Sunday, April 30, 2006
Two College Prep Typologies|
In Today’s New York Times
Amusing review of the college prep philosophies various teachers hold in Alan Bennett’s new play, The History Boys. The setting is England, but the types are familiar enough from the States, as Charles McGrath notes.
The flashiest method is that of Irwin, a young hotshot brought in by the headmaster (who, as played by Clive Merrison, bears a startling resemblance, physical and temperamental, to Mr. Burns, the scheming nuclear power plant owner on "The Simpsons") to add a little sheen to a class of eight senior boys swotting away in preparation for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams. The idea is not so much well-roundedness as to make the boys seem the equal, in cleverness, glibness and false sophistication, of competing candidates from the elite private schools.
David Brooks, in a charming but sort of pointless column, also analyzes a certain pre-collegiate world:
In every high school there are students who are culturally and intellectually superior but socially aggrieved. These high school culturati have wit and sophisticated musical tastes but find that all prestige goes to jocks, cheerleaders and preps who possess the emotional depth of a cocker spaniel. The nerds continue to believe that the self-reflective life is the only life worth living (despite all evidence to the contrary) while the cool, good-looking, vapid people look down upon them with easy disdain on those rare occasions they are compelled to acknowledge their existence.
NYT is dumping on UD’s
soon-to-be-favorite museum too!
My memories of the man? |
His enormousness. He sat in his living room (book-lined; big piano; Persian rugs) in an oversized chair, which he dominated. For diminutive UD, sitting across from Galbraith was like looking at the Lincoln Memorial.
He had a deep slow sly voice, which he used (on the occasions I was there) to tell elaborate, funny stories about politics or his travels or academia.
A wealthy man, he was unpretentious. His farmhouse in Vermont was spartan, though rich in the memorabilia of a life well-lived. His country library was full of old Anglo funny stuff: Dickens, Thackery, Wodehouse.
Here’s a nice quotation from him, reminding me of one of my favorite Camus passages: “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old.”
Camus, in “Return to Tipasa,” wrote: “In order to prevent justice from shriveling up, from becoming nothing but a magnificent orange with a dry, bitter pulp, I discovered one must keep a freshness and a source of joy intact within, loving the daylight that injustice leaves unscathed, and returning to the fray with this light as a trophy.”
And it’s tempting to see my headline as a shorthand version of much that’s gone wrong with Harvard in the last few years.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
This is what happens|
When you have one too
Many problems on your campus.
First, a guy (the peripatetic Mark Slouka!) writes in indignant defense of a maligned fellow writer, Sven Birkerts:
Birkerts is writing some of the best criticism in America today, an assessment clearly endorsed by the [New York Times] Book Review, which publishes him, and by Harvard University, which recently hired him. Whatever species of bee it is that Marcus has in his bonnet, he should release it as soon as possible and come in from the schoolyard.
Then, a blogger responds:
H-h-h-h-h-old up!! H-h-h-h-harvard hired him!? Boy oh boy, Greil Marcus [he who took off after Birkerts] must have totally hit his forehead with the palm of his hand and peed in his pants after realizing his terrible, terrible misjudgment. We bet three, chubby Larry Summerses and one Opal Mehta with her tail between her legs that Marcus writes a retraction next week profusely apologizing for the error of his ways.
How could anyone think a teapot museum|
in Sparta North Carolina was pork?
Faithful readers know that UD’s a tea freak who makes pilgrimages to places like Mariage Freres in Paris, orders tea from special online teahouses, and drinks painstakingly brewed loose leaves throughout the day.
Mariages Freres has a little tea museum across the street from its main tearoom. Can't we compete?
Yet the Washington Post lumps Sparta’s museum (still in the planning stages, but it's got a hell of a website) in with other obvious examples of congressional pork:
In Washington, pork has become synonymous with congressional earmarks; in fact, most media outlets -- including The Washington Post -- define it as such. So does the new "Pig Book," which was released this month by Citizens Against Government Waste and catalogs 375 of last year's goofiest earmarks, such as the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative and the Sparta Teapot Museum.
I can’t speak to the urinal initiative, but I can certainly tell from its website that Sparta’s got a great collection of pots, and that the museum will be cool:
Aside from 12,000 square feet of gallery space for permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum will have education space for adults and children; a lobby/reception hall available for the community; a multi-purpose auditorium for lectures, artist demonstrations, small performances, and film; a museum shop, a tea room/café, and administrative space.
What could the small performances be? How often can you do “I’m A Little Teapot”?
The collectors who made all of this possible are featured on their own website . The husband says: “On the average, we buy one or two teapots a day.”
People Who Think You’re Stupid|
Lots of stuff about blogs in a survey of new media in The Economist, which notes the rising fortunes of the sort of thing you’re reading now and the declining fortunes of newspapers. Like Andrew Sullivan and other commentators, The Economist suggests that “It’s about democratisation” -- the rise of the individual voice and of conversation.
Which is interestingly juxtaposed with a review of a new book in the same issue: Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialised by People Who Think You’re Stupid, by Joe Klein:
Today political professionals - consultants, pollsters, and admen - test out every phrase [a politician might utter]. The result is a veritable Hobson’s choice: the droning inanities of a John Kerry versus the scripted platitudes of a George Bush.
Valedictory for Ms. V|
Not Writing But Sleeping
Nobody heard her, the V. girl,
But still she lay weeping:
I was much less alert than I thought
And not writing but sleeping.
Poor chick, she always loved lifting
And now she's caught
The publisher pulled her book
And it can’t be bought.
Oh, no no no, I was too fake always
(Still the hyped one lay weeping)
I’ve been basically bogus all my life
And not writing but sleeping.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Erin O’Connor Sent Me This…|
…because she knew I would love it.
From The Morning News:
Inspired by recent events, we wondered not “why does anyone plagiarize,” but “why aren’t more people better at plagiarizing?” And so we are launching a contest to see if there is a “writer” out there who can create a coherent and original piece of fiction completely made from the works of others.
I'm already brainstorming!
Ms. V. and the Unintentional Fallacy|
"Like 'unintentional larceny,' the term 'unintentional plagiarism' is an oxymoron... [T]he appropriation of another's work is rarely unintentional."
Pallid, though commendable...|
...effort to respond to Slouka's attack on Columbia's MFA. Two students in the program write a stiffly bureaucratic though perfectly acceptable piece of English prose to defend the place.
Yet they've got quite a job on their hands. There's the lack of letter grades, which they can only spin in the way everyone tries to spin it:
The pass/low pass/fail system (a correction to Slouka’s piece) allows students to experiment and take risks with their writing, a core belief of the writing division. Slouka’s desire for excellence in advocating a letter-grade-based system is laudable. However, it overlooks the benefits of more complex methods of literary evaluation such as extended written critical feedback and the individual conference. Columbia’s faculty provides both, thus anticipating the responses we writers will receive from the outside literary community. This approach fosters a collaborative environment in which students are encouraged to help one another cultivate a variety of literary skills rather than merely competing for grade point averages.
That two writers who write like certified public accountants would also talk about taking risks with their writing is funny. And don't tell me that writing short stories is different from writing opinion pieces -- both forms can either exhibit or fail to exhibit interesting, risk-taking style.
If the program has increased in size, it is because a higher percentage of accepted students has enrolled each year.
Which is not an answer to the charge that the program is cynically accepting too many students in order to take their money, since admissions committees, knowing that their number of acceptances is growing, are supposed to offer fewer acceptances.
Moreover, Slouka’s attack on “teaching the teaching of writing” to “students who have not yet learned to write” implies that there is a fixed point at which a student will have finished learning how to write.
Slouka's point, as the quotation suggests, was that some students have not yet begun to learn to write.
A Letter to Harvard Magazine|
"In my judgment, the recusal of Summers from the government case charging a senior Harvard faculty member and others with fraudulent activities while entrusted with the task of helping the Russian government privatize its state-owned utility and other companies (“HIID Dénouement,” March-April, page 67) has been swept under the rug by Summers and the Harvard Corporation. The good name of our University has been besmirched to an extent that requires that the individuals guilty of this gross breach of trust should have been dismissed.
Here’s One to Watch.|
It’s impossible for an outsider to judge the merits of the case against the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - she barely squeaked through a faculty no confidence vote recently - but one thing’s certain: Her unconscionable salary, almost one million dollars a year plus extensive benefits (I think I’m recalling correctly that she’s the highest paid university president in the United States), isn’t going to help her case.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
From Joshua Foer in Slate
...Even if cryptomnesia is a real memory glitch that happens to all of us from time to time, however, it's hard to figure how it could lead to the involuntary swiping of 29 different passages.
|How Opal Mehta Got Withdrawn|
As Long as Mark Slouka...|
...has us thinking about this country's pitiable MFA programs, here's a letter Michael Blumenthal wrote a few years ago -- the Chronicle of Higher Ed published it -- to his creative writing students:
A Letter to my Students
The Theory of the Leisure Suit|
David Brooks, NYTimes, this morning:
'[In 1996], Michael Tomasky published "Left for Dead," which argued that the progressive movement was being ruined by multicultural identity politics. Democrats have lost the ability to talk to Americans collectively, Tomasky wrote, and seem to be a collection of aggrieved out-groups: feminists, blacks, gays and so on.
Slate’s Jack Shafer…|
…offers a pretty good list of the real reasons people plagiarize:
Ambition Often Exceeds Talent: I know of very few examples in which an exceptional writer got caught plagiarizing. Sometimes writers accept jobs or assignments beyond their talents. When the deadline whistle blows, they find themselves facing this cost-benefit quandary: Shall I tell the truth and bail, damaging my career for sure, or shall I steal copy and only risk damaging my career?
That “contempt for the business” thing in particular interests me. UD’s been following plagiarists for a long time, and many of them have been raised by amoral, ambitious parents who believe in nothing, who believe that everything is corrupt, and who want all social and financial goodies for themselves and their families.
Life, they believe, is brutal winner-take-all warfare. They pride themselves on their ability always to figure out an angle whereby each corrupt game of life can be won, as with plagiarist Blair Hornstine’s father, who figured out that if he could lie and say his daughter had a physical impairment, she could be exempted from gym and therefore get a higher GPA than anyone else at her high school.
What’s striking about many of the plagiarists UD has followed is that they don’t have to break rules to do well in life, but they appear to derive gratification, along with a confirmation of their Hobbesian view of life, from continually breaking them and winning. These are the ‘thesdanians in UD’s world who insist on building their mcmansions bigger than the already-generous rules allow - not because they care about the extra space, but because it’s important to them to show their neighbors their rule-breaking, contemptuous superiority.
Plagiarists, in short, tend to be self-destructive game-players who harbor real venom against civil society. Blair Hornstine and Ms. V. are their unfortunate children.
The Etiology of Ms. V.|
' "In a way it's kind of like working on a television show ," said Cindy Eagan, editorial director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a sister imprint of Ms. Viswanathan's publisher, and the publisher of the "Clique," "A-List" and "Gossip Girl" series. "We all work together in shaping each novel."
Here we are as in olden days,|
happy golden days of yore…
…as the name “Benjamin Ladner” again graces the pages of UD’s hometown paper, The Washington Post.
Although the disgraced ex-president of American University now lives in gilded exile, having been given a $3.75 million departure deal, the US Senate has all this time been examining that severance, and the tainted board of trustees at AU that made it possible:
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is expected to call for significant reforms on American University's governing board -- including the possible removal of some trustees -- after talks between the two groups failed, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
It remains astounding to UD that friends of Jack Abramoff and similarly rancid Washington moneybags retain seats on AU’s board. I suppose the Senate committee is equally astounded.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Henry, at The Occasional Review…|
…analyzes with some care the Columbia Spectator writer’s unimpressive prose. It was an analysis I didn’t want to do, though I saw the same thing, because I wanted to focus on the larger scandal of Columbia’s MFA program that the writer inelegantly describes. But Henry’s more or less correct that the writing
illustrates how a writer can - while making assertions that are, for all I know, totally accurate - expose himself … thoroughly as a pompous jackass. And in a few hundred words! I also find it rather amusing that a professor who accuses students of being barely literate is such a terrible writer.
