Thursday, June 29, 2006
The weather's always crappy in Cambridge. In the winter, it's appalling. Now that it's summer, it's humid and overcast. There must be many pleasant days in Cambridge, but I can't remember having been here for more than one or two, and I've been coming to Harvard Square for over twenty years.
Not that things are better, at the moment, back home in Washington.
I should blog about the war of words that's escalating between Harvard and Larry Ellison, he of the gigantic unmade gift... But I can't get too excited about someone who was about to give an insanely overendowed university yet more millions, and then for various reasons thought better of it. I mean, I applaud his having thought better of it... I think it's time for Harvard and its enablers to stop the madness... But unless some interesting angle emerges in the Ellison case, applauding and moving on seems best.
I'll have some things to say about the Denice Denton memorial service that was held today, and about a well-meaning but I think somewhat wrong-headed interpretation of her catastrophe in today's Inside Higher Ed (no links for the moment -- I'm at Irving House in Cambridge, using their temperamental computer). But not now. Now I'm going to bed. Wedding rehearsal tomorrow.
UD Does Mother Theresa|
Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor…. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.
UD and her daughter will be reciting these impossible instructions of Mother Theresa’s at the wedding this Saturday of UD’s niece, Giulia. They were asked to do a reading, and they were honored to be asked, and UD will try to do her sentence or two from it slowly and serenely. She will pretend to believe that you can spread love to your neighbor.
UD would revise the paragraph thusly:
Spread love in a reasonable number of locations: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to your dog…. Although students who come to you complaining about a grade are unlikely to leave happier (though it’s not impossible), do all you can to make most of the people who come to you leave better and happier. Although I know no one capable of this, certainly not myself, try to be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.
She leaves for Boston tomorrow. Blogging should continue pretty much unimpeded, given UD's obsessive ways.
Poehlman Goes to Jail|
His research background in exercise physiology should help Eric Poehlman during his upcoming year at a federal prison work camp. Instead of pretending to read the pulse of old ladies he's put on treadmills, he can measure his own pulse after a day at the quarry.
'An official with the National Institutes of Health said Poehlman's case marked the first time a researcher would serve time in prison for falsifying data to obtain federal grants.'
"I generally think deterrence is significant, perhaps more so in this case. The scientific community may be watching," said the judge.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
Soddenly, This Summer
DC’s mayor has declared a state of emergency, and things don’t look too good in ‘thesda either. Despite sunny calm conditions out on Rokeby Avenue at the moment (UD just took her dog for a walk, picking up fallen tree limbs as she went), four more inches of rain are expected, and people in low-lying areas (does that mean me?) might have to evacuate. The National Guard’s revving up in DC.
The good news is that a scrawny gray wren
baby stretched its neck out of the nest this morning.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
More Trouble |
Here in River City
Roiling rivers out there. The rain's pretty relentless.
I've gone from considering the mother wren an idiot -- nesting in a ceramic planter on my deck! -- to considering her a genius -- a nice dry egghouse even in onslaught conditions.
I'm the one who looks like an idiot, since I didn't know there's a whole line of "wrenhouses" you can buy that look an awful lot like my ceramic quail planter and that go under your eaves.
Actually, I'm probably not seeing the female as much as the male, since he's out getting bugs while the female's sitting in there... I done learned this by reading a birders' website.
Stole Millions of Federal Research Dollars|
Did Incalculable Damage to the Cause of Scientific Research
Provided False Testimony
Influenced Witnesses to Provide False Documents
Fled to Canada
Threatened to Sue a Whistleblower
Boston Globe Called it “The Worst Case
Of Scientific Fakery to Come to Light in Two Decades”
The above list is by way of reminding you what Dr. Eric Poehlman, who used to be a powerful medical school professor at the University of Vermont, did.
He almost got away with it, too. The lab assistant who told on Poehlman
says that at least four University of Vermont researchers told him privately that they had concerns as well about some of Poehlman's work. However, no one else had spoken up to university authorities. "I was in a unique position to act. …I did not rely on Dr. Poehlman for funding, a post doc [research position], or a salary." …The University of Vermont took [the] accusations seriously, he said, but he quickly realized the difficulty of being a whistle-blower against someone as powerful as Poehlman. [Boston Globe]
Now he’s up for sentencing, and thinks he shouldn’t have to go to jail:
A former University of Vermont professor convicted of research fraud has asked a judge for leniency.
To the clink, I think.
…in the Washington Post today to the innocent-before-tried enthusiasm out there lately for the Duke boys. In a rather angry piece, Andrew Cohen, CBS News Chief Legal Analyst, writes:
Look, I don't know what happened at that house that night. And neither do you. And I wouldn't have done some of the things that the prosecutor has done to this point -- he started the media onslaught, after all. And neither probably would you. It is possible that a savage rape occurred. And it is possible that the young men who have been accused are victims, themselves, of an irresponsible accuser. The point is that we don't know. We haven't seen all of the evidence, haven't examined all of the testimony; haven't had the privilege of seeing the case unfold at trial the way it is supposed to.
Cohen notes that
journalists are tripping all over themselves to quickly and repetitively report the biased view of the young men's defense attorneys, family members, and other supporters. And the prosecutor, after saying a bit too much too early about his case, now is saying nothing at all, leaving the defense spin unchallenged and gaining both in perceived credence and volume. There is nothing wrong with this defense strategy -- I would do it, too, I suppose, if I were representing the alleged rapists -- but just because it's a good idea for lawyers doesn't meant it is good journalism. There is no balanced coverage in the Duke case. There is just one defense-themed story after another. …The presiding judge long ago should have stepped into this case and shut up the defense teams with a gag order. Failing that, the media should have exercised more discretion in allowing advocates to dictate coverage.
Details, Denice Denton|
So far, the most aggressive paper on the Denice Denton story has been the Mercury News, which reports this morning that Denton’s recent two-week absence from campus was part of an already established pattern that began almost as soon as she made the now clearly catastrophic decision to take the Santa Cruz job:
Campus sources said the chancellor had disappeared from campus three times since arriving in February 2005, and had skipped official events with such regularity that they were not surprised when she didn't show up at commencement exercises earlier this month.
So she’s been in the job for not much more than a year, and she’s been absent for three significant stretches, the first of them (which occurred before a lot of the shit people cite in her collapse hit the fan) bizarre. The two others are lengthy and unexplained -- after the fact, her poor mother has cobbled together some illnesses and conditions for her which either should not have been as debilitating as the absences and behaviors suggest, or, if they were that debilitating, should have caused Denton to withdraw from the job, at least temporarily.
When I put this information together with the fact that Denton felt she needed guards when on campus (and in any case seems to have spent most of her time at her lover’s place in San Francisco), I come up with a tentative diagnosis of paranoia.
Work in Progress|
[From today's New York Times]
Nearly every aspect of higher education in America needs fixing, according to a draft report of a national commission that calls for an overhaul of the student financial aid system, better cost controls by colleges and universities and more proof of results, including testing.
The panel remains divided on a number of issues; the report is a “work in progress.”
…..Among its recommendations, the report called for "an unprecedented effort to expand college access and success" partly through substantial increases in need-based financial aid. And it said the current federal financial aid system, comprising 17 federal programs of direct aid or tax benefits, should be consolidated and streamlined.
Older People Who |
Set Themselves Up
Under the Sun
'Despite top grades at law school, two years as an intern and success at the bar exam, Simon Caille faced the prospect only of temporary work and low-paid assistantships as a new lawyer in Paris.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Long Churchillian Twilight|
Lengthens into Night
BOULDER, Colo. -- The top official at the University of Colorado's flagship campus said Monday he intends to fire Ward Churchill, the firebrand professor who compared some of the World Trade Center victims to a Nazi and then landed in hot water over allegations of academic misconduct.
If I Were Ann Althouse…|
…I’d take a picture. But you’ll have to trust me that, even as I blog, there’s a river pouring down Rokeby Avenue, Garrett Park, Maryland.… Our house is on a slope and seems to be draining the amazing amounts of water into the street pretty well, but we keep wandering down to the basement to check things.
My main worry is the nest.
Years ago I ordered a very cool terra cotta container with an image of a quail painted on it in black, but instead of sending me that, the company sent this --
-- a quail, certainly, but very uncool. I told them about the mistake, and they quickly sent me the right container. And they told me to keep the wrong one.
I stuck the wrong one in a distant corner of the deck, under an eave, and forgot about it.
Now there’s a wren, a nest, and four eggs in it. We think it’s a wren.
I just checked. Dry.
… the Berkeley professor who authored a study on American and European universities that I found too alarmist, has written a very useful comment in UD’s comment thread for that post, which she will now reproduce:
A note to say that [higher education] in Europe and the UK has many big problems, and that US HE retains many advantages. Europeans also, as a general rule, are very skeptical about their own reform efforts -- often with good reason. The Bologna Agreement, for example, is uneven in its successes; reform is too slow in the view of many. But there is actual reform going on, and with the first signs of actual results.
Douglass agrees, then, despite the rather dire rhetoric of his study, that the US “retains many advantages.” But he says that the “trajectory” of change within European education, rather than the direct comparison of Europe and the US, is what really matters right now.
I agree that the trajectory and not merely comparison is important. But I’d note two things:
1. While it’s true that some countries are making progress, the trajectory in quite a few other countries is wretched, with grim opposition to change causing serious social unrest. Already, for instance, the Greek government, like the French before it, seems to have backed down, what with daily ugly street violence. And Douglass characterizes as understandable European “skepticism” in regard to reforms what others (like Butler and Lambert, authors of the recent much-discussed report on EU higher education) characterize as self-interested inertia or visceral fear or ideologically rigid egalitarianism.
2. The rest of the report that Douglass reproduces is a reiteration that participation rates in the States aren’t very impressive, and that they’re sometimes more impressive in the EU. About this I’ll repeat my earlier comment: High participation rates in systems of higher education that do not educate, and in economies that have very few jobs for graduates (see the absurd French employment system, which discourages employers from hiring employees, for instance) are probably a bad thing. You produce pseudo college people with high expectations for themselves that will not be fulfilled, thus insuring a restive population.
Douglass asks that we worry about the fact that “the US has decently competitive rates of participation in tertiary education, but meager and declining rates of actual degree attainment.” I do think we should worry about this, but on the other hand the employment rate for most of this country suggests to me that many dropouts are getting jobs. More broadly, I don’t see college as something everyone needs in order to be gainfully and satisfactorily employed. On the contrary, the US needs to be far more serious than it has been about vocational schooling.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Jim Hu offers a skeptical take on UC Santa Cruz events, strongly sympathetic to Denton. Among other interesting things, he says:
So...she becomes chancellor at UCSC, taking a large but not unusual compensation package which includes a trailing spouse position. She arrives, full of hope that she can do something worth moving herself and Kalonji from Seattle. In less than a year, she's got students stopping her car, people throwing things through her windows and pounding on her door demanding attention. No honeymoon while she gets her bearings and works out where she wants to lead the university. No support from the community she was led to believe wanted her leadership. People are acting like she's there for the money...the same people who criticize her for her lack of attention to her appearance. She's become a symbol for every academic who others think is overpaid, for lesbians, for the clash of science and engineering with liberal arts, for diversity efforts, and who knows what else. From all that has been written about her, can we tell how she planned to do anything at UCSC? Or was she written off as an archetype?
