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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)

Saturday, April 30, 2005


The guys who claimed to find money in their backyard; the woman who said she found a finger in her fast food; the minority student who admitted sending racially threatening notes to her classmates because she was unhappy at college and wanted to go home; the bride-to-be who faked her kidnapping because she wasn’t sure she wanted to get married and needed some time alone -- when Americans and their tv friends got wind of these stories (this is just last week’s batch) they got all excited and scared and indignant, just like Kerri Dunn’s students at Pomona College.

Television needs melodrama, so we shouldn’t be surprised that “On Fox News last night Sean Hannity was actually speculating that [the bride-to-be’s] fiancé looked guilty and should submit himself to more police examinations.” But we ourselves are free to learn skepticism and emotional restraint. We’re free to look at patterns, the repetition of certain sorts of events…

The commenters at, a representative enough group of Americans, are grappling with this morning's breaking hoax, the one about the bride-to-be. “We were played. We were played like absolute fools,” one of them notes. “Who are we in this?” asks another. “Spectators. The media turned this incident into a nationwide cliffhanger drama. Sometimes the news staff inform us... sometimes they manipulate us.” Many commenters are indignant that no charges will be filed; they see this freedom from consequences as typical of the privileges of the well-connected. They want the bride-to-be to repay the expenses incurred in the national hunt for her.

Yesterday they were praying; today they're sniping. Poster ‘Dolley Madison’ has “a difficult time believing these were influential families; I saw that hairdo on the stepmother, and she cannot even tell how to put in rollers so that it looks like a hairdo and not a hairdon't! If that's influential, I'll eat my hat.” “She should get that anorexia treated while she's at it,” writes ‘Spiralman.’

Most of the posters are jumping from one pulp fiction to another, leaping over Friday’s beautiful innocent victim of our violent society in order to get to Saturday’s evil psycho machinator.

But one commenter nails it: “I had no idea she faked this. What she did is extremely cruel to her parents. So cruel I can't get my mind around it.”


Update: Forgot this one. Hard to keep up:

"Three M.I.T. graduate students have created a computer program that generates nonsensical scholarly papers. Last month, one of its productions, "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," was accepted by the Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics. The invitation was rescinded after conference organizers learned of the hoax."

Friday, April 29, 2005

A Regular UD Feature


"Professor Linda Allegro is a petite fireball of knowledge that makes the room buzz with a rapid flow of information. After the flow of information calms down to a gentle stream, she asks students to share their own thoughts…"

A Regular University Diaries Feature

Colin “Eat My Spume” McGinn has left the philosophy department at Rutgers for the University of Miami so that he can surf. “I like water sports. Miami is a year-round water-sports place.” The top-ranked philosopher is leaving a top-ranked philosophy department (his departure “could leave Rutgers’ high ranking vulnerable,“ worries the Rutgers student newspaper) for lowly UM, which is “definitely not as good as Rutgers is,” McGinn acknowledges. “But I have to weigh how much that matters to my daily life.”

UD finds McGinn’s candor about his motivations as refreshing as an ocean breeze. But she is not surprised. She remembers his 2004 interview with the Times of London, which upset a lot of people:

' "I won't talk to my colleagues about philosophy. It is too boring to me," he says.

But why?

"They are too stupid."

He can't say that!

"No, they don't get it. And I don't want to have an hour's conversation about it."

But they have read the same texts?

"Oh, yes. This is where I get much more intolerant. I know exactly what they are going to say. They ought to know what I am going to say, but apparently they don't.... It is a fault. But I am not as bad as Bernard Williams. He apparently was horrible to people. He could not tolerate people being less clever than him. [UD tolerates people who don't know when to use "he" or "him."] He was quicker than anybody else, and if they were not as quick as him, he would show his disdain for them."

UD wishes McGinn well in his new life, but she worries about how he’ll handle the strong Florida sun. The Times reporter notes McGinn’s “practical obtuseness” --

"McGinn…has trouble working out where to sit to avoid the sun’s glare, leaving me to come up with the radical idea of drawing the curtains."

Thursday, April 28, 2005


...readers from the blog ChicagoBoyz, hopes they enjoy her "Referral Log" song [scroll down], and invites them to sniff around other parts of University Diaries. For some more amusement, here's something written by David Galef at Inside Higher Ed:

' Last Week’s English Department Meeting

Minutes of the English Department Meeting, April 23, 2005

Meeting begins at 4:15 instead of 4:00 as scheduled because somebody forgot the keys to the faculty lounge.

The chair, Professor Bigley, brings the meeting to order.

Professor Twistwhistle, our Renaissance scholar, remarks that today is Shakespeare’s birthday.

Question posed by Professor Durrell: Why do we have to attend these time-wasting meetings?
Seconded by Professor Aarondale.
Professor Bigley asks if this is an issue we intend to vote on.
Professor Durrell says something not worth repeating, then repeats it.

The chair brings the meeting to order again.

Main business:

Discussion of library subscription cuts: because of budgetary deficits, necessary to suspend at least a dozen periodicals.
Suggestions by Professor Smythe: Modern Philology, Ancient Philology and that semiotics journal requested by the assistant professor who left for Rutgers last year.
Professor Kzykak: Why keep up Pop. Cult. Review? Only idiots who can’t read like that journal.
Professor Smythe begs to differ.
Professor Kzykak: Beg all you want.
Professor Aaronson: What about Critical Inquiry or PMLA? General hilarity.
The chair brings the meeting to order again. Will put list of periodicals in faculty mailboxes, and please mark off 12.

New course proposal, put forth by Professor Smythe: English 3XX, Women and Vampires, cross-listed with Gender Studies.
Questions: Where is the reading list on the proposal? Why is there no final exam? What the hell has cultural studies done to academic standards, anyway? (Kzykak)
Professor Smythe begs to punch Professor Kzykak in the nose.
The chair brings the meeting to order again.
Vote taken. English 3XX defeated 6-4.

Professor Kzykak suggests we hire a bailiff for these meetings. Ms. Cunningham, our administrative assistant, comes in with Girl Scout thin mints left over from her daughter’s cookie drive. Five-minute time-out.

Professor Twistwhistle hints that today is somebody important’s birthday.

Report from Professor Bowdler for the committee on undergraduate electives. Professor Bowdler not present.
Need volunteer to act as judge for this year’s Quiz Bowl. Professor Bowdler elected in absentia by unanimous vote.

Proposal from the dean to establish a teaching-observation protocol.
Discussion of McCarthyism.
Professor Dale, our theory person, wishes to discuss the impossibility of objectivity.
Professor Aaronson: Right. You can’t judge my teaching. It’s too subjective.
Professor Smythe: Not any more than some anonymous clown in Kalamazoo assessing my research.
Professor Aaronson: Are you referring to—?
Professor Smythe: Yes, but never mind. Let’s keep my spouse’s unsuccessful promotion review out of it.
Professor Dale refers to the post-subjective subject.
Professor Aarondale: What about this [deleted] administration?
Delegate Professor Aarondale to draft counter-proposal for observation of dean’s office.

Not on agenda, but Professor Ernesto wants to talk about plagiarism in student papers. Floor open.
Questions: Is there really a problem here? (Smythe)
Professor Ernesto: What’s the percentage of student work that’s suspect? Really, that high? Why don’t we just castrate their damn laptops? That’s obviously where it’s coming from.
Professor Dale notes that the act of appropriation may sometimes be an homage.
Professor Ernesto grabs Professor Dale’s briefcase and shakes out all the papers. Yells, “This is an act of appropriation, not an homage!“
Professor Dale threatens to deconstruct Professor Ernesto.
The chair brings the meeting to order again. Directs task force of Professors Dale and Ernesto to look jointly into student plagiarism.

Professor Twistwhistle hums “Happy Birthday.”

Brief ad hoc discussion of faculty retirement. Questions: What does it take to break tenure, anyway? Will the dean consider funding a new Renaissance line?

Meeting adjourned at 5:00, an enjoyable time had by all. Thank God the responsibility for taking down these minutes is rotating, and it’s Professor Aarondale next month. Hear that, Aarondale?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


' The University of Cincinnati is renovating buildings to turn them into so-called "smart classrooms" with Internet connections, computers that play DVDs and projectors that display documents.

"I teach a class in public relations, and in a standard classroom that's like teaching blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back," said UC spokesman Greg Hand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

news from a broad

Hokay, UD’s still in her springtime stupor, but she thought she’d interrupt it real quick to do a little instapundit (has Glenn Reynolds copyrighted this word?) activity… let’s see -- it’s TV Turnoff Week! Well, comme vous savez, every week is TTW for Our Ms. D. She has a stash of TV-B-Gones and dispenses them liberally as holiday gifts. For UD, a special day would be turning on a tv… And speaking of tv, “Asked how British audiences compared to Americans, [American actor Val] Kilmer was blunt. ‘They're smarter. They read books,’ he told reporters.” … And speaking of not reading books, how ‘bout them Nationals (is that the name of DC’s new baseball team?)? Andrew Sullivan went in to last night’s game a scoffer and came out a believer… And speaking of scoffing, UD used to scoff when fellow ‘thesdans told her they’d seen coyotes in their backyards (not to mention bison on their tennis courts) but not any more! … And speaking of backyards, the gated backyards of some Los Angeles communities have been scoped out by urban planners protesting the gate-ification of LA -- they’ve put viewing platforms up next to the entries of these communities, so people can climb up and see into parts of the city that have become off-limits. The LA Times - wrong as ever - calls these protesters “contrarians.” The gaters are the contrarians -- the rest of the world doesn’t feel compelled to imprison itself… And speaking of suburbs, Andrea Dworkin, in her 2002 memoir, Heartbreak, describes fleeing her "horrible,awful, stupid suburb," and going to New York City to get her copy of "Howl" autographed by Allen Ginsberg. Here’s a photo of Ginsberg and Dworkin…

Monday, April 25, 2005

Everyone I know’s a fanatic!

My niece is a Bjork fanatic. My daughter’s best friend is a Hugh Laurie fanatic. My sister is a Morrissey fanatic. She’s always emailing me Morrissey lyrics. I finally looked at one of her Morrissey emails. Not bad!


