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Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED

UD is...
"Salty." (Scott McLemee)
"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
"Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious."
(Rate Your Students)
"I think of Soltan as the Maureen Dowd of the blogosphere,
except that Maureen Dowd is kind of a wrecking ball of a writer,
and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005




Comes the time when it's later
and onto your table the headwaiter
puts the bill, and very soon after
rings out the sound of lively laughter--

Picking up change, hands like a walrus,
and a face like a barndoor's,
and a head without any apparent size,
nothing but two eyes--

So that's you, man,
or me. I make it as I can,
I pick up, I go
faster than they know--

Out the door, the street like a night,
any night, and no one in sight,
but then, well, there she is,
old friend Liz--

And she opens the door of her cadillac,
I step in back,
and we're gone.
She turns me on--

There are very huge stars, man, in the sky,
and from somewhere very far off someone hands
me a slice of apple pie,
with a gob of white, white ice cream on top of it,
and I eat it--

Slowly. And while certainly
they are laughing at me, and all around me is racket
of these cats not making it, I make it

in my wicker basket.


THE Tartan Army have been exploiting it for years, but now the sheer potency of the kilt as worn by a true Scot has been seized upon by a new breed of American romance writers - with profitable results.

Authors of novels with titles such as Master of the Highlands, Devil in a Kilt and Heaven and the Heather, have found that they can barely write the books fast enough to keep up with the demands of their smitten readers.

Romance novels are big business in the United States, with one in 50 readers getting through more than 100 of the potboilers every year.

The genre brought in $1.4 billion (£750 million) in 2003 alone.

But perhaps following on from the success of Braveheart, this year’s publishing sensation is the racy plaid-ripper, where the men are smouldering Scots, the countryside is wild and rugged and the women are all a-quiver.

Books with covers showing brooding, muscular, kilted heroes gazing out over the hills and glens are topping the best-seller lists.

The authors, some of whom can barely contain their passion for a land they see as impossibly romantic, say their books are successful because Scottish men in kilts are so breathtakingly beguiling.

Sue Ellen Welfonder, author of the bestselling Devil in a Kilt, said: "It’s the kilts. That or the men that fit in them. Scottish men are unbelievably sexy."

Devil in a Kilt tells the story of Duncan MacKenzie, an inarticulate cad who falls for Linnet MacDonnell, a feisty lass with second sight.

One passage from the book runs: "Linnet’s cheeks grew warmer ... as did the rest of her body, but she fought to ignore the disquieting sensations. She didn’t want a MacKenzie to bestir her in such a manner. Imagining how her da would laugh if he knew she harboured dreams of a man desiring her chased away the last vestiges of her troublesome thoughts."

Readers of Welfonder’s books agree that it is the Scottish men - and their "untamed" nature that make her romances unputdownable.

On an online chatroom, one, known as "Keltictemptress34", writes: "Scottish men are so passionate and uncontrollable. Just the thought of trying to tame one makes me feel weak at the knees." ‘

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


…if people get all het up about monolithic liberalism on American college campuses. As an English professor (“The most left-leaning departments,” writes Howard Kurtz today in the Washington Post, about the latest study of the subject, “are those devoted to the humanities [81 percent],” and “the most left-leaning [among those] departments are English literature, philosophy…”), she has certainly had her fill of lefties 24/7. It’s even possible that with unrelenting publicity and pressure over the next decade or so, UD could in her lifetime encounter a teensy range of political opinion at American universities.

But I’m not holding my breath. Here are the numbers that jump out at UD: 33 percent of the general public describe themselves as conservative, and 18 percent as liberal.


72 percent of university and college teachers are liberal and 15 percent conservative.

When UD reads stories like Kurtz’s, when she contemplates numbers like these, she gets this sudden image of the few remaining self-described liberals in the country huddled together like Ellis Islanders in the hull of a rusty boat, the boat being the American university…

But this is altogether the wrong image. Many American universities (certainly UD’s) are glamorous yachts. The university is not merely one of the few asylums where liberals can be comfortably among their own; it is almost certainly the most stylish and attractive of escapes. (Hollywood isn’t a significant option, being too small and closed a world.)

UD skews liberal for the purposes of the study about which Kurtz is writing. “The professors and instructors surveyed are, strongly or somewhat, in favor of abortion rights [yup]; believe homosexuality is acceptable [acceptable? I think we can do better than that], and want more environmental protections ‘even if it raises prices or costs jobs.’ [UD is an enviro-freak].” But on international politics UD looks much more conservative than her colleagues, and it’s too bad that it’s pointless for her to open a conversation about this anywhere on campus.

Except with her students, of course. They’re far more conservative than any of us.

Monday, March 28, 2005


UD discovers an intriguing convergence in a couple of recent online essays, one about private versus public universities, and the other about health, sickness, and ‘wellness’ in contemporary American and European culture.

As with a Gregg Easterbrook piece UD cited awhile back [see UD, 9/11/04], John V. Lombardi notes the absence of any differences in outcome between graduating from a reasonably priced good public university and a very expensive good private one:

Many studies have attempted to identify a major difference in the outcomes from attending expensive private institutions or attending high quality public universities in-state at half the price. Few of these find any significant difference in the outcomes, and in most cases the differences that do exist usually appear to reflect the differences in the wealth and opportunity provided by the students’ family circumstances before they enter college rather than any particular enhancement that comes from the luxury process of education.

What really matters, writes Lombardi, is “the commitment and focus of the student.” After all, “most colleges and universities sell a commodity product, an education that at its core is fundamentally similar between institutions. The amenities may differ - luxury dorms, elaborate student centers, complex and fully equipped recreational facilities - but the chemistry and English classes are pretty much the same.”

Easterbrook, in an interview about university education and successful people [see UD, 9/11/04], puts it this way:

It's education generally — not any specific college — that [produced success] for them. The boomers misanalyze the situation and think, Oh, such-and-such person must have gone to Harvard to get where he is. But the relevant fact isn't that he went to Harvard, but that he got a good education somewhere. And a good education is now available at a hundred, maybe two hundred colleges in the United States.

This being the case, observers have tried to figure out why tons of people still desperately want their children to go to very expensive private colleges.

In some cases, undeniably, there are good intellectual reasons for such a choice. But in a significant number of cases, as Easterbrook suggests, it’s about snobbery. “In the world of Mercedes, Louis Vuitton, and vacation properties, high price means high status. At least some portion of affluent parents would be disappointed if college prices fell; they want the schools they patronize overpriced and thus exclusionary.” James B. Twitchell agrees, and goes further:

[T]he cost of tuition has become unimportant in the Ivy League. Like grade inflation, it’s uncontrollable - and hardly anyone in Higher Ed, Inc. really cares. As with other luxury providers, the higher the advertised price, the longer the line. …[Furthermore], among elite schools, the more the consumer pays for formal education (or at least is charged), the less of it he or she gets. The mandated class time necessary to qualify for a degree is often less at Stanford than at State U. As a general rule, the better the school, the shorter the week. At many good schools, the weekend starts on Thursday. .. Hardly anyone in Higher Ed, Inc. cares about what is taught, because that is not our charge. We are not in the business of transmitting what E.D. Hirsch would call cultural literacy… . We’re in the business of creating a total environment, delivering an experience, gaining satisfied customers, and applying the ‘smart’ stamp when they head for the exits. The classroom reflects this. Our real business is being transacted elsewhere on campus.

This idea of the “total environment” university, where what’s at stake isn’t education so much as the creation of (as Lombardi’s list of goodies up there suggests) gyms, dorms, and student centers that generate a sense of privilege, exclusivity, and well-being, leads me to the other recent essay I’d like to look at.

This one’s by Frank Furedi, who notices that, as Goethe predicted ("Speaking for myself, I, too, believe that humanity will win in the long run; I am only afraid that at the same time the world will have turned into one huge hospital where everyone is everybody else‘s humane nurse."), wealthy countries are becoming hospitals. The “problems we encounter in everyday life are reinterpreted as medical ones,” Furedi writes; “Problems that might traditionally have been defined as existential - that is, the problems of existence - have a medical label attached to them.”

A writer for the New York Times, contributing to an end-of-year discussion about American culture in December of 2003, gives an example [see UD, 1/8/04]:

These days you would think that there is no such thing as normal, thanks to the hand-in-glove working of the drug and insurance companies with the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the handbook of 374 ‘mental illnesses.’ If you are still grieving a loved one's death two months later, you fit the category of "major depressive disorder." Insurance companies want you quickly fixed, drug companies have a pill for every occasion, and friends and family are too overworked to provide the irreplaceable support for grief that is present in other countries. We are damaging the nature of friendship, teaching people that they need experts to treat them for everything.

Furedi argues that we’ve now begun to fetishize the condition of being unwell. Being unwell has become our default position, which means that the attainment of “wellness” becomes “something you have to work on, something to aspire to and achieve. This reinforces the presupposition that not being well - or being ill - is the normal state. That is what our culture says to us now: you are not okay, you are not fine; you are potentially ill. The message seems to be that if you do not subscribe to this project of keeping well, you will revert to being ill.” (This idea of a perpetual project is particularly attractive to hyperactive Americans, since it provides a model within which our restless energies toward self-improvement may be - must be - tirelessly indulged.)

Some of these ideas are not really new, but find a pedigree in Freud’s notion that we’re all neurotics; they also bear a family resemblance to the Laingian bromide that we live in a sick society. What’s new, says Furedi, is that “we are consciously valuing illness.” We must be ill, for if we are not ill we do not learn: “It’s almost like going to university, something positive, to be embraced, with hundreds of books telling us how to make the most of the experience of sickness.”

Looked at from this perspective, it’s no wonder that our university professors are melancholics (see UD, 1/18/04); they bear the burden, year after year, of conveying insight into the truth of human life through the relentless focus upon and embodiment of being ill, being un-well. But more broadly, UD would like to suggest, in a culture where the “normalisation of illness remains culturally affirmed,” and in which “we are encouraged continually to worry about our health,” one value of the very expensive private university might lie in its simultaneous indulgence of its students’ unwellness and its constant search for a cure.

Unlike big public universities (Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin) where there are too many people about for much personal attention, expensive private colleges are good at creating a hothouse environment for neurotic wellness-strivers. They are good at maintaining the narrative that the parents of neurotic wellness-strivers may have been telling their children about themselves for years: the foundation of their unwellness is that they are brilliant, special, gifted.

The years of therapy many over-parented students have enjoyed have conveyed to them above all their specialness, a specialness based upon superior sensitivity, intellect, and creativity. In his spectacular AIDS diary, Unbecoming, the American anthropology professor Eric Michaels remembers his gifted and talented boyhood:

I had spent rather a lot of time in testing and therapy sessions by the time I was a college sophomore. These sessions introduced me to a bewildering universe of praise and blame, obligation and independence which seemed quite impossible to me. What was being reinforced was an extreme and alienating sense of my personal uniqueness, the vast gulfs that separated me from any other humankind. Thus, my encounter with culturalogical explanation was a revelation, a discovery embraced longingly.

Michaels escaped a disabling sense of his unique unwellness through the discovery of anthropological method; but for many of the students in expensive private colleges, UD wants to suggest, the expense of the experience is justified by the college’s implicit agreement to continue the personal uniqueness story, to indulge the brilliant unwellness of each of its special charges. The institutional philosophy for which parents are willing to pay dearly, then, rests upon an acknowledgment of their children’s neurotic exceptionality, an acknowledgment of the fragility of their mental and physical health, and an in loco parentis devotion to the wellness project of each one of them.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Distracted by their nation’s own higher education controversy - Is Ward Churchill or is he not an Indian? - Americans have overlooked a similar national-identity story playing itself out at one of Europe‘s great universities. The story is particularly timely because

1. Tartan Day (April 6) is fast-approaching; and
2. the story involves Scottish people.

Claiming that the national dress certain Cambridge students are wearing to its graduation ceremonies has become “flamboyant” and “extreme,” university authorities recently banned all non-standard (standard would be white shirts, dark trousers or skirt) clothing at the events.

The announcement “sparked fury among patriotic Scottish students, and the university has been inundated with e-mails from angry alumni demanding that the dress law be removed.” One columnist calls the Cambridge overseers “intellectual Sassenachs” [Note to self: Look up “Sassenachs”]. Another says they need to “forget 1746 and realise that we’re now living in 2005." [Note to self: What happened in 1746?]

So intense has the Scottish challenge been that Cambridge officials have now begun to back down: “Yesterday, officials at the university admitted they were prepared to make exceptions for those who felt strongly about wearing their national dress.”

From Ways of Escape, by Graham Greene

I look back on David Selznick now with affection. …When I was in New York he invited me to lunch to discuss a project. He said, ‘Graham, I’ve got a great idea for a film. It’s just made for you.’

I had been careful on this occasion not to take a third martini.

‘The life of St Mary Magdalene.’

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘no. It’s not really in my line.’

He didn’t try to argue. ‘I have another idea,’ he said. ‘It will appeal to you as a Catholic. You know how next year they have what’s called the Holy Year in Rome. Well, I want to make a picture called The Unholy Year. It will show all the commercial rackets that go on, the crooks…’

‘An interesting notion,’ I said.

‘We’ll shoot it in the Vatican.’

‘I doubt if they will give you permission for that.’

‘Oh sure they will,’ he said. ‘You see, we’ll write in one Good Character.’

(I am reminded by this story of another memorable lunch in a suite at the Dorchester when Sam Zimbalist asked me if I would revise the last part of a script which had been prepared for a remake of Ben Hur. ‘You see,’ he said, ‘we find a kind of anti-climax after the Crucifixion.’)

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Why, UD’s daughter wanted to know, wasn’t UD scared by the film The Ring?

UD responded that she thinks it has to do with her tv disability. As you know (unless you’re visiting the new-look University Diaries for the first time), UD does not watch tv. Except for the last presidential election returns, when she was hoping Kerry would win, UD has not watched tv in many years.

So many years, in fact, that UD is now fully television-disabled. She has lost her capacity for tv receptivity. She no longer has that virtually universal willingness to be pulled toward every lit square in the vicinity.

For UD the subject of tv, the turning on of tvs, and the running of tvs, is boring and embarrassing. It’s been ages since she felt the tv-specific depression so many people feel when they robotically watch. Just as UD has noticed that there are some buildings so ugly she actually doesn’t see them, so television, she recognizes, has become the thing everyone else sees that she does not see. She’s like the brain-damaged people in Oliver Sacks’s books, except that she’s only tv-aphasic. She sees everything else.

So when, in The Ring, the television screens out of which the disturbed little girl emerges suddenly turn on all by themselves with a creepy electronic whoosh that's supposed to make you jump out of your skin, UD yawns. The fear-effect of the film depends upon your finding scary the idea that this friend to us all, this most beloved and familiar of household appliances, has become an uncontrollable conveyor of horror. But since for UD the television set represents not a friend but a faintly embarrassing emanation, like a lazy fart, there’s no fright.

Although few Americans, UD figures, have attained UD's total-tv-erasure, the web-server-crashing sales of TV-B-Gone (see UD, 10/22/04, 11/5/04, and 1/6/05 for background) suggest that she is far from alone in her attitudes. In a nice essay updating the TV-B-Gone phenomenon (in which a solo entrepreneur with a website, a guy named Mitch, invented a small black object which, when touched near any television, turns the television off), Andrew Ferguson notes that “Mitch's press has been so approving and so voluminous, with dozens of jokey stories in newspapers and magazines, that he has yet to spend a dime on publicity. The website of gadget-happy Wired magazine featured the TV-B-Gone the day Mitch started up. That morning he sold 1,200 units online until his web server crashed. The next day he sold 2,300 more before the server crashed again. Since November he's sold another 40,000, with demand showing no signs of slack.”

UD bought four TV-B-Gones (Christmas presents). They took awhile to get to her. Mitch apologized about this on his website. He was unprepared to handle customer volume.

Ferguson has tracked down Mitch and interviewed him:

' ”The TV is always on,” [Mitch] says, “whether there's anybody there or not. And really, the last thing you want to see while you're doing your laundry is things blowing up, reports of murders, crime and stuff. Or Dr. Phil [see UD, 10/6/04]." He shudders visibly. "I've never been in there when people are really watching it. They're distracted by it, but that's different. So when I pull out my TV-B-Gone and turn the TV off, they go back to their book, or they talk to each other, or they watch the laundry go round and round and round. Nobody ever gets annoyed."

