This is an archived page. Images and links on this page may not work. Please visit the main page for the latest updates.

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


“After half a century this work's ‘transgressiveness’ makes every usage of that term in our etiolated English departments seem stale, pallid, and domesticated,” writes Christopher Hitchens about Lolita.

I get a frisson (Hitchens likes the word “frisson” as much as UD does) whenever Hitchens hammers English departments (as he did in a recent New York Times book review), and I share his love of Lolita, so I enjoyed this review.

Which is actually a review of the Annotated Lolita, annotated by Nabokov student and friend, and emeritus Northwestern University professor, Alfred Appel.

And since UD studied with Appel at NU, and recalls visiting his house and admiring the butterflies Nabokov had drawn on the first pages of various of Appel’s Nabokov editions, she is doubly pleased, for Hitchens has reminded her of the book as well as the professor.

Gore Vidal once wrote that he suspected “Alfred Appel” was the Nabokovian name of a Kinbote-type creature who’d been thought up by Lolita’s creator himself, as a kind of literary joke along the lines of Pale Fire. But UD can confirm, having sat decades ago in his smoke-filled classrooms (I’m pretty sure I’m remembering right that he smoked while lecturing), that Appel exists.

“Alfred Appel's most sage advice,” writes Hitchens, “is to make yourself slow down when reading Lolita, not be too swiftly ravished and caught up.”
The Death of the
British Universities

Intriguing review in Spiked of a book defending the "high culture" of British universities against the pragmatic vocationalism and administration-heavy busywork that has apparently taken over many of them. Here are some excerpts from the review:

Killing Thinking: The Death of the Universities is an uncompromising attack upon the process that has turned the British university from a place of higher education and thinking, however imperfect, into a site of 'battery farming for the mind', where academics and students are enslaved by the principles of audit, assessment, and regulation, and the role of the university is reduced to meeting the needs of the market in Britain's so-called knowledge economy.

…[The author] refuses to pay lip-service to the leftist-sounding justifications that are given to the expansion and modernisation agenda - that it is more democratic and equal than what went before.

Evans makes clear that she is not harking back to some golden age, in which the university was 'a world of intellectual conversation, engaged students and limitless indulgence'. To do so would be 'to depart to the realms of fantasy' - 'we cannot easily defend the past, or invoke that past as an attack on the present'. As a professor of women's studies, Mary Evans can also hope to avoid the caricature of those who criticise the modernisation agenda as fusty old men, bent on preserving their position at whatever cost. Unlike many critics, Evans recognises that a combination of political and cultural agendas has set the modern university on its disastrous course, making it impossible simply to blame the political right, or the cultural left: 'The attack on the traditional 'high' culture of universities has come, in Britain, from a complex coalition: left-wing modernisers, Tory pragmatists and all-party and all-class philistines'.

...Instead of putting up and shutting up, disgruntled academics, sold-short students and anyone else with an interest in education should think about adding their own thoughts and writings to those of the unhappy dissenters, and formulating their own vision about what a university should be for.
An essay by UD... scheduled to appear in Inside Higher Education soon, in the section called "Views." Stayed tuned.
Depressingly clueless...

...response, all over one woman's blog, to the provocative Linda Hirshman piece. The blogger's unreasoning fury and defensiveness set the tone for her readers' even more discouraging comments.

Sample statement from the proprietor of the blog:

The other idea that is kicking around and still bothering me is that women who go to top schools are traitors and resource squanders if they don't become law partner or doctors. My sister has a BA from Georgetown and a MA from Columbia. She's is not earning a salary at the moment. Who the fuck cares? When did our worth as people come down to our pay stubs?

But UD does not entirely despair. Over at TPM Cafe, quite a few honest and perceptive comments appear. Like this one:

Education costs money, and while the NYT-wedding-announcement crowd has always had access to it as both a meet market and a finishing school, we as a society don't actually profess to subsidize education primarily as a path to self-actualization. There's an essential conflict between capitalism and feminism -- at least the "difference" or"choice" variety of feminism -- in that tangible returns on investments are expected, and giving a slight edge to future offspring isn't all that concrete a goal. In all honesty, even an old lefty like me isn't particularly interested in helping middle-class women get degrees that might be of more practical use in lifting poorer women out of poverty.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

UD Salutes…

...Doug Paddock, history major at Boise State, who has discerned some very important things. From his guest editorial in the university newspaper:

The University’s recent move to push hybrid-formatted classes is degrading the level of education I receive at Boise State University.

A hybrid class is split into two components: one part is online (via Blackboard or similar website) while the other consists of regular in class meetings. The reason given for these hybrid classes is to free up classroom space.

The university believes that by offering a portion of the class online, there will be less [he means fewer] students taking up room in the classroom. Yes, it is true; BSU has enacted a policy to keep students out of the classroom.

The problem with this solution is that they haven’t actually freed up any classrooms at all. [T]he hybrid class I am taking this semester class is only on Thursdays, but the classroom is still reserved for the class on Tuesday, so it goes unused on that day.

Since BSU needs more classrooms it should build some, not sacrifice my education with this hasty solution.

I do not learn as much in a hybrid course as I would in a traditional classroom setting. Rather than lecturing, the professor assigns reading and message board posts in its place. While reading is fine, it cannot take the place of a lecture. Posting, on the other hand, is of little educational value to me. These hybrid classes are not listed as such on Bronco Web or in the course catalog.

They are listed just like any other regular class, so you cannot tell when you register if it is hybrid until the class starts and by then it’s too late for many students to drop the class. By not listing these classes as hybrids Boise State has taken away the student’s ability to choose the format that is best for his or her learning.

This hasty solution highlights some severe flaws in Idaho’s education system; there aren’t even enough classrooms to hold our college students. Instead of offering second-rate hybrid classes, BSU should build more classrooms.

We all saw how fast the new multi-million dollar indoor sports facility shot up, but they [have] yet to build a new classroom facility.

That money should have been used for education first and sports second. While the new campus master plan calls for new facilities, the bottom line is that we have needed these classrooms for a while.

A few years wait just won’t do.

From today's Tufts Daily:

A junior assaulted the Tufts University Police Department officer who tried to bring him into protective custody on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 23. The student brought Officer Cheri Burton down to the ground in a violent fight and shouted racial epithets at her.

When other officers arrived, the student spat in their faces and used a variety of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic insults

Burton and Officer Eric Morales, along with several officers from Somerville, responded to a disturbance report at 185 College Avenue early Wednesday morning at approximately 1:50 a.m.

The officers arrived to find two obviously intoxicated individuals standing at the opposite side of the street from the house. One of them was wearing only one shoe, and it appeared as if they had been in an altercation.

One of the individuals tried to leave the scene, and Burton, who was concerned about his intoxication level, followed him.

Burton made contact with the student at the blue light emergency phone on Lower Campus Road. He immediately began yelling and using profanity, and Burton decided to take the individual into protective custody.

When she attempted to handcuff the student, he turned around, grabbed her by the hair and began pulling on her shirt. Burton and the student went down to the ground, where the student began punching her. He also shouted racial epithets, including "n--r," at Burton, who is African-American.

Burton and the individual struggled alone for about 45 seconds to a minute before the other officers, whom Burton radioed, arrived to assist her. The student ripped entire braids from Burton's head, and Burton sustained injuries to the head, back and ribs.

"This was a violent attack on an officer," Tufts University Police Sergeant Douglas Mazzola said.

When the other officers arrived and assisted Burton in detaining the student, the student spat in a Somerville Police Department officer's face and employed a string of insults ranging from racist to homophobic. He called the officers "fat faggots" and "fat f-ks" and called individual officers many others, from "Jew boy" to "you fat Italian-American f-k."

The student is being charged criminally with disorderly conduct, assault and battery of a police officer, and resisting arrest, the latter of which is a felony. He also faces judiciary investigation by the University, and other charges are being considered, possibly under state hate crime law.

Judicial Affairs Officer Veronica Carter and Dean of Students Bruce Reitman would only confirm that they "did receive a complaint from the Department of Public Safety" about the student and his behavior.

Reitman said the two had met with the student, and that the student will be making a response to the Department of Public Safety's allegations. The Student Judicial Process will be followed, he said.

Reitman and Carter said they plan to proceed with the case depending on how the student responds to the accusations brought against him.

Associate Dean of Students Marisel Perez, the coordinator of the Bias Intervention Team, has also been informed of the incident but was unavailable for comment.

Unavailable for comment? What sort of incident would make the Bias Intervention Team available for comment?

The University as Health Spa

The modern university is a relic that will disappear in a few decades. That prediction was made by Peter Drucker, the management genius who just died at 95 and usually got things right.

His words brought an uncharitable smile to my face as I recently strolled across the ivied campus of Brown University, in Providence, R.I. At the time, maintenance crews were busy removing leaves. Campus officials were still dealing with the aftermath of an especially drunken Saturday night. And most everyone was excited that the football team had taken the Ivy League championship.

No doubt, some education was going on, but the question nagged: Is this an efficient setup for improving young minds? Not very, according to Drucker. "Today's buildings are hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded," he said. Satellites and the Internet can easily make classrooms obsolete.

We now read that professors at Purdue, Stanford, Duke and other universities are recording their lectures. Students download the talks on their iPods and listen to them whenever. The "whenever" can be while driving, lifting weights or between songs by Black Eyed Peas and the Pussycat Dolls.

The profs say that letting students hear the lectures on their own frees classroom time for penetrating discussions. The same conversations, however, could be held over the Internet — or, for that matter, in a room at the public library.

Furthermore, the professors could let non-students download their lectures and charge them royalties, just like the Black Eyed Peas. Ordinary folks already buy courses on tape or CD. For example, The Teaching Company is now selling a virtual major in American history — 84 lectures on 42 audiotapes — at the bargain price of $109.95. It covers everything from "before Columbus" to Bill Clinton, and the lecturers are top-drawer. Some of them teach at Columbia University, where a single history course runs you $3,207.

Herman Melville said that "a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard." Melville didn't need college to write "Moby Dick." He needed to read and spend time in the world. Before sailing out on a whaler in 1841, he had already worked on his uncle's farm and as a cabin boy on a ship to England.

Peter Drucker urged high-school graduates to do likewise: Work for at least five years. If they went on to college, it would be as grown-ups.

You wonder whether colleges, stripped of their education function, wouldn't find other lives as spas, professional-sports franchises or perhaps lightly supervised halfway houses for post-adolescents. The infrastructure is already in place.

Over at Kenyon College, in Ohio, the students have a new, $60 million athletic center. The highlights include a 12,500-square-foot workout area and an indoor track with eight lanes just for sprinting. The pool has 20 short-course and nine long-course lanes. And, like any upscale health club, this one has a cafe.

Speaking of sports, colleges spend huge numbers of "education dollars" on keeping their football coaches happy. For example, the University of Texas is giving Mack Brown a compensation package this year totaling $3.6 million. UT's highest-paid academic, Steven Weinberg, earns about $400,000, and he has a Nobel Prize in physics.

The universities claim that football and basketball teams are profit centers that help pay for learning. In truth, few produce a surplus even for the sports programs. Athletics pay their own way at only about 10 colleges, according to Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College who specializes in sports.

And with all due respect to the Texas Longhorns, if they were such a fabulous cash machine, there would be no need for the Longhorn Foundation. The foundation, which raises money for UT athletics, notes on its Web site that revenues from ticket sales, television and ads cover less than half the operating expenses of the university's sports program.

University presidents, meanwhile, are working on their own pay packages. Several already make more than $1 million, which has become the new goalpost. Most justify their incomes by their ability to raise money for new buildings.

Of course, these are the buildings that will soon be relics, according to Peter Drucker. Look at these shining new facilities and think: What fine condos they will someday make.

Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop

Monday, November 28, 2005


Margaret Root, art history professor at the University of Michigan and apparently the only person on campus who understands what art is.

There’s this bas relief on a campus building, sculpted decades ago, which among other things depicts a young girl dreaming of marriage and a young man dreaming of sailing. This juxtaposition has so offended students and faculty that administrators recently took advantage of some maintenance work being done on the building to remove and relocate to a more obscure campus location these upsetting elements of the sculpture.

They put the rest of the bas relief back on the building. They just suppressed the girl/boy thing.

Here's the work crew scrambling all over her to get her out of there.

And why not? After all, any sculpture is merely a political bullhorn, and when it blows sexist, off it goes.

Here are a bunch of comments about the bas relief from faculty and administration observers, every one of the comments sandblasted of any sense that a category of object called “art” exists. The bas relief is not art but a


“The visual representation doesn’t seem to hold the same respect for women as it does men.” The world is full of visual representations - which I suppose we define as anything we can see - and some are insufficiently respectful of women. These must be put away.


“My own general view about anachronistic statements of value is that you ought to use them as opportunities to teach.”

(Before we go to the substance of this statement, pause a moment with UD to savor the snobbery in this comment from an ex-provost involved in the removal decision. “My own general view…” Can’t you see one of those men on the street that Monty Python used to feature commenting on issues of the day talking like this?)

Again there’s nothing one would call “art” -- at best, there are teachable or non-teachable moments in the form of visual representations. If we can firmly establish that this or that visual representation will teach us something -- and not just anything, but something with the right values, which in this case would mean teaching us how anachronistic it is to imagine that a lot of women wish to marry -- then maybe we could allow that representation to continue to exist. Otherwise, away with you.


“The vision that the bas reliefs convey is better suited to a historical context than as a representation of the dreams we hold for Michigan’s men and women students in the 21st century.” That fucker’s so yesterday. Dump it.

