Wednesday, November 14, 2007
UD's site feeds have moved. Please update your bookmarks to the site feeds with the following links.|
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
'A UT law professor and creator of one of the world’s most popular blogs has been named one of America’s 10 most influential legal scholars by the Social Science Research Network.
---university of tennessee student newspaper---
From Jon Cogburn's blog.|
A local news station describes a problem on the campus of the University of South Florida.|
'It's a quiet day here on the USF campus, but students like Susie Demesmi say it's not always this serene.
Excellent writing from a Syracuse University student about George Washington University's new puke-as-you-go policy. An excerpt from her consideration of the effects of such a policy at Syracuse:|
'... [D]ozens of freshmen who live in South Campus' Skyhalls had no say in their housing arrangements. These students would be the victims of a puking policy solely because of their reliance on the buses to visit North Campus and enjoy the university's social scene.
George Washington University's incoming president is unhappy about the fact that GW is the most expensive university in the country, and he plans to reduce tuition. |
But without that enormous tuition, GW's outgoing president wouldn't have had a chance to scrape together a living.
His salary - close to a million dollars - didn't make him rich, he explains in a recent interview:
'Being a university president is a great privilege, and it comes with tremendous rewards. Getting rich is not one of them.'
Although many American university presidents are compensated, like Stephen Trachtenberg, in the million dollar range, and enjoy free housing, chauffeuring, corporate board money and retention perks, this fails to make them rich.
On the other hand, it has a terrific effect on faculty salaries: "If the presidents are paid well, it follows, or it should follow, that the professor will be celebrated and honored and also fairly compensated."
'Q. What aspects of the job justify paying presidents so much more than faculty members?
Presidents get, or are given, faculty tenure, which means that they have a highly-paid university position waiting for them when they leave the presidency. No risk there.
Universities are desperate for presidents, so even the worst can get jobs elsewhere, as Trachtenberg acknowledges earlier in the interview, when talking about how the very competitive market for presidents has pushed up compensation.
Many university presidents get sabbaticals, or significant breaks that aren't called sabbaticals. It's something they negotiate in their contracts.
Most professors UD knows of work twelve months a year.
The board situation is a notorious scandal, with university presidents taking tens of thousands of dollars and squandering university time to go to corporate retreats and do nothing.
Monday, November 12, 2007
From an Esquire Magazine writer:|
'He bore her away in his arms,
Andrew, a reader, tells UD of a recent announcement sent to students at Oberlin College (via Gawker):|
'Poop in the Adam Joseph Lewis Center toilets [in the Environmental Studies building] anytime between Saturday, November 10th and Friday, November 16th and sign up to receive a quarter per poop.'
In a comment, an Oberlin student explains:
'[T]he poop is to feed their "living machine," which filters waste water with bacteria and plants and stuff. The building isn't that highly trafficked and if the bacteria doesn't get enough poop it dies. I remember once during a deserted winter term they had to feed the thing a tray of donuts from the cafeteria to keep it going...
'A sophomore at New York University was found dead in his Water Street dorm room on Friday night. The Washington Square News reports that other residents were told about the death on Saturday and that the university did not send out an NYU community-wide email per a request from the deceased student's parents: "The family has asked that they be accorded the utmost privacy, and the university will do its best to honor its wishes and urges the media to do the same."'
'Student government leaders are urging University of Massachusetts at Amherst students to skip classes Thursday and Friday to protest a range of grievances they say university administrators have consistently ignored.
The Globe fails to mention a likely reason for that uptick in police patrols.
Last December, U Mass students rioted in spectacular fashion:
'...100 and 125 windows had been smashed with bricks, rocks and chairs, and police had been pelted with bottles and pieces of concrete. ...[C]harges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, failure to disperse in a riot, minor in possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, breaking and entering, mistreatment of a police horse or dog and destruction of property.
...About 60 campus, town and state police officers in riot gear were needed to squelch the riot that drew more than 1,800 students to the plaza of the Southwest residential area. Students threw bottles, cans, bricks, pieces of concrete and other items at the officers and yelled obscenities.
Brian Leiter, whose blog is Law School Reports, links to UD this morning.|
He liked her ironic headline about his recent career move (Another Academic Career Destroyed by Blogging).
Among scholars who've "helped themselves greatly by blogging," Leiter mentions a colleague of UD's at George Washington University:
'Orin Kerr ... consistently posts informative items about cases and issues in his areas of scholarly expertise. His political opinions are well within the spectrum of unoffensive opinions, and they also don't play a particularly large role in what he writes about. Experts in criminal procedure would, of course, know about Kerr anyway (indeed, as data I will release shortly shows, he is among the twenty most-cited scholars writing in criminal law and procedure, and the youngest on the list). But because of his blog work, he now has a much higher profile as a respected expert in these areas.'
