This is an archived page.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)

Saturday, December 31, 2005


UD’s back in town…

…after pleasant stays in Cambridge, Mass (weirdly sunny and warm) and then the mountains of western Maryland, where she and the family unit gazed at clouds and sun over Lake Habeeb from their fifth floor room at the Rocky Gap Lodge.

(subtract golf, add snow)

The best part was rediscovering Cumberland, Maryland, an architectural delight, and a great town for train lovers. Here’s one for you, Cold Spring Shops:
Now that it finally looks as though it's going to happen...

...allow me to reproduce in full a very early post from this blog -- written around New Year's, two years back:


Contemporary American humanities professors, many of whom have never met a moral imperative they like, tend to be belligerent fundamentalists about one thing. They display a blind faith in the transubstantiating power of the tenure monograph. It and it alone can change Assistant to Associate.

Under the influence of the book-imperative, the gentle agnosticism of the typical tenured professor of English can, especially at tenure review meetings, become virulent loyalty to the authority of university presses. Brandishing the Pentagon-speak they would revile in any other context, faculty members will announce: "All of our candidates must score a book -- and demonstrate second strike capability!" Even greater publication pressures are coming, Lindsay Waters writes, from "chief academic administrators [who] have begun to demand that candidates for tenure publish two books, not just one, because more is somehow better; they actually don't give a damn which presses churn out all these unreadable, uninspiring volumes. It's my contention that the tyranny of the tenure monograph has contributed to a crisis in the humanities."

Stephen Greenblatt and Lindsay Waters have recently counterattacked the book imperative forces, Greenblatt for superficial, and Waters for profound, reasons. MLA President Greenblatt's much-discussed letter to tenure committees suggesting that senior faculty now retreat from the rigid insistence on a book or two is a desperate move, a Hail Mary pass in the face of a collapsing scholarly book market (for various reasons, publishing companies lately are producing far fewer monographs than they used to). If our junior colleagues can't find presses willing to publish the books imperative for tenure, he argues, our tenure committees must - at least until the market recovers - make the book imperative unimperative. To keep winning the game, we're going to have to suspend the rules.

Greenblatt adds that the profession will eventually need to "collectively ponder and debate" the articles of faith underlying this awkward outcome; but first we'll have to fix "the immediate problem."

Yet if the MLA had pondered and debated earlier, we might have avoided the embarrassment. All tenured professors of literature have seen evidence of the corruptions, distortions, and absurdities of the book imperative system, pre- and post-tenure. When in a recent review of Judith Butler's work, Martha Nussbaum called one of Butler's books "unconscionably bad," she was telling us, among other things, that the book imperative had destroyed Butler's sense of the moral imperative not to publish for the sake of publishing.

We know that the situation is scandalous up and down the line, but we have been unwilling, each of us, to examine our own bookolatry. And because we've continued to pass the book, we now see that the situation is not merely scandalous but suicidal. The book has begun eating its children.

While Greenblatt looks for ways to protect professors from market vagaries, Waters, an influential editor of scholarly books, begs tenured professors to reflect upon their cheapening and self-defeating tenure monograph mania. Can they not begin to perceive, he asks, how the cynical overproduction of feeble, unvisited tomes, the sorts of tomes Edward Casaubon would have produced if he'd been under tenure pressure, undermines all books? Can they not grasp how, in the pointlessly turbulent world of the book imperative, a rising tide sinks all ships?

Waters clearly hopes that the profession will strike out in a new direction, and the direction he has in mind is toward the essay, that much-maligned minor god in the tenure publication pantheon. If a book is the heavy artillery, an essay is the light brigade, the infantry division in a not-yet-battle-ready force. Essays are attendant lords; they will do to swell a scene or two in the early pages of an academic career, but they are little skirmishes, small incursions, notable at best as rumors of all-out war. The broader battle will be fought chapter-to-chapter, in the two-hundred and fifty pages deemed necessary to mount a thorough tenure campaign.

And yet is it not the case, Waters writes, that "to make a group of scholars turn on a dime, we need a publication not as thick as a brick, but as thin as a dime"? Economists, scientists, and political scientists have long known this, and their tenure standards focus upon essays as much as, if not more than, books. Waters describes an economist asking him "why the people in many of the disciplines in which I publish want to waste so much of the time of young people in the prime of their lives with such a lot of make-work. In economics, he said, they want to keep the kids working hard to generate new ideas that the rest of the profession can feed off of, because youth is the leading edge." The economist, Waters concludes, is right: "Why should we encourage young humanists to do a lot of Mickey Mouse work, to go through the motions, when what they should be trying to write are moving essays... .?"

Such essays could certainly work their ways into - or more probably, unfortunately, puff themselves out into - future books; but it is the discipline of generating intriguing and concisely expressed ideas that we want to encourage in younger humanities scholars. We should want evidence of lively engaged minds at pretty constant work rather than anxious squirrely minds holding their manuscript pages close to their belt while waiting for a press to publish them.

There is, writes R. Stephen Humphreys, "ungodly pressure on younger faculty and faculty-in-waiting to publish full-length monographs as early as possible. Sometimes their material is only substantial enough to support an article or two, but their professional lives depend on expanding it to the requisite 220 pages that will make a real book. Hence too many books with too little to say. Their research will be very extensive, but is also likely to be hasty and careless." "Junior faculty scramble to get dissertations published before their time," writes Mark Bauerlein, "and the market is saturated with scholarly ephemera." If we wanted ideas and polemic, we'd want essays and occasional, probably later career, books; we're drowning in books because we want tools of certification.

Yet there are deeper reasons for our enormous resistance to the essay as the dominant standard for early and even mid-career intellectual work in the humanities, and our veneration of the book; and these have to do, I would argue, with morbidity and concealment. After all, why should five well-placed and thoughtful essays, one of them, let us say, generating a good bit of citation and response, be regarded as a pathetic tenure-effort, and a dead-on-arrival book be celebrated? Something in us prefers the dead to the living. For with few exceptions, the tenure monograph in the humanities is that dead thing that lies on the conference table as we talk cluelessly about it (no one has read a page), vainly attempting to excite one another and ourselves toward a belief in its life; while the essay, especially if it appears in good intellectual quarterlies and scholarly journals, is likely to be a closely argued, accessible, and lively piece of work.

If it's particularly good, the essay will generate responses in the pages of the journal; it may have another life in a collection of essays on its subject by a variety of writers; or it may, again, eventually expand its argument into a book. An early career essay is far more likely to have a life span than an early career book. And an essay makes it harder than a book does to hide or obscure your ideas and arguments; it's difficult, in an essay, to bury what you really think under layers of literature-review, guru-worship, plot summary, and footnotes -- there's no time for that. Essays get to the point quickly and hold the point. As Timothy Burke, an historian, writes, "A journal article needs to get in and get out quickly and with intensity. Some kinds of works are peculiarly well-suited to journals: debates between several authors, commentaries, research notes, articles about material which doesn't properly fit into a larger monograph, and so on. Editors need to be more aggressive about making the journal form a distinctive kind of academic writing."

Tenure committees, moreover, are far more likely to be willing to read a couple of significant essays than to read a lengthy unimportant book. Promotion meetings based upon everyone having read one significant essay by a candidate might well turn into serious discussion of the quality of that person's ideas.

And finally, as an ad hoc MLA committee responding to the crisis recently noted, "If peer review is assumed to be the ideal gateway to scholarly communication, we need to consider whether journal publication - arguably determined more directly [than monograph publication] by peer readers - may not only be better in many instances for individuals but also better for the collective advancement of knowledge." John Lyons, the editor of Academe, is less diplomatic: "I've been opposed for a long time to the equation that publication equals scholarship and scholarship equals publication," he remarks in a recent interview. "I understand that a press has to make a commercial decision. But why should the scholarly world turn over control of its personnel to the marketing department of a press?... The presses are caught between the market forces and this absolutely insane inflation of the demand to publish books as a requirement for tenure, which I think is complete hogwash when it comes to the issue of determining scholarly quality." "Judgment has been externalized," Bauerlein concludes, "handed over to university editorial boards."

The increasingly destructive meaninglessness of the tenure manuscript, in short, has made it the uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor of the American university literature department. It has turned the profession's president into a sorcerer's apprentice, trying vainly to control the choking effects of its grotesque self-replication; it has turned many promising young thinkers into drones; it has allowed literature departments to dodge the responsibility of taking seriously the intellectual merit of their junior faculty members; and, in its simulacral splendor, the tenure manuscript has done its own small bit to deepen our general sense of living in a virtual, rather than a real world. "When I was growing up out in the sticks of Illinois," Waters remarks, "the university seemed to me to be a shining city on a hill, a place where people actually got paid to read widely, and to have fun with ideas. If it's ceased to be such a place, it's partly because people my age - I was born in 1947 - aren't encouraging younger thinkers to be more daring."

Despite market and other pressures, however, today's promotion committees maintain a fierce grip on the tenure manuscript. They seem to have taken a page out of NRA President Charleton Heston's book: You'll get their tenure manuscripts when you pry them from their cold, dead fingers.

Beyond the reasons I've so far suggested for this icy grip, and for the equally firm resistance to the essay as primary evidence of tenurability, lie two related phobias: fear of conflict, and fear of value distinctions. If the tenure decision can neatly resolve itself into the absence or presence of a book on a table, none of the messy disputatious business of hammering out a sense of a person's true intellectual ability need take place; and if the only value invoked in the tenure transaction is quantitative, then the awful, disheartening forms that scholarly conversation tends to take in politically correct times can likewise be avoided.

A canned book, in other words, is better than a can of worms. If we could discuss good and bad ideas, literate and less literate styles of writing, or the relative worth of paying attention to some writers over others, without having to spend a lot of time swatting down charges of elitism, we would do so, I suppose; but because many of us have witnessed or been drawn into the bullying theatrics of contemporary academic discourse, we would just as soon forego the degradation. Too much institutional connerie has made cowards of us all.

Nonetheless, the current crisis in the tenure game does represent an opportunity for us to follow Waters's lead and get serious about the matter. Start by asking yourself what intellectual work has had a real impact upon you. In my own case, the most inspiring and useful source of knowledge about art I've encountered in years was an essay on the meaning of modernism by Michael Fried, and then an essay in response to Fried's by T.J.Clark, and then a very nasty exchange between the two of them, all in the pages of one issue of Critical Inquiry about twenty years ago. I've reread it countless times, and I'm always thrilled and enlightened by the emotional and intellectual intensity of their clash.

A number of other such essays easily come to mind. And yet the "career trajectories" of intellectuals like "Rene Girard, M. H. Abrams, Paul de Man, and Meyer Shapiro are eschewed," Bauerlein points out, "for none of those talents produced enough work early in their professional lives to merit tenure under the present system." Of course books - mature books by seasoned scholars - have been crucial to me. But if I ask myself what's fired me up and sustained me in my thinking over many years, the answer is the sharp, well-written, well-reasoned, polemical essay that astonishes me with a new sensibility and a new point of view. Many of these essays have been anthologized, expanded into books, or incorporated into various edited volumes. Yet when I encounter them in these more refined settings, I'm nostalgic for the rough immediacy, the unbound cerebral energy, of their original environment. They lived; and they live. They represent a sort of ideal to which our junior faculty should aspire.

Let the dissertation go back to being what it was always intended to be: an extended work of scholarship demonstrating to a Ph.D. granting institution one's Ph.D.- worthiness. Having written it, younger scholars should transform parts of it into excellent published or publishable essays that can be shown to hiring committees when job candidates go after their first academic appointment (keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, studies suggest that hiring committees are not in fact looking for publications at this stage). These essays would represent a distillation of what's best in the dissertation; they would give hiring committees an easily accessible way of determining the intellectual strength and potential of the candidate; and they would push the younger scholar away from the deadly, hyperspecialized model of the tenure monograph for future written work, and toward the lively, interdisciplinary model of the essay.

