Monday, July 31, 2006
Extreme Heat Warning|
Extreme heat's okay at the beach; but back here in 'thesda it's bad.
It's important to protect yourself. I recommend
Back in 'thesda After the Beach...|
...I'm adding a few revisions to the manuscript -- The Return of Beauty to Literary Studies -- that a colleague and I have written. And I'm preparing to leave muggy DC once again in a few days, this time for our place in the wilds of upstate NY.
Slightly lighter posting, then, for a day or two.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
'In his latest salvo, Gundlach told The Birmingham News the courses he found on the transcripts he checked included weight training, organic gardening, vegetable production, performance techniques for the camera, keyboarding, adult education and sports in America.
-- the hunstville times --
Saturday, July 29, 2006
With the University of Minnesota |
in Mind, Kansas Expresses Anxiety
'...Chances are, many athletic directors across the country are studying the Minnesota stadium situation and trying to figure out whether they might be able to swing a similar deal. Could KU’s Memorial Stadium, for example, soon be named for some bank or generous contributor? It’s not out of the question; look at the situation at Oklahoma State, where the naming rights were tied to the $125 million gift of Boone Pickens!
Friday, July 28, 2006
Here's One that |
Made Me Sit Up
and Take Notice
From Oregon Public Broadcasting:
An Eastern Oregon University professor and a student say they were raped by a university administrator.
READ ALL ABOUT IT|
Of course, this is the unofficial, insider, blog version (the comment thread is amazing). The major media version is in the Boston Globe, from the marvelous education reporter, Marcella Bombardieri. She's currently lobbing missiles at one of MIT's most powerful scientists, Susumu Tonegawa.
He is the sort of target bombardiers dream about.
For there sits he in his extravagantly funded lab, intellectually astute and emotionally infantile, typing intimidating emails to a first-rate junior woman appointment whose research and presence he finds threatening. Could he not have known that Bombardieri would find a way to get hold of his little notes warning this woman she'd better not accept the offer because it'd make him feel all icky inside? Your "recruitment process was bulldozed," he tells the woman. If you come to MIT, "unpleasant competition will be unavoidable." But there's a bright side! "Fortunately, you have great offers from two other prestigious institutions. As someone who is fond of you, and as a senior member of the neuroscience community I honestly recommend you to take one of these positions rather than plunge into the hot pan."
The woman, who knows a member when she sees one, took a job elsewhere, but the story, which could not have been scripted better if it'd been assigned to Andrea Dworkin, has become public, leaving the senior member sizzling on the hot pan, and MIT, with its unimpressive record of hiring and retaining women scientists, constituting investigative committees and making official statements of distress, etc.
It's one to watch. Will MIT have the integrity to punish a man who brings in so much research money? It'll be interesting to follow this one, alongside the Shleifer case at Harvard.
There'll Always Be An England|
American holders of bogus degrees are hunted down and punished; but in England it's still quite safe to pass yourself off as a PhD-holder, even if it's from a diploma mill like Lasalle University of Louisiana.
Hell, over there you can collect a great deal of money in court damages if anyone says boo about your doctorate, as hypnotist extraordinaire Paul McKenna just did.
Although there's abundant evidence that Lasalle is a mill, and that McKenna knew it, the judge, "who heard the case without a jury, said he could not accept that the newspaper had discharged the burden of proving that the sting of the words complained of was substantially true."
So if you're thinking of buying your next degree, buy it in the States, move to England, and all will be well. If you're lucky enough to attract some negative comment, you may even make your fortune.
From the Albuquerque Tribune|
When it comes to New Mexico university presidents - two of whom were forced to resign this year before their contracts were even close to ending - isn't the silence just deafening?
University of Wisconsin Professor|
Contacts Police Over 'Sinister'
"[Kevin] Barrett ... claimed to police an abandoned grocery store cart on his front lawn was the work of [a neighbor] and amounted to a sinister 'message' to Barrett and his wife."
Thursday, July 27, 2006
An excerpt from a Herald Tribune article about the enormous popularity of blogs among the French:
The French distinguish themselves, both statistically and anecdotally, ahead of Germans, Britons and even Americans in their obsession with blogs, the personal and public journals of the Internet age.
Of Course UD Thinks it's Ridiculous...|
...for students to refuse to read something their university has asked them to read. The group of freshmen at Clemson who, offended by the sexual content of Truth and Beauty: A Friendship, by Ann Patchett, are refusing to read the book (the all-freshmen reading selection for this fall) are being silly. And they've forced upon the university a silly solution, which is to insist that all students take part in the discussion of the text and submit assignments based on it... but, er, not read it if they don't want to.
UD finds the selection itself, and the justification for it, however, almost as silly. In choosing a way up-to-the-minute pathography of the booze-, heroin-, and sex-addicted writer Lucy Grealy (she died of an overdose), the university ignores centuries of better, more reflective, books that touch on its subjects.
Worse, in choosing the book because, as the head of the selection committee comments, "It's a book about a friendship between two young women that are just a few years older than the college students themselves....It causes (students) to think about issues that they are likely to be confronted with in the near future, and it offers the opportunity for some serious intellectual discussion," the university makes the mistake of pandering to the identities of students. The professor simply assumes it's commendable on the committee's part that it found a book that features people students will find similar to themselves.
Though, if you think about it, this impulse is itself misconceived in the context of the book. Truth and Beauty features the pumped up arena of hyperextremist personalities, gruesome psychoses, and intimate psychic violence that we've come to expect from pathographies. At most one or two unfortunates among the Clemson freshman class will confront such a horror.
From the sympathetic...|
...but strongminded response the president of Duke University wrote to a letter he received from an organization of defenders of the lacrosse players:
"You also voice the perception that the University has been complicit in scapegoating members of the lacrosse team. I recognize the gravity of the charge, but I do not agree with it. It was the party that the men’s lacrosse team held on the night of March 13 that precipitated the subsequent avalanche of publicity and notoriety."
Realism and Surrealism|
If you want to know why Europe's universities are a shambles, and ours are pretty good, it's partly because of people like David Brooks.
Brooks, on view in today's New York Times, is a realist. He doesn't think you should - like most European countries - throw money at your university system and then look firmly away from the results. He thinks Americans, for instance, should notice that despite all sorts of government money, the college graduation rate remains unchanged:
Over the past three decades there has been a gigantic effort to increase the share of Americans who graduate from college. The federal government has spent roughly $750 billion on financial aid. Yet the percentage of Americans who graduate has barely budged. The number of Americans who drop out of college leaps from year to year. ... Tuition tax credits and grants have not produced more graduates in the past and they will not do so in the future. Bridget Terry Long of Harvard meticulously studied the Clinton administration’s education tax credits and concluded that they did not increase enrollment. Sarah E. Turner of the University of Virginia concludes, “Very broad-based programs such as tuition subsidies or across-the-board grants to low-income students are likely to have minimal effects on college completion while imposing large costs.”
When Brooks turns to ways to actually increase enrollment and graduation, he gets all moralistic in that pathetic American manner the French are always ridiculing from the perch of their own surreal university system:
You have to promote two-parent stable homes so children can develop the self-control they need for school success. You have to fundamentally reform schools. You have to expand church- and university-sponsored mentoring programs and support groups.
Update: Via Cold Spring Shops, Ezra Klein says something similar:
[T]he obsessive focus on college education bespeaks a certain cowardice and calculation in Democratic circles. College is a cost that primarily affects the middle class and the well-to-do but, particularly in the private context, is hefty enough that it can be burdensome for both. Talk of making it more affordable, while ostensibly aimed at subsidizing the poor, is really a poll-tested way to speak to the politically potent middle- and upper-income quintiles -- it's a way for the Democratic Party to speak up the income ladder, where the votes are.
See also Matthew Yglesias:
[C]ommenters never agree with my college-skepticism. For starters, let me say I have no objection to increasing the number of college graduates in the United States. One thing I do worry about, though, is this. Right now a hefty proportion of kids do go to college. When you try to increase the number of college-goers by subsidizing college attendance, the tendency is for the vast majority of the subsidies to accrue to families that would have sent their kids to school anyway rather than to the marginal families who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford it. Since college-bound kids come, as a rule, from wealthier families than do non-college kids, these schemes can often resort to upward wealth redistribution. The specific Clinton/DLC plan mostly avoids these problems, which is good, but I still think it's a strange thing for progressives to be prioritizing given that you can only focus on so many things at once.
Some of the Letters...|
... the New York Times printed in response to Stanley Fish's piece arguing that professors should not advocate for positions in the classroom reveal what are pretty widespread misunderstandings of his point -- a point made by many other writers on universities, among them Philip Rieff in his book Fellow Teachers.
Two of the six letters the Times published, for instance, equate dispassion with lack of passion. They assume that unless a professor reveals her personal feelings about social and political issues, she will be a robot in front of her students. Here's one, from a Yale student (UD's comments are in parenthesis):
Students’ ability to learn from or to form contrary opinions to the teachings of an opinionated professor should not be doubted. (And no one doubts it. But this leaves open the value of the opinions. It is of course easy to form opposing opinions to someone who thinks the government did 9/11; the question is whether such an obviously stupid opinion belongs in the university classroom, represents a good use of serious university students' time. And note the repeated use of the word "opinion" in here. There are significant differences between an opinion and a reasoned belief, and the writer will elide them in this letter.)
Another letter writer expresses the common view that it's impossible to present ideas dispassionately: "When Mr. Fish discusses academic freedom in the coming semester, will he miraculously be able to distance himself from his opinions, which are now part of public discourse?" It doesn't take a miracle to avoid pressing your opinions in the classroom. Does it take a miracle for a psychiatrist to assume neutrality in the analytic setting? A judge in the courtroom?
A third common attitude about all of this, expressed in a third letter, is the "everybody in -- the water's fine" approach, in which all ideas and opinions are cool: "[Maintaining] diversity within the idea pool ... increase[s] the chance of discovering what is actually true." That's so actually not true. That's the spurious defense administrators at Wisconsin are trying with Kevin Barrett. It's exactly the role of seriously conceived universities to have curricula which reflect rigorous selectivity relative to forms of thought worthy of consideration among educated people.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
On Ad Hominem Attacks|
as a Sign You're Getting Somewhere
Ann Althouse's current struggle with malicious commenters puts me in mind of this recent take on the Juan Cole controversy, at Chronicle of Higher Ed:
'At first the news that Yale had chickened out on hiring Cole alarmed me as a politically engaged professor who blogs. Fortunately, I got tenure in April, despite having an undistinguished and thus, perhaps, undiscovered blog. True, my scholarly expertise lies far from the life-and-death matters that we depend on Juan Cole to walk us through. Anyone who writes as well as he does about the Middle East, or any other bloody issue, is bound to attract low blows and ad hominem attacks. But my day may come. If it does, I'll know that I have made a difference.'