It was under similarly prosaic circumstances that the idea for TV-B-Gone came to him. He was having dinner with friends in a neighborhood restaurant. Up in a corner near the ceiling a television screen flickered. The sound was muted, but Mitch and his friends found themselves turning their attention to it anyway--an experience that every citizen of every country wired with electricity has had at one time or another.

"You could just feel this screen suck the energy right out of the conversation," he says. "I thought, 'Gee, I wish I could turn that thing off."

People eventually intuit, Ferguson comments, the coercive nature of many of the screens in public places:

' Wal-Mart announced last month that it was heavily investing in thousands of new 42-inch high-definition LCD televisions, to be placed strategically throughout all its stores. Every Wal-Mart is already a riot of television screens, of course, but as a company spokesman complained to the New York Times, the existing TV monitors were bolted "high above shoppers' heads and easily overlooked." Let them just try to overlook a 42-inch high LCD screen. Let them just try. '

And now, to make things even more interesting, a war’s hotting up:

'Inevitably, there has been a backlash. CNN, which owns all those Blitzer-blaring TVs in all those airports, is reportedly trying to concoct a way for its TV monitors to identify a remote signal from a TV-B-Gone and ignore it. ("That's okay," says Mitch with a shrug. "I'll just make a TV-B-Gone Deluxe.") '

You go, baby!

Friday, March 25, 2005


[for background skepticism, see UD, 2/13/05]


' Now Playing...


Old Globe Theatre
Review by Welton Jones

There's nothing tougher in the theatre than trying to make the writing process interesting. No matter how fabulous the result, the mechanics are booorrrrring.

So a new musical about James Joyce, an author of famed complexity and passion, probably more revered than read, has a double burden to bear: Making drama out of a boring activity that produced, many would say, a boring result.

The makers of "Himself and Nora," now in its world premiere version at the Old Globe Theatre, began by making the title characters improbably handsome and goofy in love.

Joyce, a dour, lanky gent with a pinched look, was certainly no Matt Bogart, the clean-cut and lively actor who plays him at the Globe. And, while pictures of the young Nora Barnacle show her to be a fine broth of a girl, she hasn't the poise and polish of Kate Shindle at the Globe.

...The Joyces caper about on Tobin Ost's intricate set as if revolving masonry were an everyday affair and their three supplemental colleagues David Edwards, Frank Mastrone and Kathy Santen join them in endless variations to suggest stage pictures containing far more than just five faces. As for deeper meanings of roiling passions, there are none.

If making a writer at work interesting is hard, than finding some fun in a tortured, egoistical genius is truly labor-intensive. Why Nora puts up with this Bozo is sometimes hard to understand, especially since he denies her even the comfort of marriage. And when he starts getting famous, he's insufferable. Ezra Pound brings him a rich heiress. Sylvia Beach begs to publish "Ulysses." They're seen as worshipful fools while he just becomes a bigger boor.

Of course, everything should come clear in the songs, drawn, one might expect, from the rich musical tradition of Ireland as filtered, perhaps, through the influence of Italy and France where the Joyces spent most of their exiled lives.

Sorry. But for a minor-key lick here and a twirl there, the source of these songs is Broadway, USA: The choppy rhythms and jagged sentimentalism of Stephen Sondheim in "Kiss;" the production-number pizzazz of "Let's Have a Drink" and "River Liffy;" "What Better Thing," a soulful love duet later reprised as a justification; and two or three finales. (Jana Zielonka leads the five musicians through orchestrations barely sketched by the composer.)

After a couple of early duds, true, the songs are pleasant and useful enough. Two are more than that: "All Expenses Paid," a ragtime fantasia by the hard-working quintet during which all problems are solved, and "Lucky," a tough, wry torch song in the Brecht-Weill manner, sold with true bite by Miss Shindle.

But the chance to paint Ireland's most influential author with the musical palette of his homeland must await some other show. Perhaps the same show that finally finds something of interest in the act of writing. '

Look. Can we talk? It’s one thing to have, at a high-profile university, a tenured plagiarist, a professor who has misrepresented himself as a minority in order to gain advantages. The University of Colorado will be within its rights to dismiss Ward Churchill on these grounds.

It’s another thing to have, at an obscure campus, a tenured absurdity who does not plagiarize and who has never misrepresented himself.

The critics of the academy who have turned their attention from Professor Ward Churchill to the Muppety-sounding Professor Grover Furr - a veteran English faculty member at Montclair State - are barking up the wrong jackass.

Yes, Furr is an illiterate Stalinist. He uses the same boilerplate as the communist letter-writer George Orwell immortalized fifty years ago in “Politics and the English Language.” Here he is on the fascist CIA client, Solidarnosc:

'Why does the CIA support Solidarity? Because…the U.S. ruling class, in fact everyone but the public, from whom the truth as been withheld, knows that Solidarity is as reactionary as they come. It is a fascist organization, not unlike Hitler’s, resembling nothing so much as the Moscow and Warsaw ‘communists’ whom it opposes so bitterly. … In Poland as elsewhere racism is used to divert the workers’ movement towards scapegoats, away from its real enemies, and into pro-capitalist directions. [Albert Shanker] and Walesa are birds of a feather, loyal supporters of big business, enemies of workers everywhere, clones of one another… A real workers’ revolt…would be directed first against these wolves in sheep’s clothing, traitors who prey on the crying needs of workers and others for a better life.'

Birds of a feather are cloned and become wolves in sheep’s clothing and none of us knows about it because we’re dupes of the ruling classes… If we’d read Grover Furr in the early ‘eighties we’d have avoided the catastrophe of Solidarnosc and the larger collapse of communism it helped to bring about…

So there’s a fossil to be found at Montclair State. He’s teaching his students how to write like Brezhnev and think like Khrushchev. But look. A number of colleges and universities up and down this great land of ours have Grovers stashed away in labs and linen closets -- weird little men (women, it seems to UD, are underrepresented in this cohort) writing about space aliens (see UD, 7/16/04) and Sun Persons and Solidarnosc…

Students are of course advised to stay away from these people, and most do. But these people have been tenured. They have been allowed to toil for the length and breadth of their days alerting us to the aliens and fascists and Ice People among us. A big country with a diversified higher education system will generate, and should tolerate, a few Grovers.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


via Blogger News Network:

" Bottom line: Ward Churchill will not be fired for his 9/11 comments, but will be investigated for issues concerning his research. He will not be investigated on issues concerning his teaching. He will be investigated for issues concerning his Indian ethnicity, because he portrayed that ethnicity as being integral to his scholarly research.

The conclusion of the report:

' Professor Churchill has outraged the Colorado and national communities as a result of profoundly offensive, abusive, and misguided statements relating to the victims of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

As repugnant as his statements are to many in the University community, however, they are protected by the First Amendment.

Allegations have been made that Professor Churchill has engaged in research misconduct; specifically, that he has engaged in plagiarism, misuse of others' work, falsification and fabrication of authority.

These allegations have sufficient merit to warrant referral to the University of Colorado at Boulder Standing Committee on Research Misconduct for further inquiry in accordance with prescribed procedures. The research misconduct procedures afford Professor Churchill an opportunity to review and to respond to the allegations before any determination is made. If the Committee determines that Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, the Committee is to make recommendations regarding dismissal or other disciplinary action.

Also referred to the Committee is the question of whether Churchill committed research misconduct by misrepresenting himself to be American Indian to gain credibility, authority, and an audience by using an Indian voice for his scholarly writings and speeches.

Other issues brought to the attention of the reviewers, such as teaching misconduct, were not found to warrant action
. '"

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


UD’s fourteen year old daughter thinks she’d like to go to New York University. She is not alone:

' New York University beat Harvard University as the top “dream college” for a second straight year, leading a survey of U.S. students who increasingly are applying to urban schools, The Princeton Review Inc. said.

…The number of applications to New York University more than tripled to 34,000 this year from about 10,000 in 1990 as students sought access to corporate internships and entertainment to supplement their education. Homicides dropped to 570 last year compared with 1,827 in 1993, according to New York City police department data, reducing concerns about urban crime and terrorism.

“Over the last five to eight years, urban schools have had an incredible renaissance with college students,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review's publisher and vice president of admissions services.

… “Young people want to be in cities because they can do things in a city they can't do in the wilderness,” said New York University spokesman John Beckman. “They can get a taste of what their career might be like, they can do interesting jobs as they go to school.”

…Current students at New York University include the actor twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose careers started in the television series “Full House.”

It has nothing to do with actor twins for UD’s little one. A few years ago, on their way back from two months in Indonesia, UD and her daughter spent ten days in New York City. The little one fell hard for the place.
He asked if I thought he had been too hard
on the son-of-a-whore poet.

I am not one easily to let by-gones be by-gones…

But Mitch wrestled his gruffness
And said some kind words.

Mitch wrestled with yet more
than gruffness
and lost. He died.

With each sip of brandy and ginger ale
his words will speak kindness to us.

This excerpt from a eulogy for a friend was written by JJ Jameson, recently named by a local arts group Chicago’s poet of the month.

Jameson is the pen name of double murderer Norman A. Porter, Jr., who, after he escaped from prison in Massachusetts, assumed the identity of a marxisant midwestern bard. The disguise gave him, as he told the arresting officer today, “a good 20 years.”
Way To Go

From today's New York Times obituaries:

' Stanley Sadie, a musicologist, writer and editor whose prodigious output included editing the last two editions of the titanic and authoritative New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, died on Monday at his home in Cossington, England. He was 74.

...Mr. Sadie had spent three weeks at a hospital in London, but was intent on returning home in time for the first concert in a music series that he and his wife run in a church near their home. The concert, on Sunday evening, was an all-Beethoven program performed by the Chillingirian String Quartet.

Mr. Sadie was able to stay for the first half, but felt unwell and went home to bed. At the conclusion of the performance, the quartet went to Mr. Sadie's house, set up quietly in his bedroom, and performed the slow movement of Beethoven's Quartet Number 16 in F (Op. 135) as he drifted in and out of sleep.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You don't want ...

... another description of university students taking a midterm exam, do you? Recall that UD has already written a poem (see UD , 5/4/04) and a little prose piece (see UD, 10/14/04) for you while doing what she's doing now: sitting in front of a group of undergraduates and watching them take a midterm.

But UD has nothing better to do for the next fifty minutes. So let's see if she can find something new to say about this classic scenario.

UD will of course never be able to top Vladimir Nabokov's description of the university examination room:

...I loved teaching, I loved Cornell, I loved composing and delivering my lectures on Russian writers and European great books. But around 60, and especially in winter, one begins to find hard the physical process of teaching, the
getting up at a fixed hour every other morning, the struggle with the snow in the driveway, the march through long corridors to the classroom, the effort of drawing on the blackboard a map of James Joyce's Dublin or the arrangement of the semi-sleeping car of the St. Petersburg-Moscow express in the early 1870s --
without an understanding of which neither Ulysses nor Anna Karenin, respectively, makes sense.

For some reason my most vivid memories concern examinations. Big amphitheater in Goldwin Smith. Exam from 8 a.m. to 10:30. About 150 students -- unwashed, unshaven young males and reasonably well-groomed young females. A general sense of tedium and disaster. Half-past eight. Little coughs, the clearing of nervous throats, coming in clusters of sound, rustling of pages. Some of the martyrs plunged in meditation, their arms locked behind their heads. I meet a dull gaze directed at me, seeing in me with hope and hate the source of forbidden knowledge.

Girl in glasses comes up to my desk to ask: "Professor Kafka, do you want us to say that ...? Or do you want us to answer only the first part of the question?" The great fraternity of C-minus, backbone of the nation, steadily scribbling on. A rustle arising simultaneously, the majority turning a page in their bluebooks, good teamwork. The shaking of a cramped wrist, the failing ink, the deodorant that breaks down. When I catch eyes directed at me, they are forthwith raised to the ceiling in pious meditation. Windowpanes getting misty. Boys peeling off sweaters. Girls chewing gum in rapid cadence. Ten minutes, five, three, time's up.

But perhaps UD's midterm posts can be seen as modest contributions to the subject...

UD will get the less attractive elements of the setting out of the way first:

1. Great hacking phlegmy groans.
2. Cell phones.

Moving on, there's the reliable blackness of it all: black tees, black sweats, black blouses, black turtlenecks. If glasses, black glasses. If watches, black bands. If hats, black hats.

One woman's wearing a charcoal tee with GODDESS written on it. Another has a spectacular tan (spring break, Cancun). One male student has brought not a pocket dictionary but a thesaurus, which impresses me. Yet another student has brought, instead of a dictionary, a book of words you're allowed to use in Scrabble. "This is useless," he says to me on his way out.
This is a head-spinning one.

Notice in particular the complex procedure described in highlighted paragraphs.

' State senator withdraws from university amid claims that ex-aide did schoolwork

A former staffer claims that he wrote college term papers for Sen. Richard F. Colburn.

By David Nitkin
Baltimore Sun Staff

March 22, 2005

State Sen. Richard F. Colburn, a Dorchester County Republican who sits on a committee that oversees education issues, has withdrawn from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore amid allegations from a former legislative aide who claims to have written and submitted academic papers on Colburn's behalf.

The aide, Gregory Dukes, said he wrote five papers for Colburn last year for two sociology courses Colburn was taking toward a bachelor's degree.

Dukes, 36, said he felt obligated to complete the papers to keep his job. He said he resigned from his legislative position in December after being ordered to perform those duties and a variety of personal tasks for Colburn, including waiting at his home for repair workers and coordinating the sale of baseball tickets.

"If he receives any success because of what I did, I would feel bad about that," Dukes said of his former employer.

Colburn, 55, flatly rejects the allegations, which he said stemmed from a personnel dispute. He said he wrote the papers longhand and gave them to Dukes to type, as he does not know how to type or use computers. He abandoned his coursework, he said, because of the demands of his legislative activities.

"It's his word versus my word," he said. "We're talking about a disgruntled employee."

Colburn said he paid Dukes for the typing and assumed the aide was doing the work on his own time, not state time.

Dukes said he charged Colburn $20 an hour for the academic work, receiving $300 for one of the two courses but nothing for the other. He said the payment was to create the papers, not transcribe them. Dukes said he asked for the fee in the hope that Colburn would be dissuaded from having someone else do his work.

The allegations first came to light in January when Dukes wrote to Anna Vaughn-Cooke, vice president for academic affairs at UMES, outlining what he said was his participation in Colburn's coursework and apologizing for his role. He said he wanted the letter to be considered a formal complaint.

Ronnie Holden, vice president for administrative affairs at UMES, confirmed yesterday that Colburn is no longer enrolled and said the withdrawal came after Dukes submitted the complaint. But Holden and other university officials would not comment on any inquiry that might have been started, noting student confidentiality laws.

Dukes provided copies of draft papers, notes, e-mails and faxes to the university and later to The Sun to support his allegations.

Among them is a handwritten note from Colburn to his aide describing how a UMES sociology professor rejected as too advanced a term paper topic for a class on American minority groups that Dukes says he - not Colburn - suggested.

"Gregory - I talked to Dr. Alston [Assistant Professor David Alston] about a term paper comparing the plight of Native American (Indians) on reservations in America vs. that of Jews in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Dr. Alston states that he felt such a paper would be too complex. ... He stated to just read this chapter and try to read and quote from other authors," the note said. It is signed, "Thanks, Rick."

Colburn said his handwritten directions to Dukes were not orders, but simply notes from the class and discussions that he was passing on. The senator gave a similar explanation for all the notes that Dukes kept.

Elected to the House of Delegates in 1983, Colburn is chairman of the Eastern Shore Senate delegation and is not regarded as a particularly powerful figure in Annapolis. He is a member of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which, in part, considers bills on higher education policy.

Colburn received an associate's degree from Chesapeake College, a community college, in 1982, according to the registrar's office there. He is town manager in Federalsburg, a 2,600-resident Dorchester County community. He said he has long desired a bachelor's degree for personal enrichment.

"I don't know whether I'll live long enough" to receive one, he said last week. "I had a bout of prostate cancer."