Leiter, who's about to take a spectacular job at the University of Chicago, concludes with some reflections on his own blogging:
'I venture no opinion on the topic that has, by now, occurred to at least some readers, namely, the effect of my own blogging on my professional prospects. It won't surprise anyone to learn that I haven't approached blogging with that in mind, though I've been pretty fortunate, indeed, in the professional opportunities I've had nonetheless. I certainly run afoul of many of the cautionary notes remarked on above. [He has in mind in particular a caution about blogging political opinions out of the mainstream.] Although I rarely blog about scholarly topics, my political opinions are, on most issues, well outside the familiar spectrum. I also don't suffer fools gladly which, given their over-representation in the blogosphere (for an obvious reason: there are no meaningful barriers to entry), makes me prone to be a bit more abrupt and direct than is the norm in the pseudo-egalitarian blogosphere. (In real life--e.g., in the context of academic debate and academic hiring decisions--anti-egalitarianism is the norm, at least at the better schools.) So maybe I'm a counter-example to the cautionary notes sounded above? On the other hand, I had a decade of teaching, publications and scholarly presence before I did any blogging, which means the evidential base for informed judgments was far greater than it would be for someone newer to the academy. I am inclined to think that is significant in all cases, which is yet another reason for students and junior faculty to be very cautious about blogging.'
If you're visiting from Leiter and would like a taste of UD on legal matters, here's an early post about another of UD's GW colleagues, Jeffrey Rosen.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I'm in downtown Silver Spring (well, I was in downtown Silver Spring yesterday... but this you-are-there use of the present-tense is fun, so let's go with it...) in the Roundhouse Theater. |
I'm the youngest person in the audience.
When you retire in America, it's community theater all the way.
The tiny stage is a scruffy bit of football field; game-day music tinkles behind us.
I'm here to see Red Shirts, a play about bigtime university sports.
"How many people here was a real football player?" A codger two rows down addresses us as we wait for things to start.
A tinny old lady answers: "Were you?" Belligerent.
He doesn't hear her. Like everyone in the room except UD, he wears a hearing aid.
Who knew so many Americans abused Viagra?
UD's basically impressed by the play, but she agrees with the reviewers who say that the author tried to pack much too much - plot, character, idea - into it. Slimmed down, it'll be a strong treatment of a serious subject, one that an opinion piece in today's New York Times gets at too -- the exploitation of often culturally and economically disadvantaged college athletes because of the absurd conceit that they're all college students. We pretend, writes Michael Lewis, that these people are
students first, and football players second. They are like Franciscan monks set down in the gold mine. Yes, they play football, but they have no interest in the money. What they're really living for is that degree in criminology.
And they're really keen on English lit too. The funniest scene in the play -- and it's a smart, well-written play -- is a poetry-analysis practice session with coach, when the guys try to make sense of Emily Dickinson:
My nosegays are for captives;
The many ways the guys say what the hell? are hilarious, and UD loved it.
The English professor is a thankless role in this sort of drama -- if she doesn't care, she's contemptible; if she does, she's a scathing schoolmarm destroying the school and the players' prospects. As this character pursues sanctions against team members for cheating, one of them says to her: "You think the coach is gonna let a pissant professor knock out his game? He makes two million dollars a year."
Just as thankless is the learning specialist who tries to explain the English professor to the players: "She wants to know that you can assert and defend a position on a poem." But, says a player, "Nobody gives a shit about Paradise Lost."
The play concludes a bit awkwardly -- its plot meanders and never finds enlightenment -- so that UD doesn't leave the theater with the aesthetic payoff she'd have liked. But the heart of the thing is pure, with a pure appraisal of the inhumanity at the heart of Division I university football.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
"Soltan is profane, incisive, and snotty, a delightful combination."
Panic in Year Zero
|"Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”|
'I discovered [at Harvard] that people could speak of poetry without an apologetic grin. They could be dead serious about listening to classical music. You know, I came from Brooklyn and you were lower than a sissy if you took music seriously, if you took poetry and so forth. That wasn't there. The game was on the streets. I don't mean by that that I was a tough kid out on the streets and such, but we all were slightly tough. You know, we learned to play touch football jeering at cars when they occasionally went by because they interrupted our game. That was as tough as we got, but nonetheless there was an attitude of machismo even though we didn't fulfill it. And so going to Harvard where culture was important was the key shock.'
Norman Mailer: 1923 - 2007
Norman Mailer Has Died.