"I've lived to become that appetizing thing, a 'full professor,'" Vladimir Nabokov commented in an interview with Playboy magazine in 1964, "but at heart I have always remained a lean 'visiting professor.'" Everything about institutional mobility in the humanities in the last few decades has involved, as even the MLA is now beginning to acknowledge, a sort of stupid inflation, a mindless bulking up to an appetizing but unhealthy fullness. Robert Darnton describes what he calls "monographism" as a "disease. It seems to be killing disciplines like literary criticism, where voguishness and arcane jargon have alienated the ordinary educated reader." A book, an academic wit once said, is "an article on steroids," and indeed our profession's action heroes remain the Schwarzeneggers of overproduction, the Stakhanovites of verbosity who started sweating out articles on steroids in their first years as professors and now cannot stop. Must we make these lumbering gladiators our model for junior faculty? A much more attractive model would be the lean, outward-tending, flexible, clear-thinking, public-minded essayist, who puts herself out there and enjoys the give and take of debate in the pages of lively journals. At heart we should remain, as Nabokov did, lean visiting professors, truly open to the world of ideas.

But things happen so slowly! Here's the very latest, from Inside Higher Ed.

Clyde Barrow, chairman of the policy studies department at U. Mass Dartmouth, wants heads to roll in the aftermath of the embarrassing Little Red Book hoax on his campus. He calls the professors who passed on a student’s absurd claim about government harassment to the mainstream media part of a "dogmatic and zealous group" at the school of “politically correct but chic anti-Americans.” (“but” chic? I thought it was chic to be politically correct.) One of the hoax-enablers dubbed Barrow’s language "incendiary," and said he thinks Barrow is "unstable."

In fact UD has heard that this same history professor is sharing with a small group of journalists an astounding piece of information he’s picked up from another University of Massachusetts student: Professor Barrow is … THE SON OF CLYDE CHESNUT BARROW OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!

Bullet-pocked car reputed to belong
to Professor Clyde Barrow's father.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


…while she was up in Cambridge, about a woman who’d been offered a junior faculty position at Yale and turned it down for a fine though less fancy university in the Midwest.

Her decision may seem surprising, but many junior faculty offered jobs at Ivy League schools make the same one, because the Ivies tend not to tenure from within. If you’re hot enough to get an untenurable position at Yale, Princeton, or Harvard, you’re probably hot enough to get a tenurable one from another excellent university.

UD doesn’t know whether David Graeber, the Yale anthropology professor who’s made a lot of noise lately about his non-renewal there, was offered other such jobs when he was on the market. But then there’s so much one doesn’t know about the murky Graeber story that it’s remarkable people keep writing about it.

Final script approval on the Graeber thing involves a man whose wild anarchistic ways were too threatening to staid old Yale, bastion of effete apoliticals like Glenda Gilmore and Bruce Ackerman.

"So many academics lead such frightened lives," Graeber says in an interview in the New York Times this morning. "The whole system sometimes seems designed to encourage paranoia and timidity. I wasn't willing to live like that."

Yet Yale’s particular junior faculty system, again, is well-known -- if you accept a job there you almost certainly won’t get tenure. You’ll get six years or so of excellent students and colleagues, and time to do the research which will stand you in good stead when you go back on the market. There’s none of the uncertainty and darkness that might encourage paranoia or timidity; everything’s quite open and straightforward. “It says something about Dr. Graeber's sense of politics," a fellow junior faculty member at Yale remarks in the NYTimes article, "that he seems to take this as an individual, personal thing rather than taking a more anthropological view of the nature of the system that affects all junior scholars at Yale."

UD figures this vague story remains compelling to newspapers because it seems to fit a perennially attractive conflictual scenario -- the one between bold revolutionary spirits and conventional repressive institutions. At the end of its article, the NYTimes trots out Stanley Aronowitz to announce that "places like Yale are not for people like David Graeber. He's a public intellectual. He speaks out. He participates. He's not someone who simply does good scholarship; he's an activist and a controversial person." But there are plenty of such people at Yale. UD thinks Aronowitz has been as snowed by this grandstander as he was by Alan Sokal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

COUNTERPUNCH published...

...the most embarrassing Little Red Book article UD has seen so far. The author's byzantine effort to make a senseless claim make sense is worth reading in full.

The Christian Science Monitor, editorializing about the now-notorious college graduate literacy study, mentions that “a 19-member national panel, set up by the secretary of education and known as the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, is looking seriously at recommending that colleges accepting federal money be held accountable for their educational results.” Reasonably enough, the CSM also argues that “federal and state taxpayers … should be entitled to know which colleges efficiently and effectively use government aid to achieve the best results. [The government should] put money into institutions that achieve basic benchmarks in the quality of graduates produced. Schools that object can decline federal money.”

Monday, December 26, 2005

Via Butterflies and Wheels

...comes a reminder that France too has made a few stabs at regulating psychotherapists (see UD's post below, titled "Ed Husserl, Phenomenologist," about New York Magazine's report on pending new regulations for therapists in New York). Again, I'll link more intelligently when I'm back in Garrett Park, but for the moment it's worth noting that the French haven't been able to accomplish what New York has -- a modicum of control over a mass of questionable activities...

Ophelia Benson's interest (shared by UD) in charlatanism draws her to the ongoing story in America and abroad of tussles among the brain doctors... and between brain doctors and insurance companies / subsidizing governments. UD's interest extends to the curricular and institutional implications of these pressures. What becomes of psych departments when fewer and fewer people and agencies will pay for their several groundless approaches? Will reputable universities review the magical-thinking elements of their psych curricula and drop them?

And when will intelligent design advocates and the like figure out that they can make a case for inclusion of their approach in higher education based upon its having equivalent empirical value to much of the established psych curriculum?


Instant Update: Today's New York Times (Science Times section, front page) reports on a recent "landmark meeting" on "the state of psychotherapy, its current challenges and its future." Headlined "Psychotherapy Field Is on the Road to... Where?", the article expresses the bafflement most observers feel when they survey professional psychotherapy.

For their convocation, the assembled therapists chose Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, impersonated by Robin Williams in a film. The reporter describes his opening remarks:

Adams displayed on a giant projection screen photos from around the world of burned children, starving children, diseased children, some lying in their own filth. He called for a 'last stand of loving care' to prevail over the misery in the world, its wars, and 'our fascistic government.' Overcome by his own message, Dr. Adams eventually fell to the floor of the stage in tears.
Stunning Appalling Astounding Disturbing

The adjectives are beginning to roll in on the college graduate literacy story, about which UD has already blogged. The adjectives in this post's title come from a Washington Post article (, education section), in which various experts and observers express consternation over the basic finding, which is that huge numbers of college graduates, never mind non-college graduates, lack basic reading comprehension. As one commentator says, this was not a test of your ability to understand Proust. It was a test of your ability to read two opposed newspaper opinion pieces and tell them apart.

Though not really surprising - despite all those adjectives - this is certainly a scandal. Millions of Americans are going into debt so their children can spend four years eroding their intellect.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


A recent post about psychotherapists reminded UD of her months working for Professor Erika Fromm, a hypnotherapist at the University of Chicago. This was so long ago that UD remembers using purply ditto paper on the correspondence she typed for her.

Erika was a psychologist through and through. UD was at Erika's Hyde Park apartment one afternoon (it was dominated by a grand piano on which sat inscribed photographs of Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez - Paul Fromm, Erika's husband, was a serious patron of modern music) and happened to see the piece of paper on which she'd written her impressions of UD as she interviewed her for the job as Erika's assistant. "V STRONG EGO" she'd written of our UD.

And it's a funny thing -- I mean, not just a funny sort of thing to have written, but funny in its effects. UD had in fact wavered for years on the question of whether she was a strong or weak person, but when she saw that piece of paper she thought, "Heigh-ho. If you say so." The statement was absurd, but UD decided on the spot to take it as a sort of confirmation...

The ego was sorely tried, though, working for Erika. My office was a thin wall across from hers, and her droning voice as she put various patients under hypnosis (her patients were mainly grad students trying to calm themselves for big exams, and/ or trying to quit smoking) worked on me too... Not that I ever went under; but I recall being terribly bored by the correspondence I had to type up, and listening with prurient interest to the murmurings going on nearby... Sometimes I fell into a light trance...

I quit that job. The little office was stifling; the little world of anxiety and compulsion it housed was depressing. Although the University of Chicago obituary of her I just read (she died two years ago, at 93) describes her hypnotherapeutic approach as much less gloomy than Freudian psychoanalysis, it was plenty gloomy by UD's standards, at least when you were sitting inches away from it.
Whenever UD suggests...

...that a badly or oddly written op/ed piece apparently from the pen of a prominent Washingtonian was likely written not by him or her but by a staff ghost-writer, she offends some readers, who think she is being cynical and unfair. But, as the first post at this morning reminds us, the practice is routine 'round here.
Via Erin O'Connor

...comes confirmation of the Little Red Book hoax.

UD hadn't yet posted on the matter, being a veteran hoax-watcher and finding the detail in this one that the American college student apparently hounded by the feds was surveilled for reading Mao's book of all things much too neat.

Recall UD's earlier post -- I can't do links on this computer, but you can search for it using a keyword or two -- listing the likely signs of a hoax. One of them is that a crucial detail fits much too well. In this case, UD's eyebrows shot right up when she read that the student claimed the government came after him for reading the little red book.

Why? Because a hoaxster will choose something exactly like the Mao book -- known to everyone, inarguably subversive according to some simpleminded standard, etc. -- to make the center of his hoax.

Of course the larger irony of this hoax is that the hoaxster chose wrong on two levels. Not only did the obviousness of the book choice make UD's (and other people's) eyebrows shoot way up; but the absurdity of choosing a book our government presumably finds as dead and pointless as everyone else didn't help him out much.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

UD here...

...reporting from TeaLuxe in Cambridge, which is still in business, despite my worries about it this time last year. As always, UD's with family in and around Harvard Square at the moment. Regular posting will resume shortly.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

UD’s Quick Take…
on a profile of
Joan Didion

“While many of her journalistic peers got carried away in the 60s, Didion wrote with a cool head in accordance with the principle that the lower the temperature of her prose, the higher the emotional voltage it could carry.”


“Her self-possession is such that the mere act of breathing in her presence feels like a vulgar transgression.”

A bit de trop.

New York Magazine reports that a new law will subject bogus NY psychotherapists to a $5,000 fine and possibly malpractice suits if they continue to call themselves psychotherapists but don’t have a master’s degree and a license.

State Assemblyman Steven Sanders, who sponsored the bill, proclaimed that it would solve the problem that “anybody could advertise themselves as a psychotherapy something-or-other, and you didn’t know who you were going to.”

“When you’ve gone to school in the sixties [the era of good feelings, psychotherapy-wise] and they want verification, it’s very difficult,” one of the uncredentialed says. “The professors I had are dead.”

“Therapists,” the New York writer points out, “could decide to skirt the law by calling themselves ‘emotional educators’ or ‘life coaches.’ But neither sounds quite as prestigious.” (As ‘therapist’?)

One guy, who at $350 a session is helping non-qualifying therapists with their certification efforts, says: “For those who don’t get through on this, I’m going to work with them to set up other practices. They can be phenomenologists. That’s a term that no one’s familiar with, but it sounds impressive. In Jersey, people go, ‘Is that a therapist?’ No, no, this is much more powerful!”

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


1. Naïve Purity Standard

A quick Google search confirms UD’s sense that a phrase used by a defender of writers like Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, who sell their opinions to the highest bidder, is making its way into general speech. People who attack the practice of op/ed columnists prostituting themselves to lobbyists, this person complained, are applying a "naive purity standard" to what those in the know understand to be the dirty business of editorial opinion placement.

The moment UD read this neat little phrase she thought “A million Mogadishus!” Just as that alliterative beaut, coined by a Columbia University professor, neatly encapsulated lethal hatred of the American military, so “naïve purity standard” encapsulates the wink-wink cynicism of the Washington operative. UD predicts it will have a long shelf life.

2. Committee on Cultural Competence

Syracuse is the first university to take the Orwellian phrase “cultural competence” and turn it into the name of a committee which will almost certainly censor student news content on campus.

The authorities at Syracuse insist that the just-formed Committee on Cultural Competence will "assist the [student news] organization with matters of content, perspective and tone."

But see the thing is, as one campus observer points out, "Those sorts of boards can quickly become censorship boards….That's a terrific danger, particularly on a college campus where the administration feels entitled to interfere with student media."

“Committee on Cultural Competence” has a French Revolution ring to it, like Robespierre’s “Committee on Public Safety.” This titillating provenance, plus its alluring alliteration, will, I predict, inspire other colleges and universities to appoint Committees on Cultural Competence of their own.
A judge...

