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





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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hoax Norwegian Style
There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute


WENDLER PROPOSES
MASSIVE FEE INCREASE


Zack Quaintance
Daily Egyptian
Southern Illinois University


Chancellor Walter Wendler revealed significant details about "Saluki Way" Monday night, including the construction plan's start date and a resulting $256 in student fee increases during the next four years.

Administrators originally expected alumni gifts to pay for the bulk of "Saluki Way," a nearly $500 million, 12-year construction plan to overhaul the east side of campus. Wendler told student group representatives at a meeting in the Student Center that fees would pay for 75 percent and donors would account for the rest.

The athletic fee sits at $113, but would increase $44 per semester every fall for four years under Wendler's proposal. The chancellor noted that even with the increase, SIUC would remain consistent with its peer institutions.

By comparison, the University of Illinois at Chicago charges students a $414.60 athletic fee per semester, and Eastern Illinois University charges $174.05. The proposed increase wedges SIUC between the two with $289 eventually being charged per semester in fall 2009.

Wendler proposed the athletic fee increase because "Saluki Way's" first phase includes building a new football field just south of McAndrew Stadium and renovating the SIU Arena. The chancellor said improving athletic facilities is critical.

"We have the distinction at Southern Illinois University Carbondale of having the worst athletic facilities in two conferences," Wendler said, referring to the football team's Gateway Conference and the Missouri Valley Conference in which other sports programs play.

Wendler also stressed the importance of improving non-athletic facilities. While "Saluki Way" originally called for an academic building in phase one of construction, the chancellor said conversations with SIU President Glenn Poshard changed that.

The first non-athletic building will now be a replacement for Woody Hall, the more than 50-year-old building that houses many administrative offices. Wendler dubbed the new structure the Academic Support Services Building, and he said Woody Hall's current offices, which include financial aid and the Bursar, would move there.

New and prospective students would no longer trudge between the Student Center and Woody Hall to prepare for school, he said. Instead, visitors could do all their business in a modern building located where McAndrew Stadium currently stands.

"Everything a student would need to do to get ready for school would be right at the front door," the chancellor said.

The Academic Support Services Building necessitates a fee increase as well, Wendler said. Replacing Woody Hall stands to cost students a $20 per semester fee increase every four years as well, increasing the plan's related hikes to $256 over the next four years.

"It's a fairly substantial increase in fees, but you know it's coming," Wendler said. "That's part of the deal."

Wendler said paying the new fees should be seen as an investment in the value of an SIUC degree. The chancellor compared degrees to stock certificates, saying the value goes up when the University improves.

"I think, personally, this will have a big time positive impact on the University and because you hold stock in it, a big time positive impact on you," he said.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Belated Mozart’s Birthday Post

I’m an amateur singer, and an amateurish pianist. I play and sing for a couple of hours every day at the cheap Waldorf spinnet my father bought sixty years ago. I got it when he died.

I’ve been at this solitary routine for years, and have evolved some traditions. One of them is that when anyone I know and/or admire dies, I hold a private -- one person -- memorial service in their honor. This service always features the same piece of music: Mozart’s Requiem.

“The Requiem’s always in style,” has become a mantra of mine, because after all someone’s always dying, always in need of memorialization, and you can’t do better than the Requiem. The Anglican Prayer for the Dead is a drag. Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess is pretty but wordless. Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony Number Three, which enjoyed a short vogue about a decade ago, is in Polish. Purcell’s Thou Knowest, Lord is great but brief.

The Requiem’s got it all. When you’ve played and sung your way from Kyrie to Agnus Dei, you’ve gone the distance. You’ve made the gesture. You’ve done the deed.



The Requiem is written for four voice parts. I usually play the alto line and sing the soprano, though if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll sing soprano and play the bottom instrumental part. Often I jump from one voice to another. I like the ominous tenor solo, for instance, at the beginning of Tuba Mirum, so I sing that, and then, as it enters, I pick up the alto, which I then drop at the entrance of the soprano, my voice in this way taking a pleasant trip to higher and higher registers.

I’m drawn to another tuneful solo as well -- the happy, gentle alto introduction to Benedictus, which gives way nicely to a soprano solo, and then bursts into very intense four-part harmony to produce a sustained sound of great sweetness and beauty.


The two most recent honorees at my Mozart memorial service were a judge and a professor. For a few years, when my husband and I lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, Steffen Graae, a DC Superior Court judge, lived next door. Steffen’s the person who put the DC Housing Authority in receivership -- a brave thing to do -- and turned it around. He was a kind, smart, much-esteemed man who died in his sixties of heart failure.

Judge Graae’s official memorial service was big and formal, with many robed judges and political eminences. His small unofficial service, attended by my Chocolate Lab, was heavy on the Requiem’s Lachrymosa section, which is hard to sing because you have to creep slowly up to an A. As I sang this lamentation, images of Steffen on his deck in the early evening, smoking a cigar and looking at his little city garden, came back to me.



I barely knew my latest honoree, the political scientist Michael Wallerstein. He and my husband went to graduate school together at the University of Chicago, both of them interested in the field within political science known as rational choice. I was a grad student at Chicago at the same time, and my husband insists I must have met Wallerstein, but I don’t remember.

My Mozart memorial service in any case is for the known and the unknown. I never knew Washington Post writer Marjorie Williams, whose antic spirit prompted one of my best renditions of the deedledee deedledee Domine Jesu; nor did I know the essayist and AIDS activist Paul Monette, for whom the explosive and then meditative Confutatis seemed right. For whatever reason, the purely sad strains of Recordare marked the high point of Wallerstein’s ceremony the other day.

It was a weirdly windy day, a day of high gusts and the fast sky they made. The world’s vibrancy was at a peak. The wind sang.

The paradox of the Requiem -- the stupendous vitality it draws from its morbid subject -- came through strongly, as did the contrast between my continued existence in this realm and whatever quietness Wallerstein is in.
WENDY WASSERSTEIN,

a funny playwright who often wrote against the grain, has died, age 55.

The New York Times obituary.
UD Blogs
the Knight Commission
Summit at GWU


I

It all starts on the Metro, like so many of UD's ventures. This is the first time she's written on her new Averatec laptop while on a moving object (unless you count Earth). It's a weirdly beautiful Monday morning, very foggy, sunbeams angling down everywhere. Irish.

By the time she gets to GW and the Knight Commission meeting, the fog will have lifted, and the sun will be center stage. She'll walk quickly past Square 54, the still-empty block where the GW Hospital used to be. She'll feel awkwardly bureaucratic, clutching the black briefcase (UD doesn't do briefcases) in which her Averatec lurks. But she has decided to try live-blogging this conference on university athletics.

What does she expect? Franchement, she expects extremely well-groomed people speaking in platitudes. She believes virtually every aspect of current mid- to big-time university athletics to be indefensible, and she expects the well-meaning people in the room to dance around that possibility in a pleasant, concerned, vacuous way.

But for the moment she's on the Metro. Dupont Circle directly to your right.

II

Here we are. I've arrived a bit late, in the middle of a jargon-laden, simpleminded Powerpoint presentation: Student Athlete: Privilege, Burden, or Both? "A lot of people assume that athletes are only at the university because they can play the game. This is not based on reality." Um, yes, in many cases it is. She's a sociologist and has much to say about socialization and shit. Definitely a platitude person: "All of our leaders need to work together."

Next guy at least tells me about what sounds like an interesting site: badjocks.com. But then he Blames Society. See prior platitudes. I like some of his language: refers to some athletes' "rants and asinine behavior." Their favorite party games: CEO's and Office Ho's. Pro Athletes and Trophy Wives. But then he gets all weepy and dumb: "We expect these guys to be above reproach." No we don't. We expect much much less than that.

Next, a University of Florida player talks about how his coach has a very effective exercise he does with the football team. "He makes us close our eyes and imagine the most important woman in our lives." (Hint: It's Mom.) "Then he tells us to imagine she's being beaten in front of us. And imagine ourselves just standing there doing nothing." This does sound powerful, but to what end? So you beat the shit out of the guy...

Members of the Commission now respond: "It's about the university president. It starts from the top." (What happened to the "larger culture" argument?) Good ol' Hodding Carter's on the Commission, and UD is temporarily distracted by her effort to remember ... oh yeah, now she remembers... a smutty little Carter-era joke involving Hodding Carter and the wife of the president, both of whom blow a little dope in the White House... but onward: It's all just more platitudes: "We don't have enough dialogues...all universities should have mandatory life skills courses for all students, not just athletes... these guys need to learn what it means to be a man..."

III

After a ten minute break, we're on to the next panel. I'm now sitting on the edges of the event, plugged in to an outlet along the wall. I'm feeling forgiving, since after all the subject of the first panel was vague stuff -- values, morals, ethics, good, evil.

The President of SMU presides.

Everyone seems to be southern.

"Life," he intones, "has gotten more complex... websites follow high school recruiting... influence of coaches on decisions of young men and women... influence of shoe companies and others in the commercial world."

Some high school kid and his parents - he's about to go to Florida State University...recruitment began in his sophomore year... a very articulate confident guy, very smart... "My junior year started and I had about three or four coaches in my school every day...from all sorts of universities... summer of my senior year...overwhelming, the amount of phone calls I received. It's a lot of pressure. It got to a point where I couldn't take much more of it. I got a text message from Governor Jeb Bush."

UD found the next guy, a local high school student heavily recruited, very moving: "I wasn't very good at school. Sports was the only thing I ever wanted. Just wanted to be the best at everything. But I need to find something other than basketball that's going to make me happy and successful. These big summer camps: I'm a momma's boy. I'm alone at this basketball camp... These guys are big. But it's basketball and I just want to compete and play. I'm competitive... I've never seen so many coaches in my life... When you get exposure a lot of guys just come shooting at you. You don't know who's real and who's fake. There's three hundred colleges."

High school coach: "The influence of money has become tremendous... I've seen people offered ten, fifteen thousand dollars to play on high school - forget college - teams... Recruitment coaches are not responsible to anyone... Because of this unsanctioned thing, it allows all kinds of corruption... They take them to Las Vegas, give them prostitutes and drugs... I think it's easy for a kid to become corrupted... I know guys who've changed high school five, six times..."

A sports journalist: "Jerry Tarkanian said nine out of ten major college teams break the rules. The tenth one's in last place." He reviews statistics that make it sound as though virtually every school is corrupt. "The rules are not being followed... boosters, sports agents, corporate shoe guys... Summer basketball coach is the new point person for those three groups.. Heavy recruitment of eleven-year-old kids who can play happens because they are very valuable. It is extremely lucrative to run a summer basketball team... There is a ton of money in this. Fly by night storefront schools that can get you your transcript. They're a joke. This is what the system has created. I don't think the NCAA is interested in tackling this issue...The people who are breaking the rules are writing the rules; they're sitting on NCAA committees. The cheaters are running the show. The University of Georgia is an influential institution, for instance, that is corrupt to its very core."

All eyes swing around to the President of the University of Georgia, sitting with the Commission on the other side of the table. He blushes. Or does he just have a florid face?

One way you know this is an athletic gathering. No one gets out of their seat and sidles over to the aisle. They just jump.

Commission has definitely taken offense at this temporary eruption of the truth. "It does us no good," says one of them, "to be so accusatory... using older violations and making pretty stark statements without looking at balance... Look, you say there's been all these violations. Well, that's right! Somebody's catching these guys! [This guy - a college athlete himself back when - forgot to take intro logic.] You can attack Nike all you want but ... we've got a dialogue going... something positive came out of that...There are moves in place right now... Some of your writings [speaking directly to the sports journalist now] are about as balanced as Fox News..."

And now a word from the University of Georgia president. What the hell can he say? Sports at his school is - UD knows - she's followed it - rancid. "I want to take a couple of minutes to be defensive. This writer is welcome to his opinion. But I think we don't want to paint with too broad a brush. I've got the scars to show for changing some of the things we're talking about. When you've got 10,000 employees some of this stuff is going to happen... We're the ones in there pitching... We can either curse the darkness [I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP] or get involved in trying to make improvements..."

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

David Epstein at Inside Higher Ed covers the same event.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

UH...

Here’s the first serious effort I’ve seen to respond to Hawaii’s fourth-from-the-bottom finish in the recent study of how well public universities use public funds. It’s from the interim president of the UH system - though, among his many explanations for the university’s bad showing, he nowhere points to what his own interim status suggests -- that, among UH’s other problems, there’s what one correspondent of UD’s, who teaches in the system, calls a “horrific leadership turnover.”

The interim president first suggests that the study seriously underestimates the cost of living in Hawaii, which skews all the rest of its numbers. There’s probably some truth to this, but I’m not sure adjusting these numbers would have changed the outcome much. The writer also mentions “the high fixed costs of providing education at a number of small sites distributed around a state to serve a geographically dispersed population. Only three of our 10 campuses (Manoa, Leeward and Kapiolani) have more than the 5,000 students needed to fully realize the available economies of scale.” Again, even accounting for this in the study probably wouldn’t have brought UH up much higher on the list of states.

UD found this concluding comment disheartening:

It also might be that UH should have been more aggressive in eliminating programs and increasing support services to students to improve retention and ultimately, graduation rates. We were so committed to access to higher education and to providing a wide range of programs so that students wouldn't have to go to the mainland to pursue a specialty, that we neglected to pay enough attention to success in higher education. Clearly, while students need access to post-secondary education and training, they also need to succeed in attaining the credentials demanded in the workplace.


This seems a wordy way of saying that until now the UH system has just provided “access” to itself without worrying much about what’s taught and learned. Yikes.
Note to Readers

A poem of UD's (well, its authorship is somewhat shared) will appear tomorrow at Inside Higher Education.


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

The thing itself.
The Mumford Letter

Exciting events around here last night. Mr UD came home from a used bookstore with a 1956 hardback edition of Lewis Mumford’s The Transformations of Man. He came home with a bunch of other books too.

We already have the Mumford, in a later paperback edition. And our little house groans under the bulk of our books.

So UD was berating the man a bit for hauling more bound material into the house. Then, as Mr UD thumbed through the Mumford, a letter slipped out of its pages.

It was in longhand, on good stationery, with


LEWIS MUMFORD : AMENIA : NEW YORK


in stylish black print across the top.


…What a pleasure it was to get your letter, dear Alice ---




















it began (click on the letter for a nice big readable image), and Mumford’s strong hand covered the front and back of the sheet. There was personal stuff, political stuff, a mention of his upcoming trip to Europe, a complaint that his publisher hadn’t published but “buried” the book, and this:

I think that it is my best book: or at least the best brief summation of all my books. If necessary it might stand as my last will and testament.


Mumford, who went on to live almost forty more years and write many more books, has long been one of UD’s heroes - a great prose stylist, self-educated, passionate about many things, intellectually ambitious. Politically and spiritually engaged. To find his own self in one of his books!

And in a book he sent to Alice Decker, an old lover… For a little sleuthing turned up the identity of the recipient, details of Mumford’s messy sex life, and more…

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

Universities have never had much use for Mumford, by the way:

"In light of his sins against pedantry and obscurity, it comes as no surprise that Mumford's name is almost never heard on American university campuses, except, perhaps, in the architecture and urban studies departments. The fact remains that Mumford was a greater sociologist than most of his contemporaries; who now reads Pitirim Sorokin or Talcott Parsons? And a page of history from Mumford is worth any number of tomes by today's Marxist, structuralist, post-structuralist, or race-and-gender theorists."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Not the sort of thing
that happens at GW.




'According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police report, a black steer escaped from UNL’s Animal Science Complex on East Campus around 7 a.m.

Calls poured in about the animal as it crossed Cornhusker Highway and made its way to 56th and Superior streets.

Don Beermann, head of the Animal Science Department, said the 1,400-pound steer, valued at approximately $1,400, was one of five animals brought to campus from UNL’s feedlot research facility by Mead for use in an introductory-level animal science class.

“The animal would have been here for today’s class, then processed,” Beermann said. “The carcasses from those animals will be evaluated in class next week.”

However, before it had a chance to be slaughtered, the steer was shot and killed.



The animal was being loaded off a livestock trailer when it pushed through an unlocked gate, making its escape, Beermann said.

Lincoln and university police, as well as several students, tried to contain the animal for about two hours before police decided to shoot it after it bucked one student, pinned another against a cruiser and broke a cruiser’s taillight, according to the police report. Police were also concerned the large animal might crash into an oncoming vehicle.

The steer was shot and killed off campus, on 33rd Street between Gladstone and Superior, the report said.

“Any livestock of that size physically could cause injury to a person (if) they couldn’t escape its path of movement,” Beermann said.

Beermann said he was not aware of any damage to campus facilities or equipment as a result of the incident.



While it was the first time Beermann recalled an animal being shot, it was not the first time one had escaped from East Campus.

Last fall, a young heifer walked through a feed bunk at the complex and managed to escape through open gates, Beermann said. However, in that incident, students were able to locate the animal, restrain it and lead it back to the complex with a halter.'
As of yesterday...


they had one of his columns up, but you’ve got to figure that Fox News will want to do what the CATO Institute has apparently already done: make Steven Milloy a non-person. Go looking for him on CATO’s site and you’ll find a Page Not Found. He’s been dumped in the same dumpster Doug Bandow’s in.

UD hopes that as the mountains of discarded corporate shills pile up for these organizations, they dispose of them in an environmentally sound way.
Why American Philosophy
Will Always Be Out in Front



[Saul] Kripke looks the way a philosopher ought to look: pink-faced, white-bearded, rumpled, squinty. He carries his books and papers in a plastic shopping bag from Filene's Basement.


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

[Bernard-Henri Lévy] and his glamorous wife, the indomitably pouty actress Arielle Dombasle, are the gossip columns' favourite couple. His clothes (open-necked white shirts and designer suits), his friends (Yves Saint Laurent, Alain Delon, Salman Rushdie), his homes (the flat in Saint Germain, a hideaway in the South of France, an eighteenth-century palace in Marrakech that used to belong to John Paul Getty) are endlessly commented on.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sequential Sex
With Drunk People


From News Channel 9, Chattanooga:

12 female professors [at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga have] proposed [a] resolution to ban group sex. The initiator of this resolution say[s] the practice has corroded the culture to an epidemic status.

…Anthropology professor Lyn Miles describes group sex as an epidemic. She says every year two to three female students, usually freshmen, come to her with the same story. They were drunk.

She and about 11 other professors drafted a resolution to condemn any form of inappropriate sexual behavior, including sequential sex with drunk people…
University of Chicago Professor
Impoverished, Just Scraping By


From BusinessWeek:

By increasing references to religious concepts in scientific journals and by moving religion into public discussion at universities, [John] Templeton [of the wealthy Templeton Foundation] has made it easier for closeted believers within the elite halls of the Ivy League to form communities. Martin A. Nowak directs the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, where he spends his time trying to figure out why people have evolved to help each other if evolution simultaneously fosters competition. Nowak is also a practicing Roman Catholic, a fact he has kept quiet at Harvard until recently. He says the climate is changing on his campus. "As a scientist who believes, you feel you are completely in the minority and you should never talk about it," says Nowak, who recently became an adviser to the Templeton Foundation. "It's nice to meet people with whom you can talk about a more complete perspective of the world."

Critics worry that Templeton is buying the support of scientists who are desperate to win research dollars. Sean Carroll is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Chicago. An outspoken atheist, he recently declined an invitation to present at a Templeton conference at the University of California at Berkeley. He says that because funding for quantum mechanics is hard to get, some of his colleagues are willing to take Templeton's research grants even if they don't support his beliefs. The Templeton folks make it tempting, he says, because unlike other academic conferences, Templeton's confabs pay presenters. Carroll says he would have received $2,000 to speak at the conference, a similar sum if he published his talk in their anthology, and a chance at a $10,000 prize for scientists under 40. For an impoverished academic trying to scrape by, that's alluring. Says Carroll: "That's money I could have used to, say, buy a car!"
Excellent exchange about...

the lack of viewpoint diversity in American law schools, in Legal Affairs.