It was a summer during my high school years, and I was unhappily camping in the Pyrenees with Catalan friends of my family and a bunch of other camping Catalans. It was hellishly hot. I hated setting up tent, standing in line for mashed beans, shitting in the woods. |
While everyone put on their big boots and went for mountain hikes, I holed up in my tent, reading Norman Mailer's novel, The Naked and the Dead. He wrote it when he was absurdly young. It was about his war experiences.
I remember being lost in the powerful narrative momentum of the thing -- remember a description of a man pissing himself in terror as his group of soldiers is drawn into a bloodbath by a malign commander...
Around the same time, late 1960's, as UD marched with her high-school boyfriend on the Capitol, it was Mailer's Armies of the Night that helped her figure out what she was doing (her only memory of the march is her boyfriend massaging her feet afterwards).
I doubt UD understood then what Mailer meant by "the overpsychologized loins of the liberal academic intelligentsia." Does she ever now.
"It is a work of personal and political reportage that brings to the inner and developing crisis of the United States at this moment  admirable sensibilities, candid intelligence, the most moving concern for America itself," wrote Alfred Kazin in New York Times.
'Do you know which federal legal holiday is observed on Nov. 11?
'Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign admitted Friday that it planted a global warming question in Newton, Iowa, Tuesday during a town hall meeting to discuss clean energy.
...is featured in a Guardian article:|
'...Beard is now a professor at Cambridge and the best-known classicist in Britain. Her new book, The Roman Triumph, is keenly awaited, and she has been asked to give the prestigious Sather lectures at Berkeley...
UD, whose mother worked with Wilhelmina Jashemski, an expert in the gardens of Pompeii, at the University of Maryland, looks forward to Mary's book.
Because UD went to Pompeii with her mother, who knew everything about the place (and about Herculaneum, down the street), UD's experience of the town was not touristic. It was excruciatingly meticulous.
On the other hand, because of their Jashemski connection, UD and her mother were able to see some off-limits plaster mummies.
Friday, November 09, 2007
'I was stunned and dismayed to read that you intend to help fund the expansion of Rutgers University's stadium -- by some estimates, to the tune of $30 million.
'Signs on [University of California Irvine] law school buildings [funded by billionaire Donald Bren] must read "Donald Bren School of Law" and be at least twice the size of the building name. Bren's must be the largest and most prominently displayed name on the building, according to the agreement.'
Kind of like
---los angeles times---
...of sociology goes where no man has ever gone before: He actually reads the fucker.|
'In its report to Chancellor Fernando Treviño, the review committee weighing plagiarism in Glenn Poshard's 1984 dissertation indicated it had "investigated the academic culture in that period, in the Department of Higher Education, and specifically, by [sic] Dr. Poshard's immediate peers and adviser."
Thursday, November 08, 2007
|It now looks as though she drew all of the swastikas on her door.|
Mr. UD attended Harvard with Benazir Bhutto. |
UD used to see a little of her years back, when she made trips to Washington.
She recalls Benazir, not yet in office, sweeping into a French restaurant on Capitol Hill, where she met up with les UD's and other Harvard friends -- I think this must have been UD's first glimpse of her. She wore an amazing fur coat -- UD could impress you more with this detail if she were able to differentiate among pelts -- and took immediate command -- a tall, insanely intense woman -- of the table. As soon as she arrived, small talk ended. Everything was about her recent pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, her father's imprisonment and death, her brother's death.
UD saw her in a more relaxed mode at the Capitol Hill house of a mutual friend. This would've been at least fifteen years ago. She was funny. She complained good-naturedly about the woman who was writing her autobiography. One of the guests was recently divorced, and Benazir was hilarious on the subject of various unsuitable cousins she was going to toss at him for his next wife.
After Benazir took office, les UD's went to a very formal gathering that was supposed to be a very informal gathering, welcoming her to Washington as part of a state visit. The event was at Blair House, across the street from the White House, and the guests were, again, Harvard friends of hers. UD remembers lots of group photos being taken; she remembers being dazzled by Benazir's sister, a gorgeous woman in a sari whose shimmering glow gave her the aura of one of the major saints. She remembers a longish chat with Benazir's husband, a genial, self-deprecating man who spoke mainly about polo.
There were other formal events, including a state dinner at a Washington hotel, where Dan Quayle toasted Benazir and Benazir toasted Dan Quayle and UD's eyes flickered from VIP to VIP to VIP...
UD's all about private life, or mainly about private life, so people fully committed to public life are enigmatic to her. Their destinies frighten her. When he was with the United Nations in East Timor, Mr. UD worked for, got to know a bit, and got to admire profoundly, Sergio Vieira de Mello, a handsome, brilliant, unpretentious man who was killed in a Baghdad bombing. Benazir's life, too, is in danger.