Henry, like UD, also singles out the language that a “senior colleague” the writer quotes uses. But while UD had only a brief parenthetical comment to make about this colleague’s English, Henry goes to town on him:
[Slouka] … provide[s] a thumbnail sketch from an unnamed "senior colleague," who has apparently been hanging out a lot in the 17th century: "How I wish I could believe there will be some surcease, some righting of the ship in the foreseeable [future]. Alas, I fear it will not be so." My stars, will there be no surcease? Alack, what poverty my muse brings forth - O, Gods, blame me not if I no more can write!
This is cruel but funny.
In Which We Are Reminded...|
...that as a Harvard-affiliated plagiarist, Ms. V. is in excellent company:
"While colleges tend to respond very harshly to student plagiarism, when it comes to professors they often look the other way," according to Chronicle reporter Thomas Bartlett.
...links to Felicia Sullivan, a Columbia University MFA who offers a little stream of consciousness in response to the Slouka attack on that program:
[M]y response: A - fucking - MEN. The comic highlight of my year? A letter from Columbia asking me to donate money to the MFA program and its students. Are you kidding me?! I wish I could have gotten some of my money back from some of the incompetent professors who i’ve suffered classes with (including a professor who told a whole dinner party of students about my cocaine “problem” and subsequent leave of absence almost two years before, because well, everyone knew about your little problem, felicia - REALLY? THAT’S NEWS TO ME. GREAT TO KNOW I’M THE TOPIC OF GOSSIP IN THE ADMINISTRATION), half the students who were straight out of ivy league colleges, brimming with attitude and felt they knew more about everything than everyone …, so few teaching positions that you have to complete against PHD candidates for, scholarships that are laughable, and endless favoritism, networking events (i’ve only heard this because I refuse to go to one) that resemble awkward cattle calls, and boy, could i go on. I thought about shutting my mouth and saying nothing, but I’m sure the administation at Columbia couldn’t stand me anyway, so no matter.
Master of the Bench|
From Inside Higher Ed:
For one high school student, it was presumably a magical prom night.
"[Toben] is a Master of the Bench in the Judge Abner V. McCall American Inns of Court… "
Master of the Bench
Sit yourself down
And see the best
Prom party in town!
It’s just for me,
And a few losers
On Level Three.
Seldom do you see
Men as big as me
A VIP supreme
Who's content to be…
Master of the Bench
Keeper of the key
Owner of the campus
And the li-brair-ie!
Kick the students out
And if they should pout
Hand the little suckers
Glad to do my son a favor
Cater all the legal stacks
So let the students sue me
I will simply sue the students back.
Everybody bless the law dean!
Everybody bless the mensch!
Everybody raise a glass
To the master of the bench!
More BM for Ms V from NYT|
If there is a Barry Bonds in college today — and remember that when Mr. Bonds started using steroids, as the book recounts, the substances were not banned in professional baseball — then perhaps it is someone like Kaavya Viswanathan. That Harvard sophomore won admission to the university partly through the ministrations of a consulting outfit named IvyWise, which charges $10,000 to $30,000 for its services. Then she wrote a roman à clef about the process, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life."
Ms. V's comment about unconscious plagiarism has made her a global laughingstock.
Mr. UD had a brainstorm this morning about how she can get out from under the ridicule. "She should say she was unconscious when she said she was unconscious when she...."
Ms. V. Runs Into More Static|
From an editorial in the Daily Herald, Washington State:
What is the response to this blatant theft? From Viswanathan's statement: " ... I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious."
UPDATE: I knew they'd come through! They just had to collect their thoughts.
According to Kenan Professor of Psychology Daniel L. Schacter, a former chair of the department, examples of unintentional plagiarism by writers have been reported in the past.
Athletics the Most Likely Place|
If an allegation were made against another member of the university community, the clamor would be less, says Duke law professor Paul Haagen, chairman of the school's Academic Council.
Merde Now Pretty Steadily|
Hitting the Ventilateur
For Ms. V
'Harvard University Assistant Dean John Ellison will investigate student author Kaavya Viswanathan, a teenage novelist who said she unintentionally took passages from other books.'
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Ms. V. Officially|
In Deep Doodoo
The New York Times:
"[T]he publisher of the two books she borrowed from called her apology 'troubling and disingenuous.' ... Steve Ross, Crown's publisher, said that, 'based on the scope and character of the similarities, it is inconceivable that this was a display of youthful innocence or an unconscious or unintentional act.' He said that there were more than 40 passages in Ms. Viswanathan's book 'that contain identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure from Megan McCafferty's first two books.' Mr. Ross called it 'nothing less than an act of literary identity theft.'"
Both the other writer's agent and her publisher are talking lawsuits.
“So, I went to visit a friend at UC Santa Cruz last week,” a student of UD’s told her this afternoon.
UD was so tempted to say that cliché thing about Santa Cruz -- “Oh? Did you cavort in a meadow and smoke dope?” - that she practically had to slap her hand over her mouth.
“It was amazing,” her student went on. “It was a celebration of 420. You don’t know what 420 is? It’s a hemp fest. Last week was Santa Cruz‘s annual hemp fest. Everybody cavorts in a meadow and smokes dope. I took some pictures. I’ll forward one to you.”
UD will soon…|
…be going to Tom Wolfe’s Jefferson Lecture here in Washington, and in preparation for that she’ll read some Jane Jacobs. Jacobs, who died today, wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities and was among the first to perceive the fiasco of modern urban planning. James Kunstler interviewed her a few years ago at her home in Toronto:
[S]he declared… starkly in "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" that the experiment of Modernist urbanism was a thumping failure, and urged Americans to look instead to the traditional wisdom of the vernacular city and its fundamental unit, the street, instead of the establishment gurus. This was the first shot in a war that has been ongoing ever since. Decades later, her book become one of the seminal texts of the New Urbanism (along with the books of Lewis Mumford).
(UD’s faithful readers will recall her admiration of Mumford and the spot of Mumford excitement at her house not long ago.)
There’s a little something in the interview touching on the controversy about whether and where you should go to college:
JHK: You hadn't gone to college, by the way?
She did, though, take some courses at Columbia:
But I was angry at what was happening [to cities] and what I could see first hand was happening. It all came to me first hand. I didn’t have any abstractions about American culture. In the meantime I had gone a couple years to Columbia but I hadn’t been taking classes in American Culture. I sat in on one in Sociology for a while and I thought it was so dumb. [See one post down.] But I had a wonderful time with various science courses and other things that I took there. And I have always been grateful for what I learned in those couple of years.
Via Ann Althouse…|
…a sociologist laments
the continued transformation of the discipline into a series of seminars where everyone sits around agreeing with one another and wondering why the rest of the world refuses to be so enlightened, where people are made to feel like they should be secretive and apologetic about the extent to which they hold beliefs that stray even-teensy-baby-steps from the orthodoxy.
Sociology is “a pie that shrinks… the more sociology is perceived as just ideology-in-increasingly-casual-empirical-disguise…”
It's like sociology is engaged in this campaign to purge the air in its hallways from heterodox thought as much as possible, and then it simultaneously wonders why students trained in this sterile environment have trouble articulating their ideas to the general public. I've thought about starting to pretend to be more politically conservative than I am in seminars just to feel less complicit in all this.
Mr. UD began graduate student life at the University of Chicago in sociology, but quickly switched to political science. “They took Talcott Parsons seriously,” he said, rather enigmatically, when UD inquired about this. Then, as today, he agreed, sociology has never had room for non-left political thought.
More Foul Weather|
'A Duke University lacrosse player charged with raping a stripper was ordered Tuesday to stand trial in an unrelated assault case.
Collin Finnerty, 19, appeared in D.C. Superior Court for a hearing in which a judge determined he had violated the conditions of a diversion program he entered after being charged in a November assault in Georgetown.
Finnerty and two friends were accused of punching a man after he told them to "stop calling him gay and other derogatory names," according to court documents.
The charges would have been dismissed under the terms of the diversion program once Finnerty completed 25 hours of community service, but the terms also required he not commit any criminal offenses.
Finnerty remains free pending a July 10 trial date in the Georgetown case. He could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of simple assault.'
Update: Plus, no fun allowed:
'D.C. Superior Court Judge John Bayly Jr. imposed new conditions for Finnerty as he awaits trial. Finnerty must obey a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, not be present anywhere alcohol is sold or consumed, have no contact with Bloxsom, and check in with court by phone every Friday.'
I was much further out than you thought|
And not sleeping but writing.
Maud Newton links to someone purporting to be a writing teacher of Ms. V's at Harvard who comments:
'Kaavya was my student last spring (in a section where I was a TA). I was surprised to learn she had written a book, as her writing was awful– I had given her low grades on her papers.
No way of knowing whether the commenter is for real. But the comment sounds real enough.
Joke Novels and their |
Relation to the Unconscious
“That long list of excuses authors have given for writing a book that turns out to contain parts of somebody else's book just got a little longer,” writes the Washington Post about Ms. V. “Add to the ‘Oh, I thought those were my notes’ and the ‘I was in too much of a hurry,’ this one: unconscious copying.”
UD figures it’s only a matter of time before the people who assemble the ever-expanding volume of official sanctioned for-real no-shit psychiatric disorders add this one to their book.
"Unconscious Plagiarism: Debilitating recurrent pre-psychotic condition characterized by trance-like states during which automatic writing, much of it plagiarized from introjected material, may take place."
Monday, April 24, 2006
Ms. V. Pt. II:|
Nothing to See Here
Damage control has set in. Turns out she did it in her sleep, so it wasn't really plagiarism: The copying, she says in an email, was "unconscious."
Plus she apologized to the original author; the publisher will put "an acknowledgment" in subsequent printings (acknowledging what? that she plagiarized while unconscious?), and that should do the trick, right? So shut up.
And anyway, "the central stories of my book and hers are completely different," says Ms. V. Here's the New York Times's take on that:
But Ms. McCafferty's books, published by Crown, a division of Random House, are, like Ms. Viswanathan's, about a young woman from New Jersey trying to get into an Ivy League college, in her case, Columbia. (Ms. Viswanathan's character has her sights set on Harvard.) Like the heroine of "Opal," Ms. McCafferty's character visits the campus, strives to earn good grades to get in and makes a triumphant high school graduation speech proclaiming her true values.
Other difficulties remain for Ms. V. "Megan [the plagiarized writer] alerted us. We've alerted the Little, Brown legal department. We are waiting to hear from them," says Megan's publisher. So that's one problem.
Then there's Harvard:
It was unclear whether Harvard would take any action against Ms. Viswanathan. "Our policies apply to work submitted to courses," said Robert Mitchell, the director of communications for Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Nevertheless, we expect Harvard students to conduct themselves with integrity and honesty at all times."
And finally, perhaps most painful of all, there's this:
Ms. Walsh, [her] agent, said that "obviously, I was shocked," to learn of the copying. "But knowing what a fine person Kaavya is, I believe any similarities were unintentional," she added. "Teenagers tend to adapt each others' language."
Teenagers tend? The whole point was that Ms. V. is no typical teenager but rather a prodigy, mature beyond her years.
I mean here we'd just revved ourselves up to believe in her staggering exceptionality, and now we've got to downshift like a son of a bitch...
How Megan Got Her Prose Back|
Everybody’s writing about the latest plagiarism case - a Harvard undergrad who apparently started writing novels in her mother’s womb - but only the Independent has the proper lead:
A 19-year-old Harvard student whose debut novel, [How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life], was set to become the next sensation of the American literary world has been accused of plagiarizing another US coming-of-age novel.
You can see how the star-making machinery (as Joni Mitchell called it) was all geared up for this one: Our very own Francoise Sagan, a dark ethnic beauty, amazingly precocious...
Luckily, this sort of James Freyesque mechanical failure happens so often lately, the same machinery can now be pretty quickly shut down. As quickly as Viswanathan has shut down her own blog.
--thanks to jw for the tip--
From Today's Spectactor Newspaper,|
'I believe that there are times when collegiality must take a back seat to honesty—when one’s natural desire to avoid unpleasantness must be set aside in the name of what one believes to be the greater good. This is one such moment for me.