But hey. You're forgetting|
the intellectual benefits.
“To make a long-term financial commitment to a coach whose (financial) benefits to a university may be negligible or zero is unwise.”
The sea is calm tonight...|
Really, very Dover Beach out there at the moment, with a generous helping of mist over the water to make it eerie. A cat crept through the dune grasses as I gazed at the coast from the balcony.
Everyone else is deeply asleep after the exhausting Sound of Music Singalong at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. It's a long movie, and you're singing and yelling and waving edelweiss and blowing into a noise-maker a great deal of the time, so by the last third or so of the film you're in a stupor, dutifully booing each appearance of a Nazi, but without your heart in it.
UD's first Sound of Music Singalong, at GW's Lisner Auditorium, was even more physically demanding than this one. You got out of your seat and bowed obsessively along with the third-prize-winner at the Salzburg Music Festival, and you waved not just a bit of edelweiss, but also a swatch of fabric (for when Maria looks at or talks about the curtains from which she makes play clothes), and a popper to set off whenever Maria and the Captain kiss.
This was a good Singalong, though -- pretty well-attended (I'd hoped for drag queens, however, and there weren't any), lustily sung, amusingly costumed. The tension (intrinsic to Sound of Music Singalongs) between rock-serious SoMites and (probably slightly drunk) wisecracking ironists in the audience erupted at one point, when a woman in the row ahead of us shouted "Shut up" to a woman across the aisle who kept calling out lame, satirical things. But other than that, the crowd was friendly and happy and in its element.
Nicest of all, the Baroness was indeed the star of the show. Audience fury at her every appearance made the room feel like one of Orwell's Two-Minute Hates.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Juan Cole Rules|
"The question [in a Chronicle of Higher Ed forum] is whether Web-log commentary helps or damages an academic's career. It is a shameful question. Intellectuals should not be worrying about "careers," the tenured among us least of all. Despite the First Amendment, which only really protects one from the government, most Americans who speak out can face sanctions from other institutions in society. Journalists are fired all the time for taking the wrong political stance. That is why most bloggers employed in the private sector are anonymous or started out trying to be so.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Today's the 150th anniversary of George Bernard Shaw's birth in 1856.
He was as much a music critic as essayist and playwright, and one musical thing he said is: "It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion."
The problem with the failed eulogy for William Lash that I looked at a few posts down is its lack of assertion -- its willingness to remain in a timid clinch with cliche.
But verbal and musical boldness is risky, because if you don't work very hard at it, it'll become bombast.
Alex Beam, in today's Boston Globe, |
Stirs Sweet Memories for UD...
...of her time at Trump University. Beam writes:
One dreams of returning to the university. The tree-shadowed walkways. The shared goals of learning. The sexual and somatic adventuring. Ah, the student life.
Lots of Naming of Names...|
...and making of lists and drawing up of petitions lately (see Ralph Luker's first two entries at Cliopatria today). There are, for instance, lists of professors who support Ward Churchill, and lists of professors who believe the United States government bombed the Twin Towers.
UD's happy to think and write about what it means that a handful of tenured and untenured professors in this country are tin-foil-hat conspiratorialists. She's happy to harp on the fact that more than a handful of tenured and untenured professors in this country support colleagues who've made careers of plagiarism and misrepresentation.
But not right now. UD woke this morning in a flood of light coming from her ocean balcony that seemed to announce the materialization of one of the major saints. By all that's holy, UD should be on the beach. And that's where she's going.
But she will leave you (before resuming blogging in a short while) with one
Thought For The Day:
University students owe it to themselves to select the best professors they can for their courses. Students are paying a fortune. They only have a few years at college. Their minds are terrible things to waste. Rate My Professors and sources like it are important. But lists and petitions are helpful too.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Great Post at Grad Student Madness...|
...a blog I'll be adding to my still unalphabetized blogroll, about Philip Rieff and Susan Sontag. Parenthetical comments UD's:
It was actually no surprise for me when both of them announced that we were living with the first generation of genuine Western barbarians at nearly the same time. There was a deep seriousness and even sternness to both scholars that transcended the simplistic political categories that divided them. Sontag was a leftist, and David Rieff, the son of both Sontag and Rieff, has described his father as being "to the right of Attila the Hun". But that doesn't really get at the truth of it. Rieff was certainly a conservative thinker, and perhaps one of the greatest conservative thinkers that American academia has yet produced. And yet, his strange and aphoristic writing seems to beckon the reader towards a life of patient and slow quasi-rabbinical study of high culture that leads away from all political struggles. Rieff and Sontag were both cultural mandarins... and so shared the same devotions (as the devout), and the same inflections long after their divorce.
"I'd be much happier if his American literature grade was higher."|
Careers are at stake because winning is far more important to a coach's job security than graduation rates. In some places, those are not just the jobs of the coaches, but of the college presidents as well.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Excerpts from Stanley Fish on Kevin Barrett|
"...It is perfectly possible to teach a viewpoint without embracing it and urging it. But the moment a professor does embrace and urge it, academic study has ceased and been replaced by partisan advocacy. And that is a moment no college administration should allow to occur. ...
New York Times
After the Deluge|
Professor William Lash's murder of his son and then suicide left everyone who knew him stunned and speechless.
Now that a week or so has passed, one of his friends has written a failed eulogy. It is a noble failure, but it is a failure. The reasons may be instructive for those who care about writing.
Here's the piece, which appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. UD's comments appear in parenthesis.
WILLIAM LASH'S TRAGIC FINAL ACT
"He's the kind of guy who never lets anyone forget he has a Ph.D."|
"Such vitriolic ranting is over the top, even by the ever-declining standards of talk-radio decorum. Yet, in this time of war fever and hyperpatriotism, inflammatory rhetoric draws conservative ditto-heads and liberal rubberneckers alike," wrote a Salon reporter a couple of years back about Michael Savage, and, whatever the politics of UD, she is indeed, from her Rehoboth Beach apartment, rubbernecking.
More broadly, when she's on vacation in the US, or when she's at her house in upstate New York (where she'll be soon), UD watches a little tv (longtime readers know UD has no tv in her 'thesdan house) and listens to a little talk radio (but only when making meals, and only when she can't get NPR to come in clearly).
It's true that UD has gasped and laughed a lot, listening to Savage, who sounds like every neurotic Jewish blowhard UD ever dated or had in her family....Neurotic? There's a psycho-something in Savage that distinguishes him from this group...
With her interest in universities, UD has taken note of Savage's quest for intellectual respectability:
'He currently gripes that no institute of higher education would hire him, despite his qualifications. "I discovered I could not gain a professorship even after applying many times," he writes in The Savage Nation. "My crime? I was a white male."'
UD's stumbled over a lot of white males at universities. Savage's problem is he's one dumb fuck.
...fascinating series of posts on boarding schools continues this morning. She talks about important differences in motivation among parents who put their children in these sorts of schools.
More on Auburn|
"Gundlach's whistle blowing [he's the Auburn professor who uncovered the sociology department's Directed Reading scam] attracted the attention of a congressional committee. He claims committee members are looking at doing away with the tax exempt status of college sports because there seems to be evidence that athletes who get scholarships don't get a college education."
Well, who knows if Gundlach's on to anything at all in this claim. What interests UD is the simplicity of the thought:
1.) Taxpayers are paying for college educations.
2.) College educations are not being received.
3.) Congress will therefore stop asking taxpayers to pay for college educations.
Sure, a certain percentage of taxpayers doesn't give a shit about this, happy to subsidize jocks who are enrolled by universities and jollied along, rather in the way Barney the dinosaur jollies along the kids who dance and sing with him in his tv studio. But other people can be made to see and resent this use of their money.
Anyway, now that Auburn's again been caught with its head up its ass, it must try to assume a more dignified posture. Its interim president is quoted:
"Dr. Richardson says the university is not waiting until the [internal] investigation is complete to take action. He says, 'I want to ensure that every course at Auburn is taught with the academic rigor that students should expect and they deserve.'"
It takes a lot more than a weak interim president at a place proud of being a sports factory to inaugurate academic rigor. As Auburn bids a sad farewell to Professor Petee's directed readings, it will soon enough find another way to game things.
"Fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education... In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths."|
A Baptist theologian, quoted in today's New York Times, makes the essential distinction between education and indoctrination.
Growing numbers of Baptist colleges, reports the Times, are severing official and monetary ties with the church, as the church, more and more fundamentalist, attempts to control course content. It's like that rebellion at Patrick Henry College -- despite caricatures of religious colleges from the left (colleges on the right have their matching caricatures of the left), there's in fact plenty of evidence that many self-respecting religious colleges and universities -- the type that'd like a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and that sort of thing -- tend to evolve toward becoming more secular institutions out of simple respect for the truth.
Or, as a student at a now-independent Baptist college says in the article: “It’s good to go to a college that’s religious, but it doesn’t really matter to me.... What matters to me is getting my education."
Friday, July 21, 2006
Scenes from the Argentine|
This is the tango performance UD's kid took in
last night (very late last night) in Buenos Aires.
Note the bright young heads bobbing about
in the photo's foreground. She's in there
“Boarding school enrollment dropped from about 42,000 in the late 1960’s to 39,000 in the last school year - even though, according to the Census Bureau, the population of 14- to 17-year olds was more than 1.5 million higher in 2004 than in 1968," wrote an opinion writer in the New York Times awhile back. (Here's an earlier UD post dealing with the piece in greater detail.)
Erin O'Connor, who recently spent a year teaching in such a school, helps explain the decline:
The boarding school where I taught during the 2004-05 school year was accredited--but this was hardly a guarantee of quality, or even of responsibility on the part of the school. This school cost more than $32,000 a year, which is the going rate for boarding schools in New England and elsewhere around the country. That's a price tag that creates some entirely reasonable expectations; one imagines, if one is mortaging one's future to send one's child to such an institution, that for $32,000, one's child will have access to one hell of an education, one that far surpasses, in quality and variety, what's available at the free public school just down the road. But in schools as in other commodities, price tags are really only price tags, and all they tell you is what the market rate is for the commodity at hand. That's one of the many things I learned during my year teaching at a very expensive, but very academically weak school.