--via butterflies and wheels--
Complacencies of the Memoir

From Newsday:

Charlotte Abbott covers the industry for Publishers Weekly: "The reaction I've been getting over the last few days is 'plus ça change,'" she says of her conversations with publishing insiders. "'There's a long list of memoirists that turn out to be fabulists, and that's the risk we take. It'll blow over.' I've heard that from old-timers who've been around for 25 years and over the long-term haven't seen things change."

But Abbott is quick to point out that the Internet has ushered in an "age of transparency," where anyone with a modem can set himself up as an amateur fact-checker. Though practices vary from house to house, most books undergo a legal review - to address libel concerns - but not a comprehensive check for accuracy. Lorin Stein, an editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, describes an editorial process that probably sounds familiar to most of his colleagues: "If it sounds like a tall tale, you write in the margin, 'Really?'" After that, it's up to the author to respond.

"It remains to be seen if the complacency of the industry will be shaken," Abbott says. "If the beat moves on, this just becomes an academic essay topic."


*******************************************
"I don't think it's so terrible," says [Vivian] Gornick, referring to Frey. "After all, he has compelled all these people to come along with him."

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

' I recently finished a Masters in Fine Arts degree in Creative Nonfiction, and those of us who graduated in the class of 2005 remember our very own Oprah/James Frey moment, only the players happened to be Vivian Gornick and a bunch of MFA students, about half of whom were journalists, half memoirists. The story is detailed here in Salon, by Terry Greene Sterling, a classmate who just happened to have a connection with Salon and sold them a story the very next day. You can find the story recapped in yesterday's New York Newsday. The scene goes like this:

Gornick is giving a riveting, thoughful lecture. She's obviously taken the time to prepare for what is a very well read and engaged audience. She also reads several passages from her book, Fierce Attachments. Gornick winds up and opens the floor for questions, at which point a student asks, I believe, if I remember this correctly (and that's the thing about memory), how she remembered all that dialogue from when she was a teenager. At which point, Gornick began telling us of all the embellishments, and even made up scenes. I was, to say the least, feeling betrayed. I had loved the book. I had loved it because it had certain "truth is stranger than fiction" moments. There were plenty others who felt the same, including professor Walt Harrington, who was a former Washington Post reporter, and Tom French, who still works at the St. Petersburgh Times and has one Pulitzer under his belt. The students and Harrington went after Gornick, and I can only compare it to Frey's confessional today on Oprah--it was too painful to watch, made everyone in the room (and there were 50 of us) squirm or made us angry, or both. I relived it today watching the first five minutes of Oprah.

The Gornick incident, as it has come to be known, tainted our class and our two years of grad school with a near perpetual discussion of "what is truth?" Is it emotional truth? Actual truth? And whose truth is it? '


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

Non-Complacencies of the Memoir



'So the question arises: How did he get away with it? It is true, as was pointed out on "Oprah," that fact checking at book publishers is close to non-existent. But Frey devised one whopper after another and, for a long time, either escaped detection or was able to swat away those crying foul. Sitting in a TV studio and watching him slowly concede some of his lies under Oprah’s third degree -- I'm not convinced he has yet fessed up to all of them -- was alternately excruciating and satisfying but hardly fun. The issues raised by this episode, both in book publishing and the culture at large, are big ones and they are not going to go away.'


Frank Rich, NYTimes

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oh Lord. Now that pretend Indian guy...

is out in front of the hoaxers pack (scroll down to Frauds Perpetrated in Abundance).

There's a new entrant bringing up the rear, though - the Running With Scissors guy. UD remembers that when it was first published a lot of people said it was full of crap. The Book Standard, in an article about the Scissors guy, refers to the "Frey-Leroy-Nasdijj minefield." Which the Scissors guy is currently racing along too, in other words.
It’s still all about emoting…

for Ms. Winfrey. It makes her just as implausible and manipulative a character as Frey, against whom she has now turned. But why not repudiate him coldly, given the self-control we know she has? Instead she draws upon her acting skills and does all women a disservice with her pseudo-sobbing: “[A]lternately fighting back tears and displaying vivid anger, [Winfrey] berated Mr. Frey for duping her and her audience.” Balls.

On the other hand, UD understands Frey playing the psychobabble card. “Mr. Frey said he had made up many of the details of his life and had created a bad-guy portrayal of himself as a ‘coping mechanism.’” It’s the only card he’s got left.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A student writes in the Washington University newspaper:



[D]espite the vast interest in, passion for, and intelligence about sports that so many of us possess, "Sports, Media, and Society" is one of the sole sports-related courses offered at Wash. U.

…I guess what I'm proposing is that sports and sports-related subject matter be treated with more respect and more sincerity. Too often, students who choose to write about or research certain concepts or issues associated with sports are not taken seriously. Too often, professors forget that one of the most strenuous, time-consuming assignments of the semester is due the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday.

Do they ever consider how they would feel with a pile of papers to grade that weekend? And besides, the Super Bowl is in and of itself an inter-disciplinary, educational experience. …

[I] don't believe that I, or any other Wash U student, would invest so much time, effort and interest into something that isn't educational or inspiring.





What UD finds intriguing about this woman’s argument is her belief that because she spends so much time thinking about it and doing it, sport should be a featured academic topic. When university faculty ponder the content of their curriculum, they do not ask “What do most of our students spend most of their time doing?” If they did, their courses would be Sex, Movies, Alcohol, Instant Messaging, and what The Onion calls “Television Viewing Skills.”

As to sports being “educational,” well… Everything’s educational, you know. I spent part of today learning how to sing South Park’s Christmas Poo Song with my daughter. I used my memorization skills, my singing skills (we worked out a harmony, so I used my harmonization as well as vocalization skills), my parenting skills (our fun togetherness bonded us as pals, not just Mother and Daughter), my computer skills (I found the lyrics, printed them out) and lots of other skills I don’t have time to list…
Um… okay…


The 18th varsity sport added at Baylor University recently jumped a major hurdle. Richard (BU '81, '82) and Karen (BU '85) Willis of Colleyville, Texas, have provided the lead gift for the Willis Family Equestrian Center.

…The Willises believe deeply in Baylor's mission, and their support stems from a desire to promote the image of Baylor across the nation.

"Athletics is what people think of when they think of a university," Richard said.
UD's trying to be even-handed...

...as she prepares to live-blog the Knight Commission meeting at GW next Monday, but she keeps reading opinion pieces like this, in yesterday's USA Today:



COLLEGE BASKETBALL
IS A FANTASY WORLD


By Robert Lipsyte

If you're a fanatic for fantasy, have I got a series for you. This one has it all: Like the Chronicles of Narnia, the good guys sometimes lose, but the message of Goodness shines through.

Like Harry Potter, the heroes are plucky kids with special powers, and just like His Dark Materials, it takes place in an alternate universe a lot like ours but different. Maybe you are already a fan of college basketball.

These are exciting tales, these hoops dramas, often televised live on school nights with thrilling action set to a throbbing background of hard rock, intrigue and danger. The grown-ups, called coaches and college presidents — like the teachers at Hogwarts — may or may not be acting in the hero's best interests. There is a powerful organization, like the Magisterium in His Dark Materials, that acts in mysterious ways, called the NCAA. And as on the other side of the wardrobe, you have to watch out for shadowy characters — here called agents, boosters and shoe sellers.

If you think I'm having a fantasy fit, you need reality therapy.

The American talent for self-deception and wishful credulousness is apparent in our acceptance of big-time college sports as fun and games for "student-athletes." No wonder we are easily distracted when we try to turn our attention to politics and war. We've been conditioned to believe in fairy tales.

This particular fairy tale, part of a multibillion dollar business, is based on the false assumption that Division I college basketball performers are engaged in an extra curricular activity, much like band or student government, for which they happen to get free educations. Furthermore, these young men (and more and more young women) play for the love of the game, although some may also be considered pre-professionals (like their classmates who are pre-law and pre-med majors) because they hope to make it to the NBA. Their presence on campus, we are told, creates a sense of community, brings in revenue and stimulates alumni contributions.

So what could be wrong?

For starters, more and more studies indicate that a team has to practically be a TV regular before it pays its way. The pursuit of star high school players, whether or not they can handle college courses, or even in some cases read and write, has been a corrupting influence on higher education. School spirit isn't helped when non-athletes discover that the perks, the gifts and the grades are available to jocks but not to them.

What I don't understand is how some people can get so exercised about the Christian sensibilities of C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales, the anti-religious propaganda of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass), and the celebration of wizardry and witchcraft in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books — yet they never get upset by the commercialism, the gambling and the exploitation in big-time college basketball.

Now that the Potter and Narnia books are movies, and the His Dark Materials books are moving into production, more people will be able to compare them with stories used to promote college basketball.

Potter, for example, is an orphan who escapes from a Dickensian childhood to become a star schoolboy athlete (in a hoop game called Quidditch). A disproportionate number of college basketball stars are poor African-Americans who, we are told, wouldn't get a chance to attend a prestigious university without their athletic scholarships.

The Narnia stories offer the most obvious symbols of good and evil because of their innate religiosity. And there's no question of the religious fervor in rooting for a college basketball team, including prayers, chants, bonfires and the satisfying understanding that our Saints, Spartans, Knights are good and your Blue Devils, Sun Devils and Red Dragons are evil.

His Dark Materials is my own favorite, perhaps because it is subversive. The books were inspired by the battle, in Milton's Paradise Lost, between the angelic bands loyal to God and to Satan. Pullman, an outspoken British atheist, has created groups of witches, armored bears and daring adventurers to fight the religious establishment, much as a few scattered organizations have stood up to the NCAA. The Drake Group agitates for quality education for college athletes and supports faculty threatened for defending academic standards. Katherine Redmond's National Coalition Against Violent Athletes has urged Congress to investigate the NCAA's non-profit status.

Meanwhile, the NCAA, basically a trade association of athletic departments, seems willing to catch flak as a kind of Tolkien evil empire so long as it can deflect news media attention from the systemic corruption of its members.

Since it helps to have a child's mind to enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books, they would be perfect for the high school hoopsters who have been jumping directly to the pros lately. Maybe the NBA could institute required reading along with its new dress code. Make their teen rookies read about elves, dwarfs, Muggles and Hobbits so they will understand the rest of us while they happily avoid the brutal fantasies of college basketball.
A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu


'The latest thump on the controversial best-seller "A Million Little Pieces" is a Seattle federal court lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of consumers for the "lost time" they spent reading the book.


...In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Seattle Attorney Mike Myers lists as plaintiffs two Seattle residents, Shera Paglinawan and Stuart Oswald, who each received or purchased the book "before news of the book's falsity was disseminated."

The suit, apparently the third of its kind to be filed across the nation, seeks class-action status against Frey and the publisher.

Myers distinguished his suit from actions filed in Illinois and California by saying only his seeks compensation on behalf of consumers for "the lost value of the readers' time."

Myers alleges several legal causes for the suit, including breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

A Random House spokesman said Tuesday the publisher had not yet been served with a copy of the Seattle complaint and would have no comment.

Meantime, a University of Washington law professor who reviewed the complaint said he thought its chances of success were "fairly slim."

Sean O'Connor, who teaches intellectual property and corporate securities law, said it appears that the plaintiffs were trying to force a "legal apology. ... They want Frey and Random House to say, 'This was wrong what we did.' "

O'Connor thought that angle "might get the most sympathy from a jury — if it gets in front of a jury."

But the professor was generally dismissive of other claims. For example, he maintained that the "unjust enrichment" claim would have problems since the publisher is willing to make refunds and in light of the fact that some booksellers also apparently have offered to do likewise.

O'Connor also foresaw difficulty calculating the "lost time" claim. He noted the value of time could differ widely among consumers, as well as the logistics of distinguishing between "slow versus fast readers." '
Edward Tufte,

distinguished analytical designer, spills the beans on honorary degrees.
Professionalizing Sports


Wonderful bit of extended irony about where American universities are headed, written by Michael Margolis back in 1998. Worth reading in full, especially his bit about sports:

When implementing these reforms, however, local universities still must use creative marketing to retain nearby customers who might otherwise shop for their courses over the Internet. Local universities have the comparative advantage of offering personal consultation at a lesser price than their competitors. They also have a comparative advantage in offering laboratory facilities and meeting rooms locally for courses that need them or for occasions when customers demand them.

Beyond that, local universities can offer their customers attractive resort facilities, such as low price memberships in campus entertainment centers, gymnasiums, swimming pools and health clubs. Some universities may even be able to piece together groups of faculty whose research, teaching or community expertise gains sufficient notoriety locally or through the Internet to induce customers to matriculate.

But the biggest local advantage can be found in the universities' athletic enterprises. Harvard may be known for its academic prowess, but how much mass media coverage does it get in prime time or on weekends? And how many pay to see its varsity football or basketball teams? By professionalizing their varsity athletics, many universities have been remarkably successful in fostering the loyalty of local supporters, not to mention increasing their proprietary sales of university clothing and paraphernalia. A smart marketing campaign can turn a significant number of these fans into clients and customers.


Thanks to PN/NJ.
UD received the following
textbook description from an
old friend/old student of hers.



“The book is aimed at composition teachers -- that's me next year. It's published by Bedford St. Martins, and called Open Questions. The book is composed of essay groups, each gathered under a particular 'big question,' which the essays then attempt to answer from different points of view. In any case, here is a link to the book's table of contents.

Scroll down to question number 5, read it, and then note the first essay in the group.”


When you scroll down, you find this subject heading and essay listing:

5. Is Honesty the Best Policy?
What Would You Do? A Case of Plagiarism
James Frey, "How Do You Think It Makes Your Mother Feel?"
Charming essay on plagiarism…

…along with news of a new journal dedicated to it (is there a journal dedicated to hoax?), from Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed.
Frauds Perpetrated in Abundance


Thanks, Ralph, for linking UD to the country’s latest - and most nauseating - literary scam.

If big bad bogus writer hoaxes haven’t yet totally exhausted you (UD herself looks forward to putting them aside for awhile as she live blogs the upcoming Knight Commission meeting at George Washington University -- the hoax of university sports being a far bigger story than a literary one could ever be), take a look at this long article in the LA Weekly about a pretend Native American who writes wretched prose about wrenching torments on reservations and gets awards and movie deals until he turns out to be a white nutter.

Probably. No one will ever physically find the guy. But I think you’ll agree that what we’re dealing with here is a white nutter.

He uses these impoverished characters, including his own persona, as a springboard to attack the dominant white culture, which has, apparently, spurned him. In the pantheon of self-appointed Native spokesmen, this puts him more in the company of contemporary gadfly Ward Churchill, who uses his dubious heritage as a soapbox for an airing of his political ideology and personal grievances.

The question that remains is how these frauds are perpetrated in such abundance. A writer, seemingly white in appearance and lacking anything resembling a verifiable personal history, turns in a manuscript filled with sage-like wisdom from an ancient and secretive people and no one bothers to check the facts? Houghton Mifflin’s Anton Mueller, presumably speaking for the publishing industry at large, has an answer: “As you know, we don’t fact-check books.”

…For some reason people lose their sense of discernment when it comes to Indians,” says activist and Indian Country Today columnist Suzan Shown-Harjo.

Harjo, who is Muscogee Creek and Cheyenne, has had her own battles outing those she believes to be Native American impostors. She challenged University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who gained notoriety last year when he referred to the victims of the 9/11 attacks as “little Eichmanns,” and who claims to be of Cherokee and Creek descent. Though he has no specialized training in the field, he rose through the university ranks to become chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, largely on the basis of his claimed heritage. Yet as Harjo and other journalists have pointed out, he is not an enrolled member of any federally recognized tribe. Likewise, genealogical research carried out by the Rocky Mountain News and several Native journalists could find no trace of Indian blood in Churchill’s family. Despite the insistence of both the Cherokee and Creek nations that Churchill is not one of them, Churchill maintains his position as a professor of ethnic studies and is frequently paid to lecture on Native and political issues around the country. In response to those who question his identity, he simply denies everything and calls his accusers “blood police.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Attention Students…

Faithful readers know that among all the descriptive course material issued to university students that UD has seen, this assignment was for a long time her favorite:


Do a deviant act or engage in some form of deviant behavior. The act or behavior must not violate the law (criminal or civil law, municipal ordinance, or vehicle code) and it must not violate University regulations. Failure to heed this warning will result in a F for the assignment and referral to the Deans Office and if warranted to the office of the prosecutor.



But it has now been overtaken in her affections by this course description:

Based on the work of Brazilian director, teacher and theorist Augusto Boal, this course will examine the place of the actor in effecting social change and the role of integrity in creating a vital contemporary theater. For our investigation we will focus on the treatment of female faculty members by the administration of Dartmouth College . Students will conduct research, keep research journals, write reports and create written skits and scenes theatricalizing their findings. Readings will include articles and chapters featuring historical examples of theater for social change, as well as current and on-going practices of Dartmouth College. Emphasis will be on class participation. This course is dependent on the outcome of current litigation.


It’s from a theater professor at Dartmouth who’s suing the college for the usual list of transgressions. I think a careful reader can detect a hint of discontent.
Ah Yes! I Remember It Well
















' Among the episodes she and the other former counselors have called into question are Mr. Frey's claims of being physically abused by other residents of the treatment center, of being left to sleep on the floor of a common room overnight after an altercation, of regularly vomiting blood and of having his nose rebroken and set by a doctor. "He describes a level of medical care that would not occur at Hazelden," Ms. Jay said. "He would have been taken to an emergency room, and any violent behavior would have been met with a discharge." '




“They broke my nose.”
“They rubbed your toes.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”

“I vomited blood.”
“You made pies out of mud.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”

“I suffered abuse.”
“You played Duck Duck Goose.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”

“I slept on the floor.”
“What a bore.”
“Ah yes. I remember it well.”

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why, UD often wonders,

do Americans always have to go through the process of doing the stupid thing and then correcting the stupid thing, when they could avoid the stupid thing in the first place?


Headline in today's Chicago Trib:

MORE UNDERGRADS PLAYING HOOKY
WHEN CLASS NOTES GO ONLINE.
SOME PROFS PULLING MATERIALS
FROM THE WEB.


'"Too much online instruction is a bad thing," said Terre Allen, a communication studies scholar and director of a center that provides teaching advice to professors at California State University Long Beach.

This last term, Allen experimented with posting extensive lecture notes online for her undergraduate course, Language and Behavior. One goal was to relieve students of the burden of furiously scribbling notes, freeing them to focus on the lectures' substance.

Yet the result, Allen said, was that only about one-third of her 154 students showed up for most of the lectures. In the past, when Allen put less material online, 60 to 70 percent of students typically would attend.

This term, Allen won't put her lecture notes online.'
THIS WEEK ON JERRY:
BILLIONAIRE BIMBOS

They've got all the money you've ever dreamed of! But they're still semi-literate! Join us as we ask why!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Clever Lad
At UD's Alma Mater
Gets It


Mike Platt
The Daily Northwestern

(Sure, his writing ain't perfect. I forgive him.)


'According to a recent Newsweek article, professors at several prominent Universities have implemented the technology called “course-casting.” Similar to Apple Podcasting, professors at Duke, Stanford, Drexel and American University have begun recording their lectures in mp3 format and making them available for students to download over the Internet and potentially listen to on their iPods. At long last, you can now listen to a lecture on the Cuban missile crisis in between “My Humps” and Ashlee Simpson’s latest faux-introspective crapfest.

