionals," Clark said. "They considered what happened in that particular situation an injustice."
Beyond importing a certain raffish approach to reporting, Bragg brings to the University of Alabama a familiar brand of garrulous Southern self-mythologizing. Katha Pollitt describes his “lavishly overwritten tales of Southern life,” which “provoked many an eyeroll from acerbic New Yorkers.”
UD, a longtime, hypertypical NYT reader, recalls thinking that Bragg’s stories functioned to reassure affluent educated easterners like her that she shouldn’t feel bad about poor Louisianans and Floridians because after all they have the deep rootedness and humble human dignity that she lacks.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
She's back. Maria Alquilar, the artist about whom UD has already written, has come back to California to fix her spelling errors, and the whole world is watching. |
From today's San Francisco Chronicle:
“What’s in a name?” Shakespere asked.
A REAL WINNER|
Robert Schrieffer, a distinguished American scientist and longtime professor, is about to go to state prison for having killed one person and injured seven with his new Mercedes, which he was driving at one hundred miles an hour at the time.
Professor Schrieffer loves to do this sort of thing. His many speeding tickets finally impelled the authorities to suspend his license, though this didn’t discourage him from buying a late-model sports car and killing people with it. "It's a puzzle why you decided to drive high-performance cars at great speeds on public highways," said the judge, who seemed confused as to why “a bright man who has made great contributions to society” could also do things like this. But a relative of one of the victims nailed it easily: "Mr. Schrieffer is a very intelligent man with no respect for the legal system."
“The defendant, who spoke cheerfully to his attorneys and a reporter prior to the hearing," a local paper reports, "did not look at the family members as they spoke.” In his official statement of apology, he wept and said he felt their pain.
“Schrieffer initially told investigators that he was a victim in the accident, and that a truck hauling a trailer had clipped his car and the van, according to the CHP. That story was never corroborated, and Schrieffer eventually admitted inventing the truck, Mestman said, adding that the defendant later expressed remorse for his actions.”
Oh, I meant to mention. Schrieffer got the Nobel Prize a few years ago. The least the Nobel people could do would be to add this information to the glowing biography of him they provide on their website.
UPDATE: If Professor Schrieffer’s guilt or innocence was still in question; if he didn’t have a long record ending with a suspended license on which he was driving when he killed and maimed people; if the judge hadn’t been so appalled by his victims’ suffering that he recommended harder jail time … then maybe UD could see Florida State University coming up with this as its official statement to its staff, a statement subsequently quoted in the media:
Greg Boebinger, director of the mag lab, notified staff members of new legal developments in Schrieffer's case in an e-mail Tuesday. "This is a very sad time. Bob Schrieffer will apparently be sentenced to serve time in connection with an automobile collision in California late last year," Boebinger wrote. "This is a terrible human tragedy, for the victims of the collision and their families as well as for Bob and his family."
Um, collision? Schrieffer ploughed into an innocent car. Sad for FSU? No. Embarrassing, in that the university has been harboring and honoring this man even though it knew what he was like. A tragedy for Bob? No. A belated reckoning with justice. I trust FSU has been offering counseling for this man during the years it has known of his problem…
MORE REACTION TO THE SCHRIEFFER CONVICTION:
“Professor Leon N. Cooper of Brown University, who shared the Nobel Prize with Schrieffer in 1972, said he was stunned to hear of Schrieffer's problems. 'It is the kind of nightmare that everyone worries about,' Cooper said."
Really? Driving your uninsured Mercedes on a suspended license at one hundred miles an hour into a van packed with people?
THINGS HAPPEN QUICKLY AROUND HERE
It’s August 11, Professor Schrieffer doesn’t yet know whether he’s going to a real or a country club jail, and already he's past-tense pop-culture shorthand. From an article in yesterday’s Village Voice about new video games:
The New York Times' Matt Richtel was probably right in taking MADDEN NFL 2006 to task for not having enough brand new features to rationalize the $50 price tag. Yet if you're a football nut in the way embattled Nobel Prize Winner John Robert Schrieffer was nutty about theories of superconductivity, you just have to have the game.
Monday, August 08, 2005
"As conservatives we should never have to feel uncomfortable in the classroom because of our beliefs," says a delegate to the annual meeting of conservative college students taking place now at George Washington University (UD's institution also recently hosted a similar meeting of progressive college students).
This is wrong, actually. While no student should have to endure idiot ideologues in the classroom, all serious students should want exposure to ideas, interpretations, facts, and personalities that make them squirm.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
This is the only literary entry in a sand sculpture contest being held outside UD's beach apartment. She's not even fond of C.S. Lewis. But she figured she should find a vacation image for this university blog that has something to do with books...
Friday, August 05, 2005
PROBLEMS, HERE AND ABROAD|
UD is suffering from a more than ordinarily intense case of cognitive dissonance today after reading her New York Times. The front page of the A Section features the dead bodies of Niger’s malnourished children.
