Friday, March 31, 2006
The Pollyanna element is far too marked here for old UD, but she'll take her allies on the testing front where she can find them.
Only you can prevent lacrosse fires.|
"[A]s painful as these times are, the test of a school is not preventing bad things from ever happening, but in addressing them in an honest and forthright way," writes Duke's president in a letter to alumni.
Which UD finds a strange sentiment.
Of course an important test of any institution is its ability to control its members' behavior so that "bad things" (an infantile formulation that recalls a platitudinous best-seller of years ago -- When Bad Things Happen to Good People -- and suggests that hellfire suddenly roared up and burned the Blue Devils, when in fact they generated their own auto-da-fe) on this remarkable scale don't happen. The slow-burning scandal behind the big bonfire at Duke is that for years (as people like UD, who follow such things, know) Duke has pretty much looked the other way while all sorts of students there behaved appallingly.
The simple heart of this, I think, is that Duke's just got one humongous booze problem. Many students there are deeply, permanently, pissed. Duke University today is less a bastion of privilege than an epicenter of alcoholism. The school needs to shut down most of its other operations for awhile and reopen as a rehab unit.
of race, class, and gender
tend to bring out the
New York Times:
'The [Duke lacrosse] incident, straddling at once the quintessential social flashpoints of race, class and gender, has led community and university leaders to fear that the progress they have made in recent years in improving their relationship will be swept away in the storm'.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Clearly rattled at having been overtaken by Duke, perennial university-scandal frontrunner Chico State has come roaring back with a headline-grabbing approach to undergraduate depravity.
Already notorious for its homicidal hazers and fraternity-cast porno films, Chico is again in the news with its no-wait policy on alcohol poisoning.
In this latest case, a high school recruit to Chico’s baseball team who had not yet begun attending the university, let alone playing for it, was hospitalized with an overdose after a team party:
A 17-year-old student on a recruitment trip was attending a Friday party hosted by some team players. She spent five hours at Enloe Medical Center for alcohol overdose after becoming lethargic and unresponsive at the party.
At Chico State the hooch begins hurtling down your gullet the moment you get that special call that says, “You’re admitted.”
Excerpts from an Article|
By Mark Alesia in the
An excellent source for Duke Lacrosse news, regularly updated, from people who know and love the sport.
I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this comment.|
I found it on a blog.
But it sounds authentic.
'Of course, the Duke stuff is big news. I hate the lacrosse guys. When I was at Duke they were your standard lacrosse players, but I think they've gotten [. . .] worse. When we go down every year for a football game, we see them because for every football game they show up dressed in leather and all this S&M gear. It's really fucked up. The first time we were down there, a bunch of them [. . .] were bombed [and] came by our tailgate and tried to steal our beer. So I'm not shocked to see those assholes do something like this.'
I am the Chancellor’s dog at Kew;|
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
' Before UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton moved into her university-provided house on campus last year, she demanded dozens of improvements …
Here, thanks to Superdestroyer...|
...one of UD's readers, is fascinating background material on the Landon School contingent among the Duke lacrosse players. No one knows to what extent, if any, the large number of Landon grads on Duke's disgraced team were involved in what happened in Durham. But a culture of cheating, cynicism, and entitlement is clearly already well-established at Landon.
Which one would expect, given the subculture the school serves. UD just wishes institutions like Landon cared enough about the character of their charges to drop their "tradition of honor" bullshit. If you're going to be an incubator of cynics, at least be that honestly.
From Washingtonian Magazine, 2003:
'If jocks rule [at Landon], the boys who play lacrosse now are kings. The game, played with netted sticks and a hard rubber ball, can be as violent as football but with fewer pads. It requires the finesse of soccer and adds the brutality of rugby.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
One thing we can already conclude…|
…about the Duke story is that Southern culture does not take a hit.
Having looked at the team roster, UD must tell you that if any culture dominates, it’s UD‘s very own ‘thesdan culture (for background on ‘thesdan culture, go here). This is the affluent suburban Washington world in which UD grew up, and in which she has spent most of her adult life as well.
One of the Duke players graduated from Georgetown Prep, a tony Catholic school for boys which sits a quarter mile down the road from where I’m typing this. No fewer than six of the players come from the Landon School, another elegant private school in Bethesda. Two others graduated from Bullis -- the same sort of school, and also just a spell down the road from UD’s house. Two more players graduated from two other nearby private schools.
That’s a significant number of players to come from one small neighborhood.
Far as I can tell, none of the ‘thesdan lacrosse players attended a public school here, a fact that fits like a glove the Abercrombie stereotype of Duke, for all its dithering about diversity.
The clubbiness of the Duke lacrosse roster sheds some light on the now-notorious code of silence the players have all followed in the wake of the allegations. A lot of these guys have been bonded for years. They go way way back. They all went to the same five or six Duke feeder schools.
It’s a very parochial team, that is… and by extension, perhaps, a very parochial university, many people in it having come from one or another of the world’s small pinnacles of privilege and entitlement.
It’s disturbing to discover that a group of American winners, young men profoundly admired and cherished and advantaged, and carefully educated at the best schools, might in fact be absolute savages. Or be willing to collude in savagery. It suggests that what one might reasonably fear about some powerful privileged people might be true: That they regard themselves as a different and better breed altogether, and that they have contempt for what they consider the lower orders -- people who exist to be ignored, mocked, or made use of. Think Tom Buchanan, in The Great Gatsby.
Everything we’ve heard about the Duke story so far -- a story that still lacks corroboration -- resonates with this possibility.
Lest we forget...|
...that Duke is a great school full of serious students, here's a comment about the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre from one of his students, on Rate My Professors:
'Professor MacIntyre was [the] most challenging, most engaging, and most interesting professor of my entire college career. It's the only B+ I was ever proud of. I'm proud to say he taught me.'
Details here. If this woman is telling the truth, it’s beyond bad.
Nicely written, from the heart.|
The Duke Chronicle:
'Although I graduated from Duke in May, I am currently at UNC Law, still living in Durham and still missing the Gothic Wonderland.
The Revolutionary |
Students of Paris
David Rennie, Opinion, Telegraph:
'I listened to the news from France, and sighed over the latest outbreak of self-destructive, irrational protest playing out on the streets of Paris.
Keeping an Eye|
On the Bassoonist
From Scott Jaschik's article
About Duke Lacrosse in today's
Inside Higher Education:
'Paul H. Haagen, a professor of law and head of Duke’s Academic Council… said that he believes Duke is doing all it can to help the police investigations — while not doing things that could result in students being denied due process… But Haagen, whose academic specialty is sports law, said, “one of the realities here is that there is substantial public distrust of the ability of higher education to regulate its affairs related to athletes.”
What UD’s Missing |
By Not Watching TV
New York Times, Arts Section:
'The trouble with the WB series "The Bedford Diaries" isn't the sex, it's the curriculum.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
'In the past three years, about a third of the members of the Duke lacrosse team, under investigation in a reported gang rape have been charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior, court records show.
the broomstick’s new
'On Monday, details continued to emerge in the March 13 incident in which a woman who was hired as an exotic dancer for a lacrosse team party said she was held down, beaten, strangled, raped and sodomized. When the woman and another dancer began their routines, the woman said, one of the men watching held up a broomstick and threatened to sexually assault the women, according to court documents released Monday.
you gotta feel sorry for the neighbors
'That led to campus protests for the past three days, including a Saturday night candlelight vigil and a group of about 100 people banging pots and pans Sunday morning outside the home where the dancer said she was raped. One carried a sign that read, "All rapes deserve outrage."
bullies… and cowards
'On Monday, protests were on Duke's campus rather than at the house, one of 15 properties Duke bought in February in an effort to reach out to neighbors who have complained of rowdy parties at houses rented by students. Burness said the lacrosse captains who lived at the house have asked the university to relieve them of their lease.
winston salem journal
Requiem for Eldorado|
From the OC Register (UD thanks Simon, a reader):
[For background, scroll down to "Bear With Me..."]
‘[University of Southern California professor Barry] Landreth, 36, was arrested and charged in a $1.5 million Ponzi scheme that promised investors profits of up to 190 percent within 45 days. He made phony claims that his firm, Webster Realty Investors Inc., had real estate projects in Las Vegas and Chicago, according to the federal charges filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.
Home Page, Treena L. Gillespie, Ph.D.
Cal State Fullerton:
“When not completely immersed in teaching or research, I'm usually at the barn with my horses. (My oldest, Eldorado, is pictured above.)”
Via Mark Bauerlein in The Valve...|
...an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, with UD's parenthetical comments.
'…[A] new and unmistakably skeptical view of the ivory tower has emerged. With it have come increasing calls for a way to hold colleges and universities accountable for the quality of education delivered to more than 17 million students.
"The political power that college sports exercises is unbelievable. Football is a religion in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Alabama. And basketball is a religion in North Carolina and Kentucky." |
'Is the NCAA an illegal cartel that brazenly uses its power to generate immense wealth for member institutions, even as it shortchanges the amateur athletes it has sworn to protect?
Monday, March 27, 2006
Valuable exchange going on…|
… at TPM Café, from which Andrew Sullivan has drawn these two comments:
“Suppose that intellectuals of the left were thinking more clearly about the American nation as (a) a whole and (b) a work in progress? Suppose that ideas about actual American potential proved more appealing on the putatively left-wing campus than sticking up, in code and despair (albeit with flourishes), for all kinds of exotic indeterminacies, theological neo-Marxisms, and third-worldist romantic fancies?" - Todd Gitlin.
…will be giving a talk at GW this Friday, March 31, at 7:00 pm. Location: 1957 E Street, Room 113. It’s free and open to the public.