All of this left Professor Root all alone out there, to twist slowly, slowly in the wind, as she attempted to convey her despair. “I was adamant that they should not be removed,” she says. Indeed so upset was Professor Root by this insipid controversy that she even devoted one of her classes last semester to the way throughout history philistines have failed to grasp the concept of “art.“

But in vain. Forget the possibility that the sculptor (who died a few years ago) might have wanted to maintain the formal integrity of his piece. If thy bas relief offends thee, fails to teach thee, or was producedeth before 1960, pluck it out.
The Sphincter Has Its Reasons

First Ben Stein writes a perfectly reasonable piece in the New York Times about how stupid it is for individual alumni to give money to schools like Yale (from whose law school Stein graduated) and Harvard, given their obscene endowments (here’s UD’s post about it) and given more pressing needs for one‘s money elsewhere.

Then a few people write to him saying that no true Yalie would ever write such a thing, and he totally caves and decides he‘ll keep giving after all:

[Admittedly it’s] not an economically rational act for me to give my few shekels to mighty, multibillionaire Yale. It would be far more rational for me to keep them myself or to give them to smaller charities. But not all decisions are rational. …

There are ties that are more than rational, more than sensible. They are the mystic chords of memory to which Lincoln referred. …I'll keep giving to Yale, and with a full heart... Not everything is about reason.

Yes, the heart has its reasons, as the Duchess of Windsor, in strikingly similar language to Stein’s, famously said.

In Stein’s case, though, his decision seems to have revolved around a different organ. He recalls that when he first arrived,

[Yale was] rigorous, mean-spirited and cold. I hated it. I got severe anxiety. I was wildly mistreated for anxiety symptoms at the Yale infirmary and got severe drug reactions. Then I got colitis and lost about 30 pounds in about six weeks. I was a wreck.

Stein dropped out for awhile. Then, because a Yale dean had faith in him, he dropped back in. And, as luck would have it, during the short time he was away, the whole place had changed from haughty to hippie. Stein‘s sphincter relaxed.

UD is not sure she would describe this particular melange of memories as mystic chords. But let us move on.

A few alumni rationalists who continue to question the wisdom of giving one’s money to a multi-billion dollar enterprise do survive. All of the ones featured in a recent Yale Daily News article are women. (None alludes to a cystitis attack or fibrous breast tissue flareup during their first few weeks on campus.)

But some alumni, especially those who have pursued careers in public service, have echoed the message of Stein's first column, as they said they have been reluctant to give to Yale knowing that their money could have a greater impact on other institutions.

Emily Sachs '83, financial officer for a nonprofit organization in New York, said that while she has given to Yale in the past, she does not believe her philanthropy is meaningful for the University.

"When I look back at what paltry few bucks I have given and what they can do for the University, they can do more elsewhere," she said.

Sachs said she would be more likely to give larger sums to Yale if the University kept her better informed about where donated proceeds and funds are specifically used.

…Jennifer Hansell '86, the executive director of the North East Community Center in Millerton, N.Y., said she has had mixed feelings about donating to her alma mater, especially since she took over as the head of an organization dependent on donations.

"I've always debated in my mind [whether] I should give to Yale or not," she said. "But I feel now that my money is better given to other places. Yale is never going to care that much about the pennies I give."

Hansell said that though she maintains this general attitude about alumni giving, she does give to specific Yale groups she cares about, such as Dwight Hall and the Maya Lin Women's Fund. She said she would rather give her money to shelters for battered women or to community centers than to Ivy League institutions.

"I give my money to small local organizations instead," she said. "Places like Harvard and Yale can live forever on their endowments. That's probably not totally true, but it certainly feels that way."


By the way, a similar sort of debate is taking place at Yale about the recent huge anonymous gift the music school received, which will allow it to waive tuition for all students. In today’s New York Times, Anthony Tommasini notes:

Yet no sooner had the gift to the school of music been announced than The Yale Daily News published a series of articles in which students questioned whether so much money for music was warranted at a time of great need around the world, including the parts of northern Pakistan and Kashmir recently devastated by a major earthquake. The donors "could have given $20 million to the school of music," one student was quoted as saying, "and still helped a lot of students with their tuition while giving $80 million to other causes."

Not sure where I stand on this one.
The Proust of Fort Lee

UD’s delighted to see that the excellent poet and essayist August Kleinzahler has been named Poet Laureate of Fort Lee, New Jersey, where he’s from. They like Kleinzahler in Jersey because, one townsman says, “"He does a good job of capturing something of his youth in Fort Lee. Like Proust, he writes about Fort Lee out of memory."

It tells you all you need to know about the American poetry establishment that while the laureate for the whole country is the dread Ted Kooser, Kleinzahler’s only got Fort Lee.

On the other hand, “Kleinzahler says he would turn down the [national] honor. He disapproves of the type of people who are generally named poet laureate." Too right.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

So there.

UD was weirded out by the latest Harry Potter movie. She made the mistake of trying to tell the crew she attended with (UD's kid, kid's friends, various adults) why.

"It just seemed sadistic to me," she said. "It seemed to be about a group of old people putting young people in extremely painful and sometimes lethal positions for fun and games."

For her efforts, UD was derided, shouted down, abused, and spat upon by the others...

But then she went home, went online, and found this, from Anthony Lane's New Yorker review of same:

Still, [the director] cannot do much about the slightly tired sadism that is creeping into the cracks of the Potter franchise. The tournament, for instance, is hailed with rah-rah enthusiasm, like any other sporting event, yet it basically entails putting a bunch of young people through dragonish perils, and mortifying fear, all for the edification of the youthful masses and their freaky overlords. Caligula would have loved it.
Sad News, and
Unwelcome Publicity

The cover story someone tried placing over the suicide of NYU student and Samsung fortune heiress Lee Yoon-hyung has failed. The initial vague claim of a car crash in New York, about which police could find no record, has given way to confirmation that, like an unsettlingly high number of other NYU students in the last few years, the 26-year-old killed herself, apparently after suffering for some time from depression.

This is a bad setback for NYU, which has struggled to understand and respond to half a dozen student suicides in the last couple of years. Because of the high-profile nature of this student and her family (her father heads scandal-plagued Samsung), this may be one of their most difficult episodes yet.

The irony is that she had barely arrived at the Steinhardt School of Education -- this was the first semester of her first year.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sad Diploma Mill Story…

…in the New York Times.

The notorious N.C.A.A. diploma mill/feeder school, “University High,” specializes in taking athletically valuable students who can’t graduate from high school and handing them high grades for money so sports-mad universities can admit them.

Why does the N.C.A.A. collude with a bogus school whose founder “served 10 months in a federal prison camp from 1989 to 1990 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for his involvement with a college diploma mill in Arizona. Among the activities Simmons acknowledged in court documents were awarding degrees without academic achievement and awarding degrees based on studies he was unqualified to evaluate.”? A school whose current director “was arrested on a marijuana possession charge [University High…] in 2003 and is wanted on a bench warrant.”? A school “which has no classes and no educational accreditation.”?

"We're not the educational accreditation police," snorts an N.C.A.A. spokesperson.

So true. You’re off the hook.
More on Brain Geishas

[For background, see UD.]

UD calls “brain geishas” those large numbers of American women who, having summited the college and grad school mountain, take a look or two around at the rarefied air, plant their Rapid Learner flag in the snow, and then gather their equipment and roll back down to the ground, becoming non-working wives and mothers.

All those years of struggle upward! Those lofty Fulbrights and Luces! Those majestic tuition payouts -- courtesy of their schools, their parents, and we the people! (That was a Tom Wolfe imitation.)

All so they can more enunciatively narrate Babar to the brood.

These women, their advanced professional brains and credentials marked Display Purposes Only, evoke for UD something like what the vast star-studded robes and hyper-elaborated facial makeup of geishas evoke for her -- an enigmatic lushness, the mystery of over-refinement. Brain geishas convey a sense of silent luxuriant expanses of untapped thought. They whisper to us that this country is so wealthy, even an education can become an object of insouciant throwaway consumption.

Linda Hirshman, in a tough, feisty, and extremely well-written American Prospect essay, elaborates on this striking feature of contemporary American culture.

From her title on, Hirshman does not mince words:

The Truth About Elite Women

Half the wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females in the country stay home with their babies rather than work in the market economy. …The number of women at universities exceeds the number of men. But, more than a generation after feminism, the number of women in elite jobs doesn’t come close.

Does it represent the best use of very scarce elite educational resources to graduate significant numbers of women from Princeton, Yale, and Harvard who aren’t going to work?

…Princeton President Shirley Tilghman described the elite colleges’ self-image perfectly when she told her freshmen last year that they would be the nation’s leaders, and she clearly did not have trophy wives in mind. Why should society spend resources educating women with only a 50-percent return rate on their stated goals?

Hirshman now directly addresses her reader:

…Educated and affluent reader, if you are a 30- or 40-something woman with children, what are you doing? Husbands, what are your wives doing? Older readers, what are your married daughters with children doing? I have asked this question of scores of women and men. Among the affluent-educated-married population, women are letting their careers slide to tend the home fires. If my interviewees are working, they work largely part time, and their part-time careers are not putting them in the executive suite.

The problem’s a complicated one. Ivy admits (for the sake of convenience, and because they’ve been studied more than other elite grads, we’ll restrict ourselves to the Ivies here) are, overwhelmingly, rich people; and the trend toward exclusively super-affluent incoming classes is increasing at most of these schools.

A rich person - male or female - doesn’t have to worry about money, now or ever. Male rich people, by and large, however, seem to resemble male non-rich people in feeling compelled -- through competitiveness, or desire for yet greater personal wealth than they have inherited, or attraction to power, or a decision to give something back, or hormones, or whatever -- to work, and work hard. So they are in the public realm, and some of them are making a real contribution. Female rich people, on the other hand, seem less compelled to work.

…Every Times groom [Hirshman followed couples who appeared in the New York Times wedding announcements] assumed he had to succeed in business, and was really trying. By contrast, a common thread among the women I interviewed was a self-important idealism about the kinds of intellectual, prestigious, socially meaningful, politics-free jobs worth their incalculably valuable presence.

[To begin solving this problem, women] must treat the first few years after college as an opportunity to lose their capitalism virginity and prepare for good work, which they will then treat seriously.

Already-rich elite female grads think of themselves as Lady Bountifuls, Hirshman suggests, promoting good cheer and right thinking in pleasant surroundings, primarily by lending these surroundings what Hirshman nastily calls their “incalculably valuable presence.”

They need to learn to screw, market-wise.

…At marriage, [the women featured in the New York Times wedding pages] included a vice president of client communication, a gastroenterologist, a lawyer, an editor, and a marketing executive. In 2003 and 2004, I tracked them down and called them. I interviewed about 80 percent of the 41 women who announced their weddings over three Sundays in 1996. Around 40 years old, college graduates with careers: Who was more likely than they to be reaping feminism’s promise of opportunity? Imagine my shock when I found almost all the brides from the first Sunday at home with their children. Statistical anomaly? Nope. Same result for the next Sunday. And the one after that.

Ninety percent of the brides I found had had babies. Of the 30 with babies, five were still working full time. Twenty-five, or 85 percent, were not working full time. Of those not working full time, 10 were working part time but often a long way from their prior career paths. And half the married women with children were not working at all.

So it’s about babies, right? Not necessarily.

…This isn’t only about day care. Half my Times brides quit before the first baby came. In interviews, at least half of them expressed a hope never to work again. None had realistic plans to work. More importantly, when they quit, they were already alienated from their work or at least not committed to a life of work. One, a female MBA, said she could never figure out why the men at her workplace, which fired her, were so excited about making deals. “It’s only money,” she mused.

That is, the whole money grubbing and market manipulating thing doesn’t work with a lot of these women. Why, for instance, are all the Harvard money men men? Because they love to play brilliant and convoluted games with other people’s money in order to yield sufficient funds for their institutions in order in turn to earn for themselves thirty million dollars a year in compensation. If they were women, these men might pause and say things to themselves like Why should I feel good about screwing scholarship students out of money by taking so much of this non-profit’s money for myself? They might ask Isn’t thirty million a year under any circumstances rather obscene for one human being? Such questions are the beginning of the end. They are the sorts of questions you ask when you’re not just a virgin, but a pussy.

Hirshman is concerned to toughen up women so they begin thinking like Harvard's money men. She starts by reminding them that

…The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”

……A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one’s capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one’s own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives.

But why pick on rich women?

….The privileged brides of the Times -- and their husbands -- seem happy. Why do we care what they do? After all, most people aren’t rich and white and heterosexual, and they couldn’t quit working if they wanted to.

We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated, even by people who never get their weddings in the Times. This last is called the “regime effect,” and it means that even if women don’t quit their jobs for their families, they think they should and feel guilty about not doing it.

…As for society, elites supply the labor for the decision-making classes -- the senators, the newspaper editors, the research scientists, the entrepreneurs, the policy-makers, and the policy wonks. If the ruling class is overwhelmingly male, the rulers will make mistakes that benefit males, whether from ignorance or from indifference.

UD’s take on all of this is a little different. It bothers her sense of justice that many women from wealthy and well-connected families are taking seats in Ivy League classrooms because of that background and its advantages, even though - again arising out of those same privileges - they ain’t got no fire in their belly. She thinks scrappy middle-class women who’ve always assumed they’ll have to work, and who assume they’ll work in a real setting rather than some soft-lit good-works lounge, should be admitted instead.

Also - it’s not clear that by losing their capitalism virginity women “do more good than harm in the world.” Legions of male lawyers and money movers and lobbyists do more harm than good, but that’s precisely where Hirshman wants these girls to set up shop.