Take it With a Grain of Salt, but…|
…Radio Equalizer quotes an email he received from a faculty member he knows at Santa Cruz. It’s anonymous. It’s not necessarily representative. Here it is anyway:
We should start to learn soon what the proportions of [Denton’s] despondency were: how much was due to professional frustration and how much to Gretchen Kalonji [her partner. It‘s rumored that Kalonji had just broken up with Denton].
Have no idea why…|
… it’s taken me so long to add Rita’s great blog, Nobody Sasses a Girl in Glasses, to my links. It’s there now, between Easily Distracted and Mental Meanderings.
From the Local|
Santa Cruz Paper
"[I]t was just a bad fit….She might have been unused to dealing with people outside of science and engineering, because she never had to deal with them before."
More Santa Cruz Reaction|
to the Chancellor's Death
'Today in San Francisco is the annual Gay Pride Parade and Celebration. My mind whirls at the craziness of it all - our openly lesbian chancellor may have been going through a break-up of her seven year relationship. Her mother said she had been depressed about work and personal issues. I know she had a rough landing at our little campus, with lots of bickering about her salary (too high, they said) and the whole town gossiping about the dog run she had built at her campus home (we don't allow dogs on campus) because it - supposedly - cost twenty thousand dollars. And a couple of weeks ago she was surrounded by a group of angry protestors as she left a meeting. They surrounded her car and made it difficult for her driver to manuever out of the small back parking lot. She was no doubt scared, but she decided not to bring judicial action against those students.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Chancellor Kills Herself|
SAN FRANCISCO — An embattled University of California chancellor who was criticized for helping her partner secure a top-paying university job died Saturday morning after apparently jumping from a downtown hotel, authorities said.
Update, via kentucky.com:
'Denton was noticeably absent from the university commencement exercises earlier this month, and some employees said she had not been at work for at least two weeks. When asked about her absence, university officials told them she was ill.'
From a blogger:
You haven't heard the last of this story. Denice Denton's financial situation was becoming news.
(I don’t know whether he’s talking about the old news of her questionable use of funds, or something new.)
Comments from a UCSC live journal:
It's pride weekend in San Francisco! If there was any time to be a happy, rich, lesbian chancellor, it would be now.
From a similar live journal:
it's so surreal, i don't want to believe it
Yet another student's live journal:
chancellor denice denton committed suicide in san francisco today.
A comment from another live journal:
He’s right. There’s a Theodore Dreiser sadness to the story, at least at this early stage. Jumping from a place called “The Paramount” on a summer morning in San Francisco.
And what could possibly have been enough to prompt it? That’s a naturalist element too -- the way the act suggests a world of causeless malignity.
The San Francisco Chronicle describes her as having been “despondent over work and personal issues.”
'She had been on medical leave from the university since June 15 and was expected to return to work this week, said UC Santa Cruz spokesman Jim Burns. …Denton's mother, Carolyn Mabee, was in the building at the time of her death, police said. She told authorities that her daughter was "very depressed" about her professional and personal life.'
UPDATE: An example of life sounding like a naturalist novel:
'Denton's maternal uncle, Gilbert Drab, of Gun Barrel City, Texas, said …"It's a real tragedy. That's what happens when you get really bright people -- too much on their mind."'
DSc, BH, POM|
A lot of people, some of them gay, aren’t that keen on gay marriage because they aren’t that keen on marriage. "Why are we perpetuating such a terrible thing?" Larry Kramer asks in a story in tomorrow’s New York Times. “I’m amazed by how little support for gay marriage comes from gay people."
The Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville supports gay civil unions but not gay marriage. She thinks that barring gay marriages is better for children.
John Fraser, master of the University of Toronto’s Massey College, which has invited Somerville to give this year’s Massey Lecture, writes of her:
I so admire the direction she has provided contemporary Canadian society on abortion and terminal illness, and so disagree with her on the subject of same-sex marriage, that I am longing both to learn from her as well as to question her about her wrong-headed views on gay marriage (versus gay civil unions, of which she approves).
This would seem the civil thing to do -- to disagree with her (as I do) on same-sex marriage, admire her admirable work in ethics generally, and look forward to opportunities for debate.
Yet when, a few days ago, Somerville rose to accept an honorary degree from Ryerson University, a man yelled “Shame on you!” at her, and various faculty on stage ostentatiously turned their backs on her, a gesture wildly applauded by some in the audience.
Fraser’s good on the subject, which has become quite the controversy in Canada. He describes the event as having turned into “something of a conclave by the elders of Salem during witch-hunting season.”
You have to hand it to Ryerson. When it bestows honours, it is a comprehensive exercise: DSc (Doctor of Science), BH (Branded Homophobe) and POM (Pariah of the Month). The process was not entirely negative, though: Bloodied as she was, Somerville was able to return to Montreal wiser than when she arrived.
Anticipating her Massey appearance, Fraser writes:
In preparation for that fine day, there are useful books out there that feed directly into an understanding of the ivory tower of academe. When Petrified Campus: The Crisis in Canada's Universities (Random House) was first published in 1997, the screed by David Bercuson, Robert Bothwell and Jack Granatstein was received with both enthusiasm and more than a smattering of turned-down thumbs. Well, it was bound to have its enemies, since it was ferociously attacking what many believe is the principal scourge of campus life today -- political correctness.
The Wilmington Star|
Also Does the Math
[For an earlier calculation, see this post.]
'YOU SUBSIDIZE COLLEGE ATHLETES
Saturday’s Scathing Online Schoolmarm…|
….shows you how it’s supposed to be done.
Yes, today our regular Saturday scathe-fest, in which UD, an English professor, analyzes in detail a bad piece of writing she has found ‘pon the web, will be a little different. Today UD, courtesy of a link from her blogpal Ralph Luker at Cliopatria, will show you how a great writer produces great writing.
The blog barista is run by David Tiley, an Australian writer… or, it was run by Tiley, until he got very seriously ill - almost dead ill - and had to have lots of operations and be in the hospital for ages and generally go through hell.
Let us see how Tiley writes his first post after having to be away from his blog’s readers for a long time:
I’ve been home from hospital for a few days, and I can focus on fine print. I’ve cut my fingernails so I can type again. Bread tastes funny and I can’t tolerate coffee. I’ve been away a lot longer than we expected.
Notice that he’s chosen to start with very brief, very simple, declarative sentences. This makes sense because it conveys his still being in something of a state of shock, knocked back intellectually by what’s happened to him. The style all by itself tells you Tiley’s not himself. The detail about the fingernails makes graphically clear how extended his absence has been.
My first conscious memory after my bowel resection is one of the worst things you can confront in a hospital – an apologetic surgeon. I’d been hit by a medical emergency which was fifty years in the making.
Tiley knows a rule of good writing UD has talked about more than once on this blog: Try to end each sentence with your strongest word or phrase. The apologetic surgeon shows up at the end of the sentence. It’s more dramatic this way - especially introduced with the dashing dash.
When I was very small I had some kind of unidentified infection, which stopped one kidney from growing. Instead, the bowel had occupied the space, which meant the spleen had moved too. Reorganising my unexpected gut design, the doctors nicked my spleen, which collapsed and had to be removed, while I bled badly.
Now, as Tiley settles into his writing task with more clarity and focus, his sentences begin to look more complex, with transitional phrases and subordination and all of that. He’s coming back to the world with greater force.
Two days later, I responded to the trauma with a small heart attack.
Tiley has also learned that it’s extremely effective to alternate between longish paragraphs with longish sentences in them and very short paragraphs of perhaps only one simple sentence. And again, he doesn’t write, “I had a small heart attack two days later.” He ends the sentence with “heart attack.” And he gives this horrendous event its own paragraph because it is horrendous and deserves its own paragraph.
The next ten days became a blur of disconnected vignettes, my bed a nest, pushed from scan to scan and ward to ward.
I’d have taken the word “disconnected” out of this sentence, since “blur” already does the job, and the sentence scans better without it. The metaphor of the bed as a nest is wonderful, conveying all at once the smallness, vulnerability, fragility, and perhaps also the growing sordidness, of Tiley’s suddenly constrained and frightening world.
With all that morphine I made friends with a huge bear in the corner. I lost control of my visual cortex and lay for days in a muddle of spontaneous images, some viciously ugly, most collaged from shattered pieces of coloured Perspex cut with frozen, scanned memories. In my own naturally verbal sensorium, I suppose this was the pictorial equivalent of voices in my head. I puzzled for hours over the way that could happen but still be under control, which I guess is the way visual artists function, in a parallel to the stream of words coming from my fingers to this screen.
Note, first of all, that we’re now fully recovered from that first-paragraph primitivism -- this is a complex, beautiful paragraph. It starts with humor, which shows up in this chronicle of misery just on time. You want to vary the tone in a piece like this one and not stay on “what a vile nightmare” throughout. I laughed when I read the huge bear line. The successful part of that sentence -- what makes it funny -- is the phrase “made friends with.” Notice too that, whether he’s aware he’s doing it or not, the writer is treating us to some pretty smooth alliteration:
The second part of the paragraph, where he puzzles over his responses, is extremely moving. He is sharing with us the intimate business of the mind struggling hard against muddle, asserting self-consciousness in the battle for mental and physical survival.
I twisted back and forth on a mobius strip of recursive identity, trying to work out who I was if the drugs had seized my brain. The “I” that I needed being a creature which could ask questions, organise my bedclothes and work out whether to put my hearing aids in or not.
Spectacular. The writer also knows that we crave new and even weird forms of writing, original writing. And here we’re treated to writing appropriate to this man’s particular experience of real extremity. Hence the great “mobius strip of recursive identity,” which is a strange phrase I don’t entirely understand -- but I don’t care, because its baroque intricacy is somehow exactly right for the elaborately askew mentality of the sufferer as he tries to put himself back together again.
I remember a man across the ward who was 86 years old, stone deaf, who shouted very loudly and was mentally flitting through the twilight zone. The doctors seemed to think he might have had a stroke in his fall at home; his family simply ignored his ravings, as if they had known his behaviour for a long time.
These three character sketches are excellent, but probably were the easiest part of this post to write. I like the way he begins with the old man mentally flitting through the twilight zone, since it allows the reader perhaps to see this as a kind of panicked projection of the younger writer’s own condition -- being sick threatens to make him old before his time. As far as the Islander is concerned, ending the paragraph with what in other contexts would be a cliché - “sobbing in his mother’s arms” - works gloriously here because of the writer’s powerful prior account of the man’s toughness -- “swanking around” and all. More broadly, these sketches of other people reassure us that the writer is not dully concentrated on his own being and his own suffering -- he has the capacity to look compassionately at his world. Indeed, in his penultimate paragraph he’ll tell us that “I know something more of mortality, of compassion, of friendship and love” for having gone through all this. These sketches have already conveyed that to us.
I’m not going to go on to analyze Tiley’s entire post -- it’s quite long -- but I want to end with the following paragraph:
I rowed on through the hospital, my bed a dinghy, across rivers of knowledge. Bowels. Spleen. Hearts. I saw slices of my own heart beating, which were slowed down and repeated with their own sound track. ‘Beat’ is not the right word – the thing flutters, endlessly precise, fabulously fragile, each dancing move identical for every second from the womb to the grave.
I’m fascinated by this metaphor of the dinghy, in part because I’ve seen it used in a very similar way in Harold Brodkey’s stupendously written account of his decline and death from AIDS, This Wild Darkness. Toward the end of his chronicle, Brodkey writes:
My identity is as a raft skidding or gliding, borne on a flux of feelings and frights, including the morning’s delusion (which lasts ten minutes sometimes) of being young and whole.
