Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Worth His Weight in Gold|
'As an audiotape spread on the Internet, Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged Wednesday using a phrase considered derogatory to Cajuns but said he doesn't condone such language and merely was repeating something a friend told him.
Wonder what he'll call the Bammers when he ditches them...
UD Discovers She Loves To Teach
Tony Grafton, in a comment about my In Her Latter-Days UD Discovers She Loves to Teach series, talks about teaching's "immense rewards." One's love of teaching obviously lies in those rewards, yet it's hard to talk about them without sounding sappy or grandiose or self-serving.
Or presumptuous. My literature class rewards may share nothing with your astronomy class rewards. Maybe we both experience the I'm successfully conveying information and ideas and even a sort of intellectual ethos to a number of the people sitting in front of me reward, and that's a biggie. But there's more.
For me, it has to do with being given glimpses of unguarded humanity. Students tend to be blithely, surpassingly, curious. Their faces as I lecture on (to take an example from today's teaching) James Joyce's story, "The Dead" are open and avid; you can see their brains churning ... Some of them, I can tell, are preparing to challenge my interpretations ("Why are we dumping on Gabriel Conroy's after-dinner speech?" asked one. "It's a model of its kind."); others are scanning a page of the story for examples of figures of speech to add to those I've mentioned; yet others simply gaze at me in a relaxed, pensive way.
This last group can be very quiet, class after class, just looking and listening. When, eventually, one of them, from the back row, raises a tentative hand and comes out with something rather profound, it's an enormous pleasure.
This is unguarded, unencumbered humanity, learning its way more deeply into life. I get to be present at the birth of some of this learning. At least that's how it sometimes feels. And that feeling is a spectacular reward.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Here's Another Clear Thinker...|
...on university matters. (I'll do a little prose-dusting for him here and there because I can't help it.) It's from an opinion piece in the Oregon Statesman Journal, about the proposed education budget for the state's public university system:
Oregon has proven itself a state where a significant number of its residents apparently do not value higher education for themselves or their offspring and are therefore not disposed to support it. It may be a working class mentality, it may be a negative reaction to academia ("Eggheads") [Fine, eggheads. But why capitalized, and why stuck in a parenthesis?], it may be due to a lack of vision among the general population about the difference higher education can make in a person's job and career prospects. Whatever the reason or reasons [just go with "reasons"], the disposition of so many Oregonians not to advocate for the support of higher education in Oregon is probably why so many of the current members of the Legislature are dragging their feet on the governor's proposed budget. In fact, it has been reported that a number of them view the proposed increases as unrealistic and unsustainable. We may have to settle for a low [national] ranking and give up on trying to keep up with the "Joneses" [Drop the quotation marks.]. The alternative for those who espouse the increases being to move to a state where research on the subject discloses more support and a higher ranking! [Number of problems here: "Espouses" is the wrong word. "Support" would be better. Then when you get into the "being to..." formulation it's just awkward -- you end up with a sentence fragment. Rewrite more simply: "Supporters of tax increases should move to a state..." And drop the exclamation point!!]
If the salary secrecy is true, it's pretty surprising. Public employees' salaries are usually public, aren't they?
Anyway, the man speaks a basic truth: The taxpayers of certain states - Florida, Alabama, and apparently Oregon - don't care much about higher education. Their legislatures tend to mirror this.
"Flem Snopes is running Tuscaloosa."|
Here's a man after UD's own heart -- a literate and witty columnist in Mississippi who knows how to think about Saban and Alabama:
There is a reason that you pay attention to serious fiction writers. Sometimes they are ahead of the curve and like John on the Isle of Patmos, where he penned Revelation, they warn us in poetic and dramatic ways of ills to come. Mississippi, last in almost everything to do with money, is pretty much first in the written word and one William Faulkner saw this thing coming. In a number of novels he talked of the Snopes clan, a greedy breed of rapacious and oveweening- gain- at- all -cost folks come to power after the civil war. In Faulkner's imagination, they were the ones who would do anything to win, fairness and honor be especially damned.
"He says no.|
You talk to him."
'Gov. Sarah Palin has asked Jim Hayes [scroll down to "92 Counts..."] to resign his post as a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. It’s a request that Hayes reportedly declined.
---fairbanks daily news-miner---
Monday, January 29, 2007
Love of Teaching
Gradually, over a number of years, I noticed that teaching was more and more often a pleasure. I'd walk back to my office, after a discussion of some novel or short story or poem, buzzing. My extremities tingled. My brain sparkled. I replayed in my head funny or challenging things students had said.
Students weren't abstractions now; they were intellectually and emotionally receptive people whom I found moving.
Part of it I think was simply that I got older -- far enough away from my students that their intensities were at once familiar, an occasion of wistfulness, and objectively fascinating. I could see with some clarity what preoccupied them, and how the literature we read played into those preoccupations. But I could also see them breaking away from their preoccupations, engrossed in the selfless pleasure of aesthetic experience and analysis; and I knew that when this happened I was witnessing actual, real-time education.
Part of it was my own growing clarity about the books and the range of ideas I loved. I saw that I offered a modernist sensibility - a delight in complex and beautiful language, an admiration for the philosophical seriousness of this sort of literature, a conviction that difficulty was a hallmark of valuable art and thought.
And of course part of it was practice. I'd been at this for a couple of decades; it was time I began to figure out how to do it.
How UD, Late in the Day,|
Came to Love Teaching
Part The First
I began like most Ph.D.'s, tossed in front of podiums with no training. I seem to recall having been a teaching assistant in a seminar (on William Blake?), but I don't think I learned anything from it.
I'm grateful for that thrownness-into-teaching. Most forms of teacher training are stupid and degrading. They convey bogus information, and they make you self-conscious about what you're doing.
I never disliked teaching, but like a lot of academics I thought of myself as a writer and researcher first, a teacher second. As everyone knows, the rewards in most of academia lie in publishing. Virtually none involve teaching. Showing too much facility and pleasure in the teaching line can cost you tenure.
If I were a student paying a lot of money for my degree and serious about my studies, I'd be insulted to realize that the largest incentive offered my professors by the university was less and less teaching, less and less need to deal with students in any way. I'd be irritated that some of my professors' most profound emotions through their teaching careers -- fear, envy, pride, disdain -- revolved around their and their colleagues' teaching loads.
How often have I heard a professor say of a recent high-profile appointment at some university And she only has to teach two courses a year...
Nirvana, for many professors, at least at research universities, is never having to teach.
Although everything in the ethos of the professors' world I'd entered taught me to loathe teaching, to regard it as a kind of embarrassment, I never did. As I say, I never even disliked it.
I was, in my first years, rather nervous before each class - could feel my heart beating. I'd rifle through my notes, fingers atremble. The students were abstractions to me, a set of challenges to overcome: get their attention, deal with distracting behavior, impress the following five points upon them... Still, the teaching thing was okay. I'd grown up in a noisy happy house full of verbal types, so standing there talking away was fine... Yet I never loved it. The occasional class session when everything hummed along was of course exhilarating. But that was occasional.
I came to understand why, no matter what they say about it, many professors detest teaching.