'Heritage Hall, the athletic department building at the center of USC's campus, has seven Heisman Trophies and their recipients' jerseys on display. Each of the seven players is highlighted in the USC football media guide and game-day programs. Enormous replicas of the retired jerseys are displayed all football season long below the peristyle of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
--opinion piece, la times--
...is a blog that doesn't seem to have been too active until recently. Its author, a journalism student, writes quite well. A post describing Mike Wallace's visit to Fordham University concludes:|
'Students came forth slowy, tentatively, with questions. But by the end of the 60 minutes, Wallace was the one conducting the interview, doing what he still does best: putting people in the hot seat, and by God, making them squirm...
Not all of this prose is perfect. But, by God, she nails the ending.
UD once saw a course evaluation form across whose top something like the following message to students appeared:|
Please remember that your instructor's salary is directly tied to your evaluation of him or her.
She recalled that message when she read this article about her university's business school:
'Business Week magazine will pay special attention to GW when calculating its annual business school rankings because of a controversially worded letter from University administrators encouraging students to participate in the magazine's survey.
A recent survey ranks Syracuse a prominent blogging city, and the presence of Syracuse University is a major reason why.|
...'Syracuse ranks high because it has several of the characteristics that correlate with blogging activity, not the least of which is the presence of Syracuse University...
The Daily Orange, the Syracuse University newspaper.
Good writing about a lack of intellectual curiosity at Harvard.|
SOS suggests ways to make the writing even better.
'When I began my undergraduate career at Harvard a little over two years ago, I spent the early days, weeks, and months floating around in a haze. I felt out to sea in my classes, and socially, the scene surprised me. I had expected Harvard to be an oasis of intellectualism, and it wasn’t. [In a haze, out to sea, an oasis... We've got a mess of metaphors here. But the first-person approach is a good idea, and this Harvard undergraduate writing in the campus newspaper is about to say something very important, and say it pretty well.]
...she was always told never argue from emotion.|
This rule remained somewhat abstract until SOS read the latest of many letters in the Southern Illinois press in defense of plagiarizing Southern Illinois prez Glenn Poshard.
'I have sat quietly by reading the headlines and editorials about Glenn Poshard, a dizzying roller coaster ride that made me wish I had skipped the chili dog. [A quiet, dizzying roller coaster ride. Confusing.] He devoted his life to serving people of Southern Illinois and is charismatic, enthusiastic and dedicated to his community. [You can be many good things and a plagiarist too.]
The problem with arguing from emotion is that you're emotional. You can't think straight. Readers are looking for reasons, not dispatches from the fainting couch.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
What the New York Times writer misses, in the piece I've excerpted below, is the emergence of a response on the part of many professors.|
In a spirit of mutually assured distraction, professors who've given up gaining the classroom attention of technologically engaged students now teach via PowerPoint slides.
In this way, no one pays attention to anyone. The professor doesn't suffer the insult that surveying a room of non-attending students represents; for fifty minutes she keeps her head slideward. The students don't fumble around hiding their technology when the eyes of the professor are upon them, for the eyes of the professor are no longer upon them.
As UD has suggested in earlier posts, this regime creates a carmelite calm, a silence within which each may pursue private dreams.
'Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cellphone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught.
To paraphrase Cavafy: It is, this PowerPoint technology, a kind of solution.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Sarko Gives it the Old College Try|
'French university students angry over a law making their schools more market-friendly have shut down classes at several campuses across France and are mobilizing to join nationwide protests later this month over President Nicolas Sarkozy's reforms.
Virtually every new French leader gives university reform a whirl. I doubt Sarko will have much success.
---international herald tribune---
Scathing Online Schoolmarm|
Pays Timothy Burke a Visit
'With some trepidation, I venture a few thoughts on the controversy over residence-hall programs at the University of Delaware. Trepidation because the kind of position I take on these issues is increasingly wearisome to hold given the polarization in online discussions of academia. [UD is not at all sure she sees the polarization. I don't see anyone out there - online or off - defending programs like Delaware's. Quite a number of these programs, for students, and sometimes for faculty, poke their heads out, attract enough outrage to appear in the press, and then, in seconds, get killed. I don't read anyone, left, right, or center, mourning their passing. It's too easy for Tim to begin his remarks with a gesture of despair about academic polarization, as if there's no common ground. There's common ground, and it's clear right there in the comment thread on Tim's blog. He has plenty in common with commenters to his right, like withywindle.] but I wish I could write in a looser, more enjoyably idiosyncratic, more compelling way about these questions like Oso Raro, but I’ve made my rhetorical bed and I’m stuck with it.