In preparation for this event, I’ve been reading her stuff (some of it kindly provided by Kevan Duve, a GW honors student who‘s involved in putting the event together). I love her memories of some of the gay men who’ve been important in her life:
After AIDS was identified and had claimed hundreds of lives in New York and San Francisco, Bruce went through a period of severe anxiety, in which the slightest symptom seemed a harbinger of death. He was scrupulous about practicing safe sex with hustlers, not so much to protect himself from them as vice versa. He applied a ritualistic standard of cleanliness to his sexual encounters. In all moral dilemmas or debates he explicitly invoked the standards of “the ethical Jew,” here above all. As the years passed, he showed no signs of illness and remains healthy today. But I will never forget a daffy exchange in 1984 as I drove him from Manhattan to Syracuse for our twentieth high-school reunion, the first time we had seen our WASP sirens and tyrants since graduation. Somewhere between Albany and Utica on the Thruway, I tried to distract him from his obsessive examination of his dry skin patches and minutely swollen armpit glands. Listening to the radio, I vaguely asked him, apropos of nothing, “Did Pat Benatar have a nose job?” He peevishly shot back, “Does she have a face? They don’t operate on mice.”
But of course it’s her stuff on universities that most people know about, and she’ll be talking about universities at GW. If you’re around, you should come.
Duke Bears Lacrosse|
“[I]n all my years associated with the game, I have never witnessed a story that has had such an impact on a program, as well as the landscape of a Division 1 season. The Blue Devils were on everyone's list to contend for the National Championship. It will be difficult to play under these circumstances, that is when/if they take the field again this season. The legal system will clear this picture in the immediate future and answer everyone's questions. Regardless, it is a sad time for the fastest growing sport in the country.”
In The Valve, |
Mark Bauerlein writes:
'Here are some papers that were delivered at the annual CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication). With so many college students graduating without the ability to compose a coherent paragraph, one might assume the focus of the convention would fall upon writing skills and rhetorical structures. But for a fair portion of the entries, we get something else.
This is ed school stuff, kicked upstairs to freshman comp. It was kind of Bauerlein not to subject us to the real guts of the scandal -- the paragraphs that come after these titles.
Getting his Ass|
Out of There
USC President Steven B. Sample has resigned his relatively new seat on the board of the J. Paul Getty Trust, citing conflicting duties.
Morning Edition has background and an update, available a little later today, here. It’s basically another Benjamin Ladner story -- wild, wild looting of a non-profit’s money because of a board of trustees full of corporate types who wouldn’t see the behavior as a problem even if they were looking -- only this story involves much, much more money than the American University one.
And why does UD care? Because the Getty is an important research institution on which professors and universities depend.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
UD's added Signifying Nothing, a sharp, smart academic blog, to her list.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
A La Pelouse, Citoyens!|
(Via Butterflies and Wheels, excerpts from Russell Jacoby’s review, in The Nation, of an English professor’s new book.)
Brother From Another Planet
[The author] claims the high political ground, but he cannot formulate a single coherent sentence about politics as seen from there. He tosses off phrases about "intersectionality" and "the praxis potential of antinormativity," but politics hardly enters this political book
An Article in Slate Magazine:
Cinderella's Dirty Secret
Bear with me.|
Big news day.
Professor Barry Landreth, on the faculty of the University Southern California, teaches Fundamentals of Real Estate Development.
For Landreth, real estate development really is fundamental: You draw your unwitting students into a scheme that involves getting their parents to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars which you say you’re investing in real estate but which you put in your personal account to pay for a $73,000 Cadillac Escalade, a stable of show horses, and a house in Coto de Caza, a luxury gated community. (“Coto de Caza,” or “Preserve of the Hunt,” describes both Landreth’s neighborhood and his classroom.)
He’s the one in the middle.
Here’s the bare bones Reuters take on the story:
A business professor at the University of Southern California was arrested on Friday by the FBI on charges of swindling students and others in a real estate fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The LA Times has those lifestyle details, plus the fact that Landreth is a USC grad. He “has been placed on administrative leave, said James Grant, a USC spokesman.”
The brilliance of this scheme (before it went awry) was Landreth landing an academic job and being perceived as a professor. People think professors are more moral than other people. I’m not sure why. Classics departments may produce more paragons than the population at large. Beware the business schools.
Nothing new here.|
But the reference
To “Hoop Dreams”
At the End is Nice.
When will these [March Madness] players attend class? Will they be studying physics on the bench during timeouts? Will they be arguing about the Protestant Reformation while practicing layups? I don't think so. Doesn't it bother anyone - their parents, their professors, university officials - that they are missing nearly a month of school?
Once Again, |
In This Latest Case,
All the Familiar Marks
Of High-Flying Plagiarism
From the Independent, with UD’s parenthetical commentary.
[A] former British fashion journalist [is] accused of borrowing, embroidering and even inventing details and incorporating them into the proposal for a hotly-sought memoir.
Correction: Craig Newmark, of Newmark's Door, points out that the ill-fated little blogger I mentioned above was at the Washington Post, not the New York Times.
Once again, the witty winos of Duke University have uttered memorable words. UD readers may recall drunk and disorderly students there a few semesters ago announcing this, when law enforcers interrupted them at their fun: “Hey, everyone, as soon as you get out of high school, you can become a Durham police officer.”
Now some members of the Duke lacrosse team are reported to have said to an African American woman -- an exotic dancer they hired and then (according to pending charges) raped and almost strangled: “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt.”
The athletics director at Duke also has a way with words. Of the lacrosse team incident, he comments: "This is not the kind of thing that represents Duke University in any way that is positive.”
Student Editorialists |
at Chapel Hill Bundle it
All into One Sentence
'Partly in response to a massive outcry against student fee hikes that will keep Tar Heels living on Ramen Noodles to further fatten the Department of Athletics, the BOT is looking into better ways to run the fee process.'
UD's old friend Janine Wedel was arguably the first to expose the profound corruption of Harvard's Andrei Shleifer, and UD has been waiting for Janine to weigh in on the story as it develops.
She's now done so, in today's Boston Globe, in a beautifully written, devastating opinion piece. Repeatedly and correctly calling Shleifer a "player," a "peripatetic" character who was able to take advantage of "relationships between governments and contractors that are too tenuous, flexible, and ambiguous to be genuinely monitored," she captures more powerfully than anyone else so far has the sordid nature of his role:
Shleifer [...] played sometimes indistinct and overlapping roles as he lobbied in favor of his projects and advised both the United States and Russia while making investments for his own personal gain, all the while presenting himself as independent analyst and author. The endowment funds of both Harvard and Yale gained access to valuable investments through networks inhabited by Shleifer and/or his currency-trading wife. His investments in Russia, which he does not deny, included securities, equities, oil and aluminum companies, real estate, and mutual funds -- many of the same areas in which he was being paid to provide impartial advice.
The opening paragraphs of Wedel's Globe piece are the most devastating of all. They place Shleifer's Russian games in a broader, much more destructive, context:
[T]he strange saga of Harvard's involvement in US aid to Russia in the 1990s is more than a scandal about Summers and Harvard. The case illustrates the overall failure of the US accountability system.... [It illustrates] the web of interconnections that enabled Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer, a friend of then Treasury official Lawrence Summers, and a close-knit group of Russians and Americans to largely shape US economic aid policy and Russian economic "reforms" while managing virtually the entire nearly $400 million US flagship economic aid project. Summers helped Shleifer and Harvard gain noncompetitive government awards through arrangements that were highly unusual in foreign aid contracting at the time, according to US officials.
Wedel concludes: "While Shleifer must pay a settlement and legal fees, it is too late for the Russian people, who, instead of wise guidance, got corruption and a system wide open to looting."
Notice that Harvard's gigantic endowment fund made out like a bandit because of Shleifer's corruption. It's bad enough that a university just sits there with $26 billion and growing. It's far worse that it gained significant elements of it through self-serving that makes Czar Nicholas look benign by comparison.
Friday, March 24, 2006
40 THOU for 40 PERCENT?|
Okay, tuition at U. Penn is actually around $33 thou, but 40 makes for better alliteration. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
Tenure-track faculty members teach only 40 percent of classes in the University of Pennsylvania's School of Arts and Sciences, according to a report by a graduate-student union at Penn that has been fighting for university recognition. Lecturers on short-term contracts teach almost the same amount, the report says.
Yes, the grad students are trying to make a point; but their numbers are probably right, or close to right. And scandalous.
Via Cold Spring Shops who quotes Chris at Signifying Nothing:
"Confidential to parents: drop the 40 large per annum on a liberal arts college education for your kids instead."
'Excusez moi, mais|
tous les Français
en même temps.'
"PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Baseball at |
Washington State University:
From the Seattle Times:
Depending on where you look, Washington State University head baseball coach Donnie Marbut claims to have a master's degree, a teaching certificate or both.
From the Oklahoma State University Newspaper:
40 Percent of Campus Master Plan
O….klahoma! Every night my honey lamb and I
Have a heart to heart
And read pie charts
From our favorite universi-ti! [Eee-haw!]
O….klahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains!
We can’t write or add
But we don’t get mad
Cause the thing we care about is games! [Chorus: Games! Games!]
We know we belong to the team!
To the team we give all of our green!
So when they say… Hey!
You’re throwing funds away! [Hey!]
We’re only saying
You’re lookin’ fine Oklahoma!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
UD Makes a Poem|
Out of a Newspaper
V. WHAT THE VOTERS SAID
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look upon the rolls
There is always another one walking beside you:
Gonzalez, dead voter of Venezuela,
Death yet to be confirmed, hooded,
I do not know whether a man or a woman —
But who is that on the other side of you?
What is that sound in the electoral council
Murmur of auditor’s lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes, older than 100, swarming
Over endless registries, stumbling along the same western state
Ringed by one birth date only?
What is the city over the mountains
Counts and recounts and bursts in the violet air
Falling numbers Caracas Valencia Petare Turmero Maracay
The Electronic Picket Fence|
From USA Today, with commentary by UD.
[via Inside Higher Ed]:
LAW PROFESSOR BANS
MEMPHIS (AP) — A group of University of Memphis law students are passing a petition against a professor who banned laptop computers from her classroom because she considers them a distraction in lectures.
Bottom line here, far as UD’s concerned: If you need your umbilical cord that much, take someone else’s class.
Can this really be true?|
And can you really think me masochistic enough to go?
Embattled Professor Ward Churchill has agreed to engage bestselling author and sought after speaker David Horowitz in a series of formal debates organized by Young America's Foundation and Students for Academic Freedom. The series of debates will kick off at George Washington University in Washington D.C. on April 6 in the Continental Ballroom.