...a Republican Bush appointee, rules powerfully against intelligent design.

Not that this will change the opinion of thousands of university professors that America is a hopeless fundamentalist wasteland...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

There's Always Botstein

John Merrow has an opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor in which he notices that the public intellectual university presidents of yesteryear (think Kerr, Brewster, and Hutchins) have been replaced (with few excep... actually, Merrow can't think of any exceptions) by vague nonentities.

How could the public know the names of higher education leaders, who are largely silent on the great issues of the day? Today's presidents only get noticed if they say something outrageous (Harvard's Lawrence Summers's comments about women and science), live too lavishly (former American University President Benjamin Ladner), or make millions (Lynn University's Donald Ross). …Presidents I met said they devoted much of their time to fundraising, often to build dormitories with wi-fi, athletic facilities with climbing walls, and stadiums with luxury boxes.

Merrow notes that few of them have had anything to say about the ongoing controversy over teaching intelligent design:

[T]he overwhelming silence on this topic, among others, shows just how far higher education has slipped from its pedestal. Greater leadership in public debate on critical issues is what's needed to stop academia's declining prestige, not a fixation on the bottom dollar.

To be fair, most college and university presidents have always been genial political sorts rather than great public debaters. But it is notable that, as Merrow suggests, it’s hard to think of any consistently strong voice among them (the late Bartlett Giamatti of Yale was impressive, though).

UD can think of one strong-voiced contemporary American college president: Leon Botstein of Bard. (Bard’s website has a wonderful welcome page.) Outspoken on the subject of education, Botstein is also an extremely talented musician.
UD Freely Admits
She Didn't Think
Norm Ornstein
Was Cool Enough
To Write a Satire
This Good
“As soon as she
reconnects with her llamas,
Susan feels a sense of peace."

I've been having this recurring nightmare. I am trapped in a tiny room full of very dull people. They look a little bit like me -- played out, slightly decrepit. They can't stop talking about themselves and how tough things are for them. Their aging parents are a burden. Their children don't appreciate them. The talk is about money, money, money.

After a few unsatisfying conversations, I walk over to the door. But the door is locked. I try another door. It, too, is locked. There is a small sign on the second door, and I lean in -- my eyes aren't as good as they used to be -- to read this message: Welcome to the rest of your life, Boomer!

Is there any club one would want less to be a member of than the so-called baby boomers, the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964? Their parents fought the big wars, their parents created the most prosperous nation on earth, now here come the graying spongers, bent on retiring early, living forever, and enjoying the ''good life." That means bleeding entitlement payments out of their own children, consequences be damned.

Never forget the boomers' mantra: I've got mine, and the devil take the hindmost.

The first baby boomers start turning 60 next month, and of course there is a rush to analyze What It All Means. Newsweek arrived early to the prattle-fest, blathering in a cover story about the boomers' ''existential journey" and how they have ''leveled the decades-old walls between the races . . . and the genders." Will someone please inform women and black people? They'll be delighted to hear the news.

Inside of Newsweek's boomer-torial sits an eight-page Fidelity Investments advertisement, featuring ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. Message: Being a billionaire is good work, if you can get it.

Here's what it all means to me: The continuing cultural hegemony of the boomers means that, for the rest of my life, every time I turn on a radio, I run the risk of hearing the song ''A Horse With No Name." Now there's a reason to move to Canada.

How does one loathe the boomers? Let me count the ways. Their obsession with money borders on the comical. About half of them were planning to live off their stock portfolios up until the dot-com crash of early 2001. Oops. Time to recalculate. The Wall Street Journal has predicted that a hot book of 2006 will be ''The Number," by former Esquire editor Lee Eisenberg. The title refers to how much money the typical boomer will need to ditch the rat race and fulfill his/her biological destiny: doing nothing.

Here is an excerpt from Mr. Eisenberg's portentously important work: ''For tens of millions of middle-aged travelers, this is an odd moment, riddled with paradoxes. We are at once old and young, parents and kids, generally prosperous yet uneasy." Two uncharitable thoughts occur: Editors should stick to editing, and, instead of fretting about The Number, Mr. Eisenberg might pay attention to The Word.

The logical extension of the boomers' breathless self-regard is their plan to live forever. (Newsweek sadly notes that several hundred thousand boomers have already died -- how can this be?) The Pied Piper of boomer immortality is inventor Ray Kurzweil, who gobbles 250 pills a day and says, ''We have the means right now to live long enough to live forever." Whatever that means.

A particularly insipid public television series called ''Boomers! Redefining Life After Fifty!" (Please! Enough with the exclamation marks! This show really stinks!) offers boomers tips on ''lowering your real age," and provides innovative health advice like ''Eat your spinach" and ''Floss your teeth." Happily, WGBX-TV (Ch. 44) plans to air this show at 9:30 on Sunday mornings, when most viewers are asleep.

Also sponsored by Fido and Sir Paul, ''Boomers!" must have hired Lee Eisenberg to ghost-write. A boomer woman is shown retreating to her farm: “As soon as she . . . reconnects with her llamas, Susan feels a sense of peace." This may have been the moment that my wife stood up from her chair and said, ''I think I'm going to be sick." Eat your spinach, dear. Maybe that will help.

You may think all this is exaggeration, but I'm just talking about my (ghastly) generation.

Alex Beam,
Boston Globe
Life is But a Dream

I know a couple with two boys, ages three and five, and every time the boys go for a ride in the Land Rover, they are carefully strapped in to very safe child seats. In front of each of the boys is a big tv screen -- that is, each boy has his own screen -- which is turned on for the duration of the trip.

They are carefully strapped in and made to watch nothing but jigging images on a loud colorful screen. Eyes riveted. Indifferent to the world whizzing by, not looking at a picture book or talking to their parents. Not even sharing a screen, but, from the age of three, secured within the streaming dream world of each.

When the boys get where they’re going - toy store, kiddie haircut salon, doctor’s office, ice cream parlor - there are televisions everywhere. When they get home, the multiple televisions in their big house, including those in their bedrooms, are always on.

How surprised do you plan to be when these wealthy children test semi-literate after graduating from an expensive private college?

“The issue,” a professor writes in today’s Inside Higher Ed, talking about the study everyone is talking about, “is the declining ability to learn. The problem we face, in all but the most privileged institutions, is a pronounced and increasing deficiency of student readiness, knowledge, and capacity. …the inability of students to assimilate information at all."
Sure, there’s a public transportation strike on

…but it’s a chance to stay home and read the New York Daily News headlines:

Update: Ferrara’s Fine Italian Hand
[For background, scroll down to "Hubba Hubba."]

My man has issued a statement in his own defense. Neither UD nor Reuters can make sense of it. Here’s Reuters’ take:

In a prepared statement, Ferrara said he had not accepted payments from Abramoff or other lobbyists for his op-ed articles for several years and he relied only on think tanks and other policy outfits where he works for financial support.

"I am glad to ask people to contribute to my work if they agree with what I have been writing for years now and want to support it," Ferrara said in a statement posted on the Web site of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a conservative thinktank where he works as a policy fellow.

Ferrara did not immediately respond to a request to clarify his statement.

The clarification would involve Ferrara’s parsing “supporting my work,” and “contributing to my work” in his statement. Does he mean supporting in the way a doting mother might be supportive? Does he mean contributing in the sense of editorial suggestions from likeminded thinkers?

Or does he mean - which seems likelier - that he, Peter Ferrara, has held certain political positions for many years, and that if you, agreeing with his positions, choose to respond to one of his columns by writing him a check for a few thousand dollars, that’s fine by him.

Happy the opinion writer whose work generates large checks from random impressed citizens! But are they just citizens, or are they lobbyists? Ferrara does not take up the distinction in his statement.

Yet it seems extremely important to UD. Right now she’s imagining herself holding a check for ten thousand dollars in her hand. It’s made out to her. It has arrived in the mail from someone who writes: “I love your take on the undergraduate literature curriculum! Here!” Is it from her Aunt Tillie, or the publisher of the Norton Anthology?

Monday, December 19, 2005

UD likes to keep an eye…

…on doings at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where she was a student for awhile, before she transferred into NU’s English department. (Details here.) In an Inside Higher Ed piece noting the shift away from writing and toward marketing at Medill, the incoming dean’s quoted as saying that traditional media’s slowness to embrace new technology and consumer preferences “put(s) at risk having an informed society.”

This awkwardly phrased cliché tells us what we need to know about the new dean’s commitment to writing. It also tells us how out of touch with his consumers he is, since he believes they are informed. He also believes that sucking up to them will produce higher degrees of informedness.

UD wishes also to respond to this comment, from another NU journalism professor (emeritus) who reminds us that there’s nothing wrong with caring about the consumer. Journalists, after all, “are not Emily Dickinson writing poetry on backs of envelopes, not caring whether anybody reads them.”

1.) Emily Dickinson cared whether anybody read her.

2.) I don’t know whether Dickinson wrote poetry on the backs of envelopes, but people certainly write Dickinson on the front of envelopes.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Now if only Derek Bok
had written this.

The concept of a university has become defunct. Not even the highflying, elite institutions operate with a serious concept of it.

There is not much point in lamenting that, but there is a point in lamenting the demise of a common understanding about what it means to be educated, which in turn nourished that concept.

It was a common understanding about the importance of the humanities. You can’t say to many vice-chancellors, "If you get rid of the philosophy, or classics or history department, then your institution will cease to be a university."

And you can’t say to many students that if they want really to attend a university, they should become educated in some of the disciplines of the humanities.

Increasingly more students than not who go to university don’t get an education as distinct from relatively narrow, vocationally based training.

Socrates was right to believe that in order to be fully human one must live as clear-headedly and as lucidly as possible. You don’t have to be educated to do that. But if you are, it means understanding the history, the thought and the art that have made us who we are. Without that we won’t understand each other or ourselves.

Students should leave university with a capacity to think seriously and hard. That’s not easy. You can learn to become impressively clever and to think critically in a certain way, while caring almost nothing for whether what you think is true or false.

To be more than a high-flying dilettante you need more than intellectual skills. You must develop a certain kind of moral seriousness: you must try to overcome vanity, to have courage, to care more for truth than for status, and so on. That’s as obvious as the need to be kind and just if you are to be a good person and it’s just as hard.

Critical thinking can be taught. How and why really to care for the truth can’t be, not, at any rate, in the same way. For that you need example in your teachers and in the texts that you study. The examples won’t all come from the humanities, but only the humanities can give what you need to reflect on their significance.

Professor of moral philosophy at Kings College, University of London,
and professor of philosophy at the Australian Catholic University
A Reader…

…kindly forwards a Boston Globe opinion piece written by former Harvard president Derek Bok. Its style is way too mealy-mouthed for UD - vague in its description of the problem at issue and smarmy in its reassurance that solving the problem will be fun all around. But under the platitudes there’s some stuff in the piece that’s worth mentioning and thinking about.

Said problem is the one that’s all the rage in higher ed news lately -- the study showing that a lot of American college graduates are just as benighted after they graduate as they were when first they trod upon the quad.

College is supposed to teach you, says Bok, “critical thinking, moral reasoning, quantitative literacy.” But, to take one instance, “most undergraduates leave college still inclined to approach unstructured ‘real life’ problems with a form of primitive relativism, believing that there are no firm grounds for preferring one conclusion over another.” This means in practice that if asked to think and argue critically about, say, the existence of Mormon men in the United States who marry rafts of thirteen year old girls, many American college graduates will say or write, “That’s their thing. It’s not my thing. But it’s their thing.”

Derek Bok finds this unimpressive.

Yet some professors teach primitive relativism; and even if they don’t, it’s encoded in the DNA of the cultural competence and diversity training fundamental to the environment of most American universities that even elementary acts of judgment and reasoned preference are abominations. Add to these influences the gelatinous mass that makes up the curriculum of many of our colleges, and you see why the reigning moral philosophy of some of our 21-year-olds is playdoh relativism.

“Critics of American colleges,” Bok writes, “typically attribute the failings of undergraduate education to a tendency on the part of professors to neglect their teaching to concentrate on research. In fact, the evidence does not support this thesis, except perhaps in major research universities. Surveys show that most faculty members prefer teaching to research and spend much more time at it.”