A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetry gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetry gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now ?
With loves, and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived
And then they died
It seems so unfair
I want to cry

You say : "'Ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn"
And you claim these words as your own
But I've read well, and I've heard them said
A hundred times (maybe less, maybe more)
If you must write prose/poems
The words you use should be your own
Don't plagiarise or take "on loan"
'Cause there's always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
Who'll trip you up and laugh
When you fall
You say : "'Ere long done do does did"
Words which could only be your own
And then produce the text
From whence was ripped
(Some dizzy whore, 1804)

A dreaded sunny day
So let's go where we're happy
And I meet you at the cemetry gates
Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side
A dreaded sunny day
So let's go where we're wanted
And I meet you at the cemetry gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose
'Cause weird lover Wilde is on mine.
THIS... UD's immediate setting; and, to make matters worse, it's been perfect spring weather for the last couple of days. Could you blog under these conditions?

Back when it becomes slightly overcast.

[Here's an enlargement of the photo that shows what UD sees every day when she looks out of her study windows.]

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Every generation gets the literary power couples it deserves, I guess. In the ‘twenties they got Zelda and Scott. Before that there was Mary and Percy Shelley, and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In the ‘forties, Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett reigned, and in the ‘sixties, Sylvia and Ted. The ‘seventies had Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, and the ‘nineties, Donald Hall and the marvelous poet Jane Kenyon.

A serious erosion seems to have set in with the turn of the century, however, and what’s left today is the increasingly bizarre Ayelet Waldman/ Michael Chabon coupling.

If the themes among literary couples in earlier decades involved competitive and sometimes destructive aesthetic intensity, or authentic and loving creative partnership, now it’s pretty much all about self-promotion.

Garry Trudeau once wrote that contemporary America is “the only country in the world where failing to promote yourself is regarded as being arrogant,” and a corollary to this is that no conceivable mode of self-promotion is regarded as anything other than admirable around these parts.

So you have Waldman publishing her suicide note on her blog (she didn’t kill herself), and writing in Salon magazine about sex with her husband and the embarrassing little private things that her children do around the house. And you have Chabon giving talks to Jewish groups in which he conjures a holocaust survivor he knew when he was young who turns out to have been a Nazi in hiding. Chabon and his sponsors at these talks insist that it’s clear from his rhetoric that this person, who tattoed numbers on his arm to pass as a concentration camp survivor, is fictive. But one commenter to a website discussion of the controversy remarks:

If you listen to the lecture, it's clear that Chabon called it a memoir, and Maliszewski [the writer who wrote an essay charging Chabon with the fabrication] interviews a lot of people, including a fellow at Nextbook [the sponsoring organization], and all of them except Brogan [the main organizer of the talks] said they believed the Holocaust story to be true. The fellow even says if it's not true, Chabon should be stopped. … Chabon has been going around the country telling a supposedly true story that people are believing in which a real man - CB Colby - is identified as a Nazi propagandist in hiding. And, as Chabon admits, that is a lie. Colby was a children's book author who served in the Air Force Auxillary after WW II, and he's dead now, which is lucky for Chabon. Otherwise, he'd likely have a case of defamation on his hands.

“The particulars of the case,” Scott McLemee writes at Inside Higher Ed, “are not up for dispute. Maliszewski demonstrates that Chabon’s lecture is a fiction. A search of relevant databases confirms that no title called The Book of Hell by Joseph Adler exists, nor was there (as Chabon stated) an expose on the author’s true identity in The Washington Post.” (Take note of McLemee’s comments, also, on Maliszewski’s own history of hoaxing and whether this undermines his case against Chabon.)

McLemee calls Maliszewski’s essay (Maliszewski teaches in the English department at GW, but I’ve never met him) “a nuanced and searching analysis of the relationships between author and audience, between memory and fantasy, between story-telling and truth-telling. Maliszewski’s point is less that Chabon intends to trick his audience than that (for a variety of reasons) his listeners want the story to be true….Nor is the corrosive effect of that desire mitigated by dismissing Chabon’s lecture as a ‘tall tale.’ There was actually someone named C.B. Colby who published a book called Strangely Enough! He wasn’t a Holocaust survivor or a secret Nazi – just a volunteer fireman, library-board member, and author of children’s books. ‘Real life,’ writes Maliszewski, ‘apparently requires exaggerated stakes – a few teaspoons of the Holocaust, say, or some other dramatic supplement to fortify the work’s seriousness.’ ”

United in their commitment to self-promotion, this writing couple appears willing to tell any tale, reveal any secret, for the sake of publicity.


Update: I made Chabon David instead of Michael -- I've corrected the name. Thanks to Chris, a reader, for the correction.
A Regular University Diaries Feature


[To the tune of O Tannenbaum]

Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries! (2)

My heavy hours
Throughout the morn
Are lightened by
Your sites of porn.
Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries.

Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries! (2)

Thy Google Searches
Touch my heart:
“Real Fucked-up Coeds.”
“Shit.” and “Fart.”
Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries.

Referral log, referral log.
How lovely are thy entries! (2)

Yea oft betimes
A link appears
That looks for
“Most Attractive Rears.”
Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries.

Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries! (2)

Yet best to me
I freely own
Are entries from
The great “UNKNOWN.”
Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries.

Referral log, referral log,
How lovely are thy entries. (2)

But stay! Extend your
Visit Length!
O fortify
My market strength!
Referral log, referral log,
[poco andante] How lovely are thy entries.

[A Regular University Diaries Feature
In Which UD Recognizes Pithily Stated
Truths That Appear On Blogs.]

"Getting a book accepted at a reputable university press is much easier than getting an article accepted at a top journal."


Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day

' Garrett Park Code of Ordinances
Garrett Park Maryland, August 2001:

Chapter 6: "Peace, Order and Safety"
Section 609: Nuclear Free Zone

(a) The people of this Town hereby declare the Town of Garrett Park to be a Nuclear-Free Zone. No nuclear waste shall be produced, transported, stored, processed, disposed of, nor used within Garrett Park. No facility, equipment, supply or substance for the production, transportation, storage, processing, disposal or use of nuclear weapons shall be allowed in Garrett Park.

(b) A violation of this section shall be an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100. '

An update on the faculty plagiarism charge at North Dakota State University from Scott Jaschik, at Inside Higher Ed:

' A faculty panel at North Dakota State University has cleared Claire Strom, an assistant professor of history there, of charges of plagiarism and “bogus citations” in her 2003 book, Profiting From the Plains: The Great Northern Railway and Corporate Development of the American West.

The panel found that while there were some minor mistakes in documentation, they were neither intentional, significant or unusual. The panel rejected the conclusions of a historian from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, whom the committee asked for an independent review and who said that the complaint had merit. But the committee said that it based its decision on university regulations, which explicitly exclude “honest error,” unlike the standards the outside reviewer had used.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


...a fine group blog that's part of the History News Network, has been added to UD's blogroll (it's directly under History News Network on the list). One of their contributors, Wendy McElroy, is a potent antidote to Andrea Dworkin.

Via Best of the Web,

UD seriously doubts we will ever find a better one:

' In the pressure cooker known as our national healthcare system, all the major players seem ready for battle. On the right, advancing slowly behind a phalanx of riot shields, are the cost-cutting forces of managed care. On the left, hurling brickbats at almost everyone, are the physicians. In the rear, licking their wounds after their latest brawl with the physicians, and plotting their next ambush on the health plans, are the hospitals. Looking on from the sidelines are the healthcare policy-makers, employers and random pundits -- their theories often two steps behind the facts on the ground. '

From HealthLeaders Magazine

In an essay written about Susan Sontag after her death, a literary critic calls her “troubled.”

Sontag was a productive and celebrated cultural figure to the end of her life. She was not troubled. Calling her troubled - a noxious euphemism - is a form of self-comforting. “She was a world-famous intellectual. But she was nuts. At least I’m not nuts.”

In the case of Andrea Dworkin, however, when Cathy Young, in the middle of an appraisal of her, writes “It's sadly obvious that this supposedly bold and visionary prophet was, in actuality, insane,” it’s a more plausible move. It’s no less unkind to say it, but it not done to denigrate her, or to make oneself feel better about one’s lower profile in the world. It’s done because it’s important to distinguish between legitimate thinkers and monomaniacs who know how to write.

Maggie Gallagher writes admiringly that Dworkin was "the kind of woman who has the peculiar courage of her fears." What Dworkin had was the peculiar cowardice of extreme asexuality -- a spiritually exhausting, deeply personal fear of physical penetration. That this vulnerable, suffering woman with her bloody abuse fantasies became an American feminist icon in the late years of the last century speaks to a disheartening convergence between one person’s soul-shattering penetration-phobia, and the ambient heterophobia of the time (about which Daphne Patai has written in this book).

“One must always respect someone who fought valiantly for something they deeply believed in and for that, Andrea Dworkin earned my respect,” writes a commenter on the Daiy Kos site. “However, speaking as an African-American woman who deeply cares about feminist issues and therefore, obviously, read her work with an open mind, I have to say that ultimately I came to regard Andrea Dworkin as outright insane. ...
Insanity is, to me, when one is incapable, because of their beliefs, to hear respectfully any truth no matter how compellingly and completely presented, that counters one's view of the world. That was clear from her writing - she was simply incapable of imagining such a thing as a non-patriarchial man, a non-rapist man, a non-exploitative sexuality that either pleased or involved men. ... It struck me as particularly insane that her writings took this position when she had an extremely long-term heterosexual relationship herself (although God knows what they did for sexual relations, given her stated views on the matter of PIV intercourse). At first, I took her many rantings as just the creative use of metaphor to make a desperately needed plea for gender equality, but over time, when it became clear that her views were simply incapable of being tempered in the face of reasonable disagreement, I tuned her completely out… . Thus, if Dworkin's goal was to alienate nascent feminists -- particularly women of color such as myself who just cannot relate to the level of self-absorption and ahistoricism it takes to expect particularly African-American women to act as if men are the enemy -- she definitely furthered her goals. “

Dworkin will eventually be viewed, I think, as akin to Edie Sedgwick and Marilyn Monroe -- a confused, symbolically potent vessel, a clueless icon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Man passes self off as UO professor

The Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. — A Eugene man passed himself off as a psychology professor, fooling dozens of students at the University of Oregon, according to police in Eugene.

Checklin Vaifale, 35, also known as Jonathan Vaifalc-Valdez, maintained the impersonation for more than a year and a half, police said.

Before pretending to be a professor, he had claimed to be a student and danced with the Hawaiian Club for several years, they said.

Vaifale posed as a professor to gain the trust of students and to develop relationships with male and female students, investigators said.

The relationships were believed to be mostly nonsexual, police said.

He dressed professionally, carried a briefcase and frequented Straub Hall, where the psychology department is located.

Finally, a student who suspected that Vaifale was not what he appeared to be filed a complaint. Vaifale was arrested on suspicion of criminal impersonation.’