It's hard. Each class, if you take the business of teaching at all seriously, represents a significant and somewhat draining emotional experience. You've got to be up for every fifty minute or so session - to be alert, responsive, provocative, substantive. You've got to deal with a number of dispiriting possibilities: no response from students, hostility from them, indifference to your subject matter (your subject matter may mean an enormous amount to you, making it hurtful to confront indifference to it), a lack of comprehension, an unwillingness to try to comprehend, and so forth.
Somehow you have to evolve the ability and the energy to create a focused and reflective group of people two or three times a week, a group of people who (if you're a literature professor) have willingly read a challenging novel or set of poems, and have something to say about them. A group of people who intuit after awhile the nature and value of the approach to literature you're proposing throughout the semester, and who question it intelligently. There will be resistance to this, or there will be disappointing levels of knowledge and competence.
Because you really put yourself out there, and because a bad class session can end with your feeling both aggrieved and exhausted, teaching is humbling. From humbling it can tumble down to humiliating.
The larger your self-importance -- university professors are notorious for a certain anxious, unsteady self-regard -- the more you're liable to hate teaching. The professional world venerates you. The pishers in Room 12 C think you bite the big one. MacArthur says you're a genius. Miss Nose Ring blows you off as a jerk...
This Just In|
Student evaluations suck.
--inside higher ed--
Tis Better to Have Been Human and Lost|
Than Never to Have Been Human at All
'...At a Scrabble tournament in Toronto, a piece of software called Quackle triumphed in a best-of-five series over David Boys, a computer programmer who won the world Scrabble championship in 1995. The open-source program's chief designers include Jason Katz-Brown, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also happens to be one of the top-ranked Scrabble players in the world.
--chronicle of higher ed--
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Scathing Online Schoolmarm...|
...admires the extended use of metaphor in this excerpted Louisville Courier-Journal article. The author is Rick Bozich. A nice piece of writing.
92 Counts of Theft |
Against a Member of
A University of Alaska regent (his term doesn't expire until 2011) on that group's finance committee has been indicted on massive conspiracy, theft, and money laundering charges by the federal government.
He's not just on the finance committee. The University of Alaska Fairbanks student newspaper points out that he's also "chair of the Human Resources Committee, and he's one of two regents who gets a voice on the state committee that deals with student loans and financial aid."
This crony appointment, a gift to the university from Sen. Bridge-to-Nowhere Ted Stevens, used federal money intended for the poor to pay for his kid's wedding reception, his credit card debt, and a plasma-screen tv.
As longtime readers know, UD always turns up, in stories like these, two other purchases: a Cadillac Escalade, and a gated condo overlooking a golf course. UD awaits their mention.
When you add to this story the fact that this person is a church pastor, things begin to look seriously over-written. Any editor working on this would by now have eliminated at least the plasma tv, and at most the man of god thing. But it's all true.
Just as true is the man's refusal so far to resign, and the inability of the university to get rid of him. Only Alaska's slothful, corrupt legislature can do that. It's got until 2011.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Madame and Monsieur UD are off to Boonsboro, Maryland, in search of a guy there who builds Japanese teahouses. They may want one of these, or they may want (UD has only just learned this phrase) a meditation hut. They're not sure.
What they are sure of is that they want to build, high on the hill behind their house, a place to read and write and think and look at the view.
If the thing actually does get built, meditation will be spotty for awhile as indignant desert birds and other angry wildlife skulks about.
UD has watched with some surprise as the momentary lax of the parameters story (here's the earlier post on it) has been picked up by more and more papers, this morning attaining the highest circle of the parameters, the New York Times.
UD had dismissed this story as too boony for the bigtime, and had only posted about it herself because the chair of the board of trustees at the seminary in question described the school's hiring a woman to teach theology to men as a "momentary lax of the parameters."
During the lax, they'd put her on a tenure track. Post-lax, they recalled that she was biblically constrained from teaching men, for lo ye shall not put a woman afore ye.
This sort of university item only makes it from heartland pastures to the NYTimes because it is a freak show. To be sure, the story confirms the existence of illiterate fundamentalists in our richly varied higher ed establishment; but beyond this it has no news value or social significance. It's making the media rounds because laughing at what hayseeds do, and at how hayseeds talk, is fun.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
UD's Ghostly Presence|
UD appears in this George Washington University newspaper article about grade inflation rather vaguely (the bit where I'm identified as an English professor and given a first and last name doesn't appear) and makes a few comments about grade inflation.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
"It Isn't Going to Change, Folks,"|
...says folksy Frank Deford in Sports Illustrated. "We love our college sports," and always will, so there's no point protesting athletic programs that impoverish universities morally, financially and intellectually.
The only thing to do is "be honest" about the fact that revenue sports in colleges "have nothing whatsoever to do with education." Bigtime sports should be "removed from colleges' athletic departments and placed in their own new Department of Entertainment."
It's a strange argument, with a strange sort of hopelessness/nonchalance attached... It inspires in UD all sorts of existential questions. We love our college sports. But when is college sports college sports? What's "college" about college sports if we can happily imagine college sports completely uncoupled from any college? The players and coaches in the self-sustaining Department of Entertainment have nothing to do with the college: the athletes aren't students, and the coaches no longer pretend to be university staff. The Entertainment people inhabit a playground physically attached to the college, but there's nothing "college" about them.
So there's nothing really "college" about the bigtime college sports we love. Is there? Beyond mascots and songs and shit?
And if all of this is true (and this is certainly, as Deford points out, the way the revenue college sports story's evolving -- toward more and more professionalism and autonomy, and toward having nothing in common - in terms of salary or ethos or whatever- with any college or university), why not have local professional or semi-professional teams impersonate college teams for colleges? They'd come to play in your stadium, and they'd wear your uniform and you'd do your cheers and all; and they'd play against the team that's impersonating your rival that day.
Or you could take it the other way. You could designate certain ex-colleges Centers of Entertainment (instead of Centers of Excellence)... You could take, say, Oklahoma State and transform it into a collection of sports teams. All students would be players, and all faculty would be coaches and support staff.
However you swing it, the implication of Deford's argument is the disappearance of revenue football and basketball from universities.
Founded by Quakers|
'Three Guilford College football players face assault and ethnic intimidation charges following an on-campus attack on three Palestinian students, authorities said.
--news 14 carolina--
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Wanting to be Liked|
Vaguely depressing essay, by a politics professor, about what it's like to teach at Georgetown University. It's in the Georgetown student newspaper.
Among the things she says, there's this:
I’ll wager that students don’t realize how seriously most of us profs take those student evaluations.
Professor Shleifer: |
Still Paying Dividends for Harvard
'Reactions to Putin’s regime vary, but they form a certain pattern, falling within a given range. At one end of the spectrum, there is virtually unconditional endorsement of the Russia that is now emerging. The leading exponent of this view, the economist Andrei Shleifer, helped – not coincidentally – to lay the foundations of the new order, working in Moscow as one of the drafters of Yeltsin’s privatisations, and beneficiaries of the proceeds. Project director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, financed by the US government to promote ‘economic reform in support of open markets’ in the former USSR, he was prosecuted by the Justice Department on his return to the US for criminal conduct – cashing in on his insider position for investment purposes. Harvard had to pay $26.5 million, and Shleifer and his wife $3.5 million to settle the charges against him. This was the scandal that led to the downfall of his patron Larry Summers, who as Clinton’s deputy secretary of the Treasury set up the Harvard project, and was then implicated in the pay-out, as president of the university.'
