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

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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Smart v A Good Deal Less Smart

A correspondent sends UD the following article, which just appeared in the Oregon Daily Emerald, the newspaper of the University of Oregon. As UD sometimes likes to do, she will include her parenthetical comments.

Diversity Plan Sparks
Controversy with Faculty

The University has received letters
criticizing the plan from
faculty members and the AAUP.

The controversy surrounding the University's Five Year Diversity Plan shows no signs of dissipating, as professors threaten to leave the University if the current draft is approved, while the American Association of University Professors wrote a letter criticizing the administration for allegedly bypassing the standard set of faculty committees while drafting the plan. [A little awkwardness with tenses in there, but basically a good first paragraph. “Dissipating” is good.]

The AAUP letter came at approximately the same time that 25 faculty members drafted their own “Open Letter to President Frohnmayer,” in which they called the Diversity Plan “Orwellian” and “frightening.” [Orwellian it certainly is, but there’s no need to be frightened by the diversitocracy. The diversitocracy lacks O’Brien’s genius. In the twenty-first century, brain wins over brawn.]

The AAUP letter, dated May 10 and addressed to former University of Oregon Senate President Andrew Marcus, states that the charter for the University places the governance in the hands of the faculty and that the AAUP principles emphasize faculty involvement for proposals relevant to professors.

Jean Stockard, a Planning, Public Policy Management professor, said she shared the AAUP's concerns and was upset that faculty had “virtually no involvement” in drafting the plan.

“Members of the committee listed at the front of the document were only shown the document after it was printed,” said Stockard, referring to the 80 names listed as active participants. Some professors have threatened to leave if the current draft becomes a reality. [Eighty! I thought it was seventy, already a shitload. And see what I mean about the diversitocracy‘s intelligence problem? They just put people’s names on the thing…]

“As for faculty thinking of leaving: I am,” said N. Chris Phillips, a math professor and co-signer of the open letter.

Mathematics Associate Professor Alexander Kleshchev said he has heard of other professors who might leave but says it is too early to tell.

“I did consider leaving, and if anything like this plan will be implemented I will continue to think very hard about this,” Kleshchev said.

Kleshchev, a Russian immigrant, says the plan conjures up memories of his former homeland.

“Look, I am personally not going to be interrogated about my thoughts, and I am not going to go to reeducation camps either,” said Kleshchev, alluding to the Five Year Diversity Plan's requirement that faculty participate in a summer diversity seminar. [You can hear the diversitarians firing up their version of Frohnmayer’s response to the anger and national attention that the draft originally drew -- “You’re over-reacting! You’re making a fuss about nothing! You don’t understand what you’re talking about!” “Okay. So tell me what I’m talking about. What’s cultural competence?” “ We don’t believe in defining it.”]

“I've had enough of that in my previous life in the Soviet Union, and I just will not have this again. I tried freedom now; I liked it, and I am not about to give it up,” Kleshchev said.

For the most part, criticism of the diversity plan has come from professors in the sciences. Twenty of the 25 co-signers of the open letter are in the sciences; 14 of those are math professors. [Hm. What’s this factoid mean, UD wonders… I mean, she’s an English professor, about as far from a math professor as you can get. Together, her math SAT and GRE scores would add up to… whatever. But as you know if you read UD, she’s the daughter of a scientist, an authentic, all-the-way-down empiricist, and that did rub off… But let her put on her humanities professor cap here and try to figure out why any self-respecting faculty member from any division would accept or even welcome this particularly gruesome diversity project … Maybe it has an analogue in Kleshchev’s former setting: “Please, comrades! Put me on stage! Let me show you the depth of my passion for the party!”…]

Phillips said the Five Year Diversity Plan is a “terrible idea” because it “calls for us to judge new faculty hires first and foremost by the color of their skin.”

More than that, Phillips believes the Diversity Plan would create a bureaucracy the University cannot afford. The Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity already costs approximately $1.5 million per year.

“This plan calls for millions per year in extra spending. What will happen to faculty salaries then?” said Phillips.

Of primary concern for the AAUP and some faculty members is the plan's use of the term “cultural competency,” which is not defined within the plan's text [That‘s what I meant up there. The Oregon Eighty don‘t define the central term of their proposal.]

John Shuford, the interim associate director for the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC) said that cultural competency was not defined for two reasons: It would not be appropriate for the drafters of the blueprint to impose a definition because that might have led to adverse responses by some. [Gevalt. No comment. Beyond gevalt.] Secondly, the working definition would have become the focal point of debate, preventing a deeper discussion of the ideas presented. As such, the diversity work group, led by former Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Greg Vincent, decided not to include a definition. Shuford said that various definitions of cultural competency could be found because it is a popular concept [You can see how popular just by following this non-dissipating story.].

Byron Kunisawa, a lecturer and academic who specializes in analyzing the relationship between people and institutions, helped popularize the term cultural competency. He first used it in his seminal [Why not ovulal? Three weeks, summer diversity camp...] work “Designs of Omission,” in which he concluded that “bias and discrimination are endemic to the structure and methodology of every system and institution in America.” [Bias: It’s everywhere you want to be.]

Although he had no direct role in the drafting of the Five Year Diversity Plan, he said he was thrilled that another institution was taking steps to rectify racial biases.

“I'm glad the University is trying to do something measurable,” said Kunisawa. [Going to be hard to measure if you won’t define your central term.]

Kunisawa said cultural competency is a generic term that describes the importance of utilizing the elements of culture to assess and interact with diverse populations. [Huh?] He said it has been most helpful in the medical field.

“Bottom line, it forces one to acknowledge that culture is an important factor to consider whenever a multicultural situation presents itself,” Kunisawa said. [Culture’s in play in culture, and don’t you forget it.] Currently, President Frohnmayer said he is taking the AAUP's suggestion and creating an executive council of faculty members to review the Five Year Diversity Plan in order to define key terms, assuage faculty concerns and iron out the wrinkles.

UD’s really feeling the pressure now. Some guy over at Blogshares is investing big money in University Diaries. UD’s not just blogging anymore; she’s feeding American families! If she doesn’t keep blogging, this guy’s kids go hungry!

Sure, sure, it’s a fantasy blogmarket… sure, it’s not big money … not real money …

Anyway! UD takes her eyes off of the American odometer for three, four, days, and the miles pile up … Allow her to roll the thing back and make a few comments.

Woody Allen’s recent Der Spiegel interview upset a lot of Americans. James Lileks , for instance, dislikes and distrusts Allen’s sadness, as when Allen says:

[T]hings are so sad, so terrible. If you didn't laugh you'd kill yourself. But the truth of the matter is that existence in general is very very tragic, very very sad, very brutal and very unhappy. Every now and then, something happens that's funny. And that's refreshing. But then you move back into the real world, which is not funny. You only have to pick up the newspaper in the morning and read about the real world and you see that it's rotten, just bad.

SPIEGEL: It seems that the ancient Greeks were able to learn from the tragedies played on stage. You hinted at classical Greek theatre in "Mighty Aphrodite". But what about us? Does suffering make us better human beings?

Allen: There is nothing really redeeming about tragedy. Tragedy is tragic, and it's so painful that people try to twist it and say "it's terribly hard, but look we've achieved something, we've learned something." This is a weak attempt to find some kind of meaning in tragedy. But there is no meaning. There is no up-side. And suffering does not redeem anything; there is no positive message to learn from it. I have thought for a while that it would make a good story to look at two filmmakers, one who makes tragic films and one who makes comedies, to see who helps people more. The first argues that you come to his tragedy and he gives it to you so that you confront reality and you don't escape. And because you confront life, you learn to understand other people and you are more generous to them. The comic makes the movie and says "The world is terrible." So you walk into the cinema, sit there for two hours, hear a nice bit of music, have a laugh. It's like drinking a cold glass of water on a hot day. The argument can always be made that the comic filmmaker is doing the better service. In the end he is helping you more, you're okay for a little while longer.

Lileks thinks that a rich and celebrated man claiming sadness can only be a narcissistic poseur. Allen’s depression is the result of “a lifetime spent buying himself mirrors and painting them black.” Allen is “a tiny speck of compacted narcissism, revolving around the dead sun in an empty universe.”

This is ye olde American sunniness taking umbrage, as it always does, at existential grief. Ridiculing it. When Allen goes on to say that “Nothing pleases my ego more than to be thought of as a European filmmaker. That for me is the highest achievement,” Lileks responds, “I’m not sure what he means by ‘European’ – it would seem to suggest some sort of artistic freedom unhampered by the marketplace, presumably propped up by state grants, unspoiled for smart chain-smoking people with white skin, black glasses, and an ineffable appreciation for the innumerable shades [of] gray.”

Lileks packs a lot in here. A jab at smart people is a familiar element of the all-American worldview, of course; but there’s the equally familiar faux-naïvete of claiming not to understand something that you understand perfectly well -- for instance, that the European world view, and the European film industry, are indeed different from the American. They do try to protect filmmakers to some extent from the vagaries of the market over there, and UD isn’t sure that’s a bad thing. They do - having a better sense of history than Americans - tend to take more seriously the seriously depressive attitude and philosophy of some of Allen’s films.

Au fond, what seems to piss off Lileks and other commentators about Allen’s comments is his sense of the irremediably painful nature of human life. Comedy is a transient distraction; for the most part we’re mired in sorrow. At best “you confront reality and you don't escape. And because you confront life, you learn to understand other people and you are more generous to them.” What people are really rejecting is Woody Allen’s perfectly familiar artist’s view of the world, a view which may, because of its interest in what Allen calls “eternal human feelings and conflicts,” be apolitical, and often defensively so:

I don't find political subjects or topical world events profound enough to get interested in them myself as an artist. As a filmmaker, I'm not interested in 9/11. Because, if you look at the big picture, the long view of things, it's too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: he kills me, I kill him. Only with different cosmetics and different castings: so in 2001 some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral, not important. History is the same thing over and over again.

People have jumped all over that 9/11 thing. But note that Allen says he’s not interested in 9/11 “as a filmmaker.” As a New Yorker he’s both interested in and traumatized by 9/11. As an artist he’s perfectly free not to incorporate it into his work.

UD would like to point out that what Allen’s articulating here is a nihilistic sense of life and human history. She doesn’t share this sense, but she honors it when it’s held with integrity and self-consciousness. UD doesn’t even necessarily claim that Allen holds it in this way; she only wants to note that a principled belief in the hollowness of human life, often accompanied as it is by Allen with a belief that the moral imperative under these conditions is a deep-lying generosity in regard to other sufferers, is not necessarily, as Lileks insists, an adolescent, Kurt Cobainesque, sort of thing. It is a belief that can be held by grownups, in a grownup way.

Allen’s remark that “History is the same thing over and over again,” produced a Literary Flashback in UD’s mindlet. She recalled a statement Geoffrey Firman, tragic hero of Malcolm Lowry’s great novel, Under the Volcano, makes, in a drunken rage, to his politically engaged brother-in-law:

Read history. Go back a thousand years. What is the use of interfering with its worthless stupid course?

Great novelists and filmmakers describe the way people actually behave and the way people actually think. Most of us aren’t suicidal drunks like Firman; but haven’t most thoughtful people struggled with just this sense of extremity, of having come to the end of reassurances? The only question that matters, if the subject is Allen or Lowry or Joyce, is the quality of their aesthetic depiction of nihilism. You can argue that Allen’s version of it is superficial, and that his films don’t capture it well or truthfully or deeply. But UD gives him points for trying.

Back in ‘thesda now, UD wants to say one more word about Ocean City, Maryland before returning to the subject of universities. She wants to say a word about the irony of Municipal League officials from all over the state of Maryland choosing to meet in one of the worst urbanized resort settings UD has ever seen, in order to talk about how they can improve the look of their own cities and towns.

UD’s husband attended a number of talks at Ocean City’s bayside convention center about how Maryland can turn deadly sprawl into living urbanism. Yet at no point did any speaker remark that the very building in which he or she was speaking was surrounded for ten miles on both sides by clogged traffic, cracked concrete parking lots, strip malls, and dead motels. When you turn on your tv in an Ocean City hotel room, a public service announcement appears, asking that you not kill or maim yourself, as so many have, crossing the six lanes of cars you have to cross to get to the beach.

It’s the beach part that gets to UD. UD’s been around. She spent time a couple of summers ago in Biarritz. She lived on Bali for a long summer. She spent a birthday once on Santorini. She’s on intimate terms with Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island, and with the great sandy coves around Huatulco. UD has never seen so spectacular a beach as the one at Ocean City. It’s enormous. It goes on forever. Its sand is soft and tan and young and lovely. UD should be proud that she was born in Johns Hopkins Hospital, a few miles from one of the world’s great beaches; she should be proud that her father graduated from Ocean City High. But she’s ashamed that this hulking ruin of a cityscape is the Maryland coastal resort.

No doubt it was politeness to one’s host that stayed the hand of the urban planners who spoke in theoretical terms of dangerous and depressing American landscapes when they could simply have walked their listeners outside. We have met the enemy, these speakers could have said, and he is us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


In case you were wondering whether here in Ocean City, at the annual convention of the Maryland Municipal League, UD has been hanging out with a classy crowd:


The Associated Press

June 28, 2005, 5:07 PM EDT

OCEAN CITY -- Police arrested the president of the Seat Pleasant Town Council on charges of driving an uninsured car on a suspended license.

Officer Joseph Melena pulled Brian K. Shivers, 37, over about 1:30 a.m. Monday on 49th Street, according to police reports. A random registration check of the license plates had shown the gold Mercedes station wagon was uninsured and its plates were recorded as stolen.

Shivers told police he "needed to have a vehicle to come to Ocean City with because he was in town for a political convention," according to a police report filed documenting the arrest.

The four-day Maryland Municipal League conference kicked off Sunday in Ocean City and an administrator at Seat Pleasant's City Hall said the town's mayor and seven council members were attending the meeting. Shivers is one of 13 elected officials nominated this year for 10 seats as members-at-large on the league's governing board.

A call Tuesday to Shivers at City Hall requesting comment was not immediately returned.

Records on police computers showed Shivers' driver's license was suspended in February 2004, the police report said. Shivers told police he had been in contact with the Motor Vehicle Administration about the suspension and believed his license papers were in order, according to the police report.

Shivers was arrested and detained at the Public Safety Building on 65th Street. He was released on his own recognizance later Monday after a hearing before a district commissioner.

(A replacement nominee for the governing board was quickly found.)

Monday, June 27, 2005


I'm at the Ocean City Convention Center, bayside, using a computer in Exhibit Hall C at the Maryland Municipal League Convention. As the wife of a municipal official, UD is proudly wearing around her neck a big green identification card that gives her access to this sort of thing. And so much more!

UD has nothing of significance to say today beyond hello, I'm still here, and will soon be blogging again about universities. But having just gotten out of a tour of Ripley's Believe It or Not on the boardwalk with her daughter, UD has nothing in her head beyond mild revulsion at the range of mutations to which flesh is heir.

Back in a bit.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Harshing Higher Education’s Mellow

Tavis Smiley asks the writer of a PBS documentary, Declining by Degrees, which tracks four college students for a couple of years, the following question: What exactly is going on at American colleges? His answer:

Not enough. Not enough. The standards are kind of flabby. There are two things going on. One is the standards have gotten low, so that there's kind of a nonaggression pact between an awful lot of faculty members and students, saying in effect, if you don't ask too much of me, if you don't bother me, I won't ask a lot of you. You'll get a good grade. I'll have time to do my research. So that's too common. About 20% of students are kind of treading water and getting through college with the same degree you got or I got. So that's not fair.

The other thing that's happening is that, well, back at the time of the G.I. Bill, this country said education is a significant investment, a public investment, a worthwhile public investment. It's a good thing for Tavis to get educated, for John, and so on, because the whole country benefits. And we kept on doing that up until about the time Ronald Reagan became president, when people realized, hey, wait a minute. If this guy goes to college, he makes a lot more money, let him pay for it. And so for the last 25 years, we've been withdrawing the public investment so that now, as some wag put it, a rich white kid, dumb white kid, has as good a chance of getting into a top college as a poor smart nonwhite kid. So we're limiting access. So two things are happening. One is the standards aren't as high as they need to be, and the second is that your economic status is becoming your educational destiny. That's a bad thing for America.

Smiley then says, “You argue that, with regard to this problem, it exists in part because the media has given higher education a pass.” The journalist responds:

I think that's correct. I think we've been very harsh on K-12. K-12 is a lot better than you would conclude if you only read the newspapers and watched television. Higher education is nowhere near as good if you only read papers and watched TV.

See, this is why you should read UD. In her own small way, UD’s been harshing higher education’s mellow for quite some time. She clips and quotes from news stories for you, like this one from Bloomberg News, that tell you what’s going on:

U.S. Colleges Get Swanky: Golf Courses, Climbing Walls, Saunas

Boston University Athletic Director Warren Dexter smiles as he surveys the scene in the school's new $100 million, five-level recreational center one morning in May. About 18 students soak in the heated whirlpool, while others jog against the current in the ``lazy river,'' a churning channel of water.

Professors in their 70s swim laps in the 16-lane pool. A line of rock climbers forms near the 35-foot-tall artificial mountain. ``If you could only hear the students and faculty saying, `You did this right,''' says Dexter, a 33-year veteran of BU, which also just completed a 290,000-square-foot (26,940- square-meter) sports and entertainment arena.

The BU gym is among hundreds of luxurious new amenities rising on U.S. college campuses -- and few of these projects are directly related to education.

The University of Houston built a 256,000-square-foot recreation and wellness center with a 62-foot-high atrium and outdoor pool studded with palm trees. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, has its own 18-hole golf course and a heated, $17.5 million ice hockey rink that holds 2,600.

Ohio State University in Columbus completed a 600,000-square- foot recreation center with three pools, a 25-person hot tub and two saunas in June. There's a video game arcade next to the ESPN SportsCenter desk at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, where students can perform and e-mail their own news broadcasts.

Amenities such as climbing walls and massage rooms are recruitment tools to impress students and their parents, says Jean Rutherford Wall, director of college counseling at Tampa Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida.

``Colleges feel they must market the tangible products that are readily available to the student,'' she says. ``Fancy new dorms with suite configurations, the newest toys, airy student centers with Starbucks and science labs that are cutting edge. If they don't have these things, it puts them at a disadvantage in the marketplace.''

At a time when colleges are stockpiling money, they should be focused on making an education more affordable rather than constructing lavish swimming pools and video arcades, says Patrick Callan, 62, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent nonprofit group in San Jose, California.

Cost Doubles

College tuition rates have increased about 8 percent a year in current dollars since 1958, meaning the cost of college doubles every nine years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Private schools increased their total charges by 5.6 percent last year to an average of $27,516, says the College Board, a nonprofit education association of more than 4,700 schools. Total charges at public universities rose 7.8 percent to an average of $11,354.

``A lot of what we are seeing is an arms race,'' Callan says. ``This is a Star Wars competition for prestige, in which there will never be enough money to entice the students you want.''

It's not just the Ivy League schools that are jacking up prices. The University of Richmond, a private liberal arts school, raised undergraduate tuition by 31 percent this year, bringing total costs for freshmen to $40,510.

Higher Rankings

Schools are using their wealth to look better rather than lower costs, says Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and author of ``Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much'' (Harvard University Press, 2000).

Attracting and then rejecting higher numbers of students while spending more per pupil can give schools what college administrators covet: higher rankings in the U.S. News & World Report ranking surveys, Ehrenberg says. As a result, colleges have no incentive to cut tuition.

``You aren't rewarded for being fiscally efficient, so it's assumed the more that you spend, the better you are as a school,'' Ehrenberg says. ``And that is disturbing. So everyone is spending more than they should because they're worried about their position, and that makes it difficult for schools to cut costs.''

Moody's Investors Service is also critical of the expansive building and borrowing on U.S. campuses.

Country Club Mentality

``We continue to see institutions borrowing heavily for projects that serve more to enhance an institution's status rather than to advance its mission or meet current pressing facility needs,'' a Moody's 2004-2005 report says. ``These projects include mixed-use commercial developments, high-end residential facilities, research parks and lavish student recreation buildings and performing arts centers.''

Colleges are developing a country club mentality that has little to do with acquiring knowledge and learning to think, says Leon Botstein, president of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

``There should be a more Spartan aspect to education that is more conducive to learning,'' says Botstein, 58, whose college will cost students an estimated $41,800 in the school year beginning this fall. ``You are looking at a culture driven by Hollywood and vulgarity, people who are more interested in hot tubs than in what goes on in the classroom. Are we spending on education or a cruise for entertainment?''