Still, I agree with much of what she says. I have no difficulty with a woman making a principled decision, after getting a good BA in the liberal arts, that she primarily wants children and a home. I have mucho difficulty with a woman who rushes aggressively and expensively onto an elite career track and then collapses in the first heat. She’s wasted a lot of money and a lot of institutional good will.

Friday, November 25, 2005


BENNINGTON, Vt. --The school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" an English teacher's use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.

"I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes," said one question on a quiz written by English and social studies teacher Bret Chenkin.

The question referring to the president asked students to say whether coherent or eschewed was the proper word. The sentence would be more coherent if one eschewed eschewed.

Another example said, "It is frightening the way the extreme right has (balled, arrogated) aspects of the Constitution and warped them for their own agenda." Arrogated would be the proper word there.

Chenkin, 36 and a teacher for seven years, said the quizzes are being taken out of context.

"The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek. They know where I stand."

He said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students, but invites vigorous debate in the classroom.


UD was able to get hold of Chenkin’s entire quiz. It’s fascinating. It incorporates a number of even more hyperbolic statements America’s high school, community college, and college teachers have made of late.

The original authors of Questions 3 through 5, for instance, are Ward Churchill, Nicholas De Genova, and John Daly. See if you can match author and sentence!

(3.) “Real freedom will come when American soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their (superiors, fascist death merchants) and fight for just causes and for people’s needs.”

(4.) “The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. (military, totalitarian murder machine). I wish for a million Mogadishus."

(5.) “The (people, imperialist pigs) in the World Trade Center were little Eichmanns.”
This is a ...

...funny sort of article. It’s from Georgetown University and should make a blogster like UD happy, which it does, sort of, but at almost every turn I’m saying No…no…no…

Starts with the title:

The Cogs of Blogs

Blah. Then:

A generation of students even more "wired" than their predecessors will soon arrive at Georgetown and other colleges and universities across the nation in the next few years. And they expect to communicate -- academically and personally -- in ways unheard of even a decade ago.

Lose the scare quotes on wired. And why are we framing this in terms of what students expect? They come to the university with a faculty having its own expectations.

Evidence is starting to mount that this is a real phenomenon -- a March 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, states that 32 percent of American youths between the ages of 8 and 18 already have created a personal Web site or a Web page. The study also shows that home access to the Internet for this age group has risen from 47 percent in 1999 to 74 percent in 2005.

Pedestrian writing style, to be sure, but no real problem here. Just stats.

One of the ways in which academia has responded to these changes is to reach out to students with the technology that is most familiar to them. The blog, for example, is beginning to change how academic information is communicated, and, in some instances, how professors teach and conduct research.

Again, it ain’t (or it shouldn’t be) about reaching out to students. The university is not the phone company. It’s about having thought about and evolved things, etc.

"All faculty want students to take more responsibility for their own learning," says Randy Bass, director of Georgetown's Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and an associate professor of English.

UD waves hand energetically. Bass ignores. UD waves hand obnoxiously. “Uh, yes, Professor Soltan?” “I don’t want students to take more responsibility for their own learning. That’s code for they get to make up the curriculum and shit. I’ll take responsibility, happily.”

"Tools such as Weblogs provide the ideal environment to foster that. I don't know anyone who uses blogs to substitute for the professor or course materials. What blogs do provide is a flexible and accessible space for students to play with ideas, turn them in the light, expand them through dialogue with each other, and make them their own."

Typical American over-selling. There is no “ideal environment,” buster. On the other hand, I like the “play with ideas, turn them in the light” image.

Let’s jump ahead a bit… Oh, here’s something:

"Blogging platforms are, from my perspective, more user friendly and, for an increasing number of students, more intuitive," Nexon says.

Faculty members also serve as guest bloggers, such as government professor Charles Kupchan for the Washington Note blog and law professor Peter Rubin for the American Constitution Society blog.

About 20 Georgetown professors have incorporated blogs into their classrooms, according to Maloney of CNDLS.

First time I’ve heard the phrase “blogging platform.” This guy is farther along, jargonwise, than I am. Have no idea what it means to call these platforms “intuitive,” though.

It’s a long article, and I won’t reproduce all of it, but it goes on to say a lot of wonderful things, actually, about the growing scholarly and pedagogical importance of blogs. To which I say yes.
[Scroll down for Wildean I]

[A]uthor and Cambridge graduate, Stephen Fry, has attacked [Cambridge’s] "ridiculous sense of elitism" and says it is full of "idiots who think they are in Brideshead Revisited."

"The best thing about having gone to Cambridge University was never having to deal with not going there," he said after receiving a honorary degree at the city's other higher education institution, Anglia Ruskin University, formerly Anglia Polytechnic.


"That's the only advantage. Some of the most ineffably stupid people I've ever met went to Cambridge University, it's no guarantee of anything, it's pretty much a lottery."

Much as populist UD enjoys this sort of rhetoric, she must say it seems unsporting of Fry, whose recent spot-on portrayal of Oscar Wilde (here's Fry in a still from the film, sitting next to Jude Law, a dead ringer for the guy who played Sebastian Flyte in the BBC version of Brideshead) must have owed much to his time at Cambridge.

She also suspects he was trying to make Anglia Ruskin, formerly Anglia Polytechnic, feel better.
UD Didn’t See
This One Coming

DENVER - Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

-- Louis MacNeice

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Little More on College Presidents:
Excerpt from an interview with John Silber.

[ For background, see UD {scroll down}. ]

Q: What was the moment like for you when the offer to [Daniel] Goldin had to be rescinded and the payout had to be made?

A: Don't exaggerate the payout. He had planned a coronation that would have cost a great deal more than $1.8 million. In the context of a budget of $1.6 billion, $1.8 million is not that significant. And just think what the university saved by the termination, because if it had allowed that contract to go forward, Goldin would have had a payout of, say, 10 times that amount, if they'd decided later to get rid of him.

Q: But the publicity fallout?

A: The fallout wasn't terrible at all. That has been manufactured by the press.

Q: But that's where the fallout always registers.
University of California's
Twelve-Year Lashing

Sad editorial today by the reporter who covered the last executive compensation scandal at the University of California:

Lessons not learned at UC
Louis Freedberg

WILL THEY ever learn?

The most depressing aspect of the recent revelations by my Chronicle colleagues Tanya Schevitz and Todd Wallack about the lack of transparency in awarding compensation to top University of California employees is that the university went through a similar nail-pulling experience 13 years ago.

In 1992, the university was thoroughly shaken by disclosures that the Board of Regents, in a series of closed door meetings, had awarded then-UC President David Gardner a "deferred compensation" and retirement package worth close to $1 million.

That included an annual pension of $126,000, adjusted annually for inflation, that Gardner, who chose to retire at age 58, would receive for life.

The revelations came during another period of financial duress for the university. During the three years leading up to the Gardner disclosures, student fees had risen by 85 percent. That was the last time student fees had escalated so rapidly until the most recent round of fee increases -- up 79 percent since 2001.

I covered the ins and outs of the scandal, which included publishing transcripts of a closed-door meeting at which regents schemed how to keep details of Gardner's compensation from the press. (As we later discovered, I and other reporters were waiting right outside the room where the regents brazenly discussed how to keep the information from us).

Revelation upon embarrassing revelation followed -- including how the university bought Gardner's house in Utah in order to facilitate his move to California and ended up losing $111,000 on the deal when it sold it later. Gardner didn't want to live in the president's house in Kensington, so the regents gave him a low-interest loan, plus a generous housing allowance, so he could buy a house in Orinda. It even paid for the property taxes on the Orinda property.

The scandal widened when it turned out that 22 other top officials of the university also received similarly secretive "deferred compensation" packages.

The furor reached its peak when then-Gov. Pete Wilson and Speaker Willie Brown showed up at a tumultuous special meeting of the regents to defend Gardner's severance package.

In his memoir "Earning My Degree," published last year by UC Press, Gardner tried to rewrite history by downplaying the seriousness of the scandal.

He blamed the media for its "unremitting, and unrestrained (mostly inaccurate) news reporting" -- even though he never once requested a correction for any of the dozens of stories I wrote about the furor.

In his memoirs, he paid me a backhanded compliment by describing me as "an intelligent and accomplished journalist." But, in a conspiratorial flight of fancy, he concocts a theory that has no basis in fact by suggesting my reporting was driven or manipulated by Ralph Nader, simply because I knew his sister Laura, an anthropology professor at UC Berkeley.

In his 432-page memoir, Gardner leaves out any mention of a lacerating 1992 report commissioned by the university by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post, at the time perhaps the most respected fiscal analyst in California.

"The manner in which compensation issues have been presented, considered and approved during the last 10 years has been seriously deficient," Post concluded. "The imposition of secrecy (regarding executive compensation) appears to have become commonplace, becoming a matter of convenience rather than principle."

Gardner's memoir also neatly leaves out any reference to a 178-page audit by the state's auditor general, also in 1992, expressing concerns about questionable practices by UC officials, including first-class air travel, using university money to pay for a wedding reception and making charitable contributions using UC funds with no clear benefit for the university.

The auditor rejected the argument that some of these perks were paid for from "private funds." "Because UC exists as a constitutionally based public trust, it is an entity of the state," the auditor wrote. "As such, all of UC's funds are state funds and should be expended with similar regard for UC's responsibilities as a public trust."

After Gardner left, new UC president Jack Peltason introduced a range of reforms that promised more openness in disclosing executive compensation. The university, for example, pledged to provide full details of executive compensation to the Legislature and involve UC faculty in helping to set administrative salaries.

So what happened? Gardner went on to become president of the Hewlett Foundation and chairman of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Over time, the scandal faded in memory, and Gardner was lionized by his peers. A smart new addition to the Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus was named after him.

The transparency promised by the university gradually become more opaque, making a mockery of the "reforms" adopted by the regents -- with the unfortunate results we have seen over the past weeks. As Jeremiah Hallisey, the retired regent who was Gardner's most persistent critic at the time, reflected this week, "If they have to pay these salaries, let's justify it in a public meeting, and let's have transparency."

It's pretty simple. A public university has no choice but to do its business in public.

That is a truism that the University of California has yet to fully embrace. It should not take a lashing from the public and the press every dozen years or so to force it to do so.


UPDATE: Faculty majorly pissed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Books That
Just Scream

[A Regular University Diaries feature]

Monday, November 21, 2005


A concise plot summary.
Diversity Conundrum II:
Local Yokels

Diversity Conundrum I, you recall, was plaintively expressed by the Cornell University student representing her engineering organization at a campus diversity fair. The student reporter covering the event notes that

There was an incredible amount of diversity even within the groups [that had booths at Cornell‘s recent Diversity Fair], such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It is not necessary to be either Hispanic or an engineer to join. “Our name deters people,” lamented Kathya Chiluiza ’05, a member of this networking group.

Diversity Conundrum II appears in the recent column of a fierce defender of all proposed diversity initiatives at the University of Washington, as he exhibits his ability to embrace fellow students of all walks of life:

Locally, yokel Ed Swan made headlines this past week when he claimed to be discriminated against by the Washington State University's College of Education for his "socially conservative" beliefs.

As the WSU College of Education places a particular focus on a teacher's ability to recognize and embrace diversity, and compassionately teach students of all walks of life, Swan's beliefs that "diversity is perversity" (found to be scribbled inside a book of his) as well as his own slights at diversity training and education, caused the College to threaten dismissal from the program.

Swan fired back with support from a so-called "educational freedom" group and the school backed off.
Speaking of metaphors...

...Neal McCluskey establishes and maintains one very nicely in this short essay about American universities.

O scrutinizers of Newmark’s Door. Scroll down to the post titled “The Economy of Scarcity” for my take on the new U. Va. course load for their economics department.

Chasuble. I hope, Cecily, you are not inattentive.

Cecily. Oh, I am afraid I am.

Chasuble. That is strange. Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang upon her lips. [Miss Prism glares.] I spoke metaphorically. - My metaphor was drawn from bees. Ahem! Mr. Worthing, I suppose, has not returned from town yet?


The e-mail was sent to Rebecca Beach, a freshman at the New Jersey college, who had sent an e-mail announcement to faculty members about a lecture she organized Thursday featuring a veteran of the war in Iraq talking (favorably) about the U.S. role there.

John Daly, an adjunct instructor in English, sent an e-mail reply in which he said that he would ask students to boycott the lecture, and that “real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people’s needs.”

[Daly said] the comment about soldiers turning their guns on their superiors was meant “in the most metaphoric sense.”
Well, say what you will…

…the merde’s definitely hit the ventilateur at Brown University over the SEX POWER GOD party (“The party was named after a lecture given on campus in the 1980s,” Brown‘s student newspaper somewhat pedantically explains. Brown holds a presumably more traditional annual party with the cornpone name, “Freshman Fling.”) and related events.

The university has decided, for instance, to “prohibit loud parties and other ‘rowdy’ social events in Sayles for the rest of the semester in response to Sex Power God.” Plus officials have emailed a letter to parents and alumni describing some of what they’re doing in response to events:

Student life deans are investigating student groups that organized last weekend's events, an ad-hoc committee will be created to review social event policies, administrators will review which types of events are suitable to be held in Sayles Hall and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Nancy Barnett of Brown's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies will lead a review of the University's alcohol policy.

(UD, always looking for the silver lining, found two things to smile about in the campus newspaper’s account of the ill-starred SEX POWER GOD:

(1.) "[Our campus group’s party’s cancellation] was a huge problem," said Michael Kum '06.