A News Article, |
The Importance of Being Andrei
Andrei Shleifer ’82, the economist embroiled in a fraud scandal that cost Harvard $26.5 million to settle, will return to teaching here this fall.
The Importance Of Being Andrei.
A. Did you hear about my work in Russia, Lane?
Lane. I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.
A. I’m sorry for that, for your sake. I don’t work ethically - anyone can work ethically - but I work with wonderful profit yield.
Lane. Yes, sir.
A. And, speaking of wonders, have you got my list of courses for next semester?
Lane. Yes, sir. [Hands it on a salver.]
A. [Inspects it, and sits down on the sofa.] Oh!... by the way, Lane, I see from the Crimson that a number of my colleagues are complaining about my returning to the classroom under an ethical cloud.
Lane. Yes, sir; quite a number of them.
A. Why is it that a genius clearly in line for a Nobel Prize attracts such jealous scrutiny? I ask merely for information.
Lane. I attribute it to the low motives of less impressive persons, sir. Also anti-Semitism.
A. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?
Jack. Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
A. How perfectly delightful!
Jack: Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your having defrauded the Russian people and cost Harvard University tens of millions of dollars in fines.
A. May I ask why?
Jack: My dear fellow, the way you brazen out what you’ve done is perfectly disgraceful.
A. I have no doubt about that, dear Jack. The federal courts were specially invented for people like me. Luckily, I’ve got off scot-free -- or almost -- what's a million dollars or so in penalties to me, really? -- and Harvard doesn’t care. Another cucumber sandwich?
Jack: For heaven’s sake, don’t try to be cynical. It’s perfectly easy to be cynical. Especially for economists.
A. My dear fellow, it isn’t easy to be anything nowadays. There’s such a lot of beastly competition about. [The sound of an electric bell is heard.] Ah! that must be the Committee on Professional Conduct. Only relatives, or committees on professional conduct, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner.
A. Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, my dear colleague. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me so nervous.
C: I do mean something else.
A. I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.
C: And I would like to be allowed to take advantage of the news media’s temporary absence...
A. I would certainly advise you to do so. The media has a way of coming back suddenly into a room that I have often had to speak to it about.
C: [Nervously.] Mr Shleifer, ever since we hired you we have admired you more than any economist…we... have ever hired since... we hired you.
A. You really love me?
A. Darling! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.
C: Our own Andrei!
A. But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if I’d, say, defrauded an entire country and destroyed Harvard’s relationship with the federal government?
C: But you haven‘t done that. You’ve admitted no guilt.
A. Yes, I know. But supposing I had done it? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?
C: [Glibly.] Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.
...to be continued...
Certified Ivy League Material|
Pithy, concise article in Forbes that goes beyond - way beyond - noting (as UD and many others have) the relative unimportance of where you go to college so long as you’re smart and ambitious and go somewhere reasonably good.
Although there is clearly a correlation between earnings and a four-year degree, a correlation isn’t the same thing as a cause. Economists like Robert Reischauer ruffled feathers several years ago by pointing out that talented, driven kids are more likely to go to college in the first place — that they succeed, in other words, because of their innate abilities, not because of their formal education. Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of a low paid college dropout.
[What about all that vaunted social networking you're supposed to get by going to a grand ecole?]
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
A Regular University Diaries Feature
On this spectacular spring day, eye-popping azaleas all over the place, UD went to the town center -- a building called Penn Place --
-- to cover the dedication of a sculpture to her town, Garrett Park, Maryland.
Faithful readers know that UD is a reporter for the Garrett Park Bugle, the town newspaper (whose circulation falls far short of the circulation of this blog, which averages 740 visits and 1,047 page views per day at the moment, for which I thank you).
Anyway, UD’s standing there in the crowd, scribbling in her notebook, when a friend from town comes up to her. “I see you have a blog. I discovered it Googling ‘Duke lacrosse.’ My father’s a history professor there, and my niece went there. The stories I've heard over the years about the lacrosse team! ... Do you know what they call girls who date players? Lacrostitutes.”
UD enjoyed learning this new word, which already has an entry in the Urban Dictionary.
With a little commentary from UD.
In the Bok view, American colleges and universities are victims of their own success: they answer to so many constituencies and are expected to serve so many ends that no one can agree on even a few common goals, and in the meantime they have grown complacent. Few people have studied how much college students really learn and improve, Mr. Bok says, but the data that exist aren't very encouraging. [Which is why people like UD think an exit exam wouldn’t be a bad idea.]
Ducal Drama Drags On|
Useful, and then rather odd, piece in the Washington Post by the legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick, whose main point is that
Everything we are hearing, about the DNA tests and the photos, is selective, secondhand and anecdotal. We are being played by the lawyers, with leaks and well-chosen sound bites. …Pick your fact. Each of them can, it seems, be spun both ways.
True, true, and well worth keeping in mind through the ducal drama. Yet after cautioning us against drawing subjective conclusions from this ongoing case, Lithwick herself concludes:
This case serves as yet another depressing reminder of all that is wrong with this country: Our sons are spoiled misogynistic bigots, and our colleges are hotbeds of polarizing identity politics. Race and gender and poverty still tear us apart.
This is itself a species of emotive and unhelpful rhetoric.
The case isn’t about all that’s wrong with this country -- only some of what's wrong with a rather narrow and unrepresentative part of it, the hyperprivileged young.
Very few of my male students have ever seemed to me spoiled misogynistic bigots, though I suppose they could be in their off hours.
What’s striking about places like Duke and, say, Princeton, to which it’s often compared, is that they’re the opposite of polarizing anything, being significantly composed of students drawn from a small pool of private schools.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
A review of the New York Times coverage...|
... of the Duke story so far, by the paper’s public editor. A few excerpts:
The paper has published more than 20 stories in its continuing coverage. The dozen or so thoughtful messages I have received on this subject from readers have mostly complained of unfairness to Duke and the lacrosse players.
For instance, some readers complained about Selena Roberts writing about a “code of silence” among the players. These readers point out that
[T]hree co-captains had gone to the police station for interviews and even volunteered to take lie-detector tests, [which]... at first left me with some concern about fairness. But I think it has become more apparent, based on the public record, that the players have volunteered little eyewitness information. And that means Selena Roberts, a Times sports columnist, had ample reason for her recent concern about a "code of silence."
More broadly, the public editor is at pains to defend the bigtime page one coverage of the story. It’s an important story, he writes, because of the “allegation of rape,” but also because (in the words of the sports editor) of “the general behavior of a high-level sports team at a prestigious university."
Indeed, the public editor goes on to write that
Even if the sexual assault charges should completely collapse, the allegations of racial slurs and other questionable behavior by members of a top-ranked athletic team that have been brought to light raise important issues of race and class at a prestigious university… Covering the legal proceedings that seem likely to focus on the extremely serious charges of sexual assault and kidnapping is vital. But the paper needs to keep an eye on the allegations and reports about the racial insults voiced by various players, and on the lacrosse team's seemingly flawed culture. If the rape and kidnapping charges do not hold up, the story doesn't end. The Times should be prepared to continue covering what is done about the racial-insult allegations, given the prominence of the team and the university.
...[L]ast summer the N.B.A. altered its age limit, and this year's high school seniors cannot jump to a 20,000-seat professional arena from a 20-desk classroom.
From the Greeley Tribune.|
'At [Colorado State University], the cost of competing at the Division I level isn't getting cheaper. An annual athletic budget of $15.9 million isn't going to cut it anymore.
"Because of when most people go to college, their identity becomes closely associated with the identity of their university."... Let the college's standing drop in publications that rank universities [a Cornell student says] and "my value as a human being feels like it's dropping."
...The [Cornell image improvement] committee's roots lie in a Cornell-Yale football game in Ithaca four years ago. Yale fans in the stadium were wearing hats and other neat gear unlike anything Cornell offered for sale, [a committee member] said. He talked about that with students sitting nearby, including leaders of the campus Republicans and Democrats.
How Far Short |
of High Standards
Is a Cesspool?
"Asked to describe the state of the [University of Kansas] athletic department [until recently], one current KU administrator said: 'It was a cesspool,'" notes a Knight-Ridder article this morning. As a result:
The NCAA has [now formally] alleged that Kansas' athletic department demonstrated a "lack of institutional control" during a six-year period that was marred by academic fraud within the football program and unreported rules violations in other sports.
“[S]exual assaults … are as endemic to the big-time college sports machine as the recruiting rat race,” writes a New York Times sports reporter, and UD likes his use of “endemic,” since there are still plenty of college sports types (she heard them at the Knight Commission meeting she attended at GW a few months ago) who will deny this and talk about a few bad apples, etc.
Yet having stated baldly the incredible fact, the incredible scandal of college sports -- that it asks us to accept as endemic, as the price of admission, a sideline in sexual degeneracy among some college sportsmen -- the writer (in a remarkably badly written piece) insists that we should not, in seeking to understand this phenomenon as it has played out among some of the country’s most advantaged young people, make any reference to the wealth, privilege, SUVs, and McMansions from which many of the Duke players emerged. That would be a no-no. That would be stereotyping. That would be suggesting that “the accusations brought by a 27-year-old woman that she was sexually assaulted last month by three Duke players are related to where and in what size house they grew up.”
"It troubles me, the way the media has been falling back on old stereotypes," [an observer of the sport] said in a recent interview. "Clearly, the details in the Duke case indicate that poor choices were made and may have resulted in a tragedy. But does this story get juicier when you play up that these kids are from a so-called preppy background? Does it make it more divisive?" …I think it does, and that's a sad commentary on where we are as a society."
There’s an obvious difference between gross social generalization and serious consideration of the social factors that might have contributed to the barbarity of some lacrosse players. That a number of the players drive SUVs slightly less gargantuan than Hummers, for instance, is not an innocent fact. I don’t have to leave it alone for fear of being labeled a stereotyper. Some people like aggressive and intimidating cars because these cars reflect their own propensity toward violence. Liking to scare and intimidate other people and flaunt their superiority to them, these same people tend to purchase vast and expensive houses that make people who enter them feel small, overwhelmed by the thought of their owners’ financial muscle.
Is there a word for these people? Yes. It’s “Americans.” Millions of Americans are like this. They use their considerable wealth to shut out the non-wealthy world and to keep it at arm’s length when they have to be out and about in it (hence the virtually armored cars). They raise their children with a sense of their untouchable superiority to others.
All you have to do is look at the imagery and language of many of the ads for the big cars I have in mind to see that they often appeal to these people’s aggressive acquisitiveness and aggressive display.
When this sort of community lionizes particular young men among it because they are good at playing a notably aggressive sport, when it rewards its most testosterone-laden population for all sorts of aggressive behavior, on and off the field, the problem of endemic cultural violence deepens.
And when such young men engage in sexual degeneracy as a group -- after which they close ranks about it as a group -- cultural generalization is not something to avoid out of fear of the preppie card, but rather something to take up as a moral responsibility.
Friday, April 21, 2006
via Crooked Timber, a bumper sticker seen recently in traffic:
“If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve.”
Just a Reminder...|
...as we're dealt all the details of the women's joy-rides and probations, and the men's assaults and diversionary programs: As I've noted before, we're into Trailer Park Meltdown territory at this point in the Duke story, with many of the principals involved in the events that night a little on the trashy side (to allude to one of UD's daughter's favorite songs). Play up the class war aspect of this all you like, of course; but remember that, high or low, several participants are basically petty crooks.
The Detroit Free Press…|
…isn't letting go of the Baker College scandal. [For background, go here.] Now it turns out that Baker also has the highest loan default rate of any institution in the state:
[Already under discussion by] legislators for dominating a state tuition grant program while producing low numbers of graduates, [Baker] also leads the state in student loan defaults, according to federal statistics.
Once again , a Colleague |
Of UD’s Distinguishes Himself.
This time, in the best newspaper on the web .
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Marquette on Top |
Of its Game
From an editorial in Marquette University’s newspaper:
Head Coach Tom Crean's salary …topped $1.6 million last year, according to a recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Considering that his base salary in 2002 was a little over $560,000, his current salary represents an exceptional rate of increase. Taking into account the lack of NCAA tournament victories — zero after the team's 2003 Final Four trip — it is even more astounding.