Is it trust, UD wonders, or a kind of benign indifference? The parents can get on with their busy lives without the bother of a kid at home, etc. The New York Times writer points to some other problems:
The self-containment of boarding schools can create terrariums of privilege in which students develop a skewed sense of money and have a hard time remembering that, in fact, it is not normal to go skiing in Switzerland just because it's March, or to receive an S.U.V. in celebration of one's 16th birthday. At, for example, Choate Rosemary Hall - one of many boarding schools starting classes this or next week - room, board and tuition for 2005-2006 is $35,360. If, as Choate's Web site explains, 27 percent of students receive financial aid, that means the other 73 percent come from families that are, by just about any standards except perhaps their own, very rich. Even when these schools hold chapel services espousing humility and service to others, it's the campus facilities - the gleaming multimillion-dollar gymnasium, say - that can send a louder message.
Alan L. Contreras...|
...is already one of UD's heroes for his diploma mill busting activities. Now he's written a very smart opinion piece for today's Inside Higher Ed on another subject. And he knows what he's talking about, because he lives down the street from the notorious University of Oregon.
Here's an excerpt:
Anyone interested in actual improvement of the presence of good nonwhite faculty in our universities needs to take certain steps at their schools. Do not allow the hiring of more bureaucrats to gasp in predictable horror at the way things are. No more Assistant Vice-hand-holders in the bower of ethnic unhappiness. Forget all the false storefronts and unseemly fawnings that are the usual pewter trade beads of minority recruiting.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
A Sportswriter from Texas...|
[T]he story was greeted with great disdain in Auburn and with considerable laughter in other SEC locales like Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn. But if you looked deeper, you would find that even those rivals who got a kick out of seeing the Tigers embarrassed were a bit nervous themselves.
Finally, A Distraction|
From Duke Lacrosse
From the Winston-Salem Journal:
Three Duke football players were dismissed from the program yesterday by Coach Ted Roof and a fourth, starting quarterback Zack Asack, was suspended and will miss the 2006 season because of a serious academic infraction.
Plagiarist vs. Plagiarist|
Just like that Mad magazine feature, Spy vs. Spy, you've now got disgruntled plagiarists ratting on other plagiarists. It's an interesting cultural development, only possible when plagiarism is endemic.
And it's funny when the plagiarist is the chancellor of a university, and he plagiarized from the President of the United States plus Martin Luther King:
The chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville has been accused of plagiarizing parts of a speech from, among other sources, remarks by President Bush.
Wendler, you may recall, is a real number. Bankrupting the system and keeping 'em dumb... 'cause that's The Saluki Way! And you can plagiarize me on that!
Balcony Blogging II|
5:31 AM. Loud bangy waves on a still-dark day. A crescent moon pokes out of thin clouds. The wind's chilly.
Inside Higher Ed interviews some people about Auburn in particular and sports at universities in general. One sports professor says:
“Often, student-athletes are drawn to such majors as exercise science and sport management because of the appeal of the athletic themes ... However, here at [the University of Tennesee, Knoxville], those are academically demanding majors.” [Er -- I don't think so.]
A dissenting professor says: "[T]he organizational culture in many college athletic departments is that the ‘education’ of many athletes is an obstacle to be overcome — a nuisance almost."
A third points to what's clearly emerging as the MVP (Most Valuable Pretense) among college courses for athletes:
S. Philip Morgan, a professor of sociology at Duke University, says that institutions would be wise not to encourage independent study courses, because he believes that professors — especially those who care deeply about the success of their institution’s teams — can easily manipulate grades for such courses. “There is very little oversight in those kinds of situations,” he says.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Robert KC Johnson is convinced of the innocence of all the Duke players; UD is not. But UD agrees with Johnson's post today over at Cliopatria that the self-righteous and politically muddled rush to condemn the players by Houston Baker (who has left Duke in a huff) and the faculty signers of an open letter to Duke's president is a sorry thing indeed.
Johnson quotes from one signer's description of his scholarship:
"[U]nless we attempt to read racialized trauma according to a more Freudian, Lacanian understanding for subjectivity we will continue to misunderstand why racial stigma persists and, more generally, why the laws humans create to protect against forms of discrimination leave in place a notion of the racialized subject as emptied of interiority and the psychical."
Stanley Fish may not like the essay, but the great merit of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" is the point it makes about the connection between the inability to write and the inability to think straight -- and the way that inability degrades your political reasoning. Among the categories of bad writing Orwell features, the one above falls into vagueness-to-the-point-of-vacuity. Note that even innocuous words - "for," "as" - in this sentence become sowers of confusion. Note how redundant the sentence is, with variations of "racial" used three times, and "subject" two. Note how various pairings deepen the confusion: "Freudian, Lacanian," "interiority and the psychical."
And note, finally, the simple errors: The writer first talks about the large subject of how we understand racial stigma, and then describes a consideration of discrimination laws as more general, when he means more specific.
Frisch Becomes A Verb|
'The sad episode has one happy consequence. It has enriched the English language with a new verb. To quote an innovative blogger, "to frisch" means to write "something on the internet so creepy and offensive that you are forced to quit your job before getting canned."'
The University of Wisconsin's Kevin Barrett:|
The gift that keeps on giving.
A Student of Rieff's...|
...writes a moving account of the man in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (I didn't know that Rieff, like UD and Andrew Sullivan, was a big fan of Philip Larkin's poetry.)
Much of his teaching was aimed at cultivating the civilizing virtues as opposed to one's curriculum vitae. I learned about this side of him the hard way.
Tons of These Cases...|
...lately. So many I've not blogged most of them. It'd be more like flogging than blogging.
Greed's the cause, questionable results the effect. Universities, and journals, proceed at their risk.
'Days after announcing a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties, the editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association said she was misled again, this time by the authors of a study linking severe migraines to heart attacks in women.
Scott McLemee, like UD, remains struck by the odd, provocative work of Philip Rieff. I've already linked to Scott's discussion of him (Rieff died last week) in the Boston Globe (scroll down to an earlier post); here are some of his further thoughts, in Inside Higher Ed.
...from the balcony. Classic over-the-ocean-sunrise maneuver being performed directly in front of me, complete with crayon-box-yellow sun and bright squiggly sun-tail lying along the water from here to eternity. Seagulls sit on the tops of light fixtures, stare at me (I'm directly across from them), and scream. Pods of dolphins, very close to shore, travel south.
This is the hour of the sunrise mavens, the walkers and joggers and bikers (bicycles and dogs and many other things are against the rules on the boardwalk after ten in the morning -- UD's anarchic Polish husband complains every single year about how rule-bound Rehoboth is), the people just back from Brew Ha-Ha with their latte and New York Times, the policemen patrolling.
The funny green truck with yellow wheels, the truck that each morning smoothes the creased sand of the beach, is circling about ... and all this cute stuff reminds me of a profound statement Mr UD made yesterday on the beach (the beach was so pleasant that we stayed there all day and forgot to take a swim in the pool) during our perennial beach v mountain discussion (which is superior? where would you spend the rest of your days if the rest of your days could be geographical perfection?): "The beach is calming; the mountains are exciting. There's something soothing in an infantile way about the beach." For him, that is, it's no contest: He loves the beach, but the mountains win.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
UD's Friend, George Gollin,|
Scourge of the Diploma Mills,
Reports on his Recent Activity
I filled out an application at the Belford University site (www.belforduniversity.org) for a PhD in Public Administration.
Quote of the Day|
"As hard as it is to see right now, this is part of my career plan," she said.
---Deborah Frisch, in an interview with an Oregon newspaper.
Applause From His Colleagues|
For Auburn's James Gundlach
'Since going public [with massive academic cheating among Auburn's athletes], Gundlach has been flooded with telephone calls and e-mail messages expressing support and condemnation. He said he had received 69 positive messages and 66 negative ones. As he walked into the main academic building on campus yesterday morning, he said, 10 to 12 faculty members applauded him.
UD's Foggy Bottom Lunchmate...|
...Scott McLemee, has a smart, brief review (for me, very brief -- I can't get this computer to open up its third page) of Philip Rieff's ideas (I found it via Ralph Luker).
Like UD in an earlier post on Rieff, Scott suggests that the conventional reading of a massive moral/intellectual split between Rieff and Susan Sontag doesn't quite get it:
Rieff dedicated the book [the first of his posthumous trilogy] to her memory. Some of her late pronouncements could even be dropped into the book without anyone noticing - as if the standoff between her `60s radicalism and his tweedy cultural conservatism had been a strange misunderstanding.
Scott also rightly notes that the core of Rieff's thought lies in his defense of a deeply internalized sense of what one must not do -- what he called "interdicts." Parents and teachers all must from the start understand and assume their authority as transmitters of interdictory culture. The failure of these groups to assume their authority has meant the serious decline of culture.
Because Rieff considered this process of internalizing interdicts so difficult, intimate, lengthy, and profound, I think he would have found the current academic controversy over, for instance, whether to teach ethics in graduate business courses amusing. First, because (as Martha Nussbaum points out in a post a few posts below this one), far too simple a model of moral apprehension often underlies such courses; and second, if a person by the age of 27 or so hasn't internalized any serious interdicts, he's not going to do so from a seat at the Harvard Business School.
McLemee also notes the Rieff - Allan Bloom lineage:
His book "Fellow Teachers" (1973), for example, lodged many complaints about academic culture later found in Allan Bloom's best-selling jeremiad "The Closing of the American Mind" (1988).
Rieff's writing style is impossibly arch and weird for most readers; Bloom on the other hand was a master of prose style (as I've noted before on this blog). Both men were angry about the failure of universities to transmit culture, but Bloom's anger is straightforward, and straightforwardly expressed, while with Rieff you always have the feeling he thinks it's, well, uncultured, simply to come out with it. In this respect, Rieff has something in common with Michel Foucault, similarly arch and evasive.
I think both Rieff and Bloom would see the Frisch, Barrett, and Churchill eruptions (there have been others, and there will be more) as the sort of thing that happens when universities no longer know how to articulate, much less take seriously in a principled way, their founding, constraining principles, their identity as supreme transmitters of interdictory culture.