(2.) "That is a very important space on campus [said one official]. “There are portraits and … the organ that are very valuable to the University.”)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


UD’s intrigued by the latest higher education technology, a pocket-sized, professor-summoning device called the myPED. An academic version of the iPod with some astonishing innovations, myPED is an iPod upgrade which allows college students who do not wish to wait a month to hear a particular lecture on their iPod (desperate to keep students attending class at schools like American University, Purdue, Stanford, Hawaii, and Duke, where increasing numbers of them are absent because they can listen to all lectures on their iPods, some universities are now mandating that students wait a month to hear the lectures), the myPED gives students able to afford its $550.00 price tag a distinct advantage over peers forced to cool their heels for lecture content.

myPED or no, many university professors, in a bid to sell their in-class performance to customers who don’t have to buy it, have already been pumping up their pedagogy -- in the classroom (“These days, Purdue criminal-forensics professor David Tate makes sure every one of his live lectures includes key visual components like blood-spatter patterns or bomb-disposal techniques. Students who opt to listen rather than attend, he says, ‘miss a whole lot.’") and on their iPod tracks (“Some professors actually act more like DJs than Ph.D.s, composing musical intros, adding gong sounds, jokes and other aural cues to emphasize important ideas on the digitalized version of their lectures.”)

But with the myPED, the professor comes to you, anyplace, anytime. A version of the physician’s pager, the myPED sends a signal to professors who are “on call” (different universities have different blocks of hours during which faculty must respond to myPED calls) to deliver their lecture to myPED owners.

UD’s school, George Washington University, is still studying the myPED technology and deciding whether to introduce it. But UD is not waiting around. In order to assure bodies in seats in her classes, she now begins random classes (she thanks Purdue's David Tate for helping her think outside the box on this) with a short rambling account of her depressions, and then takes out a little knife and half-heartedly scratches at her wrists. All it takes, UD has discovered, is a few drops of blood for students to come back for more.
Under the Greenwood Fee

ACTA's blog covers the latest sordid developments at the University of California.

For UD's earlier commentary on this, go here and here.
A Mote it is to trouble the mind's eye …

…as it muses upon a world of overpaid university presidents:

“The first rule of being a president is never redecorate,” explains President Dan Mote of the University of Maryland, where he controls a billion dollar budget but “drives a 1998 Ford Crown Royal and works in a 50-year-old building with lots of problems,” a campus reporter notes. “Simply put, [the administration] buildings are old. Since being built more than 50 years ago, the pipes leak, the paint smells funny and the staircases resemble echoing psychiatric wards.”

Flecks from the paint seem to have made Mote mad. Listen to him rant!

“The administration building has to be functional ... but not too fancy and especially not new… If I was to put resources into buildings, they should be for labs and academic buildings. I think my office is nice.”


UPDATE: David Foster, at Photon Courier, blogged a few months back on a related subject:


Here's an unusual but intriguing approach to making investment decisions--specifically, deciding which companies in which not to invest. In Fortune (12/22), Donald Sull of Harvard Business School has this to say: "If I see a big, spanking-new headquarters, the stock's a sell. There's just too much shareholder cash sloshing around." He specifically cautions investors against companies possessing any of the following in their new headquarters: an architectural award for design, a waterfall in the lobby, or a heliport on the roof. When such things make their appearance, Sull believes, "Management is saying, 'We've declared victory, and now we're building a huge monument to our victory.' "

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More Trouble with Slate

Slate magazine, we can now conclude, is over UD’s head. Not only did she fail to get its recent essay about blogs (scroll down to "Blogoscopy"), but she also fails to get its more recent essay on literary theory.

The author seems to say that there’s always been something pathetic about English professors as intellectuals and academics. They’ve never known what they are, or what they’re supposed to do.

Indeed, no one knows what English professors are or what they’re supposed to do.

So for a long time English professors have simply consulted their particular literary loves and worked up courses about them. There wasn’t anything systematic or utilitarian about what they did in the university. They were adorable amateurs among the professionals, playing kittenishly with this text and then that in front of their students and in their written work. As a kind of afterthought, they’d work up some sort of legend about the literature they liked to make it seem central and important to their institutions:

No one knows what an English professor does. In waking up each day only to rejustify their entire existence — to jealous colleagues, to class-shopping undergraduates, to the administrative purse strings — professors of literature invoke the literary past in whatever way will most advance their own institutional self-interest.

This approach made English professors “suckers,” the author writes, because their fond passion for certain aesthetic forms meant they were susceptible to literary hoaxes like Ossian. And English professors remain suckers today in their more recent guise as literary theorists so enamored of anti-Enlightenment legends that they fell for the Sokal hoax.

English professors have always been suckers, then, except for one brief period: the heyday of deconstruction:

The English professor himself was slowly evolving. The key to that evolution was what is sometimes called "the linguistic turn." Language is of course the necessary medium for all advanced learning; but after Wittgenstein, the default position of the tenured philosophe has been that only within language can we order and experience human reality. If the English professor is the expert in charge of understanding how we use language—how metaphors shape history, how history shapes our metaphors, etc., etc. — he holds a position of enormous intellectual authority on a college campus.

For a brief period, climaxing with the reign of terror of the Yale Deconstructionists, the English professor appeared to have arrogated, not only all of literary history, but all possible knowledge to his own powers of interpretation. The English professor had completed the transition. He was no longer a sucker. He was now a con man extraordinaire.

Con man, because he was no longer the old sucker, “vulnerable to charlatanism and dupery” on account of his know-nothing love of Jane Austen. Now he knew that he understood language, the very medium of human understanding, better than anyone else.

Only he didn’t, really, or he got it all wrong somehow, but anyway he temporarily convinced everyone (hence, con man) that he had all this intellectual authority.

How are you doing with this argument? I’m having trouble. I think what would help me is the inclusion of the real con man who did in literary theory. It wasn’t Alan Sokal. It was Paul de Man, embodiment of that brief shining moment of the English professor’s moral, intellectual, and institutional authority. (He was in Comp Lit, but that's close enough.)

Anyway, the Slate writer concludes, literary theory is now dead:

These days, no think tank pundit would bother to denounce literary theory; its biggest stars, by way of generating some final headlines, have publicly disowned it; and no fresh cohort of terrifying intellectual charismatics has crossed the Atlantic to revive it.

The writer concludes elegiacally that

something was lost when the English department relinquished its status as the all-purpose intellectual nerve center on the American college campus. In its weakness lay its great strength: For not knowing exactly what an English professor does, the English department, though vulnerable to charlatanism and dupery, was also the last great repository for the nonutilitarian hopes of the university. [W]as it so wrong for a university to indulge one department whose time was spent agonizing over the entire mission of knowledge production itself? By never firmly establishing what it itself was for, the English department cultivated habits of withering self-reflection and so became one mechanism by which the university could stay in touch with its nonutilitarian self and subject its own practices to ongoing critique. Did the theory era produce bullshit by the mountain-load? Of course it did. But by allowing "literary theory" to turn into a pundit's byword, signifying the pompous, the outmoded, the shallow, the faddish, we may have quietly resolved the argument over what a university is for in favor of no self-reflection whatsoever.

UD does not remember literary theory in those days (she studied it with a variety of people at the University of Chicago -- including de Man, when he was a visiting professor there) as a fruitfully self-reflective, non-utilitarian sort of thing. She remembers it as involving one of two intellectual positions: either you took on what Harold Bloom called the “serene linguistic nihilism” of de Man (which was certainly non-utilitarian, but was also totally despairing about the possibility of our using language to understand and change the world), or you took on the ultra-utilitarianism (in the sense of subordinating everything to desired political outcomes) of the higher Marxism associated with Fredric Jameson.

So while UD loves the idea of English departments as great repositories for the nonutilitarian hopes of the university, she does not see how literary theory, even at its peak, helped them be this.
The University of California
Begins to Respond

From today’s San Francisco Chronicle [for background, scroll down to “Shelter Porn”]

After facing days of withering criticism, University of California leaders promised Wednesday to disclose more information about how much they pay employees.

"I believe we must stay competitive for the best people," said UC President Robert Dynes, who oversees the 10-campus university system. "But we also may be able to do a better job of telling people how we're doing that."

Specifically, Dynes said UC planned to make a number of immediate changes and form a task force to consider other reforms.

The changes come just days after The Chronicle reported that UC routinely pays employees far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, UC spent $871 million last fiscal year on bonuses, relocation allowances, stipends and an array of other hidden cash compensation. And that doesn't include fringe benefits.

"As a public university, transparency and disclosure are very important," said Gerald Parsky, chairman of UC's governing body, the Board of Regents. "The ability of the public to support this university and the ability of the regents to support this university depend on a knowledge base, and it is important that we understand everything that is going on."

Specifically, Dynes promised that UC would:

-- Step up random audits of accounts used by Dynes and other senior administrators for travel, entertainment and other expenses.
-- Post more details online about raises and other salary actions, shortly after the regents approve them.
-- Give regents a summary of a person's entire proposed compensation package -- not just expected base pay -- when the regents are asked to approve a salary.
-- Provide regents with a summary of UC leaders' total compensation once a year, including outside income. Dynes said he wasn't sure whether that information would be released to the public.

"I don't know," Dynes said. "We haven't thought about that."

Dynes also said he had asked Regent Joanne Kozberg and Bob Hertzberg, a former speaker of the California Assembly, to head a committee to examine whether other policy changes need to be made to improve disclosure.

"This is a step forward," said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Callan said the proposals sounded constructive, though he said UC must still answer other questions about its pay policies.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, an ex-officio regent, said he had asked the legislative analyst's office for more information about UC's finances in the wake of The Chronicle articles that ran Sunday and Monday.

"There is a dark cloud over the university that we really have to reckon with, and it speaks to the question of transparency and honesty," Núñez said. "We have to ask the university system to take a closer look at what it does."

Meanwhile, some UC faculty have begun circulating a petition to ask the regents to appoint an independent investigator to examine the findings in The Chronicle series.

"There is a lot of outrage," said Bruce Fuller, professor of public policy and education at UC Berkeley. "Is the quality of the university really tied to attracting managers, or is it tied to attracting top faculty?"

The UC regents also received an earful of complaints at Wednesday's meeting that UC is awarding lavish compensation packages to administrators, while raising student fees 8 percent Wednesday and not giving raises to rank-and-file staff members.

"I have a child in community college, and I cannot send her to the institution where I work 40 hours," said Stephanie Dorton, a clerical worker at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. "We are the backbone of the institution, and if you don't pay attention to the people who keep this university running, it will stop running."

UC for the first time Wednesday provided a breakdown of the $871 million in other compensation that it awarded last year in addition to salaries and overtime.

The biggest chunk, $343 million, was earmarked for employees at the medical schools and teaching hospitals from clinical revenue. Another $172 million went for relocation allowances, fellowships and temporary work outside of employees' normal duties. The rest was split among a variety of other types of pay, including extra teaching and research ($147 million), severance pay and accrued vacation ($54 million), bonuses and incentive pay ($39 million), stipends ($30 million) and housing and auto allowances ($4 million).

This chick plagiarized so many sources, UD is upset not to find something from University Diaries, or from UD's essays, on the list.
Quote of the day.

UCS members denounced the personal attack O'Reilly leveled against President Ruth Simmons when he called her a "pinhead." In an attempt to disprove O'Reilly's statement, the resolution lists Simmons' academic and professional accomplishments.

This statement comes from an article in today’s Brown University student newspaper, in which the reporter describes Brown’s undergraduate student organization grappling with the nasty things Bill O’Reilly did and said in regard to the recent SEX POWER GOD party at the university.

Thirty students who were at the party went to the hospital or Brown’s infirmary with drug and alcohol problems, “the highest number of students needing medical attention after a single event at Brown,” according to the university.

To make matters worse,

Saturday night's party followed several fistfights on the campus green and gunshots fired on the streets in the early morning hours after a fraternity party Friday night. Brown's public safety department said no injuries were reported. In addition, residents have complained to the university this fall, saying students throwing loud parties, yelling late at night and fighting in their neighborhood have disrupted their quality of life.

There’s a curious cultural dissonance to the students' response to all of this, especially given the absolutely mad abandon traditionally associated with the SEX POWER GOD party, which this year advertised itself by posting nude photos of current Brown students. Having had a video of the party broadcast on Fox (by a Fox employee who apparently was able to buy his ticket off the Internet), the students are now “offended and furious,” at O’Reilly’s “unbecoming” language, and at his “lack of respect for the privacy” of the party-goers.

Suddenly we’re Queen Victoria.

"Students get drunk and go to parties wearing practically nothing every weekend on college campuses across the nation. Why did O'Reilly specifically target Brown University?" one student asks, forgetting the gunshots, fights, and hospital admissions that made this particular weekend newsworthy.

The students propose “creating a council within the Ivy League to address future concerns about news coverage of prestigious, liberal schools that are targeted by conservative media.” Non-prestigious schools will presumably not be part of the council’s charge.
Blogoscopy Update

In his scary blog story, the Slate writer [scroll down one post], like so many on the subject, quotes the pseudonymous Ivan Tribble in the Chronicle of Higher Education in order to give plausibility to the claim that blogs harm academic job candidates and tenure-seekers.

UD has for some time wrestled with the ethical implications of what she’s about to do, but given the growing currency and credibility of Tribble’s anti-blog arguments, she’s decided it’s time to reveal who he is.

UD would have respected Tribble’s right to a pseudonym had it not turned out (she’s unable for now to say how she discovered this) that “Ivan Tribble” is in fact Mrs. Jeanne Spurrier, recently retired head of the Moline, Illinois chapter of the La Leche League.