Teamwork Gets You.
They’re a fanatically bonded band of brothers. Their omerta in the wake of rape allegations is the talk of the town. But the problem with loyalty above and beyond is its tendency, when the shit hits the fan, to befoul both innocent and guilty.
So, for instance, a lot of Duke lacrosse players want the hell out of Durham and have approached other universities about taking them in. Pre strip party, this would’ve been a cinch. Now:
Syracuse University will not allow any Duke lacrosse players to transfer to its school, even though some Blue Devils are reportedly seeking their release amid the rape investigation that has rocked the school, the Syracuse Post Standard reported Thursday.
Look at it this way. Even when they’re no trouble, a lot of male university athletes are, well, trouble. You’re always worrying about their schoolwork, their drinking, their sex lives, their corruption by money, adulation, etc., etc. Why invite already road-tested boors to your campus?
I know. Some of Duke’s players are good guys who’ve never done anything wrong. But as long as they’re wedded to bad guys, they can forget much of a future.
The Washington Blade newspaper provides details of Colin Finnerty’s next court appearance, and of the face-busting that got him there:
Finnerty is scheduled to appear before D.C. Superior Court Judge John Bailey Jr. at 9:30 a.m. on April 25, when a decision could be made to try him on misdemeanor simple assault charges.
The Daily Grill.
A sedate backdrop for an assault.
Your Google Icon Today...|
...is in honor of Joan Miro's birthday (born 1893). When UD was a teenager, her parents sent her to Barcelona for a summer, to stay with the family of a Catalan colleague of UD's father and to pick up some culture. Although this was so long ago that Franco still ruled, UD vividly remembers the impact of walking into the family's diningroom and seeing a huge Miro canvas taking up most of one wall.
"It's a pictorial history of our family," my father's colleague explained to me. His father had been a friend of Miro's.
On that same trip, UD met Antonio Tapies, an international man of mystery in black turtleneck and dark shades.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Regular readers know that UD…|
…is interested in the anthropology of her world, which she calls ‘thesdan Culture. Now some Long Islanders are beginning to examine some of their own folkways. Here’s a columnist in the Long Island newspaper, Newsday:
Apparently, [the Duke team’s history of bad behavior] is what passes for entertainment among today's top scholar-athletes, the highest-ranking graduates of Chaminade and Delbarton and other fine suburban high schools.
Some Legal Details|
From a legal analyst for Sports Illustrated:
About Seligmann’s alibi:
The police and the prosecutor will scrutinize this evidence in exquisite detail, and if they find something is askew, that something doesn't fit in the alibi evidence, they will not hesitate to charge Seligmann with yet another crime. That would be obstruction of justice.
About the possibility that a third player will be charged:
The question we must ask is whether this third player is in the process of negotiating with the prosecutor and is seeking immunity from prosecution or is seeking leniency for his testimony against the other players. Has the prosecution succeeded in driving a wedge into the veneer of solidarity the team has presented so far?
About the absence of DNA:
Its absence is not important. There are hundreds of men in penitentiaries across the United States who were convicted of rape without their DNA being found on the victim. It does help the defense to some extent, but it's not conclusive. The whole idea that DNA evidence was somehow conclusive was the invention of the defense lawyers. Its absence hasn't stopped the grand jury from charging these guys.
About whether there’ll be a settlement:
There won't be a settlement. When you're talking about an alibi, you don't have much leeway to negotiate out of a case -- 95 percent of criminal cases are negotiated, but this isn't one of those cases. These guys come from wealthy families and have the money to fight it.
...And here's a thought out of left field from old UD -- the most ominous thing, for the defense, that I've read about the woman in the case (can't remember where I read it, but pretty certain I did) is that she was in the Navy. This may mean that she can be disciplined and respectful and articulate on the stand.
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
A Regular University Diaries Feature
On my deck this afternoon, reading and sipping tea and enjoying the smoke from a scented candle, I became aware of multiple helicopters buzzing the sky just above me. One was bright red, like this:
Clearly something was wrong along the Brunswick line that runs near my house -- a bunch of helicopters now stood motionless above the tracks.
I went to the MARC website.
MARC rail service on the Brunswick Line has been halted due to a trespasser disrupting service.
Not too surprising. When the weather turns warm, people are all over the tracks.
… certainly bouncing around the blogosphere today. There’s the Jack Anderson story:
During his life and career as a muckraking journalist in Washington, Jack Anderson cultivated secret sources throughout the halls of government—sources who passed on information that allowed Anderson to investigate and write about Watergate, CIA assassination schemes, and countless scandals. His syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, earned him the enmity of the corrupt and powerful—so much so that during the Watergate years, associates of Nixon had discussed assassinating the columnist. … His archive, some 200 boxes now being held by George Washington University’s library, could be a trove of information about state secrets, dirty dealings, political maneuverings, and old-fashioned investigative journalism, open for historians and up-and-coming reporters to see. But the government wants to see the documents before anyone else. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have told university officials and members of the Anderson family that they want to go through the archive, and that agents will remove any item they deem confidential or top secret. …
And there’s the Carol Darr story:
Carol C. Darr [is] director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet, which is affiliated with George Washington University. Someone in her position, the bloggers [on the left and the right who hate her guts] believe[d], ought to be an enthusiastic defender of online politicking in all its forms. Instead she [is] urging the Federal Election Commission — where she had worked as a staff lawyer in the 1970s — to bring certain kinds of blogging under the umbrella of campaign-finance law.
It’s typical of clueless UD never to have heard of this person, though she’s a colleague.
Both stories are chronicled in recent posts at Crooked Timber.
On the Darr -- Libertarianesque UD can’t be happy with her language about some regulation of blogs. But I need to read in more detail what she’s proposing.
On the Anderson -- Here I think I can be of some use. My office is directly across the street from the library. I can probably get hold of a master key pretty easily and scrounge around a bit. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know if there’s anything interesting in the boxes.
…from CBS about Duke lacrosse. Some excerpts:
“Clearly, there is more to this story than what has been made public; than what defense attorneys or the prosecutor have disclosed," CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen says. "There has to be because what has been talked about publicly is a terribly weak case; one that even an eager grand jury would not have embraced the way this one did."
Ever on the cutting edge…|
…the students at UD’s institution, George Washington University, have not only been onto the whole hookah thing for some time (hookah use is now officially cool due to today’s New York Times coverage of the device’s popularity among college students), but have already militated on its behalf.
When a GW student’s hookah was confiscated by university police a couple of years ago, he wrote an editorial in the school newspaper protesting. The result:
University Police officers will no longer be able to confiscate hookahs without reasonable suspicion of drug use, after GW recently clarified its policy regarding the water pipes. Student Judicial Services last month clarified its policy following complaints by a student.
UD will pick up the ball and begin the national hookah policy discussion. First, here’s some of the New York Times article:
Hookah bars have been cropping up in Middle Eastern immigrant enclaves, like Little Egypt in Astoria, Queens, and have made inroads in chic downtown areas of many American cities. Now, college students are discovering their appeal.
I love the bit about Twister.
When UD was teaching in Toulouse a couple of years ago, she discovered a little hookah café steps from the the school her daughter attended (itself steps from an old church housing the remains of Thomas Aquinas). Not liking to smoke anything, UD didn’t do the hookah, but she loved sitting in that place, smelling the aromatic smoke, lying on thick pillows, sipping mint tea, reading books. Just the place to revisit Gide’s Faux Monnayeurs.
Has a Lot on
From USA Today:
Collin Finnerty, one of two Duke lacrosse players charged with rape and kidnapping Tuesday, could face a separate trial on assault charges in Washington, D.C., that could put him in jail for six months.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
More trashing of a new book (for UD’s discussion of an earlier trashing, go here) whose clueless posturing has dismayed serious leftists the world over. A few excerpts from the review reveal trends in the humanities which are -- thanks to the damage books like this one continue to do -- on their way out:
The remarkable fact about humanities professors isn't how slavishly left-wing their politics are but how smart the smart ones are, and how dumb the dumb ones are.
The reviewer now cites a typical sentence from the book under review:
"By and large, however, the state now stands in such naked, brutal relation to all but the most pleasure-domed of our eminent bourgeois that the chief executive is now less representative than, in a multi-mediated, fictional sense, representational: the imagined or invented persona of a no less simulacral people whose condition[s] of existence are thereby occluded."
A glutton for his own and his reader’s punishment, the reviewer hits us up with more:
[The author] believes that the consensus leftism of the '90s set itself up too explicitly against identity politics and thus wrote off "the way blacks, Latinos, women, queers, and others have transformed utterly the very category and meaning of 'the poor' or 'the left' on behalf of whom they write." To this sentence—with its inverted commas ("the poor," "the left," the graphic equivalent of up-speak), vacuous intensifiers ("utterly," "very"), and tongue-tied syntax ("on behalf of whom they write," instead of "on whose behalf they write")—one cannot be kind….Juvenile sneer words (Jefferson is the country's "ur-cracker") share space with stale lit-crit jargon ("subtended"), and all attempts at wit are downright puzzling. "Nixon's Deep Throat told reporters to follow the money; Clinton's deep throats say follow the money shot." Come again?
Imagine tons of this juvenility tossed out in real time and you understand why Camille Paglia describes the atmosphere of the MLA convention as “snide groupthink.”
Slade Not Going Quietly|
Having been voted out of a job by her board of trustees, Texas Southern University president Patricia Slade will appeal the decision. Slade seems to have spent tens of thousands of university funds on her personal glorification via spectacular houses and gardens, etc.
When people search for something good to say about Slade, they always talk about how she doubled enrollment at TSU. But why is it good to double enrollment at a university whose graduation rate is pathetic? Nurture a few people all the way through to graduation; don't fling your doors open merely in order to boast that a lot of people go to your school.
Losing her presidential gig is the least of Slade's worries, though. There's the possibility of prison as well:
The Harris County District Attorney's Office is also investigating. Officials said if she misapplied more than $200,000, it could be a first-degree felony, which could be punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
Slade has decided to cast herself as a Christlike figure, put on earth to suffer for our sins:
Shortly after the vote, she spoke to supporters at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.
Just as well. Her chairs have been repossessed.
Via Chris's Signifying Nothing...|
... an article in the Herald-Sun notes:
A high-level review of the men’s lacrosse team’s disciplinary records last year prompted Duke’s athletics director to warn the coach his team was “under the microscope” and that players needed to improve their conduct, the director said Monday.
Pressler has been portrayed as an innocent victim of events, but this news puts a different spin on things.
In a comment thread at Chris's, a few Duke/Durham insiders speculate about repercussions beyond the resignation of Pressler -- perhaps up to Duke's president.
UPDATE: Here's the New York Times on some of the same prehistory:
Last December, the university's executive vice president, Tallman Trask III, had reviewed disciplinary records of athletic teams and considered the number given to lacrosse players — 15 in three years — to be a "red flag." But he said the incidents had been so minor, for holding beer cans in public and public urination, that it would not have raised worries about rape.
Here are details...|
...on the two Duke players now under arrest. Finnerty has been in moderately serious trouble before, as the article notes.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Two of Duke's|
Lacrosse Team Players
Have been Indicted
And, from the New York Times article I've linked to in the title of this post, something rather ominous for the defense:
Defense lawyers have told reporters that the second dancer at the party has contradicted the accuser. But that woman spoke with a local television station over the weekend, under conditions set by her lawyer that she could not be asked about specifics at the party, and she did not contradict the accuser.
The Duke story...|
...is moving pretty fast now. It's still unclear whether any team members will be indicted. As always, Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing is your best bet for updates and intelligent analysis.
For what it's worth, a few premature thoughts: If no one did anything illegal, and therefore no one gets indicted, that's great. If the women at the heart of the case will make such poor witnesses that even with illegality the case won't get made, that's bad, but we'll have to accept it. It's an incredibly murky story, and as time passes it gets murkier.