Dukes, an emergency room nurse by training, began as a campaign volunteer for Colburn in 2003 and went on the legislature's payroll in February 2004. As Colburn's chief of staff, he handled constituent complaints, wrote letters and researched legislation.

Dukes said Colburn also asked him to do personal tasks such as help arrange the resale of the senator's Orioles season tickets and help move furniture in his home.

Dukes said he worked on two UMES academic courses for Colburn. One was a sociology internship based on Colburn's experience as a Republican congressional candidate from Maryland's 1st District in 2004, supervised by Professor Stanley DeViney. Colburn was defeated in the primary by incumbent Wayne T. Gilchrest. The second was the course on minority groups taught by Alston.

During the internship, Colburn was to receive credit for keeping a log of his campaign activities and writing a paper after reading two classic political science texts and comparing his experiences to them.

Dukes said Colburn had him read the books - Robert Dahl's Who Governs? and William Domhoff's Who Really Rules? - and write a paper. He said Colburn told him to give the paper to retired Chesapeake College professor Conway Gregory, a friend of Colburn's who the aide said was serving as an informal academic adviser for the senator.

Gregory rewrote the paper, said Dukes. The aide said Colburn, without looking at it, told him to submit the revised version. "He said, 'OK, send it to the school.' He wouldn't touch it," Dukes said. "I lost all interest in his school endeavors at that point."

Colburn and Gregory, the retired professor, appear to have long-standing connections. Gregory's resume shows that he worked for years as a grants writer in Federalsburg and was a legislative aide to the senator.

A "plan of action" for Colburn's bachelor's degree kept by the aide shows that of 11 UMES classes the senator proposed taking in 2003 and 2004, Gregory was to be the instructor for seven. But Gregory has no relationship with UMES. There is no indication that the university approved the plan.

In an interview, Gregory said that plans that he serve as Colburn's primary instructor were "just a suggestion." Gregory said he recalled making suggestions on Colburn's sociology paper but denied that he rewrote it. "That's all I did was edit it," he said. "I do not recall writing a paper."

But Colburn could not explain why there were two versions of the sociology paper. Asked to name the city that was the subject of the two books - New Haven, Conn. - the senator could not. He also could not name the professor overseeing the course, Stanley DeViney.

DeViney would not comment for this article, saying federal laws prohibited him from speaking about a student's work. Alston, the second professor, could not be reached for comment.

Colburn said Dukes was disgruntled because the aide wanted to work out of Annapolis instead of Cambridge, but that Colburn refused. He said that after Dukes resigned, the aide improperly copied and removed files from the state-issued computer. The senator contacted the state attorney general's office to get them back; after that, Dukes got an attorney.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Zarnoch, who advises the General Assembly, acknowledged that he got involved in the matter. "Our job at some point was to make sure the files got back," Zarnoch said. Dukes provided copies earlier this year.
Even if Dukes' allegations are true and he wrote papers for Colburn on state time, that probably does not constitute a legal violation, Zarnoch said, because lawmakers have wide latitude in the tasks they give their employees. '
' Two-Alarm Fire Breaks Out At GWU

One Person Receives Serious Injuries

POSTED: 6:15 am EST March 22, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A fire at George Washington University located in northwest Washington has forced the evacuation of a high-rise dormitory.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter said the fire is at Thurston Hall in the 1900 block of G Street.

Etter said the fire broke out shortly before 5 a.m. and was confined to a dorm room on the ninth floor of the high-rise dormitory. Etter said one person was found inside unconscious suffering from serious burns and smoke inhalation.

The injured person was removed and taken to George Washington University Hospital. Etter said the male, believed to be about 20 years old, was in respiratory arrest. He will be stabilized and eventually transferred to the burn unit of the Washington Hospital Center, Etter said.

Etter said a firefighter also suffered an injury while helping to remove the person from the room. It has not been determined yet whether the injured person is a student.

So far there has been no damage estimate and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. '

Monday, March 21, 2005


Actually, UD will say nothing about the men who love them. She just likes the title.

Steve Sailer ( comments, apropos the few-women-are-pundits controversy:

I've spent enormous amounts of time standing around magazine racks in my life, and I can assure you that women almost never look at the prestige section where they group together "The Economist," "The New Republic," and "The National Interest," and other journals that don't have anything to do with your personal life. Attractive single women look at fashion and beauty magazines. Attractive married women look at expensive home decorating magazines.

The ugly truth is that UD, anatomically female, reads The Economist all the time. She subscribes.

Why oh why oh why oh, why does UD ever read The Economist?

Because it covers all these teeny countries (Montenegro. Population, 600,000.) in fascinating detail. Because it has lengthy special reports on things like universities. Because its orientation is international. Because it’s well-written.

Does UD have reservations about The Economist? She does. Graphically it’s a bore. Photo captions are sometimes sophomoric. It still runs ads for a Thai airline that portrays its female flight attendants as sex slaves.

To be sure, UD also reads the shelter mags Sailer mentions. Metropolitan Home means a lot to her, as does the extremely well-put-together Garden Design. UD’s furtive love for Paris Match is now, thanks to her tell-all blog, well-known.

And while UD reads the shelter magazines from front to back like a normal person, faithful readers of this blog already know that UD reads The Economist from back to front, starting with the week’s featured obituary, and then moving on to the arts and culture pages. When she finally backs up into the Finance section, she doesn’t even look. She just keeps going in reverse until she gets to the foreign news.

Finance stories tend to be about hefty men named Helmut who may or may not be going to jail for malfeasance.

Oh, and UD’s a regular reader of the New Republic, too. Has been for years. So… a pretty good writer, with a pretty good grasp of politics… and yet UD doesn’t punditize, at least about non-university stuff. Why?

I’m not sure. UD is enough of a professional writer that if you paid her to do it she’d probably do it adequately.

I don’t think I’m afraid to speak out. Dahlia Lithwick, in an interview on NPR, remarks that it can be “hard for women to brave an opinion. When they do they get slapped down for it.”

In UD’s experience, it’s not so much that you get slapped down. It’s that you get The Look. Men have a way of looking at women who speak and write sharply … like …it’s like… Huh? … It’s not exactly hostile… it’s just like, uh, what are you doing? What are you? What's going on?

Simplement, these men are confused. It's best to ignore them and keep going until they begin to understand what is happening to them.

No, UD fears that the problem, at least for her, is too great a sense of Life’s Ambiguity. Pundits have to generate confident settled positions about everything. UD dithers about the ineffability of it all.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


A professor at the University of Colorado, smarting under the Churchill whip, comes to a conclusion UD came to a long while back (see UD, 2/8/04): “[T]here is no place for the personal political positions of faculty in the classroom. It tends to make for poor teaching.”

Philip Rieff, regarded by most leftists as a reactionary whackjob, has long argued this, and it makes UD lighthearted, on this first day of spring, that the professor from CU, who describes himself as “one of those refugee leftists, stashed away in academia, and regarded by many conservatives as all that's wrong with universities today,” finds common ground with Rieff. (Rieff’s ideas about the “triumph of the therapeutic” - and Christopher Lasch’s elaboration of them - have strongly influenced UD.) He does so because he has actually stopped and thought about the distinctive thing that a university is:

I'm an academic not because it's a good place for me to practice my leftist politics or indoctrinate my students to my cause. Rather, I'm here because I was a lousy leftist. I could never commit to a cause that I inevitably saw as riddled with internal contradictions. As a young activist, I was far more interested in the complexities and contradictions inherent in political positions than in the "rightness" or the "wrongness" of those positions themselves. I was drawn to academia not because it was a haven for my political beliefs, but because it encouraged me to subject the world to rigorous scrutiny, enabling me to challenge anyone's political position when such a challenge was warranted.

Here we have an eloquent version of Arnold’s idea of the particular critical capacity you’re supposed to gain from exposure to university education: an ability to "see the object as in itself it really is." True critical thought, as Michael Bryson points out in a discussion of Matthew Arnold, “strips away political agendas. …Criticism's primary quality is … disinterestedness. [Criticism must] keep ‘aloof from what is called the practical view of things’ by resolutely following the law of its own nature, which is to be a ‘free play of the mind on all subjects which it touches.’ It [resolutely avoids] political polemics of the sort which dominate criticism in the late 20th century: ‘Criticism must maintain its independence of the practical spirit and its aims.’ The law of criticism's being is "the idea of a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world."

There’s an important temporal claim embedded in the CU professor’s description of what university faculties do:

To expect [university faculty] to both question the taken-for-granted world of our students (this being what we are trained to do) and then provide them with a forum for reorganizing their views around ready-made ideological positions is to cheapen and ultimately contradict what we are here to do.

(This, by the way, is why pre-shrunk programs like women’s and ethnic studies are undergoing scrutiny. They tend to cheat students of a real education.)

Note the implicit narrative of critical thought here: Before any position taking, one needs to acquire a ground of knowledge, as well as an understanding of legitimate modes of intellectual argumentation. Even more importantly, you must somehow acquire the attitude of patient disinterestness that allows for mental flexibility, for the possibility of changes in your ways of thinking. “The very basis for beliefs themselves [is] challenged at the most basic level” at a serious university, says the CU professor [UD would have rewritten that sentence to find a way to avoid the repetition of “basis“ and “basic”…] The university’s function is not to rush the student toward conclusions but “rather to develop critical inquiries of the knowledge upon which political positions are based in the first place.” Free critical thought at a serious university, in other words, is prior to, and at best a possible foundation for, practical position-taking.

This is why Tim Oakes (he does have a name), old leftie that he is, concludes his opinion piece by describing universities as “inherently conservative institutions in which the inertia of critical scrutiny serves as a drag against the bold and radical changes desired by political movements.”

Saturday, March 19, 2005


…the editors at The Roundup, the student newspaper at New Mexico State University, who complain in a recent editorial that

…the university has made plans to include alcohol education in the curriculum of English 111 courses in light of the alcohol-related student deaths that occurred this year.

While we are pleased the university is addressing the issue, it seems administrators have not properly researched the impact of these changes.

First, adding alcohol education to the curriculum of English courses will create duplications of course material. University 150 classes already discuss such topics. Why should incoming freshmen have to attend multiple classes to learn the same material?

Additionally, how is a section about alcohol education any more appropriate in an English class than it is in a math class? Requiring English professors to change their lesson plans and cover something entirely off-subject implies that their discipline lacks importance and therefore may suffer interruption. ...

If the school really wants all freshmen to receive alcohol education, it should research effective measures to take and possibly make University 150 courses mandatory for all incoming freshmen.

This is also a perfect opportunity for the university to work with the Associated Students of New Mexico State University to devise new programs that would increase student awareness and safety related to alcohol.

Other institutions, such as Rice University, have "drunk-sitter" programs in which student volunteers go through training to learn the proper way to care for a drunk person. Those volunteers then make themselves available for students to call for assistance. ASNMSU could develop such a program and possibly pay those students willing to dedicate their time to helping drunk people.

UD salutes the New Mexico students because they understand that professors are not social workers. If UD wanted to go into the field of alcohol education and become conversant with phrases like drunk-sitter programs, she would have done so. Instead she read and studied and now writes about and teaches novels like Under the Volcano … whose main character, to be sure, is drinking himself to death in Oaxaca…but the novel is not a morality tale about the evils of drink. On the contrary, it can be read as suggesting that drink -- along with other forms of chemical indulgence -- may stimulate a valuable sort of thinking about existence.

So it is not merely, as the students rightly say, that forcing English professors to moralize about the evils of drink in classes devoted to rhetoric or poetry or the novel conveys a belief that “their discipline lacks importance” (you can hear the conversation among the deans: “Where do we shoe-horn this in?” “Oh, I dunno … English department?”); it also conveys a belief that they don’t have a discipline.

To UD, the creeping moral didacticism of the university classroom is every bit as insidious as the political indoctrination people go back and forth about lately. As English professors, for instance, are more and more instructed to incorporate social work into their subject matter, UD foresees the emergence a new genre of novel, expressly written to the English 111’s of the future.

UD doesn’t mean to trivialize the problem. She’s written a lot on this blog about American university students who have died with astounding amounts and varieties of alcohol in their bodies. She has singled out notoriously alcohol-soaked campuses and towns. And she is aware, as Inside Higher Ed points out, that the situation is getting worse:

' Death by Drinking

Alcohol consumption accounted for 1,715 deaths among traditional-age college students in 2001, according to a study released Thursday by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

That represents an increase of about 6 percent (after being adjusted for the rise in the number of college-age people) from the 1,575 alcohol-related deaths three years earlier, in 1998, according to the study, which was published in the latest edition of the Annual Review of Public Health.

The study also found a sharp rise in the proportion of students aged 18 to 24 who acknowledged driving drunk, to 31.4 percent in 2001 from 26.5 percent in 1998. That represents an increase in the number of students who drove drunk over that three-year period to 2.8 million, from 2.3 million.

The researchers drew their data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Harvard College Alcohol Survey, as well as national coroner studies and census and college enrollment data for 18 to 24 year olds. The deaths exclude homicides and suicides.

“This paper underscores what we had learned from another recent study — that excessive alcohol use by college-aged individuals in the U.S. is a significant source of harm,” said Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

But the English or philosophy or chemistry classroom is about the disinterested consideration of the complexity of the world; professors should not be in the business of sermonizing (UD recognizes and regrets the fact that many professors are already sermonizers). The study of literature in particular should be about allowing challenging and often morally ambiguous writing to have its say.

Friday, March 18, 2005


' Cartman: Ma'am, I need to clear out your giggling stoners and your drum-circle hippies RIGHT NOW, or soon they're gonna attract something much worse!

Elderly Woman: Ooooo. What's that?

Cartman: The college know-it-all hippies.

[The neighborhood, day. A red car pulls up to the curb. On the back window is a decal which says "University of Colorado at Boulder." Three men and three women step out of the car]

Driver: [wearing green jacket] Wow, my friend Brittany was right. This is a really laid-back place.

Woman 1: [wearing tan jacket] Yeah, this will be a great place to spend spring break.

[Stan, Kyle, and Kenny approach them]

Kyle: Hey, let's ask them. [the boys are wearing shoulder totes with magazines peeking out from them.]

Stan: All right. [the two parties meet] 'Scuse me. [holds out a clipboard] Hello, we are selling magazine subscriptions for our community youth program. Would you like to help young people like us by purchasing a subscription of your choice?

Driver: Oh wow, you guys shouldn't be doing that. Don't you know what you're doing to the world?

Kyle: Wha- whataya mean?

Man 1: [wearing a guitar over his back] You're playing into the corporate game! See, the corporations are trying to turn you into little Eichmanns so that they can make money. [the other man is busily eating chips]

Stan: Who are the corporations?

Woman 2: [a blonde with a psychedelic fish on her shirt] The corporations run the entire world. And now they fooled you into working for them.

Stan: Are you serious?? We never heard that.

Driver: We just spent our first semester at college. Our professors opened our eyes. The government is using its corporate ties to make you sell magazines so they can get rich.

Kyle: Ugh! Those dirty liars!

Kenny: (Sonofabitch!) [throws down his shoulder tote]

Man 2: [has finished his chips] This is a really nice town you have here. That's why the corporations are trying to use you to take it down.

Stan: Well... Well what do we do?

Driver: Just hang with us for a bit. We'll fill you in on everything you haven't been told. '
Snapshots from Home


Well, it’s just as the website I consulted said: Deer like to bed down for the night on the tops of slightly wooded hills, so they have a view of predators. UD and her dog were headed toward the top of her backyard early this morning when, as one, a small herd of deer who’d been stretched out there staggered to their feet and stared down at the two of them.

UD didn’t go up. She and the dog (who hadn’t seen the deer yet) turned around and walked to the front yard. And the deer shrugged and lay down again.

Which is to say that in some important respects UD is willing to share her life with large numbers of deer. But things have gotten so bad in Montgomery County, Maryland, that the county now sponsors multiple deer hunts. On private land. In principle, UD could invite a group of hunters over one Sunday and let them blast away.


By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press Writer

BURLINGTON, Vt. - A former medical school professor was accused Thursday of fabricating research data on closely watched topics such as menopause, aging and hormone supplements to win millions of dollars in grant money from the federal government.

Prosecutors said Eric T. Poehlman, 49, a former tenured professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, would fabricate his research to make his proposals look more intriguing, in the hope that the government would be more likely to dole out grants to him.