Perry Anderson, London Review of Books
Snapshots from Home|
Mr UD Will be Interviewed...
...on Iraq, on this NBC affiliate in Baltimore. Not sure when it'll run. I'll let you know.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Snapshots from Home:|
So Mr UD and I are at the Sackler Museum on the Mall, and we're surrounded by a big group of teenagers plus three priests who seem to be in charge of them... I notice some of the teenagers are wearing red hats with NEBRASKANS FOR LIFE sewed on them in white script, and I say to Mr UD: "Isn't that nice? You know how states like Nebraska are experiencing a population drain? These kids are already proclaiming their intention to stay!"
Mr UD looked hard at UD and laughed. "Didn't you notice the priests? Don't you know tomorrow's the March for Life?"
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Humongous Dessert Plate |
for Minnesota Students
Nicely written opinion piece by Nicholas Maxwell, a University of Minnesota student who notices that the university is a touch over budget on the stadium (it'll cost forty million more than originally announced, bringing the sum close to three hundred million -- though I suppose with this and that the amount could go higher).
As with Rutgers and Oregon and Alabama, Maxwell notices that the, well, university part of the university is being bled dry while the administration spends "$288.5 million dollars to build a facility that will be used to play football during a grand total of six Saturday afternoons a year."
[A]n on-campus stadium at this point, after recent tuition increases and budget cuts of historic proportions, is a dessert menu item that should have been financed 100 percent with private money. Students should not be paying for it, taxpayers should not be paying for it and the University should not be ordering dessert when it can't afford to pay for the main course.
Coming down pretty hard, too... where's the damn digital camera...
The Cadillac of Universities|
People joke about how some American campuses are on their way to becoming football teams only, the entire academic apparatus of the school falling away.
This article, about Rutgers, gives us a glimpse into this process at a developmental midpoint. Excerpts:
Rutgers University gave hefty raises this season to football coach Greg Schiano's inner circle, with one assistant getting a bump of nearly $30,000, according to a review of employment contracts.
Martin Amis Answers His Mail|
Excerpts from his answers to emails sent to The Independent:
The phrase "horrorism", which you invented to describe 9/11, is unintentionally hilarious. Have you got any more?
How do you think you might have ended up spending your working life if your father hadn't been a famous writer?
A list of the country's worst colleges. With commentary.
The authors quote from an amazing Cornell University (Worst Ivy) course description:
"Post-National Gastroidentities. We will attempt to answer the question of how food, cuisine, and gastronomy play an important part both in the strategies to instrument normalcy through the imagination of the modern Nation-State, and the ways in which discourses affirming nation, race, ethnicity, hospitality, the universality of humanity, interact with each other fragmenting the national gastronomic field and undermining the unpolluted self-understanding of the modern Nation-State."
Can this be real?
Spot the Professor|
At the Carter klatch, a reporter finds a professor. UD's proud to say he's a colleague of hers:
If the Carter Conference is like a reunion for former federal officials, journalists and academics, then Leo Ribuffo is the unpopular kid sulking in the corner.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
English As She is Spoke|
A woman has been fired from the tenure track at a Southern Baptist university because women can't teach men.
[A trustee said] that Dr. Klouda's [original] hiring as a professor in the school of theology ... represented a "momentary lax of the parameters."
---dallas morning news---
Classic UGA Lede|
'Finally, the University of Georgia will get press for something other than football, alcohol or fraternity misbehavior when the Carter Conference begins this Friday.'
Red and Black, University of Georgia newpaper.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
A Don's Life|
Mary Beard is a Cambridge classics professor, and the classics editor at the Times Literary Supplement. She and I have engaged lately in a bit of MBA (Mutual Blog Admiration). She found me first, but I've now been reading her blog, A Don's Life , and enjoying it mightily. I'll add it to my blogroll when I finally get around to adding various other blogs (Ferule and Fescue, I haven't forgotten you!) to it.
Beard writes much like UD (On her recent trip to Egypt: "If you venture deep inside the pyramids...you find that the inner chamber smells very strongly of piss."). But she occasionally reminds UD that Beard's in England, not America, land of generous heating systems ("I realise that my blog may give the impression that a don’s life largely consists of whirlwind tours to exotic foreign locations. But most of what I do is infinitely more humdrum, and much less blog-worthy. Right now, it involves putting on my fingerless mittens and 'checking references' in the Classics Faculty Library, whose heat has been firmly turned off until the beginning of January."). They differ in other ways, too, as in UD's indifference to alcohol, and Beard's interest in it ("After a day’s stint in the library, honestly, I need a stiff drink.")
But they both enjoy writing about universities, and their lives in them.
'The truly rich schools can and should simply end tuition for all. Harvard, Yale and Princeton, for example, all earn at least $75,000 in endowment income for every student, including graduate and professional students. With other private gifts and government grants, total non-tuition income per student far exceeds $100,000. This is several times the national average spending per student. If Berea College, Coopers Union and the service academies can be tuition free, so can Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The reason they are not is that these schools do not want to engage in a modest amount of belt-tightening that such policies would entail, and do not want to end the explosion in the salaries of their most prominent faculty and administrators that has gone on in recent years. Rent-seeking behavior trumps access issues or the national interest.'
Richard Vedder, College Affordability
Snapshots from Home|
Went to the GW bookstore yesterday for a copy of The Portable James Joyce.
"Here are your free gifts," said the checkout clerk.
I got an emery board and a bumper sticker warning people about uterine cancer.
Universities: The Grecian Formula|
There's violence in Athens as beneficiaries of a sclerotic state-controlled university system hurl bombs to head off the introduction of private universities.
Private universities? Private universities? Who the hell does that?
...Students and academics claim that bowing to market pressures and ending the state monopoly on tertiary education will lower the standard of education for all and further divert resources from chronically underfunded state universities.
You can't lower the Greek standard of tertiary education. It's already the lowest in Europe.
You wouldn't want more people educated. Additional numbers of students, especially at competitive private schools, would almost certainly reduce the value of state degrees.
Anything would. The value of most of these degrees is nil.
A two-tier system? You mean like in the States, with public and private universities? What if some of the private were better than the public? Shit...
UD, Already Showing |
...scowls while holding
a badminton racket
at a campsite in France,
[Taken from an ancient glass slide
by UD's technically proficient sister.]
[Click on the image
for a bigger picture.]
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
SOS: Scathing Online Schoolmarm:|
Dave Frohnmayer Thinks You're Stupid
I've wrestled with my conscience over subjecting this morning's prose from the University of Oregon's president - an opinion piece in response to a faculty piece in the same paper which pointed out that the president's sports-obsession is destroying the school - to SOS scrutiny.
The president's love of sports has taken a toll not merely on his prose style (assuming he, rather than a staff member, wrote the piece) but on his ability to reason. What purpose is served in close analysis of the efforts of such a person to express himself? Isn't it a species of cruelty to play with this person's words, as a cat plays with a mouse?
Yes. Let's go to it.
President Frohnmayer takes a peaceful, non-conflictual approach to the subject:
In my 12 years as president of the University of Oregon, I have watched debates that pit the various elements of higher education against one another.