Much of this disaster was suspected last November, when experts monitoring Niger‘s farms found a 220,000-ton shortfall -- about 7.5 percent of the normal crop - in the harvest of grains, especially the millet that is the staple of most people‘s diet. Among others, the United Nations World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders sounded alarms, and Niger’s government, with World Food Program approval, quickly asked donors to give Niger 71,000 tons of food aid and $3 million for the 400,000 most vulnerable farmers and herders. By May, it had received fewer than 7,000 tons of food and one $323,000 donation, from Luxembourg.
The front page of the business section features the plaintive headline: Doesn’t Anyone Want to Manage Harvard’s Money?
David Swensen, who manages Yale University’s …endowment, was paid $1.03 million in compensation and benefits in the year ended in June 2003. And Bob L. Boldt, chief executive of the University of Texas Investment Management Company… was paid $1.28 million. … Top [private sector] money managers can earn more than $250 million a year running hedge funds, making the Harvard post a hard sell.
From today's Denver Post: (Headline: HOFFMAN DENOUNCES BLOGS)
[Former University of Colorado president Betsy Hoffman] also said she wished she would have assigned one of her staffers to read political blogs every day, as she does now.
MARTIN WEITZMAN VALEDICTORY
“Yet if the trial yielded a positive externality for the professor,” writes the Harvard Crimson, “it is that Weitzman won’t have to pony up in the future — he said that since the story started getting such attention, he has received several offers for free manure.”
Whoa, Weitzman. UD reminds you -- you’re an economist; you should know this -- that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
UD’s husband may or may not be on his way to Dubai
UD is most certainly on her way to Rehoboth Beach
And she’ll be blogging from there.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
we had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun
Twice a week, UD’s daughter goes to Washington Children’s Chorus practice in a church on the campus of American University. UD, while she’s waiting for her, drinks coffee and reads at the Starbucks at AU; or, if she’s feeling energetic, walks around campus.
As a native Washingtonian, UD has witnessed AU grow in size and popularity. She has watched it gussy up its buildings and landscape and, like most things in Northwest DC and Montgomery County (AU is located close to Montgomery County, where UD lives) get rich.
Now AU is running into one of those problems that rich universities tend to run into: overcompensation of administrators. Universities “are not in the for-profit world,” an expert on the subject reminds the Washington Post in an article about AU this morning. “If there is some unusual perk, it has to be justified.”
AU’s president’s base salary for 2003-04 was $633,000. He gets a free house plus other value-added goodies. On top of this, an anonymous letter to trustees and the Post claims, “the Ladners charged the university over the past five years for their son's engagement party, presents for their children, a personal French chef, vacations in Europe, maintenance of their personal residence in Maryland ‘including garbage bags,’ and wine up to $100 a bottle for lunch and dinner.” An investigation is underway.
The Engagement Party
Let’s start with the engagement party. There are “things that look on the surface like they are personal, but turn out to be donor cultivation,” another expert explains to the Post. “You might have a big wedding party, but maybe 70 percent of the guests are major donors.”
Consider the pathos of an engagement party for one’s beloved child, seventy percent of whose guests are business connections. Consider, more broadly, a family with absolutely no personal life.
If a set of human beings, connected by blood and some sort of history, end up living a wholly institutional life, then compensation for most aspects of that sort of life doesn’t seem out of line to me. You only get one lifetime, and people who miss out on having their life deserve not only pity, but some form of compensation for their loss. If I couldn’t go to the john without taking donor cultivation calls, I’d expect compensation. The question is how much.
Father Flanagan/Dennis Kozlowski
The conceit in the particular case of university presidents is that, having chosen the public over the private sector, they are motivated not merely by greed and vainglory but also by duty.
The university president is located somewhere between a priest and Dennis Kozlowski. He or she is expected to want good money, but is also expected to demonstrate a commitment to non-profit values.
Yet our wealthy country, as the director of research for the American Association of University Professors points out to the Post, increasingly compensates its university presidents “like private sector CEOs,” and CEOesque presidents in turn “often reflect their compensation in their management of the institution.”
This is a delicate way of saying that they often give themselves as stupendous a salary and as perky a set of perks as they can get away with. The AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession notes that “presidential salaries have risen much more rapidly than faculty salaries in the last ten years,” and “the trend apparently continues. This development is one further indication that a more corporate organizational hierarchy is emerging in colleges and universities, in potential conflict with the mission of institutions of higher education to operate for the benefit of society as a whole.”
The AAUP researcher calls “the rapid growth of presidential compensation” a “morale crusher for other staff and faculty members.”
The Red Corvette
It’s hard for most university presidents to get away with truly truly gross and blatant greed. Ask Peter Diamondopoulous. No one tried harder than he.