Brodkey comes back to the raft in his book’s very last paragraph:
I am standing on an unmoored raft, a punt moving on the flexing, flowing face of a river. It is precarious. The unknowing, the taut balance, the jolts and the instability spread in widening ripples through all my thoughts. Peace? There was never any in the world. But in the pliable water, under the sky, unmoored, I am traveling now and hearing myself laugh, at first with nerves and then genuine amazement. It is all around me.
Even in the last days of his life, Brodkey finds the word “pliable” -- rare, lovely, apt. The pathos of a powerful writer struggling to assert verbal power even at the end resides in “pliable.”
One can no doubt find other great writers, along with Brodkey and Tiley, locating themselves upon rafts and dinghies as they attempt to convey identity suddenly made to float and maneuver in a new world. I suppose the cliché lying behind this utterly fresh writing about rafts is “clinging to a liferaft,” but that cliché has developed precisely because this floaty singular bobbing thing is in fact what losing your physical and mental moorings feels like. Tiley and Brodkey haven’t discovered a new metaphor; they’ve hit on one that was always there and set it skimming again.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I Know I’m Not Diplomatic…|
… but I’ve always hesitated to say anything on this blog about The Law School Option. This is because I know and like a lot of lawyers, and because I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the daily realities of the field of law.
But, via law professor Ann Althouse, I note a recent opinion piece which is very undiplomatic indeed about the phenomenon of huge numbers of college students (some of them English majors… some of them English majors who chat with me in my office about whether I think going is a good idea, since their parents are pressuring them and they can‘t think of anything else to do…) going to law school.
The writer begins by noting the amazing attrition rates from jobs in law firms:
[T]he legal profession is actually losing lawyers every day, a silent drain of talent to banking, business and premature retirement. …[L]arge law firms, those employing more than 500 lawyers, lose nearly 40% of their associates within four years of hiring them. After six years, the ratio climbs to 60%. …42% of lawyers in small firms (and 50% in solo practices) have changed jobs within three years of graduation, and two-thirds of them have switched two or more times… [A] significant percentage drop out of the legal profession entirely.
Beyond the massive job dissatisfaction much of this would suggest, there’s the cost of law school. The writer notes that you can feel compelled to take and keep the most lucrative job available in order to repay loans, which might mean that you’ll spend years harnessed to a vocation you hate. Plus, salaries for most lawyers aren’t the glorious things people think they are…
A commenter on the Althouse thread writes:
Of the things keep me out of law school, there are two things foremost in my mind. The first is that it is massively, crushingly, chokingly expensive… And thus the second - as a corollary to the first - is that law school is full of people who want to make lots of money. And I suppose that is inevitable and unsurprising: if you're going to spend three miserable years paying through the ass to listen to three lectures by some fourth-rate hack teaching critical legal studies (or any number of "soft law" classes, which is to say, "not law at all" classes) for every one bright, shining class of CrimPro or ConLaw … and graduate into - in Michael Dorf's phrase - "the ranks of one of the most hated professions in history," under a pile of debt comparable to the mortgage on a decent-sized house in a nice suburb, it should hardly be surprising that these people want to make money…
I think a lot of lawyers do hate their jobs. There is a lot to hate […], including cynicism, long hours, boring work, and in many parts of the law, experiencing a lot of aggression. Indeed, I have always wondered about all the women going to law school - a lot of them can't be all that happy with the level of aggression required for a lot of the practice of law. (Yes, I am being a bit sexist here, but I am also intentionally not talking percentages - I don't know if this is 10% or 90%, just that much of the practice of law requires this, and men seem to enjoy it more, on average).
Let me tentatively conclude, then, that many people who enter law - especially perhaps undergraduate humanities types, who’ve already shown an interest in deeper questions than the econ and business majors - should not.
At least should not right away. One thing people who’ve just graduated with humanities BAs should think about is time.
You have more of it than you think. Throwing yourself into law school -- perhaps into any graduate school -- immediately after having finished four or more undergraduate years is in itself perhaps not such a hot idea. It might make more sense to dedicate a few years at this point to pursuing an unlikely dream (theater, novel-writing, living abroad, whatever) and then perhaps, after a decent creative or intellectual interval, applying to a vocational graduate school. You’ve got the time. Really.
Fellow blogger Rita does homage to UD and UD’s town, Garrett Park, in a post today:
'Last night, in contrast to many previous days full of much complaint, was a lot of fun. KD (who no longer has a blog to which he can be linked and identified) and I had dinner with the very gracious UD, who lives in Our Town, a place where everyone gets their mail at the Town Hall and there is a Peace Pole, though UD denies every having seen it. While somewhat weirdly utopian, it was obviously much nicer than downtown DC…'
UD also had lots of fun, with Rita and KD. And I really don’t know what the hell the Peace Pole is.
UD Gets a Respectable Number…|
…of foreign readers, so it seems only right to reproduce and comment a bit upon this flash of insight about Americans. It’s from Charlie Brooker, in The Guardian.
Greetings from America, where everyone's so bloody friendly and laid-back and nice it makes you want to puke blood in their faces. [My only complaint about this fine sentence is that the repetition of “blood” weakens its punch.] Earlier today I found myself sharing an elevator with one of the bellboys, and, to make conversation, I asked him whether they had any celebrities staying in the hotel.
a bit bonkers.
Sweet account of one person’s Bloomsday in the Guardian. The writer signs him/herself only “Culture Vulture”:
Last week I went to an Irish friend's Bloomsday celebration, writes John L Walters. Food, drink, music and readings from the work of James Joyce (Bloomsday, June 16, is the day of the fictional Leopold Bloom's odyssey through the Dublin of 1904 in Ulysses). I didn't know quite what to expect, having only ever attended one Bloomsday event in the past, an afternoon lecture by Anthony Burgess at University College.
Mr. Smiley and the Order of the Wormholes|
Cast your mind back to UD’s post on Hampshire College and Princeton Theological Seminary educated, Martha’s Vineyard ensconced, E. Forbes Smiley, who carried out his elegant trade -- the sale of rare old maps -- with the help of X-Acto knives.
It turns out there are lots of valuable old maps in valuable old books. All you have to do is go to various libraries’ rare book rooms and rip them out.
Smiley did this for years until someone at Yale’s library caught him doing it. "A video surveillance system showed him removing a map valued at $150,000 from a book," reports the New York Times. He'll go to jail for five years. He's returned a lot of the maps.
'At one point, Judge Arterton asked [the prosecutor] to detail the evidence the government was prepared to bring had it tried Mr. Smiley. The prosecutor said he had experts to testify that wormholes in the maps found on Mr. Smiley lined up with wormholes in the books on Yale's shelves that contained the maps.'
'Gawd. No cameras.'
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I’d just gotten off the phone with a very nice reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Ed who wanted to know what I think of Rate My Professors (here’s what I think). I went outside to the deck, where Mr UD was writing, and I started describing what the interview had been like, when he said: “I take it you’ve already blogged about the David Brooks thing in the Times this morning.”
“What? The thing on soccer? Why?”
“It’s not really about soccer. It’s about American versus European universities.”
“You’re kidding. The title was, like, 'World Cup Edge' or something. Didn’t sound interesting.”
Our World Cup Edge
Brooks here echoes much of what UD’s been writing about European universities (see a variety of recent posts). I think he overlooks more than a few negative elements (excessively high costs; corrupt sports programs) of the American system, but he’s generally correct.
TWO GOOFY GUYS|
Two Stanford professors have a silly exchange about college sports in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education.
If it’s silly, UD, why are you heading up today’s post lineup with it?
Because it tells you something about the way some professors think, that’s why, and this is a blog about universities and the sorts of people who populate them.
So let’s start with the first combatant, intellectual historian Hayden White. White’s take on college sports is representative of what UD calls the EVERYTHING IS SHIT orientation of some American university professors. The ES orientation emerges not from careful consideration of the world, but from despair coupled with grandiosity, a combination that produces sweeping, shocking statements of Spenglerian intensity.
In this era of “openly consumerist capitalism,” White writes, the “entertainment-media-business complex,” of which college sports is a part, is killing us.
(Notice that “openly.” Should consumerist capitalism be coy?)
To the ES orientation, White adds what UD calls “going cosmic.” He takes a small subject -- college sports -- and says nothing about it, but zoom-zoom-zooms off into the death to capitalism stratosphere:
All three traditional domains of higher education — sports, teaching, and research — as well as that new, distinctively modern monstrosity called "administration," replicate the same processes that have subverted the honor of the professions of law, medicine, the ministry, the military, politics, and business. All show what happens when commerce is substituted for morality and ethics throughout society.
Here’s the deal on being a curmudgeon. If you’re going to be one, you have to be a witty, corrosive writer. If you’re not a witty, corrosive writer, you’re just a piss-off artist.
Performance is all that counts in society, in politics, in the arts, in business, and in our entertainments. …As in most large-scale business enterprises, such as, say, Halliburton or Bechtel or Microsoft, NASA, the pharmaceutical industry, Big Oil, Morgan Stanley, the military, the prison system, and the police, there is not much chance of reforming the college-sports scene — as little chance as there is of reforming the education "business" that needs its athletes the way the entertainment business needs its "idols."
Forget the Duke scandal -- this is about Halliburton.
Professors are supposed to explain to their students that going cosmic -- the more common word for this is “over-generalizing” -- is a miserable polemical tack.
White winds up at the place voted Most Likely Place to Wind Up If You Go Cosmic: Nazi Germany:
Likening watching sports to a religious experience, as Gumbrecht [White’s colleague and sparring partner] does, diverts attention from the sleaziness and ugliness of the institutions of college sports — in much the same way that certain ideologues in the 1930s distracted attention from the violence of war by celebrating the "sublimity" of battle.
And what of Mr. Gumbrecht?
He goes cosmic in the other direction. White is right that he does, absurdly, turn watching sports into a religious experience. His is a gentle, beautiful world, in which
…the most obvious explanation for the widespread popularity of sports is their aesthetic appeal, as powerful as the experience of a beautiful work of music or art. A perfectly executed double play in baseball, a quarterback's pass to an open receiver, or a complex routine in women's gymnastics are epiphanies of form and of bodily grace. Experienced as such, they can help us recuperate a positive feeling for the physicality of our existence in a physical universe — and in this potential effect, they converge with the effects of a Mozart opera, a painting by Jackson Pollock, or a novel by Toni Morrison.
Here’s Professor Gumbrecht approaching a group of fans at an Oklahoma University football game. He seems to be trying to ask them a question… something like: “Are you recuperating a positive feeling for the physicality of your existence? I mean, given a physical universe?”
His question cannot be heard because the stadium is screaming KILL THE FUCKERS HIT THE FUCKERS YOU EAT SHIT DIE DIE.
Wait, he says, louder and with more urgency: Isn’t this experience rather like a Mozart opera?
A drunken fan shoves him off the bleachers to his death.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
UD is ALSO proud...|
...to be one of the websites the embattled feminist Linda Hirshman reads, "whether they agree with me or not" on the "Mommy Wars."
UD does agree with her. Here's Hirshman's website, Get To Work Manifesto.
UD is proud to say…|
…that University Diaries has begun popping up with some regularity at Real Clear Politics, a bigtime political website.