Intellectual Life at Princeton|
'On Saturday, November 10, 2007, the Office of the Alumni Association is sponsoring two lectures [which] ... provide alumni with a chance to sample intellectual life on campus ...
UD thanks a reader at Princeton for sending this along. Information about other events here.
...on the hate crime hoax at George Washington University, at UD's branch campus, University Diaries II, Inside Higher Education.
... is a blog concerning student life at the George Washington University. We do not promise to be unbiased or even relevant. We aim to provide GW students with information, opinions and stories they will enjoy. But most importantly, we aim to never be The Hatchet.'
Sure, UD'd have written we aim never to be The Hatchet in order to avoid the split infinitive, but their way will do. The Hatchet, UD reminds you, is GW's official student newspaper. The Colonialist is an unofficial blog about GW life. It's only just gotten started, and it looks promising. There's some funny stuff, and there's some serious stuff, especially, at the moment, about Swastika Girl (see post below this one for details).
Monday, November 05, 2007
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME:|
Classic Turn of Events.
So classic that a play, about to be made into a movie, features this plot development. The play is Spinning Into Butter, and the campus hate crime at its center has been committed by the person who reported the crime. For ideological reasons, or for psychological reasons, students sometimes hate crime themselves.
As at UD's university, George Washington:
'After evaluating evidence from a hidden camera positioned in response to the swastika postings in Mitchell Hall, University Police have linked the student who filed the complaints to several of the incidents.'
This comes from an email this evening to the university community.
Update: Oy. A Jewish student drew some -- maybe all -- of the swastikas:
'The University found the student who reported several swastikas on her Mitchell Hall door was the one who drew them.
Marshak, by the way, is a GW Hatchet reporter. She was also an ambitious and award-winning journalist in high school. The paper should have mentioned these things in its story.
Update II: Here's another ongoing university student hate crime story:
'Boulder police have ticketed an 18-year-old University of Colorado student for false reporting after she admitted that she lied to officers by claiming she was jumped by three men who cut an X into her cheek because she's a lesbian.
'Twere those concise lines that did her in.
'A group of prominent British women has raised funds to send a piano to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
UD thanks her sister for the link.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm|
'Among the many works of art hanging in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ atrium, Nantucket artist and SMFA alum Joan Albaugh’s oil paintings were part of a sea of canvases. [Awkward first sentence Her works were among many; her works were part of a sea... The feel of this is redundant. Circular.]
Fragile College Syndrome|
No one in her right mind wants Europe's state-strangled model of colleges and universities here in the United States. Yet when your country has, like ours, thousands and thousands of widely varied schools, some of which have incompetent or nefarious boards of trustees, disaster may ensue. Remember Papa Doc Diamandopoulos of Adelphi University; his scummy trustees were as greedy as he, and, until the law stepped in, let him go on a spectacular personal shopping spree with student and government money. Follow the ongoing story of New Jersey's totally corrupt University of Medicine and Dentistry.
If even solid places like Adelphi are vulnerable to presidential theft, think how much worse things are for our truly fragile campuses, all of them subject to being run into the ground by knaves and fools.
There's Central New England College, for instance, whose last president (CNEC no longer exists) just killed himself by jumping out of a building. Conviction on ninety counts of bank fraud, each count carrying up to thirty years in prison, can't have looked rosy.
"Authorities said Mr. Mattar, 68, used a sledgehammer to break open an apartment window about 3:30 a.m., then jumped."
CNEC actually hired Mattar to help it close:
'An accountant with no experience in education, Mr. Mattar had taken over as president of CNEC in 1978, a year after he had been hired as a management consultant to help close Worcester Junior College, which was heavily in debt. Instead of closing the institution, he assumed the top job, soon renamed the school [Got rid of the Junior thing.] and seemed at the time to be turning the situation around.
... While in Worcester, Mr. Mattar was known for the lavish parties he threw at his 5,500-square-foot home on Salisbury Street, which he could afford on his salary that was the highest of any college president in New England.'
When the hapless college grasped its situation, it got rid of him, but Mattar was able to turn around and find another college to soak:
'After leaving Worcester and about the same time he purchased the struggling bank in Boulder, Colo., Mr. Mattar took over Nasson Institute in Springvale, Maine, and its branch unit in Pawtucket, R.I. Nasson was a small liberal arts college that was struggling financially and facing declining enrollment. Mr. Mattar succeeded in convincing its trustees to make him president and grant him broad authority.'