Many have pointed out that the proximate cause of many of such eruptions is an unjust and cynical system of academic labor. The value of people like Rieff and Bloom is that they attempt to explain the larger reasons.
Monday, July 17, 2006
On the Beach|
Inland, we hear, the air's almost unbearable: tomorrow in DC it's Code Orange.
Here at the shore, though the sand will hurt your feet if you walk on it at noon, a reliable wind off the water cools the air.
I had to close the balcony's curtains early this morning, the sun came in so strongly. I thought that meant the beach would be burning hot.
But though the sun was strong, and though we stayed firmly under our umbrella, the air at the beach was light and breathable, and the ocean water refreshing. We stayed out there for hours. I finished the Sunday crossword and then splashed in the water. We had a swim after that in our building's pool.
So far I've made steak (a favorite of Mr UD's) every night, while my vegetarian sister, who's here with us, tries not to notice. My other beach indulgence is a daily pina colada which, Mr UD bitterly complains, I never finish.
Monday Afternoon Eye-Opener|
"Long ago, these universities made a choice that it wasn't about the bonds and relationships forged over 6 a.m. swim practices, nor handsome academic All-America certificates mounted on the athletic department walls. Everyone chasing the glory and shame of big-time Division I sports should stop apologizing for bailing on swimming and golf and crew programs, because college sports gave up on the illusion of sports as part of the overall collegiate education.
Monday Morning Eye-Opener|
"[T]he University of Louisville [has] signed football coach Bobby Petrino to a ten-year contract, worth at least $25.5 million on July 13. The university, which has raised tuition by levels thought only to exist in the professional leg-breaking industry over the past five or six years, is in the middle of what's being called the biggest financial commitment to football since Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was built. The new contract makes Petrino one of the highest paid coaches in college football today.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
College Rather Than Church|
From Martha Nussbaum's review of Excellence Without A Soul (here's what UD had to say about it) in the Times Literary Supplement:
Lewis seems to be a supporter of [the Humanities'] role in required undergraduate courses, but he has made little effort to learn what Humanists do. For example, discussing Harvard’s required area of Moral Reasoning, which typically offers a variety of courses in ethical theory and the history of ethics, Lewis makes the jejune complaint that students will try to give professors the “right answer”, so they won’t really learn anything. But this complaint shows that Lewis has made no effort at all to visit such classes and see what actually goes on there.
An Observer in the Court|
WOLVES IN BLAZERS AND KHAKIS
I've Been to Some Beaches.|
Don't want to boast, but I've been around the world, beachwise. And there's one thing about beaches in America, with Americans on them.
You see just how enterprising a nation this one is when you look around at what Americans do on beaches.
On beaches in other countries, people arrive, light a cigarette, lie down in a beach chair, and go to sleep.
In America, they begin engineering projects. They dig enormously deep pointless holes. They build medieval villages, with cathedrals and cottages.
They read self-improvement books. They sell real estate on the cell phone.
Competitiveness abounds. People sketch out, on the sand, their strategy for winning the beach volleyball game that night. Groups of women in well-worn semi-circles play round the clock gin rummy.
When they go in the water, it is either to complete four healthful parallel-to-the-beach laps, or to collect water for their engineering projects.
Here's a Swatch of Prose...|
...from a wonderful review by Stanley Fish in today's New York Times. It's a wonderful review because Fish takes down a book that makes what sounds like a rather silly, self-defeating argument.
But Fish says something in the course of the review -- he makes a certain verbal gesture -- that's worth pausing at for a blogosecond. He refers to
...surely the most overrated essay in the modern canon, George Orwell's turgid, self-righteous and philosophically hopeless "Politics and the English Language."
In principle, UD loves this sort of thing -- a full-throttle raspberry at an object of English professor piety.
The problem with this particular raspberry, though, is that Orwell's essay is great.
Fish is responding to a couple of things in dumping on it, I think.
It has in fact been over-anthologized, over-revered, and over-alluded-to. So it can be annoying, over the course of a long career like his, to stumble over the thing again and again. Lots of people have said dumb things about it.
But the key to Fish's comment appears when he calls the essay "philosophically hopeless." Of course Orwell wasn't a philosopher, and the essay isn't a philosophical essay, and one isn't supposed to judge it by Kantian standards. But Fish considers himself a philosopher -- a philosopher of language -- and he takes, I'm guessing, a somewhat competitive attitude toward the piece. Why should Orwell's underformulated propositions about speech command the world's attention, while an essay like "Is there a Text in the Class" (one of Fish's) moulders in obscurity?
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The familiar elements, after coming here for decades, are important: The narrow light wood boardwalk, the sound of the breakers, the kites that twist in the wind. But the new elements matter too: the just-built seaside pavilion, the dune grasses, the repainted blue and yellow sheds that hold the rental umbrellas.
Last year Mr UD couldn't join us -- he went to Kurdistan -- but I'm looking out at him now from our balcony. He's shivering a bit in his blue folding chair on the beach, having insisted on going in the water. He's reading some absurdly unbeachy book -- a saint's confessions, a chronicle of a failed state.
In this lucky country, at this beautiful beach, failure in any case seems to have been put in the shade, leaving, at seven in the evening, a landscape of happy people, urging their children home to bed.
I'm gazing at the Atlantic, plus a beachful of umbrellas, from the dining table of our condo. Very nice. Very bright.
Between the boardwalk and the beach, there's something new this year: dunes and baby grasses.
Looks a little like the green-pocked rice paddies of Bali.
As with Denice Denton, and now with William Lash, there is always a special level of confusion and distress when an enormously successful, very high-profile university professor goes mad.
A former Bush administration official, after arguing violently with his wife Thursday night, shot and killed his 12-year-old son inside their McLean [Virginia] home, then turned a shotgun on himself and committed suicide...
There are some things to note and speculate about here.
Like a lot of American households, this one had shotguns at the ready. No wonder Lash's wife ran.
Did Lash's extremely strong protective instincts toward his disabled son turn into paranoid violence when he felt that his wife had something in mind for the son's future which distressed Lash? Or was this about their marriage? Was his wife talking about divorce and child custody?
There's also the question of drugs or alcohol.
The first piece of solid evidence that UD's kid, far off in Rio and out of email and phone contact, is okay, has come in!
UD has just received a record of her kiddie credit card transactions.
She's been shopping like a madwoman.
All is well.
Friday, July 14, 2006
This Guy Just Looks...|
...better and better.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer who has taught that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job was convicted in 1996 of disorderly conduct, but the university determined that should not prevent him from teaching.
---milwaukee journal sentinel---
UD Packs Up ...|
...her little family unit tomorrow and leaves for two weeks at what today's New York Times calls "Delaware's way-gay Rehoboth Beach."
Incredibly, a Singalong Sound of Music (faithful readers know UD's attachment to this event) will take place at RB while she's there. Talk about a bloggable moment. UD thanks her sister for noticing the announcement.
Her kid will join les UDs at Rehoboth for the second week, on her return from Brazil and Argentina.
Blogging will retain its feverish pace, even on the beach.
Here's Professor Thomas Petee's winning formation for the Auburn football team, credited with giving Auburn this year's highest academic ranking among Divison I-A public universities.
It all depends on the head guy up there, the academic quarterback (ignore the QB in there; it stands for "QUIZ [Automatic] B"), if you will, in this case Professor Petee, chair of the sociology department. The inexhaustible, unbelievably dedicated Petee took on "more than 250 students [most of them athletes] individually during the 2004-05 academic year," explains the New York Times in a long front-page story this morning. He took them on in "directed reading" courses, a version of independent study in which... well... hell... you know... I mean, I'm sure these guys are working their tails off, but you can't keep some Spirit Week no-shows from describing the department as "a dumping ground for athletes."
Professor Petee is a real winner: He remains chair of the sociology department. The Auburn professor who pointed out what Petee was up to has resigned in embarrassment at having to be associated with Auburn.
Update: As always, it's up to the provost to issue the Official Orwellian Statement:
"I can assure you as provost that academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Auburn University."
Thanks to superdestroyer for the link to the Huntsville Times.
More Thoughts on |
A long time ago, at the University of Chicago, UD and her then-boyfriend, currently Mr UD, went together to some sort of communal supper.
While she was getting her food, UD watched Mr UD talk at some length with a local character who sometimes showed up at these free feeds -- a harmless madman, marooned in highly specific delusions about the Trilateral Commission and similar organizations.
"It was kind of you to listen to him so intently," UD said later. To which the future Mr UD said: "Kind? Not really. I find his mind and his ideas fascinating."
"Huh? You find the ideas of a schizophrenic fascinating?"
"Yes. Don't you?"
"No. Why should I find ... I don't know.. pitiable fanaticism interesting? I mean, if I were a clinician, sure... but humanly this guy's out of the running..."
Over the years, UD and her husband have gone back and forth on this question of whether in human terms there's anything of particular interest in the blankly reiterated arguments, utterly unsusceptible to discussion, let alone reason, of paranoid conspiracy theorists. UD maintains that the essential truth of such minds, whether certifiably insane or merely weird, is their numbing redundancy, the sense you have talking to them that these people are rats in cages, making the well-worn rounds for another audience. Mr UD argues that the very extremity of these rigid minds sheds a bright distorted light on everyone's attempts to make sense of the world. Or something.
The question of what to do with professors who turn out to be fanatic conspiracy theorists involves just this question, I think, of the likelihood of their being interesting -- interesting to students, and interesting to fellow scholars. Kevin Barrett, paranoid du jour, is an extremist who has shut his mind to the efforts of others to reason with him, and to the complexity of the world. Like Ward Churchill, he does not argue, but rather lets you in on the truth, if you're wise enough to listen to him.
As the blogosphere and some of the major media continue to contemplate the latest outing of a group of terrible professors (Frish, Barrett, Churchill again as his university attempts to fire him) at some of America's finest universities, it's important to remind ourselves why they're bad professors, and why these events should function above all to clarify the noble distinction of the university as the only major cultural institution devoted to the exercise of reason.
Much of the culture outside the university lazes about, secure in its belief in astrology, government plots, and the attainment of riches through the state lottery. These are popular views; this is popular culture. The university exists to educate people out of the stupidities of popular culture and into a considered, dispassionate, skeptical, and flexible view of the world. Given the enormous power of popular culture, the university will always be a fragile institution, distrusted and mocked and ignored for its lack of emotionality and its dedication to the pursuit of truth rather than comfort.