Even though it’s taking place inches from her office, UD hereby invites someone else to attend.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Overheard at GWU on|
The First Day Back
From Spring Break
Standing in line at Starbucks. Two women:
I swear I was drunk seven days straight.
In an elevator. A woman talking into a cell phone.
How's your day so far? What? What?... I'm in an elevator.... No, not an oven, an elevator. I'm in an elevator. How's your day been? ... An oven? No, an elevator.
Today's Rocky Mountain News,with UD's commentary.
CU NOBEL WINNER BLASTS UNIVERSITY
This isn’t the first time that eminent faculty at CU have dissed the place.
Remember Joyce Lebra? I quote from an earlier UD post:
When University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Joyce Lebra, a distinguished teacher and historian, turned down the university's bestowal upon her of its prestigious "University Medal" a couple of weeks ago, citing the scandal of the university's football program [Dailycamera.com, March 18 04], people were pissed.
Especially by the old girl's salty language in her rejection letter: she would never take a prize from a place with such a "gross distortion of priorities," where the rapist football squad makes the institution an "embarrassment." Lebra, who has written many books about Asia, went on to write that "The focus and priority on football has undermined the atmosphere of this university, which by definition should be dedicated to academic endeavor at the highest level."
One of Colorado's rejected Regents got all the way up on her high horse and by way of response to Lebra employed the third person. "One is disappointed," she said, as if she were Queen Victoria.
I salute Professor Lebra for her principled protest. Disdain at the highest and most public levels is one of the only ways of rousing university personnel. Of course the would-be awarders in this case cannot be expected to welcome her harsh reminder that they are not academic aristocrats but servants to scum. Lebra has made herself few friends among the Ragin' Regents of Football U. But she's old and laureled and can afford to alienate everyone. Good for her.
Monday, March 20, 2006
TRADING THE HARVARD HUMMER|
Here’s a marvelous opinion piece in today’s LA Times (thanks, Ralph, for the link), complete with UD’s commentary.
As European universities continue…|
…to stew in their own juices, you’ve got your typical American university success story boiling away right here in UD’s dull, drab, Foggy Bottom.
Dull, drab? Well, Bob Peck, a high-profile businessman, says it’s "lagging in vitality" around here, and that‘s why we need Square 54 to be developed on campus -- to wake the place up.
Square 54, you recall, is a terrifically valuable piece of property (smack in the middle of FB; hop skip and a jump to a metro stop; jest keep on a spell down the road to get to the White House…) -- In fact,
Last year, the university commissioned the Urban Land Institute to study the development potential for the Square 54 site. ULI concluded the site is "far too valuable for anything less than a signature project."
So, the deal is that the site is too valuable for a mere university to use it for university purposes (note that Square 54’s multiple proposed uses include no classrooms or labs or anything like that), so instead of doing the natural thing and taking advantage of all that high-profile, well-located space for academic functions, GW will sell or lease it to wealthy residents and law firms (the heart goes pitter-pat at the thought of the urban vitality these groups will bring). Then, in part with the money from Le Big Deal (the name of a wretched French tv show UD‘s kid loved to watch when they lived there), the university will stretch its rather small urban space in other places on campus -- arguably beyond reasonable limits -- to keep growing students, buildings, and parking lots, thus pissing off the locals.
Such an American tale. At the University of Toulouse, where UD once taught, and where the students get huffy and shut the place down for some reason or another almost every semester (they’re having a real field day at the moment), students would respond to GW’s bottom-line machinations by barricading the campus, taking over the president’s office, hurling computers out of windows, and beheading a bust of George Washington. But in this country everyone accepts that a university would sell a vast prime piece of its own space to the highest bidder and at the same time insist on growing, growing, growing - growing its student population, off-campus programs, secondary campuses (GW’s got two), other real estate holdings, etc.
See if you can detect the Washington Business Journal’s position on the matter from its article, starting with its description of the opposing neighborhood group as “well-funded” -- as well it might be, but what about GW and other interested parties? Why doesn’t the article tell us if they’re well-funded? UD thinks they are. UD thinks they’re better-funded than the neighborhood group.
GW has asked the city to ease the density restrictions on its campus to allow for more student housing, offices and classroom buildings. If the zoning commission denies the university's density request, GW would have to look at using its valuable Square 54 site for university-related uses.
Would have to look! How degrading an exigency! A valuable commercial site is a terrible thing to waste! Here’s Bob Peck again!
“It's 2.5 acres -- hello? -- on Pennsylvania Avenue and next to a Metro.”
It’s 2.5 acres -- hello? -- on a university campus.
The article’s final paragraph makes clear what Proper Thinking on this one would be:
In recent years, the university has been under pressure to grow revenue based on additional tuition dollars, which translates into increased enrollment -- exactly what the neighborhood is opposed to. By developing Square 54 to its full potential -- and leasing it for 60 years to Boston Properties and KSI -- GW would generate a funding stream that could alleviate tuition-based revenue pressure and slow the influx of new students.
Unmentioned are the two other underutilized campuses GW owns, one of which, in a verdant affluent DC location, already takes some of the pressure off of Foggy Bottom.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
With French students trashing the Sorbonne and Italian students being taught via the Friends and Family plan, it can come as no surprise that
The most powerful economies of "Old Europe," including France, Britain and Germany, are struggling to keep up with a huge expansion of higher education in Asia, a new report has found.
A writer in The Observer has some more thoughts about current events in France:
We witnessing a cultural tragedy unfold. The French carry a Utopian ideal in their collective heads about what it means to be French. They are self-appointed defenders of Europe's real republican virtues of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their rightful place is as Europe's leaders, and the state, embodying an idea of France, is the nation's master puppeteer.
The writer concludes in this way:
Next week, European heads of state meet to advance the so-called Lisbon agenda, by which Europe committed itself to becoming the most dynamic, competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. It is an empty farce.
Via Joanne Jacobs -- A provost closes his small college’s school of education:
"Schools of education mis-prepare would-be teachers in many ways. They deprive those would-be teachers of the opportunity to learn more important, substantive things during their undergraduate years; they require students to take hugely time-consuming courses of dubious intellectual value; and they inculcate would-be teachers in the educrats’ pernicious ideology. It’s an ideology that insists that virtually all of America’s social problems derive from institutionalized prejudices; that most knowledge is “socially constructed;” and that children are best taught by allowing their natural creativity to flourish, rather than by actually trying to teach the habits of self-discipline and mindfulness. Substantive knowledge and real skill in areas like mathematics, reading, and writing are clearly tertiary concerns at best for most teachers, because they are less than tertiary concerns for SOEs.
The Shleifer scandal has worked its way into a foreign policy opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, whose writer accuses the Bush administration of unfair and counterproductive hostility against Russia. Anatol Lieven finds particularly objectionable the hypocrisy of our condemning corruption there when we've been, in the recent past, complicit in it.
His prime example is Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer:
To ordinary Russians, Western-sponsored "democracy" meant watching helplessly while "liberal" elites looted the country and transferred vast fortunes to Western banks, to the profit of Western economies.
As Shleifer’s name becomes shorthand among foreign policy observers for the West’s self-serving cynicism, watch for that Nobel Prize trajectory his colleagues in the Harvard economics department think he’s on to curve sharply down.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
UD Makes a Poem|
Out of a News Article
In The Globe and Mail
"U.S. officials are calling the Thursday seizure of 671,000 tablets of ecstasy at the Washington-British Columbia border part of an increasing new smuggling problem.
The ecstasy is significant.
As if tablature
On a manifest, recorded
As shredded scrap plastic,
Were suddenly gamma-rayed;
As if boarded up Quonset huts,
Running over drug tunnels
For Canadian transshipments,
Opened, under continued vigilance.
It’s just grown
In leaps and bounds
Over the last
I’ve Never Had Anything|
Handed to Me in My Life.
(Except Full Tuition)
'Gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos, who recently came under fire from his own sister for calling himself a self-made man, is now taking back a statement he made on his Web site that he paid his own way through college.
Friday, March 17, 2006
A Quieter Benjamin Ladner Story…|
…has been brewing at Texas Southern University, which has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, and where officials have known for some time that the president was misappropriating funds. They didn’t know to what extent, however, and they’ve been moving cautiously, as they should.
But with the resignation of the university chief financial officer, who turns out to have been “convicted nine times on misdemeanor charges of writing bad checks” (don’t they check police records before they hire highly placed people at TSU?), and with new revelations of misbehavior, the regents, reports the Houston Chronicle, have acted:
TSU regents placed President Priscilla Slade on paid leave after a nine-hour private meeting Thursday and asked attorneys to expand their investigation of her spending.
But Don’t Listen To Me.|
Listen to Someone Who’s There.
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
“Not only are we in Division I, but probably over the next 12 months, we’ll be in a conference.”
'Rioters [in Paris today] set fire to a bookshop and destroyed the terrace of a café in the square in front of the Sorbonne University in the Latin Quarter.'
Diploma Mill Expert
…reports in an email (I’ll try to find a newspaper article to link to it later) that Wyoming
has passed ‘AN ACT relating to private school licensing…’ The vote was strongly in favor of the bill: 51 for, 7 against in the House and 27 for, 3 against in the Senate. It was signed by the governor a few days ago.
This is an important step on the way back to educational self-respect for a state that has been a notorious diploma mill enabler.
I’m a wee bit worried about that exemption for religious schools and theological subjects, since it’s easy to rejigger your scam toward theosophy, theocentrism, theism, teaism, tzeism, and totemic thomism.
What the |
Is Up To
Techno-edu-crats, with their powerpointed classrooms, ipodded lectures, computer-mediated faculty-student interactions, and expensive faculty training seminars in how to use all this shit, might want to take a gander at today’s New York Times for… the Next Big Thing!
Gotta keep up, after all; your competition may be on to some new thing that’s giving them an edge in the admissions game… there’s always an innovation coming down the pike…
So, here’s the headline:
IN THE AGE OF THE OVERAMPLIFIED,
A RESURGENCE FOR THE HUMBLE LECTURE
The article notes “a renewed interest in spoken-word events, lectures, debates, readings and panel discussions, in many corners of the city, from university auditoriums to the 92nd Street Y…” Huge crowds are showing up. One observer says: “There is a kind of authenticity about having a living writer or artist in front of you.” In an age of “electronic and tv and visual media,” says another, “it’s a way to feel you are actually in touch with these ideas and these figures.”