Learning and Literature

Colleges have become less about learning and literature and more about branding and marketing, says David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and author of ``Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education'' (Harvard University Press, 2003). Instead, students are treated like pampered consumers, he says.

``We're in a higher-education tournament, with every school wanting to move up in the pecking order, and a big part of the costs are about wooing students,'' he says. ``Is society getting better-educated students as a result? That's not so clear.''

At its best, higher education should liberate the imaginations and intellectual energies of students, says Richard Hersh, former president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and co-editor, with John Merrow, of a book titled ``Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk'' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). He says he worries that there's no way to know whether schools are doing that job.

Soliciting Gifts

``There is no evidence that the money spent on high-end dorms, great athletics and computers in every room makes any difference in what students are actually learning,'' he says.

Elaborate Gyms

As colleges plan elaborate gyms and student centers, they're also paying closer attention to where students sleep and what they eat. On a May afternoon, representatives from 240 colleges tuned in to an hour-long Web seminar entitled ``Strategies to Gain a Competitive Edge: Improving the Campus Experience,'' a lesson moderated by University Business magazine.

Building housing for students that looks more like apartments and quadrangles is one way, says Robert Sevier, a senior vice president at Stamats Inc., a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based higher-education research, planning and marketing company. “They're very space-oriented,'' he says. “Many had their own bedroom and bathroom, so their physical space is very, very important to them.''

The `Money Walk'

Sevier describes how to showcase the best facilities along what he calls the ``money walk,'' or the tour potential donors, parents and students take when they visit a college.

The so-called campus dining experience (say goodbye to cafeteria steam tables) is another way schools can stand out, says Peter Cusato, vice president for business affairs at BU. The school boasts 18 ``dining venues'' within one mile, offering cuisine from places like the Caribbean and the Pacific Rim, along with meals prepared on demand.

``You want to keep people on campus and make them feel at home,'' Cusato says.

Colleges that don't spend money for better facilities can't attract top faculty members with prestigious grants and research dollars, says Robert Zemsky, founding director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education, a public policy center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

``If you don't build them, you can't be in the game,'' says Zemsky, 65, who is also a trustee at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a liberal arts school with 1,860 students.

The school, which has a $1.2 billion endowment, set a record for liberal arts colleges by raising $470 million in a five-year capital campaign that was scheduled to end in June.
The 500-acre, wooded Wellesley campus is being transformed by gifts, Walsh told alumni fund-raisers and donors in New York in April, as they clinked wine glasses in celebration.

``A generation ago, colleges saw themselves as academic destinations,'' says Wellesley trustee Beth McNay, escorting guests on a hard-hat tour in May. ``Now, we want to make campus life as right as it can be. How can you not be a part of the times in which you exist?''

Graduating Wellesley senior Bailey Childers, 22, says she would rather see money go toward reducing costs. ``I'll have about $40,000 in loans when I graduate,'' Childers says. ``My question is the priorities.''

`Psychology of Entitlement'

If alumni keep supporting their alma maters, colleges can keep renovating and building. They'll need to, because students have great expectations, marketing expert Sevier says. ``They come to your campus with a galloping psychology of entitlement,'' he says.

Already, schools hoping to impress students are offering motorized scooters for campus tours and giving out concert tickets, Sevier says. ``We're seeing students get some pretty amazing gifts, like BlackBerries,'' he says.

[Thanks to Kyle, a reader, for alerting UD to this PBS program.]

…the two college students who recognized Sandra Monica Rincon’s poem “Love in America,” which appeared recently in the San Antonio Express-News, as the work of Marianne Moore. “The Express-News was alerted to the similarity between the Rincon and Moore poems separately by two college students who e-mailed the Web site”

“Love in America” is not a very good poem, but reading a few of its lines in light of the plagiarism does yield a mild Retrospective Irony Effect (look here for more on RIE):

whatever it is, let it be without

“Reached by phone for comment,” the newspaper writes in its apology to its readers, “Rincon hung up.”

Friday, June 24, 2005


UD, as longtime readers know, does not own a television. Like a number of other tv-aversives, she has a dvd player for movies.

As one of a rare breed, she finds it interesting to keep track of other tv-aversives. One is featured in today’s New York Times:

A selective polymath, Ms. Lerner has, since being forced out of Cisco in 1990 after feuds with the company’s chief executive, started and sold a cosmetics company (Urban Decay), read Jane Austen compulsively, schooled herself in the ways of Colonial farming, studied the history of costume, made period ball gowns, collected books on 18th-century typography, and perfected her Regency dancing. “I can dance in five centuries and two sexes,” she said.

That interest, though, does not seem to have predisposed her to watch “Orlando” over and over. Film and television don’t interest her; she has VCR for guests, and no cable.

“I’m not a watcher,” she offered. “Life is short. Why watch other people doing stuff?”

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Sorry about the sudden vast expanse of white on this page. I'm working on it.

UPDATE: My niece solved the problem.
A nice bit of poetry
from today's New York Times

"The Carpet Coming."

[In honor of tonight's premiere of "War of the Worlds,"
which we were not invited to attend.]

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The actor cannot hear the publicist;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere Scientology is loosed upon the world,
The squirting microphone is loosed, and everywhere
The memory of BRAD and ANGELINA is drowned;
The press lacks all conviction, while TOM CRUISE
Is full of passionate intensity,
Really, really passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely there is a movie they have to promote.
'The War of the Batmans' or something! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of 'Dianetics'
Troubles my sight: somewhere near the Eiffel Tower
A shape with KATIE HOLMES's body and the head of Mr. Cruise,
A gaze blank and jovial as the sun,
Is holding a press conference, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant Star reporters.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That two months of interminable news coverage
Were vexed to nightmare by a publicist's confirmation,
And what vapid interview, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards the Ziegfeld to be born?
“She’s an icon…
She’s an ex-con…”

Soon UD will go to New York City for a week or so, to take in some shows. Here’s one in the works that sounds very promising.

Ever-vigilant for cultural moments that point up the importance people place on higher education, UD found something along those lines this morning while chewing through her pancakes. Jack Abramoff, a “high-rolling Republican lobbyist” now being investigated by the Senate for fraud, recently sent this email to “Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a prominent social conservative who runs Toward Tradition, an alliance of Jews and evangelical Christians,” reports the Washington Post:

I hate to ask your help with something so silly, but I have been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc. Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies? Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean.

The Post continues: “The rabbi, conservative radio host Daniel Lapin, gave his blessing. ‘I just need to know what needs to be produced,’ he wrote. ‘Letters? Plaques?’”

There’s quite a bit in the Abramoff narrative of interest to UD, in part because of her familiarity with its settings.

The Cosmos Club, for instance, where the elite meet to eat, sits blocks from GW, UD’s university, and, due to a number of unforeseen and unforeseeable events over the years, UD has on about five occasions eaten at this moth-eaten establishment. All of her lunches there blur into a recollection of a lugubrious room peopled by elderly white males -- animated Washington Post obituary notices, UD remembers thinking, looking around her…

Another familiar site prominent in the Abramoff saga is Rehoboth Beach, UD’s favorite ocean resort around these parts. Every summer UD, husband, and kid, rent a place on the ocean there for a week or two. It’s quiet, fashionably gay, and has great restaurants and shops a short walk from the beach. Rehoboth is also where Abramoff had a lifeguard friend of his set up a fake international organization in a rented beach house for money-funneling.


UPDATE: Among the ten commandments discussed in Rabbi Lapin’s recent book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money , this seems to UD the most, er, apposite: “Pursue constructive partnerships and alliances.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


In a few days, as you know if you’ve been paying attention, UD will relax in Ocean City, Maryland, an Atlantic coast resort, while her husband, a newly elected town council member for Garrett Park, attends how-to-be-a-politician seminars at the annual meeting of the Maryland Municipal League, which is always held in Ocean City.

These seminars will no doubt feature a good deal of Powerpoint use. UD has already weighed in a couple of times on Powerpoint, which she considers a bad idea for the university classroom. UD’s official position on Powerpoint is that if she were approached by a technology specialist at her university and asked to incorporate Powerpoint into her classroom, she would disembowel herself.

UD will of course not attend any of the politicians-only seminars her husband will attend. She and her daughter will either be sitting on the beach drinking Pina Coladas, or blogging (UD’s daughter has a web page of her own). But she will continue to think about Powerpoint and other technologies which have come into the American university classroom. And essays like the one that appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education today will help her focus on the subject.

Here an Emory University history professor who’s also the director of its teaching center sits in on a Powerpoint -- and other technology-laden -- class and describes what he sees:

Throughout the class the students took notes on the computers, creating a ceaseless keyboard clatter and making it difficult for anyone to hear the teacher's voice. Worse, as they faced their screens they looked away from the professor and away from one another. The class had no sense of communal purpose, and some students scarcely gave the professor a glance.

The PowerPoint remote control didn't work quite right at first -- tinkering with it caused a delay -- and students periodically whispered to one another about technical problems when they should have been learning the day's topic. One rogue was covertly checking his e-mail messages; another was browsing supermodel Web sites.

Powerpoint, UD has always felt, is ideally designed for autistics. Whether professor or student, if you fear and loathe people, if you want to sit in a private psychic and physical space forever, Powerpoint’s your man. If you are a student, you look away from the professor; you look away from your fellow students. If you are a professor, you hunch over equipment, fiddling with it when it doesn’t work, and manipulating it to the exclusion of your human surroundings when it does.

Powerpoint caters not only to the autistic but - much like television - to the retarded. It is slow, redundant, and has pictures. The Emory professor recalls a medical convention during which he sat through a lot of Powerpoint presentations. “Every word the doctors spoke was duplicated on a screen above their heads. It was numbingly repetitive.”

In the classroom, “Teachers' overuse of technology sends a baleful signal to students that the machines are necessary.” The technology is necessary when teachers have nothing to teach and students want to be left alone with their supermodel sites, just as they’ve been left alone in their bedrooms for the last ten years with their computer games. Powerpoint and other technology represents a continuation, within the college setting, of the life American students have been leading all along. It’s one of the things we mean when we say that American universities have become a consumer wonderland.

That’s why this is the saddest part of the CHE article:

What can we do? Professors, stop your engines. Take to class only your wits. Make yourself the center of attention. Let the students look at you, not at a screen, and let them discover the pleasure of learning as a communal activity. Let them watch and listen as you speak.

This is sad because teachers as confident articulate witted human beings who know something worth knowing, who are worth paying attention to for fifty minutes to the exclusion of everything else, who love provoking Socratic banter with their students, are disappearing.

How antique this language, for instance, from William Arrowsmith , sounds today!

[The] enabling principle [of the humanities is] the principle of personal influence and personal example. [Professors should be] visible embodiments of the realized humanity of our aspirations, intelligence, skill, scholarship…[The] humanities are largely Dionysiac or Titanic; they cannot be wholly grasped by the intellect; they must be suffered, felt, seen. This inexpressible turmoil of our animal emotional life is an experience of other chaos matched by our own chaos. We see the form and order not as pure and abstract but as something emerged from chaos, something which has suffered into being. The humanities are always caught up in the actual chaos of living, and they also emerge from that chaos. If they touch us at all, they touch us totally, for they speak to what we are too.

See, if I were a parent, I’d pay money for my child to spend time with brilliant human embodiments of the best ideas civilization’s been able to come up with. That sounds kind of exciting. And after all, I’m paying quite a lot of money, as Daniel Cheever, Jr. pointed out recently in The Boston Globe:

Over the last 10 years average tuition and fees rose 51 percent at public four-year colleges and 36 percent at private institutions, outpacing the consumer price index. Undergraduate tuition and fees at elite private schools such as Harvard grew even faster. For example, Harvard undergraduate tuition and fees are $27,448 this year, up from $17,851 in 1995 and $9,500 in 1985. With room and board added, next year's bill at Harvard will be an attention-getting $42,000. That's as much as the average family income in the United States.

The real question is whether students are getting their money's worth. In most other consumer markets, cost is a function of quality, real or perceived. This is a fact of life when purchasing a luxury car or high-caliber professional services. There is a ''value paradox" in higher education, however, since families rarely consider cost in the context of the quality delivered. That's partly because most colleges don't know how to measure their quality. But if education is truly an investment in a young person, shouldn't we be able to understand the return on that investment?

….Who's doing the teaching? What are students really learning? Perhaps a student is willing to pay a high price for education when professors, not graduate student teaching assistants, are guaranteed to teach the course and grade the papers. Maybe a parent is willing to pay market rates for a course whose small class size lets professors establish personal working relationships with students. Right now, many professors prefer their research ''opportunities" over their teaching ''load." Yet isn't it obvious the quality of education erodes when professors are absent, classes are unmanageably large, or most students get honor grades?

Cheever’s evoking here precisely the communal as well as personal intensity of the Socratic classroom; the immediacy, the sheer human reality, of such settings, could not be further from what the Emory professor describes as “the anonymity and chill that the machines created.” The absence of surprise -- everyone will get an A; the course content’s already written down on a computer screen -- is attractive if your model of the university experience is identical to your model of any consumer experience, in which you know precisely what you’re going to get and it’s delivered in a pleasant package.

But, as both of these observers suggest, if undergraduate university education is a qualitatively different sort of experience from that of sleepy satisfied consumption, then at its core, differentiating it most strongly, must be serious shared unscripted human engagement in the real questions that animate thought. If no teachers at your kid’s college are able to propel her into this realm of excited reflection, if all of the classes offer nice drones who twiddle knobs, then you’re not getting your money’s worth.


UPDATE: PK writes to remind UD of an article by Edward R. Tufte, an expert on the visual presentation of information, titled PowerPoint is Evil. It’s wicked good. A sample: “Yet the PowerPoint style routinely disrupts, dominates, and trivializes content. Thus PowerPoint presentations too often resemble a school play - very loud, very slow, and very simple.”

Via: Inside Higher Ed

Ex-UF Official Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case

A former University of Florida associate dean in charge of setting up educational programs for medical doctors has pleaded guilty to defrauding the university of $120,500.

...Van Susteren faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of probation.

The reasons for Van Susteren's actions remain unknown. He earned $95,092 last year as an associate dean in the College of Medicine's Continuing Education. Curtis declined comment on a motive for his client's actions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Mrs Premise It's a funny thing freedom. I mean how can any of us be really free when we still have personal possessions.

Mrs Conclusion You can't. You can't. I mean, how can I go off and join Frelimo when I've got nine more installments to pay on the fridge.

Mrs Premise No, you can't. You can't. Well this is the whole crux of Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Roads to Freedom'.

Mrs Conclusion No, it bloody isn't. The nub of that is, his characters stand for all of us in their desire to avoid action. Mind you, the man at the off-licence says it's an everyday story of French country folk.

Mrs Premise What does he know?

Mrs Conclusion Nothing.

Mrs Premise Sixty new pence for a bottle of Maltese Claret. Well I personally think Jean-Paul's masterwork is an allegory of man's search for commitment.

Mrs Conclusion No it isn't.

Mrs Premise Yes it is.

Mrs Conclusion Isn't.

Mrs Premise 'Tis.

Mrs Conclusion No it isn't.

Mrs Premise All right. We can soon settle this. We'll ask him.

Mrs Conclusion Do you know him?

Mrs Premise Yes, we met on holiday last year.

Mrs Conclusion In Ibeezer?

Mrs Premise Yes. He was staying there with his wife and Mr and Mr Genet. Oh, I did get on well with Madam S. We were like that.

Mrs Conclusion What was Jean-Paul like?

Mrs Premise Well, you know, a bit moody. Yes, he didn't join in the fun much. Just sat there thinking. Still, Mr Rotter caught him a few times with the whoopee cushion. (she demonstrates) Le Capitalisme et La Bourgeoisie ils sont la même chose... Oooh we did laugh.

Mrs Conclusion Well, we'll give him a tinkle then.

Mrs Premise Yes, all right. She said they were in the book. (shouts) Where's the Paris telephone directory?

Mrs Inference It's on the drier.

Mrs Premise No, no, that's Budapest. Oh here we are Sartre ... Sartre.

Mrs Varley It's 621036.

Mrs Premise Oh, thank you, Mrs Varley. (dials) Hallo. Paris 621036 please and make it snappy, buster... (as they wait they sing 'The Girl from Ipanema') Hallo? Hello Mrs Sartre. It's Beulagh Premise here. Oh, pardon, c'est Beulagh Premise ici, oui, oui, dans Ibeezer. Oui, we met... nous nous recontrons au Hotel Miramar. Oui, à la barbeque, c'est vrai. Madame S. - est-ce que Jean est chez vous? Oh merde. When will he be free? Oh pardon. Quand sera-t-il libre? Oooooh. Ha ha ha ha (to Mrs Conclusion) She says he's spent the last sixty years trying to work that one out. (to Madame Sartre) Très amusant, Madam S. Oui absolument... à bientôt. (puts the phone down) Well he's out distributing pamphlets to the masses but he'll be in at six.

[…. Stock shot of Eiffel Tower. French accordion music. Mix through to French street thronged by old Frenchmen with berets and loaves. Mrs Conclusion and Mrs Premise appear and walk up to the front door of an apartment block. On the front door is a list of the inhabitants of the block. They read it out loud.]

Mrs Premise Oh, here we are, Number 25 .... (reads) Flat 1, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Flat 2, Yves Montand, Flat 3, Jacques Cousteau, Flat 4, Jean Genet and Friend, Flat 5, Maurice Laroux...

Mrs Conclusion Who's he?

Mrs Premise Never heard of him. Flat 6, Marcel Marceau, 'Walking Against the Wind' Ltd. Flat 7, Indira Gandhi?

Mrs Conclusion She gets about a bit, doesn't she?

Mrs Premise Yes, Flat 8, Jean-Paul and Betty-Muriel Sartre. [She rings the bell. A voice comes from the intercom.]

Voice Oui.

Mrs Premise C'est nous, Betty-Muriel, excusez que nous sommes en retard.

Voice Entrez. [Buzzer sounds.]

Mrs Premise Oui, merci.

[Interior the Sartres' flat. It is littered with books and papers. We hear Jean-Paul coughing. Mrs Sartre goes to the door. She is a ratbag with a fag in her mouth and a duster over her head. A French song is heard on the radio. She switches it off.]

Mrs Sartre Oh, rubbish. (opens the door) Bonjour.

Mrs Conclusion (entering) Parlez vous Anglais?

Mrs Sartre Oh yes. Good day. (Mrs Premise comes in) Hello, love!

Mrs Premise Hello! Oh this is Mrs Conclusion from No. 46.

Mrs Sartre Nice to meet you, dear.

Mrs Conclusion Hello.

Mrs Premise How's the old man, then?

Mrs Sartre Oh, don't ask. He's in one of his bleeding moods. 'The bourgeoisie this and the bourgeoisie that' - he's like a little child sometimes. I was only telling the Rainiers the other day - course he's always rude to them, only classy friends we've got - I was saying solidarity with the masses I said... pie in the sky! Oooh! You're not a Marxist are you Mrs Conclusion?

Mrs Conclusion No, I'm a Revisionist.

Mrs Sartre Oh good. I mean, look at this place! I'm at my wits end. Revolutionary leaflets everywhere. One of these days I'll revolutionary leaflets him. If it wasn't for the goat you couldn't get in here for propaganda. [Shot of a goat eating leaflets in corner of room.]

Mrs Premise Oh very well. Can we pop in and have a word with him?

Mrs Sartre Yes come along.

Mrs Premise Thank you.

Mrs Sartre But be careful. He's had a few. Mind you he's as good as gold in the morning, I've got to hand it to him, but come lunchtime it's a bottle of vin ordinaire - six glasses and he's ready to agitate.

Mrs Premise and Mrs Conclusion knock on the door of Jean-Paul's room.

Mrs Premise Coo-ee! Jean-Paul? Jean-Paul! It's only us. Oh pardon ... c'est même nous...

[They enter. We do not see Jean-Paul although we hear his voice.]

Jean-Paul Oui.

Mrs Premise Jean-Paul. Your famous trilogy 'Rues à Liberté, is it an allegory of man's search for commitment?

Jean-Paul Oui.

Mrs Premise I told you so.

Mrs Conclusion Oh coitus.
A Regular University Diaries Feature


The Blackwell Hotel and Conference Center at Ohio State University is named after a just-retired business professor there, Roger Blackwell, who paid for it. Blackwell is a high-profile motivational speaker and author of - um - it says on his website he’s written 24 books.