The entire integrity of the university rests on this serious truth-seeking, so that any incursion into it by unreasoning fanatics is a deep wound, to itself and to its reputation.
More immediately, each unreasoning fanatic in the university represents a demoralizing uselessness within it, an active, daily erosion of its students' capacity for free and rational thought. As the fanatic vehemently expounds his conspiracies in front of the classroom, some students may mistake his passionate intensity for impressive conviction, his rigid deadly dullness for fascination.
And speaking of fascination, I've always been fascinated by the very well-written psychological study that came out in the 'fifties, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0394703952/102-8002251-6150509?v=glance&n=283155] by Milton Rokeach.
Rokeach realized that in the mental hospital where he worked there were three schizophrenic men, all claiming to be Jesus. What fascinating conversations would ensue if he brought them all together and watched them deal with their rivals? How could they be the only son of God if there were two others in the room? Why not watch the sparks fly among them as they struggled with their sense of their supremacy in the face of these threats to it?
Excellent idea, disappointing outcome. Three rigid minds do not equal a frank and open exchange. The three Christs anxiously danced around one another for awhile but of course were unable to enter into any substance about their belief in their own deity or their sense of competition with rival deities. The had boring, closed, self-obsessed minds, and that was pretty much that.
Drones like Kevin Barrett, with their tawdry little notions, are not madmen; but they share the pathos of all closed minds as they stand their ground through life in a deeply peculiar intellectual wilderness. To put such people into classrooms with intelligent young thinkers is not to challenge students with a new and interesting mind, as the public relations office of the University of Wisconsin wants you to believe. It is to act irresponsibly and insensitively, inviting the student into a fourteen-week-long dialogue with a person incapable of dialogue. It is a cynical waste of everyone's time, a terrible blot on the institution.
Update, via Ann Althouse: A powerful opinion piece by a graduate student in history at Madison.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Ne Quittez Pas...|
...as the French operators say...
UD's life is a nice calm orderly sort of thing, especially during her blissfully uneventful summers. She has, over the years, accustomed herself to days structured around reading, writing, hedge-clipping, and apricot tea, with occasional violence in the form of unannounced visits from neighbors.
UD is not at all prepared for the ordinary bumpity bumpity of most people's lives, in other words, and she falls apart a bit whenever there's the slightest turbulence in hers.
She was explaining this to two sympathetic (pitying?) lunchmates today at Washington's huge, bustling, beautiful Old Ebbitt Grill -- fellow blogstra Rita, of "Nobody Sasses," and fellow GWite and erstwhile blogger Kevan. She was explaining that in the course of the last two days
1.) The main computer in her house imploded.
2.) Her dog got sick (but will probably, says the vet, be okay after they figure out what grotesque thing he ate in order to block his intestines ... AND I SWORE I WOULD NEVER DOG BLOG).
3.) Her daughter and her daughter's fellow choristers had a six hour delay in Atlanta last night before they were able, at one AM, to board their flight to Rio (where they now are).
UD's a bit rattled by it all, and she asks your indulgence as she more slowly than usual finishes her main post for today, whose fascinating title she will now share with you: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti Fallacy. As that Pythonite used to say, with a lurid American accent, Hope ya like it!
But it'll be a bit late arriving, since the UDs are having dinner tonight with their old friends Di and Steve Elkin, just back from Tuscany.
How the Game|
"Lance Brauman resigned Wednesday as assistant track coach at the University of Arkansas, just hours after a federal jury found him guilty for his role in a scheme to use work-study and campus employment programs at a Kansas community college to illegally pay athletes for work they didn't perform.
Brauman, 36, was found guilty of one count of embezzlement, one count of theft and three counts of mail fraud committed while he was a coach at Barton County Community College in Great Bend.
The charges stemmed from his fraudulent use of the federal work-study program and campus jobs to get around a Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference ban on giving athletes full-ride scholarships, and for causing false academic credentials to be sent to the University of Arkansas on an athlete's behalf.
But he was acquitted of three counts of mail fraud involving transcripts sent to Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, for three student-athletes.
Brauman looked down while the verdict was read and shook his head after jurors left the courtroom. The jury took less than seven hours to reach the verdict.
His resignation was e-mailed to the university and accepted, said Kevin Trainor, sports information director for the University of Arkansas.
Brauman's case was the first to go to trial in a scandal that spawned charges against seven Barton County coaches and the athletic director, and led to the firing of the school's president.
Defense attorney Lee Davis said he respected the jury and the jury process, but disagreed with the guilty verdicts. He noted that trial evidence showed the practice of using work-study and campus employment programs to pay athletes was widespread at the college and had started years before Brauman was hired as a then-25-year-old coach.
"Obviously we have a system at Barton County Community College which was poorly run by the president of the college and encouraged by the board of trustees," Davis said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
"As it stands, the board of trustees and the president avoided all responsibility," Davis said. "It is a real tragedy that a relatively young coach has had his career and his life stop because of it — and those responsible for initiating and developing the system are still unaccountable."
U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said the defense that other college employees engaged in similar conduct does not excuse Brauman's illegal activities.
"The implication was that if criminal behavior is widespread it is not really criminal. This jury verdict sets the record straight on that point," Melgren said in a written statement.
Carl Heilman, the new president of Barton County Community College, said in a statement the federal investigation is ongoing and the college respects the court's decision.
"Since the misdeeds at the college were identified, we have taken all possible steps to maintain institutional and academic integrity," Heilman said. "That remains our objective and we believe we are being successful."
The indictment claimed the fraud cost the federal work-study program $16,809 and the campus employment program $109,477 for work that was never performed. The charges alleged the crimes occurred from December 2000 to August 2003, while Brauman was coaching at the Great Bend school.
The mail fraud charges on which Brauman was convicted involved sprinter Tyson Gay, who received an associate's degree from Barton County Community College that allowed him to run at the University of Arkansas.
According to the indictment, Gay received credit from the college for a technical mathematics course he did not complete. The government also accused Brauman of having Brigham Young University mail documents for an algebra course for Gay that was completed by others.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot scheduled sentencing for Oct. 9 and allowed Brauman to remain free on bond until then.
Brauman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 on each mail fraud count; up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the embezzlement count; and up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the theft count.
Federal grand juries have indicted eight employees of Barton County Community College's athletics department. Brauman and former athletic director Neil Elliott are the only ones to take their cases to trial.
Of the six other defendants, former assistant basketball coach Matthew B. Skillman and former basketball coach David "Soupy" Campbell are serving probation after entering pleas. Four others — former basketball coach Ryan Wolf, former assistant basketball coach Shane Hawkins, former track coach Lyles Lashley and former basketball coach Ryan Cross — await sentencing."
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
UD’s kid is
on her way to Rio.
She and her chorus will
do some concerts in
the city, and then go to
Buenos Aires for more
Update on University Class President Bank Robber|
Recall Lehigh University’s online-gambling-indebted class president, who drove to a local bank and robbed it. Here’s the legal outcome, from today‘s Washington Post:
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A former university class president accused of robbing a bank to pay his online poker debts pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of felony robbery.
Poets in their Youth|
So I just played and sang through the English Edition of the Mass for the Dead (Missa Pro Defunctis), Approved Official Text, by Cyr de Brant.
Faithful readers know that my private memorial sessions at the piano for the noted recent dead always feature Mozart’s Requiem, but as I read more and more today about the fascinating Syd Barrett,
I realized that something British would be better.
I don’t pretend to know much about Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett, but I’ve been reading obituaries and other accounts of him, and also reading the excellent lyrics he wrote, and he gets to me. I figure he must have been a major inspiration for Don DeLillo’s novel, Great Jones Street.
He reminds me of Glenn Gould.
Both of them were musical geniuses and mentally ill. Romantically handsome when young, both went ashen and anonymous as they got older and madder and more remote from the world.
You could bundle a writer like Delmore Schwartz into this story too.
I think we find these people compelling not because they’re so different from the rest of us, but because their quick lives express with shattering clarity every life’s passage from youth to age.
Update: Barrett put a poem of James Joyce’s to music.
It’s increasingly clear that DeLillo used Barrett as his main inspiration for Great Jones Street. Among a number of other things, one of Barrett’s albums is Opel; DeLillo’s rock star’s girlfriend is named Opel...
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Duke's Finnerty Convicted...|
...of misdemeanor assault for viciously homophobic behavior on a Georgetown street a few months back. No surprise there.
His sentence is
six months of probation. Judge John Baily also ordered Finnerty to undergo drug and alcohol counseling if required by probation officers. He must also stay out of Washington's Georgetown neighborhood while on probation.
Staying out of Georgetown shouldn't be a problem. As they prepare for his next court appearance, his handlers must have him on the world's shortest leash.
Update: Finnerty's behavior and words that night detailed here. How telling that his lawyers didn't even allow him to testify.
UD thanks Fred for sending her, hot off the press, this year‘s Bulwer Lytton bad writing contest winners.
Here‘s the grand prize winner:
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
And here, in various categories, are some winners and runners-up UD liked:
The king's men breathed heavily under their thick black hoods as they secured the wrists and ankles of prisoner William Tumey of Kent and as the rack's handle began to turn the ropes tightened and William's limbs were slowly stretched in opposite directions until his spine began to pop much like a bag of Redenbachers in a microwave and for something like the time it takes a hummingbird's wings to complete one cycle William smiled and euphorically languished in perfect lumbar alignment.
A single sparkling tear fell from Little Mary's cheek onto the sidewalk, then slid into the storm drain, there to join in its course the mighty waters of the Los Angeles River and, eventually, Long Beach Harbor, with its state-of-the-art container-freight processing facilities.
The widow Hasha Brown, whose agrarian husband had died from an unfortunate accident involving a hoe, leaned on the filigree railing of her balcony, overlooking her lavish, ornate Idaho estate, her dewy breasts protruding from her Pucci-print dressing gown like subterranean tubers saturated and distended from the vernal rains.
Despite the vast differences in their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.
Some Choice Comments|
From Ann Althouse’s Readers
About Kevin Barrett
Among the categories of response, there are the embarrassed and angry insiders:
(1.) I am embarrassed for my University.
And there are those who point out that once you open your university to dreck, it’s dumpster time:
(1.) [W]hen is the University of Wisconsin hiring a Professor of Astrology?