A spoken-word event is also “a symbiosis between performer and audience, with the performer nourished and encouraged by sometimes invisible cues of posture and attitude from those in the crowd.” The director of public programs for the New York Public Library comments that direct engagement “trigger[s] people’s imagination…[It’s] the life of the mind. When you come into contact with a great idea, it can change your life.”
Difficult to picture? Here’s how it looks in action:
1.) a human being
3.) a lectern
4.) a light to illuminate the paper
5.) a small audience
6.) an unobtrusive microphone.
Now, out in the heartland you might not be ready for what these New York sophisticates are up to. UD understands that avant-gardisms can take awhile to make their way to Moline. She only means to signal her readers outside the go-go mid-Atlantic region to get ready.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
UD Says Name it After the|
Chief Financial Officer:
From the Star Tribune:
Momentum may be building to undo plans for TCF Financial Corp. to have a naming rights agreement for a new on-campus football stadium at the University of Minnesota.
Evergreen v. Ivy|
Intriguing little story this morning on NPR about Loren Pope, whose book, Colleges That Change Lives, has grown enormously in appeal year by year.
You can see why. In an American college story dominated by lumbering Ivies like Harvard, whose anal hoarding of billions of endowment dollars doesn’t seem to have generated a satisfying liberal arts education for its students, Pope brings to light more agile places with better student/teacher ratios and higher levels of student satisfaction: Reed, Antioch, Grinnell, Goucher (UD, you may recall, spent one horrific year at Goucher - but that was when it was a women’s college), St John’s College Annapolis and Santa Fe (a perennial favorite of UD’s, who likes to visit the nearby Annapolis campus), Beloit, and others.
The NPR piece focused on Evergreen State College, which has 3,000 feet of beachfront…
As more and more Americans realize how many excellent colleges there are - many of them in settings more inspiring than New Haven - the Ivies run the risk of becoming drab asylums for the status-obsessed.
Boone State’s… |
…been following the OSU story too, of course.
From this morning's Inside Higher Ed:
Harvard University has a $25 billion endowment and in 2003-4, only 6 percent of its undergraduates were of sufficiently modest means to qualify for Pell Grants. While Pell eligibility varies based on a number of factors, only 5 percent of Harvard undergraduates that year came from families with incomes less than $30,000.
I cain’t say no!|
Oklahoma State done asked me for more money for my ticket to Cowboys games… ‘N here I thought ol’ Boone’s billion’s ‘d make things easier for us fans!
I know you're proud I graduated from OSU and learned so much and all, and I sure do like to show school spirit by going to Cowboys games. But guess how much it’s gonna cost me now?
Season tickets are up 27 percent. Yeah, you read that right. Folks in the premium seats gotta double their donations.
I been reading what Mike Holder - he’s athletic director - been saying, and I’m doing my damnedest to understand it. First of all, turns out Boone’s $165 million is just for facilities:
Pickens recently donated $165 million to renovate the football stadium and facilities for other sports, but Holder said the day-to-day operation is the burden of other supporters.
Every fan and supporter we’ve got! Everybody’s gotta do his share! Ok, OK! … But lookee here:
Donors wanting football tickets will face much of the cost. For box seats at Boone Pickens Stadium, annual donations will be $2,500, up from $1,000 last season. Donations for seats between the 40-yard-lines increase from $500 to $800 per ticket. Overall cost for a seat on the 20-yard-line, including a $25 increase for donations from $100 to $125, go from $356 to $445.
Shit that’s a lot of money. And you know, we ain’t stupid. Like, a lotta people asked questions about this:
"The majority of people we ran this past asked why," said Joe Muller, associate athletic director for development and external affairs.
Mr. Muller explained, Ma, that we gotta stay competitive, so… ok, OK! Plus the head of the regents said, "It's all part of the business side of athletics. No one is doing this to take advantage of people,” which, uh, okay!… But did you know, Ma, that “The athletic department does not have to get the regents approval to increase ticket prices.”? I didn’t know that. I mean, turns out these guys don’t have any oversight. They can just do whatever the hell they want without anybody’s approval at the university… like, they’re totally independent of the university… But okay… OK! OK! Cowboys UP!
Did you know the Cowboys “didn't sell out any of [their] six football games" last season? A big ol’ state university that loves its boys so much and they can’t even fill the stadium once?
Maybe that’s because the team sucks.
So bottom line is our team sucks, tickets and donations are through the fucking roof, and we’re idiots.
Looks like I’m gonna have to get more wasted than usual at the next game.
Dean Bites Man |
Never get between a drunk and his car.
A good Samaritan learned this lesson the hard way the other day when he tried to keep a sloshed school of ed dean from getting back behind the wheel:
EVANSVILLE, Ind. --Police charged a university official after he allegedly bit a man in the calf when the man stopped to help him after a car accident.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Jonathan Zimmerman in the Christian Science Monitor [with UD’s parenthetical comments]
Why did Larry Summers get forced out of the Harvard presidency? There were many reasons, starting with Mr. Summers's impolitic remarks about women's ability in the sciences. He also annoyed the faculty by suggesting that they teach more introductory-level classes, not just narrow courses about their research specialities.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
“The university spent about $1 million|
supporting the athletic program in 2004-05
when it initially projected spending nothing.”
Hm. Now you know I’m no good at math, but there’s a bracing simplicity to these numbers, from the Senate Budgetary Affairs Subcommittee at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Zero. One million. Nothing. Something.
What went wrong, I wonder?
University of Wexford Grads -|
'A self-described sentencing expert who claimed to be a consultant for numerous Center City criminal-defense lawyers was arrested yesterday after a Philadelphia grand jury accused him of defrauding the city courts out of almost $400,000.
Monday, March 13, 2006
There’s a little news meme in Michigan, so far picked up only by local media, about the waste and expense of sabbaticals for university professors.
Every six or seven years, professors can apply to take a semester or a year off. Usually the deal is that they’ll continue to get full salary for a semester sabbatical, or, if they want the whole year, they’ll be given around ½ salary.
Headlined “Professors Paid Not to Teach,” the article that’s been picked up around the state goes like this:
Michigan universities paid more than 500 professors $23.2 million to be absent from the classroom during the 2004-05 school year, even as the state's economy nosedived and parents and students struggled to pay double-digit tuition hikes.
There’s a reasonable case to be made against sabbaticals, and the writer’s doing a pretty good job of that here. When you add unpaid leave time off and paid sabbatical time off to low course loads (two courses a semester or fewer) plus free summers, you get a hard to justify system. Not all professors of course enjoy quite this list of goodies, but many do. When unpopular university presidents like Larry Summers talk about the need for faculty to teach more, it’s this sort of picture they often have in mind.
What makes it even more difficult to justify sabbaticals, it seems to me, is the obsolescence of the professor-as-intellectual, the professor as essentially a monkish pensive type. Traditionally, the professor was not a publications-generating, conference-organizing, grants-getting, newspaper-quote-issuing dervish. She was intended to do the world’s slow and careful thinking for it, and her primary function was to share the fruits of that thinking with students and colleagues within the walls of the university.
No one questions the need for contemplatives to sit atop mountains and reflect to no particular end. But everyone questions the need of non-reflective careerists to reflect. To the extent that university professors look more like non-reflective careerists than old-fashioned contemplatives, they can expect people to wonder why they get to drift off to subsidized wanderjahren.
The Way Things Work|
College sports… cost a lot, and when it comes to vying for the money needed to keep big-time athletes in whirlpools, the field is slanted heavily toward state schools. This is especially true in football, where only sixteen of the 117 schools in Division I-A — college football's highest level — are private.
Mr. Jacobs Refiles.|
By Way of a Poem.
From this morning’s New York Times:
With plans calling for almost 39,000 square feet in the main building, plus an 1,165-square-foot pool house, the home that Joseph M. Jacobs, a 53-year-old hedge fund manager, wants to build for his family on 11 acres in the Conyers Farm section of town would be twice the size of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch and would top the Greenwich mansion occupied by Leona Helmsley, the self-appointed queen of a real estate empire.
To Greenwich, From J.M. Jacobs
Let us not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments! Wealth is not wealth
Which falters when it escalation finds,
Or fails its tennis courts to enbubble:
No! 'tis an ever-fixed indicator,
And e’en four kitchens is not too much trouble;
It is the star to every golf simulator,
Whose worth exceeds what measures might be taken.
Twice the size of Neverland, it beguiles the assessors
Who with their mystic numerals come;
Its long façade makes enviers of lessers
Whose real estate dominance it dooms.
If this be error and the town finds guilt
My legal counsel assures me it’ll still get built.
Monday Morning Grab Bag|
Just a spark of this and a spark of that to get our engines purring…
!!! The University of North Texas has a curious department of counseling, featuring a professor who does healing séances:
LEWISVILLE -- In what can only be briefly described as a seance, about a dozen people gathered at a dimly lit church and tried to conjure up the dead. One saw visions of a man without a face; another felt a dead girl come into the room and try to tell her grieving mother that everything is all right.
!!! One of Professor Holden's
Director, Center for Play Therapy
University of North Texas
!!! The field of psychology seems to attract strange people, like Professor Holden. Here’s another psych professor, a serial stalker at Kansas State:
A K-State psychology professor was arrested Thursday on charges of stalking a former member of the K-State track and field team and violating a protective order.
!!! A more routine university story this morning involves the president of a struggling public university hopping over to Harrisburg in a private plane -- to make the case for more state support:
Penn State President Graham Spanier traveled to Harrisburg last month to ask for higher state appropriations for the university.
!!! Still more routine is this case of a local yokel with a fake degree:
A candidate for the board of selectmen is coming under fire by some who say he misled the public about his educational background.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Indiana University: |
A Model of Public Higher Education
Almost Entirely Driven by a Basketball Team
From an Indiana newspaper:
...[T]he choice of basketball coach will determine not only the health of the men's basketball program, but of the entire IU athletic department--and to some extent the entire university--for decades to come.
Today's New York Times:
A former top White House aide was arrested on Thursday in the Maryland suburbs on charges that he stole merchandise from a number of retailers, the police in Montgomery County, Md., said Friday.