Of course, as with every other time a professor adapts to the changing technological landscape, the college student will inevitably ask his or herself, “How can I use this to be more lazy?” Because students can download and listen to lectures anytime they choose, the need to attend class becomes less and less. Although course-casting at first might seem like an alternative for attending egregiously bad classes, its implementation ultimately would be counter-productive. It would stand to reason that the professors who are savvy enough to utilize course-casting are likely to be the most popular with students. Thus, course-casting would lessen the appeal of the well-taught and intriguing classes, instead of serving as a substitute for poorly taught ones.

Take Microsoft PowerPoint for example. The presentation software has allowed professors to easily integrate text, graphics, sound and video into their lectures. But let’s face it, when you see a professor load up a PowerPoint presentation, your brain half shuts-off. Moreover, when a professor doesn’t use PowerPoint or some other reproducible visual aid, shrieks of terror, cries of anguish and wails of “There is no God!” rattle the walls of the classroom.

Now imagine what would happen if we adopted course-casting. Of course, there would still be that tool who sits in the front row asking if the upcoming exam will be as easy as the old midterms posted on Blackboard. But behind him/her/it, there would be rows of empty chairs peppered with a few students nearly approaching their REM cycle.

It would be cliché to use the “blame society” cop-out, but few could argue that is what’s happening. TV shows on DVD, Internet video, podcasting and TiVo have eliminated the need to listen to or watch anything when it actually happens. But in the case of television, movies and music, we’re not missing anything by watching it later. The same cannot be said for academia. The best professors I’ve had are the ones who engage students and facilitate interesting discussion during class time. Sadly, course-casting would trivialize such intangibles that some professors bring to their classes.

As a result, technology is unfairly forcing professors down two roads. One, either eliminate class lectures completely and make all of the necessary information available online or go back to a third-grade style attendance policy of assigned seats and role-call.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying $40,000 a year for either.'
I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are
And you make it hard- And you make it hard -



Whenever, as a teenager, UD sang these lyrics from Crosby Stills Nash and Young’s song Judy Blue Eyes, her father looked at her kind of funny and grinned. She didn’t know about the double entendre until a few years later.



Far as UD can tell, the nation’s latest naughty professor story involves some fool at the Naval Academy - a lecturer in oceanography, excessively keen on watergoing craft - who, while gazing at battleships with a bunch of other people, said something like big boats give me a hard-on. Then he turned to some women in uniform and said something like do they give you a hard-on?



Depending on the kind of guy who said it, and the way he said it, UD could see laughing at this remark. But then she thought Anchorman was a way funny movie. Not to mention Dr. Strangelove.

In any case, the legal stuff that’s now happening to the guy is ridiculous and depressing.
Enormous Bullshit at the Last Minute

UD has always liked the title of a collection of Grace Paley short stories, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.

She thought of it - slightly altered - when she read Susan Estrich’s opinion piece about the Bruin Alumni Association, a rapidly dwindling group that proposed paying UCLA students to record naughty radical lecture content.

The proposal was idiotic and the group will soon disappear, but into these its last days rushes Estrich, all rage and rhetoric:


It is one of the worst ideas to hit academia: paying students to tape their professors, in the hopes of discouraging their expression of views that one side considers to be “radical.” Most alumni associations aim to improve their alma maters. But the Bruin Alumni Association -- an unofficial group, not to be confused with the official UCLA Alumni Association -- seems determined to do just the opposite. If it has its way, the classroom will no longer be a place where students and faculty can discuss ideas freely. Shame on them.


Shame on them. Have they no decency?

If they have their way, intellectual freedom as we know it will be at an end.

It is one of the worst ideas…

...hm, yes, it is by all accounts, including those of much of its membership, which has now resigned, one of the worst ideas. So how hard is it hitting academia? About as hard as my goose down featherbed hits my head when I lie on it.




UD
found a detail about how Estrich teaches intriguing. She seems to see the classroom as the functional equivalent of the psychoanalytical couch. One of her rules, she tells us, is that “Nothing said in the classroom leaves the classroom.”

What can this in fact mean? What sort of defender of academic freedom has a rule like this?
Strange doings…

…in Alaska, which scored a dismal last among states in effective use of public funds for state universities. Virtually no one at the university system has responded to the much-cited study.

What administrators have done instead is quickly announce the results of what sounds like a pretty dinky phone survey done last year that reveals profound contentment with the university system among Alaskans.

The State Senate has decided to look into things, as a retired professor notes:



Recently the Alaska State Senate announced that it would appoint a special panel to examine policies and directions of the University of Alaska. It apparently wants to know how the University spends its money and how this benefits the citizens of Alaska. I believe that such a committee has been needed for decades. Hopefully it will have enough clout to make recommendations independent of pressure and lobbying from University administrators and Board of Regents.

Perhaps some basic questions can be addressed and answered by this committee:

1. Could the committee provide a public listing and salaries for all University of Alaska administrators earning $100,000 or more per year? Students and citizens deserve easy access to this public information.

2. Why does the University need so many mid and high level administrators? What can be done to significantly reduce this number?

3. Who determines the salaries of these University managers? Should an outside panel set administrative salaries to reduce and contain these costs?


UD suspects that Alaska is too parochial and corrupt for anything to come of this oversight activity, however. She fears that the educational system is Alaska's real bridge to nowhere.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

He Slices
He Dices






















it was my assistant




'[The] University of Tokyo plans to make public this week a report indicating that Kazunari Taira, a professor of biochemistry engineering, fabricated a scientific paper on human enzyme experiments, sources said Saturday.

…[H]e stated that his research team had succeeded in having E. coli bacteria produce a human enzyme called Dicer -- so called as it dices RNA -- by implanting a Dicer gene in a plasmid.

If true, it would have been the first time that the gene had been successfully produced by E. coli bacteria.

…[T]his and 11 other scientific experiments involving Taira's team cannot be reproduced...

…Taira initially told the panel he did not have notes or samples for the experiment …He has denied any involvement, saying his assistant conducted both the original experiment and the reproduction.'
A Providential Turn,
Aesthetically


February is vagina month on campuses all over the United States, as Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues is performed in front of chanting undergraduate women.

The new president of Providence College, a Catholic and Dominican school, has forbidden its performance (an earlier president allowed it) because the play “is not appropriate for a school with our mission.”

In a letter to the campus community, the president says that although the play aims to be “a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery” it actually “simplifies and demystifies it by reducing it to the vagina.”

Hostile as she is to censorship, UD admits to a twinge of pleasure on aesthetic grounds.
Restraint of Trade

Rip-off for-profit colleges which take state aid money for aggressively recruited students, many of whom will almost certainly drop out, are getting serious scrutiny from at least one state. New York has just imposed a moratorium on approving any new “proprietary” schools.


'Commercial schools, which often advertise heavily, promising quick career training to poorly educated students, are booming around the country. Increasingly, they are drawing the attention of federal and state law enforcement officials.

...A recurring question is whether some schools are enrolling students who have little hope of graduating simply to capture the financial aid. In New York, their students drew $136 million in state tuition assistance grants in 2003-4 - 17 percent of the those grants - even though they accounted for about 7 percent of the undergraduates.'
FREESTYLE PROFFING


'A University of Prince Edward Island lecturer makes no excuses for offering students a 70 to not show up for his course. But the administration gives his deal a failing grade.

David Weale said he made the offer because the class is too big and some students aren't interested in being there.


About 20 – out of a class of nearly 100 – took him up on it, he said.

The course is in the history of Christianity.

Weale, a retired professor who came back as a sessional lecturer, said he originally offered students a 68 to go away. "But they negotiated with me and got it up to 70," he said before his class on Thursday night.

A 70 is a B-minus at UPEI.

…Weale had only one assignment for the dropouts: walk to the registrar's office and pay for the course.

The fee? "Over $400, close to $500," he said. "They're not doing something for nothing."

The university has vetoed the idea, however.

…"I enjoy his class," Philip MacIsaac said. "I think he's free to do what he wants to do, and I'd like to see more freestyle proffing, as such." '
See How Far You Can Get
With a Degree from a
Diploma Mill?




'In his time Robert Hyams has posed as one of the world's top microbiologists, claiming breakthroughs in the field of Aids and cancer. He has tricked banks, property agents and car companies out of fortunes.

But it was his pretence to be a millionaire art buyer that finally led to jail for the conman when he attempted to swindle the auctioneers Christie's out of more than £1m worth of French masterpieces.

Sentencing Hyams, who pleaded guilty to six counts of attempting to obtain property by deception and three related offences at Southwark crown court yesterday, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC described him as "a persistent, serious and sophisticated fraudster" who had led detectives on a "sorry dance."

The court heard how the attempted art fraud, which a repentant Hyams said had made him feel "dirty", began in February 2002 when the 51-year-old approached Christie's posing as a professor of bioscience and wealthy art collector. He convinced the auctioneers of his wealth with a forged bank reference, purportedly from the Union Bank of California, which suggested Hyams had £5m to spend.

Edmund Fowler, prosecuting, told the court how Hyams' claim to be a professor had been falsely corroborated by a certificate from the non-existent "University of Canterbury," which Hyams had purchased in the US for £200.'

Friday, January 20, 2006

Are You There God?
It’s Me, Margaret


has got to be the most cringe-inducing book title UD has ever encountered. To add insult to injury, it takes UD’s name in vain.

UD’s narcissism and mental retentiveness mean that she has never quite been able to brush this title out of her mind. It comes back to her, unbidden…

She thought of it today as she compared her amply-attended-to self to poor is-anyone-there Margaret. Not only, for instance, does UD’s blog have readers; it has responsive readers who send her well-chosen and wonderful things.



One of those things UD had already come across herself, and she'd been going back and forth on whether to post about it. As longtime readers know, UD avoids naughty professor stories. Professor A downloads child porn. Prof B steals from the department till. C sells cocaine down the lane. UD takes note of these things as they flash out over Google News, but unless there’s some weird twist to them she lets them go.

The professor prostitute story did detain her for awhile, however, as it did one of her readers, who rightly assumed she’d find it of interest. The Washington Post picked it up today from the Baltimore papers, and, given its titillating nature, other newspapers will almost certainly do the same. UD wouldn’t have mentioned it without nudging from her reader, because, again, when you take in the details of the case you end up with a sad human tale that has little to do with universities, really…

Still, it is curious, provocative, whatever, that a former professor of sociology at one of the University of Maryland campuses would end up fired from that job and self-employed as a prostitute in her suburban home. The woman was a strong feminist -- her research, which sounds legitimate enough, involved at-risk women and girls. Yet she falsified data, filed frivolous suits, got divorced, went bankrupt, and got canned.

The Post account includes some nice detail: “Most of Britton's neighbors declined to talk about her yesterday, saying only that she was a nice woman whose daughter visited from college occasionally. They also said she had two pet pigs.”

But really, there’s little here to distinguish the story from any number of other stories involving people whose lives spiral down and who get desperate… Her having been a professor, and the enormous perceived gap between being a professor and being a prostitute, has appealed to the media.



A second reader sent me a tale of another disgraced former professor, this story sufficiently complex to warrant a few paragraphs of quotation. It's from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (with, certes, occasional parenthetical comments from UD):

In the late 1980s, a history professor from Marquette University named John William Rooney walked into the French National Archives in Paris [Ah, I remember it well! Many moons ago, UD had a fellowship that sent her to Paris and that library.] and walked out with a copy of the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, a woven paper with red wax seals and a green silk cord through which Napoleon Bonaparte agreed to give up the French empire and accept exile.

The opportunity to steal a major piece of history, Rooney said, was too tempting to pass up.

"If you were to stand in front of the pyramids of Egypt, you might pick up a chip, too," he said last week during an interview in which he admitted stealing the document. [What a compelling analogy. How true.]

But the decision is continuing to haunt him more than 15 years later.

In 2002, a federal court in New York convicted Rooney of conspiracy to transport stolen property after his friend, Marshall Lawrence Pierce, put the treaty up for auction. Rooney was placed on probation and ordered to pay a fine. The American Embassy in France returned the document to the archives

Rooney thought that was the end of his legal trouble. But in November, a Paris court agreed to try him and Pierce on charges of receiving stolen goods. The case, which will be heard sometime this year, means that Rooney - now 74, retired and living in Wauwatosa - could be sentenced to up to three years in prison, according to the French newspaper Le Monde. [Prenez vos mouchoirs.]

"We are looking forward to seeing them punished for this major crime to our patrimony," a spokesman for the French Ministry of Culture said in an e-mail interview. Rooney, who was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery before doing graduate work at a Belgian university, he said.

He was hired by Marquette in 1971. A professor of 19th century history, Rooney made an impression on students and colleagues alike, said James Marten, chair of the university's history department.

"He was very flamboyant," Marten said. "He had a real following among some students."

During summer breaks, Rooney would travel to foreign countries to conduct research. Among his destinations was the French National Archives.

"I took out hundreds of documents from there, if not more," Rooney said. [Excellent preparation for your trial in France.]

Between 1987 and 1988, he checked out the Treaty of Fontainebleau and a cluster of letters from Louis XVIII of France, said the French Ministry of Culture. Rooney said he didn't think it was wrong to bring the documents back to the U.S.

"You could say the document got into the national archives because it had been stolen at some point before," he said of the 1814 treaty. "You could say that they stole it." [UD declares a tie here between cretinism and degeneracy.]

But the French National Archives didn't see it that way. In 1996, the archives received a phone call from Sotheby's in New York. Pierce had put the treaty up for sale through the auction house and inquired about selling the cluster of letters. Sotheby's wondered if the archives were interested.

"Our manuscript expert called the French National Archives and said - 'There's this extremely important French document, would you be interested in buying it?' " said Matthew Weigman, a Sotheby's spokesman.

The National Archives wasn't. Instead, the French authorities launched an investigation of Rooney and Pierce. So did the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Documents still missing

Five years later, the two men were tried in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on charges of possessing, transporting and conspiring to sell stolen goods. The U.S. attorney's office in New York didn't have jurisdiction to charge Rooney for theft.

At the time, Rooney and Pierce were living together in Tennessee. Rooney, who resigned from Marquette in 1992, had moved there to work for the University of the South in Sewanee, where he served as a visiting professor in 1995 and 1996. Pierce, 30 years Rooney's junior, was described in press articles at the time as a student of history and an aspiring novelist. [Did you see the movie A Love Song for Bobby Long? This is like totally the plot, man!]




Tiens. UD thanks both readers.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's At Stake



"Once more the future of the American people is at stake."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Charlottesville, 1940.



"Patience and perseverance must never be grudged when the peace of the world is at stake."
Winston Churchill, Speech, House of Commons, 1954.


"Our competitive success in athletics is at stake."
David Schmidly, Oklahoma State University, January 2006
Wonderful Title to a Post
Which Agrees with UD that
The Jacques Pluss Thing has
Become Hopelessly Boring


From the blog Grad Student Madness:

NEO-NON-NAZI OR NOT?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Getting College Students
To Give Blood


As a gallon donor and more, UD read with interest a negative review in today’s Slate of a Red Cross public service ad. I watched the ad online and I don’t think the Slate writer’s being fair.

The ad seems to me remarkably good. It’s hip and amusing and makes a reasonable point: While deciding on your political activities and commitments takes a good deal of thought, compromise, patience, etc. (given how complex and intractable world problems tend to be), donating blood is a public-spirited activity whose simplicity -- logistical as well as intellectual -- is a strong mark in its favor.

You know you’re doing something good for society when you give blood. Of course it’s a much more modest sort of activity than joining the Peace Corps or militating against child labor, but it’s nonetheless valuable.



The Slate writer thinks that by drawing a contrast between giving blood and being politically active the Red Cross is “bash[ing] the competition,” but it doesn't read like that to me. The ad is merely making a plausible distinction among various moral activities that might appeal to idealistic young people (it’s distinctly targeted to young people, who as a group don’t give blood very often). Mentioning the competition in this ad doesn’t come across to me as bashing it. It comes across as taking it seriously.

As to the Slate writer’s argument that “Blood donation is just a maintenance measure. It may save lives, but it won't make the world a better place …” -- not so. It’s routine for some of the blood you donate to be used in scientific studies. And the life your blood saves may go on to do spectacular things for the world.

One of the reasons I give blood at the National Institutes of Health in ‘thesda is that you’re in the same building - the Clinical Center - where sick people are being treated, and your blood goes directly to them and to the scientists at NIH carrying out research.
Cash Conflict

The University Entrepreneurs Club, a UCLA student group, has earned an astonishing $20,000 so far this semester through an ingenious scheme that many other such student groups at colleges around the country are watching.

“We noticed that a new alumni group is paying UCLA students one hundred dollars per class session to record professors’ comments, as long as the comments are politically ‘abusive, one-sided, or off topic,’ " explains Gustave Mercador, vice-president of the group. “Most students don’t want to be bothered with the technical side of this, or aren’t sure what content the group is going for, or whatever. We set ourselves up as a sort of management and consulting firm for the identification, collection, and distribution of the material. We’re in touch not only with students, but with professors, and everyone gets a cut.”

Mercador said that the UEC has gotten tremendous response to its general distribution email to students and faculty advertising its services. “The entire adjunct faculty is on board. The average salary among grad students and adjuncts has gone up, according to our study, by 33% each semester, as they add more and more incendiary commentary to their courses. It’s tricky,” he added, “because you can’t just keep repeating the same boilerplate. You’ve got to add more. There’s been a marked incentive toward not only the intensification of radical content, but toward the creation of new courses structured in such a way as to be sensitive to the alumni group’s parameters.”

Part of what the UEC does, Mercador explains, is counsel professors on how to meet the ‘abusive, one-sided, or off topic’ requirement of the organization. “We had one rather shy intro comp professor suddenly start screaming at his students, drill-sergeant style, you know, What’s that? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Say it with me I LOVE LE-NIN I LOVE LE-NIN… This is the wrong approach because it’s too obvious, and the alumni group won’t pay for it. What we’ve told faculty is that it’s more effective simply to repeat at regular -- say five- to ten-minute -- intervals certain anti-capitalist phrases and words. As for students, our advice to them is to help professors as much as possible to sustain and create the ‘cash conflict’ classroom. Leading questions, a faux-naïve heartland conservatism, and of course any reference to religion, will almost always get the ball rolling.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

UD's First Day of the Spring Semester

I gave a lecture on the amazing literary
achievement of the Irish in the twentieth century.

Then I took my Ellmann book on Yeats
and went to Teaism for lunch.



















(Note Ellmann book in foreground.)

It was a pleasantly overcast day,
and Teaism was dark and cozy.
Here's the Yeats book again, next
to my chai.



















When I got home to Garrett Park,
I stopped to photograph the town
maintenance man sawing through
the tree that fell on the train tracks
near my house. It happened during a
big wind storm the other night.



















Whew! There. If Ann Althouse
can do it, so can I.
UD's Crash Course in College Sports...

...continues apace.

[more in comments]
Kennedy Cuts Club Cold


' U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — who ripped Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for ties to a group that discriminates against women — says he’s going to quit a club notorious for discriminating against women “as fast as I can.”

Kennedy was outed by conservatives late last week as a current member of The Owl Club, a social club for Harvard alumni that bans women from membership.

In an interview with WHDH Channel 7’s Andy Hiller that aired last night, Kennedy said, “I joined when I . . . 52 years ago, I was a member of the Owl Club, which was basically a fraternal organization.”

Asked by Hiller whether he is still a member, Kennedy said, “I’m not a member; I continue to pay about $100.” '


You continue to pay $100 for...?
Yikes.


'[A] commission led by medical professor Magne Nylenna of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim submitted its findings to the state Ministry of Health in December 2004. Commission proposals included a call for jail terms of up to one year for anyone caught forging medical research.

"We're surprised that nothing more has been done with this proposal," Nylenna told Aftenposten. New Health Minister Sylvia Brustad said the commission's work will now be re-evaluated, adding that "there's a need for new regulation in this area."