"Dr. Poehlman fraudulently diverted millions of dollars from Public Health Service to support his research projects," U.S. Attorney David V. Kirby said Thursday. "This in turn siphoned millions of dollars from the pool of resources available for valid scientific research proposals. As this prosecution provides, such conduct will not be tolerated."

Poehlman has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of making false statements in an application for a $542,000 grant he received, federal prosecutors said. He faces up to five years in prison. He is also barred by the federal government from receiving Public Health Research funds and must retract or correct 10 articles.

Poehlman is accused of requesting $11.6 million in federal funding using false data. Although he did not receive many of the grants, the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (news - web sites) used $2.9 million in research funding based on the faulty applications, prosecutors said.

His lawyer, Robert B. Hemley, said Thursday that he was unwilling to comment on the case until at least after the sentencing.

In a paper on published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1995, Poehlman said he had tested 35 healthy women and retested the same women six years later in the "The Longitudinal Menopause Study: 1994-2000" when he actually falsified and fabricated test results for 32 of the women.

In applications for federal grants, Poehlman lied about the number of subjects he had tested in "The Longitudinal Study of Aging: 1996-2000" and changed the data about their physical characteristics and test results to create trends that did not occur in the research.

Poehlman also made up the results from a 1999-2000 Hormone Replacement Therapy study to seek federal funding.

UVM started to investigate Poehlman in December of 2000 when one of his research assistants accused him of scientific misconduct.

During the two-year investigation, Poehlman deleted electronic evidence of his falsifications, presented false testimony and documents and influenced other witnesses to provide false documents, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Poehlman resigned from the medical school in 2001 and moved to Montreal, Canada to work as a researcher. He has since left his job in Canada.

Poehlman has also agreed to pay $180,000 to settle a civil complaint. ’


POEHLMAN UPDATE: Today’s Boston Globe calls this “the worst case of scientific fakery to come to light in two decades.”

Here’s a crucial part of the problem: The lab assistant who blew the whistle ‘says that at least four University of Vermont researchers told him privately that they had concerns as well about some of Poehlman's work. However, no one else had spoken up to university authorities. "I was in a unique position to act. …I did not rely on Dr. Poehlman for funding, a post doc [research position], or a salary." …The University of Vermont took DeNino's accusations seriously, he said, but he quickly realized the difficulty of being a whistle-blower against someone as powerful as Poehlman. Other colleagues in Poehlman's lab doubted DeNino's claims, while Poehlman's attorney threatened to sue him if he spoke against Poehlman outside of the investigation.’

Thursday, March 17, 2005

University Diaries...

...has a hacker. She's done what she can to protect the site. If strange messages show up here, my apologies.

….this seems to me an imperfect murder of an extremely obvious kind…

‘ LAWRENCE, Kan. - Kansas State University professor Thomas E. Murray was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the death of his former wife.

Douglas County jurors deliberated for two days before announcing they had a verdict about 9:20 a.m. Thursday.

Murray, 48, of Manhattan, was convicted of killing his former wife, Carmin D. Ross, 40, on Nov. 13, 2003, at her two-story farmhouse north of Lawrence. She was bludgeoned and stabbed to death.

Murray showed no obvious emotion when the verdict was announced.

Some of Ross' family members including her grandmother, Malta Ross, began crying. Ross' fiance, Larry Lima, reached over and grabbed the shoulder of Ross' father, Danny Ross.

Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild said Murray will be sentenced in 45 days after a presentence investigation. He faces a sentence of life in prison with a possibility of parole in 25 years.

After the verdict was announced, Kansas State fired Murray.

"In light of Professor Thomas Murray's conviction, Kansas State University has taken him off its payroll, effective immediately," said a statement from Richard Seaton, an attorney for the university. "His employment with the university is terminated."

Prosecutors said Murray killed Ross partly because he was afraid he might lose custody of their 4-year-old daughter. Ross had been planning to move to California, where Lima lived.

Murray and Ross shared custody of their daughter after their divorce and were mediating custody issues at the time of her death.

Defense attorneys argued that Murray was a gentle man saddened by the end of his 18-year marriage. They also said no evidence linked Murray to the crime and suggested Ross was killed by at least two unidentified people.

After the verdict was announced, Lima's eyes filled with tears as he said the verdict "still is not enough to bring her back."

"This part is done and now comes the real work - caring for the daughter in an environment of love," he said.

Defense attorney Bob Eye said it was too early to determine if the conviction will be appealed.

Another defense attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, said Murray was disappointed and sad about the verdict.

"He's doing well and will continue to do what he can to establish his innocence," Irigonegaray said.

Assistant District Attorney Angela Wilson acknowledged that the case was based primarily on circumstantial evidence but said "it all added up and pointed to him."
"Once again we proved there is no perfect murder," she said.

Two jurors said the group had voted Wednesday, with most voting for guilty. They decided to go home and vote again Thursday morning.

"We were pretty well decided yesterday and we wanted to sleep on it," said Ted Kihm, 44, of Lawrence.

Kihm and juror Robert Wagner, 42, of Lawrence, said no single piece of evidence convinced the jury of Murray's guilt. But Kihm said a 9 1/2-hour video of Murray being questioned by investigators was "extremely important testimony."

"We couldn't get any of the defense points to stick," Kihm said. "They were contradicted by the facts."

While Kihm and Wagner were talking to the media, Ross' father, Danny Ross, and other family members approached, shook their hands, hugged them and thanked them.

"We are so thankful the jury took their time," Ross said. "I think they did a wonderful job. As a family we're relieved but it won't bring our daughter back. It gives us our granddaughter, which we will raise."

The child has been living with Ross' family since Murray was arrested last year.’

The Edit Posts function on Blogger is for shit this morning and I can't wait I'm too excited I FOUND THE RAT. Maybe not the Hermes rat -- it's hard to tell from the picture if this one's made out of Hermes scraps.

But I found at least A Tom Sachs Hermes rat with a syringe in its mouth! Enjoy.

New York Times, House and Home:

"A mushroom sculpture by Takashi Murakami springs up from the carpet of the media room. On the wall at the end of the table where the family eats supper each night is a self-portrait of Cindy Sherman as a clown, a picture that has particular resonance for Ms. Levy, whose first job was working as a clown at children's parties. Nearby a lifesize orange rat by the renegade sculptor Tom Sachs, fashioned out of torn-up Hermes gift bags and with a matching syringe clenched in its teeth, adorns a side table.

...Sam's father is Fermin Vilanova, a Spanish advertising executive who lives in Barcelona. 'He's an extraordinary father with a very warm heart,' Ms. Levy said. 'He comes to see him every month, and they speak twice a week. ...There was no way I was going to have a child without a present father.'"

[From Chapter 17, "Ithaca"]:

Were their views on some points divergent?

Stephen dissented openly from Bloom’s views on the importance of dietary and civic selfhelp while Bloom dissented tacitly from Stephen’s views on the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature. Bloom assented covertly to Stephen’s rectification of the anachronism involved in assigning the date of the conversion of the Irish nation to christianity from druidism by Patrick son of Calpornus, son of Potitus, son of Odyssus, sent by pope Celestine I in the year 432 in the reign of Leary to the year 260 or thereabouts in the reign of Cormac MacArt (+ 266 A.D.), suffocated by imperfect deglutition of ailment at Sletty and interred at Rossnaree.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


A Regular University Diaries Feature



' A 1968 profile by the journalist Lee Edison described [Hans] Bethe as "a tall, spare man with a deceptively distracted look." He wrote: "His graying hair seems permanently electrified; his shoes are scuffed, and his tie seems to have been studiously arranged to miss his collar button. He listens attentively, nodding his head as if in agreement, but - as devastated colleagues and adversaries have discovered - this habit is far from a sign of agreement. His 'yes, yes, yes' is rather a signal that his mental apparatus is receiving. What he does with the input is another matter." '

Yet again UD gets to talk about what it’s like for her to be a woman! A woman who blogs! Who blogs in a woman’s voice!

UD has no effing idea what a woman’s voice is.

All she knows is that she loves the attention. Are you okay, UD? How do you feel about men banging about the blogosphere drowning your woman’s voice? And the op/ed page of the Los Angeles Times - how do you feel about the fact that so few women’s voices are heard there?

Yes, it’s time for UD to testify. Ain’t I a woman?!

No. Not in any way recognizably akin to the woman Deborah Tannen describes in her LA Times essay on the subject, coyly titled "The Feminine Technique" -- an echo of Betty Friedan’s book‘s title, "The Feminine Mystique."

Tannen says there’s a woman’s technique of writing. The feminine technique. It is different from men’s. It is better than their “attack-dog” writing.

Because of the “agonistic rituals” with which they’ve been raised, men think that

[A]rguing ideas [is] a way to explore them … . Because they're used to this agonistic way of exploring ideas — playing devil's advocate — many men find that their adrenaline gets going when someone challenges them, and it sharpens their minds: They think more clearly and get better ideas. But those who are not used to this mode of exploring ideas, including many women, react differently: They back off, feeling attacked, and they don't do their best thinking under those circumstances. …[Women are] put off by the competitive, cutthroat culture of science. The assumption that fighting is the only way to explore ideas is deeply rooted in Western civilization. It can be found in the militaristic roots of the Christian church and in our educational system, tracing back to all-male medieval universities where students learned by oral disputation. … [Males see] fighting as a format for doing things that have nothing to do with actual combat: They show affection by mock-punching, getting a friend's head in an armlock or playfully trading insults.

So much here to leap upon and attack.

It is not only men who think that “arguing ideas is a way to explore them.” It is all sentient human beings. If, confronted with dialectical thought, women “back off, feeling attacked,” they shouldn’t, and Tannen shouldn’t pretend that running away from intellectual rough-housing is a species of moral superiority.

If you read in its entirety Tannen’s contribution to the Susan-Estrich-generated controversy about the representation of women among bloggers and opinion columnists, you'll note how she conflates strenuous oppositional give-and-take (as in Blake's "I will not cease from mental fight") and pointless cerebral brutalizing… Along these lines -- UD has noticed throughout her life that some people are profoundly conflict-averse. Such people routinely conflate things in Tannen’s way -- if you raise your voice with them, if you challenge a point they’re making, if you fail to maintain at all times a sharing and caring demeanor, they assume you’re beating up on them and they get angry or weepy or weird. This is called taking things personally, and it is a surefire way to deal yourself out of the world of thought. At its core it represents a wretched egotism.

As for the actual physical fighting Tannen mentions - “mock-punching, getting a friend’s head in an armlock or playfully trading insults” - this is and always has been the very foundation of UD’s affectional life. Take it away and she has nothing.

A University Diaries Series


The Globe and Mail

As the University of Toronto moves to end mandatory retirement at 65 for its professors and librarians, Brenda Milner says it's about time.

"If you are attached to university life and the whole academic tradition, it's a little hurtful to be forced out of it just because of age," says the 86-year-old, full-time professor at Montreal's McGill University.

"I know that people suffer a lot when they have to [retire] when they are still doing good work."

Prof. Milner speaks from experience. A renowned professor of neuro-psychology at McGill's faculty of medicine and at the Montreal Neurological Institute, Prof. Milner says she was able to stay at work past 65 through a special concession granted by the university.

And about a year later, Quebec abolished its mandatory retirement law, which let her continue to stay on.

"It would have been terrible" if she had had to retire, Prof. Milner says.
Even now, she works a typical day that stretches from about 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., although her hours are flexible.

Her work consists of a combination of lectures, research and writing.

And she says she'll keep going as long as her work is "scientifically credible" and can continue to get her grants to do her research.

In fact, she believes, such credibility is key to anyone's decision to continue working.

"If my work had suddenly deteriorated or if I had failed to get my grants and it was suddenly obvious that I was going to the dogs, then I would have to retire," she says. "There was a quality-control understanding."

Prof. Milner says age is no factor in how she's treated by her peers.

She also says her students enjoy the fact that she can provide personal perspective on her discipline from her own long life.

"I lecture about memory and the brain," she says. "People want to know about what it was like when you were making some discoveries 50 years ago. You are getting it from the horse's mouth."

That's not to say age doesn't take its toll. She has slowed down and had cataract surgery.
And she acknowledges that memory doesn't get better as one ages and "an older brain is not good at learning new tricks."

But what is encouraging is that "things that we have learned well and that we are very familiar with seem to hold up well to normal aging," she says.

Prof. Milner, one of the world's eminent neuro-psychologists, doesn't believe there is any recipe for a lengthy career.

She credits her own ability to work well into her 80s to her "genes." Her mother lived to be 95 and taught music in a university setting until age 88.

"I have a role model," she says. "But I have my fingers and toes crossed.. . . I am 86, and anything could happen to me."

But she's doing everything she can to prevent it.’

[Yes, yes, well and good. But here’s where she really gets going.]

She walks 10 minutes to work every day. "I don't drive a car. I walk and do all my grocery shopping up and down Montreal hills."

"I eat healthily," she adds. "I'm an enthusiastic eater of meat, and I like a glass of red wine with most of my evening meals."

To keep her mind active, she is an avid reader but avoids watching TV. In fact, she doesn't even have a television. "It's too passive," she says.

Prof. Milner says people should only continue working only if you like what you're doing.

"I think people in the academic world are fortunate because they are doing something they love usually," she says.

Even so, she acknowledges that working past age 65 is not for everyone, and suggests that some academics might want to pursue a second career instead. "They might want to get out of the rat race of grant applications because it is fiercely competitive and may get to you."

Why has she worked so long? Simply because she loves it. "I never wanted children," says the British-born academic. "I knew I wanted a career."

Prof. Milner says she began to "slow down" only about 10 years ago and moved to a five-day work week from six days, giving up Sundays. "Now, I find that I am quite glad to have a weekend," she says.’

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


' Harvard Faculty Approves
No-Confidence Motion
Against Summers

March 15 (Bloomberg) --

Harvard University's largest faculty group approved a no-confidence motion against President Lawrence H. Summers following his comments that women may lack the aptitude to excel in science and engineering.

The vote by the 690-member Faculty of Arts and Sciences was 218 in favor and 185 against, with 18 abstensions, said J. Lorand Matory, a professor of anthropology and African American studies who wrote the proposal.

"There is no noble alternative to his resignation," Matory said in an interview following the faculty meeting today. "He should resign as president of Harvard University."

The faculty also supported a second motion by Government and Sociology Professor Theda Skocpol that expressed regret for Summers' management missteps and praised his pledge to try to improve relations with the staff. '

…here is that this professor’s claim of discrimination because of her Frenchness cannot be true, since by her own description her behavior is totally American:

[irritable parenthetic remarks UD’s]


Associated Press

CINCINNATI - A former fashion instructor has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati, charging that the school did not renew her contract because of her French nationality.

Nathalie Doucet, who filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court, said she was treated differently than her non-French colleagues. [“from” would be better than “than”]

The university denies Doucet's allegations of discrimination, said Mitchell McCrate of the Office of General Counsel at UC.

Doucet, who was born in France and is a permanent resident alien in the United States, served a three-year contract as an assistant professor of fashion design at UC from 2001 to 2004. [you can be a professor of anything these days, grumble, grumble]

The lawsuit claims that Doucet was labeled anti-American by a student's parent [UD has been labeled anti-American by loads of people - where does she sign up?] and told by an administrator that she was "too French." [if Doucet were truly French, she would take this as a compliment] Doucet also was humiliated by an administrator who rejected her approach to a research project by saying that it was "not the way Americans do it," the lawsuit alleges [see how American this chick is? she’s totally glommed onto the whole hypersensitivity thing]

The fashion instructor claims that the discrimination began early in her term and grew worse, especially as anti-French sentiments became prevalent in the United States after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq [hard to believe. not enough Americans follow the news or make the sorts of complex connections -- US - Iraq - France -- you’d need to make for these sentiments to have been significantly expressed]

The suit rejects UC's claim that it did not renew Doucet's contract because the instructor "has not demonstrated clear evidence of satisfactory teaching, nor has she shown significant growth in other areas."

"If I was a bad professor, if I was not working, maybe I could understand," said Doucet, who has since moved to San Francisco with her husband and son. "But I can tell you for sure I did my best for myself and the student evaluations attested of it." [student evaluations? Ne makez me laugh pas]

McCrate said the university will defend itself "vigorously" against Doucet's suit.