A Letter to the Washington Post |
The fascinating front-page article on Omar Williams's undistinguished academic career ["A Player Rises Through the Cracks," March 5] before being accepted by George Washington University left one vital question unanswered: Precisely what courses has he taken at GW that have him on schedule to graduate in May? Given his lack of academic achievement before arriving at George Washington, and the time demands placed on him by its basketball program, it is difficult to believe that he could have successfully concluded any genuinely college-level course. It seems that the courses taken by many so-called student athletes at Division I schools are of precious little educational value and serve simply to ensure athletic eligibility.
The Drake Group is asking the same question, insisting that universities
...publiciz[e] what classes student-athletes [are] taking, their teachers and academic advisors, and their grades in those classes.
One thing about the behind the scenes thing : As a number of observers point out, NCAA sanctions single out poor corrupt universities and leave rich corrupt universities alone. The richer the university, the more personnel they can hire to contrive courses and grades and majors for players who need them. The poorer places, lacking the expensive smoke and mirrors, are more exposed.
There's so much to learn! The proper phrase is "bunny classes."
Diversity Plan De-Orwellianized|
The University of Oregon has now seen reason and dropped the inane and pernicious phrase “cultural competency” from its latest diversity plan draft. And it’s given departments and programs much more freedom in thinking about how to broaden their faculties. Good.
Squalor at the Sorbonne|
French students, many of whom share the national penchant for industrial violence, are currently trashing the Sorbonne. A philosophy student from Gabon puts it well: They have "taken the Sorbonne hostage for their cause."
Their cause is the expression of outrage over modest proposed changes in employment law that actually might make them susceptible to firing if they don't perform well. Because employers don't like the ridiculously restrictive French employment laws, they tend to avoid hiring people. The unemployment rate among young people in France is approaching 25%.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Sued if you do,|
Sued if you don't
Gotta say that even with insufficient information my sympathies so far are with my university. From today's Washington Post:
About 2 a.m. one sleepless night, sophomore Jordan Nott checked himself into George Washington University Hospital.
For whatever reasons, GWU and NYU -- very similar institutions -- have in the last few years suffered a number of student suicides. I think it's safe to say that both institutions are pretty traumatized, both uncertain how to respond to what's happened.
And both must be aware of the drawn-out lawsuit at MIT, in which parents of a student there who killed herself sued the school for over $27.65 million because they claim staff overlooked her suicidal tendencies and failed to intervene. The parents lost the case, but it was enormously expensive and destructive, and other schools have taken note.
Same Shit: |
Costs the School A Fortune,
No Real Penalty Imposed,
Nothing's Going to Change
So here's the background on big ol' "Boban" Savovic, who could neither write nor speak English but was moving very impressively through an academic career at Ohio State while playing on its basketball team, until his university-issued paper-writer/class-attender/player-impersonator complained she wasn't being paid enough. If she hadn't filed a lawsuit, little of the extensive criminality of Ohio's program (which the USA Today article I'm about to quote details) would have come to light, but, as in many complex illegal enterprises, you dislodge one little rock and a whole wall might come tumbling down...
'Ohio State was placed on three years' probation Friday for using an ineligible player, a ruling that wipes out records from four NCAA tournament appearances by the men's basketball team — including a trip to the 1999 Final Four.
Taking down the banner. That's gotta hurt.
As for the $800,000, I'm sure OSU fans don't mind one bit coughing that up for the guys.
Balmy and beautiful...|
...day here in Foggy Bottom, even with ambulance and motorcade sirens, plus helicopters buzzing the White House. UD's about to meet her sainted Honors Seminar group (many students have already left GW for spring break, but these people are stuck with a once a week seminar) to talk about Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.
This post's by way of a place-holder: When I get back to Garrett Park, I'll write about the latest Diversity draft from the University of Oregon, a lawsuit recently filed against George Washington University which is attracting front-page interest in the Washington Post, and of course some college sports stuff.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
University of New Hampshire Sports II:|
The More You Know,
The More There is to Love
From the Concord Monitor:
A group of University of New Hampshire students, parents and alumni gathered at the State House yesterday to ask Gov. John Lynch and lawmakers to do whatever possible to save the four varsity sports cut last month from the school's athletic department.
Scarano gets points if this was said with a straight face.
Okay, so the last post was an extreme version of one way you could go with college athletics -- radical decoupling. As "superdestroyer" has already pointed out in a comment to that post, there are problems with that approach, mainly involving Title IX and equity issues. UD thinks these could probably be worked out in one way or another, with some tweaking and some changes in the initial idea, but in this post, she’d like to point out that the exact opposite approach - real integration of bigtime sports into the university as an academic institution - can also be made to work.
Consider Vanderbilt, as Bloomberg News does today.
Now, Vanderbilt’s down south with those big ol’ maniacs like T. Boone’s OSU and all, but its president says “he won't get in a spending war with the football powerhouses in his conference. As long as his teams are competitive on the field, and excelling academically, the goal has been accomplished. ‘Look, what we did [was] break all of the china, and that can really silence a room,' he says of the amazement that has greeted his initiatives. 'Athletics has always been about winning and tradition, right? But what I'm saying, is that there is another way.'"
Forgive my quoting at some length; much of this is in the details:
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Gordon Gee remembers the head-shaking and snickering. His wife, Constance, wondered if he'd gone nuts. The college's athletics director thought it was a gag, until Gee removed him.
Harvard National Scholar-Athletes Fund|
Frank Deford, on National Public Radio this morning, has an idea UD has heard before. Why not respond to the farce and larceny of university basketball and football by letting players major in their sports? As music majors major in music, he suggests, so ball players should be able to graduate based exclusively upon what they do on the field.
…libertarian solution [to the] academic fraud of college athletics. [E]liminate all standards… Let colleges suit up for four years any able-bodied player whether or not he bothers to see the inside of any classroom … Universities as fine as George Washington [have] accepted clearly unqualified players… [whose] term papers [are] written for them [by] jock loving enablers on the faculty. …Why don’t we make honest men of college athletes? Some simply aren’t capable of college work.
Under this approach we couldn’t really call these people “majors” because music majors have to take many other courses to get their BA -- college-wide requirements, distribution requirements, non-practice courses (history of music). Football and basketball -- call them concentrators -- would just play games. They would be exempted from all academic activity. Players who wanted to get an academic education could take the traditional route and become some other sort of major, but football and basketball concentrators would shake rattle and roll their way to a degree.
UD would go further than this. F & B Concentrators would also be paid. Highly. The pretense of academic/athletic “scholarships,” routinely illegally supplemented by alumni boosters from the local business community, would be replaced by salaries. These salaries would come from the same place administrative and faculty salaries come from -- tuition, state aid for public universities, and ticket sales and other revenue generated by the sports programs themselves.
Football and basketball players would, in other words, be employees of the university, supported by students and faculty and administrators, all of whose salaries and tuitions and fellowships would have an annual sports fee subtracted from them, because these… what’s that word corporate types like so much… “stakeholders” love the game, the school spirit generated, the publicity and corporate attention, the higher number of applications the school receives - all the goodies that accompany a winning team.
UD would go yet further. As this new approach to bigtime university athletics introduces itself to the country, Harvard University, our most high-profile and (despite all its problems lately) most esteemed institution, would lend it prestige and legitimacy by establishing the National Scholar-Athletes Fund.
This $10 billion fund, which Harvard would draw from its $26 billion endowment, would represent the country’s first real commitment to the first-rate higher education of some of our most promising and least advantaged undergraduates. It would be targeted at a very specific group among university athletes: those who are students at reasonably good universities; those who wish to major in an authentic academic subject; and those who are willing to invest the extra time it will take for them to get a real education.
These students would have to be willing to be enrolled at their universities for up to eight years in order to balance a game schedule with a course schedule. They would have to be willing to assume, some semesters, lower-profile roles on their teams as their academic obligations evolved.
In exchange for their patience and seriousness, these players would be guaranteed an up to eight year Harvard National Scholar-Athletes Fund Fellowship on top of their university salary. Known as the “Harvard Players,” they would constitute the aristocracy of the team and receive enormous media attention and national acclaim. Those admitted to graduate school would be guaranteed a continuation of Harvard Fund support.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What if significant numbers of people at a university refuse to subsidize the salaries of their basketball and football players in the way you suggest?
This would indicate insufficient commitment to bigtime athletics on the part of the university. If your university is in the wrong level of sports league, a correction is in order.
What sorts of undergraduate majors would be ineligible for the Harvard Fund?
Leisure Studies, Human Kinetics and Leisure Studies, Spa Studies, Sports Psychology, Travel and Tourism, Casino Studies, Exercise Studies, Sports Therapy Studies, Sports Management.
University of New Hampshire Sports:|
Way to Go!
From the Boston Globe:
Swimmer Jenny Thompson, America's most decorated Olympian, is rejecting a high honor from the University of New Hampshire to protest the school's decision to cut its men's swimming team.
Kids These Days|
The University of Delaware football players’ masked, armed break-in of another player’s apartment made no sense to UD. One of their fellow students? Why go to the trouble to dress up and brandish weaponry to enter some undergrad’s room?
But here you go, a motive has emerged:
Newark Police Lt. Thomas LeMin said two of the suspects were armed with shotguns when they barged into a fellow teammate's home at the Park Place Apartments not far from the university's campus. The theft of steroids and other controlled substances appears to be the primary motive for the robbery, LeMin said.
So okay this guy had drugs the other guys wanted, but this guy wouldn’t share, or sold at too high a price or something. …
Police found lots of recreational drugs at the apartments of the players who did the break-in….
The University of Delaware’s athletic director said something cute: "It's been a real tough day…I think, by and large, everyone's disappointed in the kids. You recruit kids, you invite them to your campus, and you just hope they're quality people with character. Then they do something stupid like this."
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
“Anything you say, Tom.”|
From the Courier-Journal:
University of Louisville students were told in 2002 that their annual $50 athletic fee would expire this summer.
Does This Hat
Not only did the Supremes today say military recruiters on campus were fine with them; they also refused to hear the case against Washburn College, accused of offending Catholics by featuring on its campus (years ago; it’s long since vanished) this sculpture of a bishop with a phallic miter.