These are mainly about the psychology of the American consumer. Their thesis is that if you want to make money you’ve got to kiss Madame Consumer’s ass. Psychology comes into the picture because you can’t debase yourself before her fully until you know what she wants.

In one of those perennial life ironies, this expert on the psychology of desire failed to grasp the rudimentary truth that if you dump your wife for another woman your wife may desire revenge. Professor Blackwell has retired from the university, and will soon go to prison, because his ex-wife described to a packed Ohio courtroom how Blackwell engaged in insider trading and obstruction of justice. Yesterday he was convicted.

A local Ohio blog sketches a complex marital history. “Rumor … had it back in the late 80's he dumped his then critically ill wife …for this floozie of a now-ex wife Tina. After having had many affairs with many students,” writes one commenter. Tina’s the one who did him in. “I… believe his ex-wife is the culprit. I was in his last class he taught right before the trial (he walked out in tears to a standing ovation),” writes a pro-Blackwell observer.

There are a number of university-related questions - we’ve seen them before on University Diaries - that range around cases like that of Roger Blackwell:

Should indicted felons be kept on university faculties while their case goes forward?

“He should have been fired. It is a slur on OSU's reputation to have an indicted felon teaching - let alone teaching in the field in which he's under indictment,” says a commenter on the blog. Another agrees: “Allowing him to continue teaching after indictment was a mistake.”

Should universities acknowledge the futility of attempting to keep track of the number of hours of outside work that faculty do?

“He makes millions of dollars per year yet he only makes something like $150,000 from OSU. In other words, he is in violation of state law governing the number of hours that he is allowed to consult,” charges one commenter. But of course it’s virtually impossible to know if he’s in violation - if any professor is in violation.

Should buildings named for donors now in prison for bigtime crimes be renamed?

On his website, Blackwell shares his life wisdom with the business community: "Recruit values not can teach skills." “Remember, it is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that determines your altitude.” And (a favorite among the motivationals): “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” Blackwell’s journey has brought him, as people in the ed biz like to say, from Penn State to the state pen. His altitude at this point is so low that I think we can safely say he’s crashed. Should his name still be flying high on The Blackwell?


UPDATE: The proprietor of the blog titled comments that “the university could decide to keep the Blackwell name on the hotel, only switch the honoree to another Blackwell...say, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell? The idea is not as ludicrous as it sounds. After all, OSU's chemistry laboratory is named for former governor Richard Celeste.”

UD would like to suggest switching the honoree to Elizabeth Blackwell , the first woman to graduate from medical school in America. Before she became a doctor, “Blackwell, her two older sisters Anna and Marian, and their mother opened a private school in Cincinnati to support the family.”


He strides onto the stage armed with nothing but a portion of a McDonald's straw taped to his cheek (a maniac's idea of a microphone?) and within minutes has the audience eating out of his hand, howling with laughter at pretty much anything he says. And he says, brilliantly, pretty much anything, all in the guise of being a life coach named Chris John Jackson, inventor of the motivational technique Jackson's Way.

Thirty-one-year-old Will Adamsdale isn't so much a comedian (he won Britain's top comedy award, the Perrier Prize, last summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) as a veritable wizard, a virtuoso of the transcendently absurd. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, he spins a wacky world of increasingly bizarre nonsense out of thin air, creating an exquisitely idiosyncratic worldview that is as funny as it is wonderfully weird.

Mr. Adamsdale is a master of resonant quirkiness, and his 75-minute riff is remarkable for both its sheer inventiveness and its perfect pitch. Not to mention the level of riotous interaction, starting with getting someone in the front row to throw a dish towel - one of his major props - onto the stage. ("Now everybody can see that Toby would have to try real hard not to get the towel on the stage, right, because he's basically standing on the stage. Here we go, Toby, let's do this thing. One, two, three, go! Oh, beautiful. Good work, Toby. Achieved! Want to hear everybody say that - 'Achieved!'")

A fresh-faced, natty presence in a black linen suit, Mr. Adamsdale quickly gets the audience on his wavelength of inspired zaniness and keeps building from there. The core of this endearing spoof of an Anthony Robbins-style motivational speaker is the philosophy of Jackson's Way, a sort of 12-step-to-the-12th-power program of pure pointlessness, with its own strange internal logic.

Mr. Adamsdale works the room, expounding on his technique, a lunatic litany that involves deliberately pointless feats - or Jacksons. (There are also mini-Jacksons and compound Jacksons.) "What I'm getting at, what I'm asking you to do, is to open up your minds to a world of experience that you have never even considered," he urges, with all the unctuousness of a televangelist. "I'm talking about doing something, like going to the bathroom, getting a bar of soap and just shaving off a tiny piece, so nobody would actually see it, pick up that pinch of soap shaving, take it into another room, and leave it there."

Mr. Adamsdale walks the audience through other Jacksons - like taking a piece of trash, a discarded paper cup, say, brought all the way from Australia and switching it with one from America. Or trying to make the word "boy" rhyme with "pickle." Jacksons must be performed with P.T.I. (Push Through with Intensity, as he charismatically puts it, to the point of throwing up).

But only Chris John Jackson himself can really convince you of the transformative nature of Jackson's Way. Which he does, with dazzling P.T.I.

The show runs through June 26 at 59E59 Theater, 59 East 59th Street, Manhattan; (212) 279-4200.

Yesterday, on the radio show To the Point, an AAUP person and David Horowitz went back and forth about the Academic Bill of Rights. No one was terribly clear or persuasive, and things only got worse when a couple of con and pro undergraduates joined in.

UD emerged from listening to the thing more convinced than ever that the Bill of Rights is a bad idea. The liberal arts and the social sciences are indeed a monoculture in this country’s universities, and all sorts of dumb things (see especially Cass Sunstein’s “Law of Group Polarization”) follow from that. But you don’t want a bunch of state legislators to fix them.

Monday, June 20, 2005

UD is proud that…

...the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) links to University Diaries on their new blog. Among other things, ACTA wants to “ensure responsible management of higher education resources, end grade inflation, and establish a solid core curriculum.”

A number of UD’s readers have noticed that she cares about good writing. Very true. If you care too, you should make a habit of reading the New York Times reviews of UD’s hero, the music critic Anthony Tommasini.

Beyond having at his command the world’s longest list of adjectives describing mezzo voices (“plummy”), Tommasini is in all ways a first-rate writer -- direct, witty, literate, judgmental, knowledgeable.

But Tommasini is also a gentleman. If UD went to an opera where the lead soprano was so fat UD could barely pay attention to the story, she’d write, “The lead soprano was so fat, I could barely pay attention to the story. When she took a few dance steps, I worried she'd have a heart attack.”

Here’s what Tommasini wrote this morning about the star of Benjamin Britten’s opera, Gloriana:

It must be said that Ms. Brewer made a portly Elizabeth. Still, she sang with such conviction that you believed in her dramatically. She even bravely took a few dance turns

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Javanomics 101: Today's Coffee Is Tomorrow's Debt
The Latte Generation Hears a Wake-Up Call

Washington Post

SEATTLE -- At a Starbucks across the street from Seattle University School of Law, Kirsten Daniels crams for the bar exam. She's armed with color-coded pens, a don't-mess-with-me crease in her brow and what she calls "my comfort latte."

She just graduated summa cum laude , after three years of legal training that left her $115,000 in debt. Part of that debt, which she will take a decade to repay with interest, was run up at Starbucks, where she buys her lattes.

The habit costs her nearly $3 a day, and it's one that her law school says she and legions like her cannot afford.

It borders on apostasy in this caffeine-driven town (home to more coffee shops per capita than any major U.S. city, as well as Starbucks corporate headquarters), but the law school is aggressively challenging the drinking habits of students such as Daniels.

"A latte a day on borrowed money? It's crazy," said Erika Lim, director of career services at the law school.

To quantify the craziness, Lim distributes coffee-consumption charts. One shows that a five-day-a-week $3 latte habit on borrowed money can cost $4,154, when repaid over 10 years. She also directs students to a Web site she helped create. The "Stop Buying Expensive Coffee and Save Calculator" shows that if you made your own coffee and for 30 years refrained from buying a $3 latte, you could save $55,341 (with interest).

Inside the Starbucks across from the law school, Daniels seemed surprised -- but unmoved -- to hear all this. "I guess I never had done the math," she said. "On the other hand, I would be a very crabby person without my comfort latte."

Therein lies the rub for those who would curb latte consumption with pocketbook reasoning. As Lim concedes, "no one pays any attention."

Financial planners, best-selling investment gurus and a number of advice columnists have been warning consumers for years that seemingly insignificant daily spending on such luxuries as gourmet coffee can, over time, sabotage savings and hobble a person's financial future.

But these warnings, too, have been ignored, at least as measured by the runaway growth and profitability of Starbucks, the world's leading purveyor of specialty coffee. Its stock is up more than 1,200 percent in the past 10 years. When it went public in 1992, the company had 125 stores. It now has more than 9,000 locations around the world and long-term plans for 20,000 more.

Starbucks declined to comment for this article, referring questions to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, a trade group. Its spokesman, Mike Ferguson, said that coffee shops provide an excellent opportunity for students to do their homework.

"You can occupy a table for two hours for about $3, which is unique in a retail setting," he said. "At a traditional restaurant, they will kick you out."

The second-largest gourmet coffee retailer in the Seattle area, Tully's, did respond. Its chief financial officer, Kristopher Galvin, said he had never before heard any complaint about the long-term financial impact of spending $3 a day on coffee, either for consumers or for students buying the drinks with borrowed money.

"I would guess, based on my years in college, that having lots of good coffee would help you get through college and help you pay back those student loans," Galvin said.

Nonprofit groups that specialize in lending money to college students disagree. They object not to lattes or cappuccinos but to the several thousand dollars of student debt that can be incurred to buy them. In decades past, lenders chided college students for excessive spending of borrowed money on pizza and cigarettes, but the staggering ubiquity of Starbucks appears to have narrowed the nagging to foamy espresso drinks.

According to recent federal figures, 42 percent of undergraduates borrow money for school. In professional schools such as law and business, 78 percent rely on borrowed money.

"The question that needs to be posed is 'Do they really need to have a Starbucks every day?' " said Jeffrey Hanson, director of borrower education service at Access Group, a Delaware-based organization that is the nation's third-largest provider of graduate school loans. "Since they are living, in part, on borrowed money, they need to be aware of the opportunity cost of that $3 latte. Once they spend it, it is not available for a loaf of bread."

In visits to college campuses around the country, Hanson hands out fliers that detail the "real cost" of lattes purchased with borrowed money. He also gives away cautionary stickers that can be attached to credit or debit cards. They show a steaming espresso drink, a dollar sign and a question mark.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, the largest higher-education institution in the Pacific Northwest, money-management courses also single out lattes, warning that they can be a "major budget buster." About half of the university's 36,000 students receive loans.

But these warnings have a way of getting lost amid the sweet aromas emanating from university-owned espresso shops inside nearly every major building on campus. The university began a major espresso expansion in 1997, after a survey found that coffee was far and away the favorite on-campus "food."

"We will do about 50,000 pounds of coffee a year," said Vinnie Gore, associate director of housing and food services at the university, adding that "coffee is still extremely popular, and coffee sales have been growing every year."

Jon D. Markman, an investment manager and writer in Seattle, has done a lot of thinking about why gourmet coffee sellers such as Starbucks are so successful, especially among young people. Markman himself spends $3.22 every workday at Starbucks on a double-tall, extra-hot latte with a single pump of sugar-free vanilla.

"Finger-wagging won't stop people from buying lattes," said Markman, who argues that Starbucks has pulled off "a cultural hat trick that is unparalleled in restaurant history."

He says it has created the white-collar equivalent of the tavern next to the car plant, a place where office workers, 20-somethings and teenagers can all gather in comfortable surroundings for "an addictive product that doesn't kill you."

"Financial planners and career counselors will never have any effect on this behavior, unless they can break the psychological mold of the latte-drinking cohort by mounting a campaign similar in size and impact to the campaign against cigarettes," he said. "I don't see that happening."

At Seattle University School of Law, Lim concedes the futility of persuading students to stop spending borrowed money on high-priced coffee. Still, she refuses to give up. The consequences of latte-larded law school debts are worrisome for the legal profession, she said, insidiously tilting career paths toward jobs that pay more but satisfy less.

"The amount of money you owe directly affects the professional choices you have," she said.

Debt-panicked law school graduates, she said, tend to run away from low-paying jobs such as public defender (about $45,000 a year) and into the more remunerative arms of corporate law.

Lim, by the way, is not a latte drinker, unless someone else pays.



When latte last in the schoolyard brew’d
And Starbucks early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d —
And yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! House Blend sure to me you bring;
Latte-brewing perennial, and drooping Star in the west,
And thought of the Bucks I love.

O powerful, western, fallen Star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great Star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the Star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!

In a courtyard fronting the library, near the white-wash’d classrooms,
Stands the latte-place, aromatic, with heart-shaped beans of rich brown,
With many a head of steam, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every whiff a miracle...

And from this latte-place in the courtyard,
With delicate-color’d coffee cups, and heart-shaped beans of rich brown,
A drink, with its flower, I sip.

O my latte-drinking cohort!
Buying with borrowed money
Th’addictive product that doesn’t kill you!
Lost amid the staggering ubiquity of Starbucks,
Lost amid sweet aromas emanating
From three-dollar lattes!

Occupying tables for hours
With three-dollar lattes!
Unique in a retail setting!

Soft, with color-coded pens
We stirred our lattes.
Legions like us, our comfort lattes…
Twas apostasy to think of latte-larded
Law school debt…

Come, lovely and soothing Debt,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Debt...

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Look how the Polish Tourist Board is marketing to France!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment.
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.

Seton Hall University is once again faced with a most postmodern dilemma. Should it remove, alter, or leave in place inscriptions on several buildings on campus?

Said inscriptions are the chiseled and now disgraced names of felonious donors. Blasting embarrassing monikers off of doorways and lintels would be satisfying in its way… but after all, these people did give the money… even if they stole it…

Quite a number of Seton Hall buildings, for instance, have Dennis Kozlowski’s name on them. A few hours ago, Kozlowski was convicted of 22 counts of “conspiracy, securities fraud, grand larceny and falsifying records.” He could go to jail for 30 years.

Perhaps anticipating this outcome, Seton Hall’s local newspaper ran this story a couple of days ago:

The Price of a Name: Chagrin at Seton Hall :

Seton Hall University students attend classes in Kozlowski Hall and pass through the L. Dennis Kozlowski Rotunda on their way into the campus library.

Whether those campus facilities keep their names may depend on a jury deliberating today in New York.

Kozlowski, the former chief executive officer of Tyco, is on trial in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on charges that he and fellow executive Mark Swartz looted their company of $600 million.

The jurors, who will get back to work on conspiracy and larceny charges they have been deciding since June 2, indicated last week they were close to a verdict on some of the 31 charges.

Seton Hall officials have watched the case closely. If Kozlowski is found guilty, they face a familiar dilemma: What does a school do when a campus building bears the name of a convicted felon?

Kozlowski, a Seton Hall graduate, was once one of the South Orange university's most generous donors. The former Tyco chief gave the school millions and sat on its board of regents for more than a decade.

Officials at the Roman Catholic university would not say yesterday whether they will strip Kozlowski's name from the library rotunda and the six-floor academic hall if he is found guilty.

Seton Hall's naming policy allows the university's board of regents to decide if and when a name should be removed from a building.

"We can't speculate on what they would do," said Thomas White, a Seton Hall spokesman. "The current naming policy ... does not oblige the board to act in any way."
The regents are not scheduled to meet again until September for a board retreat, White said.

During Kozlowski's first trial, which ended in a mistrial last year, some Seton Hall students said they were embarrassed that the business school and other departments were housed in a building honoring a man whose name conjures up images of corporate scandal.

Kozlowski, a Newark native, made headlines during his first trial when he was accused of spending company money on lavish parties and other purchases. Those included a $2 million birthday party and a $6,000 shower curtain billed to the Bermuda-based company with operational headquarters in West Windsor.

The Setonian, Seton Hall's student-run newspaper, advocated removing Kozlowski's name.

"On a campus where many of the buildings are named after saints, is that the kind of image the university wants to cultivate?" the student newspaper said in an editorial shortly after Kozlowski's indictment.

Building names are a touchy subject on the campus that Business Week magazine dubbed "Seton Hall of Shame" in 2002 for having not one but three major buildings bearing the names of disgraced corporate executives.

The trio included Kozlowski Hall, Walsh Library (named after former Tyco board member Frank Walsh, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to concealing a $20 million bonus) and Brennan Recreation Center (named after convicted First Jersey Securities founder Robert Brennan, who is serving time for bankruptcy fraud and money laundering).

All three buildings were named well before the donors -- who all served on the university's board of regents -- were accused of any crimes.

In 2002, Seton Hall's board voted to pull Brennan's name off the recreation center, saying it was "in the best interests of the university." The university did not announce any plans to return the $11 million that Brennan reportedly pledged to the school.

At the same closed-door meeting, the Seton Hall board also adopted new guidelines on naming buildings. The board did not disclose the details.

When Walsh pleaded guilty in the Tyco scandal a few weeks later, Seton Hall officials said the board would weigh whether to remove his name from the library.

But Walsh, who avoided jail time, appears to still be in Seton Hall's good graces. His name remains on the library and he was invited to help organize a fund-raising campaign for the university last year.

Whether Kozlowski gets the same treatment at his alma mater remains to be seen.
Seton Hall is not the only higher education institution that has had to reconsider naming a building or accepting a gift.

In recent years, the University of Missouri, the University of Michigan, Mississippi College, Brown and Harvard have been among the schools facing questions on whether to remove a name from a building or return a donation from a scandal-plagued corporate executive.

In nearly all the cases, the school decided to keep the money and the name.

The University of Missouri still has a chair in economics named after donor and alumnus Kenneth Lay, the disgraced former chairman of Enron, who is awaiting trial. The professorship in his name is expected to remain vacant until a jury decides his fate and university officials weigh their options.

At the University of Michigan, the architectural school, medical library and part of the campus hospital are named after A. Alfred Taubman, the former chairman of Sotheby's auction house who later served a jail term for price fixing.

The university decided to honor its original agreement with Taubman and keep his name on all three buildings, despite calls from faculty and students upset about associating their school with a felon.

"We are committed to retaining his name," University of Michigan spokeswoman Julie Peterson said, without apology.

The library rotunda! Many buildings are named after saints!

Hm. Is there a Saint Dennis? … Oui! Boulevard Saint-Denis! So here’s what you do, assuming Kozlowski’s first name’s on the buildings. Drop “KOZLOWSKI” and add “SAINT.”

'Wednesday, June 22: Those who can't do, teach. That still seems to be the premise as the eight-episode season 2 of the made-in-Montreal Naked Josh debuts. David Julian Hirsh plays Josh Gould, an Oxford grad and professor of sexual anthropology whose own sex life is, for all purposes, a failure. As the professor continues to learn from his experiences plunging into Montreal's night life, he is joined in the new season by Audrey (Claudia Ferri), a rival professor who just may provide both personal and professional challenges.'


A San Diego State graduate student on probation for drug violations used a university lab to make methamphetamine, Ecstasy and an anesthetic 80 times more potent than morphine, authorities said yesterday.

Matthew Finley, 26, was arrested at his home in Ocean Beach yesterday and the campus lab where he worked was shut down as investigators removed illicit drugs, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said.

"He felt he could get away with it. To his disappointment today, he did not," DEA spokesman Misha Piastro said. "His disregard for the safety of the rest of the student body is alarming and not something we take lightly."

After his arrest, Finley told investigators that he manufactured methamphetamine and a chemical used to make methamphetamine, as well as Ecstasy and fentanyl, the powerful anesthetic, according a court document.

…While drug arrests on the large campus are not unusual, Foster said he could not recall another drug incident in the last five years involving the chemical labs.

Finley, who was pursuing a master's degree in chemistry, was convicted of drug charges in Santa Barbara in 2002 and placed on probation, according to a complaint a DEA agent filed with a federal judge yesterday.

At that time, he told investigators he used a lab at the University of California Santa Barbara to convert a liquid form of the drug Ecstasy into a powder, the agent said.

He was caught growing marijuana the following year and again placed on probation. A judge sentenced him to two years in prison but suspended the sentence, according to the complaint.

San Diego State University police approached the DEA late last year after being tipped that someone was manufacturing methamphetamine in the chemistry lab where Finley worked.

A surveillance camera in the lab captured Finley late last month working with a dark liquid that later tested positive for Ecstasy, authorities said.