Although expert in methods of breast milk expression and storage, Spurrier knows little to nothing about the realities of contemporary American academic life. What she does know seems to have been gleaned by listening to one of the new mothers - the wife of a local professor - she recently coached. A fierce enemy of all new technologies, which she sees as dehumanizing (hence her lifelong devotion to the goals of La Leche), Spurrier apparently became incensed on hearing about yet one more effort to disrupt “nature’s flow,” as she puts it in one of her unpublished writings (to be deposited at her death in the Rare Book Collection of the Moline Public Library).

Spurrier’s opposition to blogs, in other words, isn’t so much, as Tribble’s pieces seemed to suggest, about the defense of certain academic traditions - although this is how she argues her case, in order to gain an audience. Instead, her abhorrence is a small part of a vast abhorrence of virtually all technology.

How was the Chronicle taken in? Ask Slate itself. Their own Ivan Tribble was “Robert Klingler,” whose work they published until they discovered he was an imposter. This sort of thing happens pretty frequently, even at the most careful and high-profile publications.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I don’t get this thing on blogs from Slate’s “College Week” collection of stories. It’s got a big ol’ scare headline - Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs - but cites no example of even career-damaging blogs written by up-for-tenure academics.

It starts with Dan Drezner’s recent denial of tenure at the University of Chicago and darkly hints that el evil blog done did him in. Then the Slate author waits until his very last paragraph to tell you that Drezner got another first-rate academic job at the Tufts Fletcher School (plus a good number of other offers) days after the Chicago thing. Here are the last two sentences of the scary career-killing blogs article:

How did Tufts learn he was available? They read it in his blog.

So, uh, the author gives no examples of jobs lost or threatened and gives one example of a blogger turned down for tenure (at the sort of school that often turns people down for tenure) who - in part because of his blog - lands dramatically on his feet.

As for the cultural and scholarly value of blogs, the author has this to say:

[A]cademic blogging represents the fruition, not a betrayal, of the university's ideals. One might argue that blogging is in fact the very embodiment of what the political philosopher Michael Oakshott once called "The Conversation of Mankind"—an endless, thoroughly democratic dialogue about the best ideas and artifacts of our culture. Drezner's blog, for example, is hardly of the "This is what I did today …" variety. Rather, he usually writes about globalization and political economy—the very subjects on which he publishes in prestigious, peer-reviewed presses and journals. If his prose style in the blog is more engaging than that of the typical academic's, the thinking behind it is no less rigorous or intelligent. …So, might blogging be subversive precisely because it makes real the very vision of intellectual life that the university has never managed to achieve?

In fact the real point of the article is to worry, reasonably enough, about how institutions might go about reviewing the scholarly quality of articles posted on blogs rather than in journals:

If anything, [emerging peer-review] blog-influenced practices … might reclaim for intellectuals the true spirit of peer review, which, as Harvard University Press editor Lindsay Waters has argued, has been all but outsourced to prestigious university presses and journals. Experimenting with open-source methods of judgment — whether of straight scholarship or academic blogs — might actually revitalize academic writing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Economy
Of Scarcity

Now here, in this earlier post, UD noted how long-suffering Brown University’s students are, as they routinely encounter multiple course cancellations at the beginning of each semester.

The Brown history department, for instance, recently cancelled thirteen courses (because of a “wealth of research opportunities,” its chair boasts). Political science, economics, and a number of other departments, while not as successful in pursuing research opportunities, also turned out impressive numbers of faculty dropouts.

But the University of Virginia goes Brown one better, boasting not only large numbers of professors who disappear from courses at the last minute, but an entire department - economics - in which no one teaches more than three courses a year.

So this semester, for instance, in the economics department, “two faculty members retired and seven other full professors announced their intention to go on research leave at the same time.”

Which meant cancelled courses, or courses taught by adjuncts.

But on top of that:

To lure and retain economics faculty members, the University has begun to offer additional benefits [to this department] not available to the faculty at large… . One such change includes cutting the teaching load from four courses a year to three because professors are attracted to the opportunity to do more research.

Cutting teacher course loads creates an additional strain on the number of students who are able to take economics classes.

In order to make up for fewer classes taught by full-time faculty, the University has adapted by bringing in adjunct professors... .

Three courses a year being the maximum course load for economics at U Va, some professors will certainly teach fewer than that. If they can whittle it down to two, for instance, in the same semester, they've won a semester's leave every year.

Let us deconstruct this very postmodern phenomenon.

You’re proud of attending U Va because it has a world-class, famous economics department.

But almost all of its economists of stature are absent.

Hence you may boast that X and Y teach at your school. You just can't learn anything from them.

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:


University of California President Robert Dynes and his wife live in one of the East Bay's most impressive homes, a 13,239-square-foot mansion in Kensington with 10 acres of land, gorgeous Mediterranean gardens and sweeping views of the bay. An extensive staff meticulously maintains the estate at a cost of close to $300,000 a year.

The best part for Dynes: like many other university presidents, he doesn't pay a cent.

For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors.

"I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association. "We certainly do not expect a university president who has substantial responsibility to be living in a very modest home. But does it take a $10 million mansion requiring this much maintenance to attract a competent UC president?"

[A spokesman] said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn't be able to afford homes on their university salaries.


Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes.

In financial disclosure forms, UC Davis Chancellor Vanderhoef reported he earns between $10,000 and $100,000 a year by renting out a home he owns in Davis. Similarly, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale reported renting out his Los Angeles home and earning between $10,000 and $100,000 a year in rental income.

Of the many news articles out today in response to the latest tracking of university and college president salaries and how they’re spiking way way way up, this one, from CNN Money, is the most concise and to the point.

The point being that executive pay is through the roof in this segment of the ed biz, and a lot of people wonder why.

Onaccounta it don’t make no sense. Take fourth-tier ranked Georgia State University. That’s the lowest US News and World Report tier available.

And yet one of the highest compensated university presidents in this country presides over fourth-tier ranked Georgia State University. Carl V. Patton comes in at $688,406 (and that‘s last year). “The reason his compensation is so high this year is that he will receive part of his $900,000 in deferred comp for serving 12 years in his post,” it says here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Small addendum to
recent post [scroll down]
about plagiarism

In an article in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer, about the rather weird ongoing “conceptual plagiarism” controversy in the University of Pennsylvania sociology department, we get another example of the tendency of plagiarists to plagiarize on a regular basis (a tendency I discuss - scroll down - in the post titled “A Few More Words About Plagiarism”):

Maria Kefalas, one of the authors being accused of conceptual plagiarism, “faced questions about attribution in her previous book - questions that were resolved when she posted a list of corrections…”

It's not at all clear, however, given the conceptual fuzziness of "conceptual plagiarism," that Kefalas and her co-author have done anything wrong.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Or why everyone soon will be
distancing themselves from
distance education.

“The only things that work [in educating people] are local, human-to-human immersions that transform the students down to their very beings. Extraordinary schools, which create intense cultures of achievement, work. Extraordinary teachers, who inspire students to transform their lives, work.”

David Brooks
New York Times

[For Harrumph I, II, and III, go here ]:

A sample of University of Georgia faculty reaction to the provost’s -- and the state’s taxpayers’ -- concern about professors there canceling more and more classes because of football games:

“I’ve been teaching for 30 years. I’m a grown up. If I am hired to teach libel law then no one is going to tell me how to teach my class.”

“I think we have bigger issues on campus.”

“The assumption underlying this is ‘we don’t trust faculty.’”

“I think our provost has way better things to do with his time. I think our department heads and deans have way better things to do with their time than to check and see if teachers cancelled classes one particular day.”

“If I were teaching a reporting class, I would [have cancelled] class that day and [had] students report on teachers canceling classes.”
I got a new disposition
Got me a new routine
Got a new disposition
Got me a new routine

UD’s efforts to understand the use of the “dispositions” standard as applied to prospective public school teachers are landing her in the same slough of despond she’s in after equally serious efforts to understand the phrase “cultural competency” as applied to university professors. (For an update on one university’s notorious cultural competency program-in-the-works, go here; and note that the head of the working group says that their new focus will be on “providing definitions.”)

Every time a representative from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which sets the standards by which schools of education judge their students acceptable or unacceptable for the classroom, attempts to define this crucial, intimate attribute -- if you don’t have it, you’re booted out of a career in teaching -- UD becomes more confused.

At times having the correct disposition means something grand and overarching. You care about all students as human beings. You want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. All God’s creatures got a place in the choir.

At other times, representatives of NCATE define the proper disposition not in macro but in micro terms. It involves the details of daily classroom management. "We're trying to get to the softer side of teaching," says an NCATE spokewoman. "Some people are brilliant in the subject matter, but scream at their students, show favoritism, it's things like that we are trying to get a hold of."

At yet other times, dispositions turn out to have to do with your profoundest and most private political and moral beliefs, as in the recent effort of one school of education to throw out a high-GPA student with a conservative political philosophy. Here the dispositional deficit lay in the student’s stubborn insistence, despite mandated diversity education sessions, brutally negative dispositional evaluations from his professors, and the school’s insistence that he sign various contracts aligning himself with social views alien to his own, on remaining loyal to his conservative outlook.

Like Bella Cohen, whoremistress of Ulysses, UD finds herself all in a mucksweat whenever she tries to make the disposition requirement make sense.

She awaits with eagerness NCATE’s decision to dispose of it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Few More Words
About Plagiarism.

One simple thing people should do when it comes to allegations of plagiarism is look for patterns. How do plagiarists typically operate?

One thing many of them do is find an innocuously old and/or obscure precursor document to appropriate. Whether it’s Laurence Tribe, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Brad Vice, or now, in the world of cartoons, Dave Simpson, plagiarists tend to root around in stuff that’s lain dormant for decades, and/or stuff that didn’t set the world on fire when it first came out, until they find something that’s pretty good, but which readers are unlikely to remember in its original context.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for a lot of plagiarists, plagiarism is a habit, a way of life, an established operational mode. It’s not uncommon for people revealed as plagiarists in 2004, say, to turn out to have plagiarized also in 1990 and 2001. (Vice’s 2001 dissertation contained the same lifted material that’s gotten him into trouble four years later.)

So, for instance, a furious Bob Englehart, on discovering that the newspaper cartoonist Dave Simpson has just stolen one of his early cartoons (it appeared in 1981), comments: “Having not learned his lesson in the late 1970s when he was busted for stealing Jeff MacNelly’s cartoons, he has recently stolen one of mine.” (Simpson has been fired.)

This latest plagiarism case exhibits all of the features I’ve isolated here, features that emerge again and again:

1. The plagiarist has plagiarized before.
2. The plagiarist focuses in his or her work upon documents and images that have been out of circulation for a longish time.
3. The plagiarist’s reigning assumption is that people won’t remember back beyond a decade or so.

Oh, and number four: As with Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, watch for the plagiarist, on discovery, to make the amazing assertion that he assumed the plagiarized material was actually his own work -- that is, to claim that he is incapable of distinguishing between multiple pages of his own prose, or pictures from his own hand, and pages and pictures from others. “Simpson, who was dismissed Thursday, said he found an unsigned copy of the cartoon in his creative files and mistakenly believed it was his own.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Note to U. Va.

If there’s one form of computer competence all universities should have, it’s the ability to take a faculty website down when a faculty member has

1. tried to run a student over with his car,
2. made threatening phone calls and sent threatening emails to a student,
3. just appeared in court on charges of attempted malicious wounding, computer harassment, threatening phone calls, computer invasion of privacy and stalking, and
4. resigned his university position.

It’s been almost three months since the then-Associate Director of UVa’s Center for Biomathematical Technology tried to run over his ex-girlfriend, a student at UVa. He resigned a week after the attempt.

UD thinks it's time to retire his university faculty page.

From today's New York Times:

For One Student,
a College Career
Becomes a Career


WHITEWATER, Wis. - Nearly every college has some screwball who never seems to graduate, lingering year after year as classmates move on. And then there is Johnny Lechner.

In his 12th year of college here, Mr. Lechner has parlayed life as perpetual student into a lucrative personal brand. His genius for self-promotion might have earned him Phi Beta Kappa - if only it had been applied to his studies.

He has appeared on "Late Show" with David Letterman, "Good Morning America" and other shows, describing a roisterous campus lifestyle of beer and merrymaking.

National Lampoon is promising to pay his tuition, and the makers of Monster Energy Drink deliver 30 cases a week, along with advertising posters and condoms, to the house where Mr. Lechner lives and parties, in exchange for his endorsement of Monster as "the official energy drink" of his 12th college year.

He has signed with the William Morris Agency, which is marketing a reality television series based on his life at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. And in recent days he has referred to interviews with The New York Times on his personal Web site, anticipating new publicity from this article.

The dizzying whirl of sudden celebrity has not been easy, Mr. Lechner said.

"I'm really stressed out," he said. "All the money, the book deals, the agents. It's just crazy."

The marketing hoopla whipping up around Mr. Lechner, 29, is making it difficult to separate fact from fable about his college career. He has compiled a 2.9 grade-point average and in one semester got straight A's. But in the topsy-turvy logic of the entertainment world, a record of debauchery has become central to his success, and friends say he has taken to exaggerating his Animal House credentials.

Mr. Lechner is not entirely unique. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said recently that she had found a student who had been enrolled in college for 17 years. Still, in an era of national anxiety over global academic competition, some state officials are indignant that Mr. Lechner's record is attracting a spotlight.

"The guy's been a student for 12 years, and he's bragging about it?" said State Representative Robin G. Kreibich, chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Colleges and Universities. "I wonder how many kids can't get in because he's staying on so long."