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Scathing Online Schoolmarm|
The guy in charge of getting rich people to give money to the University of Houston is pissed off by a proposal Robert Reich's been making lately. Reich, you will recall, wants to cut the tax deduction on charitable giving when it's not really charitable giving. Here's part of a recent opinion piece by Reich:
'I see why a contribution to, say, the Salvation Army should be eligible for a charitable deduction. It helps the poor. But why, exactly, should a contribution to the already extraordinarily wealthy Guggenheim Museum or to Harvard University (which already has an endowment of more than $30 billion)?
This seems reasonable to UD -- it's still a generous deduction, after all. But the guy at Houston doesn't like it one bit. Here's his Houston Chronicle opinion piece in response to Reich, with SOS commentary:
'The business of philanthropy and the purposes of fund raising — a $200 billion annual marketplace of givers and receivers — are complex. [Beware of people who begin arguing by announcing the immense complexity of their issue... an immensity only insiders can understand. This comes across as hocus-pocus stuff -- I'm not going to argue against my opponents on the merits; I'm going to insist that they -- and you, the reader -- can't hope to understand the mystical intricacies of my field. This approach is a dud on many levels, but mainly it's a dud because it's condescending.] That's why it's easy for casual observers to mistake generosity for self-interest. [Reich says nothing about the motives of the givers. He talks only about definitions of true charity, and about fair distribution.]
UPDATE: Comrade Snowball, in a comment to this thread, says the following:
"The athletic deficit at the University of Houston exceeds $100M over the past 15 years, a fact [the author of the opinion piece] failed to mention when bemoaning the lack of space on campus in which to undertake the essential business of teaching and learning."
Background here. UD's having trouble finding an update on the situation at UH. What's the deficit now?
In Which UD, Because|
Her Sister's Pestering
Her About It...
...blogs the Morrissey concert she went to the other night. UD's once-student and now-friend, Christina, came along for moral support. She also came along to sit with UD, because UD's sister, a cultist, stood in the first row of Constitution Hall so she could be as close as possible to Morrissey, and there's no way UD was going to do that.
The three ladies met, on a mild and beautiful autumn night in the city, at a Cosi restaurant across from the Old Executive Office building. UD ordered a salad she thought'd be great, only it had blue cheese on it which she had to scrape off.
On the way in to the hall, they met up with another cultist, a friend of UD's sister, and the two of them went off to see the opening act. UD and Christina, realizing they had no interest in the opening act ("It's three big girls. They kind of look like a Latina gang."), and that Morrissey wouldn't appear for another hour or so, decided to get a drink at the Cafe du Parc, just down from the White House.
It was a bright, elegant place -- brand new, a fine French knock off -- and UD had her winter drink (her summer drink, longtime readers know, is a pina colada), a vodka and orange juice. She did what she does with all alcoholic drinks -- she drank half of it -- and Christina looked as annoyed as Mr. UD looks when UD does this.
They tried to walk along the back of the White House to return to Constitution Hall, but a security guy stopped them and told them to walk a different way.
When they got to the hall, Morrissey was wailing, and the crowd (which filled up most, but not all, of the place) was, as a colleague of UD's at the University of Toulouse used to put it, eento eet. Really eento eet.
UD and Christina took their seats in a lower-level balcony and UD considered first the pretty tacky light show, its pulsing strobes exactly like the strobes at the 'sixties concerts UD attended when she were a wee lassie. Three huge images of Richard Burton (not the adventurer; the movie star) were projected on the wall behind the band... UD pondered the meaning of this homage. Almost no one in the audience besides UD recognized the guy -- Christina didn't -- so it was a kind of private gesture, I guess, on Morrissey's part... And what was it about? Maybe, like UD, Morrissey has a thing for handsome brilliant passionate self-destructive artists. I dunno. I mean, the room was full of symbolically resonant objects -- a gorgeous enormous gong... various message-ridden t-shirts Morrissey would wear for a few minutes and then strip off of his body and hurl into the hungry crowd...
UD knows that Morrissey's lyrics are clever, poetic, dour, gifted. Yet overamplification made detecting even one word impossible. That left his voice and the quality of the music itself. His voice was fine, serviceable, a smooth easy tone, but nothing that'd knock your socks off. And the music? I'll let Roger Scruton say it:
[There's an] abdication of music to sound: to the dominating beat of the percussion, and to such antiharmonic devices as the 'power chord,' produced by electronic distortion. Melodies become brief exhalations, which cannot develop since they are swamped by rhythm, and have no voice-leading role. ... In the soup of amplified overtones, inner voices are drowned out: all the guitarist can do is create an illusion of harmony by playing parallel fifths.
Well-written, thoughtful account of universities and their various uses of blogs here. Excerpts:
'With the popularity of such sites as facebook.com and myspace.com, it's an increasing trend for colleges and universities to relate to students through blogs and social networking Web sites - mediums widely used among them.