“The Supreme Court's refusal to take up the case was the final blow to the student and professor who sued,” reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.
With its administrative salaries scandal...|
...and now this, the University of California is generating as much bad publicity for itself lately as the poor University of Delaware, dealing at once with a fascist on the staff and three football players accused of an armed break-in.
Monday, March 06, 2006
... a poet whose Refusing Heaven just won the Book Critics Award, was a known substance to old UD, because the online magazine, Slate, did an intriguing story about him a few months ago. She’d never heard of him before the Slate thing. She ordered a used paperback copy of his earlier book, The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992, and liked it a lot. His direct-statement nature-and-spirit poems reminded her of the poet Linda Gregg, which isn’t surprising because it turns out they used to be married to each other. Both of them write more or less sonnet-length blank verse of sweet simplicity about the beauty of the earth and the turbulent passions of the people on it.
UD hadn’t heard of Gilbert before because after winning the 1962 Yale Younger Poets Series award, he retreated to Greece and obscurity. He still wrote poetry, but not much of it. He asks himself, in the poem “Going Wrong,” why he did this, why he lives alone on a dry Greek island.
The Lord insists: “You are the one who chooses
Gilbert’s story reminds UD of Camus’s thing for coastal Algeria. Both men seek stark terrain where they can sense their highly charged inner life as well as the eventual aridity nature has in store for them. The Slate writer puts it extremely well: Gilbert’s is
a struggle (never successful) to erase the ego. This struggle, needless to say, was the kind of idea much bandied about in the 1960s and '70s but rarely acted upon, let alone truly lived by. Taken together, Gilbert's poems capture what it might be to live out a spiritual quest for authenticity, helpfully set against a classical backdrop of Mediterranean blues and bleached-out whites. ... [Gilbert concludes that] solitude is the only way to know one's place in the world. ...[His poetry is] rescuing from the debilitating forces of cynicism a conviction that transcendence can await us in this world.
This is an existential greediness, I guess, since it demands a renunciation of the social world. Camus went back and forth between his politically committed life in Paris and his silences in Tipasa and Djemila and Algiers, but Gilbert appears to be brazening it out over there for the duration. He occasionally takes visiting professorships, I gather, to support his life on the island.
Along with greed, there’s a certain cowardice in this withdrawing gesture. Many of Gilbert’s poems in The Great Fires record his effort to make time stop, to avoid the shabby anxious ordinary life which despite his efforts comes to him:
He lives in the barrens, in dying neighborhoods
Although straightforward in address, these are sly stylish poems. Look at all the “alls” and “ells” and “ills” snaking through this lyric, giving it its lilt and trill.
The Slate writer concludes:
Gilbert isn't just a remarkable poet. He's a poet whose directness and lucidity ought to appeal to lots of readers—the same readers who can't abide the inward-gazing obscurity of much contemporary poetry. Indeed, what's powerful about Gilbert is that he is a rarity, especially in this day and age: the poet who stands outside his own time, practicing a poetics of purity in an ever-more cacophonous world—a lyrical ghost, you might say, from a literary history that never came to be.
Jack Gilbert is the anti-Jorie Graham.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave…|
…when first we practice to defend huge athletics expenditures at academically struggling universities.
However complex the stitchwork, there’s no getting around the fact, for instance, that Southern Illinois University should use its money for urgently needed academic improvements rather than announce grand multimillion dollar athletic (and administrative) projects, as it has done.
Many students (whose fees will rise immensely) and faculty (who regard the university as a university) oppose the grandiose “Saluki Way”:
Detractors complained the project was over-developed for university athletics, with plans for a new football stadium and a renovated basketball arena set in place, and held only sketchy afterthoughts on academics, with mere placeholders marking future sites of academic buildings. Complaints were exacerbated by revelations that student fee increases will be used to fund a majority of the opening construction phase for Saluki Way, which includes the building of the stadium and renovation of the arena, along with a new student services facility.
Cushy new offices for administrative personnel -- that student services thing -- deepen the insult. Everything’s here but what SIU needs: dedicated academic buildings.
The Chancellor insists that big academic projects are in the pipeline, but this only begs the question of priority.
SIU has an interesting recent history involving athletics. Six years ago, the football program was so rotten many people talked of shutting it down; but then the school brought in some brilliant coach, and it improved a lot. Even so:
Faculty Senate President Robert Benford said some camps still discuss whether the campus should retain a football program - or any intercollegiate sport - not because of failure but because they don't think NCAA athletics mesh with the university's main purpose.
Not only that, but, you know, if the program could tank as recently as six years ago, it could tank again, couldn’t it? So...to keep that from happening they'll have to increase the coach's compensation package, right? So he won't go away? Imagine the institutional fate of a big university so dependent upon one human being... But say even with a genius at the helm the program slips again. Then you’ve got what a lot of universities have -- poor ticket sales, hemorrhaging budgets, and even more scandals than usual as the athletic staff tries out more and more desperation moves. (Most biggish university athletic programs produce, by UD’s estimate, two to three scandals of one sort or another per year that attract major media attention. You want the list? You don't mind long parentheses? Okay: Coach arrested for drunk driving. Half of basketball squad academically ineligible. Gunplay breaks out among the lads. Desperate grad students cheat in every conceivable way to get their athletic charges through the rigors of Leisure Studies in Our World. Boosters fund bacchanalia in Las Vegas. And so much more.) (UPDATE: Latest example, hot off the press, at the University of Delaware.)
The article goes on to note that “at many public universities, where capital projects and operating expenses are being pushed off onto the institutes themselves in light of declining state funding, officials are beginning to have conversations about the necessity of athletics and other offerings peripheral to the academic mission of campuses.”
"There is a lot of concern about directing limited resources toward a non-essential part of the university mission," [one of them] comments.
Part of what reformers propose is that the traditional independence of athletics from academic governance end: "The governance issue is essential [an advisor to the NCAA says]. What we have proposed and suggested is that university athletics be governed by the academic arm of the university and not left to be governed on their own or have a reporting structure that doesn't include the academic officers." (At Southern Illinois, athletics gets to jump over the entire academic structure and report directly to the Chancellor.) And the vaunted independence of athletics, this advisor notes, issues in such community enriching phenomena as the “Troutt-Wittmann Training and Academic Center, a $3 million capital gift from an alum that only allows student athletes to use its facilities. [S]uch trends are driving a wedge between athletics and academics at SIUC, when officials at other universities are thinking along lines of integration of the two.”
Camille Paglia’s intriguing but occasionally unfair opinion piece in today’s New York Times allows me to mention a Crimson essay I hadn’t yet been able to find a place for in my posts about the Summers resignation.
As always, Paglia writes a strong and beautiful defense of the humanities as they should be, and of the importance of faculty governance (contra John Tierney’s recent op/ed piece in the Times, where he called for greater corporatization of universities).
But she’s unfair, I think, when she writes this:
Harvard's reputation for disinterested scholarship has been severely gored by the shadowy manipulations of the self-serving cabal who forced Mr. Summers's premature resignation. That so few of the ostensibly aggrieved faculty members deigned to speak on the record to The Crimson, the student newspaper, illustrates the cagey hypocrisy that permeates fashionable campus leftism, which worships diversity in all things except diversity of thought.
On the contrary, plenty of thoughtful Summers opponents on the faculty have weighed in. Here’s one of them, in the Crimson, who, after deploring the catastrophic social style of Summers (on which virtually all observers agree), zeroes in on what I think is the core issue:
As the recent multi-million-dollar Russian reform fraud scandal involving his close friend and fellow economist Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer ’82 illustrates, Summers also has an ethics problem. This is perhaps most starkly evident in the way that he worked to maintain a fortress of secrecy around him while employing Washington-style political tactics as a way to embarrass or humiliate colleagues. In Summers’ inner circle, economics is about power rather than principle. And this debilitating corporate worldview—where market values are more important than moral values—constitutes the real threat to Harvard’s reputation and standing.
The writer then goes on to say:
…As faculty members, we must articulate clearly and persuasively the reasons for our own discontent with the president. Moreover, we must take student grievances seriously by engaging undergraduates in conversation—publicly and privately—in an effort to restore their confidence in us as educators who are fully committed to Harvard’s long-term health. We must demonstrate our desire to work closely with students to reform the undergraduate curriculum, and we must devote ourselves more assiduously than ever to good teaching and advising. Together, we must work to make Harvard the institution it can and should be—a place of higher learning where critical debate coincides with mutual respect, where moral values triumph over market values, and where transparency replaces secrecy. We have a better chance of accomplishing all of this now that Larry Summers is gone.
These don’t strike me as empty words; I’ve read variants of them from many Harvard faculty from the outset of this mess, and I’m inclined to believe them.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Shleifer Scandal Now|
Actively Under Investigation
Today’s Financial Times:
Harvard University, still reeling from the resignation of Larry Summers as its president, is seeking to clear up another controversy dogging its reputation.
Can the God Who Guides
Thomas Kinkade’s Brush
Also be Guiding his Dick?
From today’s LA Times:
…A devout Christian who calls himself the "Painter of Light," Kinkade trades heavily on his beliefs and says God has guided his brush — and his life — for the last 20 years.
Study, Disneyland, Thomas Kinkade,
…"But you've got to remember," [Kinkade told an interviewer]. "I'm the idol to these women who are there. They sell my work every day, you know. They're enamored with any attention I would give them. I don't know what kind of flirting they were trying to do with me. I don't recall what was going on that night."
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
From the Washington Post , with parenthetical comments from UD:
(The star basketball player was) accepted at George Washington after failing to graduate in five years from his original high school and receiving no grades at three prep schools in the next two years, including one that burned down after he was there five days. The National Collegiate Athletic Association certified his transcript without any verification.
[Thanks to Phil for the link.]
Yet Another Novelist|
Takes Aim at the
World’s Broadest Target
From the Globe and Mail:
An archetype of the worst that creative writing professors can be, Arsenault is a blatantly bad teacher and a committed drunk, who ought to be kept far away from students. But to them, he is a swashbuckling hero, and when this small-town university denies him tenure, his student acolytes take up their cudgels and fight.