…Foster said there are strict controls on its laboratories, which do some of the more than $100 million worth of research the university performs a year.

"Students have to go through environmental health and safety training," he said. "There are safety officers within departments like chemistry that track the incoming orders for chemicals and disbursements of chemicals."

Finley is expected to appear in court today.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


But reading over this, last year's Bloomsday post, I found that it said what I wanted to say. I've updated it to reflect 2005.

O Jamesy let me up out of this pooh Molly Bloom complains in the middle of her unparagraphed, unsentenced, and unpunctuated soliloquy at the end of Ulysses. Professors like me - people who routinely conduct graduate seminars dedicated solely to Joyce's novel - are trained to point out to their students that this moment in the text is an instance of literary self-reflexivity; for "Jamesy" is none other than the novel's author, James Augustine Joyce (during his lifetime, Irish detractors called him James Disgustin' Joyce), and Molly is calling out to her maker from her fictional bed, begging him to make her stream of consciousness stop.

One hundred and one real years after that fictive June 16, 1904, there is no stopping the Joycean flow. Today hundreds of thousands of ordinary people from Szombathely to Sydney will gather to recite beloved lines from Chamber Music, Portrait of the Artist, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.

They will dress up as their favorite Joyce characters; they will display their Joyce death mask sculptures, their James Joyce stroll gardens, their Joyce films. Scads of them a few hours ago sat at tables stretching the length of Dublin's O'Connell Street and ate Joyce-inspired breakfasts. They will sing songs immortalized by having been dropped into a Joyce story; they will sing their own Joyce-inspired music. They will drink the new Provins Valais specially labelled red and white "Cuvee James Joyce." They will stand by the side of the Liffey, the Mississippi, the Seine, and the Nile reading aloud about Paddy Dignam's funeral and Leopold Bloom's soap.

Ever since Roddy Doyle's putdown of the James Joyce industry ("They'll be offering James Joyce Happy Meals next,"), it has become fashionable to deride Bloomsday, the worldwide festival in honor of James Joyce's greatest work, Ulysses, and its hero, Leopold Bloom. And the thing has certainly gotten out of hand. It used to be the provenance of literary nerds like me, who'd get up at six in the morning on a hot rainy Washington day and join eight other jerks in some out of the way setting that someone thought looked Irish and do a marathon reading of the novel. Now it's a glitzy affair for gliterati everywhere.

They'll be dancing, for instance, in the streets of Ljubljana. Slovenia News reports that "A discreet plaque commemorating Irish writer James Joyce has recently been unveiled at platform no. 1 of Ljubljana's central railway station. In 1904, Joyce and his wife Nora mistakenly disembarked there, believing they had reached their destination - the city of Trieste." Mistakenly, mind you. But Ljubljana will take it.

"Így Szombathely Joyce híres regényalakjának, Leopold Bloomnak századik évfordulóját méltó módon ülheti meg," explained szombathely online last year. The Hungarian town of that name is now famous because Leopold Bloom's father - an extremely minor character in the novel, and long dead when its events take place - comes from there. "As they have for years, Joyce's fans will congregate in Szombathely, a well-tended, pretty little town of some 80,000 inhabitants in southwest Hungary, in mid-June to celebrate Bloomsday, named for the fictional Leopold Bloom, the genial protagonist of Ulysses" notes a Hungarian newsletter.

The organizer of the Hungarian Bloomsday is convinced he has tracked down the real Hungarian "Blum" who served as the inspiration for Joyce: "We have identified the Blum house in Szombathely, and that is where the statue of James Joyce will be erected, as if emerging from the wall of the house."

Cities, ordinary readers, cutting-edge artists: all identify themselves with Jamesy's pooh, perhaps because this affiliation conveys both a certain seriousness and a keen aesthetic responsiveness. The hot Irish band, The Pogues, expressed this widely shared instinct to hitch a ride with him by featuring on a recent album cover a famous photograph of Joyce, and surrounding the photo with a montage of the band members dressed and posed identically. The equally hot band, Black 47 [as J.V.C. points out, for which I am grateful], sings: "To see where James had bit the dust/ I hopped a train to Zurich. / The customs man held down his hand:/ What was my business? / I wanna get laid on James Joyce's grave/ and I wanna do it instantly./ James Joyce I got no choice. / James Joyce I was only trying to find my voice."

Kate Bush's album, The Sensual World, is profoundly Joycean; in one song, Bush is Molly Bloom, "Stepping out of the page into the sensual world /Stepping out, off the page, into the sensual world…"

Molly Bloom got up out of Jamesy's pooh and entered the sensual world through the sheer literary power of James Augustine Joyce, who sang the bliss of existence. And why not, once a year, celebrate that bliss, and the way Joyce sang it, in the streets?

Ulysses, one writer points out, "is the only book in the which a holiday is dedicated." It has, notes another, "become [the world's] international literary holiday." "For those who are passionate about their literature," writes an Australian observer, "June 16 is ice-cream, sex and Christmas rolled into one. [Celebrants] share a kind of trancendent, proselytising glow." "It is June 16," writes an American reporter, "not April 23 (Shakespeare's birthday) or February 23 (Keats' death) that has become the world's de facto literary holiday." "Do any [other literary luminaries] have dedicated days?" asks an Australian who doesn't think Joyce should have one either. "Memorial half-hours? Do we pause for a minute to praise the name of Lampedusa or Nabokov? And where, Paris included, has there been a talk-back session on Proust?"

The day has gotten big enough that politicians, some of whom spin Joyce and some of whom actually read and love him, have noticed, as Gideon Long, a Reuters reporter recently pointed out:

"Joyce exemplifies the European aspect of Irish identity," Irish President Mary McAleese informed a gathering of students in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo earlier this year.

"International in his vision and impact, but always intellectually rooted in his native city of Dublin, Joyce could be said to represent the spirit of modern Ireland -- confidently Irish, comfortably European, fearlessly global in outlook."

Speaking to a gathering at Tel Aviv University, Foreign Minister Brian Cowen posited Leopold Bloom, the Jewish hero of Ulysses, as evidence of "the long history of affinity between the Irish and Jewish people".

Hailing Bloom as "a modern-day epic hero", Cowen assured the Israelis that the humble advertising salesman who wanders around Joyce's Dublin would be "very much to the fore in June of this year when we celebrate the centenary of Bloomsday".

Foreigners have also jumped on the Joycean bandwagon.

When Dominique de Villepin visited Dublin as French foreign minister this year, he reminded the Irish that Ulysses -- vilified in Ireland for years -- was first published in Paris, where Joyce spent much of his adult life.

"Joyce's journey embodies a new form of writing that criss-crosses the labyrinthine surface of the city to explore the nooks and crannies in the depths of the human soul," said De Villepin, a poet in his own right.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, addressing a meeting of Irish businessmen in Dublin last month, observed, like millions of despairing literature students before him, that "Ulysses is a pretty hard book to read".

Wen had read it, though, and had also tackled Joyce's earlier novel "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man".

"I see the Bloomsday celebrations as a tribute to the power of the book," writes Nuala O'Faolain, an Irish novelist. "It's about celebrating our good luck that Joyce chose to write the great urban book about our city. Other cities have a patron saint, we have a patron book. Whatever way you look at it, that's something to be celebrated."

Indeed, Maurizio Pastore, an Italian studying law in Dublin and interviewed taking part in Bloomsday there, says as much: "This is so rare to see - a city celebrating its greatest artist. In Italy we don't celebrate Dante or Michelangelo. We should."

But let us look at the other side - the Doyle side - of Bloomsday in greater detail. Lots of -- call them killjoyces -- are out there, and it's worth examining their complaints more closely.

Part of the complaint involves the broader problem of the Irish culture industry, the sentimental flattening of Irishness. John Banville in the New York Times talks about "the exasperation many of us feel at the pervasiveness and bathos of the Joyce myth." John Waters, who writes for the Irish Times, agrees that the event has much to do with Joycean mythification and Irish self-mystification: "So many [Bloomsday celebrants] have no idea what they're celebrating. The whole event has nothing whatsoever to do with the meaning of the work. ...It's a shallow response born of our continuing inability to understand ourselves."

And part of the problem is disloyalty to the book itself - and to literary sensibility more broadly. "The version of Joyce these people are peddling," Banville continues, "is reprehensible, pernicious even. [Bloomsday] sets out to popularise a book that was a highly sophisticated, highly intellectualised undertaking. It is not mainstream, nor was it ever meant to be. When people claim Joyce had his eye on posterity,that is true, but it was intellectual posterity he was after, not mass approval." A British observer similarly writes: " an essentially private act. The every-year-louder-and-louder bells and whistles that mark June 16,1904, a opportunity for university professors to drink too much and not feel guilty. [It] has absolutely nothing to do with its reason for existing: to move, to unsettle, to -- one hopes -- even transform individual readers. The loudest revolutions always take place in the quietest rooms." In the same vein, an Australian writer says the events are "more about frustrated show-offs and blowhards coming over all Irish in public than about a searching reflection on the motivations of James Joyce..."

Bloomsday, then, makes a mockery of the privacy, seriousness, and difficulty of authentic literary responsiveness. Banville finds the desecration of Ulysses so disturbing that he leaves town on Bloomsday.

I share this anxiety about maintaining the exile, silence, and cunning of literary experience, protecting the experience of interiority from the society of the spectacle. For me there's something both fascinating and depressing about, say, John Houston's efforts to film stories like Joyce's The Dead and novels like Lowry's Under the Volcano. Bound to the realm of the visual, even a great director makes Geoffrey Firmin look like little more than a pompous drunk. Ignorant, or semi-learned, about Ulysses, the average Bloomsday participant can make the flesh of a true Joyce student crawl.

But even with all of this, I say the more the merrier.

One of the bitter themes of Ulysses is that reality can't be calibrated to your desires. Stephen Dedalus, when we meet him, has returned to Ireland from abroad having failed - so far at least - to realize the exuberant literary dreams that propelled him out of Ireland. He hates being back, and he hates himself. In Leopold Bloom, Dedalus encounters a man who has accepted the impossibility of certain fulfillments, who has accepted the fallibility of himself and every other human being and still been able to love. Dedalus spends the entire novel (with the exception of a few moments with Bloom) rejecting people, running away from situations, loathing his cowardice and his lovelessness. Bloom, the object of a good deal of contempt and even violence in the course of the day, remains humane, forebearing, open-hearted.

The contents of Bloom's consciousness are always - by the intellectual standards of a Stephen Dedalus - disappointing; he's an ordinary fellow of middling education with sentimental notions of world betterment; he's evading the problem of the grief he feels over his son's death, and this evasion continues to deaden his relationship with his wife. Stephen's consciousness on the other hand is always intellectually impressive. He's highly educated, well-traveled, witty, corrosive. And yet we end the book with love and respect for Bloom, not Stephen. Bloom alone's the Homeric hero. For there's no evidence that Stephen will be able to break free of his paralyzing world-rejection; whereas a day with Bloom is an education in decency and heroism and love.

Every disappointing Bloomsday reveler is a kind of Leopold Bloom. Or perhaps a Simon Dedalus. Irish, his son Stephen says of him. All too Irish.

From The Seattle Times [thanks for sending it along, JW]:


This year's 406-member graduating class at Garfield High School features 44 valedictorians. Forty-four students with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages who, over seven semesters of mostly honors and Advanced Placement classes, have never earned less than an A.

Even for a school with a reputation as an academic powerhouse, it's a record number: Last year Garfield had 30 valedictorians; the year before, 27.

Skeptics say that so many students with perfect 4.0 GPAs is evidence of grade inflation; admirers say it's the product of smart, hard-working students at a school that encourages academic success.

Either way, the multiple valedictorians at Garfield are reflective of a national trend of rewarding a number of high-achieving students at graduation rather than singling out one.

And nationally, Garfield may be just mid-range. Bullard High School in Fresno, Calif., is graduating 58 valedictorians this year.

"I don't think we're giving away the grades," said Carolyn Barge, Garfield's senior counselor. "These kids are taking every AP and honors class they can get their hands on. They take six classes every semester. They're just amazing kids."

Traditionally the highest-performing student, the valedictorian gives the final address at graduation. But the increasing number of straight-A students has led some schools to abandon the award altogether.

At Bellevue High School, seven graduating seniors earned straight A's, but the school decided this year not to name valedictorians. Instead, each will be given a medal, said Principal Mike Bacigalupi.

Auburn High School had nine 4.0 students but will honor a range of accomplishments at graduation and also will not name any valedictorians, said Terri Herren, assistant principal.

One of the unforeseen consequences of grade inflation in the United States has been an increasing radicalization of high school valedictorians across the country. These are students who for all of their lives have been told that if they earn a 4.0 at the end of their high school years, they will be named class valedictorian. Now suddenly things have changed, and they are being denied this honor.

Some of them are seriously upset - upset enough to have begun organizing.

For a few years now, large cohorts of restive valedictorians from around the nation have been building email networks and websites to air their grievances among themselves. And starting with this graduation season, some of these organizers have gone one step further, storming their high school graduation ceremonies en masse, seizing the stage, and singing what has become known as “The Valedaise.”

Based loosely on the revolutionary French anthem, “The Marseillaise,” “The Valedaise” demands the reinstatement of high school valedictorians, with fifteen minute speeches allotted to each valedictorian, regardless of the number of valedictorians. Here is “The Valedaise” (Note: “A.P.” refers to “Advanced Placement.”)

Allons enfants de la!
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
Le grade sheet sanglant est levé!
Le grade sheet sanglant est leve!

Entendez-vous dans les ecoles
Mugir ces féroces etudiants ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Egorger vos profs et vos compagnes !

Aux armes, les parents!
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

[Roughly, this translates into the following]:

Arise children of the Advanced Placement courses!
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny's
Bloody grade point standard is raised.

Listen to the sound in the schools,
The howling of these fearsome students!
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your lecturers and assistants!

To arms, families!
Form your battalions!
March, march!
Let impure blood
Water our furrows!



A French reader writes to remind UD that, until it changed its own rules of selection, France during the eighteenth century suffered a similar surfeit of valedictorians, all of whom had the right to give twenty minute speeches at their graduation event. Apparently the Marquis de Sade sat through more than his share of these marathons, for shortly after writing Les 120 Jours de Sodom (1787), he published Les 44 Jours des Valedictoriens (1788). The intensity of the novel’s sadism kept it banned even in France until the late 1960s.

UD is pleased to say that her initial post on the Racker Song (scroll down) now appears in the latest Carnival of Education as an Editor's Choice.

You can play the Racker Song by clicking on the link I provide in the earlier post.

Just to remind you, a group of Belgian math students recorded one of their math instructor’s obscene rants in class and then put his words to music. The song (whose title alludes to the instructor’s name, Yves De Racker) is now a hit in Belgium.

And for those of you who’ve been waiting, here, courtesy of a Belgian correspondent of UD’s who goes by the name of Woezel, is a translation. A very loose translation.

Let us begin with the Flemish original:

als er nu nog godverdomme ene klootzak zijnen bakkes opendoet dan
heeft hij em zitten e
ik heb veilig tussenin zo
xml eerst de dtd
punt dtd
punt dtd
punt dtd

me wa zedde gulder nu weer bezig
da vinne kik altij zo plezant

ik heb daar echt mijn binnenpretje van
geloof me, dat staat dus nergens in de cursus e
astemblief é

traditioneel begin ik steeds mé
ik zou da gewoon ni kunnen rateren, da weet ik van mezelf
ik ken mezelf voldoende da'k da zeker ni zou rateren

da vind ik altij zo plezant als ik iemand zo ambetant zie worden e
en die ziet die fout dan maar ni
ik heb daar echt een binnenpretje van

Here, with some bits omitted because UD didn’t quite understand them, is the English text:

goddamn if one more asshole opens his mouth
he'll know about it

what are you fucking doing?
i always like that

that makes me laugh
believe me, you can't find this in the syllabus

I always like it when a student gets annoyed
when he doesn't see the mistake he’s made
it makes me laugh

His Gloucester trial set to begin June 27, Harvard economics professor Martin Weitzman speaks to the Boston Globe of his “passion for manure” and where it led him. Sadder and wiser but still unbowed, he will fight the larceny, trespassing, and malicious destruction of property charges against him. Not only did he not steal the manure he is accused of stealing, Weitzman says, but for “removing a potent pollutant” from someone else’s farm and taking it to his own environmentally sound property ("I am a professor of economics, and my specialty is environmental economics.") “I ought to be thanked.” Weitzman explained that “he has been doing Rockport a favor by removing the manure -- from town-owned land and [Charles] Lane's property -- because the waste was piled too close to vulnerable wetlands and was leaching into a nearby pond.”

Martin Weitzman doesn't understand what the fuss is all about. And he hopes round two in his now infamous manure caper won't make international headlines. Again.

Weitzman, a Harvard professor who specializes in environmental economics, is charged with stealing a truckload of manure from a 98-year-old Rockport horse farmer. Weitzman, who has pleaded not guilty, is due back in court June 27.

The farmer is Charlie Lane, who traces his family tree back three centuries to the Lanesville section of Gloucester. Lane said he just wants Weitzman to stop pilfering and pay up.

The case has taken on a life of its own since Weitzman's April 1 arrest, ricocheting around Internet chat rooms after it was carried on an international news service. It even popped up on late night television, in comedian Jay Leno's monologue.

Weitzman, who turned 63 on the day of his arrest, said he's taken a lot of digs over the dung.

"I had one colleague from the University of California at San Diego who wrote me an e-mail saying: 'Congratulations. Most economists I know are net exporters of horse [excrement]. And you are, it seems, a net importer,'" Weitzman said.

This, Weitzman does not deny. What is at issue is whether he had permission to remove the manure and how much he took.

Weitzman acknowledged carting manure away from farmland about a mile from downtown Rockport, but said he was given permission to do so about three or four years ago. He said he can't remember the name of the man who gave him permission or what he looked like, but said he was driving a small, golf cart-type tractor and was hauling manure out to the fields at the time.

Kenneth Rowe Jr., son of a late farmer who owned property in the area and who was known for the tiny tractor he used to move his manure, said Weitzman's story does not ring true. The elder Rowe died in December 2001.

"I know my dad; he would never have given it away," Rowe said. "He always sold the manure."

The Rowes' 8-acre property, which they sold to the town two years ago to preserve for open space and recreation, is next to Lane's Sea View Farm property. Weitzman said he was unaware that there was a distinction between the two properties and believed he had permission to take all the manure he carted away.

Either way, Weitzman said, he has been doing Rockport a favor by removing the manure -- from town-owned land and Lane's property -- because the waste was piled too close to vulnerable wetlands and was leaching into a nearby pond.

"I am a professor of economics, and my specialty is environmental economics," Weitzman said. "I ought to be thanked by them for removing a potent pollutant."

The Harvard professor has been trucking the stuff 10 miles away to his $970,000 Gloucester home, a 13-acre spread on an island surrounded by marsh and wetlands.
Weitzman said he carefully stores it behind his house, several acres away from sensitive waterways.

The legal ruckus began when Phillip Casey, Lane's nephew and a part-time farmhand, said he caught Weitzman red-handed.

"The night before, someone called up Charlie and said, 'Someone has been taking manure out of your pile in back.' Charlie called me and said, 'Put some locks on the gate,'" said Casey, 64.

"So the next morning I went up about 9 o'clock and was going to put locks on the gate, and he was up there with a truckload of manure," Casey said, referring to Weitzman.

Casey said Weitzman offered him $20, then $40 for the haul, but Casey refused, blocked Weitzman in with his own truck, and dialed police on his cellphone.

Weitzman was charged with trespassing, larceny, and malicious destruction of property, the latter for the deep ruts his truck tires left on the field.

"It's like robbing a bank and then offering to give the money back if you are caught taking something, and apparently this wasn't the first time," said Sergeant Tony Hilliard of the Rockport police.

While Weitzman has not been accused of taking manure from the Rowe property, which is now owned by the town, Lane believes the professor has taken at least 30 truckloads from his property, worth about $20 each. He has been charged with larceny of property under $250.

Town officials said a large pile of manure is missing from the parcel it purchased from the Rowes, although they have not accused Weitzman of pilfering it.

"The manure was worth around $2,000, at least," said Rockport Conservation Commission member Mel Michaels. '"t was going to be used to fill in the holes in the field."

Michaels said officials do not know who took the town's manure, which started disappearing in 2003.

So what has Weitzman been doing with all the manure he has acknowledged taking?
Gardening, he said.

"I have perennial gardens, a rose garden, a Japanese-style garden," Weitzman said. "If I wasn't a Harvard professor, there would be zero interest in this."