Why UD Despairs|
of English Professors
"As for the $135 million [paid for the Klimt portrait], the price seems low to me. Most art prices seem low to me. What's a reasonable price for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? If the Texas Rangers once paid Alex Rodriguez twice that amount to play shortstop for 10 years, hasn't Lauder gotten his Klimt, which he owns in perpetuity, for a steal?"
Larry Stood Up By Larry|
'Harvard University has been left in the lurch by Larry Ellison, chairman of software group Oracle, who has failed to make good on a $115m (€91m, £62m) donation 10 months after academics believed they could count on the money.
And Ligeti Atmospherics
Regular readers know that the New York Times music critic, Anthony Thommasini, is one of UD’s favorite writers. Informed, witty, straightforward, and verbally inventive (In his latest review, he describes one composer as producing “12-tonish works for large casts.” At first I read this as 12-tonnish, as in heavy, over-elaborated; then I realized he meant in the manner of the twelve-tone scale.), Thommasini assumes you know more, rather than less, than you do.
Unlike the writer UD quotes a couple of posts down there (A Haze of Praising), who thinks you’re dumber than you are, Thommasini assumes you’re smarter than you are. Reviewing a new opera based on Alice in Wonderland, he writes:
Whenever the soprano Jennifer Winn, who portrayed Alice, sang a relatively unaccompanied vocal line, her pitch was true, despite the angular leaps in the vocal writing, and her diction clear. But for the most part she had to fight to be heard above the sustained, high-pitched singing of the chorus, which often sounded like some curious mix of Gesualdo madrigals and Ligeti atmospherics.
This is the kind of writing that makes UD stretch. Angular leaps she gets, with a little thought -- it's twelve-tone music, after all, so there's no traditional rhyme or reason; and the singer’s doing it unaccompanied… Thinking about it, I can even hear it in my mind, having been brought up on Alban Berg and other atonals…
But my favorite part of the paragraph is Thommasini’s description of the choral singing as a “curious mix of Gesualdo madrigals and Ligeti atmospherics.” To quote UD’s eloquent spawn, “I’m like, what?” …Okay, Gyorgy Ligeti, who died recently… I don’t really have a sense of what his music sounds like… I’ll have to listen to some… Madrigals I know intimately, but Gesualdo madrigals?…
A writer like Thommasini, in other words, assumes a high level of understanding on your part, and because his attractive writing makes you want to be part of his world, you may well make the effort to attain that level, tracking down some of his allusions and learning a thing or two you didn’t know.
In an article in today’s paper, the New York Times notes that at Dartmouth
dissidents are trying to get a foothold on the governing board through alumni elections. The unfolding controversy is being watched closely by other universities.
The article goes on to note that it’s simplistic to see this as a right/left issue. Similar attempts to infiltrate universities and colleges from the outside have in the past come from the left; and a number of recent infiltrators haven’t been political so much as institutional -- they’ve wanted higher salaries for professors, or have worried about the relative importance of undergraduate and graduate education at a particular school.
UD sees this trend, in any case, as an unmitigated good. Universities and colleges should welcome these events. They should be happy that alumni care enough to put themselves forward. And as self-reflective institutions, they should embrace the intellectual provocations the outsiders offer.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
A Haze of Praising|
A sociology professor at UD’s alma mahler, Northwestern, defends hazing in an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune. UD comments parenthetically.
'Hazing is good for America. Those of us who have been through fraternity (and some sorority) initiations, at one time a hallowed part of campus life, know that they develop shared feelings of honor and pride. [Warning light. “Shared feelings of honor and pride” is major blahblah. Let us see if the writer can be more precise.] But such rituals have been toned down in today's no-risk, litigious, surveillance society. [The surveillance that brought the recent hazing cases to light was the students’ own Face Book activities. The writer seems to want us to think that the FBI’s been filming our kids.] Where once we accepted the rough-and-tumble of youth culture, now everything is examined through the thorny eyes of lawyers. [Thorny?]
MOON OVER MONTANA|
What is it with professors of pharmacology these days?
First Marcello Arsura , of the University of Tennessee, turns out to have been dealing meth; and now Jerry R. Smith, in the same field at the University of Montana, is out on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial on two counts of assault with a weapon:
He told police he was driving on Highway 12 on Sunday when a passenger in another vehicle -- Brady Donaldson -- mooned him, court documents said. Smith said he was infuriated and pointed a rifle out the window, court records said. [Note to Bluesters: We’re not in ‘thesda anymore.]
A Remembrance of Paul Zweig…|
…by Lee Siegel.
He makes him sound a lot like the poet Jack Gilbert.
Zweig may have spent much of his life in the academy [Zweig was a professor at Columbia University], but he wished to throw himself into the world and test his ideas against experience, and then measure himself against the results. He wanted a destiny, not a career.
Via Andrew Sullivan…|
... an unveiled woman in Iran.
It's a simple picture of a woman
Years ago, UD was walking with her young daughter through the Pentagon City Mall (malls have odd names around here) when her daughter began to stare at two women walking slowly toward them. They were veiled from face to foot. You could barely see their eyes.
In an interesting visceral reaction, UD tightened her grip on her daughter’s hand and turned her quickly around in the opposite direction. She didn't want her daughter to see them.
Monday, June 19, 2006
"The Madness of Today's Universities"|
From Kathimerini, Greece's English Language Newspaper:
'From the reactions, and from the fact the larger political parties cannot hinder the Left Coalition Synaspismos and other, smaller leftist parties, from driving the universities into an impasse, one could reasonably conclude that our education system is already doing so well that the only thing it needs is to be left alone. Of course, those manning the barricades will tell us they are demanding better schooling and more money for the universities, and that the government is trying to destroy public education by allowing the establishment of non-State universities.
Let Us Not Be Snowed…|
…by the Association of Governing Boards of University and Colleges. Recall one university trustee’s description of this group, which UD has called “the official national trustee party planner":
“[The Association’s] overwhelming message is for trustees to cheerlead for the campus administration. It has been my experience that AGB too often adopts the proposition that any disagreement with the administration is micromanaging or intolerable failure to support the president. If there were any doubt, recent problems at American University, where the board essentially gave a blank check to the president, should surely settle the matter: American University has been a member of the AGB for decades.”
But now Richard D. Legon, the president of this do-nothing group, has roused himself to produce an opinion piece in the Examiner in which he attempts to deal with congressional fury at Ladnerian events at AU, events fully enabled by a corrupt and/or indifferent board.
The Association’s president calls the AU trustees’ decision, under incredible pressure from the government and from national ridicule, to reform itself a little (recall that it’s been unwilling, despite demands from politicians and others, to remove even one trustee from the board, even though everyone knows who the dirty players are), an example of “courage and dedication.”
In Orwellian fashion, the president decrees that the still-shameful behavior of AU trustees demonstrates that “college and university boards are capable of tapping their own resources to recover from a crisis. Consequently, proposed federal remedies aimed at the congressionally chartered AU are unnecessary and could inappropriately affect the wider nonprofit world.”
I’ve read and listened to a lot of arguments, but I’ve never seen a person get to consequently quite this fast. This sort of polemical high-handedness, founded upon a conviction of other people's stupidity, is what you'd expect from a clueless, self-preening organization like President Legon's. He should stick to party planning.
State to North Carolinians:|
For Twenty Million in Taxes,
You Get 300 Fewer SAT Points!
From the News Observer:
'Billed as a way to lure top scholars to UNC campuses, a new law will hand out taxpayers' dollars to 456 out-of-state students. But fewer than one-third are whiz kids.
ONWARD AND UPWARD|
"The present commercialisation of the art world, at its top end, is a cultural obscenity. When you have the super-rich paying $104m for an immature Rose Period Picasso - close to the GNP of some Caribbean or African states - something is very rotten. Such gestures do no honour to art: they debase it by making the desire for it pathological."
"A dazzling gold-flecked 1907 portrait by Gustav Klimt has been purchased for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan by the cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million, the highest sum ever paid for a painting."
Sunday, June 18, 2006
There's no escaping universities...|
...for University Diaries. Went to see Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida last night, featuring my cousin Karen as dried up old prune professor Lady Blanche.
(This is Contralto Evelyn Gardiner, a much earlier Lady Blanche.)
I didn't know this operetta -- I know Patience, Pirates of Penzance, and Pinafore pretty well, but I didn't know Princess Ida. The plot revolves around the princess's effort to establish a women's university...
As I watched the show, I thought about the many musical types in UD's family - my grandfather was a small-time vaudevillian, my father a member of the Johns Hopkins Glee Club (circa ... what? -- 1940's?), my daughter's got an interesting alto voice, my older sister is a serious singer, and regular readers know I am too.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Press Office at |
Texas Southern University
…what with all the bad news. They’ve just fired the president for misappropriating lots of money; and now there’s the “former tenured English professor” who’s been sentenced to ten years in prison, also for misappropriation of funds.
Dottie Malone Atkins, 66, pleaded guilty in April to theft by a public servant in connection with fraudulent requisitions she created and consultant fees she was paid as director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace, and two other programs, said Harris County prosecutor Donna Goode.
The culprit here is, of course, her addiction.
UD has chronicled…|
…the amazing story of Utah’s universities and the fierce fight out there to keep guns in students’ hands on campuses throughout the state. Here’s one Utah university student who shows you how to keep your heat close, on campus and off:
Jennifer Lynne Burghardt, 28, a Utah State University graduate student, put her bag on the X-ray conveyer [at Colorado Springs Airport] — thinking the unloaded .357 Smith & Wesson was in the suitcase she’d left in a closet, out of harm’s way.
That’s the sort of commitment to gun carrying you see all over Utah.
UD did a little sleuthing, and thinks she may have discovered a salient fact about Ms. Burghardt. She’s not at all sure it’s the same Jennifer Burghardt, but she found a biologist by that name who spends her time tracking cougars in the Tetons. Utah State seems to be involved in the project, which is why UD thinks it might be the same person.
If you spend your days intentionally pursuing cougars I'm sure you get a little anxious. But cougars do not fly on American airplanes.
Next stop, 'Vagina Monologues.'|
Dershowitz Reminds Us|
What We’re Missing
A Letter to The Phoenix
'Your “Flashbacks” column, re-running a piece by Anita Diamant about my 1981 “debate” with the late Andrea Dworkin, gives me an opportunity to correct the record and respond to Diamant’s biased and inaccurate report.
Friday, June 16, 2006
JUNKER'S BUNKER UPDATE!|
Time Magazine gets hold of
Herr Junker and … it’s really scary!!!
Time's Color Photo of The Scary Man
'A Monument to Hate
After some reflection, UD has concluded that the character in Ulysses that most resembles corrupt, cunning, charismatic Charles Haughey, whose funeral took place today, is Malachi “Buck” Mulligan, the profane and witty bad boy of the tale.