[This was a criminal impersonation. Criminally bad. A psych professor in Eugene carrying a briefcase and dressing professionally???]


UPDATE: Story strains credulity --

' "He would meet people at these places and, in order to feel better about himself, tell them he was a professor," [Eugene police officer Dallas] Hall said. '

...whether it's for real. But, sadly, she has concluded that it is. [UD's husband, when he was a student at Harvard, lived in Mather House.]

Lather Suds Rub Partiers Wrong Way

Contributing Writer

Got foam? Perhaps a bit too much.

For some students, hours spent frolicking in the bubbles of Mather Lather Saturday night have ended in days of painful skin irritation.

Eleven students contacted by The Crimson yesterday said they discovered rashes, burning, and itching—one student on his genitals—after they left the party. Twenty undergrads had joined a support group on called “I Got a Nasty Rash, but Mather Lather Was Fun” as of press time, and two students said they were told by doctors at University Health Services (UHS) that many students had come in with the same complaint.

UHS Chief of Medicine Soheyla D. Gharib said last night she had not heard of the problem, but found two cases of irritation in clinic logs.

“Afterwards, my nipples really hurt,” said a male sophomore in Mather House who asked not to be named. “I loved Mather Lather, but this is kind of weird.”

Representatives from the Mather House Committee (HoCo) and the company that supplied the foam said the rash of skin irritations is unprecedented.

“We’ve never had complaints like these before,” said Stephany Crawford, vice president of Crawford International Theatrical Corporation (CITC), which Mather HoCo Social Chair Walker C. Stanovsky ’06 said has supplied Mather’s lather for the past two years.

CITC warns all customers that wading in their suds could cause skin irritation if party-goers do not shower soon after exposure.

A sign with this warning was displayed at the dance, Stanovsky said.

But rash-afflicted students defended their personal hygiene, explaining that their problems began at the dance.

“When I was there my skin started to feel a bit chapped, but by the time I got home, it was hurting a lot,” said Ellen De Obaldia ’08. “Then, when I took a shower, it felt like a really bad sunburn. My skin was just so raw.”

After Theresa H. Cheng ’08 had spent a few hours in the foam, her skin became so irritated that she had to leave the party, she said.

“I was having fun, but I felt compelled to go,” Cheng said. “My skin was even redder the next day, so I went to UHS and then started taking Benadryl. Even now, my skin hurts a bit when I apply pressure.”

David L. Golding ’08 posted a message to the facebook group’s website that he was in so much pain he worried he might have herpes. Golding later said this was a joke, but the pain was real.

“The first day I felt like I couldn’t walk,” he said. “I had a really good time but I’m kind of pissed off because it seems like defective foam.”

Past Mather Lather dances have been plagued by abrupt Harvard University Police Department shut downs, reports of disappointingly sparse suds, and complaints about postering campaigns advertising “Pre-Frosh Girls Free,” but never by skin rashes.

Stanovsky said he was unsure why irritations became a problem, but he speculated that the increased exposure to foam this year may have been a problem.

“We don’t like that people got a rash,” he said. “We’ll work to prevent it next year.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Sad doings at William and Mary. In a very short time, two sophomores have killed themselves, in almost exactly the same way, with a gun each bought at Wal-Mart.

"Between midnight and 1 a.m. Sunday, Jason A. Long of Virginia Beach shot himself in a restroom with a firearm he purchased at a local Wal-Mart just hours before, W&M spokesman William Walker said. On March 17, another sophomore, Adam McCool, took his life in a similar manner, said Walker, also shooting himself in a restroom with a gun he purchased at Wal-Mart."

UD has suggested [see UD, 4/2/05] that many college-age suicides are impulsive, and the first one here may have been. But the second student must have looked carefully at the first student's approach and copied it.

Monday, April 18, 2005


This is getting scary. Here's the beginning of an opinion piece that just came out in the Times Online. Note italics:

THE PLIGHT of Professor Martin Weitzman is an appropriate analogy for the general election. This academic holds the distinguished Ernest F. Monrad Chair in Economics at Harvard University. He is the author of such classic papers as A Unified Bayesian Theory of Equity Puzzles (and thank the Almighty for him, to think that Bayesian theory had been divided for years). He is also, nonetheless, in some trouble. This month, he was apparently caught in the act of appropriating, illegally, a truckload of horse manure which properly belonged to a local farmer. The owner concerned has insisted on pressing charges because, he says, the professor has been pilfering his property “for years”. The trial begins shortly.

This has been the subject of considerable controversy in Massachusetts. Some students have demonstrated against Professor Weitzman, insisting that he publicly apologise for his supposed behaviour. They have been supported by an organisation called Manure Movers of America (I kid you not). The most mysterious element in this strange tale, however, is why the professor might have wanted a vast amount of fertiliser in the first place. Personally, I have long had my suspicions about where economists acquire the basic material for their arguments.

UD supposes she should be flattered that Tim Hames thought she meant it when she talked about the Manure Movers of America and the outraged Harvard students. But at this point, given the increasing tendency of UD's readers here and abroad to misread her grossly obvious satires as God's truth, she's just spooked... Meanwhile - Tim, Tim, Tim. If you are reading this, I WAS KIDDING.
Quand viendra la saison nouvelle,
Quand auront disparu les froids... Berlioz has it in a beautiful villanelle that he set to song. Translated, this would be... uh... When will come the new season, When will have disappeared the colds ... No:

When the new season comes,
When the frosts vanish...

Yes, that's it, and for our purposes here at University Diaries, when the spring is upon us, when the weather warms and the sun shines, we are duty bound to cover (as it were) the streakers.

As you know, UD's interest in students jogging naked around Princeton (Princeton University being the latest high-profile site of the activity) would have to grow to become cursory. But a diary of university life like University Diaries has a responsibility to report on streaking when it causes an international incident:


POSTED: 8:36 am EDT April 18, 2005
UPDATED: 11:06 am EDT April 18, 2005

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Officials have told the Princeton University Varsity Streaking Team to keep its clothes on.

The unofficial club was formed in November and its 30 members have managed several nude dashes, including one in an abnormal psychology lecture.

But things went awry nearly two weeks ago when some foreign dignitaries visiting the Ivy League campus spotted the naked coeds charging down Prospect Avenue. The visitors alerted police.

Team co-founder Scott Welfel, of Roseland, said Princeton police wanted assurances that it wouldn't happen again.

Welfel said the team is on hiatus, "at least for the rest of the year."

Sunday, April 17, 2005


A University Diaries Series


Here we are again in this latest installation of Teaching Today [type the phrase in the search feature above for many previous TT's], following yet another instance of a professor giving out higher grades to students willing to militate on behalf of the professor’s pet project.

You may recall the professor who would not pass students unless they voted in the last presidential election.

And the professor who made grades contingent on students doing phone surveys for him in his work as an advisor to a legal team. (“The students claimed they used bogus responses because of deadline pressure to complete the survey, on which they received a grade.”)

Now there’s the professor at the Stevens Point campus of the University of Wisconsin who “sent an e-mail from his university account … to students urging them to patronize non-smoking establishments and collect signatures to put an anti-smoking referendum on the [Madison Wisconsin] ballot. In exchange, he wrote, the students would get up to 1,500 extra credit points.”

The course, "Healthy American," was “dedicated to encouraging students to make healthy food choices.” Students also got credit for eating out in restaurants: “Forms were … attached to the [email] to be handed out for each student choosing to eat at the restaurant to earn 500 extra credit points and asking for a ‘Proof of eating form at the cash register.’”

"It's very troubling that professors were using their pulpits in the classroom to get students to go out and do their work for them and then reward them with extra credit," said part of the team that’s suing the professor and the university, seeing as state employees are barred from political activities while at work. In all, the professor has violated Regent Policies, the Wisconsin Administrative Code, and state statutes.

One local bar owner working on the other side of the smoking issue summed it up eloquently: "I can't believe that a teacher would do this. ... It's extortion and bribery…. You can't promote your political agenda through the resources of the community."

UD blogged about Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking, a few months ago. The San Francisco Chronicle has a lengthy account of her life, work, and death.

What is it with people? Or Wikipedias? In one of UD's many satirical posts, she pretended to be a stupid excitable American tabloid and called Yale University "hyperprestigious." Now look:

"Although the school is referred to as "hyper-prestigious" by college English professor and blogger [2004/02/prof-made-her-puke-womens-libber.html Margaret Soltan], many Wikipeidians feel that this is an arbitrary judgement without factual merit."

Oh, without factual merit, eh? How dare you...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

cummings plagiarism claims coming

“The typographical freedom is the only freedom; the rest of the poem follows a hackneyed route of sentiment and cliché,” a writer in The Telegraph notes of a poem by e e cummings. UD would note this of cummingzez entire output, with a couple of exceptions. (Here’s a bunch of his poems, if you must.)

Anyway, the most recent biographer of e e cummings (who by all accounts was a real shit) is about to be accused of plagiarism in an article in the next Harper‘s magazine. A New York Times article tells us that the Harper’s writer will claim the book “contains numerous passages that echo or directly copy parts of a well-regarded 25-year-old biography of Cummings.” Wyatt Mason will conclude that the just-released biography "is jammed with instances of wholesale borrowing - not only of research but of storytelling and language."

The biography’s author acknowledges a small amount of “not conscious” lack of attribution -- an understandable “oversight” in a very long book.

UD's already had what to say about Dana Gioia's thankless government work - making us worry about declining rates of reading among Americans. (Ooh look at that - UD finally figured out how to link to her own entries.) UD has already, more broadly, expressed her skepticism about claims that reading makes you a better person. (She did another link!)

No doubt as a certified English professor UD should endorse any study, any incentive, perhaps even any bullshit, that promotes Reading. Reading makes you a compassionate, socially involved human being. Reading makes you smarter. It makes you richer. It makes you glow from within. You can tell a Reader right away by her glow.

But while UD thinks some of this may be true for some people reading some forms of literature, she's pretty sure there's nothing generalizable here at all. Reading makes some people shittier than they were before - it feeds their fanaticism or whatever (Ted Kaczynski was an attentive reader of first-rate philosophy and literature). Most of what people read is trash which, if grammatically correct, may have a marginal effect on their literacy. It will not, however, make them smarter or wiser. A lot of what people read is technical writing which adds to a certain narrow knowledge but has nothing to do with morality or insight.

So for the head of the NEA to run around America scaring us about how “the decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems” is, again, a thankless task. And the task is not made easier by the sorts of opinion pieces Gioia currently has his underlings at the agency writing in the papers under his name.