(2.) I'm not sure why the UW is allowing this. My current UW (Washington) got rid of an anthropology graduate student who was teaching what basically amounted to pseudoscience paleoanthropology. Such as that Homo erectus had domesticated cheetahs (!) and was using them to hunt with. The decision to can him was basically driven by the department who, rightfully I think, is obliged to maintain some control over the content of their classes.
(3.) [T]his is exactly why there is so much disrespect for academics in general. A true profession polices its own ranks in its own interests. Why then do the UW professors not speak out against allowing this putz to teach?…No wonder people bitch about tuition... especially if it's paying a salary to this guy. I think the moon landing was faked.. Can I teach at UW? I know who the gunman on the grassy knoll was...Can I teach at UW? I know the Jews control the media... Can I teach at UW? I think the holocaust was faked.... Can I teach at UW?
There are those who feel free to assume that other professors and administrators at the university agree with Barrett:
(1.) How does a guy like this even get past the job interview? The only answer seems to be that someone in the UW administration believes this, or something like it. So, the real problem is not Barrett, who is at least a visible and identifiable loon. The problem is the loose screw you can't see.
(2.) What do you mean "they couldn't fire him and make him a martyr"? So, it is better to waste public funds and let him promote this garbage? The Provost didn't fire him because at heart he doesn't really have a problem with what the guy is saying…How is it that the leaders of UW allowed such a corrosive and ignorant culture to develop that people in positions of authority would come to believe hiring this guy was a good idea? Because behind closed doors and in their most private moments the powers that be at UW don't think what the guy is saying is untrue much less beyond the pale. That is the conclusion I draw from this. If the people at UW don't like people drawing that conclusion, then take some responsibility and stop doing things like this.
And there are those looking at the bigger picture:
What I think is most interesting is how this will play out locally. Doyle is in a very tight race for Governor and has been trying to distance himself from this loon...but the UW decision that this guy stay on the payroll, at taxpayer's expense, right up to (and beyond) election day means that Barrett is a political issue that is not going away. It is also bound to hurt the incumbent and could prove to be the nail in Doyle's coffin. Since the chances are nil that Barrett will be re-hired for winter/spring 2007 (even the UW isn't that dense), his ultimate legacy could returning the warmongering GOP to the WI governor's mansion.
Repeat after me:
I have a doctorate
I have a doctorate
UD’s Diploma Mill Stories…
…are so yesterday.
Still, it’s a fun subject, and there’s a fun diploma mill story currently hypnotizing the British public.
The High Court case is expected to last a week and Mr McKenna is due to take the stand on Tuesday.
Be glad you live in the United States (unless you’re one of UD’s British readers, of course), where you can identify people who buy bogus diplomas without having to worry that they’ll sue you.
Why was Norman Bates...|
…still practicing medicine?
'Yesterday's horror came after two previous suicide tries by Bartha, an emergency-room doctor who has worked at Lenox Hill Hospital as well as Phelps and Mount Vernon in Westchester.
Columbia Shows You|
How it Ought to be Done.
The University of Wisconsin
Shows You How Not to Do It.
What does a university do when it has a seriously bad program or department? And when, because of its weakened state, that program or department makes an appointment that makes the university a national laughingstock?
The comatose program at University of Wisconsin which blundered its way into hiring Kevin Barrett has been proudly endorsed by the university’s administration, which gave out with one of those we’re exposing our lucky students to a diversity of viewpoints speeches in supporting the appointment not of a controversialist but an idiot.
Now Barrett has launched his own Ward Churchill tour of the nation’s media, broadcasting far and wide the humiliation of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.
First stop: Hannity and Colmes. Ann Althouse reports:
Colmes begins and tries to present Barrett in a fairly positive light by bringing out the facts that the course is not required, the 9/11 conspiracy theory will take up "only about one week" of the course, that the students will not be required to "regurgitate" his theory, and that he means to inspire "critical thinking." (Smarter students, I note, may want to regurgitate.)
Columbia University shows you what Madison should have done.
Despite objections from some professors, alumni, and students, Columbia University has temporarily suspended its Institute for African Studies, one of eight regional institutes at its School of International and Public Affairs.
Maintain a charade long enough, and you make the world safe for clowns. Act swiftly, and you can reconstitute a program in a way that does credit to everyone.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Denice Denton’s suicide was, like most suicides...|
...mysterious. But some suicides - or suicide
attempts - are extremely easy to understand.
The one in New York City this morning,
for instance, in which a doctor blew himself
and his entire building up (he seems to have
survived the blast), was apparently an act
'The first two floors of the four story building were occupied by a doctor's office and the top two were converted into a duplex apartment owned by Dr. Nicholas Bartha and his wife.
If he couldn’t have the building, she couldn’t have it either.
To the latest brace of unbalanced professors, we must add psychologist Deborah Frisch.
We’ll consider her only briefly, since it does the mind little good to linger on any specific psychopath. If it’s to your taste, you can view the details of her mind here, following the links provided.
Although she has resigned, Frisch’s name continues to appear on the University of Arizona psychology department web page. Every undeleted moment is a moment of infamy.
What matters isn’t the particulars -- this Kevin Barrett, that Deborah Frisch, that Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen. What matters is that, in an age of new technologies flushing out the very worst among America’s professors, we focus upon the betrayal of our students by our universities.
Our students come to the classroom at places like the excellent public universities where Barrett and Frisch taught naively. Very naively. They don’t know and don’t care about our articles and professional associations and conference presentations. They care about our knowledge and our teaching ability. They assume -- they have every right to assume -- that the person they meet at the front of the room on the first day of class has the full faith and credit of the university behind her.
It’s heartbreaking to read the comments that students who’ve been betrayed by their universities write at Rate My Professors. These students almost always begin by mentioning their excitement about taking the course, their interest in the subject. They then flatly state that exposure to this professor has killed forever their interest and excitement. A series of questions usually follows. Why is this person teaching? Why does this person get paid to teach? Why is a university classroom like this one? I thought it would be different, going to a university…
It’s not about the professors themselves apologizing or quitting or whatever -- the sort of people we’re talking about are incapable of understanding what they have done. It’s about the universities that hired them making formal apologies to their students, and vowing to do everything they can to avoid appointing people like them again. Universities unable to distinguish between academic freedom and academic malfeasance need to do some thinking. The technology of exposure isn’t going anywhere.
Update: Frisch's name has now been removed from the university's faculty website.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
An Upstanding Friend|
So here's UD's old friend
all emblazoned in today's
New York Times Magazine --
in that strange interview feature
which always pictures its subject
He gave UD and Mr. UD
an advance copy of
his book, The End of Iraq,
at the wedding of UD's niece.
He discusses the book
in the interview. Also
his father, John Kenneth
Galbraith, who just died,
age 97. UD sat next to
Galbraith's widow, Kitty, at
the wedding. She's certainly
frail, but she's still
in the game.
Man, I Don’t Like Hummers Either, But…|
MARY GORDON: And the greed that this, to tell you the truth, to see people driving Hummers sometimes makes me feel so sick that, you know, I want to just drive them off the road and say, okay, in the name of Christ, in the name of peace and justice, I'm just going to shoot you because you have to get out of your car now. We live in a very stupid, banal, gross, greedy and rather disgusting culture.
University of Minnesota’s Relationship|
With TCF Financial Corporation
Now Officially Fellatial
The University of Minnesota’s prostitution continues apace.
In exchange for paying for much of the university’s new football stadium, TCF Financial gets to harass ticket holders with debit card offers to its heart’s content (ticket holder addresses are supposed to be private, but the university is giving them out to its special friend), plus much, much more (UD comments parenthetically along the way in what follows, from the Star Tribune):
The $35 million deal that TCF Financial Corp. struck with the University of Minnesota this spring to put its name on the Gophers' new football stadium also created an array of other campus benefits for the bank that are just now coming to light. [Just now. Students and faculty seem to have been kept in the dark about this until it was a done deal.]
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Sorry, but those commenters of mine…|
…who wrote sympathetically about university search committees that come up with appointments like Kevin Barrett … the commenters who argued that it’s difficult to tell from paperwork whether you’ve got someone certifiable on your hands … are going to have to rethink their position.
I was tentatively sympathetic to these arguments, actually. Times being what they are, madmen may pass, fools may rush in…
But Kevin Barrett, recently hired by the University Wisconsin, Madison, to teach Islam, represents an instantly identifiable case of moronic paranoia. The search committee that rejected countless applicants for a teaching position in a sensitive and important subject in order to choose a man who signs a letter to the Governor of Wisconsin "Steve Nass, Reichschancellor, Thoughtcrime Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison" (Nass is one of Barrett’s many enemies.) is a search committee crying out for help.
Because of this committee, the state of Wisconsin must now contort itself to flush out of the body politic a pitiable conspiracy theorist who‘s about to teach at its flagship university.
This committee should write to the university community justifying or apologizing for what they did. And they should explain how Barrett’s being a University of Wisconsin Madison graduate played into this. Who taught him? Was his mentor on the search committee? Did he get preferential hiring treatment because he went to school there? What becomes of arguments that one can’t tell much about someone from mere paperwork when that person graduated from your school?
Meanwhile, though, we’ve got the correspondence of Barrett to the Governor to delectate… I mean, those of us interested in language and its uses have to appreciate -- for analytic purposes -- the willingness of Governor Doyle to make public Barrett’s text:
Gov. Jim Doyle is hinting that a controversial lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may be unfit to teach.
It is indeed an issue of academic freedom. The state university wants this man to teach its students. It chose him above all others.
Roman Hruska grasped this sort of situation very well during the G. Harrold Carswell controversy more than thirty years ago. Carswell, who Richard Nixon attempted to place on the Supreme Court, was by all accounts a mediocrity. To this charge, the Nebraska Senator responded: "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. Aren't they entitled to a little representation and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that. I doubt we can. I doubt we want to."
Similarly, you might argue that a lot of paranoid cretins in this country are going without professors to teach them…
[via ann althouse]
Update: I bow to Ben Wallace, a commenter over at Ann Althouse, who understands far more about this than I:
'I suspect the real Kevin Barrett was killed by the CIA or foreign terrorist groups in 2004 or 2005, shortly after defending his dissertation. The original Barrett mentioned the possibility of a conspiracy at a bar a couple of times in early 2002; such ramblings are how the CIA targets people for "replacement." What they do is find a left-leaning critic of the government and replace them with a plant who can unleash political controvery at will. There are actually undercover agents in all 50 states who can be activated at any time. In this case, the operative ("Kevin Barrett") was activated to help the Republicans continue to control the WI state legislature. Control of the state legislatures is obviously necessary to ensure the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is successful. The next step of the plan is to activate the conspiracy theorists in Oregon. This will inevitably lead to the universities supporting the conspiracy theorists, thus providing a platform for Republicans to galvanize control of the Oregon state legislature.