Harvard officials have opted not to wade into the manure.

"In general, we do not comment on actions related to faculty, whether internal or external," said Harvard spokesman Robert Mitchell.

Weitzman would like to put the brouhaha behind him and hopes to reach some sort of financial settlement with Lane. But he said the $600 worth of manure Lane says Weitzman took over time is "artificially inflated."

The larceny, trespassing, and malicious destruction of property charges he faces carry a couple of months of jail time, but Assistant Essex District Attorney Kevin Prendergast said it's unlikely that Weitzman would see the inside of a cell, if convicted.

The Harvard professor said the case has not dimmed his passion for manure, though he won't be planning further runs to Rockport.

"That," he said, "is a safe assumption."

A friend of UD’s who’s an editor at Garden Design magazine tells her they’re preparing a spread on Weitzman’s garden, complete with photos and an interview. “He’s enormously proud of the garden, and, as is clear from his court case, willing to do anything to keep it healthy and fertilized,” the editor told UD. “Weitzman spoke freely to us about how he feels the gardening establishment has dissed him because of his unconventional designs . The irony is that, because of his legal trouble, he’s finally getting the attention he’s craved from the gardening community.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


is a graduation speech. Read it all.

…for kind words and links from Joanne Jacobs, Betsy’s Page , Education Wonk, and Good and Happy lately.

I’m very grateful, and I welcome their readers who are stopping by.

UD would have met Cliopatria’s Ralph Luker through an online dating service which would have matched the two of them based upon their shared love of long walks on the beach and investigating plagiarism cases.

Following Sally Greene's lead, Luker has been writing about Dean Bryan Le Beau’s plagiarism of both Cornel West and Russell Baker for a 2003 commencement address that Le Beau performed at his university.

The shamelessness of this case, plus Le Beau’s obvious ability to have written the thing himself, suggests to UD not the desperation she saw in the plagiarizing high school principal she talked about in a recent post, but rather a sort of executive arrogance, in which you get a flunky to write the thing for you because you’re too busy or cynical to do it yourself.


If UD’s right about this, then the next chapter in the Le Beau story will be the surfacing of the flunky. Watch for it.


The question of where you go for your plagiarism, likely to be of increasing importance as plagiarism becomes more and more part of the rich fabric of American culture, is an interesting one to UD. She can understand using Baker, who is funny and has a nice conversational style. But West?


Confronted with what he’s done, Professor Le Beau had the classic reaction of academics caught graduating from diploma mills or plagiarizing. The similarities between his text and West‘s, Le Beau said, were “a shocker.”

Watch for Le Beau, citing the recent study uncovering mental illness in half of the American population, to announce that he suffers from dissociative disorder.


Here are some lines from the commencement speech, and from a comment Le Beau made on a humanities council website, that represent what UD calls the Retrospective Irony Effect, as we now read these comments in light of subsequent events:


"[What matters is] acknowledging your interdependencies and interrelationships with one another."

"Friedrich Nietzsche said it well when he observed: 'It is not simply a question of having the courage of one’s own convictions, but at times of having the courage to attack one’s convictions.' That is how we grow, as individuals, as communities, as nations. My guess is that you are all familiar with Socrates line, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' I would add – the examined life is painful, risky, and full of vulnerability. And yet, to revitalize public conversation, we have to ensure self-criticism and self-correction, both as individuals and as a nation – both in our individual lives and in our lives as a nation."


“The best preparation for any career is to learn critical reading and thinking skills, effective communication and the substance of the culture in which we live. An education in the humanities provides that.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

UD is second to none
in her love of Bloomsday
and Dublin, but….

…this “breaking news” from Ireland On-Line smells funny in a variety of ways. [As ever, UD’s skepticism and contempt appear parenthetically.]


Organisers of the annual Bloomsday event toasting James Joyce’s once-banned book, Ulysses have called for urgent Government funding [isn’t urgent funding for things like typhoons?] to keep going.

Senator David Norris said the June 16 celebration has potential to be an ’Irish Mardi Gras’ [Who wants an Irish Mardi Gras? Given the Irish penchant for drink, I don’t think we want to make the French Quarter our model.] but could now be in danger of dying out [Are we overstating a tad?] because he and other devotees are unable to carry on.

The veteran Joycean explained: “To do it for 25 years isn’t bad but I don’t think that anybody would expect us to do it for another 25 years without assistance.

“One of Joyce’s relatives has cancer. Another has suffered a stroke. I’m getting old. I’m in my sixties. My eyesight isn’t as good as it was. [Sad, but aren’t there plenty of other people involved in the thing?]

“We are the epicentre of it and it’s like a bonfire. If the centre dies out, very soon the whole thing turns into embers. That’s a possibility. It might not happen but it’s a possibility.” [UD has poked around in these embers for a mixed metaphor, but she doesn‘t find one. It‘s not a mixed metaphor; it‘s an odd metaphor.]

Several Bloomsday-themed events are due to take place in Dublin on Thursday and in other cities around the world.

The date is named after Ulysses’ central character Leopold Bloom and his adventures around Dublin on a single day, June 16, 2004.

Senator Norris added: “It’s time for Ireland to decide is this going to be continued as a loved institution or is there a question mark over it.

“It can’t continue with the present people because everybody is getting on.”

Senator Norris said that Bloomsday and the James Joyce Centre on Dublin’s northside need to be supported by Exchequer funds to realise their full cultural and tourist value [For the rhetorical equivalent to this idea of “full value,” scroll down to “Are you meeting all the needs of all of your students?”.]

“I have said to the tourism people here that if they played their cards right they could have something on their hands that could eventually rival Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

“It’s going in that direction. It’s a national holiday that is fun. There’s no nastiness in it. It’s something that everybody can enjoy and it leads people into reading Joyce.

“If Bertie coughs up, it will show everybody how cultivated the Government is.” [‘Coughs up’ is great. Don't know about the concept of a cultivated government, however. Is Mardi Gras a cultivated event? Louisiana a cultivated government?] '

Only two days to go before you can toast James Joyce with his own wine.

Professor Jane Dolkart, who, when not running down bicyclists on campus with her car, is a professor of law at Southern Methodist University, has been convicted of aggravated assault and could go to prison for up to twenty years.

Professor Dolkart is a repeat offender, having a couple of years ago “struck two SMU second-year law students as they crossed Hillcrest Avenue near the university campus. Ms Dolkart told police that she had not seen the pedestrians because the sun was in her eyes. A police report ruled that the sun would not have blocked her view of the pedestrians and that she had failed to check the crosswalk.”

But what finally did Dolkart in was her more recent strike- drag- and flee at SMU.

Nobody got killed - just bruised and scared to death - and Professor Dolkart doesn‘t understand why her mere “tapping” of the cyclist in the latest incident amounts to anything to get upset about. Why must cyclists ride so slowly? And right in front of cars?

And the way the police frisked her after the event -- she was humiliated, traumatized…

There’s a fun online chat about this at a law student’s blog, Buffalo Wings and Vodka. One of the chatters is a Dolkart student:

' My Civ Pro prof got arrested Sunday for aggravated assault. Who said law professors have boring lives? SMU should make that a slogan--SMU: Our Profs Can Beat Up Your Profs

Final Exam: Get me the hell out of jail!

I read the story about the SMU prof on yesterday. The columnist was practically giddy that a lawyer was running over another lawyer. The witness claimed that she(?) could hear Dolkart screaming at the cyclist with her windows rolled up. This must be the talk of the campus over there.

Apparently someone was walking around in the library last night in a shirt that said "Free Jane Dolkart." Shame I had no finals today, but I'll be proctoring tomorrow so I'll get to see what everyone's saying.

Whoa--looks like Prof. Dolkart has a history of running people over in her car ...
My Give-a-Damn's Busted

' As [Kenneth] Arrow and other future residents viewed the dining room, where meals of tenderloin and duckling will be served on $500 place settings of Jardin de Florence china, workers scurried to complete the finishing touches on what is thought to be the priciest retirement community yet in the Bay Area -- perhaps too pricey, according to some [Stanford] faculty members.

Residences in the complex [adjacent to the Stanford University campus] cost from about $600,000 for a one-bedroom to $4.2 million for the three-bedroom, three-bath El Dorado unit.

Monthly fees of $3,105 to $7,430 include a daily meal in a formal dining room or on a patio, al fresco. It also includes linen service, valet parking, a bistro-style cafe, heated indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, among other amenities. The fees also cover medical care.

Hyatt leases the land from Stanford for $1.5 million a year, plus 6 percent of all gross receipts. When a resident dies, 90 percent of the original cost of their residence -- appreciation is not factored in -- is returned.

Although on Stanford property, only about 50 of its incoming residents thus far are former or active faculty members. Many more, however, are successful alumni.

"I would say that most retired faculty were disappointed in the cost of the Hyatt," said Albert Hastorf, former provost and emeritus professor of psychology. The median salary of a full professor with 20 years of service ranges from about $125,000 to $200,000; assistant professors might earn only half as much. Salaries of long-retired faculty are less.

"The problem is, many of us think, it is much too expensive for the majority of retirees. Thus it will open with a very small cadre of emeriti," said Hastorf.


CREEPY: More on the Stanford University Hyatt Classic Residence here , including this additional amenity:

“Apartments ...have motion sensors that can be programmed to alert staff in case of unusual inactivity .”

Monday, June 13, 2005


A group of Belgian high school students recorded one of their math teacher’s obscene rants in front of the class and put it to music. The result, The Racker Song , is currently burning up the Belgian airwaves.

' A sample of a maths teacher swearing at his class to a techno beat has become a surprise hit on Belgian radio.

One of Professor Yves De Racker's students at Karel de Grote High School in Antwerp recorded him cursing and another student created the dance mix.

The students emailed the track to friends and one of them emailed it on to the VRT youth radio station who played it on air, reports Het Nieuwsblad.

Radio presenter Peter Van de Veire dubbed it the Racker Song and said it got more reactions than a U2 gig.

He said: "We were amazed by the huge response of the listeners who thought they recognised their former teacher in the Racker Song."

Vice dean Anne Goffin said the school could not condone Prof De Racker's language in class.

However, she added: "They are all big boys and sometimes it is not easy to attract their attention. Every teacher has his own way of teaching and Professor De Racker has been in the army for a long time."

Meanwhile, Professor De Racker said he was not in the least offended by the track.

He said: "I'm very glad my students were able to make a sample like that. I don't think many colleagues can boast of having their own song."

Unfortunately, the lyrics have not yet been translated into English. When they are, UD will certainly pass them along. Meanwhile, here’s how The Racker Song sounds (click on “Final Mix”).

“In the end,” Walter Shapiro wrote, reflecting on Joe Biden’s failed 1988 presidential campaign during which he was exposed as a plagiarist, “Biden may be remembered as the candidate who truly offered the voters an echo and not a choice.”

When UD reflects on the latest case of an educational leader plagiarizing a speech , as Biden plagiarized many of his speeches during his campaign, this aspect of the phenomenon (here’s an earlier case UD wrote about) strikes her most: the plagiarist exposes him or herself as an echo -- a meager person at best, and at worst a cipher.

' But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing—nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway. '

This is Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway considering her reflection in a shop window and experiencing a sense of her own nothingness, her nonexistence. For serial plagiarists like Biden and the Florida high school principal I’m about to describe, the experience of existential dwindling is neither a sometime thing nor a source of anguish. Plagiarists seem to have made their peace with inexistence -- to have, as it were, put on for good their empty suit. They move easily in what Don DeLillo calls the “self-referring world,” a world which already speaks itself and whose script we mouth.

UD of course agrees with those who say that on the scale of human misbehavior, plagiarism must always rank very low. But the peculiar and unsettling personal degradation of plagiarism is worth noting. Its degraded nature lies in its revelation of the diminished thing that some people have concluded they are. UD regards Principal Susan Duval’s recourse to plagiarism for her speech to the graduating seniors in her Florida high school as less cynical than desperate, as in I must say something, but there’s no there there. I have no self-expressivity because I am not a self. I must therefore find another self and assume its words.

Things become yet more degraded when serial plagiarists (Ms Duval does this routinely) are cornered. ‘Asked whether a student who did the same thing would be accused of plagiarism, she told a reporter: "Was I turning this in for a grade? No.”’

Of course she was doing something more important with it than turning in a paper for a grade. She was turning to her community of students and sharing with them at a crucial moment in their lives the particular forms of wisdom she had gathered in her life. In her words, she was demonstrating the importance of the values she and her school had tried to convey to its students - autonomy, integrity, and all the rest.

Although I believe Ms. Duval’s basic motivation was desperation rather than cynicism, I also believe that she has gone a long way toward making her students cynical, not merely because of the joke she played on them, but because of the way she - like most plagiarists - has sought to deny and deflect from the moment her plagiarism was discovered.

On a lighter note, there’s this, from last March:


Anti-liberal comments came from e-mail

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., already was taking heat this week for recent comments he made to a Republican group in Elko.

But it turned out Thursday that the words weren't even his own. Gibbons issued a statement admitting that he pulled much of his text from a copyrighted speech given by the Alabama state auditor in 2003.

The Elko Daily Free Press reported that Gibbons brought a crowd to "near feverish pitch" on Friday night when he said that people who oppose the war in Iraq are "liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals."

They support abortion but fight for animal rights, he said, according to the paper's account of the evening. They're the same people who want to go to Iraq to become human shields, he said.

"I say it's just too damn bad we didn't buy them a ticket," Gibbons said.

The speech originally angered state Democrats, who stated that the comments were a personal attack against people who disagreed with the Iraq war.

"Last time Jim Gibbons said his 'communist' comment was 'taken out of context' and essentially blamed the reporter," said Jon Summers, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, in a statement. "What excuse will he use this time?"

This time, however, the text came almost word-for-word from a well-publicized speech Alabama state auditor Beth Chapman gave to a "Stand up for America" rally in 2003.
The speech, entered into the Congressional Record, generated enough buzz over the Internet that Chapman eventually wrote a book titled "The Power of Patriotism: The Speech Heard Around the World."

Gibbons used 15 paragraphs out of the 21-paragraph speech virtually word-for-word, according to the Elko Daily Free Press.

On Thursday, Gibbons' office issued a statement saying he did not intentionally plagiarize the speech. Rather, he said, he received it in an e-mail and saved the text.

"I don't remember who sent me the e-mail or when I received it exactly ... only that I found the words to be reflective of my deep concern about the morale of our troops," he said in the statement.

…The controversy comes one week after Gibbons apologized for saying on national news that people who think the government should limit how much corporations can give to a presidential inauguration are "communists." '

Sunday, June 12, 2005


UD knows that her concern with mixed metaphors in public settings is tedious and pathetic, but she cannot help herself. Like many English professors, part of her is a petty bitter grammarian…

For instance, there’s this article in today’s Denver Post that talks about the tenure system in American universities. It’s a thoughtful and useful piece, but rather than engage it on the interesting level of content, UD will simply identify its mixed metaphors. I’m sorry.

Cast by critics as academic carte blanche and a bane to progress, tenure has been challenged repeatedly since it became a pillar of American higher education in the 1940s, when it was invoked to shield professors' academic freedom from shifting political winds - and virtually guarantee lifetime employment. …[D]espite occasional high-profile conflagrations like the University of Colorado's recent Ward Churchill saga, sporadic experiments with non-tenured faculty and legislative challenges to the system, experts say tenure often percolates in public discussion but emerges essentially unscathed.”

Here you have an example of how a long muddy river of incompatible figures can muck up your writing: Tenure begins as a blank check, morphs into a pillar that people use to shield themselves from the wind, and ends up as unscathed coffee.

Some of the education officials interviewed for the article offer very nice metaphors and similes. One provost notes that for decades at her university tenure has been handed out “like dinner mints.” This is a nice figure because it picks up on the purely formal and also trivial nature of the process there.

On the other hand, no less a figure than the chair of the faculty council at CU-Denver calls tenure “just one more hurdle that we have to go through.”

Think about it. When’s the last time you went through a hurdle? Hurt, didn’t it? Next time, jump it. You go through a hoop. Here are two illustrations. The first is a pig named Nellie going through a hoop. The second is a Chocolate Lab, much like UD’s own Chocolate, going over a hurdle.
Jeez, UD Writes One Little Post
About Cornell University , And…

"Imagine for a moment an airplane that is supposed to fly from New York to the beautiful island of Bali. It can get there by flying east. Or it can get there by flying west. But even if the pilot and the co-pilot are each highly skilled, even if they have the highest regard for one another, the plane will not reach its destination if they are unable to agree about which direction to take.

Cornell University is meant to fly. Its pilot and co-pilot must agree on the strategic direction to be taken. Since I now understand that it is impossible for such an agreement to emerge as long as I am president, I have notified the Chairman of the Board, Peter Meinig, that I will step down as Cornell's eleventh president at the end of this month.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Fellow teachers: Are you capable of meeting the needs of all of your students? The needs of all of your students?

Let UD be the first to admit that she is not capable of meeting the needs of all of her students.

Let her go further. UD is capable of meeting the needs of none of her students.

UD is not a need-meeter. She is a teacher. She is capable of teaching many of her students, but she is not capable of meeting the needs of her students. Not even all of them.

One of the things UD teaches her students is how to recognize and avoid empty cliches and the empty sentiments about life they convey. A good example of such a cliché would be “meeting the needs.”

Yet crucial to an Oregon education professor’s defense of pending legislation mandating “cultural competence” of all Oregon teachers is the reiterated use of just this cliché in place of any effort to define “cultural competence.”

“The Oregon Legislature has rightly pushed for future teachers to be culturally competent, capable of meeting the needs of all of their students. ...[Cultural competency] meet[s] the needs of all our students."

The writer bangs away at this cliche - meeting the needs of all - in a short editorial piece in an Oregon newspaper where he defends the cultural competence mandate. But nowhere in what he writes does he attempt the beginning of a wisp of a hint of a definition of cultural competence, beyond assuring his readers that it guarantees all teachers will meet all of the needs of all of their students.

The writer pads out the rest of his piece with more cliches. Here is the heart of his argument for cultural competency mandates, with UD‘s parenthetical remarks:

"You can't just wish diversity didn't exist in our schools. [Remember the University of Iowa grad student defending his porn course? He used this approach too. If you oppose porn courses you’re too repressed, cowardly, hypocritical, and vindictive to handle the truth of the existence of pornography in the world. If you oppose cultural competency mandates, you can’t handle the reality of America’s diverse population.] Most of us believe that diversity is one of the core strengths of America. [The rest of us believe that the melting pot has been an unmitigated disaster. We can’t wait until everyone in America looks like Christopher Walken.] We hope we can agree that achieving cultural competence standards is a worthy goal for our teachers. Once initiated, it will take thoughtful discussion to define those standards so they best meet the needs of all our students. [Worthy goal…thoughtful discussion…]

Education is the heart and pride of our country [Heart and Pride is the name of my unsalted whipped butter.] We have always looked to schools to help people rise up out of their situations to be successful and productive citizens.

Teachers are the critical piece in that process. They need to be prepared to understand the needs of all of their students so they can design instruction that creates the greatest potential for success.

Schools of education across the country are constantly striving to adapt their programs to meet the ever-changing nature of students who enter our classrooms [Constantly str- …forget it.]. The Oregon Legislature's support and encouragement of that effort is essential."

You do not make an argument by smearing cliches over a screen. This writer thinks he’s made an argument, but all he has done is alarm UD one more time about this country’s schools of education.

Anyway, that’s pro. The newspaper also features con, a state legislator who interrupts the self-flattering pieties we have just read with realities.

Reviewing the standards and tests many other states now feature in their education policies, she notes that “Nowhere is there a mention about ‘cultural competence.’ …We don't have a definition, we don't know how to measure it, and we don't know if it will close the achievement gap. Before we require teachers to be culturally competent, we need to know what it is, how you measure it, if it is just another educational trend that will be discredited in the future, and how much it will cost.”

Friday, June 10, 2005


From Bellow: A Biography, by James Atlas:

“In its scope, its density of reference, its large cast of characters, The Adventures of Augie March consciously emulates the work of Bellow’s literary masters -- ‘the bedrock writers,’ he called them: Dickens, Balzac, Hardy, Melville, Hawthorne, ‘the Russians,’ Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, and above all Joyce. ‘Joyce was a Flaubertian to begin with,’ noted Bellow, an early and assiduous reader of Ulysses: ‘He brought to pork kidney and privies and Dublin funerals a Miltonic power of language mixing elegance with street talk, popular ditties, obscenities and advertising slogans with Homeric echoes, poetry and silliness, the high and low.’ Joyce’s capacious style became the basis of Bellow’s aesthetic credo.”