Brustad was calling in top health officials for a meeting on Monday, after it emerged last week that an otherwise respected health professional who's a doctor, dentist and researcher at Norway's Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet had faked an article in the respected publication The Lancet. The 44-year-old researcher, whom Aftenposten and several other Norwegian media outlets have chosen not to identify, has admitted to fabricating what he claimed was a survey of more than 400 patients.'

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sucking Money from the Campus


'Sports teams at Oregon State and Portland State universities didn't pay for themselves last year, requiring more than $7 million in subsidies from money that the colleges could have spent on academics, a new state report shows.

The State Board of Higher Education will take up the report today at its monthly meeting at PSU. Several state board members have raised questions in the past about how long university leaders intend to subsidize athletics at the same time campuses are making cuts in core academic areas and tuition continues to climb.

Universities with Division I football programs generally expect their athletic departments to become self-sufficient through ticket sales, donations and other sources.

Athletics at PSU received $3.1 million in university subsidies last year, down from $3.4 million in 2003-04. At OSU, athletics received $4 million, up from $3.9 million the year before.

By contrast, University of Oregon athletics reported receiving no financial assistance "in any form" from the university last year. In past years, the university subsidized tuition for student athletes from out of state. UO athletics now pay all tuition for full-time scholarship athletes and a portion for partial scholarship athletes.

However, athletics at all three campuses rely on student fees. The fees come out of a mandatory "incidental fee" that supports campus activities, including clubs and student publications. Student leaders recommend the amount and use of the fees. At PSU, a full-time student pays $411 in incidental fees each year; at OSU, $540; at UO, $573.

UO athletics received $1.4 million in student fees last year, OSU athletics received $1.5 million, and PSU athletics received $2.3 million.

At PSU, university support and student fees made up 70 percent of athletics revenue last year.

"I feel that student fees cover a lot of the cost of athletics and that some reform needs to be made," said Erin Devaney, 22, a senior who is PSU student body president.

"I think there's a lot of wonder by a lot of students who pay one-third worth of their student fees to athletics and don't see how it's benefiting the campus and is actually sucking money from the campus."



In their dependence on university support, PSU and OSU aren't alone. Most athletic departments at Division I universities spend more than they earn, according to a 2005 NCAA report.

In Division I-A, to which OSU and UO belong, 60 percent of universities reported expenses exceeding revenues, after subtracting university support. In Division I-AA, which includes PSU football, 90 percent reported the same.

PSU President Dan Bernstine said it is unrealistic to expect athletics to support itself outside of a handful of big-name programs. Few other areas of the university, such as academic departments, are expected to pay for themselves, Bernstine said.

"I think the subsidy for athletics is not unreasonable, but of course, we're working to make that subsidy as little as possible," he said.

The better question, he said, is whether athletics is worth paying for at PSU. Bernstine's answer is yes, particularly as PSU seeks to attract more residential students, including international and out-of-state students who pay higher tuition than Oregon residents.

"There's pressure to enhance the quality of the student experience, and athletics is an important co-curricular activity," he said.





…At OSU, officials this year expect to pump another $4 million in university support into athletics. That subsidy should drop to $2.5 million in 2006-07, said Mark McCambridge, vice president for finance and administration. That expectation is based on projections of higher ticket sales at the newly renovated and expanded Reser Stadium, he said.

The $1.5 million not spent on athletics will go "directly into the classroom," McCambridge said. The university projects $8 million to $10 million in cuts in various university departments in 2006-07 that are driven by rising costs for health insurance, retirement benefits and salaries.

"The long-term goal of (OSU President Edward Ray) and the institution is, we would like to have it be a zero subsidy. Whether we can get there or not is unclear. It's certainly not going to happen in the next two years," McCambridge said.'
And the affluent beggars hoax goes on…

…with well-founded skepticism from the most knowledgeable source of all: their fellow panhandlers:


The panhandlers who work the streets of Ashland are finding donations a bit lacking lately — and they are pinning the blame squarely on a homeless couple whose claim that they make $40,000 per year from street donations was highlighted recently in a Medford newspaper.

The couple in question, Jason Pancoast and Elizabeth Johnson, have three children, bounce from motel to motel in Southern Oregon, and told The Mail-Tribune that on good days, they can make as much as $300.

A man who would identify himself only as "Cliff", age 20, told the Medford paper that the most anyone he knows makes is about $50 a day, and that other homeless people have told him that donations are down since the article appeared.

"I'm pissed off about it," Cliff told the paper.

Others said they were just amazed at the amount of money that Pancoast and Johnson were able to make by begging.

…For his part, Pancoast said he and his wife are lying low for a few days because of all the publicity, staying in an Ashland motel and avoiding any panhandling.

The state Department of Health Services audited the couple's income on Friday, he said. "They were trying to find out if we were making $50,000 a year," he said.

Pancoast, who said the notoriety has been intense, said he's gotten into heated discussions with some people in town.

"A lot of people are freaked out about it," he said, adding that he won't be trying to ask for money in the next few days. "We haven't been collecting anything lately."
Michael Barone.

Via Betsy’s Page (she doesn’t provide a link, but here’s his website), some commentary from Michael Barone, with UD’s commentary on his commentary in parenthesis.

"The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of cultural conflict, a battle between what I have called the beautiful people and the dutiful people [or as Andrew Sullivan might put it, the palatial people and the fellatial people]. While Manhattan glitterati thronged Leonard Bernstein's apartment to celebrate the murderous Black Panthers, ordinary people in the outer boroughs and the far-flung suburbs of New Jersey like Hamilton Township were going to work, raising their families, and teaching their children to obey lawful authority and work their way up in the world.

The glitterati in the 1970s seized and still hold the cultural commanding heights of our society -- the universities, the media, the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the Westside of Los Angeles [and the best part of Northwest DC, where Michael Barone lives]. But, as the success of Sam Alito shows, they have not entirely won the hearts and the minds of the people. [Sounding more like an old-line Commie than a Republican here. The hearts and minds of the people!]

I recently traveled through both Hamilton Township and Princeton. The contrast between the million-dollar-plus homes and fancy shops of Princeton and the modest-to-downright-depressing [at least he admits it] neighborhoods and strip malls of Hamilton Township was stunning. So, too, are the voting figures. Princeton voted 76 percent for John Kerry in 2004 [similar numbers, I think, in Barone‘s baronial neighborhood]. Hamilton Township voted 49.3 percent for George W. Bush and 49.8 percent for Kerry. [But he doesn’t do anything with his correct observation that some of the dutiful territory is depressingly strip malled, etc. Who wouldn’t rather be in Princeton? Michael Barone himself spends more of his time in Princetonian than Hamiltonian settings… And he‘s both a Harvard and Yale graduate.]

Our universities today have become our most intellectually corrupt institutions. [That’s an easy one. What other intellectual institutions do we have? The French Academy? … No…. that’s in France…] University administrators must lie and deny that they use racial quotas and preferences in admissions, when they devote much of their energy to doing just that. They must pledge allegiance to diversity, when their campuses are among the least politically diverse parts of our society, with speech codes that penalize dissent and sometimes violent suppression of conservative opinion. You can go door-to-door in Hamilton Township and find people feeling free to voice every opinion across the political spectrum. At Princeton, you will not find many feeling free to dissent from the Bush-equals-Hitler orthodoxy. [Really? The trust-fund kids of Princeton? Do you think they say things like “Bush equals Hitler”? I don’t think so. I don’t think Barone thinks so.]

It's interesting that Sen. Edward Kennedy tried to charge Alito with racism and sexism because he once belonged to an alumni group critical of Princeton. Evidently in Kennedy's mind, dissent from campus orthodoxy is prima facie evidence of bigotry.

Judge Alito, I think, is a better example of the things that American universities before his time stood for: intellectual excellence, free inquiry, civility in the face of disagreement, commitment to patriotism. [He forgot quotas.]"
Boys Go to Jupiter
To Get More Stupider




'Dan Short, now dean of the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, [says that]...[e]ven if studies cast doubt on the positive effects of sports, he's not buying it.

"I believe the engine of K[ansas]-State's growth was the national prominence of the football team," Short says.

Education is an intangible, he adds, and sports is part of the package ... Picking between athletics and academics is like trying to pick between steering and brakes on a car.

"It's a lot better if both are good," Short says.'
NICELY PUT


There's a pleasant, modest eloquence to this editorial, in the Kentucky Courier-Journal:


ONCE AGAIN, SPORTS COME FIRST

Billionaire oil tycoon Boone Pickens has made a breathtaking donation of $165 million to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.

It strains the imagination to ponder the opportunities that such a sum could create for student access and for academic and research excellence.

But it does so only briefly.

For as it turns out, Mr. Pickens' generosity is earmarked strictly for the athletics program -- every penny.

University officials say the money will go toward an upgrade of the football stadium that already bears Mr. Pickens' name and a sports village of practice and playing facilities.

Mr. Pickens says that Oklahoma State is in a tough conference (the Big 12), and he wants his Cowboys and Cowgirls to be competitive. And, no doubt, Texas' national football championship sticks in the craw of the good people of Oklahoma.

But consider as an alternative a gift of $200 million from Eli and Edythe Broad of Los Angeles. They gave their money to a joint Harvard-MIT biomedical research institute that aims to expand the new field of genomic medicine in an effort to discover tools to diagnose, treat and possibly cure diseases.

Yes, Harvard and MIT have different missions from a large public university such as Oklahoma State. Yes, for a variety of reasons, Oklahoma State is going to attach greater importance to sports.

And, yes, Oklahoma State does raise money for academic needs, in some previous instances with significant assistance from Mr. Pickens.

But ultimately, the primary focus of all universities should be unerringly aimed at teaching, research and service to their communities and nation.

Mr. Pickens' huge gift could have underscored the limitless potential of American higher education.

Instead, it exemplified values that, at many campuses, have gone so badly wrong
.
This Morning's
Tentative Assertion Award
Goes to...


Susan Simpson, of The Oklahoman, who writes:

"While few question the generosity of Boone Pickens' historic donation, some say it may be an indication sports trumps academics at the Stillwater campus."


OSU has the "lowest faculty salaries in the Big 12," as well as other striking deficits. But not to worry, says its president, because we all know that the stronger your athletic department, the better your university.

For a fantastic statement of this holistic educational philosophy, from another university president, go here.
The Pluss Case
Takes a Boring
New Turn


Follow this if you wish. UD's had enough. She records it merely out of scholarly punctiliousness.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ground Zero, Pickens State

By Berry Tramel
The Oklahoman
:


'OWNER' KEEPING OSU COMPETITIVE

Here’s the best way to think of Oklahoma State football.

Mike Gundy is coach. Athletic director Mike Holder is general manager. OSU president David Schmidly is president.

Boone Pickens is owner.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

If you’re one of those OSU fans who decry the school’s sellout to commercialism, one of those fans who recoil when a foe chants “Pickens State,” one of those fans who say they simply want their university back, I have a solid alternative for you.

Conference USA. Without Pickens and his hundreds of millions, ...OSU athletics would belong in a league with Rice and Memphis.

...This is 21st century reality. ...[C]ollege football demands megabucks, and a school that just a few short years ago was wallowing in debt has a benefactor willing to give the Cowboys an engine in this arms race.

...Is this seemly for a college campus? Is that ideal for the ivory towers?

No. But that's the real world, a world in which Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M have all completed football cathedrals in the last five years.



UD sees a subterranean struggle in here between what Stendhal called "the red and the black." Army or church? Boone Pickens is "willing to give the Cowboys an engine in this arms race," but the enemy has built "football cathedrals." Is the college stadium a field of battle, or is it Chartres?
Pickens Demurs


T. Boone Pickens, the famed oilman who recently gave $165 million, exclusively for athletics, to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, reacted to the today's news that Wesleyan University has received a gift of $500,000, toward construction of an art museum, with two words: "Har har."

Asked what he thought of Wesleyan's announcement of the beginning of a campaign to raise $26 million for the museum, Pickens said, "Pansies."

When he learned that, according to the Hartford Courant, "The museum will be at the heart of the campus in an elegant brick building that once housed squash courts," Pickens was even more disdainful. "Ruining a perfectly good bunch of squash courts for ... for what? Some goddam art? What's it gonna have in it? You know it won't be LeRoy Nieman."














Pickens laughed again when his interviewer read this from the Courant article:

"Understanding and appreciating works of art is a very important part of a liberal education," said Kimerly Rorschach, director of Duke University's newly opened Nasher Museum of Art and an authority on college museums. "It seems quite natural to me that any university would want to address that."


"Horseshit."
You say it’s your birthday!
It’s my birthday too now!


"A Norwegian cancer expert made up fictitious patients for an article about treatment of oral cancer published in a leading medical journal, the hospital said on Sunday.

"The material was fabricated," said Trine Lind, spokeswoman of the Norwegian Radium Hospital where Jon Sudbo has worked as a doctor and a researcher. "We are shocked. This is the worst thing that could happen in a research institution like ours."

Sudbo, 44, invented patients and case histories for a study of oral cancer that was published in the British medical journal the Lancet in October 2005, she said.

The Norwegian daily Dagbladet said that 250 of his sample of 908 people in the study all shared the same birthday."
Some Folks at OSU
Have Renamed the University
Boone State in Honor of
T. Boone Pickens’
165 Million Donation,
All For Athletics and
A Vast Athletic Village.


Here’s Some Stuff
From Their Website,
Boonestate.com.
Enjoy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Inside Desks and Underneath Books and Office Machines

As ever, the University of South Florida does not disappoint. Longtime readers of this blog know that UD finds more news of the weird at USF than at any other university or college. She knows not why. Here’s the latest:

University of South Florida officials fired three employees of the school's English Language Institute after finding $275,000 in misplaced checks and cash scattered throughout an office there.

Nearly half the money - $133,647 - is in checks as old as a decade and cannot be deposited, which means lost money for the university, USF spokeswoman Michelle Carlyon said.

The institute's director, Richard Schreck, found the cash and checks Dec. 21 inside desks and underneath books and office machines, among other places, Carlyon said. Much of the money was in payments to the program, which provides intensive English study for international students and prepares them for college.

Some money was for student health-insurance premiums, which never reached their insurance carrier.

The discovery comes about a month after a state audit of USF found lax financial controls.

…In addition to the more than $133,000 in old checks, investigators have counted 132 checks from 2005 totaling $92,734. University officials are trying to deposit them, although some banks may consider them too old, Carlyon said.




(What do the University of South Florida and the Nursing Home of Prague have in common?

They’ve both got a lot of old checks.

Czechs.

Get it?)
The Culture of Impersonality

From a thoughtful editorial in the University of Saskatchewan student newspaper, in which the editors argue that “impersonality” will be the keyword for 2006:

Think of the last time you had a question in class; did you raise your hand in front of the entire classroom, did you wait until the class had finished, or did you email your professor later that day? The numbers most certainly increase toward the latter with every passing day.

Even professors feed into this impersonality. Lectures are now put up on the Internet in the form of powerpoint presentations. It is no longer necessary for students to attend classes or even talk to other students to copy their notes. Yes, this is a system of convenience for those that cannot always make it to class, but it is a system that is abused, and breeds laziness as well as a student population that is detached from its university.
FUMENTO MORI

Another one bites the dust. Via James Woolcott, who got it via Editor and Publisher, the writer Michael Fumento has followed Doug Bandow into shill obscurity.

His news service has dropped him:

The Jan. 5 column by Michael Fumento about new biotechnology products from Monsanto should have included more information. We believe the column should have disclosed a $60,000 grant from Monsanto that Fumento received in 1999 for a book about biotechnology. Fumento's column will no longer be distributed by Scripps Howard News Service…


The ickiest aspect of this case is the language of Fumento’s Monsanto column itself. By nature a combative and not bad writer, Fumento here virtually reveals all by himself -- by his prose -- his money bondage to Monsanto. Just listen:

Currently, almost all biotech crops reduce the use of either insecticides or herbicides. Upcoming Monsanto products, however, more effectively kill pests and even combine the two traits. The Agriculture Department has just approved one that protects corn against both weeds and rootworms..…..[Monsanto’s] pipeline represents a fraction of what the biotech industry as a whole -- large companies and small, here and abroad -- will bring to your supper table. These are truly exciting times for producers, consumers, and those who care about the environment.


This corpse-prose could have been picked up word for word from a Monsanto ad in The Economist.
More Detail:
But How Reliable?


UD found another article about the affluent beggars [see posts below] that suggests they don’t have families that are distraught and willing to help them out. They both describe screwed up families that don’t care about them. This may or may not be true. Let us assume it’s true.

So they’re on their own. They’re both intelligent, adept in the language and ideas of therapeutic culture. They are young and employable. Why are they panhandling? In Ashland?

Well, like any affluent mother, Elizabeth Johnson wants the best schooling for her children. (The couple actually has five children, but they put the first two up for adoption.) “The family has stayed in Ashland since the summer in order for Seth to attend the Waldorf-inspired experimental classes at Willow Wind, part of the Ashland public school system.” So there are concerns about schooling.

But there’s also the drugs consideration:

Their difficult childhoods and interest in drug culture quickly solidified their bond, the couple say. One of their first experiences together was canoeing on the Withlacoochee River and taking LSD. "Both of us coming from broken homes," says Johnson, "and needing to develop ourselves." …"Well, I think we had no love," Pancoast quickly adds, "we had no clarity … we were both so disassociated for different reasons.…"


This article about the affluent beggars delicately side-steps the question of whether the couple is still interested in drug culture....


Can Pancoast's gruesome and moving memoir be far behind?

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

Update:

A reader writes:

"Perhaps the best thing to do is pass the story along to the IRS.

What do you think the odds are that he fully reports all of his income?

Also, I've always believed in taxing unearned income at a higher rate
than earned income. Generally, that means soaking stock dividends,
bond interest, and capital gains, but I think it should also apply in
this case."
Next Step: Analysis

Like most hoaxes, this one (see post directly below) will turn out to have many authentic elements. Id est, these idiots do actually beg on the streets. They actually think that “We’re challenging the stereotype of being a beggar.” They actually think “Is this community theirs or is it ours?" is a clever question.

But let’s take a look at the numbers. They make “up to $300 a day and once made $800. …Pancoast… (by the way, UD came up with two Jason Pancoasts when she Googled the name: our beggar, and a computer engineer in Boston ) estimates he and his wife can make $30,000 to $40,000 a year panhandling.” Add food stamps and you get a comfortable living.

Distasteful as UD, a math illiterate, finds it to think even for a moment about numbers, allow her to doubt these (she’d say they are much too high), and allow her to suggest that whatever the numbers, they are not the result of panhandling as you and I know it. Let us take a closer look at Ashland.



Ashland is not a city; it’s a town, with around 19,000 residents. It’s hyper-liberal (here’s its Wikipedia entry), arguably the most liberal locality in the state. It’s got a university and a Shakespeare festival. Begging there is, an ex-mayor complains, “commonplace.” Indeed, some people think a recent drop in the number of people coming to the festival has to do with the unpleasantness of walking around the town:


[One townsperson] points to the drop in the number of tourist visits to Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year as evidence. He says the city has gotten letters from disgruntled tourists and fretting business owners, as has the festival and the Chamber of Commerce.

"I bet you [a local newspaper] have too," he says.

He's right. We have. Not waves mind you, but a trickle
of frustrated visitors who are fed up with
panhandlers, nudists















and transients who make them uncomfortable as they come for a weekend of plays, gourmet meals, wine tasting and drives in the country.


A homeless camp has been proposed.

The homeless camp, [one observer says], will do nothing but invite an explosion of all the aforementioned problems, which will in turn ensure a mass exodus of the tourists.

…The entire ethos of the city is a delicate balance. The very qualities that make the city the mystical theatrical place that it is can also be confused with less charming behavior, like aggressive panhandling, vandalism and petty theft.