The president of one of Florida’s poorest public universities is a pooh-bah. While his students and faculty starve, he lives it way way up. "The opportunity cost of my time is very high,” he explains to the Miami Herald, which wants to know why it’s all limos, four-star hotels and private planes for Modesto “Mitch” Maidique of Florida International University.
The opportunity cost of my time is very high. I am a VIP. Everyone wants a piece of me. Every moment of me costs a fortune. I move within a four-star aura.
Hence, as to why “in February 2003, Maidique spent $462 to hire a limo for seven hours during the Miami International Film Festival,” he points out that "It was part of the whole patina and the whole style of the film festival" to travel in a Lincoln Town Car with dignitaries.
At all times a luxe tone must be maintained.
One summer day in 2004, the president of Miami-Dade County's only public university traveled to state Sen. Ken Pruitt's office in Port St. Lucie to lobby for more school funding.
He had to take a limo through Connecticut. It’s a jungle out there:
In 2003, for a lunch meeting at former FIU board chairman Armando Codina's Connecticut summer home, Maidique spent $474 for a night at the Four Seasons Pierre, a five-star hotel in Manhattan.
The opportunity cost of talking to someone in person is so very high.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
I Knew I’d Get Something Good|
If I Checked Out One of Those
From Rate my Professors:
A Drama Professor:
Kind of scatterbrained. Too into high concept stuff and not too big on technique. I slept with the TA though, so that was cool.
One More Lewis Mumford Story|
[For an earlier Mumford narrative, see UD, 1/29/06.]
At Jerzy Soltan’s memorial event yesterday, a short film was shown, in which he was interviewed. He told the following story:
During the Second World War, when he was in Murnau, the German prisoner of war camp, Soltan ordered a book by Lewis Mumford, The City in History.
Being in a prisoner of war camp for captured officers, he said, was horrible, but it was nothing like being in a concentration camp. In Murnau, for instance, they could send and receive mail, and sometimes they could order books.
Everything they received was heavily censored by the Germans, and one of the censors decided that the Mumford book was banned material.
So the book was duly stamped BANNED (or some such thing) in big black letters and put away. But, Soltan went on, the bureaucratic organization of the camp wasn’t all that good, and he was eventually able to get the book out of the censor’s office.
Long after the war, Soltan met Lewis Mumford at some architects’ event. Knowing Mumford would be there, he’d brought along the book, which still bore the big BANNED stamp. He showed it to Mumford.
“He loved it.”
There’s such lavish irony...|
...abounding in John Tierney’s column in today’s New York Times that UD -- a lover of irony -- doesn’t know where to start.
Tierney’s main point is that universities like Harvard are tanking because they lack strong presidents: “Authority is so diffuse that no one's accountable. Lawrence Summers was ostensibly in charge of Harvard, but he had little power to fire or hire anyone.” Without that authority, you get the mutinous politically correct ninnies who did Summers in. We need “to give university presidents the hiring and firing authority that most executives have.”
This is remarkable stuff coming from a columnist at a newspaper still reeling from the damage Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd did by hiring and retaining (despite pleas from reporters who knew he was a fabulist) Jayson Blair -- not to mention Rick Bragg, another of their favorites forced to quit because it turned out he was too special to write his own articles, fobbing them off on stringers and then signing his name to them.
Tierney goes on to say:
If newspapers were run like [universities], by committees of tenured journalists unconcerned with circulation and ad revenue, we wouldn't spend much time trying to improve the weather map or the news summaries or movie listings. We'd all be too busy writing 27-part series to be submitted for peer review by the Pulitzer board.
Um, journalists at newspapers like the New York Times are much more like tenured professors than drudges entering movie times onto lists. At the bottom of Tierney’s piece, there’s a little note: "Maureen Dowd is on book leave." That’s a sabbatical -- same thing professors get. For that matter, many mid and high-profile New York Times writers are also professors - they teach part or full-time at universities. Many former New York Times writers go on to become professors. The reason these back and forths work so smoothly is that the two groups - professors and journalists - are very similar sorts of people, socially and intellectually.
Universities like Harvard are swamps of inactivity, Tierney suggests, because complacent lazy tenured faculty don’t want anything to change, and insufficiently powerful presidents are afraid to change anything, knowing that the faculty will simply rise up and toss them out. "You get ahead by massaging the system as it is, not attempting so-called radical reform by dumping academic dolts."
Reading Tierney‘s descriptions of swamps and dolts, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Harvard University is the number one ranked university in the United States and in the world, and that, more broadly, American universities dominate all lists of the world's best universities. Tierney ends by quoting someone saying that “The Achilles heel of academics is their status anxiety.” I wonder how much percentage there is in status anxiety for a Harvard professor whose status is firmly and overwhelmingly number one. I suspect most Harvard professors are bright enough to figure out that there are better uses for their time than worrying about where they rank on rankings where they rank number one.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
A GW student writes in the university newspaper, and, in slightly modified form, at CBS.com, about non-intellectuality in American colleges. (I’ll quote from the GW version of the piece, commenting as I go.)
"Extracurricular activities galore" declares the GW Web site under the heading "About the Student Body." The site claims that 92 percent of GW undergraduates have either been employed or interned to supplement their coursework. But is that really a number to brag about?
A few more thoughts about this thoughtful essay.
At any college or university, there will only be a small number of students truly interested in intensive and organized reflection. And, sadly, unless they’re at St. John’s College or Reed, they will really have to fight for it. As if all that extracurricular stuff the writer cites weren’t enough of an impediment, the lack of intellectually coherent curricula at most schools means that even a serious student runs the risk of getting little more than flashes in this course or that of important thought about justice or love or mortality. Only brilliant curricular strategists among the students will be able to figure out how to structure their four years to yield a sustained, cumulative form of inquiry.
One thing that could help in this would be a general “things of the spirit” atmosphere on campus in place of the materialist, utilitarian, careerist atmosphere that the student correctly describes. But as I’ve remarked before about wealthy hip urban schools like GW (think also NYU, BU), worldliness in such places is all. You can’t wave a wand over Foggy Bottom and make it the Left Bank. It is what it is.
What you can do, if you’re one of those students who actually likes the idea of grappling with philosophy and literature and history, is stick with the liberal arts as they’ve traditionally been conceived.
If you do that, you’ll get into a better law school than your buddy who kept taking Contemporary Political Trends over and over again. Why? Because you’ll be a better writer. And reader.
He Can Forget|
Going After that Job
At Ave Maria University
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
This isn’t the only way Naves incorporates technology into his classroom. Students at Rate My Professors (he got 106 comments!) say he loves to chat on his cell phone too.
Some Things Have|
“Express Delivery: UD”
Written All Over Them
From the Austin American-Statesman:
As a scholar of early Greek culture and writing, Thomas Palaima knows well the story of the plague that the god Apollo visits upon the Greek army in Homer's "Iliad."
Words Wisely Withdrawn|
From the Harvard Crimson:
Glimp Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser, who has frequently spoken out in Summers’ defense, said on Wednesday that the issue of anti-Semitism was “never the slightest thing on my mind” during the crisis that forced Summers out.
More Turmoil at Harvard|
Even as a memorial for UD’s father-in-law takes place there today, the Harvard Graduate School of Design is in an uproar.
Via Inside Higher Ed and the Boston Globe , some faculty at GSD seem to have taken advantage of the fact that, as one Harvard observer puts it, “there’s nobody running the university,” to try ousting their controversial dean.
Alan Altshuler, a former state transportation secretary and an urban planning type rather than a designer, apparently faces a faculty no confidence vote if he does not step down.
This is a developing story, and the information is vague, but one professor there says that "Some in the community believe that, all things being equal, a designer should lead the design school.” The conflict is less, he continues “about Alan Altshuler as a human being than about the priorities and mission of the school." Also mentioned is the fact that Altshuler, appointed a year ago, was a Summers ally, and that Summers was known to dislike modern architecture (which means… Altshuler dislikes it too?). Plus, like Summers, Altshuler has been talking about how GSD faculty needs to teach more.
For what it’s worth, here’s UD's take on this so far: It shouldn’t matter a jot whether an architect, a designer, or an urban planner runs GSD, and most reasonable people know this. So the anti-Altshuler forces might want to get off that high horse. And a related point -- we’re told that the dispute is really about “the priorities and mission of the school.” Whoa Nellie. The field of architecture is a notorious ideological, philosophical, professional, and aesthetic morass (listen to Leon Krier and Peter Eisenman go at it sometime ), and you’re never going have clear priorities and missions at GSD beyond platitudes about the dynamic synergy created by diverse design approaches, etc.
UD is prepared to believe that GSD’s dean should be removed. But no real reasons for his removal have yet been offered.
UPDATE: An article in the Crimson makes the rebellious GSD professors look even worse. It says they’re also “angered by [Altshuler’s] public support of the controversial president [that’d be Summers].”
Someone needs to acquaint this group with the concept of free speech.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
This Just In.|
Arts and science faculty members voted by a wide margin Thursday to express "no confidence" in the leadership of Case Western Reserve University president Edward M. Hundert over budget and other issues.
STUNTZ IS WRONG|
William J. Stuntz, a Harvard Law professor, is angry about the fall of Lawrence Summers, which is fine. But he’s let his spite create a wholly unconvincing scenario for the future of American universities. To hear him tell it, principled reformer Summers represented fat, complacent American higher education’s last chance to save itself. Now that heedless tenured aristocrats have run him out of town, there’s no stopping the decline and fall of all campuses. Because it’s not just about Cambridge:
The health of any single university is no large matter. But in this market, the top players set the terms for everyone else. If the Ivies and Stanford and the top state universities continue to do things the old-fashioned way, schools farther down the food chain have to do the same, or risk losing their best faculty members. It's a little like the early stages of a Ponzi scheme: Everyone wants to keep it going as long as possible, and the odds are it won't end just yet. My generation of academics (I'm 47) will get ours and then, probably, get out before the crash--just as GM's managers in the 1950s got theirs, then went on to rich retirements. But woe to those who come after us.
Woe? Whoa. Stuntz, with his sad lack of faith in self-correcting market mechanisms, has messed up here. In fact, quite a few scrappy American universities and colleges are competing with the Ivies, offering more faculty attention and other goodies, and it’s working. A number of observers have pointed out that the unquestioned supremacy of the Ivies no longer pertains, and that savvy applicants and smart professors take advantage of an increasingly broad range of attractive university choices these days.