" This is what 20th-century literature can hold up to Shakespeare. This is what it can hold up to Homer. "

Peter Craven (read the whole thing)
on James Joyce's Ulysses



Profile: Dominique de Villepin

The french voted against political elites -- but their new prime minister is the most elitist yet

Outside the Matignon palace, the Paris residence of French prime ministers, an exhausted Jean-Pierre Raffarin last week took his plump leave. Raffarin, doleful of eye, was modest as he walked to the idling limousine that would whisk him to obscurity. The vanquished PM, sacked by President Chirac after France's "non" vote last Sunday, quietly acknowledged a smattering of frail cheers from aides.

Watching all this, like some buzzard circling over a high valley, was a tall, aquiline figure radiating self-satisfaction. Blessed with a silvery, luxuriant mane and a lean, muscular physique, this adonis might have been mistaken for a film actor, a protocol flunkey, or possibly a male model in one of those health-affirming adverts for French mineral water.

He rewarded Raffarin with a series of slow, overdone claps. He nodded his noble head with the condescension of a connoisseur. Dominique de Villepin, newly appointed Prime Minister by his patron, le president, was vouchsafing his adieu to expendable Jean-Pierre. In his own superior way he was getting shot of his useless predecessor and seizing the Matignon for his own.

Even by the hothouse standards of French public life, Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is an intriguing specimen, a fragrant orchid whose spell in bloom could prove brief but vivid. The Sun newspaper has certainly noticed him. It has identified him as a symbol of everything it dislikes about snooty European federalism, has nicknamed him "Vile Pin" and is attacking him daily.

De Villepin, a poet, is unlikely to be perturbed. He is a published student of Napoleon's decline and knows that no barb from a British tabloid could match Bonaparte's suffering in Elba and St Helena. Anyway, he has been a target for Anglo-Saxon abuse before. In February 2003, before the eyes of the whole world, he made a speech to the United Nations that criticised the American-led war on Iraq and patronisingly gave Dubya and Co some advice from "an old country".

This led to furious denunciations of the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and saw "French fries" being changed to "freedom fries" in the US, but it made de Villepin a national hero in the France whose destiny he claims to feel so deeply in his blue-inked veins.

As he struts the corridors of French power, de Villepin is, they say, as likely to be turning over in his premier cru mind some nugget of literature or philosophy as he is to be concentrating on the ephemeral crisis of the hour. He fancies himself as a long-game man, a man for the history books rather than the news pages.

In an echo of the philosopher-footballer Eric Cantona, he has compared Europe to a seagull and America to a shark. "The seagull," he wrote, "is intoxicated by the sky. She turns, carried by the winds, with undulating wing, uttering from time to time her agonising peal of laughter. She watches, soars, comes closer, climbs, descends, turns suddenly. The straight line is rarely her course. She listens to the world."

He collects African and Asian art, the more obscure the better. His taste is testament to the fact that he was born in French Africa (Rabat, Morocco) and that he has spent much of his life abroad, from India to Venezuela to the philistine United States of America. A mere 18 years ago this long-limbed aesthete was a press attaché at the French embassy in Washington DC, where he was reduced to venting his high-flown political theories to baffled foreign journalists.

One British columnist, who lunched with press officer de Villepin in Georgetown in the mid-1980s, recalls a gangly talker, happy to while away the time chatting to a francophone waitress. He was a languid man who then seemed a possible candidate for promotion to the middle-ambassadorial ranks, but no more than that. That he has reached his current magnificence is due, perhaps, to the elitist genius of the French government system, and to the almost comical imperturbabilty of the man himself.

The most important thing to know about him is that he is an "enarque", a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the academy that has long produced France's blazered, mandarin class. De Villepin is often described as an "aristocrat" but this son of a colonial businessman and politician is not some scion of Bourbon bloodlines or château-owning privilege. He is a member of the intellectual aristocracy of the ENA, having won and kept his place there by passing a series of fiendishly competitive exams.

Membership of the enarque club gives him supreme self-confidence (as, no doubt, do his dashing looks and that Heseltine-esque hairdo). He regards government as an intellectual, managerial puzzle, rather than a representational process. De Villepin does not belong to any political party. He has no parliamentary constituency. Unlike modern British prime ministers, he has no regular "surgery" with voters to remind him of their vulgar concerns about unemployment and so forth.

Married, with three children, the 51-year-old hobby marathon runner was plucked from the foreign ministry in 1995 to become Chirac's chief of staff. Previously he had been senior aide to the foreign minister Alain Juppé. The newly-elected President Chirac had been impressed by de Villepin's fruity eloquence, his Gallic pride, and his belief that boldness and a relish for controversy were desirable in a political leader.

This backfired badly in 1997 when he urged President Chirac to call an early election. The socialists made gains and Chirac was becalmed. And yet the president remained loyal to his fellow romantic. "In the time it takes me to read a page, he devours four," he has said of de Villepin. "He understands things at a fantastic speed. It is very rare to meet a man like him - both a poet and a very good captain of a commando squadron." De Villepin was made foreign minister in 2002 and a year later made himself an international name with his performance at the United Nations.

He has never stood for election to public office and regards elected legislators as a pain in the fondament. They, and unsatisfactory juniors, are liable to find themselves called "morons" - or worse. De Villepin has become prime minister just as the electorate has indicated its firm displeasure with the political elite, yet there is possibly no greater exponent of elitist government than this vainglorious strutter. He stands in marked contrast to his longterm enemy Nicolas Sarkozy, an assured populist who may well prove to be his rival for the presidency.

His poetry, self-published, is pretty average doggerel. Chirac's wife has nicknamed the new Prime Minister "Nero", on account of that emperor's execrable verse. In his prose, too, de Villepin favours the florid turn of phrase. Pseuds' Corner, in Private Eye, may have a significant new contributor on its hands.

Recently, in an essay on France's need for national confidence (which, note, is not quite the same thing as Euro federalism), de Villepin wrote: "Let us stop drinking from the enchanted waters of Lethe, which strike with amnesia those who want to quench their thirst, and let us dare to taste those 'fresh waters that run from the Lake of Memory' - as the words say on the golden bars of the disciples of Orpheus, that bard of metamorphosis and of ascending reincarnation."

As he stood there last week, watching Raffarin plod off to obscurity, de Villepin's thoughts may well have strayed to his own, remarkable metamorphosis from Quai D'Orsay official to proud occupant of the Matignon. This "silver wolf with the burning eyes" may in many ways be a richly ludicrous figure, but he is unlikely to leave as little impression as his unfortunate predecessor.”

Whenever UD takes her eye off of the public university system in Florida, even for a second, all hell breaks loose. She won’t even mention the Sami al-Arian business. You don’t need to check a blog for updates on that one. But at the same university that hired al-Arian, you’ve now got the unseemly spectacle of a couple of political science professors coming to blows after a faculty meeting.

This is one of those he said/he said stories:

Police Report Filed
Against Professor
by Colleague

A government and international affairs professor filed an assault and battery complaint with University Police, claiming that a heated argument with a departmental colleague escalated into a physical altercation. …Michael Gibbons filed a complaint against Harry Vanden on April 29, claiming Vanden "shoved up against him" in an intimidating manner following a departmental meeting on April 22. …Gibbons' …account is disputed by Vanden, according to department chair Mohsen Milani, who was present when Gibbons and Vanden exchanged harsh words, but said he had his back to the pair when the disputed incident occurred. Milani said that when he later asked Vanden about Gibbons' complaint, Vanden denied that any physical contact took place. "(Vanden) told me straight to my face he did not do it," Milani said.

…The chain of events started after a departmental meeting during which Vanden interrupted Gibbons several times. Gibbons asked Vanden to stop interrupting and asked Milani to intervene; both requests, according to Gibbons' statement, were not acknowledged. After the meeting, Gibbons, Johnston and Milani met and were in discussion in the entrance of Johnston's office when Vanden approached the group. According to Gibbons' statement, Vanden tried to interrupt the meeting by telling Milani that it was late and he should probably leave. Gibbons responded by telling Vanden that he should cease his attempts to interrupt a meeting he was not a part of.

"At that point, Dr. Vanden shoved up against me with such force that I had to shift my feet to keep from being knocked over. He positioned his face within six inches of mine and said in a venomous and threatening tone, 'I will take you down.' I responded to Dr. Vanden, saying that his physical assault would not silence me," Gibbons said in his written account. …Gibbons said he was aware of Vanden's proficiency in martial arts , which "combined with the threatening statement made by Mr. Vanden, created fear in Mr. Gibbons that the potential for greater harm existed." …Gibbons' accounts also state that after the altercation he asked Milani what he was going to do about the incident, to which Milani responded that he did not see the interaction. When Gibbons pressed him further, Milani said he was not the "department's policeman." Even though Gibbons told Milani that he would have to give a witness account of the incident, Milani insisted that he was so "rattled by events at the meeting, he did not notice what happened one way or the other," according to Gibbons' statement.

Due to Gibbons' complaint, Guilford formed a committee to "investigate misconduct in the workplace." Guilford said that Milani is on the list of witnesses to be interviewed in the investigation by his appointed committee. The first meeting for the committee, which Guilford characterized as a fact-finding body, is today. The committee is charged with interviewing everyone involved, as well as all possible witnesses. Guilford, who formed the committee after he was sure the incident was no longer a criminal investigation, stressed that it is a civil investigation. …Although Gibbons decided not to press charges, he has kept the option to do so at a later date, the police report states. ..Milani said the dispute was not typical of the working atmosphere in his department. "There has not been a single grievance in the past seven years that I have been chair," Milani said. "This gives a very wrong impression of what our department is like.”

What actually happened here? We won’t get very far following the actions and statements of Mr. “I’m not the department’s policeman,” a man so “rattled” by a faculty meeting that he refused afterwards to notice a loud fight right in front of his eyes…. Vanden’s statement that “I will take you down,” combined with his background in martial arts, is interesting, however. UD consulted Ask the Sensei: Questions Sent to the Judo Information Site,” to find out how the term “takedown” is used:

' Q I … want to learn a certain judo takedown that has been utilized in rubgy in recent years to tackle opponents and place the ball on your team’s side. I don't know if I will have any luck. Have you heard of this "rugby/judo takedown"? And if so do you know what the name of it is?

A There are many Judo techniques that could be used successfully in rugby. Here is an answer from Iain Cunningham, 1st Dan (BJA) & Wing Forward (Jaguar RFC 1st XV):
"I would suggest that Mr Lawson wishes to learn a variation of Sumi-Otoshi, since when a player is driving at someone while holding the ball they will tend to lower their head and shoulders into a position similar to that exhibited by someone who has just had their Uchi-Mata attack side-stepped. They are then very vulnerable to the technique as they run past a suitably experienced rugby player. The momentum of the take-down can then be used to ensure that the tackler rolls the ball carrier into a position where the tackler's team is able to get a turn-over. Yours in Judo." '

Voila les combattants:

Professor Vanden.
Professor Gibbons .

Franchement, not much to choose from. Colin McGinn, nearby at the University of Miami, would have made this more interesting.

The other story comes from the virtually moribund Florida A & M University, where the latest scandal involves endowing a chair and then filling it yourself and then never showing up for work and then taking one hundred thousand dollars a year in salary and twenty-five thousand in benefits. That was a run-on sentence, but bad things at FAMU do run on.

‘ [A] donor, Kentucky lawyer Shirley Cunningham Jr., appeared to have received a law-school salary without teaching, part of a deal for him to award a $1 million gift to the college…‘It is not customary for someone to make a donation to an institution . . . and present conditions of employment as a condition for it,’ [an administrator] said.…Recent reports in the St. Petersburg Times and the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader said Cunningham received $100,000, plus $25,000 in benefits as part of the donation deal. Cunningham disputed those figures, however, and said he planned to release his own accounting of it….At the time of the donation, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the first professor to fill Cunningham's endowed chair was "likely to be Cunningham himself." ...Bryant said Cunningham's work -- or lack of it -- for FAMU came to light in a payroll audit she pushed as part of a larger review of spending and finances on campus.’

Why do they do it, you want to know? Why would a guy who already has plenty of money do something like this? Some people really like to hear themselves called "professor."

Thursday, June 09, 2005


…why isn’t Cornell University embarrassed by Mary Tabacchi, Professor of Spa Education? Isn’t Cornell an Ivy League University? Don’t they find being associated with hucksters a problem?

Cornell Professor Identifies Positive Effects
of Destination Spa Experience on Interpersonal Skills

Thursday May 26, 7:03 pm ET
ITHACA, N.Y., May 26 /PRNewswire/ --

A recent study completed by Professor Mary H. Tabacchi of Cornell University has revealed that the secret to creating better relationships and leading a more balanced and productive life may be learned at a destination spa.

One of the key findings in the study is that respondents felt more connected to family, friends and work associates after a stay at a destination spa. Essential to developing healthy relationships is self-awareness. Destination spas foster contemplation, meditation and self analysis. As a result, destination spa-goers reported feeling a much greater understanding of themselves following a spa vacation and ultimately more connected with others.

Another finding of this study was that destination spa-goers feel more cared for by family, friends and colleagues after a destination spa vacation, which may contribute to better relationships and higher self-confidence. The respondents also reported that their family and friends saw a definite positive change in them.

Better understanding of oneself can also help people discover ways to live with greater balance and higher productivity. The study has also shown that destination spa vacations provide guests with increased focus and creativity in the workplace as well as increased levels of energy and endurance in everyday activities.

"It would appear that a destination spa vacation encourages positive interactions that have a 'halo' effect which surrounds and influences the person's relationships, work associations and social life," says Tabacchi.

Professor Tabacchi, PhD, RD, of Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and the Center for Survey Research, conducted the study -- the first to quantitatively measure the effects of a destination spa vacation.

Respondents were randomly chosen from the guest list of 25 destination spas who are members of the Destination Spa Group (DSG). Five hundred completed surveys were obtained from these guests and compared to a list of 500 randomly selected individuals who had not attended a destination spa but who had taken at least one vacation in the past 12 months.

A destination spa is defined as an environment that is dedicated to providing access to and educating people about the benefits of physical activity, nutritious eating, mind-body connections and therapeutic advantages of massage and body treatments. DSG is an organization of destination spa owners dedicated to educating the public about destination spas. Member spas must meet specific criteria for membership and be committed to providing a health renewing experience. A Destination Spa Vacations guide listing member spas with photographs and pricing information can be obtained by calling ...

This pseudo-science intends to lure idiots who don’t understand empirical method into expensive spas. Universities are supposed to understand the difference between research and advertising.
' College Covers Up Summers’ Bad News in Brochure

Harvard Crimson

It was a semester of bad headlines for University President Lawrence H. Summers, but nothing a little Photoshop couldn’t fix.

The new edition of the Harvard College viewbook, the official brochure sent to prospective applicants around the world, features a doctored photo of The Harvard Crimson’s March 9, 2005 front page. The top headline of the day, “Summers To Face No Confidence Vote,” was replaced by an illegible block of text.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 was taken aback when he was first told of the altered photo last week by a Crimson reporter.

“I’m every bit as surprised as you,” he said. “Obviously it’s sitting here with a Harvard Crimson masthead and [the replaced headline] would be, you know, pretty obvious to anyone who’s connected to The Crimson or anybody who is an undergraduate really.”

Fitzsimmons later confirmed that someone involved with the production of the viewbook had decided to remove the headline, and reiterated that he was surprised by the inclusion of the peculiar photo.

“It’s a mistake, and it should not have happened. And it won’t happen again,” Fitzsimmons said.

Between 135,000 and 150,000 copies of the viewbook have already been printed, Fitzsimmons said. He said the photo will be replaced in future editions.

The viewbook is jointly produced with Boston-based communications firm Sametz Blackstone Associates. Sametz has worked with the admissions office for several years, according to Fitzsimmons.

“We were asked to make that change,” Michael Eads, director of production for the viewbook at Sametz, said last week. Eads declined to elaborate and did not respond to further requests for comment.

The photo appears next to a listing of extracurricular activities on page 24 of the viewbook. Byerly Hall had hoped to include a photo of The Crimson’s newsroom but could not make proper arrangements to do so, Fitzsimmons said. The photograph of students examining the front page was then substituted, but the troublesome headline went unnoticed until close to deadline, according to the dean.

Fitzsimmons said that he has since been told that the decision to run the doctored photo was a collaborative one, made under deadline pressure.

“It was really a joint decision by Byerly and by Sametz to make the change. The responsibility really does lie in both places,” Fitzsimmons said.

“What they should have done is either not included the picture or taken another picture,” he added. '


UD tracked down Eads and got him to talk:

“We were going to use another picture. Harvard asked us to get rid of the headline and replace it with photos that show Harvard supports women in science. We found three great photos and could’ve run with any of them, but there were copyright problems.”

"The daily show newspaper put out by Publisher's Weekly [for Book Expo America] carried the wry headline Oprah: America's English Professor."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dr. Clara Greed

…is very degreed. She lists, after her “Dr” title and her name,


That’s one title, one name, and four degrees.

Although UD doesn’t recognize anything here but the Ph.D., she is willing to be impressed. She is also willing to entertain the possibility that Dr. Greed’s bailiwick, Toilets Around the World and What They are Trying to Tell Us, constitutes a useful academic pursuit. Greed’s heavy-on-the-theory book on toilet design has chapters with titles like “Conceptualising the Problem.” The language on the book’s jacket offers some inadvertent amusement:

“Although a range of design guidance on toilets exists, there is still considerable dissatisfaction with the end product.”

The language also sometimes takes itself too seriously:

“It is essential for architects to have an informed understanding and practical knowledge of toilet issues.”

It seems to UD that if you want to devote your life to the analysis of toilets, you need both a sense of humor and a thick skin. But here is Dr. Greed’s response to some ridicule in The New Criterion of an upcoming conference on gendered toilets:

Why do you see public toilets as a joke? In the West toilets are a national disgrace, in the Far East there has been a restroom revolution and public toilets are seen as an essential and integral component of good urban design and a cultured, civilised society. A nation can be judged by its toilets.

Are you afraid of admitting your corporeal humanity, and not just a cultured brain? Is this why it is distasteful? Everyone's got to go, so why the shame.

Professor Clara Greed
University of the West of England, Bristol

UD acknowledges that it’s somewhat immature to treat toilets as a joke but on the other hand, she is getting a bit tired of the old You’re afraid of your body business (see UD’s recent entry - scroll down - on the porn class at the University of Iowa for the same maneuver) whenever anyone questions the intellectual centrality of things like pornography and toilets. If you scoff even a little you must be terrified of your humanity.

“Is that why it is distasteful?” Dr. Greed wants to know. No, toilets are not in themselves distasteful. Cultural studies scholars huddled in a room for two days talking about toilets is distasteful.

Beyond distasteful -- indeed, practically a form of hate speech, for which I hope the University of the West of England can offer some form of diversity retooling -- is Dr. Greed’s contention that “In the West toilets are a national disgrace.” As an American, I find this pretty offensive. It seems to me that just in my lifetime the standard of public toilets in this country has improved significantly. Maybe I’m just being a defensive patriot, but I really don’t take to this sort of gross generalization when it comes to a country that, with all its faults, is, I think, worthy of our allegiance.

And as for the Far East and its much-vaunted “Restroom Revolution,” big deal. You can have it is all I can say.

The Washington Post

[With thanks to a number of readers who forwarded this to UD.]

' Pure and simple, tuition at a private college runs, on average, nearly $28,000 a year. If parents pay that much, they expect nothing less than A's in return. "Therefore, if the teacher gives you a B, that's not acceptable," says Levine, "because the teacher works for you. I expect A's, and if I'm getting B's, I'm not getting my money's worth."

Rojstaczer agrees: "We've made a transition where attending college is no longer a privilege and an honor; instead college is a consumer product. One of the negative aspects of this transition is that the role of a college-level teacher has been transformed into that of a service employee."

Who could have predicted that the first nail in the coffin of mandated cultural competency tests and disposition requirements in the American university would come not from the right, but from the very heart of the left?