The barbarian behaviors and statements of some of the team members, during this incident and before it in a variety of drunken settings, remain a problem for Duke University. They would remain a problem for any university that insisted on being regarded as a respectable academic institution even as some of its highest profile undergraduates routinely behaved like swine. "To use an old phrase, they saw themselves as being cool cats, and they used my neighborhood as their sandbox," says a Durham neighbor of some of the players. A writer in the LA Times notes:
Despite elements specific to time and place, the Duke case joins a growing list of scandals — notably at Oklahoma, Miami, Nebraska and Colorado — that share a common thread. One by one, they have reinforced a growing sense that college sports are spinning out of control, riddled with pampered athletes who consider themselves above the law.
Yet universities look the other way:
What we see in American culture, whenever you have problems like this, you turn to your publicity person," said [a Duke professor] who played lacrosse at Harvard.
Why Is Baker College a College?|
'The most recent available federal tax filings showed that in 2003-04, Baker [College] (link later) had more top executives than more complex state universities with similar enrollments. The top 38 Baker executives earned average salaries of $125,544.
Lots of executives, and generous compensation for them, yet the college they administer has a graduation rate you'd need an electron microscope to detect:
'Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to help needy students attend Baker College, Michigan's largest private college, where the chances are about one in five that a student will walk away with a degree.
One wonders on what basis, then, one would judge Baker. If it's a college, that is. If it's a college, it's distinguished from a one or two year vocational program by its students going to and graduating from its college program.
Wash Your Hands of
Once again, UD's in Cambridge at an alien computer, so she can't yet provide the link, but this is from today's Boston Globe. It's about the ongoing effort to make journalism a respectable university subject, in part by decoupling it from 'mass communications':
From Princeton University's...|
...newspaper. [Link when I get to a computer I understand better.]
"Once, while in class, I had an instant messenger conversation with a friend. We didn't really speak about anything important. Somewhere during that conversation, I said to the friend sitting on my left, "Dude, laptops are distracting." A certain grad student, sitting on my right, turned to me, chuckling, and said, "They really are!"
Saturday, April 15, 2006
As with the Duke players...|
...so with University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, it's always right, when people are accused of things, to withhold judgment. Al-Arian has now, however, admitted to terrorist activities, and we can go ahead and judge.
Attorney Casts Ferreting Net,|
'Among the players' families and supporters, there is a growing conviction that justice miscarried the moment the local district attorney cast an accusatory net over 46 of the team's 47 players by ordering DNA samples from each in order to ferret out three.'
Friday, April 14, 2006
Can’t Help Hatin’ those Blogs. |
By Ivan Tribble.
“Fish got a blog
At the New York Times.
He'll never be
A colleague of mine...
UD's on her way to...|
...Cambridge for the weekend. Light blogging for the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, though, if you have or know of a nice three-bedroom house in Washington's Cleveland Park neighborhood (or thereabouts) which you'd like to rent for the next four to six months, email firstname.lastname@example.org. She's a friend of UD's, looking for temporary housing.
UD’s mother has long been an active member of the Mason-Dixon English Cocker Spaniel Club (here‘s a link, so you can go there right away), and sometimes the club meets at UD’s mother’s house (which, faithful readers know, is just a few houses down the street from UD’s own here in Garrett Park). Among the many people UD’s run into over the years hanging out with their dogs at her mother’s is Ursula Banzhaf, wife of one of UD’s more notorious colleagues, the righteous litigator, John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf’s latest thing, chronicled this morning by Inside Higher Ed, is to sue a particular administrator at GWU for not enforcing the no smoking within a certain number of feet of campus buildings rule.
Banzhaf says that university administrators have repeatedly declined in recent months to respond to requests by students and others to restrict smoking near the entrances to buildings on the campus. A “gauntlet of tobacco smoke” surrounds many an entrance to campus buildings, Banzhaf says — except those, like the entrances to the law school and the building that houses the university’s president and other top administrators, that already display signs barring smoking near the entrances, Banzhaf notes with some irony.
UD’s walked this lonesome valley for a couple of decades, and she’s got to report that for her at least the gauntlet’s gone missing. Gauntlet? Gauntlet? A pretty word, certainly, gauntlet… Even a pretty phrase, “a gauntlet of tobacco smoke,“ and UD’s always looking for found poetry… But let’s see what the word means… “A form of punishment in which a person is forced to run between two lines of men facing each other and armed with clubs or whips to beat the victim.”
I dunno. I’ve never seen smokers at the university array themselves in this fashion. And while I dislike cigarette smoke in closed spaces, I don’t mind it outside, and it’s hard to see how anyone could claim it’s a form of punishment. It is a mild irritant. If I had to find an appropriate word to describe the occasional gathering of a bit of smoke at the edges of campus doors, I’d say there’s a slight fog of smoke in Foggy Bottom, much of it issuing from sad, guilty people who cringe somewhat at your approach, expecting you to be John Banzhaf.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Scathing Online Schoolmarm
'Breast-Feeding Display On Campus To Raise Awareness
Update: Okay, okay.
But - does this seem weird to you? Why doesn't the mother in the image have any hair? Are we trying to be gender-neutral?
An Article in |
The Arizona Republic,
With A Little Parenthetical
'Money magazine and Salary.com released their list of the 50 best jobs in America on Wednesday, and software engineer was at the top spot.
More Kicks than Pricks|
They're kicking up their heels the world over today for the centenary of Samuel Beckett, with folks dressed up as some of his most winsome creations (Vladimir, Estragon) cavorting on the streets of Dublin. (Paris, London, New York, and Tokyo are also holding celebrations.)
"Jenny Holzer," reports the Globe and Mail, "will project quotations from Beckett's writings onto Dublin [and London] landmarks, so you can literally read the writing on the wall of Ireland's greatest nonliteralist."
Professor Second Best |
Job in the United States
Inside Higher Ed links to Money Magazine’s ranking of best jobs in the country, which has college professor at number two:
Money Magazine has ranked the job of college professor as the second best job to have in the United States. The rankings are based both on salary and on letter grades awarded on various factors. Professor received a B for stress, A for flexibility, A for creativity and C for difficulty. Software engineer was the only job to rank higher.
Here’s the list.
Here’s how they got the result:
To find the best jobs in America, MONEY Magazine and Salary.com, a leading provider of employee compensation data and software, began by assembling a list of positions that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow at an above-average rate over 10 years and that require at least a bachelor's degree.
And here’s a little background reading from University Diaries (I’m picking this up from part of an earlier post which runs somewhat beyond the subject at hand but might help explain things):
UD next takes note of a short essay on a paradox dear to her heart - the notorious misery of tenured university professors who have everything to live for.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
'The interim head of the University of Arizona's classics department has stepped down amid accusations he gave preferential treatment to a UA basketball player.
[Just kidding. Got the description off the Princeton Classics website.]
An Opinion Writer|
In Cornell’s Paper
Looks Back Fondly
At a Visiting Lecturer
' The Class of '56 must be pissed. The "Superclass," known for its enormous financial contributions to Cornell, established the Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 visiting professorships to honor the former Cornell president and to provide an unprecedented opportunity for undergraduates to interact with people who, as the program statement notes, are "at the pinnacle of their careers in scholarship, public life, government, international affairs, health, nutrition, agriculture, business and industry, the professions, the arts, communication or any comparable field."
[One observer] said that students can miss out on the best fitting institution by falling for the hype. “All good marketing campaigns are made around concern and worry in people,” he said. “We’re made to worry, so all of the SAT prep classes are filled, and all of the colleges have so many applicants so they can reject a lot, and the media plays on this. Of course,” he added, “how difficult a college is to get into has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of learning at that institution. That’s been shown time and time again by studies.”
via inside higher ed
The Dugouts of Debauchery|
Once again, that figurative language lover, Selena Roberts of the New York Times, has turned out a feast of an article, this one an overview of recent scandalous university athletic practices, including -- prominently -- Duke University's lacrosse mess. Some excerpts:
Before Duke's entry into the expanding sports noir category, complete with a hard-boiled district attorney, an exotic dancer and a team's dark secrets, there was the University of Colorado.
...The News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C., has reported that a third of the lacrosse team's current players have been charged with misdemeanors, from public urination to underage alcohol possession; and for years, the baseball team was known for its rowdy behavior, alcohol abuse and, yes, obligatory parties with obligatory strippers.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
A Note on Duke Lacrosse|
Fellow bloggers and readers have been generous in praising my coverage of the Duke scandal, and I’m very grateful. I haven’t said much about the story for a few days, and I want to say why.
From the outset, I said this thing is extremely complicated (its complications are best chronicled by my fellow blogger Chris at Signifying Nothing -- he’s right there in Durham, a visiting faculty member at Duke), that there are dizzying numbers of participants and informants and forms of evidence involved, and that just getting to a reasonably plausible sequence of events for that night is going to be insanely difficult.
Deepening this complexity are the now well-aired class and race issues, in which even if no sexual assault took place, the very fact of rich white Dukies -- teenagers -- using poorer black Durhamites as variants of sexual slaves is disgusting.
Yet more broadly, American hyperaffluence and its pathologies -- here among the drunken obnoxious entitled young -- have been put on vivid display and roused complicating emotions from onlookers.
Americans, thank goodness, don’t have the reflexive resentment of wealth that many non-Americans do. Most of us have no problem with wealth (many of us are ourselves pretty well off, after all), but when it seems excessive, and excessively irresponsible and arrogant, we can be made to feel indignant. Our basic sense of justice and fair play, our meritocratic attitudes, can only be offended so often before we begin to growl.
Take, for instance, Americans’ attitudes toward lobbyists. At GWU today, there was a panel discussion on lobbying, mainly involving lobbyists attempting to put a good face on their currently disgraced profession. They were not happy when a journalist on the panel piped up.
…Jeffrey Birnbaum, The Washington Post’s lobbying columnist, was not …diplomatic. When the moderator asked panelists to tee off on their least favorite provisions in congressional lobbying-reform bills, Birnbaum took the opportunity to criticize corporate power. “I guess it’s my job to be the skunk at the garden party,” Birnbaum said. Lobbying scandals “remind the American people how much they dislike organizations that are wealthy enough to buy their way in.”
Americans don’t like patently unfair advantages related to the possession of lots of money. Likewise, they don’t like what the Duke lacrosse players seem to represent along these lines (and, again, the story is sufficiently complex that this may be an entirely unfair reading of many of the players) -- people who don’t seem to have much sense of morality, but who are lionized and promoted through life because of their athletic prowess and their money. We already know that quite a few on the Duke team have been lawless, their lawlessness overlooked by a school that wants a winning team.
So unfortunately for the Duke players, they’re already disliked by most of the people following this story (obviously the McFadyen email didn’t help, though I actually think too much has been made of this idiotic missive) because of their almost too-perfect symbolism of trends in our rich country that we find unsettling.
Yet it could be the case that they’re all perfectly innocent of anything other than the disgusting but not illegal act (far as I know) of hiring a stripper and having a nasty tussle with her when she disappointed them in some way. Could be they’re guilty of assault but not sexual assault. Could be they’re guilty of nothing.
In any case, the story continues, and becomes more complex, as the boys’ powerful teams of attorneys get going, etc. We’re in for a long season of claims and counterclaims and shockers and snoozers. I’ll cover as much of this as seems appropriate (keeping in mind that the focus of this blog is university life), but I thought now would be a good time to issue a general statement about the case.
Spanning the Globe|
To Bring you the
Latest News of
Campus Life, UD Presents…
' "Hey this is Jen . . . um, and I used to . . . hey guys the bathroom . . . OK, I am looking for my boyfriend. . . . I did call 911 . . . I am at Billy Bob's . . . and I, uh, drank a lot of Absolut before I came and I am definitely not 21 but we're not so sure it matters because no one under 21 doesn't drink . . . whatever, it's college . . . "
-- more detail at the village voice --
' "Truth is beauty" reads the tagline for Cosmedicine, a premium-price skin-care line launched in February at Sephora beauty-products stores. But the real selling point is in the promotional copy that calls Cosmedicine the only skin-care line tested "in consultation with Johns Hopkins Medicine."