One blogging professor comments:
"The blog is actually an excellent way students can get to know their professor and their thoughts outside the subject matter... I'd like to see more professors blog. I think it would be a good idea for students who are taking a class to get a chance to read and get to know what the professor is like."
It's true that UD's thought a bit about the advantages - and disadvantages - of her students who discover University Diaries probably knowing more about her than they do about their other professors... Not that she's sure there are any disadvantages... If UD were a reasonably engaged student of literature, she'd have some degree of interest in, say, what her professor reads in her off hours, what she really thinks about some of the writers she assigns in her classes, and, more broadly, what sort of person she is.
A blog isn't the only avenue here, of course; professors who are public intellectuals, or who write autobiographical novels, poems, and plays, or who are for whatever reason generally well-known, have much more open lives than other professors. There's almost nothing a Manchester University student can't know about Martin Amis or his nemesis, Terry Eagleton, for instance, though neither blogs.
One university incorporates blogs into its annual college-wide reading assignment:
'[The] Common Reading Experience program ... uses a blog to organize its discussions of what book all incoming students should read during the summer. A committee meets to discuss and ultimately choose the book, but the ...community could see what it already has decided against or is considering at the blog and offer input... '
Yet another use:
'At Bluffton University,...[s]everal students and one faculty member blog to give an insight into what campus life is all about, since most students live on campus.
'... The fire that killed seven South Carolina college students at Ocean Isle Beach last Sunday morning started on the deck of the house - possibly ignited by "discarded smoking materials."
Saturday, November 03, 2007
'A University of Texas at San Antonio student is in the planning stages of forming a pornography club on campus, station KSAT 12 reported.
Fake Degrees Are A Funny Thing.|
Whether because of embarrassment, indifference, ignorance, lawlessness, or amorality, universities and other institutions made aware of diploma mill scammers among them usually respond -- at least at first -- by insisting that
1.) the particular purchased degrees are irrelevant to the scammer's job description;
2.) said scammer received no extra salary because of the degree; and
3.) she's a great gal.
So we're not going to do anything about it.
This response is particularly surprising at universities, institutions founded on a shared conviction of the supreme value of legitimate education. Yet all three Texas universities alerted by a local news program to diploma mill people in high places responded in this way. On being told (And why can't universities consult the same list the reporters did, and find out who at their schools has a fake degree?) that the Assistant Dean for Faculty Development and College Initiatives has a fake Ph.D., Baylor University said:
“Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We are limited by federal privacy laws as to how much we can say about a personnel matter, but what I can tell you is that Anne Grinols is employed as a staff member, not as a faculty member at Baylor.”
She's only responsible for the academic review of Baylor University's faculty. Whew.
An assistant professor at UT San Antonio who has two fake degrees draws this response from the school:
'Deanna Sutton’s academic accomplishments, promotion and salary increases reflect her expertise in her area of fungus identification and medical mycology--and have not been based on the degrees she earned from the California Coast University. Her masters and her PhD are in the area of management and not in her teaching or research field. However, now that we are aware that her degrees are not recognized by the THECB, she will be asked to remove these degrees from her official university CV.'
Same move. The degrees are irrelevant to why we hired her.
Of course, this means she's an assistant professor on the basis of a bachelor's degree.
Then there's the professor of emergency medicine, also at a University of Texas campus. It always adds an extra frisson when diploma mill grads hold health-related positions...
'A master's degree was not a requirement for her to be hired, nor has she ever received any additional compensation, benefits or promotions in relation to her master's degree. Currently, she holds a non-teaching clinical appointment and does not serve in any kind of managerial capacity.'
To the now-familiar defense that the moral scumminess of buying degrees doesn't matter, this response adds the insistence that her advanced degree has had no impact on her compensation. Uh-huh.
... agrees with UD that Rate My Professors is a good thing: "It is a real example of students' civil responsibility [civic responsibility?] and holding faculty responsible for what and how they teach," says Derek Collins of the University of Michigan.
RMP recently named Collins hottest professor at Michigan.
... 'Collins said the attention is flattering but that his job is to teach, not to look great every day. He said he doesn't have a particular beauty regiment [That'd be regimen.... Although... UD just Googled beauty regiment, and everyone seems to use that, too.] or celebrity icon and that looking glamorous isn't one of his priorities.'
UD's Joyce-themed spawn.
With her friend Zuzu.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Richard Posner on Universities|
From his blog.
'...An ironic counterpoint to university leftism is the increasing, and increasingly successful, imitation of business firms by America's colleges and universities. The leading universities are becoming giant corporations with multi-hundred-million dollar (or even billion dollar) budgets. As they grow, they need and so they hire professional management.