University officials denied that Mr. Lechner's lengthy enrollment had prevented even one qualified student from gaining admission. But he was the beneficiary of a tuition subsidy given to all in-state students - until the last school year, when the Wisconsin Board of Regents imposed a surcharge virtually doubling tuition for students who exceed 165 credits. (Mr. Lechner has 242.) Wisconsinites call it the Johnny Lechner rule. This year his tuition is about $9,800.

Martha Saunders, the Whitewater chancellor, said that some faculty considered Mr. Lechner a bit of an embarrassment, while others believed that "we're a community of scholars, and he just loves to learn."

But Richard Brooks, a silver-haired philosophy professor who is Mr. Lechner's most recent academic adviser, looked peeved when his student announced in a meeting between the two that he had made little recent progress toward completion of his senior thesis, in which he will reflect on his undergraduate years.

"The reader should come away convinced from this thesis that you actually did learn something," Dr. Brooks said. As a liberal studies major, Mr. Lechner must complete a thesis, which can be formal and footnoted or personal and reflective, his final requirement for graduation. Mr. Lechner said it was stressful to reconcile his identity as a laid-back student with the image that his marketers now expect of him.

"I'm not out getting hammered every night," he said. "People expect me to have crazy stories about being in threesomes, nights at the bar that end at sunup - but that's just people's imaginations running away with them." He paused.

"I don't know how much of a market there is for a guy who's merely a good student," he said. "But I want you to know me as I am, rather than as the animal they're making me out to be."

When Mr. Lechner enrolled in college in 1994, the Internet was practically a baby and his current girlfriend was starting fourth grade. He has since drifted through four majors - education, communications, theater, women's studies - and watched hundreds of friends graduate, get jobs and marry.

Mr. Lechner has stayed on, pursuing a coffeehouse career as a singer-songwriter and accumulating more than twice the 120 credits required for graduation. His parents are divorced; his father is an engineering executive, his mother a convenience store manager.

During his first two years they helped pay his tuition, but since then he has paid his own way, working part time and taking out $30,000 in student loans, he said.

Mr. Lechner said he hardly noticed the semesters flying by during his fifth, sixth and seventh college years because he had found a "comfort zone."

During his eighth year, he said, "I realized it's a great story, and I started thinking about my book." He resolved to go for at least 10 years.

"There's a big difference between saying I went to school for nine years, and saying I went for a decade." he said. "It's more amazing."

A friend created a Web site,, which is headlined: "There is a time and place for everything. It's called 'college.' " The site displays pictures of Mr. Lechner strolling across campus, drinking and hugging beautiful co-eds.

Last spring, he e-mailed Wisconsin newspapers. The Wisconsin State Journal published a profile of him that provoked frenzy in the entertainment industry.

CBS flew Mr. Lechner to New York to appear with Mr. Letterman, who asked what college was like.

"People expect me to be like, 'We're going to toga parties and doing keg stands,' " Mr. Lechner responded. "Don't get me wrong - these things are happening."

One person who watched the show was Orin Woinsky, a National Lampoon vice president based in Los Angeles, who saw similarities with the 2002 movie "National Lampoon's Van Wilder," about a fictional seventh-year college senior who refused to graduate.

"Johnny was the real-life Van Wilder," Mr. Woinsky said. He walked the news into the office of National Lampoon's chief executive, Daniel S. Laikin, who responded, Mr. Woinsky said: "Get in touch with this guy!"

Mr. Woinsky sent an e-mail message to Mr. Lechner offering to pay his tuition, sponsor his graduation party and hold a job open for him at National Lampoon.

Talk radio hosts from around the country called Mr. Lechner.

"I heard him do his first phone interviews," said Megan Seeboth, a 21-year-old undergraduate who was dating Mr. Lechner at the time. "He said he spent all his time playing basketball, drinking all night and at parties, and that's the complete opposite of how he lives. He just thinks that's what will sell.

"He's going out once a week and he's going to class."

Ms. Seeboth, who broke up with Mr. Lechner in September, said that part of his reputation was deserved.

"It was very difficult being in a relationship with a guy who girls were throwing themselves at," she said.

Adam Steinman, a senior producer at Lion Television, a British company that had a camera crew follow Mr. Lechner in September, said: "People love him. He brings people together."

But some students find Mr. Lechner annoying, said Brian Wolfe, a political science major who defeated Mr. Lechner by a vote of 511 to 281 last spring in an election for student body president.

"Johnny has his little core of buddies," Mr. Wolfe said, "but a lot of people think, 'Why doesn't he just grow up?'"

Mary Martin, a Los Angeles producer who knows Mr. Lechner, said that hard-working students across the nation might share that view. "But," Ms. Martin added, "it's also every 40-year-old guy's dream to do what he's doing."

So runs today’s headline in the Tuft’s student newspaper. UD had never seen “embetter” before, so she looked it up. She got Nothing Founds from two dictionaries, and Obsolete from a third.
What would
“by force”

Today’s Washington Post describes a still very angry and unsettled post-Ladner American University. The good guys on the board of trustees are gone:

Students, faculty and some trustees speculated that those who left may have wanted to limit their liability -- the Internal Revenue Service can impose sanctions on nonprofit boards for overcompensation and other issues, federal agencies had been asking questions and senators were watching.

And now some people on and off campus want the entire remaining board, as a former trustee and a major donor puts it, "removed and replaced, either by resignation or by force."
A Regular
University Diaries

okay kids here's
today's sales quota

From a University of Georgia student newspaper:


Few things are more difficult than hiking the Appalachian Trail — except maybe getting people to buy a book about it.

At least that is the challenge facing nine students in a Lessons in Leadership class in the Terry College.

The student’s class project is to market their teacher’s book “Bearfoot: A Northbounder E-Mails from the Appalachian Trail.”

The students’ goal is to sell 1,000 books. So far they have sold eight.

Patrick Pittard, the former CEO and chairman of the Board of Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. and an executive-in-residence at the Terry College of Business, wrote the book as he hiked the Appalachian Trail over seven months in 2002.

“The first mile I ever hiked was on the Appalachian Trail,” Pittard said. “Everything in my backpack was new, even my backpack was new.”

Pittard did not set out to write a book about his adventure.

“I am an accidental author,” Pittard said. “I didn’t mean to write a book.”

Instead, Pittard was trying to keep in touch with friends through e-mail while he hiked. He took notes in a small notebook and left voicemails for his assistant of his notes whenever he passed through a town. Then, his assistant transcribed his voicemails into e-mails.

Originally, 30 people received these e-mails. During the course of Pittard’s hike, that list grew to 300, and Pittard estimates about 1,000 people were reading them.

The book is the collection of the e-mails he wrote during his hike.

Pittard designed the project to give his students actual experience in marketing and the opportunity to make some money for the University.

All the proceeds from the books the students sell will go to the Institute for Leadership Advancement.

David Carswell, a group member and a senior from Marietta, admits the project has been harder than he thought.

“At first, I thought ‘Oh, we have to sell a few books a day,’” Carswell said. “It’s at the point now where we need to sell 30 books a day to reach quota.”

For Andrew Price, a third-year law student from Greenville, S.C., the class has been a nice change of pace.

“Most law classes, you just sit in lecture the whole semester and take a final exam that is worth 100 percent (of your grade),” Price said. “This is really hands-on.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Update: College Football

Selena Roberts at the New York Times remains the most metaphor-mad writer UD has ever encountered [see UD’s earlier homage to this figurative language fanatic here ].

She’s outdone herself in her latest college sports report, turning in sentences where mythic bovines tussle with nuclear weaponry (“Research by the economist Andrew Zimbalist and others have pointed out the cash-cow myth at colleges locked in an arms race fueled by unsustainable expectations of winning.”) as she attempts to make the simple, oft-made point that college sports are expensive and insipid.

The new saddle this simile-savant has slapped onto the steed of college sports (how’m I doin’?) is Steven Weinberg, who she roped in for a phone chat:

[A] Texas physics professor who grew up in the Bronx, taught at Harvard and won the Nobel Prize in 1979, [Weinberg was] wooed to Texas three years later in one of the university's most famous hires this side of Darrell Royal.

He is the best-selling author of "The First Three Minutes" - a chronicle of life after the Big Bang - but that doesn't make him an outsider in a state ribboned by Christian conservatism.

Roberts lassoed the ol’ long-distance horn (you try this!) and called Weinberg (who makes around $400,000) for his response to the two million plus annual salary his university’s football coach gets (a few other coaches now get three million).

"I think it's hard to say that our day-to-day work in research and teaching is hurt by the football program, but at the same time, I have to say I find it somewhat embarrassing," Weinberg said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I love this university; and the universities with which I'd like to have us compared are places like Harvard and M.I.T., not the ones at the top of B.C.S. rankings."

This protractor across the bow is dead on. But boosters don't line up to buy No. 1 foam fingers to salute overachieving mathletes. Instead many donate tax-deductible millions into boutique-style giving: athletics only, please.

"It's argued that football makes money for the university and the large sums paid for coaches and facilities are more than earned back by ticket sales and television rights," Weinberg said. "I'm a little skeptical." [Along these lines, see UD on Portland State.]

The skepticism is valid. Odd how university officials happily itemize what their football programs make but rarely what they spend. How much to house a 90-man roster in five-star hotels the night before a game? Sometimes, as has been the case at the University of Colorado, it's a home game.

Or consider the cute little Gophers at the University of Minnesota, who are demanding that the state pay one million dollars a game by way of subsidizing a new stadium for them.

Last spring, the total price tag was $235 million, but now the university says the delay has added $13 million to the total cost. The state's contribution remains at $7 million a year, but that price is coming under greater scrutiny.

…Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, IP-Rochester, said some of her constituents are concerned about the state's share, which works out to about $1 million for every home game.
"A million dollars a game, $7 million a year, for 25 years," Kiscaden said. "And with the economy not in the greatest shape, energy prices going up and property taxes going up, people aren't as persuaded as the alumni are that this is absolutely necessary."

…Some lawmakers object to giving the stadium a corporate name [The bank that’s putting up a lot of the money wants to have the thing named after it -- like Enron Stadium]. State Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, said he'll push to change the name to "Veterans Memorial Stadium." The university had a Memorial Stadium for 68 years, before it was demolished.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I haven't yet tried...

...this link to my Irish radio interview - I'm rushing off to campus - but if you'd like to hear UD on diploma mills, give it a try.


I'm back, and I've tried it, and it works. Many thanks to my whiz-kid sister for setting it up for me.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Taste of Prison

Robert Schrieffer, professor, Nobelist, speedster, will indeed get the "taste of prison" the judge who oversaw his manslaughter trial last year wanted for him.

At first it looked as though Schrieffer -- who killed a man and injured a bunch of other people when, driving on a license already suspended because of years of speeding tickets, he rammed his sports car at one hundred miles an hour into a van --might get off with a mere eight months in the county detention center. But the details of his depravity so outraged the judge that he found a way to put him in a real cell.
Looks as though...

...UD will be interviewed at around 11:30 this afternoon on NewsTalk 106, Dublin, about the current diploma mill controversy in Ireland.
ZE/HIR Update

UD’s effort to educate her readership in the use of this linguistic innovation began here.

A writer for the Harvard Crimson updates the ze/hir usage situation:

Caving willingly to pressure, Wesleyan College’s imprimatur has been accorded to a group that wants to educate professors and incoming freshmen on the use of the transgendered pronoun “ze” and its possessive “hir.”

Perhaps what’s most disconcerting about all of this, however, is not the impact these new terms are having on everyday life or mainstream academia—for most people, overtly or quietly, recognize the gay rights movement’s latter-day silliness.

Rather, it’s the prospect that a community whose goal has so long been “acceptance” is isolating itself and alienating others by creating a separate body of knowledge that only they appear to care about or know. Of those transgender terms, BGLTSA’s Noa Grayevsky ’07 is quoted in last week’s Fifteen Minutes, “People that are either queer or educated on this topic use [‘ze’ and ‘hir’] pretty widely.” And, of course, no one else does.

As with her earlier translation of a Washington Post article into ze/hir usage, UD now translates another example of popular discourse into the new usage. (As with her earlier example, all gender identifiers have also been deleted.)

Saint Louis Blues

I hate's to see dat ev'nin' sun go down
Hate's to see dat ev'nin' sun go down
Cause ma baby, ze done lef' dis town.
If I feel tomorrow lak ah feel today
Feel tomorrow lak ah feel today,
I'll pack up my trunk, and make ma git away.

Saint Louis (Gender Identifier Deleted) wid hir diamon' rings
Pulls dat (GID) 'roun' by hir apron strings.
'Twern't for powder an' hir store-bought hair
De (GID) ze love wouldn't gone nowhere, nowhere.

Got dem Saint Louis Blues I'm as blue as ah can be.
Like a (GID) done throwed that rock down into de sea
Got dem Saint Louis Blues I'm as blue as ah can be.

Went to de gypsy get hir fortune tole
To de gypsy, done got hir fortune tole,
Cause ze most wile 'bout hir Jelly Roll.
Now dat gypsy tole hir, "Don't you wear no black."
Ze done tole hir, "Don't you wear no black.
Go to Saint Louis, you can win hir back."

If ze git to Cairo, make Saint Louis by hirself,
Git to Cairo, find hir old friend Jeff,
Gwine to pin hirself, right there, to hir side
If ze flag hir train, ze sho' can ride.

(spoken) And ze sang

Got dem Saint Louis Blues jes as blue as ah can be.
Dat (GID) got a heart lak a rock cast into de sea.
Or else ze wouldn't have gone so far from me.
Doggone it!
I loves day (GID) lak a school(GID) loves hir pie,
Lak a Kentucky Col'nel ....loves hir mint an' rye.
I'll love ma baby till the day ah die.