Heedless of the damage his words may inflict on diversity sensitivity programs all over the country, Timothy Shortell (who has now “declined the election” as chair of the sociology department at Brooklyn College after his published statements calling religious people “moral retards” made people question whether he can treat non-atheists fairly) writes the following in his own defense:

“What most commentators seem to forget is the nature of professional ethics. I don’t worry when I visit my dentist, for example, that I am going to receive substandard care because he is a conservative Republican and I am not. I trust that he is a professional and when he is wearing his dentist’s hat, as it were, he treats his patients to the best of his ability. When he is off-duty, sitting in an overstuffed chair at the country club, let’s say, he is free to criticize my left-wing views and even insult me if he chooses. …

It is a mistake to believe that simply because I have expressed my political views as a private citizen that I am unable to treat people fairly in my professional role. Any public university is going to attract a great deal of diversity. Indeed that is one of the things I enjoy most about Brooklyn College. I work all the time with people who are different from me in almost every way. There has never been any trouble. I treat people with respect and they reciprocate. That is how we all get along despite our differences. … Just like any competent adult, I can switch roles when necessary. I know when I am playing the role of political actor and when I am playing the role of teacher.”

Note Shortell’s insouciance about his ability to switch roles between public and private, on-duty and off-duty, teacher and political actor, hat on and hat off. The man clearly believes he can be a competent teacher in a diverse pedagogical and collegial setting without any formal training in respect for others.

It’s a serious blow to institutionalized diversitarianism when a high-profile man of the left acknowledges that any competent adult can do what multi-million dollar diversity initiatives insist he cannot do.

Of course UD agrees with Shortell. Diversity training is an insult and a waste because competent adults are competent adults. UD does not doubt that despite his intemperate views about anyone with an inkling of interest in non-material matters Shortell is perfectly able to teach responsibly. And she respects the right of sociology faculty at Brooklyn College to vote as they wish for chair. She does not think Shortell should have been forced to resign.

She also believes, however, that, in a democracy, bigots like Timothy Shortell are fair game.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Barbara McMahon in Rome
Tuesday June 7, 2005

For some Italian academics, this was the last straw.

Standing on the podium at the Italian grand prix, the world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi, proudly wore a mortarboard, emblazoned with a sponsor's logo.

Having just been awarded an honorary university degree, the 26-year-old felt entitled to put on his new hat last weekend.

But the decision - and the prominently displayed emblem - led yesterday to demands for an end to the liberal distribution of honorary awards, which, critics say, have been completely devalued.

The novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco has 33 degrees, including a recent one for architecture.

An Italian who invented a popular children's game and the owner of the Valleverde shoe range are also among new honoraries.

Over the years pop stars, cartoonists, sports personalities and actors as well as academics have been honoured.

The actor Roberto Benigni, for example, is a doctor of letters at Bologna University, the musician Ennio Morricone has received a degree from Rome's Vergata University and Allegra Agnelli of the Fiat family was given an honorary degree in veterinary studies from Turin University for "having constantly offered refuge and protection to animals in need". The late John Paul II had 11 honorary degrees.

In the past month, 23 have been awarded to recipients such as Rossi.

Doubts have also been expressed by Giovanni Puglisi, rector of Ilum Milan University, who conferred an honorary degree on the singer Vasco Rossi.

At the time he defended the choice in the university debating chamber, saying: "Nobody gave degrees to Oscar Wilde or Pasolini or Edith Piaf in their time; the university must anticipate the recognition of merit."

But he has now floated the idea of placing a limit on the number of honorary degrees handed out.

The origin of the honorary degree dates back to 1478, when Oxford University awarded Lionel Woodville, the dean of Exeter and brother-in-law to Edward IV, an honorary degree.

The commentator Stefano Bartezzaghi, writing in La Repubblica, said handing out an honorary degree in Italy nowadays had about as much value as "giving them a cigar."

He said it was simply a way for universities to get publicity, and he added: "Even a donkey can become a doctor these days."

The chancellor of Urbino University, Giovanni Bugliolo, defended the decision to award the motorcycling champion a degree. "With Valentino we gave the students a very good role model, someone who has worked hard and has been successful
." ‘


The good news is that Fabio, the Italian model, has gotten in just under the wire. Next month, he will be awarded an honorary degree from the University of Trieste, based, in the words of Trieste’s chancellor, on

Fabio’s contributions to world literature. Fabio is best known for his appearances on the covers of such novels as Awaken My Fire , but he has also made a point throughout his career of promoting literary classics like The Tempest and the Homeric Across A Wine Dark Sea.

(AP) - Sen. John F. Kerry's grade average at Yale University was virtually identical to President Bush's record there, despite repeated portrayals of Kerry as the more intellectual candidate during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Kerry had a cumulative average of 76 and got four Ds his freshman year - in geology, two history courses and political science, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

His grades improved with time, and he averaged an 81 his senior year and earned an 89 - his highest grade - in political science as a senior.

"I always told my dad that D stood for distinction," Kerry said in a written response to reporters' questions. He said he has previously acknowledged focusing more on learning to fly than studying.

Under Yale's grading system in effect at the time, grades between 90 and 100 equaled an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, 60 to 69 a D, and anything below that was a failing grade.

In 1999, The New Yorker magazine published a transcript showing Bush had a cumulative grade average of 77 his first three years at Yale, and a similar average under a non-numerical rating system his senior year.

Bush's highest grade at Yale was an 88 in anthropology, history and philosophy. He received one D in his four years, a 69 in astronomy, and improved his grades after his freshman year, the transcript showed.

Kerry, a Democrat, previously declined to release the transcript, which was included in his Navy records. He gave the Navy permission to release the documents last month, the Globe reported.

Kerry graduated from Yale in 1966, Bush in 1968.

! A Bas ! Update: You don't have to like him to realize he was on to something before the transcripts were released:

"There's no denying that he's ponderous. And he's pompous in a way that Gore is not. With Gore, you feel that if he could choose, he would have been born poor and cool. Kerry radiates the feeling that he is entitled to his sense of entitlement. Probably that comes from spending too much time with Teddy Kennedy, but it's a problem.

The TV camera is an x-ray for picking up attitudinal truths, and Kerry's lantern jaw and Addams Family face somehow reinforce the message that this guy has passed from ponderous to pompous and is so accustomed to privilege that he doesn't have to worry about looking goofy. It's as if Lurch had gone to Choate.

Recently, a lot of campaign reporters were writing that Kerry is altering his "populist" message and moving to the centre. If John Kerry was ever a populist, George W Bush is a Rhodes scholar. Here's what Kerry has to face up to and build upon. The difference between him and Bush is that Kerry represents the liberal, charitable wing of the Privilege party and George W represents the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party."

Howell Raines, Guardian

“I still remember how as an undergraduate in the US, I was always baffled by political scientists who would ridicule Soviet academic scholarship as lacking ‘independence’ due to its being beholden to an agenda set and funded by the Soviet state, while being proud of their own scholarship and discipline, which was hardly ‘independent’ of US government funding as well as funding from the private sector which most often drove US state interests.”

There's a whole series of these.

Thanks to JW for the tip.

UD is, however, funnier on the subject.

Monday, June 06, 2005

James Lileks,
Minneapolis Star Tribune

The governor has declined to name a state poet laureate. A wise idea, I think. Shelley once wrote that poets "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," and frankly we have enough trouble with the acknowledged ones. If the state poet doesn't demand a special session to finish his epic poem "Stassen Unbound" he will be tiresomely political: "I think that I shall never see / a tax not called a user fee."

People will still be free to make poems as they desire, but I don't think the state will suffer because custom doggerel does not spring from a standardized source. Besides, it opens up the contentious issue of what poetry should be. There are two schools. Old style:

A poem must have a discernible meter.
Iambic, trochaic -- metrical feet are
A critical aspect of poems throughout time.
Why, you might as well say that they don't need to rhyme.

Now that's what most people call poetry. It makes sense and you can pound it out with your fist on the table. Then there's the New School, which just drifts like cottonwood:

I think a poem
Should hang
On the page like an apple
To fall into your
Just like Isaac Newton's revelation
But with arbitrary
Line breaks and an absence of
Except for emphasis.

Most people suspect that an Official State Poet would be an adherent of the latter school. Most people regard that sort of poetry as extra-snooty stuff whose pretension is equaled only by its narcissism -- and has little use in the daily life of the state. No one ever turns the car around halfway to the picnic because you forgot to pack the sliced sonnets in sauce.

Doesn't mean poetry is useless or lacks intrinsic merit -- but people no longer pretend to laud the poet or his craft. The Poet was once the man who wrestled with the Olympian concepts and brought them down to Earth mortal-sized morsels for the Saturday Evening Post. Poetry was the expression of truth and/or beauty professed through the rigors of language and form. When poetry meant Kipling, it had a certain valor and heft in the public mind. Now, that was a poem. By God it rhymed and you could march to it. Then came the new poets who shed the old styles as a useless encrustation of the old dead past, and they lost their claim on the popular mind. Now poetry was seen as a way to detail the author's tormented, neurotic, indecisive inner life -- by means of gassy exhalations devoid of form or discipline. I should know; I wrote miles of that stuff in college.

But even when the concept of The Poet had respect, there were only a few who were permitted to be public poets without ridicule. Sandburg and Frost, that's about it. Whose woods are these? I think I know. They go to Chicago, where big shoulders come in on cat's feet. Otherwise, poets were generally regarded with condescending tolerance. It wasn't something a grown-up did. It was the work of girlie men who looked like Leslie Howard and appeared in women's movies making those sad smiles that bespoke a Tragic Past. A bout with tuberculosis. Love lost in Paris. A critical drubbing of his first volume, "Broken Dove Wings."

James Lileks is absolutely right that the governor made the right call, but he’s wrong about the sort of poet that turns up as laureate. Recall UD’s recent post on the Kooserization of American poetry. Of our national laureate the New Criterion’s astute poetry critic has written that Ted Kooser “stands for a foursquare, hidebound American provincialism that, by gum, has every right to write poems and, by golly, means to write them, too. His poems tend to be short, dying for air, afraid to do more than tell you what happened on the porch, or right out the window, or maybe, just once, down the block. …There’s nothing awful about a poem that ends in mystic nothingness (at times you feel Kooser practices a kind of prairie zen), slathered with sentiment like corn on the cob with butter, but, to outdo it, the next poet off the farm will have to write in grunts.”

Eighteen minutes ago, this story jumped from the Florida papers to MSNBC, and though UD doesn’t usually bother with criminal professor stories (there are always a few professors who get caught selling drugs on the side and that sort of thing), this one has intriguing elements.

An anatomy professor at a community college “asked his students to write their names and Social Security numbers on a sign-in sheet, students said. ‘We all signed it,’ Amanda Bracewell said. ‘We figured, He’s a teacher, what is he going to do with it?”’

Answer: Steal the numbers and use his students’ credit:

"The investigation started when a student who lost her wallet contacted the credit reporting company Equifax and asked them to monitor her credit. When someone applied for credit in her name, she mentioned this to other students in Slosberg's class. It wasn't immediately clear if she knew Slosberg was a suspect in the case, Rodgers said.

On March 15, according to a Sheriff's Office report, a student, whose name was not available, was notified that someone tried to use her name and Social Security number to obtain credit cards. She was given the name and address of the person who applied for the credit cards and recognized the name as her Anatomy and Physiology II professor.

On April 25, the Winter Haven Police Department was contacted by another alleged victim.

She told them that a former classmate of hers called to tell her about being the victim of identity theft by Slosberg. The victim checked with several major credit companies and found out that a charge account using her name and Slosberg's address had been opened at Eddie Bauer, and $600 in charges had been made, according to a Winter Haven police report.

On May 1, another student said that she was contacted by Macy's Department store and was told that someone had used her name and Social Security number on a credit application. The address on the application was Slosberg's, according to a sheriff's report

Slosberg and his girlfriend are now under arrest (“The Sheriff's Office retrieved 40 pieces of mail intended for delivery to Slosberg's house in one day. The mail was addressed to 17 different names, according to a sheriff's report."), and the practice of using social security numbers as student i.d. numbers has been discontinued at the college… But one element of this story is especially striking to UD:

"Slosberg taught Anatomy/Physiology II in the fall at PCC, the only class he ever taught at the college. He was a popular teacher with some students, but half the class signed a petition to have him fired because they didn't like his teaching style, student Amanda Bracewell said."

UD is often struck by the fact that no matter how bad the bad apples among American professors may be, there are always some students in their classes who think they’re great. Here half the class signs a petition asking that a professor - teaching his first course at Polk that semester - be fired. These students clearly saw something problematic in the teaching style of a person whose main mode of interaction with them was sizing them up as objects of larceny. And yet even he had his cheering section.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer’s response to the response of faculty and other observers around the country to the creepy diversity draft his “70-person work group” came up with …

Wait a minute.

Seventy persons??

It’s like that scene in Wayne’s World when the slick radio producer takes Wayne and Garth out to dinner and puts this too-good-to-be-true contract in front of them to sign and Garth suddenly looks at the camera and says “Wait a minute… Does this seem weird to you?”

This seems weird to me. A “70-person work group.” Seventy is a lot.

(And - a small point, but - what is a work group? When I Google “work group” I get nothing. Google thinks I mean “working group,” which may be what this newspaper means (I don’t know whether the U. of O. called the group of seventy a work group). The only context I find for “work group” is that of chain gangs. In an article in Slate, a writer reviews Justice Scalia’s comments in a case involving mistreatment of a prisoner working on a chain gang. Scalia reminds counsel that the prison’s policy was to leave prisoners tied to a post "only until they are ready to go back to the work group.")

Anyway, Frohnmayer “is in the process of appointing an executive working group of eight to ten people to conduct [a] review this summer.” “Working group” is more like it, and it’s encouraging that the university has put ten to work on this instead of seventy. But - does this seem weird to you? The working group will review the draft…the draft which was, dammit, just a draft, as Frohnmayer keeps saying in the article:

“What is it you [critics of the plan] don't understand about the word 'draft?’”

Nothing! I understand the word “draft.” But if your institution has produced a draft document that in its extremism has become a national scandal, maybe instead of appointing a committee to review the draft, which will merely delay diversity efforts (“Appointing the executive working group to review the plan and recommend changes will slow the process, Frohnmayer said, but given the response to the original draft he said it's clear that more time is needed.”) you could do what people often do with bad drafts. You could throw it away.

Frohnmayer likes the language of the draft, however, especially the phrase that got everybody so angry, “cultural competency”:

' Cultural competency, Frohnmayer said, is a straightforward concept.

"To me it means that we are able to effectively reach all of the students who have demonstrated their competence to be in the university but for whom, because of cultural background, traditional techniques of teaching may not be as effective as others," he said. "A good teacher is always open, I hope, to ways to increase teaching effectiveness."

Does this seem weird to you? If it’s a straightforward concept, why does Frohnmayer talk about it in a circuitous way?

For instance, I thought “cultural competence” referred to professors, who would, under this plan, be tested on their cultural competence before being promoted. Yet as Frohnmayer now defines it, cultural competency seems to refer to the difficulty some students may have being competent in the traditional classroom.

As far as professors go, Frohnmayer seems to be describing not their cultural competency but their pedagogical competency -- their ability to perceive what sorts of students they have and pitch their instruction accordingly.
UD highlights the obscene material...

in this all-over-the-news story, and comments in brackets.

Porn Class Exciting Students, Arousing Politicians' Ire
[Things like porn classes produce the sort of bad puns that depress UD terribly.]

University of Iowa's 'Critical Pornography Studies' has a growing waiting list. [The words “critical” and “studies” shine a wholly undeserved noble light upon this bogus subject….Which isn’t a bogus subject in itself, actually, but will be in the hands of a graduate student at Iowa pandering to cornfed pubescents.]

Students at the University of Iowa are lining up for what promises to be a stimulating educational experience. [See what I mean about the puns?]

Upper-level communication studies [communication studies is notorious for pop culture gut courses like this one] course "Critical Pornography Studies" will focus on the role of pornography in pop culture, according to Jay Clarkson, the graduate student spearheading [I know this isn’t meant as a pun, but it’s the only one with possibilities so far] the class. Students will tackle topics like the history of obscenity, attempts to legislate pornography, the feminist debate over porn, and porn's prevalence in the media and U.S. culture.

Clarkson stressed the class is more about research than pornography itself — so don't look for any XXX-rated videos, ahem, popping up in the course. "We will not be viewing X-rated materials in class, nor will the assignments require that students purchase pornographic materials [How will they get hold of them then?]."

Students looking for an easy A or a cheap thrill need not apply, he said [If you’re looking for easy A’s, don’t take a course on porn taught by a grad student in communication studies - take an upper-level physics course.]. "The course is going to be quite difficult. There will be a lot of reading involved, and students will be required to deal with a very diverse set of perspectives."

The one-time course is part of a larger "Topics in Communication" curriculum that explores different subjects every semester. Clarkson, who is finishing up a dissertation on media studies and gender/sexuality, proposed the course to the faculty.

Not surprisingly, enrollment has already hit its maximum capacity of 20 students, and yes, there is a growing waiting list. "Many of my former students have expressed interest in the class, despite my reassurance that there won't be any [actual] porn in it," he said.

Clarkson said he has received "complete support" from the university. "I think it would be quite difficult to justify ignoring a media industry that makes more money than televised sports and has such a large impact on society," he said. Researchers estimate that the porn industry generates more than $12 billion in the U.S. and $57 billion worldwide each year. [This is Part I of the two-part perennial defense of bogus pop culture courses: It makes so much money. Part II (see below) is: It exists. And only a coward living in bad faith would ignore something that generates large sums of money and exists…. But then why not study the history of the Catholic church? It meets these criteria. And it is certainly part of popular culture -- millions and millions of Americans are Catholics...]

However, not everyone has been so keen on the idea. Iowa House Speaker Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) told The Associated Press he is against spending taxpayer dollars on the elective.

"Don't they know we're not done with their budget yet? I'm pretty sure we don't need to increase state funding by $40 million to teach 'Critical Pornography Studies,'" Rants said.

[To further depress UD, these stories always feature an outraged legislator, though few of them feature legislators with wonderful names like Rants. It’s depressing not because states reasonably enough don’t want to subsidize stupid courses, but because politicians are always prancing about with a sort of phony indignation. Sex as a serious subject very much belongs in college.]

Clarkson said the speaker's opposition to discussing porn in a public forum is one of the main reasons the course is so important. "I really wish he had contacted me to find out about the course or even read the course description more carefully," he said. "Pornography exists [There‘s Part II of the defense.], and merely dismissing it won't make it go away [Here‘s where, as in so many things, we have to thank psychology. If a person doesn‘t want to take or subsidize a dumb course on porn, that means he‘s in denial. He‘s repressing. His fear of sex is all too evident. He wants porn to go away. He’s afraid of his own body.]. It is important, in my opinion, to encourage students to think about (something in a way) that is both critical and informed. Isn't that what college is for?"

Ah to be sure it’s making old UD nostalgic for Philip Sipiora...

Allow her to quote from an earlier post:

University of South Florida English professor Phillip Sipiora offers a summer course devoted to "Rogue Filmmakers."

The word “rogue” in the course title is a come-on (the directors listed are almost all mainstream), as is the titillating “Forewarning“ (pretentious people use this redundant word -- “warning“ is all you need) Professor Sipiora includes on his syllabus:

"FOREWARNING: Some of the films we will view contain graphic language, violence, and sexual behavior. If explicit works offend you, please investigate the film list to see whether this course suits you or not. A serious interest in film and an open mind are absolute prerequisites for this course."

Note how this ominous forewarning equates any form of squeamishness about filmed images with having a closed mind and a lack of seriousness. Getting college credit for spending the summer watching violent sexual films is a mark of seriousness; harboring moral qualms about the activity is a mark of triviality and close-mindedness.

In an essay about uniformity of thought in academia, Mark Bauerlein cites the “law of group polarization”:

That law, as Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of political science and of jurisprudence at the University of Chicago, has described, predicts that when like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs.

Here’s an example of the law of group polarization:

In January, Dr. Summers ignited a firestorm when he suggested that "intrinsic aptitude" could be one reason that there are few women in science and engineering. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences in March passed a resolution expressing a lack of confidence in Dr. Summers's leadership.

That’s how it plays out in a polarized group. This is how it looks in a more broadly distributed one:

A majority of Harvard alumni believe that the university's president, Lawrence H. Summers, has done a good job over all and should not resign, according to a poll conducted for a new independent alumni magazine.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents [in a recent poll], or 63 percent, said Dr. Summers should keep his job, and just over one-half had a favorable impression of him and said he was a victim of political correctness.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Get a load of all these stories about the Polish plumber and how he’s destroying the European Union! This “iconic figure” (it takes only a twenty-four hour news cycle these days to become iconic) is all over the world’s media - the plombier polonais with his cheap efficient labor’s going to come to France and put the French plumbers out of business…

Elaine Sciolino in the New York Times is absolutely right to talk about France’s “fear of the mythical ‘Polish plumber.’” UD has been around Poles for twenty-five years and she can confirm that the Polish plumber does not exist.