Doucet is seeking to get her job back or to get money for the damages she says were caused when the school failed to renew her contract. [Doucet’s faith that she’ll get rich on the basis of lame discrimination claims demonstrates beyond a doubt that she is American, not French]


Later that same day... There are actually 2 comments on this thread, not one. I don't know why it still says one. Anyway, as soon as I go back to my blog from this Blogger page it'll probably have changed to 2... But if it hasn't, do not be fooled! Two, not one!

One thing UD likes a lot about the blogosphere is that you’re judged and read -- or not read -- almost solely on the quality of your writing and ideas. I’ve never met or had anything to do with the fifty or so bloggers who link to me. I know a handful of the six hundred people (that's according to Webalizer - Sitemeter, which I've just strapped on, has me at less than that) who read me every day. The rest are anonymous, and a good many of them are far away: in Malaysia, France, Germany, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Poland, Italy, Greece, Malta, and (most intriguingly) Vatican City.

I don’t know anyone at the website Inside Higher Ed - they’ve linked to two pieces of mine because they read them on a screen and thought they were interesting. The web, although subject like anything else to cronyism, is, UD thinks, among the least corrupt venues for one’s work, simply because the human being who produces the work is in important respects independent and invisible - without institutional affiliation, without a face.

UD quoted Andrew Sullivan on the blogosphere in an earlier post [UD, 12/19/04]. Here's the quotation again:

"The bloggers are conduits, forums, niches, designed to unleash the broader wisdom of the online crowds. That's one reason a Hayek-Oakeshott Tory like me loves the blogosphere so much. Not so much spontaneous order as the endless pursuit of a million intimations - a constant conversation, with peaks and lulls, discourtesies and jokes, outbursts and rants, meditations and quips, and all going nowhere in particular. And in the end, some truths do emerge, if you have the balls to acknowledge them. It's the purest form of democratic discussion yet devised. It's a big fucking deal. But if you're reading this, you probably know that."

All the way on the other side of this question of corruption is the poetrysphere. Here cronyism is so rampant that a number of websites - Foetry prominent among them - are devoted to chronicling the shamelessness of fixed poetry contests which dupes pay a fee to enter -- contests whose winners are remarkably often friends, students, family members of the judges, or graduates of the schools that sponsor the contests. “Although the site's blustery tone can be off-putting,” writes the New York Times, “Foetry has helped focus attention on a serious issue confronting the poetry world -- as the number of poets has increased, and with many of those writers spending upward of $25,000 to acquire an M.F.A., the institutions intended to help preserve and develop American poetry sometimes operate as if the art were an 18th-century guild, complete with secret handshakes. Can the poetry world become more transparent? If so, would it make contemporary writing more interesting?”

The most notorious recent poetry contest case - one that UD even now has trouble believing - is that of Jorie Graham, who bestowed a prize on her own husband [“University of Georgia Press has been running their poetry contest for twenty years and when asked refused to name the judges of their Poetry Series Competition,” a letter writer to the website Mobylives comments. “An Open Records Act request to the state of Georgia Attorney General's office forced the Press to release the records which revealed a remarkable number of conflict of interest choices in the winners of the Poetry Series, including Jorie Graham's selection of her husband (and Harvard English Department colleague) Peter Sacks as a winner in the series.”]

Institutional cronyism, as Inside Higher Ed points out, is a less dramatic but more systemic problem: “The 2004 winners of Iowa's poetry contest were Megan Johnson, who has an MFA from the Writers' Workshop, and Susan Wheeler, who has taught at Iowa. The Foetry Web site also lists many past winners with Iowa connections, and it didn't help matters much when the Iowa Press recently announced the winners of its annual short fiction contest, who also had Iowa ties.”

Crooked contests are part of the larger picture of poetry writing in the American university (most of the contests are university-sponsored), in which most of the classroom grades are As; and they are part of the larger picture of poetry writing in the publishing world, in which most of the reviews are positive. (UD’s written about some of this before, in a post dated 12/30/03). The situation has gotten so bad that some authors of books about poetry open with a version of the disclaimer Camille Paglia begins with in her forthcoming book, Break, Blow, Burn: “Poetry's declining status has made its embattled practitioners insular and self-protective: personal friendships have spawned cliques and coteries in book and magazine publishing, prize committees and grants organisations. I have no such friendships and am a propagandist for no poet or group of poets.”

Poetry has declined, Paglia suggests, because poets “have lost ambition and no longer believe they can or should speak for their era. Elevating process over form, they treat their poems like meandering diary entries and craft them for effect in live readings rather than on the page. Arresting themes or images are proposed, then dropped or left to dribble away. Or, in a sign of lack of confidence in the reader or material, suggestive points are prosaically rephrased and hammered into obviousness. Rote formulas are rampant - a lugubrious victimology of accident, disease, and depression or a simplistic, ranting politics…” A writer for the New Criterion’s website describes sites like Foetry as part of a “rising backlash against the hypersensitive Kindergarten of American poetry today.”

At a time when poems have become boringly personalized, it should not be surprising that the act of judging them is often purely personal as well. The aesthetic quality of language and the subtlety of thought in a poem have gradually become less important than the self-presentation of the person writing the poem. When relatively objective criteria of value fall away, what’s left is who you like, who you know, who you pity, and who you love.


Update: On the vexed business of determining how much traffic this or any other blog gets, see this post and the ensuing exchange.

Monday, March 14, 2005

' Ex-Chancellor Admits To Using Donations To Fund Wedding

Gregory O'Brien Used Money To Pay For Daughter's Receptions

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Former University of New Orleans Chancellor Gregory O'Brien has admitted to using nearly $50,000 in donations to the school to help pay for his daughters' wedding receptions.

A deal approved by the state ethics board and signed by O'Brien concluded that the former chancellor broke an ethics law that is designed to prevent public officials from receiving gifts or other compensation from outside sources under most circumstances.

The settlement did not include any sort of monetary penalty.

According to the settlement, O'Brien and two UNO foundations believed it was proper for money from one group to pay for some wedding expenses, saying important university donors needed to be invited to the functions.

O'Brien spent $18,000 and $28,000 of foundation money to pay for the expenses associated with "university-related" guests at two weddings in 2001 and 2002.

The Ethics Board concluded that in order to comply with provisions of the law that allow foundations to pay for certain expenses of university officials, the Louisiana State University board should have signed off on these kind of transactions.

O'Brien made a payment of $65,000 to the UNO Foundation in October 2003, before the ethics board started its investigation. '

This is a real Miss Manners puzzler. How much of other people's money should one pay out for guests to come to one's daughters' wedding receptions? If we're only talking about a few "important university donors," this looks like an all-expenses paid trip and then some. Yet what would the expenses have been?

UD doubts many UNO donors live outside Louisiana, so we're not talking about airline tickets... Did the ex-chancellor pay for their cutaways? Did he pay for the gifts they gave the couple?

No, UD suspects the simple explanation is that Chancellor O'Brien had to bribe a good number of his guests to get in their cars and drive over to his daughters' wedding receptions. Which is sad.
A UD Series


From the Harvard Crimson’s review of Historians in Trouble by Jon Wiener

“Wiener’s prose is fluid, but he veers off course when he fires salvos at Thernstrom, Gray, Katz, and Ulrich. The Crimson is proud to be among those lambasted by Wiener. We’re in good company.”

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Series

From The San Francisco Chronicle

Budget Travel
Sunday, March 13, 2005

Now is the time to apply for the "Summer Classics" program of St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M. One of the most intense and rewarding of all summer learning opportunities, it offers one-week and longer vacations to an audience of intellectually curious Americans that grows larger each year.

St. John's in Santa Fe, and its sister campus at St. John's in Annapolis, Md., are the "great books" schools of the United States, colleges in which the four-year undergraduate curriculum consists entirely of reading every word and discussing some of the greatest works of the Western tradition, in sequence. You start with Homer, end with Freud, Darwin and Conrad, and pick up Euclid and Descartes along the way. Brainy students discussing these weighty works with "tutors" (faculty) seated at both ends of a long seminar table.

And that's exactly what you the intense, serious vacationer does, but for only a week, in most cases, in the month of July. Living in a vacated student residence on an awesome mountaintop campus overlooking Santa Fe and eating in the student dining hall, you choose one book (from an offering of six or seven each week) and discuss it each morning or afternoon for a week with St. John's tutors. There are no entrance requirements, grades or exams. In your off time, you explore Santa Fe and the surrounding desert, making at least one excursion to colorful, historic Taos (of D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keeffe fame).

The charge for an entire week (tuition for five daily classes either mornings or afternoons, all books and other materials, six nights' accommodations and all meals from Sunday dinner until Saturday breakfast) is $1,445 per person, not including transportation to Santa Fe. If you want to pursue a second seminar in the course of your one week there (which I don't recommend, given the heavy demands a single seminar entails), you'll pay an additional $1,345.

My wife and I participated in the program's first two magic summers, and it was one of the great intellectual adventures of our lives. Our first year, we read and discussed Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War," that powerful depiction of military conflicts and national policies handed down, in Thucydides' words, as "a gift for all time." One of our tutors was the then-president of St. John's, the other was an equally eminent classical scholar, and the seminar room was electric with friendly argument. We read large chunks of the book each evening and even declaimed it aloud on some afternoons as we drove over northern New Mexico (probably the only sightseers in New Mexico's history to do that).

The second year, we devoted a week to Dante's "Inferno," this time aided by two Dante specialists of the St. John's faculty. We read several cantos each night in our student residence, then discussed the thoughts and beliefs of the immortal poet for several hours each morning.

This July, St. John's offers 19 seminars, each devoted to a single book or opera that is read and discussed either from 10 a.m. to noon or 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., for a week. Following is a partial listing:

Week 1 (July 10-15): Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra"; Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov"; Machiavelli's "The Prince"; William Harvey's "Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals

Week 2 (July 17-22): Tolstoy's "War and Peace"; Freud on Love and Death; Cervantes' "Don Quixote"; three comedies (Aristophanes' "Clouds," Moliere's "The Misanthrope," Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost").

Week 3 (July 24-29): Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo"; Herodotus' "Histories"; the operas of Benjamin Britten; Gospels of Matthew, John and Thomas.

For a program booklet, write to Summer Classics, St. John's College, 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505-4599, or call (505) 984-6117. Class descriptions and other information also appear on (click Educational Outreach). '

[for earlier visits, type "Utah" up there in Search]

Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place!
Utah! Getting bigger and better.
Utah! Always leading the way.
New technology's here...
Growing faster each year.
This is the place!

Gevalt. Redsters are pretty much like you and me, but the reddest redsters are like black holes - distant, mysterious, scary…

Utahans, for instance, used to have an okay state song. I don’t say it was great, but it it was okay. It was a hymn, known as “The State Hymn”:

Land of the mountains high, Utah, we love thee,
Land of the sunny sky, Utah, we love thee!
Far in the glorious west, throned on the mountain's crest,
In robes of statehood dressed, Utah, we love thee!
Columbia's brightest star, Utah, we love thee,
Thy luster shines afar, Utah, we love thee!
Bright in our banner's blue, among her sisters true
She proudly comes to view, Utah, we love thee!
Land of the pioneers, Utah, we love thee,
Grow with the coming years, Utah, we love thee!
With wealth and peace in store, to fame and glory soar,
God guarded, evermore, Utah, we love thee!

A mite redundant, but short, simple, and even in places sweet.

In 2003, the state legislature suddenly threw we love thee away and replaced it with the spanking new hymn you see soaring above it at the beginning of this post: “Utah, This is the Place.” (“This is the Place” has a bunch of other verses. It ends “UTAH! UTAH! UTAH! THIS IS THE PLACE!”) (Give a listen here.)

UD is bewildered. A line like “New technology’s here,” for instance, seems to her patently less inspiring than “Land of the mountains high.” And the new song seems not merely an obvious decline from the old, but essentially different in its orientation.

The State Hymn intends to be sung by people who are already Utahans. It reminds them why they feel happy and lucky to be in Utah. The new song seems aimed at corporations considering relocation opportunities.

But okay, fine, if the point of the new state song is to advertise Utah’s unique advantages to people and businesses thinking about moving there, UD proposes a short additional verse.

The new state song, for all its galloping hooves and clashing cymbals, overlooks Utah’s most noteworthy current distinction. The state of Utah is one of the only places in America which invites students to bring guns to its college campuses.

Millions of Americans - especially younger Americans - like to have guns on them wherever they go, and at the state universities of Utah not only is no one going to bother you about this, but the people of the state will thank you.

Virtually every other state’s colleges and universities ban concealed weapons. In Utah you can walk into libraries and classrooms and dining halls and laboratories and dormitories with the glow you get from knowing that you’ve got the power to kill everybody in the room.

UD, who long ago worked in Chicago as an advertising copywriter, sees a television commercial for the state of Utah in which a roomful of smiling university students suddenly as one pull their guns from their vests as they sing

Utah! We got macs and tecs.
Utah! Snug revolvers, oozies.
We got ‘em, gauge no problem,
Calicos, AKs, 357s.
This is the place!
Utah! I gave my lady a 380,
A 22, a two five,
Bitch went crazy
Poppin’ forever,
One for all
And all for one!
Utah! This is the place!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ah! A life crowded with incident…

…as Lady Bracknell said of Mr. Worthing. She might have been talking about America’s own Bunburyist, Ward Churchill, a man whose many identities have generated almost as much farce as Wilde’s play.

Act XXX of the Ward Wars, you recall, ended with everyone’s pen suspended above a buyout contract which would have rid the University of Colorado of the man forever.

BUT! Just as things were about to resolve themselves, yet another chapter of Churchill’s life came to light: He is alleged to have plagiarized a paper by a professor at Dalhousie University in Canada; and, when the professor complained about this, he is alleged to have threatened her: “Cohen told Dalhousie officials in 1997 that Churchill had called her in the middle of the night and said: 'I’ll get you for this.’”

So the buyout is apparently off the table as trustees pursue this latest report.

It occurs to UD that in the matter of “turpitude” - word known to all professors because it often appears in a scary clause in their employment contract that says that even though they have tenure, moral “turpitude” can still do them in - Churchill has left few stones unturned; and yet there must be some turpi… turpi… turpitudities Churchill has committed that we don’t yet know about. (UD’s own turpitude, the thought of whose discovery by her university has always terrified her, is that the bottom left drawer of her office desk is piled high with a decade’s worth of Paris Match magazines.) For instance, we have yet to hear of that old standby, fraternization with undergraduates … or conflict of interest (this one’s hard if you’re not in the sciences or the school of business) … and the whole area of professional irresponsibility still seems open (not meeting your classes and that sort of thing)…

In short, the game grinds on, and no professor -- not Protsch Von Zieten, not Thomas Murray -- seems able to distract the public from this particular professor. He is our Michael Jackson.

Friday, March 11, 2005


“The thing about being dead,” said the then-ambassador to Croatia to UD as they walked together on Brioni Island a few years ago, “is that people can do whatever they want with your body. You can’t stop them.” He was thinking about a recent atrocity in the Balkans whose results he’d witnessed: One ethnic minority had dug up the graves of another ethnic minority and abused the corpses. The image of the corpses haunted him. “In case my family forgets, Margaret,” he said, turning to her, “I want to be cremated.”

The figurative abuse of the dead is much more common than the literal, of course - so common that we expect it, especially of the envied and controversial dead. Ted Hughes complains about this in a poem about Sylvia Plath that appears in Birthday Letters. The poem is addressed to their children:


That is not your mother but her body.
She leapt from our window
And fell there. Those are not dogs
That seem to be dogs
Pulling at her.
Remember the lean hound
Running up the lane holding high
The dangling raw windpipe and lungs
Of a fox? Now see who
Will drop on all fours at the end of the street
And come romping towards your mother,
Pulling her remains, with their lips
Lifted like dog’s lips
Into new positions. Protect her
And they will tear you down
As if you were more her.
They will find you every bit
As succulent as she is. Too late
To salvage what she was.
I buried her where she fell.
You played around the grave. We arranged
Sea-shells and big veined pebbles
Carrried from Appledore
As if we were herself. But a kind
Of hyena came aching upwind.
They dug her out. Now they batten
On the cornucopia
Of her body. Even
Bite the face off her gravestone,
Gulp down the grave ornaments,
Swallow the very soil.
So leave her.
Let her be their spoils. Go wrap
Your head in the snowy rivers
Of the Brooks Range. Cover
Your eyes with the writhing airs
Off the Nullarbor Plains. Let them
Jerk their tail-stumps, bristle and vomit
Over their symposia.
Think her better
Spread with holy care on a high grid
For vultures
To take back into the sun. Imagine
These bone-crushing mouths the mouths
That labour for the beetle
Who will roll her back into the sun.