This rule does not hold true for the University of Florida system, however. There, a university president can do just about anything and be rewarded for it. The current president of the Florida Institute of Technology, for instance, left his last university presidency in disgrace, but got another university presidency right away. Here’s his story, in the Miami Herald:
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Is this where I'll find the soul of Basra -- in the trauma inflicted on the city by Saddam Hussein?
Written July 1, 2005, in the blog In the Red Zone, by Steven Vincent, murdered yesterday in Basra.
(For Harrumph I and II, see this and this.)
Harrumph III is one of the many indignant responses, in the subsequent issue of Poetry, to the August Kleinzahler piece that UD reprinted in its entirety a couple of posts down.
H-III features the same rhetorical strategy that H-II used -- the “I’m far too busy doing important things to write this letter about trivial things” strategy. The downside of this strategy is obvious. If that’s true, why are you writing the letter?
Harrumph II and III are both written by creative writing instructors offended by criticism of MFA programs or of poets generally. H-II writes: "I'd call up all my friends who teach at other programs right now and ask them if they have ever told a student writer [to write in a way a New York Times critic of MFA programs complains about] — or if they were ever told such a thing when they were students — but I'm too busy today reading my students' M.F.A. theses.”
I’m too busy! I’ve got important work to do! My important work is exhausting me! Just … shut up!
Rita Dove, angry at Kleinzahler, Garrison Keillor, and Dana Gioia for being racists -- all three men hang a “scarcely veiled reserved for whites sign” over their writing, Keillor because he doesn’t include enough minority poets in his anthology, and the other two because they don’t notice Keillor’s lack of inclusivity -- writes:
As I get older … my patience wears thinner; I've grown weary of having to point out what should be obvious to anyone with sense and sensibility. I resent the complacent, singleminded arrogance of myopic "men of letters," whose curious brand of good will perpetuates racist selectivity. I resent their transparent, self-serving attacks on concepts such as multiculturalism and feminism that have propelled our society towards a truer democracy. I resent the presumption that their majority in numbers absolves them from paying attention to fair representation, leaving it up to those who have been "marginalized" to take note, tally the figures, and mount the protest. …Well, my mama didn't raise a bean counter. I have better things to do — like trying to sit down and write a good poem, for example.
Promising News for UD…|
…whose disordered house has stacks of flawlessly completed Sunday New York Times crosswords and acrostics all over the place:
[A] three-decade-long study published in 2003 in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined 678 Catholic nuns, ages 75 to 107. Researchers found that those who regularly engaged in games and crosswords were more likely to remain mentally alert until death. Nuns who performed more menial tasks, such as housekeeping or kitchen work, did not tend to live as long.
Or do you have to be a Catholic nun for this to work?
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
OH WHAT THE HELL.|
KICK BACK AND ENJOY
THE WHOLE THING.
[In Poetry ]
On Garrison Keillor's Good Poems:
(Read more about August Kleinzahler in today's New York Times.)
From today's Boston Globe:
Economics Professor Set to Pay for Manure
UD cannot help thinking how much fun a trial would have been. She finds herself bitterly echoing the statement of the District Attorney: "If he shouldn't be held accountable, either by exercising his right to a trial or admitting to what he did, then who should be held accountable?"
Exactly. Was this an act of God? The devil? Nature, in its awesome mystery?
No. Professor Weitzman and Professor Weitzman alone bears responsibility for his actions, and should have been held accountable for them.
UD also believes that putting a judge on this case who is himself “fond” of manure was a travesty. Is there no judge in the state of Massachusetts at least neutral on the subject of shit?
Monday, August 01, 2005
UPDATE: Syllabum Omnium|
UD’s posts on the Syllabum Omnium have attracted a good bit of attention in the blogosphere, and now there's something to add, an intriguing development that suggests there’s nothing really new in the tendency of professors to bulk up their syllabi.
A church historian working in the Vatican library has uncovered what he claims is an early invocation to the Syllabum Omnium. “It looks as though medieval instructors appended this little prayer to their syllabi,” Fr. Stephen Fratelli, who found the verse scrawled in the corner of an illuminated manuscript, comments in an interview in the Vatican newspaper.
Here is the prayer, along with a rough translation:
Syllabum Omnium, o melle dulcius,
Syllabum Omnium, sweeter than honey,
UD finds it extremely charming, and invites all authors of Syllabi Omnii to add it to their syllabi.
SECRET OF HIS SUCCESS|
From this month's New Yorker:
As George W. Bush has learned, Harry Reid [of Nevada, the Senate Minority Leader] does not ignore slights. “I believe in vengeance,” he once told a reporter. In May, he began a commencement address at George Washington University Law School by saying that the last time he had set foot on the campus was January, 1964 — the year he graduated from the school. “I’ve been holding a grudge,” he said.