Quote of the Day|
'[Charles] Murray argued [that] anyone who was Jewish and stupid 2,000 years ago found "it was a lot easier to be a Christian."'
From an American Enterprise Institute conference the other day on Jews and intelligence. Read more here.
See this dude...|
....brooding upon our
He's Morrissey. Loyal
readers know that
is a mad Morrissey fan.
Tonight she's dragging UD
to Constitution Hall, where
Morrissey's giving a concert.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
'South America stole our name...'|
...complains Randy Newman, in his song Political Science.
UD has the same problem with the University of Delaware. But she's always been gracious about it. Until now.
SOME MADE UNEASY BY UD DIVERSITY TRAINING runs the headline in the Wilmington News Journal. Excerpts from the story:
'Brooke Aldrich considers herself open-minded and accepting of all kinds of people.
Another Academic Career
Destroyed by Blogging
'Brian R. Leiter tracks the comings and goings of high-profile scholars in philosophy and law, writing a couple of popular academic blogs that offer details on who is taking a job where.
---chronicle of higher ed---
Sending This One Out to...|
...Rita, of Nobody Sasses A Girl With Glasses. Rita's on record as very much liking UD's diploma mill stories, and UD can't blame her. It's not that these endless revelations of bogus degrees in high places are intrinsically interesting -- the stories are all the same, with the same dickheads saying the same things about what they did -- but almost every one of them includes a fantastic quotation or two.
Take the Superintendent of the Mexia Texas schools:
'Former Mexia Superintendent Dean Andrews is under investigation and has been accused of obtaining a doctorate degree from a school in California not accredited to award doctorate degrees.
and Dying Out There
SOS takes a look at some heartland journalism this morning. From the Salt Lake Tribune.
'Just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II, Utah State made its own kind of history.
Via Andrew Sullivan, a reminder from Adam Kirsch that "all the official apparatus of the university is extraneous to its highest purpose, which is to cultivate freedom and inwardness.... The danger to postwar America [W.H. Auden suggests, in a poem Kirsch considers] lies in the soft tyranny of institutions, authorities, and experts — of people who know what’s best for you and don’t hesitate to make sure you know it, too."
People who care about universities should worry, Auden writes, about colleges where “Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge,” with courses on “Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport." A sample stanza:
Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Kingman Brewster, president of Yale, said something similar a long time ago:
“Faculty members, once they have proved their potential during a period of junior probation, should not feel beholden to anyone, especially Department Chairmen, Deans, Provosts, or Presidents, for favor, let alone for survival. In David Riesman’s phrase, teachers and scholars should, insofar as possible, be truly ‘inner directed’ - guided by their own intellectual curiosity, insight, and conscience. In the development of their ideas they should not be looking over their shoulders either in hope of favor or in fear of disfavor from anyone other than the judgment of an informed and critical posterity.”
Having just tried it, Oso Raro is ambivalent about incorporating blogs into one's university classes:
'...[T]he development of a written voice is essential to blogging. Those of us who blog regularly know this aspect of the medium, and are drawn to it, I would suppose, because of the expositional and narrative possibilities. Some of my students have taken to the genre like fish to water, and are, as they say, natural bloggers. In fact, when I designed the assignment, I thought this would be true of most of my students, imbued in social networking and online chat and Instant Messaging. This, however, was a misapprehension. Aside from those natural bloggers, who typically are also either gabby or strongly opinionated students in real life (IRL), some of my student bloggers have had trouble crafting themselves in the genre. On Friday, I had an early morning appointment with a student, a smart dedicated young woman, who admitted she was having trouble figuring out how to blog and what to blog about.
This points to one of the reasons UD's opposed to Creative Writing majors in college, and indeed to the tendency of some undergraduates to take more Creative Writing than literature courses.
You don't get this voice by sitting in class after class reading the pretty voiceless writing of other eighteen-year-olds. Nor do you get it by cranking out your own poetry in class -- poetry that's likely, given the ethos of university Creative Writing, to be over-praised. You get it by the selfless study of great writers.
And this is why UD wouldn't use blogs in her classes. It's unfair to throw at students, many of whom are too young to have developed their voices, a medium which, as Oso rightly notes, demands a strong voice.
Template of Doom|
In preparation for this blog's new look (first podcast's on its way, too), I've been removing old links and adding new ones (see list to your right). Alphabetizing is on its way.
Longtime readers know that I fear to tread in my template (I'm convinced I'll do something fatal in there), but so far so good.
“In the land of the people who work on things only three people will ever read, the schlub with a somewhat popular blog is king.”
Scott Eric Kaufman, of Acephalous, quotes an audience member at a recent academic conference.