“Vomit/Over their symposia” is very bad. The poem is not a success. But you get the idea.

Now that the first flush of eulogies for Susan Sontag has faded, body-tampering has begun, as in the two essays, one by a journalist, and one by an English professor, that UD will now consider.

UD enjoys a hatchet job, posthumous or not, as much as anyone, and Sontag was a pill, but you want to get this particular rhetorical form right, and there are many perils.

Sontag dissed Kevin Myers, a journalist at The Telegraph, and, once she was safely dead, he wrote “I Wish I had Kicked Susan Sontag” about the diss and how he wishes he’d done something about it when she was alive.

Myers doesn’t clarify the content of the diss; he tells us only that Sontag, when they were both in Sarajevo during the conflict, “ostentatiously disdained us hacks.”

Hacks in Myers’s telling are sensible straightforward people who listen to other people and say true things, whereas “self-proclaimed intellectuals” like Sontag are “insufferably self-important and posturing creatures” who issue empty epigrams which “New England professors with their bow-ties and tweed suits and rimless spectacles” along with “wretched, credulous, self-hating American academia” as a whole “fawns on.” This “ridiculous heroine of US campus culture” produced “bilge that can only exist in Englitish, the impenetrable campus-dialect in which English literature is analysed, discussed, and then buried.”

It’s right to disdain rudeness and hauteur, and Myers might have written a good piece if he’d stuck to that aspect of Sontag. The problem with kicking her for her writing style and her ideas is that Myers hasn’t read her. Sontag was, as the next essay I’ll take up makes clear, a lifelong hater of academia and impenetrability. Myers’s coupling of her with fog-machines like Foucault tells us that he’s not thinking clearly.

Take one “vapid aphorism” of hers that he ridicules as so obviously “asinine” as not to be worth talking about: “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” That photography’s encroachment upon private life has tended to distance us from that life, to make us passive observers of ourselves rather than unselfconscious participants in the flow of our experience, is a pretty straightforward and uncontroversial claim. Certainly Sontag makes the claim with metaphor and suggestiveness here, rather than with explicit statement, but it comes across, doesn’t it? Her writing style, which is enviable, exhibits none of the longwinded obscurity of academic writing in the humanities, but rather the poetic concision of the European intellectuals who influenced her, and in particular, UD has always thought, the writing of Albert Camus.

Myers’s fundamental problem with Sontag, UD thinks, is incompatibility. He is hot where she is cold. His strings of tantrum-adjectives mean to convince the reader that he’s a regular guy, full of feeling, full of warmth toward the common man. An ordinary scribe like Myers, with universal human instincts, is understandably enraged by his encounter with the now-forever-to-go-unpunished arrogance of a grotesque snob who in a variety of ways made him and other people feel small. And since we’re just like him, we’re angry too, reading his chronicle of Sontag‘s inhumanity. By the time Myers writes that “My real mistake was not radioing her co-ordinates to the Serb artillery, reporting that they marked the location of Bosnian heavy armour. My own life would have been a cheap price to pay.” we’re smiling along with his so-there.

Or are we? UD suspects only Myers’s pubmates are nodding at this point. He has set his prose at far too high a flame, given what we can discern of Sontag’s offense. He thinks humor will damp the anger a bit and get us on his side, but the intensity of his rage makes the humor vulgar and unfunny.

When Myers upbraids himself for his “abject failure” to respond to Susan Sontag at the time, we are supposed to take this as a winning admission of all-too-human weakness; but since the macho content and rhetoric of most of the essay has convinced us that he is a strong man, capable of righteous indignation on behalf of others and himself, this abjection rings false. Myers comes across as willfully ignorant, vindictive, and a bully.

Abjection is the whole story with Terry Castle’s essay, “Desperately Seeking Susan.” From its tired title to its faint-hearted concluding paragraph, the essay is an exercise in the belittling of the self and the worshipful inflation of others (“Lou Reed…O great rock god of my twenties.”). Castle consistently describes herself - a high-profile professor at Stanford University - as an “obsequious…slave-girl,” a “flustered,” “panting” idolator of Sontag. She says she has devoted her life to pathetic efforts to imitate and impress “O great Susan! Most august Goddess of Female Intellect!” Castle is amazed when mortals respond to Sontag as if she is one of them: “Once [Sontag] took me to the Strand bookstore,” a place in Sontag’s New York neighborhood. “[T]he clerk said, ‘Hi, Susan’ in enviably blasé tones.”

UD is aware that Castle, like Myers, is attempting to employ comic overstatement here. But where does truth stop and comedy begin? We cannot know, from her style, the extent of exaggeration in Castle’s relentless description of her relationship with Sontag as “like the one between Dame Edna and her feeble sidekick Madge - or possibly Stalin and Malenkov. Sontag was the Supremo and I the obsequious gofer… ready to drop anything at a phone call … [I was] far too cowed.” When, at public events, Sontag showed special attention to her, Castle was “like a plump teenage boy getting a hard-on in front of everybody.” In her “pathetic isolation” at hip New York gatherings with Sontag and her avant-garde friends, Castle was “so cognitively unassimilable, I wasn’t even registered enough to be ignored…. I might as well not have been born.”

The attempted humor here - like Myers, it’s both all over the place and over the top - falls flat. The hebephrenia seems a bright veil tossed over an expanse of darkness. It plays like an effort to lighten the rage the writer feels, as if to say: “Sure, I’m pissed. But I can laugh at this!”

Castle’s essay ultimately tells us that Sontag was a “troubled” woman, “a great comic character: Dickens or Flaubert or James would have had a field day with her. The carefully cultivated moral seriousness… co-existed with a fantastical, Mrs Jellyby-like absurdity” --an absurdity which, in a series of vignettes, Castle describes as cartoon-like in its lunacy.

As UD suggests above, Sontag hated academia and professors. Castle quotes her: “Terry, don’t you loathe academics as much as I do?” It is therefore another instance of Sontag’s casual cruelty that at an arty New York event, she introduces Castle by saying “Terry is an English professor.” (Castle calls Sontag’s words “soul-destroying.”) Again, Castle intends for us to be appalled at Sontag’s dismissal of the academy (after all, most of the people reading Castle’s piece are professors); but the way Castle has chosen to write about her dead friend provides some grounds for Sontag’s intense dislike. The false self-abasement which, by contrast, makes Sontag more of an ogre than she was; the tendency not merely to admire certain writers but to worship them as gods; a goofy self-mocking surface which hopes to hide its vindictive interior … Sontag rightly disliked these stratagems, and she rightly identified them with academia.

Thursday, March 10, 2005





By Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page C01

In a perfect world, a gorgeous Hollywood actress donates time and money for her humanitarian work, is honored for said work and uses her celebrity to raise consciousness and hope. This being an imperfect world, the presence of Angelina Jolie at any event turns collected sophisticates (especially men) into lovesick adolescents.

Such is the life of a benevolent sex goddess.

Jolie, along with former secretary of state Colin Powell, was honored last night at the Kuwait Embassy for her work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The black-tie dinner, hosted by Ambassador Salem Sabah and his wife, Rima, raised more than $1 million to help Iraqi women and children return to their country. The 100 guests, including White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers, Mayor Tony Williams and emcee Paula Zahn, nibbled on lobster, listened to Marvin Hamlisch and sneaked furtive glances at Jolie.

"She'll do in a pinch," teased Ken Duberstein.

The face that launched a thousand fantasies was demure, hair pulled back, with Jolie in a conservative black jacket, shell and fishtail shirt. She was gracious, self-effacing and knowledgeable. And beautiful, in that extravagant way that eclipses everything else.

"I feel like a little kid," she said before accepting her award. "I'm just in awe how everyone's speaking from the heart and how everyone really cares."

The 29-year-old actress was in Washington this week as goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR on a two-day trip that included an appearance at the National Press Club, a lobbying trip to the Hill, the launch of a legal center for refugee children, an interview on "Nightline" and last night's dinner. Her every move was shadowed by reporters and photographers.

"She is serious about what she does," Powell said. "They couldn't have a better goodwill ambassador."

Or a hotter one, celebrity-wise. (Okay, she was just voted "Sexiest Woman in Hollywood," if you keep track of that sort of thing. Anyway, she's hot.) During the hour that Jolie spoke at the press club, camera shutters constantly clicked while she answered questions about international affairs and refugee policies.

"I'm always so nervous answering these questions because I feel I come from a place from my heart and my gut," she told the audience. In the hands of someone pompous, the whole "star reaching out" persona is off-putting. But Jolie is careful not to speak beyond her experience, or preach and deflects the spotlight to the reason she is there.

"She really cares about the plight of refugees," said Rima Sabah, who chaired the benefit. "She really wants to help. Every word comes from the heart."

So in terms of drawing attention to the cause, the good news is Jolie gathers headlines wherever she goes. The bad news is Jolie gathers headlines wherever she goes. The Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 24 for "Girl, Interrupted." The "Tomb Raider" movies. The marriage to Billy Bob Thornton. The rift with father Jon Voight. The lips. The tattoos. The "did she or didn't she?" rumors about Brad Pitt.

Her expressed interest in refugees initially was greeted with raised eyebrows. Her first exposure to the subject came in 2001 while filming in Cambodia (she adopted her 3-year-old son, Maddox, from there).

"It was very clear to me there was a lot about this world that I didn't know," she said. "I felt really ashamed and ignorant. . . . It just changed my life."

She contacted the United Nations and spent almost a year traveling to refugee camps around the world before becoming a goodwill ambassador. She wrote a book about her travels, produced a documentary and recently donated $500,000 to establish the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children, which is designed to provide pro bono legal representation for refugees in immigration court. There are plenty of experts on refugee issues but not many who get an invitation from Davos to speak in front of the world's economic power brokers. The net effect is probably positive, both for the refugees and for Jolie.

"Celebrity is . . . a weird thing," she told"Nightline," "and it can feel very empty at the end of the night to think . . . why is anybody giving any attention to -- because I made a film? Because I wore a dress to some -- it's silly, and it feels very shallow because you're aware of how empty it can be. So, when you're doing something good, and you can bring attention to that or discuss that, then it feels like you have some sense in your life."

Last night's dinner was originally planned, sans Jolie, as a benefit by the Kuwait-America Foundation for the 400,000 Iraqi refugees (mostly women and children) registered with UNHCR in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries. Many of their husbands and fathers have returned to Iraq, but their families are waiting until they can rebuild their homes. The UNHCR provides them with cash grants, basic household supplies and transportation back to Iraq.

The force behind the night, noted a number of speakers, was Rima Sabah. "She's driven us all crazy," teased Powell. "I can only handle Rima once a year."

Sabah assembled an impressive guest list -- White House social secretary Lea Berman, Esther Coopersmith, Reps. John Dingell and Ed Markey, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Peter Pace and Molly Raiser, head of the United States Association for UNHCR, rounded out the crowd -- and raised $1 million from underwriters ChevronTexaco and Dow Chemical, and sponsors including Boeing, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, General Motors, Kuwait Petroleum and the Kuwait Embassy.

"Kuwaitis, like Iraqis, have experienced firsthand the brutality of Saddam's regime, and victims help each other," said Rima Sabah. "By helping Iraqi refugees return to their homeland, we are contributing to a more promising future for Iraq."

The embassy was filled with roses and candles, some of which floated in the fountain inside. The menu included lobster, risotto with white truffles, leg of lamb and baked Alaska. Hamlisch performed with the Master Chorale of Washington and the Children's Chorus of Washington.

Everyone went home feeling charitable and noble and warm -- "I am leaving here with my heart really full," Zahn said. And they knew the first question they'd hear today is, "What did Jolie look like?"

She looked like every sex goddess goodwill ambassador should. '


[ "What did Jolie look like?" UD indeed asked the little one (who stands four inches taller than UD) this morning. "Really beautiful," she answered, her eyes going very wide. "The whole thing was beautiful. There were rose petals everywhere. ... We didn't get any lobster, of course. We got little sandwiches earlier... They held us in this back room and we had to stay very quiet because we were supposed to be a surprise. They ran very late, so we had to wait a long time... After we sang, Angelina Jolie came over to thank us and chat with us, but some of the little kids in the chorus went nuts when she got close to them and they began jumping up and down and screaming, so she didn't stay with us long ..." ]

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

O, Hugo Schwyzer, you are my darling.
You are my lookingglass from night to morning.
I’d rather have you without a farthing
Than Katey Keogh with her ass and garden

UD found Hugo Schwyzer at Cliopatria, and two posts of his in particular make her adore him. Here they are, starting with one he wrote today:


" Today, we had our monthly noon Social Sciences Division faculty meeting. As usual, I stayed quiet, though I perked up a bit during a brief discussion of the new Internet filters. (All of my colleagues are adamantly opposed.)

But then we launched into another discussion about creating "smart classrooms." This has nothing to do with real teaching, mind you. A "smart classroom" is one filled with all sorts of technological gizmos: DVD players, wireless Internet access, various modern projectors, and lots of something called Power Point.

I am now convinced I am the only tenured professor in America under 40 who has no idea what Power Point is. To me, it sounds like a basketball term (wasn't Magic Johnson kind of a "power point" guard at 6'9"?). Anyhow, my colleagues all seem to be busy showing videos (or DVDs) and creating fancy Power Point projects for their classes. It all sounds dreadfully dull, and I'm just not interested.

I show -- maybe -- one or two videos a year. When I first started teaching, I showed a lot of them -- largely because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough to say. Now, God help me and my students, I have plenty to say. I know damn well that my students spend enough time interacting with technology outside school; the last thing they need is to sit mutely in front of a TV screen. I'm not saying that videos don't have their place -- in an art history class, I would imagine that they would be essential, but too often I think they (and all the other fancy-shmancy stuff) are just cover-ups for mediocre teaching.

I am sick and tired of having folks with doctorates in education (Lord help us) tell me that "lecturing is an outdated teaching style." Well, it's still a damned effective teaching style if it's done well. I put a lot of time and energy into crafting articulate, interesting, lectures, largely because I believe that for most students, it remains the most effective and memorable way to learn. I do invite discussion and debate in some of my classes, and I welcome questions -- but I cling tenaciously to the old-school notion that my job is to be an interesting, compelling, and provocative deliverer of information. (And along the way, raise up young feminists and pro-feminists.)

The content of the information varies: today, at 8:50AM, I lectured on the 20th century drop in age of menarche (from over 16 to under 12), and its impact on American girlhood. At 10:25, I lectured on the concept of arete and the relationship between Hector and Andromache. And at 1:00PM, it was time for Charles II, James II, and the Glorious Revolution. (Ya gotta love the community colleges with the breadth and diversity of the teaching loads!) Especially with the first topic, I invited questions and discussion. It's vital that mine not be the only voice heard in the classroom, especially in the gender studies courses. But though it was an interactive forum, mine was still the dominant voice. I'm not ashamed of that, though from the sort of exasperating edu-speak I hear from some of my well-meaning colleagues, I am apparently hopelessly out-of-date.

One thing that would improve college teaching immensely would be mandatory drama and speech classes for all new faculty. Forget the expensive technology. Teach them how to use their voices, how to modulate their tones, how to string together an exciting narrative without notes. Teach them to make the passion that is surely inside them manifest in their words and in their movements. Teach them the forgotten art of the genuinely engaging lecture.

Twelve years of college teaching (and over 120 classes taught in that time), as well as thousands of student evaluations, have made it clear to me that students really prefer a professor who is willing to bring his passion and energy into the classroom.

This is not to say that good teachers can't be both great lecturers and skilled employers of the latest technology. I have a few colleagues -- a very few -- whom I know to be both. But I do know that the college culture is one where innovation and novelty tend to be prized more than the ability to teach effectively using the same methods used for centuries. No one writes grants to get money to teach professors how to tell good stories using their memories and their voices alone. I think that's a pity. I, as the son and grandson of teachers, delight in knowing that I use little or nothing that those who came before me would not have used. I take inordinate, perhaps excessive, pride in that.