These are actually very true dichtomies, as the president knows, or ought to know, and there's no dichotomy more spectacular than that between sport and educational seriousness. I wonder whether Frohnmayer has asked himself why the Congress is bearing down on the NCAA's tax exemptions for university sports activities. Certainly the government understands that the dichotomy not only exists but has become so sharp that little to no discernable educational activity for many of their students exists at more and more big sports schools. Why should taxpayers support highly profitable sports programs that don't educate their athletes?
The president next falls into the saying-it-makes-it-so trap. Just as Donna Shalala thinks that saying her university is a serious academic institution makes it one, so President Frohnmayer thinks that repeating boilerplate from UO public relations materials makes their content true.
Another way of saying this is that President Frohnmayer thinks you're dumb. He figures he doesn't have to make a case for his claims, the way the faculty, in their piece, did (scroll down).
Academic quality is the cornerstone of our identity as a public research university. It is defined in our mission statement, "a community of scholars committed to the highest standards of academic inquiry, learning and service."
Cornerstone, mission statement, community of scholars, integral part, excellence, athletes are students first, take great pride... This is hollow language.
The president will note, irrelevantly, that the sports program pays for itself...
I mean, not only is it irrelevant to whether it's destroying the university that the sports program pays for itself; stressing this meaningless fact enables the president to avoid taking up the big story everyone's talking about in regard to college sports: The possibility that - precisely because of indifference to educational values and hot aching passion for games among administrations like Frohnmayer's, the government might withdraw education-based tax exemptions.
Our mission is to achieve excellence in all areas of the university - the classroom, the laboratory and the athletic field. From Bill Bowerman to our prize-winning faculty to our 19 Rhodes Scholars, the UO legacy for academic and athletic distinction can and will continue side by side.
Side by side we'll stride into the dawn of academic and athletic excellence! Take my hand and go with me there!
Monday, January 15, 2007
Evenings With Mr UD|
Course evaluation forms seem to bring out the worst in everyone. Students fill them out indifferently, or don't submit them at all. Departments, conscious that no one likes them, tinker with them, setting up committees that usually produce longer ones, ensuring even lower participation rates.
In-class forms also tend to evolve ever more convoluted and demeaning mandates -- Professors must not give them on the last day of class; they can only give them on the first day of the penultimate week of Whitsuntide... They can't go out at the beginning of the class session... They can't go out at the end of the class session... There's a second evaluation form that has to be handed out, from another academic unit with slightly different interests... Students may only fill the second form out on the eve of the Russian Orthodox Theophany...
The overuse of these forms -- mandating that every professor distribute them in class for every class; making them a big part of hiring and promotion decisions -- encourages grade inflation on the part of professors who know that giving a student an A means getting a great evaluation in return.
The latest absurdity to which universities have been drawn in their determination to make students who don't want to fill out a form fill out a form is the Money Competition. Students are pitted against one another; the student group (undergrads, grad students) with the highest response rate gets, say, five thousand dollars to use on programming stuff. ...
UD sat down with Mr UD, owls hooting in the background, and talked about this whole thing.
"You've got what we in the business call a 'collective action' problem," he said. "These forms are only useful if very high numbers of students fill them out -- ideally, you want one hundred percent participation if you want to yield anything real. Yet there's absolutely no incentive for any one student to fill out a form. Their responses are not going to make any difference to their own lives. They don't see any result from their filling the things out, so they don't bother. They're only one person, after all."
"Hm. If the problem is that students don't see any tangible result of their efforts, why not stage a public execution of the faculty member who gets the worst evaluations each year?"
"That's no incentive. That's only one faculty member. And some students will be so horrified that they'll artificially inflate their evaluations in order to save lives."
"But bribing students to fill them out, the way Harvard's doing... Playing to competition among the 'houses' at Harvard...Won't that tend to degrade the value of the form? Students will be motivated by a desire to beat another house, and to make money, which suggests they won't be giving the actual business of thinking about someone's teaching very much thought... And what happens when you decide, maybe, to stop bribing them? After awhile, you've accustomed students, like Pavlov's dog, to linking course evaluation forms with possible bundles of cash... Take that away, and your response rate will crash..."
"All of that might be so; but short of outright coercion -- forcing students to fill out an online evaluation form before they can see their grades for the semester, say -- I don't see much beyond bribery that's going to get you anywhere... Not that I think the bribery approach will work all that well..."
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Would you like me to describe a charming essay about blogs that just appeared on the New York Times site? Perhaps you'd rather hear about the ... wait... need to find the group term... PARLIAMENT!... of owls that has, the last couple of nights, been hooting like hell in the forest beside our house?
Last week, our neighbor cut down two enormous trees between our houses -- our garden is strewn with woodchips, and, further out on our property, massive logs not yet chipped lie scattered -- and it's my theory that these owls had been living in those trees, and that now they're a bit adrift. In any case, at around nine o'clock in the evening they begin a back and forth of hoots, most of them a litany, but some rising to real anxiety.
Everyone in the house gets very quiet when they start. If it's warm enough, I stick my head outside. The woodchips glimmer in the dark. The owls are very close, as close as the foxes and deer that also live on our hill, and their sound is harsh and intimate, roiled with emotion...
It's bizarre, the wildlife here. I'm not complaining.
The blog thing is by a NYT reporter who likes blogging almost too much -- it brings him much closer to his readers, he notes (he checks his comment thread compulsively), and he finds that he cares a great deal about some of them. The blog is marvelously time-consuming:
Sometimes I wonder whether I care to the point that I neglect other things, like, oh, my job. Tweaking the blog is seductive in a way that a print deadline never is. By the time I am done posting entries, moderating comments and making links, my, has the time flown. I probably should have made some phone calls about next week’s column, but maybe I’ll write about, ah, blogging instead.
He compares blogging to traditional journalism:
There has always been a feedback loop in journalism — letters to the editor, the phone and more recently e-mail messages. But a blog provides feedback through a fire hose. The nice thing about putting out a newspaper was that, at some point, the story was set and the writer got to go home. Now I have become a day trader, jacked in to my computer and trading by the second in my most precious commodity: me. How do they like me now? What about ... now? Hmmmm ... Now?
One Billion Dollars
'...[I]sn't this a good time to drop football at Minnesota?
---Jay Weiner, Minneapolis Star Tribune---
Thanks to Bill for the link.
University of Oregon:|
Much Worse than Ironic
UD'd already gotten a heads-up, from one of her readers, about high-profile faculty discontent with campus athletics at the University of Oregon, and she was pondering how to post about it, when she found this, in The Oregonian. It's written by two former presidents of the faculty senate, and co-signed by ninety other senior professors. Excerpts:
The recent announcements of a $2 million buyout of the contract of Bill Moos, the university's athletic director, and a $4 million learning center solely for athletes are deeply troubling. ...[W]e find it increasingly hard to tell whether the University of Oregon is an academic research and teaching institution devoted to the education of our state's students, or a minor league training ground for elite athletes. Academic departments struggle to make ends meet because of repeated budget cuts, but the president allows lavish spending by the athletic department. These actions have consequences for our students and faculty, and the university's academic stature.