Come closer. Come in closer! Come as close as you like. I’m Francis Crick, Nobel-prize winning geneticist, and I’m here on behalf of the Cosmedicine skin care line, a Johns Hopkins University-affiliated company. As studies endorsed by prestigious Johns Hopkins University attest, the Cosmedicine line of skin care products will leave your skin smoother, healthier, and younger in no time. Don’t believe me? Ask Max!
Yes indeed, Francis, Cosmedicine took my “laboratory” skin and gave it that day-at-the-beach look. And Botox treatments at the Cosmedicine spa made me look and feel my best all over. We’re not at liberty to divulge the secret formula behind the miracle powers of Cosmedicine, but we can show you one of our scientists at work on it!
Oh! Hello! You’ve caught me at work on the Cosmedicine Code, a secret set of chemical formulae specially designed to make your skin more glowing, more fresh, more clear, than you’d ever dreamed possible. Did someone say you’ll look “relatively” better? Haha! There’s nothing relative about it. This is absolutely the best product on the market. After all, it’s got the Hopkins name on it.
Monday, April 10, 2006
From today's New York Times:
Financial aid officers ... say some middle- and upper-middle class families may not have saved enough [for their children's college education] in part because they thought, incorrectly, that financial aid would compensate. But financial aid calculations focus on assets (other than a home) and past, present and future income, and while such calculations allow for living expenses, the assumed lifestyle may be more austere than what many families have enjoyed or are willing to accept.
The Pretty Truth|
About the Best
It’s always good to be skeptical of these studies, but one shows that only 34% of “high-achieving students” cared about the commercial ranking of the universities to which they applied. More precisely, “High-achieving students say that broadening their intellectual capabilities is more important in college than preparing for a career, and that the quality of specific academic programs influence[s] their college choice more than an institution's overall reputation.”
Which is a promising trend, suggesting not only that smart students realize college is about intellectuality rather than careerism, but also that smart students don’t feel compelled, lemming-like, to rush to the most famous or high-prestige or expensive college that takes them, but rather are properly focused upon the actual value of various programs at various schools.
Serious students seem to realize, in other words, that admission to, say, Brown University, while an exciting outcome, may not be the best thing for their education.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
A Regular University Diaries Feature
‘thesdan cultures aren’t just in Bethesda, of course -- they’re all over the greater Washington suburbs where UD grew up, and where she still lives, in a small ‘thesdan town called Garrett Park.
Northern Virginia is a ‘thesdan culture too, and a thoroughly ‘thesdan dispute - rich v. rich - is raging there even as we blog. Since there’s some amusing prose involved in the dispute, she’ll share it with you.
UD has met Zbigniew Brzezinski on a number of Poland-related occasions (UD’s husband, remember, is Polish). He is an extremely well-mannered Pole of a certain generation -- scrupulously polite, a bit icy, old-fashioned. She likes the type because they’re easy to deal with by obeying the forms.
Outside of formal occasions, the Zbig type can be more difficult.
Years ago, when it was rural and pre-pretentious, the man bought a house and some acres in Northern Virginia. Being a European, he did not restlessly move to bigger and bigger houses over the years, but stayed in his rather modest (by ‘thesdan standards!) estate.
Steadily, throughout those decades, McMansions sprouted around him, houses for which Zbig expresses, in the Washington Post article about the dispute, open contempt. They are "reflective of cultural pretension and pomposity." They "make the whole area look like a joke, a Disneyland imitation of the European aristocracy, without the land."
Clearly Zbig has been seething for thirty years as crude rich ‘thesdan culture has had its way. And now, because of a sidewalk, he’s been given a chance to exact a little revenge.
What with all the new houses, residents would like a sidewalk through the area, including the area in front of Zbig’s house. A small request of him, perhaps (the county can’t proceed without the homeowner’s permission), but one to which he is bringing all of the rhetorical and strategic resources of his years of international diplomacy. "Dr. B is treating this transaction as if he were negotiating a strategic arms treaty," writes one neighbor to another in an email.
Here’s a sample from a letter he wrote to the homeowners in response to their request:
"As you can see, there are a number of complex issues that have to be evaluated in some detail. And there will be more, once experts and lawyers have been consulted, as will need to be by all concerned."
Here’s a sample from another letter:
"What commitments are envisaged, how guaranteed, and by whom regarding the preservation of our privacy by replacing new fencing, tall planting and/or brick wall, etc. What alternative proposals are there regarding the foregoing?"
The neighbors have figured out what’s going on and are pissed off, but they know further efforts are futile. They’re not going to get their sidewalk.
Zbig describes this whole thing to the Post reporter as “a clash of civilizations,” and indeed it is. It is a clash between garish new-money ‘thesdanians and a change-averse Pole from a good family. The Pole, a cultured man who appreciates the value of restraint and tradition, has long felt private disgust at the Babbittry that has destroyed his little country road. This is his chance to go public.
Sloppy, all over the place, sort of opinion piece…|
…on Duke lacrosse today in the New York Times, by a writer who lives in Chapel Hill and has had some dealings with Duke. The only valuable paragraph is this one:
The university once offered respite from our country's most rabid competitive impulses. Once upon a time, there was even a core curriculum assuring that every student in every field had read the same great works, including sacred texts, Shakespeare, the Greeks. Once science reigned unchallenged by religious strictures. Once institutions of higher learning ranked ... higher. Now corporate America, athletic America, Defense Department America form a unified competitive team.
That last sentence is a bit bogus, but the writer’s general point that universities like Duke have sold out to various disreputable interests is valid enough.
UD has known for some time…|
…that she is a man. Anatomically female, to be sure; and happily married to a man. But for all that, a man.
She says this not to be provocative or weird but rather to help explain why she finds annoying a remark that a professor, who studied which novels men love and which women love, recently made about men’s choices.
See, the women go for romance and happy endings -- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre -- and they’re also apparently always thumbing through this same stuff year after year for consolation, blah blah. Whereas the men, who tend to read one book, enjoy it, and then look for another, like what UD likes -- novels of ideas, philosophical and political: Ulysses, Crime and Punishment, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, 1984. They also go for books written from a rather dry detached, "dark" point of view: Lolita and Catch 22 and Brighton Rock.
One man mentions that his favorite book isn’t fiction but rather Robert Graves’s World War One memoir, Goodbye to All That, which happens to be one of UD’s all-time favorites too -- and it’s got the same dry unsentimental thing that most of the other man-novels have going.
So here’s the professor’s conclusion: "The men's list was all angst and Orwell. Sort of puberty reading.”
Puberty reading! Unlike obsessive attraction to stories of females bagging rich bounty! How unevolved of men to find spiritual extremity and social cataclysm rather than love and marriage riveting!
--- via ralph, cliopatria ---
A New York Times Article|
With Parenthetical UD Commentary
Perch for the People?
Saturday, April 08, 2006
The Individual Soul|
In tomorrow’s New York Times, David Brooks suggests that in considering why the Duke lacrosse thing happened we “steer…back past the identity groups to the ghost in the machine, the individual soul.”
It’s a useful corrective to the all but universal “environmental, sociological explanation of events” there.
Several decades ago, American commentators would have used an entirely different vocabulary to grapple with what happened at Duke. Instead of the vocabulary of sociology, they would have used the language of morality and character.
Yet what UD finds particularly interesting about this explanatory approach is that many of the young men on the team went to extremely morally serious Catholic schools for boys. When Brooks laments the weakening of the belief that “each of us ha[s] a godlike and a demonic side, and that decent people perpetually strengthen[ed] the muscles of their virtuous side in order to restrain the deathless sinner within,” he overlooks the fact that it’s precisely within such a belief system that a number of the Blue Devils grew up and were educated.
We all share raunch culture; only a few of us spend twelve years of our lives in Benedictine-run schools. What happened?
The Stanford Band|
After UD finishes donating to Bocconi University (see below), she’s going to see what she can do to help maintain the (non-alcoholic) traditions of Stanford University’s band:
'Stanford alum Eugene Danaher knows exactly how to fix his alma mater's problem: get rid of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.
Plus de Paglia|
Here's some more of what Camille Paglia said during her appearance at George Washington University.
She fired up her trademark inflammatory rhetoric from the start: Universities are madhouses, tuition is a rip-off, professors are sterile hyperprofessionals, so absurdly over-specialized that fundamental offerings like art history surveys are disappearing. "Smash all specialties. Any person in the humanities should be able to teach any period of literature, the visual arts, music..." (This put UD in mind of St. John's College, where this sort of faculty flexibility is something of an expectation.)
Among current college programs, Women's Studies is a particular travesty. "Never take a Women's Studies course."
You seldom see poetry taught with any seriousness on American campuses. "There's been a recession of poetry as a force on campuses because poetry deals with nature, and extreme social constructionists don't want to hear about it."
The personal manner enforced by events like the MLA convention is "psychic death," "snide groupthink."
The failure of the university left to allow for authentic debate has enabled a massive and successful conservative reaction.
Why should college now be compulsory? Or high school, for that matter? Students who don't want to be dragged through years of higher education should be allowed to drop out and fashion lives of their own.
The point of a liberal education is the cultivation of the sort of personal happiness that sustains you through life's vicissitudes -- rather in the way religious faith used to sustain people.
When Paglia concluded (she had to be asked by the organizers to stop talking; she clearly could have gone on forever) and questions from the floor began, UD expected some hostility. But there was a kind of adulation from the crowd; people liked her, found her witty and amusing (she did her much-practiced parody of "the genteel house style of American academics"), and basically asked questions that would prompt more fun observations from her.
Afterwards, on an unseasonably warm early spring night, on a street end-on to the White House, scads of GW students lined up for Paglia to sign their copy of Break, Blow, Burn.
Friday, April 07, 2006
"A highly-educated woman... |
...who chooses to stay at home and not to work - that is destruction of capital," Dijksma said. "If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at the cost of society, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."
UD’s friend Cold Spring Shops quotes this; he found it quoted by UD’s friend Photon Courier (who's indignant about it). It’s from a Dutch labor party member of parliament, Sharon Dijksma, and it’s a good way to begin peering in to the very elite can of worms the events at Duke have opened.
The Duke thing has exposed not merely the barbarianism at the heart of various elite university subcultures; it has, more broadly, made manifest the seething anger of ordinary people living among the extraordinarily privileged.
These people are angry because the rich are thumbing their noses at them in a number of ways. Here’s one:
Growing numbers of women who’ve enjoyed extremely expensive graduate educations in law, business, and medicine, are working for four or five years and then quitting the world of work entirely to raise their children.
Middle-class women don’t have this option; it’s only an option for the wealthy and privileged, which is to say for the women who’ve taken places in the best undergraduate and graduate schools away from middle-class women who have also applied for them.
Because they are rich, these women have thrown their expensive professional educations away when they felt like raising children. Elite-graduate women who drop out of the workforce do it because they can -- because their families are already wealthy, or because their husbands are making enough money to support everyone on one income. Most middle-class women are guaranteed to keep working. They have to.
So while middle-class women are slaving away at a couple of jobs to afford night classes at the local third-tier law school, they watch wealthy women get subsidized through the best law schools and then nonchalantly throw the immense social investment that’s been made in them away when it no longer interests them.
Dijksma’s wrong, of course, to say such women should be “punished.” But they should certainly be judged. Here, for instance, is Linda R. Hirshman.
From an article in Slate :
[L]acrosse guys are a different breed.
“Slade wants the university|
to be seen as first class
in every way, [her attorney] said.”
Slade would be disgraced Texas Southern University President Priscilla Slade, who spent hundreds of thousands of university dollars pampering herself. Now that she’s cornered, it’s time to whip out the same bullshit other similarly disgraced university presidents have whipped out.
She’ll be fired soon.
Although Everyone’s Favorite Metaphor|
For The Duke Lacrosse Story…
…is “The Perfect Storm” (i.e., a confluence of every conceivable destructive plot element), for UD it has now headed into what she calls Trailer Park Meltdown. Here, the principal actors, most of whom have criminal records or unpalatable pasts, produce nothing as glamorous as a perfect storm, but rather
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
What? I’m not allowed to quote T.S. Eliot? You think it’s pretentious to quote The Waste Land? Predictable? Pathetic? You’re the one who page-viewed a blog by an English professor.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Truth About|
Why students like me
--- The Independent
The last time we saw young Ryan McFadyen…|
…he had jumped into his GMC Yukon and trucked off into the night, far away from Duke University, from which, after the publication of his email detailing the sadistic necrophilia he had planned for a local stripper, he “has been removed,” writes Newsday.