Second Update: Go back to Althouse's updated comment thread for some reliable sounding insider information about Barrett and others.
Third Update: A little more information on this increasingly bizarre situation, from the Wisconsin State Journal:
Professor Muhammad Memon said he usually teaches the class himself, but he is going on sabbatical this fall.
So Ralph Luker’s right -- he said in a comment here that Barrett was the only candidate. How’d that happen?
Also - Professor Memon feels good about Barrett’s teaching. But can we trust his feelings? Here are three comments about Memon from Rate My Professors. And yes, that's very few comments, and you don’t want to generalize. But the content of these comments makes them worth reproducing.
Overall ranking for this professor: lowest possible.
before taking his class, i was really interested in it and afterwards, i felt as though i really did not learn much at all. i thought he was unapproachable, and did not really have organization to his lectures.. his tangents made me feel really lost, and no matter how hard i tried to pay attenion, i kept zoning out every time.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Snapshots from Home|
The Millionaires of Garrett Park
My mother, who as you know lives down the street from UD in Garrett Park, Maryland, read me this short piece from the July 5 Washington Post. It’s about a neighborhood adjacent to Garrett Park -- Garrett Park Estates.
I know the writer a little -- he’s a reporter for the Post, his daughter’s a classmate and friend of UD’s daughter, and he rented a house in Garrett Park before buying one in the Garrett Park Estates. Here he describes Garrett Park Estates:
The cherry trees are dying faster than people can replace them, so the homes reveal more of themselves each year: humble brick ramblers, built in the 1950s on postage-stamp lots a quick walk from Holy Cross church. The neighborhood is largely untouched by the wave of knockdowns and jumbo additions swamping Montgomery County. It still feels a little like the '50s.
“Ha!” said my mother, as she finished reading this to me. “Millionaires!”
“Well,” said I; “it’s true. There are lots of millionaires in Garrett Park.”
My mother looked puzzled. When she moved here, in 1961, Garrett Park was an enclave of federal employees and their hippie spawn. She hasn’t really registered the fact that the $30,000 house she and my father bought is now worth $800,000. Or that many of the people she knows here are worth at least a million dollars.
Unanimity on Shleifer|
With Yale’s federal grant accounting practices undergoing scrutiny, it’ll be interesting to see how Harvard’s own high-profile grant scandal -- the Andrei Shleifer case -- turns out. There’s movement on the Shleifer matter, as today’s Harvard Crimson reports:
The professional future of Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer ’82 rests in the hands of Harvard’s top officials, who are weighing a committee report issued last month on the economist’s alleged role in defrauding the U.S. government while he served as an adviser to Russia, people close to the committee said.
I find the fact of unanimity on the committee of interest, though I’m not sure what it means. If you ask me, the case against Shleifer is clear once you look at it with any care. Maybe the committee saw that too.
The same issue of the Crimson brings us up to date on Yale’s problems:
Forty-five million dollars in federal grants to Yale University are under investigation by the federal government amid concerns about inadequate accounting practices at the school in New Haven.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
Courtesy of Today's Washington Post.
(Faithful readers won’t be too surprised by the following account of UD’s town’s Fourth of July. And no - I watched the parade but managed to miss the naked pig guy. My brother, a parade judge, came home grumbling about “some naked guy” in the parade, but of course I didn’t believe him.)
A Garrett Park Fourth: The Barbecue That Was No Picnic
UD, a thirty year resident of the town, knows Garrett Park intimately. Garrett Park doesn't cotton to recent immigrants instructing it in inclusivity. Before long we will see the tail end of this guy again, as he goes wee wee wee wee in search of another place to live.
[hat tip: kim nerres]
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
As We Bid Farewell to Ken Lay,|
Fox News Tells Us How to Avoid His Fate.
Ken Lay's Heart Attack: A Case of Death By Stress?
If you keep this handy "strategies" list in mind, plus cut back on your destruction of America’s corporate sector, you should be okay.
Ken Lay, |
George Washington University Lecturer ,
Has Died of a Heart Attack
Philip Rieff, A Curious Character…|
…has died. Exactly like Susan Sontag, to whom he was once married, he was a titanic, uncompromising personality, an almost comically intense intellectual, devoted to doom-laden cultural pronouncements. Although Sontag had a clearer writing style, she never ventured far from the haughty oracular ways of the University of Chicago professor with whom she fell in love when she was a teenager.
The conventional reading of these two is that after their passionate intellectual/sexual courtship and marriage, they experienced an archetypal philosophical split, she tearing off in the direction of personal experimentation, avant-gardism, Euro boho whatever; and he clutching up and clinging ever more fiercely to conservative moral pieties.
Read Rieff and Sontag with care and you can never buy this. Both (as Camille Paglia, for instance, discerned in Sontag) were always cerebral mandarins, defenders of the best that’s been thought and written, defenders of moral and aesthetic judgment. Equally tending toward the extreme, they both at various points in their lives took absurd political positions.
I think, on balance, Rieff’s contribution will prove more lasting. His intellectual influence is already much more powerful. He had greater depth and focus than she, correctly identifying the Freudian legacy as the central catastrophe of modern culture. His extensively elaborated social type, “psychological man,” with his genial, high-functioning vacuity, represents an enormous contribution to our self-knowledge. Rieff’s sensitive analysis of the “up front” society, in which cruel, self-satisfying acting out replaces a thoughtful politics, introduced us to Denice Denton’s tormentors at Santa Cruz long before they were born.
Nonstop Visual Excitement|
'One DVD series, The U: Uncut, offers video tours of 50 colleges, including scenes of dirty dorm rooms and tipsy students, as well as students talking about how much access they have to professors.'
From a New York Times article this morning about campus tour guides.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
A Quotation from Thoreau|
On the Fourth of July
America is said to be the arena on which the battle of freedom is to be fought; but surely it cannot be freedom in a merely political sense that is meant. Even if we grant that the American has freed himself from a political tyrant, he is still the slave of an economical and moral tyrant. Now that the republic - the res-publica- has been settled, it is time to look after the res-privata- the private state - to see, as the Roman senate charged its consuls, "ne quid res-privata detrimenti caperet," that the private state receive no detriment.
[“Life Without Principle”]
Le Cheval de Chant|
Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber finds a spectacular mixed metaphor (UD’s always looking for them):
France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune.
As always, the world of sports is your best bet for these things.
Two community activists, pondering the chancellor’s death, write a j’accuse that makes Santa Cruz sound like the pettiest, most provincial, of American towns.
[T]his community blamed her, ridiculed her and threatened her over these issues, many of which existed before her tenure.
There’s a pathos in the simplicity of that last sentence.
There are a number of paradoxes here worth noting, beyond the obvious one of a community that boasts an exemplary commitment to inclusiveness hounding a high-profile gay person shamelessly.
There’s also, for instance, the fact that the most notable act of respect and courtesy extended to this woman before her death came from the reviled George Bush:
In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Denton to the National Medal of Science charged with selecting the nation's highest award.
Snapshots from Home|
UD’s about to go down the street to her mother’s house and watch the Garrett Park Fourth of July parade with her. They’ll sit on folding chairs at the end of her driveway.
This year, UD’s brother is a parade judge. UD, as always, will chronicle the parade, plus the town’s many other Independence Day events, for the town newspaper, the Garrett Park Bugle.
She will also try to blog some of this activity, so stay tuned.
Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology … recalled a telephone conversation this month in which Dr. Denton did not sound like herself.
This comment was part of an interview Nancy Hopkins gave around the time of Denton's memorial service. It's included in the New York Times account of the service. And it points to the immense difficulty of suicidal situations, especially those involving people one‘s accustomed to thinking of as strong and independent.
In an opinion piece about Denton’s death, and suicide in general, a Santa Cruz-based mental health director writes:
Each of us can help, by not falling for the false representations of psychiatric treatment, by checking in with those who may be at risk, and by acknowledging in ourselves when we may need assistance.
Hopkins is a professor of biology, so presumably she's educated in the outward signs of suicide risk. Even in a mere phone conversation, she noted Denton’s dire condition and found it “very upsetting.” I’m guessing that, in the weeks before that conversation, a number of people who dealt directly with Denton at Santa Cruz picked up plenty of still more upsetting signs.
What did Hopkins do? What did anyone do? Denton’s own partner apparently felt Denton was well enough for the partner to leave her in order to go on a business trip.
Hopkins recognized in Denton what Boris Pasternak recognized in the suicides he knew in his day:
[W]e have no conception of the inner torture which precedes suicide. … The continuity of … inner life is broken… personality is at an end. … What is certain is that they all suffered beyond description, to the point where suffering had become a mental sickness. And, as we bow in homage to their gifts and to their bright memory, we should bow compassionately before their suffering.
Monday, July 03, 2006
One to Watch|
So far, everyone’s just carrying this short AP story:
Federal authorities are investigating how Yale accounts for millions of dollars in government research grants, school officials said Monday.
It could turn into a long story.
An Ad for Presidential Practice Incorporated|
UD recognizes that the often excellent Chronicle of Higher Education is the New York Times of academia (though it’s experiencing serious competition from Inside Higher Education), but its take on the suicide of UC Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton is a bit much. Let us do a close reading of the piece, which soothes its academic readers into a false sense of martyrdom.
The rhetoric of the first paragraph sketches a straightforward military defeat under an unrelenting barrage:
Denice D. Denton came under fire immediately and often during her 16-month tenure as chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz, which ended with her apparent suicide late last month when she fell to her death from the roof of a San Francisco building.
Yes indeed, your first paragraph should encapsulate your tale, but here the writer has set Denton up on an exposed cliff top, pummeled her with machine gun fire for sixteen months, and watched her fall, able to endure no more.
Recall that Denton’s troubles at Santa Cruz were partly of her own making (she had a bad eye for financial symbolism at a time of system-wide corruption), partly farcical (those dumb skits the students put on), and for the most part something she should have been able to anticipate. Compare what she put up with for little more than a year (much of which was spent on various forms of leave -- again, remember that she was, pretty much from the beginning of her appointment, simply not on campus) with, say, Elizabeth Hoffman’s tenure at the University of Colorado. No contest.