This is what Polish men look like (note sensitive reclining position). This is what a Polish plumber, if there were such a thing, would look like.

Poles are tall blond cultured people who speak French. Many of them are entitled, in certain countries, to call themselves “Count.” They are philosophers and mathematicians and pianists and sculptors.

They work hard, yes, but never with their hands.

“The great liberal ideas that swept through our universities when I was a student at Berkeley in the 1960s have long ago been digested and largely embraced in academia. Liberalism has triumphed.”

Friday, June 03, 2005

What’s Up With That?

…is one of the more obnoxious phrases UD’s fourteen-year-old spawn uses when chatting with her friends, but when UD considers books like The Ultimate Rule of Law, by David M. Beatty , that’s exactly what goes through her mind --- What’s up with that?

The book has 188 pages of writing.

It costs eighty dollars.

For ten dollars, you could copy the book out page by page at Kinko’s.

What’s up with that?

UD and an Albanian visiting professor at GW are doing an independent study this summer on the novel Chronicle in Stone, by the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare. Vana is writing an essay on the historical and social background of the novel in order to make the book more accessible to English-speaking audiences.

Naturally, before she started reading the novel and having long lunches with Vana, UD knew nothing much about Albania beyond its tragic and farcical Marxist years. She was surprised by how spectacularly good the novel was - a modernist montage in form, but grounded in the surreal realities of World War I and II Albanian life - and she found herself getting quite enthusiastic about the project of making Kadare better known. He was every bit as good as better known writers who do similar things in novels like The Ogre (Michel Tournier), The Tin Drum (Gunther Grass) and Shame (Salman Rushdie).

UD just got an email from Vana with the following article attached:

London — Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare won the first-ever international version of Britain's prestigious Man Booker literary prize Friday, beating the likes of Canadian Margaret Atwood.

Kadare, 69, fled his homeland and won political asylum in France in 1990, only a few months before Albania's communist regime ended. Before that, his French publisher, Editions Fayard, smuggled his work out of Albania, the prize committee said.

“Ismail Kadare is a writer who maps a whole culture -- its history, its passion, its folklore, its politics, its disasters,” said John Carey, chairman of the judging committee. “He is a universal writer in a tradition of storytelling that goes back to Homer.”

Kadare said he hoped the prize, given for his body of work, would give the world a different perspective on the tiny Balkan country and its neighbours.

“I am a writer from the Balkan fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness -- armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on,” he said.

“My firm hope is that European and world opinion may henceforth realize that this region ... can also give rise to other kinds of news and be the home of other kinds of achievement, in the field of the arts, literature and civilization,” he said.

Kadare, who writes both poetry and prose, became well known in his homeland with the 1963 publication of his first novel, The General of the Dead Army. Among his other works are The Three Arched Bridge, The Concert, and The Palace of Dreams.

The Man Booker International Prize, the creation of which was announced last year, is open to authors of all nationalities whose work has been either written or translated widely into English.

The $109,000 (U.S.) prize will be awarded for a body of work every two years.

The existing annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded for a single work, and is open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

Among the 18 finalists for the international prize announced in February were Nobel laureates Saul Bellow, Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Kenzaburo Oe. Other finalists included Atwood, Philip Roth, John Updike, Ian McEwan, Milan Kundera and Doris Lessing.

Kadare will receive his prize at a ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 27. He is to choose a translator or translators to get an additional prize of $27,000.
UD's Heart Bursting with School Pride

"After four years of service, I had been involuntarily extended an additional year because of the Vietnam War. During that year in Washington, I expended a great deal of energy trying to find things or people who were interesting. To quell my angst and sense of drift, I was taking graduate courses at George Washington University. One course was in Shakespeare and another in international relations.

When I mentioned the graduate work to Felt, he perked up immediately, saying he had gone to night law school at GW in the 1930s before joining — and this is the first time he mentioned it — the FBI. While in law school, he said, he had worked full time for a senator — his home-state senator from Idaho. I said that I had been doing some volunteer work at the office of my Congressman, John Erlenborn, a Republican, from Wheaton, Ill., where I had been raised.

So we had two connections — graduate work at GW and work with elected representatives from our home states."
Red v Blue on Plagiarism

Here are two writers who’ve both recently been plagiarized.

The first is a sophisticated New Yorker writer who expresses his evolved views of the matter and attacks unevolved “plagiarism fundamentalists”:

The truth was that, although I said I’d been robbed, I didn’t feel that way. Nor did I feel particularly angry. One of the first things I had said to a friend after hearing about the echoes of my article in “Frozen” was that this was the only way I was ever going to get to Broadway—and I was only half joking. On some level, I considered Lavery’s borrowing to be a compliment. A savvier writer would have changed all those references to Lewis, and rewritten the quotes from me, so that their origin was no longer recognizable. But how would I have been better off if Lavery had disguised the source of her inspiration? …[I]nstead of feeling that my words had been taken from me, I felt that they had become part of some grander cause…The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence…The final dishonesty of the plagiarism fundamentalists is to encourage us to pretend that these chains of influence and evolution do not exist, and that a writer’s words have a virgin birth and an eternal life. I suppose that I could get upset about what happened to my words. I could also simply acknowledge that I had a good, long ride with that line—and let it go.

And here, from a redder state, is a Florida journalist:

Dear Chris Cecil:

Here's how you write a newspaper column. First, you find a topic that engages you. Then you spend a few hours banging your head against a computer screen until what you've written there no longer makes you want to hurl.

Or, you could just wait till somebody else writes a column and steal it. That's what you've been doing on a regular basis.

Before Tuesday, I had never heard of you or the Daily Tribune News, in Cartersville, Ga., where you are associate managing editor. Then one of my readers, God bless her, sent me an e-mail noting the similarities between a column of mine and one you had purportedly written.

Intrigued, I did a little research on your paper's website and found that you had ''written'' at least eight columns since March that were taken in whole or in part from my work. The thefts ranged from the pilfering of the lead from a gangsta rap column to the wholesale heist of an entire piece I did about Bill Cosby. In that instance, you essentially took my name off and slapped yours on.

On March 11, I wrote: I like hypocrites. You would, too, if you had this job. A hypocrite is the next best thing to a day off. Some pious moralizer contradicts his words with his deeds and the column all but writes itself. It's different with Bill Cosby.

On May 12, you ''wrote:'' I like hypocrites. You would, too, if you had this job. A hypocrite is the next best thing to a day off. Some pious moralizer contradicts his words with his deeds and the column all but writes itself. It's different with Bill Cosby.

The one that really got me, though, was your theft of a personal anecdote about the moment I realized my mother was dying of cancer. ''The tears surprised me,'' I wrote. ''I pulled over, blinded by them.'' Seven days later, there you were: ``The tears surprised me. I pulled over, blinded by them on central Kentucky's I-75.''

Actually, it happened at an on-ramp to the Artesia Freeway in Compton, Calif.
I've been in this business 29 years, Mr. Cecil, and I've been plagiarized before. But I've never seen a plagiarist as industrious and brazen as you. My boss is calling your boss, but I doubt you and I will ever speak. Still, I wanted you to hear from me. I wanted you to understand how this feels.

Put it like this: I had a house burglarized once.

This reminds me of that. Same sense of violation, same apoplectic disbelief that someone has the testicular fortitude to come into your place and take what is yours.
Not being a writer yourself, you won't understand, but I am a worshiper at the First Church of the Written Word, a lover of language, a student of its rhythm, its music, its violence and its power.

My words are important to me. I struggle with them, obsess over them. Show me something I wrote and like a mother recounting a child's birth, I can tell you stories of how it came to be, why this adjective here or that colon there.

See, my life's goal is to learn to write. And you cannot cut and paste your way to that. You can only work your way there, sweating out words, wrestling down prose, hammering together poetry. There are no shortcuts.

You are just the latest in a growing list of people -- in journalism and out -- who don't understand that, who think it's OK to cheat your way across the finish line. I've always wanted to ask one of you: How can you do that? Have you no shame? No honor or pride? How do you face your mirror knowing you are not what you purport to be? Knowing that you are a fraud?

If your boss values his paper's credibility, you will soon have lots of free time to ponder those questions.

But before you go, let me say something on behalf of all of us who are struggling to learn how to write, or just struggling to be honorable human beings:

The dictionary is a big book. Get your own damn words. Leave mine alone.

P.S.: Chris Cecil was fired Thursday by Daily Tribune News Publisher Charles Hurley, immediately after he learned of the plagiarism.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Let us pause in life’s pleasures (to quote the beginning of a wonderful Stephen Foster song) and consider today’s winning spelling bee word, “appoggiatura.”

The newspapers are defining appoggiatura as “a melodic tone,” but all sorts of sounds are melodic tones. Appoggiatura is very special.

UD has for years enjoyed sitting at her trusty upright and reading and playing through Leonard Bernstein’s book about music, The Unanswered Question (it’s full of musical examples). Appoggiatura is important to Bernstein’s rather complicated argument about how music - pure sound - is able to convey so much content to us.

We are hearing an appoggiatura when a tone seems to us in need of resolution, when we sense a “relatively discordant note which carries a weight and tension that must be resolved.” It’s a “leaning tone (meaning that it ‘leans’ on its consequent resolution.)”

Here’s an example, from Bach.

[Update: Here's a better example - one you can listen to - via Instapundit.]

Appoggiaturas successfully resolve themselves in earlier music; but modern music, Bernstein suggests, is to a significant degree about unresolved tones. In the case of Mahler, for instance, his “musical schizo-dynamics” and “ambivalent tonal attitudes” are expressed in part through his complex nonresolution of appoggiatura. Mahler’s “reluctant attempts to let go of tonality,” his “nonresolution of tensions,” conveyed, Bernstein believed, “the essence of the tonal crisis” of the twentieth century.

UD offers an antidote to that strange list of “the ten most dangerous books” that Human Events recently put out. The list UD is about to link you to - Salon magazine’s list of the worst books of 1997 - is much more fun to read, trust me.

Here are some of my favorite tidbits from it:

[He] turns on his irony super-collider and tries to smash big, bad America to teeny-tiny bits.

I read every paragraph and footnote, and now wonder if book reviewing might be one of the activities a dominatrix requires her clients to perform.

Her prose ("The exhaustion of withstanding his desire is not supportable") is so enervated that every sentence could use its own fainting couch. If this is how she writes about a life-changing experience, I'd sure hate to see her grocery list.

[This is a] true story that reads like a steaming heap. … [He] milks his background for all it's worth, overwriting shamelessly about details like the holes in his mother's sneakers (they're mentioned at least three times) and how she scrimped to buy him a class ring made of genuine metal and red glass. Eventually, he saved enough money to buy his mother a house, with real windows that open and shut and everything.

There's a strain of consciously transgressive fiction that works so hard to shock that rejecting it can make you feel less prudish than accepting it would. Admitting that you're shaken up by a pretentious stinker like Gary Indiana's Resentment means admitting that you're willing to be a con man's mark. When you read a scene where one guy buggers another with a Snickers bar and then eats it, you've got two choices: You can be disturbed, or you can shrug and figure sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't.
University Diaries salutes…

…Craig Zamzow, business professor at Plymouth State University and this year’s winner of the karaoke contest at Mitch's Family Restaurant and Pub.

A quick Google search reveals that Zamzow, “dressed to the nines in a tuxedo accented with a red cummerbund, performed the Frank Sinatra hit, My Way" not merely because he likes to sing, but because his academic specialty involves helping grow small businesses like Mitch’s: “I'm just excited to see a new downtown business really succeed. Dan Mitchell (the restaurant owner) took a big risk and expense with the prizes and everything and I'm just really happy to see they are getting the support they deserve." Zamzow's academic supervision of PSU students as they advise local businesses on how to grow has increased the visibility of the university.

Zamzow, who “walked off the stage to serenade audience members in the packed pub,” won “first prize among the field of 15 competitors and received an all-expense paid trip to Disney World.” He’s considering donating the prize.

One unanticipated pleasure of keeping these university diaries has been the occasional discovery of precociously wonderful writing in campus newspapers. Here are two earlier examples. And here’s a third - a letter to the editor of Dartmouth’s paper from an undergraduate there (via Instapundit).

When I read the front page article describing Kathy Paur's talk about gender equality in the Harvard math department ("Paur questions stigmas, discusses Summers flap," May 16), I had to laugh out loud. I would like to challenge her accusations with my own personal experiences. I would like to ask whether Ms. Paur has ever actually gotten to know a professor in the Harvard math department?

My family is saturated with complete and total gender equality. When I was still too young to read, my father often read fairy tales and Greek myths to me, but would change the male hero into a heroine, such as Jacqueline and the Beanstalk, Herculina, etc., enough to make the most hardcore feminist blush. When I entered grade school, my father would come into my classroom once a month for "enrichment math and science," and he was every little girl's advocate and motivator toward these subjects. If anyone tried to tell me I wasn't good enough at math or science, my father would fly into a rage and march right down to my school system, to my ultimate embarrassment.

My father is now currently the chair of the Harvard math department, and this is why I laugh at Ms. Paur's accusations of sexism. I grew up roaming the halls of that department, spitting off the balconies and scribbling on the blackboards, and let me tell you, there just isn't any sexism. At all. The professors are the sweetest, kindest, craziest bunch of -- mostly -- men that I have met, and their goal is to show everyone to love math the way they do, regardless of gender.

I would like to pose this question to all those who are outraged by President Summers' opinions on male predisposition: why fight it? The pure fact of the matter is, the people who are doing the most interesting, fascinating, intriguing, boundary-pushing, out-there mathematics are men. Period. Why is this? Well, it certainly isn't because Harvard discriminates against women. Perhaps, just perhaps -- just let down your guard for an instant, feminists -- perhaps men are biologically predisposed towards mathematics. So what? That's the way humans are wired, so stop trashing poor Harvard President Lawrence Summers for just pointing out hard, cold scientific evidence. Take it from me, the daughter of an extreme feminist and the Harvard math chair who is going into science herself -- Harvard isn't to blame -- and women, just face it and get over it: human biology is sexist.

Sure, there’s overstatement and redundancy here. Doesn’t matter. What comes across is the energy, honesty, and good will of a person who already knows the difference between the drone of the diversitarians and actual human experience.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


In a review of a new book about universities and free speech, Peter Berkowitz considers the depressing and alarming state of the modern American university.

Our universities are ailing. Many, including most of our elite universities, have abandoned the notion that a liberal arts education is constituted by a solid core, that is, a basic knowledge of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that all educated people should possess.

Berkowitz correctly begins by isolating the core core problem, if you will - universities don’t know what universities are anymore.

Furthermore, for all their earnest words about the beauty and necessity of multicultural education, university administrators and faculty preside over a curriculum that routinely permits students to graduate without acquiring reading, writing, and speaking fluency in any foreign language, let alone competence in Chinese, the language of the most populous country in the world; Hindi, the most widely spoken language in the world’s largest democracy; or Arabic, the language of Islam, a religion that commands an estimated 1.4 billion adherents worldwide.

High tuitions, and the belief that because they’re paying them students are entitled to high grades, is behind this one. Instead of a substantive multicultural knowledge acquisition that can easily be measured, as in the ability to speak, write, and read a foreign language, universities offer easy A courses in self-righteous emotivism about race, class, and gender. Note as well the irony that the demographic trend at the most elite colleges is toward dramatic segregation of the student population from poor people. Incoming classes at Harvard and similar places are getting richer every year. The result is the absurdity of a group of extremely wealthy people (many of whom come from private schools where they never saw poor or middle class people either) studying cultural representations of people they will never see on a campus that boasts of its diverse student population.

And perhaps most alarmingly, those who lead our universities have done little to oppose — often they have caved in to — fellow administrators and faculty who would sacrifice free and open inquiry to tender sensibilities and partisan politics.

This is the cowardly emotivizing of the university again, about which UD has written a good deal on this blog.

What forces have driven universities to clamp down on the free play of ideas and to collaborate in the vilification of moral and political opinions that depart from campus orthodoxies? One factor involves a transformation in the idea of the university. The last 25 years have witnessed the return of what Downs calls the “proprietary university,” which sees its central mission not as the transmission of knowledge and the pursuit of truth but rather as the inculcation of a specific — in this case ostensibly progressive — moral and political agenda.

This is how you end up with ed school “dispositional” requirements and university-wide “cultural competency” mandates -- First, you let the reality of what a university is disappear; you then replace that reality with coercive, self-righteous bullshit; you then sit back and watch the university become one of the few institutions in free-speech-loving America which incubates Orwellianism. “Outside our universities free speech sentiment is strong and can serve as a vital resource for those who will continue the struggle in the coming years to teach our disordered universities what our universities should be teaching students and exemplifying for the nation,” writes Berkowitz. Pathetic, isn’t it, that this crucial institution, in principle so dedicated to free thought that it features a form of intellectual protection - tenure - no other American institution features, has itself become one of the least free arenas in the country.

Berkowitz reviews some of “the trends in contemporary social and political thought that have informed the progressive repudiation of liberal principles on campus”:

…Catharine MacKinnon argue[s] that the oppression of women is itself a product of liberal commitments to fair process (notwithstanding that never in history have women enjoyed the freedom and equality achieved in contemporary liberal democracies). Critical legal theorists maintain the same about the oppression of the poor, and critical race theorists press the claim concerning the oppression of minorities (notwithstanding the reduction in the number and poverty of the poor and the unprecedented inclusion of minorities in public life in liberal democracies). At the same time, many campus theorists drew inspiration from Algerian social critic Frantz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth argued that sympathy with those who suffer is a higher priority than respect for individual rights (even though respect for individual rights has proven over time the most successful means for alleviating suffering). Meanwhile, postmodern critics, believing themselves to be following Nietzsche, argued that individual rights were fictions invented by the strong to control the weak (never mind that Nietzsche decried modern liberalism as an invention of the weak to tyrannize the strong).

Berkowitz lists the lessons to be drawn from the ongoing scandal of unfree speech at American universities:

First, intolerance of dissent on campus, notwithstanding the language of concern for minorities and women in which it is typically couched, bespeaks a failure of imagination, an inability to appreciate opinions that differ from one’s own. It also reflects a demeaning stereotype according to which minorities and women are not capable of fending for themselves in classroom discussion and wider campus life by responding to utterances they find wrong, irritating, or insulting with better arguments and suppler words.

Second, free speech is not one value among many that a university legitimately pursues, but rather is a principle fundamental to the university’s central mission and so must be curtailed only in extraordinary circumstances, such as direct incitement to physical harm or violence. Collegiality and consensus are of course important, but at universities both should form around the principle of free speech for all, and particularly for those with whom one disagrees.

Third, the administration’s coercive harmonization of opinion on campus and disregard for the essentials of due process cannot succeed without a compliant and thereby complicit faculty.

Fourth, the experience of the past 25 years abundantly demonstrates that universities cannot be trusted to enforce speech codes and administer disciplinary procedures that do away with the essentials of due process. This is not necessarily because administrators and professors are less responsible or virtuous than ordinary citizens but because they plainly are no more responsible or virtuous.

The phrase “coercive harmonization” is haunting, with its echoes of the Hate Weeks in 1984 and the parades of socialist youth that Sabena recalls with such loathing in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Since the university’s essential malaise is its lack of self-awareness, its loss of definition, substance, and purpose, every university, Berkowitz rightly maintains, should have a serious core curriculum in place of the trivial distribution requirement system that now dominates:

Some works of literature and philosophy are constitutive of Western civilization, and some historical epochs have defined our identities. Some knowledge of economics and political science is crucial to understanding the forces that shape contemporary society. Some knowledge of the natural sciences is necessary to acquire the discipline of the scientific method, to better understand the operation of the remarkable technology with which we have surrounded ourselves, and to appreciate the intricacy of the natural world of which we are a part.

But in order for this to happen, presidents and trustees must have “the confidence and clout to shift resources.” If you want to see how far wrong a university lacking that confidence can go, read this comment from an editorial in an Oregon newspaper in response to the University of Oregon’s proposed cultural competency mandate:

“The diversity office already costs $1.5 million a year, and the grotesque document it produced this school year would cost millions more to implement. All to turn the U of O into a national laughingstock.”

That’s the voice of the world outside the university, the world that knows coercive harmonization when it sees it and is laughing at us. If American universities want to find themselves again, Berkowitz concludes, they must “staunchly refuse to politicize the transmission of knowledge and the pursuit of truth.”