Only nineteen years old, McFadyen has evolved a degree of sexual hypocrisy that would be the envy of his fellow (fictive) Catholic, Stephen Dedalus. The hero of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, you recall, spent his days as one of the most pious boys at his Catholic school, and his nights in the arms of Dublin whores. For his part, Ryan
attended a "Take Back the Night" march against domestic violence on campus on March 29, about two weeks after the [Duke lacrosse team] alleged assault.
Note the smooth ability to issue appropriate statements to the newspaper. Not just this event. The entire week. You can quote me on that.
McFadyen didn’t attend just any Catholic school. These were monks:
The independent college preparatory school for grades 7 though 12 is run by the Catholic Benedictine monks of St. Mary's Abbey "and is rooted in the values of the Christian community," according to a welcome message from Travers on the school's Web site.
A Benedictine rule of silence is certainly being observed all over:
No one answered a knock at the door of the $1 million house McFadyen's family owns in Mendham, a few miles down the road from Delbarton in nearby Morristown. Nor did neighbors on the street.
UD’s been surfing…|
… in search of good, fresh writing about Duke lax (which she has learned to call it.... She has learned a number of new words as a result of this incident. But there are still some lax-related [when you cease being a lax player, do you become an ex-lax?], or just sports-related, words and phrases she does not understand. She has marked them when they occur in the text below.):
Advantages of the
A Regular University Diaries Feature
More Heartache for Ivan Tribble
BLOG OR YOU WON’T BE READ
--- James McConvill, senior lecturer at La Trobe Law School, Melbourne, in The Age.
“[D]uring my college years I started finding pieces of information interesting so I began looking up other information such as cockroaches can live anywhere from 14 days to one month without a head."
An associate professor of English at North Greenville University who recently won $20,000 on Jeopardy.
Harvard and Yale Alumni…|
…looking for something meaningful to do with their donation money should consider giving it to Bocconi University in Milan.
Harvard and Yale, with their billions of endowment dollars, certainly do not need that money; whereas Bocconi is a fine university struggling against massive odds to be better. To give to Bocconi is to help an entire country inaugurate a respectable system of higher education, since Bocconi, despite the efforts of the corrupt Italian state to undermine it, is becoming an exemplar of excellent university education there.
Bocconi was the first in Italy to grant degrees in economics, and today the Italian ministry of education rates it among the nation's best in that field (alongside the smaller University of Modena and Reggio Emilia). The institution specializes in economics, management, finance, and law, and its M.B.A. program was recently ranked 20th in the world by The Wall Street Journal.
Bocconi’s selective admissions have enraged other Italian universities:
…"We were strongly attacked by the other universities," says Andrea Sironi, a professor of finance. "Because they had no selection at all, they were taking all our worst students which were not admitted here, and we were taking their best. So of course it's not nice. ... But that's the way it works in the world."
It’s heroic of Bocconi to continue fighting against “a heavily regulated national higher-education system, rife with cronyism and hostile to the concept of free competition as the best arbiter of merit,” as today‘s Chronicle of Education, in an article about Bocconi, describes it. Americans should support that fight.
Via Allison ...|
...a letter from the president of Duke to the Duke community, in which he lists five actions the university will take in response to the situation. Here are some excerpts UD finds of interest:
[T]he episode has brought to glaring visibility underlying issues that have been of concern on this campus and in this town for some time—issues that are not unique to Duke or Durham but that have been brought to the fore in our midst. They include concerns of women about sexual coercion and assault. They include concerns about the culture of certain student groups that regularly abuse alcohol and the attitudes these groups promote. They include concerns about the survival of the legacy of racism, the most hateful feature American history has produced.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Duke Lacrosse News|
Coach has resigned; season’s shut down. Look for expulsions of selected team members to follow. Their parents won’t complain -- I’m sure parents and sons are terrified at this point, and want out.
McFadyen, the now-notorious emailer, will drive away from Duke in the GMC Yukon truck that his parents decided was an appropriate vehicle for a lad of nineteen with violent tendencies.
Two Posts |
For the Price
Let’s see if we can bundle Camille Paglia and Duke lacrosse into one post.
During questions and answers after her talk at GW the other night, Paglia was asked about the situation at Duke. Here’s what she said, more or less:
University athletes these days are a kind of master race. They get special favors, special dispensations. Does this sense of entitlement lead to crime? How does the ethos of the college sports team turn into Attila the Hun?
It’s true that athletes at most campuses -- elite and non-elite -- get special treatment in all things. But the effort here is to understand how one team’s players at Duke -- among the most notable, high-profile, elite schools in the country -- managed to go so badly wrong.
What’s distinctive about campuses like Duke is that almost everyone’s the beneficiary of special favors and dispensations. The Duke lacrosse team stands at the top of a ladder of entitlements on various rungs of which stand most of the students at these sorts of schools. Overwhelmingly, the students are from wealthy, indulgent families, and they have pretty much always experienced themselves as special. As perhaps better than other people.
Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons offers a satirical take on these students; but if we want a deeper understanding, we need, I think, to turn to American historians and cultural critics -- among whom, for me, the late Christopher Lasch is among the most powerful on the question of why America is currently generating a rather scary elite subculture. I’ll also look at the work of Thomas Frank and Mickey Kaus.
Lasch argues in his book The Revenge of the Elites (an almost too pertinent title in the present case) that the essential character of America’s elites has changed in the last few decades. From a civic sense of noblesse oblige, they have retreated into self-indulgent escapism, a removal from common American life which Robert Reich has called “the secession of the symbolic analysts.” (“Symbolic analysts” because these are people whose jobs typically involve the analysis of data rather than the generation of goods. Recall the difficulty Sherman McCoy in Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities had in explaining to his daughter what he -- an investment banker -- did for a living.)
Moving in an abstract world in their workplace, symbolic analysts shift to a highly controlled world of private pleasures outside of work (movies like The Truman Show try to get at this). Here’s Lasch’s description:
To an alarming extent the privileged classes - by an expansive definition, the top 20 percent - have made themselves independent not only of crumbling industrial cities but of public services in general. They send their children to private schools, insure themselves against medical emergencies by enrolling in company- supported plans, and hire private security guards to protect themselves against the mounting violence against them. In effect, they have removed themselves from the common life. It is not just that they see no point in paying for public services they no longer use. May of them have ceased to think of themselves as Americans in any important sense, implicated in America’s destiny for better or worse.
And here, in very similar language, is Mickey Kaus, in his book, The End of Equality:
We’ve always had rich and poor. But money is increasingly something that enables the rich, and even the merely prosperous, to live a life apart from the poor. And the rich and semi-rich increasingly seem to want to live a life apart, in part because they are increasingly terrified of the poor, in part because they increasingly seem to feel that they deserve such a life, that they are in some sense superior to those with less. An especially precious type of equality - equality not of money but in the way we treat each other and live our lives - seems to be disappearing. … [T]he wealthiest 20 or 30 percent of Americans are ‘seceding,’ as Robert Reich puts it, into separate, often self-sufficient suburbs, where they rarely even meet members of non-wealthy classes, except in the latter’s role as receptionists or repairmen…
Imagine the smirks of these people, and their children, when their universities sanctimoniously speak of the value of economic and social diversity. Marooned in wealth monocultures, they mouth democratic cliches but cultivate an icy conviction of their personal exemption from common life. The heavy, high-riding vehicles they drive when speeding through the public realm convey to the rest of America superiority, aggression, and untouchability.
Naturally the rest of America hates these people’s guts. Even if some of these people are slightly more evolved than what I’ve described -- even if they are David Brooks’s bourgeois bohemians -- they are, as Thomas Frank points out, still loathed:
[P]eople know that in everyday life they are being screwed in a hundred ways, and that the people who benefit from this screwing are the ones they see driving Volvos and drinking lattes and enjoying life in Bethesda [UD’s hometown] or Georgetown or wherever.
But there’s a twist: the children of Bethesda and Georgetown know that they themselves have been screwed over -- by their own parents. One of UD’s commenters got at this recently:
I went to Landon's sister school and my sister was friends with some of the boys on Landon's lacrosse team. The cheating scandal discussed in this article, and the recent Duke scandal, don't really shock me. Yes, cheating was widespread at Landon and other local prep schools, as was heavy drinking to the point of alcoholism by age 18. But I don't think, as UD suggests in a later post, that either privilege or alcohol is the issue, per se. In many ways, I think it's the parents. In my experience, parents of prep school kids were more committed to their own work and social lives than parenting. I saw parents with very high expectations of their kids, but little commitment to teaching their children values. Money and socializing always seemed to come before family. Parents often turned a blind eye to drinking or even supplied the alcohol or the money for renting beach houses where kids spent unsupervised weeks drinking and having sex. There is only so much Landon, or Duke, can do when the parents exert enormous pressure on their children without teaching them values.
I take issue only a little with this insightful remark. These parents have in fact taught their children values, values thoroughly internalized by some of the men on the Duke lacrosse team. These values are hyper-competitiveness, materialism as emotional compensation, neglect of non-instrumental human relationships, exclusivity and the fanatic small group bonding that accompanies it, and contempt for the less wealthy and less socially successful.
What I’m suggesting is that the Duke lacrosse players represent a kind of Darwinian extreme, an evolutionary high point, in our immensely successful country’s trend toward affluent aggressivity.
As often happens in Alexandrine cultures, a certain ironic reversal has begun to set in with cases like that of Duke, as learned inhumane behaviors go too far -- as the young begin, as the young will, to test the constraints on their imperial powers.
I’m Not Gonna Seriously Start Worrying|
Until One of The Duke Guys is Named
…because then a couple of Harvard professors will decide the whole lacrosse/strippers thing is part of a plot to control American foreign policy.
Luckily, so far, all the team names are Irish or WASP, by my reckoning. (Can Jews disguise themselves behind non-Jewish names? Don’t ask me.)
So… the latest, from my blogpal Chris, is a just-released email apparently from one of the players, Ryan McFadyen, written That Night:
“After tonight’s show, i’ve decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c [McFadyen‘s dorm room]….. i plan on killing the [bitches] as soon as [they] walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while [ejaculating] in my duke issue spandex.”
Here again UD wonders about prose style… What word did censors take out in order to substitute the already pretty bad “bitches”? Hos? Cunts? The N word?
“Ejaculating” is less of a challenge.
But, as Chris says, what’s with the spandex? Is McFadyen on the swim team too? Here UD revealeth her ignorance of the intricacies of lacrosse, for she thinketh of spandex as swimming suit material…
He Said It;|
'NCAA stooge Myles Brand, who may now become a leading contender for Captain Obvious, reacts to the Duke lacrosse rape allegations thusly:
NCAA president Myles Brand said behavior at a Duke men’s lacrosse party last month was inappropriate, regardless of whether the alleged assault of an exotic dancer results in criminal charges.'
-- from chris at signifying nothing --
PS: Post Preview: I'm working on a post about Camille Paglia's talk at GW, and one on the Deeper Meanings of the Duke Disaster. Ne quittez pas.
A Duke Lacrosse Player|
at Play in UD's Neighborhood
'A member of the Duke University lacrosse team was charged last fall with assaulting a man in the Georgetown section of Washington.
new york times
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Quote of the Day|
"Saporito appeared, on many occasions, to violate every public entity's edict of spending money prudently," the monitor said, noting he also submitted for reimbursement a $275 charge for membership to the Continental Airlines President's Club and a $47.70 book "Inside the Boardroom" that he purchased from Barnes & Noble.
Saporito would be Robert Saporito,
senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, a rare example of a totally corrupt university, top to bottom.
Saporito "resigned last week in advance of the report after being confronted with some of its findings by UMDNJ's interim president, Bruce C. Vladeck."
Stern outlined $4,015 in "suspicious" expenses by Saporito, and an additional $4,922 in "questionable" expenses, including numerous hotel reimbursements for purported "late night meetings" that show a check-in time before 8 p.m.