So in honor of Haughey (who knows -- maybe this is the very passage from Ulysses that Haughey is recalled as having drunkenly recited by memory one long-ago Bloomsday) and in honor of Bloomsday, here’s a short bit from the novel, about one of Mulligan’s brilliant ideas:
Our worthy acquaintance, Mr Malachi Mulligan, now appeared in the doorway as the students were finishing their apologue accompanied with a friend whom he had just rencountered, a young gentleman, his name Alec Bannon, who had late come to town, it being his intention to buy a colour or a cornetcy in the fencibles and list for the wars. Mr Mulligan was civil enough to express some relish of it all the more as it jumped with a project of his own for the cure of the very evil that had been touched on. Whereat he handed round to the company a set of pasteboard cards which he had had printed that day at Mr Quinnell’s bearing a legend printed in fair italics: Mr Malachi Mulligan, Fertiliser and Incubator, Lambay Island. His project, as he went on to expound, was to withdraw from the round of idle pleasures such as form the chief business of sir Fopling Popinjay and sir Milksop Quidnunc in town and devote himself to the noblest task for which our bodily organism has been framed. Well let us hear of it, good my friend, said Mr Dixon. I make no doubt it smacks of wenching. Come, be seated, both. ‘Tis as cheap sitting as standing. Mr Mulligan accepted of the invitation, and, expatiating on his design, told his hearers that he had been led into this thought by a consideration of the causes of sterility, both the inhibitory and the prohibitory, whether the inhibition in its turn were due to conjugal vexations or to a parsimony of the balance as well as whether the prohibition proceeded from defects congenital or from proclivities acquired. It grieved him plaguily, he said, to see the nuptial couch defrauded of its dearest pledges: and to reflect upon so many agreeable females with rich jointures, a prey for the vilest bonzes, who hide their flambeau under a bushel in an uncongenial cloister or lose their womanly bloom in the embraces of some unaccountable muskin when they might multiply the inlets of happiness, sacrificing the inestimable jewel of their sex when a hundred pretty fellows were at hand to caress, this, he assured them, made his heart weep. To curb this inconvenience (which he concluded due to a suppression of latent heat), having advised with certain counsellors of worth and inspected into this matter, he had resolved to purchase in fee simple for ever the freehold of Lambay Island from its holder, lord Talbot of Malahide, a Tory gentleman of not much in favour with our ascendancy party. He proposed to set up there a national fertilising farm to be named Omphalos with an obelisk hewn and erected after the fashion of Egypt and to offer his dutiful yeoman services for the fecundation of any female of what grade of life soever who should there direct to him with the desire of fulfilling the functions of her natural. Money was no object, he said, nor would he take a penny for his pains. The kitchenwench no less than the opulent lady of fashion, if so be their constructions, and their tempers were warm persuaders for the petitions, would find in him their man. For his nutriment he shewed how he would feed himself exclusively upon a diet of savoury tubercles and fish and coneys there, the flesh of these latter prolific rodents being highly recommended for his purpose, both broiled and stewed with a blade of mace and a pod or two of capsicum chillies.
After the controversial Bloomsday centennial in ‘04, UD found uncontroversial Bloomsday ‘05 a bit of a letdown.
‘06, though, has managed to generate a bit of heat: Some Dubliners are pissed that official Bloomsday events have been cancelled out of respect for Charles Haughey, whose funeral will take place today (see “Bloomsday Funeral” post below).
From today’s Boston Globe:
In what some see as a mark of respect, and some Joycean purists consider sacrilege, official commemorations marking Bloomsday, the single day in 1904 that forms the narrative in James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses, have been canceled today in Dublin because they coincide with the funeral and burial of Charles J. Haughey, Ireland’s most colorful and controversial prime minister.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Ralf Dahrendorf on the|
'But money is not all that is needed. One of the greatest comparative strengths of American universities lies in the nature of human relations.
OMG, this literature map, forwarded to me by ‘thesdan playmate David, is neat. In honor of tomorrow’s big day, here’s the James Joyce page.
Your Number One News Source
For Retired Wisconsin Farmer’s
Hitler Shrine Coverage
[It Might Not Happen]
'A retired farmer who claims he was a Nazi SS officer has agreed not to open a memorial he built to Hitler, local officials say.
[Bureaucratic Red Tape to Blame]
'Cotter said county officials used bureaucratic issues to discourage the farmer, saying officials classified it as an assembly hall or museum and that Junker would need permits.
Choice of Word “Blossomed”]
'"He understood that this had blossomed into something he was never expecting," Cotter said. "When he saw us today, he made the comment again about how famous he'd become. You could hear the phone ringing constantly. Constantly."
UPDATE: Bloggers are outdoing themselves on the Junker’s Bunker story (I got this name for it from one of the selfsame wits). Sample post titles:
Get Your Coat, Honey, We’re Goin’ to the Hitler Memorial
Go to Google Blog Search for details.
UPDATE #2: This just in!
Wisconsin Fight Song
…as she does, UD only rarely encounters an action she considers fully justified. But this is one.
Heirs of a major Tulane University benefactor are suing the university, claiming that the school's decision to close the Newcomb College for women violated the terms of an 1886 donation of about $100,000 from Josephine Louise Newcomb.
I understand the difficult situation in which Tulane finds itself, but shutting down Newcomb is just grotesque. It’s not only a clear violation of the founder’s intent; it destroys one of the few remaining women’s colleges in the country, a college with a glorious history and an impeccable reputation.
Here’s a website dedicated to keeping Newcomb alive.
Maybe that Snob |
Is Right: Bloomsday’s
Getting Out of Hand.
Here’s a sample of the activities in Dublin on Bloomsday tomorrow.
Because the state funeral of Charles Haughey will also take place on the sixteenth, the James Joyce Centre has cancelled its own Bloomsday activities.
Selective Culling |
From the start of the Ladner mess, American University students have shown themselves to be a principled, focused, and effective lot. Recall that they hired a U-Haul van, put a banner on it that read PRESIDENT LADNER: WE'LL HELP YOU MOVE, and drove it up and down campus all day, attracting most of the local media.
Now the students are making noise again, and again they couldn't be more right. UD has watched, amazed, as all of the AU trustees have retained their seats throughout the debacle that many of them created. The students have watched too.
American University students are asking that 13 members of the university's board of trustees be removed. Their request comes in a letter to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Headline of the Day|
'RETIRED WISCONSIN FARMER
‘...[Sugar Creek Town Chairman Loren Waite] said Junker told local officials he was going to build a tractor shed, not a Hitler memorial, and he hasn't applied for a conditional-use permit he would need for the venture.’
In her discussion of a book suggesting that James Joyce or his son Giorgio might have engaged in incest with Lucia Joyce, the New York Times reviewer first cites some lines from the book:
"The place where she meets her father is not in consciousness but in some more primitive place before consciousness. They understand each other, for they speak the same language, a language not yet arrived into words and concepts but a language nonetheless. . . . In the room are flows, intensities, unexpressed longings."
She then says:
I quote so much because this sort of fervid glop is served up on many pages. It is a rhetoric that damages the book's credibility, making it read more like an exercise in wish fulfillment than a biography. I lost count of the incidences of "We can imagine" or "It is safe to imagine" or "We can speculate" or "We can picture her" or -- most revealingly -- "I like to imagine": "Among all the letters that were destroyed, there was one, I like to imagine, that expressed Lucia's gratitude to her father for persisting in his belief in her." And then again, perhaps there wasn't.
The reviewer concludes that the book, by Carol Shloss, currently suing Stephen Joyce for copyright misuse, “completely romanticized” Lucia. Another scholar, Luca Crispi, remarks that “Shloss’s project was filled with ‘innuendos’ and was ‘not worthy of its subject.’”
Shloss is sure people would find her book more credible if she’d been allowed to quote from stuff that Joyce’s grandson, Stephen, has kept her from. Stephen Joyce is an ass whose grandiosity has kept many thoughtful Joyceans from doing their work, and one can only welcome legal challenges to him. What a pity, though, that the first significant attack should come from a sensationalizing ideologue. As Daniel Green writes:
I finished this article [about Stephen Joyce, in the New Yorker] feeling some sympathy for his position. When he’s refusing to allow “scholarly” intrusion into the private lives of the Joyce family for gossipy biographies, he’s doing everyone a favor.
Green no doubt has in mind earlier betrayals:
[W]hen the estate registered its desire to keep Joyce’s erotic letters to Nora private, [Richard] Ellmann [Joyce biographer] maneuvered around it. His 1959 biography alluded to the correspondence; his 1966 volume of Joyce’s letters contained expurgated versions of the letters; and his 1975 “Selected Letters” contained every word. In 1909, Joyce had implored Nora to “be careful to keep my letters secret.” Stephen viewed the letters’ publication as a transgression against his family.
The New Yorker quotes a professor at Washington University who specializes in intellectual property: “It would be really bad if Shloss won. If all I need to do to get access to your property is to say that the restrictions that you are using are unfair—and by unfair I only mean unpopular—then anyone who is unpopular loses their property rights.”
Snapshots from Home|
Who knew Buenos Aires was the new Paris, the new Prague?
Buenos Aires is the closest thing Americans have to a Paris of the 1920s or a Prague of the 1990s. On a recent night out in New York, I heard four writers mention they were heading to Buenos Aires for a prolonged visit. The reasons are largely economic: In 2001, the Argentine economy collapsed, and the value of the peso went with it. The city is now very cheap for Americans, especially in contrast to Western Europe. A cup of coffee costs about 60 cents. A good bottle of wine at a nice restaurant is about $8. The atmosphere is cosmopolitan: Many of the city's residents are descended from Italian and Spanish immigrants who came here in the late 19th century during the nation's first economic boom, at a moment when the government was especially welcoming to European migrants. Today's residents—known as porteños—are talkative and good-looking (if also enhanced with the aid of a surgeon's knife).
UD’s kid is going there next month, on a concert tour of Argentina and Brazil.
"I would like to include more poetry of the 17th century." |
Our long national Kooser is over. Donald Hall is the new poet laureate. And though his poetry sometimes drifts into indifferent prose, it is for the most part good, and sometimes very good.
And when asked what sort of poetry he’d like to champion as laureate, Donald Hall says things like “I would like to include more poetry of the 17th century.”
The work of his I know best is Without, a spare, wounded account of his wife’s death from leukemia (she was Jane Kenyon, also a fine poet). The peril of raw, of-the-moment narratives of personal loss, as in Paul Monette’s unsuccessful Love Alone, is that the onrush of emotion leaves little metaphor or worked theme in its wake. Without has some of this problem.
But often it rises above the riot of feeling to produce glorious lines:
You know now
whether the soul survives death.
Or you don’t. When you were dying
you said you didn’t fear
punishment. We never dared
to speak of Paradise.
At five A.M., when I walk outside,
mist lies thick on hayfields.
By eight the air is clear,
cool, sunny with the pale yellow
light of mid-May. Kearsarge
rises huge and distinct,
each birch and balsam visible.
To the west the waters
of Eagle Pond waver
and flash through popples just
Always the weather,
writing its book of the world,
returns you to me.
Ordinary days were best,
When we worked over poems
in our separate rooms.
I remember watching you gaze
out the January window
into the garden of snow
and ice, your face rapt
as you imagined burgundy lilies.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
More on England|
Conservative William Hague
on EU Universities
The Lisbon agenda – the aim of making the EU the world's most dynamic and competitive economy by 2010 – was supposed to be the answer. At the time the Prime Minister proclaim[ed] a 'sea change in European economic thinking', marked, he said by 'concrete measures with clear deadlines'. It was yet another bold Blair assertion that does not correspond in any way with any observable reality. Romano Prodi described the Lisbon agenda as a 'big failure'. He was right.
More on France|
An article in the Guardian about John Keiger, professor of international history and director of the European Studies Research Institute at Salford University. Keiger is a member of La Commission Nationale Universite-Emploi (CNU-E), Dominique de Villepin's commission for the study of France’s troubled universities.