Yeah, but that’s a pretty big except. There are tons of major research universities out there, and most universities with which UD’s familiar are totally dedicated to making themselves bigtime research institutions if they’re not yet… It’s a little rich of Bok, who oversaw one of the most Darwinian of major research universities, to argue that American professors must now throw heart and soul into teaching… unless they’re at a major research or wannabe major research institution…

Bok, whose main point is that our undergraduates will only improve when professors incorporate the results of studies on best teaching practices into their classroom performances, complains that “Freshly minted PhDs typically teach the way their favorite professors taught. This pattern introduces a strong conservative bias into college instruction, a bias reinforced by the tendency of many faculties to regard the choice of teaching methods as the exclusive prerogative of individual professors rather than a fit subject for collective deliberation.”

Coupla things. What’s wrong with teaching the way the professors who inspired you taught? UD sees nothing retro in this. Perhaps Bok is arguing - as many restlessly innovating ed school people argue - that any established form, in this fast-paced ever-changing land of ours, is due for the dumpster. Bok dislikes lecturing, for instance, because our attention-deficient audiences can’t be expected to sit still and listen to extended arguments without bells and whistles. Better to get up there and bark like a dog.

But you don’t teach college students by crawling into their world and trying to replicate it. You teach them by introducing them to new worlds.
Deconstructing a
Help-Wanted Ad

The University of Southern California law school has a huge half-page ad in today’s New York Times, Week in Review section, page 7. (This is the online page in question, without the ad.) They’re looking for a dean. The ad is crammed with self-flattering statistics and mucho invocations of the words “outstanding,” top,” and “exceptional.”

Does USC really think that this hugely expensive ad is the way to attract candidates?

“Of course not,” said Mr. UD, when UD asked him this question. “It’s a way of advertising the school.”

“A way of telling everyone that they’re outstanding top exceptional…”

“Yes. But if you’re truly all those things, you don’t advertise.”
Two Flunkies

“Though he possesses a Yale BA and honorary doctorate, our president is semi-literate at best. He once boasted of never having read a book through, even at Yale. Henry James was affronted when he met President Theodore Roosevelt; what could he have made of George W Bush?”

Harold Bloom, The Guardian


What could we have made - what can we make? - of Yale University, that it happily graduated not only George Bush but -- in fairness, Harold Bloom might have mentioned this about his (and my) candidate -- the every bit as horrible Yale student, John Kerry?

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Forget Cato’s Doug Bandow, who, called on it by a reporter, admitted that he’d prostituted himself to lobbyist-in-doodoo Jack Abramoff -- and for all of $2,000 a column!

A senior scholar at the Cato Institute, the respected libertarian research organization, has resigned after revelations that he took payments from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for writing columns favorable to his clients. The scholar, Doug Bandow, who wrote a column for the Copley News Service in addition to serving as a Cato fellow, acknowledged to executives at the organization that he had taken money from Mr. Abramoff after he was confronted about the payments by a reporter from BusinessWeek Online.

He’s all contrite now -- quit his position, blah blah.

It’s another guy mentioned in the same New York Times article that UD finds herself fantasizing about:

A second scholar, Peter Ferrara, of the Institute for Policy Innovation, acknowledged in the same BusinessWeek Online piece that he had also taken money from Mr. Abramoff in exchange for writing certain opinion articles. But Mr. Ferrara did not apologize for doing so. "I do that all the time," Mr. Ferrara was quoted as saying. He did not reply to an e-mail message seeking comment on Friday.

I do that all the time, he scoffed! Come and get me coppers! UD likes this guy’s style and wants to marry him.

He even has a blog! It’s been rather somnolent since March. Fire it up again, Pete!
A Double Flowering

From LSU Beat:

LSU point guard Tack Minor's suspension for academic dishonesty has been prolonged another day. He will not play against Louisiana-Lafayette in tonight's 7 o'clock game at the Maravich Assembly Center as LSU previously reported

…In an exclusive interview with Gannett on Friday, Minor confirmed that he was suspended because of double plagiarism.

"I had somebody write two papers for me, and they plagiarized them," Minor said. "I was punished for it, and I accept it. It was a big mistake. I won't make a mistake like that ever again."

From today’s New York Times :

Occasionally, however, authors' interactions with their bloggers prove fruitful. Cass Sunstein read a discussion of one of his articles about conservative judicial radicalism on The Volokh Conspiracy, a group blog organized by Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, in which Sunstein was invited to respond. "We had an interesting exchange and there were a lot of comments," said Sunstein, who teaches law at the University of Chicago. The discussion even spurred him to make changes to Radicals in Robes, the book he was writing at the time. "There's no question that 'Radicals in Robes' was affected by a kind of pre-publication review on a blog," he said.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Memory of Wayne Booth

From a letter to the University of Chicago alumni magazine:

I never took an official course taught by Wayne Booth… but during my years at the U of C, he became one of the most important figures in my life.

I couldn’t get into Mr. Booth’s core humanities course so I started visiting him during office hours. I told him I was entering the Foundations: Issues and Texts program and explained my area of interest. He gave me a list of books I might find interesting, and we continued to meet for discussions as I worked through the list.

He later agreed to serve as the adviser for an independent study of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Word got out and I asked if he’d mind allowing eight other students to join in, basically turning an independent study into an extra class. He laughed and agreed.

Each week the nine of us gathered in a tight circle in his office at the top of the west Harper tower, surrounded by walls of books and a window looking out over the quad. We read aloud from each chapter and Mr. Booth guided our conversations through that great maze of a book.

During our last meeting, Mr. Booth read the final section of Molly’s soliloquy. As he approached the end, his voice began to tremble. I looked up from my text to see Wayne Booth crying as he read.

yes I said yes I will yes

Today, the memory of that moment confirms the deep power of great art and pushes me onward in my own work as a sculptor. In my role as a professor, the dear memories of Wayne Booth’s generosity and his dedication to both the act and art of teaching serve as a model for the sacred relationship between teacher and student.

I am one of thousands of students who have been inspired and deeply touched by this great man. We miss him dearly but know he continues to live in the way we live our lives and the notes we made in the margins of our books.
Pas gentil.

1. Go to
2. Type in "French military victories."
3. Hit "I'm Feeling Lucky."

[Thanks to JD]
Analysis Interminable

Cold Spring Shops tells me
it’s Beethoven’s birthday.

UD’s father spent a good deal
of his life trying to figure out how to play
the Sonata Pathetique properly.

He passed on to UD
this happy task.
Why Is This Happening?

From today's Baltimore Sun:

More Americans are getting college degrees than they did about a decade ago, but skills in reading and analyzing data among the well-educated have dropped significantly, according to a national report on literacy released yesterday.

When adults with higher-education degrees were asked to compare the viewpoints in two newspaper editorials, for example, or to interpret a table about blood pressure, fewer than half could do it successfully.

"I think these results are really unexpected," said Mark Schneider, the U.S. commissioner of education statistics. A former university professor, Schneider was particularly concerned about the results.

"I think it is a wake-up call to the research and university community," he said

...Schneider, who presented the results in Washington, D.C., said he was unsure what caused the decline in skills among people with higher-education degrees.

Many state universities, he said, now have open admissions policies that accept almost all high school graduates, including those who might not be as well prepared as their peers were decades earlier. In addition, colleges and universities are taking in a more diverse population that might have language or cultural challenges. Or, he said, colleges "may not be doing the job as effectively as they could be."

“The IHE audience is now huge -- the exact numbers are a state secret, though it's a fair guess that they will soon be higher than those for any print publication to which I've contributed on a regular basis,” writes Scott McLemee.

Here’s an excellent place to start reading Inside Higher Ed, in case you haven’t yet joined the crowd.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

This was it, the Korean stamp celebrating that nation’s stem cell breakthrough. But all-curative stem cell techniques are not just around the corner. The research behind the breakthrough was fabricated.

[Thanks to David.]
See if you can make sense…

of this article from a Swedish newspaper:

Uppsala University has cleared feminist academic Eva Lundgren of scientific dishonesty after an inquiry into controversial claims she made during a TV documentary earlier in the year.

But the two professors who investigated her research were fiercely critical of the conclusions she drew and of her credibility.

In the documentary, Lundgren said that she had received testimony about hundreds of ritual baby murders in Sweden carried out by male Satanist groups. She was also criticised in the summer for claiming that half of all women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by men.

Nevertheless, Berit Hagekull, the head of the Faculty of Social Science in Uppsala, who made the announcement on Thursday, said that Lundgren could not be accused of fabrication.

"Altogether our inquiry has identified several serious problems in Lundgren's research," wrote Professor Margareta Hallberg of Gothenburg University, adding that the credibility of Lundgren's work must be called into question.

The second member of the inquiry was Professor Jörgen Hermansson at the Institute of Political Science at Uppsala University. His conclusion regarding Lundgren's allegations of ritual child abuse was that "the critical and reflective research role was absent".

Lundgren later withdrew the claim, attributed to her by the SVT documentary Könskriget (Gender War), of baby murders in Sweden. But even the most central results in the much-discussed report Slagen dam (Beaten Women) are not supported by Lundgren's and other researchers' data.

"Lundgren and others claim that they have destroyed the myth that violence against women can be linked to certain groups of men. However, the analysis which led to this conclusion contains several failings, and a re-analysis of the same data shows that the conclusion ought to have been the direct opposite," wrote Jörgen Hermansson.

While the university acknowledged the failings in Eva Lundgren's work, it said that it is rather a question for the scientific community.

Eva Lundgren herself welcomed the university's verdict.

"First, I'm very pleased to have been cleared - that was absolutely the most important thing. Because this inquiry has been about scientific dishonesty, and I've been cleared of that. Full stop," she said to TT.

She added that she was not concerned about the criticism of the failures in her research.

Maybe you’re swifter than I am, but I had to read this twice. Slowly. The crucial distinction seems to be between research claims that are lies and research claims that are garbage… Lundgren’s thrilled to be cleared of the lying and unconcerned that her research is garbage… Am I missing something here?

Via The Valve, this interview with Philip Roth in The Guardian thrills the aesthete in me and dismays the pedant. I mean, I love this exchange:

So where does the real Philip Roth end, and where does literature begin?

The real Philip Roth looks at me, impatiently, as if I am being stupid.

"I just don't understand that question," he says. "I don't read or perceive books in that way. I'm interested in the object, the ... the thing, the story, the aesthetic jolt you get from being inside this ... thing. Am I Roth or Zuckerman? It's all me. You know? That's what I normally say. It's all me. Nothing is me."

Aesthetic jolt is just the ticket. But then he has to overdo it:

I would be wonderful with a 100-year moratorium on literature talk, if you shut down all literature departments, close the book reviews, ban the critics. The readers should be alone with the books, and if anyone dared to say anything about them, they would be shot or imprisoned right on the spot.

The problem with shutting down the literature departments and killing the critics, is people’ll start to make mistakes. Like, at one point in the interview, Roth says:

As Henry James said on his deathbed: 'Ah, here it comes, the big thing.'

“The big thing” seems a bit vulgar for James, even on his deathbed. What James said was, “So this is it at last: the distinguished thing.”

Does Philip Roth care that he has Henry James saying something on his deathbed more likely to have been said by Ed Sullivan? Perhaps not. But UD is happy there are still a few literary snots who do.
Life and Death
Of an English Major

One of UD’s heroes, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, died today. He was in his nineties and had had Alzheimer’s for ages. He graduated from Yale in 1938, an English major.

His first-rate writing in part accounted for the impact his Golden Fleece Awards had. He wrote them up in funny ways. He gave them annually to federally funded projects that seemed to him particularly wasteful, as when, in 1978, the Department of Education “spent $219,592 to develop a curriculum to teach college students how to watch television.”

He was one of those stubborn impossible people, unpleasant as a personality, hyperproficient as a legislator. “In more than two decades, Proxmire did not travel abroad on Senate business and he returned more than $900,000 from his office allowances to the Treasury…. Proxmire made a point of accepting no contributions. In 1982 he registered only $145.10 in campaign costs, yet gleaned 64 percent of the vote.”

He killed the SST supersonic jet airliner, which looks prescient. He fought for and won important anti-genocide legislation.

"Ralph K. Huitt, [a] former UW political scientist, described Proxmire as well as anyone in a scholarly publication more than 30 years ago. 'The essence would seem to be a driving ambition to succeed, to which almost everything else in his life is subordinated, coupled with a puritan's belief in the sanctity of unremitting work,' Huitt wrote."