The hard numbers:
The primary losers are our students. The university provides scholarships to several hundred student-athletes, many of whom do not meet admission requirements, yet we cannot find sufficient financial aid to help Oregon's neediest high school students. The athletic department spent more than $1 million from 2003 to 2005 on recruiting, including $140,000 for a single weekend for 25 football recruits. The same $1 million would pay for 62 talented biology, journalism or art students to attend the university for a year, or 15 students for four years.
Finally, there's the athletic program's generosity:
Many people think athletics makes money for the university, but that is not true. At Notre Dame and Ohio State, the athletic departments gives back more than $10 million every year to education -- but at UO, not a penny. A few years ago the faculty asked the athletic department to add a mere 25 cents to football and basketball tickets, to be earmarked for student scholarships. They refused. We asked that a small percentage of every donation to athletics be earmarked for education. The administration refused. All athletic revenues and gifts go entirely to the athletic budget, which has been growing four times faster than the university's.
Oregon's president has Stage III jocksniffery.
Yet, as with Michael Adams at the University of Georgia, and Robert Bruininks at the University of Minnesota, we must not allow our revulsion at the sight of this condition to avert our eyes from its full horror. We must, like UO's faculty, stare it boldly in the face. Until we stare it down.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The question now for Alabama is: How quickly will somebody else turn [Saban's] head? Clearly, he likes being courted as much, if not more, than he likes coaching. I'd love to be one of the good Southeastern Conference schools -- say, Florida, Auburn, Georgia, LSU -- recruiting against Alabama now. I'd make up a big board with all of Saban's lies over the last two years and I'd show the quotes to all those boys' mamas and daddies. I'd hammer at Saban's credibility in every living room across the South. If Saban had simply said, "I'm considering some options and I'm not ready to talk about this until the end of the season," there would be no issue with him. But his handling of the situation will and should dog him indefinitely.
A law was made not all that long ago here:
Our new releases cannot have one plot.
For there's no legal limit to the length here
Concision is forbidden to our writers;
At least eleven plotlines must be wrought.
By order, readers linger for an eon
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Writealot, Writealot
That's where the profits are.
Your eyes may never close till after sundown.
By morning pains are shooting through your rear.
In short, there's simply not
A novel quite so hot
As seven million trillion pagers here
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Writealot, Writealot,
At least you know the cause.
The tale may never move from off your table.
Our books are merely part of household gear.
In short, what you have bought
Exists to prove you're not
Without the latest hot potato
Here in Writealot.
Another Alabama Letter|
'It is really unfortunate and surprising that Gov. Riley has chosen to defend the payment of $4 million by the University of Alabama to the new football coach Nick Saban. His stipulation that the pay will not come from taxpayer money is oversimplification at its worst.
Friday, January 12, 2007
An Anonymous Tipster...|
...sends the following to UD.
"University of Tulsa head coach Steven Kragthorpe was earning $327k in 2004, $402k in 2005. I don’t know how much in 2006 – that tax return isn’t available on Guidestar.org just yet. The university president earned $276k and 264k in those two years. Tulsa is the smallest Division I-A school in the NCAA and this private university has an endowment of around $750 million.
If you think I understand these figures, you must be new around these parts. But I gather there's some intriguing stuff in them.
UD thanks her reader for sending this along.
Anthony Andro, at the Star-Telegram...|
...lists some of the things Alabama could buy with the salary of the state's highest paid public employee.
This Just In.|
Mike Nifong has asked to be taken off the Duke case.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm...|
... can only take her hat off to this English major at the University of Alabama, a woman who can write one mean letter.
Let's see how she does it, in an open letter to the university's president, published in the school newspaper.
Nick Saban, the new head football coach at the University of Alabama, is receiving a salary of $4 million per year, as I'm sure you're aware. You're probably not aware of who I am or how much your University is supposed to be paying me a year. [Starts with the obvious: Massa Saban, as one of UD's readers calls him. Hasn't really said anything nasty yet, but you just know it's coming. Cast your eyes to the letter's last paragraph, where she returns to Saban. She knows how to structure a good essay, giving it a nice rounded feel by invoking the massa at the beginning and at the end.]
Thursday, January 11, 2007
More Letters from Alabama|
'The next time someone in Alabama gripes about the educational ranking in the state, let me remind them of hard empirical evidence regarding how highly education is thought of in Alabama.
... as Europe's pathetic system tells us, are almost always disasters. Universities need large degrees of autonomy, and public universities in this country, which enjoy varying amounts of taxpayer support, know that they have to monitor their complex relationships with their states in order to retain enough independence to run their schools with integrity.
Researchers need to be left alone to pursue their research in whatever direction it takes them; social critics on the faculty need the freedom to speak and write as they wish; admissions committees need to be allowed to be selective (most government controlled universities have to take pretty much anyone who applies, since governments want to be able to say that anyone who wants to can go to college); faculties need to be able to challenge presidents and trustees, just as presidents and trustees need to be able to challenge faculties; administrations need to be able to make their own budget decisions to a large degree -- to decide that this year they'd like to give a lot of funding to a particularly promising department or initiative, for instance. Hiring committees need to be able to act swiftly and flexibly to take advantage of targets of opportunity, in order to add excellence, diversity, whatever, to their faculties.
Without this combination of independence and flexibility, American universities wouldn't be the envy of the world. Which they are.
One of the reasons this blog has been particularly scathing about what's going on in Minnesota and Alabama is that (as the quotation from James Dunderstadt in the post just below this one suggests) when public universities act stupidly, they put at risk the greatest asset of America's impressive higher education system: its significant independence from state control. When presidents of public universities demonstrate that they don't know what a university is -- when their jocksniffing becomes a crippling disability -- they anger taxpayers and their representatives. They make it clear that they can't be trusted to run a public university, because they don't know what a university is. Even people who love football can do the math; they know their kids are getting dumber, not smarter, by going to football factories.
So as state legislators start circling around the University of Minnesota, introducing legislation all of which has the aim of removing one layer of autonomy after another, remember that the university brought this on itself. It had choices -- about its stadium, about its football and basketball programs -- and it fucked up. It was supposed to be protecting a set of values -- values anathema to or incomprehensible to most state legislators, because they are values peculiar to the peculiar thing we call a university -- which it betrayed; and now control from on high rather than intellectual integrity on the ground is what the students of Minnesota are likely to get.
Look at the news out of Ohio:
'Gov. Ted Strickland wants to make Ohio's chancellor of higher education part of his cabinet, under his direct control. We think it's a plan worth pursuing, given the highly unsatisfactory state of higher education in Ohio. Placing the chancellor directly under the governor's control, Strickland said yesterday, will increase his ability to foster improvements in college graduation and opportunities for getting a college education.
To be sure, regents tend to be useless and ridiculous; and no doubt Ohio's rates of graduation and rates of accessibility could be better. But this editorial doesn't see that without intellectually independent universities, Ohio's students won't get decent college educations. They'll get a chancellor micromanaged by the governor and pussywhipped by his athletic directors.
Alabama, and the Nonprofit Status|
of Higher Education as a Whole
'[James J.] Duderstadt said that when the flagship university in Alabama, ranked near the bottom in state spending on higher education — the state’s entire budget for need-based aid in 2004-5 was $3.35 million, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs — offers a coach $32 million, it sends the wrong message about priorities. (In a nod, perhaps, to perceptions, Saban donated $100,000 this week to a scholarship fund at the university.)