UD refuses to believe that the clot of clichés that appeared in the Boston Globe recently (“Why Literature Matters: Good Books Help Make a Civil Society”) was written by the same man who wrote the brilliantly cutting attack on contemporary poetry called Can Poetry Matter? No, the Globe thing has to have been written by one of those random-paper-generator things the guys at MIT came up with, or by a staff member at the NEA.

Shall we fisk it?

The piece begins with the crowning cliché of upwardly striving American culture, a line UD encountered at a tender age in some PBS special and has met again and again and again - that John Adams thing about how he has to study “politics and war” so his sons can study “mathematics and philosophy,” so that their children can study “painting, poetry, music…”

UD suspects that most educated Americans have this quotation lurking in their heads somewhere. Not because it’s so great, but because you can never remember what subject matter goes with what generation. Did he say I’ll study French so my kids can study, um, architecture? No - it was … my grandchildren can study painting if I study, er, geography… No…

Anyway, it’s a big old thundersome cliché, and it’s the last way you want to start an editorial piece that argues for serious reading’s promotion of “independent-minded” thought. And matters get worse when whoever wrote Gioia’s piece dubs this warhorse a “bold prophecy.” Calling Jeanne Dixon!

We then get a bunch of statistics that show Americans aren’t reading anything, as a result of which we are deprived of “the joys and challenges of literature,” which is a “troubling trend.” No one who uses language this trite sees the world with the individuality and lucidity that serious literature is supposed to give you. Joys and challenges are empty words; and if you want me to believe that a trend is troubling, you should describe it with words that have not also been used to describe male pattern baldness, the Social Security crisis, and feline distemper.

The cliches keep coming -- a “growing awareness” of things “intimately related” suggests that we need to foster “innovation and creativity.” The problem is “taking its toll.” We should read Wordsworth because he cured John Stuart Mill’s “crippling depression.”

Even more than Wordsworth, though, we should read, as Americans with our own social history, Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Grapes of Wrath, this writer tells us. But these sorts of novels - linguistically unchallenging protest books - have nothing to do with the advanced literary literacy this writer seems to be worried about.

The final paragraphs of the piece are bureaucratic blahblah that no one, and UD means no one, will read as referring to anything real:

[A]ddressing the reading issue will require the leadership of politicians and the business community… Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors.

This language truly could have been generated by computer, or by a public relations firm (maybe that’s what Gioia used) paid to produce literacy-promotion boilerplate.

Because it utterly fails to express the one undeniably valuable thing about serious literary reading - it excites, in a personal way, a sense of one’s own, and the world’s, unsuspected complexity and contradictoriness - this sort of writing accomplishes nothing.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Via Ralph Luker, at Cliopatria --
From an interview with Victor Davis Hanson:

' TAE: What is your idea of a perfect curriculum?

HANSON: My curriculum is old-fashioned. It's a zero sum game, and there are only so many disciplines that will always exist: literature, mathematics, biology, hard science, foreign language, politics, philosophy. To make space, I would eliminate anything that has the word "studies" in it: ethnic studies, women's studies, cultural studies, American studies. That would free up about 25 percent of the current therapeutic curriculum.

Most of the new things that universities are trying to introduce are not academic subjects. They're just popular culture dressed up as learning. Not only are these not university subjects, but they come at the expense of time diverted from real education. For every hour a kid is in Chicano studies or environmental studies classes, he's not learning history or philosophy.

TAE: What is the biggest problem in higher education in contemporary America?

HANSON: I don't know where to start. I guess it is really about the lack of accountability. Tuition rises faster than inflation. If you ask why nobody does anything about it, the answer is that with tenure and faculty governance there's no accountability. There's no accountability for administrators either. It's a fantasyland immune from the laws of American oversight and audit. I think that's coming to an end, because the people in charge are not doing a very good job. We can put up with the idea that universities are fat cats that overcharge Americans, but not when they also fail to educate kids. Americans are getting angry, and looking for new solutions. '

' Writer Fabricated Boston Globe Story on Seal Hunt

Fri Apr 15, 2005 01:44 PM ET

By Greg Frost

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Boston Globe freelance writer fabricated large chunks of a story published this week, the newspaper said on Friday in the latest incident to embarrass the U.S. media.

The Globe, which is owned by The New York Times Co., said it stopped using writer Barbara Stewart because of a story that ran on Wednesday about a seasonal hunt for baby seals off Newfoundland -- a hunt, it turns out, had not taken place.

The story datelined Halifax, Nova Scotia described in graphic detail how the seal hunt began on Tuesday, with water turning red as hunters on some 300 boats shot harp seal cubs "by the hundreds."

The problem, however, was that the hunt did not begin on Tuesday; it was delayed by bad weather and was scheduled to start on Friday, weather permitting, the Globe said in an editor's note.

Stewart could not immediately be reached for comment.

The newspaper, which received a complaint from the Canadian government, said it should not have published the story and should have insisted on attribution for details because the writer was not reporting from the scene.

"Details included the number of hunters, a description of the scene, and the approximate age of the cubs. The author's failure to accurately report the status of the hunt and her fabrication of details at the scene are clear violations of the Globe's journalistic standards," it added.

Canada is extremely sensitive about the hunt, during which hundreds of thousands of seals are beaten to death or shot for their pelts every year. U.S. activists, who says the seals are killed inhumanely, are urging consumers to shun Canadian seafood until the hunt is stopped.

Canadian Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan said his officials had called the paper to point out the error.

"We've been trying to get the facts out about the seal harvest, the fact that the herd is very healthy ... that in 98 percent of cases it (the hunt) is done in a humane way," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Officials with the newspaper were not immediately available for further comment.

U.S. media organizations have been hit with a series of high-profile cases involving plagiarism or fabrication.

In 2003, The New York Times' top two editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, left the paper after it was disclosed that reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated and plagiarized material.

CBS News, The Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, the New Republic magazine and USA Today are among the other media icons caught up in celebrated flaps over inaccurate reporting.

Peace Studies, at least at one American university, appears to be making a bid for respectability. As part of a curricular review, Georgetown University will not renew the contract of Colman McCarthy, a retired writer for the Washington Post whose narcotized classrooms, where everyone gets an A and reading and writing are forms of institutional coercion, are notoriously popular.

UD saw McCarthy in action once. His self-preening made her want to pummel him.

JUNKED ADJUNCT runs the headline in The Georgetown Voice (UD thinks JUNCTD ADJUNCT or DEFUNCT ADJUNCT would be better), which notes that “Outraged students are now organizing and circulating petitions.” The Hoya newspaper remarks that “McCarthy has … been criticized for not having tests and allowing students to grade themselves.” “If our demands for Professor McCarthy’s full reinstatement are not met,” one protest leader is quoted as saying, “we will undertake armed resistance.”

No, no, UD made that last thing up…

Thursday, April 14, 2005


From today’s Boston Herald:

BOSTON - Harvard University has reproached but declined to punish constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe after concluding he committed "a serious lapse" in failing to properly credit another author's work in a book published two decades ago.

Last fall, the Weekly Standard magazine pointed out similarities, including one exact 19-word passage, between Tribe's 1985 book "God Save This Honorable Court" and a 1974 book "Justices and Presidents" by Henry J. Abraham, now an emeritus professor at the University of Virginia.

Tribe, who is well known in legal circles and represented Al Gore in the 2000 Florida election dispute, acknowledged the mistake and apologized publicly and in a letter to Abraham. His book did not have footnotes but mentioned Abraham's in a bibliographic note.

Harvard appointed three scholars to investigate, including former president Derek Bok. In a statement released Thursday, President Lawrence Summers and Law School Dean Elena Kagan said they had received the investigators' report and concluded the error was "the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality" and "related more to matters of phrasing than to fundamental ideas."

Nonetheless, the statement said the error was "a significant lapse in proper academic practice" and "a matter of serious concern in the academic community."

"We have conveyed these conclusions and concerns to Professor Tribe, and now consider the matter closed," the statement said.

It was not entirely clear from the university announcement whether Tribe received any further sanction, and the university declined to comment further. But Tribe's office issued a statement saying "there was no sanction or reprimand beyond the (university's) statement."

Tribe issued a separate statement reiterating his apology.

"I am gratified that the university's inquiry found no basis for accusations of dishonesty or of intellectual theft," he said.

The accusations against Tribe were part of a string of allegations [for background, see UD, 11/24/04] of sloppy attribution against prominent scholars, including Tribe's Harvard colleague Charles J. Ogletree, who lifted a six-paragraph passage almost directly from another work. Ogletree attributed the mistake to assistants but apologized, and a Harvard investigation found no deliberate wrongdoing.

...readers from CURSOR who stopped in to read her Eric Rudolph post [see UD, 2/23/05, or type "eric rudolph" in SEARCH]. Feel free to look around.
Samuel Beckett’s 'Early Sokal' Phase

"Beckett presented a paper to the members of the Modern Languages Society on the avant-garde movement "Le Concentrisme" led by the French poet Jean du Chas -- all of which was pure invention. Several in attendance confidently averred du Chas's importance, without observing the fact of his non-existence."
UPDATE: Embezzlement at GWU

[For background, see UD, 10/19/04, or type "apple season" in Search.]

The Washington Post, today:

Embezzlement Plea

A former George Washington University professor pleaded guilty yesterday to embezzling $900,000 from a federally funded program while running a national traffic safety research center affiliated with the school.

Nabih E. Bedewi, 40, of Reston admitted in U.S. District Court in Washington that from 2000 to 2004 he made up phony invoices for labor, equipment and consulting services that the federal government and university paid to companies that he secretly controlled. Bedewi also acknowledged that he made false representations to establish unauthorized graduate student stipends and a tuition scholarship for spouses of GWU employees.

Under a plea agreement, Bedewi faces 37 to 46 months in prison when he is sentenced June 29. Bedewi was a tenured engineering professor on GWU's faculty from 1990 until he resigned last June. He ran the National Crash Analysis Center, a cooperative venture among the university, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


UPDATE II: The Bottom Line

' GWU Will Pay U.S. For Scholar's Theft
$1.8 Million Settlement Reached

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page B02

George Washington University has agreed to a $1.8 million settlement with the Justice Department to resolve a federal investigation of a professor who has admitted stealing government research funds.

The professor, Nabih E. Bedewi, pleaded guilty last week to a federal theft charge, clearing the way for the settlement, which was announced yesterday by the U.S. attorney's office in the District. The university, which was not charged with a crime, admitted no liability in agreeing to the financial terms.