I expect to spend another 25 years teaching, perhaps more. I am always interested in developing new classes and discussing new ideas. But I have yet to see the need to show many videos, or to have a smart classroom, or to put up Power Point whatevers for my students. Don't wire my classroom. Give me a cup of coffee, put chalk in my hand, put me in front of a blackboard, and let me do my damn job.

UPDATE: I'm not going to delete any of this rant (what else is a blog for if not ranting), but I do want to apologize to my readers who might have Ed.D degrees. I am sure there are many lovely, thoughtful, interesting people out there with those letters after their name -- I just have not had the good fortune to yet meet any. "


" One term, I was assigned one specific task: to help UCLA's dimwitted placekicker pass a famously easy course. I won't name the kicker, though anyone who has access to old Bruin media guides could probably find out who the fellow was.

The course was Introduction to Russian Culture, taught by a Professor Vroon. I was paid for the following services: three days a week (the class was MWF), I met "my kicker" outside the lecture hall before the class and then sat with him during the lecture.

Though he was to be encouraged to take notes, I took notes as well. We met weekly to review the notes and prepare for tests. He had no interest in school, but it had been impressed upon him that if he did not earn at least a "C", he would not be kicking the following season (which was to be his last year). I spent countless hours with him.

He was bored by school, bored by the class, bored by me. I wanted him to pass very badly, largely because I knew I would get rehired and get still more money if I could prove to the athletic department that I could "get the job done."

My kicker passed the class. I made him write the first draft of his term paper by himself, and then I "cleaned up" all the grammar and made him the gift of a thesis.

I was never told directly to write papers for him. Publicly, the athletic department insisted that the grad students like me were just "tutors", and all the real work was done by the players themselves. That may well have been true for some. But my placekicker would not have survived Professor Vroon's course had it not been for my "extra help". And I can assure you that privately, the director of the athletic tutoring program had made it clear to me that I was to do what was necessary to get that young man a C. I did as I was asked, and was paid handsomely. I made over $1200 for that passing grade, and as a poor grad student, was grateful for the opportunity. "

Here’s a plagiarism story with a fine ironic bouquet: An applicant for a college's presidency had someone else write his essay about his leadership skills:

‘Des Moines Area Community College’s board claims when Dr. Gilbert applied for the position of president, he plagiarized an essay about his leadership abilities. The board says Gilbert admitted he plagiarized. …While he admits paying a thousand dollars for a professional resume service, he says he never admitted to plagiarism. Channel 13 talked with him Monday night on the phone, and he says, "To say I have admitted to plagiarism is not accurate. I also did not misrepresent, fabricate or falsify any information on my application.”’

How much of a leader can you be if you can’t write your leadership essay? Or does it show leadership that you’re cynical enough about being a college president to delegate to a paid agent a series of generic cliches about leadership?

This sort of plagiarism story harks back [see UD, 6/3/04] to the one where (if UD may quote an earlier post):

' The chairman of the Orange County school board, Keith Cook, plagiarized the high school graduation speech he recently gave at the University of North Carolina's Smith Center... .

An alert parent, for whom Cook's speech stirred vague memories, hit the internet after the ceremony and found that the same speech had been given a few years earlier by Donna Shalala, former secretary of health and human services.

Responses from Mr. Cook and his allies on the school board only deepened the dismay on the part of UNC officials: confronted with the plagiarism, Mr. Cook first said he had written the speech; he then said that he had downloaded the speech from a site he'd found by typing "graduation speeches" into Google. In any case, said Cook, he thought it was okay to take the speech as his own, because it looked like "a generic speech."

A fellow school board member said: "I'm sure he didn't mean any harm. He had his reasons, and he's the only one who knows why he chose that particular speech." '

These two incidents share the plagiarizing of a piece of writing whose content intends to highlight values like personal integrity, the ability to be your own person, the importance of finding your own voice and showing your own initiative. Both pieces of writing intend to demonstrate, among other things, that you are the sort of person who would never plagiarize.

Because of its strangely self-consuming character, UD finds this among the most intriguing plagiarism-genres.

Monday, March 07, 2005



If you live in an area where there are deer, well, this is one of the best times of the year to find their antlers. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"The breeding season has just ended, the hormones are changing. And as they change, the antlers drop."

We're in Westchester County, New York, tagging along on a hunt for deer antlers.

"We're looking for antlers that are shed at the end of the season and we're also looking for beds where they might have bedded down for the night, because they also lose their antlers during the night. And then we're also looking for scrapes on the trees where they might have also scraped their antlers on the trees which would indicate that there are bucks in the area."

Rod Christie is director of education at Teatown Lake Reservation. He tells us that the first step in antler hunting is to look for tell tale signs of deer-- such as the places where they like to rub the bark off of trees with their antlers.

"This is a deer rub. This is where a buck would rub his antlers on a tree and then mark his territory. Or in the early season where he might be rubbing the velvet off his antlers. But in this case, it's a marked territory. If you were to smell that, it would probably smell kind of musty. The best places to look for deer antlers are usually at the tops of hills where the deer bed down for the night, or at the edges of fields, because they tend to bed down in fields as well and often drop their antlers there. Deer like to sit on tops of ridges because then they can look down and they feel safe; they can see a predator if a predator is coming, so they tend to bed down high up. You'd think there would be a lot out there but we don't find antlers on the ground mainly because the squirrels and the rodents eat them. High source of calcium and they eat a lot of them. So they could be dropped in the fall or winter and they could be gone by spring, chewed right up."

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.’


What a hullabaloo! Beds, scraped trees, deer rubs, musty smells, the tops of hills and the edges of fields, struggles with antler-chewing rodents… UD is here to tell you that if you’re after antlers, there’s an easier way.

Put a leash on your Labrador and walk him to the top of your hilly wooded backyard. Your own suburban Maryland backyard, steps from a commuter train and a restaurant.

Without even wanting antlers - without, let us admit, knowing that deer drop their antlers - you will find, as UD did this afternoon, that your dog suddenly swoops down on something which looks like an elaborately curved bone.

This bone will turn out to be a beautiful alabaster deer antler.

The difficult part of UD's antler-hunt strategy now presents itself: Taking the antler from the dog’s mouth.

The dog is marching about with that special excited pride that tells you he knows he’s got something worth keeping between his teeth.

Do not attempt to get the antler out of the dog’s mouth while the two of you are outside. Go into the house and wait for the dog to drop his guard over the antler. When this happens, you must, without hesitation, snatch the antler from him. The reason this must be done as soon as possible is that the dog, like the squirrels and rodents, is already beginning to gnaw the antler to shreds.

After taking the antler from the dog, give the dog a reward (leftover vanilla ice cream in a small black ceramic teacup placed on the kitchen floor is what UD used, but there are many possibilities). Next clean the antler a bit under running water, and then study it closely. Where do you want to exhibit it?

UD put her antler on her front door. It looks wonderful.

Via Ralph Luker at Cliopatria: Betsy Hoffman, president of the University of Colorado, has resigned.

The chair of CU's board of trustees praised her, but said "our university – one of the most distinguished in the nation – has suffered greatly from a series of controversies that seem to be growing, not abating."

Sunday, March 06, 2005



Although UD’s physical appearance may strike one as odd, and even pathetic -- she almost always wears lived-in (occasionally slept-in) jeans, a black turtleneck, a loose dark jacket, and an expensive scarf (scarves are her one clothing indulgence) -- it turns out that, as usual, she has her finger on the pulse of hipster culture.

As in - what are they wearing at NYU these days? NYU -- hippest of colleges, home to multimillionaire film star undergraduates Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen -- is featured on the front page of today’s New York Times Sunday Styles section, with plenty of photos of its two famous admits slouching around the city in … well, there are already many names for this look … the article mentions

Bobo (bourgeois bohemian, after the David Brooks book)
high hippy
bag lady
ashcan chic
dumpster chic

As for the deep dark cultural reasons wealthy American women are wearing “grandma’s crocheted shawl, moth-eaten cashmere sweaters and scuffed cowboy boots,” “mixing one or two expensive pieces in a wardrobe otherwise straight out of ‘Les Miserables,’” and, in a “forcefully unostentatious” style, “dressing like an unmade bed,” the Times mentions that old standby, ambivalence about materialism and conspicuous consumption.

UD finds this funny, because whenever there’s a grunge-trend in American fashion, analysts say we’re anguished about being rich. Weeks later, when the trend’s over, it turns out we’re okay about being rich. But the analysts don’t say this. They wait until thready clothes come back in, and they announce again that Americans are anguished about being rich.

At the very end of the Times article, the reporter stumbles on a Pepperdine student shopping at Barney’s who understands what’s really going on. She decides to buy a certain sweater because “it works very hard at looking like it’s not trying too hard.”

Here, UD would suggest, lies the beating heart of pauvre. Americans have wealth. This they know. But they also begin to intuit - from European travel, from college classes, from who knows where - that they don’t have class; or more specifically, they don’t have that “escape from class” and from the whole anxious class racket that Paul Fussell, in his book Class, calls “the X way out.” The journey to pauvre is not a moral so much as an intellectual and spiritual journey.

After all, pauvre is hitting the Olsen twins in college, a place where, after years in Hollywood, they are being introduced to principles other than profit and self-promotion. Here (at least in some of the more serious humanities classes) the human ideal is not the high-intensity Hummerian Arnold Schwarzenegger, but unwashed ironic meditative types like Iris Murdoch, and, well, James Joyce.

“Since there’s no one they think worth impressing by mere appearance,” writes Fussell, “X people tend to dress for themselves alone, which means they dress comfortably, and generally ‘down.’” “The upper … classes,” he writes elsewhere in the book, “like to appear in old clothes, as if to advertise how much of conventional dignity they can afford to throw away … .” He quotes from a study of the English gentleman: “[They] may wear their suits until they are threadbare but they do so with considerable panache…”

Of course UD likes to think she’s more or less X, but in this, as in many things, she may be self-deceived… For what it’s worth, she has found, in her latest reading of Ulysses (her Irish Literature class is deep into Joyce’s novel right now), a description of an X person - Leopold Bloom is describing this person, and he doesn’t at all approve - that UD thinks corresponds pretty closely to herself, and she will now introduce it to University Diaries as a kind of personal motto, a UD-specific identifier:


Saturday, March 05, 2005


UD, as regular readers know, does not drive. How does she get places?

1. She walks.
2. She takes public transportation.
3. She gets rides from family and friends.
4. She takes taxis.

UD takes a lot of taxis, and her taxi use excites confused comment in her affluent ‘thesdan town.

For instance, when UD’s neighbors, who themselves typically own a couple of mega-SUVs, see her exiting a cab, they often exclaim, “That must cost a fortune, Margaret!”

UD hasn’t the energy to point out to them that the cost of operating and maintaining their Navigators is far greater than… Sigh.

Also, from fielding comments about her taxi use, UD has discovered that some Americans fear cabs. “You’re getting in a car with a stranger!” “He could drive … anywhere!”

One high-profile taxiphobe is Robert King, chancellor of the SUNY system. So fearful of cabs is King that he maintains, at state expense, a team of three chauffeurs, Tom, Ray, and Ed. Tom, Ray, and Ed are there (combined salary, $170,000 plus) at King’s bidding to transport him from place to place in the course of his busy day.

So keen is King’s fear of ordering or hailing even an “executive” cab, that should for any reason Tom be unable to fulfill his driving duties, and should, God forbid, Ray ALSO be unable to chauffeur him, there is always, of course, Ed.

Asked to justify, under critically bad fiscal conditions for New York’s universities, a staff of three chauffeurs, Chancellor King recently said: “There's only one me, so it only takes one person."

Um? … But you have three …?

UD thinks King’s answer here may be his version of the notorious trinity enigma that UD’s husband, a Polish Catholic, has on more than one occasion tried to explain to her -- the “chauffeur” is one “person” in three “bodies,” or one could say “spirits,” which we designate by the terms “Tom,” “Ray,” and “Ed” …

Some people think even one chauffeur for the chancellor of a stressed university system is too many:

‘ One government reform activist questioned whether SUNY needs a driving staff for officials in light of recent budget cuts and tuition increases. "At a time when so many cuts are being proposed, the question is, is everyone sharing in the sacrifice?" said Rachel Leon of Common Cause New York. '

So, zee “Common” people call for “sacrifice”?? Zut! “Sacrifice” is not in the vocabulaire of the excellently named Mr. King… Having gathered to himself a "$250,000 salary and $90,000 housing allowance [which] already make him the highest-paid official in the state,” Mr. King only last January turned around and “asked for a six-month paid leave of absence to pursue professional and personal goals. He pulled the request within a week after an outcry.”

Vous bet there was an outcry! And when the students at your state’s flagship campus are sufficiently ivre-mort as to have earned last year’s Number One Party School award [see UD, 8/25/04 and 8/30/04], you don’t want to be stirring up the masses.

‘ Some students said the drivers did not seem to be a good use of SUNY's funds. Emily Kern, a senior at the State University College at Purchase in Westchester County, said she has seen student fees go up and the number of full-time professors fall. "The students aren't a priority really at all," said Kern, 22, of Long Island, a senior art and psychology major. ’

Friday, March 04, 2005


And speaking of special days, and special months, did you know that March is “Credit Card Credit Healthy Month”? I know - not a great name… it doesn’t parse… but that’s the name.

UD discovered Credit Card Credit Healthy Month on a PR website, and she figures it’s the creation of the credit card industry, which giveth and taketh away most perplexingly … i.e, it kicks up its heels and tosses, like confetti, credit cards at college students, and then it declares Credit Card Credit Healthy Month to tell them what dumbfucks they were to take them.

The PR site quotes John Simpson, "administrator at Indiana University": "We lose more students to credit card debt than academic failure." (He makes it sound as though they die of it.)

Anyway, here are a couple of typical stories about large college student debt. (Remember: This is consumer debt; tuition debt's a whole other thing.) And here’s a quotation from a New York Times article about credit card use among high-level administrators in the Roslyn, New York school district (all monies mentioned here were stolen from the taxpayers of Roslyn, New York ... total stolen funds come to more than eleven million dollars):

' One startling revelation was that Dr. Tassone [that'd be the superintendent] and Ms. Gluckin [financial manager] got the school district to pay not only for their personal credit card purchases but also for more than $1 million in cash withdrawals from automated teller machines. Dr. Tassone, who had 24 credit cards, averaged $700 in withdrawals a day for 20 months. In May 2002, he averaged $1,117 a day. Ms. Gluckin, who had 23 credit cards, averaged $1,270 a day in February 2002, according to the report. '

It’s never too soon to start preparing, physically as well as psychologically, for Talk Like a Pirate Day, which falls on September 19. That means there are 197 days to go. [For background, see UD, 12/8/04 and 12/10/04] For a little early inspiration, via Dr. Johnson’s Cat, here’s something UD hadn’t seen before: an ergonomic pirate keyboard.

"The days have been long, and the weeks have been long, too."

It's from "Long Summer Days," by the Moody Blues:

Long summer days, I keep thinking
What to do with my time
So many ways, I keep sinking
What's to do with my time

Take me back, I don't mind
(Take me back) I've got time
(Take me back) and let me start again

[for background, see below, UD, 2/26/05]

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Today's "Teaching Today" feature story is fascinating in itself, but it has the added attraction of a real winner of an opening sentence:

[From the South Florida Business Journal]


To 'sea' a boss at a meeting is no longer a typo. Carnival Cruise Lines has begun offering professional management principles seminars on its cruises.

The Miami cruise company said among the skills its "Carnival Corporate University" may discuss are communication, teamwork and creativity. Carnival's corporate training department, which conducts in-house training for the line's 30,000 shipboard and shore side employees, is to lead sessions.

The department may work with a business to tailor programming to meet specific goals or objectives. Carnival also said a business may purchase as many or as few sessions as it wants.

Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and chief executive officer, said his company has earned its industry leadership through a combination of superior products and top-notch service delivered by a highly motivated workforce.

"With the new Carnival Corporate University, we are pleased to share our expertise to help businesses enhance teamwork, build communication skills and celebrate diversity through fun, interactive activities - all at a cost that is lower than most land-based training sessions," he said.