Another longtime observer says: “He was incorruptible."

UD finds this description of him toward the end of his life moving. Did she see him, she wonders, as she read newspapers in the same reading room? She would have been able to tell him how much she admired him.

Despite his progressively worsening condition, Proxmire for years traveled most days from his home in northwest Washington, D.C., to the Library of Congress, where he would read newspapers in the reading room named after Wisconsin Progressive Robert La Follette.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


An “obscure provision tucked into the budget-reconciliation bill …would cut off … student loans” to three Caribbean for-profit medical schools that cater to Americans, among them the one on Grenada that was in the news during the Reagan years, when we invaded the island.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) offered the language as part of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s contribution to the massive budget bill. As House and Senate negotiators inch toward a conference agreement on the legislation, the three foreign-based medical schools are furiously working to protect a lucrative stream of federal funding.

According to DeVry Inc., the for-profit education company that owns Ross University School of Medicine on the island of Dominica, St. George’s [on Grenada], Ross and the American University of the Caribbean on St. Maarten provide medical education to more than 3,500 American students who return to the United States after their studies to practice medicine.

According to Sessions, these schools are tantamount to diploma mills that were “created to serve American students who cannot get into American medical schools.”

[Sessions] wants to transfer the loan money that their students currently receive to students at medical schools on U.S. soil.

“We are working desperately to maintain a strong student-loan program,” Sessions told The Hill [a Washington newspaper]. “You need to ask yourself what your priorities are,” he said.

“I’m of the strong view that we need to be thinking about how to improve our own, world-class medical schools,” Sessions said.
More Holiday
From Home

"You're never too old for Santa," said 20-year-old Kelly Carnes, a student at George Washington University who was standing in line at the Pentagon City mall Sunday afternoon, waiting to see her red-suited idol.

-- Today's Washington Times
Holiday Funny Stuff…

…from UD’s favorite University of Chicago undergrad, Rita -- she of the blog Nobody Sasses, etc.


My family is not a giving family. We do not give hugs. We do not give kisses. We do not give gifts. We rarely even give acknowledgement of each other's existences. Sometimes, we give money, but that's because if my parents stopped paying my tuition, I would be exceedingly unhappy and probably vengeful. So that's sort of a contractual exchange.

This year, because my parents occasionally complain that I don't get them gifts for their birthdays or any other holiday, which is true, I decided to give my father a Christmas gift (though not my mother, without really considering how such one-sided generosity might precipitate familial strife). It was a copy of Naked Economics, which I figured might get him to stop grilling me about economics and to start grilling the author instead. (I don't know how that's going to happen, but as long I stop being asked to defend outsourcing, I will be happy.)

The gift arrived today, and my father immediately decided it was for me. I pointed out that it had his name on it. Why, he asked? Because it was his Christmas gift. "Oh. Couldn't you just check it out of the library?" he responded.

Next year, my father's Christmas gift will consist of a slip of paper with a call number, and I will use the money to buy myself a book instead.

Read the comments. They feature extended sniping with her mother.
Snapshots from Home:
UD's Spawn Backstage
at the Kennedy Center
with Marvin Hamlisch**

...after the last of four Holiday Concerts.
The little one (far right) is a member of
the Washington Children's Chorus.

(**Hamlisch's immortality was assured early
in his career when he wrote Lesley Gore's
"Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.")

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Land of the Dictator,
Land of the Free

"The president of Turkmenistan ordered construction of a university to be named after his book "Rukhnama," which is held as a sacred text in this ex-Soviet republic, state television reported Tuesday.

"This will have a positive impact on the development of Turkmen society and people's well-being," he said in remarks broadcast Tuesday.

[In] "Rukhnama," or "The Book of the Soul," the autocratic leader dispenses moral guidance for citizens of the Central Asian nation. It is mandatory reading for every Turkmen at schools and work. Convicts must take an oath involving the book upon release from prison.

Parliament declared 2005 the year of "Rukhnama."

Niyazov, who has developed a sprawling personality cult, has banned all opposition and controls all branches of government and the media. Golden statues and busts of him are scattered across the country, and his portrait is on every banknote and coin."

"Aspyr Media today announced that the Mac version of The Sims 2 University, an expansion pack to EA's popular The Sims 2, has been declared Gold Master and is expected to begin shipping tomorrow, December 14th.

The Sims 2 University, the first expansion pack available for the The Sims, allows players to explore a whole new stage of life as young adults and introduces college-related wants and fears that are ultimately tied to their Sims’ social life and academic goals. It introduces influence gameplay allowing players to earn influence points to have other Sims do certain tasks for them such as homework, term papers, cleaning up the fraternity house or even pulling pranks on other Sims. Players will be able to choose from one of 11 majors and open up 4 new career paths as they make their way through University. It requires the full version of The Sims 2 ($45) to play and is available for pre-order for $35."

Let’s see what I have for you today… Oh here’s something. A story that combines plagiarism and football!

A professor of Hospitality and Tourism Research at San Diego State University was asked to write a report detailing the economic impact on that city of the Holiday Bowl, some football game. Based on the report, the city decides on funding levels every year for the event.

Did it occur to the city to wonder about the results they’d get from a guy who’s also in the San Diego hotel business, as the SDSU professor is? (UD’s particularly fond of university professors who have extensive business interests in the fields about which they teach -- spa-lady Mary Tabacchi at Cornell being UD’s perennial example.)

No, no, San Diego happily pocketed this year’s report, which “shows an $8 million increase in the Holiday Bowl's impact on the city, despite no significant increase in attendance from the previous year,” which is a great result, who cares what that attendance number means, and San Diego was all ready to up the taxpayer burden for the game accordingly…

Until out of the woodwork crept Casinelli. Casinelli’s the guy who’s written this report for the city for years. He expected to do it this year too, and “offered to do it at fair market value,” he explains, “but then here's somebody who was willing to do it for basically what I was doing it for before.” So the city saves money on the report by having the SDSU professor do it and it gets this terrific result, and so it‘s a terrific outcome all around!

Why then has Casinelli “filed a claim for $56,000 with the state of California”? Because the professor who was paid to do it this year decided that “you can make money” just by “grab[bing] what was already done, scan[ning] it into the computer, hand[ing] it to the client and collect[ing] the money," notes Casinelli.

Indeed with remarkably few emendations, this year’s report is verbatim Casinelli’s last year report. It’s an example of what UD calls gold standard plagiarism.

The SDSU professor, now majorly up shit’s creek, is doing and saying all the things people at this, er, juncture do and say:

1.) I didn’t do it, man! There was this “student from Thailand” working with me! He did it!

2.) I “reviewed the report before it was released and did not notice the similarities.”

Casinelli is amazed that having now found the guy guilty of plagiarism, SDSU isn’t removing him from the faculty. Here’s a guy who at cost to the school in terms of reputation and money and who knows what else, blatantly plagiarized, and he’s up there modeling this penalty-free behavior to SDSU’s students. Why, Casinelli asks, would “the school... allow Rauch to continue teaching after finding he committed plagiarism” and in the process produced a report for the city lacking all credibility? And lied? And blamed it on an innocent student assistant?

Casinelli tries to explain what’s been done to him by using a literary analogy:

"It's like rewriting Moby Dick and wherever it mentions Moby Dick, saying there are two whales, Moby Dick and Mildred Dick, but keeping everything else the same," Casinelli said. "Then I'll sell it and at the very end, I'll put Herman Melville (Moby Dick's author) as a source.”
Cherchez the Cello

He was studying finance and political science. He was “very energetic,” the kind of guy who’d “cheer on the football team wearing body paint.” He was “a former fraternity rush chairman and a cellist in the university’s orchestra.” Hell, he was sophomore class president.

So why, oh lord, why? “You have to question his reasoning, obviously,” says one of his fellow Lehigh students, asked by a reporter about this person’s latest accomplishment: robbing a bank.

Yes - why oh why did he do it? His father’s a reverend! His family’s wealthy! He graduated from an exclusive private school in affluent Shaker Heights!

As you know if you’re familiar with UD, she’s a little impatient with the why-oh-why response when rich privileged people do bad things. The only thing separating this guy from your bread-and-butter larcenist is that his family was able to post his very high ($100,000) bond, so he’s out of prison (for the time being). Otherwise, the reason he robbed a bank seems pretty clear. You can find it in the enterprising, can-do energy everyone’s praising in him. The guy’s obviously incredibly restless, always smearing on the warpaint and looking for action. He’s results-oriented. He’s ambitious and amoral. You do the math.

But no, no. In a few days we’ll have to endure a follow-up article -- a lengthy piece in the local newspaper’s Sunday supplement, in which we discover that when this guy was five his father smashed his cello to bits in a rage and ever since then ….

Monday, December 12, 2005

UD’s thrilled…

… to have visitors today from Maud Newton, a literary blog she loves. She reminds Maud’s readers, and everyone else, that “Comments” may appear to be zero on some earlier posts, when in fact there are several. She hasn’t yet gotten around to fixing this glitch. Just remember to click on the zero -- there may be comments after all.
All Quiet on the Dispositional Front

Via Robert KC Johnson at Cliopatria, here’s an intriguing article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the ongoing “dispositions” mess. It’s not intriguing for its content, which simply and helpfully reviews what you already know (if you hang around UD) about the efforts of educational bureaucrats to enforce a dullard’s conformity on the profession by tossing out of ed schools student teachers who question liberal orthodoxy.

No, the article’s intriguing because of the sudden silence of the major players in this drama. All the dispositional heavies, the professors and the deans who expelled students because they didn’t like their social attitudes -- they’ve suddenly clammed up.

The dispositionally non-conforming students, now, they’ve got plenty to say in the article. But the professors at the University of Alaska who made it virtually impossible for a woman who didn't go all the way on abortion rights to stay in the program “did not want to speak to the Chronicle.” The dean at Washington State, and all the WSU professors, who tried (almost succeeded, too, until FIRE got wind of it) to kick out a guy who likes to shoot guns in his spare time, “did not return telephone calls and e-mail messages.”

What sort of commitment to social justice does it demonstrate that, called upon to defend your part in keeping the nation’s teachers ideologically pure, you’re unwilling to step up to the plate?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Alexander Kleshchev, [a University of Oregon] math professor, said it is curious that people who vocally support ethnic diversity seem unconcerned about political diversity.

"These same people turn around and explain away a 23-to-1 [liberal to conservative faculty] ratio with a couple of silly remarks, like `Republicans are just stupid,'" said Kleshchev, a Russian immigrant who calls himself a political independent. "This is intellectually dishonest, to put it mildly."

At Missouri State...

Recently, Missouri State proposed cutting men’s tennis, women’s tennis and mens track and field and cross country.

…Here’s the harsh reality. Football is the main drag on the athletic program at Missouri State. Football is a financial drag at nearly every university that isn’t NCAA Division I. Operation of the football program at Missouri State currently exceeds $1 million annually.

And yet officials at Missouri State continue to coddle the program as though it is still a newborn, afraid that a fall will mean certain death to the university.

According to University President Michael Nietzel, the proposed cuts will save the university $350,000 a year. Which is about $650,000 less than cutting the football program would save.

One of the main reasons given for not cutting the football program by university officials has been that in doing so, the university would lose face recognition amongst the community and prospective students. Somehow, students make their decision to attend Missouri State based on the fact that MSU has a mediocre football program in place.

Let’s assume just for a moment this is true. These students arrive on campus as freshman all fired up about the MSU football team. With the football season set to begin the same time as the new school year, students rush to the box office to pick up their free tickets.

Then what? They forget to make the five minute walk from the dorms to Plaster Stadium?

Students don’t make the decision to attend Missouri State based on its football program any more than students who enroll at St. Louis University choose to go there because of its football program.

I know this because I was one of the few dozen who actually attended the football games when I was student at MSU. With the exception of homecoming, there may have been more students present at the Evangel football game that was played at Plaster than any of the Bears games.

MSU football isn’t a fledgling program that needs to be given time and resources to succeed. It has been in place at Missouri State for nearly 100 years. It is a program that has become a financial drain to the university, the athletic department and most of all, the student body. One of the main concerns when I attended MSU was always rising tuition. In the end, it is the students who foot the bill for a program that is $1 million in the red. A program they obviously do not want or need.