---inside higher ed---
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Russell Levine, in the New York Sun...|
...lists winners and losers of the college bowl season. Here's one of his losers:
Sure, Alabama is all smiles now as it has landed its savior coach, Saban. But Moore should ask Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich what it's like to deal with a coach with a perpetual wandering eye. Saban should be content at Alabama, but what happens if he can't dominate recruiting the way he did at LSU? What if he comes to [the] realization that the program he left behind in Baton Rouge is better than the one he takes over in Tuscaloosa? Will he desire to go elsewhere? Plus, the precedent-setting contract Moore gave Saban is sure to making him a pariah to athletic departments across the sport.
A Letter in Today's |
We Alabamians can finally say we are No. 1 one in the nation in something -- the highest paid football coach. We not only have one, but two, of the highest paid coaches within the top six in the United States -- Nick Saban at $4 million a year, and Tommy Tuberville at $2.23 million.
Harvard: Top Choice for Heart Attacks|
'Minutes after a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor collapsed from a heart attack on the Allston campus last Wednesday, a few well-trained Harvardians swooped to his aid. “Within six or seven minutes there were two doctors, three defibrillators and an emergency medical staff,” said HBS Executive Director of Marketing and Communications David R. Lampe. An Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) officer helped a team including two physicians from the HBS branch of Harvard University Health Services (UHS), a campus security officer, and Mt. Auburn Hospital emergency medical personnel.'
---Noah S. Bloom, The Harvard Crimson---
...on National Public Radio this morning, talks about what happened when Birmingham Southern gave up athletic scholarships.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Uh-Oh. Somebody Just Got Wind |
of What's Going on at Minnesota.
The Minnesota House Minority Leader is pissed that not only the football, but also the basketball coach at the University of Minnesota are having their mucho big contracts bought out by the university -- which, whatever the university says, means shaking down students, taxpayers, and other innocent victims for all the millions.
'Seifert said he will ask DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina, who heads a higher education budget panel, to investigate the university's contracts with high-paid coaches. He will also ask the university's Board of Regents to examine "golden parachute" packages for coaches more closely and sign off on big hiring or firing moves. Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said she will introduce a bill to ban the university from using any state money - directly or indirectly - to cover buyouts for coaches.'
They're really piling on. Good thing, too. Unlike the University of Alabama, the University of Minnesota is an excellent, serious university. It's disgraceful that it has let itself get into this deep a mess. The university has allowed its athletic department to damage its academic quality and reputation. It has also mismanaged its incredibly expensive stadium. Fire the university's president.
“We’re going to have to borrow some|
from the University at this time."
I used to think of Minnesota as one of the more sensible states... nothing like Alabama, for instance. Yet here it is with a new university stadium absolutely hemorrhaging money, plus an athletic department that... okay, wait, lemme see if I can put this sequence of events together...
1. gave its football coach an expensive contract extension last year;
Making Minnesota look even stupider is the stadium itself -- a temple to the local money gods (GO TCF BANK!) whose cost overruns, in the tens of millions, look likely to go yet higher.
Minnesota students should be aware that they're about to pay a lot more money for a much lousier university.
UD thanks a reader for the link.
Advice to Myles Brand |
On Keeping His Hoes in Check
'Good. I am glad they did it. Finally, the NCAA has embarrassed itself at just the right time. The goofy hillbillies running the coaching turnstile at Alabama, in their perpetual effort to find a way to regain lost glory, blinged out their latest coach, Nick Saban (roughly $32M over 8 years), so much that Congress is starting to take notice.
---Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor, Syracuse University---
Pacific Western University...|
...is the creme de la creme of diploma mills, the Harvard Yale Princeton of diploma mills, the Ecole Normale Superieure of diploma mills... Its alumni include top federal, state, and local officials, among them the Ohio House minority leader, Joyce Beatty, who will have a great deal to do with improving Ohio's schools.
Bit of a stomach-turner in her recent past: She was awarded an honorary doctorate by a legitimate university, based in part on her having earned a doctorate at Pacific Western...
But it's all sort of a stomach-turner. One of the highest ranking government officials of an important state is a cynical purchaser of a bogus degree. She will now direct her seriousness about academic attainment to the educational benefit of millions of her fellow citizens. Yick.
'The two-time Oscar-winner [Hilary Swank], who received the 2,325th star on the [Hollywood Walk of Fame]..., wiped away tears as she looked back on her rags-to-riches rise to fame. "I remember my mom using a roll of quarters to call agents from a pay phone and telling agents they should sign me," she recalled at the dedication ceremony.'
An Embarrassing Stain|
in Penn's Annals
'Robb was charged with beating his wife to death, and no matter how the case is resolved, it will forever remain yet another embarrassing stain in the annals of the distinguished Ivy League school.'
Later, that same story...
'So does Penn attract bad eggs, or just suffer the image problem when a rotten one splats on its public face?'
Monday, January 08, 2007
"It is, indeed, amazing to contemplate so vast a vacuity. One thinks of the interstellar spaces, of the colossal reaches of the now mythical ether. ...[I]t is impossible for intelligence to flourish in such an atmosphere. Free inquiry is blocked by the idiotic certainties of ignorant men."
UPDATE: University of Pennsylvania Murder Case|
Professor Rafael Robb has been charged with murder.
UC San Diego Student Paper:|
Vote No on Sports Fee Increase
'The unkind truth is that the sort of vibrant, high-profile athletics program that would transform the campus attitude would cost far more than undergraduates are willing to pony up. At some point, if UCSD is truly dedicated to an athletics program that fully engages the campus community, the school's administrators and faculty will have to bite the bullet and allocate their own funds to the athletic department, which means tough compromises all around. And that will only come about if the ball of financial responsibility is dropped squarely in the court of UCSD's administration and faculty.
In other words, we the students are paying as much as we're willing to pay for sports. If faculty and administration would like to take pay cuts and prop the program up with their money, fine. Leave the students alone.
1. Place Self Firmly Behind Spokeswoman.|
2. Decline Request for Interview.
'As the case weakened last month, with the victim changing parts of her account and the prosecutor dropping some charges against the three players, Baker declined a request for an interview through a Vanderbilt spokeswoman.'
That would be Houston Baker, who left Duke in a huff and went to Vanderbilt because Duke wouldn't act quickly enough to rid itself of people Baker absolutely knew were guilty of rape.
A Boat on Thorny Waters|
'While [University of Florida president] Machen says he'll mention the [NCAA] tax-exempt issue to [Senator] McCain, he doesn't see the Arizona senator - often called a maverick and a fiscal hawk - as a likely proponent of rocking the boat on this thorny issue.'
Sunday, January 07, 2007
...says it all again in today's New York Times. Excerpts:
... Saban had three years remaining on his Dolphins contract at about $4.5 million annually. The Alabama deal will guarantee him $4 million a year for eight years. He can also earn performance bonuses of $800,000 a year in bowl-game bonuses.
Kitsch is sometimes an elusive category. Here, from Andrew Sullivan's site, is a painting that one of his readers sent, which captures, better than anything else UD's seen lately, kitsch.
Why is it so intriguing to everyone -- UD included -- when a professor murders? And why does it jump from intriguing to absorbing when the professor's at an Ivy League university?