Bedewi, 41, directed the National Crash Analysis Center, a research facility in Virginia run jointly by the university and U.S. Department of Transportation, and he used his position to steal money during a four-year period ending in July, according to prosecutors.

The center used federal money to run crash tests at a facility in Langley and at a new test site at the university's Ashburn campus. Prosecutors said Bedewi filed claims for what turned out to be nonexistent expenses, with the money going to companies that he secretly controlled. In addition, he used federal money to pay unauthorized stipends to graduate students and to provide unauthorized scholarships to the spouses of GWU employees.

Government investigators ultimately identified nearly $2 million in federal and university funds that were lost through fraud and other financial irregularities, and the university said it has taken steps to improve its auditing.

Prosecutors and GWU officials said the university identified the suspicious financial charges by Bedewi and brought them to the government's attention. The university itself lost nearly $200,000 in the scam, authorities said.

Under the $1.8 million agreement, the university will pay $659,000 to the federal government and will credit almost $1.2 million to the Federal Highway Administration, one of the partners in the crash center.

Bedewi, an engineer from Reston, admitted in his guilty plea to stealing more than $900,000 -- an amount authorities said could be clearly shown to be missing through criminal intent. He is to be sentenced June 29 in U.S. District Court in Washington. Federal guidelines call for a prison term of about three to four years.

As part of his guilty plea, Bedewi is required to pay restitution to the university and the government, according to a statement issued by GWU officials. He resigned in June after the allegations surfaced.

Donald Lehman, GWU's executive vice president for academic affairs, said the university was "greatly saddened" by Bedewi's actions. In a statement issued last week, after the guilty plea, Lehman said, "It is unfortunate that he chose the means he did to achieve personal ambitions and financial gain."

Tracy Schario, a GWU spokeswoman, said that after the scandal, the university had examined its system of internal controls over research projects such as the one for which Bedewi was the principal investigator.

"We're just working to make improvements to those processes so that we can make sure that this doesn't happen again," she said. '

Wednesday, April 13, 2005



So here's UD, on a marvelous spring afternoon, at the National Institutes of Health, waiting for the "campus" shuttle (everyone calls the massive grounds of NIH "the campus") to take her to the Clinical Center, where she will, as she does every fifty days, give blood.

Because of health and security worries, this once-simple procedure has become complex. But UD doesn't mind - the higher the hurdles, the nobler she feels when her blood goes into the tube.


In fact, though, now that it's over and she's at Teaism, a chai room off Dupont Circle, it seems to UD that the procedure went unusually smoothly and quickly this time. The shuttle arrived immediately, and there were no other customers at the blood bank, so they interviewed, iron-tested, and blood-pressured UD right away.

"You've got a lot of scar tissue here on your arm," said the nurse to UD, who wondered if the nurse thought pure-as-the-driven-snow UD was a heroin addict.

"I've given a lot of blood," UD replied. "They always use the same spot."

[Teaism's featuring Arabic music today... "Habibi! Habibi!"]

[And did I miss this before, or is Teaism a chick joint? It's just us girls upstairs here in the bright quiet little room overlooking the Q Street galleries...]

UD prefers NIH to the Red Cross for purely personal reasons. Her father, an immunologist, spent his whole career at NIH, doing cancer research, and as the shuttle drives by various labs he worked in, UD feels nostalgic.

[Girls, girls, girls. How could UD have missed it before? She finds herself wondering if Andrea Dworkin, who lived in Washington, ever came to Teaism. Would she have been able, in this hyper-copacetic setting, to summon sufficent bitterness for her diatribes?]

[Dworkin must have been very bitter. Since she began her attempts to shut it down, the pornography business in the United States has increased a thousandfold or so. It has become, as Frank Rich documented in a long article in the New York Times magazine, a massive, massive success. There's even a cottage industry (you thought this post would have nothing to do with universities, didn't you?) in frat boys doing porn movies with porn actresses who visit campuses for that purpose. (See the latest dustup about this -- at California State University -- here.)]

Now, at 1:30, on the Metro to Foggy Bottom, UD examines the thick rubber bracelet the nurse at NIH gave her. It's like that yellow Lance Armstrong thing, only this one is blood-red and has inscribed on it GIVEBLOOD.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

UD thanks...

... Eric, an attentive reader, for alerting her to the fact that her RSS feed was broken. It's fixed now.
Independent Student Newspaper, University of Pennsylvania


'Innate differences' cited as reason for gender
disparity in undergrad Nursing students

By Jason Schwartz

April 12, 2005

University President Amy Gutmann has come under fire for her assertion yesterday that "innate differences" are the reason females greatly outnumber males in the undergraduate School of Nursing.

"In the special case of nursing and caregiving, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude," she said. "The majority of males naturally lack the empathy and compassion necessary to be effective nurses."

Although this issue has failed to capture the attention of most male students -- largely because almost none of them want to be nurses anyway -- Gutmann's comments have particularly raised the ire of the only three male Nursing professors in the school.

William McCool, associate professor of Nurse Midwifery, said that he is planning on initiating a campaign forcing Gutmann to resign.

"What is she talking about? It doesn't take any innate ability to give a throat culture or measure blood pressure," he said, adding, "What's this crap about males lacking empathy and compassion anyway?"

When asked if he thought his comments might offend Gutmann, McCool unempathetically responded, "I don't care."

It is currently unclear whether the controversy will prompt a resignation from Gutmann. According to a Daily Pennsylvanian poll, 54 percent of faculty have said that they were offended by Gutmann's comments and would encourage her to resign.

In a followup question, 92 percent responded that they enjoy making jokes about male nurses.

"Myself, even I enjoy a good male nurse joke every once in a while," McCool said. He later conceded that he pursued a career in nursing "for the jokes."

Twelve percent of the faculty were actually unaware that Penn has an undergraduate School of Nursing.

"Hell, I didn't even know that we had one, and I guess I used to be in charge of it," said History Department Chairman and former University President Sheldon Hackney.

"I can't imagine what the marginal utility of such a school is," said Economics professor Rebecca Stein.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers has come under fire for making similar comments regarding women in science. The Harvard College faculty recently held a vote of no confidence in Summers.

"I'm glad somebody finally agrees with me," Summers said. Innate differences between men and women he said, will likely lead to Gutmann's resignation, while he is likely to reign at Harvard for another decade.

Monday, April 11, 2005


"Thanks to Madonna," Camille Paglia says in a recent interview, "the whole pro-sex wing of feminism which had been ostracized since the '60s came back with a vengeance. And we won. We won massively. Now, Catherine McKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, you hardly see their names anywhere."

Indeed Andrea Dworkin, after a period of notoriety as the author of a series of angry books about pornography as murder and sex as rape, had, like Kate Millett, pretty much vanished from the scene; and now she’s gone for good. She has died, at the age of 58, of undisclosed causes.

Dworkin resurfaced a few years ago and claimed to have been raped. Her story was widely disbelieved: “Dworkin was particularly upset,“ reports the Guardian in its obituary , “by the disbelief that greeted her claims in 2000 that she'd been raped and drugged by two men in a Paris hotel room in 1999. Seizing upon inconsistencies in her two essays about the incident, which were published in the Guardian and the New Statesman, and her failure to contact hotel security or police, many feminist critics suggested the rape did not happen.”

Dworkin “was called the ‘eloquent feminist’ by the syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman,” reports The Independent.

She was anything but. Her writing was crude, confused, and imbued with the violence that haunted her, it seems, every moment of her life. Dworkin’s own imagination, UD always thought, was far more sadistic than the imaginations of most of the schlubs downloading pornography.


UPDATE, Dworkin:

“The gulf between what she really said and what her critics heard was wider than it was for any other public figure of whom I can think,” writes Hugo Schwyzer of Dworkin. He praises her prose and will “give my students something of hers to read soon.”

The critics heard right. The gulf existed because Dworkin was a bad writer with bad ideas.

Dworkin was unable to make the most elementary moral distinctions. No one heard it wrong when she defined pornography as “Dachau brought into the bedroom and celebrated.” [This is on page 69 of Pornography: Men Possessing Women.] She believed and wrote that looking at photographs of women’s breasts was ethically equivalent to dancing over the ashes of Jews.

Dworkin published prolifically, in heat and in haste. She padded out her books with long paraphrases and descriptions of the most violent pornography she could find. When people began to intuit the desperation of her worldview, she and her supporters had to stammer and back up so that her rage calmed down into something anyone else could share.

Why then did so many people read her? Because it’s rousing in a voyeuristic way to read an absolute fanatic. Because Dworkin, as I say, paraphrased very extensively -- page after page of it -- from the most violent of pornography. UD believes that Dworkin’s books probably brought more people to pornography -- and to an unusually violent level of pornography -- than took them away from it.

Put aside the quality of her ideas -- to give undergraduate women prose like Dworkin’s is… it’s not irresponsible, since none of them will be taken in by it. But if you care about the integrity of students’ thought and writing, it’s another bad idea.



"I'm not surprised that so many on the social right liked Andrea Dworkin. Like Dworkin, their essential impulse when they see human beings living freely is to try and control or stop them - for their own good. Like Dworkin, they are horrified by male sexuality, and see men as such as a problem to be tamed. Like Dworkin, they believe in the power of the state to censor and coerce sexual feedom. Like Dworkin, they view the enormous new freedom that women and gay people have acquired since the 1960s as a terrible development for human culture. ... Dworkin, of course, was somewhat too frank in her hatred of sexual freedom to achieve any real political power. But the theocons ... well, they're helping frame big government conservatism as we speak."

Andrew Sullivan

UD lectures on Shaw’s Heartbreak House tomorrow (eventually her Irish Literature course had to get past James Joyce), and, rummaging around in Shaw quotations, she found a website-appropriate one:

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence, University education.”

[UD also found a Shaw quotation relevant to a recent “snapshots from home” activity of hers -- her participation in her town’s Spring Musicale yesterday. “Hell is full of musical amateurs.” And so it may be! So it may be! But UD still wishes to claim that The Garrett Park Singers, of which she is a member, did a bangup job on its seasonal madrigal medley - April is in my Mistress‘ Face, Now is the Month of Maying, etc.]

Shaw’s comment about university education brought to mind the happily resolved chiropractic controversy at Florida State University [for background, type "chiropractic" in the Search thing up there], but it also reminded UD of a situation at the University of Minnesota which confirms that the battle against superstition in the American university is never really over.