According to Nietzel, the recommendation to eliminate the tennis and track teams came after subjecting the 21 university athletic programs to four guiding principals: 1) ability to compete; 2) academic record of student-athletes; 3) record of integration into campus and university culture; and 4) ability to live within its budget and be as financially independent as possible.

And my response to this is that the university obviously only subjected 20 of its athletic programs to this “test.” I don’t know the numbers, but I am certain that the football program doesn’t have the best academic record among its 21 sports. It obviously has the worst budget and its ability to compete speaks for itself. In my mind, No. 3 is nothing more than a bunch of gobbly-gook that can be interpreted to say whatever you want it to say. You can’t convince me that the tennis team is failing to integrate with university culture.

I’m not proposing that football be cut. But, I don’t think you fix the problems in the football program by eliminating tennis and track. Football should be the sport receiving serious scrutiny from the administration. Not the tennis, track and cross country programs.

Nobody expects those programs to be in the black. But, at a university the size of Missouri State in a city the size of Springfield, they should expect the football program to do better than be $1 million in the red.

...and at the University of Colorado...

Relax, Buffs fans. Sure, Nobel Prize-winning faculty members may come and go, promised state support may be redirected to build roads, and financial aid for academically gifted students may continue to be scarce, but your tailgate parties are secure.

"I want it to be clear that I'm going to bring a great football coach to this university," University of Colorado-Boulder athletic director Mike Bohn said last week.

Boy, that's a relief.

But seriously, here's what I wish Bohn or CU president Hank Brown or somebody - anybody - would have had the guts to say instead:

"CU is going to create a new paradigm for athletics in this country. The way we have managed our football and basketball programs in the past is no longer appropriate for a distinguished institution of higher learning. It demeans all of us.

"CU was not founded 129 years ago to generate profits for the sportswear, liquor and entertainment industries. Our mission, purely, simply and proudly, is to create and disseminate knowledge.

"In the past decade, we have sacrificed our credibility in pursuit of a questionable and elusive goal: victory in a bowl game named after a tortilla chip.

"We no longer will hold the taxpayers of this state hostage to outrageous coaching contracts that make a mockery of accountability. We no longer will exploit young people who can't succeed in our classrooms by indenturing them to years in a football or basketball program that has little chance of providing them with a decent future. We no longer will accept the kinds of compromises of our values of honesty and decency required to keep the slush funds, the recruits and the endorsement contracts coming here.

"We remain committed to high-quality amateur athletics for our students. If the football industry or the owners of professional basketball teams require minor-league programs, they are free to create these enterprises without the support of our taxpayers, our students and our donors. Any use of University of Colorado facilities, logos, marketing or public-relations services will be prohibited without full compensation. Thank you.

"Now, have I told you about the program we are launching with contributions from multimillionaire Gary Barnett to attract more faculty members from the National Academy of Sciences?"

OK, call me a dreamer - it would be a refreshing change from what football fans usually call me - but I'm not the only one. For years, James J. Duderstadt, former president of the Rose Bowl-winning University of Michigan, has been advocating just such changes.

The NCAA, university presidents and other insiders, he says, don't have the "capacity, the will or the appetite to lead a true reform movement in college sports."

What's needed, Duderstadt said in an e-mail exchange last week, is a kind of Sarbanes-Oxley law to reform corrupt athletics the same way corruption in the securities industry is being addressed.

We should start, he said, by eliminating the tax loopholes that prop up the sports industry, such as seat taxes and deductions for sky boxes. The public should demand full disclosure of the real costs of big-time sports, including the academic performance of all athletes, the rate of sports injuries, and the financial interests of coaches, athletic directors and all those involved in the programs.

Further, university presidents and governing boards should be held accountable for rules violations instead of letting a revolving cast of coaches for whom winning is the only thing take the fall.

"Ironically, at a time when higher education has never been more important to our nation ... confidence in the university has been badly damaged by the corruption of big-time college sports," Duderstadt said. Until universities confront this pig in the parlor, "they will be unable to earn the public trust."

Forget the myth that football pumps millions into university budgets every year. Even if it were true, it wouldn't matter. As the tattered reputation of CU demonstrates, football - and our obsession with it - has cost us dearly.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Vox Populi
[in which ud learns a new word]

"I hope you read the background stories on the 'diploma mills' that exist as 'private schools' so that athletes can go and play college sports without - you know - actually having to pass any real courses. A Miami 'correspondence academy' is now under scrutiny by the Florida High School Athletic Association and the state attorney general and the NCAA.

What did the NCAA do? They formed a committee to look into this matter; it will likely make some findings known to some board or panel within the NCAA in about 2 years and the board or panel might think about some new rules that relate to the situation.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the NCAA under Dr. Myles Brand at work and ever vigilant to assure that athletic programs stay within the mainstream purpose of the university institutions. When is anyone in the national media going to call out this jamoke on his hypocrisy and his pomposity? The NCAA vice president for membership services has already said that students other than athletes are using some of these diploma mills and so this is 'a bigger problem than something for the sports pages.' OK, so what the hell are you folks going to do about this 'bigger problem' sometime before the glaciers come again?"

---From Sports Fan Magazine
Roger Shattuck
1923 - 2005

Man of letters, lover of beauty. Founder,
Association of Literary Scholars and Critics.

"Ubu has only his appetites, which he displays like virtues. When we try to injure him with our laughter (“satanic” laughter, Baudelaire would call it), we discover that his behavior is so abject that we cannot reach him. He does not have traits of either a great hero or a great villain; he never deliberates. Can we really laugh at Ubu, at his character? It is doubtful, for he lacks the necessary vulnerability, the vestiges of original sin. Not without dread, we mock, rather, his childish innocence and primitive soul and cannot harm him. He remains a threat because he can destroy at will, and the political horrors of the twentieth century make the lesson disturbingly real."
An Ivan Tribble Christmas

Baby, baby, you got to understand
If I want a do-right colleague
I've got to be a do-right man.

I'm gonna lay another blog
On the fire, baby.
Yeah it’s Christmas time once more.
Gonna lay another blog
On the fire
Keep the bloggers from my door.

Oh I know I've been neglecting you
But baby now's our turn.
Gonna cuddle through the snowy night
And watch the bloggers burn.

Wine, music, candlelight
Plus a little toke,
We’ll sing a song of Christmas
Watch the blogs go up in smoke.

I'm gonna lay another blog
On the fire, baby
Keep the flame up nice and high
Said I'm gonna lay another blog
On the fire, baby
And watch the bloggers die.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Chico State II:
Members in Good Standing

University President Paul Zingg didn't view the second part of the [two-part pornographic] toga party [filmed at a Chico State fraternity, titled] College Invasion 7, he said. The fact there was a second DVD was irrelevant.

"Who knows, maybe there's a third one out there," Zingg said. "It doesn't make a difference. We've already dealt with it."

Phi Kappa Tau was suspended from the university and also from its national chapter after many members …were seen in the film.

One of the first academic jobs UD was offered was at Newcomb College, the women’s college of Tulane University. It was difficult for her to turn it down. She loves New Orleans. The campus was gorgeous. She sat in on a spectacular class. Everything felt right.

She ultimately chose to stay on the East coast. But UD often thinks back to beautiful Newcomb.

Which now no longer exists. A staff writer at

Newcomb College, Another Loss to New Orleans

It is a sad day for women's higher education in the South.

As part of a large reorganization, today Tulane University eliminated its undergraduate women's college, Newcomb College, in favor of a single college for all incoming students.

A part of New Orleans's identity we thought would always be there, like the ancient live oaks that shade its campus, Newcomb has been wiped away in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Newcomb College, my alma mater, that of my mother and grandmother, is gone.

For more than one hundred years, Newcomb College has been a leader in women's education. In 1886, Josephine Louise Newcomb founded the college in memory of her daughter H. Sophie Newcomb, who died in 1870 at age 15. Her mission was to make available to young women the same opportunity for a liberal education as was being offered to young men through Tulane's College of Arts and Sciences.

For decades, women in New Orleans and throughout the South who sought a liberal arts education, came to Newcomb.

The red-brick Broadway campus buildings set apart from Tulane's campus on St. Charles reinforced Newcomb's separate identity--a women's college within a larger university.

This model was adopted across the country, in the creation of Barnard College at Columbia University and Pembroke College at Brown University.

At Newcomb academic standards were rigorous, and its women took pride in their degrees. Alumnae took pride in being not just Tulane alums, but Newcomb graduates.

In my grandmother's day, Newcomb took the lead in women's physical education--at a time when exercise was not encouraged for women--and developed an arts program wherein women created the exceptional pottery for which Newcomb is famous.

In my mother's day, academics at Newcomb remained top-notch. Newcomb's separate faculty afforded my mother the an education in languages and classics to rival any of the best colleges in the country.

In my time at Newcomb, a women's college seemed less and less important. By that time, coeducational classes were the norm, and Newcomb's identity became more and more abstract. A logo, a memory.

But the traditions remained strong: Newcomb senate, a separate graduation ceremony for Newcomb, separate advisors. What remained was the importance of women's education.

When I walked among the oaks of Newcomb College in the 1980s, I used to think about Sophie Newcomb, the daughter of founder Josephine Louise Newcomb, who didn't live long enough to attend college, in whose memory the college was founded. Her brief life was the great sadness of her mother, and her legacy was this college for women.

Today as we all carry a great sadness for the losses our city has sustained and we search for meaning in our lives and in our uncertain futures, Tulane has added this additional blow.

As the downed oak branches are carted away and the campus wiped clean for the upcoming semester, I hope we don't forget Josephine Louise Newcomb's great gift to our city, and to the century of women who benefited from that gift. And I think of our future daughters who will never have an opportunity to attend Newcomb College.

Sarah Griffin Thibodeaux
Newcomb College Class of 1993

More wonderful stuff from Linda Hirshman (for background, see UD) in the paper of record (now that they’ve published UD), Inside Higher Education. She takes her well-grounded claim that many of our most highly and expensively trained professional women are dropping out of the workforce and runs it not through corporations (as she did before) but through the university.

First, the bad news:

[R]esearch on gender reflects that the arena for discrimination is greater where there is not a clear monetary measure of productivity. So the world of the research university is a perfect playground for subjective opinion, including ideas about women’s proper roles, conscious or not, and the powerful lure of autobiography in each hiring committee member’s inaccessible subconscious.

You need only recall Ivan Tribble’s description of the way he evaluates job candidates to know she’s right about subjective opinion at universities.

But there’s good news too:

…Women may not be as eager to leave academic jobs as their well educated sisters were to quit journalism, law and publishing. There are two reasons for this. One, the hours are better. While the business magazine Fast Company reports that a 60 to 75 hour work week is typical for business leaders, ladder rank faculty with children in the University of California study (according to their own self-reporting) worked 53 to 56 hours a week.

Second, university teaching is really good substantive work, between the good students and researching things that interest you and making them real, even if just in a book (like some of mine) nobody reads but mom. So it’s understandable that women faculty are pressing universities to make it possible for them to have children and stay on track, through devices like extended tenure periods and the like. Moreover, the effort to extract help from the workplace may succeed better at Harvard than at General Electric, because, when clear, objective programs are proposed, nonprofits like Harvard are not up to their eyeballs in the Hobbesian world of globalized late capitalism, so it’s easier for them to yield a little.

All true. One arena for yielding that UD has written about before involves that book Hirshman mentions -- the one only the author reads. The tyranny of the tenure manuscript in particular must be overthrown at those universities that still mindlessly impose it. Significant articles and chapters already form the basis for tenure decisions in many departments, but the humanities haven’t yet liberated themselves.

Similarly, UD has argued, along with others, that the Associate/Full distinction should be taken much less seriously by faculty and administrators -- in fact “Full” should probably be dropped altogether. This would remove another pointlessly Hobbesian element from the academic ladder.

Hirshman ends her IHE essay by noting that many of the women bloggers who responded to her initial article with a furious fuck you turned out to be academics who had opted out of the work world. She asks any such who may again be preparing to hit the F on their keyboard to restrain themselves.

That’s good advice. There are many ways of being an ugly American, and it’s curious, but sometimes those Americans most at pains to avoid that stereotype, and its characteristic provinciality, sense of entitlement, and bluster, themselves fall into it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


[C]ritics of the trend say lofty compensation packages [for university presidents] have spawned a new ultra class within academia that grows steadily disconnected from the masses and undermines public confidence.