Now a black-headed (GID) makes a freight train jump the track,
Said a black-headed (GID) makes a freight train jump the track,
But a long tall (GID) makes a preacher ball the jack.

Lawd, a blonde-headed (GID) make a good (GID) leave the town,
I said a blonde-headed (GID) make a good (GID) leave the town,
But a red-headed (GID) make a (GID) slap hir pappy down.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Zapping Your Peer

the shadows lengthen for dr. raj persaud

Times being what they are, it takes hours, not days, for one plagiarism story to push another off the front page. We’ve hardly had time to be shocked by Brad Vice’s appropriation of material in his now-shredded short story collection, and already our heads are being whipped around to a much bigger story, this one involving the Dr. Phil of the Brits, Raj Persaud:

Britain's most ubiquitous psychiatrist was yesterday at the centre of a plagiarism row after it emerged that substantial portions of an article he had written for a medical journal were copied from the work of an American academic.

The article written by Raj Persaud in the February edition of Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry was withdrawn and a retraction printed, but it went unnoticed outside the mental health community. One of the youngest doctors to become a consultant at the highly respected Maudsley teaching hospital in London, and boasting eight degrees, Dr Persaud writes on mental health matters in a string of publications and has presented the Radio 4 psychology programme All in the Mind.

UD likes that Persaud’s victim is a colleague of her husband’s at the University of Maryland:

The alleged plagiarism came to light when Thomas Blass, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, happened upon Dr Persaud's article. The piece, entitled "Why The Media Refuses To Obey," was about the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, famous for his 1963 "obedience" experiments, when people were encouraged to "electrocute" peers as punishment for a mistake.

Persaud should definitely have anticipated that Blass would happen upon his article, since Blass is a Milgram fanatic.

Professor Blass has written a book and numerous articles on Milgram. He said he was shocked by the similarity between Dr Persaud's piece and his work. "I am reading it [Dr Persaud's piece] and all of my words are echoing back at me," he told the Guardian. "He had taken paragraphs from my work, word for word. Over 50% of his piece was my work, which I have spent more than 10 years researching. I felt outrage, disbelief and incredulity this could happen, that a person who is himself a writer could do this. It's very disconcerting."

Yet more disconcerting is that this is the second time Persaud has done it. To Blass:

…Yesterday Prof Blass said he earlier complained over another Milgram article by Dr Persaud in the TES which appeared to borrow heavily from the American's work: "I communicated directly with [Persaud] and pointed out as much of half of his article came verbatim from me. In his response, he said he didn't see the final version before it goes to press, and said the subeditors must have taken out the quotation marks and citation at the bottom." Dr Persaud then offered "as reparation" to give Prof Blass necessary credit "in the very next column" and would also apologise for the omission.

Though a reference to Prof Blass's book on Milgram was added to the article's web version, an apology never appeared in any of Dr Persaud's subsequent writings for the TES. When asked why this was, Dr Persaud said: "I offered an apology, but didn't receive a response from Blass so assumed he was happy with the website reference. If he had come back asking for an apology, I would have definitely given one."
As long as we’re back on the subject…

…of the University of Georgia Press -- who knew that the crony scandal Foetry unearthed had another layer of dirt to it? The person who presided for decades over Georgia’s often rigged poetry contests, who has now resigned, had a cronyesque publishing history of his own involving Jorie Graham, who gave her husband-to-be one of Georgia‘s prizes:

Four of Ramke’s eight books of poetry were published by the University of Iowa Press. Two of the four—Airs, Waters, Places (2001) and Matter (2004)—were released in the Kuhl House Poets series, which is coedited by Jorie Graham.

Ramke complains that

“I began receiving two or three e-mails a week accusing me of being published at Iowa only because I let Jorie Graham publish her friends at Georgia…”

Only two or three?

Another note on the extent to which Brad Vice is guilty of the vice of plagiarism. In a thoughtful essay, Jake Adam York, at the blog Story South, defends what Vice did in one of his short stories (see this post for background) as intentionally and clearly allusive of its precursor text and of the Alabama literary tradition generally:

[Vice’s story is] an act of Alabama literature, which would necessitate at some point a consideration of Carmer's Stars Fell On Alabama, one of the few outstanding works of classic Alabama literature. And it's hard to imagine that, with Carmer's work in mind, we could read Vice's work without hearing the quotations and without understanding them as such and without understanding the quotations not as a simple homage to a segment of another work of Alabama literature but as well as an appropriately rich response to a work that is itself so heavily invested in quotation, taking its name from a popular jazz tune and frequently quoting real people in the course of its narrative.

…To have been more explicit within the story itself, Vice would have had to have included an epigraph from Carmer's work or perhaps named Carmer, but such a gesture diminishes the allusion, which works when the reader makes the connection the author has already made. The joy of allusion lies in the reader's arrival at that place already inhabited by the author, a place in which reader and writer come to be in profound sympathy with one another. To force this arrival, as an author, is to mistrust the reader.

I’m sympathetic to some of this, but there are problems, foremost among them the fact that the Carmer book is very obscure and basically out of print, so it’s presumably little read and little known. It is one thing for T.S. Eliot to quote lines from Dante’s Inferno without identifying them, and another for a writer to pick up paragraphs of prose from a book he has reason to believe few of his readers have encountered. Indeed, I’m afraid one of the classic strategies of plagiarists is to find an obscure work on their subject written awhile back and assume (often rightly - these cases more typically come to light long after publication) that no one will notice their having plundered it.

And, having now looked at both texts side by side, it is clear that Vice did lift a significant amount of Carmer. Occasionally Vice made very minor changes. But basically he just took it, metaphor, mood, and all.
A Theme After UD’s Heart

Ladner is not the first president to leave AU under a cloud. A colleague dropped by the other day to express his fear that the "curse of the presidents" would never be lifted. In 1994, Ladner became AU's fourth president in five years; one of those left after being caught making obscene phone calls. My colleague asked, "What do we get next? A narco-trafficker?"

For all of our dark humor and collective embarrassment, there is a serious question in this: Is there something wrong with the way the school's trustees are governing our university? Perhaps our board of trustees, whose members are drawn almost entirely from the ranks of big business, does not fully appreciate how a college president differs from a corporate CEO. The trustees were, it seems, swayed by Ladner's claims that his salary and perks were commensurate with the many-fold increase in the university's endowment and the money he raised for the beautiful new Katzen Arts Center.

But college presidents are supposed to remain committed to the teaching and ethical mission of the university while they are raising money. They cannot expect to work on a percentage basis like managers of a hedge fund. If that is the prize that motivates them, they should go to Wall Street. As Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity University here in the District, observed, alumni who give their hard-earned wealth to a university do not want the president to waste the money on himself. Many wealthy donors whose values are intact gag at crass displays intended to entice them.

---Jamin B. Raskin, this morning’s Washington Post

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Little British
Press Coverage…

...for UD.
Only in America

The wife of Rutgers University’s personal-problem-prone president (say that five times fast) is divorcing him. She states in her divorce papers that she will not be able to support herself and her two children.

A couple of things are striking about this claim. First, she only has one child, a sixteen year old. Her other wee bairn is twenty.

And her salary is close to $150,000 a year.
Another Setback
For Ivan Tribble

From Daniel Drezner’s blog today (Drezner, a high-profile academic blogger, was a few weeks ago denied tenure by the University of Chicago):

I have formally accepted an offer to be an Associate Professor [with tenure] of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, starting in the summer of 2006. Next year at this time, I will be teaching students pursuing a M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) or a Ph.D. at Tufts University in Medford, MA.

… I received a number of inquiries ... from academic and non-academic institutions -- the latter including government, think tank, and publishing opportunities. This was both gratifying and useful. Gratifying because it's always nice to be wanted. Useful because it gave me the chance to ponder whether the academy was for me. In the end, Fletcher was the best choice for a combination of personal and professional reasons.

There’s a disappointingly conventional corrupt provost story unfolding at the University of California, where the former provost of Santa Cruz, now provost of the whole system, has resigned because of cronyism.

One expects a story out of Santa Cruz to interrogate gender or put consciousness under erasure. This one, however, has a dreadfully dull bourgeois metanarrative involving money and power and real estate. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle, which uncovered the malfeasance:

The University of California's second-in-command, Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, abruptly resigned Friday, and another senior administrator was placed on leave after the college system launched an investigation into possible favoritism in hiring.

University officials said the conflict-of-interest inquiry had been opened after The Chronicle, in the course of researching an article, posed questions about the hiring of two people with ties to Greenwood -- her son as well as a friend with whom she owned rental property.

[T]he university is investigating the possibility of impropriety in Greenwood's decision last year to promote her friend, UC Santa Cruz Vice Provost Lynda Goff, to jobs at UC's headquarters in Oakland. Goff, 56, was first hired as a faculty associate and then as director of UC's new science and math initiative, which carries a salary of $192,100. In addition to being friends, Greenwood and Goff owned rental property together in Davis at the time.

…UC said it was unaware that the pair had jointly owned income property until informed by The Chronicle earlier this week.

In addition, UC is looking into whether one of Greenwood's subordinates, Winston Doby, did anything improper to help Greenwood's son, James Greenwood, land a job in August as a paid senior intern at UC's new campus in Merced. The one-year position includes a $45,000 salary. UC said it had placed Doby, vice president of student affairs, on paid leave pending the completion of the investigation.

…Friday's developments were particularly stunning because Greenwood, 62, had been highly regarded in her 16 years with UC. She served as chancellor of UC Santa Cruz for eight years before being promoted in February 2004 to UC provost, overseeing the entire 10-campus system and serving as UC's No. 2 administrator.

"This will be a real blow,'' said Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "No senior person has gone down for this sort of thing for a long time."

Callan said the resignation should be a wakeup call for the university to take a harder look at itself in the future.

"We should not have to rely on the press to keep these situations from arising,'' he said.

As if it weren’t enough of a black eye for California’s system that its provost’s mode of corruption is indistinguishable from that of a Chicago pol, circa 1950, she had earlier engaged in positively Ladnerian antics:

…This is not the first time Greenwood has faced controversy. Some regents objected last year when she was hired at provost with a salary of $380, 000 -- nearly $100,000 more than her predecessor.

At the time, Dynes argued she needed the higher salary to cover the cost of buying a home near UC's headquarters in downtown Oakland. Like other UC chancellors, Greenwood previously received free housing on campus.

In addition, her total compensation turned out to be higher than was publicly announced at the time, The Chronicle has learned. In addition to her salary, UC gave her a $125,000 relocation incentive to move the 70 miles from Santa Cruz to Oakland. That was in addition to $17,950 for temporary housing, $9,527 for moving expenses and a low-interest loan to buy a condo in Oakland.
An Update on the Prodigious
Thirst at Georgia Southern U.


The City Council in Statesboro, Ga., has voted unanimously to do away with all drink specials and happy hours in the city's restaurants, bringing to end a months-long battle over binge drinking at Georgia Southern University.

The new rules prohibit establishments from giving away alcohol or offering reduced prices during certain hours of the day. They also restrict people from buying a pitcher of alcohol unless there are at least two people there to drink it and limit customers to one drink per person at a time.

Mayor William Hatcher called amendments to the existing alcohol ordinance "a step in the right direction."

"To think that we are going to stop all the drinking at Georgia Southern or in Bulloch County is ludicrous and that's not our heart or our mindset," Hatcher said. "Our intent is to slow it down and to focus on underage drinking."

The alcohol rules have stirred controversy on Southern's sprawling campus, and hundreds of college students turned out for last month's city council meeting to protest the changes. Many say the additional rules will drive more students to drink at house parties or in Savannah, a 30-minute drive away. Some restaurant owners have said they feel they are being persecuted for problems that occurred at other establishments.

Williams Britt, a member of the City Council, owns two of the most controversial establishments in town. Last month, the board yanked his liquor licenses because he didn't meet the requirement that at least half his profits come from food. He was barred from Tuesday's vote because of a potential conflict of interest.

Nancy Waters, chairwoman of the Alcohol Control Board, said she was happy with the council's vote.

"They made the responsible decision," Waters said. "I feel that the role of the mayor and the City Council is to see to the safety and well being of our citizens."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tunnel of Oppression Season

Erin O’Connor, at Critical Mass , chronicles this semester’s Tunnels of Oppression at various colleges and universities. Tunnels of Oppression move students through dark sequences of rooms in which upsetting multimedia assaults upon the students (voices yelling “Faggot” at them, etc.) make them feel what it feels like to be a member of an oppressed group.

UD’s own institution decided to take a slightly different approach to its tunnel this year. It decided to honor the American university’s burgeoning population of older students by inaugurating the “Carpal Tunnel of Oppression.”

The student’s tour through the tunnel begins with a greeting from a carpal tunnel hand.

Students are then led into a room with the following sign on its walls:

In the middle of the room, an inviting computer desk allows students to sit and use a therapeutic anti-carpal tunnel mouse:

Finally, as they exit the tunnel, students are encouraged to place their hands in a special carpal-tunnel-pain-mimicking glove.
It's but a trifle here...

...given what's going on in the Paris suburbs, but it seems the French government took a serious look at the same lists of the world's best universities UD did [for my brief take on the lists, go to the Sunday, October 30, 2005 post, "Brownout."] This is from the Financial Times:

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, called on Friday for rapid reform of the underperforming universities system as a crucial step in boosting France's economic competitiveness.

"We cannot be satisfied that the leading French university ranks 46th internationally," he said. "To resolve this situation we must have better financed universities that are truly autonomous and better managed."