Okay, so the background to our affluent beggar story is a town where panhandling is basically normalized, a well-established part of the scene, and where, we may presume, the townspeople are sympathetic and generous to panhandlers.

Within this larger context, Pancoast stands out as an articulate ideologue, “outspoken in his beliefs” about rich and poor. UD’s guess, then, is that he makes his money not from random approaches to people, as in classic beggary, but from a small permanent roster of clients -- people who know him, like his ideas, and want to subsidize them.

This is not really a story about panhandling, in other words. It’s a story about a locally subsidized Oregon think tank named Jason Pancoast.



A final point about how much money the Pancoasts have. Are you satisfied that you’ve been told about all of their income sources? Why no information about their families? People like the Pancoasts who are living like idiots typically have distraught families with money in the background, helping them out in various ways.


In short, loathe as I am to undermine this terrific “affluent beggars” story, I want to use it as an example of the sort of half-told hoaxy tale we’re always falling for…
OKAY, KIDS, LET’S GO!

Let’s go now! While the story’s still hot. Here’s a chance -- if we act fast enough -- for us to watch a hoax unravel in real time.

Of course UD could be wrong. She’s wrong a lot. But her hoax-nose (aka bullshit detector) sniffs out one in the early stages of preparation here.

So without further ado… Je presente… Les beggares affluentes!!!



"AFFLUENT BEGGARS" DRAW SCRUTINY FOR THEIR LIFESTYLE

By The Associated Press

ASHLAND, Ore. — A couple with three children who make a living as panhandlers say they are surprised by public attention to their lifestyle.

Jason Pancoast and Elizabeth Johnson, who describe themselves as "affluent beggars," say they are able to maintain a well-fed and well-dressed family by living off the streets.

"What has happened is that we're going along with a lifestyle that you couldn't imagine we should have," Pancoast said.

A story in the Sunday edition of the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford noted the couple sometimes make up to $300 a day and once made $800.

But the report also triggered an outcry from residents. People have yelled at Pancoast and threatened him since the story was published, he said.

Angry e-mails and letters to the Mail Tribune have described the couple as tax evaders, bad role models for their children, "common thieves" and abusers of a food-stamp program designed to help people temporarily down on their luck. Pancoast and Johnson said they receive $500 a month in food stamps.

Local radio talk shows have spent airtime taking calls about Pancoast, 34, and Johnson, 30. The couple appeared this week on a Portland radio show, and national media also have expressed interest in interviewing them.

The couple say they use their money to get a safe place for their children to sleep, a warm meal and good clothes.

"We're challenging the stereotype of being a beggar," Johnson said.

But former Ashland mayor and local businessman Alan DeBoer, who gave Johnson $200 before Christmas, said that after learning more about the couple, he believes they are conning people, even using their 3-month-old baby as a prop.

DeBoer said he regrets his generosity toward Johnson and would not give her any more money.

Begging has become so commonplace that you find people at almost every freeway offramp, he said.

"You almost have to make panhandling in Oregon illegal," DeBoer said.

Pancoast, who estimates he and his wife can make $30,000 to $40,000 a year panhandling, said people have certain expectations of the homeless that are vastly different from the way he tries to live.

He said that he and his wife have no assets and are currently living in an Ashland motel. The couple were staying at another local motel, but the manager asked them to leave because of negative publicity, Pancoast said.

The couple say they stay in motels because it is difficult for a family with no consistent income and three children to find housing.

Pancoast, who is outspoken in many of his beliefs, said Ashland is being run more and more by the rich who can't tolerate different lifestyles.

Pointing to the expensive homes on the hills surrounding town, he said, "Is this community theirs or is it ours?"

Patty Claeys, chief executive of ACCESS, a housing agency, said she commends the couple for being with their children and taking care of them. But she noted most people have to sacrifice time with their children in order to earn a living.

She said ACCESS could help the couple find a house, but they would have to show some kind of income.

"As long as people live in that kind of lifestyle, what are they teaching their children?" Claeys said.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Trials of James Frey

Where to start with Patti Davis’s defense of James Frey in Newsweek?

Start with her title: WRITER ON TRIAL. Writer on trial is Orhan Pamuk, brought up on charges for writing the truth about Turkish history. Writer on trial was Osip Mandelstam, arrested and imprisoned by the secret police for a poem. Writer on trial is not rich happy redeemed James Frey, script writer, Picasso collector, self-mythologizer.



And writer on trial is certainly not Patti Davis, though she characterizes herself in the essay as a kind of Nadezhda Mandelstam, Frey’s fellow writer and sufferer: “James Frey’s writing is under attack. I know how he feels.”

She knows how he feels not merely because people ridiculed her writing (she only got published because she was the President’s daughter, etc.) but also because she’s a recovered addict too, and you can’t write this stuff, or recognize true descriptions of this stuff, unless you’ve been there:

I was in awe of the book as a writer, and grateful for it as a recovered drug addict. He had the guts to tell you how dark it gets down there and how it’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when your brain spins out on crazy hairpin turns and you can’t find the road back. Or any road at all. He didn’t sugarcoat the rage or the pain or the awful loneliness. The truths he told weren’t easy to read and they certainly weren’t pretty. But they were truths. No one could have made up what he wrote. You have to have taken that long dark fall. You have to have known the madness of trying to pull yourself out, but then maybe not wanting to because in a lot of ways you like it down there.


Davis here shows a remarkable lack of faith in fiction writing. Of course you don’t have to have been there, and of course having been there doesn’t automatically confer credibility and power upon what you say about what it was like. In fact sometimes a first-rate writer who hasn’t been there can do a better job than a less than first-rate writer who has. Note Davis’s own trite language - crazy hairpin turns, awful loneliness, long dark fall. She’s been there, but she can’t write convincingly about it.

(For another ex-addict's more plausible take on Frey, here's Seth Mnookin, in Slate.)



Davis’s therapeutic mentality only allows her to conceive of Frey’s writing as an emanation of the pain all of us share by virtue of being human. Because motives like literary ambition, attention getting, competitiveness, and the like, have no place in her mental world, she’s incapable of thinking clearly about what Frey and his book actually represent. All she can do is feel:

But the one moment that broke my heart was when he said he’s never going to write about himself again. I knew in that instant how wounded he is by all that’s happened. Don’t say that, I whispered to myself. Even though I understood. …I don’t care how many days Frey did or did not spend in jail. I care that he keeps writing with a heart that doesn’t hold back.


Soppy, self-aggrandizing emotivism of this sort gives women - whether they write or not - a bad name. As Maureen Dowd writes in this morning's New York Times, "[W]e no longer have a society especially consecrated to truth. The culture produces an infinity of TV shows and movies depicting the importance of honesty. But they're really talking only about the importance of being honest about your feelings. Sharing feelings is not the same thing as telling the truth. We've become a country of situationalists."
ALUM'S
OWL
TIES
DRAW
IRE


One of the many neurotic/linguistic things UD does is worry incessantly about non-native speakers and newspaper headlines. Newspaper headlines are notorious for slang and jargon and idiom. How can even an excellent foreign speaker of English make sense of them?

Look at this headline, for instance, from the Harvard Crimson:

ALUM'S OWL TIES DRAW IRE

What the hell does this string of three and four letter words mean? Even a native English speaker is going to have to transliterate. "Alum" is "alumnus," let's assume... or alumna. "Owl Ties" -- ties with owls on them? An appropriate look for a Harvard egghead, I suppose... but why would anyone get angry about a tie? It looks as though the headline writer dropped a letter, too. Draw Ire? Does she mean "draw fire"?



UD herself knew from the start what this was all about, because she's followed with amusement the mortifying news of Senator Kennedy's own sexist club memberships (the Owl is a private, all-male, once Harvard-affiliated club, to which Kennedy still belongs). “When Senator Kennedy joined the all male social club called Owl, there were no women at Harvard,” one of his staffers explains, forgetting to mention that the club continues to bar women from membership. “As with any finals club on campus we are a social organization established to create friendships among members,” the current president of the club remarks. “The Owl has a diverse membership, ranging from all political, social and economic areas.”

Another neurotic/linguistic thing UD does is notice that if you're going to say something ranges, you pretty much need to use the "from...to..." formulation. You can't range from everywhere. You have to range from somewhere to somewhere else. Anyway, the super-secret club's president perhaps reveals, in his use of language, one of the bonds among Owl members -- like Kennedy, they don't speak too good.
Blogoscopy

“What I'm finding in my own book-writing is how much the blog has helped inform the book, how it has become a treasure trove of information and comment and ideas from all over the place. When looking to buttress a particular point or hunt down a piece of evidence, I find myself searching my own blog for links and data.

The readers - that's you - have also helped me immensely. Take the recent discussion of zygotes and dispensationalists. They are minor parts of the book, but I've gained a huge amount from your input. Not only is blogging compatible with book-writing, it may be helpful. The main problem is finding long spaces of time to wander around in your own thoughts. Books need that. Blogging makes it very hard. But that's the only real conflict I've found.”


Andrew Sullivan
SKYSONG!!


'The project originally known as the ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation is still officially named the slightly shorter ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.

But you can call it SkySong.

Developers of Arizona State University's new research center at McDowell and Scottsdale roads have settled on SkySong as a brand name that they hope will take off in an international market.

"We knew we needed a name that would be memorable, catchy, excellent for marketing," said Sharon Harper, CEO of the Plaza Cos., which is co-developing the site. "It invokes vision. It invokes imagination."

For some, it invokes a grimace.

"I don't like it," said Scottsdale City Councilwoman Betty Drake. “…It seems a little contrived."

SkySong also is the name of the tent-like, shade structures that will soar up to 125 feet over the campus.

Steve Evans, trustee of the ASU Foundation, said that the foundation, Higgins Development Partners and the Plaza Cos. went through an "exhaustive" research effort to develop a name that might stick.

The developers hired an outside company to survey the brand name SkySong and found the word was a hit.

"We learned from designers that you don't want a long name," Harper said. "People will forget and it would be hard to find on the Internet. How will somebody in India remember it?"

The developers pointed to the names Yahoo and Google and reminded everyone how strange they seemed when they first appeared.'


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


'Jos Anshell, chief executive officer of the major Phoenix advertising firm, Moses Anshell, admitted that his initial reaction against "SkySong" went the other direction once the name started to grow on him.

"At first, it made me think of Delta Airlines’ shuttle service, ‘Song,’ so it reminded me of a failing airline," said Anshell, who said his firm isn’t currently doing any work for ASU, though it had in the past. Then he did some free word association.

"But then I looked at it, said, ‘OK, it’s about incubating, free thinking, free thinkers, open, free,’ " he said. "The more I thought about it, the more I liked it."

Shorter, catchier names work, he said, even if they don’t conjure up much association with anything.

…Above all, Anshell said, SkySong fits ASU President Michael Crow’s desire to create a new kind of university by forcing people to think about things differently.

"Educational communication is steeped in the past," he said. "Whenever you encourage thinking outside the box, you get people scratching their heads."'
Nyah nyah

'[O]ne of the best-kept secrets in college admissions today [is] the affirmative action campaign to recruit men. Most admissions directors sifting through stacks of applications from men and women can only sigh at the contrast. The average male applicant has far lower grades, writes a sloppy essay, and sports few impressive extracurriculars. Those admissions directors face a choice: Either admit less-qualified men or see the campus gender balance slip below 40 percent male, a point at which female applicants begin to look elsewhere.

…Last spring, Scientific American summed up the best gender and brain research, including a study demonstrating that women have greater neuron density in the temporal lobe cortex, the region of the brain associated with verbal skills. Now we've reached the heart of the mystery. Girls have genetic advantages that make them better readers, especially early in life. And, now, society is favoring verbal skills. Even in math, the emphasis has shifted away from guy-friendly problems involving quick calculations to word and logic problems.'


via joanne jacobs















On this day, in 1941,
James Joyce died,
age 58, in Zurich.
Snapshots From Home:

From this morning's
Chronicle of Higher Education:


The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that George Washington University is breaking the law in its refusal to recognize its adjunct professors' union, which won a labor-board-certified election held in October 2004.

Sticking to the position it has held for months, the university maintained that the election was "flawed" and, on Wednesday, filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking for a review of the labor board's decision.

The university administration first took issue with the union election results last June, when it announced that it would not negotiate with the Service Employees International Union, the elected representative of the adjuncts.


...The ruling orders university administrators to bargain with the union and to post notices around the campus which read, in part, "The National Labor Relations Board has found that we violated federal labor law."

In a statement posted on its Web site, the university said that the ruling, "reached at the administrative level and based on a motion filed by the NLRB's own general counsel, was not surprising."

Kip Lornell, the lead organizer for the union and an adjunct professor of music, said he was likewise not surprised by the university's response. "They are desperately clinging to the hope that they will not have to bargain collectively," he said. "We assumed that the university would continue to spend students' tuition money litigating and not educating."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Blogoscopy

Sensible commentary from Christine Hurt on women and blogging.
Find another headline.
Alito: Guilty of padding his resume with
the name of some club he’d heard about.



'Earlier, Specter said staffers had examined records of a controversial Princeton University alumni group once cited by Alito in a job application, but had found no mention of Alito.

…Alito, President Bush's nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, listed membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) on a 1985 application for a job in the Reagan administration. Democrats said the conservative group resisted admissions of women and minorities, and they cited statements in its magazine that expressed racist, sexist and homophobic views.

Alito has repudiated the statements, saying he deplored those views and would not associate with any group that held them. He said he could not remember much about the group by way of explaining why he listed it, other than that he had been concerned during his Princeton days about efforts by some students to kick ROTC programs off campus.

Specter said committee staff members and representatives of Kennedy finished examining the files at 2 a.m. today, reviewing more than four boxes of documents concerning CAP.

"Judge Alito's name never appeared in any document," Specter said. It was not mentioned in any letters to or from the group's founder or executive director, did not appear on any canceled checks for subscriptions, was nowhere to be found on any articles, lists of board members or contributors, and was not in any minutes or attendance records from CAP meetings," Specter said.'


The Washington Post
Charming, eclectic blog.
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME










Somewhere in the background of Laura Bush lurks
UD’s spawn, who, along with her fellow Washington Children’s Chorus choristers, ushered in this event a couple of days ago with patriotic songs.
LIVING IN A DALI LANDSCAPE

A Comment from an OSU Insider
About that Big Ol’ Gift from Boone
At Inside Higher Education


[D]emographic data from the U.S. Census suggest that enrollment will be dropping for the next 20 years. Investment in any kind of facility is risky now, when fewer students will be around to use it. Fewer students means fewer alumni, which means fewer pockets to pick to support an athletics village — never mind academics.

Another consideration is that alienating the Stillwater community and embarrassing its faculty, graduate students, and alumni will have far-reaching consequences for OSU. If you’re a motivated student looking to be challenged academically, you’ll go elsewhere. If you’re a recent Ph.D. looking to build a career, you wouldn’t pick a place that goes into debt for academics facilities but seeks out cash for athletics.

And a final consideration lies in Dr. Schmidly’s [OSU's president] last statement, as quoted in this news article: “I can’t tell a donor, ‘Don’t give us this money for this, because we really wanted to give it over here.' I’ve got more sense than that.”

How is that sensible? I’m neither a university president nor an oil tycoon, but I think any president who CAN’T speak truth to power has big problems. Any president who CAN’T say to a donor, “Gee, thanks for your interest, and here’s how much more benefit your money will have if we invest it in academics” lacks courage and creativity.

And I think this lack of worthy leadership at OSU is going to be the biggest problem of all, if the Regents go forward with this Boone-doggle.

As a lifelong supporter of higher education, I’m living in a Dali landscape. A record-breaking gift to OSU — to any institution of higher education — should be a cause for rejoicing. We should all be thrilled. But this is sickening.

Marion Agnew
BELLA ITALIA





"A 70-year-old Italian law professor has discovered a new career writing erotic memoirs after losing his university job following accusations that he offered students high marks for sex.

Ezio Capizzano, a former law teacher at Camerino University in central Italy, gives detailed accounts of his amorous "tutorials" in the book, The Last Baron In A Campus of Tulips, published this week.

When it emerged in 2002 that he had video-taped his "one-to-one" tutorials he became a household name in Italy and a role model for ageing Casanovas. Far from condemning him, the media lauded Prof Capizzano.

The respected Corriere della Sera newspaper described him as "Italy's answer to Sean Connery".

In 2004 he was acquitted of any wrongdoing after the court accepted his claim that the students had all given their full consent."


The Daily Telegraph

(The Last Baron in a Campus of Tulips??)
First, here's Andrew Sullivan's take...

...on the James Frey/Larry King interview last night that UD live blogged:


About the best television I've seen in forever.

Last night, Larry King interviewed James Frey, author of factually-challenged best-selling "memoir", "A Million Little Pieces."

First off, you have the spectacle of a public person insisting that he did too do lots of crack and spend months in jail and so on and so forth. Then you have a website that usually exposes the lurid pasts of public people actually exonerating the guy, and depicting him as a nice middle-class boy, struggling with addiction. Then it dawns on you that all this will only help sales of the book.

Then Larry King brings up the Jerzy Kosinski controversy as an analogy [This isn't quite right. According to my notes, Frey brought it up.], Frey demurs [Frey didn't demur.], and then Larry reminds Frey that Kosiniski was so ashamed he killed himself. Then Frey's mom shows up, and we watch mortified as this woman is asked to pick between her love for her son and his obvious deceptions.

And then, just when you think it can't get any weirder ... God descends. Oprah's on the phone [Deus ex Operah?], and claims she was ringing for ages but couldn't get through. Weirder? The nation falls silent as God speaks. She doesn't exactly defend the fraudulently packaged book, she blames the publishers and then somehow manages to bring you almost to the point of thinking that a book that does so much good need not be trashed for basic misrepresentation. For Oprah, the therapy trumps the integrity. Or there's a deeper integrity to the guy's recovery that should trump concerns about his obvious misleading of the reader.

At this point, you are as gob-smacked as Anderson Cooper. And then he brings up his mother. And with images of Gloria Vanderbilt floating in my head, we find ourselves watching Project Runway. Bravo.



This will do as a camp-loving description of events, and certainly UD remembers tolerating tv for years on the basis of this campy spectatorship: the so-bad-it's-good thing, the let's see how weird this can get thing... As her readers know, however, this approach eventually failed UD and she stopped watching.

But she'd like to offer, for what it's worth, a truth-loving description of events. "There are two sorts of people in the world," she said to her husband as she returned to her house last night. "Those who love the truth and those who do not."

Okay. Not earth-shattering, but, again, I said for what it's worth. I mean, take Albert Camus. He loved the clarified landscapes of North Africa because they showed him, beautifully, what was true in life.

We live with a few familiar ideas. Two or three. We polish and transform them according to the societies and the men we happen to meet. ...And, I don't know why, but faced with this ravined landscape, this solemn and lugubrious cry of stone, Djemila, inhuman at nightfall, faced with this death of colors and hope, I was certain that when they reach the end of their lives, men worthy of the name must rediscover this confrontation, deny the few ideas they had, and recover the innocence and truth that gleamed in the eyes of the Ancients face to face with destiny... I feel certain that the true, the only, progress of civilization, the one to which a man devotes himself from time to time, lies in creating conscious deaths.


The reason UD finds what people like Frey did so despicable is that in convincing people they are truth-lovers, in flaunting a truth-bearing "death of colors and hope" in their narrated physical and spiritual disintegration, they tell the worst lie of all. They corrupt our relationship to the truth by pretending successfully to be the truth, when in fact they represent sensationalistic and comforting lies. That's why it's sickening for UD when Deus ex Operahs descend and soothingly assure their desperate audience that as long as their books keep telling redemptive lies they must keep reading and believing them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Will it never end?