“We’ve created a cadre of hired guns whose economic interests are totally divorced from students and faculty,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in San Jose, Calif. “It creates a real problem for leadership, and does nothing to help higher education.”


From a Charlottesville, Virginia newspaper today:

"I was sitting at my computer at about 3pm grading papers," says Joe Miller, a UVA history professor who lives on Dry Bridge Road, "when I suddenly heard a crash and was covered with glass shards."

Miller lives with his wife and their six-year-old son in a modern home designed by architect James Tuley. His first thought was that one of the massive windows had simply given way. "We'd been having some structural issues," he says, "because of all the glass."

Instead, when he swiveled around to survey the splintered window just four feet behind his chair, he saw a terrifying sight: a perfect hole surrounded by radial fractures.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, that was a bullet,'" he says.

…Miller, who called 911 immediately after his own bullet incident, says he assumes the bullet that entered his home was fired accidentally.
Gotta Give Him Points for Honesty

Everyone who plays for USC should score a 1300 on the SATs? Pete Carroll probably wouldn't score a 1300 on the SATs. Should he fire himself?

Of course not. Football makes millions for these schools, so don't tell me players shouldn't be entitled to scholarships just because you aren't. Your tuition costs less because of those players. At least if your school is competitive, it does. The only way for schools to remain competitive is to recruit the best possible players, regardless of whether they're potential Rhodes Scholars. No matter what schools do, there's still going to be the same pool of players at the end of the day.

Should Miami suffer in recruiting wars because it has a respectable academic program? What about Salt Lake Community College? With a little restructuring, SLCC could be a D-I powerhouse.

It sounds absurd, but meeting academic standards can really only have a negative effect for a program.

-- University of Utah student paper
Lubricants University
The Nollege Economy

Southern Cal from 1998-2004 graduated 58 percent of its football players, 18 percentage points below the student body as a whole, according to a study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. The numbers are even lower at Texas, where 66 percent of the Longhorns players came up short. That's a whopping 36 percentage points below non-athletes at the school.

It's no wonder college football players are the butt of jokes. Have you ever heard this one: What does the N on the University of Nebraska football helmet stand for? Answer: knowledge.

Of the 56 Division I-A teams (the highest level of college sports) participating in bowl games this season, 27 of them, or 48 percent, graduated less than half of their players, according to the study.

If these are institutions of higher learning, what's being taught? And what do the institutions value?

…University athletic directors are among those who argue that football and basketball programs make money for their schools and that the gaudy salaries for coaches is more than recouped by television rights fees, ticket sales and booster donations.

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, doesn't buy it. Universities, says Zimbalist, should implement a rule barring football coaches from earning more than school presidents.

"The argument that a coach is worth $2 million doesn't make much sense," he says. "It's a totally artificial market. There's no board of directors that's selected by stockholders who demand a profit at the end of the year."

--From Bloomberg

UD considers herself very American in character and outlook, but sometimes she wonders… For instance, at the University of Kentucky they’ve had a problem with big flocks of birds beshitting the campus. The solution the school’s come up with is this really loud and obnoxious noise-maker which scares the birds off.

Students are delighted. One of them says, “I'd rather hear screaming rockets than get bird droppings on my car."

Fine, yes, UD doesn’t even drive. Still, if you asked her Would you rather have a dab of birdshit on your car or listen to screaming rockets all day? she’d choose the shit for sure.
Good News,
Bad Temporary Result

The traffic at UD has gotten large enough to make a shift to a different account or maybe a different server a necessity. For the time being, the site remains intermittently down as I try to resolve this. Apologies - and thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Free Speech Trashed,
But Only for A Few Months

One of the more pathetic free speech stories has resolved itself properly, but not before reactionary forces on campus were able to do a good deal of damage to people and institutions.

A women’s studies professor at a New Jersey university sent out, a few months ago, an unsolicited, pretty much university-wide email, publicizing a film about homosexuals that was going to be shown on campus. A pious Muslim who worked at the university was among those who got the email, and he wrote back to her that he believed homosexuality was a perversion, and that he’d prefer not to get any more emails along these lines.

The professor decided this man was a threat to her. She decided that his language in the email constituted hate speech, and that he himself constituted a physical threat to her. She demanded that he be disciplined by the university.

Put aside what this vindictive reaction tells us about the ability of a strong feminist, the director of the school’s women’s studies program, to withstand a little heat. Note merely that this woman does not understand what a threat is.

Nor did her school. The university backed her up completely and condemned the man. It devised various nasty punishments for him.

But when rights organizations (among them FIRE) got to work on the case, the outcome was utterly predictable:

In a ruling issued Monday and received by [the man] on Tuesday, university hearing officer Sandra DeYoung determined that his "use of the term 'perversion,' although it may be upsetting to some, does not appear to have caused any discriminatory actions." …

DeYoung also determined the e-mail "did not sound like hate speech," and noted [the man] had cited religious works to support his beliefs.

His punishments have all been rescinded. The university, though, has been subject to general ridicule, and the man himself has gone through a very damaging ordeal. As for the timid, clueless woman who made all the trouble, she continues to run the women’s studies program.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


STUDENTS from one of the colleges of London University have caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to a rival college after a drunken end-of-term rampage.

London School of Economics (LSE) students smashed windows, kicked in doors and tore down ceilings as they ran amok through the English department of King’s College London after a fancy dress party.

Rick Trainor, the principal of King’s, has called on students not to carry out “retaliatory” behaviour, after the LSE apologised for the incident and agreed to pay the costs.

It was meant to be a light-hearted fancy dress party that would end in a conga around the campus. Instead, the traditional Athletics’ Union Barrel Christmas party culminated in a drunken rampage last Friday, with students setting off fire hydrants and causing £30,000 of damage at King’s.

Howard Davies, the director of the LSE, which counts Mick Jagger, Cherie Blair and Lord Saatchi among its past students, deplored the commotion. “We greatly regret the damage and disturbance caused by a number of our students. It is very disappointing that a group should have allowed what is normally an enjoyable day to degenerate into an incident which has shamed the school,” he said.

The incident is being investigated and Mr Davies, a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, promised that those responsible would be dealt with appropriately.

King’s is confident that closed-circuit television will identify the culprits, who face being thrown off their course and having to help to pay for the damage they caused.

The LSE students’ union, which has agreed to pay the full costs, condemned the actions of members of the Athletics’ Union Barrel. “We have already met representatives from King’s College, King’s College Students’ Union, LSE and King’s College security,” the union said. “We have offered our most sincere apologies and promised to cover the costs of repair to property.

“We will be making formal apologies to King’s College and in particular the English department. A full and thorough investigation is now under way.”

Students and staff at King’s had been frightened by the rioting. Professor Trainor, however, urged them not to inflict reprisals. “I would caution most strongly against retaliatory behaviour by King’s students. Such action would be very wrong, not least because it would expose innocent people in another institution to danger and distress,” he told college staff.

The neighbouring London University colleges have always enjoyed a healthy rivalry, according to a King’s spokesman, but this was “way beyond the high-jinks of normal university life”. He said: “It’s the first time in recent history that this kind of damage has happened. It’s done and life moves on, but it’s not very admirable.”

King’s is at present 80th in the Shanghai Jiao Tong world rankings, and the LSE is 203rd. Both are constituent colleges of London University.

---The Times Online
Creepy essay about Susan Sontag…

…by her son, in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine (here’s a link to Barista , which reproduced it). The piece is yet another Cheyne-Stoking memoir.

This is the name UD gives the popular new essay form in which the reader is taken through every stage of another person‘s death -- including the very last seconds. John Bayley’s clinically meticulous description of Iris Murdoch’s death, and, more recently, Joan Didion’s take on John Gregory Dunne’s death (Didion is rewriting her essay as a Broadway play) are examples.

There’s an undeniable fascination in being privy to details of the sudden collapse, the drawn out degradation, the desperate last days and minutes, of iconic figures of intellectual and aesthetic dignity and power. At their best, these sorts of memoirs can rivet our attention and remind us of our shared fragility, of the vulnerability even the strongest among us must endure in the face of morbid processes.

But Cheyne-Stoking memoirs can turn on you. They can reveal, as David Rieff’s does, arrogance and hypocrisy even unto death. As a serious moralist and intellectual, Susan Sontag spent a good deal of time reviling American materialism. She loathed the way people in this country think everything’s about money. Yet faced with a fatal diagnosis at an advanced age, Sontag shelled out hundreds of thousands of her own dollars (no medical insurer would touch her hopeless case) on insanely expensive experimental stuff because, as her son says, she refused to reconcile herself to dying. Ever.

Or, well, maybe at a hundred: She had a “single-minded focus on her own longevity and, as she got older, … frequent[ly] voic[ed] the hope of living to be 100.” She would “beat the odds.” She would “be the exception.”

We are supposed to applaud her gumption here, but Sontag’s incredulous fury to the last moment of her existence at the insult of her having to die, and her unhesitating willingness to use her wealth to keep herself alive under any circumstances (those hundreds of thousands of dollars could have done a good deal for any number of causes close to her heart, rather than being spent to distort that much more an already sharply inegalitarian health care system) are not admirable but horrible.

Her son does seem to understand some of this; he worries that we are “rapidly moving toward a health care system in which [as one of the doctors he talks to says] ‘only the rich will be able to choose the treatment they want.’” But this leaves open the whole question of whether what a person wants is what they should get. Because of her wealth, Sontag was able to depart this world with the same sense of entitlement and exceptionalism she apparently had all along.
To Visitors from Inside Higher Education,
and to Regular Readers of University Diaries:

Good morning. Welcome. My IHE opinion piece on the future of English departments is here. If you're new to University Diaries, feel free to look around.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Window into
the University

Erin O’Connor has plenty of follow-up to the sex-in-the-window story at U Penn. This incident, coupled with a UC Irvine professor’s wittily recounted tale of discovering two students in flagrant delectation in his own office the other day, does make UD wonder a bit…

I mean, in the Penn case, these two were at it for a number of days in succession, very openly. So -- where were the faculty? Administrators? They were walking under that window alongside their students. Didn’t anybody say anything?

If UD saw a couple of GW students doing this (and there’s a dorm directly across the street from her practically floor to ceiling office windows) -- I mean, hanging out of the window and all -- she’d do and say nothing the first time. You’re allowed occasional mindless passion, etc. But if she saw them do it day after day, she’s pretty sure she’d mention it to the department administrator (the English department offices also overlook the dorm)…

She'd mention it in a kind of haha way to be sure, don’t want to be an Anti-Sex Leaguer or anything, just, Haha is this going to be a permanent part of the streetscape do you think, ho ho….And eventually word would get to a residence hall person or something and it’d be handled quietly.

But at Penn you’ve got what looks like supreme indulgence toward the, er, student body, don’t you?
Snow is general all over ‘thesda…

…as James Joyce would have written had he lived in suburban Washington rather than the Dublin of “The Dead.” (What he actually wrote in that story was “Snow was general all over Ireland.”) The view from UD’s Garrett Park window is glorious…. Oh for a beaker of Ann Althouse, with her posted photos of wintry days in Madison! But UD isn’t that far along technically… though, come to think of it, UD’s daughter, with her digital camera, could do the deed for her… As soon as the little one has finished reading the New York Times (class assignment on the national debt or something), she’s promised to give it a whirl…
The blog's been ornery...

...for the last few days. Difficult to open; difficult to post comments on. Apologies. Today things seem a bit smoother.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

William Bradford Follow-up

A few months ago, UD quoted from a defender of William Bradford, a law professor at Indiana University whose losing tenure vote there seemed more about political correctness (he was a highly decorated military veteran) than objectivity.

Bradford was well on his way toward becoming a hero of the political right when he was discovered to have lied about his military prowess. As a columnist in the IndyStar writes, "He was discharged as a second lieutenant. He had no active duty. He was in military intelligence, not infantry. He received no awards."

Bradford has resigned.
Intellectual Diversity
at Harvard Law

Worthwhile article in the New York Observer about Harvard Law School’s recent “barrage of additions to the faculty — among them prominent conservative scholars.”