In addition to the harsh criticism, which came from the typical antagonists of public-university leaders — student activists, employee unions, alumni, state lawmakers — the chancellor was a pariah to some conservative bloggers as well.
Laying it on thick here in an effort to build up her martydom, and, by extension, the martyrdom of all college presidents. These are the usual suspects, especially if you’re in a public system. And why should a few bloggers be any sort of icing on the cake? Come now.
Ironically, Ms. Denton, 46, an accomplished electrical engineer and champion of women in science who had made diversity in academics a focus of her career, was also harangued recently by student protesters decrying "institutional racism and sexism."
This isn’t ironic. The Chronicle, like Chancellor Denton herself, appears to believe that her personal history of activism on behalf of diversity would shield her from the merry pranksters at Santa Cruz. This would only become irony with a group that had a politics. You don‘t get irony with narcissism.
The article then rehearses for a paragraph or two Denton’s challenges -- political and financial -- at her new job, and concludes by quoting a university spokesperson: "The atmosphere…was intimidating and disrespectful."
Disrespectful it certainly was -- in the manner of student journalists at UD’s university sometimes writing its president’s name not Trachtenberg, but Tractorbutt -- yet this is to be expected, since you’ve taken a job that involves dealing with a certain amount of juvenility. I’d say it was moderately intimidating -- nothing a woman like Denton, as she has been described, couldn’t take.
The Chronicle then goes on to list Denton’s various medical conditions, some of which may be linked to depression. This only begs questions about whether she disclosed to university trustees that she was subject to life-threatening depression, whether she was on medication to control for it, etc.
And it does no good for the Chronicle next to quote obscure stupid bloggers who wrote cruel things about her suicide. This is as much a fringe phenomenon as the campus pranksters, and it weakens the effort to make her a martyr by, again, laying it on too thick.
There’s more detail now of her having bungled various other problems, particularly a dustup over military recruitment on campus. Here the inescapable bottom line is not that the pressure was unacceptable, but that she was unready and/or inept.
But as to her mental state:
If Ms. Denton was personally shaken by the furor, it was not apparent during a late-January visit she made to The Chronicle. In a freewheeling and upbeat discussion with reporters and editors, she said her response to the outrage over hidden or unreported compensation was "Message received."
The article now ends with this:
A university president's job is "infinitely more complex today" because of the expectations of "vastly different constituencies," said Ann J. Duffield, a co-founder of the Presidential Practice, a company that provides advice to university presidents. "These have almost become undoable positions."
I love this sort of shit. Note where the woman works. She makes her money advising university presidents. Where does that money come from, I wonder? The president’s pocket?
What do you expect her to say? “Luckily, most university presidents, with the help of a large staff of assistants, can handle their problems on their own! I look forward to the day when Presidential Practice goes out of business!”
Course Evaluations Again|
Via Arts and Letters Daily:
'Professor Pressured To Sleep With Student
FAYETTEVILLE, AR—Alan Gilchrist, an associate professor of English literature at the University of Arkansas infamous for his tough grading standards and dry lecturing style, was coerced into sleeping with an undergraduate on Monday in order to earn a good course evaluation. "My tenure's on the line here, so I allowed a student to take advantage of me," said an emotional Gilchrist of the experience, which he hopes will earn him at least six "very much enjoyed" responses on the eight-item evaluation form. "I told myself it would be just this once, and that it would be over soon, and that it wouldn't be that bad, but I was used. And I can't stop showering." Sources said that the unidentified student is one of the most popular and charismatic on campus, raising questions about possible abuse of power.'
Site of UD’s |
Mother Theresa Thing
This is the Bradley Estate.
Continue walking along the lawn
and you get to the wedding site,
where, when signaled by the minister,
UD and her Joyce-themed spawn
read the Mother Theresa thing.
The tree in the upper right-hand corner
is a gorgeous sycamore, currently in full bloom.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
This is from Vanity Fair. It’s an update of a story UD’s been following. She even wrote a poem about it. Anyway, it’s sad. The best-laid plans of mice and men, etc., etc. …
“Look," Joseph Jacobs is assuring me, "no one starts out wanting a 30,000-square-foot home. You say, 'I want this and that' and then you get up to 30,000 square feet."
Told you it was sad. RIP. And… not that I like to blow my own horn, but… I did , as mentioned, write a poem about Jacobs when I first read that ill-fated Times article… and, well, I’d sure as hell like to run it by you again… So… here it is!!
To Greenwich, From J.M. Jacobs
Let us not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments! Wealth is not wealth
Which falters when it escalation finds,
Or fails its tennis courts to enbubble:
No! 'tis an ever-fixed indicator,
And e’en four kitchens is not too much trouble;
It is the star to every golf simulator,
Whose worth exceeds what measures might be taken.
Twice the size of Neverland, it beguiles the assessors
Who with their mystic numerals come;
Its long façade makes enviers of lessers
Whose real estate dominance it dooms.
If this be error and the town finds guilt
My legal counsel assures me it’ll still get built.
Don’t Know if There are Any…|
…Derrideans left on the Duke University English faculty, but it’d be fun to see one of them put the following text sous rature (under erasure, that is):
"On Friday, June 23, my son J.D. and I were involved in a boating accident on Hyco Lake in Person County. It occurred as we were trying to navigate our way back to shore in dark, rainy conditions. The boat ran ashore, and I suffered a laceration on my head, which was bleeding. Because of the remote location of where the boat was aground, J.D. had to swim for roughly an hour, and ran to several houses before finding a home with someone to get me help. Upon the arrival of the EMS team, I was taken to the emergency room at Person County Memorial hospital and received several stitches in my head. I walked out of the emergency room on my own that night. I am thankful that the incident involved only one boat, that no one was seriously hurt and that my son was able to locate an occupied home on the lake with gracious people willing to assist us. The injury was not serious and I was in my office working today."
What happens if we deconstruct this heroic first-person account, provided by Duke's athletic director, Joe Alleva? Does anything of note need to be teased out?
Oh. Here’s the Fort Wayne paper:
Alleva needed 42 stitches to his head after a boating accident Friday on a Person County lake. His son, former Duke baseball player J.D. Alleva, was charged with operating a boat while impaired.
And listen -- isn’t alcohol the the insistent aporia (to stay with Derrida) at the heart of Duke? Cast your mind back over its many scandals of late, starting with the lacrosse team. Virtually all of the scandals starred souped up boozers doing incredibly fucked up things. What is the problem down there? Is Durham that dull? Is Duke a gulag of desperate vodka-swillers? Why are all these people soaking in it??
Getting Around a Roadblock|
Well-intentioned, but I think somewhat wrong-headed essay in a recent Inside Higher Ed about the dehumanizing cruelty university presidents and chancellors endure, and the way this must have played into Denice Denton’s leap from San Francisco’s highest apartment building.
Because they are symbols of power, mere things, college presidents are not recognized as having feelings or basic human rights. As did Denice Denton, they find themselves dehumanized. Who among us can survive this kind of treatment unscathed?
Denice Denton, like many college heads, was on occasion at the receiving end of nasty and juvenile behavior, and I’m sure it scathed her. I’m also pretty sure it didn’t drive her to suicide.
She herself, after all, as the IHE writer points out, was capable of cruelty to university presidents:
[T]he kind of devaluing language that, for instance, then-Dean Denton directed at [Larry Summers] after he spoke about women and science… must have been a bit galling to Summers, if not actually hurtful. Apparently, like most others, Denton was unable to see that the president has two bodies — his own and his institution’s, and that the former when pricked does bleed.
Indeed, scathed though I’m sure he’s been by turmoil far crueler than Denton had to endure, Summers seems to be toddling along just fine.
The problem I have with editorials like the one in Inside Higher Ed is that they get very close to saying that women can’t take the heat. I don’t see any male college presidents throwing themselves off buildings, and I only see one female doing it. Yet most of the non-suicides endure pretty steady cruelty and turmoil. Think of what Duke’s president’s been going through for months. It’s characteristic of university leaders that they are seen as symbols of the institution more than human beings with feelings. Everyone knows this, and knows that it goes with the territory. Anger about what’s going on at Duke is going to be directed at its president, even though in fact the particular man running the place only very recently came to Duke. That’s the way it goes.
“News of a suicide,” writes one blogger, “is a roadblock in our everyday understanding of life. How to get around it? Everybody’s got a different method. Make a joke. Blame somebody. Try to sound clever. Declare a political position. What is this crazy thing that has happened? How can we categorize and sanitize it?”
Better to resist the temptation to categorize Denton's as caused by social cruelty.
and Montana State, Bozeman...
...have drawn even the distracted attention of UD in the last couple of days. There's something astounding about an academic department established by the plagiarists, of the plagiarists, and for the plagiarists. The chair of mechanical engineering at OU has just left, taking his copied-from-others textbooks with him, and the rest of his merry crew will leave soon too.
You may recall the scandal that started all of this, involving scads of engineering students at OU plagiarizing everything in sight under the benign tutelage of these boys.
MSU has also managed to startle UD, who after all is pretty jaded. Like most American universities with really serious sports programs, MSU boasts the standard roster of normal all-Americans plus miscreants, misfits, and morons; but it also has multiple numbers of murderers dumping bodies in the university's agronomy school. Wow.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Spent the day at the Bradley Estate at the marriage of my niece. Found myself for once unable to complain about Boston's weather, since this outdoor wedding took place in clear air, soft wind, and all sorts of warmth. UD did her Mother Theresa reading (see below) in bare feet, since the bridesmaids all came out onto the big flat lawn barefoot.
Hell, bare feet seem appropriate for MT -- very much her aesthetic.
Do you know Philip Larkin's poem, "The Whitsun Weddings"? He says there pretty much what I have to say about weddings, especially the bit about "all the power/That being changed can give."
Kevin Barrett is a just-hired part-time instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Maybe Ann Althouse will provide local color for this one.
Barrett's eager to share with his students and the world his personal 9/11 Report, which reveals that the American government did it to create religious armageddon. Or something.
It's ol' Ward all over again, except this guy, Barrett, isn't tenured and will be given the old heave-ho before you know it.
The question with Barrett -- as with Churchill -- has to do with search committees at some of our better universities. Where do the people who choose obvious idiots to teach intelligent university students -- at taxpayer expense -- come from? How do universities produce search committees with these outcomes?