I happen to agree with Stuntz that Harvard is too rich and bland and careful now; it’s just that I ultimately see Summers as part of all that, not a rebel against it. After all, it was on his watch that Harvard, like any smug, clueless organization, failed to punish one of its own for serious, institutionally damaging misdeeds (this may change -- there are signs, now that Shleifer’s protector is out of a job, that Harvard will do the right thing and sanction him). And don’t forget Harvard’s equally pathetic response to the recent plagiarism scandals in Stuntz’s law faculty.
No, Summers was not the person to resuscitate Harvard. No one person can do it. The place will have to wake itself up somehow. As alumni donations continue to tank (despite a national upward trend, Harvard’s have for some time been significantly down), and as more and more students realize they might be able to get a livelier intellectual experience somewhere else, the Harvard community will grasp that it runs the risk of becoming a luxurious simulacrum. Then it'll get to work.
From today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
WITH A PROGRAM LIKE THIS,
Poetry of Departures|
There’s an interesting case study, over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, in quitting a tenured academic job. People are shocked when tenured professors at satisfactory schools in nice enough settings give up permanent employment and the many pleasant aspects of academia for something else. The great dread in academia is failing to get tenure; having won it, the decision, some years later, to give it up seems bizarre, masochistic.
But it isn’t really. Not under some circumstances. Take the pseudonymous ex-professor at a public university who’s written a couple of columns in the Chronicle describing her decision to leave.
Part of it’s her personality, though since she’s been at it for 25 years, this can’t be a real determinant:
No academic job has really worked for me. I am no good at politics. I am overly sensitive to criticism; occasional biting comments in my evaluations almost always overshadow the accolades.
All of these are perfectly normal behaviors and responses, except for the actual reading of every student evaluation year after year after year. She’s obviously a good teacher (and a good writer - her Chronicle pieces are excellent). She should have remembered the old joke about the psychoanalyst. How, a friend of his asks, can you bear to sit in that chair in your office year after year listening to such profound anguish from so many people? The psychoanalyst smiles at him and says: Who listens?
I despise the student-as-customer mantra of the day. I loathe writing 11-page syllabi [Ah! The Syllabum Omnium!] in the futile attempt to document learning outcomes as if it were possible to prepackage the essential alchemy of the classroom.
Here we’re getting to the core of her problem. She’s at a very bad university. It sounds like a pleasantly situated, okay sort of place, but with every detail of the administrative nightmare it actually is, this woman’s departure becomes more understandable:
…the innumerable meetings, reports, self-studies, external- and internal-evaluations, five-year strategic plans, and assorted other "objective" measures of success…
When your institution has no self-respect, no sense of itself as a university rather than a market-driven information delivery system, it makes sense to bail.
My president had just announced to the community at large that I was lazy and doing a bad job. I was now going to have to keep up with the for-profit Joneses. Internet classes. Saturday classes. Satellite campus classes. Night classes.
UD’s impressed, and she wishes her well.
(How drearily neurotic that academic thing, by the way, of tucking every tome away on a bookshelf, never mind how turdy…)
Vote of No Confidence Today|
As Inside Higher Ed reports, faculty at Case Western Reserve University will vote on whether they retain confidence in their president, Edward M. Hundert, a man apparently prone to financial mismanagement and secrecy. The professors calling the vote were inspired by recent events at Harvard.
Ralph Luker, at Cliopatria, Notes:|
Congratulations to Jacob T. Levy who has accepted an appointment as Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory in the Political Science Department at McGill University. A former member of The Volokh Conspiracy, Levy is one of my favorite commentators at places like Crooked Timber. Last year, when both he and Daniel Drezner were denied tenure at the University of Chicago, it seemed to suggest that Ivan Tribble was right about academic blogging. Now that both Drezner and Levy have landed on their feet – Drezner at Tufts and Levy at McGill – Tribble looks less persuasive, pathetic even.
True about La Tribble, who has been awfully quiet lately as one after another blogger sorts through attractive academic job offers... Gotta wonder about the University of Chicago too -- is the current department composed of avant-gardists experimenting with Gidean actes gratuits?
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Okay, so, |
here’s an editorial in today’s Christian Science Monitor, with UD’s running commentary.
Duke University has long run a campus program to support students in moral reflection and in developing personal integrity. But this type of education - so essential later in the workplace (What workplace would that be? What I hear tell, you can do a whole lot better in American organizational settings without the heavy burden of moral reflection and scruple.) - remains notably absent in most schools of higher learning. (You’re going to have to define this wondrous Duke thing more precisely if you want me to get excited about it. What are you talking about?)
The Complex Text|
From today’s Washington Post:
The ability to handle complex reading is the major factor separating high school students who are ready for college reading from those who are not, according to a new report.
From the ACT website, here’s a bit more about complex reading passages:
A complex text can be described with respect to the following six aspects (which can
I don’t know. Speaking just for myself, I always find results like these kind of happy-making. After all, I’m an English professor… this is what I do… I stand up in front of people, the way I did yesterday and the way I’ll do tomorrow, and I read passages from James Joyce and analyze them and ask my students to discuss them and all.
In the largest sense, the ACT results represent bad, though not surprising, news. But in a more personal sense, they point to the importance of the work that English teachers and professors do.
In looking over the report’s criteria for complex texts, I thought of the famous final paragraph in Joyce’s short story, “The Dead” --
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
This stunning passage has it all: its ideas are subtle, embedded; its philosophically complex information is conveyed via literary devices; the organization of language is markedly unconventional; the author’s tone is hard to place - elegiac, frightened, defeated? - and context dependent. A word like “mutinous” is certainly demanding. Sailors, not waves, are mutinous. There’s a poetic suggestiveness to it, with its echoes of muteness, another form of silence in a passage about the descent of silence. And though the soft insinuating rhythm and sounds of the passage hint at a kind of tranquility, there’s a restlessness in the character’s decision to “set out on his journey westward.”
To understand this passage, a student first has to intuit its value and then discipline herself in the patience to read it carefully and slowly, as it clearly wishes to be read. Ideally, the student would already have been aroused by the beauty of the language, and her aesthetic pleasure would now draw her toward the act of interpretation. She wouldn’t be able to be very clear about its meaning, but having read through the rest of “The Dead,” she’d have a general sense of the thing. Nor would she demand absolute clarity, since she would understand that great art is about ambiguity.
From the blog Oh Harvard...:
Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature, was always a vocal Summers supporter, and she couldn't but allude to her dissatisfaction with current state of Harvard politics. In a lecture on Franz Kafka's The Trial, she remarked (rough quotation):"Perhaps the most disturbing thing about The Trial is [Joseph] K.'s resignation to his fate. What happened to man who was so fiery at the onset of the story? At the end, like our former president, he gives up without a fight."
Assuming this anecdote is accurate, UD has a few comments.
(1.) Wisse has demonstrated here the disturbing tendency of some professors to inject political content into their lectures. She knows that Summers’ strongest support comes from Harvard students, and she is lobbying those students. If it’s wrong for Ward Churchill, it’s wrong for Professor Wisse.
(2.) Mr. Summers will leave his post at Harvard and -- after a year off at full salary -- return to a lucrative, powerful, and prestigious position in Harvard’s economics department. Professor Wisse discerns a parallel between this fate and that of Joseph K., degraded, tortured, and slaughtered like an animal.
(3.) A more appropriate parallel between The Trial and the fate of President Summers would stress his involvement in an actual trial -- that of Andrei Shleifer -- and the way in which, like all the well-connected functionaries in Kafka’s work, Shleifer, though found guilty, was returned to the Harvard castle and given no punishment.
And One Brave Regent
From the Hawaii Star Bulletin:
The chairwoman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents criticized a key state senator yesterday, accusing him of meddling in university affairs and trying to pressure regents up for confirmation in the Senate.
Number of things to note here about wealthy Hawaii and its shabby public university system.
As always, a key component of the failure of higher education in the state is government interference. Senator Hee in particular is notorious -- and he's the head of the Education Committee. His people did not pressure regent candidates to buy a ticket for one of his fundraisers; they pressured the candidates to buy blocks of tickets. Hee was behind the effort simply by state fiat to move a university position from one campus to another. And he reportedly tried to blackmail regents into voting his way on the next university president and on an unpopular research center by threatening to deny them confirmation.
Hee has been unlucky in his defenders. "In no way do I feel the senator's office has been grossly inappropriate," one of them insists, carefully leaving open the possibility that, while not grossly inappropriate, his office has been - let us say - significantly inappropriate.
Hee's own defense is a moronic offense: He calls the head of the regents a lunatic. "Her fantasies are getting the best of her."
Shut Up, Carol, |
or T. Boone
Will Repossess Your Town
A letter to the Dallas Morning News:
A little less altruistic?
Although We’re No Italy,|
We Can Certainly Be
Very Bad in Our Own Small Way
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Just days after taking office in 2003, Attorney General Jim Petro ordered the University of Akron to replace four law firms, even though the university's top lawyer had warned that the changes would be costly and inefficient.
Italian Family & Friends Plan|
Recall the pietoso rank of Italy on the recent lists of the world’s best universities. Among the top fifty, Italy, with its strong economy and spectacular cultural traditions, is simply absent; on the list of the top 500, it starts appearing, spottily, down in the hundreds, easily outranked by a number of smaller, poorer countries.
What’s interesting about Italy’s national disgrace is that everyone knows why it’s happening, but, with some exceptions, no one gives a shit. As one high-ranking Italian university administrator explains in an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, the Italians prefer a “personalized” system of academic hiring to the cold objective approach that in part accounts for America’s dominance of the lists.
In expressing “solidarity” with a now-suspended rector who has been particularly blatant, even by Italian standards, in handing out tenured positions to family and friends, the national coordinator of the Association of University Teachers “acknowledged that Italian academe's ‘personalized’ hiring and promotion practices lend themselves to suspicions of the kind now surrounding Mr. Tosi.” Yet how unsporting it would be to impose upon Italy the predatory capitalist practices of the United States.