This blog has very selectively covered cases of professors who murder . Every case I thought worth mentioning involved a husband killing his wife, usually because she wanted a divorce, or had recently divorced him.
And here - perhaps - is another one, just like that, at the University of Pennsylvania. The man has been named a "strong suspect," and is expected, soon, to be charged. He's been taken off the teaching roster for the coming semester.
He's an expert in in game theory , a formal way of analyzing human motive and action; and almost certainly, if this man did the deed, commentators will talk about the irony of a highly-placed academic, specializing in strategy, messing up so badly when it came to strategizing his wife's death.... But then, this was, like O.J.'s, a crime of volcanic rage. Whoever did it bashed her head so horribly that he obliterated her face. The police point out that the robbers the faked break-in scene intended to conjure would be peculiar indeed to bother pulverizing this random woman...
Anyway. Maybe our fascination involves the way events like this remind us of the visceral passions that rule many people, regardless of intellectual advancement... Something like that.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
The Missing Link|
'Discerning the link between paying Saban $4 million annually and the NCAA's scholastic directive may require bringing in help from Alabama's academic branches of economics, mathematics and philosophy.'
---richard oliver, my san antonio---
When you're talking about the excellence|
of your university, and you can't spell its...
...it's a problem.
"[T]he commitment to excellence from the university is plain for all to see," writes an Alabama blogger; and, he argues, hiring Nick Saban is somehow part of that.
Throughout the piece, he spells "its" "it's."
'Alabama has done what it took to restore the honor and dignity of it's name and it's fans.'
How much dignity can a writer have when he can't spell 'its'? It may seem a small thing, but when your rhetoric's grandiose -- all about your honor and your dignity and the excellence of your education -- and you spell like a third-grader, the reader laughs, and dignity disintegrates.
Friday, January 05, 2007
BAMA FANS NERVOUS, EXCITED!|
Blimey. It's the Guvnor.|
'Gov. Bob Riley said Friday he supports the University of Alabama's decision to pay new football coach Nick Saban about $4 million a year - an amount some have called excessive in a state that often ranks near the bottom nationally for education.
You take a job at a tax-exempt educational institution in order to get rich.
An Alabama Newspaper Reader|
Responds to the Saban Thing
'As much as I love this state, I'm sometimes embarrassed to be an Alabamian.
And yet by university standards, Mississippi looks a great deal better than Alabama lately. It's got scads of problems, to be sure, but in terms of graduation rates, serious response to sports and alcohol problems, and general academic quality, Mississippi has it all over Alabama at the moment. And Alabama has, with the Saban hire, made things much, much worse.
"COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS A MESS"|
Rick Telander is the best sports writer in the US, in UD's opinion. When grotesque things like Saban at Alabama happen, he's the definitive source.
Everybody who loves Nick Saban and thinks he's a moral, straight-ahead guy, please stand up.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The First of Many Lawsuits |
On Their Way
at Duke University
'Kyle Dowd filed [a] lawsuit Thursday against Duke University and visiting associate professor Kim Curtis.
If the claim is true (Duke's having changed the grades Curtis gave ain't gonna help her defense), the student was right to sue.
More Responses to Dumbass Alabama|
1. Richard Vedder, at College Affordability, calls it the "abomination in Alabama."
2. A.G. Rud lightens things up.
Big Alabama Story |
Picked Up By Associated Press:
In a poor state that struggles to fund public schools, the $4 million a year offered to the University of Alabama's new football coach sent the wrong signal to some.
Alabama Teachers Dancing in the Streets|
'Dolphins fans, feeling jilted as their coach absconds to Alabama, can take solace knowing he left us for higher cause. The gargantuan salary Nick Saban will collect from his new employer is all about furthering ``educational purposes.''
---Fred Grimm, Miami Herald---
Regular, and Whitening Rinse, Crest|
'Simon Fraser University chancellor Brandt C. Louie was so opposed to taking two small crosses off of the university's coat-of-arms that he persuaded governors to let his office keep it.
How Alabama Stays That Way|
'Of all the problems and needs confronting the state of Alabama, it's telling that the one thing that grips the attention of folks here is the hiring of a college football coach [at the University of Alabama, for four million dollars a year, the highest paid college coach in the United States]. We can accept being at or near the bottom in many quality-of-life rankings, but not in football.'
---the birmingham news---
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
"I don't think there's any empirical evidence that says the overall quality of a school improves as a result of having a Division I athletic team or even a successful Division I team."|
We'll let Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist, have the last word.
No we won't. Here's James Duderstadt: "[Football and men's basketball] are not about opportunity. They're designed to entertain the public and generate dollars."
More on Fees|
'At Miami of Ohio, the average student pays $635 a year to the athletic department in mandatory fees. At James Madison, it's $1,186, although the school says the general student body uses athletic department facilities.
A student at ...|
...East Carolina University defends another fifty dollar increase in student athletic fees:
"A competitive athletic program does a lot for the university. It gives East Carolina University a better image."
Cloaking the Issue|
'[C]ritics say... sports have strayed too far from their non profit purpose of education to qualify as a charity. They note that the NCAA pays high salaries -- Brand makes $870,000 -- and competes with for-profit pro sports leagues in areas such as television and sponsorships.
With all of this help from us, students, the government, and all...|
...almost every university sports program loses money. Bigtime. Even when they report how much they lose, economists tend to believe they're not really disclosing how shitty things are. Many economists "think deficits [are] probably greater" than what universities report. Economists are "skeptical that athletic departments fully accounted for the use of services funded by the general university, including administrative time and services."
[S]ports spending is growing two to three times faster than university spending as a whole. According to USA Today, athletic expenses in Division I-A increased about 8 percent per year from 2002-03 to 2004-05.
Oh, and it's getting worse by the minute.|
'President Myles Brand isn't happy about the growth rate of sports spending, and the effect that could have on academics. In his State of the Association speech in January, he said the current path is "not a long-term sustainable approach."
That "core academic activities" thing is cute. Myles is cute. He's cute when he gets all serious about academics. He's cute when he gets pumped up about the tax exemption, which does so much for the youth of America...
The writer begins...|
...by rehearsing some of the very grody details about the way sports-lousy schools operate. For instance, "Ball State's athletic department receives $3.6 million from general university funds, not to mention $6.9 million in student fees."
The practice of imposing high mandatory athletic fees on students is disgusting. Students at a number of universities realize this, and are waging variously effective campaigns against it.
Fees tend to work in this way: The team's fucking up and losing revenue, so it decides to hire a two million dollar a year coach to save its ass. The student fee goes up by fifty dollars. Or the cost of the school's amazing new stadium just increased by tens of millions of dollars -- as at the University of Minnesota, whose playlot just went up sixteen percent. Add another fifty to the student fee.
Of course Minnesota swears none of the unanticipated little extras that have brought the cost of the stadium to close to three hundred million dollars will come from student fees. Do you believe them? I don't.
But before they eventually jack up the fees, where does the money they're going to try unsuccessfully to make cover the costs come from? You. Me. That's the beauty of the tax exemption.
A professor at Ball State can't help but notice that "We can accredit the football team (in NCAA Division I-A), but not the master's program in public administration... It would take $150,000 for two more professors. It takes five. We have three."