UMDNJ, which was criminally charged with Medicaid fraud in December, agreed to retain [a fed] to oversee its finances after U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie threatened to indict the university if it did not. The university remains a target of an ongoing probe into political dealings, sweetheart contracts to insiders, and jobs to those with connections.
Via Chris at Signifying Nothing...|
...a powerful rebuke from Duke's provost to a Duke professor's letter (for said letter, which calls for the expulsion of the entire lacrosse team, scroll down to UD's update of the post titled "Getting Them to Talk").
Of course,UD being UD, the main rebuke she picks up on is purely stylistic. The provost knows how to write. The professor does not. The provost's succinct and literate letter puts the professor's to shame.
MIT Case Settled|
In a moderately high-profile university legal case whose outcome may hold lessons for the higher profile Duke case, Elizabeth Shin's parents have settled their case against MIT for an undisclosed amount -- but certainly far less than the multiple millions they were demanding in their lawsuit.
Parents who sued MIT over the apparent suicide of their daughter, arguing that the university did not do enough to protect her, have settled the case that riveted college officials nationwide. In a surprising twist, MIT and the parents of Elizabeth Shin now agree that the young woman's death probably was an accident, not a suicide.
The lesson lies in that twist. For years a certain version of this student's death has been out there. Now it turns out that it was wrong. Maybe. Establishing the clear truth of complex events is close to impossible. The Duke thing is far, far more complex.
Monday, April 03, 2006
In time for college acceptance/rejection letter season...|
Cold Spring Shops has a roundup of articles and studies on whether attending an Ivy League university makes any real difference to your success in life. The answer keeps coming back no:
Three articles, three different story lines, one common message. Start with a Washington Post Magazine article evaluating the premium from attending a name college:
Research implies that is actually the case. According to these recent studies, when you do a cold, hard analysis -- removing family dreams and visions of class rings -- the Ivies and other elite private schools simply aren't worth the money. The answer isn't conclusive, and there are skeptics -- at the Ivies and elsewhere. But at the least, the research should give parents pause and prompt them to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before steering their child to an elite private college.
Yes, I've noted this before. But it bears repeating: institutions of higher education have a responsibility to challenge their charges.
The debate about the value of an exclusive education is not new. For years, many people, particularly those at the high-end public universities (the public Ivies), have argued that the value of four years at an elite private school is overstated. The conventional wisdom on those schools is more the result of long-held impressions than actual results, they say.
That's economics research. Confirmation is coming from practitioners in other disciplines.
In their 2005 update of their book How College Affects Students, two professors who study higher education, Ernest Pascarella of the University of Iowa and Patrick Terenzini of Penn State, raise similar points. The book, a synthesis of three decades of research, finds that "little consistent evidence suggested that college selectivity, prestige or educational resources had any net impact in such areas as learning, cognitive and intellectual development, the majority of psychosocial changes, the development of principled moral reasoning, or shifts in attitudes and values." In other words, you might be a different person when you leave college, but not because of how hard it was to get into the school you chose.
In a thoughtful summary of the Duke situation so far (which includes the fact that pictures and videos were taken at the party -- something I didn’t know), Tim Dahlberg at the San Diego Union-Tribune writes this:
University officials say there is little more they can do, but there is. A good start might be to suspend the entire team from school if players don't start talking to police.
I’m not sure I agree. This begins to feel like a very complicated story, and everyone wants to move carefully. I suspect that the lacrosse players aren’t going to school anyway. I suspect they’re semi-underground, hiding from the mob.
And whether they talk or not, investigators seem to have quite a bit of evidence about that night, with one thing and another.
The team’s common silence is in itself a damning piece of evidence, which their attorneys must know. Expect them -- some of them -- to start talking soon.
UPDATE:: In a pompous, overlong letter, a Duke University English professor also says that the team should go. Not in order to get them to talk. He just wants them to go away.
Surely the answer to the question must come in the form of immediate dismissals of those principally responsible for the horrors of this spring moment at Duke. Coaches of the lacrosse team, the team itself and its players, and any other agents who silenced or lied about the real nature of events at 610 Buchanan on the evening of March 13, 2006. A day that, not even in a cliched sense, will, indeed, always live in infamy for this university.
While the Duke Story's Cooling Its Heels,|
There's Always Bad Writing to Keep Us Occupied
An opinion piece at College Sports TV, graded by an English professor.
DUKE LACROSSE SCANDAL WILL HAVE
C Pretty weak writing overall (see my parenthetical comments); and a major spelling error in a title is a real no-no.
UPDATE: It's all been fixed! Editorial second thoughts or scathing online schoolmarm? Who knows...
Sunday, April 02, 2006
‘DUKE’S SOCIAL SCENE|
WILL KILL THEM
IF GIVEN HALF A CHANCE’
From Allistan, a blog written by a Duke University student.
'I want to talk about Duke's judicial system. I want to talk about the fact that Duke's judicial system is seriously, dangerously broken, and that brokenness is what leads to incidents like this…. I want to talk about how I believe that the status of Residence Life is directly responsible for Duke's social culture, and I want to talk about how unfair that is.
Every time Duke gets an endowment (which is becoming more and more common), I hear students complaining about how that money isn't invested in what they want to invest it in - housing. Dorms still aren't air conditioned, the water quality is highly suspect throughout campus, and Epworth is slowly sinking into the ground, inch by groaning inch. Why do they not fix housing, people wonder.What few Duke students understand is that RLHS is an entity with an independent operating budget. No matter how much money is pledged to Duke, RLHS never gets a cut of it. They are totally dependent on rent revenues from the rooms students occupy to maintain their payroll and repairs.
This is a large part of the reason why Duke has a mandatory three-year on-campus living clause - without that money, RLHS would be unable to maintain repairs on the dorms, thus encouraging more student flight from sub-standard housing, ultimately leading to a downward spiral in which dorms are closed altogether. Of course, RLHS does not want that, and I am willing to bet that one of the motivating factors behind the imminent Central [campus] revamp is RLHS' desire to keep seniors on campus so as to keep getting money from them, rather than having them flee to the Belmont.
Here's another thing people don't necessarily understand: Duke's alcohol system and, by extension, our domestic honor system as a whole, is fucked. I would go so far as to say it is ratfucked, even. Duke students will beg to differ with me on this, I am sure. I bet some would even say that there isn't ENOUGH drinking going on on-campus, Duke is trying to kill the school's social scene and that makes Duke the Enemy, and all that claptrap I keep reading in the Chronicle.
The students who make this kind of statement are a. stupid and b. allowing their own penchant towards committing various illegal acts to cloud their judgment. The campus-wide amnesia about Raheem Bath's death in 1999 allows Duke students to forget that Duke's social scene will, in turn, kill them if given half a chance.If they stopped for a minute and thought about what they were saying, Duke students would realize the truth: Duke does not have it out for underage alcoholics on campus. I say this with total certainty.
I would venture the guess that every single solitary resident of Duke's campus has a repeat offender living on their floor with them. Repeat offenders are students who get written up once and are a bit nervous. They go to the RC and receive a dressing-down. Then they drink in their room again, and get written up again, go back to the RC, get a dressing-down.
The third time it happens, they may have to write an essay on personal responsibility. But by the fourth or fifth or sixth time it happens, the repeat offender realizes that they will NEVER get in any real trouble for what they have done. I know of residents who have been written up more than ten times without getting booted out of housing (the purported consequence for repeat offenders). I know of residents in Brown, the freshman substance-free dorm with a supposed first-strike-you're-out policy, who have gone on drunken rampages and not suffered anything more than a stern talking-to.
And, lest you label me a Puritan, I am not necessarily talking about low-key Coronas and a football game here. I am talking about drinking that leads to destructive behavior, obnoxious behavior, vandalism, and midnight hospital trips.
On the flip side of this coin you have the school administration, which likes to pretend every so often that they're thinking of abolishing fraternity sections to scare them straight. These same administrators then go to tailgate before football games, an event at which I would venture to guess more than 75% of the attendees are underage (but 100% of the attendees are wasted), and hand out water bottles so that no one gets dehydrated. These same administrators then make a big show out of hemming and hawing and fussing about student integrity and the honor code when shit like underage drinking busts and other extra-legalities go down, seemingly ignoring the fact that they're FACILITATING THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR. And no one has ANY plans to change ANY of the standard policies.
Why does this kind of shit happen at Duke, you ask. The answer is two-fold: first, there is an old guard of alumni and trustees that pines for the old days at Duke when beer ran like water down the middle of the quad and are loath to make any strong policies enforcing OBEYING THE GODDAMN LAW. These people ignore the fact that although drinking at 18 was legal when the majority of them were here, that is now no longer the case, and they are being idiots. Many of these same people have legacy children who are now Duke students and would yank their donations should daddy's little girl ever be punished for drinking.
Second, because of RLHS' independent operating budget, they will not (ever)(ever)(ever) evict someone from housing. Ever. They need the money, and they can't afford the outrage, and so this complacency has set in that allows everyone in the system to keep violating the rules with no consequences. The only way RLHS can even strike back at these people is if they are members of a fraternity, in which case the fraternity can be (and has been, in two cases) disbanded. But because the individuals do not get kicked off campus, they are free to, oh, rent a house somewhere off East and resume their activities there.
The bottom line is that, despite all its high-flown rhetoric to the contrary, Duke consistently promotes the creation of a society where its residents have no respect for the law or the consequences of their actions on others, because this respect is never forced upon them. So despite the horror of it, the utter evil and heinousness of the acts performed that weekend, no Duke student or official should be able to pretend that this rape is an aberration from the spirit of this school. Regardless of whether alcohol was involved in the rape (though it was), this is about how Duke creates a fundamental culture of disrespect and disregard of the law. Alcohol is just the medium.
[N]ot all people who make illegal alcohol-related decisions are rapists. I know that. I drank underage on occasion myself, and I didn't get in trouble for it either, and I am not evil because of it. But Duke's alcohol policy serves to reinforce the pre-existing sense of entitlement some of our students come packaged with, and it's that sense that was in play two weeks ago when this rape happened. If Duke took its mission to create the new giants of this world seriously, it would impress on them that there ARE consequences for transgressive actions.THIS is what causes the strain in Duke-Durham relations; THIS is what ensures that Duke will never have the undergraduate population of intelligentsia to which it aspires, and will instead continue to play daycare to a bunch of drunken, spoiled brats with the moral intelligence of two-year olds; THIS is the dynamic that creates a subgroup that will go out and drink themselves into oblivion, cheering themselves all the way, just after having been accused of raping a woman who was just putting herself through SCHOOL, for Christ's sake. And in doing so, the university that seems to pride itself so on creating America's Future Leaders will vomit up a subgroup of young men and women intent only on getting away with whatever it is they happen to have done this time.
RLHS must be allowed access to the university's endowment, and that endowment must be wrested from the hands of the AARP-ready alumni who pine for the old days of Duke. Until this happens, Duke will continue to be segregated between earnest, (mostly) law-abiding, hard-working kids and drunken yahoos. When RLHS and a conscientious administration have the power to curb the irresponsible, destructive behavior that goes on here every year it will be possible to close the Duke-Durham divide and produce a student body of the kind to which a university of this caliber is obligated.
I'm TIRED of it. I'm TIRED of this fucking school, because for every repeat offender it churns out Duke disrespects not only me and every law-abiding, morally-intact member of its population who's just here to get a damn education, not only Durham and its citizens who are forced to put up with the repeat offender's bullshit when their sense of entitlement spills over the retaining walls of East onto the streets, but the mission of higher education to which it supposedly adheres so deeply. This is not the school to which I thought I applied.'
Saturday, April 01, 2006
She's older, more mellow, a successful public person. She filled up the big bright brand-new lecture hall in GW's spiffy international affairs building. Her charming amble along her now-familiar points of interest - the death of the humanities; passionless teachers and scholars; people who fear their own autonomy - held no surprises for UD, who's been reading her essays for years.
It was pleasant to sense the actual person she is: rather wary, after decades of intellectual turmoil; a little tired herself of some of her shtick. But still, as her comments expanded, with her heart in it.