His words were an attack on university management, in which professors are members of the civil service and decision-making is shared between students, teaching staff and managers. Power-sharing was established as the result of the national student rebellion of 1968, the memory of which still inspires fear of education reform in government circles [again, for UD's take on this, after teaching for a semester at the University of Toulouse, see my Monday, February 23, 2004 post, "Journaux Universitaires"].

The lack of managerial autonomy to raise finance and compete for teaching staff internationally, along with a reluctance among unions to allow universities to select students, is widely blamed for France's poor performance in tertiary level educational rankings.

Yes, you read that right. Most French universities don't get to select students.
October 26, 2005
A Day that Will
Live in Infamy

Strong class shadings in this morning's obligatory keen for the university the University of Georgia might have been [for background, scroll down to post headed "For Paradise the Southland is My Nominee"]. From the Athens Banner-Herald:

[T]he University of Georgia is - and evermore shall be - a party school, a haven for the state's spoiled children of privilege where athletics (read "football") will trump academics each and every time.

...Do you remember when UGA was on the verge of climbing out of its longstanding reputation as a party and football school? Remember just a few months ago, when the Task Force on General Education and Student Learning, a group of two dozen administrators, professors and students, unveiled a list of comprehensive strategies for improving the intellectual climate at the university? Remember when it seemed like the university was going to be able to claim legitimate kinship with the top-flight schools it has long considered its peers?

...[M]aybe you won't mind accompanying UGA President Michael Adams to an upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly - the state legislature, which exercises significant control over the university's budget. Maybe you can offer some wisecracking explanation to legislators, telling them why it's wrong for them to wonder if, in funding the university, they're simply facilitating ["facilitating" is a bad word choice here -- too official sounding for the context. UD'd go with the nice "W" alliteration the writer has established ("wisecracking...why...wrong...wonder...whims...") and use "whipping up" or something] the silly whims of a bunch of overpaid dilettantes - whims like arbitrarily canceling classes - and doing it on the backs of the state's taxpayers. In the upcoming legislative session, that's exactly what they're going to be wondering, particularly after the events of Oct. 26.
University Diaries...

...was down for a couple of hours last night. Don't know why. Sorry.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reconstructing a Broken Something

Does this dude already look like
a university president, or what?

Washington DC’s highly competent Mayor, Anthony Williams, may be interested in taking over the post-Ladner American University. UD likes this comment of his, which is not about AU in particular but tells you something:

Development, reconstruction, bad situations I find very exciting. What I'm fascinated by is development in the sense of reconstructing a broken something.

via dcist
Yes, for paradise the Southland is my nominee…

Just an old sweet schedule of classes at the University of Georgia - plus the Georgia Southern University neighborhood bar where the bartenders “wearing a black contraption on [their] back[s] resembling a giant bug sprayer funnel neon-green liquor directly into students' mouths” (scroll down) - keeps Georgia on UD’s mind.

Not that the state university system there, with its clever and aggressive corruption strategies, is ever far from her thoughts.

The latest news is that although UGA students already get a two-day (Th/Fr) break from classes simply because of “the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville,” many of their professors are now adding Wednesday. The provost, Mace,

sent out a firm edict this week to university deans to canvass their faculty and see how many called off Wednesday classes in anticipation of the two-day break and the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville last weekend.

Mace said his interest was piqued Wednesday morning when, on a walk across campus, he noticed fewer students than usual.

"The campus was basically dead," Mace said. Later he learned that some student employees of the university were working all day because their classes had been dismissed.

"Fall break begins Thursday," Mace said. "I'm going to be very hard-nosed about this."

As of Wednesday of this week, few departments had complied with Mace's request, and at least one dean reported that he was having trouble getting the information from faculty members.

We all know what we call folks who make a fuss about this sorta shit, don’t we?

Some couldn't resist poking fun at the issue.

In an e-mail to faculty members asking whether they had canceled classes, one dean compared Mace to Dean Wormer, the malevolent presence at the fictitious Faber College in the movie "Animal House."

"There is something in his request that has that 'Animal House' flavor," the dean wrote, knowing that faculty would bristle at the directive. "Remember, Dean Wormer?"

GW Readies for Accredation Process

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


... the National Association of Scholars, which has filed a complaint with the Department of Education against NCATE (the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) because of their "dispositions" requirement for America's teachers [UD has had what to say about the dispositions requirement in a variety of posts on this blog, but go here for a calmer attack]. The head of NCATE has issued a strangled, inarticulate response to the suit:

Arthur E. Wise, president of NCATE, said that the complaint was a “fabrication” about his group. Wise said that the “dispositions” requirements reflected the need for education schools to know how their students would perform as teachers. NCATE needs to know that there is a good system in place, he said.

“We mean that students, when doing their student teaching, are judged that they will do no harm to students,” he said. “Our guidance to institutions is to evaluate behavior in context. We do not encourage or invite colleges to examine the beliefs of students.”

Let's work on our grammar and clarity and get back to the press on this one.

via inside higher ed

Most people who comment on the class-rigged nature of selective college admissions mention tutoring. Applicants whose parents can afford years of guidance and prepping on all aspects of the application process (tests, writing, early admission, appropriate feeder schools, appropriate extracurricular activities, etc.) enjoy an extreme advantage.

While most colleges are probably okay with the phenomenon of “the perfectly buffed-up applicant,” as a Harvard admissions committee member puts it, others claim to make an effort at leveling things. And now that the SAT features an essay, the New York Times reports that some schools are checking that impromptu writing sample against the sometimes too “highly polished, professionally edited personal essay” they receive with the student’s application -- an essay “that barely reflects the thinking or writing, let alone the personality, of a 17-year-old high school student. ‘If it sounds like it was written by a 42-year-old attorney, chances are it was written by a 42-year-old attorney,’ said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.”

In practice, it’s pretty clear that the most selective universities, working their way through 20,000 applications, are unlikely to be comparing the two essays. Some schools, though, do say they’ve begun placing “a forced style” that looks as though it’s “been taught by a tutor," against the SAT essay, which you’ve got to write all by yourself.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How'd I miss this one?
It's even local.

From Georgetown University's student newspaper:

The executive accountability question [Georgetown, like GW, is, post-Ladner, setting up more accountability systems] is particularly significant for Georgetown following the 2003 discovery of extensive fraud by a high-level administrator at the Medical Center. In her August guilty plea, former accounting official Adriana Santamaria admitted that her theft, which went undetected for seven years, ultimately cost the university over $500,000.

I posted about GW's recent equivalent high-level theft, the Bedewi case, here.
Too much good stuff…

…to pick and choose. Drink up.


Andrea Jones
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 11/01/05

Statesboro — The trembling Georgia Southern University freshman arrived an hour late for Laura Milner's English composition class this summer.

Tearful and smelling of alcohol, the 18-year-old metro Atlanta native told Milner she'd blacked out after a night of downing free liquor at Ladies Night at a local dance club. Had she been raped? Sexually assaulted? She didn't know. She couldn't remember.

Shocked, Milner took the student to the counseling center and, soon after, started asking questions around campus.

In the months since, the professor's quest for answers has put binge drinking on the front burner at this school of 16,000, pitting local officials and university administrators against college students, many of whom insist they are mature enough to make their own decisions about alcohol. At the center of the storm? A local politician who owns two of the most controversial establishments in town.

Today, Statesboro's City Council will vote on stringent new amendments to the local alcohol ordinance that include banning happy hours and drink specials at all restaurants and limiting to one per customer at a time the number of drinks that can be ordered.

'Dangerous drinking'

This is not the first time students and city officials have clashed over alcohol policies in Statesboro. The city began allowing liquor by the drink less than 10 years ago, and the surrounding county of Bulloch still bans liquor sales in stores.

Nancy Waters, chairwoman of Statesboro's alcohol control board, which drafted the amendments, said the city owes the changes to Georgia Southern parents — many of whom are from metro Atlanta — who expect that their children will be protected when they drop them off at school.

"The goal is to curb this kind of dangerous drinking," Waters said. "Someone has to look out for students."

Waters said the board did not set out to punish law-abiding restaurants, and in a meeting last week recommended that happy hours be allowed from 5 to 7 p.m. That option will be considered at today's council meeting in addition to the board's original proposal for a total ban on happy hours.

'Date rape night'

The push to change Statesboro's alcohol policies began in earnest in September, after Milner showed a standing-room crowd at a City Council meeting poster-sized pictures from "Ladies Lock-Up" night at the Woodin Nikel, the club where her student blacked out.

A bartender wearing a black contraption on his back resembling a giant bug sprayer funneled neon-green liquor directly into students' mouths. Milner, who went to the club with a fellow professor and two students, said she saw underaged freshmen, including some of her own students, drinking. Some were chugging alcohol as club employees chanted and encouraged them to drink more. The women inside drank free liquor for two hours before the doors opened at 11 p.m. to a line of men waiting to pay a cover charge to get inside.

"Some students referred to it as 'date rape' night," Milner said. "It was unbelievable."

The owner of the club? William Britt, a 30-year-old Georgia Southern graduate and member of the City Council.

The city has since yanked Britt's alcohol license at Woodin Nikel and at Legends, another establishment he owns near campus, for failing to prove at least half his profits came from food, a requirement for all Statesboro restaurants with liquor licenses. The alcohol board is also auditing seven other establishments to make sure they meet the 50/50 requirement, Waters said. So far, only one has turned in paperwork.

Britt said the city just hasn't accepted the fact that Statesboro is a college town and that students like to have a good time.

"If you took the college out of Statesboro, there'd be nothing left," he said. "Instead of allowing business owners to address issues, they're just making decisions that hurt everybody."

Amendment vote tabled

Britt said his staff checked IDs and used wristbands to separate the over-21 partiers from the underage ones.

"But if someone buys a drink and hands it to someone who is underage, it's very difficult to catch them," he said.

After the revelations at the September meeting, the alcohol board made its recommendations for amending the city's ordinance. The City Council was scheduled to vote on the amendments at its October meeting but tabled action after hundreds of students and townspeople showed up to voice their opinions.

Britt will be banned from participating in today's discussion and vote because of a potential conflict of interest, said George Wood, Statesboro's city manager.

Paul Ferguson, director of Georgia Southern's Health Services, said he's not out to ruin anybody's good time. But college students — especially freshmen away from home for the first time — don't always make the best choices.

"We have an obligation to take care of them and protect them," Ferguson said.

In recent years, Georgia Southern has seen a major influx of students from Atlanta. Now, 40 percent of students on the campus, which boasts white-columned brick buildings set amid rolling hills, hail from the metro area.

Georgia Southern has long had a party-school reputation. The university recently received a grant from the state Office of Highway Safety for an alcohol education program and seed money to start a safe driving program that would offer students rides home from local establishments.

Waters said the support of Georgia Southern's senior administrators has been a key to the fight to curb drinking. The university's attorney, Lee Davis, spoke in favor of the amendments at the October board meeting.

"We have never had an administration so committed," Waters said.

Students oppose changes

Ferguson, who has been at Georgia Southern for about a year and a half, is a fatherly figure around campus. Student workers in the health clinic routinely stop him in the hall for a chat, a hug, a handshake or a request to borrow his minivan for the weekend.

Last month, he spent six hours on a Sunday matching student health reports with establishments the students had been to earlier in the night. Of three reported sexual assaults from July to October, all were underaged women who had reported alcohol abuse at the Woodin Nikel. Of the seven concussions, six had been drinking at either the Woodin Nikel or at Legends, and five of those were underaged.

"You can have all the anecdotal evidence in the world, but the numbers don't lie," he said. "This was just plain wrong."

Ferguson said shutting down those two clubs was the first step to curb binge drinking. Some students say they will just turn to more house parties, but Ferguson said the pressures to drink hard liquor without eating tend to be less in those situations. The key, he added, is educating students more to avoid dangerous behavior when they drink.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students have signed a petition opposing the additional alcohol amendments. Georgia Southern senior Nathan Queen, the general manager of Retriever's, another popular bar and grill across from campus, has led the effort. Queen offers drink specials and happy hours at his restaurant and said the amendments are too strict and that the city should just enforce its existing ordinances instead of creating more.

"Why should a bunch of 50-year-olds be deciding what 18- to 24-year-olds need to do?" he asked. "It's not fair."

The students who were lined up Thursday night outside Retriever's in flashy tank tops, ball caps and fashionable jeans tended to agree.

Katie Rushing, a 21-year-old pre-pharmacy major from Statesboro, sipped on a free rum and Coke at a table with her friends. It was Ladies Night, and women paid a $5 cover for a plastic cup they could refill with liquor drinks until 11.

"If one bar messed up, that doesn't mean everybody should get punished," she said. "If people want to drink, they're going to no matter what."
Being Launched From a Trebuchet
is a Very Dangerous Thing To Do

From The Guardian:

An Oxford University student died when he was flung 30 metres through the air by a catapult as a stunt, but instead of landing on a safety net he only clipped it before striking the ground, an inquest heard yesterday.

Kostydin Yankov, 19, a member of the Oxford Stunt Factory, had paid £40 to be launched from a trebuchet, a copy of a medieval siege weapon adapted to throw people rather than stone missiles.

…The machine was designed and built by David Aitkenhead and Richard Wicks in April 2000. Mr Wicks' partner, Stella Young, a human resources manager, told the inquest how she had broken her pelvis while being catapulted by a prototype of the trebuchet in May 2000. "I hit the net, bounced in and bounced out, breaking my pelvis in three places. I would tell jumpers what had happened to me and how lucky I was. It is a very, very dangerous thing to do," she said.