"France has a strange university system in which the guiding principle is non-selection," [Keiger] says. "Any person who passes the baccalaureate has an absolute right to study whatever subject - apart from medicine - at whatever university they like. It's only at the end of the first year that any selection is made, and on some courses up to 75% of students are failed. Those who fail are free to start another course as often as they like; many students have two or three false starts before progressing beyond the first year and 25% leave university without ever getting a qualification.”
More on Italy|
From Time Europe, April 10, 2006 Vol. 167 No. 15
Quoted in petergrimm.blogspot.com
‘[N]epotism and favoritism run rampant in academia. Universities ought to be open to new faces and new ideas. Yet while the system of assigning teaching jobs is based on apparently open and competitive public exams, in practice, positions are divvied up by ranking professors to favor their own chosen protégés. The result is the very opposite of competition, a system where old university barons wield power over up-and-coming scholars. Italy has the world's highest percentage of professors over 60 (43%), while the average age of a university postdoctoral researcher is 40. As a result, much of the young talent heads abroad to more receptive societies, like the U.S. and Britain, depriving Italy of the new minds it needs for innovation: a recent Eurispes survey found that more than half of all university graduates would like to work elsewhere. After earning a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University, Parma native Andrea Coscelli returned to Europe — but not to Italy. Now a London-based antitrust consultant, he wouldn't mind returning to the Italian lifestyle and weather. But back home, advancement in his field is based on politics, he says, not competence: "We're missing basic meritocracy and generational turnover."'
Long Churchillian Twilight|
'Ward Churchill, the professor who called some of the World Trade Center victims "little Eichmanns," should be fired because of "repeated and deliberate" infractions of scholarship rules, a University of Colorado committee said today.
TCS Daily on|
a Bad EU Idea
Proponents of a new EU academic research Mecca -- chief among them is the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso -- believe a new "European Institute of Technology" will help improve the climate for innovation on the continent and plug up the brain drain that has let its brightest young scientific minds flow to America. This, in turn, will spur ailing economies and help the EU fulfill its goal of becoming the world's most dynamic knowledge based economy by 2010.
Number Six: |
Don’t Go to Duke.
Or, If You Do Go,
Stay Off the Roads.
Jay Mathews at the Washington Post has an amusing discussion of a recent bloated edubook which includes activities seeming to correlate with graduating from college in a reasonable period of time and not dropping out.
Despite its absurd price and thick-lying statistics, the book, says Matthews,
…turns out to be a page-turner, at least for those of us worried that nearly half of students who start college still haven't graduated six years later. [The chapter] "Pre-College and Institutional Influences on Degree Attainment," uses some of the survey data, and research by others in the field, to identify factors most likely to lead to failure to get a bachelor's degree. I know this may offend these fine scholars who have done all this hard work, but I think the clearest way to present their most intriguing findings is to render them as a list.
The list of do's and don'ts includes: Go to a Catholic college, don’t smoke, don’t read for pleasure, and don’t major in engineering. I want to talk about number four, though:
4. Don't consider yourself artistic, creative or understanding of others.
[A] rigid focus on your upcoming exams and papers seems to improve your chances of getting a degree. Being aesthetic and empathetic does not. …[S]uch results have been noticed by other researchers. All I can say is, try not to go overboard with the watercolor painting and song-writing when you get to college.
Before I get to this intriguing entry, I’d like to add a sixth of my own: If you go to Duke University, stay off the roads. They are swarming with drunken sportsmen. You can’t graduate if you’ve been flattened by a guy like basketball star J.J. Redick as he’s performing his U-Turn to Avoid a Checkpoint maneuver [thanks to Mike for sending me this story]:
Life after Duke has turned infamous for J.J. Redick.
People say that the Duke lacrosse story is breaking up into a bunch of hopeless tiny bits and it’ll all be over before we know it. Fine. But you can’t say Duke doesn’t keep ‘em coming.
Longtime readers know that UD considers Creative Writing majors to be major wastes of time for anyone serious about a college education. The injunction up there against thinking of yourself as artistic if you want to graduate amuses and gratifies UD. With certain really remarkable exceptions like Harvard’s Kaavya Viswanathan, you are not an artist -- probably not even a fledging artist -- in college. The aesthetic imperative in college is to learn about the work of people who are artists, not to read the stuff your classmates write.
Monday, June 12, 2006
THE CER REPORT|
I’ve now read the entire report (you have to pay to have them send it to you online) about European universities written by Richard Lambert and Nick Butler for the Centre for European Reform, and I want to say a few things about it.
The report doesn’t bother with a polite opening paragraph about the glory of Europe’s intellectual past, and the impressive bits of that past that persist despite present “crisis” conditions. It barrels right into the truth -- “Europe’s universities, taken as a group, are failing…” -- and keeps going.
State-controlled, compelled to accept almost everyone who wants to attend for as long as they want to attend, lacking autonomy, perennially underfunded, top-heavy with research universities (which do little significant research) instead of diversified into colleges and universities, poorly governed, lacking many of their smartest students and faculty because these people have left for American academic institutions, profoundly averse to competition, peer review, and excellence, unable to charge tuition, liable to generate violent political opposition if they mount even modest reforms… It all tells “a grim story for Europe.”
How can it hope to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world” - the strategic goal of the EU’s economic reform (‘Lisbon’) agenda - when most of its best universities are so clearly in the second division? And how is it possible that such a rich and diverse set of countries should have found it so difficult to build and sustain world-class institutions?
An important part of the answer appears toward the end of the report:
Elite universities … cannot develop within a funding system which is primarily geared to regional policy or to general ideas of equality and fairness rather than to excellence.
So long as you think of universities primarily as generators of social justice and distributors of jobs, rather than as generators of knowledge, the authors argue, you will never “create future global winners.”
Lambert and Butler accuse European universities of grandiosity and self-delusion: “Too many European universities believe that all that stands between them and the status of Harvard is a large bundle of cash.” These universities don’t recognize that the larger impediment is that aspect of contemporary Europe that Robert Kagan isolates in his book Of Paradise and Power -- the withdrawal from the world political stage and the embrace of quietism. Many of Europe’s universities simply want to be left alone.
A Most Ill-Timed Alarm…|
…coming, as it does, on the same day the absolutely scathing report on European universities (I’ve quoted parts of it in various posts below) was released.
Inside Higher Ed discusses a paper by John A. Douglass, a Berkeley professor, The Waning of America’s Higher Education Advantage: International Competitors Are No Longer Number Two and Have Big Plans in the Global Economy.
The author, with heap big scary rhetoric, warns us that the American higher education system is well on its way down shit’s creek. For instance, fewer and fewer Americans are going to college:
“Douglass says that other nations are using government policy to match or exceed U.S. participation rates.”
Yeah, trillions of French and Greek and Italian people are in college right now. But it matters what they’re doing there. Many are doing nothing forever, like some of their professors. See the stuff about Greek universities and failure rates and completions directly below. Participation rate in itself is meaningless. (In any case, in IHE's Comments section, the president emeritus of the American Council on Education writes, “ I would question Douglas’s statistic on US participation rates. His figure is much lower than other studies I have seen. Also, it is not the case that state support of public institutions has declined in absolute terms. The problem is that higher education’s share of state budgets has declined.”)
“Douglass says that interventionist efforts of national governments in the European Union to direct their institutions of higher education illustrate that lawmakers abroad often view higher education as a major policy issue in a way that U.S. politicos do not."
Love the word “interventionist.” While the EU clearly regards education as a major issue, it’s not at all clear that particular national governments, having over the last few decades intervened their state systems to death, have the will to go up against their rioting students and professors (see, currently, France and Greece) to intervene in the right way.
“…While EU countries are engaged in national and international debates regarding the future of higher education, setting goals for expanding access, considering and implementing alternative funding schemes, and negotiating cooperative initiatives between nations, such as the Bologna Agreement, American higher education remains a second-tier political issue.”
A certain sort of policy wonk thinks it means something if a talky turmoil's going on about stuff -- they’re debating things and setting goals and considering changes in Europe, so this must mean something. But in fact there’s little movement on the proposed EU changes. The only thing moving with any alacrity in response to them is the European street, which is on fire.
Almost Ten Percent of Greek Students|
Desert the Country’s University System
Useful summary of the situation so far in Greece, at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some excerpts:
The violence on Thursday followed weeks of unrest that have hampered operations at universities across Greece. In what has been called the most significant student protests in the country since the 1970s, when universities were a focal point of opposition against the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, students have been mobilizing against education reforms proposed by the government.
Richard Lambert, one of the authors of the just-issued report, The Future of European Universities: Renaissance or Decay? (Centre for European Reform), in the Financial Times:
...European institutions are not well placed to compete in what has become a global competition for talent. In countries such as Italy, France and Germany, there is a kind of drab uniformity across a sector that is struggling to cope with too many students, and delivering uninspiring teaching in dilapidated buildings. Across Europe as a whole, higher education is crying out for reform in six important areas.
Gordon Brown signalled a willingness to re-examine the £3,000 cap on tuition fees and to consider tax breaks on endowments for universities.
“IT IS A EUROPEAN CRISIS.”|
The Herald, UK
It is a European crisis. The continent which invented the university and developed it as a crucible for knowledge and unashamed excellence has fallen behind in whatever academic league table you care to study.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
People everywhere are absorbed in conversation. Seated under trees, under striped canopies in the squares, they bend together over food and drink, their voices darkly raveled in Oriental laments that flow from radios in basements and back kitchens. Conversation is life, language is the deepest being. We see the patterns repeat, the gestures drive the words. It is the sound and picture of humans communicating. It is talk as a definition of itself. Talk. Voices out of doorways and open windows, voices on the stuccoed-brick balconies, a driver taking both hands off the wheel to gesture as he speaks. Every conversation is a shared narrative, a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken, the sterile. The talk is unconditional, the participants drawn in completely.
This is Don DeLillo’s American narrator in The Names, walking among the cafes of Athens and taking it all in. Music, especially choral music, is like this too -- what’s moving to me in choral performance is the depth of that same gesture, which is also a communal gesture as large numbers of people delight in the sound they all make.
Mahler’s Eighth is lightly, not darkly, raveled, and it is no lament. To the corporate bliss of choral voices it adds content about the power of the creative spirit and the salvation of souls. The piece is in fact “a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken.” It’s too populous, too harmonic, too fortissimo, for night thoughts.
To the hundreds of singers onstage were added, last night, two lines of singers on either side of the concert hall. From our orchestra seats, we looked up at them as they stood along the second tier, their sound from either side a sonic embrace.
Again and again Mahler marshaled his forces -- impossibly high sopranos, dual harps, hard percussions, soft pizzicatos -- all for the ardor of existence.
La Spawn's Brush With Greatness|
on the Way to Her Mahler Performance
"Condoleezza Rice was here."
"What? How do you know?"
"I bumped into her."
"What do you mean?"
"I was walking into the Kennedy Center with a bunch of other choristers when this guy with wires hanging out of his ear told me to stop. He said, 'Hold up, please.' But I didn't know why I should stop, so I kept walking. He said 'Hold up' again but I kept walking. Then all of a sudden Condoleezza Rice appeared and kind of bumped into me and I said 'Whoops, sorry,' and she said 'That's okay.'"
Saturday, June 10, 2006
June Sky, Afternoon, Foggy Bottom|
Live and work here long enough, and you begin to read the sky. I'm in my university office, waiting for my little family unit to pick me up for dinner and then a show (you know... THAT show...), and suddenly there are contrails everywhere in the pale blue sky stretched alongside my windows. Military jets in formation? I didn't see them as they flew across, but I'm watching for their return now, as I type.