Mother: "It was very difficult for us to read it because we lived it. Then to go back and read what we had lived was very challenging. ...Our hearts would be hanging out there for people to peck at but we didn't care because we stand by him."

James: "I hope the emotional truth of the book resonates with them. It's a memoir and it's an imperfect animal. I don't think it should be scrutinized in the way a newspaper article would."

OPRAH's on the phone!

Oprah: "I'm watching James... Everyone's been asking me to release a statement... We support the book... hundreds of thousands of people have been helped by this book... I am disappointed by this controversy... because I rely on the publishers to define the category the book falls within... Although some of the facts have been questioned... the underlying message of redemption... still resonates with me... Whether or not the car rolled up on the sidewalk... is irrelevant to me... What is relevant is that he was a drug addict... and out of that...stepped out of that history... to allow other people to save themselves... What I think is this is going to open up the discussion for publishers... The bigger question is what does this mean for the larger publishing world and this new memoir category? This discussion will be furthered by the so-called controversy... Much ado about nothing... So much of the story ...is inside the clinic..."

Larry: Thank you, Oprah. Be well, dear.
Et encore une fois.

Larry: "We're back... His mother was in the Oprah audience that afternoon. Watch."

[Mother in audience screams with joy: 'That's my son!']

James's mother: "The fraud story is very sad for us. So many people stand behind us, our friends, James's friends. I'm disappointed that it happened. I don't believe it. I believe in James. The book stands on its own. ... I believe in all those people it has made a difference for. ... If you've ever had a child who's been on drugs and you go to the airport to pick him up and his teeth are broken and he reeks of alcohol... We found where we were going to take him for rehab..."

Larry: Do you feel you've let your mother down a little?

James: I stand by the essential truth of my book... I've let my mother down many many many times in my life... Addiction destroys families... At least one family dealt with it together..."

This is a rather strange chapter in James's Larry martyrdom. His mother is hauled out to announce the news that she supports him one hundred percent.
Yet more Larry.

A critic on an incident in the book: "These two girls ended up on a slab. But for him it's narrative gold to be used for personal purposes."

James: "Um, I don't want to get into commenting on what is said on other shows. I stand by the essential truth of my book. ... The essential truth of the book ... is there... The emotional truth is there... I have remained sober for thirteen years... When Jerzy Kozinski's Painted Bird came out and was a great success people said he never went through the holocaust... [Larry: "And Jerzy killed himself... I'm not suggesting...!"] [UD: The Kozinski example is a poor one. Painted Bird was indeed a fraud. A notorious one.]
We're back.

James: "This is the true story of what I went through in treatment... A lot of what I said to the Smoking Gun was supposed to be off the record. [Larry: "Are you angry?"] Yes. [Smoking Gun has a different version of events.] But I take responsiblity for what I said. [Larry: "Are you afraid you'll go back to drugs and alcohol under all this pressure?" -- Or something to that effect.] I mean it's been a trying week, absolutely. I've been fine getting through the week. Of course there's temptation [to fall off the wagon]... but I'm getting through the week. And I'll be fine.... There are two hundred pages of re-created conversations in the book, but people haven't been questioning that because people understand it's my subjective re-creation of my life... I hoped the book would help people deal with similar situations in their lives... I hope it's helping people..."
Part Three, Larry and James

James: "An incredibly minute portion of the book which doesn't really have anything to do with the central message of the book... is being picked apart... It's a selective recollection of my life...Changing names and identities to protect people...I mean Larry I've acknowledged I've changed things... You get into a very sticky situation... mug shots have appeared of at least two events where I've been arrested... I had a very very troubled past... It's a book about redemption and pain and family... I don't think I was a bad guy, I think I was a flawed person...I mean like I said I'm certainly never gonna write another book about myself...This has been a very difficult week for me... I've been shocked by the furor that has erupted...That's what comes of selling a lot of copies and being part of Oprah's Book Club...That's what comes of success... Yeah I mean it was a huge honor being chosen by Oprah... and you know there's a cost that comes with success... What's really important to me more than success is the impact I feel the book has had on the lives of readers... I hope that readers don't desert the book... In the memoir genre the writer typically takes liberties... Of course this is gonna affect me... I hope my readership remains focused on what's going on here... I don't know if I would change anything, Larry, you know... I would submit this manuscript... part of growing up and becoming a better person is learning from the mistakes you make... You can't change the past..."

Yikes. Calls for James Frey coming up next.
We're back with Larry.

Larry's explaining that you can't after all get a refund from Random House.

Now here's James: "It was turned down by a number of publishers as a novel... We talked about what to publish it as and they thought the best thing was to publish it as a memoir... Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Bukowski... the genre of memoir didn't exist when they were publishing... [HUH???] Yeah, I mean, it has blown my mind... a very small part of the book has been disputed... I mean, I don't discuss being in a jail cell in this book. In this book - 420 of the 432 pages of it take place in a treatment facility... I mean, we talk a little about being in a jail cell...I mean certainly I have a long drug and alcohol history... my memory is very subjective...I mean again we're dealing with a very subjective memory..."

Now they go to an interview with the editor of Smoking Gun: "The account of the melee with the police is about two percent true. ... No crack, no melee..."

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

UPDATE: Mary Karr glosses my “HUH???”

In an interview last week, Larry King asked Mr. Frey why he shopped "A Million Little Pieces" around as a novel, but published it as a memoir. Instead of answering directly, Mr. Frey asserted that his book was in the American literary tradition of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Kerouac.

When Mr. King noted they all wrote fiction, Mr. Frey countered: "At the time of their books being published, the genre of memoir didn't exist." Forget St. Augustine and the intervening 16 centuries of autobiography.
UD Live Blogs
the Larry King/
James Frey Interview


I'm down the street at my mother's house -- that's where the tv is -- having convinced myself to inaugurate a bit of live-blogging here at UD by enduring a Larry King interview. He'll be talking to James Frey, who has become, at least for today, the bad boy he's dreamed of being all his life.

Frey had to embellish like hell in his memoir to make himself a big ol' Baudelaire bandit. Now he really is the degenerate du jour. Life - or rather, thesmokinggun.com - has handed him a beautiful opportunity to be ballsy and belligerent on national tv. Let us see what he can do with it.

Here's Larry:

"Worldwide attention ...best-selling book...update from Kelly Wallace... Good evening Larry...poking around not too long ago...firestorm of allegations...a few months ago ...highly coveted book club... days of addiction, crime, and rehab...no money, no job, no home, and is wanted in three states...'We could not find anything...' ... accuses Frey of fabricating significant parts of the book...Frey rejected those charges...melee with police... 'he was polite and cooperative...' local sheriff finds 'no record' of incarceration... "

"Thanks Kelly Wallace... what's your side, James?"

"My side is that I wrote a memoir...never expected the book to come under the kind of scrutiny it has...subjective retelling of events...yeah, a memoir is within the genre of non-fiction, um, I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to say I've conned anyone...disputed pages are eighteen...less than five percent of the book...um I mean I've acknowledged that there were embellishments in the book, that I've changed things...names were changed...you know there's a great debate about memoir and what should be most properly served, the story or some form of journalistic truth...I mean it's an individual's perception of what happened in their own life...this is my recollection of my life...a lot of the events took place while I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol...it's my story... a truthful retelling of the story... I am surprised...by the success of the book...by the reaction to the book...by the furor related to the book...at various points all along the course of the publication of the book I've acknowledged...things were altered, that I made changes to the book...absolutely... I mean the book is about drug and alcohol addiction...nobody's disputing I was a drug addict and an alcoholic..."
Not Bad.
This Just In:
Refunds Available


From Reuters:


Random House will refund readers who bought James Frey's drug and alcohol memoir "A Million Little Pieces" directly from the publisher, a move believed to be unprecedented, after the author was accused of exaggerating his story.

Readers calling Random House's customer service line to complain on Wednesday were told that if the book was bought directly from the publisher it could be returned for a full refund. Those who bought the book at a bookstore were told to try to return it to the store where it was bought.

"If the book was bought directly from us we will refund the purchase price in full," one Random House customer service agent told Reuters, noting readers would have to return the book with the original invoice. "If you bought it at a book store, we ask that you return the book to the book store."

Asked why the publisher, which normally sells books directly to consumers as nonrefundable, would offer refunds, the agent said, "because of the controversy surrounding it."

Several customer service agents called by Reuters reporters also agreed to pay refunds. A Random House spokeswoman said the company would issue a formal statement about returns later.
All Hoax
All the
Time


The blog A Bear in the City notes the similarities between the LeRoy hoax and the Tony Johnson hoax, which took in the great essayist Paul Monette. Monette’s heartbreaking defense of Tony’s actuality is still painful for UD to read.
Heavy.


Van Sant said he believes the person he dined with was indeed LeRoy but admits the possibility of being hoodwinked. He turned philosophical: "But is anyone who they say they are? Is Amy Pascal really Amy Pascal? Am I really me? How do you know you're talking to Gus Van Sant?"


A director weighs in on the LeRoy hoax.
UD's Lucky Readers
Get an Advance Copy
of Tonight's Larry King/
James Frey Interview


King: I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.

Frey: Oh! Of course I have been rather reckless.

King: I am glad to hear it.

Frey: In fact, now you mention the subject, I have been very bad in my own small way.
A Million Little Pieces could well
become the Enron of the memoir
boom.”


'“The entire memoir genre is rife with this,” one editor said.'
How Could They Tell?



MUMMIFIED BODY FOUND IN FRONT OF TV

CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) -- The mummified body of a woman who didn't want to be buried was found in a chair in front of her television set 2 1/2 years after her death, authorities said.

Johannas Pope had told her live-in caregiver that she didn't want to be buried and planned on returning after she died, Hamilton County Coroner O'Dell Owens said Monday.
CLIOPATRIA...

...one of UD's most-beloved blogs, appears in caps to your right, second on my list of links. For too long, I've lazily linked to its mother ship, History News Network, rather than link directly to it. I've fixed that.
Can It Really Be Thirty Years…

…since Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody appeared? Ever since she heard it in Wayne’s World, UD has loved it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

FREY UPDATE

ABC reports:


James Frey, whose best-selling memoir about substance abuse, "A Million Little Pieces," has come under intense scrutiny for alleged fabrications, has agreed to give his first interview since the controversy broke a few days ago.


He will appear Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."


To get us in the mood for tomorrow's interview, here's part of a transcript of an interview King recently did with the author of another privilege-debauchery-salvation memoir (this one legit), Christopher Lawford Kennedy:

LAWFORD: Yes, I had such an amazing time doing this. I would recommend -- Emerson said that all of us have one great book in us and I'm not sure this is great but I -- it was a joy to do.

KING: The "New York Post" reported that your stepmother, your father's wife when he passed away, is very angry at this book. Is that your knowledge as well?

LAWFORD: Which stepmother would that be?

KING: Patricia Seton Lawford Stewart.

LAWFORD: Oh, right. Well my -- you know at the end of his life...

KING: How many stepmothers do you have?

LAWFORD: There were -- there were three I think. My mom -- my dad married three other women besides my mother, Mary Rowen who was a wonderful woman and another woman named Debbie who I liked.

At the end of my father's life he was so debilitated that, you know, he -- he was forced to do some things that probably he wouldn't have done if he had been healthy.

KING: Like?

LAWFORD: Like get married.
MORE READING MATERIAL
FOR UD AS SHE PREPARES…


The ever-larger sums of money spent on college sports create "a looming crisis" that could threaten schools' integrity, a group of university presidents warns.

"The prospect of distortion and even corruption of the academic values of individual institutions is very real, and in time, the entire academic enterprise can be diminished by such disasters," according to a draft version of a report from the NCAA presidential task force's fiscal responsibility subcommittee.

The problem: There's little the NCAA can do to stop its members' athletics spending spree. One ill-fated attempt several years ago — legislation that restricted the earnings of one men's basketball coach on each staff — resulted in a lawsuit that cost the NCAA millions of dollars.

…On Monday, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors deferred until April action on proposals that would revise restrictions on the use of athletes' names or pictures in charitable or educational promotional campaigns.

At least one member of the board expressed concern about those promotional campaign items linking athletes with commercial products that act as partners with the school.

"The using of a student's image to sell a product is for me a slippery slope," University of Georgia President Michael Adams said Sunday.

Universities took a step down that slope years ago with a rule change allowing commercial logos, such as the Nike Swoosh, on team uniforms.

…Cutting baseball to 52 games hits a roadblock

Should baseball teams play 56 or 52 regular-season games? The athletics department and conference administrators and faculty athletics representatives of the Division I management council want the season left at 56 games. Many of the presidents on the Division I Board of Directors want to cut it to 52.

…"A lot of us are concerned about the academic performance of baseball teams," said board member Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford.

Baseball teams performed poorly in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate.


The Atlanta Journal Constitution
OSU Now Truly on
Its Way Intellectually


Oklahoma State University officials announced today that legendary oilman Boone Pickens has donated $165 million to be used to fund one of the nation’s most comprehensive collegiate athletic complexes during the next five to 10 years.

..."Developing those facilities [said Pickens] will help move the university into a new era, both in athletics and academics. Athletics have proven to be a significant contributor in the academic success of an institution, both from a fundraising and a performance perspective.”


OSU News Release
BENJAMIN LADNER:
On His Way Toward
Becoming Cultural
Shorthand



At the same time, Hamilton's ghost has returned in the form of a fixation on status and privilege. Although conspicuous consumption is not new in American life (we've long had our robber barons), it has spread to sectors of society that are supposed to embody an elevated public-spiritedness. Thus the Louis XIV—type behavior of American University's president Benjamin Ladner. At a New Year's dinner to celebrate the engagement of his son, paid for by the university, guests enjoyed truffles and caviar washed down by Cuvée Palmes d'Or champagne. The appalled trustees eventually ousted Ladner, but his actions speak to a larger phenomenon: as the late social critic Christopher Lasch wrote in the mid-1990s, a new and dandified aristocracy of talent has arisen in America. Its members are continuing to remove themselves from common life.


Atlantic Magazine
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME
Clever Little Buggers



'As far as Kyle Stoneman is concerned, the campus police were the ones who started the Facebook wars. "We were just being, well, college students, and they used it against us," says Mr. Stoneman, a senior at George Washington University in Washington. He is convinced that the campus security force got wind of a party he and some buddies were planning last year by monitoring Facebook.com, the phenomenally popular college networking site. The officers waited till the shindig was in full swing, Mr. Stoneman grouses, then shut it down on discovering under-age drinking.

Mr. Stoneman and his friends decided to fight back. Their weapon of choice? Facebook, of course.

Once again they used the site, which is visited by more than 80 percent of the student body, to chat up a beer blast. But this time, when the campus police showed up, they found 40 students and a table of cake and cookies, all decorated with the word "beer." "We even set up a cake-pong table," a twist on the beer-pong drinking game, he says. "The look on the faces of the cops was priceless." As the coup de grâce, he posted photographs of the party on Facebook, including a portrait of one nonplussed officer.

A university spokesman, Tracy Schario, insists that noise complaints, not nosing around Facebook, led the police to both parties. But, she says, "it's sort of an inevitability that if a party is talked about on the site, word of it will reach the enforcement people, who then have no choice but to investigate." In fact, two campus police officers and the chief's assistant are among the 14,000 Facebook members at George Washington.'

Monday, January 09, 2006

I don’t need drugs.
I’m high on hoax.


Hoax is UD’s amphetamine, her hyperstimulant of choice, her own personal rush machine. Others take note of hoaxes, tsk, and move on; UD hunkers down and gets happy.

UD gets more out of a hit of hoax than Hunter Thompson got from a hundred grams of heroin. Hoax:UD as Opium:Thomas DeQuincey. Hoax: UD as Hooch:Malcolm Lowry. Hoax: UD as Absinthe:Alfred Jarry.

And when the hoax is literary! Then Ossian’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.


No doubt there are dark - very dark - Hostel dark - reasons why UD responds to the Million Little Pieces hoax (to take the more high-profile of two recent examples - here‘s the other one - make what you can of it) with irrational exuberance. But let’s not go there. Let's go to the tape.


The website Smoking Gun decided to establish the veracity of James Frey’s tell-all memoir of his “vomit-caked years as an alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal,” and couldn’t get anywhere. There was an odd absence of cooperation from the author, who eventually got a lawyer to write SG a threatening letter. Almost none of the jails, hospitals, and rehab joints listed in the text checked out, or checked out in any way resembling Frey‘s description of events there. The book’s French priest incident, in which, during a p’tit promenade to throw himself off the Eiffel Tower, Frey ducks into a church and encounters a penis-pinching prelate, began to look flaccid.

'When recalling criminal activities, looming prison sentences, and jailhouse rituals, Frey writes with a swaggering machismo and bravado that absolutely crackles. Which is truly impressive considering that, as TSG discovered, he made much of it up. The closest Frey has ever come to a jail cell was the few unshackled hours he once spent in a small Ohio police headquarters waiting for a buddy to post $733 cash bond.'


One familiar feature of literary hoaxes - the death of anyone the author ever knew - also appears in Frey: “[A]lmost every character in Frey's book that could address the remaining topics has either committed suicide, been murdered, died of AIDS, been sentenced to life in prison, gone missing, landed in an institution for the criminally insane, or fell off a fishing boat never to be seen again.” Still, a few witnesses to Frey’s lying survive, and their testimony is devastating.

The story of this latest trick played upon credulous people titillated by details of extreme degradation is now everywhere - the New York Times, the Washington Post. The only spectator sport that remains - for the true hoax enthusiast, like UD - is watching Frey, his editors, his publishers, and the screenwriters at work on a hagiographic film about him, squirm.

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

UPDATE: As with the play Frozen, good literary critics, in this hoaxy age, are more important to the culture than ever. Via Maud Newton, I note that the excellent Chris Lehmann of Slate saw Frey's bullshit well in advance of the Smoking Gun. This is from Lehmann's review in April 2003:


But there's nothing new or compelling (let alone heroic) about this pose: It is, in many ways, the classic arc of the genre Frey claims he's boldly renovated—the conversion memoir. From St. Augustine to Rousseau to Dave Eggers and Elizabeth Wurtzel, readers of memoirs are invited to marvel at the incorrigible badness of a narrator as a sort of trust-exercise: Surely someone who conceals so little of their unpleasant behavior can't be lying.


...Indeed, sentimentality is often the enchanted mirror into which the practiced nihilist preens. After all, the nihilist worldview holds that most things are beneath the self, and the sentimentalist concludes that most things are about the self—the point being in either case to keep the narrating ego at center stage. So, while Frey begins the vast majority of his flat, pain-ridden sentences with the word "I," many of them resolve into emotional set pieces reminiscent of Victorian melodrama.


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

Kudos also to James Browning of The Village Voice, who wrote this in April 2003:

His suffering is both incredible (using so much "bittersweet peppermint gasoline"–scented crack and meth and speed and PCP that he vomits and blacks out seven days a week for years) and simply not credible (undergoing a root canal without anesthesia because patients at his rehab clinic aren't allowed drugs of any kind).

...The plotting—a sign of trouble when a memoir brings this word to mind—is stilted and conventional.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Reading for UD...

...in preparation for MAYBE going to the upcoming Knight Commission meeting at her university, GW:

From The Grand Rapids Press:


Even under the colleges' newly liberalized system for counting athlete graduations, the rates show averages of just 64 percent for football players and 58 percent for men's basketball. Dozens of teams, especially in men's basketball, have virtually no athletes reaching the academic finish line. And the top-25 ranks in football and men's basketball are middling at best. The current No. 1 and 2 in basketball, Duke and Connecticut, have 50 percent rates of basketball player graduations.


...The organization soon will decide whether to impose penalties on teams graduating fewer than half of their athletes. Consequences could include losses of scholarships, restrictions on recruiting and bans on post-season play.