For a seemingly interminable stretch from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, Harvard Law was emblematic of academic ideological warfare, its infighting aired like dirty laundry in Eleanor Kerlow’s 1994 book, Poisoned Ivy, its campus derided in a 1993 article in GQ as “Beirut on the Charles.”

Members of Harvard’s Critical Legal Studies school attacked the traditionalists, arguing that their approach perpetuated a ruling class in America. The traditionalists struck back, led by Ms. Kagan’s predecessor, Robert Clark. In 1985, at a debate before alumni in New York, Mr. Clark charged that the C.L.S. adherents were engaging in “a ritual slaying of the elders.”

Now, the writer reports, there’s more intellectual diversity and less bloodshed at the school.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Plaintive story...

... in today's Florida Ledger about how there's probably nothing to be done. A corrupt state is a corrupt state is a corrupt state.

Florida has long been known as a haven for phony diploma mills. Back in the 1970s, two Miami Herald reporters, the late Bill Mansfield and Bruce Giles, even created their own "Apollo Academy" and presented frameable diplomas to their friends and politicians.

It did little good. Even today, the state Legislature has given no regulatory authority to the Department of Education over "schools" purporting to grant degrees.

Which can be embarrassing. Last Sunday, The New York Times published a front-page story about something called "University High School," an unaccredited institution with no classes, in Miami. According to the report, "UHS" gives pumped-up grade point averages to, among others, athletes who can't make their grades in public high schools. They just transfer to UHS and, without actually going to any class, see their grades rise steadily to the point where they can enter college and qualify for athletic scholarships. At the end, they "graduate" without having to bother passing the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT), which is required for all public schools.

After the story was published, the Florida High School Athletic Association said it would look into the case. John Stewart, a former school superintendent in Polk County who is the Athletic Association's commissioner, said "We have a lot of reservations about numerous things mentioned in the article."

The Times' story identified 14 students who signed with Division I football programs after attending University High School -- among them Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Auburn, South Florida, Central Florida and Florida International.

The school's own promotional material provides a pretty good tipoff to what it really is: "Education at your convenience. Our speed-learning program is the easiest, fastest way to become a high school graduate. . . . No classes to attend. Study at home, at your own pace. Open-book exams. No time limits." All for $399.

Even if the Florida Department of Education were aware of the existence of such an enterprise, it has no power to do anything about it. That's because the Legislature has resolutely refused to allow any oversight of private schools for decades -- back to Apollo Academy and beyond. On its Web site, the DOE does list the unaccredited schools right along with the reputable ones, reciting whatever claims each school makes about its accreditation, whether substantiated or not.

Will the latest revelations shame lawmakers into acting? It's doubtful. Private schools -- legitimate and otherwise -- have little interest in governmental regulation over anything they do. That's one reason why they're private.

But the public has an interest in putting diploma mills out of business. They're bad for the students and bad for the public in general. It's time the Legislature stood up and willingly accepted its responsibility.

…make much of the fact that they’re located in Washington DC. A heartbeat away from the seat of power! GW, UD’s institution, is the closest of them all -- only four blocks from the White House -- and never stops reminding people about it.

But UD wonders whether the up close and personal attention about to be lavished on conveniently located American University by the United States Senate has that school pondering the mixed blessing of being an easy cab ride away for guys like Charles Grassley and Max Baucus.

They head the Senate committee that‘s reviewing compensation at non-profits, and the Ladner debacle down the street has easily caught and held their attention.

"My oversight of American University," Mr. Grassley said in a statement (These hearings, by the way, will feature high-profile use of the antagonym “oversight,” whose two meanings are direct opposites of one another!), "now will be focused on whether the current board members have performed their duties and responsibilities to the standard of what should be expected for such a major university."

With ex-President Ladner out, the Senate committee’s attention turns to the trustees, who did a bad job of, er, oversight when it came to Ladner’s compensation. Will the Senate actually come down hard on these people?

The two guys running the show look, each in his own way, capable of real cruelty.

Here’s Grassley

Terrible Heartland Probity

Here's Baucus

Baucus was in this race, the JFK 50 Miler, and he fell and bloodied himself, but he kept running and bleeding all over the place until he finished.

[By the way, Baucus notes on his website that "Throughout his career, Max has never forgotten where he came from or who he represents. For a full day each month, Max experiences a Day-In-The-Life of citizens all over Montana. He has conducted workdays at farms, ranches, schools, highway construction projects, local ice cream parlors, and hospitals." Since Montana’s one of our biggest diploma mill states, UD suggests a Day-in-the-Life visit to a local diploma mill.]

…and you can’t say he isn’t contrite.

A 19-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado
faces criminal charges after police said he made a fake bar code label to buy an iPod for $4.99. The actual price of the MP3 player was $149.99.

Jonathan Baldino was arrested Wednesday at a Target store and police said the electrical-engineering student admitted making phony bar codes using a program he downloaded off the Internet.

Police said he downloaded a program called "Barcode Magic" and used it to generate low-priced codes that could placed over actual, more expensive, bar codes.

Baldino wrote a statement for police that begged them not to prosecute him, according to The Denver Post.

"I will NEVER EVER DO THIS EVER AGAIN and I am once more terribly sorry," Baldino wrote. "Please let me go for I am terribly sorry!!! I'm only a kid! Help me out. I just want to go home. I did this not knowing of the serious penalty that lies behind it. Please! Please! Please!"

Baldino faces a felony charge of forgery and two misdemeanor counts of theft.

According to its Web site, the Barcode Magic program allows users to "generate bar codes for home, hobby and retail with our easy to use bar-code software. Simply select a bar-code style and font, enter desired text and numbers, and a bar code is automatically created."

Police said that Baldino didn't even pay for the software program. He used barcodes generated during the 15-day trial period.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Regular University Diaries Feature

UD’s got a bunch of new readers lately who probably don’t know that she lives in Garrett Park, Maryland, a one hundred year old incorporated town near Bethesda. The town’s an arboretum.

UD grew up in Garrett Park and was lucky enough to be able to move back there a few years ago. Her daughter went to the same elementary school, and is now going to the same high school, UD attended. UD’s mother lives down the block. UD’s husband is on the Town Council. UD writes for the town newspaper, The Bugle.

Garrett Park is famous for its eccentrics. Here’s an article in today’s Washington Post about one of them, complete with UD’s parenthetical comments:

A former Capitol Hill press secretary who has twice been convicted in bank robbery cases was in handcuffs again this week, charged with the same type of crime.

Montgomery County police said they arrested Thomas C. Springer, 56, of Garrett Park on Tuesday morning after a witness who saw him rob a bank in Kensington [the next town over from Garrett Park] called 911 while following the getaway car, a blue Geo Metro.

Police said Springer is responsible for at least seven other bank robberies committed in the county since November 2004. He was being held without bond at a Montgomery County jail yesterday.

[So far typical crime story, right? If these crimes had taken place in Southeast DC, that’d be the end of it. But this is upscale Garrett Park, so we must search, search, search for reasons…]

"He's a sick boy [note Springer's age], and he has a serious manic depressive illness," his aunt, Helen Ossofsky, said yesterday. "He needs hospitalization badly."

Ossofsky, 83, said robbing banks seems to be the way her nephew deals with his childhood demons. "I think he grew up hating his father," who was a banker, said Ossofsky, a child psychiatrist.

[How can we even think of prosecuting this man now that we know this?]

…Ossofsky said Springer has declined to take lithium for his mental illness. "He said it ruined his creativity."

(Thanks to Di and Steve for the tip.)
Penn Pulls Out Prematurely

U Penn has wised up fast this time and dropped all disciplinary charges against the student photographer who, apparently like many on campus, snapped a pair of his fellow students having sex in an open dorm window. (He posted some of the photos on the web.)

As details of the incident -- make that incidents -- emerge, the windowhangers turn out to be quite the kinksters:

The pictures were taken during broad daylight, with no telephoto lenses. Small crowds that included a number of people with cameras gathered to watch the couple, who repeated the act in front of the dorm-room window over several days…

Not that I want to be seen as bashing women, especially after my unpopular pro-Hirshman positions, etc. - but note that Mr. Windowhanger has said and done nothing. It’s Ms. and Ms. alone who has run squawking to the deans about how her privacy has been violated:

The faces of the naked couple are not clear in any of the most infamous images. And because the university disciplinary process is confidential, Penn did not release the names of anyone involved in this case. Nonetheless, the female student's identity has become well-known on campus.

"My client is emotionally shattered from what is an extremely disturbing ordeal," said Jordan Koko, her attorney. "There has been a public invasion into her personal life."

UD is loathe to speculate as to how this woman’s identity became known.

But… well… I guess the likeliest reason people know who she is that for several days she hung out of a window overlooking a square, screwing. The next likeliest is that she or her hanger-on told people (boasted?) about it. The next likeliest after that is that the people inside the building know who lives in the infamous ill-fated flat of fenestral fucking.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mao Too

Wonderful commentary from Hugo Schwyzer about faculty self-evaluation.
Gotta give her points for honesty.

In the aftermath of a drunken Tufts student’s violent and bigoted attack on a policewoman [see UD], an adjunct professor of English there expresses her bitterness against students in her classes who don’t like her self-described “insist[ence] on raising issues of social inequality and cultural politics in our classrooms, perhaps ad infinitum to some of your ears.” Students must stop resisting her “overtly, perhaps uncomfortably, political discussions in the classroom.”

Apparently this form of student resistance is a general source of faculty irritation in her department: she describes herself recently “sitting in my East Hall office with some of my colleagues, discussing Tufts students' resistance to conversations about racial, class, gender and sexual inequalities.”

“The next time you are sitting in class, rolling your eyes when your professor ‘whines about feminism,’ or, in analyzing ongoing racism and colonialism ‘blows things out of proportion’ or ‘overreacts,’ or, (most cardinal of American sins) says something ‘communist,’” [communist?] just remember that you too are part of the same sick country that produced that guy. “Take advantage,” she pleads, “of the opportunity we present to understand the world that shapes you,” the violent bigotry that “characterizes our culture.” “[T]his is what some of us, your professors, have been trying - and often struggling - to get you students to see.”

From today's Inside Higher Ed:

Buttocks. Some flesh. At least two pairs of legs.

And a student who took pictures of what appears to be a steamy sex act, taking place against a window in a dormitory, clearly visible to any passersby.

Those ingredients are brewing some heated debate over First Amendment protection at the University of Pennsylvania as some recall a 1993 “water buffalo” incident that many thought taught the university to stay away from regulating free expression.

The photographer, an engineering junior, posted the pictures several weeks ago on his password-protected university Web site, which eventually garnered attention at The pictures are also now widely circulating at Penn.

On Wednesday, Andrew Geier, a psychology graduate student who has served as the photographer’s adviser to the Office of Student Conduct, said that the student has received memos indicating his actions violated Penn’s code of student conduct, sexual harassment policy and policy on acceptable uses of electronic resources. In addition, the documents labeled one of the photographed students an “injured party” who felt “serious distress,” with the situation causing “an intimidating living environment for her.” The photographed students are not identifiable.

The documents, signed by Michele A. Goldfarb, director of the office, indicated that as punishment, the student would face disciplinary probation until graduation and be forced to write essays on conduct and letters of apology to the students he photographed.

1 December 2005

University of Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. And Ms. Anonymous:


Have you read this book, by the way?

It’s by Joel Feinberg, and it’s called Offense to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law.

I’d recommend in particular the first chapter, section 3, called “A Ride on the Bus.” For your convenience, here it is, online.

Yours truly,

A photographer

[see also Erin O'Connor at Critical Mass]
World AIDS Day

From Harold Brodkey’s This Wild Darkness: The Story of my Death:

Here in the country, my moods are more settled than they ever were in the city; it seems at first that there are fewer stimuli to jog or tug at them, but really it is that they are propelled differently. Energy functions differently among the trees. In the city, nothing is quite settled, ever. And other people’s suffering, other people’s deaths, become unbearable. When I read the literature on AIDS or walk the streets, I start to lose it; grief is everywhere. In the country, flesh is grass, and the grasses are settling into autumn. My bed is in a bay of five large, mullioned windows, and the million leaves of the nearby trees are struggling to dance. Of course, at this time of year, they and I are all dying together. I hear the countryside silence - it’s something I can permit here - as focused on death. Getting into that mood is like going to church or spending the day in the wind, with the steep views and the hawks, and vultures, hovering.