Also sounds of helicopters (we're so close to the White House that they're almost certainly presidential).
And now clear sounds of ... fighter jets? The passenger jets are behind me, taking off from and landing at Reagan National Airport.
Sirens too, but that could mean anything -- an entourage in motion, a fire at a townhouse...
Maybe it was a training exercise. Maybe an errant private plane just passed over with an escort.
I lean out of my open window and on top of many nearby buildings I see American flags waving in the breeze. It's an absolutely beautiful day.
And calm now. No siren. No jets. No helicopters. A cool late afternoon, early summer, Washington DC. Birdsong.
Better than Life
By this point, if attending tonight’s performance at the Kennedy Center of Mahler’s Eighth, Anna Livia Soltan front and center with the Washington Children’s Chorus, doesn’t totally terrifically transcendently transform my life, I’ll demand my money back. Talk about a build-up!
"We're all excited in a way we don't normally get," says Mr. Slatkin, music director of the NSO. "This is a piece that's bigger and better than life."
'There are no tickets left at the box office, so you will have to be creative if you want to attend. If you can get in, it will be worth your time to be lifted out of this lowly earth by the redeeming power of love for 80 transcendent minutes'.
…'But just preparing for the Mahler Eighth can cause some incipient panic on its own. It's a work that is a good deal more difficult to sing than say, a Poulenc "Gloria" or a Handel "Messiah," requiring doubling of parts and independent musical lines that appear and disappear like so many will-o'-the-wisps floating around the Concert Hall.
My kid’s score is indeed all highlighted up. The director of her chorus hoped the singers would be able to memorize the piece for the performance, but it was too hard. "We've memorized all the notes," says the kid. "It's the entrances that are killing us."
UD’s Two or Three or Whatever Degrees of Separation
UD’s father in law succeeded Walter Gropius
as architecture chair at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mahler’s wife Alma had an affair with Gropius, marrying him shortly after Mahler’s death.
The Rest is Silence
"In obedience to his last wish, [Mahler] was buried in silence, with neither a word spoken nor a note of music played."
YearlyKos 2006 Convention
'Gathering Highlights Power of the Blog
Taking it to |
the Next Level
The ongoing mess at Duke seems to have led to the formation of a faculty group insistent that all campus sports be examined and reformed:
[D]ozens of faculty, including senior members and department chairs, agree generally that athletics at Duke have been exalted beyond their true measure.
UD strongly advises against the use of words like reconceptualize and phrases like positive role, but you get the idea. The Duke professors weren’t happy about athletics before the lacrosse story broke (note, for instance, that 1.6 million dollar loss in football); the lacrosse thing gave them an opportunity to organize and speak up.
Friday, June 09, 2006
UD Prepares, |
in her Pedantic Way,
for Mahler's Eighth
From Andante, describing the response of the audience to Mahler as he took a bow after conducting the premiere of his Eighth Symphony:
His whole career hitherto as a composer had been an almost uninterrupted sequence of setbacks and dubious successes, with the result that he was both astounded and moved to tears to see the entire audience screaming, stamping their feet and applauding wildly in a collective frenzy lasting some twenty minutes. The children's choir in particular, on whom he had lavished endless care and attention during the rehearsals, kept on applauding and waving their handkerchiefs and scores. They rushed down from their seats and leaned over the balustrade to give him flowers and shake his hand, shouting 'Long live Mahler! Our Mahler!' at the tops of their voices and presenting him with the only laurel wreath of the evening, a gesture that moved him profoundly. For Mahler, these children represented the future that he felt was slipping inexorably away from him. When he left to return to his hotel, he found a group of applauding admirers waiting for him outside the hall and had to force his way to his car.
One of UD's independent study students last semester took advantage of GW's proximity to the Library of Congress, and read the correspondence between Saul Bellow and his friend Ralph Ellison.
Most of Bellow's papers, however, have long been housed at the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library, which will now be getting yet more of them.
The University of Chicago said Thursday it has bought the uncollected papers of the late Saul Bellow from his estate, a trove that includes unpublished material and is likely to reinvigorate scholarship in one of Chicago's greatest novelists.
Greek University System|
Not Going Quietly
Police fought running battles with youths along Panepistimiou Street in Athens after protesters tried to break through a police cordon and reach the Education Ministry. Four banks, two shops and the Titania hotel were damaged by rioters. Two cars were also firebombed. Riot police fired tear gas as rioters set fire to garbage bins.
First, are you our sort of a person?|
"And NCATE, realizing that its attempt to use dispositions theory to create an ideologically homogenous generation of public school teachers could badly backfire, retreated," writes Robert KC Johnson in a smart, useful narrative of the rise and fall of the dispositions empire.
At least we can hope it has fallen. Dispositions enthusiasts express what Todd Gitlin calls “the pathos of the academic left,” “the downright peculiarity” of a “meager,” “helpless” band, a remnant “force… of purification” which, having withdrawn from any actual politics, flounces about denouncing traitors.
Probably a bit of luck…|
…we got tickets for the last performance.
“[E]ven a middling Mahler Eighth is something pretty special and it will not do to be too hard on Slatkin, for conducting this work is rather like trying to run a medium-size city while standing in one place. Last night, nobody seemed entirely ready to go. The two remaining performances -- tonight and tomorrow night at 8, both of them sold out -- may well be more comfortable.”
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Too tired to talk about universities today -- donated blood at NIH, as usual, and then walked all over DC on a hot afternoon. Result: I’m turning in.
Snapshots from Home…lessness
From the Washington Post:
‘Marianne and Marc Duffy say their dream home renovation in Chevy Chase has turned into a suburban nightmare. Their neighbors say the Duffys intentionally flouted building rules when they expanded their $725,000 house on Thornapple Street and have no one to blame but themselves.
More on Greece|
From the blog Stigmabuster:
'Diverse social groups united against any change for [the] better. Universities that produce paper-toilet [yes, it should be toilet-paper, but I like it his way] degrees. Ancient programs of studies. Students that retain their student ID for decades. Professors that show up only during strikes. Student minorities of 5% that block and destroy everything. Illegal occupation of public buildings. Staff that gets paid while on strike.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Snapshots From Home|
Starting tomorrow night, UD’s Joyce-themed spawn has a run of Kennedy Center performances with Jane Eaglen.
Eaglen, “the great Wagnerian of her generation,” has a slightly larger singing part in Mahler’s humongous Eighth Symphony than la spawn, who’s an alto with the Washington Children’s Chorus, but UD and Mr UD will be thrilled nonetheless to watch the kid on that stage, in that company, in that music.
UD gets a kick out of the kid’s insider gossip about the eminent conductors under whose batons she’s worked - “Maestro Temirkanov is nice but vain. Between bows, he combs his hair back just so… Slatkin’s okay but it’s sometimes hard to understand what he wants… We never sing loudly enough for him…”
All three concerts sold out before we had a chance to make a move, but we managed to score some returned tickets for Saturday.
Eaglen “prepares for her performances by listening to the pop music singer Meat Loaf.”
English Professor Angle: Eaglen sang the pretty little tunes that everyone liked so much from the soundtrack of the film Sense and Sensibility.
Update: Hot stuff.
If you've been taking your time getting tickets to performances of Gustav Mahler's colossal Eighth Symphony -- more famously known as the "Symphony of a Thousand" -- you're out of luck: Seats for all three of the National Symphony Orchestra's performances this week have been sold out for nearly a month.
English Professor Angle: Thomas Mann was in the audience for the 1910 Munich premiere.
UPDATE: Well, excuse me! Thomas Mann, PLUS "Gerhart Hauptmann, Stefan Zweig, Emil Ludwig, Hermann Bahr and Arthur Schnitzler."
…over at the Harvard Crimson. It tells you a lot about the divide between students and professors.
There’s the well-known divide over Larry Summers: Undergrads liked him a lot, found him “the most undergraduate-friendly Harvard president in recent history,” and remain pissed with the faculty for having ousted him.
Then there’s the curriculum. Far from having any interest in a regenerated “core,” students (I’m basing this only on the Crimson editorial, so don’t know how representative it is) simply look forward to the faculty getting its act together and making Harvard’s curriculum look like everyone else’s, with a bunch of distribution requirements and electives aplenty:
Professors and students alike have long recognized that the Core suffers from an arbitrary pedagogical philosophy and a needlessly restrictive set of courses, and the CGE has rightly advised FAS to repair these flaws by broadening and liberalizing distribution requirements while developing an innovative catalog of interdisciplinary courses.
And then there’s faculty evaluation:
Amazingly, professors are not required to distribute CUE surveys to their students, nor are they required to allow the results of those surveys to be published in the following year’s CUE Guide. Even more amazingly, the FAS failed to modify this policy when the issue was discussed at a Faculty meeting this spring. The comments of some professors at that meeting demonstrate the gaping disconnect that exists between the Faculty and the student body. Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 offered a comment that was as notable for its arrogance as it was for its disregard for undergraduate education: “Course evaluations introduce the rule of the less wise over the more wise, of students over professors.”
UD’s thing on course evaluations is well known to regular readers -- Americans, at least in organizational settings, rarely do things in rational, modest ways. They tend to pump good ideas up into bigger and bigger and bigger things, until they explode into nothingness. So with the evaluation of professors’ teaching, which could be done in a reasonable tidy way by providing public online forms for students at the end of the semester -- one’s own local Rate My Professors. This way, the procedure would take up no class time, and would be voluntary for the student, who could edit her evaluation later if she thought of other stuff to say, etc.
Instead, faculty are constrained to take twenty minutes or more of precious end-of-semester class time, which should be about reviewing for final exams and summing up the course, and hand out what may be a most insipid set of questions and directions. (UD’s fond of one evaluation form she saw that said “YOUR PROFESSOR’S SALARY IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO YOUR EVALUATION. PLEASE BE THOUGHTFUL.”) Professors are often instructed to announce to the class something like “I won’t see these until after grades are in, so don’t worry about my being vindictive.” This is degrading to everyone.
And Mansfield’s right. I wouldn’t use the loaded word “wise,” but I would say, as other commentators have noted, that the national fad for every-course, totally-required, ten, twenty, thirty, forty question (many of them emotional: How did this professor make you feel? Did she make you feel cared about as a person?) professor evaluation, the Big Thing it’s all become in the context of education as consumerism, is now an official disaster. Rampaging course evaluation has contributed more than its share to grade inflation and dumbing down, as professors run from the possibility of professional retribution because of students who don’t like Bs.
It’s not arrogant to say that professors know more than students. It’s true. Professors who say “My students know just as much as, or more than, I do. In fact, the way I teach is, I just sit back and listen to them talk,” should be recognized for the cynics they are. Professors who like to describe their classes as a purely horizontal conversation, as it were, are almost as bad. If you don’t think faculty have something to teach students, don’t start a university.
None of this means that faculty should ever be arrogant; it means that a basic ethical imperative for faculty is to take seriously the transmission of knowledge.
Further, because students are younger and less mature than most faculty, their comments on course evaluation forms need to be taken with a grain of salt. Yet because higher education is a buyer’s market, these comments can do serious damage to professors, and the professors’ knowledge of this corrupts the classroom.