The NCAA mustn't back off from these intentions. Nor can it let schools crowd athletes into soft courses and curriculums that lead nowhere. Universities exist to educate students and give them futures, not to exploit them. When they are true to that principle, the athletes always win. So do the universities.
ADVICE FOR GARY HART

parenthetically put, along his
New York Times interview
in today’s Sunday magazine



"As everyone knows, your second bid for the presidency ended virtually overnight, in 1987, with accusations of adultery, and I am wondering if you feel bitter.

It's not my nature to feel bitter. I've been away from Washington for 19 years. Mostly I talk to my neighbors in Kittredge, Colo., real Americans, not Jack Abramoff. [Need to watch the “real Americans” rhetoric here. Precisely in what way is Jack Abramoff not a real American?] I am an outdoorsman. I chop wood. I take hikes with my dog, Winston. [Gruff outdoorsman thing here is plainly imitative of Dubya, esp. the wood. Do you hunt? It would‘ve been better to describe yourself doing that.]

You can't really stay this calm about events in Washington.

I don't. I go out and kick trees. I don't just hug them, I kick them. And what I am going to do is accept a professorship. [Strange transition. Along with kicking trees you work out your rage about the world by accepting a professorship?]

At what school?

I can't tell you. It hasn't been announced.

So why not announce it now?

The University of Colorado will announce on the 15th of January that I have accepted an endowed professorship. …I have never believed in careerism. [Then why, in a casual interview, did you find time to put “endowed” in front of “professorship”?] The founders thought you ought to serve and move on. Otherwise, you become a captive of the system. You've got to raise millions and millions of dollars to stay in office, and you can get that from lobbyists, and what you trade is access. It's a corrupt system. It's massively corrupt. [Have you kept track of the University of Colorado system? It makes Washington look clean.]"
Okay, let’s say, for argument’s sake…


…that UD does attend this sports thing at GW on the thirtieth. Maybe a little background reading wouldn’t be out of line… This is from Spiked, a British publication:

[T]he Jockocracy [is] a faction of immense power at most public and many private universities despite being utterly alien to education, scholarship or learning in any form. This consists of the administrators and chief functionaries of the athletic programme, most notably the coaches heading the school's football and basketball teams.

Such programmes are run for the economic benefit of these worthies while also enriching media outlets, purveyors of jock-related trinkets, and manufacturers of athletic shoes.

Their viability depends, ultimately, on the eagerness of young athletes, typically profoundly deficient in academic skills, to be ruthlessly exploited while largely surrendering their personal autonomy.

The underlying looniness of the situation is epitomised by the fact, no doubt mind-boggling to most non-Americans, that at a university with a 'big-time' team, the football coach will earn eight or nine times as much as the most distinguished professor.

Athletics is the most hypocritical, corrupt, cynical, vicious and depraved aspect of university culture and, therefore, it is the one aspect of university culture unreservedly approved of by politicians, businessmen and the general public.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sounds pretty welcoming, actually.

Still can’t decide if I should go and blog it….





The Knight Commission Presents
A Summit on the Collegiate Athlete Experience
Monday, January 30, 2006, 9:00 AM - 3:15 PM


JOIN US AT THE EVENT!

Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at the Marvin Center
George Washington University
800 21st St. NW, Washington DC

The Knight Commission is engaging students, athletes, and the academic community on real-life issues that affect college athletes.

In addition to current collegiate athletes participating in the Summit, panelists will include:

Jay Williams, former Duke University basketball player
George Raveling, Director of Global Basketball Sports Marketing, Nike, Inc.
Joanne Belknap, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of Colorado
Don McPherson, Executive Director, Sports Leadership Institute, Adelphi University
Frank Uryasz, President, The National Center for Drug Free Sport

Key topics:

VALUES AND CHOICES (9:00-10:50)
Experts and athletes will discuss substance abuse, performance-enhancing substances, violent behavior and other moral questions facing college athletes.

RECRUITING (11:00-12:50)
Coaches, parents, and athletes will discuss changes in recruiting practices as well as debate the ethics of the recruiting process and the impact on students’ welfare.

LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD (2:00-3:15)
A panel discussion featuring current and former athletes.
***The Summit will be WEBCAST live on www.knightcommission.org***
A Few Last Details
As We Lay
University High
To Rest


'A November 2002 internal balance sheet for University High showed $11,385 for office salaries and $64,205 for advertising - the largest expense - but no spending for instructors.

…John McLeod, a retired Miami-Dade Community College professor, was listed as principal of University High in a welcome letter to students as recently as last year. [School owner] Kinney said: "It was there when I got there. I've never met him." McLeod has said he never heard of University High.'
From the Pen of a Student
at Ohio University




According to a Nov. 29, 2005, Post article, [OU football coach] Solich was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, which was facing the wrong way on a one-way street.

He had trouble opening the car door when police arrived and refused a Breathalyzer test.

His license was suspended for 180 days, and he was fined $250 and sentenced to a three-day driver intervention program.



But despite Solich's legal problem, this university would not give up on him.

And kudos to them for that decision. Nothing says party school like a president and athletic director who decide to retain a coach who breaks the law - especially a law involving alcohol - when the first-year students at the "party school" must complete an alcohol education requirement before starting classes in September.

The State Highway Patrol did, however, decide to stop using posters on which Solich promotes safe driving, according to a Jan. 4 article on ESPN.com.

I suppose if the first-year football coach can't yet give us a winning season and consistent national exposure, the next best thing he could have done was improve our party school reputation. And what better way to show the country we are a party school than to have one of OU's highest-paid employees publicly embarrass the university (and himself) by reaffirming the image of OU students around the nation.



But it doesn't stop there. Even OU's president, who has repeatedly pleaded with students to drink responsibly, told Solich that it's OK and he can keep his job, as long as pays his fine and acknowledges his mistake.

I wonder if McDavis will begin extending that type of amnesty to students who just smoke pot, just drink underage or just plagiarize. I mean, we don't really pay thousands of dollars in tuition to learn and obtain a respectable degree, do we?

…OU students don't pay for college; we pay the four-year cover charge - plus the cost of drinks.
Cloning Your Own Eggs in Korea


From CNN:


Challenging bosses is uncommon and failing to bow to superiors invites reproach. With most men forced to serve a stint in the military, a culture of following orders prevails.

Nowhere is this more evident than in academia, a field that has been roiled by the fraud scandal surrounding the once esteemed stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk. Blindly obeying lordly professors is seen as the surest way to success. Graduate students compete for coveted tenured faculty positions known here as an "iron rice bowl" -- a Chinese idiom meaning a guaranteed lifetime job.

"In relations with professors, the graduate school students are the absolute weak," said Baek Seung-ki, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in physics at state-run Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. "You must do whatever you are told to do."

But some are now questioning this system, including a few in academia and a newspaper that editorialized against the university culture.



Hwang, 53, rose to international fame in 2004 when he announced the creation of the world's first cloned human embryo at his laboratory at Seoul National University, South Korea's most prestigious school.

Last year, he claimed to have created embryonic stem cells tailor-made to patients, which stunned the world and suggested fast progress toward developing treatments for Alzheimer's disease, paralysis and other afflictions.

Kim Sun-jong, a former researcher at Hwang's lab, has told South Korean media that Hwang ordered him to fabricate data for a paper on the designer stem cells published in the journal Science in May.

Hwang said last month he would quit his professorship amid a university investigation. Seoul National University says it has yet to receive any letter of resignation, meaning he is still employed by the state-run institution.



The university has confirmed all the research in the 2005 paper was faked. It plans to release final results of its probe Tuesday, including the veracity of the 2004 embryo report as well as whether Hwang actually cloned the world's first dog, as claimed last year.

The problem, editorialized the Segye Times newspaper, is "an outdated, premodern lab culture of obeying seniors' orders. While it was Professor Hwang who should have ensured truth and conscience, it is lamentable the researchers couldn't restrain such misconduct and instead blindly followed the orders."

Some experts say Hwang's underlings had no real choice.

"Professor Hwang's researchers followed the only logic of survival available to them ... even if it meant faking the research results," said Vladimir Tikhonov, a professor of Korean studies at the University of Oslo. "Questioning your professor means full loss" of job opportunities, he said.



MBC television network, which has played the leading media role in uncovering the cloning scandal, reported Tuesday that one of the two researchers at Hwang's Seoul lab who donated eggs for research, was pressured to do so for fear Hwang would not list her as a co-author for a paper.

Hwang admitted in November the scientists donated eggs -- widely considered unethical. He says he didn't know about the donations until later.

"I regret that I didn't stand up against the professor," MBC quoted the graduate student researcher, identified by her surname Park, as saying in an e-mail message to an acquaintance before donating eggs in 2003. Park said she was "exceedingly disgusted" with herself for having to conduct cloning experiments on her own eggs.



Influential professors at prestigious schools "are allowed to build their own private kingdoms, promoting and demoting their underlings largely at will," said Tikhonov, a naturalized Korean of Russian origin also known as Pak Noja.

Listing professors as senior authors on papers even if they contributed little, fabricating receipts to cover up their personal use of research funds, and running errands for them are just a few of the headaches grad school students say they face.

"Most professors tend to think graduate students are their personal secretaries," said a doctoral degree candidate at Seoul's Hanyang University, requesting that his name and even his major not be revealed.

"It's hard to refuse requests in fear of retaliation," said the 34-year-old, who once had to go to his professor's house on a weekend to fix a computer.



Professors argue such misconduct is uncommon.

"I think it's just a small number of professors who make such absurd requests," said Cho Dong-jun, who teaches international relations at the University of Seoul. "If these were common practices, I, as a professor, would have easily known about them, but I've never seen such a case."

Cutthroat competition for a professorship sometimes involves large sums of money changing hands.

In the first eight months of last year, prosecutors penalized 61 professors and administrators, mostly for receiving bribes in exchange for granting tenure. In 2004, prosecutors punished 23 professors and officials on similar charges as well as misappropriation of funds.

In one case last year, a university chancellor received $4 million from 42 candidates in exchange for appointing them as professors, prosecutors said.
BLOGOSCOPY

“The trouble even an established customer will take to obtain a newspaper continues to shrink, as well. Once, I would drive across town if necessary. Today, I open the front door and if the paper isn't within about 10 feet I retreat to my computer and read it online. Only six months ago, that figure was 20 feet. Extrapolating, they will have to bring it to me in bed by the end of the year and read it to me out loud by the second quarter of 2007.”


Michael Kinsley
University of the Midwest

You know me and television. But sometimes UD reads a tv review in the Times that makes her wonder if she made the right decision all those years ago:



The first time I saw "Absolutely Fabulous," when Comedy Central imported it from Britain in 1994, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But the show grew on me, and today I am an ardent fan of Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon, the dissolute, middle-aged Londoners whose enthusiastic substance abuse, rampant superficiality and desperate clinging to the values of their mod youth made that series so great.

If "Campus Ladies" is not America's answer to "Ab Fab," it comes close. The series, which has its premiere Sunday night on Oxygen, is often hilarious but it may be an acquired taste.

The two women whose adventures this show chronicles are 40-ish and American. When Joan (Carrie Aizley), a widow, and Barri (Christen Sussin) walk in on Barri's husband in bed with another woman, they head straight for a bar and some reassuring umbrella-in-the-glass drinks. Seeing a couple of pretty blond twins having a good time and toasting their sophomore year with friends, Joan and Barri are inspired. To spice up their boring lives, they'll go to college.

Their pal Gail (Jane Kaczmarek, the show's first guest star) thinks this is a terrible idea. "All they do in college is have sex over and over again," Ms. Kaczmarek says with the voice of authority that has made her the emotional center of Fox's long-running sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle."

Gail is wrong. They do a lot of other things, as Joan and Barri learn upon enrolling at the fictional University of the Midwest.

Their normal-college-age roommate, Paige (Miranda Kent), is horrified to meet them. "No offense to the elderly or whatever," she says in extreme distress, babbling apologies as she rushes off to the housing office to ask for a room switch. (Housing says no.)

The sorority sisters at Gamma Delta Rho are equally appalled when the relentlessly cheerful older women turn up hoping to join their group. Joan and Barri don't understand half the younger women's questions, like "Lacto-ovo or vegan?" and "Jude or Johnny?"

The boys down the hall at the dorm, Drew (Derek Carter) and Abdul (Amir Talai), are much more welcoming. They invite Joan and Barri to a party, where the ladies enjoy Jell-O shots (unaware of the liquor involved), play spin the bottle and do some spontaneous making out with very young men.

Guy (Jonah Hill), the young residence counselor, embraces and defends Joan and Barri too. "You know who else didn't like to party with old people?" he says to Paige. "Adolf Hitler!"

In next week's episode, both women are picked up at a poetry bar - Barri by another guest star, Anthony Anderson, and Joan by Will Forte of "Saturday Night Live," playing a poet who finds her intriguing.

One of the major characters has sex in that episode, but off screen, and the indications that this is going on are absurdly good-natured. The closest thing to bawdy or raunchy in the episode is an observation that Mr. Anderson's character shares with Barri: "They say when a woman hits 40, she's the most orgasmic that she'll ever be."

And what a lovely fantasy for any woman who knows what cellulite looks like! These boys show no revulsion at the idea of getting naked with women who may be wrinkly or more than a little overweight or just not as taut as they used to be. (Compare, for instance, Jack Nicholson's character's reaction to seeing Diane Keaton's character nude in the film "Something's Gotta Give.") In fact, in keeping with scientific estimates of the average 19-year-old male's sex drive, the young men are quite eager.

Cheryl Hines, who plays Larry David's wife on HBO's mostly improvised series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is an executive producer of "Campus Ladies." Ms. Hines, who was once in the Groundlings comedy troupe with Ms. Sussin and Ms. Aizley, has said that the new show is largely improvised too.

I'd love to know who came up with one particular line in the premiere episode. Abdul, who is from Iran, doesn't offer to help with the women's heavy luggage at first but quickly realizes his error. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking," he says. "Back home, you would carry our bags."
AI


The blog Media Bistro writes: “Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Olesker has been let go by the paper for plagiarism (or the P.C. term: 'attribution issues').”

I’ve already blogged about Olesker. But until now I didn’t know the politically correct phrase for plagiarism, and I thank MB. From now on I will try to use this more sensitive formulation.
Hm.

“These are the earliest findings of the Knight Commission's poll. More will be released at the Summit on the Collegiate Athlete Experience to be held at George Washington University on Jan. 30, 2006.”


Think they’ll let me in? It’s a Monday - I don’t teach that day. Maybe I’ll live-blog it! (If they let me in.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

MILLS AND TEACHERS
(AND UNIONS) AGAIN


During Thursday's [labor] hearing, both [diploma mill graduate] teachers acknowledged they did no course work, did not correspond with any instructors, took no exams and wrote no thesis papers. They paid less than $3,000 for their [MA] degrees and were required only to compile transcripts from previous college courses and workshops and provide information on classroom practices.

...The board [and the superintendent of schools] …demanded the teachers return the difference in pay accumulated since the 1999 raise [given on the basis of the bogus degrees], about $37,000 each.

The teachers union filed a grievance, forcing the labor hearing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

REALLY BAD NOVEL

Via Betsy’s Page, this comment from John Podhoretz:

[Abramoff] is like a really bad novel. An Orthodox Jewish lobbyist stealing money from Indian tribes, funneling it through a yoga instructor at the beach, and being a possible accessory to a gangland hit in Florida?




Does sound like an impossible plot. But UD’s done some research and come up with actual, similar-sounding novels. First, a couple described by the Jewish Review:


The Longest Night by Gregg Keizer, C. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004, 366 pages, hardcover, $24.95

What happens when a New York Jewish gangster sends his hit man "Mouse" to Europe to ensure his "donation" is properly spent rescuing a trainload of Jews from the Nazis? It turns into an unpredictable story of an unlikely rescue and an equally unlikely redemption.

Mouse soon discovers Hitler's Europe is nothing like the streets of New York. Before he knows it, Mouse is racing to avoid capture not by police but by Nazis. And now he is shooting to save lives. Mouse finds tenderness and courage on the mission he considered crazy.


The Matzo Ball Heiress by Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Red Dress Ink, 2004, 320 pages, trade paperback, $12.95

Heather Greenblotz, the 31-year-old millionaire heiress to the world's largest matzo company, normally spends Passover eating a non-kosher ham and cheese sandwich. Then the Food Channel wants to air a live broadcast of the Greenblotz family seder, a publicity opportunity too good to "pass over." Knowing that even if she could round up her scattered family, the telecast would expose them as frauds, Heather finds the perfect cast to portray her family.

It almost works--until her real family decides to show up and take part in the seder. With the cameras about to roll, Heather has to cope with the turbulent reunion between her scuba-diving mother and her bisexual father, who appears with his swishy boyfriend, her cousin's shiksa girlfriend and her best friend's Egyptian boyfriend.



Three more plot summaries, from the New York Times book review:


In 1978, Tova Reich's novel Mara depicted an Orthodox rabbi who doubles as a shady nursing-home owner, married to an overweight dietitian so obsessed with food that she gorges herself with five-course meals, even on the fast day of Yom Kippur. The Hasidic hero of her 1988 novel, Master of the Return (praised by Publishers Weekly for its "devastating accuracy") abandons his semi-paralyzed pregnant wife in her wheelchair in order to spit on immodestly clad female strangers; at home, he helps his 2-year-old son get "high on the One Above" by giving him marijuana. Reich's 1995 novel, The Jewish War, told of a band of zealots whose leader takes three wives and encourages his followers to kill themselves.



UD also stumbled on a film:

It's a bit unusual that Sheldon, a young schlemiel accountant wants to join a Chevrah Kadisha (a traditional Jewish burial society that prepares bodies for interment), but the elders decide to give him a try. Then two million bucks go missing from Sheldon's former employer. Canadian director Nicholas Racz uses the little-seen world of the Jewish burial society as a backdrop for a quirky, darkly funny murder mystery complete with Jewish Mafia thugs, devious detectives, and nervous breakdowns.

THE BURIAL SOCIETY
Canada, 2003 - 100 minutes
Vultural Literacy



' They've tried to scare the vultures away with rubber chickens, hung upside down and painted black.

That only moved the dozens of carcass-eating birds on the Texas State University campus to another building.

The birds don't hurt anyone, which is why the university hasn't gone beyond the fake poultry stage to get rid of them. It seems their only crime is being homely.

"They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder," said university spokesman Mark Hendricks. "Well, this beholder says those are pretty ugly birds."

A few years back, Hendricks said, he was having the type of day where everything that could go wrong did, when he looked out the window on the eighth floor of the main administration building and saw a vulture staring back at him, wings spread as it hung on a draft. "Had that glass not been there, I'm sure I would have smelled his breath," Hendricks said. "I looked out there and said, 'You know something? I wish it was time to go home.' "


The vultures — specifically turkey and black vultures — used to roost on electric wires around campus and in the trees near Aquarena Center, an environmental attraction close to the university. But a few years ago, the birds moved closer to the main campus, settling on Strahan Coliseum and the J.C. Kellam Administration Building, where they startle people and have left excrement on the balcony of the 11th-floor room where campus officials often host parties.

David Huffman, a biology professor at the university who has studied birds for more than 30 years, said the vultures probably like the buildings' flat surfaces and lack of natural predators.

"It's just kind of a weird thing to be in a president's cabinet meeting, and there's buzzards on the ledge watching you," said T. Cay Rowe, interim vice president for university advancement.

Graduate student David Cohen says he likes how the birds have become part of the campus scene.

"We expect to see these things now, flying around the J.C. Kellam building," Cohen said. "And that's part of what I like. I like having things I can point out and say, 'OK, this is something that's sort of different about Texas State.' "

Huffman said spikes on the ledges would make the beady-eyed creatures uncomfortable. But since there haven't been many complaints, the university doesn't plan to spend the money to install them.