Prices vary by to the size of the group and the number of sessions purchased. Carnival did not give further pricing details.

Sample programming includes:

"Cruising to Communication," focusing on effective verbal and non-verbal communication techniques

"Win Win," an interactive exercise on how to build and maintain trust

"Charting the Course" emphasizes the strategies of effective leaders

"Creativity by Design" allows participants to harness their creativity

"Passport to Diversity," a celebration of the culturally diverse work environment

When participants are not in their Carnival Corporate University session, Carnival added, they are free to enjoy their cruise.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

[see below, 3/1/05],

From today's Washington Times:

' An employee at George Washington University rescued several residents from a burning apartment building in Northwest yesterday before firefighters arrived.

Jordan Plieskatt, 23, was moving his car to avoid a ticket at a two-hour parking meter at about 11 a.m. when he saw smoke coming from St. Mary's Court at 725 24th St. NW.

"I saw smoke pouring out of the building," said Mr. Plieskatt, a former emergency medical technician who volunteered as a campus medic and as a medic in Alexandria.

Mr. Plieskatt, who works nearby at the university's biotechnology department, entered the apartment building, where a receptionist was on the phone with 911. "I rushed up to the fourth floor," he said. "There was a little smoke but no evidence of a fire."

Mr. Plieskatt ran to the fifth floor, where smoke was heavy. He pounded on doors, alerting residents to the fire before heading to the sixth floor.

Within minutes, Mr. Plieskatt helped three persons downstairs to the building's lobby before firefighters arrived.

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said the three-alarm blaze erupted on the fifth floor of the nine-story apartment building. Mr. Etter said improperly disposed smoking materials were to blame.

Mr. Etter said the building is a federally subsidized housing complex and its 140 apartments are occupied mostly by senior citizens.

"This had all the makings of a potential disaster," Mr. Etter said. "Whenever you have a building that's on fire with that number of elderly people who need to be evacuated -- many of whom have ambulatory issues and respiratory issues -- it's a serious situation." '
A Regular University Diaries Feature



By Theresa Gutierrez
March 1, 2005

' — A dispute over censorship inspired a DePaul University professor to show up at his own press conference bound and gagged.

[ABC7 Video Clip]

Last fall, DePaul University professor Thomas Klocek was suspended without a hearing for challenging the viewpoints of certain Muslim students on campus at a student activities fair. He is now demanding a public apology from the university president in order to avoid litigation.

Klocek showed up to the news conference bound and gagged, illustrating what he believes the university did to him by censoring his views on the Middle East. Klocek says he was unfairly suspended for his views on the Muslim and Palestinian people.

Turns out Eva Cassidy, a singer about whom UD is passionate, sang with Pam Bricker, a GW faculty member about whom UD wrote below (see UD, 2/27/05).

You can hear their collaboration (with two other voices) here (click on “november“).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

iPod, RIP


Duke University Chronicle

DURHAM, N.C. - Six months after the Duke University iPod First-Year Experience began, a stack of unopened iPods line Lynne O'Brien's office. As the director of the Center for Instructional Technology, her office has become the temporary storage room for the leftover devices. She laughs as she recalls the plethora of square boxes that were there earlier in the year. Her horde would be depleted shortly, as CIT had just approved iPod proposals for two more classes.

As the year-long "experiment" of providing 20-gigabyte Apple iPods to all freshmen winds to an end and the media frenzy slowly dies down, administrators have begun to evaluate the future of the project. Critics ask: Have students used them for educational purposes? Did teachers find innovative ways to integrate this technology into their curricula? Was it worth the $500,000?

While administrators have no concrete answers - a thorough and systematic evaluation will be finalized within two weeks - the implementation of the program has been as hotly debated as any measurement of its success.

"We weren't quite ready in some ways for all the things you need to make a project successful," O'Brien said, adding that this year was an experiment and if some form of the project is continued, the necessary support would be fully in place.

While administrators agree that CIT will continue to support faculty who use technology in the classroom, the future of the iPod project is in limbo. Teachers, students and officials admit that the project has had to overcome many difficulties. From technology problems to lack of student academic use, the experiment, just like the unopened boxes, has yet to be fully explored.

To the public, it all started on a summer Durham, N.C., night. Camera crews, reporters and freshmen lined East Campus Quadrangle Aug. 19, 2004, eagerly awaiting the distribution of the Duke welcome gifts. Freshmen only had to sign an agreement saying they would keep the device for one year and the iPod was theirs.

But in 2001, the Board of Trustees had set aside funds for a technology initiative in the five-year strategic plan, Building on Excellence. Officials hoped to find a device students were familiar with that could also be used academically. Duke officials visited Apple Computer late last winter to discuss a possible educational initiative. Apple was interested in becoming innovative with its product, Provost Peter Lange said, and Duke administrators were intrigued. The idea gestated for four months and was finally adopted during early summer. The iPod project was born.

Officials said the goal of the project was to provide teachers with new technologies to enhance course content and provide new angles to explore the same material.

"Because the iPods have broad appeal, a request for students to use them in a particular course was unlikely to meet with resistance, as could be the case with technology that wasn't as easy to use, or a technology that remained in students' desk drawers rather than carried with them as part of their everyday lives," said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. "By focusing this project around a piece of equipment that we knew people would want to have with them, we thought it was also more likely that students and faculty would use their imagination to think about what other kinds of uses they might make of it."

Administrators budgeted the iPod initiative - the project that resulted from the funds set aside in the strategic plan - at $500,000. This money included hiring an academic computing specialist for the project, providing grant funding for faculty and giving free 20-gigabyte Apple iPods and voice recorders to the more than 1,650 freshmen.

As soon as it was announced to the public, the media blitz began. Even though officials said the project was conceived as a means to further integrate technology into the classrooms, some critics have questioned the intent, accusing the administration of creating a publicity stunt to attract attention.

"I think it was a media stunt. We are an up-and-coming school, looking for ways to promote ourselves. Apple is too, so it is perfect," freshman Dan Cook said. He had yet to open his iPod gift as of Sunday and, as soon as the University will allow him to, will give it to his mother.

Lange said he was surprised with the media frenzy that followed distribution. O'Brien added that media outlets have primarily explored how Duke has used the new technology in the classroom.

"There has been a lot of publicity that has focused on the idea that this is a school that is willing to try something new, and they are curious to what kind of things people will come up with," O'Brien said. "They are looking to Duke to see what our experience was."

Futhey said the iPod project was a natural fit into academia and was impressed with the multitude of uses professors have found for the device.

"Until this project, iPods were mostly considered to be an entertainment device, but no one had explored their untapped potential for education," she said. "The idea behind this project was to put an incredibly easy to use, highly mobile and versatile device into the hands of our creative faculty and students to find out what kinds of academic uses they would discover."

Freshman Anita Pai loves her iPod. She records lectures and listens to her music as she walks through the Duke campus, bopping along to her tunes. She even dressed as an iPod for Halloween. But many freshmen have been less enthusiastic about the technology, using it more for entertainment than academic pursuits.

"I could count on one hand the amount of freshmen I saw recording classes last semester. Nobody uses them for academic purposes," freshman Janie Lorber said, adding that her recording device has never been opened. "I think it is kind of embarrassing that every freshman got an iPod. I think it makes us look rich and silly." Several students agreed with her sentiment.

But many teachers have embraced the iPods, integrating them fully into the curriculum. Futhey said CIT assisted 11 classes last fall with technical support and loaner iPods, given to upperclass students without iPods, but more than 30 courses used the devices to varying degrees. This semester, O'Brien said 17 classes have been approved for support from CIT.

"We certainly had enough faculty that, with very short notice decided to jump in and try things, and I was actually very pleased with the response rate," O'Brien said, adding that she thought even more faculty would have added the devices into their curricula if this was not advertised as a one-year project. "We have a lot of faculty already who had been experimenting with digital audio and video, so it was a way to try something new and see what type of uses would develop."

Of the teachers that adopted the new technology, some have taken to heart the spirit of the initiative, fully integrating the new devices into their curricula with original projects. Projects have ranged from developing new engineering software to taping ambient sounds and recording tutoring sessions.

Anthony Kelley, a professor in the Department of Music, used the new technology to let students interact with the music on a more personal level. He gave students a Bach chorale with all voices except the one within their range-soprano, alto, tenor or bass. He then required students to fill the missing pitches with their respective parts.

"The iPod is a happy medium that made the material more convenient," he said. "I thought it was a daring venture for Duke to at least try something different to make the first year experience something memorable. The project definitely succeeded - you can see all the white cables dangling out of ears."

Lisa Merschel, visiting assistant professor in the department of romance studies and one of the first teachers to sign up for the project, has provided her beginning Spanish students with audio material to help students master pronunciation. She also requires students to turn in recorded diaries so she can monitor their speaking progress throughout the semester. She said the iPod is convenient and allows for expanded course content. For instance, she said, students can download their audio listening exercises to the iPod and do their homework anywhere instead of relying on language lab hours.

Merschel also said she recorded native Spanish speakers of different backgrounds reading the course literature. Students could download the audio files to their iPod and listen to the different pronunciations any time. She said these uses would not have been available without the iPods, which she has used both semesters.

But the experience has not been free of struggle. She had six students in her class the first semester, while this semester, she is working with 34 students in two classes. The increase in students has made the integration of the technology fully into her class more difficult.

"Sometimes the iPods weren't charged, or they would forget their iPods. If that was happening with a group of six, you can imagine for 16," she said. "I think that I would definitely use them in the future, but I would have to rethink how I would incorporate them in the syllabus when I have a large group of students."

Freshman Aaron Markham, a student in one of Merschel's classes, enjoyed using the devices and thought it added a different dimension to the class. "The iPod facilitates learning and makes it a better overall experience," he said.

Markham, however, said freshmen were primarily using the iPods for recreational and entertainment purposes. "Honestly, I definitely think the iPod experiment did not pan out how the administration hoped," he added.

A full report detailing the project will be available within two weeks, and administrators will decide the future of the project in a few months. For now, the real test of the initiative will be how effective the iPods are in furthering technology in the classrooms for students who received them.

Some students have learned to rely on their iPods for educational uses. Lori Leachman, professor of the practice of economics, records her lectures with an iPod and then posts them to a shared server. She said that in her class of 300 students, about 40 record her lectures on a daily basis.

"I have a number of foreign students that are not totally fluent in English, and they find that recording the lecture and relistening to it is essential to them grasping the material," Leachman said.

Leachman, a proponent of the iPod project, said regardless of the amount students are using the iPods recreationally, innovations like the ones in the music and language departments made the project successful.

"Those things never would have happened without this project. Nobody would have thought about approaching their material that way until the University says, 'Lets see where we can take this,'" Leachman said. "We need to start thinking about how we can better integrate the technology out there into learning. While not everyone is using it, it is pushing everybody a little bit, slowly into that direction."

Although it is uncertain whether the incoming Class of 2009 will receive a similar gift, officials, professors and students hope there will still be opportunities available for those who embraced the project.

"I don't really know the outcome, but I hope that faculty who know that iPods will be in their sophomore students' hands next year will feel they have the opportunity to try some new things also," O'Brien said, adding that CIT will at least keep the loaner pool of iPods available for next year. "I'm sure there will be some continued opportunity for people to experiment." '


A Report Submitted to: The President, Duke University
From: The Committee on University Technology
15 March 2005

Despite a good deal of campus and national controversy, the “iPod Project” here at Duke has, we believe, on balance, been a success. The negative publicity we received - most of it characterizing free iPods to all freshmen as an indulgence for rich kids - has to some extent been overcome, as Duke has publicized the many legitimate academic uses that have been made of the iPod. We believe that the iPod controversy, much like the Segway controversy [see UD, 7.23/04], would disappear in a year or two if Duke continued to buy and distribute iPods.

Despite this, our committee recommends with this report that the university suspend its iPod program in favor of a wholly new approach for this September’s incoming class. Our reasons are outlined below.

With the assignment of Segways to its campus police and iPods to its students, Duke University has now earned a national reputation as a “hot,” innovative, cutting-edge university, reliably the first institution of higher education in the country to bring to campus the very latest technologies available to Americans. Rather than simply repeat the iPod project year after year, we believe that Duke’s next move should be to take advantage of this technological “buzz” and implement a policy of introducing a different new technology to our students every year. Technologies are changing all the time, and Duke should be changing with them.

To that end, this committee proposes that, this fall, all incoming students at Duke be given collagen lip implants [see image]. Our working name for this new program is The College Collagen Project. Lip implants, which fatten the lips and lend the whole face a more attractive, sensual appearance, are sweeping the country -- they are the Segway and the iPod of their day. They are about an America where people boldly experiment with their looks in order to attain a certain physical ideal.

This drive toward the ideal - already expressed on our campus in terms of across-the-board high GPAs and the like - can, we believe, be strengthened yet more by the perfecting of our students’ lips. Will some students with full lips turn down the offer? Perhaps. But if, as we propose, the image that we have included with this report is reproduced on the cover of our university bulletin and on other promotional materials, we think students will begin to see that even “full” lips (by twentieth century standards) can do with some plumping. Our goal and our expectation is 100% participation.

Respectfully submitted,
Committee on University Technology
If UD’s husband, in a fit of pique...

... were to murder her, Court TV and 48 Hours and Fox News and, I dunno, Dominick Dunne, would be there in a minute with 24-hour coverage of his trial.

Because professors, when they murder, get noticed.

Even English professors!


One of CBS' most prominent news magazines, 48 Hours sees many cases run across their planning desk, but this one caught their eye.

"It frames a lot of issues interestingly. There's not a lot of physical evidence that links him to the crime. It's largely circumstantial," said 48 Hours Correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

Plus, Schlesinger says defendant [Kansas State University English professor] Thomas Murray is an interesting person.

"This is not your average murder suspect. He's a respected guy. Well respected at the university, [and] that interested me," he said.

Once they choose a case, the next step for 48 Hours is purely logistical, getting things set up.

With nine microphones, a remote camera they personally installed, a sound operator, two producers and a correspondent, 48 Hours is ready to go.

"We try to blend into the background and we wire these courtrooms in a way that will minimize our intrusion," said Schlesinger.

The total price tag on all that equipment is about $200,000

(Quick: How do you know this article didn’t come from a ‘thesdan newspaper? That’s right -- The reporter holds off on the $200,000 price tag for the equipment until the very end because he thinks the cost will wow his readers… But ‘thesdans spend that much filming their children’s birthday parties, so BFD… )

UD figures that in her own case - professor-on-professor crime - she’d get (posthumously) twice the coverage of Murray….

Professor Murray is one of those stupid smart people UD wrote about a few months ago in this blog [see UD, 2/18/04]. There are a lot of professors like this guy. Odd, deeply reticent, content to spend existence chasing down word derivations … So dependent upon quietude is this sort of character that when something significantly disturbs the calm sameness of his life (in this case, his wife left him and was about to marry another man and move away, with Murray's daughter), he’s liable to blow, bigtime.

Unfortunately for Professor Murray and his defense team, having blown it by committing murder, he is continuing to blow it by being an idiot about covering his ass.

First, as already documented in UD [see UD, 12/11/04], there were Murray’s fervid nightlong computer searches leading up to the day of the murder, in which he put in terms like “how to murder your wife” and “methods of spousal murder.”

When the police confronted Murray with this record, he explained that he was doing research for a script he was planning to send to the crime show CSI. He often wrote scripts of this sort (a claim contradicted on the stand by witnesses).

Then there was this:

“During the interview [with the police], neither of the detectives had told Murray that the crime scene in Carmin Ross' rural Lawrence home was bloody. Murray first brought up the topic of blood when he told detectives there might be blood inside his vehicle.”

And also this: Murray told a neighbor, shortly before his wife was found dead, that his life would be much better if his wife were dead.

Murray, in short, affords UD a perfect example of what she has in mind by the phrase “stupid smart people.” His trial is about halfway over; those of you with televisions can watch it. UD will read about it and blog about it again, assuming it remains interesting.

Well, you heard it here first. If there's a story. I'm in my office in Foggy Bottom at the moment, and there's a rush of helicopters and ambulances and sirens. A colleague tells me that one floor up from my office you can see smoke coming out of "it looks like either the Watergate or the Saudi Embassy."

Later. Apparently a garden variety fire. No big story.