Mansfield’s remark suggests just the opposite of a “disregard for undergraduate education.” As with his well-known railing against grade inflation, he is demonstrating a principled commitment to the essential character of the legitimate academic setting: The serious transmission - through lecture and discussion - of valuable knowledge by a well-educated person who has high standards for her students’ performance.
Update: "It's probably safe to say that more than two-thirds of college teaching is now done by people who are routinely punished for maintaining standards."
Cosmic convergence between UD and Thomas H. Benton, regular columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, today. UD takes issue with some of what Benton has to say in his opinion piece. She's not at all sure, for instance, that
College students seem more immature than ever before, and, as a consequence, more likely to bring disgrace upon themselves and their institutions. Tom Wolfe was not exaggerating in I Am Charlotte Simmons. You just have to watch the news to know how serious the problem of character has become at American universities. Maybe it's time to restore in loco parentis? I believe most parents would support that, even if it meant granting more authority and protection to the faculty members who would have to fill that role.
I mean, she's not at all sure students are less mature than they used to be; and she's most certainly opposed to that loco parento thing... But Benton notes the same connection between consumer culture and dumbing down that I'm talking about.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
In her fevered search…|
…for more on the developing situation in Greece, where sometimes violent students and professors are trying to block even timid reforms of their sordid state system, UD has found Leo.
Leo Irakliotis is a computer science professor at UD’s old school, University of Chicago, and he has this blog called leo i.
Leo tells us that he “spent four agonizing years at a Greek university prior to emigrating to the US in 1990 to complete his studies and earn his PhD.” Then he tells us why they were agonizing. I take the liberty of quoting his post in full:
Justice is Done|
The president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Arthur E. Wise, has wisely agreed to drop "social justice" from its organization's list of things they're scanning teachers' "dispositions" for. It happened at a U.S. Education Department panel, on which sat a group of people ready to state the obvious -- that the notoriously vague phrase "social justice" can operate as a political litmus test.
But Wise knew who was behind him, both in physical proximity and in order of speech — a small group of third-party witnesses ready to pick apart NCATE’s practices.
Anne D. Neal, of ACTA, is right, however: “Removing social justice doesn’t eliminate the issue of imposing disposition on teacher candidates.” IMHO, dropping the whole "dispositions" thing is the way to go. A person's social views are none of NCATE's business.
Snapshots from Home|
This is Getting Ridiculous
For the third time in a matter of months, I stood on my ‘thesdan deck late yesterday afternoon and wondered why military planes were screeching way way fast back and forth over my head.
And for the third time, the reason’s the same:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. fighter jets scrambled on Monday to intercept a small plane that had breached restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command said
Monday, June 05, 2006
…who wrote wonderful essays on French literature, has died at the age of 81.
With Charles Newman’s NY Times obit fresh in my mind - especially the detail about his having been married five times - I noted with interest the paper’s formulation in the case of Riffaterre:
Professor Riffaterre was married several times. He is survived by his wife, Hermine, also a scholar of French literature…
Does this mean that Riffaterre was married more than five times? Does the Times go to “several” when it’s over five? Or does it mean that no one can remember how many wives he had?
Speaking of Drinking…|
…the story of a nineteen year old Cornell freshman, visiting friends at U Va and drinking himself to death at a fraternity party, inspired some good, thoughtful writing in the Cornell newspaper. Occasionally the writer is sort of pompous; but his basic honesty, directness, and careful style come through (I've made a few parenthetical suggestions).
Adventures with Campus Ghosts
Pearlstone, another newpaper reports:
[L]eft behind dozens of online messages that delved into his drinking habits, providing a rare glimpse into the thinking of a boy on the cusp of being a man. He was well-versed in the dangers of alcohol. He clearly did not drink thoughtlessly. He intellectualized it. He defended and defined it with the same brilliance he brought to academics.
The students who apparently gave him alcohol -- he was underage -- have been arrested.
From Today's Duke University News Conference|
'The Duke University men's lacrosse team will resume play next fall under a strict code of conduct and tighter oversight by administrators, President Richard Brodhead said Monday.
UD's all for this. Duke is right to reinstate the game.
The main thing Duke's president conveyed was the new direct responsibility he'll take for sports generally at the university, and the new code of conduct all the lacrosse guys have signed on to.
But there's "campus culture," with its astounding and basically tolerated alcohol consumption, and there's Duke's effort to promote "its values," which I guess means the values the administration and faculty hold. My sense is that at Duke, as at a lot of other campuses, the larger "values" world looks the other way while students are at play. That averting of the eyes sends its own signal, of course; and it will be difficult, after all this time, for universities to adjust their focus.
In About an Hour...|
...Duke will hold a press conference about lacrosse, during which they'll probably announce the reinstatement of the sport. Which I think is a good idea.
Snapshots from Home|
Bland, blandly titled (“Town vs. Gown”) editorial about UD’s university in today’s Washington Post, which notes, as UD already has, that GW intends to use Square 54, a large, currently empty space on its Foggy Bottom campus, “for investment purposes to fund the university's future needs.” That is, not for anything related to university life.
For a variety of reasons, the residential Foggy Bottom neighborhood is fighting this one in the courts. “[I]t is the lack of trust between GWU and the community that has landed the university in court on other occasions and is once again taking the school back before a judge," says the Post. "It need not keep coming to this. City leadership has a stronger and more conciliatory hand to play than it has thus far. Surely there's a constructive role here for Mayor Anthony A. Williams.”
More background from dcist.
'Harvard Law School , the world’s self-described “premier center for legal education and research,” may ban Internet use in the classroom this fall because so many students are frittering away time surfing the Web. |
The school’s faculty has yet to vote on the proposal. But several professors, fed up with students shopping online or checking Red Sox scores when they should be heeding lectures, have gone so far as to outlaw laptops in class.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
UD finds this alumni note in the latest issue of the University of Chicago Magazine charming:
'39: Robert R. Reynolds, SB '39, is "still married after nearly 62 years and in good health for my nearly 90 years." He lives in "an upscale retirement community" in Arizona and is "active in our Nerd Club, an association of academics, science professionals, etc." He has written two books in the past three years. The latest is An Airplane was My Burro or the Memoirs of a Venturesome Geologist.
June 16 Looming|
"Bloomsday is no longer a one-off party – it has become part of annual local cultures in so many cities around the world,” says the director of Ireland’s James Joyce Center.
(Make that Centre.)
Along the same lines, UD finally saw the film Nora, which focuses upon Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle. The dvd was a present from an independent study student at GW, a woman who’s writing a paper about Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.
UD was delighted with the gift, but found the film somewhat disappointing. Film’s visuality means that efforts to get at the depth and specificity of philosophical/literary works and relationships (as in the adaptations of Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Lowry’s Under the Volcano) tend to be failures. In Nora we are riveted by the peculiar sexy beauty of the actress who plays Nora -- her pre-Raphaelite locks; her burning brown eyes; her heavy lips -- and by her lusty life with Jim, but at a loss as to the point of the film, beyond its being an Irish love story. The film is unable to convey the thing it’s trying to convey -- the inner qualities that made Nora Barnacle James Joyce’s muse.
Paul Klee and|
the Saluki Way
The wonderfully named Paul Klee, a sportwriter for The Southern Illinoisan, discusses the “proposed $45,000 raise for Saluki men's basketball coach Chris Lowery.” (For background on the amazing Saluki Way, go here. And here.) It’d bring his salary up to $255,000. People are divided about it. Here are some of the negative emails he got:
"I can't believe the SIU Board of Trustees is so insensitive as to jack up student tuition by 9 percent and then hand out a $45,000 raise to a basketball coach, which is more than most campus employees make in a given year. Is this the new "Saluki Way"?"
“The Professor”! Cute!|
A federal judge could decide Monday whether a Memphis cancer researcher accused of possessing and dealing methamphetamine is a flight risk.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Larry, Larry you bastard, I’m through.|
Hokay, I’ve finished Harry R. Lewis’s Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, and I have a few concluding things to say about it (I’ve blogged about it a little already, as I’ve made my way through it.)
The only real interest, nay motivation, of this book, waits until the very last chapter to appear. Before that, it’s a blandly written (“A college should teach its students to develop and use their potential to the highest level of which they are capable.” This from a writer who derides the ‘pabulum’ one finds in college advertising brochures.), intellectually muddled claim that universities are above all about moral suasion and character formation, and that therefore, for instance, they should institute systematic “judgment of [the] personal character” of each of their professors. 
That’s mere prelude, though, to the fugue that plays out Mr. Lewis’s disgust for Harvard’s deposed president Larry Summers, with whom he clearly had unpleasant dealings. Summers is “an economist who sees the actions and decisions of men and women as governed by rational choice and power, not by belief and commitment.”
Note the mushy words “belief” and “commitment.” At no point in this book does Lewis do the heavy lifting that Allan Bloom, however you judge his conclusions, was willing to do in order to give those words substance. Instead, Lewis plucks words like “soul” and “spirit” from the air and scatters them about his book in a gesture rather than an expression of meaning.
For the rest of his conclusion, Lewis lets fly. Summers was a “bully,” full of “contempt,” “impatience,” “harshness,” "thoughtlessness,” and “lack of candor.” His “lack of sustained attention” made for an “incompetent administration,” characterized by “ham-handed management” and “chaotic lurching.” He failed “to bring honor to the institution.”
But honor’s another one of those words. When a marine sings “keep our honor clean” -- an awkward bit of language in itself, I admit -- I actually know what’s meant. There’s a history and a literature there. When an unimaginative dean, brimming with the accumulated irritations with everyone -- professors, students, parents, other administrators -- that deans are obviously going to have, portrays himself as an honorable man in a sea of dishonorables, a man who can renew a college’s honor, I need a good deal more substance and clarity about all that than this book is willing or able to give me.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
‘thesdans Behaving Badly
From the Washington Post:
One is a high school football star, already courted by 20 colleges. Two others are talented athletes in their own right. Few in the community believe that the students -- now dubbed "the Whitman Five" by their classmates after being charged in connection with an armed robbery -- would have done it for the money. So the question remains: Why?
Stopped Reading After the First Line|
[A New UD Feature]
From Star News Online, The Voice of Southeastern North Carolina:
'If you don't believe angels are real, then say hello to Dawn Marie Grindle.'
We tend to focus on France...|
...but professors and students are just as surly in Greece when you suggest establishing a private college or two, having admissions and graduation rules, and charging some money.
Watch for the story out of Greece to get more play -- to get noticed in the rest of the world -- as street violence of the sort Athens had yesterday continues over government efforts to wake up a dead university system.
The cradle of democracy's best showing in the latest world ranking of universities is one institution coming in at number 282. Its highest listing among European universities is # 92.
'Despite violent clashes between protesting students and riot police in central Athens yesterday, the government insisted that it would not go back on its planned education reforms which include the introduction of private universities.
Update from blogger-who's-there Ted Laskaris:
"So, the universities are shut, the students are in the streets, and protest organizers are eagerly regurgitating 'lessons from France 'o6.' What is not being addressed, naturally, is the advanced sepsis of the Greek university system and the impasse defining Greek higher education today."
Hey, if you have a problem with it,|
look up R-E-G-E-N-T in the dictionary:
“One who rules during the minority, absence,
or disability of a monarch.”
UC Regents Get Driven Around in Luxury Cars
PR FOR DUKE
'Another Duke men's lacrosse player is facing legal trouble allegedly involving alcohol.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
In today’s Inside Higher Ed:
BILLIONS TO SPARE