"I actually think when they're flying, it's awfully pretty," Rowe said. "They're so graceful. And, let's face it, they perform a necessary function in society." '
SMART RESPONSE...

...to the following statement on an Inside Higher Ed comment thread:

In my experience, most faculty members who don’t get a monograph completed in their probationary period did not deserve tenure in their PhD granting departments.


...from Michael Berube, who writes:

My stars! This would mean, among other things, that almost no philosophers deserve tenure in PhD-granting philosophy departments. Taken together with some of the other skeptical remarks in this thread, I’m inclined to believe that many people think philosophers have poor scholarly standards, as well — all because they don’t require monographs for tenure.

Now, before the philosophers set upon me: I’m being facetious, of course. But I have a serious point, namely, that the monograph-for-tenure standard is not universal in academe. It’s not even universal in the humanities. The idea that monographs and monographs alone can serve as guarantors of scholarly integrity bespeaks a particularly parochial view of the scholarly world.

Personally, I’m not against monographs. I like many of them, and I own lots of ‘em too. Furthermore, the Task Force is not calling for all scholars to refrain from emulating books like Mimesis or The Mirror and the Lamp. We’re simply trying to make the case for multiple pathways to tenure and promotion, some — but not all — of which would involve monographs.
BUMPER STICKERS


The Wired Economy

ABRAMOFF ON
THE FETISHIZATION
OF THE MONOGRAPH


The strangest voice weighing in so far on the “fetishization of the monograph” debate currently raging among American academics is Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist whose extensive corrupt dealings may bring down both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Few thought Abramoff, whose career has been about deal-making in Hollywood and Washington, would care about university departments’ traditional insistence on a book manuscript for tenure, but one person isn’t surprised: his roommate at Brandeis University:

Jack Abramoff was my room-mate for two years at Brandeis University. We were both English majors, class of ‘81, we were both originally from southern New Jersey. Jack was not raised an Orthodox Jew. Jack, in my estimation, was one who adhered to his own particular forms of discipline. He was also, in high school, a weightlifter. Orthodoxy and weightlifting, among many more of Jack’s habits of the time, required this strange form of self-imposed discipline. Our tiny campus apartment, really three rooms, was strictly kosher. Jack disliked drugs, and never would drink much beyond wine for Shabbat. His head was always covered. Jack and I would often discuss politics, arts, history, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and more.


[Note: This page has now been removed from the blog where UD found it. She therefore cannot vouch for its authenticity.]

Abramoff’s combination of interest in weights, strict adherence to orthodoxy in general, and engagement in the poetry of Stevens, led him, he tells an interviewer for the New York Times (the interview will appear soon in the Sunday magazine, and will feature, UD is told, a full-length photo of Abramoff in his Orthodox/mobster look), to consider studying Stevens in graduate school and writing "a big heavy hardback book" about him called Domination of Black. Now, though, "it's a blessing I didn't go into the field. They're desecrating the rule of the book. It's a disgusting concession to modernity."
Bottom of the Barrel

Here’s a strong-minded editorial from the Review Journal in Nevada. Situations like this help explain the results of the recent college literacy study.



On Sunday, we lamented the fact that Nevada regents last week got cold feet over raising admission standards at the state's two major, four-year universities, UNLV and UNR.

The regents -- cowed by defenders of mediocrity who claim higher requirements would be elitist or even racist -- put off for at least another month a decision on demanding that incoming freshman earn at least a 3.0 GPA in high school in order to enroll at either institution. (The GPA standard would be waived for those who achieved a reasonable score on either the ACT or SAT.)

Also last week, Nevada higher education officials revealed that the state was near the bottom when it came to college graduation rates in the West.

The state's community college students were dead last out of 15 states in terms of graduation rates, while just 45 percent of Nevada freshman students enrolled at UNLV or UNR in 1998 had earned a diploma by 2004. (UNR was at 49 percent, UNLV was at 42 percent.) That was fourth from the bottom in the West.

Do you suppose the lax admission standards and the poor graduation rates are related?

In fact, it's been an embarrassment for the past few years that a significant percentage of freshman who earn the state's coveted Millennium Scholarship -- essentially free tuition at a state college for those who achieve a 3.0 GPA at a Nevada high school -- have had to take either remedial math or English upon enrolling at UNLV or UNR.

Yes, graduation rates can be deceptive -- especially at community colleges. People change plans, they transfer to different schools, they may enter the work force planning to return years later to finish their course work.

But if entrance requirements at UNLV and UNR remain unchallenging, the schools will inevitably continue to attract too many students who simply aren't prepared for the work required at a four-year institution. Graduation rates will remain low.

That doesn't do the students -- or taxpayers and the community -- a bit of good.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

DOUG BANDOW
WANTS MY SYMPATHY


And he’s got it, to some extent. Everyone says Bandow, who has lost his Cato Institute and syndicated column gigs because he took Abramoff money for writing pieces of interest to Abramoff’s clients, is a nice guy. He’s an excellent writer too.

And in a candid essay in the LA Times, he pleads guilty to having done a stupid thing. He also makes the perfectly credible point that he has always maintained the integrity of his viewpoints. He has never been false to what he believes. He has merely been willing to peddle his beliefs for money. Doesn’t much of Washington punditry, he asks, do something like this? Aren’t we in a very gray zone?

Many supposedly "objective" thinkers and "independent" scholar/experts these days have blogs or consulting gigs, or they are starting nonprofit Centers for the Study of …. Who funds their books, speeches or other endeavors? Often it's those with an interest in the outcome of a related debate. The number of folks underwriting the pursuit of pure knowledge can be counted on one hand, if not one finger….


Of course it’s one thing to be a staff writer - on a magazine, at a think tank - and another to represent yourself in a personal newspaper column as an independent voice, when in fact you‘ve got an undisclosed paying sponsor. I don’t think this sort of distinction is all that gray.




Another thing. I’d need to know a lot more about Bandow’s house to take this one lying down:

But I could never live on what [my freelance writing] paid alone. I affiliated with the Cato Institute, which always encouraged my work. But in the early years my wage there didn't cover my mortgage, let alone anything else.


When people who live in UD’s neck of the woods -- insanely affluent Bethesda/Northern Virginia/Northwest DC -- suggest that poverty made them do it, UD gets a little irritated. If Bandow turns out to live in the sort of modest dwelling a writer of his sort typically lives in, fine. But if Bandow’s holed up in a mcmansion, he’s lost my sympathy. Nobody says you get to be rich and a committed political writer at the same time.




One final thing - Bandow pretty much represents himself as having lost everything because of his small part in the big Abramoff story. Yet the tagline of his essay tells us that “Doug Bandow’s commentaries and essays will be published in two collections by Town Forum Press in 2006.”
A Fresh Plagiarism Story
To Ring in the New


Only it’s not that fresh, since, like most of his breed, this one, a columnist at the Baltimore Sun, has been at it awhile. A lot of these veteran paper boys (Bob Greene, that Irish guy in New York whose name I can’t remember) seem to be rascals, risk-takers, corner-cutters, whatever.

This one at least has good taste, preferring to pilfer paragraphs from his betters at the Washington Post and New York Times.

Plus he has x-ray vision.

Olesker's credibility was questioned more than a year ago by members of the [Maryland Governor Ehrlich’s] staff. They complained about a Nov. 16, 2004, column in which Olesker wrote that Ehrlich's communications director, Paul E. Schurick, was "struggling mightily to keep a straight face" when he said political gain was not a consideration in the governor's appearances in commercials promoting state tourism. Olesker acknowledged that he did not attend the hearing at which Schurick spoke and apologized, saying the reference to Schurick's expression was intended metaphorically, not literally.
THREE MORE LISTS
From Derrick Jackson
The Boston Globe

College Graduation Rate Bowl Games

Of the 28 college football bowl games, only one should be played on the basis of graduation rates. That is the game between Boston College and Boise State.

They are two of only 14 teams that have overall graduation rates of 50 percent or higher, a black graduation rate of 50 percent or higher and racial graduation gaps of less than 15 percentage points.

Of the 56 bowl teams in my 10th-annual Graduation Gap Bowl, I would disqualify 37 of them for having overall graduation rates under 50 percent and/or black graduation rates under 50 percent and/or racial gaps of 15 percent or more.

Overall graduation figures take into account the new and more optimistic NCAA Graduation Success Rates. The Graduation Success Rates credit schools for transfers who graduate and do not penalize them for athletes who leave early, but in good academic standing. The Graduation Success Rates cover scholarship athletes in the upcoming 2005 NCAA graduation reports who enter school in the academic years 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, and 1998-99 and have six years to graduate.

The NCAA has not yet released racial data for the Graduation Success Rates. The black graduation rates and racial gaps below come from the 2004 report and represent a one-year lag. Those figures show racial graduation gaps as half of the 56 teams had black graduation rates 20 or more percentage points behind white players.

Here are the calls by the head referee of the Graduation Gap Bowl.

Touchdown

Teams with at least a 50 percent overall graduation success rate, at least a 50 percent black graduation rate, and racial gaps of less than 15 percentage points.

Navy (98 percent graduation success rate)
Notre Dame (96)
Northwestern (92)
Boston College (89)
Texas Christian (86)
Penn State (84)
Southern Mississippi (76)
Virginia Tech (72)
Miami (67)
South Carolina (66)
Boise State (66)
Tulsa (62)
Southern California (55)
Rutgers (53)

First Down

Teams with overall and black graduation rates of at least 50 percent, but racial gaps of 15 percentage points or more.

Virginia (white rate 93, black rate 63)
Oregon (W 79, B 52)
Texas Tech (W 73, B 50)
Toledo (W 77, B 56)
South Florida (B 71, W 50)

Bowl Disqualification

Teams with overall and/or black graduation rates under 50 percent and/or racial gaps of 15 percentage points or more:

Colorado State (black rate 32, racial gap 31)
Nevada (BR 40)
Texas El-Paso (BR 38)
Alabama (Overall 39, gap 18)
Brigham Young (Overall 40, BR 22)
California (Overall 47, gap 17)
Houston (Overall 45)
Kansas (Overall 46, gap 30)
Minnesota (Overall 41, gap 33)
Fresno State (Overall 47)
Louisville (Overall 47, gap 26)
Georgia (Overall 45, gap 33)
Texas (Overall 40)
Central Florida (BR 26, gap 27)
Akron (BR 28, gap 38)
Memphis (BR 29, gap 30)
Arkansas State (BR 29, gap 25)
Colorado (BR 29, gap 31)
Clemson (BR 35, gap 42)
Arizona State (BR 34, gap 25)
Nebraska (BR 48, gap 22)
Michigan (BR 47, gap 23)
Utah (BR 31)
Georgia Tech (BR 43, gap 20)
Oklahoma (BR 35)
UCLA (BR 47, gap 19)
Louisiana State (BR 35, gap 26)
Missouri (BR 39)
Iowa State (BR 36, gap 27)
North Carolina State (BR 36, gap 18)
Iowa (BR 38, gap 26)
Florida (BR 36, gap 20)
West Virginia (BR 33, gap 23)
Wisconsin (BR 45, gap 20)
Auburn (BR 40, gap 34)
Ohio State (BR 43, gap 20)
Florida State (BR 43, gap 28)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

DID UD INTRODUCE THIS GUY
TO SPENSER’S FAERIE QUEENE?




Adam Kidan, a GWU grad, was once a source of pride at the university. In 1998, he was the invited speaker in the high-profile Hoffman Lecture series at GW’s business school -- a successful entrepreneur, a model for students…





Yet even then, Kidan was not only a business failure, but possibly a mobster.

There seems to have been a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line at the business school, then, unless they considered a man long under investigation for involvement in a mafia hit job , and now a major player in the about-to-explode Jack Abramoff scandal, a model.

Did UD have this guy in one of her Intro Lit classes? Did they savor together the sweetness of Spenser’s lines? As he reflects upon his twisted life, does Kidan now (thanks to UD!) find himself reciting

Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Vntill the blustring storme is ouerblowne;
When weening to returne, whence they did stray,
They cannot finde that path, which first was showne,
But wander too and fro in wayes vnknowne,
Furthest from end then, when they neerest weene,
That makes them doubt, their wits be not their owne:
So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That which of them to take, in diuerse doubt they been
Nice Quotation for
the Start of the Year


Amid a dispute at a Catholic university about whether unmarried partners among faculty may sleep in the same room when leading student trips, a theology professor on campus comments: "If sin and vice become disqualifying factors for university employees, then students might have to start teaching themselves."
Today’s plagiarism tale…

…is a bit harder to follow than most, coming from far-off China and all. But let’s follow the Guardian’s account, with our own parenthetical comments added:


A Chinese professor adopted as the intellectual poster boy of the Communist party has come under fire for plagiarising the work of a dissident jailed by the government in the early 1990s.

[The source of the plagiarism here wasn’t dead (the preferred orientation in the west), but in jail… and maybe the plagiarist figured he’d never get out…]

Zhou Ye Zhong [the plagiarist], a professor at Wuhan University, is credited with much of the inspiration behind the current leadership's new ideological approach, with its emphasis on the "harmonious society".

He has lectured the Politburo and Communist party chief Hu Jintao and has been at the centre of the party's efforts to square its ideology with formerly taboo topics such as human rights, the rule of law and constitutional government.

But his position as Beijing's golden boy has started to tarnish after he was accused of plagiarism by Wang Tiancheng [the plagiarized], a former Beijing University professor who was jailed for five years in 1992 for attempting to form a rival political party.

[Five years, and then he got out and read ZYZ’s book…]

Mr Wang used an internet discussion board to denounce Mr Zhou's work, and has threatened to take legal action against him if an explanation is not forthcoming.

He told Reuters that his book, The Constitutional Interpretation of Republicanism, was quoted "word for word" in Mr Zhou's recently published works.

"He's risen to the top by repackaging fashionable terms - human rights, democracy, rule of law - for the party's ends," Mr Wang said. "But he reflects the emptiness of the party's ideology. They've got nothing and so he needs to raid the opposition camp for any new ideas."

The Youth Daily, a newspaper given leeway to report stories suppressed by the rest of China's tightly controlled media, further publicised Mr Wang's claim of plagiarism. But that debate has now been muted following an order from propaganda officials to end further discussion of the matter in the domestic media.

[China can just shut everyone up.]

Mr Zhou has made little attempt to defend himself, although in an interview with a Youth Daily journalist in November he hinted that because of Mr Wang's history of dissent it was not politically sound for the publishing house to leave his name in the accreditation notes.

[Classy, and a familiar move. Blaming your plagiarism on the person you plagiarized is a time-honored tradition.]

The propaganda department last week ordered Youth Daily to suppress a dissection of Mr Zhou's book by a liberal law professor, He Weifang, but discussions of the case have spread on the internet.

[Actually, China can’t just shut everyone up.]

Mr He said Mr Zhou took dozens of sections from Mr Wang and other liberal scholars without attribution. "[Mr Wang] strains very hard to make liberal political thought consistent with the official line, and that doesn't fit," Mr He told Reuters.

[Also in line with established plagiarist behavior -- copying from many sources.]

Monday, January 02, 2006

BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: WOW!


'Counting Saturday, of the 20 bowls that have been played this year, only four have been sellouts. Of the sellouts, only one — the Sun Bowl — was at a stadium with more than 43,000 seats.

Altogether, college football has showcased its game in front of 302,436 empty seats at stadiums from Florida to Hawaii and all points in between. Nine of 20 bowls have been played in front of more than 10,000 empty seats each.'


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


'[C]ollege football's lucrative but ludicrous Bowl Championship Series …is still a Ponzi scheme masquerading as a legitimate substitute for a playoff system… Down here in warm and breezy Florida,…Penn State and Florida State are preparing for tomorrow's essentially meaningless Orange Bowl.

…Eighteen teams that didn't receive a single vote in the postseason polls will play in one of the made-for-TV fraud fests.'


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

'[T]he BCS is a profit-taking scheme and not a legitimate competitive series…

There is only one real question to ask … the …helmet-haired, necktie-smooth operators of the BCS: Why do you exist?

[T]he bowls lost their tradition years ago when they sold out to corporations. You show me tradition and I'll show you the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. ...[S]chools should stop playing pre-Christmas bowls that fall in the middle of finals...'
A Pallid Brief
for Tenure


Via Cliopatria, this opinion piece in the Boston Globe defending tenure isn’t very convincing. What jumps out right away is the absence of any reference to the actual reason tenure exists - the protection of intellectual freedom. Not a word about it.

Instead, this curious polemic spends a lot of time describing the non-controversial way in which tenure-track candidates are scrutinized for hire. It then says, rightly, that the trend toward replacing tenured and tenurable professors with non-tenurable adjuncts is a bad thing because adjuncts are ill-paid and have little incentive to be dedicated to their schools beyond the classroom.

But this point doesn’t defend tenure so much as the reformation of job conditions for contract faculty. It’s perfectly possible to have, for instance, longterm but not permanent professors who are paid well and have excellent work environments (sabbaticals, good salaries, reasonable course loads, etc.).

Nor, with the scandalous college literacy study fresh in everyone’s mind, does it do any good to state flatly that “Tenure, and the commitments it demands of faculty members who have earned it, remains the best system we have for ensuring the highest quality education for our college and university students.” I mean, I suppose you could say those rates wouldn’t have dropped if we hadn’t been dropping tenured faculty, but I doubt it. It’s not adjuncts’ fault that curricula are crappy, grades inflated, etc.

It’s also a curious statement to make given the biggest news out of this year’s MLA convention: the organization’s acknowledgement that precisely those commitments demanded of tenured faculty - most notoriously the insistence, in many departments, on the regular excretion of obscurity-bound monographs - are pointless and destructive and must end.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Everyone else is doing lists.

Here are two: American colleges and universities that had a good 2005, and those that had a bad one. UD came up with five goods and ten bads. For UD’s reasoning, read through the manifold pages of this blog. Or ask her.

GOOD YEAR
Hamilton College
Reed College
St John’s College Annapolis/Santa Fe
Wesleyan College
University of Wyoming


BAD YEAR
American University
Boise State
Brown University
Chico State
University of Colorado
Florida State University
University of Georgia
Georgia Southern University
University Southern Mississippi
Syracuse University
THE TELLY

UD, faithful readers know, doesn’t watch tv. There’s no television in her house.

She doesn’t avoid tv because she’s better than it. She avoids tv because she’s worse. If a television were nearby, she’d piss her life away watching it.

So UD’s dependent upon print or the web for university-related tv news, as in the spate of college ads that’s been appearing during football season. Slate has an article describing a selection (you can watch some of them via Slate’s site).



Slate titles its piece “Those Weird College Ads,” but they’re not weird. They’re all pretty much the same merry music montage, in which scandal-ridden places like the University of Georgia and the University of Colorado pretend to be scandal-free, and places like Penn State tout their lack of intellectual challenge (“Everything‘s gonna be alright!” goes the pop refrain.).

Having followed President Shelby Thames’s despotic rule over the University of Southern Mississippi (Thames has finally been kicked out of office as of next year), UD was amused to read (there’s no link to the ad itself) this description of USM’s ad:

The University of Southern Mississippi … wins the Ayn Rand Memorial Self-Actualization Award. What do a pensive painter, a guy in a library, and a woman at a computer have in common? "The courage to think for themselves and a university that fosters it. Southern Miss: Freeing the power of the individual."


And they say irony’s dead.
…Then as ye sit about your embers,


Call not to mind those fled Decembers;
But think on these, that are t'appear,
As daughters to the instant year;
Sit crown'd with rose-buds, and carouse,
Till LIBER PATER twirls the house
About your ears, and lay upon
The year, your cares, that's fled and gone:
And let the russet swains the plough
And harrow hang up resting now;
And to the bag-pipe all address,
Till sleep takes place of weariness…




Robert Herrick