The website Butterflies and Wheels quotes P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula discovering the University of Minnesota’s “FaithHealth Consortium,” part of something called the Center for Spirituality and Healing. “And strangely,” in the context of bigtime funding cuts at Minnesota, “it wasn't among the programs on the chopping block,” Myers writes. The Center is affiliated with “something called TTouch” :

This set off a few warning bells. My fellow skeptics will recall something called Therapeutic Touch, or TT, that was big news a few years back when a grade school kid, Emily Rosa, effectively debunked it and got the results published in a peer-reviewed journal. TT was a bizarre pseudoscientific practice that was getting peddled in nursing schools, in which people would touch or stroke and claim to be able to diagnose disease and even heal people. Rosa showed that they were full of crap, and after a few squalls of fury from some New Agers, I hadn't heard of it since.

Now it seems my university has a unit babbling about a new variant, called Tellington TTouch. Read this description: it's stock pseudoscience.

‘The foundation of the TTouch method is based on circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the body. The intent of the TTouch is to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence—a little like "turning on the electric lights of the body." The TTouch is done on the entire body, and each circular TTouch is complete within itself. Therefore it is not necessary to understand anatomy to be successful in speeding up the healing of injuries or ailments, or changing undesirable habits or behavior.’

Look at that gobbledygook. "Cellular intelligence"? Notice the other common signs of quackery: amazing effects, but requiring no understanding of anatomy. Why, you can be stupid and do this!

As a matter of fact, stupidity may be a prerequisite. Despite requiring no knowledge of anatomy and demanding no prior training, the Center for Spirituality and Healing is offering a 3 day Tellington TTouch seminar…for $750. That's quite a sum of money to learn how to wiggle one's fingers in circular motions over people's bodies.

And here are the wonderful powers you will acquire with this training:

‘TTouch is for you, whether to use on your family or for yourself. If you're a Massage Therapist, Physical Therapist, Nurse or in the healing arts, you will benefit personally and you will have new ways of helping clients.

The Tellington TTouch has been used successfully for:

Relieving stress
Releasing unfounded fears
Recovery from stroke
Pain relief in neck, back and legs
Pain relief from migraines

Perhaps best of all is the general feeling of well-being that so many experience.’

Grandiose claims, demands for money, too-good-to-be-true ease…is there anything to distinguish this from a Nigerian e-mail scam? Yes, a little hilarity. Brace yourself: the discoverer of this amazing ability is an animal trainer. Elsewhere on the site you will discover that:

‘The Tellington TTouch can help in cases of:

Excessive Barking & Chewing Leash Pulling Jumping Up Aggressive Behavior Extreme Fear & Shyness Resistance to Grooming Excitability & Nervousness Car Sickness

Problems Associated With Aging

This gentle method is currently being used by animal owners, trainers, breeders, veterinarians, zoo personnel and shelter workers in several countries.’

I am embarrassed. Why is my university hawking this snake-oil? Why, when money is tight, aren't we jettisoning this bit of quackery? The University of Colorado experienced something similar in 1994, investigated their nursing school's promotion of Therapeutic Touch, and despite concluding that TT was bunkum, decided to allow the School of Nursing to continue with it.

The report itself gives us a clue as to the justification for this decision: "TT is potentially a source of considerable income. Training in TT is not complex and arduous and the practice of TT does not require a large investment in equipment or personnel." Indeed, Quinn's Healing Touch training brings in a substantial amount of money for the nursing school. A set of three HT videotapes featuring Quinn sells for $675. Healing Touch classes cost $225 each for the first three levels and $325 each for the next two levels.

But training is not the only cash cow associated with TT. Recently, over half a million dollars of public tax money has been spent on Therapeutic Touch research. The National Institutes of Health has given $150,000 in grants, the Department of Health and Human Services has granted $200,000, and most recently the Department of Defense granted $355,000 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham -- all for studies of TT. The study at UAB, to be conducted on burn patients, was billed as being the study that would finally settle the question as to the effectiveness of TT.
I suspect something similar is going on here. The Center for Spirituality and Healing brags about bringing in the grant money.

'The Center is committed to exploring integrative therapies in the context of rigorous science. Recently achieving the distinction of becoming a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-designated Developmental Center for CAM Research - one of only three in the nation - Center faculty are currently engaged in basic science, clinical trials and health services research.

In a highly competitive field, faculty have been awarded an NIH center grant, individual R01 and R21 grants, and an NIH education/curriculum grant in addition to numerous foundation grants. Additionally, an NIH clinical research fellowship program funded by K-30 and T-32 grants was established in conjunction with Hennepin County Medical Center and Northwestern Health Sciences University, both in Minnesota

I despise Northwestern Health Sciences University. It's our regional quack mill, offering training or degrees in acupuncture, oriental medicine, and chiropractic. They're also flush with cash, judging by all the tchotchkes and spam mail they send me. Associating with them does not make me less grumpy about this.

I'm also not happy to see that our university is milking NCCAM. NCCAM is a ghastly federal boondoggle, a way to redirect money away from legitimate scientific research and into the hands of witchdoctors and shamans and psychic investigators and other charlatans.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was established in 1998, seven years after the creation of its predecessor, the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). The OAM had been formed not because of any medical or scientific need, but because Iowa senator Tom Harkin and former Iowa representative Berkeley Bedell believed in implausible health claims as a result of their own experiences. Bedell thought that "Naessens Serum" had cured his prostate cancer and that cow colostrum had cured his Lyme disease. He recommended "alternative medicine" to his friend Harkin, who subsequently came to believe that bee pollen had cured his hay fever.

I think I'm more than embarrassed. I'm a bit disgusted. Why is the University of Minnesota supporting these frauds? Even if the NCCAM is an income stream, it's dirty money, and shouldn't we have a little self-respect and dignity?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gawd, another grotesque headline,
this one in today’s Washington Post:


Clunky in its own terms, this header is also at odds with the subsequent opinion piece’s argument, which is that American professors are all too earthbound, having abandoned the life of the mind for noisy political grandstanding.

The “new reality about college in America,” writes the author, is one of frustrated “middle-class parents, who are growing increasingly resentful of paying sky-high tuition for colleges they see offering their kids a menu of questionable courses and politically absurd campus climates that detract from the quality of a university education…In 18 years of in-the-trenches experience counseling kids on their college choices, I've never seen the unhappiness as widespread as it is today. If colleges don't tone down the politics, and figure out how to control ballooning costs, they run the risk of turning off enough American consumers that many campuses could marginalize themselves right out of existence… [The] sheer number of outlandish political controversies at universities across the country, coupled with escalating fees, is alienating parents from the very institutions they have been supporting through tax and tuition dollars.”

It’s not the professors, then, but the cost of college that’s stratospheric. The professors, or so the argument here goes, are mucking about in the political dirt of the moment. “Colleges are having an ever-harder time making what they do comprehensible to the families footing the bills. I counsel families of all political stripes -- liberal, conservative and in-between -- and varied income levels, but they all agree on one thing: the overly politicized atmosphere on campuses is distracting colleges from providing a solid education to our young people.” What families do understand is that “Loans are now 70 percent of financial aid packages, making college an increasingly sour deal for students, who are saddled with debt once they graduate. Meanwhile, 321 colleges and universities are sitting on endowments of $100 million or more, and scores of university presidents earn in excess of $400,000 a year.”

“The national percentage of alumni donating to their alma maters,” the Post author also notes, “has declined for three years in a row and is now below 13 percent.” He means this to strengthen his point that people are turned off, for ideological and financial reasons, from college altogether. And I think he’s right.

But consider also the strange situation of a school like Harvard, with an endowment of 22.6 billion dollars. Why, if you were an alumnus, would you give Harvard any money? Even if you continued to adore the place, what would be the point of adding your sniveling one thousand bucks to that?

The most wealthy and prestigious of universities in our country, I mean to say, aren’t part of the crisis this writer evokes. They subsist in a stratosphere of their own, revolving perpetually without need of students or alumni or anything. They are self-sustaining planets in the firmament of the American university, and they do not need to worry about the dark scenario of alienation that the Post writer sketches.

To be sure, such schools are evolving into rich people’s playhouses, theatrical settings for the cognitively dissonant dramas of liberal guilt and reactionary self-indulgence, apparent rigor and actual grade inflation… But their growing triviality makes them no less sought-after. For while it’s true that, as the Post writer notes, many parents “aren't sure that the Ivies -- where the political battles on campus are fiercest -- are worth the money,” it’s also true that the United States contains tons of parents for whom Harvard’s tuition is affordable.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

What follows...

is UD’s slightly belated homage to Tartan Day -- her own version of the great Scottish ballad, Henry Martin, whose words and tune may be found here.


There was a professor in north New England
In north New England lived he,
And such was his love of the stallion’s manure, manure, manure,
That he turned robber all through the countrie.

“My name, I’ll attest it, is Weitzman Martin;
I’d counsel you keep it in mind.
If you have a steed and I’m driving nearby, nearby, nearby,
You would do well to watch its behind.”

For excrete was golden to Weitzman Martin,
And every spring evening he’d flit
Through the redolent acres along Lane’s Farm Way, Lane’s Farm Way, Lane’s Farm Way,
And place in his pickup the choicest horseshit.

Phil Casey, a farmer, had now had enough,
And determined to set him a trap.
He penned Weitzman’s pickup and called the police, the police, the police,
And told him forthwith to return all the crap.

“I’ll offer good money if you’ll let me go,”
The bold Weitzman Martin did say.
But Casey was anger'd and wouldn’t relent, relent, relent.
And now there’s a trial on the ninth day of May.

O Harvard is crimson and Gloucester is red.
How could such a thing have occurred?
A grand full professor on top of his game, his game, his game,
Brought low by the love of an animal’s turd.

Friday, April 08, 2005


When read carefully (note UD's italicized commentary), this article in the Harvard Crimson suggests the direction Weitzman's legal team will take:

Economics Professor Causes Major Stink
Crimson Staff Writer

' A Harvard economics professor picked up a memorable birthday gift for himself last Friday: a truckload of stolen manure and an arrest, in a small-town controversy that has made a big stink among locals.

Monrad Professor of Economics Martin L. Weitzman was involved in a market failure of his own, caught on his birthday attempting to steal manure from a privately owned farm in Rockport, Mass. He is accused of stealing over 100 cubic yards [Note the amount - it's enormous. Weitzman's team will claim that he cannot have wanted it merely for his own garden; indeed, he cannot have wanted it for any rational reason.] of manure off of town property.

“He’s been stealing the manure for some time,” said Miriam E. Lane, owner of the farm. [Huge amounts, and a serial shit-stealer. Sounds like a compulsion, doesn't it?]