This is part of the problem defenders of the whole "sports are about education so the exemption is appropriate" thing have. For the most part, sports does nothing or less than nothing for the academic reputation of a university. To be sure, it keeps everybody happy and stupid, but this is not the point of a university. Ball State's president is totally direct on the subject: "Division I athletics gives you an opportunity to achieve national recognition that you could work 50 years on the academic side and never achieve. When alums come back, they don't sit in an English class. Maybe they should, but they don't."
What sort of national recognition does the president have in mind? Ball State is a university, but not a very good one. It has virtually no national recognition as a result. So the president of the university means that Division I athletics gives Ball State a national profile as a sports facility. So in what sense is Ball State a university? And why does it get an education-based tax exemption?
LONG article on college sports...|
... in the Indianapolis Star, which I'm still reading... So why don't I blog my reading of it?
Somewhat lame title --
COLLEGES PLAY, PUBLIC PAYS
-- but it does do the trick of summarizing with a certain degree of wit the content of the piece (I've read about half of it).
The occasion for the piece is the recent season of bigtime college football games, but the writer really wants to focus on that pesky tax exemption everybody's been talking about lately. Hold on...
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The plagiarist/diploma mill grad (background here) on the history faculty at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga gets rave reviews on Rate My Professors.
He is a great guy. All you have to do is read your textbook and you will be fine. He reads straight from the book. No need to go to class. ... He goes by the book so all I did was highlight in it. Great guy, really liked his class. Take him.... He reads his lectures straight from the book, so all you have to do is highlight in class. His tests are pretty simple, but you have to study minimally. ... He's a really nice man and is willing to explain anything. It gets really boring sometimes, but he shows movies pretty often... Please take him! He's the sweetest guy on the planet - but he talks really low, and basically reads the book to you. Attendance is not required or even checked.... He's really nice, and willing to help. Go on movie days - those are good.... He reads straight from the book, so if you have to miss class, you really won't be behind...Teaches straight from the book pretty much word for word. ...Professor Rulhman gives lectures straight from the book; his tests are based solely on the notes...that are in the book .... The tests are super easy...
Update: Ralph Luker weighs in.
...is the name UD gives to the tendency of large groups of employees at the same public school, fire house, or federal agency, to buy bogus degrees from the same diploma mill at the same time.
Any business can set off diploma milling by granting pretty much automatic pay raises to employees who can show that they have an advanced degree.
Because of its dramatic nature, however, diploma milling is beginning to attract the attention of employers, as in this San Antonio case:
San Antonio firefighters with degrees in their field won't earn more money.
Trustees These Days!|
Here's a response - to a recent closely reasoned, scathing Faculty Senate attack on the University of Iowa's dysfunctional trustees (background) - from the president of the trustees:
"[The Senate report is] so full of half-truths, untruths and innuendoes that I wouldn't know where to begin in answering it, so I won't."
The report was written by the president of the Faculty Senate, a law professor whose whole joy in life is the close analysis of half-truths, untruths, innuendoes, truth-claims, and other complex assertions...
There's an instructive difference here between trustees, who tend to be corporate anti-intellectual types, and professors, typically individualists who like to think. Of course, trustees almost always win against professors (there are striking exceptions to this at places like American University and, years ago, Adelphi University), but it's nice on occasion to see faculty get their way, as they have at Iowa.
And to see expressed, very clearly, a certain trustee attitude toward professors, and toward serious reasoning.
Same Large Orange Fox |
I Saw Yesterday Is Currently
Sauntering Along the Street
In Front of My Window
Foxes perform a valuable service to humans by controlling the small-rodent (mice, gophers, moles, rats) population, so they should be viewed by humans as an ally. Usually this benefit far outweighs the occasional damage they may cause.
I have decided to adopt this "ally" philosophy.
Diploma Mills, 2006|
As we gaze back fondly on last year's diploma mill stories, this one has got to be the winner:
The Southtown [newspaper's] coverage of shenanigans, financial woes and academic shortcomings in Calumet Park School District 132 [in Chicago] helped force a state takeover of the school system in June.
Blakely had it all: Bogus degrees on every level; cheesiness (most bogus degrees cost at least a thousand dollars); rank indifference to subject matter; and protection from a corrupt school board. No contest.
Monday, January 01, 2007
...in the Orlando Sentinel this morning, merely rehearsing the amazing statistics about Florida's shameful university system:
... Florida's college students crowd into fewer classrooms; the state has the most students per full-time professor in the country. ... Florida pays professors less, making it harder to attract and keep good faculty; the state ranks 41st in the nation in the experience level of its instructors. ...[F]ewer Floridians are getting a college degree; the state produces fewer graduates per 1,000 population than the national average.... [N]o Florida university -- not even the flagship University of Florida -- is ranked among the nation's top 25 universities.
It's a short, disengaged piece, which doesn't really seem to care about any of this.
'In Dartmoor superstition, it was always thought an omen of good luck to spot a single fox; however, if several were seen together, then that was considered to portend bad luck.'
A moment ago, taking out a pile of wrapping paper for recycling, I disturbed an orange fox making its way across my front yard. Surprised but not too perturbed, it stopped and looked at me from a few yards away, then slid into the little forest beside my house.
My first act of the new year was to give money to a woman in Azerbaijan. She's starting a business and needs investment.
I did it via a website that makes this sort of thing easy -- a matter of seconds.
Wish I could say I thought of it myself, but it was a Christmas gift from my niece Giulia's new husband, Andrew Ferre. He gives the money in your name, and you activate the account and choose a worthy entrepreneur.
I mention it because The World Question, which asks a bunch of scientists at the beginning of each year what they're optimistic about, includes this, from Dan Sperber:
I am optimistic about the development of both individual and collective forms of altruism on the Web. Moreover, I believe that what we see on the Web has more diffuse counterparts in society at large. The Web is a network of networks where, at every individual node, many communities overlap, and where local allegiances have at best a weak hold. The World Wide Web is the most dynamic and visible manifestation, and a driving force of a world that is itself becoming one wide web. In this world, more and more altruistic acts—acts that had in ancestral times been aimed just at one's kin, and later extended to tribe, sect, or country—may now, out of sensible sense of common destiny, be intended for the benefit of all.
Words and Phrases|
To Send to the Blazes...
...as we begin a new year. Click on the title to find the 32nd List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness, released every year at this time by Lake Superior State, Michigan's smallest public university.
Among those listed, UD's candidate for most worthy of banishment is "We're pregnant."
The Madisonian Model|
'[In an] area of nearly one square mile — between Lake Mendota, Lake Monona and Blair and Lake Streets — [the University of Wisconsin's city of Madison] has 120 places that serve only or mostly alcohol. They have a capacity of more than 11,000 people, city officials said. ... According to a recent police department analysis of attacks in which someone was injured downtown, about 75 percent of the victims and perpetrators were intoxicated. The analysis also found that after midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, police officers, paramedics and firefighters often spent half to all of their working hours responding to alcohol-fueled fights and disorderly conduct. Noise, public urination and vandalism are constant concerns.... [One resident] said she quickly grew irritated at being awakened at 2:30 a.m., when the noisy bar crowd usually begins to make its way home, dropping empty beer cans and other trash along the way. One morning she woke to find that garbage had been torched and the flames had charred a tree.