Lane said Weitzman has stolen over $600 worth of manure over the past few years before being caught in the act by her nephew, Phillip Casey. [He'd been doing it for years; clearly he was able NOT to be caught. Something about that day... his birthday... made him throw caution to the winds...]

“The farm owner’s nephew was there and kept him from leaving the premises,” said Michael Marino, spokesman for the Rockport Police Department. “He offered to pay for the product after he had it in his vehicle, but at that time, it was too late.”

The 63-year-old Weitzman, a resident of nearby Gloucester, first offered Casey $20. When Casey refused, he upped his offering to $40.

“Phillip wouldn’t take that,” Lane said. “He said ‘No, the police are on their way.’ [Weitzman] got mad.” [Wouldn't you? A frail old fellow - 63 that very day - trapped by a young tough in a field of horse shit. Anger at this point is understandable.]

News of the excrement theft has remained fresh in both Gloucester and Rockport during the past week, locals say.

“It’s an offense against the community that a Harvard professor should have so little regard for the place he lives in,” said Valerie I. Nelson ’69, a resident of Gloucester. “The other thing is that the whole imagery is hilarious. A Harvard economics professor refusing to pay a modest amount of money — it’s a sort of arrogance.” [Arrogant, contemptuous, "excrement thief" -- hasn't Weitzman suffered enough derision?]

Rockport police say Weitzman — who teaches a course on “Environmental and Natural Resource Economics” in the fall — told them that he was a professor during booking. [Only someone unable to act in his own interests would tell a policeman under these circumstances that he was a professor.]

“He was a professor at Harvard. Isn’t that something? And he lives in Gloucester, where all the moneyed people live,” said Lane.

She added that Weitzman took a back road when he went on these excursions for manure, and she speculated that he sold the copious amounts of excrement in the market. [Evidence presented by the defense will reveal not a cynical free marketeer but a man in the grip of coprophilic obsession.]

“These damn economists,” said Nelson, who concentrated in economics while at Harvard. “Always makes you wonder about the moral foundation of that profession.” [Hate speech.]

Weitzman has also been connected to the theft of manure from town property last winter.

Eric W. Hutchins, chairman of the Rowe Parcel Committee in Rockport, oversaw the management of a small field of eight acres the town bought for watershed purposes and as an open space for recreation. Hutchins said he noticed during the winter of 2003 that the manure pile kept on the field was being gradually depleted and is now nearly gone.

Police say Weitzman has admitted to taking manure from the field in the past, according to the Gloucester Daily Times.

“People laugh at it a little bit, ‘oh it’s just horse shit,’ but we were going to use it,” Hutchins told The Crimson yesterday. “This guy has been taking compost from the town [of which] he’s not even a resident.”

“I know the compost is worth a lot of money,” said Hutchins. “If you went to go buy composted manure and had it delivered to your house, it would be about $35 a [cubic] yard....It perplexes me because I can’t imagine anyone wanting this amount of compost for a yard.” [That's just the point! The man is out of control. He will agree to undergo feces aversive treatment.]

Weitzman was arraigned that same Friday on charges of trespassing, larceny, and malicious destruction of property. '

Suddenly they’re everywhere. From William James Hall to the Carpenter Center, Harvard students, all of them wearing white t-shirts with “no shit” symbols on them, are massing in protest against the university’s silence on what’s become known as “the Marty Matter.”

Harvard Economics professor Martin Weitzman (“Marty” to his friends) is a man of means. But for months he has been stealing horse manure from a struggling local farmer in Gloucester, a man who only recently was able to capture Weitzman in the act and have him arrested.

The students, who have been joined in their protests by Manure Movers of America, are demanding that Harvard make a public apology and offer financial compensation to the farmer for Weitzman’s thefts. “It’s shameful that Harvard is harboring - even honoring - a person on its faculty capable of this sort of behavior,” said one student organizer. “We’re all embarrassed. It’s time for the university to speak up and do something about it.”

Although Professor Weitzman has so far refused comment, one of his teaching assistants has released to the press a centuries-old American cookbook she found in Weitzman’s office. “Everyone assumes Marty was using the dung as fertilizer,” the student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. “But the book suggests something far different. He had it open to this page, whose recipe for ‘Ham dres’fd without fire or water’ includes the phrase ‘then bury it in Horfe dung for forty hours.’ It’s my theory that Professor Weitzman was dressing hams.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

UD HAS DECIDED... take the unusual step of posting new information relevant to the breaking Martin Weitzman story immediately, as it appears. Here is a brief description of Weitzman's research interests from the Harvard University Economics Department faculty page which UD believes begins to unravel his motivations [note italicized elements in particular]:


Environmental economics and economic theory.

Research Topics: Environmental economics, economics of biodiversity, limits to growth, green accounting, discounting and the economics of global warming.

So much so that I’m not going to bother coming up with insanely clever puns or anything -- I’m just going to let you enjoy the two versions of this story that are out there so far. I’m sure competing versions are, er, in the pipeline:


By Associated Press, 4/6/2005 10:14

ROCKPORT, Mass. (AP) A Harvard economics professor has been accused of neglecting the standard market practice of paying for goods and services by trying to steal a truckload of manure from a horse farmer.

Stable manager Phillip Casey says Martin Weitzman, Harvard University's Ernest E. Monrad Professor of Economics, has been stealing manure from Charlie Lane's Rockport farm for years.

Police said said Casey found Weitzman on the property last Friday, so he blocked in Weitzman's pickup truck and called police. Weitzman got angry, Casey said, then offered to pay for the manure he'd already taken. But Casey said he wouldn't budge because he wanted the thefts to stop.

"He offered me $20 for it and then $40 for it," Casey said.

Casey said the land was marked private property and Weitzman, 63, had been warned before.

"He's been doing it for years," Casey told the Gloucester Daily Times.

The farm sells the manure for $35 a truckload and also uses it to fertilize a pasture.

Rockport police officer Michael Marino said Weitzman, who lives in neighboring Gloucester, is charged with larceny under $250, trespassing, and malicious destruction of property for tearing up some land with his tires.

Weitzman did not immediately return calls to his home or office on Wednesday morning. His attorney also did immediately return a call on Wednesday.



By Thomas Caywood [here's hoping he didn't come up with the headline]

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - Updated: 01:40 PM EST

An Ivy League economics professor, of all people, should know that a market economy is based on the principal of paying for goods and services.

But Martin Weitzman, Harvard University's Ernest E. Monrad Professor of Economics, allegedly got caught in the act of swiping a truckload of horse manure Friday, police said.

"You'd think he'd know better," Rockport horse farmer Charlie Lane said.

"We had to go up there and put a lock on the gate. He was in there when my stable manager got there," Lane said.

The stable manager, Phillip Casey, penned Weitzman's truck in and called the cops.

"He offered $20 to let him go," Lane said. "Phillip said no, and he offered $40. Phillip still said no."

Weitzman, 63, of Gloucester, is charged with larceny under $250, trespassing with a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of property under $250 for tearing up some land with his tires, police said.

He didn't return a call to his office.

Bugger me. When in the course of twenty-four hours Saul Bellow dies and Ted Kooser gets the Pulitzer, something’s amiss. (Among the throng of recent dead, UD is also going to miss Prince Rainier [UD chose this news source for her link because it pronounces the French names for you] of Monaco, who reigner’d o’er the hapless Grimaldi family at the heart of UD’s long furtive addiction to Paris Match -- but never mind.)

No, UD is not awfully conversant with the work of not only our most recent Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry but also it turns out (who knew?) our Poet Laureate. But believe her when she tells you that last night, after reading quite a number of Kooser’s kitschy metaphorrein sketches of ordinary folks and farm critters, UD had to race to her poetry shelf and down a liter of Merrill. Here comes a Kooser:


Just past dawn, the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
with his bucket
for the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.

Christ, if you want this stuff, read Robert Frost. .. UD’s never been a nature girl (Kooser plants most of his poetry seeds in Iowa… no, Nebraska…) but she can be made to appreciate the heartland by a first-rate poet… Even the title of Kooser’s recent collection - "Delights & Shadows" - is inept…. At least A.R. Ammons brought a brain to the back forty… Grumble, grumble…

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Saul Bellow,

who wrote the unbeatable Herzog, has died.

Monday, April 04, 2005


To the left of the green front door (hung with deer antlers, which you know if you’ve been reading UD with care) of UD’s house, there’s a small gold plaque with FERDINAND HOUSE written on it. The last owner of UD’s house (it's a small brown house in a small green town) was Munro Leaf, author of The Story of Ferdinand. UD knew Leaf’s widow slightly, a woman who, at the age of eighty, traveled on her own to Machu Picchu.

UD wanted to honor the author of Ferdinand, so she not only put up the plaque, but she found a topiary bull and put that in her front yard.

The Story of Ferdinand was a big hit in its day:

Leaf's children's story of a Spanish bull with a gentle nature and a passion for flowers becomes a phenomenal success. Within thirteen months, eight editions are published, a Ferdinand balloon is featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a Ferdinand song becomes a hit. In 1938, The Story of Ferdinand for a time kept Gone with the Wind from the top spot on the bestseller list. Leaf was an English teacher who wrote and illustrated Grammar Can Be Fun (1934), Manners Can Be Fun (1936), and Safety Can Be Fun (1938).

He wrote it in an hour:

' One Sunday afternoon in 1935, Leaf decided to write a children's story so that his close friend Robert Lawson (a relatively unknown illustrator) could show his talents. In less than one hour, Leaf composed the beloved 800-word story as it stands today, nearly 60 years later.

When published by Viking in 1936 as The Story of Ferdinand, the book sparked controversy. With the Spanish Civil War waging [UD thinks they mean "raging"], political critics charged it was a satirical attack on aggression. In Germany, Hitler order the book burned while fellow dictator Stalin granted it privileged status as the only non-communist children's book allowed in Poland. And India's spiritual leader Gandhi called it his favorite book.

In spite of the notoriety, the nation embraced the peaceable bull.

That same year, Leaf published his second most popular book, Manners Can Be Fun, illustrated with the notorious "watchbird" stick figures who observe the behavior of boys and girls. Since Leaf's death in 1976 at age 71, Ferdinand continues to charm children worldwide as the simple story is retold in more than 60 language translations.

Indeed Ferdinand still sells well. UD is very proud to be living in the Leaf house.

How do you make happy a man who has given up the throne of England for you? In her autobiography, Wallis Simpson claims that she knew her life would be a nightmare because of this impossibility. Indeed, she says, it was largely for this reason that she asked the prince not to marry her.

Simpson understood that she had sold herself too well. She was a victim of her own success. And, as she anticipated, she spent her life vainly trying to be adequate to the life-destroying faith the prince had placed in her.

Harvard, which hawks its supremacy to America’s high-achieving high school students, to its alumni, and to anyone else who will listen, has a similar problem. UD lives with someone who got his undergraduate degree at Harvard, and she can tell you -- Harvard is an inexhaustible generator of self-adulation. And the world is only too happy to applaud along with Harvard. Yet the acknowledged preeminence that Harvard enjoys has, strangely, provoked an escalation, rather than a slackening, of its self-marketing.

Harvard’s problem is that once it decimates and then decimates again its Harvard-solicited applicant hordes, the tiny number of survivors is above all aware of Harvard’s astounding rejection figures, aware of their own divine election.

So… off they go. Maybe a rather grim campus in a dark cold climate, a campus whose long seasonal darkness is deepened by the clustering of dark brick buildings into tight little quads, is not in fact the right school for them to attend. Maybe they would have been happier at the University of Southern California, or Williams. But that cannot be thought of once they have been admitted to Harvard… Maybe as they brood in their room they think about the fact that had they gone to the honors college of their excellent state university, they’d have saved their parents $150,000 and done just as well in terms of admission to law or medical school... Meanwhile, the snow keeps falling, and even though it’s three in the afternoon, it looks like midnight.

All of which is UD’s way of explaining, at least in part, the following:

Prevalent stereotypes about how Harvard undergraduates have less fun than their peers found empirical confirmation last Tuesday, when the Boston Globe reported that Harvard students gave lower ratings to their college experience than students at other elite schools in a 2002 survey.

An internal Harvard memo analyzing data from the survey found that Harvard students rated their overall satisfaction at 3.95 on a five-point scale, compared to an average of 4.16 at the 30 other schools surveyed, the Globe reported. Harvard students gave lower ratings than students at peer institutions to the level of interaction with faculty members and the quality of social life.

This satisfaction rating placed Harvard fifth from the bottom in the survey of the 31 colleges in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE). The COFHE includes all eight Ivy League schools, other top research universities such as MIT and Stanford University, and leading small liberal arts schools such as Amherst College and Williams College.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


If called by a panther
Don’t anther

From Alex Beam, columnist:

Just last week, poet Jorie Graham, Harvard's Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, appeared on WBUR's "The Connection." Graham was droning on about ''ecological catastrophe" and the "enormous interruption in the transmission of core values" -- the usual poetic fare -- when host Dick Gordon took a call from "Don, from Providence."

Providence-based writer Donald Judson then asked Graham, given that she is so concerned about ethics, to explain why she had twice awarded poetry prizes to former students. (Graham is one of the "Unscrupulous Judges" singled out for ridicule on the Foetry website, where Judson is a regular. Foetry claims credit for at least two contests recently adopting what it calls a "Jorie Graham rule," like this one at the Colorado Review: "This year's final judge is Calvin Bedient. Former students and close friends of the final judge are not eligible to compete.")

On "The Connection," Graham didn't seem inclined to answer, and Gordon quickly rescued her, cutting Judson out of the show: "Don, you're in a space where none of us can follow you here."

Building the case against Graham was textbook Foetry. Last year the website's proprietor approached the University of Georgia, citing the state's open records law, asking it to open the judging records for the university press's Contemporary Poetry Series award. The university rebuffed the anonymous request, so a Foetry devotee refiled the claim under his own name.

The names of all the judges, and an explanation of their connection to the winners, dating back to 1979 can be found on the Foetry website. Graham was chided for, among other things, awarding the 2000 prize to her then-partner, now husband, Peter Sacks. The University of Georgia Press now discloses the names of its poetry judges, who "are instructed to avoid conflicts of interest of all kinds."

I invited four leading poets, including Graham, to discuss Foetry, and none of them got back to me. So I am left to make the anti-Foetry case for them. On the one hand, anonymous criticism is reprehensible. However, The New York Times's rhetorical musing last fall "Will the people behind Foetry get their pants sued off?" hasn't happened. Foetry's reply: "We haven't been sued because what we print is true.”

Jeff’s post about the pope at JVC Comments brought back a memory from my Fulbright year in Warsaw, a small moment I’d forgotten until I read his description of what the pope meant to Polish Americans.

I was wandering along the streets of Warsaw -- this would have been winter 1992 -- and I passed an ordinary old woman in an ordinary black dress. She was really quite drab. Gray wispy hair, pale old face, heavy legs heavily stockinged.

I was drawn more closely to her face as we neared one another, though, and I noticed something spirited in it. I smiled at her and she smiled back and pointed at what I’d not noticed -- a colorful pin on the breast of her black dress. It was a photograph of Karol Wojtyla.

She was part of a crowd of drab old ladies walking toward me, a crowd I’d ordinarily have ignored. But I saw now that they all had big colorful Karol Wojtyla buttons pinned to their dresses, and they were all laughing and fired up.

I figured they’d been to some rally or church event or other. For a moment it felt as though I were at Woodstock.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


UD, some species of libertarian, is surprised to find herself in agreement with New York University's decision to close the balconies at student high-rise dorms.

UD very much wants to agree with any screed against the nanny state, like the one that showed up in Washington Square News, in which editorialists called the decision an "eye-roll-inducing" one that "infantilizes" NYU's students. "We can lock every balcony, window and overlook on campus, but if a student is determined to take his or her own life, a closed balcony will not serve as much of a deterrent."

Actually that's not true. Many suicides of young people are impulsive -- a number of the five NYU cases last year seem to have been markedly impulsive -- and it's probably reasonably responsible for NYU to close off the most attractive and immediate paths out.

"What you have is a systems approach that makes it less easy for someone to take impulsive action," says one researcher on the subject. "It is no different from putting up fences to prevent suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge."

"Phillip Satow, president of the Jed Foundation and father of a college student who committed suicide in 1998, said he advised that NYU take any step to make it more difficult for students to injure themselves impulsively."

No one's denying that you can quietly do yourself in inside your dorm room, as a Brown University student did last week. But people are looking at things they can do here and there to make it less likely that a jilted lover, a kid in a fight with her parents, or an undergraduate high out of his mind, will see a high window beckoning.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Zach at the blog Veiled Conceit looks for Women’s Studies and finds Queer:

I was checking out the Women's Studies program at Smith for an easy joke, but instead found the "Queer Studies" program. I suppose it'll help us all out to analyze "antinormative sexual identities, performances, discourses and representations in order ultimately to destabilize the notion of normative sexuality and gender," but one thing about the program made me laugh. Buried within courses titled "Queer Resistances," "Queer Globalizations," and "Lesbian Identity and Experience" was the curious "Contemporary Canadian Drama". Is there something about contemporary Canadian drama that I don't know? What are those Canucks up to up there, ya know? I'm serious.

UD took a gander. But only a brief gander. As you know if you read UD with any frequency, UD’s long addiction to Tabasco sauce has left her too acidic to read Queer or Women’s Studies course descriptions without getting into peristaltic trouble. So she’s grateful to Melana Zyla Vickers, who has just completed an extensive study of Women’s Studies departments, programs, courses, enrollment, texts, etc., at five public universities in North Carolina.

Here’s the Vickers report. Few students take WS courses, and very few major or minor in it. The programs are ideologically rather than intellectually driven. Many of the course readings (if the course involves reading, rather than viewing) are by semi-literates.

You could say that the market is taking care of the Women’s Studies problem, but the programs Vickers looks at are propped up by state funds, and, after all, they are only part of the panoply of “Studies” programs in colleges and universities today, most of them equipped with extensive self-justification and corrupted by self-applause.

Faithful readers know that UD enjoys a nice plagiarism story with her evening meal, and indeed that if she fails to score one on a pretty regular basis she becomes irritable.

Here’s one with definite possibilities:

Claire Strom, an assistant professor and editor of the international journal Agricultural History, is accused of using bogus citations and borrowing phrases without proper quotation and attribution.

[Already this is a nice change from the norm, because the main charge is not the routine one of stealing other people’s words, but rather of making things up.]

The investigation came to light after North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion Wednesday admonishing NDSU for overcharging and delaying a doctoral student's request for Strom's e-mails.

[This is a nice wrinkle, too. The university charged the student for the university’s check of the professor’s emails.]

The student, Suzzanne Kelley of West Fargo, served as managing editor of the journal from September 2003 to Sept. 3, 2004, when Strom fired her.

Kelley said she was removed after reporting misconduct and breach of professional ethics by Strom to history department chairman Larry Peterson.

"I believe had the university complied with my request, her (Strom's) correspondence would have documented her misconduct and would have proven that my dismissal was retaliatory," Kelley said in a phone interview Thursday.

Strom did not return phone messages left Thursday at her home and office.

Kelley said she couldn't discuss the alleged misconduct because of an ongoing NDSU investigation.

However, a report obtained by The Forum shows NDSU hired a University of Nebraska history professor to look into plagiarism accusations made by Kelley.

The professor, John Wunder, was asked in October by NDSU Vice President for Academic Affairs Craig Schnell to issue an opinion on whether Strom plagiarized material for her book, "Profiting from the Plains: The Great Northern Railway and Corporate Development of the American West" (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).

[You can sort of see Strom’s thinking here. This is a book four people are going to read. Why the hell not?]

In his report, Wunder wrote that 14 of the 22 allegations researched were verified as bogus citations. He also found that five examples of borrowing phrases without proper quotation or attribution also qualified as plagiarism within the standards of the American Historical Association.

[The university also refused to do a thorough email check (the check for which they charged the student)]:

[The university said it] was trying to hold down costs - not withhold information - when it narrowed the scope of Kelley's request for Strom's e-mails since Jan. 1, 2003.

Despite Kelley's objections, NDSU initially narrowed the search to e-mails containing the words "Suzzanne" and "Managing Editor," Stenehjem wrote in his opinion.

Kelley paid NDSU $400 for the search, but she objected when Johnson told her a second search would cost an additional $164.

Stenehjem wrote in his opinion that any charge for finding the e-mail records was a violation of state law. He also concluded that NDSU failed to provide the copies in digital form or within a "reasonable time" as required by state law.

To remedy the violations, Stenehjem gave NDSU seven days to return Kelley's $400 check and provide her with the e-mail records free of charge. Johnson said NDSU is complying with both orders.


UPDATE: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria has additional information.


YET LATER UPDATE: See also Inside Higher Ed.